E-cigarettes more harmful

than we think

LONDON (BBC): Vaping can damage vital immune system cells and may be more harmful than previously thought, a study suggests. Researchers found e-cigarette vapour disabled important immune cells in the lung and boosted inflammation. The researchers “caution against the widely held opinion that e-cigarettes are safe”. However, Public Health England advises they are much less harmful than smoking and people should not hesitate to use them as an aid to giving up cigarettes. The small experimental study, led by Prof David Thickett, at the University of Birmingham, is published online in the journal Thorax. Previous studies have focused on the chemical composition of e-cigarette liquid before it is vaped. In this study, the researchers devised a mechanical procedure to mimic vaping in the laboratory, using lung tissue samples provided by eight non-smokers.

They found vapour caused inflammation and impaired the activity of alveolar macrophages, cells that remove potentially damaging dust particles, bacteria and allergens.

They said some of the effects were similar to those seen in regular smokers and people with chronic lung disease.

They caution the results are only in laboratory conditions and advise further research is needed to better understand the long-term health impact - the changes recorded took place only over 48 hours.

An independent review of the latest evidence on e-cigarettes was published by Public Health England in February.

The review concluded there was “overwhelming evidence” they were far safer than smoking and “of negligible risk to bystanders” and advised they should be available on prescription because of how successful they had been in helping people give up smoking.

Prof Thickett said while e-cigarettes were safer than traditional cigarettes, they may still be harmful in the long-term as research was in its infancy.

“In terms of cancer causing molecules in cigarette smoke, as opposed to cigarette vapour, there are certainly reduced numbers of carcinogens,” he said.

“They are safer in terms of cancer risk - but if you vape for 20 or 30 years and this can cause COPD [chronic obstructive pulmonary disease], then that’s something we need to know about.

“I don’t believe e-cigarettes are more harmful than ordinary cigarettes - but we should have a cautious scepticism that they are as safe as we are being led to believe.”

Martin Dockrell, tobacco control lead at Public Health England, said: “E-cigarettes are not 100% risk-free but they are clearly much less harmful than smoking.

“Any smoker considering e-cigarettes should switch completely without delay.”

 

 

 

Malaysia to alter ‘hideous’

tourism logo

 

KUALA LUMPUR (AFP): Malaysia’s new government will change an official tourism logo featuring an orangutan wearing sunglasses after it sparked a storm of mockery, a minister said Tuesday. The “Visit Malaysia 2020” logo has an image of the orangutan with its arm around a proboscis monkey, a picture of a turtle - also sporting shades - and multi-coloured, uneven lettering. It was released in January as part of a campaign to attract more tourists to the tropical Southeast Asian country but it was widely panned for being ugly and outdated, with thousands signing a petition calling for it to be dumped. Despite the criticism, the then-tourism minister stood by the design, which also includes a retro image of Kuala Lumpur’s iconic Petronas Twin Towers.

But the scandal-plagued government of prime minister Najib Razak was booted out of power in May, and new Tourism Minister Mohamaddin Ketapi is now pledging to alter the logo.

A contest will be held to re-design it, he was cited as saying in local media, but he insisted it was not being dumped entirely.

“We’re not ditching it but we’ll improve it. There were many complaints it wasn’t nice,” he was quoted as saying by news portal Malaysiakini.

The minister told another outlet that the orangutan in sunglasses might have to go as many had criticised it as “hideous”.

The decision was welcomed online, with one Facebook user posting: “Finally! Down with that awful logo. Tasteless and ugly.”

Malaysia, which boasts white-sand beaches, biodiverse diving spots, tropical forests and a variety of cultures, welcomed 25.9 million visitors in 2017.

 

 

 

 

TOKYO (AFP): A giant statue of a child wearing a radiation suit in the Japanese city of Fukushima has touched off a storm of criticism online as the nuclear-hit area seeks to rebuild its reputation. “Sun Child”, a 6.2-metre (20-foot) figure sporting a yellow protective suit with a digital display on its chest showing “000” - symbolising no nuclear contamination - was installed this month near the city’s train station. The figure holds a helmet in one hand, showing the air is safe to breathe, and a symbol of the sun in the other, representing hope and new energy. Its creator, Japanese artist Kenji Yanobe, intended the statue to be a symbol of hope but critics said it was insensitive to the plight of Fukushima as it continues to struggle with radioactive contamination from the 2011 meltdown.

“I saw Kenji Yanobe’s ‘Sun Child’. It was truly creepy. I think it derides us and all the work Fukushima has done to erase reputational harm,” said one Twitter user.

Another online critic wrote: “I understand it was intended to express hope as the helmet is removed but considering that Fukushima’s awful reputation continues, I believe the installation should have been cancelled.”

Others pointed out the work may lead viewers to believe that residents had to protect themselves until such point as the radiation level becomes zero - which cannot actually happen as radiation occurs naturally on Earth.

Radiation levels are back to normal in most parts of the region but people are still forbidden to live in certain areas, especially within a few kilometres of the affected plant.

Yanobe published a three-page dossier to apologise for triggering the uproar but stressed his work was meant to show hope, not ridicule Fukushima.

“It was my intention to show bright hopes for the future” by depicting the child as looking to the skies, he wrote.

City mayor Hiroshi Kohata said in a separate statement that he accepted the criticism and would consider what action to take but stood by the work’s value.

“I sense the strength to face adversity and the hope in the statue, which is looking to the skies,” the mayor wrote.

Despite the online uproar, city officials said they had received only a handful of phone calls and emails about the statue.

And the mayor noted the statue has been well received by art patrons in Fukushima, where it has previously been shown at a local airport while also travelling in Japan and abroad.

Some online commentators backed the work, saying it was unreasonable to demand scientific accuracy in art.

The city is the local capital of Fukushima prefecture, whose Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant melted down in the 2011 tsunami, becoming the world’s worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl.

The meltdown affected a vast agricultural region, forcing many local residents to give up their ancestral properties - possibly never to return due to severe radioactive contamination.

The area is battling to restore its reputation and local farm produce undergoes radiation checks to ensure safety before being shipped to stores.

Nevertheless, many consumers shy away from buying for fear of contamination.

 

 

 

New Caledonia protects huge swathe of coral reefs

 

NOUMEA (AFP): New Caledonia agreed Tuesday to tougher protections around a huge swathe of some of the world’s last near-pristine coral reefs, in a move conservationists hailed as a major breakthrough. The Pacific nation, a French overseas territory, is home to a rich array of wildlife including 2.5 million seabirds and over 9,300 marine species, such as dugongs - marine mammals related to manatees - and nesting green sea turtles, many of which thrive in and around remote zones off the island nation’s coast. The archipelago boasts some of the world’s healthiest reefs, including Astrolabe, Petrie, Chesterfield and Bellona, which are considered exceptional examples of coral ecosystems.

After years of work, the New Caledonia government Tuesday voted to set up marine protected areas (MPAs) surrounding the reefs, and to strengthen an existing one around Entrecasteaux, which is already a UNESCO World Heritage site.

The move will see 28,000 square kilometres (10,810 square miles) of waters safeguarded from commercial and industrial fishing and other exploitation, helping conserve habitats and allow marine life to feed and reproduce undisturbed.

Tourist activity around the reefs is also set to be more rigorously controlled.

According to the South Pacific Tourism Organisation, New Caledonia had 27,000 visits in the first three months of the year, making up around six percent of trips to the South Pacific region.

“This is the kind of leadership we need to see in coral reef conservation and we applaud it,” said John Tanzer, the head of oceans for WWF International.

“With good management, these marine protected areas will help maintain fish populations and ecosystem health that will build the reef’s resilience to the impacts of climate change in future.”

Christophe Chevillon, head of the Pew Bertarelli Ocean Legacy in New Caledonia, which helped draft the plans, said it would elevate the territory as a global leader in ocean protection, but more could still be done.

“Although we believe this to be a major breakthrough, we are convinced that New Caledonia can still go further and lead the way for other Pacific countries,” he told AFP.

“In fact, the 28,000 square kilometres protected only represents two percent of the Coral Sea Natural Park.”

The MPAs fall within New Caledonia’s enormous 1.3 million-square kilometre Coral Sea Natural Park, which was established in 2014 and covers the country’s entire exclusive economic zone.

Protections here, such as limiting shipping and banning shark, turtle and whale fishing, are not as comprehensive as under an MPA.

Coral reefs, which only cover 0.1 percent of the ocean’s surface but support a quarter of known marine species, are on the decline globally, threatened by climate change, pollution and overfishing.

WWF estimates the world has already lost about half of its shallow water coral reefs.