Problèmes respiratoires chez les bébés exposés aux polluants chimiques durant la grossesse

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Les enfants exposés à un cocktail de polluants chimiques pendant la grossesse de leur mère et les premiers mois de leur vie ont plus de risque d’avoir une fonction respiratoire réduite, montre une étude franco-espagnole.

Certaines substances « pourraient être associées à une fonction respiratoire diminuée chez l’enfant », ont expliqué dans un communiqué commun l’INSERM, le CNRS et l’Université Grenoble Alpes.

Les chercheurs citent notamment les composés perfluorés (les PFC, qu’on trouve notamment dans les poêles antiadhésives, certains emballages alimentaires et les revêtements antitaches), l’éthylparabène (un conservateur utilisé dans de nombreux cosmétiques) et plusieurs molécules issues de la dégradation des phtalates.

Il s’agit d’une des premières études sur le sujet à prendre en compte l’exposition globale à toute une série de polluants (l’« exposome »), et pas seulement substance par substance, soulignent les auteurs de l’article, publié dans la revue médicale britannique The Lancet Planetary Health.

L’équipe de chercheurs a recueilli des données sur le mode de vie et les expositions à plusieurs dizaines de substances (particules fines dans l’air, perturbateurs endocriniens, métaux, polluants organiques persistants, etc.) d’environ 1000 femmes enceintes et leurs enfants dans six pays européens.

Fonction respiratoire diminuée

Dans le cadre de l’étude, à laquelle a participé également l’Institut de santé globale de Barcelone, les scientifiques ont ensuite mesuré la fonction pulmonaire des enfants à un âge compris entre 6 et 12 ans, grâce à un test mesurant le volume d’air inspiré et expiré.

Ils ont ainsi observé, par exemple, qu’un taux deux fois plus élevé d’acide perfluoro-octanoïque (PFOA en anglais, un composé perfluoré très persistant dans l’environnement) dans le sang de la mère pendant la grossesse était corrélé quelques années plus tard avec une baisse de près de 2 % du volume d’air expiré par seconde chez leurs enfants.

Le développement pulmonaire de l’enfant est un facteur déterminant de sa santé globale

Concernant les expositions après la naissance, neuf facteurs sont associés à une fonction respiratoire moins performante, dont le cuivre, l’éthylparabène, cinq molécules issues de la dégradation des phtalates, mais aussi le surpeuplement du logement.

Cette analyse statistique, qui ne démontre pas de lien de cause à effet, « doit être vue comme une première étape de sélection permettant de déterminer des expositions suspectes pour lesquelles des travaux plus précis sont nécessaires », estiment ses auteurs.

« Déterminer les facteurs de risque d’une fonction respiratoire diminuée dans l’enfance est important, car le développement pulmonaire de l’enfant est un facteur déterminant de sa santé globale, et pas seulement respiratoire, tout au long de la vie », souligne Valérie Siroux, chercheuse à l’INSERM et cocoordinatrice de l’étude.

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Heavier police presence at Toronto LCBOs after Star exposes spike in brazen thefts

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The customer, who we will call Andy, shared the experience with the Star on condition his name not be published to protect his family from possible reprisal. He credited skills acquired during a 20-year military career with his decision to follow the suspects.

“I was in the store about to pay for my wine when I heard a commotion behind me and turned to see two guys with faces covered by some sort of black fabric, filling up a massive shopping bag. As I turned back to pay, I thought, ‘What the hell did I just see?’ ”

He made a military-style decision. “I kind of do this thing where I gather up the information, analyze what is going on and kind of do a risk/reward thing to decide to do something and then act. It’s really just instinct.”

He thought their facial coverings would hamper their vision, an experience he’d had wearing a similar mask one Halloween. He could see the loot bag was so heavy the men were struggling to walk. Tracking them from a distance down a narrow, unlit alley, he turned a corner and suddenly found himself wide open, and only a few steps from the suspects as they lifted the bag into the trunk of their car.

“I made a note of the plate and I walked past them as calmly as I could — this was where my heart was beating pretty good — I was only ever scared when I turned the corner and realized I was so close to those guys. It was like, ‘Oh, crap.’ ”

Andy walked until he was clear of the suspects and then ran back to the LCBO “as fast as I could,” where the store manager was on the phone with police and conveyed the plate number.

He picked up the wine he’d already paid for and, moments later, as he got into his car and began driving away, the police takedown took place.

“It’s pretty amazing how fast everything clicked together. The police were great. They were in the right spot, in the right place,” said Andy, who works for the city of Toronto.

The close proximity of police on Wilson Ave. on the evening of Jan. 16 was not mere happenstance, according to Det. Matthew Routh of 32 Division, but part of a more deliberate plan to act against LCBO theft.

Police identified the Wilson store suspects as Dennis James, 25, and Nathaniel Snowden, 31, both of Toronto, and allege the duo is responsible not only for that night’s heist but also for a flurry of thefts from other Toronto LCBOs over the past three months that netted upwards of $90,000 worth of liquor. The pair face 260 charges involving 40 separate incidents.

The vast majority of that loot is long gone, Routh told the Star. None of the alcohol was recovered, save for the $3,800 worth the men had on them when they were arrested.

“Our belief, based on what we observed, is that we think they’re selling the alcohol immediately to some less-reputable bars,” he said.

That belief — that Torontonians may be unwittingly drinking the looted liquor in bars and restaurants — is sobering. And, thus far, unproven in court.

The Ontario Alcohol and Gaming Commission, which inspects licensed premises for potential Liquor Act violations, said in an email to the Star that their “inspections have revealed stolen or illegitimate liquor is not a significant issue.”

Yet police forces across Ontario also have authority to conduct liquor inspections. And as the various Toronto police divisions dive deeper into the LCBO theft epidemic, they say the evidence is mounting.

In 55 Division, Supt. Reuben Stroble points to a recent arrest at an east-end LCBO that enabled police to identify “a network to which some of this property was sold to local bars and business establishments at a discounted rate.”

The arrest marked a significant breakthrough. It was achieved because of a pilot project at 55 Division, which spans from the Don River to Victoria Park Ave. and south from Danforth Ave. to Lake Ontario, where officers have been given cellphones so community members can call them directly, as well as 911. In this case, it was an LCBO worker who called the police cell when a person known to steal entered the store.

At 14 Division, officers have racked up impressive arrest numbers, focusing on LCBO thefts after a rash of public complaints in November. As of Thursday, police have made 171 arrests — 68 of them through direct patrols and stakeouts and 103 by careful police sifting of a stream of online reports and surveillance photos of theft suspects provided by local LCBOs.

As detailed in four earlier stories in this series, LCBO outlets in Toronto have been targeted by thieves more than 9,000 times since 2014, according to police data obtained by the Star. And the pace of those thefts has increased year over year, accelerating threefold and making the LCBO far and away the most targeted retailer in the city.

When you put faces to those numbers, the deeper human tragedies are obvious. Court documents and anecdotal stories from more than 30 front-line LCBO workers who approached the Star since the series began describe an onslaught of increasingly audacious and at times menacing theft, much of it driven by addiction and mental health issues.

“Many of these cases are incredibly sad,” said Staff Sgt. Tam Bui of 14 Division. “Some of them, right away you understand it’s more a health issue than a law enforcement issue.

“But then we see the groups stealing in high-volume, again and again, for thousands of dollars each time, until you’re talking in the range of $250,000 worth of liquor. That’s a whole different story. That’s our main focus.”

Though no new citywide data is available since the crackdown, officials with 14 Division say the combined heft of the LCBO’s paid-duty police, together with the success of the division’s patrols, have driven the number of thefts down. Though uniformed paid-duty officers rarely make arrests, their presence is proving an effective deterrence. And the regular-duty results of Bui and his team are readily apparent.

Other sources, meanwhile, have provided the Star with a sense of the vast range of characters in the orbit of LCBO theft.

One photo given to the Star shows an elderly gentleman who looks and sounds almost sprung from the pages of a Charles Bukowski novel. His role in the stolen liquor equation is to circulate through Toronto’s underground poker scene, selling bottles out of a duffel bag at two-thirds face value.

Other known players include the “Rickety Crickets Gang,” named by LCBO front-line workers. They are known to have plagued a number of east-end LCBOs for much of 2018 and along the way, earned a reputation for “stumbling, bumbling, almost hapless theft.”

In the absence of security and with LCBO staffers under orders to not interfere when thefts are in progress, the Rickety Crickets made their slow-motion escape with the loot each time — despite the fact that one of them is living his life of crime upon a mobility scooter.

Said one LCBO source who saw the Rickety Crickets in action: “It got so frustrating and at the same time hilarious that during the last few robberies, staff would mock them as the theft took place, playing ‘Yakety Sax’ (the theme to Benny Hill) on their phones while these guys grabbed the goods.”

Police may have allayed some of that frustration with the recent arrests, but some officers are skeptical about what will happen when the suspects reach court.

“Certainly my experience is recidivism is very high in this kind of criminal activity because there doesn’t seem to be a penalty,” said 32 Division’s Routh. The two men arrested by his officers in January were both on probation and one was out on bail, awaiting trial on a previous charge.

These are “significant criminals,” he said. “You and I as taxpayers, we’re out $92,000 in alcohol that we know of. It’s our tax funds that are being abused.”

But a judge at Old City Hall recently sentenced a man arrested by 14 Division officers for stealing $1,100 from an LCBO on Bloor St. W. to 20 days in jail, calling the theft a “high-end deliberate act.” The man, who was on probation for other offences, entered the store with a luggage bag and filled it with bottles of Jack Daniels, JP Wiser and Canadian Club, before wheeling it out of the store.

Routh is more positive about the outcome of his division’s recent arrest of the two men caught on Wilson charged with stealing dozens of times from LCBOs.

A dedicated crown has been assigned to the case — which isn’t typical — as part of a new program instituted by the province in August.

It’s “fantastic,” said Routh. “Now we know we have a single voice at the crown’s office that we can work with and that has a vested interest in the case.”

But skeptics, including some LCBO front-liners, wonder whether the paid-duty police blitz is a one-off, or merely the first stage of a deeper, more strategic overhaul that will lead to safer stores not only in Toronto but across the province.

“I am wondering whether this is indicative of a co-ordinated long-term effort or more of a public relations thing,” said Jane Archibald, a Toronto resident who has campaigned tenaciously since last fall, calling on the LCBO, police and the municipal and provincial governments to take action on liquor theft.

“Hopefully the LCBO are implementing a province-wide solution.”

LCBO officials did not respond Friday to questions from the Star on the new measures. But in a series of remarks to staff — including a video message last week and an email two days ago — President and CEO George Soleas sought to reassure workers that the LCBO will “always look to incorporate new methods and technologies, including the continuous upgrade of CCTV equipment in all our 665 locations.

“We will be implementing other technical safeguards in our stores, as well as increased security in some locations. We appreciate everything you do to prevent and report theft, and how you care for the safety of our customers and each other,” Soleas wrote.

Andy the Good Samaritan, for his part, wouldn’t hesitate to act again should he find himself in a similar situation.

He did, however, end the interview emphasizing his concern about anonymity.

“Nobody knows what connections these suspects have or what kind of irritation this has caused their buyers or their bosses,” he said. “I don’t want to risk them coming after me or my family in an act of revenge.”

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To Kill a Mockingbird ban exposes culture of fear at Peel school board

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Snap quiz, teachers. Put your hands up.

Which book was just voted America’s best-loved novel?

Answer: To Kill a Mockingbird.

To be clear: The results arose from a PBS documentary series, organized around a Top 100 finalists list – chosen through a “demographically diverse’’ national poll – with 4.3 million votes cast.

Nice sideways smackdown, I’d say, of the Peel District School Board.

Oh, they were in a social media huff last week, the pedants, pedagogues and polemicists, following media reveal of a four-page memo sent to teachers which slammed Harper Lee’s seminal Pulitzer Prize novel for its purported “racist text,” “white supremacist framework,” “white savior trope” – that would be small-town Alabama lawyer Atticus Finch – and the potential harm to racialized students. Because apparently teachers in 2018 can’t be trusted to discuss the novel sensitively, within a modern context, alive to the feelings of racialized students.

One board member told me all literature should be assessed through an “anti-oppression” lens. I countered that the only lens which ought to be pointed should be clear-eyed, rather than distorting, under the guise of identity ideology.

Read more:

Peel school board urges teachers to take ‘anti-oppression lens’ to teaching To Kill a Mockingbird

To Kill a Mockingbird chosen as America’s best-loved novel on The Great American Read

Peel isn’t paying any mind to parents or students – never mind teachers – who disagree with this premise of presumptive and privileged white bias. Into my mailbox was forwarded a memo from Peel’s director of education, Peter Joshua.

To Kill a Mockingbird may only be taught in Peel secondary schools, beginning this school year, if instruction occurs through a critical, anti-oppression lens.

“When To Kill a Mockingbird is taught outside of this context, the novel has the potential to cause hurt and harm. As educators, we have an obligation to provide learning environments that are safe and inclusive – that honour staff and students’ identities, cultures and lived experiences, including those of the Black community. Of this, there can be no debate.”

Well actually yeah, there is debate, plenty of it, certainly about the means by which this diktat is being applied.

Note, by the way, there’s nothing in that fiat about opening young minds, fostering critical thinking, or merely appreciating the literary qualities of a novel that shone a splendid light on bigotry, inequality and injustice. These are attributes which have been widely applauded by numerous contemporary Black authors.

In practice, what the directive means – many worried Peel educators contacted me about this – is that teachers will be audited in class, will need to have their instruction plans pre-cleared by their principals, and can expect little support should a complaint be lodged.

For the purposes of this column, these teachers asked not to be identified by name or any other particulars that might expose them to professional backlash. That’s the culture of fear that has been engendered in Peel where, I’m told, only seven schools have decided to keep teaching the novel, primarily because they have principals with principles and a backbone.

“John” is a middle school teacher of two decades classroom experience who has regretfully chosen not to fight the jackboots.

“We knew something was up because they’d conducted surveys, at first anonymously, of who was teaching the book. They were trolling. Then they did another survey and many of us were concerned that our names would be put on a list. Part of the deal was that they would provide new culturally appropriate texts to replace To Kill A Mockingbird.

“In my department, we discussed among ourselves, how could we manage to teach it within the guidelines we were given. The book has so many rich teaching aspects to it. But suddenly all the focus was on the N-word and Atticus Finch as this white knight figure. Those who wanted to teach the novel were told that the classes would be monitored, there would be a formal written evaluation, and if we didn’t ‘pass’, it would go to a superintendent.

“There’s a significant amount of pressure to eradicate To Kill a Mockingbird from the curriculum. No one in my English department was willing to teach it under those terms. I wasn’t prepared to do it on my own. Any teacher who would purposely teach it is rolling the dice on their career. This is unprecedented. What next, The Merchant of Venice because Shylock is a Jewish moneylender without remorse. Maybe they’ll decide Shakespeare isn’t appropriate for this age. Is this the first shot across the bow to see how much pushback they get?’’

“Elizabeth” has taught the novel for a dozen years. But no more.

She attended a recent professional development day where the author of that aforementioned memo – Poleen Grewal, associate director of instructional and equity support services – justified her position and complained about the media’s attention.

“We were told that if we speak to the media about this, that would be quite problematic.’’

Elizabeth has no problem with the “canon” of texts being continually assessed as more contemporary authors are included and some of the classics are dropped. “But the text of To Kill a Mockingbird is so rich. It opens up class discussions to issue of class, prejudice, feminism, justice.

“I have a very diverse group of students. Not one Black student in all these years has objected to the book or said they were hurt by the language. Not one parent has ever approached me. We’ve had fabulously intellectually discussions in class.

“This memo implies that all white writers are white supremacists. That’s what we were told at the PD. I don’t like anybody calling me that. I think someone has a bee in their bonnet about To Kill a Mockingbird and they want to get it out of the schools.”

“Margaret” is new-ish to the teaching profession. She adores To Kill a Mockingbird, enjoys rediscovering it with students, seeing the novel through fresh eyes and teaching it through the prism of current sensibilities and race and inclusion.

“The book is about a specific time and place but its themes are timeless and very much relevant to the world we live in right now. If Harper Lee were to write it today, of course it would read differently. Maybe it wouldn’t be told through the eyes of a white lawyer and his tomboy daughter. But that would make it a different book. And we do teach other books with other voices. It’s not as if students are getting just one viewpoint. But the board doesn’t trust us to do our jobs properly.”

I won’t cite here the tweets and emails from righteous educators who have distilled all the ills of these toxic times into the text of a beloved novel.

But a word to the un-wise: You are what you profess to loathe – blinkered, doctrinaire, devoid of discernment and consumed with racial bigotry.

A mind is a terrible thing to waste by banning books.

Rosie DiManno is a columnist based in Toronto covering sports and current affairs. Follow her on Twitter: @rdimanno

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