Posts tagged: Health and Toxics

unEARTHED. The Earthjustice Blog

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 Terry Winckler's blog posts
28 September 2010, 10:06 AM
Oil spill commission hearing provides grim oil spill testimony

Yesterday, in a report on the government's oil spill commission hearing, we wrote of the mounting scientific evidence that a bunch of spilled, toxic oil still haunts the Gulf and may  be resistant to degradation. Today, we revisit the testimony and empasize some very strong conclusions offered by hearing witnesses.

The commission's co-chair, former senator Bob Graham, compared BP's oil spill plan to how General George Custer prepared for his last campaign: overestimation of the fighting capability, underestimation of the foe, and a heavy resulting price to be paid.

An article by US News and World Report offers a particularly concise look at two of the most persuasive witnesses: oceanographer Samantha Joye from the University of Georgia, and scientist Ian MacDonald from Florida State University. The full story is worth reading, but here are the two key takeaways:

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View Terry Winckler's blog posts
27 September 2010, 4:50 PM
Scientists warn of long-range health effects from oil, dispersants
Planes prays dispersant on Gulf oil spill

Here, in a one-sentence assessment by a U.S. Coast Guard commander, is what went right and wrong with the Gulf-oil spill clean up. As reported by the Wall Street Journal:

"My personal philosophy is, it is like a war and you have to respond with everything you have—overwhelmingly."

We were fortunate to have the Coast Guard at hand when BP's well exploded and the company was found ill-prepared to react. The Guard is nothing if not prepared and, as a branch of the military, attacked the spill as a foe trying to invade our homeland. They did, indeed, throw everything they had at it, including, unfortunately, a weapon with untested side effects: dispersants.

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View Liz Judge's blog posts
27 September 2010, 2:17 PM
The destructive mining practice cannot go on at the expense of Appalachians
Appalachians call for an end to watershed poisoning caused by mountaintop removal coal mining

On the campaign trail, President Obama shared his thoughts about mountaintop removal mining:

We have to find more environmentally sound ways of mining coal than simply blowing the tops off mountains. We're tearing up the Appalachian Mountains because of our dependence on fossil fuels ... Strip-mining is an environmental disaster ... What I want to do is work with experts here in West Virginia to find out what we need to do to protect the waterways here. That's going to be a primary task of the head of my Environmental Protection Agency.

This, if it happens, would be a sea change from the previous administration's EPA, which effectively wrote loopholes and exemptions into that law that allowed mining companies to evade longstanding regulations, sidestep basic Clean Water Act protections and dump their mountaintop removal mining waste directly into Appalachia's waters, contaminating drinking water supplies for communities and burying important streams.

Nearly two years into President Obama's term, we've seen small steps toward reducing the destruction of mountaintop removal mining in Appalachia, but the fact is: President Obama and his administration are still allowing this devastation to continue. The Army Corps of Engineers and the EPA are still permitting mountaintop removal mining permits in Appalachia, despite the regulations of the Clean Water Act.

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View Raviya Ismail's blog posts
27 September 2010, 12:45 PM
Sulfur dioxide causes asthma and other respiratory ailments

So, imagine breathing in a substance that not only exacerbates but causes known breathing problems such as asthma. You'd want the Environmental Protection Agency to do something about it, right?

Well, they did: in June the EPA reined in emissions of sulfur dioxide—a nasty chemical—from power plants and other sources. These new standards are expected to prevent thousands of asthma attacks and hundreds of emergency room visits every year.

Great, right? Industry doesn't think so.

View Jared Saylor's blog posts
16 September 2010, 1:30 AM
Coal's waste is poisoning communities in 34 states
Flood of coal ash in Tennessee

Water and air in 34 states are being poisoned by the waste of coal-fired power plants—creating major health risks for children and adults—according to a report released today by Earthjustice and Physicians for Social Responsibility.

The ground-breaking study connects the contamination occurring at hundreds of coal ash dumps and waste ponds across the country to health threats such as cancer, nerve damage and impairment of a child's ability to write, read and learn.

Contaminants leaking or being emitted from these sites include arsenic, which causes skin, bladder and lung cancer; lead, which damages the nervous system; boron, which attacks the testes, kidney and brain; and mercury, a neurotoxicant particularly harmful to a child's development.

Today's report, "Coal Ash: The Toxic Threat to Our Health and Environment" follows a report issued last month, by Earthjustice and other environmental groups, that revealed 39 contaminated coal ash sites in 21 states. Together, the two studies confirm that at least 137 sites in 34 states are leaking a variety of toxic contaminants into nearby air and drinking water supplies, posing significant health threats to those who drink the water or breath in fugitive coal dust.

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View Brian Smith's blog posts
15 September 2010, 3:14 PM
Dramatic incident demonstrates need for cleaning up the air
Central Valley smog sunrise

The red flag was flying two weeks ago in the California city of Arvin—a warning to residents of the nation's smoggiest city to stay indoors away from the choking air. And that's just where many residents were during a public hearing by the Environmental Protection Agency into the area's smog conditions.

Even the EPA Region 9 administrator was there, listening intently to a stream of complaints about breathing conditions, when, suddenly, a little girl suffered an asthma attack and was rushed away for treatment.

There couldn't have been a more dramatic way to drive home why Earthjustice is marshalling legal efforts to get the air cleaned up in California's central valley.

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View Trip Van Noppen's blog posts
15 September 2010, 11:13 AM
Consumers will get info on what's in their household cleaners

A few months ago, I told you about our tough legal fight in New York to force household cleaner manufacturers to reveal what chemicals they are putting in products that we use every day in our homes.

Today, I am glad to report that our work has persuaded the state of New York to take action. The Commissioner of New York's Department of Environmental Conservation last week told manufacturers to disclose what their products contain and any health risks they pose, the first such request ever made by regulators in any state. (You can send Commissioner Pete Grannis a note of thanks here.)

This is a huge win for consumers that wouldn't have happened without strong legal pressure.

You might recall from my previous column that a long-forgotten state law requiring manufacturers to come clean was unearthed by former Earthjustice attorney Keri Powell a few years ago. Following her discovery, Earthjustice and our coalition partners mounted an aggressive legal and advocacy campaign that ultimately triggered the state's decision to start enforcing this important right-to-know law. A big thanks go out to our supporters, who held green-cleaning parties in their homes and helped generate nearly 40,000 emails to decision-makers and cleaning product companies.

But, this isn't just a victory for New York state. Because many of the manufacturers doing business in the state of New York sell their products throughout the U.S., we all stand to benefit. After all, Procter & Gamble's Mr. Clean products and other national brands are the same whether you're in Poughkeepsie or Portland.

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View Kathleen Sutcliffe's blog posts
14 September 2010, 6:35 PM
Flaming tap water is usually not a good sign
Flaming tap water, as seen in the critically acclaimed documentary Gasland

The fight to protect communities from the water-polluting form of gas drilling known as horizontal hydraulic fracturing (or "fracking") is moving quickly on several fronts, both local and national.

This week, officials with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency are wrapping up a multi-city public hearing tour on the controversial gas extraction technique—in which drillers blast millions of gallons of chemically-treated water into the earth to force the gas from tightly packed shale deposits.

To give you an idea of how high interest has been: the last of these hearings - being held tomorrow in Binghamton, NY - had to be postponed last month after officials realized they didn't have a space large enough to accommodate the expected 8,000-person crowd. EPA is collecting the testimony heard at these meetings to inform the agency's much-needed study into fracking's impact on drinking water.

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View Liz Judge's blog posts
14 September 2010, 3:43 PM
But there is still a long way to go

Today, the Environmental Protection Agency celebrated the 40th anniversary of one of our nation's most successful and most protective laws, the Clean Air Act.

Commemorating the milestone anniversary with a full day of speakers, keynotes and panel discussions, the agency was joined by a host of industry leaders, business CEOs, clean air advocates and environmental champions to discuss just how far we've come in cleaning up our air and protecting people's lungs and lives from toxic and dangerous air pollution.

For proof on how far we've come, here's some of the pudding:

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View Jessica Knoblauch's blog posts
10 September 2010, 4:12 PM
Rude practice, noxious Nike, Chicago the green, BP goes minor
Cruise ship docked in Washington

Washington cruise ships dump on Canadian waters
It turns out that cruise ships subject to ship pollution standards in Alaska and Washington State have found a way to cruise around the new rules by dumping their waste in nearby Canada, a practice that's currently legal thanks to a patchwork of inconsistent and lax international cruise pollution regulations. Earthjustice is working to curtail the rude and un-neighborly practice, which mucks up the ocean and harms marine life.

New Nike ad has enviro activists kicking and screaming
A new Nike promotional ad featuring a West Virginia University football player in front of a mountaintop removal mine has ticked off environmentalists, who argue that the ad is endorsing a destructive form of strip mining. The WVU athletic department disagrees, saying that the ad is meant to honor the victims of the Upper Big Branch mine explosion in W. Virginia last April, yet that explosion occurred in an underground mine, while the ad denotes a surface mine. The devil's in the details.

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