June 18th 2009
Two years have elapsed since the Collegium Ramazzini organized its first seminar in Quito, Ecuador entitled "Salud Ocupacional e Ambiental: Emergencias en Paises in Desarrollos". The event, spearheaded by Fellow Raul Harari and co-sponsored by the International Labour Organization and the Organisacion Panamericana del la Salud, focused on occupational and environmental health problems in Latin America, with special emphasis on the problems of child labor. Raul Harari recently updated President Phil Landrigan and Secretary General Morando Soffritti on the impact that the conference and its published proceedings have had in the region [click title for text of letter].
c/o Philip Landrigan, MD
Professor Morando Soffritti, MD
Quito, Ecuador, May 4th, 2009
Two years after our successful International Seminar in Quito with the participation of many of you, I want to communicate how the efforts of the Ramazzini Collegium in connection with this meeting have produced important results.
The Seminar and the proceedings were communicated and distributed in particular in Ecuador and other countries of Latin America. Many of the topics have been useful for researchers, authorities and social organizations. Many associated activities that some CR Fellows have carried out in Ecuador before and after the Seminar, like Pietro Comba, Francesco Forastiere, Philippe Grandjean, and Myron Mehlman, have contributed to the attention, I wish to highlight some examples that demonstrate how these activities have been helpful in regard to occupational and environmental health in Ecuador and other developing countries.
Articles authored by Myron Mehlman were used in the conflict with TEXACO in regard to oil pollution of the environment.
Recently the government of Ecuador decided to stop (at least temporally) the use of Mancozeb and is asking for an expert study to decide what to proceed. The article by Morando Soffritti in the proceedings was very useful here.
The Precautionary Principle has been confirmed as a foundation to be considered in environmental and health problems. The proceedings of the 2002 CR Seminar that was held in Bologna was very important in this regard.
The NewConstitution of Ecuador includes many new considerations on environmental and occupational health, e.g., the rights of the nature, as well as new issues in regard to work environment and occupational and environmental health. Our joint input was apparently very useful in this regard.
The Minister of Environment decided to consider new legislation about asbestos and asked for supporting information in regard to a possible ban of asbestos (no decision has been reached yet). Supporting information was provided by Pietro Comba, and, at this moment, it helped to resist a pressures from vested interests, as did the book by Barry Castleman.
Prenatal exposure has now become a concern of the authorities in Ecuador and they are considering a new strategy for epidemiological surveillance of pesticides and health effects. Other prenatal exposures to mercury and lead are also discussed. The articles by Philip Landrigan and Philippe Grandjean were very influential.
The ongoing discussion about how to prevent air pollution was supported by presentations and articles by Francesco Forastiere.
The arguments that Karel Van Damme developed about the interest of the companies in the standardization and self control, inspired us to analyze certifications and green labels and to identify important problems that should be considered.
The articles by Melissa McDiarmid were helpful to focus discussions how to deal with occupational health in an important Hospital in Quito.
Evidently, all the above examples illustrate only the current status of an ongoing process, and many colleagues helped to push and stimulated discussion how to achieve improvements. The present government of Ecuador has expressed a willingness to take in account the arguments presented as a key concern. I think the Collegium assumed a very important role at this moment, because Latin America has yet not reached a high standard of research in our field. We cannot forget the role of the late Olav Axelson, who many years ago started his presentation of lectures on occupational and environmental epidemiology.
Some overall lessons may be extracted from these experiences. First, the bridge between developed and developing countries may provide beneficial results already in a short term. Second, international scientific efforts and activities that are well organized are crucial to help the progress of the science for the people. Third, in addition to informing and influencing the national authorities, professionals, researchers and teachers in developing countries, it is very important to provide information to the social and environmental organizations, which are very active and which may have a large impact. In our countries it is not only a question of disseminating information, we need to explain, to convince, and to follow up.
I communicate these experiences because they may help to appreciate and understand the international role of the Collegium. At the same time, I wish to thank you for your support to Latin American, Ecuador and to me personally. I am proud to belong to the CR, and I shall continue to assist in communicating important messages to my part of the world. We need to reinforce our efforts in Ecuador and elsewhere in Latin America to ensure that the progress continues and becomes sustainable.
Raul Harari, MD, PhD
Fellow of the Collegium Ramazzini
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