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Water

To our readers

Ensuring environmental sustainability is a goal – Goal 7 – of the United Nations Millennium Development Goals and Muriella’s Corner is committed to support its implementation, in partnership with all who intend to help more than one billion people release their creative energies, to help free them from the shackles of a life of continuing and overwhelming poverty.

Some of you might have noticed that water has been a recurring topic* on Muriella’s Corner and blogs. This seeming bias is due to almost three decades of work in the United Nations in the area of environment, water and sanitation.

REMEMBER TO STAND UP FOR THE ELIMINATION OF POVERTY ON

17 OCTOBER 2007

Muriella’s Corner

*These are earlier issues on water
To filter or not…
End of an era…error?
Environment and you
Water, water, ice
Tips for Travelers to the Tropics

Most of my work took me to developing countries over short and long periods, working with communities, governments and not-for-profit agencies in the drilling of wells, installation of handpumps, building of latrines.

The theme of water vibrates around the globe. In most developing countries, water quantity and water quality are main hurdles for the people. In others, water quality is the main challenge.

I have seen, first hand, the pain and suffering diseases cause to families who ingest and bathe in water populated by parasites – diseases like dracunculiasis (guinea worm), schisostomiasis,bilharziasis, and all the -isises- you can think of.

People’s lives are very affected, too ill to work, not enough time to go to school as fetching water is one of the main duties, especially of girls, and so on.

But they are forced to drink what is available, even though the source is questionable.

They have no CHOICE.

On the other hand, in the developed countries, there is no lack of water. In the quest to make the water potable, many chemicals are added. One of the most insidious is chlorine.

But, since exotic diseases are not present in the water supply, people are hardly concerned about the chemicals and as such continue to drink,shower and bathe in chlorinated water (swimming pools reek of chlorine).

Some are buying bottled water, but here again, hardly any attention is given to health issues – e.g. the water source from which the water is bottled is questionable; the plastic containers are questionable, pollution issues, the financial costs of buying a bottle of water – not enough to drink per day; no attention given to the water used for showering, bathing, cooking, etc., etc.

What is to be done?

The most important thing, we believe, is for people to know that they have a choice. Information propelled them to be users of bottled water, to choose to drink bottled water instead of tap water. But if their grasp of what propelled them is understood overall, they would also be concerned about the water used for showering, bathing, cooking.

We have prepared a comprehensive newsletter on Water with the following headings:

The Water Cure
Different types of water
Bottled Water – clear choices
Brands of Bottled Water; Filtration systems
Chlorine and cancer?
Chlorine and Asthma?
Testimony on drinking water
Discussion H2O

Given the amount of information this entails, we have decided to send it to you in short sips, so that you can click through and read the article you prefer. We recommend however that you read all of them as they will be of use to you as you make your choices.

We have also developed podcasts on water and can make them available upon request.

We will continue the focus on drinking water (quality and quantity), given the focus on this issues as Goal 7 of the Millennium Development Goals

-Reducing poverty and achieving sustained development must be done in conjunction with a healthy planet. The Millennium Goals recognize that environmental sustainability is part of global economic and social well-being. Unfortunately exploitation of natural resources such as forests, land, water, and fisheries-often by the powerful few-have caused alarming changes in our natural world in recent decades, often harming the most vulnerable people in the world who depend on natural resources for their livelihood.

Goal 7 of the Millennium Development Goals sets out by the year 2015 to:

  • Integrate the principles of sustainable development into country policies and programmes; reverse loss of environmental resources.
  • Reduce by half the proportion of people without sustainable access to safe drinking water.
  • Achieve significant improvement in lives of at least 100 million slum dwellers, by 2020. (Source: millenniumcampaign.org)

For full articles and links go to this webpage

Thank you

Muriella’s Corner

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Toothpaste or soap – your choice

 Toothpaste from China recall?

The FDA is considering the withdrawal of several brands of toothpaste made in China from shelves in the market place because they contain traces of a chemical know to be hazardous to health (CNN Breaking News).

Diethylene glycol ( an industrial solvent used in engine coolants and anti-freeze) was found in toothpaste sold in the Dominican Republic and Panama .

In the 36,000 tubes of possibly contaminated toothpaste were tubes of toothpaste marketed for children with bubble gum and strawberry flavors sold under the name of “Mr. Cool Junior.”

FDA is checking toothpaste imports from other countries, including China. In Australia there is some evidence of contaminated toothpaste.

Wash your mouth with soap (click here for earlier blog on this topic).

Know about the link between fluoride and other chemicals in toothpaste, toxic chemicals in tap water, and your dental health.

For those, like me, who would like to save their teeth and heal their gums, try Tooth Soap.

Find out all about FDA alerts and recalls here.

Music for the Environment – Green Music

Forest Music, Water Music

We honor our family from the various ecological zones (ecozones) who make up this planet, this one earth, in which we live and which we cherish so dearly.

Our family can be found in forests, deserts (and these members are usually of a nomadic nature, really cherishing the planet by moving and laying fallow the earth for regeneration and sustenance).  However, with the destruction of forests their lifestyle is being compromised.  Their songs and poetry tell their tale.

Some of our relatives live in mountainous regions, some on the plains, some on small island states, with many of them deserting their natural habitats, which are being devastated, and moving in droves to urban areas…also being influenced by overcrowing, overpopulation, lack of sustainable services…

We decided to share music from others living in the various ecozones

Pygmy music/forest music

The Pygmies are usually forest nomads who live in Central Africa, especially in Congo, Central African Republic and Cameroon. Music is an important part of Pygmy life, with performances taking place during their daily work or events. Music comes in many forms, including the spiritual likanos stories, singing and music played from a variety of instruments.

Water, our sine qua non

Water means life.  Without water there is no life.  Our bodies are made up of water ( 75 % of our bodies are composed of water; our brain is 85% water). It is water that energizes and activates the solid matter.

People carry out rituals with water and in water.  At times, they organize to collectively hug a body of water (lake, stream, river…) Much is being talked about the power of water and the potential influence of water and the thought process.  One researcher did water experiments where he played both hard rock and classical music to water samples. Then he froze them and examined the musical effects on the water’s molecules. The more beautiful the music, the more beautiful the shapes of the molecules.

Water is energy.  We are energy.  Connecting the two can make beautiful music, if we choose to see that water can be a friend and not an enemy; if we choose to use these energies to bring about peace and harmony.

Click here for information http://snipurl.com/1khkk

Drinking Water Sampling Stations

Local communities/school children  can get involved in sampling drinking water too

How many of us have seen a Drinking Water Sampling Station on the sidewalks in Manhattan?  How many stopped to figure out what it was all about?

Over 800 Drinking Water Sampling Stations, at a cost of $11 million,  have been installed  citywide over 10 years ago, with the aim of providing a uniform and sanitary sampling environment that will improve the efficiency of water sampling efforts, and thereby help protect public health.

DEP collects more than 1,300 water samples per month from 488 locations. Water samples are analyzed for bacteria, chlorine levels, pH, inorganic and organic pollutants, turbidity, odor, and many other water quality indicators.

Locations for the stations were chosen based on the need to gather representative samples of the water quality in all distribution areas. Consequently, factors such as population density, water pressure zones, proximity to water mains, and accessibility were considered.

The stations rise about 4 1/2 feet above the ground and are made of heavy cast iron. Inside, a 3/4 inch copper tube feeds water from a nearby water main into the station. Each station is equipped with a spigot from which water samples are taken.

THEY ARE VERY NOTICEABLE, YET GO LARGELY UNNOTICED.

Given that citizens hardly participate in efforts to improve drinking water quality, I wonder if this would be a good participatory project for citizens and EPA/DEP to work on.

Unfortunately, it is not clear whether communities participated in the decision to locate the sampling stations, and as such, I do not know how many sampling stations are installed near public schools. 

A project with potential for communities and providers collaborating would be highly beneficial for the municipality.  If school children could have been included to work together as a practicum with  EPA/DEP technicians in understanding more about water quality and health, their efforts might have led to greater participation of communities in  caring about their drinking water, knowing what is in the water, and working together with EPA/DEP to find ways to improve water quality in our taps.

Communities would thus have  had first-hand information about the quality of the water in their taps, information with which to make informed decisions on filtering or not filtering out the contaminants in the water, some of which seem to be imbedded.  They would know firsthand the type and significance of these contaminants and their potential for harm to the public. They would know why the contaminants are in the water, and why they should be in drinking water.

Their interest in water quality would also lead them to the source of our water supply – the watersheds – and increase their involvement in their protection.  So far, it is not clear whether  communities other than New York have water sampling stations.  But, the watershed partners would also include those actually sampling the water downstream and provide a wonderful understanding of the relationship between source and point of supply.

The study of the Natural Resources Defence Council (NDRC) “What’s on Tap” (see http://snipurl.com/1iuhs)  the Government — whether city, state or federal — should be doing all it can to ensure that citizens get clean, safe drinking water every time they turn on a faucet or stop at a public water fountain. And an informed, involved citizenry is the key to the process; it’s our hope that What’s on Tap? will encourage all Americans to look into the quality of their city’s water supply, and to demand that our elected officials do what’s necessary to provide safe tap water.

School children would begin to understand the unnecessary expenditure of their parents on bottled water, as. through their intimate involvement with drinking water quality issues, it would become clear to them  that what is in the bottle might be just as, or even more harmful than the tap water, as they could also take samples of the bottled water they have with them in schools and compare with the tap water in their location.

The information would help them decide whether to filter their own water instead of drinking tap or bottled water, and the benefits and disadvantages of doing so.

And so on.

In other words, the Drinking Water Sampling Stations could provide a good basis for citizen participation in monitoring water quality and understanding issues surrounding water quality and water filtration  (see http://snipurl.com/1hho4)

 

Source:  http://www.nyc.gov/html/dep/html/sampling.html

Note:

The Information Collection Rule (ICR) was an 18-month program instituted by the EPA to collect information and assess health problems related to waterborne disease-causing organisms and disinfection byproducts (DBPs). Water samples were collected from municipalities with populations of greater than 100,000 that employ surface water, e.g., rivers, for their drinking water source. These samples were analyzed for select chemicals, parasites, and viruses. The program started in July 1997 and ran through December 1998. EPA plans to use the data generated from these samples to determine whether to revise or promulgate new regulations for controlling DBPs or pathogenic organisms in drinking water. Read more

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Make your own bottled water and save the planet

update:

Friday, November 2, 2007

Chlorine and human health

The Medical College Of Wisconsin research team asserts that there is an association between cancer and chlorinated water, based on one of their studies.

After more than 100 years of chlorine being added to drinking water as a standard and cheap way of making water drinkable, the jury are now saying that the long term effects of drinking chlorinated water pose a higher cancer risk than for those drinking non-chlorinated water. – i.e. we drink bleach!(U.S. Council Of Environmental Quality).

Get a filter or be a filter!

Note from The Editor, Muriella’s Corner

A recent visit to a friend prompted me to revisit this article on water. She is suffering from an inflammatory disease and was told to drink lots of water. She buys bottled water at $10.00 a case of 35, and at times drinks 3-4 bottles a day, which means that in 9 days she has to repurchase. In a month, she has already spent about $40.00 on bottled water for drinking. In a year she will have spent $480.00, and could, if the bottles are not recycled, produce 140 plastic bottles a month as garbage, or 1,680 plastic bottles a year.

For families who buy bottled water, consideration should be given to buying a water filter and a shower filter. In addition to the health effects(drink, cook, shower with filtered water) and the economic gain over time, we would not contribute as much to polluting the environment with plastic.

If we stop and think for a moment, we would realise that our being on automatic could affect our health, finances and our environment.

See below for information on water filtration. With regard to the pollution of the environment, our first effort is to become aware ourselves of the amount of plastics we use that contribute to the pollution of the planet (e.g. plastic bags and grocery shopping, bottled water in plastic bottles, plastic hangers … When we become aware, we can decide what, if anything to do about it, and do something.

Given the inconsistences among the bottled water sources, why not control your source and, instead of being a filter, get a filter.

Water quality is, in general, getting worse. You usually cannot rely on clean water directly from the faucets in your home, nor from the bottled sources. To treat often-polluted water, cities and government agencies must use more and more chemicals, which affect the taste, color and odor of the water. There are various home filtration models available on the market.

Here are some suggestions below on those I use and promote. To guard the integrity and purity of the water, filters need to be replaced; frequency depends on the quality of water in your area.

Countertop system (dual system filter cartridge sold separately. (http://snipurl.com/1hho4) The countertop filtration system can also be installed under the counter with purchase of filtration kit.
Shower head (with shower wand purchased separately http://snipurl.com/1hhnt), the skin being the largest organ, absorbs the most water daily.  Read more on filters and KDF Filtration systems

See Muriella’s Corner on Chlorine and Asthma and Chlorine and Cancer and Fluoride and Boy’s health http://onlineitools.com/nl/nl-output.php?nl_id=20007&bus_id=2213&plain=0

as well as Muriella’s Corner on fluoride in drinking water

http://snipurl.com/h2ofluor

And water quality issues/water treatment

Editor, Muriella’s Corner

xxxxx

Buying bottled water is wrong, says Suzuki
Environmentalist launches national tour on green issues
Last Updated: Thursday, February 1, 2007 | 12:46 PM ET
CBC News
Canadians wanting to do something about the environment can start by
drinking tap water, environmentalist David Suzuki says.

“Everywhere I go across Canada, I insist I be given tap water when I get up
to speak,” Suzuki told CBC News on Thursday.

David Suzuki says plastic water bottles generate waste and potential
health hazards because of their chemical composition.
(CBC) “I think in Canada it’s absolutely disgusting that people are so
uncertain about their water that we buy it, paying more for bottled water
than we do for gasoline.”

Suzuki – who was in St. John’s on Thursday to launch a cross-country
speaking tour aimed at engaging people in politics, particularly
environmental issues – said there is no good reason for Canadians to buy
bottled water.

Moreover, he said it’s destructive to import bottled water from producers in
countries such as France.

“It’s nuts to be shipping water all the way across the planet, and us –
because we’re so bloody wealthy – we’re willing to pay for that water
because it comes from France,” he said in an interview.

“I don’t believe for a minute that French water is better than Canadian
water. I think that we’ve got to drink the water that comes out of our taps,
and if we don’t trust it, we ought to be raising hell about that.”

Key environmental issues with bottled water, Suzuki said, are waste and
uncertainty over the long-term health effects created by plastic.

“Not only does bottled water lead to unbelievable pollution – with old
bottles lying all over the place – but plastic has chemicals in it,” he
said.

“Plastics are ubiquitous. I don’t believe that plastics are not involved in
a great deal of the health problems that we face today.”

Last August, delegates to the United Church of Canada’s general council
voted to discourage the purchase of bottled water within its churches. The
motion called on church members to advocate against the “privatization of
water” and to support healthy local supplies of water.
xxxxxxxxx
Bottled water from different sources

When shopping for bottled water, you first need to know the different types. The following are the types of water that conform to the Standards of Identity as set forth by the United States Food and Drug Administration.

Artesian Water/Artesian Well Water — Bottled water from a well that taps a confined aquifer (a water-bearing underground layer of rock or sand) in which the water level stands at some height above the top of the aquifer.

Drinking Water: Drinking water is another name for bottled water. Accordingly, drinking water is water that is sold for human consumption in sanitary containers and contains no added sweeteners or chemical additives (other than flavors, extracts or essences). It must be calorie-free and sugar-free. Flavors, extracts or essences may be added to drinking water, but they must comprise less than one-percent-by-weight of the final product or the product will be considered a soft drink. Drinking water may be sodium-free or contain very low amounts of sodium.

Mineral Water — Bottled water containing not less than 250 parts per million total dissolved solids may be labeled as mineral water. Mineral water is distinguished from other types of bottled water by its constant level and relative proportions of mineral and trace elements at the point of emergence from the source. No minerals can be added to this product.

Purified Water — Water that has been produced by distillation, deionization, reverse osmosis or other suitable processes while meeting the definition of purified water in the United States Pharmacopoeia may be labeled as purified bottled water. [This can mean plain tap water has been purified by one of the above three processes.]

Other suitable product names for bottled water treated by one of the above processes may include “distilled water” if it is produced by distillation, “deionized water” if it is produced by deionization or “reverse osmosis water” if the process used is reverse osmosis. Alternatively, “___ drinking water” can be used with the blank being filled in with one of the terms defined in this paragraph (e.g., “purified drinking water” or “distilled drinking water”).

Sparkling Bottled Water — Water that after treatment, and possible replacement with carbon dioxide, contains the same amount of carbon dioxide that it had as it emerged from the source. Sparkling bottled waters may be labeled as “sparkling drinking water,” “sparkling mineral water,” “sparkling spring water,” etc.

Spring Water — Bottled water derived from an underground formation from which water flows naturally to the surface of the earth. Spring water must be collected only at the spring or through a borehole tapping the underground formation feeding the spring. Spring water collected with the use of an external force must be from the same underground stratum as the spring and must have all the physical properties before treatment, and be of the same composition and quality as the water that flows naturally to the surface of the earth.

Well Water — Bottled water from a hole bored, drilled or otherwise constructed in the ground, which taps the water aquifer.

Without taking taste into consideration, the best deals on buying bottled water are found at shopping clubs such as Costco Wholesale. Grocery stores have the next-best deals, while convenience stores are pricey. A bottle at a convenience store commonly costs three to four times more than one purchased in bulk at a shopping club.
The bottled water business has grown phenomenally in recent years.

According to data from Beverage Marketing Corporation, bottled water sales in the United States has increased by almost 50 percent from 1999 to 2004, from 17.3 billion liters to 25.8.

While choosing bottled water over tap water due to safety concerns is a major reason for consumers spending more than a dollar a gallon on the liquid (in some cases it costs more per gallon than gasoline!), other people buy it because they prefer the taste over tap water or they like the convenience of the bottles when traveling.

The health concern is real. In the United States the vast majority of tap water is safe to drink due to testing and regulations, but in some other countries contaminated public water is a constant threat. One thing to keep in mind is most bottled water does not contain fluoride, and most American tap water is enhanced with the cavity-fighting substance. People who choose to exclusively drink bottled water may want to consider fluoride supplements, especially for their children.

To some people, the thought of one brand of bottled water tasting better than a comparable product is ridiculous. To illustrate that belief, in 2003 comedians Penn and Teller conducted a taste test in an upscale restaurant. Diners lavished praise on what they thought was expensive bottled water and picked their favorites, but all containers were filled from the same garden hose.

Nonetheless, many shoppers insist they can tell a difference between brands and buy accordingly.

The price between tap and bottled water is significant for several reasons, including the cost of the land where the water originates, plus the bottles, putting water in bottles and then transporting bottles to points of sale.

Some water bottles are made of petroleum resin, and as the price of oil increases so does the water. Such bottles don’t decompose, which adds an environmental cost to the equation.

Brands of Bottled Water; Filtration systems

Here’s how some brands compare, listed from least to most expensive:

Deer Park Spring Water, price per 1/2-liter bottle.

Costco: 13.4 cents (35-bottle pack)
Wal-Mart: 20.8 cents (24 bottles)
Bi-Lo: 20.8 cents (24 bottles, with frequent shopper card) or 29.1 cents (without frequent shopper card)
Food Lion: 25 cents (24 bottles)
Convenience store: 79 cents.

Dasani, price per 1/2-liter bottle

Food Lion: 29.1 cents (24 bottles)
Bi-Lo: 33.3 cents (24 bottles)
Convenience store: $1.29 for a slightly larger 591mL bottle.

Aquafina, price per 1/2-liter bottle.

Bi-Lo: 25 cents (24 pack, with frequent shopper card) or 47.9 cents (without card)
Food Lion: 48.3 cents (12 pack)
Wal-Mart: 50 cents (6 pack)
Convenience store: $1.49 for a slightly larger 591mL bottle.

Dasani flavored

Convenience store: $1.29 for 591mL
Wal-Mart: 37.3 cents for 355mL
Bi-Lo: 43.6 cents for 355mL

AqualCal flavored water, price per 1/2 liter

Wal-Mart: 47 cents
Bi-Lo: 59.8 cents
Convenience store: 99 cents.

Evian

Wal-Mart: $1.58 per liter or $1.98 for 1.5 liters
Bi-Lo: $1.59 per liter, 90 cents per half-liter or 74.8 cents for 330mL

Perrier

Costco: 53.7 cents for 330mL
Bi-Lo: 82.3 cents for 1/2 liter or $1.50 for 1 liter
Food Lion: 82.3 cents for 330mL or $1.49 for 750mL

Store brands

Costco: 13 cents for 1/2 liter
Food Lion: 16.6 cents for 1/2 liter
Wal-Mart: 17.8 cents for 591mL
Bi-Lo: 19.5 cents for 1/2 liter with frequent shopper card; 20.8 cents without.

Sources: David Suzuki, Environmentalist; Becky Billingsley, The Food Syndicate.

For documentary on breast cancer, click here

The Dirty Dozen – 12 frankenfoods to know

The 12 fruits and vegetables that are most contaminated with pesticides; 12 that are least contaminated

from http://snipurl.com/1h8pi

 Next time you’re at the supermarket debating whether to pay more for a pint of organic strawberries than you do for your lunch — or deciding if you should choose that wilted organic celery over the crisp green conventional stalks — you might want to refer to the Environmental Working Group’s new wallet-size Shoppers’ Guide. The not-for-profit group lists the “Dirty Dozen” (the 12 fruits and veggies that are the most contaminated with pesticides) and the “Cleanest 12” (those that generally have the lowest amounts of pesticides).

There have been some ratings revisions since the last Guide came out in October 2003. For instance, carrots are off the “bad” list now but lettuce is on it. Cauliflower has fallen from grace but cabbage has made the cut and is now on the “good list.” Here are the full lists.The “Dirty Dozen” (starting with the worst)

  • peaches
  • apples
  • sweet bell peppers
  • celery
  • nectarines
  • strawberries
    cherries
  • pears
    grapes (imported)
    spinach
    lettuce
    potatoes

The “Cleanest 12” (starting with the best)

  • onions
    avocados
    sweet corn (frozen)
  • pineapples
  • mangoes
  • asparagus
  • sweet peas (frozen)
  • kiwi fruit
  • bananas
  • cabbage
    broccoli
  • papaya

To come up with its rankings, the Environmental Working Group looked at the results of close to 43,000 tests for pesticides on produce by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. A computer analysis by the EWG found that consumers could reduce their pesticide exposure by nearly 90 percent by avoiding the most contaminated fruits and vegetables and eating the least contaminated instead. People who eat the “Dirty Dozen” will be exposed to an average of 15 different pesticides per day, says Richard Wiles, executive director of the Environmental Working Group, while eating from the “Cleanest 12” means you’ll be exposed to less than two pesticides per day. So if produce from the “Dirty Dozen” is on your menu, it makes sense from a health standpoint to choose organic.

Of course, health concerns aren’t the only reasons people choose organic foods. It takes an enormous amount of fuel to make synthetic fertilizers, explains Wiles. “Conventional agriculture is very energy inefficient,” he says.

On the other hand, costly and polluting fuel is required to transport both conventional and organic fruit and vegetables from farms to grocery stores — produce is often shipped to the U.S. from as far away as New Zealand. So does this mean you’re better off eating a locally grown nonorganic apple than an organic one from the other side of the world? Perhaps the solution, Wiles says, is to encourage local farmers to start growing organic crops. For example, begin by asking farmers whether they used pesticides on their apples, Wiles advises. “The more that local production can be moved toward organic, the better,” he says.
Meanwhile, even if you can’t always afford or find organic produce, there are steps you can take to get rid of some of the pesticides on conventional produce. Since washing reduces pesticides by anywhere from one third to one half, thoroughly scrub and rinse everything, even produce that will be peeled. Then consider making yourself a pesticide-reduced dinner tonight.How does a menu of Guacamole, Tropical Fruit Salsa, and Cilantro-Lime Chicken Fajitas with Grilled Onions sound?

Sources: epicurious.com; ewg.org

Blacks/African Americans and cancer – updated

Update: Gene variant that could double risk of cancer in black men identified. While discovery could lead to new treatment, it could also affect other populations.

It was reported in US News Health Day that almost twice as many black men develop prostate cancer as white men, researchers report. This study confirms that common genetic variants are linked to increased risk for prostate cancer. One of these variants, on the 8q24 gene, confers a particularly significant risk to black men.

For more information on male health, the prostate, prostate cancer go to Muriella’s Corner online newsletter

November 2007

Congresswoman McDonald dies of Cancer

source:http://caribjournal.com

rep-millender-mcdonalds-death-reported-in-california.jpgCalifornia Congresswoman Juanita Millender-McDonald has died at her home in Carson, California. She was 68.

A democrat for seven terms, McDonald asked for a four to six week leave of absence from the House to deal with her illness, after being diagnosed with cancer. The type of cancer Millender-McDonald was battling has not been disclosed.

President and Mrs. Bush issued condolences via the White House website:
“Laura and I are deeply saddened by the death of Congresswoman Juanita Millender-McDonald of California. She was a dedicated public servant who tirelessly and honorably served her country for many years. We hold Rep. Millender-McDonald’s family, friends, staff, and constituents in our thoughts and prayers.”

Millender-McDonald was the first African-American woman to chair the House Administration Committee.

She is survived by her husband James McDonald, Jr., five adult children and several grandchildren.

She is the second member of Congress to die of cancer this year. The first was Rep. Charles Norwood (R-Ga.), who died in February after battling cancer and lung disease.

Blacks and cancer

Research shows that Blacks from the diaspora and African Americans have the highest death and shortest survival rate among ethnic groups diagnosed with cancer, i.e., they have the highest mortality of any racial/ethnic group for all cancers combined while African American men have the highest overall cancer rates.

There are many reasons for this phenomenon – time of diagnosis (usually late stage diagnosis); lack of access to adequate health care; less knowledge (or even denial) about cancer symptoms; and lack of awareness or limited access to cancer screening services.

Other important reasons for late diagnosis and early deaths are the pervasive myths that surround a diagnosis of cancer within this diverse community. Many blacks immigrate with their health belief systems intact and are at times very loathe to change.

These beliefs can be that cancer is always fatal and therefore once contracted there is no need for treatment, to the idea that cancer is a punishment or retribution for someone’s bad behavior. The machismo factor among some male members of this community might be among the reasons for high tolerance/high threshold for pain. For them, engagning in preventive health behavior might not be macho, hence they delay going to the doctor until it is too late.

Language plays an important part in the understanding of the diagnostic process. In addition, the shortage of black medical personal specializing in the different “ologies” of the disease also introduce a communication and relational barrier to the doctor-patient relationship. Many might agree that poverty is directly linked to poor health care, however, it could be stressed that having more black doctors would help end a legacy of suspicion in the black community.

For example, people have knowledge about a study that intentionally left black men untreated for syphilis (the Tuskegee study where 400 black men were left untreated so that the disease could be studied for 40 years, even though penicillin was used as a cure during the time); and the rumor that a famous blues singer (Bessie Smith) bled to death from an accident because she was turned away from a white hospital have contributed to that legacy.

The non-participation or reduced participation of these communities in the screening process might also play a large role in the high incidence/prevalence of cancer among them. Emotions might affect frequency of visits to health care services, as anxiety of the results produces more fear than the possibility of having the dreaded disease.

And to top it off, lack of health insurance. Many people in these communities do not want to know that they have anything wrong with them, as their fear is not only about knowing but also about what would they be able to do with the knowledge that they have cancer, how would they access treatment modalities. Their focus might be on disease care (wait until…) and not on health care, which might just correlate with the overall focus of the health system. Prevention is not seen as necessary for maintaining good health, but treating a disease is.

Thus, at times there is complete denial among many Blacks and African Americans as they are afraid to know. Moreover, the daily battle to survive in a country that can be insensitive to the needs of immigrants, the poor, the sick, and distressed is so overwhelming that many Blacks and African Americans ignore the warning signs. Until it is too late.

There is a preponderance of Black/African American men in jails – we might not agree with how they happen to land in jail, but we might have some understanding as to why they are incarcerated.

There is a preponderance of Black/African American men dying of cancer – we know and agree on the why – however, what can we do about it?

More light needs to be thrown on this subject.

Medical schools need to orient more Blacks/African Americans to specialize more in the “ologies” like histology, radiology, oncology, urology, immunology, etc…, since we do have quite a few black sociologists, psychologists…

Political pundits need to take this on as an issue in their campaigns.

The Black/African American community needs to develop a combined strategy for addressing this issue of targeted health care and examine what each of us can do at the individual level to support ourselves, our families, each other.

We support the celebrities who courageously come forward to speak about their diagnoses, and we mourn those celebrities who died of this disease.

Muriella’s Corner believes that the discussion and dialogue need to be driven by the causes of cancer among the Black and African American communities. The discussion and dialogue need to be driven by those who make up the statistics, the ordinary man and woman courageously confronting or negating the disease. How are they coping? How can they be helped? What about health insurance? health education?

Muriella’s Corner would like to hear from you. Email us at customerservice@clik-n-shoppe.com

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