Health Consequences of Environmental Degradation and Social Injustice Martin Donohoe, M. D., F. A. C. P



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Other Sources of Air Pollution

  • World Trade Center bombings (9-11)
    • 3,300 fatalities
    • Over 18,000 people suffering health problems linked to attack and rescue (multiple toxic pollutants in smoke and rubble
    • First responders suffer elevated rates or asthma, abnormal spirometry, GERD, depression, PTSD, panic disorder, and cancer
    • James Zadroga Health and Compensation Act of 2010 provides for some coverage of monitoring, treatment, and victim compensation

Noise Pollution

  • Common in inner cities, hospital wards
  • Average sound level 72dB in hospital wards
    • WHO recommends no more than 35dB
  • Adverse health effects include increased risk of HTN, ischemic heart disease, delayed wound healing, aggressive behavior, need for psychiatric and pain medications, GERD symptoms, hearing loss in neonates, and increased rates of rehospitalization

Garbage

Garbage

  • 98% of the country’s total refuse is industrial waste; 2% municipal waste
    • Making 1 lb of sellable product generates avg. 32 lbs. of waste

Garbage

  • American produce 4.5 lbs/d garbage
    • 1,680 lbs/person/yr
    • Only 1.5 lbs recycled
    • Newer estimate is 7.1 lbs/d
  • In a lifetime, the average American generates 102 tons of trash

U.S. Garbage Composition

  • Paper and Paperboard - 34%
    • Average American receives 41 lbs of junk mail per year
  • Yard Waste - 13%
  • Food Waste - 12%
  • Plastics - 12%
  • Metals - 8%
  • Glass - 6%
  • Wood - 5%

U.S. Recycling Rates

  • Tires - 22%
  • Plastic containers - 25%
  • Overall plastics – 7%
  • Glass containers - 28%
  • Yard waste - 41%
  • Paper and Paperboard - 55%
  • Aluminum packaging - 54%
  • Steel cans - 60%
  • Auto batteries - 93%

Garbage

  • Average recycling rate for cities = 34%
    • San Francisco = 78%
  • One half of US has no curbside recycling pickup
  • Landfills
  • Incinerators
    • Between ¼ and ½ of rural Americans burn their trash
      • Accounts for 1/3 of U.S. dioxin emissions
      • Outlawed in some states

Garbage

  • Garbage Exports
  • Mafia involved in $22 billion-a-yr illicit wasted trade
  • 15 million grassroots recyclers / waste pickers living in garbage dumps worldwide

Exporting Waste

  • “Just between you and me, shouldn’t the World Bank be encouraging more migration of the dirty industries to the LDCs (Lesser Developed Countries)?...I’ve always thought that underpopulated countries in Africa are vastly underpolluted.”
    • World Bank President Larry Summers (1991); Later became Secretary of US Treasury under Clinton, President of Harvard University, then Chairman of Obama’s White House National Economic Council under Obama

Toxins

Toxins

  • 6 trillion tons of over 85,000 chemicals produced annually
    • 2000-3000 new chemicals registered each year
      • 2/3 of those introduced since 1983 marked “trade secret,” making investigation difficult
    • More than 90% have never been screened for toxicity
    • Consequence of 1976 Toxic Substances Control Act

Toxic Pollutants

  • The chemical industry is a $450 billion enterprise in the U.S. alone
  • Chemical manufacturers are not required to prove safety
    • The legal burden is on the government to prove that a product is dangerous

Pesticides

  • Based on the poison gasses developed in WW I
  • Vandana Shiva: “We are eating the leftovers of World War I”

Pesticides

  • 5.1 billion lbs/yr pesticides worldwide
    • 30% in US
  • 17,000 products
  • $44 billion worldwide market
    • 10 firms control 90% of market

Pesticides

  • CA, NY, and OR are the only states currently tracking pesticide sales and use
    • OR system under-funded
  • EPA estimates U.S. farm workers suffer up to 300,000 pesticide-related acute illnesses and injuries per year

Pesticides

  • NAS estimates that pesticides in food could cause up to 1 million cancers in the current generation of Americans
  • 1,000,000 people killed by pesticides over the last 6 years (WHO)

Pesticides

  • Even so, the EPA and NAS have OK’d human subject testing…..
  • Monsanto’s Roundup purchased by US government for aerial spraying in Colombia as part of “War on Drugs”

Pesticides

  • Pesticides inhibit nitrogen fixation, decrease crop yields
  • Evidence suggests these actually promote pests (vs. natural pesticides)
      • 30% of medieval crop harvests were destroyed by pests vs. 35-42% of current crop harvests
    • Implies organic farming more cost-effective

Pesticides

  • Linked to autism, Parkinson’s Disease, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, obesity (with prenatal exposure), depression, ADHD
  • Autism spectrum disorders affect 1/68 children in U.S.
  • Children living on or near farms score 5 points lower on IQ tests and other mental and verbal tests

Anthropological Study of Children Exposed to Pesticides

  • Children from villages practicing organic agriculture
  • Children from villages practicing non-organic agriculture

Pesticides

Pesticides

  • $2.4 billion worth of insecticides and fungicides sold to American farmers each year
  • Pesticide runoff contributes to coastal dead zones
    • Over 200 (e.g., Baltic Sea, Mouth of Mississippi in Gulf of Mexico, Chesapeake Bay, off Oregon/Washington coast)
    • Red tides
  • Pesticides inhibit nitrogen fixation, decrease crop yields
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