Tuesday, December 28, 2010

My favorite moments of 2010

Looking back at a great year, I can't help reflecting on how much I love being a part of this organization and working with the fantastic supporters who make us what we are.

These were some of the highlights of 2010 for me:

I can’t wait to see what 2011 will bring, and I’m so grateful for all the great supporters who are on board with us for it. Here’s to a bright new year!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Thousands of Americans to EPA: "Ban Chlorpyrifos!"

Today we participated in a nationwide media action calling for the ban of the toxic insecticide chlorpyrifos, a highly toxic insecticide used by the ton in North Carolina agriculture on tobacco, peanuts, corn, apples, peaches and strawberries. According to the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS), the average annual use of chlorpyrifos in NC is approximately 383,000 pounds--that's roughly 192 tons each year. More information on the human health effects of chlorpyrifos exposure can be found here.

EPA already banned chlorpyrifos in 2001 for indoor use, after it was determined to present risks of health and developmental harm to children exposed to it in the home. However, chlorpyrifos is still registered for use in agriculture, and rural children and their family members are still being exposed.

We've spent the past few months collecting signatures from rural North Carolinians in support of a chlorpyrifos ban, and we'd like to thank every one of you who signed the petition this summer!

For Immediate Release


Ana Duncan Pardo, Toxic-Free North Carolina, (919) 818-5933, ana@toxicfreenc.org
Carol Dansereau, Farm Worker Pesticide Project, 206-729-0498; cdansereaufwpp@earthlink.net
Stephenie Hendricks, 415-258-9151, stephdh@earthlink.net

Chemical Threat: Groups Call for Pesticide Ban
Consumers, Parents, Health Advocates, Farmers, Farm Workers and Others Target Widely Used Pesticides Linked to Attention and Learning Problems

(Raleigh, NC) - 13,000 individuals and organizations from across the country sent a letter to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today calling for a ban on the pesticide chlorpyrifos and a phase out of other organophosphate (OP) pesticides.

“Human studies have now linked prenatal exposure to chlorpyrifos with mental and developmental delays emphasizing even more the urgency to remove the product from the market,” said Dr. Theo Colborn, President of The Endocrine Disruption Exchange (TEDX) and a signatory on the letter. “Chlorpyrifos illustrates the urgent need to be cautious, prevent further exposure and protect our children from the time they are conceived onward,” she said.

TEDX also announced today the addition of chlorpyrifos to their publicly-accessible on-line database, “Critical Windows of Development”, spotlighting animal research that links prenatal, low-dose chlorpyrifos exposure to altered health outcomes in the brain and other organs.

Dr. David Carpenter, M.D. and Director of the Institute for Health and the Environment at the University of Albany said, “It is unacceptable that farm worker children, and children in the general population continue to be exposed to these neurotoxins.”

“As more families cope with the suffering and costs of learning and developmental disabilities and attention problems, EPA must prevent further exposures to neurotoxic pesticides,” said Maureen Swanson of the Learning Disabilities Association of America.

"The last time EPA reviewed these pesticides, its own scientists complained that the Agency was not assuring adequate protection of the nation's children, and that it was unduly influenced by those it regulates," said Dr. William Hirzy, a professor at American University in Washington D.C. and a former EPA chemist. While at EPA, Hirzy was involved in a letter raising these concerns sent to management by six unions representing 9000 EPA scientists and other staff, as the Agency was finalizing its Cumulative Risk Assessment for organophosphates in 2006. "Five years later, with even more sobering studies in hand, will EPA finally act to protect children?" Hirzy asked.

“The warning signs have been obvious for decades, yet EPA has allowed generation after generation to suffer exposures and consequences,” said Carol Dansereau, Executive Director of the Farm Worker Pesticide Project, a Washington State farm worker organization that initiated the letter to EPA. “EPA is promising to better protect children and other vulnerable people, but that promise is meaningless as long as it keeps reregistering chlorpyrifos and other organophosphates, ” she said. FWPP and others are asking the public to contact EPA and join in demanding a ban, and the implementation of precaution-based policies.

“Unfortunately chlorpyrifos and other organophosphates do not stay where sprayed. They evaporate and move with wind and fog. That’s how they contaminated our fields,” said Larry Jacobs of Jacobs Farm/Del Cabo, an organic grower in California. “There are better ways to manage insect pests than depending on organophosphates like chlorpyrifos. We signed onto the letter to EPA to protect our health and to protect our farm.”

EPA is in the process of considering re-registration for chlorpyrifos, one of the most widely used pesticides in agriculture in the US and worldwide.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Toxic Free NC Teaming up with Locopops for Labor Day Fiesta!

Raleigh, NC - Toxic Free North Carolina will be the special guest at Locopops' Fifth Anniversary Party on September 6th from 4:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. at the Raleigh store on Hillsborough St. The Raleigh celebration is one of three being held simultaneously at Locopops stores around the Triangle.

Raleigh neighbors will be stopping by between cookouts and pool parties to enjoy a Locopop and learn about Toxic Free NC's work fighting pesticide pollution in North Carolina. All of the proceeds from the event will go to benefit Toxic Free NC, North Carolina's only organization working to put people before pesticides!

When: Monday, September 6th, from 4:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m.

What: A PARTY to celebrate Locopops' 5th year in business!

Where: Locopops, 1908 Hillsborough St., Raleigh, NC

Who: Hosted by Locopops Head Chef Timothy Fletcher and Toxic Free NC

About Toxic Free NC:

Toxic pesticides are over-used in North Carolina and around the world, polluting the food we eat, the water water we drink, and ultimately, our bodies. Toxic Free NC fights pesticide pollution in North Carolina by advocating for common-sense alternatives that protect our health and environment.

Toxic Free NC’s one simple goal is to get rid of pesticide pollution in our water, our food and our bodies.
We work together with those who care about the environment and our health to make our communities safer. You can find more information about our programs, including Toxic Free Kids and Just and Sustainable Agriculture, at www.toxicfreenc.org or by calling 1-877-NO-SPRAY.

About Locopops:

When Locopops opened its doors in May of 2005 in Durham, the customers who first happened in were from the bordering neighborhoods. Locopops quickly became a part of the community in a way we hadn’t anticipated - putting a whole new spin on how we thought about our business and what we wanted to accomplish. The community is good to us, so we strive to be good to the community. We actively support community groups, PTA’s, student groups, animal shelters and other non-profits through fundraising activities, donations, and public art space. Learn more at: www.ilovelocopops.com.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Get you some bug art

Thanks so much to everyone who came out to the Love Bug art show & benefit for Toxic Free NC, and to all the volunteers, artists and sponsors who made it AWESOME!

If you missed the show, or went home without some wonderful new bug art tucked under your arm, here's your chance! There's still Love Bug art for sale through the month of August. View the galleries here, or stop on by Epona and Oak before August is out to view these pieces in person.

We are also auctioning off the three remaining pieces from the finalist round! Check them out below, make a bid, and thanks for supporting us - all proceeds go to Toxic Free NC's work fighting pesticide pollution in NC.

"Caterpillar Party," by Paul Dumlao
8.5x11, ink on paper
Bid on this drawing

"Butterfly Queen of Hearts," by Pete Sack
8x10, ink and watercolor on paper
Bid on this drawing

"PBR Bug Party," by Bart Cusick
8x10, ink on paper
Bid on this drawing

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

LoveBug People's Choice Winner Announced!

Local artist Sean Kernick wins by landslide, earns seat in finalists round

Contact: Ana Duncan Pardo, Toxic Free NC
(919) 818-5933 | ana[at]toxicfreenc.org

Raleigh, NC – Yesterday Toxic Free North Carolina announced the winner of the LoveBug People’s Choice poll. Raleigh artist Sean Kernick won the online poll by a significant margin, and will be given an automatic seat in the finalists round of the art competition. Ten LoveBug competitors created insect self-portraits for a week-long People’s Choice campaign on Facebook. All the artists’ self-portraits can be seen on Toxic Free NC’s Facebook page.

People's Choice Artist Sean Kernick is available for interviews.
Please contact Ana Duncan Pardo for more information.

LoveBug is a combination live on-street art competition and gallery opening hosted by Toxic Free NC at Epona & Oak in downtown Raleigh’s City Market. This year LoveBug has garnered support from a variety of local business sponsors, including Burt’s Bees Greater Good Foundation, Whole Foods, Empire Eats, Locopops, Visual Arts Exchange and many others, and the 2010 artist line-up includes local notables David Eichenberger, Amy Sawyer and Bart Cusick.

LoveBug will kick off on First Friday, August 6 at 6 p.m. with a young artist’s round, followed by two grown-up rounds.
The competitor whose art receives the highest total bid wins, and in the evening the two finalists will compete with the People’s Choice winner to create a buggy masterpiece; sold auction-style. The artist whose piece earns the highest bid wins!

All proceeds from the event will go to Toxic Free NC to support their ongoing work to get toxic pesticides out of North Carolinians’ air, water, food and bodies.

August 6, 2010 (First Friday) 6 p.m. to 10 p.m.

Epona & Oak, 329 Blake St. City Market (map)

Participating artists:
David Eichenberger; Amy Sawyer; Chris Norris; Sean Kernick+; Paul Dumlao+; Casey Porn*; Bart Cusick+; Catherine Hannah+; David Welch+; Pete Sack; Patrick Hitesman+; Wesley Hare; Kiki Farish*; Denee’ Black*; Rosalynn Villaescusa*; Desiree Peterson*; Sherri Pekks*; Samantha Henneke*; Bruce Gholdon*; Ann Marie Kennedy*; Christina Preher*; Eliza Campbell Kiser*; Jeremy Bond*; Becky Wofford-Waehner*; Ginger Gehres*; Terri Reiser*; Robert Shertz*
* = exhibit only + = exhibit & First Friday Competition

About Toxic Free North Carolina
Toxic pesticides are over-used in North Carolina and around the world, polluting our food, water and our bodies. Toxic Free NC fights pesticide pollution in North Carolina by advocating for common-sense alternatives that protect our health and environment. We are an independent non-profit organization -- North Carolina’s only organization working to put people before pesticides. Learn more at www.toxicfreenc.org.


Monday, July 12, 2010

Agrarian Road Trip with the Presbyterian Hunger Program

Guest post by Toxic Free NC Intern Laura Valencia.

After interning with Toxic Free NC in the summer of 2009, working specifically on farm worker advocacy, I was left with the nagging sensation that the global food system was seriously ill. I learned first-hand about the symptoms of the sickness through sharing stories with farm workers who provide much of the labor that keep the food system chugging along. Pesticide exposure, poor housing, and unsafe working conditions were just a few aspects of the status quo that I not only heard about, but saw with my own two eyes. It wasn’t hard to come out of the summer with the idea that the food system is an unbridled beast, a problem that neither law nor economy would be able to fix.

Then, in the spring of 2010 I heard about the Presbyterian Hunger Program’s Agrarian Road Trip to the US Social Forum. Although the name is a total mouthful, the idea is quite simple: get together 15 people from across the country to road trip through eight states and visit just and sustainable agricultural projects. Or, in other words, my dream vacation. This trip gave me the opportunity to see the local agriculture movement as up close and personal as I saw the problems with conventional agriculture, and learn about much needed local solutions to national and global problems!

We toured from Louisville, KY to Detroit, MI by way of Berea KY, Maryville TN, Asheville NC, Wytheville VA, Mullens WV, and Youngstown & Cleveland OH (map). I’d like to report on the NC projects that our group visited and commend your state on a fantastic variety of agrarian projects!

The Veteran’s Restoration Quarters and Transitional Housing in Asheville, NC is a converted Motel 8 with over 150 rooms. According to Director Michael Reich, the facility is in the top 5 of 600 similar facilities in the United States, evidence that they run a tight ship! One project, the Victory Garden, was started by two current residents who asked for a garden when they moved in. They now work a large piece of land sunrise to sunset every day of the week. This victory garden not only provides food to the men’s quarters, but also to the women’s quarters in the city. The two men also run a weekly tailgate market to support their project! Produce also goes to the culinary classes where other veterans work to develop skills. The Victory Garden serves the community: it is not divided into plots for different people, it is a garden that is completely communal. While giving us a tour, the men mentioned their composting initiatives and also their use of IPM. In the photo to the left, Ed, a resident of the Veteran’s Restoration Quarters talks with Talitha, a Road Tripper from California. If you look closely, you can see a patriotic scarecrow in the background!

The Free Store at Warren Wilson College was started in 1999 as a part of Warren Wilson College’s super progressive recycling program. As a college student, I was blown away by WWC’s initiatives across campus: local food advocacy in the cafeteria, sustainable ag practices taught in the classroom, and an eco-dorm for leisure activities! As a college student, I am also sensitive to big-budget college spending vs. small-budget college student saving. The project that I saw that really appeared to not only be cutting-edge environmentally but also progressive socially was the Warren Wilson Free Store. The Free Store is an initiative to divert waste from the landfill – the message on their website is clear: “If you have some stuff you want to get rid of, no matter what it is, and you think that someone else might still be able to use / salvage it, bring it down.” Shelves upon shelves are filled with half-used shampoos, old cell phone chargers, dirty shoes, and suitcases. Just about everything a college student would throw away is found there, and more! I even picked up a “Warren Wilson Admissions” polo shirt. This project is part of WWC’s awesome recycling program, which you can check out here.

Our group spent the night at Warren Wilson College and had the pleasure of making Marc Williams’, local ethnobotanist, acquaintance. Marc led us through a meal that used over 30 ingredients, the vast majority local and harvested just that day. The menu included: herbal tea of monarda, spearmeint, sassafras leaves; pesto of lamb’s quarter and basil; garden salad with more lamb’s quarter and lettus, garnished with day lilies and monarda (left); and for dessert, juneberry-blackberry cobbler. Marc Williams, our favorite genius, is an ethnobotanist, teacher, chef, and farmer who went to Warren Wilson College and Appalachian State University. He is leading an online course that is donation based and based on the book Botany in a Day. Check it out!

One last story I’d like to tell is about a lunch our group shared in Brevard, NC at Fred and Elizabeth Bahnson’s homestead. Because our trip was sponsored by the Presbyterian Hunger Program, we often spent time with theologians and learned specifically about faith-based organizing around the local foods movement. The Bahnson couple, who are building an eco-house just up the hill from their gravity-fed edible forest and permaculture garden (idyllic, no?) are both theologians who met at Duke Divinity. My fellow roadtripper Bethel (her blog here) describes the Bahnson’s projects with detail:

Where the Bahnsons live is actually a microclimate in the midst of the mountains – a tropical rainforest, receiving nearly 80 inches of rain each year – as much as Seattle. As they build their new house, the Bahnsons have planned to harvest the rainwater, situating their catchment system on top of a hill – to gravity-feed to their biointesive growing beds. In addition to rainwater catchment, Fred has designed swales on the contour of the land to irrigate native fruit trees and prevent erosion on the steep slope on which their farm is southerly-facing. Other highlights of their farm-to-be are living mulches that fix nitrogen (lupine) and accumulate other deep nutrients (comfrey), as well as growing their own grains (Hopi blue corn for grinding). Elizabeth is currently dreaming of a goat dairy.

If you are interested in the connection between food and faith, check out an article Fred Bahnson co-wrote for the organization he founded, the Anathoth Community Garden. He points out, as many agrarian theologians do, that human and humus are not so far apart, a fact often supported by the Bible’s stories. The Bahnson’s are a living example of a desire to serve the soil rather than dominate it.

Monday, June 28, 2010

reflections on farm work in the heat of the summer

I went berry picking this past Sunday afternoon at Vollmer Farm, a certified organic former-tobacco-farm about 45 minutes northeast of Raleigh. Berries are among my very favorite foods in the whole wide world. So, inspired by the season's bounties - blackberries & blueberries & even a few strawberries - I organized this little berry picking trip with a couple friends. Only one big problem: Sunday was blazing hot with a heat index of 105 degrees, and we went in the hottest midday hours. Whew, not so smart! Under hats, sunglasses and sunscreen, we picked sluggishly for an hour or so, rested often in the shade, then retreated to showers and air conditioning as soon as we'd picked enough to justify the trip. (Photo by Kate Pattison. The author picking blackberries at Vollmer Farm.)

Even with the heat, picking berries was pretty pleasant work - sometimes I was close enough to my friends to chat, and the rest of the time I was alone with my thoughts and the beautiful - if sweltering - day. Being on a certified organic farm, I had no qualms about pesticide exposure as the breezes cooled my bare arms and legs, and as I taste tested the different berry varieties. But, as I squatted and stooped and sweat, I thought a lot about farm workers. Here I am, an "agritourist," picking berries by my own choice, on the farm of my choice, no more or faster than I feel like, and I get to go home whenever I want....and even I am pretty uncomfortable, feeling pretty paranoid about sunburn and getting enough water. What would it be like if this was my job, if I picked berries all day long?

Toxic Free NC Leadership Council member Melissa Bailey wrote an email this weekend about her work with youth farm workers in Eastern NC that I'm sharing some of here with her permission, because she writes so eloquently about this issue.
My team and I have spent a very grueling week. I say this humbly because getting in and out of air conditioned vehicles and sweating an hour under the tin roofs of mobile homes/housing is nothing compared to what agricultural laborers suffer in heat indexes that are now regularly between 105-110 degrees.

The situation causes me to reflect about real climate change and if we can expect similar heat waves over this and future summers. It also raises questions about just how hot it can get and for how long. In short, we all dread August at this point (us and the workers).

I recall a conversation I had with a colleague and very good friend last season when children were experiencing breathing problems and our youth were losing weight quickly with some only getting as far as the cool porch floors or shaded areas in their shorts before they fell into exhausted sleep/rest.

She told me about what it is like when you breed prize animals, in this case, dogs. She recounted the importance to the owners that the animals remain disease and illness-free. She discussed the thousands of dollars some breeds can bring to the owners in income. She explained that the animals had air conditioners, regular physical examinations and were only exercised/trained in the early mornings
and late evenings. We talked about hydration and diet.

I felt sick to my stomach at the comparison. To this day it resonates. I understand the differences. I know people are supposed to seek their own medical attention, their own air conditioning, their own safety levels while in the fields. The
problem is, we all know they don't. Not because they don't care. But because they don't want to miss work, appear weak, or anger the contractor/grower. In short, they desperately, desperately need their jobs.

They need to work so badly they are willing to work in dangerous heat indexes for 8-12 hours, in conditions where contractors/growers can be found at the edge of the field with the water and sitting in their air conditioned trucks/vans. I know this because I drive by it every day I'm out there. Anyone who thinks otherwise is extremely naive.

A few camps only work until noon. The common thread in those camps seems to be that the grower/contractor won't put his workers in the field if he/she is not willing to work under the same conditions. One would think that the human condition would provoke this kind of behavior. Unfortunately, these contractors/growers are a minority.

This heat is so dangerous. It isn't Texas heat or Mexico heat. It's a humid heat that provokes every drop of moisture from your body. In time you stop sweating and you start to feel cool, then you begin to shake. If you don't understand what is happening, you say things like, "My body is used to the temperature now," and maybe you don't drink anything else because you're afraid you'll start sweating again...

Why? Obviously the injustice nags at me but I guess the larger question of how did we ever get to the point that we could so completely dehumanize the labor necessary for our food supply is the larger question. What happened? And how in the world can we keep this from slipping further and further into a time when we just buried them and bought more?

I have to go now. (...) I love my job, even in 107 degree heat indexes. I get to take them (the workers) water and fresh fruit and take them to the clinic and even call the occasional ambulance. I can't really teach anything. They fall asleep too quickly. But still, I go and sweat with them. It seems like the least I can do for a situation I am so powerless to affect.
Thank you, Melissa, for the work that you do!

Now for a little comic relief: check out this article about a joint effort between the UFW and the Colbert Report: "In a tongue-in-cheek call for immigration reform, farmworkers are teaming up with comedian Stephen Colbert to challenge unemployed Americans: Come on, take our jobs."

Stay cool, everyone!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Ag-Mart: The end of a long, sad story

A long, disappointing episode came to a close today as the NC Pesticide Board accepted a final settlement agreement in the Ag-Mart case that has dragged on for more than five years. In 2005 the state found hundreds of pesticide safety violations in what would become the Department of Agriculture’s largest enforcement case ever.

Three families alleged that their children’s birth defects were related to pesticide exposure that pregnant workers experienced while working for Ag-Mart on tomato farms in Florida and North Carolina. One of the children died, and another, Carlitos (pictured at right), became a symbol of this case through stirring photography and reporting in the Raleigh News & Observer and Palm Beach Post. An investigation by the NC Division of Public Health could not prove whether the pesticide exposures to pregnant workers caused the birth defects, but found that they were almost certainly a contributing factor.

Today’s settlement covered six points. The state’s attorney provided an overview based on what the state gets out of the agreement, and what Ag-Mart gets. What the state gets:

  • Ag-Mart agrees to dismiss their appeal of the Pesticide Board’s ruling against them.
  • Ag-Mart will pay a $25,000 settlement – that’s $24,000 for this case, and another $1,000 to settle a separate case of pesticide misuse from 2006 that was never heard by the Pesticide Board.
  • Ag-Mart will conduct a pesticide education program for North Carolina farmworkers during the 2011 and 2012 growing season.

What Ag-Mart gets:

  • The Pesticide Board will make a public statement to the effect that there have been no pesticide violations found on Ag-Mart’s North Carolina farms since 2006, and that Jeffrey Oxley and Ag-Mart are free of any negligence or liability in this case.
  • Ag-Mart’s employee, Jeffrey Oxley, will get to keep his pesticide license, with a 6-month probationary period.
  • The Pesticide Board will amend its ruling so that all violations that were found to be “willful” violations of pesticide rules are now classified as “non-specified.”

All in all, this appears to be a much better deal for Ag-Mart than it is for the state, or for Ag-Mart’s employees. The settlement sends an unfortunate message that the state ultimately will not hold anyone responsible when a preventable pesticide incident has the potential to cause irreparable harm farmworkers and their families. How much worse would a case have to be in order to make the charges stick?

It is understandable that the state wanted to finally settle this case, but the settlement terms seem to be much more about rehabilitating Ag-Mart’s public image than protecting worker health and safety. A 2008 Governor’s Pesticide Task Force examined pesticide health and safety requirements in the aftermath of this case. Some regulations were tightened up around the margins, but larger reforms were rejected, and the funding for educational programs that resulted have all been cut since then in the state’s budget crisis.

One huge question remains unanswered: What is Ag-Mart going to do, and what is the state going to do, to make sure that something like this never happens again in our state? The Pesticide Board’s silence on this question today was deafening.

Update 6/19/10: Take action: write to the pesticide board.

Goodbye, Endosulfan!

One year ago this week, Toxic Free NC joined farmworker, health and environmental advocates around the nation calling on the US EPA to take the notoriously dangerous pesticide, endosulfan, off the market in the US. Read our blog post from June 8, 2009.

Today the EPA announced that it would do just that, to protect the health of farmworkers and wildlife.

Many thanks to all of you who joined the petitions to reconsider the scientific evidence, and cheers to EPA for getting rid of this persistent pollutant!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

on "natural" meats and choosing local & organic

Guest post by Toxic Free NC volunteer Hayes Simpson.

I was forever changed a couple of weeks ago, and will henceforth always practice the “sniff test method” before I begin to cook any type of food with an expiration date!

Here's the story: I went food shopping on a Thursday, went out of town for the weekend, returned on a Sunday afternoon. Later in the afternoon, I chopped some onions, crushed some garlic cloves, and set out spices for the whole chicken that I intended to roast. I unwrapped the chicken, plopped it on a roasting pan while the oven preheated, and Whew! All of a sudden something was amiss; the air was thickening with a fetid odor that begged to be extinguished. First I ran to the bathroom, then to the shamed chicken, which I quickly double bagged and carried out to the garage. But, when I checked the slimy wrappings, the "sell by date" was for that very day!

For one thing, I probably should not have left uncooked chicken in the fridge for that long. Check out this Food Storage Guide. Fresh poultry is supposed to spend only one or two days in the fridge, oops! Us “master chefs” learn something new every day!

But here's a little more background on this chicken… I purchased it from a grocery store where I don't normally shop because they don't carry many organic products. But shop there I did, and seeing no great meat choices in the freezer section, I chose a whole chicken from behind the meat counter display case. It was labeled “natural” and had been produced on a “farm.” I think it was the word “natural” that sold me.

So, what does the label “natural” mean when it is applied to meat and poultry? The USDA says that meat and poultry labeled “natural” must not contain artificial flavoring, color ingredients, chemical preservatives, or artificial or synthetic ingredients, and can only be processed “minimally.” Really, the “natural” label refers to what happened to the animal product AFTER slaughter. This means that so-called "natural" products could contain pesticides, added hormones, or antibiotics! Pesticides and other pollutants build up in the fatty tissues of livestock that are exposed to them. When we consume animal products that have pesticides in them, those chemicals wind up in our own bodies. Unlike microbial contaminants, we can’t "kill" pesticides and other chemical pollutants by cooking them away. For more info on pesticides in food, go to: http://www.whatsonmyfood.org. It seems there could have been quite a few pesticides in that rotten chicken that I thankfully did not eat! (Maybe it was a blessing in disguise.) Too bad I can't "sniff test" for pesticides in my food!

We meat eaters do not have to abandon hope just yet, however! We have the option to shop for local, sustainably produced, pasture-raised animal products. Pasture-raised meat is leaner, higher in Omega-3s, has been shown to help lower LDL cholesterol levels, and is MUCH less likely to contain harmful bacteria and pesticides. This site provides a great summary of research on the health benefits of pasture-raised, "grass fed" meats.

Lucky for those of us in the Triangle area, we are surrounded by plenty of alternatives for purchasing healthy, sustainably-produced meat, poultry, and dairy products. A great resource is the Triangle Meat Buying Club. Members order their meats online from a local farm. Each month, participating farms are listed along with the products they offer. You place an order online, then simply pick up your order from the farmers at the designated pick-up site. This sounds sooo much more pleasant than scrutinizing labels in the meat department of a crowded grocery! And, you can’t beat getting to shake hands with the person who actually helped produce the meat that will soon be on your dinner plate. (The photo above is from one of the Triangle Meat Buying Club's suppliers, Coon Rock Farm in Hillsborough.)

For more information on pasture-based local producers look at the NC Choices site. Another idea to consider is joining a CSA Farm that offers meat, poultry, and/or dairy products. If you feel that this is too big of an expense, consider splitting the cost of a CSA share with a friend or family member. Personally, that is my plan. I was fortunate enough to visit a great CSA farm that specializes in pasture raised chicken. Check out the farm blog at: http://castlemainefarm.blogspot.com.

I know that I will feel much more comfortable adding wholesome, fresh chicken to my meal plans, perhaps some beef tenderloins for special occasions, and I can’t forget the delight of Sunday morning bacon. Perhaps my nose can relax now too!

Friday, May 7, 2010

Friday news roundup

Hello fair ground readers! Here's a little round up of news stories and items-of-interest that crossed my desk this week. Have a great Mother's Day weekend, and please take a moment to take action on our Mother's Day Action Alert - Toxics Reform Your Mom Would Love! - Billie

Farmers Cope with Roundup-Resistant Weeds from the NY Times.
"(...)“You’re having to add another product with the Roundup to kill your weeds,” said Steve Doster, a corn and soybean farmer in Barnum, Iowa. “So then why are we buying the Roundup Ready product?” (...)"
Agencies Pledge to Curb Abuse of Child Farm Workers from NPR.
"(...)Human Rights Watch also criticized the EPA, saying its regulations regarding pesticide use on farms did not adequately consider the special vulnerabilities of child workers.

In response, the EPA said it was working to strengthen its assessment of pesticide health risks, in part to improve conditions for child workers, and expected to propose amendments to federal worker protection standards by 2012. (...)

New Alarm Bells About Chemicals and Cancer from the NY Times.
"(...) It’s striking that this report emerges not from the fringe but from the mission control of mainstream scientific and medical thinking, the President’s Cancer Panel. (...)"

And the backlash: US Panel Criticized as Overstating Cancer Risks, also from the NY Times.

Some local news:

NC Farm to School Program Sees Record Sales from WRAL

MomsRising: Cut Toxics from Our Kids' Lives on the WRAL "Go Ask Mom" Blog

And, the comment war on Toxic Free NC's last post over on NewRaleigh.com - Sayin' No to GMOs. Thanks to Hayes Simpson for the post that inspired that one!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

We're finalists!

Check it out everyone...our documentary short from last summer is a finalist in the EPA Environmental Justice video contest!

We're so proud of the work done by Laura Valencia, our 2009 intern through SAF's Into the Fields summer internship program, and also extremely proud of all the workers who contributed to the video by speaking up and speaking their minds about pesticides on the job! Also, many thanks to SAF and to the folks at Beehive for helping us make it happen!

Stay tuned for further updates, and in case you haven't seen it yet, here's our video!

Friday, April 23, 2010

NC Sustainable Local Food Advisory Council - Meeting #2, Earth Day 2010

The new NC Sustainable Local Food Advisory Council met for the second time yesterday. Here's a little report on the highlights:

Federal food safety legislation - Several members of the Council have been at work trying to figure out how proposed federal food safety legislation might affect small farmers in NC, and representing that perspective in the national discussion. The general sense is that the federal legislation isn't considering the needs of small farmers nearly enough, and that though the Senate bill is better than the House version, neither are great. The Council members asked for materials they can use to contact their representatives about this issue. More info on this issue and how to take action is available from the Carolina Farm Stewardship Association (check out the "Action Alerts" section).

CEFS Farm to Fork Guide - This publication, just released, is the result of a statewide Farm-to-Fork initiative and includes lots of good ideas for the Council about where to start and what topics to tackle. They got a quick summary of the highlights in their meeting, and started discussing its implications. Get the guide from CEFS (right side of the page).

Funding for the NC Ag Development & Farmland Preservation Trust Fund - This Trust Fund is at risk of losing all funding for the 2010-11 fiscal year, and that would be a real shame, because it has been a source of funding for great initiatives in the state, and already in just 2 grant cycles, it has helped many farmers to stay on their land. The Council passed a resolution to submit a joint letter to the NC General Assembly leadership and request that the Trust Fund receive $5 million this year, and also talked about contacting legislators as individuals. More information and how to take action for farmland preservation funding.

Subcommittees of the Council - The Council spent the remainder of the meeting approving a set of guidelines and a structure for subcommittees, which of course they can change later as needed. For now, they'll have three subcommittees. These are not the exact titles, but the topic areas are: Public health, hunger & fighting obesity; land, people & natural resources; economic development & infrastructure. Subcommittees will have to keep minutes, and report back to the whole Council on what they do. I expect that subcommittee members will be posted to the Council's webpage soon. The presentation slides from yesterday's meeting are also posted here.

The general feeling of this meeting was somewhat tedious and bogged down. Discussions and decisions that ought to have been relatively straightforward took a long time to muddle through, and it seemed the main culprit was not so much disagreement, but that "Robert's Rules of Order" weren't working so well for them. I for one really hope that a solution to that problem can be worked out ASAP, because it seems a real shame for a group of such interesting and inspired people to come together, in many cases from very far away, and then to have to spend their precious little time together bumbling through the small stuff.

Future meeting dates have been set for July 22 in Raleigh and September 9 in Asheville. We'll keep on keeping you posted!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

not all germs are bad

Guest post by Toxic Free NC volunteer Andrea Restle-Lay, Moderator of Five Points of Raleigh CSA

Not all germs are our friends, it’s true, and they can turn into true enemies. It’s no wonder H1N1 swept us all into a panic!

I’ve heard lots of stories over the years: a neighbor has MS; my high school friend has celiac disease (a.k.a. gluten allergy); friends and relatives die of cancer; schoolmates started suffering sudden, life threatening peanut allergies and asthma; my own son picked up a cold which turned into an odd, barking cough that went on forever and was impervious to medications. My own research has shown that all these issues may be related to hyper-immunity, or the body’s immune system turning against itself. But why? What is wrong with everyone’s immune system all of a sudden?

One explanation comes from the Hygiene Hypothesis, developed after a failed experiment in Germany in the late 1990s. Dr. Erika Von Mutius hypothesized that children who grew up in poorer East Germany would be more likely to have asthma and allergies than those in wealthier West Germany. In fact, after reunification she discovered that exactly the opposite was true – children in East Germany were less likely to have asthma and allergies! So she developed a new theory – the hygiene hypothesis - that a child’s early contact with dirt, animals and other children exposes them to many microbes and allergens, and this helps their immune systems develop strong and healthy.

There has been much debate in the scientific literature since that time about the validity of this idea, and how exactly it works. There is such a thing as a good germ – in fact, there are billions of good bacteria at work in all of us, helping us to digest our food properly, heal from skin wounds, and more. Overdoing it on the antibacterial soaps, cleaners and sanitizers, not to mention antibiotics, may kill off too much good bacteria and throw our bodies out of whack. What’s more, antibacterial ingredients added to many household products are actually pesticides, with toxic effects on our health and on the environment. More about that in a previous blog post.

Opponents of the hygiene hypothesis point to inner-city populations in the US. Living in more crowded housing and spending more time in daycare should mean higher exposure to germs and lower risk of asthma and allergies for inner-city kids, right? But no, rates of asthma are in fact much higher than for other American children. However, inner-city kids may also face a lot of other exposures that increase their risk for respiratory illnesses – things like diesel exhaust, industrial pollution, and pesticides. Diet may also play a big role.

Some good sources to check out on this issue include:

Jessica Sachs’ Good Germs, Bad Germs: Health and Survival in a Bacterial World

Dirt’s good for kids from the Chicago Tribune

So what can we do as parents to raise healthy children free of immune diseases AND the flu?

  1. Educate your children’s immune system every day by exposing your children to plenty of environmental nuances - (non-poisonous) backyard plants and flowers, fields of weeds and wildflowers, get a kiss from a neighbor’s well-behaved dog, investigate some bugs, pick up some earthworms. Feed your kids local honey every day after they reach one year of age. Let them get dirty and make mud pies in the backyard.
  2. Wait to serve solid food until six months. Start with low allergy risk foods like sweet potatoes, oatmeal and apples but avoid things like eggs and nuts early on.
  3. Flood those little bodies with healthy antioxidants to help their immune systems remain strong, especially after a cold or vaccination when young immune systems are most likely to overreact. A delicious organic berry and local honey yogurt smoothie or even chicken vegetable soup can do the trick!
  4. Join a Local CSA farm and feed your family a variety of fresh, local, organic fruits and vegetables, serve uncooked foods when you can and visit the CSA farm so your kids can play in their dirt, too. (The photo above is of two very happy kids in the dirt at Killen Farms in Pittsboro, NC - courtesy of Jennifer and Jason Killen.) Take your children to the Farmer’s Market and let them try free samples whenever you can. Look on www.LocalHarvest.org for resources nearby.
  5. Don’t use pesticides around children! No matter what you think about the hygiene hypothesis, know that the same argument does NOT apply to pesticides and other toxic chemicals. Children are more sensitive to health damage from pesticides and many other pollutants than adults are, so it’s extra important to keep their environments toxic-free. Try natural methods instead - you can get some ideas for least-toxic pest control methods from Toxic Free NC’s website.
You’re still allowed to make your children wash their hands when they get home from school, though, because not all germs are good germs, either!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Tips for Avoiding Genetically Modified Foods

Guest post by Toxic Free NC volunteer Hayes Simpson

For a long while now, I have carried around an index card in my wallet billfold, which contains a list handwritten by my own dear Mama. The list includes the top fruits and veggies to buy organic (as in the Shopper's Guide to Pesticides in Produce from Environmental Working Group). She also listed fish and shellfish that contain fewer toxins (as in the Seafood Selector from Environmental Defense Fund).

I’m sure that many of you are familiar with these lists and others like them, and they may have changed your buying habits in a big way, or maybe just when it comes to certain staple foods, such as apples, spinach, and potatoes. I'll admit that it was only once in a while that I remembered to check my Mama's list.

But another closely-related food issue has caused me to stop consuming sodas, and to “floor-it” when my stomach is grumbling and the golden arches are beckoning. I am talking about the unsavory subject of GMO’s which until recently brought to my mind visions of acres of picture-perfect, bright yellow, completely inedible corn, and futuristic, square watermelons stacked neatly into a towering pyramid for display purposes.

I was lucky enough to be introduced to some information that really helped me to put my limited knowledge about organic food shopping and genetically modified foods into context. It started when I was shown a clip from the film, Everything you HAVE TO KNOW about Dangerous Genetically Modified Foods.

I learned that, in fact, the crops that are most likely to be genetically modified are corn, soybeans, canola, and cotton. Very few fresh fruits and veggies sold in the U.S. currently are genetically modified, but did you know that there are dozens of common ingredients derived from the big four GM crops that may be genetically modified? In the words of my two year old, “Ewwwww!” So the best advice for keeping GMOs off your plate is to read labels, and know that anything containing one of these ingredients is questionable, unless of course the product is marked "certified organic" or "non-GMO."

The film explains that there are a some very serious health concerns about genetically modified ingredients, including the potential to cause allergies. More information is available at: http://www.responsibletechnology.org They also provide an excellent Non-GMO Shopping Guide (in case your Mama hasn’t already made you one.)

Good luck, and eat well!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Flippin' Ants

Cross posted on NewRaleigh.com

Happy Spring, all.
It's time for birds and bees and flowers and trees, and sadly, a lot of pests too. Nothing says spring quite like looking down the loooong aisle of pesticides at the hardware store, sigh.

But, if you stick with me, I will do my best to get you through the spring insect onslaught without having to resort to toxic and expensive pesticide products! Drop me a line in the comments, or on our website, to request a toxic free tip about your favorite pest.

Which brings me to today's main dish: ANTS.
Flippin' ants. They come in all different sizes, shapes, and levels of annoyingness.

For ants that wander indoors, I've heard lots of natural remedies involving cinnamon or cayenne pepper, but can't vouch for those myself. I have a feeling, though, that no remedy natural or otherwise is going to get rid of ants unless you remove their food source. Like any other pest, ants wander inside to eat something you've got there - often something sweet and delicious in your trash or your cabinet. So, cleaning up and putting foods into ant-proof containers is key. By ant-proof, I mean airtight plastic and glass containers - plastic bags or boxes won't hold against a determined ant!

So, Billie's indoor ant management program goes something like this:

Step one: kill ants.....with soapy water. Let's say there's a train of ants moving through your kitchen. The quickest and most satisfying way to quell the insurgency is to squirt them with soapy water, then wipe them up with a sponge or rag and send them down the drain. They will drown, and what's more, you will clean up the pheromone trails they leave for each other. The "scout" ants leave a trail for the rest of the gang to follow and find your sweet treats, so wiping that up slows them down. *Note: don't wipe up the whole trail before you figure out where it starts, i.e., where they're coming in from, because that is useful information!

Step two: block the way the ants came in. If there's an obvious crack or hole they're using to come in, block it off. A permanent fix is ideal - like caulk or a screen - but anything will do for a temporary solution....even duct tape.

Step three, get rid of all your crumbs and sticky bits. Everyone's kitchen has some. Find them and clean them up! With soap! Then, it's time for the ant-proof containers, as per above. Another quick fix if you don't have enough ant-proof jars/bins/etc: your fridge is a giant ant-proof container, so you can temporarily keep boxes and bags of ant-prone foods like cereal, sugar, or dried fruit in the fridge.

Step four, if all that wasn't enough to foil your ant friends, it's time for some borax ant bait you can mix up yourself. Borax isn't non-toxic, but it's a heck of a lot closer than the bug sprays you can buy at the store, it doesn't off-gas, and it's wicked cheap. You should still handle it with care, and be sure that your borax ant baits are labeled, and kept well out of the way of kids and pets. To make the bait, dissolve 1 cup of sugar and 4 teaspoons of borax in 3 cups of water. Divide the mixture between several small containers that you don't mind ruining - old jelly or baby food jars, little plastic containers, or whatever. Loosely pack the containers halfway with cotton balls or other cotton stuffing. Put the lids on, then poke a few holes in the top of each for the ants to get in. Then, put the bait containers near places where ants are getting in, or near where they've been visiting a lot. It may sound weird, but these baits really work!

For more advice on getting rid of ants, check out these articles from Toxic Free NC: Getting Rid of Ants Without Toxic Chemicals, and The ABCs of Coping with Fire Ants.

Monday, April 5, 2010

This Tuesday: Groceries for a Cause 5% Day for Toxic Free NC at Cary Whole Foods

For more information contact:
Ana Duncan Pardo
For Immediate Release

Toxic Free North Carolina is Recipient of Whole Foods 5% Community Day

Raleigh, NC - On Tuesday, April 6, Toxic Free North Carolina will be the recipient of five percent of the day’s sales at Whole Foods Market in Cary. Toxic Free NC, a grassroots nonprofit fighting pesticide pollution statewide, is also the focus of the Cary Whole Foods Market’s April Community Spotlight. Staff from Toxic Free NC will be in the store to answer questions from shoppers throughout the day on Tuesday.

Toxic Free North Carolina is a nonprofit organization that has been dedicated to fighting pesticide pollution since it was established in 1986. Toxic Free NC’s three-member staff focuses their work on efforts to safeguard child health, protect farm workers from toxic exposures and strengthen sustainable agriculture in NC. Toxic Free NC engages parents, sustainable farmers, consumers and farm workers across the state through popular education, creative use of documentary and grassroots organizing and advocacy.

Toxic Free NC staff members Billie Karel and Ana Duncan Pardo will be available throughout the day at Whole Foods Market in Cary to answer questions and provide information about their work. For more information about Whole Foods Market 5% Community Day call 919-816-8830.


Whole Foods Market - Cary is located at 102 New Waverly Place, Cary, NC 27518-7002.

About Whole Foods Market®
Founded in 1980 in Austin, Texas, Whole Foods Market, a leader in the natural and organic foods industry and America’s first national certified organic grocer, was named "America’s Healthiest Grocery Store" in 2008 by Health magazine. The Whole Foods Market motto, "Whole Foods, Whole People, Whole Planet"™ captures the company’s mission to find success in customer satisfaction and wellness, employee excellence and happiness, enhanced shareholder value, community support and environmental improvement. Thanks to its 53,000 Team Members, Whole Foods Market has been ranked as one of the "100 Best Companies to Work For" in America by FORTUNE magazine for 11 consecutive years. In fiscal year 2008, the company had sales of $8 billion and currently has more than 275 stores in the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom. Whole Foods Market is a trademark owned by Whole Foods Market IP, LP.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Mujeres sin Fronteras - Women without Borders

I am so pleased to introduce the Mujeres sin Fronteras ("Women without Borders") to the blogosphere! It's a privilege to know these amazing ladies in the Kinston area who are starting a cooperative organic farm on land owned by a local church. The group is facilitated by Melissa Bailey, with support from Toxic Free NC's Leadership Council.

The Mujeres are migrant farmworkers with a home base in North Carolina. Ironically, even though they work 10-to-12 hour days, 6 days a week growing and harvesting vegetables all through the growing season, they have a hard time affording food for their families during the winter months. This is a common challenge for North Carolina's farmworkers - in fact, a 2004 study from Wake Forest University found that among the 100+ NC farmworkers they interviewed, "food insecurity" was about 4 times more prevalent than for the US population overall.

The Mujeres sin Fronteras initially came together out of a desire to support one another through those lean months of the year. After talking through their needs and hopes, they decided to pursue a cooperative farming model, since after all, farming is what they know best, and food is what they needed most immediately! From their mission statement:
The Mujeres sin Fronteras (Women Without Borders) has the single goal of organizing impoverished women, their families and youth to create sustainable communities.

We work with those who care about us to:
- Educate people about the need for sustainable community environments;
- Increase our ability to affect change where we live, work and learn;
- Advocate for the resources we need locally to achieve the American Dream; and
- Promote farmworkers as farmers and directly assist with the creation of sustainable food systems.
The Mujeres sin Fronteras broke ground on their new cooperative farm in early March. (At left is a photo of volunteers and youth on ground-breaking-day at the Mujeres sin Fronteras farm site - photo courtesy of Melissa Bailey. The photo above is of a new vermicomposting bin donated to the Mujeres, complete with labels and instructions in Spanish! Photo by Billie Karel.)

There are so many benefits to cooperative organic farming for this group of women. The Mujeres will supplement their families' diets with healthy organic foods year-round. They intend to sell their organically grown produce locally, which will diversify their families' incomes. They are very deliberately involving their children and other young farmworkers in the project in order to connect youth to the land and educate them about food, farming, and sustainable business. Ultimately, what they're doing is so powerful to me because they are building a community based on cooperation and sustainability, instead of exploitation. Their organic farm will reduce their families' dependence on conventional agriculture as an occupation, which exposes them all too often to dangerous chemicals, unfair labor practices, and drastic seasonal fluctuations in income.

The Mujeres sin Fronteras are taking greater control of their community's food supply, and of their own livelihoods, and I just can't say enough about how inspiring they are, and how proud Toxic Free NC is to support them!

You can donate directly to the Mujeres sin Fronteras to support their cooperative organic farm
by sending a check to their fiscal sponsor:
Home Missions and Evangelism of OFWB
2600 West Vernon Ave.
Kinston, NC 28504
(Please make out your check to "Home Missions and Evangelism of OFWB," and put "Women without Borders" in the memo line.) The Mujeres are collecting private donations to use for seed, tools, training on organic farming and interpretation of organic farming resources, and transportation. If you're in the Kinston area and would like to help out at the garden, contact Melissa Bailey at 252-286-7064.

Toxic Free NC is working with rural communities all across the state to get sustainable food projects like this one off the ground. Thank you for supporting our shared work!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

gardeners' tool: what's in your fertilizer??

On Saturday my husband came home from the garden store with a little bag of fertilizer labeled "For Organic Gardening!" I was skeptical. Fertilizer is notorious for being full of other contaminants besides the potassium, nitrogen and phosphorous you want out of it.

The bag directed me to the company's regulatory website to read about the ingredients. That website directed me to this one: The Washington State Fertilizer Product Database. Hot dog!!

I looked up the "for organic gardening" fertilizer and discovered that it contained 37.9 ppm arsenic. Arsenic! Just to put that number in perspective, the EPA's arsenic limit for drinking water is 0.010 ppm. That makes the fertilizer levels more than 3,000 times higher than the EPA's limits for drinking water. It was also full of mercury, cadmium, lead, and plenty of other stuff that doesn't belong in my vegetables. And I want to put this stuff on my garden.... really?

Luckily we have a nice big compost pile in our backyard full of rich organic matter for the garden. We returned the bag of fertilizer (and told the store why we were returning it - they were a bit taken aback).

The good news is that you don't need to buy fertilizer additives for your garden - compost is easy to make at home. The bad news is that fertilizer is full of virtually unregulated contaminants. The Washington State database lets you find out what's there - but only after you've bought the stuff. The USDA should crack down on fertilizer makers. The rest of us can learn about organic gardening and make our fertilizer the do-it-yourself way.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Ambassadors Workshops & Friday News Roundup for 3/12/10

Toxic Free NC's staff is giving three upcoming workshops on Ambassadors for Just & Sustainable Agriculture. More about that program here.
  • Black Mountain this Sunday, 3/14 at 3:30 (don't forget about daylight savings), Lakeview Community Center, 401 Laurel Circle Drive, Black Mountain, NC. Questions or RSVP: ana@toxicfreenc.org.
  • Greensboro next Thursday, 3/18, 6 pm on the campus of Bennett College. Full details on Facebook and Google Calendar. Contact Billie with questions or to RSVP: billie@toxicfreenc.org.
  • Pittsboro on Tuesday, 3/23 on the campus of Central Carolina Community College. Full details TBD - contact Billie to RSVP and get the full details as they become available: billie@toxicfreenc.org.
Want us to come give a workshop for Ambassadors in your neck of the woods next? We love giving these workshops, and love working with activists who are passionate about fighting pesticide pollution and promoting a healthier and more equitable food system in our state. Invite us to give this dynamic workshop to your group/church/class, or just in your living room!

In other good foodie news:

5% Day for Toxic Free NC at Whole Foods in Cary set for 4/6/10

The next meeting of the NC Sustainable Local Food Advisory Council has been set for April 22nd - Earth Day! - in Raleigh. More about their first meeting in Feb. Full details on the April meeting TBA - keep an eye on this website for updates.

Rush Holt (D-NJ) introduces Farm to School legislation in Congress. Here's a video of Holt speaking about this bill in a House committee - nice!!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

herbicide hormone havoc

The Washington Post is reporting on yet another study that shows that the widely-used herbicide, Atrazine, scrambles hormones in wildlife.

In this study, Dr. Tyrone Hayes at UC-Berkeley found that male frogs who as tadpoles swam in water tainted with low levels of Atrazine (within the US EPA's drinking water limits) developed female sex traits. 10% of the male frogs even laid eggs that hatched!

Syngenta, the chemical company that makes Atrazine, continues to stick to their story that Atrazine does no such thing. Every study they've released shows the opposite.

Meanwhile, the US EPA is taking another look at Atrazine, which they re-registered for use in 2006 based on Syngenta's safety data. It seems all this independent research has shown things in a different light. Perhaps EPA will start making a practice of considering independent research - not just the company's own data - when evaluating a pesticide's risks. It would be long overdue.

Friday, February 26, 2010

News Roundup

Hello Fair Ground readers -
Just a quick roundup of interesting - and mostly wonderful! - stories that came across my desk today.

A very well-done blog post over on Civil Eats - Farmers Fighting for their Health - based on a story in The Ecologist - Cancer and Pesticides: "After long battles, three farmers in France have won legal claims that their cases of cancer and Parkinson's disease were caused by working with pesticides. Now they want to help others fight similar cases." Wow!

Smithfield Pork just appointed a new Sustainability Coordinator. Yes, you read that right: Smithfield....Sustainability....weird to have them in the same sentence, no? Here's Smithfield's press release, and a blog post about this move over on Sustainable Food at Change.org. Best of luck, Mr. Treacy - you've got a heck of a job in front of you.

And finally, the Triangle's own Crop Mob is in the NY Times Magazine! They're a group of people interested in sustainable farming who do big group workdays at local farms. The photo at right is of a January crop mob at Okfuskee Farm in Siler City, taken by flicker user quitter. More photos and info on their website - cropmob.org.

Happy weekend!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

America's Most Wanted Toxic Chemicals

by Andy Igriegas
Campaign Director, Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families
Reposted with permission

One way we'll know that Congress is serious about reforming the nation's chemical laws is by how they address a group of extremely dangerous chemicals that are the equivalent of the FBI's "Most Wanted" list: Persistent, Bioaccumulative Toxins or PBTs.

Some of the most notorious chemicals ever studied are PBTs - lead, PCBs, DDT, dioxin mercury, and cadmium. Many PBTs, including flame retardants and the stain-resistant perfluorinated chemicals (like PFOA used to make Teflon), are still found in products we use every day in our homes and places of work.

Persistent, toxic chemicals build up in our bodies and are passed on to the next generation. This is especially troubling to parents like Molly Gray, who want their children to have safe, happy and healthy lives that are free of toxic chemicals that may harm their health.

Molly's concern for this issue is deeply personal. Molly was part of a study that tested pregnant women for toxic chemicals; their developing babies were exposed to these chemicals during pregnancy.

Molly thought she'd test chemical-free because in the five years before becoming pregnant, Molly had done everything she could to reduce her exposure to toxic chemicals, including eating organic food, choosing low-mercury fish and avoiding personal care products with phthalates and fragrances.

Instead, despite taking precautions leading up to her pregnancy, Molly learned she had the highest levels of mercury – a PBT – of all the women tested in the study. And she tested above the national average for other chemicals tested, including phthalates, BPA, flame retardants, and "Teflon" chemicals.

We helped get Molly and her seven-month-old son Paxton to Washington, DC so she could tell Congress that what we don't know about toxic chemicals is harming real people, right now.

Senator Frank Lautenberg, who will soon introduce legislation to update the nation's chemical safety law, expressed concern, saying, " … in essence, the American public has become a living, breathing repository for chemical substances. And when the chemicals…show up on our children's bodies, we have a potentially dangerous situation."

The Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families coalition agrees with Senator Lautenberg. We believe it should be a no-brainer for Congress to put PBTs on a pathway to phase-out when it reforms
the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA).

Unfortunately, even no-brainer ideas have run into trouble recently, thanks to the lobbying efforts of the chemical industry. The chemical industry is trying to avoid action by convincing Congress that the right thing to do is to spend more years "studying" chemicals; chemicals that scientists have already shown to be notorious and dangerous.

Please write to your member of Congress to tell them that real TSCA reform will include taking immediate action to phase PBT chemicals out of commerce.