Environment Picture

Great Lakes Health Banner making a comeback!

Project documents past, charts the future
The Great Lakes Health Banner—a powerful documentary of the work of Great Lakes and Michigan organizations concerned about the health effects of toxins and the lack of effective action by elected officials—is making a comeback.

Gretchen Michaels, director of Citizens for Alternatives to Chemical Contamination (CACC), has teamed up with Mary Ann Stroup to update, inventory and expand visibility of the Great Lakes Health Banner Project.

The banner, created in 1991, now represents 80 organizations and is being made available for use and display at events, gatherings and rallies.

Many forward-thinking Great Lakes organizations and individuals were instrumental in creating the Great Lakes Health Banner, including Stroup, director of Families for Environmental Awareness.

The Great Lakes Health Banner Project became a visible grassroots effort to demand accountability and responsibility from (then) Governor Engler and the Michigan Department of Public Health and legislators in regard to environmental health policy. It helped give a public mandate to the state to implement the International Joint Commission for the Great Lakes (IJC) recommendations in April 1992, urging:
  • A U.S. and Canadian incineration ban in certain areas near the Great Lakes;
  • A phase-out of the use of chlorine in manufacturing;
  • Adoption of a “weight of evidence” approach, not waiting for scientific certainty to be established, but taking action to protect against toxics as soon as the “weight of the evidence” indicated the need for action; and
  • Elimination of those chemicals from production and use in the Great Lakes Basin that fit the definition of “persistent toxic substances” as recent history had shown that persistent toxins could not be safely managed.
The Great Lakes Health Banner Project further recommended that state officials:
  • Officially recognize that human health is affected by persistent toxic substances throughout the Great Lakes Basin, as concluded by the IJC;
  • Become proactive in protecting public health, as mandated by the Michigan Constitution and the Public Health Code; and
  • Begin implementing the IJC recommendations without further delay.
Today, too little of this critical health agenda has been undertaken by either Canadian or U.S. officials.

Indeed, as we near the 15th Biennial Meeting of the IJC in October 2009, we face grave environmental threats, including global warming. Preventable, human-made toxic pollutants have led to surging health costs due to epidemics of asthma, hormone mimics that affect both our children and nature, and certain cancers and birth defects, for starters. There are growing dead zones in areas of the Great Lakes. Utilities give a token nod to sustainable “green” electricity and instead plan for dirty coal and dangerous, expensive nuclear plants.

To call attention to the need for decisive action on these problems, groups are encouraged to display all, or portions, of the Banner at events. If your group would like to obtain a three-foot panel to graphically represent your local environmental concerns, a kit with material and instructions is available.

Contact Gretchen Michaels at (248) 628-7463 or see http://www.caccmi.org and click on “The Great Lakes Health Banner” for more information. Contributions toward this project are appreciated and tax deductible under IRS rules. A contribution of $12 or more will underwrite a square for the Banner.
-Kay Cumbow, Citizens for Alternatives to Chemical Contamination, with help from Gretchen Michaels
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