Lead Education Day

Educating lawmakers on how to end childhood lead poisoning

Can you believe that lead was banned from paint 40 years ago? Unfortunately, we are a long ways away from declaring victory and announcing that the threat of children being poisoned by lead has passed.

In fact, lead is the most common environmental threat for Michigan children. And since 70% of Michigan’s housing stock predates the 1978 ban, lead paint in homes is still the largest source of lead contamination. It is a statewide problem, affecting both urban and rural communities.

That’s why we are working with the Michigan Alliance for Lead Safe Homes to educate lawmakers in Lansing on what we need to do NOW to stop lead poisoning.

We need you to join us on April 18th for the Lead Education Day. You’ll be paired up with lead poisoning prevention experts and visit key members of the Michigan House and Senate in small teams to talk to them about policies and practices that prevent kids from being exposed to lead.

Whether you’re a seasoned activist or this will be your first time talking to a Senator or Representative, this event is for you. It’s easy to join.

Prior to the event, there will be an informational webinar that will tell you all the things you need to know about Lead Education Day, including how to speak with lawmakers and talking points on lead poisoning prevention. A link to the webinar information will be sent to registrants.

Everyone is welcome. Come and tell your story or share your concerns. This year Lead Education Day is Wednesday, April 18, 2018, 8:30 am - 4:00 pm at the Michigan Capitol. Free breakfast and lunch will be served. Carpools are available.

Register now to secure your spot. The deadline to register is April 11th.

Published on March 27, 2018

New Year's Resolutions for Climate and the Environment

2018 Take Action!

This year, Americans have seen unprecedented roll-backs on protections for public health and the environment. Do you ever wonder, “What can I do?” After all, we each have a part to play.

We can take a page from the playbook of the 380+ mayors across the country, including those representing Ann Arbor, Detroit, and Ypsilanti, who have dedicated themselves to continuing the important work of slowing down climate change.  By adding up all of the smaller actions of these cities (as well as counties, states, and businesses) the U.S. can stay on track to meet our Paris Agreement commitments. It is the same with us as individuals and in our families. Our small actions add up for greater impact. Here are some concrete ways to create a positive impact on climate, as well as other critical environmental health issues.

Get civically involved - Fight rollbacks. Find a locally organized group. Sign up to receive text alerts from advocacy groups. Load your phone with your representative's phone numbers. A phone call from a constituent is worth the voice of 200 people. A few places to start locally:

  • Sign up to work against partisan gerrymandering.
  • Campaign for and support local and regional initiatives to expand public transit. Support AAATA, SMART, and RTA
  • Push your community to adopt a plan for 100% renewable energy. The City of Ann Arbor just made a commitment for 100% renewable by 2035.
  • Volunteer with a program working toward zero waste and recycling promotion, such as Recycle Ann Arbor's Waste Wizards and Zero Waste Detroit.

Climate: Get locally involved - These tools for action are adapted from the Ann Arbor Climate Partnership that asks that families and individuals pledge to act on climate. Check off the ones you are already doing and pick three more to prioritize:

  • Transit: The transportation sector now contributes over 1/3 of our carbon emissions. Use alternative transportation, such as biking, walking, taking the bus, carpooling whenever possible. Check out electric options if you have a car.
  • Compost: Whether you have a backyard bin, vermiculture (worm) bin, or utilize curbside pick up, composting benefits the environment. Food scraps and yard waste are typically about 30% of the waste going to landfills and incinerators. There is a two-fold climate benefit to composting:    
    • Reduces the amount of methane gas released into atmosphere.
    • Carbon sink: Adding organic matter (compost) to your garden can increase the soil’s ability to capture carbon from the atmosphere (and fertilize your plants without chemicals).
  • Reduce your consumption of consumer goods, reuse everything possible, fix and repair items, recycle those items that can’t be used again. Buy local when you purchase food or new or used items. Buy “ugly” fruit and vegetables.
  • Consider solar: Find local programs, such as Washtenaw County’s A2 Solar Power Club and Highland Park’s Soulardarity, to help residents and businesses add solar.
  • Install a rain garden. Climate change means more dramatic weather events, including flooding. Rain gardens are beautiful additions to any size yard and will relieve burdens on municipal water treatment systems, filter runoff pollutants, and protect local waterways.
  • Energy efficiency is as important as ever. Weatherizing, using energy efficient appliances and light bulbs, and unplugging devices top the list to impact your energy bills.
  • Plant a (native) tree: Ann Arbor’s Climate Plan has the goal of 60% tree cover for residential areas by 2025. The city is currently at 37%. Wherever you live trees will clean the air, capture carbon, provide habitat and food for native wildlife.
  • Donate to your local environmental advocacy organization. Thank you!

Stay informed on toxics. The current administration argues that there’s no more to do for the environment. Yet, we continue to learn about new chemical contaminants in our homes, in our everyday products, in our drinking water, and in our air. The Ecology Center’s Healthy Stuff program works with (or pushes) industry to make and sell non-toxic products. Manufacturers have been listening! We’ve seen major canned food companies (Campbell’s and Del Monte) pledge to get BPA out of their cans. Four children’s car seat companies now offer seats without brominated flame retardants. Your voice strengthens the impact of our reports. We ask that you join thousands of others and sign up for our HS mailing list. Sneak peek for 2018:

  • Store receipts are the number one way people are exposed to BPA. Find out which retailers are using BPA/ BPS-free receipts and who needs to switch to safer alternatives.
  • Graco Children’s Products is not taking any action in response to over 40,000 people asking them to detox their seats. We will continue to test children’s car seats and push Graco and others for affordable non-toxic options.
  • Kids lunches don’t need to be contaminated with phthalates. We will keep pressing Kraft for phthalate-free mac-n-cheese and keep testing more of children’s favorite foods.
  • Fluorinated compounds are a class of chemicals tied to cancer, thyroid problems and other diseases. They are showing up in drinking water all over the country--and in our bodies. We will test products to see where they are coming from. In the meantime, avoid clothes, carpet, drapes, and other products labeled:
    • “Stain Resistant”
    • “Wrinkle Proof”
    • “Durable Water Repellent” (DWR)
    • Brands: Teflon, Scotch Guard, GoreTex

Published on December 21, 2017

Cleaner Air and Water for Schools with Proposed Michigan House Bill Package

A group of Michigan lawmakers has proposed new legislation that could impact the health and wellness of students across the state. The seven proposed bills target K-12 public school districts to increase protections for indoor air and water quality, site environmental quality, address enhanced lighting and energy performance standards and include a process for expanding classroom-based environmental literacy.

The bills, introduced by State Reps. Stephanie Chang, D-Detroit, Darrin Camilleri, D-Brownstown Township, Kristy Pagan, D-Canton, Robert Wittenberg, D-Oak Park, and Henry Yanez, D-Sterling Heights will move to committee for further development. Their further development offers promising conversations on how to save money on energy bills, reduce operating expenses, and improve the quality of classroom environments.

“So if we want our kids to be healthy enough to attend school and to do well in school, then we need to make sure they have a healthy school environment,” Chang said. “These bills outline steps our schools and the state can take, such as my bill that addresses school sitting, to create a healthier physical environment for our students.”

The legislators also announced the formation of the Better Classroom Caucus, which Rep. Wittenberg will chair, to address environmental and health factors in schools. The Ecology Center will be following this effort and encourages healthy, high-performance investments in our classrooms and the students and teachers they support.  

Published on September 27, 2017

Zero Waste Washtenaw

Working with community events to divert 6.4 tons of waste since 2015

In May 2015, Recycle Ann Arbor was awarded a $19,500 "pollution prevention" grant from the State of Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) to expand Zero Waste events throughout Washtenaw County. The grant partners were the Washtenaw County Office of the Water Resources Commissioner (Solid Waste Department) and Amcor Rigid Plastics. 

Zero Waste events work toward maximizing materials composted, recycled, or reused while minimizing the overall trash (to landfill) produced. The Zero Waste International Alliance (ZWIA) qualifies "reaching zero waste" as achieving a diversion rate of 90% or greater. Though a good benchmark, we believe any amount of waste not going to the landfill is a success worth celebrating at Zero Waste events!

Although Recycle Ann Arbor had been hosting Zero Waste events since 2012, partnering with Washtenaw County Solid Waste allowed us to share resources including staff, supplies, and community connections to further expand our reach in Washtenaw County. The successful collaboration became known as "Zero Waste Washtenaw" which included new program branding and a website; www.zerowastewashtenaw.com

While the grant funding ended in September 2017, the program momentum will continue thanks to the commitment of our grant partners, community event organizers, and dedicated program volunteers. Zero Waste Washtenaw exceeded its original purpose and achieved much in the two years of the grant. Some of the program highlights accomplished over the grant period are: 

  • 6.4 tons of waste was diverted from the landfill
  • Average diversion rate per event was 89% over 40 events
  • 62,000 attendees were reached through community and private events
  • The largest event, "Taste of Ann Arbor", had 18,000 attendees
  • Amcor Rigid Plastics committed 50 volunteer hours to the program
  • Recycle Ann Arbor hired a Zero Waste Event Assistant to support the program 
  • Community discussions began about creating a Zero Waste event ordinance for Ann Arbor
  • An attendee survey conducted at the 2017 Ann Arbor Earth Day Festival found 96% of those surveyed had a better understanding of "zero waste" after having attended the event 

If you are interested in hosting your own Zero Waste event or volunteering for the program, please contact Christine@recycleannarbor.org for more information

Article first appeared on Recycle Ann Arbor's website

Published on September 27, 2017

DEARborn Recyclers Are Making a Difference

55,000 lbs is a lot of trash. It’s hard to imagine how big a pile it’d make. That’s how much recyclable material student-led teams in Dearborn Public Schools diverted from landfill last school year. This school year, they aim to divert double that amount. Through the Dearborn Education and Action on Recycling (DEAR) program, these young environmental stewards are leading change in their community– lowering the recycling contamination rate through increased recycling knowledge.   

In 2015, representatives from the City of Dearborn invited Ecology Center and Recycle Ann Arbor to discuss the status of Dearborn recycling and brainstorm methods for tackling the growing issue of contamination in Dearborn’s residential service. City officials reported that Dearborn’s residential carts were well-used, and residents were eager to recycle, but often carts were filled with materials that the current recycling system cannot handle. Bricks, clothing, plastic bags, Styrofoam, yard waste, food, and furniture were regularly making their way into neighborhood curbside carts.

From this initial brainstorm, the DEAR program developed as a means to utilize recycling education in public schools to reduce the contamination rate of the City’s recyclables.  In the program’s first year, over 17,000 individuals gained access to school recycling, and over 11,000 students and staff participated in education.   

Dearborn is a community with a long, proud, history of recycling, setting up one of the first curbside pick-up systems in the state.  Since that time, residential recycling has gone through a lot of changes – new technologies, new materials, new markets.  The recycling center, where recycled materials are sorted and bundled for sale to remanufacturers, uses technologies that can limit the type, size, or shape of materials a curbside system can accept. Whether or not you can dispose of material in your recycling cart often depends on if the recycling center has a contract with a buyer for that material.  These factors contribute to why recycling rules can differ so from place to place and over time. Keeping the public informed and active with the ins and outs of local recycling is an ongoing challenge for municipalities, and Dearborn has been no exception.

Conversations with residents and community organizations such as ACCESS helped to identify the need for new educational approaches and resources tailored to Dearborn’s diverse population.  Schools are trusted social centers for Dearborn’s neighborhoods and were in need of recycling services.  Dearborn Education and Action on Recycling (DEAR) has grown from two pilot schools in spring 2015 to now include 30 public schools. Generous funding from the AETNA Foundation and significant financial investment from the City of Dearborn has allowed the DEAR program to grow.

Administrators, teachers, and facility personnel responded to DEAR with great enthusiasm, and they have put in tremendous effort over the past year to make recycling a part of the district’s school culture.  Each school is unique, posing distinct challenges for setting up a recycling system and making it accessible to all. While one school faces the hurdle of physically transporting recycling within a three-story building, another school tries out different methods for monitoring milk carton recycling in the lunchroom, and yet another focuses on translating recycling education for non-native English speakers to make it appropriate for all.

The real success of DEAR lies with the initiative students have taken to run the recycling programs in their schools, problem-solve to address school-specific challenges, and carry what they have learned out into the broader community. Some of the earliest schools to come onboard, Long Elementary, Salina ES Elementary, and Salina Intermediate have been particularly successful establishing student-led recycling systems. With some adult supervision, students manage the recycling collection inside the building and make sure it is placed at the curb outside for weekly pick-up.  Students use data sheets to survey each cart weekly and keep a running log of how much recycling, what type of recyclables, and types of contamination they see. Students also help to educate their peers; they even created a video to educate family members about recycling.  

Due to the popularity of the program, high schools joined the program this school year.  All public schools now have the same recycling service that residents throughout the City of Dearborn receive.  Since the beginning of the program, over 11,000 individuals have participated directly in recycling assemblies or hands-on training led by Ecology Center educators.  Student surveys indicate that student knowledge about recycling increased 44% after participating in recycling education. The students help divert more than 55,000 pounds of low-contamination recycling from the landfill.  These numbers are expected to double over the next school year as we focus on creating greater capacity among local adults to act as leaders on recycling education and advocacy.  In January 2018, a Master Recycling Educator Training will help 48 local citizens become recycling leaders, trained with the skills and knowledge to continue recycling education and serve as community advocates.

The Ecology Center has been developing effective recycling education for over 30 years. Building local capacity is at the heart of how the Ecology Center works within a community.  It is our goal to step back after this year as the local schools, residents, and City officials work together with renewed understanding and established systems for communicating and mutually supporting an ongoing recycling partnership.  

The residents of Dearborn are highly motivated to recycle and sincerely value the need to manage waste responsibly.  Teachers and parents who have participated in recycling education events hosted at neighborhood schools are interested in the topic of waste, often bring diverse, multi-cultural perspectives to the meaning of “recycle,” and have suggested improvements to the current waste management system.  This kind of active dialog between informed residents and local service providers has the potential to seed further local collaboration and long-term system improvements.

The future of the DEAR program depends on the students, their parents, and teachers along with the community around them. The students and staff participating in the program have demonstrated the dedication and innovation needed to succeed. And, when DEAR succeeds, recycling succeeds. And, that’s a win for all of us.

 

Published on September 27, 2017

Expanding Electric Vehicles in Michigan Would Generate Billions in Savings

Report shows massive potential for growth in MI ahead of Michigan Technical Conference on Alternative Fuel Vehicles

Chevy Volt

Lansing, MI, August 8, 2017— A new report released today by M.J. Bradley & Associates, and commissioned by Charge Up Midwest, found expanding electric vehicles could save Michigan families, drivers and electricity customers billions of dollars over the next three decades. The report also found there is significant potential for growth for electric vehicles in Michigan. 

“Our study estimated the costs and benefits of increases in plug-in electric vehicles in the state of Michigan and found significant potential for electric vehicle growth and subsequent savings for residents,” said Brian Jones, senior vice president of M.J. Bradley & Associates. “Our highest projections are very attainable if the utilities, regulators and the private sector aggressively pursue electric vehicle adoption in Michigan.”

The report includes both “moderate” and “high” adoption scenarios based on Midcontinent Independent System Operator (MISO) and Bloomberg forecasts, respectively. According to the Bloomberg forecast, by 2050, up to 55.7 percent of all passenger vehicles and trucks in Michigan could be powered by electric vehicle technology. Key findings for cumulative financial benefits from mainstream Electric vehicle adoption in Michigan include:

  • Reduced electricity bills for utility customers are $800 million (moderate) and $2.6 billion (high) by 2050 
  • Savings from ownership of an EV compared to a gasoline vehicle are $6.3 billion (moderate) and $23.1 billion (high) by 2050
  • Societal benefits from reduced pollution are $1.5 billion (moderate) and $5.7 billion (high) by 2050

“The benefits of electric vehicles for Michigan are significant – especially when it comes to the potential for new auto sector jobs and protecting our air, land and Great Lakes,” said Charles Griffith, Climate and Energy Program Director for the Ecology Center. “In order to maintain Michigan’s leadership in the auto industry, as well as realize the economic and environmental benefits of reducing our use of imported petroleum, government, the private sector and utilities must work together to create smart policies and investment strategies to support the emerging electric vehicle sector.” 

Tomorrow, the Michigan Public Service Commission is hosting the Michigan Technical Conference on Alternative Fuel Vehicles. At the conference, automakers, electric utilities, charging station companies and other stakeholders will discuss the future of electric vehicles in Michigan.

“Michigan, the birthplace of the auto industry, could lead the electric vehicle revolution,” said Luke Tonachel, Director of Natural Resource Defense Council's Clean Vehicles and Fuels Project. “With the right infrastructure, electric vehicles can be an economic and environmental force that cuts pollution, lowers electricity rates, while being cheaper to operate than conventional gasoline vehicles.”

The report examined other benefits, including reduced oil use and lower greenhouse gas emissions in Michigan, including:

  • Gasoline saved annually: 138.6 million gallons (moderate) and 243.6 million gallons (high) by 2030
  • Greenhouse gas emissions reduced annually: 1.9 million tons (moderate) and 7.7 million tons (high) by 2050

“Accelerating the use of electric vehicles in Michigan will reduce dangerous pollution and protect our air, land and Great Lakes, said Joe Halso, Associate Attorney with the Sierra Club. “Now is the time to put Michigan on the road to cleaner air, a better grid, and a stronger economy by improving drivers' access to our cleanest and cheapest transportation fuel: electricity.”

 

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Published on March 9, 2017

Detroit Incinerator an Assault on Justice

Mayor Mike Duggan has taken recent actions, both quiet and public, that signify his commitment to the health and well-being of Detroiters. He spoke to a large audience at the Mackinac Policy Conference chronicling how racist policies at the federal and local levels disenfranchised and impoverished Detroit’s African American families. He committed to do better than his predecessors, promising “One city for all of us.” Then without much fanfare, Mayor Duggan signed onto the U.S. Conference of Mayors’ Climate Protection Agreement, committing the city to reducing carbon emissions to below 1990 levels. One action--shutting down Detroit’s trash incinerator--could help Mayor Duggan make good on both of his recent commitments.

The Detroit trash incinerator, one of the largest in the world, is a prime example of environmental racism. Here is a facility that pumps out carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, nitrous oxides, and particulate matter daily, and whose operators have violated the Clean Air Act 379 times since January 2015. All of these pollutants contribute to climate change. And they all contribute to health concerns of local residents. Residents who are predominantly African American and low income.

The fact that much of the trash comes from whiter, more affluent communities, such as Oakland County and the Grosse Pointes, exacerbates the inequity of the situation. This concern and others prompted several organizations to join with residents to form Breathe Free Detroit, a new campaign aimed at closing the Detroit incinerator. In February we began working with residents who were concerned about pollution from the incinerator. On a blustery night this past March, almost two hundred residents packed a public hearing to object to the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality’s slap-on-the-wrist fine and bulk discount for repeated violations by the corporation that runs the incinerator.

Residents stood up and spoke about how they--or their children--suffer as a result of the pollution, and dozens more submitted written comments to the same effect. Community members described chronic asthma so severe that it caused sleepless nights, loss of work and school, and even emergency room visits. Nurses spoke about providing emergency treatment to small children, opening their airways so they could breathe normally again. And having their hearts break when their young patients were released only to be exposed to the very same asthma-inducing pollution when they returned home.

Residents cited research from the University of Michigan that found air pollutants released by the incinerator cause and activate asthma and increase asthma-related hospitalizations for children. The emissions can also cause nonfatal heart attacks, irregular heartbeat, decreased lung function, coughing and difficulty breathing.  

Michigan Department of Community Health (now Michigan Department of Health and Human Services) has even labeled Detroit the “epicenter of asthma”. And yet, their sister department, the MDEQ, refused to take action. After hours of testimony and three months of deliberation, the MDEQ sent letters to every person who stood up that night in March, informing them they were going to do nothing. Nothing to bring the fines to a just amount, nothing to ease the suffering of those living in the shadow of the beast.

This is why neighborhood residents are hopeful when they hear Mayor Duggan has joined the U.S. Conference of Mayors in their dedication to curbing climate change. The same pollutants that cause climate change are also coming out of the incinerator and getting into the lungs and bloodstreams of those living nearby.

Please join us in calling on Mayor Duggan to continue to stand with the U.S. Conference of Mayors who recently adopted a resolution to work towards 100% renewable energy with language that specifically excludes incineration. Burning trash is a poor way to deal with reusable and recyclable resources. Mayor Duggan can take an important step toward a cleaner, greener, and healthier “city for all of us” by closing a 30-year chapter of incineration and moving Detroit toward the zero waste practices of the future.

Melissa Cooper Sargent, Green Living Resources Director, Ecology Center

William Copeland, Climate Justice Director, East Michigan Environmental Action Council

 

Published on July 25, 2017

#Resist #Rebuild #Create

The Trump Administration’s agenda threatens many of the environmental and public health gains of the last 50 years.  In just the Administration’s first 100 days, the President proposed a 33% cut to EPA’s budget; issued executive orders to roll back federal climate and vehicle emission regulations; eliminated science panels; and proposed massive deregulation.  These attacks will hurt all of us, but most acutely people of color,  the poor, and the disenfranchised.  Given these threats, we just can’t continue business as usual at the Ecology Center.

This moment in our nation’s history demands greater coordination across justice movements, bolder action and a hopeful long-term vision and strategy. It demands an outpouring of people, fighting to restore our country’s democratic institutions, to protect our communities, and to build an equitable and healthy future.

Campaign financing, legislative gerrymandering, media decentralization, and political polarization have left lawmakers hostage to special interests, and undermined the public’s belief in our democratic institutions  - making it very difficult to advance environmental and public health policy in many parts of the country, and nationally.  

We wrote earlier about the Three Unstoppable Forces to Halt the Trump Rollbacks, including market transformation, state and local action, and the grassroots opposition movement.  Those are areas where the Ecology Center has a long history of engagement and success.  Our work to respond to the Trump era agenda will be three-fold:

#Resist:  work with allies in the environmental movement and beyond to #Resist efforts to roll back important gains in environmental and civil rights protections.

#Rebuild: work to rebuild our democracy by helping to shore up democratic institutions

#Create the foundation of a more just, sustainable and healthy food system, a safe and ecological material economy, and a renewable and equitable energy system.   

#Resist

We are leading and supporting work to mobilize the grassroots opposition to public health and environmental rollbacks.  We’ve always worked together with partners around the country, and we’ll be joining forces with them to protect our communities and our health from the worst attacks of the Trump Administration and Congress.

#Rebuild

We are working to develop the most promising approaches to restoring the institutions of democracy.  Michigan’s partisan-based legislative redistricting process has created one of the country’s most badly gerrymandered political maps.  We will help develop a ballot initiative to create an independent commission to draw the state’s political boundary lines each decade following the national census.

#Create

We are working to create innovative solutions for healthy people and a healthy planet.  Join us in building the foundation for a better future:  

Published on May 30, 2017

Seriously? Seriously! Chemical Industry Advocate to Oversee Chemical Regulation at the EPA

 

Earlier this month Dr. Nancy Beck, a former advocate for the American Chemistry Council (ACC), was appointed as the new Deputy Administrator of EPA’s Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention (OCSPP). This move creates a major conflict of interest between Dr. Beck’s long history of advocating against chemical regulations. This conflict of interest signals that the EPA, under Administrator Pruitt, is increasingly putting the interest of regulated industries ahead of protecting people and the environment.

Dr. Beck has spent the last 5 years opposing EPA’s safety regulations and scientific findings. While serving as the Senior Director of Regulatory Science Policy at the ACC, Beck consistently fought against rules that govern the use of harmful chemicals. These efforts were all geared towards protecting the financial interests of chemical giants. The ACC itself represents approximately 150 chemical companies that include DOW, DuPont, ExxonMobil, and Monsanto.

Within the EPA, the OCSPP is specifically responsible for assessing risks from chemicals and overseeing programs that prevent pollution and contamination. They work tirelessly to identify harmful chemicals and their potential risks to humans and the environment. Their conclusions drive the EPA’s policies regarding chemicals and their uses.

In the summer of 2016, the EPA passed the Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act. This act delivers overdue amendments to the 1976 Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) – the nation’s central chemical management law. The Lautenberg Act was passed with the intention to reevaluate chemicals, create new risk standards, and increase transparency to the public. At the time of its passage we knew that the new law’s impact would depend on how it is administered by the EPA. We were worried about how it might be implemented then, we’re downright terrified about it now!

Dr. Beck’s new role will put her at the center of how chemical safety is assessed in our country. Given her previous role working against Lautenberg and trying to deregulate chemical companies, she serves as a direct conflict of interest in this matter. In addition to this, she also has a history of publicly criticizing the EPA’s program for determining chemical toxicity, especially when findings call for stricter regulations.

This conflict generates a great threat to the health and safety of both people and the environment. The connection between Dr. Beck and the industries she’s supposed to be regulating are too close to assume a fair implementation process. Efforts to remove Dr. Beck from the task of implementing the Lautenberg Act and similar regulatory policies need to be taken to ensure that the safest chemical policies are reached.

The Ecology Center joined organizations from across the country in calling on Administrator Pruitt to review the ethical issues and potential conflicts of interest surrounding Dr. Beck and her new role. You can join this effort by signing the petition to EPA Administrator Pruitt to evaluate the potential conflict of interest that Dr. Beck holds in relation to her new position. Acting now could help stop chemical policy rollbacks that will impact our health for generations to come. 

Published on May 30, 2017

We Want Affordable Non-Toxic Car Seats!

"We want affordable, non-toxic car seats!" This is the call of our new campaign, the Car Seat Detox Challenge. After the recent release of UPPAbaby’s innovative Mesa Henry infant car seat—which relies on wool instead of chemicals to achieve flammability standards—we are asking all car seat manufacturers to detox.

The Ecology Center’s HealthyStuff program found brominated flame retardants in 87% of (13 out of 15) seats recently tested (Read the report: Traveling with Toxics: Flame Retardants and Other Chemicals in Children’s Car Seats). Flame retardants have been shown to migrate out of products to contaminate air and dust and can be absorbed dermally as well. Brominated flame retardants, in particular, persist in the environment, bio-accumulate in our bodies, and are associated with an array of harmful effects, including reduced IQ, developmental delays, autism, hormone disruption, reproductive harm, obesity, and cancer. And they are not needed!

UPPAbaby is leading the charge for non-toxic car seats. And a small handful of companies may not be far behind. Two of the models we tested (by Britax and Maxi-Cosi) were free of all brominated FRs. And two other models (by Clek and Orbit Baby) only contained brominated FRs in minor components, such as velcro or on the warning label. These brands, however, still rely on other flame retardant chemicals, which are thought to be less toxic.

But, with prices ranging from $190 for a Maxi-Cosi seat to $450 for a Clek seat (with UPPAbaby’s Mesa Henry tagged at $350), these less toxic and non-toxic options are not options at all for most people.

Industry-wide innovation is required to keep these harmful chemicals out of our children’s car seats—and make them affordable for everyone. According to our testing, lower cost car seats, such as those made by Graco, Baby Trend, Cosco, Evenflo, and Safety 1st still contain brominated FRs, including in the fabric and other components, which directly contact babies and children.

Therefore, the Ecology Center has joined with national partners to create the Car Seat Detox Challenge. This campaign challenges car seat manufacturers to advance their designs to eliminate hazardous chemicals. We are asking these five major manufacturers—Graco, Baby Trend, Cosco, Evenflo, and Safety 1st—to take on the challenge because an affordable car seat should not have to come with a chemical exposure cost.

Please visit—and join!—the Car Seat Detox Challenge Facebook group and sign the petition.

The Ecology Center’s HealthyStuff program has tested hundreds of children’s car seats over the past ten years. Visit HealthyStuff to see the 2016 car seat report.

 

Published on May 30, 2017