Rachel's Precaution Reporter #23

"Foresight and Precaution, in the News and in the World"

Wednesday, February 1, 2006..........Printer-friendly version
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Table of Contents...

The Be SAFE Platform -- Please Sign On
  The BE SAFE campaign is promoting the precautionary philosophy
  nationwide and internationally. One component of the campaign is the
  BE SAFE Platform. You can sign on and add your own voice to this
  call to prevent problems, not merely manage them.
What Would Precautionary Coastal-building Policies Look Like?
  U.S. coastal communities are endangered by land-use policies that
  allow building right on the water's edge, plus powerful storms that
  sweep away anything in their path. A precautionary approach might
  include policies to control growth in danger zones, plus policies to
  protect local economies from being "developed" to a point where they
  no longer serve the needs of local people.
Urban Sprawl Adds Pounds and Pollution, Two Studies Show
  The basic orientation of public health is called "primary
  prevention." That's the precautionary approach in a nutshell -- look
  ahead and do your best to prevent problems before they occur, rather
  than trying to manage them afterward. New studies show that land-use
  decisions are making many of us sick. Therefore, precautionary action
  is needed to prevent unhealthy land-use decisions.
Op-Ed: E-waste at Large
  Maine's new e-waste law gives producers responsibility for their
  products from manufacture through disposal. But we need to go further
  to really prevent millions of pounds of toxic electronic waste from
  entering the soil and water. Keeping toxic trash out of our dumps
  won't mean a thing if we don't stop the export of hazardous material
  to countries without enforceable environmental regulations.


From: Center for Health, Environment and Justice (CHEJ), Jan. 27, 2006
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[RPR introduction: The BE SAFE campaign is promoting the
precautionary philosophy nationwide and internationally. One component
of the BE SAFE campaign is the BE SAFE Platform, reprinted here. You
can add your own voice to this call to prevent problems, not merely
manage them, by signing on as an individual or on behalf of your
group. The goal is a million signatures. -- Editors.]

The BE SAFE Platform

In the 21st century, we envision a world in which our food, water and
air are clean, and our children grow up healthy and thrive. Everyone
needs a protected, safe community and workplace, and natural
environment to enjoy. We can make this world vision a reality. The
tools we bring to this work are prevention, safety, responsibility and

Our goal is to prevent pollution and environmental destruction before
it happens. We support this precautionary approach because it is
preventive medicine for our environment and health. It makes sense to:

** Prevent pollution and make polluters, not taxpayers, pay and assume
responsibility for the damage they cause;

** Protect our children from chemical and radioactive exposures to
avoid illness and suffering;

** Promote use of safe, renewable, non-toxic technologies;

** Provide a natural environment we can all enjoy with clean air,
swimmable, fishable water and stewardship for our national forests.

We choose a "better safe than sorry" approach motivated by caution and

We endorse the common-sense approach outlined in BE SAFE's four
principles listed below.



Government and industry have a duty to prevent harm, when there is
credible evidence that harm is occurring or is likely to occur -- even
when the exact nature and full magnitude of harm is not yet proven.


Industry and government have a responsibility to thoroughly study the
potential for harm from a new chemical or technology before it is used
-- rather than assume it is harmless until proven otherwise. We need
to ensure it is safe now, or we will be sorry later. Research on
impacts to workers and the public needs to be confirmed by independent
third parties.


Precautionary decisions place the highest priority on protecting
health and the environment, and help develop cleaner technologies and
industries with effective safeguards and enforcement. Government and
industry decisions should be based on meaningful citizen input and
mutual respect (the golden rule), with the highest regard for those
whose health may be affected and for our irreplaceable natural
resources -- not for those with financial interests. Uncompromised
science should inform public policy.


Decision-making by government, industry and individuals must include
an evaluation of alternatives, and the choice of the safest,
technically feasible solutions. We support innovation and promotion of
technologies and solutions that create a healthy environment and
economy, and protect our natural resources.

Click here to sign on as an organization.

Click here to sign on as an individual.

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From: Poughkeepsie (N.Y.) Journal, Jan. 29, 2006
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Added pollution puts ecosystems at risk

More disasters of Hurricane Katrina-proportions are a certainty
because the United States has no policy to control growth in danger
zones at the water's edge.

In a single generation, land along the nation's fragile coasts has
been gobbled up, concentrating wealth at the shore, threatening the
environment and putting at risk millions of people and property worth
billions of dollars.

While the Hudson River Valley is among the least-prone coastal areas
to hurricane damage, the estuary shares many of the other stresses
affecting U.S. coastal communities. Here, the desire to live on the
water that is fueling a building boom around the country is compounded
by our proximity to New York City and its many commuters and second-
home owners.

Thousands of new homes and hundreds of thousands of square feet of
office and retail space are proposed for construction on the shores of
the Hudson River in the mid-Hudson Valley alone. Development
throughout the Hudson's vast watershed has already been linked to
measurable declines in the water quality of the streams that feed the
Hudson River estuary.

A three-month Gannett News Service examination found:

** Approximately 23 percent of the nation's estuaries do not meet
state and federal clean water standards for swimming, fishing or
supporting marine species. While much of the Hudson is safe for
swimming, the state advises against eating many fish species because
of contamination.

** In many seashore towns, once-robust commercial fishing and
shipbuilding industries have been replaced by tourism-driven economies
and lower wages.

** Demand for waterfront property has driven home prices so high that
workers who staff the shops, restaurants, schools and police
departments can't afford to live nearby.

** Industrial pollution remains a burden, as cleanup costs impede some
revitalization efforts. New York's Brownfield cleanup law has helped
communities and developers subsidize the cost of cleaning polluted
waterfronts, but contamination remains costly.

Communities could decline

If runaway land consumption and relentless growth in automobile use
continue unchecked, many healthy shore communities could face sharp
declines over the next 25 years, according to Dana Beach, director of
the South Carolina Coastal Conservation League and an authority on
coastal sprawl.

"When we modify watersheds (with roads and buildings) we are changing
the physical attributes, the biological attributes of the water bodies
embedded in those watersheds," Beach said.

Paved surfaces, for instance, interrupt the water cycle, preventing
rainwater from percolating into the ground and recharging underground
water reserves. The pavement tends to increase stream erosion and
degrade habitat because rainwater cascades quickly off of pavement,
filling streams with explosive force. Pollutants such as salt and oils
from roads flow off pavement directly into streams.

That, and other changes to the watershed, have contributed to a
wholesale change in the composition of fish species in many Hudson
River tributaries -- with fewer overall fish species now present than
a few decades ago.

The federal government has a patchwork of regulations and agencies
that focus on pollution, flood control, the environment and growth

The state controls some land-use decisions on the coast, as shown by
New York's decision last year to deny St. Lawrence Cement Co.'s plans
to build a cement plant on the Hudson River in Columbia County. That
decision was based on a federal law executed by the states that is
intended to protect the nation's coastline.

Most land-use decisions, however, are in the hands of the smallest
governments -- the cities, towns and villages. Volunteer planning
boards consider development proposals and make decisions based on the
zoning ordinances on the books.

Those boards are considering proposals for thousands of waterfront
condominiums, single-family homes, restaurants and retail and office
space in the valley -- including Kingston, Poughkeepsie, Beacon,
Newburgh, Fishkill, Lloyd, Hyde Park and Esopus.

In coastal communities across the country, local residents,
professional activists and others are struggling to check encroaching
sprawl and development.

New advocacy taking hold

But the traditional position of many environmentalists -- opposed to
any and all new construction near sensitive marshes, wetlands and
waterways -- is giving way to a new and more savvy form of advocacy.

It's evident in places such as Kingston, where a coalition of groups,
Friends of Kingston Waterfront, has proposed an alternative
development plan for two riverfront parcels where developers want to
build more than 2,500 homes, as well as businesses.

The advocates push "smart growth" and "new urbanism" ideas, that
seek to concentrate construction in areas already developed, where
public infrastructure such as water and sewer service and schools can
serve the new population. The strategy is to concentrate population
growth in these areas, leaving outlying areas open for wilderness,
recreation or farming.

Recently, the Environmental Protection Agency and the National Oceanic
and Atmospheric Administration formed a partnership to promote smart-
growth principles to coastal communities.

"Our role is to provide coastal communities with the best information
possible so they can make informed decisions about where and how to
grow," said Tim Torma, an EPA manager in the agency's smart-growth

EPA experts are assisting planners in Aquidneck Island, R.I., to
implement a master plan for developing 10 miles of coast on
Narragansett Bay north of Newport, R.I.

"This really gives voice to what island residents said they wanted,"
Tina Dolen, Executive Director of the Aquidneck Island Planning
Commission. "They told us they wanted environmental protection, access
to the water, roadways that were not so dangerous and a better-looking
commercial development area."

Gannett News Service conducted the investigation of coastal

Dan Shapley contributed local context to this report. He can be
reached at dshapley@poughkeepsiejournal.com

On the Web

Hudson River Estuary Program:

Copyright 2006 PoughkeepsieJournal.com

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From: Seattle Times, Jan. 24, 2006
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By Eric Pryne

Residents of King County's less-walkable neighborhoods -- can you say
sprawl? -- are more likely to be overweight, a recently completed
study concludes.

Another related study has found, perhaps not surprisingly, that people
who live and work in those neighborhoods generate more auto-related
air pollution, another potential threat to health.

The two studies' findings are summarized in the winter edition of the
peer-reviewed Journal of the American Planning Association. The
authors, who collaborated in their research, say their work
constitutes the most comprehensive look yet at the link between urban-
development patterns and human health in a single metropolitan area.

Earlier research has raised the possibility of a connection between
sprawl, obesity and other health problems. The King County results
suggest "current laws and regulations are producing negative health
outcomes," the authors warn.

"None of this is saying suburbia is bad," said Lawrence Frank, an
urban-planning professor at the University of British Columbia and co-
author of both studies. "It just says these are the relationships you
get... and they should be taken into account."

A top aide to King County Executive Ron Sims said the county already
has adopted some changes as a result of the studies and is planning

The research isn't likely to end the debate over sprawl and health.

To learn more

Lawrence Frank of the University of British Columbia will speak about
his research on neighborhood design and health at 7 tonight at Town
Hall, Eighth Avenue and Seneca Street, Seattle. Admission is $10 with
advance registration, $15 at the door. For tickets and more
information, see www.iceh.org.

"If you're listing things that impact obesity, neighborhood design
would be maybe 10th on my list," said Tim Attebury, King County
manager for the Master Builders Association of King and Snohomish
Counties. "I would put McDonald's and too much TV way in front of
neighborhood design."

But Frank and co-author James Sallis, a health psychologist at San
Diego State University, said the two new studies go beyond previous
work in showing that development patterns can have a significant
impact on health even when taking into account other variables such as
age, income, education and ethnicity.

The walkability factor

For both studies, researchers ranked neighborhoods using a
"walkability index" that included such factors as residential density,
the number of street connections, and the mix of homes, stores, parks
and schools. All are believed to influence how much people walk.

In one study, funded by the National Institutes of Health, researchers
surveyed and monitored about 75 adults in each of 16 King County
neighborhoods. Eight neighborhoods, including Upper Queen Anne and
White Center, scored high on the walkability index; the other eight,
including Kent's East Hill and part of Sammamish, scored low.

Each group of eight included four wealthier and four lower-income

On average, researchers found, the Body Mass Index -- a measure of
height and weight -- of residents of the more walkable neighborhoods
was lower, and they were more likely to get the U.S. Surgeon General's
recommended 30 minutes of daily exercise.

In the second study, funded by the Federal Transit Administration,
King County and other local governments, researchers estimated the
auto-related pollution generated by about 6,000 King County residents
who kept detailed records of their travel for two days in 1999 as part
of another study.

Again, people who lived and worked in more walkable neighborhoods
produced fewer pollutants associated with smog, the study found.

Surprising finding

After subjecting the data to statistical analysis, Frank said,
researchers were surprised to learn that even small changes in
neighborhood design can make a difference.

A 5 percent increase in a neighborhood's walkability index, for
instance, was associated with a 0.23-point drop in Body Mass Index.
For someone 6 feet tall, that's a difference of less than 2 pounds,
but Frank said bigger changes in a neighborhood's walkability would be
expected to produce greater differences in weight.

The presence or absence of stores, parks, schools and other
destinations within a quarter- to a half-mile of home appears to be
the most important factor in how much people walk, he said.

Karen Wolf, a senior policy analyst in Sims' office, said that as a
result of the studies, the county already has amended the policies
that guide its planning to make health a priority.

County officials also are working on a checklist to rate development
projects' impact on health, she said.

In White Center, one of three neighborhoods that Frank and other
researchers studied in detail, Wolf said the county has rezoned
property to encourage "mixed-use" development that allows both housing
and shops, and is seeking a grant to develop an inviting walkway
between a redeveloped housing project and the community's business

"The whole idea is to make walking something you don't even think
about," she said. "It's part of your everyday life."

Eric Pryne: 206-464-2231 or epryne@seattletimes.com

Copyright 2006 The Seattle Times Company

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From: The New York Times, Jan. 27, 2006
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By Elizabeth Royte

Last week, Maine became the first state to require manufacturers of
computer monitors and televisions to pay for their recycling and
disposal. Washington, with a pending bill, may be next. That's
progress, right?

Computer recycling sounds like an unmitigated good: it keeps hazardous
components out of incinerators and landfills, which researchers at
Carnegie Mellon University estimate already hold more than 60 million
computers. And by reusing glass, plastic, aluminum and heavy metals
(like lead, copper and mercury), recycling averts the energy use and
pollution linked with mining and drilling for new materials.

But because recycling in the United States is expensive, hazardous and
encumbered with environmental and safety regulations, many companies
that collect e-waste simply ship it to underdeveloped nations.
According to the Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition and the Basel Action
Network, up to 80 percent of the material dropped off by well-meaning
Americans at community recycling events ends up bundled for export.

Most of the stuff that goes overseas can't or won't be fixed and sold.
Computer dealers in Lagos, Nigeria, for example, complain that up to
75 percent of the 400,000 units they receive each month from recyclers
are junk. A 2002 documentary showed Chinese workers, including
children, using hammers and chisels to pry copper and aluminum from
computers, burning PVC-coated wires to get at copper and swirling
acids in buckets to extract gold.

After stripping what they can, workers dump the computer carcasses and
waste sludge in nearby fields or streams. Soil and water tests in the
e-waste processing town of Guiyu, China, for instance, revealed levels
of chromium, tin and barium hundreds of times higher than allowable in
the United States.

It's easy to find American companies that call themselves computer
recyclers, but it's hard to trace what they actually do. The
government doesn't regulate these businesses, and the Environmental
Protection Agency has no certification process for recyclers. There
are dozens of e-waste bills being considered across the country,
including one in New York City. Five states and 15 counties ban
computer and television monitors from landfills. California, Maine,
Maryland and Massachusetts have e-waste recycling programs in place,
all financed by different mechanisms.

Even the electronics industry doesn't like this patchwork approach,
but so far, no one has come up with anything better. Four e-waste
bills are floating around the House and Senate: the biggest difference
between them is whether consumers or manufacturers would pay for the
programs. A strong argument holds that when producers must manage
their own discards, they have a strong incentive to design equipment
that's nontoxic and easy to recycle.

The sooner Congress gets it together, the better. Electronic waste is
now considered the fastest-growing segment of the municipal waste
stream in the United States. The National Safety Council estimated in
2004 that by 2009, 250 million computers will have become obsolete. As
awareness of the hazards of e-waste rises, more states will ban it
from landfills. But keeping toxic trash from our dumps won't mean a
thing if we don't forbid the export of hazardous material to countries
without enforceable environmental regulations.

To halt this environmental injustice, in which we're all complicit,
the federal government needs to restrict the use of hazardous
materials in computers, require manufacturers to put in place
recycling programs (it will be a lot cheaper and safer to recycle this
stuff once the toxics are out) and ban hazardous waste exports. That
may sound like a tall order, but that's no reason not to proceed: the
European Union has already passed every one of these laws.

Elizabeth Royte is the author, most recently, of "Garbage Land: On
the Secret Trail of Trash."

Copyright 2006 The New York Times Company

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  Rachel's Precaution Reporter offers news, views and practical
  examples of the Precautionary Principle, or Foresight Principle, in
  action. The Precautionary Principle is a modern way of making
  decisions, to minimize harm. Rachel's Precaution Reporter tries to
  answer such questions as, Why do we need the precautionary
  principle? Who is using precaution? Who is opposing precaution?

  We often include attacks on the precautionary principle because we  
  believe it is essential for advocates of precaution to know what
  their adversaries are saying, just as abolitionists in 1830 needed
  to know the arguments used by slaveholders.

  Rachel's Precaution Reporter is published as often as necessary to
  provide readers with up-to-date coverage of the subject.

  As you come across stories that illustrate the precautionary 
  principle -- or the need for the precautionary principle -- 
  please Email them to us at rpr@rachel.org.

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