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Articles Posted in Environmental contamination

Thumbnail image for children-1309318_1280.jpgI strongly believe that there is. As a lawyer who has represented many thousands of families victimized by contamination of their air and water, I see the same things happening over and over again:

·Poor, inner-city minorities are disproportionately the victims of these environmental problems. To a far greater degree than their percentage of the population, poor minorities live near the factories, landfills, and traffic that belch filth into their environment. And they don’t have the resources to move away from it to protect themselves.

·Sometimes, the pollution comes to these poor, minority citizens….in the sense that a city will be much more willing to, say, permit a power plant to operate near poor minorities than permit it to be located in a middle-class neighborhood, or, God forbid, an upper-class neighborhood. And other times, the poor minorities come to the pollution….because it’s just cheaper to find a home or apartment there. But, regardless of whether poor minorities come to the pollution or vice versa, the two often wind up as “neighbors”.

When Pope Francis met with President Trump at the Vatican this past week, Francis gave him a copy of his 2015 Encyclical, which passionately argued that the environment is God’s gift to mankind, to benefit all mankind, and therefore that the powerful must not exploit it for their selfish purposes.

Crafty guy, that Pope.

He no doubt is well aware that the President is the agent of the worst environmental exploiters and despoilers that the world has ever known-oil companies-and accordingly has his administration in overdrive to crush the environmental protections that have saved lives and health, especially those of poor minorities and children.

“Does this chemical cause cancer?” is one of the first questions I get from a mom or dad who has just learned that, unbeknownst to them, a toxic chemical from an industrial source has been in their family’s air or water supply for years.

I always caution that, even if the chemical(s) just discovered in their home or neighborhood can cause cancer, it does not mean that they will. In fact, in most contaminated homes and neighborhoods, statistics are on our side: the great majority of residents will not contract cancer as a result of exposure. The important thing is to understand and respect the dangers of these chemicals, and, depending on their toxicity, get your family out of harm’s way…, for example, supplying your home with bottled water to avoid, as much as possible, contact with the contaminated groundwater entering the home via your family’s kitchen tap, or installing a “vapor mitigation system” on your house to prevent contaminated gasses from intruding inside where your family will breathe them.

For this reason, it is important to be informed. This link from the American Cancer Society tells us what our most respected health agencies have concluded about the dangers of many chemicals, and specifically whether they are “known” or “suspected” to cause cancer in humans (given significant exposure over a long enough period of time).

pollution-1365625_1280.jpgThe most dangerously contaminated sites in the US are “Superfund” sites. There are, currently, 1,317 of them. New Jersey has the most-114-while California and Pennsylvania follow right behind. The map in this article identifies all of the Superfund sites and allows you to search for where such sites may be in your state.

A plant or factory or waste dump, etc., is designated a “Superfund” site according to a federal formula that is specifically concerned with the ways in which toxic chemicals at the site might come into contact with, and hurt, human beings. So, for example, if an industrial plant years ago dumped chemicals which have migrated into area groundwater that local residents use for drinking and bathing, and/or if that contaminated groundwater produces a toxic vapor that might intrude into the breathing spaces of their homes, these threats weigh heavily in favor of determining that the plant should be a Superfund site.

The original idea of Superfund site designation in the 1980s was that the federal government would dedicate significant resources to cleaning up these sites, and protecting nearby residents from their threats. However, as time went by, our commitment to this important protection has flagged badly; today, many of these sites receive little or no government attention, even though nearby residents may remain in serious danger. Politically, both Democrats and Republicans have been complicit in this abandonment, largely because Superfund sites are typically found in poor and minority neighborhoods, and many politicians of both parties believe that there is little price to pay for ignoring their needs.

children-1309318_1280.jpgA recent study by the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that, every year, some 1.7 million children worldwide die because their air and water are too polluted. The world they live in is killing them.

Note to President Trump and EPA chief Scott Pruitt, as they rush head-long into dismantling the environmental protections that have historically separated the US from the rest of the world when it comes to protecting children: Children will be the victims are what you are doing. You will be sentencing children to die, in the name of making America a place where oil and other companies can cheaply and safely pollute.

WHO’s director-general says that “A polluted environment is a deadly one-particularly for young children…… Their developing organs and immune systems, and smaller bodies and airways, make them especially vulnerable to dirty air and water.”

trump-1843504_1920 (1).jpgPresident Trump and his administration have been walloped in recent weeks with revelations that Trump tried repeatedly to get FBI Director Comey to shut down the investigation into possible collusion between Trump’s campaign and the Russians, ultimately firing Comey when he wouldn’t agree to stand down as the President insisted. This was followed swiftly by news reports that Trump gave away highly-classified national security secrets during a bizarre, Russian-media-only Oval Office meeting between Trump and the Russians’ most notorious spies, which featured Russian photos of the President grinning like an idiot with his guests, just minutes before giving them our precious secrets. Then came the reports that the President had appointed the now-disgraced Michael Flynn to be his National Security Advisor, despite knowing that Flynn was then under investigation for a relationship with a foreign government. Finally (for the moment, at least), the Justice Department appointed an honest-and-tough-as-the-day-is-long special and independent counsel, Robert Mueller, to take over the investigation into Trump and the Russians, because the public did not trust Trump to quit interfering with the investigations that had been started.

By all accounts, these events–mostly the result of the President’s determination to do and say stupid and possibly illegal things–have flummoxed Trump and the White House into a self-protective crouch, able to pay attention to little else but trying to explain the latest revelation. Reports describe the President as furious over all of this, raging at his aides whom he falsely blames for his own recklessness, and even at the White House TV, whose programming shows that even the Trump-friendly outlets are running out of ways to try to protect the President from himself.

As a result of all of this, the President has been too distracted to devote any attention to his and EPA chief Scott Pruitt’s plan to dismantle the EPA, and allow Pruitt’s many oil company friends, and other corporate polluters, to resume their pillaging of the environment. Just weeks ago, Trump and Pruitt fired many respected EPA scientists who had devoted themselves to saving lives and loudly proposed to brutally slash EPA’s budget for health-protection; allow previously banned toxic chemicals to once again be used throughout the country; reverse the country’s commitment to clean up contaminated waterways and transform the US from the world’s leader in combatting climate change to a laughingstock climate change “denier”.

Scott Pruitt 2 (2).jpgAfter having been rightly scorched for his stupidly false recent public statement that humankind’s behavior may not be a major contributor to global warming, EPA chief and oil industry hack Scott Pruitt has taken to discussing his views almost exclusively with media he trusts to lob him only friendly, softball questions. Mostly, that means Fox News.

This is no knock on Fox News or the people who watch it. Fox News has the First Amendment right to broadcast as it sees fit, and its viewers similarly have the First Amendment right to watch whatever they wish.

But it is most definitely a knock on Pruitt. As the head of a federal agency established to protect public health (EPA), Pruitt has intentionally devoted his tenure to gutting the agency altogether, abolishing its sacred mission in favor of letting corporate polluters savage the environment and human health. For example, besides embracing the idiot “science” of climate change “hoaxers”, Pruitt has also recommended a huge (30+%) whacking of the EPA’s budget–greater than for any other federal agency; cut programs intended to clean up dangerously contaminated sites and waterways; reversed without explanation EPA’s finding that a herbicide was dangerous to young children and should be taken off the market; stripped the EPA’s website of important scientific notifications to American citizens; and fired many of the scientists on the agency’s Advisory Board–just to punctuate the message that the Trump/Pruitt EPA is hostile to legitimate science.

analysis-218857_1280.jpgThe Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) is a federally funded organization which researches the impact on human health of various chemicals. In short, the ATSDR tells us what makes us sick. Below is a summary of what the ATSDR says about how certain dangerous chemicals threaten our health, and where you are most likely to find them. While most of these chemicals are notoriously found near old industrial sites and landfills, this list highlights other places where they are typically found:

(1) Respiratory System: asbestos, radon, and benzene (and other chemicals) found in old insulation, old batteries, industrial degreasers, car exhaust, and furnace.

(2) Kidney/Bladder: TCE, PCE, mercury, lead, cadmium (and other chemicals) found in old batteries, cigarette smoke, old paint and plumbing, degreasers, paint removers, and dry cleaning solutions.

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for industry-1752876_1280.pngHealth researchers have long known that air pollution causes certain cancers and heart disease. With this in mind, the Healthgrove organization collected data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in order to identify the county in each state in the US with the worst air pollution. Here are just some of those counties:

  • Massachusetts: Bristol
  • Colorado: Bent

baby-84552_1920.jpgThe world is rushing head-long into ever greater dependence on dangerous man-made chemicals. We now accept these chemicals are a part of our everyday lives, at home, at work, in schools, etc. But, rather than just accept this as an unavoidable reality, we must pause for a moment to consider this chilling thought: these chemicals are frequently more dangerous (often far more dangerous) to children than to adults. Scientists now know that chemical exposures that would not harm adults can in fact cause great, even life-threatening, impact to children. Here’s why:

(1) Children eat far more and drink far more, than adults do for their body weight. As a result, if there is a dangerous chemical in their food or water, children are disproportionately exposed to the chemical’s harmful effects.

(2) Children’s metabolism pathways are immature. Their young bodies lack the enzymes necessary to break down and remove toxic chemicals. So, the toxins stay in their bodies longer.

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