HEAL Newsflash - September & October 2011
On 6 and 7 October, HEAL brought together its members in Brussels for the Annual General Assembly 2011. The AGA voted in thirteen new not-for-profit groups as members of our network. This brings our total membership to over 70 international, European and national networks and organisations. Members also adopted key proposals for the future development of the organisation, including a strategic action plan until 2015, and discussed a number of key environment and health topics.
HEAL welcomed that European Health Commissioner John Dalli highlighted that "underlying economic, social and environmental factors" need to be addressed when tackling chronic diseases. Commissioner Dalli took part in the UN summit on chronic, non-communicable diseases in September 2011, where high-level representatives agreed on a way forward to counter the rise of chronic diseases such as cancer, respiratory diseases, cardio-vascular disease and diabetes. However, the real test will be whether or not the EU takes this on board when it develops future action plans and legislative reforms, and how widely it consults within and outside the health sector. Prior to the meeting, HEAL had addressed an open letter to Commissioner Dalli on the need to include “environment” as the fifth factor in chronic disease causation and joined the call in signing an additional open letter to Ban Ki-Moon and Margret Chan sent by over a hundred NGO and experts worldwide for an inclusion of environmental concerns in the summit’s outcome.
The first-ever English language version of the hard-hitting film "Our Daily Poison" by leading investigative journalist Marie-Monique Robin took place at HEAL on 6 October.
Some of the issues raised in the film are very topical in Europe, which prompted a lively discussion with the film maker after the screening. One key issue discussed is the need to widen the peer reviewed science for risk assessment beyond Good Laboratory Practice (GLP) studies, which mainly represent industry research. French agency ANSES has recently used studies other than those following GLP in a review of the safety of BPA. The findings have led to an immediate response from French government to ban BPA in all food packaging by 1 January 2014. The bill is supported by French ministers of health and will be voted in the National Assembly on 12 October.
HEAL’s European efforts to raise awareness about the potential harm to health from hydraulic fracturing of shale gas includes the need for a precautionary approach.
Last year, the health and environmental implications were prompted by a call from a leading international environmental health scientist, Sandra Steingraber in her speech to the European Parliament together with HEAL.
At the HEAL seminar in Brussels on 7 October, Lisette van Vliet gave a presentation on health and fracking. Participants also heard from a European Commission expert and about the experience in France where licenses for fracking are being revoked.
As part of our efforts to raise awareness on the health benefits of a more ambitious EU GHG reduction target and policy change, Pendo Maro, HEAL/HCWH Senior Climate and Energy advisor, as well as Christina Reinards, Campaigns and Communication Officer, went to Poland for a series of high-level meetings. The groundbreaking report “Acting NOW for better health” published by HEAL and HCWH in 2010 shows that by going to a -30% reduction target for the EU for 2020, health benefits of up to 30,5 billion EUR per year could be reaped because of cleaner air. It is estimated that for Poland the public health benefits could be up to 4 billion EUR per year.
An analysis of dust samples is being used to urge faster action on EDCs in REACH. The dust has been vacuumed up from underneath beds around the world in a project carried out by ChemSec and other NGOs.
The aim is to prompt the European Commission and every EU member state to speed up the process and nominate EDCs to the REACH Candidate List. They also want companies to take the initiative to phase out EDCs in their products before these chemicals are decided upon in REACH.
HEAL Toxics Policy Advisor, Lisette van Vliet, put her vacuum cleaner to work under a bed in Belgium where a couple and their new baby live.
On 4 October, the EP’s Committee on Environment, Public Health and Food Safety adopted its recommendations for the 2nd reading of the new EU biocides law. The vote was crucial, as it forms the basis for negotiations of the European Parliament with EU Member States in the Council (which will start mid October). HEAL together with other health & environment groups sent joint NGO recommendations for EP ENVI considerations and spoke to many MEPs before the vote about the need to strengthen the draft law for better health and environment protection.
The 23rd International Society for Environmental Epidemiology (ISEE) Conference was held 13-16 September in Barcelona and brought together over a thousand researchers, health experts and stakeholders to discuss the latest evidence on health impacts of environmental pollution. HEAL’s Toxics Policy Advisor, Lisette van Vliet gave a presentation on “The role of non-governmental organizations in promoting occupational and environmental carcinogen regulation” within the symposium on Scientific Inference and Public Policy which was chaired by Richard Clapp, Boston University School of Public Health, USA.
HEAL IN THE MEDIA
The European media strongly featured our Open Letter to Commissioner Dalli prior to the UN summit on non-communicable diseases, including a special health issue of the European Parliament magazine (see page 58), ENDS Europe environmental news service (subscription only), and Chemical Watch news service on REACH.
HEAL was also quoted on the BBC website discussing “toxic” pesticidesuse in London transport with Dichlobenil and how this has been assessed for effects on human health and the environment by the European Union.
Le Monde featured HEAL in an article on chemicals in food titled La consommation alimentaire des Français sans risque majeur (subscription only). Additionally, ENDS Europe highlighted our work on studying the effects of dust as endocrine disruptors, and in a special “health” issue of the Public Service journal on European Science and Technology, an article discussed how HEAL “helps to promote cleaner air in Europe, especially to protect the health of vulnerable groups such as children.”
MEMBER & PARTNER NEWS
HEAL member RES welcomes the almost unanimous vote  of MPs to ban bisphenol A in food contact materials. This should significantly reduce our daily exposure to this endocrine disruptor  and, thus, help reduce the poisoning of the fetus via maternal contamination. We have now increasing evidence to support that exposure during pregnancy may cause serious health effects in childhood and in adulthood (cancer, diabetes, obesity, reproductive disorders and behavior).
The Réseau Environnement Santé (RES) and Appel de la Jeunesse (A2J) participated in the "Ruban de l’Espoir 2011" in its run for breast cancer in the woods of Vincennes. The money raised will fund research on "personalized treatment of breast cancer." More info at http://www.odyssea-paris.com/.
Related to the event, at the Cité Internationale Universitaire de Paris a presentation was given by André Cicolella, president of RES, on "breast cancer and environmental factors" as well as various workshops by Women in Europe for a Common Future (WECF) including one on "Nesting: Protect the health of your child by creating a healthy indoor environment".
More details at http://fbl-paris.org/nl/actualites/details/ruban-de-l-espoir.6.html
The year 2012 will be "the European Year on active and healthy ageing". Concerned to respond to the new needs of their members in terms of counseling, guidance and appropriate coverage, mutual benefit societies in Europe are acknowledged players in the sector of long-term care. To highlight their commitment in this field, the AIM has decided to devote its international Conference to "Development of healthcare systems and challenges for long-term care: the mutual benefit societies’ point of view".
Dr Sandra Steingraber is a renowned scientist and environmental health advocate with whom HEAL has worked with over the past years on many different issues.
She first highlighted her concerns about fracking last December in the context of our European Cancer and Environment week in the Parliament, and mentioned fracking as the next big environmental health threat. Her words, evidence and visionary foresight have inspired HEAL to mobilize around this issue over the past year.
We are very pleased to hear that she has been named recipient of the prestigious Heinz Award and that her response on how she intends to use her cash award is to fight fracking in New York.
Learn more at http://www.orionmagazine.org/index.php/newsfrom187/entry/6467/
A new brochure by the US Collaborative on Health and the Environment (CHE) helps uncover how “obesogens” are chemicals that can promote weight gain. It explains some pharmaceutical drugs affect the body’s hormone system and can influence weight and metabolism. Furthermore, the potential for these drugs to affect our bodies may be greatest when exposure occurs during sensitive periods of development, such as in the womb or in early life. HEAL is the European partner of CHE and in regular exchange with CHE members on this and other issues.
The Action For Breast Cancer Foundation celebrated car free day in Malta this year with our annual Walk For Life on 18/9/2011. The walk was 8 km and participants were encouraged to walk for someone they knew who has cancer, by pinning a paper with their name on their T-shirts. The event attracted many people who walked, and some even ran, and finished with a light snack and drink from a sponsor.
In a recent interview with the Co-Chair of the International POPs Elimination Network (IPEN), Olga Speranskaya, who also represents HEAL member Eco Accord, a discussion was held around how she became involved with the issue of chemical safety and hotspots in the EECCA region, what POPs are, and how NGOs work to address contaminated sites, etc.
Hear the interview at: http://english.ruvr.ru/radio_broadcast/47136388/53535066.html
Juliet Duff, Irish Doctors Environmental Association - IDEA will represent HEAL at the climate change talks in Durban later this year (COP 17, 28 November - 9 December 2011).
We’ve published Juliet’s personal tribute to Wangari Maathai, the Kenyan tree-planting ecologist who died of cancer on 25 September 2011. Juliet links the combat of Wangari to that of Teresa Treacy, an Irish farmer who is currently in prison in Ireland as a result of her struggle to protect trees.
23 Oct - Paris - France: Greenpride organized by Appel de la jeunesse
Discover the impact of the environment on your quality of life and the many links between environmental issues and your health through a series of lectures. The first ever Green Pride will take place on Sunday 23 October in Paris, organized by HEAL member Appel de la Jeunesse. HEAL will present some of its latest publications at a stand and take part in the walk for environment and health protection. Get engaged by participating in a parade and concert to celebrate Greenpride! View more details at www.greenpride.me.
27-28 Oct, Bled – Slovenia: First meeting of the newly established, WHO European Environment and Health Task Force (EEHTF)
Following the decision at the Parma ministerial conference for the future of the WHO European Environment and Health process, the first meeting of the newly established Environment and Health Task Force will take place later this month. The agenda of the first EEHTF meeting has been prepared by the WHO secretariat following the direction of the European Environment and Health Ministerial Board. The meeting will bring together representatives from all 53 countries involved in the Pan European environment and health process as well as other stakeholder groups from youth, environment, trace unions, industry (chemicals) and UNEP, UNECE. HEAL is a full member of the EEHTF representing the health sector and provide expertise and experience from our members on the issues discussed including the implementation of the Parma conference commitments. More details here.
31 Oct, Christiansborg - Denmark: Sustainable health – ”One Health from a Nordic perspective”
Fringe event during the Nordic Council’s Session 2011 where professor Björn Olsen, who represents the Infection Ecology and Epidemiology Network (IEE), a new HEAL member , will be speaking. The aim is to discuss the need for doctors and veterinary surgeons to work together to improve disease control. More details here.
4 Dec, Durban – South Africa Climate and Health Summit
The first Global Climate and Health Summit is to take place parallel to the COP 17 climate negotiations. It aims to bring together key health sector actors to discuss the impacts of climate change on public health and solutions that promote greater health, as well as economic equitybetween and within nations. HEAL is one of the partners for the conference. Register or learn more here.
HEAL has just published its latest annual report which outlines the accomplishments from 2010 on our health and environment priorities. View the report here.
Thanks to the Climate Coalition for the Polish Ecological Club Mazovian Branch, HEAL’s "Acting NOW for better health" report is now available in Polish. View publication in English and Polish here.
Last updated on 26 June 2012