Review: Green Intelligence: Creating Environments that Protect Human Health

Amazon Page
Amazon Page
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Overview Book, Great Price, Nice Emphasis on Public Information Gaps
October 9, 2009
John Wargo
I like this book. It is not as detailed as any of the following but does a super job of blending together in a very easy to read manner coverage of five areas: nuclear testing, military contamination of training areas, pesticides, vehicle emissions, and plastics.

Among the books I recommend (and have reviewed) for more detailed insights:
Pandora’s Poison: Chlorine, Health, and a New Environmental Strategy
High Tech Trash: Digital Devices, Hidden Toxics, and Human Health
Exposed: The Toxic Chemistry of Everyday Products and What’s at Stake for American Power
The Blue Death: The Intriguing Past and Present Danger of the Water You Drink
Blue Frontier: Dispatches from America’s Ocean Wilderness
The Next Catastrophe: Reducing Our Vulnerabilities to Natural, Industrial, and Terrorist Disasters
Big-Box Swindle: The True Cost of Mega-Retailers and the Fight for America’s Ind
Ecological Economics: Principles And Applications

This book would normally have been a four on the substnace of the five domains, especially if one is looking for more in-depth appreciations, but I found the Notes and the Index satisfactory, and the intelligence-information perspective that this author makes a special effort to address carries the book most easily to a solid five.

Highlights from my fly-leaf notes:

Page 268
Page 268

+ 80,000 synthetic components that have not been evaluated alone or in combination

+ EPA studies and regulates “one chemical at a time,” has absolutely no ability to contemplate combinations that are additive, synergistic, or antagonistic

+ There has never been a master plan for environmental law as the same time that “the problems we now face are far more subtle, decentralized, and imperceptible.”

+ 90% of the chemicals are exempt from Federal review due to grandfathering or other loopholes

+ ZERO information is available for 43% of those 90% that are exempt, and limited basic information is available for another 7% of the 90%

+ 95% of the information that *is* provided to the federal government about chemicals is classified “confidential business information” that cannot be shared with state, local, or foreign governments, much less the public

+ The recurring theme across all five areas of concern is “strategies of public deception” by both the corporations and the federal agencies responsible for oversight of the corporations.

+ Lack of public knowledge is the most fundamental obstacle to effective safeguards.

+ QUOTE (xxi): “The underlying causes of our ignorance include illiteracy, secrecy, deception, privacy, language barriers, and perhaps most importantly, the control and ownership of science by powerful institutions.”

+ Classification of the atomic testing program prevented informed challenges leading to over a decade of primitive open air testing combined with an inability to predict weather patterns that poisoned a good two thirds of the continental United States at one time or another.

+ Human testing of nuclear effects was done without disclosure or informed consent

+ Three big concerns: persistent human incapacity to manage highly hazardous materials; failure to warn populations; and failure to have serious contingency plans (e.g. all our nuclear power plants are close to major urban centers)

+ Vieques island a single DoD training site for a long time, has, as a very low estimate, 45,000 unexploded bombs in the waters around the island.

+ DoD has gone for decades without understanding the consequences of its training emissions (fluids as well as emissions) on ground water–as I write this, there is a case breaking at Camp Lejeune).

+ 1200 licensed pesticides, many of them “parked” in a “special review” limbo, political speak for okay to use while we avoid understanding this

+ Vehicle emissions include “a highly diverse mixture of hazardous contaminants including particulates, ozone, nitrogen oxides, and volatile ‘air toxics’ such as benzene.” (p 207)

+ Over half the U.S. population lives in countries that have not and will not meet federal standards

+ Of thousands of air pollutants, EPA monitors only six types, and the matter of how and when those six types are measures is subject to criticism

+ Indoor air is of concern in 30-50 of the buildings today; 107 active pesticides have been approved from indoor use

+ Air pollution now kills more than breast and prostate cancer combined (not sure what that really means)

+ 9% of kids in the USA suffer from asthma–this I understand, and it especially means urban poor kids.

+ Plastics are neither tested nor labeled. At Phi Beta Iota I am posting an image from page 268

+ There are two islands of plastic debris in the Pacific that are twice the size of Texas (!)

– labels not seen by those who are exposed to the application
– Illiteracy blocks understanding of labels when seen
– Only address proven adverse effects
– Safety claims often unproven
– Information about many adverse effects withheld
– Warnings are seldom updated
– Labels to not adequately explain hazards
– Applicators (humans) often are poorly trained
– Residues persist longer than most realize
– Labels often use confusing language
– Pesticides are often not tested thoroughly
– Labels often use misleading imagery
– Unsubstantiated claims of effectiveness

+ Secrecy shuts the public out and makes accountability impossible
+ Alternative uses of money not debated: for $5.5 trillion we spent on the US nuclear testing and armaments program from 1960-1990, what could we have done for America and the world?
+ EPA is clueless about the holistic challenge of testing all chemicals all the time in all contexts
+ Cost of restoring land now that we understand what we have done is a major obstacle to doing so


QUOTE: “The central problem is widespread public misunderstanding of the presence and danger of chemicals in everyday environments.” (p. 283)

Context for Green Information Gap
Context for Green Information Gap

Principles for Intelligence Gathering
+ Track the sources and movements of hazardous chemicals and technologies
+ Pay attention to persistence and mobility
+ Determine where the chemicals come to rest
+ Develop a thorough understanding of exposure
+ Improve toxicity testing
+ Account for variations in susceptibility

“True cost” does not appear in this book, that is a surmountable flaw that I recommend the author address in future editions of the book, which I do consider worthy of a second printing.

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