History of Accomplishments
a national campaign to press for ratification of a New START follow-on
agreement and the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty working in concert with our
disarmament community partners in Washington and with vital leadership from PSR
chapters in key states.
on the United States and Russia to “end the nuclear weapons era once and for
all” in a letter presented in March to President Obama and President Medvedev,
which was signed by more than 300 of the world’s top physicians—senior faculty
and deans of medical schools, heads of medical associations, health ministers,
medical journal editors, and Nobel laureates from 38 countries.
Capitol Hill briefings and participated in a series of meetings with
administration and defense department officials to press for deep reductions in
U.S. and Russian nuclear forces.
Environment and Health
physicians and concerned citizens across the country to deliver the medical and
public health voice in the debate around coal-fired power plants. Working
with coalition partners, we succeeded in stopping construction of proposed new
plants in five states.
and widely disseminated a set of guiding principles for climate change policy
to prioritize the public’s health in the debate in Congress over climate and
energy legislation enabling us to win several legislative battles.
Hazardous Chemicals in Health Care: A Snapshot of Chemicals in Doctors and
Nurses, a report documenting the toxic chemicals found in the bodies of 20
doctors and nurses participating in PSR’s bio-monitoring project. The
release was covered in 196 media stories.
a groundbreaking report, “Coal’s Assault on Human Health,” that reviews the
cumulative adverse effects of coal combustion on the human respiratory,
cardiovascular, and nervous systems, to inform the national energy debate and
for use in expert testimony, press briefings and meetings with federal, state,
and local decision makers.
national leadership to stop government subsidies for new nuclear reactors,
resulting in no new nuclear loan guarantees being authorized in the 2009
economic stimulus bill or in the FY2010 Appropriations bill and limiting
nuclear loan guarantees in the House climate bill before it passed in June.
opposition and released a critical report on the Global Nuclear Energy
Partnership (GNEP), a program to restart reprocessing spent fuel in the United
States, which resulted in the cancellation of the project by the Obama
an updated “Principles for Safeguarding Nuclear Waste at Reactor Sites,” a
statement supported by over 170 national and local organizations from all 50
states that calls for securing spent fuel at reactors sites against accidents
grassroots groups in Maryland, Florida, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Texas, to
resist various advances in those states by the nuclear reactor industry, from
Construction Work in Progress to efforts to overturn state bans on new nuclear
Student Physicians for Social
a medical student conference in New York that was the culmination of a year
filled with progress, growth and expansion. Our medical student program
continued to prepare students and set them on a path for long-term physician
activism. The conference brought together up-and-coming physician
activists with thought leaders and mentors.
|Thanks in part to PSR’s efforts—engaging administration officials, mobilizing prominent physicians to lead state-based campaigns, securing well-placed media coverage—we saw greater attention paid to nuclear security issues in the United States and around the world in 2009 than had been seen in more than a decade.
Security Program works to improve national policy formulation and
decision-making about nuclear weapons and technology through the combined
efforts of credible, committed physicians and our active and concerned citizen
members. We articulate both the health threats and the security threats
posed by nuclear weapons and we press for reduced U.S. reliance on nuclear
weapons in national security policy. We work to lead the U.S. and the
world toward the ultimate elimination of all nuclear weapons.
Our work in 2009 focused on promoting the need for an agreement between the
United States and Russia on extension of the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty
(START) and immediate, verifiable nuclear weapon and delivery system
reductions; for ratification of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty
(CTBT); and pressing for other specific steps in the context of advocacy for
the eventual global elimination of nuclear weapons.
strong campaigns across the country in states that were critical to winning
support for reducing the role of nuclear weapons in our national
security. Our physicians were mobilized to speak out against nuclear
weapons in the states even as we worked “inside the beltway” to press our
agenda with the administration and congress.
physicians met with key senators, and were vocal advocates on nuclear weapons
issues, speaking at public forums, and authoring op-eds in local newspapers. In
a continuation of successful collaboration, PSR worked with the Center for Arms
Control and Nonproliferation/Council for a Livable World to deliver nuclear
weapons educational events featuring PSR doctors and retired military experts
in key states.
Following the October 9 announcement that President Obama had been awarded the
2009 Nobel Peace Prize, PSR launched Countdown to Oslo, a campaign to
use the historic occasion to draw attention to the goal of nuclear
disarmament. As an affiliate of International Physicians for the
Prevention of Nuclear War, which won the 1985 Nobel Peace Prize for educating
the public and policymakers about the risks of nuclear war, PSR was in a unique
position to generate media attention and public interest around the
event. The Countdown to Oslo petition drive collected over 4,000
signatures urging President Obama to take specific steps toward a world free of
decision makers to make public health promotion, disease prevention, and
environmental sustainability the prism through which health care and
environmental policies are viewed at the institutional, municipal, state, and
and Health Program advocates for policies to avert climate change, generate a sustainable
energy future, minimize toxic pollution of air, food and drinking water, and
prevent human exposure to toxic substances. We provide the medical voice
and scientific authority to communicate the public health urgency of
drastically reducing carbon pollution.
In 2009, we
advocated for strong comprehensive climate policies; mobilized the health voice
to promote reducing our dependence on coal electric generation and in favor of
clean, safe, renewable energy alternatives. We educated the public using
a range of techniques including public presentations, letters to the editor and
op-ed articles, press conferences, editorial board meetings, and other media
work. In hearings, briefings, and legal challenges, we brought expert
testimony on the health consequences of coal plants directly to energy
decision-makers. In November, we published Coal’s Assault on Human Health,
our 64-page report and executive summary, detailing the grave health impacts of
coal on the human respiratory, cardiovascular, and nervous systems.
Kristen Welker-Hood, director of
environment and health program, Alan Lockwood, M.D., PSR National board
member, Molly Rauch, PSR senior policy analyst and Barbara Gottlieb, PSR deputy
director of environment and health program.
Toxics Program promoted public policies that protect the public from toxic
chemical exposure. We worked to reduce the production, use, and release of
toxic chemicals by pressing for comprehensive chemical reform. We urged
policymakers to incorporate the precautionary approach into local, state, and
federal chemical policy debate.
We drew a sharp
spotlight on the urgent need for chemical reform by exposing the serious issue
of chemical exposure in health care professionals. In cooperation with
the American Nurses Association, Health Care Without Harm, and Clean New York,
we conducted a bio-monitoring project that tested 20 doctors and nurses for the
presence in their bodies of chemicals linked to health problems.
Participants then underwent a two-day advocacy and media training to launch
them into their role as advocates. Hazardous Chemicals in Health Care: A Snapshot of Chemicals in Doctors and Nurses, is a report on the project
and the test results.
Through the Pediatric Environmental Health Toolkit project, we provided clinical education and
advocacy training to physicians and other health professionals helping to
incorporate environment and health preventative assessment and education into
standard of care.
of a “nuclear renaissance,” no electric utility will build a new reactor
without shifting the financial risks to U.S. taxpayers through loan guarantees
and/or to ratepayers through increased electricity rates. PSR’s reinvigoration
in 1979 coincided with the worst nuclear accident in U.S. history—Three Mile
Island—and set us on a course to lead the movement against more taxpayer
subsidies to restart the industry.
Energy program focuses on educating congress, the administration, the public
and the media about the economic risks, as well as the health and environmental
costs, associated with new reactors. We promote safe, clean energy and
efficiency as the lasting solution to climate change and to meeting the
nation’s energy needs. We coordinate the efforts of a national coalition
to prevent more government subsidies to the nuclear power industry; assist
grassroots organizations in their efforts to prevent the construction of new
nuclear reactors; and operate a national media campaign to increase public
understanding of the economic and health risks of nuclear power and
reprocessing of spent fuel.
In 2009, PSR’s
Safe Energy Program led a broad coalition of national and state-based
organizations working to prevent the construction of new nuclear
reactors. The program ensured that no additional nuclear loan guarantees
for new reactors were authorized in 2009. We led the successful
educational effort to prevent $50 billion in nuclear reactor loan guarantees
from being authorized in the Senate federal stimulus bill. Our advocacy
work resulted in limiting nuclear power subsidies in the House climate/energy
Map showing existing, proposed, and suspended or cancelled reactor sites
We raised alarms
and cast doubts about the viability and safety of proposed nuclear reactors and
succeeded in shifting the emphasis of media reports to focus, in part, on the
exorbitant cost to taxpayers of new reactors as a serious problem. We
helped to lead the effort to secure the cancellation of the Global Nuclear
Energy Partnership program to restart reprocessing in the U.S. PSR also
provided assistance to grassroots groups to challenge proposed new reactors and
to protect state moratoria on new reactors.
We sponsored Dr.
Stephen Thomas, professor of energy policy from the University of Greenwich in
the UK, to debunk myths of the “global nuclear renaissance” and the “French
model” in media and Hill briefings.
fulfill students’ interest in—and desire for—civic engagement through educational
opportunities, such as webinars, meetings, and conferences, and by mobilizing
around public advocacy campaigns. It lays the foundation for them to
become the next generation of global and local physician activists.
SPSR inspires medical
students to participate in advocacy and encourages them to perceive such
participation as an essential component of their professional training—and,
subsequently, their professional life. By introducing medical
students to activism, providing them with avenues of engagement, and giving
them real-world experience, SPSR prepares future generations of physicians to
engage in issues of global importance.
2009, SPSR added to its successful track record of empowering medical students
with the skills to be advocates, activists, and leaders in the PSR network,
their communities, and the nation. The highlight of the year was the
biannual medical student conference for students interested in learning about
important global issues such as nuclear nonproliferation and climate change.
More than 100
medical students and health professionals from around the world came to Mount
Sinai School of Medicine in New York City to attend Prescription for a
Healthy and Secure Planet. The conference featured renowned medical, public
health, environment, and security experts, including Dr. Paul Epstein,
associate director of the Center for Health and the Global Environment at Harvard
Medical School; Joseph Cirincione, president of Ploughshares Fund; and Peggy
Shephard, executive director of WEACT for Environmental Justice.
PSR National staff member Laicie Olson with medical student representatives Tova Fuller and Lauren Zajac.
conference was designed to help prepare the next generation of physician
leaders to be successful advocates for change, an opportunity for informal
interaction and networking among students, and a chance to share strategies and
ideas. The conference also gave medical students time to meet and interact with
current leaders in physician activism.
“We were all inspired to work harder, learn more
and share what we know. That alone should demonstrate that the conference was a
-Jessie Duvall, medical student chapter leader
University of Washington SPSR chapter
Founded in 1961, Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR) soon made its mark by documenting the presence of Strontium-90 a highly radioactive waste product of atmospheric nuclear testing in children’s teeth. This finding led to the Limited Nuclear Test Ban treaty that ended atmospheric nuclear testing.
Over the next two decades, PSR continued its founding mission to achieve nuclear disarmament, bringing attention to both the catastrophe of atomic warfare and the legacy of these weapons, from fallout, power accidents, nuclear winter, and radiation experiments and exposures on solider and workers. PSR published articles on the public health disaster to follow nuclear conflict, helped secure classified documents on radiation exposures and contamination, and pushed for reductions in nuclear arsenals.
PSR became, and continues to be, the medical and public health voice calling for the elimination of nuclear weapons. PSR’s work to educate the public about the medical and health consequences of nuclear war grew into an international movement with the founding of International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW). PSR’s articles in the New England Journal of Medicine in 1962, detailing the catastrophic consequences of a thermonuclear war involving the U.S., refuted the view that recovery from a massive nuclear attack was merely a matter of planning in advance. PSR’s medical symposia about the effects of a nuclear attack on the U.S., held around the country in the early 1980s, made the nuclear issue relevant to individual citizens and mobilized public support for arms control and a nuclear weapons freeze.
In 1985, PSR shared in the 1985 Nobel Peace Prize awarded to IPPNW for building public pressure to reverse the nuclear arms race. In the 1990s, PSR built on its record of achievement by helping to end nuclear warhead production and winning U.S. passage of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty that still offers the possibility of a world without nuclear tests.
Since then, PSR’s Security program has continued to educate and mobilize the medical and health community and concerned citizens on nuclear disarmament issues through:
- publicizing public health concerns about DOE nuclear plants that resulted in public outcry and was integral to halting their operations and a national campaign that helped stop construction of other nuclear production plants thus imposing the long-sought nuclear weapons freeze and enforcing environmental cleanup at federal facilities;
- publishing Dead Reckoning, a critical review of DOE’s epidemiologic research on the health risks of nuclear weapons production, that helped prompt the transfer of nuclear weapons production health studies from DOE to the Department of Health and Human Services and improved oversight of research on the hazards of making and testing nuclear weapons;
- providing medical expertise that helped force DOE to release previously classified information about U.S. government-sponsored radiation experiments on human subjects;
- producing an expert critique of the National Cancer Institute’s study regarding the health impacts of U.S. atmospheric nuclear tests that revealed the Institute had underestimated the health risks of the fallout;
- forcing the issue of worker compensation into the public domain that resulted in the DOE taking responsibility for occupational illnesses suffered by its workers at nuclear weapons plants;
- producing and distributing "Forgotten Nuclear Sites Information and Action Kits" that identified formerly undisclosed nuclear weapons production sites;
- releasing educational resources on vital security issues, including Projected U.S. Casualties and Destruction of U.S. Medical Services, Nuclear Terrorism, published in the British Medical Journal, that examines a possible terrorist scenario including catastrophic loss of life and massive destruction of hospitals and health facilities that would occur; and
- revealing a long-suppressed study confirming that the effects of Cold War era nuclear testing were far worse and more widespread than originally reported, and calling for a federally sponsored education and outreach campaign to alert the public to the dangers of nuclear testing fallout.
In the past several years, PSR’ Security Program has had notable success, often in collaboration with the nuclear disarmament community, including:
- educating the public about the impact of an Iraq war on human health and opposing the precipitous invasion in PSR ads in The New York Times, The Nation and Roll Call and reporting on a PSR physician’s trip to Iraq on a public health survey mission just prior to the war;
- receiving commendation in a New York Times editorial for “taking a broader view” in opposing language inserted in the Energy bill that would remove longstanding restrictions on the international trade in Highly Enriched Uranium for the purpose of producing medical isotopes;
- organizing and participating in several workshops at the 2005 NPT Review Conference that examined the future of the NPT and the need for alternative energy sources to combat the proliferation dangers inherent in fulfilling Article IV;
- airing radio ads that assisted a bipartisan effort in Congress effort to make renewed testing practically impossible in Nevada;
- launching the SMART (Sensible Multilateral American Response to Terrorism) and Nuclear Terrorism campaigns;
- playing a major role, along with our Maine chapter, in the demise of the Robust Nuclear Earth Penetrator (bunker buster);
- winning an amendment in the House of Representatives that added significant funds to the Global Threat Reduction Initiative;
- providing physician testimony to and working with Congressional policymakers to reveal the health dangers of the proposed Yucca Mountain nuclear waste site;
- helping to pass an amendment to the OD Authorization bill in the House of Representatives ordering a comprehensive study on possible health effects from exposure to depleted uranium on U.S. soldiers and their children;
- garnering over 800 health professional and concerned citizen signatures on a PSR letter to President Bush demanding that he abandon the options of a nuclear attack or the use of preventive force in Iran.
In 1992, PSR expanded its mission to apply its medical expertise to environmental health issues, in recognition that global climate change and toxic pollution also pose grave risks to human health. That same year, PSR’s mobilization of the medical community on environmental health issues led to a collaboration among MIT, the Harvard School of Public Health, Brown University and PSR’s Greater Boston chapter that resulted in Critical Condition, Dr. Eric Chivian’s definitive volume on human health and the environment.
Since then, PSR has brought the medical and public health prospective to advance environmental health and protect today’s and future generations from the effects of pesticides and mercury and to promote renewable energy solutions and energy security. Highlights of the PSR Environment & Health Program’s successes, often achieved working in tandem with colleague organizations and which illustrate our endurance and persistence include:
- playing an instrumental role in a lead role in passage of the Safe Drinking Water Act and producing reports on drinking water and disease, arsenic in drinking water, and Tap Water Blues, a report that revealed that 14 million Americans were drinking water contaminated by several agricultural pesticides; that report and PSR’s finding that 39 Members of Congress were spending taxpayer money on bottled water while blocking steps to clean up water from the tap led to the passage of drinking water reforms; organizing pediatric physicians around the devastating developmental and neurological effects of childhood lead poisoning that resulted in significant federal provisions to prevent lead poisoning in the National Housing bill of 1992;
- launching the Death by Degrees campaign, which took global climate change local with state-specific reports detailing health threats and supporting local efforts to cut greenhouse gas emissions; and state updates to those reports, A Breath of Fresh Air: How Sustainable Energy Can Protect Health;
- serving as the Secretariat for the International POPs Elimination Network IPEN, a network of more than 300 public health and environmental groups that participated in negotiations to adopt the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants. The POPs treaty was adopted by 120 countries and was the first global treaty to seek to ban an entire class of chemicals because of their direct effects on human health;
- providing PSR experts on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that helped turn the tide of scientific opinion toward acceptance of the concept that human activities alter world climate and helped shape the Kyoto climate treaty;
- advocating for a reduction of carbon dioxide emissions and the ratification of the Kyoto Protocol and participated in the negotiations of the Kyoto Protocol at The Hague;
- launching a national mercury campaign which resulted in FDA strengthening its fish consumption advisory for methylmercury and providing guidance for women and children; producing in multiple languages a Healthy Fish, Healthy Families guide for consumers about what fish are safe to eat, and a Quick Reference Guide for Clinicians about how to counsel their patients on safer fish consumption; and
- producing reports on emerging links between environmental pollutants and disease, including both Parkinson’s disease and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
Highlights of more recent accomplishments on environmental health include:
- launching an Energy Security Initiative focused on environmental health and security issues and their impact on public health, and producing and holding briefings on our report, Powering Foreign Policy: The Role of Oil and Diplomacy in Conflict, that have brought together a diverse array of public policy organizations, congressional policymakers, embassy staff, security experts and the media; and mobilizing thousands of PSR activists to send a letter to President Bush for inadequately funding research and development of renewable energy technologies and for failing to implement the most effective tools for decreasing U.S. oil consumption conservation and energy efficiency.
- leading the health community efforts to promulgate stronger standards for particulate matter, with PSR physicians testifying at EPA hearings in Philadelphia, Chicago and San Francisco; garnering more than 5,000 comments from PSR e-activists to the EPA, and obtaining signatures from medical, nursing and public health organizations, including the American Cancer Society, the American Lung Association and the American Heart Association, on a PSR letter promoting tighter regulations on fine and coarse particulates;
- recruiting the American Academy of Pediatrics, American Nurses Association and APHA to join PSR in filing an historic, first-ever health groups-only lawsuit challenging the EPA’s dangerous mercury rule; and
- taking the initiative on an amendment to the Interior and Environment appropriations bill that provides $1 million for the National Academy of Sciences to complete a study on the health impacts of global warming and the preparedness of the US health care system.
To view these and other PSR accomplishments which resulted because of our members’ commitment to a safe and healthy world, click here.