April 2016 Newsletter

CEH called to testify on the Flint water crisis

Last month, Congress asked CEH Executive Director Michael Green to testify at a briefing in Washington, DC on the Flint water crisis. CEH has nearly 20 years of work in protecting children from lead poisoning threats, and Michael emphasized that solutions need to address lead poisoning threats not only for Flint but for all American kids. In his testimony, Michael outlined how environmental injustices threaten our health even beyond the urgent situation in Flint, noting that “In areas like Flint that have long histories of environmental inequities, where residents already suffer health problems from environmental stressors, a crisis like lead contamination of the water supply is likely to cause even more severe health consequences.” You can see a video below. Read Michael’s full testimony on our website. CEH is a leading member of the Healthy Babies Bright Future (HBBF) collaborative. Working with the team that found that water problem in Flint, HBBF is offering lead testing for anyone who has concerns about drinking water. See how you can have your water tested. You can learn more about the Flint water crisis on the latest CEH podcast.

Taking on Big Tobacco

Recently a father contacted CEH with concerns about his 16 year-old son’s health. The teenager had purchased nicotine-laced e-liquids from a website that had no age verification or nicotine warnings. The packaging on the e-liquid also had no warning labels, despite the known health consequences of exposure to nicotine. Angry and frustrated at the lack of rules on e-cigarettes, the Dad told us, “If you can help get them to do the right thing that would be awesome.” As a relatively new technology, there is little research into the safety of e-cigarettes. Yet while traditional cigarettes are strictly regulated, there are virtually no rules on the marketing, sale or use of e-cigarettes. For example, tobacco companies are banned from selling candy or dessert flavors or using cartoons or other bright packaging that appeals to kids and teens. But dozens of e-cigarette companies sell such flavored products and use kid-friendly images in their advertising. Local legislatures have taken some steps to keep e-cigarettes out of schools, parks, and planes. However, these patchwork efforts are inadequate to protect the public and especially teenagers from the dangers of e-cigarettes. CEH research has shown that these addictive devices can expose users to high levels of cancer-causing chemicals. In light of the lax rules on and proven dangers from e-cigarettes, CEH decided to take action. We are currently suing nearly 50 companies for selling e-cigarettes without safety warnings that are required under California law https://www.ceh.org/news-events/press-releases/content/lawsuit-exposes-cancer-causing-chemicals-from-e-cigarettes/ . Our work is already paying off. In several recent legal agreements with CEH, e-cigarette companies have agreed to meet binding requirements to adopt child-proof packaging, implement strict age verification processes, stop selling candy and other flavors that appeal to children, and to end the use of unverified health or safety claims. You can read more at the Huffington Post. Our work is the first of its kind to bring to light the cancer risk e-cigarettes pose and to rein in the tobacco industry’s latest attempt to hook a new generation on to its addictive product. With the advent of “vaping” among teens, all parents should know about the dangers from e-cigarettes.

Furniture shopping? Check the label!

5989-11a_sI meet Sophia shopping with her two girls on a Thursday evening at the Union Square Macy’s in San Francisco.  The young mother of two seems shocked to find out about flame retardants in furniture and their health effects. “I just wish that I knew what flame retardants are, about what they can do to my kids, and I hope that other parents do,” she told me. “The dangers from these chemicals are so unknown, and when I was shopping, I had no idea what to look out for. It’s really quite overwhelming.” As a parent, shopping for furniture that is safe for your family can be a daunting task. With the endless types of chemicals and not enough regulations on them, it might seem impossible to make a well-informed decision on furniture purchases. Flame retardants are the worst of both worlds, since they provide no added fire-safety benefit in furniture but do pose dangers to human health, including cancer,  infertility, and developmental problems. Thanks to a bill co-sponsored by CEH, new furniture sold in California is now required to be labeled to indicate whether or not it contains harmful chemical flame retardants, and many companies are labeling nationwide. These labels can help you make the right decisions. Tips for Reading labels When shopping, it can be hard to find furniture labels. Be sure to check under the seats or cushions or under the entire piece of furniture itself. If you have difficulty locating the label, ask an employee. Since some furniture in stores was made before the new labeling rules were developed, today you may find different labels. Check out our new poster about the new warning label: check-the-label (final)        

Los Angeles: movie stars, palm trees … oil wells?

Oil pumps on sunsetMany people may not know that some of the nation’s largest oil and gas fields are located in Los Angeles County, and some of the worst polluting wells are located in predominantly African American, Latino, and other communities of color. CEH recently hosted a Symposium in LA on the health effects from oil and gas extraction, especially in light of risky new technologies the oil and gas industry is now using in LA and around the country. Our video describes the background of the oil and gas industry in LA and introduces some of the local voices calling for reforms to protect their health today. People from more than thirty national and local organizations, including representatives of frontline communities, scientists, researchers, health professionals and others attended the two-day CEH meeting in LA. Our aim was to review the environmental and social determinants of health, with the intention of creating effective engagement and collaboration among those working on upstream oil and gas activities. The group held sessions on organizing, citizen science, public engagement, and many other topics critical to understand and challenging the oil and gas industry. You can see the Symposium program and proceedings on the CEH website.

Urgent action on BPA in our food

For more than a decade, scientists have raised concerns about bisphenol A (BPA), a chemical found in the linings of most canned foods. More than a year ago, California state scientists unanimously agreed that BPA should be added to the state’s list of chemicals known to cause birth defects. About a year ago, the canned food industry was told that they would have a year to comply with state rules calling for warnings on cans that contain BPA, to let consumers know when canned foods expose us to this toxic chemical. So why is California now letting the canned food companies off the hook, and denying us our right to know when canned foods contain BPA? If you think this change of the rules at the last minute is unfair to consumers, you’re not alone. CEH and other health and consumer groups are outraged by the state’s acquiescence to food industry lobbying. Because California has a tremendous influence nationally, all American consumers are affected when the state gives in to industry’s intention to keep us in the dark about our food. Under the law, companies that continue to use chemicals like BPA that cause birth defects have to warn consumers, usually with product labels. But the food industry proposal would let canned food companies continue to sell unlabeled products that contain BPA. Instead of product labels, the industry intends to post a sign that says nothing about which cans contain BPA – but only that “some” cans “may” have this dangerous substance. If consumers are not given specific information about which cans do or do not have BPA, we cannot know how to buy safer food for our families. All Americans can act now to tell Governor Jerry Brown to take immediate action to withdraw this industry proposal and protect our right to know what’s in our food.

Upcoming events and opportunities

  Exclusive Art Benefit for CEH Christianson_ShaleShaker_lowres-583x466Zener Schon Contemporary Art Wednesday, May 4, from 6-8:30pm  23 Sunnyside Ave, Mill Valley, 94941 Join us for a special evening of contemporary fine art addressing urgent environmental health concerns. A special exhibition, This Land is Our Land – Reflections on Climate and Place includes works by artists Sarah Christianson, Kevin Kunishi, and Andreanne Michon. CEH Executive Director Michael Green will share important CEH endeavors to address the health and climate risks of the fossil fuels industry. There will be a silent auction benefitting CEH. Beverages and light snacks will be served. Join us along with supporters of Cool the Earth, a K-8 program that is fighting climate change one child at a time. There is no charge for this event. For more information, please contact Avais Sherani at avais@ceh.org or at 510-655-3900, ext. 312. CancerCon Saturday, April 30, 5-6pm Denver, Colorado CancerCon 2016 is the premier oncology conference and social networking event for the young adult cancer movement. On April 30, CEH Executive Director Michael Green will be speaking on a plenary panel on the topic, Stupid Chemicals 2.0. The full conference agenda is here.   The Islands and the Whales documentary film premiere San Francisco International Film Festival Tuesday, May 3 at 6:30 pm Victoria Theater, 2961 16th Street (at Capp), San Francisco 94103 An insight into the people of the Faroe Islands and how their way of life is becoming threatened by pollutants in the sea. Lynn Rapoport says the film puts the issues of toxic pollution and whaling “into context with the loss of a way of life, one in which urgent contemporary concerns are interwoven with older folk practices amid a landscape of eerie, monumental beauty.” See the trailer and buy tickets here.