Suffering and tragedy in a Kent village
Tessa Lawton has been diagnosed with ME, as has her son and her husband. Their former doctor told them a cocktail of pesticides may explain their suffering
Sunday April 13, 2003
Tessa Lawton has been diagnosed with ME, as has her 18-year-old son and her husband, writes Mark Townsend.
All three also suffer acute chemical sensitivity. Their former doctor told them a cocktail of pesticides - regularly sprayed on the nearby fields - may explain their suffering.
Over the years the Lawtons realised their symptoms were not unique in their picturesque Kent village, a small community surrounded by farmland and orchards.
Tessa has recorded 38 incidents of cancers, strange blood disorders and health complaints linked to the effects of chemical exposure within a two-mile radius of her home.
All the victims have lived in the village for more than 25 years, most from the 1980s when pesticide use was at its height. Generations of agricultural workers have been struck down with health complaints ranging from fibromyalgia to rare health disorders.
One previously healthy girl, who lived near an orchard, has been struck down with a rare blood disorder, lupus. Her father died from stomach cancer.
Tessa has recorded a cluster of breast cancers in the village as well as several brain tumours, one in a man who used to watch the farmers crop-spraying when he was a boy.
Others who, like Tessa, worked at the local fruit farms orchards, suffer from ME and breast cancer. Other illnesses linked to pesticide poisoning include arthritis, with some villagers requiring hip replacement operations in their forties.
Another neighbour of Tessa was rushed to hospital suffering a choking fit after inhaling pesticide spray.
'People have the right to know why this could be,' Tessa said. 'My theory is that everybody has a particular toxic load, it can take some people years and years to reach that level.
'There's an awful lot of people out there who are suffering the same symptoms, who are wondering what is going on.
'It is interesting that most illnesses range from the 1980s, when crop spraying was at its height.'