In remarks before a Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works hearing exploring the human health impacts of global warming, Committee Chairwoman Barbara Boxer (D-CA) stated, “Leading scientists are telling us that we will have more extreme weather events…as the planet warms, and that is very likely to affect our health. Global warming…may contribute to an increase in waterborne diseases, including cholera.” The committee then received testimony from witnesses representing various public health agencies. Dr. Julie Gerberding, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), was one of the witnesses.

On 24 October, the day after the hearing, the Associated Press reported that an anonymous CDC official had declared that Gerberding’s original testimony was “eviscerated” by the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB). Her OMB-approved testimony neglected to address human health risks of global warming, such as heat-related injuries and injuries due to extreme weather events. Tom Skinner, CDC spokesman, downplayed the modifications, asserting that the director’s testimony and presence were “very productive.” However, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution posted the original testimony to their website. From this, it is clear that several pages of the testimony were omitted from the final version.

“The White House continues to say that science should guide us on global warming legislation. The Director of the Centers for Disease Control is one of the country’s leading voices on public health. The Administration should immediately release Dr. Gerberding’s full, uncut statement, because the public has a right to know all the facts about the serious threats posed by global warming,” said Senator Boxer.

House Committee on Science and Technology chairman Bart Gordon (D-TN) and Subcommittee on Investigations and Oversight chairman Brad Miller (D-NC) followed Senator Boxer’s comments and called for the White House to release documents related to the edited testimony.

Quickly criticizing the chairmen for their approach was Subcommittee on Investigations and Oversight ranking Republican, F. James Sensenbrenner (WI). In a statement, Sensenbrenner quoted Gerberding, “I was absolutely happy with my testimony in Congress. We finally had a chance to go and say what we thought was important.” According to Sensenbrenner’s press release, the Associated Press quoted Gerberding as saying. “I don’t let people put words in my mouth, and I stand for science,” she added.

This is the not the first time the White House has been accused of interfering with public health issues. The most recent concerns arose last July, when former Surgeon General Dr. Richard Carmona testified before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform that the Bush Administration had habitually blocked him from issuing reports on various sensitive public health topics. “Anything that doesn’t fit into the political appointees’ ideological, theological or political agenda is often ignored, marginalized or simply buried,” said Carmona.

For more information about the hearing on politicization of the Surgeon General, please visit http://www.aibs.org/public-policy-reports/20070724.html#003836

 


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