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 Vernice Miller-Travis's blog posts
09 February 2011, 7:47 AM
Federal oversight needed to clean up Chesapeake Bay

(This is the latest in a weekly series of 50 Tr-Ash Talk blogs discussing the dangers of coal ash. Earthjustice hopes that by December 2011, the third anniversary of the TVA coal ash spill, the EPA will release a coal ash rule establishing federally enforceable regulations ensuring the safe disposal of this toxic waste. Vernice Miller-Travis is the Vice Chair of the Maryland Commission on Environmental Justice and Sustainable Communities.)

One of the biggest environmental challenges in Maryland is protecting and improving the quality of the waters of the Chesapeake Bay. There are hundreds of rivers and streams that traverse our state, many of which feed into the Chesapeake Bay. Though we are a thoroughly modern state, we are also a state that has a large agricultural base, and a huge part of our economy is based on seafood, which generations of Waterman have fished out of the Chesapeake Bay. We are famous for our blue crabs and oysters.  

Here in Maryland, we are having our own version of a national debate at the local level. The vast majority of our electric power is produced at coal-fired power plants across the state. Already, several documented instances of violations of the Clean Water Act have been identified at coal ash landfills and impoundment sites in our state. Maryland is home to multiple coal combustion waste sites that have contaminated drinking water wells and polluted surface waters and the environment with arsenic, cadmium, selenium, nickel, thallium and other toxic pollutants.

Our state Attorney General’s office and the Maryland Department of the Environment have filed a lawsuit against Mirant Mid-Atlantic, LLC and Mirant Maryland Ash Management, LLC for violations of the Clean Water Act at the Mirant Faulkner coal combustion waste landfill in Charles County, and the Mirant Brandywine coal combustion waste landfill in Prince George’s County not far from the banks of the Patuxent River, a major tributary to the Chesapeake Bay.

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View Sam Edmondson's blog posts
08 February 2011, 3:57 PM
Reports strongly support first-ever EPA protections

Next month, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will propose the first ever health protections against power plants’ toxic air pollution. No industrial source of dirty air poses greater risks to human health or the environment than these juggernauts, which have never been subject to federal limits on their emissions of mercury, arsenic, acid gases and carcinogens such as dioxins.

Power plants are also among the worst emitters of fine particle pollution (a.k.a. PM 2.5), a microscopic mixture of liquid and solid droplets suspended in the air that can penetrate deep into our lungs. Fine particle pollution takes a serious toll on our health—particularly on some of the most vulnerable individuals in our society such as children, the elderly, and low-income and communities of color who live downwind of a disproportionate number of these and other industrial facilities.

In a report released in Sep. 2010, the Clean Air Task Force presented data that project fine particle pollution from coal-fired power plants would cause 13,200 deaths, 20,400 heart attacks, 217,600 asthma attacks, and more than 1.5 million days when people have to miss work in 2010. In all, these negative impacts to our health cost us more than $100 billion.

View Emily Enderle's blog posts
08 February 2011, 12:56 PM
Is this convenience too good to be true?
Emily at work.

(Editor's note: This is a cross post from Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families.)

In this fast-paced world, who has time for ironing?

Not me. Between educating policy-makers on the need to protect Americans from toxic chemicals during the week and playing sports on the weekends, I barely have time to wash my clothes let alone iron them.

Not only is ironing time consuming, it somehow manages to be both futile and really scary at the same time. By the time I finish navigating that chrome-coated burn machine around the buttons, cuffs, and collars on my work shirts, about all I have to show for my efforts is a moderately less wrinkled shirt and a scalded forearm or two. Seriously, the bounce cycle on my dryer produces more consistent results.

Which is why when I discovered wrinkle-free (!) shirts, I thanked my lucky stars and quickly stocked my work wardrobe with multiple colors and styles of these perpetually pressed wonders.

View Sam Edmondson's blog posts
07 February 2011, 2:56 PM
Editorial pages make strong defense of clean air health protections

Over the weekend, the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times both ran editorials in defense of clean air. Set against the increasing number of congressional maneuvers to stymie the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and its popular programs for clean air, it is refreshing to see two of the nation’s largest newspapers take a strong position in support of Americans’ right to breathe.

Among the EPA’s many important efforts to protect public health are limits on mercury and other toxic air pollutants from cement plants, industrial boilers and incinerators, and the worst of all mercury polluters, power plants. These health protections will save lives and money by making our air safer to breathe.

From the New York Times editorial:

The agency does have a heavy regulatory agenda. It will issue proposals not only on greenhouse gases but also ozone, sulfur dioxide and mercury, which poisons lakes and fish. These regulations are fully consistent with the Clean Air Act. Some of them should have been completed during the Bush years; all are essential to protect the environment. The agency’s administrator, Lisa Jackson, has moved cautiously, making clear that she will target only the largest polluters and not, as the Republicans claim, mom-and-pop businesses.

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View Raviya Ismail's blog posts
04 February 2011, 1:50 PM
Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson refutes colleague's attacks
Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson

Let’s hear it for the champions of clean air!

We at Earthjustice have spent the past several weeks countering one clean air attack after another as several elected leaders have aligned themselves with dirty polluters. But there are some in Congress who are not thinking of lining industry’s pockets and instead thinking of protecting their constituents’ right to breathe.

Among them: Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) who in an editorial today takes on colleague Rep. John Carter (R-TX) for his attack on important air rules that would drastically cut the amount of mercury in the air.

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View Sam Edmondson's blog posts
04 February 2011, 1:04 PM
Powerful op-ed from Alex Allred, mother of three, takes Rep. Carter to task
Alex Allred.

Alex Allred is a wife, mother of three, author, former Olympic bobsledder (!), and passionate advocate for clean air. Years ago, she and her family moved to Midlothian, Texas. Said Allred, “We moved here partly because we thought it would be a great place to raise our three kids.”

Shortly after the move, however, Alex’s son got sick with flu-like symptoms, pneumonia, and then double pneumonia. “He’d collapse on the floor. I’d pick him up and drive like a maniac to the emergency room.” It happened six times. The diagnosis given was environmental asthma.

The catalyst for her son’s sudden respiratory ailment rested in one of Midlothian’s distinguishing features: a large number of nearby cement plants. Allred ultimately got involved with Downwinders at Risk, a Dallas-based education and advocacy group on whose board she currently serves, and took her concerns over the unregulated toxic pollution from cement plants to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

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View Sam Edmondson's blog posts
03 February 2011, 4:41 PM
Recent reports detail sky-high mercury emissions of the worst toxic polluters

When it comes to mercury pollution, coal-fired power plants are king. Two recent reports—one from the Environmental Integrity Project, the other from Environment America—take a look at the scope of the problem.

EIP has meticulously tracked mercury pollution from power plants for years in their Dirty Kilowatts reports. But this year is an especially important time to focus on this unresolved pollution problem, as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is currently on a court-ordered deadline won by Earthjustice and a broad coalition of environmental and public health groups to issue the first-ever health protections against emissions of mercury and other toxic pollutants from power plants. The draft health protections are due March 16, 2011.

According to EIP’s report—“America’s Power Plant Mercury Polluters: The Good, the Bad, and the Dirty”—the 50 worst mercury polluters generated nearly half of the power plant industry’s total mercury emissions. These 50 dirty plants emitted 33,280 pounds of mercury—a shocking number when you consider it takes only 1/70th of a teaspoon of mercury to pollute a 20-acre lake to the point where fish are unsafe to eat.

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View Liz Judge's blog posts
03 February 2011, 3:06 PM
Legislators who do and don't partner with polluters
Rep. Fred Upton

Early last evening, Reps. Fred Upton and Ed Whitfield, along with Sen. James Inhofe, released a draft of the latest bill in Congress taking aim at air pollution protections.

This wasn’t a surprise, as they’ve been talking to press about their toils on legislation that would reverse current limits on carbon dioxide pollution. They are targeting the first-ever restrictions on CO2 on behalf of major polluting industries that until now have been able to spew this air pollutant unrestrained and at quantities unmeasured.

Volumes of current science show us that carbon dioxide pollution threatens our health. In addition to contributing to deadly heat waves and extreme climate conditions, it exacerbates smog pollution and worsens asthma and lung diseases.

Rep. Upton and his collaborators on this bill seem determined to wipe away these air pollution protections. But why? Like we keep saying, follow the dirty energy money in Congress to see who supports letting big polluters off the hook time after time.

View Sam Edmondson's blog posts
02 February 2011, 4:46 PM
New survey reaffirms that public wants clean air, health protections
President George H.W. Bush signs Clean Air Act Amendments into law on Nov. 15, 1990. (George Bush Presidential Library and Museum)

Sixty-three percent of Americans want the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency “to do more to hold polluters accountable and protect the air and water.” This according to a new survey conducted at the end of January by ORC International.

Rep. John Carter (D-TX)—fast becoming a household name around here—isn’t part of that 63 percent. In early January, Rep. Carter sponsored a resolution to effectively block EPA health protections that will limit emissions of mercury and other dangerous air toxics from cement plants. These protections could prevent the premature death of as many as 2,500 people every year when they take effect in 2013.

Notwithstanding the fact that Rep. Carter has seriously misrepresented the facts in his push to win support for his anti-health resolution, a large majority of Americans generally disagree with his approach. The ORC survey found that 77 percent of Americans—more than three out of every four—say “Congress (should) let the EPA do its job.”

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View Raviya Ismail's blog posts
02 February 2011, 12:22 PM
Perchlorate and hex chromium on her list of offending chemicals

At a Senate Environment and Public Works Committee hearing to discuss clean drinking water, today, Administrator Lisa Jackson announced that the agency would be setting the first-ever standard to limit perchlorate in our water. Perchlorate is a toxic rocket fuel ingredient that is especially harmful to fetuses, babies and young children.

Jackson said between 5 and 17 million Americans are exposed to this chemical in their water. She also detailed the agency’s plan to protect Americans from hexavalent chromium leaking into tap water, which made headlines a few weeks ago after the Environmental Working Group testing water found the carcinogenic chemical in 31 out of 35 tested cities. This hearing is on the heels of a report Earthjustice and other groups released yesterday showing that several leaking coal ash sites also are contaminated with hexavalent chromium.

During the hearing, Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD) mentioned constituents in Prince George’s County who have had to boil their drinking water due to water main breaks. He also mentioned the report by Earthjustice, Physicians for Social Responsibility, and Environmental Integrity Project, expressing further concern about the new link between coal ash and hexavalent chromium.