Be Safe

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Why President Obama and Congress Turned Their Backs on Food Safety


“The bacteria-tainted apple that probably killed Shirlee Frey traveled hundreds of miles from an orchard to a packinghouse and then to a factory that coated it in caramel. It never came anywhere close to being examined or tested by a food-safety inspector.

The California woman died in December, about a month after she ate some of the Halloween treats she bought for her grandchildren. At the end, her brain was so swollen she couldn’t breathe on her own. Frey, 81, was one of seven fatalities in a listeria outbreak caused by caramel apples that spread to 12 states. Common bacteria such as listeria, salmonella and E. coli kill several thousand people each year and sicken some 48 million Americans. Brad Frey believes his mother and hundreds of others might still be alive if a sweeping law hailed as a complete revamp of the nation’s broken food-safety system had been put into action.”

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Environmental Justice Report: 81% Of Products Tested At U.S. Dollar Stores Are Unsafe


AUSTIN, Texas — On July 1, activists gathered at dollar stores nationally to declare their “independence” from toxic chemicals, after a report earlier this year suggested products sold by these discount chains could be hurting consumers. To produce the report, issued in February by Environmental Justice for All’s Campaign for Healthier Solutions, researchers tested 164 products from multiple discount chain stores nationwide and found that 133 contained “at least one hazardous chemical above levels of concern,” meaning that 81% of tested products were hazardous. These include chemicals identified to be carcinogenic, capable of causing developmental disabilities in children, or were otherwise found at levels considered toxic. Unlike major chains like Wal-Mart and Target, no major dollar store chain has a formal policy on selling or disclosing toxic ingredients in products.

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Gulf Coast cleanup worker - from CNN

Helping can hurt: Complications and consequences of remediation strategies


Environmental remediation often involves a) moving large amounts of contaminated material from one place to another, b) treating the polluted material with chemical compounds, or c) both. The Interstate Technology and Regulatory Council says it best in their guideline document on managing risks during remediation: “Investigation and remediation activities have their own set of risks, apart from the risks associated with chemical contamination.” These risks range from spending time and resources on an ineffective remedy, to the chance of causing adverse ecosystem and health impacts through the cleanup process.

Project risks - from ITRC document

I recently read a report from a site where engineers were pumping methanol into the groundwater to aid in breaking down the compound of interest, TCE. They soon found that their shipment of methanol was contaminated by PCE – another toxic compound with which they were effectively re-polluting their treatment area. Introducing further contamination through remediation may be less common, but dealing with large amounts of polluted material can potentially cause existing contaminants to become more mobile. Especially when remediation projects deal with contaminated sediments, a question of critical importance is whether to remove the offending substance or to leave it in place. Dredging of contaminated sediment underwater must be done very carefully so as to avoid remobilizing contaminants into the water column.  There are surprises, too; sometimes, the EPA says,  “dredging uncovers unexpectedly high concentrations of contaminants beneath surface sediments.”

When contaminated materials are left in place, or before they are removed, the remediation process often involves introducing new chemical compounds to the polluted material. These “additives” help cause reactions that break down toxic chemicals into less toxic forms. However, Lisa Alexander of the Massachusetts Department of the Environment writes that these additives can cause contaminants to migrate into water, or release potentially harmful gases.

Gulf Coast cleanup worker - from CNN

The complexities of remediation have been especially apparent in the aftermath of the Deepwater Horizon spill. Dispersants were released to break down oil in the Gulf, but years later the substances are still being found in tar balls washing up on the beach. The combination of oil and the dispersant Corexit has also proven to be more toxic to marine organisms than oil alone. Corexit, encountered primarily by cleanup workers after the tragedy, is also potentially toxic to humans, and its longterm health effects are unknown.

Cleaning up contaminated sites involves taking calculated risks of disrupting or polluting an already-damaged ecosystem. When even our most practiced remediation methods carry with them uncertain outcomes, how can we strike a balance between trying innovative treatment methods for contamination and avoiding unreasonable risk? I’ll explore one case in particular in my next entry: nanomaterials.


We Are Together & Together We’ll Make Change


As fracking bans and moratoriums or local ordinances become a reality across the country, it would be so powerful for those who are advocating change to one piece of the problem or solution, to include the other parts of the gas and oil industry’s problems, processes, etc. as well. Working together on alternatives, disposal, rights to know, exports and more will provide the holistic approach to the public. That can really make a bigger – deeper difference in how people respond to efforts that go beyond a backyard struggle towards a sustainable communities. It might even bring clarity to the public that is getting so many different messages and become confused.

At CHEJ we just celebrated the next step toward a ban in New York on fracking, but Obama is still pushing regulations. We’ve seen pipelines stopped, at least temporarily and ordinances passed. Most recently two counties in Ohio have passed local moratoriums on injection wells that will force the industry to find other ways to dispose of their wastes. Two other Ohio counties are in the mist of deciding to ban injection wells that activist say have a good chance of passing.

It appears from the “wide view” that our staff and Board can see as a national group, as we look across the country that there are serious efforts and real wins by ordinary people. What isn’t as obvious is a strong message that we are together and supporting other groups who have taken on different parts of the problems, are encouraged and inspired by the wins and share the vision of what could be. It’s not that people aren’t mentioning other segments of the struggle locally or at a higher level of government, but it’s not coming through as a unified struggle for a unified goal. No there will never be absolute agreement on goals but maybe we could get agreement on a unified message that works. At CHEJ we came up with Preventing Fracking Harms to address the different goals around wells, infrastructure and such. That won’t work in the bigger message but I think there are words that might.

As groups join together this fall at events like the one planned for October in Colorado it would be great to find an opportunity on or off the agenda to figure out how all the extraordinary work folks are doing can include a message – not a list serve – not a petition – but a message that gets tagged on everyone’s everything before they close their news release, blog, signs and more. Or maybe we have a massive e-mail conversation. Let me know what you think.

Chemical Mixtures May Lead to Cancer


A recently published scientific paper came to a striking conclusion – “the cumulative effects of individual (non-carcinogenic) chemicals acting on different pathways, and a variety of related systems, organs, tissues and cells could plausibly conspire to produce carcinogenic synergies.” In other words, exposure to multiple chemicals at low doses, considered individually to be”safe could result in various low dose effects that lead to the formation of cancer. This is a remarkable observation and conclusion. It is also an important advance in the understanding of the risks chemicals pose to society.

Organized by the non-profit Getting to Know Cancer, a group of 350 cancer research scientists came together in Halifax, Nova Scotia in 2013 to address the question of continuous multiple chemical exposures and the risks these exposure pose. Referred to as the Halifax Project, this effort merged two very distinct fields – environmental toxicology and the biological mechanisms of cancer – and provided the opportunity for researchers to look at the diversity of environmental factors that contribute to cancer by examining the impact that exposure to very small amounts of chemicals can have on various systems of the body.

A task force of nearly 200 scientists formed at this meeting took on the challenge of assessing whether or not everyday exposures to mixtures of commonly encountered chemicals have a role to play in cancer causation. The researchers began by identifying a number of specific key pathways and mechanisms that are important in the formation of cancer. Then they identified individual (non-carcinogenic) chemicals that are commonly found in the environment that had some potential to disrupt these systems. A total of 85 environmental chemicals were identified.

The authors found that 59% of these chemicals (50/85) had low dose effects “at levels that are deemed relevant given the background levels of exposure that exist in the environment.” They found that only 15% of the chemicals reviewed (13/85) had a dose-response threshold and that the remaining 26% (22/85) could not be categorized due to a lack of dose-response information. The authors concluded that these results help “to validate the idea that chemicals can act disruptively on key cancer-related mechanisms at environmentally relevant levels of exposure.”

This is an incredibly important observation because it challenges the traditional thinking about how cancer forms in the body. It challenges the notion that all cancers share common traits (considered the “hallmarks of cancer”) that govern the transformation of normal cells to cancer cells. The authors also discuss how the results in this paper impact the process of risk assessment which even its most sophisticated model fails to address continuous exposures to mixtures of common chemicals.

The authors point out how surprisingly little is actually known about the combined effects of chemical mixtures on cancer related mechanisms and processes. This effort however seems to be a very positive step forward.

To read the full paper, go to <>.


EPA Can Map Environmental Justice Communities – Can They Stop The Poisoning?


Today we know how to identify Environmental Justice communities but what is the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) doing to relieve their community burdens? A new mapping tool created by the EPA, called EJSCREEN was recently released. This tool is great for academia or researchers but how does it help environmentally impacted communities? Why is generating information, that community already know because they are living with the pollution and associated diseases daily, more important than helping them?

CHEJ, for example, has worked for over thirty years with Save Our County in East Liverpool, Ohio This community in the 1990’s was defined by EPA as an Environmental Justice community, through their evaluation process which is the same as the mapping categories. Yet nothing has changed as a result of this definition.

  • The hazardous waste incinerator, WTI, still operates and remains for most of the time in violation of air and other standards.
  • Other industries continue to pollute with little enforcement.
  • An elementary school was closed due to the air emissions from the WTI Incinerator stack which is almost level to the school windows (incinerator is in the valley) stack peeked over the embankment. The City was force to shoulder the costs of relocating students and staff.
  • In the past several years new wells were drilled for natural gas extraction and infrastructure.
  • The community has the highest number of cancers in their county than other similar counties in the state.

    Nothing, absolutely nothing, has changed in East Liverpool, Ohio as a result of being defined an environmental justice community.

  • No decision to stop new polluting industries from setting up shop.
  • No action on denying permits, when they have been a significant repeat violator of the laws and regulation, when up for renewal permit.
  • No fee data and information when requested under the freedom of information requests.
  • No additional public comment meetings for new or existing permits. Absolute nothing changed in East Liverpool, OH and so many other communities.

    Thank you EPA for providing a tool for academics, for communities to say yes our community qualifies (although they already knew) and for real estate and banking institutions to provide information that will make it more difficult for families in Environmental Justice communities to secure a home improvement loan or sell their property.

    Now can you spend some time and money on reducing the pollution burdens and assisting with the medical professionals for disease related injuries.

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    DDT Linked to Fourfold Increase in Breast Cancer Risk


    Women exposed in the womb to high levels of the pesticide DDT have a nearly fourfold increased risk of developing breast cancer, according to new results of research conducted on California mothers and daughters for more than half a century.

    Full story at National Geographic


    Which brands use BPA?


    You’ve probably heard of bisphenol A, or BPA, a synthetic estrogen found in the linings of many food cans. One of the nastiest endocrine disruptors on the market, BPA has been linked to a variety of serious disorders, including cancer, reproductive damage and heart disease.

    But I bet you haven’t heard this: Consumers have NO reliable way of knowing which canned foods use BPA-based epoxy in their linings. Crazy, right?

    At EWG, we thought so too, which is why we’re proud to release our latest analysis, BPA in Canned Food: Behind the Brand Curtain. We developed this report to help consumers like you determine which products contain BPA and which brands you can count on for BPA-free products.

    Click here to check out the full report and get the facts on which canned food products still contain BPA.


    After scrutinizing more than 250 brands of canned food, EWG analysts found that while many companies have publicly pledged to stop using BPA in their cans, more than 110 brands still line all or some of their metal cans with an epoxy resin containing BPA.

    EWG divides the brands into four categories: those using cans with BPA, those using BPA-free cans for some products, those always using BPA-free cans and those that are unclear. That way, you can tell exactly which products to seek out and which to avoid.

    Federal regulations don’t require manufacturers to label their products so you can identify cans with BPA-based linings. That’s why EWG stepped up to do this research — so you have the resources you need to avoid BPA and shop smarter.

    Click here to learn more and see which canned food brands you should avoid and which ones you can count on for BPA-free products.

    While you can’t yet rely on federal regulations to safeguard you and your family from toxic chemicals like BPA, you can always depend on EWG.

    Thanks for making this work possible.


    Merle Norman and Mary Kay: Support the Personal Care Products Safety Act


    Do you know if your personal care products are safe?

    Right now, cosmetics companies can put just about anything in their products – even chemicals associated with cancer and endocrine disruption.

    Sens. Diane Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) have introduced a bill that would require cosmetics companies to prove that their products are safe before marketing them. It would give the federal Food and Drug Administration the power to review risky ingredients.

    While many cosmetics companies support the bill, Merle Norman and Mary Kay haven’t stepped up yet! EWG needs you to take action today and tell these companies to support the Personal Care Products Safety Act.

    Click here to add your name to EWG’s petition to Merle Norman and Mary Kay! Cosmetics shouldn’t include potentially dangerous ingredients.

    What goes on our skin is often absorbed into our bodies, and that’s certainly the case with chemicals in personal care products. EWG’s Teen Body Burden study found an average of 13 cosmetics chemicals in the bodies of teenage girls. Among the suspect substances were phthalates, triclosan and parabens — all of which have been found to alter the hormone system. Enough is enough.

    The Personal Care Products Safety Act would give the FDA the power it needs to protect consumers from these chemicals. Many cosmetics companies are working with us to get this bill passed and protect their customers. So why are Merle Norman and Mary Kay sitting on the bench?!

    Stand with us today as we call on these two cosmetics companies to put consumers like you first and support the Personal Care Products Safety Act!

    Click here to sign our petition telling Merle Norman and Mary Kay to support the Personal Care Products Safety Act!

    Thank you for adding your voice – together we can get carcinogens and hormone disruptors out of our products.

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    Health effects of vinyl flooring on baby boys


    Mind the Store has achieved tremendous victories lately – the nation’s two largest home improvement retailers, Home Depot and Lowe’s, have committed to phasing out toxic phthalates in flooring by the end of the year.  

    We’re now turning our attention to Menards, the 3rd largest home improvement chain in the country with sales of over $8 billion and 280 stores in 14 states. You may not have a Menards in your area, that is ok. We still need you to act. If Home Depot and Lowe’s can ban phthalates in flooring, so can Menards!  

    TAKE ACTION: Tell Menards to phase out toxic phthalates in flooring.

    Testing has found some vinyl flooring Menards sells contains toxic phthalates, chemicals linked to asthma and birth defects in baby boys. Chemicals that are so toxic, they have been restricted in children’s toys.

    Let’s turn up the heat on Menards
    — Take action today!

    Act Now!