TROUBLE WITH THE PRECAUTIONARY PRINCIPLE
[Rachel's introduction: The precautionary principle
gets us searching for root causes of serious problems, forcing us to
ask questions that usually don't get asked in polite company.]
By Peter Montague
The goal of the precautionary principle is simply to prevent harm.
(Look before you leap. A stitch in time saves nine.) However, if you
want to prevent harm, you need a pretty good idea of where the harm is
coming from. So you start looking for root causes. If you don't know
the root causes of a problem, how can you take effective action to
prevent it? (Putting a Band-Aid on a cancer may make you feel better
for a short while, but if you don't confront the cancer you'll find
yourself in real trouble. And if we never ask what's causing the rise
in cancer rates, the trouble just multiplies.)
To me, this is the most important aspect of the precautionary
principle. It gets us searching for root causes of harm. Even though
this is a good thing -- and necessary -- it can still get you into
Precaution defines a sustainable society -- one that is always doing
its best to look ahead, to avoid trouble. Taking a precautionary
approach does not guarantee that a civilization can avoid collapse.
But the alternative approach, which dominated our thinking from 1850 to
now -- "Shoot first and ask questions later," or "Damn the torpedoes,
full speed ahead!" -- has damaged the natural environment and human
health so badly that the Millenium Ecosystem Assessment
(result of 6 years study by 1366 scientists in 95 countries) concluded
last year, "At the heart of this assessment is a stark warning. Human
activity is putting such strain on the natural functions of Earth that
the ability of the planet's ecosystems to sustain future generations
can no longer be taken for granted." A stark warning indeed.
Precaution is an ancient technique for survival, developed long before
humans arrived on the scene. Animals have always taken a precautionary
approach to life. Crows, woodchucks, monkeys -- all have lookouts who
scan the horizon (and the neighborhood), calling out at the first sign
of trouble. But, more than this, each member of the animal clan takes
on the role of self-appointed guardian, attentive to threats. This
precautionary approach has allowed animals to sustain themselves for
millions of years in a world that is constantly changing and always
uncertain. Survival under these conditions is the very definition of
We humans seem to have lost this precautionary perspective. We have
come to believe that we can manufacture the conditions for our own
survival, regardless of conditions in the world around us. In the early
1990s, a group of scientists actually constructed an artificial ecosystem and tried to live in it; they called it Biosphere II (the earth itself being Biosphere I). The whole thing was a colossal failure; the ants took over and the humans were clueless.
During the 20th century, our novel approach -- behaving as if we are in charge of nature -- brought us multiple disasters, several of which are still unfolding today:
** The nuclear industry has covered the planet
with radioactive pots of poison that no one will ever clean up --
radioactive wastes dumped into the oceans; radioactive canyons in New
Mexico where the bomb- makers buried their mistakes in unmarked graves;
mountainous heaps of radioactive uranium mine wastes blowing on the
wind; radioactive residues from factories making products with radium
and thorium; swaths of radioactive fallout worldwide. Now nuclear power
plants -- often the precursors for nuclear weapons -- are proliferating
across the globe. The list of unmanageable problems unleashed by
nuclear boy- toys continues to grow at an accelerating pace. This
technology alone should teach us that our 20th-century ways are
But we have a second set of experiments to learn from. The
petrochemical industry has littered the planet with staggeringly large
numbers of toxic waste sites buried in the ground, or simply strewn
across the surface. For example, after 25 years of cleanup efforts, New
Jersey still lists 16,000 contaminated sites with 200 to 300 new
contaminated sites still being discovered each month. Around the world,
the petrochemical industry is, daily, creating hundreds more that will
remain to plague our children's children's children. The size of this
problem is too large to even catalog. And 750 new chemicals are still being put into commercial channels each year.
The regulatory system set up to oversee nuclear and petrochemical
technologies has always given the benefit of the doubt to rapid
innovation for economc growth, rather than to public health. This may
have made sense when capital was scarce and nature was abundant. But
now that capital is abundant and nature is scarce, the regulatory
system's priorities are causing more harm than good. The world is fundamentally different from the world of 100 or even 50 years ago, and our legal system needs to adapt to these new conditions.
Now the same corporations that created the nuclear and petrochemical
messes have been rushing pell mell to deploy a new generation of far
more powerful inventions -- biotechnology, nanotechnology, and
synthetic biology (the creation of entirely new forms of life that have
never existed before).
With these new technologies, no one is even pretending that regulation
can stanch the flood of ill-considered innovations, or the harms they
seem certain to bring.
So we have to try something new. The best hope, it seems to me, is for
all of us to try to change the culture, to make a precautionary
approach standard procedure. (If we do that, it will quickly become
apparent that many of our existing laws and institutions, such as
freewheeling corporations larger than many nations, no longer make
sense and need to be rethought.)
Just as our great-grandparents managed to make slavery unthinkable, now
we can make it unthinkable to take any big decision without doing our
best to anticipate the consequences, to examine our options, and to
choose the least harmful way. (Publicly-held corporations, as they are
strucrured today, cannot aim to minimize harm; as a matter of law, they can only to do what is profitable for their shareholders.)
Using a precautionary approach, we would still make painful mistakes.
But maybe we could avoid the extinction that threatens to snuff us out
if we continue on our present path.
So it seems important to search for root causes of our troubles. This
is what the precautionary principle would have us do. This gets us
asking questions that are not usually asked in polite company.
Q: Why did we develop corporations?
A: To mobilize investment capital to advance economic growth to make more stuff and accrue more capital.
Q: At one time this made sense, but now that there is more than enough
stuff to go around -- and nature is sinking under the weight of it all
-- why do we need more economic growth?
A: Because growth is what produces return on capital investment.
Q: Since we are already spending huge sums to convince people to buy
stuff they don't need, just to produce return on capital investment --
why do we need even more return on investment?
You see what I mean? Searching for root causes of our accelerating
train wreck gets us asking questions that some people may not want
asked. That's how the precautionary principle can get you into trouble.
But delicious trouble it is, I confess.
From: Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund
December 6, 2006
ANOTHER PENNSYLVANIA TOWNSHIP STRIPS CORPORATIONS OF "RIGHTS"
[Rachel's introduction: Innovative work to re-establish local control
over corporations is continuing to develop. In East Brunswick, Pa., a
new ordinance recognizes the rights of nature and asserts the right of
residents to sue corporations as state actors.]
Chambersburg, Pa. -- On December 6th, 2006, the Board of Supervisors
for East Brunswick Township in Schuylkill County, Pa., unanimously
passed a law declaring that sludge corporations possess no
constitutional "rights" within the community.
East Brunswick is the eighth local government in the country to abolish
the illegitimate "rights" and legal privileges claimed by corporations,
and the fourth community in the nation to recognize the rights of
The ordinance takes the offense in challenging corporate managers in
Pennsylvania and around the nation, who effortlessly wield those
constitutional "rights" and legal privileges to dictate corporate
values and nullify local laws.
The East Brunswick Township law
(1) bans corporations from engaging in the land application of sewage sludge within the Township;
(2) recognizes that ecosystems in East Brunswick possess enforceable rights against corporations;
(3) asserts that corporations doing business in East Brunswick will
henceforth be treated as "state actors" under the law, and thus, be
required to respect the rights of people and natural communities within
the Township; and
(4) establishes that East Brunswick residents can bring lawsuits to
vindicate not only their own civil rights, but also the newly-mandated
rights of Nature.
In the ordinance, the Township Board of Supervisors declared that if
state and federal agencies -- or corporate managers -- attempt to
invalidate the ordinance, a Township-wide public meeting would be
hosted to determine additional steps to expand local control and self-
governance within the Township.
Adoption of the ordinance came after community residents organized educational forums and hosted the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund to discuss its rights-based strategy for confronting corporate and state preemptions of community self-governance.
Annette Etchberger, Regina Wiyda and Dr. Glen Freed took the lead in
generating tremendous public support for an ordinance that asserts
rights and creates tools for their enforcement. Traveling door-to-door
and inviting hundreds to attend meetings that typically draw a handful
of citizens, they put pressure on defiant Township Supervisors, who
reluctantly called special meetings for discussion of the cutting edge
Success was not immediate. Faced with intense public pressure from
residents who packed meetings and insisted on passage of the ordinance,
former Vice Chairman Mark J. Killian Sr. resigned on October 12th and
former supervisor Glenn Miller, resigned on November 1st. They had been
unwilling to act upon the will of the people by confronting the
sludge-hauling corporations. Their resignations delayed consideration
of the law until replacements were appointed. But on December 6th, with
a newly constituted Board of Supervisors, the ordinance was passed
Ben Price, the Projects Director for the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund,
the organization that helped draft the ordinance said, "The East
Brunswick Township Board of Supervisors has, at last, heard the voice
of the people and acted in the best interests of human and natural
communities. Instead of protecting the interests of corporate directors
for sludge hauling corporations, they've taken their oaths seriously,
to protect the health, safety and welfare of everyone in East
Brunswick. The people of East Brunswick Township have for months been
demanding that their Supervisors challenge the usurpation of local
democracy by corporate officers. They've been telling their elected
officials that it is time to confront the illegitimate delegation of
constitutional privileges on corporations, and reject the State's
nullification of community self-governance. On December 6th, they
Richard Grossman, the Legal Defense Fund's historian, noted: "A slave
system once drove the entire country, North and South. Our nation is
now governed by a corporate system. Like the slave system, today's
corporate system calls upon the law to deny fundamental rights of
people and communities.
"East Brunswick has joined other Pennsylvania municipalities in
contesting the constitutional, legal and cultural chains that bind
communities to the corporate system. They have heroically nullified
corporate privilege delivered from on high by exercising democratic
rule of law from below."
The East Brunswick ordinance is the result of countywide ferment
against state regulatory agency interference in local decision-making
on behalf of sludge and dredge corporations. Thousands of people in
Schuylkill County now see that regulatory laws and agencies aid and
abet corporate managers to dump their toxins, pathogens and carcinogens
in people's front yards and into the living environment. In September
of this year Tamaqua Borough and Rush Township passed similar
Schuylkill County has a long history of people's struggles to wrest
rights and governance from oppressive corporate railroad and coal
barons. As Prof. Grace Palladino has detailed in her gripping history, Another Civil War -- Labor, Capital, and the State in the Anthracite Regions of Pennsylvania, 1840-1868,
"in the coal regions... corporate lawyers and government officials
creatively interpreted the law. Industrialists retained a remarkable
ability to command the coercive power of the state to protect their
particular economic interests." Since the 1840s, as the people who live
there well know, corporations have used the County as a resource
colony. Today, state and federal government officials join corporate
directors in viewing Schuylkill County as a "sacrifice zone" where they
can simply plug the old corporate holes that enriched a few tyrants
with new corporate poisons that help fuel today's corporate system.
Schuylkill citizens are asserting their inalienable rights, and are
rallying to pass local laws to create democratic self-governance in the
The Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund,
located in Chambersburg, has been working with people in Pennsylvania
since 1995 to assert their fundamental rights to democratic
self-governance, and to enact laws that end destructive and
rights-denying corporate action aided and abetted by state and federal
From: The Economist
December 2, 2006
CAN COAL BE CLEAN?
[Rachel's introduction: As the end of the petroleum era peeks over the
horizon, the chemical industry and the energy industry are planning to
shift to "clean" coal. Unfortunately, there is no such thing as "clean"
Two new coal-fired power plants will soon appear on the banks of the
Ohio River if American Electric Power (AEP), a utility, gets its way.
There is nothing unusual about that, of course: a rival firm, TXU,
unveiled plans to build 11 new coal-fired plants in Texas earlier this
year. All told, there are some 150 plants on drawing boards around
America, which derives 56% of its power from coal. But AEP's two plants
are different in one critical respect: their design would make it
relatively easy to filter the carbon dioxide out of their emissions,
should the company ever need to do so. America's first "capture-ready"
power plants, to use the industry parlance, are nearing construction.
Coal has several advantages as a fuel. It is abundant. It is widely
distributed: countries that are short of other fossil fuels, such as
Germany and South Africa, have mountains of it. As a result, it is
cheap. Even though the price has risen in the past few years, it is
still less expensive to run a power plant on coal than on almost
But coal is also dirty. It releases lots of soot and various noxious
chemicals as it burns, and so has fallen out of favour in many Western
countries. Worse, coal-fired plants produce roughly twice as much
carbon dioxide per unit of electricity generated than those that run on
natural gas. Power generation contributes more to global warming than
any other industry, and coal is the dirtiest part of it. Coal- fired
plants are responsible for perhaps 8 billion out of the 28 billion
tonnes of man-made carbon dioxide released every year, and are thus a
prime target for emissions cuts. If environmentalists had their way,
there would be no coal-fired plants at all: protesters recently called
for the closure of Drax, Britain's biggest coal-fired power station.
Yet the number of coal-fired plants is growing. The International
Energy Agency (IEA), a think-tank funded by power-hungry countries,
estimates that consumption of coal will increase by 71% between 2004
and 2030. Developing countries, in particular, rely on it. Coal
provides some three-quarters of the power in both India and China.
The obvious solution is to make coal-fired generation cleaner. And
that's what utilities in Western countries have been doing for years,
to comply with ever stiffer air-pollution standards. Many literally
wash coal to remove some of the impurities before burning it. Other
technologies concentrate on purifying the smoke created during
combustion. Small particles of ash, for example, are normally removed
by forcing the flue gases, as the fumes from the furnace are known in
the trade, between electrically charged plates. (Ash particles have a
small electric charge, and are then trapped on one of the plates.)
Other filters and chemical "scrubbers" catch oxides of sulphur and
nitrogen that would otherwise cause acid rain.
Reducing emissions of carbon dioxide, however, is another matter. Most
utilities tackle the problem indirectly, by attempting to improve the
efficiency of their plants, and so to squeeze more electricity from
each tonne of coal consumed or carbon dioxide produced. Most firms want
to make such improvements anyway, since they cut costs and improve
profits. In Britain, as in most rich countries, the average efficiency
of coal-fired power stations is about 35%. But Mitsui Babcock, an
engineering firm, says its most recent designs can achieve efficiencies
as high as 46%. It reckons that switching from an old design to a new
one can cut fuel consumption and emissions by 23%.
Most of the gains in efficiency come from increasing the heat and
pressure of the steam used to turn a plant's turbines. The newest ones
heat the steam to as much as 600 deg. C -- a state physicists call
"supercritical". But there is no reason to stop there. Engineers
believe that hotter boilers would raise yields even more. Such "ultra-
supercritical" boilers, they say, could achieve efficiencies of over
50%, reducing emissions still further.
Substituting biomass for some of the coal burned can also help. Plants,
after all, grow back after being harvested, so burning them does not
add to overall levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. By replacing
20% of their fuel with biomass, power stations can reduce their
emissions by a further 20%. (Any more than that, says Lars Stromberg of
Vattenfall, a European energy firm, and the ash from burning it would
gum up the works of most furnaces.) Emissions also fall if biomass fuel
is used to pre-heat the steam before it enters the boiler. All told,
Mitsui Babcock calculates, these measures could cut emissions from
coal-fired plants to the same level as those using natural gas.
The coal burnt in power plants can also be improved, mainly by drying.
Less dense types, such as sub-bituminous and lignite coal, can contain
up to 50% water. When burned, the water escapes as steam up the
chimney, carrying valuable heat with it. Evergreen Energy, an American
firm, is selling heat- and pressure-treated coal which, it claims, is
as much as a third more efficient than ordinary coal.
Such techniques are particularly important in America, where power
plants use a lot of sub-bituminous coal from the Powder River Basin in
Wyoming and Montana. Coal from this region is low in sulphur, and so
burns more cleanly, but has a relatively low energy density unless
treated. Meanwhile, RWE, a German utility, is building a plant which
will use the residual heat of its own flue gas to dry lignite before
burning it. That increases the overall efficiency of the plant at
little cost, since the coal can be treated without having to generate
any extra heat.
These methods can reduce the various emissions produced by coal-fired
power stations, so that they are at least no worse than gas-fired
stations. But technologies also exist to make coal cleaner still, by
filtering out carbon dioxide from the flue gas and storing it somehow.
This is theoretically possible, but expensive. Other pollutants, after
all, are essentially impurities, which can be washed from the coal or
filtered out of the flue gas. But carbon dioxide is not a contaminant
-- it is the inevitable by-product of carbon in the coal reacting with
oxygen in the air. Along with nitrogen, the inert remainder of the air,
carbon dioxide is the chief component of flue gas.
Gases, of course, are bulky and difficult to store. Most plans for
carbon-dioxide storage involve liquefying it and pumping it underground
into former oilfields, gasfields or coal beds -- an energy- intensive
and thus expensive process. Separating the carbon dioxide from the
nitrogen in the flue gas is also expensive, but necessary, since
nitrogen turns liquid at a much lower temperature than carbon dioxide,
and so requires even more energy to liquefy.
Moreover, unlike modifications that improve efficiency, there are no
savings to be had by adding carbon-capture technology to a power plant.
As a result, no such plants have been built. A few firms are building
demonstration projects, while they wait to see whether governments
impose long-term restrictions on carbon-dioxide emissions. Others,
especially in Britain, which is blessed with natural storage tanks in
the form of the declining oil and gasfields of the North Sea, have
announced feasibility studies for clean-coal plants. Some utilities,
such as AEP, are planning commercial plants that will initially lack
carbon-capture facilities, but are designed to allow the technology to
be added fairly easily at a later date. All are looking for government
hand-outs or regulatory incentives to pursue these experiments, in the
absence of any more compelling commercial logic.
How does carbon capture work?
Most utilities are eyeing one of three basic designs. The simplest, and
easiest to bolt on to existing plants, treats carbon dioxide like any
other pollutant, and extracts it from the flue gas. As this gas passes
through a solution of chemicals called amines, the carbon dioxide is
absorbed but the nitrogen is not. The carbon dioxide can later be
released, by heating the solution, for subsequent liquefaction and
storage. Many firms already use this "amine scrubbing" approach to
remove carbon dioxide from natural gas, for example. But it is not so
practical for large- scale uses, since the amines are expensive, as is
heating them to release the captured carbon dioxide. The extra energy
required would reduce a state-of-the- art supercritical plant's overall
efficiency by about 10%, according to the IEA.
"Oxy-fuel" plants sidestep the difficulties of separating oxygen and
nitrogen in the flue gas by burning coal in pure oxygen rather than
air. The resulting flue gas is almost pure carbon dioxide. But the
energy used to separate oxygen from air before burning is almost as
great as that needed to filter out nitrogen afterwards, leading to a
similar loss of efficiency. Oxy-fuel enthusiasts claim that modern
plants can be easily retro-fitted to operate as oxy-fuel plants.
The third approach, called "integrated gasification combined cycle"
(IGCC), also requires oxygen, but for use in a chemical reaction rather
than for burning. When heated in oxygen, coal reacts to form carbon
dioxide and hydrogen. An amine solution then absorbs the carbon
dioxide, while the hydrogen is burnt in a modified furnace. The amine
scrubbing is cheaper than usual, since the reaction generates carbon
dioxide in a more concentrated form. Engineers are also experimenting
with membranes that would allow hydrogen to pass, but not carbon
There are four IGCC demonstration plants operating in America and
Europe, although none currently captures carbon dioxide permanently;
instead, it is simply released into the atmosphere. AEP's planned new
plants will follow a similar design. The attraction of IGCC plants,
aside from their carbon-capture potential, is that they produce fewer
traditional pollutants and also generate hydrogen, which can either be
put to industrial uses or burnt. But most utilities doubt that IGCC
plants are suitable for mainstream power generation, because of higher
capital costs and frequent breakdowns. Proponents retort that teething
problems are natural, since IGCC is a newer technology, which combines
previously unrelated processes from different industries.
George Bush is a believer, at any rate. In 2003 he unveiled a
subsidised scheme to build a zero-emissions IGCC plant called
"FutureGen" by 2013. The European Union, for its part, is giving money
to utilities dabbling in oxy-fuel, among other schemes. Handouts from
the taxpayer are needed, power firms argue, since the technology in
question is still young. But it is hard to believe that it will ever
grow up unless subsidies give way to stronger measures, such as long-
term caps or taxes on carbon-dioxide emissions. The technology to
eliminate such emissions from coal-fired plants exists, but it will not
be adopted without regulatory incentives from governments.
From: Rachel's Democracy & Health News #864
December 7, 2006
PAYNE VS. PAYOUT OF BURYING GARBAGE
[Rachel's introduction: To get to the new world of green chemistry and
sustainable business, we'll first have to end cheap waste disposal in
incinerators and landfills. As we learn here, there are good public
health reasons to do so.]
By Jill McElheney**
Thirty years ago, Florrie and Mamie Payne appealed to the Athens (Ga.)
Clarke County government. A new landfill was being considered in their
community, and they were concerned with the potential environmental
health threats their families would face. These sisters were told by
elected leaders in the mid 1970's that the landfill would be placed in
their community because not many people lived on their Dunlap Road.
Being labeled "low target population" is a phrase government still uses
today to place economic gain above the environmental values of
communities which include safe air, water and soil. Robbing communities
of dignity, health and their common good, "low target population" is an
affront to a free society.
The Paynes had no choice but to raise their families next to the
problematic landfill. Their foreshadowed nightmares have come to pass.
University of Georgia football standout, Jimmy Payne, died in 1998 of
bone cancer. He was Florrie's son and Mamie's nephew. Now, Jimmy's dad
has cancer. The low target populations are the ones who suffer greater
irretrievable losses with their pain financing economic profits.
A photo is worth a thousand words. Taken from an aerial view, the
Haynes' family home shows that their garden was eerily located next to
the landfill. Their daughter, Sharon, was born and raised within yards
of the property line where trash often blew into their yard. She has
medical problems so extensive that doctors find it difficult to
Research indicates that children are more vulnerable to environmental
health hazards. Prenatal exposures can produce lifelong problems such
as learning disabilities. Childhood contact with chemicals found at the
landfill can show up as diseases in adulthood. Most recent studies
inform that children who live next to landfills have elevated rates of
asthma, and that some effects from chemical exposures can even be
passed down to unexposed future generations through genetics. In
essence, you can take the person from the landfill, but not the
landfill from the person.
Another red flag that waves on Dunlap Road, which could be an indicator
of exposures to toxicants from the landfill, are the children who did
not make it. This includes spontaneous abortions, stillbirths, and
infant deaths. The Clark family has had their fair share of this
heartache. Natalie and Rozenia have lost children after full term
pregnancies. Deaths unexplained.
If one counts up the babies from multigenerations that didn't survive,
there appears to be a serious problem. Are we looking at a gene variant
of families on Dunlap Road which put them at even a greater risk to
toxicants from the landfill? Is it possible that the babies are
genetically the most vulnerable of the vulnerable?
The older Clark women also have their losses to cope with. Brenda lost
her 28 year old son suddenly in 2005. She can tell of relatives up and
down Dunlap Road who have buried their children rather than the natural
life process where parents pass first.
Science has supported Florrie & Mamie. In 2000, Georgia Public
Health stated that: "some contamination might have entered the
groundwater as early as 1977 when the landfill began operating." Help
came over a decade late for Dunlap Road when cleanup began, but by then
the damage had been done. Dr. Kevin Pegg concluded in 1997 that "it is
likely that residents have already been exposed to the highest amounts
of toxins that they they will be exposed to."
Community member Charles Nash believes cancer is the biggest killer on
Dunlap Road. He challenges the conclusions of the local landfill
management that no one is a victim of toxic poisoning. He joined the
Northeast Georgia Children's Environmental Health Coalition to learn
more, and to take that knowledge to improve the lives of his neighbors.
He organized an environmental health fair which was attended by over
100 community members, and a walk highlighting awareness of the links
between environmental health and the landfill. He believes that
forecaring for future generations, a term coined "precautionary principle,"
should drive any decision to expand the landfill. His young grandsons
Kenyada and Dornell are often by his side displaying the evidence of
why he is so passionate about children's environmental health.
Dunlap Road residents and members of Billups Grove Baptist Church are
allowing the precautionary principle to lead the way for change in
their community. Attending a Georgia Environmental Protection Division
(EPD) public hearing this year, which renewed the air permit for the
landfill, they learned a shocking fact: no ambient (outdoor) air tests
were required for the permit approval. Residents questioned EPD
officials how any permit can be issued before assuring the safety of
the surrounding residents with tests.
Anyone who has visited the landfill can often see the powerdy dust
stirring, and traveling with the wind. The odor, which trespasses and
chronically lowers the quality of life for residents, is a frequent
complaint. Furthermore, no indoor air sampling has ever been taken from
homes near the contaminated groundwater plume, which could possibly be
compromising residential air quality by vapor intrusion.
Today, Athens Clarke County has reached the time to make another
critical decision about the landfill. We are running out of waste
capacity in Northeast Georgia, and one of the options is to expand our
Dunlap Road landfill. The values of Dunlap Road residents should be put
on the table with the sketchy economic gain that comes from burying
Dr. Bill Sheehan, director of the Product Policy Institute, and a waste management expert, has evaluated the landfill and concluded:
"Bottom line: the 6 to 8 year landfill capacity is simply a function of
the low ($34) tipping fee -- absurdly low compared to the real
environmental impact, to the future financial liability, or to the
future rates we will pay without a landfill (e.g., Madison County's
$60/ton). You could fill it up in 1 year if you price it low enough, or
stretch it out to 100 years."
Sheehan believes there are better options including producer
responsibility and greater use of recycling. He will be submitting them
to the Mayor & Commissioners to encourage them in a new direction.
Dr. Sheehan easily communicates just how economically unsound it is to
put garbage into the ground.
Burying trash is like a bad habit. We've done it for so long without
consideration for the people most impacted. It's time to examine the
pain and payout of the regional waste management plan of our future,
and consider Florrie & Mamie's concerns this time around.
** Jill McElheney is the founder of Micah's Mission in Winterville, Georgia.
Micah's Mission Ministry to Improve Childhood & Adolescent Health
P.O. Box 275 Winterville, GA 30683 706.742.7826 (phone) 706.543.1799
(fax) website: http://babuice.myweb.uga.edu/MICAH/index.htm
He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require
of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your
God. -- Micah 6:8
From: Chemical & Engineering News
December 6, 2006
BISPHENOL-A MAY TRIGGER HUMAN BREAST CANCER
[Rachel's introduction: A common chemical in plastics has now been
linked to breast cancer. If this hypothesis is correct, breast cancer
is triggered by exposure that occurs in the womb.]
By Bette Hileman
A new study finds the strongest evidence yet for the hypothesis that
widespread environmental exposure to bisphenol A during fetal life
causes breast cancer in adult women. The research, led by Ana M. Soto, professor of anatomy and cellular biology at Tufts University School of Medicine, in Boston, was published Dec. 6 in the online edition of Reproductive Toxicology (DOI: 10.1016/j.reprotox.2006.10.0 02).
Soto and her colleagues exposed pregnant rats to bisphenol A at doses
ranging from 2.5 to 1,000 micrograms per kg of body weight per day. By
the time the pups exposed at the lowest dose reached the equivalent of
puberty (50 days old), about 25% of their mammary ducts had
precancerous lesions, a proportion three to four times higher than
among the nonexposed controls. Mammary ducts from all other exposure
groups showed elevated levels of lesions. Cancerous lesions were found
in the mammary glands of one-third of the rats exposed to 250
Bisphenol A, a known estrogenic compound, is ubiquitous in the
environment. Many people receive exposures of about 2.5
micrograms/kg/day, and mammary gland development in rats and humans is
very similar. Therefore, Soto says, "bisphenol A could be one factor
causing the increase in breast cancer incidence over the past 50 years."
Bisphenol A is used in the manufacture of polycarbonate plastics and
epoxy resins. It is found in many food and beverage containers,
including baby bottles. It is also found in canned food linings and
dental composites, and it leaches from all of these products. In one
study, Soto notes, urine samples from 95% of the human subjects
contained the chemical.
According to Soto, a large body of previous research suggests bisphenol
A might cause breast cancer. One study shows that the daughters of
women who took the potent synthetic nonsteroidal estrogen
diethylstilbestrol (DES) during their pregnancies between 1948 and 1971
have 2.5 times the normal incidence of breast cancer. Bisphenol A,
which is structurally similar to DES, may act by a similar mechanism,
"What is important to note is that Soto's research is not a one-shot
finding," says Frederick vom Saal, professor of biology at the
University of Missouri. "It follows five years of research
demonstrating precancerous changes in the mammary glands of mice with
prenatal bisphenol A exposure. Now, Soto has switched to the rat, which
is considered a much better animal model for studying human
The Environmental Protection Agency has set a safe human intake dose of
50 micrograms/kg/day for bisphenol A. "On the basis of the effects
observed in recent studies, this seems to be an unsafe level," Soto
Copyright 2006 American Chemical Society
From: The New Standard
December 4, 2006
SEWAGE DISCHARGES THREATEN GREAT LAKES
[Rachel's introduction: A new report
says massive discharges of sewage into the Great Lakes are making fish
unsafe to eat, rendering the lakes unsafe for recreation, and polluting
one of the main sources of drinking water in the region. The Lakes
contain 84% of all the fresh water in North America.]
By Catherine Komp
A new report
has found that U.S. and Canadian cities are polluting the Great Lakes
system with billions of gallons of a toxic "cocktail" of sewage and
storm water each year.
The Canadian-based Sierra Legal Defence Fund, which produced the
report, says it means parts of the largest freshwater ecosystem on the
planet are "in peril."
The researchers say the massive discharges of sewage into the lakes are
making fish unsafe to eat, rendering the lakes unsafe for recreation,
and polluting one of the main sources of drinking water in the region.
About 84 percent of North America's "surface fresh water" comes from
the Great Lakes, according to the US Environmental Protection Agency.
The "Great Lakes Sewage Report Card" analyzed twenty US and Canadian
cities, from Deluth to Kingston to Cleveland. It concluded that despite
billions of dollars invested to improve sewage treatment over the last
three decades, the cities dump a combined 24 billion gallons of
municipal sewage -- a mixture of water, human waste, micro- organisms,
disease-causing pathogens and toxic chemicals -- directly into local
water systems each year.
Detroit and Cleveland ranked the lowest in the Sierra Legal report,
generating a combined 338 billion gallons of sewage per year. Both
scored poorly for some 19 billion gallons of "overflow" from their
sewer systems into the environment.
Green Bay, Wisconsin received one the highest scores in the report
because it had no known discharges of untreated sewage, no sewage
overflow and no pollution-related violations.
Unlike Green Bay, the researchers said, numerous cities around the
Great Lakes use combined sewage systems, or CSOs, that carry both
sewage and storm-water. During heavy rainfall, these systems can exceed
capacity and raw sewage can overflow directly into the environment.
The US government drafted a Combined Sewer Overflow Control Policy in
1994 and requires communities to develop long-term CSO control plans to
help local governments comply with the Clean Water Act. The problem is
not isolated to the Great Lakes region. As previously reported by The
NewStandard, some 770 cities across the country use combined systems.
In 2004, President Bush signed an executive order creating the Great
Lakes Interagency Task Force to deal with the accumulating
environmental problems facing this freshwater system. The task force's
responsibilities include improving water quality.
Calling the Great Lakes "a gift to all that live in the basin," Sierra
Legal makes several recommendations, including a bigger financial
investment from federal and local governments to improve CSOs. The
group also says that more regulations, from banning toxic substances in
manufacturing industries to enforcing sewer-use laws, could help to
protect the water and biodiversity of the Great Lakes region.
"Countries as wealthy as Canada and [the] United States can surely
afford to adequately treat their waste accordingly," wrote the report's
Rachel's Democracy & Health News (formerly Rachel's
Environment & Health News) highlights the connections between
issues that are 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 health, the
destruction of nature, the decline of community, the rise of economic
insecurity and inequalities, growing stress among workers and families,
and the crippling legacies of patriarchy, intolerance, and racial
injustice that allow us to be divided and therefore ruled by the few.
In a democracy, there are no more fundamental questions than, "Who gets
to decide?" And, "How DO the few control the many, and what might be
done about it?"
Rachel's Democracy and Health News is published as often as necessary
to provide readers with up-to-date coverage of the subject.
Peter Montague - firstname.lastname@example.org
Tim Montague - email@example.com
Rachel's News #885: Trouble with Precaution
By Peter and Tim Montague, eds
Environmental Research Foundation, Dec 14, 2006
Straight to the Source