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MN Preventing Lead Poisoning

It would cost more than $4 billion to get the lead out of Minnesota’s drinking water, but it could bring a 2-for-1 return on the investment.”As we see in many other areas of public health, preventing a health problem is more cost effective than waiting for a health problem to develop and then treating it,” Minnesota Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm said. Read More.

Backyard Talk

State Stops Plan to Burn PFAS Waste

The state of Vermont changed its mind about sending about 2,500 gallons of the hazardous fire depressant known as PFOA and PFOS to a hazardous waste incinerator, when it discovered that the operator of the plant had been cited for numerous clean air violations. The Heritage Thermal Services incinerator in East Liverpool, OH has consistently and repeatedly been in violation of federal and state environmental laws and has been a Significant and Habitual Non-Complier of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act and High Priority Violator of the Clean Air Act continuously for years. For the past three years running, for the 12 consecutive quarters from October 2014 to today, Heritage Thermal Services has been and continues to be a High Priority Violator of the Clean Air Act due to the release of excessive amounts of hazardous air pollutants and hydrocarbons. That’s 100% of the time. This is an increase over the three (3) year period from 2010 to 2012 when Heritage Thermal Services was a High Priority Violator 67% of the time.
What’s odd about the decision to burn this waste is that the very reason this family of chemicals are used by fire fighters is that it suppresses flames and is difficult to burn. It’s very likely that the much of the PFAS waste that would be burned in an incinerator would end up going out the smokestack creating air pollution problems.
The state changed its mind once it learned about Heritage’s track record. There was also public pressure from local citizens groups in Vermont who raised significant concerns about burning foam at a hazardous waste incinerator.  Alonzo Spencer of the local groups Save Our County in East Liverpool credited the Conservation Law Foundation which has an office in Vermont with stopping the delivery of the waste. “I would like to personally thank Jen Duggen [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”][Vermont director of CLF]. Heritage was on the verge of accepting waste from Vermont that Heritage couldn’t handle correctly. It was Duggan’s Foundation that opposed that. That waste would have been on its way now if she hadn’t intervened,” Spencer told a local paper.
The ingredients of these fire-fighting foams have been found to be toxic. PFOS and PFOA belong to a class of compounds called PFAS chemicals that have been linked to cancer, thyroid disease, developmental problems in children and immune system problems. They were banned for use by fire departments in the early 2000s and have become an emerging drinking water contaminant across the country. An estimated 110 million Americans have PFAS in their water according to a report by the Environmental Working Group. There are 32 military sites and 17 private sites contaminated with PFAS that are on the federal Superfund list. For more, <read here>.
Alonzo Spencer told his local paper, “The city has been spared a ‘disaster.’”[/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]


Air pollution: black, Hispanic and poor students most at risk from toxins – study

New researching documenting disproportionate danger to students of color and poor students from air pollution at school.
“Pollution exposure is also drawn along racial lines. While black children make up 16% of all US public school students, more than a quarter of them attend the schools worst affected by air pollution. By contrast, white children comprise 52% of the public school system but only 28% of those attend the highest risk schools. This disparity remains even when the urban-rural divide is accounted for.”
Read more.

Backyard Talk

A Vicious Cycle of Poison and Poverty

We in the wealthiest country in the world should feel ashamed. America takes our most vulnerable families – poor or working poor – and houses them next to polluting industries, poisons their children and now wants to take away their access to health care.
This vicious cycle of poison and poverty leads young men and women to end up sick, dead or in prisons.
Polluters Don’t Pay, We Do
Many low-income families only find housing near polluting facilities or on contaminated lands. There are many reasons for this: for many years, African Americans and Latinos were only allowed to live in certain sections of a city or town because of their race. Polluting facilities were often built near these vulnerable communities of color, creating a poisonous environment for innocent families.
As a result, children become sick, poisoned by lead and toxic chemicals in the air and soil. Too many of these children miss too many days from school, which leads them to fall behind or develop learning disabilities. This creates a situation in which they cannot succeed in school.
Polluting industries often find ways to avoid contributing to their local tax base, which funds public schools. As a result, these schools are unable to hire enough special education teachers to help vulnerable children succeed. Students become frustrated and drop out of school, ending up on the streets and getting in trouble.
Remember Freddie
Let’s remember Freddie Gray, who was killed in police custody in Baltimore in 2015. In court, the officers charged with his death justified their recklessness by claiming they could not prevent his fatal injuries because he became combative after arrest.
Gray’s aggressive behavior – if it even happened – could have been a result of toxic poisoning. In 2008, he and his two sisters were found to have damaging levels of lead in their blood, the result of living for years in a rented house where lead paint flaked off walls and windowsills in the rooms where they slept.
From Paint to Prison
There are hundreds of conclusive studies that confirm lead exposure is a cause of aggressive behavior. Freddie Gray needlessly lost his life at 25 years of age. Far too many young people and children like him are poisoned by environmental chemicals, then end up dead or in prison.
Prison isn’t free of chemicals either, adding an additional burden to these young victims. At least 589 federal and state prisons are located within three miles of a Superfund cleanup site, which are the most environmentally dangerous sites in the country. 134 of those prisons are within one mile of a Superfund site. Furthermore, it is common practice to build prisons directly on former industrial sites that conceal a myriad of health hazards.
Poverty keeps families from living in safe, unpolluted environments. America builds “affordable housing” often on top of poisoned soil. Today, the state of Indiana is trying to find housing for hundreds of families in East Calumet because the land is so contaminated with lead and other chemicals that no one can live there. Yet families have lived there for years, with young children playing on that contaminated soil.
We Share The Same Dreams
Today, our lawmakers want to deepen these violations of the most vulnerable among us by taking away what little health care they have. Children in poisoned communities can’t breathe because of contaminated air; now they want to take away their asthma medication. In some communities, there are clusters of childhood cancers with victims who need extensive medical attention. Regular access to clinics for infants and blood testing for lead are not a choice: parents must be able to secure that medical screening and care.
These parents have the same dreams of success for their children as those who are wealthy. But their children have little chance of achieving those dreams because they are poisoned, without their knowledge or consent, and failed by our educational system.
If the Trump administration has their way, they will let the poor and communities of color be poisoned with no ability to seek medical attention. Young people already poisoned will end up in prison or dead on the streets.
Today, all parents with dreams for their children must fight back to break this cycle of poison and poverty. If we join together we can win justice for all, not just the privileged.

Homepage News Archive

mark! Lopez Fights for East Los Angeles, Wins Goldman Environmental Prize

Born and raised in a family of community activists, mark! Lopez persuaded the state of California to provide comprehensive lead testing and cleanup of East Los Angeles homes contaminated by a battery smelter that had polluted the community for over three decades.
Bordered by the Los Angeles River and crisscrossed by the area’s notoriously congested freeways, LA’s Eastside is home to the densest population of working-class Latino communities in the country. Residents bear the brunt of the region’s pollution, with heavy cargo traffic coming in and out of the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, and industrial plants operating well within breathing distance of homes, schools, and parks.
Among these facilities was an aging battery recycling plant, which had been in operation since 1922 with minimal updates and repairs. Georgia-based Exide took over the smelter in 2000 and ramped up the volume of batteries processed at the plant—and with it, emission levels of dangerous pollutants such as lead and arsenic.
A sampling of dust on rooftops of nearby buildings found lead levels of 52,000 parts per million—where 1,000 parts per million is considered hazardous waste. Lead is a powerful neurotoxin that accumulates in the body over time. It can cause learning disabilities even at very low levels, and as such, there is no safe lead level in children. Read more.

Backyard Talk

Low Doses Matter

A new video is available that addresses the cumulative impact of exposure to low level mixtures of toxic chemicals on the developing brain. Dr Bruce Lanphear and colleagues from Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, British Columbia have produced an excellent 7 minute video that is sure to educate and provoke discussion.   
This remarkable video, Little Things Matter, explains in easy-to-understand language why exposures to small amounts of toxic chemicals matter, how widespread exposure to brain-damaging toxins, such as lead and mercury, PCBs and flame-retardants, can have severe impacts on the developing brain of children. “There is strong evidence that learning disabilities and lower IQ scores can be attributed to extremely low levels of exposure to toxic metals like lead and mercury, persistent toxins such as polychlorinated biphenyl (PCBs), and other toxins including organophosphate (OP) pesticides and compounds used as flame-retardants. These toxins are common in our daily environments,” says Lanphear.
Lanphear who narrates the video states that “We’ve been studying the impact of toxins on children for the past 30 years and reached the inescapable conclusion: little things matter.” He goes on to say that exposure to toxic chemicals can have a life-long impact on children and that extremely low levels of toxins can impact brain development.
The video illustrates how vulnerable children are to exposures to toxic chemicals. It points out that a 5 point decrease in average IQ among U.S. children would result in an additional 3.4 million children who are considered intellectually disabled or mentally retarded. There is a corresponding decrease the number of children who are considered to be intellectually gifted.  
Lanphear and his colleagues offer advice on what steps people can take to reduce their exposures to toxic chemicals including eating fresh or frozen food, avoiding pesticide use in your home and checking for lead hazards. He also suggests contacting your federal representatives and urging them to support legislation that reverses the burden of proof to require companies to prove that a chemical is not toxic before it enters the market, as is the case in the European Union. Lanphear goes to say that the ultimate solution is to reverse how we regulate chemicals. He could not be more right. We can no longer rely on the notion that only exposure to chemicals at high doses matter. This video makes it clear that small doses do matter. Be sure to check out this new video.

Homepage News Archive

Chemicals Reduce Childrens IQs

If you are interested in how many small amounts of chemicals can directly impact children’s IQ you need to spend a few minutes watching this video. CHEJ’s members have been frustrated by the regulatory agencies and their lack of willingness to address multiple chemical exposures. Most recently the Just Moms group in St. Louis, MO were told that a leader’s family has levels of radiation in their kitchen 200 times above background. How in the world do  you make Thanksgiving dinner in a kitchen full of radiation? Moreover, how can you have a family dinner when no one wants to come to your house? Along with the radiation are toxic chemicals that come from the burning landfill daily. EPA says they need to do more testing. How much evidence does the agency need before they move the people?
Karen Nickel with Just Moms STL says, “Allowing people to live inside of homes that are contaminated with the world’s oldest nuclear weapons waste is unacceptable and extremely irresponsible. For over five years, the community has endured breathing in toxic fumes from the underground fire at the landfill and there’s no clear end in sight. The Missouri Attorney General indicates a Chernobyl-like event could occur if/when the underground fire collides with the Manhattan Project waste. The schools in the area are on alert for a shelter-in-place event and have asked parents to stock-pile their children’s medication at school in the event they cannot be released. There is a higher than normal incidence of brain cancer in children under 17 in areas around the West Lake Landfill. Families are sick with bloody noses, asthma, and other respiratory illness and often keep children indoors because the toxic odors are so bad.”

Just Moms STL is calling on EPA Federal Administrator Gina McCarthy to use her power under CERCLA and Governor Jay Nixon to relocate families today.

Backyard Talk

FIGO Pushes Against Toxic Environmental Chemicals and Champions Environmental Justice

“Exposure to toxic environmental chemicals during pregnancy and breastfeeding is ubiquitous and is a threat to healthy human reproduction.”

That’s a pretty direct and bold statement. It is also a statement that outlines the stance of the International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics (FIGO) in a report recently published in the International Journal of Gynecology and Obstetrics. Suffice it to say it is not sugar coated.

The report, titled “International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics opinion on reproductive health impacts of exposure to toxic environmental chemicals” and authored by experts from the US, UK and Canada, makes a strong argument that prenatal exposures to toxic chemicals in the environment such as pesticides, plastics and metals are strongly related to health problems that develop throughout the lifespan of affected individuals. This means that problems like fertility issues, stillbirths, miscarriages, cancer, and attention problems are all strongly associated with exposure to unwanted chemicals during gestation and early child development.

This information is nothing new – the literature on the topic of cumulative chemical exposures during childhood development is comprehensive. But it is a new and powerful statement coming from an organization that is the leading global voice of reproductive health professionals in over 125 countries/territories.

Gian Carlo Di Renzo, leading author of the report, put it quite eloquently: “We are drowning our world in untested and unsafe chemicals and the price we are paying in terms of our reproductive health is of serious concern”. These chemicals account for tremendous losses. According to the report, ambient and household air pollution results in at least 7 million deaths a year, costs of pesticide poisoning in the Sub-Saharan region are estimated to be $66 billion, costs attributable to exposure to only a select few endocrine-disrupting chemicals was conservatively estimated to be on average €157 billion per year… the statistics go on an on.

FIGO takes a strong stance against toxic chemicals, offering health professionals four recommendations: “advocate for policies to prevent exposure to toxic environmental chemicals, work to ensure a healthy food system for all, make environmental health part of health care, and champion environmental justice.” These suggestions are in line with CHEJ’s mission and vision, and we congratulate FIGO for developing and actively pursuing this policy stance

Backyard Talk

Missouri Mothers Ask For Relief this Mother’s Day

Community moms with sick children traveled from Bridgeton, MO to Washington D.C. to demand action from EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy and Philanthropist Bill Gates – to use their power to save innocent families living adjacent to Republic Service’s Superfund landfill in St. Louis, MO that is burning out-of-control and contains radioactive wastes from the Manhattan Project.

Republic’s landfill has been burning due to an underground fire that has been spewing toxins for years – leaving nearby families physically harmed and financially trapped. The state of Missouri found that the community has a childhood cancer cluster, a high number of rare appendix cancers, and many other diseases which local families believe are directly related to the fire and radioactive wastes.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has the authority to protect and move families under the Superfund program. Bill Gates has the power to protect and move families using his voting power as the dominant shareholder of Republic Services. Donald Slager, Republic Services CEO, is the owner of the site has a moral responsibility.

“It is outrageous that EPA Administrator McCarthy is allowing this poisoning of American families to continue.  McCarthy has mismanaged this site for years. Additionally, she relocated (or “transferred” –  what the EPA does instead of firing) everyone – including EPA’s regional administrator Karl Brooks – while innocent people are trapped living in fear. The state of Missouri admitted that the fire will never be put out and it will be more than two years before the first shovel of dirt is moved to build a barrier wall between the fire and radioactive waste. This is unacceptable. EPA has the authority to move families away from the danger through Superfund. McCarthy must use her authority to protect innocent American families,” said Lois Gibbs, Executive Director of the Center for Health, Environment and Justice.

“My child is suffering with an autoimmune disease called alopecia and from asthma. Besides that, our community has a childhood cancer cluster – so I go to bed at night worried that my son will also develop cancer. I think if Administrator Gina McCarthy heard our story, she’d agree to move our families now,” said Meagan Beckermann, a resident and member of the community group Just Moms STL.

Dawn Chapman, another mom and Just Moms STL member who flew to DC from St. Louis, hoping for a meeting with McCarthy, said, “We are living next to an out-of-control burning Superfund site that just had a 500% increase in sulfur emissions over the past year alone.”

“Property values are declining in communities surrounding the site. We are imprisoned in our homes that we cannot morally sell with good conscience,” said Karen Nickel, another member of Just Moms STL.

A group representing Just Moms STL marched to EPA headquarters today to deliver a letter to Administrator McCarthy and hand out flyers asking those passing by to contact the Administrator’s office and urge her to meet with the victims of the out-of-control fire and radioactive dumpsite.

The group of protesters then marched to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in D.C. to deliver over 1,500 signatures on a petition to ask Bill Gates to use his voice and power as the dominant shareholder in Republic Services to ask the corporation to stop the suffering, and to purchase the homes of victims who need to be moved away from the toxic landfill.

Photos are available at:

Photo credit CHEJ


Backyard Talk

Chemical Exposures and Health Care Costs

A new economic analysis has concluded that exposure to endocrine-disrupting chemicals likely costs the European Union €157 billion ($209 billion U.S.) a year in actual health care expenses and lost earning potential, according to a new series of studies published in the Endocrine Society’s Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism.

A total of four papers were published (overview, neurobehavioralmale reproduction and obesity & diabetes) that focused on specific health conditions that can partly be attributed to endocrine-disrupting chemical (EDC) exposure. These included infertility and male reproductive dysfunction, birth defects, obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and neurobehavioural and learning disorders. A team of eighteen researchers from eight countries led by Leonardo Trasande, Associate Professor of Pediatrics, Environmental Medicine & Population Health at NYU Medical Center, were involved in this landmark initiative.

EDCs interfere with numerous hormone functions and are commonly found in thousands of household products including plastics made with vinyl, electronics, pesticides, and cosmetics.

The overview paper concluded that “EDC exposures in the EU are likely to contribute substantially to disease and dysfunction across the life course with costs in the hundreds of billions per year. These estimates represent only those EDCs with the highest probability of causation; a broader analysis would have produced greater estimates of burden of disease and costs.”

The papers were prepared in conjunction with an evaluation being done by the EU Commission of the economic impact to industry of regulating EDCs in Europe. According to the authors, “Our goal here is to estimate the health and economic benefit of regulating EDCs in Europe, based on current evidence.”

The expert panels put together for this analysis “achieved consensus for probable (20%) EDC causation for IQ loss and associated intellectual disability, autism, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, childhood obesity, adult obesity, adult diabetes, cryptorchidism, male infertility, and mortality associated with reduced T.”

“The analysis demonstrates just how staggering the cost of widespread endocrine-disrupting chemical exposure is to society,” said Leonardo Trasande, the lead author in a press statement released by the Endocrine Society. “This research crystalizes more than three decades of lab and population-based studies of endocrine-disrupting chemicals in the EU.”

The press release goes on to say:

In the EU, researchers found the biggest cost driver was loss of IQ and intellectual disabilities caused by prenatal exposure to pesticides containing organophosphates. The study estimated the harm done to unborn children costs society between €46.8 billion and €195 billion a year. About 13 million lost IQ points and 59,300 additional cases of intellectual disability per year can be attributed to organophosphate exposure.

“Adult obesity linked to phthalate exposure generated the second-highest total, with estimated costs of €15.6 billion a year.

“Our findings show that limiting exposure to the most common and hazardous endocrine-disrupting chemicals is likely to yield significant economic benefits,” said one of the study’s authors, Philippe Grandjean, MD, PhD, Professor of Environmental Medicine at the University of Southern Denmark and Adjunct Professor at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. “This approach has the potential to inform decision-making in the environmental health arena. We are hoping to bring the latest endocrine science to the attention of policymakers as they weigh how to regulate these toxic chemicals.”

The impact of this paper is staggering. It should be a “wake up call” said Linda Birnbaum, Director of the U.S. National Institute for Environmental Health Sciences when asked about the results. It also provides more evidence that low level exposure to chemicals found in everyday household products is affecting the health of many people not just in the Europe, but worldwide.