Monday, October 15, 2012

How Can Anti-Smoking Groups Defend Accepting Money from a Company that Has Apparently Poisoned our Children with Arsenic?

As I have revealed on this blog, the financial ties between Pfizer and the anti-smoking movement run deep.

The numbers compiled by The Rest of the Story reveal that during 2011 and the first two quarters of 2012, anti-smoking groups received at least $2.8 million from Pfizer:

American Academy of Pediatrics: $720,800
American Cancer Society: $252,750
American Heart Association: $136,000
American Lung Association: $190,250
Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids: $100,000
American Medical Association: $857,500
American Legacy Foundation: $300,000
Action on Smoking and Health: $200,000

In addition, the 2012 National Conference on Tobacco or Health was sponsored by Pfizer.

And astonishingly, even the CDC is partnering with Pfizer.

I have already questioned these partnerships on the grounds that they undermine the scientific credibility of the anti-smoking movement, destroying the scientific objectivity of these groups' conclusions and recommendations regarding strategies to promote smoking cessation. Today, however, I question these partnerships on public health and ethical grounds.

The Rest of the Story

Since most, if not all, of the anti-smoking groups above have argued that electronic cigarettes should be banned because they contain detectable levels of a carcinogen - to which there is no safe level of exposure - these anti-smoking groups should jump into action with today's revelation that a substantial proportion of the nation's rice supply is contaminated with a carcinogen - arsenic - at levels that are considered to be unsafe for drinking water. Moreover, since arsenic is a carcinogen, these groups would argue that there is no safe level of exposure to arsenic to begin with. Certainly, they should view the finding that our nation's rice supply is contaminated with arsenic as a huge public health catastrophe.

The fact is that arsenic - a proven, human carcinogen - has been detected in rice at levels that exceed levels that are considered to be acceptable for drinking water. This is a particular problem in the southern U.S., especially in Arkansas, where rice growers have filed a lawsuit related to the high levels of arsenic in water used to grow rice. They argue that the arsenic contamination has resulted in levels in rice that may not be safe for children.

Where is the arsenic coming from and who is responsible?

The answer is ...

... Pfizer.

Up until last year, Pfizer marketed and sold a drug - Roxarsone - that when added to chicken feed helps spur chicken growth and produce a more attractive pink color which helps sell more chickens. The problem is that Roxarsone contains arsenic. And although it is organic arsenic, which is not hazardous, the drug is apparently converted to inorganic arsenic in the intestinal tract. Chicken litter therefore contains inorganic arsenic. Rice growers then use the poultry litter to fertilize their fields.

Thus, it is Pfizer which is apparently responsible for the high levels of arsenic that are being found in rice grown in the southern U.S. and which could potentially be threatening the health of children consuming that rice.

According to an article in Food Safety News:

"Arkansas rice growers say chicken industry practices promoted by industry giants like Pfizer, Tyson Foods Inc. and other big chicken producers are responsible for the high arsenic levels being detected in their crops. The growers have asked the Circuit Court for the Southern District of Arkansas for a jury trial to decide whether their claim that Pfizer, Tyson and half a dozen other poultry companies is justified. The growers blame those defendants for the high levels of arsenic found in rice grown in Arkansas waters. The federal lawsuit was filed just a few days after both Consumer Reports and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released data showing that white rice grown in Arkansas, Louisiana, Missouri and Texas may contain arsenic at levels that are too high for some, especially children. ... Pfizer Inc.’s animal feed additive business, known as Alpharma, is accused of selling arsenic-containing compounds such as a product called “3-Nitro,” used in chicken feed to spur the growth of chickens and prevent an intestinal disease called coccidiosis. The product contains organic arsenic that the rice growers’ say passes through chickens into their litter. ... ‘Most scientists and government agencies recognized “3-Nitro” to be highly toxic to humans and to be a recognized source of arsenic poisoning which can lead to various human health diseases and complications,' says the rice growers’ complaint." 

Although one might expect that Pfizer has reformed itself after the revelation that it may be responsible for poisoning much of the nation's rice supply, the company - in 2012 - continued to lobby against legislation that would ban arsenic and arsenic-containing drugs from chicken feed.

Sadly, through their partnerships with Pfizer, the American Academy of Pediatrics, American Cancer Society, American Heart Association, American Lung Association, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, American Medical Association, American Legacy Foundation, Action on Smoking and Health, and CDC all share in the complicity that led to this public health disaster. These organizations should renounce their partnerships with Pfizer immediately.

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