Exposure to air pollution increases risk of birth defects

Exposure to air pollution increases risk of birth defects

Exposure to air pollution increases risk of birth defects

A new study in the Journal of Pediatrics Researchers looks at the relationship between birth defects in about 200,000 infants born between 2006 and 2010 in Ohio and fine particulate matter pollution (PM2.5) near mothers’ homes around the time of conception. Researchers found that mothers who were exposed to more air pollution were significantly more likely to give birth to babies with birth defects.

Here’s what the study concludes:

Increased exposure to PM2.5 in the periconception period is associated with some modest risk increases for congenital malformations. The most susceptible time of exposure appears to be the 1 month before and after conception. Although the increased risk with PM2.5 exposure is modest, the potential impact on a population basis is noteworthy because all pregnant women have some degree of exposure.”

In other words, a mother’s exposure to air pollution during the month before her child is conceived modestly increases the risk of birth defects. Study author Dr. Emily DeFranco (University of Cincinnati College of Medicine in Ohio) said, “Our study indicates that there are several particularly vulnerable exposure periods near the time of conception, both before and after conception, in which exposure to higher levels of particulate matter in the air may pose an increased chance for a birth defect to occur.”

Overall, the average level of PM2.5 was 13.79 micrograms per cubic meter of air (ug/m3) for women who lived within 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) of an air quality monitoring station. The researchers found for every 10 ug/m3 increase in PM2.5 levels women experienced during the month after conception, babies were 19 percent more likely to be born with birth defects.

Dr. Shruthi Mahalingaiah, an environmental health researcher at Boston University, told Reuters, “If you live in areas of the world with high levels of ambient air pollution, you may consider installing appropriate air or ventilation systems so that your in-home air quality is excellent. Ideally, working together with policy makers, companies, and nations to reduce emissions and innovate around sequestering current levels of emissions would be a goal.”

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Radical Five-year Offshore Plan will Heighten Spill Risks For U.S. Coastal Areas

Radical Five-year Offshore Plan will Heighten Spill Risks For U.S. Coastal Areas

Plan Poses Huge Risk to Coastal Economies, Businesses and Marine Life in Previously Undeveloped Waters.

WASHINGTON, DC. — The Trump Administration is ignoring sound science and broad public input in an exhaustive recent review, in its proposed Five-Year Plan for offshore oil and gas leasing released today. The proposed plan promises “severe and unacceptable harm” to America’s publicly-owned oceans, coastal economies, public health, climate and marine life—all in a bid to pursue dubious energy sources that America does not need, according to 64 groups.

The proposed drilling plan unveiled by Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke would radically expand offshore drilling in new areas of the Atlantic, Pacific, Gulf of Mexico and Arctic waters, and auction off permanently protected areas.

The protections in the current five-year plan are based on scientific analysis and a multi-year public comment process, whereas the Trump Administration’s hastily concocted proposal is rife with unsubstantiated claims, faulty economics, and runs roughshod over documented public opinion.  Specifically, the proposal would expose the Arctic waters–our last undeveloped ocean—to drilling, put the Atlantic coast on the chopping block for the first time since 1983, open the Pacific coast–which has not seen federal drilling for decades, and further threaten the debilitated Gulf of Mexico.

The groups’ joint statement follows:

“These ocean waters are not President Trump’s personal playground.  They belong to all Americans and the public wants them preserved and protected, not sold off to multinational oil companies.  

The Trump Administration’s plan to unleash the dangers of drilling offshore is a major, unacceptable risk to hundreds of local communities, their coastal economies, and marine life.” 

This extreme proposal is a shameful give-away that would sacrifice coastal communities, its economies, and our publicly-owned ocean waters. 

Drilling threatens to coat our beaches with oil spills, pollute our air, decimate fisheries, interfere with military training, and keep citizens bound to the whims of foreign oil markets. 

There is no need to force coastal residents to shoulder these risks.  The nation can meet its energy needs and grow jobs by investing in clean, renewable domestic sources like wind and solar that never run out.  We can cut pollution, and keep profits right here at home—not in the pockets of oil industry executives and foreign governments.

No community should have to live every day under the threat of an oil spill that could destroy tourism, shutter hundreds of local businesses, throw thousands out of work, and decimate traditional ways of life.  We cannot afford another crippling Gulf of Mexico disaster—off the shores of Louisiana, the Carolinas, New England, Alaska, California or anywhere else.  

The Trump Administration should heed the public call to preserve our ocean waters and turn back from this reckless, unnecessary expansion of offshore drilling that puts America and marine life last and the bottom lines of private oil companies first.”

With the backing of scienceeconomicsclean energy leaderslocal businesses, and the vast majority of Americans, President Obama permanently protected most of the Arctic Ocean and a chain of deep sea canyons in the Atlantic Ocean, stretching from the Chesapeake Bay to Canada’s border, from dirty and dangerous offshore oil drilling. He also removed the entire Arctic and Atlantic from the five-year leasing plan.

Americans have rejected the Trump Administration’s move to abandon the Obama Administration’s approach by expanding dirty and dangerous offshore drilling and energy exploration.  That opposition includes tens of thousands of local businesses and hundreds of thousands of commercial fishing families that depend on clean coasts, the majority of Americans, over 130 coastal municipalities, many Alaska Natives, bi-partisan lawmakers at the local, state and federal levels, and a host of faith and conservation leaders.

Here is the alphabetical list of the 64 signers of the joint statement:

Alaska Wilderness League, Alliance for Climate Education, America Verde, American Littoral Society, Americans for Conservation & the Arts, Azul, Blue Frontier, Bold Alliance, California Coastkeeper Alliance, California League of Conservation Voters, Center for Biological Diversity, Checks & Balances Project, Clean Ocean Action, Clean Water Action, Climate Hawks Vote, The Climate Reality Project, Connecticut League of Conservation Voters, Conservation Law Foundation, Conservatives for Responsible Stewardship, Corazon Latino, Defenders of Wildlife, Earthjustice, Environment America, Environment California, Environment New Jersey, Environmental League of Massachusetts, Florida Conservation Voters, Friends of the Earth, Gasp, Green Latinos, Greenpeace, Gulf Restoration Network, Hands Across the Sand, Hip Hop Caucus, Inland Ocean Coalition, Institute for Ocean Conservation Science at Stony Brook University, Latino Farmers and Ranchers, League of Conservation Voters, League of Women Voters of the United States, Marine Conservation Institute, Maryland League of Conservation Voters, Massachusetts League of Conservation Voters, Natural Resources Defense Council, New Jersey League of Conservation Voters, New York League of Conservation Voters, NextGen America, North Carolina League of Conservation Voters, Oceana, Oil Change International, Oregon League of Conservation Voters, The Power Shift Network, Sachamama, Save Our Shores, Sierra Club, Surfrider Foundation, Turtle Island Restoration Network, Vermont Conservation Voters, Vermont Natural Resources Council, Virginia League of Conservation Voters, Voces Verdes, Washington Conservation Voters, Washington Environmental Council, and The Wilderness Society.

MEDIA CONTACTS:

Alex Frank, (703) 276-3264 or afrank@hastingsgroup.com.

Help for Coal Impacted Communities: Congress, Don’t Come Home Without It

Help for Coal Impacted Communities: Congress, Don’t Come Home Without It

Help for Coal Impacted Communities: Congress, Don’t Come Home Without It

Stephen Stetson

Stephen Stetson is Senior Campaign Representative for the Alabama Beyond Campaign of the Sierra Club. Email Stephen

Michael Hansen

Michael Hansen is the executive director of Gasp, a healthy air advocacy organization based in Birmingham, Ala. Email Michael

There’s been a lot of talk about Alabama’s recent Senate election, but it’s now time to turn an end-of-year eye to what Congress can do before 2018 is upon us. It’s time to pass the RECLAIM Act. It can happen before the end of the year with just a little direction and focus from the folks in D.C.

The RECLAIM Act is a piece of federal legislation addressing the legacy of America’s coal industry, and it has been stalled since passing the House Committee on Natural Resources in June by a wide margin. It’s hard to understand why it hasn’t moved. The RECLAIM Act has 40 bipartisan House cosponsors, bipartisan support in the U.S. Senate, and favorable reviews from coal-impacted communities in states with historic coal mining. We need Rep. Terri Sewell to step up and help Congressional leadership get this bill passed this year, and time is running out.

The RECLAIM Act is a powerful step toward revitalizing communities hit hardest by the coal industry’s downturn. The bill commits $1 billion to projects that clean up abandoned coalmines, and waters polluted by them. It lays a foundation for future economic development and diversification in coal-impacted communities, and prioritizes public input and community participation on which projects are chosen and how they are run.

RECLAIM is a major opportunity for areas of Alabama that have historically depended on the coal industry for good jobs and economic stability to rebuild themselves by creating new, local economic opportunities. Let’s be honest: RECLAIM isn’t a cure-all for the parts of Alabama that have been hit hardest by America’s shift away from coal. However, it is a strong answer to the call for more opportunities in coal-impacted communities and can be a guiding light for future policies to help rebuild.

Our organizations, Gasp and Sierra Club, have been working hard to shine a light on the effects of the coal economy across Alabama. We support jobs and economic development, but are also aware of the costs to our health and our land presented by the extractive process of mining. Alabama has an opportunity to make something positive out of the mining sites across our state.

In other parts of the country, abandoned mines have already been leveraged to create jobs in agriculture, recreational tourism, retail, and even renewable energy production through sustained revitalization efforts. But funding has frequently been hard to come by. Bringing more of these opportunities to former coal mining areas across the country can be a boon to local workers and their families looking for jobs.

The funding supplied through RECLAIM isn’t just about cleaning up abandoned mining sites, it’s also about rebuilding communities to be stronger and more resilient in a changing economic landscape through planning and strategies that invest in local assets, workers and businesses, and create shared benefits. What’s needed in these communities is real economic diversity and opportunities that extend beyond coal mining with good family-sustaining wages and gainful benefits.

The RECLAIM Act represents an exciting opportunity to create jobs, empower local communities, and build long-term economic security for working families in communities where coal has historically been the backbone of the local economy. There’s no reason for it to be sitting idle in the U.S. House of Representatives, when it could be easily passed on its merits alone.

We need Rep. Sewell to step up and work with Congressional leaders to get this bill moving before the holidays. They shouldn’t return to their home districts without a signed law.


This essay was originally submitted to AL.com as an op-ed.

Show Your Support for the RECLAIM Act

The bipartisan RECLAIM Act would bring $1 billion back to coal-impacted communities. This legislation is a major opportunity for areas of Alabama that have historically depended on the coal industry for good jobs and economic stability to rebuild themselves by creating new, local economic opportunities. Send a personalized letter to your senators and representative saying you support passage of the RECLAIM Act.

Oppose “Transparency & Honesty in Energy Regulations Act”

Oppose “Transparency & Honesty in Energy Regulations Act”

Action Alert: Oppose the Deceptively Named “Transparency and Honesty in Energy Regulations Act”

At the end of June, H.R. 3117, also known as “Transparency and Honesty in Energy Regulations Act of 2017” was introduced. The bill is due for markup on Thursday in the Natural Resources Committee in the House.

Here’s what H.R. 3117 does:

  • Legislates that agencies ignore or drastically undervalue the cost of climate change by creating a wide-ranging restriction on the appropriate use of the social cost of carbon (and analogous estimates for methane and nitrous oxide). This includes any existing or future estimates.
  • Ties the hands of future decision makers in responding to changing circumstances on what is a very technical process, informed by up-to-date analysis.
  • Results in government decision-making that fails to adequately account for the costly damages of climate change.

The name of H.R. 3117 is completely misleading. It is neither transparent nor honest. As has become the normal pattern of practice, efforts to cater to the fossil fuel industry are masquerading as sound public policy. Put simply, the bill aims to prohibit the Secretary of Energy, Administrator of the EPA and the Chair of the Council on Environmental Quality from considering the social costs of carbon, methane and nitrous oxide in taking any action and for other purposes.

Why Does This Matter?

Carbon, methane and nitrous oxide are all greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change. As was the case when the U.S. withdrew from the Paris Climate Agreement and the EPA proposed to rescind the Clean Power Plan in October of this year, H.R. 3117 shows we are moving backwards on policies and common sense efforts to combat climate change.

Climate change is not merely a threat to our environment and climate. It is a threat to human beings’ way of life in that it loads the dice for extreme weather events, creates droughts and flooding, leads to rising temperatures and intensifying smog. It is absurd and disastrous to suggest that there is not a social cost associated with these dangerous greenhouse gases.

What You Can Do

H.R. 3117 cannot become law. Our Congress cannot continue down the path of the executive branch of turning their backs on current and future generations when it comes to climate change. Let Congress know that H.R. 3117 flies in the face of the public interest and the environment that sustains us.

Action Alert

Climate change is real. Don’t let Congress try to muddy the water by barring federal agencies from considering of the costs of greenhouse gas pollution. Write your representatives in Congress to stop H.R. 3117 before it picks up momentum!

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Is Attorney General’s Office Stonewalling Gasp for Political Purposes?

Is Attorney General’s Office Stonewalling Gasp for Political Purposes?

If you’ve been following the North Birmingham corruption investigation involving Drummond Company, Balch & Bingham, and former Rep. Oliver Robinson, you know that our work is a huge part of the story. (Robinson plead guilty on Sept 7.) Yesterday, al.com’s John Archibald reported that newly appointed U.S. Attorney Jay Town is asking for patience in the ongoing corruption investigation — which suggests more indictments may very well be on their way.

We’re trying to do our part to ensure everyone responsible for wrongdoing is held accountable. That’s why we sent a letter to U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions asking him to recuse himself from the investigation. His decades-long, lucrative relationships with Drummond and Balch & Bingham could compromise the case, in our opinion, and its better to be safe than sorry.

We are also trying to find possible connections between two $25,000 contributions made to former Alabama Attorney General (now-Senator) Luther Strange by Drummond and actions taken by his office opposing the EPA’s cleanup efforts. On Aug. 23, Gasp attorney David Ludder made an open records act request on our behalf to Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall. We requested “electronic mail records, letters, or other records of communications” between Luther Strange or any employee or agent of the Office of the Attorney General:

  1. Any employee or agent of Balch & Bingham LLP concerning EPA, Drummond Company, Inc., ABC Coke, or the “35th Avenue site” in Birmingham dated, created or received after April 1, 2014.
  2. Any employee or agent of Drummond Company, Inc. concerning EPA, Drummond Company, Inc., ABC Coke, or the “35th Avenue site” in Birmingham dated, created or received after April 1, 2014.
  3. Any employee or agent of ABC Coke concerning EPA, Drummond Company, Inc., ABC Coke, or the “35th Avenue site” in Birmingham dated, created or received after April 1, 2014.
  4. Any employee or agent of Drummond Company, Inc. concerning contributions to any political campaign of Luther Strange dated, created or received after April 1, 2014.

The AG’s office on Aug. 31 denied our request on the basis that our attorney is based in Florida. That’s not how the Open Records Act works, and we promptly let them know that Gasp is indeed based in Birmingham, Ala., and therefore has every right to review the requested communications. As of today (Sept. 18), we have yet to hear back from Marshall’s office.

That’s not how this works. That’s not how any of this works.

One has to ask, “Is Attorney General Steve Marshall playing politics with our request because he doesn’t want to hurt his predecessor, Luther Strange, in the runoff election on Sept. 26?”

If that’s the case, we’re even more disgusted than we already were. As a 501(c)(3), Gasp is a nonpartisan, apolitical organization. But we have a right to review public records and we shouldn’t be stonewalled for political purposes. Our members deserve answers, and we won’t stop until we get them.

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