children’s health

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Are E-Cigarettes Truly Harmless?

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By: Dylan Lenzen

In recent years, e-cigarettes, or vaporizers, have been increasingly marketed as a safe alternative to smoking. E-cigarettes are classified as electronic nicotine delivery systems and operate through the use of a heating element that heats fluid contained in the device and creates a vapor which is then inhaled by the user. While research has not yet been able to conclude for certain if using e-cigarettes is safer than smoking tobacco, there may be reason to believe that they pose a risk to public health.

For those using e-cigarettes as an alternative to smoking, or in an effort to quit smoking all together, there is some information that should be considered. While the nicotine-containing fluid that is converted to vapor contains far fewer toxic ingredients than tobacco products, e-cigarettes are not yet regulated by the FDA and much about the devices remain unknown. There may be less overall toxins in e-cigarette vapor, but the concentrations of certain dangerous compounds that users can be exposed to have caused concern among scientists. Just recently, a study showed that levels of formaldehyde, a known carcinogen generated by vaporizers at a high voltage greatly exceeds that contained in traditional cigarettes.

Beyond the chemicals produced through the use of e-cigarettes, the vapor particles they produce are similar to the size found in traditional cigarette smoke. This allows them to reach small, deep airways much like cigarette smoke. These particles could also pose a risk to those exposed to secondhand vapor. Exposure to secondhand vapor is also more likely than tobacco smoke as there is currently little regulation of e-cigarette use, allowing many to use them indoors where traditional smoking bans exist. One study has shown that among other nanoparticles, a high concentration of heavy metals has been observed in e-cigarette vapor. The same study suggested these concentrations were derived from the heating element that consists of nickel-chromium wire, coated in silver, and soldered with tin.

Another possible risk associated with e-cigarettes concerns the nicotine refill cartridges, which can be unintentionally consumed, particularly by children. The number of these unintentional consumption events has been increasing in recent years according to a study by tobacco control. The amount of nicotine in some refill solutions could potentially be lethal to children.

While e-cigarettes could potentially be safer than traditional cigarettes, they certainly deserve regulatory action in order to ensure that human health is protected. For those that are looking for a safe method to quit smoking, e-cigarettes should be avoided until definitive research concludes they are safe. Until that time, it is probably wise to utilize other methods that are FDA-approved.

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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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We Are Together & Together We’ll Make Change

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As fracking bans and moratoriums or local ordinances become a reality across the country, it would be so powerful for those who are advocating change to one piece of the problem or solution, to include the other parts of the gas and oil industry’s problems, processes, etc. as well. Working together on alternatives, disposal, rights to know, exports and more will provide the holistic approach to the public. That can really make a bigger – deeper difference in how people respond to efforts that go beyond a backyard struggle towards a sustainable communities. It might even bring clarity to the public that is getting so many different messages and become confused.

At CHEJ we just celebrated the next step toward a ban in New York on fracking, but Obama is still pushing regulations. We’ve seen pipelines stopped, at least temporarily and ordinances passed. Most recently two counties in Ohio have passed local moratoriums on injection wells that will force the industry to find other ways to dispose of their wastes. Two other Ohio counties are in the mist of deciding to ban injection wells that activist say have a good chance of passing.

It appears from the “wide view” that our staff and Board can see as a national group, as we look across the country that there are serious efforts and real wins by ordinary people. What isn’t as obvious is a strong message that we are together and supporting other groups who have taken on different parts of the problems, are encouraged and inspired by the wins and share the vision of what could be. It’s not that people aren’t mentioning other segments of the struggle locally or at a higher level of government, but it’s not coming through as a unified struggle for a unified goal. No there will never be absolute agreement on goals but maybe we could get agreement on a unified message that works. At CHEJ we came up with Preventing Fracking Harms to address the different goals around wells, infrastructure and such. That won’t work in the bigger message but I think there are words that might.

As groups join together this fall at events like the one planned for October in Colorado it would be great to find an opportunity on or off the agenda to figure out how all the extraordinary work folks are doing can include a message – not a list serve – not a petition – but a message that gets tagged on everyone’s everything before they close their news release, blog, signs and more. Or maybe we have a massive e-mail conversation. Let me know what you think.

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DDT Linked to Fourfold Increase in Breast Cancer Risk

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Women exposed in the womb to high levels of the pesticide DDT have a nearly fourfold increased risk of developing breast cancer, according to new results of research conducted on California mothers and daughters for more than half a century.

Full story at National Geographic

ATSDR Fails Community Once Again

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In July of 2013, an explosion occurred at the WTI/Heritage Thermal Services (HTS) hazardous waste incinerator in East Liverpool, OH. Incinerator ash that had built up on the inside of the incinerator stack suddenly fell off causing a huge cloud of dust contaminated with heavy metals and other toxic substances to be released from the stack. An estimated 800 to 900 pounds of ash were released into the surrounding community. The plant manager advised residents to wash fruits and vegetables from their gardens and to replace food and water for pets and farm animals. Save Our County, a local group that has been fighting to shut down the incinerator for more than 20 years and other local residents were quite alarmed by what happened and asked whether this latest accident further put their health at risk.

The state regulating agency’s response was to invite the federal Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) to evaluate what risks the residents might have suffered. More than a year later, ATSDR released its report which concluded that the “trace amount of toxic metals in the surface and subsurface soils of the residential area west of the HTS facility affected by the July 2013 ash release are not expected to harm people’s health. The reason for this is that the concentration of these metals found in the soils are below levels of health concern.”

It’s not clear how ATSDR came to this conclusion when some of the data included in the report clearly show contaminant levels that exceeded levels of health concern. Two (of 13) soil samples, one on-site and one off-site, both downwind, had the highest levels of contaminants of concern (though they never disclosed what these levels were). The arsenic levels found in the surface soil of the surrounding community generally exceeded public health levels of concern, ranging from 14 to 57 parts per million (ppm), averaging 20 ppm. The public health level of concern is 15 ppm.

There is also data on two wipe samples (of 8) collected by HTS immediately after the accident that were found to contain 3,600 ppm arsenic; 13,000 ppm lead and 8,000 ppm nickel. These samples were collected from areas on-site where trucks at the facility were staged. These are all extraordinarily high and well above public health levels of concern.

Similarly, two wipe samples collected from the community had arsenic levels at 277 ppm and lead at 819 ppm, both levels well in excess of levels of public health concern. The report refers to a third sample collected from the surface of a black S10 pick-up truck with arsenic at 296 ppm and lead at 1,046 ppm also well above public health levels of concern.

Despite all of these results that exceeded public health levels of concern, ATSDR concluded that there is no cause for alarm and that the toxic metals released into the community “is not expected” to harm people’s health. It’s like someone at ATSDR wrote the conclusion without ever reading the report or looking at the data.

The ATSDR report simply ignores the data that exceeds public health levels of concern and draws its conclusions as though these high levels did not exist. How can anyone trust a government agency that operates this way?

This is what communities across the country have grown to expect from ATSDR – conclusions that are unresponsive to community concerns about potential health risks but protective of industrial pollution. Some things never change.


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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!

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CEHN seeking nominations for its 2015 NOW Youth Leadership Award!

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The Children’s Environmental Health Network (CEHN) is seeking nominations for its 2015 Nsedu Obot Witherspoon (NOW) Youth Leadership Award!


Do you know any young leaders (ages 12-18) who are involved and committed to environmental health, participate in community action, and have strong leadership skills? Nominate them for CEHN’s NOW Youth Leadership Award!  CEHN is seeking nominations from non-family members for this award which honors youths for their exceptional environmental leadership.  This award will be presented at CEHN’s 10thAnnual Child Health Advocate Award Reception in Washington, DC in October 2015.


Visit http://www.cehn.org/NOWaward to see a list of previous awardees and to fill out the nomination form. We look forward to receiving your nominations, and if you have any questions, please contact Rachel Locke at rlocke@cehn.org.  Nominations are due by 4pm EDT on June 30th, 2015.


Formaldehyde: A Case Study in EPA’s Failure to Protect Public Health and the Environment

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According to its website, the mission of the Environmental Protection Agency is to “protect public health and the environment.” When the agency tries to do its job, it often runs into opposition led by special interests, private lobbyists, corporate apologists, and congressional representatives, all of whom have their own agenda, which has nothing to do with public health or the environment and everything to do with the millions (if not billions) of dollars made annually from their products.

The agency’s effort to regulate formaldehyde, a known human carcinogen that is commonly used in building materials found in most homes, is a classic case study in corporate influence and control of the agency’s work.

EPA began its process to regulate formaldehyde in compressed wood products in 2008, seven years ago. Its proposed rules, released for public comment on June, 2013, did not seek to ban formaldehyde, but rather to set exposure limits and establish testing standards for products sold in the U.S. Learn more about the EPA’s proposed rules for formaldehyde emissions from composite wood products.

Three times over the next two years, EPA reopened its public comment period to allow more public comment, most recently in May 2014. EPA has yet to release its final regulations with the latest timeline estimated to be sometime in the fall.

A story in the New York Times chronicled the delays in the agency’s efforts to regulate formaldehyde, a substance with clear public health risks. The article described the influence of the big furniture companies on Washington who in turn pressured EPA. It told of the actions of special interest such as the American Chemistry Council who challenged the agency’s determination that formaldehyde is a carcinogen. And it described the role of the White House Office of Management and Budget in evaluating the costs and benefits of the proposed regulation.

What gets lost in the hyperbole and grandstanding over costs and jobs is the fact that formaldehyde is a nasty chemical that is a known human carcinogen, that affects the central nervous system and that can damage the respiratory system, causing difficulty in breathing including asthma as well as eye, nose, and throat irritation. At best this proposed regulation will attempt to define an “acceptable” level of formaldehyde vapors coming off pressed-wood products, such as particleboard, plywood, and fiberboard; glues and adhesives; permanent-press fabrics; paper product coatings; and certain insulation materials.

This is EPA’s version of protecting public health and the environment, agreeing with corporate interests after a tortured “public” process to a risk assessment that defines “acceptable” levels of risk that the public has to endure while the companies continue to earn their profits. The general public that has to live with formaldehyde fumes coming off wood products is not likely to see it this way. They might prefer that the agency try to figure out how much risk it can avoid, rather than how much is “acceptable.” But then if the EPA did that, then the influence imposed by the companies who make billions every year selling formaldehyde products might not be so critical.

Missouri Mothers Ask For Relief this Mother’s Day

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Community moms with sick children traveled from Bridgeton, MO to Washington D.C. to demand action from EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy and Philanthropist Bill Gates – to use their power to save innocent families living adjacent to Republic Service’s Superfund landfill in St. Louis, MO that is burning out-of-control and contains radioactive wastes from the Manhattan Project.


Republic’s landfill has been burning due to an underground fire that has been spewing toxins for years – leaving nearby families physically harmed and financially trapped. The state of Missouri found that the community has a childhood cancer cluster, a high number of rare appendix cancers, and many other diseases which local families believe are directly related to the fire and radioactive wastes.


The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has the authority to protect and move families under the Superfund program. Bill Gates has the power to protect and move families using his voting power as the dominant shareholder of Republic Services. Donald Slager, Republic Services CEO, is the owner of the site has a moral responsibility.


“It is outrageous that EPA Administrator McCarthy is allowing this poisoning of American families to continue.  McCarthy has mismanaged this site for years. Additionally, she relocated (or “transferred” –  what the EPA does instead of firing) everyone – including EPA’s regional administrator Karl Brooks – while innocent people are trapped living in fear. The state of Missouri admitted that the fire will never be put out and it will be more than two years before the first shovel of dirt is moved to build a barrier wall between the fire and radioactive waste. This is unacceptable. EPA has the authority to move families away from the danger through Superfund. McCarthy must use her authority to protect innocent American families,” said Lois Gibbs, Executive Director of the Center for Health, Environment and Justice.


“My child is suffering with an autoimmune disease called alopecia and from asthma. Besides that, our community has a childhood cancer cluster – so I go to bed at night worried that my son will also develop cancer. I think if Administrator Gina McCarthy heard our story, she’d agree to move our families now,” said Meagan Beckermann, a resident and member of the community group Just Moms STL.


Dawn Chapman, another mom and Just Moms STL member who flew to DC from St. Louis, hoping for a meeting with McCarthy, said, “We are living next to an out-of-control burning Superfund site that just had a 500% increase in sulfur emissions over the past year alone.”


“Property values are declining in communities surrounding the site. We are imprisoned in our homes that we cannot morally sell with good conscience,” said Karen Nickel, another member of Just Moms STL.


A group representing Just Moms STL marched to EPA headquarters today to deliver a letter to Administrator McCarthy and hand out flyers asking those passing by to contact the Administrator’s office and urge her to meet with the victims of the out-of-control fire and radioactive dumpsite.


The group of protesters then marched to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in D.C. to deliver over 1,500 signatures on a petition to ask Bill Gates to use his voice and power as the dominant shareholder in Republic Services to ask the corporation to stop the suffering, and to purchase the homes of victims who need to be moved away from the toxic landfill.

Photos are available at:   http://chej.org/gallery/stl_justmoms/

Photo credit CHEJ



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Trevor, suffering from alopecia, is one child affected by the situation in St. Louis

St. Louis is Burning, and Moms are on the Move

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“The truth is that nobody is really sure what is buried at the West Lake Landfill, or where — and that’s the problem.” - Ryan Schuessler, Al Jazeera News.

A burning landfill, in proximity to a radioactive waste dump, in a neighborhood with a host of unexplained health problems ranging from appendix cancer to alopecia – all the elements of an environmental crisis in the making, and a health crisis already well underway. This is what some citizens of St. Louis have been coping with, and what has brought a group of them to Washington, D.C. today in an effort to protect their children.


Trevor, suffering from alopecia, is one child affected by the situation in St. Louis

A group of mothers from St. Louis will convene at the National Press Club today for a press conference on the nuclear waste polluting their town. After, they will deliver petitions to Bill Gates, who has the power to protect St. Louis families from further harms. While he is not responsible for the situation, Gates is the major shareholder of Republic Services, the company responsible for the waste. He can use both his shareholder vote and his financial influence to push for an evacuation of St. Louis families living near the landfill.


Post-Press Conference Updates:

On Thursday, three mothers from St. Louis, representing the group ‘Just Moms,’ spoke at the National Press Club in Washington and bore heartbreaking testimony to the devastating health problems their children have suffered from living adjacent to the West Lake Landfill Superfund Site. The mothers have been pressing EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy for a meeting, but she has thus far ignored their requests, leaving them with few places to turn in fighting for the health and safety of their children.


Just Moms march to EPA headquarters on Thursday



Following the press conference, the Just Moms and a crowd of supporters marched to the EPA headquarters in Washington, D.C., chanting “The Moms Are Not Going Away, Gina McCarthy Meet Today!” They demonstrated and passed out fliers outside of EPA headquarters, before traveling to the headquarters of the Gates Foundation to deliver petitions to Bill Gates.

View more photos from the event at http://chej.org/gallery/stl_justmoms/.