Archive for the ‘Health’ Category
Brad Plumer reports in the Washington Post:
The current U.S. law on chemical safety is 37 years old, riddled with exceptions, and widely seen as ineffective — so much so that the federal government hasn’t even tried to restrict an unsafe chemical since an asbestos ban was overturned in courts in 1991.
Now that law could soon get a face-lift, amid growing concern that ingredients in ordinary consumer products are leading to health problems.On Wednesday, Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) and Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) announced they had reached a “groundbreaking” agreement to revamp the 1976 Toxic Substances Control Act, ending two decades of gridlock in the Senate over how to test and regulate the tens of thousands of chemicals found in everything from crib mattresses to water bottles.
If the legislation were to pass, it would be the first time that a major U.S. environmental law was updated since the 1990 overhaul of the Clean Air Act.
“This bill proves that bipartisan compromise can still work in Washington,” said Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), who Senate staffers say was critical in bringing the main authors together. All told, the bill has eight Democratic co-sponsors and eight Republicans onboard.
The American Chemistry Council, which represents manufacturers like Dow and Dupont, hailed the compromise. Environmentalists were split, with some viewing it as a encouraging step and others criticizing it for doing too little.
All sides seem to agree that the current process is dysfunctional. . .
Bill Moyers and Michael Winship take a look at causes of US decline:
At the end of a week that reminds us to be ever vigilant about the dangers of government overreaching its authority, whether by the long arm of the IRS or the Justice Department, we should pause to think about another threat — from too much private power obnoxiously intruding into public life.
All too often, instead of acting as a brake on runaway corporate power and greed, government becomes their enabler, undermining the very rules and regulations intended to keep us safe.
Think of inadequate inspections of food and the food-related infections which kill 3,000 Americans each year and make 48 million sick. A new study from Johns Hopkins shows elevated levels of arsenic — known to increase a person’s risk of cancer — in chicken meat. According to the university’s Center for a Livable Future, “Arsenic-based drugs have been used for decades to make poultry grow faster and improve the pigmentation of the meat. The drugs are also approved to treat and prevent parasites in poultry… Currently in the U.S., there is no federal law prohibiting the sale or use of arsenic-based drugs in poultry feed.”
And here’s a story in The Washington Post about toxic, bacteria-killing chemicals used in poultry plants to clean more chickens more quickly to meet increased demand and make more money. According to Amanda Hitt, director of the Government Accountability Project’s Food Integrity Campaign, “They are mixing chemicals together in these plants, and it’s making people sick. Does it work better at killing off pathogens? Yes, but it also can send someone into respiratory arrest.”As long as there are insufficient checks and balances on big business and its powerful lobbies, we are at their mercy.
So far, the government has done next to nothing. No research into the possible side effects, no comprehensive record-keeping on illnesses. “Instead,” the Post reports, “they review data provided by chemical manufacturers.” What’s more, the Department of Agriculture is about to allow the production lines to move even faster, by as much as 25 percent, which means more chemicals, more exposure, more sickness.
Think of that and think of the 85,000 industrial chemicals available today – only a handful have been tested for safety. Ian Urbina writes in The New York Times, “Hazardous chemicals have become so ubiquitous that scientists now talk about babies being born pre-polluted, sometimes with hundred s of synthetic chemicals showing up in their blood.”
Think, too, of that horrific . . .
Fascinating. Lindsay Abrams in The Atlantic:
PROBLEM: “Marijuana use is associated with an acute increase in caloric intake,” goes the clinical jargon for popular lore. Still despite eating more while high (by some measures, over 600 extra calories per day), marijuana users’ extra intake doesn’t seem to be reflected in increased BMI. Indeed, studies have identified a reduced prevalence of obesity in the pot smoking community.METHODOLOGY: Researchers at the University of Nebraska, the Harvard School of Public Health, and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center analyzed data from a nationally representative sample of over 4,600 adults. About 12 percent of the participants self-identified as current marijuana users, and another 42 percent reported having used the drug in the past. The participants were tested for various measures of blood sugar control: their fasting insulin and glucose levels; insulin resistance; cholesterol levels; and waist circumference.
RESULTS: Current marijuana users had significantly smaller waist circumference than participants who had never used marijuana, even after adjusting for factors like age, sex, tobacco and alcohol use, and physical activity levels. They also had higher levels of HDL (“good cholesterol“). The most significant differences between those who smoked marijuana and those who never or no longer did was that current smokers’ insulin levels were reduced by 16 percent and their insulin resistance (a condition in which the body has trouble absorbing glucose from the bloodstream) was reduced by 17 percent.
People who had previously used marijuana, but not in the past thirty days, tended to have similar outcomes, but to a much lesser degree. In addition, none of these measures were impacted by how much marijuana people reported smoking.
IMPLICATIONS: Although they’re not sure exactly how it happens, write the authors, these findings suggest that marijuana somehow works to improve insulin control, regulating body weight and perhaps explaining why marijuana users have a lower incidence of diabetes. Adding to the big questions — “can weed can treat obesity?” and “marijuana makes you skinny?!” — is the possibility that marijuana might be useful in helping people to manage their blood sugar.
The full study, “The Impact of Marijuana Use on Glucose, Insulin, and Insulin Resistance among US Adults,” is published in The American Journal of Medicine.
I think that it’s odd that we Americans allow the poisoning of our own food supply. Tom Philpott in Mother Jones:
Last week, the European Commission voted to place a two-year moratorium on most uses of neonicotinoid pesticides, on the suspicion that they’re contributing to the global crisis in honeybee health (a topic I’ve touched on here, here, here, and here). Since then, several people have asked me whether the Europe’s move might inspire the US Environmental Protection Agency to make a similar move—currently, neonics are widely used in several of our most prevalent crops, including corn, soy, cotton, and wheat.
The answer is no. As I reported recently, an agency press officer told me the EU move will have no bearing on the EPA’s own review of the pesticides, which aren’t scheduled for release until 2016 at the earliest.
All of which got me thinking about other food-related substances and practices that are banned in Europe but green-lighted here. Turns out there are lots. Aren’t you glad you don’t live under the Old World regulatory jackboot, where the authorities deny people’s freedom to quaff to atrazine-laced drinking water, etc., etc.? Let me know in comments if I’m missing any.
Why it’s a problem: A “potent endocrine disruptor,” Syngenta’s popular corn herbicide has been linked to range of reproductive problems at extremely low doses in both amphibiansand humans, and it commonly leaches out of farm fields and into people’s drinking water.
What Europe did: Banned it in 2003.
US status: EPA: “Atrazine will begin registration review, EPA’s periodic reevaluation program for existing pesticides, in mid-2013.”
2. Arsenic in chicken, turkey, and pig feed
Why it’s a problem: Arsenic is beloved of industrial-scale livestock producers because it makes animals grow faster and turns their meat a rosy pink. It enters feed in organic form, which isn’t harmful to humans. Trouble is, in animals guts, it quickly goes inorganic, and thus becomes poisonous. Several studies, including one by the FDA, have found heightened levels of inorganic arsenic in supermarket chicken, and its also ends up in manure, where it can move into tap water. Fertilizing rice fields with arsenic-laced manure may be partially responsible for heightened arsenic levels in US rice.
What Europe did: According to the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, arsenic-based compounds “were never approved as safe for animal feed in the European Union, Japan, and many other countries.”
US status: The drug giant Pfizer “voluntarily” stopped marketing the arsenical feed additive Roxarsone back in 2011. But there are still several arsenicals on the market. On May 1, a coalition of enviro groups including the Center for Food Safety, the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, and the Center for Biological Diversity filed a lawsuit demanding that the FDA ban them from feed.
3. . .
Good news for many, no change for me: I generally use very little salt—I add no salt to most of my cooked dishes, for example—but OTOH never tried for the (completely unrealistic) 1500mg/day figure. I just tried to use little salt, and since I very seldom eat out or eat prepared foods, I get little salt.
Not that it makes any difference, apparently.
And where is the FDA in this? Laura Fraser reports at OnEarth.org:
You probably wouldn’t expect to find pesticides in your toothpaste or your gym socks, but they might be in there all the same. And the vast majority of those pesticides have made it into everyday products without adequate oversight by the Environmental Protection Agency. That’s because they’ve been approved through a bureaucratic loophole known as “conditional registration,” which means they haven’t been fully tested to ensure that they pose no threat to human health or the environment, as required by U.S. law.
Most of us think of pesticides as the chemicals that get sprayed on weeds or used to kill rodents and bugs, but they’re actually found in everything from cosmetics to food containers, as well as antimicrobial textiles (such as the exercise shirt you might have worn to the gym this morning). By killing bacteria and other microorganisms, pesticides can help clothes resist stains or help containers keep food fresh longer. But some have also proven to cause health concerns in humans, kill trees, birds, bees, and fish, or do other unintended harm to the environment.
The EPA has been responsible for registering pesticides since 1972, and during that time, 90,000 have been allowed on the market. A significant number of those — just over 25,000, according to the EPA — were initially approved through the conditional registration process. An internal report by the EPA’s Office of Pesticide Programs shows that of the more than 16,000 pesticides allowed on the market as of 2010, about 11,000 of them were conditionally registered. Because of the agency’s poor record-keeping and flawed procedures, it remains unclear how many of these conditionally registered pesticides have ever gone through the full gamut of safety testing required by law.
“The dirty little secret of the EPA is that almost every pesticide gets put on the market while the agency is looking the other way,” says Michael Hansen, a senior staff scientist at Consumers Union. “That’s not good for consumers, and it’s not the intent of the regulations.”
By law, in order to register and sell a pesticide, companies are supposed to go through a process than can last several years; it includes public comment, reviews of scientific studies, and evaluations by the agency’s in-house science experts. The fast-track conditional registration process was intended to be used only under rare circumstances — when a product is nearly identical to one already on the market, for instance, or when the EPA needs to approve a new pesticide immediately to prevent a disease outbreak or other public health emergency (a new treatment for bedbugs, for example).
No one knew the extent to which the EPA had been abusing the conditional registration rules until 2008, when the Natural Resources Defense Council (which publishes OnEarth) began asking questions about why nanosilver, an antimicrobial made of extremely tiny bits of silver and used to kill bacteria in products such as athletic gear and baby blankets, had been granted conditional registration.
That year, Swiss manufacturer HeiQ had applied to the EPA for permission to use nanosilver in textiles, including clothing and bedsheets. NRDC scientists were concerned that nanosilver might be more toxic than regular silver — which is not very harmful to humans, but toxic and persistent in aquatic environments — because its tiny size allows it to travel into cells, organs, and blood, with potentially dangerous, but poorly understood, health effects. A 2010 internal EPA report on nanosilver notes: “the same property that makes it lethal to bacteria may render it toxic to human cells.”
“Until we understand the risks of nanosilver, we really shouldn’t be wearing it in our clothing and bedding,” says NRDC senior scientist Jennifer Sass. Chemist Martin Mulvihill, the executive director of the Berkeley Center for Brain Chemistry, agrees that more studies are needed, especially because nanosilver is widely used in consumer products. The effects of nanosilver on human health are not well understood, “which is not to say there are no concerns,” says Mulvihill, who adds, “It’s very clear silver is bad for the environment.” Silver bioaccumulates and is toxic to single-celled organisms and aquatic invertebrates; a 2010 study found that runoff containing silver particles dramatically reduced the reproductive capabilities of mollusks in San Francisco Bay. Products like nanosilver washing machines, which kill bacteria with nanosilver ions embedded in the machinery, could also damage water organisms with their runoff.
“Do I really need nanosilver in my jeans or Tupperware?” Mulvihill asks. “I don’t think so. I can just wash them.”
In response to HeiQ’s 2008 request to use nanosilver, the EPA Scientific Advisory Panel recognized that the effects of nanosilver are different from regular silver. The panel said its regulations would require the company to produce numerous studies on the specific health effects of nanosilver before it could be registered for use as a pesticide.
Then the agency went ahead and allowed the company to use nanosilver in its products anyway. . . .
Some years back—perhaps even a decade or so—I read about the nasty effects of chronic inflammation (which has a variety of causes, obesity being one) and learned that turmeric is such a powerful anti-inflammatory that even small amounts—eaten, for example, in a diet with a lot of curry—was significantly protective. Just 1/2 tsp of turmeric daily is enough to help, and so I began including that amount in my daily hot cereal. Reading this article by Kate Yendell in The Scientist makes me glad I did:
Inflammation in the hypothalamus may underlie aging of the entire body, according to a study published today (May 1) in Nature. Over-activation of the inflammatory protein nuclear factor κB (NF-κB) in the brain region leads to a number of aging-related changes in mice, from cognitive decline to muscle weakness. Unexpectedly, this process promotes aging at least in part by suppressing gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH), which stimulates adult neurogenesis.
“I think it’s pretty exciting,” said Brian Kennedy, CEO of the Buck Institute for Research on Aging in California, who was not involved in the study. “It’s one of the first studies to modulate inflammatory pathways [to] show effects on longevity.”
“The hypothalamus has been one of our focuses for many years,” said Dongsheng Cai, one of the paper’s authors and medical scientist at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine. “It is tiny, but it is a very crucial structure in the brain in terms of regulation of life-supporting activities,” such as metabolism, reproduction, and growth.
NF-κB is transcription factor that, among other functions, turns on genes involved in inflammation and immune response, and can be activated in the presence of pro-inflammatory cytokines. The researchers measured NF-κB activation in mouse brains as they aged and noted that, while the protein was barely active in the hypothalamuses of young mice, it became increasingly active as the mice got older.
To further probe NF-κB’s effects on aging, the researchers then either inhibited or constitutively activated the protein in mouse hypothalamic tissues by manipulating the upstream activator IKK-β. The mice with activated NF-κB showed deficits in cognition and muscle endurance, thinning skin, loss of bone mass, deterioration of cartilage in their tails, and early death.
“Many different aspects of aging are being slowed together,” said Richard Miller, a biogerontologist at the University of Michigan who did also not participate in the research. “That means that whatever they’re working on is somehow slowing that basic aging process itself.”
The scientists also discovered that . . .
OTOH, the pharmaceutical companies are delighted. Here’s an article by Megan Scudellari in The Scientist:
Vioxx was on the market for 5 years before manufacturer Merck voluntarily withdrew the arthritis medication in 2004 due to an increased risk of heart attacks and strokes. An estimated 88,000–139,000 Americans had heart attacks while taking Vioxx, and as many as 55,000 died. Soon after, other painkillers in the same class of medicines came under scrutiny, including Bextra, which Pfizer removed from the market in 2005 upon the recommendation of the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Americans cried out for better oversight of approved drugs. Then, in 2007, a cardiologist in Cleveland showed that Avandia, a blockbuster antidiabetic drug, increased the risk of heart attacks. An FDA advisory committee reviewed the evidence and found the claim to be true, but voted to keep Avandia on the market because of its efficacy, while mandating that the drug carry the FDA’s strictest warning label. The cries became louder.
Today, almost a decade since Vioxx was taken off the market and 6 years since Avandia made headlines, the national system for monitoring approved drugs has not gotten any better, critics say—despite the 2007 FDA Amendments Act (FDAAA) that granted the agency more power to oversee drugs once they hit the market.
“I don’t think there have been any significant changes,” says David Resnik, a bioethicist at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. “I don’t think anything has improved at all.”
Postmarket drug safety is a hot-button issue not only because of high-profile drug scares, but also because of accelerating efforts to get drugs to market sooner. Last July, for example, Congress passed the Food and Drug Administration Safety and Innovation Act, which among other things created a new designation called a “breakthrough therapy.” Though the details of the new designation are still being worked out, it is considered one step above “fast track” status, and mandates that the FDA work closely with drug developers to expedite a breakthrough drug’s path to the clinic. A handful of experimental drugs have been granted the status, and at least one company, Vertex Pharmaceuticals, is launching shorter-than-normal Phase 3 trials—24 weeks instead of 48—for a combination of two cystic fibrosis drugs that received the designation in January. . .
Interesting that fat plays in some respects the role of an endocrine gland. Edyta Zielinska reports in The Scientist:
The small protein aP2, thought to only be involved in shuttling lipids throughout fat cells, is actually excreted outside the cell where it acts as a long range signaling molecule or hormone, controlling glucose levels, according to new research published this week (May 7) in Cell Metabolism. The findings suggest a new target for treating obesity-related diabetes.
“It was surprising to find that a critical hormone playing a pathological role in diabetes turned out to be the secreted form of aP2, which for decades has been considered a protein that resides inside the fat cells,” senior author Gökhan Hotamisligil from Harvard School of Public Health said in press release.
The protein aP2 occurs in the blood of obese individuals at much higher levels than in lean individuals, although it is also secreted by fat tissues during times of fasting. To test whether the protein controls glucose retention, the researchers first increased the levels of aP2 in normal mice and saw that the animals were less capable of controlling their glucose levels. When the team performed the reverse experiment, reducing aP2 in obese mice to the levels seen in lean mice using an antibody against the protein, glucose metabolism appeared more similar to that of lean mice.
The group hopes that the antibody could help treat diabetes and have licensed the technology to the biopharmaceutical company Union Chimique Belge in Belgium for development.
I’m very pleased and proud to report that The Youngest Grandson, now aged just over 10 months, very much likes sardines as finger food. Excellent choice: high in protein, calcium, and omega-3, plus very low on the food chain (so no accumulation of toxins—cf. tuna, swordfish, mackerel).
From TomDispatch, an interesting post by Ellen Canterow:
Gary Judson had just been removed from his shackles when they slapped the handcuffs on him. The 72-year-old Methodist minister had chained himself to the fence surrounding a compressor station — part of the critical infrastructure associated with hydraulic fracturing, better known as fracking — a stone’s throw from Seneca Lake in upstate New York. The sheriff and his deputies freed him only to arrest him for trespassing.
“They don’t have the right to do this — to put the lake in jeopardy. We’ll all end up paying for their mess,” Judson told a small group of supporters on hand to witness his act of civil disobedience. The “this” he was protesting, Sandra Steingraber recounts in a recent issue of Orion magazine, was the plan of Missouri-based Inergy Midstream to turn abandoned salt caverns beneath the lake’s shores into storage areas for millions of barrels of natural gas piped in from Pennsylvania’s fracking fields. “Inergy has been in violation of the Clean Water Act at this facility every single quarter for the past three years,” Judson said. “Since 1972, there have been fourteen catastrophic failures at gas storage facilities. Each one of them has been at a salt cavern.” A “failure” at Seneca Lake could be particularly catastrophic because, Steingraber writes, it provides the drinking water for 100,000 people. (Last month, Steingraber was jailed for 15 days for her own act of civil disobedience against Inergy.)
In Pennsylvania, where gas is currently being forced out of the shale rock in which it’s resided for millions of years, “failures” are already an everyday affair, as TomDispatch regular Ellen Cantarow reports in the latest in her series of articles from fracking’s front lines. Once upon a time, coal miners, tunnel workers, and “radium girls” faced the horrors of their dangerous trades in seclusion, deep below ground, inside mountains, or hidden behind factory walls. They worked and died unseen and unheard.
Today, industrial safety issues have come home — literally. Toxic chemicals aren’t just reserved for Superfund sites; they are increasingly in our houses, our water, and our food. When something goes wrong at a fertilizer plant, it doesn’t just mean workers are in danger any more, but also — as in the case of the town of West, Texas — a nursing home, a school, an apartment complex, and five blocks of residences in a small town. As Cantarow writes, Pennsylvania farming communities are being turned into huge, open-air laboratories by energy companies eager to make North America a twenty-first-century Saudi Arabia, with ordinary people serving as its guinea pigs. And those people are paying a heavy price: mystery illnesses, dead animals, polluted water, land made worthless, and the loss of a way of life. In the midst of this new hell, however, there’s also hope. Like Gary Judson in New York, Pennsylvanians are speaking up, organizing, and doing what they can in the face of long odds and tough times. Nick Turse
Fracking Ourselves to Death in Pennsylvania
By Ellen Cantarow
More than 70 years ago, a chemical attack was launched against Washington State and Nevada. It poisoned people, animals, everything that grew, breathed air, and drank water. The Marshall Islands were also struck. This formerly pristine Pacific atoll was branded “the most contaminated place in the world.” As their cancers developed, the victims of atomic testing and nuclear weapons development got a name: downwinders. What marked their tragedy was the darkness in which they were kept about what was being done to them. Proof of harm fell to them, not to the U.S. government agencies responsible.
Now, a new generation of downwinders is getting sick as an emerging industry pushes the next wonder technology — in this case, high-volume hydraulic fracturing. Whether they live in Texas, Colorado, or Pennsylvania, their symptoms are the same: rashes, nosebleeds, severe headaches, difficulty breathing, joint pain, intestinal illnesses, memory loss, and more. “In my opinion,” says Yuri Gorby of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, “what we see unfolding is a serious health crisis, one that is just beginning.”
The process of “fracking” starts by drilling a mile or more vertically, then outward laterally into 500-million-year-old shale formations, the remains of oceans that once flowed over parts of North America. Millions of gallons of chemical and sand-laced water are then propelled into the ground at high pressures, fracturing the shale and forcing the methane it contains out. With the release of that gas come thousands of gallons of contaminated water. This “flowback” fluid contains the original fracking chemicals, plus heavy metals and radioactive material that also lay safely buried in the shale.
The industry that uses this technology calls its product “natural gas,” but there’s nothing natural about up-ending half a billion years of safe storage of methane and everything that surrounds it. It is, in fact, an act of ecological violence around which alien infrastructures — compressor stations that compact the gas for pipeline transport, ponds of contaminated flowback, flare stacks that burn off gas impurities, diesel trucks in quantity, thousands of miles of pipelines, and more — have metastasized across rural America, pumping carcinogens and toxins into water, air, and soil.
Sixty percent of Pennsylvania lies over a huge shale sprawl called the Marcellus, and that has been in the fracking industry’s sights since 2008. The corporations that are exploiting the shale come to the state with lavish federal entitlements: exemptions from the Clean Air, Clean Water, and Clean Drinking Water Acts, as well as the Superfund Act, which requires cleanup of hazardous substances. The industry doesn’t have to call its trillions of gallons of annual waste “hazardous.” Instead, it uses euphemisms like “residual waste.” In addition, fracking companies are allowed to keep secret many of the chemicals they use.
Pennsylvania, in turn, adds its own privileges. A revolving door shuttles former legislators, governors, and officials from the state’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) into gas industry positions. The DEP itself is now the object of a lawsuit that charges the agency with producing deceptive lab reports, and then using them to dismiss homeowners’ complaints that shale gas corporations have contaminated their water, making them sick. The people I interviewed have their own nickname for the DEP: “Don’t Expect Protection.”
Randy Moyer is a pleasant-faced, bearded 49-year-old whose drawl reminds you that Portage, his hardscrabble hometown in southwestern Pennsylvania, is part of Appalachia. He worked 18 years — until gasoline prices got too steep — driving his own rigs to haul waste in New York and New Jersey. Then what looked like a great opportunity presented itself: $25 an hour working for a hydraulic-fracturing subcontractor in northeastern Pennsylvania.
In addition to hauling fracking liquid, water, and waste, Randy also did what’s called, with no irony, “environmental.” He climbed into large vats to squeegee out the remains of fracking fluid. He also cleaned the huge mats laid down around the wells to even the ground out for truck traffic. Those mats get saturated with “drilling mud,” a viscous, chemical-laden fluid that eases the passage of the drills into the shale. What his employer never told him was that the drilling mud, as well as the wastewater from fracking, is not only highly toxic, but radioactive.
In the wee hours of a very cold day in November 2011, he stood in a huge basin at a well site, washing 1,000 mats with high-pressure hoses, taking breaks every so often to warm his feet in his truck. “I took off my shoes and my feet were as red as a tomato,” he told me. When the air from the heater hit them, he “nearly went through the roof.”
Once at home, he scrubbed his feet, but the excruciating pain didn’t abate. A “rash” that covered his feet soon spread up to his torso. A year and a half later, the skin inflammation still recurs. His upper lip repeatedly swells. A couple of times his tongue swelled so large that he had press it down with a spoon to be able to breathe. “I’ve been fried for over 13 months with this stuff,” he told me in late January. “I can just imagine what hell is like. It feels like I’m absolutely on fire.”
Family and friends have taken Moyer to emergency rooms at least four times. He has consulted more than 40 doctors. No one can say what caused the rashes, or his headaches, migraines, chest pain, and irregular heartbeat, or the shooting pains down his back and legs, his blurred vision, vertigo, memory loss, the constant white noise in his ears, and the breathing troubles that require him to stash inhalers throughout his small apartment.
In an earlier era, workers’ illnesses fell into the realm of “industrial medicine.” But these days, when it comes to the U.S. fracking industry, the canaries aren’t restricted to the coalmines. People like Randy seem to be the harbingers of what happens when a toxic environment is no longer buried miles beneath the earth. . .
Continue reading. There is a lot more, and it’s staggering: will the US public simply accept this?
I’m very glad to see that at least one Federal regulatory agency is being called to account. Congress will not do its job, but individuals and organizations can attempt to take up the slack. Rebekah Kern writes at CourthouseNews.com:
Lax federal regulators allow arsenic-based additives in chicken and swine feed that can cause cancer in humans, the Center for Food Safety claims in court.
Eight other watchdogs joined the Center for Food Safety in suing Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, and U.S. Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Margaret Hamburg in San Francisco Federal Court.
“Petitioners are requesting immediate action because the use of arsenic-based feed additives in food-producing animals poses a serious yet completely avoidable health risk to humans,” the complaint states.
The FDA approved the use of arsenic-based food additives in animal feed in the 1940s. “More than seventy years later, arsenic-containing feed additives – namely Roxarsone, arsanilic acid, nitarsone, and carbarsone – are still used in chicken, turkey, and swine production,” the complaint states.
“In 2004 and 2005, plaintiff Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy tested for total arsenic residues in retail packages of raw chicken and in ‘fast food’ chicken sandwiches and nuggets. Test results revealed detectable levels of arsenic in the majority of supermarket chicken and in all ‘fast food’ chicken. Arsenic levels in chicken from birds for which there was a claim of ‘no arsenic given’ contained no arsenic or such a small amount that it was below the detection limit. These results strongly suggest that the use of arsenic-containing compounds in poultry feed leads to arsenic residues in chicken marketed and eaten in the United States.
“Inorganic arsenic is a known human carcinogen. It can contribute to cancers, heart disease, diabetes, declines in intellectual function, and can decrease a body’s ability to respond to viruses. The organic form of arsenic – the form found in arsenic-containing compounds – was once considered safe at low levels. Recent studies show that organic arsenic can easily convert to inorganic arsenic. Further, organic arsenic may also be toxic in its own right, though an earlier history of organic arsenical toxicity has been largely overlooked by FDA.”
The plaintiffs say the FDA failed to respond to their request to revoke approval for New Animal Drug Applications that use “arsenic-containing compounds” in feed for chicken, turkeys and swine.”
Since they filed that petition in 2009, several “significant events have occurred” that failed to draw a response from a complacent FDA, the plaintiffs say.
Among other things, . . .
Earlier today I pointed to the Ag-Gag laws as an effort by businesses to conceal their crimes. It’s not just agriculture: Dan Cossins has a note in The Scientist:
The European Medicines Agency’s (EMA) recent drive toward making preclinical and clinical data on experimental drugs more freely available was hampered this week after a European court ordered the agency not to release information from two US pharmaceutical companies, reported ScienceInsider.
The temporary injunction imposed by the General Court of the European Union backs Chicago-based AbbVie and California-based InterMune, which both filed complaints claiming that the release of information about their therapies would jeopardize their commercial interests.
The EMA began pushing for increased sharing of preclinical and clinical data on experimental drugs in 2010, after a European watchdog body ruled that it should release data in response to requests from a nonprofit organization. The agency has since responded to 613 requests for clinical data and released roughly 1.9 million pages of information, according to ScienceInsider.
The EMA has made it clear that it does not aim to aid competitors by allowing access to such information, however, and often redacts certain details. On the other hand, the agency’s head of communications Martin Harvey-Allchurch told ScienceInsider, “our position is that clinical trial data cannot, per say [sic], be considered confidential. There is a legitimate public interest to what we’re doing.”
Because the ruling only applies to these two particular cases, the agency plans to continue releasing data when individuals and companies request it and will proceed with the publication of released data on it website.
I have found that it’s surprisingly easy to postpone a walk from day to day, but today—after yesterday’s beautiful day—I was determined to start, so I walked from here to Lover’s Point in Pacific Grove, about a 45-minute round trip. Not bad, and walking along the shore is nice. But now to keep it up.
I saw my doctor yesterday in a brief office visit to follow up on my tapering off the antidepressant I used to get through my panic attacks triggered by my getting rid of most of my stuff and moving. The antidepressant did a fine job and restored a more realistic perspective, and now, job done, I’m tapering off. (He likes to taper people off antidepressants in the spring or summer, but not in the fall or winter, for obvious reasons.)
We got to talking about the recent findings on the mechanism by which beef injured arterial health: A diet that frequently includes beef leads to a population of gut microbes that transform the carnitine in beef into TMAO, a chemical that attacks arteries and leads to arteriosclerosis. People who eat beef regularly get a big burst of TMAO whenever they eat beef; people who rarely beat beef have different gut microbes, and on the occasions when they eat beef, they get no TMAO because they don’t have the gut microbes that produce it.
I told him that as soon as I read the results, I went immediately and bought a big steak. (I eat beef maybe once every month or two.)
He responded by saying that even worse in “wheat belly,” and avoiding wheat is a good thing. Since The Wife is gluten intolerant, we rarely eat wheat products, and I told him that I ate almost no wheat.
“No wonder you’re so healthy,” he said.
I looked up wheat belly when I got back and found this book:
A renowned cardiologist explains how eliminating wheat from our diets can prevent fat storage,
shrink unsightly bulges, and reverse myriad health problems.Every day, over 200 million Americans consume food products made of wheat. As a result, over 100 million of them experience some form of adverse health effect, ranging from minor rashes and high blood sugar to the unattractive stomach bulges that preventive cardiologist William Davis calls “wheat bellies.” According to Davis, that excess fat has nothing to do with gluttony, sloth, or too much butter: It’s due to the whole grain wraps we eat for lunch.After witnessing over 2,000 patients regain their health after giving up wheat, Davis reached the
disturbing conclusion that wheat is the single largest contributor to the nationwide obesity epidemic—and its elimination is key to dramatic weight loss and optimal health. In Wheat Belly, Davis exposes the harmful effects of what is actually a product of genetic tinkering and agribusiness being sold to the American public as “wheat”—and provides readers with a user-friendly, step-by-step plan to navigate a new, wheat-free lifestyle.Informed by cutting-edge science and nutrition, along with case studies from men and women who have experienced life-changing transformations in their health after waving goodbye to wheat, Wheat Belly is an illuminating look at what is truly making Americans sick and an action plan to clear our plates of this seemingly benign ingredient.
Just over three years ago, an explosion on the Deepwater Horizon oil rig leased by BP killed 11 people, injured 17, and — according to government estimates — polluted the Gulf of Mexico with 210 million gallons of Louisiana sweet crude. It turns out, however, that the casualty toll didn’t end with those 28 workers. The real number may reach into the thousands.
Last year, BP pled guilty to 14 felonies stemming from the disaster, including misleading Congress about the amount of oil that gushed into the gulf. But that wasn’t the only way BP attempted to cover up the extent of the spill. The main method was using 1.84 million gallons of a substance known as Corexit that acts to “attach itself to leaked oil, break it into droplets, and disperse them into the vast reaches of the gulf, thereby keeping the oil from reaching Gulf Coast shorelines.”
Writing for Newsweek and with the support of the Nation Institute’s Investigative Fund, Mark Hertsgaard recently laid bare how Corexit was utilized and the dire effects it apparently had on the men and women who worked to “clean” the gulf in the wake of BP’s historically unprecedented spill. People like Jamie Griffin. A BP representative reportedly assured Griffin that the smelly sludge cleanup workers were tracking into the “floating hotel” where she was a cook would be “as safe as Dawn dishwashing liquid” — so she scrubbed and scrubbed to clean it up. “Within days,” Hertsgaard writes, “the 32-year-old single mother was coughing up blood and suffering constant headaches.” She soon “fell ill with a cluster of excruciating, bizarre, grotesque ailments… unstoppable muscle spasms were twisting her hands into immovable claws… she began losing her short-term memory… The right side, but only the right side, of her body ‘started acting crazy. It felt like the nerves were coming out of my skin. It was so painful. My right leg swelled — my ankle would get as wide as my calf — and my skin got incredibly itchy.’”
Hundreds, perhaps, thousands of other workers were exposed to the same chemicals, including those who were coated in a mist of Corexit, since almost 60% of it was sprayed out of airplanes. Hertsgaard reveals that not only “did BP fail to inform workers of the potential hazards of Corexit and to provide them with safety training and protective gear, according to interviews with dozens of cleanup workers, the company also allegedly threatened to fire workers who complained about the lack of respirators and protective clothing.”
So, add Corexit to the list of toxic substances brought to us by industries that promised better and include BP in a long catalog of companies which, over the last century, have tried to hush-up the truth about the types of chemical assaults for which the Department of Homeland Security issues no fact sheets. It’s a story as old as industrial America and one that public health historians David Rosner and Jerry Markowitz know all too well. For years, they have earned the ire of the lead and petrochemical industries for historical exposés that demonstrate how American companies regularly sacrificed workers’ health and children’s lives for the sake of big profits.
In their latest historical tour de force, Lead Wars: The Politics of Science and the Fate of America’s Children, Markowitz and Rosner chronicle the battles that have taken place over lead poisoning for the last half-century, with special emphasis on a study in which researchers from Johns Hopkins University conducted what the Maryland Court of Appeals deemed unethical research on African-American children. Knowing that some of the children in their study could be exposed to lead from old paint in the apartments they were moved into and so at greater risk for learning disorders and behavioral problems, they went ahead anyway. If it sounds to you like some dark corollary to the notorious Tuskegee experiment, in which hundreds of black men with syphilis were denied treatment with penicillin so that U.S. government researchers could study the course of the disease, you’re not alone in thinking it. The Maryland Appeals Court thought so, too. But while the Tuskegee study began in the 1930s, when protocols for protecting people from medical experimentation were lax, the Johns Hopkins research started in the 1990s, when regulations supposedly provided ample protection from harm at the hands of public health professionals. The story of how and why this came to pass is riveting and revelatory. (The co-authors will soon be discussing it with Bill Moyers on “Moyers & Company.”)
Today, Markowitz and Rosner — the first guest author ever to pen a TomDispatch piece back in December 2002 — lead a toxic tour, not through Superfund sites and nuclear no-go zones, but average American homes. And no wonder, we live our lives immersed in a chemical soup never before encountered in human history. We’re the lab rats in a make-it-up-as-they-go-along nationwide corporate experiment, which is also a sure-fire recipe for disaster. Nick Turse
A hidden epidemic is poisoning America. The toxins are in the air we breathe and the water we drink, in the walls of our homes and the furniture within them. We can’t escape it in our cars. It’s in cities and suburbs. It afflicts rich and poor, young and old. And there’s a reason why you’ve never read about it in the newspaper or seen a report on the nightly news: it has no name — and no antidote.
The culprit behind this silent killer is lead. And vinyl. And formaldehyde. And asbestos. And Bisphenol A. And polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). And thousands more innovations brought to us by the industries that once promised “better living through chemistry,” but instead produced a toxic stew that has made every American a guinea pig and has turned the United States into one grand unnatural experiment.
Today, we are all unwitting subjects in the largest set of drug trials ever. Without our knowledge or consent, we are testing thousands of suspected toxic chemicals and compounds, as well as new substances whose safety is largely unproven and whose effects on human beings are all but unknown. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) itself has begun monitoring our bodies for 151 potentially dangerous chemicals, detailing the variety of pollutants we store in our bones, muscle, blood, and fat. None of the companies introducing these new chemicals has even bothered to tell us we’re part of their experiment. None of them has asked us to sign consent forms or explained that they have little idea what the long-term side effects of the chemicals they’ve put in our environment — and so our bodies — could be. Nor do they have any clue as to what the synergistic effects of combining so many novel chemicals inside a human body in unknown quantities might produce.
How Industrial Toxins Entered the American Home
The story of how Americans became unwitting test subjects began more than a century ago. The key figure was Alice Hamilton, the “mother” of American occupational medicine, who began documenting the way workers in lead paint pigment factories, battery plants, and lead mines were suffering terrible palsies, tremors, convulsions, and deaths after being exposed to lead dust that floated in the air, coating their workbenches and clothes.
Soon thereafter, children exposed to lead paint and lead dust in their homes were also identified as victims of this deadly neurotoxin. Many went into convulsions and comas after crawling on floors where lead dust from paint had settled, or from touching lead-painted toys, or teething on lead-painted cribs, windowsills, furniture, and woodwork.
Instead of leveling with the public, the lead industry through its trade group, the Lead Industries Association, began a six-decade-long campaign to cover-up its product’s dire effects. It challenged doctors who reported lead-poisoned children to health departments, distracted the public through advertisements that claimed lead was “safe” to use, and fought regulation of the industry by local government, all in the service of profiting from putting a poison in paint, gasoline, plumbing fixtures, and even toys, baseballs, and fishing gear.
As Joe Camel would be for tobacco, so the little Dutch Boy of the National Lead Company became an iconic marketing tool for Dutch Boy Lead Paint, priming Americans to invite a dangerous product into their children’s playrooms, nurseries, and lives. The company also launched a huge advertising campaign that linked lead to health, rather than danger. It even produced coloring books for children, encouraging them to paint their rooms and furniture using lead-based paint.
Only after thousands of children were poisoned and, in the 1960s, activist groups like the Young Lords and the Black Panthersbegan to use lead poisoning as a symbol of racial and class oppression did public health professionals and the federal government begin to rein in companies like the Sherwin-Williams paint company and the Ethyl Corporation, which produced tetraethyl lead, the lead-additive in gasoline. In 1971, Congress passed the Lead Paint Poisoning Prevention Act that limited lead in paint used for public housing. In 1978, the Consumer Products Safety Commission finally bannedlead in all paints sold for consumer use. During the 1980s, the Environmental Protection Agency issued rules that led to the elimination of leaded gasoline by 1995 (though it still remains in aviation fuel).
The CDC estimates that in at least 4 million households in the U.S. today children are still exposed to dangerous amounts of lead from old paint that produces dust every time a nail is driven into a wall to hang a picture, a new electric socket is installed, or a family renovates its kitchen. It estimates that more than 500,000 children ages one to five have “elevated” levels of lead in their blood. (No level is considered safe for children.) Studies have linked lost IQ points, attention deficit disorders, behavioral problems, dyslexia, and even possibly high incarceration rates to tiny amounts of lead in children’s bodies.
Unfortunately, when it came to the creation of America’s chemical soup, the lead industry was hardly alone. Asbestos is another classic example of an industrial toxin that found its way into people’s homes and bodies. For decades, insulation workers, brake mechanics, construction workers, and a host of others in hundreds of trades fell victim to the disabling and deadly lung diseases of asbestosis or to lung cancer and the fatal cancer called mesothelioma when they breathed in dust produced during the installation of boilers, the insulation of pipes, the fixing of cars that used asbestos brake linings, or the spraying of asbestos on girders. Once again, the industry knew its product’s dangers early and worked assiduously to cover them up.
Despite growing medical knowledge about its effects (and increasing industry attempts to downplay or suppress that knowledge), asbestos was soon introduced to the American home and incorporated into products ranging from insulation for boilers and piping in basements to floor tiles and joint compounds. It was used to make sheetrock walls, roof shingles, ironing boards, oven gloves, and hot plates. Soon an occupational hazard was transformed into a threat to all consumers.
Today, however, these devastating industrial-turned-domestic toxins, which destroyed the health and sometimes took the lives of hundreds of thousands, seem almost quaint when compared to the brew of potential or actual toxins we’re regularly ingesting in the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the food we eat.
Of special concern are a variety of . . .
The FDA is badly broken, and the pharmaceutical and food industries like it that way: they’re the ones who broke it. President Obama doesn’t seem to put much of a priority on fixing it. Rob Garver and Charles Seife report at ProPublica:
On the morning of May 3, 2010, three agents of the Food and Drug Administration descended upon the Houston office of Cetero Research, a firm that conducted research for drug companies worldwide.
Lead agent Patrick Stone, now retired from the FDA, had visited the Houston lab many times over the previous decade for routine inspections. This time was different. His team was there to investigate a former employee’s allegation that the company had tampered with records and manipulated test data.
When Stone explained the gravity of the inquiry to Chinna Pamidi, the testing facility’s president, the Cetero executive made a brief phone call. Moments later, employees rolled in eight flatbed carts, each double-stacked with file boxes. The documents represented five years of data from some 1,400 drug trials.
Pamidi bluntly acknowledged that much of the lab’s work was fraudulent, Stone said. “You got us,” Stone recalled him saying.
Based partly on records in the file boxes, the FDA eventually concluded that the lab’s violations were so “egregious” and pervasive that studies conducted there between April 2005 and August 2009 might be worthless.
The health threat was potentially serious: About 100 drugs, including sophisticated chemotherapy compounds and addictive prescription painkillers, had been approved for sale in the United States at least in part on the strength of Cetero Houston’s tainted tests. The vast majority, 81, were generic versions of brand-name drugs on which Cetero scientists had often run critical tests to determine whether the copies did, in fact, act the same in the body as the originals. For example, one of these generic drugs was ibuprofen, sold as gelatin capsules by one of the nation’s largest grocery-store chains for months before the FDA received assurance they were safe.
The rest were new medications that required so much research to win approval that the FDA says Cetero’s tests were rarely crucial.
Stone said he expected the FDA to move swiftly to compel new testing and to publicly warn patients and doctors.
Instead, the agency decided to handle the matter quietly, evaluating the medicines with virtually no public disclosure of what it had discovered. It pulled none of the drugs from the market, even temporarily, letting consumers take the ibuprofen and other medicines it no longer knew for sure were safe and effective. To this day, some drugs remain on the market despite the FDA having no additional scientific evidence to back up the safety and efficacy of these drugs.
By contrast, the FDA’s transatlantic counterpart, the European Medicines Agency, has pulled seven Cetero-tested medicines from the market.
The FDA also has moved slowly to . .
Continue reading. The article is lengthy, and the facts reported are shameful.
I guess the FDA figures fraudulent research is better than no research at all, so they accept it. And once companies realize the cost savings they can realize through creating fraudulent research reports instead of doing actual research, they’re going to go for it—well, they already have, haven’t they? And now that the FDA indicates that this approach is fine, I imagine we’ll see a lot more of it.
It’s quite clear now that the FDA works on behalf of big corporations, not the American public.
For a look at the damage done, read this brief article at ProPublica:
Andrew Richards remembers that he had just sat down in front of the TV when the lightning bolt struck. “It was almost like it went through my ear because I could hear it. It was kind of like, ‘fwomp,’ right through my head,” he says.
Stunned and disoriented, Richards tried to get up, he says, but spasms rumbled through his torso and his back; his muscles kept clenching and relaxing. He doesn’t recall falling. “It was almost like a little piece of time was missing, almost like a record skipped ahead a little bit,” he says, “like I was sitting on my couch and time had moved forward and I was on the floor.”
The next thing Richards remembers was calling out to his wife, who scooped him up and drove him to the emergency room. He would soon discover that the lightning bolt that struck him down was an electrical storm taking place entirely in his brain: a seizure. Less than a year later he was in court, contending that his seizure — and the spasms that he says still plague him — were caused by a faulty generic medication.
Generic medications are generally safe and effective, because the Food and Drug Administration mandates tests to show that they are equivalent to the name-brand originals. But in 2011, the Food and Drug Administration determined that a major laboratory had committed such “egregious” research violations that years’ worth of its tests — many comparing generics to name-brand drugs — were potentially worthless. The FDA has required drug manufacturers to redo many of the tests from that lab, owned by the now-defunct Cetero Research. But a ProPublica investigation shows that the agency took little action to prevent consumers from taking medicines the FDA no longer knew for sure were safe or effective. . .
Certainly SDD would be easier to fix. Vatsal Thakkar writes in the NY Times:
IN the spring of 2010, a new patient came to see me to find out if he had attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder. He had all the classic symptoms: procrastination, forgetfulness, a propensity to lose things and, of course, the inability to pay attention consistently. But one thing was unusual. His symptoms had started only two years earlier, when he was 31.
Though I treat a lot of adults for attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, the presentation of this case was a violation of an important diagnostic criterion: symptoms must date back to childhood. It turned out he first started having these problems the month he began his most recent job, one that required him to rise at 5 a.m., despite the fact that he was a night owl.
The patient didn’t have A.D.H.D., I realized, but a chronic sleep deficit. I suggested some techniques to help him fall asleep at night, like relaxing for 90 minutes before getting in bed at 10 p.m. If necessary, he could take a small amount of melatonin. When he returned to see me two weeks later, his symptoms were almost gone. I suggested he call if they recurred. I never heard from him again.
Many theories are thrown around to explain the rise in the diagnosis and treatment of A.D.H.D. in children and adults. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 11 percent of school-age children have now received a diagnosis of the condition. I don’t doubt that many people do, in fact, have A.D.H.D.; I regularly diagnose and treat it in adults. But what if a substantial proportion of cases are really sleep disorders in disguise?
For some people — especially children — sleep deprivation does not necessarily cause lethargy; instead they become hyperactive and unfocused. Researchers and reporters are increasingly seeing connections between dysfunctional sleep and what looks like A.D.H.D., but those links are taking a long time to be understood by parents and doctors.
We all get less sleep than we used to. The number of adults who reported sleeping fewer than seven hours each night went from some 2 percent in 1960 to more than 35 percent in 2011. Sleep is even more crucial for children, who need delta sleep — the deep, rejuvenating, slow-wave kind — for proper growth and development. Yet today’s youngsters sleep more than an hour less than they did a hundred years ago. And for all ages, contemporary daytime activities — marked by nonstop 14-hour schedules and inescapable melatonin-inhibiting iDevices — often impair sleep. It might just be a coincidence, but this sleep-restricting lifestyle began getting more extreme in the 1990s, the decade with the explosion in A.D.H.D. diagnoses.
A number of studies have shown that a huge proportion of children with an A.D.H.D. diagnosis also have sleep-disordered breathing like apnea or snoring, restless leg syndrome or non-restorative sleep, in which delta sleep is frequently interrupted.
One study, published in 2004 in the journal Sleep, . . ..
Good article by Bill Moyers and Michael Winship:
If you want to see why the public approval rating of Congress is down in the sub-arctic range — an icy 15 percent by last count — all you have to do is take a quick look at how the House and Senate pay worship at the altar of corporations, banks and other special interests at the expense of public aspirations and need.
Traditionally, political scientists have taught their students that there are two schools of thought about how a legislator should get the job done. One is to vote yay or nay on a bill by following the will of his or her constituency, doing what they say they want. The other is to represent them as that legislator sees fit, acting in the best interest of the voters — whether they like it or not.
But our current Congress — as cranky and inert as an obnoxious old uncle who refuses to move from his easy chair — never went to either of those schools. Its members rarely have the voter in mind at all, unless, of course, that voter’s a cash-laden heavy hitter with the clout to keep an incumbent on the leash and comfortably in office.
How else to explain a Congress that still adamantly refuses to do anything, despite some 90 percent of the American public being in favor of background checks for gun purchases and a healthy majority favoring other gun control measures? Last week, they ignored the pleas of Newtown families and the siege of violence in Boston and yielded once again to the fanatical rants of Wayne LaPierre and the National Rifle Association. In just the first three months of this year, as it shoved back against the renewed push for controls, the NRA spent a record $800,000 keeping congressional members in line.
And how else to explain why corporate tax breaks have more than doubled in the last 25 years? Or why the Senate and House recently gutted the STOCK Act requiring disclosure of financial transactions by White House staff and members of Congress and their staffs and prohibiting them from insider trading? It was passed into law and signed by President Obama last year — an election year — with great self-congratulation from all involved. But fears allegedly arose that there might be security risks for some in the executive branch if their financial business was known.
That concern was examined by the Columbia Journalism Review, which “consulted four cybersecurity experts from leading think tanks and private security consultancies. Each came to the same conclusion: that Congress’s rationale for scrapping the financial disclosure rules was bogus.” Nonetheless, the House and Senate leapt at the opportunity to eviscerate key sections of the STOCK Act when almost no one was watching. And the president signed it.
Then there’s the fertilizer plant in West, Texas, where last week, fire and explosion killed at least 15 — 11 of them first responders — and injured more than 200. The Reuters news service reported that the factory “had last year been storing 1,350 times the amount of ammonium nitrate that would normally trigger safety oversight by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.” Why wasn’t Homeland Security on top of this? For one thing, the company was required to tell the department — and didn’t. For another, budget cuts demanded by Congress mean there aren’t enough personnel available for spot inspections.
Same goes for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration — OSHA. The plant hadn’t been inspected in nearly thirty years, and there are so few OSHA inspectors in Texas that it would take 98 years for them to take a look at each workplace in the state once. According to the non-partisan reform group Public Campaign, “Already only able to conduct 40,000 workplace inspections a year in a country with seven million worksites, OSHA will see its budget cut by an additional 8.2 percent this year on account of the sequester.”
Twelve members of Congress want to make a bad situation even worse, sponsoring the industry-backed General Duty Clarification Act; its banal title hiding that, as reported by Tim Murphy at Mother Jones magazine, “The bill is designed to sap the Environmental Protection Agency of its powers to regulate safety and security at major chemical sites, as prescribed by the Clean Air Act.” . . .
Continue reading. It’s important to consider two things: first, businesses care nothing for the common welfare, and second, Congress (and to a great extent, the Executive branch as well) is now controlled by business.