Friday, September 24, 2004

More on being seen to be green

This article in The Times is pessimistic about the motives of those who would like to think of the themselves as green:

'Our only commitment towards a greener planet is motivated either by self-interest or vanity; Oxfam fashion, after all, is so very glamorous and fair-trade chocolate reflects the right kind of lifestyle — not to mention the health benefits. We buy organic, even though our parents have yet to be convinced, and we sport political messages on our T-shirts — not because we’re activists but because we like the idea of being subversive — but we do very little. Activism as a lifestyle choice is no longer hip, particularly when it is drawn closer to the pledges of politicians such as Michael Howard.'

Your world or your iPod. Your choice., Anna Shepard, The Times, 21 September 2004

Another CJD scare

'Thousands warned over vCJD risk,' says BBC News, reporting on new advice from the UK Health Protection Agency. Four thousand people, mostly haemophiliacs, have been warned that they may have received contaminated blood products. The warning follows the deaths of two people almost certainly infected with vCJD from blood transfusions. The government was keen to stress that the risk was very low and that their action was 'the most precautionary measure' - though that didn't stop headline writers from referring to a potential 'epidemic' and 6,000 possible 'victims'.

The government continues to cause unnecessary alarm by taking extraordinary measures to combat a very rare disease. Since vCJD was first identified in 1995, 143 people in the UK have died from it. The number of new cases has already started to decline, falling from a peak of 28 in 2000 to four this year. Not a single case has been identified in a haemophiliac.

Compare this with the very real problem of infection with hepatitis and HIV suffered by haemophiliacs in the past, with thousands suffering illness and many dying. The risk from vCJD is merely 'theoretical' since the clotting factors given to haemophiliacs may not even carry the prion protein thought to cause the disease, especially after being separated out from the other parts of the blood and treated.

Moreover, there appears to be very little that anyone can do that they don't already do. These warnings say, 'We're pretty sure you can't get it now if you haven't already, but there's a very slim chance you could have a very nasty, incurable disease, one that we can't even test for until you die. We just thought you'd like to know.'

As one haemophiliac told the BBC: 'It is just like HIV and hepatitis C all over again, I now face a lifetime of fear watching for signs of the illness.'

This is not the first time that the government has overreacted in this way. The government always argues that a precautionary approach must be adopted. But this singularly fails to account for the harm that is done by these measures, which have probably caused more harm than the disease itself. It seems that maintaining a sense of proportion is quite beyond them.

(First published on Spiked's Don't panic page.)

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Salt firms bite back

Could the food industry actually be developing a set of balls? After years of lying down in the face of 'health fascists' and junkscience, the worm may be turning... er... a little bit. The salt industry are taking the Food Standards Agency to the Advertising Standards Agency. Should we have a Scientific Standards Agency too?

BBC NEWS | Health | Salt firms complain over campaign

Monday, September 20, 2004

The teething troubles of recycling

Interesting item on the Today programme about a woman buying her own bin lorry because she is sick of the council's fortnightly bin collection service (they collect recyclable waste on the other week). Asked whether she be more responsible about the amount of packaging she buys, she simply points out that pretty much everything comes in packaging these days. Councillors complained that they were running out of landfill space.

BBC NEWS | UK | England | Shropshire | Bin firm set up to rival council

...and the Telford lot are not alone

BBC NEWS | UK | England | Nottinghamshire | Stink over weekly bin collections