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by spocko

Stop Kids From Eating Cancer Causing Shrimp? Not My Job!

9:21 pm in Uncategorized by spocko

The White House, the FDA and the Louisiana Seafood Promotion & Marketing Board are teaming up with a group of celebrity chefs September 13 to promote the eating of Gulf Seafood.

It isn’t "sexy news" to discuss a higher percentage of cancers for small children who eat Gulf seafood more than once a month. But pointing out to the media that the FDA has flawed testing protocols and have ignored safety concerns is news. NOAA using only 12 shrimp to prove the safety of 5,000 miles of the Gulf should be news to the media.

This Monday the media will be shoveling shrimp into their mouths and they might be concerned for their own health if they aren’t concerned for others.

It’s not my job to care about the little kids and pregnant women eating Gulf seafood. Nine years from now when questions are being asked about sick kids the folks at the FDA can say, "Nobody could have anticipated…"

Where have I heard that line before?

Eat the shrimp! by imnewtryme

Here is my letter to a couple of the people who are trying to break through to the FDA with their concerns.

Dr. Gina Solomon, Senior Scientist, NRDC
Paul Blanc, M.D., M.S.P.H. Professor of Medicine Endowed Chair,
Occupational Medicine Chief, Division of Occupational and Environmental Medicine

Hi Gina and Paul:

According to the blog Obama Foodorama, this Monday White House Executive Chef Cristeta Comerford and FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg will continue the unprecedented White House campaign to promote Gulf seafood. When they talk to the press will they mention concerns for "pregnant women, young children, and communities that rely on Gulf seafood as their main source of food [who] are most vulnerable to chemicals in the oil, such as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and metals."? In Dr. Solomon’s August 17th blog post she voiced these concerns and wrote to the FDA and NOAA about them.

Dr. Solomon’s letters to the FDA and NOAA about the flawed testing protocols of Gulf seafood were very powerful. Her letter titled Gulf Shrimp Testing: Is a Dozen Samples in 5000 Square Miles Enough to Reassure You? was alarming.

Unless the FDA and NOAA have changed anything based on Dr. Solomon’s meeting with them last Tuesday, the "White House, the FDA and the Louisiana Seafood Promotion & Marketing Board are proceeding full steam ahead promoting the safety of gulf seafood" Monday September 13 in New Orleans.

I spoke to Dr. Blanc at his book reading in Marin. He mentioned that it wasn’t until Gardiner Harris of the New York Times did a story about a 53 year old Denver man who got "popcorn lung" from eating artificially flavored popcorn did the industry finally stop using the chemical diacetyl in microwave popcorn. Do we need to wait until hundreds of pregnant women give birth to children with neurological damage to push back on the promotion campaigns of the FDA and White House?

Whose job is it to push back on these marketing programs? Whose job is it to look out for the health of the small children whose parents have been told, "Eat More Gulf Seafood!". Because it is the job of the Louisiana Seafood Promotion & Marketing Board to look after the economic health of the fishing industry. They will use the media’s ignorance of the science and its guilt over the economic destruction of fishermen to push seafood consumption.

If you believe that the testing protocols aren’t sufficient and that eating Gulf Seafood presents a "clear and present danger" to the health of Americans then I hope that you have coordinated an aggressive response to this event. Because if you haven’t, then the most that the media will do is give a one line mention about "safety concerns" that will be dismissed by FDA Commissioner Hamburg. The articles will feature photos of shiny happy people eating safe gulf seafood prepared by celebrity chefs.

Do the chefs want to be feeding potentially toxic food to their customers? No. But they do not have anyone to back them up if they refuse. They can’t say, ‘Unless I know that this is tested for heavy metals and Corexit components I refuse to serve it." They are told it is safe by authorities, so they cook it.

I covered the pet food tainting story in 2007 and I remember hearing the painful stories of people who killed their pets or gave them kidney problems because they were feeding them food they were told was safe by the pet food industry and the FDA. The FDA was using flawed testing protocols then too.

I know it’s hard to push back in the media on food safety when you can’t wield the threat of immediate sickness or death. It isn’t "sexy"news" to discuss a higher percentage of cancers for small children who eat Gulf seafood more than once a month. But pointing out to the media that the FDA has flawed testing protocols and have ignored your concerns is news. NOAA using 12 shrimp to prove the safety of 5,000 miles of the Gulf should be news to the media in New Orleans. They will be shoveling this shrimp into their mouths on Monday and they might be concerned for their own health.

Am I overreacting? Possibly. I’m not a scientist. I’m not in a regulator. However I do know something about political pressure and how people promote things in the media. After 9/11 the White House pushed to declare the air around Ground Zero safe to breathe. Nine years later we see thousands of health problems. If you were to travel back into time and try and change that outcome what would you do? Might this be a similar opportunity? If so, could you help the media and public out with better information about the risks? No time travel required.

You probably have a response ready. I do not want to underestimate the work of your communications people. If you have a response planned please write about it on your blogs so concerned people like me can help you alert the media and the general public.

Michal Spocko

P.S. I’ve copied this letter to Dr. Murphy and a few other people I have been talking to about this issue.


Eric Young, Senior Press Secretary, Washington DC, NRDC
Daniel Hinerfeld, Deputy Director of Communications, NRDC

Dr. Kirk Murphy
Michael Whitney, FireDogLake
Andrew Maynard, University of Michigan
Eddie Gehman Kohan, Obama Foodorama:
Bill Marler, Marlerclark
Mary Siceloff, Outbreak, Inc

Marylee Orr, Louisiana Environmental Action Network
Jim Stiles, Boston Chemical Data Corp.
Marco Kaltofen, P.E., , Dept. of Civil and Environmental Engineering Worcester Polytechnic Institute

Stuart H. Smith, Smith Stag, LLC
Wilma Subra: Subra Company

John Vidal, environment editor, Guardian UK
Ariel Schwartz, Fast Company
Elana Schor, Greenwire
Elisabeth Weiss, Science Writer, USA Today

George Williams, NOLA Rising Tide

—The chefs scheduled to attend the day of events include:
New Orleans chefs John Besh and John Folse
From New Orleans, in addition to Folse & Besh:
Chip Flanagan, of Ralph’s on The Park; Drew Dzejak, The Grill Room; Greg Reggio, Taste Buds, Inc.; Chris Lusk, Café Adelaide; Christopher Lynch and Barusch Rabasa, Meson 923. Washington, DC: Victor Albisu, from BLT Steak; Robert Weidmaier of Marcel’s, Brasserie Beck, Mussel Bar, BRABO and Jeff Trunks, of Acadiana, Ceiba, DC Coast, PassionFish, and TenPenh. Chicago, IL: Rick Tramonto of Tru, Tramonto Steak and Seafood, Osteria di Tramonto, RT Lounge. Miami, FL: Peter Vauthy of Red The Steakhouse; Michael Schwartz from Michael’s Genuine Food & Drink; Michelle Bernstein from Michy’s and Sra. Martinez. Seattle, WA: Dan Bugge and Chester Gerl from Matt’s In The Market. Los Angeles, CA: Brandon Boudet from Dominick’s. Phoenix, AZ: James Siao of Taggia.

by spocko

Can Only Obama’s Daughters Change Food Safety Laws?

3:39 pm in Uncategorized by spocko

[Ed. note: 76 million Americans get a foodborne illness every year, driving up health care costs, reducing productivity, and resulting in thousands of deaths -- and now we may see an increase due to new contaminants resulting from the BP oil disaster. This topic really deserves more attention.]

The Magic 8 Ball says, “Signs point to yes.”

Approximately 5,000 people a year die from food-related illnesses. But in order for change to happen in a timely fashion the “right people” need to get sick or die. And by the “right people” I mean the children and spouses of the powerful and politically connected. There is a food safety bill languishing in the Senate because the people who have died just didn’t have the right connections, a good narrative and someone who has the power to follow through.

Do I want Sasha and Malia to get sick and die? No. Hell no.
Of course not. I also didn’t want 5,000 other Americans to die who aren’t related to the President and who don’t have the money to ensure their food is safe. The sad reality is that in our celebrity-driven media culture not all lives have equal power when it comes to media awareness and political change.

The Obama Girls

The poor un-famous dead also don’t have a marketing and PR team working for them unlike the Cattlemen’s Beef Board, the American Egg Board, the Louisiana Seafood Promotion and Marketing Board or the National Seafood Marketing Coalition. Right now marketing teams are tasked with pushing consumption of Gulf seafood and they are using the First Family to help.

“But Spocko,” you might exclaim. “Are you trying to use questions about what the President’s children eat to make a point?!” Yes. Right now what the First Family eats is already being used to make political points. Why not a few more so we can save some lives of non-presidential daughters?  . . . Read the rest of this entry →

by spocko

The FDA Won’t Test For Corexit In Seafood, Unless 300 Children Die From it Next Week

7:00 am in BP oil disaster, Energy, Government by spocko

I know how the media works.

Things that kill you slowly, like cancer, are boring. Things that make you sick fast or kill you quickly are exciting and newsworthy. There is a reason it’s called Action News.

When it comes to food safety an uptick in long term cancer rates is a snoozer. But if the children of rich white people who ate seafood from the Gulf start vomiting blood and bleeding from their rectum next Thursday then people who matter will make phone calls to people who can make changes. And things will change. Unless this happens the FDA can get away with not testing seafood from the Gulf for the chemicals in Corexit.


Wouldn’t it be swell if we could avoid the media-friendly sick and dying children and cut right to prevention? Why not have testing that avoids the slow sickness and cancer deaths that will probably happen? Because if it doesn’t bleed, it doesn’t lead.  . . . Read the rest of this entry →

by spocko

BP Hiding Workers’ Blood Panels?

7:00 am in Uncategorized by spocko

Today Michael Whitney has a story up about an OSHA official’s comment about clean up workers getting sick. What did they get sick from? "almost all have been heat related," according to Deputy Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA Jordan Barab. As I read that my heart sank. I fell into "What’s the pointism" and threw the covers over my head. "What can I do?" I thought. "Experts have spoken! I’m just a brain in a box with pointy ears and a fedora."

Then I got mad and posted a comment about the story (here).

The media have covered all aspects of this story. From the impact of regulatory capture to the mechanics of blind shear rams. But sometimes journalists get mislead by the same regulators that the industry captured. And when they do they fail the public.

And when the public is failed we need to respond. What to do? My first impulse was despair, then anger. Next I started researching, writing and then I’ll act.

"Almost all have been heat related" Really? My first question would be: "Could I please see your evidence and look at the medical information that you are relying on to tell you this?"

I’m sure there would be a lot of hemming and hawing about patient confidentiality or they would direct me to some chart hoping I wouldn’t drill down into data to see how thin it really is. As it turns out exposure to volatile hydrocarbons can show up in blood panels. But you have to draw the blood.

Tonight on Virtually Speaking Jay Ackroyd interviewed Riki Ott the marine biologist and author of Not One Drop: Betrayal and Courage in the Wake of the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill In response to one of my questions about this issue Riki said,

BP has either been blocking blood panels or they have been taking blood panels and not letting really anyone see what the blood panel works look like.

— Riki Ott on Virtually Speaking July 8, 2010

Read that quote again. This pisses me off.

Read the rest of this entry →

by spocko

BP Spokesman: No Need for Respirators; CNN Breathes a Sigh of Relief

11:21 pm in Uncategorized by spocko

Be sure to watch this Kindra Arnesen video talking about the methods used by BP to keep people from getting respirators.

I first saw this in Mary McCurnin’s diary.

Then I read the CNN story. Kindra describes some of the tricks BP uses on the public, but one trick they use on journalists is the most deadly. They use journalism conventions and appeals to authority to shut down any follow up.

In just 16 words BP has stopped CNN from digging into the issue of respirators. Here’s the power quote.

From the CNN story:

Graham MacEwen, a spokesman for BP, says the company isn’t providing masks because their air monitoring shows there’s no health threats to workers.

This is a great comment from BP’s point of view. It answers the question and ignores the evidence. The reporter is too busy to drill down into the statement to find the problems with it.

"Their air monitoring shows there’s no health threats to workers."

Hmmm, who is doing their air monitoring? If CNN would have asked, they would find that BP has hired a private contractor, The Center for Toxicology and Environmental Health (CTEH), to monitor the air.

CTEH, has a history of giving corporations a pass when their products were toxic. They make decisions on what chemicals to monitor for and where to monitor, they can decide on how often to monitor. Because they work for BP they will not reveal that information to the public. The public probably has a right to know, but we won’t. And because we don’t know about CTEH’s monitoring we can’t have someone like Toxicologist Rikki Ott to review what they are doing. She could point out the maker of Corexit only recently revealed that Corexit is carcinogenic and absorbed through the skin.

Elana Schor of Greenwire has a brilliant article on CTEH and their history. The story contains a statement that "CTEH’s Arkansas headquarters did not return several requests for comment." That’s a story killer for a person with a deadline and no subpoena powers.

One time I was making a suggestion to a CEO of a major computer company and he reminded me, "Remember which way the money flows Spocko." As a consultant whose income depends on keeping the CEO happy it’s hard to disappoint them or cost them money. BP signs CTEH’s checks.(Insert classic Upton Sinclair quote here) The point is they aren’t paid by the workers of the state of Louisiana or the United States of America. They may try to be professional, but with no oversight from others we won’t even know.

Who decides what is “safe”? The studies on what is safe are based on single chemical rat studies. They can point to “this chemical is fine at this level” this chemical is fine at this level” but they don’t do multiple chemicals at the same time. Synergy of chemicals can over load the human respiratory system.

This method of keeping the workers away from respirators relies on reporters’ and workers’ ignorance about the science and monitoring.

At this point I’m tempted to pull back and let the professional journalists do their job. If there were more people like Ariel Schwartz of Fast Company and Elana Schor of Greenwire writing I would. We are also lucky that citizen journalists like Johnny Colt were down there talking to workers and experts.

The problem is that many journalists won’t tell you the kind of details that Kindra did because, to quote Madge the manicurist, "You’re soaking in it!".

We must always remember that BP’s agenda is NOT the health and safety of the workers. The health and safety of the worker is also not the agenda of the journalists. They just want the story.

I’m glad tens of thousands of people have seen the video, the issue for me is still, "Which lever do I need to pull to get respirators and training for all workers?"

One thing I’m trying to do is get the mainstream media to read about Schor’s work on CTEH and Schwartz’ work on Corexit.

These days I’m not optimistic. How do we switch to the precautionary principle vs the “Get sick and we’ll pay you latter” principle?

I may ask the Coast Guard to get CTEH to come clean with all the info about their monitoring protocols. And then have someone from the EPA and an independent toxicologist who doesn’t work for BP look at it.

In the mean time be sure to sign the petition, Tell BP: Put Cleanup Workers’ Health Before Your PR and join our Facebook group,BP, We Demand Respirators for ALL Clean Up Workers