Gosia Wozniacka/AP - From NPR

Positives and Pitfalls of EPA’s Pesticide Ruling


Between long hours, low pay and hazardous working conditions, farmworkers – many of whom are from minority and low-income communities – bear incredible health costs in order to sustain our country’s food supply. Pesticide exposure is one of the main occupational hazards of farm work, with both short-term health effects that can lead to lost days of work and school and hefty medical bills, and increased long-term risks of cancer and neurological problems. The EPA states that agricultural workers report between 1800 and 3000 pesticide exposure limits annually. It has been 22 years since the EPA last updated their agricultural Worker Protection Standard, and so the recently enacted changes, which more stringently protect farmworker health, are a welcome development, but are they enough?

The changes increase the frequency of pesticide handling training from every five years to a more robust annual requirement, which will include information about take-home exposures from dirty clothing and boots. They also establish “buffer zones” to protect workers from over-exposure to fumes and sprays. The regulations also set an age limit of eighteen for the handling and mixing of pesticides. Previously, there were no restrictions on children’s exposure to pesticides. The Farmworker Association of Florida wrote that the protections “bring farmworkers more in parity with health and safety regulations already covering workers in most other professions in the United States.”


The regulations have been met with praise but also criticism from advocacy groups. While age limits and training requirements have been celebrated, many have commented that the new rules do not require workers to undergo routine medical monitoring for pesticide exposures, a protective measure that is required in both California and Washington.

Some advocates have also identified language barriers in communicating about the risks of pesticides, which typically have warning labels in English. “More than 80 percent of workers in the “salad bowls” of Salinas, Calif. or Yuma, Ariz., are Hispanic,” NPR reported in 2013. A further step for protecting worker safety would be to require making bilingual information available for pesticide products, which the recently updated regulations do not require. While advocacy group Farmworker Justice celebrated the regulations, Virginia Ruiz, the group’s director of occupational and environmental health, also stated in 2013 that “without bilingual labeling, today’s Spanish-speaking agricultural workforce is at great risk for pesticide exposure.”

Gosia Wozniacka/AP - From NPR

Another pitfall of the regulations rests at the intersection of environmental justice and our nation’s debate over immigration reform. Paola Betchart of the Worker Justice Center of New York stated in an interview with North Country Public Radio that many farmworker illnesses go unreported because of the undocumented status of workers, who are fearful they will be deported if they seek medical attention. Justice for our nation’s farmworkers will require us to address much more than just pesticide exposure levels, but the new regulations are certainly a positive – and long-awaited – first step.

Learn more about farmworker exposures to pesticides here.


We Need a Rational Policy on Chemical Safety


“Children’s health and the environment is a most fitting topic for World Environmental Health Day 2015. Children are the most vulnerable among us to degradation of the environment…

…Toxic chemicals are a particularly serious threat to children’s health. More than 80,000 new synthetic chemicals have been invented in the past 50 years. These chemicals are found in thousands of products that we use every day.”

Read More:


Wangari Maathai

Women Make The Difference In Action on Climate Change


Greenbelt Movement in Africa

I just spent the last three days in St. Louis, Missouri with the group, Just Moms STL to help them develop a plan to put pressure on the elected representatives with the power and ability to help move families away from a horrible situation and clean up the burning radioactive dumpsite. This Superfund site and emergency situation has been ignored by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for decades. In brief the recent study done by the State Attorney General’s office said they community could experience in 3 to 6 months a Chernobyl like event exploding and releasing radioactive wastes throughout the area.

The leaders are women with children, jobs, homes to care for that are leading this fight. But then most of the groups CHEJ works with are led by women 80% at our last count. Yet there is so little recognition of the women in the environmental moment, a frustration that I’ve felt for decades. Yes, my friend and fellow Goldman Prize winner rightfully received recognition but she’s the exception and her work, which continues today is critical to addressing climate change.

Returning home from my work with Just Moms STL, checking my e-mails I came across the article that was written by Tracy Mann from Earth Island. It’s worth a read because it says everything I would have said. Strange it came when it did, fate maybe. Below is an excerpt but the entire article is worth the read.

“In fact, women organizing to protect natural resources and develop community resilience is not a new phenomenon. In the 1970s a group of peasant women in the India threw their arms around trees to prevent the destruction of forests in Northern India in an action that came to be known as the Chipko, or Treehugger Movement. Led by Nobel Laureate Wangari Maathai, the Kenya-based Green Belt Movement mobilized rural women to plant trees to restore plundered forests, generate income and serve as an engine of empowerment. In the 1980s, American Lois Gibbs led the famous Love Canal protest in upstate New York to expose and rectify the toxic waste dump over which her town had been constructed. Her years-long struggle inspired her to organize women and people of color around the common interest of climate justice. Canada’s Tzeporah Berman has been on the frontlines of community-based movements against environmental threats since the 1990s when she was in the forefront of the Clayoquot Sound protests against the unconscionable clearcutting of temperate rainforest in Western Canada. More recently she has led acts of civil disobedience against the transnational pipeline and tar sands expansion.

The women mobilizing for September 29 may not yet be known as leaders or heroes, but the Global Women’s Climate Justice Day of Action is one more potent opportunity to tell their stories. It’s an opportunity for global women to join hands, just as my mother and sister and I did 45 years ago, and take their rightful place at the front of the parade, as essential catalysts to solutions to our greatest of all challenges.”

To read the full article click here:

There Can Be No Meaningful Action on Climate Change Without Women

Phthalate baby

Pesticide use at home linked to childhood cancer risk


Children exposed to insecticides at home may have a slightly increased risk of developing leukemia or lymphoma, a new review finds.

The analysis, of 16 studies done since the 1990s, found that children exposed to indoor insecticides had an elevated risk of developing the blood cancers. There was also a weaker link between exposure to weed killers and the risk of leukemia.

The findings, reported online Sept. 14 and in the October print issue of Pediatrics, do not prove that chemical pesticides directly contribute to the cancers. And if they do, researchers said, several questions remain.

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5 Reasons to Care Whether the EPA Bans Chlorpyrifos on Your Food


“Autism, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, dyslexia, and other brain-related impairments have been diagnosed in millions of children in recent years. So it caused quite a stir last year when scientists identified chlorpyrifos as one of a dozen industrial chemicals fueling what they called a “pandemic of developmental neurotoxicity.”

Chlorpyrifos, an organophosphate pesticide, is classified as a neurotoxin because it disrupts neurotransmission, essentially how brain cells communicate. According to the National Pesticide Information Center, it is also the active ingredient in dozens of commercial pesticides, used to control a wide range of insects on crops like corn, almonds, apples, and oranges. According to Dow AgroSciences, which manufactures the pesticide Dursban using chlorpyrifos, it has been used on more than 50 agricultural crops.

Scientists’ neurodevelopmental concerns bolster efforts by the Pesticide Action Network (PAN) of North America and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC)—which, in 2007, petitioned the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to ban chlorpyrifos on food. After eight years of “partial reports, missed deadlines, and vague promises of future action,” on August 10, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit made clear that the EPA must issue a full and final response to the petition by October 31.”

Read the reasons why Civil Eats thinks you should care.

Beautiful Irina breastfeeding Patrick in the park.

Breastfeeding exposes babies to water- and stain-proofing chemicals


Women exposed to toxic water-proofing and stain-proofing chemicals may be passing these compounds on to their children via breastfeeding. These chemicals are linked to immune system problems that can place children at risk.

Learn more about this issue at Environmental Health News.

just moms stl

St. Louis Moms Call On Obama For Help


Anger builds at EPA over radioactive landfill.  “We believe that it would be within the power of the president to issue an executive order to clean up the bureaucratic administrative mess at West Lake Landfill, put one government agency in charge, said Ed Smith.”  Matt LaVanchy, a local fire department official, told radio station KTRS that he believes the fire could be less than 1,000 feet from the radioactive material, and is trying to train firefighters for possible outcomes.

CHEJ has been working with this community for years and agrees that it is time Obama steps in and commands action. EPA refuses to . . . Republic Service has failed nearly every step and people are dying. Time to take the site out of the hands of the incompetent and move the families down wind of the site. Read more here.

springfield oh 700 people aug 27 2015

700 People Told EPA “Dig it Up -Take It Out”


YES! The people of Clark County, Ohio showed up last night in force….

  • Their Health District attendance counters stopped at 650, with more people coming in the door.
  • US EPA’s Joan Tanaka said in all her 20 years’ work on Superfund sites, she had never seen such a huge crowd.

EPA’s purpose in coming to Clark County was to tell residents what information they wanted us to know….

  • They listened politely to too many power point slides that were unreadable, too many reassurances that were not believable, and too much talking that glossed over or avoided the real questions.

Their united purpose last night was to tell EPA what they wanted them to know–and boy did they do just that.

In summary the people were clear that they:

  • Do not and will not accept their proposed plan.
  • Want all hazardous wastes permanently removed from the Tremont City Barrel Fill.
  • Will continue to work with Ohio EPA and our elected leaders to change their remedy.
  • Do not trust EPA, their reassurances, or their ability to protect our health and water source forever.

Our preference last night was made very clear….We want permanent removal of all  hazardous wastes at the Barrel Fill.

U.S. EPA: Dig it up! Truck it out! Protect our water!

Mary at Cin Park

I’m Dying of Cancer … It Was Preventable


Mary has terminal lung cancer. She never smoked. But what she did do is walk around the local park every morning 24 laps. She believed that she was doing a good thing for her health, getting exercise and fresh air.

Unfortunately, the park that she walked daily was found to be contaminated with radioactive materials. It’s all part of the St. Louis historical work on the Manhattan Project. Mary attended the local meeting this past week about the cleanup of the radioactive wastes. Officials told her that they were not going to close the park that she once walked around daily because the children are back in school. The children, they believe wouldn’t spend much time in the park because of school so they didn’t need to take any  action.

Outraged that no one would close the park, the park she believed was the root cause of her now death sentence, Mary decided to do something about it.  Mary stood in front of the park with a sign that asked people to ask her why she was there, so she could tell them her story. How her grandson will never really know his Nana because she will be gone before they can do much together.

Today the park that Mary once walked laps around  is closed, because Mary wouldn’t leave the entrance with her yellow sign “Park Closed,”  until it was officially closed to innocent children and families. Thank you Mary.

The unfortunate truth is that it took a victim of radioactive exposure, a mother and grandmother to take a stand and protect the innocent from known harm. Where are our health protectors?  Where are the local, state and more importantly federal health authorities that have jurisdiction  and decision making powers when such decisions are needed. Who are they afraid of?

I’m am so tired of the federal government who has investigated and defined the cleanup and testing of this site and so many other sites, turn their heads when it comes to making a decision about protecting the public health. This is not the case when the public is placed at risk from food poisoning or a drug that proved to be more harmful than thought. Why are people exposed to radioactive wastes or toxic wastes the abandoned child? Why is there No Protection or Unequal Protection under government authorities when it comes to working class or low wealth families?

Time and time again we at CHEJ have seen that families are ignored when it comes to the real life threat of exposures to materials that will cause cancer and other diseases. It is well past time that the health professionals who took an oath “to do know harm” to step up to the plate and protect innocent families in the same manner, in the same time frame, as they do families exposed to food related or drug related health impacts.

To hear Mary speak to this issue you can connect to the Youtube video and begin at 1:59, but be sure to have a box of tissues handy to wipe your eyes because the personal testimony is very powerful and sad.


Is Your Child Coloring with Asbestos


Some children’s crayons—marketed with colorful characters such as Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Power Rangers and Mickey Mouse—and play crime lab kits contain cancer-causing, lung damaging asbestos fibers, according to a report released today. The report, commissioned by the environmental nonprofit Environmental Working Group Action Fund, found that four brands of children’s crayons out of 28 boxes tested and two of 21 children fingerprint kits contained asbestos. All of the products that tested positive for asbestos were made in China and imported to the United States.

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