Raise awareness of environmental health issues in order to better protect our children and future generations.

29 December 2011

World's Six Biggest Agrochemical Companies Found Guilty of Human Rights Violations

Following is a résumé of various articles on the Permanent People’s Tribunal which recently condemned the world’s six biggest agrochemical industries for human rights violations.  One of the articles came from “SOS pour un monde meilleur” by way of the International Society of Doctors for the Environment, Italy.


After three days of deliberations in Bangalore, India  (3-6 December 2011), the Permanent People’s Tribunal (PPT) cited human rights violations of the world’s six largest agrochemical industries:  Monsanto, Syngenta, Bayer, Dow Chemical, DuPont and BASF.





Over 355,000 persons die each year from pesticide poisoning and hundreds of thousands more are made ill. Testimonies of persons who had been harmed by pesticides and biotechnology were presented. The practices of the agrichemical industry, which is valued at $42 billion, affect the environment, food, health, children and future generations.



Birth Defects and Pesticides: the Tomato Fields of Florida

The basis of this article, which is the chapter “Chemical Warfare” from the book, “Tomatoland” by Barry Estabrook, was sent to me by the association, “SOS pour un monde meilleur” which, among other sources, receives information on environmental health from Dr. Ernesto Burgio, International Society of Doctors for the Environment (ISDE), Italy.  The group, “SOS pour un monde meilleur”, located in Geneva, Switzerland, is a school offering accredited courses in natural health therapies and a non-profit association whose purpose is to contribute to a better world for children and future generations through sensitization, information, education, representation, and production. 


Migrants working in the tomato fields of Ag-mart in Immokalee, Florida, are exposed to very toxic pesticides.  Ag-mart is a tomato harvesting company that grows tomatoes in three states.  It employs about 500 migrant workers to stake, plant and pick tomatoes.  Most of the workers are from Mexico and Guatemala and are employed under deplorable conditions (see my article, "Cultivation of Tomatoes").




Among the workers were three women who gave birth in 2004 to babies with very serious birth defects. The first baby, Carlitos, was born with spinal and lung deformities and without arms and legs. Jesus was born six weeks later with a deformation of the jaw which placed him at risk of being unable to breathe. The third baby, Violeta, survived only 3 days. She was born with only one ear and one kidney, without a nose and anus, and with a cleft palate.

All three mothers had been exposed to pesticides while working in the tomato fields during days 14 to 59 of their pregnancies, the period when birth defects are most likely to occur. The tomato fields were treated with 31 chemical substances during the growing season. At least three of these pesticides, mancozeb, metribuzin, and avermectin were known as toxins which could cause birth defects according to the Pesticide Action Network. Ag-mart did not adequately train its workers in the use of toxic pesticides. The women were not provided with protective gear except for scarves to cover their mouths. Exposure of these women so soon after spraying the fields was in fact a violation of the regulations of the Environmental Protection Agency.

One of the women described her suffering during working in the fields:  dizziness, nausea, vomiting, burning of the eyes and nose, skin rashes and open sores.  She worked in the fields from preconception through the seventh month of pregnancy.  She would have lost the housing provided by her employer had she ceased working.


The jaw malformation of Jesus was not as serious as feared.  Carlitos developed respiratory problems and had to be transported by plane to a hospital in Miami.  Unable to afford medical costs, at the suggestion of social workers, his parents sought legal aid.  Andrew Yaffa accepted to defend them without charge.  He would receive a percentage of the sum granted if he won the case.  A partner in the law firm, Grossman Roth, he had a reputation in Florida of winning legal settlements granting millions of dollars to victims.

Carlitos as a baby
Legal cases implicating the agricultural industry are very difficult to win.  Proving a link between exposure to pesticides and birth defects is nearly impossible due to factors such as heredity, exposure at other workplaces, smoking, and drug abuse.  Instead of trying to determine which chemical substance caused the birth defects and thus bring suit against its manufacturer, Yaffa decided to build a case against the agricultural company, Ag-mart, where the mother of Carlitos worked.  In fact, the entire modern agricultural industry and its use of pesticides were put on trial.


In 2008, Ag-mart accepted to compensate the parents of Carlitos, by covering the child’s medical expenses for the rest of his life. Ag-mart had to pay millions of dollars in fines for violation of regulations including inadequate training of their employees on pesticide use and causing Carlitos’ birth defects.  There are now more on-site inspections of the use of pesticides and exposure.  Education of workers regarding spraying and working around pesticides is now mandatory, and they must be supplied with protective gear.  Above all, Ag-mart has stopped using five of the six pesticides known to cause birth defects. 

by Meris Michaels


(Ref :  Article published in Wiki– Environmental Health – Case 7 :  "Ag-mart Pesticide Poisoning " ; excerpt from, “Tomatoland : How Modern Industrial Agriculture Destroyed Our Most Alluring Fruit” by Barry Estabrook, 2011, chapter, « Chemical Warfare ».)

28 December 2011

Cultivation of Tomatoes

The industrial cultivation of tomatoes has as devastating an environmental and sociological impact as the cultivation of strawberries.

Barry Estabrook has written about industrial tomato production in Florida in his 2011 book, “Tomatoland”.

One billion pounds of tomatoes are shipped annually from Florida to other states.  Cultivation of tomatoes in Florida is a $500 million per year business.



Most Florida tomatoes are industrially cultivated in fields.  Since the plants are grown in nutrient-deprived sandy soil, artificial petroleum-based fertilizers are used to keep them alive.  The constantly humid air, which breeds 27 insect species and 29 diseases preying on plants, requires spraying with tons of expensive and toxic herbicides and pesticides.  These substances reduce the amounts of calcium, vitamins A and C and add up to 14 more times sodium in tomatoes than the ones our parents consumed.  Tomatoes  are picked by hand while still green and then gassed with ethylene, which is apparently safe, to turn them prematurely red, removing their taste and giving them a mealy texture.






13 December 2011

Trees

Trees

 I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree.

Photo by Mark S. Carlson
A tree whose hungry mouth is prest

Against the earth’s sweet flowing breast;

A tree that looks at God all day,
And lifts her leafy arms to pray;

A tree that may in Summer wear
A nest of robins in her hair;

Upon whose bosom snow has lain;
Who intimately lives with rain.

Poems are made by fools like me,
But only God can make a tree.

-        Joyce Kilmer

As we come to the end of another year, tribute is paid to those who have made the world a better place.  Whether they are poets, environmentalists, health-givers, all these persons have healed the world in some way.

02 December 2011

Testimony: Mobile Phone Antennas - Geneva

This disturbing testimony comes from Jean-Luc, who suffered numerous health problems after installation of a mobile phone antenna on the rooftop of his apartment building in Geneva. 
(translation from French)

"My name is Jean Luc and I was born in 1968.  I have been living in an apartment building since 1998, with antennas installed in 1999.

My recollection of events:
Following a motorcycle accident in 1999, the scaphoid bone of my right wrist was injured.  Two operations, marrow graft and a screw, plaster.   Recovery in general lasts 6 months.  In my case, I was on invalidity from 1999 to 2004 following a necrosis of the bone, the reason for which the doctors could not understand.

In 2000, I suffered more and more from insomnia, became nervous and anxious.  Headaches started to develop when I spent entire days at home.

From 2002-2003, I started to experience falls in blood pressure, dizziness and depression.  In 2003, my 3-year-old dog suffered an attack.  Following this, I took a second dog which died at age 3.  It was a pedigreed dog, without health problems.


22 November 2011

A Message to Parents: Do not Buy Cell Phones for Your Small Children!

As we approach the biggest shopping day of the year in the United States (25 November, the day after Thanksgiving), parents, please take note of this.  Mobile devices are a dangerous technology.  Parents should not buy these items for their small children. 

See this excellent article from MobileWise, UK,  "Is the Phone Industry Spinning While Rome Burns?" which is a plea for precautionary measures to be applied to children's use of cell phones.

Toys “R” Us stores, one of biggest toy stores in the United States, are encouraging kids to try cellphones and tablet computers. 




World-side mobile sales rose 16.5% in the first part of 2011 with 1.5 billion cell phones expected to be sold this year. 

Young children, 8 and 9-year-olds crave these new “toys”, especially an iPod or cell phone.  An estimated 52% of children in the United States under age 8 have access to mobile devices.  10%  under age one have already used a smart phone, iPod or iPad or other tablet to play games, watch videos or use a mobile application.  According to one research group, kids ages 2 to 5 are the fastest-growing category of video game players, which are being played more and more on mobile devices or computers, many of which contain wireless components.



15 November 2011

Bipolar Disorder without Medication - 3

A Long Road to Success

It was a long road to success after my decision to come off of the medication. I first tried to do so in August of 2001, two and a half years after I had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder and prescribed Lithium Carbonate. While I was successful for some time in staying off of the medication, I was somewhat depressed during most of the first ten months, and I began to have psychotic symptoms at the end of the ten months. The psychotic symptoms were so scary, that for the following three and a half years, I was convinced that I needed to stay on the medication for fear that I would return to the scary place that my mind had taken me at that time.


14 November 2011

Bipolar Disorder without Medication - 2

The Decision to Come Off of Medication and the Benefits it has Reaped


I decided to come off of the medication for a number of reasons. Mostly, I intuitively believed that taking medication was the wrong path. My intuition was connected with how I perceived my surroundings on and off of the drugs. On the medication, things appeared very one-dimensional, seeming only to possess a physical dimension. Off of the medication, things more often took on a spiritual dimension in addition to the physical. For example, when I read spiritual literature such as the Bible while on the medication, it did not speak to me in the same profound way it did while I was off of the medication.



13 November 2011

Bipolar Disorder without Medication

My nephew, David, has written this testimony, in several parts, of living with a diagnosis of bipolar disorder and coming off the medication to treat it.  He is sharing this testimony with a sincere desire to "help others learn how to tap into who they truly are without having to suppress their true selves with medication." David and his wife, Jade, would appreciate hearing from you.  They may be contacted through me by posting comments at the end of the articles. 

Bipolar Disorder without Medication


My name is David. I am 34 years old, living with a diagnosis of bipolar disorder.  For many years, I was prescribed Lithium Carbonate, as well as other psychotropic medications, and was told by my doctors that I must take some sort of medication for the rest of my life. However, I have not taken any medication for bipolar disorder for over two and a half years, since April 13 of 2009. I am writing in the hope of reaching those who suffer with mental illness or diagnoses of mental illness and are trying to get off of medication and also those who are supporting someone trying to live with mental illness without medication.

04 September 2011

Vulnerability of United States Nuclear Reactors to Major Natural Disasters

Is Nature sending us a message?  Can we really continue to say that in the United States there will never be a nuclear disaster such as the one occurring in Fukushima?  Nature may be sending a message regarding the vulnerability of nuclear reactors to major natural disasters, through the recent earthquake and hurricane which struck the East Coast of the United States.  Many of us have seen the photos of the Ft. Calhoun nuclear plant in Nebraska surrounded by the sea of water of the flooded Missouri River.  Due to global warming, disasters such as hurricanes and flooding could increase both in frequency and intensity.  The pro-nuclear government in the United States refuses to learn the lessons of Fukushima.  It reassures us concerning the safety measures in place or being reinforced for nuclear power plants, while it continues with its plans to build more nuclear reactors.  The U.S. Government quasi-denies the existence of global warming. 

What are we to do?  We should become better informed about the issues related to nuclear power, reduce our energy needs, and work towards developing more sustainable sources of energy.

Here is one thing we can do:  If you are a resident of the United States, sign the petition launched by Greenpeace USA to  phase out nuclear power and invest in safe, clean, renewable energy.  "One in three Americans live within 50 miles of a nuclear plant and is threatened by a nuclear disaster. These dangerous old nuclear plants are vulnerable to natural disasters like earthquakes and hurricanes, as well as deliberate attack. Fukushima showed how catastrophic a nuclear meltdown can be for people living nearby when a disaster knocks out power to a nuclear plant ... "

Three Mile Island Nuclear Power station, Pennsylvania, USA

First unit built in 1974.  Licensed to operate until 2014.  In 2009, license was extended to 2034. 
Population living within 50 miles of nuclear plant in 2010 was 2.8 million.  Seismic risk
estimated at 1 in 25,000.


27 July 2011

The European Cancer and Environment Research Institute (ECERI) has been Created

( by Alain Geerts July 27, 2011. This article appeared on the site "Health and Environment" - Belgium.)

The European Cancer and Environment Research Institute has been created. ECERI - that's its name - has its headquarters in Brussels. This independent scientific organization was founded by the former French Minister of the Environment, Corinne Lepage, former Ecolo MEP Paul Lannoye, and Professor Dominique Belpomme, President of the Association for Research and Treatments against Cancer ( ARTAC ) . The Brussels initiative follows on the Paris Appeal proclaimed in 2004  which concluded that there is "a disturbing upward trend of cancers caused by environmental pollutants." The implementation of this statement about the dangers of chemical pollution has resulted in the creation of a totally independent research institute for the study of environmentally-related cancers, treatment and prevention.

The initiator of the Paris Appeal, Dominique Belpomme, oncologist and professor at Paris V, argues that "a large number of cancers are caused by the physical, chemical and biological degradation of the environment." He does not hesitate to assert along with the Director of ECERI, biochemist Philippe Irigaray, who is known to have established links between pollution and obesity, that two-thirds to three- quarters of cancers are due to the environment.


06 July 2011

"Fallout" - Ionizing Radiation

We are experiencing "fallout" from the nuclear disaster in Japan – continued radiation, nuclear "alerts", a rise in anti-nuclear protests, government decisions to ban nuclear power and weakening of safety regulations for nuclear reactors.

Fukushima explosion

In the media in the United States, there has been little coverage of the human health risks of radiation escaping from Fukushima. To give one example of statements from US health authorities, on 19 March, a spokesperson from the California Department of Public health said at worst, radiation from Fukushima would have extremely minor health consequences in the US. This is akin to France having said in 1986 that the radiation from Chernobyl stopped at its borders, while its neighbor, Switzerland, was warning children and pregnant women not to consume milk, meat, and fresh vegetables in certain areas of the country.

The Department of Nuclear Engineering at the University of Berkeley continues to test soil, water and air as well as produce in California in order to ascertain the levels of radionuclides coming from the nuclear catastrophe in Fukushima. Elevated levels of radionuclides have been found in spinach and strawberries. This is very worrying because California provides 80% of fresh produce to the rest of the United States.

In countries like the United States and France which have the most nuclear reactors, it is suspected that the truth about Fukushima and even about the reactors in these other countries, is being covered up. Cancer cases may rise in future, as they did after the Chernobyl accident.

Many countries which have nuclear reactors are discussing the issues of nuclear safety and the necessity for “further research”. Certain nations have gone farther and have fixed a date for abandoning nuclear energy: for example, Germany, in 2022. Switzerland, which just voted to ban construction of new reactors, has chosen to write into law the maintenance of nuclear technologies and research. Its five reactors will be shut down when they no longer meet safety standards. This means that a date to abandon nuclear energy has not been set. The people in Italy decided not to put back into service its nuclear reactors. In Europe, as of 1 January 2011, there were 195 nuclear power plants in operation in 17 countries.

France has 58 nuclear reactors which generate 74% of its electricity. Years ago, on visits to Les Saintes-Maries-de la-Mer, near the Rhône Delta, signs on the Mediterranean beach warned about the presence of radioactive elements. These most likely come from the 20 nuclear power plants in the Rhône Valley, the most important concentration of nuclear stations in Europe.

Recently, there was a fire at the Tricastin nuclear plant in the Rhône Valley, just days after 32 safety concerns were identified at the plant. Although its owner, EDF (Electricité de France) said there was no radiation leak or other contamination from the incident, this plant is one of the oldest operating reactors in France. It was built in 1974 and went into operation in 1980. In 2007, a uranium leak was reported, contaminating nearby rivers. The plant is expected to be in operation another 10 years. Of France’s 58 reactors, 34% are of this type. Recently French President Nicholas Sarkozy pledged to invest one billion euros in nuclear power as well as “substantial resources” for research into nuclear safety.

In the United States, which has 104 nuclear reactors, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has decided from early May to monitor radiation levels only every 3 months. The US has also ceased to monitor levels in seafood from the Pacific Ocean. One reason may be that most of the other 49 reactors in Japan (which doesn’t include the 6 at Fukushima), were designed by American companies. Another is that the United States nuclear industry is requesting $36 billion in loan guarantees for new reactors. The EPA is reviewing a plan to dramatically increase acceptable levels of radioactivity in drinking water and soil following “radiological incidents”. In the ten weeks following the Fukushima disaster, cities in the northwestern part of the United States experienced a 35% increase in infant mortality which may be the result of the fallout from Japan.


Safety standards for aging reactors in the United States are being weakened or simply not enforced.  Of its 104 reactors , 82 are more than 25 years old.  One of the dangers is leaky pipes and vessels prone to cracking which could release radioactive elements into the environment.  The Union of Concerned Scientists reported more than 400 accidental radioactive leaks at nuclear sites since these reactors were built.  The United States Institute for Policy Studies reports that “more than 30 million highly radioactive spent nuclear fuel rods are submerged in vulnerable storage pools”.
Ft. Calhoun nuclear plant and flooded Missouri River


The flooding Missouri River is threatening two nuclear reactors in Nebraska (Ft. Calhoun). The situation has gone to alert no. 1 on the scale of nuclear incidents, “notification of unusual event”, which means events are in process or have occurred which indicate potential degradation of the safety level of the plant, but no release of radioactive material. The flood waters are predicted to continue to rise.




Regarding Fukushima, Japan placed the Fukushima nuclear disaster at level 7, maximum on the international scale of atomic crises, the same level as Chernobyl. Reactors 1, 2 and 3 experienced full meltdowns shortly after the earthquake and tsunami of 11 March, but Japan only admitted this one month later. TEPCO, the power plant’s owner, announced that the accident probably released more radioactive material into the environment than Chernobyl.

The exposed reactors are continuing to release particles. Japanese children are now wearing radiation monitors. Internal radioactive pollution is one of the very serious consequences of Chernobyl that the World Health Organization (WHO) continues to deny. Inhaled or ingested radioactive particles continue to irradiate the body and may lodge in the lungs and digestive tract, eventually causing cancer. The Japanese Government has weakened the limits of allowable radiation exposures for children, which means they are calling higher levels of radiation “safe” when there is no safe level of radiation for human consumption. Widespread internal radioactive contamination among Japanese in the Fukushima area has now been confirmed. Radioactive elements continue to be evacuated into the Pacific Ocean from the reactors, which may have dire consequences for marine life.

This is a very dangerous technology but not everyone, especially those in authority in pro-nuclear countries, is waking up to this fact. How many more disasters like Chernobyl or Fukushima will it take to realize this and choose to abandon nuclear power in favor of renewable energy sources?

by Meris Michaels

(Ref. Various news sources: Common Dreams, Associated Press enquiry into US nuclear safety .)

02 July 2011

"Fallout" - Non-Ionizing Radiation

We are experiencing "fallout" from the non-ionizing radiation emitted by wireless devices and the recent IARC/WHO declaration that cell phones are "possibly caricinogenic".


Recently, I wrote to the two senators from New York State, Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, requesting them to consider more protective measures for children concerning radiation emitted by cell phones and other wireless devices.  Senator Gillibrand is a mother with two young children, one of whom suffers from asthma.  It seems that one of the only reactions from the US Congress to the WHO declaration that cell phones are “possibly carcinogenic” was to request the Government Accountability Office to investigate what research is needed concerning cell phone safety.  For a state which is requesting lifting of the moratorium on “fracking” (extraction of natural gas from shale by a highly polluting operation), my letter will most likely fall on deaf ears.
                   


16 June 2011

"There is a proven link between electromagnetic fields, cancers and leukemia" - Interview with Professor Dominique Belpomme - Metro France - 10 September 2010



Prof. Dominique Belpomme is President of ARTAC (Association for Research and Treatments against Cancer - http://www.artac.info/ ) and Chairman, ISDE France (International Society of Doctors for the Environment - http://www.isde.fr/ ) - translated from French by Meris Michaels


“There is a proven link between electromagnetic fields, cancers and leukemia”

Why is a cancer specialist interested in the problems of electro-sensitivity and electromagnetic fields?

Because there is a proven link between electromagnetic fields, cancer and leukemia. It is following our pioneering work undertaken with our Swedish colleagues that we perceived an important link to neuro-degenerative diseases, notably Alzheimer’s. The risk of Alzheimer’s, which can appear in young persons from age 45, is, moreover, much greater than the risk of cancer.

15 May 2011

Protection against Electromagnetic Radiation Emitted by Cell Phones

The following two articles offer solutions to protect oneself against rays emitted by cell phones.  One is an anti-radiation device for cell phones, developed by a Swiss scientist, Jacques Surbeck.  The device was awarded a gold medal by the 85-member jury at the International Inventions Fair in Geneva in April 2011.   The other "protective solution" is a set of  ten rules for cell phone use published by the Vienna Medical Association. 

Jacques Surbeck (2nd from left) at the International Inventions Fair, Geneva

02 May 2011

8th National Congress on Electrosmog, Berne, Switzerland, 30 April 2011 - Summaries of Presentations

The 8th National Congress on Electrosmog, organized by the Swiss advocacy association Gigaherz, took place in Berne, the capital of Switzerland, on 30 April 2011. In attendance were 175 persons from Austria, Belgium, Germany, Liechtenstein, the Netherlands, and Switzerland. Participants comprised members of advocacy associations, health professionals and advocates, and persons who were suffering from various discomforts, they thought due to the proximity of antennas or devices emitting electromagnetic radiation. One such person was a school teacher who said she and some of her students were experiencing discomfort which they believed might be from electromagnetic radiation. A representative of the Swiss Federal Office for the Environment attended, however there was no one from the Swiss Federal Office for Public Health. One outcome of the congress was the decision to unite the various Swiss advocacy groups under one umbrella association, the Electromagnetic Federation of Switzerland and Liechtenstein (http://www.funkstrahlung.ch/).  

Black Castle, where there were once huge shortwave antennas and where the European resistance against electromagnetic pollution began 24 years ago. 
Right, Magda Havas with Bob Connolly, left, Hans-U. Jacob, founder of Gigaherz.ch.

26 April 2011

The True Consequences of Chernobyl (Guest Article by Alison Katz)

This guest post is in commemoration of the 25th anniversary of the Chernobyl catastrophe.


Alison Katz is a member of Independent WHO: The organization was created to demand a revision of the “WHA 12-40” agreement signed between WHO and the IAEA. Every working day since 26 April 2007, this organization has maintained a vigil across from WHO Headquarters in Geneva to demand the independence of WHO and expose the truth about the effects of radioactive contamination caused by the activities of the civil and military nuclear industry.

Here is her article:

14 April 2011

Third Paris Appeal International Congress: "Women and Children First"

This article was written by the NGO, Women in Europe for a Common Future (WECF), April 14, 2011. 

It is with the phrase, "women and children first", that Professor Dominique Belpomme, initiator of the first Paris Appeal Congress on the theme of children and the environment, concluded the two-day conference which brought together scientists, physicians, representatives of civil society, and politicians from 12-13 April 2011, as a prelude to a three-day intensive course in environmental medicine for health professionals.


This is confirmation of the need for a new approach to environmental health. The Third Paris Appeal International Congress on Children's Health and the Environment confirmed the extent of changes necessary to deal with the new health risks associated with environmental exposures, bringing together leading experts known for their in-depth analysis of the problematic subject of health-environment.

12 April 2011

Third Paris Appeal International Congress on Children's Health and the Environment: The Foetus, First Victim of Pollution

This article was published by Metro France, April 12, 2011 and is translated from French.

Diseases related to the environment originate from pregnancy. Explanations and prevention tips:


Cancer, reduced fertility, diabetes, asthma ... most of the diseases that affect adults originate at the fetal stage, and are linked to environmental pollution, according to studies presented at the third congress of the Paris Appeal on children's health at UNESCO (12-13 April 2011).

The Paris Appeal, signed by thousands of scientists and citizens in 2004, establishes the link between development of cancer and environmental degradation.  Although the conference targeted chemical pollution (pesticides, phthalates, bisphenol, etc.), it was also interested in electromagnetic waves and radioactivity.

16 March 2011

Upheaval


Are there more devastating natural disasters occuring closer together or is it the omnipresence of the media, the earth's huge population, disasters happening in densely populated areas, which makes the recent Japanese earthquake and tsunami - and any disaster of this magitude - so frightening? Now Japan is confronted with a major nuclear catastrophe.

Tsunami Japan 11 March 2011

Our thoughts are with everyone in Japan who have suffered this terrible earthquake and tsunami and are now confronted with a major nuclear catastrophe which threatens to contaminate Tokyo, a megapolis of 35 million persons.

It is very troubling that it has taken a disaster of this magnitude to reconsider the safety of nuclear installations. The lesson it teaches us, as Pierre Ruetschi, chief editor of the Tribune de Genève writes, is the impossibility of foreseeing a major nuclear accident. The Japanese had foreseen earthquake, but not combined with a devastating tsunami. Being unable to foresee such an occurrence is a certainty. The other certainty is the “formidable devastating potential of the atom”. 

On 14 March 2011, Switzerland declared a moratorium on the reconstruction of three of its five nuclear installations. These installations were built to resist an earthquake of the magnitude of 7.0 on the Richter scale. The last earthquake of this magnitude occurred in Basle in 1356. The Swiss were to vote on this issue in 2013 and in fact, the canton of Berne had voted only last month by a majority of 51% to 49% to go forward with replacing the reactor which is 40 years old and similar to that of Fukushima. Angela Merkel has announced the immediate shutdown of seven of Germany’s oldest nuclear installations for the next three months.

Not only is there the issue of the risk of accident which has the potential to affect very large populations over a vast area but also the ones of uranium mining which contaminates the environment and toxic nuclear waste. We must act now to pressure our governments into considering the phasing out of nuclear energy.

Are there more devastating natural disasters occurring closer together or is it the omnipresence of the media, the earth’s huge population, disasters happening in densely populated areas which makes the recent Japanese earthquake – and any disaster of this magnitude - so frightening?

While the main focus of this blog is the impact of the environment on health, we cannot neglect reflecting on recent events: the upheaval in North Africa and parts of the Middle East where people are sacrificing their lives to win freedom from their oppressors and the earthquake and tsunami in Japan.
After the 1923 earthquake Japan
 
For our family personally, the recent massive disaster in Japan has rekindled memories of the Great Kanto earthquake which occurred in Tokyo and Yokohama in 1923, Japan’s last great earthquake (8.3). My mother, who is 96 years old, is a survivor of that disaster which killed over 140,000 persons and destroyed some 600,000 buildings. She and her brother were saved by their servant. When the tremors began, she shouted to the children that "this is a big one" and to come down from upstairs where they were playing. They ran out of the house just in time before the tiled roof collapsed. Their father was working in the city at the time. It took him 3 days to find his way home. Along the way, he helped to pull people from the rubble. Most of the casualties were victims of the fires which were set off by overturned hibachis (the quake occurred at noon when persons were cooking lunch). People had to move inland to escape the tsunami which followed. My mother's family lost all their possessions in the quake and had to be evacuated back to the United States by the Red Cross. (As a side note, the father of Andy Rooney – of “60 Minutes” – was in Tokyo at the time of the earthquake, staying at the Imperial Hotel, which resisted the quake. The hotel had been constructed by the American architect, Frank Lloyd Wright, who built it to resist earthquake.)

The 11 March earthquake occurred in Sendai, an agricultural and fishing community of about one million persons. The impact of this disaster on the lives and environment of this population, comprising many older persons, will be devastating. It reminds us of our fragility in the face of the terrifyingly powerful forces of nature. It also reminds us that our society is set up in such a way that it could magnify the devastation of such disasters. There are several nuclear reactors in the affected area which have had to be shut down. The potential for a further disaster exists. If the reactors cannot be cooled, the core will be exposed, temperatures will rise to as high as 5,000 degrees F. The reactors could experience a meltdown. Unlike Chernobyl, Japan and the United States have safety systems which make it difficult for radioactivity to escape (information source: CNN International).

This invites reflection on the potential dangers of nuclear power and its impact on the environment and health: radioactive leaks, nuclear waste, uranium mines. Twenty per cent of the world's 432 nuclear reactors have been constructed in zones of seismic activity. We must continue to advocate for the phasing out of nuclear power as a source of energy.

by Meris Michaels

(Refer to the advocacy organization “Nuclear Information and Resource Service” www.nirs.org for updates on the situation of the Japanese reactors and information on what one can do to halt the construction of reactors and other nuclear issues concerning the United States.)

26 February 2011

The Effects of Wireless Technology

Serious independent scientific research has proven a link between electromagnetic fields and all kinds of health problems, including cancers and neuro-degenerative diseases. The utilization by children and adolescents of cell phones and computers equipped with WiFi is particularly harmful because children absorb more radiation than adults. This can cause hyperactivity, aggressive behavior and memory and concentration problems.


Cell phone radiation to the brain
Most scientific studies have been conducted by the telecommunications industry which does all in its power to cover up the truth about health effects since this technology generates billions of dollars' worth of business each year. Government regulatory agencies follow the recommendations of the World Health Organization (WHO) concerning the safety of this technology. WHO hired an expert, Michael Repacholi, to lead the investigation. It was later discovered that he was paid by the industry to deny the existence of damaging effects. Thus, WHO is also covering up the truth.