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  • Writer's pictureKaren Young

Organizing gets results at EPA

Welcome to Winning Wednesday! 

After successful organizing and agitation by many, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has issued a couple of important rulings that will improve Americans’ health. 



Earlier in April, for the first time, the EPA has established national limits on PFAS, also called “forever chemicals,” in drinking water. Companies dump waste contaminated with PFAS into our waterways. It’s estimated that more than half the population has PFAS contaminated drinking water.  PFAS also shows up in things like fast food wrappers and cooking pans.  PFAS accumulates in the body and doesn’t go away.


Water utilities will have to monitor and reduce PFAS in their systems. The EPA estimates the new limits will prevent thousands of deaths and illnesses linked to the chemicals.


Sierra Club, Earthjustice and others have been fighting for years to force action on PFAS.  An excellent film called Dark Waters, released in 2019, is based on the book about a key lawsuit in the matter, The Lawyer Who Became DuPont's Worst Nightmare, by Nathaniel Rich, and stars Mark Ruffalo.


Toxic emissions from chemical plants


Under a new EPA rule, more than 200 chemical manufacturing plants across the country will be required to reduce toxic emissions that could cause cancer for people who live nearby.  A story in the Texas Tribune noted that 40% of those plants are located in Texas. The EPA says in addition to Texas, the plants are in Louisiana, along with plants in other parts of the country, including Delaware, New Jersey, and the Ohio River Valley.


Cynthia Palmer, a senior analyst for petrochemicals with the environmental nonprofit Moms Clean Air Force, told the Texas Tribune that “the new rule is an important step forward for environmental justice.”  Many of these plants are located in low-income communities and communities of color. Palmer noted that “my best friend grew up near nine of the chemical manufacturing facilities in Texas that will be covered in this new rulemaking. She died of cancer when her children were in preschool.”


These facilities use hazardous chemicals to make plastics, paints, synthetic fabrics, pesticides and other petrochemical products.  The chemicals are known to increase cancer risk and cause damage to the nervous, cardiovascular and immune systems after long-term exposure.


Importantly, the new rule will require facilities to install fence line air monitoring devices that measure concentrations of a specific chemical at the property line of a manufacturing site.  This is not as good as monitoring devices on the actual emitting areas, but can still track dangerous levels of emissions.


When we organize – we win!  Congratulations to all who played a hand in these victories.


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