Monthly Archives: October 2012

Our children under siege

by Dan Kingsbury & Stan Hirst

Joel Bakan’s recent book Childhood Under Siege describes how big businesses target and exploit children in myriad subtle and underhand ways, and labels the behaviour of large corporations in the U.S. towards children in the marketplace as “psychopathic”.

The main battle zones that Bakan identifies are children’s exposure to violent images via gaming, early sexualisation through various media, over-medication, child labour, the corruption of the education system, and environmental health issues. Bakan is most powerful when writing about the sinister relationship between multibillion-dollar pharmaceutical companies and the medical profession. Citing numbers and figures, Bakan makes a convincing case that doctors and other healthcare professionals are in bed with pharmaceutical companies. They have created an environment in which children are over-medicated, mainly for psychiatric conditions. By controlling so-called “independent” drug tests and treating doctors to perks, companies have bought into the medical profession in an effective and insidious way. The corporate marketing budget for pharmaceuticals in the U.S. currently weighs in at $20 billion per year.

The specifics are disturbing. For example –

  • Bayer supports young environmentalists while manufacturing pesticides, Bisphenol A, phosgene, and other toxic chemicals.
  • In 2009 Pfizer and its subsidiaries Pharmacia & Upjohn were fined $1.3 billion, the then-largest criminal fine in history, for the illegal marketing of the arthritis drug Bextra for uses unapproved by the FDA.
  • In the same year Eli Lilly was caught for promoting Zyorexa beyond its recommended use, specifically targeting children. The fine was $615 million and proved that crime pays because, despite the fine, it became a top seller bringing in 25% of the company’s revenues of $1.5 billion each year.
  • In 2007 Bristol-Myers Squibb agreed to pay $515 million to settle civil claims for wrongful drug marketing and pricing practices, including promoting its drug Abilify  for “off-label” treatment of children and the elderly.
  • Purdue agreed to pay $600 million to settle criminal and civil claims for fraudulently marketing and promoting its drug OxyContin as less addictive and less subject to abuse and diversion than it actually is. The “moral hazard” is that today in the U.S. 1 out of every 5 teens abuses prescription drugs, sometimes with devastating effects; Oxycontin is their drug of choice.
  • In 2000, LifeScan (Johnson & Johnson) agreed to plead guilty to criminal charges for misbranding a home glucose monitor and submitting false reports to the FDA and pay $29.4 million in criminal fines as well as $30.6 million in civil penalties, etc.

It’s hard to understand the dollar amount of these fines in terms of human pain and suffering. The pharmaceutical corporate industry does not know compassion.

What our medical colleagues know comes not just from their training but also from company reps and sponsored trainings. The latter leave a lot to be desired when it comes to information on treating children for emotional and behavioural problems.  Pharmaceutical corporations are concerned mainly about creating markets for their products and influencing quarterly profits, and not necessarily about discovering scientific truths or promoting children’s health.

We are now beginning to see the future, and corporations have a lot of “moral hazard” to reckon with as we foolishly march toward a non-sustainable world armed with our deep commitments to cheap energy and a growth economy. Children’s chronic health issues have risen steadily as increasing amounts of chemicals are infused into their environments.

Over the past 30 years the rates of asthma have risen 50%, childhood leukemia and brain cancer 40%, autism 1,000%, premature births 30%, girls reaching puberty earlier 100%, boys with genital abnormalities 100%. Concomitantly, the use of industrial chemicals has increased by 7,500%, the use of BPA has increased 15,000%, and 26,000 new chemicals have been created since the U.S. 1976 Toxic Substances Control Act.  Sadly, only 200 of the 86,000 chemicals available today for commercial use have been studied for toxicity. The U.S. Safe Chemical Act of 2010  didn’t pass!

Soft rubber toys, screen prints on t-shirts, kitchen floors made from PVC tiles, school back packs, pencil cases, lunch boxes, children’s shoes (flip flops, crocs), electronic equipment, shower curtains, plastic window frames, doors and blinds, personal care products, soaps, shampoo, deodorant, cosmetics, lotions – all potentially contain PFCs, PBDE and/or phthalates, all are known hormone disruptors.

Each generation has higher levels of exposure than the previous one. Think about that!

This isn’t about Oz any more. There is no yellow brick road.

Ants and grasshoppers

by Bob Worcester

All summer long the ants worked industriously, gathering grain from the fields and storing it away in their underground store houses. While the ants worked, carefree grasshoppers danced, sang and took long naps in the summer sun.

One day a grasshopper asked, “Why do ants work so hard hour after hour, day after day, all summer long?” Another grasshopper replied, “They work for a dark queen who commands them to serve her every need. Everything they do is planned out in precise detail and they work for almost nothing.”  “Our life is much better,” said the 1st grasshopper, “Because we are so clever, we do what we want and have much more fun.”

“I have a plan,” said a 3rd grasshopper. “Let’s demand that the ants pay a toll for the path they take from the fields.”  They sent word to the Ant Queen that the grasshoppers would require 1 seed in payment for each 100 seeds that passed on the path from the field.  The Queen agreed but stipulated that they must replant 9 of 10 seeds collected before they kept one.

The grasshoppers were delighted and passed their new plan on to their friends. Other grasshopper agreed to plant seeds in return for a percentage of the planting.  Each new grasshopper received 9 seeds, planted 8, and kept 1. They found even more grasshoppers that would plant 7 seeds, keep 1 and so it went.  Soon hundreds of grasshoppers were engaged in the seed trade and the head grasshoppers were collecting bags full of seeds which they used to encourage even more grasshoppers to get involved in the planting process. The Ant Queen was happy that so many seeds were being planted for the next year’s harvest. The grasshoppers were happy that so many seeds would be growing into juicy green shoots. The head grasshoppers danced, sang and gambled with one another for the seeds that they expected to collect from the ants.

One day some of the grasshoppers discovered they had promised to plant more seeds than they had actually collected, so they began using notes that counted the seeds that would sprout in the next season since each seeded plant should produce 10 more seeds.  It was easier to write notes than to plant seeds.

Then it occurred to the grasshoppers that they could also sell other grasshoppers the rights to the juicy green plants that would grow from the seeds that they had promised to plant. Grasshoppers could claim all the new plants that would grow from each packet of seeds they promised to plant. The more they promised to plant the more they could gamble or sell.

Soon the grasshoppers spent more time gambling with their promissory notes than they spent actually planting seeds. The worried Ant Queen finally sent out a message that no more seeds would be given to grasshoppers that had not actually planted the seeds as promised.

Then the weather turned bad and it became difficult to plant any more seeds. All the grasshoppers that had come to gamble for seeds began to look around for food and could only find leaves from the last of the plants the ants were harvesting.  Soon the fields were stripped bare and the hungry grasshoppers demanded to see the Ant Queen.

“We are starving,” they said. “Let us have some of the seeds you have stored away for the winter!”

“My ants need those seeds to survive the winter so I cannot give you any from our storehouse. You wasted many of the seeds we gave you to plant or traded them for pieces of paper that you can’t eat,” she said. The head grasshopper reminded the Ant Queen that he had promises on paper from the grasshoppers to plant thousands of seeds. “Yes,” said the Ant Queen but those grasshoppers will not survive the winter and they have eaten all the plants that were producing seeds this year.”

“But what will we do?” asked the head grasshopper.

“Learn to eat paper,” said the Ant Queen.

“What will you do if no grasshoppers plant the seeds for next year? “ said the head grasshopper.

“Learn to eat grasshoppers,” said the Ant Queen.