Socialist Worker

Danger buried for 75 years

Issue No. 1706

Inside the system

Danger buried for 75 years

THREE OF the world's largest corporations were accused last week of deliberately introducing lead into petrol in the 1920s knowing it would poison millions of people. The three were also accused of suppressing scientific evidence of the harmful effects of the lead additive in order to protect their profits. The claims comes in an investigation by Car magazine into the conduct of General Motors, DuPont and Standard Oil (now renamed Exxon Mobil).

It compares the behaviour of the three to that of the tobacco companies in covering up evidence on the effects of nicotine and cigarettes. Lead has been phased out of petrol in the US and Europe but is still being used across much of the world. In Mexico City four million cars pump 32 tonnes of lead into the atmosphere each day.

Lead poisoning leads to blindness, brain damage, kidney disease, cancer and death. Its effects on the mental development of children are severe. Research 75 years ago showed the dangers of leaded petrol, and the warnings were known to executives of the three companies. But they were making billions from selling the lead additive formula they had patented worldwide, and so denied and suppressed the research.

Documents unearthed by the Car magazine show that the three colluded with the US government to avoid health fears killing off their lead additive product. Safe alternatives were known. Alcohol, for example, has the same effect in reducing "knocking" in engines. But alcohol cannot be patented, unlike the lead formula additive.

DO you remember the stories a year ago about theft from Kosovan people by Serbian police? Now four British soldiers, part of the "peacekeeping" force, have been accused of stealing money and valuables from civilians in Kosovo. The men are believed to be privates from the 2nd Battalion of the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers. It was reported that mobile phones, cameras and up to 10,000 in cash were taken during checkpoint searches.

What a shower

BOSSES AT King's College Hospital in London have splashed out 79,000 on plush offices while ramming through cuts. Glass shelving, designer lighting and special gas fires are being fitted in the new suite of offices for the chief executive, Ron de Witt. De Witt gets 120,000 a year. He was criticised last year for spending 25,000 on his office as soon as he took up his post. The hospital recently shut a creche for children of HIV positive patients in order to save 20,000.

US crimes about AIDS

THE UNITED States government knew a decade ago of the AIDS disaster developing in Africa, but did nothing. In 1990 an official Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) report landed on the US president's desk. That report was called "The Global AIDS Disaster".

It warned that AIDS was spreading rapidly in Africa and predicted some 45 million cases would be found in the continent by the year 2000. The report's principal author, CIA officer Kenneth Brown, says some top US officials gave a frank response. A US military official told him the predicted death toll "will be good because Africa is overpopulated anyway".

BIG brother is alive and well under New Labour. The government admitted last week that its GCHQ spy centre near Cheltenham can intercept all e-mail and mobile phone communications in Britain. Home Office minister Lord Bassam made the admission last week. Bassam also admitted that GCHQ does not even need a warrant to listen in on your phone calls and read your e-mails.

Three more walk free from prison

THE M25 Three were not the only falsely imprisoned black men. Three other innocent black men, who served five years, were released from prison last week. Their convictions for robbery were quashed because they were fitted up by the police. But the truth only came out by accident. Anthony Taylor, Kevin Martin and Michael Brown were sentenced to ten years in 1995 for armed robbery.

The police claimed to have found the gun used in the robbery in Kevin Martin's flat when they searched it nine months after the robbery. A separate investigation, however, found that the officers involved were themselves hardened criminals engaged in robbery and drugs offences. One of them even boasted to Martin that they "stitched up guys like you all day long".

Things they say

"NOT ALL that many more pensioners are living in poverty these days."

  • ALISTAIR DARLING, social security secretary

"WHEN YOU have been in the Labour Party for as long as I have you do not use the word 'betrayal' lightly. Yet now I find a Tory leaflet triumphantly quoting a plea from the Labour MP for Wirral South, for whom I spent many hours campaigning -for the retention of grammar schools."

  • MALCOLM CLARKE, chair of Wythenshawe and Sale East Constituency Labour Party and member of parents' group Trafford Stop the 11-Plus

"WHEN I was a young barrister, I had to struggle to pay the children's school fees like anyone else."

  • LORD MILLETT, one of twelve unelected law lords.

"Your council tax benefit has stopped from 17 April because there has been a change in your circumstances, the change is because you are dead."

  • Letter from Capita-Lambeth council's privatised housing benefit company-to recently deceased William Reynolds

"IT IS not some search for the absolute truth. It is to obtain a favourable verdict, and if that involves an appeal to the occasional prejudice or preconceived notions then that appeal may have to be made."

  • GEORGE CARMAN QC on the law and the truth

"WHAT I am criticising is this mindless rush to try to persuade the public that the right way to deal with crime is to get to American levels of imprisonment-they have two million people in prisons."

  • DOUGLAS HURD, former Tory home secretary, attacking William Hague

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Article information

Sat 22 Jul 2000, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 1706
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