Health briefing


A round-up of today's other stories in brief

Heavy school bags could be a future burden on State

THE STATE could face future claims from children who develop back trouble as a result of carrying schoolbags that are too heavy, it has been claimed.

A study carried out by the University of Santiago de Compostela in Spain published earlier this year found that among 1,400 Spanish schoolchildren, 61 per cent were carrying more than the recommended 10 per cent of their body weight.

Those who carried the heaviest backpacks had a 50 per cent higher risk of back pain than those who carried the lightest.

The study was criticised for not searching for other factors which might contribute to back pain.

In Ireland, the weight of children’s schoolbags has been repeatedly criticised. The National Parents Council Post Primary has said the problem could be solved if schools provided lockers, a second set of school books and considered all these factors before setting homework.

A study carried out by Irish researcher Michael Lynch found that the average Irish 12 year old had a school bag weighing 11.8kg well above the recommended limit of 3.7kg.

Naas-based solicitor Liam Moloney has said schools should adhere to the recommendations of the Department of Education and Science which states that pupils should allow children to keep their books in school lockers and desks.

He said the recommendations of the Department of Education mean that school managers face the possibility of “thousands of future compensation claims” if they are not complied with.


Iarnrod Eireann gets an earful

AN ESTIMATED 600 visually impaired people sent texts at 9.30am yesterday to protest against the “persistently poor quality” of announcements by Iarnród Éireann. The texts to Iarnród Éireann expressed anger at the persistent poor quality, or lack of audible announcements, on trains.

Martin O’Sullivan who set up the campaign said: “I’m very happy with the response and support that we got” but it remains to be seen what action will be taken by Irish Rail.

Irish thalidomide survivors delighted by court decision

PLANS BY Irish thalidomide survivors to take legal action against the State have been given fresh impetus by a decision of the Australian courts to make a multi-million euro award to a woman whose mother took the drug.

The Irish Thalidomide Association said it was delighted to hear of the settlement granted to Australian woman Lynette Rowe, who was born without arms and legs after her pregnant mother took the anti-morning sickness drug.

“Lynette is an inspiration to us. She has further invigorated us in our determination to achieve justice for Irish survivors of thalidomide,” the association said in a statement. “In light of this award we now call on Minister James Reilly and the Government to ‘do the right thing’.”

Rowe’s settlement could pave the way for more than 100 other Thalidomide victims in Australia and New Zealand to receive compensation through a class action, her lawyers said. The drug, made by German company Grunenthal, was licensed in Australia to the firm Distillers, which was later taken over by Diageo.

In Ireland, an alliance of 25 thalidomide survivors announced two weeks ago that it was taking legal action against the State for failing to protect them as children by allowing the drug on to the Irish market and not promptly notifying the public of its dangers.

The Irish Thalidomide Association said the decision to take action had been brought about by the Taoiseach, Tánaiste and Minister for Health “weaselling” out of a commitment in the programme for government to hold discussions regarding further compensation.

PAUL CULLEN, Health Correspondent