Jun 212010

I find it auspicious that the U.S. Social Forum takes place the week of the Summer Solstice–look for that celebratory energy to flow in large measure throughout the week.  Here is a lovely essay from Shanta Gabriel about Solstice, just the beginning and end excerpted here, click to read it in it’s entirety:

From darkness into the Light – the whole world shifts on June 21, the Solstice. In the Light all will find Oneness with the pure Spirit they seek. In the Light dwells wonder, knowledge and the incredible gift of love which comes from your awareness of the Creator of all that is…

…As you use the natural flow of the energy available at the time of Solstice, allow the light of the season to enlighten any dark corners within you, and visualize the world being blessed by this light. All beings will benefit and peace will be a growing reality to be harvested at Equinox in the autumn. Soak in the vibrant beauty of summer flowers, and enjoy the healthy fresh produce.  Align yourself with the natural cycle and enjoy the earth’s bounty and the light available on the longest day of the year. It is your gift to receive from the Source of all Light.

 June 21, 2010  Posted by on June 21, 2010 Comments Off on Summer Solstice
Jun 172010

The Feminist Peace Network will be at the U.S. Social Forum in Detroit next week.  Here is the session we have planned:

Another Peace Is Possible

Understanding How Militarism Harms Women and

Working Together To Create A Women-Inclusive Peace

Thursday June 24th, 1:00 – 5:30 pm–Wayne Country Community College MP

Join us for a panel discussion about the ways in which militarism specifically harms women followed by an open mic opportunity for women to express their thoughts and visions regarding how to achieve  women-inclusive peace. Panelists will include Veterans For Peace member Col. (ret.) Ann Wright, Women in Transition Executive Director Khalilah Collins and Feminist Peace Network Director Lucinda Marshall.

This panel is sponsored by the Feminist Peace Network and co-sponsored by Women in Transition, Veterans for Peace, U.S. Women and Cuba collaboration, Code Pink and AF3IRM/GABNet.

For more details and a handy dandy map of where we’ll be, click here.

USSF Triple Spiral

 June 17, 2010  Posted by on June 17, 2010 Comments Off on Join FPN at the U.S. Social Forum
Jun 172010

Over the last few days, more attention seems to be focused on potential health problems as a result of the Gulf oil disaster.  One of the most informed voices on this issue is Dr. Riki Ott (I interviewed her for this article several weeks ago).  In these 2 videos, one with Keith Olbermann and one with Rachel Maddow, she gives us a good understanding about why this is so urgent.  Particularly note in her interview with Maddow where she talks about “dose plus host” defining the problem which really explains why my concern for pregnant women and children is right on target, the point being that pregnant women and children are particularly vulnerable and thus more likely to suffer ill effects from this disaster.

Maya Rodriguez’ report about the “oil effects you can see and the ones you can’t” and interview chemist Wilma Subra also makes some important points that add to our understanding of the unfolding health disaster:

Rodriguez also reports about concerns regarding the vulnerability of water supplies:

And well worth the read, Gina Solomon at NRDC explains here why the BP interpretation of air quality reports doesn’t pass the smell test.  Finally, see The Other ED–Endocrine Disruption, an interview with Theo Colborn that I posted the other day.

 June 17, 2010  Posted by on June 17, 2010 Comments Off on Riki Ott–“Dose Plus Host”–Why Pregnant Women And Children Along The Gulf Are Particularly Vulnerable To Oil And Dispersant Related Health Effects
Jun 162010

Last week I wrote about how some of the chemicals which are being used in the Gulf oil disaster and are harming human and aquatic health are known endocrine disrupters.  To understand better why this is so very important, particularly in terms of potential reproductive health damage, I am posting this trailer to a video called The Male Predicament from The Endocrine Disruption Exchange that features Dr. Theo Colborn, a well known expert in this field who explains in very understandable terms why this is a huge concern.

Dr. Theo Colborn, environmental health analyst, co-author of Our Stolen Future, and founder and President of TEDX (The Endocrine Disruption Exchange), speaks about The Male Predicament. She presents evidence linking exposure to chemicals in our environment, before and after birth, to potential health effects in boys and men – such as birth defects, learning and behavioral disorders, erectile dysfunction, infertility, reproductive cancers and more. To find out how plastics, pesticides, flame retardants and other chemicals (often from the most unlikely sources) may be contributing to these problems, view this 37 minute video here.

 June 16, 2010  Posted by on June 16, 2010 Comments Off on The Other ED–Endocrine Disruption
Jun 152010

Last week, in an article published by Truthout, I examined the potential for human reproductive harm as a result of the Gulf oil disaster. It was not until this week however that the EPA finally released information regarding what chemicals are in the dispersants, a crucial first step in definitively assessing harm. The manufacturer, Nalco, had claimed that some of the ingredients were trade secrets. But they were happy to explain in general terms on their website what was in the dispersants,

“Corexit contains six primary ingredients. Examples of everyday products with specific ingredients in common with COREXIT 9500 include:

• One ingredient is used as a wetting agent in dry gelatin, beverage mixtures, and fruit juice drinks.
• A second ingredient is used in a brand-name dry skin cream and also in a body shampoo.
• A third ingredient is found in a popular brand of baby bath liquid.
• A fourth ingredient is found extensively in cosmetics and is also used as a surface-active agent and emulsifier for agents used in food contact.
• A fifth ingredient is used by a major supplier of brand name household cleaning products for “soap scum” removal.
• A sixth ingredient is used in hand creams and lotions, odorless paints and stain blockers.”

Really? We drink this stuff and put it on our babies? Must be harmless, right? So why not just tell us the exact ingredients??

Finally however, the public and planetary right to know has triumphed over greed. Two different versions of Corexit have been used. The New York Times provides this description of the two products:

“Corexit 9527, used in lesser quantities during the earlier days of the spill response, is designated a chronic and acute health hazard by EPA. The 9527 formula contains 2-butoxyethanol, pinpointed as the cause of lingering health problems experienced by cleanup workers after the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill, and propylene glycol, a commonly used solvent.”

“Corexit 9500, described by Pajor as the “sole product” Nalco has manufactured for the Gulf since late April, contains propylene glycol and light petroleum distillates, a type of chemical refined from crude oil. Nalco had previously declined to identify the third hazardous substance in the 9500 formula, but EPA’s website reveals it to be dioctyl sodium sulfosuccinate, a detergent and common ingredient in laxatives.”

Memo to self: avoid laxatives at all costs. But seriously, what the heck are those chemicals and what can they do? Tom Philpott has written the most thorough description that I’ve seen thus far:

“We finally know the main two dispersants that BP and the U.S. government are using to treat the ongoing Gulf spill. Both, by their maker’s own admission, have the “potential to bioconcentrate,” and both have “moderate toxicity to early life stages of fish, crustaceans, and mollusks,” according to a study by Exxon, the company that originally developed them. Their use may be the least-bad course, given the importance of minimizing oil’s effect on coastal wetlands. But a little digging into the chemical makeup of these two substances, which are being dumped in vast quantities into the Gulf, reveals that they could potentially do far more harm than good, both to the Gulf and to humans who later eat from it…

substances that bioconcentrate tend to move from water into fish, where they can do damage to the fish itself, as well as be passed on to predator fish – and on up the food chain, to human eaters…

And just how toxic is this stuff? The data sheets for both products contain this shocker: “No toxicity studies have been conducted on this product” – meaning testing their safety for humans”…

…According to their data sheets, both 9500 and 9527 are composed of three potentially hazardous substances. They share two in common, organic sulfonic acid salt and propylene glycol. In addition to those two, Corexit 9500 contains something called “Distillates, petroleum, hydrotreated light,” while Corexit 9527 contains 2-Butoxyethanol…

…Petroleum distillates and 2-Butoxyethanol are both solvents; neither are substances you’d excitedly dump into a vibrant ecosytem. According to its International Chemical Scorecard, 2-Butoxyethanol “may be absorbed” by the skin; causes “cough, dizziness, drowsiness, headache, nausea, and weakness” when inhaled; and “abdominal pain, diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting” when ingested. For petroleum distillates, the International Chemical Scorecard has similar indications about exposure for humans, and adds this unsettling line: “The substance is harmful to aquatic organisms.””

So we know that the dispersants contain toxic substances. It would seem that at the very least, since we’ve already dumped hundreds of thousands of gallons of them into the Gulf, that we–meaning presumably a governmental agency tasked with doing such things–should be rigorously monitoring their impact. Don’t hold your breath, or rather, it might be a good idea if you do. NRDC’s Gina Solomon reports that,

“New BP air testing results were posted.. from April 27 – May 26 for benzene, total hydrocarbons, and 2-Butoxyethanol. There’s still no information about other oil-related air toxic chemicals such as naphthalene or hydrogen sulfide, offshore.

The BP sampling plan focuses only on workers on the large ships, and appears to not include monitoring for the people on the approximately 1,500 small fishing boats helping to clean up the spill. These people are dismissed as of “Reduced Priority” on page 4 of the BP sampling plan.

Nearly 70% (275 out of 399) of offshore air samples had detectable levels of hydrocarbons and nearly 1 in 5 (73 out of 399) had levels greater than 10 parts per million (ppm), which is an EPA cutoff level for further investigation.

6 samples exceed 100 ppm which in a previous monitoring summary was labeled as the action limit. This label appears to have been removed in the most recent summary document. No information is given on where these samples, or the 4 found to be between 50 and 100 ppm, were taken.

20 (5%) samples had detectable levels of benzene with measurements up to 0.5 ppm. The National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) Recommended Exposure Limit (REL) is 0.1 ppm.

20% (29 out of 146) samples had detectable levels of 2-Butoxyethanol with measurements up to 10 ppm. This range encompasses the NIOSH REL for occupational exposure to 2-Butoxyethanol of 5 ppm. The BP document cites the OSHA PEL for 2-Butoxyethanol of 50 ppm, which would not protect workers.”

In other words, it would appear that people working near these chemicals are being at least in some cases exposed to levels that are unacceptable. And those are the priority people, we don’t know about the reduced priority people. (Never mind all those chemicals, let’s just start by forbidding our data collectors from ever referring to anyone as a reduced priority person. And hello? Why is BP monitoring this, that has about as much integrity as putting an embezzler in charge of a bank fraud investigation.)

Also according to Solomon,

“The immediate worry is what are called volatile organic compounds, which include chemicals like benzene that can be released in a vapor phase from the oil that’s floating in the water,” Solomon said. “These chemicals can cause acute health effects such as headache, nausea, vomiting, cough, dizziness. The chemicals can also cause longer-term effects, including the potential for miscarriage or low birth weight in pregnant women and risk of cancer over the longer term.”

“So far,” Solomon added, “the levels of these chemicals have been fairly low along the shore lines, so the main concern is for the emergency response workers. But we’re worried that as the oil gets closer to shore the levels of the chemicals in the air will rise.”

So what does all of this mean? Good question. We know that several of the ingredients in these products are harmful. To what extent, we simply don’t know because:

A. They have not been adequately tested for toxicity prior to use.

B. No one has ever taken a wholesale toxic chemical dump in a large body of water on this grand a scale before.

C. There is a concern that by breaking the oil up, the dispersants are making the oil itself, also toxic, harder to clean up.

D. As Solomon notes, the data that we are getting via BP is problematic, making quantifying the damage all the more difficult.

I don’t want to re-hash all the points I made in the Truthout article, but suffice to say, this additional information only confirms my concerns. We know that aquatic life is dying, that wetlands are being grievously harmed, and that people are suffering from a variety of health symptoms. What we don’t know and won’t for quite some time is what the reproductive consequences may be. In the meantime, it is urgent that data be properly collected and made available and that every precaution be made to protect the most vulnerable among us, particularly pregnant women and children.

Addenda: Two additional points that add to the urgency of addressing this issue, via the San Francisco Chronicle:

“In a report written by Anita George-Ares and James R. Clark for Exxon Biomedical Sciences, Inc. titled “Acute Aquatic Toxicity of Three Corexit Products: An Overview” Corexit 9500 was found to be one of the most toxic dispersal agents ever developed.

According to the Clark and George-Ares report, Corexit mixed with the higher gulf coast water temperatures becomes even more toxic.”

And even more worrisome:

“It seems like damage brought by the oil gusher has spread way beyond the ocean, coastal areas and beaches. Collateral damage now appears to include agricultural damage way inland Mississippi.

A mysterious “disease” has caused widespread damage to plants from weeds to farmed organic and conventionally grown crops. There is very strong suspicion that ocean winds have blown Corexit aerosol plumes or droplets and that dispersants have caused the unexplained widespread damage or “disease”.

There is no other explanation for the crop damage. Everything points to something that has a widespread effect on plants and crops. While no one precisely knows, all the signs point to BP’s use of aerosolized Corexit brought inland by the ocean winds or rain.

Remember acid rain? Now it seems we could have toxic dispersant rain.”

In the Truthout article, I mentioned acid rain as a reason to be concerned that the toxicity of the oil and the dispersants could move inland. At the time, quite honestly I wanted the ramifications of that happening to remain a hypothetical nightmare. It would appear that this may be exactly what is happening, and the implications for our food and water supplies, our health and our lives are very, very bad.

(This blog post is cross-posted from FPN Director Lucinda Marshall’s personal blog,  Reclaiming Medusa)

 June 15, 2010  Posted by on June 15, 2010 Comments Off on Is The Gulf Oil Disaster Compromising Our Reproductive Health?