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Farms (Fluorine Poisoning)

Volume 958: debated on Thursday 16 November 1978

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asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he is yet in a position to give support and advice and take appropriate action where farms are severely affected by fluorine poisoning, as is the case at Warren House farm in the Rother Valley constituency.

My Department is always prepared to help in determining the cause of fluorine poisoning on farms.

I shall be writing to my hon. Friend about the recent visit officials of my Department made to Warren House farm.

Does that answer mean that my hon. Friend agrees that the gross unfairness which is within my constituent's present experience is such as to command the helpful action of his Ministry? May we expect that the interest of the Minister and his officials is likely to lead to an early and helpful conclusion of this very nasty problem?

I hope so. My hon. Friend has taken a deep interest in this case, and he will be aware that, in addition to my own officials, the Rotherham council, the Health and Safety Executive and the Yorkshire water authority have all been involved in trying to trace the source of this poisoning. We are anxious to give all the advice we can to help Mr. Ellis recover from his difficulties.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that many people in the country will be alarmed to hear that the Government see that it is right to put in the public drinking water a commodity which poisons animals and plants? Will the hon. Gentleman advise his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Social Services that there is a real danger that comes not only from waterborne fluorides but also from airborne fluorides, and that fluoride might very well be harmful not only to those farm animals but eventually to the food products that we eat and drink and which come from those farms?

The hon. Gentleman's statement is really a matter for the Department of Health and Social Security. However, I cannot accept that there is any direct comparison between the level of contamination involved in that farm, probably from an industrial source, and the question of medication through the water supply.