EPA Gets Sued Over Lead Leniency

November 29, 2010 · Filed Under Environment, Government, Green, Guest Posts

The EPA has stepped up its game over the past few years, regulating substances and incidences that it could only dream of doing in the past (not because it wasn’t legal, but due to lack of support). So the new lawsuit against them over their alleged leniency toward lead in hunting and fishing equipment is quite a blow to their large steps of progress. The lawsuit came as an early Thanksgiving present to the Federal agency, delivered by conservation and hunting groups along with organizations like the Center for Biological Diversity.

Why are these groups suing the EPA?
The case is over whether the EPA has adequately regulated lead, specifically related to hunting equipment. Lead is a well-known toxin that most of us have removed from our homes (lead paint anyone?) and the majority of our products. What we have not yet regulated are the products ejected into our natural environment including fishing tackle and hunting ammunition. The lead contaminants in these pieces of equipment have been tied to poisoning none other than the Eagle and a wariety of other wilflife, mainly birds and fish, that are most susceptible to lead poisoning and lead intake due to diets and habitat. Now if you aren’t a big animal lover, this still impacts your health. This hunting equipment it typically the reason you are eating the meat in the first place, so your food may have trace contaminants of lead. Pescitarians be ware.

Is the EPA responsible?
Now this is where the true debate lays for this lawsuit. Not in companies being responsible for their products, or hunter and fisher men and women using the equipment. Does the EPA have the power to regulate this, and if so, why haven’t they? The details will require quite a bit of legal sorting. As is true for many Federal agencies, responsibilities can overlap or be divided in odd ways (the FDA regulates food…but not dairy products, that is the USDA for example). It is unclear at this point whether the EPA has the authority to act on the issue. They attempted to regulate this issue in 1994 unsuccessfully. The Toxic Substances Control Act is the main piece of legislation under scrutiny to determine accountability in this case.

Did the groups go too far by suing, in place of working with, the EPA?
The debate is already emotionally charged since it is not a new issue. Since we are still in the beginning stages of the actual legal debate, it is difficult to say. It is commendable that the hunting and conservation groups took it upon themselves to help shed light and now regulation upon an unsustainable practice. Reading the statements from leaders from the hunting groups, it is encouraging to learn that they take personal responsibility, but would like the support and authority that the EPA can lend to help solidify more ethical and healthy practices. At present, it is unclear whether the EPA has the authority to regulate this, although the majority of signs point to yes. One major sign is the EPA’s own website outlining their efforts to reduce lead, lead poisoning, and lead in homes. So why not wildlife?

You can read more about this issue through the Center for Biological Diversity’s “Get the Lead Out” campaign here. If you would like to learn about lead-free hunting, check out Project Gutpile’s efforts started by and working for hunters. To read what the EPA has already helped regulate regarding Lead, check out their website.

So what do you think?  Too early to tell? Cheers to effective regulation? Or down with over-regulation of industries?

Photo Credits:
Get the Lead Out

Unhappy Californians Boot the Happy Meal

November 8, 2010 · Filed Under Alternative Energy, Food, Government, Green, Guest Posts, Health

The (in power) people of San Francisco have spoken. Out with the Happy Meal! Almost…

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors passed an ordinance that requires any restaurant that includes toys with a purchase to meet specific nutritional guidelines. This continues San Francisco’s distinct lead as the most legislatively progressive City in the United States. After banning plastic bags, requiring all government run offices utilize non-toxic cleaning products, and putting a standard into place that all new government construction must be LEED certified, the people in power in San Francisco continue their visionary practices.

Despite McDonald’s claims of persecution and targeting, the ordinance is applicable to all restaurants that include a toy with purchase that do not meet specific nutritional guidelines. The ordinance has been under consideration for awhile, and restaurant industry groups as well as individual companies like McDonalds have been fighting its passage into law.

Why an Ordinance on Meals with Toys?

Childhood Obesity

The overweight and obesity numbers in the United States are staggering. Sadly enough, 15% of the children in the US are either overweight or obese. An atrocious and unhealthy jump since the advent of fast food. With a variety of factors playing into these numbers, it is difficult to pinpoint a true culprit. Perhaps that is because this epidemic that threatens the health of tens of millions of Americans has a large span of “causes”. Cheap food (with a high true cost to our health, environment, and human rights in developing nations), chemically-simulated food experience (read Omnivore’s Dilemma to read about how through a manipulation of the senses, chemists can make any piece of food trick your senses), and American’s distinct lack of exercise relative to other developed nations. The numbers threatening the lives of children have become such a large concern that the health care industry is has significantly increased their charges, and the health and fitness industry have significantly increased their range of products and enrollments for extreme cases of weight loss.


Now, the Ordinance that was passed actually does not “ban” anyone from selling food, it requires that they meet specific nutritional guidelines in order to provide a meal with a toy. The Ordinance goes into effect December 1st, so restauranteurs have a small bit of time (and plenty of previous notice prior to the vote) to get their new toy-included meals in nutritional order.

Direct-Marketing to Children

Direct marketing to children has been banned in many locations, and there are a few legislative actions that have been put in place to reduce this type of marketing. The first major and successful attack on direct-marketing to children came from the TRUTH campaign and others targeting cigarette companies like Philip Morris with the idea that if the companies target them, the ‘children’ or young adults have the right to target the companies right back. Although meals with toys may be marketed to a younger group, less vocal and action-oriented to fight their plastic toy that comes with their meal, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors took it upon themselves to protect the children. Some individuals believe that these types of regulation also help give power back to parents and guardians as the decision-makers during a time when the market is flooded with “wants” and “new things” to tantalize even the most well-behaved child.

The Details (honestly)

As stated earlier, this was not a direct attack on McDonalds but instead on an unsustainable and unhealthy practice within ALL food establishments. By creating standards that are clear and accepted by nutritionists and doctors as acceptable for healthy meals, not just happy meals, the government has taken children’s health upon themselves.

The nutritional requiremenst are…

  • Calories: Less than 600
  • Sodium: Less than 640 milligram.
  • Fat: Less than 35 percent of calories from fat; Less than 10 percent from saturated fat (with exception for nuts, seeds, eggs or low-fat cheese).
  • Fruits & Vegetables: At least half a cup of fruit or three-quarters of a cup of vegetables

“This is a challenge to the restaurant industry to think about children’s health first and join the wide range of local restaurants that have already made this commitment,” Mar said.

And it challenge it may be for some restaurants to truly adhere to these standards.

Will My Happy Meal be Banned?

This legislation was passed within the City of San Francisco. There has been little talk about other Cities, States, or the Federal government following San Francisco’s lead. That said, if McDonalds and other food establishments with toys as part of meals want to stay in that market, they will have to adapt. If the larger companies adapt, and smaller businesses can share their lessons and transitions to healthier meals, then there is little reason not to adopt the healthier standards. If the framework and advice from similar businesses is available, why not take advantage of it?

Did they go to far?

Companies like McDonalds are claiming discrimination and that the San Francisco government has gone too far. Is the regulation of the industry fair? Well, that can be a pretty subjective discussion. What is important is that it is legal, and the intent behind the regulation was not to discriminate, but to address a growing epidemic of childhood obesity that threatens the lives of our future changemakers. In fact, the issue of childhood obesity has grown into such a health threat in the United States, that First Lady Michelle Obama, and world famous Chef Jamie Oliver are making very public efforts to bring nutrition, proportion control, and education back to food for children in the US.

What do you think? Do you think the San Francisco government went too far, or that we as a nation haven’t gone far enough to address this critical health issue?

Photo Credits:
Last Happy Meal

Epoch Times

The FTC Cracks Down on Eco-Labels

October 19, 2010 · Filed Under Environment, Government, Guest Posts, News

Fall is in the air, and the FTC is back at it again. The oversaturated “green” market is getting a little bit of a kick from the FTC again after the Bamboo Scandal in February of 2010. The Federal Trade Commission has decided to regulate the terms many big brands have started to use in promoting their products as a green as can be.

Why the Crack Down?

This regulatory body’s efforts to reinforce meaning in the green marketplace has come after a sea of over 300 third-party certifications have been created and big brands can’t market anything without a little eco-twist. The FTC has said that their interest comes from their responsibility to hold companies responsible for the claims that they make on their packaging. A lesson learned by several retailers after the FTC exposed them as selling Rayon in place of Bamboo.

Is it Good or Bad for Consumers?

It is too early to say. As for now, it should be a good transformation from random claims and strategic names of “The Eco Window 2000″ which has nothing to do with being eco-friendly outside of its name. As for the 300+ third-party certifiers, this information may come a little too late. Since the United States government has failed to regulate many products and claims the same way other developed nations have over the past 20 years, third party certifiers emerged as a solution to a growing problem in the US. They provided information and security in eco-claims. Now, the new FTC guidelines may make some of these certifications irrelevant, or they may even conflict with the new guidelines.

Where are these Mysterious Guidelines?

They are listed on the FTC’s website as: Guides for the Use of Environmental Marketing Campaigns found here. Check them out for yourself.

So the good news is that the US government has belatedly started to regulate environmental claims, and hopefully as third party certifiers with worthy certifications come to understand the new rules, they will work together to solve the discrepancies. It looks as though this may be the first significant step they will make in stopping the greenwashing game through regulation.

Photo Credit

Solar Panels Planned For White House

October 7, 2010 · Filed Under Government, News, Solar

Interesting news just came out on Tuesday that the Obama administration has plans to put solar panels and a solar water heater on the White House.  This move is drawing heavy praise from the solar industry.

Rhone Resch, president and chief executive of the Solar Energy Industries Association, had this to say about the move:

Putting solar on the roof of the nation’s most important home is a powerful symbol calling on all Americans to rethink how we create energy

I have to agree completely with this statement and in high support of the move.  The White House uses a large amount of energy annually and there is lots of space on the roof to accommodate solar panels.  Also, the President will no longer just praising renewable energy without actually using it.  The White House will now be running off of clean renewable energy.

What’s even more interesting is that Obama was not the first President to think about Solar Energy for the White House.  The history of solar panels on the White House actually dates back to the Carter Administration.

Video by Newsy.

The solar industry is also pushing to have solar panels put on government buildings across the country.  The hope is that this move will encourage others to begin thinking about renewable energy or at least support it’s future. Let’s hope that this move can in fact do that and help stimulate the renewable energy market.

U.S.: Epic Fail?

July 25, 2010 · Filed Under Alternative Energy, Environment, Government, Guest Posts

This past week marked a sad day on the calendar for the United States. For those individuals focuses on sustainable living and making a difference, kudos to you for pursueing this despite a lack of national leadership. The United States failed to pass Climate Legislation, the most favored was a cap-and-trade system, this year. After Copenhagen’s Climate Summit left emotions reeling, there are a few trends to note. First, the business portion of the Summit was bombarded with signatures and declarations. Second, there was a distinct difference in the way Kyoto signers and Non-Kyoto Signers approached the conversation. Lastly, there is now a lasting sentiment of disappointment and in some cases international disdain for the United States’ lack of nation-wide action onClimate Change on a Federal level.

Is the U.S. A Climate Villain?

Yes and No. The United States is responsible for 25% of thegreenhouse gas emissions on an annual basis. This past month marked the first time China has surpassed the U.S. in energy usage, of course they also have a population that would morph the U.S. so it doesn’t keep them off the hook. The most proactive forces in the U.S. on Climate Change outside of advocacy groups have been state and local governments who inividually passed the Kyoto protocol and created the Chicago Climate Exchange as well as Government Agencies who are working to address the issue with or without legislative action. For instance the weatherization of homes that is being undertaken is going to significantly reduce energy usage nationwide, and since building inefficiencies are the single largest contributor to the U.S.’s emissions, this is important.

The real villain’s in this case are the politicians themselves.

With little to no discussion about climate issues, and more uncivilized cattiness surrounding the “debate” or lack there of, the true leaders had quite a road ahead of them. The fact that a few bills were formed is impressive given the concerted effort to continue to deny climate change’s anthropogenic source and to be accountable and responsible for the piece of the pie the U.S. makes up. No piece of U.S. legislation is perfect. It is touched by so many hands, special interests, and ‘deals’ that are irrelevant to the real legislation that the water-downed and battered version of a bill is at times utterly disgusting. Politicians who are supposed to be Civil Servants seem to have completely evaded that responsibility to pursue personal interests and gains.

The unfortunate part about this is two-fold.

First, the United States has once again failed to be a leader in the Climate Change arena, despite being its biggest negative contributor. Second, the United States will not feel, understand, nor suffer the consequences of climate change to the same extent as third world nations who minimally contribute to anthropogenic sourced climate change.

What we do know is that each of us through our personal actions, our professional life, and our political decisions can help guide better and more ethical decision-making into the future. Hopefully the disagreement next legislative term won’t be “if” something should be done on a national-scale, but instead “how” and “how soon”. If those questions come from a more honest place of understanding what sustainable living truly means and what being part of a global society really requires, then there is all the hope in the World to be had.

If not, then we better each use our individual voices and decisions to help create that world and environment if those representing us haven’t the sense, ethics, nor respect for all life on Earth to do so.

Photo Credit: Chris Madden.

Canned Food Have BPA?

May 20, 2010 · Filed Under Government, Health, News

A small study recently conducted determined that we may be consuming BPA, a chemical that was deemed of concern by the EPA, on a regular basis because of the canned food that we eat.  After the release of this study, consumer advocates were outraged and pushing Congress to create a food safety bill to remove this chemical from our cans.

The study involved the testing of cans found in 50 grocery stories.  Out of the 50, 46 stores had cans that contains detectable levels of BPA in them.  It was determined that the lining normally found in cans may be leaching the chemical into our foods.

We already knew that aluminum water bottles were found to contain levels of BPA, but now even our canned foods contain them.  This study is extremely alarming and something needs to be done to ensure that BPA is not in any of our food, not just canned goods.  Our laws need to change to start requiring companies to show that BPA and other dangerous chemicals are not present in food items that we consume everyday.

Phone(y) Health

April 29, 2010 · Filed Under Environment, Government, Health, Technology

With all this talk about health care, toxicity, and who knows ‘the facts’, it seemed only appropriate to shed a little bit of light on a lesser recognized health issue, our cell phones. It is estimated that 4.6 Billion individuals use cell phones on a regular basis. An astounding number that attests to the epidemic that is cell phone use. So what of these electromagnetic wonders?

SARs for Phones

The most major concern is about “SAR”, or Specific Absorption Rates that have been loosely tied to various negative human health issues including cancer. Governments have regulated the maximum SAR level in the US to 1.6 W/kg over 1 gram of tissue on the head. You can check your phone’s SAR rating online. Phones with more features, like camera’s and the internet typically produce significantly more radiation than the older phones that work for calls and text only.

Science on the Hazards: Can you hear us now?

How hazardous are our new gadgets? There is a large debate, with very little consistent (or funded) scientific evidence that directly links cell phone use to cancer, fatigue, sleep disturbances, and heart palpitations. The World Health Organization declared the studies ‘inconclusive’ and are scheduled to product their own report this year on the issue. The National Radiation Advisory Authorities on the other hand recommend the Precautionary Principle. By avoiding use and exposure to cell phone radiation, you can avoid waiting for an “Uh Oh” response, like DDT in the 1960s.

Precautionary Principle

The Precautionary Principle appears to be the smartest option. There is a large vested interest in the spread of cell phones, from building towers in African deserts with the assumption of future markets to coming out with a new ‘must have gadget’ every two years. With this type of investment, it is difficult to evaluate the scientific studies that have been conducted. Similar to the Genetically Modified Organism debate, the science investigating the health effects of cell phones has been muted.

The general agreed upon studies request that studies are conducted for 10 years, more time than I myself have even used a cell phone, with new technology evolving constantly modifying the reliance on cell phones. So instead of waiting for a report, it may be helpful to adhere to these guidelines suggested by various radiation, cell phone, and health organizations.

Cell Phone Use Safety Tips

Here are some helpful hints to reduce your exposure:

  • Use handsets & headsets
  • Text instead of voicemail
  • Limit children’s exposure and use of cell phones
  • Do not sleep with your phone near you, for instance on your bedside table
  • Do not use your phone in low to no coverage areas. They require more radiation to gain the signal.
Depicts 426,000 cell phones, equal to the number of cell phones retired in the US every day.Cell Phones
Photo by Chris Jordan.

If you learn that your phone is above the regulated and/or suggested limits and need a new phone, please be sure to recycle your cell phone. In 2007, it was estimated that 426,000 cell phones are thrown out in the US every year! So close the loop, recycle or donate your phone when needed and see what the Precautionary Principle can do for you!

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