Homepage News Archive

Inhaling Toxic Wildfire Smoke Increases Your Risk of Dying From COVID-19

Inhaling wildfire smoke may affect your body’s immunity towards coronavirus. A recent study discovered that excess exposure to fine particulate matter in wildfire smoke could lead to more covid-19 cases and deaths.
During an unprecedented fire season in the U.S. West, a new study reveals that air pollution from 2020 wildfires in Washington, California, and Oregon was linked to a high risk of getting covid-19 and even dying from it.
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Photo Credit: Getty Images

Backyard Talk Homepage News Archive

The Day My Life Changed Forever

It was 43 years ago when I travelled to Albany, New York from Love Canal to meet with the NYS Health Department. My goal was to deliver the petition from the Love Canal Parents Movement asking for the state to close the 99th Street Elementary School.  August 2, 1978 was the day my whole world shifted in an unimaginable way.
While knocking on doors in the neighborhood to obtain signatures on the petition, I learned that my neighbors were sick, some had multicolored gunk coming up in the basement and seeping through the cement walls.  Many neighbors shared stories with me about black oil looking substance coming up in the fields located north and south of the 99th Street School and “hot rocks” yellow looking rocks that exploded like firecrackers when the children threw them against hard surfaces.  Women I spoke with were the most impacting, they told stories of innocent children they lost, pregnancies that ended in miscarriage or birth defected infants.
Our goal at the time, was to close the elementary school.  The playground sat on top of the toxic site with the school building located on the perimeter of 20,000 tons of toxic chemicals. I also felt the need to educate the New York State Health Department (NYSHD) about all the other health problems that were occurring in the neighborhood. Three of us travel to Albany, NY to deliver the petitions.  As we walked into the auditorium where the meeting was held, we were shocked to see so many journalists. The room had dozens of cameras and microphones on tripods.
Naively, we thought there would be a private meeting in a small office to talk about what we wanted, why it was important to close the school and take the opportunity to share the health information we uncovered while visiting our neighbors.
It didn’t take long to understand that we were being set up. There were three of us, dozens of media related people and later the health department officials and staff took the elevated stage in front of us.
Heath Commissioner Robert Whalen took the microphone and said:   “. . . the Love Canal Chemical Waste Landfill constitutes an extremely serious threat and danger to health, safety and welfare of those living near it or exposed to the conditions emanating from it.”   He ordered that pregnant women or families with children under the age of two living at 99th and 97th streets (that encircle the landfill) move from their homes as soon as possible.  Stunned and terrified Debbie my neighbor and I stood up and began to yell at Whalen. “What are you saying? My daughter is 2 ½ years of age has she been harmed?” The journalist then began to shout questions.  The chaos, noise, and shock from the news made me feel faint.
When I walked out of that building, my life was changed forever.  The rest of the story is history.

Homepage News Archive

Schumer Says ‘The Facts Are Clear,’ Stands Against BK Fracked Gas Pipeline

Senator Chuck Schumer has spoken out against National Grid’s North Brooklyn Pipeline after months of conflict between National Grid and community leaders who have worked to stop the pipeline’s construction.
The pipeline, which would carry fracked gas through the predominately Black and Brown neighborhoods of Brownsville, Bed-Stuy, Bushwick and Williamsburg, has been in the works since 2017 and has only one building phase left before completion.
National Grid is yet to start the fifth phase of construction, and, on top of numerous neighborhood and political protests, faced a recent setback to the project when a court order stopped the company from doing related construction work at a Brooklyn site that could be used to load and unload trucks containing liquefied natural gas, or LNG.
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Photo Credit: Twitter

Homepage News Archive Water News

Report: Racial disparities afflict EPA drinking water funds

Congress is preparing to infuse a historic amount of money into the nation’s drinking water systems — but whether that money will meet President Biden’s environmental justice goals will largely fall into the hands of states unlikely to consider race or how accessible those funds are to struggling communities, according to a new report.
The groundbreaking analysis released today reveals that, over the past decade, states have been less likely to spend money from EPA’s Drinking Water State Revolving Fund program on smaller and more diverse communities. Opting to release the majority of funds as loans, states are also providing fewer grants than federal law allows, possibly boxing impoverished communities out of federal funding for water infrastructure improvements.
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Photo Credit: FrankHoermann/SVEN SIMON/picture-alliance/dpa/AP Images

Stories of Local Leaders

Bridging Borders and Strengthening Communities; Jose Franco Garcia

By Jessica Klees, Communications Intern
Jose Franco Garcia is an activist working with the Environmental Health Coalition, a binational organization that does work in San Diego, California and Tijuana, Mexico. His work focuses on environmental justice that crosses borders and brings communities together.
“Much like the Environmental Health Coalition, I grew up on both sides of the border,” Garcia explains. Like Garcia himself, many of the community members that EHC serves have family in the United States and in Tijuana. The border has a large impact on the day-to-day lives of people in these areas. Garcia says that in addition to environmental justice, issues such as immigration reform, housing, and worker’s rights are all affected by the US-Mexico border. 
During the pandemic, members of the Tijuana and San Diego organizations were able to meet together much more frequently because of the conveniences of remote work. This has allowed group members to communicate, work together, and build a strong sense of community. 
Garcia notes that “some of the environmental justice impacts are very similar” between the two communities in San Diego and Tijuana, although they are in different countries. Both are affected by the environmental impacts of factories and other industrial polluters. For example, textile plants known as maquiladoras are common near the border, and pollution caused by these plants affect those living nearby. Garcia adds that the nearby port also causes poor air quality for people on both sides of the border.
Garcia started his career as a labor organizer with United Healthcare Workers, where he worked with people in the same neighborhoods as he does with the Environmental Health Coalition. These communities are largely made up of people of color; they are often young people and the elderly. There are many frontline workers in these communities as well. Garcia says that “the same neighborhoods impacted by environmental justice are dealing with economic justice.” He describes this as a “cumulative impact” of these factors that affect people’s lives. And these experiences are quite similar between neighborhoods in Tijuana and  San Diego; community members are often dealing with the same issues.
“I don’t think there’s a social justice organization in this region that isn’t impacted by the border,” Garcia explains. Issues like transportation, healthcare, and housing affect the lives of people who regularly cross the border and families on either side of it. Garcia emphasizes that all of these issues are interconnected. He adds that when policy decisions are made, leaders need to take into account how communities on both sides of the border will be affected. 
The Environmental Health Coalition’s recent work includes establishing a new air pollution control district in San Diego. Another issue that the group is focusing on is transportation justice: improving mass transit to make it more accessible and better for the environment. Language justice is also a very important issue to Garcia, as he grew up interpreting for his mother, who only spoke Spanish. Because of these experiences, access to interpretation services is extremely personal for him. The Environmental Health Coalition always holds meetings in English and Spanish, and there is sometimes interpretation in more languages as well.
Using Zoom to connect during the pandemic has been difficult, but Garcia finds that it can still be a useful tool for getting people involved. “Folks that I never would have imagined being on Zoom a year ago are now jumping on and are telling others how to use the interpretation function on Zoom.” One way that community members have been able to connect online, Garcia found, is by leaving online meetings open so that people can talk and catch up with each other afterwards. “This was Spanish conversations, English conversations…Being able to have that connection, I’ve seen a lot of people have thrived in that, a lot of community members enjoyed that.”
Photo Credit: Jose Franco Garcia

News Archive

The Conversation: Male fertility declining, environmental toxins could be a culprit

THE CONVERSATION — In the U.S., nearly 1 in 8 couples struggle with infertility. Unfortunately, physicians like me who specialize in reproductive medicine are unable to determine the cause of male infertility around 30 to 50% of the time. There is almost nothing more disheartening than telling a couple “I don’t know” or “There’s nothing I can do to help.”
Upon getting this news, couple after couple asks me questions that all follow a similar line of thinking. “What about his work, his cellphone, our laptops, all these plastics? Do you think they could have contributed to this?”
What my patients are really asking me is a big question in male reproductive health: Does environmental toxicity contribute to male infertility?
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Photo Credit: American Pregnancy Association

Homepage News Archive Superfund News

Infrastructure Summer: Polluters Don’t Pay in New ‘Polluter Pay’ Tax

When the Superfund program first passed Congress in 1980, there was one word that marked the moment: justice. Finally, polluters were on the hook for cleaning up neighborhoods, waterfronts, and schoolyards. Many Americans living near toxic waste sites were already mired with health complications, including epilepsy, miscarriages, nephrosis, and even fatal illnesses. For once, the afflicted would benefit from those doing the afflicting.

But today, the Superfund program is languishing. Only a small fraction of identified sites have been successfully remediated during the 40 years of the program. This is mainly due to a lack of funds, after a critical polluter tax expired over 25 years ago.
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Photo Credit: Chris Stephens/The Plain Dealer via AP Photo

Homepage News Archive

A Black community in Northeast D.C. is surrounded by industrial pollution. The city plans to add more.

The D.C. government is preparing to build a sprawling school-bus terminal in the historically Black enclave of Brentwood, where residents have long lived amid industrial sites that discharge pollution into their community.

Over the objections of neighborhood leaders, Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) and the office of the District’s superintendent of education pushed to construct the $20 million hub for 230 buses without studying the health and air-quality impact of industrial sites already in the area.

Northeast Brentwood is home to a city garbage-truck fleet with its accompanying stench, a paving operation that patches up streets and bridges across the city, a giant recycling center that also carries a jolting odor of garbage, a construction company where cloudy asphalt material is showered into huge trucks, and numerous auto repair facilities.

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Photo Credit: Kyna Uwaeme/The Washington Post

Homepage News Archive

EPA Reapproves Pesticide Linked to Parkinson’s Disease

WASHINGTON— The Environmental Protection Agency today reapproved paraquat, the most acutely lethal pesticide still in use.

The weedkiller has resulted in the deaths of at least 30 people in the United States in the past 30 years and is one of only two pesticides still in U.S. use that is banned in the European Union, China and Brazil. It has been found to double the risk of Parkinson’s disease in farmworkers and to harm and kill wildlife.

Today’s decision reverses protections proposed last year by the Trump administration that would have banned aerial application of the pesticide in most cases. This decision allows the aerial spraying of paraquat on all approved crops, including within 50 feet of houses for some applications. The EPA cited data provided by a pesticide industry consortium called The Agricultural Handler Exposure Task Force as leading to today’s reversal.

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Photo Credit: mladenbalinovac/iStockphoto

Homepage News Archive

Portsmouth’s Haven well to supply water again, 7 years after PFAS contamination found

PORTSMOUTH – City officials have announced plans to bring the Haven well back online this week, seven years after it was shut down because of the presence of toxic PFAS chemicals in the water.

The city received permission from the N.H. Department of Environmental Services “for the reactivation of the Haven well,” after the upgraded Pease Water Treatment Facility – which was designed to remove PFAS from city water sources – became fully operational earlier this year.

DES said “laboratory results provided as part of the request (to bring the Haven well online) demonstrates the finished water quality while treating the Haven well is in compliance with current standards, including non-detect levels of PFAS.”

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