|Is there a way of finding out if I've been affected by pesticides?|
In cases of acute poisoning, it may be fairly clear that the pesticide has caused the problem. Even so, tests may need to be carried out to confirm the diagnosis. This normally has to be done soon after exposure, as many modern pesticides are broken down very quickly by the body and can no longer be detected.
If your symptoms commence some time after exposure, or if chronic poisoning is suspected, it may be very difficult to establish the cause of ill health. You could discuss your concerns with your GP, who can investigate other possible causes of your symptoms, and may refer you to a poisons unit, especially if the exposure is ongoing. However, poisons units mainly deal with acute poisonings.
Some private laboratories offer tests which are claimed to indicate whether or not you have been affected, and sometimes which pesticides were responsible. While it is possible that some of these tests may prove useful in the future, PAN UK is not able to endorse any such tests at present because there is a lack of peer-reviewed evidence to demonstrate their relevance. The presence of a pesticide in the body does not show that it has caused ill health. Some pesticides are so prevalent that most people will have some traces of them in their body, e.g. almost everybody on the planet has traces of DDT in their fatty tissues and currently we do not know what 'normal' background levels of contamination are, nor what risks these pose to healthy adults . If you are considering taking any such tests, we suggest you read our leaflet, Guidelines on seeing a private practitioner first.
A few farmers in France have recently made successful court claims that their illness (leukaemia and Parkinson’s disease) were caused by occupational use of pesticides, but successful claims of this kind are very rare. It is also much easier to assess farmers’ exposure to pesticides, especially if they maintain spray records for several years.
Read the full story in the PEX newsletter, no. 45