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Welcome to PSR's Environmental Health Policy Institute, where we ask questions -- then we ask the experts to answer them. Join us as physicians, health professionals, and environmental health experts share their ideas, inspiration, and analysis about toxic chemicals and environmental health policy.

  • The Military Enterprise as Global Polluter
    Posted by H. Patricia Hynes on November 4, 2010

    Environmental health policy on military issues has tended to focus on select human health impacts of war, such as Agent Orange exposure; on select weapons, such as landmines and nuclear weapons; and on discrete military-related hazardous waste sites. The military enterprise as a whole is generally untouchable and unaddressed. Read more »
    3 comment(s)

  • Nanoparticles: a case study of the importance of chemical policy reform
    Posted on November 4, 2010

    Chemical policy reform has been and remains the most important policy priority. We cannot continue the unsustainable practice of regulating or banning one chemical at a time. Reform of the 1976 Toxic Substances Control Act is essential for establishing a more rational approach to managing the introduction of new chemicals or classes of chemicals into commerce and subsequent human and environmental exposure. Read more »
    4 comment(s)

  • Endocrine Disruption, Public Health, and National and International Security

    From a national and international security perspective endocrine disruption should be right at the top of our list of concerns. Wait a minute, you ask, what is endocrine disruption? Well, endocrine disruption is the insidious trespass of man-made chemicals into every vital organ system in your body that comprises or is controlled by the endocrine system, such as the thyroid and parathyroid, pancreas, adrenals, thymus, male and female reproductive organs, the heart, digestive system, and skeletal system -- all the systems that participated in how you were constructed in the womb and how you are functioning today. Read more »
    7 comment(s)

  • Cell Phones: a new environmental hazard that can be reduced

    Could cell phones possibly be harmful? When I first heard this possibility, I rejected it. After all, it is physically impossible for the weak non-ionizing radiation of cell phones to break the bonds that hold our cells together. While cell phones use the same frequency of radiation as microwave ovens, they use more than two thousand times less power. Read more »
    25 comment(s)

  • The Abuse of Scientific Uncertainty
    Posted by Michael McCally, MD PhD on October 7, 2010

    The present moment is a gloomy one for attention to urgency of climate change. In July of 2009, cap and trade legislation failed definitively in the US Congress. The Kyoto Protocol of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, the initiative of 187 nations to control greenhouse gas emissions, died in Copenhagen in December of 2009. The opponents of action on climate change have successfully abused the notion of scientific uncertainty to create doubt and justify inaction. Read more »

  • Making Precaution Our Default Policy
    Posted by Lin Kaatz Chary, PhD MPH on October 7, 2010

    Many of us in the public health community, and especially those working in environmental health professions, have come to the conclusion that our current approach to addressing scientific uncertainty, which is inevitable, has not been successful and must be changed. Read more »

  • Uncertainty should not delay public health protections

    We need to acknowledge and address uncertainty without letting it paralyze our decision-making process as we strive to protect human and environmental health. Read more »

  • Becoming Advocates for Prevention
    Posted by Martha Dina Arguello on October 7, 2010

    One of the biggest challenges in doing advocacy around emerging chemicals of concern or on any toxics issue is the question of scientific uncertainty and causation. From climate change to the debate on the safety of BPA, there is an ongoing tension between the need of regulator and government agencies for certainty and the inevitability of scientific uncertainty. Read more »

  • An Inadequate Law Keeps the EPA's Hands Tied
    Posted by Kristen Welker-Hood, ScD MSN RN on September 2, 2010

    The most important barrier to health-protective chemicals policy is the existing chemicals management system. That may sound obvious, but what I mean by that is that the statute itself is the biggest problem. Read more »
    2 comment(s)

  • The Perspective from Oregon
    Posted by Maye Thompson on September 2, 2010

    What do clinicians and health advocates in Oregon think is the key obstacle to implementing an effective, health-protective chemicals management system? I polled Oregon PSR’s Environment and Health Committee and received a range of responses, sparking an interesting conversation about the roles of industry and scientific research. Read more »
    2 comment(s)

  • The Case for a Truth and Reconciliation Commission on Toxic Hazards
    Posted by Devra Davis, PhD MPH on September 1, 2010

    In the 1970s, Congress passed a host of environmental laws that sought to adopt a preventive approach to reducing disease and protecting health and environment. Since then, average body burdens of some persistent toxic materials such as lead and cadmium have fallen, but those of other newer materials, like persistent flame retardants, have risen. The major obstacle to a protective chemicals management system remains the culture of trade secrecy that allows firms to withhold information about potential health and safety dangers of their products. Read more »
    3 comment(s)

  • Profit Margins Take Priority over Disease Prevention
    Posted by Stephen G. Gilbert on September 1, 2010

    The primary impediment to developing and implementing an effective chemical management system is the imbalance between the motivation for corporations to make maximum profits and the valuation of human and ecological health. The US economic system encourages companies to avoid paying the full the costs of producing goods and services, costs that are often externalized or carried by individuals, society, and the environment. Read more »
    4 comment(s)

  • A Redirection of Approaches Is Needed: From “innocent until proven guilty” to “first do no harm”
    Posted by Laura Anderko on September 1, 2010

    "Better Things for Better Living...Through Chemistry" was an advertising slogan that many remember hearing during its media heyday (which lasted decades). Unfortunately, the reality is that as a nation we are regularly exposed to chemicals that are harmful to our health, making living difficult (not better) for many. This is evidenced by an increasing number of chronic diseases such as cancer, diabetes, and learning disabilities, which are being linked with a range of chemical exposures that we often cannot avoid. Read more »
    3 comment(s)

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