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Donald L. Hassig,  9/9/12 POPs Exposure Minimization Education

Dear Editors of Tittabawassee River Watch,

Please find below a letter to the editor that I am submitting for publication on your wonderful website. I am hopeful that you will publish this letter so as to make your readers aware of my upcoming presentation on the subject of persistent organic pollutants (POPs) exposure minimization education that will be made as an agenda item of the October 9, 2012 meeting of the Midland County Board of Commissioners.

joyous in Nature,
Donald L. Hassig

Dear Editors,

During the course of my work as the Director of Cancer Action NY, I became aware of the dioxin contamination of the Tittabawassee River. I decided to join into the effort to minimize the harm that will result from the presence of dioxins and other industrial toxicants in the environment of the Saginaw Bay watershed. A considerable number of Midland County residents have been exposed to dioxin, which was released to the air and waters of the Tittabawassee River by the Dow Chemical Company facility located in the City of Midland. These exposures have increased the risk of developing dioxin exposure related damages to health amongst that population. The most effective way to minimize the harm that results from past dioxin exposures is to minimize current and ongoing exposures to dioxins and other POPs. Educational outreach is a key strategy for accomplishing exposure minimization.

In June 2012, I gave a brief presentation on the subject of persistent organic pollutants (POPs) exposure minimization education during the public forum portion of the Midland County Board of Commissioners meeting. Having thus initiated a dialogue on the subject, I sought the opportunity to make a full presentation to the Board of Commissioners. Mark Bone, Chair of the Board of Commissioners invited me to make the full presentation. I will be making an agenda presentation on the subject of POPs exposure minimization education to the MIdland County Board of Commissioners at its October 9th, 2012 meeting. The meeting begins at 9:00 AM and takes place in the first floor meeting room of the Midland County Government Building. The presentation will be based upon a PowerPoint presentation that was developed jointly by Cancer Action NY with the assistance of Debra Kraus, a prominent member of the Agent Orange Working Group.

The contamination of the global food supply with persistent organic pollutants (POPs) began in the early 1900s. Monsanto Corporation began manufacturing and distributing PCBs in the 1930s. DDT use became widespread in the 20th century. Use of 2,4,5-T, which contained a large quantity of dioxin byproduct, occurred extensively throughout the United States, Canada and New Zealand during the mid-1900s. Brominated flame retardants have been used heavily during the course of the later half of the 20th century. The feeding of waste animal fat to food animals has greatly multiplied the quantities of POPs in the mainstream food supply. It is only in organic livestock production that a prohibition against this dangerous feeding practice exists. Plastics production has increased rapidly during the past 60 years. Disposal of waste plastics via open waste burning and incineration has created and released into the outdoor atmosphere vast quantities of dioxins and PCBs. As a result of these careless and heavy uses of man-made chemical substances, the animal fat portion of the food supply has come to contain dangerous levels of total POPs. This health damaging degree of POPs contamination of environment and food supply has existed since as early as the 1960s.

POPs contamination has existed for a sufficient period of time for a large number of people to become sick. Those people residing in the vicinity of POPs contaminated sites: the GM Powertrain Superfund Site located in St. Lawrence County, New York State on the St. Lawrence River West of Akwesasne, the Tittabawassee River-Saginaw River Superfund Site in MIdland County and Bay County in the state of Michigan, the most heavily contaminated portion of the Hudson River Superfund Site in the Town of Fort Edward in Washington County, New York State, and the American War dioxin hotspots at Bien Hoa, Da Nang and Phu Cat in Vietnam have received some of the heaviest exposures to POPs due to the fact that they have breathed POPs that evaporate from these sites in addition to having eaten POPs when consuming local fish and wildlife. These exposures took place in addition to exposures received via consumption of mainstream food supply items containing background levels of POPs. Several of these populations have been the object of extensive epidemiological studies. Accidental poisoning incidents have occurred during the past 100 years, which resulted in the sickening of large numbers of people. These populations have also been studied. The volume of scientific literature describing serious damages to health resulting from POPs exposure has grown large. Consensus now exists in the scientific research community that current levels of POPs exposure for the general population are of such magnitude that minimization of exposure is warranted.

The world's governmental public health entities: World Health Organization (WHO), United States (US) Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDCP), US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Health Canada, and the European Commission's Directorate General for Health and Consumers have failed to warn the general public of the avoidable POPs exposure health hazard. This failure has taken place due to the nearly total control that is exerted by corporations over the world's governments. Obsessive interest in profit making has caused the corporate powers to turn a deaf ear to calls from activists and scientists for provision of such a warning.

In 2010, the WHO published, "Persistent Organic Pollutants: Impact on Child Health". This public health policy guidance document calls for a worldwide effort to minimize children's exposure to POPs. Cancer Action NY has advocated for publication of a POPs health hazard advisory by the WHO, the Directorate General for Health and Consumers, the US FDA, and Health Canada since 2010. No governmental public health entity has yet published any such document.

In collaboration with Cancer Action NY, the CDCP has recently begun to create two documents, one on dioxins and another on PCBs. According to Dr. Michael Hatcher, in the CDCP's Agency for Toxic Substance and Disease Registry (ATSDR), these documents will present the message that current levels of dioxin and PCB exposure are harming Americans who consume average quantities of animal fats. These documents are intended for use in the education of physicians. Upon completion of these educational pieces, ATSDR plans to produce spin-off documents intended for use educating the general public. This is a slow way of providing a warning of a major avoidable disease hazard. It is clear that corporate pressures are limiting the ability of the CDCP to take action.

Scientists and activists are not controlled by corporations. In the US, we enjoy freedom of speech and are committed to exercising that freedom for the benefit of the general public. Cancer Action NY has published a POPs Health Hazard Advisory and placed this educational document on the internet at the URL which follows.


Cancer Action NY continues to advocate for action by governmental public health entities around the world to warn the populations that they serve about the POPs exposure health hazard. Thus far our greatest success has been with the Albany County Public Health Department. The website of the Albany County Public Health Department now presents a dioxin exposure reduction educational message. In April of 2011, the St. Lawrence County Legislature considered a POPs exposure minimization education resolution that would have established a POPs exposure minimization education project within the St. Lawrence County Public Health Department. That resolution was not adopted. Nonetheless, we are making steady progress toward the day when POPs exposure minimization education will be provided by the St. Lawrence County Public Health Department.

My presentation for the Midland County Board of Commissioners is given in advocacy for the adoption of a resolution that would establish a POPs exposure minimization educational outreach within the Midland County Public Health Department. I have discussed POPs exposure minimization education with Michael Krecek, Director of the Midland County Public Health Department. Mr. Krecek has taken the position that the 2010 WHO report calling for governmental action to minimize children’s POPs exposure is well founded in the scientific literature. I believe that POPs exposure minimization education will soon be part of the work of the Midland County Public Health Department. Learning to avoid the POPs exposures entailed in consumption of the animal fat foods available in the mainstream food supply will confer a great amount of public health protective benefits in Midland County.

Donald L. Hassig, Director Cancer Action NY Cancer Action News Network
P O Box 340
Colton, NY USA 13625

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