A guest blog from our friends at the Mesothelioma Center at Asbestos.com
The use of asbestos throughout the United States has dropped dramatically in recent decades, but the threat of exposure to toxic asbestos fibers remains as real as ever today.
The danger has not subsided. Awareness is imperative.
Anyone involved in the renovation, remodeling or demolition of a residential or commercial structure built before the mid-1980s is at risk unless the proper precautions are taken.
Many common building materials through much of the 20th century contained asbestos. When those products eventually begin to deteriorate or if someone is drilling, sanding or somehow disturbing them, microscopic asbestos fibers can be released into the air, endangering anyone nearby.
Anyone living or working in an older structure also should be aware. No amount of asbestos exposure is considered safe.
Asbestos could be in the ceiling, floor tiles, wallboards, plumbing and electrical components. When disturbed for any reason, it can become dangerous.
Although asbestos is strictly regulated and used sparingly in new construction today, thousands of tons of asbestos remain in buildings, machinery and various other products throughout the country.
As dangerous as it is today, asbestos was once considered a valuable resource. It is a naturally occurring mineral that was coveted for its versatility, affordability and heat resistance. It could strengthen almost anything mixed with it. It was an insulator and a sound buffer.
Unfortunately, it also is toxic. The microscopic fibers can be easily and unknowingly inhaled or ingested. Although the immediate dangers may seem minimal, those fibers can become lodged in the thin membrane around the lungs or abdomen and slowly cause inflammation and eventually scarring.
Over time, the scarring can develop into a variety of serious health issues, including asbestosis, lung cancer and mesothelioma. The latency period between exposure to asbestos and diagnosis of mesothelioma can be anywhere from 20-50 years.
An estimated 3,000 Americans are diagnosed annually with mesothelioma, which typically comes with a grim prognosis. Almost 10,000 people are diagnosed with some kind of asbestos-related disease annually in the United States. Those numbers are not declining yet.
Success in fighting mesothelioma revolves around early detection when it is most responsive to cancer treatment. If you suspect that you've been exposed to asbestos, talk to your physician about it. Insist on an X-ray, which can detect any abnormalities around the lungs.
The cancer has no cure, although there are curative therapies available if it is discovered early.
Mesothelioma was once considered an occupational disease and often associated with the military. Exposure occurred in shipyards, manufacturing, power plants, constructions sites, and any number of places where asbestos parts were produced or used.
Today, the exposure occurs more in places where it has been in place for decades.
Firefighters, for example, are exposed to asbestos regularly when answering a call in an older building. Burning asbestos can produce a toxic combination. Because of that, firemen will wear a special breathing apparatus during a fire in an older building.
Construction workers should take similar precautions. In newer construction, roofing materials often still contain asbestos, which is designed to resist heat and prevent fires.
Asbestos fibers can be carried home on clothes worn at work, putting family members at risk of secondhand exposure.
If the asbestos materials are still in good condition and undisturbed, the products typically aren’t dangerous. Asbestos removal is the only permanent solution to the problem, yet it isn’t always necessary for the short term.
Asbestos materials sometimes can be isolated and repaired instead of removed. A small tear in asbestos pipe insulation, for example, can be repaired. It should be monitored for signs of damage or future deterioration.
To our friends & supporters,
Dr. Nancy Gift
Chair, Kentucky Environmental Foundation Board of Directors
Kentucky Environmental Foundation maintains the objective of helping create positive solutions to environmental health concerns. Kentucky faces many environmental challenges that can have an impact on health and often times, citizens feel they do not have the tools to address those concerns. One of KEF’s current projects is the creation of environmental health curriculum for high school students across Kentucky to gain a better understanding of the relationship between their environment and their health. KEF is currently developing the project through a pilot at Powell County High School in Powell County, Kentucky.
Within the course, students are learning about air, water and soil testing, collecting data and pictures from the field and uploading the information to an online data base, map, and web site. This site will be available for future students at different schools to upload their own sets of information. The mapping project allows students to understand where sources of contamination exist in relationship to schools, homes, and other places of employment. Citizen science plays an important role in helping communities understand the condition of their own environment. When communities have access to information and are provided with the avenues to address those concerns, positive change can happen.
What are the long term goals of the Environmental Health Curriculum?
1. Increase public awareness of environmental health related to public health.
2. Create action plans within communities for remediation.
3. Create an opensource database of environmental health information in a website dedicated to this.
4. To create a baseline environmental health map for counties that includes air, water, and soil data.
What Is It?
The Tennessee Gas Pipeline is a 70 year old decaying piece of construction that, once upon a time, carried natural gas from Louisiana up to Pennsylvania. To give you some perspective on its age, this pipeline was being constructed the same year that President Roosevelt died, the Germans surrendered, and an atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Things that some of your grandparents might vaguely remember from their childhoods.
These people want to repurpose this 70 year old pipeline to transport natural gas liquids from Pennsylvania to Louisiana. Natural gas liquids are drastically different to natural gases - they are exponentially heavier in weight and significantly more volatile and dangerous in the event of a leak. Not to mention, the construction standards for pipelines 70 years ago were considerably less stringent than what we have today (and we still have pipeline leaks and explosions even by todays standards).
They want to run these natural gas liquids in the pipeline underneath the Ohio River, underneath the Kentucky River, and underneath several lakes that supply drinking water to a wide population.
Risks & Benefits
If you do a risk/benefit analysis of the Kinder Morgan Tennessee Gas Pipeline proposal, the communities on the forefront of the pipeline areas take on a mounting risk. Property value, water supply, land use, and health will all diminish. This old, rotting pipeline runs about 100 yards from Kit Carson Elementary School in Richmond - an area included in what the industry refers to as the pipeline's "blast zone", endangering our children's health and wellbeing.
On the benefits side: There are zero. There’s absolutely no benefit for anyone along this corridor.
Looking at this proposal from a risk/benefit standpoint - one could easily draw the conclusion that we'd be taking all of the risk and getting none of the benefits. Kinder Morgan and their investors would be reaping the profits with no consequential benefit to any of the communities along the pipeline. They're putting us in a position where we are sacrificing a multitude of potential problems for their profit.
What Can We Do?
Every citizen who lives near this pipeline, drinks from our State's water supplies, or simply values the health and landscape of the Bluegrass State needs to be educated on the risks associated with Kinder Morgan repurposing this pipeline. A motivated community is just as important as legislative process. The primary way that we can impact the outcome of the proposed use of the pipeline is through planning and zoning within the counties that have such agencies. It is through this means that we can create a number of criteria that have to be met before the pipeline "repurpose" can move forward. Boyle County has already passed a Resolution and an Ordinance that will inhibit this project from occuring in their county. In Madison County, we are already engaged with the Fiscal Court, the Department of Health, and the Planning and Zoning entity in studying the options to replicate or even pass a stronger resolution than that of Boyle County.
What's the process? First, we pass a Resolution that states our position against the pipeline. If we're successful, we can pass an ordinance that has specific restrictions in it that are based on the resolution that we passed. We've passed our resolution here in Madison County and are in the process of developing an ordinance that would be in the best interest of protecting the people in Madison County.
If you would like to help, there are several things you can do:
On Thursday 12 November the Richmond Chamber of Commerce presented their highest award to Craig Williams of Berea , Chemical Weapons Program Director at the Kentucky Environmental Foundation (KEF) for his “integral role in keeping our community safe by holding the United States military accountable” in eliminating the chemical weapons stored in Madison County. At the Chamber’s annual Awards Banquet, Williams received the Wallace G. Maffett Award. This award is presented in former Richmond Mayor Maffett’s honor to “one who best exemplifies his commitment and efforts to the community”. Also, “someone who devotes their time, experience and efforts in order to promote and improve the quality of life with no regard of personal gain; acts in continual service to the community; exhibits a true interest in Richmond and Madison County and, has made significant impact on the quality of life therein; and, has served the community with unselfish motives.” KEF’s Executive Director, Heather Warman said, “ I can’t think of anyone who exemplifies the criteria for this Award better then Craig. He has devoted over 30 years to ensuring protection of he public and the environment are the topmost priority in the efforts to dispose of these dangerous materials.” Warman added, “Later this month Craig is headed back to The Hague, Netherlands, to present an update on the Kentucky demilitarization effort to representatives of the 191-country party at the International Chemical Weapons Convention. I'm certain he will represent KEF and the citizens of Madison County very well”.
Media Contact: Deborah Payne or Heather Warman: (859) 986-0868
2015 marks the 25-year anniversary of the Kentucky Environmental Foundation, as well as some major milestones in our achievements. As many of you know, KEF was founded in 1990 by Madison County, KY residents as a way to organize the fight for the safe disposal of the world's most dangerous chemical weapons that were being stockpiled at the Bluegrass Army Depot. We fought and we won, succeeding in defeating incineration at four of eight chemical weapons sites, where safe, non-incineration disposal technologies were chosen instead. Its one of our greatest achievements to date. This year we honored that work by producing a documentary, funded entirely by supporters like you. NERVE: The Film premiered to hundreds of community members at EKU Center for the Arts, raising awareness about community action and the importance of social justice.
Since KEF's first initiative, we have gone on to many more fights - some victories, and some losses - but here on our 25th anniversary, we are ready to pick up another.
Today, the foremost imminent threat to Kentucky's environment is hydraulic fracking.
As regions and communities around our nation continue to push back against fracking, the threat of it draws closer and closer to the Bluegrass State. All over the country, people are acting too late - earthquakes, poisoned rivers, air pollution, and devastated communities are becoming the norm. We want to keep fracking out of Kentucky, and at KEF we have the resources to lead the charge on ending the threat of fracking in Kentucky.
With our collective experience, a deep understanding of local, state, and federal government and how to navigate it, good working relationships with our community leaders, and a broad knowledge of the history and science of fracking, we are ready to re-organize and refocus to stop fracking before it ever reaches our Kentucky communities.
Just like our defeat of the dangerous disposal of chemical weapons, stopping fracking needs the support of the whole community. We have the power to protect Kentucky's environment from fracking - we just need your support to stop fracking in its tracks and keep Kentucky frack free!
To continue our good work, we need the community's help, and support from our donors to raise
Today we're kicking off our Fall Fundraising Campaign - Show your commitment to a frack-free Kentucky with a monthly gift to the Kentucky Environmental Foundation.
Guest Blog: Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky's Susan Zepeda talks ACA and Landmark Supreme Court Case
The Supreme Court ruling in King v. Burwell resolves the issue of whether Americans who purchased their insurance through the federal insurance exchange are eligible for tax subsidies that help them afford insurance premium costs. While this case was not a direct threat to Kentuckians - due to the presence of a functioning state-developed exchange, kynect - it could have harmed low-income families in states throughout the nation that opted not to create their own state-level insurance exchange. Further, in those states where the future financial viability of a state-run exchange is in question, there is now a "safety net" of the federal exchange.
While many have been awaiting this important decision, we must remember that much remains to be done to assure that all Kentuckians - and all Americans - have timely access to safe, effective and affordable quality care. The Affordable Care Act includes incentives and opportunities to move the nation in this direction - improved access to preventive care, the ability for parents to insure their adult children to age 26 on the parents' policies, precluding discrimination against individuals and families dealing with chronic health conditions, and the opportunity for low-income families to access Medicaid and middle-income families to access subsidized private insurance.
In Kentucky, where more than a half million people have gained insurance through the Affordable Care Act, the work to assure access and improve health continues. Diverse groups of individuals and organizations from across Kentucky continue to work with the state to find ways to continue to improve and protect Kentuckians' health and wellbeing. Reforming the way we pay for care and making cost and pricing more transparent are under discussion. The state has expanded scope of practice for Advance Practice Registered Nurses. There have been promising advances in telehealth, and early evidence of better integration of behavioral, oral and other primary care services. Substance use treatment is now a reimbursable service; and steps are being taken to reduce the risk of drug overdose deaths and of HIV and Hepatitis C in drug users. Sustainable models are needed, to assure access to care for rural Kentuckians. As people who have forgone care too long, because of its expense, now gain access to care it will place a larger short-term burden on the health care system which approaches like these can help to address. The Affordable Care Act permits - and incentivizes - local health care innovation. We can and must shape Kentucky solutions to Kentucky's health challenges.
So, as the President noted in remarks following the SCOTUS decision, let's get back to work!
--Susan G. Zepeda, President/CEO of the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky
New report exposes how the cleaning industry is falling short.
When cleaning product manufacturers assure you that product safety is their highest priority – do you ever wonder if their definition of “safe” might differ from yours?
Women’s Voices for the Earth (WVE) has released a new report, entitled “Deep Clean: What the cleaning industry should be doing to protect your health,” which exposes how cleaning product companies keep secret how they screen out dangerous chemicals from the products we use in our homes.
The report rates four leading cleaning product manufacturers:
According to the report, none of the four companies are fully transparent about the criteria included in their ingredient safety standards, making it impossible to compare the quality of any one company’s screening process to another. The report reveals that SC Johnson is one of the only major companies still using hormone disrupting synthetic musks, calling into question the integrity of their screening process. SC Johnson’s GreenlistTM process, which they hold up as evidence of its product safety, still allows synthetic musks! This begs the question: How exactly do hormone-disrupting chemicals like those even pass muster?
“Consumers are not content to take marketing rhetoric at face value. They want to know how a synthetic musk that’s linked to hormone disruption can pass SC Johnson’s GreenlistTM,” said Erin Switalski, Executive Director at Women’s Voices for the Earth. “We need clear insight into how a company determines whether or not a chemical is safe to use in their products.”
Little regulation exists in the U.S. to limit or control the use toxic chemicals in consumer products. Until federal and state regulations set safety and transparency standards, it’s up to companies to set their own safety standards for products. Since WVE launched its Safe Cleaning Products Initiative, they have taken aim at product safety, ingredient disclosure and eliminating toxic chemicals from cleaning products. As detailed in the Deep Clean report, manufacturers are responding to consumer demands and have made considerable strides towards removing certain toxic chemicals from their products and in publicly disclosing product ingredients for the first time on their websites.
“It’s a start,” said Switalski. “But transparency is still a huge issue. Assuring customers that products are ‘safe to use’ will ring hollow if companies don’t also explain what they mean by ‘safe’.”
In recent years, there has been a sharp rise in consumer demand for green cleaning products. Studies show that consumers, especially women, are spending their money on brands that reflect their concerns for safe products. Amid the increased demand for safe products, consumers are also suspicious of safety claims by major companies. Cleaning product companies must make their internal chemical screening processes much stronger and more transparent.
“Deep Clean provides the clear framework of what we expect – of what consumers expect – an effective screening process to look like,” said Alexandra Scranton, WVE’s Director of Science and Research. “Critical to this framework is the simple task of publishing a company’s safety criteria in a transparent way.”
Download the “Deep Clean” report. Then take action to tell SC Johnson it needs to improve its toxic chemical screening process if it wants to regain your trust.
This blog post was originally written by KEF's Health Coordinator Deborah Payne as a special contribution to the Courier-Journal. Find the original op-ed here.
In a recent opinion editorial, Sen. Mitch McConnell shared his thoughts on how to comply with the EPA's plan to protect our commonwealth from a shifting climate: Don't do anything. Don't make a plan for the future. And by all means, don't pay attention to that pesky tsunami of challenges that climate change will inevitably leave on our front doorstep. How forward thinking.
Turning our back on this tsunami, however, will not change the new norm of increased drought and food insecurity, more intense and damaging storms, and hotter, riskier summers. The reality is, while McConnell is encouraging us to drag our heels, there's really no sense in wearing out a perfectly good pair of shoes.
Kentucky has options.
The EPA's Clean Power Plan is one of the most flexible of its policies ever implemented. Kentucky even participated in the design process. States get to develop their own plan and can even partner with other states to add to their options. Only when we don't do a good job would the federal agency step in. It's like asking a 5-year-old to make good choices at a buffet line. The options are there: vegetables, healthy protein, a little baked potato. But instead the 5-year-old chooses all dessert, with maybe a side of garlic bread. It may be tasty. But it doesn't mean it's the best plan. A little guidance is not a bad thing.
The reality is we have choices.
We can choose plans to make our homes more energy-efficient. We can choose to purchase power from out-of-state wind farms and we can invest in solar energy production right here in our own commonwealth. The Clean Energy Opportunity Act, a proposed piece of state legislation that could help us meet our goal, would potentially build in an estimated 26,000 jobs. This act would ramp up use of clean energy to 12.5 percent and would make substantial investments in energy efficiency. North Carolina adopted a similar measure in 2007 and has already seen a net increase of over 18,000 jobs added to their economy.
The Clean Power Plan is well within the capacity of regulation by the EPA, an agency signed into law by a Republican president to protect citizens from the negative health consequences of polluted air and water.
McConnell's statement is full of rhetoric designed to instigate fear about a plan that actually has the health of Kentuckians in mind. When it comes to air quality and health, Kentuckians have the most to gain. With some of the highest levels of coal-related smog in the country we also experience some of the highest rates of asthma and cardiovascular disease.
Acting now is Kentucky's best option.
Choosing a healthy energy diet that reduces air pollution and cuts back on waste is actually a good idea. Failing to comply just means Kentucky has to answer to why it only has garlic bread on its plate.
Perhaps the most accurate statement regarding the 2015 Government Spending Bill came from Sen. John McCain, who was quoted saying "it's jammed full of sh--." The "cromnibus" bill appropriates $1.01 trillion, and will keep most government offices in operation through September. Though House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers called the bill "a win for Kentucky," it depends on how you look at it. Personally, the bill makes me uneasy. Here's why:
The new spending bill cuts the EPA's budget by $60 million, which means that the agency must reduce staffing to its lowest numbers since 1989. Rogers claims the budget is necessary to "rein in" government "overreach." However, despite accusations that the agency "kills jobs," we must not forget that the EPA's primary responsibility and deeply important mission is to protect human life.
In fact, the most hated regulations of pro-coal policy makers are the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS) and the new Carbon Pollution (111d) Standards. Both take measures to protect human health from the hazardous emissions of coal-fired power plants: the nation's largest single source of mercury, carbon and a slew of other toxic pollutants that have been linked to cancer, kidney failure, respiratory disease, central nervous system damage and even premature death. A 2014 report from the Center for Effective Government found that the MATS rule could "prevent between 4,200 and 11,000 adult deaths, 20 infant deaths, 2,800 cases of chronic bronchitis, 4,700 heart attacks, more than 2,600 hospital admissions for lung and heart disease, 3,100 emergency room visits by children with asthma, and 130,000 asthma attacks in children each year, among other health benefits." Similarly, a Harvard University study suggested that the new Carbon Pollution Standards could have a variety of health benefits, including preventing up to 3,500 premature deaths.
Not surprisingly, the spending bill rejected President Obama's request for $66 million to expand programs to protect our health from the harmful effects of air and water pollution, and to hire federal regulators to oversee state regulatory programs.
It would be one thing if Kentucky had a glowing track record for upholding environmental regulations. However, our state's regulatory bodies have been systematically underfunded, and worse, embroiled in scandal. Most recently (and most embarrassingly), state Rep. Keith Hall, a strip mine operator who was also chair of the House Tourism, Development and Energy Committee and was a vice chairman of the Natural Resources and Environment Committee, was charged for bribing a mine inspector to ignore a host of violations at Hall's mining operations. The list of egregious violations included ignoring property lines, ignoring blasting laws, letting fly-rock destroy property and homes, and polluting local waterways. Given Kentucky's track record, would a stronger, more accountable federal-state regulatory partnership be such a bad idea?
The bill is also bad news for clean water. Remember when the Bush administration renamed toxic mining waste to "fill material" so that coal companies could bypass the Clean Water Act? One rider in 2015's budget prevents the EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers from changing the name of "fill material" to mining waste, meaning that toxic byproducts of mountaintop removal mining will continue to legally contaminate Appalachian streams in 2015.
The budget bill also ensures the continuation of coal production at home and abroad in 2015. Obama's request for funding for renewables was cut by 16 percent, and yet the bill allotted 20 percent more than the amount requested for fossil fuels exploration (yes — 571 million of our tax dollars will be subsidizing highly profitable fossil fuel industries this year). Finally, though in 2013 President Obama promised that he would prohibit funding for the construction of new coal-fired power plants overseas, a rider in the 2015 spending bill prohibits any such funding limitations.
To be fair, the bill does appropriate $10 million to the US Economic Development Administration to help distressed coal mining communities. Ninety million will fund the Appalachian Regional Commission and another $10 million will support broadband initiatives in central Appalachian counties. However, the new budget also cuts funding for the Community Block Grant Programs, and allows big corporations to cut pension payments for over a million retirees, making the bill's overall benefit for Appalachia questionable.
Is the new budget bill "a win for Kentucky"? Hardly. Less funding for regulatory bodies will mean more environment-related health problems. Kentucky already suffers from extreme health disparities often worsened by air pollution and poor water quality. At best, the new bill will preserve the status quo in 2015.
This blog post was written by Shelly Biesel, originally as an op-editorial for the Courier-Journal, find it here.