Number of complaints about misuse of pesticides shoots up

The number of complaints regarding the misuse of pesticides during the last year in the UK has shot up, with the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) inspecting 70% more cases than the previous year.

The HSE’s Pesticides Incident Report 1999/2000 has also shown that HSE inspectors issued 154 enforcement notices, with a total of 30 Informations being heard in court. The average for fines was nearly £4,700, compared to £930 for the previous year, though this figure was boosted by the successful prosecution of a farmer on the Isle of Wight.

“The increase in the number of complaints reported to the HSE is disappointing, particularly following on from the record low figure recorded last year,” said Linda Williams, HM Chief Agricultural Inspector. “However, it may be a reflection of the public’s increasing awareness about the use of pesticides. The HSE published revised guidance on how to report incidents of exposure to pesticides in February 1999. The leaflet was promoted widely.”

“There was also extensive media coverage of pesticides during the summer and early autumn in connection with the HSE’s prosecution activity and other issues,” said Williams. “Numbers of complaints have varied a lot from year to year over the last decade and the increase last year is not statistically significant against that background.”

The Isle of Wight prosecution concerned 11 offences which took place during 1997/98, in connection with the import and use of non-approved pesticides, and the use of approved UK pesticides contrary to the conditions of approval. The Farmer was fined £20,000 for each case, totalling £220,000, together with prosecution costs, the largest pesticide misuse penalty since the introduction of the Food and Environment Protection Act in 1986.

Enquiries about the Pesticide Incidents Report, as well as requests for free copies, should be addressed to the Health and Safety Executive, Agriculture and Wood Sector, The Pearson Building, 55 Upper Parliament Street, Nottingham NG1 6AU, or by telephoning 0115 971 2800.

The Code of Practice for the Safe Use of Pesticides on farms and Holdings (The Green Code) gives guidance on good working practice and compliance with the law for users of agricultural pesticides. The code is available free from MAFF Publications, ADMAIL 6000, London SW1A 2XX, telephone 0645 556000.

The leaflet Reporting incidents of exposure to pesticides and veterinary medicines (requires Adobe Acrobat) gives guidance to the general public on the action to take in the case of harm caused to people, animals or the environment due to pesticides, and is available on the internet, or by telephoning the HSE’s Infoline on 0541 545500.

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