In its 2004/05 Pesticide Incidents Report, the Health and Safety Executive has found that 95 out of a total of 150 complaints were related to environmental concerns, with the remaining 55 involving allegations of ill-health. Both figures were down on the previous year.

However, as in previous years, complaints from the public about spray drift from the application of agricultural pesticides comprised the largest category of incidents investigated.

These complaints arise from crops or land being sprayed when the wind is too strong or blowing in the wrong direction.

Commenting on the report, Dr Roger Nourish, HSE’s Head of Agriculture and Food Sector, said: “The figures do fluctuate from year to year but there has been a steady fall in over recent years in the reported number of incidents alleging ill health.”

“Whilst many factors may have influenced the figures, the part played by the successes of the Volutary Initiative and other industry led programmes cannot be overlooked. I strongly advise farmers to participate in the schemes and in particular to take part in continuous professional development programmes.”

In addition, inadequate arrangements for storing pesticide continued to give rise to complaints and attract attention during routine inspection of users premises, and for the first time the report includes a case taken by the Crown Prosecution Service after a fatal incident involving paraquat-based pesticide.

HSE Inspectors issued a total of 41 enforcement notices under the pesticide legislation and a total of 12 charges were laid before the Courts, with convictions being secured in all cases with an average fine of £1,650 for each offence.

David Hopkins

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