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Volume 172: debated on Tuesday 15 May 1990

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To ask the Secretary of State for Health what research has been conducted to establish the incidence of chronic exposure to low levels of pesticides; what training doctors within the National Health Service are given to enable them to recognise this; and if he will make a statement on the health implications for the general public of chronic exposure to low levels of pesticides.

[holding answer 23 April 1990]: We are not aware of any United Kingdom research into the incidence of chronic exposure to pesticides. Surveys of human milk and human fat carried out as part of the regular monitoring by the working party on pesticides residues in food have indicated very low residues of fat soluble pesticides and related chemicals. Residues of pesticides found in food are generally within recommended maximum residue levels and within the safety limits.Pesticides are approved for use by Ministers after receiving the advice of the Advisory Committee on Pesticides which considers all relevant toxicity data including that on consumer exposures. If significant adverse health effects are a possibility, approval is not recommended.All doctors receive training in the diagnosis of acute poisoning, including that from exposure to pesticides. In addition, all general practitioners and hospital accident and emergency departments have been issued with a copy of the book "Pesticide Poisoning", a copy of which is in the Library. This gives guidance on the diagnosis and treatment where acute poisoning from pesticides is suspected. Chronic exposure to the levels of pesticides found in the diet are not known to have any health effects, but, if a doctor was unable to attribute symptoms in a patient to other well-recognised causes, it would be open to the doctor to consider chronic exposure to pesticides as a possible cause of the illness. Working towards the diagnosis of obscure illness by eliminating more obvious causes is a normal part of medical training.