One of the best ways that mothers, fathers, grandparents, and caregivers can find out about hazardous agents in their homes, communities, and workplaces is by reading the journal Environmental Health Perspectives (EHP). EHP is published by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), an agency created in 1966 by the Surgeon General as part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). EHP is published monthly and can be accessed on-line at no cost. Some of the scientific articles published in EHP may be too technical for some readers, but the journal’s Environews section is written with the general public in mind. Environews translates complex, cutting-edge scientific topics into narratives that are understandable and accessible to everyone. It is a breath of uncontaminated air by those of us outside the NIH.
Now, NIEHS is in the process of eliminating the Environews section because they want to use its budget elsewhere. This change comes on the heels of other proposed changes at EHP, including a plan to outsource the entire journal to a private firm. One of the many groups opposed to this change is the Society for Environmental Journalists (SEJ). SEJ wrote to NIEHS’s top official, David A. Schwartz, MD, in November 2006, urging him to reconsider his plans. They said that these changes would undermine the journal, as well as “the reputation of NIEHS and the quality of environmental health information available to the American public.” SEJ’s WatchDog devoted its entire Jan 24. issue to the troubling changes at EHP.
It’s hard for me to imagine any NIEHS activity that could substitute for Environews to better enhance the public’s understanding of environmental health. Environews provides valuable information to the public and should be continued. If you agree, please let the leadership at NIEHS (i.e., Director, Dr. David A. Schwartz and Associated Director, William Martin) know your views, along with Congressman Dennis Kucinich who is chairing the House Oversight and Government Reform Subcommittee on Domestic Policy, and Congressman David Obey, Chair of the House Appropriations Committee.