An inconvenient truth
Saturday, June 19, 2009. Cergy-Pontoise, the sky is azure. In the large amphitheater at an osteopathy school, a call is launched. We are about twenty young students on the initiative. The crowd is not there, but about fifty citizens, scientists and association leaders are there. The subject is painful. Heavy hearts. But determined to say “enough generalized pollution”. These toxins generate an increase in cancer cases in the general population and also among young people. This awareness takes place after the tragedy of a fellow student who died of leukemia.
More than 10 years after this call, where are we then?
The disinfection of the polluters and their accomplices has won. The health of children and young people is lost. But the future is open. Key figures. Currently, 500 children die of cancer each year, equivalent to 20 school classes. Cancer is the most common cause of death from disease. A study shows that the incidence of cancer in children increased by 13% between the 1980s and 2000s.
Also, as André Cicolella reminds us, “according to the figures from The National Health Insurance Fund between 2003 and 2019, these increased by 18%, and other childhood diseases such as cardiovascular disease developed even faster over this period +42% and diabetes +66%. Such a development can in principle not be explained by aging, it is indeed the environment that is at stake. There is an urgent need to develop an environmental health policy to stop this epidemic. “
Failing public bodies
National and international public bodies (ARS, ANSES, WHO, CIRC, EFSA, etc.) are responsible for setting up registers, drawing up action plans, looking for the causes of cancer, approving the marketing of pesticides and more broadly new technologies such as GMOs, 5G, etc. Let it be straightforward. Despite good intentions and sometimes relevant actions, these institutions, which are supposed to protect health, masterfully fail to reduce children’s and young people’s exposure to many pollutants.
A specific example, pesticides.
Feelings of helplessness and being lost easily point to the nose when one wonders about the connection between health and unfortunately so different pollutants (waves, radioactivity, pesticides, GMOs, etc.) with several mechanisms of action. Moreover, this complexity and this sense of helplessness is one of the best weapons used by polluters to maintain a criminal status quo. Another facet of the problem is that these pollutants in what we eat and breathe are most often odorless, intangible, invisible with delayed health effects. Certain causal relationships can be difficult to prove. Pollutants take advantage of this. The profits continue. An example ? 1 billion euros in surplus to Bayer-Monsanto in 2021. Let us now look at the path of a category of pollutants, pesticides. On the one hand, the thickness of the publications that establish a link between exposure to pesticides and cancers is only increasing. On the other hand, the last governments, and in particular those under Emmanuel Macron, shone with cynicism and chronic renunciation. It points out the Future Generations Association “The Ecophyto plan, which was to reduce the consumption of pesticides in France since 2008, is a failure as this consumption increased between 2009 and 2018 by 25%”. Finally, the health risk assessment system is a sieve, cut by and for the interests of polluters. For example, no long-term study of everything contained in pesticide containers is required. A handshake condemned by 119 parliamentarians with the Toxic Secrets campaign. It allows pollutants not to declare toxins such as arsenic, lead and carcinogenic hydrocarbons.
Citizens are not fooled
The good news in this complicated landscape is the citizens’ awareness that the situation is serious, but that it can change under several conditions. It shows the results of a recent barometer conducted by the Health and Environment Foundation of the Mutual Familial. 9 out of 10 French people believe that the impact of the environment on health is obvious. On the question of which measures should be prioritized to reduce the negative impact of the environment on health, five are highlighted:
- Limit companies with new laws and regulations (30%).
- Strengthen the enforcement of existing environmental measures (27%)
- Encourage producers and businesses to adopt good practices through rewards, benefits, etc. (28%)
- Encourage citizens to be more responsible by informing them of the risks involved (24%)
- Lead the health and social security system more towards preventive practices (20%)
After “the children of petrochemistry”, longing for a healthy planet
The 20th century was the century of oil. From a factor of food abundance (albeit of poor nutritional quality) and a source of material comfort after World War II, it is today the cause of global warming with the tragedies already there and the great dangers we are experiencing. Less known, but just as serious, my generation pays a high price for growing up in an environment poisoned by petrochemicals. From the first days of life in the mother’s womb, babies are contaminated with contaminants with potential effects throughout their existence. It is time to create a new course for our society, especially with regenerative organic farming and a health system based on prevention. Let us not forget that 25% of greenhouse gases come from intensive agriculture, mainly due to industrial agriculture, synthetic fertilizers and pesticides. It is a dead end for the climate, a disaster for our health.
And above all, above all. We must break the deadly status quo of polluters and their accomplices through the mobilization of a broad alliance. Take care of children, their health, reduce the number of children and adolescents with cancer. All this implies a democratic awakening. Our only strength is our ability to ensure through numbers that the public interest takes the reins of our lives. We no longer leave our lives in the hands of criminals. Adapting our thoughts, actions, and values is a source of great joy. And power. Before!
There can be no more vivid revelation of a society’s soul than the way it treats its children. Nelson Mandela
Martin Rieussec Fournier
Co-founder of Guinea Pig Generations and Toxic Secrets
Representative of young French people at the Fifth Ministerial Conference on Environment and Health organized by the WHO European Region in Parma.