More than 80 percent of patient-advocacy organizations accept funding from drug and medical-device companies. For some patient groups, the donations from industry accounted for more than half of their annual income, and in nearly 40 percent of cases, industry executives sit on governing boards.
2017 Study Abstract
In this examination of 104 large patient-advocacy organizations, 83% receive financial support from drug, device, and biotechnology companies, and industry executives often serve on governing boards. The authors recommend more transparency about industry involvement.
Conflicts of Interest for Patient-Advocacy Organizations, The New England Journal of Medicine, DOI: 10.1056/NEJMsr1610625, March 2, 2017.
More Than 80 Percent of Patient Groups Accept Drug Industry Funds, Study Shows, nytimes, MARCH 1, 2017.
Pharma Funded “Patient” Groups Keep Drug Prices Astronomical, counterpunch, MARCH 6, 2017.
Envoyé Spécial 16 mars 2017 : Enquête sur le Scandale de la Dépakine
Cet anti-épileptique est accusé d’avoir provoqué de graves malformations sur les enfants exposés in utero. Retour sur un scandale sanitaire et sur l’inertie des autorités de santé.
En savoir plus
Envoyé Spécial, émission du 16/03/2017 – Dépakine, le silence des médecins – Enquête sur le scandale de la Dépakine, un anti-épileptique pointé du doigt pour ses effets secondaires : chez la femme enceinte, il peut entraîner des malformations et des troubles neurologiques chez le nouveau-né.
Glyphosate not classified as a carcinogen by ECHA, March 2017
Helsinki, 15 March 2017 – The European Chemicals Agency (ECHA)’s Committee for Risk Assessment (RAC) assessed glyphosate’s hazardousness against the criteria in the Classification, Labelling and Packaging Regulation. They considered extensive scientific data in coming to their opinion.
The committee concluded that the scientific evidence available at the moment warrants the following classifications for glyphosate according to the CLP Regulation:
Eye Damage 1; H318 (Causes serious eye damage)
Aquatic Chronic 2; H411 (Toxic to aquatic life with long lasting effects)
RAC concluded that the available scientific evidence did not meet the criteria in the CLP Regulation to classify glyphosate for specific target organ toxicity, or as a carcinogen, as a mutagen or for reproductive toxicity.
ECHA’s Committee for Risk Assessment (RAC) agrees to maintain the current harmonised classification of glyphosate as a substance causing serious eye damage and being toxic to aquatic life with long-lasting effects.
RAC concluded that the available scientific evidence did not meet the criteria to classify glyphosate as a carcinogen, as a mutagen or as toxic for reproduction.
The hazard classes for which classification was proposed by the German competent authority were specific target organ toxicity (repeated exposure) (category 2), eye damage/irritation (category 1), and toxicity to the aquatic environment (Aquatic Chronic 2).
ECHA also assessed other hazard classes including carcinogenicity, germ cell mutagenicity and reproductive toxicity.
The adopted opinion will go through a normal editorial check before it is sent to the European Commission. The opinion will also be made available on ECHA’s website at the same time.
The adopted opinion on the harmonised classification for glyphosate will be taken into account when the Commission and Member States consider whether to renew the approval to use glyphosate as an active substance in pesticides, later this year.
Apart from the published studies on glyphosate, the committee also had full access to the original reports of studies conducted by industry. RAC has assessed all the scientific data, including any scientifically relevant information received during the public consultation in summer 2016.
RAC had a first discussion on glyphosate with stakeholders at its 39th meeting in December 2016.
RAC provides an independent scientific opinion on the hazard classification of the substance. The classification is based solely on the hazardous properties of the substance. It does not take into account the likelihood of exposure to the substance and therefore does not address the risks of exposure. The risks posed by exposure are considered for example when deciding whether to renew the approval of glyphosate as a pesticide in accordance with the EU’s Plant Protection Product Regulation (Regulation (EC) N° 1107/2009).
This report provides an update and further assessment of the sources, fate and effects of microplastics in the marine environment, carried out by Working Group 40 (WG40) of GESAMP (The Joint Group of Experts on Scientific Aspects of Marine Protection). It follows publication of the first assessment report in this series in April 2015 (GESAMP 2015). The issue of marine plastic litter was raised during the inaugural meeting of the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA) in June 2014. Delegates from 160 countries adopted Resolution 1/6 on ‘Marine plastic debris and microplastics’ (Annex I). The resolution welcomed the work being undertaken by GESAMP on microplastics and requested the Executive Director of UNEP to carry out a study on marine plastics and microplastics. This was to be based on a combination of existing and new studies, including WG40. This provided the motivation for GESAMP to revise the original terms of reference to reflect both the request from UNEP to contribute to the UNEA study, and the key recommendations from the WG40 2015 report.
Each main section begins with key messages followed by a short summary of related findings from the first report. Each section ends with conclusions, knowledge gaps and research priorities. Greater effort has been made to describe the nature, distribution and magnitude of sources of macro- and microplastics. These are described by sea-based and land-based sectors, together with the main entry points to the ocean. Spatial (regional) and temporal differences in both sources and entry points are examined. One previously unrecognized source of secondary microplastics highlighted is debris from vehicle tyres.
The distribution of microplastics in the five main ocean compartments (sea surface, water column, shoreline, seabed and biota) are described, together with the transport mechanisms that regulate fluxes between compartments. Regional ‘hot-spots’ of sources, distribution and accumulation zones are reported, in response to the UNEA request.
The effects of microplastics on marine biota have been explored in greater detail.
Greater attention has been given to the interaction of microplastics with biota. A comprehensive literature review has been assembled with tables summarising the occurrence of microplastics in a wide variety of marine organisms and seabirds. There does appear to be an association between uptake of microplastics and changes in the physiological or biochemical response in some species, observed in laboratory experiments. It is not clear whether this will be significant at a population level with current observed microplastic numbers. The current understanding of the interaction of plasticassociated chemicals with biota is reviewed, using laboratory-based experiments, theoretical studies and field-based observations. It appears very likely that this interaction will be dependent on:
the relative degree of contamination of the plastic, the biota concerned and the marine environment (sediment, water, foodstuff) in that region;
the size, shape and type of plastics;
and several time-related variables (e.g. environmental transport, gut desorption rates).
This remains a contentious area of research. The occurrence of nano-sized plastics in the marine environment has yet to be established and we are dependent on drawing inferences from other fields of science and medicine when considering possible effects. Microplastics can act as vectors for both indigenous and non-indigenous species. Examples include pathogenic Vibrio bacteria, eggs of marine insects and the resting stages of several jellyfish species.
A new section considers the possible effect of microplastics on commercial fish and shellfish. Microplastics have been found in a variety of commercial fish and shellfish, including samples purchased from retail outlets. Generally the numbers of particles per organism are very small, even for filter-feeding bivalves in coastal areas bordered by high coastal populations. At these levels it is not considered likely that microplastics will influence the breeding/development success of fish stocks (food security) nor represent an objective risk to human health (food safety). However, data are rather scarce and this is an area that justifies further attention.
The economic aspects of microplastic contamination are considered in another new section. This relies heavily on studies looking at the effects of macrodebris on various sectors (e.g. fisheries, shipping, tourism, waste management), given the paucity of knowledge of direct economic effects of microplastics. Acting on macroplastics may be easier to justify, as the social, ecological and economic effects are easier to demonstrate. This in turn will reduce the quantities of secondary microplastics being generated in the ocean. One significant cost that may be incurred would be the provision of wastewater treatment capable of filtering out microplastics. Such systems are relatively common in some rich countries but absent in many developing nations. Clearly, there are many other reasons to introduce improved wastewater treatment (nutrient reduction, disease prevention), with reduction in microplastics being an additional benefit.
Social aspects are focused around factors influencing long-term behaviour change, including risk perceptions, perceived responsibility and the influence of demographics. This is key to implementing effective, acceptable measures.
A separate section summarizes good practice guidance on sampling and analysis at sea, in sediments and in biological samples. There are no global ‘standards’ but if these guidelines are followed then it will be easier to generate quality-assured data, in a cost-effective manner, and for datasets to be compared and combined with more confidence.
The final main section presents an initial risk assessment framework. Having described some basic principles about risk, likelihood and consequences the section provides a conceptual framework and two case examples (one real, one hypothetical) of how the framework can be utilized.
The report concludes with key conclusions and recommendations for further research.
The Joint Group of Experts on the Scientific Aspects of Marine Environmental Protection (GESAMP) is a scientific body advising the United Nations (UN) and whose secretariat is the International Maritime Organization (IMO).
Society has used the ocean as a convenient place to dispose of unwanted materials and waste products for many centuries, either directly or indirectly via rivers. The volume of material increased with a growing population and an increasingly industrialized society. The demand for manufactured goods and packaging, to contain or protect food and goods, increased throughout the twentieth century. Large-scale production of plastics began in the 1950s and plastics have become widespread, used in a bewildering variety of applications. The many favourable properties of plastics, including durability and low cost, make plastics the obvious choice in many situations. Unfortunately, society has been slow to anticipate the need for dealing adequately with end-of-life plastics, to prevent plastics entering the marine environment. As a result there has been a substantial volume of debris added to the ocean over the past 60 years, covering a very wide range of sizes (metres to nanometres in diameter). This is a phenomenon that has occurred wherever humans live or travel. As a result there are multiple routes of entry of plastics into the ocean, and ocean currents have transported plastics to the most remote regions. It is truly a global problem.
The GESAMP assessment focuses on a category of plastic debris termed ‘microplastics’. These small pieces of plastic may enter the ocean as such, or may result from the fragmentation of larger items through the influence of UV radiation.
Section 1 provides an introduction to the problem of microplastics in the marine environment, and the rationale for the assessment. The principal purpose of the assessment is to provide an improved evidence base, to support policy and management decisions on measures that might be adopted to reduce the input of microplastics to the oceans.
The GESAMP assessment can be considered as contributing to a more formal Assessment Framework, such as the Driver-Pressure-State-ImpactResponse (DPSIR) Assessment Framework, which is introduced in Section 2.
The nature of man-made polymers, different types and properties of common plastics and their behaviour in the marine environment are introduced in Section 3. There is no internationally agreed definition of the size below which a small piece of plastic should be called a microplastic. Many researchers have used a definition of <5 mm, but this encompasses a very wide range of sizes, down to nano-scales. Some microplastics are purposefully made to carry out certain functions, such as abrasives in personal care products (e.g. toothpaste and skin cleaners) or for industrial purposes such as shot-blasting surfaces. These are often termed ‘primary’ microplastics. There is an additional category of primary particle known as a ‘pellet’. These are usually spherical or cylindrical, approximately 5 mm in diameter, and represent the common form in which newly produced plastic is transported between plastic producers and industries which convert the simple pellet into a myriad of different types of product.
The potential physical and chemical impacts of microplastics, and associated contaminants, are discussed in detail in Section 4. The physical impacts of larger litter items, such as plastic bags and fishing nets, have been demonstrated, but it is much more difficult to attribute physical impacts of microplastics from field observations. For this reason researchers have used laboratory-based experimental facilities to investigate particle uptake, retention and effects. Chemical effects are even more difficult to quantify. This is partly because seawater, sediment particles and biota are already contaminated by many of the chemical substances also associated with plastics. Organic contaminants that accumulate in fat (lipids) in marine organisms are absorbed by plastics to a similar extent. Thus the presence of a contaminant in plastic fragments in the gut of an animal and the measurement of the same contaminant in tissue samples does not imply a causal relationship. The contaminant may be there due to the normal diet. In a very small number of cases, contaminants present in high concentrations in plastic fragments with a distinctive chemical ‘signature’ (a type of flame retardant) can be separated from related contaminants present in prey items and have been shown to transfer across the gut. What is still unknown is the extent to which this might have an ecotoxicological impact on the individual.
It is recognized that people’s attitudes and behaviour contribute significantly to many routes of entry of plastics into the ocean. Any solutions to reducing these sources must take account of this social dimension, as attempts to impose regulation without public understanding and approval are unlikely to be effective. Section 5 provides an opportunity to explore issues around public perceptions towards the ocean, marine litter, microplastics and the extent to which society should be concerned. Research specifically on litter is rather limited, but useful analogies can be made with other environmental issues of concern, such as radioactivity or climate change.
Section 6 summarizes some of the main observations and conclusions, divided into three sections: i) sources, distribution and fate; ii) effects; and, iii) social aspects. Statements are given a mark of high, medium or low confidence. A common theme is the high degree of confidence in what we do not know. The assessment report concludes (Section 7) with a set of six Challenges and related Recommendations. Suggestions for how to carry out the recommendations are provided, together with a briefing on the likely consequences of not taking action. These are divided into three Action-orientated recommendations and three recommendations designed to improve a future assessment:
Identify the main sources and categories of plastics and microplastics entering the ocean.
Utilize end-of-plastic as a valuable resource rather than a waste product.
Promote greater awareness of the impact of plastics and microplastics in the marine environment.
Recommendations for improving a future assessment: • Include particles in the nano-size range.
Evaluate the potential significance of plastics and microplastics as a vector for organisms.
Address the chemical risk posed by ingested microplastics in greater detail.
Pesticides are “global human rights concern”, say two United Nations experts urging for a new global treaty
GENEVA (7 March 2017) – Two United Nations experts are calling for a comprehensive new global treaty to regulate and phase out the use of dangerous pesticides in farming, and move towards sustainable agricultural practices. Their full report is available here.
Excessive use of pesticides are very dangerous to human health, to the environment and it is misleading to claim they are vital to ensuring food security
The Special Rapporteur on the right to food, Hilal Elver, and the Special Rapporteur on Toxics, Baskut Tuncak, told the Human Rights Council in Geneva that widely divergent standards of production, use and protection from hazardous pesticides in different countries are creating double standards, which are having a serious impact on human rights.
The Special Rapporteurs pointed to research showing that pesticides were responsible for an estimated 200,000 acute poisoning deaths each year. The overwhelming number of fatalities, some 99%, occurred in developing countries where health, safety and environmental regulations were weaker.
Chronic exposure to pesticides has been linked to cancer, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases, hormone disruption, developmental disorders and sterility. Farmers and agricultural workers, communities living near plantations, indigenous communities and pregnant women and children are particularly vulnerable to pesticide exposure and require special protections.
The experts particularly emphasized the obligation of States to protect the rights of children from hazardous pesticides. They noted the high number of children killed or injured by food contaminated with pesticides, particularly through accidental poisonings, the prevalence of diseases and disabilities linked to chronic exposure at a young age, and reports on the exposure to hazardous pesticides of children working in global food supply chains, which is one of the worst forms of child labour.
The experts warn that certain pesticides can persist in the environment for decades and pose a threat to the entire ecological system on which food production depends. The excessive use of pesticides contaminates soil and water sources, causing loss of biodiversity, destroying the natural enemies of pests, and reducing the nutritional value of food. The impact of such overuse also imposes staggering costs on national economies around the world.
The experts say the use of neonicotinoid pesticides is particularly worrying because they are accused of being responsible for a systematic collapse in the number of bees around the world. Such a collapse, they say, threatens the very basis of agriculture as 71% of crop species are bee-pollinated.
Without harmonized, stringent regulations on the production, sale and acceptable levels of pesticide use, the burden of the negative effects of pesticides is felt by poor and vulnerable communities in countries that have less stringent enforcement mechanisms
While acknowledging that certain international treaties currently offer protection from the use of a few pesticides, they stressed that a global treaty to regulate the vast majority of them throughout their life cycle does not yet exist, leaving a critical gap in the human rights protection framework.
The Special Rapporteurs point to denials by the agroindustry of the hazards of certain pesticides, the scale of the impacts, as well as the inappropriate shifting of blame to farmers for misusing its products. They express concern about aggressive, unethical marketing tactics that remain unchallenged, and huge sums spent by the powerful chemical industry to influence policymakers and contest scientific evidence.
It is time to overturn the myth that pesticides are necessary to feed the world and create a global process to transition toward safer and healthier food and agricultural production
The Special Rapporteur on Food highlights developments in agroecology, which replaces chemicals with biology, saying its approaches are capable of delivering sufficient yields to feed and nourish the entire world population, without undermining the rights of future generations to adequate food and health. And the Special Rapporteur on Toxics points to examples of where safer alternatives to hazardous pesticides and other toxic chemicals were developed and adopted only after strong regulatory pressures by States on industry.