Monday, April 20, 2009

Background to the True Tales

Background to the True Tales

In the 1970s and 1980s, I became aware of the strong connection between the environment and health. During those years I received a Master of Science degree in Family Health Ecology and taught a course at Michigan State University.

I have always been an avid walker and grew increasingly dismayed to see the little pesticide application signs on more and more lawns. In fact, a pesticide company boasted that they treated four or five yards on every street. Wanting to protect myself and my neighbors, I began to distribute scientifically relevant materials door-to-door.

I quickly realized:

1) NO ONE WAS MOVED BY DIRE STATISTICS. People seemed to feel if illness beset them, they would deal with it then, and not through a preventive approach.

2) Their homes were their citadels, and they were determined to keep them inviolate, and PROTECT THEM FROM EXTERNAL INFLUENCES.

It came to me that TALES, especially if TRUE, would MORE LIKELY MOVE PEOPLE THAN DATA.

It is abundantly clear to me that if we genuinely want to bring down health care costs we must first assess ALL THE FACTORS THAT ARE IMPACTING ON THE OUTCOME, including preventive and corrective. Three things can facilitate this:

1) FOCUS on a multi-factored approach.

2) Join a COALITION with like-minded groups.

3) DRAMATIZE by telling true tales.

Four True Tales - Which Show Our Environment's Impact on Our Health

1. It was a balmy April spring evening. The light was still bright. I was walking near a small neighborhood playground. I saw there, two fathers, each absorbed in the play of his toddler son. As I approached them, I glanced down and saw a small white sign on the grass at the edge of the playground.


It was freshly applied that day. The fathers were too engrossed in interacting with their sons to notice the warning. If they saw the sign would they have left? Or weren't they even aware of the possible connection between the chemicals applied and the health of their sons?


The pesticide company should have put up a large, brightly colored WARNING FLAG and the CITY COUNCIL SHOULD CONSIDER BANNING PESTICIDE USE FROM ALL CITY PLAYGROUNDS AND PARKS.

2. A few years ago I was walking on the sidewalk around the back of an elementary school in the neighborhood next to mine. I stopped to watch two young girls, fascinated by their carefree rolling in the grass. They were teasing and laughing. As I turned the corner to the front of the school, the good feeling turned sour:


What was the foul up in communication? Did the school INFORM the students about keeping off the grass? The girls either didn't know, didn't PAY ATTENTION when told, weren't IMPRESSED WITH THE IMPORTANCE of what they were told, were ABSENT that day, or couldn't READ.

When school administrators and parents allow toxins so close to young people everything has to be WEIGHED VERY CAREFULLY.


3. A vibrant senior who takes pride in his lawn lives one block from me. He regularly uses a chemical lawn service to insure no weeds. Directly across the street from his yard lives a gracious woman who has serious health concerns.
One day the lawn service applicator came, and seeing the man's mail box on the woman's side of the street, assume is was on his property, and SPRAYED HER YARD INSTEAD. The service man DID NOT LEAVE A SIGN that spraying had been done nor told her about his mistake.
When the young men from the grass cutting service came, they "sniffed out the spray odor" and REFUSED TO CUT HER GRASS FOR AT LEAST TWO DAYS. This woman could have unknowingly tracked pesticide spray into her home. People frequently walk their dogs on the shoulder of both lawns as there is no sidewalk. If the grass cutters hadn't been alert, they might have been exposed to the fresh spray.


4. Another homeowner in the neighborhood, who had been adversely affected by chemical sprays, asked the pesticide company to call her before each new application at homes adjacent to her home. She was concerned about the SPRAY DRIFT PROPELLED BY THE WIND. They did call before several visits, but after one traumatic episode they stopped the warning calls.
This is what happened: A truck pulled up to the house next door and a woman company trainer and a young man trainee got out with their equipment. The trainer urged him to spray faster. He ran back and forth spraying not directly into the ground but laterally, up into the air, and across the ground.
When he saw the homeowner staring in disbelief, he started shouting, "Go back, go inside." A carpenter working in the homeowner's garage was a witness. THIS SHOWS HOW CHEMICAL SPRAY CAN DRIFT UNINTENTIONALLY BEYOND A LOT LINE.


Four Compelling Questions

1. If you scan the lists of companies or foundations granting research dollars, you will find that oncology labs disproportionately receive the appropriations.
Why is there not more substantive support for environmental laboratories studying the connections between environmental irritants and health?

2. The New York Times on January 9, 2005 had a prominent article in its magazine section on how breast tissue and breast milk absorb toxins.
Yet in subsequent issues of the paper, why was there no apparent write-up of how to clear or prevent toxins?

3. In the 1970s, and up to today, Samuel S. Epstein, M.D.*, professor emeritus of Environmental and Occupational Medicine at the University of Illinois School of Public Health, and Chairman of the Cancer Prevention Coalition, has been alerting us to the powerful connection between environmental poisons and cancer. Dr. Epstein has published over 260 peer reviewed articles, and authored or co-authored 11 books. These books include: The Politics of Cancer, Breast Cancer Prevention Program, Cancer-Gate: How to Win the Losing Cancer War, and Toxic Beauty. In 2007, Epstein did a presentation named "Beyond Pesticides," at the 25th National Pesticides Forum.
Why has it taken about 30 years and untold misery to begin to consider this connection?

4. The Breast Cancer Fund in San Francisco, California, merits attention because it is a leading proponent of active measures which can be taken by women to avoid breast cancer, such as avoiding chlorinated chemicals, paint solvents, and contaminants in makeup.
Why don't more "pink ribbon" organizations take up this crusade against likely carcinogens, and counsel companies who are marketing potentially unhealthy products?

* Dr. Epstein can be reached at:
Contacts: University of Illinois at Chicago
School of Public Health, MC 922
2121 West Taylor Street
Chicago, IL 60612
(312) 996-2297

Thursday, April 16, 2009

An Insight on Healthcare

The view that President Obama and his staff are taking on HEALTH CARE and HEALTH INSURANCE in this country needs a BROADER, MORE ECOLOGICAL APPROACH. They're giving the public the message that if you have healthcare insurance you'll be TAKEN CARE OF and SAFE. Their goals emphasize the STATISTICS of everyone being covered, but what good is it to have coverage if that coverage means hospitals and physicians that, due to PRESSURES OF TIME, PEER REVIEW, and LOBBYISTS (from the confines of their narrow discipline or what's in vogue or making money at the time), NARROW THEIR PERSPECTIVE?

I remember hearing Teresa Heinz Kerry during the 2004 election, eloquently speaking about the need to GET RID OF POSSIBLE POISONS, PESTICIDES, AND POLLUTANTS in the inner city where children are at a high risk, rather than primarily focusing on statistics and treatment of asthma. Isn't it better while focusing on the asthma problem to deliver a MORE ENCOMPASSING APPROACH rather than just providing inhalers and steroids to these children?


In order for health care to be effective and COST EFFECTIVE, we have to be more prudent, and have more watchdogs looking out for the safety of people. Attention must be given to what is going on in the REALITY OF HEALTH CARE, rather than just thinking that GAINING INSURANCE IS A PANACEA.

If a neighborhood has a relatively HIGH INCIDENCE of BREAST CANCER, attention should be given to ENVIRONMENTAL FACTORS which could be IMPACTING on this incidence. For example, PESTICIDE USE, CAR EXHAUST, WATER CONTAMINATION, and HISTORICAL USE OF THE LAND (was it a nursery, was it next to a landfill, or was it near an industry that spewed noxious waste?) are all potential irritants.

This sounds good but it's not simple, because we are DEPENDENT on the VERY INDUSTRIES which may be POLLUTING to make our ECONOMY VIBRANT. This means we have to address the issue gently with a big stick, and RETHINK, RETOOL, and RETRAIN these industries which have negative effects on human welfare.