Category Archives: Health
Reuters correspondent, research scientist and environmental advisor: “There may be the seeds of some good things in this pandemic”
“Air pollution has decreased in urban areas across Europe during lockdowns to combat the coronavirus, new satellite images showed on Monday. Air pollution can cause or exacerbate lung cancer, pulmonary disease and strokes. China also recorded a drop in nitrogen dioxide pollution in cities during February, when the government imposed draconian lockdown measures to contain the raging epidemic”.
Dr David Wilson (right) – geologist and earth scientist – points out in the Financial Times the effect on economic output of the changes brought about by coronavirus. “Some of us will be travelling less. Some might seek a different trade-off between work and leisure. Carmakers might cut their excess production capacity”. He continues:
“I cannot be the only one to think that less air travel, more leisure, and not quite so many cars on the roads might all be rather good things”.
The trouble comes from economists and financial journalists who, despite their best intentions, find it impossible to abandon the idea that GDP is good in itself (and that more must be better). Dr Wilson says that this ‘axiom of so much modern policymaking’ must be abandoned. ’The point of government is not to ensure economic output of so much per head of population, it is to give citizens the chance of good lives bailouts of businesses and households must learn from the mistakes of 2008 and protect the small and vulnerable.
He comments: “If we’re to learn anything it is that ‘recovery planning’ should not begin by re-ﬁlling the streets with a problem our children’s lungs didn’t need in the ﬁrst place. Putting clean before dirty must be at the heart of post-crisis planning. It would mark the end of neoliberalism’s Armageddon economics”. He later focusses on strategic ‘food supply’ issues.
“Internationally, buffer stocks of food are getting caught up in siege mentalities. Kazakhstan, one of the world’s biggest shippers of wheat ﬂour, has banned its export. The same ban applies to carrots, sugar and potatoes. Serbia has stopped exporting sunﬂower oil and other food goods. Russia is weighing up whether to follow suit. It won’t stop there. Wild weather across Europe and beyond is causing mayhem with global food supply. Domestic needs will come before international trade . . .
“We may grow only half our own food needs but, right now, Britain requires some 70,000 seasonal workers to pick the fruit and veg sitting in farms across the country. Besides cutting the UK’s ‘food imports’ bill (£50bn/p.a) this is an essential part of feeding the public. If the government is looking to deploy the Army in the midst of the crisis, at least let them begin as a Land Army . . .
“Food security is not going to be delivered by any compact between government, the army and the big supermarkets. The alternative needs to be more local, accountable and inclusive. Huge numbers of small suppliers are currently left stranded by the closure of local cafes, hotels and restaurants. Huge numbers of vulnerable households can’t even get onto the telephone or internet queues for supermarket deliveries. This is the moment when Britain should give new powers to local authorities; to be the binding between local supply, local need and the networks of volunteers offering to bring the two together”.
Dr Wilson sums up: ‘There may be the seeds of some good things in this pandemic — a fairer society, with more time for family than for chasing money, a decline in environmental destruction — and any sweeping government intervention ought to try to nurture them”.
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Britain has been providing arms with which its allies continue to bomb the people of Yemen for the fifth year, in contravention of a Court of Appeal ruling. This stated that it is unlawful to have licensed the sale of British-made arms to the Saudi regime without assessing whether their use in Yemen breaches international humanitarian law.
The United Nations has described the effect of this five-year air onslaught, leading to many thousands of Yemeni deaths, as “the worst humanitarian crisis in the world.”.
Peter Lazenby reports the words of Andrew Smith (Campaign Against Arms Trade – CAAT): “It is a crisis that has been enabled by the political and military support that the UK and other arms-dealing governments have given the Saudi regime and its coalition partners”.
Yemen’s healthcare system is already in crisis, with many damaged and destroyed hospitals and a weak healthcare system, already struggling with cholera and malnutrition. The Red Cross reports that medical supplies, drinking water and sanitation are scarce.
Ahmed Aidarous, 36, a resident of the southwestern city of Taiz, who survived dengue fever, expresses the general fear to MiddleEastEye: “In Yemen, there are some diseases like dengue fever and cholera but we know their reasons and we can be treated for them. I heard from media that coronavirus spreads through the air and we cannot protect ourselves from it.”
Two days after his 23 March appeal to warring parties across the globe for an immediate ceasefire, UN Secretary-General António Guterres called on those fighting in Yemen to end hostilities and ramp up efforts to counter a potential outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. The FT reports that, in response on Wednesday, the Houthi movement and the exiled Saudi-supported government agreed to an immediate end to hostilities.
Presenting today: cross-party UK Future Generations Act to transform hearts, minds and policy-making
Today, the FT reports that MP Caroline Lucas – a powerful, long-term advocate for reducing trade ‘swaps’, just defence, a Green New Deal and a healthy environment – will present a cross-party case for a UK Future Generations Act to transform how we think, plan and budget by embedding sustainability at the heart of policymaking.
This follows and complements Lord Bird’s Future Generations Bill, which offers “the UK’s opportunity to systematically address these issues”. It passed its second reading in the Lords on 13 March and now moves to the committee stage
SUMMARY: A Bill to make provision for requiring public bodies to act in pursuit of the environmental, social, economic and cultural well-being of the United Kingdom in a way that accords with the Future Generations principle; to require public bodies to establish and meet well-being objectives and report on these and their actions; to require public bodies to publish Future Generations impact assessments and account for preventative spending; to establish a Commissioner for Future Generations for the United Kingdom to advise, assist and oversee public bodies in doing things in accordance with this Act; to provide for the establishment of a Joint Parliamentary Committee on Future Generations; and for connected purposes
The following text was reproduced in the FT and on the Big issue’s website.
Yuval Harari is right to ask us to plan for the long-term as we think about what kind of planet we will inhabit after COVID-19 (The world after coronavirus, Life & Arts, FT Weekend, 21 March). The pandemic requires immediate global action, and governments are now responding with emergency measures to cope during this escalating crisis.
Crucial though these measures are, we must not lose sight of addressing the longer-term risks – the climate emergency, unchecked technological change and future pandemics – which Toby Ord, in his new book The Precipice, tells us add up to a one in six chance that human life won’t see the century out.
Above: snapshot of the final paragraphs.
Read the article here.
Alan Simpson opens: “The nation is at war. Peacetime production has slumped, foreign travel collapsed, casualties rise. In every part of the country, people anxiously worry about how to avoid the enemy. This time, however, it is germs, not Germans, that we fear!”
What Britain needed was wartime mobilisation for peacetime survival. Instead handwashing and a mêlée of ‘unofficial’ messages have been offered that simply add to public confusion and anxiety.
He sees Boris Johnson’s preference for encouraging individual behaviour change (rather than more interventionist ‘test-and-trace’ and ‘social distancing’ policies) as likely to deliver a slower drift into a much deeper problem.
Most offensive of all is his claim that ‘herd immunity’ is what will save us is offensive, because “throughout history, herd immunity comes only after widespread infection and substantial death rates. Even the benefits are often short lived; with immunity not comprehensively passed on to succeeding generations of the herd”.
Johnson’s policy of turning his back on more interventionist measures, may result in ‘A Very British Cull’; ironically, one getting shut of large numbers of the voters who put him into power.
Simpson’s article predicts – according to the pattern revealed in Italy – that in less than three weeks – assuming the rate of increase remains constant – the total number of cases in Britain will have exceeded 16,000.
The World Health Organisation now says that China’s most effective strategy was the extensive testing, pro-active detection and immediate isolation of patients. This is what rapidly reduced infection rates. By choosing not to adopt vigorous ‘test-and-trace’ policies, Britain has opted not to know precise numbers. Simpson anticipates that by the end of three weeks, the capacity of the NHS to deal with the Coronavirus epidemic will be close to breaking point.
Due to the scale of NHS cuts since 2010 the UK has only 6.6 ‘critical care’ beds/100,000, whereas Italy has 12.5 ‘critical care’ beds/100,000 people. 14,000 EU nationals left the NHS during Britain’s Brexit debacle and there has been an 87% fall in NHS job applications that followed this.
His generation (the older generation) mustn’t miss the chance to face painful home truths. Coronavirus is to the elderly what climate is to the young. If population growth is a problem, it isn’t the kids. It’s those of us living longer. Coronavirus has grasped this in a way that prejudice doesn’t.
Far too often climate campaigners come across indifferent (older) voices saying “It’s population, not climate, you should worry about. So let’s look at the actual numbers. According to the UN, out of today’s global population of 7.6 billion there are about 2 billion children (under 15). By 2100, when the population may rise to 12 billion, the number of children is projected to be … 2 billion.
An economic implosion in 2020 is unavoidable
No amount of Central Bank interest-rate reductions will avert this. Societies that are afraid to go outside, or share the air they breathe, and have lost faith in the safety nets they once took for granted, are only ever semi-functional. But it is around the silver linings of such a collapse that tomorrow’s New Jerusalem will have to be built.
The silver lining to a dire situation
In the absence of government leadership, whole communities have been quietly stepping up to the plate; providing the leadership the nation lacks. In Wuhan, an impromptu army of young volunteers, transporting food around on empty buses, has delivered the food and medicines that has kept others alive. It is what happens in a war. Dad’s Army, Mum’s Army and (increasingly) Kid’s Armies have stepped in, providing the emergency safety nets their society needs. One way or another, we are all following China’s lead. In the UK, the most visible sign of this came from those volunteering as emergency responders; providing non-medical support services to the NHS.
As self-isolation increases, it appears too in local support networks. We’re part of a neighbourhood ‘internet Group’ that offers shopping and support to anyone self-isolating. Go onto Twitter, WhatsApp or Facebook and you will find these in their thousands, all across the country.
Some reports suggest that up to 3 million UK volunteers are stepping in this space. Increasingly, as older/more vulnerable members self-isolate, it is younger people who underpin these safety nets. Slowly, we are rediscovering what previous generations did in wartime. They called it ‘social solidarity’.
Simpson forecasts that today’s crisis will see carbon emissions tumble, pollution levels plummet, and a generation of younger people emerge as social saviours. Around them a very different Green New Deal must then be written. Tomorrow’s security will require a more circular, cleaner, inclusive economics. It will have to put back to the planet more than it takes out, and turn its back on beliefs that we can just shop our way from one crisis to another. This won’t be before time.
Part 1: economic ramifications, food security and pandemic bonds
Many of the points highlighted in this article are summarised below. It is published in full here.
Alan Simpson opened: “The delusions of neoliberalism stand at the edge of an implosion just waiting to happen. But, as with the emperor’s new clothes, global leaders are too fearful to say that their economic model has been stripped naked”.
The last week has seen that – following the wild weather – coronavirus and tumbling stock markets are ganging up to form an economic “perfect storm.” It will only get worse.
Initially, the industrial world had only a passing interest in the coronavirus outbreak in China: stupid Chinese, eating the wrong stuff it thought — good job that an authoritarian state could turn a city of millions into a quarantine zone.
Then markets began to panic and central banks are having to intervene
But now Italy has followed suit. In a dramatic, middle of the night statement, the Prime Minister announced the quarantining of a whole region of northern Italy, affecting 16 million people around Milan and Venice. Even this may be too late. The ramifications are massive. Start with China.
- Its output accounts for around a quarter of global manufacturing,
- huge quantities of which are currently stored up in containers that cannot get out of Chinese ports.
- accounts for one quarter of global automotive production
- provides 8% of global exports of automotive components for other manufacturers, many of whom rely on just-in-time assembly processes.
- The same applies to steel and plastics, chemicals and high-tech telecoms.
- Tankers arriving now set off before China went into lockdown. The real shortages will start to kick in this month.
The ripple effect of these logjams is running through the entire industrial economy, including a shortage of available containers themselves.
And when goods don’t flow, nor do payments associated with them. First-world firms struggle to work out how to pay bills (and workers) in the same way that China is having to pay workers to stay at home in quarantined areas.
The UK Treasury official who has just advised that agriculture is unimportant to the UK economy could barely have been more mistaken. Real alarm bells should be ringing all around Parliament about the amount of crops that will rot in the ground of waterlogged fields around the land. How are we to feed the public throughout the coronavirus crisis?
Weather related problems, including flood, drought and fire will throw food production systems crisis, with no globalised supply lines to step in as the safety net. But food security is an issue Parliament has barely touched on.
Why are political leaders reluctant to call what we are facing “a pandemic”?
(WHO) definition of a pandemic is relatively clear. It is “an epidemic or actively spreading disease that affects two or more regions worldwide.” This clearly describes today’s geographical spread of the highly contagious novel coronavirus and its significant clusters of cases far from China; principally in Italy and Iran. Countries closer to China, like South Korea, have also experienced an explosion in novel coronavirus infections. And Europe and the US are rapidly catching up.
The World Bank has launched a $12bn fund to help developing nations deal with “the epidemic.” But this is where the politics turns ugly. Behind the scenes, casino spivs stand to lose lots of money if we call this a “pandemic” not an “epidemic.” It all goes back to
In June 2017, the World Bank announced the creation of “specialised bonds” that would fund the previously created Pandemic Emergency Financing Facility (PEFF) in the event of an officially recognised (ie WHO-recognised) pandemic. The high-yield bonds were sold under the premise that those who invested would lose their money if any of six deadly pandemics (including coronavirus) occurred. If a pandemic did not occur before the bonds mature on July 15, 2020, investors would receive what they had originally paid for the bonds along with generous interest and premium payments.
This is why Trump has gone out of his way to pooh-pooh use of the word “pandemic.” If we don’t call it out until after July 15 speculators get paid and it’s the public who then pick up the bills.
The first “pandemic bond” raised $225 million, at an interest rate of around 7%. Payouts are suspended if there is an outbreak of new influenza viruses or coronaviridae (SARS, MERS). The second, riskier bond raised $95 million at an interest rate of more than 11%. This bond keeps investors’ money if there is an outbreak of filovirus, coronavirus, lassa fever, rift valley fever, and/or Crimean Congo haemorrhagic fever. The World Bank also issued $105 million in swap derivatives that work in a similar way.
In 2017, $425 million of these “pandemic bonds” were issued, with sales reportedly 200% oversubscribed. For many, they looked more like “a structured derivative time bomb” — one that could upend financial markets if a pandemic was declared by the WHO.
He adds, “And that’s where we are now. Call it a crisis. Call it an emergency. But whatever you do, don’t use the word “pandemic” because it might kill the market”. Concluding that there is no way to magic this crisis away, he says we must manage our way through it as best we can, adding, “But calling a pandemic a pandemic would at least treat countries and communities as human entities, not just chips in casino capitalism”.
8 March 2020
Corona virus 2: readers question the comparison with ‘scares of the past’ and stress the need for reassurance and compassion
Responses from Wimbledon, Stroud, Stourport, Dorset, Paganhill, Oxford, Balsall Heath, Bournville, Warrington and Solihull
AW: Thanks a lot for this one, I’ve just forwarded it, having corrected a couple of typos and send a link to a Ecohustler article on coronavirus that has gone viral and been read over 200,000 times – 5 ways coronavirus could help humanity survive the ecological crisis.
RC: I watched the Boris Johnson piece to camera a few days ago, live, (which I thought was a good intro) followed by 2 people (chief medic and chief scientist) who gave the details on a factual, knowledgeable and calm basis. I believe they gave their best advice, which may change as the disease unfolds . . . NASA’s satellites show reduced air pollution over China and fewer planes are flying; it’s not all bad.
RH: Have always had huge respect for SJ – not on the left, but one of the few genuinely free, sanest thinkers we have left in public life. The extent of distress, fear and mental health issues being generated by this panic-mongering is criminal.
LD: Nice one! Dorset seems to be pretty calm. no masks, no empty supermarket shelves, people just quietly getting on with life. The way the politicians and media are acting, more people will die of fear and stress and will be far more vulnerable to any virus, including this one.
IF: Many, many thanks for this.
CF: Many thanks for this sensible and interesting clip. We have sent it on to lots of others.
PA: Thank you. This sums up more or less what I’d been thinking, apart from wondering if coronavirus is Nature’s Revenge for us messing up the planet.
JN: I read about Simon Jenkins who is a journalist. He does not seem to have any qualifications in public health, at all. I am unsure about all this. People need to reassure each other and be brave, but not to start or circulate conspiracy theories of any kind. Public health officials are sincere in what they are proposing around the world. We shall see. I just hugged a woman who works in the shop and she was very happy, since she mustn’t touch the customers for the foreseeable future, while she must wipe down everything they have touched and that is frightening. How to be reassuring without sounding complacent. It is all going to be a challenge.
BI: I don’t think this disease should be underestimated it’s your life and the life of others around you that matters and people of our age especially the ones with underlying conditions are most at risk.
HM: This is the first time in my lifetime that a disease has been labelled a pandemic by the WHO. It genuinely is something on a very different scale from the various other scares which, fortunately, were brought under control. Our GP daughter-in-law would love this to peter out fast, but she is truly scared that it is on course to be a real pandemic
TR: Simon is right we need to be wary of hysteria but I think he is wrong to liken it to some of those scares of the past, by this time next year I’m afraid deaths in the UK from this will have surpassed all those put together. The good news is most young people should come through unscathed but for us (and especially those affected by OPs) these could be difficult times. Stay safe.
Ed: on returning home I heard that a young family nearby is confined to the house with the symptoms listed. Their neighbour had been trying to bring in basic food supplies but found only bare shelves in the shops.
Due to WordPress malfunction a smaller photo of SJ was rejected by its system
Already ‘taking the coronavirus hype with a pinch of salt’, Simon Jenkins – in his late seventies – is well fitted to do this. He writes: “For the moment, if you see a virus story containing “might” “could” “possibly” or “worst-case scenario”, stop reading. You are being fed war talk. Let them wash your hands, but not your brain”.
As usual he presents facts from a range of sources to support his argument, summarising: “We’ve been here before, and the direst predictions have not come to pass . . . we might try some history”:
- In 1997 we were told that bird flu could kill millions worldwide. Thankfully, it did not.
- In 1999 European Union scientists warned that BSE “could kill 500,000 people”. In total, 177 Britons died of vCJD.
- The first Sars outbreak of 2003 was reported as having “a 25% chance of killing tens of millions” and being “worse than Aids”.
- In 2006, another bout of bird flu was declared “the first pandemic of the 21st century”, the scares in 2003, 2004 and 2005 having failed to meet their body counts.
- Then, in 2009, The BBC announced that swine flu “could really explode”. The chief medical officer, Liam Donaldson, declared that “65,000 could die”. He spent £560m on a Tamiflu and Relenza stockpile, which soon deteriorated.
Should public life really be conducted on a worst-case basis?
Jenkins points out that politicians and the media love playing to the gallery during every health scare and terrorist incident: “Front pages are outrageous. No BBC presenter seems able to avoid the subject. Wash hands to save the nation. The BBC must be sponsored by the soap industry”.
And more seriously: Never, ever, should a government use war as a metaphor in a time of peace
“War is the absolute last resort of a nation facing existential collapse. It implies extreme violence. Words such as battles, fights, enemies and threats to nations are clearly directed at accreting power and suspending liberty. They encourage xenophobia and attacks on supposed “enemy agents” – at present, Asian communities. To promote this under the cover of any “worst-case scenario” is inexcusable”.
“Last week the prime minister, Boris Johnson, leaped from two weeks of inertia to give his Churchill impersonation.
“He donned a costume to look like a health worker. He dived into Cobra, haunt of publicity-hungry prime ministers, and pushed aside his health secretary, Matt Hancock. Aides drew up a “battle plan” to confront forecasts of 80% of Britons who “might be” infected, and 500,000 who might be dead.
“Never, Johnson must have murmured, would so many owe so much … to oneself. He stood behind a crested lectern, flanked by two scientists like five-star generals. He declared a four-point emergency strategy, plus 27 pages of “sweeping new powers” to meet “a national challenge”. He would call up retired health workers and army units. It was his first dry run at war.
May be seen for 21 days here: https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m000gfwk
Jenkins asks if the PM’s call for calm was genuine why was he there? The consequences of this appeal was that within hours, the stock market plunged, holiday bookings collapsed, hundreds of flights were cancelled, even to places untouched by the virus, workers were told to stay at home “Even James Bond was ordered to take fright and scurry home”.
Jenkins’ verdict: “Those who use such metaphors and exploit them to heighten panic and win obedience to authority should be dismissed from public office”.
He adds that every medical expert he has heard on the subject is reasonable and calm. the virus is highly contagious, but the “great majority” of those who develop symptoms will experience only a “mild-to-moderate but self-limiting illness”, ending:
“Of course, I could be wrong. I could get ill. Millions could die. But it is also possible that come the spring, this crisis will have passed. So for the moment, if you see a virus story containing “might” “could” “possibly” or “worst-case scenario”, stop reading. You are being fed war talk. Let them wash your hands, but not your brain”.
Before 1990, healthcare in the United Kingdom was provided by health authorities which were given a budget to run hospitals and community health services in their area. The National Health Service and Community Care Act 1990 introduced an internal market into the supply of healthcare in the United Kingdom, making the state an ‘enabler’ rather than a supplier of health and social care provision.
Care homes were then outsourced by local authorities to the private sector which employed large numbers of low-paid workers with weak representation by unions and professional organisations. Spending on social care is now below 2010 levels.
Gill Plimmer describes the way in which global private equity, sovereign wealth and hedge funds have piled into the sector in the past three decades, lured by the promise of a steady government income and the long-term demographics of Britain’s ageing population.
Three of the biggest chains — HC-One, Four Seasons and Care UK — are in the hands of buyout groups.
At the Four Seasons Whitchurch Care Home in Bristol (above), emergency buzzers went unanswered, some medicines were not dispensed and many of its frail and elderly residents had not been given a bath, shower or a wash for a month, an official inspector’s report found. A broken elevator meant residents on the second floor could not be taken to hospital appointments.
Problems are in part a result of:
- a long-term decline in fees paid to providers for social care,
- a state mandated rise in the minimum wage,
- a decline in state funding for local governments, which pay for 60% of their residents,
- short term investment and speculation,
- larger private equity-owned care homeowners have a short-term investment focus and complex structures, involving scores of subsidiary companies, many of which are listed offshore and
- the money to fund the trading coming from taxpayers or from middle class people running down their savings.
When Terra Firma (building better businesses) bought the Four Seasons chain in a £825m deal in 2012, there was still £780m of outstanding borrowings hanging over the business. Now around £1.2bn of interest-bearing debt and loans from unspecified “related” parties.
Nick Hood, analyst at Opus Restructuring & Insolvency, which has advised several care home chains, said “owners are playing with the debt and expecting returns of 12 or 14 per cent and that is simply unsuitable for businesses with heavy social responsibilities”
He adds that the watchdog — the Care Quality Commission — should require the entire corporate structure to be held within the UK
Jon Moulton, the private equity veteran who ran Four Seasons in the early 2000s recommends that care home chains should hold a certain amount of capital, just as banks are requited to do by the Financial Conduct Authority.
Toothless regulator/watchdog places all responsibility on Britain’s cash-strapped local authorities
Kate Terroni, chief inspector of adult social care at the CQC, says that for now it has no authority to introduce minimum capital requirements or to intervene to prevent business failure. “Our powers are to provide a notification to assist local authorities who are responsible for ensuring continuity of peoples care
Meanwhile, as Four Seasons “hurtles towards insolvency”, directors are paid lavishly and their care homes continue to close.
Why do patients have to be moved, with the upheaval and distress caused by Ill-planned or casually implemented closures and relocations which are stressful and linked to adverse outcomes in terms of symptoms, health and survival?
A 2006 article refers to one of many reports on involuntary relocation: Prof David Jolley, a consultant psychiatrist specialising in old age, said that it was “an inescapable truism that relocation is a stressful event [for frail elderly people] and can precipitate problems of mental health, physical health and even bring forward death”. Another psychiatrist, Dr Peter Jeffreys, rates it as “only marginally less significant than the death of a spouse”.
Local authorities could take ownership and take on the running of the establishment. The Bristol building is not beautiful but Bristol is an expensive city. The home could be wound down under the local authority, not taking any extra patients but keeping staff members, then eventually the site could be sold for redevelopment to recoup costs.
The local authority could commission decent design for the follow-on homes (“think of the Maggie’s cancer centres conceived by the late Charles Jencks”), which would be run without the burden of debt or expectation of profit.
As Gill Plimmer notes, many more local authority-run homes are rated good or outstanding – according to a LaingBuisson analysis of regulatory reports last August – than those owned by hedge funds or other for-profit bodies.
Based on Judith Martin’s letter in the Financial Times.
Most readers will have heard of Dr Li Wenliang who worked at a hospital in Wuhan and alerted the authorities to this infectious new form of the coronavirus and was reprimanded by Chinese police last month for spreading “illegal and false” information about a new form of coronavirus. He later died after contracting the coronavirus from a patient.
But whereas exposure to this zoonotic disease was unforeseen, worldwide people are being affected, before birth and during their lives, by legally permitted substances used in many sectors, including agriculture, industry and transport. In Britain, whistle-blowers – medical practitioners and patients – are also silenced by medical, legal and political authorities. Is this done in order to protect a range of wealthy and powerful companies?
Richard Bruce, Len Lawrence and George Wescott are among millions worldwide who have attempted to raise the alarm after suffering serious damage to health from exposure to chemicals in these sectors.
Message received yesterday; “WE ARE THE DR LI WENLIANG[s] of UK”
Len Lawrence was a fit, experienced pilot who had been working for British Aerospace since 1989 when he experienced and recorded his first ‘fume event’ Read and hear more about the drastic steps taken to silence him here. The BBC reports that five of the UK’s largest airlines are now facing legal action by four pilots, and 47 cabin crew members. It is claimed that pilots and cabin crew are still regularly exposed to toxic fumes during flights. The Unite union has Independent expert evidence that the fumes from the oil used to lubricate the jet engines, contain organophosphates and TCP, and that long-term exposure can damage the nervous system and may lead to chronic irreversible health problems in susceptible individuals.
Such people, often sidelined and mislabelled as having psychological problems, will take heart from the Telegraph’s report that, in December, an official report confirmed that British Airways pilots were forced to wear oxygen masks as a plane suffered five “fume events” in seven weeks.
George Wescott suffered severe health problems after dipping 1,500 sheep in July 1988 with an organophosphate dip, a compulsory process ordered by government. By August 1991 he realised he would never recover sufficiently to continue farming, relinquished tenancy of the farm and set up a National Action Group to make sure fellow farmers were aware of the dangers. His interview during a protest outside the Royal Courts of Justice may be heard on video here. In a 2015 parliamentary debate, his MP said that George (right) had suffered for more than 30 years and recommended the Minister to set up a commission to get to the bottom of the issue.
In June 1992 MAFF abandoned its policy of compulsory dipping
Richard Bruce, a farm manager whose health broke down after exposure to Actellic used in grain stores, says very few realise that farmers and grain store operators have for decades been pouring OPs and other poisons (in pesticides and fungicides) into harvested grains and oilseeds. He now has an extensive knowledge on the effects of organophosphates which are used far more widely in agriculture than just sheep dip – see his comprehensive collection of information at The Organophosphate File. Like Len & George, he has met a range of obstacles and unfair dealing whilst attempting to get official recognition of the dangers of using chemicals such as malathion, pirimiphos methyl, chlorpyrifos methyl, some of which were approved long after the dangers were known.
His verdict: there are none so blind as those who are paid not to see:
“Professionally Induced Nelson’s Eye Syndrome…. They see no evidence – no matter how much there is or even if they published it themselves. All I seek is for the truth to be recognised by those who are trying to hide it in order for the public to understand what has been done to everyone”. He asks:
“Why is it that individuals are prosecuted for deliberately poisoning people but companies who make products that injure and kill thousands worldwide every year, escape blame? Makes no sense at all”.