Letters To The Editor

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

March 22, 2004

Limited levels of toxins still pose big risks

Julie Bell's article "A little poison, a big help?" (March 15) could be interpreted as giving credence to the notion that exposures to small amounts of toxic substances in our food, water and air and from everyday products may actually be good for us, and that perhaps we should relax environmental and occupational standards as a result.

This view does not square with the tremendous complexity of the problem of toxic chemicals in our environment. And it is difficult to see the relevance of controlled experiments that purport to show that low doses of some chemicals are beneficial when in the real world we have vulnerable populations such as young children and the chronically ill and chemical exposures occur over very long periods of time, during different stages of life and to very complex combinations of chemicals.

Even if "therapeutic" levels of a known toxin did exist, it would be poor public policy to assume that everyone's "good" dose was the same, and ignore the likelihood that some people might be exceptionally sensitive to the chemical's harmful effects and to the near impossibility of limiting exposures to the "therapeutic" levels.

Fortunately, the article did highlight the controversy surrounding the concept of hormesis and noted the increasing evidence of harmful impacts from very low doses of an ever-expanding list of environmental toxins. But unfortunately, while highlighting the work of one individual, the article did not highlight the fact that his views are not generally shared by the scientific or regulatory community.

Joel Tickner David Kriebel Lowell, Mass.

The writers are professors in the department of work environment at the University of Massachusetts, Lowell.

Inflated prices ruin the promise of pills

The Sun articles "Miracle' biotech drugs growing in use and cost" (March 16) and "Seniors are saying, `Put it on the plastic'" (March 17) underscore a contradiction arising from the nation's growing dependency on costly prescription drugs - the promise of enjoying life while managing disease, and the increased personal debt for income-limited seniors and the uninsured who are attempting to make good on that promise.

Manufacturers who claim drug prices can't be reduced, or at least held to the rate of inflation, as AARP has recently challenged them to do, have been selling the public a disingenuous placebo.

In early spring, the pharmaceutical industry will see significant increases in the usage of prescription drugs as a result of the new Medicare law. If nothing else, the increased sales volume should allow for additional efficiencies and lower prices for all consumers.

Let's see what excuse the industry will use next to justify maintaining the unconscionable and skyrocketing cost of prescription drugs.

Frank Bailey

Baltimore

The writer is Maryland state director for the AARP.

Medicare deception fits Bush's pattern

The recent allegation that the chief actuary for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services was threatened with firing if he revealed the true costs of the prescription drug benefit fits a disturbing pattern for the Bush administration ("White House OKs probe of drug cost," March 18).

Perhaps the most egregious example of withholding the truth was the White House decision to muzzle the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's data on airborne toxins in New York after Sept. 11, 2001 ("New Yorkers sue EPA over post-9/11 air quality," March 11). I cannot imagine any more callous disregard for the brave workers who toiled so hard.

The pattern extends to the way the case for war was presented and debated.

Time after time, this administration has decided that because it could not win debates based on the full and honest exchange of information, it would do all it could to withhold information that was contrary to its cause.

Unfortunately, we all bear the costs of such unprincipled policies.

Tim Eastman

Baltimore

Hormones in feed make us less healthy

Good for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for moving toward a ban on giving antibiotics to chickens ("Planned ban on antibiotic given to poultry advances," March 17).

Now if it would just ban growth hormones in animals raised for food, the United States might become a healthier and slimmer nation.

Anne Hackney

Parkton

Non-native species must be controlled

I am curious what animal rights groups think of the plans to "wipe out" the entire population of the emerald ash borer ("Maryland declares war on ash borer," March 13).

These non-native beetles are believed to have come to the United States from Asia, and are almost always fatal to infested ash trees.

The beetles have now been discovered in several Maryland counties.

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