Letters: Chemical cause of rise in cancers

These letters appear in the print edition of The Independent, 10 June, 2013

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It was appalling – but not unexpected – to read that by 2020 almost half of Britons will get cancer during their lifetime (7 June). It is often said that this rise is partly due to an ageing population, but cancer rates have risen more than life expectancy. Cancer incidence has also risen in children and young people.

There are over 70,000 chemicals in use now and plastic chemicals, such as bisphenol A, can disrupt hormones. Benzene is a proven cause of cancer yet is widely used by industry. The EU now admits that many chemicals were allowed into common use without proper safety testing to see if they cause cancer.

Professor Andreas Kortenkamp of the University of London has said the use of a range of commonly used chemicals which can interfere with the human immune system must be reduced. Calling on the EU to take action, he said: “We will not be able to reduce cancer without addressing preventable causes.”

A Wills Ruislip, Greater London

With half of the population destined to get cancer (report, 7 June), why are we not discussing the cancer-causing effects globally of the 2,000 nuclear weapons test explosions in the atmosphere, the radiation from such megadisasters as Chernobyl and Fukushima, the widespread use of radioactive depleted uranium in wars round the world including Iraq and Afghanistan, radiation leaks from nuclear power stations, and radiation leaks from nuclear waste dumps round the world?

Jim McCluskey, Twickenham, Middlesex

Your report that nearly half of the population will develop cancer at some time once again highlights the need for prevention. The government TV warning that smoking causes mutations which cause cancers does not mention the fact that countless other environmental exposures also do so.

Mutations to DNA which are precursor conditions to cancers are caused by many environmental agents including prescribed drugs, chemicals and radiation. Only by identifying the causative agents and avoiding them as much as possible can there be any real cancer prevention.

The battle to reduce the 5 per cent benzene, a haemotoxin, genotoxin and carcinogen, added to unleaded petrol when it was introduced, to not over 1 per cent shows that prevention by controlling the level of causative agents is possible.

Edward Priestley, Brighouse, West Yorkshire

The ‘hassle-free’ route to legal aid reform

I was delighted to discover that the Ministry of Justice has decided to opt for the “hassle-free” method of reading the responses to its current consultation exercise into legal-aid cuts, by the employment of a company called Citizen Space to do it for them.

Not only does this ably demonstrate how public money can be spent paying private companies to do a job one might expect of public servants, it will of course mean that the Ministry won’t have to actually read them at all, no doubt making it so much easier to ignore the flood of well-reasoned and sensible arguments made by lawyers up and down the country (6 June) pointing out that these ridiculous proposals are unworkable, ill thought-out, and will actually destroy all that is good in our legal system.

Rebecca Herbert, East Langton, Leicestershire

Colin Burke (Letters, 3 June) eloquently exposes the absurd hypocrisy of government welfare policy and the rise of the foodbank society. But the single overwhelming force that propels this and every other aspect of government today is that of privatisation. The saying that the United States practices socialism for the rich and capitalism for the poor is fast becoming the reality of modern-day Britain.

The cosy divvying up of publicly owned assets from rail, water and post office, failed banks funded entirely by public money, the unaccountable and unelected quangos, the health service pinched and pummelled towards the private sector, the insane cutting of legal aid and its farming out to cost-cutting private firms, and of course the relentless spread of the supermarket arachnids; the list is endless and all-encompassing, and apparently unstoppable.

And now, with their encouragement of food banks and charities, the government seeks to privatise poverty.

Christopher Dawes, London W11

Law is not on Erdogan’s side

You report that Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said the recent protests in Turkey bordered on illegality (7 June). One salient fact that may have been lost in the reporting of recent events is that the work on redeveloping the Gezi park had already begun months ago – a huge underground car park had been partly constructed – but was then stopped when the local branch of the main opposition party launched a legal objection. When the bulldozers arrived and started knocking a wall down, the case was still going through the courts and no decision had yet been made. Some people, knowing that the whole case was still in the courts, and noticing the bulldozers, organised a small occupation of the park and things went from there.

Erdogan has said that the park project will go ahead anyway, but in saying this he is openly disregarding the courts. This is one reason why lawyers are active participants in the Taksim protest. Erdogan may say that the protests are illegal, but in the case of the park redevelopment the law is not (yet) on his side.

Charles Turner, Department of Sociology University of Warwick, Coventry

Self-confessed middle-lane hog

How is hogging defined? (Letters, 7 June.) I am a professed middle-lane driver. I do this because it minimises the need to move from lane to lane at every merging junction or around every slow car or truck, given the risk that this manoeuvre entails. I drive at the speed limit so theory says I shouldn’t be holding anyone up or forcing them into this same risky move. Am I still considered a hogger? Surely if I am holding someone up it can only be if they are breaking another law – the speed limit – and at any rate they have the outside lane to pass on if required.

Perry Rowe, London SE4

There’s a big misconception about motorway middle-lane hogging. It is only a bad thing if you wish to drive at less than 70mph. If you want to travel at 70 (or even a tad faster), staying on the middle lane is good because it avoids constantly moving in and out of the slower-moving inside lane. And the road safety experts tell us that changing lanes is a hazardous manoeuvre and should be minimised.

Clamp down on middle-lane slowcoaches, yes, but leave the 70- drivers alone – they do not obstruct anyone driving legally, they are making the roads safer by reducing lane-changing, and the speed merchants still have the outside lane.

Ray Chandler Shoreham-by-Sea, West Sussex

Give us a reason to vote Labour

Your leading article (7 June), asking how Ed Miliband can identify a compelling reason to vote Labour rather than Tory or Liberal Democrat in 2015, says it all about present-day politics. The Labour heartlands of working classes, struggling to bring up decent families on poorly paid jobs have gone – along with the jobs – while the traditional Tory heartlands have survived and have been augmented by “escapees” from the working classes understandably enjoying their improving status.

I refuse to believe though that we have become so selfish and so disdainful of the real poor, that we could contemplate re-electing a government that shows no sign of understanding the devastating effects of the austerity measures on families the length and breadth of the country.

Change in the benefits system was necessary; a shake up of the NHS was necessary; saving on government spending was necessary. What isn’t necessary is that the real poor are worse off while those of us with plenty still have plenty.

The Labour Party may have lost its heartlands, but surely there must be a future for a Labour Party that still champions the less fortunate?

Robert Stewart, Wilmslow Cheshire

Why is this person making laws?

You quote Baroness Knight as saying, repeatedly, “I was only saying what I believe”. This is fine and many 90-year-olds would hold similar beliefs, hoping for a return to the good old days of locking people up for crimes of homosexuality and abortion. I can quite imagine my late parents, both wonderful people, saying much the same (one of the reasons I never came out to them, much though I wanted to). I suspect the Baroness is a feisty, warm-hearted person stuck in a 1950s mindset; why on earth are we paying her to draft the laws of England and Wales?

Allan Jones, London SE9

According to Baroness Knight marriage is “about a man and a woman, created to produce children, producing children” which not only excludes gays from marriage, but women who can’t have children and couples who choose not to.

Sue Simpson, Brighton, East Sussex

Microchipped moggies

The story about Freya the Treasury cat was very entertaining (8 June). But it has a serious point: Freya was reunited with the Osbornes because she has a microchip. So does Minnie, my lovely 15-year-old tortoiseshell, who went missing last November. Nearly five weeks later I got a call from the RSPCA to say she’d been found, in very poor shape, and taken to one of their animal hospitals. At that stage the prognosis was gloomy, but Minnie made a full recovery and has now been home for six months.

Brenda Griffith-Williams, London N8

Self-harm shame

What possible benefit can there be to anyone in a 15-year-old girl having her self-harm attempts reported in a national newspaper? (“Michael Jackson’s daughter Paris ‘fine’ in Los Angeles hospital after apparent suicide attempt”, 6 June). Shameful!

James Ward-Campbell Long, Whatton, Leicestershire

Pubs’ demise

Pubs are not closing because they are no longer commercially viable as we keep hearing (7 June) but because the breweries have found other more lucrative uses for the plots, such as conversion to housing. Many of the pubs that have been closed were popular and well run. Once again, community amenities are being sacrificed by, and for, big business.

Cherry Heywood-Jones, Cambridge