1979-1981: Oatley NSW. Birth deformities. Pesticide: Dichlorvos

Peter was born on May 18, 1980 with only one hand. One arm stopped mid-way between the elbow and what would have been the wrist. The last menstrual period was August 18th 1979. During September that year I was exposed to close and frequent contact with a surface spray containing the organophosphate dichlorvos. At the same time, my flatmate was taken ill. Her symptoms were similar to a previous illness which her doctor had put down to dichlorvos exposure through her use of surface spray. During this previous illness, she had painful swollen limbs and was unable to walk.

My pregnancy was confirmed on the 2nd of October, after which time I have no clear memory of using dichlorvos but I may have done so. After my son was born, I attended the Limb Deficiency Clinic and several of the women there had recollections of using dichlorvos spray. One told me that she had used the spray according to instructions when pregnant, the other that the pesticides had been used during the cooking classes she had attended when pregnant. A fourth mother did not mention the actual product but her limb deficient child mentioned that his mother still used it as a spider spray. A fifth mother whose child has a hand but no fingers said she used the surface spray containing dichlorvos regularly and would have done so during her pregnancy.

I realise that all this information is just stories … It’s anecdotal and isn’t the stuff which scientific research is made of. But it’s a warning to other women to avoid using this pesticide in their homes, especially when they are pregnant. ***, Oatley NSW, October 1989. Quick Poison Slow Poison. Pesticide Risk in the Lucky Country. Kate Short. 1994