Back in the 19th century relatives of mine from the age of eight were sent down coal mines. For months on end they saw no sunlight. Today we know that sunlight provides vitamin D. We also know that in very rare cases of excessive exposure, sunlight can also cause skin cancer.
I suspect none of my 19th century relatives were ever lucky enough to go sunbathing. But Rickets was endemic amongst the poor. I expect they would have gladly traded their bent legs for a little sunshine and a miniscule risk of skin cancer.
Lack of sunlight (and so vitamin D) makes your bones soft. They bend. The victim can end up crippled or deformed. While there is a sensible case for skin protection in bright sunlight, the emphasis is on the word "sensible".
Rickets was eradicated many years ago. But now it has returned. Why? Because of an hysterical obsession with sunlight, its relationship to "radiation" and cancer. People have been coating their children with factor 50 sun-cream. That is, if they have even allowed them outside in the first place.
Confidently these paranoid parents see that no sunshine means no radiation, no cancer. The hysterical propaganda pushed out against nuclear power arrives at its final bizarre conclusion. In order for nuclear to be "unsafe" all radiation must be "unsafe". So Rickets returns.
How sad. But how typical.
I would put money on it that most of the parents of these poor children are avid supporters of trivialities like wind power, homoeopathy, crystal healing and palmistry. They are probably deeply suspicious of modern medicine and I would imagine they regard nuclear power with utter horror.
But really, this succinctly sums up the choice we have today. On one hand we can follow a fashionable paranoid doctrine, dwell on irrational fears and probably cripple our children in the process. Or on the other we can continue to embrace modern technology and medicine which have served us so well over the last two centuries.
People today have a quality of life immeasurably better than that of our Victorian ancestors. This has been solely achieved by 150 years of relentless scientific, medical and engineering progress. Regrettably there are plenty of pressure groups who are all too keen to reverse this progress. They are keen to portray the smallest risk as a conspiracy or cover-up, simply to promote their own twisted doctrines. Unfortunately there are even more fools who hang on their every word.
If we continue to over-react to these hyped-up scare stories, it is our children who will ultimately suffer.
Rickets regrettably, is only the thin end of the wedge.