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Rachel's #918: Re-thinking Fluoridation


[Rachel's introduction: This carefully-researched article raises important scientific, medical, and ethical questions about the advisability of medicating entire communities by fluoridating the local water supply. Even if fluoridation seemed appropriate at one time, does it still seem appropriate today? Recently hundreds of professionals have been signing a statement opposing fluoridation of drinking water supplies.]

By Ted Schettler MD, MPH

[Dr. Ted Schettler is science director of the Science and Environmental Health Network. He has co-authored two books on children's health, In Harm's Way, and Generations at Risk, as well as numerous articles.]

Seeking to prevent tooth decay, many U.S. communities add fluoride to public drinking water, usually in the form of hydrofluorosilicic acid, which is a waste product of the phosphate fertilizer industry.

From the beginning, the practice was controversial, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and American Dental Association (ADA) have vigorously supported it. The CDC claims that fluoridating public drinking water is one of the ten great public health achievements of the 20th century, giving it primary credit for the decline in tooth decay in the U.S. Despite their enthusiasm, abundant evidence raises serious concerns about the safety and efficacy of adding fluoride to drinking water today.

Since 1945, when the public health intervention began, much has changed with regard to dental health. Several trends are worth mentioning:

* Tooth decay has markedly declined in countries and communities that do not fluoridate drinking water as well as in those that do. Dramatic increases in the use of topically-applied fluoride-containing oral hygiene products are likely to have played a role, along with other changes.

* Today people are exposed to fluoride from bottled drinks, toothpaste, fluoride drops and treatments, pesticides, pharmaceuticals, and industrial discharges. As a result, dental fluorosis, a condition entirely attributable to excessive fluoride intake, is increasing in a substantial portion of the U.S. population.[1]

* A somewhat surprising trend that may increase risks associated with fluoride ingestion involves dietary iodine. In recent years, inadequate iodine intake has become common in the U.S. According to the CDC, the average urinary iodine level today is half what it was in 1971.[2] The agency estimates that 36% of U.S. women now have sub- optimal iodine intake. Adequate dietary iodine is essential for producing normal amounts of thyroid hormone. Excessive dietary fluoride can also lower thyroid hormone production. Excess fluoride and inadequate iodine intake combined increase risks of hypothyroidism.

Much research addresses the potential benefits and adverse impacts of fluoride ingestion. Yet, many data gaps remain. We know that:

* Tooth decay is an infectious process and its origins are multifactorial. General dietary practices, nutrition, oral hygiene, socioeconomic status, and access to dental care play direct and indirect roles. The relative contribution of each depends on the context.

* To the extent that fluoride helps to prevent tooth decay or slow its progression, the predominant advantage is from topical application rather than through ingestion.[3] Topical application includes fluoride in toothpaste, drops, mouth rinses, and fluoride treatments in a dental office, as well as from drinking fluoride-containing beverages.

* There is little disagreement that ingested fluoride has adverse effects as exposures increase beyond some amount.[4] The question is, at what level of exposure do adverse effects begin and when do they begin to outweigh any potential benefits?

* Individuals drinking water with "optimal" fluoride[5] have, on average, less than one fewer missing, decayed, or filled tooth surface than individuals whose drinking water does not have added fluoride.[6] With respect to prevention of tooth decay, therefore, the benefits of fluoride in drinking water are relatively minor. That is not to say that tooth decay has not declined during the last 50 years (it has), or that fluoride has not contributed (it has, but primarily through topical application from many sources), but rather that putting fluoride in drinking water today plays a relatively minor role when compared to other variables.

* Excessive fluoride ingestion from all sources causes dental fluorosis. This is not "just" a cosmetic effect. Dental fluorosis interferes with the integrity of tooth enamel. Many experts conclude that moderate and severe fluorosis can increase the risk of tooth decay. Severe dental fluorosis rises sharply when drinking water levels of fluoride exceed 2 ppm [parts per million].

Depending on the level of exposure, a number of adverse health effects may be linked to fluoride ingestion. In humans, they include bone cancer, bone fracture, skeletal fluorosis, arthritis, impaired thyroid hormone status, impaired neurodevelopment of children, and calcification of the pineal gland. Data are often inconsistent and important information gaps remain. In general, the threshold exposure level at which the risks of various health effects significantly increase is not well understood.

In 2006, an expert committee convened by the National Academy of Sciences issued a report reviewing the appropriateness of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's current maximum contaminant level for fluoride in drinking water. The NAS committee concluded:

1) "under certain conditions fluoride can weaken bone and increase the risk of fracture;"

2) "high concentrations of fluoride exposure might be associated with alterations in reproductive hormones, effects on fertility, and developmental outcomes, but [study] design limitations make those studies insufficient for risk evaluation,"

3) "the consistency of results [in a few epidemiologic studies in China] appears significant enough to warrant additional research on the effects of fluoride on intelligence"

4) "the chief endocrine effects of fluoride exposures in experimental animals and in humans include decreased thyroid function, increased calcitonin activity, increased parathyroid hormone activity, secondary hyperparathyroidism, impaired glucose tolerance, and possible effects on timing of sexual maturity. Some of these effects are associated with fluoride intake that is achievable at fluoride concentrations in drinking water of 4 mg/L [milligrams per liter] or less, especially for young children or for individuals with high water intake."

5) "the evidence on the potential of fluoride to initiate or promote cancers, particularly of the bone, is tentative and mixed. Assessing whether fluoride constitutes a risk factor for osteosarcoma is complicated by the rarity of the disease and the difficulty of characterizing biologic dose because of the ubiquity of population exposure to fluoride and the difficulty of acquiring bone samples in non-affected individuals." The committee said that a soon-to-be published study "will be an important addition to the fluoride database, because it will have exposure information on residence histories, water consumption, and assays of bone and toenails. The results of that study should help to identify what future research will be most useful in elucidating fluoride's carcinogenic potential."

That study has now been published. It reports a significant association between exposure to fluoride in drinking water in childhood and the incidence of osteosarcoma among males.[7]

Risks are not limited to humans. Fluoride added to drinking water ultimately ends up in surface water where levels can be high enough to threaten survival and reproduction of aquatic organisms, particularly near the point of discharge.[8]

One health endpoint, the potential impact of fluoride on brain development, illustrates the importance of considering the context of public health interventions:

* We know that adequate thyroid hormone levels are essential during pregnancy (fetal requirement), infancy, and childhood for normal brain development. Even relatively minor deficits in maternal thyroid hormone levels during pregnancy can have long lasting impacts on the function of children's brains.[9]

* Excessive fluoride ingestion lowers thyroid hormone levels.[10] The threshold at which that effect becomes biologically or clinically important is uncertain. But we know that it happens in areas with high naturally-occurring fluoride in drinking water, and it may also be true in areas with fluoride in drinking water in the range of 1-2 ppm, particularly when iodine intake is inadequate.

* Several studies of children in Chinese communities with fluoride drinking water levels of 2.5-4 ppm consistently show significantly lower IQ levels compared to children in communities with minimal fluoride in drinking water.[11] These studies were controlled for other contributory factors.

* Based on biomonitoring studies, the CDC estimates that 36% of women in the U.S. have inadequate iodine intake. Moreover, approximately 6-7% of women (the prevalence increases as women age) have sub- clinical hypothyroidism. Sub-clinical hypothyroidism is characterized by elevated thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) and normal thyrotropin (the thyroid hormone T4). Without blood tests, sub-clinical hypothyroidism is usually unrecognized because it does not cause symptoms. Sub-clinical hypothyroidism during pregnancy is associated with decreased IQ in children when measured years later.[12]

* Biomonitoring studies conducted by the CDC (NHANES) and other institutions show virtually ubiquitous human exposure to other environmental contaminants that also interfere with thyroid hormone levels or function. They include polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), brominated flame retardants, perfluorinated compounds, and perchlorate (a common drinking water and food contaminant from rocket fuel, explosives, and imported nitrate fertilizer). In 2006 CDC scientists reported that ANY amount of perchlorate exposure significantly lowered thyroid hormone levels in women with inadequate iodine intake.[13]

* Few, if any, communities choosing to add fluoride to drinking water are likely to have looked into the iodine status of local residents as well as aggregate exposures to thyroid disrupting compounds, including fluoride, from all sources combined. Yet, collectively, these factors are undeniably relevant to brain development of children born in those communities. Regrettably, the CDC's discussion of the safety of fluoride in drinking water does not even mention potential impacts on the developing brain.[14]

With respect to current and historical perspectives, the NAS committee noted that, on average, fluoride exposure from drinking water in fluoridated communities is near or exceeds the level that raises health concerns.[15] That is, virtually no "margin of safety" exists between levels of fluoride intended to be beneficial and those that may be harmful. This is in sharp distinction from the margin of safety when essential nutrients such as iodine, vitamin D, or vitamin C are added to food. In those cases, maximum potential intake is orders of magnitude lower than exposures that may have toxic effects. Population-wide monitoring of fluoride exposures in the U.S. is surprisingly inadequate. This is particularly disturbing since, despite vigorously recommending putting fluoride into drinking water, the CDC has failed to monitor systematically the levels of fluoride in the population -- despite steadily increasingly sources of fluoride, increasing dental fluorosis, and their well-known and highly useful population-wide monitoring program for a number of other environmental agents (NHANES). Why not fluoride? The NAS review said, "Fluoride should be included in nationwide biomonitoring surveys and nutritional studies... In particular, analysis of fluoride in blood and urine samples taken in these surveys would be valuable."


Because of

a) uncertainties surrounding fluoride exposure levels from all sources,[16]

b) concurrent exposures to other environmental agents that interact with fluoride or add to the impacts of fluoride,

c) estimates of efficacy and benefits of adding fluoride to drinking water compared with alternative interventions, and

d) potential adverse health effects at current and anticipated exposure levels,

** intentionally fluoridating community drinking water is no longer justified. Adding fluoride to drinking water for the purpose of preventing tooth decay provides virtually no population-wide margin of safety. Under current circumstances, people should not be essentially forced to drink water treated with fluoride when dental benefits can be achieved through topical application and other means.

** An immediate moratorium on the practice of adding fluoride to community drinking water is justified. Risks, benefits, efficacy, and alternatives must be fully, impartially, and transparently re- evaluated, based on current information and data gaps. Moreover, an ethical review of the practice is warranted.

Public health interventions can take many directions. Few, however, are as intrusive as intentionally putting a biologically active chemical into drinking water. Everyone in the community, without exception, is exposed without any opportunity to "opt out" based on individual circumstances. Promoters of this kind of intervention, therefore, have a special responsibility and should at least:

1) Regularly, comprehensively, and transparently re-evaluate benefits and risks of the intervention, based on current science and available alternatives,

2) Regularly monitor and disclose exposure levels in current contexts/circumstances (in humans and wildlife),

3) Ensure an adequate margin of safety, including for the most vulnerable, and

4) Consider the ethical dimensions of intentionally adding a biologically active chemical to public drinking water.

In 2006, the American Dental Association issued an interim guidance advising parents not to reconstitute infant formula with fluoridated water because of the risk of causing dental fluorosis. In general, however, public health agencies and professional associations that advocate putting fluoride into drinking water have failed to provide up-to-date, regular, comprehensive, and transparent re-evaluations of benefits and risks of fluoridating drinking water, based on the most current science and available alternatives. They have not systematically monitored fluoride levels in people and wildlife, adjusting recommendations according to their findings. Rather, they have continued to stress, and often exaggerate, benefits of ingested fluoride while downplaying the risks. Hopefully, the NAS review will prompt an impartial re-evaluation of the justification, safety, and appropriateness of this 50-year-old practice.



[3] Discussed in a recent National Academy of Sciences report, "Fluoride in Drinking Water: A Scientific Review of EPA's Standards" (2006) This is a review of the appropriateness of EPA's 4 ppm maximal contaminant level goal for fluoride in drinking water. The committee was not charged with considering the risks and benefits of adding fluoride to drinking water for preventing tooth decay.

The CDC agrees that the benefits of fluoride are primarily from topical application in children and adults. See

[4] NAS review

[5] The CDC considers 0.7-1.2 ppm fluoride in drinking water to be optimal

[6] Brunelle J, Carlos J. Recent trends in dental caries in US children and the effect of water fluoridation. Journal of Dental Research. Vol 69, special issue. 723-727, 1990.

[7] Bassin E, Wypij D, Davis R, Mittleman M. Age-specific fluoride exposure in drinking water and osteosarcoma (United States). Cancer Causes Control. 17(4):421-428, 2006.

[8] Camago J. Fluoride toxicity to aquatic organisms: a review. Chemosphere. 50(3):251-64, 2003.

[9] LaFranchi S, Haddow J, Hollowell J. Is thyroid inadequacy during gestation a risk factor for adverse pregnancy and developmental outcomes? Thyroid. 15(1):60-71, 2005.

[10] Discussed in the NAS review. See

[11] Discussed in the NAS review. See

[12] LaFranchi S, Haddow J, Hollowell J. Is thyroid inadequacy during gestation a risk factor for adverse pregnancy and developmental outcomes? Thyroid. 15(1):60-71, 2005.

[13] Blount B, Pirkle, J, Osterloh J, et al. Urinary perchlorate and thyroid hormone levels in adolescent and adult men and women living in the United States. Environ Health Perspect 114(2):1865-71, 2006.


[15] See For example, in 2005 the American Dental Association declared that the "tolerable upper intake" of fluoride for children 0-8 years of age is 0.10 mg/kg/day. In 1997, the Institute of Medicine found that the average intake of fluoride from drinking water for children living in fluoridated communities was 0.05-0.13 mg/kg/day.

[16] See page 87 of the NAS review for recommendations regarding exposure data gaps.


October 7, 2004


[Rachel's introduction: Carbon trading has been widely endorsed by business, industry, and even many U.S. environmental groups. But there's an aspect of it that seems to have been overlooked -- fairness and justice.]

The Durban Declaration on Carbon Trading

As representatives of people's movements and independent organisations, we reject the claim that carbon trading will halt the climate crisis. This crisis has been caused more than anything else by the mining of fossil fuels and the release of their carbon to the oceans, air, soil and living things.

This excessive burning of fossil fuels is now jeopardising Earth's ability to maintain a liveable climate.

Governments, export credit agencies, corporations and international financial institutions continue to support and finance fossil fuel exploration, extraction and other activities that worsen global warming, such as forest degradation and destruction on a massive scale, while dedicating only token sums to renewable energy. It is particularly disturbing that the World Bank has recently defied the recommendation of its own Extractive Industries Review which calls for the phasing out of World Bank financing for coal, oil and gas extraction.

We denounce the further delays in ending fossil fuel extraction that are being caused by corporate, government and United Nations' attempts to construct a "carbon market," including a market trading in "carbon sinks".

History has seen attempts to commodify land, food, labour, forests, water, genes and ideas.

Carbon trading follows in the footsteps of this history and turns the earth's carbon-cycling capacity into property to be bought or sold in a global market.

Through this process of creating a new commodity -- carbon -- the Earth's ability and capacity to support a climate conducive to life and human societies is now passing into the same corporate hands that are destroying the climate.

People around the world need to be made aware of this commodification and privatization and actively intervene to ensure the protection of the Earth's climate.

Carbon trading will not contribute to achieving this protection of the Earth's climate. It is a false solution which entrenches and magnifies social inequalities in many ways:

** The carbon market creates transferable rights to dump carbon in the air, oceans, soil and vegetation far in excess of the capacity of these systems to hold it.

Billions of dollars worth of these rights are to be awarded free of charge to the biggest corporate emitters of greenhouse gases in the electric power, iron and steel, cement, pulp and paper, and other sectors in industrialised nations who have caused the climate crisis and already exploit these systems the most. Costs of future reductions in fossil fuel use are likely to fall disproportionately on the public sector, communities, indigenous peoples and individual taxpayers.

** The Kyoto Protocol's Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), as well as many private sector trading schemes, encourage industrialised countries and their corporations to finance or create cheap carbon dumps such as large-scale tree plantations in the South as a lucrative alternative to reducing emissions in the North.

Other CDM projects, such as hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFC)-reduction schemes, focus on end-of pipe technologies and thus do nothing to reduce the impact of fossil fuel industries' impacts on local communities. In addition, these projects dwarf the tiny volume of renewable energy projects which constitute the CDM's sustainable development window-dressing.

** Impacts from fossil-fuel industries and other greenhouse-gas producing industries such as displacement, pollution, or climate change, are already disproportionately felt by small island states, coastal peoples, indigenous peoples, local communities, fisherfolk, women, youth, poor people, elderly and marginalized communities. CDM projects intensify these impacts in several ways. First, they sanction continued exploration for, and extraction, refining and burning of fossil fuels. Second, by providing finance for private sector projects such as industrial tree plantations, they appropriate land, water and air already supporting the lives and livelihoods of local communities for new carbon dumps for Northern industries.

** The refusal to phase out the use of coal, oil and gas, which is further entrenched by carbon trading, is also causing more and more military conflicts around the world, magnifying social and environmental injustice. This in turn diverts vast resources to military budgets which could otherwise be utilized to support economies based on renewable energies and energy efficiency.

In addition to these injustices, the internal weaknesses and contradictions of carbon trading are in fact likely to make global warming worse rather than "mitigate" it.

CDM projects, for instance, cannot be verified to be "neutralizing" any given quantity of fossil fuel extraction and burning.

Their claim to be able to do so is increasingly dangerous because it creates the illusion that consumption and production patterns, particularly in the North, can be maintained without harming the climate.

In addition, because of the verification problem, as well as a lack of credible regulation, no one in the CDM market is likely to be sure what they are buying. Without a viable commodity to trade, the CDM market and similar private sector trading schemes are a total waste of time when the world has a critical climate crisis to address.

In an absurd contradiction the World Bank facilitates these false, market-based approaches to climate change through its Prototype Carbon Fund, the BioCarbon Fund and the Community Development Carbon Fund at the same time it is promoting, on a far greater scale, the continued exploration for, and extraction and burning of fossil fuels -- many of which are to ensure increased emissions of the North.

In conclusion, 'giving carbon a price' will not prove to be any more effective, democratic, or conducive to human welfare, than giving genes, forests, biodiversity or clean rivers a price.

We reaffirm that drastic reductions in emissions from fossil fuel use are a pre-requisite if we are to avert the climate crisis. We affirm our responsibility to coming generations to seek real solutions that are viable and truly sustainable and that do not sacrifice marginalized communities.

We therefore commit ourselves to help build a global grassroots movement for climate justice, mobilize communities around the world and pledge our solidarity with people opposing carbon trading on the ground.

Signed October 10, 2004, Glenmore Centre, Durban, South Africa

To sign on to this declaration please send an email to or visit


Carbon Trade Watch

Indigenous Environmental Network

Climate & Development Initiatives, Uganda

Coecoceiba-Amigos de la Tierra, Costa Rica

CORE Centre for Organisation Research & Education, Manipur, India

Delhi Forum, India

Earthlife Africa (ELA) eThekwini Branch, South Africa


FASE-ES/Green Desert Network Brazil 2

Global Justice Ecology Project, USA

groundwork, South Africa

National Forum of Forest People And Forest Workers(NFFPFW), India

Patrick Bond, Professor, University of KwaZulu Natal School of Development Studies, South Africa

O le Siosiomaga Society, Samoa

South Durban Community Alliance (SDCEA), South Africa

Sustainable Energy & Economy Network, USA

The Corner House, UK

Timberwatch Coalition, South Africa

World Rainforest Movement, Uruguay


50 Years Is Enough: U.S. Network for Global Economic Justice, USA

Aficafiles, Canada

Africa Groups of Sweden, Sweden

Alianza Verde, Honduras

Ambiente y Sociedad, Argentina

Angikar Bangladesh Foundation, Bangladesh

Anisa Colombia, Colombia

Asociacion Alternativa Ambiental, Spain

Asociacion Amigos Reserva Yaguaroundi, Argentina

Asociacion de Guardaparques Argentinos, Argentina

Asociacion Ecologista Piuke, Argentina

Asociacion para la Defensa del Medio Ambiente del Noreste Santafesino, Argentina

Asociacion San Francisco de Asis, Argentina

Association France Amerique Latine, France

Associacion Lihue San Carlos de Barloche / Rio Negro, Argentina

Association pour un contrat mondial de l'eau, Comite de Seine Saint Denis, France

Associao Caete -- Cultura e Natureza, Brasil

Athlone Park Residents Association, South Africa

Austerville Clinic Committee, South Africa

Australian Greens, Australia

Aukland Rising Tide, New Zealand

BanglaPraxis, Bangladesh

Benjamin E. Mays Center, USA

Bluff Ridge Conservancy (BRC), South Africa BOA, Venezuela

Boulder Environmental Activists Resource, Rocky Mountain Peace and Justice Center, USA

The Bread of Life Development Foundation, Nigeria CENSAT-Friends of the Earth Colombia, Colombia

Center for Economic Justice, USA

Centre for Environmental Justice, Sri Lanka

Center for Environmental Law and Community Rights Inc./

Friends of the Earth (PNG), Papua New Guinea

Center for Urban Transformation, USA

Centro de Derecho Ambiental y Promocion para el Desarrollo (CEDAPRODE), Nicaragua

Centro de Investigacion Cientifica de Yucatan A.C., Mexico

Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador, USA

Christ the King Church Group, South Africa

Clairwood Ratepayers Association (CRA), South Africa

Cold Mountain, Cold Rivers, USA

Colectivo de Proyectos Alternativos de Mexico (COPAL), Mexico

Colectivo MadreSelva, Guatemala

Comite de Analisis "Ana Silvia Olan" de Sonsonate - CANASO,El Salvador

Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador, USA

Community Health Cell, Bangalore, India

Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO), Netherlands

C.P.E.M. N29-Ciencias Ambientales, Argentina Del Consejo de Organizaciones de Medicos y Parteras Indigenas Tradicionales de Chiapas, Mexico Enda America Latina, Colombia


Ecoisla, Puerto Rica

EarthLink e.V.-The People & Nature Network, Germany

Ecological Society of the Philippines, Philippines

Ecologistas en Accion, Spain, Argentina

ECOTERRA International

El Centro de Ecologia y Excursionismo de la Universidad de Carabobo, Venezuela

Els Verds -- Alternativa Verda, Spain

Environment Desk of Images Asia, Thailand

FASE Gurupa, Brasil

Forest Peoples Programme, UK

Foundation for Grassroots Initiatives in Africa, Ghana

Friends of the Earth International

Friends of the Earth Australia, Australia

Friends of the Siberian Forests, Russia

FSC-Brasil, Brasil

Fundacion Argentina de Etoecologia (FAE), Argentina

Fundacion Los de Tilquiza, proyecto AGUAVERDE, Argentina

Groupe d'Etudes et de Recherche sure les Energies

Renouvelables et l'Environnement (GERERE), Morocco

Gruppo di Volontariato Civile (GVC-Italia), oficina de Nicaragua, Nicaragua

House of Worship, South Africa

Indigenous Peoples' Biodiversity Network, Peru

InfoNature, Portugal

Infringement Festival, Canada

Iniciativa ArcoIris de Ecologia y Sociedad, Argentina

Iniciativa Radial, Argentina

Institute for Social Ecology Biotechnology Project, USA

Instituto Ecoar para Cidadania, Brasil

Instituto Igare, Brasil

International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), Belgium

International Indian Treaty Council

Isipingo Environmental Committee (IEC), South Africa

Isipingo Ratepayers Association, South Africa

Jeunesse Horizon, Camerun

JKPP /Indonesian Community Mapping Network, Indonesia

Joint Action Committee of Isipingo (JACI), South Africa KVW Translations, Spain

LOKOJ, Bangladesh

London Rising Tide, UK

Malvarrosamedia, Spain

Mangrove Action Project (MAP), USA

Mano Verde, Colombia

Mercy International Justice Network, Kenya

Merebank Clinic Committee (MCC), South Africa

Movimiento por la Paz y el Ambiente, Argentina

Movimento por los Derechos y la Consulta Ciudadana, Chile

Nicaragua Center for Community Action, USA,

Nicaragua Network (US), USA

Nicaragua-US Friendship Office, USA

NOAH-Friends of the Earth Denmark, Denmark

N'cleo Amigos da Terra, Brasil

Ogoni Rescue Patriotic Fund, Nigeria

Oilwatch International, Ecuador

Oilwatch Africa, Nigeria

Organizacion Fraternal Negra Honduirena, Honduras

Parque Provincial Ernesto Tornquist, Argentina

Pacific Indigenous Peoples Environment Coalition (PIPEC),Aotearoa/New Zealand

Pesticides Action Network Latin America, Uruguay

Piedad Espinoza Tropico Verde, Guatemala

PovoAo, Brasil

Prideaux Consulting, USA

Projeto tudo Sobre Plantas -- Jornal SOS Verde, Brasil

Public Citizen, USA

Rainforest Action Network, USA

Rainy River First Nations, Canada

Reclaim the Commons, USA

Red de Agricultura Organica de Misiones, Argentina

REDES-Amigos de la Tierra, Uruguay

Red Verde, Spain

Rettet den Regenwald, Germany

Rising Tide, UK

Sahabat Alam Malaysia /FOE-Malaysia, Malaysia

San Francisco Bay Area Jubilee Debt Cancellation Coalition, USA

Scottish Education and Action for Development, UK

S.G.Fiber, Pakistan

Silverglen Civic Association (SCA), South Africa

Sisters of the Holy Cross -- Congregation Justice Committee, USA

Sobrevivencia, Friends of the Earth Paraguay, Paraguay

Sociedad Civil, Mexico

SOLJUSPAX, Philippines

Tebtebba Foundation, Philippines

The Sawmill River Watershed Alliance, USA

TRAPESE -- Take Radical Action Through Popular Education and Sustainable Everything, UK / Spain

Treasure Beach Environmental Forum (TBEF), South Africa

Uganda Coalition for Sustainable Development, Uganda

Ujamaa Community Resource Trust (UCRT), Tanzania

UNICA, Nicaragua

Union Chretienne pour l'Education et Developpement des Desherites (UCEDD), Burundi

Union Mexicana de Emprendedores Inios, A. C., Mexico


Wentworth Development Forum (WDF), South Africa

Western Nebraska Resources Council, USA

World Bank Boycott/Center for Economic Justice, USA worldforests, UK

World Peace Prayer Society, USA

Individual Signatories

Aarran Thomson, USA

Angeles Leonardo, Argentina

Arlex Gonzalez Herrera, Colombia

Beth Burrows, USA

Dr. Bob de Laborde, South Africa

Brook Goldzwig, USA

Cesar Antonio Sanchez Asian, Peru

Christopher Keene, UK

Claudia Sofia Pereira Henriques, Portugal

Claudio Capanema, Brasil

Daniel Tietzer, USA

Dany Mahecha Rubio, The Netherlands

Dora Fernandes, Portugal

Dulce Delgado, Portugal

Eduardo Rojas Hidalgo, Ecuador

Edwin S. Wilson, USA

Eileen Wttewaal, Canada

Elisa Marques, Portugal

Emmanuel Moutondo, Kenya

Fabry Saavedra, Bolivia

Federico Ivanissevich, Argentina

Florencia T. Cuesta, Argentina

Florian Salazar-Martin, France

Fernando Moran, Spain

Fernando Guzman, Peru

Gar W. Lipow, USA

German A. Parra Bustamente, Colombia

Hannes Buckle, South Africa

Hansel Tietzer, USA

Helena Pinheiro, Brasil

Dr. Hugh Sanborn, USA

Hylton Alcock, South Africa

Hsun-Yi Hsieh, Taiwan

Ines Vaz Rute da Conceio, Portugal

Irina Maya, Portugal

Dr. J. Gabriel Lopez,, USA

James Mabbitt, UK

Jane Hendley, USA

Janet Weyker,USA

Javier Lizarraga, Uruguay

Jeff Purcell, USA

Jelena Ilic, Serbia & Montenegro

Jenny Biem, Canada

Joana Gois, Portugal

Joao Forte, Portugal

John Brabant, USA

Jonathan Derouchie, Canada

Joris Leemans, Belgium

Josep Puig, Spain

Joseph Herman, USA

Judith Amanthis, UK

Judith Velez, Isla Verde, Puerto Rico

Karen Roothaan, USA

Karlee Rockey, USA

Kiki Goldzwig, USA

Laura Carlsen, IRC

Leonardo Ornella, Argentina

Lina Hallstrom, Sweden

Lorna Salzman, USA

Luis E. Silvestre, Puerto Rico

Luis Edoardo Sonzini Meroi, Nicaragua

Ing. Mabel Vullioud, Argentina

Manuel Pereira, Portugal

Marcelo Bosi de Almeida, Brasil

Maria Benedetti, Cayey, Puerto Rico

Maria de Fatima Marques, Portugal

Maria Fernanda Pereira, Colombia

Maria Jesus Conde, Spain

Dra. Maria Luisa Pfeiffer, Argentina

Martha L. Downs, USA

Dr. Martin Mowforth, UK

Mary Galvin, South Africa

Matheus Ferreira Matos Lima, Brasil

Maurice Tsalefac, Professor, Universite de Yaounde, Camerun

Michaeline Falvey, USA

Miguel Parra Olave, Chile

Mike Ballard, Australia

Mike Berry, UK

Nick Gotts, Scotland

Norbert Suchanek, Germany

Nuno Miguel O. P. Matos Sequeira, Portugal

Oya Akin, North Cyprus

Pablo Alarcon-Chaires, Mexico

Patricia Angelo Batista, Portugal

Patricia Raynor, USA

Paulo Cesar Scarim, Brasil

Pedro Ribeiro, Portugal

Peter Rachleff, Professor, Macalester College, USA

Peter Sills, USA

Dr. Philip Gasper, USA

Prakash Deshmukh, India

Priscila Lins P. F. do Amaral, Brasil

Rafael Arturo Acuna Coaquira, Bolivia

Rafael Chumbimune Zanabria, Peru

Rafael Renteria, USA

Raj Patel, South Africa

Ray Hajat, Malawi

Robin Clanahan, South Africa

Roger de Andrade, France

Rogerio M Mauricio, Brasil

Roxana Mastronardi, Argentina

Ruth Zenger, Canada

Rufino Vivar Miranda, Mexico

Sajida Khan, South Africa

Sandra C. Carrillo, USA

Sara Hayes, USA

Saul Landau, USA

Sheila Goldner, USA

Sister Aloysia Zellmann, South Africa

Steve Wheeler, UK

Tobias Schmitt, Germany

Tyrell Haberkorn, USA

Usman Majeed, Canada

Wak Kalola, Canada

Zoraida Crespo Feliciano, Puerto Rico

See for up-to-date list of supporting signatories

To sign on to this declaration please send an email to or visit


From: Inter Press Service
July 25, 2007


[Rachel's introduction: A town in Louisiana is being exposed to unusually high levels of the potent poisin, dioxin, while a U.S. health agency stands aloof taking notes. Is this ethical?]

By Adrianne Appel

BOSTON, Jul 25 (IPS) -- A U.S. health agency has made research subjects of people in tiny Mossville, Louisiana by repeatedly monitoring dangerously high levels of dioxin in their blood while doing nothing to get the community out of harm's way, residents say.

Further, the agency failed to release important test results for five years, and made it difficult for the community to obtain the actual data, say residents and their lawyers.

"The air is staggering," said resident Haki Vincent. "Come stay at my place and you will see firsthand that the air and water is repulsive."

Mossville is closed in by 14 chemical factories, including Petroleum giant Conaco Phillips and Georgia Gulf, a vinyl products manufacturer that had revenues of 2.4 billion dollars in 2006, according to the company.

Dioxin compounds are a byproduct of petroleum processing and vinyl manufacturing and residents in Mossville say the factories are releasing amounts into the air that are making them sick.

Studies show the community suffers from high rates of cancer, upper respiratory problems and reproductive issues, and residents say dioxin pollution is the cause.

Residents want an end to the pollution and want to be moved away from the factories.

"Here in this community, people are being inundated with pollution and it is killing us," said Shirley Johnson, a Mossville resident.

The U.S. health agency, ATSDR, the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, tested the blood of 28 Mossville residents in 1999 and found dioxin at levels two to three times higher than what is considered normal.

But the agency offered no explanation for the high dioxin levels and failed to mention the factories as a possible source.

ATSDR agents left Mossville, and returned in 2001 and re-tested 22 people. It found that average dioxin levels had dropped slightly but were still two to three times higher than normal.

This same year, a division of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency found levels of the dioxin compound vinyl chloride in the air in Mossville at concentrations 100 times what is permitted by federal law, and ethylene dichloride at 20 times.

But again ATSDR failed to consider that the local factories could be responsible for the dioxin in the blood of people in Mossville.

"The source of dioxin exposures in the Mossville residents is not known," the 2001 report says.

The ATSDR did not release the 2001 results until 2006, with no explanation.

"I'm not going to tell you it was the quickest thing we've ever done. It is what it is," Steve Dearwent, an epidemiologist who led the study, told IPS.

"This can only be called callous indifference of agencies to the fact that people in Mossville are sick and dying as a result of toxins being dumped on them," said Nathalie Walker, a lawyer with Advocates for Environmental Human Rights, an environmental group that is representing Mossville.

The historically black community founded in the late 1700s is unincorporated and has had no voting rights in the state and no power to control what businesses operate within its borders. Some factories moved to within 50 feet of people's homes.

"I live in a community that is dying. Schools are gone. Most of the light and happiness of this community doesn't really exist anymore," said resident Delma Bennett. As a project, he photographs many people in the community who use breathing machines.

The ATSDR does not believe that the dioxin levels seen in people in Mossville are high enough to cause health problems, said Dearwent, who was permitted to speak with a reporter only if a U.S. agency communications expert listened in on the conversation.

Dearwent says that in Mossville, older people had the highest levels of dioxin in their blood, and that younger people had nearly normal levels. This points to previous exposures to dioxin, and a reasonable suspect is typical U.S. store-bought food, all of which is contaminated with some amount of dioxin.

"It's perceived that all the dioxin exposure is related to industry. Our interpretation is that it is related to their diet," Dearwent said. However, tests did not show high amounts of dioxin in local Mossville food, he acknowledged.

Before the health agency experts left Mossville in 2001, they advised residents to change their diets, Dearwent said.

There is no evidence that the factories are releasing dioxin that is settling on the community, he said.

"If there is an exorbitant amount of dioxin being released it would show up in the soil, the dust and the people. Especially the younger people," and ATSDR results did not show this, he said.

This interpretation differs markedly from that of independent scientist Wilma Subra, hired by the environmental organisation to do an independent analysis of any dioxin pollution in Mossville.

Subra found dioxin in nearby soil to be 2 to 230 times what the EPA considers acceptable.

Subra also compared the ATSDR data about dioxin in the blood of Mossville residents to the type of dioxin compounds actually being emitted by the five vinyl factories in the town.

The analysis found an exact match between the specific dioxin compounds being released by the factories and the compounds found in the blood, Subra said. Also, the compounds showed up in the blood in the same percentage as those being released by the factories.

"This is inappropriate exposure to the community," Subra said.

Louisiana is known for its long history of gross environmental problems and the situation in Mossville reflects that history, Walker said.

"The politics have not changed. We have a lot of work to do," she said.

"What we're up against is the control of corporations in Louisiana. They have a huge lobbying body and exert a huge influence," said Monique Harden, an attorney with the environmental organisation. Some factories have increased their emissions recently, she said.

Georgia Gulf says the industries in Mossville have improved their environmental records.

"Industry in Louisiana has reduced total [reportable] emissions by more than 80 percent since 1987," Georgia Gulf spokesman Will Hinson said in a statement to IPS.

In 2005, a local Mossville environmental group filed a petition against the U.S. government with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights of the Organisation of American States, on the grounds that Mossville's environmental human rights are being violated. The group is waiting for a response from the U.S. State Department, Walker said.

On Wednesday, Mossville residents traveled to Washington to testify before a Senate committee, to raise questions about the actions of ATSDR and the EPA and ask for help in ending pollution in Mossville.

Change is long past due, said resident David Prince. "Fourteen facilities are just spewing these poisons and nothing has been done. When will it be our turn?"

Copyright 2007 IPS-Inter Press Service


From: Florida Times-Union
July 31, 2007


[Rachel's introduction: People living near the road projects have complained about the coal ash, sold under the name EZBase. They say it drifts into yards, covers cars and irritates some people's breathing. "I can't believe there's not harmful things in that," said Bob Cowell. "I just feel that we were being experimented with.... Who knows how much hazardous material was in that stuff?" It's a fair question.]

By Steve Patterson, The Times-Union

Complaints from neighbors are making Florida's environmental agency rethink a JEA campaign to sell power-plant ash as road-building material.

The gritty gray ash has been used to cover dirt roads in Baker County and Charlton County, Ga., and poured into lower layers of asphalt street projects in Duval, Nassau and St. Johns counties.

But people living near the road projects have complained about the ash, sold under the name EZBase. They say it drifts into yards, covers cars and irritates some people's breathing.

"I can't believe there's not harmful things in that," said Bob Cowell, whose neighborhood streets off Scott Mill Road in Mandarin were torn up for sewer work and are being rebuilt with EZBase.

"I just feel that we were being experimented with.... Who knows how much hazardous material was in that stuff?"

JEA says some road contractors probably used the material incorrectly but insists it is safe. The Florida Department of Environmental Protection approved using EZBase in roadwork two years ago.

"There is really nothing negative about EZBase other than the term 'ash,' " said Scott W. Schultz, the utility's director of byproduct services. JEA officials say selling ash for roadwork has cut the Jacksonville-owned utility's costs by about $8 million.

But there are negative reviews from neighbors.

A mile away from Cowell's home, Bobbie Zontini said her husband has spent a month vacuuming the bottom of their screened-in pool each day to get the grit that blocks the pool filter.

"I kept seeing all this fine silt-like stuff everywhere," said Zontini, who said her asthma got worse when roadwork started. The same stuff has to be swept up from the patio, she said.

Since May, DEP has received EZBase dust complaints from people in Mandarin, Lake Forest in Northwest Jacksonville and Glen St. Mary in Baker County.

The agency has asked JEA for more information about EZBase and how it's being used.

The stuff is made of ash from JEA's Northside Generating Station, which burns petroleum coke and coal mixed with limestone, a common road material.

EZBase becomes cement-like when wet but can dry out and turn brittle.

Now, DEP wants to see whether JEA and road contractors are following rules that were spelled out for those projects.

The agency is also reconsidering whether covering rural dirt roads with the material is a good idea.

"We do, of course, have the right to remove approval," DEP spokeswoman Jill Johnson said. "It's definitely something we're still investigating."

JEA representatives argue people really should think of EZBase a lot like they do limestone. Schultz said more than 90 percent of the material's weight is lime and gypsum. Gypsum from power plants is normally sold as material for drywall, but the Northside plant's low- emissions design results in gypsum that contains enough unburned fuel that it's undesirable.

Cowell, one of the people worried about the ash, notes EZBase comes with a safety sheet warning about exposure to crystalline silica, a material that can damage people's lungs over time.

That's probably not too big a danger, said Guerry H. McClellan, a University of Florida geology professor who has worked on power plant pollution control systems. He said Florida's ground is full of crystalline silica, such as quartz.

The ash also contains relatively high levels of a metal called vanadium. But a toxicologist hired by DEP concluded in 2005 it didn't pose a serious risk.

To see whether the ash produced now is any different, DEP recently asked JEA for results of chemical tests the utility is required to perform on ash every three months.

A few weeks ago, DEP employees found a hill of EZBase stored long-term in Baker County for county road projects. That wasn't allowed under rules set up in 2005, but JEA told the state agency the material will be removed soon.

JEA sells some ash to out-of-state oil refineries that take shipments by rail. But the utility sees road projects as an important way to reuse ash, which it calls byproduct, in hopes of improving public perceptions. It was used in construction on the Wonderwood Expressway and in subdivision roads and parking lots in Jacksonville and St. Johns County.

About 300,000 tons of EZBase have been sold in Florida, according to spokeswoman Gerri Boyce. That's at least 258,000 cubic yards, enough to pour a 12-inch layer over a quarter of a square mile.

Selling ash saves the expense and trouble of dumping it in a landfill, Schultz said, adding that it means mining companies won't have to dig for as much new limestone.

The utility charges contractors just $1 per ton but saved about $8 million on landfill fees, Boyce said.

Even dumping ash can be a problem.

Last year, when a company that was talking with JEA proposed dumping ash at a Ware County, Ga., landfill, neighbors there filled public meetings to keep the ash out.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Department of Energy have both supported projects to recycle ash from power plants. The EPA has studied power plant ash for more than 20 years and doesn't consider it a hazardous waste, said David Goss, executive director of the American Coal Ash Association, a trade group.

But it can still annoy people if it's not handled well.

"When you're putting ash down... almost any kind of ash, you have to be cognizant of what kind of conditions you have," Goss said.

Covering dirt roads with ash isn't common, said Debra Pflughoeft- Hassett, a researcher at the University of North Dakota's Energy & Environmental Research Center. She studied Florida's handling of ash for a federal report last year and spent time talking to JEA about EZBase.

"My suspicion is they have a good product that they can probably use with some tweaking," she said., (904) 359-4263


From: Worldwatch Institute
July 25, 2007


[Rachel's introduction: "Wind power is on track to soon play a major role in reducing fossil fuel dependence and slowing the buildup of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere," according to Worldwatch Senior Researcher Janet Sawin.]

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The 15,200 megawatts of new wind turbines installed worldwide last year will generate enough clean electricity annually to offset the carbon dioxide emissions of 23 average-sized U.S. coal- fired power plants, according to a new Vital Signs Update from the Worldwatch Institute.[1] The 43 million tons of carbon dioxide displaced in 2006 is equivalent to the emissions of 7,200 megawatts of coal-fired power plants, or nearly 8 million passenger cars.

Global wind power capacity increased almost 26 percent in 2006, exceeding 74,200 megawatts by year's end. Global investment in wind power was roughly $22 billion in 2006, and in Europe and North America, the power industry added more capacity in wind than it did in coal and nuclear combined. The global market for wind equipment has risen 74 percent in the past two years, leading to long backorders for wind turbine equipment in much of the world.

"Wind power is on track to soon play a major role in reducing fossil fuel dependence and slowing the buildup of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere," according to Worldwatch Senior Researcher Janet Sawin. "Already, the 43 million tons of carbon dioxide displaced by the new wind plants installed last year equaled more than 5 percent of the year's growth in global emissions. If the wind market quadruples over the next nine years -- a highly plausible scenario -- wind power could be reducing global emissions growth by 20 percent in 2015."

Today, Germany, Spain, and the United States generate nearly 60 percent of the world's wind power. But the industry is shifting quickly from its European and North American roots to a new center of gravity in the booming energy markets of Asia.

In 2006, India was the third largest wind turbine installer and China took the fifth spot, thanks to a 170-percent increase in new wind power installations over the previous year. More than 50 nations now tap the wind to produce electricity, and 13 have more than 1,000 megawatts of wind capacity installed.

As efforts to reduce carbon dioxide emissions accelerate around the globe, dozens of countries are working to add or strengthen laws that support the development of wind power and other forms of renewable energy. Rapid growth is expected in the next few years in several countries, including Australia, Brazil, Canada, France, and Portugal.

"China and the United States will compete for leadership of the global wind industry in the years ahead," says Sawin. "Although the U.S. industry got a 20-year head start, the Chinese are gaining ground rapidly. Whichever nation wins, it is encouraging to see the world's top two coal burners fighting for the top spot in wind energy."


[1] Calculations are based on U.S. data: average capacity factor for new wind power capacity (34%, from American Wind Energy Association); average capacity factor for coal-fired power plants (72%, from North American Electric Reliability Council -- NAERC); average CO2 emissions from U.S. coal-fired power plants (0.95 kg/kWh, from U.S. Energy Information Administration); and average coal-fired power plant capacity (318 megawatts, from NAERC).

Copyright 2007 Worldwatch Institute


From: Environmental Health Perspectives
August 1, 2007


[Rachel's introduction: Most of the early work on PCB-associated health problems focused on the coplanar molecules, but there is new evidence that non-coplanar PCBs "... are reported to prevent dopamine production in monkey brains, to alter behavior in rats, and may even alter neuropsychological functioning in children," explains first author Tal Kenet, a faculty member at Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital.]

By Adrian Burton

Exposure to the non-coplanar polychlorinated biphenyl PCB95 during gestation and nursing causes abnormal development of the auditory cortex in rats, affecting the brain's representation of what is heard, according to new research in the 1 May 2007 issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Since children with autism and other developmental disorders show abnormal responses to sound, suspicions have been raised that PCB95 and similar molecules in the environment might promote this problem and perhaps other language/cognition disorders in children.

Prior to their being banned in the late 1970s as potential carcinogens, PCBs became ubiquitous environmental pollutants that continue to threaten human health. Their molecular stability has maintained them intact, and they have entered the food chain, accumulating in the fat of exposed organisms.

Most of the early work on PCB-associated health problems focused on the coplanar molecules, but there is now evidence that non-coplanar PCBs may cause trouble of their own (coplanar and non-coplanar refer to the chemical structure of the PCBs in question). "They are reported to prevent dopamine production in monkey brains, to alter behavior in rats, and may even alter neuropsychological functioning in children," explains first author Tal Kenet, a faculty member at Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital. "Our research suggests they cause abnormalities in the development of the auditory part of the rat brain."

The researchers fed pregnant rats 6 mg/kg of PCB95 in corn oil daily from day 5 of pregnancy until the weaning of their pups. "We then mapped the boundary and response characteristics of the primary auditory cortex of the pups using a series of electrodes implanted in the brain," says Kenet. "Individual neurons were monitored to see which characteristic sound frequency they responded to." The auditory cortex is one of the first sensory systems to mature.

The maps of the PCB95-exposed rats were found to be oddly shaped and had "holes" in them where neurons seemed not to respond to sound. The maps also included many neurons that showed a lack of frequency selectivity, and the typical posterior-to-anterior distribution of neurons responding to ever higher frequencies was disorganized.

"This must affect how their brains interpret sound," says Kenet. "In addition, we recorded notable imbalances in inhibitory and excitatory signaling between the auditory cortex nerve cells. Without proper balancing, the correct representation of sound cannot be guaranteed. Importantly, children with autism show evidence of imbalances between excitation and inhibition in the brain, but whether it's the same type of imbalance remains to be explored."

The researchers also found the plasticity of the PCB-exposed cortices to be abnormal. Usually, if rat pups are exposed to a particular tone, the area of the cortex that deals with that frequency expands. "That did not happen in the PCB-exposed pups," says Kenet.

"Epidemiological studies have found that children with prenatal PCB exposure do more poorly on tests of verbal learning and memory," says Susan Schantz, a professor of veterinary biosciences at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign College of Veterinary Medicine. "These exciting new findings suggest that underlying changes in the development or plasticity of the auditory cortex may be responsible for those effects." However, Schantz cautions that the rats in these studies received a very high dose of a very potent PCB congener. "In my opinion," she says, "it is unlikely that human infants, even those living in highly polluted areas, would be exposed to similar concentrations. We also need to keep in mind that any effects observed in humans are likely to be much more subtle than the striking changes observed in these rats."

"It would be interesting to know whether animals closer to humans develop disorders resembling autism or other cognitive problems after [environmentally relevant] PCB95 exposures," remarks Jesus Pastor, a senior researcher at the Centre for Environmental Sciences in Madrid, Spain. "That might help reveal how serious this problem could be."

Since PCBs can be passed on to human infants in breast milk, the report raises the question of whether some mothers in highly polluted areas -- perhaps those whose family history points toward a possible genetic risk of autism spectrum disorders -- should bottle-feed rather than breastfeed. However, "some research shows that breastfeeding may actually lessen the negative impact of prenatal exposure, even though children who are breastfed have higher overall body burdens of PCBs," says Schantz.


From: Los Angeles Times
July 30, 2007


[Rachel's introduction: The nuclear industry has never proved that it can deliver on its far-fetched dreams.]

By Paul Josephson

In the last two weeks, the Chinese signed a deal with Westinghouse to build four nuclear power plants; a U.S. utility joined the French national nuclear juggernaut -- with 60 reactors under its belt -- to build stations throughout the United States; and the Russians neared the launch of the first of a dozen nuclear power stations that float on water, with sales promised to Morocco and Namibia. Two sworn opponents -- environmentalists and President Bush -- tout nuclear energy as a panacea for the nation's dependence on oil and a solution to global warming. They've been joined by all the presidential candidates from both parties, with the exception of John Edwards. And none of them is talking about the recent nuclear accident in Japan caused by an earthquake.

These surprising bedfellows base their sanguine assessment of nuclear power on an underestimation of its huge financial costs, on a failure to consider unresolved problems involving all nuclear power stations and on a willingness to overlook this industry's history of offering far-fetched dreams, failing to deliver and the occasional accident.

Since the 1950s, the nuclear industry has promised energy "too cheap to meter," inherently safe reactors and immediate clean-up and storage of hazardous waste. But nuclear power is hardly cheap -- and far more dangerous than wind, solar and other forms of power generation. Recent French experience shows a reactor will top $3 billion to build. Standard construction techniques have not stemmed rising costs or shortened lead time. Industry spokespeople insist they can erect components in assembly-line fashion a la Henry Ford to hold prices down. But the one effort to achieve this end, the Russian "Atommash" reactor factory, literally collapsed into the muck.

The industry has also underestimated how expensive it will be to operate stations safely against terrorist threat and accident. New reactors will require vast exclusion zones, doubly reinforced containment structures, the employment of large armed private security forces and fail-safe electronic safeguards. How will all of these and other costs be paid and by whom?

To ensure public safety, stations must be built far from population centers and electricity demand, which means higher transmission costs than the industry admits. In the past, regulators approved the siting of reactors near major cities based on the assumption that untested evacuation plans would work. Thankfully, after public protests, Washington did not approve Consolidated Edison's 1962 request to build a reactor in Queens, N.Y., three miles from the United Nations. But it subsequently approved licensing of units within 50 miles of New York, Boston, Chicago and Washington, D.C. New Orleans had three days of warning before Hurricane Katrina hit and was not successfully evacuated. A nuclear accident may give us only 20 minutes to respond; this indicates that reactors should be built only in sparsely populated regions.

Finally, what of the spent fuel and other nuclear waste? More than 70,000 tons of spent fuel at nuclear power stations are stored temporarily in basins of water or above ground in concrete casks. The Bush administration held back release of a 2005 National Research Council study, only excerpts of which have been published, because its findings, unsympathetic to nuclear power, indicated that this fuel remains an inviting target for terrorists.

And more than 150 million Americans live within 75 miles of nuclear waste, according to the Office of Civilian Radioactive Waste Management. A storage facility that was supposed to open at Yucca Mountain, Nev., in 1989 still faces legal and scientific hurdles. And if Yucca Mountain opens, how will we transport all of the waste safely to Nevada, and through whose towns and neighborhoods?

Industry representatives, government regulators and nuclear engineers now promise to secure the nation's energy independence through inherently safe reactors. This is the same industry that gave the world nuclear aircraft and satellites -- three of the 30 satellites launched have plummeted to Earth -- and Three Mile Island, Chernobyl and a series of lesser known accidents.

Let's see them solve the problems of exorbitant capital costs, safe disposition of nuclear waste, realistic measures to deal with the threats of terror, workable evacuation plans and siting far from population centers before they build one more station. In early July, President Bush spoke glowingly about nuclear power at an Alabama reactor recently brought out of moth balls; but it has shut down several times since it reopened because of operational glitches. What clearer indication do we need that nuclear power's time has not yet come?

Paul Josephson writes about nuclear power and teaches history at Colby College.


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.

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