Fall 2002 Newsletter Featured Articles
GBPSR, IPPNW, PSR Co-sponsor "This is Not a Test: A Forum on Terrorism, Health and Security"
On January 15, 2002, GBPSR co-sponsored a forum at Faneuil Hall in Boston on the topic of terrorism and its impact on civilian populations. The forum was planned in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. The evening panel was chaired by John Loretz, of IPPNW. John noted that Faneuil Hall was the location of a meeting marking the re-birth of PSR in March 1979, on the day of the partial meltdown of the Three Mile Island nuclear plant in Pennsylvania.
The panel included six speakers and was followed by a question and answer period. The first speaker, Lachlan Forrow MD, a physician at Beth Israel Hospital and long-time PSR and IPPNW leader, addressed the ongoing threat posed by the nuclear weapons arsenals in the U.S. and Russia. He urged the audience to become part of the future solution to this threat. Dr. Forrow compared the destructive power of the Sept. 11 attacks with the destructive power of the combined nuclear arsenals using a single "bb" pellet with the number of pellets in a liter jar. The point was not to minimize the Sept. attacks, but to point out the vastly larger potential destruction in the event of a nuclear conflict and the "hair-trigger" status of those weapons.
The second speaker was Jeanne Guillemin PhD, a professor at Boston College, who discussed bioterrorism and the anthrax attacks on politicians and media figures the previous Fall. She compared these attacks, which were deadly to several postal employees and others who received exposures through the mail, to the bioterrorism attack using nerve gas in the Tokyo subway system. Dr. Guillemin stressed that the U.S. anthrax was different from any that had been developed in preparedness training scenarios. In particular, she wanted the audience to realize that the anthrax was "military grade" and was a strain developed by the U.S. in its biological weapons program.
Dr. Richard Clapp, an epidemiologist at B.U. and Vice-Chair of GBPSR, then described some lessons learned from nuclear power plant accidents and radioactive releases. He described the potential hazards from releases of radioactive material from nuclear power plants that were themselves the targets of a terrorist attack. He urged the audience to support the distribution of potassium iodide (KI) as a preventive measure against thyroid cancer in such a scenario.
Dr. Clapp was followed by David Ozonoff MD MPH, Chair of Environmental Health at B.U. School of Pubic Health, who pointed out the lack of preparedness in the public health and hospital infrastructure. He described the inability of the existing hospitals to handle a large number of burn victims, for example, and he called for a new attitude toward public service and public health in order the meet the potential health threat from terrorist attacks.
The psychological impacts of the trauma and fear engendered by a terrorist attack were the topic of Boston psychiatrist Ruth Barron MD's presentation. She described her work with the Red Cross in implementing a network of volunteer professionals to provide counseling services along with the physical health and security services provided to victims of traumatic events. She urged the audience to remember at least one thing from her talk, e.g., "it is the disaster that is abnormal, not the individual" who is suffering from the effects of surviving it.
Finally, Jill Stein MD, who currently practices at Simmons College, gave a family doctor's prescription for what we all can do to preserve our health and security in these times. One suggestion was to change our government, but short of that, urge individuals to preserve their own and their family's health by taking seriously the strategies we already know about. Furthermore, we should all press for preventive policy on the statewide and national levels, including active work toward eliminating weapons of mass destruction.
The evening ended with questions from the audience and answers from panelists and other members of the audience. As always, the ultimate impact of the Forum can only be measured in the combined actions of the people who felt inspired to do something in the subsequent weeks and months. Judging from the earnestness and seriousness of those in attendance, that impact was no doubt considerable.
- Dick Clapp
Many thanks to the following for financial or in-kind support:
- PSR National
- Wainwright Bank Community Fund of the Boston Foundation
- The Boston University Basic Superfund Research Project
- David duBusc, photography
- Rosylyn Rhee, videographer
In Harm's Way Medical Trainings Held in Boston and San Francisco
GBPSR's In Harm's Way educational programs and materials continue to be very well received. In the past year three daylong Training Programs for Health Professionals, held in New York, Boston, and San Francisco, have brought together nearly 400 health practitioners, scientists, academics, and advocates to learn about the linkages between toxic chemical exposures and neurodevelopmental disabilities.
In addition to the three daylong trainings held to date, over 60 shorter presentations have been conducted throughout this country and Canada since early 2000.
The trainings are based on GBPSR's peer reviewed report In Harm's Way: Toxic Threats to Child Development, released in May 2000. Since then over 6500 reports and 25,000 "Out of Harm's Way" fact sheets for patients have been distributed nationally to a wide range of individuals and organizations.
In Harm's Way has been cited and referenced in numerous academic and medical publications, and we have published journal articles in Environmental Health Perspectives and the Journal of Behavioral and Developmental Pediatrics on the issue. Media coverage has also continued, such as in the ABC television newsmagazine 20/20 segment "Fish Risk," in which Dr. Jill Stein appeared, and The Washingtonian, "Secrets of the Womb" article, in which Dr. Ted Schettler was quoted and IHW was mentioned.
Trainings and Presentations
San Francisco - April 27, 2002
The California Bay Area conference was held at Lucile Packard Children's Hospital /Stanford University Medical Center. It was co-sponsored by San Francisco PSR, the Center for Children's Environmental Health Research at the School of Public Health of the University of California, Berkeley, the California Chapter 1 of the AAP, GBPSR, and many others including National PSR.
According to Brian Linde MD who helped organize the training attended by over 100, "Scientists, health care providers, and community activists gathered on April 27th to review environmental threats to child health in a meeting characterized by an unusual and highly successful mix of academic, research-based presentations combined with political activism and social justice…the event succeeded so well especially because of the hard work and supreme organizational skills of our staff Program Director, Julie Silas JD."
Keynote speaker Birt Harvey MD, Past President of the American Academy of Pediatrics; Gina Solomon MD MPH, Senior Staff Scientist at the Natural Resources Defense Council; Bob Gould MD, SF/PSR Chapter President (and President-elect of National PSR); Asa Bradman PhD, co-director of the Center for Children's Environmental Health Research at UC Berkeley; and report authors Ted Schettler MD MPH of GBPSR, and David Wallinga MD, of the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy.
GBPSR provided planning, organizing and on-site support as well as the educational materials.
Boston - May 9, 2002
The Boston training was held at the Boston University School of Medicine and included a dynamic mix of clinicians, policy experts, and advocates interested in children's health and the environment. It was co-sponsored by Boston University School of Medicine, Boston University School of Public Health, Departments of Environmental Health, and Maternal and Child Health, the Kresge Center for Environmental Health, Harvard School of Public Health, MA Nurses Association, MA Public Health Association, Tufts Univ. Medical School, National PSR, and Dept. of Work Environment, UMass, Lowell.
Featured speakers included:
Sean Palfrey MD, President-elect MA American Academy of Pediatrics; keynote speaker Barry Zuckerman MD, Chair of the Pediatrics Dept., Boston Medical Center; Dick Clapp MPH DSc, BU School of Public Health and GBPSR; David Ozonoff MD MPH, Chair, Dept. of Env. Health, BUSPH; Howard Hu MD MPH ScD, Harvard School of Public Health; Laurie Martinelli JD MPH, Health Law Advocates Inc., as well as In Harm's Way authors including Jill Stein MD.
The afternoon sessions brought together clinicians and advocates from local organizations. It was attended by 130 from the New England region as well as from a dozen states around the country. We thank Dick Clapp and Sean Palfrey from BU, and Michelle Gottlieb, Marybeth Palmigiano, and Maria Valenti from GBPSR for helping to make this program such a success.
Participant feedback from both sessions was excellent. Some faculty and attendees have gone on to help organize other trainings, others have been using the training materials to lecture in other medical settings.
Minneapolis - October 12, 2002
Co-sponsored by the University of Minnesota School of Public Health, Minnesota Department of Health, GBPSR, PSR (National Office), Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy and others. Contact Kathleen Schuler, 612-870-3468 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Examples of shorter IHW presentations
by Drs. Ted Schettler, Jill Stein, Dick Clapp, and others
- Children's Health and the Environment: A Conference for Great Lakes Physicians, Cook County Hospital, Chicago, IL
- Children's Hospital Grand Rounds, Oakland, CA
- Partners in Perinatal Health Conference, Boston, MA
- Pediatric Grand Rounds, CT Children's Medical Ctr., Hartford, CT
- Learning Disabilities Association of America Conference, Denver, CO
- Health Care Professionals Workshop on In Harm's Way, Anchorage, AK
- New England Conference on Environment, Health, and Medicine, UConn School of Medicine, Farmington, CT
- 14th Conference of the International Society for Environmental Epidemiology (ISEE), The Univ. of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada
In order to support trainings being organized by sister PSR chapters and others around the country, GBPSR has created a series of template documents or "In Harm's Way conference in a box," to help reduce staff and planning time for events. The package includes over 50 documents such as applying for physician and nursing continuing medical education (CME) credits, outreach guidance to attract faculty and medical co-sponsors, training binder curriculum and resource documents, etc.
Dra. Lilian Corra, vice president of International Society of Doctors for the Environment, has translated IHW into Spanish and it is currently in production for printing in Argentina. Dr. Corra will present In Harm's Way at the September meeting of the Argentinean Society of Paediatrics.
The Why Breast-feeding is Still Best for Baby, and Creating a Healthy Environment for Your Child's Development fact sheets have been modified to address special at-risk populations, and translated into Spanish. All the new materials will be posted on the GBPSR web site (www.igc.org/psr/) and will be used as educational tools for outreach to communities.
In order to leverage our limited resources and broaden knowledge and distribution of our programs and materials, we continue to seek collaborations and alliances with others such as the Learning Disabilities Association of America (LDA), the Learning and Developmental Disabilities Initiative (LDDI) of the Collaborative on Health and Environment, San Francisco Bay Area PSR, and San Francisco Clean Water Fund.
Distribution and Use of Reports and Materials
We continue to receive numerous requests for materials. Some recent examples include: From the International Joint Commission's Health Professionals Task Force to use slides from IHW for their biennial forum on health; for the course, "Learning Differences and Disabilities," Univ. of California Berkeley Extension; from the New Hampshire Statewide Task Force on Breast-Feeding to distribute Breast-Feeding Fact sheets; to use the "Framework" figure in a medical text on alternative treatments for ADHD; for use in medical training of residents at Tufts Medical School; to use figures from "In Harm's Way" for a Japanese NGO booklet for protecting children.