In a country that is widely believed to symbolize democracy, proudly proclaiming to be “of the people, for the people and by the people”, it only seems right that the motto pervades every aspect of the society. It is only fair that very people whom the government is for should be made a part of most, if not all, of its activities, isn’t it? In that respect, it is ironic to note that the formulation of the Right to Know (RTK) Act (Hadden, 1989) stemmed from unfortunate incidents. Somehow I feel that this late establishment is indicative of the trust that the citizens had on the Government. They believed that those in authority, work for them and know for them. They did not find the necessity to involve themselves because they had faith in the intentions of those they elected. It was only later and when confronted with dilemmas of health and safety did they realize this was not so.
In their paper, Markowitz et al., 2002 highlight the industry-ruled society that we now live in. To what good is an industry that supposedly aims to make products for people if the very act of manufacturing those goods is harmful to the very same people? Does it not then become evident that their predominant driving motive is nothing but profit and NOT ultimately consumer benefit and all that jazz that’s marketed around? In the vicious circle of innovation and the mad rush of corporate entities to one-up their competitors, the sufferers are the users, who are on the bottom most rung of the business food chain. To make matters worse, industry-sponsored research only seems to favor biased outcomes. In that sense, we really all are industry’s children, don’t you think?
With reference to CDC’s response (2009) to the Renner article (2009) in Salon.com, it seems as though they always respond to situations. There has been no instance where they have initiated anything on their own without being instigated to do so. We know that all the authorities seemed to know about the existence of the lead issue for a long while before it became publicized (as we saw in numerous readings and class lectures till now). Then why did they wait to be questioned to take action? To me, that itself shows that they are not pro-actively interested in the welfare of people. They subscribe to the “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy where they chose to stay mum and do nothing. However, when accused, they jump at the opportunity to defend themselves and clear their names with fabricated and misleading statements and reports. Impressive – such an example they set!
I can’t imagine what the state of the D.C lead case would be if not for the involvement of Dr. Edwards, Dr. Yanna and citizen groups like “Parents for Nontoxic Alternatives”. It is their work that is trying to improve lay knowledge (Bucchi et al.,2008) of the public and empower them with information. This is important because it almost seems like there is nowhere else for people to turn to for correct and truthful information. Trusted organizations like the EPA, CDC themselves are under trial (at the expense of sounding repetitive, I cannot stress this enough), where else is one supposed to go to for help? It is hence, the perfect scenario where people must come together and demand to know, to be told for afterall, “United we Stand, Divided we Fall”.
1. Hadden, S. G. 1989. “The Need for Right to Know.” In A Citizen’s Right to Know: Risk Communication and Public Policy, pp. 3-18. Boulder, CO: Westview Press.
2. Markowitz, G. and R. Rosner. 2002. “Introduction: Industry’s Child.” In Deceit and Denial: The Deadly Politics of Industrial Pollution, pp. 1-11. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.
3. Bucchi, M. and F. Neresini. 2008. Science and Public Participation. In E. J. Hackett, et al., eds., The Handbook of Science and Technology Studies, pp. 449-472. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.
4. Edwards, M., S. Triantafyllidou, and D. Best. 2009. Elevated Blood Lead in Young Children Due to Lead-Contaminated Drinking Water: Washington, DC, 2001-2004. Environmental Science & Technology 43:1618-1623 (with supporting information).
5. Renner, R. 2009. Health Agency Covered Up Lead Harm: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Withheld Evidence that Contaminated Tap Water Caused Lead Poisoning in Kids. Salon.com (April 10):1-3, http://www.salon.com/news/environment/feature/2009/04/10/cdc_lead_report.
6. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). 2009. CDC Responds to Salon.com Article [Media Statement] (April 10), 2 p., http://www.cdc.gov/media/pressrel/2009/s090410.htm.
7. WASAwatch. 2009. What the CDC Can Learn from the National Research Council and the Public [blog entry] (May 3), 10 p., http://dcwasawatch.blogspot.com/2009/05/what-cdc-can-learn-from-national.html.