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 Lisa Evans's blog posts
02 May 2013, 12:00 PM
Toxic coal ash found on school paths in Florida
Truckloads of the coal ash product EZBase were delivered to one Florida homeowner's property.  (Clean Water Action)

Recent sampling of paths constructed of coal ash near J.L. Wilkinson Elementary School in Middleburg, Florida reveal high levels of vanadium, a hazardous substance linked to cardiovascular disease and nervous system damage. Vanadium levels were up to seven times higher than levels deemed safe for residential soil by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.

Earthjustice sampled two paths near the school after concerns were raised that EZBase, a product made from toxic fly ash and bottom ash residuals at coal-burning power plants and marketed by Jacksonville Electric Authority, may have been used to construct paths near the elementary school.

Exposure to high levels of vanadium in the air can cause lung and cardiovascular damage. In addition, nausea, mild diarrhea and stomach cramps have been reported in people ingesting vanadium. Vanadium is classified as “possibly carcinogenic” by the International Agency for Research on Cancer. Children are particularly susceptible to impacts from toxic exposure due to low body mass and developing systems.

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View Daniel Hubbell's blog posts
29 April 2013, 1:16 PM
Three stories from around the world
The 2013 Goldman Prize recipients.  (Courtesy of the Goldman Environmental Prize)

It is easy sometimes to feel like the problems of the world are just too large for any one person to tackle. Whether it is a global issue like climate change or more local struggles against ancient coal plants polluting the neighborhood, it feels like there are always powerful interests standing in the way. That’s why I am thankful for the Goldman Environmental Prize because it shows us just how incredible a difference one caring person can make.

Founded in 1989 by Richard and Rhoda Goldman, the Goldman prize recognizes those environmental heroes who have worked tirelessly to safeguard the environment and improve the lives of everyone in their communities. It offers a chance for those who have gone unsung for years to get the support they need to take their grassroots vision of change further, as these problems are often far too common. I had the good fortune to hear three of this year’s winners speak recently, and all of their stories are incredible.

View Jessica Knoblauch's blog posts
24 April 2013, 9:48 AM
Climate change may ruin your next seafood night
Photo courtesy of quinn.anya

Seafood lovers hooked on $1 oyster nights may soon have to find a new source of comfort for the work week blues.

Thanks to an increase of carbon in both the atmosphere and our water bodies (which absorb about a third of all carbon emissions), carbon munching critters like crabs, lobsters and shrimp are getting bigger and hungrier, say scientists at the University of North Carolina’s Aquarium Research Center. After analyzing blue crabs from the Chesapeake Bay in tanks pumped full of carbon, researchers found that the crabs grew nearly four times faster in high-carbon tanks versus low-carbon tanks.
 
Though bigger crabs sound like a delicious side effect of climate change, they’re not all that they’re cracked up to be, since crabs tend to put all their energy into building larger shells, not meatier flesh. Even worse, super-sized crabs with equally super-sized appetites could also affect the rest of the typical seafood platter, since bigger crabs will no doubt be eating bigger helpings of other seagoing creatures, like oysters.
 
Unfortunately, voracious crabs aren’t the only thing that oysters have to worry about. Because oceans are one of the world’s greatest carbon sinks, taking in 22 million tons of carbon dioxide every day, ocean chemistry is changing rapidly. This is putting a strain on shelled creatures like oysters, shellfish and corals that don't like acid baths because they depend on a pH-balanced lifestyle to build their calcium carbonate shells.
 

View Liz Judge's blog posts
24 April 2013, 9:48 AM
Unanimous panel of judges rule for EPA in coal industry lawsuit

Great news!

Yesterday, citizens in Appalachia celebrated a huge victory in their fight to protect their families and communities from harmful mountaintop removal mining. In a sharp 15-page ruling, a panel of three Republican-appointed judges in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit unanimously upheld the Environment Protection Agency’s veto of the permit for the Spruce No. 1 mine, the largest proposed mountaintop removal mine in West Virginia. Earthjustice, along with Appalachian Mountain Advocates, represented a handful of community and citizen groups in this case.

This court decision comes after 15 years of court challenges by community groups whose members were in fallout zone of the proposed mine. It’s a precedent-setting decision and historic: The Spruce Mine permit is the first mountaintop removal mining permit ever challenged in courts.

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View Grand Chief Ruth Massie's blog posts
24 April 2013, 7:34 AM
Grand Chief Ruth Massie shares eyewitness account of climate change
"We are witnessing the strangest of weather patterns." Chukchi Sea, Alaska. (Florian Schulz / visionsofthewild.com)

Our homelands—the Arctic wildlife and ecosystems that are the foundation of our culture and traditional ways of life—are fast changing. Arctic warming has made the weather, the condition of the ice, and the behaviors and location of fish and wildlife so unpredictable that our Elders no longer feel confident teaching younger people traditional ways. If we cannot effectively pass on our traditional ways to the younger generations, we fear for what will happen to our culture.

We know that a significant cause of these changes is black carbon, or soot, a short-lived climate pollutant which contributes significantly to the rapid warming and melting across northern Canada—our homelands. Black carbon pollution is also a health issue; soot emissions degrade the air quality in the North. Scientists believe reducing these emissions one of the best ways to slow warming and melting in the Arctic in the coming decades.

That’s why the Arctic Athabaskan Council is taking action today by filing a petition to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.

View Raviya Ismail's blog posts
16 April 2013, 2:41 PM
Washington Post story highlights threats from flame retardants
Chemicals like those used in flame retardants in household furniture often escape as vapor or airborne particles. (PSR LA)

Next time I sit down on a couch, I’m going to think twice. Turns out that simple action can accelerate the release of flame retardant chemicals, which are harmful to human health. And no one should think they are safe from these chemicals: this Washington Post article cites a CDC test analyzing blood samples from 2003 and 2004, finding that 97 percent of Americans carry flame retardants in their blood.

These chemicals are present in a wide array of household products and have been linked to cancer and developmental, neurological and reproductive problems. Flame retardants are used in building materials, electronics, furnishings (including those used by infants and children such as nap mats), motor vehicles, airplanes, plastics and textiles. Also, there is strong evidence that for many uses—such as furnishings and infant and children’s products—there’s no proven fire safety benefit from the use of flame retardants.

View Raviya Ismail's blog posts
10 April 2013, 12:13 PM
Senator's eighth attempt to replace outdated TSCA law
Sen. Lautenberg: "It’s time to break away from the chemical industry lobbyists and listen to concerned parents, pediatricians, and nurses who are demanding change."

Americans need a law that will keep them safe from toxic chemicals—before they are allowed to enter the market.

And that’s why we should be thanking Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ).

Today, Sen. Lautenberg and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), joined by 27 other senators, introduced the “Safe Chemicals Act of 2013,” a landmark bill that seeks to protect families in America from exposure to harmful chemicals.

Sen. Lautenberg has been dogged in his determination to overhaul the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) of 1976, an outdated chemical policy. He has sponsored this legislation numerous times during his Congressional career. His proposal would strengthen the authority of the EPA to learn more about the safety of chemicals and limit their use if they pose a threat to public health and the environment.

View Trip Van Noppen's blog posts
09 April 2013, 8:58 AM
Gina McCarthy is a sound choice for the job
McCarthy will be a vital player in the effort to protect our families and environment.  (EPA)

This week a Senate committee will hold a nomination hearing for Gina McCarthy to replace Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson.

Gina McCarthy, the EPA assistant administrator for air and radiation, is a sound choice for the job. Given her background and experience, the Senate should move expeditiously to confirm her.

For more than 25 years Gina McCarthy worked with politicians from both parties, including a stint as Gov. Romney’s energy and climate advisor in Massachusetts. In 2009 Republican and Democratic senators easily confirmed McCarthy by a voice vote to head the clean air division of EPA.

Gina McCarthy is a dedicated environmental professional with a history of working on difficult issues including climate change. We share her vision of an energy-efficient economy which creates sustainable jobs.

View Jessica Knoblauch's blog posts
04 April 2013, 4:30 PM
Plus: Climate changes coffee and oil industry handouts
Studies have shown that airline cabins contain high levels of flame retardants. Photo courtesy of chinaoffseason (Flickr)

Airplanes may contain high flame retardants levels
New research has found that commercial airliners contain high levels of flame retardants, a suite of chemicals that have been under fire lately due to concerns over health hazards, reports Environmental Health News.

Because having a plane catch fire mid-air could be disastrous, federal regulators require that all airlines pass strict fire-safety tests, hence the intense usage of flame retardants onboard the aircraft. But though chemical companies have long maintained that flame retardants are safe, several recent studies have linked them to detrimental health effects like reduced IQs and attention problems in children. Flame retardants, which are found in common household items like furniture, electronics and even baby clothes, have also been shown to build up in the body over time. And even worse, some studies suggest that flame retardants may not be all that great in slowing fires and may actually increase deadly emissions of carbon monoxide and hydrogen cyanide.

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View Trip Van Noppen's blog posts
03 April 2013, 2:46 PM
It's time to head in a clean energy direction
Fracking has been linked to both air and water contamination. (Courtesy of J.B. Pribanic)

Just as clean, renewable energy is lifting off and the impacts of climate disruption become ever more visible, fossil energy production is becoming dramatically more extreme. But extreme fossil energy production is exactly what we don’t need.

In just the last two years, I have seen the Louisiana coast’s oil-slicked marshes after the Deepwater Horizon blow-out, met with Pennsylvanians and Coloradans whose homes are under assault in the fracking boom, toured the Alaskan Arctic with a caribou hunter whose way of life is threatened by onshore and offshore oil development, and shared the outrage of West Virginians whose schools and streams are under siege from mountaintop removal coal mining.

Though these extreme energy projects differ in their methods of extraction, they have two things in common: their massive industrial scale, and how little we know about their potential impacts to our air, water and climate.