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I New Bill to protect developers A few successful battles against reservoir schemes have been fought. One of the most recent has been against Swincombe i n Devon in which Lady Sayer conducted a formidable campaign. Under existing law a private bill has to be put before Parliament before such schemes can go ahead. I t is immediately a national public issue with a free vote.

"River authorities and water undertakings are pressing for a scheme in which a ministerial order is automatically invoked, so that any proposal for abstracting water on a large scale becomes a matter of government policy. They can argue eloquently for the advantages. There are savings in time and cost. One argument is that even the conservationists would save themselves large sums needed to brief silk to oppose the schemes. Eloquence tends to fade when describing the course open to objectors under a different scheme. The issue is reduced to a local inquiry at which an inspector calls for such evidence as he thinks relevant. There are no rights on the part of the objectors to be seen or heard. The local opponents, complete with mud on their boots, i f you like, can be seen without much difficulty as no match for the experienced administrative machine." Source: "Environment" by Pearce Wright The Times, 31.8.71.

| £ Mercury Again The oyster industries of Tasmania and New South Wales are threatened by mercury pollution. A study estimates that the entire Australian seafood industry could be wiped out in 10 to 15 years' time. Mercury levels are already much higher than desirable. Professor H . Block, Head of the Chemistry Department of the 34

University of Tasmania, who has undertaken the study, recommends urgent and drastic action.

The River Rhine is estimated to carry 70 tons of mercury into Holland every year, mainly from industrial waste and domestic refuse.

The highest mercury content is found in fish from inland waters. I n the case of ocean fish the mercury content is less with the exception of tuna. Research has also shown that mackerel caught in the Atlantic sometimes contains five times as much mercury as mackerel caught elsewhere.

Professor van Genderen, professor of Veterinary Pharmacology and Intoxicology at Utrecht University, says that the number of terns (sea birds) has declined sharply i n recent years and an increasing amount of mercury has been found in them.

A study is now being made into the possible influence of mercury on the reproductive organs of these birds.

Source: Reuters.

31 Puffins in Peril St. Kilda, the remote island group off the Outer Hebrides, has long been regarded as the stronghold of the Puffin in the British Isles. Its population was once an estimated three million pairs. I n the last seven or eight years, there has been a dramatic population fall to i million pairs. Predators, food shortage and disease seem to be ruled out as causes. Some toxic marine pollutant or perhaps a combination of them appears to be responsible. The British Trust for Ornithology, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds and the Seabird Group are all gravely concerned and are looking into the problem. I t was at St Kilda that our last Great Auk died. I t is to be hoped that the Puffin will not be allowed to follow i t into extinction.

Additional information from Dr Jim Flegg, The British Trust for Ornithology, Beech Grove, Tring,

Herts. Tel. No. Tring (044 282) 3461.

Source: BTO Press Release. 16.9.71.

Communist GNP The Central Committee of Poland's Communist Party adopted on Saturday, 4 September, a new set of directives for economic and social development. According to this, real wages are to rise between 17 and 18 per cent between 1971 and 1975. This is about double the increase in the past five vears.

Clearly the communist countries are not exempted from a fixation with economic growth.

Source: The Guardian, 10.9.71

and editorial comment.

5 The Voice of Reason This was the title of one of the most naive and irresponsible articles to appear in the British Press for a long time. Mr Woodrow Wyatt does not consider this island is over-crowded, nor that there should be any government sponsored birth control measures. He writes: " I am all for the British population mounting", he also adds: "I f there is not enough room in Britain for comfortable living there is plenty of space in Canada, Australia and New Zealand. The time to start worrying is when those areas are full. "

Source: Daily Mirror, 21.5.71

and editorial comment.

| q The Real Voice of Reason South Australia's Minister for Conservation, M r Glen Brownhill, has stated that Australia's intake of migrants, especially from Britain and Europe, should be slowed down. Speaking at a science symposium on pollution at Adelaide University, he said there was evidence that sheer weight of human numbers meant contamination of earth, air and water. "While thousands of Britons and Europeans are pouring in (to Australia) our schools are unable to cope and without some massive change from Canberra, this condition will persist for decades at least," he said. "Our numbers have already started to outrun our capacity in many areas. I n many capitals, but more particularly on the outskirts of Sydney, Melbourne and Canberra, population growth has left public services well behind," he added

Source: Reuter, 14.8.71

I Breast-Fed Babies Resist Infection Newborn infants fed breast milk appear to derive an immunity to early bacterial infections that babies on cow's milk formulas never receive, two Swedish pediatricians recently reported in The Lancet.

I n a study at two maternity clinics in Goteborg, Drs J. Winberg and G. Wessner compared the diets of 33 newborn infants with meningitis or urinary-tract infections and 66 infection-free infants in a matched control group. They found that those babies who developed blood infections between the fourth and tenth day of life were getting significantly less breast milk than the controls, because their mothers were suffering from hypogalactia (a deficiency of milk secretion). Aware that the bacterial toxins present in the infected infants' blood were originating in the intestine, they suggested that "The factors which normally prevent bacteria from penetrating the gut wall are unknown, but breast milk may be of some importance".

The pediatricians theorised that colostrum—the thin milky fluid (or first milk) which is secreted from the mother's breast immediately after childbirth—somehow protects the breast-fed newborn from coliform septicemia (blood infection). Specifically, they suggested that certain antibodies in the colostrum were responsible since "their ability to pass through the gut wall with well-retained antibody activity" has already been established.

The pair expressed reservations about the desirability of standard cow's milk formulas, concluding that: "The supplementation (using cow's milk) is probably a common and often unnecessary custom in many Swedish hospitals. One might speculate what such an unphysiological early load of calories, salt and foreign protein to a large part of the population might mean for the general health of growing infants, especially since this hospital custom may be continued at home by the mother." Source: Rodales Health Bulletin. Vol. 9, No. 13.

H British Roads the Most Crowded in the World Traffic in Britain has doubled since 1958. Britain's roads are the most crowded in the world with 62.6 vehicles for every mile of road. There is less than 1>\ yards of trunk and principal road, including motorways for each vehicle in Britain. Accidents cost £320 millions in 1969 with 2.90 casualties for every million vehicle miles.

By way of consolation we are informed that the net increase in cars on the road is 288,300 last year, the smallest since 1953.

Source: The Guardian, 8.9.71 Also see "Basic Road Statistics 1971, British Road Federation, 26 Manchester Square, London Wl. , 50p.

I Death Spray The death of a boy aged nine has been attributed to aerial spraying of pesticides. Charles Thompson is supposed to have been sprayed several times on July 14 in a cucumber field in Rosenhayn. The first symptoms were vomiting and swelling of the face. He was first treated for asthma. The swelling disappeared overnight. Two days later his arms, legs and chest started swelling. He was transferred to a children's hospital in Philadelphia, where he died last Thursday. Hospital officials stated that the poisoning by insecticide, destroying the lung tissue provided a working diagnosis of the cause of the death. However Dr Kriner, an expert at the College of Agriculture and Environmental Science at Rutgers, the state university, expressed doubt that the sprays usually used on farms in New Jersey could cause the boy's death.

Source: Times, 1.9.11.

Tritium pollution Tritium, an isotope of hydrogen, is a by-product of nuclear power plants. I t is formed both within atomic piles and from neutron bombardment of water molecules in the cooling systems of the nuclear plants. Small amounts are released into the environment as tritiated water.

A University of Chigago radiologist, Dr Dieudonne J. Mewissen, says that amounts of tritium some 50 times less than the maximum permissible level for power plant effluents, as established by the Atomic Energy Commission, causes cancer in mice.

I n a study, Dr Mewissen gave 1,500 new-born mice either tritium-labelled thymidine, a component of DNA, or normal, non-tritiated thymidine. Mice in the tritiated group had a higher incidence of malignant tumours throughout most of their lifetimes.

Dr Mewissen says that i f the tritium became concentrated in the nucleus of human cells because of an affinity for thymidine, then these nuclei could receive far higher doses of radioactivty than the gross amount of tritium in the body would indicate.

But he admits many more factors must be investigated. These would include: the exact amounts of tritium released from the power plants, the proportion of the tritium retained by the DNA of men and animals, and the varying concentrations of tritium as it advances up the food chain.

Science News, Vol. 99, No. 16.

II Nuclear Diplomacy Peru will break off diplomatic relations with France if i t explodes another nuclear bomb in the South Pacific, President Alvarado said yesterday.

His government had decided on such a step after scientists' reports that radioactivity from the explosions caused high contamination of the atmosphere and could cause genetic damage to humans.

Daily Telegraph, 26.8.71

12, Threat to crayfish Surveys carried out this month show the crayfish is now in danger of becoming extinct around Cornwall. I n the first six months of this year more than £18,000 worth of this delicacy was landed at Cornish ports. How long can this be kept up? The Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, M r Prior, may be asked to impose a winter close season on all shellfishing. The request comes from the harbour commissioners at Sennen.

Daily Telegraph, 26.8.71