New data – Fourth National Report on Human Exposure to Environmental Chemicals


CDC’s Division of Laboratory Sciences released the Fourth National Report on Human Exposure to Environmental Chemicals, an ongoing biomonitoring assessment of the U.S. population’s exposure to environmental chemicals.

The Updated Tables, February, 2015 provides nationally-representative biomonitoring data from CDC’s National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) that have become available since the publication of the Fourth Report in 2009.

The Updated Tables, February 2015 presents data for a total of 265 chemicals, of which 65 are new and 139 have been updated since the release of the last version. This release includes previous updates to the tables and provides new data for some metals, pthalates, and volatile organic compounds (VOCs).

For a complete list of the chemicals included in this update visit the Report Web Page.


Did Chemical Company Author New Chemical Bill


In recent days, a draft of the bill — considered the product of more than two years of negotiation and collaboration between Sen. David Vitter, R-La., Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., and both chemical industry and environmental groups — was circulated by Udall’s office ahead of the hearing. The draft bill, obtained by Hearst Newspapers, is in the form of a Microsoft Worddocument. Rudimentary digital forensics — going to “advanced properties” in Word — shows the “company” of origin to be the American Chemistry Council.   Read full story here.


Putting the ‘Teeth’ into TSCA: A Tale of Two Bills


TSCA, the Toxic Substances Control Act, is meant to do as its name suggests – control the introduction of potentially toxic chemicals into personal care products and the environment. The law, introduced in 1976, has been left untouched for decades. The chemical market now contains over 85,000 chemicals, with about 1,000 new chemicals introduced every year – and TSCA’s rules have only resulted in bans on five of these substances. ‘TSCA has no teeth’ is a common refrain among environmentalists, and speaks to the Act’s general incompetence in protecting human and environmental health.

How does TSCA work, and what makes it so ineffective? Essentially, TSCA requires that the EPA maintain a list – the TSCA Inventory – of all chemical substances that are manufactured or processed in the U.S.  Though companies must let the EPA know they are starting to manufacture a chemical, they have no responsibility to provide safety data along with this notice. The EPA can only require testing once they have proven the chemical presents a “potential risk,” creating a massive loophole for untested but potentially hazardous chemicals to enter the market. Not only are new chemicals subject to no scrutiny, but in-use chemicals are given the benefit of the doubt. When TSCA was first introduced, it “grandfathered in” all existing chemicals with the assumption they were safe for use. It’s readily apparent that there are more loopholes than law in TSCA.

Luckily, TSCA reform is back on the table, with the introduction of two new chemical regulation bills to Congress just last week. On March 10, Senators David Vitter and Tom Udall introduced a new bill that builds incrementally on a previous reform attempt, the Chemical Safety Improvement Act. Though the Udall-Vitter bill gives the EPA more power to regulate and requires safety testing of current and new chemicals, it has drawn criticism from environmental groups. The coalition Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families released a letter critiquing the bill’s classification system for chemicals, which groups them as “High Priority” or “Low Priority” after an initial review. Chemicals deemed High Priority will be subject to further testing to determine their safety, while Low Priority chemicals will not, a distinction that may open a so-called ‘Low Priority Loophole’ with the potential for abuse by industry. Additionally, the bill curtails the ability of states to set their own more stringent regulations, a fact many environmental groups have criticized.

Senators Barbara Boxer and Ed Markey introduced their own bill, the Alan Reinstein and Trevor Schaefer Toxic Chemical Protection Act, on Thursday. Named after two cancer survivors, the bill employs stricter standards for chemical safety evaluation, sets deadlines for determining safety, and also allows states to continue to employ stricter regulations than those at the federal level. The Environmental Working Group has praised the bill, including its changes to safety-standard language. Instead of requiring EPA to prove a chemical has “no unreasonable risk of harm,” the bill sets the standard as “reasonable certainty of no harm” – the same standard that is applied to food additives and pesticides. The bill requires that the EPA consider risks that might result from unintended chemical spills, not just intended exposure levels. It also fast-tracks the safety analysis of asbestos, a proven cancer-causing agent that TSCA has thus far failed to regulate.

The Boxer-Markey bill shifts the burden of proof for chemical safety determination in a significant way. Rather than requiring proof of a chemical’s ‘unreasonable’ harm before regulation, it requires ‘reasonable’ certainty of its safety. Of course, there are still nuances and uncertainties in the determination of what constitutes “reasonable” safety, just as “unreasonable” harm is a flexible concept. All things considered, the Boxer-Markey bill takes the furthest step toward precaution that we have yet seen in Congress.

May the best bill win!


Environmental movement blocks fracking in Algeria’s remote south


An unprecedented environmental protest movement in a remote part of Algeria has disrupted the country’s multibillion-dollar shale oil programme and is making political waves across the North African nation and the wider region.

3-9-15 Environmental movement blocks fracking in Algeria’s – FTimes.


1970s Love Canal activist Lois Gibbs to speak in Youngstown


The Associated Press


The woman who led efforts to investigate industrial contamination in western New York’s Love Canal is visiting eastern Ohio to discuss a rash of human-made earthquakes that have occurred since the oil-and-gas boom.

Author and Nobel Peace Prize nominee Lois Gibbs speaks Friday at a town hall-style meeting in Youngstown hosted by Frackfree Mahoning Valley. The group has fought against the high pressure drilling technique known as fracking and deep injection of the wastewater the process generates.

In 1978, Gibbs was living in the Niagara Falls neighborhood of Love Canal when residents learned they were living in a toxic zone. Homes there had been built on an industrial waste site blamed for health problems suffered by many families.

It was considered one of the nation’s worst environmental disasters.

Copyright The Associated Press


A Story of Health: Something for Everyone


Collaborative on Health and the Environment

We all know there are multiple contributors to health and disease, but let’s say you want to figure out what the latest science says on environmental links to, say, asthma? Or learning disabilities? Or childhood leukemia? Pretty daunting, isn’t it? Which websites have the most evidence-based science? Which articles are accessible without paying a subscription or membership fee? What do those research findings mean for your patients, your family, and community? And many other pressing questions. Most health care professionals can’t begin to keep up with the emerging scientific literature, much less the rest of us.

Fortunately, A Story of Health is a brilliant, innovative new resource that can help you find out how various environments interact with our genes to influence health across the lifespan. Based on the latest peer-reviewed research, it’s more than a bunch of scientific facts thrown together with fancy graphics. It’s a story, or really–multiple, interactive, and interconnected stories that touch us and teach us not only about risk factors for disease, but how to prevent disease and promote health and resilience.

You may think, ‘Well, of course Elise is singing its praises since CHE played a significant role in developing A Story of Health.’ Yes, it’s my day job to stay abreast of the latest research and what it means for our health, but I can’t tell you how grateful I am to be able to turn to A Story of Health now when I need to find some information I know has been vetted by dozens of researchers whom I respect. And I’m not alone in thinking this. Here are a few responses we’ve already received:

  • Brian Linde, MD, with Kaiser Permanente in Oakland, CA: A Story of Healthis superb and fun to use. This is a fantastic resource. It is compelling, educational and engaging, and will absolutely make a difference. I will recommend it to friends, colleagues, medical students and residents.
  • David Bellinger, PhD, at Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, MA:This…will be extremely helpful to a lot of constituencies.
  • Leslie Rubin, MD, at the Morehouse School of Medicine in Atlanta, GAThe focus on a family and on each of their health challenges weaving in the environmental factors is masterful and I believe very effective. It is a wonderful format–and very cleverly done with a compelling story and interactive elements.

Take a look at it yourself. See what you think and let us know. Send it to colleagues. You’re also welcome to learn more by joining us next week on our second CHE partnership call related to A Story of Health–this one focused on “Brett’s Story” about asthma.

toxic hot seat

Toxic Hot Seat Screening TODAY!


The International Association of Firefighters is hosting a screening of the film, “Toxic Hot Seat” in Washington D.C. tomorrow. We hope you can join them!

What: Toxic Hot Seat Film Screening
When: Monday March 9, 7:00-8:30 p.m.
Where: Hyatt Capitol Hill, Congressional B Room – Lobby Level, Washington, D.C

hell or high water

Come Hell or High Water: Environmental Justice Film Tour


On February 12, North Carolina environmental justice leader Omega Wilson and UNC Chapel Hill professor Danielle Spurlock joined a conversation with filmmaker Leah Mahan on WUNC’s “The State of Things” with host Frank Stasio, which you can listen to here. The program aired on the final day an Environmental Justice Film Tour featuring campus screenings of Come Hell or High Water organized by Working Films. The tour will be highlighted in a workshop on March 12 co-presented by Working Films at the National Environmental Justice Conference in DC titled ”Using Documentary Film and Multimedia Art to Strengthen Efforts for Environmental Justice.”

Cleaner Air, Cleaner Lungs… USC study this week about L.A


USC scientists this week released a new study showing that as air pollution has improved in L.A., children’s lung function has also improved.  The study garnered worldwide attention.  Here is the link to a Chinese story on the study.

USC blog, which has links to other media.

The article is free on the NEJM website:   An editorial from Harvard is also in the New England Journal of Medicine issue at:

USC recently produced an infographic in English (and are translating it into other languages) on health effects from living near busy roads and freeways.


We need leadership from Obama on fracking or history will repeat itself


“When my neighbors and I first put the facts together – that our Love Canal neighborhood of Niagara Falls was built atop a chemical waste dump that made our kids sick – we had many questions. How could our public officials and institutions have let this happen?”

In an editorial published yesterday at The Hill, CHEJ’s Lois Gibbs discusses the need for strong leadership from Obama to prevent future fracking harms.