Statement Of Raymond Palmer
Environmental Protection Agency
Aging Initiative Public Listening Session
San Antonio, Texas
April 8, 2003
Department of Family and Community Medicine
University of Texas Health Science Center San Antonio
I am here today to ask the EPA to increase their role in advocating research aimed at elucidating environmental causes of today's most persistent diseases.
Epidemiological studies show, that over the last 20 years, there has been a notable and significant upward shift in the prevalence of diseases involving autoimmunity. These include: Multiple Sclerosis, Systemic Lupus, Myasthenia gravis, Primary billiary cirrhosis, Scleroderma, Arthritis, and Diabetes.
Add to this list, the autism spectrum disorders, affecting approximately 1 in 150 births and more prevalent than Down's syndrome, childhood cancers, cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis and Diabetes.
Millions of people in this society are vulnerable to the effects of environmental toxins. Particularly vulnerable are the elderly, whose immune capacity diminishes with time; and the very young, whose immune and neurological systems are still in development.
Both groups are at risk of premature, accelerated disease processes as a result of persistent and/or frequent exposures to ubiquitous environmental neurotoxins including lead, mercury, and pesticides.
How is it that, despite substantial progress in eliminating lead sources in the 70's, over 1 million children under age 5 in 1994 were shown to have elevated blood lead levels (CDC MMWR, 1997)
How is it that we have allowed the EPA recommended levels for Mercury exposure to be exceeded with just one childhood immunization where mercury based preservatives have been used?
How is it, that we sanction the liberal routine use of pesticides on public property and school buildings regardless of whether there are problems with pests.
We are persistently exposed to 1000's of newly developed synthetic environmental chemicals where neurotoxicity is virtually unknown.
A National Academy of Science report indicates that in 1984 there were 15,000 chemicals registered with the EPA for commercial use that had moderate to high potential for human exposure. Less than half of these substances were tested for toxicity and less than 20% were tested for toxicity in developing organisms. Further, a recent study indicates that many of the widely used Toxicity tests are insensitive (Claudio et al. 1999 Am J Internal Medicine, 33:554-63).
Why is it that since Nixon declared war on cancer in 1971, devoting billions of dollars since that time, that cancer incident rates have remained virtually unchanged?
Rigorous pursuit of environmental causes of disease have been at a stand still. The great majority of NIH resources have gone toward understanding the biomechanics of disease at the expense of a deeper understanding between environmental causes. With the goal of developing new and better treatments, we have by comparison ignored issues of environmental primary cause and prevention.
We need a champion to promote the kind of environmental research that will directly inform policy change and disease prevention efforts.