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11 Dec 1995 : Column WA91

Written Answers

Monday 11th December 1995.

Organophosphate Exposure and Suicide

The Countess of Mar asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether their recently commissioned epidemiological study into the chronic effects of exposure to organophosphate sheep dips will include an enquiry into propensity to suicide, and if not why not.

Lord Lucas: This study will examine neuropsychological effects including a number of standard tests to allow a quantitative estimate of psychiatric morbidity, anxiety and depression. This may give an indication of whether there is any relationship between exposure to organophosphates and a propensity to suicide.

Carbaryl and Malathion

The Countess of Mar asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Why there is no entry in the British Pharmacopoeia or the ABPI (Association of British Pharmaceutical Industry) compendium for either carbaryl or malathion based treatments for head lice in humans.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Baroness Cumberlege): There are monographs for carbaryl (the bulk drug substance) and carbaryl lotion (the preparation used in the treatment of head lice) in the British Pharmacopoeia 1993. These are found on pages 1511 and 1637 of the British Pharmacopoeia 1993, Addendum 1995. A monograph for malathion has been authorised for inclusion in the European Pharmacopoeia and when this is nearing completion monographs for the preparations used in the treatment of head lice will be prepared for inclusion in the British Pharmacopoeia.

The Association of British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI) has advised that all data sheets supplied to the ABPI by its member companies are included in the compendium. However, inclusion is voluntary, so in any individual case it is the decision of the company holding the marketing authorisation whether or not to submit a data sheet for inclusion.

The Countess of Mar asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What health surveillance is conducted on children treated with carbaryl, malathion, permethrin and phenothrin products for clearing head lice.

Baroness Cumberlege: Health surveillance, which includes developmental checks, is provided by general practitioners and community health service staff for all children up to age five and by the school health service

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for children above this age. Suspected adverse reaction reports for human medicinal products are reported to the Committee on Safety of Medicines by the "Yellow Card Scheme".

The Countess of Mar asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Why, when Guidance Note MS17 from the Health and Safety Executive states: "Repeated absorption of small doses [of organophosphates] . . . has cumulative effects resulting in progressive inhibition of nervous tissue cholinesterase", there are no warnings to users of malathion based head lice preparations about these effects.

Baroness Cumberlege: The Health and Safety Executive Guidance Notes refer to the biological monitoring of workers exposed to organophosphorus pesticides. The organophosphate based human medicines for the treatment of head lice infestations are different formulations, used only intermittently at low doses and with limited exposure. The guidance notes are therefore not applicable to human medicines use. Unlike workers exposed to organophosphates, there are no data on serious adverse reactions to human medicines containing malathion.

The Countess of Mar asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is the level of resistance to carbaryl, malathion, permethrin and phenothrin in human head lice.

Baroness Cumberlege: Resistance of human head lice to the available human medicines containing carbaryl, malathion, permethrin and phenothrin varies over time and location, so it is not possible to quantify it. Measures are being taken by local initiatives to rotate treatments over time to avoid development of resistance to the medicines available.

The Countess of Mar asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What research papers have resulted from research conducted specifically into the subtle effects of exposure to malathion, permethrin, phenothrin and carbaryl on the immune and neurological systems of adults, children and human foetuses.

Baroness Cumberlege: A number of published papers are available which cover the in-vitro and in-vivo effects in humans of exposure to the listed chemicals and to pesticides generally. These include information about effects on the human foetus.

The Countess of Mar asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What research has been conducted on the extent of use of other organophosphorus products such as flea collars, fly sprays and plant insecticides in households containing young children who have been treated with malathion products for head lice.

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Baroness Cumberlege: The potential exposure of children and adults to organophosphates (or any other active ingredient) in flea collars, fly sprays and plant insecticides is considered as part of the licensing or approvals systems. No product would be licensed or approved if, in the view of the expert committees advising the Government, it presented an unacceptable risk to human health. I am unaware of research into the usage of pesticides in family homes.

Synthetic Pyrethroids and Multiple Chemical Sensitivity

The Countess of Mar asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they are aware of German research which implicates synthetic pyrethroids in the induction of multiple chemical sensitivity in humans and if so what is their present attitudes to a diagnosis of multiple chemical sensitivity caused by organic chemicals.

Baroness Cumberlege: Yes. The Government are aware of research in Germany on sensitivity to synthetic pyrethroid insecticides and officials of the Department of Health have written to the appropriate officials in Germany to obtain more information.

The whole area of multiple chemical sensitivity continues to be a subject of considerable controversy. The Government will be guided by the consensus of medical opinion on this issue but meanwhile accept that diagnoses will be made on the basis of present understanding of illness caused by organic chemicals.

Breast Cancer Specialist Units

Baroness Jay of Paddington asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What would be the estimated cost of increasing the number of specialist breast cancer units in hospitals to 250 as recommended by the British Breast Cancer Report Provision of breast services in the United Kingdom.

Baroness Cumberlege: It is for local health authorities to determine where their cancer units should be situated, based on the needs of their populations. Any estimation of cost will be undertaken locally.

Breast Screening: Upper Age Limit

Baroness Jay of Paddington asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What would be the estimated cost of extending the National Health Service breast screening programme to an upper age limit of 69, as recommended by the Health Select Committee of the House of Commons.

Baroness Cumberlege: We announced on 18 October proposals for two pilot schemes to evaluate the

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effectiveness of extending the breast screening programme to women up to the age of 69. An estimation of cost will be one aspect of the study.

Mobility Costs: Funding

Lord Rix asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether National Health Service funding will be increased to enable trusts to meet the independent mobility costs currently met by the mobility component.

Baroness Cumberlege: Total Government spending on the National Health Service, including the money available for hospital and community health services, will again increase in real terms next year. It will be for health authorities locally to determine to what priorities this new money will be directed.

East London Line

Lord Harris of Greenwich asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When will the East London line reopen.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Transport (Viscount Goschen): The timing of the re-opening of the East London line will depend on the outcome of London Underground's re-application to the London Docklands Development Corporation for listed building consent to strengthen and waterproof the tunnel which carries the line under the Thames.

Tourism Signposting

Lord Gainford asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What are the Government's plans for liberalising tourism signposting.

Viscount Goschen: We shall be laying a Statutory Instrument tomorrow to amend the Traffic Signs Regulations and General Directions 1994 as they apply in England, Wales and Scotland.

Acid Rain: Monitoring

Lord Pearson of Rannoch asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they have decided to cease the continuous scientific monitoring of the ecological impact of acid rain in the United Kingdom, and if so, why.

The Minister of State, Department of the Environment (Earl Ferrers): The Department of the Environment is currently formulating its research programme for 1996-97 and subsequent years. No final decision has yet been taken on the composition of this programme.


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