Backyard Talk

Citizens Bill to Ban Fracking Waste Injection Wells Introduced

Ohio Community Groups Concerned about Toxic Oil and Gas Waste Work With Lawmakers on a Citizens Bill to Ban Class II Injection Wells

A citizens group coalition, working with State Senator Mike Skindell (Lakewood), and State Representatives Denise Driehaus (Cincinnati) and Robert Hagan (Youngstown) to introduce the Citizens Bill to Ban Class 2 Injection Wells in Ohio. A coalition of 40 local, state, and national groups sent a letter to the lawmakers, urging them to introduce the injection well ban to protect the health and safety of Ohioans.

The initiative was prompted by recent events, including earthquakes in Geauga and Mahoning Counties; the federal indictment of D&L industries for dumping fracking waste; lack of public participation in the injection well permitting process; and multiple news reports outlining the radioactivity and toxicity of oil and gas wastewater flooding into Ohio by the millions of barrels.

Ohio communities should not be declared wastelands for dumping this toxic waste into what amounts to a hole in the ground, putting their children’s health and drinking water supply at risk.

The legislation would ban Class 2 wells used for underground injection of oil and gas waste. The bill would also stop waste from being discharged into Ohio’s waterways after treatment, and make it illegal for municipalities to use the liquid waste from oil and gas operations for dust and ice control on roadways. Citizens contend that none of Ohio’s wastewater treatment plants are equipped to handle the level of toxicity and radioactivity that has been found in fracking waste.

Ohio politicians and regulators have been too lenient on industry disposal of fracking waste. Just because the industry is creating a tremendous amount of toxic waste doesn’t mean Ohio has to find a place for them to dump it. In the absence of truly safe disposal methods, the burden should be placed on industry to come up with safe alternatives or cease to create the waste.

In 2012, Ohio’s 178 active injection wells accepted 13,846,657 barrels of brine and liquid waste. Radioactivity in oil and gas wastewaters has been found to exceed the U.S.EPA safe drinking limits by up to 3,600 times and federal industrial discharge limits set by the Nuclear Regulatory Agency by more than 300 times.



Backyard Talk

The vinyl plastics industry: one of the biggest users of mercury in the world

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A vinyl chloride monomer (VCM) plant in China that uses mercury. Photo credit: United Nations

Dioxins.  Vinyl chloride.  Phthalates.

There are an appalling number reasons why we consider vinyl to be the most toxic plastic on the planet.

One reason that many people don’t realize is that the vinyl chemical industry is one of the biggest users of mercury in the entire world, in fact the #2 user globally, and that use has been increasing in recent years – primarily in China, where many of our vinyl plastic products come from.

China is the world’s biggest user and emitter of mercury and within China, the single biggest users of mercury are the factories turning coal into PVC.

PVC, mercury and chlorine production

The United Nations estimates the chlorine industry has 100 plants in 44 countries across the globe that still use mercury to make chlorine.  The #1 use of that chlorine is to make vinyl plastic, like vinyl flooring, pipes and school supplies.

According to the US EPA, In the U.S., the chlor-alkali industry is currently the largest private-sector source of stored and in-use mercury, and therefore the largest private-sector source of potential new supplies as a result of future closures or conversions of mercury cell chlor-alkali equipment or plants.”

PVC, mercury and vinyl chloride monomer in China

In China and Russia, mercury is also used to make vinyl chloride monomer, the basic building block of PVC.  And this use of mercury is increasing at an appalling rate.

According to the United Nations, Vinyl Chloride Monomer (VCM) production using the mercury catalyst process is the second largest demand sector for mercury globally (estimated at 570-800 tonnes annually in 2008). The process has emerged as a cost effective production technique for countries with high availability of acetylene over ethylene as raw materials (namely in China and Russia). It is believed that China represents 80-90 % of global capacity with 89 facilities currently identified.  UNEP has collaborated with China on this important topic since 2008.”

Vinyl plastic industry’s use of mercury on the rise

In 2002, the Chinese PVC industry used 354 tons of mercury. Within two years, that had increased to 610 tons, growing at an annual rate of 31.4%.  It’s been estimated that mercury usage continued to increase to over 1,000 tons by 2010.

No one really knows precisely how much the industry is using today, or how much of that mercury may be getting into the air, oceans and fish we all eat.

Why should we care?

According to the United Nations:

“Mercury is recognized as a chemical of global concern due to its long-range transport in the atmosphere, its persistence in the environment, its ability to bioaccumulate in ecosystems and its significant negative effect on human health and the environment.

Mercury can produce a range of adverse human health effects, including permanent damage to the nervous system, in particular the developing nervous system.  Due to these effects, and also because mercury can be transferred from a mother to her unborn child, infants, children and women of child bearing age are considered vulnerable populations.”

The UN’s most recent assessment identifies the vinyl chlorine industry as one of the biggest sources of mercury on the planet.

If we want to eliminate global use and releases of mercury, one thing we can do is phase out the use of this hazardous plastic that is fundamentally reliable on this global pollutant.  That’s a global strategy we can get behind.


Backyard Talk

A Toxic Kiss?

Are you giving a toxic kiss with leaded lipstick? 

“Testing of 32 commonly sold lipsticks and lip glosses found they contain lead, cadmium, chromium, aluminum and five other metals — some at potentially toxic levels, according to researchers at the University of California-Berkeley’s School of Public Health,” per a USA Today article.  (5/2/13)

“Prior research has also found lead in lipstick, including a December 2011 survey of 400 varieties by the Food and Drug Administration that found low levels the agency said pose no safety concerns. This UC study looked at more metals and estimated health risks based on their concentrations and typical lipstick use.

“Just finding these metals isn’t the issue.It’s the levels that matter,” says co-author S. Katharine Hammond, professor of environmental health. She says some of the toxic metals are occurring at levels that could pose health problems in the long run. “This study is saying, ‘FDA, wake up and pay attention,’ ” she says.” 

For more information,

Backyard Talk

Products Contain Toxic Chemicals Of Concern To Kids’ Health

Over 5000 kids products reported to contain chemicals linked to cancer, hormone disruption, and other chemicals that are a concern for kids’ health. Read the new report from Washington Toxics Coalition and Safer States.