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Posts Tagged "Public Health"

What is Kipp doing to protect its workers from vapor intrusion? They won’t say.

What is Kipp doing to protect its workers from vapor intrusion?  They won’t say.

Photo: Workers in Madison-Kipp factory.

Kipp says they stopped using the highly toxic solvent tetrachloroethylene, also called perchloroethylene or PCE—the toxic chemical that was the main focus of the citizen class action lawsuit settled in 2013 (see more details about the lawsuit here and here).

However, in addition to PCE, Kipp also used the even more toxic solvent trichloroethylene, or TCE. TCE is a carcinogen and can cause neurological, immune, kidney, liver, reproductive, and developmental effects. It can also cause cardiac defects in fetuses whose mothers are exposed for even very short periods of time during pregnancy. See links to more information below

Did Kipp ever stop using TCE? What solvents is the company using now? How is Kipp protecting its factory workers from exposures to solvents used in the factory—and to PCE, TCE and other volatile organic chemicals (VOCs) seeping into factory air from the huge VOC plume below it? Sadly, this is just one of the many health and safety risks faced by Kipp’s workers, many of whom are minorities—see past stories here and here.

Last week, I sent the message below to John Hausbeck at Public Health Madison Dane County and Kipp’s environmental health and safety manager, Alina Satkoski. I have received no response.

Given this lack of response, I am assuming that Kipp is still using TCE—and is doing very little or nothing to monitor and protect its workers from exposures to the many volatile organic chemicals seeping into the factory from below. If Kipp is not using TCE anymore—and has been monitoring and protecting its workers from VOC exposures—why wouldn’t their health and safety manager say so right away?

Below–email message sent to Public Health Madison Dane County and Kipp environmental health and safety manager, Alina Satkoski:

Subject: Assessing risks to Kipp workers?
Date: Mon, 19 Sep 2016 14:36:25 -0500
From: Maria Powell (MEJO) <mariapowell@mejo.us>
To: JHausbeck@publichealthmdc.com <JHausbeck@publichealthmdc.com>
CC: Rummel, Marsha <district6@cityofmadison.com>, Rep.Taylor@legis.wisconsin.gov <rep.taylor@legis.wisconsin.gov>, Alina Satkoski <asatkoski@madison-kipp.com>

John:

I and other community members are still concerned about chemical exposures to all Kipp factory workers, especially women who are or could become pregnant.

As far as VOCs and exposures via vapor intrusion, TCE is of particular concern because it is more toxic than PCE–it is a carcinogen and also causes neurological, immune system, kidney, liver, reproductive, and developmental effects.  Many of the effects from fetal exposures may not show up until adulthood. Vapor intrusion screening levels for TCE are much lower than for PCE–see here.** Also, recently government risk assessors concluded that the weight of evidence indicates that TCE and/or its metabolites could cause cardiac defects in fetuses even if maternal exposure durations are short, one-time, and relatively low dose.  Below my name, I pasted a summary from an EPA TCE risk assessment document re TCE and heart defects. You can find the IRIS info on TCE toxicity here and here.

We know Kipp used TCE as well as PCE at least into the 1980s. There are still high levels of it under the factory, along with many other toxic VOCs. PCE, of course, breaks down to TCE–so there is an endless source under the factory and in the plume beneath the larger neighborhood.

In light of the above, can you help us find out:

1. What has been done to assess VOC levels in the Kipp factory?

2. What is being done to protect workers from exposures to these chemicals?

3. Does Kipp still use TCE? If they stopped using it, when did they stop?

4. What solvents does Kipp use now?

I copied Alina, since she certainly must know the answers to these questions.

Thank you,

Maria

**Workplace standards for PCE and TCE are thought by experts to be very inadequate and unprotective of workers’ health based on the science. Even Henry Nehls-Lowe agreed with this.

The below text is from EPA’s “TSCA Work Plan Chemical Risk Assessment,” EPA Document# 740R14002, Environmental Protection Agency June 2014, Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention–see here.

2.7 HUMAN HEALTH RISK CHARACTERIZATION (I highlighted key sentence) TCE and its metabolites are associated with adverse effects on cardiac development based on a weight‐of‐evidence analysis of developmental studies from rats, humans and chickens. These adverse cardiac effects are deemed important for acute and chronic risk estimation for the scenarios and populations addressed in this risk assessment. The rationale for using TCE associated fetal cardiovascular lesions for acute scenario is based on the relatively short critical window of vulnerability in humans, rodent and avian cardiac development.The rationale for using fetal cardiac effects for chronic risks estimation is also based on the fact that relatively low dose short term/acute exposures can result on longterm adverse consequences on cardiac development persisting into adulthood.

‐‐ Summary of WeightofEvidence Analysis for Congenital Heart Defects TCE exposure has been associated with cardiac malformations in chick embryos studies (Boyer et al., 2000; Bross et al., 1983; Drake, V. et al., 2006; Drake, V. J. et al., 2006; Loeber et al., 1988; Mishima et al., 2006; Rufer et al., 2008) and oral developmental toxicity studies in rats (Dawson et al., 1990, 1993; Johnson et al., 2005; Johnson, 2014; Johnson et al., 2003). In addition to the consistency of the cardiac findings across different species, the incidence of congenital cardiac malformation has been duplicated in several studies from the same laboratory group and has been shown to be TCE‐related (EPA, 2011e). TCE metabolites have also induced cardiac defects in developmental oral toxicity studies (Epstein et al., 1992; Johnson et al., 1998a, 1998b; Smith et al., 1989, 1992). For example, the Johnson et al. and Smith et al. studies reported increased incidences of cardiac malformation following gestational TCA exposures (Johnson et al., 1998a, 1998b; Smith et al., 1989). Similarly, pregnant rats exhibited increased incidence of cardiac defects following DCA exposure during pregnancy (Epstein et al., 1992; Smith et al., 1992).

A number of studies have been conducted to elucidate the mode of action for TCE‐related cardiac teratogenicity. During early cardiac morphogenesis, outflow tract and atrioventricular endothelial cells differentiate into mesenchymal cells (EPA, 2011e). These mesenchymal cells have characteristics of smooth muscle‐like myofibroblasts and form endocardial cushion tissue, which is the primordia of septa and valves in the adult heart (EPA, 2011e). Many of the cardiac defects observed in humans and laboratory species involved septal and valvular structures (EPA, 2011e). Thus, a major research area has focused on the disruptions in cardiac valve formation in avian in ovo and in vitro studies following TCE treatment. These mechanistic studies have revealed TCE’s ability to alter the endothelial cushion development, which could be a possible mode of action underlying the cardiac defects involving septal and valvular morphogenesis in rodents and chickens (EPA, 2011e). These mechanistic data provide support to the plausibility of TCE‐related cardiac effects in humans (EPA, 2011e).

Other modes of actions may also be involved in the induction of cardiac malformation following TCE exposure. For example, studies have reported TCE‐related alterations in cellular Ca2+ fluxes during cardiac development (Caldwell et al., 2008; Collier et al., 2003; Selmin et al., 2008).

 

 

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Why “safe” levels of toxic chemicals may not be safe

Why “safe” levels of toxic chemicals may not be safe

“There’s no problem; toxic exposure is too low to cause any harm” is a common response by pubic officials when citizens raise concerns about toxins in the environment, such a PCBs or atrazine.

MEJO board member Kristine Mattis explains why this assurance may not be accurate in this article published at Counterpunch Online:

Toxic Curve Ball: Why Outdated Assumptions to Determine “Safe Levels” of To…

By now, a large number of consumers are aware of the hazards of the synthetic compound bisphenol-A (BPA). Effect… [MORE]

 

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PHMDC Assures Public Goodman Splash Pad is Perfectly Safe Using Incorrect Numbers

PHMDC Assures Public Goodman Splash Pad is Perfectly Safe Using Incorrect Numbers

(After this story was posted, PHMDC corrected their numbers in the document linked to below)

On August 26 the Wisconsin DNR released a public update including an “Evaluation of the Potential Health Concerns Associated with the Construction of the Goodman Center Splash Pad” by Public Health Madison Dane County (PHMDC).

Unfortunately, the “Residual Contaminant Level” (RCL) table in the document is riddled with incorrect numbers and miscalculations. The RCLs listed are outdated and even some of the old numbers are incorrect (or have mixed up units–e.g., the old RCL for benzo(a)pyrene was .0088 mg/kg, not 8.8 mg/kg; other RCL numbers are also incorrect). Numbers in the “estimated increase in disease risk” column are miscalculated.

The table shows that contaminants levels found in soils at the Goodman Center were large orders of magnitude higher than DNR direct contact soil RCLs, but PHMDC concludes that “patrons of the water activity”—in other words, “small children”—will not be exposed to contaminated soils, dust, and sediment during “normal operation” of the splash pad. What about when the splash pad isn’t operating “normally?” What might “abnormal operation” of the splash pad entail? The document also asserts that the splash pad water tank, buried in contaminated soil and at times submerged in groundwater, will be “impermeable.” What?!?! Everybody knows that underground storage tanks always leak, sooner or later….

To be continued…

 

 

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Smart Meter Opt Out Victory!

Smart Meters: A Risk to Public Health and the Environment

On October 24, 2012, the Wisconsin Public Service Commission approved a smart meter opt out for Madison Water Utility customers, a resounding victory for smart people against stupid meters. (See an article here.)

Against great odds, Madison Water Utility customers have forced the utility to offer a smart meter opt out, allowing these savvy people a way to keep potentially harmful, intrusive microwave radio frequency radiation devices out of their homes.

In many communities, elected officials united with citizens to fight utilities’ effort to force this harmful technology on people (see 57 CA Govts Demand a Halt). But in Madison, Wisc., elected officials united with the utility to fight its own citizens. Deeply ironic for a community that prides itself on its liberal democratic traditions. More about this watershed anti-democratic event here and the know-nothing, corporate-regurgitation actions of public officials here.

See what the experts think of smart meters here:

Smart Meters: Correcting the Gross Misinformation http://maisonsaine.ca/category/construction-verte/

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MEJO in the News

MEJO in “Environmental Health News”

Pollution, Poverty, People of Color: Warnings about contaminated fish fail to reach people most at risk

By Rae Tyson Environmental Health News September 13, 2012

MADISON, Wis.–Trey Mackey expertly baits his fishing hook with a live worm, sits down on a folding chair and casts a line into the waters of Monona Bay. He’s driven up from Chicago for a day of fishing that could provide a fresh, tasty dinner of blue gill.

See more here:

http://www.environmentalhealthnews.org/ehs/news/2012/fish-advisories-and-environmental-justice

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A better approach?

GONE FISHING!

Instead of continuing to beg our environmental & public health agencies to monitor toxins in water and fish, which we’ve learned is a futile endeavor, we’ve decided to go catch some fish in southern Wisconsin lakes and streams–good sources of fresh, local food. And they’re free!

Yes, free food! But are they free of toxins? Unfortunately, no. How much mercury, other heavy metals, PCBs, pesticides, pharmaceuticals, and other toxins will we ingest if we eat southern Wisconsin fish regularly? We don’t know. We don’t have the resources to find out, and apparently neither do our government agencies.

So we’re just going to take our chances. Free food is free food! In these hard economic times, beggars can’t be choosers.

Feel free to join us fishin’ anytime! See you out there on the Four Lakes reeling em’ in.

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Greenwashing and Doublespeak in Wisconsin Highway Plan

The price tag for the Wisconsin Department of Transportation two-decade, three-phase plan for the reconstruction of the Verona Road and West Beltline interchange in Madison , Wis. , has risen to $500 million.

A presidential executive order requires that environmental justice concerns be addressed when using federal funds; and there are environmental justice concerns: the DOT plan calls for increased air pollution that will put an already at risk neighborhood even more at risk, ignores key air pollutants, and does not require air monitoring or a health impact study.

What right to clean air and moderate noise pollution does the poorest neighborhood in Madison have? Apparently none.

By taking a greenwashing approach to its environmental justice mandate, the Wisconsin Dept of Transportation makes it abundantly clear that local residents may have a say over a pedestrian path here or there (and get a free meal at meetings), but have no say in the health impacts caused by greater pollution and higher noise levels over the coming decades.

By a torturous path of doublespeak, the Wisconsin Department of Transportation has stated that the predicted air pollution increases are acceptable and will not negatively impact residents in the Allied and Dunn’s Marsh neighborhoods adjacent to Verona Road .

For details on the problems with the plan, see MEJO’s Dec 17, 2010 comments on the Department’s draft environmental impact study here: MEJO Comments on WisDOT SDEIS 12-17-10

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“Invisible People, Invisible Risks”

In the new MIT Press book, Technoscience and Environmental Justice: Expert Cultures in a Grassroots Movement, the Midwest Environmental Justice Organization (MEJO) chronicles its Madison effort to raise local awareness of toxins in locally caught fish and the two-year odyssey to convince public officials to place fish consumption advisory signs at popular shoreline fishing spots.

The story is chronicled in the chapter titled, “Invisible People, Invisible Risks: How Scientific Assessments of Environmental Health Risks Overlook Minorities—and How Community Participation Can Make Them Visible by Maria Powell, PhD and Jim Powell, with Ly V. Xiong, Kazoua Moua, Jody Schmitz, Benito Juarez Olivas, and VamMeej Yang, and is part of the book Technoscience and Environmental Justice.

Excerpts from the book and more:

Invisible People, Invisble Risks – MEJO chapter in Technoscience and EJ

 

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Bad Air in Dane County, Wis.: Where’s the Communication?

From February 2-5, Dane County , along with several other counties in Wisconsin , was under an “Air Quality Advisory for Particle Pollution” due to elevated levels of small particulates in the air.

The advisory was in the “orange” level, which means that the particulate levels were unhealthy for “sensitive groups”– people with respiratory and/or heart diseases, the elderly, and children. This includes at least half of the population. Some minority and lower income groups have higher rates of respiratory and cardiovascular diseases, and/or less access to health care, and are therefore even more vulnerable.

The DNR website suggests that “people in those groups are advised to reschedule or cut back on strenuous activities” and more specifically, “people with lung diseases such as asthma and bronchitis, and heart disease should pay attention to cardiac symptoms like chest pain and shortness of breath or respiratory symptoms like coughing, wheezing and discomfort when taking a breath, and consult with their physician if they have concerns or are experiencing symptoms. Fine particle pollution deposits itself deep into the lungs and cannot easily be exhaled. People who are at risk are particularly vulnerable after several days of high particle pollution exposure” (taken verbatim from the DNR website).

 

It is critical that we do something to reduce air pollution in Dane County . While this is a regional air quality problem, and is exacerbated by weather patterns such as winter inversions and ‘stagnant air masses’, that doesn’t leave Madison and Dane County institutions and people off the hook. It’s our pollution that’s being trapped by inversions.

 

A purportedly ‘progressive’ community such as Madison , with a high concentration of very educated and privileged people, a prestigious research university and local and state government agencies, has no good excuse for not doing better.

See our full press release here.

From February 2-5, Dane County , along with several other counties in Wisconsin , was under an “Air Quality Advisory for Particle Pollution” due to elevated levels of small particulates in the air.

The advisory was in the “orange” level, which means that the particulate levels were unhealthy for “sensitive groups”– people with respiratory and/or heart diseases, the elderly, and children. This includes at least half of the population. Some minority and lower income groups have higher rates of respiratory and cardiovascular diseases, and/or less access to health care, and are therefore even more vulnerable.

 

The DNR website suggests that “people in those groups are advised to reschedule or cut back on strenuous activities” and more specifically, “people with lung diseases such as asthma and bronchitis, and heart disease should pay attention to cardiac symptoms like chest pain and shortness of breath or respiratory symptoms like coughing, wheezing and discomfort when taking a breath, and consult with their physician if they have concerns or are experiencing symptoms. Fine particle pollution deposits itself deep into the lungs and cannot easily be exhaled. People who are at risk are particularly vulnerable after several days of high particle pollution exposure” (taken verbatim from the DNR website).

It is critical that we do something to reduce air pollution in Dane County . While this is a regional air quality problem, and is exacerbated by weather patterns such as winter inversions and ‘stagnant air masses’, that doesn’t leave Madison and Dane County institutions and people off the hook. It’s our pollution that’s being trapped by inversions.

A purportedly ‘progressive’ community such as Madison , with a high concentration of very educated and privileged people, a prestigious research university and local and state government agencies, has no good excuse for not doing better.

See our full press release here: PRESS RELEASE – Bad Air in Dane County

 

 

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