Wasting Our Waterways
Industrial facilities continue to dump millions of pounds of toxic chemicals into America’s rivers, streams, lakes and ocean waters each year—threatening both the environment and human health. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), pollution from industrial facilities is responsible for threatening or fouling water quality in more than 14,000 miles of rivers and more than 220,000 acres of lakes, ponds and estuaries nationwide.
Industrial facilities dumped nine million pounds of toxic chemicals into Ohio’s waterways, making Ohio the ninth worst in the nation, according to a new report—Wasting Our Waterways: Industrial Toxic Pollution and the Unfulfilled Promise of the Clean Water Act—released in March by Environment Ohio.
Industrial facilities discharged approximately 3,700 pounds of chemicals linked to developmental disorders and reproductive problems into the Cuyahoga River. The Ohio River is ranked first in the nation for highest amount of total toxic discharges, with 32 million pounds discharged in 2010.
AK Steel was the biggest polluter in Ohio, dumping 5.5 million pounds of toxic pollution into the state’s waterways. Furthermore, AK Steel Corp. was the third biggest polluter in the country.
“Our city and region’s biggest asset is Lake Erie and its tributaries,” said Cleveland City Councilman Brian Cummins of Ward 14. “Water quality is critical to the health of the lake and our waterways and, although much progress has been made, there is still a lot to be done in enforcing and strengthening our existing laws.”
The continued release of large volumes of toxic chemicals into the nation’s waterways shows that the nation needs to do more to reduce the threat posed by toxic chemicals to our environment and our health and to ensure that our waterways are fully protected against harmful pollution.
Industrial facilities dumped 226 million pounds of toxic chemicals into American waterways in 2010, according to the federal government’s Toxic Release Inventory.
• Toxic chemicals were discharged to more than 1,400 waterways in all 50 states. The Ohio River ranked first for toxic discharges in 2010, followed by the Mississippi River and the New River in Virginia and North Carolina.
• This represents a small (2.6 percent) decrease in the overall volume of toxic releases since the previous edition of this report, released in 2009 and based on data from 2007.
• Nitrate compounds—which can cause serious health problems in infants if found in drinking water and which contribute to oxygen-depleted “dead zones” in waterways—were by far the largest toxic releases in terms of overall volume.
• Small as well as large waterways received heavy doses of toxics. Because of a large release of arsenic and metal compounds from a gold mine, combined discharges of developmental toxicants to three small creeks in Nevada were larger than combined discharges of such toxicants to the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers.
• Toxic releases continued in already damaged waterways. The Calumet River system in Indiana and Illinois—home to five different Superfund toxic waste sites, and at one time so polluted that not even sludge worms could live there—ranked high on the list of developmental and reproductive toxic releases due to ongoing discharges from steel mills and an oil refinery.
Toxic chemicals linked to serious health effects were released in large amounts to America’s waterways in 2010.
• Industrial facilities discharged approximately 1.5 million pounds of chemicals linked to cancer to more than 1,000 waterways during 2010. Nevada’s Burns Creek received the largest volume of carcinogenic releases, with a small neighboring creek placing third. The Mississippi River, Ohio River and Tennessee River also suffered large releases of carcinogens. Pulp and paper mills, gold mines and chemical manufacturers were the industries that released the greatest volume of carcinogenic chemicals in 2010.
• About 626,000 pounds of chemicals linked to developmental disorders were discharged into more than 900 waterways. Burns Creek in Nevada, a small waterway near a gold mine, received the greatest amount of developmental toxicant discharges, followed by the Kanawha River in West Virginia and the Mississippi River. Gold mining was the largest source of developmental toxicants, followed by pesticide manufacturing and fossil fueled power generation.
• Approximately 342,000 pounds of chemicals linked to reproductive disorders were released to more than 900 waterways. West Virginia’s Kanawha River received the heaviest dose of reproductive toxicants, followed by the Mississippi, Ohio and Brazos rivers.
• Discharges of persistent bioaccumulative toxins (including dioxin and mercury), organochlorines and phthalates are also widespread. Safer industrial practices can reduce or eliminate discharges of these and other dangerous substances to America’s waterways.
To protect the public and the environment from toxic releases, the U.S. should require industries to reduce their use of toxic chemicals, plus restore and strengthen the Clean Water Act protections for all of America’s waterways and improve this landmark law’s enforcement.
• The Obama administration should clarify that the Clean Water Act applies to headwaters streams, intermittent waterways, isolated wetlands and other waterways for which Clean Water Act protection has been called into question as a result of recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions.
• EPA and the states should strengthen enforcement of the Clean Water Act by, among other things, ratcheting down permitted pollution levels from industrial facilities, ensuring that permits are renewed on time, and requiring mandatory minimum penalties for polluters in violation of the law.
• EPA should eliminate loopholes—such as the allowance of “mixing zones” for persistent bioaccumulative toxic chemicals—that allow greater discharge of toxic chemicals into waterways.
The U.S. should revise its strategy for regulating toxic chemicals to encourage the development and use of safer alternatives. Specifically, the nation should:
• Require chemical manufacturers to test all chemicals for their safety and submit the results of that testing to the government and the public.
• Regulate chemicals based on their intrinsic capacity to cause harm to the environment or health, rather than basing regulation on resource-intensive and flawed efforts to determine “safe” levels of exposure to those chemicals.
• Require industries to disclose the amount of toxic chemicals they use in their facilities—safeguarding local residents’ right to know about potential public health threats in their community and creating incentives for industry to reduce its use of toxic chemicals.
• Require safer alternatives to toxic chemicals, where alternatives exist.
• Phase out the worst toxic chemicals.
For more information, visit www.environmentamerica.org.
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By Gwen Ranniger
In the midst of a pandemic, sales of cleaning products have skyrocketed, and many feel a need to clean more often. Knowing what to look for when purchasing cleaning supplies can help prevent unwanted and dangerous toxics from entering your home.
1. Fragrance – Avoid It<p>One of the fastest ways to narrow down your product options is immediately eliminating any product that promotes a fragrance, or parfum. That scent of "fresh breeze" or lemon might initially smell good, but the fragrance does not last. What does last? The concoction of various undisclosed and unregulated chemicals that created that fragrance.</p><p>Many fragrances contain phthalates, which are linked to many health risks including reproductive problems and cancer.</p>
2. With Bleach? Do Without<p>Going scent-free should have narrowed down your options substantially – now, check the front of the remaining packaging. Any that include ammonia or chlorine bleach ought to go, as these substances are irritating and corrosive to your body. While bleach is commonly known as a powerful disinfectant, there are safer alternatives that you can use in your home, such as sodium borate or hydrogen peroxide.</p><p>While you're at it, check if there are any warnings on the label – "flammable," "use in ventilated area," etc. – if the product is hazardous, that's a red flag and should be avoided.</p>
3. Check the Back Label<p>Flip to the back of the remaining contenders and check out that ingredient list. Less is more, here. Opt for a shorter ingredient list with words you recognize and/or can pronounce.</p><p>You may notice many products do not have ingredient lists – while this doesn't necessarily mean they contain toxic ingredients, transparency is key. Feel free to look up a list online, or stick to products that are open about their ingredients.</p>
4. Ingredients to Avoid<p>We already mentioned that cleaners containing fragrance or parfum, and bleach or ammonia should be avoided, but there are other ingredients to look out for as well.</p><ul><li>Quaternary ammonium "quats" – lung irritants that contribute to asthma and other breathing problems. Also linger on surfaces long after they've been cleaned.</li><li>Parabens – Known hormone disruptor; can contribute to ailments such as cancer</li><li>Triclosan – triclosan and other antibacterial chemicals are registered with the EPA as pesticides. Triclosan is a known hormone disruptor and can also impact your immune system.</li><li>Formaldehyde – Causes irritation of eyes, nose, and throat; studies suggest formaldehyde exposure is linked with certain varieties of cancer. Can be found in products or become a byproduct of chemical reactions in the air.</li></ul>
Cleaning Products and Toxics: The Bottom Line<p>Do your research. There are many cleaning products available, but taking these steps will drastically reduce your options and help keep your home toxic-free. Protecting your home from bacteria and viruses is important, but make sure you do so in a way that doesn't introduce other health risks into the home.</p><p><em>Reposted with permission from </em><em><a href="https://www.ehn.org/how-to-shop-for-cleaning-products-while-avoiding-toxics-2648130273.html" target="_blank">Environmental Health News</a>. </em><a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/r/entryeditor/2649054624#/" target="_self"></a></p>
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Twenty-five years ago, a food called Tofurky made its debut on grocery store shelves. Since then, the tofu-based roast has become a beloved part of many vegetarians' holiday feasts.
By Jessica Corbett
A leading environmental advocacy group marked Native American Heritage Month on Wednesday by urging President-elect Joe Biden, Vice President-elect Kamala Kamala Harris, and the entire incoming administration "to honor Indigenous sovereignty and immediately halt the Keystone XL, Dakota Access, and Line 3 pipelines."
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Returning the ‘Three Sisters’ – Corn, Beans and Squash – to Native American Farms Nourishes People, Land and Cultures
By Christina Gish Hill
Historians know that turkey and corn were part of the first Thanksgiving, when Wampanoag peoples shared a harvest meal with the pilgrims of Plymouth plantation in Massachusetts. And traditional Native American farming practices tell us that squash and beans likely were part of that 1621 dinner too.
Abundant Harvests<p>Historically, Native people throughout the Americas bred indigenous plant varieties specific to the growing conditions of their homelands. They selected seeds for many different traits, such as <a href="https://emergencemagazine.org/story/corn-tastes-better/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">flavor, texture and color</a>.</p><p>Native growers knew that planting corn, beans, squash and sunflowers together produced mutual benefits. Corn stalks created a trellis for beans to climb, and beans' twining vines secured the corn in high winds. They also certainly observed that corn and bean plants growing together tended to be healthier than when raised separately. Today we know the reason: Bacteria living on bean plant roots pull nitrogen – an essential plant nutrient – from the air and <a href="http://www.tilthalliance.org/learn/resources-1/almanac/october/octobermngg" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">convert it to a form that both beans and corn can use</a>.</p><p>Squash plants contributed by shading the ground with their broad leaves, preventing weeds from growing and retaining water in the soil. Heritage squash varieties also had spines that discouraged deer and raccoons from visiting the garden for a snack. And sunflowers planted around the edges of the garden created a natural fence, protecting other plants from wind and animals and attracting pollinators.</p><p>Interplanting these agricultural sisters produced bountiful harvests that sustained large Native communities and <a href="http://dx.doi.org/10.1353/eam.2015.0016" target="_blank">spurred fruitful trade economies</a>. The first Europeans who reached the Americas were shocked at the abundant food crops they found. My research is exploring how, 200 years ago, Native American agriculturalists around the Great Lakes and along the Missouri and Red rivers fed fur traders with their diverse vegetable products.</p>
Displaced From the Land<p>As Euro-Americans settled permanently on the most fertile North American lands and acquired seeds that Native growers had carefully bred, they imposed policies that <a href="https://doi.org/10.1086/ahr/87.2.550" target="_blank">made Native farming practices impossible</a>. In 1830 President Andrew Jackson signed the <a href="https://guides.loc.gov/indian-removal-act" target="_blank">Indian Removal Act</a>, which made it official U.S. policy to force Native peoples from their home locations, pushing them onto subpar lands.</p><p>On reservations, U.S. government officials discouraged Native women from cultivating anything larger than small garden plots and pressured Native men to practice Euro-American style monoculture. Allotment policies assigned small plots to nuclear families, further limiting Native Americans' access to land and preventing them from using communal farming practices.</p><p>Native children were forced to attend boarding schools, where they had no opportunity to <a href="https://doi.org/10.5749/jamerindieduc.57.1.0145" target="_blank">learn Native agriculture techniques or preservation and preparation of Indigenous foods</a>. Instead they were forced to eat Western foods, turning their palates away from their traditional preferences. Taken together, these policies <a href="https://kansaspress.ku.edu/978-0-7006-0802-7.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">almost entirely eradicated three sisters agriculture</a> from Native communities in the Midwest by the 1930s.</p>
Reviving Native Agriculture<p>Today Native people all over the U.S. are working diligently to <a href="https://www.oupress.com/books/15107980/indigenous-food-sovereignty-in-the-united-sta" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">reclaim Indigenous varieties of corn, beans, squash, sunflowers and other crops</a>. This effort is important for many reasons.</p><p>Improving Native people's access to healthy, culturally appropriate foods will help lower rates of <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/vitalsigns/aian-diabetes/index.html" target="_blank">diabetes</a> and <a href="https://www.apa.org/pi/oema/resources/ethnicity-health/native-american/obesity" target="_blank">obesity</a>, which affect Native Americans at disproportionately high rates. Sharing traditional knowledge about agriculture is a way for elders to pass cultural information along to younger generations. Indigenous growing techniques also protect the lands that Native nations now inhabit, and can potentially benefit the wider ecosystems around them.</p>
By Jake Johnson
Amid reports that oil industry-friendly former Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz remains under consideration to return to his old post in the incoming Biden administration, a diverse coalition of environmental groups is mobilizing for an "all-out push" to keep Moniz away from the White House and demand a cabinet willing to boldly confront the corporations responsible for the climate emergency.