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 Ted Zukoski's blog posts
14 January 2014, 4:07 PM
Add the Elk River chemical spill to coal's hidden costs
The true price of coal is paid through hospital bills and devastated communities. (Alexan2008 / iStock)

Did we really need another reason not to like coal as an energy source? Ready or not, we have one.

The standard list is already pretty long: Climate change from burning coal in power plants... Coal ash spills... Mountaintop removal and valley fills... Air pollution damaging lungs and polluting lakes... Roadless areas and rangeland bulldozed or blown up.

Now add to the list: chemical spills that make water undrinkable.

View Jennifer Chavez's blog posts
13 January 2014, 12:45 PM
"Freedom Zones" act could assure more W. Virginia water spills
The lives of hundreds of thousands of people have been severely disrupted by the spill. (iStockphoto)

Those who push an extreme anti-environmental agenda often use the concept of freedom to promote their ideas. They are not concerned with your freedom to breathe clean air or to drink clean water. Instead they want to give corporations the freedom to exploit natural resources without regard for the adverse impacts, and they want to ensure that polluters have freedom from accountability for the potentially deadly impacts of their actions.

In December, Kentucky politicians proposed to “free” unemployed residents from environmental laws that protect their health and well-being.

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View Lisa Evans's blog posts
09 January 2014, 8:51 AM
House Bill eviscerates landmark law, threatening public safety
Why does House leadership want to eviscerate Superfund? (USDA Photo)

It’s a hustle of grand proportions and deadly consequences. The House of Representatives will vote today on H.R. 2279, a bill that guts Superfund—the law that requires industries to handle their hazardous waste safely and clean up their toxic spills.

The bill strikes at the heart of the Superfund, which over the past three decades has allowed the EPA and other federal agencies to identify and clean up thousands of polluted sites across the country. The bill is so radically dangerous that the White House issued a statement asserting that H.R. 2279 could cause “significant site cleanup delays, endangering public health and the environment," and recommended the President veto the bill. More than120 public interest groups have also called for its defeat in a letter to Congress.

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View Raviya Ismail's blog posts
06 January 2014, 10:47 AM
Taking time away from college and work, Selena Zelaya returns to D.C.
Selena with her father Miguel. (Photo by Matt Roth)

Last week, I interviewed 18-year-old Selena Zelaya of Mount Dora, Florida. Selena was one of about a dozen farmworker advocates who traveled to D.C. in July to lobby for farmworker protections against harmful pesticides. Selena’s mother and father are farmworkers and from a young age she began advocating on behalf of them and others. She returns to D.C. this week with representatives of Florida and North Carolina to meet with congressional representatives.

In the interview, Selena shared why she is so committed to the fight for farmworker protections:

Q. Why do you come to D.C. to lobby on this issue of farmworker rights?
A: I think it’s an important issue. My parents suffer from pesticide exposure and I think it’s important that everyone is aware of this issue—and I think it’s important for young people to get involved because this issue affects their future.

View Suma Peesapati's blog posts
31 December 2013, 10:03 AM
The journey towards a clean energy future in New Mexico
The Four Corners Power Plant has been operating without modern pollution controls for the past fifty years. (Photo courtesy of Ecoflight)

Arizona Public Service Company officially announced yesterday that it will retire Units 1, 2, and 3 of the Four Corners Power Plant by January 1, 2014 and install long-overdue pollution controls on the plant’s remaining two units by July 31, 2018.

Built before the Clean Air Act was enacted, this coal plant has been operating without modern pollution controls for the past fifty years. Uncontrolled pollution from this plant threatens the health of its Navajo neighbors and mars visibility in surrounding national parks, including the iconic Grand Canyon. Retirement of three of the plant’s units is an important step forward for environmental justice, protection of public lands, and our ongoing struggle against climate change.

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View Brian Smith's blog posts
24 December 2013, 1:05 PM
Sharks and oil and honeybees, oh my!
How much of Yosemite Valley will you be able to see on your next visit? Read more in the #10 unEARTHED blog post of the year. (Chrissy Pepino / Earthjustice)

Looking back at the most popular blog posts from 2013 we find a wide variety of subjects generated substantial readership.

unEARTHED readers were all over the map this year. Your concerns are wide and varied.

And that should give us all hope.

So, counting down (just in case you missed one) here are the Top Ten Most Read unEARTHED blog posts of 2013.

View Shannon Fisk's blog posts
24 December 2013, 7:25 AM
Coal plants need to retire for the benefit of public health
The costliness of coal becomes more evident once you factor in the significant damage that it does to public health. (Photo by TVA)

This piece was originally published in EarthShare’s blog, one of Earthjustice’s partner groups working toward connecting people and workplaces with effective ways to support critical environmental causes. This featured Q&A reveals the answers about our reliance on coal.

Q: Why is coal such a dangerous source of energy?

A: For more than a century, coal has been used as a primary source of energy for electricity generation, steel production and cement manufacturing. But each step associated with energy generation from coal threatens our environment and our health.

Mining coal destroys entire ecosystems. In Appalachia, the practice of mountaintop removal mining is common, and entire mountaintops are blown apart to get at thin seams of coal. The rubble is dumped into nearby valleys, poisoning headwaters that provide drinking water for millions of Americans. As coal is burned in power plants, it produces mercury and arsenic as well as other chemicals that combine to form smog, soot, and acid rain, causing 13,200 premature deaths every year. This toxic air pollution can also impair development in children and cause cancer and other health problems.

View Debra Mayfield's blog posts
23 December 2013, 10:04 AM
Harriman, TN residents are not the only ones dealing with legacy of the spill
Esther Calhoun is one of many community members who are fighting for health protections to be enforced at the Arrowhead Landfill. (Photo by Chris Jordan-Bloch)

It’s been five years, but hard to forget: On December 22, 2008, just after midnight, the town of Harriman, Tennessee woke to the flood of more than one billion gallons of toxic coal ash sludge that burst through an earthen dam on the Tennessee Valley Authority’s Kingston Fossil Plant. It was one of the worst environmental disasters in U.S. history—its volume 101 times larger than that of the Exxon Valdez oil spill. One resident described the boom of the breach as something supernatural, like the sound of the end of the world. The disaster damaged or destroyed two dozen homes, destroyed power lines, washed out roads, ruptured a major gas line and water main, and killed thousands of fish and other wildlife.

Harriman residents were dealing with a monumental disaster. But in the long saga of cleanup and recovery, they weren’t the only ones dealing with the legacy of this spill.

Flash forward to 2010. Only a small percentage of the ash had been cleaned up, and residents of Harriman were losing patience. Though local papers reported that TVA had considered keeping the coal ash within state lines, with the approval of the Alabama Department of Environmental Management (ADEM), they chose to move the 4 million cubic yards of poisonous ash across state lines and dump it at the Arrowhead Landfill in Perry County Alabama, a county that is 68 percent African American, according to the 2010 Census and one of the poorest in that state.

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View Raviya Ismail's blog posts
09 December 2013, 2:13 PM
Cross-State Air Pollution Rule would yield up to $280 billion in health benefits
A regional smog layer extends across central New York, western Lake Erie and Ohio, and further west. Winds bring ozone and chemicals that participate in its formation to areas downwind of emission sources. (NASA JSC)

Today, the highest court of the land will hear argument in a case that is important to anyone with lungs.

Here’s the issue in brief: after a court of appeals invalidated the U.S. EPA’s Cross-State Air Pollution Rule (CSAPR), environmental groups, the EPA itself and various states, asked the Supreme Court to get involved.

A vital air safeguard, the 2011 rule would require power plants in more than two dozen states to clean up nitrogen oxide and sulfur dioxide pollution that drifts across state borders and contributes to harmful soot (particles) and smog (ozone) pollution in downwind states. This cleanup would every year prevent 13,000 to 34,000 premature deaths, 15,000 non-fatal heart attacks, 19,000 hospital and emergency room visits, 19,000 episodes of acute bronchitis, 420,000 upper and lower respiratory symptoms, 400,000 episodes of aggravated asthma, and 1.8 million days of missed work or school. The EPA also projects that the rule’s pollution reductions will help protect not just people, but also the natural resources on which we depend, including national and state parks, and ecosystems including the Adirondack lakes and Appalachian streams, coastal waters and estuaries, and forests. Overall, the rule would provide up to $280 billion in health and environmental benefits.

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View Eve Gartner's blog posts
26 November 2013, 2:10 PM
Beginning in 2014, furniture no longer must be treated with toxics
Chemicals like those used in flame retardants in household furniture often escape as vapor or airborne particles. (PSR LA)

Chemical flame retardants, which are present in a wide array of household products, have been linked to cancer and developmental, neurological and reproductive problems. 

And chances are, if you are sitting on a padded chair or couch, it contains these noxious chemicals. To make matters worse, these chemicals are not sealed into the furniture and so they migrate into the air and attach to house dust. Most Americans, especially those living in California, have high body burden levels of flame retardants with children having the highest levels. Wastewater transports these chemicals into the outdoor environment where they have been detected in surface waters, sediments and wildlife around the globe. 

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