Backyard Talk

Ohioans letter to NY Governor

Dear Governor Cuomo:

We, the undersigned Ohioans, are writing to request that you oppose shale gas extraction via ‘fracking’ in all areas of New York, to include the Southern tier. Such development would be irresponsible not only for the reasons outlined below, but also due to the lacking infrastructure for proper disposal of fracking waste products within your state.

Because neighboring New Jersey will not accept out of state fracking waste, Ohio becomes a likely target for the disposal of the fluid by-products of fracking. Ohio relies on class II injection wells for disposal of such fluids. In recent years we’ve experienced increasing numbers and magnitudes of earthquakes as a result of this process. A moratorium was issued by our state due to the severity of the issue. Thus, Ohio’s current injection well space is at or over capacity. Should we be expected to receive New York waste, our citizens will be forced to endure many more injection wells in their communities.

The undersigned Ohioans oppose more injection wells. As recently as this month the city of Cincinnati voted unanimously to ban waste injection wells and the NRDC and others submitted comments detailing the proposed regulations of Ohio injection wells do not meet minimum standards. See:

We also endorse the following:

1. Letter from eleven national environmental groups collectively representing millions of members nationwide. See:

2. Coalition letter with more than 22,000 signatories which requests that Governor Cuomo withdraw the Revised Draft SGEIS until 17 documented concerns have been fully resolved. See:

3. Coalition letter with more than 2,700 signatories that opposes any fracking “Demonstration Project” in the Southern Tier and requests strict enforcement of Executive Order No. 41. See:…

Respectfully Submitted,

Kari Matsko, Director People’s Oil & Gas Collaborative- Ohio

Teresa Mills, Center for Health, Environment and Justice, Ohio field office

Cheryl Johncox, Executive Director Buckeye Forest Council

Sandy Buchanan, Executive Director Ohio Citizen Action

Heather Cantino,  Athens County Fracking Action Network, Athens OH

Laurie Eliot-Shea/Nathan Johnson, No Frack Ohio Coalition

Greg Pace, Guernsey County Citizens Support on Drilling Issues, Columbus, OH

Bill Baker, Frack Free Ohio, Mansfield, OH

Monica Beasley-Martin, Defenders of the Earth Outreach Mission, Liberty, OH

Susie Beiersdorfer, Frackfree Mahoning Valley Trumbull/Mahoning Counties, OH

Kathie Jones, Concerned Citizens of Medina County Medina, OH

Lori Babbey, Concerned Citizens of Portage County Portage County, OH

Gwen B. Fischer, Concerned Citizens Ohio Portage County, OH

Terry Grange, Marengo OH 43334

Barbara R. Wolf, Cincinnati, OH 45206

Robin Webb Butler, Ohio 44822

Joanne Gerson, Southwest Ohio No Frack Forum

Jack Shaner, Deputy Director Ohio Environmental Council

John Rumpler, Senior Attorney Environment Ohio

Kathryn Hanratty, Water Advocate Frack-Free Geauga Chardon, OH

Fr.. Neil Pezzulo, Glenmary Home Missioners Cincinnati, Ohio

Lea Harper, FreshWater Accountability Project Grand Rapids, OH

Tish O’Dell, Co-Founder MADION, Mothers Against Drilling In Our Neighborhoods BroadviewHeights,OH

Chris Borello, President Concerned Citizens of Lake Twp./Uniontown IEL Superfund SiteUniontown,OH

Diana Ludwig, Frackfree America National Coalition Youngstown, OH

Lynn Anderson/Tim Raridon, Guardians of Mill Creek Park Youngstown, OH

Margaret Fenton, Berryfield Farm Centerburg, OH

Mary Greer, Concerned Citizens Ohio/Shalersville Shalersville, OH

Dr. Deborah Fleming Professor of English and Chair of the Department Ashland University

Backyard Talk

Love Canal Déjávu – Ground Hog Day?

I couldn’t believe what I was hearing and seeing when I clicked on a link that connected me with a news story about Love Canal by the local ABC TV station in Buffalo. There in front of a camera was a young woman who reminded me of myself 35 years ago. Christen Morris talked about chemicals that have become visible, about trees dying, pets with cancer and growths, and many people who are sick.

I can remember saying those same words, making that same case in 1978 to EPA and the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation. Wow. At the same time as Ms Morris and others were speaking out about problems in the neighborhood, classmates who attended the 93rd Street School were sharing notes. 93rd Street School was located in the northern part of the community, and also demolished due to contamination. Former students, at a class reunion, began exchanging notes about how sick they were finding common concerns and disease. They believe their health related problems might be linked to exposure to Love Canal chemicals during their elementary school years.

Former student Laura Racine said, “I went to the reunion and decided to seek out all the kids that went to the 93rd Street School with and see if they were having health issues as well. And nine out of ten of them were having health issues.”

It is so hard to watch these news stories. It has never made any sense to me or other former residents of the area, why the state and federal government insisted on repopulating the northern part of the evacuation area or why they refused to follow the young children from both 99th and 93rd Street Schools. These are innocent people who were children and whose parents were assured that no long term health problems were likely. The public was assured that Love Canal was cleaned up, when actually the 20,000 tons of chemicals are still there, still in the center of the dump. Only a clay cap and trench system to capture anything that might move out horizontally was put in place. There’s absolutely no science that supports the government’s theory that the chemicals will stay put. All landfills leak and Love Canal is no exception. In fact, the Love Canal dump has no bottom. So, it leaks chemicals out the bottom every time the Niagara River levels drops . . . like in August for example.

The families living around the dump are not to blame. So many people want to – blame the victims. People were assured by every imaginable government agency that everything is fine. The most frequently used phrase to people who inquired was, “Love Canal is the most tested neighborhood in the country.” Of course that doesn’t mean its safe but those words along with assurance of safety people became convinced.

It will be painful to watch the new effort unfold as families with sickness and questions struggle to get those answers. I plan on helping where I can. To see recent news story click here.

Backyard Talk

Senator Chuck Schumer: Get Toxic Phthalates Out of Children’s School Supplies

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Senator Chuck Schumer speaking at news conference on phthalates in children's school supplies. CHEJ's Mike Schade standing to the left. Photo: Kacey Anisa Stamats

Yesterday was a proud day for me.

You see, I had the privilege and honor to stand shoulder to shoulder with U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer, one of the most powerful Senators in America, to shine the light on hidden toxic chemicals lurking in children’s vinyl back-to-school supplies.

CHEJ and Senator Schumer partnered together to release the new report I authored, Hidden Hazards: Toxic Chemicals Inside Children’s Vinyl Back-to-School Supplies.

Our new report, co-sponsored by the Empire State Consumer Project, found children’s vinyl school supplies are chock full of toxic phthalates, chemicals banned in toys that have been linked to birth defects and asthma, chemicals that have no place in our school supplies. Chemicals manufactured by corporations like Exxon Mobil and Eastman Chemical.

“School supplies are supposed to help our children with their education, they shouldn’t be harming their health.  We don’t allow high levels of these toxic chemicals in children’s toys and we certainly shouldn’t allow them in back-to-school products. When kids take their lunch to school this fall, they shouldn’t be carrying it in a lunchbox laden with toxic chemicals.” — US Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY)

You can read the Senator’s press release he issued here, and watch this great TV story on Channel 7 Eyewitness News.

Our new investigation shows for the first time that popular vinyl school supplies contain levels of toxic phthalates as high as 69 times over the federal ban on toys.  80% of children’s back to school supplies we sampled contained phthalates, and 75% of them contained levels so high, it would be illegal for companies to sell them if they were toys.

Why are these chemicals banned in toys, but allowed in our school supplies?

It’s enough to make any parent furious.

“As a mom, I am horrified to know that Spider-Man and Dora could be associated with highly toxic chemicals,” said Penelope Jagessar Chaffer, Director of the film Toxic Baby. “As a filmmaker who has worked on this issue for years, I know what the effects of these toxic chemicals are on the bodies of children.  As more and more American moms become aware of this issue, it’s clear that we are going to be using our considerable clout as consumers to buy products that are safe for kids.  These products are not.”

These phthalates were found in Spiderman, Dora, and Disney vinyl back-to-school products sold at Kmart, Duane Reade, Payless and other retailers.  All of the products were purchased during the 2012 “back to school” shopping season, and tested by Paradigm Environmental Services in Rochester, NY.

Check out this slideshow of the products we tested:

Coverage of our new Hidden Hazards report is spreading across the country like wildfire.

Check out just some of these stories from:

We coupled the release of this new report with our 2012 Back-to-School Guide to PVC-free School Supplies, to provide tips on how parents can find safer school supplies free of phthalate-laden vinyl.

The awareness we’ve raised so far has been tremendous, but is not enough.

You see, we need YOUR help.

Can you help get the word out about this issue?  Can you share this on Facebook and with parents and teachers you know?  Can you talk about it at your next PTA meeting?

Perhaps more importantly, we need Congress to ACT.  Senator Schumer has co-sponsored the Safe Chemicals Act, which will help protect American families from hidden toxic chemicals in our children’s products.

Can you write to your Senator today, and ask him or her to join Senator Schumer in co-sponsoring the Safe Chemicals Act?

We can’t do it without you!


Backyard Talk

Nuclear Reactor Shut Down Because Sea Water Can't Cool?

Why isn’t this front page news! Are people really still questioning Climate Change’s impacts? I’m in shock! The sea water . . . the ocean is too warm to cool the reactors, it’s not even believable. I only believe it because the huge energy corporations would never shut a reactor down unless they had too. Waterford, CT is not alone, a number of reactors across the country have been temporarily shut down in the past few days for safety reasons.

In Waterford, Conn., a reactor at the Millstone Nuclear Power Plant was shut down because the water in Long Island Sound was too warm to cool it. According to the reactor’s safety rules, the cooling water can be no higher than 75 degrees Fahrenheit. The plant has three reactors. The first began operation in 1970 and is now retired. The third was still running yesterday, but engineers have been monitoring the temperature in case that one also needs to be shut down. Temperatures this summer are the warmest we’ve had since operations began here at Millstone,” Dominion spokesman Ken Holt said (Matthew Wald, New York Times, Aug. 13).

At the Calvert Cliffs Nuclear Power Plant in southern Maryland, operators shut down one of the site’s two reactors because a control rod unexpectedly dropped into the reactor core on Sunday.

The plant’s staff is fixing the malfunction, said Kory Raftery, spokesman for operator Constellation Energy Nuclear Group.

Control rods are used to limit the fission taking place among a reactor’s fuel rods. An unplanned insertion of a control rod into a reactor core can “create an imbalance in the fissioning and pose challenges for reactor operators,” Nuclear Regulatory Commission spokesman Neil Sheehan said. It happens infrequently at U.S. nuclear plants, he said (Timothy Wheeler, Baltimore Sun, Aug. 13).

The Palisades Nuclear Generating Station in Covert Township, Mich., was taken offline after officials discovered a “very small, very minor” cooling water leak. The leak, which has been monitored by officials for a month, is being repaired inside a containment building at the plant. No radioactive materials were released, spokesman Mark Savage said Sunday. “Palisades is taking this conservative measure at this time because of our unrelenting commitment and focus on nuclear safety,” he said in a release. “Palisades will be returned to service when repairs are completed.”

Backyard Talk

The NEJAC Meeting – Important issues facing Environmental Justice Communities

The National Environmental Justice Advisory Council (NEJAC) had its bi-yearly face-to-face meeting in Arlington, VA this past July. Meeting at the EPA Potomac Yard Conference Center on July 24 & 25, the conference was a public forum where council members as well as other experts and community leaders brought up pressing environmental justice (EJ) issues for review by the council. In addition, workgroups within the council and even the EPA presented reports on their activities involving EJ issues.
NEJAC takes on issues that really matter to environmental justice communities. One of the issues discussed during the meeting was the use of computer softwares for EJ screening. This entails the use of computer programs to aid in the determination of what areas need help. However, it was made clear from the proponents of this technology that it would not present clear-cut distinctions between what was considered an “EJ community “ and what was not. The effectiveness of these softwares to analyze the EJ burden within a community is still questionable at best because EJ factors are examined individually and independently of each other. This means that the cumulative effect of multiple exposures is not acknowledged. For this reason, the picture they create is still not representative of the real EJ burden of a particular community.
Another pressing issue brought up to the NEJAC was the safety of nail salon workers. Many nail salon workers are immigrants who have limited English proficiency and earn small salaries. These workers are exposed to the chemicals in hair and nail products, 89% of which are have not been tested to assess their health effects. In addition to this, several products that claim to be formaldehyde-free or phthalate-free contain significant quantities of these chemicals. The NEJAC was asked to urge the EPA to address this issue in some way in the near future.
A major highlight of the Meeting was a report on EPA’s stance on fracking as an EJ issue. EPA emphasized their stance on exploiting the country’s natural gas reserves responsibly, which is rhetoric and not real action. The presentation explained that fracking wells that do not use diesel fuels as their injection fluids are exempt from regulation under the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA), but did little to justify this exclusion . Furthermore, the EPA representative in charge of giving the report seemed not knowledgeable on the subject and ill equipped to deal with questions because she answered most of them vaguely and by referring those who asked the questions to other people within the EPA.
All in all, that the NEJAC meeting handled topics of great importance to the EJ communities around the US is undisputed. Whether the EPA listens to what the council has t say is still up in the air.
Copies of the documents made available at the meeting can be obtained at

Backyard Talk

Cancer-Free Product Labeling – What Do You Think?

It’s no secret that market campaigns have been very effective in changing corporate behavior when in comes to using toxic chemicals. Some of the world’s largest retailers, corporations and major institutional purchasers like schools have changed their purchasing and chemicals policy to avoid harmful chemicals, like PVC, phthalates, dioxin and bisphenol A (BPA). Consumers have helped move Wal-Mart, Target and K-Mart away from products and packaging with PVC the poison plastic.

The idea is to use consumer purchasing power to change corporate behavior to protection public health in lieu of traditional government regulations. Last week, a Florida Democrat took this philosophy to a new dimension when he introduced federal legislation that would require companies to label their products “cancer- free” if they do not contain any known or suspected carcinogens.

Rep. Ted Deutch described this legislation as a common sense measure that would provide clarity for consumers. “We all know that using sunscreen, quitting smoking and steering clear of asbestos can reduce our risk to cancer,” Deutch said when he introduced the bill, “but when it comes to limiting exposure to carcinogens that may be found in everyday food and products, consumers are largely kept in the dark.”

The Cancer Labeling Act of 2012 will enable consumers to reduce their exposure to carcinogens by allowing manufacturers to affix a Cancer-Free label to products that do not contain known or probable carcinogens through a voluntary process that does not require public disclosure of trade secrets. The issued label would state that the product “does not contain known or likely carcinogens that increase your risk of cancer.”

Companies would apply to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) or the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) seeking approval to label a product under the jurisdiction of the agency. The application must include a list all substances in the product; a statement that the product does not contain any known or suspected carcinogens; and a statement that the product does not contain any substances that display carcinogenicity upon degradation, upon interaction with other substances contained in the product or exposed to the product during storage or transportation, or during intended use. Use of the label would be voluntary and the process would not require “disclosure of trade secrets.”

Deutch said the bill will allow consumers to make informed choices about the products they purchase. “Just as consumers who refused to buy baby products laden with BPA nearly wiped this chemical off the shelves,” Deutch said, “the Cancer Free Label Act will harness market forces to drive change and ultimately reduce Americans’ everyday exposure to known carcinogens.” If only it were that easy. What do you think? Is this a good idea or not?

Backyard Talk

Scientists find vinyl plastic chemicals linked to diabetes

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Two new peer-reviewed studies published over the past few months are calling attention to the potential link between exposure to phthalates and diabetes, a disease that affects 25.8 million Americans or 8.3% of the US population.  Over 90% of all phthalates are used to soften vinyl, such as vinyl school supplies and flooring.

The most recent study, led by researchers at Harvard, found phthalates linked to higher rates of diabetes in women. This comes at a time when the prevalence of diagnosed diabetes doubled from 1980 to 2010 in women.

They found that the diabetes rate was double for women with the highest levels of phthalates in their bodies, even after accounting for sociodemographic, behavioral, and dietary factors.  Phthalates were also linked to higher blood glucose levels and insulin resistance, two common precursors of type 2 diabetes.    In a story published by Environmental Health News, Richard Stahlhut, an environmental health researcher at the University of Rochester Medical Center who co-authored the study, noted:

“These findings are important clues, but it’s only a first step…It’s extremely likely that phthalates and other chemical contaminants will turn out to be a big part of the obesity and diabetes epidemic, but at this point we really don’t know how these chemicals are interacting with each other, or with the human body.”

The story notes that African Americans have a 19 percent chance of developing diabetes – a rate 77 percent higher than that of whites –  and Hispanics have a 66 percent higher rate than whites.  The story also notes that, “Poor women had up to 78 percent higher levels of BBP – the phthalate in vinyl flooring that was associated with a double rate of diabetes –  than women living above poverty level.”

Another study published in April by the American Diabetes Association found that people with higher phthalates in their bodies had about twice the risk of diabetes as those with lower levels.  Another study published last year also found a link between phthalate exposure and diabetes.

Dioxin and Diabetes

Phthalates aren’t the only vinyl chemicals that may be associated with diabetes.

The production and disposal of vinyl plastic, like the roofing and flooring in our children’s schools, is a major source of dioxin. A number of studies published over the years have linked dioxin exposure to diabetes.

For instance, author and scientist Pete Myers published a synopsis of a study a few years ago and stated that,

A large new epidemiological study in Japan finds that even at background levels of exposure, people with higher levels of dioxin and dioxin-like PCBs are a significantly greater risk to metabolic syndrome, which includes high blood pressure and Type 2 diabetes… Using a method to assess total exposure to this family of chemicals, they found that the people most exposed were over five times more likely to suffer from the health condition.  Looking at some of the chemicals one-at-a-time, they found that some, by themselves, had an even stronger relationship, as high as 8 to 9 times more likely.”

This is of great cause for concern given how widespread this disease is.  Diabetes is a major cause of heart disease and stroke, and is the seventh leading cause of death in the U.S.  It is also the leading cause of kidney failure, nontraumatic lower- limb amputations, and new cases of blindness among adults in the United States.

Over time, I expect the evidence will only continue to mount linking dioxin and phthalates to these and numerous other health problems.

The question is: how much more do we need to know before we act?