Tagged
health


Is Sanofi Aventis Moving Beyond the Challenges of Pharma?

As a global health leader will Sanofi Aventis create new sustainable markets of value for health?

By Lavinia Weissman

Greenbiz.com, recently published two important reports by its Chairman and Executive Editor Joel Makower. The first report is an article titled, Green Marketing is Over. Let’s Move On. And the second is a video of Joel’s presentation on the State of Green Business 2011.

After reviewing the report and video, I decided to return to my study of Sanofi Aventis and ask, “Is Sanofi Aventis moving beyond the pharma business model; and will this create new sustainable value markets for health?”

To get at some answers to these questions, I captured a “quick and dirty short list” of Makower’s observations as a framework from which to assess the current state of Sanofi Aventis.

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03:38 pm by csrwiretalkback[25 notes]

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Radiation is Harmless; Heck, It’s Even Good For You! (cont’d)

There is no safe level of radiation.

Part Two of a two-part series from CSRwire.

By CSRwire Talkback Managing Editor Francesca Rheannon

Yesterday, I wrote about the difference between exposure to external radiation - radiation that is in the air, water or soil - and internal radiation, the stuff that gets inside you. I explained why the natural phenomenon of bioaccumulation means, when radioactive particles (radionucleides) settle into the bones, organs and muscles of prey that are eaten, they become more concentrated the higher up the food chain they go.

So, even though the radioactivity in the water becomes more dilute the farther it flows from the source, it becomes more concentrated in bodies of the animals that ingest it. It’s why the “solution to pollution” is not dilution, at least in the case of substances that bioaccumulate (and damage cells, as we’ll see below).

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05:50 pm by csrwiretalkback[2 notes]

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Radiation is Harmless; Heck, It’s Even Good For You!

The media - and some environmentalists - have got it all wrong on radiation hazards.

Part One of a two-part series from CSRwire.

By CSRwire Talkback Managing Editor Francesca Rheannon

OK, OK, I know it’s a little late for an April Fools’ headline, but the real joke is on the media. From NPR to Fox, the media appear to be swallowing the nuclear power industry’s soothing nostrums that the radiation streaming out of the Fukushima Daiichi Plant into the air and water and migrating around the world is at levels that “pose no significant impact on human health.” The patsies include environmental writer and nuclear power booster, George Monbiot.

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06:46 pm by csrwiretalkback[16 notes]

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Safety and Sustainability Lacked a Voice at Fukushima

Why worker health and safety is good for sustainability and the environment.

Originally posted on the CSRwire website.

By CSRwire Talkback Managing Editor Francesca Rheannon

It happened on March 24, 2011. The radioactive water poured over the workers’ boots and burned their feet and ankles as they struggled to lay new power cables at reactor No. 3 at the Fukushima-Daiichi nuclear plant. The estimate is that they were exposed to 330 times the amount of radiation allowable in a year. And although they were released several days later, they face a lifetime of higher risk of cancer, cataracts and bone disease. They are in their 20s and 30s, so they have a long time to worry.

Two Japanese workers joined 15 others at the doomed plant who have been injured so far due to exposure to high radiation levels (not including those who will get cancers later, which could reach as many as 50%). They and their fellows at the plant are regarded as heroes – which they are – but few stop to question whether the risks they are taking are higher than they should have been.

They aren’t regular TEPCO employees; like many of the workers currently battling to get the reactor under control, they are poorly paid day workers, working for subcontractors. The question that leaped immediately to my mind when I read the report of the accident was, "how in God’s name did water get into their boots?"

I used to train workers on health and safety during hazardous operations (the OSHA-mandated Hazwoper trainings) at The New England Consortium (TNEC), including some basic information on nuclear safety. Workers in hazmat suits - the big white Tyvek suits that have become a common site on news reports about the Japan nuke disaster - are supposed to have their boots sealed to the suit so no contaminants can get in. It’s a no-brainer.

But those workers had neither the proper boots nor the waterproof hazmat suits, TEPCO admitted - and putting on boots wasn’t even required by the company’s safety manual. They weren’t given dosimeters. Neither is it likely they got the Japanese equivalent of Hazwoper training - indications are the training they received was perfunctory, at best. Nor were they warned the water was radioactive, even though the company knew about the problem several days before the workers were exposed. Evidently the TEPCO safety officers were lax as well. They failed to arrange for radiation levels to be monitored in the area where the workers were operating, “a very big and basic oversight.”

Neither they nor the regular workers at TEPCO were unionized, which might have something to do with the lax health and safety culture at the plant. “It’s important to involve workers themselves,” TNEC’s project director Paul Morse told me. “In a lot of places where we have nuclear facilities in the U.S., we have unionized workers who have had a lot of investment in emergency response training. The people who have been part of these training programs are much better prepared and fought for plant safety protections as part of collective bargaining. It’s crucial to have a workforce that’s had a voice.”

What’s the link between injured workers battling to contain the worsening nuclear disaster in Japan and the hundreds of thousands of Japanese residents as far away as Tokyo who are worrying about the radiation spreading invisibly into their air, water and soil? It’s not that the former are trying to protect the latter, although that is true. It’s that a company that takes worker health and safety as cavalierly as TEPCO does is one that takes the health and safety of the environment just as cavalierly.

In other words: worker health and safety is the first line of defense against environmental catastrophe, whether the catastrophe is sudden or insidiously ongoing. In the case of Fukushima-Daiichi, the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster a year ago and upper Big Branch Mine disaster before that (just to mention the most famous accidents in recent history), all the companies involved had been cited for poor worker health and safety records before the disasters. But the same disregard for environmental and worker health can be seen in companies that make the list of the Toxic 100 index, like Bayer and ExxonMobil, for their ongoing contamination of the environment.

Safeguarding worker health and safety isn’t just good for workers and the environment. It’s also good for companies.

First, it improves productivity. A summary of research from New Zealand shows a safer and healthier work environment goes beyond fewer sick days taken or lower workers’ comp costs. It includes more innovation, improved quality of work, a better corporate reputation and improved employee recruitment and retention.

But even more so, a focus on worker health and safety should be something near and dear to the sustainability community. Back when I was training workers, one of the first principles we trainers covered was that reducing pollution at the source was the best practice for controlling contamination (instead of having to clean it up later). And the best way to reduce pollution at the source was substitution - using nontoxic materials in place of toxic ones.

The options for substitution were fewer then. But in the years since I taught my last training, “green chemistry" has been coming into its own, opening up a whole new promising field for innovation in clean technology.

Among its “Twelve Principles" are preventing hazardous waste from being created, maximizing the use of materials (so less are used), designing safer chemicals, using fewer additives, designing for energy efficiency, using renewable feedstocks and making products innocuously degradable. A moment’s reflection will show they not only protect worker and environmental health, but also cut production costs.

From smaller companies like Genomatica, profiled in a recent post by Marc Gunther (instead of hydrocarbons, it uses “carbohydrates”) to big ones like Dow Chemical and BASF, innovative scientists are finding solutions to pollution.

Government assistance is key. In the U.S., the increasingly beleaguered EPA has been instrumental in spurring green chemistry through its Green Chemistry Challenge. But the E.U. has been ahead of the U.S., passing several directives that mandate more easily recycled materials in electronics as well as less toxic substances in electronics production. And its REACH framework aims not only to track toxics, but also to encourage innovation in green chemistry.

Some industries are inherently dangerous to worker and environmental health - like nuclear power. The best way to control pollution at the source is to switch to 100% safe renewable energy as fast as possible - something we could do by 2030, according to a recent study.

That would ensure that no more miners would die, no more nuclear workers would become radioactive and no more workers would be blown up on oil rigs. And all of us will enjoy a safer and healthier environment.

About Francesca Rheannon

Francesca is CSRwire's Talkback Managing Editor. An award-winning journalist, Francesca is co-founder of Sea Change Media. She produces the Sea Change Radio’s series, Back to The Future, and co-produces the Interfaith Center of Corporate Responsibility’s podcast, The Arc of Change. Francesca’s work has appeared at SocialFunds.com, The CRO and E Magazine, and she is a contributing writer for CSRwire. Francesca hosts the nationally syndicated radio show, Writers Voice with Francesca Rheannon.

Talkback Readers: Where were opportunities missed to help safeguard workers? How can companies resolve these lapses to prevent future disasters? Share on Talkback!

10:18 pm by csrwiretalkback[1 note]

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Top Seven Strategies to Cure Global Warming

It will take a coordinated effort of responsible innovation, smart policy and living well with less to fight the war against climate chaos.

Part Three of a three-part series from CSRwire, “Health Hazards of Climate Change.”

By CSRwire Talkback Managing Editor Francesca Rheannon

Climate change has been called the biggest global health threat of the 21st century. Part One of this series covered some of the greatest hazards, including death and injury from extreme weather, hunger, spread of disease carrying pests, water-borne and heat-related illnesses, asthma and lack of medicines due to species loss.

Part Two added the unintended consequences of the rush to replace fossil fuels with technologies that carry high risks to health and safety, like nuclear power and corn ethanol. At the end of that post I asked, “So, what’s a climate hawk to do? We need to consider a sobering truth: there is no ‘free’ energy.”

Even after the disaster at Fukushima-Daiichi, many clean energy advocates are saying we need to continue to build nuclear power capacity. Marc Gunther bemoaned in a recent column:

The fires, explosions, radiation leaks at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant will lead to greater scrutiny - and higher costs - for new nuclear plants. That will make it harder to develop low carbon energy to replace fossil fuels and avert potentially catastrophic climate change… Over the past few years…I’ve grown more…inclined to support nuclear power as a low-carbon solution, particularly given that all forms of energy production create risks and require tradeoffs. But the nuclear options look a whole lot less attractive today than it did a week ago. And that’s a problem.

But do we really need to make a Faustian bargain with nuclear energy? Do we need to accept almost any tradeoffs to tackle climate change - nuclear disasters, mass starvation (ethanol), widespread contamination of our water supplies with deadly chemicals (hydrofracking for gas) and even such potentially catastrophic “solutions” like geoengineering?

Only if we lack imagination, courage and the willingness to pull together for the common good. The more dangerous alternatives have, tragically, been the first we’ve turned to, because they have powerful private players behind them that think they will make big profits out of the climate emergency we all face. (Caveat Tepco.) The problem is how the emerging energy technologies market is structured, subordinating long-term common need to short-term private greed. But in the long-term, simple survival means the common interest is the salient one, whether you are the CEO of Archer Daniels Midland or a farmer in Bangladesh.

We don’t need to make Faustian bargains for our future. There are safer, more responsible strategies. Here are seven possibilities:

1. Smart Subsidies: The free market doesn’t reign in energy, nor should it. It can’t price carbon correctly because it leaves out the costs we all bear collectively, like environmental destruction and damage to our health. Since the free market can’t price carbon correctly by itself, government policies need to help the market by rewarding technologies that lessen the cost to society and our environment and punishing those that increase it: R&D subsidies to responsible new technology; clean energy and efficiency rebates to consumers; heavy taxes on profits of fossil fuel companies; and an end to subsidies and loan guarantees to dicey modalities like nuclear, ethanol and gas.

2. Smart Standards: We need to develop common sense standards for new technology so we don’t go halfway down the road to hell paved by our good intentions. The precautionary principle has been adopted by the EU to ensure new chemicals don’t get introduced into industrial processes before they are proven safe. It wouldn’t have taken all that much time for scientists and eco-economists to figure out that corn ethanol violates the precautionary principle. All the billions of dollars wasted on that dead end could have given us a jumpstart on safer forms of biofuels, from algae to switchgrass - and ones yet discovered.

The Union of Concerned Scientists has developed these “Bioenergy Principles" to guide R&D and investment in alternative fuels. A national renewable energy standard would also be smart, enabling innovative technologies to be developed with a national market in mind and improved predictability for investors.

3. Smart Efficiency: Some criticize efficiency efforts, pointing out that while vehicle efficiency has increased, overall vehicle emissions have stayed the same, because people are driving more. Increasing use as efficiency goes up is called the Jevons effect; it’s real, but doesn’t apply everywhere and can be minimized. For example, making buildings more energy efficient will decrease total emissions because people won’t jack up the heat or AC beyond the level of comfort. Engineering solutions like smart lighting that goes off when no one is in a room makes efficiency easy, as does architecture that increases available daylight.

Even transportation can sidestep the Jevons effect - if mass transit is made more attractive than driving, as it is in many European cities or the older, dense cities of the US Northeast. Make trains affordable, available, with good connections and clear and frequent scheduling and many will give up driving with relief. Smart traffic lights can decrease fuel use and ease driving for those who must use cars. Discouraging sprawl and encouraging urban density will help too.

4. Smart Transition: We need to get serious about shortening the transition time away from fossil fuels to clean, responsible renewables. But we can also lighten the impact of fossil fuel production by adopting more stringent standards for pollution control and efficiency. Cars - even gasoline engines - can be much more fuel-efficient than current standards mandate. Coal plants can scrub their emissions better than they do now. Companies will scream and moan about costs, but, as the case of vinyl chloride shows, when they finally have to knuckle down and do the right thing, they will probably find a healthier bottom line. And a government mandate would level the playing field between companies and encourage a smart approach. As the Union of Concerned Scientists has pointed out, “Addressing all four major pollutants (sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, mercury and CO2) at once allows utilities to take an integrated approach to pollution control, reducing industry costs and greatly increasing the public health benefits.”

The war against climate chaos isn’t just about technology and efficiency. It’s also about hearts and minds.

5. Smart Patriotism: The war metaphor is apt: just like the Allies did during World War II, citizens need to pitch in together so our children will have a chance. We need to make it unpatriotic to waste energy; we need to engage communities with Clean Energy Challenges, tree planting and climate resilience projects, and community wind developments; the list is endless. We need to redefine security to conform more to the real threats - wars over climate and dwindling resources - so we can take money from bloated defense budgets and use it to change the climate calculus to lessen the threat.

6. Smart Engagement: Many European cities use their trash to generate energy, but I heard a radio report on WNYC in New York that discounted that possibility for the city - a city which is now burning tons of carbon (and cash) to truck its mountains of trash away. The report said residents would never accept trash-to-energy installations. Well, maybe community education and engagement, along with incentives in the form of lower energy costs - and disincentives to continue business as usual - might change some hearts and minds. It’s worth a try. We need to educate and engage citizens in being part of the solution, not the problem.

7. Smart Consumption: And that bring us to the final strategy. Let’s redefine the good life to value quality over quantity; the commons we share over the stuff we hoard (or heedlessly discard); the things that are free and priceless, like health, community, compassion, conviviality and a shared investment in our human future.

It’s up to us.

About Francesca Rheannon

Francesca is CSRwire's Talkback Managing Editor. An award-winning journalist, Francesca is co-founder of Sea Change Media. She produces the Sea Change Radio’s series, Back to The Future, and co-produces the Interfaith Center of Corporate Responsibility’s podcast, The Arc of Change. Francesca’s work has appeared at SocialFunds.com, The CRO and E Magazine, and she is a contributing writer for CSRwire. Francesca hosts the nationally syndicated radio show, Writers Voice with Francesca Rheannon.

Talkback Readers: Can we fix the planet? What suggestions do you have on how to become more energy efficient? Share on Talkback!

12:11 am by csrwiretalkback[21 notes]

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Health Hazards of Climate Change - Lessons From Japan

Business and government need to make sure alternatives to fossil fuels do not add to human and environmental health hazards.

Part Two of a three-part series from CSRwire.

By CSRwire Talkback Managing Editor Francesca Rheannon

My last post in these pages, written a week ago, tackled seven top health hazards of climate change. I promised readers my next post would explore remedies governments, businesses and individuals can use to protect human health from the “the biggest global health threat of the 21st Century.”

What a difference a week makes. A devastating earthquake in Japan set off a tsunami that has likely claimed tens of thousands of lives and is also threatening a full-scale nuclear catastrophe.

With three reactors in “partial meltdown,” another with its spent fuel rods on fire and radiation levels spiking as I write these words, the unfolding nuclear emergency at Fukushima will end up — in the best case scenario — having caused acute injury or death to some plant workers and almost certainly an eventual rise in cancer in those living near the plant (especially children), or — worst case scenario — spewing radioactive clouds that will circle the globe for months, potentially causing many cancers and birth defects for a long time to come.

So, rather than continue on my promised path, I decided to take a short detour into a now more pressing question. After Fukushima, do we face a Hobbesian choice between illness, death and environmental disaster from fossil fuels — or illness, death and environmental disaster from the technologies we hope to replace them?

Nuclear energy was supposed to help get us off our fossil fuel addiction — it was supposed to be “clean” and provide a bridge to less mature technologies like wind and solar. Proponents of nuclear, including one of my heroes, climatologist Jim Hansen, have said that without a renaissance in nuclear energy, the world will not be able to get off coal in time to avert catastrophic climate change. As of March 11, however, the nuclear renaissance is in doubt, both in the US and abroad.

In fact there have been doubts all along. Critics have charged nuclear is anything but “clean:” nuclear waste is (practically) forever, transporting it to far-flung permanent waste storage facilities (that have yet to exist and probably never will) puts communities at risk of contaminating accidents, nuclear plants are terrorist magnets, and they are prodigious water hogs in a world that climate change is making water-poor. (The hotter and drier the earth gets, the more water nuclear power plants will commandeer to supply the increased demand by people running more air conditioners more often.) Moreover, nuclear plants carry a heavy carbon footprint from construction; mining, processing and transporting uranium; storing waste and decommissioning.

Claims of the safety of present nukes are Panglossian at best and disingenuous at worse: the Japanese have the highest nuclear plant safety standards in the world, yet they built their reactors to withstand earthquakes, not tsunamis — despite the fact the two go together, as any Japanese kindergartner can tell you. And don’t believe claims that low levels of radiation pose no danger. They do: there is no safe exposure level to ionizing radiation (although the risk does go up with more exposure).

If you think nuclear operators on American soil are any better than the Japanese on safety, I’ve got a nuclear plant in Vermont I can sell you. Vermont Yankee is the same design as the failed reactors at Fukushima and it has been leaking for years. Thanks to a courageous governor — probably encouraged by a long-battling group of activists — that plant will be shut down, in spite of the NRC’s approval extending the plant’s license for another 12 years. But he is the exception among politicians, not the rule. Perhaps nuclear plants can be made safer, but we’d have to have a different political climate — one not beholden to corporate interests — to insure that.

How about other energy alternatives to fossil fuels? As we’ve learned from the case of biofuels, the cure may be no better than the disease. Consider this:

Even wind and solar — certainly our best bets for clean electric power — come with some environmental concerns, from rare earth mining to harm to migratory birds.

So, what’s a climate hawk to do? We need to consider a sobering truth: there is no “free” energy. We are going to have to put responsible innovation at the core of our search for clean, renewable energy; we are going to have to put efficiency first; and we are all — consumers, producers and investors alike — going to have to learn to live better with less.

How we can do that will be the subject of my third and final post in this series. Stay tuned.

About Francesca Rheannon

Francesca is CSRwire's Talkback Managing Editor. An award-winning journalist, Francesca is co-founder of Sea Change Media. She produces the Sea Change Radio’s series, Back to The Future, and co-produces the Interfaith Center of Corporate Responsibility’s podcast, The Arc of Change. Francesca’s work has appeared at SocialFunds.com, The CRO and E Magazine, and she is a contributing writer for CSRwire. Francesca hosts the nationally syndicated radio show, Writers Voice with Francesca Rheannon.

Talkback Readers: What is a climate hawk to do? Which alternative energies pose minimal health risks? Tell us on Talkback!

06:28 pm by csrwiretalkback[4 notes]

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GMOs: Cause of Seedy Situations (Part One)

The claim that GMOs will increase food security is a myth. The reality is darker. (Part I of II)

By Dr. Vandana Shiva

GMOs (Genetically Modified Organisms) continue to be promoted as the only solution to hunger and food security.

However, the tools of genetic engineering are merely tools of transferring genes across species boundaries. They are not tools of breeding. Breeding is still done through conventional methods. The yield of a crop is determined by conventional technologies, not by genetic engineering. Yield is a multigenetic trait, and genetic engineering cannot deal with complex traits. The report “Failure to Yield” of the Union of Concerned Scientists shows that in no crop has genetic engineering contributed to yield increase. The yield trait comes from the variety into which a GM trait is introduced.

As Andrew Pollack observes:

“The yield of a crop is mainly determined by the seed’s intrinsic properties, not the inserted gene. An insect resistant protection gene will not make a poor variety a high yielder.”

The claim that GMOs will increase food security is therefore an unscientific myth.

Over the 20 years of commercialization of GMOs, two traits account for most genetic modification. These are crops into which a gene has been added to resist herbicides (herbicide resistant crops) or a gene has been added to resist pests (Bt. Crops). The former are supposed to control weeds, the latter are supposed to control pests. However, herbicide resistant crops have led to evolution of super weeds, and pest resistant crops have led to creation of super pests.

Monsanto, which controls 95% of all GM seeds sold, introduced Round-up Ready Crops for herbicide resistance. When super weeds started to overtake crops, Monsanto introduced Round-Up Ready II. In 2010, it introduced smart stax with eight toxic genes – six for insecticides and two for herbicide resistance. Monsanto’s strategy was to “create a captive customer base” through stacking eight toxic genes. The strategy was a failure. Monsanto lost 47% of its shares and is paying U.S farmers $12/acre to deal with the problems created by its GMO seeds.

If one toxic gene does not control pests and instead creates super pests, stacking six insecticidal genes will only accelerate the emergence of resistance. Monsanto and others who promote GMOs forget Einstein’s observations that insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.

Another serious issue related to GMOs is the destruction of biodiversity, and the creation of monocultures and monopolies. India used to have 1500 varieties of cotton. Today 95% of the cotton grown is Bt. Cotton. And most of the Bt. Cotton is owned and controlled by Monsanto through licensing arrangements.

More on that and the devastating results in Part Two of this post.

About Dr. Vandana Shiva

Dr. Vandana Shiva is a philosopher, environmental activist and eco feminist. Currently based in Delhi, Shiva has authored more than 20 books and over 500 papers and is the founder of Navdanya, a network of seed keepers and organic producers in India. She won the Right Livelihood Award in 1993.

Talkback Readers: What’s your take on GMO seeds? Share your opinion on Talkback!

03:36 pm by csrwiretalkback[7 notes]

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Top Seven Health Hazards From Global Warming - What Business and Government Can Do

Efforts to limit or destroy the US EPA’s authority to regulate greenhouse gases risk disease and death for millions of global residents.

Originally posted on the CSRwire website. A two-part series from CSRwire. Part One: Greenhouse Gases Are Hazardous to Your Health

By CSRwire Talkback Managing Editor Francesca Rheannon

All politics is local, they say, but the impacts often are not. This is never truer than when it comes to climate chaos. We have only to consider the examples of the 70,000 who died in Europe during the broiling heat wave of 2003, the global rise in asthma affecting millions (especially children) or the thousands who lost their lives in the Pakistan floods of 2010, to realize climate politics as practiced in one country affects the health of people in all countries.

Right now threats to global health are coming from the House of Representatives, which just passed a FY 2011 Continuing Resolution that would slash $3 billion from EPA’s $10.3 billion budget and take away the agency’s ability to update safeguards against greenhouse gas emissions (the first salvo in a strategy aimed at ending the EPA’s ability to regulate greenhouse gases once and for all). The cuts, as EPA chief Lisa Jackson testified before Congress on March 2, would eviscerate the agency’s ability enforce the Clean Air Act and could result in hundreds of thousands of excess deaths every year in the US alone.

In 2009, the EPA issued a finding that “greenhouse gases (GHGs) threaten the public health and welfare of the American people.” This lesson was echoed and expanded by an extraordinary briefing held recently to counter the mounting campaign against the Environmental Protection Agency in the Republican-controlled US Congress. Stating “one of the greatest public health challenges we face…is the challenge of climate change,” the joint briefing by the American Public Health Association (APHA) and American Medical Association (AMA) outlined the multiple serious threats to human health stemming from climate change and the GHGs that cause it. It also issued a clarion call to protect the EPA’s “authority over the full breadth of its work.”

Here’s a list of seven serious threats to human health from climate change culled from the briefing and other sources:

  1. Heat stress and heat stroke. Extreme heat is the leading weather related cause of death. The hellish European summer of 2003 will become the norm across global temperate zones as temperatures could rise another four to 11 degrees. This could mean, for example, the states of Kansas, Florida and Texas will be above 90°F for 6 months out of the year, with extreme temperatures reaching 122°F in most of the central, southern and western US. The most vulnerable will be children, the elderly and obese, as well as the poor (who tend to live in urban “heat islands” and lack the means to buy air conditioning).

  2. Asthma and allergies. A warmer world with higher concentrations of atmospheric CO2 means huge increases in the pollen count. This is just one of the GHG causes of skyrocketing asthma rates worldwide. Others include air pollution from burning fossil fuels and increased ozone pollution (which also affects people with heart disease) due to higher temperatures. The APHA/AMA briefing pointed to a doubling in asthma rates, an extension in the allergy season - longer already by 28 days in the US - and increases in other respiratory diseases. Other allergic reactions are also likely to soar. Take the case of poison ivy, which is spreading and becoming more virulent.

  3. Injury and death from severe weather events. Not only do extreme weather events threaten human health directly from drowning, fires or being hit by wind-driven or falling objects, but people sicken and die when medical services are interrupted during emergencies.

  4. Disease and malnutrition caused by crop disruption due to climate change. Malnutrition harms human health by compromising immune systems and development of the brain and other organs in children. Climate change is already disrupting food stocks, as I mentioned in an earlier post, and food prices are driving many to the brink of starvation and threaten to drive millions more as climate chaos ratchets up.

  5. Increase in vector-borne diseases. As the planet warms, insects, rodents and other organisms carrying disease will spread into regions formerly less friendly to them. Malaria - already the leading killer of children in Africa - is caused by a bacterium and spread by a type of mosquito that both thrive in hotter, wetter and more humid climates. Several hundred million cases are expected to be added to the 500 million cases already occurring each year, due to global warming.
  6. Other diseases spreading into zones formerly foreign to them include dengue fever (including its most severe hemorrhagic form), West Nile virus and cholera. Lyme and other tick-borne diseases are spreading, including the malaria-like babesiosis. In the southwest, climate change-enhanced El Niño weather patterns boost populations of Hanta-virus carrying rodents.

  7. Loss of medicinal plants and potential plant-based pharmaceuticals due to species extinction. Terrifyingly, habitat loss and human-caused climate change threaten to drive 13 to 37% of all species to extinction by 2050, including 20% of plant species. With antibiotic resistance on the rise, where will the new medicines come from to protect us from the spread of climate change-induced infectious disease? It’ll be a double-whammy. Already, horsehoe crab populations are declining precipitously, at least partly due to climate change; if you’ve ever received an injectable medication, or expect to - and that means all of us - you depended on horseshoe crab blood (harvested without killing the crab) to be assured the injection was free of bacterial contamination. Nothing else works as well.

  8. Increase in serious diarrheal diseases. The incidence of cholera, salmonella and other potentially fatal diarrheal diseases are increasing because of higher temperatures due to climate change. This trend is exacerbated as water quality degrades through rising sea levels, floods or drought. The Washington Post reported, “When a 1991 cholera outbreak that killed thousands in Peru was traced to plankton blooms fueled by warmer-than-usual coastal waters, linking disease outbreaks to epidemics was a new idea. Now, scientists say, it is a near-certainty that global warming will drive significant increases in waterborne diseases around the world.”

The evidence is clear: climate change is hazardous to your health. In my next post, I’ll explore the remedies governments, businesses and individuals can use to protect human health from the “the biggest global health threat of the 21st Century.”

About Francesca Rheannon

Francesca is CSRwire's Talkback Managing Editor. An award-winning journalist, Francesca is co-founder of Sea Change Media. She produces the Sea Change Radio’s series, Back to The Future, and co-produces the Interfaith Center of Corporate Responsibility’s podcast, The Arc of Change. Francesca’s work has appeared at SocialFunds.com, The CRO and E Magazine, and she is a contributing writer for CSRwire. Francesca hosts the nationally syndicated radio show, Writers Voice with Francesca Rheannon.

Talkback Readers: With death and disease looming, can business and government step up to tackle climate change? Weigh in on Talkback!

08:09 pm by csrwiretalkback[12 notes]

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What’s at Stake with Canada’s Increased Asbestos Mining

What you may not know about asbestos.

Originally posted on the CSRwire website.

By Krista Peterson

Most Americans are aware of the health dangers posed by asbestos and are aware it is no longer incorporated into most products in the United States. But many would probably be surprised to learn asbestos use is not actually outlawed — the ban was overturned by the New Orleans Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in 1991. While the threat of lawsuits and public outrage keeps most manufacturers from using asbestos, certain construction materials are still allowed to contain the dangerous mineral. The EPA’s own clarification on the ban states: “EPA does NOT track the manufacture, processing or distribution in commerce of asbestos-containing products. It would be prudent for a consumer or other buyer to inquire as to the presence of asbestos in particular products.”

Though asbestos is no longer mined in the United States as of 2002, the U.S. Geological Survey states that we imported 820 metric tons of the material in 2010. So, where is this asbestos coming from? Surprisingly, most of it comes from Canada. While the Canadian government funds efforts to remove asbestos from schools and federal buildings within the country, it continues to export about 350,000 tons of the material annually, most of it to Southeast Asian countries that have lax or absent restrictions on asbestos use. That number could grow in coming years, as there is a plan in place to increase production in one of the world’s largest mines in the town of Asbestos, Quebec.

The asbestos mined in Quebec is of the chrysotile type, and while it is considered less dangerous than other types, experts agree it is still unsafe. Even a small amount of exposure to asbestos can cause serious health problems, such as lung scarring, asbestosis and mesothelioma, a cancer of the lining of the chest and abdomen. Mesothelioma symptoms may take between 20 - 50 years to develop after exposure, so many of the workers who suffered the greatest exposure when asbestos was most popularly used — the mid-20th century — are only now realizing the terrible toll the mineral takes on the body. There is no cure for this cancer, and the average survival rate is eight to 14 months from diagnosis.

Andrew Schneider, Senior Public Health Correspondent for AOL News, reports the Canadian government has funded the Chrysotile Institute, the country’s asbestos lobbying group, to the tune of $1 million. Schneider also suggests the Canadian asbestos lobby played a large role in the 1991 overturn of the U.S. ban. The group continues to insist chrysotile does not cause disease, though medical doctors and concerned citizens alike are horrified at this stance. Activists accuse the Canadian government of placing profit ahead of safety, particularly in developing countries where occupational safety is poorly regulated and symptoms of mesothelioma may go undiagnosed.

Citizens of Canada, and abroad, must insist the mine in Quebec be closed, rather than sold to foreign investors who will increase production and, with it, the number of deaths attributable to asbestos exposure. The expansion of the mine constitutes a violation of the human rights of the citizens of India, Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Pakistan, the Philippines and other countries to which Canada will ship this deadly mineral. Canada must take responsibility for the health hazard their exports cause — and refuse to value profit over human life.

About Krista Peterson

Krista is a recent graduate of the University of Central Florida. She is an aspiring writer with a passion for health and wellness, community development and the environment. Krista leads by example by living a healthy, green lifestyle. She enjoys reading, writing and practicing yoga.

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