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Virginia Republican who chairs thd committee that any tobacco reforms must go through. Now, guess who has publicly promised the industry that there will not even be hearings on any reform legislation, much less any reforms. Bingo if you guessed Bliley. Even worse, many of our lawmakers have demanded that the Food & Drug Administration NOT regulate the sale of tobacco to our kids. These one hundred fifty-six tobacco whores took an average of twenty-one thousand dollars each from the industry. For a copy of the Common Cause report, PITY THE RICH I don’t want to hear any more of this tacky talk about America’s corporate executives being paid too much. Yes, it is true that they are making a killingfor example, the top dog at Texas Instruments bagged a one-hundred-fortyeight-percent pay hike last year, putting him at nearly eleven million dollars a year, and the Aetna Insurance company chairman grabbed a whopping four-hundredeighty-five-percent raise; and, yes, it is true that Mr. Big is getting his personal increase at the same time he’s firing thousands of workers and lecturing everyone on the need to lower costs; and yes, it is true that these fat executive paychecks are deducted from the corporation’s taxes, meaning you and I actually subsidize them. But picky, picky, picky! Hey, CEOs have mortgages to pay, too. In fact, it’s harder for the Big Boss because he’s got to pay not only for his main mansion, but also for his summer home at Newport, his ski lodge in Aspen and that condo in Miami bet you complainers hadn’t even thought of that! Imagine what he pays for utilities? Why it’d take your annual salary just to cover his light and gas bills. So let’s show a little more empathy out there for what The Man is going through. Yeah I knoweighty percent of you have seen your own standard of living tumble the last couple of decades, but there you go again; whine, whine, whine. Think of someone besides yourself. Sure Robert Allen of AT&T fired forty thousand employees in January while he pocketed about a one-hundred-eighty-percent increase in his own pay, but country club dues in America are up by one hundred eighty percent too. There’s been a whopping two-hundred-percent increase in the price of Mercedes stretch limousines in the past decade alone, and if you have to ask what’s happened to caviar prices…well, my dear, you shouldn’t even be thinking about eating caviar. America’s top executives are giving a whole new meaning to the phrase: gross compensation. QUESTION: My sister is pregnant and lives in a border town in Mexico. She is very concerned about reports of high rates of incidents of children in that area being born without brains, or having other serious health effects. Should she be worried? ANSWER: Yes. Unfortunately, there is real reason to be concerned, whether living in a border town in Mexico or in the United States. Pollution generated on the Mexican side of the border can migrate to the U.S. a lot easier than would-be residents. The average hourly wage for factory workers in most of the Fortune 500 companies in the U.S is $13.50. That exact same factory \(maquiladora, meaning “twin comMexico, pays its workers approximately $27 for a forty-five to forty-eight hour week. It takes a maquiladora worker 1.5 hours of work to buy a half gallon of milk; 5.5 hours to buy one kilo of beef; and thirty hours to buy a pair of women’s dress shoes. To add injury to insult, there is little if any concern for workers’ health and safety. Management of these Mexican-based U.S.owned facilities choose not to adhere to the strict safety rules that apply in their plants in the U.S. On a recent trip to Matamoros, Mexico, we observed firsthand the plight of the poor workers in the maquiladora of a chemical company. On the outside, the plant looked almost like a luxury hotel. Once past the professionally designed lobby and into the actual work area, however, the outlook changed dramatically. Plant workers \(mainly women, many of whom were pregwith their hands and forearms saturated in highly toxic chemicals. Even if protective gloves were available, they were made of fabric, providing no protection whatsoever. No respirators or masks were available. These same toxic chemicals were stored in open vats inside the unventilated factory. Marvin S. Legator is a professor and director of the Division of Environmental Toxicology at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston. Amanda M. Howells-Daniel is with the Toxics Assistance Program at the University of Texas Medical Branch. The views expressed in this column do not necessarily reflect those of UTMB Galveston. Fans in the factory, with no fresh-air intake, blew the fumes throughout the facility, ensuring that even those working in a different area were given their fair share of toxins. Although the “twin” of the maquiladoras on the U.S. side is held to strict guidelines regarding worker safety, there is no enforcement of U.S. anti-pollution laws in Mexico. Waste disposal becomes another doublestandard issue. Frequently, untreated waste is pumped directly from a facility in Mexico into the Rio Grande: Brownsville’ s and Matamoros’ only source of water. Fish living in the Rio Grande have been found to contain excessive concentrations of PCBs Texas Department of Health has warned against eating fish caught in the Donna department assures valley residents that the water in the reservoir is “safe.” Many of the maquiladoras have been sued. They have been accused of causing the high rate of anencephalic births, children born with severe mental retardation, and miscarriages or stillborn children. The lawsuits were successful, and it has been hoped that these suits might help determine how to create regulations for companies that contaminate water, soil, and air. Little has changed in these border towns since the lawsuits, however, and the contamination continues. The question should also be asked: “Why should we have to wait for the death or deformity of a baby to occur before regulations are established and enforced?” The Texas Department of Health also conducted a study into the unusually high rates of neural tube defects in Brownsville \(between January 1989 and January 1, 1991, thirty babies delivered in Brownsville had either anencephaly or months to conduct this extremely limited studyonly to conclude that more studies were needed. Environmental factors were not considered in this study as a possible cause of the problem. It has been suggested that a study be done on the workers in a U.S. plant and then compare it to the exact same study performed on a Mexican counterpart. One wonders how many anencephalic babies are born to mothers living in downtown Detroit, next door to the automobile factories; and how many would it take for changes to be made in the workplace? Marvin S. Legator and Amanda M. Howells-Daniel A CHEMICAL WORLD THE TEXAS OBSERVER 13