CHE Year in Review: An Update on the Past Year and Plans for 2005
2:00 pm US Eastern Time
1. Welcome: Michael Lerner, PhD, President, Commonweal
This is an important call because this is when we report to the Partnership on the progress of CHE as a whole for the year. One thing that is important to say is that these ten presentations really only scratch the surface of what’s going on in the CHE community. There is an extraordinary amount of often very important developments that are below the visible surface of CHE, as Partner groups get together on a wide variety of issues of shared concern. So, with that I would like to ask Pete Myers to start.
2. Featured Presentations:
Pete Myers, PhD, CEO, Environmental Health Sciences
Thank you Michael. The CHE science website www.healthandenvironment.org exists within a web of sites www.healthandenvironment.org, www.environmentalhealthnews.org, www.ourstolenfuture.org, all of which present complimentary and interactive material. Over the past year we’ve published over 40 original synopses of new scientific findings relevant to environment and health. On environmentalhealthnews.org we publish links to over 24,000 news stories from around the world about environment and health. The distribution of links to both the science and news stories has expanded dramatically, principally through the use of the RSS Feeds (Real Simple Syndication) that we use. Today, over half a million people a month see these headlines. The number of CHE Partners that are now using RSS feeds from us is growing steadily. We now have a total of 26 sites that uses these feeds.
Where are we headed? There are two things that we would like to emphasize. First, over the next couple of months, we are going to be integrating the CHE organizational site and the CHE science site to make a single seamless site, still interacting with the other ones, but with those two being the centerpiece. Second, we want to work with CHE Partner organizations to help them take advantage of the news syndication services that we offer. We’re in the process of implementing some new software that’s going to make this even better and more customizable. One example is what Betty Mekdeci has done at www.birthdefects.org, which is from our perspective, a great use of the RSS Feeds. A lot has been done and a lot more can be done. We are ready to assist anyone who is interested.
For more information on RSS Feeds see www.environmentalhealthnews.org and click on syndication.
Elise Miller, MEd, Executive Director, Institute for Children’s Environmental Health, Coordinator of CHE's Learning and Developmental Disability Initiative (LDDI) Working Group and CHE's Northwest Regional Group (CHE-NW)
The Learning and Developmental Disability Initiative (LDDI) Working Group was one of the first working groups to emerge after the inception of CHE in March 2002. Given the concerns about the increasing numbers of learning and developmental disabilities incidences and how mercury and pesticides and PCB’s are repeatedly being shown to impact brain development, it just made sense to us to work more closely with learning and developmental disabilities groups to educate them about the emerging science and to help form stronger partnerships between the organizations, the researchers, the health professionals, and other health and environmental health and justice groups to address these issues. We now have over 130 organizations and individuals who have joined LDDI.
Some of these include the Learning Disabilities Association, The American Association on Mental Retardation, The Autism Society, The ARC of the United States, Communities Against Violence and many, many others. The national and state membership of these groups amount to well over 500,000 individuals around the country who are now gaining access to this information and who can also help affect change.
We’re trying to affect change through model initiatives and some upcoming activities. The first I’ll mention is the Learning Disabilities Association Healthy Children Project. They started with four states, and they now have 16 state initiatives, where the LDA organizations within those states are creating environmental health initiatives and educating their groups. They also have an excellent new website: www.healthychildrenproject.org.
The second I’ll mention is the American Association on Mental Retardation’s Environmental Health Project. They have work groups on policy and education and science. They just started a new conference call lecture series last week. The first had Dr. Martha Herbert, a pediatric neurologist, and they attracted over 150 people on this first call, so clearly they’re providing an extraordinary service.
We also are continuing to draft practice prevention columns for parents. These are all downloadable and they can use them on their websites or newsletters. For those organizations that have been particularly interested in weighing in on policies related to neurotoxicants, over the last couple of years we’ve drafted a number of letters to the Environmental Protection Agency and also to state policy makers on everything from mercury emissions from coal burning power plants and that’s still an ongoing issue. The public comment period goes until March. Other policy issues have been on lindane, brominated flame-retardants, and developmental neurotoxicity testing. Again, for those organizations that are interested in this, we provide that opportunity to reduce exposures to children, through the policy initiatives.
Finally, I’ll just mention some of our upcoming work. Following our national meeting at the National Institutes of Health last May, we’ve been organizing state and regional LDDI meetings. The first was in Michigan last fall and we’re now planning one in Pittsburgh to dovetail with the CHE regional meeting there in April, and another in New York in June. So if any of you are interested in these and want to get more involved, whether you’re a researcher or a health professional, or a health affected group, or just a concerned citizen, we would welcome your engagement in this. I can be reached at Contact.
Another way that CHE has developed in the last two years, namely in the emergence of the CHE Northwestern Regional Group (CHE-NW), which is a regional network of over 270 researchers and health care providers, health affected groups, environmental health and justice advocates and others concerned and committed to addressing environmental health issues and their link to chronic health problems in this region. Our over-arching goal is to promote the cross-pollination of ideas and incubate opportunities for different sectors to work together to address these problems.
CHE-NW has been meeting four to five times a year, face to face, since March 2003, with about 25–40 people attending every meeting. From these discussions we’ve had three major work groups emerge, which serve to benefit all the members, not just specific campaigns. The first is the Precautionary Principle Work Group, which had gotten language introduced into the city of Seattle’s comprehensive plan this past year. It didn’t go as far as we wanted, but we’re having a strategic meeting next week to figure out what we’re going to be doing in the coming year on the state level. The second is the Health and Environmental Links Work Group. Just this last week, this group, headed by Kate Davies, a professor at Antioch University released a report on health and environmental contaminants in Washington State, highlighting the gaps in available data, emphasizing the need for health tracking and noting the economic costs of the environmental attributable fraction of healthcare costs for childhood cancer. The Environmental Justice Working Group has had about three meetings. Some of the ideas that have emerged are developing environmental justice guiding principles for institutions and advocacy groups in Washington State and helping those organizations implement those, establishing a peacekeepers team, to support and facilitate environmental justice. We’re still developing these ideas and at our next CHE-NW meeting, we’re hoping to evoke more suggestions and opportunities for environmental justice efforts.
Lastly, in CHE-NW, we’ve started an annual environmental health lecture series at the Seattle Art Museum. Last week we kicked off the second annual series with Dr. Bernie Weiss. Upcoming we have Dr. Tyrone Hayes in February and Dr. Ruth Etzel in March. So we’re really pleased to be doing this in conjunction with the Oregon Environmental Council.
Michael Lerner: As you can all see, LDDI is a remarkable example, as is CHE-NW, of what CHE can accomplish when we have very able leadership from people like Elise Miller in a region or in a subject area, and we also have funder interest that has enabled us to pursue a strong and consistent piece of work in this important field.
Alison Carlson, Fellow, Commonweal Health & Environment Program, Coordinator of CHE's Fertility/Early Pregnancy Compromise Working Group, CHE Project Coordinator, Women's Health @ Stanford
CHE Fertility is a bit more nascent. We formed out of a discussion group a little over a year ago in December 2003. We started with about 20 people and now have 65. Our emphasis is chemicals, though not rigidly because other environmental factors and interactions are of interest. Our focus is typically upstream on our ability to conceive and keep a pregnancy. It isn’t that we’re not interested in birth outcomes, like low birth weight and prematurity, but there’s been much less attention to environmental influences to infertility then there has been maternal-fetal health. So we tend to focus, for example, on sperm decline, ovarian issues, conception and implantation, embryo development, miscarriage, and exposures that may impact reproductive capacity in future generations.
We have inter-disciplinary participation by scientists, medical professionals, all three of the U.S. national infertility patient associations, interested individuals, representatives from professional societies and women’s health, reproductive advocacy, and environment and funding organizations.
Among our central aims is to bridge researchers from different disciplines and that is with each other as well as with lay communities. We try to highlight good science and increase awareness of research linking environmental agents with reproductive compromise. We really want to engage the infertility patient and professional groups in the issue in particular in homegrown education efforts, and perhaps eventually in advocacy on environmental health questions as well. But most importantly, we just want to arm them with access to impeccable scientific expertise right now. This involves some paradigm shifts for these groups. They’ve been heavily oriented toward treatment and environmental health shifts their focus toward prevention and fertility preservation, especially as we learn about these inter-generational impacts of chemicals.
We meet by quarterly teleconference and listserv. Our calls feature researchers mostly and issues such as the need for infertility data and tracking. A neat outcome over the last year is that group members have done first ever environment presentations at the annual conferences of infertility patient associations. They’ve also authored over-view articles for several national publications and for UNEPs Our Planet Magazine and San Francisco Medicine, for instance. And I distribute environment and infertility science and news over internet listservs for patients around the globe.
With incredible guidance from Dr. Linda Giudice, a leading reproductive endocrinologist at Stanford who heads the Women’s Health Program and their Research Center on Reproduction, CHE Fertility organized a first-ever environment meeting within the American Society of Reproductive Medicine. This is important because it began the establishment process for an official special interest group in what is the largest reproductive medical society with 9,000 or more members.
Another exciting development is that CHE Fertility is partnering with Stanford to host a small 30-person retreat next month. Our objective is to review the state of the science and to identify points of consensus on what the critical research gaps and issues and approaches are and to discuss strategies that will help fill those gaps. Great news in regard to that is that the Compton Foundation is funding the development of a formal synopsis document out of the workshop that we can disseminate widely to interested lay and professional and other communities. Now also a vision is being developed for a larger and much more inclusive Stanford-based summit on reproduction and the environment a bit further out.
So, for 2005, in addition to the important work of disseminating this workshop synopsis and seeing how we can play a role in promoting enhanced research agendas, we'd like to continue discussions about how to achieve better infertility disease tracking. We'd like to build out more links to and activity within the professional societies and patient organizations. We'd like to flesh out a program and funding sources for this potential summit and gear it toward medical professionals, the press and the public. I also see a need for developing a really comprehensive library of journal articles specific to infertility if possible on CHE's website, going beyond the wonderful list of references that are already up there and the selected excellent science analyses that Pete mentioned. We'd also like to develop a web database of chemicals with their fertility associated effects listed much as Children's Environmental Health Coalition did on their website. We may even want to explore funding to create a master power point presentation on our topic at some point. Finally, we'd like to work on developing use of our listserv in a way that we can catalyze serious and creative cross-discipline researcher conversation and collaborations. I like to quote Ted Schettler here, "Infertility is distinguished by multi-factorial complexities that resist understanding." This absolutely demands multi-dimensional collaborative effort and robust inter-disciplinary research that could eventually fuel cogent precautionary advice for protecting human fertility from preventable harm.
If you would like to know more about CHE Fertility please contact me.
Michael Lerner: Alison Carlson and her work in the Fertility/Early Pregnancy Compromise Working Group is a remarkable example of someone who emerged in the process of the development of CHE and had this passionate interest and combined the organizing skills and the capacity to bring together the health professional and the patient groups. This working group has been a remarkable success, really just growing out of the CHE community in a wonderful way and we’re really delighted.
Jeanette Swafford, MHEd, Director of Health Initiatives, Collaborative on Health and the Environment, Co-Coordinator of CHE's Cancer Working Group
I co-facilitate CHE's Cancer Working Group with Michael Lerner. This group emerged out of a partnership call and came together last fall, so we're one of the newer groups in CHE. The energy is really ramping up and the group is becoming more active and there are many opportunities for input and engagement, which makes it a really exciting group to be working with. Similarly to LDDI and the infertility group, the cancer group has naturally found footing by concentrating on the science. This group has an accomplished group of scientists, health professionals, patient groups and patients and a listserv with over 80 people. The group's focus is on shifting the national cancer agenda. That includes recent research on cancer and the environment, particularly on research that hasn't been integrated into the national discussion yet.
There are three key science projects underway right now that we're following closely right now. The first is a literature review that has been commissioned by the Susan B. Komen Foundation on Breast Cancer and the Environment. The Silent Spring Institute in Massachusetts is creating this report and Julia Brody is the lead. The second project is happening at the Lowell Center for Sustainability, where Dick Clapp and his team are creating an over-view on the latest science on cancer causation and links to the environment. The third project is the development of the fetal causes of cancer and this work is being done at The Endocrine Disruption Exchange in Colorado, led by Theo Colborn.
We have quarterly calls. Our last call focused on the National Cancer Institutes’ new publication on cancer. Several Partners are working on a critique of that petition. On our next call, on March 2, we’ll examine the draft of the cancer review that Dick Clapp and his team is working on.
Looking forward we’ll continue our discussion and development of a national work plan, including a possible cancer and the environment conference, which would be co-sponsored by the American Cancer Society of California.
We also have an active, high quality, very science focused listserv. We continue to welcome new members. I hope that any interested CHE Partners will contact me. We’d be happy to have new members.
Michael Lerner: Thank you Jeanette. Again the Cancer Working Group is a great example of something that came spontaneously out of the CHE Partner community. The quality of the exchange on the science is remarkable. It’s fair to say that individual members and groups of members of the Cancer Working Group are having policy dialogues at the highest levels of the cancer communities in some very important ways that we’ll be able to report more on over the coming year.
Polly Hoppin, ScD, Program Director, University of Massachusetts, Lowell, Co-Coordinator of CHE's new asthma and air quality discussion group
Over the past year or so, a number of CHE Partners have expressed interest in a more focused discussion on a couple of topics that overlap, asthma and air quality. Many of you are aware of the rapidly evolving science on these issues and there are many opportunities in government policies and programs on these issues also about innovate work and strong interest among a number of health groups. So we have decided to establish a discussion group that will be a forum for discussion and exchange of information on ideas around these topics. I'll facilitate that group along with Jeanette Swafford. The group will meet by phone for the first time in February.
We've had some minimal and informal outreach so far and at this point there are ten CHE Partners that have expressed an interest in the discussion group and the affiliations of those folks range from the California Department of Health Services, Environmental Defense, Heinz Endowments, and various universities.
We've done two things so far with this core group. First, Jeanette has started emailing around to the group relevant developments in science and also in policy and programs related to these issues. We've also, via email, invited and gotten some response on a series of questions about the focus and structure of this group. These questions included how people would suggest that we frame the focus of the group, the issue of asthma versus air quality and how those two might interplay, what people's interests were in joining the group, what they'd like to get out of participating, how often we should have a conversation, and various topics that people are particularly interested in. We've had some feedback thus far and that suggests that we'll have calls at least every other month, that we'll start with a focus on asthma and environmental exposures that would include, but not be limited to air contaminants and discuss over time, whether the groups becomes a locus for work on the aspects of air quality and health that don't relate to asthma, or whether those conversations might happen elsewhere. We will invite critical assessment of the literature again, as other people have mentioned, starting with a focus on having the best and most recent access to the science available, but also about policy issues and innovative programs. Finally, we'll serve as a point of connection for people who want to collaborate on different initiatives under the auspices of their own organizations.
So, I'm really pleased to be able to share these initial plans with all of you on the call, but would also like to emphasize that they're not set in stone and that we would really invite input on the content and structure of this group as it gets off the ground and encourage many more people to join. We will allocate time on our first call for discussion of the structure and activities of this group as well as having some expert presentations on the science.
I am very excited about helping to facilitate this group and look forward to people’s comments. If you are interested in joining this group you can contact Jeanette Swafford.
Michael Lerner: Thank you Polly. So CHE Partners can see a panoply of presentations from the early phases of development of a discussion group to fully developed working groups like LDDI. Polly is a wonderful leader nationally in the public health community and that is something we look for in working and discussion group leaders, a concentration on impeccable science and an interest in policy and community options and the possibility of really doing some important work on air quality and asthma and related health outcomes.
Anjuli Gupta, Community Health Program Coordinator, Center for Environmental Health
Over the past year the Center for Environmental Health has been working with CHE to reach out in whatever way is appropriate to community-based organizations and organizations doing environmental justice work. As we all know CHE is an incredible science resource for health-affected groups. We also know that groups can be health affected at the neighborhood level. What that means in many cases, is that because of factors like neighborhood segregation and occupational health hazards, in this country low-income people and especially people of color are most likely to be exposed to toxic chemicals.
So we've taken a few approaches in the last year to reach out to community based organizations and primarily people of color organizations within CHE. One of the things that we've done, is we've shared some of the incredible resources that CHE offers with community-based organizations. We had a group in the central valley, the Committee for the Well Being of Earlimart who applied for and received a CHE Mini-Grant. We were able to get Communities for a Better Environment to a conference on community biomonitoring. We worked with Community Toolbox for Children's Environmental Health to create a call on mercury, specifically with an environmental justice focus and we were able to draw on some of the resources of, for example Jamie Harvie of the Institute for a Sustainable Future, to kind of guide the discussion.
We've also been connecting CHE Partners who have been doing work on environmental justice. I've been looped into some of the calls that Elise mentioned earlier, working with the CHE-NW environmental justice group and I'm really excited about continuing to be engaged in that. We've worked with Natural Resources Defense Council on a mercury biomonitoring project with the International Indian Treaty Council and CHE Partner Ma'at Youth Academy. We've also been supporting CHE Partners in the Central Valley, including Tri-County Watchdogs, Committee for the Well Being of Earlimart, and Californians for Pesticide Reform.
One of the things that we wanted to do was to try to create some kind of research that would support needs identified by community-based organizations. Every community meeting that I've ever been to, people talk about how stressed out they are and is it possible that being stressed out is actually making us more sick. So, we decided to work with some students at UC Berkeley and create an initial lit search. That search showed that being stressed out actually does make you more susceptible to becoming sick when you are exposed to chemicals. Stress changes your immune response, it changes your bio-chemistry and what's called psycho-social stress, the stress of racism and classicism and socio-economic status and always struggling to make ends meet actually really impacts people's vulnerability to chemicals. So, we started working on that and we hope to have that paper ready for CHE Partners sometime per early this summer. We're really looking forward to continuing this exciting work. If you have ideas of organizations that we should be connecting with or projects that you're working on that have a similar focus please feel free to contact me. I can be reached at Contact.
Michael Lerner: Ani, thank you very much. Again, that wonderful cross-pollination that you describe between your work with community-based organizations and environmental justice and the work of CHE-NW and there are many examples where CHE Partners are reaching out among working and discussion groups and cross-pollinating in that way.
Michael Lerner, PhD, President, Commonweal
I am now making a presentation for Nancy Evans who is the principal driving force behind the CHE EMF Discussion Group. Nancy is not able to be with us today. Electromagnetic Fields (EMF) is a radiation generated by electric power, power lines and appliances, cell phones and cell towers and antenna's, radio and television transmission towers. A large body of credible scientific evidence links EMF exposures with health effects including several kinds of cancer and other conditions such as Lou Gehrig's disease and Alzheimer's disease. In 2001 the International Agency for Research of Cancer declared EMF a possible human carcinogen. EMF has the most pervasive environmental exposure in the developed world and the greatest exposure is from cell phones and the towers and antennas that support them. The growth of the use of cell phones has reached 1.4 billion worldwide and is expected to top 2 billion by this year.
The group has held three teleconferences starting in September. There are three major priorities; developing public awareness and education about the health affects of EMF, generating new research in the U.S. on the health affects of EMF, and exploring policy initiatives based on the precautionary principle to mitigate human exposure to EMF.
Since our first call three major research reports have been released in Europe and the U.K., all of them largely ignored in the U.S. The first is a large study from Sweden that links cell phone use with an increased risk of acoustic neuroma, a tumor that can be fatal if untreated. Then there was a report from the European Union reporting that cell phone radiation damages DNA and human cells. Finally, one from the United Kingdom issuing a warning that no child under eight should use a cell phone, citing the growing scientific evidence that exposure may pose health risks.
In a very interesting example of the cross-linkages within CHE, Charlotte Brody, who is working on the development of a CHE labor discussion group, met with the International Association of Firefighters leadership with the intention of discussing chemicals exposure, but the first concern they had was about the exposure of firefighters to EMF because fire stations are being used to site cell phone antennas. The CHE EMF Discussion Group has developed a statement on the science, which we will be passing on to the firefighters so that they have a basis to explore the decisions that they want to make on that.
Our plans for the coming year are to develop web-based fact sheets on EMF. Longer-term goals include sponsoring a conference on EMFs and stimulating research in the area. If you are interested in joining this conversation please contact Nancy Evans at Contact.
Ted Schettler, MD, MPH, Science Director, Science and Environmental Health Network, Coordinator of CHE's Science Working Group
In 2004 the Science Working Group added more material to the website, including the spreadsheet, which summarizes the links between nearly 200 diseases or conditions and chemical exposures organized by weight of the evidence. I mention this because it got a substantial amount of press coverage, largely due to Pete Myers' work on the Environmental Health Services end of it, showing how we can begin to get some of this information out to the larger public.
One of the new papers we added to the website was one that summarized the exposures between toxic chemical exposures and birth defects. This was another broad collaboration. The writing was done by CHE Partner, Betty Mekdeci, Executive Director of Birth Defect Research for Children, Inc. and myself, but it was reviewed by members of the CHE Science Advisory Board as well as a CHE Partner who's professional focus is on the incidence and causes of birth defects.
As you can tell from the presentations that have gone on earlier in this discussion, as new working groups have evolved, a lot of the work that was being done by the Science Working Group has now spun out into these newly evolving groups. So the Science Working Group is actually being re-examining its role. We think that in 2005, the Science Working Group would be a great place to identify and address the crosscutting issues that are common to the more specialized working group.
We recognize that most diseases are actually the interactions among multiple factors or stressors and the notion of causation is really a term that needs to integrate those interactions into a common understanding. These factors that interact include genetics, nutrition, toxic chemicals, infectious agents, radiation, stress, poverty and other social factors. So, we need to develop a new language that gets away from thinking in terms of individual ingredients that get added together until the cup overflows resulting in some identifiable disease. Their relative contributions will of course, vary from case to case, but they interact through complex feedback loops that are often difficult to understand. We need to develop new ways of thinking ecologically as well as in reductionistic and mechanistic terms about the whole as well as in the parts.
Another proposal, and we would certainly welcome feedback on this, is recognizing the healthy tension between science and advocacy. At the extreme some people in science believe that a scientist should never engage in advocacy and others believe that advocacy is an absolute responsibility and of course there are positions in between. We've been wondering if a conversation about the role of scientists in advocacy would be worthwhile and of interest. This conversation would be an opportunity to share divergent and varying points of view. It might, for example, get at what Bradford Hill was referring to when he discussed his criteria for establishing causation through epidemiologic studies. Bradford Hill said, "none of my criteria can bring indisputable evidence for or against a cause and effect hypothesis and none except for the time sequence can be required as a sin qua non. All scientific work is liable to be upset or modified by advancing knowledge. That does not confer upon us a freedom to ignore the knowledge that we already have or to postpone the action that it appears to demand at a given time."
Finally, we increasingly recognize the need for a place within CHE for discussion at the nexus of science in ethics. As we gather for information about environmental agents and their biological activities with the public health and ecological implications, we need to consider what some people call the biological wisdom of the human impacts on the environment including but not limited to the chemical agents that we often talk about and exposures are ubiquitous. Considering the impacts on individuals, communities, populations and entire eco-systems. This takes us from the science that we know to what we ought to do about it.
In 1970 a scientist named Van Potter coined the term bioethics to address this junction of knowledge, uncertainty and responsibility, addressing what we ought to do from an ecological perspective based on the notion of biological wisdom. So if CHE Partners have some interest in contributing to this discussion, we need to find a place for it and I would be happy to hear of any of that interest. I can be reached at Contact.
Michael Lerner: Thank you Ted. Ted’s leadership role in the CHE community and the amount of time and commitment he’s given us is exceptional and outstanding. I just want to underscore his three points. The first is thinking ecologically, not just about chemicals, but as Ani Gupta pointed out, the relationship of stress and poverty to chemicals and genetics and nutrition. Secondly, science and advocacy and the key questions about that; and finally the discussion of science and ethics. So as we’ve turned over more and more of the specific discussions to the emerging working groups to the specific diseases and conditions, these broad overlapping questions that cut across all of our interest areas are coming to the fore and I think there’s an enormous amount that we can do in that area.
Eleni Sotos, MA, National Coordinator, Collaborative on Health and the Environment
Since the inception of CHE we have worked with CHE Partners to hold regional meetings throughout the country. The purposes of these meetings are pretty much two-fold. First, they create a space in which diverse constituencies such as health professionals, patient groups, public health officials, and community-based environmental organizations can engage in mutual learning and civil dialogue on issues of shared concern. Secondly, these gatherings have often served as a springboard for which these constituencies have formally organized. Elise's CHE-NW is a perfect example of that. They have established lasting connections through listservs, locally relevant initiatives, working groups and face-to-face meetings between people and groups who may not have been likely to engage with one another in the past.
Typically, a regional meeting will occur when there is a groundswell of support among CHE Partners from a particular region who are interested in organizing a meeting. Through CHE's network, we help key individuals and organizations on the ground, in that region, pull together an interesting and engaging conference with a focus on post-meeting collaboration.
Since CHE began, almost three years ago, we’ve had meetings in Boston, New York, Sioux Falls, Seattle, Orlando, and San Francisco. We also have some upcoming meetings in the very near future. In a couple of weeks there will be a CHE regional conference in Portland, Oregon, which has largely been initiated by CHE Partner, Oregon Environmental Council. It’s interesting to note that there’s been CHE-NW and all the work in Seattle, but Portland has been so interested in organizing and there’s such a large body of support there, that they are putting on their own conference and hopefully forming a CHE-Oregon as well. Sarah Doll is coordinating this conference. Sarah can be reached at Contact.
In early April there will be a conference in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, through CHE Partner, Learning Disabilities Association and the Heinz Endowments, who have put a large amount of support into this very interesting conference that will be the first of its kind in western Pennsylvania. Steffi Domike is coordinating this conference.
In addition, we’ve been working with a CHE Partner in Alaska to organize a meeting in Anchorage later this year, which should be very interesting. If there are other CHE Partners that you work with or other folks in your community or that you think may benefit from a meeting and would like to collaborate with all these different constituencies, feel free to contact me and we can have a conversation about it.
Charlotte Brody, RN, Executive Director, Commonweal
I would like to add my thanks to everyone for being on this call and to talk for a couple of minutes about the CHE Policy initiative. It was really created to answer two separate questions. First, how should CHE respond to requests for sign on and support of different legislative or campaign efforts, and how could we be of use without ever speaking for CHE Partners in a way that wouldn't be appropriate. Second, given how quickly the science is moving and how much we're learning and how important it is that we find ways to talk about what we're learning, how could we make sure that the language we use and the stories we tell don't get in the way of the information that we so much want people to understand? Out of that concern came the Language and Meaning Project (LAMP). There was a meeting of 50 people at Commonweal to talk about language and meaning. George Lakoff and Michael Shellenberger and Ted Nordhaus all spoke. Since that meeting, there have been a variety of conference calls with different people speaking and lots of reading going on of polls and language essays, and lots of work to try to figure out how we could find better ways of talking without getting in our own way.
One of the most recent developments is CHE’s Public Policy Primer, "Our Health and the Health of the Environment: How Are They Connected? What Can We Do To Improve Both?” The primer is meant to use language that we think will work with larger and larger groups of people, to describe what we have learned about learning disabilities and the environment and breast cancer and the environment and asthma and the environment so other people could repeat the story, and to tell the CHE science story in everyday language. It highlights a variety of policy initiatives that CHE Partners are undertaking towards improving the environment in a way that will also improve our health. While CHE hasn't taken single policy positions in direct advocacy, we think policy and advocacy are important, and that's how we'll get from here to a world with better health and a healthier environment and we want CHE Partners to have the tools that give them the ability to talk about various policy initiatives undertaken on the state and local level.
Michael Lerner: Charlotte, thank you very much. With that let me open the floor and ask for brief comments suggestions and feedback.
3. Open Discussion
Libby Kelley, MA, Executive Director, Council on Wireless Technology Impacts, Novato, CA:
I would like to respond to the comments that Ted Schettler introduced. I deeply resonate with your interest in evaluating further the role that scientists play in doing public advocacy and the whole question of science and ethics. As someone who's been looking at the science regarding electromagnetic fields for eight years now, I'm deeply distressed about the growing polarization among scientists who do this research. I would like to invite anyone who is in the San Francisco Bay Area over the weekend of March 4 and 5 to attend a conference that I'm putting together with a professor at San Francisco State University. Details will be out this week on my website at: www.energyfields.org. What we're proposing to do is a balanced program to look at the state of the science on electrical and magnetic fields and radio frequency radiation.
Elise Miller: think it's really important to emphasize here that CHE itself doesn't take a stand on any policy initiatives. How LDDI and CHE-NW have focused on policy initiatives is really as a collective of a few groups or individuals who have that kind of interest and if they come forward we don't make it as a statement about what the collective is doing, but simply as those organizations that want to sign on and initiate that process. So I just want to emphasize that is how we hold this process as we're working on policy issues both regionally and nationally.
Peter J. Whitehouse MD, PhD, Director Integrative Studies, Department of Neurology, Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, OH:
I would like to echo Ted Schettler’s comments, about the ethical issues in science, particularly engaging the biomedical establishment. I also think it’s important to focus on the education of future generations of doctors, so if there’s anybody on the call that’s interested in developing curriculum for medical students, you can contact me at Contact.
Michael Lerner: Thank you Peter. In fact, you and Steve Heilig have been working on an ethics and environmental health project. Furthermore, your interest in curricula is very much to the point and probably the arena where a health professional discussion group will focus. So we will absolutely be in touch with you about that. That’s a very promising area for us, that’s something Dr. Phil Lee, our chair, has a strong interest in.
Yanna Lambrinidou, MA, President, Parents for Nontoxic Alternatives, Washington, DC:
I've been trying to reach out to other parents and a lay audience to communicate some of the science that is out there. I am specifically interested in children's environmental health. An area that I could use a lot of help in is how to translate scientific information in a powerful and compelling way. I'm wondering if in the future there could be a discussion group to support the work of those who are trying to put out the message to lay communities and give us tools to do that.
Elise Miller: I would be happy to talk to you about that.
Lara Cushing, Center for Environmental Health, Oakland, CA:
I’m curious about what CHE’s outreach priorities are for the next year. How will CHE be prioritizing and acting on the needs that new or newly vocal CHE Partners identify?
Michael Lerner: That's a wonderful question. We have been developing a list of priority areas and part of our purpose of this call was to begin the process of soliciting feedback from the partnership. We have now collectively created a field with 1400 individual and organizations of extraordinarily high quality. You can tell from the people who have taken the time to be on this call that the CHE partnership represents a remarkable cross section of the leadership of the environmental health community, patients and health professional groups. We are collectively learning to play together in this field and it's a dynamic process that nobody controls and is developed by the Partners. What we've discovered is that the natural coalitions and clusters are around disease issues (cancer, learning disabilities, infertility, etc.), for the most part. Then there are a few that are outliers on a specific vector (EMFs, etc.) and then these regional groups that are developing and that are very powerful and interesting. It is within that context of learning from our collaborative work that our initiatives develop and they really develop when a CHE Partner or group of CHE Partners that have a set of qualities of balance, civility, respect for the science and the energy to follow through on a piece of work find that there is critical mass within CHE and begin to move an issue forward. So, we can't plan it centrally because it really emerges from the CHE partnership. That is the last comment and I thank you all for being on this call.
Eleni Sotos: Thanks everyone and for any of you who didn’t get your questions or comments answered, please send them to me and I will answer them to the best of my ability or send them to the appropriate person. I can be reached at Contact.