Environmental Health News

What's Working

  • Garden Mosaics projects promote science education while connecting young and old people as they work together in local gardens.
  • Hope Meadows is a planned inter-generational community containing foster and adoptive parents, children, and senior citizens
  • In August 2002, the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) Board voted to ban soft drinks from all of the district’s schools

#832 -- The Louisville Charter for Safer Chemicals, 08-Dec-2005

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Rachel's Democracy & Health News #832

"Environment, health, jobs and justice--Who gets to decide?"

Thursday, December 8, 2005..............Printer-friendly version
www.rachel.org -- To make a secure donation, click here.
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Featured stories in this issue...

The Louisville Charter for Safer Chemicals
  Here is the final text of the Louisville Charter for Safer
  Chemicals -- a path-breaking document that offers important policy
  innovations and reveals the sophistication and depth of the grassroots
  movement for health and justice in the U.S.
A Platform for a Safe and Healthy Environment Through Innovation
  Here's the back story of the Louisville Charter, which
  is a statement of goals and policies put together by citizen groups
  working together to protect human health and nature from
  exposure to unnecessary poisons.
Rachel's Kicks Off Its Winter Fund Drive: Please Donate Here Now
  Rachel's Democracy & Health News is the backbone of our program to
  strengthen grass-roots activism and change American culture. The year
  2006 marks the 20th anniversary of Rachel's! Help us continue to take
  back our communities from the polluters. Please make a special
  donation today to keep both Rachel's News and Rachel's Precaution
  Reporter free for everyone.
Gracie Lewis in Louisville Takes on President Bush
  President Bush wants to gut the Toxics Release Inventory (TRI),
  greatly reducing the information available to citizens about the toxic
  chemicals in their air. But Gracie Lewis of the Rubbertown
  neighborhood in Louisville, Ky., isn't having any of Mr. Bush's plan.
  In a fight like this, our money's on Gracie. (You can help Gracie by
  sending Mr. Bush your thoughts -- please click here.)
A Worried Mother Discovers the Secrets of Pesticide Testing
  A concerned mother takes a close look at pesticide use and finds
  America's chemical regulatary system completely inadequate to protect
  human health and the environment. She finds that the same corporations
  that make the chemicals are responsible for the safety testing -- and
  that spells trouble for us and our children.
Margie E. Richard: Pollution Fighter
  Margie Richard, the tireless pollution-fighter from Norco,
  Louisiana has received an Impact Award from the AARP (formerly the
  American Association of Retired Persons). With a steely mix of faith
  and ingenuity, Margie convinced Shell Oil to clean up its act and to
  pay each homeowner within 4 blocks of its Norco plant a minimum of
  $80,000. Congratulations, Margie!

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From: LouisvilleCharter.org, Dec. 3, 2005
[Printer-friendly version]

THE LOUISVILLE CHARTER FOR SAFER CHEMICALS

[DHN Introduction: This is the final text of the Louisville Charter
for Safer Chemicals -- a document that represents a major
breakthrough in U.S. chemicals policy innovation AND an extremely
important indicator of the sophistication and depth of the grass-roots
movement for health and justice in the U.S. For background on the
Charter, look here. To keep abreast of new developments, check
here often. -- DHN Editors]

Fundamental reform to current chemical laws is necessary to protect
children, workers, communities, and the environment. We must shift
market and government actions to protect health and the natural
systems that support us. As a priority, we must act to phase out the
most dangerous chemicals, develop safer alternatives, protect high-
risk communities, and ensure that those responsible for creating
hazardous chemicals bear the full costs of correcting damages to our
health and the environment.

By designing new, safer chemicals, products, and production systems we
will protect people's health and create healthy, sustainable jobs.
Some leading companies are already on this path. They are creating
safe products and new jobs by using clean, innovative technologies.
But transforming entire markets will require policy change. A first
step to creating a safe and healthy global environment is a major
reform of our nation's chemicals policy. Any reform must:

Require Safer Substitutes and Solutions

Seek to eliminate the use and emissions of hazardous chemicals by
altering production processes, substituting safer chemicals,
redesigning products and systems, rewarding innovation and re-
examining product function. Safer substitution includes an obligation
on the part of the public and private sectors to invest in research
and development of sustainable chemicals, products, materials and
processes.

Phase Out Persistent, Bioaccumulative, or Highly Toxic Chemicals

Prioritize for elimination chemicals that are slow to degrade,
accumulate in our bodies or living organisms, or are highly hazardous
to humans or the environment. Ensure that chemicals eliminated in the
United States are not exported to other countries.

Give the Public and Workers the Full Right-to-Know and Participate

Provide meaningful involvement for the public and workers in decisions
on chemicals. Disclose chemicals and materials, list quantities of
chemicals produced, used, released, and exported, and provide
public/worker access to chemical hazard, use and exposure information.

Act on Early Warnings

Act with foresight. Prevent harm from new or existing chemicals when
credible evidence of harm exists, even when some uncertainty remains
regarding the exact nature and magnitude of the harm.

Require Comprehensive Safety Data for All Chemicals

For a chemical to remain on or be placed on the market manufacturers
must provide publicly available safety information about that
chemical. The information must be sufficient to permit a reasonable
evaluation of the safety of the chemical for human health and the
environment, including hazard, use and exposure information. This
isthe principle of "No Data, No Market."

Take Immediate Action to Protect Communities and Workers

When communities and workers are exposed to levels of chemicals that
pose a health hazard, immediate action is necessary to eliminate these
exposures. We must ensure that no population is disproportionately
burdened by chemicals.

Dates must be set for implementing each of these reforms. Together
these changes are a first step towards reforming a 30-year old
chemical management system that fails to protect public health and the
environment. By implementing the Louisville Charter and committing to
the innovation of safer chemicals and processes, governments and
corporations will be leading the way toward a healthier economy and a
healthier society.

Background Paper #1: Require Safer Substitutes and Solutions

Background Paper #2: Phase Out Persistent, Bioaccumulative, or Highly
Toxic Chemicals

Background Paper #3: Give the Public and Workers the Full Right-to-
Know and Participate

Background Paper #4: Act with Foresight

Background Paper #5: Require Comprehensive Safety Data for All
Chemicals

Background Paper #6: Take Immediate Action to Protect Communities and
Workers

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From: The Louisville Charter for Safer Chemicals, Dec. 3, 2005
[Printer-friendly version]

A PLATFORM FOR A SAFE AND HEALTHY ENVIRONMENT THROUGH INNOVATION

Why Louisville?

Louisville, Kentucky, USA is home to the area known as "Rubbertown,"
which has eleven industrial facilities releasing millions of pounds
per year of toxic air emissions -- one-third of all reported toxic
releases in Kentucky. The surrounding community is 60% African
American. In May 2004, Louisville hosted a meeting of a network of
groups and individuals whose common goal is to work together on
chemical policies and campaigns to protect human health and the
environment from exposures to unnecessary harmful chemicals.
Participants named the Charter after this city to honor it and all
the communities across the country and around the world committed to
ending toxic chemical contamination.

Some Practical Applications of the Louisville Charter & Background
Papers

You are encouraged to use the charter for safer chemicals. Here you
will find some practical applications of the Charter. While these are
just a few applications of the Louisville Charter it shows how broadly
the document can be applied and the great need for broad input
contribution from environmental justice and health groups, as well as
organizations focusing of public access and worker protection, to make
real these and other goals, such as adoption of national chemical
policy that protects us all.

Legislative Policy Application

Several states including but not limited to California, Maine, New
York, and Washington, have been running substantive chemical issue
campaigns as a way to achieve phase outs of those chemicals. Chemical
focuses include dioxin, PVC, arsenic, mercury, and brominated flame
retardants, among others. Several states have a goal to achieve
wholesale chemical policy reform (not chemical by chemical bans but
bans of whole chemical classes). The Louisville Charter could become
the basis of policy re-making at the state level. Likewise, local
groups can advocate that metro environmental boards with oversight of
various agencies adhere to the fundamental principles of the Charter
in all their activities. Ultimately, with support by state, municipal
and local groups and governments, as well as progressive businesses, a
national chemical policy reform effort around the principles of the
Charter for Safer Chemicals could be launched.

Market Initiatives

There are several market campaigns (focused on users of chemicals)
that are in a position to advocate that their allies/targets adopt a
wholesale chemical policy, like that outlined in the Charter for Safer
Chemicals, because they have already agreed to phase out certain
chemicals in their product lines. These include campaigns on the auto
industry, the cosmetics industry, the computer industry, the
electronics industry, the health care sector and others. By using the
principles of the Charter for Safer Chemicals businesses can take the
business lead on instituting just chemical policies that restrict the
demand for, use and disposal of products containing unnecessary
chemical toxics. Campaigns at the legislative and production levels
benefit from adoption of the Charter for Safer Chemicals among major
business purchasers and users.

Corporate Engagement

The growth of Clean Production in the manufacturing sector is a keen
example of progress towards safer chemical innovation. The Charter for
Safer Chemicals could be a common set of principles that manufacturers
adopt about which chemicals they use and release and how they interact
with workers and the public, particularly their immediate neighbors.
Key principles of the Charter have already had great success in
certain states. For example, in Massachusetts, the Toxic Use Reduction
Act requires that companies (over 550 of them in the state) assess
their toxic use reduction options, which include material substitution
and product reformulation (key tenets in the Charter). Within the past
10 years these companies have reduced their use of toxic chemicals by
40%, by-product waste by 58% and toxic emissions by 80%. A cost
benefit analysis shows the same companies saved $14 million over the
same period.

To keep abreast of What's New related to chemicals policy, check in
regularly here.

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From: Environmental Research Foundation, Dec. 6, 2005
[Printer-friendly version]

RACHEL'S KICKS OFF ITS WINTER FUND DRIVE: PLEASE DONATE HERE NOW

By Peter Montague

Please make a donation online today. Or call 888-272-2435 to donate
by phone.A printable form that you can mail or fax is available
here.

You can help us raise $100,000 to expand our readership and
outreach programs helping community activists, local officials and
small business owners protect nature, human health and democracy. See
more details of our Winter fund drive and our programs for 2006
here.

Thank you for your generous support! -- Peter Montague

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From: Christian Science Monitor, Dec. 6, 2005
[Printer-friendly version]

A FIGHT OVER EASING RULES FOR REPORTING TOXIC EMISSIONS

The EPA plan would help small businesses reduce paperwork.

By Mark Clayton

Gracie Lewis is on a crusade to save the Toxics Release Inventory, a
trove of federal pollution data vital to helping her -- and activists
nationwide -- win community battles for cleaner air and water.

Until a couple of years ago, Mrs. Lewis was at her wits' end over the
stew of chemical odors wafting into her home from nearby factories in
the industrial heart of Louisville, Ky., a neighborhood known as
"Rubbertown."

Though she still smells them today, the city now has a plan for
beating back toxic emissions, in part because of TRI data gathered
annually by the Environmental Protection Agency, she says. With those
crucial numbers in hand, she and other activists can ferret out
companies releasing harmful chemicals. "Once we smell it, we call the
odor hot line," she says.

But that ability to check the numbers may be changing as the EPA mulls
over whether to lower the TRI reporting requirements. Small businesses
have welcomed the proposal because it eliminates extra paperwork. But
Lewis, environmentalists, and first responders have become part of a
vocal national backlash since the changes were first proposed in
September. These groups argue they would lose vital data and would not
be able to hold polluters accountable.

"The administration's recommendation is dangerous and cavalier and
should be withdrawn or blocked by Congress," opined the Columbian, a
daily newspaper in Clark County, Wash., in October.

Under the new EPA plan, TRI reporting would be done once every other
year instead of annually. It would also substantially raise the
thresholds for amounts of many toxic emissions that have to be
reported -- from 500 to 5,000 pounds. But it would save millions of
dollars in paper shuffling by small businesses that emit little
pollution anyway, EPA officials say.

"EPA's proposal would collect 99 percent of the same data and allow
small businesses to meet their reporting obligations to EPA in a more
streamlined way," says Eryn Witcher, the agency's press secretary.

But in a teleconference last Thursday, environmentalists, first
responders, and health advocates unveiled an analysis showing that
under the new EPA plan, at least 922 communities nationwide -- more
than 10 percent of the nation's ZIP Codes -- would lose all numerical
TRI data on local polluters, according to the National Environmental
Trust, an environmental group in Washington.

In Kentucky, at least 13 ZIP Codes would no longer receive TRI data
under the new EPA proposal. In Jefferson County, Ky., 15 of some 75
TRI facilities would not have to report data if the plan is
implemented, the NET analysis shows. In the county, data on 45 tons of
toxic releases would not have been reported if the EPA's proposed
standards had been in place, says the NET study.

"The EPA plan would result in an inaccurate picture of pollution at
the local level, hamper our ability to prepare for emergencies, and
provide an incentive for facilities to pollute more in our
communities," says Tom Natan, director of research for the NET.

Besides the 3,849 out of 21,489 TRI facilities nationwide that would
be excluded from reporting toxic release data, another 1,608 among the
8,927 ZIP Codes with TRI facilities across the country would have the
reportable amounts cut in half, Dr. Natan says.

Many activists say it is not time to decrease reporting requirements
because the TRI program continues to be effective. It is widely
credited with helping reduce almost 65 percent of toxic chemical
releases since its inception, Natan says. And more, not less,
information is needed on industrial toxic releases, many activists
say. They point to the chemical soup generated by industrial
facilities after hurricane Katrina struck; a big benzene spill in
China last month; and a chemical spill that killed more than 2,000 in
Bhopal, India, in 1984.

The TRI program came into existence under the Emergency Planning and
Community Right-to-Know Act of 1986, in the aftermath of the tragedy
in India and a chemical spill in West Virginia. The act mandates that
emissions of toxic chemicals be made public. Today, more than 23,000
facilities nationwide report the release of about 650 chemicals in the
air and water, as well as those deposited in landfills.

But groups like the National Federation of Independent Business, which
represents smaller companies, have a different view of the situation.
They've been pushing for EPA revisions to TRI.

"This has been a top-tier issue for our members, and we've worked
closely with folks at EPA to see some manner of TRI reform," says
Andrew Langer, NFIB's manager of regulatory policy.

"It's simply not true," he says of the claim that businesses might
emit more in nonreporting years. "Small businesses are not going to
drastically change their operations to hide their emissions."

In Louisville, the American Bluegrass Marble Company has struggled
with the EPA's red tape. According to the NET data, the 50-employee
company, which makes marble vanity tops and other bathroom fixtures,
would be among those let off the hook by new EPA rules.

In 2003, the company reported emitting 14 pounds of styrene, a
chemical used in sealants, into the atmosphere. Despite this low
level, it took employee James Feeney and a hired consultant a week to
fill out the TRI paperwork, he said.

"I won't say it's a hardship, but it's been expensive, and the company
has had to hire a consultant just to figure the paperwork out," he
says. "If we were exempted, it would be great. Some of the things EPA
has made us do are just ridiculous."

In Maryland, some first responders and environmentalists are worried
because the EPA plan would mean losing all TRI data in 15 ZIP Codes.

"We need all the information we can get," says Mike Donahue, battalion
chief for the Montgomery County Fire Rescue Services. "I'm opposed to
the plan" to squeeze back the TRI, he adds.

The comment period on the proposed changes ends Jan. 13.

Copyright 2005 The Christian Science Monitor

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From: Grist Magazine, Dec. 1, 2005
[Printer-friendly version]

A WORRIED MOTHER DISCOVERS THE SECRETS OF PESTICIDE TESTING

By Audrey Schulman

Three years ago, while my extended family was vacationing at my dad's
cranberry farm, he mentioned that one of his fields would be sprayed
that evening. There were five children under 10 in the house, and I
was eight months pregnant. The field was 100 feet away. I asked my dad
about the pesticides, but he said, "Don't worry. The government runs
tests on the chemicals. They make sure they're safe."

That night, through a closed window, I watched the plane rumble low
over the field, the fog behind it drizzling softly to the ground.
Behind me, in the house, the kids laughed and called, playing hide-
and-seek. I started wondering about these tests. I decided to do a
little research. According to the U.S. EPA, about 5 billion pounds of
pesticides were used in the U.S. in 2001. And researchers estimate
only 1 to 2 percent of agricultural applications reach their target
pest. Not surprisingly, these toxins can be found in almost every
stream -- and in most Americans' bloodstreams.

This country's heavy reliance on synthetic pesticides is fairly new.
We're still on a learning curve that began in the 1940s. Around then,
partially spurred on by chemical-warfare research, the new industry
began to churn out products designed to kill everything from fungi to
rodents. Until the 1960s, these toxins were tested mainly to make sure
they were effective. But since Silent Spring, people have become
increasingly wary about their health effects. Today, each new active
ingredient must pass more than 100 safety tests to be legally
registered. (Despite the fact that inert ingredients, which can
constitute up to 99.9 percent of the total, can be just as toxic,
tests are mandated only for active ingredients.)

At the EPA website, I found a seemingly thorough list of tests that
examined chemicals' effects on birds, mammals, fish, invertebrates,
and plants. These tests checked for storage stability, residue on
food, soil absorption, and short-term toxicity, as well as
carcinogenic effects, prenatal harm, and damage to human fertility and
genetic material. As I scanned the categories, a knot of worry inside
me began to relax. Until I learned all these experiments are completed
by the manufacturers.

I called EPA press officer Enesta Jones, who said she had no problem
with manufacturers overseeing safety experiments. Since the EPA is
responsible for pesticide registration, she explained, it conducts
compliance investigations, has developed strict guidelines, and
reviews all data to ensure its integrity. (The agency's role does not
include enforcement of the tolerance levels it establishes, a duty
that falls to the Food and Drug Administration and the Department of
Agriculture.)

Now, I've always been impressed with science, which seems to be one of
the few fields that hasn't recently suffered some large scandal. Good
science is based on transparency. Breakthroughs are reported in peer-
reviewed journals, and experiments can be reenacted to verify the
results. The openness of the system creates a consensus that heads
toward truth. Unfortunately, pesticide-safety experimentation is not
transparent.

Although the analyses are performed by professional scientists, the
results are often reported only to the EPA. They are rarely published
in peer-reviewed journals, and must often be requested through the
Freedom of Information Act, a process that can take years.

To get an idea of what's behind the curtain, consider the findings of
Tyrone Hayes. A professor of developmental endocrinology at the
University of California-Berkeley, Hayes published an article in
BioScience (yes, it's peer-reviewed) in which he compared several
previous experiments performed by others on the effect of atrazine on
frogs' sexual differentiation. Seven of the studies performed on this
popular corn pesticide were paid for by Syngenta, the manufacturer;
nine others were funded by independent sources. Every one of the
Syngenta-funded studies concluded that atrazine did not affect
amphibian gonads, while all but one of the independent studies found
that the chemical did have an effect, sometimes at the level of one-
tenth part per billion in water. That's a stunningly small amount --
about the same as dropping one tablespoon in almost 40 million
gallons.

The Syngenta studies didn't falsify data; they were simply designed to
find "no effect," by exposing both the control and experimental groups
to enough atrazine to affect their gonads. This type of testing isn't
criminal. It's just bad science.

And here's more: last year, Alan Lockwood, professor of neurology and
nuclear medicine at the State University of New York at Buffalo,
published an analysis in the (peer-reviewed) American Journal of
Public Health of the pesticide tests on humans that he could get
access to through FOIA. In one, the consent form implied that the
pesticide -- a known neurotoxin -- might make the subjects smarter. It
didn't mention the actual possibilities of vomiting, convulsions, or
death. In another, when four of six participants got sick and had to
drop out, the experimenters based their positive results on the two
remaining subjects. Lockwood said all the studies had "serious ethical
or scientific deficiencies -- or both."

The idea of testing on human volunteers, halted in 1998, has
resurfaced thanks to industry pressure and a "sympathetic ear" in the
form of EPA administrator Stephen Johnson. But the notion still has
powerful opponents -- Johnson's confirmation was blocked until he
cancelled a plan to study pesticides' effects on low-income children
-- and controversy has surrounded EPA's draft rules on such tests,
released this fall. A public-comment period on the rules ends Dec. 12.

The son I was pregnant with when the cranberry bog was sprayed has
developed slowly in different ways. He started talking so late the
state sent a speech therapist over to tutor him. My older son, who was
also there, can't draw. He's 5 now and gets frustrated trying to make
even a stick figure. The one time he tried to draw me, it looked like
an amoeba with three eyes.

Does this have to do with drifting pesticides? I can't tell you. None
of us will know for sure the effects of these chemicals until there's
good science involved -- science that isn't funded and reported by the
very people making the chemicals in the first place.

-- Audrey Schulman is the author of the novels The Cage, Swimming with
Jonah, and A House Named Brazil.

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From: The AARP Magazine, Dec. 6, 2005
[Printer-friendly version]

MARGIE E. RICHARD: POLLUTION FIGHTER

By David Dudley

[DHN introduction: Each year the AARP (formerly the American
Association of Retired Persons) honors 10 people with Impact Awards --
10 people "who have made the world a better place." This year one
honoree is Margie Richard the famous grass-roots pollution-fighter
from Norco, Louisiana. Congratulations, Margie! --Editors]

Even as her family and neighbors fell sick and died, Margie Richard
couldn't help thinking that those responsible would do the right thing
if only they knew. The trouble was, they didn't want to listen. So the
retired Louisiana schoolteacher took matters into her own hands,
leading a lengthy battle against the pair of Shell petrochemical
plants that bookend the African American community in Norco, a small
town upriver of New Orleans amid the toxic skein of industry dubbed
Cancer Alley.

Shell wasn't just a health menace; it was the town's main employer,
and community support largely broke along racial lines. But with a
steely mix of faith and ingenuity, Richard, 64, convinced the
petroleum giant both to clean up its act and to pay each homeowner in
a four-block area of the plant a minimum of $80,000 to buy a house
elsewhere -- an offer everyone accepted.

She set up a webcam to broadcast illegal venting of toxic chemicals
from the plant, installed her own atmospheric monitors, and even
traveled to Shell headquarters in the Netherlands to invite company
executives to take a whiff of Norco's air for themselves.

In the end, the company agreed to invest more than $20 million in
emission reduction and relocation -- a historic victory for so-called
fence-line communities living with industry.

In 2004 Richard became the first African American to win the $125,000
Goldman Environmental Prize. "I get accused a lot of talking too much,
but if you don't tell people the problem, how can you expect them to
solve it?" she says. Indeed.

Copyright 1995-2005, AARP

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  Rachel's Democracy & Health News (formerly Rachel's Environment &
  Health News) highlights the connections between issues that are
  often considered separately or not at all.

  The natural world is deteriorating and human health is declining  
  because those who make the important decisions aren't the ones who
  bear the brunt. Our purpose is to connect the dots between human
  health, the destruction of nature, the decline of community, the
  rise of economic insecurity and inequalities, growing stress among
  workers and families, and the crippling legacies of patriarchy,
  intolerance, and racial injustice that allow us to be divided and
  therefore ruled by the few.  

  In a democracy, there are no more fundamental questions than, "Who
  gets to decide?" And, "How do the few control the many, and what
  might be done about it?"

  As you come across stories that might help people connect the dots,
  please Email them to us at dhn@rachel.org.
  
  Rachel's Democracy & Health News is published as often as
  necessary to provide readers with up-to-date coverage of the
  subject.

  Editors:
  Peter Montague - peter@rachel.org
  Tim Montague   -   tim@rachel.org
  
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  To start your own free Email subscription to Rachel's Democracy
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Environmental Research Foundation
P.O. Box 160, New Brunswick, N.J. 08903
dhn@rachel.org
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