children’s health

Kidshalloween

This isn’t a trick: Toxic chemicals in Halloween costumes

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Parents across the country are stocking up on this year’s hottest costumes for their little ghouls, goblins, and princesses, but some costumes may contain hidden toxic chemicals harmful to our children’s health. I wish I were tricking you.

A new study released today by HealthyStuff.org found elevated levels of toxic chemicals in popular Halloween costumes, accessories and even “trick or treat” bags.  Dangerous chemicals like phthalates, flame retardants, vinyl (PVC) plastic, organotins, and even lead.  

TAKE ACTION: Tell big retailers – our children deserve a safe toxic-free Halloween.

They tested 105 types of Halloween gear for chemicals linked to asthma, birth defects, learning disabilities, reproductive problems, liver toxicity and cancer.  The products were purchased from top national retailers including CVS, Kroger, Party City, Target, Walmart, and Walgreens.

These chemicals have no place in products for our little ones.  For instance they found high levels of flame retardants in “trick or treat” bags, and a toddler Batman costume that contained very high levels of phthalates, and even lead in the lining of the mask. 

We know that big retailers can do better.  In fact the new testing also shows that many Halloween products do not contain dangerous substances, proving that safer products can be made.  

Join us and send a message to retailers today. It’s time they “Mind the Store” and get these toxic chemicals out of products once and for all.

Image © AFP/Getty Images. Obtained from The Daily Mail

Is pollution to blame for autism? Researchers say breathing toxic air in the first two years of life linked to disorder

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Image © AFP/Getty Images. Obtained from The Daily Mail


New research has found links between chromium and styrene pollution and autism spectrum disorder in childhood. Scientists found that children who were exposed to higher levels of polluted air during their mothers’ pregnancies and before age two. Read more at The Daily Mail.

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Tips for a Toxic-Free Halloween

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Wanna hear something spooky? With one of CHEJ’s favorite holidays, Halloween, right around the corner, we wanted to let you in on the chemical industry’s dirty little tricks.

PVC, one of the most toxic plastic for children’s health and the environment, has scared its way into some of our beloved children’s costumes.  Even scarier is that many vinyl products are laden with harmful phthalates,  endocrine disrupting chemicals banned in toys but widespread in many other vinyl products children come in contact with.  Vinyl products also often release a witches’ brew of toxic chemicals into the air. That’s that new plastic vinyl smell so many of us grew up with.  Who knew it was so scary!

With that in mind, here are some tips for a safer Halloween for your family and friends:

  • Avoid PVC: Shop for PVC-free costumes and masks.  If you’re not sure what the costume is made out of, ask the store or manufacturer whether or not it contains PVC and phthalates.
  • Make your own costume out of safer PVC-free materials!  We bet you can come up with something fun and creative by just diving into your closet.
  • Trade safe costumes with your friends. No need to buy more stuff.
  • Use safer face-paints.


Happy Halloween – and don’t get spooked by the chemical industry this Halloween season!

Photo by Hannah Rappleye, NBC News

How Safe Is the Artificial Turf Your Child Plays On?

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Coaches, athletes and families across the U.S. have started to draw surprising connections between the “grass” on athletic fields and instances of childhood cancer.

Photo by Hannah Rappleye, NBC News

A rash of leukemia and lymphoma diagnoses among soccer goalies has sparked concern about “crumb rubber” turf commonly used on athletic fields. Recent studies of crumb rubber, commonly made from used tires, have shown that the material contains hazardous chemicals, including volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs).

Could your child be at risk?

Read the full story by Hannah Rappleye at  NBC News.

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Support “The Canal” Documentary about the Love Canal Disaster

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A team of documentary filmmakers have worked for three years to complete a project on Love Canal, telling the story of the disaster and documenting the testimonies of those still affected by toxic chemicals in the Love Canal area. They are now raising the money they need to finish editing the film and get it out to the world.

According to the filmmakers, the documentary has two goals:

“The first is to save the families living in Love Canal today. And save is not too big a word: the rates of leukemia, miscarriages, and heart conditions are through the roof. Babies conceived in the area are at a hugely elevated risk of having birth defects…

The second goal is what effects us all. There are practically no safeguards between you and toxic chemicals either in the products you use or in the waste streams where they are deposited. The current laws do not require a company to prove that a chemical is safe before it is used. We must amend this law so that we can live without this unnecessary risk. We believe there is a way for companies to make money while behaving responsibly. This film introduces people to this debate through one of the most infamous chemical disasters. It tells a specific human story that affects us all and hopefully will inspire us to demand change.”

To follow updates about the film, visit their Facebook Page.

To contribute to the film, visit their Fundraising Page.

Not So Simple Science

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It’s common to think that in science and technical information lies the answer to the many questions that people have about their problems and how to solve them. At CHEJ, we have not foundthis to be the case. We have learned many lessons about science and how it is used. Science and technical information is important and has a role in helping to achieve your community goals. Identifying this role and learning how to use scientific and technical information is critical to the success of your group.

The most important lesson is that science and technical information alone will not solve problems. It’s common to think that if you hire the best scientists and engineers and make solid technical arguments, the government will do the right thing. Those of you who have been there know it doesn’t work that way.

When the government discovers a problem, it’s reluctant to determine the full extent of the problem. This is because if the government documents contamination that threatens people’s health, it then has to do something about it—like evacuate people and cleanup the contamination. This costs money that government doesn’t have or want to spend. Such action might also set a precedent by establishing cleanup standards or unsafe exposures levels that would mean spending more money at other sites.

Deciding what action to take is complicated by the fact that there are few answers to the many scientific questions raised by exposures to toxic chemicals. Scientists actually know little about the health effects of exposure to combinations of chemicals at low levels. As a result, when politicians and bureaucrats look for answers, the scientists don’t have them.

Most scientists however, are reluctant to admit they don’t know the answer to a question. Instead they introduce the concept of “risk” and begin a debate over what’s “acceptable.” This process hides the fact that scientists don’t know what happens to people who are exposed to low level mixtures of toxic chemicals. This uncertainty gets lost in the search for what’s “acceptable.”

Because of the lack of scientific clarity, bureaucrats and politicians use “science” cloaked in uncertainty, not facts, to justify their decisions which in truth are based on the political and economic pressures they face. Whether this is right or not is not a scientific question but an ethical and moral question. It is foolish to think that in this setting, science can be anything but a tool used by politicians and corporations to get what they want.

While science and scientific information have failed to provide clear answers and solutions to the hard questions about the health and environmental impact of the chemicals we use, we cannot abandon science. Science and scientific information can be a powerful tool for community groups, but only if you recognize what it can tell you and what it can’t, and only if you learn how to use the information and not just collect it. The right information used in the right way at the right time can be very powerful. Learning how to use scientific and technical information strategically is an organizing skill that will help you win your local fight.

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In Massachusetts, contaminated drinking water linked to stillbirths

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By Gail Sullivan
From The Washington Post

For nearly 20 years, New Englanders drank and bathed in water without knowing it was laced with a neurotoxin. The chemical leached into the water from vinyl coating sprayed inside water pipes in the late 1960s in response to complaints the water smelled and tasted funny.

More than half of New England’s 1,050 miles of water pipes sprayed with the contaminant are in Massachusetts, mostly in the Cape Cod region. The poison, tetrachloroethylene or PCE, still widely used in dry cleaning, wasn’t discovered in the water supply until 1979.

A new study published in the journal Environmental Health shows that the exposure to the poison is linked to increased risk for stillbirths and other pregnancy complications.

To read more, visit <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2014/10/06/in-
massachusetts-contaminated-drinking-water-linked-to-stillbirths/”>The Washington Post

The study itself can be accessed at the Environmental Health Journal.

New interactive map from the Center for Effective Government shows students in proximity to toxic chemicals

1 in 3 U.S. students attend classes near dangerous chemicals

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Lubbock Online, Oct. 5, 2014

Roughly one in five school-aged kids attend classes near a Lubbock County facility that stores dangerous chemicals, about twice as many as originally thought, according to a recent study.

The numbers likely could be higher.

Self-reported industry data tucked away in federal reading rooms across the United States show two of the known six facilities storing dangerous chemicals in Lubbock have a vulnerability zone wider than a 1-mile radius, according to a study by the Center for Effective Government, which released a new report last week.

That means there are roughly 9,500 students in 27 schools across the county who attend class near a facility that uses dangerous chemicals.

In May, A-J Media found about 4,200 students were at risk, but that number only reflected students attending class within a mile of a chemical facility. And it did not include detention facilities or private schools.

Researchers were only able to examine a limited number of the nation’s more than 12,000 chemical facilities. The center only examined two of the six facilities in the Hub City — Bayer CropScience and the Lubbock Water Treatment Plant.

Three of the four facilities with dangerous chemicals near Lubbock Independent School District campuses use and store anhydrous ammonia, a volatile chemical that can suffocate, burn the skin and cause blindness. In large quantities, it can be fatal. It is commonly used for refrigeration, among other uses.

Across the U.S., one in three students attends school in a vulnerability zone identified from self-reported industry data, the center reported.

New interactive map from the Center for Effective Government shows students in proximity to toxic chemicals

Lubbock ISD Superintendent Berhl Robertson Jr. did not comment on the new study, but said in May he was not aware of all the chemical facilities near district schools, many of which are 50 years and older.

“Lubbock ISD has a plan for emergencies that impact our schools, both natural disasters and accidents, and we practice those plans,” Nancy Sharp, a district spokeswoman, said in an email to A-J Media.

Chris Wooden, whose wife is expecting their first child next month, called the report “startling and alarming.”

“It’s past the point of needing awareness to where something egregious is going on,” Wooden said.

“With chemical companies not making available the chemicals they are storing without prodding from the government and action groups, it’s scary.”

‘It only takes one bad day’

Roughly 865,000 pounds of toxic chemicals are stored at and used in Lubbock facilities, according to data compiled by the Center for Effective Government, a Washington, D.C., organization that advocates for better health and safety standards.

The city of Lubbock reported that the water treatment plant near the airport on North Guava Avenue has a vulnerability zone of 8 miles, meaning everything within that reported radius could be at risk of a chemical catastrophe.

The Bayer CropScience facility on Erskine Street, which had a spill and evacuation last year in the Guadalupe neighborhood, reported a 2.4-mile vulnerability zone.

There has been growing public concern about public safety in the wake of last year’s deadly fertilizer plant explosion in the small town of West, near Waco and about 340 miles southeast of Lubbock.

“The West Texas fertilizer plant handled their chemicals safely for decades,” said Sean Moulton, director of the Open Government Policy program at the Center for Effective Government.

While the public has pressed for more information about where dangerous chemicals are stored, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott has clamped down on releasing it.

Abbott, the Republican nominee for governor, has faced withering criticism from his Democratic challenger Wendy Davis and the public after he suggested in July that people drive to facilities and ask what chemicals are being used.

On July 10, after a local facility refused to release any information during a walk in, A-J Media requested information on hazardous chemicals that is required to be filed with the Lubbock Fire Department.

The city has not released any information.

In an Aug. 7 letter to Abbott’s office requesting an opinion, Assistant City Attorney Amy Sims said the information was exempt from disclosure.

Sims, citing Abbott’s earlier opinion, wrote that releasing the location and amounts of dangerous chemicals “may pose a risk to citizens of the city in the case of a terrorist attack.”

Abbott’s office has until Wednesday to respond.

“You have an attorney general down in Texas saying we need to hide this information as though the information was dangerous, not the chemical,” Moulton said.

“People have a right to know if there’s a risk.”

By NICOLE C. BRAMBILA, A-J MEDIA


View the report on kids at risk HERE

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Thugs, Cancer, Radioactive Wastes – EPA Again Sitting on Their Hands

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Republic Services sent several of their men – young men—to stand out in front of the hall where a community meeting was being held to hand out corporate propaganda. Imagine walking from your car, after leaving your young child who is suffering from brain cancer at home, to be met by men from the company that you believe is responsible for exposures. “Just clean up the waste, dig it up and take it out of our community,” was the response of one of the local moms.

Republic had a lot of nerve coming to this meeting and leafleting people as they entered the building. Their signs making it look like people were the barrier to EPA cleaning up the site, but its Republic Services that wants to leave the waste where it is, which was the EPA plan before the underground fire. How heartless can you be? Families just learned that there was a significant childhood cancer cluster in the community that surrounds Republic’s radioactive and burning garbage dumps.

One woman told the Republic thugs – what she called them – that she has had both breast removed from cancer and her best friend has lupus. The state health department believes there is a problem, the Attorney General filed a lawsuit because of a problem and the community has a registry that documents health and environmental problems with Republic Services wastes. She was angry, “How dare they send thugs to our meeting of moms, dads and seniors who are sick and tired of Republic’s refusal to do the right thing.”

This community located in St. Louis Missouri area have been fighting to obtain relocation for families living around this site. There are two dumpsites one with garbage that is burning underground and the other is a radioactive waste site. At the meeting one woman spoke up and said, “Do you know what it’s like to tuck your children in at night and then lay in bed waiting for a siren to tell you the fire has reached the radioactive wastes and likely radioactive materials are traveling through the air into your home. It’s terrifying. I can’t move, I can’t stay and I can’t protect my babies.”

Republic Services has enough money to buy the families homes and properly clean up the waste sites. Last year they earned $8.4 billion in revenues and $589 million in profits. If they did the right and responsible thing by moving people and properly cleaning up the wastes they would still have plenty of profits to go around. But instead they send their thugs to picket outside the meeting of Republic Services victims.

Microsoft chairman Bill Gates owns 29 percent of the company’s shares through Cascade Investment, LLC – about $4 billion worth. This includes 16 million shares (worth $645 million) purchased in 2014 alone. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation also owns 1.35 million shares of Republic stock. Gates chief investment officer at Cascade Investment, has been a Republic Services board director since 2009. When Republic pays a $0.28/share quarterly dividend in October 2014, Bill Gates and his Foundation will receive $27.6 million.

CHEJ working with the community are circulating a petition to push Bill Gates to use his power of the vote to move Republic to evacuate families who need to leave and clean up the two sites to remove the hazards. Please help us by signing the petition.

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Childhood Cancer On The Rise

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Childhood brain cancer cluster found in St. Louis, MO. Read more.