Backyard Monthly

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.

Backyard Monthly

Backyard Monthly – April 2024

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

The East Palestine, Ohio train derailment underscores the need for vigilance in ensuring the safety of our communities and the environment. By understanding the impacts of such incidents and taking proactive measures, we can work towards building resilient and sustainable communities. It hasn’t been long since the one year anniversary of the train derailment, and we find it absoutely imperative to keep the momentum brought on by informed awareness.

CHEJ wants to provide you with a central hub of information as a means to understand the incident, its implications, and steps being taken to mitigate its effects. In the days and weeks to come CHEJ will be curating collections of information, both from CHEJ and informative articles from around the web in one convienent location. 

Toxic Tuesday

Carbon monoxide is a toxic gas that is difficult to detect because it has no smell, taste, or color. It can be produced from both natural and human-made sources when carbon fuel – such as gasoline, wood, coal, charcoal, propane, natural gas … [Read more]

We previously addressed individual variability and how it affects a person’s response to toxic chemicals. Another important factor in toxicology is a person’s individual sensitivity to chemicals. How sensitive a person is to chemical exposure… [Read more]

Training Calls

Strategic planning can make the difference between winning and losing a campaign. Strategy is a guide to reaching your goal. It is working smarter, not harder, which will enable you to use the resources you have for as long as it takes to win…. [Watch now]

Backyard Talk Blogs

By Sharon Franklin. The Superfund program was established in 1980 to clean up sites contaminated sites with hazardous substances.  On February 27, 2023 CBS News reported that the Environmental Protection Agency[Read more]

By Jordan Martinez. Since working with the Center for Health, Environment, and Justice, I have met and worked with Jami Wallace, President of the Unity Council for the East Palestine Train Derailment. I have found working wit [Read more]

By Stephen Lester. It is well understood how dangerous lead is to everyone especially children who are still growing and thus more susceptible to its toxic effects. Scientists have continued to find adverse effects from exposure to lower[Read more]

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

As the blossoms bloom and the world awakens to the vibrant spirit of spring, we at the Center for Health, Environment & Justice (CHEJ) are energized to continue our mission of safeguarding our communities, our environment, and the health of future generations.

Spring is a time of renewal and growth, and it’s with this spirit that we reach out to you today. Your support has always been the lifeblood of our organization, enabling us to take action against environmental injustices and advocate for policies that prioritize the well-being of our friends and neighbors.

Together, we can create a world where every person has access to clean air, clean water, and a safe environment to call home. This spring, as nature comes alive with possibilities, we invite you to join us in our mission for a healthier, more just world. Your donation today will sow the seeds of change that will blossom into a brighter future for us all.

Backyard Monthly

Backyard Monthly – January 2024

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

Welcome to this year’s first edition of our monthly digest at the Center for Health, Environment, and Justice in this exciting new year! As we step into 2024, our optimism is fueled by the incredible strides made by you. All of the inspiring stories, highlights of progress, and ongoing efforts by individuals and organizations at the forefront.

Our collective efforts continue to bridge gaps and amplify voices, ensuring that marginalized communities disproportionately affected by environmental issues are heard and empowered. Through education, advocacy, and innovative solutions, we’re building a more inclusive and resilient world.

Thank you for being part of our community, and let’s embark on this new year as we navigate the opportunities and challenges that lie ahead, unified in our commitment to healthier, more equitable communities for all.

Toxic Tuesday

Endometrial cancer is an increasingly common form of cancer in developed countries. There are both genetic and environmental risk factors associated with the development of endometrial cancer, and changing the environmental… [Read more]

Backyard Talk Blogs

By Stephen Lester. By Stephen Lester. Nearly 10 months ago, a Norfolk Southern train with more than 150 cars, many of which contained toxic chemicals, derailed in East Palestine, OH. Thirty-eight of the train cars derailed and a decision[Read more]

The EJ Minute Podcast

COP 28, Indigenous Concerns over Clean Energy Infrastructure in New York, Cleveland’s Expanded Access to Recreational Water and Green Spaces[Listen Now]

Discussing attendance at the United Nations Climate Change Conference or Conference of the Parties of the UNFCCC, more commonly referred to as COP28[Listen Now]

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

Your contributions play a pivotal role in fueling our initiatives, enabling us to amplify voices, drive impactful change, and advocate for policies that prioritize both environmental well-being and social equity. 

Click here to make a donation today and be a catalyst for positive transformation. Your support, no matter the size, directly contributes to our ability to create meaningful, lasting change. With your generosity, we can expand our reach, empower communities, and work towards a future where everyone can thrive in a clean and just environment.

Thank you for being an integral part of our community. Here’s to a year filled with progress, impact, and collective success in creating a brighter, more equitable future.

Backyard Monthly

Backyard Monthly – December 2023

December 2023
CHEJ's "All In" - Spotlight of the Month

This year CHEJ introduced our new monthly newsletter, The Backyard Monthly. This newsletter was designed to provide you with an update on CHEJ’s monthly activities. Our blogs, monthly training calls, Toxic Tuesdays, EJ Minute Podcast and more can now all be accessed and viewed in one, digestible email. We would like to take a short look back on just a few of the many highlights from 2023.

CHEJ’s Science Director and toxicologist, Stephen Lester, has been participating in the community response to the Norfolk Southern train derailment that resulted in spilling five tanker cars of vinyl chloride on the side of the tracks and intentionally burning it in the town of East Palestine, OH. Stephen’s 40 plus years of scientific and environmental justice expertise has been covered by several leading news organizations.

Stephen presented “Truth and Consequences” at the Midwest Environmental Health Summit on June 3, 2023, hosted by Citizens for a Clean Wausau. See the video here:

Our senior organizer and Small-Grants Manager, Teresa Mills, had also been engaging with Ohio-based environmental groups who are working with the East Palestine residents. Stephen and Teresa’s work is a prime example of what CHEJ has been doing for the past 42 years: providing scientific and organizing support to grassroots community-based organizations.

We were thrilled to reflect upon the remarkable success of the 2023 People’s Action Initiative Convention this past June! The purpose of this convention was to start an Organizing Revival to “re-ground the movement for multiracial democracy in the powerful skills and traditions of community organizing.” With a collective commitment to building a more just and sustainable future.

You don’t want to miss out on “Art Works”, by Ken Grossinger! This amazing book released earlier this year provides an inside look at the organizers and artists on the front lines of political mobilization and social change. Learn more and order a copy today!

Have you read “You Are Your Own Best Teacher” yet? In February, we highlighted the latest incredible book by social scientist and activist Claire Nader. Spark curiosity, imagination, and intellect by adding this book to your collection today

Remembering Teresa Mills

The Center for Health, Environment and Justice has recently lost a beloved member of our family, Teresa Mills, our Ohio-based At-Large Community Organizer and Smalls Grants Manager… Read More

CHEJ User Experience: We Would Like to Interview You!

We recently launched a successful User Experience Survey to better serve you, our CHEJ audience and community. Now, we’re shifting to individual Zoom interviews to gather diverse participant experiences. If you are interested in participating in an interview, please complete this short demographic questionnaire for consideration. Selected interviewees will receive a token of appreciation: a choice between a $20 gift card or a book signed by CHEJ Founder Lois Gibbs. Your perspective matters, and we look forward to hearing from you!

Toxic Tuesday

Acrylonitrile is a clear liquid that smells like onions or garlic. It is man-made as it does not naturally occur on Earth. It is used to create other materials, most commonly acrylic fibers in clothing and carpeting. Acrylonitrile can enter… [Read more]

We previously addressed individual variability and how it affects a person’s response to toxic chemicals. Another important factor in toxicology is a person’s individual sensitivity to chemicals. How sensitive a person is to chemical exposure… [Read more]

Training Calls

Gasification and pyrolysis are thermal processes that convert organic substances into fuels. These processes are highly controversial due to their impact upon air quality. They are also a major concern for the communities surrounding the facilities that use them…. [Watch now]

Backyard Talk Blogs

By Leila Waid. As a research project for a university course, I conducted a literature review and systematic analysis of the health effects of PFAS in drinking water. This blog post contains a highlight and broad overview of the health[Read more]

By Gregory Kolen II. Environmental justice is an issue that affects everyone, but those who bear the brunt of it are often the most vulnerable members of society. Disadvantaged communities, specifically, are often the ones living in[Read more]

The EJ Minute Podcast

Excessive rainfall brought flooding to New York City in late September, we investigate the environmental justice hazards posed by flooding[Listen Now]

We explore recent news covering wildfires, EJ areas in Pennsylvania, and Texas voters[Listen Now]

We go over President Biden’s National Climate Assessment, Michigan’s New Clean Energy Bill, Cancer Clusters in Houston Texas[Listen now]

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

As we look ahead to the end of 2023 and into new year, we come to you with a humble request. Your generous donation can help us continue our work, ensuring that we can continue to fight for those who are most vulnerable to environmental injustices. Your contribution could provide us with the resources needed to advocate for cleaner neighborhoods, safer schools, and healthier lives for all.

In this season of giving, we ask that you consider making an end-of-year donation to CHEJ. Together, we can create a healthier and more just world. We thank you from the bottom of our hearts for your continued support, and wish you a happy and healthy holiday season.

Backyard Monthly

Backyard Monthly -November 2023

November 2023
CHEJ's "All In" - Spotlight of the Month

Last month, we had the privilege of being joined by CHEJ’s Founder Lois Gibbs to lead an amazing training call on how to set fundraising objectives, identify the target audience, and discover appropriate opportunities to meet your fundraising goals. Here’s a summary of what Lois covered.

Individual donor fundraising is crucial for organizational stability and community support, providing unrestricted funds for various needs. It builds people power, expands volunteer bases, and boosts your influence with corporations and elected officials. In the U.S., 68% of charitable contributions come from individuals, even those with modest incomes, highlighting the importance of asking for contributions from your community. Don’t underestimate the potential support from your neighbors and local community members. Asking for money might be uncomfortable, but embracing both donor and fundraiser roles can significantly benefit your organization’s long-term success.

Overcoming resistance to fundraising and understanding your personal relationship with money is essential, and remember that it’s about your organization, not you. Assess your feelings when asking for or giving money. Develop a clear individual donor fundraising plan with specific goals, audience, strategies, and timelines. Personal stories matter when explaining your involvement in the cause. Practicing mindfulness and intuitive communication with potential donors is key, and always express gratitude and invite them to join your cause.

If you would like to see the full training call, you can view the replay here.

Your Voice is Needed:

The Unity Council for the EP Train Derailment wants you to let Jim McPherson know how you've been affected by the East Palestine train derailment

In the wake of President Biden’s executive order, Jim McPherson, a seasoned government official, has been delegated by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to spearhead the recovery operations in East Palestine following the train derailment.

Time is of the essence, and we are keen to ensure that McPherson opens a line of communication with the affected inhabitants. If he genuinely engages and understands their plight, we remain optimistic that he will advise President Biden to declare a disaster. This is a pivotal step towards authentic recovery, as the declaration would unlock the provision of essential financial assistance and thorough environmental testing for the residents.

He only has until mid-November to make his recommendation. Email Jim McPherson today!

Toxic Tuesday

Over 10% of births worldwide are preterm, meaning delivery occurs earlier than 37 weeks of pregnancy. It is a leading cause of neonatal mortality, and evidence suggests that exposure to heavy metals from the environment could be a risk factor[Read more]

Asphalt is made of a compacted “aggregate” mixed with a “binder.” The aggregate takes the wear-and-tear of traffic while providing a nonskid surface. It comes from rock quarries, natural gravel, and/or soil. The binder is a type of cement that holds the… [Read more]

Training Calls

Lois instructs attendees on how to establish fundraising goals, how to determine an audience, find relevant strategies, figure out the necessary amount of donors/donations, and construct a realistic timeline. As she says, “Without a timeline, non-profits are unlikely to succeed.”…. [Watch now]

Backyard Talk Blogs

By Stephen Lester. I’m often asked what it is that I do at CHEJ. As a trained scientist, I provide technical assistance to grassroots community groups. People send me their environmental testing data to review. This data spans chemicals foun… [Read more]

By Sharon Franklin. A recent New York Times series concerning fracking and water by Hiroko Tabuchi and Blacki Migliozzi explores the relationship between hydrofracking and our disappearing water sources.   Giant new oil and gas wells that requir[Read more]

By Juliet Porter. Climate scientists have discovered that Americans are using up groundwater faster than ever before in our history. Recently, the New York Times investigated this phenomenon by examining 84,544 monitoring wells… [Read more]

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

Three years after a federal judge revoked the permit allowing for the Dakota Access Pipeline to cross the Missouri River and ordered an environmental review, the oil still flows as it has since the pipeline began operating in 2017. Now, with the release of a new, and heavily biased, Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS), the American Army Corps of Engineers has opened a process for public comment.

The Native Organizer’s Alliance Action Fund is determined to flood the Army Corps with thousands of letters demanding the blockade and removal of the pipeline. No citizens within the Missouri River watershed should be in danger of their water source being ruined by contamination.  

And most certainly, the Standing Rock Sioux should have been consulted concerning this violation of their unceded and sovereign territory rights! Please join the demand to shut down the Dakota Access Pipeline now!

Backyard Monthly

Backyard Monthly – October 2023

October 2023
CHEJ's "All In" - Spotlight of the Month

As the leaves begin to change and the air turns crisper, we welcome the arrival of fall. While this season brings a picturesque transformation of nature, it also brings certain challenges, particularly when it comes to chemical exposure. At CHEJ, our commitment to environmental justice extends to every season, and we want to ensure you and your community stay informed and protected.


Fall presents unique environmental risks due to changes in weather patterns, outdoor activities, and agricultural practices. Here are some important considerations:


1. Pesticides and Herbicides: Fall is a time when farmers often apply pesticides and herbicides to their crops. These chemicals can drift through the air and settle on nearby communities, posing health risks to residents. It’s crucial to stay informed about local agricultural practices and advocate for responsible and safe pesticide use.


2. Indoor Air Quality: As the temperatures drop, we spend more time indoors, where air quality can sometimes be worse than outdoor air. Poor ventilation, the use of certain heating sources, and the release of indoor pollutants from household products can lead to indoor air pollution. Proper ventilation and the use of air purifiers can help mitigate these risks.


3. Mold and Moisture: Fall’s damp weather can lead to increased moisture in homes, creating conditions conducive to mold growth. Mold can release harmful spores that affect indoor air quality and trigger respiratory problems. Regular home maintenance and addressing moisture issues promptly are essential.


4. Chemicals in Yard Care, School Supplies, and Household Cleaners: Several kinds of school supplies, lawn fertilizers, and cleaners may contain hazardous chemicals that can be abrasive or could have potentially dangerous effects on your child’s development. Be mindful of the products you use and their potential environmental and health impacts. Our August Training Call with the Children’s Environmental Health Network (CEHN) provides a helpful insight into what eco-friendly alternatives are available. You can also check out our resources on detoxifying your home and non-toxic cleaning.


As advocates for environmental justice, we encourage you to take steps to protect yourself, your family, and your community during the fall season. This includes staying informed about local environmental issues, advocating for responsible chemical use, and adopting eco-friendly practices in your daily life.

Toxic Tuesday

Particulate matter (PM) is a mixture of chemicals, dust, and liquid droplets that can be emitted into the air from automobiles, power plants, construction sites, smokestacks, and fires. When people breathe contaminated air, this PM gets lodged into[Read more]

Training Calls

In this Training Call, our former community organizer and current director of Toxic-Free Future’s Mind the Store program, Mike Schade, further illuminates vinyl chloride pollution and how to hold corporations accountable using CHEJ’s past successful tactics…. [Watch now]

Backyard Talk Blogs

By Sharon Franklin. In July 2023, I wrote the blog, “There’s An Ethylene Oxide (EtO) Health Emergency in South Memphis, Tennessee.” In it, I discussed the air pollution created by the Sterilization Services of TN (SELC) in Memphis, Tennesse [Read more]

By Leila Waid. September is kicking into high gear, which means the summer season has ended, and fall is just around the corner. While summer is usually known for warm, sunny days that are perfect for vacations, this summer was quite[Read more]

By Hunter Marion. Nestled between the slow, muddy waters of the Trinity River and the noisy I-45, sits Joppa, TX. Pronounced “Joppee” by locals, Joppa is a neighborhood located at Dallas proper’s southernmost point. It was founded [Read more]

By Gregory Kolen II. Did you know that CHEJ offers audio discussions for you to listen to? The Fighting to Win podcast hosted by the Center for Health, Environment & Justice (CHEJ) is where you will hear inspiring stories from environmental activist[Read more]

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

The East Palestine and Ohio train derailments highlighted the widespread issue of vinyl chloride pollution in the US, often linked to corporate negligence. Mike Schade from Toxic-Free Future’s Mind the Store program elaborated on this issue and the harmful impact of plastic pollution. He detailed how the program is pressing major retailers to curb toxic chemicals and plastics usage, and shared ways individuals can participate in protecting communities from such pollution.

This fall, let’s change the color of our future from the bleak grey of pollution to the vibrant hues of a healthy environment. Join CHEJ in our fight by donating today! Together, we can ensure a safer, cleaner world for ourselves and future generations.

Backyard Monthly

Backyard Monthly – September 2023

September 2023
CHEJ's "All In" - Spotlight of the Month

As the summer begins to wind down and we approach a new school year, CHEJ continues to strive for safer, healthier environments for our children to learn and grow in. We recently hosted a free video training call in collaboration with our associates at the Children’s Environmental Health Network (CEHN). The focus of this call was to raise awareness on the potential environmental hazards our children could be returning to in their schools this year.

In this important discussion, we delved into the unique vulnerability of children to environmental hazards, outlined common school hazards, and shared a wealth of educational and advocacy resources aimed at improving school environmental health. A standout resource presented during the call was CEHN’s Eco-Healthy Child Care® program, a vital initiative for promoting safer, healthier learning environments.

See the training call here

Community Survey!

CHEJ is launching a short survey that should take no more than five-to-ten minutes to complete. We want to hear from you, our dear friends, about your experience with our organization. How are we doing? What are we doing well and how can we improve?

This will be an opportunity for you to provide us with your valuable insight and help us create an even more amazing community of environmental justice fighters! We want to support you on your mission to save your community, and thus we need your feedback on how we can do that even more effectively. We look forward to hearing from you!

Our Backyard Monthly readers get the link here first: Take the Survey.

Petition to Declare East Palestine a Major Disaster

On July 3rd, Gov. Mike Dewine of Ohio sent a request for a disaster declaration in East Palestine to President Biden. The Unity Council of East Palestine, with help from OnlyOne, is petitioning Pres. Biden to approve of this request.  

Please sign this petition to show solidarity for a community reeling from ecological destruction, and to hold Norfolk Southern and the federal government accountable.

Toxic Tuesday

Selenium is a mineral found in most rocks and soil across the globe. It can be extracted and processed from rock for commercial and manufacturing uses. About half of the processed selenium in the world is used in glass production[Read more]

Benzo(a)pyrene (BaP) is a compound in a group of chemicals called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). PAHs like BaP are formed in the incomplete burning of coal, oil, gas, or other organic matter. Once formed, they can enter the air… [Read more]

Ethylbenzene is a colorless flammable liquid that comes from coal tar and petroleum. It is primarily used to synthesize chemicals that are used in plastics. Ethylbenzene can also be used in fuels and injection fluid, which is used to release natural gas… [Read more]

Training Calls

It is back-to-school season again! Thus, we find it necessary to bring awareness to all the potential environmental hazards our children… [Watch now]

Backyard Talk Blogs

By Stephen Lester. East Palestine, OH: A Scientist Speaks Out  The situation in East Palestine, OH remains very frustrating for many residents. They are trying to make sense of the contrast between what EPA tells them with the many adverse[Read more]

By Gregory Kolen. In the early 2000s, CHEJ identified PVC or polyvinyl chloride, a common plastic material used in school supplies, as a significant source of health risks for children. PVC contains toxic chemicals that can cause serious health[Read more]

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

As we look forward to the month of September, let’s not forget the significance of Labor Day and its connections to the environmental justice movement. Yesterday, we celebrated Labor Day as reminder of the collective strength of workers who fought for fair working conditions, the same unity we now channel towards environmental justice.

Your generous donations enable us to continually fight for a world where both people and the planet are not exploited for profit. In the spirit of all that Labor Day represents, consider a contribution to CHEJ to support our relentless pursuit of environmental justice. Together, we can ensure a healthier, safer future for all. Thank you for being a part of this movement!

Backyard Monthly

Backyard Monthly – August 2023

August 2023
CHEJ's "All In" - Spotlight of the Month

We at CHEJ are thrilled to reflect upon the remarkable success of the 2023 People’s Action Initiative Convention last June! This year’s gathering of dedicated activists and community leaders was nothing short of inspiring. As an organization committed to environmental justice and empowering grassroots movements, we are eager to promote and share the valuable insights, knowledge, and discussions that took place during this convention.

The purpose of this convention was to start an Organizing Revival to “re-ground the movement for multiracial democracy in the powerful skills and traditions of community organizing.” With a collective commitment to building a more just and sustainable future, we are excited to be a part of People’s Action Initiative’s efforts in amplifying the movement’s impact and ensuring that it continues to shape and invigorate environmental justice at all levels.

CHEJ's Second Round of Small Grants is Here!

We are still accepting applications for the second round of our 2023 Small Grants Program. You can access the applications here.

The deadline is August 14th, 2023, so there’s still time to get in your application in or book an informative session with our Small Grants Manager, Teresa Mills, at .

Toxic Tuesday

Considering cumulative exposures to low levels mixtures of chemicals is an enormous challenge when evaluating the toxicity of chemicals. Neither the EPA nor ATSDR have guidance on how to evaluate exposure to multiple chemicals[Read more]

Total petroleum hydrocarbons (TPH) are a family of hundreds of chemicals that come from crude oil. When crude oil is spilled during extraction or processing into petroleum products, TPHs can contaminate the environment. Becau[Read more]

Training Calls

Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are an emerging public health threat. Nicknamed the “forever” chemicals, they have contaminated drinking water across the U.S. PFAS are toxic at extremely low levels… [Watch now]

Backyard Talk Blogs

By Leila Waid. 2023 has already brought many climate change-related natural disasters. From the wildfires in Canada that covered the U.S. in particulate pollution, to the record-breaking heat waves gripping many parts of the world, this year has shown[Read more]

By Sharon Franklin. For Rose Sims and Lettie White, residents of South Memphis, Tennessee, despite it being a sunny, spring day in their neighborhood, they make a point to stay inside as much as possible[Read more]

By Gregory Kolen, II. As the return to school approaches, parents and children alike are gearing up for a busy shopping season. While it can be fun to get new school supplies, clothes, and accessories, it’s essential to keep health and safety in mind [Read more]

By Hunter Marion. On June 22nd, 2023, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Arizona v. Navajo Nation (2023) that the United States was not responsible for securing access to clean, fresh water for the Diné people. This is yet another blatant attack[Read more]

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

As we prepare our children for the upcoming school season, it’s essential to remember that their safety extends beyond the classroom. It’s not just about equipping them with knowledge, but also ensuring they’re protected from harmful substances hidden in everyday school supplies. At CHEJ, we are deeply committed to safeguarding our children’s health and future.

Many common school supplies unfortunately contain per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) and polyvinyl chloride (PVC), chemicals linked to health issues, from developmental problems to certain types of cancers. It’s truly alarming, and we believe our children deserve better. We aim to raise awareness about these harmful substances and advocate for safer alternatives. But to make this happen, we need your help.

With your generous donations, we can expand our reach, provide educational resources to parents and schools, and campaign against the use of PFAS and PVC in school supplies. Your contribution can make a significant difference in the lives of our children and their health.

On the next Training Call:

Our friends at the Children’s Environmental Health Network (CEHN) will discuss and share resources for improving school environmental health. Stay tuned for tips on how to protect children from toxics as you shop and prepare for the new school year.

Join us in our fight for environmental justice. Let’s ensure our children head back to school with safer supplies, for a healthier future.Thank you for your support!

Backyard Monthly

Backyard Monthly – July 2023

July 2023
CHEJ's "All In" - Spotlight of the Month

CHEJ’s Science Director, Stephen Lester, presented “Truth and Consequences” at the Midwest Environmental Health Summit on June 3, 2023, hosted by Citizens for a Clean Wausau.

See the video here:

Stephen later toured Wausau’s Thomas Street neighborhood and Riverside Park, after an updated risk assessment released by the Wisconsin Department of Health Services, outlined a serious concern for children and adults who use the space.

CHEJ's Stephen Lester tours a west-side neighborhood where contamination has been reported. Photo credit: Collin Massad

Read the Wasaus Pilot and Review’s coverage of Stephen’s visit.

You don't want to miss out on Art Works, by Ken Grossinger!

An inside look at the organizers and artists on the front lines of political mobilization and social change. Learn more and preorder a copy today!

Toxic Tuesday

Total petroleum hydrocarbons (TPH) are a family of hundreds of chemicals that come from crude oil. When crude oil is spilled during extraction or processing into petroleum products, TPHs can contaminate the environment. Becau[Read more]

Glyphosate is a chemical found in weed killer products such as RoundUpTM used on farms and home lawns. It gets absorbed by plant leaves, stopping plant growth within hours. Because of its effectiveness, glyphosate is found… [Read more]

Training Calls

The goal of this Training Call was to introduce grassroots organizers to the tools and language used amongst UX professionals so that they could improve their online presence, recruitment, and connecting with their base[Watch now]

Backyard Talk Blogs

By Hunter Marion. In 2021, California passed a law restricting the use of the classic recycling symbol upon products that are not truly recyclable. Last May, this law, and substantial complaints over the years, triggered an official comment by[Read more]

By Stephen Lester. In a major win for grassroots community groups throughout the country, the USEPA decided last week to withdraw its plan to relax clean air regulations applying to pyrolysis and gasification facilitie[Read more]

By Sharon Franklin. Tim Carpenter, reporter for the Kansas Reflector, recently reported a massive oil spill that is distorting a Kansas couple’s confidence in the integrity of the Keystone pipeline. The rupture of TC Energy’s 36-inch steel pipe has released [Read more]

By Leila Waid. It may come as a surprise that one of the biggest challenges facing environmental and public health is our judicial system – specifically the current U.S. Supreme Court. Out of the total nine Justices, six[Read more]

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

As we gear up to celebrate the 4th of July, a day that symbolizes freedom and independence, we invite you to reflect on the true essence of liberty and responsibility. 

At CHEJ, we are committed to environmental justice, a cause that lies at the intersection of social equity, human rights, and ecological balance. We believe that every individual, regardless of their background, deserves clean air, safe water, and a healthy environment in which to thrive. Unfortunately, many communities, especially those marginalized and economically disadvantaged, are disproportionately burdened with environmental pollution and the devastating impacts of climate change.

This Independence Day, we invite you to embrace the spirit of freedom and extend your support to our mission of achieving environmental justice for all. Your generous donation will enable us to:

  • Empower Communities to become advocates for their environmental rights. 
  • Create a network of informed citizens who can engage in meaningful dialogue with policymakers and promote sustainable practices.
  • Participate in policy discussions working towards the implementation of just and equitable environmental regulations. 
  • Raise awareness among lawmakers and shape legislation that protects our environment and safeguards the rights of vulnerable communities.
  • Develop educational programs that empower young minds to become future environmental justice stewards. 

Your donation, no matter the size, will make a significant impact and contribute to a more just and sustainable world. 

Consider making a contribution today!

This Independence Day, let us come together to honor the spirit of freedom and independence by choosing to create a future where every person can breathe clean air, drink safe water, leading to happier and healthier communities.

We wish you a joyful 4th of July!

Backyard Monthly

Backyard Monthly – June 2023

June 2023
CHEJ's "All In" - Spotlight of the Month

This month, we want to highlight one of the cornerstones of our organization’s approach: our Training Calls. These calls not only equip grassroots organizers with vital knowledge and skills but also serve as invaluable platforms for connecting organizers across different regions.


By fostering a sense of collective power and learning from diverse experiences, we are able to create a stronger and more unified environmental justice movement nationwide. More specifically, this past month we hosted a call on East Palestine elevating the voices of residents working on the ground to rectify the wrongs committed by Norfolk Southern and the EPA against their rural community.


Join us as we continue to use our platform to explore the incredible journeys of community leaders and witness how their individual struggles fit together to form a tapestry of resilience and determination. All of our recorded calls can be accessed on our Training Call webpage.


For more information about our services and accomplishments, please read through this latest edition of Backyard Monthly.

Toxic Tuesday

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.[Read more]

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… [Read more]

Training Calls

Last February, a 150-car freight train with 20 or so tanker cars carrying toxic chemicals derailed in East Palestine, OH. Local resident Jami Wallace, who experienced the accident and the intentional burn, and Amanda Kiger, from River Valley Organizing, shared their experiences after thi.[Watch now]

Backyard Talk Blogs

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[Read more]

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[Read more]

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 [Read more]

By Gregory Kolen. 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[Read more]

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

42 years ago Lois Marie Gibbs knocked on her neighbors’ door to discuss what was happening to their Love Canal community. She galvanized her neighbors, they spoke up, held protests, assembled and demanded the federal government respond to the needs of the people and not to the greed of corporations. Now, 42 years later we are still fighting that same fight all over the country. You can just ask the people of East Palestine. Who are today’s victims of one of the worst toxic catastrophes in the country.

CHEJ continues to be committed to spending our time fighting the rollback and safeguards of the previous administrations and support proactive efforts for environmental justice. However, in these challenging times, we continue to need your help to move as quickly as possible to seize the moment and win as many cleanups of contaminated sites, before EPA prioritizes other issues.

Of course, the communities that we assist are saying “we can’t move fast enough” and that is why we need your assistance to take advantage of this window of opportunity. Due to the pandemic, support has changed in the last 3 years, but the needs remain great and it makes your contribution of $250, $150, $50 or whatever you can afford go a long way in providing the resources to push EPA to act at sites where people are being poisoned every single day.

Consider making a contribution today!

Now is the time to turn up the pressure to demand and win some real concrete health protections and cleanups for Unequal Response, Unequal Protection communities, like those in East Palestine and Bridgeport, Ohio.