Rachel's Precaution Reporter #74
"Foresight and Precaution, in the News and in the World"
Wednesday, January 24, 2007..........Printer-friendly version
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:::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::: Table of Contents... Large Study Links Long-time Cell Phone Use to Brain Cancer The evidence continues to accumulate linking cell phone use to brain cancers. Isn't it time to heed early warnings and apply the precautionary principle to this technology, especially for children? Scientists Urge Precaution for Electromagnetic Fields At a public hearing in Connecticut, three senior scientists testify that studies linking electromagnetic fields (EMF) to cancer in children warrant a precautionary approach. Maine Legislature May Target Toxic Flame Retardant for Phaseout The Maine legislature seems ready to phase out the use of the flame retardant, Deca, in common household products. Massachusetts Bill Would Replace 10 Toxicants in Consumer Products A majority of Massachusetts legislators support a bill that would replace 10 toxic chemicals with safer alternatives in common household products. ETC Group Releases Report on Synthetic Biology Scientists are now creating new forms of life that have never been seen on Earth before. In keeping with the precautionary principle, the ETC Group asserts that -- at a minimum -- there must be an immediate ban on environmental release of these synthetic organisms until wide societal debate and strong governance are in place. Regulatory Failure in the Great Lakes, Part 1 A new government report on the Great Lakes says the system for regulating toxic chemicals is "inadequate" and needs to be replaced by a precautionary approach because large numbers of humans are in danger. Both the U.S. and Canadian systems for controlling toxic chemicals have failed. Biofuels: Green Energy or Grim Reaper? "This is not anti-capitalist, but the straight-forward application of the precautionary principle, ensuring that we have given careful consideration to the full implications of our investments before we rush ahead to spend them. Moving ahead too quickly without considering the options is, to use an extreme example, like invading Iraq without thinking about the future implications." :::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::: From: Microwave News, Jan. 22, 2007 [Printer-friendly version] CELLPHONES AND CANCER An international team of researchers has found new evidence that long- term use of a mobile phone may lead to the development of a brain tumor on the side of the head the phone is used. In a study which will appear in an upcoming issue of the International Journal of Cancer, epidemiologists from five European countries report a nearly 40% increase in gliomas, a type of brain tumor, among those who had used a cell phone for ten or more years. The increase is statistically significant. In addition, there was a trend showing that the brain tumor risk increased with years of use. The new paper is posted on the journal's Web site. This is the second type of tumor that has been linked to long-term cell phone use. In 2004, the Swedish Interphone group reported a doubling of acoustic neuromas among people who had used a mobile phone for ten years or more. The new study, part of the 13-country Interphone project, is based on the data collected in Denmark, Finland, Norway, Sweden and the U.K. Last year, the German Interphone team also reported an increase in gliomas following more than ten years of mobile phone use. (See our report: "Is There a Ten-Year Latency for Cell Phone Tumor Development?") The new five-country study included 1,521 glioma cases and 3,301 controls. There were 143 cases with ten or more years of mobile phone use. The earlier German study had only 12 cases who had used a cell phone for at least ten years. Another research group, led by Lennart Hardell of Írebro University and Kjell Hansson Mild of the National Institute, both in Sweden, have also found an increased risk of brain tumors and acoustic neuromas following ten years of cell phone use. "The [new] study shows that the issue is not settled and that more data, preferably prospective data, are needed," Anders Ahlbom of the Kaolinska Institute in Stockholm told Microwave News. Anssi Auvinen of the Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority (STUK) in Helsinki, a member of the Finnish Interphone study team offered a similar conclusion. "We need more research on long-term use," he stated in a press release issued today. In fact, on Saturday, the London Times revealed that Lawrie Challis, the head of the U.K. research effort on mobile phones and health, known as MTHR, is in the final stages of negotiations for a study of 200,000 mobile phone users who will be monitored for cancer, Parkinson's and Alzheimer's diseases. The story appeared on the front page of the January 20th Times. "We know from smoking and from the bomb falling in Hiroshima that nothing was seen for ten years," Challis told the BBC. Ahlbom said that the planned study, disclosed by Challis, will be a joint effort of an international consortium consisting, at present, of epidemiologists from Denmark, Finland and Sweden, as well as the U.K. The London Times ran a companion article under the headline: "Could These Be the Cigarettes of the 21st Century?... 'Absolutely'." And in an editorial, the Times applauded the decision to carry out the new long-term study: "The precautionary principle still applies here. Manufacturers should welcome the new study." At this writing, the cell phone industry had yet to issue any responses to these new developments. But Sheila Johnston, a consultant based in London with close ties to the mobile phone industry, circulated an e-mail this morning calling Challis's announcement a "very sad outcome." Return to Table of Contents :::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::: From: Microwave News, Jan. 19, 2007 [Printer-friendly version] PUBLIC HEALTH OFFICIALS URGE PRECAUTION TO LIMIT CANCER RISK Three senior members of the public health community -- each with extensive experience with electromagnetic field (EMF) health research -- have called for precautionary policies to limit leukemia risks to children. At a public hearing convened by the Connecticut Siting Council (CSC) on January 9, David Carpenter, Raymond Neutra and Daniel Wartenberg testified in support of prudent avoidance, as advocated by the Connecticut Department of Public Health (DPH). Prudent avoidance is a strategy of adopting low-cost ways of reducing human exposures to EMFs. In a report prepared for the siting council, Peter Valberg of the Gradient Corp., a consulting firm in Cambridge, MA, put forward a 100mG [milliGauss] exposure limit. Michael Repacholi, the former head of the World Health Organization's EMF project in Geneva who is now working on behalf of Connecticut Light & Power Co. and the United Illuminating Co., two electric utilities, has endorsed Valberg's proposal (see MWN, November 13, 2006). The state DPH opposes Valberg's 100mG guideline as "ill-conceived." Susan Blancaflor, the head of its environmental section, told the CSC that such a target level "does not consitute prudent avoidance" nor does it provide "ad- equate protection of public health." The DPH favors a 10mG exposure limit. The 100mG standard is "way too high," Carpenter said at the public hearing. "It's misguided." Carpenter is the director of the Institute for Health and the Environment at the University of Albany. From 1980 to 1987, he was the director of the New York State Power Line Project. The project's final report, which highlighted the childhood cancer risk, prompted national attention to EMFs. "The odds are that we are grossly underestimating the real risks, if the risks are real," Carpenter warned. Valberg held his ground. "I feel very confident that 100mG is safe," he said. "I would allow my children to be exposed to 100mG -- [if this were the case,] I could sleep at night." While Repacholi agreed that prudent avoidance was a worthy goal, he kept repeating that the science which forms the basis for precautionary policies is somewhere between "weak" and "very weak." "Most scientists believe that there is something strange in the [epidemiological] data [because] these fields just cannot cannot cause cancer," Repacholi said. "It's not strange," countered Wartenberg, the director of environmental epidemiology at the Robert Wood Johnson Medical School in Piscataway, NJ. "Why would you assume that the epidemiology is wrong? It does not make sense to throw out the childhood epidemiological data." Wartenberg was a member of the National Academy of Sciences-National Research Council (NAS-NRC) panel that issued a report on power-line EMFs in 1996. Two years later, he served on the EMF Working Group assembled by the National Institute of Environmenal Health Sci- ences (NIEHS). Wartenberg has carried out three meta analyses on EMF-cancer risks -- for the NAS-NRC, for the NIEHS and for the California EMF program. "I believe there is solid evidence supporting an association between exposure to magnetic fields and the incidence of childhood leukemia," Wartenberg told the CSC. "As a public health professional, I believe strongly that prudent action to limit the exposure and possibly prevent several children from developing cancer is essential unless the costs... outweigh the value of the impact on these children's lives." Neutra, who ran the $7 million, eight-year California EMF program, said that he would classify power-frequency EMFs as a possible human carcinogen -- as the NIEHS and the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) had done in 1998 and 2001, respectively. Neutra, who works for the California Department of Health Services, testified by phone. "My degree of certainty, like those at NIEHS and IARC was not pulled down by arguments by physicists that physiological or pathological effects from residential power lines was 'impossible' based on the application of physical laws to simplified biological models of cell mechanisms," Neutra wrote in his prepared testimony. "Physicists don't know enough about biology for me to be convinced by their arguments." Below are excerpts from Carpenter, Neutra and Wartenberg's written testimony submitted to the siting council. STATEMENT OF DAVID CARPENTER David Carpenter: Setting an EMF Limit Based on Negative Rat Studies Instead of the Observed Childhood Leukemia Risk Is "Simply Foolish" In my judgment, the proposal to establish a magnetic field screening level of 100 mG at the edge of right-of-ways is misguided. It will not be protective of human health, especially to children. As documented by Wartenberg (1998), epidemiological studies of residential exposure to magnetic fields and childhood leukemia show a positive relationship that cannot be explained by random variation. Two independent meta analyses show that prolonged exposure to power line fields of 3 or 4 mG is associated with an increase in the risk of leukemia in children (Ahlbom et al., 2000; Greenland et al., 2000). Furthermore, there is reason to believe that, as with other carcinogens, exposure to lower intensity fields also increases risk of cancer. To devise an exposure standard on the basis of negative rat studies when there is strong evidence of increased risk of leukemia in children associated with magnetic fields from power lines is simply foolish. It is children and other humans that we are supposed to protect, not rats. Since others are providing detailed comments on human studies, I have been asked to discuss animal and cell culture studies that might provide a mechanistic basis for the relationship between exposure to 60 Hz magnetic fields and leukemia in children. No rodent study, to date, has demonstrated that magnetic field exposure over a range of intensities has resulted in leukemia or lymphoma (Boorman et al., 2000). There are several possible reasons for the failure to find leukemia in this animal model system. Human studies of childhood leukemia have concluded that leukemia results from a combination of two events -- one primary event in the prenatal period, probably involving a genetic alteration, followed by an exposure to an environmental factor in the early postnatal period (Kim et al., 2006). Unfortunately, most rodent exposure studies have been of young or adult animals, not with prenatal exposure or exposure of juvenile animals. Repacholi et al. (1997) demonstrated elevation in the rate of lymphoma in transgenic mice predisposed to develop lymphoma after exposure to radiofrequency fields, although the same strain did not develop lymphoma after 50 Hz magnetic field exposure (Harris et al., 1998). There is, however, no evidence that this particular mutation is relevant to human leukemia, while the TEL-AML1 fusion gene which is documented to be associated with up to 25% of all childhood acute lymphocytic leukemia (Kim et al., 2006) has not been studied in an animal model. The Harris et al. (1998) study was of animals 6-8 months of age, which again is not an appropriate model for childhood leukemia because it did not include prenatal or early life exposure. The most convincing animal model which has demonstrated a relationship between risk of lymphoma and magnetic field exposure is the study of Reif et al. (1995) who showed that dogs living in homes that fell in the "very high current" residential category of Wertheimer and Leeper (1979) had a significant 6.8 fold (95% CI: 1.6-28.5) elevated risk of developing lymphoma. Other animal studies have reported elevations in different kinds of cancer, even though evidence for a relationship in humans is less convincing for any cancer other than leukemia. Mevissen et al. (1998) reported that 50 Hz magnetic fields at 1000 mG caused a significant increase in skin tumors induced by the chemical carcinogen, DMBA. However, other laboratories have not been able to replicate this finding, using somewhat different procedures (Anderson et al., 2000). Svedenstal et al. (1999) have reported DNA damage, which can lead to cancer, using the comet assay applied to brain cells of mice raised under a high-voltage power line. This study confirms that DNA breaks occur with low intensity EMFs, as reported by others (see Lai and Singh, 2004). Goodman and Blank (1998) have reported that magnetic fields alter transcript levels for specific genes. They found that an 80 mG, 60 Hz magnetic field applied for 20 min induces heat shock protein 70 synthesis in mammalian cells. Alteration of this and other genes is another possible pathway to cancer. Magnetic fields are known to reduce secretion of melatonin in animals and humans, which could relate to elevated risk of breast cancer (Reiter, 1995). Girgert et al. (2005) have shown that 12 mG magnetic fields block the ability of tamoxifen to regulate growth of human breast cancer cells in culture, confirming previous observations. In my opinion, these animal studies should not be used as the basis for setting standards at right-of-ways for several reasons. Adult rodents exposure is likely not a good model of human childhood leukemia, the cancer of concern, because childhood leukemia depends upon a combination of prenatal and post-natal events. While we do not know the mechanism of cancer induction, induced currents are likely critical, and will be very different in animals of different shapes, again indicating that rodents may not be good models of human childhood leukemia. Finally, we have strong evidence of an association of exposure to magnetic fields of low intensity and leukemia in humans, especially children. The fact that we do not as yet know the mechanism does not change the existence of this association. This evidence of an association between childhood exposure to magnetic fields and leukemia should be the basis for setting standards at the edge of right-of- ways. References Ahlbom A, Day N, Feychting M, Roman E, Skinner J, Dockerty J, Linet M, McBride M, Michaelis J, Olsen JH, Tynes T and Verkasalo PK (2000) A pooled analysis of magnetic fields and childhood leukemia. Brit J Cancer 83: 692-698. Anderson LE, Morris JE, Sasser LB and Loscher W (2000) Effects of 50- or 60-hertz, 100 micro T magnetic field exposure in the DMBA mammary cancer model in Strague-Dawley rats: Possible explanations for different results from two laboratories. Environ Health Perspect 108: 797-802. Boorman GM, Rafferty CN, Ward JM, Sills RC (2000) Leukemia and lymphoma incidence in rodents exposed to low-frequency magnetic fields. Radiat Res 153: 627-636. Girgert R, Schimming H, Korner W, Grundker C and Hanf V (2005) Induction of tamoxifen resistance in breast cancer cells by ELF electromagnetic fields. BBRC 336: 1144-1149. Goodman R and Blank M (1998) Magnetic field stress induces expression of hsp70. Cell Stress Chap 3: 74-88. Greenland S, Sheppard AR, Kaune WT, Poole Ch, Kelsh MA for the Child- hood Leukemia-EMF Study Group (2000) A pooled analysis of magnetic fields, wire codes, and childhood leukemia. Epidemiology 11: 624-634. Harris AW, Basten A, Gebski V, Noonam D, Finnie J, Bath ML, Bangay MJ and Repacholi MH (1998) A test of lymphoma induction by long-term exposure of E micro -Pim1 transgenic mice to 50 Hz magnetic fields. Rad Res 149: 300-307. Kim AS, Eastmond DA and Preston RJ (2006) Childhood acute lymphocytic leukemia and perspectives on risk assessment of early-life stage ex- posures. Mut Res 613: 138-160. Lai H and Singh NP (2004) Magnetic field-induced DNA strand breaks in the brain cells of the rat. Environ Health Perspect 112: 687-694. Mevissen M, Haussler M, Lerchl A and Loscher W (1998) Acceleration of mammary tumorigenesis by exposure of 7,-12-dimethylbenz[a] anthracenetreated female rats in a 50-Hz, 100 micro T magnetic field: Replication study. J Toxicol Environ Health A: 53: 401-418. Reif JS, Lower KS, and Oglivie GK (1995) Residential exposure to magnetic fields and risk of canine lymphoma. Am J Epidemiol 141: 352-359: 1995. Reiter RJ (1995) Reported biological consequences related to the suppression of melatonin by electric and magnetic field exposure. Integrative Physiological and Behavioral Science 30: 314-330. Repacholi MH, Basten An, Gebski V, Noonan D, Finnie J and Harris AW (1997) Lymphomas in E micro -Pim1 transgenic mice exposed to pulsed 900 MHz electromagnetic fields. Rad Res 147: 631-640. Svedenstal BM, Johanson KJ, Mattsson MO and Paulsson LE (1999) DNA damage, cell kinetics and ODC activities studied in CBA mice exposed to electromagnetic fields generated by transmission lines. In Vivo 13: 507- 514. Wartenberg D (1998) Residential magnetic fields and childhood leukemia: A meta-analysis. Am J Public Health 88: 1787-1794. Wertheimer N and Leeper E (1979) Electrical wiring configurations and childhood cancer. Am J Epidemiol 109: 273-284. STATEMENT OF RAYMOND NEUTRA Raymond Neutra: Unswayed by Physicists' Arguments In our 2002 Risk Evaluation my review of the literature led me, like a scientific advisory committee at the NIEHS in 2001, to classify power frequency EMFs as a "Possible Human Carcinogen" based on the childhood and adult lymphocytic leukemia epidemiology. This is the classification used by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC). That classification includes agents like coffee, which I doubt will turn out to be carcinogenic and fiber glass which probably will. Thus, to be more specific and to format our conclusions in a way that could be used by our policy analysis contractors, the California program scientists went further in their hazard classification, Each reviewer also provided a "degree of certainty that EMFs at the 95th percentile of residential exposure caused an increased risk of disease 'to some degree'" My degree of certainty about this fell in the "close to the dividing line between believing and not believing " that the two fold increase in childhood leukemia rates in children with home exposures above 3 milliGauss was indeed caused by EMFs and not due to bias or confounding. A doubling of childhood leukemia rates translates to an added lifetime risk of 100/100,000. If real this would be well above the 1/100,000 de minimis risk level used for carcinogenic regulation in California. "Close to the dividing between believing and not believing" was defined by our program as being somewhere between 40 and 60 on a certainty scale ranging from 0-100. My degree of certainty, like those at NIEHS and IARC was not pulled down by arguments by physicists that physiological or pathological effects from residential power lines was "impossible" based on the application of physical laws to simplified biological models of cell mechanisms. Physicists don't know enough about biology for me to be convinced by their arguments. My certainty was also not pulled down by the null results of toxicological studies using high intensity pure 60Hz magnetic fields. Prior to these studies being done I had gone on record that they were prone to falsely exonerate EMFs. This is because they assume that EMFs, like chemicals will produce large effects when given at very high doses. But the epidemiological evidence suggests that this is not so. Also EMFs next to power lines are a complex mixture of frequencies, fluctuating dosing schedules, polarizations etc. Testing the carcinogenicity of pure 60Hz fields and concluding the power line EMFs are safe is like testing caffeine for carcinogenicity and after getting null results declaring that espresso coffee with its many chemical ingredients is not carcinogenic. Therefore the mostly null toxicology results pulled my certainty down only a little. I therefore was most influenced by the epidemiological evidence, which has, since 2002 been further supported by additional studies. The fact that the associations seen in the studies are not large compared to the resolution power of the studies keeps me from being more strongly certain they are causal in nature. The policy question before regulators of power lines is: "How certain must you be of how much disease before you would pass from inaction to cheap or to expensive EMF avoid- ance?" The answer to this question is only partly driven risk estimates from professionals like me, costs and ethics are important too. So decision makers trying to balance the interests and values of stakeholders in society are the ones that have to answer this question. It turns out that the answer to this question varies with stakeholders depending both on their special interests and on the ethical framework that they bring to the problem at hand. The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) has authorized utilities to claim in their rate base around 4% of new transmission project costs in no and low cost EMF avoidance as long as it produces at least 15% reduction in fields. The per mile costs of doing this is less than those quoted below for retrofitting existing lines. It is my impression that the "no and low cost (4% project cost) avoidance that has been routinely carried out with new transmission lines in California since the early 1990s almost always achieves a magnetic field at the edge of right of way well below the100mG that Connecticut utility companies are proposing as a criterion number. The CPUC did not provide a cost benefit rationale for this policy. But a reading of our policy projects suggests that a modest degree of certainty that the childhood leukemia associations are causal in nature could justify the policy on a cost benefit basis. This idea is illustrated in the following graph taken from the cost benefit analysis prepared by Professor Detlof von Winterfeldt and colleagues as part of the California EMF program. On the horizontal axis of the graph one has the "degree of certainty that EMF exposure causes an increased risk of some degree" ranging from 0 to 1.00. On the vertical axis we have possible degrees of increased risk ranging from no increased risk to a five-fold increase of childhood leukemia risk. You will see two zones, a large zone shaded with diagonal lines to the reader's upper right and a narrower cross hatched zone to the lower left. The latter cross hatched zone represents the combinations of epidemiological risk and the certainties that they are "real" which would lead a cold blooded economist who values a child's life at $5 million dollars to advise against no and low cost EMF avoidance measures. For example at a 0.2 degree of certainty of a 1.4 fold increased risk of childhood leukemia would not be high enough for him to advise any avoidance. My 0.4-0.6 "close to the dividing line of believing and not believing" that the 2 fold increase in childhood leukemia rates is "real" would lead the cold blooded economist to recommend that you use the no and low cost "split phasing" to reduce magnetic fields. However even if I were 100% convinced that EMFs caused a fivefold increased risk, the economist would not recommend undergrounding the lines. A child's life is not of sufficient worth to the cold-blooded economist to warrant that expense. We found that not all stakeholders were enthusiasts of this kind of cost- benefit approach, but regulators, engineers and economists find it useful. Accordingly Professor von Winterfeldt's analysis covers both the cost benefit approach as well as an ethical analysis of the rights and duties of the various stakeholders. I have provided a published article on the project to my colleagues in Connecticut and the full report and flexible decision models can be found on our web site at <www.dhs.ca.gov/ehib/emf> The "right to know" principle would dictate that utility companies should provide residents near the line with what remediation is proposed and what right of way magnetic fields are predicted and actually achieved. The CPUC did not require our utilities to provide this information. However during the California EMF program, utilities shared other EMF information prepared by our department by means of "bill stuffers." Limiting this notification to some particular milligauss level, particularly 100 mG, which is so high that notifications will almost never be given, will precipitate arguments about the rationale for choosing that mG level that would be hard to resolve on a scientific basis. Perhaps the advice of Mark Twain, one of Connecticut's most distinguished citizens is relevant here: "Tell the truth, you will please half the people and surprise the rest." This suggests that routine disclosure should be done regard-less of milligauss levels. It is true that this will sometimes precipitate questioning and arguing. However, the costs of no and low cost avoidance in new transmission lines and in reacting to residents adjacent to the proposed transmissions lines should be considered as a fraction of the revenues of the utility during the lifetime of the proposed project. Below I quote from the California Policy Options document that our department sent to CPUC in 2002. They have chosen only to deal with new transmission lines and not with the other policy issues detailed below. STATEMENT OF DANIEL WARTENBERG Daniel Wartenberg: Solid Scientific Evidence Supporting an EMF- Childhood Leukemia Association I have been asked to offer comments on the Connecticut Siting Council's Draft Electric and Magnetic Field Best Management Practices For the Construction of Electric Transmission Facilities in Connecticut (Sept. 28, 2006 draft), hereafter, BMP. The BMP suggests that many public health agencies believe that, "there is no established link between adverse health effects and EMF exposure (p.2)," and that other study groups concluded that, "there is no consistent evidence that exposure to typical power-line MF causes adverse health effects (p.2)." On the basis of these views, and the Council's desire to focus its policy on "prudent avoidance," the Council proposes a screening level based on no-effect levels determined through animal experiments modified by traditional safety factors, leading to an acceptable level of less than 100mG at peak load averaged over 24 hours at the edge of the Right of Way. STATEMENT I believe there is solid scientific evidence supporting an association between exposure to magnetic fields and the incidence of childhood leukemia. I base this opinion on my review of the literature, my participation on two expert review panels and my conduct of three commissioned meta-analyses. There are five important issues to consider: (1) is there evidence of an association between exposure to magnetic fields and childhood cancer; (2) if so, is it likely that this association might be due to bias; (3) if so, is it likely that this association might be due to confounding; (4) given the data, what is the estimated impact of these exposures; (5) in light of these estimates, are there appropriate actions that should be taken to limit risk. I consider each, in turn. EVIDENCE OF ASSOCIATION More than 100 epidemiologic studies have been conducted in over 10 countries using a wide variety of study designs and ways of measuring exposure to EMFs, both in the residence and occupationally. To summarize these studies, the weight of evi- dence approach has been applied several times, by both individu- als and expert panels. There have been over two dozen expert panel reviews of the EMF issue, far too many to review here. Two reviews, in which I participated, were conducted in the United States.The first panel was convened by the National Research Council of the NationalAcademy of Sciences.After several years of meetings, workshops and deliberations, the group reported in the Executive Summary that, "Living in homes classified as being in the high wire-code category is associated with about a 1.5- fold excess of childhood leukemia (p.3)." The second panel, convened by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), was instructed to follow the procedures developed by the International Agency for Research on Cancer. The Working Group concluded that, "ELF EMF are possibly carcinogenic to humans (Group 2B)." This was based principally on "the results of studies on childhood leukemia in residential environments and on CLL [chronic lymphocytic leukemia] in adults in occupational settings." My most recent metaanalyses, conducted for the California Department of Health Services, reported that the risk for leukemia was elevated and statistically significant, particularly at the higher exposure cut- points. There was some evidence that supported an exposure-response gradient. Two pooled analyses of childhood leukemia statisti- cally significantly elevated risks for those children at the highest exposure categories (>3 or 4 mG). [4,5] As a result of all of these studies, their apparent consistency, and the lack of an accepted mechanism of action that might have been used to justify the extrapolation of possible health effects from animals to humans, I do not understand the logic or reasoning behind the use animal experiment data in the determination of a safe exposure level to limit childhood cancer risk. It is my belief that the human cancer epidemiologic data are more relevant in assessing the potential hazards to humans. BIAS In 1999, I reviewed the EMF literature for the California Department of Health Services. I concluded that it is unlikely that selection bias can be the sole explanation of the reported associations between exposure to magnetic fields and childhood cancer incidence. In a paper I published as part of that review, I stated that, "given the wide variety of study populations and measurement protocols, it is unlikely that a single design flaw has resulted in consistent effects across all studies and can be the sole explanation for the reported associations." CONFOUNDING If an agent, in this case wire codes or magnetic field intensity, is correlated both with an outcome, such as childhood leukemia, and other factors, the role of those other factors, even if carcinogenic, does not invalidate the primary relationship. Rather, those other factors are called confounders and must be adjusted for in the analyses to try to derive a measure of the independent effect of the primary factor, as has been done in many of the EMF studies. One study shows that for another factor that itself is associated with both EMF exposure and childhood leukemia to be sufficient to explain the observed associations between EMF exposure and childhood cancer, that factor would have to be a very strong risk factor for childhood leukemia. It seems unlikely, but not impossible, that a major risk factor for leukemia could have gone largely unnoticed throughout all the studies conducted to date. However, to have credibility for its presence, investigators will need to identify this unknown factor, specifically, and demonstrate statistically that it imparts a large enough leukemia risk to explain the observed association between EMF exposure and leukemia. This is a tall order and has yet to be demonstrated despite the large number of studies conducted and the many potential risk factors assessed. POTENTIAL IMPACT Often, in developing policy, it is useful to estimate the effect of an intervention. In this case, estimates of the magnitude of the elevated risk to children living in higher exposure areas (based on the pooled analyses and meta-analyses) can be combined with estimates of number of children living in higher exposure areas (based on household surveys) with the annual average incidence of childhood cancers to estimate the number that likely are due to exposure to EMF if, in fact, the observed association is causal. Three studies have estimated the potential number of childhood leukemia cases attributable to EMF exposure.[3,4,8] If the reported associations are causal, these studies suggest that as many as 120-175 additional cases per year in the US/North American may result from residential exposure alone. PRECAUTIONARY PRINCIPLE In an article I published with Dr. Dale Jamieson, I address these concerns explicitly in the context of the Precautionary Principle. In that piece, specifically addressing the EMF issue, we argue that, "since the scientific uncertainty is unlikely to be resolved in the foreseeable future, policy decisions must be based on the possibility of risk and the cost and technology of reducing exposure." Given the potential impact cited above, the question is whether it is a better strategy to: (a) accept the science as proven and have government act to reduce exposures; (b) view the data as inconclusive and ignore the exposure in order to save remediation costs; or, (c) to prudently lower exposures of greatest concern in case the possible risk is shown eventually to be true. As a public health professional, I believe strongly that prudent action to limit the exposure and possibly prevent several children from developing cancer is essential unless the costs (monetary and otherwise) outweigh the value of the impact on these children's lives. Literature Cited 1. National Research C, Committee on the Possible Effects of Electromagnetic Fields on Biologic S. Possible Health Efects of Exposure to Residential EMFs. Washington, DC: National Academy Press, 1997. 2. NIEHS WorkingGroup. Assessment of Health Efects from Exposure to Power-Line Frequency EMFs. Research Triangle Park, NC: National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, 1998:508. 3. Wartenberg D. Residential EMF exposure and childhood leukemia: Meta-analysis and population attributable risk. Bioelectromagnetics 2001; Suppl. 5:S86-S104. 4. Greenland S, Sheppard AR, Kaune WT, Poole C, Kelsh MA. A pooled analysis of magnetic fields, wire codes and childhood leukemia. Epidemiology 2000;11:624-634. 5. Ahlbom A, Day N, Feychting M, Roman E, Skinner J, Dockerty J, et al. A pooled analysis of magnetic fields and childhood leukemia. British Journal of Cancer 2000;83(5):692-698. 6. Wartenberg D. The potential impact of bias in studies of residential exposure to magnetic fields and childhood leukemia. Bioelectromagnetics 2001;Suppl. 5:S32-S47. 7. Langholz B. Factors that explain the power line configuration wiring code -- childhood leukemia association: What would they look like? Bioelectromagnetics 2001;Suppl. 5:S19-S31. 8. Kheifets L, Afifi AA, Shimkhada R. Public health impact of extremely low-frequency electromagnetic fields. Environmental Health Perspectives 2006; 114(10): 1532-1537. 9. Jamieson D, Wartenberg D. The Precautionary Principle and EMFs. American Journal of Public Health 2001; 91(9): 1355-1358 Return to Table of Contents :::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::: From: Kennebec Journal (Augusta, Maine), Jan. 17, 2007 [Printer-friendly version] ENVIRONMENTAL GROUPS TOUT AGENDA FOR SESSION By Susan M. Cover, Staff Writer Augusta -- Amy Graham of Farmington lobbied the Legislature three years ago to get rid of potentially harmful flame retardants used in common household items. She's back again this year to finish the job. Graham, the mother of two young children, said Tuesday that she wants the Legislature to prevent new uses of a flame retardant called Deca. It's used in mattresses, televisions, curtains and upholstered furniture to reduce the spread of flames in a fire. In 2004, the Legislature voted to phase out two other forms of the chemicals, called Penta and Octa. Now, Graham and nearly two dozen environmental groups across the state are working to get rid of Deca. "We buy covers for the electrical outlets, we put household cleaners and medicines up high out of the reach of curious youngsters," she said. "Yet, no matter how hard we try, there are chemicals in our homes from which we cannot protect our children." The chemical, which was classified as a "potential human health risk" by scientists at the University of Southern Maine, has been found in human blood and breast milk, she said. Graham was one of many people who came to the Statehouse on Tuesday for a press conference to talk about six environmental goals for the new legislative session. In addition to the bill to prevent new uses of Deca, the 22 groups -- which include the Sierra Club, Northern Forest Alliance and Maine Rivers -- have joined together to support a variety of bills. With a combined membership totaling about 100,000, the groups have agreed on these goals: ** No weakening of current environmental protections. ** Adoption of the endangered and threatened species list developed by the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife. That list has 14 species including the New England cottontail, redfin pickerel, short-eared owl and a bird called Barrow's goldeneye. The list hasn't been modified since 1997. ** Adoption of rules to reduce greenhouse gases, which would help address global warming. ** Funding for the Land for Maine's Future program. The program needs at least $25 million a year to operate, and the groups would support a multiyear bond, said Jenn Burns of Maine Audubon. ** Approval of a $25 million bond to support redevelopment of riverfront communities. Ted Allen of Brunswick, a volunteer who monitors piping plovers at Reid State Park, said without official state protection, some wildlife won't survive. Even with a program in place to protect them, piping plover chicks don't often make it to maturity. "The only reason we still have these birds in Maine is that they are included on Maine's endangered and threatened species list," he said. "The state has made a commitment to protect them." When it comes to global warming, Bill Houston of Kingfield urged lawmakers to support a bill that would allow Maine to join the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative. It sets a limit on the amount of global warming pollution that can come from fossil fuel-burning power plants. "Our economies are vitally linked to winter as we used to know it," Houston said. "We don't have to accept global warming as inevitable." Houston is an instructor at Skowhegan Regional Vocational Center, where he teaches the outdoor recreational leadership program. He's also a registered Maine guide. Fifth-grade students from Andover School near Bethel read a poem at the press conference about their love for White Cap Mountain. The students traveled to Augusta to support land conservation, which is supported by the Land for Maine's Future program. All of the goals put forward by the groups will help preserve the quality of life in Maine, said Susan Farady, of The Ocean Conservancy in Portland. "Maine is facing unprecedented challenges to our way of life," she said. Return to Table of Contents :::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::: From: Clean Water Action, Jan. 23, 2007 [Printer-friendly version] MASSACHUSETTS BILL WOULD REPLACE 10 TOXICANTS IN CONSUMER PRODUCTS Boston, Mass. -- As the European Union moves ahead with new reforms that modernize toxic chemical policies, momentum builds in Massachusetts for similar measures that would replace commonly used toxic chemicals with safer alternatives. A majority of legislators in both houses of the Massachusetts legislature are co-sponsoring "An Act for a Healthy Massachusetts: Safer Alternatives to Toxic Chemicals." The bill, sponsored by Representative Jay Kaufman (D-Lexington) and Senator Steven Tolman (D- Brighton) initially targets 10 of the worst toxic chemicals found in common household products such as dry cleaning, pesticides, solvents, building materials, foam cushions, and electronics. It would mandate a careful process to evaluate alternatives to these chemicals and replace them with safer alternatives where feasible. It would also assist businesses in the transition and increase the competitiveness of Massachusetts businesses internationally. So far the bill has been co-sponsored by 83 (of 160) Representatives and 25 (of 40) Senators. "The United States is becoming a dumping ground for common household products with toxic ingredients exported here from countries that ban their local sale," said Deborah Shields, Executive Director of the Massachusetts Breast Cancer Coalition. "If China and Europe can protect the health of their citizens from hazards like formaldehyde in plywood cabinets, why are we lagging so far behind?" Countries around the globe are taking steps to prevent harm to health from toxic hazards by phasing out the use of toxic chemicals. Because the United States is lagging behind, these countries can continue to sell toxic products here. Last month, the European Parliament gave final approval to a sweeping reform of chemical regulations that requires the chemical industry to gather health and safety data on thousands of chemicals used in everyday commerce, and replace the most dangerous chemicals with safer substitutes. The new standards, known as REACH (for Registration, Evaluation, a nd Authorization of Chemicals), will begin in April 2007 and will roll out in stages over the next eleven or more years. "If Massachusetts businesses want to retain access to the European market, which is the largest in the world, they will need to start complying with these new standards within the next few months," said Kaufman. "We can position Massachusetts as a true leader if we act now." Cindy Luppi, Organizing Director for Clean Water Action said, "We applaud the Massachusetts legislators who are taking steps to promote safer materials and technologies here so that the health of our residents, and our businesses, will be better protected." "This bill can help Massachusetts businesses lead a wave of innovation that stimulates our economy, increases the safety of our workplaces, and prevents harm to our health," said Tolman. "This is one of my top priority bills for this coming session." In 2005, the Massachusetts legislature funded the Toxics Use Reduction Institute (TURI) at UMass Lowell to study safer alternatives to five widely used toxic chemicals. The study identified safer alternatives to major uses of the chemicals, including perchloroethylene, used in dry cleaning, Di (2-ethylhexyl) phthalate (DEHP) in vinyl products like children's toys, shower curtains and IV bags, and formaldehyde used in personal care products and building products. "Now that we have proof that it is indeed possible to find feasible safer alternatives to many of the most dangerous and commonly used toxic chemicals, we need to better protect our health and safety by moving toward the use of these safer products," said Jen Baker of MASSPIRG. "Consumers should not have to fear exposure to toxic chemicals from the everyday products that they use. With safer alternatives available, we must stop subjecting ourselves to unnecessary harms." The ten chemicals initially targeted by the bill are lead, formaldehyde, trichloroethylene (TCE), perchloroethylene (Perc), dioxins and furans, hexavalent chromium, organophosphate pesticides, polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs), di-(2-ethylhexyl)phthalate (DEHP), 2,4, dichlorophenoxyacetic acid (2,4, D). "More and more research is revealing that toxic chemicals contribute to the incidence of chronic diseases and disorders like cancer, learning disabilities, and Parkinson's disease," said Eric Weltman, Deputy Director of Advocacy and Policy of the Massachusetts Public Health Association. "The bottom line: our laws need to catch up to this new science." The bill is supported by the Alliance for a Healthy Tomorrow, a coalition over 150 organizations in health, labor, scientific, environmental, faith and community groups working to the use of promote safer alternatives to toxic chemicals. ======================================================== Lee Ketelsen New England Director Clean Water Action 262 Washington Street 3rd floor Boston, MA 02118 617-338-8131 ext 206 Return to Table of Contents :::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::: From: Nanowerk News, Jan. 23, 2007 [Printer-friendly version] ETC GROUP RELEASES REPORT ON SYNTHETIC BIOLOGY A new report by the ETC Group concludes that the social, environmental and bio-weapons threats of synthetic biology surpass the possible dangers and abuses of biotech. The full text of the 70-page report, Extreme Genetic Engineering: An Introduction to Synthetic Biology [1 Mbyte PDF], is available for downloading free-of-charge on the ETC Group website. "Genetic engineering is passe," said Pat Mooney, Executive Director of ETC Group. "Today, scientists aren't just mapping genomes and manipulating genes, they're building life from scratch -- and they're doing it in the absence of societal debate and regulatory oversight," said Mooney. Synbio -- dubbed "genetic engineering on steroids" -- is inspired by the convergence of nanoscale biology, computing and engineering. Using a laptop computer, published gene sequence information and mail-order synthetic DNA, just about anyone has the potential to construct genes or entire genomes from scratch (including those of lethal pathogens). Scientists predict that within 2-5 years it will be possible to synthesize any virus; the first de novo bacterium will make its debut in 2007; in 5-10 years simple bacterial genomes will be synthesized routinely and it will become no big deal to cobble together a designer genome, insert it into an empty bacterial cell and -- voila -- give birth to a living, self-replicating organism. Other synthetic biologists hope to reconfigure the genetic pathways of existing organisms to perform new functions -- such as manufacturing high-value drugs or chemicals. A clutch of entrepreneurial scientists, including the gene maverick J. Craig Venter, is setting up synthetic biology companies backed by government funding and venture capital. They aim to commercialise new biological parts, devices and systems that don't exist in the natural world -- some of which are designed for environmental release. Advocates insist that synthetic biology is the key to cheap biofuels, a cure for malaria, and climate change remediation -- media-friendly goals that aim to mollify public concerns about a dangerous and controversial technology. Ultimately synthetic biology means cheaper and widely accessible tools to build bioweapons, virulent pathogens and artificial organisms that could pose grave threats to people and the planet. The danger is not just bio-terror, but "bio-error," warns ETC Group. Despite calls for open source biology, corporate and academic scientists are winning exclusive monopoly patents on the products and processes of synthetic genetics. Like biotech, the power to make synthetic life could be concentrated in the hands of major multinational firms. As gene synthesis becomes cheaper and faster, it will become easier to synthesize a microbe than to find it in nature or retrieve it from a gene bank. Biological samples, sequenced and stored in digital form, will move instantaneously across the globe and be resurrected in corporate labs thousands of miles away -- a practice that could erode future support for genetic conservation and create new challenges for international negotiations on biodiversity. "Last year, 38 civil society organizations rejected proposals for self-regulation of synthetic biology put forth by a small group of synthetic biologists," said Kathy Jo Wetter of ETC Group. "Widespread debate on the social, economic and ethical implications of synbio must come first -- and it must not be limited to biosecurity and biosafety issues," said Wetter. The tools for synthesising genes and genomes are widely accessible and advancing at break-neck pace. ETC Group's new report concludes that it is not enough to regulate synthetic biology on the national level. Decisions must be considered in a global context, with broad participation from civil society and social movements. In keeping with the Precautionary Principle, ETC Group asserts that -- at a minimum -- there must be an immediate ban on environmental release of de novo synthetic organisms until wide societal debate and strong governance are in place. Copyright 2005-2007, Nanowerk LLC Return to Table of Contents :::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::: From: Rachel's Democracy & Health News #890, Jan. 18, 2007 [Printer-friendly version] REGULATORY FAILURE IN THE GREAT LAKES, PART 1 By Peter Montague The system for regulating toxic chemicals has failed in the Great Lakes and a precautionary approach should be adopted, according to a new report [6 Mbyte PDF] published by the International Joint Commission (IJC), the U.S.-Canada governmental body responsible for water quality in the Lakes. The IJC was created by treaty in 1909 and has focused aggressively on water quality since 1978. The Great Lakes hold 20% of the world's fresh surface water. The Major Justification for Precaution: Ignorance Abounds IJC scientists, and independent researchers, are now reporting a host of new toxic chemicals in fish and other wildlife in the Great Lakes. However, "Insufficient data are available to establish consumption guidelines for these toxic substances," the report says. (pg. 115) [Page numbers inside parentheses refer to the IJC report.] After 30 years of under-funded effort, the government agencies charged with protecting public health remain ignorant about most of the chemicals being discharged into the Lakes: "Due to analytical limitations, only a very low proportion of the large number of potentially troublesome compounds identified as likely present in the Great Lakes environment are currently analyzed in Great Lakes monitoring programs," the report says. (pg. 124) Even the industries producing the chemicals are ignorant of their effects: "Industry's capacity to invent and produce new chemicals has overwhelmed both their ability to produce adequate data for the regulatory system to assess, and the regulatory system's capacity to assess it," the report says. (pg. 125) Both the U.S. and Canadian systems for regulating chemicals stand accused of failure. The report was written by the Great Lakes Water Quality Board, the Great Lakes Scientific Advisory Board, the International Air Quality Advisory Board, and the Council of Great Lakes Research Managers and was published in June, 2006, by the International Joint Commission (IJC). Unfortunately, the IJC's withering criticism of the chemical regulatory system is buried deep in the report, in chapter 5, "Human Health," where many readers may miss it. Chapter 5 makes these points: 1. Legacy Toxicants Are Declining Slowly, If At All As time passes, "legacy" chemicals (mainly PCBs and mercury) in the Great Lakes are declining much more slowly than expected. In fact, mercury is not declining at all -- it is holding steady or, in some places, even increasing because of coal-burning power plants. (pg. 115) 2. A New Set of 'Emerging' Toxicants Has Been Identified Meanwhile, a new set of "emerging" contaminants has appeared in the Lakes during the past few years (pg. 124): ** Brominated fire retardants (BFRs), PBDEs and tetrabromo bisphenol- A; ** Perfluorinated compounds or PFCs (PFOS, perfluorooctanoic acid, N-ethyl perflourooctane sulfonamidoethanol); ** Phthalates (a large class of plastic additives); ** Pharmaceuticals and chemicals found in personal care and household products (PPCPs); ** Estrogenic and hormonally active compounds (birth control agents, natural estrogens, alkylphenol ethoxylates, bisphenol-A, Trenbolone); and ** Some currently used pesticides (Atrazine). (pg. 124) 3. 'Persistence' Has a New Meaning The IJC report says pharmaceuticals and personal-care products are "persistent by virtue of their ongoing release into the environment in human and animal excreta" -- in other words, even though individual chemicals may degrade, they enter the Lakes in a steady stream, so they are constantly available for uptake by fish and other wildlife. 4. New Hazards Are Being Identified for Old ('Legacy') Toxicants In addition to these newly-discovered "emerging" contaminants, a host of new information about harm to wildlife and humans has become known: The IJC report notes that, "The National Research Council (NRC) [in 2000] concluded that 'the population at highest risk is the children of women who consumed large amounts of fish and seafood during pregnancy.' Its report concluded that the risks to that population are likely to result in an increase in the number of children who have to struggle to keep up in school, and who might require remedial classes or special education." (pg. 117) The IJC report estimates that as many as 15% of all pregnant women in the U.S. may have sufficient mercury in their blood to produce children burdened by cognitive deficits. And the report says no amount of mercury can be considered safe: "There is no evidence to date that a threshold blood-mercury concentration exists where effects on cognition are not seen." (pg. 118) In other words, any amount of mercury causes some cognitive damage. 5. Fish Are Too Dangerous for Children & for Women Prior to Menopause For the first time, this IJC report recommends that fish-consumption advisories should warn all children, and women younger than the age of menopause, to not eat ANY fish from the Great Lakes "as an option." (pg. 128) It is not clear what "as an option" means -- but the rest of the phrase is clear: the authors of the IJC report are saying for the first time that the health benefits of eating Great Lakes fish are now outweighed by the cocktail of toxic chemicals the fish contain. This is a major and very far-reaching recommendation from the IJC Science Advisory Board. The Great Lakes commercial and sport fisheries are valued at $4 billion per year and support thousands of jobs. 6. Men, too, should restrict their intake of Great Lakes fish ** Mercury consumption is now associated with high blood pressure, heart-rate variability, and heart attacks. (pg. 118) ** New data from the laboratory of Ellen Silbergeld at Johns Hopkins Medical School suggests that mercury can cause an autoimmune reaction that damages the heart, autoimmune myocarditis. In autoimmune myocarditis, the body's own immune system attacks the heart muscle and can ultimately cause heart failure. The report concludes, "These findings suggest that future fish-consumption advisories in the Great Lakes region, which are largely issued to protect women of child-bearing age and children, may need to be extended to other segments of the population (such as adult males, etc.)." (pg. 118) In other words, the population of people who can safely eat most Great Lakes fish is essentially zero. 7. New health effects discovered from eating Great Lakes fish Birth defects According to one study, eating two meals of Great Lakes fish per month is sufficient to increase the number of serious birth defects: "Among the 2,237 infants born to female members of the New York State Angler Cohort between 1986 and 1991, there was an increased probability of a major malformation (including hypospadias, cleft palate, and musculoskeletal defects) in males but not females, whose mothers consumed two or more sport fish meals per month during pregnancy." (pg. 119) Breast Cancer among Pre-Menopausal Women One study showed that young women eating Great Lakes fish have a 70% increased risk of breast cancer: "McElroy et al. (2004) found an increased relative risk of developing breast cancer of 70 percent in pre-menopausal Wisconsin women who recently consumed Great Lakes sport-caught fish." (pg. 120) Immune system impairment in children Children have an increased incidence of inner ear infections, and of asthma, from exposure to common contaminants in Great Lakes fish -- PCBs, DDT and its breakdown byproduct, DDE, and hexachlorobenzene. The obvious suggestion here is of immune system damage. (pg. 120) The report emphasizes again and again the dangers to children posed by eating fish from the Great Lakes: "Researchers are discovering an increasing suite of behavioral abnormalities in infants and children and in laboratory rodents prenatally exposed to environmentally relevant concentrations of PCBs or mercury." (pg. 119) 8. Fish Consumption Advisories Don't Protect Public Health The IJC report seems schizophrenic on the question of fish consumption advisories as a way of protecting the public from eating contaminated fish. On the one hand, as we have seen above, the report recommends fish advisories containing tougher language: children and pre- menopausal women should be advised to eat NO FISH from the Great Lakes "as an option" (whatever that means). On the other hand, the report acknowledges that fish advisories don't reach the people most endangered by Great Lakes fish -- subsistence fishers: "While advisories provide excellent advice, they have limited effectiveness, in part because they focus on sport fishing. Subsistence fishers who depend on Great Lakes fish to feed their families often eat species that are not covered by advisories. In addition, the current emphasis on sport fishing tends to target male sport fishers rather than subsistence fishers, many of whom are women and minorities. These latter groups are largely unaware of the dangers of contaminated fish." (pg. 121) Could it be more plainly stated? Fish advisories are ineffective. To prove the point, the IJC report says that, before fish advisories were initiated in 1994, a survey was taken of fish consumption. After 8 years of publishing extensive fish consumption advisories -- warning people which fish to avoid eating in specific waters of the Great Lakes -- a second survey showed that, "the numbers of individuals consuming fish and the amount of Great Lakes sport fish consumed had not decreased." (pg. 122) The IJC then turns about-face and says, "Fish consumption advisories can only be regarded as a limited and temporary solution for public health protection." (pg. 122) To be blunt about it, this is nonsense. If eight years of fish advisories have not changed the number of people eating Great Lakes fish and have not changed the amount of fish they eat -- and if fish advisories don't even reach the subsistence fishers, who are women and children and who are most endangered -- then fish advisories can only be regarded as a failure. Summary The report says, "The issues associated with 'legacy' and 'emerging' contaminants of concern and the contaminant-associated health effects described in [chapter 5] are, to varying degrees, surprises, in that they highlight the short-sightedness of our profit-driven approach to innovation, and the inadequacy of our hazard-based regulatory system." (pg. 126) Instead of an "inadequate" regulatory system based on risk assessment, the IJC report recommends a new approach, based on precaution: "A much more precautionary, responsive, and democratic approach is clearly required," the report says. (pg. 125) And: "Other jurisdictions widely apply the Precautionary Principle to stimulate innovation and science, and provide good governance," the report says. (pg. 126) [To be continued next week.] =========================================================  The exact wording is: "The Science Advisory Board recommends to the IJC that... The Parties modify their fish consumption advice to address overall fish consumption to focus on... Promoting special precautions for pregnant women including effects on the fetus, women of child-bearing age, and children under 15, and advocating that this group adopt the additional prudence of not eating Great Lakes fish as an option;" Return to Table of Contents :::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::: From: BBC, Jan. 19, 2007 [Printer-friendly version] BIOFUELS: GREEN ENERGY OR GRIM REAPER? By Jeffrey A. McNeely [On September 22, 2006, Jeffrey McNeely published an article on the BBC web site titled, "Biofuels: Green Energy or Grim Reaper." Readers responded strongly to the article, and here Dr. McNeely responds to those readers.] I was delighted that my short article on biofuels has generated such a vigorous response -- the public clearly has deep concerns about our energy future. Brazilian cars have been running on bioethanol for years First of all, I focused on bioethanol after reading a report saying that 65 ethanol plants were being constructed in the Corn Belt of the US mid-west, with a combined capacity that the Earth Policy Institute considered sufficient to consume all of the maize grown in the major producing states. These are precisely the states that produce excess maize, which is then used as part of the US contribution to the World Food Programme, and distributed to developing countries. I am very sympathetic to those who believe that such exports may serve as a disincentive for the recipient countries to develop their own agriculture, but the fact remains that some 800 million people in the world remain undernourished and welcome donations of surplus food. Waste of energy? Perhaps worse, last November's issue of BioScience reported that the various inputs required to convert maize to ethanol consume 29% more energy than is contained in the ethanol produced. Ethanol from cellulosic biomass requires 50% more energy than the final product can deliver; and each gallon of ethanol requires 1,700 gallons (6,400 litres) of water and produces 6-12 gallons (23-26 litres) of noxious organic effluent. Of course, this is just the first generation of just one type of biofuel, and greater investments in second and third generations may greatly improve the picture. Having said that, I do recognise that bioethanol is simply one of numerous energy options. Biodiesel is undoubtedly a better alternative, and lignocellulosic energy may be even better. And there are more options on the table: methanol, solar, wind, tidal, and nuclear power. So while my article raised some warning flags about moving ahead too quickly on bioethanol without considering the full costs and benefits, I also believe that a thoughtful consideration of the costs and benefits of all of the energy options are well justified. This is not anti-capitalist, but the straight-forward application of the precautionary principle, ensuring that we have given careful consideration to the full implications of our investments before we rush ahead to spend them. Moving ahead too quickly without considering the options is, to use an extreme example, like invading Iraq without thinking about the future implications. Most energy experts will agree that our first line of response should be improved energy efficiency and conservation. Banning cars would certainly be unpopular but, with appropriate incentives, the use of alternative forms of transport, ranging from walking and cycling to improved public transport systems, would all be relevant in reducing energy demand. 'Global experiment' Finally, in the few short months since the original article was published, considerable additional work on biofuels has been done, covering the full range of perspectives. The expansion of biofuel crops is certainly having an impact on food commodity prices already, which the commodity traders may consider good news. But in many parts of the tropics, land that may be extremely important for biodiversity is being converted to grow bioenergy crops. Even under the most efficient forms of lignocellulosic processing, we are beginning a massive global experiment whose results are far from certain. Our current way of life is highly energy-intensive, at least for those of us living in cities or developed countries. This calls for increased investments in research and development to find alternative solutions, along with a serious reconsideration of what "quality of life" really means. Jeffrey A. McNeely is chief scientist of IUCN, the World Conservation Union, based in Switzerland Return to Table of Contents ::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::: 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 firstname.lastname@example.org. 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