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.

ABOUT EARTHJUSTICE'S BLOG

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 Jared Saylor's blog posts
06 August 2010, 12:51 PM
Industry lobby group pushes their members to pressure EPA
Photo: jerrygreerphotography.com.

In just over three weeks, the EPA will hold the first of five public hearings on its plan to finally regulate coal ash, the nasty, hazardous remains leftover from coal-fired power plants. On August 30, right here in Washington DC, the EPA will hear from hundreds of victims, advocates, community members, environmentalists, activists and everyday citizens about the need to clean up these dangerous dumps and waste ponds filled with decades of contaminated coal ash.

The EPA will also hear from lobby groups like the American Coal Ash Association. Just recently, the ACAA sent out an email to its supporters (which include Duke Energy, American Electric Power, and dozens of other utilities and industry groups) to attend the public hearings in Washington DC, Denver, CO (Sept. 2), Dallas, TX (Sept. 8); Charlotte, NC (Sept. 14) and Chicago, IL (Sept. 16). This confirms what we expected: that industry is going to be out in full force at these public hearings making false claims about the EPA's approach to regulate coal ash waste dumps and landfills. The EPA has offered two options: one that sets strong, federally enforeable safeguards for coal ash, and another that does nothing to mitigate the threat to our drinking water and health. Guess which one the industry supports?

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View Terry Winckler's blog posts
04 August 2010, 7:40 AM
Consequences and lots of hidden oil still remain
Leatherback turtles are among the species to encounter sub-surface oil from BP's exploded well

<Update: Today, even as President Obama declared the BP oil spill all but over (thank God he didn't declare "mission accomplished"), a Senate subcommittee hearing on dispersants opened. Almost immediately, Sen. Frank Lautenberg gave a dire warning:

Relief workers and wildlife in the gulf have become unwitting participants in a dangerous science experiment...There are enough warning signs about the risks of the dispersants to know that we need more federal testing.>

And so....more than three months after it started...BP's exploded oil well....is plugged. The biggest unintentional oil spill in history has been staunched.

This news comes as White House energy advisor Carole Browner assures us that 3/4's of the spilled oil has been disappeared through the processes of evaporation, skimming, burning, microbe-eating and dispersal. "The vast majority of the oil has now been contained, it’s been skimmed, Mother Nature has done its part, it’s evaporated...So I think we’re turning a corner here."

Time to start celebrating?

Sure, let's throw a party for all those hard-working people in the Gulf whose livelihoods and lifestyles have been disrupted and even destroyed by this disaster. And while we are at it, let's have a memorial for the uncountable numbers of birds, turtles, mammals, fish and microscopic life forms slaughtered by the spill's toxic, suffocating impacts.

But, let's not spend too much time tooting the vuvuzelas.

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View Kathleen Sutcliffe's blog posts
30 July 2010, 2:25 PM
Under our current chemical law, it’s kind of unavoidable
Is this family an unwitting research subject in a chemical industry experiment?

I don't ever remember checking a box giving anyone permission to pollute my body with mysterious chemicals. I'm guessing you don't either.

But because of our weak chemical safety law, you and I are being exposed to toxic chemicals without our consent. The law that should be protecting us—the Toxic Substances Control Act of 1976 (TSCA)—doesn't require chemical makers to prove the 80,000 chemicals made in the U.S. are safe before they end up in the everyday things that make up our lives—from the receipts in your wallet to the food packaging in your cupboard, from the jewelry around your neck to the sofa in your living room.

That's why this week Earthjustice and the Safer Chemicals Healthy Families coalition launched a series of ads to remind members of Congress that it's up to them to pull the plug on this unregulated experiment and get to work fixing our nation's chemical law.

View Terry Winckler's blog posts
29 July 2010, 1:55 PM
Oil hiding underwater is now coming ashore in globs and blobs
Planes sprays dispersant on Gulf oil

<Update (7/30): At least 40 percent of oil spilled by BP into the Gulf is unaccounted for, but that doesn't mean it's gone, warns a USA Today article. It's still out there, hidden and toxic.>

<Update (7/30): The New York Times, in a special report, provides strong evidence that dispersants have driven BP's spilled oil out of sight - but it still exists throughout the Gulf's water columns and remains lethal:

Scientists warn the oil's ecological impacts are shifting, not ebbing, thanks to massive volumes of dispersants that have kept the crude beneath the waves.>

After BP's undersea well was capped two weeks ago, oil from it started getting hard to see on the surface - so much so that even top government officials have publicly scratched their heads over what happened to it.

Could it have been blasted into nothingness by all those millions of gallons of dispersants? Did microbes simply gobble it up? Could the hot sun and warm waters of the Gulf just evaporate it? All those scenarios were suggested in the last few days by officials who sounded more perplexed than convinced.

But, no one is less perplexed and more convinced than an angry Mother Jones reporter who used a phone to find locals in Louisiana who are seeing thick mats and globs of oil coming ashore. Could it be that Plaquemines Parish President Bill Nungusser was right last month when he insisted that all the oil was being dispersed into the depths, where it coats the Gulf bottom, killing oysters, shrimp and fish before eventually washing ashore? 

Nungusser may be on to something. At least he's in the right ballpark when he starts wondering what all those dispersants are accomplishing.

 

 

View Sam Edmondson's blog posts
23 July 2010, 12:01 PM
Tell the EPA by Aug. 3 to protect communties from waste burning

City-dwellers are intimately familiar with the pros and cons of living with neighbors. Their heavy footsteps thunder overhead, their loud music penetrates the walls, and strange odors sometimes drift down the halls. These are nuisances, no doubt, but not all neighborly disturbances are so innocuous.

Consider, for example, communities across the country that live near chemical plants, paper mills and other polluting industries. Air pollution from these industrial neighbors often results in higher rates of asthma and other serious illnesses in local communities.

Sadly, a recent rule proposed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency could leave such communities exposed to unregulated toxic emissions from the burning of scrap plastics, used chemicals, and other industrial wastes. These emissions contain pollutants like mercury, benzene, lead and dioxins that can cause respiratory illness, birth defects, cancer and other serious health problems.

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View Trip Van Noppen's blog posts
22 July 2010, 12:08 PM
Chlorpyrifos is in same chemical family as Nazi nerve agents

<Update: Read the San Francisco Chronicle story on this issue.>

Terri Carawan's health problems began in 1984, soon after the spraying started. Her skin became inflamed and her burning, itching eyes were nearly swollen shut with fluid. Despite tremendous fatigue, she struggled with sleeplessness.

It turns out that the telephone company where Terri worked as an operator had recently hired a pest control service to deal with lice and other insects in the building. Every month, they sprayed a pesticide called chlorpyrifos throughout the premises, including on the switchboard Terri operated.

In one of my first cases as a young lawyer, I represented Terri after her exposure to chlorpyrifos, recovering her medical expenses and lost wages and getting the spraying stopped. More than a quarter century later, while most indoor uses of chlorpyrifos have been banned due to risks to human health, the pesticide is still sprayed liberally—nearly 10 million pounds per year—on corn, oranges, and other crops in fields and orchards across the United States.

Today, I am proud that Earthjustice, along with NRDC and Pesticide Action Network, is filing suit to get this dangerous pesticide banned for good.

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View Terry Winckler's blog posts
21 July 2010, 4:16 PM
Senate bill would greatly improve testing and use of chemicals

<Editor's Note: Our newest blogger, Earthjustice attorney Marianne Engelman-Lados, compiled this report.>

The response to the oil spill in the Gulf has exposed fundamental flaws in the current system for regulating the use of chemical dispersants. Since April 20, when the Deepwater Horizon drilling platform exploded, BP has added nearly two million gallons of dispersants to the waters of the Gulf.

BP's use of dispersant is unprecedented—not only in volume but also because it is being applied under the surface of the water, at the source of the leak. Yet the potential health and environmental effects of the use of the dispersant are not well understood.

Last week, Earthjustice filed a lawsuit in federal court on behalf of Gulf Restoration Network and the Florida Wildlife Federation to force EPA to release health and safety information related to dispersants. This information is crucial for residents and workers who may be exposed to the dispersant and, also, for researchers.

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View Brian Smith's blog posts
21 July 2010, 2:14 PM
Glacier demands “No Coal”
Mt. Rainier asks us to save the snow

On Saturday, July 17 at 7:30 a.m., four moms reached the peak of Washington's iconic Mt. Rainier in a healthy political statement about coal power and the future of children of the Northwest.

The four moms, all parents of children between the ages of 3-6 years old, climbed Rainier to call for the closing or conversion of the TransAlta coal plant near Centrailia by 2015. They are asking state leaders to get serious about converting the state to green energy to protect our National Parks, wildlife, and our global climate.

The TransAlta plant is already the target of a campaign to bring its pollution down to levels that comply with emerging federal standards.

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View Liz Judge's blog posts
16 July 2010, 2:05 PM
The one place a climate and clean energy bill should never go

Update (7/22): On 7/22 Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid announced that the forthcoming energy bill will no longer include the section that would address climate change and limit carbon emissions from power plants. The Senate, he said, will address climate change in a separate bill in the fall after August recess.

In his statement to the press this afternoon, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said: "To be clear: we are not putting forth this bill in place of a comprehensive bill. But we will not pass up the opportunity to hold BP accountable, lessen our dependence on oil, create good paying American jobs and protect the environment.  I’m disappointed in my Republican colleagues, who again find themselves on the wrong side of history. But as we work through our differences on a comprehensive energy bill, Republicans have an immediate choice to make."

Senator John Kerry, the Senate's key negotiator of the draft climate language that was taken out of the bill package today, told press: "Harry Reid, today, has committed to giving us that opportunity, that open door, if you will, over the next days, weeks, months, whatever it takes, to find those 60 votes. So the work will continue every single day."

Sen. Kerry has said he will continue negotiatons with electric utilities, and before today, he indicated that those negotiations need more time. If these negotiations continue, he and other Senate leaders must take the polluter giveaways described below off the table.>

Back in May, when the Kerry-Lieberman draft climate bill came out, we told you about one deadly provision in it that needed to meet the chopping block fast, before it threatened American lives and decades of cleaner air in the United States. Earthjustice President Trip Van Noppen wrote about this in his Huffington Post column, "Giving a Free Pass to Soot, Smog, and Toxic Air Pollution is No Way to Pass a Climate Bill."

Well, this idea to use harmful air pollutants that have long been controlled through the Clean Air Act as bargaining chips in order to get industry on board is still ominously hanging around. And it needs to go away immediately. Take action now and tell your senators to step in and stop this now.

Here are some details on what exactly is happening:

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View Brian Smith's blog posts
16 July 2010, 12:42 PM
Climb delivers strong message to governor

Four Washington moms have begun their attempt to summit Mount Rainier this weekend to deliver a strong message to their governor about coal.

The Climb Against Coal challenges Governor Gregoire to close or convert the TransAlta coal plant by 2015, 10 years earlier than the governor wants to. The TransAlta plant is Washington's largest toxic polluter and largest stationary source of global warming pollution.

Read the letter the moms sent to Governor Gregoire. Here, an excerpt:

As mothers, we are concerned about the magnitude of greenhouse gases that come directly from the coal plant, creating climate chaos for future generations. We want our children to be able to stand in awe of the magnificent glaciers on Mount Rainier, as we do today.

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