The government and its upside down policies
Major industrial accidents involving dangerous chemicals pose a significant threat to humans and the environment. Furthermore, such accidents cause huge economic losses and disrupt sustainable growth.
However, the use of large amounts of dangerous chemicals is unavoidable in some industry sectors which are vital for a modern industrialised society. To minimise the associated risks, measures are necessary to prevent major accidents and to ensure appropriate preparedness and response should such accidents happen.
In Europe, the catastrophic accident in the Italian town of Seveso in1976 prompted the adoption of legislation on the prevention and control of such accidents. The so-called Seveso-Directive (Directive 82/501/EEC) was later amended in view of the lessons learned from later accidents such as Bhopal, Toulouse or Enschede resulting in Seveso-II (Directive 96/82/EC). In 2012 Seveso-III (Directive 2012/18/EU) was adopted taking into account, among others, the changes in Union legislation on the classification of chemicals and increased rights for citizens to access information and justice. It replaces the previous Seveso II directive. The Directive now applies to more than 10,000 industrial establishments in the European Union where dangerous substances are used or stored in large quantities, mainly in the chemical, petrochemical, logistics and metal refining sectors. Considering the very high rate of industrialisation in the European Union, the Seveso Directive has contributed to achieving a low frequency of major accidents. The Directive is widely considered as a benchmark for industrial accident policy and has been a role model for legislation in many countries worldwide.
When Malta joined the EU it had to transpose all EU legislation onto its statute books, so that the Seveso Directive is now part of EU law and is overseen in Malta by the Occupational Health and Safety Authority. It foresees that the proper risk assessments are carried out to identify the dangers that both workers and residents could be exposed to at these sites and ensures that the relevant company has a sufficiently prepared state-of-the art risk management plan! It is funny how this government is now storing combustible and potentially explosive LNG gas in the bunkering ship at Marsaxlokk Bay but refuses to publish the risk assessment report! Why should such a risk assessment report fail to be published may I ask? Is it because there is something it does not want any resident to see? Is it because the potential dangers to the residents of the area and beyond, which can come about due to this LNG storage, could cause panic or alarm to the residents concerned? Are peoples’ lives in any particular danger? Will the value of properties in the area depreciate because of the new added dangers? Normally, commercial entities and governments are supposed to issue these studies before a fait accompli and not after. Considering that the ship is now already here, it seems that like in many other things, the government is putting the cart before the horse and has something to hide which it does not want people to know about, bringing to mind the Archbishop’s excellent speech at Mass on occasion of our Independence Day, a speech that underlined the dangers of government by covert operations. Something is amiss here and I do not like it at all! Why hide essential information?
The Parliamentary Committee set up to review the use of the morning-after pill has finalised its conclusions and published them! It has, together with the Medical Council, wisely suggested that if this pill is made available by the Medicines Authority, it should be made available on prescription only. Enter Minister Helena Dalli who objects to this prudent suggestion and states that she wants this pill available over the counter (OTC) for everyone because of women’s right over their own body (it seems a few, including herself, do not want to defend the life of an existing human embryo or to champion the rights to life of this seemingly bottom-line non-entity for some!). This statement is set to appease the few women who are vociferously campaigning in favour of having the pill available OTC. I have already stated that if this happens, there is a public health issue involved because since normal contraceptive pills are only available on prescription, it would be easier for a woman to simply use an OTC emergency contraceptive, than bother to use proper contraception which is more adequate and safe in the long run. Minister Helena Dalli has her own agenda, but may I remind her that she has no medical training or medical knowledge at all and that in going against the advice given by the medical establishment she is putting many women at risk from OTC emergency contraception use and possibly raising mortality and morbidity rates. She should discuss these issues in Cabinet and take the advice of the Department and Ministry of Health! She is otherwise being very presumptuous with her position and could make herself liable to indemnity issues.
There are several contraindications to this pill and there is a danger of masking an ectopic pregnancy in a woman if this occurs, as the effects of the pill are similar to symptoms of an ectopic pregnancy which if missed, thinking it the effects of the MAP, can be fatal.
The UK Government’s Chief Medical Officer had warned doctors a couple of years back, to be extra vigilant over the powerful Levonorgestrel emergency contraceptive hormone pill. Its makers, Schering Health Care, had been ordered to change the wording of patient information leaflets to make clear the potential risk of ectopic pregnancy or its masking effects, where an embryo implants outside the womb in a fallopian tube. The condition can lead to internal bleeding and damage fertility, if not cause death. The morning-after pill (Levonorgestrel) may prevent an embryo implanting in the womb. It has a 95 per cent success rate if taken within 24 hours after unprotected sex, official figures have revealed, but this falls to just 58 per cent after 49 to 72 hours. Of the women who have maintained a pregnancy despite taking it, more than one in 20 has suffered an ectopic pregnancy. A Schering Health Care spokesman had said that scientists believe that, in some women, the pill may slow the journey of the egg to the womb by affecting tiny hairs inside the fallopian tubes. This could explain why, if Levonorgestrel has failed to prevent ovulation and fertilisation because of the timing when taking the pill, an embryo produced could still implant in the fallopian tube instead of the womb. Professor Liam Donaldson, the Chief Medical Officer, had issued guidance-to doctors and health professionals after the concerns over Levonorgestrel were discussed by the government’s Committee on Safety of Medicines. Medics had been told to be particularly vigilant with women who had suffered a previous ectopic pregnancy, those with pelvic inflammatory disease or those who had surgery on their fallopian tubes.
There is a word in Maltese which applies when somebody who does not understand the workings of a particular discipline persists in expressing an opinion on something they hardly know anything about. The word is ‘pruzuntuz’ (presumptuous) or in several cases ‘pruzuntuza’! Unfortunately, we not only have a presumptuous government and a Cabinet of Ministers, but also one which hides information from the common man (and woman)!