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Lung Diseases

Volume 640: debated on Tuesday 16 May 1961

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asked the Parliamentary Secretary for Science if he will investigate the cause of the high incidence of bronchial diseases among industrial workers.


asked the Parliamentary Secretary for Science if he will consider appointing a committee to carry out medical research into bronchitis, emphysema and other lung diseases.

This is the function of the Medical Research Council, which already has a number of committees advising it on research into the causes and treatment of bronchitis, emphysema and other lung diseases, including the effect of occupation and air pollution.

Does not the Minister realise the seriousness of this matter and that there are no objections to his Department carrying out some survey or scientific investigation into the causes, in addition to the study being made by the medical committees that are already in existence?

The whole question of future industrial health surveys, particularly in relation to bronchitis, is at present under consideration by a subcommittee of the Ministry of Labour's Industrial Advisory Committee, on which the Medical Research Council is represented.

Will the Parliamentary Secretary make certain that his Department does something further about this matter? Is the hon. Gentleman aware that there are 30,000 deaths from bronchial diseases every year in Britain, and that 26 million working days are lost each year? Is he also aware that four of every five of that figure happen to be in the industrial North, and that, therefore, hon. Members who represent that area are especially interested in ensuring that research into these diseases is carried out? Will the Parliamentary Secretary assure hon. Members that he will do something more in this matter?

The Medical Research Council is doing a very great deal of work on this subject. It has no less than ten committees actively engaged in research work in this field.

Can the Parliamentary Secretary say whether the Medical Research Council is paying special attention to those industries where workers are subjected to the inhalation of irritating dust, such as miners, pottery workers and foundry workers? If not, will the Parliamentary Secretary urge the Medical Research Council to pay special attention to this matter?

As has already been announced, the Ministry of Pensions and National Insurance is undertaking an inquiry into the incidence of incapacitating diseases in different occupations and areas. This will, to some extent, cover the problem, although the Medical Research Council covers research into causes such as occupation and air pollution.