Mondayâ€™s Financial Times had 2 reports about the Bush administrationâ€™s pro chemical lobbying that should alarm all those concerned about human health and the environment. The first was titled â€œUS diplomats to lobby EU on chemicals rulesâ€ and second â€œUS wins deal over Montreal Protocol.â€
The FT reports: â€œColin Powell,
Why is Powell anxious? â€œ
The European position doesnâ€™t sound unreasonable. Unless you are, say, a chemical company. And then, in Powellâ€™s words, â€œthe proposals will create a costly, disproportionately burdensome, and complex regulatory system, which could prove difficult, if not unworkable, in its implementation.
But Powellâ€™s no dummy so in the cable he told US diplomats to approach European officials by saying that "we [presumably the chemical industry] fully support the EU's efforts to protect human health and the environment" but "the [draft] text still lacks clarity and the proposals would require member state governments, manufacturers and exporters to comply with an extremely complex, costly and burdensome regulatory system." Nobody likes a complex regulatory system yet maybe when a lack of regulation leads to 10s if not hundreds of thousands of deaths and disabilities it might be a good idea.
A Canadian Press article explains: â€œmanmade chemicals in air, water, food and the workplace are largely to blame for a devastating cancer epidemic which will strike 41 per cent of Canadian males and 38 per cent of females, says a study released yesterday.â€ â€œThe [Canadian cancer] toll is more dramatic when considered over a longer period: In 1921, cancer killed 6.6 per cent of males and 8.6 per cent of females, but now the death rate has risen to 27.4 per cent for men and 23.1 per cent for women, the report says.â€ (2)
According to Dr. Samuel Epstein at the University of Illinois School of Public Health and chair of the Cancer Prevention Coalition; â€œOver recent decades, the incidence of cancer has escalated to epidemic proportions, now striking nearly one in every two men, and over one in every three women in their lifetimes. Even more disturbing is the recent recognition that this very high incidence of cancer is going to increase further still and, by the year 2050, it will be doubling the current very high incidence rate.
If you look at a cancer called non-Hodgkinâ€™s lymphoma (the cancer from which Jackie Kennedy died), over the last few decades, the incidence has gone up by nearly 100 percent. When you look at brain cancer, the incidence has gone up about 80 or 90 percent. When you look at breast cancer, itâ€™s gone up about 60 or 65 percent. When you look at testicular cancer, particularly in men between the ages of 28-35, itâ€™s gone up, believe it or not, nearly 300 percent. When you look at childhood cancers, depending on the particular cancer, the incidence has gone up as high as 40-50 percent. These are all non-smoking cancers.
Is it because people are living longer that theyâ€™re getting more cancers? The answer to that is no, because when we talk about cancer incidence rates, we adjust them to reflect the increasing longevity of the population.
Can genetics be the possible reason for this major increase in cancer? Not at all. Thereâ€™s no chance whatsoever that the genetics of human populations has changed in the last 40-50 years. What about fatty diet? Thereâ€™s really little evidence that fat is a risk factor for cancer. For instance, if you look at Mediterranean countries, they have extremely high fat consumption, particularly olive oil, which can be as high as 40 percent of the diet. But the rates of cancers, particularly reproductive cancers, are low. However, you find strong relationships between the consumption of animal and dairy fats and some cancers. But thatâ€™s a reflection of the fact that these are highly contaminated with a wide range of industrial, chemical, and petrochemical carcinogens.â€ (3)
Not only is cancer a risk. Danielle Knight reports, â€œtoxic chemicals commonly released by industry into the environment in large quantities across the
The second FT article on Monday was regarding â€œa
What is Methyl bromide, you ask?
According to Global Response: â€œMethyl bromide is a pesticide used to sterilize fields before planting crops like strawberries and tomatoes. A colorless and odorless gas, it is injected into the soil where it kills all living organisms. In such â€˜dead soil,â€™ crops become increasingly reliant on synthetic chemicals.
Methyl bromide is extremely toxic - a â€˜Class I Acute Toxin,â€™ according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Known effects of exposure include brain damage, harm to the nervous system, lungs, kidneys and liver - and death. Farmworkers and nearby residents often complain of dizziness, fatigue, muscle aches and mental confusion as a result of low-level exposure.â€
But it must be necessary why else would we subject farmworkers and ourselves to the health risks, right? Not quite. Global Response again:
â€œThe U.N. Methyl Bromide Technical Options Committee, composed of 68 scientists from 23 countries, concluded that alternatives exist, or are at an advanced stage of development, for more than 90 percent of methyl bromide uses. Dr. Jamie Liebman, staff scientist with Pesticide Action Network, found that â€˜for all of the major uses of this pesticide as a soil fumigant, there are examples of the same crops currently grown profitably, in the
If a poor country like
Companies release an average of 2 to 5 new chemicals into our environment each day, with little testing for safety. (11) Worldwide production of chemical substances has increased enormously from 1 million tones in 1930 to 400 million tones today. (12) Yet, according to Zac Smith from the Ecologist, â€œwhile money is poured into biotechnology, nanotechnology, and every other form of high-tech research, the campaign for reversing, let alone understandingâ€ the correlation between chemicals and human health has not begun. (13) And if the Bush administration has its way it never will.
1. FT March 29
2 CP 2004-03-04
3. zmag Oct 2003
6.FT March 29
12. Le Monde
13. The Ecologist Dec 2003