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beaumont, TX

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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Styrofoam Ban in our Nation’s Capital

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On January 1, 2016 a ban on the use of Styrofoam containers went into effect in the city of Washington, DC.  This new law will prohibit restaurants and local business from using single use Styrofoam (technically speaking, expanded polystyrene foam products) containers to package food and drinks, typically used for take-out orders or to take home leftovers. According to one estimate in a private blog, there are similar bans in effect in more than 70 cities including New York, Minneapolis, San Francisco, Portland and Seattle.  In New York City alone, 28,500 tons of expanded Styrofoam was collected in 2012. About 90% of this material was from food and drink related containers.

I couldn’t help but smile when I read this story as a remembered back in the late 1980s when CHEJ (then CCHW) kicked off a national campaign against McDonald’s to get the mega food giant to stop using Styrofoam clam shells for all its food packaging. We called this the “McToxics Campaign” and groups all over the country participated including grassroots environmental health activists, students, churches, annual rights activists and advocates of healthy food. These groups, individually and in coalition, picketed local restaurants, fought for local ordinances banning Styrofoam, launched boycotts and engaged in send-it-back campaigns to send the message to McDonalds that they wanted the company to be a corporate leader for positive change, rather than a symbol of our throw-away society.  And it worked!  After a little over 3 years, McDonalds caved in, marking one of the biggest victories of the grassroots environmental health movement. On November 1, 1990, McDonalds’ announced it would end nearly all Styrofoam packaging use in U.S. restaurants within 60 days.

As anticipated, when McDonalds made its announcement, other companies would follow its lead. Jack-In-the-Box followed suit almost immediately, and soon most other fast food restaurants also stopped using Styrofoam.  Although many small restaurants and local businesses continued to use Styrofoam, the message continues to grow that this toxic plastic has no place in our society. The many toxic substances generated and released during production, the formation of toxic chemicals when it is burned and the difficulties in recycling and disposal of this material is what drove this campaign and continue to be an issue today as restaurants and businesses search for options to deliver food and drinks.

Fortunately there are better options and better alternatives that don’t cause the public health and environmental risks that this plastic does. Cheers to the growing list of cities, towns and municipalities that are deciding one jurisdiction at a time, to move away from this toxic plastic.  May there be many more in the coming years.

China Explosion

Fear of Toxic Air and Distrust of Government Follow Tianjin Blasts

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Within minutes of the immense chemical explosions that sent apocalyptic fireballs into the night sky over Tianjin, Zhou Haisen, 23, was making arrangements to leave town. He was terrified that poisonous gases would reach his apartment six miles from the scene, and his fears were swiftly reinforced by posts on Chinese social media. So he and his parents fled to his grandmother’s house an hour’s drive away. Read the full story in the New York Times .

Danger chemicals image 2

Environmental Justice Report: 81% Of Products Tested At U.S. Dollar Stores Are Unsafe

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AUSTIN, Texas — On July 1, activists gathered at dollar stores nationally to declare their “independence” from toxic chemicals, after a report earlier this year suggested products sold by these discount chains could be hurting consumers. To produce the report, issued in February by Environmental Justice for All’s Campaign for Healthier Solutions, researchers tested 164 products from multiple discount chain stores nationwide and found that 133 contained “at least one hazardous chemical above levels of concern,” meaning that 81% of tested products were hazardous. These include chemicals identified to be carcinogenic, capable of causing developmental disabilities in children, or were otherwise found at levels considered toxic. Unlike major chains like Wal-Mart and Target, no major dollar store chain has a formal policy on selling or disclosing toxic ingredients in products.

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EPA Can Map Environmental Justice Communities – Can They Stop The Poisoning?

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Today we know how to identify Environmental Justice communities but what is the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) doing to relieve their community burdens? A new mapping tool created by the EPA, called EJSCREEN was recently released. This tool is great for academia or researchers but how does it help environmentally impacted communities? Why is generating information, that community already know because they are living with the pollution and associated diseases daily, more important than helping them?

CHEJ, for example, has worked for over thirty years with Save Our County in East Liverpool, Ohio This community in the 1990’s was defined by EPA as an Environmental Justice community, through their evaluation process which is the same as the mapping categories. Yet nothing has changed as a result of this definition.

  • The hazardous waste incinerator, WTI, still operates and remains for most of the time in violation of air and other standards.
  • Other industries continue to pollute with little enforcement.
  • An elementary school was closed due to the air emissions from the WTI Incinerator stack which is almost level to the school windows (incinerator is in the valley) stack peeked over the embankment. The City was force to shoulder the costs of relocating students and staff.
  • In the past several years new wells were drilled for natural gas extraction and infrastructure.
  • The community has the highest number of cancers in their county than other similar counties in the state.

    Nothing, absolutely nothing, has changed in East Liverpool, Ohio as a result of being defined an environmental justice community.

  • No decision to stop new polluting industries from setting up shop.
  • No action on denying permits, when they have been a significant repeat violator of the laws and regulation, when up for renewal permit.
  • No fee data and information when requested under the freedom of information requests.
  • No additional public comment meetings for new or existing permits. Absolute nothing changed in East Liverpool, OH and so many other communities.

    Thank you EPA for providing a tool for academics, for communities to say yes our community qualifies (although they already knew) and for real estate and banking institutions to provide information that will make it more difficult for families in Environmental Justice communities to secure a home improvement loan or sell their property.

    Now can you spend some time and money on reducing the pollution burdens and assisting with the medical professionals for disease related injuries.

  • cans

    Which brands use BPA?

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    You’ve probably heard of bisphenol A, or BPA, a synthetic estrogen found in the linings of many food cans. One of the nastiest endocrine disruptors on the market, BPA has been linked to a variety of serious disorders, including cancer, reproductive damage and heart disease.

    But I bet you haven’t heard this: Consumers have NO reliable way of knowing which canned foods use BPA-based epoxy in their linings. Crazy, right?

    At EWG, we thought so too, which is why we’re proud to release our latest analysis, BPA in Canned Food: Behind the Brand Curtain. We developed this report to help consumers like you determine which products contain BPA and which brands you can count on for BPA-free products.

    Click here to check out the full report and get the facts on which canned food products still contain BPA.


    EWG


    After scrutinizing more than 250 brands of canned food, EWG analysts found that while many companies have publicly pledged to stop using BPA in their cans, more than 110 brands still line all or some of their metal cans with an epoxy resin containing BPA.

    EWG divides the brands into four categories: those using cans with BPA, those using BPA-free cans for some products, those always using BPA-free cans and those that are unclear. That way, you can tell exactly which products to seek out and which to avoid.

    Federal regulations don’t require manufacturers to label their products so you can identify cans with BPA-based linings. That’s why EWG stepped up to do this research — so you have the resources you need to avoid BPA and shop smarter.

    Click here to learn more and see which canned food brands you should avoid and which ones you can count on for BPA-free products.

    While you can’t yet rely on federal regulations to safeguard you and your family from toxic chemicals like BPA, you can always depend on EWG.

    Thanks for making this work possible.

    vinyl flooring

    Health effects of vinyl flooring on baby boys

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    Mind the Store has achieved tremendous victories lately – the nation’s two largest home improvement retailers, Home Depot and Lowe’s, have committed to phasing out toxic phthalates in flooring by the end of the year.  

    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. You may not have a Menards in your area, that is ok. We still need you to act. 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.

    Let’s turn up the heat on Menards
    — Take action today!

    Act Now!

    waterways

    Waterways May be Contaminated with High Levels of BPA Released into the Atmosphere

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    Our water may be contaminated by hormone-disrupting pollutants. Scientists have discovered that harmful concentrations of Bisphenol-A (BPA) may have been deposited directly into rivers and streams by municipal or industrial wastewater.

    “There is a growing concern that hormone disruptors such as BPA not only threaten wildlife but also humans,” said Chris Kassotis, one of the researchers, in a news release. “Recent studies have documented widespread atmospheric releases of BPA from industrial sources across the United States. The results from our study provide evidence that these atmospheric discharges can dramatically elevate BPA in nearby environments.”

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    vinyl flooring

    Mind the Store, get phthalates out of flooring

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    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!


    cans

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

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    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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