children’s health

EPA’s EJ 2020 Action Agenda

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The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has released a draft for public comment of its EJ 2020 Action Agenda (EJ 2020) Framework. This strategy document lays out its plan for continuing to address environmental justice in the context of the agency’s work. EPA is hoping to build on its EJ 2014 Action Agenda and expand that work through commitments that will continue over the next five years. EPA is seeking input on the draft EJ 2020 Action Agenda framework. The public comment period runs from April 15 to June 15. The agency is planning to conduct informational and dialogue sessions during this comment period and is encouraging the public to submit written comments. For more details, see: www.epa.gov/environmentaljustice/plan-ej/.

As described in the draft framework document, “EPA’s environmental justice efforts seek to protect the health and environment of overburdened communities, support them to take action to improve their own health and environment, and build partnerships to achieve community health and sustainability.”

The agencies goal through 2020 is to make a visible difference in overburdened communities by:

  • Deepening  environmental justice practice within EPA programs to improve the health and environment of overburdened communities;
  • Collaborating with partners to expand our impact within overburdened communities; and
  • Demonstrating progress on outcomes that matter to overburdened communities

Key elements to the EJ 2020 plan include incorporating EJ in rulemaking; considering EJ in permitting; advancing EJ through compliance and enforcement; supporting community based programs; fostering administration-wide action; and developing science and legal tools for considering environmental justice in decision-making. The framework document also includes a chart that defines the agency’s status and progress in achieving these key elements. In addition, EPA has established a one-stop informational “Resource for Communities” web portal as well as a new EJSCREEN tool that quantitatively identifies areas with potential EJ concerns by using environmental, health, demographic and enforcement indicators.

Contacts on environmental justice are included for each of the 10 EPA regions and for each of 13 major divisions within the agency such as the Office of Air and Radiation, Office of Water, Office of Research and Development, etc.

EPA will make the draft document available on April 15th on its Environmental Justice website at: www.epa.gov/environmentaljustice/ej2020/. Comments can be submitted electronically to: ejstrategy@epa.gov, or via hard copy to: Charles Lee at lee.charles@epa.gov. If you have any questions, please contact Charles Lee via email or at 202-564-2597.


Is your child’s school toxic?

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New test results posted by the Santa Monica-Malibu school district (SMMUSD) show nine classrooms and other facilities containing toxic polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) in concentrations up to 11,000 times above federal safety limits. The revelation came a day after America Unites for Kids and Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) sued the Santa Monica Malibu Unified School District for violating the federal Toxic Substances Control Act involving excessive levels of PCBs in school buildings.

The new test results prepared by the district’s own consultant showed PCB levels ranging from 330 parts-per-million to 570,000 ppm, meaning that over 50% of the caulk sample was pure PCB, a cancer-causing, banned chemical. By contrast, the federal safety limit is just 50 ppm. Despite these extremely high levels of a highly toxic chemical banned by Congress, all of these rooms are still in use by students and teachers of the combined elementary, middle and high schools. Elementary school special needs students are in a classroom tested at 470,000 ppm.

CHEJ has a program that can help you to identify if your school is a problem and how to get something done. If your school was built before 1980 it is more likely, than newer schools, to have PCB’s in lighting and caulk.  Check out our project materials at CHEJ’s PCBs in Schools webpage.  This is a win-win the school can remove the PCB’s in light fixtures which are also a problem and charge the school district the difference in their electric bill (since the new fixtures are energy efficient) until the costs are paid off.

Read more about a Los Angeles school district’s own tests show shocking pcb levels.

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Toys from the Seventies and Eighties could be poisoning your children

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Nostalgia can be dangerous! Before passing on old toys to your children, consider new research that has found contaminants like arsenic, lead and cadmium in plastic toys from decades ago.

Read More.

Chemical Exposures and Health Care Costs

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A new economic analysis has concluded that exposure to endocrine-disrupting chemicals likely costs the European Union €157 billion ($209 billion U.S.) a year in actual health care expenses and lost earning potential, according to a new series of studies published in the Endocrine Society’s Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism.

A total of four papers were published (overview, neurobehavioralmale reproduction and obesity & diabetes) that focused on specific health conditions that can partly be attributed to endocrine-disrupting chemical (EDC) exposure. These included infertility and male reproductive dysfunction, birth defects, obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and neurobehavioural and learning disorders. A team of eighteen researchers from eight countries led by Leonardo Trasande, Associate Professor of Pediatrics, Environmental Medicine & Population Health at NYU Medical Center, were involved in this landmark initiative.

EDCs interfere with numerous hormone functions and are commonly found in thousands of household products including plastics made with vinyl, electronics, pesticides, and cosmetics.

The overview paper concluded that “EDC exposures in the EU are likely to contribute substantially to disease and dysfunction across the life course with costs in the hundreds of billions per year. These estimates represent only those EDCs with the highest probability of causation; a broader analysis would have produced greater estimates of burden of disease and costs.”

The papers were prepared in conjunction with an evaluation being done by the EU Commission of the economic impact to industry of regulating EDCs in Europe. According to the authors, “Our goal here is to estimate the health and economic benefit of regulating EDCs in Europe, based on current evidence.”

The expert panels put together for this analysis “achieved consensus for probable (20%) EDC causation for IQ loss and associated intellectual disability, autism, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, childhood obesity, adult obesity, adult diabetes, cryptorchidism, male infertility, and mortality associated with reduced T.”

“The analysis demonstrates just how staggering the cost of widespread endocrine-disrupting chemical exposure is to society,” said Leonardo Trasande, the lead author in a press statement released by the Endocrine Society. “This research crystalizes more than three decades of lab and population-based studies of endocrine-disrupting chemicals in the EU.”

The press release goes on to say:

In the EU, researchers found the biggest cost driver was loss of IQ and intellectual disabilities caused by prenatal exposure to pesticides containing organophosphates. The study estimated the harm done to unborn children costs society between €46.8 billion and €195 billion a year. About 13 million lost IQ points and 59,300 additional cases of intellectual disability per year can be attributed to organophosphate exposure.

“Adult obesity linked to phthalate exposure generated the second-highest total, with estimated costs of €15.6 billion a year.

“Our findings show that limiting exposure to the most common and hazardous endocrine-disrupting chemicals is likely to yield significant economic benefits,” said one of the study’s authors, Philippe Grandjean, MD, PhD, Professor of Environmental Medicine at the University of Southern Denmark and Adjunct Professor at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. “This approach has the potential to inform decision-making in the environmental health arena. We are hoping to bring the latest endocrine science to the attention of policymakers as they weigh how to regulate these toxic chemicals.”

The impact of this paper is staggering. It should be a “wake up call” said Linda Birnbaum, Director of the U.S. National Institute for Environmental Health Sciences when asked about the results. It also provides more evidence that low level exposure to chemicals found in everyday household products is affecting the health of many people not just in the Europe, but worldwide.

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

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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.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=stODmn1m0yw



USC blog, which has links to other media.   http://usceh.blogspot.com/2015/03/CleanAirLA.html

The article is free on the NEJM website:  http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMoa1414123?query=featured_home.   An editorial from Harvard is also in the New England Journal of Medicine issue at: http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMe1415785?query=featured_home


USC recently produced an infographic in English (and are translating it into other languages) on health effects from living near busy roads and freeways.   http://usceh.blogspot.com/p/living-near-busy-roads-or-highways.html

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BPA exposure linked to autism spectrum disorder, study reports

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A newly published study is the first to report an association between bisphenol-A (BPA), a common plasticizer used in a variety of consumer food and beverage containers, with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in children. The study, by researchers at Rowan University School of Osteopathic Medicine (RowanSOM) and Rutgers New Jersey Medical School (NJMS), shows that BPA is not metabolized well in children with ASD.

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New Policy Report on Environmental Health in the Child Care Setting

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A new report by the Environmental Law Institute and CEHN examines state policy addressing environmental health in child care facilities.  The report focuses on several key indoor environmental exposures, providing an overview of state laws and regulations and highlighting examples of notable policies and programs.  The report includes chapters on: radon, carbon monoxide alarms, pesticides, and several other key indoor environmental exposures.


The report, Reducing Environmental Exposures in Child Care Facilities: A Review of State Policies, can be downloaded here.


Health Studies: What you can expect and what you can do

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Whether your group is new or has been organized for years, one of the most pressing questions you’ll face is about health problems in your community. Typically, if you raise enough public attention and pressure, the state will ask the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) to do a health study. While you may initially be excited, be careful what you ask for. ATSDR has a poor track record at investigating health problems in communities. You are more likely to get a result that is “inconclusive by design” than you are to get an honest answer to your questions. At least that’s what history tells us.

You can expect at least two things from ATSDR: First, the agency is going to treat your community like every other community that they have gone into. Second, ATSDR is going to use the standard methods they use to evaluate and investigate the health problems in your community.  Unfortunately, these scientific methods cannot answer with any accuracy or assurance the questions that people have about health problems in their community. The best state-of-the-art scientific methods that ATSDR will use cannot determine what’s causing an increase in cancer, birth defects or any other adverse effect in a population of people.

In 99 out of 100 instances, health studies conducted by ATSDR or other government agencies are inconclusive or at best incapable of determining what might be causing an observed increase in a disease found in a community. Given this likely outcome, it’s critical to have a plan for how to get the most from a health study done in your community.

One important step is to define as a community what you want. Do you want a typical epidemiological study where a questionnaire is distributed throughout the community asking about health problems and the results are then compared to a matched unexposed community? Do you want a clinic set up in the community where people could be tested to evaluate their health? Maybe some portion of the community wants to be relocated or evacuated and you want ATSDR to recommend such action.

Once you’re clear on what you want, then you need to figure out how to achieve these goals. This will take some strategic planning and a strong organized community effort. Ask these three questions about the health study, the answers to which will give you a good sense of the intent of the investigators and the limits of the study:

  • What are the goals of the investigation?
  • How will the investigators get the information they need?
  • How are they going to release the results?

Based on what you find out, you may decide that you don’t want to participate in this study. Or you may decide you want to change the agency’s plan to something that will be useful to your group. Changing their plan will require a strong organized community effort and a plan to get your points across to the agency. CHEJ can help you develop a plan to address a health study. Contact us at chej@chej.org

Also, tune in tomorrow at 12 noon EST to participate in a training session on Health Studies: What can they tell you about health problems in your community?


(RSVP Online Now
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Toxic Chocolate Valentine Surprise Hershey’s, See’s Candies, Mars, and Others – Toxic Metals Found

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OAKLAND, CA – February 11, 2015 – Consumer health watchdog As You Sow filed notices of legal action today against Hershey’s, See’s Candies, and Mars. The notices allege violation of California’s Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act for failure to warn consumers of cadmium in the companies’ chocolate products.

As You Sow previously initiated legal action against an additional 13 chocolate manufacturers, including Godiva, Ghirardelli, Lindt, Green and Black’s, Kroger, Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, Earth Circle Organics, Moonstruck, Theo, and Vosges, for failure to warn of lead and/or cadmium in their chocolate products.

Lead exposure has been a significant public health issue for decades and is associated with neurological impairment, such as learning disabilities and lower IQ, even at low levels. “No amount of lead ingestion is ‘safe’ for children,” commented Sean Palfrey, MD, a practicing pediatrician and professor of Pediatrics and Public Health at Boston University School of Medicine. “Pregnant women and young children with developing brains in particular should avoid any ingestion of lead.”

Chronic exposure to cadmium has been linked to kidney, liver, and bone damage in humans. Children are more susceptible to exposure effects from low doses of cadmium over time. Animal studies have associated cadmium exposure with decreased birth weight, neurobehavioral problems, and male reproductive harm.

California’s Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act requires manufacturers to warn consumers if their products contain chemicals known to cause cancer or birth defects or other reproductive harm. Testing commissioned by As You Sow and conducted at an independent laboratory, indicates that the chocolate products named in the legal notices contain lead, cadmium, or both, and fail to provide the required warning to consumers.

“Consumers need to know that chocolate may contain heavy metals,” said Eleanne van Vliet, MPH, As You Sow’s Toxic Chemical Research Director. “Since lead and cadmium accumulate in the body over time, even small amounts should be avoided.”

“Nobody expects heavy metals in their chocolate,” said Andrew Behar, CEO of As You Sow. “By issuing these notices, we hope to convince chocolate manufacturers to either remove or reduce heavy metals in their products through sound supply chain practices, or provide warnings so consumers can make their own choices about whether to consume the products.”
For twenty years, As You Sow has been one of the leading enforcers of California’s Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act with enforcement actions that have resulted in removal of lead from children’s jewelry, formaldehyde from portable classrooms, lead-containing baby powder from stores, and the reproductive toxin toluene, from nail polish.

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CONTACT: Stephenie Hendricks, (415) 299-9510, stephdh@gmail.com
Eleanne Van Vliet, (510) 735-8154, evanvliet@asyousow.org
Andrew Behar, (510) 735-8151, abehar@asyousow.org
As You Sow is a nonprofit organization that promotes environmental and social corporate responsibility through shareholder advocacy, coalition building, and innovative legal strategies. For more information visit www.asyousow.org/chocolate.

Safeguard America Resources

Southern Community Groups Call for the Right to Say No to Natural Gas Facilities

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Campaign to Safeguard America’s Resources Today community groups in Virginia, North Carolina and Georgia called for the establishment of local veto power over natural gas extraction, transport and use. At rallies, marches and other public events extending from Floyd, Virginia, across North Carolina to Valdosta, Georgia, people joined in a chorus of protests against pipelines, compressor stations, power plants, hydrofracking wells and waste dumps and for the restoration of property rights and local control over energy policy in the Southeast.

Lou Zeller, Executive Director of the Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League, said, “Today we launch the campaign to Safeguard America’s Resources because of our nation’s dangerous reliance on fossil fuel, including natural gas, which pollutes the air and water. But we also see a parallel danger to our communities, to our society and to our democracy from a dominant oil and gas industry.”

At press conferences in county courthouses, community buildings, a university and a small church, League chapters called for action to halt natural gas facilities in their communities. Following the speeches, they joined caravans and parades to focus public opposition at the local government level. Events across the region echoed the twin themes of danger and opportunity.

Kim McCall, Secretary of the Concerned Citizens of Richmond County, North Carolina, spoke against hydro-fracking and the expansion of Duke Energy’s natural gas power plant in Hamlet. She said, “We are petitioning local governments for the ability to veto projects that threaten our homes, our families and our neighbors.” The group has petitioned EPA to deny the air permit to increase toxic air pollution by 36% from the combustion turbine electric power plant in her backyard.

To launch their campaign in Lee County, North Carolina, members of EnvironmentaLEE held a prayer vigil and rally at Mount Calvary Baptist Church, which is located in front of the brickyard in Sanford where the dumping 8 million tons of Duke Energy’s toxic coal ash is proposed. Deb Hall, a member of EnvironmentaLEE, said, “We are already ground zero for fracking, and the North Carolina General Assembly stripped local governments of their ability to control fracking and coal ash dumping. This threatens our health, the environment, community self-determination, and property rights.”

Mark Laity-Snyder, a founding member of Preserve Franklin county, joined others carrying black coffins in a caravan to Floyd, Virginia. He said, “We chose a coffin to represent the loss of a basic American right, the right to be secure in our homes without private companies taking our land.” Jenny Chapman, from nearby Preserve Bent Mountain, said, “For a corporation like Mountain Valley Pipeline to override the rights of private citizens to their land, safety and quality of life is unacceptable.”

Pat Hill, co-founder of Person County PRIDE in Roxboro, North Carolina, said, “My husband and I live next to the Republic mega-dump. We want to have a voice in protecting our water and air quality because we live with it every day.” She continued, “The toxic wastes deposited here endanger our health and the health of our neighbors. Coal ash contains arsenic, lead and many other poisons. Because hydrofracking uses secret contaminants, it could have an unknown number of dangerous compounds.”

Michael G. Noll, President of Wiregrass Activists for Clean Energy in Valdosta, Georgia, sounded a note of hope, saying, “This is the beginning of a new era, where we see the unified efforts of communities across the nation to safeguard America’s resources, to wean ourselves of fossil fuels, and to protect the unalienable rights of citizens to clean water and air. I am convinced that safe and renewable sources of energy like solar and wind will be the lunar landing of our generation.”

Mara Robbins, Virginia Campaign Coordinator for the Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League and organizer of the Floyd March and Demonstration, said, “We chose to have this action here because we stand in solidarity with all the counties that are resisting the threat of the Mountain Valley Pipeline.” She pointed to many different communities in three states that are calling for community-level veto power over fossil fuel projects. Referring to her success in pushing the pipeline route out of her home county, she said, “Though Floyd is not in the line of fire at the moment, we claim the right to say NO to dangerous proposals that utilize eminent domain over the wishes of the people. And we think all communities deserve that right.”

The Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League was founded in 1984. The organization has a thirty-year track record of victories over polluting facilities.