Multinational Monitor

SEP 2001
VOL 22 No. 9


Against the Workers: How IMF and World Bank Policies Undermine Labor Power and Rights
by Vincent Lloyd and Robert Weissman

Privatization Tidal Wave: IMF/World Bank Water Policies and the Price Paid by the Poor
by Sara Grusky

Dubious Development: The World Bank’s Foray Into Private Sector Investment
by Charlie Cray

Big Oil And The Bank: Clear And Present Danger
by Stephen Kretzmann


The Power of Protest: Critics Explain How People Can Affect the IMF and World Bank
interviews with
Njoki Njoroge Njehu, Joanne Carter, and Neil Watkins


Behind the Lines

Toward a New Washington Consensus

The Front
Coke Abuse in Colombia

The Lawrence Summers Memorial Award

Names In the News


Behind the Lines

A License to Kill

For every U.S. nuclear power plant that has its license renewed, enough radiation will be released to cause 12 additional cancer deaths, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) estimates.

The NRC figure comes as part of a correction to NRC’s 1996 plant relicensing regulations, and does not include deaths from accidents, non-routine releases or high level waste and spent fuel disposal.

U.S. nuclear power plants can renew their licenses for an additional 20 years. According to the Nuclear Energy Institute, six plants have so far received renewed licenses, 14 more have already applied and another 26 are expected to apply for renewals in the near future. Virtually all 103 U.S. nuclear plants are expected to eventually apply for license renewal.

“The Bush administration and the nuclear power industry think killing more than 1,000 people is an acceptable price to pay for the continued use of nuclear power. We think it’s a national scandal,” says Michael Mariotte, executive director of the Washington-based Nuclear Information and Resource Service. “This admission gives the lie to the Bush-Cheney administration and nuclear industry’s claims that nuclear power is somehow an ‘emissions-free’ technology.”

“Natural background radiation is a part of our everyday lives,” retorts Steve Kerekes, a spokesperson for the Nuclear Energy Institute. “The exposures that individuals have naturally is multitudes times more than what is being talked about here. When we say nuclear energy is an emission-free technology, we’re talking about emissions into the atmosphere. We don’t burn anything to create the electricity.”

Asked why he doesn’t characterize radiation as an “emission,” Kerekes retorts, “If you don’t like that word, choose your own word.”

Drugs and Money

The pharmaceutical industry’s claim that high drug prices are needed to sustain research and development is contradicted by the drug makers’ own reports to the government, according to a Washington, D.C.-based consumer health group.

Families USA, which examined annual reports filed by drug manufacturers with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), says the drug manufacturers spend more than twice as much on marketing, advertising and administration as on research and development.

“In this context, to suggest that any moderation in drug prices would reduce R&D ignores the fact that future profits of pharmaceutical companies are dependent on the development of new blockbuster drugs,” concludes the non-profit consumer advocacy group.

The group says drug prices for the top 50 drugs prescribed for seniors rose more than twice the rate of inflation in 2000. At the same time, the industry continues to be the most profitable in the United States, with profit margins nearly four times the average of Fortune 500 companies.

Meanwhile, the highest-paid executives of the nine top pharmaceutical companies received an average of nearly $19 million each, without counting unexercised stock options, which were valued at nearly $900 million for the nine executives. The highest paid executive was William Steere, Jr., chair of Pfizer, who received over $40 million in 2000.

“The study is inaccurate when it compares spending on drug research versus marketing,” says Jackie Cottrell, spokesperson for the Pharmaceutical Manufacturing Association (PhRMA). “Pharmaceutical companies spend more on research than on promotion, and half of the promotional spending is dedicated to free drug samples for patients.”

Neither Dry Nor Clean

Consumers who dry-clean their clothes are exposed to a cancer-causing solvent that could be easily replaced with non-toxic alternatives, says Greenpeace.

In a new report, “Out of Fashion: Moving Beyond Toxic Cleaners,” the group asks the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for tighter regulations on the cancer-causing dry cleaning solvent perchloroethylene (perc). A government study published earlier this year linked the chemical to 266 dry cleaning workers’ cancer deaths in four U.S. cities.

Studies show the chemical continues to offgas from clothing after it is taken home. Residents living above dry cleaners can be exposed to elevated levels of the chemical, while 75 to 90 percent of all dry cleaners have caused costly groundwater contamination. The state of Florida alone may face 2,800 perc groundwater cleanups costing an estimated $1.4 billion.

“What is most important at this point is that national, state and local governments provide incentives to dry cleaners and pave the way for new technologies to flourish by removing obstacles to change,” says Rick Hind of Greenpeace, who points out that hundreds of cleaners are already perc-free today. Non-toxic alternatives include liquid carbon dioxide cleaning and wet cleaning processes.

A bill pending in the U.S. Congress would give tax credits to cleaners who use these safer cleaning systems. But the Halogenated Solvents Industry Alliance, a Washington, D.C.-based trade association which includes perc manufacturers Dow, PPG Industries and Vulcan Chemicals, says perc has been used safely for over 50 years. Dow lobbyists are actively opposing the proposed legislation, which they say should also include tax credits for solvent-reducing technologies.

— Charlie Cray



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