SIRC Media Watch Archive
Comment and Opinion – September 1999

Seasonal disorder – practising safe sun reports on this summer's conflicting health messages with regards to tanning, sunscreens and the eclipse.

Confused? … Not yet, but you will be On 31 July, a story broke in the New Zealand Herald that Lyprinol might just be the long-awaited miracle cure for cancer. Dr. Henry Betts from Queens University Hospital in Adelaide claimed to have discovered that Lyprinol can kill human cancer cells. Lyprinol is an extract from the green-lipped mussel Perna Canaliculus that is indigenous to New Zealand.

Technology and third world need A recent article by Dennis Avery, published on the web site of the Hudson Institute, details some of the research into vitamin enriched genetically modified rice and suggests that this new hybrid may be able to alleviate vitamin deficiency in a large proportion of the developing world's 400 million 'poor' rice consumers. The accusation that the interests of environmentalists may actually be diametrically opposed to the needs of the developing world is not new, but it has re-emerged this month in a different non-GM context. 371 leading experts in malaria, comprising of doctors, scientists and health economists have signed an open letter of protest against plans for a global ban on DDT.

A pinch of salt The diets of our young continue to make headlines. Last month we were warned that levels of salt in processed food posed a danger to small children after the death of baby Leroy Elders. Some of the more responsible reporting rightly suggested that although tragic, the instances of salt overdose in infants was extremely rare, particularly in recent years since baby formula had overtaken the use of cow's milk as the prevalent form of feed because it contained less salt

Panico cellulari! Although the subject of mobile phones has not appeared for quite some time in this column, its ability to make the headlines has not entirely dissipated. This summer the number of cellular phones in Italy reached 25 million and thus surpassed the number of 'landline' units in the country. While embracing mobile phones to a point where nearly every other person in the country owns one, some Italians have begun to express concerns about the number of phone masts required to service this thirst for on-the-go-communication.

Bad Blood Both the FDA in America and the Blood Agency in Canada announced last month their intention to ban blood donations by any of their nationals who had spent more than six months in Britain between 1980 and 1996. Despite there being no cases of CJD reported in either country and with the FDA themselves admitting that "no evidence exists that this disease has been transmitted by blood transfusion", their policy was defended as a "precautionary measure."

Seasonal disorder – practising safe sun. As the summer draws to a close, it seems a good point to reflect upon the by now well established scare of the season – the dangers of sun exposure. Back in June, the government was delighted with the media's response to their new concept in public safety, the 'Solar UV Index'. Adopted by terrestrial and satellite TV channels, the broadsheets and tabloids alike the UV index was bandied around with the nonchalant regularity of the weather forecast.