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Processed meat linked with early deaths, a landmark case on air pollution and why are we still prescribing Valium?

Sausages and bacon for breakfast? Prepare for an early grave. The BBC reports on a study which found sausages, ham, bacon, and other processed meats appear to increase the risk of dying young.

A study of half a million people, published in the BMC Medicine journal, found that diets high in processed meats were linked to cardiovascular disease, cancer and early deaths. The salt and chemicals used to preserve the meat may also damage health, it found. Meat eaters were also more likely to smoke, be obese and have other health-damaging behaviours, it added. But researchers found that even with those risks accounted for, processed meat still damaged health.

The study followed participants from 10 European countries for nearly 13 years. Those eating more than 160g of processed meat a day- roughly two sausages and a slice of bacon- were 44% more likely to die in that period than those eating about 20g.

Prof Sabine Rohrmann, from the University of Zurich, told the BBC: ‘High meat consumption, especially processed meat, is associated with a less healthy lifestyle.’

The Daily Mail questions why Valium, a benzodiazepine, is still being prescribed despite the fact it is ‘more addictive than heroin’ and induces withdrawal symptoms that leave users unfit for work and relationships.

It claims doctors in Britain issue almost 18 million prescriptions a year for Valium or one its derivatives, and every GP has at least 180 long-term users on their books. This is despite guidelines dating back to 1988, which warn doctors to limit the prescribing of the drug, clinicians have found it an effective way to handle many hard-to-diagnose, hard-to-treat patients.

Professor Malcolm Lader, emeritus professor at the Institute of Psychiatry, says: ‘Doctors have ignored warnings for years, but we need to stop more people going on benzodiazepines.’

But Professor Clare Gerada, RCGP chair, insists that none of her members are condemning new patients to long-term use of the drugs: ‘It’s often simply too dangerous to take an addict off these drugs [because of the side-effects]. Going on prescribing them may be the best option.’

The Guardian reports on a landmark hearing, in which the supreme court could force the Government to take steps to urgently reduce he high levels of air pollution in British cities to meet EU limits.

The case, brought by a group of campaigning lawyers called ClientEarth, will be heard by five law lords, and coincides with the Government’s warning that toxic air pollution has been at ‘high’ levels across English and Welsh cities including London, York, Manchester, Liverpool, Swansea, Bristol and other cities.

ClientEarth will argue that ministers are breaching EU regulations and that air pollution and particulates kill as many people each year as obesity and road accidents combined. But the Government lawyers are expected to ague that Britain is under no legal obligation to meet air pollution time limits set by Brussels.

If the Government wins the case, it sets a precedent for a delay in implementing EU environment laws and directives, including those concerning river and beach water quality, waste and carbon emissions.