Posts tagged: Health and Toxics

unEARTHED. The Earthjustice Blog

Health and Toxics


    SIGN-UP for our latest news and action alerts:
   Please leave this field empty

Facebook Fans

Featured Campaigns

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.

Learn more about Earthjustice.

View Liz Judge's blog posts
03 April 2013, 12:03 PM
Highlights from the EPA’s chief of water policy

Last week, the Environmental Protection Agency revealed that 55 percent of U.S. streams and rivers are in “poor” condition, according to its most recent national rivers and streams assessment. Following the release of that grim report, the EPA held a live Twitter chat to answer questions about our clean water protections and the state of our waters in the United States.

This was a rare opportunity for the public to directly ask the EPA’s head of water policy, Nancy Stoner, about the agency’s plans to address our nation’s water quality problems. We got a chance to ask some questions, too.

The first question of the chat was ours. We wanted to know how the EPA plans to fix the situation we find our nation in today: The fact is that 27% of the nation’s rivers and streams have excessive levels of nitrogen and 40% have high levels of phosphorus. These nutrient pollutants, which come from factory farms and industrial agriculture, cause toxic green slime outbreaks that are harmful to public health.

View Andrea Delgado's blog posts
29 March 2013, 2:26 PM
Injustices plague farmworkers while administration turns a blind eye
Cesar E. Chavez warned about the perils of pesticides. (Joel Levine)

The agriculture industry relies heavily on the use of pesticides, which are highly toxic chemicals that farmworkers and surrounding communities are frequently exposed to through simply doing their jobs or living near agricultural sites. Pesticides enter the body through inhalation and penetration of the skin. The latest statistics indicate that in 2007, 1.1 billion pounds of pesticides were used in the United States, and 80 percent were destined for agriculture. Among these, 33 million pounds were organophosphates, a particularly pernicious class of pesticides that are the most frequent culprits of acute poisonings of farmworkers.

Our nation’s farmworkers live and work at ground zero for pesticide exposure.  In a 1989 speech before Pacific Lutheran University, Cesar E. Chavez, a beloved labor and civil rights leader and an indefatigable voice for farmworkers, warned about the perils of pesticides and called on the nation to recognize the challenges that plague farmworkers, such as fighting for higher wages and improved working conditions. We’d be ignoring a greater evil if we failed to protect them from “systematic poisoning through the reckless use of agricultural toxics.”  In raising the urgency to protect farmworkers, their families and surrounding rural communities from pesticides, he shared stories of workers collapsing and dying after entering recently sprayed fields, children with birth defects and neurological problems and cancer. Meanwhile, workers were repeatedly told that the pesticides they were frequently exposed to were merely plant “medicine” they need not fear.  

1 Comment   /   Read more >>
View Jessica Knoblauch's blog posts
25 March 2013, 12:09 PM
Plus: Buzzing over bee deaths and clean energy power up
Photo courtesy of @cdharrison (Flickr)

Bloggers think chemicals in macaroni are cheesy
Two food bloggers are campaigning against the use of chemical additives in the popular Kraft macaroni and cheese packaged meals due to concerns that the chemicals could pose health risks, reports the UK Guardian. Though found in foods sold in the U.S., the two additives, Yellow#5 and Yellow#6, are banned elsewhere in places like the UK, Norway and Austria amid claims that they can cause cancer or hyperactivity in children. The bloggers claim that since Kraft was able to replace the additives with alternatives in other countries (without a noticeable difference in taste), it should do the same in the U.S. So far, the bloggers’ petition, which highlights the larger issue of how ingredients banned elsewhere in the world can be found in items sold in U.S. stores, has gathered more than 200,000 signatures.

Environmental groups abuzz over insecticides linked to bee deaths
Several bee keepers and environmental groups have sued the U.S. EPA for failing to protect honey bees from toxic insecticides, reports Reuters. Bee colony populations have been taking a nosedive for some time now, and the collapse has many people worried about the nation’s food supply since bees pollinate everything from almonds and cranberries to avocados and pears. Studies have linked the collapse to the use of a class of super-toxic insecticides known as neonicotinoids, which plants absorb through their tissue, making them potentially toxic to insects. Though Europe has banned neonicotinoids, the toxic insecticides are used on more than 100 million acres of corn, soy and other food crops and even some home gardening products in the U.S. Currently, Earthjustice is working to stop or limit the use of the nation's most toxic pesticides, which often contaminate nearby waterways and negatively impact people's health.

View Sean Helle's blog posts
21 March 2013, 11:47 AM
Earthjustice's David Baron to present on court's environmental influence

Update: On March 22, 2013, President Obama accepted Caitlin Halligan’s request to withdraw as a nominee to the D.C. Circuit. Senate Republicans had blocked a yes-or-no vote on Ms. Halligan’s nomination for more than two years. As the President emphasized in his statement, the D.C. Circuit “is considered the Nation’s second-highest court, but it now has more vacancies than any other circuit court. This is unacceptable.”

In cataloguing the casualties of Washington politics, it’s not something you’d be likely to list. There’s the climate, of course. And our nation’s waters. Human health might come to mind. But the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit? Its name alone inspires sleep, not action.

This shouldn’t be the case. As Earthjustice President Trip Van Noppen recently wrote, the D.C. Circuit is our second highest court—one with the power to determine whether Americans across the country have clean air to breathe and clean water to drink. And the circuit’s importance isn’t limited to environmental cases. “From food safety and workers’ rights to the integrity of our elections, the court wields extraordinary authority and influence.”

View Andrea Delgado's blog posts
19 March 2013, 12:34 PM
Budget resolution tees up fight against harmful amendments
The devastating Kingston Fossil Plant coal ash spill in 2008. (TVA)

Arsenic-infused drinking water, the risk of cancer, and the fear of being washed away by a flood of toxic sludge are a burden of concern for Americans living near more than 1,300 toxic coal ash dump sites.They have expressed their concerns through numerous letters to Congress, petitions, and more than 450,000 public comments to the Environmental Protection Agency. They urge federal action to stop disposal practices that trap communities in clouds of toxic ash, contaminate drinking water, and lead to massive dam collapses.

Yet, protection from toxic heavy metals and standards that will prevent another dam failure are not solutions the EPA has provided. Meanwhile, as the administration plays a waiting game with potential disaster, citizens across the U.S. live in harm’s way.

View Chrissy Pepino's blog posts
18 March 2013, 1:05 PM
If gas is "natural," why is it exempt from the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts?
A scarred landscape from fracking pads. (EcoFlight)

The technological advance of horizontal drilling was a game changer for the oil and gas industry. When oil and natural gas were previously being harvested, vertical drilling was the only way to extract the fossil fuel. With horizontal drilling, wells can now be fracked and re-fracked, at different depths and in all directions. By increasing the area of exploration for natural gas, many previously untouched landscapes are now being scarred due to the fracking boom.

Fracking, shorthand for hydrologic fracturing, uses tons of water, sand and chemicals- under high pressure—to create cracks in the bedrock, allowing methane gas to escape. Some claim this process is “cleaner” than dirty coal, but, on a global warming potential basis, new research shows that natural gas, oil and coal, are all equally dirty on emissions.

1 Comment   /   Read more >>
View Trip Van Noppen's blog posts
15 March 2013, 3:45 PM
Politics have kept key federal court judgeships vacant
Four of the D.C. Circuit Court's 11 seats have been left vacant due to congressional obstruction. (DOJ)

Over the past four years, the federal halls of justice have been left partially hollow as the number of judicial vacancies in the federal courts continues to mount—due to foot-dragging on nominations and partisan filibuster once nominations are made. These vacancies hobble the courts’ ability to do their core work, which includes determining the fate of our most important environmental protections.

Take, for example, President Obama’s nomination of Caitlin Halligan for a seat on the United States Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. In 2010, the president nominated Halligan, praising her “excellence and unwavering integrity,” yet two years later the Senate has twice refused to confirm her to this environmentally critical court. Halligan, a distinguished litigator who has argued five cases in front of the U.S. Supreme Court, is well-qualified for a seat on the D.C. Circuit. Yet despite bipartisan support and several high profile endorsements from law enforcement organizations and leaders, last week Halligan was forced to suffer through a second politically motivated filibuster that Senate GOP’s justified by willfully misrepresenting her record.

43 Comments   /   Read more >>
View Jillian Murphy's blog posts
15 March 2013, 9:56 AM
House of Representatives legislation would protect air and water

Over the past few decades—with the help of Congress—Big Oil and Gas successfully chipped away at our bedrock environmental laws, carving out special exemptions for the fossil fuel drilling industry. In 1987, when Congress decided to implement new standards to control stormwater runoff pollution under the Clean Water Act, oil and gas companies got a pass. And in 1990 when the Clean Air Act was expanded to allow for control of more toxic air pollutants, the same industry got another pass. These exemptions from our fundamental air and water protections have left communities across the country exposed to dangerous health risks and threats to their environment from oil and gas operations right in their backyards.

Fortunately, activists engaged in the fight against fracking saw an important step forward, yesterday, with the introduction of two pieces of legislation in the House of Representatives. Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO) introduced H.R. 1154, the BREATHE Act, and Rep. Matthew Cartwright (D-PA) introduced H.R. 1175, the FRESHER Act. These bills call for common sense safeguards to protect water and air resources from pollution generated by the process of hydraulic fracturing, known as fracking.

4 Comments   /   Read more >>
View Tom Turner's blog posts
12 March 2013, 11:19 AM
Documentary outlines modern environmental history

A stunning, inspiring new documentary film, A Fierce Green Fire, The Battle for a Living Planet, had its theatrical premiere in New York on March 1, and was scheduled for screenings across the country in following weeks. (View the full schedule.)

The film is in five acts, each narrated by a different person. Robert Redford starts with the beginnings of the modern movement, highlighting David Brower and the Sierra Club’s successful campaign to block construction of power dams in the Grand Canyon. Ashley Judd tells the story of Love Canal in New York and a neighborhood that had to be abandoned when residents—children in particular—began to become ill, even die, from toxic wastes buried beneath their homes and yards years before. Van Jones recounts the struggles by Greenpeace and the Sea Shepherd Society to end commercial whaling. Isabel Allende tells the tale of the Brazilian rubber tappers’ crusade to save their forest home, led by the martyred Chico Mendez. Meryl Streep ends with a hopeful recounting of the effort to stem global climate change.

View Debra Mayfield's blog posts
08 March 2013, 2:36 PM
University has a historic coal ash contamination problem
“Simply moving dangerous coal ash from one site to another contaminated site on campus is not being ‘Spartan Green.'"

My favorite aunt became a dean at Michigan State back in the early 1980’s. She was a role model for us all, assuming a level of power and influence that most women—especially African American women—had not been able access at that time. She, like many other students and faculty at the time, enjoyed the campus and resources it provided. But what she didn’t know was that the water that she drank, bathed in and used for cooking and cleaning and cleaning, may have been poisoned by toxic coal ash.

Last month, members of the Clean Energy Now Coalition, an alliance of nearly 50 environmental groups in Michigan aimed at educating citizens about the benefits of using clean, renewable energy, exposed the historical use of coal ash at Michigan State University and the dangers it poses to the health of students, faculty, and neighboring communities.