History of Accomplishments
- Won a major victory against nuclear weapons with our work for the successful ratification of the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START), the first treaty in a generation which significantly lowers the number of strategic arms of the United States and Russia.
- Inspired more citizens to join the movement to eliminate nuclear weapons through the action- based ―1 More for Zero‖ campaign, which included speaking engagements, educational events media outreach and thousands of calls and letters aimed at drawing a spotlight on the global threat posed by nuclear weapons.
- Reached new audiences in collaboration with chapters through special screenings of the -Countdown to Zero, a compelling documentary about the history of nuclear weapons and the present dangers associated with the proliferation.
Environment and Health
- Addressed the public health threat posed by coal ash by releasing Coal Ash: The Toxic Threat to Our Health and Environment and utilizing this report in testimony before the Environmental Protection Agency in hearings on coal ash disposal and dozens of radio interviews in states from Florida to Illinois.
- Raised the focus on a range of environmental issues—climate and energy choices, air pollution management, through the Environmental Health Policy Institute, an online resource for expert views and ideas on toxics policy. A different issue is highlighted monthly.
- Educated community workers and health professionals through the Safe and Healthy Children project about preventive measures to protect migrant farm workers’ children from environmental hazards such as pesticides, lead, and overexposure to sun and heat.
- Led major coalition effort with more than a dozen organizations to successfully prevent any new loan guarantees for the construction of new nuclear reactors in the U.S.
- Successfully protected laws prohibiting the construction of new nuclear reactors in several states and worked to prevent increased electricity rates for new reactors. Collaborated with PSR chapters and grassroots groups in these and other efforts.
- Stopped legislative efforts to undermine safety reviews for new reactor construction by raising public safety and health threats posed by nuclear reactors.
Student Physicians for Social Responsibility
- Mobilized new medical student leaders through the 2010 National SPSR Leadership Summit, in Washington D.C., educating future medical leaders about public health issues and honed leadership skills.
- Launched new medical student chapters in several states, including Alabama, California, Illinois, Maryland and Washington D.C.
- Provided direction, training and support to student advocates and chapters including disseminating the newly updated leadership guide Student Medical Advocacy Toolkit.
- Launched 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.
- Called 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.
- Sponsored 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
- Mobilized 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.
- Developed 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.
- Released 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.
- Released 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.
- Provided 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.
- Organized 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 administration.
- Re-released 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 and attacks.
- Helped 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 reactors.
Student Physicians for Social Responsibility
- Convened 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.
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.
Safe Energy Program
PSR’s Safe 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.
Despite claims 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.
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 bill.
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.
To view these and other PSR accomplishments which resulted because of our members’ commitment to a safe and healthy world, click here.