Posts Tagged ‘WHO’

Birth and the 116 other things which increase cancer risk

October 29, 2015

The good old WHO.

I suppose they do do some good, but they also make some horrible blunders as with the UN introduced cholera epidemic in Haiti, or with the initial downplaying of the Ebola outbreak in some African countries, or when their panel members take money from vaccine manufacturers to recommend mass flu vaccination programs. As with all UN organisations the staff are a mixture of professionals, surrounded by bureaucrats with political agendas from their home countries, and with some members from partisan lobby groups who promote their own causes and self-interests. WHO panels which recommend certain drugs or mass vaccination programs always seem to contain members with commercial ties to the pharmaceutical industry. Many in the WHO justify their alarmist tactics as a means to stimulate or trigger actions and – inevitably – many of these actions are totally unnecessary (but they are often very lucrative for some members of the WHO and their sponsors).

Now the WHO are going after processed and even red meat as causing cancer. But they have had to torture their data to calculate the risk. They forget that living is risk. Not being born, however, carries no risk of dying of anything. Therefore, the risk of cancer due to being born is far, far greater than that introduced by any other parameter or substance.  I won’t be changing my meat eating habits just yet.

Their list of 116 other things – besides birth – that increase the risk of cancer are taken from the Daily Mail.

1. Tobacco smoking

2. Sunlamps and sunbeds

3. Aluminium production

4. Arsenic in drinking water

5. Auramine production

6. Boot and shoe manufacture and repair

7. Chimney sweeping

8. Coal gasification

9. Coal tar distillation

10. Coke (fuel) production

11. Furniture and cabinet making

12. Haematite mining (underground) with exposure to radon

13. Secondhand smoke

14. Iron and steel founding

15. Isopropanol manufacture (strong-acid process)

16. Magenta dye manufacturing

17. Occupational exposure as a painter

18. Paving and roofing with coal-tar pitch

19. Rubber industry

20. Occupational exposure of strong inorganic acid mists containing sulphuric acid

21. Naturally occurring mixtures of aflatoxins (produced by funghi)

22. Alcoholic beverages

23. Areca nut – often chewed with betel leaf

24. Betel quid without tobacco

25. Betel quid with tobacco

26. Coal tar pitches

27. Coal tars

28. Indoor emissions from household combustion of coal

29. Diesel exhaust

30. Mineral oils, untreated and mildly treated

31. Phenacetin, a pain and fever reducing drug

32. Plants containing aristolochic acid (used in Chinese herbal medicine)

33. Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) – widely used in electrical equipment in the past, banned in many countries in the 1970s

34. Chinese-style salted fish

35. Shale oils

36. Soots

37. Smokeless tobacco products

38. Wood dust

39. Processed meat

40. Acetaldehyde

41. 4-Aminobiphenyl

42. Aristolochic acids and plants containing them

43. Asbestos

44. Arsenic and arsenic compounds

45. Azathioprine

46. Benzene

47. Benzidine

48. Benzo[a]pyrene

49. Beryllium and beryllium compounds

50. Chlornapazine (N,N-Bis(2-chloroethyl)-2-naphthylamine)

51. Bis(chloromethyl)ether

52. Chloromethyl methyl ether

53. 1,3-Butadiene

54. 1,4-Butanediol dimethanesulfonate (Busulphan, Myleran)

55. Cadmium and cadmium compounds

56. Chlorambucil

57. Methyl-CCNU (1-(2-Chloroethyl)-3-(4-methylcyclohexyl)-1-nitrosourea; Semustine)

58. Chromium(VI) compounds

 59. Ciclosporin

60. Contraceptives, hormonal, combined forms (those containing both oestrogen and a progestogen)

61. Contraceptives, oral, sequential forms of hormonal contraception (a period of oestrogen-only followed by a period of both oestrogen and a progestogen)

62. Cyclophosphamide

63. Diethylstilboestrol

64. Dyes metabolized to benzidine

65. Epstein-Barr virus

66. Oestrogens, nonsteroidal

67. Oestrogens, steroidal

68. Oestrogen therapy, postmenopausal

69. Ethanol in alcoholic beverages

70. Erionite

71. Ethylene oxide

72. Etoposide alone and in combination with cisplatin and bleomycin

73. Formaldehyde

74. Gallium arsenide

75. Helicobacter pylori (infection with)

76. Hepatitis B virus (chronic infection with)

77. Hepatitis C virus (chronic infection with)

78. Herbal remedies containing plant species of the genus Aristolochia

79. Human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (infection with)

80. Human papillomavirus type 16, 18, 31, 33, 35, 39, 45, 51, 52, 56, 58, 59 and 66

81. Human T-cell lymphotropic virus type-I

82. Melphalan

83. Methoxsalen (8-Methoxypsoralen) plus ultraviolet A-radiation

84. 4,4′-methylene-bis(2-chloroaniline) (MOCA)

85. MOPP and other combined chemotherapy including alkylating agents

86. Mustard gas (sulphur mustard)

87. 2-Naphthylamine

88. Neutron radiation

89. Nickel compounds

90. 4-(N-Nitrosomethylamino)-1-(3-pyridyl)-1-butanone (NNK)

91. N-Nitrosonornicotine (NNN)

92. Opisthorchis viverrini (infection with)

93. Outdoor air pollution

94. Particulate matter in outdoor air pollution

95. Phosphorus-32, as phosphate

96. Plutonium-239 and its decay products (may contain plutonium-240 and other isotopes), as aerosols

97. Radioiodines, short-lived isotopes, including iodine-131, from atomic reactor accidents and nuclear weapons detonation (exposure during childhood)

98. Radionuclides, α-particle-emitting, internally deposited

99. Radionuclides, β-particle-emitting, internally deposited

100. Radium-224 and its decay products

101. Radium-226 and its decay products

102. Radium-228 and its decay products

103. Radon-222 and its decay products

104. Schistosoma haematobium (infection with)

105. Silica, crystalline (inhaled in the form of quartz or cristobalite from occupational sources)

106. Solar radiation

107. Talc containing asbestiform fibres

108. Tamoxifen

109. 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-para-dioxin

110. Thiotepa (1,1′,1′-phosphinothioylidynetrisaziridine)

111. Thorium-232 and its decay products, administered intravenously as a colloidal dispersion of thorium-232 dioxide

112. Treosulfan

113. Ortho-toluidine

114. Vinyl chloride

115. Ultraviolet radiation

116. X-radiation and gamma radiation

From the Daily Mail.

 

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WHO delayed Ebola emergency declaration by 2 months – for political expedience

March 20, 2015

In October last year it was revealed that the complacency of the WHO African country heads (mainly political appointees) and who “seem to have been unwilling to even acknowledge that there was a problem on their turfs” had caused avoidable delays.

Now the Associated Press reports (NY Times) that the WHO leadership delayed declaring an emergency by 2 months for reasons of political expediency; to avoid upsetting some African countries, to avoid economic damage and to avoid any interruption to the annual Haj pilgrimage to Mecca. The emergency was declared on August 8th 2014 but from emails obtained by AP, it should have been declared 2 months earlier. That probably means that about 1000 deaths might have been prevented. The death toll from the outbreak is now estimated to have reached over 10,000.

Ebola deaths in West Africa (Data: WHO / Chart CC BY 4.0: JV Chamary / Source: http://onforb.es/1sCVxE1)

The Hindu:

Among the reasons the United Nations agency cited in internal deliberations – worries that declaring such an emergency akin to an international SOS could anger the African countries involved, hurt their economies or interfere with the Muslim pilgrimage to Makkah. ….. 

In public comments, WHO Director-General Margaret Chan has repeatedly said the epidemic caught the world by surprise. ……

But internal documents obtained by AP show that senior directors at the health agency’s headquarters in Geneva were informed of how dire the situation was early on and held off on declaring a global emergency. Such an alert is meant to trigger a surge in outside help, or, as a WHO document put it, “ramps up political pressure in the countries affected” and “mobilizes foreign aid and action”.

When WHO experts discussed the possibility of an emergency declaration in early June, one director viewed it as a “last resort”.

The delay in declaring an emergency was one of many critical problems that hobbled the agency’s ability to contain the epidemic. When aid agency Doctors Without Borders warned Ebola was spiralling out of control, WHO contradicted it, even as WHO’s own scientists called for backup. When WHO did send staffers to Africa, they were of mixed calibre. Fellow responders said many lacked Ebola experience; one WHO consultant who got infected with Ebola broke his own agency’s protocol, putting others at risk and getting WHO kicked out of a hotel, the AP found.

……..  The vacuum of leadership at WHO was so damaging the U.N. created the Mission for Ebola Emergency Response to take over the overall fight against the disease.

….. By the time WHO declared an international emergency, nearly 1,000 people were already dead. Overall, more than 10,000 are thought to have died in the year since the outbreak was announced.

NYT: 5 Key Findings

1. WHO officials privately floated the idea of declaring an international health emergency in early June, more than a month before the agency maintains it got its first sign the outbreak merited one — in late July — and two months before the declaration was finally made on August 8, 2014.

2. WHO blamed its slow response partly on a lack of real-time information and the surprising characteristics of the epidemic. In fact it had accurate field reports — including scientists asking for backup — and it identified the unprecedented features of the outbreak. The agency was also hobbled by a shortage of funds and a lack of clear leadership over its country and regional offices.

3. Politics appear to have clouded WHO’s willingness to declare an international emergency. Internal emails and documents suggest the U.N. health agency was afraid of provoking conflict with the Ebola-stricken countries and wary that a declaration could interfere with the economy and the Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca.

4. An Ebola-infected WHO consultant in Sierra Leone violated WHO health protocols, creating a rift with Doctors Without Borders that was only resolved when WHO was thrown out of a shared hotel.

5. Despite WHO’s pledges to reform, many of the proposed changes are recycled suggestions from previous outbreaks that have never taken hold. Any meaningful reform to the organization would likely require countries to rewrite the constitution, a prospect many find unpalatable.

WHO’s politically appointed country heads in Africa dropped the Ebola ball

October 18, 2014
Dr Louis Sambo

Dr Louis Sambo, WHO Regional Director Africa

Why are the WHO’s Regional Directors (for Africa, Dr. Luis Sambo) not answerable to the head of the WHO in Geneva?

The first indications that the Ebola ourbreak was getting out of control were raised in April by Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF).

BBC: Medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) warned in April that the outbreak was out of control – something disputed by the WHO at the time.

…… In the worst affected countries – Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone – the Ebola virus has now killed 4,546 people with cases of infection numbering 9,191, according to the latest WHO figures.

AP carries a damning story of the complacency of the African WHO representatives who seem to have been unwilling to even acknowledge that there was a problem on their turfs. That the country heads of the WHO are mainly political appointments is not perhaps so surprising, but even all the Regional Directors around the world are apparently not responsible or accountable to the WHO head in Geneva.  That does not seem to be an organisation very conducive to taking actions on medical reasons alone. Presumably the African Regional Director is himself a political appointee (from Angola in this case) and  was elected to his position in 2005. It would seem that the position of Regional Director primarily reflects some political balance rather than just competence for the job to be done.

The outbreak began at least in January and by April had already killed 69 just in Guinea (around 70% fatalities of those infected).

AP:

In a draft document, the World Health Organization has acknowledged that it botched attempts to stop the now-spiraling Ebola outbreak in West Africa, blaming factors including incompetent staff and a lack of information.

In the document obtained by The Associated Press, the agency wrote that experts should have realized that traditional infectious disease containment methods wouldn’t work in a region with porous borders and broken health systems.

“Nearly everyone involved in the outbreak response failed to see some fairly plain writing on the wall,” WHO said in the document. “A perfect storm was brewing, ready to burst open in full force.”

The U.N. health agency acknowledged that, at times, even its own bureaucracy was a problem. It noted that the heads of WHO country offices in Africa are “politically motivated appointments” made by the WHO regional director for Africa, Dr. Luis Sambo, who does not answer to the agency’s chief in Geneva, Dr. Margaret Chan.

 ….. The document — a timeline on the Ebola outbreak — was not issued publicly but the AP was told the health agency would be releasing it earlier this week. However, WHO officials said in an email Friday that the timeline would now probably not be released publicly. No official at the agency would comment Friday on the draft report.

Dr. Peter Piot, the co-discoverer of the Ebola virus, agreed in an interview Friday that WHO acted far too slowly, largely because of its Africa office.

“It’s the regional office in Africa that’s the front line,” he said at his office in London. “And they didn’t do anything. That office is really not competent.” 

WHO’s other regional directors — the Americas, Southeast Asia, Europe, Eastern Mediterranean and the Western Pacific — are also not accountable to Geneva and are all elected by their regions.

Piot, director of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, also questioned why it took WHO five months and 1,000 deaths before the agency declared Ebola an international health emergency in August.

“I called for a state of emergency to be declared in July and for military operations to be deployed,” Piot said. But he said WHO might have been scarred by its experience during the 2009 swine flu pandemic, when it was slammed for hyping the situation.

In late April, during a teleconference on Ebola among infectious disease experts that included WHO officials, Doctors Without Borders and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, questions were raised about the performance of WHO experts, as not all of them bothered to send Ebola reports to WHO headquarters, according to the draft document.

In the timeline, WHO said it was “particularly alarming” that the head of its Guinea office refused to help get visas for an expert Ebola team to come in and that $500,000 in aid was being blocked by administrative hurdles. ….

In fact the outbreak dates back at least to the beginning of this year. In Guinea, 69 people had already died between January and April 21st of Ebola:

MedicalDaily: Apr 21, 2014

Sixty-nine people have died since January of Ebola in the West African country of Guinea with 109 cases now confirmed by the World Health Organization (WHO). … WHO’s Dr. Rene Zitsamele-Coddy said in a press release. “As soon as the outbreak was confirmed on March 21, we started to work with [Guinea officials] and other partners to implement necessary measures,” she said. ”It is the first time the country is facing an Ebola outbreak, so WHO expertise in the area is valuable.”

 

India has 13 of the world’s 20 most polluted cities with New Delhi as the worst

May 9, 2014

The WHO has released the 2014 update of its Ambient Air Pollution database.

The database contains results of ambient (outdoor) air pollution monitoring from almost 1600 cities in 91 countries. Air quality is represented by annual mean concentration of fine particulate matter (PM10 and PM2.5, i.e. particles smaller than 10 or 2.5 microns).

The database covers the period from 2008 to 2013, with the majority of values for the years 2011 and 2012. The primary sources of data include publicly available national/subnational reports and web sites, regional networks such as the Asian Clean Air Initiative and the European Airbase, and selected publications. The database aims to be representative for human exposure, and therefore primarily captures measurements from monitoring stations located in urban background, residential, commercial and mixed areas.

The world’s average PM10 levels by region range from 26 to 208 ug/m3, with a world’s average of 71 ug/m3.

India has the dubious distinction of having 6 of the ten worst polluted, 13 of the 20 worst polluted cities and 20 of the 50 most polluted. Needless to say New Delhi is the worst. Delhi, Patna, Gwalior and Raipur are the 4 worst polluted cities in the world. 

50 most polluted cities WHO 2014 (pdf)

Delhi’s preeminent position in the pollution stakes was also reported by the Yale 2014 Environmental Performance Index which I posted about in February. I wrote then:

Whether Delhi is worse or better than Beijing is irrelevant. The point is that Delhi is as bad as it is.

I visit Delhi 5 or 6 times every year and it has the worst air quality that I experience. It is dust particles in the main – and a lot of that is from the ubiquitous building rubble and  building materials lying in piles (some small and some large) all over the city. The diesel engine particulates have – I think – reduced after the introduction of Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) for taxis and autos but they build up every night when the long-distance trucks roll through the city (they are banned during the day).

But Delhi is essentially a huge building site. In new building projects (many for domestic dwellings), building materials (bricks, sand, cement, tiles, sewer pipes….) are all brought and dumped in open piles on the street long before any building actually commences. Even completed building projects leave behind their piles of sand and bricks and rubble on the street which are never cleaned up. If a road is dug up for any reason the remaining mud and rubble is never actually cleared up . it is usually just pushed to one side. The last mile syndrome applies and nothing ever gets finally or properly finished.

But the real issue is one of attitude and behaviour. .. 

Delhi’s atmosphere is what it is because the citizens of Delhi do not give any value to it being any better.

I travel to Delhi 5 or 6 times a year and can vouch for the muck and grime both in the air and on the ground. The problem is not one of money or of technology but of attitudes. The population of Delhi – on average – just does not give much value to the quality of the environment they live in. The politicians are followers rather than leaders and none have the courage to follow a vision of what Delhi could be like

The Indian General Election results are due out in a week.

Toilets before temples may win the day. 

Alarmist WHO for sure .. but why and for whom?

June 29, 2010

Handling of the H1N1 pandemic

The Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly (PACE) today endorsed the conclusions of its Health Committee regarding the Swine flu pandemic and the actions of the WHO.

According to the Assembly, the handling of the pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO), EU health agencies and national governments led to a “waste of large sums of public money, and unjustified scares and fears about the health risks faced by the European public”. The report finds that there was “overwhelming evidence that the seriousness of the pandemic was vastly overrated by WHO”, resulting in a distortion of public health priorities.

The WHO has been “highly defensive”, the adopted text underlines, and unwilling to accept that a change in the definition of a pandemic was made, or to revise its prognosis of the Swine Flu outbreak. The WHO and European health institutions were not willing to publish the names and declarations of interest of the members of the WHO Emergency Committee and relevant European advisory bodies directly involved in recommendations concerning the pandemic.

The obvious beneficiaries are the pharmaceutical manufacturers of vaccines and Tamiflu and their supporters.

But is anybody at the WHO accountable to anybody?


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