ATSDR: Change in Public Policy regarding Vieques


FROM CASA PUEBLO, Adjuntas, Puerto Rico, via Atlanta, GA, USA, to Vieques, Puerto Rico

ATSDR: Change in Public Policy regarding Vieques

Drs. Arturo Massol Deyá of Casa Pueblo de Adjuntas / UPR Mayagüez, Carmen Ortiz Roque, and Carmen Colón de Jorge participated in extensive discovery meetings about scientific investigations of Vieques in the offices of the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) in Atlanta on November 5 and 6, 2009.

The Puerto Rican scientists presented their studies about Vieques and confronted their colleagues from the federal agency about the latter’s public policy of not connecting 60 years of US Navy practices with the environmental and health problems in Vieques. In this meeting it was proved beyond a doubt that there is a connection between military practices and the health and environmental contamination in Vieques.  Finally, the ATSDR’s director and his technical advisors accepted the arguments of the the Puerto Rican experts. In light of this development the Puerto Rican scientists asked that the agency officially and publicly express the following:

• Change the agency’s current public policy to recognize the connection between the military practices and the problems of health and contamination in Vieques

• Do not endorse vegetation burning as part of the cleanup process

• Do not permit open air detonation of unexploded bombs

• Initiate a reevaluation of the health situation in Vieques

• Announce publicly that this determination was inspired by a group of Puerto Rican experts

The discussion was based on scientific data presented in five studies by Dr. Arturo Massol Deyá de Casa Pueblo de Adjuntas/UPR Mayagüez in Vieques’ military and civilian zones from 1999 to 2008. The studies examined crabs, vegetation, goats, pigeon peas, marine vegetation and organic cultivation in the civilian zone. The latter showed evidence of the movement of cancer-causing heavy metals from zones of military activity to where viequenses live. In addition, this finding was sustained by powerfully convincing studies by Drs. Carmen Ortiz Roque and Carmen Colón de Jorge. To this they added the resolution from the forum celebrated in Casa Pueblo on October 30, based on additional studies and investigations by Drs. Jorge Colón, University of Puerto Rico–Río Piedras, Carlos J. Rodríguez Sierra, UPR–Medical Sciences Recinto de Ciencias Médicas and Cruz María Nazario, UPR–Medical Sciences.

It is important to note that for years the ATSDR had in its possession the studies of the Puerto Rican scientists, as well as a study by the Puerto Rican Health Department about the higher incidence of cancer in Vieques than in the rest of Puerto Rico, yet both government agencies kept those studies secret. This points to a coverup and racist treatment of 9,000 inhabitants of Vieques, Puerto Rico.

It is also important to recognize the great contribution toward changing the ATSDR’s policy, made by community groups in Vieques, the island’s mayor, and individuals both from Puerto Rico and the United States, in particular Congressman Steven Rothman (D-NJ).

This glorious experience of solidarity came about due to a conversation among Puerto Rican scientists Drs. Cruz María Nazario, Jorge Colón, and Arturo Massol Deyá on Radio Casa Pueblo

WOQI 1020 AM in Adjuntas, Puerto Rico, on October 8, 2009. This inspired the all-day Forum in Casa Pueblo on October 30 as a response to an invitation from the ATSDR to participate in meetings on November 5-6, 20009 in Atlanta. The Forum was transmitted live by Radio Casa Pueblo and by < <> > for the whole world (video available to viewing).

Today we continue in attention and in struggle for our beloved and glorious People of Vieques.

Casa Pueblo     Tel/Fax 829-4842 <> <>


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