HC Deb 16 July 1997 vol 298 cc226-7W
Mr. Flynn

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what assessment he has made of the health risks posed to farmers of exposure to organophosphate in sheep dip; and if he will make a statement. [8554]

Angela Eagle

All applications for marketing authorisations for veterinary medicine products must be supported by data relating to their safety, quality and efficacy. Assessments of the data are scrutinised by the Veterinary Products Committee (VPC), which advises Ministers and has twice reviewed OP sheep dips in the last five years. On both occasions the VPC advised that, provided they are used safely and in accordance with the manufacturer's instructions, there is no scientific justification for withdrawing them from the market. Any reports of human suspected adverse reactions to veterinary medicines (including sheep dips) are monitored through a surveillance scheme run by the Government's Veterinary Medicines Directorate.

In assessing the risk from the use of a product, the potential exposure must be taken into account as well as the inherent toxicity of the substance being considered. Studies have shown the principal sources of exposure during dipping and the steps that can be taken to control it and are described in leaflet AS29 "Sheep dipping". The Government have also commissioned both epidemiological and toxicological research, which continues. From the information available, it is clear that taking a large dose of OP sheep dip into the body will almost certainly result in immediate ill-health, but that it can be avoided if the proper control measures are adopted. It has also been suggested that prolonged, low-level exposure without immediate symptoms can cause chronic ill-health but scientific studies have so far revealed scant evidence for this. A major research project is however underway to investigate effects of this kind.