As most of you know, the New York City Advisory Council on Health Priorities (NYCACHP) is an affiliate of the American Council on Science and Health (ACSH), providing sound scientific information on various public health topics particular to New York City. Since its inception in 1997, NYCACHP has proved to be a voice of reason and authority on several NYC issues.
In February of 1997, when NYC Public Advocate Mark Green's Green Party called for a ban on milk taken from cows injected with recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone (rBGH), NYCACHP publicized a response exposing Green's claims as scientifically groundless and alarmist. Later, when the New York City Board of Education decided not to ban rBGH milk, the Council applauded their sensible stance.
NYCACHP advocates taxicab safety, and praised Mayor Giuliani in August 1997 for his campaign to encourage seatbelt use in taxicabs. In February 1998, Mark Green issued another alarmist report, Lead & Kids: Why are 300,000 NYC Children Contaminated? Again, the Council discredited Green's biased and unscientific claims with a commentary based on ACSH's booklet, Lead and Human Health.
Recently, NYCACHP has been monitoring potential health scares regarding the safety of New York City's drinking water. Following the September announcement of a needless and expensive water filtration system, aimed at "improving" the already safe New York City water, NYCACHP authored a letter to the editor (which appeared in the New York Times) criticizing the misallocation of limited public health resources.
The Council also responded to this fall's hysteria over peanut butter allergies. Concerns by parents and school boards about potentially life-threatening reactions among allergic children prompted peanut butter bans by private schools. In response, NYCACHP contacted the New York City Board of Education to discourage similar product bans by public schools. The Council argued that bans on peanut butter provide a disservice to children who must learn to cope with allergies. The Board of Education was in full agreement with NYCACHP's position, and assured the Council that no ban of peanut butter would follow.
Beginning in November, the NYCACHP was called upon to testify in hearings related to a recent court decision to amend Local Law 1, lead paint and abatement requirements. Hearings were held on November 17, 1998 by the New York City Department of Health (DOH) and the Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD), and on December 16, 1998 by the New York City Council, Committee on Housing and Buildings. NYCACHP's testimony primarily addressed the court requirement of complete abatement of lead based paint, even when the paint is intact. In the interest of public health, the Council argued for a "lead safe," rather than "lead free" approach to lead abatement. Many of the parties involved in the hearings, namely DOH and HPD, concurred with NYCACHP. However, the Advisory Council offered an important, independent scientific perspective.