Lung cancer rates among non-smokers doubles – ? pollution

It rather fits in with ex-Vice-President and environmental campaigner Al Gore’s description of the skies above us as “vast outdoor open sewers”.

“Lung cancer rates among non-smokers have doubled over the past decade amid concerns that high levels of air pollution lie behind the rise, a study shows.

The number of lung cancer deaths among people who have never smoked will overtake deaths from smoking- related cancer within a decade if the trend continues, according to the UK’s largest cancer surgery centre.

Researchers worry that this shift would make the condition, which is the deadliest form of cancer, even harder to diagnose and treat in time. There are 46,400 new cases and 36,000 associated deaths in Britain each year, and only one in 20 patients survives for more than ten years.

Lung cancer has overwhelmingly been linked to cigarettes, which caused about nine out of ten cases. As smoking rates have fallen to a record low, however, specialists at the Royal Brompton Hospital and Harefield NHS Trust in London have seen a substantial increase in the number of operations they are performing on non-smokers.

Other researchers said they had yet to see any sign of the trend, and there is little rigorous national data on whether lung cancer patients ever smoked. However, a similar rise was recently identified by three big hospitals in America. Eric Lim, a consultant thoracic surgeon, said he was confident that his team had identified a new and troubling phenomenon.

Between 2008 and 2014 the number of lung cancer patients treated at the centre remained constant at about 310 a year, but the proportion of people who had never smoked climbed steadily from 13 to 28 per cent, rising from fewer than 50 never-smokers to nearly 100 a year, 67 per cent of whom were women.

Mr Lim said that the reasons for this change were unclear but air pollution was a strong candidate. The International Agency for Research on Cancer has classified fine particles such as soot as a carcinogen, and Cancer Research UK estimates that pollution accounts for 3,500 cases of lung cancer each year. Another possible explanation is better detection of tumours through scans for other diseases.

Mr Lim said the rise of lung cancer in people who had never smoked could lead to a higher death rate because it was harder for doctors to spot the disease early without the red flag of a cigarette habit. Even now only 21 per cent of cases are diagnosed by GPs, compared with the 35 per cent that are discovered at accident and emergency wards.

The Royal Brompton group plans to launch the first clinical trials of a “liquid biopsy” blood test next year that could catch fragments of DNA shed by lung cancer months or years before the most serious symptoms appeared.

Some experts argue that the study, which involved 2,170 patients and is published in the European Journal of Cancer, is too small to be truly reliable.

Stephen Spiro, a former head of respiratory medicine at University College Hospital and an honorary adviser to the British Lung Foundation, said: “There is no good evidence that lung cancer is becoming commoner in never-smokers.” He added: “Lung cancer will become more frequent in never-smokers as a proportion, as smoking cancers begin to decline.”

Mr Lim stood by his findings, saying that Britain was not good enough at monitoring lung cancer rates to have spotted the trend.”

Source: The Times, pay wall

“Cranbrook expansion plans for 1,200 new homes opposed by Cranbrook town council”

“Cranbrook town council voted on Monday night to object to plans for the southern expansion of the new town. Two new applications for the southern expansion of Cranbrook have been submitted to East Devon District Council for the outline planning permission for 27.2 hectares of residential development, 9.2 hectares of employment development, a new primary school, a local community centre, and sport pitches and tennis courts as part of a sports hub.

The plans includes 1,200 new homes, a new primary school, a sports hub, a petrol station, and a site for travellers and were a revision of plans that had been outlined in 2015 but had been deferred while the Cranbrook Development Plan Document was being finalised.

The revised plans would see a reduction of 350 homes, a reduction in employment space by 5,000 square meters to 35,000 square meters, enhanced sports and play areas with all-weather facilities, floodlighting, changing facilities and children’s play, community uses as well as the possibility of gypsy and traveller pitches as an alternative to employment land.

But concerns by the council’s planning committee were raised about the fact that the proposals added land for housing on the eastern edge of the original proposals between Parsons Lane and the Country Park boundary immediately opposite the existing homes in Post Coach Way which front the B3174, and they requested further clarification on the gypsy and/or traveller allocation being provided.

The committee said: “Broadly the planning proposals being considered are in line with East Devon District Council’s Local Plan 2013-2031, which precludes development within the Neighbourhood Plan areas of the surrounding villages. By reducing the application to 1,200 homes, the proposals maintain an acceptable density per hectare and respect the Neighbourhood Plan areas of the two immediate parish neighbours.

“The Committee considered that density of 45 dwellings per hectare as acceptable and reiterated that parking issues associated with that level of density were well recorded.

“The Committee felt that the applications ignored previous pledges about the green wedge contained within East Devon District Council’s Local Plan 2013-2031. Councillors were anxious to preserve the green wedge between Cranbrook and Rockbeare and considered the proposed wedge too narrow.

The proposal added land for housing on the eastern edge of the original proposals between Parsons Lane and the Country Park boundary immediately opposite the existing homes in Post Coach Way which front the B3174 which may raise concerns about visual impact from the village of Rockbeare.

“The inclusion of the “gypsy and traveller pitches” required clarification.The Town Council always maintained a position that it is acceptable for Cranbrook to accommodate a proportionate and reasonable number of pitches particularly to provide permanent homes for gypsy and/or traveller families and this provision should be within the allocation of affordable homes within the scheme.

“The indicative site was, however, shown as an alternative to employment land and had close proximity to the airport. This site was not suitable for settled gypsy or traveller families to be located because of its proximity to the airport and the Committee felt that a possible transition site should be located nearer the main arterial routes and the M5 and not in a residential area

“The Committee also reiterated that there was a need to separate between sites for each group and, traditionally both genuine gypsy and genuine traveller families were not usually content to share sites with new age or caravan travellers.”

They resolved to object to the planning applications.

Since the build of the new town in East Devon began in 2010, 3,500 homes, a railway station, St Martin’s Primary School, play facilities, the neighbourhood centre, local shops, the education campus, the Cranbrook Farm pub, while construction of buildings in the town centre and the sports pitches are underway, while plans for the ecology park in the town have also been submitted.

The application for the southern expansion for Cranbrook would see the town get an additional 1,200 homes, but also a petrol station, a residential care home, employment land, a new primary school, and an all-weather sports facility.”

http://www.devonlive.com/cranbrook-expansion-plans-opposed-by-cranbrook-town-council/story-30445666-detail/story.html

Austerity and the poor

Letter in today’s Guardian:

“• Deborah Orr (Opinion, 30 June) is unfortunately absolutely right in all she says about the Grenfell catastrophe. A contempt has developed for health and safety considerations and they are considered a pathetic nanny-state approach.

This, coupled with the worship of cost-cutting at the expense of humanity, has caused this tragedy.

Even though I understood that terrible things were happening in the name of austerity I must admit I still thought we lived in a country that used regulation to require housing to be built or altered so as to offer adequate fire protection. Not if you live in social housing it seems. Could that be any more shameful?

Linda Maughan
Hartlepool”

“Why do England’s high-rises keep failing fire tests?”

“… Undermining the building regulations

The first thing to know is that local officials no longer run all building inspections. England has a so-called “Approved Inspector” regime.

Contractors must no longer wait for a local authority official to check their work. Instead, they may hire people to check their construction processes meet the required standards. There is no single regulator – or arm of government – directly upholding standards.

Second, the most important requirement in the building regulations is to build a safe building. So long as you do that, the fine print of the rules does not much matter too much. That is why, when inspectors sign off sites, they do not feel the need to work directly from the government’s own guidelines. And the guidelines set out by government are rather old, and cannot specify everything in all circumstances.

That has left a gap into which esteemed sector bodies have stepped. Their umbrella organisation – the Building Control Alliance (BCA) – has issued advice about how to get a building signed off as compliant without using the type of materials specified in the government guidelines.

And it is the case that, in the event of some prosecutions or a civil case, breaching the government’s guidance would count as a serious strike against a builder. But it would also be the case that following widely accepted professional practise and BCA guidance may also constitute a defence in a suit for negligence and grounds for mitigation in a criminal prosecution.

The problem is that this BCA guidance does not just suggest ways of making new technology fit the old rules. It introduces loopholes. The net effect of the sector bodies’ guidance is to set weaker standards than the government’s rulebook. …”

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-40418266

No magic money tree for high rise blocks with failed cladding

Grenfell Tower cladding scandal could cost councils millions after Government says no guarantee of extra funding.

‘There is no way we can afford to reclad our tower blocks. If we have to find that money, it will come from other projects’

But despite emergency fire safety checks being carried out nationwide under central government direction, councils will not be reimbursed for refurbishment work carried out.

A DCLG spokesperson said there was “no guarantee” of central government funding and that it would be “up to local authorities and housing associations to pay” for the work needed to ensure residents’ safety.

The spokesperson said financial support would be considered on a “case by case” basis for those that could not afford to carry out the necessary work, but did not clarify what the criteria for that consideration would be.

The announcement was met with severe criticism from some of the councils affected, with local authorities already having their budgets severely squeezed after years of austerity measures.

Julie Dore, leader of Sheffield City Council, which is among the authorities to have discovered unsafe cladding, said “starved” councils would be forced to make cuts to other areas, including schooling, if central government did not help with costs.

“Local authorities have been starved of money over the past seven years. Our spending power has decreased,” she said. “There is no way we can afford to reclad our tower blocks. If we have to find that money, it will come from other projects, from investing in the fabric of our schools, capital investment in our infrastructure, the money has to come out of that. And it can’t really be done.

“I say absolutely, categorically that the Government should pay. If they can find £1bn to send to Northern Ireland, that gets more spending per capita than anywhere else, to buy 10 votes, then these people, living in high-rise towers, deserve better.” …

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/grenfell-tower-cladding-scandal-council-funding-government-no-guarantee-local-government-budgets-a7809216.html

Expensive new HQ and luxury apartments for rich elderly people or good-quality social housing? Tough choice for EDDC

Sidmouth resident Mike Temple has the lead letter in today’s Guardian on social housing. Our council is MUCH more interested in moving into its very expensive new offices (£10 million and counting) than building, or encouraging the building of, social and truly affordable housing. As shown when it agreed to sell its Knowle site to PegasusLife for super-luxury housing for only rich, elderly people, with PegasusLife attempting to exploit a loophole via a planning appeal to avoid any on-site or off-site affordable properties.

“The fire at Grenfell Tower has highlighted a number of issues relating to government housing policy in recent years, not only the failure to apply proper safety measures but also its whole approach to social housing.

The 2012 national planning policy framework, often described as a “developers’ charter”, has given precedence to expensive private development while discouraging social housing. The result is that through land-banking, slow build-out rates and using the housing market as an investment, house prices have risen way beyond the reach of most average-wage earners. At the same time, an increasing proportion of the incomes of the lower paid is spent on rented accommodation, which is often of poor quality.

Among the 72 Conservative MP landlords who voted against the 2016 housing bill to make “rented properties fit for human habitation” were the communities secretary, Sajid Javid, housing minister Brandon Lewis (who has also said installing fire-sprinklers could discourage house-building), fire minister Nick Hurd, and David Cameron.

Official Statistics on social housing show that since 2010 the number of government-funded houses for social rent has plummeted by 97%.

Gavin Barwell, until recently housing minister and author of a white paper that offered proposals to ease development while doing little to promote social housing, has – like the government he serves – failed to act on the recommendations in the report on the fire at Lakanal House in 2009. Like previous Conservative minsters he preferred light-touch regulation so that warnings have been ignored at national and local government level.

The result is a system that has failed to protect our citizens – cost-cutting and reckless decisions were made with little fear of anyone being held responsible.
Mike Temple
Sidmouth, Devon”

https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2017/jun/25/grenfell-tower-tragedy-shows-social-housing-system-has-failed-uk-citizens

What SHOULD super-Mayors (and LEPs) be doing?

This is what a think tank believes Mayors (and by extension Local Enterprise Partnerships) SHOULD be tackling.

Can anyone see any of these issues being given attention in our Devon and Somerset super-mayoral area?

… Mayors are due to be elected in May in Greater Manchester, the West Midlands, Tees Valley, Liverpool City Region, Cambridgeshire/ Peterborough and West of England, the latter an area based around Bristol.

The IPPR said its evidence base showed mayors should deliver inclusive growth by using their transport policy to prioritise poor neighbourhoods, establishing development corporations and championing the living wage and higher employment standards.

They could improve infrastructure by integrating land use planning and working with central government on housing investment and seek to embed health in all public policy.

The IPPR also urged mayors to set up companies to pilot ‘invest-to-save’ models in employment support, and to collaborate with councils to tackle homelessness….”

http://localgovernmentlawyer.co.uk/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=30775%3Athink-tank-urges-new-mayors-to-make-full-use-of-powers&catid=59&