Our Stolen Futurea book by Theo Colborn, Dianne Dumanoski, and John Peterson Myers
 
 

 

 

28 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. More...

27 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.

"In 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."

The 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.

EPA Administrator Christie Todd Whitman had made the decision to issue the alert. This is one more reason why she should resign.

27 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 disrupter. More...

16 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 disrupters." More...

9 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 Health Association.

26 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 virtual drugstore..."

19 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...

17 November 2002. Writing in the Baton Rouge Advocate, reporter Mike Dunne describes 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.

16 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 results.

11 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...

5 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.

The 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.]

4 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...

24 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."

23 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."

20 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...

16 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.

Accompanied by provocative advertising in the New York Times, a report issued in Summer 2002 by consumer organizations brought attention to this practice and highlighted toxicological data from animals showing adverse effects caused by phthalates, particularly for male fetuses in the womb.
 

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...

3 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 as miscarriages.

1 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:

 

"Adverse 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."

 

and then specifically on human health:

 

Subtle 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.

 

 

26 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.

More on brominated flame retardants...

17 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.

Tests 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.

These results indicate that mixtures must become a focus of regulatory testing for toxicology, and that current standards are not adequate. More...

17 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.

According 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."

16 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.

13 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 Nations. UN Environment Programme Global Mercury Assessment.

31 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:

  • First, 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.
  • Second, 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).

For far more responsible and in-depth coverage of this study, see Newsday's special report.

More...

29 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."

In 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.

   

The 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).

The 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, interfering with glucocorticoid activation of a tumor suppressing gene. Current arsenic standards do not reflect this new science.

16 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. More...

13 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...

Background...

12 August 2002. As reported by the BBC, the London 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...

28 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.

From Newsday:

 

"Known 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."

"Today, 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."

...

"The 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 earth-shattering.”

"None 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 ago."

 

In 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 who didn't."

In 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."

More on the research itself and the limitations of epidemiology...

 

16 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.

8 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 on hypospadias

2 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 to spread.

26 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]

24 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.

20 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.

19 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 by Californians 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 website.
[recent research on salmon and pesticides]

18 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 people troubling.[research links non-Hodgkin's lymphoma to contamination]

17 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 billion."

23 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:

  "Now 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.  

17-18 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 waterways. In 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).

A 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."

In 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."

16 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 by EPA.

23 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."

3 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.

17 February. The Toronto Star ran a story about Anniston headlined: Dirt-poor 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.

  "Documents 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."  

6 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:

  "They 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."

 

Monsanto 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...

Also see the Anniston Star's PCB archives
Front page Washinton Post story (1 January 2002)

3 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...

1 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:

 

In 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."

Monsanto 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 memo concluded.

 

A second 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.

12 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.

 
   
   

 

 

 

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