Articles Posted in Environmental Contamination

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Incense is chic again.

You have only to see all the photos of burning incense and crystals on Instagram to know that young people are following this trend. Some companies are even marketing incense as being good for your health. And while it’s true that burning incense can make your house or office smell like a calming spa; is it really a good idea? Not necessarily according to researchers.

Recent studies published in the journal Nature have revealed some surprising health risks linked to burning incense indoors which may make you reconsider using incense to create a calming, patchouli-scented environment. Here are some of the harmful health effects linked to incense burning:

ford-2691853_1920-1-300x209Recent news reports have revealed that a benzene leak at Ford’s Assembly Plant in Flat Rock, Michigan has contaminated the sewers in a 4-square-mile—and possibly larger—area of the city. As a result of the benzene leak, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) is recommending that residents who live in the area bounded by I-75 to the east, Gibraltar Road to the north, Cahill Road to the west, and Woodruff Road south, evacuate until further notice. Initially, 10 homes and one school were evacuated, but now, because it is unclear which homes may be at risk, the MDHHS is recommending that the entire neighborhood evacuate.

Why Should Residents Evacuate?

Residents may be at risk of exposure to high levels of benzene, a volatile organic compound (VOC), which can be harmful to human health. Measurements of air in buildings and sewer lines have shown that VOC levels exceed health-protective and explosive levels.

Benzene-in-sunscreensSummer is here, along with beach days, afternoons at the neighborhood pool, tropical vacations, and lathering up in sunscreen. As you head out into the summer sun, however, it might be worth doing some research before grabbing any old bottle of sunscreen off the shelf. A new report has found benzene, a chemical that is known to cause cancer, in 78 sunscreen and after-sun products.

Independent Testing Found Benzene in 27% of Sunscreens

Valisure, a pharmacy that performs its own independent tests on various products, recently tested almost 300 different sunscreens in an effort to find a “clean” sunscreen. Of those 300 sunscreens, 78 (or 27%) tested positive for benzene; some even containing triple the FDA’s limit of 2 parts per million. As a result, Valisure is asking for a recall of the contaminated batches.

Explosion-1-1-300x188The Collins Law Firm, P.C. has filed a class action lawsuit against Chemtool Incorporated on behalf of residents affected by the explosion that occurred at their Rockton, Illinois plant on June 14, 2021. The explosion resulted in an enormous chemical fire that created a massive plume of toxic smoke, ash, and debris that could be seen from 100 miles away. Eighty-nine fire departments were dispatched to the site to aid in combating the fire, however, due to concern about the environmental impact to the nearby Rock River, they did not engage immediately in fire suppression activities.

As a result of the fire, the Winnebago County authorities issued an executive proclamation of disaster emergency and ordered a mandatory evacuation of residents living within a one-mile radius of the plant. The affected residents were directed not to return home even for medication, technology and communication devices, or other personal items.

Authorities also advised residents within three miles of the plant to wear masks for protection against the potentially toxic and harmful chemicals released by the fire, and to remain indoors without using their air conditioning. Residents were further warned not to touch any of the debris on their property but to have it removed by professionals with experience working with hazardous materials.

Explosion-1-300x188UPDATE: The Collins Law Firm. P.C. and Miner Barnhill & Galland, P.C. have filed a class action lawsuit against Chemtool Incorporated on behalf of residents affected by the explosion and fire that caused them to be evacuated from the area.

A massive explosion and fire at the Chemtool plant, 1165 Prairie Road, in Rockton, IL, has caused huge plumes of ash and debris to blanket homes and businesses two miles and further from the plant, not only in Rockton but in South Beloit and other communities, as well.  Chemtool manufactures greases, including lithium, lithium complex,  aluminum, and clay/bentonite greases.

Along with the debris, it is likely that toxic chemicals have also been released into the air in these communities, and that residents will be inhaling them for some time to come.  Local officials have issued a mandatory evacuation order for residents living within a mile of Chemtool due to the falling ash and the potentially dangerous chemicals released in the fire. At least 1000 residents have been evacuated, along with several businesses. In addition, anyone within three miles of the plant has been advised to wear a mask for protection.

Fire-fighting-foam-1024x742California has long been regarded as one of the most environmentally progressive states in the country, which is why it is no surprise that they are one of the states leading the charge against the “forever chemicals” known as PFAS. In March of this year, California announced its intent to label two of the most widely used PFAS–PFOS and PFOA–as chemicals that cause cancer in humans and to study four other PFAS– PFDA, PFHxS, PFNA, and PFUnDA– for reproductive toxicity.

It is about time.

What Are PFAS?

baby-food-1-300x300Baby food has been facing some much-needed scrutiny lately. A recently released Congressional report disclosed that many top baby foods, both organic and non-organic, are contaminated with dangerous levels of heavy metals such as arsenic, cadmium, lead, and mercury. This is especially concerning since both the World Health Organization and the FDA have concluded that these heavy metals pose a danger to human health, and to babies and children in particular.

The findings are the result of a year-long investigation by the House Committee on Oversight and Reform into heavy metals in baby food. Launched after a 2019 study by Healthy Babies Bright Futures found toxic metals in 95% of the baby food they tested, the Congressional investigation asked top baby food companies to voluntarily produce information about their testing policies and test results. Four companies responded to this request: Gerber, Beech-Nut, Hain, and Nurture. The Hain products are labeled as ‘Earth’s Best Organic’ and the Nurture products are labeled as ‘HappyBABY’. Three other companies—Walmart, Sprout Organic, and Campbell–did not cooperate, according to the Congressional report.

The responses to the Congressional inquiry revealed a major problem: all of the companies had used ingredients containing heavy metals in their baby food. Not only that, but the companies had routinely ignored their own standards for toxic metals, continuing to sell tainted baby food to families. And most of the companies had failed to test their finished baby food products for toxic metals, despite an industry admission that testing only the ingredients might underestimate the amount of heavy metals in the finished product. Below are the some of the results included in the Congressional report. (Keep in mind that these numbers are from the companies’ own test results, not results from an independent lab.)

carbonated-water-300x200We should be able to expect that products that are widely available for purchase are safe to consume but, unfortunately, this is not always the case. When you reach for a can of fizzy, sparkling water the last thing you want is to unknowingly be ingesting toxic chemicals with each sip, but that may be exactly what you are doing. Consumer Reports recently tested sparkling water and discovered that many of the most popular brands of sparkling water contain measurable levels of PFAS, a dangerous family of chemicals.

What Are PFAS?

Perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances, commonly referred to as PFAS, are a class of man-made chemicals. These chemicals are very persistent in the environment and in the human body. Because of this, they are sometimes referred to as ‘forever chemicals’. PFAS pose many health risks to humans: high cholesterol, decreased fertility in women, increased risk of thyroid disease, and an increased risk of some cancers are just a few of the primary health concerns associated with PFAS. Given the high level of risk, there is no excuse for these chemicals to be present in any food or beverage.

Tear-gas-242x300The images are everywhere on the news; protesters, exercising their Constitutionally protected right to free speech, fleeing from clouds of tear gas thrown by the police. What we have seen protesters enduring in recent months has been downright inhumane. Setting aside the fact that protesters are being abused by law enforcement for no justifiable reason, the “riot control agents”–often referred to as tear gas–that the police are using on protesters, have been banned from international warfare by the Geneva Protocol since 1925. So why on earth do we still allow tear gas to be used on citizens by the very people who are meant to protect them?

Our government’s casual use of tear gas against peaceful protesters suggests that these chemicals are not being used to control “riots”—they are often used when there clearly is no riot—but instead to punish and discourage Constitutionally protected dissent.

What is a Riot Control Agent?

Hand-sanitizer-225x300Washing your hands with soap and water is always the best option for keeping your hands clean, but we don’t always have access to soap and water. That’s where hand sanitizer comes in. Hand sanitizers have never been as popular or necessary as they are right now. Unfortunately, the increase in demand for hand sanitizers has led to some dangerous products being on the shelves. There has been a dramatic increase in hand sanitizers containing methanol, also referred to as wood alcohol. Methanol has no place in hand sanitizers given that it can be toxic when absorbed through the skin or ingested. To make matters worse, the methanol found in hand sanitizers is not being labeled as an ingredient on the product itself, meaning we have to be extremely careful about what products we are buying and using during this time.

What is Methanol?

 Methanol is a volatile, flammable liquid that is commonly used in antifreeze and fuel production. Exposure to methanol can cause agitation, headaches, dizziness, nausea, amnesia, seizures, and comas. If hand sanitizer containing methanol is ingested, blindness or death can occur. Under no circumstances should methanol be used in hand sanitizers.

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