Tag Archives: the World Health Organisation

The toxic avalanche

16 Apr

“Humans emit more than 250 billion tonnes of chemical substances a year, in a toxic avalanche that is harming people and life everywhere on the planet”, says Julian Cribb, author of ‘Surviving the 21st Century’ (Springer International 2017).  

He is quoted in an article published by Phys.org™, a web-based science, research and technology news service whose readership includes 1.75 million scientists, researchers, and engineers every month:

“Every moment of our lives we are exposed to thousands of these substances. They enter our bodies with each breath, meal or drink we take, the clothes and cosmetics we wear, the things we encounter every day in our homes, workplaces and travel . . . “

The European Chemicals Agency estimates there are more than 144,000 man-made chemicals in existence.

The US Department of Health estimates 2000 new chemicals are being released every year. The UN Environment Program warns most of these have never been screened for human health safety.

The World Health Organisation estimates that 12 million people – one in 4 – die every year from diseases caused by ‘air water and soil pollution, chemical exposures, climate change and ultraviolet radiation’, all of which result from human activity . . .

Medical science is increasingly linking issues such as obesity, cancers, heart disease and brain disorders such as autism, ADHD and depression to the growing volume of toxic substances to which humans are exposed daily.

Cribb says that the poisoning of the planet through man-made chemical emissions is probably the largest human impact – and the one that is least understood or regulated. It is one of ten major existential risks now confronting humanity:

Examples of the toxic avalanche include:

  • Manufactured chemicals – 30 million tonnes a year
  • Plastic pollution of oceans – 8mt/yr
  • Hazardous waste – 400 mt/yr
  • Coal, oil, gas etc – 15 gigatonnes (billion tonnes) a year
  • Lost soil – 75 Gt/yr
  • Metals and materials – 75 Gt/yr
  • Mining and mineral wastes – <200 Gt/yr
  • Water (mostly contaminated with above wastes) – 9 trillion tonnes a year.

“Industrial toxins are now routinely found in new-born babies, in mother’s milk, in the food chain, in domestic drinking water worldwide. They have been detected from the peak of Mt Everest (where the snow is so polluted it doesn’t meet drinking water standards) to the depths of the oceans, from the hearts of our cities to the remotest islands. The mercury found in the fish we eat, and in polar bears in the Arctic, is fallout from the burning of coal and increases every year. There is global concern at the death of honeybees from agricultural pesticides and the potential impact on the world food supply, as well as all insect life – and on the birds, frogs and fish which in turn depend on insects.”

Cribb says an issue of chemical contamination largely ignored by governments and corporations is that chemicals act in combination, occur in mixtures and undergo constant change. “A given chemical may not occur in toxic amounts in one place – but combined with thousands of other chemicals it may contribute a much larger risk to the health and safety of the whole population and the environment.” 


In the same vein, Isle of Wight reader Richard Bruce reminds us that way back in 1997 US scientists called for a ban on all OP pesticides used on food crops because of the cumulative risk to children. Read more here. The UK regulators referred to the paper as “a challenging document” but nothing was done. Some 1000 scientists wrote a letter of complaint when George W Bush refused to take action on their advice to ban all OPs.

He points out that the 2016 UK Pesticide Guide clearly states that the chemical is dangerous to the environment. For the similar chlorpyrifos methyl it states that the chemical must NOT be used on grain for seed. But both are add-mixed with the grain at harvest and there is no requirement to declare this poisonous addition on food labels “because it is a pesticide”. Often unsupervised, untrained, farm and grain store workers use methods that inevitably create “hotspots” of massive overdose. Some of those methods are no longer recommended but there is still no control over application, or the methods used. the Health and Safety Executive which is supposed to enforce the regulations all too often fails in its duty.

Prensa Latina, the official state news agency of Cuba. reports that the UN Council on Human Rights, the organization’s Special Rapporteur on the Rights to Food, Hilal Elve (left), warned in its yearly report that most of the population around the world is exposed to pesticides through food, water, air or direct contact with the chemicals and toxic waste. The problem is worse in poor and developing nations, but no country is immune to these harmful substances. pregnant women run the risk of abortion, premature birth and congenital malformations. There are irreversible consequences to health, such as cancer, Alzheimer, Parkinson, hormone disorders, sterility and growth disorders.

Richard Bruce also points out that we are exposed to cumulative poisons every day, adding, “and no one cares”.





Antibiotic resistance – a wake-up call

19 Dec

More than 20,000 people a year are dying from drug-resistant bacteria in Europe and a similar number in America.

who header

This is not a sudden development – it has been reported year after year. As long ago as 2002,  the World Health Organisation warned that the widespread use of antimicrobials outside human medicine is of serious concern given the alarming emergence in humans of bacteria, which have acquired, through this use, resistance to antimicrobials.

Most of this is due to the overuse and misuse of antimicrobials by doctors, other health personnel and patients. However, some of the newly-emerging resistant bacteria in farm animals are transmitted to humans; mainly via meat and other food of animal origin or through direct contact.

(Note: the Heads of Medicines Agencies objection to the conflation of the terms antimicrobial & antibiotic may be read by following the link and searching on ‘definitions’)

European Antibiotic Awareness Day

EU antibiotic resistance day graphicProfessor John Watson, Deputy Chief Medical Officer for England wrote on European Antibiotic Awareness Day, 18 November 2013, about preserving antibiotics for ourselves and for future generations.

“ Without tough action we will quickly approach a time when antibiotic resistance will be so widespread that patients with serious conditions will be extremely vulnerable to infection and further complications. The drugs simply won’t work”.

prof sally daviesThe Chief Medical Officer for England, Professor Dame Sally Davies, has made this her priority and has persuaded government to put the problem on a national risk register, alongside flu pandemics. In her recent book The Drugs Don’t Work, she explains that antimicrobials such as penicillin are so widely used to combat infections that the bacteria they fight are now mutating and becoming resistant.

Around 35 million prescriptions for antibiotics are dispensed every year by GPs in England. Many people do not complete their course and this can lead to antibiotic resistance. antibiotics should only be prescribed when they are really needed – not for ordinary coughs and colds.

No large profits, no research

In an FT article Davies is quoted:“No new class of anti-bacterial has been developed since 1987 . . . partly because companies can no longer make enough money out of antimicrobials to justify investing in the research needed.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Atlanta http://www.cdc.gov/features/antibioticresistance/charts.html

There have also been some initiatives to change behaviour. British hospitals have recently cut reported incidences of MRSA – one drug-resistant bug – by 80% after improving hygiene on wards (for example, by insisting staff wash their hands).

  • Countries such as France have reduced antibiotic usage through a public health campaign.
  • The use of antibiotics in agriculture is being curbed in Denmark and Norway where fish-farmers have recently stopped tipping antibiotics into their tanks and are immunising the fish individually instead.
  • Last week the BBC reported that the US FDA is to curb antibiotic use in livestock.
  • A host of bureaucrats and ministers will be holding international meetings to discuss the problem in places such as Doha and Rome.

prof john watsonProfessor Watson warns: “We could all be facing a future where it is no longer possible to have an organ transplant or help our bodies through cancer treatment as the risk of fatal infection is too great.  Everyone has a role to play in preserving the antibiotics that we have now, both for ourselves and to protect future generations”.


STOP PRESS: ‘Superbugs’ found breeding in sewage plants

HOUSTON – (Dec. 16, 2013) – Tests at two wastewater treatment plants in northern China revealed antibiotic-resistant bacteria were not only escaping purification but also breeding.

Joint research by scientists from Rice, Nankai and Tianjin universities found “superbugs” carrying New Delhi Metallo-beta-lactamase (NDM-1), a multidrug-resistant gene first identified in India in 2010, in wastewater disinfected by chlorination. They found significant levels of NDM-1 in the effluent released to the environment and even higher levels in dewatered sludge applied to soils.

The study, led by Rice University environmental engineer Pedro Alvarez, appeared this month in the American Chemical Society journal Environmental Science and Technology Letters.-

See more at: http://news.rice.edu/2013/12/16/superbugs-found-breeding-in-sewage-plants/#sthash.DGucq6aA.dpuf