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‘Gender-bending’ chemicals in our homes, retinal implants to help the blind and coronavirus causes the death of a British man

The Daily Mail, rarely prone to scaremongering, leads this morning with a story called ‘Poisoned by everyday life’, reporting on a World Health Organisation study which found that chemicals found in every home may be linked to breast cancer, asthma, infertility and birth defects.

The WHO report said it was ‘reasonable’ to suspect that phthalates - chemicals the Daily Mail labels as ‘gender bending’, which are used in toys, PVC flooring, car dashboards and credit cards - have ‘serious implications’ for health.

The landmark report, called State of the Science of Endocrine-Disrupting Chemicals, said a ban might be needed as the chemicals could harm female fertility and are linked with rising rates of childhood illnesses such as leukaemia.

It said: ‘The diverse systems affected by endocrine-disrupting chemicals likely include all hormonal systems and range from those controlling development and function of reproductive organs to the tissues and organs regulating metabolism and satiety.

‘Effects on these systems can lead to obesity, infertility or reduced fertility, learning and memory difficulties, adult-onset diabetes or cardiovascular disease, as well as a variety of other diseases.’

Dr Maria Neira, the WHO’s director for public health and environment, said: ‘The latest science shows that communities around the globe are being exposed to endocrine-disrupting chemicals and their associated risks. We all have a responsibility to protect future generations.’

However the Chemical Industries Association said it was important to note that naturally-occurring substances in beer, chocolate and coffee can have more powerful effects on the body’s hormones than man-made chemicals.

The Guardian brings us more cheery news. Blind people have been able to read signs, tell the time and distinguish white wine from red, after surgeons fitted them with electronic chips to partially restore their vision.

Five of the eight patients enrolled in a clinical trial of the retinal implants found the chips improved their eyesight enough to be useful in daily life.

Although the implants do not restore vision, they allow the patients to see light and dark patches in a small part of their visual field, as if they had black-and-white tunnel vision.

All those involved in the trial lost their sight to the heredity disease retinitis pigmentosa, which destroys the light-sensitive cells in the eye. The chips work by replacing these damaged cells, detecting light rays and converting them into electrical pulses, which are sent along the optic nerve to the brain.

Dr Robert Maclaren, a consultant retinal surgeon involved in the trial at Oxford Eye Hospital, said: ‘We’ve had success with the implants so far, there is no doubt about that. We’ve had completely blind patients who were able to see things again, but the technology is still early, we need to develop it further.’

The Telegraph reports on the death of a 39-year-old man from the SARS-like disease novel coronavirus, the first British fatality from the illness.

The victim was the sixth person to die from novel coronavirus worldwide, and is believed to have caught the illness from his relative during a recent visit to the Middle East and Pakistan.

His family members are three of the four confirmed cases in the UK, and it is believed the virus was passed on in this country. They are being treated in Manchester.

First identified last year in the Middle East, most of those infected have travelled to Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Jordan or Pakistan. In tota 12 people have been diagnosed worldwide, and six have died.

Spotted a story we’ve missed? Let us know in the comments and we’ll update the digest throughout the day…


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