Honor Fallen Workers by Protecting the Living from Dangerous Workplace Chemicals

by Thomas McGarity | April 29, 2019

Although Workers' Memorial Day was officially April 28, the time has not passed for remembering the thousands of friends, family members, and neighbors whose lives were tragically cut short due to fatal on-the-job incidents this past year. We carry on their memories as we renew the fight for healthy and safe working conditions.

On average, 5,320 workers die on the job every year. In 2017, the latest year for which data is available, the death toll was 5,147. These figures do not account for the estimated 50,000 workers who succumbed to occupational diseases caused by chronic exposures to toxic chemicals and other harmful substances they encountered in their workplaces.

Every day across the nation, salon workers are exposed to toxic chemicals like toluene and formaldehyde in nail polish and hair dyes, construction workers inhale asbestos during home renovations and silica during sandblasting, and janitorial crews work with hazardous commercial cleaners. The health risks they encounter are ever-present, and the consequences can be financially and emotionally devastating.

American companies have a legal and moral duty to provide their workers with safe and healthy working conditions. And our nation's protector agencies, like the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), have the responsibility to adopt and enforce strong standards to ensure companies are meeting their obligations. Yet chemical hazards persist in the workplace.

Many employers take this legal and moral obligation seriously and take proper steps to safeguard their ...

New Guide: Securing a Nontoxic Work Environment

by Katie Tracy | April 17, 2019
Workers should be able to earn a paycheck without putting their lives or their health and well-being on the line. Yet every day, an estimated 137 U.S. workers succumb to diseases caused by on-the-job exposure to toxic chemicals and other hazardous substances, and hundreds of thousands more suffer from nonfatal illnesses. In fact, more people die annually from toxic exposures at work than from car crashes, firearms, or opioids. Today, the Center for Progressive Reform (CPR) releases a new handbook, ...

CPR's Cranor Talks PFAS, Drinking Water, and Corporate Accountability

by Brian Gumm | March 27, 2019
Michigan. Minnesota. New Jersey. North Carolina. West Virginia. These are just some of the hotspots of water contamination caused by per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, better known as PFAS. Linked to a number of cancers and other illnesses, PFAS chemicals have been used in everything from nonstick cookware to stain-resistant clothing and carpets. Until recently, the substances have gone largely unregulated, exposing millions of Americans to toxic contamination. Earlier this month, CPR Member Scholar and UC-Riverside Professor Carl Cranor spoke with ...

New Report: Socially Vulnerable Communities Face Increasing Risks from Toxic Floodwaters in Virginia

by David Flores | March 06, 2019
2018 was one of the wettest years on record in Virginia, causing catastrophic floods and landslides, as well as unexpectedly high levels of pollution in the Commonwealth’s waterways and the Chesapeake Bay. While the last waterlogged year is only a recent memory for Virginians, seemingly unremarkable snow and rainfall at the end of February caused the James River to crest last week at its highest level in Richmond in almost ten years. Climate change has clearly transformed our experience with ...

Mesothelioma Awareness Day 2018

by Katie Tracy | September 25, 2018
September 26 is Mesothelioma Awareness Day. The day is intended to share information about mesothelioma, an incurable cancer that forms on the linings of vital organs, typically the lungs, following asbestos exposure. While the prognosis for individuals diagnosed with the illness is grim, preventing it is very much possible.  Scientific studies of asbestos conclude there is no safe level of exposure. Accordingly, the clear solution to preventing mesothelioma is to ensure people are never exposed to asbestos in any amount. ...

From Surviving to Thriving -- Disaster in Disaster: The Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act Must Be Enforced

by Rebecca Bratspies | September 24, 2018
This post is part of CPR's From Surviving to Thriving: Equity in Disaster Planning and Recovery report. Click here to read previously posted chapters. This chapter is excerpted from a law review article that is forthcoming in U. Arkansas Law Review, titled "Taking a Page from FDA’s Prescription Medicine Information Rules: Reimagining Environmental Information for Climate Change." What Happened? In August 2017, Hurricanes Harvey and Irma hit the southern United States in rapid succession. These massive hurricanes wrought widespread devastation — destroying ...

From Surviving to Thriving -- Hazardous Waste and Disaster Preparedness

by Victor Flatt | September 20, 2018
This post is part of CPR's From Surviving to Thriving: Equity in Disaster Planning and Recovery report. Click here to read previously posted chapters. What Happened According to the Houston Chronicle, there were more than 100 releases of hazardous substances into land, air, and water during and after Hurricane Harvey. At least one dozen of the Superfund sites listed in or near Houston were flooded during the storm. On September 3, 2017, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) acknowledged breaches at 13 ...

The National Environmental Policy Act Can Give Communities Impacted by Toxic Flooding a Voice

by Elena Franco | August 27, 2018
This post is part of a series about climate change and the increasing risk of floods releasing toxic chemicals from industrial facilities. It is based on a forthcoming article that will be published in the Sustainable Development Law & Policy Brief. As climate change makes extreme weather events increasingly frequent, the risk of flooding on our rivers and shores increases. As I noted in a previous post in this series, this puts us at risk for toxic flooding – the combination of ...

Trump Loses Another Big Court Case

by Daniel Farber | August 13, 2018
Cross-posted from LegalPlanet. Last Thursday, the Ninth Circuit ruled that Scott Pruitt had no justification for allowing even the tiniest traces of a pesticide called chlorpyrifos (also called Lorsban and Dursban) on food. This is yet another judicial slap against lawlessness by the current administration. Chlorpyrifos was originally invented as a nerve gas, but it turns out that it kills insects quite satisfactorily. (I remember ads for "Big Foot Lorsban" from back when I lived in downstate Illinois, many years ago. ...

Nothing to Celebrate as TSCA Reform Turns Two

by Katie Tracy | June 22, 2018
June 22 marks the two-year anniversary of the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act (colloquially referred to as TSCA reform or new TSCA). The 2016 law provided some hope that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) would finally address the potential risks from tens of thousands of untested and unregulated chemicals common in our households and hygiene products, our food and drinking water, our air, and our workplaces. Unfortunately, under President Trump and Scott Pruitt's leadership, ...

The James River: Floods, Pollution, and the Potential for Toxic Soup in Virginia

by Elena Franco | May 31, 2018
This post is part of a series about climate change and the increasing risk of floods releasing toxic chemicals from industrial facilities. As one of America’s first colonies, Virginia has a long history of industrialization and its consequent pollution along its waterways. It also has a long history of floods. This combination provides a potential for toxic flooding, putting Virginia's population and livelihoods at risk. The James River, named “America’s founding river” and spanning most of the state, is prone to floods, ...

Unlearned Lessons from the 'Toxic Soup': Floods, Industrialization, and Missed Opportunities

by Elena Franco | April 18, 2018
This post is part of a series about climate change and the increasing risk of floods releasing toxic chemicals from industrial facilities. As Hurricane Harvey lingered over Texas in 2017, it created a wall of water that swallowed much of Houston. Catastrophic flooding over a wide swath of southern Texas left towns, cities, and the countryside under feet of water. The floodwaters sloshed toxic chemicals from the area's 10 oil and gas refineries, 500 chemical plants, and 12 Superfund sites ...

Threat from Climate-Induced Spills Goes Beyond Superfund and Toxic Release Inventory Sites

by David Flores | March 19, 2018
This post is the first in a forthcoming series about climate change and the increasing risk of floods releasing toxic chemicals from industrial facilities in Virginia. At the tail end of winter, a succession of "bomb cyclones" and nor'easters has brought fierce winds and surging coastal flooding to the mid-Atlantic and Northeast. These storms remind us of the deepening vulnerability of our coastal and riverfront communities and infrastructure to intensifying extreme weather and flooding. This "freakish" winter weather comes just ...

North Carolina v. Chemours: Early Reflections on an Ongoing State Environmental Enforcement Case

by Joel Mintz | November 27, 2017
The Trump EPA's shrinking commitment to enforcement of the nation's environmental laws has focused new attention on state-level enforcement and the extent to which it does or does not address problems of environmental pollution and threats to public health. One recent – and ongoing – controversy, involving toxic chemical contamination of a river in North Carolina by a large and profitable corporation, provides some insights into both the promise and the shortcomings of state environmental law enforcement. It also sheds ...

Dear Congress: EPA's TSCA Implementation Has Gone Awry

by Katie Tracy | October 19, 2017
Individuals across the United States encounter hundreds of chemical substances every day and often simultaneously – in common household and hygiene products, in our food and drinking water, and in our air. Some of these chemicals present serious risks to our health and the environment and a heightened risk of harm for children, pregnant women, the elderly, and individuals with compromised immune systems. To this day, we are largely unprotected from all manner of chemical exposures, including chemicals widely known ...

A Striking About-Face on EPA's Progress in Protecting Us from Chemical Hazards

by Matt Shudtz | August 01, 2017
August is the time for back-to-school shopping, leading parents everywhere on the search for the best deals to fill our kids' backpacks. When that search ends at bargain outlets and dollar stores, though, there is a hidden cost many may not be aware of: the health burden from toxic chemicals in cheap consumer goods. Our chemical safety laws do not do enough to protect our children and families, so public health advocates like the Campaign for Healthier Solutions are putting ...

Does TSCA Reform Have a Future?

by Katie Tracy | July 17, 2017
June 22 marked the one-year anniversary of the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act, the first major update to the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) since its original enactment in 1976. The measure set a one-year deadline for EPA to complete several actions to implement the law, including finalizing its procedural rules on chemical prioritization and risk evaluation and releasing key documents related to the initial ten chemicals the agency has chosen to evaluate. (See all ...

LA Times Op-Ed: EPA Scientists Said Ban the Pesticide Chlorpyrifos. Scott Pruitt Said No

by Carl Cranor | June 08, 2017
This op-ed originally ran in the Los Angeles Times. Miners carried canaries into coal mines; if the canary died, it was an early warning of the presence of toxic gases that could also asphyxiate humans or explode. The Trump administration has decided to use children and farmworkers as 21st century canaries, continuing their exposure to a pesticide named chlorpyrifos that has been linked to serious health concerns. The toxicity of this commonly used pesticide was demonstrated in early May when ...

Toxics

Recognizing the often hidden hazards posed by toxic chemicals that pervade our lives, Congress has enacted a variety of laws designed to protect people and the environment from both short- and long-term health problems. Despite these efforts, corporatoins that profit from introducing hazardous pollutants into the environment lobby hard to prevent stiff regulatory enforcement and distort scientific evidence of harm.

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