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Current Research Is Predicting More Than 50% Of American Adults Will Have Cardiovascular Disease by 2050

By Sharon Franklin.

Current Research Is Predicting More Than 50% Of American Adults

Will Have Cardiovascular Disease by 2050

Is It Related to Their Environment ???

On March 27, 2024, the American Heart Association released new research stating that people who live in areas with social and environmental adversities may have up to twice the increased risk for developing heart disease and stroke. https://newsroom.heart.org/news/social-environmental-factors-may-raise-risk-of-developing-heart-disease-and-stroke.  In this study, environmental adversities included air and water pollution and potentially hazardous and/or toxic sites.  Dr. Sarju Ganatra, M.D., senior author stated, “This study is one of the first to examine the impact of both social and environmental factors in combination and looked at the complex interplay between them,”  

As reported on June 4, 2024 by Jen Christensen, CNN Health, Medical and Wellness Unit that further new research from the American Heart Association Forecasting the Burden of Cardiovascular Disease and Stroke in the United States Through 2050   https://professional.heart.org/en/science-news/forecasting-the-burden-of-cardiovascular-disease-and-stroke-in-the-us-through-2050   finds that approximately 61% of US adults will have cardiovascular disease by 2050. This is alarming because it has increased from 28 million in 2020, and now it is predicted that 45 million adults will have some type of cardiovascular disease by 2050. 

The biggest driver of this trend will be the large number of people who have or will develop high blood pressure, which makes them much more likely to develop dangerous problems like a heart attack, stroke, and other cardiovascular problems (i.e. heart attacks, atrial fibrillation or “a-fib”, heart failure and congenital heart disease).  By 2050, 22% of the US will be over the age of 65, and this aging population will be another factor contributing to these trends, because the older you get, the more likely you are to have heart problems.

By 2050, people who identify as Hispanic will make up about a quarter of the United States population and are projected to have the greatest population growth for cardiovascular disease or stroke, and people who identify as Black will be 14.4% and the number of people who identify as Asian will also increase to 8.6%, according to the US Census predictions https://www.census.gov/programs-surveys/popproj.html   .  

The June 4, 2024 Heart Association report also offers a closer look at the heart health of children. It finds “concerning trends” in key risk factors, including a predicted increase in the number of kids living with obesity, in large part due to a lack of exercise and poor diet. The report projects that the number of American children with obesity will jump from 20.6% in 2020 to 33% in 2050, meaning 26 million kids will have obesity by that time.  The study also projected that the number of people with high cholesterol will decline due in part to the sharp increase in the number of people who take drugs called statins, which can reduce cholesterol.

So, What Can We Do Now?  The research suggests:

  1.  Prevention efforts to improve population health would be important, and would save America a significant amount of money.  (The costs including direct health care costs and productivity losses are expected to almost triple to more than $1.8 trillion by 2050.)
  • The creation of clinical and policy interventions specifically to help people of color, who are already disproportionally affected by heart problems and who tend to have less access to basic affordable health care.
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Backyard Monthly – June 2024

June 2024
CHEJ's "All In" - Spotlight of the Month

The new EPA Museum in Washington D.C., located in the William Jefferson Clinton Building, offers an interactive journey through the history of environmental regulation and conservation in the United States. The museum features a timeline of pivotal events and legislation since the EPA’s establishment in 1970, along with engaging exhibits such as the “Clean Air Act” simulation and the “Superfund Sites” interactive map. It aims to educate visitors about ongoing environmental challenges and the science behind protection efforts, highlighting cutting-edge research and technological advancements.

One of the most compelling exhibits is “Voices of the EPA,” which shares first-hand accounts from EPA employees, scientists, and activists. The museum also looks to the future with exhibits that explore green technologies, renewable energy sources, and ways to reduce environmental footprints. Open to the public with free admission, the EPA Museum is a valuable resource for students, educators, families, and anyone interested in the environment, science, and public policy.

A notable exhibit is dedicated to Lois Gibbs and the Love Canal disaster, highlighting her pivotal role in advocating for the cleanup of the toxic waste site in Niagara Falls, New York. This exhibit delves into Gibbs’ grassroots activism, which led to the evacuation and relocation of hundreds of families and eventually to the creation of the Superfund program. Her story exemplifies the power of community activism in shaping environmental policy and is a poignant reminder of the ongoing need for vigilance in protecting public health and the environment.

Toxic Tuesday

Lead is a naturally occurring metal that has been used in many household products like paint and plumbing materials. This makes people most likely to be exposed to lead in their own homes, through ingesting or inhaling contaminated paint[Read more]

In a recent issue, we discussed the many challenges in evaluating the adverse health effects that result from exposure to a mixture of toxic chemicals. Despite this, scientists still estimate and assess risks by attempting to compensate for these[Read more]

Training Calls

Mary Grace Wolf has facilitated hundreds of fundraising training and mindset workshops, and has been working in grassroots fundraising for over 19 years. 

During this Training Call, she presented her approach to grassroots fundraising[Watch now]

Backyard Talk Blogs

By Stephen Lester. Years ago, when I first got involved in toxics work, I thought that determining the toxicity of a chemical was based on the evidence, the scientific evidence on exposure and health outcomes, primarily in people[Read more]

By Leila Waid. Air pollution poses a major risk to human health and is the fourth leading cause of death globally. Although air pollution regulations, such as the Clean Air Act, have drastically reduced the number of deaths and illnesses[Read more]

By Gregory Kolen II. In the realm of environmental justice, where the intersection of social equity and environmental protection is paramount, effective communication is key. For nonprofits working within this space, brand storytelling is not[Read more]

By Sharon Franklin. On May 1, 2024, Anita Wadhwani of Tennessee Lookout reported that Tennessee environmental groups have filed a suit against the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) over its approval of a pipeline[Read more]

Do you find this information useful? Please consider pitching in and making a contribution to CHEJ. We appreciate your support!

As the warm days of early summer unfold, we are reminded of the beauty and vitality of our natural world. It’s a season of growth, renewal, and possibility—an ideal time to reflect on how we can contribute to a healthier, more equitable environment for all. At The Center for Health, Environment & Justice (CHEJ), we are dedicated to ensuring that every community has access to clean air, safe water, and a healthy living environment. But we can’t do it without your support.

Your generosity will help us provide essential resources, education, and advocacy to communities disproportionately affected by pollution and environmental degradation. Together, we can make a tangible difference in the lives of countless families and ensure a healthier future for generations to come.

Please consider making a donation to CHEJ this summer. With your help, we can continue to fight for a world where everyone has the right to a safe, healthy environment. Donate today and be a part of the change.

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Who Decides How Toxic is Toxic?

By Stephen Lester.

Years ago, when I first got involved in toxics work, I thought that determining the toxicity of a chemical was based on the evidence, the scientific evidence on exposure and health outcomes, primarily in people. Now I know better.

Take for example, the case of asbestos. Earlier this year, the USEPA banned asbestos use in the United States. This was not an immediate ban, but one in which the industry has 5 years to phase out its reliance on asbestos.

Despite mounds of evidence collected over decades on the dangers of asbestos, this toxic mineral has continued to be used in the US in brake lining, sheet gaskets and in the production of chlorine. This asbestos is mostly  imported, as asbestos was last mined in the US in 2002. Think about that. How is it possible that a known human carcinogen linked to more than 40,000 deaths a year is still legally being used in this country?

It was more than 40 years ago that scientific consensus concluded that asbestos was a highly carcinogenic substance, that ship workers had higher rates of a very rare form of lung cancer called mesothelioma and that it was caused by exposure to asbestos.

EPA tried in 1989 to ban asbestos, but its regulation was overturned by a federal judge who allowed asbestos use to continue and for companies to import it. There was also the Ban Asbestos in America Act introduced in the early 2000s that would have banned importing manufacturing and distributing asbestos, but it was never voted on by Congress.   

How does a chemical as toxic as asbestos stay on the market despite clear evidence of its toxicity and impact on people? The answer is the political power and influence of the companies that stand to benefit from its use in products such as brake lining, sheet gaskets and in the production of chlorine. The biggest users of asbestos have made arguments for decades that have prevented EPA from taking action to restrict the uses of asbestos. For example, the American Chemistry Council who represents the chlorine industry has argued it “would make it difficult for water utilities to buy chlorine, threatening the safety of the nation’s drinking water.”

These companies challenge the agency at every step of the regulatory process with legal and scientific questions and political fights. An article in the Washington Post last year quoted Bob Sussman, former EPA deputy administrator during the Clinton Administration, saying “Industry’s game plan has been to attack EPA for overreaching even while working to assure that EPA accomplishes far less than the public and many in Congress expected.” It’s a strategy calculated to make a struggling agency even weaker and more paralyzed by making every decision  contentious and contested.”

The scientific evidence in isolation can evaluate the toxicity of a chemical. But it’s the political and economic factors that drive decisions on how well people are protected from exposure to toxic chemicals, not the science. Toxic chemicals are not restricted or controlled, they are managed. In large part this is because the scientific evidence linking exposure to low level mixtures of toxic chemicals is very limited and incomplete. So, in the absence of clear evidence, the government and the politicians cannot rely on the science to answer the questions people have about whether their health problems are caused by the chemicals they were exposed to. 

This situation is not likely to change any time soon. People will continue to be exposed to toxic chemicals whether it’s asbestos, lead, trichloroethylene or any of hundreds of other toxic chemicals. Corporate America has enormous control over EPA, FDA and other government agencies that regulate toxic chemicals. Don’t expect these agencies to protect you, even when they want to. It’s what the companies want that dictates what happens. It’s the companies that decide whether a chemical is toxic in a community setting or even in a workplace. It’s the companies that decide how much a chemical or a mixture of chemicals that you can be exposed to. It’s the companies that decide, not the scientists and not the people who were exposed.    

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The Power of Brand Storytelling in Environmental Justice Nonprofits

Photo Credit: Adobe Stock

By Gregory Kolen II.

In the realm of environmental justice, where the intersection of social equity and environmental protection is paramount, effective communication is key. For nonprofits working within this space, brand storytelling is not just a marketing tool; it’s a powerful instrument for change. It shapes public perception, galvanizes support, and ultimately drives the mission forward. Here, we delve into the importance of brand storytelling for environmental justice nonprofits and highlight some exemplary cases.

The Essence of Brand Storytelling

At its core, brand storytelling is about crafting and conveying a narrative that resonates with your audience on an emotional level. For environmental justice nonprofits, this involves articulating the interconnectedness of environmental issues with social inequities, and the human stories that underscore these realities. It transforms abstract concepts into tangible experiences, fostering empathy and motivating action.

Building Trust and Credibility

Nonprofits often rely heavily on public support, whether through donations, volunteer work, or advocacy. A compelling brand story helps build trust and credibility, which are crucial for sustaining this support. By consistently sharing stories of their impact, struggles, and victories, organizations can cultivate a loyal and engaged community.

For instance, The Environmental Justice Foundation (EJF) has effectively used storytelling to highlight the plight of communities affected by climate change. Their campaigns often feature personal stories of individuals from vulnerable regions, creating a relatable and urgent narrative that underscores the necessity of their work.

Engaging Diverse Audiences

Environmental justice issues often disproportionately affect marginalized communities. Effective storytelling can bridge gaps, engaging diverse audiences who might otherwise feel disconnected from environmental causes. By amplifying the voices of those directly impacted, nonprofits can foster a more inclusive dialogue.

WE ACT for Environmental Justice, based in Harlem, New York, exemplifies this approach. Through their storytelling efforts, they highlight the health and environmental challenges faced by their community, while also celebrating local leaders and activists. This not only educates a broader audience but also empowers the community by giving them a platform.

Driving Advocacy and Action

Storytelling is a catalyst for advocacy. It has the power to transform passive observers into active participants. When people connect emotionally with a story, they are more likely to take action—be it signing a petition, attending a rally, or donating to a cause.

350.org, a global grassroots movement to combat climate change, leverages storytelling to mobilize people worldwide. Their campaigns often focus on personal stories of those affected by fossil fuel projects, making the issue more relatable and urgent. This has been instrumental in their success in driving global action against climate change.

Inspiring Hope and Empowerment

Amid the often daunting challenges of environmental justice, storytelling can also inspire hope and empowerment. By sharing success stories and highlighting positive changes, nonprofits can foster a sense of possibility and motivate continued efforts.

The Sierra Club, one of the oldest and largest environmental organizations in the United States, uses storytelling to highlight their victories in environmental protection and justice. By showcasing the tangible impacts of their campaigns, they inspire their supporters and attract new allies to their cause.

Crafting an Effective Brand Story

For environmental justice nonprofits looking to harness the power of storytelling, consider these key elements:

  1. Authenticity: Ensure your stories are genuine and reflect the true experiences of the communities you serve.
  2. Relatability: Highlight personal stories that your audience can connect with on an emotional level.
  3. Clarity: Clearly articulate the link between environmental issues and social justice.
  4. Visuals: Use compelling visuals to complement your narrative and enhance engagement.
  5. Call to Action: Encourage your audience to take specific actions to support your cause.

Conclusion

In the fight for environmental justice, the power of a well-told story cannot be overstated. It humanizes complex issues, builds trust, engages diverse audiences, drives action, and inspires hope. For nonprofits dedicated to this cause, mastering the art of brand storytelling is not just beneficial—it’s essential for making a lasting impact. By continually refining and sharing their narratives, these organizations can foster a more just and sustainable world for all.

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The Support of Mothers

As we reflect on this past Mother’s Day, we at the Center for Health, Environment & Justice (CHEJ) are reminded of the profound impact that mothers have on the environmental justice movement. Throughout history, mothers have stood at the forefront of the fight for healthier communities, advocating for clean air, safe water, and toxic-free environments for their children. Their unwavering commitment and passion have driven significant changes, inspiring us all to continue the work towards a more just and sustainable world. At CHEJ, we honor these incredible women and their tireless efforts to protect the health and well-being of future generations.

Today, we ask for your support to help us continue this vital work. By becoming a recurring donor, you can join us in empowering communities, advocating for stronger environmental policies, and holding polluters accountable. Your sustained contributions will enable us to provide the necessary resources and support to those on the front lines of the environmental justice movement. Together, we can amplify the voices of mothers and families who are fighting for a safer and healthier future. Your monthly gift will make a significant difference in our ability to respond swiftly to emerging threats and to sustain long-term campaigns for environmental justice.

Your commitment to recurring giving ensures that CHEJ can maintain a steady and reliable foundation to continue our mission. Please consider setting up a monthly donation today. Every dollar you contribute helps us protect vulnerable communities and advance the cause of environmental justice. With your ongoing support, we can create a legacy of health, safety, and justice for all. Thank you for standing with us and honoring the mothers who inspire this crucial work.

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Air Pollution: The Silent Killer

Photo credit: Freepik

By Leila Waid.

Air pollution poses a major risk to human health and is the fourth leading cause of death globally. Although air pollution regulations, such as the Clean Air Act, have drastically reduced the number of deaths and illnesses in the United States, there is still an unacceptably large number of deaths from air pollution. For example, two in five Americans live in areas that are above the threshold for safe air pollution exposure, as set by the EPA. 

Air pollution refers to particles, gases, and contaminants not found in pure air. They include dangerous material that is introduced into the atmosphere, usually through human activity, such as burning fossil fuel. The five air pollutants of highest concern – and those monitored under the National Ambient Air Quality Standards – are tropospheric ozone (ground-level ozone or the “bad” ozone), particulate matter, carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide, and lead. Of the six pollutants, particulate matter is one of the biggest threats to health. Particular matter is divided into two categories: PM10 and PM2.5. PM10 are particles less than 10 micrometers in size, and PM2.5 are those less than 2.5 micrometers. 

The World Health Organization has set the limit for PM2.5 at 5ug/m3 (microgrammes per cubic meter). Only 0.001 percent of the world meets this threshold. And in the U.S., the majority of Americans are exposed to much higher levels than that standard. Even more alarmingly, some researchers argue that there is no safe level of exposure to PM2.5. Various peer-reviewed studies, such as this epigenetic study, found that even exposure below the strict WHO standard can still cause adverse health effects. 

PM2.5 is a major environmental health concern because it is ubiquitous in the environment, causing dangerous levels of exposure for most of the world, and the microscopic and irregular shape of these particulates leads to them evading the body’s defense systems. Compared to PM10, PM2.5 is much more likely to enter the bloodstream. In general, the structure of our lungs – particularly the bronchioles and the alveoli – does a great job of expelling the foreign particles we inhale. However, PM2.5 can evade these defense mechanisms and cause havoc on our bodies and health. 

What are the health effects of PM2.5? The Health Effects Institute estimates that, globally, 40% of all Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) deaths and 20% of all diabetes deaths are associated with exposure to PM2.5. And in the U.S., it is estimated that PM2.5 attributed to 47,800 deaths in 2019. 

Air pollution is a silent killer. With the criteria pollutants, such as PM2.5, being invisible to the human eye, we don’t take this threat as seriously as we should. We utilize an out-of-sight, out-of-mind philosophy with air pollution, and most of us take for granted how vital clean air is to our health and well-being. Every day, we breathe in harmful chemicals from fossil fuel combustion and then don’t even realize the detrimental health effects of those actions. The adverse health effects of air pollution can appear as cancer, heart disease, respiratory issues, or a myriad of other medical diagnoses without the affected individual ever realizing the outsize role that air pollution played in that health outcome. 

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Backyard Monthly – May 2024

May 2024
CHEJ's "All In" - Spotlight of the Month
Poisoned Ground: The Tragedy at Love Canal

The “American Experience” documentary “Poisoned Ground: The Tragedy at Love Canal” premiered on April 22 on PBS. It chronicles the story of Love Canal, a neighborhood in Niagara Falls, N.Y., where residents discovered their homes were built on a toxic chemical waste dump, leading to health crises. The documentary highlights how ordinary women fought for their families’ safety, challenged those in power, and galvanized a grassroots movement that led to the landmark Superfund Bill. The Love Canal tragedy began with industrial waste dumping in the late 1940s and escalated in the 1970s with widespread health issues. Residents, led by activist Lois Gibbs, pushed for government action, eventually leading to federal emergency declarations and the passage of the Superfund Bill, marking Love Canal as the first Superfund site for cleanup. Filmmaker Jamila Ephron emphasizes the ongoing challenges faced by marginalized communities affected by toxic waste contamination.

Announcing CHEJ's Small Grants Program - Round 2

The Center for Health, Environment & Justice (CHEJ) is offering grants to grassroots groups addressing environmental health challenges in their communities. Prioritizing impact at local, state, and regional levels, the program supports initiatives focused on combating toxic chemicals and hazardous substances. Designed to reach underserved communities, especially those of color and low wealth, the grants aim to empower groups through leadership development, capacity building, and education. Learn more and apply now!

Note: Our grant applications have changed! Please refer to our newly updated “Guidelines” before submitting your application. Also, pay attention to what Tier your organization falls under as each application is different according to Tier.

Environmental Prize Highlights Work to Keep Fossil Fuels at Bay
Around the world, grass-roots organizers and Indigenous communities are taking proposed coal, oil and gas projects to court — and winning… [Read more]

Toxic Tuesday

1,4-dichlorobenzene (1,4-DCB) – also known as p-dichlorobenzene (p-DCB) – is a colorless solid chemical that readily evaporates into the air. 1,4-DCB does not occur in nature, and it is often produced for use in deodorants or disinfe… [Read more]

Barium is a silver-colored metal which is found in the earth in compounds with other elements. Many barium compounds have industrial uses: barium sulfate is used as a drilling lubricant by the oil and gas industries to facilitate drilling…. [Read more]

Training Calls

Activists fighting landfills across the country joined CHEJ to discuss their most crucial strategies and insights they have developed during their activism. We were joined by activists from Bristol, VA, Brighton, MO, Harrison, OH, Atlanta, GA, Seneca, NY, and more as they shared key stories, strategies and actions….. [Watch now]

Backyard Talk Blogs

By Stephen Lester. Earlier month, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) finalized drinking water standards for a group of substances known as Forever Chemicals. These chemicals include PFOA, PFOS, PFNA, [Read more]

By Jordan Martinez. As an intern at the Center for Health, Environment, and Justice, I have written several papers on the effects of different chemicals on the environment and on human health. The purpose of these articles is to provide [Read more]

By Leila Waid. Environmental justice is in a constant legal battle that, depending on the court’s philosophy, sometimes sees wins for public health safety and but other times faces significant setbacks. March saw a major regression for plastic[Read more]

Do you find this information useful? Please consider pitching in and making a contribution to CHEJ. We appreciate your support!

Forty-three years ago, CHEJ embarked on a mission to support communities facing environmental health risks. Thanks to the generosity of our donors, CHEJ has fostered diverse state and national coalitions, uniting environmental justice, health, labor, and faith-based groups across America. Through technical assistance, trainings, small grants, and coalition-building efforts, CHEJ has empowered these communities, bringing environmental justice initiatives to the forefront.

By nurturing these grassroots efforts, we create lasting, tangible benefits for communities nationwide. Your support ensures that CHEJ can continue prioritizing “health effects organizing,” shaping a healthier environment for generations to come. Join us in commemorating 43 years of legacy by making a $43 donation today.

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EPA Passes Regulations for Forever Chemicals: Good News and Bad News

Photo credit: Demphoto

By Stephen Lester.

Earlier month, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) finalized drinking water standards for a group of substances known as Forever Chemicals. These chemicals include PFOA, PFOS, PFNA, PFHXs, PFBS, and GenX and are generally described as polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). PFAS chemicals are present everywhere in the environment, degrade very slowly and posed health risks to people who are exposed to them. They are called forever chemicals because they break down so slowing that they are around for centuries, essentially forever.

This new regulation requires that these forever chemicals be added to the substances that EPA requires all public drinking water systems to routinely monitor. Some water companies will start testing for PFAS in drinking water as early as 2027 in 3 years, but these restrictions don’t go into effect until 2029, five years from now. This regulation does not apply to private or individual wells, just to large public water systems.

While it’s good news that PFAS chemicals will be restricted in drinking water by 2029, this decision also highlights the slow cumbersome way that chemicals are regulated in this country. Although EPA made clear that there are significant and severe adverse health effects associated with these chemicals, the agency did not restrict their production or use in consumer products, just their presence in drinking water, and not for another 5 years. So, Dupont, 3M as well as other companies will continue to make these chemicals for use in consumer products. Furthermore, this new regulation only applies to 5 of the thousands of different PFAS compounds that have been identified.

Why does this make any sense? It certainly does not make any public health sense. EPA acknowledges the adverse health effects of these chemicals at extremely low levels, to the point where some researchers feel that there is no safe level of exposure to PFAS chemicals, yet EPA takes no action to restrict the production of these substances and gives water companies five years to meet its new standards. And for the companies that manufactured these chemicals – primarily DuPont (and several subsidiaries) and 3M – there’s no action against them or accountability for producing these substances for more than 50 years, even though for decades they opposed any regulatory action by EPA.

Over these years of delay, these companies slowly began moving away from the  PFAS chemicals that were targeted as “bad actors” – PFOA and PFOS – and began producing and using other PFAS chemicals about which virtually nothing was known about their toxicity. EPA has allowed this to happen even though the adverse health effects for most of these substances are not known. Somehow EPA seems good with issuing no restrictions on the production of potentially toxic consumer products and instead offers general advice to the public on steps they can take to avoid PFAS chemicals if they choose to do so.

There is something seriously wrong with our system for regulating toxic chemicals when the companies that use dangerous toxic chemicals to make consumer products for profit get off Scot free and the EPA offers advice to individuals on how to avoid these toxic products.

Industry began using these polyfluoroalkyl substances in the 1940s in consumer products such as nonstick cookware (Teflon) and in food packaging, to waterproof clothes, stainproof furniture and in certain manufacturing processes. They were also widely used in firefighting foams to extinguished fires, especially at airports and on training grounds for firefighters. PFAS chemicals gained public notoriety about 10 years ago when they began showing up in drinking water at military bases, such as the Pease Air Force Base in Portsmouth, NH. The US military estimates that there are over 600 military bases with PFAS contamination.

The adverse health effects associated with these forever chemicals include reproductive effects; developmental effects such as low birth weight, bone variations, and behavioral changes; damaged immune function such as reduced ability to fight infections; interference with the body’s natural hormone functions, including the thyroid; kidney and testicular cancer; liver damage; and increased cholesterol.  

For specific details about EPA’s new PFAS drinking water regulation, click here.

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Bridging the Gap Between Science and Action

By Jordan Martinez.

As an intern at the Center for Health, Environment, and Justice, I have written several papers on the effects of different chemicals on the environment and on human health. The purpose of these articles is to provide information for chemically impacted communities throughout the country. I am working with community members in East Palestine, Ohio. Their questions led to me writing these papers, however these questions have applications beyond the community in East Palestine, and can be helpful to other chemically impacted communities around the world.

The first of these papers that I wrote was on the burning of lithium ion batteries. Lithium ion batteries, such as those in electric vehicles like Teslas, release several toxic gasses when they catch on fire. In this paper, I discussed what those gasses are, how they affect human health, and what makes them from more common chemicals used in everyday life, such as fluoride in toothpaste. This paper came from questions from residents in East Palestine, however the information shared in this paper represents helpful information for residents in other communities as well. Some communities may live near a facility that produces lithium batteries, where risk from these gasses may be higher during an accident. Some individuals may work with lithium ion batteries on a regular basis, such as  car mechanics. These papers serve to help individuals overall, and I’m glad to be making this information available to the public for free.

I’m currently writing about the use of the Affordable Care Act for chemically impacted communities. Within the law of the Affordable Care Act exists Section 1881A, which outlines the use of medicare benefits for individuals exposed to environmental health. I am investigating how this section of the ACA can be utilized for chemically impacted communities, and what the exact process is for utilizing medicare benefits for impacted individuals.

These papers highlight educational health and science information that may benefit communities, especially those working with CHEJ. It is my hope that scientific information can be easily accessible to communities in a digestible manner. Not everyone is a scientist, and for community leaders working to help their communities, they may not be able to read scientific papers. This may be due to not having the capabilities to read papers, since academic research papers are often filled with jargon that can be quite difficult to understand for non-scientists. Another reason is simply time. Reading papers is time consuming, and even if a community leader can read papers, there may be too many tasks that need to be done, limiting the absorption of scientific knowledge, therefore preventing the use of scientific information in helping to benefit communities. This is why it is crucial that we make inclusive science communication, so that community stakeholders can be involved in scientific knowledge without having to be scientists. I write these papers for CHEJ so I can help bridge the gaps between science and the community, and I am grateful for the work of others who do the same.

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The PFAS Fight

By Leila Waid.

Environmental justice is in a constant legal battle that, depending on the court’s philosophy, sometimes sees wins for public health safety and but other times faces significant setbacks. March saw a major regression for plastic pollution regulation and the ongoing fight to ban PFAS. On March 21, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals – a conservative-leaning court that has obstructed substantial progressive policies over the years – blocked EPA efforts to ban PFAS in plastic containers.

The company behind the lawsuit is Inhance Technology, who specializes in treating plastics. Some of their listed services include “barrier packaging” and “surface technologies,” which they use to make plastics stronger and more durable. Although not explicitly stated on their website, the process by which they treat these plastics includes PFOA, a type of PFAS. PFAS are used in various products for their ability to repel water and oil. These properties allow for the stronger and more durable plastics. However they do not disclose or make it clear to the consumer that they are using a controversial chemical that has been linked in many health studies to various diseases and even death. In fact, Inhance Technologies goes as far as to promote their company as being eco-friendly, stating on their website that they “want to make things better for the world” by reducing plastic. This and other similar statements on the company website make it seem like they are protecting the environment when, in reality, they are contributing to the plastic pollution that endangers everyone’s health – a clear example of greenwashing.

In December 2023, the EPA sent a notice to Inhance Technologies to stop using PFAS in their manufacturing process. In response, they sued the agency. The main debate in the case was if the EPA had the right to put a stop to the process since Inhance had been using PFAS for over 40 years. The EPA argued that it only discovered the usage in 2020 so it should be considered a new process. Ultimately The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals sided with Inhance, stating the EPA did not have the right to place a restriction since it was not a new process, even if the EPA just found out about it. However, what if a company never discloses the use of harmful chemicals to the EPA? Using the logic and reasoning of this case, the EPA would be unable to block that process because they didn’t catch it in time. Notedly, the court did not deny the dangers of PFAS to the human body; they only overturned the restriction because the process was not new to Inhance.

What is most frustrating about environmental justice setbacks such as these is that, while the litigation is ongoing, the PFAS, or forever chemicals continue to be manufactured and cause massive pollution. Inhance Technologies argued that they can’t be restricted by the EPA under Section 5 because they have been treating plastics with PFAS for forty years. How much pollution have they added to the environment? How much more will be added by organizations such as these that hide behind a façade of greenwashing and yet contribute to so much of the environmental and human health degradation faced today. 

Court cases can take years to win. And during those years, PFAS continues to bioaccumulate within our bodies and environment. So, while immense national-level policies, such as the PFAS ban that the EPA tried to put in place, are extremely important, we also need to focus on individual and local-level change. For example, we must educate ourselves and our communities about the dangers of PFAS and become informed consumers of what plastic-containing products we buy. If we know that a company uses PFAS in its manufacturing process or partners with companies that do, then we need to be mindful of that and boycott those products.