Looking In: Toxic battle — Congress should choose kids

by Katherine McFate

SC-buttonDespite parents’ best efforts to buy organic and use natural products, toxic chemicals are still found in baby toys, the lining of food containers, cosmetics and other products we use daily. The situation is worse for families with limited budgets. A recent report by the Campaign for Healthier Solutions found more than 80 percent of products tested from discount retailers contained lead, phthalates or other chemicals linked to cancer, learning disabilities and birth defects. And as Richard Moore and Sofia Martinez noted in The Santa Fe New Mexican earlier this year (“A toxic shell game: State deserves better,” My View, March 29), communities in New Mexico and other places face a legacy of overexposure to toxins.

You might think that the federal government would have tested the 84,000 chemicals registered for commercial use today. You’d be wrong.

 Forty years ago, the federal government did pass a law meant to protect the American people from exposure to toxic chemicals. But opposition from the chemical industry made it a five-year fight, and the final law was deeply flawed. Instead of requiring manufacturers to prove new chemicals are safe before they are marketed, the Toxic Substances Control Act allows a chemical to continue to be used until or unless the Environmental Protection Agency can prove that it poses an “unreasonable risk to human health.” The burden is on government to prove a chemical is unsafe.

Thanks to lobbying from chemical manufacturers, the law allowed the 62,000 chemicals already in use in 1976 to remain on the market, with no safety testing required. Of the more than 20,000 new chemicals registered since then, EPA has ordered testing of only 250 of them, and just nine chemicals have been restricted.

You can read more here.

Katherine McFate is the president and CEO of the Washington-based, Center for Effective Government,  a member organization of the Safer Chemicals Healthy Family Coalition. This OpEd piece was originally published in the Santa Fe New Mexican. As  a Georgia partner in the Safer Chemicals Healthy Family Coalition, ECO-Action is involved in the state’s fight to keep toxic chemicals away from our children.  Look for more information about this vital issue soon.

The Turner Field Community Benefits Coalition Shows the People’s Power!

turnerfieldDr. Yomi Noibi, Executive Director, ECO-Action

With the construction of the new stadium in Cobb County, the 77 acres of public land that now make up the Turner Field Stadium area are poised for new development. Housing, transportation options, and all other aspects of creating a livable community are on the table. It’s a huge opportunity for positive growth in the area, if the members of the surrounding NPU-V community can be active in the planning process. The Turner Field Community Benefits Coalition (TFCBC) is working for exactly that – an inclusive development planning process that connects the residents, stakeholders, business owners and students of the surrounding neighborhoods and honors their needs as the area is developed.

But unfortunately, the residents of these neighborhoods have not been included in the planning thus far. Instead, Georgia State University and private developer Carter worked together to come up with their own plan and process for the redevelopment of Turner Field and its immediate environs. On June 2, 2015, the stage was set for GSU and the private developer to reveal those plans at a community meeting.

On this day – the community’s first opportunity to weigh in – the people truly showed up. TFCBC demonstrated the power of community organization by packing more than 200 people into the meeting room. Their message? “You do not invite us to come see your plans for us. We invite you.” In response Carter President Scott Taylor said, the partners wanted to present a vision of “how we can collectively and collaboratively make this very special,” and vowed a transparent process involving the desires of stadium neighborhoods.

TFCMC 060215Because realistically, who is better poised to say where new housing is needed than someone who might live there? Who better to suggest necessary transportation options than someone who might use them? These types of decisions cannot be made without the people they affect sitting at the table. The TFCBC sent this strong message to Georgia State University that day, ensuring not only that they will be sitting at the table as the planning process moves forward, but that their voices will be heard.

If you would like to get involved with the Turner Field Community Benefits Coalition, which is working to create livable communities that meets the needs of their residents, visit www.turnerfieldcoalition.org or find them on Facebook and Twitter @TFCoalition . ECO-Action is a founding member of TFCBC and will continue to provide ongoing support to this vital community initiative.

Downstream neighbors pooh-pooh Atlanta’s sewer system

cut the crap rally1by Maggie Lee, Creative Loafing

For the first time in 10 years, environmental rule-writers are reconsidering just how much Atlanta sewage should be allowed to wash downstream toward neighbors in DeKalb and beyond. It should be pretty much zero, activists say. Not gonna happen, says the city.

What Atlanta has now is a “third-world approach” toward sewage disposal, said Jacqueline Echols, president of the South River Watershed Alliance. The South River starts in East Point and flows through Atlanta, south DeKalb County, and points southeast before emptying into Jackson Lake.

She refers to Atlanta’s approach as such because in some of the oldest parts of the city — English Avenue and Vine City — the same set of pipes is supposed to handle both rainwater and toilet flushes. When it rains too hard, the system can’t handle everything, and some of what goes down area toilets runs into area streams without being fully treated. Running a system that allows such sewage spread shows zero respect for people on the river, Echols says.

The SRWA and some other groups are calling for environmental regulators to clamp down on pollution from sewage overflows. The state Environmental Protection Division is now in the middle of its periodic review of the pair of permits that say what Atlanta can flush westward toward the Chattahoochee and eastward toward Jackson Lake.

Read more of this Creative Loafing article here.

To learn more about this work or to connect with the South River Watershed Alliance, call us.

Tell Menards: Eliminate Toxic Phthalates in Flooring

child_and_inhalerA new study found that vinyl flooring sold by Menards and other retailers tested contained phthalates, toxic chemicals that have been restricted in children’s products. Menards is the third largest home improvement chain in the country.

A growing body of credible scientific evidence has linked exposure to phthalates to serious health concerns: birth defects in baby boys, learning and behavioral problems and asthma in children. What’s worse — phthalates don’t stay in flooring – they get into the air and dust we breathe in our homes, and then make their way into our bodies.

Home Depot, the world’s largest home improvement retailer, is requiring all of their suppliers to ban added phthalates in all virgin vinyl flooring by the end of this year. Lowe’s is as well. If both Home Depot and Lowe’s can ban phthalates in flooring, so can Menards!

ECO-Action supports the call of Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families to TAKE ACTION! Ask Menards CEO John Menard Jr. to #MindTheStore and phase out phthalates in flooring by signing here.

You can find out more about more about phthalates and flooring at the Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families website.

Next Steps toward Better Health for Proctor Creek Neighborhoods

We know that there are environmental health challenges in the Vine City and English Avenue neighborhoods near Proctor Creek. So what can we do about them together?

Jan Healthy Homes meetingResidents of these neighborhoods and other partners are working together to address environmental triggers that lead to illness. Thirty-five community members, students and organizational representatives attended a community meeting on January 22nd, a follow up to a joint ECO-Action and Emory University Collaborative Health Survey that identified mold and associated environmental health issues in homes and apartments near Proctor Creek. Having shared the results of the study at an earlier meeting, this meeting sought to identify next steps in six areas of challenge:

How do we remediate the houses while the people still stay in them? We need to understand the technologies that will allow us to do this.
Makeda Johnson, Community Resident
•   lifestyle change and best practices in community education,
•   home repairs and pest control,
•   services and support for people with asthma,
•   support and process for smart relocation,
•   reducing flooding,
•   public policy for healthy homes.

For each of these challenges, community members reflected together to identify:

healthy homes youth

  1. What were the existing resources that were already available?
  2. What potential resource might be made available?
  3. What are the gaps or threats that might hinder our ability to access those resources?
  4. What are the next steps we should taking in moving forward?

Through this process, community participants identified a number of next steps toward “Healthy Homes” in each of the six areas of challenge. The greatest number were generated around the topic of reducing flooding where the identified next steps included:

healthy homes group3
• Obtaining public commitment by the City of Atlanta to support integrated stormwater management planning;
•   Enhancing public education;
•   Improving the knowledge of residents so that they are better able to report problems and take action for flood prevention;
•   Providing training about best practices to address mold problems;
•   Providing disaster preparedness training and awareness;
•   Developing community businesses to collect scrap tires and turn them into permeable pavement.

You can watch the highlights of the session in the video below.  A table that summarizes all of the next steps can be downloaded here.

The group plans to meet in April to prioritize these next steps. Please contact Dr. Yomi if you’d like additional information about the Collaborative Health Survey findings or to be notified about future Healthy Homes strategy sessions.

Thanks to Kelly Brown for the photographs and video.