children’s health

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Cindy Crawford Pulls Kids Out of School Due to Elevated Levels of PCBs

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Better safe than sorry! Cindy Crawford is not taking any chances when it comes to the health and safety of her two kids Presley and Kaia, whom she shares with husband Rande Gerber. The celeb kids missed their first day of school at Malibu High School after testing showed elevated levels of PCBs at their school and others in the county.

PCB is a chemical typically found in the window caulking of older buildings that was outlawed by Congress in 1976. Over time it can cause cancer, damage the immune and reproductive system, and negatively impact brain development in children. Crawford, 48, spoke on the Today Show with special correspondent Maria Shriver about her concerns for her children on Tuesday, Aug. 19.


“I don’t feel 100 percent safe,” she said during the interview. “I look 10 years down the line, what if my kid, God forbid, had a problem? How could I live with myself if I knew that it was a possibility, and I still sent them there?”  Read more.

Citizen Science Draws Roots in the Love Canal Experience

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I had the good fortune to participate in the defense of a Master’s degree thesis at Tufts University recently where CHEJ has donated many of its records to be archived. The topic of the thesis by Nolan Nicaise was Housewife Data: Citizen Science and the Case of Love Canal. Being a part of this process made me realize that the “science” that the residents of Canal Love Canal did was one of the first examples of “citizen’s science.”

Citizen’s science has many meanings but in general it can be defined as people who are not trained as scientists doing scientific work. When Lois Gibbs went door-to-door gathering health information from her neighbors, she had no idea that she was doing what is now generally called “citizen science.” Lois was only interested in gathering evidence to help convince the state health department that the problems at Love Canal were not confined to the neighborhood that had already been evacuated. Lois used the data she collected to show that people living outside the first evacuation zone also had health problems. This data became the basis not only for educating the public and the media, but also the state health officials. This citizen survey found high rates of birth defects and other reproductive problems that prompted the state to do its own investigation that found the same rate of birth defects as the residents did. These findings became the basis for the temporary evacuation of pregnant women and children under the age of two, an interim measure that was a prelude to the evacuation of the entire neighborhood.

Citizen science efforts such as the one carried out by the residents at Love Canal are typically  designed to engage the public in scientific investigations, such as asking questions, collecting data, or interpreting results. Citizen science can include volunteer monitoring, public participation in scientific research, and many other activities

Love Canal is but one example of citizen science. Others include the efforts of the Louisiana Bucket Brigade in New Orleans where there are numerous refineries, chemical plants, and other air polluters. This group monitors air quality using air samplers made from five gallon buckets. When conducted properly, an air quality sample can provide reliable data needed to bring a case against polluters. For more information, see http://www.labucketbrigade.org/article.php?list=type&type=136

In Newark, NJ, local residents and students used air monitors to measure small particulate matter known as PM 2.5 which can contribute to asthma and cancer. The evidence gathered by these residents was used to push their legislators. For more information, see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Uevr3vjWDt8

In Tonawanda, NY, citizen science was used to link chronic illness to 53 air polluters within the community. High levels of benzene were found by residents using an improvised five gallon bucket system. This finding led the state to conduct its own study of air quality that confirmed the high level of benzene as well as several other chemicals exceeding federal guidelines. EPA and NY state brought enforcement actions against the largest polluter. For more information, see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DZKxn1nioNA

The Global Community Monitor trains and assists community groups to conduct air testing primarily near disempowered “fenceline” communities. GCM developed and pioneered the use of “bucket brigades” as a method for communities to document and understand the impacts of industrial pollution. This fall, GCM is sponsoring a conference on citizen science to be held in New Orleans. For more information, see http://www.gcmonitor.org/

The US Environmental Protection Agency has a number of good resources on citizen science including those listed below:

http://www.epa.gov/region2/citizenscience/

http://www.epa.gov/research/priorities/docs/citizen-science-fact-sheet.pdf

http://www.epa.gov/region2/citizenscience/pdf/citsci_additional_resources_attachment.pdf

BPA

BPA and Reproductive Health

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In 2006 a panel of experts reviewed the literature to that point on potential health effects arising from exposure to bisphenol A (BPA), a high-production-volume chemical that is broadly detectable in the environment as well as in most people’s bodies in developed countries.1 A new review takes stock of the knowledge gained since then, focusing on potential reproductive health effects while also considering new and lingering questions.

Jackye Peretz, Lisa Vrooman, William A. Ricke, Patricia A. Hunt, Shelley Ehrlich, Russ Hauser, Vasantha Padmanabhan, Hugh S. Taylor, Shanna H. Swan, Catherine A. VandeVoort, and Jodi A. Flaws

Read entire article here.

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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