The Colloborative on Health and the Environment -- Washington

Weekly Bulletin
January 3, 2006

Please check the CHE-WA website to stay abreast of the latest postings, news and events: http://washington.chenw.org.

To join the Collaborative on Health and the Environment (CHE) and CHE-Washington, please complete the form at http://www.healthandenvironment.org/roles/register?&phase=registerform. Be sure to mark that you want to join the Washington State Regional Group at the bottom of the application.

CHE-WA MEETING

The CHE-WA quarterly meeting is scheduled for this Thursday, January 5, 2006, from 2:00-4:00 p.m. at Antioch University. This meeting will include a science update as well as presentations/discussions on a take-back pharmaceuticals initiative, Washington legislative activities and opportunities in 2006, a new rule related to environmental health in schools, etc. The meeting agenda and a draft letter to the Washington State Board of Health are now posted under the "Upcoming Meetings" section at http://washington.chenw.org/meetings.html. All welcome -- —please join us!

CHE-WA EVENT

Environmental Health Lecture -- "Urban Lifestyles and the Built Environment: Healthier by Design"

January 25, 2006
Seattle, Washington
at Town Hall, 1119 Eighth Avenue (at Seneca Street)

Register today at web page: http://washington.chenw.org/lectures.html

The amount of time we spend in traffic, background noise, water, air and food quality, access to open spaces or sidewalks -- all of these factors affect our health. Lawrence Frank, PhD, is the J. Armand Bombardier Chair in Sustainable Transportation at the University of British Columbia and author of Health and Community Design, The Impacts of the Built Environment on Physical Activity, and most recently, co-author of Urban Sprawl and Public Health: Designing, Planning, Building for Healthy Communities. His articles on health, community design and transportation have appeared in Time magazine, CNN, ABC news and other media outlets. An alumnus of University of Washington, Dr. Frank has also had a long-standing local presence, working with King County and the Puget Sound Clear Air Agency to conduct research and initiate public health programs. His lecture will focus on urban sprawl and public health, with information about the research he is currently conducting in King County.

Ngozi Oleru, PhD, Environmental Health Services Division Director at Seattle-King County Public Health will serve as our local expert regarding these issues on a Q & A panel with Dr. Frank after his lecture.

This is the first lecture of the 2006 series "Our Health, Our Environment: Making the Link" organized by the Institute for Children’s Environmental Health and sponsored by the Seattle Biotech Legacy Foundation.

For more information or to register, please visit http://washington.chenw.org/lectures.html

IN THIS WEEK'S SUMMARY

Events

  1. Priorities for a Healthy Washington Legislative Workshop
  2. Storytelling for Effective Advocacy
  3. Priorities for a Healthy Washington Lobby Day

For more upcoming events, please see our calendar: http://www.chenw.org/events.html.

Announcements/Articles

  1. Request for Research Studies
  2. One Man's Trash Doesn't Necessarily Become Another Man's Treasure
  3. Chemical-Data Plan Catalyzes Opposition
  4. Chemicals Become Focus for Researcher Studying Delta's Decline

EVENTS

1) Priorities for a Healthy Washington Legislative Workshop

January 7, 2006
9:30 a.m. - 2:30 p.m.
Seattle, Washington
at Seattle Pacific University, Gwinn Room

Attend the annual Priorities for a Healthy Washington Legislative Workshop as the state's leading conservation groups prepare for the upcoming legislative session. We'll hear from legislators, environmental lobbyists, and members of the media and others regarding the community's Priorities for a Healthy Washington. These priorities include legislation for cleaning up Puget Sound, phasing out toxic chemicals that impact children's health, promoting renewable fuels and recycling e-waste. We are also united to defend against attacks on our land protections in Washington State. Space is limited, so register online or call the number below.

Website: http://www.wecprotects.org/join/legworkshop_reg.cfm

Contact: Amy Zarrett, Washington Environmental Council Organizer, at 206-622-8103 or my@wecprotects.org

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2) Storytelling for Effective Advocacy

January 20, 2006
9:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m.
Seattle, Washington
at Seattle University Student Center room 160

Narrative and storytelling play pivotal roles in advocating policy, changing attitudes, defending budgets, explaining decisions, and increasing donations. This seminar focuses on how narrative works in public and nonprofit agencies. You will learn the qualities of a good narrative, the process for discovering your story, and how to script a story that unites ideas with emotions.

Website: http://www.seattleu.edu/artsci/ips/Service in Action brochure.pdf

Contact: Megan Russell, 206-296-6143 or russellm@seattleu.edu

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3) Priorities for a Healthy Washington Lobby Day

January 26, 2006
All day
Olympia, Washington

Join the state's leading conservation groups and hundreds of citizen lobbyists to push for the passage of the Priorities for a Healthy Washington legislative package. These priorities include legislation for cleaning up Puget Sound, phasing out toxic chemicals that impact children's health, promoting renewable fuels and recycling e-waste. We are also united to defend against any attacks on our land protections in Washington State. During Lobby Day your will hear from legislators that are championing the Priorities for a Healthy Washington legislation, receive a training on how to lobby from top environmental lobbyists, and have a chance to meet face to face with your elected officials. The day will be followed by a party in the evening. Lobby Day is hosted by People for Puget Sound. To register, refer to the website or contact person below.

Website: http://pugetsound.org/index/siteevent-details-action/id.130

Contact: Jim Dawson, 360-754-9177 or jdawson@pugetsound.org

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ANNOUNCEMENTS/ARTICLES

1) Request for Research Studies

The Research & Information Working Group is developing a new website on scientific information sources on health and environmental quality in Washington State. The website will make this information much more understandable and accessible to environmental and health-affected groups, policymakers, researchers, educators, students and the public. We are hoping that the website will go "live" in the spring as part of the CHE WA website. You can access a draft plan for the new website at http://washington.chenw.org/pdfs/webdesign.pdf.

To ensure that the website is as comprehensive as possible, we are looking for studies on Washington State on the following environmental diseases and disabilities: asthma, cardiovascular disease, adult and child cancer, reproductive effects, birth defects, and developmental & neurobehavioral disabilities. We are also looking for studies on levels of contaminants in Washington State in outdoor air, water, soil, contaminated sites, food & fish, and indoor air & environments, as well as studies on pesticides, climate change and health, sprawl, land use and health, body burdens, and environmental justice & equity. To keep the website manageable, we cannot include information on any legislation, policies, programs or initiatives that address environmental health issues.

We have already collected a lot of great information from national, State and local organizations, including health surveillance and environmental monitoring information. Most of these sources are summarized in our earlier report on "Health and Environmental Contaminants in Washington State: What We Know and What We Need to Know" available at http://washington.chenw.org/pdfs/AntiochStudy1-05.pdf.

Can you help us to identify additional sources of scientific information? If you know any studies on Washington State on the topics listed above, please contact Kate Davies at kdavies@antiochsea.edu.

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2) One Man's Trash Doesn't Necessarily Become Another Man's Treasure

Combating the Heaps of E-Waste Responsibly

by Charlotte Sector, ABC News
December 26, 2005
http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/ChristmasCountdown/story?id=1425139

Ah, the smell of bright, shiny new plastic as you unwrap that hot little iPod nano on Christmas morning. Hard to believe that a year from now, when you outgrow it and ask Santa for a new one, it could end up as part of a mountain of stinking castoff electronic gadgets, polluting someone's drinking water on the other side of the world.

"People try to recycle, but even well-intentioned efforts are not followed through," said Ted Smith, a senior strategist at Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition, explaining that right now there's no economic incentive to recycle. And even if you recycle, your gizmo may never have the afterlife you expected it to have.

Studies estimate that 315 million to 600 million desktop and laptop computers in the U.S. will become obsolete over the next 18 months. That's the equivalent of a 22-story pile of e-waste covering the entire city of Los Angeles. Old PCs and TVs make up the fastest-growing portion of our waste stream, according to the coalition. Add to that the millions of cell phones, whose size has shrunk as fast as their life span, and the now seemingly clunky TVs along with printers and that soon-to-be-retired VCR player, and the pile of junk keeps on growing.

But it's not a lost cause, experts say. There are ways to fight e-waste.

Use and Reuse
"The best-case scenario is to reuse," Smith advised. A lot of equipment can have a second life at a school or at a nonprofit organization, he said.

Your immediate family may also be interested.

"Consumers find themselves reusing these things by giving them to family and friends 55 percent of the time," said Kristina Taylor, environmental and state policy communications manager at the Consumer Electronics Association.

If your gadget's life has expired, unloading it on your loved ones or a charity won't help anyone out, so consider recycling. Right now, only 10 percent of old PCs in the U.S. are recycled, according to the Grass Roots Recycling Network.

Recycle with care, begs Jim Puckett, executive director of the Basel Action Network, a global toxic trade watchdog.

Many firms remove the valuable metals from the equipment and send the rest to landfills or incinerators. Cracking open these lifeless objects is akin to opening Pandora's box. Lead, mercury and cadmium leak out and because the plastic carcasses are made of toxic substances like brominated flame retardants and PVC, burning them pollutes the air.

Not In My Backyard
Most of the time, tech trash meets its afterlife abroad.

Puckett said between 50 percent to 80 percent of electronics waste collected for recycling was shipped to China, India, Pakistan and other developing countries. A 2002 report by BAN and SVTC found high concentrations of lead in environmental samples from sites in and around e-waste facilities in Guiyu, China; New Delhi; and Karachi, Pakistan. In one water sample from a river near the digital-wasteland center Guiyu, lead concentrations came in 190 times higher than recommended drinking-water guidelines.

"The environmental liabilities outweigh the money they make on this stuff," Puckett said, likening the "recycling efforts" to sending people poison.

Not only are 75 percent of the computers unusable, workers aren't trained to dismantle the plastic hunks and little to no infrastructure exists to protect people or the environment in most of these countries, he said.

As many as 500 shipping containers filled with discarded computers enter the port of Lagos, Nigeria, primarily coming from North America, Europe and Japan, according to another BAN report, "The Digital Dump: Exporting Re-Use and Abuse to Africa." BAN was able to identify the origin of the equipment by institutional asset tags left on discarded parts as well as retrieve information from various hard drives.

"Consumers get value out of the gadgets, and then pass off all costs of contamination," Puckett said. He advocates finding a responsible recycler, which has signed a pledge to respect the environment by not sending hazardous waste to landfills or incinerators or abroad.

The auction Web site eBay has started the Rethink Initiative, a group of industry, governmental, environmental and nonprofit organizations that helps sellers find takers for their unwanted tech gadgets.Click here for more on eBay's Rethink Initiative.

Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition has also launched the Computer TakeBack campaign to pressure manufacturers to take full responsibility for the life cycle of their products. Smith, the coalition's senior strategist, advocates changing the rules of the game. "Now you can sell an item and wash your hands of it while we advocate if you sell it, you must take it back," he said.

He hopes that putting the onus on the Sonys, Apples and Hewlett-Packards out there will force the electronics makers to embrace eco-friendly manufacturing with a longer shelf life. "The most strategic pressure point is the producer. They're the ones who design the products," Smith said.

Taylor at the Consumer Electronics Association said the industry had already begun innovating with "greener" designs like lead-free circuit boards and vegetable-based plastics.

Puckett doesn't buy it.

"Too often these 'green' computers are produced to say that they are doing something and the main lines of the industry are not being shifted to the green designs," he said. "Until we see a commitment from the entire company to phase out toxics, it's a suspect endeavor."

The Consumer Electronics Association prefers a system where consumers share the burden of e-waste along with manufacturers. The association prefers the upfront advance recycling fee ($5 to $10 on electronics) to underwrite collection and recycling programs. Such a program is already in place in California and a similar measure will likely pass in Oregon, according to the association.

One Unified System
All agree that a national solution with one unified system will be best so that people get in the habit of reusing and recycling their no longer shiny plastic gadgets.

Smith from the Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition wants to expand the list of responsible recyclers and set up a certification program with thorough inspections.

He also wants to stop the trend of rich nations exporting their garbage to poor countries.

"We want the United States as well as other developing countries to become self-sufficient with electronic waste rather than use the rest of the world as a dumping ground," he said.

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3) Chemical-Data Plan Catalyzes Opposition

by Cindy Skrzycki, Washington Post
January 3, 2006
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/01/02/AR2006010201730.html

Opposition is growing to a Bush administration plan to change the reporting requirements of a highly successful public information program that collects data annually on releases of toxic chemicals.

Since 1988, the Toxics Release Inventory has been a roadmap for individuals and community groups interested in pinpointing where the country's most-polluting facilities are located. Some have used the data to pressure companies to clean up their acts. By 2003, 4.4 billion pounds of releases were reported, a 42 percent decline from 1998.

The Reagan administration started the inventory in response to the 1984 chemical disaster at a Union Carbide plant in Bhopal, India. The current Environmental Protection Agency system requires annual reporting on 650 chemicals that companies release, dispose of, use, store and recycle. Some 23,000 facilities submitted 91,000 forms last year.

Those interested in the data can go to an EPA Web site and tap in their Zip code to see which facilities have reported in their area. The site received 7,666 visits in November. Users include medical researchers, investment analysts, the insurance industry, regulators, consultants, states and localities, and the public, according to the EPA.

Some companies like the program and advertise results on their Web sites when pollution tallies decline or some goal is met. Michael Walls , manager of regulatory and technical affairs for the American Chemistry Council , said, "It's one of the most successful regulatory programs we have been involved in."

But the applause has not stopped the business community -- particularly small business -- from pushing over the past decade to reduce the "burden" of having to fill out a five-page form for each chemical they use every year. This form includes detailed information on the quantity of the chemical, how it is made and processed, and how much of it is released.

After considering several options, the agency in October proposed changes that would allow more companies to file a shorter report, known as Form A, which contains less information about their use of toxic chemicals. Instead of having to file the full report if they use more than 500 pounds of certain chemicals, the proposed rule would raise the reporting threshold to 5,000 pounds. If implemented, some 6,500 facilities could convert to the short form, reducing filing time by an average of 25 hours for each company that makes the change.

Under the EPA proposal, Form A also could be used, for the first time, for reporting on the most dangerous of industrial chemicals -- such as lead and mercury -- as long as there are no emissions and they amount to less than 500 pounds. Dioxin and dioxin-like compounds could not be reported on the short form. Environmental groups said filling out Form A is little more than certification that there are chemicals on site in quantities less than a specified amount.

The agency will take comments on the proposal until Jan. 13.

The agency dropped another bombshell at the same time, telling Congress that it is thinking about eliminating annual filing in favor of every other year. A formal proposal on that idea wouldn't be issued until next fall. The EPA said allowing companies to report every other year would save $1 million annually and would benefit users because the data could be supplemented with additional analysis and improved reporting software.

The twin ideas prompted outrage from environmental and public-interest groups. The Internet has been crackling with "alerts" from e-mail campaigns against the proposals. Groups are aligning themselves with members of Congress such as Sen. James M. Jeffords (I-Vt.) who accused the EPA of launching a "frontal assault" on the program.

"We are going to try and convince EPA this is a really bad set of changes. They have been unreasonable, and they haven't listened to anyone. They are trying to fix a problem where there is none," said Sean Moulton, senior policy analyst with OMB Watch, a watchdog group that monitors government policy.

Kimberly T. Nelson, the EPA's assistant administrator for the Office of Environmental Information, said the effect of increasing use of the short form would be minor. "We would get 99 percent of the information we get today. There is less detailed information, but it's like a rounding error on all the emissions we currently collect." She said the EPA is not "gutting" the program as some opponents have charged.

Meghan Purvis, environmental health advocate for U.S. Public Information Research Group, another nonprofit advocacy group, said an analysis of the rule's effect showed that 922 of the nation's more than 33,000 residential Zip codes would lose 100 percent of detailed pollution data if companies migrated to the short form. Purvis said allowing short-form filing for small amounts of chemicals would not change their dangers.

On Nov. 10, six members the Senate wrote EPA Administrator Stephen L. Johnson that they were "troubled" about the EPA's intentions to modify the frequency of reporting and to allow the filing of more short forms, especially for certain especially dangerous industrial chemicals.

Environmental and community groups, in particular, consider the reporting program a great success. And it has become even more useful since the agency has required reports on more chemicals and from more industrial sectors, including mining and electrical utilities.

The business community interprets those results in an entirely different way.

Andrew Langer, a lobbyist with the National Federation of Independent Business, said more than half of the facilities that would be affected by more short-form reporting "are really small emitters of anything."

"That gets to the crux of why we are asking for TRI reform. Those at the small end of the spectrum will be really helped," he said.

Walls of the American Chemistry Council said the cost of reporting is in the calculations, not filling out the forms. He said it costs industry about $650 million annually to comply with the program. "Now the question is, are we getting $650 million out of the program and can additional efficiencies be gained?" he asked.

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4) Chemicals Become Focus for Researcher Studying Delta's Decline

by Don Thompson, Associated Press, Contra Costa Times
January 2, 2006
http://www.contracostatimes.com/mld/cctimes/news/13535118.htm

DAVIS, Calif. -- If the striped bass in David Ostrach's laboratory are any indication, the fish of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta are in deep trouble.

Ostrach is among an array of scientists trying to determine what has led to a crash in the populations of striped bass and three other bellwether fish species in the vast estuary that irrigates the Central Valley and supplies drinking water to two-thirds of Californians.

Among roughly 60 striped bass autopsied by the University of California, Davis biologist, all had at least two problems with gastric inflammations, parasitic infestations, infections or liver lesions. That was a signal that they had been exposed to poisons, parasites or disease.

"What the fish are telling me is that there's something wrong," he says. "This juvenile population is not a healthy population."

The findings coincide with his earlier work. He previously found nerve damage and developmental abnormalities among newborn bass, problems he attributes to a chemical stew of pesticides, herbicides and cancer-causing elements in delta water.

His research has intrigued colleagues who have been searching for the causes of a precipitous decline in the delta's key fish species. Chemical contamination is one of the theories scientists will explore in the coming year as they allocate $3.2 million in research money to scientists studying the delta's environmental woes.

Studying the populations of striped bass, delta smelt, longfin smelt and threadfin shad is important because they are considered indicators of the delta's overall health. Their demise is slowing plans to pump even more water to thirsty cities and crops.

"We've got such a chemical soup out there, and he's doing a great job determining what's in that soup," said Bruce Herbold, a fish biologist with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Two other leading theories also will be tested this year.

One involves an invasive clam that is native to Asia and has covered Suisun Bay. Its voracious filtering cleanses delta water of the very nutrients fish need to survive.

The clams have become so prevalent in the bay - up to 10,000 per square meter - that they completely filter food from the water once each day.

"Suisun Bay may be getting back to being a bad sort of nursery area," Herbold said. "Young fish may not be finding food where they're located."

Yet the clam problem doesn't explain the decline in threadfin shad, which don't live where the clams are found. Moreover, the clams were at a high level in the 1990s, when the fish seemingly weren't significantly affected.

The other theory involves the giant pumps that send water to farmers and Southern California cities. They are blamed for sucking in large numbers of fish before they can spawn.

The pumps are killing more fish per volume of water and more fish in proportion to their population compared to previous years. They also are doing so in the winter before the adult fish can spawn.

Winter pumping is up about 30 percent since 2000 in an attempt to lessen water diversions in the spring and summer when spawning fish were thought to need it most.

The additional winter kill may not have been a problem when the fish were abundant, but now the death toll may be feeding on itself by killing off the breeding stock, said Christina Swanson, a scientist with the nonprofit Bay Institute.

Representatives for water exporters challenge the death statistics, and scientists say their data is incomplete.

Nevertheless, the clam population and the number of fish deaths attributed to pumping have risen dramatically in recent years, corresponding to the decrease in the four fish populations.

Most scientists suspect a combination of factors is to blame. Other possible culprits for the fish decline include herbicides, toxic algae, thick growth of water plants and a spiny plankton.

The scientists hope the research that will get under this year will start providing conclusive answers.

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