Friday, May 22, 2009

Finally an Epidemiological Study into the prevalence of Cancers in Gibraltar is announced

I am delighted to hear that the Government of Gibraltar has at long last announced an Epidemiological Study for Gibraltar!

In a press statement yesterday, the Government said "following the conclusion of the international selection process, it has now commissioned an independent scientific study into the prevalence of Cancers in Gibraltar".

Epidemiological Study in Gibraltar

The Government has now awarded a contract, for the study to be conducted, to a team from the National Environmental Research Institute at Aarhus University in Denmark, to begin an Epidemiological Study in Gibraltar.

After an extensive and detailed consultation, selection and tendering process, in which specialists from the Government’s Technical, Environmental and Health departments took part, the tender to carry out the epidemiological study has been awarded to the National Environmental Research Institute, at the University of Aarhus in Denmark.

The Epidemiological Study will investigate the historical and contemporary patterns of cancer in Gibraltar and surrounding areas. It will aim to establish whether or not there is a higher incidence of cancer in Gibraltar and if so, whether Gibraltar is a high-risk community for particular types of cancer and will be scientifically exploring their causes, taking full account of geographical and health hazard exposure to pollutants and contaminants. The study will culminate with the production of a detailed report on the findings, accompanied by appropriate scientific comments.

The National Environmental Research Institute at the University of Aarhus is a renowned institution in this field. It has a track record of reporting at international level to the UN and to the EU. The scientists themselves are of international repute having acted as advisors and project managers for the EU and World Health Organization on several projects involving the study of diseases and their distributions.

The study will commence within a month and is expected to be completed by early next year.

Long Campaign for Study to be Implemented

This news is very welcome to me as I'm sure it is for many others in Gibraltar. I have long campaigned about the urgent requirement of such a study and have actively supported Gibraltar ecologists the Environmental Safety Group (ESG) in their vigorous campaign.

As far back as 2006, I joined the ESG in a Petition for Epidemiological Studies to be carried out in Gibraltar and the Campo de Gibraltar area and set up an online petition to this effect, signatures of which were included in the ESG's offline petition and handed in to Government in May 2007.

In a statement issued this afternoon, the ESG have also welcomed the announcement by Gibraltar's Minister for the Environment, Ernest Britto yesterday.

The ESG has campaigned for several years now for an independent and transparent study to be carried out on populations around the Bay of Gibraltar. The image at the top of this post is from a poster that was produced by them to advertise a demonstration in November 2006, calling on all Governments in the area to implement a Epidemiological Study as a matter of urgency.

In their statement today, ESG spokesperson Janet Howitt said the ESG is "delighted that this important programme will now get underway if only at a local level so far".

"There are serious concerns of higher than average rates of cancer not only in our community but within towns around the Bay so rigorous and expert assessment of these issues as advocated also by public health specialist Professor Joan Benach, is clearly both overdue and necessary.

It is further hoped that such independent studies will also be conducted in the Spanish towns as soon as possible."

The ESG concluded by confirming their commitment to "assist those undertaking the studies as best it can".

PDP Welcome Study Announcement

Gibraltar's Progressive Democratic Party also welcomed the announcement. The PDP’s environment spokesman Dr Gavin Gafan said "this is a step forward in the analysis of how bay activities might impact on our health".

"The results of this might be pivotal in understanding the risks faced by Gibraltar’s population as a result of polluting entities around the bay.

It is also a good platform for analysing other health concerns that can be attributed to pollution in and around the bay of Gibraltar."

Dr Gafan added that the fact that the epidemiological study will be commissioned as an independent study "gives further merit to the results".

"What is also important is that the Government publish the results of the study as soon as it is received so that there can be a full and informed debate about its findings."

A Personal Note

If you are a regular reader of my blog you may at some stage have seen from my profile that I was diagnosed with Chronic Lymphocytic Leukaemia (CLL) some years ago, shortly after returning to the UK having lived in Gibraltar and the surrounding area for around six years in the late 90's and early 2000's.

While it will always be impossible to say how and why I acquired this cancer that affects the blood and particularly the immune system, my strong suspicion is that I somehow acquired it during my stay in the Gibraltar area.

I personally know many people and I am also aware of others, through friends and family, who have also been diagnosed with CLL and other similar forms of cancers, both in Gibraltar and across the border in the surrounding communities of the Bay and Campo de Gibraltar area.

So, there is absolutely no doubt in my mind, that there is a much higher than normal prevalence of cancers in Gibraltar and the surrounding communities of the Bay of Gibraltar area, as Professor Joan Benach identified in his authoritative study of the area, The Atlas of Mortality.

Let's hope the study will be conducted in depth and that it will pave the way for whatever issues are causing these much higher incidences of cancers that clearly affect the area, are addressed. This is a matter of great urgency as people are dieing from these cancers... to an extent far and way over and above what is normally expected!

I am sorry, that the Mancomunidad de Municipios, the Community of Municipalities of the Campo de Gibraltar (all Spanish) have not joined in participating in this study as was muted some time back. These other communities in Spain also desperately need an Epidemiological Study to be carried out and I very much hope for their sake, that their Government pulls their finger out... very soon!

Hats Off to the ESG

Finally, I would like to congratulate Janet Howitt and ALL at the ESG for their dogged campaign over many years, in pursuit of this objective. They have been formidable and relentless and I thank them for their great efforts on our behalves! Well done ESG... I hope you crack open a bottle or two of a nice bubbly... and thoroughly congratulate yourselves!!

If I was able to... I would come round personally and provide said bottle! cool