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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.

Donna Young, a midwife, became worried about air pollution from the oil and gas industry causing child deaths after attending a memorial at a Vernal cemetery and seeing a row of graves for babies. (RJ Sangosti, The Denver Post)

Dead babies near oil drilling sites raise questions for researchers

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Donna Young, a midwife, became worried about air pollution from the oil and gas industry causing child deaths after attending a memorial at a Vernal cemetery and seeing a row of graves for babies. (RJ Sangosti, The Denver Post)

“VERNAL, Utah — The smartphone-sized grave marker is nearly hidden in the grass at Rock Point Cemetery. The name printed on plastic-coated paper — Beau Murphy — has been worn away. Only the span of his life remains.

“June 18, 2013 – June 18, 2013″

For some reason, one that is not known and may never be, Beau and a dozen other infants died in this oil-booming basin last year. Was this spike a fluke? Bad luck? Or were these babies victims of air pollution fed by the nearly 12,000 oil and gas wells in one of the most energy-rich areas in the country?

Some scientists whose research focuses on the effect of certain drilling-related chemicals on fetal development believe there could be a link.”

Read more from Nancy Lofholm at The Denver Post

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.

Image © AFP/Getty Images. Obtained from The Daily Mail

Is pollution to blame for autism? Researchers say breathing toxic air in the first two years of life linked to disorder

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Image © AFP/Getty Images. Obtained from The Daily Mail


New research has found links between chromium and styrene pollution and autism spectrum disorder in childhood. Scientists found that children who were exposed to higher levels of polluted air during their mothers’ pregnancies and before age two. Read more at The Daily Mail.

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.

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.

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In Massachusetts, contaminated drinking water linked to stillbirths

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By Gail Sullivan
From The Washington Post

For nearly 20 years, New Englanders drank and bathed in water without knowing it was laced with a neurotoxin. The chemical leached into the water from vinyl coating sprayed inside water pipes in the late 1960s in response to complaints the water smelled and tasted funny.

More than half of New England’s 1,050 miles of water pipes sprayed with the contaminant are in Massachusetts, mostly in the Cape Cod region. The poison, tetrachloroethylene or PCE, still widely used in dry cleaning, wasn’t discovered in the water supply until 1979.

A new study published in the journal Environmental Health shows that the exposure to the poison is linked to increased risk for stillbirths and other pregnancy complications.

To read more, visit <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2014/10/06/in-
massachusetts-contaminated-drinking-water-linked-to-stillbirths/”>The Washington Post

The study itself can be accessed at the Environmental Health Journal.

New interactive map from the Center for Effective Government shows students in proximity to toxic chemicals

1 in 3 U.S. students attend classes near dangerous chemicals

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Lubbock Online, Oct. 5, 2014

Roughly one in five school-aged kids attend classes near a Lubbock County facility that stores dangerous chemicals, about twice as many as originally thought, according to a recent study.

The numbers likely could be higher.

Self-reported industry data tucked away in federal reading rooms across the United States show two of the known six facilities storing dangerous chemicals in Lubbock have a vulnerability zone wider than a 1-mile radius, according to a study by the Center for Effective Government, which released a new report last week.

That means there are roughly 9,500 students in 27 schools across the county who attend class near a facility that uses dangerous chemicals.

In May, A-J Media found about 4,200 students were at risk, but that number only reflected students attending class within a mile of a chemical facility. And it did not include detention facilities or private schools.

Researchers were only able to examine a limited number of the nation’s more than 12,000 chemical facilities. The center only examined two of the six facilities in the Hub City — Bayer CropScience and the Lubbock Water Treatment Plant.

Three of the four facilities with dangerous chemicals near Lubbock Independent School District campuses use and store anhydrous ammonia, a volatile chemical that can suffocate, burn the skin and cause blindness. In large quantities, it can be fatal. It is commonly used for refrigeration, among other uses.

Across the U.S., one in three students attends school in a vulnerability zone identified from self-reported industry data, the center reported.

New interactive map from the Center for Effective Government shows students in proximity to toxic chemicals

Lubbock ISD Superintendent Berhl Robertson Jr. did not comment on the new study, but said in May he was not aware of all the chemical facilities near district schools, many of which are 50 years and older.

“Lubbock ISD has a plan for emergencies that impact our schools, both natural disasters and accidents, and we practice those plans,” Nancy Sharp, a district spokeswoman, said in an email to A-J Media.

Chris Wooden, whose wife is expecting their first child next month, called the report “startling and alarming.”

“It’s past the point of needing awareness to where something egregious is going on,” Wooden said.

“With chemical companies not making available the chemicals they are storing without prodding from the government and action groups, it’s scary.”

‘It only takes one bad day’

Roughly 865,000 pounds of toxic chemicals are stored at and used in Lubbock facilities, according to data compiled by the Center for Effective Government, a Washington, D.C., organization that advocates for better health and safety standards.

The city of Lubbock reported that the water treatment plant near the airport on North Guava Avenue has a vulnerability zone of 8 miles, meaning everything within that reported radius could be at risk of a chemical catastrophe.

The Bayer CropScience facility on Erskine Street, which had a spill and evacuation last year in the Guadalupe neighborhood, reported a 2.4-mile vulnerability zone.

There has been growing public concern about public safety in the wake of last year’s deadly fertilizer plant explosion in the small town of West, near Waco and about 340 miles southeast of Lubbock.

“The West Texas fertilizer plant handled their chemicals safely for decades,” said Sean Moulton, director of the Open Government Policy program at the Center for Effective Government.

While the public has pressed for more information about where dangerous chemicals are stored, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott has clamped down on releasing it.

Abbott, the Republican nominee for governor, has faced withering criticism from his Democratic challenger Wendy Davis and the public after he suggested in July that people drive to facilities and ask what chemicals are being used.

On July 10, after a local facility refused to release any information during a walk in, A-J Media requested information on hazardous chemicals that is required to be filed with the Lubbock Fire Department.

The city has not released any information.

In an Aug. 7 letter to Abbott’s office requesting an opinion, Assistant City Attorney Amy Sims said the information was exempt from disclosure.

Sims, citing Abbott’s earlier opinion, wrote that releasing the location and amounts of dangerous chemicals “may pose a risk to citizens of the city in the case of a terrorist attack.”

Abbott’s office has until Wednesday to respond.

“You have an attorney general down in Texas saying we need to hide this information as though the information was dangerous, not the chemical,” Moulton said.

“People have a right to know if there’s a risk.”

By NICOLE C. BRAMBILA, A-J MEDIA


View the report on kids at risk HERE

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MD Bans Flame Retardants In Children’s Products

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Maryland bans flame retardants in children’s products

6 October 2014 / United States

The US state of Maryland has passed into law a bill prohibiting the importing, selling – or offering for sale – specified child care products containing more than one-tenth of 1% (by mass) of the flame retardant chemicals tris(1,3-dichloro-2-propyl)phosphate (TDCPP) and tris(2-chloroethyl)phosphate (TCEP).

Bill HB 0229 is aimed at products intended for children under the age of three, and includes items such as toys, car seats, pillows, crib mattresses and strollers (CW 5 June 2014).

The ban came into force on 1 October, and the bill does not contain provision for any phasing out of existing stock.

A first violation of the law carries a fine of up to $1,000, with subsequent infringements costing $2,500 on each occasion.