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Pesticides Campaigner urges Government to assess cases of prostate cancer in residents living near sprayed fields, as Government Advisory Committee admits possible link with pesticide exposure

A leading pesticides campaigner has responded to the publication of a statement by the Government’s Advisory Committee on Carcinogenicity that has linked cases of prostate cancer with exposure to pesticides in farmers and farmworkers by saying that reports of the disease in people living near sprayed fields must now be urgently addressed.

Georgina Downs’ campaign ( that highlights the serious fundamental flaws throughout the existing regulations and monitoring system for pesticides, particularly in relation to people living in agricultural areas, has continued to receive reports from people all the country suffering from various forms of cancer, including prostate cancer, as well as other chronic illnesses and diseases.

In a letter today to Professor David Coggon, the Chairman of the Government’s Advisory Committee on Pesticides, (ACP), that will be discussing this issue on Thursday, Ms. Downs requests that urgent consideration is now given to the cases of prostate cancer that have been reported by people living near sprayed fields. She points out that rural residents, unlike pesticide operators and other farm-workers will not be wearing any protective clothing and will not be able to avoid exposure to pesticides when they are being repeatedly and frequently sprayed into their surrounding air and living environment.

Ms. Downs has previously submitted evidence to the ACP in relation to the reports of clusters of various forms of cancer in rural communities that she has received, but the Committee has continued to dismiss any link with pesticides, despite substantive scientific literature that exists to support an association.

The statement published by the Committee on Carcinogenicity states that "Members commented on the need for improved measures of exposure to pesticides, in particular herbicides."

Ms. Downs has been highlighting to the Government over the last 4 years that pesticide exposures for people living in agricultural areas has never been adequately considered or assessed, despite the fact that crop-spraying has been a predominant feature of agriculture for over 50 years. She recently made an application in the High Court to Judicially Review the decision by DEFRA Ministers’ regarding crop-spraying.

Ms. Downs, who lives next to farmland herself says, "Rural residents will be receiving very high levels of exposure to mixtures of different pesticides throughout every year and in many cases, for decades. This statement by the Government’s own Advisers’ on cancer yet again highlights the uncertainties and serious data gaps surrounding human exposure to pesticides and the link with chronic disease. Exposure cannot be allowed to continue unabated and therefore urgent action has to be taken to prevent exposure and protect peoples’ health. The only responsible course of action for the Government to take is an immediate ban on crop-spraying near homes, schools, workplaces and any other places of human habitation."

Notes to Editors:

  • The Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution (RCEP) is currently carrying out a study to assess the risk to people from crop-spraying and pesticide exposure. Ms. Downs has provided considerable evidence to the RCEP to assist them in their study and recently presented oral evidence on December 2nd 2004. Members of the RCEP will shortly be visiting some of the people reporting ill-health in rural areas and who were featured on the video entitled "Pesticide Exposures for People in Agricultural Areas" that Ms. Downs presented to the Government last year. See for further information on the RCEP study

Contact: Georgina Downs

Telephone: 01243 773846

Mobile: 07906 898 915


Campaign: "A Breath of Fresh Air?"