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#853 -- Why We Need the Precautionary Principle, 04-May-2006

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On to Baltimore! The big Conference on Precaution June 9-11
has 35 workshops set. Get registration materials here.

And there's still a smidgeon of space available at our
precautionary principle discussion forum in Chicago May 19-
21. Get details here.

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Rachel's Democracy & Health News #853

"Environment, health, jobs and justice--Who gets to decide?"

Thursday, May 4, 2006...................Printer-friendly version
www.rachel.org -- To make a secure donation, click here.
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Featured stories in this issue...

Why the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Opposes Precaution
  If you've been reading our weekly Precaution Reporter, you know
  that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce recently came out against the
  precautionary principle. There's a good reason for this: a
  precautionary approach offers a truly conservative alternative to the
  radical philosophy of "corporate profit at any cost" -- a philosophy
  that is demonstrably wrecking the planet.
Editorial: Keeping a Democratic Web
  Giant corporations are planning to restrict your use of the
  internet, giving speedy access to those who pay a hefty fee, and slow
  unreliable access to the rest of us. It's happening in Congress right
  now. Click here to send a message to your Representative and
  Senators (you do not need to know their names), saying you oppose
  corporate control of the internet. If you favor equal access to the
  internet, speak up now.
Americans Suffer Far More Chronic Disease Than the British
  Compared to the British, Americans spend twice as much per person
  on health care, yet they are twice as likely as the Brits to suffer
  from diabetes, cancer and heart disease, according to a new study in
  the Journal of the American Medical Association. The researchers say
  Americans' lousy health stems from financial insecurity and stress,
  not from poor health care. "It's not just how we treat people when
  they get ill, but why they get ill in the first place," says Michael
  Marmot. Thus we learn once again that the "social determinants of
  health" are extremely important.
New Report Reveals Pattern of Increasing Reproductive Disorders
  A new report from the Science Unit of Greenpeace International
  reveals a pattern of reproductive disorders related to exposure to the
  toxic chemicals found in many consumer products.
Hippopotamus Among 26,000 New Species on Endangered List
  More than 26,000 species have been added to the famous "red list"
  of animals and plants that face serious threat of extinction. The
  modern economy, which demands continuous growth, is shredding the
  biosphere on which all life depends. When will we realize that an
  economy premised on endless growth is impossible to sustain on a
  finite planet?
Taking Precautionary Action: Roadmap for Success -- June 9-11
  In Baltimore June 9-11, you can join with hundreds of activists to
  share successful precautionary strategies, tools, and programs. The
  conference will bring together people working on toxics and nuclear
  pollution, disease prevention, pesticides, worker safety, and many
  other issues. See you there!

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From: Rachel's Democracy & Health News #853, Mar. 31, 2006
[Printer-friendly version]

WHY THE U.S. CHAMBER OF COMMERCE OPPOSES PRECAUTION

By Peter Montague, co-editor, Rachel's Precaution Reporter

The precautionary principle is not a silver bullet for solving
environmental, economic, or social problems. Organized grass-roots
action in local communities is still the only reliable engine for
civic improvement and social change. However, the precautionary
principle can serve as a guide for that community-based activism, and
it can provide a framework for an integrated, consistent approach to
environmental, economic, and social problems.

What is fundamentally new about the precautionary approach is that it
asks not, "How much harm is acceptable?" but instead asks, "How much
harm is avoidable?" It invites us to set goals, examine alternative
ways of achieving those goals, set benchmarks, check our progress, and
engage affected parties in decisions. It asserts an important, even
heroic, role for government as guardian of the commons (all the things
we own together but none of us own individually, such as air and
water), and it offers us all an opportunity to re-energize
participatory democracy and continue building a multi-issue social
movement grounded in science, ethics, fairness, and public health.

Six reasons why we need a precautionary approach

Reason #1: The global ecosystem has been badly damaged and is
undergoing further damage all the time. Every part of the global
ecosystem needs to be conserved and preserved, and so a fundamentally
conservative approach to the world is appropriate at this time in
history. In the recent past, the absence of a precautionary approach
has resulted in significant harm to the world and to humans.

Reason #2. The world has changed dramatically in the last 50 years.
The world used to appear to be "empty" but now it is "full" -- of
humans and their artifacts. You can't do anything anymore without
affecting someone else. Given this fact, and given that the global
ecosystem needs to be preserved and protected from further damage,
humans need a fundamentally conservative philosophy as a guide.

The precautionary principle is a profoundly conservative idea.
Precaution is grounded in the desire to maintain and preserve the
world that we inherited and will pass on to our children. It leads us
to oppose change for the sake of change. It leads us to oppose
thoughtless, precipitate action. It invites us to set goals, to
envision the world we want and figure out how to achieve it.

The precautionary principle is grounded in both science and ethics. It
is fundamentally grounded in the modern philosophy of science, the
view that all our scientific knowledge is always contingent and
incomplete, subject to revision in the future. But precaution is also
grounded in ethical knowledge that is timeless, ancient, transmitted
to us by our ancestors, grounded in faith (for some, religious faith,
for others faith that love, respect and charity will prevail over
indifference and self-centeredness, and, for almost everyone, faith
that the golden rule is a steady, reliable guide).

Specifically, the precautionary principle is grounded in ecological
science, the understanding of the world as a complex system whose
interactions cannot be entirely comprehended, so our understanding
will always entail some uncertainty. There are some things that we can
never know (and by definition we don't know what it is that we don't
know), and so we can never assume that we know or understand
everything about any situation. We are always somewhat flying blind,
and so it makes sense to navigate thoughtfully and proceed
deliberately.

Although the precautionary principle is fundamentally grounded in
science, it does not assume that scientific knowledge is the only
valid way of knowing about the world. Historical knowledge, local
knowledge, spiritual understanding, ethical perspectives of right
wrong, cultural perspectives on what is appropriate, community
preferences and individual conviction -- all have a place in decisions
based on the precautionary approach.

The precautionary principle is conservative because it is grounded in
humility. It does not arrogantly assume that we can re-engineer
natural systems or social systems with foreseeable outcomes. That is
why precaution favors a democratic examination of alternatives. That
is also why it favors monitoring results, with periodic review of
outcomes in a constant search for better ways ("adaptive
management"). And that is why it leads us to prefer decisions that
are reversible.

The precautionary principle is conservative in that it assumes we are
each responsible for the consequences of our own actions and that,
therefore, we have an obligation to try to learn what those
consequences might be before we act (via environmental impact
assessment, and health impact assessment), and what those
consequences have been after we have acted (in other words,
systematically monitoring results).

The precautionary principle improves accountability. No doubt you are
familiar with the argument that private ownership of land leads to
better land-use decisions. By the same logic, people who are going to
be directly affected by a decision should, in principle, make a better
decision than people who will not be affected. (Internationally this
is known as the "principle of subsidiarity" -- decisions should be
made by a decision-making body that lies as close as possible to those
who will be affected.)

Reason #3: The precautionary principle offers an opportunity to
restore confidence in government. It tells us what government is FOR.

The precautionary approach tells us that a major purpose of government
(some would argue "the" purpose of government) is to safeguard the
commons, all the things we own together and none of us owns
individually -- air, water, the human gene pool, all the human
knowledge each of us inherits at birth, and more. According to this
"public trust doctrine" government has a legal duty to serve as a
trustee of the commons (in legalese, the commons is the "trust
property"). The trust beneficiary is present and future generations.
The government's trust responsibility cannot be alienated, denied,
repudiated, given away, or ignored. The trustee has a responsibility
to protect the trust property from harm, including harm perpetrated by
trust beneficiaries.

The commons form the base for the entire human enterprise, the
biological platform that makes all economic activity -- indeed, all
life -- possible. Therefore, protecting the commons deserves the
benefit of the doubt compared to any particular economic activity.

Reason #4: Government regulation of powerful technologies has not
worked out well. The shortcomings of the current regulatory approach
come into sharper focus as the world becomes ever more full. Examples
of large-scale problems: Global contamination from the petrochemical
industry, proliferation of atomic bombs (and radioactive waste)
stemming from the nuclear power industry, global warming caused
chiefly by the transportation and energy industries, the unfolding
threat of global genetic contamination from the biotechnology
industry, and soon the most potent technologies of all -- synthetic
biology and nanotechnology.

Historically, our approach to innovation has been trial and error. Try
something new, then manage the damage. But our technologies are
increasingly powerful, and there are more of us using those
technologies each passing day, so trial-and-error is now less
appropriate than it once may have been. Therefore, prevention is now
much more important than it once was.

Quantitative risk assessment (QRA) provides the basis for most modern
regulatory activity. Unfortunately, by focusing on the most-exposed
individual, quantitative risk assessment has allowed the entire
planet to become contaminated with industrial poisons. In addition,
there are other serious limitations of quantitative risk assessment
as a basis for decision-making. I will mention only four:

1) It is difficult for ordinary people to understand, so it runs
counter to the basic decision-making principles of an open society --
transparency and participation in decisions by those who will be
affected

2) It cannot realistically or reliably assess the multiple stresses to
which we are all exposed more-or-less constantly.

3) The results of a quantitative risk assessment often cannot be
reproduced by two groups of risk assessors working with the same set
of data -- so risk assessment fails a basic test of science,
reproducibility.

4) Politics can enter into risk assessments. As William Ruckelshaus,
first administrator of U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA),
said in 1984, "We should remember that risk assessment data can be
like the captured spy: If you torture it long enough, it will tell you
anything you want to know."

Basically, quantitative risk assessment asks "How much harm is
acceptable?" or "How much damage can we get away with?" instead of
asking, "How much harm can we avoid?"

Quantitative risk assessment may have a role to play in evaluating
alternatives (along with environmental impact assessment, life-cycle
benefit-cost accounting, health impact assessment, and other
evaluative techniques), but this is different from choosing an
alternative then relying heavily (or solely) on quantitative risk
assessment to justify that choice.

Reason #5: Economic growth has slowed since 1970, and the search for
a path to accelerated economic growth is propelling a rush to
dangerous new technologies ("the next big thing") -- biotechnology,
nanotechnology, synthetic biology, weapons in space, etc.

Furthermore, because of slowed economic growth and the resulting
necessity for "belt-tightening", we can no longer afford to clean up
more big mistakes. Trail-and-error learning has proven to be
prohibitively expensive. For example, the burden of chronic disease,
waste land, unsupportable transportation systems and attendant land-
uses (suburban sprawl) -- all show that past ways of conducting our
lives and our businesses are no longer affordable. As the price of
energy rises, repairing past mistakes (and sustaining past lifestyles)
will be become even less affordable. (In 2000 the price of a barrel of
oil was $10.00; today, six years later it is more than $60.)

Reason #6: A precautionary approach could re energize the
environmental movement. In recent years the environmental movement has
been struggling to maintain progress toward its goals. The movement
has found itself on the defensive. Some even argue that the
environmental movement is "dead." Others point out that most people
consider their job more important than almost anything else in their
lives and the environmental movement has often ignored jobs and
economic development. Others say the movement has lost some of its
luster partly because it is "against everything."

The precautionary principle gives us something to be FOR and not
merely AGAINST.

Precaution is a modern idea whose time has come. The European Union
has written precaution into its constitution and is now working out
detailed policies to embody the basic premise of precaution: taking
action to avert harm before the full extent of the harm can be proven
to a scientific certainty.

Precaution offers an opportunity to revitalize the environmental
movement by re-establishing the broken link between environmental
protection and public health, taking advantage of a shared core focus
on prevention. For example, see Kriebel and Tickner, 2001. And see
"Health and 'Environmental Health:' Expanding the Movement," in
Rachel's News #843.

In 1988 the prestigious Institute of Medicine (IOM) provided a useful
definition of public health in its landmark study, The Future of
Public Health. The IOM report characterized public health's mission
as "fulfilling society's interest in assuring conditions in which
people can be healthy."

Another enduring definition of public health was provided in 1920 by
C.E.A. Winslow:

"... the science and art of preventing disease, prolonging life and
promoting health and efficiency through organized community effort for
the sanitation of the environment, the control of communicable
infections, the education of the individual in personal hygiene, the
organization of medical and nursing services for the early diagnosis
and preventive treatment of disease, and for the development of the
social machinery to insure everyone a standard of living adequate for
the maintenance of health, so organizing these benefits as to enable
every citizen to realize his birthright of health and longevity."[1]

In chapter 1 of his text book, "Public Health: What It is and How
It Works," Bernard Turnock offers this summary of the core idea of
public health:

"If public health professionals were pressed to provide a one word
synonym for public health, the most frequent response would probably
be prevention." (Turnock, pg. 20)

Turnock notes six unique features of public health. I will mention
only five:

1) It is based in a social justice philosophy -- everyone has a right
to health services and to health; no one deserves to be burdened with
disease.

2) It is inherently a political enterprise.

3) It is inextricably linked with government -- by definition
government must play a role in fostering conditions that allow people
to become and remain healthy.

4) It is grounded in science (many sciences).

5) Its primary strategy is prevention.

In sum, the public health approach and the precautionary approach
share a great deal in common.

When the U.S. got serious about focusing on environmental problems in
the late 1960s, President Nixon responded by creating a new federal
agency to "protect the environment," U.S. EPA. An important and
powerful citizen movement developed to support, extend, and critique
the work of that agency. Unfortunately, much of that work and advocacy
took place entirely separate from the agencies, methods, practices and
goals that had long ago been established to protect and foster public
health.

It seems to me that the precautionary principle offers us a sturdy
bridge to connect time-honored, long-established public health
principles and practices (and infrastructure) with a new generation of
community-based activists and governmental guardians of the public
trust (the commons) to propel a new social movement to prevent harm
and protect our common heritage so that we can pass this world on,
undamaged, to future generations.

==============

[1] C.E.A. Winslow, "The Untilled Field of Public health," Modern
Medicine Vol. 2 (1920), pgs. 183-191.

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From: New York Times (pg. A24), May 2, 2006
[Printer-friendly version]

EDITORIAL: KEEPING A DEMOCRATIC WEB

"Net neutrality" is a concept that is still unfamiliar to most
Americans, but it keeps the Internet democratic. Cable and telephone
companies that provide Internet service are talking about creating a
two-tiered Internet, in which Web sites that pay them large fees would
get priority over everything else. Opponents of these plans are
supporting Net-neutrality legislation, which would require all Web
sites to be treated equally. Net neutrality recently suffered a
setback in the House, but there is growing hope that the Senate will
take up the cause.

One of the Internet's great strengths is that a single blogger or a
small political group can inexpensively create a Web page that is just
as accessible to the world as Microsoft's home page. But this
democratic Internet would be in danger if the companies that deliver
Internet service changed the rules so that Web sites that pay them
money would be easily accessible, while little-guy sites would be
harder to access, and slower to navigate. Providers could also block
access to sites they do not like.

That would be a financial windfall for Internet service providers, but
a disaster for users, who could find their Web browsing influenced by
whichever sites paid their service provider the most money. There is a
growing movement of Internet users who are pushing for legislation to
make this kind of discrimination impossible. It has attracted
supporters ranging from MoveOn.org to the Gun Owners of America.
Grass-roots political groups like these are rightly concerned that
their online speech could be curtailed if Internet service providers
were allowed to pick and choose among Web sites.

The House Energy and Commerce Committee defeated a good Net-neutrality
amendment last week. But the amendment got more votes than many people
expected, suggesting that support for Net neutrality is beginning to
take hold in Congress. In the Senate, Olympia Snowe, a Maine
Republican, and Byron Dorgan, a North Dakota Democrat, are drafting a
strong Net-neutrality bill that would prohibit broadband providers
from creating a two-tiered Internet. Senators who care about the
Internet and Internet users should get behind it.

=========================================================

New York Times (pg. A14)
February 20, 2006

Editorial: Tollbooths on the Internet Highway

http://www.precaution.org/lib/06/toolbooths_on_internet_highway.
060220.htm

When you use the Internet today, your browser glides from one Web site
to another, accessing all destinations with equal ease. That could
change dramatically, however, if Internet service providers are
allowed to tilt the playing field, giving preference to sites that pay
them extra and penalizing those that don't.

The Senate held hearings last week on "network neutrality," the
principle that I.S.P.'s -- the businesses like Verizon or Roadrunner
that deliver the Internet to your computer -- should not be able to
stack the deck in this way. If the Internet is to remain free, and
freely evolving, it is important that neutrality legislation be
passed.

In its current form, Internet service operates in the same
nondiscriminatory way as phone service. When someone calls your home,
the telephone company puts through the call without regard to who is
calling. In the same way, Internet service providers let Web sites
operated by eBay, CNN or any other company send information to you on
an equal footing. But perhaps not for long. It has occurred to the
service providers that the Web sites their users visit could be a rich
new revenue source. Why not charge eBay a fee for using the Internet
connection to conduct its commerce, or ask Google to pay when
customers download a video? A Verizon Communications executive
recently sent a scare through cyberspace when he said at a
telecommunications conference, as The Washington Post reported, that
Google "is enjoying a free lunch" that ought to be going to
providers like Verizon.

The solution, as far as the I.S.P.'s are concerned, could be what some
critics are calling "access tiering," different levels of access for
different sites, based on ability and willingness to pay. Giants like
Walmart.com could get very fast connections, while little-guy sites
might have to settle for the information superhighway equivalent of a
one-lane, pothole-strewn road. Since many companies that own I.S.P."s,
like Time Warner, are also in the business of selling online content,
they could give themselves an unfair advantage over their competition.

If access tiering takes hold, the Internet providers, rather than
consumers, could become the driving force in how the Internet evolves.
Those corporations' profit-driven choices, rather than users' choices,
would determine which sites and methodologies succeed and fail. They
also might be able to stifle promising innovations, like Internet
telephony, that compete with their own business interests.

Most Americans have little or no choice of broadband I.S.P."s, so they
would have few options if those providers shifted away from
neutrality. Congress should protect access to the Internet in its
current form. Senator Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat, says he intends
to introduce an Internet neutrality bill, which would prohibit
I.S.P.'s from favoring content providers that paid them fees, or from
giving priority to their own content.

Some I.S.P.'s are phone and cable companies that make large campaign
contributions, and are used to getting their way in Washington. But
Americans feel strongly about an open and free Internet. Net
neutrality is an issue where the public interest can and should trump
the special interests.

Copyright 2006 New York Times Company

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From: BBC, May 2, 2006
[Printer-friendly version]

AMERICANS 'MORE ILL THAN ENGLISH'

[Introduction: This story also received good coverage, with unique
perspectives, from MSNBC and the New York Times. --DHN editors]

Americans aged 55 to 64 are up to twice as likely to suffer from
diabetes, lung cancer and high blood pressure as English people of the
same age.

The healthiest Americans had similar disease rates to the least
healthy English, the Journal of the American Medical Association study
found.

The US-UK research found greater links between health and wealth in
the US.

The joint team from University College London, the University of
London and health research organisation Rand Corporation, chose two
groups of comparable white people from large, long-term health surveys
in the US and in England.

In total, the study examined data on around 8,000 people in the two
countries.

Each group was divided into three socioeconomic groups based on their
education and income.

They then compared self-reports of chronic diseases such as diabetes,
high blood pressure, heart disease, heart attacks, stroke and lung
disease.

The American group reported significantly higher levels of disease
than the English.

Rates of diabetes were twice as high among the US group as the
English.

One of the study's authors, James Smith of Rand, said: "You don't
expect the health of middle-aged people in these two countries to be
too different, but we found that the English are a lot healthier than
the Americans."

'Medical care'

Those on the lowest incomes in both countries reported most cases of
all diseases, except for cancer, and those on the highest incomes the
least.

But these health inequalities were more pronounced in the US than they
were in England.

The researchers suggested the lack of social programmes in the US,
which in the UK help protect those who are sick from loss of income
and poverty, could partly help explain why there was a greater link
between Americans' wealth and disease.

But the study also found that differences in disease rates between the
two nations were not fully explained by lifestyle factors either.

Rates of smoking are similar in the US and England but alcohol
consumption is higher in the UK.

'Bad lifestyle'

Obesity is more common in the US and Americans tend to get less
exercise, but even when the obesity factor was taken out, the
differences persisted.

One of the researchers Professor Sir Michael Marmot, of the department
of epidemiology and public health at University College London, said
people would automatically presume the differences were caused by the
variance in healthcare systems.

US healthcare is funded through an insurance system while England's
NHS is funded by taxation and is free at the point of use.

But he pointed out that Americans spent almost double per head [per
person] on health care than the English do, even though the system was
organised in a different way.

He said: "There is more uneven distribution in the US and something
like 15% of Americans have no health insurance and (there are) a
bigger number who are under-insured."

But this could not fully explain the differences because the richest
Americans with access to highest levels of healthcare still had rates
of poor health comparable to the worst off in England.

Infant mortality

"We cannot blame either bad lifestyle or inadequate medical care as
the main culprits in these socioeconomic differences in health,"
Marmot said.

"We should look for explanation to the circumstances in which people
live and work.

"We have to take a much broader look at social determinants of health
in both countries.

"We need to do further research to fill in the jigsaw pieces of the
puzzle," he added.

A Department of Health spokeswoman acknowledged health inequalities in
England of the kind revealed in the research and said the government
was anxious to tackle them.

It aims to reduce health inequalities in life expectancy and infant
mortality by 10% and improve health generally.

"Health trainers, targeted initially at the most deprived communities,
are one of the many initiatives which will help narrow this gap by
supporting people to make healthier choices in their daily lives," she
added.

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From: Greenpeace International, May 2, 2006
[Printer-friendly version]

EVERYTHING YOU DIDN'T WANT TO KNOW ABOUT SEX...

Greenpeace report reveals the impact of toxic chemicals on
reproductive health

Amsterdam -- Falling sperm counts, rising infertility and genital
abnormalities in babies could all result from exposure to hazardous
man-made chemicals used in perfumes, carpets, electronics, clothing
and a host of other consumer goods, a Greenpeace report released
today has revealed[1].

The report, 'Fragile: Our reproductive health and chemical exposure',
collates the findings of a number of peer-reviewed scientific studies
of recent years. Together, the studies show for the first time a
comprehensive picture of an increase in reproductive health disorders,
mirroring the rising presence in our lives of human-created synthetic
chemicals.

Sperm counts have fallen by 50% in 50 years, infertility among couples
has more than doubled in industrialised countries since the 1960s,
while testicular cancer has become increasingly common. The male-
female birth ratio has changed dramatically in some areas and birth
defects of the reproductive system are increasingly noted in baby
boys.

"The growing body of scientific evidence indicating links between
exposure to man- made chemicals and damage to our reproductive systems
is extremely disturbing. Greenpeace is calling for any chemical that
can potentially harm humans in this way to be removed from use
wherever a safer alternative is available," said Dr David Santillo of
Greenpeace International's Science Unit, one of the report's authors.

Many of the disorders which have been increasing in incidence are
thought to originate in the developing stages of the child's life in
the womb or shortly after birth. At the same time, tests have shown
that exposure to some commonly used chemicals which may affect
fertility takes effect almost from the moment a child is conceived.
Among the chemicals concerned are alkylphenols, phthalates, brominated
flame retardants, organotin compounds, bisphenol-A and artificial
musks. However, these chemicals, used as examples in this report,
represent only a fraction of the problem. Most chemicals on the market
have never been tested for their safety for human health or the
environment, yet many are routinely used in products found on
supermarket shelves and in our bathroom cabinets.

A law proposed by the European Union, known as REACH[2], currently
being discussed, is supposed to allow for much stricter checks and
controls on the manufacture and use of chemicals. But an aggressive
lobby from certain chemicals producers has been so successful in
undermining REACH that the law could ultimately allow substances
suspected of harming our hormone system and sexual organs to remain in
use.[3]

Greenpeace International Toxics Campaigner, Helen Perivier, said:
"Many individuals and couples see their lives and welfare affected by
reproductive disorders. The EU cannot close its eyes to this rising
problem by weakening the protection that REACH could provide against
chemical-induced health problems."

Greenpeace argues that there can be no justification for allowing the
continued use of hazardous chemicals that can be passed to developing
children and that may harm sexual development.

Governments and Members of the European Parliament will vote on the EU
chemicals regulation later this year.

Notes to the editor:

[1] The report Fragile is available at http://www.greenpeace.org/frag
ile

[2] REACH: Regulation on the Registration, Evaluation and
Authorisation of Chemicals

[3] Fatal Flaws, http://www.greenpeace.org/fatalflawsbrief

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From: The Independent (UK), May 1, 2006
[Printer-friendly version]

HIPPOPOTAMUS AMONG 26,000 NEW SPECIES ON ENDANGERED LIST

By Barrie Clement

More than 26,000 species of animals, birds, plants and fish will this
week be added to the list of those in serious danger of extinction.
Thousands of species including the common hippopotamus are to be added
or moved up the so-called "red list" drawn up by The World
Conservation Union (IUCN).

The alarming study by the union, one of the most authoritative
pictures of world flora and fauna, will make clear that global warming
and human activity is responsible.

The report will confirm that the common skate, once abundant around
Britain, has been virtually wiped out. The fish is still stocked by
some supermarkets and fishmongers, but there is increasing pressure on
them to ban it in the same way that cod has been removed from many
retailers' shelves.

Sharks, skates and rays are all thought to be vulnerable. Around 20
per cent of sharks are in increasing danger of extinction, the study
says. The giant devil ray, similar to a manta ray, is often
accidentally caught in nets intended for tuna and other fish.

David Sims, senior research fellow at the Marine Biological
Association Laboratory at Plymouth, said that one of the main problems
with sharks and rays was that they bore live young so that they
reproduce more slowly. "Global fisheries are having a massive effect
on population. Some of the nets they use could engulf St Paul's
Cathedral," he said.

The new research by the IUCN is the result of two years' work by
scientists all over the world and adds to the picture revealed in the
union's last report in 2004 which said that 15,589 species faced
extinction -- 7,266 animals and 8,323 plants and lichens.

While the latest analysis confirms the plight of the polar bear -
because climate change threatens its Arctic habitat -- more surprising
was the threat to the common hippo. Researchers at the IUCN found that
biggest problem was posed by poachers killing the creatures for the
ivory in their teeth.

One of the creatures predicted to die out is the Yangtze river dolphin
or Baiji. It is thought that just 30 remain and that the chances of
breeding-age pairs meeting is extremely low.

Chris Butler-Stroud of the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society,
said that the animal was in effect extinct.

The endangered species in the 2004 report included one- third of
amphibians and half of all freshwater turtles. At least 15 species had
died out over the previous two decades and another 12 survived only in
captivity.

Many more, however, are thought to have become extinct without having
been recorded. A conservative approach to declaring species lost means
that others, which are not yet formally classed as extinct, have
probably died out.

Among 3,330 species newly assessed as threatened in 2004 included the
fabulous green sphinx moth, from the Hawaiian island of Kaua'i, and
the African begonia from Cameroon. Most of the new additions in 2004
were amphibians, joining the red list after the Global Amphibian
Assessment that revealed one in three species of frog, toad, newt and
salamander were under threat.

The Jambato toad from Ecuador, the golden toad from Costa Rica and the
kama'o bird from Hawaii were among the species declared extinct over
the past two decades.

Britain had nine critically endangered species -- the category at
greatest risk -- including the slender-billed curlew and the sociable
lapwing (both rare visitors here) and Spengler's freshwater mussel.
Another 49 species are classed as endangered or vulnerable, including
the Atlantic cod and the Scottish wildcat.

Between 1.6 million and 1.9 million species are known to science, but
the total is usually estimated at between 10 million and 30 million -
and many of those described and classified are poorly understood.

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From: Be Safe, Apr. 29, 2006
[Printer-friendly version]

TAKING PRECAUTIONARY ACTION: ROADMAP FOR SUCCESS -- JUNE 9-11

Come To The 1st National Conference On Precaution

June 9th -- 11th, 2006, University of Maryland School of Nursing,
Baltimore, MD

Join with hundreds of activist groups to share successful
precautionary strategies, tools, and programs. The conference will
bring together people working on toxics and nuclear pollution, disease
prevention, pesticides, worker safety, and many other issues.

Learn about over 50 model local, state, and nationwide precautionary
policies. Add practical new tools to your arsenal on messaging,
alternative assessments, full-cost accounting and more. Participate
in trainings on community organizing, fundraising, advocacy, media
outreach, and more. Help build the movement for precautionary action
to prevent harm from environmental hazards by registering today!

Go to www.besafenet.com/ppconf.html for Conference agenda and
registration form.

Space is limited, so please register soon.

Reserve hotel at discount rate by Friday, May 12th. Register by
Friday, May 26th.

The 3 day Conference includes over 35 workshops.

It starts Friday 10:00 AM and ends Sunday 4:00 PM.

For more information, contact ppconference@chej.org or 703-237-2249
ext. 11.

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  Rachel's Democracy & Health News (formerly Rachel's Environment &
  Health News) highlights the connections between issues that are
  often considered separately or not at all.

  The natural world is deteriorating and human health is declining  
  because those who make the important decisions aren't the ones who
  bear the brunt. Our purpose is to connect the dots between human
  health, the destruction of nature, the decline of community, the
  rise of economic insecurity and inequalities, growing stress among
  workers and families, and the crippling legacies of patriarchy,
  intolerance, and racial injustice that allow us to be divided and
  therefore ruled by the few.  

  In a democracy, there are no more fundamental questions than, "Who
  gets to decide?" And, "How do the few control the many, and what
  might be done about it?"

  As you come across stories that might help people connect the dots,
  please Email them to us at dhn@rachel.org.
  
  Rachel's Democracy & Health News is published as often as
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  subject.

  Editors:
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  Tim Montague   -   tim@rachel.org
  
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Environmental Research Foundation
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dhn@rachel.org
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