Document Directory

18 Jan 01 - Food Safety - Frequent flyers face cancer risk, report says
18 Jan 01 - Food Safety - Ribena loses case over tooth decay
17 Jan 01 - Food Safety - Norway to defy ban on whale meat trade
17 Jan 01 - Food Safety - Low-tar smokers just puff harder
17 Jan 01 - Food Safety - Qantas staff warned about deadly blood clots
17 Jan 01 - Food Safety - Cigarette firm invents 'nearly nicotine free' cigarette
16 Jan 01 - Food Safety - Airlines sued by lawyer who suffered DVT
16 Jan 01 - Food Safety - Flight clots 'could be worse than bsx'
14 Jan 01 - Food Safety - Food standards scheme 'failing'
14 Jan 01 - Food Safety - Long-haul hell
14 Jan 01 - Food Safety - Blood clot hazard known for 30 years
14 Jan 01 - Food Safety - The cramped skies
14 Jan 01 - Food Safety - One in ten older flyers at risk from blood clots
14 Jan 01 - Food Safety - Scientists link eye cancer to mobile phones
12 Jan 01 - Food Safety - Olympic officials suffered blood clots on flight to Australia
12 Jan 01 - Food Safety - Stand up and fidget, air passengers told
12 Jan 01 - Food Safety - 'economy-class syndrome' hit Olympic trio
12 Jan 01 - Food Safety - Mobiles safety leaflet 'would cost too much'
11 Jan 01 - Food Safety - Surgeons back flight fears of blood clots
11 Jan 01 - Food Safety - Farmers want increased badger cull
11 Jan 01 - Food Safety - Blood clots affect 400 a year flying to Sydney, says surgeon
11 Jan 01 - Food Safety - Mobile may have caused Swiss air crash that killed 10
10 Jan 01 - Food Safety - Water from private wells poses risk of radiation
10 Jan 01 - Food Safety - Long flights 'cost 2,000 lives a year
10 Jan 01 - Food Safety - Bovine tuberculosis
10 Jan 01 - Food Safety - Schroeder wants less industrial farming
10 Jan 01 - Food Safety - Flight blood clots kill 'thousands'
09 Jan 01 - Food Safety - BA sends out blood clot warning



18 Jan 01 - Food Safety - Frequent flyers face cancer risk, report says

Ananova

PA News- Thursday 18 January 2001


People who fly frequently suffer a greater risk of getting cancer , according to a US report.

A survey of flight attendants in America found the incidence of breast cancer was 30% higher than expected.

High altitude cosmic radiation, which bombards aircrafts, is thought to be to blame.

Under laws introduced last year, European airlines must ensure staff do not fly too many long-haul flights, and pregnant crew members are given desk jobs.

But new research suggests those precautions may not be enough, reports Sky News.

Farrol Kahn, of the Aviation Health Institute, said: "Frequent flyers have no idea of the hazards of flying in terms of radiation."

Because planes often fly above the clouds, protection from cosmic radiation is dramatically reduced. Solar activity may significantly affect radiation doses on planes.

This year is an 11-year peak for solar activity. The solar flares could deliver the equivalent of one year's radiation exposure in just one long-haul flight across the polar region, scientists believe.

The National Radiological Protection Board says airline crews can receive a higher dose over a year's flying than workers in the nuclear industry.


18 Jan 01 - Food Safety - Ribena loses case over tooth decay

Sophie Brown

Guardian- Thursday 18 January 2001


The makers of Ribena, GlaxoSmithKline, were dealt a blow yesterday when a judge ruled that the company was wrong to claim that one of its drinks did not encourage tooth decay.

Consumer groups have welcomed the judgment, but the British Dental Association is standing by its decision to endorse Ribena ToothKind as "a soft drink dentists can recommend with confidence" and has renewed its accreditation.

GlaxoSmithKline had challenged a ruling from the Advertising Standards Authority which said the claim was "misleading" and condemned posters which depicted bottles of the drink as bristles on a toothbrush.

Despite sifting through scientific papers backing GSK's assertions, Mr Justice Hunt, sitting at the high court in London, said that when taken as a whole, the evidence did not justify the "absolute nature of the claim".

He backed the ASA view that while there was evidence that Ribena ToothKind was less likely to encourage tooth decay, it was only when compared with other soft drinks.

He added that even "negligible risk" or "no substantial risk" were not "no risk". GlaxoSmithKline is considering an appeal.

A spokesman for the ASA said: "We felt their claims were misleading and we feel this judgment is a vindication of our organisation, our investigations and our procedures."

The Consumers' Association investigated the drink in Which? magazine. They found that while it has less fruit juice and less acid than other drinks and so causes fewer cavities, it was not "good" for teeth.

A spokesman for the association said: "We talked to dentists who were concerned about the way the drink was promoted.

"They were critical of a lot of evidence in relation to the claim that it was kind to teeth. Although it might be better than other fruit drinks it is not necessarily 'kind'. Adverts claiming that it was almost as kind as water were not completely accurate."

Yet despite the view of the Consumers' Association, the BDA has remained steadfast in its support for the drink.

Geoff Craig, chairman of the BDA's health and science committee, said: "We accredited Ribena ToothKind three years ago because oral health would improve if children drank this sort of product instead of conventional sugary drinks.

"Our view has not changed and our independent panel of four researchers recently gave the drink BDA accreditation for another three years.

"We still think the best drinks for children's oral health are milk and water. However, Ribena ToothKind is also a soft drink that dentists can recommend with confidence. Research shows the product does not encourage tooth decay and minimises erosion. We would like to see more companies developing products of this type."

GSK was disappointed by the decision and said its claims are backed by "more than 1,200 pages of scientific evidence". Graham Neale, head of nutritional health care at GSK, said: "We are very proud of Ribena ToothKind and will continue to defend it against unfounded criticism."

The case has sparked a debate about health claims made by companies about their products and European legislation on the issue is expected over the summer.

The joint health claims initiative, established at the end of last year, is made up of consumer organisations, enforcement authorities and manufacturers. It has devised a code of practice for companies who want to make health claims about their products.

"If claims are made we look at what the consumer perception of them would be, the marketing image and whether language used is misleading, suggesting by implication that products are better than they really are," said the spokesman from the Consumers' Association.

"We don't believe health claims should be made on products without prior approval.

"Companies are making these claims and no one is checking them or checking the evidence behind them."


17 Jan 01 - Food Safety - Norway to defy ban on whale meat trade

By Michael McCarthy, Environment Correspondent

Independent- Wednesday 17 January 2001


Conservationists protested yesterday at Norway's decision to resume the trade in whale products despite a long-standing global whaling moratorium and a ban on the whalemeat trade.

The Norwegians have decided to export meat and blubber from the hundreds of minke whales they kill annually in defiance of world opinion.

In particular, they wish to dispose of their "blubber mountain" - hundreds of tonnes of blubber stockpiled in warehouses, which is not eaten by the Norwegians, although it is considered a delicacy in Japan.

The decision was condemned by the World Wide Fund for Nature as damaging to Norway's reputation as an environmentally friendly nation and as a move that could provoke the collapse of global whale conservation agreements.

Norway's Prime Minister, Jens Stoltenberg, said exports were a logical step after Norway decided in 1993 to resume commercial hunts of minke whales, defying a moratorium by the International Whaling Commission. A separate convention bans global trade in whale products.

Rune Frovik, secretary of the whalers' pressure group, the High North Alliance, said: "This is a victory for common sense and the sustainable management of our marine resources."


17 Jan 01 - Food Safety - Low-tar smokers just puff harder

By Nigel Hawkes, Health Editor

Times- Wednesday 17 January 2001


Tar and nicotine ratings on cigarette packets are meaningless and misleading, cancer researchers have found.

People who smoke "ultra-low" tar brands - those which yield the lowest doses of tar and nicotine - make up for it by puffing harder, the team from the Imperial Cancer Research Fund discovered.

As a result, they take in ten times as much tar and nicotine as the labels suggest. The difference is less among higher-tar brands, but people who smoke them still absorb nearly one and a half times as much as the labels indicate.

The nicotine dose experienced by a smoker is little altered, regardless of the nominal strength of the cigarettes: 1.17 milligrams for low-yielding brands, 1.22 mg from medium, and 1.31 from high. The reason for this is that the yields are measured by machine, while the researchers measured them by analysing saliva samples from 2,031 smokers for the amount of cotinine, a nicotine by-product.

Martin Jarvis, of the research fund, said: "The conclusion has to be that the tar and nicotine ratings on cigarette packets are not worth the paper they are written on. Not only are they misleading to consumers, but machine-measured ratings are also downright dangerous as they encourage health-conscious smokers to switch to 'light' brands rather than quit.

"Smokers need to satisfy their craving for nicotine so change the way they smoke to ensure they get the hit they need."

The Tobacco Manufacturers' Association said: "The ratings on packets are in no way intended to mislead, We are obliged by law to give customers this kind of information."


17 Jan 01 - Food Safety - Qantas staff warned about deadly blood clots

Ananova

Prass Association - Wednesday 17 January 2001


Qantas cabin staff are to be given extra information about the potential risks of Deep Vein Thrombosis.

It follows reports that a male flight attendant collapsed from a blood clot after a flight from Sydney to Los Angeles.

A Qantas spokeswoman said there was no evidence to link the man's condition - also known as economy class syndrome - with the flight.

The Flight Attendants' Association of Australi International Division secretary Johanna Brem said the union had met Qantas to discuss the potential risks of DVT during long haul flights.

She told the Melbourne Age: "Qantas will provide to all cabin crew additional information about the potential risks of DVT and its prevalence in the general population.".

She said the medical statement would inform all cabin crew about the risks of DVT and what they should do to avoid it.

Qantas passengers are already warned of the risks via in-flight magazines and an audio-journal exercise programme.

Qantas and British Airways have also agreed to warn passengers about the risk of DVT by placing warnings on tickets, itineraries and at travel agents.


17 Jan 01 - Food Safety - Cigarette firm invents 'nearly nicotine free' cigarette

Ananova

Press Association - Wednesday 17 January 2001


Smokers who want to quit may soon have a new weapon - a non-addictive cigarette.

An American cigarette company claims to have developed a cigarette which is almost nicotine-free, but has the taste of a regular smoke.

Produced by the Vector Group, the cigarette is expected to go on sale in the US early next year.

If it proves as successful as expected, the company will expand its distribution to other countries, the Sydney Morning Herald reports.

Vector claims that blocking the nicotine gene has prevented the formation of some cancer-causing chemicals in tobacco plants.

But the finished product still contains dozens of other carcinogens.

Vector is the fifth-largest cigarette company in the US, but has just 1.5% of the market.


16 Jan 01 - Food Safety - Airlines sued by lawyer who suffered DVT

By David Derbyshire, Medical Correspondent

Telegraph- Tuesday 16 January 2001


A solicitor is taking legal action against two airlines after he suffered a potentially deadly blood clot in the lungs after a three-hour flight.

Lars Lewis, 35, who works for the City law firm Richards Butler, was treated in hospital for two weeks for a serious Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT). His experience highlights how even relatively short flights may trigger potentially fatal clots in otherwise healthy people.

Yesterday it emerged that French doctors warned of DVT two years ago . A report in 1999 disclosed how they were treating an average of 12 passengers each year for clots at Charles de Gaulle and Orly airports by the late 1990s.

Mr Lewis suffered from a clot in the lungs after a flight from Paris to Athens. He suspects that the return journey and a flight the following couple of days from Paris to La Rochelle may have made the condition worse. He is pursuing a claim against Olympic Airways and Air France for failing to warn him of the dangers.

Mr Lewis, a specialist in commercial litigation in the firm's Paris office, said: "It seems that very likely the airlines must have known about it but they didn't bring it to my attention or suggest measures to avoid the problem."

"I suffered shortness of breath and my lower right calf was swollen and painful. It got worse over the next couple of days. I got off the plane at La Rochelle and the pain was very bad. I was in the middle of a big case and so I got a doctor to come and examine me on a conference room table. He advised me that I would have to go to hospital."

Doctors asked Mr Lewis if he had recently flown and diagnosed a pulmonary embolism. He was treated with a blood thinning drug and spent two weeks in hospital. He said: "I was very surprised this had happened. The potential risk should be brought to the attention of passengers."

Although the links between long distance travel and DVT were suggested 40 years ago, there has been little research into the condition. Farrol Kahn, director of the Aviation Health Institute, a charity campaigning for more research into DVT, said people flying back from skiing holidays should take care, particularly if they break a leg abroad.

He said: "If a leg is in a cast and a doctor does not give a patient a coagulant, then they could suffer from a DVT even on a short flight."


16 Jan 01 - Food Safety - Flight clots 'could be worse than bsx'

Staff Reporter

BBC- Tuesday 16 January 2001


Blood clots associated with air travel may pose a bigger long-term health problem than BSE, an MP has warned.

Ministers have responded by promising new regulations to tackle the problem should they be deemed necessary.

John Smith, Labour MP for the Vale of Glamorgan, said it would be foolish to underestimate the potential problem of people who develop life-threatening blood clots on long-haul flights.

A recent study found that at least one person a month dies of Deep Vein Thrombosis on arrival at London's Heathrow Airport.

The condition can be brought on by long periods of inactivity.

Some experts believe people who travel in cramped economy class conditions may be more at risk. However, the Heathrow study suggested all long-haul travellers may be vulnerable .

Mr Smith said: "This could be a greater problem than that of asbestos. It could even be a greater public health problem than that of BSE. Let's do something now before it is too late.

"There are a number of examples in this country which are quite frankly scandalous.

"People are not told, the airlines are not bringing it to their attention."

C Concerns

Labour's Dr Ian Gibson accused the government and the industry of "complacency" and a "patronising" attitude in the handling of the issue.

Opening a debate in Westminster Hall, Norwich North MP Dr Gibson revealed his wife had suffered from the condition five days after a flight from America.

"There is a whiff of complacency in the air. One death really has to be too many in terms of public flying.

"I have never seen information up front about the kind of hazards that may befall me."

Junior transport minister Chris Mullin insisted the Government was focusing on ensuring information and advice was made available to the public.

An inter-departmental group with members from the Department of Environment, Transport and the Regions, the Department of Health, the Civil Aviation Authority and the Health and Safety Executive, was being created to work with airline companies.

The government would initiate "whatever research is necessary" to obtain a clear picture of the relationship between air travel and DVT, although it was "extremely difficult" to identify how many cases were wholly attributal to long-haul flights, he said.

"If it emerges that regulation on health grounds is necessary we will not hesitate to act but a trade-off between price and comfort is not an appropriate area for regulation.

"Many people are prepared to put up with some discomfort if it means that air fares are within financial reach."

Mr Mullin rubbished claims by the Director of the Aviation Health Institute Farrol Kahn that the government had ignored warnings about the problem.


14 Jan 01 - Food Safety - Food standards scheme 'failing'

Staff Reporter

BBC- Sunday 14 January 2001


Two nature groups have criticised a food standards scheme aimed at helping beleaguered farmers. The National Farmers Union (NFU) says its Red Tractor logo, which shows that food meets the British Farm Standard, is a guarantee to consumers of high standards.

But the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) and the Council for the Protection of Rural England (CPRE) say the scheme has failed to live up to its claims .

They argue that the campaign, which aims to promote British farmers' food, overlooks animal welfare and environmental care .

Products carrying the image are produced under farm assurance schemes where farmers and growers adhere to food hygiene, animal welfare and environmental standards.

(Mad Cow correspondent's note: the British Farm Standard permits the used of meat and bone meal fertiliser: which is banned for use on fodder crops for cattle and horses as it is known to be contaminated with BSE, and raw human sewage: which is banned everywhere else in Europe)

RSPB spokeswoman Hannah Bartram told BBC One's Countryfile programme: "When you go down and look at the nitty gritty of the schemes, there are actually very few environmental prescriptions within them."

She said the scheme ought to refer to countryside legislation such as that protecting badgers and hedgerows rather than just covering farming codes of practice.

The scheme's claims had been overstated, she added.

CPRE spokesman Alastair Rutherford said: "I think the Red Tractor scheme is only meeting certain basic requirements and those requirements only relate to food safety and not to environmental and animal welfare concerns."

He added: "It either continues as it is, but stops making claims about the environment and animal welfare or alternatively the scheme can be improved."

Marketing drive

A survey by Countryfile revealed that three out of four shoppers did not recognise the tractor logo as the symbol of British Farm Standard.

The campaign, which began in June last year, was followed by a marketing drive to fix the tractor logo in shoppers' minds.

It was launched to promote British farms products, suffering from competition from imported, more cheaply produced goods and the effects of the BSE crisis.

National Farmers Union spokesman Simon Rayner called the claims "unfair and unfounded".

He added: "The scheme is independently inspected and backed by all the major supermarkets.

"In the case of animal welfare, the standards cover animal feed and animal care among others.

"The standards go into minute detail. In terms of the environment, the assured produce scheme, which covers fruit and vegetables, encourages farmers to work in harmony with nature, such as creating field margins."

And NFU deputy president Tim Bennett said the scheme's primary concern had to be about reassuring customers.

He said: "The name of the game ultimately was to reassure the consumers about the food they eat, its safety, its traceability and its sourcing.

"On the back of all that by the very nature, we deliver the caring for the environment tag."


14 Jan 01 - Food Safety - Long-haul hell

Editor

Guardian- Sunday 14 January 2001


Safety, not profit, must come first

Leader

It was The Observer which first drew attention to the scale and seriousness of deep-vein thrombosis (DVT) or 'economy-class syndrome' more than two years ago. Today, we report that the condition has been known to airlines for at least 30 years . Attempts to engage in serious research have been blocked by a scandalous refusal to disclose passenger lists and an insistence that the incidence of DVT in long-haul passengers is no higher than in the population as a whole.

Proof that long periods of physical immobility in cramped airline seats might constitute a real health risk have awesome commercial implications for airlines . Companies would have to enlarge seat spaces and increase overhead storage capacity to prevent baggage being stowed underneath seats, thus restricting possible leg movement. Beds are even better. Passenger pay-loads per flight would decline, of course, forcing ticket prices up and reducing overall growth rates.

It is easy to criticise airlines for their commercial cupidity, but passengers like cheap fares - as long as they are safe. What is now required is proper scientific evidence from a large body of long-haul passengers. And the research needs to be properly controlled; the side-effects of DVT can take up to a fortnight to manifest themselves. Sadly, the dilatory response of airlines to a succession of deaths already gives serious grounds for concern. That no proactive action was taken earlier - with some airlines even considering limiting seat spaces further - demonstrates that the pursuit of profit and shareholder value now ranks far too highly as a corporate objective, and health and safety too low.

The unthinking belief that the private sector automatically promotes efficiency free from the dead hand of government bureaucracy is now seen as naοve. Efficiency is not just about lowering costs; it has to be traded off against health, safety and environmental concerns. One task of regulators and government intervention - easily dismissed as 'bureaucratic and costly' - is to make sure that public interests are addressed.

Those who believe that the sole corporate objective is the maximisation of profits should be forced to take a 26-hour flight to Australia in economy class.


14 Jan 01 - Food Safety - Blood clot hazard known for 30 years

John Sweeney

Guardian- Sunday 14 January 2001


Revealed: air deaths cover-up

British airline companies ignored warnings for more than three decades about the deadly effects of blood clots on passengers during long-haul flights, The Observer can reveal.

Despite being warned as long ago as 1968 by leading medical experts about the problems of so-called 'economy-class syndrome', the airlines played down the dangers and gave no advice to passengers on how to minimise the risks. Hundreds of people are feared to have died as a result.

As recently as 1998, airlines and aviation authorities dismissed disclosures in The Observer about the potential danger of cramped seating causing clots, saying there was no evidence.

Yet in a letter published 16 years ago in the Lancet medical journal, experts warned that 'airline passengers, even those on very long flights, are given no specific advice to prevent venous thrombosis'.

Three doctors working at a hospital near Heathrow - Yvonne Hart, D. J. Holdstock and William Lynn - wrote: 'Working in a hospital on the perimeter of London Airport we see a steady stream of illnesses which have developed in flight. The major manifestation of the illness may not occur until after disembarkation. We have seen several patients with thromboembolism presenting in this way, with a near-fatal outcome in one case.'

Dr Dale Egerton, a Hampshire GP who saved his wife's life in 1998 after she suffered a massive blood clot, said last night: 'It beggars belief that the medical team at British Airways did not read that letter to the Lancet. It sets out the problem that the syndrome can develop after disembarkation and calls for research. If it is known that people are suffering DVT [Deep Vein Thrombosis] after they leave the airport, then the airline companies have a moral responsibility to do the research. But nothing was done - an utter disgrace. '

Our investigation has uncovered a culture of deceit at some airlines which has been allowed to thrive due to complacency at the Department of Health and the Civil Aviation Authority.

Today we reveal that:

• airline company doctors have known about the risks of immobility since 1940 and the risks of immobility on long-haul flights since 1968

• British Airways highlights a misleading study on its website which downplays the risks of long flights

• a new study to be published in the Lancet will show compelling evidence of a link between long-haul flights and DVT

• British Airways has not allowed doctors access to its passengers to do more research

• no data on the number of cases of DVT caused by long flights is collected nationally or at major casualty hospital units

• the Civil Aviation Authority has no responsibility to look after passengers

• water, vital to prevent dehydration in long flights, was found, in tests by Britain's Public Health Laboratories, to be contaminated with E.coli and human excrement in 15 per cent of the fountains surveyed on jets using major British airports .

Only now are major air lines alerting customers to DVT on tickets. British Airways now tells passengers to flex their ankles while seated.

The first study warning of the dangers of immobility was published in 1940 , and follow-up reports looking at blood-clot risks to passengers in air flights first appeared in 1968 .

Dr John Scurr, of University College Hospital, London, is soon to publish fresh research in the Lancet which will show a conclusive link between long-haul flights and DVT.

Dr John Belstead, of Ashford Hospital, near Heathrow, estimates that 15 Britons die a year from DVT developed on long-haul flights.

Egerton, the Hampshire GP, said that if the airlines and the authorities had acted on the warning in the Lancet in 1985, the lives of 225 people could have been saved .

Scurr suspects that the number of deaths could be very much higher . 'Maybe hundreds of Britons are dying every year ,' he said.

A spokesman for the Civil Aviation Authority pointed out that it had no responsibility for air passengers.

A spokesman for the Department of Health said that DVT was 'very much a now issue' but admitted that it had not been a high priority in the past .

British Airways has in the past downplayed the prevalence of mortalities from DVT, saying that only two people in the world die each year from blood clots caused on long-haul flights.

Last week BA pointed to its website, showing 'facts and research' on DVT. One study shows that DVT is more likely to be caused in cars rather than planes.

Egerton said: 'What British Airways doesn't say is that this study was done in a part of France where there is no international airport. It is a grotesquely misleading way to deal with a major scandal in the public health.'


14 Jan 01 - Food Safety - The cramped skies

John Sweeney

Guardian- Sunday 14 January 2001


In 1998, an Observer investigation revealed medical evidence linking long flights with blood clots, but more than two years on the airlines have done little to alert the public.

The most harrowing moment for Ann Egerton wasn't when she woke up from a long-haul flight more dead than alive - having suffered a massive blood clot to her lungs thanks to 'economy-class syndrome'.

She survived - although she will never be the woman she was before the long-haul British Airways flight from South Africa.

The worst moment came more than two years later when she saw the mother of Emma Christofferson - a fit 28 year old who died of a massive blood clot last October after stepping off a plane from Australia - say on television: 'If only we had known..'

Ann said: 'That makes me so angry. The airlines have known about the dangers for years , and yet they have done too little . Emma Christofferson is one of hundreds of people who have died needlessly. The truth is that while flying you are more likely to die from a blood clot than in a plane crash - and that is a truth the airline companies have been keeping from us.'

An Observer investigation today reveals that British airline companies have for decades sat on evidence that 'economy class syndrome' - blood clots caused by immobility during long-haul flights - is a 'real and mortal danger' to their customers.

Ann Egerton's case was raised in a previous Observer investigation two years ago. 'Had the airlines acted on The Observer's report, then Emma and the others would not have died,' she said. 'Emma should have known of the dangers. The complacency of the airlines has cost many lives of people who need not have died,' said Ann.

The Observer's inquiries into Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) on long flights has uncovered a mountain of medical and other evidence that makes a damning indictment of the airlines - one study suggests that hundreds of Britons may be dying each year of the disease.

Doctors have been aware of the dangers of immobility since 1940 - but airlines such as British Airways and Virgin Atlantic have only just started to highlight its dangers to the travelling public. Many other airlines remain silent about the risks.

Our investigation has uncovered a culture of deceit by some airlines which has been allowed to thrive thanks to woeful complacency at the Department of Health and the Civil Aviation Authority.

Today we reveal:

• British Airways highlights a misleading study on its website which downplays the risks of long flights;

• Airline company doctors have known about the risks of immobility since 1940 and the risks of immobility on long-haul flights since 1968;

• A new study to be published in the Lancet will show compelling evidence of a link between DVT and long-haul flights;

• British Airways has not allowed doctors access to its passenger database to do more research;

• No data on the number of cases of DVT caused by long flights is collected nationally or at casualty hospital units;

• The Civil Aviation Authority has no responsibility to look after passengers;

• In tests by Britain's Public Health Laboratories, water - vital to prevent dehydration in long flights - was contaminated by E.coli and human excrement in 15 per cent of the fountains surveyed on jets using major British airports.

Farrol Kahn of the Aviation Health Institute said: 'There has been a major failing of the protection of the public health.'

Ann Egerton's life was saved by the prompt action of her husband, Dr Dale Egerton, a Hampshire GP. He said: 'Since the 1998 article I am appalled at the attitude of the airlines. They have continued to sit on evidence of real and mortal danger to their customers and the authorities have let them get away with it. It is an appalling scandal. Only now are things beginning to change - but it is too late.'

Ann had to quit her job as a dentist after the massive blood clot which saw her oxygen blood saturation level drop from 100 per cent to 10 per cent. 'It was amazing she survived,' he said. She had sat in a cramped seat with hand luggage at her feet. What added insult to injury, said her husband, was that a British Airways stewardess lay asleep on three seats in the row ahead of them.

Sitting immobile on a long flight means that massive blood clots can form in the legs . Lack of fresh air, dehydration in a dry cabin and cramped seating all contribute to what some call 'economy class syndrome' but the airlines prefer to term 'traveller's thrombosis'. The most critical condition is immobility. Walking around is good for you, even wriggling your ankles and toes helps the blood circulation. One aspirin taken before the flight will thin the blood - also helping to prevent a clot from being formed.

The blood clot is, in medical jargon, a Deep Vein Thrombosis. If it stays in the leg it can cause stiffness and pain, but if it moves up the body it can cause real trouble. The blood clot can pass through the big vessels of the heart without much difficulty, but when it gets to the smaller vessels supplying the lungs it can cause a massive blockage, cutting off oxygen supply to the body: a pulmonary embolism. It was this that killed Emma Christofferson.

The Observer has established that specialists have known about the dangers of sitting immobile since 1940 when Dr Keith Simpson investigated the mysterious deaths of 23 people who had slept in deckchairs in the Underground during the false Blitz of 1939. Simpson established they died from blood clots to the lungs, and the authorities acted swiftly. Deckchairs were banned and replaced by bunkbeds and the deaths stopped. Sixty-one years on, the authorities - the Department of Health, the Department of Transport and the Civil Aviation Authority - have no idea just how many people are suffering, or have died from, blood clots caused on long-haul flights.

That is not because there has been a lack of evidence. In 1968 doctors P H Beighton and P R Richards wrote a paper on cardio-vascular disease in air travellers, alerting the airline business to the dangers of DVT from long-haul flights. In 1973 Richards wrote again. In 1985 doctors Yvonne Hart, D J Holdstock and William Lynn from Ashford Hospital, near Heathrow, wrote to the Lancet : 'We see a steady stream of illnesses which have developed in flight. The major manifestation of the illness may not occur until after disembarkation. We have seen several patients with thromboembolism presenting in this way, with a near-fatal outcome in one case.' The letter goes on: 'We understand that airline passengers, even those on very long flights, are given no specific advice to prevent venous thrombosis.'

Dale Egerton said: 'It beggars belief that the medical team at British Airways did not read that letter to the Lancet in 1985. The letter sets out the problem that the syndrome can develop after disembarkation and that calls for research. If it is known that people suffer DVTs after they leave the airport, then the airline companies had a moral responsibility to do the research. But nothing was done - an utter disgrace.'

New research by Dr John Scurr of University College Hospital, London, provides conclusive evidence that flying long-distance can kill. In a paper to be published shortly in the Lancet Scurr reveals his evidence. Blood tests were carried out on long-haul passengers before and after long flights. 'The results will show a very definite link between long-haul flights and DVT,' he said.

The critical question is how many people die from pulmonary embolisms after flying. In 1998 British Airways' senior doctor, Dr Michael Bagshaw, told Dale Egerton there were only two cases a year worldwide. But is the number higher?

The closest hospital to Heathrow is the Ashford. There, Dr John Belstead sees 10 deaths a year from pulmonary embolisms of people coming off long-haul flights. Belstead said: 'I would estimate that 15 people a year die nationally from DVTs developed on long-haul flights.'

But Scurr believes this is an under-estimate: 'It can take up to 10 days before a blood clot breaks off and moves to the lungs. What this means is that you can die of the pulmonary embolism days after the flight. I believe that hundreds of Britons are dying every year because of this disease.'

In our original article in 1998, The Observer identified 12 cases of the disease - including Gateshead landlady, Val Clark, who lost a leg because of economy class syndrome. The time delay - depressing the prevalence of the disease - was evidenced by the case of 1-year-old Angie Ruby, who died of a pulmonary embolism 14 days after stepping off a plane from Cuba.

Her father, David Collins, said they had not been warned about DVT before the nine-hour flight to London. 'The seats were so packed we could hardly move our feet,' he said. 'We were told nothing of the risks or what to do to minimise them.'

Scurr said: 'This suggests that there are many other cases out there that we do not know about. Research is vital and it is not being done.'

British Airways points to its website which includes 'facts and research' on 'traveller's thrombosis'. It reads: 'A paper published in "Chest" (February 1999) showed that recent travel is a risk factor for developing DVT. However, of the 160 patients seen, only nine had travelled by air in the past four weeks.'

Dale Egerton said: 'For British Airways to highlight this study is grotesquely misleading. It was done in Nantes, a French provincial city which has no international airport - so no wonder there are so few cases of air-related DVT.'

The BA website continues: 'BA has supported a study of DVT by Dr Patrick Kesteven of Newcastle University. The findings are similar to those above and confirm that although recent travel appears to be a risk factor there is no conclusive evidence that flying is a specific risk in itself.'

But Kesteven told The Observer : 'They are being a bit selective on the website. I am in no doubt that there is a link between long-haul flights and DVT and almost no one in the field doubts this. There is compelling evidence out there. If we could all straighten our legs, then everything would be better.'

Kesteven pointed out that he has received no research money from BA. He did request access to its passengers so he could continue his research, but the request was declined.


14 Jan 01 - Food Safety - One in ten older flyers at risk from blood clots

Jonathan Ungoed-Thomas

Sunday Times- Sunday 14 January 2001


The largest study of the effects of long-haul air travel has revealed that one in 10 passengers over 50 may be at risk of developing blood clots.

The research, involving more than 400 people, suggests that the risk of Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) from air travel may be greater than previously thought, particularly among older passengers.

A separate report, also due to be published this year, shows that 13% of DVT cases in a sample study occurred in patients who had travelled on long journeys, mostly in aircraft. The findings of the two reports will increase the pressure on airlines to take action.

The first study into DVT, due to be published in The Lancet, tested 400 volunteers over the age of 50 before and after a plane journey of more than eight hours. The tests at the Stamford hospital, west London, revealed that 10% had blood clots after the journey,although they were all minor and most would not have caused any long-term problems. However, it is compelling evidence that long periods of inactivity on passenger jets can cause blood clots.

"All I worried about when I travelled before was whether the plane crashed or not," said Lord Deedes, 87, former editor of The Daily Telegraph who was one of those tested. "The publicity about DVT is now raising consciousness of this risk. In my case, the tests showed there was no change in my condition after the flight."

The Lancet study by John Scurr, a consultant surgeon at University College and Middlesex hospitals, provides evidence of the number of DVT cases caused by air travel.

It emerged last week that three British Olympic coaches suffered blood clots when they flew to Australia for the 2000 games. Simon Burney, 38, a cycling coach, developed a 6in clot below his knee.

While no national audit has been undertaken into the incidence of clots caused by air travel, hospitals near airports report regular cases of potentially fatal clots in passengers after long journeys. Ashford hospital, which serves Heathrow, has reported 30 deaths in three years. A third of these passengers had flown from Australia in economy seats.

DVTs can be fatal as the clots can circulate through the blood and cause a pulmonary embolism - a blockage in the heart and lungs. It has been estimated that up to 20,000 people a year may die from the condition.

George Geroulakos, a consultant vascular surgeon at Ealing hospital, west London, who carried out the second investigation into DVTs, studied more than 80 cases in 10 months. He said 13% can be linked to inactivity during long journeys.

Airline executives argue that while sitting in a seat without moving can increase the risk of a clot, planes are no more hazardous than cars or trains.

However, a study by Norwegian scientists published in November showed that the drop in air pressure during a flight is likely to increase the risk of a clot. The research revealed that those in first and club class were just as likely to be affected as those in economy. Levels of compounds associated with blood clotting increased by up to eight times.

British Airways announced this month that it is to give passengers information on a range of health issues, including DVT, and said: "We want to ensure our passengers are as well informed as possible."


14 Jan 01 - Food Safety - Scientists link eye cancer to mobile phones

Jonathan Leake, Science Editor

Sunday Times- Sunday 14 January 2001


Mobile phones have been linked to human cancer in a scientific study for the first time. The research suggests there is a threefold increase in eye cancers among people who regularly use the devices.

The results will cause concern within the mobile telecoms industry. The radiation emitted from mobile phones has long been known temporarily to alter the workings of brain cells but there was previously no evidence of permanent damage to health.

If confirmed by subsequent research, the finding could lead tothousands of costly lawsuits by people with eye and possibly brain cancers.

More than 20m people in Britain have mobile phones. The research, published in the journal Epidemiology, was carried out by a team from the University of Essen, in Germany. It investigated a form of eye cancer called uveal melanoma, in which tumours form in the layer that makes up the iris and base of the retina.

Dr Andreas Stang, who led the research, said he had examined 118 people with uveal melanoma and obtained details about their use of digital mobile phones. This was compared with a control group of 475 people without the disease.

To prevent bias, the researchers were not told if the person they were examining suffered from cancer or was healthy. When the results were analysed they found the cancer victims had a much higher rate of mobile phone use, though Stang cautions that his study needs confirmation.

The mechanism by which the radiation might cause cancer is uncertain but it is known that the watery contents of the eye assists the absorption of radiation.

Other research showed that cells called melanocytes found in the uveal layer started growing and dividing more rapidly when exposed to microwave radiation.

Since uveal melanoma starts within such cells, there is a ready-made mechanism by which mobile phone radiation might help to initiate cancer, especially in people with a genetic predisposition to the condition.

Last year the Stewart inquiry into mobile phone safety, appointed by the government, found no evidence to link the devices with brain tumours or any other disorder.

However, last month saw the launch of multi-billion-pound lawsuits against Verizon Horizon, an American mobile phone company 45% owned by Vodaphone, the biggest British provider.

Customers claim they got brain tumours and other conditions from using the devices.

Vodaphone said it welcomed new research but there was still no positive evidence that mobile phones harmed health.


12 Jan 01 - Food Safety - Olympic officials suffered blood clots on flight to Australia

By Barbie Dutter, and David Derbyshire

Telegraph- Friday 12 January 2001


Three members of the British Olympic team were treated for serious blood clots after arriving in Australia for the Sydney 2000 Games , a surgeon revealed yesterday.

Dr David Grosser diagnosed Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) in the officials after they arrived for pre-Games preparation at a training camp on Queensland's Gold Coast last August.

He said he believed as many as 12 members of the 600-strong British Olympic team may have suffered from travellers' thrombosis because only half of those with the condition display any symptoms, while many more do not seek medical attention.

Dr Grosser, a Brisbane-based vascular surgeon who has been treating the condition for 25 years, refused to reveal the officials' identities. But one has previously been named as Nick Dakin , who coached the 400 metres hurdles semi-finalist Chris Rawlinson.

Dr Grosser.said: "These were very fit, healthy people. If it can happen to them, it can happen to virtually anyone who flies. They were very athletic people because they were athletic coaches." He said the three had sought medical attention after suffering pain and swelling in their calves following their flights from Britain. They were treated with compression with an elastic stocking and injections of an anti-coagulant. The clots were not life-threatening because they had been picked up and treated in time, but could have been more serious.

Dr Grosser said examinations and blood tests had shown "no indication whatsoever" that the patients had existing conditions or characteristics that made them predisposed to DVT. "It shows even strong, fit and healthy people can be susceptible ," said Dr Grosser, a Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons.

Mr Dakin, who was 36 when the clot was diagnosed, noticed a slight pain in his calf when the Olympic team's British Airways flight landed at Singapore for a stop-over. He said: "There was a slight cramp in my calf that went away after I walked around for a few minutes but came back after three hours on the flight to Australia. A colleague who had a DVT on a previous flight told me that it sounded like a clot so when we landed in Australia I contacted a team doctor."

Mr Dakin was treated with a blood thinning injection at hospital and has since been taking Warfarin. He said: "I supposed that I am reasonably fit compared to Joe Public and I have never smoked. I didn't think that it was the sort of thing that would happen to me."

Mark Howell of the British Olympic Association confirmed that the team members were coaches and support staff. He said: "They weren't athletes, they were officials, all aged between 35 and 45. Two were treated with Warfarin and one was given aspirin." The British team was given a booklet advising on health risks of flying before the Games, he added.

Dr Grosser wrote to Australian airlines to raise his concerns in the late Seventies, soon after becoming aware of the relationship between DVT and long-haul flights. He said he received no response.

The main airlines in Australia and New Zealand announced yesterday that they would issue health warnings about the risks of DVT when tickets were booked. A spokesman for Qantas said: "This information will cover a range of topics related to in-flight health and well-being, including steps customers can take to reduce the potential risk of DVT." The advice would be printed on tickets, timetables and holiday brochures, and would be issued verbally in the case of telephone sales, she said.

The announcement came as Neil O'Keefe, a Labour opposition member of the national parliament in Canberra, who almost died in November after suffering DVT on a flight from Sydney to Brazil, called on airlines to install gymnasium style walking machines in their aircraft.


12 Jan 01 - Food Safety - Stand up and fidget, air passengers told

By Ben Webster, Transport Correspondent

Times- Friday 12 January 2001


Aircraft passengers are to be told to stand up regularly and perform exercises in their seats to avoid so-called economy class syndrome.

Airlines have rejected advice from doctors that passengers walk around the cabin at least once every two hours as "unrealistic". Instead, travellers will be advised either to stretch their arms and legs in their seats or to stand in the few inches of floor between economy seats.

Other airlines are expected to follow British Airways, which is preparing a leaflet saying that the risk can be "reduced by limiting the length of time you sit still". The leaflet, to be attached to all tickets, continues: "A few simple exercises can help. We recommend you stand up, stretch arms and legs every couple of hours. Try to take a brief walk around the cabin."

Passengers may not be able to leave their seats at regular intervals, because airlines say that aisles must be kept clear for food and duty-free trolleys. Turbulence could also make free movement unsafe.

John Belstead, a consultant at Ashford Hospital, which in the past three years has recorded 30 deaths from Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) after long flights arriving at nearby Heathrow, said that regular walks around the cabin could prevent the syndrome. Ideally that was what he would recommend, Mr Belstead said, "but turning your ankle round in circles while in your seat is better than nothing".

He said that exercise should be frequent because evidence showed DVT could strike after a short time on board: "One person called me this morning who had had DVT after only a three-hour flight ."

British Airways calls the syndrome travellers' thrombosis because the problem is not confined to air travel.


12 Jan 01 - Food Safety - 'economy-class syndrome' hit Olympic trio

By Tim Reid

Times- Friday 12 January 2001


Three members of Britain's Olympic team developed potentially fatal blood clots in the leg - so-called "economy class syndrome" - on their flight to Australia for the Sydney Games last year, the doctor who treated them disclosed yesterday.

One of the three team members, Simon Burney , 38, a cycling coach, said that before he developed the condition on the 22-hour flight he had never heard of Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT). Now, he says, he feels lucky to be alive.

The Australian vascular surgeon David Grosser, who declined to name the trio, said that the Olympians' condition highlighted the risks of DVT in fit and healthy adults on long-haul flights. The three, all aged 35 to 45, were not competing athletes but former athletes who had become coaches and managers.

Mr Burney, the Olympic mountain-bike team manager, travelled in economy class on a British Airways jumbo jet from Manchester to Brisbane, sleeping for most of the 22-hour flight. "I am 6ft 5in so I was bent and twisted in my seat," he said. "When I got off the plane, at 6am, it felt like a muscle strain in the bulky part of my left calf. That's what I thought it was.

"It gradually got worse during the day. I went for a ride, thinking it would ease off, but it didn't get any better. By the end of the day, it felt like a knotted muscle, and hard to the touch."

The next day the pain had worsened, so Mr Burney saw one of the team physiotherapists. She gave him ultrasound treatment but was not sure what was causing the pain. The following day, on her advice, he saw one of the team doctors. "He immediately thought it might be DVT," Mr Burney said. "I was taken to the local Pindara hospital, on the Gold Coast, where the British holding camp was, and given an ultrasound scan. The girl said immediately it was DVT. She said: 'Don't move!'. I immediately saw a private haematologist." Mr Burney was prescribed Clexane, an anticoagulant with which he injected himself twice daily for six weeks, and the tablet Warfarin, which he is still taking. The course lasts six months. He was also issued with a tight plastic stocking, which stops blood collecting at the bottom of the leg.

The day after Mr Burney returned to Britain, on October 22, Emma Christoffersen, 28, a bride-to-be from South Wales, collapsed and died after stepping off a long-haul flight from Australia. She had developed DVT during the flight.

"Before I got it I had never heard of DVT," Mr Burney said. It was only when she died that I realised how serious it is." He said that the British Olympic Association advised all team members over 40 to take Aspirin before they flew "but that obviously didn't apply to me."

The BOA said last night that it issued team members with a medical booklet before the flights to Australia in which the dangers of DVT were highlighted. The two other members treated in Australia developed more serious blood clots above the knee, according to Mark Howell of the BOA, and are still taking Warfarin.

Speaking in Adelaide, Dr Grosser, who said that he has treated travellers with DVT since the late 1970s, said the Olympians' plight should be used as an example to spur airlines to take a global scientific response to the problem.

"If it can happen to these people, it can happen to virtually anyone if the right sort of conditions pertain. It wasn't life-threatening for them because it was picked up and treated, but it could have been," he said. News of the experience of the Olympians coincided with announcements from the Australian airline Qantas and Air New Zealand that they would issue health warnings about the risk of economy class syndrome when passengers buy tickets. British Airways said this week that it will give warning leaflets.


12 Jan 01 - Food Safety - Mobiles safety leaflet 'would cost too much'

By Chris Ayres

Times- Friday 12 January 2001


Plans to send a leaflet to every household in Britain warning people of the possible dangers of mobile phone radiation have been scrapped by the Government. The decision is directly contrary to the advice of last year's Stewart report on mobile phone health issues.

The Government has decided against the move on the ground of cost, even though it raised £22.5 billion by selling licences to mobile phone companies last year. The leaflet would have been similar to the one on AIDS sent to every household by the Thatcher Government in the 1980s.

The Department of Health has decided instead to send about five million leaflets to mobile phone retail outlets, libraries, doctors' surgeries and branches of the Post Office. Critics argue, however, that retailers will have no incentive to give their customers a leaflet that could put them off buying a mobile phone.

Fears that mobile phones could be linked to cancer and immune system damage have increased over recent months, mainly thanks to plans by US brain tumour patients to sue mobile phone companies for causing their illnesses.

In one case, a brain tumour patient in Baltimore, Maryland, is claiming $800 million (£535 million) in damages. More than 40 million Britons own mobile phones and hundreds of thousands of families live near mobile phone masts.

Most scientists agree that not enough research has been done into the effects on people's health of low-power microwave radiation from mobile phones. Although it is known that radiation from mobile phones causes slight heating - in the same way that microwave ovens heat food - no other biological effects have been established.

Sir William Stewart's report into mobile phone health issues, published last May, concluded that "it is not possible to say that exposure to radiation from mobile phones, even at levels below national guidelines, is totally without potential adverse health effects , and that the gaps in knowledge are sufficient to justify a precautionary approach".

The report added that "if there are currently unrecognised adverse health effects from the use of mobile phones, children may be more vulnerable because of their developing nervous system, the greater absorption of energy in the tissues of the head and a longer lifetime of exposure".

Sir William recommended that a leaflet should be sent to every home "providing clearly understandable information on mobile phone technology and on related health aspects".


11 Jan 01 - Food Safety - Surgeons back flight fears of blood clots

From Roger Maynard In Sydney And Nigel Hawkes, Health Editor

Times- Thursday 11 January 2001


An Australian surgeon said yesterday that as many as 400 people a year may be arriving at Sydney Airport suffering from Deep Vein Thrombosis , the condition known as "economy class syndrome".

Reginald Lord said that his own hospital, St Vincent's, had treated 122 cases over the past three years.

"Now we think - and this is just an estimate - that there may be, say, 400 of similar types of patients arriving at Sydney Airport annually," Professor Lord told Reuters Television. "Some of us are persuaded that there is a genuine link between travel and this condition."

Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) is thought to occur when blood clots form after long hours of immobility, particularly in the air. A hospital close to Heathrow Airport reported that over the past three years it has had 30 patients who have died of DVT after long flights. John Belstead, a consultant at Ashford Hospital, said that he had no evidence to justify claims that 2,000 people a year die from flight-related DVT, but that the problem was nevertheless real. His research showed that all 30 dead had been on flights of more than six hours. Their ages ranged from 28 to the mid-80s.

"There was no other explanation for why these people would have pulmonary embolisms," Mr Belstead said. "I conducted this research because we did think we were seeing high rates of the condition and this investigation has confirmed our fears."

Mr Belstead said that there could be more deaths from DVT around the country linked to economy class syndrome, particularly in hospitals close to the airports, and that many more people may suffer other, non-fatal effects of sitting in planes for several hours. He said: "Lots of people may just have a minor swelling in the leg and not visit their doctor or hospital."

Evidence is now accumulating around the world that the condition is real, but economy class syndrome may be a misnomer, according to Toshiro Makino, director of the clinic at Tokyo's International Airport. Of 25 DVT deaths at the airport in the past eight years, he said, 70 per cent were among economy-class travellers, 25 per cent business class and 5 per cent first class. One was a pilot who had flown an aircraft from America.

"My opinion is that this should be called aircraft syndrome," Dr Makino told Scientist.

Several airlines that have carried passengers who developed the condition on long-haul flights between Australia and Europe are now facing legal action. A Melbourne law firm, Slater and Gordon, claimed this week that it was representing 800 Australians who want to sue 20 international airlines over economy class syndrome.

Professor Lord has for several years been campaigning for proper studies into the condition. He said that while the number of passengers affected was small in comparison to the 14 million who pass through Sydney Airport every year, the condition still needed to be taken seriously.

Several high-profile cases have promoted DVT into a major issue. In October last year Emma Christofferson, 28, from Wales, died after a 20-hour flight from Australia to Britain. Earlier this month a business-class passenger, Susan Mavir-Ross, 42, of Llay, near Wrexham, died after a flight from San Francisco to Heathrow. Her death prompted relations of Thomas Lamb, 68, who had died in November after a flight from London to Australia, to make it public.

British Airways announced this week that tickets will carry warnings about DVT.


11 Jan 01 - Food Safety - Farmers want increased badger cull

By Valerie Elliott

Times- Thursday 11 January 2001


An emergency plan to let farmers shoot badgers in areas with a high incidence of tuberculosis in cattle is being studied by Nick Brown, the Agriculture Minister.

The proposal is to be discussed with Jim Scudamore, the Chief Veterinary Officer, and other scientific advisers, including Professor John Bourne, who is supervising the Ministry of Agriculture's £800 million trial badger cull to establish if there is a link between the animals and bovine TB.

With incidents of TB rising at 20 per cent a year and outbreaks in areas that have not seen clusters of cases for more than 20 years, ministers accept that they must look hard at an alternative strategy despite the furore from wildlife groups.

Three years ago there were 3,000 cases of bovine TB across the UK but figures for last year are expected to show a rise to 9,000.

The National Farmers' Union forecast that by 2004 - when badger cull trials will end - more than 20,000 cattle will have been slaughtered because of TB.

Mr Brown and Baronness Hayman, the junior Agriculture Minister, heard at first hand the plight of farmers with TB in their herds at a meeting with the NFU on Monday.

The NFU would like to see a cull under the Ministry's control, if necessary with third parties shooting the badgers. A Ministry of Agriculture spokeswoman confirmed that the NFU proposal was being given "serious consideration".

Brian Jennings, chairman of the NFU's animal welfare committee, said last night: "We are not asking for an open licence to kill but a tightly controlled programme to deal with this disease."


11 Jan 01 - Food Safety - Blood clots affect 400 a year flying to Sydney, says surgeon

By Barbie Dutter in Sydney

Telegraph- Thursday 11 January 2001


About 400 long-haul travellers a year who arrive at Sydney airport may be suffering the condition involving potentially fatal blood clots, a leading vascular surgeon said yesterday.

A study by Reginald Lord, professor of surgery at St Vincent's Hospital, Sydney, found that his hospital had treated 122 cases of travel-related Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) over three years. He estimated that St Vincent's, an inner-city hospital that sees many tourists and backpackers, would treat 10 per cent of Sydney's DVT cases, making the annual overall figure about 400.

He said: "Quite often the deaths don't occur until later, typically a week or two after the clot starts in the leg. So in some cases the link between the travel and the sudden death may not be recognised." Of the 14 million long-haul travellers who passed through Sydney each year, the number affected by DVT was small.

But the issue was of significant concern, and he had been urging airlines for almost a decade to let doctors carry out proper studies of the condition. Prof Lord, who is also professor of surgery at the University of New South Wales, is particularly keen to undertake detailed research in conjunction with colleagues in London, involving checks of passengers before and after long-haul journeys.

He said airlines or specialist insurance firms could provide the funding for such a project, which was "in the best interests of everyone - passengers, airlines and the medical profession". More than 1,000 people, including a number of Britons, have contacted an Australian law firm that is preparing legal action over DVT against 20 of the world's top airlines, including British Airways and Qantas.

Slater and Gordon, a Melbourne-based firm that specialises in class actions, has been inundated with queries from alleged victims or their relatives. In 47 of these cases, people have died as a result of DVT or ensuing pulmonary embolism, caused by clots in the leg travelling to the lungs. The lawsuit is expected to be launched within the next two months, with cases likely to be conducted on an individual basis rather than as a class action.

Brendan Sydes, a partner with the firm, said: "We have got blokes in their 30s who can't run or jog any more because they have suffered this. There are professional people who were previously required to engage in frequent international air travel who are now limited in the work they can do because travel insurance won't cover them for an existing condition.

"People are saying to us that some simple advice might have allowed them to take precautionary measures." Prof John Royle, director of the vascular surgery unit at the Austin and Repatriation Medical Centre in Melbourne, said incidence levels had not been properly evaluated but could be "enormous".

In many cases, he said, passengers suffering from minor clots would not seek medical attention as they would mistake their condition for a simple calf strain. Prof Royle said: "It is not as if this is a rare condition. I have had it myself, and two friends have died of it. Now at last it seems people are being made aware of the risks."


11 Jan 01 - Food Safety - Mobile may have caused Swiss air crash that killed 10

By Fiona Fleck in Geneva

Telegraph- Thursday 11 January 2001


Swiss aviation investigators said yesterday that a mobile phone may have caused a Saab 340 to crash shortly after take-off from Zurich airport a year ago, killing all 10 passengers and crew on board.

According to Chris Mason, a spokesman for the Civil Aviation Authority, it would be the first time a mobile phone had caused a crash. Studies have proved that radio waves from mobile phones while switched on can interfere with aircraft electronic and navigation systems and that the use of mobile phones aboard aircraft presents even greater safety risks.

Jean Overney, leading investigations into the crash of Crossair flight LX 498 on January 10 last year, said tests with the same aircraft model had shown that the Saab 340's navigation system could be disrupted by a mobile phone.

Mr Overney said: "We have asked mobile phone operators to check whether a call was made or a message sent just before the crash. These are recorded precisely to the second. We need a court order to give us access, but should have this data by the end of May."

The use of mobile phones on board a plane is outlawed in most countries. But passengers often forget to switch off mobile phones, and in some cases have packed working phones in the aircraft hold.

This has led to a series of alerts. This week, a Slovenian airliner made an emergency landing in Ljubljana after a mobile phone caused the electronics system to malfunction and falsely indicate an onboard fire. An investigation showed that the alarm had been caused by the mobile phone, which had been stowed in the luggage compartment and had not been switched off.

Two years ago a Briton was sentenced to a year in jail by a Manchester court for "recklessly and negligently endangering" an international flight by refusing to switch off his phone.


10 Jan 01 - Food Safety - Water from private wells poses risk of radiation

By Mark Henderson, Science Correspondent

Times- Wednesday 10 January 2001


People who drink water from private wells, springs or boreholes may be at risk from unsafe levels of radon and uranium.

Ministers have asked all local authorities to test private water supplies for the radioactive elements after research in West Devon found that one in seven wells contained concentrations that exceeded safety limits. The study, carried out by the British Geological Survey for the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions, found that 15 per cent of private water sources in West Devon contained too much radon, while 7 per cent exceeded safe uranium levels.

In the worst case, scientists measured a radon level of 5,341 becquerels per litre, more than five times the advisory level of 1,000 set by the National Radiological Protection Board. Two firms in the area that sell bottled spring water are within safety limits.

Private water supplies in other areas where high levels of radon gas have been detected, such as parts of Derbyshire, Cornwall and Northamptonshire, might also be affected, environment officials said. There are no such problems with piped drinking water supplied by utility companies.

Radon, thought to be the more dangerous of the two elements, has been linked to a higher risk of stomach cancer when found in drinking water, and radon gas is known to cause about 2,000 deaths in Britain from lung cancer every year. Radon is less carcinogenic when dissolved in water than in gas form.

The gas, which originates from decaying uranium, is found at trace levels in all sorts of rocks and environments. Some types of rock, such as granite, hold higher concentrations of the gas, leading to clusters of high exposure. Uranium has been linked to kidney disease at levels much higher than those found in West Devon. Though scientists say that the risk from dissolved radon is slight, the Environment Department has suggested to councils that the Devon findings are "unlikely to be unique", and reminded them of their statutory duty to maintain the wholesomeness of private water supplies.

Any householder with a well who is concerned about radon levels can contact their council, who will be obliged to test the water, a spokeswoman said. Radon can be removed from water with devices that filter it with air bubbles.


10 Jan 01 - Food Safety - Long flights 'cost 2,000 lives a year

By David Derbyshire, Medical Correspondent

Telegraph- Wednesday 10 January 2001


At least one long-haul passenger dies every month from a blood clot within minutes of landing at Heathrow Airport, a study into "travellers' thrombosis" has revealed.

But doctors believe that this figure is the tip of the iceberg . Over the past three years, the accident and emergency department closest to the arrivals hall has dealt with 30 air passengers killed by Deep Vein Thrombosis, a condition linked to cramped airline seats.

A third of the patients, who were aged between 28 and the late seventies, had flown to Heathrow from Australia in economy class seats. Doctors who carried out the study at Ashford Hospital in Surrey believe that more than 2,000 people die from flight-related Deep Vein Thrombosis, or DVT, each year in Britain.

Many researchers believe that cramped airline seats and inactivity during a flight increase the risks of blood clots in the leg. Normally, movement of the calf muscle helps to pump blood from the legs to the heart. But if the leg remains still or if circulation is restricted by the seat in front, blood is more likely to form a clot in one of the leg's deep veins.

If the clot is later dislodged, it can travel to the lungs, causing a pulmonary embolism. Although the condition was once known as economy class syndrome, doctors say travellers' thrombosis can affect anyone sitting still for more than a few hours in a plane, bus or car.

Last week Susan Mavir-Ross, 42, of Llay, Wrexham, died from a pulmonary embolism after a nine-hour flight from San Francisco to Heathrow. She had been travelling business class. John Belstead, an accident and emergency consultant in Ashford Hospital, said his department had dealt with 30 deaths from the airport in three years.

That figure only included people travelling on long-distance flights and excluded patients who were previously at risk from DVT. Mr Belstead said: "It is a big problem for Ashford. Around one million people come in to Heathrow on long haul flights each month so it may not seem much compared to the risk of crossing the road. But it is something that airlines can help to prevent."

Only the most severe cases become apparent at the airport, he added. Most patients who suffer DVT while flying will go to their GP after a few days or weeks. Farrol Kahn, director of the Aviation Health Institute in Oxford, said it usually took days or weeks for symptoms of DVT to appear.

Dr George Kassianos, a practising GP and spokesman for the British Travel Health Association, said travellers most at risk were over 40, had a previous history of embolism, were unusually tall or short, suffered from cancer or heart failure, were pregnant, had recently undergone surgery or were obese.

British Airways announced this week that it was to issue with all tickets a leaflet giving health tips for travellers and warning of the dangers of travellers' embolism. The move follows pressure from the Government to improve health advice. Airlines are facing a round of lawsuits from relatives of passengers who have died of DVT.


10 Jan 01 - Food Safety - Bovine tuberculosis

Derek Brown

Guardian- Wednesday 10 January 2001


Farmers have told MPs that they feel "a growing sense of desperation" about the continued spread of TB in cattle. They want the government to speed up research.

How widespread is bovine TB? The latest figures indeed look alarming. A total of 443 outbreaks were reported in England in 1997. In the first nine months of last year, there were 637. In Great Britain as a whole, the corresponding figures are 515 and 745. (The disease is virtually non-existent in Scotland).

Is it a new phenomenon? Hardly. Before the second world war, as wildlife lobbyists tirelessly point out, some 40% of British cattle were infected. Now the figure is 0.1% - that's just one in a 1,000 beasts.

How is the disease transmitted? Nobody knows for sure. There are various theories about how myobacterium bovis spreads. Some say is passed from animal to animal through contact. Some say is airborne or that it lurks in the soil. Farmers are strongly inclined to blame badgers, which harbour the same disease. That theory first emerged in the early 1970s.

What is being done about it? The ministry of agriculture is very keen to eradicate the disease, not least because infected herds have to be destroyed and their owners compensated at market rates. The men from the ministry, together with independent advisers, are working on a five-point action plan, including a detailed study of the alleged badger factor.

What does the badger study involve? Killing them. At least, killing around 12,500 of them, in selected areas. That is only about 3% of the badger population, but wildlife activists say the cull is unscientific and unnecessary. The ministry points out that it is only part of a much bigger and hugely complex study, and that the purpose is not to eradicate badgers, but establish what part if any they play in the transmission of the disease.

How long will it take them to decide? That is what is now concerning MPs. The original timetable has slipped badly and the first hard results are not expected before next year. It could be 2004 before they emerge, hence the rising pressure from farmers for more positive action - ie more badger killing.

Whose idea was the badger cull? It was proposed in 1997 by Professor John Krebs. The Labour party, while in opposition, said that it would not support any such operation. Now they insist that the possible badger connection must be thoroughly investigated.

Isn't the badger a protected species? Yes - but not from the min of ag. Badger-baiting, that most sadistic of so-called sports, has been outlawed since 1835. Police believe it still goes on though, and that the baiters leave the mutilated corpses of their victims by country roadsides, to give the impression of roadkill.

Can humans get the bovine form of TB? Yes, but its transmission to humans is extremely rare.


10 Jan 01 - Food Safety - Schroeder wants less industrial farming

Staff Reporter

BBC- Wednesday 10 January 2001


The German Chancellor, Gerhard Schroeder, has announced a significant shift in agriculture policy as a result of Mad Cow Disease, or BSE.

Mr Schroeder called for new priorities, based on consumer protection, accusing the German farm industry of focusing on profits at the expense of food safety.

He also said he would try to persuade other European Union countries of the need for less industrial farming.

Chancellor Schroeder named the co-leader of the Green Party, Renate Kuenast, as new agriculture minister with added responsibilities for food and consumer protection.

The Greens have always blamed Mad Cow Disease on intensive farming and the pressure to produce cheap meat.

But Ms Kuenast said she believed consumers were willing to pay more for healthy food.


10 Jan 01 - Food Safety - Flight blood clots kill 'thousands'

Staff Reporter

BBC- Wednesday 10 January 2001


At least one person a month dies of a blood clot on the lungs on arrival at Heathrow Airport , say doctors.

They believe at least 2,000 people a year in the UK may die from blood clots linked to long-haul air travel.

UK airlines are concerned about the incidence of cases of Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) and British Airways has started issuing information to passengers about how to prevent the condition.

DVT victims arriving at Heathrow are taken to Ashford Hospital in Middlesex for treatment.

John Belstead, an accident and emergency consultant at Ashford, said his department had dealt with 30 passenger deaths in the last three years .

He said: "These are people who die as they get off the aircraft.

"Around one million people come into Heathrow on long haul flights each month so it may not seem much compared to crossing the road.

"But it is something that airlines can help prevent."

'Economy syndrome'

The condition has been dubbed "economy class syndrome" because it is thought the cramped conditions in the cheaper seats may put people more at risk.

But Mr Belstead said patients who had travelled in more spacious seating had also developed problems.

He said the problem was simply related to sitting still for long periods of time, and for this reason people on long overnight flights were at higher risk.

The clots are dangerous when they block blood vessels in the leg, or worse, in the lungs.

Travellers are advised to cut down alcohol, drink plenty of water and go for a stroll during the trip.

Mr Belstead also suggested that passengers consider taking an aspirin to thin the blood, and wearing support stockings or socks.

He said he was pleased that British Airways had decided to put warnings on its tickets about the need to move around and exercise the legs during a long-haul flight.

But he said: "I don't think there is a lot more they can do if we still want cheap flights.

"The only way they could increase space a lot would be by charging us much more money for the flights and I suspect most of us would not want to wear that."

In Australia 800 people are suing airlines because they have developed blood clots during long flights.

Mr Belstead said only the most severe cases became apparent at the airports.

Most passengers who suffer the condition will only go to their GP after a few days or weeks, he said.

Another problem in tracing the extent of the condition is that not all hospitals record whether blood clot patients have been on a plane.

The relatives of one passenger who died in November from Deep Vein Thrombosis are believed to be considering legal action against the airline that carried him shortly before he fell ill.

Father-of-four Thomas Lamb, 68, died shortly after arriving at Heathrow from Australia.

Business class passenger Susan Mavir-Ross, from north Wales collapsed and died on a Virgin flight from San Francisco earlier this year.


09 Jan 01 - Food Safety - BA sends out blood clot warning

Staff Reporter

BBC- Tuesday 9 January 2001


Information about the risks of so-called "economy class syndrome" is to be distributed with tickets by British Airways.

The public have become more aware of potentially-fatal Deep Vein Thrombosis following a number of deaths among long-haul airline passengers.

Now British Airways is sending out leaflets containing health tips on preventing the illness to anyone booking a long flight.

It is also distributing leaflets and posters to GP surgeries.

A recent House of Lords report recommended that airlines make more effort to make customers aware of the potential hazards.

But the airline insists that the recent spate of reports of deaths is unconnected with its latest initiative.

A spokesman said: "It is about well-being in the air, and we have always talked about well-being in the air."

Sitting still for long periods may increase the chances of developing the blood clot which can cause problems.

Water advice

The clots are dangerous when they block blood vessels in the leg, or worse, in the lungs.

Passengers are advised to drink plenty of water, and take exercise such as going for a stroll up and down the aisle every now and then during the flight.

The condition is referred to "traveller's thrombosis" in the leaflets.

"economy-class syndrome" is a misnomer, because the condition is not necessarily dependent on the smaller legroom seats in that section.

The illness is more likely to arise in the elderly and overweight, and drinking alcohol instead of water can cause dehydration which increases the risk.

However, an expert says it could arise in any patient who is sitting still for a prolonged period.

Mr John Scurr, a consultant vascular surgeon, said: "Blood clots in the leg can occur in all travellers.

"The longer you sit down, the more likely you are to get a clot - so it's not restricted just to air passengers."

The relatives of one passenger who died in November from Deep Vein Thrombosis are believed to be considering legal action against the airline which carried him shortly before he fell ill.

Father-of-four Thomas Lamb, 68, died shortly after arriving at Heathrow from Australia.

Business class passenger Susan Mavir-Ross, from north Wales collapsed and died on a Virgin flight from San Francisco earlier this year.