Center for Health Environment & Justice (CHEJ)

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EDITOR’S NOTE: EACH TUESDAY MY GREEN SIDE BRINGS SIMPLE TIPS FOR GREEN LIVING TO THE CHRISTOPHER GABRIEL PROGRAMWE ALSO HIGHLIGHT A FAVORITE GREEN SITE EACH WEEK. YOU CAN STREAM THE SEGMENT AT APPROXIMATELY 1220PM (CENTRAL) EVERY TUESDAY AT WDAY.COM OR, IF YOU’RE IN NORTH DAKOTA OR WESTERN MINNESOTA, LISTEN ON YOUR RADIO AT AM970 WDAY.

GREEN TIP: Green this year’s back-to-school shopping by reusing last year’s supplies, buying items that contain recycled materials and packing a waste-free lunch.

According to National Retail Federation’s (NRF) 2012 Back-to-School spending survey conducted by BIGinsight, the families with children in grades K-12 will spend an average of $688.62 for school supplies. College students and their families will spend an average of $907.22 on everything from dorm furniture and collegiate gear to school supplies and personal care items. Total combined K-12 and college spending is expected to reach around $84 billion this year.

Here are some ways to make your back-to-school shopping a little greener while helping you to be below average when it comes to your spending this year:

  • Reuse last year’s supplies. Go through the school supplies you already have at home before you hit the stores. Chances are, there are items that you can reuse. Backpacks, lunch boxes, magnets, locks and so on.
  • And while you’re going through your home stash of supplies, don’t throw away unwanted items, gather up extra pens, pencils, rubber bands, paper clips and the like for donation to a local elementary school or to nonprofit organizations that accept school supplies.
  • If there are supplies you have to buy new, make sure the items is made with recycled materials, including paper, backpacks and pencils, etc. Look for pens and pencils made with sustainably harvested wood or recycled content.
  • Avoid polyvinyl chloride (PVC or vinyl) plastic school supplies. PVC is unique among plastics because it contains dangerous chemical additives. These harmful chemicals include phthalates, lead, cadmium, and/or organotins, which can be toxic to your child’s health. Look for PVC-free lunch boxes, binders, backpacks and other school supplies. Download the Center for Health, Environment & Justice’s (CHEJ) Back-to-School Guide to PVC-free School Supplies.
  • Pack a waste-free lunch. Here are some tips from our friends at Litter Free Lunch:
    • Replace brown paper bags with a reusable lunch box or bag (remember to avoid PVC lunch boxes).
    • Swear off plastic bags and use stainless steel food containers.
    • Switch from disposable paper napkins to reusable cloth napkins.
    • Give up the habit of disposable water bottles and replace it with a reusable stainless steel water bottle. If you buy a plastic reusable bottle, make sure it’s BPA-free. Bisphenol A (BPA) is a hormone-disrupting chemical that can impact health at even very low exposures.
    • Skip disposable plastic cutlery and pack a reusable spoons or forks.
    • Save money by avoiding individually wrapped or packaged items like yogurt, cheese, cookies or crackers. Buy larger sizes and pack portions in reusable containers.
  • Organic apples, oranges, bananas and other fruits are healthy additions to any lunch and they come in their own compostable wrapping.
  • Create a weekly meal plan in advance so you can get everything you need in one trip, this will save time, gas money and reduce your carbon footprint. Also, keep a running list of needed items on the fridge, which will help you stay organized to avoid multiple, last-minute car trips.
  • Explore options to safely bike and walk to school or find a classmate willing to carpool.
  • Check thrift stores for reusable school supplies like binders and backpack and back-to-school clothes, giving good-quality, one-of-a-kind fashions a second life.
My Green Side’s web pick of the week:
The Center for Health, Environment & Justice is an organization that provides assistance to grassroots community groups in the environmental health and justice movement. The Center was founded in 1981 by Lois Gibbs, who helped win the relocation of over 900 families from their neighborhood which was contaminated by chemicals leaking from the Love Canal landfill in Niagara Falls, NY. Through this effort, people began to recognize the link between people’s exposures to dangerous chemicals in their community and serious public health impacts.

Visit their blog for insightful conversations about environmental health and justice at http://chej.org/backyard-talk/ and make sure to download the Center’s Back-to-School Guide to PVC-free School Supplies.

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If I hear one more time how “trendy” being “green” has become, I might explode. Wake up and smell the shade-grown-fairly-traded-coffee people.

Sustainable living is not trendy; it’s a thoughtful, responsible way to live. It’s not just about putting your plastic bottles in the recycling bin; it’s about realizing that you should avoid the plastic bottle all together. It’s about really thinking about your impact on your community, your city and your world.

The converse of living sustainably is living in a way that is depleting the very things we need to survive. We need clean water, clean air and healthy food for our continued existence on this planet. Currently, the worldwide population and global demand for these resources are both greater than ever.

I know it’s not always easy. I also know that it’s imperative to make the effort.

There are all sorts of complex issues that people a lot smarter than me debate ad nauseum. But I believe if you use your God-given common sense, you’ll get it right most of the time.

For example, would you use a product in your home when the label says it’s harmful to humans and animals? Common sense says no. The next time you pick up a canister of Clorox wipes, read the label. Not only does it warn that it’s harmful to humans and animals, the two ingredients listed, dimethyl benzyl ammonia chloride .145 per cent and dimethyl ethyl benzyl ammonia chloride, are pesticides.

Would you put lotion on your baby if you knew it contained a known carcinogen? The next time you reach for your favorite Johnson & Johnson baby care product, does it contain a lot of ingredients you’ve never heard of? According to the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep cosmetic safety database, Johnson’s Baby Lotion Aloe Vera & Vitamin E contains ingredients that cause cancer, developmental/reproductive toxicity and allergies, among other things. Take a look at all your cosmetics.

Common sense dictates if the product is harmful for my body then the health risks are prevalent throughout the life span of the product. So, the product isn’t just bad for me, it’s bad for the workers who manufacture it, the community that lives by the manufacturing facility and the environment.

Take polyvinyl chloride (PVC or vinyl). The health risks of PVC are prevalent throughout the life span of this plastic. From the manufacturing process, the use and the disposal, PVC causes health risks for the communities near the chemical plants, our children and our environment.

“PVC plants are disproportionately located in low-income communities and communities of color, making the production of PVC a major environmental justice concern. Communities surrounding vinyl chloride facilities suffer from groundwater and air pollution. In 1999, the federal government measured dioxins in blood samples taken from 28 residents who lived near PVC facilities in Louisiana. The testing revealed the average resident has three times more dioxin in his/her blood than the average U.S. citizen. Workers at PVC plants may face life-long health risks from exposure to cancer causing vinyl chloride and other hazardous chemicals used to make PVC. These health risks include angiosarcoma of the liver, lung cancer, brain cancer, lymphomas, leukemia, and liver cirrhosis.”

Source: Center for Health, Environment and Justice

I am all about Simple Tips for Green Living but I think we need to dig a little deeper and understand that we are all connected.  What we do locally affects someone else regionally. And that effect spreads nationally and, ultimately, internationally.

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Editor’s Note: Each Wednesday My Green Side brings Simple Tips for Green Living to The Christopher Gabriel Program. We also highlight a favorite green site each week. You can stream the segment at approximately1220pm (central) every Wednesday at WDAY.com or, if you’re in North Dakota or western Minnesota, listen on your radio at AM970 WDAY.

GREEN TIP: When back-to-school shopping, avoid buying school supplies containing polyvinyl chloride (PVC or vinyl) or other toxic plastics.

According to the Center for Health, Environment & Justice (CHEJ), PVC plastic is one of the most hazardous consumer products ever created. PVC is dangerous to human health and the environment throughout its entire life cycle, at the factory, in our homes, and in the trash. Our bodies are contaminated with poisonous chemicals released during the PVC lifecycle, such as mercury, dioxins, and phthalates, which may pose irreversible life-long health threats.When produced or burned, PVC plastic releases dioxins, a group of the most potent synthetic chemicals ever tested, which can cause cancer and harm the immune and reproductive systems.

Children are at risk from even small exposures to these toxic chemicals. That’s why it’s important to purchase PVC-free school supplies.

CHEJ recently released this years  Back-to-School Guide to PVC-Free School Supplies to empower all of us to make smarter, healthier shopping choices for a toxic-free future. The guide lists the most common back-to-school supplies made out of PVC plastic and suggests safer PVC-free alternatives.

You can also download the wallet-sized version of the guide here: http://www.chej.org/publications/PVCGuide/PVCwallet.pdf

WHAT TO AVOID:

  • Products that are labeled with the words “vinyl” on the packaging.
  • The number “3” inside the universal recycling symbol.
  • The letters “V” or “PVC” underneath the universal recycling symbol.
  • Other toxic plastics to avoid: polycarbonate (PC), polystyrene (PS) and acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS) plastics.
  • If there isn’t any labeling indicating what the product is made of, call the manufacturer’s question/comment line (usually a toll-free 800 number) listed on the package to find out.

For additional information:
CHEJ’s report, PVC: The Poison Plastic.
Beth Terry’s informative summary on the evils of PVC, New Guide to PVC-Free School Supplies.
CNN’s series of investigative reports by Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Toxic America.

WHAT YOU CAN DO:

Rather than recycling or tossing PVC items, like old vinyl curtains and floor tiles, in the trash, Mike Schade, CHEJ’s PVC campaign coordinator, recommendsdisposing of them in hazardous waste landfill sites. Call your sanitation department or state environmental agency to see where you might dispose of hazardous material.

CHEJ also suggests returning PVC products and packaging to retailers and manufacturers. “We recommend consumers contact manufacturers and let them know that PVC is an unacceptably toxic material and that it should not be used in production,” says Anne Rabe with CHEJ. “As consumers, they can also send that message by not purchasing products packaged or made from PVC.” Look for the number 3 in the recycling symbol or the letter “V.”

This is becoming an easier task already. Rabe points out that there are a number of PVC alternatives already on the market. For example, Ikea now sells non-PVC shower curtains exclusively.

Some manufacturers have already heard the calls for a halt to PVC use in production. CHEJ has successfully worked with Victoria’s Secret and Microsoft to eliminate PVC from their packaging and is currently in talks with Target, Sears and Wal-Mart. Wal-Mart has already committed to eliminating PVC in its private-label-product packaging in two years.

Source: CHEJ’s report, PVC: The Poison Plastic

WHERE YOU CAN SHOP LOCALLY:

Eco Chic Boutique

Office Max

My Green Side’s web pick of the week:

The Center for Health, Environment & Justice (CHEJ)
CHEJ’s overarching goal has consistently been to prevent harm—particularly among vulnerable populations such as children. If a safer process, material or product exists it should be used. They believe that everyone, regardless of income, race, religion, or occupation, has a right to live, work, learn, play and pray in a healthy community.

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by Wendy Gabriel

GREEN TIP: When back-to-school shopping, avoid buying school supplies containing polyvinyl chloride (PVC or vinyl) or other toxic plastics.

According to the Center for Health, Environment & Justice(CHEJ), PVC plastic is one of the most hazardous consumer products ever created. PVC is dangerous to human health and the environment throughout its entire life cycle, at the factory, in our homes, and in the trash. Our bodies are contaminated with poisonous chemicals released during the PVC lifecycle, such as mercury, dioxins, and phthalates, which may pose irreversible life-long health threats. When produced or burned, PVC plastic releases dioxins, a group of the most potent synthetic chemicals ever tested, which can cause cancer and harm the immune and reproductive systems.

Children are at risk from even small exposures to these toxic chemicals. That’s why it’s important to purchase PVC-free school supplies.

CHEJ recently released this years  Back-to-School Guide to PVC-Free School Supplies to empower all of us to make smarter, healthier shopping choices for a toxic-free future. The guide lists the most common back-to-school supplies made out of PVC plastic and suggests safer PVC-free alternatives.

You can also download the wallet-sized version of the guide here: http://bit.ly/ds4bs1

WHAT TO AVOID:

  • Products that are labeled with the words “vinyl” on the packaging.
  • The number “3” inside the universal recycling symbol.
  • The letters “V” or “PVC” underneath the universal recycling symbol.
  • Other toxic plastics to avoid: polycarbonate (PC), polystyrene (PS) and acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS) plastics.
  • If there isn’t any labeling indicating what the product is made of, call the manufacturer’s question/comment line (usually a toll-free 800 number) listed on the package to find out.

For additional information:
CHEJ’s report, PVC: The Poison Plastic.
Beth Terry’s informative summary on the evils of PVC, New Guide to PVC-Free School Supplies.
CNN’s series of investigative reports by Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Toxic America.

WHAT YOU CAN DO:

Rather than recycling or tossing PVC items, like old vinyl curtains and floor tiles, in the trash, Mike Schade, CHEJ’s PVC campaign coordinator, recommends disposing of them in hazardous waste landfill sites. Call your sanitation department or state environmental agency to see where you might dispose of hazardous material.

CHEJ also suggests returning PVC products and packaging to retailers and manufacturers. “We recommend consumers contact manufacturers and let them know that PVC is an unacceptably toxic material and that it should not be used in production,” says Anne Rabe with CHEJ. “As consumers, they can also send that message by not purchasing products packaged or made from PVC.” Look for the number 3 in the recycling symbol or the letter “V.”

This is becoming an easier task already. Rabe points out that there are a number of PVC alternatives already on the market. For example, Ikea now sells non-PVC shower curtains exclusively.

Some manufacturers have already heard the calls for a halt to PVC use in production. CHEJ has successfully worked with Victoria’s Secret and Microsoft to eliminate PVC from their packaging and is currently in talks with Target, Sears and Wal-Mart. Wal-Mart has already committed to eliminating PVC in its private-label-product packaging in two years.

Source: CHEJ’s report, PVC: The Poison Plastic

My Green Side’s web pick of the week:

The Center for Health, Environment & Justice (CHEJ)
CHEJ’s overarching goal has consistently been to prevent harm—particularly among vulnerable populations such as children. If a safer process, material or product exists it should be used. They believe that everyone, regardless of income, race, religion, or occupation, has a right to live, work, learn, play and pray in a healthy community.

Editor’s Note: Each Wednesday My Green Side brings Simple Tips for Green Living to The Christopher Gabriel Program. We also highlight a favorite green site each week. You can stream the segment at approximately 1020am (CDT) every Wednesday at WDAY.com.

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by Wendy Gabriel

GREEN TIP: Make smart shopping decisions when buying paper products, look for high recycled content and clean manufacturing processes or, even better, buy reusable products in place of the paper products.

Each day we have the opportunity to make smarter shopping decisions. Buying the right paper products is especially important because forests are being destroyed to make toilet paper, facial tissues, paper towels and other disposable paper products. And, during the chlorine bleaching process, harmful dioxins are formed causing serious health implications.

If every household in the United States replaced just one box of virgin fiber facial tissues (175 sheets) with 100% recycled ones, we could save 163,000 trees. SEE THE LIST

If every household in the United States replaced just one roll of virgin fiber toilet paper (500 sheets) with 100% recycled ones, we could save 423,900 trees. SEE THE LIST

If every household in the United States replaced just one roll of virgin fiber paper towels (70 sheets) with 100% recycled ones, we could save 544,000 trees. SEE THE LIST

If every household in the United States replaced just one package of virgin fiber napkins (250 count) with 100% recycled ones, we could save 1 million trees. SEE THE LIST

Three Things You Can Do

1. Buy paper products with recycled content — especially post-consumer fibers.

Look for products that have a high recycled content, including high post-consumer content. Post-consumer fibers are recovered from paper that was previously used by consumers and would otherwise have been dumped into a landfill or an incinerator.

2. Buy paper products made with clean, safe processes.

Paper products are bleached to make them whiter and brighter, but chlorine used in many bleaching processes contributes to the formation of harmful chemicals that wind up in our air and water and are highly toxic to people and fish.

According to the Environmental Working Group (EWG), chlorinated dioxins form as an unintended byproduct of waste incineration and a variety of industrial processes, including smelting, chlorine paper bleaching and pesticide manufacturing. Burning household waste and even forest fires can also produce dioxins. Sometimes described as the most toxic contaminant ever found, dioxin has been linked to multiple outbreaks of disease and cancer triggered by high-level exposures at least as far back as 1949.

Look for products labeled totally chlorine-free (TCF) or processed chlorine-free (PCF). In some cases, elemental chlorine-free (ECF) may be acceptable.

3. Tell tissue manufacturers to stop using virgin wood for throwaway products.

If a brand you buy for your home doesn’t have any recycled content, contact the manufacturer (click here to send a message to paper giant Kimberly-Clark). Tell the company to use more recycled fibers, to avoid sourcing from ecologically valuable forests such as those in the Cumberland Plateau and Canadian boreal, and to ensure any virgin fibers used are certified by the Forest Stewardship Council. Saving forests also helps reduce global warming pollution.

Source: Natural Resources Defense Council

Local retail providing green paper product options:

My Green Side’s web pick of the week:

Center for Health, Environment & Justice (CHEJ): BE SAFE Precautionary Campaign
The precautionary approach looks at how we can prevent harm from environmental hazards. It is a “better safe than sorry” practice motivated by caution and prevention. Why ask “what level of harm is acceptable?” when we can prevent pollution and environmental destruction before it happens. The Center for Health, Environment & Justice’s BE SAFE campaign is a nationwide initiative to build support for the precautionary approach.

Editor’s Note: Each Wednesday My Green Side brings Simple Tips for Green Living to The Christopher Gabriel Program. We also highlight a favorite green site each week. You can stream the segment at approximately 1020am (CDT) every Wednesday at WDAY.com.

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by Wendy Gabriel

GREEN TIP: Avoid buying school supplies that are made from WDAY Green Tipspolyvinyl chloride (PVC or vinyl). The health risks of PVC are prevalent throughout the life span of this unnecessary toxic plastic. From the manufacturing process, the use and the disposal, PVC causes health risks for the communities near the chemical plants, our children and our environment.

According to the Center for Health, Environment & Justice (CHEJ), PVC plastic is one of the most hazardous consumer products ever created. PVC is dangerous to human health and the environment throughout its entire life cycle, at the factory, in our homes, and in the trash. Our bodies are contaminated with poisonous chemicals released during the PVC lifecycle, such as mercury, dioxins, and phthalates, which may pose irreversible life-long health threats. When produced or burned, PVC plastic releases dioxins, a group of the most potent synthetic chemicals ever tested, which can cause cancer and harm the immune and reproductive systems.

CHEJ has created a Back-to-School Guide to PVC-Free School Supplies to empower all of us to make smarter, healthier shopping choices for a toxic-free future. The guide lists the most common back-to-school supplies made out of PVC plastic and suggests safer PVC-free alternatives.

WHAT TO AVOID:

• Products that are labeled with the words “vinyl” on the packaging.
• The number “3” inside the universal recycling symbol.
• The letters “V” or “PVC” underneath the universal recycling symbol.
• Other toxic plastics to avoid: polycarbonate (PC), polystyrene (PS) and acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS) plastics.

For additional information:
CHEJ’s report, PVC: The Poison Plastic.
Beth Terry’s informative summary on the evils of PVC, New Guide to PVC-Free School Supplies.

WHAT YOU CAN DO:

Rather than recycling or tossing PVC items, like old vinyl curtains and floor tiles, in the trash, Mike Schade, CHEJ’s PVC campaign coordinator, recommends disposing of them in hazardous waste landfill sites. Call your sanitation department or state environmental agency to see where you might dispose of hazardous material.

CHEJ also suggests returning PVC products and packaging to retailers and manufacturers. “We recommend consumers contact manufacturers and let them know that PVC is an unacceptably toxic material and that it should not be used in production,” says Anne Rabe with CHEJ. “As consumers, they can also send that message by not purchasing products packaged or made from PVC.” Look for the number 3 in the recycling symbol or the letter “V.”

This is becoming an easier task already. Rabe points out that there are a number of PVC alternatives already on the market. For example, Ikea now sells non-PVC shower curtains exclusively.

Some manufacturers have already heard the calls for a halt to PVC use in production. CHEJ has successfully worked with Victoria’s Secret and Microsoft to eliminate PVC from their packaging and is currently in talks with Target, Sears and Wal-Mart. Wal-Mart has already committed to eliminating PVC in its private-label-product packaging in two years.

Source: CHEJ’s report, PVC: The Poison Plastic

My Green Side’s weekly web pick:

The Center for Health, Environment & Justice (CHEJ)
CHEJ’s overarching goal has consistently been to prevent harm—particularly among vulnerable populations such as children. If a safer process, material or product exists it should be used. They believe that everyone, regardless of income, race, religion, or occupation, has a right to live, work, learn, play and pray in a healthy community.

Editor’s Note: Each Wednesday My Green Side brings Simple Tips for Green Living to The Christopher Gabriel Program. We also highlight a different favorite green site each week. You can stream the segment at approximately 1020am (CDT) every Wednesday at WDAY.com.

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By Wendy Gabriel

GREEN TIP:  Use common houseplants, such as bamboo palms and Keep your indoor air healthyspider plants, to improve your indoor air quality.  A 1989 studyconducted by Dr. B.C. Wolverton, Anne Johnson and Keith Bounds, hoping to discover ways to purify the air for extended stays in orbiting space stations proved common houseplants help to purify indoor air.

Our oldest daughter will be heading off to kindergarten next year.  My husband and I are conflicted about where to send her to school.  Should she go to public school, private school or be home-schooled?  We worry about the kind of education she will receive; what kind of learning situation would best suit her personality?  We want her to develop good social skills while being concerned over the pervasiveness of drugs, bullies . . . the same things most parents are concerned about. 

During all of our discussions on the subject, not once did we discuss the physical building that she will be inhabiting for many hours of her day.  Until now. 

USA Today recently did an eye-opening eight-month examination on industrial pollution across the nation and the impact it has on the air outside of schools.  Their findings were disturbing. 

The article begins with a school in Cincinnati, Ohio.  Three years ago the school shut down due to dangerously high levels of chemicals in air samples collected just outside of the school building.  And the source of the chemicals?  The plastics plant located across the street.  The air quality was so bad the Ohio EPA concluded the risk of getting cancer was 50 times higher than what was considered acceptable by the state.  USA Today has a handy search to discover if there are any toxic chemicals indicated in the air outside your child’s school.

Even more stunning, USA Today discovered “the air outside 435 other schools — from Maine to California — appears to be even worse, and the threats to the health of students at those locations may be even greater.”

The Center for Health, Environment & Justice (CHEJ) has been ringing the warning bell for years.  Their first report in a three-part series, Poisoned Schools: Invisible Threats, Visible Actions, was published in 2001.  It looked at the invisible threats facing our children including the poor condition of our public schools, schools built on unsafe lands, and pesticides.  It went on to list preventative measures that would rectify the unacceptable conditions our children faced every school day.

CHEJ’s follow-up report was Creating Safe Learning Zones:  Invisible Threats, Visible Actions.  It focused on the need for protective laws concerning the site selection and construction of new school buildings. 

The report warns, “there is growing evidence that these chemical exposures—these invisible threats—diminish the health and intellect of our children.  Research has revealed increasing numbers of children afflicted with asthma, cancers, lower IQs, and learning disabilities that impede their ability to develop their full potential.  From birth, children are exposed to toxic chemicals in many ways that contribute to this increased incidence of disease.  Public schools built on or near contaminated land is one potential source of chemical exposure.”

The third and final installment in the CHEJ series was Building Safe Schools: Invisible Threats, Visible Actions.  This report provides a state-by-state summary and analysis of rules and regulations that apply to school siting decisions.  It further refines the model-school siting guidelines to assist school districts that have no available options other than to build a school on a highly contaminated site.  It also provides guidance to evaluate and remediate contaminated land to the most protective standards possible.  Also included are several case studies highlighting school siting disasters and triumphs.

In 2002, CHEJ published another invaluable report, Creating Safe Learning Zones:  The ABC’s of Healthy Schools.  It examined toxins typically found in schools and building materials while providing an action plan for communities to switch to safer alternatives thereby reducing toxic chemical exposures.

In a recent email, Moira Bulloch, CHEJ’s Director of Communications, offered a big-picture analysis.  “Last year, we had a victory in our campaign to improve school safety when Congress passed Subtitle E of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, instructing the EPA to issue national voluntary school siting guidelines by June of 2009.  The development of these guidelines is critically important to the environmental and developmental health of our nation’s children.  Unfortunately, the EPA has taken no steps to develop these guidelines.  The current administration and EPA leadership are ignoring this Congressional mandate and we need your help to ensure our children’s safety.”

The CHEJ has set up an action page where you can find more information on schools endangered by toxic air pollutants.

Be Informed.  Be Green.

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