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Community and Health Public Week 2

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Introduction

            There is a rise in interest in medical ethics from the past century which is due to different factors. Some of these factors include the growing sophistication of patients and the information available to them, the greater technologic power of modern medicine, sustained fast-growing costs of health care such as medical malpractice costs and efforts to protect the civil rights of the rising disadvantaged groups in our society (Mcclellan, 1994).

Reasons as to why various parties want to locate a uranium-enrichment facility in Homer, multinational corporation want to build such a facility there, residents welcome or oppose such a plan, would local politicians or businessmen welcome or oppose such a plan, and reasons as to why teachers, school administrators, and others would be concerned with public services welcome or oppose the building of such a facility.

Most investors believe that a business organization is out there in the business of making profits and nothing else. This, however, should not be the case. Every organization should show social responsibility which involves protecting the public observing the policies stipulated on how to keep the environment clean (Mcclellan, 1994). In this case, I believe that the various parties that want to locate the Uranium-enriched facility in Homer want to do this out of self-vested interest but not helping the people of Homer.

The major function of this proposed installation is the production of various grades of enriched uranium that is meant to be used in commercial nuclear power generation in the United States. In such a case, stakeholders such as Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) would approach the local government together with the Louisiana Energy Services (LES) and seeing this as an opportunity to develop their region, would endorse the construction of the facility (http://www.aspph.org/wpcontent/uploads/2014/02/EthicsCurriculum.pdf).

            Louisiana Energy Services targets the relatively poor rural communities of Homer because of the inexpensive land areas and also because they believe that the ultimately, the biggest feature of the facility would be jobs. The aspect of job creation by the facility is a sentiment that is shared by many other stakeholders such as the public services and the local businessmen (Mcclellan, 1994).

However, the teachers and the school system, representing the few elites of the community would not be inclined to look at the job aspect of the installation only. Considering some of the raw materials that will be used, the teachers would not welcome such a project since they are aware of the environmental health hazards that are posed by such an installation. Such environmental impacts include potential health and safety risks, associated with the facility’s construction, operation, decontamination, and decommissioning

(http://www.aspph.org/wpcontent/uploads/2014/02/EthicsCurriculum.pdf).

Reasons as to why “outsiders,” such as environmental activists would take an interest in Homer and the Claiborne facility, insiders in cases of potential environmental pollution should have the greater “say” in decisions about building a potential polluter, who should bear the burden of proof in presence of social, scientific, economic or other uncertainties, and what other data are relevant in addition to scientific data to inform a decision about whether to build the facility and its environmental impact.

            According to Ralph Nader, an environmental activists, he believes that majority of the contemporary public-health problems are environmentally induced. I would concur with him. Studies have shown that most of the emissions by industries are dangerous fumes or aerosols which if are not reduced into less harmful forms lead to serious health problems to individuals living near the industry (Mcclellan, 1994).

A uranium enrichment plant like the one that is proposed by Louisiana Energy Services has other effects on the environment. The plant would generate large quantities of wastes composed majorly of the uranium hexafluoride the depleted uranium. This compound is mildly radioactive, doesn’t decompose easily and is also highly corrosive and toxic.

            In such a case, the environmental activists have a duty to release an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) after evaluation and assessment of the projected environmental impacts which include potential health and safety risks, associated with the facility’s construction, operation, decontamination, and decommissioning. It should be clear that slight water and air emissions of radioactive and hazardous materials are generally small during normal operations and not non-existent as most people would assume.

Data from organizations such as National Institutes of Health is vital since it helps the citizens in making informed decisions. According to studies conducted by this organization, the majority of Americans die annually from environmentally induced cancer than from murder. Thus, the environmental activists together with the help of the local government should work together in enforcing the set policies about environment conservation (Mcclellan, 1994). With the right knowledge, I believe that the public will be able to make more informed decisions concerning the construction of Claiborne facility.

What need to be disclosed and to whom in order for the community of Homer to make an informed decision concerning the construction of the Claiborne facility? Are the issues to be disclosed factual, or are there ethical assumptions that need to be disclosed as well?

            The people of Homer need to know the adverse implications of environmental pollution. Since most of the businessmen would want only to make profits and not incur expenses, they will always claim that there are no public health threats that are associated with environmental pollution. In such a case, medical practitioners and environmental would aid in discarding such a lie by outlining the facts concerning the effects of environmental pollution on public health (http://www.aspph.org/wpcontent/uploads/2014/02/EthicsCurriculum.pdf).

This will consequently aid the community of Homer In making an informed decision concerning the construction of Claiborne facility. This facility would help the community in treating some of these serious diseases that result from environmental pollution from the industries around. Issues such as public-health threats as a consequence of prolonged exposure to vast environmental hazards are facts that the people of Homer need to know. In some cases, aerosols released from industries may contain some mutagens and thus lead to cancer. Mutagens bind to DNA and set off a chain of events that ends in cancer. Such are the facts that these individuals in this community should know (Mcclellan, 1994).

What role does the predominant race of the residents of Homer play in the siting of the Claiborne facility there? Would the facility benefit those of a minority group, African-Americans, or are they being singled out to bear an environmental burden?

            Studies have shown that the predominant race usually benefits much from health policies. The major role that the predominant race which is the whites who in most cases are more affluent than the Black- Americans is the provision of jobs. They are the ones who influence the decisions of installations of such facilities such as Claiborne Enrichment Center and the Uranium Enrichment Center. They are thus involved in making the major decision of the community hence, play a big role in economic development of the community (http://www.aspph.org/wpcontent/uploads/2014/02/EthicsCurriculum.pdf).

            In this case, considering the case of Homer and the Uranium enrichment facility, I do not believe that the facility would benefit the minority group who are the African Americans. Considering that there is no place in the United States to put toxic wastes, construction of such a facility would have adverse environmental implications to the minority individuals of Homer.

 Also, considering that a few minority individuals have the right skills to be employed on a permanent basis, the facility is not to benefit these individuals in terms of job creation. Homer minorities are disadvantaged in terms of education, and income. Socioeconomically deprived groups typically are more likely than affluent whites to live near polluting facilities (Mcclellan, 1994). Since minorities are statistically more likely to be economically disadvantaged, majority of researchers assert that as environmental racism, such as the case that is happening in Homer (Mcclellan, 1994).

            In the case of Louisiana, I believe that this was a case of environmental racism and not industrial growth. The Environmental Impact Statement released by the assessors was biased underestimation of the risks of the incident of the facility that was proposed. Studies show that the assessors did not conduct a probabilistic risk assessment (PRA) and based their conclusions on largely subjective judgments that were formulated in a purely qualitative language (Mcclellan, 1994). They also employed outdated studies in drawing their conclusions and failed to evaluate some worst accidents. Thus, all these factors led them to making biased decisions and hence conclusions without minding the people of Homer.

 

References

Mcclellan, F. (1994) The Medical Malpractice: Law, Tactics, and Ethics. Temple University Press.

 

http://www.aspph.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/EthicsCurriculum.pdf.

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