In 2003, several members of Cancer Action NY met via conference call with employees of the New York State Department of Health’s (DOH) Center for Environmental Health.  I had requested the meeting so as to have the opportunity to discuss dioxin exposure reduction education.  Dr. Nancy Kim, Director of the Center for Environmental Health’s Bureau of Toxic Substance Assessment was the senior DOH scientist on the call.  Our meeting accomplished a small success.  Dr. Kim agreed to consider updating the DOH booklet titled, “Reducing Environmental Exposures:  The Seven Best Kid Friendly Practices” to present the subject of dioxin contamination of mainstream animal fat foods with a recommendation for reducing animal fat consumption.  She requested that I provide proposed text for the update.  Shortly after our discussion, I emailed a brief educational piece on dioxin exposure reduction.  I waited a considerable period of time and after having received no reply, I contacted Dr. Kim about the updating material.  She requested that I send the proposed text again.  I did this.  Months and then years passed by.  The booklet was not updated.

 

Eventually, I came into contact with Robert Chinery, Assistant Director of the Center for Environmental Health.  After several letters and a number of telephone calls, Mr. Chinery wrote stating that when the time came to print more of the environmental  exposure reduction booklets, the document would be updated to include a dioxin exposure reduction message.

 

During the course of years of this Cancer Action NY endeavor, we expanded upon our request so as to call for publication of a health hazard advisory for persistent organic pollutants (POPs).  The scientific literature was becoming extensive on serious damages to health imposed by POPs exposure.  Epidemiological studies indicated that chronic low level exposures were sufficient to cause major adverse effects, including type II diabetes and cardiovascular disease.  Animal studies were being published that demonstrated gestational dioxin exposures predisposed offspring to increased breast cancer susceptibility.  POPs exposures were now known to cause damages to health, including:  cancer, type II diabetes, heart disease, cognitive impairments, reproductive failures, immune system dysfunction and behavioral disorders.

 

In 2013, nearly ten years after the 2003 meeting, the DOH has not yet published any educational information on the subject of the dioxin exposure health hazard or the POPs exposure health hazard constituted by contamination of mainstream food supply animal fat containing foods, including:  meats, fish, eggs and dairy products.  I have written a series of letters to the several Commissioners of the DOH who have been in office during the past decade.  The only answer that I have received is that the department has decided to update “Reducing Environmental Exposures:  The Seven Best Kid Friendly Practices” so as to include the subject of POPs exposure reduction.

 

The World Health Organization (WHO) published, “Persistent Organic Pollutants:  Impact on Child Health” in 2010.  This public health guidance document recommends that leaders in the health arena, including employees of governmental public health entities and private physicians take action to minimize the exposure that children receive to POPs.  Cancer Action NY has made repeated attempts to engage DOH in a dialogue on the role of the department in accomplishing POPs exposure minimization for New York’s children.  DOH has refused to discuss this matter.

 

The DOH and the American Cancer Society released the 2012-2017 New York State Comprehensive Cancer Control Plan on December 18, 2012.   The Cancer Plan includes a two page environmental exposure section.  This section prioritizes several exposure sources for possible future exposure reduction action.  The prioritized exposure sources include POPs, referred to as fat-soluble contaminants of food.  The environmental exposure section also provides access to a significant number of documents that address chemical exposure and damages to health.  The WHO report, “Persistent Organic Pollutants:  Impact on Child Health” is included among these documents.

 

Despite the accumulation of an extensive body of peer-reviewed scientific research articles on the subject of POPs exposure and disease causation, the DOH continues to fall far short of providing the public with a warning of the POPs exposure health hazard.  There are reasons for this failure.

 

First and foremost among these reasons is the opposition of the chemicals and food sector corporations to government action to provide this warning.  Monsanto Corporation has succeeded in establishing much control over the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).  Michael Taylor, a former Monsanto executive, now holds the office of Deputy Commissioner for Food in the FDA.  Dow Chemical Company, the Chlorine Chemistry Council and the Vinyl Chemistry Council have succeeded in pressuring the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) into taking the position that dioxin contamination of mainstream food supply animal fats does not render the food supply unsafe.  EPA is totally silent on the POPs exposure health hazard.  The DOH is cognizant of the controlling influences of these corporations.  DOH follows the lead of FDA and EPA doing nothing to displease the corporate powers.

 

A second powerful reason for DOH failure on POPs contamination is fear of political backlash from the New York State Farm Bureau and other voices that advocate for farmers.  Agriculture is the largest business in New York State and the political ramifications of displeasing farmers are not ignored by the Governor’s Office and the Commissioner of the DOH.

 

Once public knowledge on the subject of the POPs exposure health hazard reaches a critical level, the DOH will begin to tell New Yorkers the Truth about POPs contamination of animal fats and damages to health imposed by consumption of contaminated animal fats.  Where the environmental health protection activists lead, the DOH will follow.  Scientific knowledge on this subject provides a clear message.  Minimization of exposure to POPs will create much public health benefit.

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