Rachel's Precaution Reporter #27
Wednesday, March 1, 2006

From: Alliance for a Clean and Healthy Maine ..............[This story printer-friendly]
February 22, 2006


[Rachel's introduction: Pressured by a lot of well-organized citizens, Maine's governor, John Baldacci, signed an executive order Feb. 22 committing state government to finding less-harmful alternatives to toxic chemicals for consumer products and services -- a precautionary approach that doesn't even mention precaution. More great work from activists in Maine! And hats off to Governor Baldacci!]

AUGUSTA -- Maine Governor John Baldacci signed an Executive Order Feb. 22 in a Cabinet Room ceremony to promote safer chemicals in consumer products and services.

Governor Baldacci says that the Executive Order commits the Government of the State of Maine to phase out its use of long-lasting toxic chemicals while making information available to the public about safer alternatives to those chemicals.

The Executive Order further looks to the future by spelling out the next steps that Maine will take against chemicals that have already been identified as priorities such as mercury, lead and pesticides.

The Governor also announced the creation of a task force designed to identify safer alternatives to hazardous chemicals and promote the use and development of the alternatives. The task force will be made up of representatives of environmental groups, people from the business and labor communities, members of the University system, state government and the general public.

"We are all at risk -- our children especially -- from hazardous chemicals," Governor Baldacci said. "When there are toxic materials in the house, kids will find them. I am proud that Maine is continuing to be a leader in making this state one of the healthiest states in the nation."

Governor Baldacci worked with the Alliance for a Clean and Healthy Maine on the Executive Order. The Alliance is made up of representatives from The Learning Disabilities Association of Maine; The Maine Labor Group on Health; The Maine Environmental Health Strategy Center; The Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association; The Maine People's Alliance; The Maine Public Health Association; Maine Physicians for Social Responsibility; The Natural Resources Council of Maine; and The Toxics Action Center.

Maine DEP secretary David Littell spoke at the signing of the executive order.

Contact: Crystal Canney (207) 287-2531, Dan Cashman (207) 287-2531


From: Emery Unified School District, Emeryville, California [This story printer-friendly]
May 2, 2005


Resolution No. 12-2004-2005

[Rachel's introduction: The Emeryville, California School District has adopted the precautionary principle and has spelled out what it means: anticipatory action to avert harm, community right to know, assessment of alternatives to find the least harmful way, full cost accounting to tally up both goods and bads, and decision-making that respects and involves the people affected.]

WHEREAS -- Schools have the potential to make positive, tangible environmental change in the world while teaching students to be stewards of their communities, the earth and its resources;

WHEREAS -- Our current school systems often suffer from inadequate facilities that frequently use energy, water and other resources unsustainably; use pesticides, cleaning agents and other chemicals that pose health risks; and can result in "sick building syndrome " from indoor air pollution and poor ventilation;

WHEREAS -- Many schools across the nation are sited on or near toxic waste dumps, environmentally hazardous facilities, and other sources of pollution;

WHEREAS -- Schools are important consumers of natural resources, including energy, water, food, and paper, and generators of waste materials, including garbage, runoff, and air emissions, which contribute to the world's larger environmental problems like global warming, water and air pollution, and habitat destruction.

WHEREAS -- Children, teachers, and staff are regularly exposed to toxic chemicals at school, are offered poor and unhealthy food choices, and use and manage resources unsustainably resulting in negative impacts on their health and their ability to teach and learn.

WHEREAS -- This district expends considerable financial resources on chemical pest control, cleaning supplies, energy, water, office and school supplies, and educational activities (resolution could include specific statistics from the district on funds spent on specific resources);

WHEREAS -- This district has a considerable opportunity through its purchasing power to improve both the environment and its financial bottom line.

WHEREAS -- Many options and choices exist for schools to use natural resources more efficiently; to reduce, reuse, and recycle; to follow "Healthy, High Performance School Guidelines " for construction; to ban junk food and soda and produce healthy lunches through local farm- to-school partnerships; to eliminate toxic chemicals; and to purchase (or produce) clean energy and recycled paper to protect our global environment.

WHEREAS -- There is a tremendous opportunity to teach children about ecological sustainability, environmental health and nutrition; meet math, science and social studies standards; integrate environmental education into curricula; and support students to become leaders in making their own school a healthier and more ecologically friendly place;

WHEREAS -- The Precautionary Principle has been adopted by a growing number of cities, as well as the Los Angeles Unified School District as a proactive approach to promote the safest, lowest risk way to protect people's health, the environment, and property;

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the Governing Authority of the Emery Unified School District recognizes all the excellent work already underway in the district, undertaken by parents, teachers, administrators, janitors, nurses and others and recognizes that this framework creates a long-term, inspiring vision that integrates and strengthens many efforts in our district. Further recognizing that fully implementing this resolution will take time, and must be achieved in stages.

BE IT RESOLVED to promote healthier, more environmentally sustainable schools and teach environmental leadership, the School Board hereby:

1. Adopts the Precautionary Principle as the foundation for its environmental policy. The Precautionary Principle includes the following elements:

** ANTICIPATORY ACTION: There is a duty to take anticipatory action to prevent harm. Government, business, and community groups, as well as the general public, share this responsibility.

** RIGHT TO KNOW: The community has a right to know complete and accurate information on potential human health and environmental impacts associated with the selection of products, services, operations or plans. The burden to supply this information lies with the proponent, not with the general public.

** ALTERNATIVES ASSESSMENT: An obligation exists to examine a full range of alternatives and select the alternative with the least potential impact on human health and the environment, including the alternative of doing nothing.

** FULL COST ACCOUNTING: When evaluating potential alternatives, there is a duty to consider all the reasonably foreseeable costs, including raw materials, manufacturing, transportation, use, cleanup, eventual disposal, and health costs even if such costs are not reflected in the initial price. Short and long-term benefits and time thresholds should be considered when making decisions.

** PARTICIPATORY DECISION PROCESS: Decisions applying the Precautionary Principle must be transparent, participatory, and informed by the best available information.

2. Calls on the district to develop an action plan to implement a proactive environmental policy based on the Precautionary Principle that includes the following to be prioritized and implemented step by step:

2.1 The development and adoption of an Integrated Pest Management program and other policies to minimize or eliminate the use of hazardous pesticides and herbicides in schools.

2.2 An audit of cleaning materials used in district schools and the development of a plan to use the least toxic substances.

2.3 Mechanisms to ensure that new schools are not sited near or on environmental health hazards.

2.4 A program to ensure that new schools are built and existing schools refurbished following Healthy, High Performance school building criteria that mandate the use of environmentally sound building material, efficient use of energy, water and other resources, and the creation of a healthy learning environment for children.

2.5 A district-wide plan to improve the energy efficiency of schools, to increasingly rely on clean, renewable energy sources to power the district's facilities, and to ultimately transform schools into independent power producers by investing in clean renewable technologies such as solar and wind.

2.6 The creation of district-wide recycling and composting programs, along with the procurement of recycled office, cafeteria, and classroom supplies.

2.7 Follow and build upon the examples of New York City, Chicago, Nashville, San Francisco and others and ban soda, candy, junk food and fast food from all school grounds.

2.8 Evaluate the district's school lunch program to ensure good nutrition and consider developing a farm-to-school program.

2.9 Encourage the development of school gardens and green schoolyards as hands- on learning tools that promote good nutrition, stewardship of the land, and that teach to standards.

2.10 Adopt frameworks that meet state standards and integrate environmental education and student participation into school-wide environmental initiatives, using partnerships with environmental education providers (non-profit and public agencies)

APPROVED, PASSED, AND ADOPTED by the Governing Board of the Emery Unified School District this 2nd day of May 2005.

Signed by Cheryl Webb, Board Clerk, Emery Unified School District


From: Risk Policy Report .................................[This story printer-friendly]
February 28, 2006


[Rachel's introduction: When do we know enough to act? For sure when less-harmful alternatives are readily available. In the case of DEHP (a phthalate) in medical devices, good alternatives are available now. As physician Ted Schettler says, the Food & Drug Administration should use its authority to meet its public trust responsibility: require labeling of DEHP-containing PVC medical devices and move the medical device market to safer alternatives by requiring substitution where suitable alternatives exist. This is the "substitution principle" -- an important part of precautionary action.]

By Ted Schettler, MD, MPH

As evidence of the hazards of di-2-ethylhexyl phthalate (DEHP) continues to mount, the inevitable question arises, "When do we know enough to act to protect people from unnecessary and potentially harmful exposures?" Concerns about the safety of DEHP, a PVC plasticizer, have intensified since it became apparent that developing organisms are far more susceptible to DEHP exposures than adults. Hundreds of animal studies confirm the particular vulnerability of the developing male reproductive system and have begun to define mechanisms of toxicity, including impaired testosterone synthesis. Birth defects, pathologic testicular changes, decreased sperm production, and altered hormone levels are caused by developmental exposures to DEHP. Lowest adverse effect levels in developing organisms are orders of magnitude lower than doses necessary to cause reproductive system impacts in adults.

Human studies report ubiquitous DEHP exposures in the general population, with some concluding that the reference dose is exceeded among those who are most highly exposed. Studies of infants in neonatal intensive care units show even higher exposure levels from DEHP- containing medical devices. Based on animal tests, these exposures occur during developmental windows of heightened sensitivity. Measurements of newly identified metabolites of DEHP have enriched our understanding of mammalian toxicokinetics and suggest that previous estimates of DEHP exposure are too low. The first studies of DEHP exposure effects in infants are inconclusive but provocative.

Two expert panels of the National Toxicology Program (NTP), the US Food & Drug Administration (FDA), a Health Canada expert panel, and the European Union have all concluded that the animal studies of DEHP are likely to predict human health impacts and raise serious concerns. These government-sponsored panels say health care delivery with DEHP- containing PVC medical products can be a clinically significant source of DEHP exposure, and infants receiving intensive medical care are most at risk.

In 2002, FDA issued a Public Health Notification warning health care providers to use available DEHP-free medical devices while treating certain vulnerable patient populations, including critically ill infants. In October 2005, a second NTP expert panel reviewed the last several years of research findings and again expressed "serious concern" regarding infants receiving intensive medical treatments with DEHP-containing devices.

Recent studies of infants receiving intensive medical therapy with PVC medical devices reported levels of DEHP metabolites in their urine similar to those associated with adverse impacts in laboratory animals. One of the studies also contained some good news. Comparing infants in two Harvard-affiliated Boston Neonatal Intensive Care Units, the study found significantly lower DEHP levels in the babies receiving care at the hospital that had switched to DEHP-free medical devices for some applications. Health care providers at that institution had taken prudent action to protect their vulnerable patients from unnecessary exposures to DEHP while continuing to provide high-quality care.

Defenders of PVC/DEHP products cite studies in marmosets that reportedly show no harm from DEHP exposures. Marmosets are members of a primate species with male hormonal regulatory systems that significantly differ from humans. For instance, testosterone levels are normally high in marmosets, and they are relatively insensitive to changes in steroid hormone levels, unlike humans. This is not a trivial detail when evaluating a chemical that interferes with testosterone synthesis. It limits the utility of marmosets as a model for studying DEHP toxicity in humans. Moreover, no study has ever examined the impacts of fetal or neonatal exposure to DEHP in non- human primates.

The recent NTP expert panel also reviewed a relatively new but unpublished, industry-sponsored marmoset study submitted by the American Chemistry Council's Phthalate Ester Panel. The NTP panel was unconvinced by the study authors' curious rationale for omitting from the data analysis some animals that apparently showed significant impacts from exposure. Subsequently, a reproductive biologist commissioned by the Phthalate Ester Panel to review that study and comment on the appropriateness of using marmosets as a relevant animal model was also unable to explain why those data were omitted from the analysis. He further commented on the study's poor design and execution.

PVC/DEHP defenders also look for safe harbor in the lack of proof that DEHP harms humans. Human studies will require accurate DEHP exposure assessment in male fetuses and infants, followed by long-term follow- up as these children enter their reproductive years in order to find a potential relationship between early life exposures and later reproductive function. The prospects for such a study are slim, and the results would not be available for decades.

DEHP-free alternatives are readily available for nearly all uses in health care. Replacing DEHP with another plasticizer in a PVC device of course raises questions of the safety of the alternative. To be sure, other plasticizers must also undergo rigorous scrutiny and FDA approval. Some alternative polymers, however, such as polypropylene and polyethylene, among others, do not require plasticizer additives of any kind, and concern about their leaching is not an issue. A list of PVC-free medical devices, manufacturers, and alternative materials is available at http://www.noharm.org/us/pvcDehp/issue.

Some major health care institutions are responding to the FDA's notification by phasing out PVC medical devices and seeking safer alternatives -- including Kaiser Permanente, the largest non-profit health care provider in the United States; Catholic Healthcare West, Miller Children's Hospital, Lucille Packard NICU at Stanford University, and many others. The largest group purchasing organizations in the health care industry have committed to support labeling of PVC and DEHP medical products and offer DEHP-free alternatives.

In the experience of clinical practitioners, DEHP-free alternatives have similar costs and are just as safe and effective. Valerie Briscoe, a neonatal clinical nurse specialist at John Muir Medical Center, a 550-bed hospital in Northern California with the busiest birth center in its county, was able to switch her hospital's NICU to safer non-DEHP medical devices within six months of FDA's public health notification.

"We found alternatives that were as adequate in providing therapy with no substantial cost impact to the hospital. This was a relatively easy process for me," Briscoe said. "I would say that 99 percent of the products have alternatives out there. I've been very successful in finding alternatives."

Catholic Healthcare West (CHW), the largest Catholic health-care system in the western United States, announced in November a five- year, $70 million contract to B. Braun Medical Inc. for PVC-free/DEHP- free intravenous bags, solutions and tubing.

"We have been actively advocating for PVC/DEHP-free supplies from our vendors since 1997. B. Braun has stepped up to the challenge as the first supplier with the capacity to deliver PVC- and DEHP-free supplies to all 40 of our hospitals," said Lloyd H. Dean, CHW president/chief executive officer, in a press release announcing the contract. CHW previously contracted with the nation's largest medical device manufacturer, Baxter International, which has yet to fulfill its 1999 promise to shareholders to develop a fully-expanded PVC-free product line.

Despite these promising developments, many hospitals across the country are unaware of concerns about DEHP and continue to use PVC medical devices, unnecessarily exposing vulnerable patients to high levels of DEHP. Given the weight of the evidence and the availability of safer alternatives, FDA's failure to require labeling of products containing DEHP and to move manufacturers toward safer product formulations is disturbing.

Because of widespread use of phthalates in a variety of consumer products and general environmental contamination, exposures are ubiquitous in the general population. Unfortunately, no regulatory agency looks at total exposures from all sources when making decisions. Phthalate-containing products are under the regulatory authority of the Environmental Protection Agency, which regulates industrial chemicals, the Consumer Product Safety Commission, and FDA. Even within FDA, which is responsible for food contaminants, pharmaceutical ingredients, medical devices, and cosmetics -- each of which may contain phthalates -- there is virtually no attempt to look at the bigger picture. The focus is generally on one source or one product at a time. When FDA's medical device division considers the safety of exposures to DEHP, it considers only medical devices and not the real world of population-wide exposures from the several million tons of phthalates released into the environment annually.

Even within this Balkanized regulatory system, however, justification for replacing of DEHP-containing medical products is sufficient. Despite that justification, FDA posted its "Public Health Notification: PVC devices containing the plasticizer DEHP" on its website with little publicity. The agency has yet to issue a guidance that would require labeling of DEHP-containing medical products and responsibly move the device-manufacturing sector toward a new generation of safer materials. As a result, even those health care providers who are aware of the concerns surrounding DEHP are often unable to identify potentially problematic devices in their inventory. Informed purchasing decisions require full disclosure of product contents.

We know enough to act. There is no longer any justification for hospitals to continue using PVC/DEHP devices where alternatives exist, particularly in vulnerable patients. Medical device manufacturers should provide PVC-free/DEHP-free devices that hospitals increasingly seek. And, FDA should use its authority to meet its public trust responsibility: require labeling of DEHP-containing PVC medical devices and move the medical device market to safer alternatives by requiring substitution where suitable alternatives exist.

Ted Schettler is the Science Director of the Science and Environmental Health Network

Copyright Inside Washington Publishers


From: Seattle Post-Intelligencer ..........................[This story printer-friendly]
February 24, 2006


[Rachel's introduction: Want to see a neat trick? In this op-ed, Patrick Moore argues that precaution 'dictates' that we continue to use a dangerous flame-retardant (deca-BDE) instead of searching for a less-harmful alternative. George Orwell would feel vindicated by Mr. Moore's inventive double-speak. Oh, and be sure to check out the web site maintained by activists who keep tabs on Mr. Moore's work.]

By Patrick Moore

[Rachel's introduction: This is crude piece of propaganda. It claims that the flame retardant, deca-BDE ('deca' for short) is "non-toxic." But the American Chemical Society reported in 2003 that deca is both toxic and persistent -- a bad combination. We now know that deca builds up in the environment and can get into humans. It is found in breast milk at increasing concentrations. It is found in high concentrations in household dust. It has been banned in Germany because, when burned, it produces dioxins. These are just a few of the reasons why regulators consider it a bad actor. Although Mr. Moore would have you believe that environmental activists are the only ones who want deca banned, in fact scientists for both the Washington State Department of Ecology AND the state Department of Health have urged legislators to ban deca. Patrick, oh Patrick, are you surprised that your colleagues in the Northwest call you a prevaricator?]

Every year, flame retardants save hundreds of lives in the United States, and thousands more across the globe.

Not only do flame retardants reduce the spread of fire, they reduce the threat of ignition in the first place, and give people more time to escape injury. They are particularly important in providing added fire safety in schools, airplanes, automobiles and retirement homes. One of the most common flame retardants is decabromodiphenyl ether (Deca-BDE), which is used in flammable consumer products such as televisions, upholstered furniture and carpets.

Despite Deca-BDE's undeniable history of saving lives, the Toxic Free Legacy Coalition -- whose activist membership includes the Washington Toxics Coalition -- is asking the Legislature to ban this chemical in Washington state.

The Washington Toxics Coalition's apparent mission is to "protect public health and the environment by eliminating toxic pollution." Yet Deca-BDE -- the most common and rigorously-tested variety -- is non- toxic in its application. No country in the world has banned Deca-BDE, and there is no alternative with such a proven track record of safety and performance.

Extensive studies in both Europe and the United States show Deca-BDE is safe. Following a 10-year risk assessment -- which evaluated more than 500 studies -- the European Union concluded Deca-BDE does not pose health or environmental risks.

The active element in the most effective flame retardants, bromine, is found widely in nature and is primarily harvested from seawater, salt lakes and underground brine deposits. Bromine compounds are also used in the manufacturing of pharmaceuticals, including sedatives and antihistamines. Pharmaceuticals with bromine compounds are being tested in the fight against Alzheimer's, cancer and AIDS. Bromine compounds are also used in photography.

In the case of flame retardants, bromine compounds are added or blended into materials in solid form -- not gas form -- so the opportunity for human exposure is extremely small. As a result, where Deca-BDE levels are detected in our environment, they are measured at extremely low levels -- parts-per-billion, or parts-per-trillion.

Motivated by dollars rather than science, the campaign to ban flame retardants -- particularly Deca-BDE -- would do more harm than good. Since 2000, members of the Toxic Free Legacy Coalition have received more than $5 million from wealthy U.S. foundations. Those funds are being misdirected in the backing of efforts to ban Deca-BDE. The House of Representatives already has rejected such an effort, favoring continued study instead, and the Senate should consider the same.

As a sensible environmentalist, I believe banning flame retardants would put the most vulnerable at risk needlessly -- young children and the elderly -- when there is simply no evidence of human harm. Precaution dictates we err on the side of proven fire safety.

Dr. Patrick Moore is a co-founder of Greenpeace and is chairman and chief scientist of Greenspirit Strategies Ltd. in Vancouver, B.C.

Copyright 1998-2006 Seattle Post-Intelligencer


From: Friends of the Earth International .................[This story printer-friendly]
February 28, 2006


[Rachel's introduction: In Rachel's Precaution Reporter #24 we reported that the World Trade Organization (WTO) had basically outlawed the precautionary principle for genetically-modified foods, forcing the European Union to allow the import and sale of such products. Now it seems that we may have been duped by U.S. spin doctors who misrepresented what the WTO actually said in its secret report, which has just been leaked.]

Brussels and Washington, D.C.-- Friends of the Earth International made available online today a confidential World Trade Organization ruling on the trade dispute on biotech, or genetically modified (GM) foods. The report is in two parts, available here and here.

The 1000-page report, which was distributed earlier this month only to the countries involved in the dispute, was leaked to Friends of the Earth, which published today, February 28, a preliminary analysis in the briefing 'Looking behind the US spin."

The leaked report reveals that:

Despite claims of victory by the US Administration and the biotechnology industry -widely reported in the media in February 2006- the three countries that started the trade dispute against the European Union (US, Canada and Argentina) failed to win most of their arguments;

The World Trade Organization (WTO) did not rule on two of the most important questions, namely whether GM foods are effectively the same as non-GM foods and if they are safe.

"The WTO ruling is not a victory for the US administration and the biotech giants. Countries around the world should continue to enforce tough legislation protecting their citizens and the environment from the risks of genetically modified crops," said Juan Lopez, GM Campaign Coordinator of Friends of the Earth International.

According to Friends of the Earth International the WTO is not and should not be the appropriate body to deal with conflicts between trade rules and environmental protection since it ignores the internationally recognised 'Precautionary Principle' and considers only trade principles.

The leaked WTO report argues that:

Europe's 4-year moratorium on GM Organisms (GMOs) only broke trade rules because it caused "undue delay" in the approval of new GM foods. The WTO dismissed eight other complaints in relation to the moratorium, and did not recommend any further action, since the moratorium ended in 2004.

There was also an "undue delay" in the EU's approval procedures for over 20 specified biotech products. However, eleven other claims of the complainants related to the product-specific EU measures were dismissed by the WTO Panel.

National bans by EU member states broke trade rules because the risk assessments used by the countries in question did not comply with the WTO requirements;

"This is the report that the WTO didn't want the public to see. It reveals that the big corporations that stand behind the WTO failed to get the big win they were hoping for. Free trade proponents needed a clear victory in this dispute to be able to push governments in the EU and the developing world to accept genetically modified food. They failed and now is the time to build a consensus that the WTO, with its business-only agenda, is the wrong place to decide on what people eat and how we protect our environment," said Adrian Bebb, GMO campaigner for Friends of the Earth Europe in Brussels.

Juan Lopez, Friends of the Earth International GM coordinator, Tel: +34-6-25980582 (Spanish mobile number)

David Waskow, Friends of the Earth US Tel: + 1 202 492 4660 (Washington DC number)

Adrian Bebb, Friends of the Earth Europe GMO expert, Tel: +49 1609 490 1163 (German mobile number)

Common Dreams NewsCenter is a non-profit news service providing breaking news and views for the Progressive Community.

Copyrighted 1997-2006


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.

Peter Montague - peter@rachel.org
Tim Montague - tim@rachel.org


To start your own free Email subscription to Rachel's Precaution Reporter send a blank Email to one of these addresses:

Full HTML edition: join-rpr-html@gselist.org
Table of Contents edition: join-rpr-toc@gselist.org


Environmental Research Foundation
P.O. Box 160
New Brunswick, N.J. 08901