Sunday, August 15, 2004
When you read about the administration's dogged resolve to gut every manner of environmental safeguard, do you find yourself wondering: are they demented? The study cited below has your answer: if they aren't now, they will be soon enough -- and unfortunately, so will you. From the Sunday Observer:
The numbers of sufferers of brain diseases, including Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and motor neurone disease, have soared across the West in less than 20 years, scientists have discovered . . . .
The report [in the journal Public Health], which [Prof. Colin] Pritchard wrote with colleagues at Southampton University, covered the incidence of brain diseases in the UK, US, Japan, Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands and Spain in 1979-1997. The researchers then compared death rates for the first three years of the study period with the last three, and discovered that dementias - mainly Alzheimer's, but including other forms of senility - more than trebled for men and rose nearly 90 per cent among women in England and Wales. All the other countries were also affected.
For other ailments, such as Parkinson's and motor neurone disease, the group found there had been a rise of about 50 per cent in cases for both men and women in every country except Japan. The increases in neurological deaths mirror rises in cancer rates in the West.
The team stresses that its figures take account of the fact that people are living longer and it has also made allowances for the fact that diagnoses of such ailments have improved. It is comparing death rates, not numbers of cases, it says.
As to the cause of this disturbing rise, Pritchard said genetic causes could be ruled out because any changes to DNA would take hundreds of years to take effect. 'It must be the environment,' he said.
The causes were most likely to be chemicals, from car pollution to pesticides on crops and industrial chemicals used in almost every aspect of modern life, from processed food to packaging, from electrical goods to sofa covers, Pritchard said.
Food is also a major concern because it provides the most obvious explanation for the exclusion of Japan from many of these trends. Only when Japanese people move to the other countries do their disease rates increase.