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Latest Message:

September 12, 2006 CSE Newsletter

Previous Messages:

August 3, 2006 CSE Newsletter

June 1, 2006 CSE Newsletter

May 16, 2006 CSE Newsletter

November 24, 2005 CSE Newsletter

September 22, 2005 Newsletter

March 15, 2003 Newsletter

You can find CSE archives of past newsletters on their website.



September 12, 2006 CSE Newsletter

An e-bulletin from the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), India, to our network of friends and professionals interested in environmental issues.


- Update: Health minister retracts his statement on cola issue
- Book launch: Agenda Unlimited
- Editorial: Divert, deny, dismiss and damn
- Cover: The wayward growth of the sponge iron industry
- News: Industrial plans threaten Kolkata wetlands
- News: Polluted Lidder river casts shadow over Amarnath pilgrimage
- News: Jatropha plantations could lead to drinking water shortage
- Science: Cloves can help fight lung cancer, says study
- Feature: How the antibiotic market narrows your options
- Publications: Leapfrog Factor & Body Burden


Update: Health minister retracts his statement on cola issue


Health minister Anbumani Ramadoss' statement, casting doubt on CSE's pesticides in cola study, raised a furore in Parliament. With many interpreting the remark as a clean chit to cola majors, the minister was put in a spot. Soon, Ramadoss retracted his statement, saying that colas were actually unsafe.

Read the full story online>>



Book Launch - Agenda Unlimited


Agenda Unlimited is a compilation of key Down To Earth stories that chronicle the variety of grassroots initiatives undertaken by individuals and communities, both urban and rural, to protect or revive threatened or degraded local environments.

CSE's latest publication will be launched at the Frankfurt Book Fair on October 4-8, 2006.

For more on the Frankfurt book fair>>


Editorial: Divert, deny, dismiss and damn


What a line of attack! PepsiCo, in its advertisements to deny that it had pesticides in its drinks, said that there were more pesticides in tea, eggs, rice and apples. Coca-Cola, in its defence, has similarly argued that as everything in India is contaminated, its drinks are safe. They say this is being done to target them, because they are big brands and us multinationals. On the other hand, the pesticide industry, in its public response, wants the focus not to be on pesticides but on heavy metals and other contaminants. They also say that they are being singled out.

What should we understand from all this: one, we should not target us companies, not target the pesticide industry and in fact, not target any particular industrial sector but keep the issue at the level of generalities. Two, we should not try and fix any specific problem, like pesticides in soft drinks through improved regulations. But we should keep our work focussed on everything that is bad from pesticides in milk to heavy metals in soil. Three, we should not try to get the government to set regulations for soft drinks because they were found to have pesticides. We should instead try and fix something else.

Let's put this spin-doctoring aside. We know this is the first step of a game-plan: to divert attention from what needs to be done or to feed on our part helplessness and part cynicism that everything is so bad, so why bother.

Let's focus on what needs to be done. There is no doubt that water is increasingly contaminated with all kinds of bacteria and that dirty water kills more babies than anything else in our country, which is clearly and absolutely unacceptable.

Worse, we have a double burden of both pollutants and diseases. So there are biological contaminants mixed with trace chemical toxins from the modern industrial world they include arsenic and mercury to hormones and pesticides to even more deadly dioxins and furans.

All this contamination has to be challenged. All this has to be minimised so that it does not jeopardise our health. All this will have to be done urgently and together. But all this can only be done with a clear strategy and prioritisation of action so that we can bring deliberate change.

Let's take the issue of water and food safety. The government's own research shows that raw agricultural commodities from milk to vegetables are often contaminated with pesticides. We also know that regulations for pesticides in raw agricultural commodities are set, but are lax and not enforced. Therefore, the strategy is to ensure that we can revamp regulations that govern the safe use of pesticides.

The agenda for reform here is manifold: to ensure that no pesticide is registered without the setting of a maximum residue level, which defines what is safe residue in our food; to ensure that the sum of all toxins are kept within an overall safety threshold called the acceptable daily intake by toxicologists and to ensure that there are credible and effective ways of enforcing these standards.

In this we can learn from governments across the world. For instance, the UK government has a policy for naming and shaming suppliers of food that is contaminated. Our government can also check milk and vegetables on a random basis and make the data it collects available publicly.

In addition, it will be important to work with farmers who overuse and misuse pesticides, because of the lack of information supplied by the industry. Remember that the problem is exacerbated by the fact that the government has virtually abdicated its role of agricultural extension to private pesticide and seed industry interests.

But like all our other double-triple-burdens, we cannot take the step-by-step approach. The industrial world first cleaned up its water of bacteria, then pesticides, then heavy metals and is now dealing with tinier and even more modern toxins like hormones and antibiotics. We have all of that in our food and water.

We also do not have the luxury of first cleaning agricultural raw material, then building our processed food industry. We will have to clean both ends of the food chain the farm and the fork. We will have to do it together.

In all this we know that diversion is just one of the ploys. The second is to deny. This is where "science" becomes a handy weapon. Modern science fails us. Even though it has created modern toxins, it is slow on generating knowledge about the impact of these toxins and pollutants on our bodies and our environment. Take climate change, take tobacco or even pesticides. The polluters want "conclusive" and "incontrovertible" evidence that there is cause and effect. We the victims have to prove our science.

The third tactic is to dismiss: your science is not good, it is not validated or peer reviewed. The health minister did exactly this when he used a half-baked report to try and discredit our laboratory and our work on soft drinks and pesticides.

It did not matter that the same laboratory, its equipment and methodology had been examined and endorsed by the highest parliamentary committee. It did not matter, because the purpose was not science but to use its power to discredit and to dismiss.

The fourth step in the polluter's game-plan is to damn and to destroy. Let's see what the future holds.

- Sunita Narain

Read the full editorial online>>


Cover: The wayward growth of the sponge iron industry


India's booming sponge iron sector brings with it a host of worries: most of the present industries -- and also the planned ones -- are located in areas characterised by virgin forests, tribals and poor environmental governance. Almost 80 per cent coal-based sponge iron manufactured in the world comes from India, while other countries remain unwilling to let this dirty industry flourish in their own backyards.

Read online (subscription required)>>


More in Down To Earth magazine


News: Industrial plans threaten Kolkata wetlands

Construction of the proposed highway connecting north and south West Bengal could destroy the fragile East Calcutta Wetlands, warn ecologists.

Read complete article>>


News: Polluted Lidder river casts shadow over Amarnath pilgrimage

An official report has raised concern over the rising pollution levels in the Lidder river in Pahalgam -- a base camp for pilgrims heading to the Amarnath cave in Jammu and Kashmir.

Read online (subscription required)>>


News: Jatropha plantations could lead to drinking water shortage

A Planning Commission report says that plantation of the water-intensive Jatropha crop could encroach on animal habitats and lead to a shortage of drinking water.

Read online (subscription required)>>


Science: Cloves can help fight lung cancer, says study According to researchers at Kolkata's Chittaranjan National Cancer Institute, intake of cloves could inhibit abnormal cell growth in lungs.


Feature: The antibiotic market narrows your options

In the absence of regulations, pharmaceutical companies have been actively promoting expensive broad-spectrum antibiotics in India. As a result, doctors are prescribing them for even severe diseases like typhoid and cholera even though cheaper options are available.




Leapfrog Factor

The continent dodders as the automobile industry hardsells cars as the key to a lifestyle of wealth and freedom. Asia can survive only if it reinvents the idea of mobility. Builds cities based on public transport. Leapfrogs vehicle technology and fuel quality to cut exposure to killer fumes. Finds its own unique way out of the haze. Presents the complex Asian challenge and ten years of action, learning and impacts.


Body Burden

Down To Earth's work on health and environment have been brought together as a comprehensive book "Body Burden", which talks about eight key issues that affect the developing world - infectious diseases, air pollution, water pollution, toxins, lifestyle diseases, regulations and a special report on the industrial disaster in Bhopal.


CSE is an independent, public interest organisation that was established in 1982 by Anil Agarwal, a pioneer of India's environmental movement. CSE's mandate is to research, communicate and promote sustainable development with equity, participation and democracy.
Contact CSE: http://www.cseindia.org/aboutus/feedback.htm
E-mail: < cse@cseindia.org>

Address: 41 Tughlakabad Institutional Area, New Delhi - 110062

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© Centre for Science and Environment


Front Page, Week Of:

4/16/05: Spectre to Introduce U.S. Asbestos Bill This Week

5/22/05: Individuals Injured by Asbestos Exposure Oppose Specter's Trust Fund Legislation

10/16/05: Victim's Organizations Form Asbestos Victims Coalition in Opposition to Asbestos Trust Fund Legislation

11/17/05: White Lung Mourns Jose Jesus Pessora

12/18/05: Frist Introducing Asbestos Bill in January

12/04/06: Asbestos Watch Newsletter: Help Celebrate the 27th Anniversary of the WHITE LUNG ASSOCIATION

Jim Fite's Alerts:

Asbestos Victim's Superfund Compensation Program

Asbestos Watch March 14, 2005 (Maryland chapter of the White Lung Association meetings)

Directorate of Safety, Health, and Environment (open letter)


Joe Oliver's Alerts:

Joe Oliver, National Board Member and former President of the White Lung Association, has issued a call to all persons to help gather evidence on the conspiracy by asbestos trade organizations to suppress the knowledge about the hazards of asbestos exposure.

If you know anything about this horrific history or have documents which can be used to further prove their heinous crimes, please contact Joe Oliver, WLA, POB 1483, Balt. MD 21203.

Leonard Makowski's Alerts:

The White Lung Association stands in opposition to The Specter Bill (S.852)

WLA Alerts & News

S.1115: Bill to amend the Toxic Substances Control Act to reduce the health risks posed by asbestos-containing products - This bill is supported by the WLA.

Meet Mr. Asbestos

Proceedings of the Asbestos Symposium for the Asian Countries - now available for purchase.

Australia Bans Asbestos!



Senator Specter Breaks Promise to Mesothelioma Patient and Research Community

Senate Judiciary Committee returns to Mark-Up on May 11th: Proposed asbestos trust fund legislation will further penalize victims of asbestos-caused diseases


World Trade Center Health:

In May 2003, the Global Environment & Technology Foundation developed the "Asbestos Strategies" report.

British Asbestos Newsletter:

The latest issue is Spring 2005


News from India:

The latest issue is January 4, 2007



December 17, 2000 is Asbestos Hazard Awareness Day


Current Projects:

Asbestos Museum


Articles & Publications:

Occupational Respiratory Diseases: Asbestos Associated Disease -- Reprinted from: Maxcy-Rosenau Public Health and Preventative Medicine 11th ed. (John M. Last, Ed.) 1980, Appleton-Century-Crofts

Asbestos Victims Deserve Compensation Not Betrayal: position release by the Board of Directors, White Lung Association



In Memoria:

Paul Safchuck May 21, 2003

Dr. William Nicholson Dies at 70

Ray Sentes Brave Fighter For Asbestos Victims

For more information please contact info whitelung org.