Pesticides such as organophosphates (OPs), head lice shampoos and wood treatments have been linked with a number of illnesses, including depression, cancer and fatigue. Carbon monoxide (CO), produced by faulty gas appliances, can cause instant death in high concentrations but may also lead to memory loss, tiredness, nausea and Parkinsonism* in people exposed to smaller amounts over a longer period of time.
King's Fund grants director Susan Elizabeth said: 'Man-made hazards in the environment are a major public health issue of our time. The effects of pollution on people's health are only beginning to be understood, not only by scientists but health professionals, policy-makers and the public. It is vital that people who suffer the ill-effects of poisoning are supported by health services and that awareness of the risks is raised more widely.'
The King's Fund has given grants to the Pesticide Trust and Carbon Monoxide Support to provide telephone helplines and local support groups for people suffering the ill-effects of poisoning. Both have received thousands of calls.
Scientific understanding of the impact of pesticides and the long-term effects of carbon monoxide on human health is still at an early stage. It is estimated, however, that 100,000 people in the UK are suffering from long-term carbon monoxide poisoning. Many are unaware of the reasons for their symptoms, which doctors often diagnose as viral infections or chronic fatigue syndrome. The effects of pesticides in people's homes, particularly in urban areas, are still largely unknown.
Peter Beaumont, development director of the Pesticides Trust, said: 'There are over 400 pesticide chemicals in the environment. Many of them may be harming human health in ways we still do not fully understand. We hope to gather new information about the effects of pesticides in order to control the use of those found to be harmful in the home, in health care and in workplaces.'
Debbie Davis, founder of CO Support, said: 'It is vital that health professionals, the gas industry and the public are more aware of the dangers of carbon monoxide. People are being poisoned insidiously by a gas they cannot see, smell or taste. We aim to support those people suffering from the effects of CO through information, advice and regional support groups.'
* The Pesticide Trust received a£36,640 grant from the King's Fund for two years. Their Pesticide Exposure Support Line now receives 2,000 calls per year.
* CO Support received a£44,000 King's Fund grant over three years. Its helpline deals with over 1,000 calls a year.
* The King's Fund also supports Community Hygiene Concern, a charity which has pioneered the Bug-Busting approach to tackling head lice partly because of concerns about the use of pesticide shampoos on children's hair.
* For more information about King's Fund grant making and our support for the Pesticide Trust, CO Support and Community Hygiene Concern, call Andy Bell on 0171 307 2585.
* Parkinsonism is a neurological condition which causes problems similar to those of Parkinson's disease.