You can't win without information, but you can also drown in information. What we all need is the information we can use and nothing more. We need concentrated, distilled information at an affordable price. A tall order.
We have found a newsletter packed with useful information: the ECOLOGICAL ILLNESS LAW REPORT. For five years its editor, Earon Davis (a lawyer with a master's degree in public health) has been cranking it out, working alone in his basement. The product is wonderful.
What is "ecological illness?" It's "a growing constellation of illnesses caused or exacerbated by chemical pollutants in indoor, outdoor, and workplace environments. These illnesses, probably attributable to chemically induced immune system disorders, may produce a wide range of disabling disease symptoms," Mr. Davis writes.
In other words, ecological illness is what we're all worried about--getting sick from the modern environment, whether it's from dumps or bad drinking water or toxic household products.
Part of this problem is perfectly normal reactions to powerful chemicals, like workers and their families getting lung disease from asbestos. But another, less well-known part of this problem is "environmental hypersensitivity"--people who are especially sensitive to particular chemicals. The 10% of the population with asthma falls into this category, for example. An estimated 20% of the population (roughly 44 million Americans) suffers from some kind of environmental hypersensitivity--headaches, skin rashes, coughs, breathing difficulties, ringing in the ears... and on and on. For some of these people, the modern environment is a nightmare, and for all of them it is a very mixed blessing.
The ECOLOGICAL ILLNESS LAW REPORT is mainly aimed at lawyers, but much of it is useful to you and me. It covers precedent-setting legal cases, and it covers medical news. For example, in the latest issue (September, 1987, Vol. IV, No. 6) we learn that Missouri residents and workers received a settlement of $19 million from the people responsible for spraying dioxin-contaminated oil on local roads- -the incident that caused the permanent evacuation of the town of Times Beach, MO. Various illnesses and injuries had been claimed, as well as property losses.
We also learn that an employee of Browning-Ferris Industries (BFI) was awarded $275,000 after he developed central blind spots in both his eyes. He had worked for eight years with benzene, toluene, xylene, ethylene, glycol lead, tetraethyl lead and other substances. NONE OF THESE CHEMICALS EXCEEDED THE MAXIMUM ALLOWABLE LEVELS but, in combination, the plaintiff argued, the chemicals caused disabling blindness.
We also learn that two recent scientific studies have found that formaldehyde exposure of dogs and humans seems to cause impaired immune system functioning. Formaldehyde is a common chemical in building materials and household products, such as new carpets, and hair shampoos, among others.
All in all, this newsletter is a treasure chest of ammunition for people arguing that we need closer control
of chemicals. It's $30 per year (four issues) from EILR, P.O. Box 1796, Evanston, Il 60204; phone (312)
--Peter Montague, Ph.D.
Descriptor terms: mcs; ei; citizen groups; pollution; lawyers;