Monday, February 15, 2016

Are You A Toxic Waste Site?


                                                    Comments due by Feb. 21, 2016

EVEN if you’re not in Flint, Mich., there are toxic chemicals in your home. For that matter, in you. Scientists have identified more than 200 industrial chemicals — from pesticides, flame retardants, jet fuel — as well as neurotoxins like lead in the blood or breast milk of Americans, indeed, in people all over our planet. These have been linked to cancer, genital deformities, lower sperm count, obesity and diminished I.Q. Medical organizations from the President’s Cancer Panel to the International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics have demanded tougher regulations or warned people to avoid them, and the cancer panel has warned that “to a disturbing extent, babies are born ‘pre­polluted.’” They have all been drowned out by chemical industry lobbyists. So we have a remarkable state of affairs: ■ Politicians are (belatedly!) condemning the catastrophe of lead poisoning in Flint. But few acknowledge that lead poisoning in many places in America is even worse than in Flint. Kids are more likely to suffer lead poisoning in Pennsylvania or Illinois or even most of New York State than in Flint. More on that later. ■ Americans are panicking about the mosquito­borne Zika virus and the prospect that widespread infection may reach the United States. That’s a legitimate concern, but public health experts say that toxic substances around us seem to pose an even greater threat. “I cannot imagine that Zika virus will damage any more than a small fraction of the total number of children who are damaged by lead in deteriorated, poor housing in the United States,” says Dr. Philip Landrigan, a prominent pediatrician and the dean for global health at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. “Lead, mercury, PCBs, flame retardants and pesticides cause prenatal brain damage to tens of thousands of children in this country every year,” he noted. Yet one measure of our broken political system is that chemical companies, by spending vast sums on lobbying — $100,000 per member of Congress last year — block serious oversight. Almost none of the chemicals in products we use daily have been tested for safety. Maybe, just maybe, the crisis in Flint can be used to galvanize a public health revolution. In 1854, a British doctor named John Snow started such a revolution. Thousands were dying of cholera at the time, but doctors were resigned to the idea that all they could do was treat sick patients. Then Snow figured out that a water pump on Broad Street in London was the source of the cholera. The water company furiously rejected that conclusion, but Snow blocked use of the water pump, and the cholera outbreak pretty much ended.
This revelation led to the germ theory of disease and to investments in sanitation and clean water. Millions of lives were saved. Now we need a similar public health revolution focusing on the early roots of many pathologies. For example, it’s scandalous that 535,000 American children ages 1 to 5 still suffer lead poisoning, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The poisoning is mostly a result of chipped lead paint in old houses or of lead­contaminated soil being tracked into homes, although some areas like Flint also have tainted tap water. While the data sets are weak, many parts of America have even higher rates of child lead poisoning than Flint, where 4.9 percent of children tested have had elevated lead levels in their blood. In New York State outside New York City, it’s 6.7 percent. In Pennsylvania, 8.5 percent. In part of Detroit, it’s 20 percent. The victims are often poor or black. Infants who absorb lead are more likely to grow up with shrunken brains and diminished I.Q. They are more likely as young adults to engage in risky sexual behavior, to disrupt school and to commit violent crimes. Many researchers believe that the worldwide decline in violent crime beginning in the 1990s is partly a result of lead being taken out of gasoline in the late 1970s. The stakes are enormous, for individual opportunity and for social cohesion. Fortunately, we have some new Dr. Snows for the 21st century. A group of scholars, led by David L. Shern of Mental Health America, argue that the world today needs a new public health revolution focused on young children, parallel to the one mounted for sanitation after Snow’s revelations about cholera in 1854. Once again, we have information about how to prevent pathologies, not just treat them — if we will act. The reason for a new effort is a vast amount of recent research showing that brain development at the beginning of life affects physical and mental health decades later. That means protecting the developing brain from dangerous substances and also from “toxic stress” — often a byproduct of poverty — to prevent high levels of the stress hormone cortisol, which impairs brain development. A starting point of this public health revolution should be to protect infants and fetuses from toxic substances, which means taking on the companies that buy lawmakers to prevent regulation. Just as water companies tried to obstruct the 19th ­century efforts, industry has tried to block recent progress. Back in 1786, Benjamin Franklin commented extensively on the perils of lead poisoning, but industry ignored the dangers and marketed lead aggressively. In the 1920s, an advertisement for the National Lead Company declared, “Lead helps to guard your health,” praising the use of lead pipes for plumbing and lead paint for homes. And what the lead companies did for decades, and the tobacco companies did, too, the chemical companies do today. Lead poisoning is just “the tip of the iceberg,” says Tracey Woodruff, an environmental health specialist at the University of California at San Francisco. Flame ­retardant chemicals have very similar effects, she says, and they’re in the couches we sit on. The challenge is that the casualties aren’t obvious, as they are with cholera, but stealthy and long term. These are silent epidemics, so they don’t generate as much public alarm as they should. “Industrial chemicals that injure the developing brain” have been linked to conditions like autism and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, noted The Lancet Neurology, a peer reviewed medical journal. Yet we still don’t have a clear enough sense of what is safe, because many industrial chemicals aren’t safety tested before they are put on the market. Meanwhile, Congress has dragged out efforts to strengthen the Toxic Substances Control Act and test more chemicals for safety. The President’s Cancer Panel recommended that people eat organic if possible, filter water and avoid microwaving food in plastic containers. All good advice, but that’s like telling people to avoid cholera without providing clean water. And that’s why we need another public health revolution in the 21st century. (N. Kristof)

15 comments:

Anonymous said...

I think there are two main spheres with relation to public health. One is the research that goes into it, and the funding and drive behind that. What is harmful to us, how harmful is it, what is it in, what amounts are harmful? The second is the actual policy sphere. The federal government is concerned with both the success of businesses and the health of people and the two often conflict. With that in mind, we know that people are exposed to the harmful effects of different substances. In my view, this is wrong. The government needs to prioritize the human health above all else. Their main goal should be to protect the people. I don't particularly like this idea that businesses should get a say in public health spheres. And this again begs the question, what do we value more as a society: People or money?

Carl Wojciechowski

Christina Marciante said...

The reason that so much goes without regulation is money. Corporations pay government officials off or pay their campaigns so that they can keep doing what they're doing to make money. Then, they market products as safe. Since the effects of toxic chemicals aren't immediate, the government could choose to look the other way. Even in diagnosing people, there can be other causes said to lead to whatever illness they have. There aren't many FDA regulations on products. For example, in Europe, there are way more regulations on the ingredients that can go into cosmetics than there are in this country. I live in a building that was built in the middle of the 1950s. Our pipes have never been replaced, they have only been patched up over the years. For all we know there can be lead and hundreds of other toxins that run though our water. Even in our homes, we have a bunch of cleaning materials that can be potentially toxic, but we still use them. Our food could've been sprayed with harmful pesticides, but we have grown so far away from the land that we choose not to question where things came from and how they came to be.

-Christina Marciante

Ralph Green said...

Harmful chemicals such as lead, mercury, PCBs, flame retardants and pesticides have always been the subject of the matter when it comes to what can happen and what damage it can do when it gets in the environment. That's been talked about for years and years but it's mind blowing that now were talking about the effects on human health especially with pregnant mothers and people being poisoned by simply drinking their water. But its also incredible how a lot of the things around use are extremely toxic and just waiting for that one slip up. It's even worse that we don't know anything about where are foods coming from and what happens to it between when its originally made and to our stomaches. So many problems that need to be addressed and no longer ignored for the sake of the health of humanity.

Anonymous said...

It is amazing how in this day and age with the information, and resources available that the issue is still this vast. These toxic chemicals are all over the place effect people all over the world including developed counties such as the United States. And especially affecting the lower income population these are people that need help and they are people suffering the most from lead and other very toxic chemicals. Toxic chemicals seem to be a topic that keeps coming up and needs to be addressed for many reasons, including the health of children and pregnant women, two of the most vulnerable populations.
-Andrew Ponticiello

Kaitlynn Brady said...

With the mention of the zika virus, I actually just came across an article that speculated this new virus may not be the cause of the microcephaly birth defect. It is suspected that the actual cause may be from a toxic larvicide introduced into Brazil's water supplies, which is manufactured by none other than, Monsanto. This is just one example of the many consequence we will face in the future from the thousands of chemicals we are exposed to everyday. I believe it is our governments responsibility to regulate these companies, such as monsanto, and do more thorough testing on what the public is subjected to.

-Kaitlynn Brady

Rowan Lanning said...

Kaitlynn beat me to the comment that was on my mind the entire time reading this article - utilizing chemistry to improve the lives of humanity is essential, but the abuse of those chemicals in order to create a greater profit will ultimately end up killing us. It all goes back to greed - the reason flint's water crisis is so prevalent is because they decided to cut costs by switching the source of the citizen's water. When the local car manufacturing company complained that it could no longer wash its parts, the local government diverted the clean water back to the car company alone. When institutionalized racism meets classism and the people in power crave more money and power (affluence) they are willing to sacrifice and demean their constituents in order to obtain more. In my own life, I've started to create my own cleaning products in an effort to cut down on my personal waste and chemical consumption. Back when I was living in the pacific northwest, there were meat and vegetable farms, backyard chickens and composting sites almost everywhere you turn and I got used to the luxury of not having to question where my products are coming from. Being in new york I've been distressed at the inadequate way that truly urbanized cities have to make do in order to consume the products they need.

Fatimah M. said...

We are a toxic waste site as a whole. I understand that products that we use in our daily lives, like cleaning products, household supplies and etc, have toxic wastes inside them. We are very unaware about where our products actually come from because we were raised with those things always being around, like light bulbs. We see it as normal so when something is constantly around us, we do not question the background of it. Even after reading this article about all the toxic wastes we have in our homes, including water,there is nothing we can do about it as of right now. Unless this issue becomes worldwide and people actually start to care, nothing is going to change. This goes back to connect to the normality of using these products already. These products has already become apart of our lifestyle. However, it is very sad to read about the infants that are born with shrunken brains and diminished IQ. This shows that we need to actually come together as a unit and enforce this change. If not everybody knows about this, then very little change will be happening. We should know where our products come from and how they are made. It is very important to learn about the side effects also which could be a life and death situation.

Erika Anzalone said...

The world is in need of a serious re-evaluation of the resources we use and how they impact the environment. It is very surprising to me that children in the US are still being diagnosed with lead poisoning. This shows how we still use, or are not informed of the harmful side effects of using products with lead. To create a change, the entire world needs to become informed of the many serious issues and harmful effects of products that we use day to day. What I took out of this article, was that the general public may not even know the harm in products used and will never know, unless taught by an outside party or completely banned from use in the united states also replacing old product used which are harmful. Everything is a business in todays' day so these products are sold in abundance and companies will be impacted greatly if it's products are cut out of the economy.

- Erika Anzalone

Johnny Lopez said...

Unfortunately, the United States has not been a prime example of environmental safely. The "normal" course of action after realizing a potential danger would be to counter or avoid potential harm. I find it corrupt and foolish to let chemical companies lobby their way to their goal. Not only are they gaining enormous sums of money, they put financial strain on the general public. Medical bills are extremely expensive and medication is not cheap. Occasionally you have corrupt individuals like Martin Shkreli who increase HIV medication for capital profit. I wonder if chemical companies' employees are so "willing" to use their own products. However, it would not make much of a difference, they have the financial stability to obtain medical assistance. Unfortunately, this problem does not seem likely to improve, leaving millions of Americans at risk. Now it is up to the individual to protect himself/herself and their families, which is NOT how it should be. The government should not be harming their country, it is not the families' job to "intensely" check everyday products for harmful chemicals. The amount of stress it would require to constantly check household products for toxic substances is unreasonable and unjustifiable. I was casually blogging on Tumblr the other day and came upon a video of a Flint resident talking about the extensive damages this is causing her family. Her family is suffering from seizures, schizophrenia, liver damage, asthma, and digestive problems. Her children have to take mini showers, as a preventive measure to avoid any possible exposure to the contaminated water supply. This is unacceptable.

Rebecca McMann said...

No matter what we can not say that here in the U.S we have an over abundance of proof to say we are environmentally concious. It is sad that people are still being diagnosed with lead poisoning. The key to solving the majority of problems and especially ones like here is education. Getting people the knowledge so they know about the products they are using. Medical bills are more expensive than anyone can afford and it's ridiculous that these companies are able to allow events such as these to happen. Companies in many businesses are being allowed to cut corners to improve their product. This allows waste to pollute waterways and such. When chemicals for the exam are used for greed and not for improving our way of life it is basically allowing businesses to sign our death certificates. Human health should be prioritized over everything. If this makes a problem for a business than that business should find another way to operate. Improvement is essential but we do not need to over do it all. All this gets swept under the rug because of money and until money. Campaigns drive business and money flows where it's pushed. Instead of pushing just for a candidate companies should work on environmentally improving themselves. Destroy one piece of the ecosystem and it all falls apart.

Megan Brown said...

The United States has for decades has been horrible abusing the water source and environmental conscious that comes with the water supply. Getting people to realize this issue is had enough, getting people to accept this issue is a whole other beast on its own. People try to ignore that something, like water, since it is something that would need many things to change. Companies are allowed to cut corners to get what they need done, which lets the people suffer and ends up hurting the environmental issues like water pollution. Human health should not be put on the black burner because of corporations and what is easier for them. To have the water supply so polluted and to allow it to continue to happen is such a shame to everyone in this country. Not only does this hurt humans, but it hurts every living thing on this planet. If this continues, the ecosystem, the food chain, and other things that are extremely important for the human population to survive, will end up falling apart.

Ariana Pdlla said...

I am completely appauled by how chemically affected our environment is. Previous to reading this article I was unaware of just how many industrial chemicals remain within people as well as the atmosphere of our planet. These extremely dangerous chemicals have been causing caner, genital deformities, lower sperm count, obesity, and diminished I.Q. Many of us wish for our future generations to thrive onward and live healthy and sustainably. However, how are we supposed to set this trend when we are bringing babies into the world that are “pre-polluted”. After reading this article I realized how many of the products we are using in our everyday lives actually contain incredible amounts of chemicals. Most of these companies are supposed to be testing for chemical potency and whether or not these products are safe or not. But unfortunately, America and many other parts of the world have become greedy rather than cautious. Almost none of the chemicals we use daily have been tested. America wants money, and with this desire comes a lack of responsibility for humanities well-being. This article was truly eye-opening and I will most definitely be more careful when I buy chemicals to clean my house or to wash my belongings. I will also make sure that I spread the awareness of how dangerous the products many companies are making actually are.

Chase Harnett said...

I have recently become more and more aware of the chemicals used in household goods. Also being that I live on the Hudson River I am very aware of the power plants and mining companies along the river dumping their excess chemicals into the river. It seems that in today’s society there really is no way to avoid exposure to these excess chemicals. I agree that something must be done and it seems that making these issues public is the way to go. Although, I also feel as though there is plenty of material in the main stream already. Just, the individual may not realize how immediate the problem is. Until something similar of what happened in Flint happens in your home town, you most likely wont notice let alone do anything to better your situation as far as chemical pollution.

Chase Harnett

SUET SZE AU said...

Written by SUET SZE AU

This article is really inspiring and reminded me to stay alert for serious health problem. I have never imagined there are so many industrial chemicals within human body, regardless people from developing or developed countries. Like lead, we will not notice so much people suffering from lead poisoning even in the modern America. We all know that lead can cause cancer, genital deformities, obesity and diminished I.Q etc. Lead is especially bad for children as it may affect their mental and physical development. Lead may even cause people to commit violent crimes and affect the crime rate of countries. However, we often do not notice these health issues as negative effects appeared slowly and often are hidden by business. Therefore, I agree that we should another public health revolution in the 21st century. We should find out the health problems and solve them without the effects of powerful organizations (big companies). Individuals should increase their awareness to alleviate the health problem.

Ariana Pdlla said...
This comment has been removed by the author.