Couple hope for end to chemical

PUBLISHED: 08:50 18 November 2008 | UPDATED: 12:18 03 July 2010

A COUPLE who claim they are forced indoors by a chemical “fog” blowing over their garden hope a landmark court ruling on crop-spraying might end their nightmare.

A COUPLE who claim they are forced indoors by a chemical “fog” blowing over their garden hope a landmark court ruling on crop-spraying might end their nightmare.

Grandfather Ritchie Warnes, 61, and his wife Sandra, 57, of Somerton Road, Martham, near Yarmouth, have told of their seven-year air pollution battle after learning of Friday's High Court recommend-ation by Mr Justice Collins that spraying regulations should be tightened, with buffer zones intro-duced around fields and warnings to nearby residents.

Mr Warnes, a self-employed block paver, said their problems began as soon as they moved into their bungalow, built only 20m from a barn on neighbouring Church Farm, which had been converted into a potato store in 2001.

He claimed that during the storage season, potatoes were gassed to stop them sprouting - a process known as fogging - as often as every three weeks. The chemical used, Chlorpropham (CIPC), was a known skin and eye irritant.

Mr Warnes said: “It is normally done mid-morning but we get no warning. When we see gas coming out through the barn's air vents like smoke we have no choice but to come indoors and keep the windows closed.”

He said on the one occasion he had breathed it in by mistake. He had ended up losing his voice and needed treatment, first at hospital and then from his GP, for an inflamed throat.

His wife said: “We can't go outside and enjoy our garden for up to two hours when the chemical is being applied.”

Mr Warnes said instructions on canisters of CIPC highlighted it should not be inhaled and that it was an irritant to eyes and skin. He had also commissioned two toxicology reports, including one by a Leeds University professor, which confirmed the health hazards.

He said that despite frequent correspondence with the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), and site visits by inspectors, the government agency had refused to take action.

An HSE spokeswoman confirmed it had dealt with complaints in 2004 concerning the use of CIPC and was also in correspondence with the local MP about people's concerns.

Farmer Henry Alston insisted fogging took place only three times during the period early November to May. He said the fact they did everything “100pc legally and above board” had been confirmed by both the HSE and Assured Produce Scheme that checked methods of crop production.

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