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Regulatory Gaps Leave Unsafe Lead Levels in Water Nationwide

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“In Sebring, Ohio, routine laboratory tests last August found unsafe levels of lead in the town’s drinking water after workers stopped adding a chemical to keep lead water pipes from corroding. Five months passed before the city told pregnant women and children not to drink the water, and shut down taps and fountains in schools.

In 2001, after Washington, D.C., changed how it disinfected drinking water, lead in tap water at thousands of homes spiked as much as 20 times the federally approved level. Residents did not find out for three years. When they did, officials ripped out lead water pipes feeding 17,600 homes — and discovered three years later that many of therepairs had only prolonged the contamination.

The crisis in Flint, Mich., where as many as 8,000 children under age 6 were exposed to unsafe levels of lead after a budget-cutting decision to switch drinking-water sources, may be the most serious contamination threat facing the country’s water supplies. But it is hardly the only one.

Unsafe levels of lead have turned up in tap water in city after city — in Durham and Greenville, N.C., in 2006; in Columbia, S.C., in 2005; and last July in Jackson, Miss., where officials waited six months to disclose the contamination — as well as in scores of other places in recent years.

Federal officials and many scientists agree that most of the nation’s 53,000 community water systems provide safe drinking water. But such episodes are unsettling reminders of what experts say are holes in the safety net of rules and procedures intended to keep water not just lead-free, but free of all poisons…”

Read more from the New York Times

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As Washington state decides on stronger toxics law, residents are breathing flame retardants

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“A new generation of chemicals added to furniture, building insulation and baby products like car seats to slow the spread of flames are escaping into air at higher levels than previously thought, according to a new study out of Washington state.

The findings come as Washington lawmakers decide on bolstering flame retardant bans. The state was one of the first to ban an earlier generation of retardants, known as PBDEs.

The new research found flame retardant chemicals used to replace polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) also escape, are ubiquitous in indoor air and suggest inhalation is a major route of exposure for people.

The compounds, called chlorinated organophosphate flame retardants, found in the study have been linked to cancer and reproductive problems, and some can alter hormones essential for development.

“We’ve been underestimating what total exposure is,” said Erika Schreder, staff scientist at the Washington Toxics Coalition and lead author of the study published this month in the scientific journal Chemosphere.

Researchers gave 10 people from Washington state an air sampler that simulates breathing to wear during a normal day: office work, commuting, hanging out at home. They tested for a suite of the new generation of chlorinated flame retardants and found all 10 were breathing some amount of them throughout the day…”

Read more from Environmental Health News

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ExxonMobil Beaumont, TX Polyethylene Plant Plant-wide Failure

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Emergency dispatchers Thursday received numerous calls about flaring at The ExxonMobil Beaumont, TX Refinery & Chemical complex. Just as I was leaving a meeting in Houston, TX to work with leaders about chemical refineries and oil/gas pipelines this horrible situation happened.

The flaring is the result of power outages in the area.  Beaumont Fire Rescue told 12News it was notified by ExxonMobil that its Beaumont facility had 8 flares going to help maintain safety levels because of the outages.

Plant officials had this to say, “This is ExxonMobil Beaumont Polyethylene Plant on Highway 90 an EXXONMOBIL Beaumont Refinery & Chemical Complex. We can confirm that a plant-wide power failure resulted in significant flaring. We can confirm that non-essential personnel have been dismissed per protocol and are actively engaged at the complex with the goal of returning to normal operations.”

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Put the Super Back in Superfund!

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Today CHEJ released a new report on the mismanagement of the Superfund program and the need to reinstate polluter pays fees.

Superfund: Polluters Pays So Children Can Play 35th Anniversary Report is released as part of a National Day of Action where groups across the country are participating in different ways to deliver the message: polluter pays fees need to be reinstated!

32 groups in 24 states plus Puerto Rico representing 31 Superfund sites provided site profiles and quotes about the need to reinstate the polluter pays fees. The profiles are part of this new report. Some groups around the country are delivering cakes to their representatives celebrating the 35th Anniversary of Superfund and a card asking them to be a Superhero and support reinstatement of the polluter pays fees.

Some of the key findings in the report  include:

  • Funding for Superfund is insufficient to properly manage the program.

  • This funding shortfall has resulted in fewer completed cleanups each year; fewer cleanups started each year; inadequate funding of ongoing projects; an increase in the time to complete projects; and a steady stream of unfunded projects.

  • The expansion of the Superfund Alternatives program, in which responsible parties agree to cleanup a site and avoid being listed on the National Priority List, provides benefits to the polluter while hampering citizen participation that is provided for under the Superfund program.

  • The Superfund program has been so badly mismanaged by EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy that an unprecedented act of Congress has proposed transferring EPA oversight of a Superfund site to the Army Corps of Engineers.

  • Congress must reinstate the polluter pays fees. Without collecting the corporate fees to replenish Superfund, there is simply not enough money to do the critical job of cleaning up hundreds of abandoned toxic waste sites.

For more information, questions, or comments, please contact Lois Gibbs at lgibbs@chej.org.

To view the executive summary of the report, click here

To view the full report, click here

To view the community quotes, click here

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Pesticides as bad for kids’ lungs as cigarette smoke, study says

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Chronic exposure to pesticides can damage children’s lung function by about as much as secondhand cigarette smoke does, according to a study of farmworker children in the Salinas Valley.

The long-term study of 279 children from farmworker families is the first to suggest that even being one step removed from pesticides can bring harm to children’s lungs. Previous studies examined effects on adults who spray the chemicals or work in fields where the pesticides are applied.

Read More at the LA Times

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How Safe Are The Fields Where We Play?

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Amy Griffin, the former U.S. women’s national team goalkeeper and current University of Washington goalkeeper coach, started keeping a list in 2009. She started gathering names of athletes who had played on crumb-rubber synthetic turf and had been diagnosed with cancer.

Read More at ESPN.com

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Early lead exposure linked to sleep problems

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From Chemistry World:

“Lead exposure in early childhood is associated with increased risk for sleep problems and excessive daytime sleepiness in later childhood, according to research from the University of Pennsylvania, US.

The findings, which will be published in the December but are already available online, are based on data from a longitudinal study of more than 1400 Chinese children that began in 2004 to examine the influence of lead exposure on neurocognitive, behavioural and health outcomes in children and adolescents.

‘Little is known about the impact of heavy metals exposure on children’s sleep, but the study’s findings highlight that environmental toxins – such as lead – are important paediatric risk factors for sleep disturbance,’ said principal investigator Jianghong Liu. ‘Lead exposure is preventable and treatable, but if left unchecked can result in irreversible neurological damage.’

Past research has linked lead poisoning in children has been to violent crime and brain damage. This study is the first longitudinal, population-based study to investigate the connection between lead exposure and sleep.”

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Table salt and shellfish can contain plastic

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“Scientists have found tiny plastic bits, known as microplastics, in salts collected from supermarkets across China. The researchers analyzed 15 brands of salt. They turned up plastic bits in table salt extracted from seas and lake water. They also found plastic bits in rock salt mined from underground deposits. By far, however, sea salt contained the most plastic. In a second study, the same team found similar plastic fibers in shellfish.

The new findings should, perhaps, come as no surprise. For years, studies have reported finding microplastics in ocean water. And in 2011, scientists showed that laundering clothes made of nylon and other types of plastic shed bits of lint. The wash water carried that lint down the drain and eventually into rivers and the ocean. Plastic bits have since turned up in sea animals. But the new paper is one of the first to report microplastics in food to be eaten by people.

It found that sea salt had 550 to 681 particles per kilogram (2.2 pounds). Each kilogram of lake salts had 43 to 364 particles. Rock salts had seven to 204 particles per kilogram.

These new data suggest that sea salt may be dragging microplastics from tainted water to dinner tables, the scientists conclude. They reported their findings October 20 in Environmental Science & Technology.

“We’re finding plastics in stranger and stranger places,” says Kara Lavender Law. She is an oceanographer at the Sea Education Association in Woods Hole, Mass., where she studies plastics in the ocean. Plastics, she notes, are “in salts, in the oceans, in the air. They’re all around us.” Law was not involved in the new study. But she says the findings may not be isolated to salt in China. Microplastics could taint sea salts from other regions, she warns. For now, no one knows what threat, if any, eating plastic bits might pose…”

Read more from Student Science

St. Louis Child

BILL GATES NEEDS TO INVEST IN AMERICA’S FAMILIES

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Bill Gates’ net worth is estimated to be $79.7 billion and his worth just seems to grow every year. Known as the world’s richest man, Gates is also listed as the sixth most powerful person in the world. He and his wife Melinda run the Gates Foundation their goal is to reduce inequity and improve the lives of people in poorer countries.

But what about America? What about the innocent people in which his investment company, Cascade Investments, is making him even more money, at the expense of innocent children who are made sick and dying from chemical/radioactive materials?

My mother often told me that it is wonderful, honorable to support others who need help, but always remember charity begins at home.

Bill and Melinda are doing extraordinary work in poor countries, but their money to do that work is coming from their investments like, Republic Services where they have personally invested 2.9 Billion dollars. Gates Foundation has divested from Republic Services but Bill and Melinda have not.

Families with children in St. Louis have watched helplessly as their children developed cancer and some have died. Parents believe their children health problems are due to Republic Services burning and radioactive Superfund site. The Missouri health authorities found an over 300% increase in children’s brain cancer near the Republic site. This cancer is preventable.. .avoidable… by helping people move away. Today they are trapped. Families can’t live in their homes, sell their homes or afford to pay rent or mortgages somewhere else. These are working people, many not earning a living wage.

Bill could direct his investment company to use their power as shareholders to purchase the homes of innocent families that surround the burning landfill. Once the fire is put out and the radioactive materials cleaned up Republic can resell the homes and reduce their costs. It is anticipated that the fire will burn for another four years and the plan to clean up the radioactive wastes is also far into the future.

I thought at one time, that maybe Bill and Melinda just didn’t know. As parents of three children Jennifer, Phoebe, and Rory I thought they could relate to the fears the parents in St. Louis face every day to protect their most precious asset their children. Unfortunately they do know and I guess don’t care. Recently, they sold all of their Foundation’s stock in Republic Services. A good first step but far from what’s needed. Their personal stock of almost three billion is still earning dividends off the back of little children and hard working parents. We believe it was the petition drive that CHEJ did with the local group Just Moms STL in St. Louis, Missouri that brought the problem to their attention. Maybe it did, we’ll never know.

Today, it’s clear that Bill and Melinda know there is a problem in St. Louis, and they don’t want the public face of the Gates Foundation to be associated with that Superfund site. With this knowledge, they continue to profit from Republic Services, which in turn continues to place children in harm’s way. Bill and Melinda have made a decision to not take action with their personal wealth.

I can only ask, and hope others who read this ask, won’t you please reconsider your decision? Please, give a little charity at home. You are the richest man and one of the most powerful in the world and have said you want to improve the lives of people in poor countries, how about America? You can use your power in the Republic Services Board room to vote to move the innocent families or buy the properties yourself. The child, with brain cancer in the photo, is worth helping.

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DDT’s long shadow: Long-banned chemicals linked to abnormal sperm

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“Men exposed to certain banned but long-lived chemicals at high levels as teenagers are more likely to have defective sperm later in life, according a new study.

Researchers report today that organochlorine chemicals—specifically DDT and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs)—may affect how testicles mature and function. It is the first study to examine men’s exposure to the chemicals during the teenage years and abnormal sperm later in life, and suggests that the chemicals—banned in the United States but still lingering in soil, water and people—may contribute to male infertility.

“These chemicals continue to persist in our environment. Levels are going down over the past 30 years, but all of us still have levels in our bodies,” said lead author Melissa Perry, a professor and researcher at George Washington University’s Milken Institute School of Public Health.

Perry and colleagues examined sperm and blood samples from 90 men from the Faroe Islands in the North Atlantic Ocean. They looked at organochlorine chemicals in their blood as adults, and checked their sperm for abnormal amounts of chromosomes. For 33 of the men, they also had blood samples at age 14.

Men with higher levels of DDE—a breakdown product of the pesticide DDT—and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), which were used in transistors and electronics, at 14 years old had higher rates of abnormal sperm. The same link was found for levels of the chemicals in the men as adults, according to the study published today in Environmental Health Perspectives.

“It’s another one of those studies that helps us understand why male fertility is in decline in certain areas of the world,” said Thomas Zoeller, a professor and researcher at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst who was not involved in the study.

Previous research suggests sperm with an abnormal amount of chromosomes may lead to failed pregnancies and birth defects.

The study doesn’t prove that the chemicals hamper sperm but both DDT and PCBs are known to disrupt the endocrine system. And sperm production is a “very hormone dependent” process, Perry said…”

Read More from Environmental Health News