EDITORIAL: Thumbs up to Rendell, breast health efforts

York Dispatch Editorial Board

Thumbs up: To former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell for taking a principled stand on an important issue — the fight to reverse high rates of heroin addiction.

Rendell has joined the board of the nonprofit group Safehouse, which is working to open a so-called “safe injection site,” where those addicted to heroin can take the drug under medical supervision.

It’s a controversial program, to be sure, with critics contending safe injection clinics are little more than welcome mats for illegal drug use. Rendell doesn’t see it that way.

Former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell speaks at Pennsylvania Hospital in Philadelphia on Monday, June 18, 2018. Rendell said he was diagnosed three-and-a-half years ago with Parkinson's disease. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

“If I thought for a minute that safe injection sites would create new addicts, I wouldn’t be a part of it,” said the 74-year-old Democrat. “I see the ability to save lives and get people who are addicts exposed to treatment.”

This isn’t a new position for Rendell, who led the state from 2003-11 after nearly a decade as mayor of Philadelphia. Recall, he signed into a law a bill legalizing clean-syringe exchanges in Philadelphia just months into his first term as mayor in 1992. Then, like now, the federal government stood in opposition. Then, like now, Rendell is not backing down.

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein has said the feds will move “quickly and aggressively” should a safe injection site open in Philadelphia. Rendell’s response: “Come arrest me first.”

Actually, it would be better if they didn’t. The epidemic of heroin addiction — which certainly hasn’t spared York County — needs to be attacked on all fronts, and a safe-injection facility has the potential to encourage treatment and save lives. If the federal government doesn’t want to help address the problem, it can at least stay out of the way.

Thumbs up: To organizers of the Bras Across Campus event running this week at York College.

The college-wide campaign is among the many initiatives being organized locally in October, which is Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

York College students are joining forces with the national Feel Your Boobies Foundation for the event, which is intended to raise awareness and funds, and reinforce the effectiveness of proactive health through peer-to-peer education and unconventional programming.

That’s important because the American Cancer Society estimates there will be more than 12,000 new cases of breast cancer across the state this year. And an estimated 70 percent of breast cancers are discovered during a self-examination.

Breast cancer remains the most common cancer women face, so kudos to all ongoing local efforts to expand awareness, programming and funding.

Thumbs down: To the Environmental Protection Agency for its current suggestion that — are you sitting down? — radiation is not harmful in small doses … and might even be beneficial!

According to the Associated Press, “The Trump administration is quietly moving to weaken U.S. radiation regulations, turning to scientific outliers who argue that a bit of radiation damage is actually good for you — like a little bit of sunlight.”

That’s a surprising and frightening reversal of the government’s longstanding policy that no level of radiation exposure is safe. Yet the EPA is relying on fringe scientists to argue that a little radiation might trigger repair mechanisms in the body and make people healthier.

This hooey is being dished out by people like Steven Milloy, a Trump administration-connected lawyer for tobacco and oil companies who — surprise! — refutes science on the dangers of tobacco and climate change.

Why the proposed change? Follow the money. Weaker regulations would reduce the costly policies maintained at facilities like nuclear plants and medical centers for handling radioactive materials. The bill could save “billions and billions of dollars,” argues proponent Edward Calabrese, a toxicologist at the University of Massachusetts.

But at what cost?

This latest exercise by the EPA to reverse long-held and demonstrably successful safety measures isn’t just a bad idea, it’s toxic.