18 August 2010

Predictive blood test for TB 'a step closer’:

International researchers say they have made a "significant step" towards a predictive blood test for tuberculosis.

A DNA fingerprint in the blood shows promise in identifying which carriers of TB will go on to get symptoms and spread the infection.

Such a test would allow earlier diagnosis and treatment of the lung disease, potentially saving many lives.

Experts say the research, published in Nature, is "remarkable" but needs to be proven by further work.

X-ray of the chest of a patient with TB

Tuberculosis, or TB, is an infectious bacterial disease of the lungs, causing symptoms such as coughing, chest pains and weight loss.

Someone in the world is newly infected with TB every second, with nearly 2 million deaths each year.

Only around one in 10 people infected with TB go on to develop the active form of disease.

Currently, although a skin or blood test can show if someone is harbouring TB, but not showing symptoms, it is impossible to predict who will get the full-blown disease.

Researchers from the UK, US and South Africa examined the genetic signature in the blood of patients with active TB.

The same genetic markers were found in about 10% of patients with latent infections, suggesting they are candidates for the full-blown form of the disease.

These patients will now be followed up in the future, to see if they do go on to get symptoms.


Lead researcher Dr Anne O'Garra of the MRC's National Institute for Medical Research in London, said the blood test showed promise but needed further work.

She told the BBC: "If you could predict which so-called carriers of TB will progress to the full-blown disease, this would have major ramifications for stopping the global epidemic.

"We just have to prove it now, but it's very promising."

Mike Mandelbaum, chief executive of the charity TB Alert, said good progress had been made in the diagnosis of latent TB infection in recent years, but there was a need for a specific test for the active disease.

The diagnosis of TB is often difficult to make until the disease has become infectious to others, he said, particularly in the developing world which has fewer resources.

"A new diagnostic technique based on a blood test would be extremely valuable to save lives and prevent the spread of this disease," he said, "and may be particularly important in HIV positive patients with TB where the usual technique of diagnosis from sputum is often unhelpful."

Dr Marc Lipman, chairman of the TB special advisory group at the British Thoracic Society, said it was "a remarkable piece of research".

He explained: "This for the first time perhaps enables us to start to design tests which can predict who is at highest risk of progressing to active disease and also how we might stop that occurring in the first place.

"Any such advance is 20-30 years away," he added.

Tuberculosis: (Source - World Health Organization/HPA)

  • Tuberculosis is an infectious disease, which usually affects the lungs
  • It is transmitted via droplets from the lungs of people with the active form of the disease
  • In healthy people, infection often causes no symptoms
  • Symptoms of active TB include coughing, chest pains, weakness, weight loss, fever and night sweats
  • Tuberculosis is treatable with a course of antibiotics
  • In the UK, around 9,000 cases of TB are reported each year, mainly in big cities like London 
Source: BBC. By Helen Briggs. 18 August 2010

16 August 2010

7 shipbreakers hurt in fire:

Seven workers were injured when a fire broke out at a shipbreaking yard at Madambibir Hat under Sitakunda upazila in the district yesterday.

The accident occurred at ZN Enterprise when an oil-tank of a scrap ship caught fire while the workers were cutting it around 11:00 am using a gas cutter.

Sparks coming from the gas cutter caused the fire, said the authorities of the shipbreaking yard.

The injured were Mohammad Saiful, 22, Nowab Ali, 27, Milon Mandal, 25, Belal, 20, Mohammad Rony, 24, Razzak, 40, and Shahidur Rahman, 24.

They were undergoing treatment at the burn unit of Chittagong Medical College Hospital, said Mohammad Rafiq, manager of the yard.

Rafiq said the injuries were not severe as the fire was doused immediately after it broke out.

This ship was imported last December violating the Supreme Court order to clean up ships before bringing those to the country's territory for workers' safety.

Moreover, the Department of Explosives provided the safety certificate to the owner of the shipbreaking yard without examining if the ship was safe for scrapping.

Shawkat Ali, owner of ZN Enterprise, defended himself saying, “We have taken the certificate from the Department of Explosives before scrapping the ship”.

The shipbreaking yard is running its business for years without any environment clearance certificate from the Department of Environment (DoE).

Asked about the certificate, the owner claimed they had applied for it a few years back.

However, DoE Inspector Saiful Ashraf who deals with the clearance certificate told The Daily Star that the company is yet to apply for the certificate.

Asked about the incident, Noor Mohammad, officer-in-charge of Sitakunda Police Station, said he was not aware of it.

This is the fifteenth accident after the SC directed the government to clean all toxic ships before importing.

In the last 16 months, 24 workers died while at least 24 others were injured for ignoring the court order.

Source: The Daily Star. 16 August 2010

Cylinder burst leaves 10 hurt in shipbreaking yard:

Chittagong, Aug 15 (Agencies): At least 10 workers were injured when fire broke out from burst of gas cylinder during shipbreaking at Sitakunda today.

Saiful (22), Nawab Ali (27), Milon Mandal (25), Belal (25), Roni (26), Razzaque (40) and Shahid (28) were admitted to Chittagong Medical College Hospital (CMCH) with severe burn injuries. Others were treated in local clinics. All the victims hailed from different areas of Jamalpur district.

Among them, Saiful, Nawab and Milon's condition was critical.

The accident took place at Z N Enterprise, a shipbreaking yard, owned by one Shawkat Ali Chowdhury, in Madam Bibirhat area of Sitakunda at 11:00 am Sunday.

Havildar Asim Kumar Barua of CMCH police check-post said, "The workers were brought to the hospital at around 12:30 pm."

Z N Enterprise manager Mohammad Rafique said that the workers were slightly burnt as a pipe caught fire while breaking an abandoned ship.

"Their condition is not that bad," he claimed.

Shipbreaking yards often witness deaths mostly due to lack of safety measures.

A vast industry: minimum care

Shipbreaking is flagged as 'Category Red', or 'extremely hazardous' industry in Bangladesh.

It produces thousands of tonnes of scrap iron used by re-rolling mills, but serious concerns prevail over work safety as well as environmental standards.

There are around 87 such yards in Sitakunda, where about 30,000 people are employed in hazardous working conditions, making it one of the largest shipbreaking centres in the world.

Workers dismantle ships by hand without proper machinery, protective gear or training. The yard owners also compel workers to dismantle ships without clearing them of toxic materials.

According to some estimates, at least 400 shipbreakers have died over the past 20 years in Sitakunda's yards.

30% of the world's abandoned ships are recycled in Bangladesh, and the shipbreaking industry creates tens of thousands of jobs and provides three-quarters of the country's demand of iron - but at a serious environmental cost.

Ships broken up in Bangladesh also routinely contain materials like asbestos, banned in many countries.

The government's attempts to impose strict environmental standards ended with an about-face within 3 months after strikes threatened the country's steel industry.

Source: The Financial Express. 16 August 2010

USA: Hazardous e-waste regulation without export ban?

Geneva/Switzerland - Few days ago, the US Congress has released a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report titled "Electronic Waste: Considerations for Promoting Environmentally Sound Reuse and Recycling". The paper seeks to address the management and trade of hazardous electronic wastes. The report correctly urges the Environment Protection Agency (EPA) to deal with the massive flows of U.S. e-waste. However, the report misses the mark in recommending that the EPA put forward legislation that would ratify the Basel Convention, without first prohibiting the export of hazardous wastes such as electronic waste to developing countries, Basel Action Network critizises.

“We are glad to see that the GAO report is recognizing the export and dumping of toxic e-waste as a horrific problem associated with our society’s obsession with electronic gadgets,” said Barbara Kyle, National Coordinator of the Electronic TakeBack Coalition. “But the Basel Convention alone is not the solution and could well exacerbate the problem. There must first be a ban on exporting E-waste.”

Electronic waste is exported from the U.S. to developing countries by the majority of so-called recyclers, to be bashed, burned and melted down in unsafe conditions in developing countries, such as China, India, Nigeria and Ghana. Eighty percent of children in Guiyu, China, a region where many “recycled” electronics wind up, have elevated levels of lead in their blood, due to the toxins in those electronics, much of which originates in the U.S.

The Basel Convention is an international treaty that governs trade in toxic waste. The U.S. signed the Basel Convention, but has never ratified it, and would need implementing legislation to do so. But ratifying the Convention alone, as recommended by the GAO report, would not stop U.S. e-waste exports to developing nations – and ironically would legalize that unscrupulous trade which is currently illegal under international law. There is a separate amendment to the Basel Convention, called the Basel Ban Amendment, which bans developed nations from sending hazardous waste to developing nations. Countries must ratify the agreement separately from the rest of the Convention. Already 69 countries including a majority of those the ban applies to, have ratified the amendment.

The recommendation by the GAO report makes no mention of the Ban Amendment. If the U.S. were to ratify the Basel Convention, without the Ban Amendment or other legislation to make e-waste exports illegal, then in fact we would be making it easier, not harder, for recyclers to legally dump e-waste in developing nations. Currently, most developed countries cannot legally accept shipments from the U.S. because the treaty forbids Basel Parties from trading with non-Basel Parties such as the U.S. If the U.S. ratifies the Basel Convention, without simultaneously ratifying the Basel Ban Amendment, exports that are currently illegal would become legal.

For this reason, the Electronics TakeBack Campaign and the Basel Action Network support legislation banning hazardous electronic waste as the first step, and after that is in place proceeding with ratifying the entire Basel package – the Convention with the Ban Amendment.

“Implementing the Basel Convention by itself will do more to legitimize shipments of electronic waste then it will to prohibit them,” said Jim Puckett, Executive Director of the Basel Action Network. “The Administration must first ensure that a ban on exports to developing countries for hazardous wastes such as electronic waste is firmly in place as Basel alone could open the flood gates even wider.”

The Congress report can be downloaded under gao.gov. http://www.gao.gov/new.items/d10626.pdf

Source: RecyclingPortal.EU (Sourced from Basel Action Network). 16 August 2010