Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Rules, Regulations and Grassroots


Over the past fifty years, as Americans have learned how our lives can be impacted by air and water contamination, chemical toxins and other types of harmful exposures, our nation has supported the creation of agencies and the adoption of rules that balance the interests of people with the interests of business.

But wherever you look these days, from the EPA to the FCC, the rules that were meant to protect us are being undone by lobbyists and government officials whose previous jobs were often with the companies they are now busy de-regulating.


And there's that dreaded word: regulation. The pro-business lobby has very successfully convinced Americans that regulation is bad, de-regulation is good. I think if you called them "rules," the perception might be quite different.

The list of rules that have been quietly abolished or suspended over the past year is long and troubling, covering protections for our air, water, worker safety, and children's health among many others. And the massive effort to eliminate even more rules goes on everyday in the corridors of our government.

When we created this poster more than a year ago, we had no idea how prescient it would turn out to be. Even then, we thought that government wasn't doing enough!  Little did we know how bad things would become.

Grassroots is committed to providing American families and local decision makers with science-based information they can use to protect themselves and others against toxins in our environment, and to act as catalysts for change in their own communities. We are here to help you as parents, as community members and as local decision makers.

No matter what happens in Washington.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

LEDs – SHEDDING SOME LIGHT


For quite a few years now, the lighting industry has been trying to develop more energy efficient lighting. First they rolled out compact fluorescent bulbs, but they contained mercury and quickly became a toxics nightmare, both for accidental breakage and safe disposal. 

So now they are moving forward very quickly with another option, LEDs (Light Emitting Diodes). A light emitting diode converts electricity into light. LED lights are very energy efficient, using about 85% less energy than traditional incandescent lighting. Another positive is that LEDs convert 95% of their energy into light and waste just 5% to heat, as compared to traditional incandescent bulbs which do the exact opposite.

LED bulbs light our homes, schools, stores and businesses, and they are found in street lights, car headlights and the LED screens on all of our electronic devices.

However, there always seems to be a downside to new technologies, and LED lighting is no exception. LED screens and bulbs emit high-energy visible (HEV) “blue-white light”, which can permanently damage the human eye in several ways and suppress the production of the hormone melatonin which disrupts our normal circadian rhythm (sleep/wake cycle). Before LED lighting, the only exposure we had to HEV light was the sun and the exposure was relatively short-term. Now we are exposed from multiple sources indoors as well, and the amount of time we are exposed is growing fast!

Researchers from Harvard and other academic institutions from around the world warn us to limit the time we spend looking at our screens. This is especially true for children. In addition to the problems listed above, HEV from LED screens is also associated with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. So, besides limiting time spent in front of computer screens, tablets and phones, you should also download the app f.lux and do it for all the screens you and your family uses.  This will turn your screen to a soft yellow/orange color, which is not harmful to your health.

Protect yourself and your family – it’s simple – free – easy - do it!     f.lux

Read more about LED street lighting and breast cancer risk here:

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

What Do Styrofoam Packing Peanuts and Sweet Potato Fries Have in Common?

Actually, not a lot.  But wait, I’m trying to solve two very different, but very similar problems.

Let’s start with packing peanuts.  If every town, school district, business, and store contacted their suppliers and told them they would not accept shipments packed in styrofoam peanuts or other plastic packaging, manufacturers and distributors would have to source biodegradable packaging materials to keep their business. And, by the way, packing peanuts made out of corn starch work just as well! 
There are lots of alternatives to packing peanuts!

I don’t have a good transition line here, but let’s talk about sweet potatoes vs French fries. Since French fried potatoes are a major food group for kids and adults alike, and since they definitely contribute to obesity and associated illnesses like diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease, why not switch them out for baked sweet potato “fries”?  

It could go like this.  Next time your school sends out a RFP (Request for Proposal) for a cafeteria food service company/supplier, they cross off French fries and substitute baked sweet potato “fries.”  If the company wants their business, they’ll find a supplier for the sweet potatoes!

Maybe it’s just the way my mind works, but if somebody wants your business, you can actually make them help you save the planet (and your children’s health!)

- Patti

Saturday, August 12, 2017

What's Happening at the EPA?

This summer we were delighted to welcome five really smart and dedicated college interns who worked tirelessly researching peer-reviewed studies on a variety of important emerging environmental  health issues.  They also poured through our various websites, checking links and finding new sources of scientific information.  

In the process, they also made a very disturbing discovery: one by one, links we had to the EPA’s website for information on chemical toxins were disappearing.

Gone was the information on many of the problematic chemical toxins that permeate our lives.  Instead, links to pages about these toxins on EPA’s website displayed a troubling message: “PAGE NOT FOUND”

It’s well known that EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt has nothing but contempt for the Agency he leads, and is a climate change denier. But what is going on inside the EPA is a wholesale dismantling of a vital government agency, one that provides critical information on toxic chemical exposures that can help local lawmakers and citizens alike protect their communities and families.

Today’s New York Times article sheds some light on this extremely disturbing trend.


- PJW

Friday, September 16, 2016

Climate Change is Personal


It’s been a record hot summer here in New York (and elsewhere), with heat waves lasting way longer than usual. But at least I didn’t have to worry about our house being in the path of an uncontrolled forest fire or flooded by extreme rainfall.
So, is this weather the new norm? Are we on a path for sustained high summer temperatures and dangerous weather-related catastrophes? People much smarter than me have been raising warning flags for years and finally, most of our elected officials are realizing that this is not just a possibility, a passing phenomenon…climate change is real and it is here. The scientists were right. 

But is our government - any government - capable of actually turning this around? I'm afraid the answer is no. In large part, it will be up to each of us. Climate change is personal.

Preserving our planet and our way of life for the next generation depends on how we, as individuals, heat, cool and power our homes, how we use transportation and even what we choose to eat!

The idea that we can't develop enough renewable, sustainable energy to power our lives was developed and is still being heavily promoted by the fossil fuel industry and some of their elected shills. But it’s not true.

Solar energy is available everywhere, and offshore wind farms can deliver a large percentage of our energy needs. Geothermal uses the constant temperature of the earth to heat and cool homes and businesses, and real conservation can make up the balance. Have you heard about PASSIVE HOUSE?

We also have to consider electric cars, or those with good gas mileage, and of course, try to drive our cars fewer miles. And public transportation, especially when it's electric, has to step up to the plate and become an attractive alternative. Trains are incredibly energy efficient and they need to be clean and comfortable, and move us to popular destinations all over the country.

But it gets more personal than that. The fact is that production of meat for human consumption is arguably the biggest source of greenhouse gases in the world.

More than one third of the fossil fuels used in the United States are used for animal production. And if that's not bad enough, it also requires enormous amounts of pesticides and pharmaceuticals (more on that problem later), and animal waste is a major source of water pollution.

Here is a good link to get the whole picture.

So let's skip the steak, vote for the wind farm, and make that call to the solar company. Every one of us needs to do our part to save this magnificent earth for our children and grandchildren.

PJW

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Wireless in the City

We received an email a few weeks ago from a woman who had visited our BabySafe Project website. She wondered how concerned she should be about wireless radiation in her apartment building in New York City.

As far as we can determine from the evidence we have, the greatest risk comes from very close exposures - holding a cell phone against your head, for instance, or keeping it in your pants pocket if you’re a man, or keeping it close to your developing baby if you’re a pregnant woman.

You don’t want to have your wireless router on your desk, or within a few feet of where you spend a lot of time. Certainly not in your bedroom, close to your bed.

No doubt, city dwellers also face other difficult obstacles when it comes to reducing their exposure. There's usually no need to worry too much about picking up the wi-fi signals from other apartments, unless you determine the neighbor’s router is directly on the other side of the wall from where you or your kids sleep.  But banks of smart meters on exterior walls, cellular repeaters on rooftops (or directly across the street), and wi-fi “hotspots” on lighting poles directly outside apartment windows may be cause for concern.

The best way to achieve some peace of mind is to get a meter and do some readings around your apartment. You may or may not have a problem that needs to be addressed. 


A few weeks ago the National Toxicology Program of the National Institutes of Health released the first findings from its $25 million study on the health impacts of radiation from cell phones. Not surprisingly, there was immediate controversy over what the data showed.

But one fact stands out, even to the casual observer: 46 of the 540 rats exposed to cell phone radiation developed cancer or pre-cancerous cells, as compared to none of the 90 rats which were not exposed.

Therefore, we can conclude that, at least in this experiment, the radiation from the cell phone caused the cancer. That should put to rest any question as to whether or not cell phones are capable of causing cancer. Clearly they are.

Exactly what other impacts cell phones may have isn't clear yet, but independent scientists around the world are building the evidentiary case for caution, particularly for young children.

The bottom line is there's no risk in being careful. Scientists would say we need to employ the Precautionary Principle. Or as we tell our kids, better safe than sorry.