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Tuesday, 13 April 2010

AllergyUK - Whose Side Are They On?

“Regulatory capture”, for those with an interest in finance and politics it means that bodies and organisations set up to regulate activities too often are infiltrated, then under the influence, and eventually controlled by those who they are meant to keep in check or limit in their more damaging activities. A key factor in the major economic crisis was that bodies supposed to be keeping watch and curtailing wild high risk financial activity and fraud failed because the people they were created to control had taken control themselves.

Besides official bodies, there are charities and organisations , like AllergyUK intended to represent groups who have a special interest and need. Clearly the larger the organisation and the more complex its field of work or interest the greater its needs for income for the staff and range of activity it becomes involved in. AllergyUK is an organisation that is ostensibly independent and set up to represent its members. Nevertheless, income can arise from contributions from companies buying an image of caring.

But it has put itself into the position of “Approving” products in various categories. As they say, the road to hell is paved with good intentions. It began simply enough. If a product had peanuts or peanut oil then it was not suitable for those with an allergy to peanuts. There were many such people and relatively clearly so. It was of great help and assistance to know that Big End Chocs had them but Little End Chocs were free from them.

But as you move on from simple foods into more complicated areas with other allergies or reactions deriving from substances and products that are far from simple, indeed highly complex, then you are heading into a thick fog of understanding and corporate politics. Do remember that the driving dogma of business these days is shareholder value and central to that is the “added value” of the product.

AllergyUK may be good on foods and food related allergy, but it is bad on others, notably the increasing level of serious reactions and dangers arising from the increased strength, application, and pervasiveness of powerful synthetic chemicals in a widening range of products. They are limited on the issues arising from this. Recently they have received a complaint about giving their Seal of Approval to an air freshener called Ambi Pur Puresse.

AllergyUK’s response can be paraphrased as saying “If it kills you then refer the matter to the makers. We have been given evidence from the maker that scientifically it only affects people who know they will be affected. Unluckily we cannot tell you what is in it because we have agreed not to release either the scientific evidence the makers gave us (we have none of our own because it is so very expensive) or any indication of the contents as this is commercially confidential. So if you do not know what is in it then it is your own fault and we take no responsibility nor will the maker because obviously you did not understand the guidelines about not using it. We are sorry you have chemical anaphylaxis but hey guys we all have to go some time.”

There is one factor of course. It is that the makers had AllergyUK over a barrel in that under the UK of defamation if they had not given their seal of approval they would be have faced with a law suit that would have ruined the organization. I regret that this is all too likely and why AllergyUK had to approve and keep very quiet about it. As I said, the road to hell etc. Watch out for other strange or inexplicable approvals in the coming years.

What about the product? This is from the Ambi Pur web site relating to Puresse: “The perfect way to enjoy Ambi Pur's new, more caring fragrances. The Puresse range is specially formulated to minimise the use of 26 known skin allergens and is the first and only air freshener to be awarded the Allergy UK Seal of Approval.”

So the approval only relates to the reduction in quantity of “26 known skin allergens”. Skin? Is this all? What about all the other potential and bad reactions? Does this mean only skin tests? What about other tests? This is a product that is intended to be breathed in and to change perceptions of what is in the air and the way you react to it. This means the brain.

The most ludicrous feature of this is the weasel word “minimise”. Anyone with the cheapest home computer can find out in minutes the implications of the rapidly advancing technology in fine particle development. Nanotechnology does have important contributions in engineering and medicine, but using it to stuff bigger bang synthetic chemicals into personal and household products is uncharted territory with serious dangers. Does it turn aromatic previously inert substances into something else entirely?

It is possible that the company and AllergyUK do not accept the new fangled idea about the circulation of the blood because according to all I have read if particulates get into the lungs then they get into the blood and the rest and it goes all over doing things nobody knows. Perhaps in their world Galen still rules OK.

Since when have routine skin tests been regarded as 100% reliable? Why no full scale immunological testing? Why not MRI detailed scans for brain effect and reactions? Why no research into the lungs and other vital organs? Why no testing for chemical reactions in the blood. Just how much did AllergyUK consult with those, easily identified, who know and experience strong chemical reactions? Last but far from least what about the sperm count?

So is it that AllergyUK has been caught with a “sucker punch” from a crafty corporation? Is that they have just been very stupid? Is it that having worked themselves up into a frenzy of “Approval” for status and contribution they cannot come off the fix. Or is it that they have now been bought and are part of the problem?

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