Friday, March 26, 2004

Connection Between Environment and Public Health? Industry Shocked and Panicked!

This is a really bizarre article. I mean, where have these people been for the past 30 years?

Chemical Policy Alert (no link) reports that
Bart Mongoven, who monitors non-governmental lobbying efforts for Stratfor, a private intelligence (sic) firm that consults with industry and government agencies, said in a March 23 speech to petroleum industry officials here that environmentalists are involved in a number of "coordinated" campaigns that are "gaining momentum," trying to attract patient advocacy groups to environmental proposals that promise to improve public health, as opposed to those that only protect the environment.
Now, I know industry people have always tried to label environmentalists as a bunch of tree huggers who didn't really care about anything except birds and snail-darters, but I never thought they actually believed it themselves.
"In five years, the environmental community would like to see all debates [be about] the environment and health," he said in a speech at the National Petrochemical and Refiners Association (NPRA) annual meeting. "Right now, the environmental community doesn't have the credibility with the public like it does in the Netherlands and Germany," he said, adding that emphasizing health "works here."

Mongoven said that environmentalists have traditionally focused health arguments on the impacts of toxic exposure to pesticides. But the advocacy groups have now broadened the debate to the health impacts of industrial emissions and effluent as well, he said.
Yeah, about 25 years ago. What planet have these people been living on?
He said that one way for industry to fight these new lobbying efforts is to paint the efforts as being "anti-chemical," rather than in favor of a public health goal.
Oh yeah. That'll work. Good idea, Bart! And here's another new idea. Maybe you can label them as anti-job too.

(Hmm. I'm clearly in the wrong business. Maybe I can start a consulting group and make speeches to industry organizations warning them that unions are starting to argue that workplace safety activities are starting to focus on worker health and safety, as opposed to, ah, union organizing, and, and this is really bad, because people actually care about their friends and neighbors and family members dying and getting maimed and sick at work! Yeah, that's the ticket. I could be rich.)

What really worries these guys is a group called Collaborative on Health and the Environment which has had some success building an alliance with patients rights and disease groups such as Alliance for Prostate Cancer Prevention, the American Cancer Society, the ALS Association and a number of other similar local and national organizations that are increasingly making the connection between environmental problems and chronic health issues. The Collaborative is headed by Stanford Professor Dr. Phil Lee, a former U.S. Assistant Secretary of Health and Human Services in the Clinton Administration.

And indeed they sound kind of wierd and scary:
The group, which was established in 2002, cites a range of pollutants that may be responsible for increased rates of chronic disease, including synthetic chemicals, heavy metals and related elements such as lead, mercury and arsenic. "Since World War II, more than 85,000 synthetic chemicals have been registered for use in the United States and another 2,000 are added each year, and few are adequately tested for their potential impacts on health," the group says.

Exposure to these substances may be responsible for increases in a host of diseases, including asthma, autism, birth defects, cancers, developmental disabilities, diabetes, endometriosis, infertility and Parkinson's disease, the group says on its website. As part of its efforts, the group strongly emphasizes the use of biomonitoring -- testing for the presence of toxins in the human body -- as one of a number of strategies to monitor human exposure to toxins.
And NPRA members are running scared
Some industry officials say Mongoven's speech raises concerns about the possible success of future environmental lobbying campaigns. "Quite honestly, your presentation scared the heck out of me," Charles Drevna, NPRA's director of technical advocacy, said after the speech.
And if they think they're worried now, wait until they see this:
Birth Weights Up After EPA Pesticide Ban, Study Finds

By Marc Kaufman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, March 25, 2004; Page A10

A federal ban on two popular household insecticides has significantly reduced the number of underweight babies born in neighborhoods where the chemicals had been widely used, a study has found.

Researchers at Columbia University found that infant birth weights and birth lengths in upper Manhattan improved immediately after the pesticides chlorpyrifos and diazinon, used in a number of household products, were banned for indoor use by the Environmental Protection Agency beginning in 2000.