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Wednesday, 6 January, 1999, 04:20 GMT
Blood tests urged for ethnic workers
Testing can help prevent chronic illness or death
Testing can help prevent chronic illness or death
A union leader has called for blood tests for ethnic workers designed to detect the life-threatening sickle-cell disease.

GMB General Secretary John Edmonds told a national conference on race that employers should allow staff time off work to take the tests.

"An extra facility to allow staff to have the sickle-cell test would require little effort and could save chronic illness and the lives of thousands," he said.

One in 10

Sickle-cell anaemia is an inherited condition that primarily affects black people, but is also present in some people of Mediterranean origin.

It manifests itself as jaundice, fatigue, headaches and shortness of breath and it is estimated that one in 10 black people in the UK have the trait.

The figure drops to one in 100 for those of West African descent and one in 200 for those of West Indian descent.

A GMB source said that sickle-cell screening and tests for thelassaemia - another blood disorder - in Italy, Greece and Cyprus led to falls of up to 75% in thelassaemic births.

A "conventional blood test" will detect disorders with 99% accuracy, said the GMB.

In presenting a 1,280 cheque to the Sickle-Cell Charity, Mr Edmonds said: "The GMB will be encouraging employers to help tackle the unnecessary deaths from sickle-cell.

"Employers can make a big difference by facilitating staff to participate in screen programmes."

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