Tasmanian devils may help in fighting cancer

This 2008 video says about itself:

The odd Tasmanian devil has a huge head to power its massive jaws. It also has an unsettling array of sounds.

From Washington State University in the USA:

Tasmanian devil research offers new insights for tackling cancer in humans

August 6, 2020

A rare, transmissible tumor has brought the iconic Tasmanian devil to the brink of extinction, but new research by scientists at Washington State University and the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle indicates hope for the animals’ survival and possibly new treatment for human cancers.

The study, published in Genetics on Aug. 1, found a single genetic mutation that leads to reduced growth of a transmissible cancer in Tasmanian devils in the wild.

“This gene is implicated in human prostate and colon cancers,” said Andrew Storfer, professor of biological sciences at WSU. “While the findings hold the most immediate promise to help save the world’s few remaining Tasmanian devils, these results could also someday translate to human health.”

The research team, led by Storfer and Mark Margres, now a postdoctoral fellow at Harvard University, studied the genomes of cases of devil facial tumor disease, or DFTD, that regressed spontaneously — that is, the cancer began disappearing on its own.

They were surprised to find the mutation contributing to tumor regression doesn’t change the gene function but instead, turns on a gene that slows cell growth in the tumor. At least, it behaves that way in the lab.

Current human cancer therapies focus on removing every trace of a tumor, often through toxic or debilitating treatments, said David Hockenbery, a cancer biologist at Fred Hutch who contributed to the study.

“If there were ways that tumors could be tricked into regressing without having to administer cytotoxic drugs or deforming surgeries, it would be a major advance,” he said.

While infections cause up to 20 percent of all human cancers — such as gastric cancer from Helicobacter pylori and cervical cancer from human papillomavirus — for Tasmanian devils, the cancer is the infection.

DFTD spreads between the animals when they bite each other during common social behaviors. Since the mid-1990s, the disease has decimated the natural population of the carnivorous marsupials, which are now found only on the island state of Tasmania, off the southeastern coast of Australia.

Storfer’s lab leads a National Institutes of Health-funded team of researchers from the U.S. and Australia to improve conservation efforts for Tasmanian devils and increase understanding of the co-evolution of the tumor and its host.

Though ferocious with each other, Tasmanian devils take mild handling by people without much fuss, making it easy for investigators to humanely capture the animals, collect tissue samples and tag them for monitoring before release back into the wild.

As the researchers work to save the devils, they also have an unprecedented opportunity to watch tumors naturally evolve and sometime regress without drugs or surgery.

“Although this disease is largely fatal, we’re seeing tumors just disappear from an increasing number of individual animals,” Storfer said.

The team is looking at the effects of other promising mutations in regressed tumors as well.

“We hope to learn something that could be applied to understanding and possibly treating a number of human cancers in the future,” Storfer said.

This research was supported by the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation and the Washington Research Foundation.

Dying Dutch girl saves Afghan refugee’s life, education

Afghan refugee girl Derakshan Beekzada, now a doctor, photo Linelle Deunk

This photo shows Afghan refugee, Derakshan Beekzada, who recently became a doctor. Her Dutch friend Maartje saved Derakshan’s life and education when she was a teenager; when the Dutch government tried to deport her refugee family back to the Afghan war.

Translated from Dutch daily De Volkskrant, 27 November 2018, by Ellen de Visser:

Living instead of Maartje

In 2004, 14-year-old Maartje knew: she is dying. Her friend Derakshan is in danger of being deported. Maartje writes a letter to Minister Rita Verdonk,

a bureaucratic and xenophobic right-winger

whether Derakshan would not be allowed to stay if Maartje would no longer be there. Fourteen years later, Derakshan, in the Netherlands, makes Maartje’s dream come true.

In the fall of 2004, just after she heard that the cancer was back, 14-year-old Maartje van Winkel wrote a letter to Minister Verdonk in which she transfered her place in life. She will die, she will not live for much longer, so a place is available for her Afghan friend Derakshan.

Maartje's letter to minister Verdonk about her friend Derakshan, from Judith Koorn's collection

Five years earlier, Derakshan and her parents and brother came to the Netherlands, fleeing the Taliban, but now she has been told that she must go back. She burst into tears in the classroom.

Two girlfriends, who both know how dangerous their lives are: the timid Derakshan, headscarf knotted under the chin, who still has to find her way, who startles when a man sits down next to her on the bus, at the Breukelen high school befriended the cheerful Maartje who gives her the feeling that she is welcome. After years of war, Derakshan knows what it feels like to face death; Maartje, defenseless against a disease that slowly destroys her, wants to make sure that her friend does have a future.

It is the year in which the conflict about the Dutch gpvernment’s asylum policy started. The government has agreed with Minister for Immigration Affairs Rita Verdonk’s plan to return 26 thousand asylum seekers who have exhausted all legal remedies to their country of origin. The decision leads to demonstrations, resistance by mayors, moving letters, protests by villages, school classes, football teams. Under the title “26 thousand faces”, Dutch filmmakers film asylum seekers who are in danger of being deported, short films broadcast by the public broadcaster.

Derakshan is one of those 26 thousand faces. When the Jeugdjournaal (Youth News) TV show hears about the letter, the story of the two girlfriends becomes national news. On Christmas Eve, a heavily emaciated Maartje, a pink scarf around the bald head, looks into the television camera from the bed in her girl’s room. “Derakshan could take my place if I will be no longer there”, she says. “I always wanted to be a doctor, so she can do that for me.” After the broadcast, 700 letters arrive at the Jeugdjournaal.

It is a reason for the minister to travel a month later to the coucil house home in Maarssen for a personal inquiry. Outside on the street, with a curious cat on the windowsill, the Jeugdjournaal catches her after the conversation. Verdonk understands the emotions, she says. “But we also have laws in the Netherlands. Derakshan has been safe here for a number of years and she can now return to Afghanistan.”

Three months later, on a Monday morning in April, Maartje dies, unaware of the future of her best friend.

Thirteen years later, a weekday afternoon in April, a full lecture hall at the Emma Children’s Hospital in Amsterdam. The same hospital where Maartje, after months of hope, once heard the fatal diagnosis: department F8 Noord, pediatric oncology. Her friends are there. The former neighbours. The vice-president of her school. Nurses from then. The radiotherapist who is already retired. The doctor. The music teacher from her old school wears the framed portrait that has hung with him in the classroom for so long.

Judith Koorn, the mother of Maartje, presents the book that she wrote about the life of her daughter, the heartbreaking story of a girl who, for all her inexplicable complaints, was not taken seriously for far too long. There were doctors who thought she was begging for attention, who referred her to a psychiatrist. When a thorough orthopedist finally had an MRI scan made, it turned out to be too late, there was a tumour in her spine that had caused metastases. The disease showed its cruel side, the cancer ran wild, Maartje had to endure a horrible dying process.

Just before she died, she told about her fear that no one would ever mention her name again. Her mother writes that everything she had said and had done might be erased over time. But ask her doctor, ask the teachers at her school, the doctors who treated her, the presenter of the Jeugdjournaal, the girls from her class, and the fellow villager who left a letter on her grave, and they all tell the same thing: that they have learned so much from Maartje. …

“When she realized that her world was finite, she wondered what else she could do.”

“She could think beyond her own illness”, recalls Liesbeth Staats, presenter of the Jeugdjournaal at the time. “She knew she wasn’t going to make it but she remained clear and sober. Derakshan had to go back and the argument in the asylum discussion was always: there is no place here. Maartje’s response was: then I give up my place, literally, then she can get my social security number and later my scholarship, she doesn’t have to cost anything. There was nothing to argue against that except that Verdonk said no.”…

Derakshan Beekzada, photo Linelle Deunk

Maartje’s legacy has been decisive for one young woman. She sits in the front right of the lecture room that afternoon, attentively and confidently, the long dark hairs loose around her face: Derakshan Beekzada, 29, has made her best friend’s dream come true. Every day she accompanies cancer patients as a doctor at the Antoni van Leeuwenhoek Hospital, the story of her friend is in the back of her mind. “I dedicate my success to her”, she says. “Much later I read her letter, she wrote: I’m dying, can she be me? It can still silence me.”

Escaping from Afghanistan had to be in a hurry, late at night. She hated that she could nottake her doll along. She remembers changing cars again and again, a boat which nealy capsized, endless nightly walks through mud and the last long part in a truck. Somewhere along a Dutch highway they are dropped.

She had never been to school, 11-year-old Derakshan; that was not allowed by the Taliban, who had taken over large parts of Afghanistan four years earlier. When she arrives at the asylum seekers’ center in Driebergen, she can only write her name, but in a year and a half she will learn all the material of primary school. She might go to junior high school, but it became senior high school. She works hard, writes flawless Dutch, is one of the best students in the exact subjects. “I can’t remember her ever scoring less than [maximum score] 10”, her maths teacher says. Director Dick van Steenis can remember her flawlessly after all these years. “If all students would have 10 percent of her perseverance, then everyone would succeed here,” he says in his office.

The first tests in her third high school year are only just finished when everything changes. The Taliban have been driven out, Afghanistan is once again considered a safe country, Derakshan has to return with her parents. She realizes what that means: her father has serious heart problems, her mother is being treated for ovarian cancer, not only will medical care will be lacking there, she will soon also have to earn a living in a country where she does not know her way. And although the Taliban are no longer in power, their influence is still great. Friends and relatives have fled or been killed, her parents are terrified.

The school takes action at the initiative of a few teachers involved. All a thousand students write on a card why Derakshan should stay, a local florist makes roses available and so the class goes on a Tuesday for the Christmas holidays with a thousand roses and a thousand tickets in a bus to The Hague. The camera of the Jeugdjournaal records how Derakshan pushes the wheelchair of the sick Maartje towards the Ministry of Justice, a bunch of roses on Maartje’s lap.

Derakshan pushing Maartje's wheelchair in The Hague anti-deportation demonstration

It is an image that summarizes everything, says Van Steenis, deputy school principal: “A girl whose life would end and a girl whose life might very well end, in a different way.” Only then does Derakshan hear of the letter by her female friend. “It is not easy to write in a letter: I am dying. It was very brave that she could put that on paper”, she says a week later when the Jeugdjournaal comes to film at her home. …

Two years after Maartje’s death, the fourth Balkenende government, of which Rita Verdonk is no longer a member, is putting an amnesty arrangement into effect. A year later, Derakshan hears that she can stay on the day when her father was able to leave intensive care. He had a heart attack in the courtroom during the last case he conducted against their deportation. …

Rita Verdonk says she has no need to look back on the case.

Judith Koorn, Maartje’s mother, describes the Friday afternoon in November when her daughter gets her death sentence in the hos[ital. The chemotherapy that initially seemed to work is no longer effective. The treating oncologist is not there, his replacement tells Maartje that she still has ten weeks to live. It appears blunt and brusque. In the parking garage they discover that they have switched on the light of the car, the battery is empty, the car does not start. Much later they drive home in the dark, through the pouring rain, on the A2 highway, totally devastated.

It will prove symbolic for the misery to come. With the death of Maartje, friends and acquaintances disappear. “I saw people diving away, no one ever called again”, she says. “The outside world will avoid you if you lose a child, that is a nasty loneliness.”

The only one that keeps coming is Derakshan. “I unconsciously tried to take over tasks from Maartje after she died, to become a kind of new daughter. My parents really encouraged me in this. Friends told me they didn’t know what to say to her mother. Could they still remind her of Maartje? Wasn’t that too painful? Understandable. Then, looking away is easiest. …

Yet it is not strange that Maartje’s cancer has gone unnoticed for a long time, says Utrecht orthopedic surgeon René Castelein. The Ewing sarcoma, the malignant bone tumor discovered in her, is rare, he says: every year it occurs in less than ten children. Usually that type of cancer reveals itself in the lower leg or arm, where a bump develops. You don’t see anything on a back. Castelein is alarmed when he examines Maartje, has an MRI scan made and immediately sees what is happening a day later. “But I don’t know,” he says hesitantly, “if the disease had given such a convincing impression at an earlier stage.” The last doctor, he says, the doctor who makes the diagnosis is always right. …

It is no coincidence that she wants to become an oncologist, says Derakshan, when, after her working day at the Antoni van Leeuwenhoek Hospital, she sits down at the restaurant. “What I experienced really plays a role. First my mother got cancer and I had to assist her as an interpreter while I barely spoke the language. And when my mother got well, my best friend died from the same disease. It’s great that I now get the chance to cure people. Cancer patients realize that life can be short, they will appreciate everything so much more. I find that special.”…

She no longer wears her headscarf, after a conversation with her father, she took it off in her last high school year. “I explained to him that it didn’t make me a better Muslim and that the headscarf stopped me from being myself. People look at you differently, I noticed, it stood in the way of my development. That is also my fault, but my father said: if it feels better for you, you have to do it. From that moment on I suddenly succeeded in making it much easier to make contact.”…

A year and a half after Maartje’s death, her mother finds a rainy envelope on her grave. It contains a letter from a girl from the village. She is suffering from a major depression and she has recently attempted suicide. When she returned to school, she had heard that Maartje had died, and she found it so unfair that she had drawn strength from it. “You wanted to live so badly but it didn’t work, I stayed alive while I didn’t”, she writes. “From your day of death I have always told myself that I should be happy with what I have, with who I am. I survoved thanks to you.”…

For fourteen years, Derakshan was afraid she still had to return to Afghanistan, years in which it seemed impossible to become a Dutch citizen because she could not get the birth certificate that was required for this. Four years ago she was finally allowed to pick up her Dutch passport on a Monday morning in March. “Only then did I think: now I can really be someone here.” Every day she puts on her white doctor’s coat at the Antoni van Leeuwenhoek Hospital, she has her girlfriend in mind. “What she wanted to do for me was so great that I can never pay her back. I live my happiness in her name.”

Australian cancer victim sues Bayer-Monsanto

This 28 June 2019 Australian TV video is called Roundup linked to serious illness, claim some cancer-struck Australians | A Current Affair.

By Frank Gaglioti:

Australian cancer victim sues Bayer-Monsanto

23 July 2019

On June 4, in the first such case in Australia, the Melbourne lawn mowing service operator Michael Ogalirolo launched legal action in the Supreme Court against the global chemical giant Bayer, the current owner of Monsanto, which manufactures the herbicide Roundup.

The case follows similar recent cases in the US that have heightened concerns internationally over the use of the herbicide. Bayer, the German pharmaceutical company, bought out Monsanto, the original producer of Roundup, in 2018. The US agrichemical company had been founded in 1901.

Ogalirolo has developed the potentially lethal cancer, non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL), which he claims is due to 18 years of exposure to glyphosate, the active component of Roundup.

His writ declares: “The defendant [Bayer] knew or ought to have known that the use of Roundup products were dangerous for the plaintiff… in particular causing DNA and chromosomal damage in human cells, cancer, kidney disease, infertility and nerve damage among other devastating illnesses.

“As such, Roundup products are dangerous to human health and unfit to be marketed and sold in commerce, particularly without proper warnings and directions.”

Ogalirolo’s case follows three successful legal actions against Bayer in the US. School groundskeeper Dewayne Johnson sued Bayer after contracting an extremely aggressive and lethal form of NHL and was awarded $US289 million in August 2018.

In a statement to jurors, a lawyer for Johnson, Brent Wisner, condemned Monsanto for putting profits first. He said that he had seen internal Monsanto company documents “proving that Monsanto has known for decades that glyphosate and specifically Roundup could cause cancer.”

In a second case in March, the US District Court in California found that Roundup caused Edwin Hardeman to develop NHL after using Roundup for 30 years on his property. Farmers Alberta and Alva Pilliod were awarded $2 billion in May, the biggest settlement so far, after developing NHL.

Alva Pilliod told the media after her court hearing: “We wish that Monsanto had warned us ahead of time about the dangers of using Monsanto [weedkiller]… And that there was something on the front of their label that said ‘danger may cause cancer.’”

Currently, there are 13,400 claims pending in US courts and a number of other Australian cancer victims considering taking action against Bayer.

As a result of the lawsuits and significant scientific studies, action is being discussed in a number of countries. Vietnam and France banned glyphosate products in April and July respectively, and other European administrations are considering bans.

In Australia, municipal councils are reconsidering the use of Roundup.

On July 4, 500 outdoor workers from Blacktown council in suburban Sydney walked out over safety concerns over the use of Roundup. The strike took place after six workers were told that they would be placed on other duties if they refused to use the herbicide.

The workers returned to work after an Industrial Relations Commission hearing ruled that the council should trial an alternative weed control process. One crew would trial the alternative but the majority of workers would still have to use Roundup.

In June, residents reacted angrily to the Illawarra council’s annual aerial spraying of Roundup to control weeds on the local escarpment, south of Sydney. Petitions opposing the spraying were signed by thousands of residents.

One petition signed by 2,500 people stated: “Roundup is extremely dangerous as proven in court now multiple times… The health implications for residents, their pets, and small children is simply unacceptable.”

The Illawarra District Weeds Authority officer David Pomery rebuffed residents’ concerns, stating Roundup was the “only practical and feasible method to control.”

The chemical giant Monsanto introduced Roundup in 1974. According to figures published in 2016, Roundup is the most heavily applied weed killer in the history of chemical agriculture internationally. There are 500 glyphosate products available to farmers and gardeners in Australia.

The huge expansion in the use of glyphosate products occurred after 1996 when Monsanto developed genetically modified seeds, including corn, wheat, soy, canola and cotton that are immune to the effects of the herbicide. This enables farmers to spray plants throughout their lifecycle, suppressing weeds but leaving the crop unharmed. Roundup-resistant seeds are marketed as Roundup Ready. This effectively ties the farmer to the continued use of Monsanto products, including having to rebuy seed every year.

According to a scientific paper, Trends in glyphosate herbicide use in the United States and globally, published in 2016, the introduction of Roundup Ready seeds enabled a 15-fold increase in the agricultural use of Roundup and allowed Monsanto to dominate the world herbicide market.

Glyphosate is also used for pre-harvest crop desiccation: That is the application of a herbicide near the end of the growing season to cause crops to dry and die uniformly, making them easier to harvest, and increasing the risk of chemical contamination of food products.

Bayer and Monsanto have conducted relentless campaigns against critics of the herbicide and Bayer continues to aggressively promote Roundup as a safe product.

Bayer has not responded to the Australian writ, but in the US it has indicated it will challenge the court victories of the successful litigants.

“We continue to believe firmly that the science confirms that glyphosate-based herbicides do not cause cancer,” Bayer stated in March in response to the Hardeman case.

A number of scientific reports have questioned Roundup’s safety record. In 2015, the World Health Organisation’s International Agency for Research on Cancer classified the herbicide as “probably carcinogenic to humans”, based on a review of existing research.

A study published in February concluded that exposure to Roundup increased the probability of developing NHL by 41 percent. One of the co-authors, Lianne Sheppard, professor in the Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences at the University of Washington, told the Guardian that “from a population health point of view there are some real concerns.”

An Australian Broadcasting Corporation program, “The Monsanto Papers,” broadcast in October 2018, published an internal email from Monsanto’s chief toxicologist that contradicted the company’s promotion of the herbicide’s safety record. “[Y]ou cannot say that Roundup is not a carcinogen… we have not done the necessary testing on the formulation to make that statement,” the scientist stated.

Thus, there is mounting evidence that the continued promotion and sale of Roundup is another glaring example of the pursuit of corporate profit with scant concern for the potential consequences for health and the environment.

‘Windmills cause cancer’, says Trump, parody song

This 5 April 2019 parody music video from Britain says about itself:

Donald Trump – Windmills of Your Mind (Give You Cancer)

President Donald Trump continues to raise awareness of the cancer-giving properties of windmills with this stirring adaptation of the classic “Windmills of Your Mind“.


Yuge! Like a POTUS in a witch hunt, like a deal within a deal
Like a freezing cold Midwest ‘cause global warming isn’t real
Like a Crooked Hillary or a Low Energy Jeb Bush
Like a bigly beauty pageant where you go and grab the puss
Like a travel ban for Muslims or a southern border wall
And the world is in my hands, which by the way are so not small
Like the best words that you find in the windmills of your mind
(Which give you cancer)

Like a mug of hot covfefe or a smocking hot daughter
Or a hurricane that’s so wet from the standpoint of water
Like a Mexican rapist who’s bringing crime and bringing drugs
Like a Russian hooker peeing or Joe Biden giving hugs
Like a far-right march in Charlottesville with some very fine folks
Like a Big Mac meal in bed with Tucker C and endless Cokes
Like the best words that you find in the windmills of your mind
(Which give you cancer)


London Grenfell disaster residents protest against cancerous waste

London Grenfell disaster area people protest over cancerous chemicals from Grenfell blaze, 5 April 2019

By Ceren Sagir in London, England:

Friday, April 5, 2019

Kensington residents protest over cancerous chemicals from Grenfell blaze

Grenfell justice activists brought traffic to a standstill today in a protest against the continuing presence of toxicity in the area around the tower that was devastated by fire two years ago.

By Thomas Scripps in England:

Surrounding land left highly toxic after Grenfell Tower inferno

6 April 2019

The preliminary findings of a study into the widespread presence of toxic substances in the area around the fire that destroyed Grenfell tower in London were published in the journal Chemosphere.

Carried out by Professor Anna Stec and a team from the University of Central Lancashire, its findings were reported to the government last February and ignored. Public Health England (PHE) has only ever tested for airborne pollution and always insisted that “the risk to public health from air pollution remains low.”

However, the Stec study described how “huge concentrations” of potential carcinogens are present in the dust and soil around the tower, as well as in the burned debris that had fallen from it.

Even when these findings were brought to national attention in the Guardian eight months later, in October 2018, PHE and the government attempted to evade the issue. They dismissed Stec’s work as not yet peer-reviewed and claimed that the chemicals she discovered could have come from “a variety of sources.”

Although a chemicals consultant, AECOM, has now been appointed to investigate the issue, not a single government-organised soil test has been carried out 21 months after the June 14, 2017, fire.

The publication of Stec’s full study confirms her original warnings, detailing “significant environmental contamination”. The carcinogen benzene was found in concentrations 40 times greater than the guideline level for urban residential areas in soil samples taken 27 metres away from the tower, six months after the fire. Samples from 142 metres away still registered up to 30 times the guideline level. Both sites had higher concentrations than would be expected for commercial land around petrol refineries.

Six carcinogenic polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) were found within 140 metres of the tower, at levels up to 160 times greater than other urban areas. Soil sampled 27 metres away contained more than five times the guideline level of the most toxic PAH, benzo(a)pyrene, which can damage the lungs and the immune system and is related to increased risk of cancers.

Soil and debris sampled within 50 metres of the tower contained phosphorus flame retardants that are potentially toxic to the nervous system.

A balcony 160 metres away from the tower, sampled 17 months after the fire, contained traces of isocyanic acid, ethyl isocyanate and propyl isocyanate, potential causes of asthma, rashes, swelling and lung inflammation.

The researchers conclude that the findings could not have occurred naturally and that they are inconsistent with surrounding areas. They make the point that any study would have been much more valuable if begun in the immediate aftermath of the fire.

Stec said last week, “It is now crucial to put in place a long-term health screening plan to assess any long-term adverse health effects of the fire on local residents, emergency responders and clean-up workers.”

Her report is a vindication of the concerns expressed by the local community and a damning indictment of the authorities’ refusal to act.

Speaking to the World Socialist Web Site, local resident Kerdesan explained, “The children are sick all the time. My son goes to primary school next to the Kensington Aldridge Academy [at the base of Grenfell Tower]. They all have similar symptoms: coughing, chest pains, sore throats and ears, headaches. They haven’t done any tests in the school for the children, no screening. The community is fighting for it, but the authorities don’t care.”

Kerdesan herself suffered a bloody cough soon after the fire that antibiotics couldn’t cure. Seventeen months later, after a Grenfell survivor raised her case in a public meeting, she finally received a hospital appointment.

“They said your area must have very poor air quality. They asked if I smoked or if anyone in my family smokes, and none of us do. So they asked where I lived, and I explained it was near the Grenfell Tower. They asked if anyone else had done these tests. I’m due to meet a consultant on April 15 who will tell me the extent of the damage.”

Asked about the role of the Conservative government and the [Conservative] Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea council, Kerdesan said, “In the morning after the fire, the entrance to my house was covered in debris. I had to clean it myself. … I filled up four bin bags. I rang the council to ask for help, and they said no, you have to contact the housing association. I rang my landlord, and they said no, you have to contact the council. Why couldn’t we get this service as an emergency matter? It was all left there for us to deal with. Three weeks after the fire, I got a knock on the door from someone who’d come to clear the debris!

“I think they should screen everybody now. That’s the first thing they should do. But they want to hide the truth.

“Last October, when people asked how safe it was for people to eat fruit and vegetables grown in the garden, PHE said ‘Just wash it before you eat it.’ We asked what about the children playing, rolling around on the ground, which they’ve been doing for the last 17 months, what will happen to them—because nothing’s been properly cleaned? They said, ‘Just tell your children to wash their hands.’ This is how they risk people’s health, and every time it’s about costs.”

Joe Delaney, a local resident who lived adjacent to Grenfell Tower and has a long record of fighting for safe and decent housing in the area, condemned the government’s efforts to avoid a serious investigation.

“Professor Stec came into the area in December 2017 and took samples, she told them of her findings in February 2018 and they sat on it and did nothing. Then it leaked in October 2018, and we all trooped to the Hilton Hotel for a meeting where they said they were doing something. And now here we are in April, and still nothing’s been done.

“They’ve appointed AECOM to do an investigation for the area. I was contacted by Lisa James, who works for the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government, in late December. She said she would like to meet me and discuss appointing a consultant and how to move forward. …

“Lisa James and her assistant Cecil Sinclair are the community engagement team of MHCLG. She has been brought in from the private sector, where she is a motivational speaker. He is someone who has been seconded internally, and he’s come from the Troubled Families Unit.

“Why are MHCLG running a highly technical, specialised area of science that will need rigorous study that can carry the confidence of a community that already doesn’t trust the authorities, and you give it to the housing people? It’s an old trick in the civil service, when you don’t want questions asked, let alone answered, you get a complete generalist to do a specialist’s job—and they don’t know what they’re doing. The situation is being managed.”

Joe explained that AECOM was the only bidder for the consulting position, in a tender process that lasted less than 48 hours. Their tender document was completed and submitted by December 12, 2018, before any meetings were held with Joe or other residents, who were told nothing had been decided. AECOM worked with RBKC as recently as 2016, when environmental studies had to be carried out during the Kensington Academy Leisure Centre rebuilding project.

“It’s the magician’s trick, pick a card any card, and somehow you end up with the one that he wants. And if you read through their document it’s all talk about ‘managing expectations’.

“There are academic institutions around the country that could have done this work. Or internationally even, if you really wanted to avoid questions of impropriety.

“When they appointed AECOM, what they were basically saying was, ‘Come on now, enough time has passed, we just need to get on with things, so there’s no point objecting to AECOM.’ In other words, we’ve wasted almost two years, so we might as well do something—even if that something is useless and not what you want at all. Now they can say about the chemicals, well this stuff could have come from anywhere, it’s years later.

“These synthetic vitreous fibres, there’s no way that they could have come from anything else except Kingspan and or Celotex products—the fibres didn’t exist when the tower was built.”

Celotex supplied the RS5000 insulation sandwiched between the equally dangerous aluminium panels that were clad to Grenfell during its refurbishment. When RS5000 burns it gives off toxic fumes that contain cyanide. Highly flammable insulation was combined with aluminium composite material (ACM) cladding with a highly flammable polyethylene core.

“What PHE said was, yes there may be stuff in the area but Victorian people lit fires and had factories. Firstly, there weren’t factories. This area was a slum, bits of it were a racetrack owned by the Earl of Ladbroke, and farmland. We didn’t have chemical industries. If you look at the dispersal pattern for PAHs, the heaviest concentrations are around the tower and they seem to decrease the further away you go, so more likely than not they came from the tower.

“We were subjected to institutional indifference before the fire, institutional inadequacy when the relief effort failed, and now institutional inertia because they don’t want to investigate.”

Grenfell area residents demonstrate against toxins

London Grenfell disaster area, cancer danger

This 28 March 2019 British TV video says about itself:

Grenfell Tower soil contamination increases cancer risk

Residents say the report confirms their fears about contamination following the fire in London, which killed 72 people.

Analysis of soil, debris and char samples of insulation boards used on the tower has revealed heightened concentrations of cancer-causing chemicals and proven carcinogens including benzene within 200m (656ft) of the tower.

Researchers from the University of Central Lancashire have recommended a long-term health screening process be put in place for residents and emergency responders who attended the fire, and called for a further independent analysis of the health impacts.

By Marcus Barnett in Britain:

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Grenfell tower area contaminated by cancer chemicals

CANCER-CAUSING chemicals and other potentially harmful toxins are present close to Grenfell Tower, according to analysis of debris and soil samples.

Samples from six different locations within a mile of the west London tower, where 72 people were killed in the June 2017 fire, were analysed by researchers from the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan).

The study, which was published in the Chemosphere academic journal yesterday, said that the samples showed signs of “significant environmental contamination.”

Pieces of soil and fallen debris taken within 50 metres of the tower were shown to contain toxic phosphorous flame retardants that are used in insulation foam.

Researchers also concluded that there was an “increased risk” of local residents developing cancer and asthma.

Nabil Choucair, who lost six family members in the disaster, said the lack of government interest was “another disrespect to the people and the community.”

UCLan chemistry and toxicity professor Anna Stec said: “It is now crucial to put in place long-term health screening to assess any long-term adverse health effects of the fire on local residents, emergency responders and clean-up workers.”

Shadow fire minister Karen Lee said: “It is unacceptable that the surrounding community continue to suffer.

“Toxicity tests should have been undertaken immediately after the fire, and appropriate health and safety measures put in place by the government instead of leaving residents at risk.

This government’s lack of urgency to permanently rehouse survivors and offer appropriate safeguards is typical of its wider inaction. It’s time that the needs of survivors and residents are rightfully made the priority.”

See also here. And here.

Bayer causes cancer, court decides

This 19 March 2019 video from the USA says about itself:

MONSANTO VERDICT: San Francisco Jury Rules Roundup Herbicide Caused Sonoma Man’s Cancer

From the BBC today:

Weedkiller glyphosate a ‘substantial’ cancer factor

A US jury has found that one of the world’s most widely-used weedkillers was a “substantial factor” in causing a man’s cancer.

Pharmaceutical group Bayer had strongly rejected claims that its glyphosate-based Roundup product was carcinogenic.

But the jury in San Francisco ruled unanimously that it contributed to causing non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in California resident Edwin Hardeman.

The next stage of the trial will consider Bayer‘s liability and damages.

During this phase, which starts on Wednesday, Mr Hardeman’s lawyers are expected to present evidence allegedly showing Bayer‘s efforts to influence scientists, regulators and the public about the safety of its products.

In morning trading, Bayer‘s shares immediately plunged, dropping almost 12% to €61.62.

The German company, which acquired Roundup as part of its $66bn takeover of US rival Monsanto, said it was disappointed with the jury’s initial decision. …

The case was only the second of some 11,200 Roundup lawsuits to go to trial in the US.

Another California man was awarded $289m in August after a state court jury found Roundup caused his cancer, sending Bayer shares plunging at the time.

That award was later reduced to $78m and is on appeal. …

Mr Hardeman, 70, treated his property in Sonoma County, California, regularly with the herbicide from 1980 to 2012 and was eventually diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

His lawyers Aimee Wagstaff and Jennifer Moore said in a joint statement their client was “pleased” with the decision.

“Now we can focus on the evidence that Monsanto has not taken a responsible, objective approach to the safety of Roundup,” they added.

“Instead, it is clear from Monsanto‘s actions that it does not particularly care whether its product is in fact giving people cancer, focusing instead on manipulating public opinion and undermining anyone who raises genuine and legitimate concerns about the issue.”

Another Roundup trial is scheduled to begin in California state court in Oakland on 28 March, involving a couple who claim Roundup caused their non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

What is glyphosate and is it dangerous?

Glyphosate was introduced by Monsanto in 1974, but its patent expired in 2000, and now the chemical is sold by various manufacturers. In the US, more than 750 products contain it.

In 2015, the International Agency for Research on Cancer, the World Health Organisation’s cancer agency, concluded that glyphosate was “probably carcinogenic to humans”. …

In November 2017 EU countries voted to renew the licence of glyphosate despite campaigns against it.

In California – where a judge had ruled that [it] must carry a cancer warning – the agriculture industry sued to prevent such a label for glyphosate, even though the state lists it as a chemical known to cause cancer.

Publish Monsanto-Bayer Roundup cancer research, court decides

This 18 August 2018 video says about itself:

Monsanto Hit With $289 Million Jury Verdict Roundup Cancer Coverup

Last week a jury in California found that Monsanto had covered up the dangers of Roundup and awarded to plaintiff $289 million in damages after he developed cancer after just a few years of exposure to Roundup as a groundskeeper. Ring of Fire’s Mike Papantonio and Farron Cousins discuss this issue.

Monsanto is Bayer now.

Translated from Dutch NOS TV today:

Research into effects of weed killer Roundup should be public

The European Agency for Food Safety (EFSA) should therefore publish scientific research into the toxicity of glyphosate and the risk of cancer. That is what judges of the European Union court judged in Luxembourg.

Glyphosate is the active ingredient in many pesticides and herbicides and has been authorized in the EU since 2002. The corporation is mainly known from the Roundup brand.

In two previous cases, the agency judged that documents about the dangers of the substances did not have to be published. According to EFSA, disclosure of that information could, eg, seriously damage the commercial and financial interests of the corporations that submitted the studies.

European judges judge that it is in the public interest to have access to information about substances that end up in the environment. People also have the right to know what the consequences are, says the court.

Carcinogenic or not?

In March 2015, the International Cancer Research Center warned that glyphosate may be carcinogenic, but the EFSA later concluded in a review of that study that the substance does not pose any risk of cancer to humans. The studies were based on tests with animals and not on humans.

Glyphosate was developed by the American corporation Monsanto, which marketed it under the name Roundup. France decided in 2017 to ban the product within three years. The European Union decided to extend the permit by five years, but left individual countries the space to ban it.

Last summer, Monsanto was ordered to pay a compensation of tens of millions of dollars to a man who says he got cancer from the herbicide with glyphosate.

Unilever corporation sacks worker for daughter with cancer

From Jewish daily Forward in the USA:

Her Daughter Was Diagnosed With Cancer. Her Corporate Employer Asked Her To Resign

By Haley Cohen, February 10, 2019

Finding a Fortune 500 company that appreciates work-life balance is a challenge in corporate America, and Jennifer Spangenthal was sure that she had found one — right until her daughter was diagnosed with cancer.

Spangenthal, a New Jersey mother of two, who identifies as an Orthodox Jew, was drawn to a career in human resources because she wanted the opportunity to “provide flexibility to other people and help them navigate their lives”, she told the Forward.

In 2014, she began working for the consumer goods company Unilever,

British-Dutch multinational Unilever‘s public relations department says they are a ‘good’ corporation.

However, there are several blots on Unilever’s history.

From profiting from Belgian King Leopold II’s murderous forced labour colonization of Congo; to pollution in India; to demanding internet censorship.

The big boss of Unilever gets 292 times as much as ‘average’ Unilever employees in the Netherlands. Compared to Unilever employees in, eg, African countries, the gap is stil; much bigger. However, Unilever in this is not even the worst, compared to, eg, Amazon.com.

which owns brands including Lipton, Hellmann’s and Suave. There, Spangenthal was tasked with helping to re-design the company’s family leave policy. She hoped her family could personally benefit from the company’s seemingly flexible strategy, as well as help other employees. “I thought I might have found the role that would help me achieve this elusive work-life balance, given their renown for family-friendly work policies,” she said.

But just as she returned from maternity leave following the birth of her son JJ, Spangenthal and her husband David heard four words that are every parents’ nightmare: “Your child has cancer.” Their three-year-old Sophie was fighting for her life, with a diagnosis of pleuropulmonary blastoma, a rare form of cancer that occurs in the lungs.

Initially, Unilever was fairly helpful, Spangenthal said, providing her with a period of unpaid leave. Those days were filled with endless cycles of blood draws, chemotherapy treatments, doctor visits, scans, and medical terminology, she recalled. As Sophie’s health slowly began to improve, Spangenthal brought a proposal up to her boss. She no longer felt she needed to be by her daughter’s side 24/7 and was ready to suggest returning to work, but on a part-time schedule. She never got to make the proposition.

“Before I could suggest anything, my boss got on the phone and said, ‘If you can’t come back full-time we need to ask you to resign.’” Spangenthal reluctantly resigned. She said the response was “astonishing” especially given that she had been a full-time employee with the company for over two years.

Under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) of 1993, United States labor laws require employers to provide employees with up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave each year with no threat of job loss, should they or an immediate family member face a serious illness. To qualify for FMLA, the employee must have worked for the company for at least one year and there must be 50 or more employees at the business. Some states offer their own paid plans, depending on the situation, including California, New Jersey, New York and Rhode Island. Spangenthal had been on leave for over two months when her boss provided the ultimatum.

While her husband David, an employee at Google, received “exceptional” support in the initial weeks and months following Sophie’s diagnosis, including coworkers being allowed to donate personal vacation time and an offer to work remotely when necessary — across the country, many parents can relate more closely to the Unilever experience.

Robin Wilson, a stay-at-home mom in New York City, told the Forward that her three-year-old son’s leukemia diagnosis led to the collapse of her husband’s IT business. “It’s a different kind of story because my husband was the company owner, but it has to do with business culture in general. A business needs work done. But our work culture does not prioritize people,” she said. Wilson said that within six months of her son’s diagnosis, and her husband taking some time off work, employees stopped showing up and clients “didn’t care.”

A study published in Pediatrics Blood & Cancer in 2015 surveyed the families of 99 Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Boston Children’s patients within the first month of cancer diagnosis and then a second time six months later. It found that about one-quarter of families of children being treated for cancer lost more than 40 percent of their total household income, while one-third experienced housing, energy or food insecurity.

Reportedly, at the time of diagnosis, 20 percent of the families surveyed were low-income (defined as those earning less than twice the federal poverty line). Six months later, an additional 12 percent of families had suffered financial mishaps that placed them below the federal poverty level. Six months after the initial diagnosis, 56 percent of the adults who were supporting their families reported an interference in their work, with 15 percent of parents either quitting or being fired from their jobs. Additionally, 37 percent of the surveyed adults were forced to reduce their hours or had to take a leave of absence from work. Only one third received pay during their time away from work taking care of their child.

Spangenthal said that in her situation, finances were not the most pressing matter. “I wasn’t expecting to be paid. All I wanted was to have a job when I got back,” she said. Since her resignation in April 2017, Spangenthal has devoted her time to being a full-time mother, but said she often considers returning to the work force. Sophie, who is now five-years-old, faced a relapse in March 2018. She finished her latest round of treatment this past November, around the same time that Spangenthal worked up the courage to write an opinion piece that she had been toying with for over a year.

On January 2, NBC News published the piece, headlined “A Fortune 500 company hired me to help them be more family-friendly. Then my own kid got cancer,” written in first-person by Spangenthal. “While many areas of our personal and professional lives have evolved to become more humane, corporate America yet has yet to take notice: Humanity needs to return to corporate America,” she wrote, as she shared her family’s story with the world.

Spangenthal told the Forward that her motive in publishing the story was “to make people become aware that especially in big companies, you really are treated as just a number.” She added that “the image Unilever displays in the media is very different from what really happens. There’s no employee loyalty. Nothing gets in the way of their financial gain.”

Spangenthal said, for employers, there is no single approach that can fit every situation. “I think it’s very much a matter of being sensitive to an employee’s needs. There’s no words to describe how you feel when your child is sick,” she said. “It’s just about having empathy and not kicking somebody when they’re already down.”

British firefighters’ risk of cancer

Local residents and FBU members joined forces in a march to demand justice for the London Grenfell disaster survivors – firefighters are concerned over toxicity

From daily News Line in Britain:

Tuesday, 5 February 2019

Firefighters exposed to deadly carcinogensFBU demands greater protection

FIREFIGHTERS are at risk not only from running into burning buildings to save lives but through daily exposure to carcinogens, mutagens and reprotoxics; and their union, the FBU, is demanding greater protection as this exposure can kill.

The FBU said yesterday: ‘Several studies show that public authorities and employers are falling short on their responsibility to sufficiently protect firefighters from the risk of exposure to carcinogens, mutagens and reprotoxics (CMRs). ‘This means that firefighters are doubly at risk – not only from the nature of their profession itself but also from the consequences of it.’

The European Trade Union Institute (ETUI) estimates that 8% of all cancer cases are work-related, making up 12% of cancer cases among men and 7% among women.

Moreover, specific studies have shown that firefighters in the age category of 30-49 have significant excess risk of prostate cancer and skin melanoma.

The FBU stated: ‘Measures must ensure that exposure to CMRs is eliminated or reduced as far as possible, and that firefighters are sufficiently protected before, during and after incidents. ‘Governments must assume responsibility for firefighters and, in addition to strengthening prevention, recognise cancer among firefighters as a professional disease.’

During the fire at Grenfell Tower in west London on June 14, 2017, which tragically claimed the lives of 72 men, women and children, toxic substances were present in the smoke and contaminated the area. Professor Anna Stec, a leading toxicologist, produced a report which showed that the soil in the surrounding area had been poisoned with hydrogen cyanide.

This is produced when furniture which contains Fire Retardant (FR) burns. It is also produced when insulation burns as it did at Grenfell. Although the toxicity report was handed to the Kensington and Chelsea Council last February, it wasn’t until the story was leaked to the press that they admitted they had received it.

The Council sent around a letter to local residents living on the estate at the foot of the Tower informing them that their guttering was going to be pressure washed. Many of the tenants have refused to allow the council to do this, because if toxic material has fallen from the tower and is on the rooftops, pressure washing could spread the material into people’s gardens.

San Francisco’s women firefighters are exposed to higher levels of certain toxic PFAS chemicals than women working in downtown San Francisco offices, shows a new study. The study represents one of the first published results from the Women Firefighter Biomonitoring Collaborative, a long-term investigation into breast cancer risks faced by women firefighters: here.