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The Countess of Mar asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Gilbert: All aspects of the work to address Gulf veterans' health concerns are kept under review, but at

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present there are no plans to change the status of the Medical Assessment Programme, MAP. It is expected that the new head of the MAP, for which post an open competition is now under way, will be a civilian, as are the physicians who are currently working there.

Operation Granby: NBC Logs

The Countess of Mar asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they intend to publish their nuclear, biological and chemical (NBC) logs for the period of Operation Granby.[HL1824]

Lord Gilbert: As part of the two ongoing reviews into the alleged detections of chemical and biological warfare agents during the Gulf conflict, MoD officials are analysing all available documentation from the period which may be relevant to these matters. The results of this review work, which will also involve interviews with personnel directly involved, will be made available once it is complete. As has been the practice of this Government when publishing information about Operation Granby, these reports will include appropriate extracts from contemporary documents in MoD's possession.

Anthrax Vaccine and the Armed Forces

The Countess of Mar asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the anthrax vaccine currently administered to members of the Armed Forces is proven to be effective against all known strains of anthrax bacilli, including aerosolised and "dusty" anthrax, given that such stains are reported to be capable of penetrating nuclear, chemical and biological warfare protection equipment; and[HL1826]

    What is the source of the anthrax vaccine currently being administered to members of the Armed Forces; what is its date of manufacture; what is its "shelf life"; and against how many strains of anthrax bacilli does it offer protection.[HL1827]

Lord Gilbert: The anthrax vaccine which is currently being offered to British troops deploying to the Gulf region has been produced by the Centre for Applied Microbiology and Research, CAMR; the Department of Health holds the product licence. These batches of vaccine were produced in 1991 and were given a shelf life of 2 years. They were subsequently retested in October 1966, when their shelf life was extended to January 1998. They underwent further potency testing in November 1997 and full safety testing by the National Institute for Biological Standards and Control in January 1998, following which the Medicines Control Agency extended the shelf life of these batches of vaccine to November 1998.

A large number of different strains of anthrax bacteria have been isolated from many sources across the world and it would be impractical to test a vaccine against all

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of these. However, the UK vaccine, which contains the purified proteins produced by the anthrax bacterium, has been tested against a representative selection of strains and has been shown to provide protection against both injected and aerosolised anthrax bacteria. The degree of protection afforded would, though, depend upon the inherent virulence characteristics of the particular strain encountered and upon the size of the challenge presented; no vaccine could guarantee 100 per cent. protection in all circumstances.

As a matter of policy the Government have decided to release details of medical countermeasures in use by UK forces. However, it remains our policy not to release detailed information on the effectiveness of these medical countermeasures.

In-flight Air Quality

Lord Morris of Manchester asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the Answer by the Baroness Hayman on 4 June (HL Deb, col. 468), what is their response to recent reports about poor and deteriorating in-flight air quality, particularly the oxygen content of such air; and what plans they have to undertake research into any harmful effect this may have on the consumer.[HL2169]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (Baroness Hayman): There is no evidence to suggest that air quality on aircraft is in any way deteriorating. Even when the air conditioning is set at

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its lowest level, the air in a modern aircraft cabin is completely changed every 3 minutes on average. This is well above the standard for public buildings.

All cabin air is taken from the external atmosphere, and there is no added oxygen. The degree of recirculation is determined by the aircraft designer and in some cases may be adjusted by the crew. The oxygen used by passengers is a small proportion, approximately 5 per cent. of the oxygen supplied at the minimum flow rate. The oxygen level in cabin air therefore remains at around 20 per cent. for the duration of a flight, which is virtually the same as normal atmospheric oxygen levels.

The air pressure in aircrafts in flight is roughly equivalent to the atmospheric pressure at 8,000 feet above sea level. People with some chronic respiratory diseases, such as bronchitis, emphysema and bronchiolitis may be affected by the lower air pressure in aircraft and could require supplementary oxygen. They are advised to consult their own doctor and the airline before flying. Lower air pressure will not affect those with well controlled asthma but stress or anxiety caused by travel could precipitate an attack.

There is no proven link between cabin air quality, flow rates and the spread of disease. The filters used in most modern aircraft are similar to those used in critical wards of hospitals, operating theatres and burn units, and provide protection against the circulation of biological agents such as viruses. We have no plans to conduct any research into this issue at present.

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