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SPRAY DRIFT CAUSE OF PUBLIC CONCERN - HSE

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Pesticide drift from crop spraying remains the main area of concern for members of the public especially when there...
Pesticide drift from crop spraying remains the main area of concern for members of the public especially when there has been no prior notification that spraying is to take place, Greg Bungay, head of the Health and Safety Executive's (HSE's) Crops and Pesticides National Interest Group (NIG), said at the launch of HSE's Pesticide Incidents Report 1994/95 in London today.

Mr Bungay said that the majority of the alleged ill health incidents investigated by inspectors during the year involved members of the public (101 cases) with the remaining (27) cases all involving employees.

The pesticides report revealed that a total of 251 incidents were investigated during the year - the highest number in four years. Of these, 128 incidents were alleged to have caused ill health compared with 88 in the previous l2 months. There was one incident involving aerial spraying.

Said Mr Bungay:

'All those involved with spraying should ensure that the work is done safely and in accordance with the law. To help users of pesticides the HSE is publishing a revised free leaflet, 'Agricultural Pesticides', which advises on practical measures for planning and carrying out work.

'It stresses the importance of only using pesticides when necessary and choosing a product which is the lowest risk. It also describes steps to be taken when making an assessment under the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH) Regulations 1994 and gives advice on issues such as notification, training first aid and disposal.

'We are continuing our efforts towards consistency of enforcement when dealing with pesticide issues and are working to ensure that users of pesticides know what is expected of them,' he added.

Typical incidents of ill health involving members of the public which were investigated during the year include: A field adjacent to complainant's home and a school was sprayed. The complainant's four year old son was oversprayed resulting in sore eyes; 50 children were having a sports lesson on school playing field when the teacher noted a strange taste in his mouth. He saw a sprayer operating close to school boundary in adjacent field. Wind had carried drift across playing field;

A man suffered eye and skin irritation after being oversprayed with fungicides in his garden. The fungicides were being used in the adjacent orchard. An employee using a knapsack sprayer on cucumbers in a glasshouse suffered from sweating, dizziness, nausea, exhaustion, stomach cramps and breathlessness; a woman and her daughter experienced irritant effects following timber treatment of the adjoining semi-detached house.

There were 31 informations heard by the courts during the year compared to 42 in 1993/94. The average fine imposed per conviction was £433 for 1994/95 compared to £248 for 1993/94. A total of 346 enforcement notices were issued by inspectors compared to 455 in 1993/94. Of these, 255 related to matters of storage conditions and storage of unapproved pesticides and 121 notices concerned the unsafe use of products.

The prosecutions included:

a case involving an agricultural spraying contractor who failed to provide adequate storage facilities for pesticides used in soil fumigation. He was fined £3,000. the spraying of pesticides in unsuitable conditions, resulting in extensive damage to an adjacent garden. Fine £1,000.

Mr Bungay commented: 'We have established a network of pesticide liaison inspectors, one in each HSE Area office, who will act as a focal point on all pesticide related issues. They will collect and disseminate information to their colleagues so that individual inspectors can better judge the seriousness of any offences against a background of collective knowledge.

'We have also provided additional training for our staff and distributed an aides memoire to assist in ensuring a common approach to reported incidents. This builds on the new sampling strategy for pesticide residues and the requirements for improved chemical handling systems on agricultural sprayers which were introduced last year.'

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