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Kauai's Doctors Say Future Generations at Stake

Kauai's Mana March. Joel Guy photo

Kauai’s Mana March. Joel Guy photo

Doctors and Nurses Implore Mayor: “Sign Bill 2491 Into Law Now”

Citing notable rates of birth defects and disease, doctors and nurses in west Kauai are imploring Mayor Bernard Carvalho, Jr. to sign Bill 2491 into law, indicating elevated rates of diseases and birth defects in their west side clinical practices.
This effort from the Kauai medical community comes as the Mayor has recently indicated a possibility of his vetoing the bill, which was approved by the Kauai County Council by a vote of 6-1, received overwhelming support from local residents and media attention. Within hours of first hearing of a possible veto, over 20 Kauai medical professionals wrote letters to the Mayor urging passage.
In one letter delivered to the Mayor, several doctors pointed to specific and rare birth defects, some that may be occurring at a rate 10 times above the national average. One letter signed by several doctors describes a general calculation of a rare set of heart defects that appear to be higher in west Kauai newborns:

“Recent CDC statistics put transposition at 1/3300 births, hypoplastic left heart at 1/4344 births and hypoplastic right at 1/17000 births. In the last 3 years we have had about 750 deliveries; this gives us an incidence of 53/10,000 births for these 4 defects. National US data shows an incidence of 5.5/10,000 births, so we have 10 times the national rate.”
“Without the basic Right to Know provisions provided by Bill 2491, our patients, especially the young mothers and children of west Kauai, bear the unfair risk of health impacts due to possible exposure,” another letter states.

A support letter, delivered by east Kauai pediatrician Lee Evslin to both the County Council and to the Mayor, cited a subset of cancer data recently released by the Hawaii Department of Health, showing:

“The rate for leukemia increased on Kauai 60% between [two specific] time periods and leukemia happens to be the cancer type most closely linked to pesticide exposure.”

The same letter also stated:

“I am very concerned that the three growing seasons and the dry windy conditions on the westside may be producing a magnification of the problems inherent in pesticide exposure.”

While the doctors do not claim to know for certain if there is a direct link between birth defects, disease incidents and pesticide use on west Kauai, they emphasize that the disclosure provisions of Bill 2491 will allow them to better understand, diagnose, treat and advise their patients.

American Academy of Pediatrics Report Raises Alarm.

Over the past several months, medical professionals have pressed policymakers to pay attention to a November 2012 report by the American Academy of Pediatrics, which cites growing evidence that developing fetuses and children are particularly vulnerable to pesticides.
The Academy cites research linking pesticides to delays in neurological development, endocrine abnormalities, behavioral issues and an increase in childhood cancers such as leukemia. The report also expresses concern that those living in agricultural regions may be at greater risk.
“The medical community’s voice must count when the County engages in lawmaking,” stated one west side doctor whose letter is attracting additional signatures, “medical professionals of the west side asked for help. The Council has given it in the form of Bill 2491. And now I ask that you do the humanitarian and upright act of honoring this process, and sign the bill into law.”

Ongoing Learning During Rule Making Process

In their letters and calls, medical professionals also invited the Mayor to learn more about their concerns, and how the pesticide disclosure provisions of Bill 2491 will allow them to better diagnose their patients, whether in acute or chronic exposure situations. After Bill 2491 is signed into law, a 9-month rule making process begins, allowing the Mayor and his administration to work out the details and administration of the Council-approved legislation.
“The Mayor is not a legislator. The Mayor and his staff administer and implement what our County lawmakers decide based on the democratic process,” said Marghee Maupin, a nurse practitioner in west Kauai. “It’s time to sign this bill into law and get on with giving Kauai the best health care we possibly can.”
Bill 2491 was approved by the Kauai County Council in a vote of 6-1 and received overwhelming public support from residents, generating thousands of testimonial letters of support and over 53,000 petition signatures from Kauai and worldwide. It is known as the “Right to Know” bill, providing for pesticide disclosure, modest buffer zones, and a health study to examine the impacts of heavy pesticide use on Kauai. Please join the call-in today or send an email asking the Mayor to sign this critical legislation.

Speak or write your brief message with aloha:
“Dear Mayor Carvalho, mahalo for your leadership. Please sign this critical legislation for the benefit of all life.”
Here is a link to Bill 2491, Draft 2 which was adopted on second and final reading by the Council of the County of Kaua‘i at its meeting held on October 15, 2013 and transmitted to the Mayor on October 17, 2013. In a letter Friday to Kauai Mayor Bernard Carvalho, Jr., attorneys Paul Achitoff, of Earthjustice, and George Kimbrell said they would be willing to defend the bill in court should it come to that and urged the mayor to sign it.

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