A story about cider, lead in petrol and fracking in the Karoo


A BRILLIANT ARTICLE WITH A LESSON FOR THE SA GOVERNMENT

http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2013/aug/19/fracking-debate-lead-petrol-harmful

Fracking debate: what does the battle for lead-free air teach us?

The lead industry spent decades denying that putting the metal into petrol was harmful before campaigners were proved right. We should heed the warnings of that episode

Robin Russell-Jones

The Guardian, Monday 19 August 2013 19.30 BST

To fully understand the row about fracking one needs to go back 250 years. In the early 18th century, an epidemic of Devonshire colic afflicted cider drinkers from the West Country. Sir George Baker, future president of the Royal College of Physicians, realised the symptoms were almost identical to lead poisoning.

He discovered that cider presses in Devon were lead-lined and that some manufacturers were adding sugar of lead to their cider. In 1767 he published experiments that proved the presence of lead in Devonshire cider – probably the first ever experiment to solve a public-health problem.

The cider manufacturers were having none of it. They vilified Baker, and hired experts to travel the country decrying his fiendish theories. But Baker was right, Devonshire cider got a bad name and by the 1820s, Devonshire colic was a thing of the past. Parliament never legislated.

In the 20th century the petrochemical industry started adding lead to petrol as an anti-knock agent. By the early 70s, oil companies were adding up to 400,000 tons a year to petrol worldwide.

After the second world war, a young American scientist, Clair Patterson, set about measuring lead in the environment, and quickly discovered that the world was heavily and universally contaminated by lead from petrol. Furthermore, it was making its way into humans.

Patterson found that the lead content of skeletal remains, from a pre-industrial society in South America, was extremely low, and he represented this by one dot. A patient with clinical lead poisoning was represented by 2,000 dots, and the lead burden of a typical adult living in 20th century America or Europe, was represented by 500 dots. For no other poison was there such a narrow gap between what was known to be toxic and what was known to be typical. Furthermore, it meant the entire population of the developed world was being contaminated by a poison that was being deliberately added to petrol by the richest companies in the world.

Unsurprisingly the petrochemical industry was furious and it attempted to have Patterson’s funding discontinued, but it was too late.

Lead is a known neurotoxin, and in 1979, Herb Needleman published a paper in the New England Journal of Medicine. He measured the lead content of shed milk teeth, a far more accurate indication of childhood exposure than measuring blood lead levels. He demonstrated a dose-dependent relationship between increasing lead content and a wide range of psychometric measures, including poor organisational ability, lower IQ, distractibility, and impulsivity.

The lead industry was incandescent. Needleman’s work was subjected to hostile critiques and he was reported for scientific misconduct.

In 2011, the UN announced that it had been successful in phasing out leaded petrol from almost every country in the world, apart from Egypt, Yemen, Tunisia, Burma and Afghanistan. It stated: “Ridding the world of leaded petrol has resulted in $2.4 trillion in annual benefits, 1.2 million fewer premature deaths, higher average intelligence, and 58m fewer crimes.’

So what lessons can we draw from the story of lead? First, that society will enthusiastically adopt new technology without considering the consequences. Second, that you cannot rely on industry to act in the public interest, even when their practices are going to pollute the entire planet. Third, that politicians are no more responsive to issues of public health than they were in the 18th century. Fourth, that remedial action only happens when individuals make their voices heard above the clamour of vested interest. And finally disinformation is a standard industry tactic whenever profits are under threat.

The author was medical and scientific adviser to Clear, the Campaign for Lead-Free Air, from 1981-83 and its chair from 1984-89.

Tweet 5 of 5 – musings on big industry and politicians


No.1

Society will enthusiastically adopt new technology without considering the consequences.

No.2

You cannot rely on industry to act in the public interesteven when their practices are going to pollute the entire planet

No.3

Politicians are no more responsive to issues of public health than they were in the 18th century

No.4

Remedial action only happens when individuals make their voices heard above the clamour of vested interest

No.5

AND THE ONE I LIKE THE BEST:

Disinformation is a standard industry tactic whenever profits are under threat.

With acknowledgment:

Robin Russell-Jones

The Guardian, Monday 19 August 2013 19.30 BST

Tweet 4 of 5 – musings on big industry and politicians


No.1

Society will enthusiastically adopt new technology without considering the consequences.

No.2

You cannot rely on industry to act in the public interesteven when their practices are going to pollute the entire planet

No.3

Politicians are no more responsive to issues of public health than they were in the 18th century

No.4

Remedial action only happens when individuals make their voices heard above the clamour of vested interest

With acknowledgment:

Robin Russell-Jones

The Guardian, Monday 19 August 2013 19.30 BST

 

Tweet 3 of 5 – musings on big industry and politicians


No.1

Society will enthusiastically adopt new technology without considering the consequences.

No.2

You cannot rely on industry to act in the public interesteven when their practices are going to pollute the entire planet

No.3

Politicians are no more responsive to issues of public health than they were in the 18th century

With acknowledgment:

Robin Russell-Jones

The Guardian, Monday 19 August 2013 19.30 BST

 

SA forges ahead with fracking whilst others investigate …


NS: Nova Scotia government commissions independent review of fracking

 The review will be led by David Wheeler, the president of Cape Breton University and an expert on water quality and groundwater pollution.
The review will be led by David Wheeler, the president of Cape Breton University and an expert on water quality and groundwater pollution.Published on August 29, 2013

Melanie Patten  RSS Feed

Nova Scotia

The Canadian Press

The province is pulling the plug on an internal review it launched two years ago into hydraulic fracturing in favour of what it says is a more comprehensive and independent study of the controversial practice.

Topics : 
Cape Breton University , NDP , Wheeler’s ,Nova Scotia , New Brunswick

[HALIFAX, NS] – The Nova Scotia government is pulling the plug on an internal review it launched two years ago into hydraulic fracturing in favour of what it says is a more comprehensive and independent study of the controversial practice.

The review will be led by David Wheeler, the president of Cape Breton University and an expert on water quality and groundwater pollution.

Energy Minister Charlie Parker said Wheeler will hold public consultations and assemble an advisory panel of experts to study the social, economic, environmental and health impacts of hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking.

The government launched its own review in 2011, but Parker said Wednesday that Nova Scotians have been calling for an external study.

“They want more independence and they want an expansion of the scope of the study,” he said. “So we’re not only looking at the technical aspects of hydraulic fracturing, but expanding it into the health impacts and the socio-economic impacts.”

Fracking involves extracting natural gas trapped in shale rock through the use of chemically treated water and sand into a well bore. Critics say the process could compromise groundwater, but the energy industry says fracking is safe and does not harm the environment.

The Nova Scotia government implemented a two-year moratorium on hydraulic fracturing last year. At the same time, the NDP announced it would delay its fracking report, initially expected last spring, until mid-2014 to allow for more study.

Parker said work from the internal review will be incorporated into Wheeler’s work, which is expected to begin this fall.

“There’s a lot of good information there but we still don’t have enough information to make an informed decision,” said Parker. “We want to do the right thing. We’ve always said we want to gather the best possible information.”

The Opposition Liberals called for an independent review of fracking in 2011 and accused the NDP of bowing to mounting public pressure ahead of a provincial election.

“They have shown absolutely no leadership on concerns about fracking in our province,” energy critic Andrew Younger said in a statement.

Parker said the government is aiming to have the independent review completed next year. He said no applications for fracking will be considered during the review process.

He estimated the cost of the independent review at $100,000. About $100,000 has already been spent on the internal study, he said.

Fracking is also a hot-button issue in neighbouring New Brunswick, where opponents have staged high-profile protests against shale gas exploration.

Earlier this year, the provincial government pushed ahead with dozens of new regulations governing the industry and aimed at protecting the environment and creating jobs. That came after that province’s chief medical officer of health issued a report in October 2012 warning that New Brunswick’s infrastructure and legislation weren’t strong enough to ensure public health is protected should the shale gas industry be expanded.