I Lost My Girlfriend and My Career and Almost Lost My Mind - Because of a Chemical Used in Fish Farms; Was the Life of a Bright Young Student Destroyed by Poisons That Were Used Every Day in the Mass Production of Fish for Human Consumption?

The Mail on Sunday (London, England), December 14, 2003 | Go to article overview

I Lost My Girlfriend and My Career and Almost Lost My Mind - Because of a Chemical Used in Fish Farms; Was the Life of a Bright Young Student Destroyed by Poisons That Were Used Every Day in the Mass Production of Fish for Human Consumption?


Byline: FIDELMA COOK

AT 28, James Findlay thought life couldn't be sweeter. Quietly spoken with a natural courtesy and charm, he had acquired a growing reputation as a knowledgeable and committed expert in UK fish management.

About to take up a post as a Government fisheries officer, which guaranteed him a lifetime close to the sea and rivers he loved, he had taken a temporary job as deputy manager at a Highland company farming trout.

It was a job, he now says with cold, controlled anger, that was the start of a descent into a hell in which he feared he was losing his mind. It would cost him his family, his future wife, his career and his self-respect as he scored heroin on the streets to ease his physical and mental torment.

Today, almost 13 years later, Mr Findlay, his lawyers and a growing body of medical experts are preparing to go to court to show how a controversial but routinely applied pesticide in the fish and general farming industry destroyed his life.

They will claim that a 'five-second accident' in which he was doused with a compound of organophosphates, used to kill sea lice in fish bound for human consumption, so profoundly physically and mentally altered the former Glasgow University economics student that his future was wiped out.

His case, one of the worst in hundreds if not thousands allegedly affected by organophosphates (OPs) in the UK, is only the tip of an iceberg of culpability, say scientists and medics, which successive governments refuse to acknowledge.

Farmers, Gulf War soldiers and even children who have been given head lice treatment have all been potential victims of the powerful pesticide which was first warned about back in the Fifties.

Some opponents even suggest that the pesticide could have been responsible for BSE in cattle.

If successful in his claim, which could amount to tens of thousands of pounds, Mr Findlay could open the floodgates to others who, despite worldwide studies backing their claims, have been denied any redress against the chemical industry, government and employers.

Professor Malcolm Hooper, emeritus professor of medicinal chemistry at the University of Sunderland and Chief Scientific Adviser to the Gulf Veterans Association said last week: 'I have no doubt James Findlay has suffered serious damage from his exposure and he continues to pay a very big price for it in his personal health.

'I have met and studied him and am prepared to go to court on his behalf.

James is a victim of government compromise which states interest in the subject but cannot afford to acknowledge all the evidence coming. It all comes down to commerce-and cash and, as far as I'm concerned, the chemical industry is being protected by government.'

Such backing is wonderful to hear for a man who spent ten years trying to get an answer to his problems.

But it doesn't further a cure.

'The medical prognosis is not exactly cheerful,' said Mr Findlay last week as he sat in his tiny council house in Inverness, a resigned, wry smile flickering across his face.

'My once very high IQ has been reduced by neuropsychologists to below average and I appear to have a form of autism when confronted with facts and figures and rapid analysis.

IALREADY have creeping paralysis and face total paralysis, further brain deterioration including dementia, numerous potential cancers, rapid ageing of the cells and, of course, early death. I live with depression, irritability, allergies, food intolerances, chronic pain and fatigue alongside tremors, panic attacks - you name it. Most painful of all, I have also been told that I am sterile. I will never have the child or children I'd hoped for.

'It is just as well, because all the evidence suggests that if I did father a child the chances of genetic abnormalities would be incredibly high.

Once I had a life of real promise. …

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I Lost My Girlfriend and My Career and Almost Lost My Mind - Because of a Chemical Used in Fish Farms; Was the Life of a Bright Young Student Destroyed by Poisons That Were Used Every Day in the Mass Production of Fish for Human Consumption?
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