Thursday 11 February 2010

Unsung heroines (4)

Georgina Downs of Chichester, West Sussex, has spent the last ten years trying to ban pesticide-spraying near homes, schools and workplaces. She is sure it causes serious health problems.

She herself has suffered sore throats, blistering, muscle wastage and other ailments that have stopped her doing what she wanted with her life.

They have led to her not having a partner or children and not pursuing her chosen career in musical theatre. Instead she started the UK Pesticides Campaign to force the government to restrict pesticide spraying.

How can it be right, she says, that chemicals labelled "very toxic by inhalation" can be pumped out yards from people's homes? How come the sprayers themselves have to be properly protected against the chemicals but householders can breathe them in regardless?

In November 2008 the High Court ruled she had produced "solid evidence" that rural dwellers facing repeated exposure had suffered harm, and that the government "must think again" about the use of pesticides.

But eight months later the Appeal Court ruled the government was doing enough to protect its citizens.

Now Georgina is planning to take her case to the European Court of Human Rights and write a book on the subject.

She has researched the harmful effects of pesticides exhaustively and is convinced indiscriminate spraying can cause any number of severe conditions including cancer and Parkinson's Disease.

She says the government's claims that people are properly safeguarded aren't backed up by the evidence and they have misled and misinformed the public.

It's tremendous that people like Georgina won't be fobbed off by government reassurances about their health but are determined to get to the bottom of the matter and fight every inch of the way for better protection and more responsible attitudes. We could do with more people like her.

Unsung heroines 3: Salome Mbugua
Unsung heroines 2: Camila Batmanghelidjh
Unsung heroines 1: Gareth Peirce


  1. Even if its not direct contact, because we're only human, more often than not we seem to be negatively impacting ourselves. It is amazing how we as a spices do so easily allow ourselves to put material wealth ahead of other peoples well being. Especially if a blind eye can be turned or doubt is in the air. A book I read when I was at Uni called 'Our Stolen Future' is a good read, the subject is something very similar to what this lady seems to have issues about. Good luck to her!

  2. I don't believe in the use of any chemicals unless necessary and even believe there shouldn't prolonged exposure with those.

    The honest problem with America has more to do with pharmaceutical companies though.

    We need to stop living in a society which uses band aids to temporarily heal the problem instead of just fixing the damn problem.

    While your at it, I would love to see alcohol banned too. I don't honestly see how it helps to contribute to society.

  3. Indeed we could, thank goodness for those with the tenacity and know how.

  4. Super - Material wealth is so often put ahead of people's well-being. Very shortsighted because ruining people's well-being means they can no longer produce material wealth....

    Shelly - Depends on the chemicals. Some are very useful (like antibiotics) but some are so toxic they should be treated much more carefully or not used at all.

    Alcohol causes horrendous problems, but so does banning it. Prohibition has been tried lots of times but unfortunately always failed miserably.

    Suburbia - Tenacity is the word, she refuses to give up until she's achieved her objective.

  5. I wish her well and hope you'll keep apprised of her efforts.

  6. I, too, admire these heroines who sing out against all adversity and even threats.
    I was reminded so much of Rachel Carson and "Silent Spring" when she was the only one shouting out about the dangers of DDT.
    I, too, have written about Agent White being used on the sides of the highways here, seeping into our groundwater and the fumes into the cars as they drive by. And I, too, am the lone voice in the wilderness, the government hoping I'll just go away. But I won't.

  7. They're pretty strict about stuff like that in Ontario I believe. I remember hearing some government official speaking when they banned the stuff. He read through a list of the nasty things weed killers can do to people, and then concluded "whereas dandelions have never hurt anybody."

  8. e - I'll do my best to keep updated, but journalists are lax at following stuff up. When I try to update old posts, I invariably find nothing beyond the original report.

    www - Rachel Carson indeed. Good for you keeping up the pressure on Agent White. Perhaps that needs a fully-fledged campaign as well?

    Tattytiara - "Dandelions have never hurt anybody". I like it! Sounds like Ontario's a lot stricter on things like pesticides. But let's not mention the Alberta tar sands....

  9. Ramana - I wonder why one person becomes that angry and persistent while a thousand others would just shrug their shoulders and say "Nothing I can do about it"? A remarkable woman.

  10. I know she's probably campaigning on a higher level but lately we've had advertisements on TV for a pesticide dispenser that constantly emits bug killer ...I can't understand it. Who wants a constant flow of fly killer emanating their breathing space. Mark my words there will be problems down the track.

  11. Baino - I've never heard of that over here. Sounds very unhealthy. There are quite enough dodgy chemicals seeping into our houses already from furniture, air fresheners, cleaning liquids etc. Studies on human bodies show they're terrifying reservoirs of toxins. It's a wonder we're all still alive.