Feature Articles from 2001 and earlier
IHW Pilot Training Held at the New York Academy of Medicine
As a follow-on to the successful launch and wide distribution of the report In Harm's Way: Toxic Threats to Child Development (IHW), GBPSR implemented Phase II of the IHW project. This focused on the development of a model training program for health professionals, and associated educational materials for providers and patients, based on the findings of IHW. It was funded by the John Merck Fund, the Jessie B. Cox Charitable Trust, the W. Alton Jones Foundation, the Mitchell Kapor Foundation, the EPA Office of Children's Health Protection, and the Jewish Healthcare Foundation.
On April 26, 2001, GBPSR conducted a pilot In Harm's Way training for health professionals at the New York Academy of Medicine. It addressed the contributions that toxic chemicals may make to neurodevelopmental disorders, and the issue of health professionals as public health advocates. Co-sponsored by the New York Academy of Medicine and the Center for Children's Health and the Environment at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, the CME program was attended by over 150 health professionals, educators, children's advocates, and others.
Drs. Philip Landrigan and Michael McCally, Director and Co-Director respectively of the Sinai Children's Center, keynoted and moderated the training. Other speakers/faculty included Audrey McMahon, Research Committee of the Learning Disabilities Association of America; physician co-authors of In Harm's Way Drs. Jill Stein, Ted Schettler, and David Wallinga; Dr. Barbara Sattler, University of Maryland School of Nursing; Elizabeth Blackburn, EPA Office of Children's Health Protection; and Susan West, National PSR Environmental Program Director. Local New York health care providers and health advocates co-led workshops.
Positive Evaluations Received
Plenary sessions addressed the broader topics while workshops focused on clinical interventions to prevent toxic exposures. Attendees included professionals from as far away as Japan. The presentations were extremely well received and reflected in the overwhelmingly positive evaluations. Training binders included the In Harm's Way Training PowerPoint presentation of 69 slides in print and on diskette (the core curriculum), and companion materials that included "Out of Harm's Way" prevention-oriented fact sheets designed for providers and patients, and two extensive resource guides. Many attendees reported that this comprehensive package would allow them to educate their colleagues and patients on the topic.
In addition to the IHW report, available to download in its entirety or by chapter, many of the training materials are now available to download free at the GBPSR web site www.igc.org/psr. They include:
- Training Program for Health Professionals PowerPoint presentation with speaker notes and extensive references;
- PowerPoint presentation plus audio accompaniment of speakers taped at the NYAM training (linked through the University of Maryland web site thanks to Dr. Barbara Sattler);
- Four Out of Harm's Way fact sheets - Health Care Provider Fact Sheet, Chemicals and Their Effects, How to Create a Healthy Environment for Your Child's Development, and Why Breast-Feeding is Still Best for Baby.
Viewed on-line, the fact sheets also contain direct links to resources.
Replicating Trainings Throughout the Country
Due to the success of the New York training, GBPSR will be conducting an IHW training in the Boston area, and is currently working with PSR National on a joint fundraising and strategic plan to replicate the IHW training nationwide. IHW trainings in planning stages include:
San Francisco PSR (SF PSR) has begun planning for a training in the Bay area for April 2002. The Center for Children's Environmental Health Research at the School of Public Health of the University of California, Berkeley, has agreed to co-sponsor the training. SF PSR has garnered support from the San Francisco Medical Association, the California Medical Association, the Northern California Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, and Health Care Without Harm. Contact: Julie Silas, Co-Director of Programs, San Francisco PSR - firstname.lastname@example.org
The John Merck fund has awarded funding for continued IHW activities including organizing a daylong training in the Boston area that we hope to conduct in the Spring of 2002. We are currently seeking medical sponsors and other partners. A planning group is being formed.
Minnesota Twin Cities Area
IHW co-author Dr. David Wallinga has been speaking on IHW at various venues in Minnesota including to Kiwanis clubs, the Children's Health Coalition, and the Children's Environmental Health Working Group of the Minnesota legislature. He has also been garnering support to conduct a daylong training, and is currently fundraising to support this and to build alliances on children's health.
Health for Sale
The long arm of industry influence on the policies and regulations that are intended to protect public health is well known-or is it? Everyone is aware how corporate lobbyists dominate the Washington, DC legislative and regulatory scene, and of the revolving doors between corporate and federal agency payrolls-or are they?
Cases too big for the spin masters to conceal or transform into more positive pictures are now notorious. For example, the March 2000 "The Nation" article that chronicled how General Motors, Du Pont and Standard Oil of New Jersey, who joined together to put lead in gasoline, denied for decades the known health hazards of lead, hounded public-interest scientists who spoke out on lead dangers, and controlled health studies on lead.
However, there are many more subtle ways to influence how laws and regulations are written, interpreted, and executed. One tactic is to dominate debates on science advisory committees and coerce opinions of members so that recommendations are more industry friendly. It's easy. Corporate scientists and consultants are paid to sit on these committees. Public health scientists and advocates usually have to donate their time and expertise to help balance the scales. And, they have to be willing to withstand public attacks on their professional reputations when they have the courage to challenge corporate dominion of the process.
GBPSR Board Member Fights Back
GBPSR Board member Dick Clapp recently did just that-stood up, alone, in the face of opposition, to expose an "abuse of the process" in his service on the Dioxin Reassessment Review Subcommittee (DRRS). For his courage he was awarded Scientist of the Year by the Association of Scientists in the Public Interest.
The DRRS was charged with reviewing the scientific reassessment conducted over a 10 year period on the potential health effects of a family of substances called dioxins. It was one of the longest, most exhaustive investigations on a chemical or substance ever conducted by the EPA. The sub-committee served for 12 months.
Dr. Clapp became concerned that the process of making final recommendations to the EPA Science Advisory Board (SAB) Executive Committee was being compromised by at least two industry-oriented members of the sub-committee, if not more, who wished to delay the release of the long-awaited dioxin reassessment.
Concern over Abuse of Process Prompts Letter to Executive Committee
He was so concerned that he wrote a letter to the EPA Science Advisory Board (SAB) Executive Committee urging changes in the letter to be sent to EPA director Christine Whitman:
Excerpts from the letter include:
"…the process leading to the final draft of the Dioxin Reassessment Review Subcommittee (DRRS) was not transparent, and, in fact, was subverted by at least one member. A member of the Subcommittee wrote in an e-mail, 'The drafting of this report has become murky; it needs to become more transparent... if we are seeking to develop a thoughtful document which is the product of group discussion rather than merely a compilation of individual views… With each succeeding draft there are new things submitted by unidentified members.' Another member of the SAB said, "At times I felt that, instead of working in an open and collegial process, we had to maintain constant vigilance for members who were trying to see what could be slipped into the document without other members noticing. I think this sort of behavior compromises the tradition of civility, openness, honesty and integrity that should define the SAB committees."
Dr. Clapp went on to describe how one member of the SAB ignored a specific sanction on communications with colleagues who had a financial interest in the outcome of the Reassessment and its recommendations.
His letter to the Executive Committee concluded,
"My reason for bringing these examples to your attention is that I believe they illustrate abuse of process by at least one member of the DRRS that has undermined the effort to provide thoughtful advice to the EPA. In spite of the best efforts of many well-meaning Subcommittee members and the best intentions of the Chair and Staff, I do not believe that we have succeeded in our task. I urge you to re-draft the transmittal letter to Administrator Whitman that acknowledges these problems, commends the EPA for its work on the Dioxin Reassessment, and says it does not need to submit further revisions of the document for SAB review."
One Person's Impact
Due to the letter that he sent on his own, without any official support from sympathetic colleagues, the Executive Committee of the EPA Science Advisory Board re-wrote parts of the cover letter and the Executive Summary that were sent with the Subcommittee Report to the EPA. One person certainly can make a difference.
Death by Degrees Report
Climate change's impacts on public health in the Bay State Health are outlined in Death by Degrees: The Health Threats of Climate Change in Massachusetts, a 54-page report released this past Spring by PSR in conjunction with GBPSR. Board member Dick Clapp served on the Massachusetts Advisory Board for the report and spoke at the press briefing on the steps of the State House in Boston.
Highlights of report findings include:
- More heavy precipitation events in winter could intensify winter storms. In 1999, insured losses from weather-related natural catastrophes in Massachusetts totaled 85 million dollars. This figure is likely to increase.
- With the predicted four- to five-degree rise in temperature over the next century, deaths resulting from heat distress during a typical summer could increase 50 percent.
- Heart disease and death may increase as weather conditions grow more extreme and air quality deteriorates. Massachusetts had 21,326 deaths due to heart disease and 3,410 deaths due to stroke in 1997 alone.
- Ground-level ozone will increase with global warming. From April to October of 1997, there were 4,500 emergency room hospital admissions and 170,000 asthma attacks in Massachusetts related to ozone exposure.
Death by Degrees lays out specific opportunities for personal and political actions needed to combat global warming. Free copies of the report are available to the public through the GBPSR office or on line at http://www.envirohealthaction.org/upload_files/ma-dbyd.pdf
In Harm's Way Report Released Nationally in May 2000
Report Becomes Key Tool for Scientists, Public
The Washington, DC release of GBPSR's scientific report In Harm's Way: Toxic Threats to Child Development (IHW) was a huge success. It reached over 30 million households through coverage by media that included the Today Show, ABC World News Tonight with Peter Jennings, CNN Headline News, over 100 television and radio stations including National Public Radio, and numerous print publications including an Associated Press story.
(L-R) Co-authors of In Harm's Way Drs. Jill Stein, David Wallinga, and Ted Schettler answer press questions at the National Press Club in Washington, DC.
PSR National co-hosted the DC event at the National Press Club, which featured three of the co-authors, Drs. Ted Schettler and Jill Stein of GBPSR, and Dr. David Wallinga of NRDC. Project partner Clean Water Fund, the Learning Disabilities Association of America, and Health Track participated in this and some state events.
With Clean Water Fund, IHW Also Released in 25 States
IHW was also released in press conferences in 25 states. These were organized in collaborations among PSR and Clean Water Fund state chapters, and Health Track, a project of the Pew Charitable Trusts.
GBPSR Board co-chair Dr. Dick Clapp addresses the press at the Massachusetts State House release of In Harm's Way.
The Boston press event was held at the State House and received extensive television and radio coverage as well as print articles in newspapers including the Boston Herald and the Lowell Sun. The event featured co-author Maria Valenti of GBPSR, GBPSR Board members Dr. Dick Clapp and Bill Ravanesi, Lee Ketelsen from Clean Water Action and Suzanne Payton, Executive Director of Massachusetts Special Education Parent Advisory Councils.
Media consultants and strategists Goodman Media International, Inc. of New York City and M&R Strategic Services of New York and Washington, DC played key roles in maximizing the national coverage that extended months beyond the release date. The national release was possible due to funding received from the John Merck Fund, the Jessie B. Cox Charitable Trust, the W. Alton Jones Foundation, the Alida R. Messinger Charitable Lead Trust, and the Mitchell Kapor Foundation.
Report used as Resource for U.S. News & World Report, 20/20, Newsweek
IHW co-authors have been interviewed for related stories in publications such as Newsweek, Sesame Street Magazine, and Health Magazine, as well as television shows including 20/20 and ABC News Tonight. U.S. News and World Report used IHW as a core resource for its June 2000 cover story "Kids at Risk." In June the Washington Post ran an article on IHW.
Quoted and Used by Scientists
The report has been well-received by the scientific community. The June issue of Environmental Health Perspectives cited IHW numerous times in a piece entitled "Disturbing Behavior: Neurotoxic Effects in Children." Other scientific "sightings" of IHW:
- Former Senator Tim Wirth (now head of the U.N. Fund) quoted extensively from IHW in his keynote address to the Institute of Medicine Roundtable at the National Academy of Sciences
- The Learning Disabilities Association of Canada used slides from IHW at the Child Health 2000 Conference
- The new Center for Neuroscience at University of California/Davis Medical School distributed copies of IHW at a recent board retreat
- PSR's Dr. Howie Frumkin is using IHW in medical outreach in the South via Emory School of Public Health's Pediatric Environmental Health Specialty Unit
Activists Using It to Stop Pollution
Activists around the nation have also been using IHW in their work:
- A health advocate in Missouri has used the report to help stop the spraying of pesticides on Little League ball fields
- An activist in Olympia, WA has distributed over 20 copies to community leaders and activists working on pollution prevention
- The Minnesota Children's Environmental Health Coalition is using IHW to reduce pesticide use in schools in Minnesota
New Tool for Those Working in Learning, Behavioral Disabilities
IHW has received support and praise from numerous organizations, professionals, and parents working or dealing with learning and behavioral disabilities. The information about preventing exposures to toxic chemicals has been of particular interest. IHW has been sent to all the Learning Disabilities of America chapters as well as Developmental Disability Councils in each state. An example of a response from a speech therapist:
"For several years now, I've given serious thought to what might be causing the increase of numbers and complexity in our speech/language caseloads… I wondered about environmental pollution. I now know more. Please give the authors and your organization this expression of my deepest gratitude and respect…"
New Web Site Launched
Project partner the Clean Water Fund launched a new web site http://www.preventingharm.org/ dedicated to citizen activism on pollution prevention. It has received 750,000 hits and includes links to numerous web sites on environment and health issues. The report can be downloaded via this site or GBPSR's web site.
Phase II: Collaboration with JSI Center for Environmental Health Studies
In response to a flood of requests from around the country from medical professionals and educators interested in presentation and collateral materials, Phase II of In Harm's Way has been launched with a new partnership between GBPSR and the JSI Center for Environmental Health Studies.
It includes the creation of a presentation package for health professionals, and the development of a training program that we plan to implement in collaboration with Children's Health Centers around the country. The goal is to educate and activate health professionals about the linkages between environment and health, specifically toxic chemicals that threaten brain development. Phase II has received initial funding from the John Merck Fund and the Jessie B. Cox Charitable Trust.
About 2500 copies of IHW have been distributed.
Learning and Behavioral Disabilities:
Is There an Environmental Connection?
New GBPSR/Clean Water Fund Project Addresses Toxic Chemical Influences on Developmental Disabilities
Developmental, learning, and behavioral disabilities including attention deficit disorder (ADD) and autism that prevent our children from reaching their full human potential are widespread. Nearly 12 million children in the United States under the age of 18 suffer from one or more developmental disability.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that 70 percent of developmental deficits have no known cause. However, the developmental neurotoxicity of a number of naturally occurring and synthetic chemicals has been recognized for years. Research demonstrates that pervasive toxic substances, such as mercury, lead, PCBs, dioxins, pesticides and others can contribute to neurobehavioral and cognitive disorders. A review of the top twenty chemicals reported to be emitted under the 1997 Toxics Release Inventory reveals that over half of the 20 are known or suspected neurotoxins. Seven hundred million pounds of emissions of these chemicals are released by facilities directly into the air or the water.
Body of Evidence Growing
Scientists are beginning to acknowledge and study the links between exposures to environmental toxicants and behavioral and learning disorders. PSR has recently been involved in two conferences that addressed this issue. The first was a symposium of the Learning Disabilities Association entitled Chemical Hormone Imposters and Child Development: Learning, Behavior and Function. The second was planned and presented by PSR Drs. Phil Landrigan and Michael McCally of Mount Sinai School of Medicine, and held at the New York Academy of Medicine. Both Environmental Influences on Children: Brain, Development and Behavior in New York, and the forum in Atlanta presented provocative information about the growing body of evidence linking chemical exposures to the epidemic of developmental disabilities.
GBPSR/Clean Water Fund Project Funded by John Merck Fund and Jessie B. Cox Trust
Prior to these conferences, GBPSR had begun to develop a project with the Clean Water Fund of New England to address these same issues. We saw it as a natural follow-on to Generations at Risk. With funding from the John Merck Fund and more recently the Jessie B. Cox Charitable Trust, we are now engaged in a joint project which focuses on environmental exposures to toxic chemicals as a potential contributor to the widespread incidence of developmental disorders in children.
GBPSR is preparing a scientific report which is scheduled for release in the winter of 2000. The report frames the problem, reviews the clinical spectrum of learning and behavior disorders, reviews the scope of the chemical problem, and summarizes the key research on the link between these disorders and toxic chemicals.
Clean Water Fund is offering an educational program to organizations and networks of parents, educators, and therapists that presents a summary of the research and provides prevention steps which individuals can implement in their daily lives.