Saturday, September 20, 2008

Now paracetamol is in the gun

Finding: Sickly babies (i.e. ones given lots of painkillers) tend to have more illness in later life. Big news! Big stupidity to blame the problem on the remedy, though. There are other grounds for caution with paracetamol but the stuff below is negligible grounds for caution. It's just more data dredging

Giving paracetamol-based medicines such as Calpol to babies can increase their chances of developing asthma in later life, a large international study suggests. Researchers who analysed data on more than 200,000 children found strong links between their exposure to paracetamol as infants and the development of asthma and other allergic conditions.

Mothers are advised that after two months, in babies weighing over 4kg (9lb), they can treat fevers with medicines or suspensions that contain paracetamol. But the study raises questions about the long-term effects of using medicines such as junior paracetamol and Calpol at such a young age.

Children under 12 months who were given a paracetamol-based medicine at least once a month more than tripled the chances of suffering wheezing attacks by the age of 6 or 7, the researchers found. The painkiller was also associated with an increased risk of rhinoconjunctivitis - or hay fever - and eczema. The researchers add that increased use of paracetamol - because of earlier fears about giving children aspirin - could be a factor in causing rising rates of asthma in many countries.

Previous research had already suggested a link between paracetamol and asthma, and scientists believe that the painkiller may cause changes in the body that leave a child more vulnerable to inflammation and allergies.

The authors of the study, published in The Lancet medical journal, emphasise that the findings do not constitute a reason to stop using paracetamol for relief of pain and fever in children. Instead, they support existing guidelines of the World Health Organisation that paracetamol-based medicines should not be used routinely, but should be reserved for those with a high fever (38.5C or above). Experts point out that in these cases, giving children medication outweighs the risks of not doing so.

Paracetamol is not licensed for use in infants under 2 months old by mouth and is only recommended after that in "junior" doses or medicines that contain less than the standard adult dose. More than one million children in the UK - equivalent to one in ten - now have asthma and the number of cases has trebled since the 1960s. The rise has in part coincided with paracetamol becoming the preferred drug to treat fevers and pain in children.

The study, part of a worldwide investigation called the International Study of Asthma and Allergies in Childhood, spanned 73 centres in 31 countries. It found that giving children paracetamol in the first year of life increased the risk of later asthma symptoms in children aged 6 and 7 by 46 per cent. Taking paracetamol at least once a month - classified as "high use" - increased the symptoms risk 3.23 times. Using the drug in the first year of life increased the risk of hay fever and eczema at the age of 6 and 7 by 48 per cent and 35 per cent respectively.

The researchers had to rely on written answers from parents who filled in questionnaires about their children's health and use of paracetamol, which may be subject to error.

Professor Richard Beasley, who led the study at the Medical Research Institute of New Zealand, said that there were good reasons to suggest that paracetamol was a factor in causing health problems, rather than merely being associated with them. The research highlights a "dose-dependent" response, with more exposure to the drug resulting in more asthma attacks, pointing to a cause-and-effect relationship, he said. [Rubbish! It just shows that the sicklier kids get more asthma]

The researchers said that more research, in the form of randomised controlled trials, was needed urgently. [Indeed!]


British sex pamphlet for 6-year-olds horrifies family lobby

The country's biggest sexual health charity has published a sex education pamphlet for six-year-olds to encourage earlier discussion of the facts of life. The 12-page comic-style booklet, which will be distributed to schools, asks children to identify the physical differences between boys and girls and name their body parts properly. One puzzle asks children to draw a line from the words "vagina" and "testicles" to the correct areas of a picture of a naked girl and boy.

The pamphlet from the FPA - formerly the Family Planning Association - entitled Let's Grow with Nisha and Joe, which will be shown to pupils by schools unless parents opt out, was immediately condemned by family campaigners as "a very worrying development". They said that years of sex education had done nothing to tackle the teenage pregnancy rate, still the highest in Europe, and starting the education even earlier would make the problem worse.

The FPA countered that 6 was not too young to start conversations about sex. On the contrary it was a good chance to get the conversation going because children were not self-conscious or embarrassed about their bodies at that age. "The booklet answers the questions that six-year-olds are already asking about themselves, their families and the world around them," said Julie Bentley, chief executive of the FPA. "Introducing ideas about love, relationships and body names at a very basic level, when children are inquisitive and want to learn, lays a foundation for learning when they're much older and ready to find out more."

The FPA hopes primary schools that have shied away from lessons on sex and relationships will use the pamphlet as a basis for lessons. It also hopes that it will encourage parents to talk to children about what will happen to their bodies when they grow up.

But critics say that sex education has not worked and that a new approach that focuses on values rather than biology is required. "Where has the last 20 years of propagating value-free sex education got us? The FPA seem to think that by doing the same thing with younger and younger children they are going to get a different result. Actually they are going to reap the whirlwind," said Trevor Stammers, a GP and trustee of the Family Education Trust. "There is a constant emphasis on biological knowledge and an absence of understanding that feelings can be hurt and sex outside a loving relationship leads to damage and retreat."

The publication comes as ministers review the way that sex education lessons are provided in schools. Under the present rules the only statutory requirement made of primary and secondary schools is that they teach children the basic facts about human reproduction in their biology lessons.Many schools do much more during personal, social and health education (PSHE) lessons, but standards vary widely and teachers often lack training and materials. Parents are allowed to withdraw their children from these lessons although all must attend the science classes that deal with sex.

Ministers will explore whether sex lessons as part of PSHE should be statutory, and start earlier. They are also looking at whether parents should retain the right to withdraw their children from these lessons.

The debate is highly polarised. The FPA and other sex education campaigners say that good sex education, similar to that taught in the Netherlands and Scandinavia, is the only way to tackle the increase in sexually transmitted diseases and reduce the teenage pregnancy rate.

Family campaigners say that the present approach to sex education has achieved nothing. "We are deeply concerned with what is going to come out of this review, with fewer and fewer rights for parents," Dr Stammers said. "The doctrine of `if it feels right for you, do it' has been disastrous, simply leading to younger and younger teenagers having sex, with the risk that it damages their ability to develop relationships later in life."


Britain: Must condemn creationism at all times

"On the word of no one" is the Royal Society's motto. Authority, it contends, is nothing: evidence everything. Scientific papers, even by the most distinguished thinkers, should live or die by the facts alone. This week senior members of the society forced the resignation of Michael Reiss, its director of education, after a speech in which - parts of the media implied - he advocated teaching creationism in schools. On the word of no one.

His speech is online, so let us assess the evidence. The first thing you notice is that, if this were a scientific paper, it is no Principia Mathematica. Its conclusions seem obvious: almost truistic. Professor Reiss, while strongly defending evolution, says that teachers should be respectful to creationist students and not ridicule their views - because it is counter-productive, and puts them off science. He concludes: "A student who believes in creationism has a non-scientific way of seeing the world, and one very rarely changes one's world view as a result of a 50-minute lesson."

But take one sentence out of context, "creationism is best seen by science teachers not as a misconception but as a world view", prefix it by explaining that Professor Reiss is a clergyman, and suddenly he is a creationist.

The strangest thing is that the Royal Society accepts that he has been badly treated. "Professor Michael Reiss's recent comments... were open to misinterpretation," it says. "While it was not his intention, this has led to damage to the society's reputation. As a result, Professor Reiss and the Royal Society have agreed that, in the best interests of the society, he will step down immediately." So he resigned not because he was wrong, nor even because he was particularly controversial. He resigned because others ascribed to him beliefs that were not his own.

He is not the first. When the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, gave a 6,000-word lecture about Sharia in the UK, it was summarised in headlines implying that he advocated public executions and the stoning of women. When Patrick Mercer, the Conservative defence spokesman, talked about the use of the word "nigger" while he was in the Army, he was sacked - not for being racist, but for allowing people to think he might be.

In an odd pact between journalists who want to write sensation, and readers who want to buy it, we choose cartoonish half-truths over complex reality. Professor Reiss is the victim of a culture where all arguments must be expressible in a sentence, and all sentences able to stand on their own. But don't take my word for it: read the speech.



Comment from Prof. Stott in Britain

The Green movement has become dangerous for the survival of our society. It is surely time to stop pandering to its often ridiculous whims and fancies. We have been far too kind to its utopianism. Politicians of all parties have become enfeebled by indulging its fanaticism and unrealistic proposals, especially on food and energy. This has led to inertia, and to a serious failure to act when action is urgently required, a situation often exacerbated by the ludicrous obligations laid on us through a bureaucratic and unaccountable EU.

But we have to act, and we are going to have to challenge the EU. We need no more reports. We do not have the time. We require new coal-powered plants, new nuclear power stations, additional LNG storage facilities, and the Seven Barrage. "And when do we want them? We want them now!"

Green gobbledygook over so-called 'renewables' has helped to undermine UK energy policy to such a degree that we are facing an energy gap of between 30% to 40%, a threat Global Warming Politics has highlighted over and over again [e.g., 'The Energy Elephant Trumpets At Last', August 4]. Today, thank goodness, this threat has been spelt out once more in a new report, and with 'Janet-and-John' simplicity: 'Power cuts warning must be taken seriously' (The Daily Telegraph, September 17): "Between now and 2020, 23 gigawatts of generating capacity will be lost as old coal and nuclear stations are de-commissioned. Yet Labour Ministers spent a decade twiddling their thumbs over energy policy.

Only last year, when our dangerous dependence on energy from either potentially hostile (Russia) or unstable (Middle East) sources finally registered, did the Government belatedly accept that there has to be a new generation of nuclear reactors to meet the shortfall. Since then, there has been precious little evidence of any sense of urgency in getting that programme under way.

Today's report shows how dangerously negligent this lackadaisical approach has been. It also confirms that wind power, on which the Government has expended the better part 1 billion a year in subsidies, is little more than environmental window dressing. Its unreliability - wind is not a constant - means it cannot replace a single watt of permanent generating capacity."

When we add to this Green unreality over energy a self-indulgent opposition to conventional agriculture and to GM crops, tropes which are now threatening the poor and the disadvantaged the world over; total confusion over biofuels; frequent support for protectionism against trade; the desire to heap increased costs and retrogressive taxes on everyone, but especially on the poor; the wish to force people into lifestyles that few can afford or want; and the championing of breaking the law when protesting, we can see that the moral charge sheet against the Greens is long and extending by the day.

The idea that the Greens hold any moral high ground is sentimental rubbish. Many of their so-called ethical investments will cripple us, while impoverishing the poor even further.

It really is time for both of our leading political parties [I have no hope whatsoever for the dire Liberal Democrats, whose 'leader', Nick Clegg, didn't even know the level of the State Pension when asked] to return to economic reality in an increasingly unforgiving world. We can no longer afford to play at Green fantasies. We must grow up. Indulging The Greens Must Stop


No comments: