UK Govt to fast track fracking applications

A new government decision means that shale gas planning applications will be fast-tracked in order to override the influence of “slow and confused” councils. The measure was announced on 13th August 2015 and will give councils 16 weeks to determine oil and gas applications, at which point Communities Secretary Greg Clark reserves the right to take over all future decision-making in that area. He will also have the power to take over any planning decisions where “underperforming” councils fail to make quick enough decisions. Energy and climate change secretary, Amber Rudd, commented that the industry cannot have a planning system that “sees applications dragged out for months or even years on end”. And Clark believes that “by fast tracking any appropriate applications, today’s changes will tackle potential hold ups in the system.” That’s convenient… Friends of the Earth planning advisor, Naomi Luhde-Thompson, said, “Bulldozing fracking applications through the planning system, against the wishes of local people and councils, will simply fan the flames of mistrust and opposition.” Meanwhile, on the other side of the pond, in California, a new bill has just been proposed requiring all produce irrigated with fracking wastewater to come with warning labels.

Study shows e-cigarette use leads to smoking in teens

A recent study funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has linked e-cigarette use in teens and the smoking of traditional cigarettes. The study compared the start of tobacco use among 222 students who had used e-cigarettes, but not combustible tobacco products, and 2,308 who had neither used e-cigarettes or combustible tobacco products when initially surveyed at the start of ninth grade. It was found that 30.7% of those who had used e-cigarettes started using combustible tobacco products, such as cigarettes, cigars, and hookahs, within the first 6 months. In comparison, of the non-e-cigarette users, only 8.1% started using combustible tobacco products. Over the following six months, 25.2% of e-cigarette users had used combustible tobacco products, compared to just 9.3% of nonusers. National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) Director Nora D Volkow, MD, pointed out, that, “while teen tobacco use has fallen in recent years, this study confirms that we should continue to vigilantly watch teen smoking patterns. Parents and teens should recognise that although e-cigarettes might not have the same carcinogenic effects of regular cigarettes, they do carry a risk of addiction.” At the anti-smoking truth initiative CEO Robin Koval stated, “we know more about what’s in a bag of Doritos than we do with an e-cigarette and yet they both come in nacho Flavor.”

Dementia levels stabilising…..for now

The Lancet’s recent review on dementia occurrence in European populations has found that dementia rates may be stabilising across Europe. The data found that the proportion of British people aged 65 and over with dementia fell by more than a fifth in 2011 compared with what it was predicted to be a decade earlier. The same was found in other European countries. Lead researcher Professor Carol Brayne, Institute of Public Health at Cambridge University, said, “The suggested decrease in dementia occurrence coincides with improvements in protective factors, such as education and living conditions, for dementia and a general reduction in risk factors, such as vascular diseases, over recent decades.” At ANH, we’re a little concerned that we may be seeing the calm before the storm, given the spiralling incidence of obesity, type 2 diabetes and chronic inflammation rates, all of which are downstream contributing factors for dementia/Alzheimer’s disease.

Epigenetic inheritance: trauma passed on through genes

Research carried out by a team at New York’s Mount Sinai hospital has shown that environmental factors can affect the genes of your children. The study, led by Rachel Yehuda, uses a previous genetic study of 32 Jewish men and women who had either been interned in a Nazi concentration camp, witnessed or experienced torture or who had had to hide during the second world war. The genes of their children were analysed and the results were compared with Jewish families who were living outside of Europe during the war. The work is the clearest example so far of the transmission of trauma to a child via what is called “epigenetic inheritance”. Yehuda and her team focused specifically on a gene associated with the regulation of stress hormones that is known to be affected by trauma. They found epigenetic tags on the very same part of this gene in the Holocaust survivors and their offspring, but the same correlation was not found in any of the control group or their children. The team was careful to rule out other childhood trauma that the children had experienced themselves.

WHO and France plan to clamp down on ‘vaccine hesitancy’

The French Minister of Social Affairs and Health, Marisol Touraine, has called for a national debate on the future of vaccination in France. This follows growing skepticism about the safety and effectiveness of vaccines and a “defiance” she believes is based on rumors rather than science. Touraine stressed that an open national debate to properly educate people on the benefits of vaccination and the importance of it to the country’s wellbeing is just what the French need. She urged, “Transparency is the best medicine to treat unfounded scientific arguments.” This comes alongside the World Health Organization (WHO) issuing their Recommendations Regarding Vaccine Hesitancy in which the Strategic Advisory Group of Experts (SAGE) on Immunisation highlights “the urgent need to develop institutional structures and organizational capacity at local, national and global levels to proactively address vaccine hesitancy and prepare for timely response in the event of rumors, media misinformation, adverse events following immunization (AEFI), or organized anti-vaccine movements.” One of the six primary strategic objectives in the WHO’s Global Vaccine Action Plan calls for “individuals and communities to understand the value of vaccines and demand immunization as both their right and responsibility.” And what about a citizen’s right to informed choice and the option of ‘responsibly’ choosing not to vaccinate?