Green Buckeye RN


Newsletter: Vol. 2, No. 4: December 2009

In This Issue

Finally!  Change in U.S. Chemical Regulation is in the Works…and Nurses Are Involved!

You might believe that the products you purchase have been tested for impacts on human health…and, chances are, you would be wrong.  The air fresheners, glass cleaners, dry wall, vinyl flooring, spot removers, or non-stick cookwear found in most homes have not been tested for long-term effects on human health, whether newborn, child, adult or elder. 

The Toxic Substances Control Act or TSCA (referred to as toss-ka) of 1976 was intended to regulate the chemicals used to produce many of our consumer goods, but was hampered at its inception with burdensome requirements.  As is the practice when implementing new legislation, existing chemicals already in the marketplace were “grandfathered in,” allowing about 20,000 potentially toxic substances to continue to be sold without any guarantees of safety.  In addition, the law requires the EPA to prove that a chemical, let’s say the bisphenol-A (BPA) in your water bottle, presents an unreasonable risk in order to require safety data from the manufacturer.  This situation puts the burden of proof on the regulatory agency instead of the producer who stands to profit from the sale of the product.  Backwards?  Yes, it is.  To then regulate or restrict the use of a chemical, the EPA must find that:

  • The chemical presents or will present an unreasonable risk,
  • The benefits of regulation outweigh the costs of regulation, and that
  • The regulations represent the least burdensome way to eliminate unreasonable risk.

The real outcome of this law is that the EPA has required testing of only about 200 chemicals in the previous 33 years; it has restricted the use or production of only seven groups of chemicals.  Given that there are approximately 80,000 chemicals on the market, that’s not a lot of control.

Fortunately, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson has identified reform of TSCA as one of her top priorities (http://thecenter.chemheritage.org/?p=430). To that end, Congressional hearings were held on the reform of TSCA in February of this year.  Similarly, the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) and the CDC’s National Center for Environmental Health (NCEH) have initiated A National Conversation on Public Health and Chemical Exposures (http://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/nationalconversation) to occur over an 18 month period.  Several nationally-recognized environmental nurse advocates and members of the Alliance of Nurse for Healthy Environments (www.e-commons.org) have been selected to participate in the various work groups of this project.  Their first meeting occurred in November, 2009.

The run-up to action at the federal level has included numerous position statements and advocacy actions from a variety of groups, including the following:

  • 2006 ANA Resolution: Nursing Practice, Chemical Exposure, and Right-To-Know
  • American Public Health Association: Calling on Congress to Restructure the Toxic Substances Control Act of 1976
  • National Caucus of Environmental Legislators: Federal Chemicals Policy
  • Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families: A Platform for Reform of the Toxic Substances Control Act.

Nurses need to continue to be involved in advocacy efforts through their professional groups, legislators, and community associations. 

It would be reassuring to know that the presents I give this holiday season can be enjoyed and will not be the cause of illness in the future.  Happy holidays!

New Resources/Publications

Environment America’s (http://www.environmentamerica.org/) publication, Wasting Our Waterways: Toxic Industrial Pollution and the Unfulfilled Promise of the Clean Water Act, looks at the amount of waste product dumped into our rivers.  Unfortunately, the Ohio River takes the top spot for toxic discharges.  http://www.environmentamerica.org/uploads/e6/53/e6534339a34197ea1c06a80f2b2db277/Wasting-Our-Waterways-vAM.pdf

Women’s Voices for the Earth (www.womenandenvironment.org) introduces a new publication entitled Disinfectant Overkill: How Too Clean May Be Hazardous To Our Health.  Find it at http://www.womenandenvironment.org/campaignsandprograms/SafeCleaning/disinfectants/Disinfectant%20Overkill.pdf.

The Office of National Drug Policy has added a link to the FDA related to prudent disposal of unused medications.  The FDA has added to the list of generic medications that they recommend flushing.  http://www.whitehousedurgpolicy.gov/publications/pdf/prescrip_disposal.pdf

Learning Curve: Putting Healthy School Principles into Practice (http://www.ehponline.org/members/2009/117-10/EHP117pa448PDF.PDF) appeared in the October 2009 issue of Environmental Health Perspectives (www.ehponline.org).  This publication discusses design and construction of schools, light, air and energy.

Habitat for Humanity’s ReStore takes donations of home improvement and building materials and offers them for sale.  ReStores are located in Delaware, Fairfield, Franklin, and Knox counties.  www.habitat.org/env/restores.aspx

Ten healthcare workers discovered their chemical body burden by participating in a study conducted by Physicians for Social Responsibility (http://www.psr.org/).  Hazardous Chemicals in Health Care: A Snapshot of Chemicals in Doctors and Nurses can be accessed at http://www.psr.org/resources/hazardous-chemicals-in-health.html. Now let’s get some legislators to participate in a body burden survey!

The CDC’s 4th National Report on Human Exposure to Environmental Chemicals is projected to be released in the last quarter of 2009.  Current data regarding human exposures to environmental chemicals is available on the CDC website at http://www.cdc.gov/exposurereport/default.htm.

The Learning and Developmental Disabilities Initiative Working Group (LDDI) of the Collaborative on Health and the Environment (www.healthandenvironment.org) released Endocrine-Disrupting Chemicals: New Practice Prevention Column.  Written for parents, educators, child-care providers and other who are responsible for children’s well-being. http://www.healthandenvironment.org/working_groups/learning.

Evidence-based design is the topic of a new book from Sigma Theta Tau International.  Written by Cynthia McCullough MSN, RN, Evidence-Based Design for Healthcare Facilities is available at http://www.nursingsociety.org/Publications/Books/Pages/BooksForNurses.aspx.

The International Fragrance Association (IFRA) announced in August that it will publish by the end of 2009 a list of virtually all natural and synthetic fragrance ingredients being used by the fragrance industry’s customers in consumer products.  The list will be on IFRA’s website, http://www.ifra.org, and will include the fragrance chemicals used in many common household products such as cleaners and air fresheners. (Alliance Alert, August 2009)

The World Health Organization (WHO) is strengthening their recommendations to protect against indoor radon, the leading cause of lung cancer among non-smokers.  The book, WHO Handbook on Indoor Radon: A Public Health Perspective can be accessed at http://whqlibdoc.who.int/publications/2009/9789241547673_eng.pdf. (Alliance Alert, Sept. 2009)

The National Center for Healthy Housing (http://www.nchh.org/Home.aspx) released a new study which ranks housing conditions in 45 major metropolitan areas.  The State of Healthy Housing reveals a critical need to improve housing conditions, which have a direct impact on the health of residents.  http://www.nchh.org/Resources/Consumer-Survey.aspx  (Alliance Alert, Sept. 2009)

Free CE!  Fish Facts for Health Professionals is a collaborative effort between environmental, medical, and nursing experts from across the country to develop an eduational series for busy health professionals about the risks and benefits of fish consumption.  The media series is comprised of four, 3-5 minute media modules.  A workbook complements the media series and provides more in-depth information and resources.  After completing the modules, go to the survey link to complete a post-test and apply for continuing education credit.  www.fish-facts.org

Health Care Without Harm has announced the “Balanced Menus Challenge,” a voluntary commitment by healthcare institutions to reduce their meat offerings in patient meals and hospital cafeterias by 20 percent in 12 months.  Balanced Menus is a climate change reduction strategy that also protects the effectiveness of antibiotics and promotes good nutrition.  Fourteen hospitals are already participating in the challenge which was developed by HCWH’s Healthy Food in Healthcare Initative.  http://noharm.org/us_canada/issues/food/menus.php (Greenhealth, Sept/Oct 2009)

Home owners, buyers and renters have a new resource for going green indoors and out.  EPA’s new Green Homes web site will help people make their homes greener with tips on reducing energy consumption, carbon footprints, waste generation and water usage, as well as improving indoor air quality.  http://www.epa.gov/greenhomes

Check out the latest on toy safety at www.HealthyStuff.org, a project of The Ecology Center (http://www.ecocenter.org).

The Ohio Hospital Association (www.ohanet.org) was awarded a $41,400 Pharmaceutical Waste grant by the Ohio Environmental Education Fund (OEEF).  The funded project will determine legal and practical barriers to implementing a pharmaceutical take-back, redistribution, and best disposal practice program for hospitals.  An operational manual will be prepared to assist health care facilities in developing such a pharmaceutical disposal program and educate health care workers and the community about the importance of proper pharmaceutical waste management.  The Ohio Environmental Council (www.theoec.org) is collaborating with the OHA on the project. http://www.ohanet.org/Newsletter-Issue/newsletterissueEnviroNewsOctober2009

Opportunites for Advocacy

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services invites you to comment on the DRAFT set of objectives for Healthy People 2020. For three decades, Healthy People has provided a set of national 10-year health promotion and disease prevention objectives aimed at improving the health of all Americans. Visit www.healthypeople.gov/hp2020

The Environment Committee of the Columbus Community Coalition (www.columbuscoalition.org) has started a campaign to establish free curbside recycling in the city.  Read and sign the petition at http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/columbusrecycling/?e.

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) intends to evaluate the scientific data on glutaraldehyde, and develop appropriate communication documents which will convey the potential health risks, recommended measures for safe handling, and establish an updated Recommended Exposure Limit (REL) for glutaraldehyde.  The current NIOSH REL for glutaraldehyde is 0.2 ppm.  NIOSH is requesting information on the following: (1) published and unpublished reports and findings from in vitro and in vivo toxicity studies, (2) information on possible health effects in workers exposed to glutaraldehyde, (3) information on workplaces and products in which glutaraldehyde can be found, (4) description of work tasks and scenarios with a potential for exposure to glutaraldehyde, (5) workplace exposure data, and (6) information on control measures that are being used in workplaces where potential exposures to glutaraldehyde occur.  The public comment period ends on December 14, 2009.  Email: nioshdocket@cdc.gov  Comments must be identified by docket number NIOSH-186.  http://edocket.access.gpo.gov/2009/E9-22299.htm.  

Legislation: At the National Level

U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Mike Crapo (R-ID) introduced bipartisan legislation to protect consumers by establishing national health standards for formaldehyde in composite wood products, which would apply to both domestic products and foreign imports.  http://www.thomas.gov/cgi-bin/bdquery/D?d111:25:./temp/~bdHcoS::|/bss/|

S. 1658, the Healthy Housing Council Act of 2009 was introduced by Senators Jack Reed (D-RI) and Mike Johanns (R-NE).  The bill would bring together stakeholders to examine the most effective ways to make America’s housing healthier…evaluating existing housing, health, energy, and environmental programs. 

President Obama received a letter from 36 U.S. Representatives in support of PAMTA, the Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act.  The bill would end the use of antibiotics in the feed and water of livestock and poultry that are not sick, a practice that leads to antibiotic-resistent diseases in humans. Find HR 1549 at http://www.thomas.gov/cgi-bin/bdquery/D?d111:1:./temp/~bdAOXC::|/bss/111search.html|. (FEED, November 2009)

The Chemical Facility Anti-terrorism Act of 2009 (HR 2868) has been passed by the House and now moves on to the Senate.  The bill would amend the Homeland Security Act of 2002 to enhance security and protect against acts of terrorism against chemical facilities, as well as amend the Safe Drinking Water Act to enhance the security of public water systems, and the Federal Water Pollution Control Act to enhance the security of wastewater treatment works.

S.1697, introduced by Senator Al Franken (D-MN) would require that household cleaning chemicals and similar products bear labels that state completely and accurately all of the ingredients in the product.

Senator Franken also introduced The Nurse and Health Care Worker Protection Act of 2009 (S 1788), legislation that would establish standards for safe patient handling and injury prevention for health care workers.  If passed as written, the bill would require the Occupational Safety and Hazards Administration (OSHA) to minimize manual lifting of patients to the maximum extent feasible given current technology.

The EPA has accepted a petition from environmental and public healthy organizations to immediately begin rulesmaking to ban lead wheel balancing weights.  Lead weights are used predominantly in the tire replacement market to balance tires of autos and light trucks and they represent one of the largest unregulated uses of lead in consumer products today.  EPA acknowledges that 1.6 million pounds of lead is lost each year when wheel weights fall off car tire rims.  Over time, the weights may be ground down into small pieces that can contaminate soil.  Pieces may also be washed into waterways through storm sewers.  For more information, visit http://www.leadfreewheels.org/. (Alliance Alert, August 2009)

Conferences

On January 14-16, 2010, the EPA will host its Annual Indoor Air Quality Tools for Schools in Washington, D.C.  The symposium is open to anyone with an interest in indoor air quality in schools.  www.iaqsymposiumcom/

The Indoor Environmental Health & Technologies Conference and the Lead and Healthy Homes Grantees Conference will occur at the Astor Crowne Plaza Hotel in New Orleans, LA on April 27-30, 2010.  www.healthyhousingconferences.com

CleanMed 2010 is set for May 11-13, 2010 in Baltimore Maryland.  http://cleanmed.org/

The first ever conference of the Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments (www.e-commons.org), Our Environment, Our Health: A Nurses Call To Action, is scheduled for June 7-8, 2010 the University of Maryland School of Nursing in Baltimore.  All nurses with an interest in environmental health should attend this conference.  Get details as they develop at www.nursing.umaryland.edu, then click on “Calendar & Events.”

At the Movies

In theatres or available on DVD:

Sprawling from Grace (2008) takes a look at urban sprawl and the dangerous addiction to automobiles and oil that it spawns.  Think of the costs in climate change, dependence on fossil fuels, and obesity (we ride, not walk).  (The Green Life/Sierra Club) http://www.sprawlingfromgrace.com/

In the same vein, The Great Squeeze: Surviving the Human Project (2008) depicts our dependence on fossil fuels and ensuing consumerism. (The Green Life/Sierra Club) http://www.thegreatsqueeze.com/

The Garden is the story of the fourteen-acre community garden in Los Angeles.  Started in 1992 after the LA riots, the garden helped to create a community and feed families.  When the property was sold to a developer, the farmers organized and fought back.  See the outcome of their story.  www.thegardenmovie.com  

The Mid-Ohio District Nurses Association (MODNA) will host a showing of the movie, Blue Vinyl, on Thursday, January 28, 2009 at the Ohio Nurses Association, 4000 E. Main St. in Columbus, Ohio at 6:30 PM.  Blue Vinyl is the story, as told by documentary filmmaker Judith Helfand, of poly-vinyl chloride (PVC) and hazards associated with its creation, use, and disposal – including the workers who suffer the cancerous side effects of exposure and the communities who are inadvertant neighbors of the PVC-producing manufacturers.  An independent study on the topic will be distributed to attendees.  The event is free to interested nurses; non-members will be charged a fee to receive continuing education credit for the independent study.  Call MODNA at 614-326-1630 or email modna@sbcglobal.net to register.

Coal Country takes a look at the devastating impact of mountaintop removal mining (http://www.coalcountrythemovie.com). A companion book, Coal Country: Rising Up Against Mountaintop Removal Mining, is available from the Sierra Club at https://secure2.convio.net/sierra/site/Ecommerce?store_id=1621&NAME=coal%20country&JServSessionIdr003=pylidc6gi3.app20a.








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