Rachel's Democracy & Health News #931

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

Thursday, November 1, 2007..............Printer-friendly version
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Featured stories in this issue...

Problems Create Opportunities
  A new report from the United Nations offers a wake-up call. It's
  time to turn things around. By making major investments in solar
  power, green chemistry, and clean production, the U.S. could create
  whole new industries and large numbers of new jobs. Most importantly,
  we could reclaim our standing as a beneficent giant, a global leader
  in ideas, research, and manufacturing. What are we waiting for?
Tests Reveal High Chemical Levels in Kids' Bodies
  "[Rowan's] been on this planet for 18 months, and he's loaded with
  a chemical I've never heard of," Holland said. "He had two to three
  times the level of flame retardants in his body that's been known to
  cause thyroid dysfunction in lab rats."
Exposed: The Poisons Around Us
  "In one industry after another, a new double standard is emerging:
  that between the protection offered Europe's citizens, and those
  afforded to Americans." It is now fair to ask: "Is America itself
  becoming a new dumping ground for products forbidden because of their
  toxic effects in other countries?" Outmoded thinking has endangered
  not only America's health but also its economic future.
Parents Raising Concerns Over Synthetic Turf
  Dr. Philip J. Landrigan, a professor of pediatrics, agreed that
  there should be a moratorium on new playing fields made from synthetic
  turf. He said the turf poses other dangers to children besides just
  exposure to chemicals.
Global Warming May Hit Kids Harder, Pediatrics Group Says
  Global warming is likely to disproportionately harm the health of
  children, and politicians should launch "aggressive policies" to curb
  climate change, the American Academy of Pediatrics now says.
Troubling Meaty 'Estrogen'
  High temperature cooking can imbue meats with a chemical that acts
  like a hormone. But cooks can take steps to alleviate the danger.


From: Rachel's Democracy & Health News #931, Nov. 1, 2007
[Printer-friendly version]


The new GEO-4 Report from the United Nations describes a world in
decline, but it doesn't have to be this way.

By Peter Montague

The United Nations published its long-awaited GEO-4 report last

Five years in production, the 570-page report offers a catalog of
human impacts on the natural environment and warns that national
governments must make the natural environment central to their policy
focus. The report was written by 390 experts and peer-reviewed by 1000

The report says humans are now requiring 22 hectares (54 acres) per
person for all the activities that sustain human life. However, there
are only 16 hectares (39 acres) per person available world-wide. As a
result, farm land is being degraded, ocean fisheries are being
depleted, and fresh water is becoming scarcer. Furthermore, the human
population is expected to grow 50% in the next 50 years.

"About half of the footprint is accounted for by the areas that are
required to absorb our greenhouse gas emissions," says Neville Ash of
the UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre. "The other half is the
land which produces our food, the forests which produce our timber,
the oceans and rivers which produce our fish."

Clearly, all is not lost if we recognize that the GEO-4 report is a
wake-up call. Major investments by nations like the U.S., which affect
the world all out of proportion to their population size, could create
a new world of possibilities. (The U.S. is 4% of world population but
produces 25% of all global warming gases.)

A major push to develop solar power, so we could leave all remaining
fossil fuels in the ground -- stop mining them as soon as humanly
possible -- would drastically reduce the human footprint on the
planet. It would also create whole new industries and large numbers of
new jobs, and would revive America's standing as a beneficent giant of
positive ideas, applied research, and high-quality products.

We have a detailed road map that shows us the direction we need to
go. Our military leaders have told us that our national security
depends upon ending our addiction to fossil fuels. We know we need the
jobs and the revival of national spirit that such a crash program
would bring. What are we waiting for?

Now here are four published summaries of the new United Nations GEO-4
report -- facts you can use to persuade friends, family, and elected
representatives that a new beginning for America is necessary and is


Source: Scientific American Date: October 26, 2007

Headline: The World Is Not Enough for Humans

URL: http://www.precaution.org/lib/07/world_not_en

Humanity's environmental impact has reached an unprecedented scope,
and it's getting worse

Since 1987 annual emissions of carbon dioxide -- the leading
greenhouse gas warming the globe -- have risen by a third, global
fishing yields have declined by 10.6 million metric tons and the
amount of land required to sustain humanity has swelled to more than
54 acres (22 hectares) per person. Yet, Earth can provide only roughly
39 acres (15 hectares) for every person living today, according to the
United Nation's Environmental Program's (UNEP) Global Environment
Outlook, released this week. "There are no major issues," the
report's authors write of the period since their first report in 1987,
"for which the foreseeable trends are favorable."

Despite some successes -- such as the Montreal Protocol's 95 percent
reduction in chemicals that damage the atmosphere's ozone layer and a
rise in protected reserves of habitat to cover 12 percent of the
planet -- humanity's impact continues to grow. For example:

Biodiversity -- The planet is in the grips of the sixth great
extinction in its 4.5-billion-year history, this one largely man-
made. Species are becoming extinct 100 times faster than the average
rate in the fossil record. More than 30 percent of amphibians, 12
percent of birds and 23 percent of our own class, mammals, are

Climate -- Average temperatures have climbed 1.4 degrees Fahrenheit
(0.76 degree Celsius) over the past century and could increase as much
as 8.1 degrees F (4.5 degrees C) over the next unless "drastic" steps
are taken to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from, primarily, burning
fossil fuels. Developed countries will need to reduce this globe-
warming pollution by 60 to 80 percent by mid-century to stave off dire
consequences, the report warns. "Fundamental changes in social and
economic structures, including lifestyle changes, are crucial if rapid
progress is to be achieved."

Food -- The amount of food grown per acre has reached one metric
ton, but such increasing intensity is also driving rapid
desertification of formerly arable land as well as reliance on
chemical pesticides and fertilizers. In fact, four billion out of the
world's 6.5 billion people could not get enough food to eat without
such fertilization. Continuing population growth paired with a shift
toward eating more meat leads the UNEP to predict that food demand may
more than triple.

Water -- One in 10 of the world's major rivers, including the Colorado
and the Rio Grande in the U.S., fail to reach the sea for at least
part of the year, due to demand for water. And that demand is
rising; by 2025, the report predicts, demand for fresh water will rise
by 50 percent in the developing world and 18 percent in industrialized
countries. At the same time, human activity is polluting existing
fresh waters with everything from fertilizer runoff to pharmaceuticals
and climate change is shrinking the glaciers that provide drinking
water for nearly one third of humanity. "The escalating burden of
water demand," the report says, "will become intolerable in water-
scarce countries."

The authors -- 388 scientists reviewed by roughly 1,000 of their peers
-- view the report as "an urgent call for action" and decry the
"woefully inadequate" global response to problems such as climate
change. "The amount of resources needed to sustain [humanity] exceeds
what is available," the report declares.

"The systematic destruction of the earth's natural and nature-based
resources has reached a point where the economic viability of
economies is being challenged," Achim Steiner, UNEP's executive
director, said in a statement. "The bill we hand our children may
prove impossible to pay."


Source: New Scientist Date: October 25, 2007

Headline: Unsustainable Development 'Puts Humanity at Risk'

URL: http://www.precaution.org/lib/07/humanity_at_risk.071025.htm

By Catherine Brahic

Humans are completely living beyond their ecological means, says a
major report published by the UN Environment Programme on Thursday.

The 550-page document finds the human ecological footprint is on
average 21.9 hectares per person. Given the global population,
however, the Earth's biological capacity is just 15.7 hectares per

The report is UNEP's latest on the state of the planet's health,
taking five years in the making. It was put together by about 390
experts and peer-reviewed by an additional 1000.

It reviews the state of Earth's natural resources, from the atmosphere
and water, to land surfaces and biodiversity. It concludes that
instead of being used and maintained as a tool for the sustainable
development of human populations, the environment is being sucked dry
by unsustainable development.

Examples of how humans are over-exploiting natural resources to their
own detriment include:

** Water -- by 2025, 1.6 billion people will live in countries with
absolute water scarcity; 440 million school days are already missed
every year because of diarrhoeal diseases.

** Land use -- modern agriculture exploits land more intensively than
it has in the past. In 1987, a hectare of cropland yielded on average
1.8 tonnes of crops, today the same hectare produces 2.5 tonnes. This
increased productivity comes at a cost -- overexploited land is
degraded and becomes less productive.

** Fish -- 2.6 billion people rely on fish for more than 20% of their
animal protein intake, yet as the intensity of fishing increases, the
biodiversity of the ocean and the ocean's capacity to produce more
fish decreases.

** Air -- more than 2 million people die each year because of indoor
and outdoor pollution.

Unsustainable consumption

The individual average footprint of 21.9 hectares per person estimated
by UNEP, includes the areas required to produce the resources we use,
as well as the areas needed to process our waste.

"About half of the footprint is accounted for by the areas that are
required to absorb our greenhouse gas emissions," says Neville Ash of
the UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre, underlying the scale of
the climate change problem. "The other half is the land which produces
our food, the forests which produce our timber, the oceans and rivers
which produce our fish."

The inflated size of the footprint, says Ash, is partially the result
of the growth of the human population. The population is currently
estimated at 6.7 billion people, and is expected to reach 8 to 10
billion by 2050.

But for Ash, the main driver of the size of our footprint is our
unsustainable consumption. "There is no doubt that we could sustain
the current and projected population if we lived sustainably," he told
New Scientist.

'Inexorable decline'

According to the report authors, energy efficiency is key to
sustainability. Johan Kuylenstierna of the Stockholm Environment
Institute says that the growth of greenhouse gas emissions in
developing nations could be halved by 2020 simply by using existing
technologies for energy efficiency.

According to Jo Alcamo, at the University of Kassel in Germany, who
led the group which looked at future development for the report, open
borders and free trade could also be important. In models of the
future where trade between countries is made simpler, technologies
that improve the sustainable use of resources are adopted more

"Much of the 'natural' capital upon which so much of the human
wellbeing and economic activity depends -- water, land, the air and
atmosphere, biodiversity and marine resources -- continue their
seemingly inexorable decline," warns Achim Steiner, UNEP executive

"The cost of inaction and the price humanity will eventually pay is
likely to dwarf the cost of swift and decisive action now."


Source: New York Times Date: October 26, 2007

Headline: U.N. Warns of Rapid Decay of Environment

URL: http://www.precaution.org/lib/07/u.n._warns_on_enviro

By James Kanter

PARIS, Oct. 25 -- The human population is living far beyond its means
and inflicting damage to the environment that could pass points of no
return, according to a major report issued Thursday by the United

Climate change, the rate of extinction of species, and the challenge
of feeding a growing population are putting humanity at risk, the
United Nations Environment Program said in its fourth Global
Environmental Outlook since 1997.

"The human population is now so large that the amount of resources
needed to sustain it exceeds what is available at current consumption
patterns," Achim Steiner, the executive director of the Environment
Program, said in a telephone interview.

Many biologists and climate scientists have concluded that human
activities have become a dominant influence on the Earth's climate and
ecosystems. But there is still a range of views on whether the changes
could have catastrophic impacts, as the human population heads toward
nine billion by midcentury, or more manageable results.

Over the last two decades, the world population increased by almost 34
percent, to 6.7 billion, from 5 billion. But the land available to
each person is shrinking, from 19.5 acres in 1900 to 5 acres by 2005,
the report said.

Population growth combined with unsustainable consumption has resulted
in an increasingly stressed planet where natural disasters and
environmental degradation endanger people, plants and animal species.

Persistent problems include a rapid rise of "dead zones," where marine
life no longer can be supported because pollutants like runoff
fertilizers deplete oxygen.

But Mr. Steiner, of the Environment Program, did note that Western
European governments had taken effective measures to reduce air
pollutants and that Brazil had made efforts to roll back some
deforestation. He said an international treaty to tackle the hole in
the earth's ozone layer had led to the phasing out of 95 percent of
ozone-damaging chemicals.

"Life would be easier if we didn't have the kind of population growth
rates that we have at the moment," Mr. Steiner said. "But to force
people to stop having children would be a simplistic answer. The more
realistic, ethical and practical issue is to accelerate human well-
being and make more rational use of the resources we have on this

Mr. Steiner said parts of Africa could reach an environmental tipping
point if changing rainfall patterns turned semi-arid zones into arid
zones and made agriculture much harder. He said another tipping point
could occur in India and China if Himalayan glaciers shrank so much
that they no longer supplied adequate amounts of water.

He also warned of a global collapse of all species being fished by
2050, if fishing around the world continued at its current pace. The
report said that two and a half times more fish were being caught than
the oceans could produce in a sustainable manner, and that the level
of fish stocks classed as collapsed had roughly doubled over the past
20 years, to 30 percent.

In the spirit of the United Nations report, President Nicolas Sarkozy
of France outlined plans on Thursday to fight climate change.

He said he would make 1 billion euros, or $1.4 billion, available over
four years to develop energy sources and maintain biodiversity. He
said each euro spent on nuclear research would be matched by one spent
on research into clean technologies and environmental protection.


Source: Agence France Presse (AFP) Date: October 26, 2007

Headline: Save the planet? It's now or never, warns landmark UN report

URL: http://www.precaution.org/lib/07/its_now_or_never_for_earth.

NAIROBI (AFP) -- Humanity is changing Earth's climate so fast and
devouring resources so voraciously that it is poised to bequeath a
ravaged planet to future generations, the UN warned Thursday in its
most comprehensive survey of the environment.

The fourth Global Environment Outlook (GEO-4), published by the United
Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), is compiled by 390 experts from
observations, studies and data garnered over two decades.

The 570-page report -- which caps a year that saw climate change
dominate the news -- says world leaders must propel the environment
"to the core of decision-making" to tackle a daily worsening crisis

"The need couldn't be more urgent and the time couldn't be more
opportune, with our enhanced understanding of the challenges we face,
to act now to safeguard our own survival and that of future
generations," GEO-4 said.

The UNEP report offers the broadest and most detailed tableau of
environmental change since the Brundtland Report, "Our Common Future,"
was issued in 1987 and put the environment on the world political map.

"There have been enough wake-up calls since Brundtland. I sincerely
hope GEO-4 is the final one," said UNEP Executive Director Achim

"The systematic destruction of the Earth's natural and nature-based
resources has reached a point where the economic viability of
economies is being challenged -- and where the bill we hand on to our
children may prove impossible to pay," he added.

Earth has experienced five mass extinctions in 450 million years, the
latest of which occurred 65 million years ago, says GEO-4.

"A sixth major extinction is under way, this time caused by human
behaviour," it says.

Over the past two decades, growing prosperity has tremendously
strengthened the capacity to understand and confront the environmental
challenges ahead.

Despite this, the global response has been "woefully inadequate," the
report said.

The report listed environmental issues by continent and by sector,
offering dizzying and often ominous statistics about the future.

Climate is changing faster than at any time in the past 500,000 years.

Global average temperatures rose by 0.74 degrees Celsius (1.33
Fahrenheit) over the past century and are forecast to rise by 1.8 to
four C (3.24-7.2 F) by 2100, it said, citing estimates issued this
year by the 2007 Nobel Peace co-laureates, the Intergovernmental Panel
on Climate Change (IPCC).

With more than six billion humans, Earth's population is now so big
that "the amount of resources needed to sustain it exceeds what is
available," the report warned, adding that the global population is
expected to peak at between eight and 9.7 billion by 2050.

"In Africa, land degradation and even desertification are threats; per
capita food production has declined by 12 percent since 1981," it

The GEO-4 report went on to enumerate other strains on the planet's
resources and biodiversity.

Fish consumption has more than tripled over the past 40 years but
catches have stagnated or declined for 20 years, it said.

"Of the major vertebrate groups that have been assessed
comprehensively, over 30 percent of amphibians, 23 percent of mammals
and 12 percent of birds are threatened," it added.

Stressing it was not seeking to present a "dark and gloomy scenario",
UNEP took heart in the successes from efforts to combat ozone loss and
chemical air pollution.

But it also stressed that failure to address persistent problems could
undo years of hard grind.

And it noted: "Some of the progress achieved in reducing pollution in
developed countries has been at the expense of the developing world,
where industrial production and its impacts are now being exported."

GEO-4 -- the fourth in a series dating back to 1997 -- also looks at
how the current trends may unfold and outlines four scenarios to the
year 2050: "Markets First", "Policy First", "Security First",
"Sustainability First".

After a year that saw the UN General Assembly devote unprecedented
attention to climate change and the Nobel Peace Prize awarded to the
IPCC and former US vice president Al Gore for raising awareness on the
same issue, the report's authors called for radical change.

"For some of the persistent problems, the damage may already be
irreversible," they warned.

"The only way to address these harder problems requires moving the
environment from the periphery to the core of decision-making:
environment for development, not development to the detriment of

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From: CNN.com, Oct. 22, 2007
[Printer-friendly version]


So-called "body burden" testing reveals industrial chemicals in
humans; many of these chemicals harm rats, but studies on humans are

One scientist warns modern-day humans are living an "unnatural

By Jordana Miller, CNN

NEW YORK (CNN) -- Michelle Hammond and Jeremiah Holland were intrigued
when a friend at the Oakland Tribune asked them and their two young
children to take part in a cutting-edge study to measure the
industrial chemicals in their bodies.

"In the beginning, I wasn't worried at all; I was fascinated,"
Hammond, 37, recalled.

But that fascination soon changed to fear, as tests revealed that
their children -- Rowan, then 18 months, and Mikaela, then 5 -- had
chemical exposure levels up to seven times those of their parents.

"[Rowan's] been on this planet for 18 months, and he's loaded with a
chemical I've never heard of," Holland, 37, said. "He had two to three
times the level of flame retardants in his body that's been known to
cause thyroid dysfunction in lab rats."

The technology to test for these flame retardants -- known as
polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) -- and other industrial
chemicals is less than 10 years old. Environmentalists call it "body
burden" testing, an allusion to the chemical "burden," or legacy of
toxins, running through our bloodstream. Scientists refer to this
testing as "biomonitoring."

Most Americans haven't heard of body burden testing, but it's a hot
topic among environmentalists and public health experts who warn that
the industrial chemicals we come into contact with every day are
accumulating in our bodies and endangering our health in ways we have
yet to understand.

"We are the humans in a dangerous and unnatural experiment in the
United States, and I think it's unconscionable," said Dr. Leo
Trasande, assistant director of the Center for Children's Health and
the Environment at the Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York City.
Trasande says that industrial toxins could be leading to more
childhood disease and disorders.

"We are in an epidemic of environmentally mediated disease among
American children today," he said. "Rates of asthma, childhood
cancers, birth defects and developmental disorders have exponentially
increased, and it can't be explained by changes in the human genome.
So what has changed? All the chemicals we're being exposed to."

Elizabeth Whelan, president of the American Council on Science and
Health, a public health advocacy group, disagrees.

"My concern about this trend about measuring chemicals in the blood is
it's leading people to believe that the mere ability to detect
chemicals is the same as proving a hazard, that if you have this
chemical, you are at risk of a disease, and that is false," she said.
Whelan contends that trace levels of industrial chemicals in our
bodies do not necessarily pose health risks.

In 2004, the Hollands became the first intact nuclear family in the
United States to undergo body burden testing. Rowan, at just 1.5 years
old, became the youngest child in the U.S. to be tested for chemical
exposure with this method.

Rowan's extraordinarily high levels of PBDEs frightened his parents
and left them with a looming question: If PBDEs are causing
neurological damage to lab rats, could they be doing the same thing to
Rowan? The answer is that no one knows for sure. In the three years
since he was tested, no developmental problems have been found in
Rowan's neurological system.

Trasande said children up to six years old are most at risk because
their vital organs and immune system are still developing and because
they depend more heavily on their environments than adults do.

"Pound for pound, they eat more food, they drink more water, they
breathe in more air," he said. "And so [children] carry a higher body

Studies on the health effects of PBDEs are only just beginning, but
many countries have heeded the warning signs they see in animal
studies. Sweden banned PBDEs in 1998. The European Union banned most
PBDEs in 2004. In the United States, the sole manufacturer of two
kinds of PBDEs voluntarily stopped making them in 2004. A third kind,
Deca, is still used in the U.S. in electrical equipment, construction
material, mattresses and textiles.

Another class of chemicals that showed up in high levels in the
Holland children is known as phthalates. These are plasticizers, the
softening agents found in many plastic bottles, kitchenware, toys,
medical devices, personal care products and cosmetics. In lab animals,
phthalates have been associated with reproductive defects, obesity and
early puberty. But like PBDEs, little is known about what they do to
humans and specifically children.

Russ Hauser, an associate professor of environmental and occupational
epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health, has done some of
the few human studies on low-level phthalate exposure. His preliminary
research shows that phthalates may contribute to infertility in men. A
study led by Shanna Swan of the University of Rochester in New York
shows that prenatal exposure to phthalates in males may be associated
with impaired testicular function and with a defect that shortens the
space between the genitals and anus.

The Environmental Protection Agency does not require chemical
manufacturers to conduct human toxicity studies before approving their
chemicals for use in the market. A manufacturer simply has to submit
paperwork on a chemical, all the data that exists on that chemical to
date, and wait 90 days for approval.

Jennifer Wood, an EPA spokeswoman, insists the agency has the tools to
ensure safe oversight.

"If during the new-chemical review process, EPA determines that it may
have concerns regarding risk or exposure, the EPA has the authority to
require additional testing," she said. EPA records show that of the
1,500 new chemicals submitted each year, the agency asks for
additional testing roughly 10 percent of the time. The EPA has set up
a voluntary testing program with the major chemical manufacturers to
retroactively test some of the 3,000 most widely used chemicals.

Trasande believes that is too little, too late.

"The problem with these tests is that they are really baseline tests
that don't measure for the kind of subtle health problems that we're
seeing," Dr. Trasande said.

In the three years since her family went through body burden testing,
Michelle Hammond has become an activist on the issue. She's testified
twice in the California legislature to support a statewide body burden
testing program, a bill that passed last year. Michelle also speaks to
various public health groups about her experience, taking Mikaela, now
8, and Rowan, now 5, with her. So far, her children show no health
problems associated with the industrial chemicals in their bodies.

"I'm angry at my government for failing to regulate chemicals that are
in mass production and in consumer products." Hammond says. "I don't
think it should have to be up to me to worry about what's in my

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From: San Francisco Chronicle (pg. M1), Oct. 5, 2007
[Printer-friendly version]


By Steve Heilig

Book Review of: Exposed -- The Toxic Chemistry of Everyday Products
and What's at Stake for American Power, by Mark Schapiro (Chelsea
Green, 219 pages, $22.95).

Recently, many Californians have received dramatic mailings from a
group named Californians for Fire Safety warning that if legislation
banning some fire-retardant chemicals is passed, we would all be at
much greater risk of burning to death in fires. Among the omissions in
this literature are that the "Californians" are actually chemical-
industry lobbyists, that firefighters themselves support the proposed
legislation and that the chemicals in question have already been
banned elsewhere because of concerns about health problems such as
increased cancer, birth defects and reproductive problems.

This last point, that we in the United States allow use of substances
deemed too toxic in other nations, especially European ones, is the
primary focus of San Francisco journalist Mark Schapiro's "Exposed."
And while environmental science underlies the book's argument, it is
notable that Schapiro's perspective is more a business one than
otherwise. His startling message is that by lagging behind on
environmental innovation, American industries are jeopardizing their
financial future. And since money talks, he may have produced a book
with more eventual impact than a crate of dire environmental warnings.

Public health researchers at UC Berkeley "estimate that forty-two
billion pounds of chemicals enter American commerce daily, enough
chemicals to fill up 623,000 tanker trucks, a string of trucks that
could straddle the globe three times, every day," notes Schapiro.
Further, "fewer than five hundred of those substances have undergone
any substantive risk assessments." At the same time as this massive
post-World War II production has taken place, research has
demonstrated health hazards even or even especially, in some cases, at
very low doses. And children, fetuses and pregnant women are
especially vulnerable.

Schapiro's previous book, "Circle of Poison," demonstrated a quarter
century ago that American chemical companies exported pesticides
banned here, causing health hazards in poorer nations. Now the flow of
risks is reversing. "In one industry after another, a new double
standard is emerging: that between the protection offered Europe's
citizens, and those afforded to Americans," Schapiro writes. And
ironically, although we like to think of our nation as more advanced
in such arenas, it is now fair to ask: "Is America itself becoming a
new dumping ground for products forbidden because of their toxic
effects in other countries?"

Consider cosmetics. A survey of common products "found hundreds of
varieties of skin and tanning lotions, nail polish and mascara and
other personal-care products that contain known or possible
carcinogens, mutagens, and reproductive toxins." Contrary to common
assumption, most cosmetics are not effectively tested or regulated for
their health effects. European authorities, however, started to demand
toxicity information before multinational companies could continue to
market their products there, and this development did garner corporate
attention and action. Chemicals put on the European Union "negative
list" were removed from products without seeming to hurt the bottom

Back at home, however, such as when a Safe Cosmetic Act was proposed
for California just last year, chemical lobbyists convened en masse in
Sacramento to argue that there were no risks from the chemicals used.
"They (the cosmetic companies) are spending hundreds of thousands of
dollars to lobby against laws in the United States that they've
already agreed to in Europe," says a representative of the Breast
Cancer Fund in San Francisco. Of course, the industry agreed only
under duress and when the regulatory writing was already on the wall.
But no bankruptcies of European cosmetic companies have occurred
because of such healthier standards, and as another advocate notes, "I
don't notice European women looking any less stunning than they'd
looked before."

The example of cosmetics can be seen as one of voluntary exposure,
although consumers would seem to have a right to know exactly what
they put onto or into their bodies. But Schapiro provides similar case
studies of other chemicals or categories of substances, such as
phthalates used in plastics, persistent organic pollutants including
pesticides, and genetically modified foods, where much of our
exposures occur even if we do not actively use a product. Meanwhile,
federal agencies we might expect to protect us, such as the
Environmental Protection Agency, have been "eviscerated from within"
by the current administration.

The advent of the European Union has tilted balances of power in many
ways, including how "chemical politics" now take place. When the EU
developed far-reaching new regulations to reduce exposure to harmful
substances, American chemical lobbyists swarmed across the Atlantic to
fight them. But EU markets are now bigger than those in America, and
as one diplomat there states, "We are not going to ask the United
States for permission." This is true even when the White House weighs
in on behalf of the chemical lobby, as was shown when a leaked memo
indicated that such lobbyists were drafting letters from our
ambassador to the EU, "an extraordinary glimpse into the routine
merging of U.S. governmental and private interests," as Schapiro

"U.S. environmental policies are not sparking innovation; they are
fighting it," Schapiro holds. The EU economies are now growing faster
than that of the United States; our balance of trade in chemicals has
become negative for the first time. European experts calculate that
their new safer chemical policies will "be repaid many times over by
its benefits." "Europe is looking at the future," Schapiro concludes.
"This is not utopian; it's more like a realpolitik for the twenty-
first century."

How ironic then, that shortsighted, self-serving perspectives in what
was once the New World have become outmoded, and put Americans at risk
not only in terms of our health but also our economic future. So, yes,
as the "fire safety" advocates advise, we probably should call our
elected leaders. But read this book first.

Steve Heilig is on the staffs of the Collaborative on Health and the
Environment and the San Francisco Medical Society.

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From: New York Times, Oct. 28, 2007
[Printer-friendly version]


By Jeff Holtz

Last school year, Patricia Taylor noticed something worrisome after
her son Liam, 12, would play soccer at the Bedford Middle School in
Westport, Conn., on a synthetic turf field made with rubber granules
from recycled tires.

Mrs. Taylor said Liam would come home with the tiny particles in his
cleats, in his clothes and in his hair.

"I just looked at him and said, 'What the heck is that?'" she said.
"Kids are tracking it back home, into washers and dryers, on the rugs
and in their tubs. It's not just staying on the field. It's

The turf is the latest in artificial playing surfaces, and its use has
risen in the last decade at schools, colleges and sports stadiums
worldwide. Supporters say it is cheaper to maintain than natural grass
and softer, and therefore safer, than other artificial surfaces. But
concern is growing among some parents and health officials that the
rubber used in the turf can release chemicals that are potentially
harmful to the athletes who play on it.

Such concerns on the part of Mrs. Taylor and other parents led to a
study this summer by the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station
in New Haven. It found that when the rubber granules were heated in a
laboratory at temperatures consistent to exposure to the sun, they
emitted four organic chemicals that could irritate the eyes, skin and
respiratory system. One of the chemicals is believed to be a
carcinogen. The study also detected other chemicals that could not be
identified without further testing.

Mrs. Taylor and other parents said athletes should not be using the
fields until they have been proven safe.

Nancy O. Alderman, the president of Environment and Human Health Inc.
in New Haven, a nonprofit group of doctors and public health officials
that researches health issues and funded the study, has called for a
moratorium on the installation of the fields until more studies are
done. "We know the rubber pellets out-gas these chemicals," Ms.
Alderman said. "The one piece we do not know is how much of these
chemicals are going into people's bodies."

Gordon F. Joseloff, the first selectman in Westport, where there are
four synthetic turf playing surfaces at schools, agreed that more
testing needed to be done, but said that the state's Department of
Public Health, based on available information, saw no reason to stop
using the fields.

"We're open to testing in real-time conditions, not in laboratory
conditions, because kids don't play in a laboratory," he said.

Brian Toal, an epidemiologist with the department's environmental and
occupational health assessment program, acknowledged that "the
information is somewhat sketchy, and some of the studies do indicate
that there are exposures."

"But our estimation is the exposures are below levels that would cause
a health effect," he said.

Similar health concerns have been raised in Massachusetts and on Long
Island. In Albany on Wednesday, State Assemblyman Steven C.
Englebright, a Democrat from Long Island, introduced legislation
calling for a moratorium on new fields.

There are about a dozen companies that manufacture synthetic athletic
turf. Sportexe, based in Dallas, made the Westport fields.

Phil M. Stricklen, a chemist who is the company's director of research
and development, said the fields were safe.

"We see no reason for concern for the people playing on these fields,"
he said.

Patricia J. Wood, the executive director of Grassroots Environmental
Education in Port Washington, N.Y., a nonprofit group that studies the
links between the environment and public health, said she had been
contacted by a number of parents worried about synthetic turf.

"They want answers," she said. "They want to know whether it's safe,
whether they should continue to allow their kids to play on it."

In Westchester, the county's Legacy Program, an open-space
preservation fund, has committed close to $25 million and built eight
turf and three natural grass fields, with several more planned. County
health officials said they had received only a couple of calls on the
fields' safety.

Several parents in the county involved in the installations said the
only concerns they were aware of were financial -- whether the fields,
which cost $500,000 to $1 million each, were worth it.

In White Plains, which has one field and is installing two more, Arne
M. Abramowitz, the city's parks commissioner, said he had not heard of
any health concerns.

There are more than 50 synthetic turf fields in Connecticut, including
in Westport, Stamford and Greenwich.

In Fairfield, where the Fairfield Country Day School, a private boys
school, plans to install a synthetic turf field, two neighborhood
groups -- Preserve Our District and Fairfielders Protecting Land and
Neighborhoods -- have filed notices to try to stop the town from
issuing a inland wetland permit, claiming that the chemicals from the
rubber pellets could harm the environment and potentially contaminate
groundwater, said Joel Z. Green, a lawyer for both groups.

A lawyer for the school, John F. Fallon, defended the school's
actions, saying officials there had consulted with several experts on
the field's safety.

Annette Jacobson, the conservation administrator for the Town of
Fairfield, said a report she prepared found no indication that the
turf would adversely affect wetlands or water sources. Another hearing
on the wetland permit was scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Monday at Osborne
Hill Elementary School.

While saying there is no need for panic, the Connecticut attorney
general, Richard Blumenthal, is asking the state to spend $200,000 so
the state Agricultural Experiment Station can study the issue further.
"There are some serious unknowns, as far as potential heath risk," he
said. "Certainly there is a need for more study and research."

Dr. Philip J. Landrigan, a professor of pediatrics and the chairman of
preventive medicine at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York,
agreed that there should be a moratorium on new fields, and said that
tests should be done on the skin, urine and blood of children before
and after they play on them. He also said the turf poses other
dangers, besides the exposure to chemicals.

"On hot summer days, temperatures as high as 130 and 140 degrees have
been recorded a couple of feet above the surface of these fields," he

Several medical journals have reported that athletes who fall on
synthetic turf are more likely to sustain skin burns that put them at
risk of staph infections, Dr. Landrigan said.

Liam Taylor and his mother are proceeding with caution. This year, he
is on the soccer team at the Hopkins School in New Haven, which does
not have a synthetic turf field, and his mother refuses to let him
play at any school that does have one.

"My job is to protect my son," she said. "Now that there is evidence
of out-gassing, he will not be exposed until the fields are proven

Copyright 2007 The New York Times Company

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From: USA Today, Oct. 29, 2007
[Printer-friendly version]


By Marilyn Elias, USA TODAY

Global warming is likely to disproportionately harm the health of
children, and politicians should launch "aggressive policies" to curb
climate change, the American Academy of Pediatrics said today. In the
first major report about the unique effects of global warming on
kids, U.S. pediatricians also were advised to "educate" elected
officials about the coming dangers.

There's evidence that children are likely to suffer more than adults
from climate change, says the report's lead author, Katherine Shea, a
pediatrician and adjunct public health professor at the University of
North Carolina-Chapel Hill.

"We already have change, and certain bad things are going to happen no
matter what we do," Shea says. "But we can prevent things from getting
even worse. We don't have the luxury of waiting."

More greenhouse gases and a warming Earth will leave children
particularly vulnerable in several ways, the report says:

** Air pollution does more damage to children's lungs, causing asthma
and respiratory ailments, because their lungs are still developing,
they breathe at a higher rate than adults and are outdoors more.

** Waterborne infections, such as diarrhea and other gastrointestinal
problems, hit children especially hard. These infections rise sharply
with more rain, which is expected as the climate warms.

** As mosquitoes are able to move to higher ground, the malaria zone
is expanding. Kids are especially vulnerable; 75% of malaria deaths
occur in children younger than 5.

The report briefly mentions that mass migrations are expected as
regions become uninhabitable. "Children fare very poorly in these
major population shifts," says Irwin Redlener, director of the
National Center for Disaster Preparedness at Columbia University and
president of the Children's Health Fund. "They're more fragile
medically and nutritionally," says Redlener, who wasn't involved with
the report. "They're less resilient, less likely to survive."

No matter what the risks, the pediatrics academy shouldn't be sending
its members out to lobby, argues Janice Crouse, director of a think
tank affiliated with Concerned Women for America, a conservative
public policy group. "Let them issue a scientific report, and people
can judge whether it has validity. For a scientific group to use
children as a means of advancing a political agenda is beyond the
pale," she says.

Julie Gerberding, director of the federal Centers for Disease Control
and Prevention, briefed a Senate committee on the health risks of
global warming last week. She mentioned increasing asthma, malaria and
waterborne diseases but not children's vulnerability.

The Associated Press reported that Gerberding's speech was
"eviscerated" by the White House, but CDC spokesman Tom Skinner denied
it, adding that Gerberding said everything she wanted to say without

"This is not a political issue, it's a public health issue," Shea
says. "If we know the health of children and future children is
threatened, we have an obligation to act."

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From: Science News, Oct. 20, 2007
[Printer-friendly version]


By Janet Raloff

Women take note. Researchers find that a chemical that forms in
overcooked meat, especially charred portions, is a potent mimic of
estrogen, the primary female sex hormone. That's anything but
appetizing, since studies have linked a higher lifetime cumulative
exposure to estrogen in women with an elevated risk of breast cancer.

Indeed, the new finding offers a "biologically plausible" explanation
for why diets rich in red meats might elevate breast-cancer risk,
notes Nigel J. Gooderham of Imperial College London.

At the very high temperatures reached during frying and charbroiling,
natural constituents of meats can undergo chemical reactions that
generate carcinogens known as heterocyclic amines (see Carcinogens in
the Diet). Because these compounds all have very long, unwieldy
chemical monikers, most scientists refer to them by their
abbreviations, such as IQ, MeIQ, MeIQx, and PhIP.

Of the nearly two dozen different heterocyclic amines that can form,
PhIP dominates. It sometimes accumulates in amounts 10 to 50 times
higher than that of any other member of this toxic chemical family,
Gooderham says. Moreover, he adds, although heterocyclic amines
normally cause liver tumors in exposed animals, PhIP is different: "It
causes breast cancer in female rats, prostate cancer in male rats, and
colon cancer in both." These are the same cancers that in people are
associated with eating a lot of cooked meats.

However, the means by which such foods might induce cancer has
remained somewhat elusive. So, building on his team's earlier work,
Gooderham decided to probe what the heterocyclic amine did in rat
pituitary cells. These cells make prolactin -- another female sex
hormone -- but only when triggered by the presence of estrogen.
Prolactin, like estrogen, fuels the growth of many breast cancers.

In their new test-tube study, Gooderham and coauthor Saundra N. Lauber
show that upon exposure to PhIP, pituitary cells not only make
progesterone, but also secrete it. If these cells do the same thing
when they're part of the body, those secretions would circulate to
other organs -- including the breast.

But "what was startling," Gooderham told Science News Online, is that
it took just trace quantities of the heterocyclic amine to spur
prolactin production. "PhIP was incredibly potent," he says, able to
trigger progesterone production at concentrations comparable to what
might be found circulating in the blood of people who had eaten a
couple of well-done burgers.

The toxicologist cautions that there's a big gap between observing an
effect in isolated cells growing in a test-tube and showing that the
same holds true in people.

However, even if PhIP does operate similarly in people, he says that's
no reason to give up grilled meat. Certain cooking techniques, such as
flipping hamburgers frequently, can limit the formation of
heterocyclic amines. Moreover, earlier work by the Imperial College
team showed that dining on certain members of the mustard family
appear to detoxify much of the PhIP that might have inadvertently been
consumed as part of a meal.

The human link

Three recent epidemiological studies support concerns about the
consumption of grilled meats.

In the first, Harvard Medical School researchers compared the diets of
more than 90,000 premenopausal U.S. nurses. Over a 12-year period,
1,021 of the relatively young women developed invasive breast cancers.
The more red meat a woman ate, the higher was her risk of developing
invasive breast cancer, Eunyoung Cho and her colleagues reported in
the Archives of Internal Medicine last November. The increased risk
was restricted, however, only to those types of breast cancers that
are fueled by estrogen or progesterone.

Overall, women who ate the most red meat -- typically 1.5 servings or
more per day -- faced nearly double the invasive breast-cancer risk of
those eating little red meat each week.

Related findings emerged in the April 10 British Journal of Cancer.
There, researchers at the University of Leeds reported data from a
long-running study of more than 35,000 women in the United Kingdom who
ranged in age from roughly 35 to 70. Regardless of the volunteers'
age, Janet E. Cade's team found, those who consumed the most meat had
the highest risk of breast cancer.

Shortly thereafter, Susan E. Steck of the University of South
Carolina's school of public health and her colleagues linked meat
consumption yet again with increased cancer risk, but only in the
older segment of the women they investigated. By comparing the diets
of 1,500 women with breast cancer to those of 1,550 cancerfree women,
the scientists showed that postmenopausal women consuming the most
grilled, barbecued, and smoked meats faced the highest breast-cancer

These data support accumulating evidence that a penchant for well-done
meats can hike a woman's breast-cancer risk, Steck and her colleagues
concluded in the May Epidemiology.

PhIP fighters

Such findings have been percolating out of the epidemiology community
for years. Nearly a decade ago, for instance, National Cancer
Institute scientists reported finding that women who consistently ate
their meat very well done -- with a crispy, blackened crust -- faced a
substantially elevated breast-cancer risk when compared to those who
routinely ate rare- or medium-cooked meats.

However, even well-done meats without char can contain heterocyclic
amines, chemical analyses by others later showed. The compounds'
presence appears to correlate best with how meat is cooked, not merely
with how brown its interior ended up (SN: 11/28/98, p. 341).

At high temperatures, the simple sugar glucose, together with
creatinine -- a muscle-breakdown product, and additional free amino
acids, can all interact within beef, chicken, and other meats to form
heterocyclic amines. In contrast, low-temperature cooking or a quick
searing may generate none of the carcinogens.

Because there's no way to tell visually, by taste, or by smell whether
PhIP and its toxic kin lace cooked meat, food chemists have been
lobbying commercial and home chefs to reduce the heat they use to cook
meats -- or to turn meats frequently to keep the surfaces closest to
the heat source from getting too hot.

The significance of this was driven home to Gooderham several years
ago when just such tactics spoiled an experiment he was launching to
test whether Brussels sprouts and broccoli could help detoxify PhIP.
"I bought 30 kilograms of prime Aberdeen angus lean beef," he recalls.
"Then we ground it up and I gave it to a professional cook to turn
into burgers and cook." Professional cooks tend to move meats around
quite a bit, he found. The result: His expensive, chef-prepared meat
contained almost no PhIP.

In the end, he says, "I sacked the cook, bought another 30 kilos of
meat and prepared the burgers myself. It was a costly lesson."

Once restarted, however, that study yielded encouraging data.

One way the body detoxifies and sheds toxic chemicals is to link them
to what amounts to a sugar molecule. Consumption of certain members of
the mustard (Brassica) family, such as broccoli and Brussels sprouts
(both members of the B. oleracea species) -- can encourage this
process. So Gooderham's team fed 250 grams (roughly half a pound) each
of broccoli and Brussels sprouts each day to 20 men for almost 2
weeks. On the 12th day, the men each got a cooked-meat meal containing
4.9 micrograms of PhIP.

Compared to similar trial periods when their diets had been Brassica-
free, the volunteers excreted up to 40 percent more PhIP in urine, the
researchers reported in Carcinogenesis.

Experimental data suggest that two brews may also help detoxify
heterocyclic amines. In test-tube studies, white tea largely prevented
DNA damage from the heterocyclic amine IQ (SN: 4/15/00, p. 251), and
in mice, extracts of beer tackled MeIQx and Trp-P-2 (see Beer's Well
Done Benefit).

The best strategy of all, most toxicologists say, is to prevent
formation of heterocyclic amines in the first place. In addition to
frequently turning meat on the grill or fry pan, partially cooking
meats in a microwave prior to grilling will limit the toxic chemicals'
formation. So will mixing in a little potato starch to ground beef
before grilling (see How Carbs Can Make Burgers Safer) or marinating
meats with a heavily sugared oil-and-vinegar sauce (SN: 4/24/99, p.


Cho, E., et al. 2006. Red meat intake and risk of breast cancer among
premenopausal women. Archives of Internal Medicine 166(Nov.
13):2253-2259. Abstract available at http://archinte.ama-as

Felton, J.S., et al. 1995. Reduction of heterocyclic aromatic amine
mutagens/carcinogens in fried beef patties by microwave pretreatment.
Available at http://www.llnl.gov/str/pdfs/UCRL-JC-116450.pdf.

Gooderham, N.J., et al. 2007. Mechanisms of action of the carcinogenic
heterocyclic amine PhIP. Toxicology Letters 168(Feb. 5):269-277.
Abstract available at http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.toxlet.20

Lauber, S.N., and N.J. Gooderham. 2007. The cooked meat-derived
genotoxic carcinogen 2-amino-3-methylimidazo[4,5-b]pyridine has potent
hormone-like activity: Mechanistic support for a role in breast
cancer. Cancer Research 67(Oct. 1):9597-9602. Abstract available at h

Murray, S.,... and N.J. Gooderham. 2001. Effect of cruciferous
vegetable consumption on heterocyclic aromatic amine metabolism in
man. Carcinogenesis 22(September):1413-1420. Available at http:/

Steck, S.E., et al. 2007. Cooked meat and risk of breast cancer --
Lifetime versus recent dietary intake. Epidemiology 18(May):373-382.
Abstract available at http://www.epidem.com/pt/r

Taylor, E.F., et al. 2007. Meat consumption and risk of breast cancer
in the UK Women's Cohort Study. British Journal of Cancer 96(April
10):1139-1146. Available at http://www.nature.com/bjc/jour

Walters, D.G.... N.J. Gooderham, et al. 2004. Cruciferous vegetable
consumption alters the metabolism of the dietary carcinogen 2-amino-1-
methyl-6-phenylimidazo[4,5-b]pyridine (PhIP) in humans. Carcinogenesis
25(September):1659-1669. Available at http://carcin.oxfordjourn

Further Readings:

Raloff, J. 2007. Concerns over genistein, part II -- Beyond the heart.
Science News Online (July 7). Available at http://www.scie

______. 2007. Concerns over genistein, part I -- The heart of the
issue. Science News Online (June 16). Available at 
http://www.sciencene ws.org/articles/20070616/food.asp.

______. 2006. Pesticides mimic estrogen in shellfish. Science News
170(Dec. 16):397. Available to subscribers at http://www.scien

______. 2006. No-stick chemicals can mimic estrogen. Science News
170(Dec. 2):366. Available to subscribers at http://www.scie

______. 2006. Meat poses exaggerated cancer risk for some people.
Science News Online (March 25). Available at http://www.scien

______. 2005. Beer's well done benefit. Science News Online (March 5).
Available at http://www.sciencenews.org/articles/20050305/food.asp.

______. 2005. Carcinogens in the diet. Science News Online (Feb. 19).
Available at http://www.sciencenews.org/articles/20050219/food.asp.

______. 2004. How carbs can make burgers safer. Science News Online
(Dec. 4). Available at http://www.sciencenews.org/articles/20041

______. 2004. Uranium, the newest 'hormone'. Science News 166(Nov.
13):318. Available to subscribers at http://www.sciencenews.or

______. 2001. Fire retardant catfish? Science News Online (Dec. 8).
Available at http://www.sciencenews.org/articles/20011208/food.asp.

______. 1999. Well-done research. Science News 155(April 24):264-266.
Available at http://www.sciencenews.org/pages/sn_arc99/4_24_99/b

______. 1998. Very hot grills may inflame cancer risks. Science News
154(Nov. 28):341. Available at http://www.sciencenews.org/pages/s

______. 1996. Another meaty link to cancer. Science News 149(June
8):365. Available at http://www.sciencenews.org/pages/pdfs/da

______. 1996. 'Estrogen' pairings can increase potency. Science News
149(June 8):356. Available at http://www.sciencenews.org/pages/

______. 1995. Beyond estrogens: Why unmasking hormone-mimicking
pollutants proves so challenging. Science News 148(July 15):44.
Available at http://www.sciencenews.org/pages/pdfs/data/1

______. 1994. Meaty carcinogens: A risk to the cook? Science News
146(Aug. 13):103.

______. 1994. Not so hot hot dogs? Science News 145(April 23):264-269.

______. 1994. How cooked meat may inflame the heart. Science News
145(March 12):165.

______. 1994. The gender benders. Science News 145(Jan. 8):24.
Available at http://www.sciencenews.org/pages/sn_edpik/ls_7.htm.

Smith-Roe, S.L., et al. 2006. Induction of aberrant crypt foci in DNA
mismatch repair-deficient mice by the food-borne carcinogen 2-amino-1-
methyl-6-phenylimidazo [4,5-b] pyridine (PhIP). Cancer Letters.
244(Nov. 28):79-85. Abstract available at http://dx.doi.org/10.101

______. 2006. Mlh1-dependent responses to 2-amino-1-methyl-6-
phenylimidazo [4,5-b] pyridine (PhIP), a food-borne carcinogen.
(Abstract # 514). Toxicologist 90(March):105.

______. 2006. Mlh1-dependent suppression of specific mutations induced
in vivo by the food-borne carcinogen 2-amino-1-methyl-6-phenylimidazo
[4,5-b] pyridine (PhIP). Mutation Research/Fundamental and Molecular
Mechanisms of Mutagenesis 594(Feb. 22):101-112. Abstract available at


Janet E. Cade
UK Women's Cohort Study Centre for Epidemiology and Biostatistics
30/32 Hyde Terrace
The University of Leeds
Leeds LS2 9LN
United Kingdom

Eunyoung Cho
Channing Laboratory
Department of Medicine
Harvard Medical School
181 Longwood Avenue
Boston, MA 02115

Nigel J. Gooderham
Biomolecular Medicine
Imperial College London
Sir Alexander Fleming Building
London SW7 2AZ
United Kingdom

Susan Elizabeth Steck
Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics
Statewide Cancer Prevention and Control Program
Arnold School of Public Health
University of South Carolina
2221 Devine Street, Room 231
Columbia, SC 29208

Copyright 2007 Science Service

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  Rachel's Democracy & Health News (formerly Rachel's Environment &
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  often considered separately or not at all.

  The natural world is deteriorating and human health is declining  
  because those who make the important decisions aren't the ones who
  bear the brunt. Our purpose is to connect the dots between human
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