Midnight Oil

[Powderworks] Re: LMOC: Blue Murder / Blue Sky Mining

Kate Parker Adams kate at dnki.net
Mon Jun 7 21:00:05 MDT 2004


I was not saying these incidents are the same as what the Nazis did in the
concentration camps.  You are absolutely right that it is not the same as
Mengele, et al. Most certainly not equivalent to that horror.  However, the
principles of informed consent in human experimental context originally
derive from principles devised for the Nuremburg trials and systems laid
down thereafter.  These were used and modified for about 20 years.  They
were further refined by the Belmont Commission, convened in the wake of the
Tuskeegee study where black men were not treated for syphillis despite the
emergence of a cure.

The Helsinki Declaration is the most current document on international
ethics.  http://www.wma.net/e/policy/b3.htm

Unfortunately, the principles of "respect for persons" (voluntary and
informed agreement to participate or be exposed), "benificence"  and
"justice" (benefits of exposure are greater than the risks, the people who
take the risks will get the benefits) do not extend to environmental and
occupational exposures.

The point I was making (and still make) is that environmental exposure to
substances about which we know nothing or next to nothing amounts to an
uncontrolled experiment on humans.  Absence of evidence of harm is not
evidence of absence of harm.  Furthermore, we have a system where
regulations governing exposure to dangerous chemicals and radiological
agents are often based on minimal evidence, rarely updated with recent
findings, and often subject to litigation when they are.  Ignorance is bliss
and yesterday's news is the only news you need until the bodies pile up too
high to ignore any longer (as in asbestos and agent orange - and there is
STILL denial there).

As for the "few substances left where we don't know", I'll say this flat out
as an environmental health* doctoral student with a materials engineering
background:  you are extremely naive - and you have a whole lot of company.
I myself was shocked when I learned these things, especially after an MIT
degree and over a decade of personal industrial exposures to chemical,
biological and radiologic agents starting at age 17.

For example, we don't even know much about the human health effects of what
goes into our cosmetics
(http://www.ewg.org/reports/skindeep/report/executive_summary.php and
http://www.SafeCosmetics.org/products/), let alone most industrial
chemicals.  Some common lawn and garden pesticides have regulations based on
one animal study in the 1950s. There is rarely much if any apriori evidence
for safety for new substances entering the market, and hell to pay for
calling them back once they've left the barn.  Witness the whinining of the
US to the WTO when the EU demanded minimal (and I do mean minimal) evidence
for safety for any chemicals imported to the EU.

Someday, I'd like to be able to tell my kids or even their kids that they
are safe because it is all within permitted limits.  It is the way that it
should be - unfortunately, it is not the way it is today if you scratch the
surface of things.


*epidemiology with minors in industrial hygiene environmental policy plus
loads of "appropriate use of science in public policy" moonlighting

-----Original Message-----
From: powderworks-bounces at cs-lists.cs.colorado.edu
[mailto:powderworks-bounces at cs-lists.cs.colorado.edu]On Behalf Of Miron
Sent: Monday, June 07, 2004 10:03 PM
To: powderworks at cs-lists.cs.colorado.edu
Subject: [Powderworks] Re: LMOC: Blue Murder / Blue Sky Mining


I must say I disagree with you here.

to begin with, what the Nazis did (as per Nuremberg) was without the
consent of the subjects. this is diff to asking people to join a
study and compensating them for it. not that I am advocating using
humans in such studies but on the other hand I am not in principle
opposed to it either. particularly considering how we use/used
animals in the cosmetics industry.

secondly I doubt there are many substances left where we do not know
or suspect. possibly in hi-tech industries (recent IBM labs case)
but as far as primary industries go - is there anything we don't
already suspect an issue may exist?

and thirdly, the issue IMO is not consent but greed. even if there
were no moral or legal issues there is no reason why any business
would upfront conduct a study. businesses do not, as a rule, spend
time or money on anything that does not contribute directly to
either revenue generation or cost reduction unless they have no
choice. if we judge by the most heavily penalized industry (tobacco)
I doubt that even if they could turn back the clock that they would
have done it any differently. over time they still made far more
than what they lost through litigation.

unions would have helped here but unfortunately unions have long ago
stopped caring about the workers and would rather focus on their
executives (much like the businesses they once fought against). the
only way I can see this situation improving is through legislation
and education. and let's face it - with the current governments in
both US and Oz there is little likelihood of improvement any time


   How could people get so unkind?

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