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Toxic avalanche 2: smart meters, an unlisted component  

29 Aug

Yesterday a neighbour voiced misgiving about the smart meters which the government decided to offer as part of measures to upgrade our energy supply and tackle climate change. They are said to give the user more control over energy consumption, help him/her to understand the bills, end estimated readings and show the cost of energy used.

In 2014 This is Money (click on link for clearer text) reported fears that two-thirds would not work and the meters would not save money and the Telegraph earlier this month published six important reasons to ’say no to a smart meter’ which may be read by following this link. But not one was related to misgivings which have been reported for some years.

In 2012, environmental health Professor David Carpenter, founder of Albany School of Public Health, and author of 370 peer-reviewed publications, issued a public letter on the plausible toxic risks of intensive, pulsed-microwave smart metering. His letter Smart-meters: Correcting the Gross Misinformation was signed by 50 international health experts:

“We, the undersigned … have co-authored hundreds of peer-reviewed studies on the health effects of electromagnetic fields (EMFs) … Mass deployment of smart grids could expose large chunks of the general population to alarming risk scenarios … More than a thousand studies done on low intensity, high frequency, non-ionizing radiation going back at least fifty years, show … biochemical changes which … may lead to diseases.” 

Findings: ‘minimal risk’ – aka some risk; ‘exaggerated concerns’ – aka some but possibly lower causes for concern

In 2013, the fears of residents’ opposed to smart meters, which led to bans in two regions of California were  dismissed in the Huffington Post as ‘pseudoscience, making the greatest inroads in the United States’: “Some claim ‘electromagnetic hypersensitivity,’ or in other words that radiation from devices such as smart meters cause dizziness, fatigue, headaches, seizures, memory loss or other maladies. Others claim that smart meters cause cancer.  Similar episodes have occurred in the UK, Canada and elsewhere”.

A 2010 13-nation study commissioned by the World Health Organization was cited in the Huffington Post article as clear scientific evidence of safety as regards  cancer, because it found “at most a very minimal and partially contradictory link between cancer risk and heavy cell-phone usage. Along this line, concerns that cell phone usage by pregnant mothers endangers their fetuses are wildly exaggerated”. On 31st May 2011, the World Health Organisation’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), referring to mobile phone usage, classified radiofrequency electromagnetic fields as possibly carcinogenic to humans, based on an increased risk for glioma, a malignant type of brain cancer.

In April this year this site reported that Sarah Knapton, Science Editor of the Telegraph, had reported that new analysis of government statistics by researchers at the charity Children with Cancer UK found that there are now 1,300 more cancer cases a year compared with 1998, the first time all data sets were published – a 40% rise.

Dr Denis Henshaw, Professor of Human Radiation Effects at Bristol University, the scientific adviser for Children with Cancer UK, said many elements of modern lifestyles are to blame:

  • air pollution was by far the biggest culprit
  • obesity,
  • pesticides
  • solvents inhaled during pregnancy,
  • circadian rhythm disruption through too much bright light at night,
  • radiation from x-rays and CT scans,
  • smoking during and after pregnancy,
  • magnetic fields from cables and power lines,
  • magnetic fields from gadgets in homes,
  • and potentially, radiation from mobile phones.

British Gas quotes Public Health England:

“PHE states there is no evidence to suggest that exposure to the radio waves produced by smart meters poses any health risk. In addition, they state that the exposure from smart meters are lower than from other appliances we use today like televisions and microwaves, and likely to be thousands of times lower than from a mobile phone. Their website states: ‘the evidence to date suggests exposures to the radio-waves produced by smart meters do not pose a risk to health’. For more details on smart meters and health, see PHE’s website”. The article has been removed from the website and is now archived – standard practice for controversial material

Better to be safe than sorry? Adopt the precautionary principle detailed in Article 191 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (EU), which “aims at ensuring a higher level of environmental protection through preventative decision-taking in the case of risk . . . the scope of this principle . . . covers consumer policy, European legislation concerning food and human, animal and plant health.

 

 

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Taxpayers unwittingly fund GM trials as the prospect of leaving wiser European counsellors looms

29 Mar

Will agri-business ultimately be allowed to charge ahead, imposing genetically modified food on an unwilling public?

Yesterday Farming Today, whose sylvan banners (one example above) indicate a preference for traditional farming whilst the actual programmes often court the worst establishment proposals, reported that a new GM wheat trial has been planted at the Rothamstead research centre in Hertfordshire.

It was advocated – yet again – as needed to feed the world’s poor. Hunger is due to the poor lacking land to produce food or money to buy it. Will Monsanto etc be giving food free of charge?

Last November, Clive Cookson, FT Science Editor, had reported on this plan to grow a crop of wheat that has been genetically modified in the spring of 2017 at Rothamsted, alongside non-GM wheat of the same Cadenza variety, as a control.

The work is publicly funded through a £696,000 grant from the government’s UK Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council and $294,000 from the US Department of Agriculture. Other partners include the universities of Lancaster and Illinois.

This is Rothamsted research centre, one of the country’s largest agricultural research stations.

Cookson adds that when the crop is harvested at the end of the summer, the researchers will discover whether genetic modification raises the yield in the field by as much as it did in trials carried out so far under glass. Rothamsted hopes this will work better than its last GM field trial of wheat genetically modified to repel aphids by giving off an alarming scent which worked well in the greenhouse but in a field trial it failed to show any crop protection benefits over conventional wheat. Malcolm Hawkesford, head of plant biology and crop science at Rothamsted, said the negative outcome showed how important it is to carry out field trials to confirm laboratory studies.

Earlier in March, news was received that the Organic Research Centre joined 32 other organisations in a letter to DEFRA which asked that the application from the Sainsbury Laboratory to release genetically modified (GM) and possibly blight-resistant potatoes be refused.

The tubers produced by the transgenic plants released will not be used for animal feed and will be destroyed following harvest, according to a government website.

Potato blight can be combated through conventional breeding and cultural methods

The letter, co-ordinated by GM Freeze, sets out the reasons why they believe that this trial should not go ahead, including the charge that the applicant has neglected to consider a number of serious and complex hazards, that the trial represents a significant risk and will not benefit society, that genetic modification is not necessary for blight resistance and that there is no market for GM potatoes.

 

 

 

 

MSM downplays EU ban/delay on use of glyphosate, a probable carcinogen, for 18 months

9 Feb

TRAUDT AERIAL SERVICE

On February 8th, Agranet reported that the European Citizens Initiative (ECI) was launched in several European cities. It calls on the commission to propose a “ban on glyphosate, to reform the pesticide approval procedure, and to set EU-wide mandatory reduction targets for pesticide use”.

Its main objectives: Ban glyphosate-based herbicides, exposure to which has been linked to cancer in humans, and has led to ecosystems degradation; ensure that the scientific evaluation of pesticides for EU regulatory approval is based only on published studies, which are commissioned by competent public authorities instead of the pesticide industry; set EU-wide mandatory reduction targets for pesticide use, with a view to achieving a pesticide-free future.

In January this year, the Farmers Weekly recorded the European Commission’s registration of petition calling for a ban on the use of glyphosate, the key ingredient in Monsanto’s top-selling weedkiller. The initiative was formally registered on 25 January, starting a one-year process for the collection of signatures in support of the proposal. If the proposal receives the support of a million people from at least seven member states, the Commission will be obliged to consider a legislative response and provide justification for its decision.

The FW article adds that the European Chemicals Agency is undertaking a review into glyphosate and will consider whether it should be classified as a carcinogen by the EU. The review is due to be published this summer. It comes after a study, led by Michael Antoniou, at King’s College, London, linked glyphosate to non-alcoholic fatty liver disease in rats. Monsanto maintains glyphosate, when used according to label directions, “does not present an unreasonable risk of adverse effects to humans, wildlife or the environment”.

On 2nd February William Bowles blogged The EU has refused to give Monsanto’s glyphosate the green light. It’s delayed the decision for 18 months while glyphosate is re-evaluated” adding ruefully:

“(Banned) but not, it seems in Lambeth in London where the stuff is sprayed regularly on the pavements in my neighbourhood”.

 

 

It’s time to stop farming salmon

23 Jan

Quartz announces, “Lox lovers and sashimi devotees, prepare to shell out this year. According to the Nasdaq Salmon Index, salmon prices are at historic highs—and it’s all because of one tiny, nefarious little creature.

The culprit behind the rising price of salmon is about the size of an aspirin: a parasite known as the sea louse, or salmon louse. Acute outbreaks in Scotland and Norway this year have, er, eaten into the global supply of farmed Atlantic salmon. Norway, the planet’s biggest salmon producer, exported around 5% less by volume than in 2015. Globally, production fell around 9%.

Mark Macaskill reported in The Times that the use of toxic chemicals on Scottish salmon farms to fight sea lice has soared in the past decade, according to official data. Between 2006-16, farmed salmon production increased by 35% while the use of toxic chemicals to control flesh-eating lice rose 932%.

salmon-sea-lice

The sea louse is a parasite that kills millions of farmed fish every year cause serious fin damage, skin erosion and deep open wounds that are prone to infection. 

The latest figures, obtained under freedom of information from the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA), show that Scottish salmon farms used 45kg of chemicals in 2006 but this increased to 467kg in 2016. Since 2002, nearly four tonnes of chemicals have been dumped into the seas around Scotland

“Scottish salmon farming is fighting a losing battle against chemically resistant sea lice,” said Don Staniford of the Global Alliance Against Industrial Aquaculture. “The drugs don’t work anymore.

Treatments used by Scottish salmon farms included cypermethrin, a pesticide that was abandoned in 2012 after sea-lice developed resistance. Scientific studies have suggested that it impairs fertility in wild salmon. SEPA records also show that just over two tonnes of azamethiphos, an organophosphate insecticide  has been used in the past decade by salmon farmers. A paper published last month by scientists in Canada raised concern that azamethiphos poses a serious health risk to marine wildlife; tests on lobsters found repeated exposure can impair the nervous system and cause death.

Efforts are underway to reduce the use of chemicals to control sea lice. Scottish Sea Farms, one of the country’s leading producers of farmed salmon, recently bought a Thermolicer, a £4m delousing device. Fish are pumped into the machine and pass through heated water that kills the lice. Quartz reports, “the scalding-hot bath kills off the sea lice—and also, sometimes, the fish themselves. Last year, salmon-farming giant Marine Harvest inadvertently cooked 95,000 caged salmon with a thermolicer. Though that killed 95% of the sea lice, it also left the company with 600 tonnes of dead salmon to incinerate. Along with rampant salmon deaths from pesticide treatments, the thermolicer incident caused a 16% drop in the company’s Scottish salmon output for 2016”.

Just before Christmas, Salmon & Trout Conservation Scotland called for some of Britain’s leading supermarkets to ban the sale of farmed salmon from parts of Scotland where sea lice infestations are “rampant” and pose a threat to the survival of wild salmon and sea trout.

 

 

 

Professor McGlade: current political systems have become ‘silted up by vested interests and a determination to protect assets’

3 Nov

Richard Bruce has drawn our attention to an article in the Telegraph with the headline ‘Modern life is killing our children’.

denis_henshawSarah Knapton, Science Editor of the Telegraph, reported that new analysis of government statistics by researchers at the charity Children with Cancer UK found that there are now 1,300 more cancer cases a year compared with 1998, the first time all data sets were published – a 40% rise.

Dr Denis Henshaw (above left), Professor of Human Radiation Effects at Bristol University, the scientific adviser for Children with Cancer UK, said many elements of modern lifestyles are to blame:

  • air pollution was by far the biggest culprit
  • obesity,
  • pesticides
  • solvents inhaled during pregnancy,
  • circadian rhythm disruption through too much bright light at night,
  • radiation from x-rays and CT scans,
  • smoking during and after pregnancy,
  • magnetic fields from power lines,
  • magnetic fields from gadgets in homes,
  • and potentially, radiation from mobile phones.

Diagnoses of colon cancer among children and young people has risen 200% since 1998, while thyroid cancer has doubled. Ovarian and cervical cancers have also risen by 70% and 50% respectively. The charity estimates that the rise in cases now costs the NHS an extra £130 million a year compared with 16 years ago.

Children with Cancer UK is not calling – as Mr Bruce observes – for any of these carcinogens to be removed; it has decided to launch a five-point plan calling on the Government and the science and medical community to ensure that all children diagnosed with cancer in the UK have access to precision medicine by 2020.

prof-mcgladeProfessor Jacqueline McGlade is Chief Scientist and Director of the Division of Early Warning and Assessment of the United Nations Environment Programme. She said in her preface to Late lessons from early warnings: science, precaution, innovation that well-informed individuals and communities would ‘more properly’ set ‘the power to act’, than current political systems which have become ‘silted up by vested interests and a determination to protect assets’ – and, we would add, to accumulate profits. She calls for “a more ethical form of public decision-making based on a language in which our moral instincts and concerns can be better expressed . . .”

Note on a sister site: https://chssachetan.wordpress.com/2016/11/02/sjm-protecting-the-interests-of-food-producers-the-indian-environment-and-people/

SJM: protecting the interests of food producers, the Indian environment and people

The latest in the GM food saga: a correspondent sends news from Hyderabad about the discovery of imported American GE sweets confirmed by State Food Laboratory’s Ravindra, who states that “The sale of GE foods is prohibited under Section 22 of the Food Safety and Standards Act.

Today the focus is on the role of the Swadeshi Jagran Manch, who – like many others – are advocates of the swadeshi approach, described by Satish Kumar as a program for long term survival – read more here.

 

 

 

 

Some U.S. municipalities are reassessing the subject of fluoride added to their water sources

12 Oct

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The Journalist’s Resource project, based at Harvard’s Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy, examines news topics through a research lens. It ‘surfaces’ scholarly materials that may be relevant to media practitioners, bloggers, educators, students and general readers. The following news items were published in a review on their website earlier this year.

Concern about fluoride, a neurotoxin

A 2014 review paper in The Lancet Neurology identified a number of potential development neurotoxins in children. One of these — fluoride — has continued to fuel a discussion since the article’s publication, as the water supplies of approximately 74 percent of the U.S. population have fluoridation. While the debate hasn’t yet risen to the same level as those over vaccines or global warming, some U.S. municipalities are reassessing the amount of fluoride in their water sources — or whether to fluoridate at all.

Anti-fluoride critics have extended their influence

The article comments that, despite evidence supporting the safety and efficacy of fluoridation, anti-fluoride critics have extended their influence and challenged public health experts. Despite the evidence supporting the safety and efficacy of fluoridation, anti-fluoride critics have extended their influence and challenged public health experts.

Some communities are rejecting fluoridation

portland-fluoride

  • Voters (above) in Portland, Oregon did so in 2013, the fourth time in almost 60 years — overruling the city’s commissioners, who had agreed to fluoridate the city’s water supply.
  • USA Today reported that in July, the commissioners of Soddy-Daisy, Tennessee, voted to stop adding fluoride. The vote was 6-1, with Commissioner Carlos Wilson casting the only vote in favour of fluoride, this despite objections from local dentists, who had argued that fluoride is a proven method for fighting tooth decay. Water system general manager David Collett said he will stop adding fluoride to the water supply immediately.
  • On the morning of August 4th, the city council of Port Angeles, Washington, stopped fluoridation of the municipal water supply following four ethics complaints against council members and repeated, intense City Council public comment sessions. A vote to decide whether to resume the practice will be held in November 2017.

A near thing – next time perhaps

In January 2016, city officials in Durango, Colorado debated whether to stop adding fluoride to city drinking water. The local effort to eliminate fluoride from drinking water has been led by Jim Forleo, a chiropractor who said too much fluoride can have negative effects such as joint pain. “They are giving us a drug without our consent,” he said. Fluoride opponents, reason that while a certain amount of fluoride may be safe, the weight and medical condition of the person would help to determine the appropriate dose. In April, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommended lowering the dosage of fluoride because so many people are exposed to it in toothpaste and mouthwash.

john-rothchildDr John Rothchild, a dentist, came to hear the council’s discussion in June. He filters out the fluoride from his home water and his clinic because of the potential side effects of fluoride, especially on the thyroid.

When it comes to tooth decay, sugar is far more important, he said: “We have to control the sugar”.

The question deadlocked the city’s Utilities Commission, so that advisory board did not have a united position to present, but the commission’s chairman, John Ballew, and San Juan Basin Health. Department Executive Director Liane Jollon both spoke in favour of fluoride and the Durango City Council decided that fluoride will stay in the Durango’s drinking water.

Early in 2016, residents of Healdsburg, California opposing fluoridation mounted a campaign

It is hoped that Healdsburg residents can be convinced to vote to stop adding the substance to the city’s water supply. They have been gathering voters’ signatures to place the issue on the November ballot, hoping the outcome will be different from last time in 2014, when 64% said “yes” to keeping fluoride in the water and 34% said “no.” They are seeking a moratorium on the additive until the city and fluoride suppliers provide detailed chemical reports and a written statement verifying its safety for ingestion.

In Collier County, Florida a debate over fluoridation has started

Camden Smith, the commissioner’s assistant, is to petition commissioners to stop fluoridation of the county’s drinking water. She said she will raise issues about the health and safety of using cavity-preventing fluoride in drinking water and ask commissioners to “stop putting a medical treatment into a public utility.”

A reader adds news from Patton Borough, Pennsylvania – another town which has continued the growing trend of ending fluoridation due to the corrosion and metal leaching caused by the chemical additive.  According to Borough water engineer David Cunningham, of Keller Engineers, “because Patton has older water lines, the added fluorosilicic acid seemed to be loosening sediment and causing corrosion. ‘The fear is that you’re going to raise lead and copper levels,’ he said.  The notice added that the fluoride also seemed to be increasing the water’s iron content.”

And from Kennebunk, Maine – Voters in Kennebunk, Kennebunkport, Wells, Ogunquit, Arundel, and portions of Biddeford and York, Maine will have the opportunity to end fluoridation on election day in November.  The water district has come out in opposition to adding fluoride additives, and a campaign has been organized to win the ballot vote.

As Florida’s Camden Smith says, “I’m not saying fluoride isn’t beneficial to children but 89% of our population is over the age of 10 and has no medical need for fluoride. When even the cheapest toothpaste on the planet has fluoride in it, we are not servicing the public good. While I agree it is a moderate amount of fluoride in our drinking water, the problem is we’re bathing in it, drinking it and swimming in it. I respect anyone’s choice to put medical treatment in their water and I ask to be given the same choice. Nobody should be forced to ingest fluoride”.

 

 

 

 

Rising antibiotic resistance in E.coli on UK supermarket meat

9 Sep

tracy-and-pigLast December this site reported that Tracy Worcester is drawing attention to the subject of antibiotic resistance, which is growing – developing not in humans, but in bacteria that can then infect humans. Surgical and cancer chemotherapy patients rely on antibiotics to protect them from potentially life-threatening illnesses and declining efficacy could turn routine procedures into life-threatening ones.

The Organic Research Centre now reports that a new study carried out by scientists at Cambridge University, looked at 189 UK-origin pig and poultry meat samples from the seven largest supermarkets in the UK (ASDA, Aldi, Coop, Morrisons, Sainsbury’s, Tesco and Waitrose). It tested for the presence of E. coli which are resistant to the key antibiotics for treating E. coli urinary-tract and blood-poisoning infections in people. The highly resistant ESBL E. coli was found on meat from all of the supermarkets.

orc-header

The research found rising levels of resistance in chicken meat, with 24% of samples testing positive for ESBL E. coli, a type of E. coli resistant to the ‘critically important’ modern cephalosporin antibiotics. This is four times higher than was found during a similar study in 2015, in which just 6% of chicken tested positive for ESBL E. coli. Modern cephalosporins are widely used for treating life-threatening E.coli blood poisoning in humans.

51% of the E. coli from pork and poultry samples were resistant to the antibiotic trimethoprim, which is used to treat over half of lower urinary-tract infections. In addition, 19% of the E. coli were resistant to gentamicin, a very important human antibiotic used to treat more serious upper urinary-tract infections.

The findings provide further evidence that the overuse of antibiotics used to mass medicate livestock on British farms is likely to be undermining the treatment of E. coli urinary-tract and blood-poisoning infections in humans. Some of the antibiotics tested are used in far greater quantities in livestock farming than in human medicine.

Dr Mark Holmes, from Cambridge University, who led the study said: “I’m concerned that insufficient resources are being put into the surveillance of antibiotic resistance in farm animals and retail meat. We don’t know if these levels are rising or falling in the absence of an effective monitoring system. These results highlight the need for improvements in antibiotic stewardship in veterinary medicine. While some progress has been made we must not be complacent as it may take many years before we see significant reductions in the numbers of antibiotic-resistant bacteria found in farms.”

E-coli is by far the most common cause of urinary-tract infections and of dangerous blood poisoning, and can also cause meningitis. These infections must be treated with antibiotics. Dr Ron Daniels BEM, CEO of the UK Sepsis Trust said: “This study highlights a worrying trend towards rising resistance in E.coli on UK retail meat. E.coli in people is the greatest cause of deaths from sepsis, and poor antimicrobial stewardship in intensive farming is undoubtedly contributing to this trend. It’s of paramount importance that we act decisively to reduce this immediate threat to human life.”

Two recommendations:

 Other proposals:

Tracy points out that we have the choice to buy meat with the high welfare labels RSPCA Assured, Outdoor Bred, Free Range or Organic – eat less meat as Anna advocates – or go meat-free. See the World Health Organisation on the health issues here.

Buy organic/local?

Organic farming is perceived as providing a better quality of life for farmed animals and an earlier article reports that a new financial report on organic farming in England and Wales for 2014/15, undertaken by the Organic Research Centre for the Welsh Government, shows organic farm profits increasing, with organic dairy farming outperforming conventional dairy farming in England and Wales. In particular, the organic dairy industry is now generating higher profits than conventional farms despite producing lower yields.

Animal welfare has been a key motivator to consumers who are increasingly choosing organic products with quality assurance standards, because they want to know the origins of their food, and are willing to pay more for products which are ‘friendly’ to wildlife and the environment.

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Professor Nic Lampkin from the Organic Research Centre in Newbury, was one of the co-authors of the report and the Cambridge study was commissioned by the Alliance to Save our Antibiotics, of which the Organic Research Centre is a member.