The organic mould unfold

April 15, 2008

Storing organic waste has been claimed to cause skin problems and breathing difficulties.


Moulds that grow on the decaying waste has been said to be a risk to our health by German scientists. As the organic materials decay they found that allergic reactions can occur such as asthma attacks, hay fever like symptoms and problems with itchy skin.


Harald Morr, the chairman of the German Lung Foundation said that by simply opening a bin containing organic waste and breathing in air-born mould spore can damage our lungs.


Other environmental pollutants are usually associated with lung damage such as transport emissions and chemical fumes. However households in Germany are now being encouraged to empty their bins more regularly, wear facemasks or hold their breath when exposed to rotting materials. This will help lower the amount of mould spores inhaled and in turn lower the risk of causing damage to the lungs.


Those with strong immune systems are less likely to experience health problems from breathing in bacteria and fungi from decaying produce.


Professor Christian Witt from the clinic of infectology and pneumology at Charitié hospital in Berlin said people with weak immune systems should avoid contact with mould especially those undergoing chemotherapy and those prone to bronchial infections should avoid proximity to rubbish bins altogether.


Aspergillomas is one of the main health problems associated with the decay of organic produce. This occurs when the fungus inhaled multiples and creates fungal abscesses that fix themselves to the insides of the lungs.


 Aspergillomas can also form abscesses within the brain, sinuses in the face, heart valves, kidneys and urinary system. The majority of those with aspergillomas do not experience any side effects and therefore many people with the disease are unaware that they have it.


Often victims of aspergillomas do not require treatment however if they experience coughing up blood surgery will be needed to control the bleeding as this could be potentially life threatening.  


An expert from the Fred Hollows Foundations announced in a statment to mark this years World Health Day that increased levels of ultraviolet rays due to climate change are putting people at risk of developing cataracts.


World Health Day this year on the 7th April marked the World Health Organization’s 60th birthday which was themed “protecting health from climate change”. Cataract blindness and many other health issues such as infectious and respiratory diseases were raised in relation to climate change at the World Health Day events.


Age, smoking and UV exposure are the main factors of cataract blindness. A spokeswoman from the foundation explained that the depletion of the ozone layer caused by climate change leads to increased UV ray exposure and therefore an increased risk of developing cataracts.


The Hollows Foundation claimed that cataracts are responsible for almost 50% of cases of avoidable blindness. Figures have also found that those most at risk of developing cataracts are those not able to access services that help reverse the condition.


Dr Andreas Mueller, the foundations research coordinator said that those who develop cataracts are unaware that their eyesight can be restored “they don’t think there’s anything unusual with the fact that when you get older you get less vision and you lose your ability to see really well”.


Mueller stressed that it is vital for those who spend long periods of time out in the sun, especially children, to use “good sun protection”. Simple solutions such as a wide brimmed hat and sunglasses could help lower the risk of developing cataracts, a message Mueller “would like to see getting out to people”.

Who’s WHO?

April 7, 2008


The World Health Organisation (WHO) is celebrating its 60th birthday today 7th April.


In 1945 diplomats met to form the United Nations. They discussed setting up a global health organisation and in 1948 on the 7th April the WHO’s Constitution came into force. Every year on the 7th April World Health Day is now celebrated within 193 member states.


For almost 60 years the WHO has provided leadership for global health matters, shape health research, supply evidence for health policy options, provide technical support to countries in need and help monitor and assess health trends.


The functions and frameworks that the organisation works to are explained fully in their 11th General Programme of Work.


Dr Margaret Chan, the Director of the WHO said that the organisations main concerns “rest with disadvantaged and vulnerable groups. These groups are often hidden, live in remote rural areas or shantytowns and have little political voice”


How will this years World health day be celebrated?


The sixtieth celebrations of the WHO will be themed “protecting health from climate change”. The WHO has selected this theme as climate change is increasingly posing threat to public security.


The WHO operates to a six point agenda to approach public health problems. This addresses two health objectives, two strategic needs and two operational approaches in order to make a positive impact on our health. The 60th anniversary will be celebrated at different activities and events throughout the year which will highlight and emphasise their six key agenda that they work by and follow.


Examples of how world health day will be celebrated;


  • International photo exhibition– this will contain photo’s that document the history of the WHO that highlights the milestones and the challenges of the future of the WHO.


  • Global snapshots of public health– people all over the world will be invited to take photos capturing their health during the same hour of the day. These pictures could document their personal wellbeing, the health of their families or communities, photos of those that provide their care as well as images documenting the difficulties accessing health services. The images will be collected and will construct a brochure as well as a website.


  • Historical podcasts– audio and interviews of the founding of the WHO and other health milestones will feature on the WHO’s website.


  • Video presentation– this will be played as a tribute to the WHO’s 60th anniversary at the World Health Assembly in May and used again during other key activities and events. People of all ages, race and gender will all collaborate together with leading figures of the WHO to express their views on their work so far and ideas for development in the future.


Dr Chan said today that the WHO’s core concern at the moment is how climate change endangers health. Climate sensitive diseases such as malnutrition causes 3.5 million deaths per year, diarrhoeal diseases cause over 1.8 million deaths and malaria contributes to almost 1 million deaths per year.


The WHO are coordinating and supporting research and assessments on effective measures to protect health from climate change. Areas most vulnerable to health problems are women and children in developing countries which the WHO is helping to advise and adapt changes to their health systems to protect their populations.


Dr Chan said the WHO were increasing their efforts to protect public health from the consequences of climate change “ the WHO and its partners are devising a research agenda to get better estimates of the scale and nature of health vulnerability and to identify strategies and tools for health protection”.

Ration threat

April 5, 2008

The United Nations agency is threatening a food ration on millions to combat starvation due to the rise in fuel and grain costs.

It has been reported that a extra $500m donation is needed to prevent food rationing from occurring. An emergency appeal has been sent out to 80 governments by the World Food Programme (WFP) with a plea for money to be donated by May 1st. $375m is needed for their food budget and a further $175m is needed to cover transport costs. This is on top of their $2.9bn annual appeal to donor countries.

If the appeal fails to work and the money is not received the health of millions will be seriously affected. Food supplies are handed out to millions of refugees and malnourished people every year and this will have to be cut if the sum is not received.

83 million people were supported with emergency aid by the WFP last year however this will have to significantly lower in order to meet the demand of increased food costs.

There have been severe shortages of bread supplies in Egypt. Long queues form outside bakeries which have lead to disturbances where at least two deaths have occurred as a consequence.

There have also been food riots in Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Senegal and Morocco which the WFP view as “evidence of a growing crisis”.


Image from Flickr by biocrime


Officials of the WFP said last month that global prices of basic foods are rising due to increased demands for animal feed from growing populations such as India and China for more land and agricultural produce for bio-fuels and climate change.

Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary general called the food shortage “the new face of hunger”. He also added that communities that were previously protected are now becoming at risk of food shortages. To help combat this problem farmer’s in developing countries need to begin to benefit from the increase food prices and receive more investment.

Josette Sheeran, the executive director of the WFP said “we urge your government to act quickly on this request so that we may avoid cutting the rations for those who rely on the world to stand by them in times of abject need.”


The British Egg Information Service (BEIS) has recently revealed that free range egg sales are now higher than battery egg sales. 

50% of eggs sold in February were free range, 41% of egg sales were from caged chickens and the remaining 9% of the egg sales were from either organic or barn reared chickens.

In February this year sales of free range eggs grew by 20% in volume. This makes one in ten eggs sold in supermarkets free range.  

Finn Cottle, the Noble Food Group marketing director said “The increased consumption of eggs is encouraging, especially as the prices of eggs have risen recently as a result of much higher wheat prices for producers”. 

The price of free range eggs has risen over the past year for example a dozen of free range eggs from Tesco 12 months ago cost £1.62, six moths later it had risen to £1.75 and now the cost lies at £2.55. The price growth is similar to many other large chain supermarkets however it has clearly not effected the growth in sales of free range eggs. 

Waitrose, Marks and Spencer’s and now the Co-Op only stock free range eggs supporting the welfare of chickens as well as meeting the increased consumer demands for free range. 

Image from Flickr by shadyq80

So what has spurred our increased need for free range eggs? 

Andrew Parker, Chairman of the BEIS said the increase in free range egg popularity is due to “the wealth of scientific evidence showing that eggs are good for you as well as new research which shows that eggs can help you slim”.

 Another spokes woman from the BEIS also commented that free range sales have had a significant boost since Jamie Oliver’s show Jamie’s Fowl Dinners. This was aired in January this year which highlighted the animal cruelty involved rearing battery chickens. “That growth has continued in February and beyond. There has been an explosion in the first three months of the year”.  

Robert Chapman, a farmer from Aberdeenshire who runs Farmly Eggs has had to increase his free range egg production by 30,000 eggs per week due to popular demand following Jamie’s Fowl Dinners being broadcasted. He said “Normally, when these programmes come on, you get a change for a couple of weeks after them. But this time it’s just kept going. Folk are becoming more aware of how food is produced and where it comes from. All these things are more important to consumers.”