Cypermethrin Sheep Dip – a campaign victory

Following the Buglife campaign to ban sheep dipping with synthetic pyrethroids, in 2006 the Veterinary Medicines Directorate (VMD) suspended the license to sell the Synthetic Pyrethroid (Cypermethrin) for sheep dipping on environmental grounds with immediate effect. On 3 March 2010 Cypermethrin was permanently withdrawn from sale in the UK.

“Slopping highly toxic chemicals about the countryside is an outdated and outmoded practice. Pour-on and injectable alternatives cause much less environmental destruction. We hope that our rivers and meadows are allowed to recover” said Matt Shardlow, Chief Executive of Buglife.

Synthetic Pyrethroid sheep dip information

  • It is estimated that 1.5 billion aquatic invertebrates have been saved every year that Cypermethrin sheep dip has been banned – excellent news if you are a fish or a bird!
  • At least 26 million litres of cypermethrin sheep dip were used in 2005.
  • Synthetic pyrethroids are 1000 times more toxic to wildlife than previously used chemicals.
  • A few drops of Cypermethrin dripping from a wet sheep into a stream will kill all the invertebrates for up to 10 kilometres downstream, with knock-on impacts for fish, the rest of the aquatic ecosystem and fishing businesses.
  • Buglife estimates that at least 1,000 miles of rivers were ecologically destroyed by sheep dip pollution every year it was used.
  • The cypermethrin sheep dip, as well as generally damaging the environment, was also driving species towards extinction. In 2004, 5,000 White-clawed crayfish (an internationally endangered species) were killed by sheep dip pollution in Cumbria’s River Mint; and the very rare caddisfly Glossosoma intermedium, once found in three little rivers, is now only found in oneapparently as a result of poisoning by sheep dip.
  • Every year over 400 million litres of sheep dip had to be thrown away. Disposal was basically carried out by spraying the sheep dip onto fields. Cypermethrin is used as an agricultural pesticide and hence causes persistent damage to the populations of invertebrates in the ‘sacrificial’ fields.
  • “Sheep dip chemicals caused around one third of all freshwater Environmental Quality Standards (EQS) failures with between 2000 and 2003. Failures occured most frequently in areas of sheep rearing (Wales, Northumbria, Kent and in areas associated with the processing of fleeces (West Yorkshire). ” (EA data)

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