Rachel's Precaution Reporter #133

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

Wednesday, March 12, 2008............Printer-friendly version
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Featured stories in this issue...

Green Bill of Rights Is Cornerstone of Environmental Handbook
  In Canada, the 11 largest environmental groups are urging their
  federal government to adopt a "precautionary" principle for addressing
  environmental issues by acting to resolve problems even when there is
  scientific uncertainty.
SARS -- Five Years Later
  "SARS ushered in significant improvements to the health-care system
  [in Ontario], not the least of which is adoption of the 'precautionary
  principle.' That dictates hospitals take measures erring on the side
  of caution in the face of a potential public health threat rather than
  waiting for scientific proof."
Concern in Europe on Cellphone Ads for Children
  "I believe in the principle of precaution," Ms. Bachelot said in an
  interview. "If there is a risk, then children with developing nervous
  systems would be affected. I've alerted parents about the use of
  mobile telephones because it's absurd for young children to have
Outspoken Scientist Dismissed from Panel on Chemical Safety
  What happens to a scientist who believes her knowledge warrants a
  precautionary approach to a toxic chemical? For her ethical stance,
  she is smeared by the chemical industry and then U.S. EPA removes from
  an advisory panel. In the mainstream media, this is not being
  discussed as an attack on precaution (and science), but that's exactly
  what it is.
In Scotland, a Huge Fish Farm Is Rejected
  A jubilant COAST spokesman said: "We welcome this democratic
  decision by the councillors of North Ayrshire Council to apply the
  'precautionary principle' by refusing the massive fish farm next to
  the no-take zone."
India May Water Down Its Environmental Laws Further
  "The EIA [environmental impact assessment] notification has already
  been significantly diluted in 2006 towards facilitating the clearance
  of projects. Today, its text and implementation are clearly directed
  towards mitigation and management of impacts rather than the
  precautionary principle and rejection of projects with critical
  impacts," the official added.
Medical Students Celebrate 58 Years of Student Activism
  The American Medical Students Association is hosting an all-day
  conference on climate change, environmental justice, occupational
  medicine, children's environmental health, toxics and the
  precautionary principle, obesity and the built environment,
  international environmental health and improving the sustainability of


From: Canwest News Service, Mar. 7, 2008
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By Mike De Souza

Ottawa -- A Canadian bill of green rights is one of the cornerstones
of a new federal road map towards environmental sustainability and
economic competitiveness, Prime Minister Stephen Harper's officials
and opposition MPs were told Friday.

The message was delivered by leaders of the country's 11 largest
environmental groups who met with Harper's office and other federal
leaders to deliver a pocket-sized 28-page summary of their plans. The
proposal -- Tomorrow Today: How Canada can make a world of
difference -- recommended several new measures and policies for
Canadians to address climate change, energy use, food production,
toxic substances, water, forests and oceans, including a new tax of at
least $30 per tonne on greenhouse gas emissions in 2009 that would
rise to $75 per tonne by 2020.

"This is quite simply the most ambitious, the most comprehensive
vision for environmental progress that has been produced in a
generation, and we're very pleased to be hear this morning to launch
this document," said Rick Smith, executive director of Environmental
Defence at a news conference with the other groups.

Environment Minister John Baird has said he's open to improving
government accountability, but wants to ensure that there are concrete
actions to clean up the environment and not just talk.
Montreal Gazette file

They described their road map as a "shortlist" of the most essential
federal environmental priorities with accountability near the top of
the list through an "ecorights" bill that could restore public trust
in the government.

"By enacting this kind of statute, the federal government would be
able to earn the trust of Canadians on an issue where, right now, they
have either lost it, or they are very close to losing it entirely,"
said Will Amos, a staff lawyer at Ecojustice, an environmental law
organization that was formerly known as the Sierra Legal Defence Fund.

"Canadians point to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms as a feature of
their Canadian identity, and Canadians consistently point to a clean
environment as another component of their identity."

Although many Canadians might assume that their environmental rights
are already protected, Amos said that there are gaps in existing
federal laws that would be filled by a new green bill of rights.

In their document, available at tomorrowtodaycanada.ca, the
environmental groups also urged the government to adopt a
"precautionary" principle for addressing environmental issues by
acting to resolve problems even when there is scientific uncertainty.
The road map also calls on the government to ensure that it eliminates
potential environmental risks for future generations in the same way
that it is trying to eliminate the federal debt. Finally, it
recommends that Canada should be a good global citizen by taking
action at home, sharing best practices and ensuring that polluters pay
the real cost of actions that damage ecosystems and communities.

"One reason we have entrenched environmental problems like poor air
quality and accelerating climate change is that we do not pay the full
environmental and social costs of the products and services we buy,"
said the road map.

"Not paying for the climate impacts of burning fossil fuels gives
automobiles an unfair competitive advantage over public transit; not
recognizing the environmental costs that pesticides and fertilizers
create makes organic foods appear more expensive than they really are;
solar and wind power are clean, but must compete with coal whose
deadly air emissions are not factored into the price of electricity."

The document was released as federal MPs debated a confidence motion
introduced by the NDP that denounced the government for not adequately
addressing the threat of global warming. The motion, to be voted on on
Monday, could trigger an election if adopted in Parliament where the
opposition parties hold the majority, but the federal Liberals have
said they will not support it to avoid a spring vote.

Environment Minister John Baird has said he's open to improving
government accountability, but wants to ensure that there are concrete
actions to clean up the environment and not just talk.


Copyright Canwest News Service 2008

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From: The Mirror (Scarborough, Ontario), Mar. 6, 2008
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Critics question whether Ontario ready for next pandemic

SARS victims and heroes remembered

By Lisa Queen

Five years ago today, Chi Kwai Tse arrived at The Scarborough
Hospital, Grace Division with an unknown respiratory illness, the same
one that had killed his mother two days earlier.

No one knew it at the time but he was infected with severe acute
respiratory syndrome (SARS), a deadly new disease that would spread to
others as Tse was left untreated for 16 hours in the hospital's
emergency department.

What started with the 44-year-old, who died six days later, would
springboard the Greater Toronto Area into medical and financial
devastation through two outbreaks, including SARS II which broke out
at North York General Hospital.

Justice Archie Campbell's commission into SARS pointed to Tse's hours
in Scarborough Grace's ER as the kick-start of the outbreak.

"During these hours, he transmitted SARS to two other patients,
sparking a chain of infection that spread through the Scarborough
Grace Hospital, then to other hospitals through patient transfers and
ultimately killed 44 and sickened more than 330 others," said the
report, which urged officials to learn from SARS or face catastrophe
when the next pandemic strikes.

At a press conference March 4 to mark the fifth anniversary of SARS,
Health Minister George Smitherman announced Ontario's new Health
Protection and Promotion Agency -- modelled on the U.S. Centers for
Disease Control and Prevention -- will be named after Dr. Sheela
Basrur, Toronto's former chief medical officer of health for Toronto,
whose reassuring public appearances helped calm a terrified city and
province during the SARS crisis.

"SARS shocked us out of a complacency we didn't even know we had," she

The mandate of the agency, which will be located steps from Queen's
Park on College Street, includes providing scientific advice to the
health community, carrying out population health assessment and public
health research, operating laboratory services and providing emergency

Smitherman also used the press conference to assure Ontario residents
the province is in a much better position to fight a future pandemic,
at the same time admitting there is still more work to do.

"We've made good strides, we've been applying lessons learned, and we
can never be satisfied with the progress that we've made," he said.

In addition to the new agency, Smitherman said Ontario has and
continues to make improvements to public health such as stockpiling 55
million N95 masks to stop the spread of airborne diseases and hiring
10 disease-tracking experts at public health labs. There was only one
such expert when SARS began.

But while critics acknowledge the improvements since SARS, many warn
Ontario is not prepared for the next pandemic.

As recently as December, Conservative health critic Elizabeth Witmer
pointed out the province's auditor general warned the province's lack
of preparedness could result in 12,000 deaths, two million outpatient
hospital visits and 52,000 hospitalizations should an influenza
pandemic occur.

"The McGuinty government continues to demonstrate a lack of urgency to
put in place a system to protect Ontarians from an eventual pandemic.
In doing so, the premier is ignoring the lessons of SARS and the
warnings of many health experts," Witmer said in a statement.

Others are also alarmed.

Carol Oates, president of Local 24 of the Ontario Nurses Association
at Rouge Valley Health System, said she doesn't believe there are
enough nurses to handle another outbreak.

And she worries about the emotional strain a pandemic would have on
health-care workers, who lived in terror of contracting SARS and
passing the disease on to their families.

"I don't think we could stand the emotional strain. Everybody in the
hierarchy thinks they're ready but I don't know if that is the case on
the front line," she said.

"I speculate we're no further ahead, other than some paper work in
place. I question whether we would be ready on a dime based on

An emergency department doctor from The Scarborough Hospital, who did
not want to be named, said while negative-pressure rooms have been
built for patients with potentially contagious respiratory diseases,
they are usually full.

That backlog means other patients who show up in the ER with
unexplained coughs and fever -- as Tse did five years ago -- can spend
hours in the waiting room before a negative-pressure room becomes

"If you have someone coming in with stomach pains and (someone else)
with a fever and a cough, the patient with the fever and cough would
wait the longest," the physician said.

In early 2007, 36 emergency room doctors at The Scarborough General
wrote two letters to management voicing concerns about an impending
infection control crisis in the ER and fears a mass exodus of nurses
was crippling the department.

Former CEO Dr. Hugh Scott, who left last year following a court
challenge, said management was doing everything possible to address
the doctors' concerns including hiring several new nurses.

This week, hospital supervisor Rob Devitt and acting CEO John Wright
said The Scarborough Hospital and the health-care system are much
better equipped to handle a pandemic than they were when SARS hit.

For example, in addition to new negative-pressure rooms and ongoing
construction of a larger and modern emergency department, staff are
tested every two years to make sure their N95 masks fit properly.

But Wright admitted the negative-pressure rooms are routinely occupied
and the emergency department full of waiting patients.

Devitt pointed out every hospital is struggling to cope with chronic
care patients such as the frail elderly taking up acute care hospital
beds, which prevents emergency department patients being admitted
upstairs to medical wards.

Wright said no precautions can be foolproof.

"Is there a health system in the world that is invulnerable? Nowhere,"
he said.

Ontario Nurses Association President Linda Haslam-Stroud said SARS
ushered in significant improvements to the health-care system, not the
least of which is adoption of the "precautionary principle." That
dictates hospitals take measures erring on the side of caution in the
face of a potential public health threat rather than waiting for
scientific proof.

At the same time, she complained about inadequate numbers of front
line health-care workers and a lack of sufficient negative-pressure

"I don't think we are there yet but we have take some giant steps
forward. I can't say to you with all certainty that all is perfect but
I think we've come a long way in (five) years," Haslam-Stroud said.

"We still have a ways to go. I would say we were at a one (on a scale
assessing Ontario's pandemic readiness) pre-SARS. Now, we're at a 6

In his commission's report, Campbell warned how close the disease
brought Ontario to the brink of collapse. More importantly, he warned
of the dangers of failing to learn from SARS' mistakes.

"SARS had Ontario's health system on the edge of a complete breakdown.
The wonder is not that the health system worked so badly during SARS
but that it worked at all," he said.

"SARS may be the last wake-up call we get before the next major
outbreak of infection, whether it turns out to be an influenza
pandemic or some other health crisis.... The tragedy of SARS, these
stories of unbearable loss and systemic failure give the public every
reason to keep the government's feet to the fire in order to complete
the initiatives already undertaken to make us safer from infectious

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From: New York Times, Mar. 8, 2008
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By Doreen Carvajal

PARIS -- The MO1 beginner mobile phone is not as cuddly as a teddy
bear, but manufacturers of the curvy crimson-and-blue handset for 6-
year-olds promise a similarly warm and fuzzy relationship. They boast
about socialization, emotional health and the comforts of "peace of

And yet such shiny child-size phones are stirring some parental and
government unease, particularly at a time when the mobile telephone
industry is reaching deeper into saturated markets to tap customers
with chubby hands capable of cradling both dolls and phones.

Already, the category of young customers -- tweens and teens -- is
driving subscriber growth in the United States, according to IDC, a
technology research firm in Massachusetts, which projects that 31
million new young users will join the market from 2005 to 2010.

The year 2006 was the turning point when the industry started focusing
not just on teenagers and adults but also on tweens -- children
between middle childhood and adolescence, about 8 to 12 years old --
and even children as young as 5. Bright new "kiddie" telephones began
appearing on the market that can speed-dial grandma and grandpa with a
click of a button.

The MO1 -- developed by Imaginarium, a toy company, and Telefonica in
Spain -- prompted some parent groups in Europe to demand a government
ban on marketing to children. Here in France, the health minister
recently issued a warning against excessive mobile phone use by young

The objections are driven in part by a lack of knowledge over the
long-term health effects of mobile phone use. But they also appear to
reflect an instinctive worry about whether parents should be giving
young children cellphones at all. Jovenes Verdes, an environmental
advocacy group for young people in Spain, argues that "the mobile
telephone industry is acting like the tobacco industry by designing
products that addict the very young."

While there is no specific evidence that mobile telephones pose a
health threat to young users, researchers worry that there is still
only scanty scientific information about the long-term impact of radio
frequency electromagnetic fields emitted by mobile telephones on the
developing brains and tissues of children.

In France the health minister, Roselyne Bachelot, has taken such
concerns public, issuing an alert in January urging parents to limit
use, reducing children's telephone calls to no more than six minutes.
Her announcement followed a similar warning by the Health and Radio
Frequencies Foundation, a government-backed research group created two
years ago to study the impact of radio frequency fields on humans.

"I believe in the principle of precaution," Ms. Bachelot said in an
interview. "If there is a risk, then children with developing nervous
systems would be affected. I've alerted parents about the use of
mobile telephones because it's absurd for young children to have

The French foundation is moving now to organize a broad international
research project to study the potential risks for children. More
studies are developing in other countries. The Mobile
Telecommunication and Health Research Program in Britain, which is
financed by the state and local telecommunications industry, is in the
early stage of organizing a children's study.

Another project, called Cefalo, is under way in Denmark, Norway,
Sweden and Switzerland to explore whether mobile telephone use
increases the risk of brain tumors for children.

In January, the National Research Council in the United States also
delivered a report -- commissioned by the Food and Drug Administration
-- that reviewed existing scientific studies around the world and
urged further research on the impact of mobile phone use on children
and pregnant women.

"This clearly is a population that is going to grow up with a great
deal of larger exposure than anybody else because the kids use the
phones all the time," said Frank Barnes, a professor of engineering at
the University of Colorado in Boulder who led the study. "And you've
got growing bodies and brains, so if there is going to be an impact,
that's likely to be a more sensitive population than others." Every
year, the average age of novice mobile phone users is dropping,
hitting 10 years old last year, according to Scott Ellison, an IDC
analyst who forecasts that the 9-and-under market will increase to
nine million users in the United States and $1.6 billion in revenue by

Telephone use is also getting more precocious in Europe, according to
a Eurobarometer survey of almost 1,000 children in 29 countries, most
of whom had telephones after age 9.

The youth market is particularly enticing because these customers
treat their mobile telephones more like a companion than a device --
or like a "doudou" or stuffed animal -- as AFOM, the French mobile
telephone operators trade association, described it in a report on
customers' habits in a summer survey. In general, young customers
chatter more on the phone, spending more on the latest games, ring
tones and wallpapers.

Governmental authorities around the world have taken different
approaches to the health issue. The Health Council of the Netherlands
concluded in 2002 that there was no special risk for children, while
health authorities in Britain, Russia and France all urge precautions.

The current government view in the United States is that a review of
scientific literature "indicates that there is no real suggestion that
children are inherently more sensitive to radio frequency radiation,"
according to an F.D.A. spokeswoman, Karen Riley. But "since children
are still developing and have more life span left," she added, "it is
not unreasonable to continue to investigate this issue."

When it comes to children, mobile operators and manufacturers have
avoided the health issue and focused more on protecting them from
pornographic material or bullying messages and photographs on mobile

In December, Telefonica, which helped develop the MO1 and a more
sophisticated version for young children, the Win1, announced a code
of conduct for responsible use of mobile telephones by young
customers. Orange and Vodafone also signed on, but the accord focused
on controlling the visits of minors to sexual content.

French mobile operators -- which are facing pressure on the issue --
have been meeting with parent groups through their trade association,
AFOM, which has pledged not to market telephones for young children.
The mobile telephone industry considers telephones safe for children,
according to Michael Milligan, secretary general of the Brussels-based
Mobile Manufacturers Forum, which represents all the big makers.

"It's really up to parents whether they let children use mobile
phones." Mr. Milligan said. "Most parents recognize the enormous
safety aspects of mobile phones."

Nokia, the world's leading manufacturer of hand-held telephones, said
that it shared that view. "There has been a lot of work done on the
effects of mobile exposure over a significant period of time, and
there is no scientific consensus that there should be any reason for
the impact to be any different on children," said Mark Durrant, a
spokesman for Nokia at its headquarters in Finland.

In Europe, scientists are close to wrapping up a broad seven-year
study of adults in 13 countries -- including Japan, Israel and much of
Western Europe -- that ultimately could give more impetus and
financing to research on children. In what is called the Interphone
study, scientists have evaluated more than 6,000 people with different
forms of cancer and brain tumors to determine whether there is a link
to mobile telephone use.

The early results from some individual nations in the Interphone study
have already prompted a few participating scientists to speak of a
need for caution.

"Simple measures should be taken to lower the exposure," said Siegal
Sadetzki, who heads the Israeli group in the Interphone study and
advocates hands-free devices and limitations on use among younger
children. "I'm not against cellphones at all. This is a technique that
is here to say. But we have to learn how to use this technique with

The Israeli study, published last May in The American Journal of
Epidemiology, detected no increased risk of cancer among a smaller
group of patients with tumors of the salivary glands, which are near
the ear. But when the group was divided between moderate and heavy
telephone users, the risk of cancer increased for people who spoke for
prolonged periods and used the phone on the same side of the head.

Lead researchers caution, though, that they need to look at the total
results from their wider pool of people.

For most parents, decisions about cellphones are driven by other
concerns. When his daughter Morgan was 12 years old, Greg Pozgar of
Claysburg, Pa., resisted buying a mobile phone for her, mostly because
he was worried she might run up a huge bill.

"My biggest concern was whether my children were responsible enough to
handle it," he said. "It's not just a toy."

Morgan received her first phone as a Christmas gift and went on to
become a champion of text messaging at age 13 in a national $25,000
competition organized last year by the telephone manufacturer LG.

As it turns out, she does not indulge in a lot of talking on the
phone, but she does send and receive up to 7,000 text messages a
month. Mr. Pozgar -- who has been coaching football for 17 years --
has noticed that lately more of his 8- and 9-year-old players are
packing mobile telephones.

"I don't necessarily think that's a bad thing," he said. "But how does
a kid that old seem responsible enough with not losing or breaking it.
My gosh, they can barely remember to tie their shoes."

Copyright 2008 The New York Times Company

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From: Los Angeles Times, Feb. 29, 2008
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Deborah Rice, an award-winning toxicologist, was removed from a group
of experts researching a widely-used flame retardant after industry
lobbyists complained that she was biased.

By Marla Cone, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

Under pressure from the chemical industry, the Environmental
Protection Agency has dismissed an outspoken scientist who chaired a
federal panel responsible for helping the agency determine the dangers
of a flame retardant widely used in electronic equipment.

Toxicologist Deborah Rice was appointed chair of an EPA scientific
panel reviewing the chemical a year ago. Federal records show she was
removed from the panel in August after the American Chemistry Council,
the lobbying group for chemical manufacturers, complained to a top-
ranking EPA official that she was biased.

The chemical, a brominated compound known as deca, is used in high
volumes worldwide, largely in the plastic housings of television sets.

Rice, an award-winning former EPA scientist who now works at the Maine
Department of Health and Human Services, has studied low doses of deca
and reported neurological effects in lab animals. Last February,
around the time the EPA panel was convened, Rice testified before the
Maine Legislature in support of a state ban on the compound because
scientific evidence shows it is toxic and accumulating in the
environment and people.

Chemical industry lobbyists say Rice's comments to the Legislature, as
well as similar comments to the media, show that she is a biased
advocate who has compromised the integrity of the EPA's review of the
flame retardant.

The EPA is in the process of deciding how much daily exposure to deca
is safe -- a controversial decision, expected next month, that could
determine whether it can still be used in consumer products. The role
of the expert panel was to review and comment on the scientific

EPA officials removed Rice because of what they called "the perception
of a potential conflict of interest." Under the agency's handbook for
advisory committees, scientific peer reviewers should not "have a
conflict of interest" or "appear to lack impartiality."

EPA officials were not available for comment Thursday.

Environmentalists accuse the EPA of a "dangerous double standard,"
because under the Bush administration, many pro-industry experts have
served on the agency's scientific panels.

The Environmental Working Group, a Washington, D.C.-based advocacy
group, reviewed seven EPA panels created last year and found 17
panelists who were employed or funded by the chemical industry or had
made public statements that the chemicals they were reviewing were
safe. In one example, an Exxon Mobil Corp. employee served on an EPA
expert panel responsible for deciding whether ethylene oxide, a
chemical manufactured by Exxon Mobil, is a carcinogen.

Sonya Lunder, a senior analyst at the Environmental Working Group,
called it "deeply problematic from the public interest perspective"
for the EPA to dismiss scientists who advocate protecting health while
appointing those who promote industry views.

Lunder said it is unprecedented for the EPA to remove an expert for
expressing concerns about the potential dangers of a chemical.

"It's a scary world if we create a precedent that says scientists
involved in decision-making are perceived to be too biased," she said.

Rice was unavailable for comment Thursday.

In addition to her testimony for the Maine Legislature, Rice has been
quoted in media reports saying there is enough scientific evidence to
warrant bans on deca. "We don't need to wait another five years or
even another two years and let it increase in the environment, while
we nail down every possible question we have," she told the Seattle
Post-Intelligencer last March.

In a May letter to an assistant administrator at the EPA, Sharon
Kneiss, a vice president of the American Chemistry Council, called
Rice "a fervent advocate of banning" deca and said she "has no place
in an independent, objective peer review." She told the EPA that
Rice's role on the panel "calls into question the overall integrity"
of the EPA's evaluation of chemicals and that Rice may have influenced
the other panelists in their review of deca.

Top EPA officials met with the industry group's representatives in
June and promised to take action, according to a letter that EPA Asst.
Administrator George Gray sent to the group last month. In that
letter, Gray said the EPA found "no evidence" that Rice "significantly
influenced the other panelists."

Environmentalists are concerned that Rice's removal could result in a
less protective standard.

After EPA officials dismissed her from the five-member panel, they
removed her comments from the panel's report on deca and removed all
mention of her. Three months later, at the request of the chemical
industry group, the EPA added a note to the panel report that Rice was
removed "due to a perception of a potential conflict of interest" and
that none of her comments were considered in their review of the

EPA documents show that Rice's comments while serving on the panel
focused on technical, scientific issues. For example, she advised the
EPA to consider the cumulative effects of not just deca, but chemicals
with similar neurological effects.

Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Los Angeles), chairman of the Committee on
Oversight and Government Reform, said he was disturbed by Rice's
dismissal and the Environmental Working Group's findings about pro-
industry panelists.

"If this information is accurate, it raises serious questions about
EPA's approach to preventing conflicts of interest on its expert
scientific panels," Waxman said.

The conflict of interest policies of another environmental institute,
the National Toxicology Program, also has come under fire. Last March,
a major consultant for a federal center that evaluates reproductive
hazards of chemicals was fired after The Los Angeles Times reported
that the firm had financial ties to 50 chemical companies or

Rice specializes in neurotoxins -- chemicals that harm developing
brains. Before she went to work for the state of Maine, she was a
senior toxicologist at the EPA's National Center for Environmental
Research, where she had a major role in setting the EPA's
controversial guideline for exposure to mercury in fish.

In 2004, the EPA gave Rice and four colleagues an award for what it
called "exceptionally high-quality research" for a study that linked
lead exposure to premature puberty in girls.

Many toxicologists and other environmental scientists have said they
are highly concerned about flame retardants known as PBDEs,
polybrominated diphenyl ethers.

In laboratory tests, PBDEs have been found to skew brain development
and alter thyroid hormones, slowing the learning and motor skills of
newborn animals.

Two of the compounds, called penta and octa, were banned in 2004.
Before the ban, amounts in human breast milk and wildlife were
doubling in North America every four to six years, a pace unmatched
for any contaminant in at least 50 years. Now they are decreasing.

Scientists had initially thought that the deca compound was not
accumulating in people and animals as the other PBDEs were. But it
appears that deca turns into other brominated substances when exposed
to sunlight, and now many scientists say it, too, is building up in
the environment worldwide. Deca has similar effects on animals'
developing brains as the banned PBDEs.

The chemical industry contends that low doses pose no danger and that
the compound is necessary to prevent fires in many consumer products.
In addition to TVs and other electronics, deca is used in furniture
textiles, building materials and automobiles. About 56,000 tons were
used worldwide in 2001, mostly in the United States and Asia.

Only Maine and Washington state restrict use of deca; both passed laws
last year that phase out some uses. Similar bills have been introduced
in California but have not passed.


Copyright 2008 Los Angeles Times

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From: The Banner (Arran, Scotland), Mar. 7, 2008
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Delight for many as council says no to Lamlash Bay application

A decision to reject a giant fish farm plan on Arran has been greeted
with elation by objectors including the Community of Arran Seabed
Trust (COAST).

North Ayrshire Council's council chambers were packed on Tuesday for
the planning meeting, with people opposed to the siting of the salmon
fish farm by Marine Harvest at Clauchlands near to a recently
announced no-take zone in Lamlash Bay.

The meeting was highly charged and the matter debated for nearly two
hours and although the recommendation was to grant the application,
the committee voted by 9-2 to recommend refusal. The matter now goes
to the Crown Estate. An unresolved objection from Scottish Natural
Heritage, which is a statutory consultee, remains.

Arran councillor Margie Currie had voted in favour of the application
and expressed disappointment, as did Marine Harvest.

If the go-ahead had been given the fish farm would have been one of
Scotland's largest.

COAST has campaigned for years for a no-take zone in Lamlash Bay to
allow for the regeneration of marine life, particularly scallops.

A jubilant COAST spokesman said: 'We welcome this democratic decision
by the councillors of North Ayrshire Council to apply the
'precautionary principle' by refusing the massive fish farm next to
the no-take zone.

'We look forward to a secure future of the marine environment for
future generations of islanders.'

Copyright The Arran Banner 2006/2007

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From: LiveMint.com, Mar. 7, 2008
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Environmental activists say it will dilute India's already weak
environmental laws

By Padmaparna Ghosh

New Delhi: In an effort to accelerate big-ticket infrastructure
projects, the government is considering changes in existing
environmental laws including a withdrawal of mandatory environmental
clearance ahead of modernization of airports and ports. However,
greenfield projects that are developed from scratch (the airport and
port projects will largely require redevelopment) will continue to
require this clearance.

While companies welcomed this change, environmental activists say it
will dilute India's already weak environmental laws.

The changes being considered also include one that will address a
long-time complaint of activists by making it mandatory for
environmental consultants to register with the Quality Council of
India, an independent body created by the government. This will
prevent the recurrence of incidents where some environmental
consultants have managed to obtain clearances for projects on the
basis of reports that have been subsequently found to be fraudulent.

A Change Too Many?

The changes will be incorporated in the ongoing review of the
Environmental Impact Assessment, or EIA notification, which was last
modified in 2006. It was first notified in 1994 under the Environment
Protection Act, 1986 and has been revised 15 times since. The EIA is
the report on the basis of which the government gives the
environmental clearance to projects.

The changes, which are currently being considered by the ministry of
environment and forests (MoEF), are expected to be released for public
scrutiny on 8 March, according to officials associated with the
process who did not wish to be identified.

Companies say the changes will speed things up in the infrastructure
business where delays are common.

"As of now, there are 700 industrial projects waiting to be put on the
agenda of the clearance committee. It is a welcome move because
infrastructure projects need to be put on the fast track. Moreover, if
the project has already been inspected once, then there is no need to
re-scrutinize it," said K.P. Nyati, head, environment policy division,
Confederation of Indian Industry, an industry lobby group.

Environmental activists do not agree. "This is a critical issue. The
Chennai airport is being modernized and expanded and there is a lot of
protest. The expansion will dislocate a lot of people as well as
affect a neighbouring river, which would involve a clearance," said
Leo Saldanha, coordinator, Environment Support Group, an activist

A senior official at the civil aviation ministry who did not wish to
be identified said while it would still be difficult to get
environmental clearance for large airports being built from scratch,
the relaxation would help the cause of several airports that are being
upgraded across the country.

Several existing but unused airstrips in the country are likely to be
developed into airports through the so-called public-private
partnership model (where the government and a private sector firm
partner) over the coming years.

"The EIA notification has already been significantly diluted in 2006
towards facilitating the clearance of projects. Today, its text and
implementation are clearly directed towards mitigation and management
of impacts rather than the precautionary principle and rejection of
projects with critical impacts," the official added.

MoEF is yet again going ahead with amendments in a non-transparent
manner. "Project proponents in any case see the environment clearance
process as an impediment," said Kanchi Kohli, member, Kalpvriksh
Environment Support Group, an activist group.

The change regarding the mandatory registration of consultants hasn't
gone downwell with either companies or activists.

Several consultants have executed fraudulent or inadequate EIAs; some
have even copied EIAs used in the past. Mint has reported several such
cases (see box). The registration process could prevent a recurrence
of such instances.

Nyati, however, said this might not be the correct measure right now.

"We (CII) proposed that the registration process reach a critical mass
of consultants before the process is made mandatory. Till then, it
should be encouraged. For instance, if a project proponent has the EIA
done by a registered consultant, then the project will be fast
tracked," added Nyati, who is also on the registration committee under
the QCI. He expects that the critical mass will be reached in four

Others say that just registration is not adequate. "We have been
demanding this for a long time but just a list doesn't solve
everything. It is like the case of PAN (permanent account number)
cards and income tax. Just because someone has a PAN card doesn't mean
he will not evade tax," said Saldanha.

The ministry official agreed with this.

He said registration could end up being more of an exercise in

Another change that has been proposed is a common set of standards, or
terms of reference (TOR), for those projects, classified as Category
B, that require a clearance only from the state government.

At present, each project has an individual set of TORs for getting an

While agreeing that the overall quality of EIA consultants is not up
to the mark, Nyati said: "QCI will eventually improve the quality of
EIA consultants. We propose that generalized TORs be set by the
authorities for certain sectors, so that even not so good EIA
consultants have a certain guideline to follow."

Tarun Shukla contributed to this story.

Copyright 2007 HT Media

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From: PR Newswire, Mar. 10, 2008
[Printer-friendly version]


More than 1,500 future physicians are expected to attend the American
Medical Student Association's (AMSA) 58th annual convention, set for
March 12-16, 2008 at the Hyatt Regency Houston in Houston, Texas.

Premedical and medical students, international medical students,
residents and interns, physicians and other activists from across the
country will assemble for "healthcare (r)evolution," a five day
conference of innovative workshops and organizational policymaking
relating to top health care issues. This year's convention focuses on
a new era of physician advocacy -- the evolution of physicians-in-
training and their impact on the future and the awareness of the

Pre-Conference Symposium

On Wednesday, March 12, AMSA will host an all-day conference on health
effects of the environment. Topics will include climate change,
environmental justice, occupational medicine, children's environmental
health, toxics and the precautionary principle, obesity and the built
environment, international environmental health and improving the
sustainability of healthcare.


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