children’s health

toothpaste

Three new reasons retailers must ban triclosan

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Last week, Bloomberg News broke a major story that shined the light on the dangers of triclosan, a hormone-disrupting chemical commonly used in antibacterial soaps and even Colgate Total toothpaste.

#1 – FDA approved use of triclosan, despite evidence to suggest harm

Bloomberg News’ story reveal an all too common practice in Washington – where chemicals are approved to be used based on limited studies conducted by the same companies that profit from their use. The expose revealed how In the case of the FDA’s approval of triclosan in Colgate Total toothpaste, the agency approved the chemical despite the fact that there was early evidence suggesting it could be harmful to consumers. These revelations have come to light only after NRDC sued the FDA to make these documents public, after the FDA withheld them from public view.

I had the opportunity to appear on live national TV to discuss this breaking story, and talk about our Mind the Store campaign, which has been challenging the nation’s largest retailers to eliminate the worst-of-the-worst chemicals like triclosan. Check out the video below to see the story. Bloomberg News also ran a great follow-up story on our campaign’s work to get retailers to scrub their supply chains of unnecessary dangerous chemicals like triclosan.

#2 – Brushing teeth with Colgate Total = 5 time the level of triclosan

The Bloomberg story came on the heels of a brand new study which found that brushing your teeth with Colgate Total toothpaste can lead to higher exposures to this dangerous substance. Our colleagues at NRDC wrote:

“It’s a study of hospital workers at two different hospitals. One hospital used triclosan-containing soap, the other did not. Not surprisingly, the study shows that people who washed their hands with the triclosan-containing soap had higher levels of triclosan in their urine.

The really interesting part of the study showed that the numbers were skewed heavily by brushing with Colgate Total toothpaste. As it turns out, people who brushed their teeth with Colgate Total had more than five times as much triclosan in their urine as people who didn’t use it.“

#3 – Babies and pregnant women exposed to triclosan

Along with these new reports come yet another brand new study which found that pregnant women and fetuses in the womb are being exposed to triclosan and its cousin chemical, triclocarbon. Every single one of the women tested had triclosan in their bodies, and half of newborns tested were also exposed to triclosan.

“We looked at the exposure of pregnant women and their fetuses to triclosan and triclocarban, two of the most commonly used germ-killers in soaps and other everyday products,” says Benny Pycke, Ph.D. “We found triclosan in all of the urine samples from the pregnant women that we screened. We also detected it in about half of the umbilical cord blood samples we took, which means it transfers to fetuses. Triclocarban was also in many of the samples.”

Will Retailers Mind the Store?

In the absence of real federal chemical form, many leading brands are filling the regulatory void and have already taken precautionary steps to eliminate triclosan, such as Procter & Gamble, Johnson & Johnson, and Avon. Even Colgate has eliminated it from their dish and hand soaps. Colgate Total should join them and move swiftly to remove triclosan.

Alliance Boots, who Walgreens is merging with, has banned triclosan as part of its its corporate chemicals policy. We’ve been calling on Walgreens to adopt Boots’ chemicals management program as a first step in developing a comprehensive chemical policy, and are hopeful Walgreens will do what’s right for American consumers. Both Target and Walmart have identified over 1,000 chemicals to reduce and work to eliminate, though it’s unclear whether triclosan has made it onto their priority lists.

In light of the Bloomberg story and the ever-growing evidence that triclosan is harmful to our health and getting into our bodies, big retailers like Walgreens should leverage their purchasing power to eliminate this unnecessary toxic chemical from products on their shelves once and for all. Will you join us and call on the nation’s top retailers to Mind the Store?

TAKE ACTION: Tell the nation’s biggest retailers to ban dangerous chemicals like triclosan.

Protect yourself from triclosan:

1. Check the label: avoid products with the words triclosan and triclocarban on the ingredient labels of personal care products, soaps and hand sanitizers. Triclosan may also marketed under the trade name Microban™ when used in plastics and clothing, and Biofresh™ when used in acrylic fibers.

2. Be wary of products like cutting boards that are labeled as “anti-microbial” or “anti-bacterial.”

3. Stick to washing your hands with hot water and soap and alcohol based hand sanitizers when on the go.

Written by Mike Schade, Mind The Store Campaign

Spanish Village Playground Air Monitor

St. Louis Injustices & Bill Gates

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As I write this I’m on my way back from St. Louis, Missouri. Yes, I there are riots in the street

Spanish Village Playground Air Monitor

and it was a bit risky to go now rather than postponing the trip for another day when the city settles down. But, this is a city of so many injustices, and honestly the “quiet” after the protests only means the world stopped paying attention. The problems don’t go away when the media leaves. It’s because people took the voices and bodies to the street that a light is shining on one of the problems today, but there are many serious injustices that exist in St. Louis. The local group Just Moms STL have been planning this training and educational event for six months, so I needed to go.

Just a short distance from the center of the unrest is another form of injustice, a landfill which is burning underground. The fire is slowly moving beneath the surface toward the neighboring landfill which contains radioactive wastes. What happens when the fire reaches the nuclear waste, no one knows? It’s very scary for families with small children who have no idea when the fire will reach the radioactive material or what will happen when it does. This waste travels through Ferguson but originates from a neighboring subdivision.

The truth is, all of North St. Louis is in a fight for justice. CHEJ is moving forward to provide assistance, but only where we have expertise. Our work is focused on the families living in the Mobile Homes Park and single family homes that have been exposed to smoke, odors, toxic chemicals and likely radioactive waste for over a decade without relief. Their children are sick, the community riddled with cancers and nothing has been done. The fire continues to burn and release toxins into the air, government continues to test and continues to find dangerous chemicals, and the responsible company, Republic Services, is doing less.

What makes this site even more symbolic of injustice—on one side is the rich, powerful, protected people and on the other side the poor. Bill Gates, the wealthiest man in this country is the largest shareholder in Republic Service. He alone has enough money to move the families who need to be evacuated out of harm’s way. He wouldn’t even miss the funds. Certainly, as the largest shareholder, he could convince Republic Services to pay him back. Or with his power as the largest shareholder get Republic Services to move the innocent families and permanently clean up the sites. But he hasn’t lifted a finger to help.

I have to wonder if Bill and Melinda Gates saw the story of unrest on T.V. or if either of them realizes that the company that is paying him over $30 million dollars a quarter in dividends is responsible for another form of violence on the local people. They both give generously to children’s hospitals across the country (and should continue) but in St. Louis children are the being made sick daily because of the fire and landfill related pollution in which he could do something about. He has the power to get Republic Services to move the families that live in harm’s way and clean up properly the dump sites.

One participant at the community training said, we need to tell Bill Gates, “We can’t open our windows.” They aren’t describing his windows program but rather that the pollution and odors are so bad that they need to keep the windows of their homes closed and air conditioning running, for those who can afford air conditioning.

Try to imagine living in a community with a burning landfill moving slowly toward a radioactive waste site and no one seems to care. Although I do not support violence, however, it seem people raising their voices in the street is the only way people can expose their suffering to the public and their best hope of getting ant action.

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Crude Oil Trains Moving Across NY State Pose Unaddressed Risk to Children, Schools, and Communities

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The recent spike in oil train traffic in the Albany region presents unexamined and unaddressed risks to public safety, including potential impacts to 75 K-12 schools, according to new mapping by environmental and health groups. The recent accidents in Lac Megantic, Quebec and Casselton, ND that resulted in mass casualties and huge releases of air toxins illustrate how woefully unprepared New York State is to address derailments and other accidents.

Read more.

New Superfund Bill Introduced

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Just over a week ago, U.S. Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) introduced legislation that would revive the tax component of the federal Superfund program and once again force industries responsible for contaminating soil, air and water to pay for the cleanup of these sites. The Superfund Polluter Pays Restoration Act of 2014, which was co-sponsored by Sens. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and Barbara Boxer (D-CA), would reinstate the excise tax on polluting industries to pay for the cleanup of Superfund sites. Federal taxpayers have been paying the tab for cleaning up Superfund sites since 1995 when the taxes on polluting companies expired and were not renewed by Congress. This proposed law would also make funds available directly to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on an ongoing basis instead of being subject to annual appropriations.

Senator Booker, who held hearings on the need to reinstate the Superfund taxes in June, stated in a press release that “This legislation holds industries accountable for cleaning up the harmful results of their irresponsible practices. Taxpayers should not be financing the cleanup of a mess they did not create. This bill corrects an inexcusable injustice and places the onus on polluters to restore Superfund sites back to safe, healthy areas that can attract investment and economic development.”

CHEJ’s Lois Gibbs testified at the June hearing. In her testimony, Lois made it clear that CHEJ supports the reinstatement of the taxes on the polluters. “There is no question about the need for the Superfund program, and the need to have reliable adequate funding in place to protect the American people and their communities.” Lois also cited a recent health study, Superfund Cleanups and Infant Health that was highlighted at the hearings that found a 20-25% increase in birth defects for mothers who lived near a Superfund site when birth outcomes were compared before and after a site was cleaned up. Lois called on the senators to “Restore the polluter pay fees so that there is a reliable source of funding to provide the necessary cleanup to protect innocent American families from the worst toxic wastes in America.”

The need to reinstate the fees on polluters is long overdue. It’s time to place the burden and responsibility for cleaning up the worst contaminated sites in the country rightfully where it belongs – on the companies responsible for the pollution. The passage of this bill would be a huge step in the right direction, a huge step towards holding polluting companies accountable and providing people living near Superfund sites with the cleanup they deserve. For more information about this effort, see contact Senator Cory Booker at http://www.booker.senate.gov/?p=press_release&id=121.

EPA’s Remedy for Darby Creek

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The Lower Darby Creek Superfund Site in Darby Township, Pennsylvania is nearing a critical junction in its cleanup cycle. The Record of Decision (ROD), a technical document that delineates EPA’s chosen remediation method, will be released to the public soon. This is a welcome step given that EPA has been jugging the site with very little progress since its inclusion in the National Priorities List (NPL) in 2001.However, it is increasingly apparent that the ROD will suggest a particular kind of remedy that is not suitable for the site.

The site consists of two landfills – the Clearview Landfill and the Folcroft Landfill. Folcroft remains under evaluation and will be dealt with separately. Clearview and how to contain its waste are the subject of the ROD. In previous evaluations, EPA proposed and seemed to be pushing for the implementation of a non-traditional cap for the landfill. This non-traditional cap is known as an evapotranspiration (ET) cap and consists of a thick layer of soil covered by various forms of vegetation. The idea behind it is that rain water that falls over the landfill will be trapped in the soil and then soaked up by the plants to be used and evaporated into the surrounding air. In principle, this kind of mechanism is possible and the solution is sound. But this breaks down when you take into account various other factors.

An ET layer is not suitable for the Lower Darby Creek site because of the climate and geo-hydrology. This kind of cover prevents water infiltration in locations that possess greater levels of soil evaporation and plant transpiration (collectively termed evapotranspiration) than precipitation. Arid and semiarid climates such as that of the Midwest are suitable for this kind of cover. However, Darby Township receives 42.05 inches of rain every year, a figure almost twice as high as it average evapotranspiration level. In addition, the site is located on a floodplain that experiences a massive flooding event on average every 6-8 years.

All of these factors make an ET layer as the permanent cap for the Clearview Landfill an extremely inefficient and non-protective remedy. As the announcement of the ROD approaches, it is CHEJ’s hope that EPA takes the health and well-being of the residents surrounding the site as their top priority and decides against an ET layer.

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Germany Wants To Ban Fracking

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Germany is seeking a ban on shale gas and oil drilling over the next seven years because of worries that the practice could pollute drinking water and damage the environment. Read full story.

Evaluating Cumulative Impacts – A New Approach

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Some of you may know Peter Montague, the author of Rachel’s Environment and  Health News and a long-time leader in the Environmental Health movement. He recently gave an on-line presentation as part of the Collaborative on Health and the Environment (CHE) on Evaluating Cumulative Impacts. This presentation offered a new approach to evaluating cumulative impacts which is worth sharing.

Montague defined cumulative impact analysis as being needed whenever some new disturbance (new project, new technology, etc.) is introduced into any of the three environments (natural, built or social). When the idea of using cumulative impact analysis is raised, he said, it almost always is “met by a groan (or by silence as the whole issue is ignored).” Montague gives 4 reasons for why he thinks this happens.

  • We think of events and actions as “one cause, one effect.”
  • Science works best when it can reduce a problem to its simplest form, eliminating all extraneous influences (“variables”).
  • Our regulatory systems are not designed to consider cumulative impacts.
  • Agencies use quantitative risk assessment in the old way, not the new way that was recommended by the National Research Council (NRC) of the National Academy of Sciences in their 2009 report Science and Decisions.

Montague poses the idea that we are asking the wrong question, as was noted in the NRC report. Rather than asking whether a disturbance considered in isolation will exceed some threshold or standard, which is what government agencies currently do, instead, we should be asking is, how can we minimize or avoid harm?

He gives an example. “Will this brownfield cleanup contaminate children in this neighborhood with blood-level levels that exceed some magic number like 5 micrograms of toxic lead per deciliter of blood (ug/dL)? If the answer is no, then the cleanup is deemed safe and satisfactory, even though the cleanup might add 4 ug/dL to the blood of many children, reducing their IQs accordingly and, in combination with other exposures, perhaps, even exceeding the magic 5 ug/dL “reference” level.”

Montague also states that the concept of violating a standard is itself problematic because so few standards exist and because the ones that do exist “are so poorly settled by science, so plagued by uncertainties, so conducive to endless disputes and litigation.” He argues that this approach needs to be replaced and he proposes three “tests” by which to measure cumulative effects: the 9 planetary boundaries test; the health disparities test; and the justice test.

The 9-boundaries test includes factors such as measuring climate change; loss of biodiversity; nitrogen (and phosphorus) cycles; stratospheric ozone depletion; ocean acidification and freshwater use. The health test asks how the disturbance contributes to cancer and other adverse health effects including, reproductive, immune, developmental, and behavior effects. The justice test asks for any disturbance, who will receive most of the benefits and who will pay most of the costs.

Each of these tests is discussed by Montague who concludes that “If these tests show that the new disturbance will make matters worse, then the proposal will need to be stopped (which raises the all-important question, How can affected parties say No to harmful proposals?), or modified sufficiently to make it beneficial or at least neutral in effect?”

To read more about this precautionary approach to assessing cumulative risks, see http://www.precaution.org/lib/why_ci_is_hard.pdf

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Childhood Cancer & Environment

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Between 1975 and 2011, the U.S. has seen a 55% increase in the number of children diagnosed annually with childhood leukemia. Read more from Environmental Health Policy/PSR.

pillow

Public Health Risks & Corporate Profits

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People’s bodies are being contaminated with industrial chemicals without their consent or knowledge. Unlike food and drugs, most of these industrial chemicals have never been tested to determine their effects on human health or the environment. Diseases linked to chemicals like childhood cancers are on the rise. Our laws need to be changed to protect public health and the environment. We must phase out the worst chemicals and switch to safer, effective and affordable alternatives that already exist. Because our country’s laws are outdated—prevention, substitution and proof of safety—are not our nation’s goals. Instead calculated harm and sacrifice are the goals of today’s regulations and laws. Risk of harm and cost of change (regardless of how large or small) dominate decisions around chemical exposures of innocent people and the environment.

Corporations and our government try to confuse the public about risks or make a certain level of risk somehow acceptable. To simplify the entire mathematical formula to justify unnecessary risks for the average person I came up with this analogy. Although this may be a bit of over simplification it is the formula that is used to dismiss risks and allow corporations to expose people, innocent children, to very dangerous chemicals in order to increase their profits.

Here is the analogy to demonstrate their technique.

Protective Gates vs. Cheap Pillows

Most people believe if you have a toddler and an open staircase it makes sense to be cautious and place a gate across the stairs to prevent the child from falling down the stairs.

U.S. chemical industries would argue investing in the gate may not be necessary—instead they would do studies to determine how many toddlers would fall and the level of harm from each tumble down the stairs.

After defining statistically how many toddlers would likely fall down the stairs and the percentage that could be harmed, industry would still argue the gate is too expensive and purchasing them would cause financial harms.

They would argue that instead of expensive gates, believed to be overkill, they would invest in cheap pillows at the bottom of the stairs which would provide adequate protection for tumbling toddlers.

So the next time you are faced with a risk benefit equation from corporations or government ask them (using this analogy) if they are suggesting pillows instead of a gate? Are they really interested in protecting public health especially from involuntary risks?