Be Safe

vote

Exercise Your Rights Vote on Tuesday

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Get ready . . . Get educated about the issues . . . who stands with you and who does not . . . then vote on Tuesday. You don’t get to complain about what’s happening in your community or your country if you don’t vote. That doesn’t mean you don’t have something to complain about after you vote. Unfortunately, the corporate huge contributions can put the newly elected representative in office to look out for their interests. It means you need to vote on Tuesday and then figure out how to change the outcome of the next election on Wednesday.

Say, “My vote won’t make a difference,” is wrong. Here in Virginia where CHEJ’s headquarters are located the results in the last election of State Attorney General (2013) the difference between the winning and losing candidates was 165 votes – out of 2.2 million cast.

Voting is an important step in the process of democracy but it is not the only step. As I have often said, there are two sources of power in this country – money and people. Most of our organizations work on a shoe string budget so we don’t have money, but we do have the ability to reach and motivate a larger number of people.

“Bad politicians are sent to Washington by good people who don’t vote.”

On Wednesday, think about who you could run for office. Most people respond when I ask this question, “No one wants to run for office.” However, that same leader says “No one wants to let the local industry continue to poison the community through their chemical releases. Or I don’t want to go to another government hearing . . . just clean the mess up.” These two issues are connected. Working on one while ignoring the other doesn’t make sense.

If voting didn’t matter, there wouldn’t be so much money and energy to make it difficult for American citizens to vote. States across the country are passing measures that make it harder and harder for Americans – particularly African-Americans, the elderly, students and people with disabilities – to exercise their fundamental right to cast a ballot. These measures include requiring a government-issued photo ID to vote and proof of citizenship to register, cutting back on early voting, eliminating Election Day registration, new restrictions on voter registration drives and additional barriers to voting for people with criminal convictions.

For example, Ohio Gov. John Kasich signed into law several bills in 2014 that will rewrite voting rules in the state, eliminating a number of early voting and registration opportunities as well as tightening identification standards. Fifteen states in all are actively involved in voter suppression measures.

The attached outlines which states passed voter suppression measures since January 1, 2013 and where the right to vote remains under siege today.

Corporations think and plan long term. They activity work to get people elected to school boards, then city or town councils and then state legislative seats and so on. More often than not our efforts are solely on trying to turn around the elected representatives that the “other side” helped get elected. As a movement we too need to think and work long term to elect representatives that have our best interest in mind. Activists in our movement are positioned locally to begin the long term process of changing who represents America—where it needs changing.

So vote Tuesday and begin thinking about your first steps in creating a long term plan Wednesday.

childrenshealth

Petition: Tell Bill Gates to Protect St. Louis Families from Pollution

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Center for Health, Environment & Justice has been working with the group Just Mom’s STL and needs your help to get Bill Gates to take action. In fact, Lois Gibbs was in St. Louis just a few weeks ago to work with the grassroots group. Please sign the petition and join us in increasing the public pressure on Bill Gates. Thank you!


To: Bill & Melinda Gates, majority shareholders of Republic Services

Bill Gates is the dominant shareholder of Republic Services. He has the power of the vote and financial holdings to convince Republic Services to evacuate families living next to a burning landfill.

Families in this community cannot open their windows – not Gates’ software program – but their actual windows because of the odors and toxic air pollution.

Why is this important?

Why are we asking for Bill and Melinda Gates to act?

Because they have the power to make Republic take action and protect the children. No other child should be made sick and die.

A fire is moving toward from one Republic Services dumpsite to an adjacent dumpsite which contains radioactive wastes. No one knows what will happen when the fire reaches the radioactive wastes and no one knows how to put the fire out.

12 years old child died of brain cancer and now her sisters are sick. Republic Services earned $8.4 billion in revenues and $589 million in profits and is the second largest trash collection and disposal company in North America.  They can afford to move families and fully clean up the burning, polluting dumpsites. But they refuse.

Bill and Melinda Gates can use their influence to protect the children who live in surrounding communities, like Spanish Village which is closest to the burning dump. Gates’ owns 27% of the company’s share through his investment company, Cascade Investment (worth about $3.7 billion). Additionally, Michael Larson, chief investment officer at Cascade Investment, sits on Republic Services Board of Directors since 2009.

Bill and Melinda have the power, we are asking them to use it. Yes, the stock value may temporarily go down but Gates’ doesn’t live from pay check to pay check, his net worth is about $72 billion, he can take the loss.

Not far from the burning dumpsite and radioactive wastes is a family with four little girls. The youngest is in first grade today and the oldest is no longer with us. She was her mama’s little angel, her first born child and they so many dreams about her future, dancing at  her wedding holding their first grandchild someday.  But that was not meant to be. She was not feeling well and behaving strangely. Her mother took her to the doctors to see what was wrong. She was eight years old and cute as a button. After a series of test her parents were told that their little girl had a rare type of brain cancer—a tumor. Horrified that they were likely to lose their daughter, they search for answers. Why our baby? It’s not fair . . .  we did everything right.  What could possibly have cause this tumor to grow?  Angel’s parents did everything medically possible to save their child but in the end, four years after she was diagnosed, she died.

Her parents never stopped looking for the cause of the cancer and realized one day when mom opened the window to let in the fresh air that the air reeked with odors so offensive that she immediately slammed the window closed. It was Republic Services’ burning dumpsite that cause the nasty smelling air. As she investigated what was in the air, she believed she found reason for her daughter’s cancer and death. Not only was the air smelly but it contain cancer causing chemicals like benzene and likely radioactive dust.

Today, she’s very frightened for the health of her other three girls. Not only from living in the area but the grade school the girls attend is even closer to the burning landfill than their home.  How can she protect her other children?   Her three girls frequently suffer unexplained nose bleeds, sore throats, nausea, and other symptoms.  She’s trapped in the home she can’t sell and the girls trapped in a school that is likely not safe.

Bill and Melinda can help protect this family and others living in the community by getting Republic to evacuate the families that need to move and clean up the dumpsites. The death of a little girl should not have been for nothing – she was the canary in the mine—she made the ultimate sacrifice, sounded the warning to move the other neighborhood children. The hope is that Bill and Melinda Gates, parents themselves, can hear the warning from one brave little girl and help move Republic Services to move families and fully clean up the dumps. The Gates’ Foundation website says:

To turn caring into action, we need to see a problem, find a solution and deliver impact.

The problem is clear, the solution simply move the families and clean up the dumps, so families are asking the Gates’ family to deliver – impact Republic Services to act today. Protect the children.

Photo by Ashley L. Conti | Bangor Daily News

Chemical safety advocacy group protests against LePage in Bangor

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Photo by Ashley L. Conti | Bangor Daily News

A 25-foot-long yellow inflatable duck has been drawing attention to chemical regulation in Bangor, Maine. The “Fear the Beard” campaign was launched by members of Prevent Harm, a public health political advocacy group, to protest against Governor Paul LePage’s history of lax chemical regulation. The name of the campaign stems from LePage’s comments in 2011 that the worst possible impacts from BPA would be that some women “may have little beards” – a reference to the chemical’s endocrine-disrupting properties, which may cause effects ranging from cancer to infertility.


“We’re out here today with our little beards [on sticks] to make sure that our next governor will put Maine kids ahead of the chemical industry, not the other way around,” Emma Halas-O’Connor, Prevent Harm advocacy manager, said.

Read more from Nok-Noi Ricker at Bangor Daily News.

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Environmental Working Group’s 2014 Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce

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Two-thirds of produce samples in recent government tests had pesticide residues. Don’t want to eat bug- and weed-killers? EWG’s Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce helps you shop smart. We highlight the cleanest and dirtiest conventionally-raised fruits and vegetables. If a conventionally grown food you want tests high for pesticides, go for the organic version instead. And remember – the health benefits of a diet rich in fruits and vegetables outweigh risks of pesticide exposure. Dirty Dozen™ Plus highlights hot peppers and leafy greens – kale and collard greens – often tainted with unusually hazardous pesticides.

Read the report
See the full list

Kidshalloween

This isn’t a trick: Toxic chemicals in Halloween costumes

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Parents across the country are stocking up on this year’s hottest costumes for their little ghouls, goblins, and princesses, but some costumes may contain hidden toxic chemicals harmful to our children’s health. I wish I were tricking you.

A new study released today by HealthyStuff.org found elevated levels of toxic chemicals in popular Halloween costumes, accessories and even “trick or treat” bags.  Dangerous chemicals like phthalates, flame retardants, vinyl (PVC) plastic, organotins, and even lead.  

TAKE ACTION: Tell big retailers – our children deserve a safe toxic-free Halloween.

They tested 105 types of Halloween gear for chemicals linked to asthma, birth defects, learning disabilities, reproductive problems, liver toxicity and cancer.  The products were purchased from top national retailers including CVS, Kroger, Party City, Target, Walmart, and Walgreens.

These chemicals have no place in products for our little ones.  For instance they found high levels of flame retardants in “trick or treat” bags, and a toddler Batman costume that contained very high levels of phthalates, and even lead in the lining of the mask. 

We know that big retailers can do better.  In fact the new testing also shows that many Halloween products do not contain dangerous substances, proving that safer products can be made.  

Join us and send a message to retailers today. It’s time they “Mind the Store” and get these toxic chemicals out of products once and for all.

Photo by Lynne Peeples

Why Some Skin Care Products And Those Thermal Receipts May Be A Troubling Combination

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Photo by Lynne Peeples

“Those little slips of paper that accumulate in our pockets and purses may do more than just document recent take-out meals, pumpkin

spice lattes and shopping sprees. Receipts, according to a small study published Wednesday, could also deliver a potentially harmful rush of hormone-scrambling chemicals into our bodies.”

Read more from Lynne Peeples at the Huffington Post

halloween

Tips for a Toxic-Free Halloween

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Wanna hear something spooky? With one of CHEJ’s favorite holidays, Halloween, right around the corner, we wanted to let you in on the chemical industry’s dirty little tricks.

PVC, one of the most toxic plastic for children’s health and the environment, has scared its way into some of our beloved children’s costumes.  Even scarier is that many vinyl products are laden with harmful phthalates,  endocrine disrupting chemicals banned in toys but widespread in many other vinyl products children come in contact with.  Vinyl products also often release a witches’ brew of toxic chemicals into the air. That’s that new plastic vinyl smell so many of us grew up with.  Who knew it was so scary!

With that in mind, here are some tips for a safer Halloween for your family and friends:

  • Avoid PVC: Shop for PVC-free costumes and masks.  If you’re not sure what the costume is made out of, ask the store or manufacturer whether or not it contains PVC and phthalates.
  • Make your own costume out of safer PVC-free materials!  We bet you can come up with something fun and creative by just diving into your closet.
  • Trade safe costumes with your friends. No need to buy more stuff.
  • Use safer face-paints.


Happy Halloween – and don’t get spooked by the chemical industry this Halloween season!

petition sign

The Easy Way — NOT Most Effective Way

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Sign a petition or write a letter? It is true that many signatures on a petition is meaningful but such petitions also has its limits. Legislators look at the petition signatures and note the number but essentially ignore what activists see as their “powerful voice” they intended the petition to represent.

It’s a case of “the easiest way is also not the most effective.” Clicking on to a form letter ends up to be not only a very soft message to the targeted audience. Moreover, the person signing thinks that they have done their good deed of the day and takes no further action. For example, last year, almost 4,000 comments were submitted to a legislator in Pennsylvania and 95% of them were rejected as “form letters.” That doesn’t mean they didn’t represent some level of people’s voices but were not as meaningful.

When you look at what citizens did in NC around fracking regulations, where they worked to get specific comments from people who may have use a model predefined set of issues, but many comments were personalized, you get a very different story. According to an article in the NC paper News Observer the N.C. Mining and Energy Commission is plowing through a mountain of public comments on its proposed fracking standards with less than a month left to fine-tune the safety rules for shale gas drilling. State officials estimate that more than 100,000 comments flooded in by the Sept. 30 deadline and the finally tally could approach 200,000.

The number of submission was so large that the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) officials are not sure they have sufficient memory space on the agency’s hard drives to post the comments online for public view. DENR have assigned at least eight extra staffers, including from Gov. Pat McCrory’s office, to sort through public remarks and enter them into a database.

That action made a difference at a very high level. However the people power could have been even stronger if everyone said a little more than “don’t frack.” According to the commissioner, “about half of the comments are repetitive ‘don’t frack’ and they don’t really count, if you know what I mean.”

This was successful with the chairman of the commission saying, there is no question that we will recommend some adjustment to the rules, how much is not clear. It was the volume and the individual comments not just signing on to a model set of comments that made the difference and has moved the needle. So think about giving people talking points to actually submit individual comments that are not all exactly the same and you may see the difference, next time you want to move a person with authority or regulations. Some people will only act with a sign-on but encouraging one more step, making that step as easy as possible could increase your power. No one ever said that activism was easy, but it’s not all that hard either.

Plants

BPA in the air: Manufacturing plants in Ohio, Indiana, Texas are top emitters

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By Brian Bienkowski

Staff Writer
Environmental Health News


October 14, 2014

As concerns mount over people’s exposure to the plasticizer bisphenol A in everyday products, it’s also contaminating the air near manufacturing plants: U.S. companies emitted about 26 tons of the hormone-disrupting compound in 2013.

Although research is sparse, experts warn that airborne BPA could be a potentially dangerous route of exposure for some people. Of the 72 factories reporting BPA emissions, the largest sources are in Ohio, Indiana and Texas, according to the Environmental Protection Agency’sToxics Release Inventory.

UC Irvine
Bruce Blumberg

No one has measured what people in nearby communities are exposed to. But the exposures are likely to be localized and smaller than other sources of BPA.

BPA breaks down quickly in the environment. But it also can attach to particles that infiltrate lungs, said Bruce Blumberg, a University of California, Irvine, biology professor.

“Inhalation of compounds is a big exposure route that most people do not usually consider for BPA,” he said.

BPA, used to make polycarbonate plastic, food can linings and some paper receipts, is found in almost all people tested. Low doses can alter hormones, according to animal tests, and exposure has been linked to a wide range of health effects in people, including infertility, cardiovascular disease, obesity and cancer.

In the only study of its kind, Japanese researchers reported that BPA was ubiquitous in the atmosphere worldwide. They suspected the emissions came from the manufacturing and burning of plastics.

In the United States, chemical manufacturing accounted for 54 percent of the BPA air emissions, while metal manufacturing and metal fabricating accounted for 21 and 20 percent, respectively, according to the EPA database. In addition, U.S. companies in 2013 reported releasing 3,313 pounds of BPA to surface waters, the EPA database shows.

The amount of BPA emitted into the air has been dropping in recent years. Although the number of companies reporting BPA emissions has remained about the same over the past decade, in 2013 the total tons declined 41 percent from 2012 and almost 66 percent from 10 years ago.

There is “no evidence that inhalation exposures are of concern.” –Kathryn St. John, American Chemistry Council Kathryn St. John, a spokesperson for the American Chemistry Council, which represents chemical manufacturers, said the data don’t reflect what people in surrounding communities might be exposed to. Factors such as the proximity of people to the plants and whether the emissions are continuous or intermittent are important when determining people’s exposures.

St. John added that there is “no evidence that inhalation exposures are of concern.” Studies have not provided any information on what happens to BPA if inhaled, such as whether it is absorbed in the lungs and if absorbed, whether it is metabolized.

Monica McGivern/flickr
BPA can attach to particles that are inhaled.

But Wade Welshons, an associate professor at the University of Missouri who studies endocrine-disrupting compounds, said airborne BPA could be absorbed through the lungs as well as the skin.

Both and inhalation and skin absorption “would deliver more BPA to the blood than an oral exposure,” he said.

Blumberg and Welshons said since these routes would bypass metabolizing organs such as the intestines and liver, airborne exposures may be more dangerous than food exposures.

“The liver is a great organ for metabolizing substances, lungs are for absorbing, not for metabolizing,” Welshons said.

No one has investigated the potential health effects of inhaling BPA. Regulatory agencies only consider oral doses when analyzing potential effects, Blumberg said.

Several communities with the biggest BPA emitters are also home to large volumes of other toxics from industrial plants.

Deer Park, Texas, had 4,100 pounds of BPA and 2.8 million pounds of other air toxics in 2013, while Defiance, Ohio, had 6,600 pounds of BPA and 387,454 pounds of others, according to the industry reports filed with the EPA. Freeport, Texas, home to a Dow Chemical plant, had 905 pounds of reported BPA air emissions last year and an additional 1.74 million pounds of other toxics.

Compared with exposure from consumer products such as polycarbonate plastic and food cans, there has been little concern about airborne BPA. “But this lower concern level is based on relatively little data,” said Laura Vandenberg, an assistant professor of environmental health at the University of Massachusetts Amherst who studies health effects of BPA. “This is something I would say is not discussed in-depth on our field but it should be.”

Several communities with the biggest BPA emitters are also home to large volumes of other toxics from industrial plants.There isn’t a lot of research on what happens to BPA when it’s released into the air. BPA degrades fairly quickly, but it also can attach to dust particles, Vandenberg said.

Researchers tested for BPA in the dust of homes, dorms and labs at and around Murray State University and the University at Albany in 2011. They estimated that, while diet is the still the major exposure route, people’s BPA exposures through dust are about the same as the low concentrations that cause health problems in lab animals. It’s not clear how the BPA got into the dust; it could have been from indoor sources.

Sudan Loganathan, who led the study while a student at Murray State University, said the estimated daily exposure for people through dust was low compared with food exposure. But, she added, “when you look at the average dust intake for adults and then infants, this is more of a concern for infants. They are on the floor, and there’s more hand-to-mouth contact.”

Blumberg said air quality monitoring should expand to test for BPA.

“There are a lot of people studying inhalation exposure with things like particulate pollution, ozone and other major components of exhaust, but not much at all when it comes to chemical exposure like BPA,” Blumberg said. “That’s a big open area right now.”


Follow Brian Bienkowski on Twitter.

Original story at http://www.environmentalhealthnews.org/ehs/news/2014/oct/bpa-emissions

For questions or feedback about this piece, contact Editor in Chief Marla Cone atmcone@ehn.org.

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

Photo by Hannah Rappleye, NBC News

How Safe Is the Artificial Turf Your Child Plays On?

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Coaches, athletes and families across the U.S. have started to draw surprising connections between the “grass” on athletic fields and instances of childhood cancer.

Photo by Hannah Rappleye, NBC News

A rash of leukemia and lymphoma diagnoses among soccer goalies has sparked concern about “crumb rubber” turf commonly used on athletic fields. Recent studies of crumb rubber, commonly made from used tires, have shown that the material contains hazardous chemicals, including volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs).

Could your child be at risk?

Read the full story by Hannah Rappleye at  NBC News.