Environmental Health: Toxic-Free Kids and Families

Toxic-Toys-Lobby-Day-009As people of faith, it is our responsibility to care for the least of these: the poor, the young, and the medically vulnerable. These are the people who are most threatened by toxic chemicals in our homes. Unfortunately, our homes today are filled with untested and unregulated toxic chemicals. At a national level, the out-of-date 1976 Toxic Substances Control Act does little to protect us. Of the over 84,000 chemicals are used in the products we buy, only 200 have been required to undergo basic health and safety testing before going to market, and only 5 have ever been restricted under the act. Earth Ministry works with Safer States, a network of diverse environmental health coalitions and organizations in states around the country working for new state and national chemical policies that will keep our communities and environment healthy and help us build a cleaner, greener economy.

toxicbabyColorado IPL favors legislation to phase out the use of toxic flame retardants in kids’ products when there are safer alternatives available. We join with healthcare workers, firefighters, and many others to support such important legislation. Working together, we can protect our children’s health from dangerous flame retardants and help put businesses on the path to using chemicals that won’t harm our health, the environment, or their bottom line.

Resources

Merchants of Doubt (available on Netflix, Amazon, and Hulu) 

The Lawyer Who Became DuPont’s Worst Nightmare (NYTimes)

Jan 10, 2016 · Feature. The Lawyer Who Became DuPont’s Worst Nightmare. Rob Bilott was a corporate defense attorney for eight years. Then he took on an environmental suit that would upend his entire career — and expose a brazen, decades-long history of chemical pollution.

Film Review: ‘The Devil We Know’

An exposé of decades of intentional pollution of a West Virginia town with a harmful chemical used in the making of Teflon.

Director:  Stephanie Soechtig, Film length: 88 minutes

Bucky Bailey, Joe Kiger, Mike Papantonio, Ken Cook, Sharon Lerner, Rob Bilott.

The list of modern conveniences that will sooner or later take a toll on your — or somebody’s — health gets a lot longer with “The Devil We Know.” Stephanie Soechtig’s documentary exposes the apparently decades-long efforts by the DuPont corporation to deny the adverse effects of chemicals used in the manufacture of Teflon kitchenware, which they knew about at least as early as 1982. They’re still denying them, even as birth defects and other problems have increasingly surfaced among factory workers and nearby residents whose water has become polluted with industrial waste.

What we first see is rough old video footage shot by Wilbur Tennant, a West Virginia farmer who’d sold part of his property to DuPont. They’d said they’d use the land only to dispose of “non-hazardous” substances, but he soon suspected otherwise — particularly once dogs, wildlife and his entire livestock herd died. His belligerent citizen activism was later echoed by Joe Kiger, an area schoolteacher turned whistleblower who grew uneasy about the impact of chemicals in drinking water, then more so as his questions to authorities (including the Environmental Protection Agency) were brushed off with evasive PR blather.

Their community of Parkersburg, WVa., is the epicenter of woes from commercial use of C8, a compound long used in the manufacturing that is the town’s economic engine. Its variants are deployed not just in creating non-stick cookware, but everything from microwave popcorn bags to waterproofed sportswear. There’s little discussion here of the potential impact on everyday consumers, beyond the fact that C8 can now be found in the bloodstream of nearly every American, and that it has a very long shelf life in landfills.

Those who worked directly with the chemicals at the plant were the first to suffer ill health effects, including cancer and birth defects that in the case of Bucky Bailey required more than 30 corrective surgeries when he was just a child. Eventually the problems began drifting downriver to other towns whose water was contaminated by the same factories’ pollution.

Damning evidence is presented here that DuPont knew of C8’s impact but hid and denied that knowledge — then took over production of the hazardous substance from 3M when that company stopped making the stuff due to the research findings. A class-action suit finally staggered toward a heavily compromised win for residents. Yet even that seemed to offer little assurance for the future: DuPont and others remain free to slightly change C8’s chemical formula and continue producing it, as indeed they’ve done.

Mixing footage of public hearings, news reports and corporate ads, plus input from scientists and activists, “The Devil We Know” is a riveting tale of long-term irresponsibility and injustice. It’s made particularly infuriating by the contrast between workers who placed all trust in their employers’ goodwill, and the government agencies that did very little to intervene when it became obvious those workers were being often fatally victimized by knowing corporations. As with numerous other environmentally focused films of late, this one underlines the extent to which the EPA has its hands tied by Byzantine federal/state control limitations, as well as excessive influence from the very corporate interests it should be patrolling.

Soechtig presents an unusually engrossing docudrama for this type of subject, with human interest always in the forefront despite the complex timeline of events, issues and information presented. The director, whose prior docs “Under the Gun” and “Fed Up” were also well-received exposés (of the gun lobby and obesity-promoting food industry, respectively), presides over an expert assembly that’s sharp in every department.

PRODUCTION: (Docu) An Atlas Films presentation in association with Diamond Docs. (International sales: Cinetic Media, Los Angeles.) Producers: Joshua Kunau, Kristin Lazure, Carly Palmour, Stephanie Soechtig. Executive producers: Michael Walrath, Michelle Walrath, Kristin Lazure, Andrea van Beuren. Co-producer, Jill Latiano Howerton.

CREW: Director: Stephanie Soechtig. Co-director: Jeremy Seifert. Screenplay: Mark Monroe, Soechtig. Camera (color, HD): Rod Hassler. Editors: James Leche, Dan Reed, Brian Lazarte. Music: Brian Tyler.

WITH: Bucky Bailey, Joe Kiger, Mike Papantonio, Ken Cook, Sharon Lerner, Rob Bilott.

First-in-Nation Ban on Nonstick “PFAS” Chemicals in Food Packaging Approved By Washington State Legislature

The Healthy Food Packaging Act passed in the Washington State Legislature today. As people of faith, we believe we have a moral obligation to protect our bodies, our communities, and our soil and water from toxic chemicals that make us sick. We are so grateful…   Read More »


Health, Environmental, Faith, and Community Groups Tackle Nonstick PFAS Chemicals

As part of the Toxic-Free Legacy Coalition and the Environmental Priorities Coalition, Earth Ministry/WAIPL fully supports the passage of the Healthy Food Packaging Act. We believe that we have a moral obligation to protect our bodies, our food, and our environment from harmful chemicals. This bill…  Read More »


Faith grows greener in the era of Donald Trump

Earth Ministry’s Jessie Dye is quoted in this article from “The Economist” discussing the impact of the current administration’s actions, motivating people of faith to increase their involvement, engagement, and activism with regard to the environment.

Ask Costco to “Mind the Store”

Costco products are a staple in congregational life. Affordable housewares help furnish houses of worship, bulk-sized cleaning products keep supply closets full, and a wide selection of organic food provides for many a church potluck and parish coffee hour.  Although known as a responsible company,…  Read More »


Older Entries »People of Faith Support the Toxic-Free Kids and Families Act 2016

Environmental Health is the theme of Earth Ministry’s Spring 2015 Earth Letter

Earth Ministry blog post about toxic flame retardants in children’s products

Safer States

Further Resources

Caring for All Creation: In the Home

Environmental Health