Rachel's Democracy & Health News #909

"Environment, health, jobs and justice--Who gets to decide?"

Thursday, May 31, 2007..................Printer-friendly version
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Featured stories in this issue...

A Response To Paul Hawken's 'To Remake the World'
  Activist and author Kate Davies responds to Paul Hawken about the
  nature and future of the worldwide social movement that has arisen in
  response to widespread ecological devastation and global warming.
The Faroes Statement
  In this powerful consensus statement, more than 200 scientists from
  five continents call for a precautionary approach to toxic chemicals,
  to protect fetuses and children from chemical exposures that may cause
  serious disease later in life, and which may also afflict their
  children and grandchildren. The Faroes Statement defines a "new
  paradigm of understanding in toxicology."
Scientists Warn of Dangers Chemicals Pose To Fetuses, Kids
  The Los Angeles Times put the blockbuster "Faroes Statement"
  story on page 1. So far, not a peep from the Boston Globe, the
  Washington Post or the New York Times.
The Developmental Basis of Health and Disease
  A new hypothesis undergoing scientific testing and scrutiny is
  called the developmental basis of health and disease: "If true, then
  it says that the focus on disease prevention and intervention must
  change from the time of disease onset to perhaps decades prior: during
  the in utero and neonatal period. Perhaps the reason it has been so
  difficult to link environmental exposure to disease susceptibility is
  that scientists have been looking at the wrong time!"
Watching TV Before Age 2 Leads To Attention Deficits and Obesity
  Early exposure to TV can have a negative impact on an infant's
  rapidly developing brain and put children at a higher risk for
  attention problems, diminished reading comprehension, and obesity,
  researchers say.
The Link Between Early Childhood Education and Health
  The health of adults is determined not only by early nutrition and
  exposure to chemicals, but also by early educational experiences,
  which shape the architecture of the brain.
An Important Conference on Corporate Power -- June 8-10
  An important conference to be held June 8-10 in Washington, DC.
  "Taming the Giant Corporation" will investigate the evolving sources
  and forms of corporate power, and how it can be subordinated to
  people's control (including by displacing corporations altogether from
  certain segments of the economy and society). Learn more about the
  conference at http://www.tamethecorporation.org/.


From: Rachel's Democracy & Health News #909, May 31, 2007
[Printer-friendly version]


By Kate Davies

Hooray for Paul Hawken! His article "To Remake the World" in Rachel's
News #908 and his new book "Blessed Unrest: How the Largest Movement
in the World Came into Being and Why No One Saw it Coming" are
extremely timely and thought-provoking.

Hawken has put his finger on a global phenomenon that has been growing
since the 1999 protests against the World Trade Organization in
Seattle. Largely unacknowledged by the spotlight of media attention, a
new social movement has been quietly gaining strength in the U.S. and
internationally. In bringing it to light, Hawken has revealed a trend
that is positive and hopeful at a time when these qualities are sorely
needed in the world.

Although he has done an outstanding job of describing the new
movement, several points call out for further exploration.

First, Hawken shies away from giving the new movement the full
recognition of a name, calling it instead "this unnamed movement."
This is a little strange because it has already been given several
names. My favorite is "the new progressive movement," in homage to the
U.S. Progressive Movement of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
The new progressive movement embraces many of the same principles as
its predecessor, including beliefs in truly democratic institutions
and processes, efficient government and the elimination of corruption,
social and economic justice, regulation of large corporations and
monopolies, and environmental protection.

He also asserts that the new movement lacks many basic attributes of
previous social movements, specifically an ideology, leaders, and
internal organization. Let's look at each of these in more detail.


Hawken says the new movement does not have an ideology and its "big
contribution is the absence of one big idea." He is right -- in a
sense. The new movement does not impose a rigid article of faith on
its members, but it is guided by one big, inspirational idea. Indeed,
Hawken acknowledges as much in the article's title.

The movement's big, inspirational idea is that ordinary people, acting
together, can "remake the world." Collectively, empowered citizens can
do more than just succeed on individual issues, like climate change or
immigration. They can do more than just win legislative victories,
like banning toxic flame retardants or protecting endangered species.
The new movement is motivated by the transformative idea that by
working together citizens can recreate the whole of society.

This is not a new concept. It is the same one that stimulated the
birth of this country. But it is an idea that most Americans seem to
have forgotten of late. In today's social and political climate, the
thought that ordinary people can shape society -- rather than just
relying on politicians, corporate leaders and economists -- is truly
radical. This may not be "ideology" in the sense that Hawken uses the
word, but it is a "big idea" that motivates the entire movement.

In addition to this, there are four goals or aspirations that unite
much of the movement:

** Creating an open, participatory and fully accountable democracy;

** Social and economic justice;

** Sustainability for people and the planet; and

** Health and wellbeing for all.

Most members of the new movement are committed to all these goals,
even if they work on only one. Collectively, they provide an inspiring
and world-changing ideology, especially when combined with the idea
that empowered citizens really can remake society.


Hawken states that the new movement has few recognizable leaders. He
says: "Its leaders are farmers, zoologists, shoemakers, and poets." In
short, there is no Martin Luther King Jr. or Mahatma Gandhi to look up
to and venerate.

Going one step further, I would say that the un-acclaimed leaders of
the new movement exemplify new types of leadership. Transcending
traditional concepts of charismatic and authoritative leadership, they
are extremely low key and modest. They are people who emerge in
response to specific situations and then relinquish their role when
circumstances change. And they are people who serve a group rather
than impose their will upon it.

The new movement is not alone in embodying new types of leadership.
Many organizations are now experimenting with different approaches.
Indeed, innovative ways of thinking about leadership have become very
fashionable lately. Many authors, including Ronald Heifetz, Peter
Senge and Meg Wheatley, have advocated many innovative ideas, such

** Seeing leadership as a process of relationship, rather than

** Recognizing that there are many different types of leaders;

** Thinking about leadership from a systems perspective; and

** Focusing on the adaptive challenges of long term change, rather
than imposing immediate technical fixes.

They highlight that the concept of leadership itself is changing. So
it should not be surprising that the leaders of the emerging movement
are different from those of previous movements.

Internal Organization

Hawken asserts that the new movement does not have any internal
organization, saying: "It forms, gathers and dissipates quickly," an
organic process that is "dispersed, inchoate, and fiercely

This is true, but the idea that the emerging movement is more of a
loose network than a coherent organization is not new. In early 2004,
Gideon Rosenblatt, Executive Director of ONE/Northwest, published a
paper called "Movement as Network: Connecting People and
Organizations in the Environmental Movement." In it, Rosenblatt made
the point that the strength of the environmental movement is the
countless links between people and organizations, rather than the
people or the organizations themselves.

Although the "movement as network" idea espoused by Hawken and
Rosenblatt has much to commend it, social movements need at least some
internal organization. Without any lasting internal structures, it can
be difficult to sustain the long-term political momentum needed to
successfully confront the entrenched power elites.

So what types of structures would be helpful? There are many
candidates including policy "think tanks" to facilitate strategic
planning, national or regional groups to help local ones mobilize the
public, research units to provide information, educational
institutions to provide training and support, groups with expertise in
communications, and last but not least, organizations with fundraising

Beyond "To Remake the World" and "Blessed Unrest"

The next step beyond Paul Hawken's article and book is to ask: "How
can we build the new movement?" The answer may determine not only the
success of the movement itself but also whether it can truly "remake
the world."

I believe that the emerging movement needs to deepen its understanding
of what it takes to achieve systemic social change. This will require
a greater understanding of the culture it wants to transform and a
more strategic approach to advance progressive change.

Understanding Culture

Many members of the new movement are natural activists -- me included.
By this, I mean we want to identify problems and solve them. We want
to fix what's wrong with the world! Our strengths lie in targeting
specific issues and promoting solutions.

But this emphasis on particular problems means that we pay less
attention to the cultural origins that cause the problems we seek to
correct. Developing an in-depth understanding of the fundamental
economic, political and social forces that shape western culture is
essential to identify the leverage points for change. If the new
movement does not have a comprehensive knowledge of the culture in
which it operates, how can it hope to intervene effectively?

This is challenging because issues are usually represented separately
from each other by the media and other mainstream social institutions.
Unemployment is portrayed as a different issue from racism. Racism is
framed independently of environmental quality. Environmental quality
is described without any connection to the economy. This fragmentation
makes the public perceive individual issues in isolation from one
another and prevents them from seeing the common cultural origins that
connect different issues.

A Strategic Approach to Progressive Change

Activists' usual emphasis on immediate solutions also means that the
new movement pays less attention to strategies for long term success.
As a result, it is relatively unskilled at achieving lasting,
resilient change. Although the emerging movement is good at winning
battles, it needs a better understanding of the strategies necessary
to win the war.

Developing a strategic approach to progressive change will require
knowledge of how social change actually happens. So how can the new
movement acquire such knowledge?

1. One key source of information is previous movements, such as the
civil rights, anti-Vietnam War, and women's movements. These and other
movements have not yet been adequately studied for what they can teach
the new movement about progressive social change.

2. Current thinking about the process of social change provides
another source. Ideas about social constructivism will be particularly

3. A third source is adult learning theory. Much work has already been
done on the relationship between learning and change that will be

In summary, the emerging movement could learn a lot about the process
of progressive social change that will enable it to be more strategic.

Closing Comment

Paul Hawken's article and book make an important contribution to
progressive social change. They describe what has previously been an
unnoticed, but widespread, movement and in doing they so make it much
more visible.

But Hawken's work is double-edged. At the same time as he describes
the new movement, he asserts that it is fundamentally indescribable,
saying: "No book can explain it, no person can represent it, no words
can encompass it." This remark runs the risk of being more poetic than

Indeed, on the basis of these words, Hawken's readers may question the
existence of a movement at all. If it cannot be explained, is it in
fact real? If it cannot be represented, does it actually exist? If it
cannot be encompassed, is it really a single entity? I fear that
Hawken's dualistic representation of the movement could dilute its
significance and effectiveness. It also threatens to undermine his
central thesis -- that there is a new global movement for progressive
social change. Hawken's true gift is to help us all see just how real
this movement is -- real enough "to remake the world."


Kate Davies is Core Faculty in the Center for Creative Change at
Antioch University Seattle. She is currently working on a book called
"Making Change: Ideas, Values and Strategies for Building the New
Progressive Movement."

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From: PPTOX 2007, May 24, 2007
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Human health effects of developmental exposure to environmental

Consensus statement issued by the International Conference on Fetal
Programming and Developmental Toxicity

[Introduction: This consensus statement was issued March 24, 2007, by
the International Conference on Fetal Programming and Developmental
Toxicity held May 20-24, 2007, at Torshavn, Faroe Islands, which was
attended by more than 200 biologists, toxicologists, epidemiologists,
nutrion researchers, and pediatricians. The conference was organized
jointly with, and sponsored by, BCPT (the journal, Basic & Clinical
Pharmacology and Toxicology); the World Health Organization; the
European Environment Agency; the Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention; National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences and
National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, National
Institutes of Health. The conference was co-chaired by Philippe
Grandjean (University of Southern Denmark and Harvard School of Public
Health) and Pal Weihe (The Faroese Hospital System).]


Fetal life and early infancy are periods of remarkable susceptibility
to environmental hazards. Toxic exposures to chemical pollutants
during these windows of increased susceptibility can cause disease and
disability in infants, children, and across the entire span of human
life. Among the effects of toxic exposures recognised in the past have
been congenital malformations and other adverse pregnancy outcomes.
These outcomes may be readily apparent and have been linked to
toxicant exposures during or prior to pregnancy. Even subtle effects
caused by chemical exposures during early development may lead to
important functional deficits and increased risks of disease later in
life. The notion of developmental plasticity of organ functions and
disease risks has gained much support from both experimental and
epidemiological studies. The timing of exposure -- with an emphasis on
critical windows of susceptibility -- has therefore become a crucial
factor to be considered in toxicological assessments.

During May 20-24, 2007, researchers in the fields of environmental
health, environmental chemistry, developmental biology, toxicology,
epidemiology, nutrition, and paediatrics gathered at the International
Conference on Fetal Programming and Developmental Toxicity, in
Torshavn, Faroe Islands. The conference goal was to highlight new
insights into the effects of prenatal and early postnatal exposure to
toxicants, and their sustained effects on the individual throughout
their lifespan. The Conference brought together, for the first time,
key researchers to focus on human data and translation of laboratory
results to elucidate the environmental risks to human health.

Research state of the art

The developing fetus is extraordinarily susceptible to perturbation of
the intrauterine environment. Fetal development is adjusted to the
intrauterine environment of nutrients and energy supply to fit the
anticipated postnatal environmental conditions. If a disparity arises
between prenatal and postnatal environments, it can cause
abnormalities in energy metabolism, endocrine functions, and organ
development. Evolution seems to have favoured a "thrifty" phenotype
that optimizes the energy use, but which, in an environment with ample
food and limited energy expenditure, can increase the likelihood of
developing obesity, metabolic syndrome, and associated diseases.

The physiological mechanisms involved in the development of energy and
nutrient metabolism are also highly vulnerable to toxic effects of
environmental chemicals. Chemical exposures during prenatal and early
postnatal life can bring about important effects on gene expression,
which determines normal development and also predisposes to disease
risks during adolescence and adult life. Many environmental chemicals
can alter gene expression by DNA methylation and chromatin
remodelling. These epigenetic changes can cause lasting functional
changes in specific organs and tissues and increased susceptibility to
disease that may even affect successive generations.

New research on rodent models shows that developmental exposures to
toxic chemicals, such as the hormonally active substances,
diethylstilbestrol, tributyl tin, bisphenol A, genistein, can increase
the incidence of reproductive abnormalities, metabolic disorders,
including obesity and diabetes, and cancer, presumably through
epigenetic mechanisms that do not involve changes to DNA sequences but
may be heritable.

Prenatal exposure to diethylstilbestrol, an estrogenic drug no longer
used on pregnant women, causes an increased risk of vaginal, uterine,
and breast cancer. Low-level developmental exposure to a plastics
ingredient, bisphenol A, can result in increased susceptibility to
breast cancer or prostate cancer, and prenatal exposure to
vinclozoline, a common fungicide, also promotes later development of
cancer. These substances are only weak carcinogens, if at all, in the
adult organism but are nonetheless hazardous to the growing fetus. In
addition, when exposure to a carcinogenic substance occurs during
early development, the expected life-span will exceed the normal
latency period for development of the disease.

Functioning of the human reproductive system is highly vulnerable to
changes in the intrauterine hormonal environment. In men, increasing
occurrence of testicular cancer, poor semen quality, and
cryptorchidism have all been linked to developmental exposures to
maternal smoking and endocrine disrupting chemicals, such as
diethylstilbestrol. Additional risk factors include fertility
treatment of the mother, phthalate exposure, and occupational exposure
to pesticides with suspected estrogenic and antiandrogenic activity.
Perinatal exposure to endocrine disrupting chemicals, such as
polychlorinated or polybrominated biphenyls, endosulfan, or DDT
compounds, may affect puberty development and sexual maturation at
adolescence. Expression of some of these effects may be promoted by
predisposing genetic traits.

The brain is particularly sensitive to toxic exposures during
development, which involves a complex series of steps that must be
completed in the right sequence and at the right time. Slight
decrements in brain function may have serious implications for social
functioning and economic activities, even in the absence of mental
retardation or obvious disease. Each neurotoxic contaminant may
perhaps cause only a negligible effect, but the combination of several
toxic chemicals, along with other adverse factors, such as maternal
stress or decreased thyroid function, may trigger substantial
decrements in brain function and may predispose to the development of
serious degenerative disease.

The immune system also undergoes important development both before and
after birth. New evidence suggests that exposure to some immunotoxic
chemicals, such as polychlorinated biphenyls and atrazine, and
maternal stress may cause aberrant reactions of the immune system to
foreign proteins, including vaccines. Such effects may be related to a
shift in immune system balance, with an increased susceptibility to
infections and an increased risk of development of allergy in the

While the research on developmental toxic effects has to date
emphasised maternal exposures and the neonatal environment, the
possibility exists that paternal exposures may also affect the child's
development. Experimental studies suggest that ionizing radiation,
smoking, and certain chemicals may be of importance, and some
exposures may also affect the sex ratio of the children.


Three aspects of children's health are important in conjunction with
developmental toxicity risks. First, the mother's chemical body burden
will be shared with her fetus or neonate, and the child is then likely
to be exposed to larger doses relative to the body weight. Second,
susceptibility to adverse effects is increased during development,
from preconception through adolescence. Third, developmental exposures
to toxicants can lead to life-long functional deficits and
manifestations of increased disease risks.

Research into the environmental influence on developmental programming
of health and disease has therefore led to a new paradigm of
toxicologic understanding. The old paradigm, developed over four
centuries ago by Paracelsus, was that "the dose makes the poison".
However, for exposures sustained during early development, the most
important issue is that "the timing makes the poison". This extended
paradigm deserves wide attention to protect the fetus and child
against preventable hazards.

Part of the new insight derives from numerous animal studies on fetal
programming being responsible for reproductive, immunological,
neurobehavioural, cardiovascular, and endocrine dysfunctions and
diseases, as well as certain cancers and obesity. These adverse
effects have been linked to chemical pollutants at realistic human
exposure levels similar to those occurring from environmental sources.
Among the mechanisms involved, particular concern is raised about
changes in gene expression due to altered epigenetic marking, which
may not only lead to increased susceptibility to diseases later in
life, but the effects may also be passed on to subsequent generations.
Most chronic disease processes are characterised by multi-causality
and complexity. Understanding such processes requires a more holistic
approach that focuses on systems and tissue biology.


** Studies on the etiology of human disease therefore need to
incorporate early development and characterise appropriately the
factors that determine organ functions and subsequent disease risks.
Such associations can best be examined in long-term prospective
studies, and existing and planned birth cohorts should be utilized for
this purpose.

** Cross-disciplinary approaches and translation of animal data on
exposure biomarkers and disease susceptibility need to be promoted for
application in studies of the etiology of human disease. Communication
and clarification of key concepts and terms needs to be stimulated
between the scientific disciplines involved and between these
scientists and policymakers.

Environmental chemical exposure assessment should emphasise the time
period of early development. Exposure data already routinely collected
need to be optimised for application in epidemiological studies. Cord
blood, cord tissue, human milk and other biological samples can be
applied for assessment of exposure biomarkers and for determination of
gene expression changes.

Since humans are exposed to numerous chemicals during development and
throughout life, mixed exposures need to be considered in a life-
course approach to disease. Further, the interaction due to other
life-style factors, such as intake of essential nutrients and societal
environment, needs to be explored. This research should also involve
the impact of genetic variation and genetic predisposition to disease.

** Toxicological tests and risk assessment of environmental chemicals
need to take into account the susceptibility of early development and
the long-term implications of adverse programming effects. Although
test protocols exist to assess reproductive toxicity or developmental
neurotoxicity, such tests are not routinely used, and the potential
for such effects is therefore not necessarily considered in decisions
on safety levels of environmental exposures.

The accumulated research evidence suggests that prevention efforts
against toxic exposures to environmental chemicals should focus on
protecting the fetus and small child as highly vulnerable populations.
Given the ubiquitous exposure to many environmental toxicants, there
needs to be renewed efforts to prevent harm. Such prevention should
not await detailed evidence on individual hazards to be produced,
because the delays in decision-making would then lead to propagation
of toxic exposures and their long-term consequences. Current
procedures therefore need to be revised to address the need to protect
the most vulnerable life stages through greater use of precautionary
approaches to exposure reduction.

Note: This statement has been developed by the International
Scientific Committee of the conference, taking into account comments
and suggestions from the conference participants. The statement
(pending minor editorial revision) will be included in the conference

Members of the International Scientific Committee

David Barker (UK)
David Bellinger (USA)
Ake Bergman (Sweden)
Roberto Bertollini (WHO)
Sylvaine Cordier (France)
Terri Damstra (WHO)
George Davey-Smith (UK)
Erik Dybing (BCPT)
Brenda Eskenazi (USA)
David Gee (EEA)
Kimberly Gray (NIEHS)
Mark Hanson (UK)
Peter van den Hazel (The Netherlands)
Jerry Heindel (NIEHS)
Birger Heinzow (Germany)
Irva Hertz-Picciotto (USA)
Howard Hu (USA)
Terry Huang (NICHD)
Tina Kold Jensen (Denmark)
Philip J Landrigan (USA)
Caroline McMillen (Australia)
Katsuyuki Murata (Japan)
Larry L Needham (USA)
Sjśršur Olsen (Denmark)
Beate Ritz (IARC)
Greet Schoeters (Belgium)
Niels E Skakkebęk (Denmark)
Staffan Skerfving (Sweden)

Copyright 2006 by Thomas Steen Christensen

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From: Los Angeles Times, May 24, 2007
[Printer-friendly version]


By Marla Cone

In a strongly worded declaration, many of the world's leading
environmental scientists warned Thursday that exposure to common
chemicals makes babies more likely to develop an array of health
problems later in life, including diabetes, attention deficit
disorders, prostate cancer, fertility problems, thyroid disorders and
even obesity.

The declaration by about 200 scientists from five continents amounts
to a vote of confidence in a growing body of evidence that humans are
vulnerable to long-term harm from toxic exposures in the womb and
during the first years after birth.

Convening in the Faroe Islands in the North Atlantic, toxicologists,
pediatricians, epidemiologists and other experts warned that when
fetuses and newborns encounter various toxic substances, growth of
critical organs and functions can be skewed. In a process called
"fetal programming," the children then are susceptible to diseases
later in life -- and perhaps could even pass on those altered traits
to their children and grandchildren.

The scientists' statement also contained a rare international call to
action. The effort was led by Dr. Philippe Grandjean of Harvard
University and University of Southern Denmark, and Dr. Pal Weihe of
the Faroese Hospital System, who both have studied children exposed to
mercury for more than 20 years.

Many governmental agencies and industry groups, particularly in the
United States, have said there is no or little human evidence to
support concerns about most toxic residue in air, water, food and
consumer products. About 80,000 chemicals are registered in the United

Yet, the scientists urged government leaders not to wait for more
scientific certainty and recommended that governments revise
regulations and procedures to take into account subtle effects on
fetal and infant development.

"Given the ubiquitous exposure to many environmental toxicants, there
needs to be renewed efforts to prevent harm. Such prevention should
not await detailed evidence on individual hazards," the scientists
wrote in the four-page statement.

The scientists are particularly concerned that the newest animal
research suggests that chemicals can alter gene expression -- turning
on or off genes that predispose people to disease. Although the DNA
itself would not be altered, such genetic misfires in the womb may be
permanent, and all of the subsequent generations could be at greater
risk of diseases, too.

"Toxic exposures to chemical pollutants during these windows of
increased susceptibility can cause disease and disability in childhood
and across the entire span of human life," the scientists concluded.
"Recent research now shows that even subtle effects caused by chemical
exposures during early development may lead to important functional
deficits and increased risks of disease."

The Barker Hypothesis, conceived by a British scientist in 1992, says
human fetuses are "programmed" for diseases by their early
environment. The scientists concluded that this is now well-documented
for toxic exposures by a large collection of animal experiments and
some human data.

"A sad aspect with many of these prenatal exposures is that they leave
the mother unscathed while causing injury to her fetus," said Dr.
Philip Landrigan, a pediatrician who chairs the Mount Sinai School of
Medicine's Department of Community and Preventive Medicine. He was one
of the statement's authors.

In a more optimistic vein, the researchers said that if contaminants
do play a big role in human health problems, some diseases could be

"Reducing exposure would lead to tremendous benefits," said Dr. Bruce
Lanphear, director of the Environmental Health Center at Cincinnati
Children's Hospital Medical Center. "We shouldn't wait for an epidemic
to fully mature before we develop policies to protect children."

For centuries, the basic rule of toxicology has been "the dose makes
the poison." Now, the scientists say "the timing makes the poison" --
in other words, when a toxic exposure occurs is as important as how
much people are exposed to.

The fetus "is extraordinarily susceptible to perturbation of the
intrauterine environment," they wrote.

The growing brain is the most sensitive. Mothers' exposure to mercury
and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) in fish and other seafood can
cause slight declines in IQ and motor skills. In addition, early
exposure to pesticides might trigger Parkinson's and Alzheimer's

Also, children exposed to lead, organophosphate pesticides or
cigarette smoke have greater risk of attention deficit hyperactivity
disorder. One of every three cases of the neurological disorder,
affecting an estimated 560,000 children in the United States, can be
attributed to either lead exposure or prenatal tobacco smoke exposure,
Lanphear reported in a study published last December.

The immune, reproductive and cardiovascular systems also are
vulnerable to early damage. Children exposed prenatally to PCBs have a
high rate of infections and weak response to vaccinations. Many
chemicals also can mimic hormones, and in animal tests, they feminize
newborns, lowering sperm counts and promoting prostate, testicular,
uterine and breast cancers.

In the newest area of research, metabolic systems -- which control how
nutrients are converted into energy -- have been altered by chemicals
administered in animal experiments, changes that may contribute to
obesity and diabetes.

"These adverse effects have been linked to chemical pollutants at
realistic human exposure levels similar to those occurring from
environmental sources," the scientists wrote.

Among the risky chemicals they named are bisphenol A, found in
polycarbonate plastic food and water containers, the pesticides
atrazine, vinclozolin and DDT, lead, mercury, phthalates used in some
cosmetics and soft plastics, brominated flame retardants, arsenic,
which contaminates some water supplies, and PCBs, banned but
ubiquitous, particularly in fish.

Some of the chemicals already have been regulated in the United
States, but many have not. Moreover, the scientists said, tests for
developmental effects are not routinely required, so "the potential
for such effects is therefore not necessarily considered in decisions
on safety levels of environmental exposures."

"We have absolutely solid evidence for certain chemicals -- lead,
methyl mercury, PCBs, arsenic and the organophosphate pesticides,"
Landrigan said. "We know with great certainty that prenatal exposure
to any of these materials can damage the developing brain with
resulting lifelong loss of intelligence and disruption of behavior."

Yet there is "an incredible gap," he said, because 80 percent of major
chemicals in commerce have never been tested to see if they damage
early development.

Although the statement did not include any reference to it, some of
the U.S. scientists said Congress should adopt a new law, similar to
one enacted by the European Union last year, that requires more
chemical testing and could ban many hazardous substances.

The conference was funded by the World Health Organization, National
Institutes of Health, European Environment Agency and the Centers for
Disease Control and Prevention.

Denmark's Faroe Islands, just south of the Arctic Circle, was the
venue because it is home to the longest-running human experiment
analyzing prenatal toxic exposure. Since 1986, Grandjean and Weihe
have tracked Faroese children from the womb to adolescence to monitor
neurological effects of mercury in seafood. Their findings prompted
U.S. advisories that women of childbearing age and children avoid
swordfish and other highly contaminated fish.

Ten U.S. scientists served on the 28-member committee that wrote the
consensus: Landrigan; Brenda Eskenazi of the University of California,
Berkeley; Irva Hertz-Picciotto of UC Davis; Beate Ritz of UCLA; Jerry
Heindel and Kimberly Gray of the National Institute of Environmental
Health Sciences; Larry Needham of the CDC; Terry Huang of the National
Institute of Child Health and Human Development; David Bellinger of
Harvard University; and Howard Hu of University of Michigan.

Copyright 2007, Los Angeles Times

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From: Reproductive Toxicology, May 1, 2007
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Role of exposure to environmental chemicals in the developmental basis
of disease and dysfunction

By Jerrold J. Heindel**

There is a major paradigm shift taking place in science that while
simple is profound. It states that the root of many diseases,
including reproductive diseases and dysfunctions, will not be found by
examination of disease onset or etiology hours, days, weeks, or even
years prior to disease onset. The new paradigm suggests that
susceptibility to disease is set in utero or neonatally as a result of
the influences of nutrition and exposures to environmental

In utero nutrition and/or in utero or neonatal exposures to
environmental toxicants alters susceptibility to disease later in life
as a result of their ability to affect the programming of tissue
function that occurs during development. This concept, that is still a
hypothesis undergoing scientific testing and scrutiny, is called the
developmental basis of health and disease. If true, then it says that
the focus on disease prevention and intervention must change from the
time of disease onset to perhaps decades prior: during the in utero
and neonatal period. Perhaps the reason it has been so difficult to
link environmental exposure to disease susceptibility is that
scientists have been looking at the wrong time! Certainly not all
exposures that result in increased disease or dysfunction occur during
development. This paradigm shift just suggests that this is a
sensitive window of exposure that should be examined more thoroughly.

This concept has its origins in two disciplines, epidemiology studies
of humans and developmental toxicology studies in animals. The
underlying scientific hypothesis behind the developmental basis of
adult diseases has been developed by epidemiology studies and
emphasized by Dr. David Barker in the United Kingdom. He has shown
that during development fetuses respond to adverse conditions, mainly
severe undernutrition, by favoring the metabolic demands of the
growing brain/CNS and heart at the expense of other tissues. The
growing brain/CNS and heart tissue may not, however, escape entirely
unscathed. The long-term consequences of this response are that the
fetus is protected from death, is live-born, but has a low birth
weight and is more prone to diseases later in life.

These epidemiology studies show that low birth weight (LBW), small for
gestation age (SGA), frank intra-uterine growth retardation (IUGR) or
clinically abnormal thinness at birth strongly predicts the subsequent
occurrence of hypertension, hyperlipidemia, insulin resistance, type 2
diabetes, ischemic heart disease, breast or prostate cancer in adult
life. Fetuses that are clinically malnourished during the first
trimester of development are also three times more likely to be obese
as adults (reviewed in [1]).

The concept of fetal programming of structural-functional formations
during development has been proposed to explain these findings.
Programming is the term used to describe lifelong changes in function
that follow a particular event in an earlier period of the life span.
While epidemiology studies have identified the phenomenon of metabolic
programming, little is known about the mechanism(s) by which fetal
insults lead to altered programming and to disease later in life. In
addition, emphasis thus far has been on alterations in nutrition
during development with virtually no focus on the role that exposures
to environmental agents, such as air or water pollution, either alone
or in combination with qualitative alterations in macro- or micro-
nutrition (i.e. soy protein, phytoestrogens, isoflavones or other
chemicals in herbal supplements or dietary sources), might have on
this phenomenon.

With regard to developmental toxicology, it is known that between 2
and 5% of all live-born infants have major developmental defects. Up
to 40% of these defects have been estimated to result from maternal
exposure(s) to harmful environmental agents that directly or
indirectly create an unfavorable intrauterine environment. A spectrum
of adverse effects can occur, including death, structural
malformation, and/or functional alteration of the fetus/embryo. The
traditional focus of the science of developmental toxicology has been
on the role of agents (environmental or drugs) that cause either
premature death of the fetus or birth defects. In recent years,
attention has turned to examining the effects of in utero or neonatal
exposure to environmental agents on functional changes in tissues,
e.g. permanent changes in tissue function that are not the result of
overtly or grossly teratogenic effects but that result in increased
susceptibility to disease/dysfunction later in life. This new focus on
functional changes has been made possible by the development and use
of "omics" technology that has allowed the examination of gene
expression changes in tissues during development. It should be noted
that this hypotheses was actually formulated over 20 years ago by Dr.
Howard Bern when he described the "fragile fetus syndrome" [2]. It has
been revived and is now receiving significant attention due to
advancement in genomics and proteomics technology that has allowed
scientist to detect changes in gene expression and protein levels in
tissues, presenting a possible mechanism for the phenomenon described.

The epidemiology data that support the Barker hypothesis on the fetal
basis of adult disease, together with the preliminary data showing
alterations in gene expression and tissue imprinting due to in utero
or neonatal exposures to some environmental agents, provide an
attractive framework for understanding delayed functional effects of
toxicant exposures. Thus it has been proposed that exposure to certain
environmental chemicals alone or in combination with altered
nutrition, leads to aberrant developmental programming that
permanently alters gland, organ or system potential. These states of
altered potential or compromised function are hypothesized to result
from epigenetic changes, e.g. altered gene expression due to toxicant-
induced effects on imprinting, and the underlying methylation-related
protein-DNA relationships associated with chromatin remodeling. The
end result is an animal that is sensitized so that it will be more
susceptible to diseases later in life.

The following key points serve to elaborate this general hypothesis:

** There is a unique sensitivity to the developing fetus which may be
due to multiple factors including undeveloped DNA repair, or immature
immune system, lack of detoxifying enzymes, primitive liver
metabolism, lack of blood/brain barrier, increased metabolic rate and
increased sensitivity to epigenetic changes.

** This unique sensitivity is during tissue development, which in many
cases extends well into neonatal life.

** The initiating in utero environmental insult may act alone or in
concert with in utero nutrition and/or with later exposures. That is,
there could be an in utero exposure that would lead by itself to
pathophysiology later in life or there could be in utero exposure
combined with a neonatal exposure (same or different compound(s)) or
adult exposure that would trigger or exacerbate the pathophysiology.

** The pathophysiology may manifest as: the occurrence of a disease
that otherwise would not have happened; an increase in risk for a
disease that would normally be of lower prevalence or an earlier onset
of a disease that would normally have occurred; or an exacerbation of
the disease.

** The pathophysiology may have a variable latent period from onset in
the neonatal period, early childhood, puberty, early adulthood, or
late adulthood; depending on the toxicant, time of exposure and
tissue/organ affected.

** The effects may be transmitted to future generations through the
germ line.

** The effects of in utero exposure to toxic environmental chemicals
may occur in the absence of reduced birth weight. This makes it more
difficult to assess, than effects due to severe nutritional deficits
during development.

In addition, extrapolation of risk may be difficult since effects may
not follow a monotonic dose-response relationship, the toxicant may
have an entirely different effect on the embryo, fetus, or perinatal
organism, compared to the adult and exposure of one individual to an
environmental toxicant may have little effect, whereas another
individual will develop overt disease or dysfunctions.

The short-term approach to addressing this paradigm is to produce in
utero or neonatal exposure to an environmental agent at
environmentally relevant doses. Then to correlate exposure
measurements with measurements of gene expression in target tissues at
or near birth or the termination of dosing. Some animals are then
allowed to mature and onset of disease/dysfunction is quantitated.
Gene expression studies are carried out on the diseased tissues.
Finally gene expression changes noted after dosing are correlated with
gene expression changes in the diseased tissue to show that in utero
exposure has resulted in altered programming of gene expression and
this effect correlates with disease. In the long term it is necessary
to show cause and effect relationship between in utero or neonatal
exposures, altered gene expression in target tissues and disease.
Finally, the mechanism responsible for the altered gene expression
that is responsible for the increased incidence or severity of disease
must be determined. Once completed, the intervention and prevention
strategies can be developed to reduce the incidence of disease. There
are several recent reviews on this paradigm [3], [4], [5] and [6].

This special edition of reproductive toxicology is intended to
highlight recent data that show proof-of-principle for the hypothesis
that in utero or neonatal exposures to environmental agents alone or
in combination with altered nutrition can provide the developmental
basis for a number of later-occurring diseases. Some articles are
research manuscripts, some are reviews and some are combinations, all
are focused on the developmental basis of adult disease paradigm.

The main focus is on animal studies as the developmental basis of
disease paradigm is particularly difficult to assess in humans at this
point in time; as in utero exposures must be linked to gene expression
or other tissue potential changes at birth and then linked to an adult
disease. Nonetheless, humans are exposed to a variety of environmental
chemicals in utero, many are the same chemicals that have been shown
to cause increased incidences of disease/dysfunction later in life in
animal studies and at similar concentrations to those used in the
animal studies [7], [8] and [9]. Indeed a recent publication by The
Environmental Working Group [10] showed that a variety of industrial
chemicals, pollutants, and pesticides could be measured in human
umbilical cord blood. They tested newborns for 413 environmental
chemicals and found that 287 of them were found at some levels
including various PCBs, mercury, DDT and dioxins. In addition, the
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), has recently
released its Third National Report on Human Exposures to Environmental
Chemicals [11]. It reports on blood and urine levels for 148
chemicals, 38 for the first time, by age, sex, race or ethnicity, in a
random sample from participants from the National Health and Nutrition
Examination Survey (NHANES) from 2001 to 2002. These data indicate low
exposure to multiple chemicals including mercury, phthalates,
bisphenol A, phytoestrogens, organochlorine pesticides, herbicides and
dioxin-like chemicals. Thus the potential exists for extrapolation of
the animal data on the developmental basis of health and disease to
human health.

Indeed the first article in this edition focuses on human exposures
during development. This is followed by an examination of epigenetics
as the mechanism for the developmental basis of adult disease. The
following 21 articles describe the state of the science in this
exciting and emerging area highlighting the developmental basis of
obesity, reproductive diseases, cardiovascular disease, respiratory
disease, and neurological disease. It will take years to discern the
actual importance of this new paradigm to disease processes. It is
hoped that this special edition will stimulate research in this

**Division of Extramural Research and Training, National Institute of
Environmental Health Sciences, Department of Health and Human Service,
79 T.W. Alexander Drive, Building 4401 3rd Floor, Mail Drop: EC-23,
Room 3413, Research Triangle Park, NC 27709, United States


[1] P.D. Gluckman and M.A. Hanson, Developmental origins of disease
paradigm: a mechanistic and evolutionary perspective, Pediatr Res 56
(2004), pp. 311-317.

[2] H. Bern, The fragile fetus. In: T. Colborn and C. Clement,
Editors, Chemically-induced alternations in sexual and functional
development: the wildlife/human connection (1992).

[3] K.P. Miller, C. Gorgeest, C. Greenfeld, D. Tomic and J.A. Flaws,
In utero effects of chemicals on reproductive tissues in females,
Toxicol Appl Pharmacol 198 (2004), pp. 111-131.

[4] A.C. Vidaeff and L.E. Sever, In utero exposure to environmental
estrogens and male reproductive health: a systematic review of
biological and epidemiologic evidence, Reprod Toxicol 12 (2005), pp.

[5] C. Lau and J.M. Rogers, Embryonic and fetal programming of
physiological disorders in adulthood, Birth Defects Res (Part C) 72
(2005), pp. 300-302.

[6] A.J. Drake and B.R. Walker, The intergenerational effects of fetal
programming: non-genomic mechanisms for the inheritance of low birth
weight and cardiovascular risk, J Endocrinol 180 (2005), pp. 1-16.

[7] L.L. Needam and K. Sexton, Assessing children's exposure to
hazardous environmental chemicals: an overview of selected research
challenges and complexities, J Expos Anal Environ Epidemiol 10 (2000),
pp. 611-629.

[8] C. Mori, M. Komiyama, T. Adachi, T. Sakurai, D. Nishimura and K.
Takashima et al., Application of toxicogenomic analysis to risk
assessment of delayed long-term effects of multiple chemicals
including endocrine disruptors in human fetuses, Environ Health
Perspect 111 (2002), pp. 803-809.

[9] E.V. Younglai, W.G. Foster, E.G. Hughes, K. Trim and J.F. Farrell,
Levels of environmental contaminants in human follicular fluid serum
and seminal plasma of couples undergoing in vitro fertilization, Arch
Environ Contamin Toxicol 43 (2002), pp. 121-126.

[10] Environmental Working Group. 2005;

[11] CDC. National report on human exposures to environmental
chemicals. 2005; http://www.cdc.gov/exposurereport.

Reproductive Toxicology
Volume 23, Issue 3, April-May 2007, Pages 257-259

Copyright 2007 Elsevier

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From: Boston Globe, May 27, 2007
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Ignoring risks, parents cite 'educational' value

By Barbara F. Meltz, Globe Staff

About 40 percent of 3-month-olds watch television or videos for an
average of 45 minutes a day, or more than five hours a week, according
to the first-ever study of the viewing habits of children under the
age of 2.

The study, by pediatric researchers at the University of Washington,
also found that by age 2, 90 percent of children are watching
television for an average of more than 90 minutes a day.

Such early exposure to screens can have a negative impact on an
infant's rapidly developing brain and put children at a higher risk
for attention problems, diminished reading comprehension, and obesity,
researchers said.

Researchers said they were surprised not only by the number of hours
young children are spending in front of the television but also by the
primary reason: Most parents are using television as an educational
tool, not for the more conventional explanation of babysitting.
Despite nearly a decade of warnings by pediatricians to the contrary,
parents believe that the content of programs aimed at babies is good
for brain development.

"I wouldn't be so upset about this if I thought parents were doing it
because they needed a break to take a shower or make dinner," said
Dimitri Christakas, the University of Washington pediatrician who co-
authored the study. "What I'm troubled by is the notion that parents
think it's good for their kids. That's more likely to lead to
excessive viewing rather than occasional viewing."

The new study, based on 1,009 random telephone interviews with
families in Minnesota and Washington, was published in this month's
Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine. (According to the
study, the families interviewed were more likely to be highly educated
and higher-income than the general US population.) The top two reasons
parents gave for allowing babies to watch television is that the
programs "teach something" or are "good for his/her brain" (29
percent), and because it's "something he/she really enjoys doing"
(23 percent). Needing to keep a baby occupied scored in third place
(20 percent).

"That's stunning when you consider that the best evidence shows that
early viewing puts children on a trajectory that places them at a high
risk for attention deficit, diminished reading ability, and obesity,"
says Andrew Meltzoff, a developmental psychologist who co-authored the
new book, "The Elephant in the Living Room, Make Television Work For
Your Kids," with Christakas. "These parents want to do the right
thing, but there's a huge discrepancy between what the professional
community recommends -- no viewing under 2 -- and what is happening in
real life."

Kristy Merhib of Milford reflects the dichotomy. She says her 4-month-
old, Jake, has been watching practically from birth even though she
knows about pediatricians' recommendations to the contrary. "That's
why I'm careful to use it in moderation, and only what's
educational," she said. "I think even at this age, something is
definitely getting through. Colors, numbers -- he really seems to pay

The baby video market is a billion-dollar-a-year industry, with Baby
Einstein videos, programs aimed at stimulating development and
activity in infants and toddlers, generating sales of more than $500
million alone last year.

Cathy Davies of Wayland, who has a 2 1/2-year-old and 1-month-old,
says the guideline is the reason she waited until her oldest was 18
months before she introduced baby videos. With her second, she won't
wait that long. "I bet he'll be watching at a year," she said. "I
know it's controversial, but it's geared to babies."

Another mother, Renata Wilson of Newton, put Isabella in front of
"Baby Einstein" at 2 months. "We're a bilingual family. I only
speak Portuguese to her, so I thought it would be a good way for her
to get more English," she said, noting that even at a young age her
daughter seemed to pay attention.

That parents put so much stock in videos such as the wildly popular
"Baby Einstein" series has researchers and educators wondering what
they can do to support parents' good intentions but wean them away
from the baby video market.

"We have succeeded in convincing people that the first years are
critical to brain development," said Meltzoff, who is co-director of
the Institute for Learning and Brain Sciences at the University of
Washington. "The unfortunate consequence is that it has spun off to
build a brainier baby enterprise, where people think they have to use
technology to take advantage of this critical window."

What parents identify as attention and learning scientists say is a
primitive reflex known as the orienting response.

"Yes, the baby is staring at the screen, but it's wrong to think the
child likes it," said Christakas, the study's co-author and himself
the father of two young children. "He or she has no choice in the
matter. He's hard-wired to pay attention to anything that is fast-
moving, brightly colored, or loud. It's a survival response."
Christakas said he embarked on the study after being perplexed by the
results of a 2003 Kaiser Foundation study that found that children
under age 6 were spending up to two hours a day in front of a screen,
despite the American Academy of Pediatrics recommendation that
children under 2 watch no television at all.

A baby is born with 100 billion brain cells, but only 17 percent of
them are immediately operational. "The rest of the wiring follows in
the days, weeks, months, and years to come," said child psychologist
David Walsh, president of the National Institute on Media and the
Family. What's not hard-wired by genetics gets soft-wired by
experience and exposure. "For instance, we don't need to teach babies
to make noise; that's hard-wired," Walsh said. "But which language
do they end up speaking? That's the soft-wiring."

Early screen-viewing has a negative effect on soft-wiring even when
the content is baby-safe, he said. "The question to ask isn't, 'What
is she watching,' but, 'What else isn't she doing?'?" he said. "When
there's screen time at an early age, the brain is wired to respond to
screens even before they crawl or say their first words. At a time
when they need to be interacting with the environment and with real
human beings, they are being conditioned to respond to a screen."

What's more, he said, babies who are in front of a screen as early as
3 months are at higher risk for childhood obesity. "Wiring is based
on repetition, on patterning. It's a reasonable hypothesis that if a
baby is in front of a screen at 3 months, it will be harder to get him
away from the screen at 3, 8, 10, or 13," he says. "We're
conditioning them to be couch potatoes."

Contact Barbara Meltz at meltz@globe.com.

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From: Economic Opportunity Institute, Mar. 24, 2004
[Printer-friendly version]


Early Experiences are Important Determinants of Adult Health Status

By Jen Brown

A child's early experiences are lifelong determinants of health and
well-being. Studies in neurobiology, neurodevelopment, and early
intervention show that the years birth to school age are critically
important for brain development.[1] During this critical time,
children develop the essential language and cognitive skills required
to learn, develop their ability to manage emotions and stress, and
learn to cooperate with others. Properly shaping the architecture of
the brain in these earliest years of life has profound benefits in
adult life.

Many of the risks for the diseases of adult life (e.g. heart disease)
are, in part shaped by learning, coping, and decision-making skills
that are set in the earliest years of life.[2] These skills determine
performance in the school system and set children onto life pathways
that in turn, affect their health and well-being over time.

Early Childhood Trajectory

The Role of Early Childhood Education

Early childhood education plays a crucial role in children's
development. A key requisite for optimal healthy child development is
secure attachment to a trusted caregiver, giving consistent caring,
support and affection early in life.[3] Coping skills are strongly
influenced by how well children are "nurtured" during the early years
of childhood. Spending one's early years in an unstimulating,
emotionally and physically unsupportive environment affects brain
development in adverse ways, and leads to cognitive, social and
behavioral delays.

Evaluation of quality early learning and care provision before the age
of 5 years has found that it is associated with improvement in a range
of educational and social measures, some of which have been documented
many years after the care. In one of the studies, the Perry Preschool
Project followed participants up to 27 years of age and showed that
the people from the preschool group were more likely to have
advantageous social outcomes such as high school graduation,
employment, fewer arrests, higher earnings, and owning their own home
than those who did not participate in the program.[4] These findings
have been confirmed by multiple other studies.[5]

The Perry Preschool program also measured a significant effect on teen
pregnancy, showing that youth who did not receive the program were
nearly twice as likely to have a teen pregnancy than those who did
receive the program.[6]

Similarly, the research demonstrated the benefits of creating
opportunities for children to participate in decision making from an
early age. The study discovered that children from impoverished inner-
city environments who planned and made decisions about their school
activities in their preschool years were, in adulthood, significantly
less (as much as 50 percent) involved in using drugs.

Lack of school readiness puts children at risk of academic, social and
behavioral difficulties in school. Those children are more likely to
leave school before high school graduation, get involved in criminal
behavior, become pregnant as a teenager, and become addicted to
tobacco, alcohol, and other drugs.[7] And the combination of
behavioral problems and failure in school are also associated with low
levels of physical and mental health in adulthood.[8] The reverse is
also true. Children from high quality early learning and care programs
are more likely to graduate high school, go on to college or higher
learning, and earn more. These outcomes are all associated with better
physical and mental health as adults.

Access to Health Services

Early care and learning programs are often a vehicle for health
education and promotion to children. Research has shown that early
childhood programs can affect children's physical health by requiring
that children be properly immunized; by linking them to health
services; by conducting vision, hearing, and developmental screenings,
and in some cases, by providing them with nutritious meals.[9]
Children who attend quality early child programs have greater access
to health care and improved physical health, receive better dental
care, and demonstrate improved nutritional status and better
nutritional practices.[10]

Early learning and care programs are also essential in getting
children enrolled into low-income children's health insurance programs
for which they are eligible, such as Medicaid and the Children's
Health Insurance Program (CHIP).[11]

Prevention Results in Cost Savings

Cost implications are very clear. Loading our energies at the
beginning of the children's services continuum makes sense since early
childhood development and prevention services are immensely more cost-
effective than waiting to pay for health care services later in the


[1] Shonkoff, J.P., Phillips, D.A. (2000) From Neurons to
Neighborhoods: The Science of Early Childhood Development. National
Research Council and Institute of Medicine. Washington, D.C.: National
Academy Press. pg. 314.

[2] Hertzman, C., Mustard, F. (1997) A Healthy Early Childhood = A
Healthy Adult Life. Founders Network Report, The Canadian Institute
for Advanced Research: 1(1)

[3] Shonkoff, J.P., Phillips, D.A. (2000).

[4] Barnett, W. S. (1996). Lives in the balance: Age-27 benefit-cost
analysis of the High/Scope Perry Preschool Program (Monographs of the
High/Scope Educational Research Foundation, 11). Ypsilanti, MI:
High/Scope Press. A summary of the Perry study findings up to age 40
is available here.

[5] Reynolds, A.J. et al. (2001) Long-term Effects of an Early
Childhood Intervention on Educational Achievement and Juvenile
Arrest: a 15-Year Follow-Up of Low-income Children in Public Schools.
JAMA (and be sure to get the published correction to this
article). "Smart Start: A Six County Study of the Effects of Smart
Start Child Care on Kindergarten Entry Skills," Frank Porter Graham
Child Development Center Smart Start Evaluation Team, North Carolina.

[6] The rate for youth not receiving the program is higher than 100
because some youth may have had more than one teen pregnancy during
the course of the study.

[7] Hertzman, C., Keating, D. (eds.) Developmental Health and the
Wealth of Nations: Social, Biological, and Educational Dynamics. New
York: The Guilford Press, 1999.

[8] Acheson, D. (1998) Independent Inquiry into Inequalities in
Health. London: The Stationary Office.

[9] Zigler, E., Piotrkowski, C.S., Collins, R. (1994) Health Services
in Head Start. Annual Review of Public Health: 15:511-34.

[10] Howes, C. 1990. "Can the age of entry into child care and the
quality of child care predict adjustment in kindergarten?"
Developmental Psychology, 26(2), 292-303. McKey, R.H., Condelli, L.,
Ganson, H., Barrett, B.J., McConkey, C., & Plantz, M.C. 1985. The
impact of Head Start on children, families, and communities. Final
report of the Head Start Evaluation, Synthesis, and Utilization
Project. (Washington, DC: CSR Incorporated for the Head Start Bureau,
Administration for Children, Youth and Families, U.S. Dept. of Health
and Human Services). (A more recent evaluation of the effectiveness of
the Head Start program can be found here.)

[11] Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

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From: Essential Action, May 31, 2007
[Printer-friendly version]


By Robert Weissman

The United States Since 1980 (Cambridge University Press, 2007) is a
superb short work from Dean Baker of the Center for Economic and
Policy Research.

In a couple hundred pages, Baker covers enormous territory, reviewing
the rightward shift in U.S. politics, the sharpening of inequality
(and underlying causes), U.S. unilateralism in global affairs, and
much more. He concludes by identifying the U.S. political system's
failure to address three overriding problems: provision of healthcare
to all at an affordable cost, the spiking trade deficit, and global

The distressing effects of corporate power and influence is interwoven
into the narrative of The United States Since 1980, but corporate
power is not analyzed in its own right.

There will be an opportunity to conduct that kind of analysis at an
important conference to be held June 8-10 in Washington, DC. "Taming
the Giant Corporation" will investigate the evolving sources and forms
of corporate power, and how it can be subordinated to people's control
(including by displacing corporations altogether from certain segments
of the economy and society). You can get information on the
conference, and register, at: .

What might be the key themes of a book titled, Corporate Power Since

Some interrelated concepts, not listed in order of importance, would

1. Corporate political organization. Big business has mobilized itself
into a dominant political actor, with capacity through its various
tentacles both to frame the contours of big picture policy debates,
and to win narrow legislative battles, at all governmental levels. The
proliferation and strengthening of corporate-backed think tanks, front
groups, lobbyists, trade associations and more, are all evidence of
corporations' dramatically increased political power -- in the United
States and around the globe.

2. Corporate globalization. Big corporations now operate globally,
both on the production and selling side. They leverage the threat of
moving production to drive down labor and environmental standards.
They and their allies have drafted international trade agreements that
embed their power in law, and impinge on the ability of governments to
control them. They have also created massive global trade imbalances,
which threaten the future stability of the global economy. On the
seller side, they are driving a homogenization of culture on a global

3. Corporate concentration. Wal-Mart was an insignificant blip on the
retail radar screen in 1980. It now dominates retail markets in the
United States, with growing power overseas. Big box emulators have
concentrated sales in retail market after retail market. Antitrust
concepts in the United States have fallen by the wayside, evidenced
perhaps most spectacularly in the permitted reunification of the two
biggest components of the Standard Oil breakup, Exxon and Mobil. In
sector after sector -- food manufacturing, finance, pharmaceuticals,
tobacco, aircraft, defense contracting, utilities, energy, insurance,
hotels, mining, media -- fewer companies are in control.

4. Union busting. The trend is sharpest in the United States, where
there has been a perilous decline in union membership. The blue-collar
unionization rate fell from 43.1 percent in 1978 to 19.2 percent in
2005 -- a drop of well over half. Corporations' vicious anti-unionism,
offshoring and threats to close plants all contributed to plummeting
union rates -- and the undermining of wage scales and employment
conditions for working people. Similar pressures are starting to be
felt in Europe, though Europe has, so far, largely resisted the
degraded standards of the United States. Meanwhile, the World Bank
actually advises countries to cut back on labor rights in order to be
more competitive.

5. Corporate subcontracting. Brand-name industrial firms increasingly
don't make what they sell. Instead, they subcontract the work, often
on a global scale. What might be high-paying jobs turns instead into
low-income or sweatshop work -- and the identifiable company is able
to swear off responsibility for how their subcontracted workers are
treated, or for the pollution or other undesirable aspects of the
production and services they subcontract. Subcontracting functions as
a massive escape from accountability.

6. Deregulation. The election of Ronald Reagan gave corporations the
opportunity to achieve the roll back of environmental, consumer and
workplace safety regulations -- and they've been rolling back ever
since, often on a global scale. Equally important has been economic
deregulation -- removal of U.S. rules governing how finance,
telecommunications and utility companies can operate, for example.
This deregulation has facilitated massive consolidation, consumer rip-
offs and serious threats to economic well-being -- as evidenced by the
Enron scandal and collapse, which was rooted in deregulation of energy
and financial markets.

7. Tax manipulation. Concludes Citizens for Tax Justice in a 2004
study: "Eighty-two of America's largest and most profitable
corporations paid no federal income tax in at least one year during
the first three years of the George W. Bush administration -- a period
when federal corporate tax collections fell to their lowest sustained
level in six decades." Corporate political power has led to lowered
tax rates and creation of endless tax loopholes and subsidies. And the
spectacular rise of offshore tax havens has made the tax avoidance
business into its own industry.

8. Commercialization. Commercialism has become ubiquitous, in ways
barely imaginable a quarter century ago. Corporate marketers target
small children in the most devious of ways, and advertising is
pervasive in schools. A new speciality known as neuromarketing is
doing brain scans to gain "unprecedented insight into the consumer
mind," as one neuromarketer put it. "Buzz marketers" are employing
people to hawk corporations' stuff, but not tell the friends, family
and neighbors they are pitching. Results of corporate commercialism
include an epidemic of marketing-related diseases such as obesity
(rising now in developing countries as well as the United States),
more materialistic values at the expense of civic ones, and
consumption-driven challenges to the sustainability of the planet.

9. Financialization. Wall Street and the global finance sector now
exert an extraordinary grip over the real economy, placing
unprecedented pressure on producing and service companies, and
interfering with the ability of countries to manage their economies.
Speculation and hot money, fueled in equal parts by new technologies
and deregulation, give Wall Street managers enormous power. Meanwhile,
the invention of new financial instruments has injected enormous risk
into the global economy -- easily ignored in good times, and rarely
borne by the wealthy in down times.

The recent rise of private equity -- an updated version of the
leveraged-buyout movement of the 1980s -- threatens still further to
destabilize shared social understandings. Private equity firms now
pool vast sums from institutional players (such as pension funds), and
then borrow still more, to buy out publicly traded companies. Hidden
from public scrutiny, the private equity managers typically then seek
to squeeze the companies (and especially their workers), before
placing them back on the market.

10. Enclosing the knowledge commons. The value-added component of
making things is embedded progressively less in the manufacturing
process, and more in the development side -- in the knowledge about
how to design and make the thing. Corporations -- especially in the
pharmaceutical, software and entertainment industries -- have
responded by demanding heightened patent and copyright protections, to
give them monopoly control over information and knowledge -- even
though that knowledge is typically extracted in significant measure
from the public domain. One manifestation of this movement is the
imposition of a global patent standard, leading to skyrocketing drug
prices in developing countries.

11. Global environmental and public health treaties. Not every trend
has seen corporate power deepened. With many problems globalized,
citizen activists have managed to push successfully for some legally
binding global solutions, often in issue-specific treaties, including
ones to address the hazardous waste trade, pesticides and other
pollutants, tobacco control, and protection of the ozone layer.

12. Popular movements to curtail corporate power. Beyond specific
advocacy efforts around treaty-making, there have emerged robust
advocacy and solidarity networks to counter corporate malfeasance,
influence and demands. From winning improvements in working conditions
to blocking bad trade deals, from lowering the prices of essential
medicines to blocking biotech companies' efforts to experiment on
humans and the environment on a planetary scale, from supporting
indigenous peoples' rights to blocking destructive dam projects, these
networks have scored important victories. Relatedly, a series of mass
mobilizations have occurred to challenge corporate dominance, and
popular movements have linked up and created growing countervailing
power in national and international spheres.

But while an historical perspective on Corporate Power Since 1980 does
not offer an unyielding picture of corporate supremacy, the
predominant trend is toward dramatically heightened corporate power.
Indeed, by far the most serious barrier to addressing each of the
three overriding problems that Dean Baker highlights as challenges for
the United States -- affordable healthcare for all, the trade deficit,
and global warming -- is overcoming entrenched corporate practices,
privileges and prerogatives.

Robert Weissman is editor of the Washington, D.C.-based Multinational
Monitor, and director of Essential Action.

(c) Robert Weissman

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