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5 Easy Ways to Support the Environmental Justice Causes You Care About at No Cost

By Gregory Kolen II.

Climate change and environmental degradation pose a serious threat to our communities and the world as we know it. Environmental justice has become a cause for many people who want to preserve nature and keep our planet safe for future generations. However, not everyone knows how to get involved and make a difference. Here are five easy ways to support the environmental justice causes you care about without spending a dime.

  1. Educate Yourself: The first step to supporting any cause is to become well-informed about its issues. Take some time to research and read about environmental justice causes. Understand the problems and challenges within the community you want to aid and advocate for change. By educating yourself, you will be able to help raise awareness and share important knowledge with others.
  2. Follow and Share Social Media Accounts: In today’s world, social media is a powerful tool to spread information, and it is one of the easiest ways to support environmental justice causes. Follow and share social media accounts of organizations that align with your values and share their posts encouraging people to get involved. You can help to amplify their voices and inspire more people to support the cause.
  3. Vote for Environmental Justice: Your vote plays a significant role in shaping policies that affect the environment. It is essential to vote for political candidates who prioritize environmental protection and support the principles of environmental justice. Find out your representatives’ stances on the environment, and if they don’t prioritize it, encourage them through phone calls and emails to do so. You can also hold them accountable and use your power as a constituent to push for the change we need.
  4. Sign Petitions and Online Campaigns: Signing online petitions is another great way to support the environmental justice causes you care about. Petitions can help catalyze action and drive change on campaigns. Share petitions with your network and encourage them to sign as well. You can also create an online petition when you want to bring more attention to a specific cause.
  5. Volunteer and Attend Organizational Events: Finally, volunteering and attending events organized by environmental justice organizations can also be a great way to show your support. Many organizations offer volunteering opportunities such as fishing out plastic from waterways or restoring habitats. Attend rallies, marches, and demonstrations. Attend their meetings and events where you can build relationships with like-minded people and learn more about the cause.

There are so many ways to support environmental justice causes at no cost. From educating yourself to signing online petitions and attending events. Together, we can make a difference and bring about a better, healthier world for all. Let’s work collectively to protect our planet. Take action today and encourage those around you to join you in supporting these environmental justice causes.

Toxic Tuesdays

Transgenerational Toxicity

Toxic Tuesdays

CHEJ highlights several toxic chemicals and the communities fighting to keep their citizens safe from harm.

Transgenerational Toxicity

While getting cancer, liver disease or central nervous system damage is often associated with exposure to toxic chemicals, one of the most sensitive targets of toxic chemicals is the reproductive system. This has long been recognized for over 50 years (123). In recent years however, research has shown that toxic chemicals can not only directly affect the reproductive system of both women and men, but that these effects can be passed on to the next generation and can even skip a generation. The impact of toxic chemicals on children with no direct exposure to these chemicals is known as a transgenerational effect.

A recent review paper reported that research on chemical toxicity, early life nutrition, smoking and radiation found evidence of harm even in offspring with no direct exposure to specific contaminants. This paper pointed to groundbreaking research at Washington State University that helped establish the principle of transgenerational toxicity by showing that the effects of toxic chemicals can extend even to the third generation of offspring. Other review papers have found a growing body of evidence from epidemiological studies that suggests that environmental exposures early in development have a role in susceptibility to disease in later life and that some of these effects seem to be passed on through subsequent generations (67).

One important study that made this clear was a follow-up study on the residents of Love Canal in Niagara Falls, NY. This study, conducted by the New York State Department of Health (DOH), found that maternal exposure to chemicals from the Love Canal landfill was associated with an elevated risk of bearing a child with an adverse reproductive outcome. The researchers found that women who lived in the designated emergency zone while pregnant prior to the time of evacuation had a higher risk of having a preterm birth compared to women from other regions of the state. This effect was statistically significant.

There was also a greater than expected frequency of congenital malformations among Love Canal boys born from 1983 to 1996. These birth defects occurred in infants born to mothers who previously lived at Love Canal. The rate of these birth defects was about 50% higher than in boys born to mothers who lived in upstate NY. In addition, the ratio of male to female births was lower for children conceived at Love Canal. Lastly, women exposed as children had an increased risk of giving birth to a low weight baby.

These findings are consistent with the initial findings at Love Canal that led to the evacuation of the community in 1978 and 1980. The initial findings identified lower birth weight and increased congenital birth defects in infants, but were limited in defining the risk of adverse pregnancy outcomes because of small sample sizes.

This study is extraordinary because it looked at the reproductive outcomes of women after their exposure had stopped compared to other studies which typically evaluate health effects at the time when exposures were ongoing. In some cases, exposures to Love Canal chemicals occurred only when the women were children! These remarkable findings point out the subtle impact of exposure to toxic chemicals. They are a red flag for health concerns – especially for women of child bearing age – at other contaminated sites across the country. This study also highlights how little we really know about low level exposures to toxic chemicals.

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Tell the EPA to act on Pesticides Now

By Leila Waid.

Pesticides are defined as “any substance or mixture of substances intended for preventing, destroying, repelling, or mitigating any pest” by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The US uses many different types of pesticides to, for example, control food crop growth. These practices amounts to over 1 billion pounds of the products used annually. 

The United States allows various harmful-to-human-health pesticides to be used in the country. A 2019 study found that the US still used 72 different pesticides banned in the European Union, 17 banned in Brazil, and another 11 banned in China. 

In 2019, the World Health Organization (WHO) published the most current list on pesticide exposure. In the report, the organization classified pesticides based on how hazardous they are to human health. The list provides an overview of pesticides WHO considers extremely hazardous, highly hazardous, moderately hazardous, and slightly hazardous. In the extremely hazardous category, WHO lists 29 different pesticides. WHO lists pesticides in this category once they have enough evidence that they harm human health or the environment. 

Extremely hazardous pesticides are labeled as such because they are the most toxic to humans. This classification includes pesticides that can cause cancer, gene mutations, morbidity, and mortality. 

Of the 29 pesticides listed as most dangerous, the EPA still allows several of them to be used in the US. For example, one of the pesticides on that list is aldicarb. Despite the dangers of the chemical, it was only banned in 2009 in the US. And in 2021, the Trump administration reversed that decision via environmental deregulation policy. Now, Florida allows the use of the chemical with a permit. Other pesticides on the list, such as bromethalin, are restricted to only rodenticide use but not agricultural. However, this still poses a risk that those harmful chemicals can get into the environment and impact health. Other pesticides on the list, such as calcium cyanide, do not have any restrictions on them and are thus commonly used in the agricultural field. 

An example of a pesticide that is widely used in the US but is classified as extremely hazardous by WHO is phorate. Phorate can cause neurological issues, which is of particular concern to children whose brains are developing. Also, another vulnerable group to phorate exposure is agricultural workers because they are exposed to the highest doses of this pesticide. Currently, 21 states allow phorate use, with most of the use occurring in the Midwest, Texas, and California. Although more than half of the country has banned phorate use, it can still potentially impact everyone through food exposure. For example, California is the biggest agricultural export in the country, and the pesticides they use for food production are not limited to state borders. 

It is time for the EPA to get serious about this country’s overwhelming pesticide use and take action to phase out these proven-to-be dangerous chemicals from our environment. 

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Cancer Alley Pre-Teens Demand to Not Be Made into Another Sacrifice Zone

Photo credit: Josie Ygnatowiz

By Sharon Franklin.

In a recent op-ed, by Kamea Sibley Ozane and Roishetta Sibley Ozane in Teen Vogue, a Louisiana mother and daughter are followed on how they got involved in climate activism. Kamea is a 10-year-old who lives in Sulphur, Louisiana near the Gulf Coast with her mom and brothers and sisters. She recently learned that pollution from oil and gas was making her and her environment sick, as well as contributing to climate change. She talks about how one week before her 10th birthday party everything changed. Her skin started to burn, itch, and break out. She went to the doctor, and was told she had a skin disease, and could not have her birthday party. She was told her skin disease would heal, but it didn’t. She returned to the doctor and more tests were done and it was finally decided that her skin condition was caused by her environment and the polluted air was the reason her skin was peeling off. Then Kamea started to ask questions. “What is happening to me? What’s causing it? How do we stop it?”

Roishetta, Kamea’s Mom said, “It broke my heart to have to explain to my daughter and the rest of my children that the petrochemical facilities around us was poisoning our air.” She cites a recent report by Environmental Integrity, which concluded that oil refineries in Lake Charlesrelease about 675 thousand pounds of nitrogen pollution a year in the Calcasieu River, causing serious environmental harms.”

Kamea listened to her mom when she informed her that if these oil and gas companies continue to operate, not only will more children continue to get sick, but the effects of climate change will get worse. Even though her Mom told her not to worry she immediately decided to fight for her town. She started to organize by talking to her friends in school and making them more aware of the issues surrounding pollution and its connection to climate change. After speaking with her friends and family about the dangers of pollution and how it was affecting climate change, she realized it was a good first step. But she wanted to do more.

In April 2023, she helped her mom organize The Vessel Project of Louisiana in Lake Charles, Louisiana. Her mother told her that the gas industry is planning to build four huge gas export terminals in Southwestern Louisiana, which will be within five miles of each other, and ship gas to other countries. Kamea’s mom also told her that Lake Charles wasn’t the only community being sacrificed, that there were more than 20 gas export projects being proposed to be built across the Gulf.   

What are these Cancer Alley teens asking for? Kamea wants President Biden to stop approving these oil and gas projects. She asks “President Biden, please don’t let the Gulf Coast become a sacrifice zone.  We don’t want these facilities in our backyards because they are poisoning our water and our air.  It makes it harder for kids like me to spend time outside and enjoy our planet. We only have one Earth, and it is time we start acting like it.

Toxic Tuesdays

Polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PCBEs)

Toxic Tuesdays

CHEJ highlights several toxic chemicals and the communities fighting to keep their citizens safe from harm.

Polybrominated Diphenyl Ethers (PBDE)

Polybrominated Diphenyl Ethers (PBDE) are chemicals that are flame retardants – meaning they are added to different materials to make them less susceptible to fires. PBDEs are found in various everyday materials, such as furniture padding, computers, rugs, and electrical wires. They are a synthetic (not naturally found in the environment) subset of the organobromine compounds, chemicals where a carbon molecule is bonded to a bromine molecule. There are 209 different forms of PBDEs, which vary based on what the carbon-bromine structure looks like.

PBDEs were discovered in the 1970s, and since then, several of them have been phased out of production (PentaBDE and OctaBDE), but other versions (such as DecaBDE) are still being manufactured. While some states, such as California and Washington, have banned specific forms of PBDEs from production, there is no national restriction on the production of this chemical as of 2023. It’s also important to note that even for PBDEs that have been banned or phased out of production, the waste from production and manufacturing remains in the environment and causes harm.

The lack of national attention to this class of chemicals is concerning because of the mounting evidence that PBDEs have negative impacts on human health. For example, these chemicals are thought to be endocrine-disrupting. The endocrine system, which oversees the regulation of hormones, is vital to human health. When this system is damaged, it can cause various adverse health effects, such as cancer, reproductive damage, and neurological damage. A case-control study found that exposure to PBDEs was associated with an increased risk of breast cancer among post-menopausal women. Another study found that the BDE-28 compound was associated with an increased risk of papillary thyroid cancer. As for reproductive health, a study on infants reported that pregnancies that had PBDE chemicals in the umbilical cords, those infants were more likely to have lower birth weights. And a chemical that causes fetal abnormalities is called a teratogen, although PBDE does not carry this classification by the Environmental Protection Agency. Evidence of neurological damage has also been in animal studies, where PBDE was found to cause neurotoxic effects on memory, attention, and leaning ability.

Exposure to PBDEs during pregnancy is only one route of exposure to this chemical. Because PBDEs decompose slowly in the environment, they bioaccumulate and build up in the food chain. Fish and other marine life are especially prone to bioaccumulation. Thus, PBDE contamination could be of concern for people who consume a lot of seafood or rely on it as their primary protein source. Another way that people can be exposed to the chemicals is through water. PBDE waste can seep through the ground and contaminate the groundwater sources. Another exposure route, which accounts for an estimated 80% to 90% of exposure for the population, is inhaling contaminated dust particles. For example, PBDE can be found in the dust that accumulates in homes. One study found that individuals who had higher levels of PBDE in the dust at their houses had higher levels of the chemical in their blood serum levels.

PBDEs are considered persistent organic pollutants (POP), and many communities are fighting against this contamination in their backyards. For example, the Alaska Community Action on Toxins (ACAT) has been advocating for years to ban the use of PBDEs in the state. Another group that has been advocating for the ban on PBDEs are first responders, specifically fire-fighter organizations. When blood samples were taken from firefighters, they had brominated dioxins and furans in their bloodstreams. Fire fighters are more exposed to these chemicals because when a house fire occurs, all of the products that have PBDEs in them, such as furniture upholstery, burn up and release these toxic chemicals into the air that the first responders breathe in.

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Betraying the Public’s Trust – EPA’s Terrible Response to East Palestine, OH

Betraying the Public's Trust
Photo credit: Michael Swensen/Getty Images

By Stephen Lester.

Since immediately following the train derailment and intentional burn of toxic chemicals in East Palestine, OH, the USEPA has betrayed the public’s trust in government. The agency has put out a steady stream of statements telling people that everything is alright. They saw no reason to test for vinyl chloride, for example, even after the railroad company, Norfolk Southern, dumped 5 tankers cars into a ditch alongside the railroad tracks and then intentionally set it on fire. EPA did this with other chemicals as well.  

They continued to tell people that everything was fine even though they saw no reason to test for dioxin even though there was no question that dioxin, one of the most toxic chemicals every tested, would be generated when the vinyl chloride was burned.

The Region 5 Administrator got into the act when she said that EPA couldn’t test for dioxin because they don’t know what the background is. Really? And when EPA reluctantly agreed to test for dioxin, they immediately said that they expected to find dioxins at levels consistent with background.

Soon after the testing began, EPA repeatedly and aggressively downplayed the presence of dioxins and other toxic chemicals in East Palestine while providing little if any data to back up their claims. The agency seemed much more concerned with controlling a predefined narrative than they were with honestly responding to the concerns and questions raised by the public.

This is confusing because the agency is very familiar with dioxins. They understand the serious health risks that exposure to dioxins poses. For more than 25 years, the agency studied the health risks of dioxins. Exposure to dioxins can cause cancer, reproductive damage, developmental problems, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, infertility in adults, impairment of the immune system, skin lesions and more. Yet the agency has been desperate to convince the public that there is no cause for alarm.

My guess is that they are pushing so hard because they don’t have answers to the many questions people are asking about dioxins. While it’s not easy to address these questions, it’s irresponsible for the agency to pretend that dioxins are irrelevant.

The EPA‘s mission is to protect human health and the environment. Clearly the situation in East Palestine is the place where EPA should follow its mission and do right by the people who live in this community. EPA must conduct testing for dioxins and other chemicals that is intended to tell people specifically what they have been exposed to and then analyze the results in a way that helps people understand the risks they face.

The people who live in East Palestine have a right to this information so they can make informed decisions about their future. If EPA continues to betray the public’s trust, then the agency will be responsible for people living for years without clear answers about what happened in East Palestine, OH.