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Don't Eat the Fish

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As Riki describes in her presentation in Emmett Michigan (, many New Orleans fishermen are still seeing plumes of dissolved oil at deeper levels and refuse to jeopardize consumers' health by selling them contaminated seafood. However now that the EPA has declared Gulf fisheries "safe," seafood workers can no longer claim compensation from BP for loss of income.

Likewise, despite extensive peer-reviewed research documenting PAH-related health problems, the federal Occupational Safety and Health Agency (OSHA) still refuses to recognize PAH-related chemical illness as a medical condition. Thus insurance companies refuse to reimburse New Orleans or Emmett doctors for treating it. Instead doctors are diagnosing and treating PAH-exposed patients for a range of conditions (heat stroke, flu, respiratory infections) they can get reimbursed for. Obviously patients with chemical illness don't respond to treatment for other conditions. Some die (Riki shows a poignant vignette of a Gulf oil victim who subsequently died). Others become permanently disabled.

Chemical Trespass

As a conventionally trained doctor, I was never trained to look for environmental (i.e. corporate) causes of cancer, autoimmune disease and other chronic disorders. I still find it quite hard to get my head around the extensive burden of illness caused by the hundred or so toxic chemicals every inhabitant on earth carries in their blood stream. I have always believed I have a duty under the Hippocratic Oath to do everything in my power to keep people healthy. I have great difficulty accepting that, as a society, we are virtually helpless to treat or prevent most chemical illness. Even the 1% who run society can do nothing to protect themselves, their children and their grandchildren from the hundreds of toxic chemicals corporations continue to pour into the ecosystem.

I alternate between blinding rage and mind-bending disbelief at the corporate CEOs and boards who are callously filling our air, water and food chain with toxic chemicals and the government leaders (like Obama) who collude with them in covering it up. The only glimmer of hope I see is People Against Chemical Trespass and similar community groups in California, Pennsylvania and Virginia. These local democracy groups are seeking to pass municipal ordinances that penalize corporations for chemical trespass. Chemical trespass is defined as the involuntary introduction of toxic chemicals into the human body. Halifax Virginia and three towns in Pennsylvania have already passed chemical trespass laws.

Ending Our Fossil Fuel Addiction

Yet, as Riki points out in her presentation, we will only end oil spills and their catastrophic environmental and health effects by ending our addiction to fossil fuels. Corporate lobbies and elected officials have a big role to play here, by allowing us to use our tax dollars to expand public transportation options and develop renewable fuel and energy sources (instead of wasting them on wars and massive subsidies for banks, the fossil fuel industry, agribusiness and Big Pharma). However each of us must acknowledge our own role in perpetuating western society's fossil fuel addiction. We do so every time we fill the tank to take a two mile car trip, when we could easily walk, cycle or use public transportation.

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I am a 63 year old American child and adolescent psychiatrist and political refugee in New Zealand. I have just published a young adult novel THE BATTLE FOR TOMORROW (which won a NABE Pinnacle Achievement Award) about a 16 year old girl who (more...)

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