Categories
Backyard Talk

EPA Caving To The Chemical Industry-Election Year Posturing?

I can’t help but wonder if President Obama is posturing for re-elections trying to appease the all powerful oil, gas and chemical industries. It’s been over two years since the USEPA released their preliminary clean up goals for dioxin. These are clean up goals or levels that can be left in soil, and were based upon scientific studies that looked at non cancer effects. Health effects like birth defects, learning disabilities, miscarriages and more.

After EPA published the clean up goals they went to the Office of Budget and Management (OMB) where they sat for nearly two years. I had the opportunity to meet with OMB staff working on the dioxin goals and walked away angry and frustrated. I rename the agency the Office of Mannequin Bodies because no one would say anything–literally.

Today, EPA announced that they have withdrawn the clean up goals from OMB and will essentially abandoning them. This means that every state will use the scientific report, released in February of non-cancer dioxin effects to set their own guideline. Unbelievable, since today EPA has the scientific report (released in February) to support their proposed clean up goals. What this means is in each state the corporations will come to the table ready to play Monty Hall’s “Let’s Make A Deal!

So states with big corporations ruling the governance will deal a whole lot different than those with stricter regulations and public support. Some sites could be cleaned up to protective levels, and others well . . . who knows.

In the simplest format of Let’s Make A Deal, a trader is given a prize of medium value (such as a television set or in this case a almost good clean up), and the host offers them the opportunity to trade for another prize. But a poorer state with little money and political influence could get “Zonked” an unwanted booby prizes, which could be anything, fake money, fake trips or something outlandish like a fake clean up.

Communities deserve equal protection from dioxin, one of the most toxic chemicals on the planet. We know the chemical industry has invested significant resources lobbying against EPA’s proposed cleanup levels. Is EPA caving into the chemical industry during an election year? What is going on here? All of a sudden EPA has withdrawn them from OMB review, without any public notice or participation.

We call on EPA Administrator Jackson to move swiftly to finalize and release final dioxin cleanup guidelines once and for all, especially now that the non-cancer health assessment is complete. Infants and young children are already being exposed to dioxin levels higher than what EPA considers acceptable.

Categories
Backyard Talk

Low Doses Matter

You were right.

How often have you been told that the levels of a particular chemical found in the air, soil or water are very low and thus not significant, or that the risks are so low that there is no cause for alarm?  This is what EPA said about dioxin just about a month ago when they released its non-cancer report.   Now a new scientific report is helping make the case that most people living in a contaminated community have known for years – low dose effects matter.   A group of scientists led by Laura Vandenberg at Tufts University reviewed literally hundreds of published scientific papers, many on endocrine disruptors, and found dozens of examples of low dose effects.  These papers included a wide range of chemicals including many found in the environment, our food, and many consumer products such as plastics, pesticides, and cosmetics.  The researchers found “overwhelming evidence that these hormones altering chemicals have effects at low doses and that these effects are often completely different than effects at high levels.”  Low doses are defined as levels occurring in the range of typical human exposure.

This is a remarkable paper.  It says and supports what community leaders having been saying for years –  low dose exposures are damaging people’s health and the way scientists evaluate health risks using risk assessment no longer works.  One of the key conclusions in this paper is that “the effects of low doses cannot be predicted by the effects observed at high doses.”   This paper needs to be read by every regulating agency at the state and federal level because it opens the door to a new way of thinking about heath risks.  No longer is it enough or even good science to evaluate health risks using traditional dose response thinking that accepts effects at high doses, but not at low doses.

As noted in an earlier blog, Linda Birnbaum, director of the National Institute for Environmental Health Sciences, described this traditional approach to evaluating health risks as “antiquated” and that it needs to be replaced by a “better understanding of the actual characteristics of modern environmental chemicals.”  In a recent editorial Birnbaum says “It is time to start the conversation between environmental health scientists, toxicologists, and risk assessors to determine how our understanding of low doses effects and non-monotonic dose responses influence the way risk assessments a re performed for chemicals with endocrine disrupting activities.“

Birnbaum is right.  We need to begin rethinking how we evaluate health risks from low dose exposures to toxic chemicals.  For a copy of the Vandenberg paper see: http://edrv.endojournals.org/content/early/2012/03/14/er.2011-1050.full.pdf+html.




Categories
Backyard Talk

New Dioxin Report: What it means


Several weeks ago EPA released the non-cancer portion of the EPA’s health assessment for the chemical known as dioxin. The event passed without industry collapsing, without the public going into panic as was anticipated by the food industry, and basically without the world coming to an end. The myriad forecasts of doom that industry and its apologists predicted did not come to pass. In fact, the media barely took notice. Why? – Because the reassessment did not set any new standards or introduce any new regulations.  It simply provided the scientific basis for determining the risks that dioxin poses, though in this case, just the non-cancer risks (EPA is still working on the cancer report).

The non-cancer effects of dioxin as described in the report are quite serious. In a recent review paper, Dr. Linda Birnbaum, Director of the NIEHS, summarized the adverse health effects of dioxin exposure in humans as including “cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer, porphyria, endometriosis, early menopause, reduced testosterone and thyroid hormones, altered immune responses, skin, tooth, and nail abnormalities, altered growth factor signaling, and altered metabolism.”

Most notably, the non-cancer assessment included for the first time a value called the reference dose.  This is a number used to evaluate non-cancer risks and is generally defined as “a level below which exposures are generally considered to be safe.” The EPA’s Reference Dose for dioxin is 0.7 picograms TEQ per kilogram per day (pg/kg/d) which was derived by evaluating developmental and reproductive effects in a community in Italy (Seveso) exposed to dioxin caused by an accident at a pesticide manufacturing plant.

What’s remarkable about the EPA reference dose is when you compare this number to the average daily exposure of the American public to dioxin (defined as the daily intake from all sources, 90% of which comes from food).  Using the most recent data from EPA (see Lorber et al. 2009) the average daily exposure is 0.54 pg TEQ/kg/d compared to EPA’s reference dose of 0.7 pg TEQ/kg/d.  So the average person gets a daily dose of dioxin that’s 77% of EPA’s new reference dose. That’s the good news; the bad news is that the average is so very close to the EPA reference dose and that some groups, especially children, are exposed to higher levels that exceed the new EPA reference dose. This is because children have different eating habits than adults. They tend to eat more diary products that are high in dioxin. Dioxin is prevalent in foods that are high in saturated fat, primarily meat and dairy.

A 2003 study conducted by a National Academy of Sciences Committee on Dioxin in Food bears this out. The committee found that children ages 1 to 5 were exposed to 1.09 pg TEQ/kg/day and children ages 6-11 years old were exposed to 0.69 pg TEQ/kg/day. This analysis shows that dioxin exposure in children 1 to 5 years old exceeds EPA’s reference or safe dose and that children 6 to 11 years old have dioxin exposure that is virtually identical to the EPA reference dose.

As a practical matter, this means that the best risk estimate we have on dioxin shows that the public, especially children are being exposed to unacceptable levels of dioxin that may be causing subtle adverse effects. These subtle effects likely include developmental effects that Dr. Birnbaum described in her review paper as posing the greatest concern “in part because the effects occur at the high end of the background range for the general population.”  These exposures may exceed the EPA’s reference does and even approach the levels observed in the study of Seveso, Italy.    The developmental effects may include altered thyroid and immune status, altered neurobehavior at the level of hearing, psychomotor function, and gender-related behaviors, altered cognition, dentition, and development of reproductive organs, and delays in breast development, in addition to altered sex ratios among exposed offspring.

While no exposure to dioxin is the ideal, we are not there yet.  In the meantime, exposure to dioxin in food, especially for children remains too high and needs to be addressed by EPA, FDA, and USDA. CHEJ strongly urges the EPA to finish and release their review on dioxin and cancer, and to develop a comprehensive action plan to further reduce dioxin emissions and exposures.

For a copy of EPA’s new dioxin health report, visit http://www.epa.gov/dioxin

To see CHEJ’s press release about this report, visit http://bit.ly/dioxinvictory

Categories
Backyard Talk

Grassroots Environmental Groups Are The 98%

The environmental movement has spent the last five years trying to protect laws and regulation we have and stop the roll back efforts, while also moving new regulations and policies. However, we are failing. For example, millions of dollars were invested in Climate Change legislation and we failed to move any agenda forward. One reason, according to surveys and polling, is that the American people didn’t know what to do to make a difference (beyond changing their light bulbs) or didn’t see how the issues they cared about connected to climate change. A recent report, published by the National Committee for Responsible Philanthropy, provides some insights of why the average person might have had problems connecting the dots.

The report says, “The movement hasn’t won any “significant policy changes at the federal level in the United States since the 1980s” because funders have favored top-down elite strategies and have neglected to support a robust grassroots infrastructure. Environmental funders spent a whopping $10 billion between 2000 and 2009 but achieved relatively little because they failed to underwrite grassroots groups that are essential for any large-scale change.” Without resources to hold meeting that bring leaders together at the local level, provide training for media opportunities, learn how to develop a strategic plan or provide resources to join other organizations efforts, local organizations cannot sustain themselves nor move beyond the issue that brought them together.

Interestingly, according to the IRS filings, while less and less money is being provided to grassroots effort, grassroots environmental groups are emerging at more than twice the rate of other non profits sector.

More than half of all environmental grants and donations are given to 2% of all environmental groups all with budgets over $5 million. This 2% of really large groups receives more than 50% of all grants! This leaves 98% of environmental groups with less than half the available funds.

This is a serious problem. In movements throughout history, the core of leadership came from a nucleus of directly impacted or oppressed communities while also engaging a much broader range of justice-seeking supporters. In other words, successful movements for social change — anti-slavery, women’s suffrage, labor rights, and civil rights — have always been inspired, energized, and led by those most directly affected. Yet these are the very groups within the environmental movement that are starved for funds.

As the highly-successful right wing in the U.S. can tell you, social movements grow large and powerful only when they are served by a deep infrastructure of organizations offering technical assistance and know-how. Local groups need to be able to find each other, share strategies, develop leadership, communicate their message, identify allies, and gain a wide range of skills. Such an infrastructure requires sustained funding and without it no movement can succeed.

Clearly, CHEJ is not a funder but is an essential part of the infrastructure. In the report NCRP strongly supports infrastructure using CHEJ as one example. “CHEJ provides everything from technical assistance on local advocacy campaigns to small capacity building grants. By nurturing emerging groups and providing ongoing feedback and coaching for more seasoned organizations, while convening meetings and alliances for all groups to connect and work together, CHEJ helps till the soil and spread the nutrients in which grassroots organizing and movement building thrive.”

To create real systemic change somehow we need to figure out how to communicate with those distributing funds that there needs to be a balance. Yes the large groups are very important but in they are only as powerful as the base they represent and can advocate at the local level. All politics, all change are local. It’s not an issue of supporting  either the large groups or the grassroots groups. It is critical to support both with balanced or none of us succeed. My question to the network is how do we communicate this message? Ideas anyone?

Categories
Backyard Talk

Who's Calling the Shots?

This content is password protected. To view it please enter your password below:

Categories
Backyard Talk

For Sale: American's Health

Who’s buying? Not the advocacy groups that work tirelessly to protect people’s health and the environment, they can’t afford the purchase.

It’s the American Chemistry Council (ACC) who spent more in the fourth quarter then any quarter in recent history . . . in fact they doubled their spending.

ACC, the chief lobbying arm of the chemical manufacturing industry, spent $5.37 million that quarter, the fifth highest of any lobbying operation on Capitol Hill during that time.

ACC’s lobbying disclosure report shows they were involved in a host of issues, ranging from efforts to update chemical regulations, to EPA’s air pollution rules for boilers and incinerators, to the long-delayed health assessments of substances like bisphenol A (BPA) and formaldehyde.

Their disclosure also demonstrates it lobbied EPA on its 27-year-old IRIS assessment of dioxin. EPA was supposed to finalize the non-cancer portion of its dioxin assessment on January 31st but didn’t happen in the face of significant industry opposition. However, the agency hasn’t publicly explained the delay.

So while ACC protects and possibly even increases their profit, the American people, our children are unnecessarily expose to chemicals and face a lifetime of health problems and learning disabilities.

Yes America is for sale, and it’s time for American to stand up for everyone to stand up and say America’s Not For Sale! No More!

ACC included Sen. Frank Lautenberg’s (D-N.J.) “Safe Chemicals Act” in their efforts, which would overhaul the 1976 Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) and require manufacturers to prove their substances are safe before they go on the market.

For all of 2011, ACC spent almost $10.3 million, significantly more than the $8.1 million it spent the year before. Last year’s total trumps what was spent by Dow Chemical Co., which spent $7.3 million. The American Petroleum Institute, the largest trade association for the oil and gas industry, also spent far less.

These industries had record earnings last year – their shareholders are not suffering from a drop in earnings. Even though they are eating and drinking dioxin just like the rest of us, they can afford the safest foods and the best health care money can buy, unlike CHEJ’s constituency.

Although the polluters and their lobbyist have more money than most of us can imagine we can still prevail. They understand the real power of the people and cannot control that element. In fact, this is why someone sent a thug into our offices and cut our telephone and internet lines at near the peak of our fundraising and dioxin campaign organizing. Despite their efforts we delivered over 2,000 individuals and organizations from across the country to EPA representing millions of people.

It is time to exercise our collective power and put the power back in the hands of American people. However, our power can only be activated when people take step up. With the 2012 elections this year everyone has an opportunity to exercise your power. Ask candidates where they stand on your important issues and let them know they must earn your vote. This country belongs to its people not to corporations whose greed is insurmountable.

Categories
Backyard Talk

Paging Lisa Jackson (and the rest of the EPA)

I still can’t believe it.

This week, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson delivered a gift to Dow Chemical and the rest of the  chemical industry.

I bet you’re wondering.  What’d she do?  Nothing.

You see, that’s the problem.

For twenty seven years, we’ve been waiting for the release of the EPA’s report on the health hazards on dioxin.  Since 1985!  We know dioxin is one of the most toxic chemicals on the planet, but without a final report from EPA on the health impacts of dioxin, the EPA’s and state governments’ hands are tied to meaningfully protect us from this unnecessary poisonous chemical.

For twenty seven years, every step of the way, the chemical industry and big ag have delayed the release of this critical public health report.

We’ve been waiting.  And waiting.  And waiting.  It’s not just us.  Vietnam Veterans, breast cancer advocates, environmental justice leaders and many others have raised their voices and called on EPA to finalize this study once and for all. Thousands of people and organizations have signed a letter calling on EPA to finalize this report.  We’re all in this together.

Our rallying cry?  Enough is enough – no more delays!  After all, we have the the right to know.

And I’m afraid to say, it’s happened again this week.  I still can’t believe it.

That’s why we need your help.  We can’t let them get away with this!

In response to these new delays, we issued a national press release blasting EPA .   Our founder and Executive Director, Lois Gibbs, who’s been working on dioxin issues for over 30 years, had this to say:

“Shame on EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson for denying parents the information they need to protect their children from the health impacts of dioxin. This is America — parents have the right to know.  Today the EPA has once again caved into pressure from Dow Chemical and their chemical industry cronies.  EPA shouldn’t cave in to chemical industry dollars and interests over public health.  Cancer, diabetes, infertility, learning disabilities and other chronic diseases linked to dioxin exposure are extremely costly to American taxpayers. EPA missed yet another deadline to release their report on dioxin, one of the most toxic chemicals on the planet.  In recent months, the chemical industry has been working behind closed doors to hide and distort the truth about the dangers of dioxin.  At the same time, Vietnam Veterans, breast cancer advocates, public health organizations, and environmental justice leaders have stood shoulder to shoulder and urged EPA to do what’s right for the health of American children and families.  We call on EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson to immediately release this important report.  We can’t wait any longer.”

Our allies at the Lone Tree Council did as well. Michelle Hurd Riddick of the Council had this to say:

“Since the mid 1980’s when the Reagan administration permitted Dow Chemical to rewrite the EPA report on dioxin, administration after administration in the White House has cowed to this company and their lobbyists.  Public health is being sacrificed, our water resources disregarded and science is being ignored once again in an effort to placate the moneyed interest. It is indefensible that this administration capitulated to industry, reaffirming the belief of most Americans that corporations have greater influence and more control and rights than people”

This has generated a wave of media coverage around the country, from the Wall Street Journal and CNN, to Greenwire, the Saginaw News, Michigan Public Radio, and the Atlantic.

The American Chemistry Council (aka Dow Chemical’s spokespeople) was quoted as saying, “Another delay is unfortunate.”

What?  That’s just exactly what they want.

EPA has been amazingly silent this week.  They issued no official statement on the timeframe for next steps.  No update to the science plan.  Nothing.

I still can’t believe it.

Where is EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson?

Paging Lisa Jackson, the American people are waiting for you.  We can’t wait any longer.

Categories
Backyard Talk

Lisa Jackson: Finalize the EPA’s Dioxin Study Once and for All

Pressure is mounting on EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson to make good on her promise to finalize the EPA’s 25+ year-long delayed Dioxin Reassessment.

[fusion_builder_container hundred_percent=”yes” overflow=”visible”][fusion_builder_row][fusion_builder_column type=”1_1″ background_position=”left top” background_color=”” border_size=”” border_color=”” border_style=”solid” spacing=”yes” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” padding=”” margin_top=”0px” margin_bottom=”0px” class=”” id=”” animation_type=”” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_direction=”left” hide_on_mobile=”no” center_content=”no” min_height=”none”]

EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson

Today CHEJ’s Executive Director Lois Gibbs sent EPA Administrator Jackson a letter strongly urging EPA to finalize the Dioxin Reassessment once and for all.  Lois has been working on dioxin issues for over 30 years, even going back to 1978 when she organized her neighbors to be relocated from the dioxin-contaminated community at Love Canal.

You can read the letter here, and I’ve selected some choice excerpts:

“It is outrageous that EPA has been evaluating the risks of dioxin exposure since 1985 – for more than 25 years – and that the agency has repeatedly allowed the regulated industry to delay its efforts to finalize its assessment.

As EPA has continued to work on the Dioxin Reassessment, people in communities across the country are continuing to be exposed to this highly toxic chemical.

Yet once again, industry is attempting to stall the release of this important report. The American Chemistry Council (ACC) and other industry trade associations are once again pressuring the agency to further delay the release of this important document. Once again they are asking for more review, more certainty, and more delays.  EPA will never satisfy these requests no matter what information you provide, because these groups continue to benefit from an incomplete report that is not finalized.

EPA has a moral and ethical responsibility to make public in final form its best scientific opinion on the health risks posed by exposure to dioxin and dioxin-like compounds. The American public has a right to know about the health consequences of exposure to dioxins, and EPA needs to take steps to protect American families from this unnecessary harmful class of chemicals.”

We’re not in this alone.

A broad coalition of environmental health, environmental justice, labor, Vietnam, women’s groups, and reproductive health organizations has joined this urgent call.

Today, James Hoffa, General President of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, who represents over 1.4 million workers, sent a letter to Lisa Jackson urging EPA to finalize this report.  The Teamsters represent many workers that are likely exposed to dioxin on the job, as EPA has reported landfill fires are one of the biggest source of dioxin in America.  The letter reads in part:

“Over 32,000 of our members are represented by the Teamsters Solid Waste, Recycling and Related Industries Division.  The Teamsters Union is committed to standing up for the rights of all waste workers.

Waste workers may potentially be exposed to dioxin from landfill fires, the disposal of residual ash generated by incineration, and commercial and industrial sites that were not properly cleaned up.

According to your Agency’s January 5, 2012 report, air releases of dioxin rose 10 percent from 2009-2010, while other releases, such as landfill disposal, increased 18 percent.

These exposures to dioxin, in addition to its presence in our food supply, means that waste workers may face increased risks of high dioxin levels.

I am pleased that the EPA “is committed to a transparent, scientifically sound process to determine how this chemical impacts Americans’ health” and I respectfully urge you to move expeditiously, past two decades of delay, to guard the health of American workers, families and the public from this unnecessary hazard.”

Last week Rep. Markey (D-MA), Ranking Member of the Natural Resources Committee and senior member of the Energy and Commerce Committee, sent EPA a fantastic letter urging EPA to finalize this dioxin study.  You can read Markey’s letter and press release here. This comes at a time when EPA actually announced dioxin releases increased by 18% from 2009-2010, and dioxin air releases increased by 10%.  Read about it in this story in the Washington Post.

A growing body of organizations have written to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson the past few weeks urging the agency to act on dioxin.  Other organizations include:

You can join us by signing on to our letter to EPA, which we plan to deliver next week.

Will you join us and stand up to the chemical industry?

[/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]

Categories
Backyard Talk

What the Chemical Industry Doesn’t Want You To Know!

The American people will panic if they find out there is dangerous levels of dioxin in their food. That’s the argument the chemical and food industries are using to stop the release of the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) scientific report on dioxin.   Really. . . do they really think people will panic rather than take steps to protect their families?  The American people didn’t panic and not place their children in vehicles when they learned that more kids are injured in auto collisions than in any other type of accident. Parents installed safety seats.

The EPA’s dioxin report has been meticulously peer reviewed and is scientifically sound.  Yet, the power of the corporations that are responsible for dioxin in our environment and food has kept this critical scientific information (over 20 years of study) from reaching the public.  Consequently, the public is unable to make personal decisions about what foods they’ll eat and how best to reduce their families’ risks.

Dioxin, a known cancer causing and endocrine-disruptor chemical, is a byproduct of combustion and various industrial processes and is found everywhere in the environment. Chlorinated dioxins are released into the air and travel great distances landing on fields, pastures and waterways from waste incineration, burning household waste and a variety of industrial processes, including smelting, chlorine paper bleaching, PVC plastics and pesticide manufacturing. When animals graze in the pastures or eat feed that has animal byproducts, they ingest dioxin which is then stored in their fat.  So when little Joey drinks his whole milk, he also ingests dioxin contained in the milk’s fat.

Ninety percent of the public’s body burden of dioxin comes primarily from animal fat in the food supply.  The Environmental Working Group has found that the amount of dioxin a nursing infant ingests daily is up to 77 times higher than the level EPA has proposed to protect the endocrine and immune systems. The fact that both breast milk and infant formula are contaminated with dioxin highlights the urgent need for EPA to release its report.  For cancer risk, the situation is also concerning because the general public is exposed to up to 1,200 times more dioxin than regulatory agencies typically consider safe.

Parents place bike helmets on their children, fasten their seat belts, and take their babies for regular checkups because they understand the risks of not taking these steps.  However, everyone is being kept in the dark when it comes to dioxin in our food.  For example, breast milk contains fairly high levels of dioxin.  Nevertheless breast milk is still the healthiest food for baby.  EPA must release this information to new mothers so they know that nursing is the healthiest option.

Whose protection is our public agencies’ priority?

Recently, there has been an increased lobbying effort by various industries to stop the release of the EPA’s dioxin report. The International Dairy Foods Association, for example, wrote EPA a letter stating, “Animal products, such as milk and dairy foods, have the highest concentrations of dioxins, albeit at levels that are only in the parts-per-million and clearly below levels that have been determined to be unsafe. However, EPA’s proposed values for evaluating dioxin, if translated publicly to a “reference dose,” would scare consumers away from our products, and this would be contrary to the government’s own dietary guidance to consume three servings of low-fat or fat-free dairy each day in order to get essential nutrients found in milk and dairy.”

Releasing the EPA’s dioxin report will help consumers make choices in food products that are low in fat content (as recommended by government’s dietary guidance) and could educate the dairy lobbyists as well since they got it wrong in their letter. Low fat and fat free products are not the big problem, because dioxin is carried into food products through the fat content.

Consumers should call their federal representatives and urge them to support the release of the EPA’s dioxin report so they can make their own decisions about what is safe.  It is time to stop assuming the American people will not understand and give them the scientific information.