December 2001. The New
York Times and Washington
Post both report that EPA's Christie Todd Whitman has decided
to reject GE's efforts to avoid its cleanup responsibilities
in the Hudson River. Whitman had announced
in early August that GE's PCB spills in the Hudson River would
be dredged, and that GE would be required to pay almost $500M for
the cleanup. That decision was followed by fierce, inside lobbying
by GE to either reverse the decision or weaken it by requiring unattainable
performance standards that could then be used to halt dredging.
The final decision calls for removing 2.65 million cubic yards of
contaminated sediment 40 miles of the Hudson.
August 2001. In Tokyo, The Japanese newspaper Asahi
Shimbun reports that research by three separate scientific institutions
studying three different species have discovered feminization
of fish living in marine waters around Japan. This surprised
the scientists because they had expected the dilution effection
of marine waters to be sufficient to negate any inputs of endocrine
disrupting compounds. The fact that at least three species are involved
means it is likely to be widespread. The research indicates that
"the prevalence of the feminized fish is greater in waters
near urban areas that produce large amounts of industrial and household
waste water." Research in Japan has not clarified which contaminants
are responsible for the feminization.
More on fish feminization...
August 2001. Legal star Johnny Cochrane visited Anniston,
Alabama, yesterday to meet with residents about legal options in
their fight against decades of massive PCB, mercury and lead
pollution by Monsanto and other companies. As described in a
in the Anniston Star by reporter Elizabeth Bluemink, over 5000
people came to hear Cochrane speak to the community, and "more
than 13,000 Anniston residents have already filled out health surveys
that are under review by Cochran's legal team." According to
observers of the meeting, "At one point Cochran likened the
community's struggle to the civil rights movement, and called upon
everyone present to summon the same kind of courage and fortitude
that characterized Rosa Parks' stand against discrimination decades
More about Monsanto's contamination of Anniston
in the Chemical Industry Archives...
August 2001. The Anchorage
Daily News reports that contamination levels of a killer
whale that died in Prince William Sound were extremely high.
The whale, which died in July 2000 and whose tissue was assayed
by National Marine Fisheries Service's contaminants lab in Seattle,
carried PCB concentrations of 370 parts per million and about
470 parts per million DDT. The group to which the Orca belonged
has decreased by over 50% in the last 12 years.The contamination
is likely to have contributed to the animal's death but this is
not known for certain. More
on Orca contamination...
August 2001. Describing new research sponsored by the Japanese Environment
Agency, the Japan Times reports that nonylphenol induces formation
of eggs in the testes of fish exposed to very low levels of nonylphenol.
Nonylphenol was detected in over one-third of Japanese rivers and
streams surveyed by the Ministry, and at 71 of the 1574 sites surveyed
the concentrations exceeded levels sufficient to disrupt sexual
development based on this new research. The Ministry is in consultation
with industry about possible substitutes for nonylphenol to reduce
environmental burdens. According to the Japan Times, Japan's leading
researcher on endocrine disruption, Dr. Taisen Iguchi, called for
swift movement to eliminate nonylphenol discharges into the environment.
August 2001. The
New York Times editorializes that EPA Administrator Whitman
deserves credit for saving the Bush Administration from another
"catastrophe on the environment" with her decision to
force GE to pay for cleaning up the Hudson River. The Times urges
GE to accept the decision and become a destructive player in river
August 2001. The New
York Times reports that US EPA Administrator Christie Todd
Whitman has decided to approve the Clinton Administration's plan
to force GE to pay to clean up PCB contamination in the Hudson
River. The total cost to GE will be almost $500 million. The
clean up will take place in stages, with testing undertaken during
the process to ensure that contamination does not spread. GE shareholders
should voice their support for this decision and encourage the incoming
Chairman Jeffrey Immelt to put Jack Welch's legacy behind them and
support the EPA ruling. GE's reputation can only be tarnished and
shareholder value decreased by further stonewalling. Washington
July 2001. The Japan
Times reports that a Japanese health ministry panel has decided
to restrict the use of certain phthalates in pacifiers and other
plastic objects that infants might put in their mouths. According
to the Times, the Pharmaceutical Affairs and Food Sanitation Council
"recommends that restrictions be placed on two kinds of
phthalate ester -- diisononyl phthalate and diethylhexyl phthalate
(DEHP). The panel also recommended a ban on the use of DEHP in the
manufacture of plastic gloves and plastic wrap used in the processing,
cooking and preservation of food with oil and fat. Large
amounts of DEHP had been found in Japan last year in store boxed
lunches; the source was thought to be contact with plastic gloves
during food preparation.
July 2001. According to the New
York Times, Governor George Pataki has voiced support for the
EPA's plan to require GE to pay for dredging PCB wastes it dumped
into the Hudson River. Quoted in the Times, Pataki said "science
supports what the E.P.A. and the state's own Department of Environmental
Conservation have already determined." Pataki's position is
crucial because he is a moderate Republican and because of George
W. Bush's professed wish to delegate responsibilities for environmental
protection back to the states. If Bush is going to be consistent
in his policies, then Pataki's position should trump GE's campaign
contributions to Bush. Bush's earlier
statements about PCBs and the Stockholm Convention on Persistent
Organic Pollutants would also be consistent with dredging. But
since win did policy consistency trump campaign contributions? More...
July 2001. The Washington
Post and the Los
Angeles Times both carried prominent stories on the efforts
by GE to fight EPA's draft decision that would require GE to pay
for dredging the Hudson River of PCBs it dumped there prior to 1977.
Gov. George Pataki and both New York Senators, Schumer and Clinton,
are strong and vocal supporters of the EPA draft plan. Why is
GE fighting this when the costs would be about 5 days of its annual
profits? It probably has to do with the fact that GE is simultaneously
involved in negotiations at 87 Superfund sites around the country.
The precedent set in the Hudson will have huge national ramfications.
GE may ultimately suffer the consequences for having been one
of the largest polluters in the world for the last 4 decades.
July 2001. A New
York Times editorial argues that EPA Administrator Christie
Todd Whitman should not retreat from EPA's decision to force
GE to clean up its PCB mess in the Hudson River:. "As President
Bush's chief environmental officer, Christie Whitman has absorbed
plenty of abuse for the administration's generally deplorable environmental
record. Some of this criticism has been unfair, and in many cases
she has taken the fall for policies dictated by others. But Mrs.
Whitman will have only herself to blame if she chooses to scale
back the Clinton administration's plan that would require General
Electric to spend a half-billion dollars to begin the long-overdue
task of cleaning the upper Hudson River of toxic chemicals known
July 2001. India's national newspaper, The
Hindu reports on a scandal in the Indian state of Kerala: "the
cashew plantations in Kasargod district, Kerala, have been devastated
by an unusually large number of cancer deaths, neurological disorders
and different kinds of physical and mental impairment. Recent
reports in the media and studies done in the area indicate a strong
link between the spraying of a pesticide called endosulfan
and the deteriorating health of the local people. The State administration
appears to be oblivious to the situation." A local physician
first attempted to bring this to the attention of medical authorities
in 1997, reporting an unusually large number of people suffering
from diseases of the central nervous system and soliciting the intervention
of medical researchers in the baffling problem. The Hindu Times
reports that n a local random survey, he recorded 202 cases of people
from about 400 houses in an area of four square kilometres with
psychiatric problems, mental retardation, epilepsy, congenital anomalies,
cancer deaths, suicides as well as those currently suffering from
cancer. In a second story, The
Hindu wrote about "a people's movement in Kasargod district
to end the spraying." A local NGO, the Thanal Conservation
Action and Information Network, played an important role in drawing
attention to the poisonings.
July 2001. In an op-ed
in the New York Times, former US EPA General Counsel Gary Guzy
summarizes why the Bush Administration should support EPA's decision
to clean up the Hudson River with a $500M dredging program paid
for by GE, the river's polluter.
July 2001. The Washington
Post reports on a new study in Nature, documenting a rising
burden of Teflon-related chemicals in the environment. The breakdown
products of Teflon are extremely persistent and bioaccumulative.
Las Vegas Sun editorializes against using human guinea
pigs to test the toxicity of perchlorate, a rocket fuel contaminating
the water of millions of people in the US west and a known thyroid
disrupting chemical. The tests, sponsored by Lockheed Martin,
would be used to justify avoiding clean-up costs. The Sun correctly
concludes these tests are unethical. The editorial misses the reality,
however, that the tests are also scientifically useless because
the results they would produce would reveal nothing about the most
vulnerable sector of the population to perchlorate, the developing
fetus and young children.
July 2001. The Sacramento
Bee reports on a new study by the Environmental Working
Group, analyzing drinking water contamination by perchlorate,
a thyroid disrupting chemical used in
rocket fuel. "EPA officials say the bulk of the estimated 20
million people affected by the chemical live in Los Angeles, San
Diego and other Southern California cities that take some of their
water from the Colorado River." Read
July 2001. Charlie Cray writes in Multinational
Monitor about the history of GE's contamination of the Hudson
River Valley with PCBs, and the corporation's ongoing efforts to
avoid payment for clean-up. "Attention to GEs Hudson
PCB mess could also bring out some additional skeletons in GEs
July 2001. The New
York Times opines in an editorial that Jack Welch and GE
should stop fighting against EPA's recommendation to dredge the
Hudson River and clean it of PCBs. "Mr. Welch, however,
does have a fine chance to burnish his legacy of decisive action.
He can end his company's long legal battle against paying to dredge
the Hudson River to remove polychlorinated biphenyls, cancer-causing
chemicals known as PCB's."
July 2001. Scientists
identify new male infertility syndrome. Reuters. "Genetics
or environmental factors, or both, could be causing a new syndrome
whose symptoms include male infertility and rising rates of testicular
cancer, Danish researchers said yesterday."
June 2001. Canada's
Supreme Court allows lawn-pesticide ban Reuters. Canada's
Supreme Court ruled that municipalities have the right to outlaw
use of pesticides on lawns. The decision was over a challenge by
lawn-care companies in Quebec, who claimed that a 1991 law implemented
by Hudson, Quebec (a suburb of Montreal) was wrong to block use
of chemicals that had been approved by federal and provincial authorities.
by Dr. David Suzuki.
June 2001. Whitman
at center of toxins dispute. New Jersey Star Ledger.
"Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Christie Whitman
will soon decide the fate of a plan to remove 50 tons of toxic chemicals
from the bottom of the Hudson River and settle a high-stakes battle
between one of the world's largest conglomerates and officials from
New York and New Jersey."
May 2001. Nations
adopt treaty to ban toxic chemicals. Reuters. "Almost
130 nations formally agreed a U.N. treaty yesterday to ban or minimise
use of a "dirty dozen" toxic chemicals blamed for causing
cancers and birth defects in people and animals."
May 2001. STOCKHOLM, Sweden - CNN
reports that "the use of 12 highly toxic chemicals is to
be banned or limited after more than 100
nations agreed to adopt a U.N. treaty," the Stockholm Convention
on Persistent Organic Pollutants.
March. Jack Cushman writes
in the New York Times that after decades of PR efforts
by the chemical industry to persuade the American public of its
safety, "now the industry's practices over the decades are
facing unusual and unwanted exposure, as its documents, turned up
by trial lawyers in lawsuits against the industry, are being published
by environmental advocates on the Web and explored in a PBS
documentary on Monday."
April 2001. The New
York Times reports that George W. Bush will support
ratification of the UN Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants.
March. According to a story
in the Japan Times, the Japanese Environment Ministry
has added four substances to their priority list of chemicals under
study as endocrine disruptors. The new compounds are butyl benzyl
phthalate, diethyl phthalate, diethylexyl phthalate and triphenyl
March and 20 February 2001. In two articles examining the rate of
sexual development in American girls, the New York Times's Gina
Kolata reports that doubts exist in medical community about whether,
indeed, girls are maturing earlier and if so, what to do about it.
March 2001. Francesca Lyman wites on MSNBC
about early puberty in American girls. While some skeptics doubt
that the age of puberty is occurring earlier, data indicate that
about 15% of white American girls have reached puberty by age 8.
of this advance in the age of sexual development are debated, but
include obesity and contamination.
March 2001. According
to the London Independent, Environment Minister Michael Meacher
said "he would press his European Union counterparts to take
international action on chemicals with dangerous side-effects, which
include commonly used pesticides, solvents and flame retardants."
According to the Independent, "the chemicals under review include
used in sofa fabrics that contain hormone-disrupting chemicals and
which are used as a solvent in many cosmetics and could affect humans.
Alkyltin, an antibacterial agent used in shoe insoles, can be absorbed
through the skin and has been shown to be a powerful hormone disrupter
it has made female dog whelks grow penises."
February 2001. In a story
in the Los Angeles Times, Marla Cone describes the contamination
plight of Orcas (killer whales) living in the Puget Sound off the
coast of Washington and British Columbia. Interviewed in the Times,
marine mammal contamination expert Peter Ross reports these are
worst PCB levels ever seen in still-living marine mammals. Comparable
PCB contamination in other marine mammals, including seals and dolphins,
has led to severe suppression of the immune system, making them
vulnerable to viruses and other diseases. Ross's research "has
shown that male killer whales contain as much as 15 times more contamination
than the seals that suffered suppressed immunity." LA Times
reporter Cone cites Ross as saying that disruption of the whales'
immune systems and reproduction is likely, since there is no reason
to believe that PCBs' effects on whales are different from effects
on seals. And the Puget Sound Orcas the death rate of these Orca
has been climbing over the past 5 years.
More on immune suppression...
More on Orca
contamination in Puget Sound...
February 2001. As reported by Reuters
scientists have identified several factors that may be contribuing
to why girls in the United States and elsewhere appear to be reaching
puberty earlier in life. While there are as yet no certain answers,
evidence points to obesity, social factors and contamination
all playing potential roles. A complex pattern may emerge as
ongoing research continues, with there not be a single cause nor
a single trend, but instead patterns that vary geographically
and among different groups of people. In some, obesity may be
the driving force, in others contamination, and in still others,
social factors. More
on early puberty...
February 2001. Reuters
reports that the European Union is preparing to require
that more safety information be obtained about chemicals in the
environment. Without proof of the chemical's safety, they will
be banned from use. For substances thought to be particularly harmful,
data would have to be submitted within five years. Data for the
entire list of high volume chemicals (roughly 30,000 used in the
EU) studies would have to be complete by 2018.
January 2001. According to the BBC scientists in Britain "are
calling for urgent research to be carried out into the safety
of farmed salmon after research showed that some fish contain
worrying levels of potentially dangerous chemicals." PCBs,
the chemicals discovered in the salmon, are thought to be coming
from fish harvested in open ocean trawling that is then ground into
pellets to manufacture salmon food. "Concentrating the
nutritional value of these fish into pellets to produce a high-protein
diet for farmed salmon multiplies the minute traces of toxins present
in each individual fish to a more significant level. " In otherwords,
fishing for salmon food has created a human variation on bioaccumulation
in the food chain, thereby contributing to human health risks. PCBs
have been implicated in a variety of human and wildlife health problems,
system errors and cancer.
to the BBC.