1990 April: Shepparton man awarded $510,000. Pesticide Exposure: Paraquat/Melprex

Insecticide Victim Awarded $510,000

The Age Friday February 21, 1992

The first known court case involving parathion poisoning has come to light as the State Government’s inquiry into the controversial insecticide gets under way.

In what is believed to be one of the biggest personal payouts in a worker’s compensation case in Victoria, a 26-year-old Shepparton man, Mr Glen Darlow, was awarded $510,000 in damages and $50,000 in interest.

The case was heard in the Victorian Supreme Court in Shepparton in April 1990, but has only recently come to public attention.

It was successfully argued in court that parathion spraying was a cause of Mr Darlow’s illness. He has Goodpasture’s syndrome (renal failure) and is on the waiting list for a kidney transplant. An earlier transplant about 18 months ago was unsuccessful and in October last year Mr Darlow’s left leg was amputated because of a blood clot. He has to replace bags for peritoneal dialysis, which drain away wastes in a tube through the outside of his stomach instead of the bowel, four times a day.

Mr Darlow was accidentally sprayed with diluted parathion mixed with a fungicide, melprex, when he was working at a Shepparton orchard in 1983. He was 17 at the time. Mr Darlow and six other workers were learning to prune fruit trees in an orchard owned by Orrvalle Holdings Pty Ltd as part of a Commonwealth Employment Scheme job training program when the accident occurred.

The other workers may also have been sprayed or absorbed the chemical afterwards through contact with recently sprayed trees. Their whereabouts are not known.

Mr Darlow called yesterday for orchard workers to be given training in the safe use of toxic chemicals. He said he and his fellow workers had not been given any warning or advice about potentially dangerous chemicals on the farm.

The State Government, at the urging of the Australian Workers Union after a recent poisoning case in the Goulburn Valley, last month set up a working party to inquire into parathion. A code of practice for the safe use of the chemical by growers and orchard workers is being developed.

Mr Darlow’s lawyer, Mr Ian Ritchie, said yesterday that he was not aware of any other chemical case in Victoria of this nature, although there may have been out-of-court settlements.

He said he was not critical of chemical sprays. The whole issue was about safe practices.

Mr Darlow, who is unable to work, said he first became ill about a week after the spraying incident. He began to vomit, was unable to eat and had constant headaches. These days, his health fluctuates from one day to the next and sleep is restless. As well as kidney disease, he has high blood pressure and low calcium levels.“Some days are good, and the next day I have no energy,” he said yesterday. “I just take one day at a time.