Posts tagged: Health and Toxics

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Health and Toxics


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Everyone has The Right To Breathe clean air. Watch a video featuring Earthjustice Attorney Jim Pew and two Pennsylvanians—Marti Blake and Martin Garrigan—who know firsthand what it means to live in the shadow of a coal plant's smokestack, breathing in daily lungfuls of toxic air for more than two decades.

Coal Ash Contaminates Our Lives. Coal ash is the hazardous waste that remains after coal is burned. Dumped into unlined ponds or mines, the toxins readily leach into drinking water supplies. Watch the video above and take action to support federally enforceable safeguards for coal ash disposal.

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unEARTHED is a forum for the voices and stories of the people behind Earthjustice's work. The views and opinions expressed in this blog do not necessarily represent the opinion or position of Earthjustice or its board, clients, or funders.

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View Jessica Knoblauch's blog posts
07 December 2012, 5:11 PM
Your dog’s favorite chew toy may be loaded with more than just slobber
Credit: TheGiantVermin (flickr)

Your favorite four-legged companion may get a dose of toxic chemicals the next time you throw him/her a chew toy.

That’s the conclusion of an as-yet unpublished study, which found that dogs that chew on plastic toys may be exposed to hormone-altering chemicals like bisphenol A (BPA) and phthalates. The new study, conducted at Texas Tech University, is one of the first to examine dog products as carriers of toxic chemicals. It’s not the first study, however, to look at the health effects of BPA and phthalates, which are widespread in the U.S. population and have been linked to everything from reproductive toxicity to obesity.

View Raviya Ismail's blog posts
04 December 2012, 3:36 PM
Disproportionate burden of coal plant emissions placed on such communities

The results of a comprehensive study investigating the impacts of living near 378 coal plants in the United States have found that people of color and low-income communities are disproportionately more burdened by this pollution than any other segment of the population. Coal Blooded was pulled together by the NAACP, Little Village Environmental Justice Organization (LVEJO) and the Indigenous Environmental Network.

View Patti Goldman's blog posts
03 December 2012, 5:53 PM
Supreme Court considers two citizen enforcement cases
The U.S. Supreme Court. (Mark Fischer)

The U.S. Supreme Court is considering a pair of cases that could cut back on the ability of citizens to enforce the Clean Water Act. Although different, at their core, both afford the court opportunities either to preserve or weaken the power of citizens to hold polluters accountable for harming our nation’s waters.

The Clean Water Act, enacted four decades ago, aimed to make the nation’s waters drinkable, fishable, and swimmable. To make good on this promise, it prohibits discharges of pollution into U.S. waters without a permit and holds polluters to the limits imposed in such permits. Congress gave citizens the power to enforce the Clean Water Act, for Congress recognized that the government often lacks the financial resources and political will to enforce environmental laws against violators. In this way, the Act enlists people who use treasured waters or live near facilities that expose their communities to untenable pollution to stand in the shoes of the government to enforce the law against wrongdoers.

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View Jared Saylor's blog posts
30 November 2012, 12:14 PM
Defends DoD Bill against unrelated Hoeven Coal Ash Amendment
Sen. Boxer takes a stand against false rider tactics.

Some members of the Senate believe it’s acceptable to write up legislation to prevent the EPA from regulating toxic coal ash—and then attach it to a completely unrelated bill.

They tried unsuccessfully earlier this summer to put it into must-pass legislation that would help maintain and improve our nation’s highway infrastructure. They’re considering including it as a “rider” on the pending “fiscal cliff” bill. They even talked about putting it on a spending bill for the Department of Defense.

It seems some senators know no bounds on allowing polluters to continue dumping this waste—filled with arsenic, lead, mercury and more—into unlined and unmonitored ponds and landfills next to coal-fired power plants. Already, coal ash has polluted lakes, rivers, streams and aquifers at nearly 200 sites across the country.

But yesterday, one senator made clear that she’s not willing to allow dangerous environmental riders onto unrelated legislation.

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View Raviya Ismail's blog posts
29 November 2012, 11:22 AM
Nearly two-thirds of those surveyed support standards
The microscopic size of soot allows it to lodge deep within the lung. (Chris Jordan-Bloch / Earthjustice.)

They have spoken! Nearly two-thirds of American voters are demanding stronger protections against one of the most dangerous and pervasive pollutants around: soot.

Today, the American Lung Association released results from a national survey of 942 registered voters, finding that support for these clean air protections is broad and deep, with strong majority backing even after hearing balanced messages on both aisles of the debate.

Now it’s time for the EPA and the White House to listen: on Dec. 14, 2012, the EPA will release final updated standards for PM 2.5 (soot). Earlier this year the EPA proposed updated clean air safeguards that will prevent thousands of premature deaths and take steps toward clearing hazy air in national parks.

The proposal came in response to legal action filed by Earthjustice on behalf of the Lung Association and the National Parks Conservation Association.

The polling specifically finds that 62 percent of voters favor the proposal, compared to 30 percent who oppose it. Nearly 40 percent of voters strongly favor the standards, while only 20 percent express strong opposition.

ALA poll results.

A survey by ALA found broad and deep support for stronger soot standards.
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View Lisa Evans's blog posts
28 November 2012, 1:16 PM
Lawmakers are leading nation to environmental cliff
More than a hundred million gallons of coal ash slurry were released when a coal ash dam failed, flooding Buffalo Creek Valley in West Virginia.

In the aftermath of a major catastrophe, lawmakers and regulators should be held accountable to create new safety protocols to avert future disasters. Incidents like the Cuyahoga River catching fire and the Exxon Valdez oil spill prompted changes in how we protect our nation’s waters from industrial chemicals. The Buffalo Creek disaster in West Virginia in 1972 likewise prompted changes to the regulation of dams storing toxic materials. Similarly, we must demand changes to how coal ash is handled, following the largest toxic waste spill in our nation’s history—the spill in Kingston, Tennessee in December 2008, which will have its fourth anniversary in a few weeks.

Former Director of the National Mine Health and Safety Academy Jack Spadaro remembers the Buffalo Creek disaster and knows that its grim legacy still casts a shadow today.

View Daniel Hubbell's blog posts
20 November 2012, 2:37 PM
Cancer-causing chemical threatens lungs of many
Chromium plating facilities emit high levels of the carcinogen into local communities.  (Neal Sanche)

Chromium shows up in surprising places in modern society—most notably on car bumpers and furniture to improve how they look. Too often, the facilities that do this kind of plating put the carcinogen hexavalent chromium into the air in local communities where they operate.

The highly toxic chemical was made infamous by Erin Brockovich’s work on a California case where hexavalent chromium leaked into a town’s drinking water. The case resulted in action against Pacific Gas and Electric Company, which settled for several hundred million dollars. Yet that case has hardly been the only incident, or the only way, that hexavalent chromium from these facilities can affect people’s health.

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View Raviya Ismail's blog posts
19 November 2012, 10:51 AM
Clean air champions go to court on "fracking" and other drilling air rules
Heavy smoke caused by flaring operations at natural gas well located on state land near Pinedale, WY.  (William Belveal)

Last Wednesday, a group of clean air advocates intervened to protect crucial air safeguards that will curb pollution emitted during oil and gas drilling. Unfortunately the state of Texas and their allies with the American Petroleum Institute and a variety of other state alliances of oil and gas companies are pushing back against these necessary protections.

But here are the facts: industry and their allies are hyping natural gas as a miracle fuel, yet the gas drilling sector—which includes the controversial practice of hydraulic fracturing or “fracking”—has worsened air quality around the country. In some parts of the country undergoing a gas drilling boom, air quality has fallen below levels the EPA determined to be safe. This is a growing problem that is wreaking havoc on our lungs.

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View Jared Saylor's blog posts
16 November 2012, 1:09 PM
4 years after the Tennessee coal ash spill, problems continue to grow
Aerial view of the devastating 2008 coal ash disaster in Tennessee. (TVA)

Four years ago, a small Tennessee town woke up to a nightmare. A nearby coal ash pond that held back more than a billion gallons of toxic waste collapsed, sending a flood of ash and dirt right through their doors. In the weeks and months that followed, an entire nation began to see the magnitude of the coal ash threat.

Cleaning up the Clinch River near Kingston, TN, continues. Just last week, the Tennessee Valley Authority—the owners of the coal ash dam that burst—announced plans to let nature take its course in removing the remaining half a million tons of ash.  Coal ash activist, Watauga Riverkeeper and Earthjustice client Donna Lisenby summed it up best: "Five hundred cubic yards is enough coal ash to fill a football field almost 94 feet high from end zone to end zone. Coal ash contains arsenic, lead, chromium and many other toxic pollutants. Leaving that much ash in the river system to combine with all the other legacy pollutants just increases the total pollutant load."

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View Liz Judge's blog posts
16 November 2012, 12:54 PM
Historic agreement signals beginning of end for tragic mining practice

Yesterday, one of the nation’s top coal companies, Patriot Coal, announced that it is getting out of the business of mountaintop removal mining. The decision comes out of a settlement with several Appalachian community groupsWest Virginia Highlands Conservancy, Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition, Sierra Club, represented by Appalachian Mountain Advocates—requiring Patriot to clean up toxic selenium pollution running off into streams and rivers from two mountaintop removal sites in West Virginia.

This news marks the beginning of the end of mountaintop removal mining. This is the first time a coal company is publicly acknowledging community impacts of this destructive and extreme form of mining. Now, it's up to all of us to finish the job and demand that our nation's leaders in the White House and in Congress end mountaintop removal before coal companies do more damage. They shouldn't be left to their own timelines: We need to work to end this sooner.

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