“We are pleased to see the government move in the right direction on lindane, but we’re disappointed that they didn’t decide on a complete ban,” said a Pesticides Trust spokesperson. The Trust was one of several environmental organisations that asked the government in March to institute a complete ban on the organochlorine compound.

The request for a ban came after an Austrian report to the EU was leaked. The report states that crucial health and environmental data on lindane was not collected before its use was approved, and is still not available. It says that unless more research is carried out it is impossible to set a safe level of exposure for lindane.

The Austrian report also associates lindane with a range of harmful effects, including:

  • promoting the development of cancer
  • hormone disruption
  • behavioural changes
  • nervous system damage
  • immune system damage
  • birth defects

Announcing the Government’s decision, Food Safety Minister Jeff Rooker said: “The Government has listened to the concerns raised about lindane and has acted on the scientific findings of the Advisory Committee on Pesticides. We are also seeking further data on environmental impacts.”

Lindane is sold.in the UK as a seed and wood treatment and as an insecticidal spray for a number of food crops including apples and maize. MAFF figures show 100,000kgs of lindane were used in the UK in 1997. Annual seed treatments accounted for 58,790kg of the 100,000kg. Those treatments are now banned.

According to the Pesticides Trust, lindane is implicated in breast cancer and has been detected in dairy produce. The pesticide is already banned in Sweden, Denmark and France (in agriculture). “We’re surprised by some of the uses the government has allowed to continue,” said a Trust spokesperson. “In particular, the continued use of lindane on turf. It wasn’t something that the manufacturers were even pushing for. Nonetheless, use of lindane in seed treatment has been banned and that is an important step.”

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