EJ Image

Plan EJ2020 – Conference Call with EPA EJ Staff





CHARLES LEEDeputy Associate Administrator for Environmental Justice

MATT TEJADADirector for the Office of Environmental Justice

TUESDAY MAY 26, 2015

2:00 PM-  3:30 PM EST


Call In Number1-866-740-1260 Access Code: 7455210

EPA is seeking input on its draft EJ 2020 Action Agenda framework.  With this plan EPA aims to advance environmental justice through its programs, policies and activities, and support a cross-agency strategy on making a visible difference in environmentally overburdened, underserved, and economically distressed communities. At this session, ask questions, get answers and learn more about how communities can share their recommendations.

From EPA:

EJ 2020: over next five years, EPA is considering what to focus on in the following areas it has identified as priorities:

  • ·         Deepening environmental justice progress in EPA’s programs to improve the health and environment of overburdened communities
  • ·         Collaborating with partners to expand our impact in overburdened communities
  • ·         Demonstrating progress on outcomes that matter to overburdened communities
  • ·         EJ 2020 is a strategy for advancing environmental justice … It is not a rule.

vinyl flooring

Mind the Store, get phthalates out of flooring


Over the last two weeks we have achieved tremendous victories – the nation’s two largest home improvement retailers, Home Depot and Lowe’s, have committed to phase out toxic phthalates in flooring by the end of the year.  

This is HUGE as together they sell billions of dollars worth of flooring a year! This is a lot to celebrate, but we’re not stopping there. 

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. 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.

This may not be easy. Menards has earned a reputation for violating environmental laws in their own home state of Wisconsin. The were fined $1.5 million after their CEO, John Menard Jr.  ”used his own pickup truck to haul bags of chromium-contaminated incinerator ash produced by the company and dump it into his trash at home.”1 That’s who we’re up against.

Help us turn up the heat on Menards and leverage the victories we’ve achieved to date. Take action today!

Act Now!

For a toxic-free future,

Mike Schade, Mind the Store Campaign Director
Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families

PS — Help us continue the momentum by calling on the nation’s #3 home improvement chain Menards to ban toxic phthalates in flooring!

Just Moms march to EPA headquarters on Thursday

Technical Difficulties: The Long Road toward Superfund Site Remediation


Toxic environmental pollution is unfortunately widespread. If you follow Backyard Talk, by now you have probably heard the story of the West Lake Landfill near St. Louis, Missouri, a dumping ground for nuclear waste from the Manhattan Project toward which an underground fire is slowly creeping. Just last week a contingent from Just Moms St. Louis spoke at a D.C. press conference about the health challenges they and their children have faced while living near this polluted site. The following video shows footage from the press conference and the subsequent march:

One commenter on this video asked me whether homeowners could potentially avoid a situation like this through diligent research into the history of where they plan to live. Shouldn’t it be relatively easy to identify whether a site near your home is on the National Priorities List? The story of this site illuminates some common complications that arise during the process of identifying a toxic area and moving toward eventual remediation. It is exceedingly difficult for environmental scientists, let alone community members, to identify pollutants and quantify risks. This post summarizes just a few of the factors that make this process so complex.

Just Moms St. Louis demonstrate outside EPA Headquarters

Many polluted sites go unrecorded and undetected. When you think of contaminated sites, what comes to mind? We might expect the ground under a former gas station to be loaded with organic contaminants, or predict pollution downstream from a factory. However, not all sites have a clear usage history with easily predictable exposures. This is especially true in the case of places like the West Lake Landfill where waste has been illegally dumped. Radioactive waste was illegally discarded in 1973, but wasn’t uncovered until 1977.

It’s a long road from detection to Superfund designation… The West Lake Landfill was discovered to be contaminated in the 1970s, but it wasn’t until 1990 that the site wound up on the National Priorities List, which designates it as a Superfund Site. How does a site end up on the NPL? There are several different mechanisms that the EPA uses to list sites on the NPL, all of which require extensive characterization of the hazards that are present, and of potential routes for human exposure. At the end of the day, not every polluted site ends up on the Superfund list – leaving still more undocumented but polluted areas. During these interim years, the West Lake Landfill was still polluted – it just wasn’t listed.

…And it’s an even longer road to remediation. Once the West Lake Landfill was placed on the National Priorities List, it was another 18 years until a cleanup plan was ultimately developed. The process of developing a remediation plan involves countless scientific studies, and meetings with PRPs (Potentially Responsible Parties) who are tasked with devising a cleanup strategy that makes sense for the site. During this time, communities are placed in limbo. They live in a documented toxic area, making it difficult to sell their homes, and while cleanup is planned or underway, their potential exposure to toxic compounds continues.

Even then, the unexpected can happen. Much of the current concern surrounding the West Lake site stems from the presence of a smoldering underground fire in an adjacent landfill, which is slowly making its way toward the radioactive waste. It took well over a decade for the EPA to reach a decision on what to do with the West Lake site, and now that this new factor has been introduced, the risks at the site have changed considerably. Any remediation will now have to account for the fire, and underground fires are notoriously difficult to stop.

It is difficult enough for environmental scientists and managers to detect environmental pollution, to determine the urgency of remediation activities, to decide on a plan, and to revise that plan if the unexpected occurs. It is nearly impossible for potential homeowners to keep abreast of the slow-moving yet unpredictable process of listing and remediating a Superfund Site.


EPA Laws & Regulations Really Don’t Matter


How can ordinary people win justice from an agency that seems to care little about their own laws and regulations? Take for example the recent report that the hazardous waste incinerator (WTI) in East Liverpool, OH. It stands tall next to the Ohio River and has released toxic substances above allowable limits 195 times over 175 days. This is not new for this facility. In fact CHEJ years ago went all the way to the Supreme Court in the state of Ohio to have the incinerators permit revoked. At that time the incinerator was only within compliance (legal limits) two quarters over a number of years.

The area surrounding the incinerator was defined as an Environmental Justice community, by the Environmental Protection Agency. As such the community should have seen tighter enforcement, more access to information and new polluting industries proposed would be weighed against the already high pollution in the area before allowed to be built.

None of that happen. In fact, a freedom of information request was made on several occasion for information because no one would provide the information through a simple request. Those freedom of information requests were able to be fulfilled but not without the low wealth community paying about $1,500. EPA refused to waive the fee for compiling the information. Fracking and injections wells were welcome in the area and operating today with little regard to the existing community toxic burden.

When CHEJ fought in court for the renewal permit to be revoked the local group Save Our County, filled the court room with local people. Three judges sat in the front of the room and listened to arguments from both sides. The community argument was clear, the company is breaking the law and have been for years and no one will do anything about it except collecting on a small number of fines and penalties. To WTI those fines are predictable and just the cost of doing business. The community is suffering from a multitude of adverse health impacts.

Ohio has this regulatory system that allows innocent people to be poisoned. The court ruled against the community when CHEJ helped them to appeal the permit. The judge said he had nothing to hang his hat on and said he understands why his court room is full of unhappy people. The judge said that because according to Ohio regulations, if a company is out of compliance – but has a plan to come into compliance – than they are considered in compliance.

What if that was the rule for everyday people and laws. For example, if you were found to be driving while drunk (DUI), but have a plan to go to alcohol anonymous, then you are not considered in violation of the law – worst you can continue to drive while under the influence, possibly killing innocent people—just like WTI.

EPA and the state of Ohio among other states need to right this wrong. It is the innocent victims that suffer the diseases and taxpayers who are burdened with the cost of those diseases and destruction of the environment and all living things.


State agency puts BPA on Prop. 65 list, says it harms reproductive health


Metal can liners are made from plastic that contains BPA. The Can Manufacturers Institute opposes the listing of Bisphenol-A on the Prop. 65 list as a female reproductive toxicant, or as harmful to women's reproductive health. Once listed the manufacturers and retailers will have 12 months to institute warning labels based on what level is considered safe to consume.Metal can liners are made from plastic that contains BPA. The Can Manufacturers Institute opposes the listing of Bisphenol-A on the Prop. 65 list as a female reproductive toxicant, or as harmful to women’s reproductive health. Once listed the manufacturers and retailers will have 12 months to institute warning labels based on what level is considered safe to consume.NEO VISION/GETTY IMAGES/AMANA IMAGES RM

The chemical Bisphenol-A goes on the Proposition 65 list this week after a unanimous vote by a state scientific panel concluded the element is harmful to women’s reproductive health, according to the California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment.

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Poor in Pennsylvania? You’re fracked.


Hydraulic fracturing wells and the pollution from them are more likely to impact poor communities in Pennsylvania

May 6, 2015

By Brian Bienkowski
Environmental Health News

Fracking wells in Pennsylvania’s Marcellus Shale region are disproportionately located in poor rural communities, which bear the brunt of associated pollution, according to a new study.

Penn State/flickr
Nancy Adams from Penn State’s University Libraries touches residue leftover from drilling at the Marcellus Shale drilling site

The study bolsters concerns that poor people are more likely to deal with hydraulic fracturing in their community and raises concerns that such vulnerable populations will suffer the potential health impacts of air and water pollution associated with pulling gas from the ground.

“This trend is not one we’re surprised by, we see this in a lot of industries,” said Mike Ewall, founder and director of Energy Justice Network, a nonprofit organization that works with U.S. communities dealing with pollution from energy.

However industry groups say hydraulic fracturing is in rural farming regions of Pennsylvania out of necessity and is providing some much needed economic stimulus.

Researchers from Clark University mapped areas in Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Ohio to identify areas with a lot of Marcellus Shale hydraulic fracturing wells and then examined some local demographics: age, poverty and education levels, and race.

The Marcellus Shale is a large rock formation — almost 95,000 square miles — that stretches across parts of New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia and holds trillions of cubic feet of natural gas. It’s experienced a surge of drilling as techniques have advanced. The most common method, hydraulic fracturing or “fracking”, works by drilling and injecting fluid at high pressure, which fractures rocks and releases the natural gas.

One thing was clear from the Clark University study: poverty levels are strongly associated with active fracking wells in Pennsylvania.

“Our analysis shows that environmental injustice was observed only in Pennsylvania, particularly with respect to poverty: in seven out of nine analyses, potentially exposed [census] tracts had significantly higher percent of people below poverty level than non-exposed tracts,” the authors wrote.

The researchers used different tests to estimate exposure to potential gas well pollution — varying the distance from the wells since there is no definitive distance that makes someone safe or exposed. “No matter how you estimate proximity, it always came up as exposure was significantly, much higher” in poor Pennsylvania communities, said lead author of the study Yelena Ogneva-Himmelberger, a Clark University assistant professor of Geographic Information Sciences for Development and Environment.

Elias Schewel/flickr
Communities throughout Pennsylvania have protested fracking near their homes.

She said the study raises environmental justice concerns as people under the poverty line often “have less mobility and access to information” about the potential ills of fracking, especially since the communities she looked at were rural areas without the amenities of larger cities and towns.

She also found local clusters of gas wells disproportionately impacting the poor, elderly and those with lower education in West Virginia, and children in Ohio.

Most concern about proximity to gas wells stems from the potential for air pollution from drilling and leaks, and water pollution from the mix of chemicals pumped into the ground, radiation from the fractured rocks, or methane.

And recent headlines have only stoked alarm in Pennsylvania fracking communities.

This week the Proceedings of the National Academies of Sciences released a study that found traces of a common fracking chemical in water from three homes in Bradford County, Pennsylvania, where the median household income is 10 percent lower than the rest of the state’s.

In addition, last month researchers reported that radon — the world’s second leading cause of lung cancer — is much more prevalent in Pennsylvania buildings near natural gas development than in other parts of the state.

And a week after the radon study, the state released data that showed sulfur dioxide emissions soared 57 percent from 2012 to 2013 at Pennsylvania natural gas sites. Sulfur dioxide harms the respiratory system and can cause or worsen illnesses such as asthma.

Industry has long maintained that fracking is environmentally safe and cleaner than other fossil fuels. In response to the new study, Joe Massaro, a spokesman for the Independent Petroleum Association of America’s outreach program called Energy in Depth, said in an email that industry presence is helping poor Pennsylvania communities.

“A majority of people living in these rural areas are hardworking, generational farmers. According to the Pennsylvania farm Bureau the average net cash income per farm is $18,567, just below the poverty line,” Massaro said. “By signing leases with oil and natural gas operators here in the Commonwealth, these farmers have been able to buy new state of the art equipment and pay off debt which has made their lives that much easier.”

Massaro added that the oil and gas industry also provides local tax revenue and jobs.

But Energy Justice’s shale gas program coordinator, Alex Lotorto, disagrees and said that small farmers may have seen a short-term boost from oil and gas leases but the negative impacts of the industry far outweigh any perceived benefits.

He said that the new study just reinforces what his group has been seeing on the ground for years.

“Residents in these poor counties have been under assault for generations,” he said.

“Rural poverty is real in the shale fields.”

Follow Brian Bienkowski on Twitter @BrianBienkowski

EHN welcomes republication of our stories, but we require that publications include the author’s name and Environmental Health News at the top of the piece, along with a link back to EHN’s version.

For questions or feedback about this piece, contact Brian Bienkowski at

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

Who is still protecting WTI after all these years?


Below was taken from the March 2015, “Finding of Violations” against the hazardous waste incinerator in East Liverpool, Ohio.  For years citizens from across the national have complained about this facility that sets right on the bank of the Ohio River.  Not only are the residents of East Liverpool impacted by this facility but citizens from Pennsylvania and West Virginia would also feel the effects as the facility set right in the middle of a triangle formed by these states.  Imagine how the citizens of East Liverpool felt when they read the following.


Heritage’s violations have caused or can cause excess emissions of organic HAPs.

Dioxins/furans, PM, PM metals (such as antimony, cobalt, manganese, nickel. and selenium)

Mercury, semivolatile (lead and cadmium) metals, low volatile (arsenic. beryllium, and total

chromium) metals, hydrogen chloride and chlorine.

Organic HAPs: Organic HAPs include halogenated and nonhalogenated organic classes of

compounds such as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and polychlorinated biphenyls

(PCBs). Both PAHs and PCBs are classified as potential human carcinogens, and are considered

toxic, persistent and bioaccumulative. Organic HAP also include compounds such as benzene,

methane, propane, chlorinated alkanes and alkenes, phenols and chlorinated aromatics. Adverse

health effects of HAPs include damage to the immune system, as well as neurological,

reproductive, developmental, respirator and other health problems.

Dioxin/Furans: Dioxins and furans can cause a number of health effects. The most well-known

member of the dioxins/furans family is 2,3,7,8 TCDD. EPA has said that it is likely to be a

cancer causing substance to humans. In addition, people exposed to dioxins and furans have

experienced changes in hormone levels. High doses of dioxin have caused a skin disease called

chloracne. Animal studies show that animals exposed to dioxins and furans experienced changes

in their hormone systems changes in the development of the fetus, decreased ability to reproduce

and suppressed immune system.

PM: Exposure to particles can lead to a variety of serious health effects. Fine particles pose the

greatest problems. Scientific studies show links between these small particles and numerous

adverse health effects. Epidemiological studies have shown a significant correlation between

elevated PM levels and premature mortality. Other effects associated with PM exposure include

aggravation of respiratory and cardiovascular disease, lung disease, decrease lung function,

asthma attacks, and certain cardiovascular problems.

PM Metals (antimony, cobalt, manganese. nickel and selenium): Studies have shown that

antimony accumulates in the lung and is retained for a long time. Antimony has been associated

with lung damage and myocardial effects. Cobalt has been reported to cause respiratory effects

in humans including irritation, wheezing, asthma and pneumonia and may cause lung cancer.

Chronic exposure to high levels of manganese by inhalation in humans results primarily in

central nervous system effects. Respiratory effects have been reported in humans from

inhalation of nickel. EPA has classified nickel refinery subsulfide as a human carcinogen and

nickel carbonyl as a probable human carcinogen. Studies of humans chronically exposed to high

levels of selenium in food and water have reported discoloration of the skin, pathological

deformation and loss of nails, loss of hair. excessive tooth decay. lack of mental alertness and


Mercury: Chronic exposure to elemental mercury in humans affects the central nervous system

with effects such as increased excitability. irritability, excessive shyness, and tremors. The

major effect from chronic exposure to inorganic mercury is kidney damage. EPA has classified

mercuric chloride (an inorganic mercury compound) as a Group C possible human carcinogen.

Semi volatile metals (lead and cadmium): Chronic exposure to high levels of lead in humans

results in effects on the blood, central nervous system, blood pressure, and kidneys.

Reproductive effects, such as decreased sperm count in men and spontaneous abortions in

women have been associated with lead exposure. Chronic inhalation or oral exposure to

cadmium leads to a build-up of cadmium leads to a build-up of cadmium in the kidneys that can

cause kidney disease. Cadmium has also been shown to be a developmental toxicant in animals,

resulting in fetal malformations.

Low volatile metals (arsenic. beryllium, and total chromium): Chronic inhalation exposure to

inorganic arsenic in humans is associated with irritation of the skin and mucous membranes.

Inorganic arsenic exposure in humans by the inhalation route has been shown to be strongly

associated with lung cancer. Chronic inhalation exposure of humans to high levels of beryllium

has been reported to cause chronic beryllium disease in which noncancerous lesions develop in

the lung. Inhalation exposure to high levels of beryllium has been demonstrated to cause lung

cancer in rats and monkeys. Chromium may be emitted tin two forms, trivalent chromium or

hexavalent chromium. The respiratory tract is the major target organ for hexavalent chromium

toxicity for inhalation exposures. Human and animal studies have clearly established that

inhaled hexavalent chromium is a carcinogen. The respiratory tract is also the major target organ

for trivalent chromium although trivalent chromium is less toxic than hexavalent chromium.

Hydrogen chloride: Hydrogen chloride is corrosive to the eyes, skin, and mucous membranes.

Chronic occupational exposure to hydrogen chloride has been reported to cause gastritis,

bronchitis, and dermatitis in workers. Prolonged exposure to low concentrations may also cause

dental discoloration and erosion. In rats exposed to hydrogen chloride by inhalation, altered

estrus cycles have been reported in females and increased fetal mortality and decreased fetal

weight have been reported in offspring.

Chlorine gas: Chlorine is an irritant to the eyes, the upper respiratory track, and lungs. Chronic

exposure to chlorine gas in workers has resulted in respiratory effects including eye and throat

irritation and airflow obstruction.

environmental working group

Urgent Action Needed on Asbestos


Asbestos-related disease kills up to 15,000people in the U.S. each year.

And if you’re thinking that this lethal substance has been banned in the U.S., you’re wrong. It is still legal and continues to pose serious risks to millions of American families every day.

That’s why we at EWG Action Fund launched Asbestos Nation, a national campaign to increase public awareness about the pervasiveness of asbestos and to fight on Capitol Hill for justice for its victims.

Right now, we’re up against a terrible bill in Congress that has the backing of special interest groups, big chemical companies and Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-Texas).

Rep. Farenthold’s industry-backed “Furthering Asbestos Claims Transparency Act” – also known as the “Asbestos Death Database Act” – would delay and decrease compensation for victims of asbestos-related disease and their families.

The House Judiciary Committee is scheduled to hold a hearing on Rep. Farenthold’s bill THIS WEEK, and we need your help immediately to shut it down.

Your representative must hear from you today: Click here to contact your member of Congress and tell him or her to oppose Rep. Farenthold’s industry-backed bill.

In addition to lung cancer and other illnesses, exposure to asbestos can cause mesothelioma, an extremely painful and fatal form of cancer that attacks the lining of the lungs, stomach and other organs.

Mesothelioma requires expensive medical treatment and often kills victims within months of diagnosis. Victims of these horrible illnesses deserve justice – and Rep. Farenthold’s bill would provide them anything but.

This atrocious bill would not only significantly delay and deny payments to victims and their families, it would also require that individuals seeking compensation publicly disclose detailed, personal information including medical information.

Absurdly, the asbestos companies claim the legislation would protect victims. If that’s so, why do asbestos victims’ groups uniformly oppose it?

Click here to help us fight for justice for the victims of asbestos: Tell your representative to oppose Rep. Farenthold’s bill today.

Thank you for taking action.

vinyl flooring

VICTORY — Lowe’s commits to phase out phthalates in flooring


We did it!

In less than one week, Lowe’s has agreed to eliminate toxic phthalates in their flooring by the end of this year!

This is huge as Lowe’s is the second largest home improvement retailer in the country.  

This shows the power we have as consumers to get big retailers to eliminate toxic chemicals in products.

Lowe’s commitment comes less than one week after we announced another big victory for our campaign – Home Depot, the world’s largest home improvement retailer took the lead by eliminating added phthalates by the end of 2015.  That victory was featured in a big NY Times story.  Our campaign has now successfully leveraged Home Depot’s policy by convincing Lowe’s to join them.

This follows a report we just co-released that found nearly half (48%) of flooring samples tested at Lowe’s contained toxic phthalates.  

We welcome and congratulate both Home Depot and Lowe’s for doing what’s right for our families and homes.

A big question remains though– what about the other leading retailers of flooring?  To date, Lumber Liquidators, Ace Hardware, Menards and have no timeframes to eliminate phthalates in flooring, and testing has shown toxic phthalates in flooring they sell. 

Who will be the next retailer to join this growing trend?  Stay tuned, as we’ll be launching a new campaign in the next week targeting at least one of these laggards.

In the meantime, join us in celebrating the good news by sharing it with your friends on Facebook and Twitter.

environmental working group

Stand Up for the Victims of DuPont


We can’t let DuPont get away with this.

After spearheading one of the most extensive cover-ups in recent history, the chemical giant is now trying to shield itself from liability and escape its responsibilities to the thousands of victims left ill by its neglect.

Here’s what you need to know:

  • In 2005, the Environmental Protection Agency fined chemical giant DuPont a record $16.5 million for a decades-long cover-up of the health hazards of its product, C-8, also known as PFOA. One of a family of perfluorinated chemicals, or PFCs, C-8 was a key ingredient in making Teflon, the non-stick, waterproof, stain-resistant “miracle of modern chemistry” used in thousands of household products.
  • DuPont knew that C-8 caused cancer, poisoned drinking water in the Mid-Ohio River Valley and polluted the blood of people and animals worldwide – but it never told its workers, local officials and residents, state regulators or the EPA!
  • Today, 10 years after the EPA took action, DuPont has failed to clean up water supplies, is shirking its promise to monitor the health of the communities it poisoned and is gearing up to fight in court against paying damages to its victims.
  • While C-8/PFOA will no longer be used in the U.S. by the end of this year, DuPont and other companies continue to use related chemicals that may not be much – if at all – safer. These next-generation PFCs are used to make greaseproof food wrappers, waterproof and stain-repellent clothing, and countless other products.

We must put a stop to this secrecy right now and bring justice to the victims of DuPont.

Click here to sign EWG’s petition and demand that DuPont keeps it promises to its victims in the Mid-Ohio Valley and beyond.

The EPA classifies C-8 as a “probable human carcinogen.” Exposure to it is associated with several serious diseases, including kidney cancer, testicular cancer, thyroid disease, ulcerative colitis and high cholesterol.

We may never truly know how many victims have fallen ill due to DuPont’s careless use of C-8 and other chemicals, but it is far too many. And every one of those victims deserves justice.

Don’t let DuPont get away with trying to skirt the consequences of its toxic responsibilities and legacy in Parkersburg. EWG – and the victims of DuPont – need you to take action today.

Sign the petition: Tell DuPont to stop the secrecy and keep its promises to its victims!

Thanks for standing up for the victims of DuPont. Together, we’ll make sure justice is served.

- EWG Action Alert