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Mon Dec 19, 2011, 06:15 PM

Without Your Consent: Bush Era Urban Asbestos Testing (and Why Newt Will Be More of the Same)

Informed consent is the rule when it comes to medical experimentation. Anytime a drug company, medical school or university wants to test anything---a new medication to stop you from smoking, a theory about why people smoke, a new smoking cessation program---they have to prove that their experiment 1) will not harm your health, 2) that it will benefit the public health and 3) that you have been informed that you are a participant in a study and that you have been given the right to refuse to participate.

In 2007, the Environmental Protection Agency conducted an experiment on the citizens of Fort Worth, Texas without getting informed consent. They decided to try out a new method of demolishing buildings contaminated with asbestos. The so called “wet method” involved hosing down the structure as it was being leveled. The theory was that the fibers would become caked in mud which could then be crushed and destroyed. The workers conducting the experiment were not given masks or protective gear. The children walking to school nearby were not given masks or protective gear. The EPA measured the amount of asbestos released into the air----

And then buried the results, until an environmental group demanded to see the findings of the “experiment”. Then, the EPA admitted that its air monitors had detected asbestos around the site during the demolition. Then the EPA said that workers and others near the site during the demolition should probably be evaluated for exposure to the toxic substance which

“is a human carcinogen with no safe level of exposure. Asbestos exposure can lead to serious diseases such as asbestosis, lung cancer and mesothelioma. The diseases can develop decades after exposure.”

(From today’s Fort Worth Star Telegram)


This was not the first time the EPA had tried to experiment on the residents of Fort Worth without their consent. In 2004, the Cowtown Inn was scheduled to be leveled. The old building contained asbestos, but the government did not want to spend the time and money needed to take it down the approved way----under safety tents, with workers wearing protective gear. So, they announced plans to test the much cheaper, faster “wet” method. When citizens in the surrounding areas got wind of the plan, they protested. The experiment was stopped.

“The EPA still expects to test the wet method in a sparsely populated area. “ … We will hold EPA to its pledge to ensure that wherever the experiment is conducted, there will be meaningful opportunity for public comment on, and scientific peer review of, the test plans and test results,” commented Jim Hecker, Public Justice’s Environmental Enforcement Director.”


Yeah, right.

A report from August of this year describes the results of the Bush era EPA’s human experimentation.

“The EPA actually tested this theory when demolishing regional offices in St. Louis, MO, Ft. Worth, TX, and Ft. Chaffee, AR. The result was unsurprising to those who advocated against such a sea change in the way asbestos is removed from buildings prior to demolition. Basically, the “wet method” was an abject failure in prohibiting the release of airborne asbestos fibers. The EPA has set a standard level of acceptable asbestos particulate or dust, in residential environments where people are present, when sites containing asbestos are demolished. That number is set at 5,000 asbestos structures per cubic centimeter (s/cm^3). At those sites where the EPA tested the “wet method,” the amount of measured dust was significantly above that threshold. The perimeter air monitors at Ft. Worth detected increased asbestos levels, and adjacent buildings exceeded the level of acceptable asbestos settlement. The Ft. Chaffee site also had increased asbestos release, with one pavement sample coming in at 19,400 (s/cm^3), almost 4 times the acceptable normal action level. The study also found that the water used to “wet” the building, after demolition, was highly contaminated with asbestos.”


Despite proof that wet demolition is not safe, lobbyists are still trying to get the EPA to approve the method---which will save them a whole lot of money.

In Crimes Against Nature Robert Kennedy Jr. wrote

“The Bush attack was not entirely unexpected. During his tenure in Texas, George W. Bush had the grimmest environmental record of any governor in the country: the Lone Star State ranked number one in both air and water pollution. In his six years in Austin, Governor Bush championed a short-term, pollution-based prosperity that enriched his political contributors and corporate cronies by lowering the quality of life for everyone else. Now President Bush is doing the same thing to the citizens in the other 49 states.”


Kennedy also wrote

“Environmental injury is deficit spending—loading the costs of pollution-based prosperity onto the backs of the next generation.”

The “wet demolition” experiments in Fort Worth, Arkansas and St. Louis are proof that a four or eight year term of office for the wrong president can have lasting consequences. Somewhere out there are in my home city are workers---and school children---who may have gotten a big lungful of asbestos four years ago. A single exposure is all it takes to trigger cancer. Depending upon the direction the air was blowing that day and the way the water flowed from the site, many other people may be sitting on time bombs.

Note that Newt Gingrich, the GOP front runner, is also a front man for those who want to use us as guinea pigs without our consent.

“In 1994, industry’s greenwashing and its years of investment in political organizations, front groups, think tanks, and phony science paid off in the most pro-pollution Congress in our nation’s history. Wise Use helped propel Newt Gingrich to the Speaker’s chair of the U.S. Congress, where he began a dangerous and partially successful effort to enact his anti-environmental manifesto, Contract With America. Gingrich’s consigliore was Congressman Tom DeLay, the former bug exterminator who was determined to rid the world of pesky pesticide regulations and to promote a “biblical worldview. 26 DeLay considers DDT “safe as aspirin” 27 and the Endangered Species Act the greatest threat to Texas after illegal aliens. 28 He attributed the Columbine massacre to the teaching of evolution in schools. 29 In January 1995, Congressman DeLay invited a group of 350 lobbyists representing some of the nation’s biggest polluters to collaborate in drafting legislation that would dismantle federal health, safety, and environmental laws.”

Think that environmental protection laws are responsible for the recession? Think that those unoccupied houses are a blight and wet demolition is safer than letting them rot ( to paraphrase the title of a Fort Worth Star Telegram article from 2007 that can no longer be found online)? Think that President Newt won’t be able to give your kids a lungful of asbestos, because watchdog groups like the Sierra Club will be there to stop him? Then by all means, stay home next fall. But before you make that decision, you might want to read this article from Sierra Club, advocating the wet demolition test in Texas.


“Over the last two months, I have talked and met with EPA staff about this
method and it appears to be better than the current one.”

The only way to keep the government from doing environmental tests on you and your family without your consent is to make sure that those in power in the government are not bought and paid for by the industries that do the polluting.

One final request. Before you post that Obama and Democratic Congress environmental policy are exactly the same as Bush environmental policy, please read the Robert Kennedy document linked above. Yes, I know it is over 100 pages long. But you would not want to make a statement like “Democrats and Republicans are exactly the same” without knowing exactly what the Republicans are, now would you?

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