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[ba-ohs-talk] A Need for Lawyers

You know, it just came to me the other day that we
NEED (some) lawyers. We need them in a really
big way, and we need an organization that has the
mandate to acquire funds and use them to pay top
lawyers some really big bucks. Done right, it could
have the biggest single impact on producing the
quality of life that our industrialized society threatens to
take away.    (01)

This line of reasoning was prompted the other day,
when I heard about a breast cancer conference which
turned out to be fairly disappointing, because no one
at the conference was able to expalin where it came
from, or why we have such high rates of it.    (02)

Now to me, that comment was astonishing. The science
is clear, and it stems from the same cause that has given
rise to unprecedented levels of obesity. The mechanism, for
the dietarily-aware is primarily due to the high levels of
trans fats found in partially hydrogenated oils.    (03)

We know that partially hydrogenated oils contain high levels
of trans fats. We know that the trans fats screw up the operation
of the cell membranes. They're like bad security guards who
don't let the good folks through, but let the bad ones pass
easily. So toxins in the diet are absorbed through the gut
when they should be rejected. Then they are passed into the
cells. And since the female breast is 90-some percent fatty
tissue, it makes a lot of sense that the problems would
manifest there, first and foremost.    (04)

But that was just one trend. I was thinking about how how
the companies make such a huge profit by selling stuff with
partially hydrogenated oil. (They use it because it gives a similar
texture and flavor as butter, only a lot more cheaply. If you
start reading labels, you'll find it everywhere. And french fries
are generally fried in huge vats of the stuff.)    (05)

So they make the money, and the victims, I mean, "customers",
pay the cost. How fair is that?    (06)

Then I started thinking about water. I mean, I PAY to have good
drinking water. I buy in bottles, because the stuff coming out of
the tap tastes so foul, anymore. Not to mention all the stuff that's
dumped into it.    (07)

So they make money dumping their crap, and I pay to buy water.
How fair is that?    (08)

But in one area, at least, we've started to redress the balance. I
speak, of course, of cancer. We now have tobacco companies
footing a lot of the bill for cancer patients, and that's only right.    (09)

But the important principle in that success is that the people who
CAUSE the problem are the people who should pay the COST.
They *should* shoulder the burden. It's only fair.    (010)

   To take it to the next level, it will be necessary to tease out that
   principle so that it stands on its own. Success in the tobaccoo
   lawsuits also relied heavily on the fact that tobacoo is addictive.
   However, while that is an important consideration, I think the
   really important principle, well founded in law, is that an
   individual (personal or corporate) is responsible for the harm they
   cause.    (011)

So, how will we get rid of the toxins, carcinogins, poisons and
hormones that infect our foods? How will be eliminate the trans
fats and airborne pollutants from our environment?    (012)

The answer, I think, is class action lawsuits.    (013)

Granted, this is something the Surgeon General's office and the FDA
should be doing for us. But the corporations that profit from these
things can employ full time lobbying staffs and eloquent marketing
campaigns. Until the money interests are dislodged from their firm
entrenchment in the halls of legislature, that is going to be an
difficult battle to start, much less to win.    (014)

But the halls of justice present a more level playing field. There,
even an extremely well-funded effort adversary has a difficult time
making its case, in the absence of truth. Admitedly, it still requires
a well-funded effort to present a convincing case, and to tear down
the facade erected by corporations that are more interested in profit
than in human health. But it can be done.    (015)

And if a private foundation were to start (shades of Nader!), then
several interesting things begin to happen:
  * The discovery motions begin to uncover what the corporation's
     scientists have been telling them all along. And to any corporate
     official with a modicum of sense, that proposition is downright
     scary. That impact by itself will cause some number of "food"
     purveyors to clean up their act.    (016)

   * The publicity that results from such trials will begin to put more
      information into the public consciousness.    (017)

  * As people become more informed, more aware, and more alert,
     the pressure on government to act grows stronger.    (018)

All of these things would have a major impact on the quality of life
in this country. Other interesting possibilities exist, as well,
including:    (019)

   * Lawsuits against medical schools that fail to
      disease prevention through nutrition (and, in the case of
      osteoporisis, through lifetime resistance-training exercise).    (020)

   * Lawsuits against the AMA for failing to council doctors to
      recommend safe nutritional supplements instead of drugs with
      harmful side-effects, in the many cases where the latter is no
      more effective than the former.    (021)

   * Possible lawsuits against the FDA, for failing to take into
      account the public interest in cases where it fails to pass a
      nutritional supplement for lack of extensive, expensive testing,
      and yet passes a manufacturer's drug for the same condition
      on little more than the manufacturer's say so.    (022)

      In general, I think the FDA is well meaning and principled.
      But they could use a little watch-dogging to help them keep
      their priorities straight.    (023)

Them there's my thoughts for the day.
Makes me wish I *had* gone to law school, as I
had thought about, once upon a time, when I was interested
in constitutional issues...    (024)