Thursday, March 17, 2005

The "pro-life" party at work
Here's one brought to us courtesy of those fine folks at Corrente guaranteed to crank both your fascism and indignation alarms up to eleven (emphasis mine).
George W. Bush recently nominated Stephen L. Johnson, a 24-year veteran of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), to be the agency's new administrator.

Johnson has been the acting administrator since January, and prior to that oversaw the EPA office handling pesticides and other toxic substances. In nominating Johnson, Bush described him as "a talented scientist" and having "good judgment and complete integrity."

Yet his record as the assistant administrator for Toxic Substances casts serious doubt about whether he is suited to lead the EPA, an agency directly affecting Americans' health and many significant industries, including automobiles and agriculture. During Bush's first term, Johnson was a strong supporter of pesticide testing on humans.


In 2001, the trials considered by the agency gave paid subjects doses of pesticides hundreds of times greater than levels that EPA officials considered safe for the general public. The agency evaluated three studies that year from Dow Chemicals, Bayer Corporation, and the Gowan Company. The Bayer and Gowan studies were conducted in Third World countries, where volunteers were more readily available....

Bayer, former branch of I.G. Farben, the chemical company that was convicted for using slave labor in the Reich and the manufacturer of Zyklon B gas, is now doing pesticide tests on human subjects in the third world. Well, I suppose they have more experience at this than most companies. Corporate Watch has some of the details.
Bayer is implicated in the development of chemical weapons. During WW1 Bayer was involved in the development and manufacture of a range of poisonous gasses used in the trenches, including chlorine gas and mustard gas. As part of IG Farben, Bayer were also involved in the development of the next generation of chemical warfare agents, toxic organophosphate compounds. Tabun was first examined for use as an insecticide in late 1936 in a program under the direction of Dr. Gerhard Schrader at the Bayer facility at Elberfeld/Wuppertal. An accidental exposure of Dr. Schrader and a laboratory assistant to Tabun vapors made it quite clear that this compound had potential military applications. Tabun was then mass produced by IG Farben during WWII although it was never used as a weapon. Schrader was also responsible for the discovery of related, but more toxic, nerve agents including Sarin and Soman...


Bayer (along with BASF and Hoechst) was an original member of the IG Farben group. During WWII, IG Farben built a synthetic rubber and oil plant complex called Monowitz close to the Auschwitz concentration camp. Inmates worked as slave labour for IG Farben, and when they were too weak to work they were killed in the gas chambers. IG Farben subsidiary Degesch manufactured Zyklon B, the gas used in the concentration camp gas chambers.

Bayer head Carl Duisberg personally propagated the concept of forced labour during WW1. The company placed itself under a large burden of guilt due to its heavy involvement in the planning, preparation and implementation of both world wars. The International War Crimes Tribunal pronounced the company guilty for its share of responsibility in the war and the crimes of the Nazi dictatorship.

On 29 July 1948, sentences for mass murder and slavery were handed down at the Nuremberg trials to twelve Farben executives. The longest sentence of only seven years was dealt out was to Dr. Fritz ter Meer, a top executive and scientist on the IG Farben managing board.

After the war, IG Farben separated into three giant corporations: Bayer, Hoechst and BASF. On 1 August 1963, Bayer celebrated its 100th anniversary at the Cologne fairgrounds. The opening speech was delivered by Dr. Fritz ter Meer, not only out of prison but--a convicted mass murderer--elevated to the position of Chairman of the Supervisory Board of Bayer.


IG Farben also conducted experiments on humans. Eva Mozes Kor, among the 1,500 sets of twins experimented on by the infamous Dr. Josef Mengele, claims that IG Farben monitored and supervised medical experiments at the Nazi concentration camp where she was interned. She claims the experiments involved toxic chemicals that IG Farben (Bayer) provided. In some of the experiments, the lawsuit states, prisoners were injected with germs known to cause diseases, "to test the effectiveness of various drugs" manufactured by IG Farben.

That is Bayer and its history. That is just one of the companies that Stephen Johnson has authorized to perform experiments on human subjects. Surely, this is an isolated case. This can't be typical of the way he's going to do business. Can it? Reread the first blockquote above. The Bayer study is only one of three conducted. Here is a fourth study.
[I]n October of last year, Johnson strongly supported a study in which infants will be monitored for health impacts as they undergo exposure to toxic chemicals for a two-year period. The Children's Environmental Exposure Research Study (CHEERS), will analyze how chemicals can be ingested, inhaled, or absorbed by children ranging from infants to three-year olds. The study will analyze 60 children in Duval County, Florida who are routinely exposed to pesticides in their homes. Yet the EPA acknowledges that pesticide exposure is a risk factor for childhood cancer and the early onset of asthma.

Other aspects of CHEERS are equally troublesome. The participants will be selected from six health clinics and three hospitals in Duval County. The EPA study proposal noted, "Although all Duval County citizens are eligible to use the [health care] centers, they primarily serve individuals with lower incomes. In the year 2000, 75 percent of the users of the clinics for pregnancy issues were at or below the poverty level." The proposal also said, "The percentage of births to individuals classified as black in the U.S. Census is higher at these three hospitals than for the county as a whole."

The EPA is targeting the poor and African-Americans for the study, presumably in the hope that they will be less informed about the dangers of exposing their children to pesticides, and will, therefore, continue to expose them over the two-year period. The study actually mandates that parents not be provided information about the proper ways to apply or store pesticides around the home. And the parents cannot be informed of the risks of prolonged or excessive exposure to pesticides. Additionally, the study does not provide guidelines to intervene if the children show signs of developmental delay or register dangerous levels of pesticide exposure in the periodic testing.

Parents receive $970 for participating, but only if they continue over the two-year period.

Now, Gonzales (torture) and Negroponte (death squads) will have someone to sit with them at cabinet meetings who shares their interests.

I'm too angry to write anymore about this.

Update - I'm trying to track down some information on the individual tests. The creepily named CHEERS is the only one of any scientific use and that follows anything resembling accepted ethical guidelines. It is the only one that doesn't involve intentionally exposing people to the pesticides. It merely involves observing uninformed people who live in an area of high exposure.

The first three seem to be nothing more than hideously dangerous PR stunts involving having people consume or be directly sprayed with the pesticides, then standing back and saying, "see, they're fine." The numbers are too small to be of any statistical value, many of the subjects got violently ill, and as far as I can tell, so far, little follow up was done. I'mm still trying to track down details on all three studies and Johnson's responsibility for promoting them.

There's a story here that needs to be told.

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