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The Case for Government Oversight and Regulation - Summer 2016 Networker

Networker Volume 21 (4) Summer, 2016 Construction begins at first U.S. tar sands mine, PR Springs, UT


The Case for Government Oversight and Regulation

Editor's note, by Carolyn Raffensperger

Is it worth it? I know many activists were asking themselves this question after Congress passed legislation that tweaked our main toxic chemical law, the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). It was an upgrade, not a full reform. Some of us, like SEHN’s Dr. Ted Schettler, had been working in support of TSCA reform for 20 years. Maybe the law is too little too late. So how would we know if it is worth it?

This issue of the Networker focuses on another set of laws and examines the health outcomes of their regulations. Schettler asks if the decline in dementia could be related to laws that regulated air pollution and lead, and he lays out the evidence.

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Dementia Slows Down: An Unanticipated Benefit of Environmental Policies?

By Ted Schettler

The risk of dementia grows as we grow older and since people live longer now than in the past we expect to encounter this dreaded diagnosis more often. Surprisingly though, US and European studies that account for changes in population age distribution over two decades or more report that the incidence of dementia is decreasing.

Analysts speculate that this welcome news is due to some combination of more education, improved medications, and behavior changes like better diets, more exercise, and less smoking.There’s little doubt they contribute. In the Framingham study, the decline in dementia was greatest among people with at least a high school education. Beyond that, improvements in recorded cardiovascular risk factors did not mainly account for the findings. Something more seemed to be going on.

Arguably, environmental policies initiated in the 1970s leading to sharply lower population-wide exposures to air pollution and lead are prime candidates to explain more fully the slowdown in dementia onset.

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Who's In Charge? A book review of The Toxic Schoolhouse

By Kaitlin Butler

The Toxic Schoolhouse, edited by SEHN board member Madeleine Scammell and Charles Levenstein, puts on record the widespread but unnamed human health disaster happening now in the United States: Our schools are a public health disaster, and children are taking the hit.

The book focuses on toxic exposures – environmental exposures known or presumed to cause harm – with a special emphasis on populations especially vulnerable to exposures in schools, and specifically public schools. More than 53 million children and about 6 million adults spend a substantial part of their days in elementary and secondary schools, secondary only to time spent at home. But, approximately 50% of all public schools – and disproportionately urban schools and ones serving low-income students and students of color – have at least one “unsatisfactory environmental condition”

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Annual Report now available

Revisit some of SEHN's 2015 activities and highlights

Don't miss these new publications by Ted Schettler

The Ecology of Breast Cancer: Opportunities for Prevention Entire journal, San Francisco Medical Society, available here

Unprecedented Alliance Agrees Toxic Chemicals Are Hurting Brain Development including links to the TENDR consensus statement, signed on by SEHN