Disinformation is been being touted about on the internet by a small group of malcontent’s who over the years have decried any effort by the BNTVA to improve the situation of our members, they sit in judgement of our accountable democratic organisation, despite the fact their number could scarcely form a jury.
Their hollow rally cry is “compensation through litigation”, which they profess will be magically achieved if the research resulting in the 2007 Rowland's report is simply copied in the UK. They go on to accuse the BNTVA of refusing an offer of the MOD to replicate this research.
Back in 2010 they were equally crowing that the Health Needs Audit would undermine the litigation and achieve nothing. They were wrong then and they are wrong again. Their utterly false, misleading assertions say more about the petty motives driving these few individuals in their attempts to wreck the membership mandated BNTVA Recognition Campaign.
As many of our members are aware the allegation and statement about replication is quite untrue. It is for those who have unwittingly come across these lies that we have a duty to ensure they do not fall for the deceit.
Kevan Jones, whilst the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence, fully accepted the findings of Rowland's 2007 report “New Zealand Nuclear Test Veterans’ Study – a Cytogenetic Analysis”. This clearly negated any need to attempt replication and indeed opened the door to the investigation of science to examine the relationship between test attendance and ill-health in both the veteran and their progeny.
In his own words when speaking in April 2009 Kevan Jones said.
"The Government have been actively engaging with the concerns expressed by our nuclear test veterans that they and their offspring have been adversely affected by their participation in the British nuclear tests of the 1950s and 1960s.
The wider published peer-reviewed epidemiological evidence to date has not demonstrated a general link between veterans’ ill-health and participation in the tests. Similarly there is no peer-reviewed evidence suggesting that their children and grandchildren are at increased risk of genetic abnormalities.
The Government are, however, determined to address the ongoing concerns of nuclear test veterans. I had a constructive meeting with the British Nuclear Test Veterans Association (BNTVA) and interested MPs on Monday 20 April. I am pleased to report that the BNTVA have agreed to help identify a representative sample of veterans and their descendants with a view to conducting an assessment of their health needs. I therefore announce today an intention that the Ministry of Defence will work with veterans and experts to finalise the details of research to investigate the particular health needs of nuclear test veterans and their offspring with a view to identifying priorities and taking action to improve health. I also intend some follow-up to last year’s New Zealand chromosome study. The aim will be for projects to be of practical relevance to veterans with results delivered to a reasonable time scale. The work will be tendered in the normal manner and should be under way before the end of this year. A working group including representatives from the BNTVA will be established to take these projects forward."
From this we can see the 'offer' to replicate Rowland's work was never made so it is an outright absurdity to claim we declined it.
The BNTVA did not just take this at face value, we sought a second opinion from the renown Brunel University who confirmed that the science we were looking for just did not exist. Brunel went further to provide a reasoned conclusion regarding the feasibility of even attempting to replicate a Rowland's study with the UK veterans population. This assessment was that even just using the original study exclusion criteria, identifying a meaningful cohort would be almost impossible. Further exclusion criteria would also need to be established relating to additional radioactive fallout over the UK during some of the tests and the levels of Naturally Occurring Radioactive Material (NORM) in various geographic areas of the UK.
All this whilst bearing in mind that the government had already accepted the genetic translocation phenomenon as detailed in the original report.
In debunking the malicious claims we should also note that even the authors of the original report were emphatic regarding health effects: “We wish to emphasise, however, that the current study makes no claims on the health status of the veterans. This study concentrates on the genetic status of the Experimental (veterans) group.”
Here are the eight exclusion criteria of the original study:
1) Service in a theatre of war or nuclear-related area
2) Exposure to toxic substances 1 for a year or more
3) Having received radiation treatment or chemotherapy
4) Aged over 75 (to avoid confounding effects of age)
5) Air Force aircrew (exposed to cosmic radiation, confounding nuclear radiation exposure)
6) Too ill to participate
7) Death subsequent to survey completion, and
8) Resident in the South Island.
The final criteria only related to the expense of travelling to collect samples and data.
The average age of the New Zealand Veterans when studied was 65.9 the average age of our veterans is much higher and many would be excluded under criteria 4.
We revisited this issue in early 2014 and all the original findings were again confirmed, including the non availability of robust, reviewable scientific techniques to link health status in veterans or their progeny with the tests. The only realistic action that could be undertaken at this time would be a harvest and preservation of samples for analysis should the science become available in the distant future. It must be stressed the BNTVA is not against this but we are emphatic that it must not be at the expense expediting the Benevolent Fund.
Returning to 2009, having established our supposed rejection of replicating Rowland's is an outright lie and that the science is not available to link health and tests, we took the only course open to advance the lot of our veterans; We sought and gained conference approval to work with the MOD and its contractors on the Health Needs Analysis project. The project met the criteria stipulated by Kevan Jones “ The aim will be for projects to be of practical relevance to veterans with results delivered to a reasonable time scale”.
The benefits derived from the HNA include: accelerated access to health care for veterans, briefing of every medical professional in the UK on issues affecting NTV's, identification of the BNTVA as the point of contact for information exchange on NTV health issues and the identification and scale of the actual health and wellbeing conditions our veterans face.
This did not end the issue of research into veterans but we had garnered enough material to begin to formulate a campaign to actually do something meaningful for them and their descendents. This lead to the creation of the Recognition Campaign.
Turning to the availability of science there is a great UK project to decode 100,000 human genomes by 2017. This will provide a resource that can be used for research which will investigate hereditary conditions and should provide the link from the work by Prof Al Rowland to the health of Veterans and their progeny. Information on this can be found HERE.
Prof Jeremy Farrar, director of the Wellcome Trust, said: "I can see a future where genetics is going to come into every bit of medicine from cardiology to oncology to infectious diseases. There are already targeted therapies for some breast, lung, bowel and blood cancers; twenty years from now there's going to be a plethora of those (therapies)." The salient point here is “Twenty years from now”, by that time there will be no veterans alive, even the second generation may be thin on the ground.
The Geonome Project means that actual research would not commence until 2017 at the earliest. We have to ask: How many more veterans will have passed away struggling with the effects of austerity on their care and support, how many children and grandchildren will go without support and have to suffer the conditions visited on them by this 'Great Adventure'?
There are rumours that the Government may offer further research into the health of veterans and their descendents, certainly Kevan Jones left this option on the table. We would welcome any research that may enhance the understanding and treatment of our veterans and their families however this must not in any way impact on the timing or value of the Benevolent Fund.
Our veterans and their children have lived as guinea pigs for 60 years. Governments have prospered on the information garnered from their covert monitoring programmes throughout that time. Revelations about these programmes continue to surface, the latest horror being the collecting of bones from veterans dead babies.
Enough is enough and anyone who advocates the continuation of 'Scientific meddling' at the expense of actually addressing the daily problems our people live with, is utterly contemptible and inhuman.
The science will take years to prove what we already know. We don't need science to prove it gets dark when you turn out the light. So lets turn that light on to the suffering visited on veterans and their children, do the right thing and get the Benevolent fund in place now.