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The series of 1080 poisonings in 1963 that led to the UK & the EU banning the deadly substance

The Smarden 1080/1081 poisoning is important as an incident because it led to the banning of this chemical in the UK and later the EU. A ‘large number’ of rats and other animals died as a result of a poisoned pony used as pet food and at least 20 horses and cattle died as a result of the contaminated water near a 1080 pesticide factory. From my own read of the article & the poisonings around the factory, there were 78 domestic animals poisoned (cats & dogs), seven sheep, 20 odd cows & several calves, one goat and two guinea pigs. (There are two articles here):

The forgotten story of how a toxic spill and a book launched Britain’s environmental movement

Today we take for granted an awareness of environmental matters, but this was not always the case. It could be said that in Britain there was a moment when that environmental consciousness arrived. When in 1963 some farm animals in the parish of Smarden in Kent became sick and died, suspicions fell on a nearby pesticide factory run by a division of Rentokil Laboratories. The events that followed amounted to one of the first environmental scandals in contemporary British history – one that would galvanise the environmental movement.

It became clear that the factory, a large shed in the middle of farmland, was manufacturing toxic chemicals and that a leak of one of these, fluoroacetamide, led to Britain’s first documented livestock mass poisoning. The incident might have passed by as only a historical footnote, but instead the Smarden leak quickly became a national concern with international implications, and has cast a long shadow across the approach to intensive agriculture in the UK in the years since.

Part of why this incident had such major repercussions is due to timing, coming as it did at the same time as American writer Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring was first published in the UK. Seen as the first polemic of the environmental movement, Carson’s book was a significant catalyst to the emergence of modern environmentalism on both sides of the Atlantic.

An ecological narrative arrives

Houghton Mifflin Company

Local veterinarian Douglas Good had unique knowledge of fluoride poisoning having worked with a leading expert in South Africa and on cases of animals affected by industrial fluoride poisoning in England. Taking his cue from Carson, Good disseminated what he called a “short story” about the incident to the press, putting across the Smarden incident as not simply a local industrial waste spill, but as deadly evidence of the pervasiveness of toxic pesticides in the environment. Acknowledging his inspiration, Good concluded his narrative by declaring that the “subject of Rachel Carson’s book Silent Spring had become a reality here in the heart of the Garden of England”.

The media placed the Smarden incident within a Carson-inspired ecological critique of the dangers of an intensive, industrial approach to agriculture. Good, like Carson, was a trained scientist. Like her, he raised concerns about technocracy – governmental administration underpinned by scientific and technological expertise. As the Smarden incident unfolded, it highlighted the risks and hazards which accompanied the government’s commitment to industrial development. Tensions arose between veterinarians, government scientists, local government, media, and business interests.

A chemical double agent

While the use of inorganic poisons as pesticides stretches back to antiquity, large-scale use of organic pesticides is a 20th-century phenomenon. Fluoroacetamide is a toxic organic pesticide with nefarious origins.

A cartoon that appeared in Punch on February 12, 1964). PunchAuthor provided

The two world wars fostered a massive growth of the chemical industry, and fluoroacetamide was a pesticide that arose from the search for lethal chemical weapons. After the war it was approved for use as a poison for use against rodents and insects – it was not uncommon for the science, technology, institutions, and language of chemical warfare to be redirected to the problem of agricultural pest control during peacetime. But by the time of the Smarden incident in the early 1960s, the origin of these chemicals was seen as damning evidence of the perniciousness of the military-industrial complex and its impact on the environment.

READ MORE

https://theconversation.com/the-forgotten-story-of-how-a-toxic-spill-and-a-book-launched-britains-environmental-movement-72895


 

The Smarden (1080/1081) Poisoning, UK – 1963

by F.D.T. Good, M.R.C.V.S.
I live and practice in Tenterden near the village of Smarden in the Weald of Kent where
there is a small factory, which makes orchard sprays.
In January 1963, a man who worked at the factory brought a four-month old Labrador
puppy to my surgery. It was having convulsions and after treatment appeared to be
making an uneventful recovery. Two weeks later the puppy was brought back to the
surgery, together with its litter brother. Both were dead, having had fits earlier in the day.
The owner suspected poisoning and wanted a post mortem examination. I explained the
difficulties of this unless one knew what poison to suspect, and reluctantly he went away
not knowing what had killed his puppies which had been so well that morning.
On Benenden Fair Day, a Saturday in mid-May, I was called to GREAT OMENDEN FARM
where a client had lost five sheep suddenly. They were being loaded for sale. A few
minutes before they appeared normal and just sank to the ground and were dead. This
was a mile from the factory. The post-mortem examination revealed nothing of
significance to indicate the cause of death. I was baffled. The Veterinary Investigation
Centre at Wye had closed down for the weekend. A sixth sheep died at Benenden Fair and a seventh with the new owner at Rye. Sheep can die suddenly from a number of infectious diseases but there was no reason to suspect any of these.
The farm manager asked me whether I had heard about three of his neighbour’s cows,
which died a few days before. This was Mr. Jull and his sons Cyril and Norman at Roberts
Farm. It was a fine afternoon and this was my last visit of the day, so we took a walk along a stream, which ran through his neighbour’s land. We noticed that the further we went upstream, the less clear the water became. The vegetation in the ditches was black and dead. The stream originated alongside the factory, which made pesticides. The water on which the cattle and sheep depended for drinking water became suspected. Water
samples were collected and internal organs from the dead sheep were taken to the County Analytical Laboratory at Maidstone. Telephone calls to my neighbouring veterinary practice at Ashford established that they had been attending three cows at Roberts Farm. We were mystified. They knew the factory made methyl bromide, and one of the ponds smelt of bromide.
The following day, Sunday, I was called urgently to attend a goat at Limes Land Farm
which lay directly across the main road from the factory. This client used to work there
and I asked him what they made. Amongst the many pesticides he mentioned was
fluoroacetamide (1081), a rat poison. The goat was trembling and in a convulsive state.
She died a few hours later. Many meetings transpired between the Ashford veterinary practice, the factory manager and myself. Analytical test results bean to come through. Fluorides were present to the extent of 5 parts per million, but bromides were a hundred times more. Sulphuric acid was also present in the water. The sheep specimens revealed no chemicals of any significance. Testing of the ditches and ponds for bromides were carried out at intervals.
The acid had been neutralized by the factory management with washing soda and only
bromides appeared to remain. Testing for fluorides was abandoned in view of the alarming quantities of bromide present. The Kent River Board, responsible for the
prevention of pollution of watercourses was alerted. The factory manager told me that
fluoroacetamide could not possibly have got into the ditches, but he was able to account
for the bromides and acid. The black chemical residue from the manufacture of
fluoroacetamide had been pumped out onto the factory land for months and the Kent
River Board assured me that this could only be carried downwards into the soil.
All ditches and ponds on Great Omenden, Kelsham and Roberts Farms were fenced off to
prevent access by livestock. The remainder of the young Friesian herd on Roberts Farm
was kept under close observation by the Ashford veterinary surgeons. No more deaths
occurred and we felt a little easier. We had at least prevented further deaths. Mr. Lowe, the farmer at Great Omenden, also kept pigs, poultry and cattle, as well as two
pet dogs, one of them a sturdy and obedient foxhound. A month after the sheep deaths,
and after all acid had disappeared from his ponds and ditches, the foxhound was taken ill at night. I will use the housekeepers words:- “At 1 am he jumped onto my bed, a thing he never does…his eyes staring and big…trembling a little and teeth bared as he panted and seemed mad…I was frightened…I let him out of the bedroom and he fell downstairs…he stumbled out of doors and went onto the green…there he fell over, head bent backwards and his legs kicking as he gasped for air…a horrible noise from his throat as he breathed…his eyes were very big…then he got up, looking wildly around, then shot away and we did not see him again alive.”
His actions were suggestive of fearful hallucinations. The following morning he was
found drowned in a pond. A post-mortem examination in the forecourt of my surgery
showed only the signs of death from drowning, and the big meal he had eaten the evening before was undigested in his stomach. The owner could not accept my post-mortem certificate. What had caused the madness before he bolted away in terror? I explained this as being due to severe abdominal pain and colic. The dog had been out hunting the previous afternoon and given a big meal on his return that evening, when he was in an exhausted condition. Mr. Lowe was still not satisfied. He had lost sheep, his neighbour had lost cattle, this was still poisoning! But how could it be? The water analyses for acid and bromide were almost normal, and the bromides, if responsible, would only have a sedative effect and not one of stimulation. Doubt grew in my mind. The Veterinary Investigation Centre was not so concerned with dogs, and besides they would be reluctant to intervene as litigation might be involved. Meanwhile the cows at Roberts Farm were reported to be normal to the casual observer.
Cyril Jull knew their milk yields had fallen, they were less alert than usual, and they were easily tired. If made to hurry, they would stop and pant like a dog. A few calves, which were born strong and healthy, died in convulsions before they were a few hours old. Mr. Patterson, the Ministry Veterinary Surgeon at Wye was again pressed to come to our aid. Yes, he was willing to do so if we could tell him what poison to look for. The factory sold scores of pesticides, from the more complex chlorinated hydrocarbons, DDT,
Lindane, Parathion, down to the simpler copper, arsenic, zinc and sulphur ones. Was one
to start at the top of the list and work down, or try one’s luck with a pin? The de la Warr
Laboratories at Oxford offered me their help and in July a team of three visited Tenterden and took apparatus out to Roberts Farm. Within minutes of setting up their apparatus they diagnosed fluoroacetate (1080), much to the surprise of the farmer and myself.

READ MORE

https://fluorideinformationaustralia.files.wordpress.com/2013/01/fluoro-pesticides-the-smarden-1080-1081-poisoning-pdf.pdf

 

See also the BMJ peer-reviewed article:

Mishaps With Rat Poison,  British Medical Journal, Vol. 1, No. 5380 (Feb. 15, 1964), pp. 387-388 Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/25397402

SOURCE (cited with permission):

Poison Register Working Document

COPYRIGHT MATERIAL. WORKING DOCUMENT. Intellectual Property of Clean Green New Zealand Trust, Reg Charity no: CC54185. Collated by Dr Ursula Edgington, Michelle Terry, Clyde & Steve Graf, Kathy White and Sue Grey LLB (Hons), BSc, RSHDipPHI & other citizens.

New Zealand Register of Unintended human, stock, wildlife, dogs, native birds & aquatic life. and other poisoning incidents and deaths from aerial Compound 1080 & brodifacoum operations between 1954 and 2018. http://1080science.co.nz/

 

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In 2004 the DHS was asked to ban the production of odorless, tasteless 1080 – the most toxic pesticide registered by WHO – because it could be used by terrorists to poison US water supplies

Note : Tull was closed only recently. Clearly NZers have not been the only people concerned about the toxicity of 1080 & its contamination of waterways. In the UK and the EU it was banned. See our other story to come.

December 19, 2004

 

The small factory at the end of Burton Street does not look like much from the outside, but its product is getting attention from Washington to the other side of the world.Virtually unknown outside the neighborhood where it has been operating since the late 1950s, Tull Chemical Co. is the only known producer of Compound 1080, developed as a rat poison in German-occupied territories during World War II. Once banned in the United States, a teaspoonful could kill dozens.Compound 1080 is used only sparingly in the United States but more widely in New Zealand to control outdoor predators and pests. Animal welfare groups and other environmentalists say it should again be outlawed because it kills too indiscriminately.Rep. Peter A. DeFazio (D-Ore.) has asked the Department of Homeland Security to ban production of the odorless, tasteless poison for another reason: the belief by the FBI and others that Compound 1080 — the most toxic pesticide registered by the World Health Organization — could be used by terrorists to poison U.S. water supplies. There is no known antidote.Trying to hold on to a business started by his grandfather, Tull Chemical owner Charles Wigley defends his product as safe when used properly. Other chemicals could be just as deadly in the hands of terrorists, he argues, and someone else could start making the poison.

Besides, unknown quantities of the poison could be stored around the United States from decades ago, before production was regulated.

“If they shut me down, it’s not like it’s going to just go away,” Wigley said.

Homeland Security spokeswoman Valerie Smith said the agency is reviewing Compound 1080, but it lacks the authority to ban production.

DeFazio previously asked the Environmental Protection Agency to shut down Tull Chemical because of safety problems at the company and the danger of its product, but officials refused. Neighbors of the factory were not surprised.

Lea Cheatwood has lived about 150 yards from Tull Chemical for decades, but she did not know what the company made until the early 1990s, when a neighbor obtained a copy of an EPA audit that cited numerous safety problems at the small plant, about 50 miles east of Birmingham.

Since then, Cheatwood has spent hours watching the plant and keeping logs that document truck traffic from the site, located in a city of about 15,000 people. Cheatwood said local, state and federal officials all have ignored complaints that the company transports deadly chemicals in unmarked trucks, has virtually no security and sits on the bank of a creek that regularly floods.”They all just say it’s not in their jurisdiction,” Cheatwood said. “It’s an extremely dangerous product, and it worries me it’s made in my neighborhood.”Wigley said he follows the law and laces his poison with black dye that would show up if the chemical, an organic compound, got into floodwaters in the neighborhood or — if used by terrorists — a public water reservoir.”I haven’t been contacted by Homeland Security, but EPA visits a couple of times a year,” Wigley said. He accused Rep. DeFazio of trying to make a name for himself with environmentalists by seeking the ban on Compound 1080.”He’s talking about shutting down a plant in Alabama. They’re against outsourcing jobs, but he’s talking about outsourcing mine,” Wigley said.

Tull Allen, Wigley’s grandfather, started Tull Chemical in 1956 after purchasing the process to make Compound 1080 from Monsanto Co., which had made the poison at a nearby plant that later became infamous for polluting Oxford and nearby Anniston with PCBs, or polychlorinated biphenyls.

Compound 1080 originally was developed as a rat poison in Nazi-controlled territory in the 1940s, and some research indicates that the Nazis considered using it to kill people in Holocaust death camps before deciding it was too dangerous for guards, said Brooks Fahy, executive director of the Oregon-based Predator Defense, which wants the poison outlawed.

The recipe made it to the United States, where the poison was used on rats and then at livestock ranches to kill coyotes and other predators.

Faced with complaints that the chemical was also killing eagles and other animals, the Nixon administration in 1972 banned the use of Compound 1080 for livestock protection. The Reagan administration reversed course in 1981, and the EPA said the poison could be registered for limited domestic use in poison-laced collars worn by sheep.

Government records show Tull Chemical closed for several years in the mid-1980s as the government considered whether to allow continued production of Compound 1080, but Wigley later reopened it. He reinforced the buildings and installed a chain-link fence topped by barbed wire after an EPA review noted inadequate security and other problems.

Wigley said he makes as much as five tons of the poison annually, with most of it being exported to New Zealand. He said his only U.S. customer is the Department of Agriculture, which said it uses less than four tablespoons of Compound 1080 annually in sheep collars. The collars kill coyotes by poisoning them when they bite an animal’s throat.

The poison collars are used in nine states, but the government said they only kill a couple dozen coyotes annually. It was once used in California, but voters there in 1998 approved a ballot resolution banning the use of Compound 1080 and another poison, sodium cyanide.

Environmentalists in New Zealand oppose the use of Compound 1080, which they claim kills slowly and painfully and can poison animals that feed on carcasses of its victims. Their protests are echoed in the United States by groups including Predator Defense, which got DeFazio involved in the issue.

Fahy has twice visited Oxford to gather information about Tull Chemical and Compound 1080.

“It’s so dangerous, there’s no legitimate use for it,” he said. “It is beyond belief that this place is operating and operating where it is.”

A locked gate blocks the entrance to Tull Chemical in Oxford, Ala., the only manufacturer of Compound 1080, a deadly poison opponents say poses terrorism and environmental risks.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/archive/politics/2004/12/19/maker-of-lethal-chemical-fights-a-ban/f4103ea0-4390-4c34-8929-2ef667f570a2/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.22b67612defc

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