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Rachel's Democracy and Health News

Rachel's Democracy & Health News #930 "Environment, health, jobs and justice--Who gets to decide?" Thursday, October 25, 2007printer-friendly version

Featured stories in this issue...

Industry's Plan for Us
The fossil fuel corporations have a plan for us, and it does not include any substantial investment in renewable solar energy. Their plan is focused on "geo-engineering" -- which means re-engineering the oceans, the atmosphere and the earth itself to make it possible to continue burning fossil fuels. U.S. EPA is on board with the plan.
Dioxins Can Alter Normal Sex Ratios for Births
Using birth data and an inventory of pollution sources, the study concluded that early exposure to dioxins -- even at 25 km (15.5 miles) away from the source -- increased the risk of cancer later in life in a group of 20,000 people surveyed during the 1990s. The large-scale burning of municipal and medical waste is the primary source of dioxins in Canada.... but they are also created by electrical power generation....
Criminal Element
"The idea that a society could have systematically poisoned its youngest children with the same neurotoxins in two different ways over the same century is almost impossible to believe."
The Lethal Consequences of Breathing Fire
When the Victorians first conceived of incinerators in the late 19th century they called them 'destructor units', as this perfectly describes what they do. In principle little has changed. Despite the best efforts of the industry to rebrand and clean up incineration, the fact remains that 'garbage in' means 'garbage out'.
Environmental Nasty Surprises as a Window on Precautionary Thinking
How often will environmental nasty surprises emerge? How long will it take us to recognize and address them? How much damage will they do? How much, ultimately, is at stake? A precautionary framework for environmental decision making would respond to the urgency of such questions by attempting to shape technologies in ways calculated to make future nasty surprises less frequent and less severe.

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From: Rachel's Democracy & Health News #930, Oct. 25, 2007
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INDUSTRY'S PLAN FOR US

By Peter Montague

It now seems clear that the coal and oil industries are not going to allow the United States to curb global warming by making major investments in renewable sources of energy. These fossil fuel corporations simply have too much at stake to allow it.

Simple physics tells us that the way to minimize the human contribution to global warming is to leave the remaining fossil fuels in the ground -- stop mining them as soon as humanly possible. This obvious solution would require us to turn the nation's industrial prowess to developing solar power in its many forms as quickly as we can -- we would need a "'Manhattan Project' for Energy," as the strategy journal of the top U.S. military planners said recently.

Look at the relative size of our current government investments in solar vs. fossil fuels. In 2007 the federal Department of Energy spent $168 million on solar research. On the other hand each year since 1991 the U.S. government has spent 1000 times that amount -- $169 billion -- subsidizing the flow of oil from the Middle East, according to the Joint Chiefs of Staff, our top military planners. And that figure doesn't include what consumers paid for the oil itself. If our solar investment remains one-tenth of one percent of our investment in oil, there will be no solar power to speak of in our future.

A rapid shift to renewables based on solar would not be easy and I don't want to minimize the effort required. It's stupendously large. But we've undertaken heroic industrial projects before -- and with notable success. We mobilized quickly and massively to defeat the combined industrial might of Germany, Japan, and Italy in less than five years after Pearl Harbor. The original Manhattan Project turned a physicist's theory into a working A-bomb in less than 6 years; just building the gaseous diffusion plant near Oak Ridge, Tennessee was a scientific, engineering and industrial feat of astonishing magnitude and complexity. The Marshall Plan successfully rebuilt Europe after WW II. Our Man-on-the-Moon program succeeded just 11 years after the Russians tweaked our national ego by launching Sputnik into orbit in 1957.

Yes, a shift to solar-powered renewables would be difficult, but it's doable. Unfortunately, any plan to shift from fossil fuels to solar has three fatal flaws, from the viewpoint of Big Oil and Big Coal:

1. The fossil fuel corporations have an enormous investment in fossil infrastructure and they own vast quantities of fossil fuels that they plan to exploit with little real effort over the next 50 years. They have been making excellent profits for a century and, as fossil fuels get scarcer, prices will only rise. In 2006, ExxonMobil reaped profits larger than any other corporation in history ($39.5 billion). If the U.S. does not invest seriously in renewable alternatives, we'll have no choice but to pay whatever price the fossil corporations demand. Just a few days ago oil hit $90 a barrel; eight years ago it was selling for $10 a barrel. No wonder ExxonMobil now has a book value larger than the national budget of France. Naturally, they intend to maintain their market share, even if it means doing everything in their power to thwart progress.

2. The fossil fuel business is 100 years old and fully understood. No surprises lie ahead. But renewables? Who knows which renewables will win out in the marketplace of ideas? If Uncle Sam were to invest as much money in solar power as it has so far invested in the Iraq war (roughly $800 billion), who knows what new technologies would emerge? (Incidentally, if we maintain our current solar research budget at $168 million per year, it will be 4761 years before we have spent as much on solar research as we have, so far, spent in Iraq.) New technical innovations could be very unsettling for complacent industries like coal and oil. For them, innovation spells trouble. Innovation could render them irrelevant in a decade or two and they could disappear just like the makers of whale-oil lamps and buggy whips 100 years ago.

3. Coal and oil are highly centralized. It's their nature. Whoever owns the fossil fuels, the big central power plants, and the distribution systems can call the shots. But solar? The sun shines everywhere and it's free. Suppose some woman at MIT develops a solar panel that you paint onto your roof (from a can you buy at Home Depot), attach some wires, and start generating your own electricity? Central control disappears. This would be like tossing a hand grenade into the current corporate/political structure. Of course even right- wing politicians love lefty-sounding slogans like "power to the people," but they don't mean real power like electricity or hot water or home-made hydrogen for transportation fuel. (Check out the Nova TV program, "Saved by the Sun," which briefly mentions paint-on solar panels.)

No, a serious plan to focus the nation's industrial prowess onto a solar-powered rebirth will not be allowed by the fossil corporations. Instead we'll be offered a rolling circus of technical fixes aimed at keeping coal and oil streaming out of the ground. The circus is already well under way.

A Sulfur Parasol to Blot Out the Sun

Just this week the New York Times published a proposal to attach a fire hose to some lighter-than-air balloons for the purpose of injecting at least a million tons of sulfur particles into the upper atmosphere, to create a giant parasol to cool the planet. Such a scheme might further deplete the Earth's ozone shield, which remains frayed from DuPont's earlier botched experiment with CFCs. And it could create large-scale acid rain. But contemplating these clownish Rube Goldberg solutions may at least relieve the stress of facing what really needs to be done.

A new word enters our vocabulary: Geo-engineering

Instead of allowing the U.S. to make the transition to solar power, the fossil corporations have evidently decided it's better to re-engineer the oceans and the atmosphere -- and perhaps even the planetary orbit of the Earth itself -- to make it possible to continue burning fossil fuels for another 50 years.

Grand schemes for re-engineering the planet now have their own special name -- geo-engineering. The word means, "global-scale interventions to alter the oceans and the atmosphere so fossil corporations can continue business as usual."

The fire-hose-and-balloon project is only one of many "geo- engineering" schemes in the works.

Fertilizing the Oceans with Iron

There are serious plans afoot to dump huge quantities of soluble iron into the oceans as fertilizer, intending to stimulate the growth of plankton, which will then eat carbon dioxide from the air. As the plankton die, their carcasses will sink to the bottom of the ocean, carrying all that carbon dioxide with them, where it will remain for... for... well, actually, nobody knows for how long. How long might it be before that dormant carbon dioxide comes back to bite us? Nobody knows. Would such a plan disrupt life in the oceans? Nobody knows. But private firms are pressing ahead with large-scale ocean- fertilization experiments as we speak. (They are hoping to get rich selling "carbon credits" to polluters so the fossil corporations can continue contaminating the atmosphere with carbon dioxide. We might well ask the ethical question, who gave these cowboys permission to run geo-engineering experiments in the world's oceans?)

This is all very reminiscent of earlier plans to bury nuclear waste in the floor of the Pacific Ocean, on the theory that the seabed has lain dormant for many millions of years. But that plan never caught on because few people could develop sufficient confidence that the future would unfold exactly like the past. There was that nagging doubt... what if we've missed something important and we turn out to be wrong? What if our understanding is flawed? There was too much at stake, and the plan was shelved. (With carbon dioxide, of course, there's far more at stake.)

Mirrors in Orbit

Now there's a new plan to rocket mirrors into orbit around the earth. Another parasol to block sunlight. The mirrors would consist of a mesh of aluminum threads a millionth of an inch in diameter, "like a window screen made of exceedingly fine metal wire," says Lowell Wood at Lawrence Livermore Lab, who dreamed up the idea. The only drawback to this plan mentioned so far is its enormous dollar cost: to reduce incoming sunlight by 1% would require -- get this -- 600,000 square miles of mirror, which is larger than the combined areas of Arkansas, Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Virginia, Tennessee, Kentucky, Indiana, Maine, South Carolina, West Virginia, Maryland, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Delaware and Rhode Island.

Of course the U.S. has a long history of large-scale interventions above the clouds. In 1962 we conducted an experiment called "Starfish Prime" in which we exploded a small nuclear weapon (equivalent to 1.4 million tons of TNT) 400 miles up in the atmosphere, just to see what would happen. What happened came as a complete surprise to the geniuses who set off the blast. The explosion left so much residual radiation trapped in space that the world's first communication satellite -- Telstar, which was launched after Starfish -- failed because it encountered crippling levels of radiation. Ultimately, one- third of all the low-orbit satellites in space at the time were disabled by the residual radiation from Starfish Prime. Another unanticipated cost of Starfish was the temporary shutdown of communications and electrical supply in Hawaii, 1300 kilometers from the blast. Who knew?

Project RBR

Despite lessons supposedly learned from Starfish, just last year the Pentagon proposed a project called RBR ("Radiation Belt Remediation"). The RBR project would generate "very low frequency radio waves to flush particles from the [Van Allen] radiation belts and dump them into the upper atmosphere over one or several days." (There are two Van Allen radiation belts; the one closest to earth lies 400 to 4000 miles in the sky.) The stated purpose of the RBR project is to "protect hundreds of low earth-orbiting satellites from having their onboard electronics ruined by charged particles in unusually intense Van Allen radiation belts 'pumped up' by high- altitude nuclear explosions or powerful solar storms." It seems the Pentagon is making plans for conducting nuclear warfare above the clouds. But I digress.

Luckily a small group of scientists from Britain, New Zealand and Finland (organized as the "British Antarctic Survey") caught wind of the RBR plan and actually gave it some thought. They concluded that RBR would "significantly alter the upper atmosphere, seriously disrupting high frequency (HF) radio wave transmissions and GPS navigation around the world." The world's commercial (and military) transport systems are now almost completely dependent upon GPS navigation, so disrupting the global GPS system would create economic chaos, not to mention loss of life. Who knew?

A Plan to Change the Earth's Orbit

As pressure builds on the fossil corporations to quit contaminating the atmosphere with CO2, plans for geo-engineering the planet grow ever-more grandiose and desperate. There is now talk of moving the Earth 1.5 million miles out of its orbit around the sun, to compensate for doubling carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere. Ken Caldeira of Stanford University has calculated that moving the Earth in this fashion would require the energy of five thousand million million hydrogen bombs (that's 5,000,000,000,000,000 hydrogen bombs). No doubt the Pentagon is studying it with considerable interest.

The Biggest Geo-engineering Project: Carbon Sequestration

Now, the biggest earth-based geo-engineering project of all is in the late stages of development by the coal and oil industries, and is about to be "regulated" by U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). This is the plan that convinces me that the fossil corporations have no intention of allowing the U.S. to make a rapid transition to solar power. This Big Fossil plan is called CCS, short for "carbon capture and sequestration" and it, too, closely resembles dozens of previous unsuccessful attempts to figure out what to do with radioactive waste.

Carbon sequestration is a fancy name for what used to be called the "kitty litter solution" to radioactive waste: bury it in the ground and hope it stays there. Carbon sequestration is a plan to capture gaseous carbon dioxide from coal-fired power plants (and perhaps from other industrial operations as well), turn it into a liquid, and pump it into the deep earth or perhaps into the ocean, where it will remain for an unknown period of time. Professional optimists employed by the fossil industries claim the unknown period of time is "forever." But how can they be sure?

Saving the Coal Industry

The future of the coal industry, in particular, is at stake. Without carbon sequestration, the coal industry will not survive. Just this month the state of Kansas refused to license the construction of a new coal-fired power plant simply because of its carbon dioxide emissions. This is the first time a coal plant has been turned down merely because of its contribution to global warming. The hand writing is on the wall: Big Coal is doomed unless they can find some way to demonstrate that "clean coal" is more than an advertising slogan. This is what carbon sequestration geo-engineers are being paid to do.

Saving the Oil Industry (and the Automobile Industry)

But there's more at stake than just the coal industry. The oil industry, too, is depending on "carbon sequestration" to convince the public that continuing to burn fossil fuels is safe. Even the car companies have recognized that their future depends upon convincing us all that carbon sequestration will work -- and work forever.

We know this is really, really important to the fossil corporations because some of the biggest names in global industry are underwriting "geo-engineering" solutions for the carbon dioxide problem at some of the most prestigious U.S. universities. The Center for Energy & Environmental Studies at Princeton University is conducting geo- engineering studies (1.4 Mbyte PDF) funded by BP (the felonious oil corporation formerly known as British Petroleum) and by Ford Motor, the troubled manufacturer of SUVs. Geo-engineering work at Stanford University is being supported by ExxonMobil, by General Electric, by Schlumberger (the oil-drilling services giant), and by Toyota.

To convince the U.S. environmental community that geo-engineering carbon dioxide is the only way to go, the Stanford geo-engineering group has linked up with NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council). Together, they are publishing clever propaganda masquerading as science. For example, in a recent letter to California legislators they say, "We only wish to address the science of CCS [carbon capture and sequestration] here." So we are expecting a scientific argument. Instead, the letter tries to persuade legislators to support carbon sequestration using arguments that have nothing to do with science.

The letter is peppered with distinctly unscientific language like "perfectly safe" to describe the fossil corporations' favorite geo- engineering solution. "Perfectly safe" is not a scientific concept. It is a political concept.

To be fair, deep in their letter NRDC and friends add a few caveats to their "perfectly safe" claim. For example, they say, "Leakage is conceivable but it is unlikely in well-selected sites, is generally avoidable, predictable, can be detected and remedied promptly, and in any case is extremely unlikely to be of a magnitude to endanger human health and the environment if performed under adequate regulatory oversight and according to best practices." [Emphasis in the original.]

So carbon sequestration will be "perfectly safe" if it occurs at "well-selected sites" and if performed under adequate regulatory oversight and according to best practices."

Let's examine these caveats. Are these scientific concepts? Do they even refer to anything in the real world?

Human History: Selecting Sites for Dangerous Projects

What experience do humans have siting dangerous facilities at only "well-selected sites"? I am thinking of the atomic reactor in Japan sited near an earthquake fault and recently shut down by serious earthquake damage. I am thinking of the U.S. radioactive waste site proposed for Yucca Mountain in Nevada where government and private engineers felt the need to falsify data to make the site appear acceptable. How do NRDC and Stanford propose to avoid a repeat of these fiascos when it comes time to select dozens or hundreds (perhaps thousands) of sites for pumping carbon dioxide into the ground?

Human history: Best practices with Dangerous Technologies

And that about "best practices"? Does this phrase take into account actual human experience with power plant operators photographed asleep in the control room of nuclear reactors? Or young men deep in missile silos relieving their boredom by getting drunk or taking drugs while standing ready to launch intercontinental ballistic missiles armed with hydrogen warheads?

Will Every Nation Abide by the NRDC/Stanford Prescription?

After the U.S. begins injecting billions of tons of liquid carbon dioxide into the earth, won't China, India and other countries do the same? If they do, can they be counted on to choose only "well-selected sites" and to follow only "best practices" for the next hundred years? Who will oversee carbon sequestration in Nigeria or Uzbekistan?

How do NRDC and Stanford imagine that standards for site selection and "best practices" will be enforced around the globe? Have NRDC and Stanford published solutions to these problems? Or are they just putting empty words on paper hoping to fool clueless legislators into adopting untestable technical solutions that the fossil corporations are paying them to promote?

But the most dubious part of the NRDC plan to geo-engineer carbon sequestration is their claim that is will be "perfectly safe" if performed with "adequate regulatory oversight." Can NRDC and their friends at Stanford point to any instances of large-scale industrial enterprises that currently have "adequate regulatory oversight?"

Everyone knows that regulators quickly get captured by the industries they are supposed to regulate. There is a substantial body of social science literature on this point. Regulators are poorly paid, but if they look the other way at regulatory violations, they may find a lucrative job awaiting them when they retire from government. Less sinister but more pervasive is the simple fact that regulated corporations spend a lot of time befriending regulators, dropping by to say hello, asking about the kids, gaining their trust and ultimately their allegiance. Are NRDC and Stanford prepared to deny this indisputable history of regulatory collapse? Have they examined the dismal record of the Food and Drug Administration, the Consumer Product Safety Commission, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the Securities and Exchange Commission, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency? Are they prepared to design and describe regulatory institutions that do not suffer from these same fundamental human flaws? Or are they just blowing smoke?

So let's examine these caveats just a bit more.

1. What actual experience to do humans have designing anything to be kept out of the environment forever? Answer: None. Absolutely none. In this context, then, what can "perfectly safe" possibly mean?

2. What human regulatory institutions can NRDC and friends point to that have proven adequate? Let's see. The regulatory system for preventing the proliferation of nuclear weapons? Today, 40 years after the inception of the non-proliferation treaty, Israel, India, North Korea, Pakistan -- all have The Bomb despite heroic efforts to prevent its spread. The only reason Iraq and Syria don't have a nuclear weapon is because Israel bombed their nascent nuclear power plants to smithereens.

What about the regulatory system for controlling the discard of radioactive waste? Radioactive waste is loose at thousands of locations around the planet. In hundreds (perhaps thousands) of instances we do not even know where the stuff has been dumped. This technology was developed by the smartest people in the world with unlimited budgets -- yet at places like the gold-plated Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory in New Mexico (now renamed the Los Alamos National Laboratory), plutonium, americium-241, strontium-90 and other supremely dangerous radioactive elements were buried in shallow pits, or simply dumped into mountain canyons without any records kept of their whereabouts. The kitty litter solution. And this was a federal scientific laboratory under strict military surveillance and control at the time. Can we expect the fossil corporations under the watchful eye of EPA (wink, wink) to do better?

How about the regulatory system for curtailing the widespread destruction of wildlife and human health from hormone-disrupting, cancer-causing chlorinated chemicals? The arctic, which has no industrial enterprises to speak of, is among the most heavily contaminated places on earth because the chemical regulatory system failed to consider how chemicals migrate once they are released into the environment.

So where can we find real-world examples of this "adequate regulatory oversight" that NRDC and Stanford say will be necessary to make carbon sequestration "perfectly safe"?

Maintaining vigilance for hundreds or thousands of years?

Elsewhere in their letter, NRDC and the engineers from Stanford say they believe carbon sequestration can be maintained for millions of years, but they say, if something goes wrong, rapid response will be possible.

Is this really true?

Again, let's return to the debates over radioactive waste from the late 1970s. Back then scientists were a bit more candid: they admitted they knew of no way to pass information reliably to future generations describing the location of radioactive waste dumps. Given human history and the evanescence of human institutions, they could not imagine a way to reliably warn future generations about dangers buried in the earth. At one point they considered writing a huge warning across the face of the moon using graphic symbols because they had no idea which human languages would survive thousands of years into the future. Have NRDC and Stanford published their solution for this problem?

Why should we assume that humans a hundred years from now -- let alone 500 or 5000 years from now -- will be able to monitor for carbon dioxide leaks, locate them, and take rapid action to control them? The prudent assumption would be that humans will NOT have those capabilities. It seems to me it would be unethical to design our technologies based on untested and untestable (and wildly optimistic) assumptions about future humans and their social organizations. Who gave us the right to make decisions now based on assumptions, which, if they are wrong, could destroy the planet as a place suitable for human habitation -- which is precisely what the carbon sequestration researchers are intending to do.

With the future of the human species at stake, isn't a little humility in order? Will these geniuses find themselves staring into the mirror one day toward the end of their shameful careers muttering, "Who knew?"

But ordinary people who aren't subsidized by energy or automobile corporations are asking the same sorts of common-sense questions they asked 20 years ago when the same sorts of brainy university types were telling us it was "perfectly safe" to bury radioactive waste in the ground:

** What if these scientists and engineers turn out to be wrong?

** What if there's something important they haven't thought of?

** Are these people infallible or are they human? They can't be both.

** Isn't it unethical to claim that something will be "perfectly safe" when as a scientist you know you can't be perfectly sure?

** When the fossil corporations impose their plan on us and begin large-scale carbon sequestration, won't that become a powerful incentive to reduce federal funding for conservation, renewables, and solar power? Then won't we have all our eggs in one basket? And didn't our grandmothers tell us that was a bad idea?

** After the fossil corporations impose carbon sequestration on us, won't we be saddled with even more killer fly ash choking the air, and even more toxic bottom ash threatening groundwater supplies? Won't we have even more destruction from mountain-top-removal coal mining, plus the enormous waste of water and land in the mid-western and western coal states? "Clean" coal will still be one of the dirtiest and most destructive forms of energy. And oil will still keep dragging us into endless bloody resource wars because we will still need to funnel more and more of the world's remaining petroleum into our astonishingly wasteful and inefficient enterprises. Is this really the direction we want to be going? Is this a plan we can explain to our children with pride? Is this a plan that will give our children hope?

** Would carbon sequestration truly be reversible if we discovered far in the future that it was a mistake? If not, who can claim that it is ethical to proceed?

** If radioactive waste and carbon dioxide are so dangerous and so hard to manage, how does it make sense to steer the nation and the world onto a course that will guarantee continued production of these lethal substances far into the future?

** With the survival of humans at stake, isn't this a classic and urgent case for applying the precautionary principle?

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From: Vancouver (B.C., Canada)
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DIOXINS CAN ALTER NORMAL SEX RATIOS FOR BIRTHS

By Jonathan Spicer, Reuters

TORONTO -- More girls than boys are born in some Canadian communities because airborne pollutants called dioxins can alter normal sex ratios, even if the source of the pollution is many kilometres away, researchers say.

Dioxin exposure has been shown elsewhere to lead to both higher cancer rates and the birth of more females.

Researchers at the IntraAmericas Centre for Environment and Health say their findings, released this month, confirm the phenomenon in Canada.

The study also reveals the health risks of living within 25 km of sources of pollution -- a greater distance than previously thought, they said. [The study appeared in two separate publications, available here and here.]

Normally, 51 per cent of births are boys and 49 per cent are girls. But the ratio was reversed -- with as few as 46 males born for every 54 females -- in Canadian cities and towns where parents were exposed to pollutants from sources such as oil refineries, paper mills and metal smelters, according to the study.

"If you find an inverted sex ratio, and want to know what causes it, look for sources of dioxin," said James Argo, a medical geographer who headed the study, which was published in a journal of the American Chemical Society.

"In every one of those cities where those industries are found ... there was a higher probability of female births to male births," Argo said in an interview.

Using birth data and an inventory of pollution sources, the study also concluded that early exposure to dioxins -- even at 25 km away from the source -- increased the risk of cancer later in life in a group of 20,000 people surveyed during the 1990s.

Previous studies that linked dioxins with cancer and a gender imbalance focused on smaller distances, usually about 5 km, Argo said.

Dioxins are toxic chemicals found in very small amounts in the air, water, soil and some foods.

The large-scale burning of municipal and medical waste is the primary source of dioxins in Canada, but they are also created by fuel and wood burning, electrical power generation and in the production of iron and steel.

Since more females were born in the 90 communities studied, more breast, uterine, cervical and ovarian cancers were observed among them than other forms of cancer, Argo said.

Copyright The Vancouver Sun 2007

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From: The New York Times Magazine (pg. 32)
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CRIMINAL ELEMENT

By Jascha Hoffman

[Jascha Hoffman is on the staff of The New York Review of Books.]

Has the Clean Air Act done more to fight crime than any other policy in American history? That is the claim of a new environmental theory of criminal behavior.

In the early 1990s, a surge in the number of teenagers threatened a crime wave of unprecedented proportions. But to the surprise of some experts, crime fell steadily instead. Many explanations have been offered in hindsight, including economic growth, the expansion of police forces, the rise of prison populations and the end of the crack epidemic. But no one knows exactly why crime declined so steeply.

The answer, according to Jessica Wolpaw Reyes, an economist at Amherst College, lies in the cleanup of a toxic chemical that affected nearly everyone in the United States for most of the last century. After moving out of an old townhouse in Boston when her first child was born in 2000, Reyes started looking into the effects of lead poisoning. She learned that even low levels of lead can cause brain damage that makes children less intelligent and, in some cases, more impulsive and aggressive. She also discovered that the main source of lead in the air and water had not been paint but rather leaded gasoline -- until it was phased out in the 1970s and '80s by the Clean Air Act, which took blood levels of lead for all Americans down to a fraction of what they had been. "Putting the two together," she says, "it seemed that this big change in people's exposure to lead might have led to some big changes in behavior."

Reyes found that the rise and fall of lead-exposure rates seemed to match the arc of violent crime, but with a 20-year lag -- just long enough for children exposed to the highest levels of lead in 1973 to reach their most violence-prone years in the early '90s, when crime rates hit their peak.

Such a correlation does not prove that lead had any effect on crime levels. But in an article published this month in the B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis and Policy, Reyes uses small variations in the lead content of gasoline from state to state to strengthen her argument. If other possible sources of crime like beer consumption and unemployment had remained constant, she estimates, the switch to unleaded gas alone would have caused the rate of violent crime to fall by more than half over the 1990s.

If lead poisoning is a factor in the development of criminal behavior, then countries that didn't switch to unleaded fuel until the 1980s, like Britain and Australia, should soon see a dip in crime as the last lead-damaged children outgrow their most violent years. According to a comparison of nine countries published this year by Rick Nevin in the journal Environmental Research, crime rates around the world are just starting to respond to the removal of lead from gasoline and paint. "It really does sound like a bad science-fiction plot," says Nevin, a senior adviser to the National Center for Healthy Housing. "The idea that a society could have systematically poisoned its youngest children with the same neurotoxins in two different ways over the same century is almost impossible to believe."

The magnitude of these claims has been met with a fair amount of skepticism. Jeffrey Miron, a Harvard economist, wonders how lead could have had such a strong effect on violent crime while, according to Reyes, it showed almost no effect on property crimes like theft. He also doubts that the hypothesis could explain the plunge in the U.S. murder rate from the 1930s through the 1950s. "I certainly think it's a reasonable exercise," Miron says. "We just have to be appropriately suspicious of how much you can actually show."

The theory will be put to the test as children grow up in Indonesia, Venezuela and sub-Saharan Africa, where leaded gasoline has just recently been phased out. Meanwhile, the list of countries that still use lead in gas -- Afghanistan, Serbia and Iraq, as well as much of North Africa and Central Asia -- does not rule out a connection with violence.

No matter how suggestive the economists' data, it takes a doctor to show that some of the people most damaged by lead are out there breaking the law. Herbert Needleman, the University of Pittsburgh psychiatrist and pediatrician whose work helped persuade the government to ban lead in the 1970s, recently studied a sample of juvenile delinquents in Pittsburgh; the group had significantly more lead in their bones than their peers. And lead may not be the only source of damage. The National Children's Study will soon begin to track more than 100,000 children to determine the effects of exposure to common pesticides, among other chemicals.

Copyright 2007 The New York Times Company

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From: The Ecologist
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THE LETHAL CONSEQUENCES OF BREATHING FIRE

By Pat Thomas

Roughly 2 1/2 million tonnes of municipal waste are incinerated in the UK each year. More efficient filters make emissions look clearer, but just because you don't see the pollution, doesn't mean it isn't there. The same toxic chemical that were in out plastics, paper, textiles and wood when they went into the fire are still there during and after combustion. And their release into the air is still associated with a range of human health problems including cancer, reproductive problems and learning difficulties in children.

But the intense heat of incineration also helps create a whole range of new compounds with a completely unknown potential for toxicity. Indeed, the way that incineration changes the seen into the unseen and the known into the unknown is one of its most dangerous consequences.

Gas

Modern incinerators have measures in place to control the emissions they release into the atmosphere. These incinerators have to comply with tough standards set by European and UK legislation, which are designed to control acid emissions (using 'scrubbers'. Devices that use a high-energy liquid spray to remove acid emissions from the air stream), dust levels (using electrostatic precipitators, essentially dust magnets in the incineration unit) and fine particles (using textile filters).

Even so, a large incinerator produces the equivalent of 300 wheelie bins of exhaust gases from its chimneys every second. These not only pollute the local area, but are also carried on the prevailing winds to neighbouring cities and towns. Human beings are exposed to them by breathing contaminated air, by absorbing them through their skin and by eating contaminated food, such as vegetables, eggs and milk.

Because of their acidic nature incinerator emissions such as nitrogen oxides, sulphur dioxide and hydrogen chloride contribute to the phenomenon of acid rain, which is destructive to forests and lakes and the animals that inhabit them.

While a few hundred of the gases emitted by incinerators have been identified (see table), the process of heating and releasing emissions into the environment creates the possibility of thousands of new chemical compounds. There are no formal air quality standards for many of these and many have never been fully studied with regard to their effects on human health.

There is no technology that can remove all the pollutants and there are too many uncertainties and variables to say whether anything that gets released into the air is categorically 'safe'. While the health effects of mixtures of chemicals are largely unknown, the effects of single emissions such as dioxins and heavy metals, and also furans, PCBs, PAHs, numerous VOCs, acid gases and particulates, is better understood.

These substances are persistent -- they remain in the environment indefinitely -- and bioaccumulative, meaning that even small amounts build up in the body tissues over time. Some cause cancer, some trigger respiratory problems such as asthma and some are mutagenic - capable of causing genetic damage.

All these substances are legally released into the air. Many are not or cannot be measure or monitored at all and the Environment Agency (EA) has admitted that current emissions standards are based on what is technically achievable rather than what is safe for human health.

Microscopic particles

Newer incinerators appear to burn 'clean'. But while newer filters may keep larger particles from being discharged into the atmosphere, they do little to prevent the release of microscopic particles measuring just 2.5 microns in diameter (PM2.5). these particles are released into the atmosphere when oil and solvent-based mixtures are burnt in incinerators, as well as by industrial processes such as smelting and metal processing. In the last decade or so the amount of PM2.5 in our atmosphere has risen astronomically.

The incineration process liberates a range of heavy metals such as lead, mercury, arsenic, chromium and cadmium from otherwise stable matrices such as plastics into the air. Because they are released as microscopic particles, these metals have the potential to penetrate deep into the lungs where they enter the bloodstream and are deposited in organs and tissues throughout the body.

At the high temperature used in incineration, mercury is particularly problematic since it can be turned into a gas that evades the most commonly used filters. Incineration of municipal waste is a major source of mercury in the environment. Even if filters such as activated carbon are used to absorb mercury before it can be released, the question of what happens to the mercury that is captured by the filtration process and how often the filter is changed remains.

Ash

Around 30 per cent of what is incinerated ends up as bottom ash, which is the ash and non-combustible material left over, and is disposed of in landfill sites. A further five per cent of incinerated waste ends up as fly ash.

Fly ash has a fine consistency and has to be sealed into containers and disposed of as hazardous waste in special landfill sites that are licensed to accept toxic rubbish. Bottom ash has a more gravel-like consistency and is 'recycled' by processing it into a suitable aggregate type material for use in the construction industry. In the EU bottom ash is considered a toxic residue. However, after 'ageing' (that is washing it, treating it to reduce its acidity and allowing it to stand for a period of one to three months), it is considered suitable for some construction purposes.

In addition to fly and bottom ash, the lime and carbon used to clean the filters are also considered toxic waste. The cleaning and scrubbing substances are highly contaminated with all the same chemicals as fly ash and need to be disposed of carefully.

The ash and cleaning substances generated by incinerators contain toxic chemicals. How these are eventually distributed into the environment and how they affect human health is less well studied than the effects of gases and microscopic particles.

Much depends on where the ash ends up. Incinerators produce about a million tonnes of contaminated ash each year and this ash is difficult to dispose of. 'Creative' attempts at disposal have included spreading ash on allotments and footpaths, as was the case in the late 1990s when decades of this 'recycling' of mixed fly ash and bottom ash from the Byker incinerator in Newcastle resulted in the worst dioxin contamination ever seen in a local area. Ash samples were found to contain 1,950 nanograms of carcinogenic dioxins, massively above the five nanograms they would have expected to find in a polluted area.

These days bottom ash cannot be mixed with much more toxic fly ash. However, this has occurred in the past, as was the case with waste from London's Edmonton incinerators, and used to build roads and car parks. Selling off toxic ash means incinerator operators can avoid expensive disposal costs and generate income. While the ash may be mixed with concrete, erosion takes its toll and some toxins are eventually returned to the environment.

The health fallout

Epidemiological and environmental studios show that certain types of diseases and health problems can and do occur with greater frequency in those who live close to incinerators. Operators often dismiss these health problems as coincidence. Since many incinerators are sited in impoverished areas where the residents are already at a higher risk of every type of illness, it could equally be argued that the strategic citing of incinerators in generally neglected areas is designed to hide human health effects.

Dioxins are arguably the best studied of all incinerator emissions, while operators argue that levels emitted from incinerators are small, this needs to be weighed against several important factors, not least of which is the unacceptably high background levels of dioxin already in the environment. Since many dioxins are known hormone disrupters, and since hormone levels are tightly controlled in the body, even small amounts -- as little as one part per trillion in the blood -- may translate into substantial hormone disruption, a risk factor for cancer, growth disruption and immune system dysfunction.

Dioxins also readily enter the food chain when they are deposited on grass and crops. It is estimated that, in one day, a cow grazing near an incinerator could put as much dioxin into its body as a human being would get if he or she breathed the air next to the cow for 14 years. Likewise, one litre of contaminated milk would deliver as much dioxin to a human being as he or she would get from breathing the air next to the cow for eight months.

Even small daily emissions of dioxins can, over time, build up in the environment and in the bodies of exposed populations, and while European regulators are more laissez faire, the US EPA says there are no safe levels of dioxins.

But dioxins are only one part of the complicated health equation related to incineration. According to Dr Dick van Steenis, a retired GP and anti-incineration campaigner whose research into the toxic effect of incineration fallouts has helped stop four incinerators from being built in the UK, the total cost of this virtually unregulated industrial air pollution is nearly 34 billion pounds per annum. That figure takes into account known emissions and van Steenis notes, there will be cumulative impacts in the body and synergistic effects, for example cadmium and lead in the body will multiply the effects of mercury by 50 times which will facilitate the development of ADHD and autism..

Once in the lungs, PM2.5s are capable of causing serious health problems ranging from asthma, allergies, type 2 diabetes, immune system problems and multiple sclerosis. US data links PM2.5s to greatly increased rates of heart disease.

Incinerators emission are also linked with other diseases such as:

Cancer

Researchers have found significant clusters of cancer, which is thought to be due to exposure to dioxins. In residents living close to an incinerator in France, for instance, there was 44 per cent increase in soft tissue sarcoma and 27 per cent increase in non- Hodgkin's lymphoma. In Italy and the UK, studies show an increased incidence of cancer of the larynx.

UK data on people living near municipal waste incinerators and hospital waste incinerators show double the risk of dying from childhood cancer. And one of the largest ever studies in the UK, involving 14 million people living within 7.5 kilometres of incinerators, found a 37 per cent increased risk of death from liver cancer.

Hormone disruption

In residents living near an incinerators in Scotland the incidence of twins/multiple pregnancies is double the national average and in residents living near an incinerator in Belgium it is nearly three times as great.

It's not only reproductive hormones that are affected. Lower levels of thyroid hormone have been detected in children living near a German incinerator.

Birth defects

A report released by the Office of National Statistics (ONS) in 2005 examined the rate of birth defects in children living near incinerators over an eight-year period. Compared to the national average for England, 11/1000 children living downwind of incinerators, cement works, oil refineries, power stations and steelworks were significantly likely to be born with birth defects. In rural mid- Devon -- where the local incinerator was the most significant source of pollution, the birth defect rates are 62/1000, compared to Bexley in London where, at the time of the survey, traffic, rather than the local incinerator, was the major source of pollution and the rate was 23/1000. The defects are the likely result of maternal exposure to particulates measuring 2.5 microns or less in diameter.

The reports notes, in particular, that Bexley's birth defects rates are likely to increase following the decision to allow the White Rose incinerators to burn unlimited amounts of radioactive waste. Such as that generated by hospitals.

The appearance of birth defects would suggest that the toxins released from incinerators can cause DNA damage. This is worrying enough. But newer evidence in the field of 'epigenetics' suggests that certain defects can be programmed into the body without making obvious damage to the DNA and that these defects are heritable -- passed on down the generations.

Commonly defined as the study of heritable changes in gene function that occur without a change in the DNA sequence, epigenetics is reshaping the way scientists look at traditional genetics and their real world influence on health and disease.

The ONS data is consistent with a previous study linking industrial PM2.5 emissions with birth defects which was carried out at McMaster University, Canada in 2004. The McMaster study, although based on animal data, found that compared to mice breathing clean, filtered air, those exposed to ambient air near highways and steel mills containing PM2.5 developed mutations that were passed down through the generations, even though they showed no detectable signs of DNA damage.

What goes into the environment?

The table below does not represent the entire scope of possible health effects. Nor does it represent the full range of identified chemicals emitted by incinerators, which number up to 250 individual substances. The effects of mixtures of chemicals, for instance, are largely unknown. There may be more generalised problems that never get studied or reported such as hospital admission or GP visits for vague complaints such as 'respiratory distress'. In addition, these effects are human effects and do not take into account damage to the ecosystem due to acid emissions.

Substance: Health Effects

Antimony: A number of effects, including respiratory

Arsenic: Class 1 carcinogen

Cadmium: Class 1 carcinogen

Carbon Monoxide: Reduced oxygen in the blood

Chromium III

Chromium VI: Type VI is a Class 1 carcinogen

Cobalt: Class 2b carcinogen

Dioxins: Class 1 carcinogen (as TCDD). Affects development and reproduction. Highly toxic, persistent, bioaccumulative. Can contaminate food

Hydrogen Chloride: Acid, irritant to tissue including respiratory tract

Hydrogen Fluoride: Irritant, affects bone formation

Lead: Class 2b carcinogen

Manganese: Neurological effects

Mercury: Neurological effects. Damages kidneys

Nickel: Class 1 carcinogen (as compounds of nickel)

Nitrogen Oxides: Respiratory effects (and is a precursor of ozone, which also contributes to respiratory problems)

PAHs (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon) Some are carcinogens

Particulates/PM10s: Respiratory effects; no known safe threshold

PCBs: Properties similar to dioxins

Sulphur Oxides: Respiratory effects

Thallium: May affects several organs and nervous system

Vanadium: Respiratory effects

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From: IEEE Technology and Society Magazine
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ENVIRONMENTAL NASTY SURPRISES AS A WINDOW ON PRECAUTIONARY THINKING

By Jeff Howard

All environmental problems are nasty surprises. Each runs counter to Western society's expectation of endless progress through mastery of nature.[1] But the term seems especially appropriate for problems that:

** catch most scientists, technologists, regulatory officials, the mass media, and the general public off-guard;

** are already quite extensive by the time they are recognized;

** stem from deeply entrenched technological processes or practices;

** present a potentially large-scale, long-term threat to human or ecological health.

Such problems are surprises because they seem to drop out of the blue -- even if it is soon clear that warning signs were long missed, ignored, or misinterpreted -- and reveal major errors in scientific thinking and public policy. They are nasty because they represent potentially enormous hazards and addressing them entails substantial political challenges. This combination of characteristics makes these problems a useful window into the ongoing controversy over the Precautionary Principle and its place in the environmental policy landscape.

ENDOCRINE DISRUPTION AND OTHER NASTY SURPRISES

Endocrine disruption is a classic example of nasty surprise, and indeed it was in this context that the term "nasty surprise" may first have been applied to environmental issues.[2, pp. 241-242]

Arguably the most significant development in the ecological and environmental health sciences in the past two decades has been recognition that synthetic industrial chemicals in the environment -- including DDT, chlorinated dioxins, numerous polychlorinated biphenyls, various pesticides, and obscure components of plastics -- can interfere with the endocrine (hormonal) systems of animals, including humans.[3] Efforts are under way to determine whether exposure to these contaminants is linked to increases in the incidence of breast cancer, testicular cancer, prostate cancer, undescended testicles, abnormalities of the penis, reduced sperm count, and learning and behavioral abnormalities as well as accelerated onset of breast development.[4]

Endocrine disruption is a surprise. Despite what are now seen as ominous warnings over decades, it came into scientific focus quite rapidly in the late 1980s and early 1990s largely through a series of accidental discoveries. Contrary to the doctrine that toxicological risk diminishes with dose, endocrine-disrupting chemicals are specifically (perhaps uniquely) active at extremely low doses and their action often hinges not on dose but on exposure during key moments in an organism's development. And contrary to the assumption that cancer is the most sensitive health endpoint, this research is demonstrating that for some chemicals it is reproductive and developmental alteration.[2-5, 6, ch. 3]

Endocrine disruption is nasty. To many scientists, government officials, and environmental advocates, it implies a potentially enormous multigenerational threat to human and ecological health, a threat exacerbated by the global ubiquity of some of the pollutants in question and by their ability to remain biologically active for generations to come.[2-7] Bewilderingly complex methodological obstacles impede scientific investigation into the causes and consequences of endocrine disruption and hence progress toward a broadly accepted political response.[3,7] Since U.S.-style pollution policy is based on the very toxicological assumptions that endocrine disruption undermines, mounting evidence suggests the current regulatory regime is an inadequate path to long-term sustainability.[3, ch. 5, 5-7] And regulating a diverse and growing list of endocrine disrupting chemicals could have significant economic impacts.

Over the past half-century, the environmental policy landscape has been littered with similar surprises, including:

** 1960s and 1970s -- Acid precipitation due to long-range atmospheric transport of sulfur dioxide poses a widespread threat to aquatic ecosystems and forests;

** 1960s and 1970s Large-scale industrial use of lead (especially in gasoline) has vastly elevated tissue concentrations of the neurotoxin in the general human population;

** 1980s -- The stratospheric ozone layer is being depleted by chlorofluorocarbons and other common organochlorine compounds;

** 1980s -- Tin compounds widely applied to boat hulls can severely damage the growth and reproduction of marine organisms;

** Recent decades -- Profound disturbances in a wide variety of terrestrial and marine organisms, including periodic mass mortalities of dolphins and seals and a decline in interregional bird migrations;

** Recent decades -- Plant and animal species across the globe are dying off far more rapidly than the natural rate of extinction.

NASTY SURPRISES AND THE PRECAUTIONARY PRINCIPLE

The Precautionary Principle (PP) is increasingly invoked in international environmental protocols and agreements and in national and local environmental disputes. It holds that when there is significant evidence a new or existing technology poses a substantial environmental hazard, lack of detailed scientific understanding should not be used as a justification for postponing measures to contain the threat.[8] Nasty environmental surprises appear to have played a significant role in motivating development of the PP and in shaping efforts to implement it.[8, 9] And they often have been prominent in appeals for precautionary action, as when endocrine disruption and ozone depletion have been cited in articulating a rationale for a precautionary phase-out of major industrial uses of chlorine.[6]

In three ways, environmental nasty surprises illuminate the conflict between precautionary and conventional modes of environmental decision making. They:

1. Dramatically remind us that our understanding of complex natural systems and the complex interaction of technologies with those systems remains quite sketchy.

Unintended, unexpected, side effects are inevitable features of all large technological systems. And when these systems interact with the larger, even more complex natural systems (e.g., ecological, atmospheric) in which they are embedded, they spin off additional "emergent characteristics" at the regional and global levels. The basic mechanisms of change in techno-ecological systems have been poorly studied, constituting "virtually a black hole of knowledge and understanding."[10, p. 360, 11] Nasty surprises are emergent characteristics that remind us contemporary technological systems constitute "a great global experiment -- with humanity and all life on Earth as the unwitting subjects."[2, p. 240]

In the case of endocrine disruption, this "experiment" involves essentially random encounters between industrial chemicals and the hormonal systems of humans and other species. Only a few of the 87,000 synthetic chemicals in commerce and the unknown thousands of other industrial chemicals produced as byproducts and degradation products have so far been screened for endocrine-disrupting properties. Moreover, hormonal systems of animals are staggeringly complex, involving a large and poorly understood diversity of mechanisms and hormone-receptor activities and diversity between species.[7] The open-endedness of this "experiment" is further compounded by the complexity of ecological systems that can be altered by chemical disruption of' reproduction and development.[2]

Conventional design of chemicals, automobiles, and countless other technologies have proceeded largely without regard to humanity's underlying ignorance of natural and techno-ecological complexity; and U.S.-style environmental regulation has relied on the assumption that "sound science" has dispelled or ultimately will dispel such ignorance sufficiently to allow society to achieve sustainability. Both conventional design and conventional regulation are examples of what Funtowicz and Ravetz call "ignorance-of-ignorance, a most dangerous state for [humanity]."[12, p. 1884] By contrast, PP proponents have argued that a "precautionary science"-based approach must account for the reality of substantial ignorance.[7, 8, ch. 61, 9, pp. 169-71, 13]

2. Highlight the inadequacy and politics of risk assessment.

Many nasty surprises stem from activities that predate the institutionalization of formal environmental risk assessment as the back-bone of the U.S. regulatory system in the early 1980s. But nasty surprises nonetheless reflect poorly on present risk-based policies.

While limitations of risk assessment have long been discussed by regulators and academics, risk assessment's inadequacy as a bulwark against large-scale, long-term ecological dysfunction and subtle but profound human health impacts has received little attention. Risk assessment is a poor defense against nasty surprise because it disregards much of the techno-environmental complexity from which surprises emerge.[6,9] Consequently, "The very considerable amount of scientific work which has gone into the modeling of environmental risk systems over the past few decades cannot... be taken as reassurance that even the main dimensions of environmental harm from human activities have been comprehended."[13, p. 113]

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's response to endocrine disruption illustrates the dilemma. The agency is pinning its hopes on a program to identify hormonally active chemicals and characterize the risk each poses. Although yielding valuable information, this program is effectively swamped by the complex diversity of chemicals, species, and endocrine mechanisms.[7]

Proponents of precaution argue that the inadequacies of the risk- based regulatory paradigm stem from its tacit politics -- its naive optimism about the ability of science to plumb the depths of environmental complexity; its ability to conceal ignorance; its reductionistic conception of hazard; its technocratic conception of power; its disregard for the availability of less-hazardous technologies; its willingness to sanction damage to the environment in the interest of economic freedom. They call for regulation whose politics is more transparent, more democratic, more environmentally cautious, more scientifically humble. They call for broader participation in environmental decision making and urge that evaluation of a technology include consideration of its social justification, the distribution of its social benefits, and the availability of less hazardous alternatives.[6-9, 13-14]

3. Lead us to expect additional nasty surprises.

The enormous pace and scale of human-induced change in global systems that are themselves enormously complex means that we are "more and more likely to engender problems that we are less and less likely to anticipate."[15, p. 37] Viewing the rapid decline in global biodiversity, biologist Myers concludes: "In the midst of much scientific uncertainty about our world -- a world on which we are imposing multitudes of simultaneous new insults -- we can be all but certain that there are environmental processes at work, or waiting in the wings, with the capacity to generate significant problems and to take us by ostensible surprise."[10, p. 358] Colborn and colleagues, considering the emergence of ozone depletion and endocrine disruption, concur. "If anything is certain," they write, "it is that we will be blindsided again" probably by "something never even considered."[2, p. 242]. How often will nasty surprises emerge? How long will it take us to recognize and address them? How much damage will they do? Is the worst behind us, or ahead of us? How much, ultimately, is at stake? A precautionary framework for environmental decision making would respond to the urgency of such questions by attempting to shape technologies in ways calculated to make future nasty surprises less frequent and less severe.

The risk-based regulatory approach, with its disregard for the systemic character of nasty surprise and its technocratic mode of responding to new surprises, does not offer a viable approach to dealing with nasty surprises. As the European Environment Agency concludes in its recent report on precaution, the scientific hubris built into western society's technological decision making has made society vulnerable to technological blunders that undermine the prospect of sustainability.[9]

REFERENCES

[1] D. Sarewitz, Frontiers of Illusion: Science, Technology, and the Politics of Progress. Philadelphia, PA: Temple Univ., 1996.

[2] T. Colborn, D. Dumanoski. and J. Peterson Myers, Our Stolen Future: Are We Threatening Our Fertility: Intelligence, and Survival? -- A Scientific Detective Story. New York, NY: Dutton, 1996.

[3] S. Krimsky, Hormonal Chaos: The Scientific and Social Origins of the Environmental Endocrine Hypothesis. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins Univ. Press, 2000.

[4] G.M. Solomon and T. Schettler, "Endocrine disruption and potential human health implications," Canadian Med. Assoc. J., vol. 163, no. 11, pp. 1471-1476, 2000.

[5] P.L. deFur, "Public policy recommendations to address endocrine disrupting chemicals," Biotechnology International, vol. 2, pp. 230-234, 1999.

[6] J. Thornton, Pandora's Poison: Organochlorines and Health. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2000.

[7] J. Thornton, "Chemicals policy and the precautionary principle: The case of endocrine disruption," in Science and the Precautionary Principle, J. Tickner, Ed. Washington, DC: Island, to be published.

[8] C. Raffensperger and J. Tickner, Eds. Protecting Public Health and the Environment: Implementing the Precautionary Principle. Washington, DC: Island, 1999.

[9] Late Lessons from Early Warnings: The Precautionary Principle 1896-2000. European Environment Agency: Copenhagen, 2001.

[10] N. Myers, "Environmental unknowns," Science, vol. 269, pp. 358-360, July 21, 1995.

[11] N. Myers, 'Two key challenges for biodiversity: Discontinuities and synergisms," Biodiversity and Conservation, vol. 5, pp. 025-1034,1996.

[12] S.O. Funtowicz and J.R. Ravetz, "Uncertainty, complexity and post-normal science," Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry, vol. 13, no. 12, pp. 1881-1885, 1994.

[13] B. Wynne, "Uncertainty and environmental learning: Reconceiving science and policy in the preventive paradigm," Global Environmental Change, vol. 2, no. 2, pp. 111-127, 1992.

[14] M. O'Brien, Making Better Environmental Decisions: An Alternative to Risk Assessment. Cambridge MA: MIT Press, 2000.

[15] C. Bright, "Anticipating environmental 'surprise'," in State of the World 2000: A Worldwatch Institute Report on Progress Toward a Sustainable Society, L. Brown et al., Eds. New York, NY: Norton, 2000, pp. 22-38.

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