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What You Might Have Missed Over (and since) the Holidays

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The past few months have been a real doozy for the vinyl chemical industry.

While you were probably indulging in a bit too much holiday egg nog or prancing underneath the mistletoe, the vinyl chemical industry was in hot water from New Jersey to Delaware to California.

“These individuals can never know how much and for how long they were exposed to vinyl chloride, a highly toxic gas known to cause fatal cancer and liver damage,” the chairman stated.

The biggest news was no doubt the train cars carrying vinyl chloride heading to OxyVinyls that derailed in Paulsboro, NJ. The accident was nothing short of a major environmental and occupational health disaster. One of the trains released 23,000 gallons of vinyl chloride, which formed a cloud of toxic gas that drifted into homes and businesses throughout the community.  More than 70 people were hospitalized after the vinyl chloride release. Air monitoring found very high levels of this chemical in the community. Hundreds of families were then forced to shelter in place and eventually evacuate their homes for days.   Since then, it’s been revealed that first responders were exposed to high levels of vinyl chloride, as it’s shown up in their bodies.  Thanks in part by the fine folks over at OxyVinyls (more on Oxy below).  You can read more about the train disaster in this op-ed I authored for the NJ Star Ledger (the largest paper in NJ!).

The same week that Oxy’s vinyl chloride was poisoning the air of Paulsboro, vinyl manufacturer Formosa Plastics was fined by the state of Delaware more than $70,000 for various air pollution violations at their plant in Delaware City.  It’s not the first time Formosa has been in hot water for violating the law.

In California the US Customs and Border Protection seized 35,000 toxic rubber (vinyl) duckies, which were in violation of the federal Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act for containing elevated levels of phthalates.  According to the feds:

“they arrived from China dressed as Santa, Snowman, Gingerbread man, Reindeer and Penguin, all 35,712, but their cute holiday flair did not deflect the scrutiny of U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers and import specialists, at the Los Angeles/Long Beach seaport.”

And that was just in December!

What will 2013 bring for the vinyl industry?

The past few weeks have shown 2013 will not be much easier for the vinyl chemical industry.

Down in Georgia, a recycling company has reduced their stockpile of PVC, after more than 400 firefighters had to battle a fire at the plant.

“It’s been almost six months since Chattooga County, Ga., was hit by its largest fire in three decades, when more than 400 firefighters battled a blaze at a plastics recycling plant in Berryton, Ga.  One thing has changed since then: The North Georgia Textile Supply Co. has whittled down its stockpile of a potentially toxic type of plastic: polyvinyl chloride, or PVC. When PVC burns and firefighters spray water on it, a cloud of chlorine gas can result. Since the fire, North Georgia Textile Supply Co. has reduced the amount of PVC at the recycling facility in the old Berryton yarn mill three miles southwest of Summerville, Ga.”

EPA published the latest toxic release inventory (TRI) data, and their latest findings show that 3 of the top 5 dioxin polluters in the country were vinyl companies: OxyVinyls, Dow Chemical, and Westlakes Vinyl (with Oxy and Dow #1 and #2).

New scientific studies published continue to underscore what we know – vinyl chemicals are toxic to our health.  Studies have found dioxin delays the onset of puberty in boys, phthalates in the bodies of ants, and organotins (which are used to “stabilize” vinyl) linked to obesity, even in the grandchildren of those exposed.  Nick Kristof wrote a fantastic column about this new study in last week’s New York Times.

Finally, WFPL radio ran a heartbreaking and extremely powerful story about the families of vinyl workers who died from liver cancer, after being exposed to high levels of vinyl chloride.  This here says it all:

“But it’s too late for the workers who have already died from angiosarcoma or are suffering from liver disease. Janet Crecelius Johnson wonders why B.F. Goodrich couldn’t have erred on the side of caution. Her husband Revis was diagnosed with cancer a year to the day after he retired. He had worked night shifts for nearly 40 years, and was looking forward to spending more time with his family.

“Every time there’s a wedding, every time there’s a baby, you just think, ‘I wish he could be here.’””

Any other major stories I might have missed?

Abandoned trailer, Mississippi River, Near Dow Chemical Plant, Plaquemine, LA, 1998. From Petrochemical America, photographs by Richard Misrach, Ecological Atlas by Kate Orff (Aperture 2012).

Petrochemical America: Picturing Cancer Alley

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Last month, when news outlets around the country covered our press event revealing toxic phthalates in children’s Back To School supplies, we were proud of the work we’d done. Tens of thousands of Americans had been educated about how to avoid real risks to their children’s health.

Abandoned trailer, Mississippi River, Near Dow Chemical Plant, Plaquemine, LA, 1998. From Petrochemical America, photographs by Richard Misrach, Ecological Atlas by Kate Orff (Aperture 2012).

But as so often happens, absent from the coverage were the stories of the people who live near the chemical plants that produce the vinyl, whose land, air, and water has been harmed for decades by some of the most profitable companies in the world.

This month, CHEJ is proud to help present those stories in a way they have never been presented before.

Petrochemical America: Picturing Cancer Alley is a groundbreaking new collaboration by photographer Richard Misrach and landscape architect Kate Orff, debuting at Aperture Gallery and Bookstore in NYC tonight. Through haunting photographs and innovative composite images employing ecological and sociological data, gathered over the course of 14 years on the banks of the Mississippi river in Louisiana, the book and gallery exhibition provide a moving and deeply informed portrait of the American “sacrifice zones” upon which our use of plastics, oil, and gas depends. Read more about Plaquemine, LA, pictured above.


For those in New York City, we invite you to attend two free, upcoming gallery events:

  • Tuesday, Sept. 25th, at 6:30pm: A panel discussion with our own Mike Schade, joined by Ms. Orff and Wilma Subra of the Louisiana Environmental Action Network.
  • Tuesday, Oct. 2nd, at 6:30 pm: A talk and screening of the excellent and darkly comic film Blue Vinyl, with author David Rosner and landscape designer Gena Wirth.

Both events are free and include access to the exhibit. They will take place at Aperture Gallery and Bookstore, 547 West 27th Street, New York, NY.



Human mismanagement is turning lush cypress trees into ghostly poles, jeopardizing Louisiana’s bayou ecologies, local economies, and cultures. Requiem for a Bayou. From Petrochemical America, photographs by Richard Misrach, Ecological Atlas by Kate Orff (Aperture 2012).


For our supporters around the country, we encourage you to explore the content of the book and consider purchasing a copy. Aperture Foundation is nonprofit, and book sales help sustain its exhibitions, books, and magazine.

As we continue to advocate in New York City to get PVC out of new construction, renovation, and school supplies in our public schools, projects like Petrochemical America help us and our supporters keep in mind the full scale of what’s at stake in shifting to a safer, more sane, and more just material economy.

LoisandLisaJacksonThankYou

Big news! EPA Health Report on Dioxin Released After Twenty Seven Years of Delays

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(Falls Church, VA) Today the US EPA has finally released their major report on the noncancer health effects of dioxin, which for the past twenty seven years has been delayed due to interference from the chemical industry.  Environmental and health groups across the country celebrated this important milestone.

“We applaud EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson and the Obama Administration for finalizing this important health report on dioxin, one of the most toxic chemicals on the planet,” said Lois Marie Gibbs, Executive Director of the Center for Health, Environment & Justice (CHEJ). “After twenty seven years of delays, I quite honestly never thought this report would ever see the light of day.  Today the American people won a major victory against the chemical industry, who has been working behind closed doors for decades to hide and distort the truth about the dangers of dioxin.  The science is clear: dioxin is toxic to our children’s health and development.  We strongly urge the EPA to now finish the job by finishing their review on dioxin and cancer, and to develop a comprehensive action plan to further reduce dioxin emissions and exposures.  To start, the EPA should finalize the EPA’s proposed cleanup standards for dioxin at toxic sites, which have been languishing at the White House OMB since 2010.  We call on the Obama Administration to dust off the prestigious National Academy of Sciences report on dioxin in food to explore innovative policies to reduce the levels of dioxin in the food supply.”

Dioxin is building up in our bodies as a result of the food we eat.   According to EPA over 90% of human exposure to dioxin occurs through our diet.  Dioxin is most prevalent in meat, fish, dairy, and other fatty foods.

EPA has been under enormous pressure by environmental health, environmental justice, labor, health-impacted, and Vietnam Veterans organizations to release the non-cancer health assessment in recent weeks and ever since President Obama entered office.  In January a letter was delivered to EPA Administrator Jackson signed by over 2,000 organizations and individuals.  Over the past month a broad coalition of organizations have written to EPA urging the agency to finalize this report. This includes the Breast Cancer Fund, Center for Health, Environment & Justice (CHEJ), Endometriosis Association, Environmental Defense Fund, Greenpeace, International Brotherhood of Teamsters, National Medical Association, Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), Sierra Club, Vietnam Veterans of America, Alaska Community Action on Toxics, Canadian Environmental Law Association, , Clean Water Action, Ecology Center, Edison Wetlands Association, Environmental Working Group, Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives, Healthy Child Healthy World, Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, International POPS Elimination Network (IPEN), Ironbound Community Corporation, Kentucky Environmental Foundation, the Lone Tree Council, National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum, Physicians for Social Responsibility, Reproductive Health Technologies Project, Science & Environmental Health Network, The Endocrine Disruption Exchange, Union of Concerned Scientists, Vietnam Agent Orange Relief & Responsibility Campaign, and Women’s Voices for the Earth.

In January, Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA), Ranking Member of the Natural Resources Committee and senior member of the Energy and Commerce Committee, sent EPA a letter urging the agency to finalize this dioxin assessment.  In April, Rep. Markey and 72 members of Congress sent a letter to EPA calling on the agency to release the report.

Dioxin is a known human carcinogen.  Dioxin also causes a wide range of adverse non-cancer effects including reproductive, developmental, immunological, and endocrine effects in both animals and humans. Animal studies show that dioxin exposure is associated with endometriosis, decreased fertility, the inability to carry pregnancies to term, lowered testosterone levels, decreased sperm counts, birth defects, and learning disabilities.  In children, dioxin exposure has been associated with IQ deficits, delays in psychomotor and neurodevelopment, and altered behavior including hyperactivity. Studies in workers have found lowered testosterone levels, decreased testis size, and birth defects in offspring of Vietnam veterans exposed to Agent Orange.

Dioxin’s effects on the immune system of the developing organism appear to be among the most sensitive endpoints studied. Animal studies show decreased immune response and increased susceptibility to infectious disease. In human studies, dioxin was associated with immune system depression and alterations in immune status leading to increased infections.  Dioxin can also disrupt the normal function of hormones—chemical messengers that the body uses for growth and regulation. Dioxin interferes with thyroid levels in infants and adults, alters glucose tolerance, and has been linked to diabetes.

In response to anticipated concerns about dioxin in food, the Center for Health, Environment & Justice (CHEJ) has prepared these top six tips for reducing exposure to dioxin in food:

  1. Eat less animal fat — buy lean meats and poultry – and cut off the fat before cooking.
  2. Eat fat free dairy products – or as low as you can – for dairy products such as milk, cheese, and yogurt.
  3. Fish is a healthy food choice – but fish are also affected, so avoid fatty fish (such as salmon) and cut the fat off before cooking and eating.
  4. Purchase food products that have been grain or grass fed.  Farm animals fed food with animal products that includes other animal’s fat increases the amount of dioxin ingested by livestock and increases the amount of dioxin that is in the consumer meat product.
  5. Eat more fruits and vegetables.
  6. Breast feed your babies – breast milk is still the healthiest food for your baby.

According to EPA, dioxin releases increased by 18% from 2009-2010 nationally.  Dioxin air releases increased by 10%.  Some of the top U.S. companies that reported releasing dioxin into the environment in 2010 were Dow Chemical, Missouri Chemical Works, Gerdau Ameristeel, Lehigh Southwest Cement, Formosa Plastics Corporation, Temple-Inland, Cahaba Pressure Treated Forest Products, and Clean Harbors Aragonite.  Three of these facilities make chemicals to produce polyvinyl chloride (PVC) plastic. Municipal waste incinerators, medical waste incinerators, landfill fires, and backyard burn barrels are some of the other top sources of dioxin in America.

For a copy of EPA’s new dioxin health report, visit http://www.epa.gov/dioxin

For a fact-sheet on the hazards of dioxin, visit http://chej.org/wp-content/uploads/Documents/Dioxin%20Fact%20Sheet.pdf

For frequently asked questions about dioxin in food, visit http://chej.org/wp-content/uploads/Frequently-Asked-Questions-About-Dioxin-and-Food.pdf

For a detailed history of dioxin delays, visit: http://chej.org/wp-content/uploads/DioxinTimeframeFebruary2012.pdf

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For Sale: American’s Health

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Who’s buying? Not the advocacy groups that work tirelessly to protect people’s health and the environment, they can’t afford the purchase.

It’s the American Chemistry Council (ACC) who spent more in the fourth quarter then any quarter in recent history . . . in fact they doubled their spending.

ACC, the chief lobbying arm of the chemical manufacturing industry, spent $5.37 million that quarter, the fifth highest of any lobbying operation on Capitol Hill during that time.

ACC’s lobbying disclosure report shows they were involved in a host of issues, ranging from efforts to update chemical regulations, to EPA’s air pollution rules for boilers and incinerators, to the long-delayed health assessments of substances like bisphenol A (BPA) and formaldehyde.

Their disclosure also demonstrates it lobbied EPA on its 27-year-old IRIS assessment of dioxin. EPA was supposed to finalize the non-cancer portion of its dioxin assessment on January 31st but didn’t happen in the face of significant industry opposition. However, the agency hasn’t publicly explained the delay.

So while ACC protects and possibly even increases their profit, the American people, our children are unnecessarily expose to chemicals and face a lifetime of health problems and learning disabilities.

Yes America is for sale, and it’s time for American to stand up for everyone to stand up and say America’s Not For Sale! No More!

ACC included Sen. Frank Lautenberg’s (D-N.J.) “Safe Chemicals Act” in their efforts, which would overhaul the 1976 Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) and require manufacturers to prove their substances are safe before they go on the market.

For all of 2011, ACC spent almost $10.3 million, significantly more than the $8.1 million it spent the year before. Last year’s total trumps what was spent by Dow Chemical Co., which spent $7.3 million. The American Petroleum Institute, the largest trade association for the oil and gas industry, also spent far less.

These industries had record earnings last year – their shareholders are not suffering from a drop in earnings. Even though they are eating and drinking dioxin just like the rest of us, they can afford the safest foods and the best health care money can buy, unlike CHEJ’s constituency.

Although the polluters and their lobbyist have more money than most of us can imagine we can still prevail. They understand the real power of the people and cannot control that element. In fact, this is why someone sent a thug into our offices and cut our telephone and internet lines at near the peak of our fundraising and dioxin campaign organizing. Despite their efforts we delivered over 2,000 individuals and organizations from across the country to EPA representing millions of people.

It is time to exercise our collective power and put the power back in the hands of American people. However, our power can only be activated when people take step up. With the 2012 elections this year everyone has an opportunity to exercise your power. Ask candidates where they stand on your important issues and let them know they must earn your vote. This country belongs to its people not to corporations whose greed is insurmountable.

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Environmental Health Leaders Blast EPA for Failing to Release Dioxin Health Report

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Once Again American Public Denied Right to Know and Ability to Protect Families from Unnecessary Exposure

Advocates Urge EPA to Immediately Release Dioxin Health Report, Decry 27 Years of Delays Due to Chemical Industry Interference

(Falls Church, VA) For twenty seven years, the American public has been kept in the dark about the health impacts of dioxin.  Today environmental health advocates strongly condemned the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for once again failing to meet their January 31st deadline to release their report on the noncancer impacts of dioxin.

“Shame on EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson for denying parents the information they need to protect their children from the health impacts of dioxin,” said Lois Marie Gibbs, Executive Director of the Center for Health, Environment & Justice (CHEJ). “This is America — parents have the right to know.  Today the EPA has once again caved into pressure from Dow Chemical and their chemical industry cronies.  EPA shouldn’t cave in to chemical industry dollars and interests over public health.  Cancer, diabetes, infertility, learning disabilities and other chronic diseases linked to dioxin exposure are extremely costly to American taxpayers. EPA missed yet another deadline to release their report on dioxin, one of the most toxic chemicals on the planet.  In recent months, the chemical industry has been working behind closed doors to hide and distort the truth about the dangers of dioxin.  At the same time, Vietnam Veterans, breast cancer advocates, public health organizations, and environmental justice leaders have stood shoulder to shoulder and urged EPA to do what’s right for the health of American children and families.  We call on EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson to immediately release this important report.  We can’t wait any longer.”

EPA has been under intense pressure by environmental health, environmental justice, labor, health-impacted, and Vietnam Veterans organizations to release the non-cancer health assessment in recent weeks and ever since President Obama entered office.  Last week, a letter was delivered to EPA Administrator Jackson signed by over 2,000 organizations and individuals from across the country.

Over the past three weeks a broad coalition of organizations have written to EPA urging the agency to finalize this review The coalition includes Breast Cancer Fund, Endometriosis Association, Environmental Defense Fund, Greenpeace, International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), Sierra Club, Vietnam Veterans of America, Alaska Community Action on Toxics, Canadian Environmental Law Association, Center for Health, Environment & Justice, Clean Water Action, Ecology Center, Edison Wetlands Association, Environmental Working Group, Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives, Healthy Child Healthy World, Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, International POPS Elimination Network (IPEN), Ironbound Community Corporation, Kentucky Environmental Foundation, the Lone Tree Council, National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum, Physicians for Social Responsibility, Reproductive Health Technologies Project, Science & Environmental Health Network, The Endocrine Disruption Exchange, Union of Concerned Scientists, Vietnam Agent Orange Relief & Responsibility Campaign, and Women’s Voices for the Earth.

In January, Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA), Ranking Member of the Natural Resources Committee and senior member of the Energy and Commerce Committee, sent EPA a letter urging the agency to finalize this dioxin assessment.  In April, Rep. Markey and 72 members of Congress sent a letter to EPA calling on the agency to release the report.

Dioxin is a known human carcinogen.  Dioxin also causes a wide range of adverse non-cancer effects including reproductive, developmental, immunological, and endocrine effects in both animals and humans. Animal studies show that dioxin exposure is associated with endometriosis, decreased fertility, inability to carry pregnancies to term, lowered testosterone levels, decreased sperm counts, birth defects, and learning disabilities.  In children, dioxin exposure has been associated with IQ deficits, delays in psychomotor and neurodevelopment, and altered behavior including hyperactivity. Studies in workers have found lowered testosterone levels, decreased testis size, and birth defects in offspring of Vietnam veterans exposed to Agent Orange.

Dioxin’s effects on the immune system of the developing organism appear to be among the most sensitive endpoints studied. Animal studies show decreased immune response and increased susceptibility to infectious disease. In human studies, dioxin was associated with immune system depression and alterations in immune status leading to increased infections.  Dioxin can also disrupt the normal function of hormones—chemical messengers that the body uses for growth and regulation. Dioxin interferes with thyroid levels in infants and adults, alters glucose tolerance, and has been linked to diabetes.

According to EPA, dioxin releases increased by 18% from 2009-2010 nationally.  Dioxin air releases increased by 10%.  The top ten U.S. companies that reported releasing dioxin into the environment in 2010 were Westlake Vinyls, Dow Chemical (Freeport Facility), Dow Chemical (Louisiana Operations), Missouri Chemical Works, Gerdau Ameristeel, Lehigh Southwest Cement, Formosa Plastics Corporation (Louisiana), Temple-Inland, Cahaba Pressure Treated Forest Products, and Clean Harbors Aragonite.  Four of these ten facilities make chemicals to produce polyvinyl chloride (PVC) plastic. Municipal waste incinerators, medical waste incinerators, landfill fires, and backyard burn barrels are some of the other top sources of dioxin in America.

Most Recent Dioxin Timeline:

January 31, 2012: EPA once again misses their deadline for finalizing their report on the noncancer impacts of dioxin.

January 26, 2012: Thousands of individuals and organizations from across the United States write to EPA urging the agency to finalize this study once and for all: http://chej.org/wp-content/uploads/PVCSignOnLetterJanuary26.pdf

January 10-31, 2012: Over a two week period, 30 organizations send letters to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson urging EPA to finalize dioxin studies:  http://chej.org/2012/01/lisa-jackson-finalize-the-epa%E2%80%99s-dioxin-study-once-and-for-all/

January 11, 2012: International Dairy Food Association (IDFA) and other members of the Food Industry Dioxin Working Group, a coalition of agriculture, processing and retail food industry organizations that have been pressuring EPA and the Obama Administration to once again delay the release of the  dioxin report, formally ask EPA to withdraw its dioxin risk reassessment from interagency review and remove it from EPA’s regulatory schedule. http://www.idfa.org/news–views/details/6833/

January 10, 2012: Representative Ed Markey (D-MA), Ranking Member of the Natural Resources Committee and senior member of the Energy and Commerce Committee, sends EPA a letter urging the agency to finalize the dioxin study. http://markey.house.gov/press-release/markey-epa-no-more-delays-dioxin-health-assessment

January 5, 2012: EPA announces that overall dioxin releases increased by 18% from 2009-2010 nationally, and dioxin air releases increased by 10%: http://markey.house.gov/press-release/markey-epa-no-more-delays-dioxin-health-assessment

December 20, 2011: American Chemistry Council (ACC) requests EPA delay the release of the dioxin reassessment: http://www.americanchemistry.com/Policy/Regulatory-Reform/Cal-Dooley-Letter-to-Administrator-Jackson-Fix-Dioxin-Reassessment.pdf

December 7, 2011: IDFA and other members of the Food Industry Dioxin Working Group, urge the White House to intervene on the dioxin reassessment: http://www.idfa.org/key-issues/category/food-safety–defense/details/6721/

November 2, 2011: IDFA writes to U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and requests that the two agencies “urge EPA to pursue scientific review by the National Academy of Sciences of any proposed reference dose and to coordinate with your agencies any actions that could undermine consumer confidence in the safety of our food supply.” http://www.idfa.org/files/resources/idfa_dioxin_letter_vilsack_hamburg_102811.pdf

August 29, 2011: EPA announces its final plan for completing their study on dioxin, which EPA has been working on since 1985. http://cfpub.epa.gov/ncea/cfm/recordisplay.cfm?deid=209690

August 26, 2011: EPA Science Advisory Board (SAB) releases their final report reviewing EPA’s draft dioxin Reanalysis: http://yosemite.epa.gov/sab/sabproduct.nsf/fedrgstr_activites/2A45B492EBAA8553852578F9003ECBC5/$File/EPA-SAB-11-014-unsigned.pdf

April 11, 2011: Rep. Markey and 72 members of Congress send a letter to EPA calling on the agency to release the study. http://markey.house.gov/press-release/april-11-2011-markey-leads-call-epa-speed-action-dioxin

For a more detailed history of dioxin delays, visit: http://chej.org/wp-content/uploads/DioxinTimeframeFebruary2012.pdf

For a fact-sheet on the hazards of dioxin, visit http://chej.org/wp-content/uploads/Documents/Dioxin%20Fact%20Sheet.pdf

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What the Chemical Industry Doesn’t Want You To Know!

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The American people will panic if they find out there is dangerous levels of dioxin in their food. That’s the argument the chemical and food industries are using to stop the release of the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) scientific report on dioxin.   Really. . . do they really think people will panic rather than take steps to protect their families?  The American people didn’t panic and not place their children in vehicles when they learned that more kids are injured in auto collisions than in any other type of accident. Parents installed safety seats.

The EPA’s dioxin report has been meticulously peer reviewed and is scientifically sound.  Yet, the power of the corporations that are responsible for dioxin in our environment and food has kept this critical scientific information (over 20 years of study) from reaching the public.  Consequently, the public is unable to make personal decisions about what foods they’ll eat and how best to reduce their families’ risks.

Dioxin, a known cancer causing and endocrine-disruptor chemical, is a byproduct of combustion and various industrial processes and is found everywhere in the environment. Chlorinated dioxins are released into the air and travel great distances landing on fields, pastures and waterways from waste incineration, burning household waste and a variety of industrial processes, including smelting, chlorine paper bleaching, PVC plastics and pesticide manufacturing. When animals graze in the pastures or eat feed that has animal byproducts, they ingest dioxin which is then stored in their fat.  So when little Joey drinks his whole milk, he also ingests dioxin contained in the milk’s fat.

Ninety percent of the public’s body burden of dioxin comes primarily from animal fat in the food supply.  The Environmental Working Group has found that the amount of dioxin a nursing infant ingests daily is up to 77 times higher than the level EPA has proposed to protect the endocrine and immune systems. The fact that both breast milk and infant formula are contaminated with dioxin highlights the urgent need for EPA to release its report.  For cancer risk, the situation is also concerning because the general public is exposed to up to 1,200 times more dioxin than regulatory agencies typically consider safe.

Parents place bike helmets on their children, fasten their seat belts, and take their babies for regular checkups because they understand the risks of not taking these steps.  However, everyone is being kept in the dark when it comes to dioxin in our food.  For example, breast milk contains fairly high levels of dioxin.  Nevertheless breast milk is still the healthiest food for baby.  EPA must release this information to new mothers so they know that nursing is the healthiest option.

Whose protection is our public agencies’ priority?

Recently, there has been an increased lobbying effort by various industries to stop the release of the EPA’s dioxin report. The International Dairy Foods Association, for example, wrote EPA a letter stating, “Animal products, such as milk and dairy foods, have the highest concentrations of dioxins, albeit at levels that are only in the parts-per-million and clearly below levels that have been determined to be unsafe. However, EPA’s proposed values for evaluating dioxin, if translated publicly to a “reference dose,” would scare consumers away from our products, and this would be contrary to the government’s own dietary guidance to consume three servings of low-fat or fat-free dairy each day in order to get essential nutrients found in milk and dairy.”

Releasing the EPA’s dioxin report will help consumers make choices in food products that are low in fat content (as recommended by government’s dietary guidance) and could educate the dairy lobbyists as well since they got it wrong in their letter. Low fat and fat free products are not the big problem, because dioxin is carried into food products through the fat content.

Consumers should call their federal representatives and urge them to support the release of the EPA’s dioxin report so they can make their own decisions about what is safe.  It is time to stop assuming the American people will not understand and give them the scientific information.

SABOTAGE: They Cut Our Phone/Internet Lines But Not Our Dedication & Commitment

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In case you missed my earlier communications, CHEJ was targeted by someone who wanted to do harm to our organization.  They broke into our office building around midnight and deliberately cut our phone and internet trunk cable during the last few days of the year, when our donors make their end of year contributions.  The police were called and the investigators agreed that someone had committed a crime.

This is not the first time CHEJ was a target.  You may have read the story about Greenpeace’s lawsuit filed this past October against two major chemical companies, their PR firms and several individuals for activities that amount to corporate espionage. Chemical companies Dow Chemical and Sasol (formerly CONDEA Vista), through the PR firms Dezenhall Resources (Nichols Dezenhall at the time) and Ketchum, hired private investigators from the firm Beckett Brown International (BBI) to spy on Greenpeace.

Within the documents Greenpeace found were photographs of my house and notes about my activities. It is very unnerving to know that someone is spying on you at home.  The Greenpeace suit charges the defendants stole thousands of documents, intercepted phone call detail records (CDRs), trespassed and conducted unlawful surveillance and theft of confidential information related to their public interest work.  The complaint charges that the chemical companies, PR firms and individuals “conspired to and did surveil, infiltrate and steal confidential information with the intention of preempting, blunting or thwarting” Greenpeace’s environmental campaigns.

CHEJ is not part of this lawsuit but clearly someone is trying to thwart our efforts.  The question is who?  Is it the toy/baby product manufacturers because we let consumers know about the poisons leaking from their toxic toys, baby bottles and other toxic baby merchandise?

Maybe it is the industries that are responsible for dioxin pollution as the scientific findings are scheduled to be posted later this month by EPA.  The industry has fought successfully for 25 years to keep adverse health findings from dioxin exposures of birth defects, immune suppression, infertility and diabetes from being finalized and public.  It could also be the companies who brought us PCB’s as CHEJ launches its campaign to get PCB’s out of school (built before 1979)  lighting fixtures.

What about the fracking industry they aren’t supporters of our work either.  Just a few days ago a well that took fracking wastes was closed in Ohio.  Activist believe if we close the injection wells in Ohio, then the fracking industry will have few places to go with their wastes significantly impacting their business.

CHEJ has many industries who would like to see us go away.  It’s not clear yet how many contributions we lost it might be as much as $20,000 however, some people said when they heard about the incidence they made a donation.  That’s a lot of money but it’s not enough to stop us from standing up and speaking out.  It’s not enough to deter us from helping others in the field to fight back against poisoning America’s families, homes, schools and communities.  CHEJ is back on line, back in the streets and holding polluters accountable.

Question for you is who do you think wants CHEJ gone?    Have  you had similar experiences?

PVC-free School Supplies

What the chemical industry doesn’t want you to know.

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Still stocking up on school supplies? If you’re like many other parents and doing some last-minute shopping, be sure to steer clear of toxic PVC plastic, the most widely used hazardous plastic in the world.

Check out our 2011 Back to School Guide to PVC-free School Supplies, which features safer alternatives to toxic PVC plastic in over 35 product categories, from backpacks and binders to lunchboxes and laptops.

We also have created a handy wallet-sized version for you when you’re out shopping for some quick tips.

Top 5 Reasons to Go PVC-free:

  1. Toxic additives like phthalates, lead, cadmium and organotins are commonly found in PVC children’s products, which can leach out.
  2. PVC chemicals like phthalates and dioxin tresspass into our bodies and are linked to chronic diseases on the rise. They’re not just in the products or released at the chemical plants, but are entering our bodies at potentially harmful levels!
  3. Your children are uniquely vulnerable to even low levels of these toxic chemicals, because their bodies and brains are still developing.
  4. PVC pollutes at every stage of its lifecycle, from production to use to disposal, releasing cancer-causing chemicals like dioxin and vinyl chloride.
  5. Safer and affordable alternatives are available!  Why take an unnecessary risk with your children’s health?

Stand up for your children’s right to a healthy future, and check out our Back to School Guide to PVC-free School Supplies.

PVC

New Study: Vinyl – the Most Widely Used “Hazardous” Plastic

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A new study by researchers at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden ranked the environmental health hazards of the most common plastics on the market.  The conclusion?  Researchers ranked PVC as the most widely used “hazardous” plastic and found that, “PVC should receive extra attention because of its carcinogenic monomer, being the third largest plastic, and requiring the most and often several hazardous additives.”

The researchers also found that:

” Of the polymers ranked as most hazardous, PVC, is by far the most used one, being the third largest plastic type with a global annual production of 37 million tonnes .”

” PVC requires by far the most additives of all plastics types, alone accounting for 73% of the world production of additives by volume…”

” The polymers ranked as the most hazardous ones are made of monomers classified as either carcinogenic or both carcinogenic and mutagenic (category 1A or 1B). These belong to the polymer families of polyurethanes, polyacrylonitriles, polyvinyl chloride, epoxy resins, and styrenic copolymers (ABS, SAN and HIPS).”

73% of the world’s production of additives by volume!  The most widely used hazardous plastic!   Ouch vinyl industry!

A comprehensive evaluation of 55 plastics.

The researchers studied 55 plastic polymers and developed a “hazard ranking model” to compare them all.  For example, the authors looked at whether or not the chemicals used to make the plastics are considered to be carcinogenic, mutagenic or toxic for reproduction (CMR’s), and are persistent bioaccumulative toxic (PBT’s), etc.  The researchers also looked at whether plastics contain endocrine disruptors, such as DEHP and the other phthalates commonly found in vinyl products such as flooring in our nation’s schools and hospitals.

There are of course gaps in the study.  For example they didn’t appear to take enough of a look at the PVC industry’s growing use of mercury and coal in China to make the plastic, and also PVC’s leading contribution to dioxin across the world.  That’s a key reason why the US Green Building Council concluded in their evaluation of PVC that “When we add end-of-life with accidental landfill fires and backyard burning, the additional risk of dioxin emissions puts PVC consistently among the worst materials for human health impacts…”

Not the first, won’t be the last.

This comes as no surprise to us here at CHEJ, as we’ve been sounding the alarm on PVC’s hazardous lifecycle and chemicals for years now.  This isn’t the first study to find PVC one of the most hazardous plastics, and we highly doubt it will be the last.  A study published last year by researchers at the University of Pittsburgh evaluating 12 different common plastics ranked PVC at the bottom in terms of green design and life cycle assessment.

The good news is there’s safer alternatives.  Check out our new Guide to PVC-free School and Office Supplies to find safer products for your school.

Photo: ©Les Stone/Greenpeace

EPA Cracks Down on PVC Plastics Industry

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Yesterday, in response to a lawsuit filed by Earthjustice and Mossville Environmental Action Now, the EPA proposed new standards that will require PVC plastics manufacturers to reduce their harmful emissions of vinyl chloride, dioxin and hydrogen chloride.

Photo: ©Les Stone/Greenpeace


According to the EPA, “children are known to be more sensitive to the cancer risks posed by inhaling vinyl chloride, one of the known carcinogens emitted by this source category.”

Each year, PVC plants pump some 500,000 pounds of vinyl chloride – one of the few chemicals EPA classifies as a known human carcinogen – and many other toxic chemicals into the air. In spite of the documented effects of these cancer-causing chemicals, the PVC industry’s air emissions have remained largely unregulated for decades.

Plastics News has just published a very nice summary of how the regulations will reduce harmful air toxics emissions.

EPA Settles Lawsuit With PVC Fenceline Neighbors

This action came across as a result of a lawsuit filed by EarthJustice, Mossville Environmental Action Now (MEAN), the Louisiana Environmental Action Network (LEAN), and Sierra Club. Mossville, Louisiana is home to more PVC chemical plants than anywhere else in the country.  High levels of vinyl chloride have been found in the air in the community, and testing by the government has found elevated levels of dioxin in the bodies of families  Dr. Sanjay Gupta at CNN did an hour long expose on Mossville’s environmental health and justice problems last year.

“We live among chemicals that leach into our water, our food, our children’s bodies,” said Mr. Edgar Mouton, a retired chemical plant employee and leader in Mossville Environmental Action Now (MEAN). “It’s affected our livelihood in much too many ways with folks being diagnosed with cancer and other diseases. We’re ecstatic that EPA has answered our calls for help and decided monitor the toxins that are pumped out of these plants.”

Earlier this year, the Washington Post broke an explosive story about how some of these PVC chemical companies hired a firm made up of former secret service agents and police officers to spy on community members and Greenpeace fighting dioxin and vinyl chloride contamination down in Mossville.  Greenpeace has filed filed a lawsuit against the companies, their PR firms and several individuals for activities that amount to corporate espionage.

EPA Accepting Comments on New Rules

The EPA will accept comment on their new air toxics proposal for 60 days after publication in the Federal Register. The agency will also hold two public hearings in the Houston and Baton Rouge, La. areas.

There are currently 16 major and one area source of PVC production in the United States, in eight states, as follows (with number of facilities in each state): Delaware (one), Illinois (one), Kentucky (one), Louisiana (six), Missouri (one), Mississippi (one), New Jersey (two), and Texas (four).

To learn more about the new rules, the EPA has more information here.