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November 08, 2006

Chemicals, Chemicals....Aieeeeee!

A report out today stating that all of the children everywhere are being crippled by the chemicals that make up our industrial society.

The report, to be published online today by The Lancet, said one in six children is thought to have some kind of developmental disability, usually involving the nervous system, and that developing brains are much more susceptible to toxic chemicals than those of adults.

Some reaction to this:

Prof Nigel Brown, of St George's, University of London, said: "It is possible that there is a problem, we should be aware of this and we should study the problem, but there is currently not a shred of evidence of a pandemic.

"This is a campaigning article and should be treated as such. The campaign is worthwhile. However, in their enthusiasm, the authors verge on scaremongering. There is nothing new here; no original insights or concepts.

It is a review only in the most superficial sense. There are no meta analyses; no considerations of mechanisms; no calculations of minimal toxic concentrations; no discussion of actual human exposure levels. These are, of course, difficult issues, but that is no excuse for ignoring them."

Now I, as you know, am much more cynical than the average man in the street. Whirring away at the back of my mind is the thought that the European Union is bringing in the REACH regulations, which, at vast cost, insists upon the testing of every chemical and combination of chemicals currently extant or to be invented in the future. It would be most convenient for those proposing such rules (TEBAF Margot was responsible I believe, in the last Commission) if, when the rules are being discussed, there was a study such as this to support their contentions that we indeed should spend all that money.

So, when The Lancet actually publishes the paper, would someone with access to their system like to have a look at who funded this study?

November 8, 2006 in Your Tax Money at Work | Permalink

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Tracked on Nov 10, 2006 5:13:07 PM

Comments

I think that the Telegraph article rather errs in the other direction though:

[There is, of course, always uncertainty surrounding the effects of chemicals, but just because it cannot be confirmed that something is 100 per cent safe does not mean it is 100 per cent dangerous.]

Since the chemicals the study are talking about are lead, arsenic, mercury, PCBs and toluene, I think that 100% dangerous is probably a reasonable starting point. It's not as if systematic lead poisoning hasn't already laid low one great civilisation (the Romans, according to some theories) and I am sure that there were plenty of people who warned against "scaremongering" even then.

Posted by: dsquared | Nov 8, 2006 8:17:01 AM

"Whirring away at the back of my mind is the thought that the European Union is bringing in the REACH regulations, which, at vast cost, insists upon the testing of every chemical and combination of chemicals currently extant or to be invented in the future."

Wow! It's going to be fun watching the Climate Change Hysterics wrestle with the Anti-Poisoning Brigade (rallying cry "Won't someone please think of the children!!") for a share of taxpayers money when these regulations start to bite....

"It's not as if systematic lead poisoning hasn't already laid low one great civilisation (the Romans, according to some theories).."

Think scientific knowledge & human initiative has moved on a bit since then, you know....

Posted by: JuliaM | Nov 8, 2006 8:47:49 AM

I liked this comment:

this may have reduced IQ scores, shortened attention span, slowed motor co-ordination and heightened aggressiveness.

We know that children are increasingly aggressive with shortened attention spans. We also know why (no discipline, TV as substitute for parent, poor schooling....)

But rather than correct deep seated problems in our society, why not blame it on the Chemical Industry.

Posted by: Serf | Nov 8, 2006 9:21:31 AM

The poison is in the dose
The poison is in the dose
The poison is in the dose
The poison is in the dose
The poison is in the dose.

Posted by: dearieme | Nov 8, 2006 9:37:21 AM

You should see the situation here. There is an area outside of town where dachas are dirt cheap. Why? because a local factory spews freon. This is just one small example. The air is putrid here and everyone's throat is sore. That's another. Look at the rise in asthma in the west as well. Pure accident?

Tim adds: As air pollution has been going down in Western countries for the past 50 years, as asthma rises, perhaps it isn't air pollution that is causing asthma?

Posted by: james higham | Nov 8, 2006 10:53:40 AM

"We know that children are increasingly aggressive with shortened attention spans. We also know why (no discipline, TV as substitute for parent, poor schooling....)

But rather than correct deep seated problems in our society, why not blame it on the Chemical Industry. "

Hmm, I'm worried that you have been the victime of severe lead poisoning yourself, because its impact on cognition and behaviour are not only widely acknowledged but very significant. Or were you just shooting your mouth off about something you know nothing about?

Posted by: Jim | Nov 8, 2006 12:44:45 PM

When I was 8 or 9 there was a factory, "Betterwear" that made polish and spewed out waste into the small brook that ran through our town. We paddled in it, often involuntarily. Today the brook is clean and unpaddle-able. I find it impossible to believe that the level of chemical pollution today is anywhere near the levels it was 50 years ago, particularly if the pollutants are those that Daniel lists which were prevalent back then, too. It's an instrumentalist view, isn't it - "A is caused by B and that's that"? Well it usually isn't that simple, and slight thanks anyone will get for saying so.

Posted by: dave heasman | Nov 8, 2006 12:58:47 PM

Another day, another scare. The "Lancet" should be ashamed, scare story after scare story while being a trade union. How many of these stories come to pass? HIV was going to kill millions, same for CJD and bird flue and influenza. By their accounts the population should now be well down. They are excuses for the poor standard of research these days, intended to stop people questioning the large sums spent.

Posted by: Derek Buxton | Nov 8, 2006 1:53:32 PM

The rise in asthma in the west has closely tracked the increased incidence of fitted carpets and central heating, the ideal environment for one well-identified asthma trigger, the house-dust mite. Not a very "sexy" explanation though... :-)

Posted by: pogo | Nov 8, 2006 5:39:07 PM