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Sierra Magazine
Letters

POLLUTION SLEUTHS

Kudos to Bruce Selcraig for "What You Don't Know Can Hurt You" (January/ February). It is true, as he wrote, that the Toxic Release Inventory (TRI) is one of the greatest environmental tools given to communities in 20 years. Yet too few people know about it.

I had only vaguely heard of the TRI myself when Mike Meuser, who is working toward a doctorate in environmental sociology at UC Santa Cruz, began a project using TRI data. He and I embarked on an Internet mapping project together, creating a first-of-its-kind community map of TRI data in the Santa Cruz area. We posted it on the Internet and included information about the polluting chemicals at www.mapcruzin.com/scruztri.

As a result of our project, people will be better able to participate in making decisions that involve protection of the environment and their health from the adverse effects of toxic pollution. Informed communities do make healthy communities. We're hoping to expand our work to other regions. Far more people need this information.
Marie Clary
Santa Cruz, California
mclary@cruzio.com

Editor's note: In our January/February issue, we printed an incorrect World Wide Web address for obtaining TRI data from the EPA. The correct address is www.epa.gov/tri/.

WILDLIFE GENOCIDE

I was very disturbed by the information in the January/February issue on hormone-disrupting chemicals ("Hormone Impostors"). The article should have been called wildlife genocide. We as humankind are deciding which species survive and which are eliminated through the use of synthetic chemicals. We as a society must change the way we value and view the lives of the wild.
Mary Winn
Martinez, California

Thanks for your article on Our Stolen Future ("Hormone Impostors"). Do you suppose that the chemical industry and our legislators would be more concerned about the environmental prevalence of hormone mimics and antagonists if it were emphasized that prenatal hormones seem to control the development of adult sexual orientation in humans?
Yadviga Dowmont-Halsey
Seattle, Washington

My own experience and the use of these chemicals provide some (admittedly nonquantitative) counterexamples to the thesis of endocrine disruption.

I recall that in the decade following World War II, DDT was available in the grocery store, and we, like other families, sprayed it around the kitchen with our flit sprayer. Yet my generation produced the "baby boom"; my husband and I have four children and most of their schoolmates' families included three or four or more children. One of my children is, for completely unrelated reasons, a DES daughter, and she has had no reproductive problems either. I am a chemist, and spent the years from about 1950 to 1974 working with many of these substances in laboratories that were poorly ventilated. This is not an argument for widespread use of DDT, or for the use of DES in pregnancy, or for a return to pre-OSHA laboratory conditions, which were appalling. Any epidemiology of endocrine disruption should explain and include such counterexamples, however.
Ruth Weiner
Albuquerque, New Mexico

Author Dianne Dumanoski replies: The real-life experience cited by Ms. Weiner is not inconsistent with the endocrine disruption hypothesis. Wildlife studies and laboratory experiments with animals have shown that adults can often tolerate sizable doses of such persistent compounds as DDT or dioxin without evidence of impaired reproduction. So it is not remarkable that those first exposed to DDT as adults after World War II produced a baby boom.

Hormone-disrupting chemicals are not ordinary poisons and do not behave according to the traditional principles of toxicology. In many instances, the timing of the exposure is more important than the intensity of the dose. Because hormones play a vital role in orchestrating early development, these compounds pose the greatest hazard to those first exposed in the womb. At this vulnerable time of life, a tiny dose of a hormonally active chemical may disrupt development and have lifelong consequences. Here again, timing is all. The precise timing of exposure may explain why some women whose mothers took DES suffered devastating damage to their reproductive systems while others did not.

AT LOGGERHEADS

Surely Carl Pope would not object to my providing "the rest of the story" on the unprecedented state/federal partnership to protect the virgin Headwaters Forest in California ("Ways & Means," January/February).

Our current work to acquire Headwaters was not prompted by the threat of a takings lawsuit. Rather we are engaged in this effort because Californians (including the Sierra Club) have long urged its protection. Governor Pete Wilson first declared his desire to protect Headwaters in 1991 and has worked toward that end ever since.

Contrary to Pope's assertion, we seek no less than the permanent protection of the largest contiguous stand of privately owned old-growth redwoods in the world. The significance of this proposal is reflected in the total value of the state and federal properties we have offered for trade--$380 million. The state share--$130 million--is only slightly smaller than the Land and Water Conservation Fund allocation nationwide. When will the Sierra Club get off the sidelines and join this historic campaign to protect the Headwaters Forest forever?
Douglas P. Wheeler
California Secretary for Resources
Sacramento, California

Sierra Club Executive Director Carl Pope replies: The point of my column was to express the Club's objections to takings legislation, not to point out the inadequacies of the state/federal plan for Headwaters' purchase. Concern over a possible takings lawsuit has been explicitly cited by federal negotiators as weakening their hand in dealing with Charles Hurwitz, the Texas financier who wants to log the Headwaters Forest.

Far from sitting on the sidelines, the Sierra Club, along with other environmental groups, has repeatedly sued Governor Wilson's administration and the state of California to prevent logging in this ecosystem. It is the Wilson administration that refused to fill vacancies on the State Board of Forestry when filling those vacancies would have allowed the board to prevent unregulated salvage logging in four of the six virgin groves in the Headwaters Forest. It is the Wilson administration that has consistently argued for allowing Hurwitz to log redwood groves at an unsustainable rate, thereby increasing the incentive to log rather than find a way to transfer his holdings into public ownership.

It is the Wilson administration that defines the Headwaters Forest as a limited, 7,000-acre area, rather than looking, as biologists and the Sierra Club have urged, at the entire 60,000-acre ecosystem that needs protection. The proposed state/federal purchase leaves open the issue of whether the remaining virgin groves will be logged and how the corridors and buffer zones that surround these areas will be protected.

If Governor Wilson would stop providing downfield blocking for Charles Hurwitz, the entire Headwaters Forest could still be saved.

OUT OF REACH

I agree with the concept of the article "To Every Fruit There Is a Season" (January/February). Let's be realistic, however. Right now the price of organically grown food is out of the reach of the average middle-class family. As long as agribusiness is owned or controlled by the chemical companies that produce the pesticides and fertilizer, nothing will change.
Robert E. Fullerton
Independence, Missouri

CORRECTION

In "Edge of Eden" (January/February), we incorrectly identified the largest of the U.S. Virgin Islands. It is, in fact, St. Croix.

Sierra welcomes letters from readers in response to recently published articles. Letters may be edited for length and clarity. Write to us at 85 Second St., Second Floor, San Francisco, CA 94105-3441; fax (415) 977-5794; e-mail: sierra.letters@sierraclub.org.


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