Archives for the month of: February, 2012

upstream riverLiving Downstream, by Sandra Steingraber

“There seemed to be a disconnect between the evidence that medical researchers had compiled about the environmental origins of bladder cancer and what patients heard about the evidence” (xiii)

“the chance of an adopted person dying of cancer is more closely related to whether or not her adoptive parents had died of cancer and far less related to whether or not her biological parents had met such a fate.” (xiv)

“For every finding of a positive association, another showed no association or yielded a complicated picture.” (12) The power of complications/haziness for chemical corporations. [my emphasis]

“this study showed a fivefold increase in breast cancer risk among women who had experienced high exposures to DDT before puberty but not in woman so exposed after their breasts had already developed.” (13)

“One researcher pointed out in disgust that DDT was abolished on the basis of less evidence than we now had for atrazine.” (15)

“I think it is reasonable to ask–nearly half a century after Silent Spring alerted us to a possible problem–why so much silence still surrounds questions about cancer’s connection to the environment and why so much scientific inquiry into the issue is still considered ‘preliminary'” (15)

“‘Knowing what I do, there would be no future peace for me if I kept silent.’ Having documented a cavalcade of problems attributable to pesticides–from blindness in fish to blood disorders in humans–she could find no magazine or periodical willing to publish her work.” (19)

“she questioned the cozy relations between scientific societies and for-profit enterprises, such as chemical companies.” (20)


From HEAN:

The Health and Environment Action Network (HEAN) is a national and locally driven effort committed to securing the right of all people to clean air and water. A project of the National Alliance for Hispanic Health (the Alliance) and funded through a grant from the W.F. Kellogg Foundation, HEAN’s goal is to identify health risks from air and water pollution and mobilize community solutions.

At HEAN’s four partner sites around the country, volunteers use Eco-Pacs (mobile pollution sensors, GPS devices, and cameras) to measure air and water pollution in the community. Communities use these measurements, mapped on Google Earth images, with pictures and videos to tell their community’s environmental health story and formulate strategies to address environmental hazards.

Through HEAN, the Alliance and its partner sites are encouraging national and local action to improve the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the health and well-being of communities.



From Science News (quoting Upstream Contributor, Dr. Ana Soto):

An ingredient in plastics and food-can linings coaxes cells from the pancreas to inappropriately secrete the hormone insulin, a finding that bolsters earlier links between type 2 diabetes and low-dose exposure to the chemical.

Bisphenol-A, or BPA, can mimic the effects of estrogen, a hormone that is involved in regulating insulin production in the body. Although controversy persists over BPA’s potency as an estrogen mimic, the new study, published online February 8 in PLoS ONE, finds that the pollutant is every bit as potent as the body’s natural estrogen in terms of triggering insulin release.

“I don’t think that anyone can say now that low-dose effects don’t occur,” says endocrinologist Ana Soto of the Tufts University School of Medicine in Boston, who was not involved in the new work. “It shows that changes happen in human cells — and at concentrations comparable to current levels of human exposure.”

The new work shows that BPA stimulates insulin release through a hormone-activating protein called estrogen receptor beta, or ER-beta, says Angel Nadal of Miguel Hernández University in Elche, Spain, who led the new study. Tiny concentrations of either estrogen or BPA boost the release of insulin. When his group tested mice engineered to produce no ER-beta, the effect went away, demonstrating that the protein is integral to BPA’s perturbation of insulin secretion.

For people with diabetes, oversecretion of insulin might be viewed as a positive development, he says. But in healthy individuals, it could eventually desensitize tissues to the hormone, creating insulin resistance — a hallmark of type 2 diabetes.

“If this happens in people with a genetic predisposition to diabetes, it will accelerate the induction of that disease,” Nadal says. His team has shown that exposure to BPA elevates an animal’s risk of developing insulin resistance. And people with type 2 diabetes — the type caused by the body’s diminished sensitivity to insulin — tend to have elevated concentrations of BPA in urine, a 2008 study showed.

“I don’t think BPA alone will cause type 2 diabetes,” says Franck Mauvais-Jarvis of Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago. Dozens of environmental chemicals can mimic hormones, he says, “and I suspect it’s a cocktail of these nasties that predisposes individuals to developing metabolic disease, whether its type 2 diabetes or obesity.”



A Lake Oswego public affairs firm has come under scrutiny for its role in a broad-based public relations effort mounted by a company seeking to dispel criticism that its widely used herbicide, atrazine, is a public health threat.

The firm, Quinn Thomas Public Affairs, is headed by Doug Badger and Rick Thomas, who are both well known in Republican political circles in the state.

The public relations effort mounted by Syngenta Crop Protection, the subsidiary of a Swiss-based company, was found in company documents obtained through a lawsuit and reported in a lengthy article by the Center for Media and Democracy’s PR Watch.

It’s a fascinating look at how the burgeoning public affairs industry works in seeking to influence regulators and shape public attitudes.

In this case, the company put out a solicitation for PR help and then hired the White House Writers Group, which was started by by a group of former presidential speechwriters. In its proposal to Syngenta, the White House group said it would work with Quinn Thomas. According to the article:

Quinn Thomas “was specifically touted for its success in ‘engaging’ lawyers who represent American consumers and in fighting public interest groups through ‘aggressive third party activity.’ WHWG said Quinn Thomas’ tactics had successfully slowed or reversed ‘activist momentum.'”

The article goes on to say that Quinn Thomas hired an Arizona researcher to look into a journalist who wrote several stories for the Huffington Post about concerns that atrazine — widely used as a weed killer — was being found in municipal water supplies around the Midwest and was a potential public health threat.

The March, 2010 report delivered to Quinn Thomas said the reporter, Danielle Ivory, had broken several stories about atrazine, “which means her professional reputation and ego are tied to the effectiveness of the attack on the chemical.”

The report also questioned her ties with environmental groups through the Tides Foundation. Tides helped fund the Huffington Post Investigative Fund, which at one point employed Ivory. It also said she had worked for a “who’s who of anti-employer employers,” including longtime public broadcasting journalist Bill Moyers and National Public Radio’s Weekend Edition Sunday.

(It was not just Ivory who was looking into atrazine. The New York Times had written in 2009 about concerns that atrazine was potentially dangerous in lower concentrations than previously thought.)

In addition, the PR Watch story said that Quinn Thomas also received a dossier from the same research company on the Natural Resources Defense Council, which published a critical report on atrazine.

PR Watch said that the writers group and Quinn Thomas also worked on an “array of tactics” to advance the company’s strategy of getting third parties to support of echo the company’s point of view.

One tactic was to have Syngenta’s chief scientist ghostwrite a chapter on atrazine that could then be included in a book challenging regulatory policies adverse to the company.

In 2011, a book, “Scared to Death: How Chemophobia Threatens the Public Health,” was released. It was authored by John Entine, a writer at the American Enterprise Institute who the White House Writers Group had contacted. The book included a chapter defending atrazine.

Rick Thomas, one of the partners at Quinn Thomas, declined to talk about the article, saying that the firm’s “general policy is that we do not comment on work that we may do on behalf of our clients.”


Image from Flickr.

%d bloggers like this: