Risk Management and Decision-making for Health and the Environment Tribal Leaders Summit April 20, 2005 Pamela Miller,  Al...
What is environmental health? <ul><li>Complete physical, mental, and social well-being—not merely the absence of disease o...
Why the system of risk assessment has failed… <ul><li>There are more than 80,000 chemicals in commerce </li></ul><ul><li>M...
Environmental exposures and disease <ul><li>13% of all lung cancers occur among people who do not smoke </li></ul><ul><li>...
 
Patterns in childhood diseases <ul><li>Childhood cancers are increasing, especially for leukemia and brain cancers. 8,000 ...
Chemicals contribute to learning, developmental and behavioral  disabilities <ul><li>Developmental neuro-toxicants include...
Warning signs in our communities <ul><li>Cancer clusters </li></ul><ul><li>Fertility or reproductive problems </li></ul><u...
Global Warning signs <ul><li>Worldwide disappearance of frogs </li></ul><ul><li>High rates of tumors, sores, and deformiti...
Hormone disruption <ul><li>Hormones are exceptionally potent chemicals in our bodies that act at concentrations in parts p...
Endocrine disruptors <ul><li>DES and DDT </li></ul><ul><li>Dioxins </li></ul><ul><li>PCBs </li></ul><ul><li>Phthalates </l...
Fertility effects <ul><li>Male sperm counts down by 50%  </li></ul><ul><li>Male reproductive tract birth defects increasin...
Incidence of endocrine disease increases near contaminated areas <ul><li>Studies near contaminated sites show elevated inc...
Body Burden <ul><li>116 synthetic chemicals, some banned for more than 2 decades because of toxicity, in the bodies of all...
Dioxins and PCBs <ul><li>Impaired learning, IQ deficits, abnormal reflexes and startle responses </li></ul><ul><li>Low bir...
Neurodegenerative diseases <ul><li>Alzheimer’s disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), Parkinson’s disease may be li...
Risk assessment is killing us <ul><li>Used to defend activities that harm us by defining “acceptable” or “safe” levels of ...
Risk assessment undermines tribal authority and democracy <ul><li>Decisions are made without the consent of tribal leaders...
Risk assessment is a guessing game <ul><li>Risk assessment ignores additive, cumulative, and synergistic hazards of daily ...
Additional Problems  with Risk Assessment <ul><li>Although EPA claims that risk assessment is a purely scientific process,...
A solution: precaution and alternatives assessment <ul><li>Advantages include: </li></ul><ul><li>Focuses on available opti...
Fundamental principles of  alternatives assessment <ul><li>It is not acceptable to harm people or wildlife when there are ...
Replacing Risk Assessment <ul><li>“ Risk assessment is a premier process by which illegitimate exercise of power is justif...
Solutions and Action <ul><li>Phase out chemicals known to cause cancer, genetic harm, endocrine disorders, immune and neur...
Precautionary action and prevention When an activity raises threats of harm to human health or the environment, precaution...
Local actions for Health and Justice <ul><li>Enact tribal ordinances/laws that prevent the release of toxic chemicals from...
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Risk Management and Decision-making for Health and the ...

  1. 1. Risk Management and Decision-making for Health and the Environment Tribal Leaders Summit April 20, 2005 Pamela Miller, Alaska Community Action on Toxics
  2. 2. What is environmental health? <ul><li>Complete physical, mental, and social well-being—not merely the absence of disease or infirmity </li></ul><ul><li>Clean water, air, safe toxics-free food </li></ul><ul><li>Safe environment for everyone, including the most vulnerable among us—pregnant women, developing babies, children, adolescents, those with chronic illness, elderly people </li></ul><ul><li>Environmental health supports environmental justice </li></ul>
  3. 3. Why the system of risk assessment has failed… <ul><li>There are more than 80,000 chemicals in commerce </li></ul><ul><li>Most chemicals are poorly tested or totally untested </li></ul><ul><li>Nearly 75% of the top volume chemicals have undergone little or no toxicity testing. </li></ul><ul><li>Complete tests for developmental neurotoxicity have been submitted to EPA for only 12 chemicals. </li></ul><ul><li>Even when regulated, threats from chemical exposure are estimated for one chemical at a time, while people are exposed to many toxicants which can interact to magnify damaging effects or cause new types of harm. </li></ul>
  4. 4. Environmental exposures and disease <ul><li>13% of all lung cancers occur among people who do not smoke </li></ul><ul><li>The majority of cancers cannot be traced back to smoking. Many of the cancers now showing rapid rates of increase include cancers of the brain, bone marrow (multiple myeloma), lymph nodes (non-Hodgkins lymphoma), skin (melanoma), testicles. </li></ul><ul><li>Other cancers that show increasing incidence and mortality include: liver, breast, kidney, prostate, esophageal. </li></ul><ul><li>Children are particularly vulnerable. </li></ul>
  5. 6. Patterns in childhood diseases <ul><li>Childhood cancers are increasing, especially for leukemia and brain cancers. 8,000 children are diagnosed with cancer each year—one in 400 Americans will develop cancer before age 15. </li></ul><ul><li>There is an epidemic of learning and behavioral disabilities among children—nearly 12 million (17%) of children in the U.S. under age 18 suffer from learning, developmental or behavioral disabilities. </li></ul><ul><li>Prevalence is greater among older children, boys, communities of color and low income households. </li></ul><ul><li>California autism registry showed an increase of 210% between 1987-1998. </li></ul>
  6. 7. Chemicals contribute to learning, developmental and behavioral disabilities <ul><li>Developmental neuro-toxicants include the metals lead, mercury, cadmium, manganese; the pesticides such as organophosphates; dioxins and PCBs that bioaccumulate; solvents including those used in paints, glues, and cleaning solutions. </li></ul><ul><li>Adverse impacts are seen at current exposure levels. </li></ul><ul><li>1.16 million women of childbearing years eat enough mercury contaminated fish to damage brain development in their children. </li></ul><ul><li>Prenatal exposure to PCBs at ambient environmental levels adversely affects brain development. </li></ul><ul><li>One million U.S. children exceed the currently “accepted” level for lead effects on behavior and cognition (10 micrograms/dl). Current studies indicate that lead may have no exposure level that is “safe.” </li></ul>
  7. 8. Warning signs in our communities <ul><li>Cancer clusters </li></ul><ul><li>Fertility or reproductive problems </li></ul><ul><li>Miscarriages, fetal or infant deaths </li></ul><ul><li>Birth defects </li></ul><ul><li>Serious illnesses and hospitalizations </li></ul><ul><li>Chronic lung disease </li></ul><ul><li>Asthma </li></ul><ul><li>Anemia </li></ul><ul><li>Immunological problems—lowered resistance to illness, infections </li></ul><ul><li>Neurological-behavioral problems </li></ul>
  8. 9. Global Warning signs <ul><li>Worldwide disappearance of frogs </li></ul><ul><li>High rates of tumors, sores, and deformities in fish in certain rivers, lakes, and coastal waters </li></ul><ul><li>Pervasive evidence of hormone disruption throughout the animal kingdom (turtles, fish, birds, mammals)—thinning of egg shells, deformities in reproductive organs </li></ul><ul><li>Accumulation of persistent pollutants in the bodies of fish, wildlife and people in the Arctic. For example, the breast milk of Inuit women in northern Canada contains 3-10 times the PCB toxicity than breast milk of white women in Quebec. PCBs and other industrial chemicals are transported thousands of miles—the Arctic has become a hemispheric sink. U.S. military bases (DEW-line sites) across the Arctic contain more than 30,000 pounds of PCBs in unlined landfills. </li></ul>
  9. 10. Hormone disruption <ul><li>Hormones are exceptionally potent chemicals in our bodies that act at concentrations in parts per trillion (= 1 drop in 660 tank cars, train 6 miles long) </li></ul><ul><li>Hormones regulate growth, development, sexual differentiation, reproduction. </li></ul><ul><li>Anything that mimics or blocks process can cause disruption at critical periods of development – extraordinary sensitivity and timing is everything. </li></ul>
  10. 11. Endocrine disruptors <ul><li>DES and DDT </li></ul><ul><li>Dioxins </li></ul><ul><li>PCBs </li></ul><ul><li>Phthalates </li></ul><ul><li>Pesticides </li></ul>
  11. 12. Fertility effects <ul><li>Male sperm counts down by 50% </li></ul><ul><li>Male reproductive tract birth defects increasing. </li></ul><ul><li>Many animal studies show offspring with increased fetal/infant death, female sex, intersex, abnormal mating and parenting behaviors. </li></ul><ul><li>Increasing cancers of reproductive organs. </li></ul><ul><li>Endometriosis, fibroids, prostrate hyperplasia. </li></ul>
  12. 13. Incidence of endocrine disease increases near contaminated areas <ul><li>Studies near contaminated sites show elevated incidence of : </li></ul><ul><li>Thyroid disorders in women </li></ul><ul><li>Endometriosis </li></ul><ul><li>Deaths from diseases of the female genital tract </li></ul>
  13. 14. Body Burden <ul><li>116 synthetic chemicals, some banned for more than 2 decades because of toxicity, in the bodies of all people </li></ul><ul><li>Women carry a higher body burden of certain pesticides, including beta-HCH, oxychlordane, DDT/DDE </li></ul>
  14. 15. Dioxins and PCBs <ul><li>Impaired learning, IQ deficits, abnormal reflexes and startle responses </li></ul><ul><li>Low birth weight </li></ul><ul><li>Girls exposed in utero reach puberty at a younger age </li></ul><ul><li>Interfere with thyroid function </li></ul><ul><li>Cardiovascular disease </li></ul><ul><li>Diabetes </li></ul><ul><li>Susceptibility to infections </li></ul><ul><li>Dioxins and PCBs adversely affect brain development at ambient levels of exposure. Prenatal exposures result in permanent effects. </li></ul><ul><li>Endometriosis in women and infertility in men. </li></ul>
  15. 16. Neurodegenerative diseases <ul><li>Alzheimer’s disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), Parkinson’s disease may be linked with exposure to metals (lead, aluminum). </li></ul><ul><li>Pesticide and solvent exposure are linked with Parkinson’s disease. PCBs, dieldrin, lindane are elevated in the brains of Parkinson’s disease patients. </li></ul>
  16. 17. Risk assessment is killing us <ul><li>Used to defend activities that harm us by defining “acceptable” or “safe” levels of risk. Uses of risk assessment include: </li></ul><ul><li>Pesticide registrations and uses </li></ul><ul><li>“ Allowable” toxic residues in our foods </li></ul><ul><li>“ Allowable” drinking water contamination </li></ul><ul><li>Permits to discharge toxic chemicals to rivers and streams </li></ul><ul><li>Burning and incineration permits </li></ul><ul><li>Cleanup standards for leaks, spills, Superfund sites, nuclear sites </li></ul><ul><li>ATSDR health assessments </li></ul>
  17. 18. Risk assessment undermines tribal authority and democracy <ul><li>Decisions are made without the consent of tribal leaders and tribal members </li></ul><ul><li>Risk assessments often use arbitrary assumptions and models that cannot be verified </li></ul><ul><li>Risk assessment obscures and removes the fundamental right to say “no” to unnecessary poisoning of one’s body </li></ul><ul><li>Risk assessments assume that potentially damaging chemicals or activities are “innocent” until proven guilty </li></ul>
  18. 19. Risk assessment is a guessing game <ul><li>Risk assessment ignores additive, cumulative, and synergistic hazards of daily exposures to toxic chemicals because it assesses risk based on one chemical at a time </li></ul><ul><li>Risk assessment ignores all possible effects including those not detected in lab tests such as headaches, joint pain, fatigue, emotional disturbance, endocrine disorders </li></ul><ul><li>Risk assessment ignores hazards that may vary depending on age, sensitivity, and health condition </li></ul>
  19. 20. Additional Problems with Risk Assessment <ul><li>Although EPA claims that risk assessment is a purely scientific process, it is often influenced by pressure from industry, the military and politicians </li></ul><ul><li>Risk assesssment is used to determine “acceptable” levels of cancer and other illnesses—exposures to chemicals without our consent </li></ul><ul><li>Risk assessment is based on the premise that there is an “acceptable” level of risk rather than making an assessment of how harm can be prevented </li></ul>
  20. 21. A solution: precaution and alternatives assessment <ul><li>Advantages include: </li></ul><ul><li>Focuses on available options for doing the least harm and bringing the greatest benefits to the health of the people </li></ul><ul><li>Tribes assert sovereign authority </li></ul><ul><li>Involves people’s creativity and innovation in supporting a healthy future </li></ul><ul><li>Places responsibility on those who diminish, pollute, extract, and degrade to think publicly about alternative ways they can behave </li></ul>
  21. 22. Fundamental principles of alternatives assessment <ul><li>It is not acceptable to harm people or wildlife when there are reasonable alternatives </li></ul><ul><li>Nobody can define for someone else what damage is “acceptable” </li></ul><ul><li>Considers the way to cause the least damage and the options to restore environmental health </li></ul>
  22. 23. Replacing Risk Assessment <ul><li>“ Risk assessment is a premier process by which illegitimate exercise of power is justified.” – Dr. Mary O’Brien </li></ul><ul><li>We must look at ways to replace the current outmoded model of risk assessment with a system of assessment that looks at the full range of alternatives and that is protective of the most vulnerable of our tribal peoples and of future generations. </li></ul><ul><li>Tribes must hold fast to sovereignty and our inherent rights as Indigenous peoples to clean air, water, and toxic-free foods. </li></ul>
  23. 24. Solutions and Action <ul><li>Phase out chemicals known to cause cancer, genetic harm, endocrine disorders, immune and neurological damage </li></ul><ul><li>Hold corporations and the military accountable for hazardous practices and provide incentives for clean business </li></ul><ul><li>Establish bio-monitoring and health tracking systems </li></ul>
  24. 25. Precautionary action and prevention When an activity raises threats of harm to human health or the environment, precautionary measures should be taken even if some cause and effect relationships are not fully established scientifically. In this context, the proponent of an activity, rather than the public, should bear the burden of proof. The process of applying the precautionary principle must be open, informed and democratic and must include all potentially affected parties. It must also involve an examination of the full range of alternatives, including no action.
  25. 26. Local actions for Health and Justice <ul><li>Enact tribal ordinances/laws that prevent the release of toxic chemicals from military and industrial sources into our air, waters, and foods </li></ul><ul><li>Establish high and protective standards for environmental cleanup </li></ul><ul><li>Ensure policies or ordinances that prevent the production and use of harmful pesticides. Require EPA to consult with tribes about pesticide registrations that affect us here. </li></ul><ul><li>Establish purchasing policies that eliminate use of PVC plastics and chlorine-bleached paper </li></ul><ul><li>Adopt other policies and practices that use the precautionary principle. Other ideas…? </li></ul>
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