All Posts Tagged Tag: ‘Environmental Health’

  • Stop Fracking Protect Health

    Oppose SB 4 – Stop Fracking and Protect Our Health

    PSR-LA started the 2013 legislative session supporting three proposals to either ban or place a moratorium on fracking. All three failed—one on the Assembly floor, and two never even got far enough to have a vote of the full Assembly.  Seven other bills were also introduced.  All that remains now are two bills. One addresses bonding levels and the other is SB 4—a bill authored by Senator Fran Pavley, best known for authoring the State’s climate change bill. Senator Pavley says that SB 4 seeks to ensure that fracking and other “well stimulation” activities are regulated. Of particular concern is a technique call “acidization” during which tons of very strong, highly volatile acids and other chemicals are pumped into an oil well to dissolve rock and release the oil.

    We opposed SB 4 from the beginning for two reasons: First, we believe that regulating this inherently dangerous and counterproductive practice is not the way forward; and second, the bill originally included provisions that allowed companies to hide information about the chemicals being used by calling that information a “trade secret,” leading to a doctor gag rule that prohibited doctors from discussing the health impacts from chemicals used in well stimulations.

    Last week, the bill was amended to remove the doctor gag rule and to limit the ability to hide information about chemicals from the public. We’ll be watching it very closely as we enter the last week of the legislative session to do all we can to limit negative changes to the language. Now we have a new fight. Senator Pavely made amendments on Friday that appear to exempt fracking from full environmental review through the CEQA process, which we cannot support.

    Take action now to oppose SB 4 and stop fracking.

    Even as we focus our attention on the politics in Sacramento, we cannot afford to lose sight of the larger public health and energy policy issues at stake. Increasing our ability to extract more oil and gas just at the moment that we are seeking to curtail the burning of fossil fuels is deeply irresponsible policy. And, frankly, disclosure of the breathtaking amount and toxicity of the chemicals used to extract oil in our communities does nothing to make it less irresponsible.

    In Los Angeles County, the 11 weeks between June 4th and August 25th saw 286 oil wells and 1 gas well drilled, completed, or reworked.  Fifty one percent of those—147—reported being near a residence. Also, a handful of these sites are near a preschool, school or hospital.  And 140 of the wells, nearly 50% were “acidized” while only 1 was fracked[i].  Every single one of these sites is deeply embedded in the urban fabric—after all, Los Angeles County is the third most densely populated County in the state (San Francisco is first, and Orange is second).  Contrary to what the oil lobby says, oil extraction is not just in oil fields in isolated portions of Kern County or on the outskirts of rural communities. Even if it were, that’s not the future of oil extraction now that fracking and acidization have been perfected for wide-scale use.

    At its core, Sacramento is saying the way forward is simply to notify people about the oil wells being fracked or acidized in their community. Here’s an example, using data from a real notice filed in Los Angeles County, of just what that means: Families in South Los Angeles would receive notification that 3 wells as close as 85 feet from their homes are being “acidized.” This legislation would permit and disclose that 24,000 pounds of chemicals, including about 9 tons of the highly toxic and flammable hydrochloric and hydrofluoric acid, and half a ton of a product containing methanol, a known air toxic, are being pumped into the ground basically right outside their door.

    Take action now to oppose SB 4 and stop fracking.

    Regulating fracking and acidizing wells this way would also mean that the State’s policy is to hope that none of these chemicals escape at any time during their life cycle because if they do, the impacts can be significant from explosion, to burning eyes, to respiratory problems, to cancer, to harming reproductive health.  Once the oil is extracted, it will be transported, refined and eventually burned exposing more people to more pollution–as well as the occasional truck crash on the freeway.  And, by extension, permitting and disclosing fracking means that the State’s policy is to encourage burning fossil fuels increasing emissions of particulate matter, ozone precursors, and air toxics that cause problems like asthma, bronchitis, heart disease, autism, cancer, and death. Finally, by extension, the State’s policy would increase emergency room visits, health care costs, and lost work and school days by engaging in increasingly extreme techniques to get at carbon stored underground so that we can recklessly burn it and release it into our air.

    By simply permitting and disclosing oil extraction and chemical use in our communities, California will be facilitating and expanding our fossil fuel status quo. Responsible policy would be to stop this harmful and reckless activity by banning fracking and other non-conventional oil extraction because—from a health perspective–the facts demand it.  The risks to community and worker health, as well as the ecosystems and the planet, are plainly too high.  Permits and disclosure will not protect a single child from asthma, or a worker or family from chemical exposure.  Nor do permits and disclosure help us address the climate crisis.  And once the harm has occurred, it can’t be undone. We must prevent what we cannot cure.

    What you can do

    Tell Governor Brown and Senator Pavley that we must stop fracking and protect our health. Click here to send your message.

    Contact Angela Johnson Meszaros at PSR-LA to discover other opportunities for engaging in our efforts to ensure that fracking and non-conventional oil extraction do not threaten public health. Angela can be reached via e-mail or phone at 213-689-9170.

    [i] South Coast Air Quality Management District Rule 1148.2 Public Information Portal. Accessed on August 26th.

  • Councilmembers Koretz and Bonin Call For Fracking Moratorium in Los Angeles


    LA Councilman Paul Koretz (left), co-author of the motion calling for a moratorium on fracking, and PSR-LA’s Angela Johnson Meszaros

    Cross-posted from Food & Water Watch

    LOS ANGELES — Today in City Hall, Councilmember Paul Koretz and Mike Bonin introduced a motion to place a moratorium on fracking within the City of Los Angeles and along the City’s water supply route. They were joined outside beforehand by the consumer advocacy group Food & Water Watch, the environmental health group Physicians for Social Responsibly-Los Angeles, Citizens Coalition for a Safe Community, and the Sierra Club to announce the motion at a press conference.

    Councilmember Paul Koretz said, “On one hand, we’re all concerned that a strong earthquake could destroy the Bay Delta levees and contaminate one of L.A.’s major water supplies with salt water. On the other, fracking is happening all over the state, and the United States Geological Survey says fracking-related activity has definitively caused earthquakes in Ohio, Texas, Oklahoma and Arkansas. As a state, we have to decide which it is, are we protecting our water supply, or not?”

    “Already, 16 of our neighborhood councils have called for a ban on fracking. Like with coal power and plastic bags, if the federal or state governments are unwilling or unable to act to protect Angelenos, we will do our part to lead by example here at the local level,” said Koretz.

    “The quality of our water and the safety of our neighborhoods comes first,” said Councilmember Mike Bonin. “The threat fracking poses to families in L.A. is serious and I am proud to join Councilmember Koretz in proposing a moratorium on fracking in the City of Los Angeles and along our water supply route.”

    Councilmember Bonin called on Governor Brown to listen to the majority of Californians who disapprove of the inherently dangerous process of fracking and impose an immediate statewide moratorium on fracking.

    “As Governor Brown has failed to act, cities like Los Angeles are stepping up to protect residents,” said Brenna Norton, Southern California Organizer for Food & Water Watch. “Nationwide the evidence is clear: No amount of regulation can make this fundamentally destructive and toxic drilling safe. Food & Water Watch congratulates the courageous leadership of Councilmembers Paul Koretz and Mike Bonin, willing to stand up for Angelenos and all Californians.”

    Fracking is a highly polluting form of oil and gas extraction that involves blasting huge volumes of water mixed with toxic chemicals into the earth to break up rock formations. The controversial technique is currently unregulated and unmonitored by California officials. Fracking has been tied to air and water pollution, seismic activity and it threatens the climate by emitting large amounts of methane.

    “The health impacts of the chemicals used in fracking, acidization and gravel packing are clear,” said Angela Johnson Meszaros, general counsel for Physicians for Social Responsibility-Los Angeles. “Introducing these chemicals into a densely populated city like Los Angeles exposes people to unnecessary threats in both the short term and over the long term. Fracking is all the more reckless because we’re creating all these exposure routes just to extract oil to burn which has its own massive negative health consequences.”

    Oil companies have already begun fracking in the Los Angeles region, most notably in the Inglewood Oil Field, the largest urban oil field in the country, located between the Baldwin Hills and Culver City. Residents living near confirmed fracking activity in the L.A. area have already experienced severe property damage, a noxious oil field blowout in 2006 and a spike in serious health concerns.

    “The Citizens Coalition for a Safe Community fully supports the Councilmembers’ motion calling for a moratorium on fracking and other forms of risked-filled exploitation of the remaining fossil fuel reserves under the City of Los Angeles,” said Paul Ferrazzi of CCSC. “With many old, idle and abandoned oil wells under existing infrastructure in the city, this is the prudent action for Los Angeles City Councilmembers to support before a disaster similar to the 1985 Fairfax District Ross Dress for Less explosion is allowed occur again. We must act now on the city and county levels to prevent the destruction of our urban and rural communities given Governor Jerry Brown’s refusal to impose a statewide moratorium to allow independent study of the environmental and health risks already realized in other parts of the country.”

    Oil companies are gearing up to frack unconventional shale oil in the Monterey Shale, a formation beneath some of the state’s most productive farmland, critical water sources and dozens of towns and cities from the Salinas Valley to the Los Angeles Basin. It has also been noted that the Los Angeles County portion of the Monterey Shale contains more oil per square meter than any other oil producing basin in the world, making it a potential hotbed for fracking and other dangerous extraction activity.

    Actor and environmental champion Ed Begley, Jr. also joined the press conference. “It is very important that we realize the potential risks that others around the country have already been dealing with and make sure that we do not expose Californians to those risks,” said Begley. “There are just too many unknowns and our citizens cannot afford foolish experimentation with our water, air, health, earthquakes and climate.”

    “Fracking has become a very local hot-button issue. As the industry searches for more extreme ways to wring additional oil out of mature urban wells, we can’t allow their drive for profits to come before the health and well-being of the people of Los Angeles and their property,” said Koretz.

    The motion can be viewed here:


    Brenna Norton, Food & Water Watch, 323-843-8446

    Paul Michael Neuman, Office of CM Koretz, 213.473.7005

    David Graham-Caso, Office of CM Bonin, 858.945.2203

    Angela Johnson Meszaros, Physicians for Social Responsibility, 323-229-1145

    Paul Ferrazzi, Citizens Coalition for a Safe Community, (310) 558-1970

    Food & Water Watch works to ensure the food, water and fish we consume is safe, accessible and sustainable. So we can all enjoy and trust in what we eat and drink, we help people take charge of where their food comes from, keep clean, affordable, public tap water flowing freely to our homes, protect the environmental quality of oceans, force government to do its job protecting citizens, and educate about the importance of keeping shared resources under public control.

  • Lat

    LA Times Editorial: The air near LA’s freeways? How dangerous?

    Check out today’s LA Times editorial on monitoring air pollution near freeways — read more about PSR-LA’s role in pushing the EPA to take action in last week’s post, “PSR-LA Air Pollution Lawsuit Featured in LA Times and CBS“.

    The air near L.A.’s freeways: How dangerous?

    Pollution along the region’s freeways has been ignored for too long. But what can be done to improve it?

    By The Times editorial board
    September 3, 2013

    You know something is off base when the regional air district monitors and regulates emissions from fire pits on Southern California’s beaches, which affect a handful of homeowners, before it gets around to the 24/7 blasts of pollution along the area’s freeways. That’s not entirely the fault of the South Coast Air Quality Management District, though. Unhealthful emissions from cars and especially trucks along the freeways have fallen into a regulatory black hole until now.

    The AQMD regulates only stationary polluters — industrial plants, residential fireplaces, fire pits and the like. But while the freeways are stationary, the cars and trucks that cause the pollution are mobile. So even though the freeways are emitting pollutants all the time — a never-ending source of ultra-fine particulate matter and other noxious emissions that repeated studies have linked to health problems among the people who live closest to them — they are not in fact regulated by the AQMD. In the four counties covered by the South Coast AQMD, that’s more than 1 million people. The air district has done occasional spot monitoring, but none of its 35 permanent stations is near a freeway because such stations are supposed to measure regional, not localized, pollution levels. That’s an outdated way of gauging the damage caused by air pollution, from before the health dangers of particulates were well understood.

    Continue reading the full editorial at the LA Times

  • PSR-LA Air Pollution Lawsuit Featured in LA Times and CBS

    angela-cbs-screenshotLast year, we announced our law suit to demand that the EPA place air monitors near freeways to determine exactly how much particulate matter is reaching the many families and communities who live within 300 yards of these major roadways. Studies show that women who live near heavy traffic roadways have a greater risk of having a low birth weight child and the child is more likely to develop asthma. Over a lifetime, living with this pollution also increases the likelihood of adult onset asthma, heart attacks, cancer and premature death. Cal State Fullerton’s 2008 study of Los Angeles, Riverside, Orange and San Bernardino Counties cites 3,052 deaths and 2,300 hospital admissions attributed to just the portion of particulate matter that is in excess of the federal health-based air standards.

    The LA Times followed up on the story this week, interviewing PSR-LA’s Angela Johnson Meszaros and gaining attention from CBS Los Angeles and KABC radio, and even a related story by LA Daily News on a proposed apartment complex near the 101 and 405 freeways.

    See the excerpts, video, and audio below.

    Air board will start monitoring pollution next to SoCal freeways

    excerpt from the LA Times

    By Tony Barboza | August 25, 2013

    Under EPA requirements, monitors will be installed at four sites, providing data about what the 1 million Southern Californians who live within 300 feet of a freeway are breathing.

    Air quality regulators will begin monitoring pollution levels near major Southern California traffic corridors next year, for the first time providing data important to nearly 1 million Southern Californians who are at greater risk of respiratory illness because they live within 300 feet of a freeway.

    Under new U.S. Environmental Protection Agency requirements, air pollution monitors will be installed at four sites next to some of the region’s busiest freeways. Similar steps will occur in more than 100 big cities across the country.

    Scientists have linked air pollution from traffic to a long list of health problems, including asthma, heart disease, bronchitis and lung cancer.

    Though tens of millions of people nationwide live within a few hundred feet of a major road, monitoring stations established to measure common air pollutants typically have been placed away from such thoroughfares and other obvious sources of contamination. That’s because the monitors are intended to measure pollution across entire regions to determine if they are within health standards set by the state and federal government.

    Of the South Coast Air Quality Management District’s 35 air quality monitoring stations measuring pollutants across a four-county basin of 17 million people, none sits close to a major roadway. Environmental groups say that system underestimates exposure levels in many neighborhoods.

    The new monitoring is likely to have broad implications. If, as expected, the new data show higher pollution levels, environmental organizations and neighborhood activists almost certainly will call for local officials to take more aggressive steps to reduce emissions and curtail residential development near freeways.

    “We will do everything possible to make sure people who live near those roadways get the protections they’re entitled to,” said Angela Johnson Meszaros, an attorney for Physicians for Social Responsibility-Los Angeles, one of several advocacy groups that sued the EPA last year to force it to require fine-particle pollution monitoring near Southern California freeways.

    Read the rest of the article at the LA Times

    Air Quality Monitors To Be Installed To Measure Vehicle Pollution On SoCal Freeways

    excerpt from CBS Los Angeles

    Starting in January, two of the four air pollution monitors will be installed along the 10 Freeway in the Inland Empire and along the 5 Freeway in Santa Ana. The monitoring devices will study the impacts of pollution on neighborhoods directly adjacent to freeways both in Los Angeles and nearly 100 major U.S. cities.

    A 2008 Cal State Fullerton study of L.A., Riverside, Orange and San Bernardino Counties found 3,052 deaths and 2,300 hospital admissions attributed to vehicle exhaust pollution. Among the health risks identified are asthma, bronchitis, low birth weight, autism and lung and brain cancers.

    “What are we going to do about siting new homes and new schools next to freeways?” said Angela Johnson Meszaros, general counsel for Physicians for Social Responsibility Los Angeles (PSRLA), one of the groups that sued the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to force the upcoming monitoring.

    “We sued, demanding that the EPA require those monitors so we can start making movement toward cleaning up the air,” said Meszaros.

    Read the rest at CBS Los Angeles

    Talk Radio 790 KABC Peter Tilden Interviews Angela Johnson Meszaros

    Listen to the 6-minute interview here, and read more about the the show at Late Night with Peter Tilden on on TalkRadio 790 KABC.

  • Toxies Exposed

    The Toxies: Exposed — Web Series Premiere Inspires Action!

    by Kriszta Farkas, PSR-LA Summer Intern

    Kriszta Farkas and Dan Huynh, PSR-LA Summer Interns.

    Kriszta Farkas and Dan Huynh, PSR-LA Summer Interns.

    The Toxies: Exposed, the 4th annual event of The Toxies, created by the statewide coalition, CHANGE, and led by Physicians for Social Responsibility – Los Angeles, was yet another great success! By highlighting the hazards of specific “bad chemical actors” in screening short videos, the event exemplified how we can all work together to protect our neighborhoods, workers, businesses, and consumers from toxic chemicals and pollutants.  Our infamous Toxies characters, expert panelists, families, and community organizers all arrived for an evening of fun and community outreach. Fun photos were taken of all wearing and showing off our signature “Toxies” masks. Then, the show began!

    The audience was ushered in for the premiere of our seven entertaining and information-filled 3-minutes video series presentation on this year’s Toxies honorees – BPA, Chloropicrin, Flame Retardants, Fracking Chemical Cocktail, Lead, Mercury, and Yellow Soap. The videos received hearty applause and support from the audience, and this year’s Toxies bad actors rushed out of the room in a theatrical moment of reacting to the audience’s strong “boos”. Our panelists then convened on stage, introducing their specialties and organizations, and answering questions from our audience members. An engaging discussion ensued about the presence of specific hazardous chemicals in our communities and workplaces and what we, together, can do to fight it and protect ourselves and our communities. As the attendees made their way out of the theater, we received positive event evaluations and engagement in writing and sending out postcards to Senator Boxer to strengthen our national chemical laws.

    The rest of the evening was spent enjoying delicious food – generously provided by the local Cabbage Patch Restaurant – and networking against the backdrop of upbeat music. Many thanks to all of our supporters, and for all of the great feedback that we have received this year along with the previous years! You can see all seven short videos — in English, and also available with Spanish subtitles — at These videos are now being shared in community organizing workshops and with our partners, engaging new audiences in the conversation on toxic pollutants, and inspiring everyone to action!

    See select photos below and make sure to watch the video web series!

  • Fracking Infographic Featured

    Health Effects of Chemicals Used in Fracking


    Click the image to download as a PDF.

    Many stages of oil and natural gas development use chemicals. These chemicals are used not only for hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” but also well drilling and during recovery and delivery of oil and natural gas. Many of these chemicals are toxic and may seriously harm human health and the environment.

    Surprisingly, a large number of the products and their chemical components used in the process remain undisclosed to the public because the oil and gas industry claims the chemical mixture is a “trade secret.” An in-depth review by Dr. Theo Colborn and colleagues at The Endocrine Disruption Exchange generated a list of hundreds of products used during oil and gas development and only a fraction of their respective chemical components. The study, “Natural Gas Operations from a Public Health Perspective,” published in 2011, presented an extensive database of fracking products and chemicals made publicly available to date,  and their respective health effects.

    PSR-LA created an infographic to summarize what is known about the products and chemicals used in fracking and their known effects on human health and the environment. Click here to download the infographic (PDF).

    PSR-LA is committed to advocating for the public’s right to know about the chemicals related to oil and natural gas development. You can help move this conversation by sharing this post with your friends and colleagues using these samples:


    PSR-LA’s nifty infographic on the adverse health effects of hundreds of toxic chemicals used and kept secret by the oil and gas industry during fracking. Share and help support PSR-LA’s fight against industry trade secrets and to protect public health!


    Check out PSR-LA’s infographic on the health effects of chemicals used by the oil and gas industry during fracking #DontGagDocs #fracking


  • Eastside Gold Line Metro Flickr

    Why smart growth is different from equitable growth: CEQA and SB 731

    photo by flickr user JulieAndSteve

    photo by flickr user JulieAndSteve

    By Monika Shankar and Martha Dina Argüello

    cross-posted from the CA Planning and Conservation League newsletter

    Many of us living and working in Los Angeles have faced the realities of infill and Transit Oriented Development (TOD) policies for decades. Touted as an environmental and economic solution, infill and TOD, if implemented hastily and without public input can lead to negative impacts on communities. With the release of Senator Steinberg’s SB 731, a bill intended to provide for greater certainty around infill development, we must acknowledge the downsides to infill and TOD that are rarely discussed yet are central issues to social justice and public health advocates. That is, not all TOD and infill development results in equitable development.

    The lived experiences of residents and multiple studies have shown that smart growth often means housing built near heavy traffic roadways and freeways and increased exposure to unhealthy air pollution and increased vehicular traffic. It can also raise rental and housing costs, change community aesthetics, and lead to gentrification and displacement. And while smart growth can transform neighborhoods, it fails to help the long term underemployed and unemployed who cannot access newly created jobs or afford the new amenities or even basic goods and services.

    Research done by the Dukakis Center for Urban and Regional Policy found that transit investment frequently changes the surrounding neighborhood. According to the 2010 study, ‘the most predominant pattern is one in which housing becomes more expensive, neighborhood residents become wealthier and vehicle ownership becomes more common.” The study also reveals that transit development can have unintended consequences for core transit users—usually renters and low-income residents — who are priced out in favor of higher-income, car-owning residents who are less likely to use public transit for commuting. Consequently, the most vulnerable in our communities (renters, low-income and people of color) are pushed to the urban fringes away from jobs, schools and amenities, contributing to what has been dubbed the suburbanization of poverty, and increased air pollution.

    A case study exemplifying this phenomenon is downtown Los Angeles, and the surrounding communities of Pico Union and South Park. As major housing and entertainment development made downtown a hip place to live, work and play, low-income residents experienced increasing police harassment, rising costs of living, more traffic and a deep sense that they were no longer welcome in their own neighborhoods. These trends were documented in a health impact assessment conducted by Health Impact Partners in 2012, which showed significant demographic shifts, with African American and Latino populations moving out and a substantial growth of college age individuals and some baby boomers. Displacement and gentrification have health impacts related to mental stress and anxiety. Even small fluctuations in rental rates can mean less money to spend on food, health care, education, all of which are determinants of health.

    The California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) is one of the few tools communities have to address developments with these negative impacts. In addition to requiring a cumulative health impact assessment, CEQA leverages a community’s ability to assess how a project will impact their health and environment, and mitigate harm through active participation in the process. We must prioritize and protect communities by ensuring equitable growth and we accomplish this by strengthening community participation, conducting more robust health impact assessments, and protecting communities through planning and policy.

  • Shilpa Sayana Couch Feature 2

    A Prescription for Toxic-Free Fire Safety

    For decades, toxic and untested flame retardant chemicals have been added to our furniture and baby products, but they haven’t worked to protect us from fires as promised.  Why? An obscure 1970s California regulation is a de facto national mandate to add these chemicals, which are linked to lower IQs in children, reduced fertility, cancer, and other adverse health effects, and have become global contaminants. Right now, California has an opportunity to fix this problem and take a critical step towards toxic-free fire safety, and the deadline is March 26th!

    Take action now to demand improved fire safety and immediate protection from toxic chemicals.


    Furniture, baby products, and many other products contain flame retardant chemicals as a result of an outdated California state rule called TB 117. Some of these chemicals have been banned, but they still show up in our homes, environment, workplaces, and in our bodies. In California, children carry flame retardant chemicals in their bodies at concentrations amongst the highest in the world. These chemicals do not prevent fires as promised, and in some cases can actually make fires more deadly by increasing smoke and toxic gases, which are the major causes of fire deaths and injuries.

    PSR-LA is a key leader in a diverse coalition of health advocates, firefighters, scientists, businesses and manufacturers, environmentalists, and fire safety experts to come together in support of updating this regulation, to protect our health, environment, and encourage health products and business in California. Now, California regulators have proposed a revision to TB 117, called TB 117-2013 to provide improved fire safety without relying on flame retardants.

    As health professionals, we see the rise in diseases associated with toxic chemical exposure. It is our responsibility to speak out and prevent these exposures whenever possible.  A landmark scientific consensus statement, signed by more than 200 scientists in over 30 countries, highlights their health and environmental harm of flame retardant chemicals. Flame retardants continuously migrate out of furniture into dust, and are ingested by humans, pets, and wildlife. Levels of these chemicals have increased 40-fold in human breast milk since the 1970s and California children have among the highest levels recorded. These chemicals do not belong in our bodies.

    Communities of color already bear a disproportionate burden of toxic chemicals in their homes, workplaces, and neighborhoods, and studies show flame retardant chemicals contribute to this disparity. Those with lower income, and especially children, have high levels of toxic flame retardant chemicals in their bodies compared to those in more wealthy households.i

    Babies are born with flame retardants in their bodies because these chemicals cross the placenta2. Children’s behavior, such as crawling and hand-to-mouth activity means that they face even greater exposure. Consequently, young children have three times the levels of flame retardant chemicals in their bodies compared to their mothers3. Flame retardants are also increasing in our food supply, and contaminate soil, wastewater, rivers, the ocean, fish, and marine mammals4.

    Unfortunately, we expect that the flame retardant chemical industry will do everything they can to fight this common-sense change. Last year, the Chicago Tribune published a searing four-part series on flame retardants, illustrating the deceptive tactics the chemical industry uses to keep their toxic products on the market, and their close ties to the tobacco industry. The series describes a well-resourced campaign of dishonesty, manipulated scientific findings, and a phony watchdog group that misrepresented itself.

    Your voice is critical in this rule change processWe need to show state regulators and Governor Brown that Californians support a modern, scientific standard that puts our children’s and families’ health first.The proposed updated flammability standard, TB117-2013, gives companies better ways to provide fire safety – without the use of harmful flame retardant chemicals. The public comment period ends on Tuesday, March 26th. 

    Please take action today!  If you have any questions, please contact Ana Mascareñas, Policy & Communications Director, at (213) 689-9170,

    Photos: (top) PSR-LA member Dr. Shilpa Sayana. Photo by Eric Coleman. (middle) Photo by Francisco Cortinas.

    1. Stapleton HM, Eagle S, Sjödin A, Webster TF. Serum PBDEs in a North Carolina Toddler Cohort: Associations with Handwipes, House Dust, and Socioeconomic Variables. Environmental Health Perspectives. 2012 May 23;120(7).

    2.  Antignac J-P, Cariou R, Maume D, Marchand P, Monteau F, Zalko D, et al. Exposure assessment of fetus and newborn to brominated flame retardants in France: preliminary data. Molecular nutrition & food research. 2008 Feb;52(2):258–65.

    3. Lunder S, Hovander L, Athanassiadis I, Bergman A. Significantly higher polybrominated diphenyl ether levels in young U.S. children than in their mothers. Environmental science & technology. 2010 Jul 1;44(13):5256–62.

    4. Hites RA. Polybrominated diphenyl ethers in the environment and in people: a meta-analysis of concentrations. Environmental science & technology. 2004 Feb 15;38(4):945–56.

  • Boys On Couch

    Governor Brown’s Toxic-Free Fire Safety Regulation Unveiled

    boys-on-couchToxic Flame Retardant Chemicals:
    California’s Governor Brown’s Fire Safety Regulation Unveiled
    Better Fire Safety, Health and Environment Protections

    Read Statement from Californians for Toxic Free Fire Safety

    (Sacramento) Consumers, environmental health advocates, health professionals, and firefighters applauded Governor Jerry Brown’s new fire safety regulation today, issuing this statement. The draft language of TB 117-2013 was posted for a 45-day public comment period today, and aims to improve fire safety without the use of toxic flame retardant chemicals linked to neurodevelopmental impairment, infertility, and cancer.

    California State Senator Mark Leno, who has previously authored 4 bills aimed at curbing toxic flame retardant chemicals, remarked, “Scientific studies have long recognized that our current safety standard has been ineffective at preventing fires. Meanwhile, the chemicals used to meet the standard make their way into household dust, our food supply, soil, rivers and oceans, posing harm to children, pregnant mothers, families, firefighters and even pets and wildlife. I am pleased to support the Administration’s efforts to adopt an updated standard that ensures fire safety while reducing these threats to human health and our environment.”

    “An updated furniture flammability standard is a win-win for millions of people in California and across the country because it will achieve better fire safety while eliminating the need for toxic chemicals,” said Sarah Janssen, MD, PhD, MPH, senior scientist at the Natural Resources Defense Council. “All of us carry flame retardant chemicals in our bodies which have been linked to lower IQs in children, infertility and cancer. Getting these chemicals out of our couches will protect everyone’s health.”

    “The Brown administration is taking a stand for safety and health,” commented Ana Mascareñas, Policy and Communications Director of Physicians for Social Responsibility-Los Angeles. “Flame retardant chemical manufacturers have spent millions to keep ineffective fire rules in place, defeat restrictions on toxic chemicals, and are trying to get California legislators to pressure Brown now. We need the public to submit comments over the next 45 days in support of a smart, science-based approach to fire safety without harmful chemicals.”

    “Hard to believe it’s been nearly three decades since the cancer-causing flame retardant tris was removed from baby pajamas,” said Arlene Blum PhD, Executive Director of the Green Science Policy Institute. “It is so great that Governor Brown has taken the lead in protecting us from such chemicals in our furniture and our bodies. We will all be healthier without toxic flame retardants in our homes.”

    California’s previous regulation virtually forced manufacturers to use the toxic flame retardants to meet an obsolete regulation that this new decree will replace.

    “Firefighters are faced with a complicated chemical puzzle every time we enter a burning building. We want to eliminate the ‘big pieces’ of the puzzle. We consider flame retardant chemicals to be a very big and toxic piece of puzzle. Their ability to bioaccumulate in our bodies raises a red flag in our profession,” added Tony Stefani, cancer survivor, retired San Francisco Firefighter Captain and founder of San Francisco Firefighters Cancer Prevention Foundation.

    “As a retired Fire Captain with more than 30 years on the job, I have lost many Brother and Sister Firefighters to job related cancer. These Firefighters all died too young. This new draft regulation may be too late for many Firefighters, but it will definitely make a difference for current and future ones. Firefighters know that our job is a very dangerous one and that there are risks that we agree to when we report for duty. But the risks that we have been exposed to by the chemical companies were unnecessary and only served one purpose. And that is to create a profit for the chemical companies, said Jim Doucette, Executive Director,Firefighters Burn Institute and a retired Captain Sacramento Fire Department.

    “Because structure fires burn so much hotter than ever before, flame retardants offer little if any protection,” said Lou Paulson, president of California Professional Firefighters. “But they do add to the toxic haze that often engulfs firefighters when they respond to a call. These inhalants are a major cause of death for fire victims and have been linked to higher cancer rates among firefighters. In issuing this draft update to the furniture flammability standard, the governor deserves credit for acting to protect the safety of firefighters and those we serve.”

    “This is an important victory for consumers,” said Richard Holober, Executive Director ofConsumer Federation of California. “For nearly four decades, chemical manufacturers have reaped billions in profits at consumers’ expense. Chemical industry-funded front groups spent $23 million in lobbying and campaign donations in California alone in the past five years – stopping attempts to change the toxic and ineffective furniture flammability regulation called TB 117. We are pleased that Governor Brown has taken the important step forward to transform an obsolete regulation with a new draft, TB 117-2013, which follows the advice of safety experts – not chemical manufacturers.”

    In December, the Center for Environmental Health (CEH) found flame retardant chemicals, including the cancer-causing flame retardant chemical chlorinated Tris, in products for infants and young children. Judy Levin, Pollution Prevention Program Co-Director for CEH, remarked, “Children and their parents should not have to worry about toxic chemicals while their children sleep and play. We are so grateful to Governor Brown and his staff for promoting a fire safety standard that is based on real fire science and protects public health.”

    “We’ve been concerned about the impact of these chemicals on our families for awhile,” saysNourbese Flint M.A.W.H. of Black Women for Wellness. “The fact that California’s children have some of the highest rates in the world of these toxic chemicals in their bodies, with the added concern that flame retardant chemicals are now showing up in umbilical cord blood, we are excited that California leadership is taking this step to protect our families and our children’s health.”

    Available for Interviews

    For media assistance Stephenie Hendricks 415 258-9151

    Arlene Blum PhD,, a chemist with Green Science Policy Institute, has been studying the harmful effects of these chemicals since the 1970’s. 510.644.3164, Dr. Blum is a study co-author whose research in the 1070’s led to the removal of chlorinated Tris from children’s pajamas.

    Jose T. Bravo, Executive Director, Just Transition Alliance, San Diego, CA. 619.838.6694, Jose works with communities contaminated with chemicals, which occurs mostly where people of color and low-income residents live, Habla Espanol.

    Jim Doucette, Executive Director, Firefighters Burn Institute, Retired Captain Sacramento Fire Department 916.224.6553

    Nourbese Flint, Program Manager, Black Women for Wellness,, 323-290-5955. Nourbese can address chemical industry targeting of people of color and disproportioante impacts of toxic chemicals on communities of color.

    Richard Holober, Executive Director, Consumer Federation of California. 916.498.9608 cell: 650.307.7033 Richard can address how this regulation affects consumers – and CFC’s battle (alongside a coalition of firefighters, public health officers, environmental groups, parents, scientists, and many others) to change a 37-year old state regulation that saturated California homes with toxic flame retardant chemicals.

    Sarah Janssen, MD, PhD, MPH, senior scientist at the Natural Resources Defense Council, 415.875. 6126, Dr. Janssen can address health effects linked to flame retardant chemicals exposure.

    California State Senator Mark Leno, Ali Bay 916.651.4011, Senator Leno has authored four bills related to California’s flammability standard. His 2011 legislation, SB 147, would have allowed consumers the choice of purchasing furniture and baby products that are fire safe and do not contain toxic chemical fire retardants.

    Judy Levin, MSW, Pollution Prevention Co-Director, Center for Environmental Health,; 510.655.3900 x316, cell: 510.697.3947. Judy can discuss environmental health impacts to children and CEH efforts to change the CA regulation TB 117.

    Donald Lucas, Ph.DLawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Berkeley,
    510.316.6764. Dr. Lucas can address fire safety science.

    Ana Mascareñas, Policy & Communications Director, Physicians for Social Responsibility – Los Angeles (PSR-LA) 213.689.9170. Ana is also co-coordinator of Californians for Toxic free Fire Safety and can address CA policy efforts to stop exposure to flame retardants, update flammability standard TB 117, and efforts by the chemical industry to mislead communities of color on the science and hazards of flame retardant chemicals.

    Andrew McGuire, Executive Director, Trauma Foundation, San Francisco General Hospital, 415.215.8980. Andrew can address how flame retardant corporations employ tactics developed by the tobacco industry since a former Vice President of the Tobacco Institute was employed to deflect regulation of the flame retardant industry. The two main tactics have included attacking the science about the toxic hazards of fire retardant chemicals and creating phony “AstroTurf” organizations to mislead the media, legislators and the public about the toxic hazards of their products.

    Tony Stefani, cancer survivor, retired San Francisco Firefighter Captain and founder of San Francisco Firefighters Cancer Prevention Foundation. Contact Tony by email,, Tony can address high rates of cancer among firefighters and his support for removing toxic flame retardants from furniture.

    Carroll Wills, California Professional Firefighters, 916.921.911, Carroll can address toxic exposures firefighters face, and the need for fire safety without the use of toxic chemicals.

    Ami Zota, PhD, Research Fellow, Program on Reproductive Health and the Environment
    University of California, San Francisco cell 617.512.6045, Dr. Zota can address reproductive health research.

    Bureau of Electronic and Appliance Repair, Home Furnishings and Thermal Insulation(BEARHFTI)

    Californians for Toxic Free Fire Safety

    Alliance for Toxic Free Fire Safety

  • Jan 26 – On Our Own Terms! Community Festival: I-710 Expansion & BNSF SCIG Railyard Proposal

    When: January 26, 4-6 pm

    Where: The Neighborhood Church
    507 Pacific Avenue, Long Beach CA 90802

    What: CEHAJ, LAPWG and the BHC Air Quality Work Group will be hosting a community festival at The Neighborhood Church in Long Beach to update residents on the I710 expansion and BNSF SCIG railyard proposal. Participants will be able partake in fun and healthy activities related to alternatives to these projects.

    Join us for: 

    • Delicious Free Food
    • Cultural Performances
    • A Protest Puppet Making Workshop
    • Non-Toxic Cleaning Product Demos
    • Games
    • Zumba
    • Music
    • And much more!

    Co-sponsors: The California Endowment and Building Healthy Communities: Long Beach.

  • Jan 16 &17 – Symposium on Cumulative Impacts and Children’s Environmental Health

    When: Jan.16, 9-4:30 pm, Jan.17, 9-12:30 pm 
    Where: CAL EPA BUILDING                                                        1001 I ST, SACRAMENTO, CA
                    LIVE WEBCAST AVAILABLE

    Topics covered will include:

    • Emerging Research Relevant to Cumulative Impacts and Children’s Environmental Health.   Moderator:  Mark Miller, UCSF PEHSU
    • Perspectives from Children’s Environmental Health Research Centers.   Moderator:  Lauren Zeise, OEHHA
    • Cumulative Metrics and Findings for Air Pollution.  Moderator: Melanie Marty, OEHHA
    • Future Directions:  How Do We Address Cumulative Impacts for Children?  Discussion. Moderator:  Amy D Kyle.  UC Berkeley

    A more complete agenda and additional background and meeting  information is being posted at

     Co-sponsors: University of California, Berkeley; National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, Office of Environmental Healh Hazard Assessment, University of California, San Francisco, Pediatric Environmental Health Specialty Unit, United States Enviornmental Protection Agency

  • Image020

    November 19 – A Generation in Jeopardy: Ever stronger science on pesticide harm to children’s health

    What: Free Webinar Series             Healthy Food, Healthy Farms

    When: Monday, November 19                      11 a.m. PT / 2 p.m. ET


    Topic: What is the role of pesticides in triggering the chronic health conditions that kids today are increasingly facing?

    From learning disabilities and autism to childhood cancers and more, many chronic diseases and disorders are on the rise. Increasingly, science points to pesticides and other toxic chemicals as part of our children’s environment, and significant contributors to their ill-health.Today’s children face more chronic illness than children growing up just two generations ago.


    • Physician Bruce Lanphear, MD, MPH, senior scientist at the British Columbia Children’s Hospital Child & Family Research Institute and professor in the Faculty of Health Sciences at Simon Fraser University, British Columbia
    • Kristin Schafer, MA, senior policy strategist at Pesticide Action Network and lead author of the  2012 report “A Generation in Jeopardy: how pesticides are harming our kids’ health and intelligence”
    Sponsored by: 
  • Richard Jackson Lrg Tv Xex

    What’s in Your Food? People Have a Right to Know

    By Richard J. Jackson, MD MPH

    Cross-posted from California Progress Report

    In less than two weeks, Californians will vote on Proposition 37, which would require labeling of food sold in California grocery stores if the food contains genetically engineered ingredients. Sixty-one other countries already have this requirement in place. You should not have to be a chemist, toxicologist or geneticist to have trust in your food.

    There is a long history of false reassurances in the environmental health world, including about many pesticides, fumigants, food dyes and preservatives. The most outrageous manipulations of public trust were industry denials of hazards from tobacco, and the misinformation from the lead industry, which worked aggressively in opposition to the concerns of pediatricians and others about lead’s toxicity, especially to children.

    Genetically engineered foods have been on the U.S. market since the mid-1990s. Studies on short- or long-term health effects are hard to find since the FDA does not require them for market approval. The health effects of genetically engineered foods are still unclear.

    One recent small study with rats in France that had a controversial finding is not sufficient evidence and should not change any voter’s opinion. But given the longstanding and repeated patterns of false reassurances in environmental health, it is only fair and prudent for people to be skeptical of safety claims, and have the right to know what they are being exposed to.

    People should have information about the presence of genetically engineered ingredients in their food both when there may be a benefit to the person eating (for example, rice used in poor countries that includes Vitamin A), and when there are benefits only to the producer.

    In the US, we already have food labels showing nutrition, allergy information, and other facts that consumers want to know. This proposition would add information telling us if food is modified by adding genetic material from other plants, animals, bacteria, or viruses. It gives companies 18 months to make the simple change to adjust their food label.

    While I was director of the CDC’s National Center for Environmental Health, I instituted the federal effort to “biomonitor” chemical levels in the U.S. population because I knew that as scientists, we could not conduct studies on the health effects from activities or substances unless we had information about how people came into contact with them. Right now, without proper labeling, we do not know if genetically engineered ingredients are in our food and we have no way to make informed decision about what we are feeding our families. We have a right to know what’s in our food.

    Richard Jackson is a pediatrician, a former State Public Health Officer and former Director of CDC’s National Center for Environmental Health. He recently received the John Heinz Award in Environment and is a board director of Physicians for Social Responsibility-Los Angeles.

  • Vote Stethoscope Flag Web Feature

    Recommendations: 2012 Propositions and Public Health

    At PSR-LA, we combine our commitment to science, public health, advocacy and social justice to protect our environment and health. Voting on California’s ballot propositions is a critical way to participate in our state’s policy-making process.  For more information, please contact Policy & Communications Director, Ana Mascareñas,, (213) 689-9170.

    Recommendations on California 2012 Propositions

    Yes on Prop 30

    Protects funding for schools and local public safety

    This measure is a step towards a long-term budget solution to California’s structural deficit. It would raise about $6 billion a year between 2012 and 2017, and provide revenue for programs such as children’s education, CalWORKs, childcare, and other human services. It increases taxes on earnings over $250,000 for seven years and sales taxes by ¼ cent for four years, to fund schools and guarantees public safety realignment funding. Funds generated will preserve vital California natural resources and environmental programs, and prevent billions of dollars in additional cuts to our schools and tuition hikes for college students and their families.

    Read more from the CA Secretary of State:

    No on Prop 31

    Locks California into permanent underfunding of education, health, and other vital services

    This measure establishes two-year state budget. It sets rules for offsetting new expenditures and executive budget cuts in fiscal emergencies. Propsition 31 decreases state sales tax revenues of $200 million annually, with corresponding increases of funding to local governments. It is a deeply flawed initiative that locks in expensive and conflicting provisions into the Constitution, threatening public health, the environment and preventing future increases in funding for schools.

    Read more from the CA Secretary of State

    No on Prop 32

    Creates special exemptions for billionaires and Super PACs

    This measure prohibits unions from using payroll-deducted funds for political purposes and applies the same prohibition to payroll deductions, if any, by corporations or government contractors. Prohibits union and corporate contributions to candidates and their committees and government contractor contributions to elected officers or their committees. Unfortunately, it exempts business Super PACs and thousands of big businesses from its provisions, at the same time applying restrictions on working people and their unions.  The billionaire backers of this initiative have demonstrated a dual agenda to attack clean energy and environmental laws, and if Proposition 32 passes, will make it easier to do this.

    Read more from the CA Secretary of State

    Yes on 37

    Requires labeling of genetically engineered foods

    This measure requires that food sold in California grocery stores be labeled if it contains genetically engineered ingredients. We already have food labels showing nutrition, allergy information and other facts that consumers want to know. This measure simply adds information telling us if food is modified in a laboratory by adding DNA from other plants, animals, bacteria, or viruses. It simply requires labeling of food produced using genetic engineering, so we can choose whether to buy those products or not. Independent research shows the measure would not affect food prices and the state official analyst has said any costs for enforcement would range from 1 to 3 cents per year for each Californian. We have a right to know.

    Read more from the CA Secretary of State

    Yes on Prop 39

    Closes corporate tax loophole, invests in clean energy

    Prop 39 closes a corporate tax loophole that costs Californians $1 billion each year. At the end of the 2009 state budget negotiations a tax loophole was created that rewards companies for creating jobs outside of California. Prop 39 closes this loophole, bringing back much needed revenue to reduce the budget deficit, help fund our schools, and invest in clean energy and energy efficiency projects.

  • LA City Yes On 37 GMOs

    LA City Council Endorses Prop 37 to Label GMOs

    Yes on 37 Campaign Co-Chair Dave Murphy and Dr. Sandra Salazar address supporters in front of LA City Hall.

    We did it! Thanks to your calls to LA City Council, signing petitions, and coming in person to show support, the LA City Council endorsed Yes on 37! It’s about time we start labeling GMOs in California. We have a right to know what’s in our food.

    We need to keep building the momentum through election day! Here are several ways you can keep connecting to volunteers and voters on Prop 37 over the next week:

    1. PSR-LA Phone Bank for Yes on 37, Mon. Oct. 29th, 6pm – 9pm 
      Join us at the PSR-LA office in downtown LA for a phone bank to reach voters for Yes on 37. Contact, (213) 689-9170 to learn more and RSVP!
    2. Food Inc. Screening and Discussion with Assemblywoman Holly Mitchell, Thurs. Nov. 1st, 6:30pm – 8:30pm at Agape in Culver City
      Join Assemblymember Holly Mitchell, the 47th Assembly District Environmental Cabinet, and PSR-LA for a free movie screening of Food Inc., written and directed by Robert Kenner. Q & A with the Assemblymember Holly Mitchell will be moderated by Dr. Donald Strauss, professor of Environmental Studies at Antioch University following the film. Local and organic foods will be ready to eat to keep you feeling healthy and alive for a dynamic discussion on GMOs. Read more and RSVP at, on Facebook, or call Assemblywoman Mitchell’s office at 310-342-1070.

    Here’s  the press release about yesterday’s victory at City Hall, cross-posted from CA Right to Know:


    LA City Council Unanimously Endorses Yes on 37

    Los Angeles — As supporters rallied in front of Los Angeles City Hall today, the Los Angeles City Council unanimously passed a resolution supporting Proposition 37, the Right to Know ballot measure that would label genetically engineered foods in California. California would join 61 other countries that already label genetically engineered foods, and Prop 37 would also prohibit such foods from being marketed as “natural.”

    “It’s not often that the LA City Council votes unanimously to support a measure, but Prop 37 was a no-brainer. We have the right to know what’s in the food we’re eating and feeding our families,” said Councilmember Paul Koretz, the resolution’s author. “I’m proud to be a part of this true grassroots campaign in our struggle against the biggest pesticide and junk food companies in the world.”

    “We’re thrilled that the Los Angeles City Council voted to join our people’s movement today,” said Tom Fendley, political director of the Yes on 37 California Right to Know campaign. “The Council joins millions of moms, dads, family farmers, doctors, scientists, and grocery store owners in saying, very simply, that we have the right to know what’s in our food.”

    The Los Angeles City Council joins the California Democratic Party, Senator Barbara Boxer, Congresswoman Maxine Waters, Congressmen Brad Sherman andHoward Berman, and dozens of other California city and town councils, elected officials and candidates in endorsing Prop 37.

    “The Los Angeles City Council clearly did not believe the lies in our opposition’s widely discredited TV ads,” said Dave Murphy, co-chair of the California Right to Know and founder of Food Democracy Now! “They know Prop 37 won’t cost consumers a dime, because Prop 37 only requires a simple label. And they know Prop 37 won’t trigger lawsuits, because food companies will comply with this simple labeling law, just as they already do in 61 other countries.”

    The world’s largest pesticide companies, led by Monsanto and DuPont, are the leading funders of the No on 37 campaign, which has raised more than $40 million to oppose Prop 37.

    “Prop 37 won’t raise food costs, and most grocery store managers understand that it’s ridiculous to believe we’d be opening ourselves to lawsuits. Food companies will comply with this simple labeling law,” said Bruce Palma, general manager of Co-Opportunity Natural Foods in Santa Monica.

    “As a family physician, I see patients trying to make the best food and exercise decisions for their families. At issue is the fundamental right to know what’s in our food,” said Dr. Sandra Salazar. “This is a commonsense measure, and we should promote personal empowerment of families to make healthy food decisions.”

    Partial Resolution Text:

    “WHEREAS, polls consistently show that more than 90 percent of the public want to know if their food was produced using genetic engineering;…”; and

    WHEREAS, without disclosure, consumers of genetically engineered food can unknowingly violate their own dietary and religious restrictions; and

    WHERAS the cultivation of genetically engineered crops can also cause serious impacts to the environment; for example, most genetically engineered crops are designed to withstand weed-killing pesticides known as herbicides; as a result hundreds of millions of pounds of additional herbicides have been used on U.S. farms….; and

    WHEREAS, organic farming is a significant and increasingly important part of California agriculture. California has more organic cropland than any other state and has almost one out of every four certified organic operations in the nation; California’s organic agriculture is growing faster than 20 percent a year; and

    WHEREAS, organic farmers are prohibited from using genetically engineered seeds; nonetheless, these farmers’ crops are regularly threatened with accidental contamination from neighboring lands where genetically engineered crops abound; this risk of contamination can erode public confidence in California’s organic products, significantly undermining this industry; Californians should have the choice to avoid purchasing foods whose production could harm the state’s organic farmers and its organic foods industry;…”

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