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Chairman MILLER. Thank you. Ms. Mott?
STATEMENT OF LAWRIE MOTT, M.S., SENIOR SCIENTIST, NATURAL RESOURCES DEFENSE COUNCIL, SAN FRANCISCO, CA
Ms. MOTT. Good morning. I am Lawrie Mott, a Senior Scientist for the Natural Resources Defense Council. I will respond to some of the things that Dr. Jukes has brought up in short order, but I would like to still continue with my testimony that I had planned.
First and foremost, I think today that we should look at what we now have in the way of evidence on childhood health, and what effects the children are now risking from exposure to toxins. According to the National Cancer Institute, the incidence of childhood cancer is up 21.5 percent since 1950.
Now, there is a big difference between incidence and mortality statistics. Dr. Jukes has pointed out that the mortality statistics are down. That is the good news. That shows that our medical care system is making substantial progress in treating cancer. But we are regrettably not making enough progress in terms of preventing cancer. And that is really what we need to be focusing on.
You heard this morning about some of the cancer clusters here in California. And you heard again that science cannot provide all the answers about what the causes of those cancer clusters are. That is unfortunate. But that does not mean the Government should not place controls on some of the compounds that we know from animal studies to be carcinogenic.
Another statistic about childhood disease and exposure to toxins. Childhood asthma; hospital admission rates doubled between 1973 and 1987. There are scientific studies that have correlated indices of air pollution with asthma morbidity in children. Clearly, again, we have early indications that environmental exposure to toxins are causing serious problems for our children.
Yes, we need more research, and disease monitoring, to better understand the correlation between disease and exposure to toxics. But in the meantime, what you have heard continuously this morning is that our children are being exposed to these chemicals in the environment. And they are being exposed at greater rates than adults are.
This means that children are at the greatest risk. They are the members in our society that are at greatest risk for exposure to toxins.
One illustration of that is our report, NRDC's report, Intolerable Risk, that came out last year. We looked only at pesticides. Only at pesticides in food. We looked only at 27 of the more than 300 pesticides that can be present in food.
Let me tell you some of our findings. We found that between 5,500 and 6,200 of today's preschoolers could develop cancer at some point in their lifetimes just as a result of exposure to eight carcinogenic pesticides. We found that these risk levels were 240 times what EPA considered acceptable. We also found that 50 percent of the child's cancer risk could occur just from exposure to these compounds in their first six years of life.
I would now like to respond to some of the things that Dr. Jukes brought up. First, NRDC has never suggested that the answer to
the issue of pesticides in food is for parents or their children to stop eating fresh fruits and vegetables. The answer is for our Government to have much stronger control on the levels of these chemicals in the food supply.
Second, I would like to speak specifically to the issue of the evidence of the carcinogenicity of Alar. In spite of the evidence that Dr. Jukes brought up this morning, the National Toxicology Program, the International Agency on Research of Cancer, even the EPA, still today classify Alar and its metabolite, UDMH, as a probable human carcinogen. That is the strongest classification short of positive evidence in humans that the chemical is carcinogenic.
And third, I would like to speak to the issue of natural carcinogens in food. And even natural carcinogens throughout our environment, natural toxins. Yes, they are there. The reality is there is very little that we can do, short of voluntary measures, to avoid exposure to some of these chemicals. We ca not avoid the natural constituents in mushrooms, or any of the other foods. So we have no choice in the case of chemical contaminants, where the exposure is involuntary, for the Government to regulate these kind of things.
The NRDC report illustrated that children not only are at greater risk, but their exposure rates are higher because they eat more certain foods at the percentage of their body weight. This is not just true of food. It is also true of drinking water and air. You have heard a little bit about it this morning.
To give you some examples. Children drink more water as a percentage of their body weight than adults. For example, infants that are under one, and children under the age of six, drink five to three times, respectively, greater water than adults, relative to body weight.
In terms of breathing rates, again, the young, an infant at rest passes two times as much air through its lung as compared to a resting adult.
You have also heard a little bit this morning about how children may be physiologically more susceptible to the exposure to toxins. They report a variety of examples. Included among them are the fact that the human nervous system is still developing for quite a long time after birth.
Children, early exposures in life to carcinogens may carry greater significance, because children are growing and their cell division rates are much higher. Also, the simple statistical fact that children are likely to live a lot longer than all of us. And so therefore, they are more likely to live out any latency period between exposure to carcinogen and when its ill effects will manifest themselves.
There is also scientific evidence that serious sunburns early in life increase your likelihood of skin cancer later on in life.
Contrast this scientific evidence with the Government's track record on this problem. Clearly, the Government has failed to protect our children. This morning you heard about Alar, you have heard about Aldicarb. I would like to bring up a couple of points about both of those chemicals to demonstrate the Government's bad track record in this area.
In the case of Alar, it was not EPA who took this chemical off the market. It was the manufacturer who took the chemical off the
market. To me, that is the most clear symptom of the Environmental Protection Agency's failure to protect us from pesticides in foods. I think it is illustrative of the other chemicals that the Agency regulates.
Now, let's talk about Aldicarb. One of the issues you have heard about is the food exposure, the presence of this chemical in food. And Dr. Jackson spoke to the new method that EPA has before it about the number of children each day that are being exposed to unsafe levels of Aldicarb.
The original estimate that the Agency had was up to 81,500 children each day are being exposed to unsafe levels of Aldicarb, from consumption of potatoes alone. The Agency required the manufacturer to conduct new studies, and the new studies indicated that those numbers were way lower than they should be.
But the sad truth is that we are not getting Aldicarb just in our food. We are also getting it in our drinking water. And again, both the EPA, and here in California the State Government, has failed to protect us from these exposures. In fact, in California there is a good law on the books to prevent pesticide contamination of groundwater, and the State Government has failed to enact that law adequately.
And just yesterday, NRDC, along with some other individuals in other organizations in the State, filed a lawsuit to stop the use of Aldicarb, because it is continuing to contaminate drinking water wells in this State.
Are there solutions? Yes. We need more research, scientific research. We need more monitoring of childhood disease. We need more monitoring of exposure to environmental toxins.
But one of the fundamental solutions that could be implemented right away is to require that when State and Federal Government Health Agencies set standards to allow exposure to toxic chemicals, that they explicitly consider children in those standard-setting processes.
Right now, in Congress there is legislation, the Food Safety Amendment, introduced by Congressman Waxman and Senator Kennedy, that would require when pesticide residue levels are set for food, that children are explicitly considered. The bad news is that I fear preemption may be the price to pay for passing that legislation in this Congress. That is too high a price.
Especially because here in California we have a very important opportunity coming up this November to enact legislation that will establish, require standards when they are set for pesticides in food, that they explicitly consider and protect children. And I am referring here to Proposition 128, or better known perhaps as the “Big Green.”
This initiative will do many things. But in the area of pe cides, in my mind one of the most important aspects is that it requires that children are protected when pesticide residue levels are set. And this is the first time ever, if this law passes--and the chances for passage are very good—this is the first time ever in this country that we could have that kind of standard. I think that would send a very strong message to the rest of the nation.
I will conclude my remarks here. I would just like to say that I am very pleased that the committee is taking interest in this issue.
It is a very important one. And later this fall, NRDC will be starting a new project that will explicitly look at the range of environmental threats to children's health. And we would be happy to work with the committee in any of your efforts, and we will keep you apprised of our progress in this area.
PREPARED STATEMENT OF LAWRIE MOTT, M.S., SENIOR SCIENTIST, NATURAL
RESOURCES DEFENSE COUNCIL, CHILDREN'S HOSPITAL, OAKLAND, CA : Good morning. I am Lawrie Mott, Senior Scientist with the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), a national nonprofit organization dedicated to protection of public health and the environment. In February 1989 NRDC issued Intolerable Riak, the first study to quantify the risks to children from actual levels of pesticides in food. Since then, we have examined the threats posed to children from other environmental hazards as well.
It is well known that the nation's children face unprecedented challenges and burdens as we enter the twentyfirst century. Increasing poverty, drug and alcohol addiction, malnutrition, faltering schools, and a host of other social and economic ills are sad realities confronting many children today.
The young face another problem, perhaps less publicized, but also tragic: threats to their health and future due to increasing contamination of the environment. Particularly disturbing is the documented increase in serious diseases among children, which nay, in part, result from exposure to ambient pollutants. The incidence of childhood cancers increased 21.5% since 1950, according to the National Cancer Institute.'
A number of clusters of childhood cancers potentially linked to toxic pollutants have been documented in recent years. For
instance, in Woburn, Massachusetts, an increased incidence of
1 National Cancer Institute, 1982 Annual Cancer statistics Review, NIH Publications No. 88-2789, Chapters on Trends and Incidence (1988). Among the whole population, cancer rates (adjusted for changes in age distribution and excluding lung cancer) rose 22.6% since 1950..