- Apples, corn, wheat, and sugar beets
are commonly sprayed with Lindane.
- "...it (Lindane) causes behavioural
changes, damage to the nervous and immune systems, and birth defects."
- The UK Government is being urged to withdraw
a widely-used pesticide from sale with immediate effect.
- The chemical is lindane, which is used
to kill insects on crops and in timber.
- The call to ban it comes from Friends
of the Earth, the Pesticides Trust, the Women's Environmental Network,
and the trade union Unison.
- All four have written to the Agriculture
Minister, Jeff Rooker, and his environment counterpart, Michael Meacher,
asking them to order an immediate halt to sales.
- They base their demand on a confidential
leaked European Union report, which has been seen by reporters on the BBC's
Newsnight programme, which recommends an end to sales of lindane.
- The report, prepared by Austria's agriculture
ministry, was sent to Brussels in December, but the EU has yet to take
any action on it.
- Gaps in knowledge
- The Austrian report says lindane is a
possibly carcinogenic substance, and not enough is known about it.
- It also describes the chemical as an
endocrine disrupter, and says it causes behavioural changes, damage to
the nervous and immune systems, and birth defects.
- For carcinogenicity, hormone disruption,
behavioural change and immunotoxicity, the report says the data - obtained
from tests on rats and mice - is scarce.
- It says not enough is known to establish
clearly either a "no observed effect level" (NOEL), or a "no
observed adverse effect level" (NOAEL).
- The Austrians say not enough about whether
birds and small mammals feeding on seeds treated with lindane could be
- But a study of fish showed very high
lindane levels, which implied the chemical had accumulated through the
- Relic of a less demanding age
- David Buffin, of the Pesticides Trust,
says: "It is surprising to see how little adequate data supports the
continued approval of lindane.
- "But it was a pesticide developed
in the 1940s, at a time when far less attention was paid to detailed experimentation
required to prove a chemical was safe."
- Lindane is sold in Britain for treating
seeds and wood, and is also used as a crop spray.
- Oilseed rape, apples, sugar beet, wheat,
and maize are treated with it.
- Lindane is also sometimes used on rough
grazing, and in grain stores.
- The Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries
and Food (MAFF) says 100,000 kg were used in the UK in 1997.
- The four groups calling for a ban say
it is still possible for EU member countries to outlaw chemicals like lindane
on a national basis.
- Lindane is banned already in two EU states,
Sweden and Denmark.
- But the Health and Safety Executive (HSE),
which is responsible for licensing the chemical for some uses, says national
bans are not possible.
- Evidence not conclusive
- It also says they might not be much use,
because goods treated with lindane could still enter Britain from countries
which had not banned it.
- The HSE and the MAFF both reviewed lindane
in 1996 and found insufficient evidence to ban it.
- An HSE spokeswoman told BBC News Online:
"We are comfortable with its use."