Activist and defeated candidate for Congress asks Rep. Owens for help in pollution info quest
Friday, March 22, 2013 - 6:45 am

Asked by a former election opponent, Rep. Bill Owens has inquired of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on action in the issue of persistent organic pollutants (POPs).

Donald Hassig of Colton, unsuccessful Green Party candidate for Owens’ 21st Congressional District seat in the last election, founder of Cancer Action NY, and environmental activist who has made it his quest to get disseminated to the public any official findings about the persistence of some pollutants in the human food chain, asked for Owens’ help in February.

Hassig said he arranged a conference call with Owens and Dr. David Carpenter, Director of the State University at Albany School of Public Health and the Environment about the 2010 World Health Organization (WHO) report, “Persistent Organic Pollutants: Impact on Child Health.” (http://whqlibdoc.who.int/publications/2010/9789241501101_eng.pdf)

Hassig said Carpenter, an acknowledged expert in the field, told Rep. Owens that we all have “dangerous levels of these chemicals in our bodies,” and said that the public was very much in the dark about POPs exposure, which results from the presence of POPs in the animal fats of mainstream food supply foods, including meats, fish, dairy products and eggs.

“Congressman Owens took the position that providing the public with information on the subjects of POPs exposure and health risks was the most feasible action that could be taken,” Hassig said. “He used the phrase, ‘transparency of information’ in speaking of the need for consumers to know what man-made toxic chemicals were present in food and what health risks were associated with exposure to these contaminants.”

In a letter March 5, Owens asked Dr. Christopher Portier, director of the CDC agency the National Center for Environmental Health and the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, to look into the WHO report, to which Dr. Carpenter contributed, and “advise me as to the action being taken, if any, of the action being taken by your agency regarding POPs.”

And Owens asked that “if no action is being taken, what stands in the way of making the public aware of these concerns?”

“I think the issue here is whether or not the information about POPs is made known to the public so individuals can make informed decisions they make about the food products they select to purchase and consume,” Owens wrote.

Praising the man who defeated him and Republican Matt Doheny in the congressional race, Hassig said, “Congressman Owens is clearly a member of government who is interested in using scientific knowledge to protect public health. Congressman Owens shows himself to possess much strength of character in taking this leadership role in POPs exposure minimization.”

An aide to Rep. Owens said they have not heard back yet from Dr. Portier at the CDC.