I started reading about cancer because people kept pestering me about electro magnetic radiation from mobile handsets and towers. Siddhartha Mukherjee is the best writer on cancer. But I have to admit I have yet to read his Pulitzer winning “The emperor of all maladies.”
In Ohio, where I lived for over a decade, they took asbestos really seriously. Buildings were condemned because of asbestos. But here in Sri Lanka they were still selling the stuff. I asked, and was given all sorts of justifications. It’s outside the house; it’s not in heating ducts like in the US and so on.
Formaldehyde was recently named a carcinogen by the WHO: Category 1, together with cigarettes and asbestos. I barely heard a peep in the local media.
But you should see the fuss over electro magnetic radiation from towers and handsets: I used to get email from people saying it had been named a cancer-causing agent by the WHO. It was in category 2B, along with pickles and coffee. The least risky.
So when I heard last week that the WHO had “promoted” diesel fumes from Category 2A (e.g., second-hand smoke) to Category 1, I tweeted “Diesel fumes more carcinogenic than 2nd hand smoke & mobiles: http://press.iarc.fr/pr213_E.pdf. Let’s see what media in #LK say.” That was June 13th. I waited. Then unable to bear the silence any longer I wrote my column, published June 18th. So, I, not even a journalist, was the first to report this news in a column. Says much about Sri Lanka journalism.
I can sort of understand ignoring formaldehyde. Unless you’re in Chemistry lab or you’re a mortician, you don’t really think much about formaldehyde. But there were stories about fish vendors using formaldehyde to make fish more presentable.
But diesel fumes in Sri Lanka? In your face diesel fumes? Government subsidized stinky fumes? How can this not be important?
And then we have the odd characters alleging that water could be carcinogenic, that this is all a Western plot. Do I live in the same universe with these people?