Health and Toxics

Safeguarding Our Health

For more than four decades, Earthjustice has been at the forefront of safeguarding the fundamentals of human health—the air we breathe, the food we eat, and the water we drink. These initiatives demonstrate our strong belief that everyone has a right to a healthy environment.

  • Provide Clean Air and Water: Ensuring air and water quality for millions of Americans is at the core of our public health work.
  • Prevent Toxic Exposure: In cities imperiled by industrial pollutants, such as mercury, we are closing industry loopholes and accelerating the clean-up of polluted sites and facilities.

In-Depth Resources: Campaigns

Learn about Earthjustice's work on health and toxics through these campaigns:

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The Right to Breathe

Clean air should be a fundamental right. Every year, many Americans young and old get sick because of air pollution. Thousands die. But our lungs don't have to be the dumping ground for dirty industries.

The technology to dramatically reduce harmful air pollution is available today, and major polluters should be required to use it. Not a decade from now. Now.

   Explore Air Toxics Campaign »   

Fracking Gone Wrong: Finding a Better Way

Fracking (a.k.a., hydraulic fracturing, or industrial gas drilling) is a dangerous way of getting oil and gas and a shortsighted energy strategy.

It's poisoning our air and water. We can find a better way—one that protects our health and gives us clean, safe energy sources that never run out.

   Explore Fracking Campaign »   

Clean Water for Florida

Many of the postcard-perfect blue waters that make Florida a tourist mecca are coming up green and choked with nasty, toxic algae.

The culprit behind this environmental and economic crisis? Pollution caused by inadequately treated sewage, manure and fertilizer.

   Explore Algae Campaign »   

Pesticides in the Air,
Kids at Risk

Each year, nearly one billion pounds of pesticides are sprayed into fields and orchards around the country.

But as the families who live nearby can tell you, those pesticides don't always stay in the fields and orchards.

   Explore Pesticides Campaign »   

Sunlight is the Best Disinfectant

It's time for cleaning product makers to step out of the shadows. Studies show links between chemicals in common household cleaners and respiratory irritation, asthma, and allergies.

But most manufacturers don't disclose their chemical ingredients. Earthjustice is working to change that.

   Explore Household Cleaners »   

Cleaning Up Mercury, Protecting Our Health

Cement kilns are some of the nation's biggest mercury polluters.

These huge industrial facilities spew thousands of pounds of mercury and millions of pounds of other toxic air pollutants into our air and water every year.

   Explore Mercury Campaign »   

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.

Incredibly, ash and other coal combustion wastes are not subject to federal regulations.

   Explore Coal Ash Campaign »   

Special Interactive Feature

Clean Air Ambassadors.
Meet the
Clean Air Ambassadors »

50 States United for Healthy Air
Doctors, nurses, faith and tribal leaders, social justice advocates and affected citizens from all 50 states convened in Washington, D.C. to send a powerful message: Everyone has a right to breathe clean, healthy air.

The Clean Air Ambassadors met with members of Congress and the Obama administration to speak out for strong protections against pollution that is harmful to our health. Industry lobbyists and their allies in Washington, D.C. want to block these protections from taking effect. But our lives depend on clean air, and these ambassadors will demand that we get it.

   Explore 50 States United »   

Issue Area Spotlight

Explore two aspects of Earthjustice's work on safeguarding our health:

Farm. (iStock)

GMOs: Engineering An Environmental Disaster

Genetically engineered crops harm the environment by increasing pesticide use, creating pesticide resistant superweeds and contaminating conventional and organic crops.

Earthjustice is challenging the USDA's decision to allow genetically engineered sugar beets and alfalfa onto the market.

   Learn More »   

Coal-fired power plant in Cheswick, PA.

Sick of Soot: How The EPA Can Save Lives By Cleaning Up Fine Particle Air Pollution

The microscopic size of soot, also known as fine particulate matter, allows it to lodge deep within the lung. Diesel vehicles and equipment and coal-fired power plants are among the biggest sources of this pollution.

Despite recent improvements to air quality, soot still poses a major threat to public health.

   Learn More »   

Latest Legal Cases

A coalition of fire safety and health groups, represented by Earthjustice, has intervened to support the recently updated California furniture flammability regulations, which have been challenged by the major chemical manufacturer Chemtura. Effective January 2014, the revised regulations provide stronger protections against the leading causes of furniture fires, and allow furniture manufacturers to reduce their reliance on harmful flame retardant chemicals.
Earthjustice is representing Desert Citizens Against Pollution, a group of Antelope Valley residents, in a lawsuit against the Antelope Valley Air Quality Management District over its decision to approve a large—570-megawatt—gas-fired power plant.
Earthjustice is representing six Alabama residents in a civil rights complaint under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits recipients of federal funds, including state agencies, from taking actions or implementing policies that have unjustified disproportionate adverse effect on the basis of race. The complaint is against the Alabama Department of Environmental Management for reissuing and modifying Arrowhead Landfill’s permit without proper and readily enforceable protections of public health.

Make a contribution

Photo of young girl.
Donate nowThis is not just any child.
This is our future.

Earthjustice is using the courts to protect drinking water for hundreds of communities. It's just one of the ways we're safeguarding health, preserving our natural heritage and promoting a clean energy future. Join us today.

Featured Stories

The nation’s worst coal ash spill was scooped up from a prosperous community and dumped across state lines into the lives of a low-income community.
One month after a coal chemical spill contaminated the drinking water of 300,000 West Virginians, residents across the state were still awaiting clean water. A deeper look at this crisis reveals failures in our chemical safety regulations and the coal industry's dirty water legacy in West Virginia. But it also reveals a triumph of the human spirit: how West Virginians take care of their own in times of need.
More than one hundred citizens came from every state in the Union—and from many of its most polluted places—with a message for every legislator in Washington, D.C.: Industry is killing us with poisons they put into our air, our water, our communities.
Members of the farmworker justice movement are calling on Congress to implement stronger protections for farmworkers from hazardous pesticides. The federal government estimates that there are 10,000–20,000 acute pesticide poisonings among workers in the agricultural industry annually.
Guess what ends up in African-American yards when Rochelle, GA flushes its toilets. Nine residents of Rochelle, GA are suing their city government for discharging the city's raw sewage onto their properties.
The United Nations Working Group on Business and Human Rights visited Appalachia to investigate mountaintop removal mining abuses. Mountaintop removal mining devastates the landscape, turning areas that should be lush with forests and wildlife into barren moonscapes.
Recycling is a great idea—unless you live next to a site pouring toxins into your neighborhood. Across America, it's a matter of environmental justice. A dangerous loophole allows hazardous recycling in neighborhoods.
Cancer may lurk in products you commonly use—but the chemical industry has quashed your right to know about them. Earthjustice has filed a range of petitions and lawsuits calling for better disclosure and regulation on chemicals found in oil dispersants, household cleaners and pesticides.
Vernice Miller-Travis is a longtime environmental justice advocate and co-founder of WE ACT for Environmental Justice. In this Down to Earth episode, Vernice discusses how green groups and environmental justice groups must work together in order to build a more diverse and effective environmental movement.
The Moapa River Indian Reservation, tribal home of a band of Paiute Indians, sits about 30 miles north of Las Vegas—and about 300 yards from the coal ash landfills of the Reid Gardner Power Station. If the conditions are just wrong, coal ash picks up from Reid Gardner and moves across the desert like a sandstorm. Watch this video documentary.
Weekly blog posts discussing the dangers of coal ash. Although the EPA’s proposed coal ash rule was published in 2010, a final rule is nowhere in sight. Three years is more than enough time for the EPA to decide on a set of reasonable, health-protective standards for the country’s second largest industrial waste stream.
Along with the unprecedented oil and gas drilling rush, have come troubling reports of poisoned drinking water, polluted air, mysterious animal deaths, industrial disasters and explosions. We call them "Fraccidents." Explore an interactive map to learn about fraccidents across the country, and find state-by-state resources for getting involved in your local fight against fracking.
Earthjustice Managing Attorney David Guest takes on the swamp creatures—alligators, politicans, slime, and polluters. They're all in a life's work for this legendary Earthjustice attorney. Learn about the work of Earthjustice's Florida regional office.
Amber lives in the heart of Appalachia’s coal country, where she witnessed the effects of mountaintop removal coal mining on communities, families, clean water, and the land. Today, she travels the country, empowering communities to stand up for their rights to clean water, air, and a healthy and safe environment.
Coal combustion waste sites are known to have contaminated groundwater, wetlands, creeks, or rivers. Yet, incredibly, ash and other coal combustion wastes are not subject to federal regulations that require simple safeguards. Use this interactive map to find where pond failures and water contamination have occurred.
Coal-fired power plants are the nation's worst toxic air polluters. The pollution from these plants have serious impacts on health—including causing premature death. Hear from attorney Jim Pew, who has worked for more than a decade to clean up coal plants.
Following the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill, chemical oil dispersants were applied in unprecedented amounts both at the ocean's surface and underwater. This report, The Chaos Of Clean-Up, reveals some of the potential hazards of dispersants, highlighting the lack of knowledge about dispersants and their impacts.
Industrial polluters have been using Florida's public waters as their cheap, private sewers for years. Now, they are bringing considerable political and monetary forces to fight against clean water standards that the public overwhelmingly supports.
The Clean Air Act has substantially improved the lives of millions of Americans. Polluting industries have fought progress every step of the way. To protect your right to breathe, Earthjustice is working to ensure polluting industries don’t stand in the way of clean air protections.