Demand EPA Ban Deadly Chemical in Household Products

Target: Scott Pruitt, Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency

Goal: Follow through with ban on lethally toxic paint-thinning chemical.

A common household product is already responsible for killing dozens of people. Methlyene chloride is a chemical found in common paint thinners that has been found to be toxic to humans, yet the Environmental Protection Agency has not followed through with a proposed ban on the chemical.

The EPA had plans to ban the product altogether after Obama-era regulations were put in place, yet the agency has moved to a standstill in regards to banning the chemical. The chemical has been found to be too toxic to use indoors and has killed dozens of people already, including veterans, teenagers, and a mother of four. Sign the petition below to demand the EPA go through with the ban.

PETITION LETTER:

Dear Mr. Pruitt,

Once again, your agency is doing a terrible job at protecting the environment from harmful chemicals. This time, the problem has spread to suburbia, where people are just trying to strip paint from the sides of their houses. Nobody should have to worry about dying when they’re stripping paint.

Choosing to take your time on this issue does nothing but further harm at-risk families. There is no positive outcome that happens when you keep a toxic chemical like this legal, so why are you hesitating? We, the American people, demand a solution to this issue at once. Ban methlyene chloride now!

Sincerely,

[Your Name Here]

Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore

Help Citizens Breathe Clean Air

Target: Becky Keogh, Director of Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality

Goal: Increase awareness around hydrogen sulfide contamination and protect public health.

Citizens in Arkansas are breathing dangerous air. In Crossett, Arkansas, a rotten-egg smell is familiar to its citizens, who regularly breathe in hydrogen sulfide from wastewater near the Georgia-Pacific paper mill. Although reports have demonstrated that hydrogen sulfide air and odor measurements regularly exceed safe limits, the paper mill has not been penalized or charged. Instead, residents face health problems such as eye, nose and throat irritation, headaches, poor memory, balance problems, and breathing difficulties. This is especially true for people who suffer from asthma and respiratory problems already.

In the 1990s, the paper mill reached settlements with citizens for being found responsible for corroded air conditioners, swing sets, basketball goals, and other properties. While hydrogen sulfide was not included in the emissions permit for the paper mill, leaving them free of liability, the permit now includes overall hydrogen sulfide released, especially in its wastewater paths. Georgia-Pacific has tried to mitigate its emissions by creating pipes for wastewater instead of letting them flow openly, but this has not reduced emissions.

Over three years of monitoring, Arkansas has released over 25 notices of hydrogen sulfide air measurements exceeding the limit. A complaint was made to the EPA in 2011 followed by site visits, conversations, and investigations, but the situation remains the same. In a predominantly black area with 22.8% of the population living below the poverty line compared to the national average of 12.7%, residents have no other choice but to go on as usual. It is unfair that residents must suffer health problems because a company refuses to find alternative ways to dispose of wastewater. Urge the Arkansas Director of Environmental Quality to increase awareness for this public and environmental health issue, and protect both from pollution.

PETITION LETTER:

Dear Ms. Keogh,

Residents in Crossett, Arkansas suffer from health problems due to the hydrogen sulfide released by the Georgia-Pacific paper mill. The steam from dirty wastewater finds its way into their lungs and respiratory systems, inducing problems such as eye, nose, and throat irritation, headaches, poor memory and balance problems, breathing difficulties, dizziness, and sleep problems.

While regular monitoring of hydrogen sulfide levels show that they exceed safe levels, there have been no cases or penalties brought up against Georgia-Pacific. Many people seem skeptical of the residents’ ailments and complains. Nearly a third of the vulnerable community of Crossett lives below the poverty line, compounding even more health problems for many residents.

As the director for the Department of Environmental Quality of Arkansas, you must protect underrepresented communities, especially, from threats such as this. Georgia-Pacific can no longer claim that it is not responsible for hydrogen sulfide emissions or that it has no way of measuring how much it is releasing. Plenty of evidence has shown that they are the 13th biggest producers of hydrogen sulfide of a list of 508 facilities. I hope that you take appropriate action and begin helping these communities by protecting them from unjust environmental hazard exposure.

Sincerely,

[Your Name Here]

Photo Credit: Nicolaus Czarnecki

Empower Citizens to Take Polluting Chemical Companies to Court

Target: Phil Scott, Vermont Governor

Goal: Pass bill to protect Vermont citizens from toxic chemicals and hold corporations accountable for pollution.

Citizens of Vermont who have suffered horrific health consequences from pollution may soon have the state’s support behind them, but only if the state’s House of Representatives and governor have their back. Vermont’s Senate passed a bill that will help Vermont citizens with medical expenses and reduced property value due to toxic contamination from nearby companies. In 2016, citizens discovered they had been drinking contaminated drinking water (some had been drinking it for decades), prompting the Senate to pass a bill that would raise polluters’ liability. In addition, it would ensure that citizens have access to court if they fall victim to chemical poisoning. There has been intense opposition to the bill, with lobbyists citing extremely high insurance costs for both homeowners and business, as well unfair liability laws.

The cost of toxic pollution would pass from citizens and taxpayers to companies. This bill would serve justice for those affected by the contaminated drinking waters in Bennington. Although there are still legal wording and technical issues to adjust in the bill, this is the first step in ensuring that citizens are not held responsible for contamination. The companies should be responsible for any and all chemicals that they release.

While many fear that the insurance costs would be too high, those supporting the bill argue that companies should have no reason to worry if they are not actively releasing harmful chemicals. While the bill must still be picked up by the House of Representatives, there is hopeful momentum that the Governor will approve it. Sign the petition below to urge Governor Scott to pass the bill and help victims of toxic pollution find justice.

PETITION LETTER:

Dear Mr. Scott,

Recently, a bill was passed that places liability on companies for releasing toxic chemicals and harming citizens. In 2016, citizens of Bennington discovered that they had been drinking contaminated water for decades. The company had been releasing pollutants in the air that found their way into the residents’ wells. This is an example of companies holding no responsibility for chemical pollution. The bill would make sure that these residents find justice and that companies comply to pollution rules.

Corporations should not freely pollute air and water while citizens suffer and pay the price. In many cases, residents are inflicted with medical bills and reduced property values, in addition to declining health. Often, they are exposed to chemicals without their knowledge due to lax chemical pollution rules. This bill would ensure that victims of toxic pollution have access to a court proceeding and that companies pay when they do wrong. I hope that you pass this bill to ensure that from now on, at least in Vermont, companies take responsibility for toxic pollution.

Sincerely,

[Your Name Here]

Photo Credit: Justin Hawk

Polar Bears Plagued by Mysterious Illness

Nine polar bears spotted in the Beaufort Sea were found with fur loss and open sores. There is concern among wildlife experts that these symptoms may be related to similar incidents among seals and walruses.

Tests confirmed that the polar bears were suffering from alopecia, a partial or complete loss of hair in areas where hair should be present, and other skin lesions. Aside from the alopecia and skin lesions, the polar bears appeared to be healthy. Although patches of hair loss have been seen among polar bears since 1999, this recent episode has caused concern among wildlife experts because of the high prevalence seen among the recently spotted polar bears and because of the similarity of symptoms seen in sick seals and walruses found in the arctic last  year. As of yet, scientists have been unable to determine whether the recently spotted polar bears are suffering from the same illness as the seals and walruses. However, the veterinary pathologist who has studied the animals noted that the lesions look very similar under a microscope.

Although there have been no reported sightings of dead polar bears from this incident, around 60 seals and several walruses were found dead. Due to the high number of deaths among seals and walruses as a result of this undetermined illness, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) declared it an “unusual mortality event” (UME) on December 20, 2011. A UME declaration is a special condition under which the federal government can use additional resources in which to investigate. As of right now, the polar bear incident will not be included as part of the (UME) until there is further evidence linking the two incidents.

Tests to determine the cause of the illness has ruled out various bacteria and viruses known to affect marine mammals. In addition, tests have also ruled out two different toxins, known to cause harmful algae blooms, as being the cause of the illness. Although there has been speculation that the symptoms may be related to the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster, scientists believe this to be unlikely due to the low levels of radiation detected in waters around Alaska where the sick seals and walruses were found. 

Photo credit: public-domain-image.com/fauna-animals-public-domain-images-pictures/bears-public-domain-images-pictures/polar-bear-in-arctic-alaska.jpg.html

New Study Finds Domesticated Cats and Wildcats Can Share Disease

For all those who love felines and own one or more, it is important to note that domesticated felines are susceptible to illnesses that affect wildcats.  A new study led by Colorado State University has found that domesticated cats living in the same area as wildcats, such as bobcats and cougars, share the same diseases.

The three diseases studied were Bartonellosis, Toxoplasmosis, and Feline Immunodefeciency Virus (FIV). Bartonellosis and Toxoplasmosis can be transmitted to humans, but luckily, FIV cannot be spread from feline to human. The study also found that domesticated felines do not have to come into direct contact with wildcats to contract a disease. What is scary about these findings is that domesticated cats who acquire any one of these diseases can bring the illness home, and diseases such as Toxoplasmosis can pose a serious health risk to infants and/or adults with compromised immune systems.

The study also demonstrated that the locality and spread of such illnesses is impacted by urban development and major freeways which may restrict the movement of animals.  
Sam Scheiner, program director for the Ecology and Evolution of Infectious Diseases (EEID) Program, states that as human population expands, human-wildlife interaction will increase, and these interactions will have an impact on both humans and wildlife.  Thus, in a time and age where space is limited and must be shared, it is important to understand that illnesses can be spread from us or our domesticated animals to wildlife or the other way around.

Bartonellosis, commonly referred to as “cat scratch fever,” is a bacterial infection caused by an infection acquired after being scratched by a cat.  However, Bartonellosis does not usually cause a severe infection.  In felines, Bartonellosis can cause inflammatory effects.  Toxoplasmosis is a parasite that does not usually cause symptoms in healthy individuals.  However, toxoplasmosis can cause headache, fever, muscle pain, and sore throat for some.  For individuals with compromised immune systems, toxoplasmosis can cause confusion, fever, headache, retinal inflammation, and seizures.

Photo credit: genome.gov/pressDisplay.cfm?photoID=42

EPA Bans The Sale Herbicide Linked To Tree Deaths

The Environmental Protection Agency has banned the sale of of Imprelis, a harmful herbicide that is responsible for thousands of tree deaths. The company that distributes the herbicide is now facing numerous lawsuits for the thousands of evergreen deaths countrywide.

DuPont, the company that distributes Imprelis, has been ordered by the EPA to stop the sale and distribution of Imprelis. The order was issued under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA). FIFRA is a federal law that requires that pesticides be properly labeled and all products and production facilities must be registered. The law is designed to protect the health of both the public and the environment by making sure that pesticides are used in a safe and effective manner.

Imprelis is an herbicide that is used to control weeds. The herbicide has harmed a large number of trees, particularly Norway spruce and white pine. In the EPA’s investigation of Imprelis, the agency looked into the possible causes of the numerous tree deaths. Possible reasons included misuse of the product, environmental factors, possible runoff issues, or unsatisfactory warnings on the label of the product.

Imprelis was approved for sale last October. Ironically, the product was once marketed as an “environmentally-friendly” herbicide, with claims that the product did not pose a risk to animals. A spokesperon for DuPont has described Imprelis as having a “very favorable environmental profile.” Before being taken off the market, Imprelis was only available for purchase by professionals specializing in turf and landscaping. The main ingredient in Imprelis is Aptexor, which is described by DuPont as “the first compound in an advanced generation of carboxylic acid herbicides.” Imprelis is specifically intended to kill weeds such as clovers and dandelions.

On June 17th of this year, DuPont issued a letter advising against using Imprelis where Norway spruce or white pine was present. On July 27th, DuPont admitted to the EPA that Imprelis was the likely cause of the deaths of Norway spruce, white pine, and other evergreens. The company has since set up a website with information about the use of Imprelis. On August 4th, DuPont voluntarily halted the sale of Imprelis with the promise of product returns and refunds.

Even though Imprelis has been taken off the market, the damage to evergreens has already been done. Agricultural experts have estimated that the number of tree deaths attributable to Imprelis could be in the hundreds of thousands. DuPont is already facing a dozen lawsuits filed by the law firm Parker, Waichman and Alonso. Trees deaths attributed to Imprelis have occurred nationwide, ranging from the East Coast to the Midwest. The damage to the trees has been estimated to be in the millions of dollars.

The recent death of thousands of trees is not the first instance of widespread tree death in the United States. The emerald ash borer, an invasive species of beetle native to Asia, was accidentally introduced to the United States and Canada in the 1990s. The beetle has so far been responsible for the death of 50-100 million ash trees and could possibly kill almost all of the 7.5 billion ash trees in North America. Experts have acknowledged that the evergreen deaths due to Imprelis are the worst tree death catastrophe since the introduction of the emerald ash borer.

In an effort to determine the exact cause of the evergreen tree deaths, the Environmental Protection Agency is continuing to conduct an investigation into the use of Imprelis. So far, it is unclear whether or not the herbicide will be for sale after the investigation is completed.

Photo Credit: dnr.state.oh.us/Portals/18/trees/imagetrees/spruce_nrwy_tr3_sm.jpg