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
21 January 2011, 10:35 AM
Canned mercury, dirty Apples, pollution-seeking sweatshirts
Protesters against hydraulic fracturing in the Marcellus Shale. Photo courtesy of Marcellus Protest.

Celebrity disses hydraulic fracturing
Forget traipsing around a creepy island with Leonardo DiCaprio. Actor Mark Ruffalo recently went on a much more daring crusade in his latest roll as a passionate environmental advocate speaking out against the practice of hydraulic fracturing, according to HuffPo. After attending an NYC event called "Fracking and Its Effects: A Panel Discussion," Ruffalo told HuffPo in an exclusive interview that risky technologies like fracking will lead to "greater degradation…and greater catastrophes," urging people to speak out on the issue. Visit Earthjustice's Web site to see how you can help put the brakes on fracking.

High-tech sweatshirt detects air pollution
A pair of NYU grad students with a flair for combining fashion and science have created a high-tech sweatshirt that features an image of pink lungs whose veins turn blue after coming in contact with air pollution, reports the NY Daily News. A tiny carbon monoxide sensor embedded in the shirt can pick up air pollutants from a range of sources, like cars and second-hand smoke. At $60 a pop, it's unlikely that the shirts will be mass produced any time soon, but in the meantime the shirts make quite the fashion statement.

View Raviya Ismail's blog posts
18 January 2011, 4:29 PM
Low-income community rebels against proposed 15-story toxic coal ash landfill
TVA landfill full of coal ash

(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.)

The average home value in Round O, South Carolina, is just above $66K. The average household income is below $30K. And now, according to an article in a local newspaper, a power company plans on building a site to store toxic coal ash from its coal plant nearby.

Is it coincidental that these impoundments are often built near low-income communities? We think not. It’s a known phenomenon that low-income and people of color neighborhoods across the country face disproportionately high levels of air and water pollution and exposure to toxic waste and other health hazards because federal environmental laws often are not fairly enforced. And sadly, Round O, fits the profile.

While we wait on the EPA to release a federally enforceable coal ash rule that would ensure the safe disposal of this toxic waste, President Barack Obama has signed an executive order that aims to achieve "balance" in federal regulations -- between ensuring public health and safety and promoting economic growth.

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View Ray Wan's blog posts
18 January 2011, 1:18 PM
Fakes, not faces, are served up by coal industry

Walk through an airport in Washington, D.C. and you may come across this ad by a coal lobbying group:

Photo of coal lobbying group ad. Credit: RAN.

Credit: RAN.

Now, aside from wondering how exactly the EPA would destroy Appalachian jobs, you may be puzzled about the campaign name: “Faces of Coal.” Who exactly are these faces and why are they not on this ad? You would think that using a real human face would have a stronger emotional connection than a generic stock image of a padlocked gate. Well, it turns out, the campaign did have faces—it’s just that, well, they too were as generic as the padlocked gate.

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View Tom Turner's blog posts
18 January 2011, 12:00 PM
New studies—and many blogs—outline yet another benefit of cycling

Everyone is in favor of bikes and biking, or almost everybody. Riding a bike is good for your health, keeps you fit and slender, gives you that important aerobic exercise, plus it’s fun. And it saves gasoline, thus reducing dependency on foreign (and domestic!) oil. And it helps in a small way in the fight against global climate disruption (aka global warming or climate change, take your pick). What’s not to like?

One notable exception is the new Speaker of the House, Mr. Boehner, who is quoted in Grist  thusly, “I think there's a place for infrastructure, but what kind of infrastructure? Infrastructure to widen highways, to ease congestion for American families? . . . But if we're talking about . . . bike paths, Americans are not going to look very kindly on this.”

View Jessica Knoblauch's blog posts
13 January 2011, 4:12 PM
Appalachia rising, no pants day on the subway, BP bad boys
CIA analysts believe the U.S. is ill-equipped to deal with climate change impacts. Photo credit: Tim.Simpson, Flickr

Secret agents discover climate change preparedness hole
Military officials, CIA analysts and outside experts believe that the U.S. government is ill prepared to act on climate changes "that will threaten to bring instability to places of U.S national interest," reports McClatchy Newspapers. Bureaucratic infighting and a lack of funding are just two reasons for this lack of preparation by the intelligence community. Though there's hope that the creation of the CIA Center on Climate Change and National Security is a good first start in closing that information gap, Republican efforts to cut the year-old program may mean that the climate change spies get shut down before they even have time to whip out their night vision goggles and fingerprint dust.

Appalachia wins in mountaintop removal veto
Today the EPA announced its veto of the Spruce No. 1 Mine, a mountaintop removal operation in Appalachia, reports Mother Jones. The agency revoked a Clean Water Act permit for the mine after concluding that allowing the mine to dump its waste into nearby waterways would cause "irreversible damage to the environment." The win is both a symbolic and substantive one for the communities of Appalachia, and is proof that the EPA is finally listening to the public outcry over mountaintop removal, such as the 38,000 letters and comments that Earthjustice supporters sent in asking the EPA to stop MTR's destructive practices. 

View Raviya Ismail's blog posts
13 January 2011, 2:46 PM
Congresswoman circulates letter opposing resolution attacking cement rules

Last week, this time, Earthjustice was responding to news of a resolution introduced by Rep. John Carter (R-TX), seeking to block important clean air protections. Using the Congressional Review Act, Rep. Carter aims to undo protective health standards that will reduce mercury and other toxic emissions from cement plants. If successful, Rep. Carter's resolution would strip health protections from thousands of people who suffer from respiratory and other health ailments caused by cement plants' pollution.

But today, we’ve found an ally in Rep. Janice D. Schakowsky (D-IL), who submitted a letter to her congressional colleagues disavowing this effort.

Rep. Schakowsky calls on her colleagues to oppose Carter's resolution, emphasizing this important point: "I urge you to protect children’s health…" Rep. Schakowsky's letter details the many health benefits of cleaning up polluting cement plants, including the prevention of 2,500 premature deaths and reduction of health care costs by as much as $18 billion every year.

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View Liz Judge's blog posts
13 January 2011, 12:07 PM
Coal mine finally stopped as EPA rejects Spruce No. 1 Mine
Site of the proposed Spruce mine (green valley to right). Photo by Vivian Stockman of OVEC, Flyover courtesy SouthWings.

Today, after a generation of blasting its way virtually unhindered across Appalachia, the coal industry has been defused. The EPA announced its veto of what would have been the largest mountaintop removal operation in West Virginia -- Arch Coal's Spruce No. 1 Mine.

The EPA's unprecedented action spares the land, protects those in the area of the proposed mine, and must be seen as a huge victory for communities across Appalachia. They have hope at last that this most destructive form of coal mining is finally being reined in. It is a huge victory for them and for all Americans joined in the struggle to protect our air and water from industrial pollution.

The impacts of this decision are profound:

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View Raviya Ismail's blog posts
12 January 2011, 2:17 PM
Scientists Allege EPA Underestimated Risk

(The following is the first in a weekly series of 50 upcoming 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.)

Arsenic, one of the most potent poisons known to man, is found in coal ash. It is well documented that coal ash leaks dangerous quantities of arsenic to drinking water when dumped in unlined pits and ponds. In fact, in an EPA analysis the agency acknowledges that people living near unlined coal ash ponds can face as much as a one-in-50 chance of getting cancer from drinking water contaminated by arsenic. This risk is 2,000 times greater than the EPA’s goal for reducing cancer risk to one-in-100,000. Yet, four renowned arsenic experts found that this EPA risk assessment underestimates the risk of cancer from arsenic by a factor of over 17 times.

In a letter to EPA, medical toxicologist Dr. Michael Kosnett along with three senior scientists explain that the EPA relied on an outdated “cancer slope factor” (CSF) that is 17.3 times less than the updated CSF for arsenic. The scientists therefore recommend revision of the EPA’s risk estimates.

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View Sam Edmondson's blog posts
06 January 2011, 5:02 PM
New reps waste no time in sticking up for big polluters at expense of Americans
A cement kiln in Midlothian, TX operates near a playground. Photo: Samantha Bornhorst

The Republican majority in the new Congress has named the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as its chief adversary and is now preparing to thwart by any means necessary the agency’s efforts to reduce pollution. Today, they took one of their first swipes at the agency.

Led by Rep. John Carter (R-TX), House Republicans are attempting to use an obscure procedure known as the Congressional Review Act to take down the EPA’s recently finalized standards to control toxic air emissions from cement plants—the third largest source of mercury pollution in the U.S.

But this crusade is far more than an attack on the EPA, which under Lisa Jackson’s leadership has become a whipping boy for the congressional allies of big polluters. It’s an attack on Americans and their right to breathe clean air.

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View Jessica Knoblauch's blog posts
06 January 2011, 2:57 PM
Discount parks, fishy trees, banned bags
Light pollution across the U.S. Photo courtesy of NASA.

 Americans see the light on night bright cities
Approximately 300 counties, cities and towns are beginning to see the light on excessive light pollution by enacting so-called dark-sky legislation that's supported by treehuggers and army brats alike, reports USA Today. Light pollution doesn't just keep you up past your bedtime. Over the years, studies have accused light pollution of causing everything from animal disturbances to bungled military drills and increased air pollution, not to mention all that energy that's being wasted by keeping the lights on when nobody's home.

Labor Department buries Massey Energy mine
This week the Department of Labor dug up a long-forgotten enforcement tool to use against Massey Energy, a repeat-offender of mine safety regulations that made headlines last April when an explosion at its Upper Big Branch coal mine in West Virginia killed 29 people. According to NPR, the Labor Department used a section of federal mining law known as "injunctive relief" to force a settlement against Massey's Freedom Mine #1 in Kentucky that will require the company to observe enhanced safety precautions, among other things. Check out Earthjustice's Stop Mountaintop Removal Mining campaign to find out how you can eliminate the need for companies like coal-mining companies like Massey in the first place.