Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Reporting of Workplace Injuries

OSHA relies solely on employers to report injury and illness to provide the government and the public a measure of the seriousness of the safety related problems in the workplace. Since there is no incentives for companies to follow reporting practices, workplace injuries and illness are often under reported. Below is a news story from NYTimes by Steven Greenhouse describing the problem.

November 17, 2009
Work-Related Injuries Underreported
Employers and workers routinely underreport work-related injuries and illnesses, calling into question the accuracy of nationwide data that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration compiles each year, the Government Accountability Office said Monday.
The report, by the G.A.O., the auditing arm of Congress, said many employers did not report workplace injuries and illnesses for fear of increasing their workers’ compensation costs or hurting their chances of winning contracts.
The report also said workers did not report job-related injuries because they feared being fired or disciplined and worried that their co-workers might lose rewards, like bonuses or steak dinners, as part of safety-based incentive programs.
“The widespread underreporting so clearly documented in this report is undermining the health and safety of American workers,” said Senator Tom Harkin, Democrat of Iowa and chairman of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. “If we don’t know the full extent of the workplace hazards workers face, we cannot fully address these risks.”
Mr. Harkin was one of the Congressional leaders who requested the report.
In response to the report, which examined OSHA’s audits from 2005 to 2007, the safety administration said it would adopt the accountability office’s recommendations, which include requiring inspectors to interview employees during all audits to check the accuracy of employer-provided injury data.
The accountability office noted that the rate of workplace injuries — there were 4 million in 2007, including 5,600 fatalities — has declined fairly steadily since 1992, which OSHA attributed to improvements in workplace safety and the decline in the number of manufacturing jobs.
But the G.A.O. report cited several academic studies that found that OSHA data failed to include up to two-thirds of all workplace injuries and illnesses.
The report noted that because of OSHA’s “sole reliance on employer-reported injury and illness data” in one of its major surveys, “some academic studies have reported that the survey may undercount the total number of workplace injuries and illnesses.”
The accountability office also found that more than a third of the occupational health practitioners it surveyed said that employers or workers had pressured them to provide insufficient medical treatment to hide or play down work-related injuries or illnesses.
The safety and health administration requires employers with more than 10 workers to record every work-related injury or illness that results in lost work time or medical treatment other than first aid. Some occupational health practitioners say that to avoid recording an injury, some employers will try to limit treatment for a serious injury to just first aid.
In other cases, the practitioners said, employers might seek alternative diagnoses if the initial diagnosis would result in a recordable injury or illness.
One manager took an injured worker to several medical providers until the manager found one who would certify that treatment required only first aid, thus making it an injury that did not have to be recorded, one practitioner told researchers, according to the report. Many employers fear that reporting numerous injuries will prompt a full-scale OSHA inspection.
The accountability office said that 53 percent of health practitioners had reported experiencing pressure from company officials to play down injuries or illnesses, and that 47 percent had reported experiencing this pressure from workers.
“This report confirms that when it comes to the documenting of workplace injuries, we can’t just take employers at their word,” said Senator Patty Murray, Democrat of Washington and chairwoman of the Subcommittee on Employment and Workplace Safety. “The system, to this point, has been all too easy to game.”
According to the G.A.O. report, 67 percent of the 1,187 occupational health practitioners surveyed had reported observing worker fear of disciplinary action for reporting an injury or illness, and 46 percent said this fear had some impact on the accuracy of employers’ injury and illness records.
One reason workers fail to report injuries, the report said, was that their employers required drug testing after incidents resulting in reported injuries or illnesses, regardless of any evidence of drug use.
The report also questioned employers’ safety incentive programs, which reward workers when their worksites have few recordable injuries or illnesses.
While these programs can promote safe behavior, the report said three-quarters of health practitioners said they believed that workers sometimes avoided reporting work-related injuries and illnesses as a result of these programs because they feared that doing so would cause them or their co-workers to miss the chance of winning prizes.
Correction: November 16, 2009
A previous version of this article gave an incorrect name for the Government Accountability Office.


Monday, November 16, 2009

No Consequences to Breaking Safety Rules Results in Workers' Deaths

Sixteen workers are killed a day in the United States because of reckless negligence on the part of their employers. Under existing laws, these employers get a slap on the wrist, or walk away scot-free. Meanwhile, workers who blow the whistle face threats and retaliation at the workplace.
Click here for a link to a video called 16 Deaths Per Day.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Genetically Modified Maize Withdrawn by Monsanto-Safety Concerns

In a dramatic move, Monsanto has withdrawn its genetically modified (GM) maize, LY038 from commercial approval in Europe after safety concerns prompted the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) to request further evidence from the company [1].

At the end of April 2009, two letters were sent to EFSA by Monsanto's European subsidiary company Renessen, withdrawing applications originally submitted in 2005 [2]. The whole episode was shrouded in secrecy before being uncovered by Dr. Brian John of GM-Free Cymru. There has been no mainstream press report, and no record on the EFSA website. Not only LY038, but also the stacked variety LY038 x MON810 - derived from a cross between LY038 and another GM variety MON810 - has been withdrawn. MON810 is currently banned in many countries in Europe [3] Europe Holds the Key to a GM-Free World, 5th Conference of GM-Free Regions, Food & Democracy ( SiS 43), and has its own hazards [4-6] ( GM Maize Disturbs Immune System of Young and Old Mice , GM Maize Reduces Fertility & Deregulates Genes in Mice , SiS 41; MON810 Genome Rearranged Again , SiS 39).

Like other “nutritionally enhanced” GMOs, LY038 is created by grossly unbalancing the metabolic network [8]; and that is where the metabolic hazards arise. It is well known that overdose of many single nutritional factors is toxic, and it is not surprising that overproduction of any single metabolite creates further toxicities. Another case in point is the notorious ‘Golden Rice', now mired in controversy as phase 2 clinical trials have been conducted on children with unapproved experimental events. It is well known that high concentrations of pro-Vitamin A can cause birth defects and developmental abnormalities, and the potential for further toxicities in Golden Rice is uncomfortably high [12] ( The Golden Rice Scandal Unfolds , SiS 42).

However, there are also important hazards unique to each GMO, and in the case of LY038, it is due to the high concentrations of the amino acid lysine and derivatives - saccharopine, a -aminoadipic acid (a neurotoxin), pipecolic acid and cadaverine – present in the grain [9, 10] .

The excerpts above were taken directly from ISIS Press Release 11/11/09.
For the complete press release please see this link: http://www.i-sis.org.uk/HighLysineGMMaize.php

Tuesday, November 10, 2009


Pfizer Broke the Law by Promoting Drugs for Unapproved Uses
BY DAVID EVANS Nov. 9 (Bloomberg) --
Prosecutor Michael Loucks remembers clearly when lawyers for Pfizer Inc., the world’s largest drug company, looked across the table and promised it wouldn’t break the law again.
It was January 2004, and the attorneys were negotiating in a conference room on the ninth floor of the federal courthouse in Boston, where Loucks was head of the health-care fraud unit of the U.S. Attorney’s Office. One of Pfizer’s units had been pushing doctors to prescribe an epilepsy drug called Neurontin for uses the Food and Drug Administration had never approved.
In the agreement the lawyers eventually hammered out, the Pfizer unit, Warner-Lambert, pleaded guilty to two felony counts of marketing a drug for unapproved uses.
New York-based Pfizer agreed to pay $430 million in criminal fines and civil penalties, and the company’s lawyers assured Loucks and three other prosecutors that Pfizer and its units would stop promoting drugs for unauthorized purposes.
What Loucks, who’s now acting U.S. attorney in Boston, didn’t know until years later was that Pfizer managers were breaking that pledge not to practice so-called off-label marketing even before the ink was dry on their plea.
On the morning of Sept. 2, 2009, another Pfizer unit, Pharmacia & Upjohn, agreed to plead guilty to the same crime. This time, Pfizer executives had been instructing more than 100 salespeople to promote Bextra, a drug approved only for the relief of arthritis and menstrual discomfort, for treatment of acute pains of all kinds.

For more on this interesting story with many details......go to this link:

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Women's Health at Risk with Genetic Patents

Recognizing Far-Reaching Implications of ACLU Anti-Gene Patent Case, Court Denies Myriad’s Motion to Dismiss
November 04, 2009
By Turna Ray
A New York federal district court has denied Myriad Genetics’ motion to dismiss a lawsuit challenging its patents covering BRCA gene mutations associated with hereditary breast and ovarian cancer based on the novel circumstances presented in the case and the sweeping implications of the issues involved.
The American Civil Liberties Union filed the lawsuit in May on behalf of four scientific organizations — representing more than 150,000 medical professionals, researchers, women's health groups, and individual women — alleging that the BRCA gene patents held by the University of Utah Research Foundation and exclusively licensed to Myriad stifle research and limit women's treatment options. Additionally, the lawsuit, Association for Molecular Pathology, et al. v. US Patent and Trademark Office, et al., challenges the constitutionality of Myriad's patents on the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes, by asserting that Myriad’s exclusive licensing practices hinder the free flow of information and therefore obstruct the First Amendment protecting free speech [see PGx Reporter 05-13-2009].
However, Myriad and other defendants challenged the plaintiff’s ability to bring the lawsuit, by filing a motion-to-dismiss memorandum, calling ACLU's case "a thinly veiled attempt to challenge the validity of patents" [see PGx Reporter 08-05-2009].
In deciding to dismiss Myriad's motion to dismiss on grounds that it lacked technical merit, Robert Sweet, the federal district court judge on the case, recognized the "uniqueness" of the plaintiffs' case with regard to "scope and significance of the issues presented, and the consequences of the remedy sought." Furthermore, the court acknowledged the right of the plaintiffs, particularly "women facing the threat of breast cancer … who are in the midst of their struggle with the illness," to challenge the practice of gene patenting.
"The challenges to the patents-in-suit raise questions of difficult legal dimensions concerning constitutional protections over the information that serves as our genetic identities and the need to adopt policies that promote scientific research," the court said in its decision.
In its decision, the court cited the example of Plaintiff Wendy Chung, a professor of molecular genetics at Columbia University who studies genetic and environmental factors linked to hereditary breast and ovarian cancer. Although Chung's lab sequences BRCA1/2 genes of research participants, researchers cannot inform subjects of their mutation status because of Myriad's patents.
Additionally, the court cited numerous examples provided by the plaintiffs where academic studies that would essentially improve BRCA sequencing methods were stopped by Myriad, who informed researchers that their work would infringe the firm's patents.
For example, according to court documents, in 2005, Yale DNA Diagnostics Laboratory asked Myriad for permission to perform genetic screening of BRCA genes looking for large rearrangement mutations correlated with cancer risk. Studies had previously shown that Myriad's full sequencing test missed some large gene rearrangements associated with disease risk. However, Myriad informed Yale that BRCA testing could not be done by the university's laboratory as it would infringe the company's patents.

Biotech Health Risks Cause Concern

An article in Harzards Magazine V427 October 10, 2009 voices concerns over biotech safety in the USA. See story below:

USA: Biotech health risks cause concern
The mother of a worker who believes his health was ruined as a result of working in California's cutting edge biotech industry has expressed her anger at the refusal by the firm's health insurers to pay his medical bills. Sandi Trend's son, David Bell, was sickened at the Davis based company AgraQuest. She says the firm's owner, Pam Marrone, and its health insurer Liberty Mutual have refused to provide his healthcare despite evidence that he had the genetically engineered products in his body. She says these products have wrecked her son's immune system. The campaigning mother has also accused the California Fraud Assessment Commission of failing to bring fraud charges against the firm. She alleged the watchdog and district attorneys care more for wealthy companies in the state than for sick workers. David Bell says the lack of proper health and safety protection at AgraQuest led to his contamination and sickness. He also alleges the company sought to cover-up their responsibility for his illness. A US poll published last week found 90 per cent of Americans think that the public should be better informed about the development of cutting-edge technologies including synthetic biology. Two-thirds of the respondents supported regulation of this emerging technology. 'Regardless of their awareness of synthetic biology, or where they come down on the risk-benefit tradeoff, a strong majority of adults think this research should be regulated by the federal government,' said Geoff Garin, president of Peter D Hart Research, the organisation that conducted the poll.
Blip TV - labor Video Project. Biotechnology Awareness webpages on David Bell. PEN news item.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Entitlements for Americans: Not for the Average Joe

UAW Members Vote Down Ford
Even people who genuinely admire the United States say they are astonished by our sense of exceptionalism—our rock-ribbed belief that we, above all others, deserve to be fulfilled. Arguably, no citizens on earth have a greater sense of entitlement and special privilege than Americans, as evidenced not only by our personal conduct, but by our military adventurism, cultural hegemony, and corporate welfare.
We see it in the collusion between the federal government and the big drug companies. Even though Mother Nature clearly intended otherwise, the Pfizer Corporation—with the blessings of Congress—decided that elderly men have a constitutional right to unlimited erections. Accordingly, even though eyeglasses are NOT covered by Medicare, Viagra is. It’s true. Impaired vision is less important than impaired orgasms. A defeat for the optics industry, a victory for Hugh Hefner.
The logical extension of this arrangement is that someday our streets will be filled with 85-year old men staggering and stumbling about, frail, barely able to see, but sporting huge erections. Not a pretty picture.
Confoundingly, America’s sense of economic entitlement doesn’t extend to working people. It applies to the rich, to the well-connected, to the military-industrial complex, to farmers and ranchers and corporations, to every manner of businessman, consultant, hustler, advertiser, and entrepreneur—but not to the people doing the actual work, putting their shoulders to the wheel, keeping the country going.
Take the recent banking crisis. While the media registered grave concern and disappointment over the Wall Street debacle, they saved their vitriol for working people, churlishly blaming the UAW for Detroit’s woes, implicating Big Labor for its role in the recession by driving away our manufacturing base, and scolding poor people for trying to buy houses they couldn’t afford. The bankers who encouraged and profited from these “sub prime” loans were given a pass.
Further bias was shown in the coverage of the recent (last week) vote by UAW members employed by the Ford Motor Company. The vote was an eye-opener, a shocker. Despite UAW president Ron Gettelfinger’s plea for ratification, the offer was voted down by so many union locals, the UAW executive board, seeing the writing on the wall, was forced to admit defeat even before all the votes were in.
This was a bad contract, and the membership knew it. Among other things, it included a 6-year wage freeze for new hires, radical changes in work rules, and, incredibly, a provision that prohibits the union from going on strike until the year 2016. Stripping a union of its right to strike is like asking a person to walk naked through a blast furnace. You are totally vulnerable and defenseless—exactly the way a corporation prefers its workers.
But instead of dutifully reporting why the rank-and-file was voting this thing down, the media vilified them for being greedy and short-sighted, for not looking at the Big Picture (of course, by “Big Picture” they meant “management’s version”). Had the media been paying attention they would have seen this train wreck coming from a mile away.
Of the Big Three Detroit automakers, Ford is the only one not hemorrhaging red ink, the only one to have avoided bankruptcy. Ford is making money, having reported a $2.3 billion profit for the second quarter alone. But because Chrysler and GM were able to get staggering concessions from their union (as these hapless companies were now broke and facing receivership), Ford wanted to dip its snout in the same trough, hoping the membership would play ball. To their credit, the membership (41,000 UAW members work for Ford) refused to go along.
Because this latest offer would have been the third round of major concessions in the last two years, Ford’s workers simply felt that they had sacrificed enough. The company was healthy; the CEO, Alan Mulally, made $17.7 million last year The workers had had enough. Recommended settlements are rarely voted down; so a revolt like this one (some locals voted 92-percent against it) has to be a shattering blow to union leadership.
Moreover, if there were any lingering doubts as to where the mainstream media stands in regard to the traditional Management vs. Labor struggle—going all the way back to the late 1970s, when Japanese imports first began skewing the market—their continued coverage of the UAW has dispelled them.
Instead of criticizing the hubris and poor decision-making of Big Three executives (going for the short-term money, selling frills and glitter, living like Grosse Point oil sheiks, etc.), the media attacked the union. They focused on the greed of Detroit’s ungrateful assembly line workers, portraying them as overpaid and undeserving factory apes, despite earning salaries that have them clinging to the edge of the middle-class by their fingernails.
If the U.S. does, indeed, have an over-developed sense of entitlement, it certainly doesn’t extend to working men and women. Proof? Despite working harder, longer hours, and more productively (statistics put American output at an all-time record), the middle-class is collapsing, disintegrating, dissolving before our eyes.
Which is why workers need to look to themselves for assistance; there’s no one else to help them. In order to have any hope of prospering, workers need to form collectives and alliances. Given the lay of the land, it’s their only choice.
David Macaray is a Los Angeles playwright, and the author of “It’s Never Been Easy: Essays on Modern Labor” (available on Amazon.com). He can be reached at dmacaray@earthlink.net

Monday, November 2, 2009


States Sue Amgen Over Alleged Kickbacks Plan

NEW YORK—New York, 13 other states and the District of Columbia sued Amgen Inc. and other drug suppliers over an alleged kickback scheme designed to boost sales of the anemia drug Aranesp, New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo said Friday.
Mr. Cuomo said in a statement the multistate intervenor lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Boston alleges that Amgen, AmerisourceBergen Corp., and AmerisourceBergen's drug wholesaler, ASD Healthcare, and specialty group purchasing unit International Nephrology Network encouraged doctors to bill third-party payers, such as Medicaid, for free samples of Aranesp.
David Polk, an Amgen spokesman, said in a statement, "We believe that the allegations are without merit, and we look forward to the opportunity to examine these matters with the states before the court."
Mr. Cuomo said the lawsuit alleges that Amgen conspired with INN and ASD Healthcare to offer improper kickbacks to medical providers—such as sham consultancy agreements, weekend retreats or other services—to induce them to purchase and prescribe Aranesp.
"Drugs should be prescribed to patients on the basis of need, effectiveness, and safety, not on a corporate giant's promise of an all-expense paid vacation," Mr. Cuomo said. "In an egregious violation of the law, Amgen allegedly bribed medical providers and left taxpayers footing the bill for free drug samples."
The lawsuit was filed in connection with a whistleblower complaint first brought in U.S. District Court in Boston in 2006 against Amgen and others for allegedly illegal marketing of Aranesp. The whistleblower complaint was brought on behalf of the U.S. government and a number of states, including New York.
Amgen's Mr. Polk said the company has a solid compliance program and a code of conduct called "Do The Right Thing." The company expects all employees to follow it at all times, he said.
Michael Kilpatric, an AmerisourceBergen spokesman, said in a statement, "We've had no contact in this case with anyone in the N.Y. AG's office or any other state attorneys general offices and we expect to defend ourselves vigorously. We have received a subpoena from the Department of Justice related to the issues that are set forth in this case and we have been cooperating fully with the Department of Justice, and DOJ has not intervened in this case to date."
The states which brought the suit Friday are California, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, Michigan, Nevada, New Hampshire, New York, Tennessee, and the Commonwealth of Virginia.
Write to Chad Bray at chad.bray@dowjones.com

Human Rights and Science_International Advocacy

As we view this snapshot of a man being used in human experimental trials in Nazi Germany, we should not forget that human rights issues surrounding application of science and technology do exists and must be protected, especially now, in what is now considered the age of biological revolution and development.

Here is a link to an interesting website and organization called Front Line who report and defend the protection of human rights. Although they report on numerous issues, the protection of human rights surrounding the use of science and public health and safety should also be defended.

Here is Front Line's mission: Front Line is working to ensure that the principles and standards set out in the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders are known, respected and adhered to worldwide. The Declaration, which was adopted by consensus at the UN General Assembly, makes clear that all Governments have a duty to protect, promote and implement all human rights and fundamental freedoms. It states in article 1 that "'Everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, to promote and to strive for the protection and realization of human rights and fundamental freedoms at the national and international levels.'"

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Nader Supports Injured Workers

Injured Worker and Worker Safety Advocates

See this link for Ralph Nader's talk on injured Workers: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TcQQ12pwTf4

Also see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RmkaJTiqUq8&NR=1 by Matt Gonzalez.

Public Trust in Public Health and Safety

Here is a link to a "must read", tongue in cheek article regarding public rights to public health and safety,.... or rather the lack of it. It is worth a read since it holds many truths about how our legal and regulatory systems are designed to enhanced unfettered corporate interests, crippling the public's trust and rights to public health and safety. Written by Carolyn Raffensperger...it is a winner.