Rachel's Democracy & Health News #848
Thursday, March 30, 2006
From: Rachel's Democracy & Health News #848 .........[This story printer-friendly]
Thursday, March 30, 2006
THE DANGERS OF BEING POOR AND NONWHITE
[Rachel's introduction: The poor and communities of color are exposed to up to 10 times as much industrial pollution as their wealthier and whiter counterparts. In Massachusetts, if you live in a community of color, you are thirty times as likely to live in a highly polluted community, compared to a white community.]
By Tim Montague
Our government agencies may not know the true full extent or impacts of industrial pollution in the U.S. but they certainly recognize that pollution disproportionately impacts the poor and communities of color. As Carol Browner, former head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) openly admits when speaking about air pollution, "Poor communities, frequently communities of color -- suffer disproportionately." She goes on, "If you look at where our industrialized facilities tend to be located, they're not in the upper middle class neighborhoods." To the contrary, the EPA's little known risk screening environmental indicators project -- reveals very clearly that the poor and minorities are living with far more than their fair share of toxic pollution.
Using similar data in Massachusetts, Daniel Faber and Eric Krieg recently published a detailed study of how working poor and minority communities are disproportionately affected by industrial pollution from landfills, hazardous waste sites, incinerators and factories.
People are forced to live in polluted communities by their economic circunstamces. In Massachusetts, more than 25 percent of all workers are "the working poor" -- they earn less $8.84/hr or $18,387/yr ($18,400 was the federal poverty line for a family of four in 2003). And over three quarters of these families spend more than one-third of their income on housing. According to Faber and Krieg a family of four has to make at least $64,656 in Boston ($6,000 more than in New York) to "pay for basic necessities," and many families are forced by economic necessity to live in the least desirable, most industrialized communities.
For purposes of their study, Faber and Krieg define low- income communities as having a median income of less than $39,524/yr. for a family of four; and communities of color as those with more than 15% nonwhites.
They documented big disparities between rich and poor and between white and minority communities. And they trace the root causes of this disparity stem to the lack of political power.
"In order to bolster profits and competitiveness, industry typically adopts pollution strategies which... offer the path of least political resistance. The less political power a community possesses, the fewer resources a community has to defend itself; the lower the level of community awareness and mobilization against potential ecological threats, the more likely they are to experience arduous environmental and human health problems at the hands of business and government. As a result, poorer towns and communities of color suffer an unequal exposure to ecological hazards."[2, pg.1]
"The poor and communities of color face exposure to: (1) greater concentrations of polluting industrial facilities and power plants; (2) greater concentrations of hazardous waste sites and disposal/treatment facilities, including landfills, incinerators, and trash transfer stations; and (3) higher rates of "on the job" exposure to toxic pollutants inside the factory."[2, pg. 1]
EXPOSURE TO HAZARDOUS WASTE SITES
According to Faber and Krieg, Massachusetts has over 30,570 known hazardous waste sites. If all towns were of equal area, the average community would have 117 hazardous waste sites in it. But poor communities have an average of 203 hazardous waste sites per town -- double the state average. Medium and high income towns average just 66 and 71 hazardous waste sites per town. Even the wealthy few are poisoning themselves with hazardous waste, but poor communities are three times more likely to have a hazardous waste site in their community than the wealthiest communities. Low-income communities have four times the density of hazardous waste sites compared to high- income communities (19.2 vs. 4.6 sites per square mile).[2, pg. 2]
White communities (95% white) have an average of 39 hazardous waste sites per town. But communities of color have a whopping 297 sites per town -- 7.6 times that of white communities. And on a per-square-mile basis, communities of color average twenty-three times as many hazardous waste sites per square mile compared to predominantly white communities (48.3 vs. 2.1 sites per square mile).
EXPOSURE TO LANDFILLS AND INCINERATORS
It's well known that landfills and incinerators pose many serious health risks and that the people living near them suffer abnormal rates of cancer[3, 4, 5, 6] birth defects[7, 8, 9, 10, 11], and low birth weight[12, 13]. Landfills contaminate the local environment with volatile organic compounds and heavy metals (see Rachel's #617). Incinerators release cancer-causing and toxic chemicals from their smoke stacks, including heavy metals, herbicide residues, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and dioxins and furans (see Rachel's #592). The leachate (garbage juice) produced by landfills is extremely toxic. Brown and Donnelly at Texas A&M University studied the leachate of 58 landfills and concluded that "...the leachate from some municipal landfills may be similar to the carcinogenic potency of the leachate from the Love Canal landfill." Love Canal, of course, was the notorious toxic waste dump that alerted the nation to the dangers of toxic waste back in 1978.
Faber and Krieg found few differences in the number or density of landfills across socioeconomic class but they found that communities of color have nearly three times as many landfills per square mile as white communities (.35 vs. .13 landfills/sq. mile). They say that while "communities of color make up just 9.4 percent of all towns in the study, they are home to 27.8 percent of all incinerator ash landfills, 41 percent of all illegal sites [not defined], and 45.9 percent of all inactive municipal incinerators."[2, pg. 5]
EXPOSURE TO INDUSTRIAL POLLUTION
According to data collected by the government of Massachusetts, from 1990-2002, industry in that state "released over 204.3 million pounds of chemical waste directly into the environment... an amount equivalent to over 2,550 tractor-trailer trucks each loaded with 80,000 pounds of toxic waste."[2, pg. 5]
Faber and Krieg explain that we're talking about nasty volatile organic compounds like... "benzene, 1,3-butadiene, formaldehyde and acrolein -- chemicals which are known to cause numerous adverse health effects, including neurological disorders, birth defects, reproductive disorders and respiratory diseases..."[2, pg. 5]
If you live a poor community you have an average of 9.9 industrial polluters in your back yard, and your community absorbs an average of 1.6 million pounds of chemical wastes (107,034 pounds per square mile). In contrast, if you live in a wealthy community you have just 2.2 major polluters in your community spewing an average of 246,428 pounds of chemicals (12,656 pounds per sq. mile). Clearly everyone in the state of Massachusetts is getting dosed with toxic chemicals, but the poor are getting 8.5 times the dose of their wealthy compatriots. But Faber and Krieg don't stop there. They break down the exposure by lethality.
"Low income communities are also over-exposed to the most dangerous families of chemical releases. Although they represent just 10.2 percent of all towns, low income communities received 23.7 percent of all carcinogens; 30.8 percent of all organochlorines; 27.8 percent of all persistent bioaccumulative toxins; and 45.8 percent of all reproductive toxins."[2, pg. 6]
"Communities of color are also overburdened. High minority communities (25% or more people of color) average 11.4 TURA [Toxic Use Reduction Act] industrial facilities per town and 1.28 TURA facilities per square mile, compared to an average of just 1.5 facilities and .08 facilities per square mile for low minority communities (less than 5% people of color).[2, pg. 6] (TURA is a Massachusetts law.)
We see that poor and minority communities are exposed to greater volumes of industrial chemicals, nastier chemicals and chemical combinations. If you're poor, you receive twice the burden of carcinogens, three times the burden of bioaccumulative toxins and four times the burden of reproductive toxins. And if you live in a community of color, you have "...ten times as many pounds of chemical releases per square mile."[2, pg. 15]
The report details similar injustices around exposure to coal and oil- burning power plants, "Although communities of color comprise just 9.4 percent of all communities in the state, they are home to 29.6 percent of all active power plants."[2, pg. 8] and "...while low and medium- low income communities comprise 47.9 percent of all towns, they are home to 66.7 percent of all power plants and 73.6 percent of all releases of sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide, and volatile organic compounds. In contrast, the wealthiest populations (with median income of at least $65,876) comprise 23.8 percent of all communities but are home to only one power plant, and 0.2 percent of these emissions."[2, pg. 16]
DANGEROUS TO BE POOR -- TOTAL ENVIRONMENTAL EXPOSURE
Faber and Krieg tallied up all the various toxic exposures for each of the 250 cities and towns (and 12 neighborhoods of Boston) in the entire state of Massachusetts and divided them by the land area of each community. The resulting 'exposure index' is an estimate of how contaminated each community is and takes into account different types of exposure -- recycling centers are more hazardous than closed landfills, which are more hazardous than small industry.
Not surprisingly, poor communities and communities of color scored much higher (more toxic) than wealthy and white communities. These communities averaged 35.3 points while the wealthiest communities averaged just 8.5 points. Communities of color averaged 87.7 points compared to just 4.3 points for white communities. So its four times as dangerous to be poor and twenty times as dangerous to live in a community of color.
Faber and Krieg sum it up this way, "...if you live in a white community, then you have a 1.8 percent chance of living in the most environmentally hazardous communities in the state... However, if you live in a community of color, then there is a 70.6 percent chance that you live in one of the most hazardous towns. In short, if you live in a community of color, you are thirty-nine times more likely to live in one of the most environmentally hazardous communities in Massachusetts."[emphasis added; 2, pg. 10]
The authors continue, "The conclusion to be drawn from this analysis is that the communities most heavily burdened with environmentally hazardous industrial facilities and sites are overwhelmingly low income towns and/or communities of color. Clearly, not all Massachusetts residents are polluted equally -- working class families and people of color are disproportionately impacted. Governmental action is urgently required to address these disparities." [2, pg. 10]
 http://www.rachel.org/library/getfile.cfm?ID= 550#EPA_Admits_Blacks_and_Hispanics_Live_with_Excessive_Pollution
 Daniel Faber and Eric Krieg, Unequal Exposure to Ecological Hazards 2005: Environmental Injustices in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Northeastern University, October 2005. Available here.
 State of New York Department of Health INVESTIGATION OF CANCER INCIDENCE AND RESIDENCE NEAR 38 LANDFILLS WITH SOIL GAS MIGRATION CONDITIONS, NEW YORK STATE, 1980-1989 (Atlanta, GA: Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, June, 1998).
 M.S. Goldberg and others, "Incidence of cancer among persons living near a municipal solid waste landfill site in Montreal, Quebec," ARCHIVES OF ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH Vol. 50, No. 6 (November 1995), pgs. 416-424.
 K. Mallin, "Investigation of a bladder cancer cluster in northwestern Illinois," AMERICAN JOURNAL OF EPIDEMIOLOGY Vol. 132 No. 1 Supplement (July 1990), pgs. S96-S106.
 J. Griffith and others, "Cancer mortality in U.S. counties with hazardous waste sites and ground water pollution," ARCHIVES OF ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH Vol. 44, No. 2 (March 1989), pgs. 69-74.
 H.M.P. Fielder and others, "Report on the health of residents living near the Nant-Y Gwyddon landfill site using routinely available data," (Cardiff, Wales: Welsh Combined Centres for Public Health: 1997).
 G.M. Shaw and others, "Maternal water consumption during pregnancy and congenital cardiac anomalies," EPIDEMIOLOGY Vol. 1, No. 3 (May 1990), pgs. 206-211.
 S.A. Geschwind and others, "Risk of congenital malformations associated with proximity to hazardous waste sites," AMERICAN JOURNAL OF EPIDEMIOLOGY Vol. 135, No. 11 (June 1, 1992), pgs. 1197-1207.
 L.A. Croen and others, "Maternal residential proximity to hazardous waste sites and risk of selected congenital malformations," EPIDEMIOLOGY Vol. 8, No. 4 (July 1997), pgs. 347-354.
 M. Vrijheid and H. Dolk [EUROHAZCON Collaborative Group], "Residence near hazardous waste landfill sites and risk of non- chromosomal congenital malformations [abstract]," TERATOLOGY Vol. 56, No. 6 (1997), pg. 401.
 Nancy E. Reichman, Low Birth Weight and School Readiness, The Future of Children, Vol. 15, No. 1, Spring 2005. pgs. 91-116.
 B. Paigen and others, "Growth of children living near the hazardous waste site, Love Canal," HUMAN BIOLOGY Vol. 59, No. 3 (June 1987), pgs. 489-508.
 Kirk Brown and K.C. Donnelly, "An Estimation of the Risk Associated with the Organic Constituents of Hazardous and Municipal Waste Landfill Leachates," HAZARDOUS WASTES AND HAZARDOUS MATERIALS, Vol. 5, No. 1 (Spring, 1988), pgs. 1-30.
From: Synthesis/Regeneration (Fall 2005) ................[This story printer-friendly]
November 1, 2005
TIME TO GET SERIOUS ABOUT INEQUALITY AND SUSTAINABILITY
[Rachel's introduction: Strategies that tackle elite income and wealth, and thereby consumption, serve both an economic and a larger cultural purpose: They begin to give content to the ecologically and morally important principle that at some point "Enough is Enough" (or should be).]
by Gar Alperovitz
It's time for people who are serious about sustainability to open a direct, clear, and explicit challenge to the extreme inequalities of income and wealth which are among the most important drivers of unsustainable growth. This requires far more than the usual laundry list of (failing) progressive tax and other policies. There are also signs that the beginning points of a tough-minded program may be possible in many parts of the country.
Although we often talk in generalities about inequality, the fact is the numbers are far more dramatic than most people understand. The top 1% now garners for itself more income each year than the bottom 100 million Americans taken together. The top 1% owns just under 50% of all investment capital. An only slightly larger elite group, the top 5%, owns slightly under 70% of financial wealth and more than 80% of unincorporated business assets. The most recent data (1999) showed a mere 0.2% at the very top making more money on the sale of stocks and bonds than all other taxpayers taken together. 
And of course this is only within the United States. Internationally, things are far worse. The richest 1% of people in the world have as much income each year as the poorest 57% taken together. The richest 5% have incomes 114 times that of the poorest 5%. 
Quite apart from the indecency of these statistics, what needs to be confronted is their relationship to materialism in general and unsustainable consumption and production in particular. Ever more expansive materialism is driven in large measure by the pattern set by those who can afford upper level purchases. After "the rich and super- rich began a bout of conspicuous luxury consumption" in the early 1980s, Juliet Schor reports, members of "the upper middle class followed suit with their own imitative luxury spending..." In turn, the 80% below who lost ground also "engaged in a round of compensatory keeping-up consumption." 
Even at times when there is no worsening in the relative distribution of income, there is an expanding absolute gap between those at the top and those at the bottom. Thus: If you have $50,000 this year and I have $1,000 -- and next year you have $100,000 and I have $2,000 -- the relative distribution of income has not changed since the ratio between our incomes remains constant at 50 to 1. However, the real world distance between us has gone from $49,000 to $98,000.
Dynamic processes of the kind which systematically expand the gap between those at the top and those at the bottom generates a powerful "envy machine" -- a social and cultural dynamic in which even those who climb the ladder, step by step, regularly experience the space between the rungs getting greater and greater and the distance to the top farther and farther away as they climb (if, in fact, they do climb).
"Compensatory consumption" to keep up is also driven by factors which are not directly related to envy or status. Essential to getting into a top college is high quality primary and secondary education. However, for those who can only send their children to public schools this almost always requires purchasing a home in a neighborhood supportive of good schools -- i.e. a location where prices are inflated by high incomes at the top.
Again, the "arms race" among car buyers is not simply a matter of taste or status-striving. To the extent drivers of small, relatively fuel-efficient cars face the possibility of collision with a 7,500 lb. Ford Expedition, they may understandably feel compelled to buy a larger car for the sake of safety of their families alone.
The capacity of top elites to keep raising the bar in connection with consumption is almost unlimited. Income received by the 10 most highly paid C.E.O.s in the US rose from an average of $3.5 million in 1981 to $19.3 million in 1988. By the year 2000, however, it had skyrocketed to an average of $154 million -- for an overall gain of 4,300%! Meanwhile workers' wages did little more than slightly out-pace inflation during the same decades. 
At the outset of the 20th century, Thorstein Veblen coined the phrase "conspicuous consumption" to describe a form of materialism which has far more to do with demonstrating one's place in society than it does with meeting a physical or other need. Modern researchers have documented related concepts -- including hunger for the kinds of "positional goods" which only elites can afford, pressures to emulate those ahead of one on career ladders, defensive strategies to keep from falling behind, and many similar efforts.
Just how strong such pressures can be is suggested by studies of what Americans feel they need in order to achieve their hoped-for goals. In 1986, when median family income was $29,458, survey researchers found that on average Americans felt they really needed far, far more -- $50,000 -- if they hoped to fulfill their dreams. This benchmark, of course, offers a snapshot at one moment in time. The ongoing moving picture reveals a deeper dynamic: Less than a decade later, in 1994, what people felt they needed had more than doubled to $102,000 while actual median family income had risen to only $38,782 in current dollars. 
Not surprisingly, even as incomes have grown over time Americans (and others) have not experienced greater happiness. Quite the contrary; given the expanding dimensions of their unsatisfied aspirations, millions feel they are on a treadmill running faster and faster simply to stay in place. Over the roughly four-decade period between 1957 and 1995 both the US economy and consumption expenditures just about doubled. The proportion of Americans who described themselves as "very happy," however, did not change in any significant way. 
Several recent proposals suggest an initial line of attack on the expansive consumption and resource challenges created by such pressures. Schor, for instance, urges ending the tax-deductibility of advertising by corporations as a way to reduce some forms of unnecessary consumption. (A limited version of this approach has also been suggested by Senator John McCain.) Schor and others also suggest new taxes on luxury items. One specific proposal would provide that "the high-end, status versions of certain commodities would pay a high tax, the mid-range models would pay mid-range taxes, and low-end versions would be exempt." 
It helps to be specific about the meaning of the term "luxury items" -- and the kinds of consumption norms top elites help establish. The super-elite -- the people Paul Krugman, Kevin Phillips and others have termed the new "plutocracy" -- increasingly live in a very, very different world from most Americans, and in a radically different culture. It is a world where homes cost $5-10 million and where $5,000 grills, $14,000 Hermes Kelly handbags, $17,500 Patek Philippe wristwatches, and $100,000 luxury automobiles are commonplace. When Mercedes-Benz introduced its new Maybach sedan in 2002, its beginning base-line prices were $310,000-$360,000; Ferrari had a three and a half year waiting list for its $170,000 360 Modena Spider.
An approach which moves beyond taxing specific luxury goods is economist Robert Frank's proposal for a progressive consumption tax to replace the federal income tax. This would exempt all savings from taxation -- plus an additional $7,500 deductible amount per person ($30,000 for a family of four). It would then steadily increase the progressivity of taxes on the remaining income -- i.e. all money devoted to consumption -- with a top marginal tax rate of 70% on income and consumption expenditures above $500,000. 
Important as such measures are, addressing the huge and growing income disparities which drive wasteful materialism in general and unsustainable consumption patterns in particular will ultimately require more far-reaching strategies to deal with the underlying social and economic pressures. One obvious element of a long-range approach is greater elite taxation, including wealth taxes and a return to income taxes ranging up to and including pre-Reagan-era rates of 70-91% for the very top groups.
A proposal by former Chairman of the House Budget Committee Martin Sabo points to a further issue which a serious long term approach must also address -- namely, the ratio of income at the top to income at the bottom (i.e., not simply the extraordinarily high levels of elite income). Sabo has proposed legislation which would eliminate the deductibility to corporations of compensation at the top which is more than 25 times that at the bottom. 
Ecological economist Herman Daly goes further, and the logic he offers is compelling: First, "there is a limit to the total material production that the ecosystem can support." Second, "I conclude, therefore, that there must implicitly be some maximum personal income..." Daly adds that "bonds of community break" if there is not some limit to inequality. 
Strategies which take on elite income and wealth, and thereby consumption, serve both an economic and a larger cultural purpose: They begin to give content to the ecologically and morally important principle that at some point "Enough is Enough" (or should be!).
Taxation of elites could also help generate resources which might in turn be channeled back to support expanded programs to raise floor- level incomes, thereby reducing the social distances which contribute to compensatory consumption. Additional precedents for dealing with inequality "from the bottom up" include increasing minimum wage levels and enacting "living wage" requirements.
Over the course of the century a comprehensive strategy to undercut excessive materialism might slowly reduce ceiling levels of elite income at the same time low income floor levels were raised -- so that ultimately not only would a ceiling be set, but the income distribution would begin to compress towards ever greater degrees of equality.
Often proposals which urge taxation at the top are viewed as utopian. Given the pain which the Bush Administration's policies are creating at all levels, however, there are signs -- particularly at the state level -- of a new willingness of the American public to begin to get serious about what is going on. In the November 2004 elections, California voters overwhelmingly approved tax increases on those making more than $1 million -- and earmarked the proceeds for mental health programs. New Jersey enacted legislation in 2004 taxing those making more than $500,000 -- and used the funds to offset regressive property taxes.
Even the conservative Virginia State Senate approved legislation in 2003 that would have raised income taxes on those making more than $150,000. In Connecticut -- which is currently considering a tax on incomes over a million -- a recent poll found 77% of voters in favor of the tax (including 63% of Republican voters!). 
The invidious comparison and envy machine mechanisms associated with great inequality are clearly not the only sources of unsustainable growth. "Faced with the loneliness and vulnerability that come with deprivation of a securely encompassing community," NYU professor Paul Wachtel writes, "we have sought to quell the vulnerability through our possessions." What is often interpreted as materialism, Thomas Power adds, is in reality a "demonstration of the pathologies of social deprivation." What is really being sought "is participation in authentic social and natural worlds." 
Among the underlying drivers behind such problems are the foundational conditions of everyday work and community life -- including a dearth of meaningful personal relationships and a sense of community, and insufficient time and encouragement to pursue creative and fulfilling activities which do not require materialist consumption.
Community-oriented strategies now being developed by many activists can help open the door to dealing with foundational problems of this kind -- especially efforts aimed at achieving greater local economic stability and thereby individual job security, and strategies designed to nurture community economic and social well-being. A comprehensive program would bring together an all-out attack on extreme inequality at the same time it worked to rebuild ecologically and humanly sound communities.
** Gar Alperovitz is Lionel R. Bauman Professor of Political Economy at the University of Maryland. This article is adapted from his recently published America Beyond Capitalism (John Wiley & Sons, 2005).
1. Congressional Budget Office, Effective Federal Tax Rates, 1997 to 2000, August 2003. Changes in Household Wealth in the 1980s and 1990s in the U.S. in Edward N. Wolff, ed., International Perspectives on Household Wealth (Elgar Publishing Ltd., forthcoming); 5% figure provided by Ed Wolff. Data analysis of 1999 data provided by Jeff Chapman.
2. United Nations, Human Development Report 2002, Deepening Democracy in a Fragmented World, pp. 2, 13.
3. Juliet B. Schor, What's Wrong with Consumer Society? Competitive Spending and the New Consumerism, in Consuming Desires, ed. Roger Rosenblatt (Washington DC: Island Press, 1999) p. 46.
4. Paul Krugman, Plutocracy and Politics, New York Times, June 14, 2002, p. A37; Data drawn from Kevin Phillips, Wealth and Democracy (New York: Broadway Books, 2002), pp. 151-153.
5. Juliet B. Schor, The Overspent American: Upscaling, Downshifting, and the New Consumer (New York: Basic Books, 1998), p. 15; U.S. Census Bureau, Families by Median and Mean Income: 1947 to 2001, Table F-5.
6. Richard Easterlin, Will Raising the Incomes of All Increase the Happiness of All? Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization, Vol. 27, No. 1 (1995), pp. 35-47; Alan Thein Durning, Are We Happy Yet?, in Ecopsychology, ed. Theodore Roszak, Mary E. Gomes & Allen D. Kanner (San Francisco: Sierra Club Books, 1995), pp. 70-76, 71, citing National Opinion Research Center surveys.
7. Juliet B. Schor, What's Wrong with Consumer Society? Competitive Spending and the New Consumerism, pp. 37-50, 46.
8. Robert Frank, Luxury Fever (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1999), pp. 214-215.
9. See Rep. Martin Sabo, The Income Equity Act of 2001 (H.R. 2691).
10. Herman Daly, Beyond Growth (Boston: Beacon Press, 1996), pp. 202-203.
11. Mark Pazniokas, Poll Finds Division on Deficit; but Millionaire's Tax Favored by Majority, Hartford Courant, November 25, 2004, p. B1.
12. Paul L. Wachtel, The Poverty of Affluence: A Psychological Portrait of the American Way of Life (New York: Free Press, 1983), p. 65. Thomas Michael Power, The Pursuit of Quality, Orion (Summer 1993), pp. 30-35, p. 34.
From: In-forum.com ......................................[This story printer-friendly]
March 24, 2006
STUDY LINKS IQ TO PESTICIDE USE
[Rachel's introduction: North Dakota farm children exposed to pesticides performed significantly lower than their peers on IQ tests, a new study has found.]
By Patrick Springer, The Forum
North Dakota farm children exposed to pesticides performed significantly lower than their peers in IQ tests, according to preliminary results of a study released Thursday.
Researchers at the University of North Dakota studied two groups of children in the northern Red River Valley, one group living on or near an active farm or field, another living at least a mile away from those locations.
Children living on or near farms tested an average of five points lower on standard IQ tests, said Patricia Moulton, an experimental psychologist at UND.
"That's a significant difference," she said.
The average intelligence score for the farm children was 98, still within the range considered normal, 85 to 115. But it was well below the average IQ score of 103 for the group with lower chronic exposures to pesticides, Moulton said.
Each group was comprised of 64 children, a number determined to be statistically sound, ages 7 to 12.
Children living on farms also had lower scores in verbal comprehension, visual perceptual reasoning, memory and mental processing speed, the study found.
The study, funded by a branch of the National Institutes of Health, will go on to determine whether there is a correlation between the level of exposure to pesticides and performance on memory, intelligence and other mental functions.
"That's just the raw IQ," Moulton said of findings presented to the Dakota Conference on Rural and Public Health. "We're going to look at a dose-response relationship. We're going to be able to associate the test scores with (pesticide) concentrations in the blood and urine."
Two earlier studies also found that children living in areas with active pesticide use had lower scores in mental performance tests, but those studies did not take into account level of exposure.
Moulton and her research partner, Thomas Petros, also an experimental psychologist at UND, hope to expand their study on pesticide and mental performance by testing farm children throughout North Dakota, with testing year-round.
"We had a huge response to the study," she said. "The farm families were massively interested in the study."
The study is an offshoot of a large epidemiological study that UND researchers are conducting on chronic pesticide exposure and degenerative brain diseases including Parkinson's, Alzheimer's and multiple sclerosis.
"I'm not advocating that we get rid of pesticides, because they're very important to farming," Moulton said. Instead, she advocates a "happy medium," by using non-toxic pesticides whenever possible and taking more steps to decrease exposure.
Copyright 2006 Forum Communications Co. Fargo, ND 58102
From: www.adbusters.org .................................[This story printer-friendly]
March 15, 2006
THE SECRET TO BEING AS RADICAL AS WE WANT TO BE
[Rachel's introduction: The secret to being as radical as we want to be is to finance the revolution ourselves.]
By Michael Shuman and Merrian Fuller**
If Mohandas Gandhi were a typical North American activist these days, he would probably be wearing a three-piece suit and working in a plush office with his law degree prominently displayed. He would have little time to lead protests, since every other week would be spent meeting with donors -- and those power lunches would hardly go well with fasting. He would be careful to avoid salt marches or cotton boycotts, so as not to offend key donors. To sharpen his annual pitch to foundations, he would be constantly dreaming up new one-year projects on narrowly focused topics, perhaps a one-time conference on English human-rights abuses, or a documentary on anti-colonial activities in New Delhi. To ensure that various allies didn't steal away core funders, he would keep his distance and be inclined to trash talk behind their backs. In short, there's little doubt that the British would still be running India.
The problem with activism today is that it is largely funded by grants and gifts from rich foundations and individuals. The long-standing assumption that you can take the money with few strings attached, and then run, needs to be fundamentally reexamined.
Building a philanthropic base of support can cripple an organization's mission and wreck it altogether when the well runs dry. Most nonprofits have engaged in a kind of fundraising arms race in which our best leaders focus more time, energy and resources, not on changing the world, but on improving their panhandling prowess to capture just a little more of a philanthropic pie that actually expands very little from year to year. Armies of "development" staff spend as much as a third of an organization's resources, not to advance the poor, but to cultivate wealthy donors. Significant numbers of our colleagues create campaigns, direct-mail pitches, telemarketing scripts, newsletters and other products exclusively to "care and feed" prospects and to frame positions that will not offend the rich.
Nonprofit structures dictated by this mode of funding also burden organizers with the heavy regulatory hand of the state. To qualify for tax-deductible contributions, for example, US nonprofits must agree to limit lobbying and not to campaign for political causes of candidates.
We believe it's time for North American progressives to break free from the philanthropic plantation. Those of us serious about social change increasingly must get down to business, figuratively and literally. Every social change group may not be able to generate all its funding through revenue-generation, but every nonprofit certainly can generate a greater percentage than it is doing now. In other words, we should become our own funders. Once we start generating our own resources, we can invest them politically -- as corporations do now - largely without limitation, without wasting our time on fundraising appeals, without worrying about that next grant, without apologies.
To get a sense of the possibilities, check out Cabbages & Condoms, a popular restaurant in Bangkok. As your senses become intoxicated by the aromas of garlic, ginger, basil, galangal and lemongrass, you cannot avoid noticing the origins of the name. On top of each heavy wooden table is a slab of glass, under which are neatly arranged rows of colorful prophylactics. Posters and paintings adorn the half-dozen large rooms, all communicating the restaurant's central message: the AIDS epidemic afflicting Thailand can be checked only through the unabashed promotion and use of male contraception. With balloon animals made from carefully inflated and twisted condoms and the after-dinner candies replaced with your own take-home "condom-mints," even teens cannot escape the message prominently framed on the wall: "Sex is fun but don't be stupid -- use protection."
What makes the five "C&C" restaurants unique, along with an affiliated beach-front resort and numerous gift shops, is that they are all owned by the Population and Community Development Association (PDA), a rural development organization that has been a leader in promoting family planning and fighting aids in Thailand. Seven out of every ten dollars spent by the PDA on such activities as free vasectomies and mobile health clinics are covered by the net revenues from its 16 subsidiary for-profits. Were the PDA dependent on funding from the Thai government, the World Bank or even the Rockefeller Foundation, it no doubt would be told to tone down the message. Jokes on its website - like "the Cabbages and Condoms Restaurants in Thailand don't only present excellent Thai food, the food is guaranteed not to get you pregnant" -- would certainly be discouraged.
The cash flow gives the PDA a measure of confidence and boldness. The founder, Mechai Viravaidya, has no qualms about his decision to employ for-profits: "Unlimited demand is chasing limited supply [of charitable donations]. No longer are gifts, grants or begging enough. From day one, thirty years ago, we have been acutely aware of sustainability and cost-recovery."
Consider some US examples of social entrepreneurship:
* Housing Works in New York uses its Used Book Cafe to generate more than $2 million annually for its work, which prioritizes advocacy for homeless people with HIV. The organization runs clinics, conducts public policy research, lobbies federal and state officials, even leads sit-ins. It is fearless, aggressive and stunningly effective - and its $30 million of annual work would be impossible were it not for its vast range of real estate, food service, retail and rental companies that help pay the bills.
* Pioneer Human Services is a community development corporation based in Seattle that assists a wide range of at-risk populations, including the unemployed, the homeless, ex-convicts, alcoholics and addicts. The organization serves 6,500 people a year and generates nearly all its $55 million budget through a web of ambitious subsidiary nonprofit businesses: cafes and a central kitchen facility for institutional customers, aerospace and sheet-metal industries, a construction company, food warehouses, a real-estate management group and consulting services for other nonprofits. Most of the jobs in these businesses are awarded to its at-risk clients, allowing it to further its mission to integrate clients back into society.
* The Rocky Mountain Institute, a leading promoter of alternative energy technology in Snowmass, Colorado, created E-Source in 1986 to provide in-depth analysis of services, markets, and technologies relating to energy efficiency and renewable energy production. In 1992 RMI secured a program-related investment from the MacArthur Foundation to move the work into a for-profit subsidiary. By 1998 it was generating about $400,000 for the parent nonprofit, but rmi decided it could do even better under new management, so it sold the company to Pearson plc in Britain for $8 million. Today, RMI assists and benefits from other for-profit spinoffs, such as Hypercar, Inc., which aims to create a lightweight body architecture to improve the efficiency of the entire US automobile fleet.
* Judy Wicks' White Dog Cafe in Philadelphia is as much a community organizing center as a restaurant. Radical speakers from around the country provide a steady stream of public lectures. An adjacent store sells fair trade products and will soon be introducing a line of locally made clothing. The White Dog itself embodies principles of social justice and environmental stewardship by paying all employees a living wage, insisting on humanely raised meats and eggs, using locally grown ingredients and running on wind electricity. Twenty percent of profits from the restaurant go to the White Dog Cafe Foundation, carrying on the cafe's mission through nonprofit activities.
These examples embody many possible models. A for-profit subsidiary can generate money for a parent nonprofit. Or, better still, a for- profit can become the change it seeks, by producing and selling socially important goods and services.
While we reject the libertarian argument that every human problem has an economic solution, many social-change issues clearly have economic dimensions that are susceptible to creative business plans. Hate nuclear power? Launch energy-service companies to spread conservation measures, or build local wind farms to take control of your own electricity future. Concerned about the poor, minorities and women having equal access to credit? Create more community banks, credit unions and micro-enterprise funds. Troubled by pharmaceutical prices that make life-saving drugs unattainable for impoverished people across the globe? Start, as several companies based in the developing world did, companies that mass-produce affordable generic versions of high-priced American drugs.
Socially responsible business should be not just a boutique sector of the private economy, but its mainstream. We have been impressed in recent years by the growing number of local businesspeople who not only "walk the walk" of social justice in the small details of their operations and products but also tout the virtues of local ownership. This third generation of entrepreneur-organizers is being led by groups like the Business Alliance for Local Living Economies (BALLE) and by the American Independent Business Alliance (AMIBA). Each promotes local ownership of business, champions social justice and neighborhood revitalization, and pushes for new public policies that remove the tilts in a playing field that favors badly behaved big business.
Sooner or later, the concepts of social-change organization and of social-responsibility business should become indistinguishable. Truly responsible businesses would be owned by all members of a community (rich and poor), hire locally, expand local skills, comport with local labor and environmental standards, produce goods and services that meet urgent local needs and become allies of social justice movements. What better way to help the poor than to transform them into the captains, worker-bees, shareholders and customers of community- friendly business?
If foundations and donors had never existed and professional panhandling had been outlawed, social-change groups would have been forced to turn to creating and running new enterprises or new networks of local businesses, and our movement would be considerably healthier than it is today. Progressives have become the classic 20-something kid still living at home, expecting an allowance from deep-pocket parents for a few basic chores, while agreeing, as a condition for the chump change, to obey someone else's rules on social change. It's time to grow up and strike out on our own.
Here's a challenge to activists (one we take seriously ourselves): let's try to wean ourselves from the charity habit, say by three percent per year. Think about just one piece of your agenda that could be framed as a revenue generator, dream about it a little, develop a business plan and give it a try. If you lack the skills, skip your next fundraising class and instead attend one of thousands upon thousands of entrepreneurship programs around the world. Or hire someone who might start the entrepreneurial subsidiary of your nonprofit.
Gandhi understood that the key to freeing India was to transform his fellow citizens into economically productive agents by spinning their own cloth and taking their own salt from the sea. Martin Luther King Jr. implored African Americans to form their own credit unions and community development corporations. The secret to being as radical as we want to be -- and as radical as we need to be -- is to finance the revolution ourselves.
** Michael Shuman is the vice president for enterprise development for the Training and Development Corporation in Bucksport, Maine. Merrian Fuller is a managing director of the Business Alliance for Local Living Economies. This article was adapted from "Profits for Justice," which first appeared in The Nation.
From: Environmental Science & Technology ............[This story printer-friendly]
March 22, 2006
[Rachel's introduction: To their surprise, German researchers have found the toxic metal, antimony, in bottled water. They also report that levels of antimony in the natural environment have been rising since 1970 because humans use antimony in flame retardants.]
By Kris Christen
Once drinking water is encased in plastic bottles, its levels of antimony tend to rise; researchers suspect that the toxic element is leaching out of the bottles.
Consumers who drink bottled water could be getting more than they bargained for in the form of a surprising amount of antimony, a potentially toxic trace element with chemical properties similar to those of arsenic. Fortunately, concentrations reported to date are too low to trigger health alerts.
Acting on a hunch, researchers at the University of Heidelberg (Germany) Institute of Environmental Geochemistry measured the abundance of this heavy metal in 15 brands of Canadian bottled water and 48 European brands. In findings published in February (J. Environ. Monit. 2006, 8, 288-292), they reported concentrations of more than 100 times the average level of antimony in uncontaminated groundwater, which is 2 parts per trillion (ppt).
The researchers weren't initially looking for antimony in bottled waters. "We were just interested in characterizing a pristine groundwater and got to wondering why a number of analyses in the literature were reporting much higher values of antimony in bottled waters than what we were finding," says William Shotyk, the study's lead author.
Most commercially available bottled water is now sold in polyethylene terephthalate (PET) containers, according to Mike Neal, chairman of the PET Health, Safety, and Environment Committee of Plastics Europe, an association of European plastics manufacturers. Antimony trioxide is used as a catalyst in the manufacture of PET, which typically contains several hundred milligrams per kilogram (mg/kg) of antimony. By comparison, the natural abundance of antimony in rocks and soils is less than 1 mg/kg.
Global consumption of bottled water more than doubled over the past 5 years, to 41 billion gallons (gal), according to the latest statistics from the International Bottled Water Association (IBWA), a trade group. People throughout the globe consumed an average of 6.4 gal of bottled water per person in 2004, according to IBWA. In 2005, revenues for the U.S. market alone, which is the largest consumer of bottled water, topped $9.8 billion.
Shotyk and his colleagues found that waters bottled in PET containers contained as much as 550 ppt of antimony. Even highly purified deionized waters contained in PET bottles had antimony concentrations up to 160 ppt. Moreover, "the longer the water's in the bottle, the more antimony it's going to have," Shotyk notes.
Just to be sure that the antimony was leaching from the PET bottles, Shotyk and his colleagues collected source water from a German bottling company and measured 4 ppt of antimony. However, in the same brand of water purchased from a local supermarket, "I got 360 ppt," Shotyk says, "and that same brand of water, but purchased 3 months earlier and sitting in my office, contains 630 ppt."
Neal points out that these concentrations are far lower than drinking- water standards, which range from 2 parts per billion (ppb) in Japan to 5 ppb in Europe and 6 ppb in the U.S. and Canada. Under World Health Organization guidelines, up to 20 ppb is considered safe. Additionally, he notes that "all packaging materials migrate different amounts of materials into foodstuffs, and PET is one of the polymers that migrates the least of its contents."
But Shotyk wonders about the wider environmental implications. "That's a lot of antimony in the plastic," Shotyk notes, and "the question is, where does it end up?" Unlike other heavy metals, such as lead, mercury, cadmium, and arsenic, very little research has been done to date on the environmental fate of antimony. The U.S. EPA lists the metal as a possible carcinogen and priority pollutant. Previous studies by Shotyk and his colleagues on ice cores from the Canadian Arctic show that antimony enrichment from aerosols migrating there is 50% higher today than it was 30 years ago.
Although antimony has been used since ancient times, consumption has risen dramatically since the early 1970s with the advent of flame retardants, says James Carlin, a commodity specialist with the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). China now produces 85% of the world total. The mining and processing of antimony ores is a primary source of antimony to the environment, according to a toxicological profile by the U.S. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. Smaller amounts are also released by waste incinerators and coal-burning power plants.
More than half of the antimony goes into flame retardants. The rest is used mainly in glass for television picture tubes and computer monitors, pigments, stabilizers and catalysts for plastics, ammunition, friction bearings, lead-acid batteries, and solders, USGS statistics show.
Copyright 2006 American Chemical Society
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