Casualties on Conscience

For months now, the Republican Reaganites have hurled anti-regulatory slogans against real problems of health and safety in the country. They demanded “regulatory relief”-a euphemism for scraping law and order from the backs of corporate polluters and hazar­dous-product manufacturers.

In recent weeks, however, their wrecking-crew policies-directed toward destroying the auto safety, food and drug, and environmental pollution and pesticide control programs-have begun to bear bitter fruit.

A law lobbied through Congress by crusading mothers requires the Food and Drug Administration to issue regulations setting nutrition standards for infant formula. But Vice President George Bush’s regulatory relief task force held up these regulations for months.

The inevitable happened. As recounted by FDA Com­missioner Arthur Hayes, the proposed regulations, if issued last May when ready, would have prevented the marketing of more than half a million cans of Nursoy brand formula by Wyeth Laboratories that contained no vitamin B6. An additional 2.3 million cans of Wyeth’s SMA brand formula, containing less vitamin B6 than required by law, finally are being recalled along with the Nursoy batch.

For infants relying on instant formula every day, a deficiency of vitamin B6 can have serious health effects, including convulsions and, in more serious cases, per­manent brain damage.

These cases of vitamin B6 deficiency resulted from’) company error: Vitamin B1 was poured into a container marked for vitamin B6. The White House saw no urgency in clearing these infant-protection regulations last year.

From Boston comes a report by the Food and Research Action Center that pediatricians are finding malnutrition in some poverty-stricken children. The center said this was an early warning sign about what might occur on a national scale if Reagan succeeds in cutting by one-third the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) food program. WIC has been a successful effort in protecting infant health and reducing infant mortality in America.

Dr. Deborah Frank has treated children suffering from loss of weight and illness who were dropped from the WIC program. “We have an extremely fragile system of food assistance in place now,” she said. From the Center for Disease Control (CDC) in Atlanta, a one-third reduction in blood-lead levels of U.S. residents is confirmed. This good news is attributed by the CDC to a federal regulation mandating reduction in the lead con­tent of gasoline. Lead poisoning is a grave hazard for children and has produced mental retardation among other harms. Despite these facts, the Reagan ad – ministration, through the Environmental Protection Agency, is considering letting the oil companies put more lead into gasoline.

These examples of what can happen when the federal safety cop is taken off the corporate danger beat are just harbingers of what will follow. The callous slogan binge is over for this administration. From now on, in the areas of drug hazards, food contamination, cancer, lung disease. auto injuries and other preventable human miseries. the Reaganites will have mounting casualties on their hands and on their consciences.

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