December 2002. The Detroit News reports that a sweet-heart
deal for Dow Chemical negotiated by out-going republican
Governor John Engler fell apart when Dow would not accept language
modified by the state's attorney general's office. Public
health and environmental experts were pleased by the outcome,
as the proposal that was scuttled would have created an exception
in state regulations permitting a 9-fold higher level of dioxin
contamination around Midland, where Dow has operated for decades.
"Dow would have avoided potentially huge cleanup costs
under the consent order language" that fell through.
December 2002. No, this isn't about endocrine disruption. But it
is an astounding example of how the Bush Administration is willing
to put public health at risk. In a
remarkable investigative article for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch,
reporter Andrew Schneider reveals an outrageous intervention
by John Graham (White House Office of Management and Budget)
to prevent EPA from warning home owners around the country about
significant health risks arising from the use of asbestos-contaminated
insulation. The contamination is traceable to a vermiculite
mine in Libby, Montana, owned and operated by W.R. Grace.
that town near the Canadian border, ore from a vermiculite mine
was contaminated with an extremely lethal asbestos fiber
called tremolite that has killed or sickened thousands
of miners and their families. Ore from the Libby mine was shipped
across the nation and around the world, ending up in insulation
called Zonolite that was used in millions of homes, businesses
and schools across America."
EPA was prepared to issue a warning in April 2002, until Graham
intervened. His nomination to head that office had been challenged
by health and environment groups because of his past association
with an industry-tainted research center.
Administrator Christie Todd Whitman had made the decision to issue
the alert. This is one more reason why she should resign.
December 2002. In his second major story on perchlorate in the Wall
Street Journal in December, reporter Peter Waldman explores the
disruptive impacts that perchlorate contamination is having
on drinking water supplies. "Several of the nation's
fastest-growing areas -- including Las Vegas, Texas and Southern
California -- could face debilitating water shortages because of
groundwater contamination by perchlorate, the main ingredient of
solid rocket fuel." ... "Dozens of perchlorate-tainted
wells have been shuttered nationwide, casting a pall on growth plans
in several parched areas." According to Waldman, the
chief concern about perchlorate arises from the fact it is an endocrine
December 2002. In a front page story in the Wall Street Journal,
staff reporter Peter Waldman explores a controversy involving widespread
contamination by perchlorate resulting from its use as
a rocket fuel, and the possible health consequences of the toxin.
The debate pits the Environmental Protection Agency against the
Department of Defense, with the EPA focused on low level risks of
perchlorate associated with its capacity to disrupt thyroid function.
Relying on old data, DOD claims perchlorate is dangerous only at
very high levels. A sidebar in the WSJ describes perchlorate as
"one of a newly recognized group of toxins called endocrine
December 2002. In an article written for UPI's end-of-year review,
Science and Technology editor Dee
Ann Divis describes a disturbing pattern in
the approach the Bush Administration is taking to evaluate nominees
for scientific committees. Candidates have been rejected for making
contributions to Democratic candidates or for espousing positions
at odds with certain industries and Bush's far-right constituency.
Among the panels affected are a CDC's advisory committee, a panel
on lead poisoning, and the Army Science Board. The article cites
an accusation that the political review extends even to
peer-review study sections, thereby affecting the very nature of
research approved for federal support. Several scientific
organizations are raising objections, including the American Public
November 2002. Brian
Reid reports in the Washington Post about the controversy over
use of phthalates in cosmetics. An industry-funded scientific panel,the
Cosmetic Ingredient Review (CIR), has concluded that existing evidence
does not warrant removal of phthalates from nail polish, hair spray,
and other cosmetic products that contain them. Public health and
environmental groups, in contrast, assert that insufficient scientific
evidence exists to establish the safety of current exposures to
phthalates, especially considering the multiplicity of exposure
sources, not just cosmetics. More
on phthalates... And for information about which cosmetics contain
phthalates (and which don't, visit "the
November 2002. Writing
in The New York Times, Carol Kaesuk Yoon describes a controversy
boiling around published studies that indicate atrazine has dramatic
effects at low levels on sexual development in frogs. Three papers
published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences,
Nature, and Environmental Health Perspectives by Tyrone Hayes's
research group at Univ. Calif Berkeley, during the last 7 months
report that atrazine induces hermaphroditism in the lab that is
consistent with observations in the field. Industry-funded scientists
in the employ/consultancy of atrazine's producer, led by Ron Kendall
of Texas Tech (Lubbock, Texas) and EcoRisk, a firm that provides
toxicological advice to agrochemical companies, have claimed they
can't reproduce the results. More
on the research...
November 2002. Writing in the Baton Rouge Advocate, reporter Mike
the controversy brewing around EPA's scheduled evaluation of
atrazine. Several studies with frogs indicate atrazine causes harm
to amphibians, and a study of workers at the main atrazine production
facility in the US suggests a link to prostate cancer. These growing
signs of adverse effects cauesd EPA to postpone the compound's interim
reregistration decision from August 2002 to January 2003. A final
decision is now scheduled for August 2003.
November 2002. According to a new study described in the Baltimore
Sun and just released in the American Journal of Human Genetics,
babies conceived using in vitro fertilization techniques
(IVF) are more likely to be born with a rare genetic disorder called
Beckwith-Wiedemann Syndrome. Children with this disorder
at at higher risk for certain cancers before puberty and also tend
to be born large with large tongues and poor closures of the abdominal
wall, causing hernias that must be repaired surgically. Several
researchers interviewed by the Sun cautioned that while the data
are intriguing more research needs to be done before accepting the
November 2002. Stories in the New
York Times and the Kansas
City Star cover the the most sophisticated study of geographic
variation in US sperm count yet conducted. Scientists from four
different geographic regions across America report they find important
differences in sperm density and motility. Men in Missouri
have the lowest sperm count compared to New York, Minneapolis and
Los Angeles. The cause of these differences are not yet
known. The scientists conducting the study hypothesize it may be
related to the intensity of pesticide use in industrial agriculture
in Missouri compared to the other, more urban areas. More
on the study...
November 2002. In a detailed
cover story in USA Today, reporter Anita Manning examines a
new study of the health consequences of eating mercury-contaminated
fish. The report, by Dr. Jane Hightower, a physician from the San
Francisco area, examines health effects including hair loss, fatigue,
depression, difficulty concentrating and headaches. The report concludes
that anyone who consumes a lot of fish, especially large steak fish
such as swordfish and shark, could be at risk. The article in USA
Today also summarizes government recommendations for tuna consumption.
The low limits may surprise may parents whose children eat
canned tuna regularly.
same research was also covered
by San Francisco Chronicle environmental reporter Jane Kay.
Her story focused on the reversibility of mercury levels in the
adult patients studied by Hightower, who commented: "We
found that if people eat fish, the mercury goes up. They stop eating
the fish, the mercury goes down. It's that simple."
Kay cites "Tiburon resident Susie Piallat, a longtime patient
of Hightower's, had been complaining for years of a flu-like feeling
that she couldn't shake. When tested, her mercury level was 76 parts
per billion -- more than 15 times the federal safety number..."It
took almost a year for my level to drop. Now I feel so much better,"
said Piallat." [Note: Reversibility of fetal and early childhood
effects is another matter and much less likely.]
November 2002. According to a
story in the San Francisco Chronicle, UC Berkeley developmental
biologist Tyrone Hayes was "not expected to become
an eminent scientist." Yet now according his peers in science,
"he's an outstanding scientist, one of the leaders in this
field." And in that field he is challenging huge financial
interests with information indicating that one of the world's most
abundantly used herbicides, atrazine, is an extraordinarily powerful
endocrine disruptor, severely undermining frog development. More
on Hayes's research...
October 2002. The Associated
Press and Reuters
both report on a special joint hearing of the health committees
of the California State Senate and Assembly about breast cancer.
Dr. Ana Soto, a specialist in breast cancer at Tufts Medical School,
told the committees that "Breast cancer rates in the
United States have increased from one in 22 in the 1940s to one
in eight today, and the factors that are known to increase
the risk of breast cancer -- reproductive history, genetics, exercise
and alcohol use -- account for less than half of all cases. She
added "it is high time to seriously consider environmental
chemicals as the most likely cause of this sudden increase in risk."
Dr. Gina Solomon, a senior scientist at the National Resources Defense
Council, also testified. Dr. Solomon suggested that "drawing
more links between environmental toxins and breast cancer could
help to broaden understanding of who develops the disease and why."
October 2002. Katherine Ellison writes
in the Washington Post about an epidemiological puzzle emerging
from Marin County, California, where non-Hispanic white women "have
received a diagnosis of breast cancer nearly 40% higher than the
national norm." According to Kenneth Olden, the director of
the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, "rates
are higher here than anywhere else." Yet no explanation
offered to date appears sufficient to explain the apparent epidemic.
Olden, according to the article, consigns it to "demographics."
One community activist, Fern Orenstein, responds "It's
easy for them to say "demographcis," but--hello? There
hasn't been enough research into what's in our air and in our soil
and in the products we use."
October 2002. In an editorial, the New
York Times comments on the "shocking report from California"
indicating that the drastic upsurge in autism rates
that had been discovered within that state is real rather than a
statistical artifact. According to the Times, "California's
self-examination has underscored the surprising lack of information
about the prevalence of this relatively rare brain disorder elsewhere
in the nation. Studies carried out by the federal Centers for Disease
Control and Prevention in recent years found that the number of
cases in metropolitan Atlanta and in one New Jersey township were
significantly higher than previous estimates of prevalence would
suggest. But nobody knows for sure what the nationwide trends are."
Left unstated is the fact that this could be said for many
other health trends affecting learning and behavior. In
the meantime, comments the Times, "it could take years to unravel
the widening mystery of autism." More
on the study...
October 2002. Writing in the Boston Globe, reporter Sally Jacobs
explores a brewing controversy over the ubiquitous use of phthalates
as chemical additives in a wide range of consumer products, many
used as cosmetics.
Now, according to the Globe, "many women are backing
away from their vanity tables and worrying"
that phthalate exposure may have damaged their children while in
the womb. More...
October 2002. Writing in the Anchorage
Daily News, Tom Kizzia reports on a new study finding high levels
of PCBs in the blood of Alaskan natives living on islands in the
Bering Sea. The study, carried out by an environmental health organization,
Alaska Community Action on Toxics, on St Lawrence Island, found
PCB levels up to 19 parts per billion and averaging 7.5 ppb. Nationwide,
PCB burdens average 0.9 to 1.5 ppb. The study was prompted by villager
concerns about increases in cancer and other health concerns such
October 2002. Reuters
reports on a scientific study finding that " health of polar
bears and the indigenous peoples of the Arctic is at serious risk
from man-made toxins being carried there by air and sea." The
report (a PDF file) released by the Arctic Monitoring and Assessment
Programme (a programme of the intergovernmental Arctic Council),
summarizes data on pollution of the Arctic by heavy metals and persistent
organic pollutants. In the cautious language of science:
effects have been observed in some of the most highly exposed
or sensitive species in some areas of the Arctic. Several
studies have now been completed on a number of Arctic species,
reporting the types of effects that have been associated in
non-Arctic species with chronic exposure to POPs, of which
there are several examples. Reduced immunological response
in polar bears and northern fur seals has led to increased
susceptibility to infection. Immunological, behavioral, and
reproductive effects as well as reduced adult survival has
been found in glaucous gulls. Peregrine falcons have suffered
from eggshell thinning and reproductive effects."
then specifically on human health:
health effects are occurring in certain areas of the Arctic
due to exposure to contaminants in traditional food, particularly
for mercury and PCBs. The evidence suggests that the greatest
concern is for fetal and neonatal development.
September 2002. The BBC
reports that scientific concerns are mounting over increasing
contamination of wildlife by brominated flame retardants in the
Arctic. Levels are rising quite sharply and they appear to be associated
with impacts on polar bears and sea gulls, which already bear significant
PCB contamination. According to a Norwegian scientist quoted by
BBC, Dr. Dr Hans Wolkers, brominated flame retardant concentrations
are now doubling every five years.
on brominated flame retardants...
September 2002. Writing in the LA
Times, Elizabeth Green reports on research conducted at the
University of Wisconsin finding that a commercial mixture
of lawn chemical herbicides including 2,4-D causes fetal
loss in mice. The scientists who carried out the research obtained
the herbicides by simply going to a local hardware store
and buying a common brand.
are usually conducted on pure components of such brands, instead
of the actual mixtures sold. Tests with the pure components had
indicated exposure at levels used in these experiments should not
have caused effects. In fact, the lowest level used in the experiments,
which caused significant fetal loss, was one-seventh the
level allowed by EPA in drinking water.
results indicate that mixtures must become a focus of regulatory
testing for toxicology, and that current standards are not
September 2002. Picking up on a story first carried by Science Magazine,
Rick Weiss writes in the Washington
Post that the Bush Administration is packing key scientific
panels with industry advocates. One of the affected committees
advises the US Centers for Disease Control on the health
impacts of environmental exposures to chemicals. While
an administration spokesperson claimed that "no litmus test"
was used in selecting new committee members, a candidate who ultimately
was rejected reported being told that his candidacy was rejected
because his views did not match Bush's.
to the Post, new members of the CDC advisory panel include "Roger
McClellan, former president of the Chemical Industry Institute of
Toxicology, a North Carolina research firm supported by chemical
company dues; Becky Norton Dunlop, a vice president of the Heritage
Foundation who, as Virginia's secretary of natural resources, fought
against environmental regulation; and Lois Swirsky Gold, a University
of California risk-assessment specialist who has made a career countering
environmentalists' claims of links between pollutants and cancer.
The committee also includes Dennis Paustenbach, the California toxicologist
who served as an expert witness for Pacific Gas and Electric when
the utility was sued for allowing poisonous chromium to leach into
groundwater. The case was made famous in the movie "Erin Brockovich."
September 2002. According
to the Canadian Broadcast Corporation, a government study of
meat and dairy products imported to Canada from the US discovered
dioxin contamination levels far exceeding internationally
accepted health standards. The contaminated foods included
beef, pork and cheese. While the government agency that sponsored
the study, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, discounted any dangers,
the CBC interviewed Armand Tremblay, professor of veterinary medicine
at the University of Montreal, who reached a very different conclusion,
saying that any products with dioxin contamination at levels reported
by the agency should be pulled from shelves. "I was
stunned and concerned at the test results," said Tremblay.
September 2002. Reuters
Health News Service reports that scientific experts on the health
effects of mercury have concluded that sufficient evidence
is now available to justify a international action to reduce
mercury exposures. One option under consideration is a
legally-binding international convention sponsored by the United
Environment Programme Global Mercury Assessment.
August 2002. In an editorial,
the New York Times argues that "it
is time to rein in this fruitless quest" for an environmental
cause of breast cancer on Long Island, based on the recent negative
findings reported by by the Long Island Breast Cancer Study Project.
Unfortunately, for the Times conclusion, you can't
rule out an association using a study whose design precluded being
able to find one in the first place. The study's conclusions
were limited by two design flaws:
it examined chemical levels at the time of cancer diagnosis,
not at the time of breast cancer initiation. Current
research indicates that this may take place decades before
breast cancer detection, with periods of maximum sensitivity
proposed to occur in the womb and around puberty.
its statistical design was inappropriate for
examining chemicals interacting in mixtures,
in which they always occur, particularly when the chemicals
are hypothesized to act through a common mechanism, which in
this case they are (estrogenicity).
far more responsible and in-depth coverage of this study, see Newsday's
August 2002. The Washington
Post reports that a study by the Environmental Working Group
and the University of North Carolina "strongly challenges
the government's recent assertion that older playground equipment,
decks and outdoor furniture made of arsenic-treated lumber poses
less of a threat than newer, similarly treated wood products that
are being phased out."
February 2002, EPA announced a 3-year phaseout of chromated
copper arsenic (CCA) wood. In EPA's advisory, it asserted
that it "does not believe there is any reason to remove or
replace arsenic-treated structures, including decks or playground
equipment," although no data were provided to substantiate
that statement. Now, in the largest
study ever conducted of installed CCA wood in decks and playground
structures, the Environmental Working Group and the University of
North Carolina-Asheville report that old structures leach
virtually as much arsenic as new structures, and that sealed
structures leach significant amounts within 6 months of coating.
study also reported on arsenic levels in the soil around the arsenic-treated
wood structures. They found that 38% of sites had arsenic
levels at SuperFund levels or above (20 ppm).
amount of leaching is clearly within a range that can be
harmful to children after only a few minutes contact, transfering
to their hands more arsenic than is allowed per liter in drinking
water (10 ppb). And even at level
beneath the current standard, arsenic is an endocrine disruptor,
with glucocorticoid activation of a tumor suppressing gene.
Current arsenic standards do not reflect this new science.
August 2002. In an opinion piece on the Fox News website arguing
that DDT should be used to combat West Nile Virus, "junkscience"
commentator Steven Milloy makes it clear that main source
of junk in his writing is his own uninformed analysis.
August 2002. Web magazine TomPaine.com
features an article
by reporter Cynthia Cooper on an emerging alliance of environmental
health advocates and reproductive rights campaigners. Their common
agenda is to reduce exposures to chemicals that could be
causing reproductive damage. Cooper quotes
Compton Foundation Executive Director Edith Eddy on why this alliance
is emerging: "Nothing could be more potent than not being able
to reproduce, or having our children being unable to reproduce."
Newest research on fertility and chemicals...
Recent important findings...
August 2002. As reported by the BBC,
Independent and other news sources, The World Health
Organization released its final version of a global
assessment of the animal and human impacts of endocrine disruption.
The report concludes that wildlife effects are extensive
and well documented, but that more studies are needed to
establish or reject human impacts. Lab and wildlife studies with
animals give plausibility to widespread human effects, but the studies
that would be capable of proving or disproving effects in people
have not been done. It should be noted that the WHO criteria
for establishing endocrine disruption in humans were extremely stringent,
requiring detailed knowledge of the mechanism before accepting the
evidence as definitive. Commenting on cautiousness of the WHO report,
WWF-UK toxicologist Gwynne Lyons observed "It is worth remembering
that epidemiological research in 1952 demonstrated that smoking
caused lung cancer, but the probable causal mechanism was not found
until 1996, and even this is still not universally accepted."
In essence, the WHO report confirms
the scientific validity of the issues we raised initially in 1996
in Our Stolen Future. More
on the WHO synthesis...
July 2002. Anticipating the release of a federally-funded study
on links between high breast cancer rates on Long Island, New York,
and exposure to organochlorine chemicals, Newsday
runs a remarkable 3-part
series about the research, written by Dan Fagin. The series
tracks the study from its origins in the hands of breast-cancer
activists lobbying Congress through to its disappointing conclusions.
as the Long Island Breast Cancer Study Project,
the research promised groundbreaking techniques and held out
the hope of momentous results. Elated activists were told
they would have unequalled access to the scientists and would
help make key decisions about how the studies would be designed
and carried out."
the optimism and camaraderie ... are a distant memory. ...
the federal research project they fought so hard for is years
behind schedule and is almost unrecognizable compared with
what the activists and their congressional sponsors had envisioned
a decade ago. In trying so hard to please the scientists and
the activists, the project's administrators at the National
Cancer Institute in Bethesda, Md., instead have left both
groups profoundly frustrated and disappointed."
biggest of the 12 studies -- an $8-million one involving more
than 3,000 Long Island women -- is expected to be published
next week, more than four years behind schedule. For undisclosed
reasons, two high-profile scientific journals have refused
to publish the study. When the results finally do come out,
one of the researchers said, they "are not going to be
of the studies will be able to answer the burning environmental
questions that prompted Congress to mandate the research project
in 1993. Instead of scrutinizing chemicals in wide use, for
example, the studies are focused on a handful of banned chemicals
no longer regarded as the prime suspects they were a decade
contrast to Newsday's extensive coverage by Fagin, the New York
Times ran an op-ed
by Gina Kolata. A key passage: "And even if there is a
link [between contamination and breast cancer], several experts
said, it may be beyond the capacity of science to find it."
This is an important observation and consistent with the limits
of what can be concluded from the study, yet Kolata goes on to mischaracterize
the key findings, writing: " those who got breast cancer were
no more likely to have been exposed to the chemicals than those
fact, the study found that current levels of specific organochlorine
levels in the women's blood are not associated with an elevated
risk of breast cancer.
This is not the same as Kolata's reinterpretation, because
current levels may not accurately reflect past exposures.
An unresolved question is whether contamination levels at the time
of diagnosis accurately reflect exposure levels at the time of biological
impact of the contaminant, which may have been decades earlier.
As the authors of the study note: "These data do not rule out
the possibility, however, that breast cancer risk is elevated by
high organochlorine exposures several decades earlier."
on the research itself and the limitations of epidemiology...
May 2002. The Daily
Herald (suburban Chicago) reports that demonstrators picketed
the annual stockholder meeting of Stericycle to protest the
company's medical waste incinerators. Led by DC-based Health
Care Without Harm (HCWH), the protestors wore plaster casts
of pregnant bellies to draw attention to the presence of dioxin,
mercury and other reproductive toxicants in emissions from hospital
incinerators. Based in Lake Forest, IL, Stericycle is the world's
largest medical waste disposal company. The demonstrators are urging
Stericycle to shift to waste management methods that do not use
incineration. According to the Daily Herald, Stericycle barred a
newspaper reporter from the annual meeting, and the hotel in which
the meeting was taking place unexpectedly ejected HCWH from a room
it had rented for a press conference.
May 2002. On the Scripps Howard News Service, reporter
Joan Lowy describes a new global review of research on endocrine
disruption which concludes that the strength of the animal data
on endocrine disruption justifies concerns about human health.
To date, however, human data are weak... key studies have simply
not been conducted. The review was conducted by the International
Programme on Chemical Safety (IPCS) in collaboration with the U.S.
National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. IPCS itself
is sponsored by the World Health Organization, the United Nations
Environment Programme, and the International Labor Organization.
Two companion articles by Lowy examined links
between chemicals and hypospadias and an effort
by one California family to reduce exposures. More
on the global review... More
May 2002. According to the
Orlando Sentinel, an as yet-unidentified contaminant is leaking
from one of the country's oldest Superfund sites into the Florida
Aquifer, Central Florida's primary source of drinking water.
The leak is at the Tower Chemical site near Lake Apopka that has
become infamous through Louis
Guillette's studies of reproductive impairment of alligators
living in the lake. EPA had ended cleanup of the site a decade ago,
concluding that additional spread of the contamination was unlikely
and that natural breakdown processes would gradually reduce the
contaminants' toxicity. What was not suspected at that time was
that a sinkhole penetrated from surface through a clay layer that
had been thought to protect the Florida Aquifer from surface contamination.
New sampling has confirmed that a contaminant of unknown identify
and uncertain toxicity has reached the aquifer and is beginning
April 2002. The LA
Times describes research on transpacific transport of air pollution
from Asia via an "atmospheric conveyor belt." Especially
during spring, large quantities of relatively undiluted pollution
reach North America via air currents. Contaminants in the traveling
air masses include mercury, ozone and pesticides, as well as dust.
The LA Times quotes Dr. Rudolf Husar, director of the Center for
Air Pollution Impact and Trend Analysis at Washington University
in St. Louis: "Once the pollution gets on that conveyor
belt, it often doesn't run into clouds or weather systems and doesn't
mix or fall out of the air, so you have largely undiluted pollution
arriving in North America." [more
on related research]
April 2002. A report
in Toronto's Globe and Mail describes scientific research at
the University of Waterloo, in Ontario Canada, indicating that low
level exposure to some pesticides can reduce a frog's ability to
resist disease very dramatically. DDT and malathion both reduced
antibody levels to only 1 or 2 percent, comparable to the impact
of a drug used in medicine to suppress immune systems in humans,
cyclophosphamide. According to the The Globe and Mail, the lead
researcher on the study, Brian Dixon "was "shocked"
that negligible amounts of pesticides were so biologically active."
The scientists found that doses of DDT as low as 75 parts per billion
caused immune system problems in frogs. Malathion and dieldrin also
had deleterious effects. The researchers
also found that frogs living in different places in Ontario had
major differences in immune system effectiveness that reflected
the intensity of pesticide use in different areas. The study will
be published later in the year in the scientific journal Environmental
Toxicology and Chemistry.
April 2002. In a Congressional hearing on Capitol Hill, a bipartisan
team of Senators blasted the EPA as well as the Alabama Department
of Environmental Management and Monsanto/Solutia in hearings about
massive PCB contamination in Anniston, Alabama, according
to reports the Washington
Post and the Anniston
Star. The Post quotes Alabama Republican Senator Richard Shelby:
"You've botched this. The EPA does not have the trust or confidence
of this committee, and we're your funding committee." Reviewing
the facts that two senior EPA officials have ties to industry in
Alabama (EPA deputy administrator Linda Fisher was formerly a Monsanto
lobbyist), Senator Barbara Mikulski
observed "this is just loaded with conflicts of interest. I'm
very troubled. Who's going to be able to do anything about this
if everyone's recused?" According to the Star, Mikulski observed
that it was "uncharacteristic" for the EPA administrator
to appoint officers with a major conflict of interest. Perhaps she
should take a look throughout the Bush Administration.
April 2002. The Sacramento
Bee reports that EPA has agreed to settle a lawsuit with environmental
organizations over the effects of 18 commonly-used pesticides on
salmon and woodland plants. The settlement
requires EPA to analyze possible impacts of the pesticides on 7
salmon and 33 plant species, and to take steps to "minimize
the pesticides' effects." Pesticides covered by the consent
decree include including chlorpyrifos, diazinon, atrazine, Roundup,
and 2,4-D. The suit was brought in August 2000
for Alternatives to Toxins, The Environmental Information Protection
Center, and the Humboldt Watershed Council. The settlement will
become final after a public comment period to be announced on EPA's
research on salmon and pesticides]
April 2002. Toronto's Globe and Mail reports
on a study
conducted by a consortium of Canada's cancer registries that concludes
cancers in young adult Canadians are increasing.
"The incidence of thyroid cancer among young people leads the
way, a report says, with a 6.6-per-cent rise among women and a 4.4-per-cent
rise among men. Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma is affecting 3.5 per cent
more women and 4 per cent more men." According to the Globe
and Mail, "older Canadians still account for the vast bulk
of cancer diagnoses, [the report] called the rise among younger
links non-Hodgkin's lymphoma to contamination]
April 2002. The NYT
and SF Chronicle
report on Tyrone Hayes' research on atrazine and frogs (next story,
below), The Times quotes Stan Dodson from Univ. Wisconsin:
"the most important paper in environmental toxicology in decades."
The Chronicle gives more details of the study, and writes: "Despite
the many unknowns, scientists said they were troubled by evidence
of reproductive defects in animals exposed to extraordinarily low
concentrations of atrazine -- down to as little as 0.1 part per
March 2002. Elizabeth
Bluemink writes in the Anniston Star that Congress has scheduled
for 19 April a review of the EPA consent decree that requires Solutia
and Monsanto to pay for clean-up of massive PCB contamination in
the Anniston area. The hearing will be hosted by the Senate subcommittee
on Veterans Affairs, Housing and Urban Development and Independent
Agencies. According to the Star, Solutia is attempting to use the
consent decree as a reason to dismiss a lawsuit against it by 3,500
residents of the Anniston area. A related
story in the Washington Post (24 March) reports:
Solutia is arguing that since it has signed a consent decree
with the Environmental Protection Agency and the Justice Department,
the Alabama judge has no business ordering additional cleanup
measures. Donald Stewart, an attorney for 3,500 residents suing
Solutia, described the settlement as a "sweetheart deal"
and attacked the Bush administration for overruling state environmental
officials who have joined his lawsuit.
March 2002. A provocative series in the London Independent covers
concerns in Britain about increases in birth defects, decreases
in fertility and the presence of feminizing chemicals in British
one part of the series, Health Editor Jeremy Laurance describes
research in Britain indicating that the numbers of babies with birth
defects has risen by 50% in the last 5 years. The research was conducted
by The Birth Defects Foundation (BDF). Its calculations indicate
that the total number of birth defects in British infants is "six
times higher than the Government's own figures for neonatal abnormalities
and amounts to one in 16 of all births. However, the Office of National
Statistics admits its own figures do not reflect the scale of the
problem." While BDF reports that some types of birth defects
are declining in frequency, there has been a sharp rise in three
specific defects cleft lip or palate, gastroschisis (abnormality
of the abdominal wall) and hypospadias
(abnormality of the genitals).
second piece by reporters Geoffrey Lean and Richard Sadler summarizes
data obtained by the British Environment Agency indicating "that
half of all the male fish in lowland rivers are changing sex as
a result of pollution."
the third story, titled "British
Men are less fertile than hamsters," reporters Geoffrey
Lean and Richard Sadler examine evidence of reduced male fertility
in England. They refer to an investigation by the BBC's Countryfile
and The Independent on Sunday which "shows that artificial
oestrogens, used in contraceptive pills and emitted through sewage
works, appear to be changing the sex of half the fish in Britain's
lowland rivers... Scientists and environmentalists
fear that the powerful chemicals are getting into drinking water
and affecting human fertility. One third of Britain's drinking water
comes from rivers; most of it is taken from below sewage works."
March 2002. The US EPA has reached an agreement with Monsanto/Solutia
over a consent decree that will force the companies to clean up
PCBs dumped by Monsanto during decades in the Anniston AL environment.
According to coverage
in the Anniston Star, "the PCBs have been found to have polluted
the air, ditches and yards in low-income neighborhoods as well as
rural and urban creeks, recreational lakes and a 40-mile stretch
of floodplain." The consent decree will allow the EPA to avoid
declaring the contaminated region a SuperFund site, unless Monsanto/Solutia
back away from the stipulated plans for clean-up. If Solutia cannot
afford the costs, Monsanto and Pharmacia (Monsanto's parent company)
must supply additional funding. While EPA officials touted the agreement
as "one of the best," environmentalists, Anniston city
officials and public health specialists challenged the adequacy
of the arrangement, according to a
subsequent story in the Anniston Star. The judge overseeing
a suit by local citizens and the city of Anniston both indicated
they are likely to seek additional remedies beyond those sought
February 2002. A jury found Monsanto/Solutia guilty of "outrageous
behavior" for releasing tons of PCBs into the city of Anniston
and then covering up its actions for decades. According to reports
in the Washington
Post, the New
York Times and the Anniston
Star, the jury held Monsanto and its corporate successors liable
on all six counts of the allegations: negligence, wantonness, suppression
of the truth, nuisance, trespass and outrage. The finding of outrage
is especially telling, as the standards of Alabama law require behavior
"so outrageous in character and extreme in degree as to go
beyond all possible bounds of decency so as to be regarded as
atrocious and utterly intolerable in civilized society."
February 2002. A report
in the Los Angeles Times describes growing scientific concerns
about potential health and ecological risks caused by a widespread
type of chemical flame retardant,polybrominated diphenyl ether (PBDE).
According to the Times, "Swedish scientists first documented
the increase of PBDE in humans. For 30 years, Sweden has sampled
the breast milk of nursing mothers to track exposure to dioxin,
PCBs and other pollutants that accumulate in body fat...In 1998,
Swedish scientists reported that levels of PBDE in breast milk had
increased 40-fold since 1972." While the toxicity of PBDE is
poorly understood, preliminary
indications are that it is potent thyroid disruptor and thus
capable of undermining brain development. The LA Times story quotes
Swedish toxicologist Per Eriksson: "What we have seen in our
developmental neurotoxicity studies . . . is that PBDEs can be as
toxic as the PCBs." In fact the preliminary indications,
above, indicate PBDE is likely to be worse than PCBs.
February. The Toronto Star ran a story about Anniston headlined:
residents seek compensation in Alabama town that was secretly poisoned
for decades. This is one of the most comprehensive single articles
written about what Monsanto did to Anniston, how they hid what they
did, what they actually new, and that also gives a telling portrait
of the victims. Much of the material in the story is based on documents
obtained by discovery in legal proceedings and now available on
line at The
Chemical Industry Archives. Even this story, however, fails
to broaden the definition of Monsanto's victim to include, as it
should, those communities, especially in the far North, that became
victims of Monsanto's dumping because of the global redistribution
of PCBs after they escaped into the environment.
show that Monsanto knew as early as the 1950s that PCBs were
a toxic danger, but that the company skilfully hid that evidence
from residents, all the while dumping PCB waste sometimes
more than 110 kilograms of it a day into two huge unlined
landfill sites near the Hanveys' [a cancer victim described
by the Star] neighbourhood." "Anniston's rising cancer
rate, although never studied scientifically, is often measured
by the growing number of tombstones and abandoned houses."
"The story could be a sequel to the Academy Award-winning
movie Erin Brockovich, except it's missing the people's-advocate
title character. Instead, small groups of town residents are
getting together to seek compensation on a piecemeal basis through
the courts, while little is being done to effect a comprehensive
cleanup of Anniston's toxic swamp."
January 2001. In a front
page story in the Anniston Star, reporter Elizabeth Bluemink
describes the case being prepared by victims of Monsanto's massive
PCB contamination of the Anniston area:
claim property damages, personal injuries, fraud, mental anguish
or a combination of these and other related claims. They ask
the judge to order dredging of the waterways and removal of
two old landfills, one of which contains an estimated excess
of 10 million pounds of PCBs, which are probable carcinogens.
Also, they ask the jury to assess punitive damages against the
company. It is a complicated case, with, reportedly, more than
a half-billion dollars at stake."
and Solutia (which took over Monsanto's chemical operations) continue
to claim they acted responsibly. Yet even as recently as March 2001,
in an exchange published by the Anniston Star, Solutia's environmental
officer belittled health concerns about PCBs. More...
see the Anniston Star's PCB archives
Front page Washinton Post story (1 January
January 2002. Solutia stock was hammered after a Washington Post
story (see below) about PCB contamination drew attention to a civil
suit seeking damages on behalf of 3,600 people in and around Anniston,
Alabama. The stock fell 10% on 2 January and another 26% on 3 January.
Monsanto sold its chemical business in 1997 to Solutia. More...
January 2002. The Washington
Post reports in a front page article on devastating PCB and
mercury contamination in Anniston, Alabama, a result of years of
pollution by Monsanto. Internal documents from Monsanto reveal that
the company was aware of the extent of the pollution but for decades
engaged in a cover-up. From the Post:
1966, Monsanto managers discovered that fish submerged in
that creek turned belly-up within 10 seconds, spurting blood
and shedding skin as if dunked into boiling water. They told
no one. In 1969, they found fish in another creek with 7,500
times the legal PCB levels. They decided "there is little
object in going to expensive extremes in limiting discharges."
In 1975, a company study found that PCBs caused tumors in
rats. They ordered its conclusion changed from "slightly
tumorigenic" to "does not appear to be carcinogenic."
enjoyed a lucrative four-decade monopoly on PCB production
in the United States, and battled to protect that monopoly
long after PCBs were confirmed as a global pollutant. "We
can't afford to lose one dollar of business," one internal
article in the Post tells the story of Ruth Mim's, an Anniston
resident whose blood levels of PCBs are among the highest ever recorded
in someone contaminated by PCBs who was not
exposed in the workplace.
December 2001. The Seattle
Times reports on a study by People for Puget Sound (pdf
file) which finds widespread pollution in Puget Sound is threatening
whales, salmon and other wildlife. "Evidence increasingly suggests
toxic chemicals have found their way into every level of the Puget
Sound marine-life food chain, potentially causing smaller growth
rates for salmon fry, liver lesions
in English sole and reproductive problems in rockfish." While
evidence suggests that the Sound is cleaner that it was a generation
ago, scientific research is revealing that contamination can cause
damage at levels far beneath what was once thought possible.