Posts in 'Children’s Health'

A Polluter TRAIN Headed Right For Our Children

Imagine this scene: Some maniacs have tied your children to a train track–then hopped on the train, released the brakes, and sent a mighty engine roaring down the track. Right for your children.

That’s what’s going on in Washington DC right now.

The train is, literally, the TRAIN Act of 2011, and next week, the House will vote on a bill (HR 1705) that was designed to cripple Clean Air Act regulations and intimidate the Environmental Protection Agency. The TRAIN Act requires a committee of cabinet secretaries to re-analyze the costs of public health protections. That’s right: RE-analyze. For a third time. Because when a bill is introduced, its costs are analyzed during the comment period, and again by the White House Office of Management and Budget.

The TRAIN Act is a delaying tactic created to protect polluters’ right to pollute. We must take action now to stop this shameful bill.

The TRAIN ACT is busy work for politicians whose stated goal is to block any and all environmental protections–no matter what the cost to our children’s healthMercury, lead, arsenic, acid gases–these are the poisons spewing from coal plants that EPA, in any administration, is required by law, under the Clean Air Act, to regulate. These are regulations that save hundreds of thousands of lives, and cut health care costs by trillions of dollars.

On top of it all, polluters and politicians want you to believe that regulations kill jobs and cripple the economy. This is absolutely untrue.

We do not have to choose between jobs and clean air. We can have both.

Tell your representatives to do their jobs. Not create busy work–and blow smoke. Their job is to protect people.

Air pollution isn’t just dirty. It is poisonous. As a mom, I’m furious–and you should be too. Politicians can play politics with each other all they want. But they cannot play politics with my children.

Parents have a chance to make a difference, this week and next. Mothers’ voices will make a difference. Let Washington know that you are paying attention. Let Washington know that you want pollution to be controlled. Let Washington know that clean air saves lives.

Write to your representatives and let them know that they must stop that TRAIN speeding towards our children. Tell them to stop playing politics with our children.

PLEASE JOIN MOMS CLEAN AIR FORCE and tell your local representatives to vote NO on the TRAIN Act.

Obama, Ozone, and Political Horse-Trading

President Obama has just announced a controversial decision(because we're all paying close attention over the Labor Day weekend, of course) not to raise the ozone standards for air pollution–in spite of pressure from environmentalists and his own head of EPA, Lisa Jackson. He is responding, instead, to requests from House Speaker John Boehner, as well as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce; opposition to the regulation was focused on the expense  to businesses of meeting it, which they claimed was somewhere in the range of $20 to $90 billion annually.

I'm not going to jump into an Obama Bash here. Maybe it's the sunny skies, but I'm remaining deliberately optimistic. Perhaps the president is getting ready to do some political horse-trading. By being responsive to business concerns about what opponents claim would have been the most expensive regulation to come out of E.P.A. by far, he can't be called a Democrat who supports any and all regulations. The thinking might go: You can have those ozone regulations–which are set to be revisited in 2013, anyway–but I want those new mercury regulations for coal-fired power plants. We can afford those.

The flip side of my optimistic argument is that the White House is buying into the "regulations cost jobs" trope; many politicians now link "job-killing" to every use of the word "regulation", regardless of the inaccuracy. So far, there hasn't been any proof that the implementation of ozone standards would have cost jobs. In fact, it may well have added employment, and driven engineering innovation. Any way you look at it, this is a huge win for polluters.

Horse-trading or caving: we'll see a clear trend over the next few months, as other pollution regulations come up for discussion. The ozone decision bodes ill for those who are opposing the upcoming Keystone pipeline, despite an impassioned letter from the governor of Nebraska. If the president is accepting the "jobs versus environmental protection" framework, he will be forced to choose jobs, and get that pipeline built. That jobs v. environment framework is not, and has never been, accurate. It is a spin imposed by corporate polluters and their lobbyists, one that is all too easily understood and accepted by voters–and it is gaining traction. Enviros have not done a good enough job explaining why and how regulations actually create jobs.

One thing is clear, regardless of the smog. Now, more than at any other time since President Nixon signed the Clean Air Act into law, we have to keep the pressure up on Washington to remind everyone that clean air is a priority. Like they say in Texas, Ya gotta dance with the one that brung ya. We have to support the president in doing the right thing–and pressure him relentlessly when we think he's doing the wrong thing.

Join Moms Clean Air Force to send a strong message: Air pollution isn't just dirty. It's toxic. Let Washington know that we want regulations that protect the health of our children.

 

 

 

 

 

Will mothers unite to protect the health of our children?

Is it possible to be green without being political?

It is puzzling that the protective maternal instinct doesn't extend to the public world, where politicians and corporations make decisions that have huge impact on our children’s health.

I've been thinking a lot about this recently, while working on the launch of a new campaign called Moms Clean Air Force. Our goal is to use the power of blogs and other online communications to reach out to, and energize, mothers and mothers-to-be — the people who have the most at stake in protecting the strength of the Clean Air Act.

The Clean Air Act is one of the jewels in the crown of our democratic process. Since 1970, when it was signed into law by President Richard Nixon, the Clean Air Act has made it possible to make enormous progress in cleaning up air and water pollution. It is one of the best, most effective environmental regulations ever passed.

Last month, the EPA released new Mercury and Air Toxics Standards, which have been in the planning for twenty years. These standards will ensure that all coal-fired power plants cut down their emissions of poisons like mercury, lead, arsenic, and other toxicants. These plants are responsible for most of the toxic emissions fouling our air. The technology to clean the emissions exists — and it is cost effective.

But some powerful polluters and politicians in Congress are trying to gut funding for the EPA and weaken the Clean Air Act, including the new standards. "They are trying to unravel the legal fabric that has protected the health and safety of our families and our neighborhoods from dangerous air pollution for over forty years," warns Vickie Patton, EDF's chief legal counsel. "We face an unprecedented assault on vital, time-tested clean air protections for our children."

Supporters and opponents of the standards can comment on the proposed regulations. During this comment period, we must send a simple message to polluters, the politicians they work with — and to those who oppose them and need our support: We share the air. Keep it clean.

Dominique with her son, nephews & niece.

Over the past twenty years, scientists have learned more and more about the poisonous effects of air pollution. And it is most poisonous of all to the most helpless among us. Fetuses — whose brain architecture is still developing — and infants and toddlers are terribly vulnerable to the neurotoxins being spewed into our air.

The political threat to the Clean Air Act, combined with our growing understanding of the health dangers associated with pollution, make this what Patton calls "a defining moment" for our country. "Moms and dads, grandparents, uncles and aunts," Patton says, "all of us must reaffirm our commitment to healthy children, and clean air in America."

Everyone knows how vigilant moms can be in protecting their babies. There's endless activity online, in blogs, tweets, and Facebook postings, to prove it. Whether moms are looking for the right baby bottles, or having a sleeping schedule crisis, or confused about bed-sharing, help is a click away.

So it is puzzling that the same protective maternal instinct doesn't extend to the public world, where politicians and corporations often make decisions that have the greatest impact — for better and for worse — on our children's health.

There is actually very little in the blogosphere that directly addresses the political issues that should be of great concern to families — truly enormous challenges like toxic chemical reform, global warming, food safety, air and water pollution.

Moms Clean Air Force is dedicated to doing something about the pollution. We want to bring the power of moms — their numbers, their passion, their determination to keep their children safe — to bear on polluters and the politicians who endanger the health of our children.

When I began to talk to mom bloggers in the green community about our efforts, I was surprised by some of the responses. "Oh, we're not into advocacy." "We can’t do anything that would upset our sponsors." "Advertising dollars are too important to jeopardize."

Surprised? I was stunned. It was like the old days in the magazine industry, the days when we argued about whether or not to carry cigarette advertising, and if we did carry it, we argued about whether or not to run a story that made the advertiser so angry they would pull their expensive pages.

I began to wonder why people have become so wary of being viewed as "political"? What are we afraid of? What kind of sponsors would be upset by association with mothers who are fighting for clean air and water? In fact, why wouldn't they be using their political clout — and joining in? Surely the rapidly growing number of corporations that have publicly committed themselves to sustainability would understand the benefits of sound environmental regulations.

I also began to wonder what good does it do for any of us to buy "green" diapers, and BPA free bottles, and CFL bulbs, if we don't also attack our problems on a much larger scale?

All our individual choices won't make a dent in addressing toxic chemicals, or climate change, or air and water pollution, if we don't safeguard the regulations — and the government's power to enforce them — that make our world a better place. The only way to do this is to become politically active. That's at the heart of what it means to be a citizen in a democratic society.

At Moms Clean Air Force we've identified a wonderful, independent group of mom bloggers, and a dad, too, from all over the country. More bloggers join in everyday. Now we need more moms to make this movement powerful. We need to fight for clean air, by blogging, phoning, letter-writing, tweeting, and posting on Facebook pages — and marching if we must.

"We're just moms. We can't change the world," someone told me.

But we can. We're the ones who care fiercely about keeping our children safe. And when we're up against the billions of dollars being spent by the polluters, our determined hearts are our best weapons. They're pretty powerful. Now let's use them.

Personal Nature

What You Can Do

Join the Moms Clean Air Force in the fight for our kid's health.

The Rising Power of Eco Moms

Yes! Prop 23—a proposal in California, underwritten by Texas oil companies, to repeal the strongest clean energy law in the nation—was resoundingly defeated on Election Day. But apart from that victory, media pundits seem to believe that around the country, environmentalists and their concerns were soundly trounced. I think they are reading the wrong tea leaves.

Eco Moms express simple values: cherish natural resources; keep the world clean.

The Tea Party may be full of science Luddites, but there's another important activist group in the U.S. and it is growing fast. It isn't run by anyone, and has no political candidates—yet. I'm calling it the Green Tea Party, and it is made up of millions of women I think of as Eco Moms. It is going to be–it is already–a game changer.

I count myself among these women. EcoFocus Worldwide, a marketing research consultant, estimates that "the EcoAware Moms market includes more than 50 million women, 69% of [all] moms, and has more than $1.45 trillion in buying power." Best of all, consumer power can translate to political clout.

Most of us wouldn't say we're out to save the planet. And we don't walk around numb with fear, gloomy about the future. Raising children is anxiety-provoking enough. But we want change. We want global warming addressed. We want to protect our homes from toxic chemicals. We want the government to which we pay our taxes to keep our families safe.

By the Numbers: Eco Moms vs. ChemicalsEco Moms teach our children not to keep the water running while they brush their teeth, to switch off the lights when they leave the room, to walk or bike to a friend's house, to unplug chargers and shut off computers at night, not to let the engine idle at the mall. We're about small actions that, within a family, express simple values: cherish natural resources; keep the world clean.

"Our children are growing up differently than we did," says Lori Yanes, an Eco Mom from West Orange, N.J., who has three sons. "If I forget to recycle something, my kids are all over me. Being green is a way of life for them."

These days, the news is full of reports that our lives are awash in toxic chemicals. They are hidden in plastics, in detergents, in beauty products, in foods—things no one worried about a generation ago. While there is only so much we can do, as individuals, about climate change, there is a great deal we can do about day to day pollution—especially exposure to toxic chemicals, whether they're in baby shampoo, or in a child's bracelet.

When I read a recent blog post by Richard Denison, EDF's senior scientist, about a new study linking the chemical bisphenol-A to low sperm counts, the first thing I did was send the post to every young man I know, beginning with my sons and nephews. No mom wants her children to be used as guinea pigs by the chemical industry; we want regulations that ensure chemicals are safe before they get under our babies' skin. But make no mistake: right now, we're all guinea pigs.

Video: Chemicals in Your Home

Learn about toxic chemicals in consumer products and what you can do at I am Not a Guinea Pig.

I had spent the summer ridding my own house of plastics with BPA (including those microwave popcorn bags with plastic liners), explaining to my sons the damage this chemical, an endocrine disrupter, can cause and how it can leach into food from plastic that is heated. BPA has even been found in some of the thermal paper used for cash register receipts—and it rubs off on our hands.

BPA is only one of many toxins we're bringing into our homes. Every day, Eco Moms are learning about problems with chemicals, networking for advice and information about safe products. New websites and new support communities are springing up to keep us informed about the latest findings.

Judy Shils qualifies as one of the world's most devoted and influential Eco Moms, and her work provides a model of how values are transmitted to the next generation. In 2005, while she was setting up the Marin Cancer Project to investigate why cancer rates there were soaring, she began working with a group of teenagers who were interested in what toxins were lurking in their beauty products. Teens for Safe Cosmetics played a key role in the passage of the California Safe Cosmetics Act in October 2005, and the Toxic Toys Bill in 2007.

To take on broader issues, Shils also founded Teens Turning Green which engages young people from 12 years old through college age. The student-led movement started around her kitchen table in the Bay Area and now has a presence in schools across the country.

Video: Eco Mom Judy Shils

Teens Turning Green founder Judy Shils on youth enthusiasm for safe, green products. (via Natural Products Expo)

"There is a tremendous surge of green energy coming from Moms these days—and now it is coming from their girls, too," says Shils. "We have an opportunity to mentor and support a new generation of change makers, and wow, are these young women ever powerful! When they see an injustice, they want to fix it. They will heal the world."

The power of Eco Moms extends beyond idealism. We also have enormous purchasing power, especially when it comes to deciding what products we allow in the house. Increasingly, we are demanding stuff that is safe and respectful of our values. The result? So-called "green" product lines are proliferating.

Ten years ago, there was usually one choice: go to a health food store and look for Seventh Generation. Today some of the biggest brands in household products have started green, natural lines. Gerber introduced Gerber Organic Baby Food. White Cloud has Green Earth bathroom tissue, and even Scott tissue is up to 40% recycled in their "Naturals" line. A couple of years ago Clorox launched its Greenworks line (the company also bought Burt's Bees).

But there's also been a tsunami of bogus or misleading green claims to go with this shift, and it can be hard to sort out the truth. It's instructive, then, to see how clear Clorox has made its Greenworks labels. (I learned that the secret cleaning ingredient in their products, alkyl polyglucoside, is extracted from coconuts.) And the Greenworks website is a model of communication; it is upbeat, even humorous, and offers easy tips for keeping unnecessary chemicals out of the house.

Manufacturers are going to the trouble of appealing to Eco Moms for a reason: they are influential early adopters of products. If we buy what you're selling, you are likely to profit from the connection. The lesson for Eco Moms is that our everyday decisions are important. They give us a sense of control over our environment, a way to feel we are making smart choices, doing something good for ourselves and our planet. But these decisions also acquire critical mass in the commercial world.

Yes, rampant consumerism is part of the problem. Too much of what we buy is disposable or just wasteful. But the rising power of Eco Moms gives me hope for a change in values. We are asking, in hundreds of different ways, for healthier, more sustainable choices. And we are getting answers. But with the counterproductive regulations in place now, we cannot know the full extent of harmful chemical exposure from the products we use daily.

Now it is time to leverage consumer power into legislative clout. We have to make our voices heard in Congress. Let the new 112th Congress know that Eco Moms want immediate reform of our scandalously inadequate chemical safety laws. It is up to us to make sure that the laws that are supposed to protect us from toxic chemicals actually do. We can get this done in 2011: Never underestimate the power of mothers of nature!

Help Protect Your Family from Dangerous Toxic Chemicals

Please stand up for the health of your family by joining thousands of concerned moms, dads and others in signing this pledge and telling Congress to strengthen our toxic chemicals standards. We will deliver your pledge along with the thousands of others to the new Congress when it's sworn in next year.

As a constituent and a concerned...





I am deeply troubled by the exposure of my...




...to dangerous toxic chemicals, which are in everything from computers to carpets to clothing to couches.

These chemicals are so ubiquitous that every American alive today has hundreds of them flowing in our blood stream. And yet, America's main chemical safety law has never been significantly amended since it was adopted 34 years ago. As it is currently designed, this law does almost as much to ensure we are exposed to toxic chemicals as it does to protect us.

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Personal Nature

Hope

A successful fight for safer school buses offers hope for global warming action

"Hope is the thing with feathers," Emily Dickinson wrote. In her poem, hope flutters into—and out of—our hearts, it clings to its perch through the heaviest storms, and it asks for nothing in exchange, not a crumb. Hope has been very much on my mind this summer. Every single day we learn more about the deteriorating state of our planet—the dying ocean, the melting glaciers, the disruptive, unusually severe weather patterns. Then we ponder the sorry state of our political process with respect to climate change. Where's the hope?

How neighborhood action spurred national change.

My weary friends say the battle against climate change is overwhelming. The issues are too large. The battle must be global in scale and the solution has to be as large as the problem. But it is doubtful we can institutionalize international change fast enough to avert disaster. Time is not on our side.

So we retreat to our homes, and think of tending only our gardens and raising our children. It is autumn, and for most of us, no matter how old we are, an internal rhythm kicks in: back to school! Back to serious matters! We buy the crayons and notebooks and lunch boxes for our little ones, and send them out the door to board those bright yellow buses, just as we did when we were in our brand new fall oxfords. We send our children out into that very large world—the one from which we want to retreat.

Children on the school busFresh faces on the first day of school.

About a decade ago, we began to learn that those school buses we waved our children off in posed an unexpected environmental risk. Despite being the safest way to transport children to and from school, buses produced diesel fumes that can cause respiratory ailments, exacerbating asthma, and damaging lung tissue. The problems were aggravated every time the buses stopped to open their doors to pick up more passengers; more particulate pollution streamed in and entered the children’s lungs, bloodstreams and brains. Because children’s lungs are not fully developed, they are especially vulnerable. To make matters worse, idling at pickup time at the school doors added to the pollution both inside and outside the bus.

Buses by the Numbers

When the information surfaced, it led to aggressive action across the country. New York City, Washington state, New Jersey and California instituted mandatory emissions controls programs, setting aside funds to either retire old buses quickly, or retrofit them to filter the pollution.

In states such as Texas, where EDF went to work on this issue, the programs were voluntary, but millions in funds have been made available through the legislature. EDF’s efforts, primarily in Houston, generated a great deal of local and national media attention, which helped educate other communities about the problem. EDF also created this educational video at www.cleanbuses.org/texas to encourage grass roots action in other cities:

Along with the Environmental Protection Agency, the American Lung Association threw its weight behind the issue; so did many PTA organizations. Things have begun to change. Progress is slow, and sometimes frustrating. Some fleet managers are more concerned with bus routes and schedules; some legislatures are unable to find funds to buy new buses or retrofit old ones. The retrofit costs ranging from $1,000 to $8,000 are a small price to pay for our children, and the sort of thing many companies could underwrite in an "Adopt a Bus" program.

Startling difference in tailpipe emissions from buses with and without filters. Learn more

Incredibly, some people fail to give a child's lungs and heart and brains top priority. But over and over, we have seen that things happen most rapidly and effectively when the people who do care—the parents—mobilize to demand change, and champion it through the planning and implementation stages. EPA reports that across the nation, bus retrofit programs are growing and getting better. Ten years later, district by district, across the country, our children are breathing cleaner air as they ride to school. And fortunately, even in places where nothing is done, the old, dirty buses will eventually "age out", and be replaced with new buses designed to run more efficiently and cleanly.

Which gets us to that matter of hope. Of course there are times when hope fails us. We abandon it, or it abandons us. But the only alternative to hope is despair, and no one thrives with a heavy heart. To be human is to hope. The thing with feathers is small, but it is also nimble. Sometimes, when the big picture is overwhelming, it helps to zoom in tighter. Look at the ways in which we have made large changes for the better in our own small neighborhoods. Look at the successes we have had—and be reminded that we can change things for the better. The fight against global warming is not like the fight against school bus pollution; the crisis is too pervasive, for any individual action to make much difference. We need significant legislative change. But it is up to us, as individuals, to rally around transformative efforts—for our own sakes, and for the sake of our children.

Sometimes, hope is the thing with a backpack—that small, cherished creature, innocent and expectant, we send out into the world's hurly-burly. I have to believe that, one way or another, we will continue to change our ways for those children—a new generation whose own hearts are filling with hope as they pick up the fight. We are like those buses. We will age out—and we will, I hope, be replaced by our children, people who have cleaner energy on their minds. In the meantime, it helps to understand that hope is a gift, a blessing, a visitation, a grace. But it is also a choice.

Personal Nature

Get Involved! Cleaner buses are just one change of many we can make.

Join a powerful new I am Not a Guinea Pig campaign to strengthen toxic chemical standards.

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