Birth defects, diseases, tax payers dollars spent for health care and enormous resistance to policies that prevent disease.
Sen. Chris Edwards, from Eugene, Oregon introduced the legislation this year and said he would support the amended legislation. “As the father of a 12-year-old with autism, I’m particularly sensitive to issues such as toxicity and how environmental toxicity can affect neurological developments and the growth of children’s brains,” he said. “At the end of the day for me, I just have to wonder why it is we’re punting on this issue year after year after year when we know incidents of neurological and developmental disorders are up, and we know these toxic chemicals put children at risk.”
Health care spending in the U.S. has surged more than eightfold since the 1960s. Skyrocketing in that same time frame are rates of chronic disease, use of synthetic chemicals, and evidence that many of these widely used substances may be wreaking havoc on human health. “We know that these chemicals are reaching people. We know that chemicals can cause disease and those diseases cost money,” said Dr. Philip Landrigan, chairman of the department of preventative medicine at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York. New research published offers an example of this financial burden, widely overlooked in the health care debate. The use of bisphenol A, or BPA, in food and beverage containers, according to the study, is responsible for an estimated $3 billion a year in costs associated with childhood obesity and adult heart disease.
In Colorado a recently study demonstrated that babies born near gas wells had children with birth defects including heart defects. I find this interesting because many, many years ago women in the Silicon Valley area also found that children in the neighborhood were born with birth defects of their hearts. In this case it was women sitting in a park and talking with each other that they recognized the cluster of heart defects. Years later a study demonstrated that it was chemicals, used in the high tech industry, got into their well water that was responsible for the clustering of birth defected babies. History repeating itself but it’s not just history these are children’s lives and the future workforce of America.
I’ve sat in the living rooms of families with children dying from cancer, gasping for air due to asthma and unable to speak because of learning disabilities. I’ve seen the pain in parents’ eyes and the frustration in getting answers or resolution to the environmental health risks. Now with the explosion of gas drilling everywhere and the reports of health effects I feel so angry.
So, instead of arguing about how taxpayers will pay for the national health care program, or if the contaminated water or air made some child ill, let’s argue about how to prevent disease especially in children. Our children are helpless and depend on us to keep them safe.
Imagine for a moment that you live in a community that is poor. You work every day in the service industry but just can’t make enough money to move to a better neighborhood. Now imagine that you have a young child who is gifted with high level of intelligence. You want to send your child to a school that can challenge her to help reach her potential. But, you can’t because of your limited income.
This is how one mother described her situation to me recently in Detroit, Michigan. She went on to say that the area around her home and school had lead levels, left over from former lead smelter activities, which were three times the legal standard. Her child and her neighbor’s children began their lives with so much potential. Today, the children are lead poisoned and are having difficulty passing the state school standardize tests. In fact, so many children are failing the standardized tests that their school is about to be closed, their teachers fired and their community further impacted by another empty building and no neighborhood school.
When people hear about the struggles in environmental justice communities they often only think about the immediate pollution and health impacts in a low wealth community. But to understand it one level deeper you need to understand that families living in these communities are really trapped. If you were only to look at their children’s ability to get out of poverty and reach the birth potential, it speaks volumes about the real world situation.
Their children cannot reach their potential because they are impacted by the chemicals like lead in their environments. Often young people, because they are frustrated in trying to achieve in school while faced with asthma, learning disabilities, and the inability to maintain attention students end up dropping out of school. Students weren’t born with the inability to achieve; it was due to their exposures to lead and other toxic environmental chemicals that they developed problems. Once students drop out of school they have little ability to improve their economic status and thus continue the family’s legacy of poverty.
Those who have the power to change this cycle of poison and poverty choose not to. Instead they cover their intentional neglect by blaming the victims, the parents, teachers, and community leaders. Not only do those in power blame the innocent, they exasperate the problem by ignoring the existing pollution while placing more polluting faculties in the area. I think it was Mayor Bloomberg who said, “Do you really want me to put that smokestack in downtown Manhattan?” when community leaders near NYC navy yard objected to an incinerator being added to their burdens.
I’m not sure how to change this situation. It is a larger societal crisis that will take the majority of people to demand change. Today it is only the voices of the desperate parents, frustrated teachers that sound the alarm and cry for justice. This must change.
WHERE: Free Webinar From Your Home/Computer
RSVP online at: http://bit.ly/healthyschoolswebinar
Healthy schools that are free from toxic chemicals are critical to children’s health. Unfortunately school building materials and products can contain chemicals harmful to children’s health that have been linked to asthma, learning and developmental disabilities, cancer and other serious health problems on the rise. For example, hazardous chemicals and materials like mercury, phthalates, vinyl and halogenated flame retardants have been found in lighting, flooring, office supplies, and/or other products in schools. The good news is safer and affordable alternatives are available for schools and parents to use and purchase.
Learn how you can encourage your school to be greener and healthier by launching an environmentally preferable purchasing (EPP) program.
Join this free webinar sponsored by NYS United Teachers (NYSUT), the United Federation of Teachers (UFT) the Center for Health, Environment & Justice (CHEJ) and the Green Schools Alliance.
RSVP online at: http://bit.ly/healthyschoolswebinar
Questions? Contact email@example.com / 212-964-3680.
Funding provided by the NYS Pollution Prevention Institute through a grant from the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation. Any opinions, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Department of Environmental Conservation.
The bad news on vinyl, the poison plastic, and phthalates keeps on mounting.
The more I learn, the more I wonder, why are we still allowing this hazardous plastic in our schools and homes?
Here are some of the most recent developments that every parent needs to know.
First responders file lawsuit over vinyl chloride disaster
In response to the December vinyl chloride disaster, which sent over a cloud of over 20,000 gallons of vinyl chloride into the air (originally destined for OxyVinyls in NJ), a group of first responders have filed a lawsuit over this toxic exposure. NBC Philadelphia reports:
“A class action lawsuit was filed today relating to the Paulsboro, New Jersey train derailment and chemical spill that forced hundreds of people from their homes and left dozens sick last year.
The plaintiffs include more than 100 first responders, young children, and property owners who allege they sustained injuries and damages after the hazardous chemical spill… First responders claim that Conrail representatives advised them throughout the day that they did not need breathing masks or other personal protective equipment, despite high readings of vinyl chloride in the air. The suit states they later underwent extensive medical testing that showed high levels of vinyl chloride in their urine.”
Vinyl chloride is the basic building block of PVC, used to make vinyl flooring in our nation’s schools, hospitals and homes. You can’t make this plastic without this cancer-causing chemical.
The latest science: vinyl chemicals toxic to our health
As families and first responders have been suing over vinyl chloride epxousre, more scientific studies have been published showing that vinyl chemicals are harmful to our health. Some notable studies in recent months include:
- Research funded by the US Department of Defense found phthalates, used to make vinyl flooring soft and flexible, may contribute to disease even generations after exposure. They report that, “Observations demonstrate that a mixture of plastic derived compounds, BPA and phthalates, can promote epigenetic transgenerational inheritance of adult onset disease. “
- Only a few weeks after I blogged on new studies linking vinyl chemicals to asthma and obesity, researchers in China found a link between phthalates and obesity in school children.
- Researchers in Ireland found potentially hazardous nanomaterials leach from PVC food packaging into food: “An exposure assessment revealed that human exposure to silver (assuming a worst case scenario that all silver is in its most harmful nanoform), is likely to be below current migration limits for conventional migrants and a provisional toxicity limit; however it is acknowledged there is still considerable uncertainty about the potential harmful effects of particles at the nanoscale.”
Policies to protect our kids from poisonous chemicals
On the policy front, the big news is the reintroduction of the Safe Chemicals Act by Senators Lautenberg and Gillibrand (honored to have her as my Senator here in NY, thank you very much ), which will go a long way in protecting American families from unnecessary toxic chemicals like phthalates. Yesterday, the American Academy of Pediatrics issued a news release announcing their endorsement of these common sense health safeguards.
As chemical policy reform continues to be debated here in the US, at the international level, Denmark has just unveiled a comprehensive new strategy to address phthalates in consumer products.
“As part of the strategy, the Danish EPA will commence evaluation of the information available about the most common phthalates. And this may very well lead to new bans or other measures if necessary, the Minister for the Environment pledges.”
Pressure mounting to eliminate vinyl and phthalates nationwide
Meanwhile, the market movement away from vinyl and phthalates continues. For instance, EPEAT has recently announced new standards for printers and imaging equipment, which rewards PVC avoidance in electronics – which should have a huge impact on the electronics sector.
Just yesterday, the San Francisco Travel Association announced that all new street banners around the convention center will be completely free of PVC, due to the hazards PVC poses from production to use to disposal.
“San Francisco has always been a city of firsts when it comes to sustainability and now that extends to our city’s street banners. I’m pleased to see the San Francisco Travel Association embrace our city’s goals of zero waste and toxics reduction by eliminating the use of PVC, a harmful and non-recyclable material, and up-cycling the banners as well,” said Melanie Nutter, director San Francisco Department of the Environment.
Last and certainly not least, CHEJ and our friends at the Safer Chemicals Healthy Families campaign have launched a new Mind the Store campaign to urge the nation’s top ten retailers to eliminate the hazardous 100 chemicals, which includes phthalates, vinyl chloride, and a number of other chemicals unique to this poison plastic. Many retailers, such as Target, have already taken steps to phase out PVC, but much more is still needed. Read all about what bloggers are saying about the new campaign, who traveled to stores nationwide urging them to get these nasty chemicals out of their products.
Phew, that’s a lot to report on!
Anything important I missed? Would love to hear other new developments!
Till next time. Your humble plastics crusader, Mike.
Following a brief, targeted educational intervention, pediatricians reported a significant increase in knowledge about environmental triggers of asthma and a willingness to incorporate exposure history questions and remediation recommendations in their routine practice. These improvements persisted at a 3-6 month follow-up interval compared to baseline levels. The findings were published in Clinical Pediatrics. The study was conducted by NEEF’s Pediatric Asthma Faculty Champions using a standardized PowerPoint presentation based on NEEF’s Environmental Management of Pediatric Asthma: Guidelines for Health Care Providers.
Read more . . .
Women’s Voices for the Earth found that fragrance allergies affect as much as 11 percent of the general population. The allergies often manifest themselves through skin rashes, although research has also tied fragrance exposure to respiratory effects in asthma patients.Read more.
The latest study found an association between the phthalates DINP and DIDP and asthma, which are primarily used to make vinyl flooring and other vinyl products flexible. The researchers report:
“The strong correlation between MCOP and MCNP suggests similar sources of exposure to the parent compounds, which are both used primarily as plasticizers of PVC and may be used in flooring, wall coverings, building materials, heat-resistant electrical cords, car interiors, and toys.”
OK. I need to vent, for just one moment.
We’re talking about asthma here people! You know, the disease that impacts over 7 million children! A disease that kills over 3,000 Americans a year. AND it’s super costly. According to the CDC, asthma costs $57 billion a year in healthcare costs. B-I-L-L-I-O-N.
Now that I got that out of me, as I’ve blogged before, this isn’t the first time certain phthalates have been linked to asthma. It’s not even the second or third!
What’s particularly interesting is that DINP and DIDP are phthalates the industry loves to argue are “safe.” And of course, they make the same argument for just about every other poisonous chemical they just love to pump into consumer products.
The other new study, which Nick Kristof wrote about in the New York Times last weekend, found a link between certain organotins and obesity.
Nick Kristof sums it up:
“Just this month, a new study in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives found that endocrine disruptors that are sometimes added to PVC plastic cause mice to grow obese and suffer liver problems — and the effect continues with descendants of those mice, generation after generation.”
These chemicals which can apparently help trigger obesity, have been coined obesogens (dioxins and phthalates have also been linked to obesity BTW).
Like phthalates, organotins are added to vinyl products to give them certain properties; in this case they’re used as “stabilizers.” Lead and cadmium are also used as stabilizers, and now the chemical industry seems to be playing a toxic shell game with our children’s health, where they’re replacing one toxic stabilizer for another (in this case, switching out lead for cadmium or organotins). If that’s not a regrettable substitute, I don’t know what is. Oy.
What’s especially concerning is that these chemicals continue to be used in building materials and other vinyl products in our homes and schools, where our kids spend so much of their time. Why is that they can be banned in toys, but still be allowed in so many other products?!
If we want to avoid these harmful additives, and all the other toxic hazards associated with vinyl (HELLO! chlorine gas, ethylene dichloride, vinyl chloride, chlorinated byproducts like PCBs, dioxins and furans, and mercury, oh my!), the best thing to do is to get it out of our schools and homes in the first place.
These new studies underscore the need for companies like Disney to get these chemicals and plastic out of children’s products one and for all.
After all, it’s better to be safe than sorry. Right?
An EPA report concluding that children exposed to toxic substances can develop learning disabilities, asthma and other health problems has been sidetracked indefinitely amid fierce opposition from the chemical industry. Read More.
Today families, school children, hundreds of residents were evacuated again from the area around the train derailment in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania which sent a cloud of vinyl chloride into the air early Friday. This event is yet another example of how our federal and state governmental agencies fail to respond in a health protective way. They failed to gather enough data to clearly, scientifically and honestly say to families it is safe to go home. They shot from the hip—said it was safe and they were wrong.
Imagine on Friday all of the schools were in lock down – meaning no one could leave or even open the doors and the homes and businesses around the accident were evacuated. Other than 48 homes closest to the accident, people were told they could go home. Sunday people went to church, children played outdoors in the unseasonably warm weekend riding bikes, climbing on swings at the playground and more. People were assured the risk had been eliminated and they are safe.
Today . . . Monday test results revealed that the area is not safe and schools were closed and homes and business were once again evacuated. This, it’s dangerous—not dangerous seesaw announcements, by trusted health authorities happens time and time again in every state. We’ll never know what that unnecessary vinyl chloride exposure to local small children and families did to their health. Vinyl chloride is a very dangerous chemical that causes cancer and nervous system damage. After 31 years of watching innocent families being victimized by corporation and then victimized by their own government authorities that are suppose to protect them, I am ready to scream. Why is it that chemical exposures are responded to with such casual concerns? Why can’t or won’t the authorities take precautionary steps when it comes to the health of innocent Americans?
I know when I ask this question of government health authorities they said because, the problem is contained. Moreover, we know who was exposed and who wasn’t and unlike infectious disease or contaminated food products it won’t reach beyond the physical area.
What is shocking is that somehow; those in charge of our health and environmental protection think this casual approach “because it’s contained” is acceptable. I don’t. There is no real urgency to accidents, spills or on-going pollution because it’s contained and what the authorities don’t say is it impacts on the responsible corporations’ bottom line. What about the American families’ bottom-line? They want protection, warnings, sound scientifically based information. They shouldn’t have to pay with their wallets and health.
Odd as it might seem, I sometimes wish people were treated like corporations profits. If that was the case PA families would not have been told to return home when it wasn’t safe.