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Petitioning Idaho Department of Fish and Game, Governor Brad Little, United States Fish & Wildlife Service

Stop the Slaughter of Idaho's Wolves

When we thought that things for Idaho wolves couldn’t get any worse... it has. The Idaho Senate has approved a bill that will kill 90% of the wolves in the state. This can be done by means of traps, snares, aerial shooting, baiting, spotlights at night, electronic calls, running over with snowmobiles, and even wildlife killing contests.  There will be no limits on bag or tag purchases. This bill takes wildlife management authority from agency biologists and supports management that is not science-based. Senator Harris regurgitated the same misinformation that has lead to the already horrific management in Idaho, claiming that wolves are causing problems for elk hunters and livestock owners, despite Idaho Fish and Game’s own numbers showing that elk harvests have not changed and in fact there are now more elk in Idaho than there were in 1995. Numbers from the USDA also reflect that wolves do not pose a significant threat to livestock. Under this bill, over 1,400 wolves in Idaho, wolves that are already subjected to year round hunting and trapping, will be slaughtered.  We must urge Govenor Brad Little to veto this bill.  Wolves thriving in Idaho bring many forms of value to the state: from ecosystem rejuvenation to tourism dollars. The majority of Idahoans and Americans support wolf recovery and the need for wolves to fulfill their ecological purpose.  Don't let Idaho kill America's Wolves.

Erika Moore
486,921 supporters
Closed
Petitioning United States Fish & Wildlife Service, International Primatological Society, International Union for the Conservation of Nature, African Wildlife Federation, Freeland, WildAid, Conservation Interna...

Illegalen Handel mit Wildtieren beenden

Hallo, mein Name ist Jane Goodall und ich möchte Sie um Ihre Unterstützung bitten, den illegalen Handel mit Wildtieren zu beenden. Ich verbringe jedes Jahr rund 300 Tage auf Reisen und spreche mit Menschen darüber, wie wir den Tieren am besten helfen können. Aber ich weiß, dass die Kraft der sozialen Medien sehr viel mehr Menschen sehr viel schneller vernetzen kann, als es eine einzelne Person zu tun vermag. Bitte helfen Sie mir den illegalen Handel mit Wildtieren zu beenden. Gier und das Verlangen nach zunehmend seltener werdenden “Trophäen” lassen den illegalen Handel mit wildlebenden Tieren boomen. Dieser grausame Handel treibt die gefährdeten Arten dieser Welt rasant auf ihre Auslöschung zu. Ich treffe in diesem Jahr mit einigen der führenden Vertreter von Artenschutzorganisationen zusammen und ich brauche dringend Ihre Unterstützung, um ihnen deutlich zu machen, dass es Ihr Wunsch ist, dass die internationale Gemeinschaft den illegalen Handel mit Wildtieren mit höchster Priorität behandeln muss. Meine Kollegen und ich vom Jane Goodall Institut haben die schrecklichen Wunden gesehen, die den Opfern durch Wilderei zugefügt wurden. Wir wissen als Vertreter einer gemeinnützigen Artenschutzorganisation, die gemeinsam mit großen internationalen Partnern in vielen afrikanischen Ländern vor Ort zusammenarbeitet, dass die Abschlachtung dieser wunderbaren Tiere grausam und unentschuldbar ist. Wir haben auch den heroischen Einsatz von Rangern unter Verlust ihres Lebens gesehen, die die Tiere gegen Wilderer verteidigt haben: wir dürfen nicht zulassen, dass ihr Tod umsonst war. In unserem Tchimpounga Schimpansen Rehabilitationszentrum sehen wir Affen, die durch tödliche Schnappfallen verstümmelt wurden, Affen, die an Schusswunden leiden und Schimpansen im Kindesalter, die ihren Müttern entrissen wurden, nachdem diese von Wilderern erschossen wurden. Sie werden auf Märkten angeboten, wo Menschen illegal Schimpansenfleisch kaufen können. Die kleinen Schimpansen kommen oft mit schweren Verletzungen zu uns, sind sehr krank und leiden an schweren psychologischen Störungen, die vielleicht nie mehr heilen werden. Und trotzdem gehören sie zu denen, die Glück gehabt haben. Die Kleinen, die es nicht bis Tchimpounga schaffen, werden oft im illegalen Handel für exotische Haustiere oder für den Unterhaltungssektor verkauft, wo ihr Schicksal ein kurzes, einsames Leben voller Schmerz und Misshandlung ist. Dies ist kein einfaches Thema und voller Beispiele dafür, was der Druck der Armut, fehlende Möglichkeiten des Vollzugs von Schutzrechten, staatliche Korruption und die unreflektierte Nachfrage nach wildlebenden Tieren oder deren Produkten durch Konsumenten in aller Welt anzurichten imstande sind. Der unmenschliche Brauch, in das natürliche Habitat von geschützten Tieren einzudringen um sie zu fangen oder zu töten, um bestimmte Teile zu verwerten, zerstört die kostbarsten Arten unserer Erde, und er muss aufhören. Die Fakten, die die Dringlichkeit dieser Krise verdeutlichen: 35.000 Elefanten werden jedes Jahr für ihr Elfenbein getötet. Die Wilderei von Nashörnern ist zwischen 2007-2014 um 9.000% gestiegen. 73 Millionen Haie werden jedes Jahr ihrer Flossen wegen getötet. Eine Studie von 2014 zeigte, dass es wahrscheinlich nur noch 3.200 wilde Tiger in Asien gibt. Jährlich werden 3.000 Menschenaffen (auch Schimpansen) illegal getötet oder aus der Wildnis gestohlen. Diese Zahlen sind Schätzungen, die auf Populationsgrößen basieren, die es nicht einmal mehr gibt, denn jährlich sind es weniger und weniger Tiere, die überhaupt gejagt werden können. Das Jane Goodall Institut hat nun die großangelegte Jane’s Traffic Stop Kampagne gestartet, um diesen Handel zu beenden. Bitte seien Sie ein Teil davon! Es ist unsere Hoffnung, dass wir einen Beitrag leisten werden, der Wilderei endgültig ein Ende zu setzen, indem wir eine riesige Gemeinschaft von Unterstützerinnen und Unterstützern in den sozialen Medien aufbauen, die im Kampf gegen die Gewalt kontinuierlich die Entscheidungsträger in die Verantwortung nehmen. Ich glaube fest daran, dass wir - vom majestätischen Elefanten bis hin zum kleinsten Schmetterling – vom Aussterben bedrohte und gefährdete Arten wertschätzen und zelebrieren sollten, damit sie in Ruhe leben können... wild und frei. Das kann nicht eine Person allein erreichen. Und wir brauchen Unterstützung. Diese Bewegung braucht Sie! Erheben Sie sich gegen den Handel mit wildlebenden Tieren, indem Sie diese Petition zeichnen und so Ihre Unterstützung zeigen. Und helfen Sie mir dabei diese hoffnungsvolle Botschaft weiterzuverbreiten und z.B. an die IUCN beim World Conservation Congress, an die International Primatological Society auf ihrem zweijährlichen Kongress und vor allem an CITES bei der CoP17 Konferenz in South Africa im September diesen Jahres, zu überbringen. Wir müssen der Welt erzählen, dass wilde Tiere nicht auf der Erde sind, um bis zu ihrer Auslöschung gejagt zu werden und stückweise als Beute oder Trophäen verkauft zu werden. Wir dürfen das Geschäft mit der Wilderei nicht unterstützen, wir müssen bewusster einkaufen und es vermeiden, illegale Tierprodukte zu kaufen oder Unternehmen zu unterstützen, die das tun. Jeder und jede von uns ist nur eine Stimme in dem Kampf um die Beendigung der Wilderei, aber wenn Sie mir alle kollektiv beistehen und Ihre Stimme erheben, dann wird unsere Botschaft unmöglich zu überhören sein. Ich werde eng mit unseren Partnern zusammenarbeiten, um sicherzustellen, dass die Unterschriften dieser Petition weiteren Druck und Erfolg in diese internationale Bewegung bringen, um die Wildtiere zu retten. Unterschreiben Sie jetzt diese Petition und werden Sie Teil meiner Kampagne. Wir werden Sie mit Informationen über weitere Aktionen in den kommenden Wochen und Monaten auf dem Laufenden halten. Ich danke Ihnen. -Dr. Jane Goodall www.janegoodall.de

Jane Goodall
320,088 supporters
Petitioning U​.​S. Fish and Wildlife Service, United States Fish & Wildlife Service

For Felicia- let bears be bears

Grizzly bear 863 (commonly referred to as “Felicia”) and her two cubs born earlier this year have been living alongside the Togwotee Pass in the Bridger-Teton National Forest, east of Moran, WY. Under the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), local agencies are currently hazing this bear family via loud noise(s), rubber bullets, trained dogs, and other means to move her from the roadside where tourists, photographers, and highway travelers have been viewing the family. The narrative that the Fish and Wildlife Service is using, calling this family a so-called “dangerous situation” is – to put it bluntly - absurd. In a release from USFWS out of Denver it was explained that hazing will continue through the end of June 2021, at which time a decision to relocate or euthanize the bears will be made. A source from local agencies, currently tasked with hazing the family of bears has indicated their ultimate goal is euthanasia. This is unacceptable. The bear is located on public land and has done nothing “wrong,” she and her offspring have the misfortune of existing in a place where wildlife managers are choosing not to deal with traffic problems and have been quoted among many (who are willing to fill out affidavits to these testimonies) that they “don’t feel like dealing with the traffic” or “the bear.” This bear has shown zero signs of aggression, has not sought out human food rewards, or posed a problem with residents or campers. This bear family simply grazes along the roadside, peacefully eating planted clover as this appears to be a preferred food choice. Additionally, numerous sows have sought out the roadside for protection to rear their cubs. This behavior has been very well-documented, as reports show that it protects the mother and her cubs from nearby large grizzly bears. When did it become unacceptable for bears to simply exist near the roadside in a national forest? There is absolutely no reason to euthanize (or even relocate) this federally protected bear or her cubs. We all know if this bear and her cubs are relocated there are countless dangers associated with the process and there is a high likelihood that one or more of these bears would not survive. Not to mention that after a second relocation she, and any offspring, would be on their “last strike.” If they were to ever approach roads or humans the next step would be euthanization. The narrative that this is a traffic issue or a safety issue for people present in the area is unacceptable. This situation is not the result of people admiring bears but because of inadequate and inefficient bear management by a government agency that does not wish to manage the bear the way the national parks do. This is completely intolerable, and I implore you to do better. The local community in Jackson has deep pockets and thousands of people who care greatly about the wildlife, especially grizzly bear 863 (“Felica”) and her cubs. The community is capable of raising funds to implement bear management personnel on Togwotee Pass, similar to those in GTNP. This option has been proposed to local agencies, who promptly dismissed it. Can you honestly tell me that you would rather kill a bear with babies than allow locals to implement a process they are willing to fund that would help mediate between both sides, and aid in bear management? Ultimately, if murdering this bear and her two cubs is the direction that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service takes, it will be documented and recorded which will become a PR nightmare for all agencies involved. The killing of a bear that has brought joy to many tourists will not be one the public will forget, and the local community will work hard to ensure that such an abuse is remembered and learned from.

Felicia 863
34,033 supporters
Petitioning Environmental Protection Agency, Indiana State House, Indiana State Senate, President of the United States, United Nations Environment Program, National Wildlife Federation, United States Fish & Wi...

Save The Wetlands

“A new bill proposed this legislative session would repeal the state’s wetlands law, stripping protections for many of the wetlands that still exist across Indiana. Those who support Senate Bill 389 say it’s needed to remove red tape for builders and developers.” - Indy Star, January 25, 2021 Wetlands are highly productive and biologically diverse systems that enhance water quality, control erosion, maintain stream flows, sequester carbon, and provide a home to at least one third of all threatened and endangered species. Wetlands are important because they: improve water quality provide wildlife habitat maintain ecosystem productivity reduce coastal storm damage provide recreational opportunities improve the water supply provide opportunities for education Anti-Wetlands Bill 2021 SB 389 would eliminate protection of state wetlands in Indiana, and most of our wetlands are state wetlands. In the 1980’s, it was estimated that only 15% of Indiana’s original wetlands were left.  In 2003 the legislature recognized the value of preserving the remaining wetlands and wrote the state wetlands law. Wetlands provide water purification and critical wildlife habitat and absorb large quantities of water which reduces flood risk. “Update 12:45 p.m. Jan. 25. 2021: Lawmakers passed SB 389 out of the Senate Environmental Affairs Committee Monday afternoon, after more than two hours of testimony and discussion. The final 8-3 vote fell along party lines. The bill will now head to the Senate floor.” —Indy Star January 25, 2021 Wetlands are important because: Wetlands are productive and valuable resources worthy of protection and restoration. Water Quality: Wetlands act as natural water purifiers, filtering sediment and absorbing many pollutants in surface waters. In some wetland systems, this cleansing function also enhances the quality of groundwater supplies. Ecosystem Productivity: Some wetland types are among the most productive ecosystems on earth. A stand of cordgrass in a salt marsh can produce more plant material and store more energy per acre than any agricultural crop except cultivated sugar cane. Nutrients and plant material flushed from some wetland systems during storms provide essential food for plants, fish, and wildlife in estuaries and other downstream ecosystems. Water Supply: Some wetlands help provide clean, plentiful water supplies. (For example, wetlands in Florida's Everglades help recharge the Biscayne Aquifer, the sole source of drinking water for the Miami metropolitan area.) Flood Control and Streamflow Maintenance: Wetlands along rivers and streams absorb energy and store water during storms, which reduces downstream flood damage and lessens the risk of flash floods. The slow release of this stored water over time can help keep streams flowing during periods of drought. Stabilization and Erosion Control:Wetland vegetation binds the soil on streambanks and riparian wetlands, preventing excessive erosion and sedimentation downstream. Specialized Plant Habitat: Nearly 7000 plant species live in U.S. wetlands, many of which can only survive in these wet environments. Wildlife Habitat: Wetlands provide habitat for many species of amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals that are uniquely adapted to aquatic environments. Upland wildlife like deer, elk and bears commonly use wetlands for food and shelter. Wetlands are particularly vital to many migratory bird species. For example, wood ducks, mallards, and sandhill cranes winter in flooded bottomland forests and marshes in the southern U.S., and prairie potholes provide breeding grounds for over 50% of North American waterfowl. Reduction of Coastal Storm Damage: Coastal wetlands help to blunt the force of major storms. For example, mangrove forests in south Florida and salt marshes along the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts reduce flooding, coastal erosion, and property damage during major storms. Fish and Shellfish Habitat: Freshwater and marine life including trout, striped bass, pike, sunfish, crappie, crab, and shrimp rely on wetlands for food, cover, spawning, and nursery grounds. Between 60% and 90% of U.S. commercial fisheries depend on wetlands. Recreational Opportunities: Many wetlands contain a diversity of plants, animals and water features that provide beautiful places for sightseeing, hiking, fishing, hunting, boating, bird watching, and photography. Education: Ecological, cultural, and historic resources run abundant in our nation's wetlands, and provide countless opportunities for environmental education and public awareness programs.      

Leo Berry
31,790 supporters
Closed
Petitioning World Wildlife Fund, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), International Animal Rescue, Florida State Senate, United States Fish & Wildlife Service

Ringling Bros. Plans to Export Their Tigers To A German Circus

Imagine being enslaved and tortured for your whole life. This is a form of entertainment that the Ringling brothers have provided since 1871. Recently they have been shut down and will no longer be performing this vile act of entertainment. In spite of being shut down they have now applied for permits to ship 8 of the tigers to a circus in Germany.  An undercover report published last year described life as a “nightmare” for the tigers. They spent most of their lives packed into tiny cages in parking lots or behind buildings, devoid of water to swim in or room to run. Tigers are solitary, and this closeness led to frequent fighting — many tigers were covered in scars, and others had cracked paws or pressure wounds from living on the unnatural concrete. [Schelling, Ameena. "BREAKING: Ringling Bros. Plans To Ship Its Tigers To German Circus." Thedodo.com, 25 May 2017. www.google.com https://www.thedodo.com/in-the-wild/ringling-tigers-german-circus Accessed 26 May 2017] These animals deserve at the very least to be brought to a sanctuary for rescued tigers not to undergo further abuse in a circus within another country. Please sign this petition so we can get the help that these poor animals need to live a well deserved better life. 

Elle Mackey
12,824 supporters
Petitioning Georgia State Senate, Georgia State House, Johnny Isakson, David Perdue, Gerald E Greene, Sanford D. Bishop Jr., David Scott, Doug Collins, Wes Cantrell, Jody B. Hice, Earl L. "Buddy" Carter, Barry...

Tell EPA We Deserve Clean Air - Cancer Causing Chemicals Being Emitted From Businesses

PLEASE READ AND SIGN! WE NEED TO COME TOGETHER AND MAKE THIS STOP!  Residents Unaware of Cancer-Causing Toxin in Air  By Brenda Goodman, MA, Andy Miller https://www.webmd.com/cancer/news/20190719/residents-unaware-of-cancer-causing-toxin-in-air This story is jointly reported by Brenda Goodman of WebMD and Andy Miller of Georgia Health News. July 19, 2019 -- Ann Singley was trying to muscle her lawnmower out of a ditch in front of her home in Covington, GA., when she felt a tug in her breast. It was a hard lump, and in the days after she discovered it, it didn’t go away. It was stage III breast cancer. Singley, who was 33, was just beginning what would be a long and desperate fight to survive. Her youngest child, Gene, was only 3. “She told me, all he’s going to remember about her is her being sick,” said Singley’s mother, Velma Slaton. The year Singley was diagnosed with breast cancer, 2007, a company now called BD Bard, which sterilizes medical devices, reported releasing more than 9,000 pounds of a gas called ethylene oxide into the air about a half-mile from her home. Ethylene oxide is used on about half the medical products in the U.S. that need sterilizing, according to industry estimates. It’s also used to make other chemicals, like antifreeze. As Singley began her treatment, scientists at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) had just begun a 10-year study to better understand the risks of ethylene oxide to human health. By 2016, the agency had made its decision: Ethylene oxide was far more dangerous than the scientists had understood before. The agency moved it from a list of chemicals that probably could cause cancer to a list of those that definitely caused cancer. The EPA also updated a key risk number for the chemical to reflect that it was 30 times more likely to cause certain cancers than scientists had once known. Two years later, in 2018, the agency used that new risk value for a periodic report that assesses health risks from releases of airborne toxins in the U.S. That report, called the National Air Toxics Assessment, or NATA, flagged 109 census tracts across the country where cancer risks were higher because of exposure to airborne toxins. Most of the risks were driven by just one chemical: ethylene oxide. The highest risks were in 12 census tracts in “cancer alley,” in Louisiana, near facilities that make ethylene oxide or use it to make other chemicals. Other states with affected areas included Pennsylvania, Colorado, Texas, New Mexico, Delaware, New Jersey, and Illinois, according to an analysis of the NATA data by The Intercept, an investigative reporting site. Georgia has three affected census tracts, all in metro Atlanta -- two in the Smyrna area, and one in Covington where Ann Singley lived. The report estimated that around Smyrna, ethylene oxide causes 114 extra cases of cancer for every million people exposed over their lifetimes. In Covington, it estimated the gas causes 214 cases for every million people exposed. The EPA considers the cancer risk from pollution to be unacceptable when it tops 100 cases for every million people who are exposed to a chemical over the course of their lifetime. In the neighborhoods that have been impacted in Georgia, people are just hearing about the hazard --from Georgia Health News and WebMD nearly a year after the federal government released its official list of the hot spots. The EPA decided not to put out a news release, and state regulators did not issue one either. “EPA is not issuing a press release,” wrote Larry Lincoln, director of the EPA’s office of external affairs for Region 4, which covers the Southeastern U.S., in an email message to state officials. As a result, few people who live in the impacted census tracts in Georgia and elsewhere are aware of the threat, which goes back decades. Companies that release ethylene oxide have largely continued to do business as usual. Many are legally allowed to release thousands of pounds of ethylene oxide each year because they received state permits before the EPA lowered the risk threshold for the chemical. “No one wants to believe something irresponsible is going on,” said Tony Adams, a former board member of the homeowners association at townhome community in Smyrna. News that ethylene oxide might be a problem touched off heated debate on the neighborhood’s Facebook page. Maps made in June by the Georgia Environmental Protection Division (EPD) -- which did its own modeling to examine risks from the toxin -- show that releases in both the Covington and Smyrna areas exceed the state’s level of a chemical where health risks begin to rise. That level is known as the acceptable area concentration, or AAC. The AAC for ethylene oxide represents one additional case of cancer for every 1 million people exposed. In Smyrna, the state estimates ethylene oxide emissions are 27 to 61 times higher than the AAC. In Covington, concentrations of ethylene oxide in neighborhoods around the plant range from 17 to 97 times the AAC. “Oh my,” said Stephanie Cargile, as she looked at the state’s maps. “So what do I need to do? Move? I’m not going to jeopardize my children,” said Cargile, 59, who lives in Covington with her two grandsons. The state maps offer only educated guesses about the pollution in the affected areas. That’s because they are based on estimated emissions that are self-reported by the companies. No air testing for ethylene oxide has been done in the neighborhoods around the plants. In an interview, Georgia EPD said it has no plans to do air testing. It also said it has no immediate plans to require the companies to cut their emissions. “It’s far too early for that,” Karen Hays, chief of Georgia EPD’s Air Protection Branch, said in an interview with Georgia Health News and WebMD. “We’re trying to figure out what is actually going on, on the ground. This is modeling. We’re looking at this. This is what we have come up with so far.” When asked whether the EPD had any plans to talk to people about the pollution near their homes, Hays said, “We have not so far.” Proving that cancers have been caused by environmental pollution is difficult, and there has been no specific health investigation of the Georgia census tracts that are at risk. But data compiled by the Georgia Comprehensive Cancer Registry show at least one of the cancers tied to ethylene oxide , non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, has risen significantly over the last decade, especially among men, in the 30014 ZIP code around the sterilizing plant in Covington. That’s the same pattern seen in studies of exposed workers. The EPA’s risk review noted that men who worked with ethylene oxide in sterilizing plants were more vulnerable to “lymphoid” cancers -- including non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma -- than their female co-workers. A lawmaker says he is troubled by the state’s response. “I’d like to see independent air quality testing in the area around Covington that the EPD study says is impacted,” said U.S. Rep. Hank Johnson, a Democrat who represents Georgia’s 4th District, which includes Covington and the BD Bard Plant. “The fact that state and federal agencies have known the dangers of ethylene oxide and have not informed residents is unacceptable. Federal, state, and local officials should work together to assess the dangers these emissions pose to our communities and determine next steps to protect the health and well-being of our citizens.” State Sen. Brian Strickland, a Republican who represents the Covington area, declined to comment. An airborne menace. Ethylene oxide is a stealthy poison. It’s an invisible gas with no noticeable odor in outdoor air. It’s used to sterilize medical equipment because it penetrates cardboard, paper, and plastic, laying waste to microbes like bacteria and fungi that can cause infections or spoil foods. The chemical can snip and scramble DNA, the instructions for how living cells work. Errors in DNA can cause cells to grow out of control, leading to cancer. Workers exposed to the gas on the job got breast, leukemia, and lymphoma cancers at higher-than-expected rates, according to a 2004 study of more than 18,000 employees at sterilization plants. Besides breast and blood cancers, rats and mice that were dosed with ethylene oxide to study its toxic effects got lung and brain tumors, uterine cancers, and cancers of their connective tissue. They also had more miscarriages and breathing problems than unexposed mice. Ethylene oxide molecules disperse in outdoor air, but they don’t disappear for a long time. The chemical has a half-life of about 200 days in air, or almost 7 months. That means it takes that long for just half of the chemical to break down. “It’s enough time that an ethylene oxide molecule that’s released will probably go around the world two or three times before it’s destroyed,” says Richard Peltier, PhD, an associate professor of environmental health sciences at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. In communities where ethylene oxide is steadily released “you’re being exposed to this continuously 24 hours a day,” he says. Documents obtained through lawsuits against chemical companies show the industry had heard about the cancer risks related to ethylene oxide as early as the 1980s. At a toxicology conference in Galveston, TX, in 1981, Marvin Legator, PhD, briefed the audience on emerging cancer risks from chemicals. “The biggest problem chemical we have right now is ethylene oxide,” he said. It would be 35 more years before EPA policy caught up to Legator’s warning.Outrage in IllinoisThere was one place where news about ethylene oxide exploded: the Village of Willowbrook, IL, an affluent suburb of Chicago. The EPA has a regional office in Willowbrook. There, EPA staff had been working for months behind the scenes, before the air toxics report’s public release, to learn whether the cancer risks predicted by that upcoming assessment existed in the real world. The EPA’s air toxics assessment is a cancer risk screening tool. Its conclusions are based on data modeling, not a measurement of chemicals in the air. The regional EPA staff wanted to know how much ethylene oxide they were actually breathing. For them, the threat was personal. They ordered air testing in 39 locations in the neighborhood that surrounds a medical sterilizing plant run by a company called Sterigenics, which had reported releases of hundreds of thousands of pounds of ethylene oxide to the outside air there over more than 2 decades. The results of that sampling confirmed higher levels of ethylene oxide in the air around Willowbrook. he regional EPA staff then asked the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), a specialized division of the CDC, for help. ATSDR reviews the latest science and likely exposures to understand specific health risks to communities from toxic pollution. Based on the levels of ethylene oxide found in the air around Willowbrook, ATSDR’s calculations showed the extra cancer risk for residents was roughly 6,400 cases of cancer for every million people. The EPA considers the cancer risk in a community to be too high when it tops 100 cases for every 1 million people exposed to a pollutant. The ATSDR report came out August 21, 2018. The EPA released its National Air Toxics Assessment the next day. News of the cancer risks spread rapidly. “We found out about the ATSDR report the day after it was published,” said Margie Donnell, a real estate attorney who lives in Willowbrook. “We were told it was never supposed to be made public,” she says. “The village freaked out.” Residents in Willowbrook quickly mobilized, forming a nonprofit called Citizens 4 Clean Air. They raised money and started a Facebook group called Stop Sterigenics to spread the word about the pollution. “Sterigenics has a proven track record of complying with and going above and beyond what the regulations require in the safe use of EO [ethylene oxide] to sterilize critical medical products and devices.” - Statement from Sterigenics Three days after the report came out, the group was protesting in front of the Sterigenics plant. They enlisted the help of Illinois legislators, including Democratic U.S. Sens. Dick Durbin and Tammy Duckworth. By October, the Illinois attorney general had sued Sterigenics in state court. In February 2019, after more air testing, the Illinois Department of Environmental Protection issued an order that shut the plant down. Sterigenics says that the amounts of ethylene oxide it released were tightly controlled and always within legal limits. Just this week, though, state and company officials announced that Sterigenics will resume its operations at its Willowbrook facility after installing new equipment intended to cut its ethylene oxide emissions. The company will face no fines from the state but will set aside $300,000 during the next year for “environmental improvements, or educational scholarships or programs,” in the Willowbrook area, according to reporting by the Chicago Tribune. “Sterigenics has a proven track record of complying with and going above and beyond what the regulations require in the safe use of EO [ethylene oxide] to sterilize critical medical products and devices,” said the company in a statement posted on the Sterigenics Willowbrook website. Donnell says the EPA’s air testing suggests that the emissions the company was reporting to the EPA were wrong. “Self-reporting [by a company] is a guess. It’s abundantly clear that the numbers are just a guesstimate or whatever the company wants to submit,” she says. In other public responses, Sterigenics has questioned whether its operations were the sole source of emissions measured near the plant. It says the EPA failed to account for ethylene oxide from background sources like traffic and construction around the canisters that took air samples. Scientists don’t dispute that ethylene oxide can come from sources other than sterilization plants. But they note that EPA air testing showed that levels of ethylene oxide fell by an average of 50% after the company ceased operations, according to the Chicago Tribune. The emissions plunged by more than 90% in air monitors that were closest to the plant. Sterigenics and other medical sterilizers also take issue with the EPA’s new risk value for ethylene oxide, which finds that the chemical can cause cancer in minuscule amounts. They say the threshold set by the EPA is unreasonable, because it’s a level of ethylene oxide that is lower than the amount found in healthy human bodies. Independent experts don’t doubt that our bodies make some ethylene oxide. But they say even if it comes from normal body processes, that doesn’t mean it is without harm. Peltier says ethylene oxide from industrial pollution adds to what we already have in our bodies. And he says airborne ethylene oxide is a cancer source we should be able to protect people from. “We can control the outside environment exposures. We can’t control the ones on the inside,” he says. In Smyrna, GA, another Sterigenics plant sits tucked into a low-slung industrial area next to The Light Bulb Depot and a doggie daycare. The Garden, a shelter for homeless women and children, is across the street. Smyrna is one of Atlanta’s closest suburbs. New townhomes in the area, which has become a hot location because it’s close to Atlanta highways, are selling for $500,000 and up. There, residents are just learning from reporters that a toxic gas is drifting through their neighborhood. Cassandra Saffold started shaking when a reporter from WebMD showed her a map made by the Georgia Environmental Protection Division. The map estimates concentrations of ethylene oxide near the townhomes, where she lives, at 27 times the annual safe level determined by the state. “This is my major investment,” she said, speaking of her home’s resale value. “What if we can’t get it shut down?” Saffold alerted her homeowners association, and within 3 days, members were posting on the Stop Sterigenics Facebook page, looking for more information. Adams, a massage therapist who also lives in the townhomes, said he, too, was worried about his home’s value, but “I’m more concerned about my health than money. And I like money.” He says he and his neighbors “want to have peace of mind that the air we’re breathing is not toxic.” To come up with its maps, the state worked for months with BD Bard and Sterigenics, using numbers reported by the companies for the modeling. Unlike in Willowbrook, no follow-up air testing has been done. Emails obtained through the Georgia Open Records Act show that as the companies worked with state regulators, they dramatically lowered their own emissions estimates, dropping them from thousands to hundreds of pounds. Sterigenics says it was able to lower its emissions, in part, by better controlling “back vent” emissions that escaped when plant workers opened the door of the sterilizing chamber after a cleaning cycle. Bard says its numbers dropped because testing showed its pollution control equipment removes more ethylene oxide than the company had first estimated. Even using the companies’ lower figures, data modelers at the state EPD found that the estimated ethylene oxide emissions from the Sterigenics and BD Bard plants exceeded the state’s yearly acceptable levels. Smyrna resident John Keller says he is troubled that the state has relied solely on the company for information about its releases. “That’s a mistake,” says Keller, 83, a retired dentist. “They need to do their own testing. Depending on the company to admit to their own pollution is like depending on Philip Morris to tell you about cigarettes.” State Goes Easy on BusinessThe state of Georgia consistently ranks high on lists of the best states for businesses. One reason, according to surveys, is a friendly regulatory environment. “They need to do their own testing. Depending on the company to admit to their own pollution is like depending on Philip Morris to tell you about cigarettes.” - John Keller, Smyrna resident According to state guidelines, a company seeking a permit to operate in Georgia has to demonstrate that its releases will not exceed acceptable concentrations of certain toxins. And even though the models the EPD made followed the same process the state uses to set limits on releases of toxic air pollutants, the EPD said these models won’t be used for that purpose. Emails obtained under the Georgia Open Records Act suggest how the state has been reluctant to provide information to assist federal investigations into Georgia’s ethylene oxide pollution. EPD Air Protection Branch chief Karen Hays pushed back at EPA staff who requested more information on medical sterilizers in Georgia, including how companies were making their estimates for ethylene oxide emissions. Hays said the work was unnecessary and burdensome, emails show. The EPA backed off the request. In April, ATSDR, a division of the CDC, reached out to see if the state had modeled any health impacts from ethylene oxide sterilizers. Emails show that Hays suggested that ATSDR file an open records request to get more data, though her staff had, in fact, been working on those models for months. An EPD manager who works on finding out health risks to people from environmental pollution questioned that federal agency’s report on Willowbrook. “My concern with ATSDR’s recommendations is the assumption that a causal relationship can be easily drawn between chronic exposure to [ethylene oxide] air emissions and elevated cancers in the population surrounding a facility under routine monitoring,” the manager wrote. It’s unclear if the state of Georgia will require either company to take any corrective measures. Sterigenics says it is installing new pollution control equipment in its Smyrna plant, which will make its operations even safer. Hays says she has asked a different department of the EPD to study what its maps mean for the health of residents around the plants. She has given it a deadline of August 1 to report back. State regulators say they are waiting before they take further action, because the EPA may roll back the new, stricter risk value for ethylene oxide at the request of the American Chemistry Council. When Hays read the news that the EPA might be reconsidering its new risk value for ethylene oxide, she responded to a colleague with just one word: “Yeah!” Though the state doesn’t plan to test air in the impacted neighborhoods, the EPD is testing a single sample of air for ethylene oxide at its monitoring site in south DeKalb County. The site is not near any plants that release ethylene oxide. Instead, Georgia wants to see if ethylene oxide may be present in the air from sources like traffic. Georgia state Sen. Jen Jordan, who represents part of the impacted Smyrna area, questions whether enough is being done. “This is bad,” says Jordan, a Democrat for the 6th District. “I’m incredibly troubled that it sounds like they were trying to manage the situation instead of being transparent,” she says. “When we have modeling and a memo that shows elevated cancer risk, why that would not somehow have some kind of regulatory or legal impact on a company, especially when we know what they’re doing is hurting the people that live around them,” Jordan says. Cancer Risks Around Medical SterilizersAt the request of WebMD and Georgia Health News, the Georgia Department of Public Health looked up cancer rates in the ZIP codes around the plants in Smyrna and Covington. The 30339 ZIP code sits next to the Sterigenics plant in Smyrna. The ZIP code covers a slightly different area from the one the pollution was projected to impact, so there’s no way to make a direct comparison. People who live in the 30014 ZIP code are diagnosed with more cancers than residents in Newton County overall and in the state as a whole. -- Data from Georgia Department of Public Health Cancer rates in this ZIP code appeared to be on par with those in the rest of the state. In 30339, the latest data show 474 cases of cancer were diagnosed for every 100,000 people, the same as the statewide rate. While rates of breast cancer were slightly higher in 30339 than in the rest of the state, the difference is not statistically significant, meaning it could be due to chance alone. While higher levels of cancer haven’t shown up in state data in the Smyrna area, the numbers tell a different story in Covington. People who live in the 30014 ZIP code are diagnosed with more cancers than residents in Newton County overall and in the state as a whole. In 30014, there were 527 cases of cancer diagnosed for every 100,000 people, compared with an average of 474 cases of cancer diagnosed for every 100,000 people statewide. The difference between the cancer rate in 30014 and the state is statistically significant, meaning that the increase is not likely due to chance alone. Rates of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a type of cancer linked to ethylene oxide exposure, have recently been higher in the 30014 ZIP code, compared with the Georgia average. Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma rates have been rising an average of nearly 7% each year from 2007 to 2016 in this ZIP code. The increases are statistically significant, according to public health officials. Rates of breast cancer, another type of cancer linked to the toxin, have varied. The latest data show rates in the ZIP code are close to the state average of 127 cases diagnosed for every 100,000 people. But historical data indicate that they peaked in this ZIP code between 2010 and 2014, when 139 cases were diagnosed for every 100,000 people. Over the same time frame, Georgia’s breast cancer rate was 127 cases per 100,000. In a written statement, the Department of Public Health cautions that it is extremely difficult to find out if an environmental exposure has caused cancer. The department says its data shouldn’t be seen as a link between any particular environmental exposure and a specific type of cancer. That’s particularly true in some of the impacted neighborhoods in Covington, which have had documented exposures to other types of toxic chemicals in addition to ethylene oxide. Longtime CompanyAnn Singley had lived in the same neighborhood of neat wooden row houses for much of her life. The homes were built to house workers at the old Covington Mill. Singley grew up, for a time, in a house on Wheat Street, where she lived with her mother and four brothers. She moved back in 1991 when she married her husband, Kelly, a deputy for the Newton County Sheriff’s Office. Bard has a longstanding presence here, too. The company has been using ethylene oxide to sterilize medical equipment in the area for decades. Federal records show the plant, which sits about half a mile as the crow flies from the yellow house where the Singleys lived, has been emitting ethylene oxide to the outdoor air since at least 1987, the first year companies were required to report releases of toxic chemicals to the federal government. That year, the plant reported releasing more than 76,000 pounds of ethylene oxide. By 1991, when the Singleys moved in, that number was down to 35,700 pounds. “Neither Georgia EPD nor U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has asked BD to take any actions as a result of this report, as our ethylene oxide levels … are well below all required levels.” - Statement, BD Bard Those numbers are much higher than current reported releases, but experts say that when the releases were made years ago, less was known about the risk, which means communities impacted by ethylene oxide may have been exposed for decades. The state’s model shows the risks from the ethylene oxide emissions span a wide area in Covington -- more than 15 miles from the facility. Location intelligence company Esri estimates more than 18,000 people are impacted there. In the Covington Mill neighborhood, ethylene oxide emissions exceed the state’s annual safe level by an average of 23 to 34 times. In 2015, the average concentration of ethylene oxide in a neighborhood on the other side of Bard, called Settlers Grove, was 97 times higher than the state’s safe level. That means ethylene oxide in the air could be expected to cause 97 cases of cancer for every 1 million people exposed over the course of their lifetimes. Cancer is common, to be sure. According to the American Cancer Society, one in three people will get cancer in their lifetime, and most will never know exactly what caused it. Some of the risk for cancer can be inherited, through genes. Cancer can also develop because of exposure to something in the environment. Experts who have studied the issue believe that environmental cancer triggers have been overlooked. In 2010, a federal report from the President’s Cancer Panel concluded that “the true burden of environmental induced cancer has been grossly underestimated” and that human exposure to cancer-causing chemicals is widespread in the U.S., where chemicals are untested and “largely unregulated.” In response to questions from WebMD and Georgia Health News, BD Bard issued a written statement: “BD cares deeply for our employees and the communities in which we operate. We are an important part of the Covington community and take our responsibility to be a good corporate citizen very seriously. We continue to take all steps necessary to ensure the safe operation of our facilities.” The company further says that the EPD’s maps are based on computer modeling and not actual air testing. “Neither Georgia EPD nor U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has asked BD to take any actions as a result of this report, as our ethylene oxide levels … are well below all required levels.” Resident’s Asthma, Breast CancerOn the other side of the BD plant, in apartments maintained by the Newton County Housing Authority, state regulators predict concentrations of ethylene oxide are 42 times higher than the acceptable limit. Resident Cynthia Newsome was not surprised to learn her air quality could be compromised. “You just walk outside and your lungs say, ‘Nope!’” she says. Newsome, who is 49, has gotten asthma since moving to the unit she rents there. Her daughter and her two grandsons, who live with her, have it too. They require an arsenal of pills and inhalers to manage their breathing problems. She runs an air purifier inside the house, and she has stopped sitting on her front porch because of her health problems. “I stay sick all the time,” she says. In addition to her breathing problems, she says she has symptoms like skin rashes that she attributes to “weird allergies.”     She’d like to move, but three bouts of breast cancer have wiped her out financially. She was first diagnosed at age 29, when she lived 12 miles away from the BD Bard plant at the Salem Glen apartments. That neighborhood is just outside the state’s impact zone for ethylene oxide. She said she has no history of breast cancer in her family and no known risk genes for it. Many different things can contribute to having cancer and asthma. It would be almost impossible for doctors to pinpoint what led to Newsome’s health problems. Still, it’s rare for a woman to be diagnosed with breast cancer in her 20s or 30s. According to the National Cancer Institute, the chances of a woman being diagnosed with breast cancer between the ages of 30 and 40 are just .4%. That translates to about 1 case for every 227 women. (Ann Singley was also diagnosed in her 30s). Velma Slaton says her daughter always wondered how she got breast cancer. Tests failed to find any genes that would have increased her risk. “I would have traded my life so she could be here with her family and her kids, because my kids were grown. Hers weren’t,” Slaton said. The year after doctors found Ann’s breast cancer, Velma and her twin sister were diagnosed with it, too. They both live in Covington. They survived, but Ann was not so fortunate. After surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation put the cancer into remission, it returned in 2010. Her bones were riddled with it. Her doctor hoped she would make it to Christmas of 2012, but she didn’t. She passed away on Dec. 10 at home. Her youngest son, Gene, was 8.  “It was a horrible experience. I’ve been alone ever since. I guess I’m afraid to start over because something like that could happen again,” says her husband, Kelly. Ann died the day before their 21st wedding anniversary. “If they knew about it, if they knew there was a possibility that it could cause cancer and they allowed it to continue anyway, those people should be punished.” - Kelly Singley, husband of Ann Singley When told by reporters about the ethylene oxide near his home, he said the information was concerning. He recalled his birth mother worked at the Bard plant in the 1970s. She died of a brain tumor when he was 3. “If that’s something that’s going on, if something is causing a problem, they need to stop that particular part of the operation and move it out to unincorporated areas where people won’t be affected by it,” he said. “If they knew about it, if they knew there was a possibility that it could cause cancer and they allowed it to continue anyway, those people should be punished.” WebMD Health NewsReviewed by Neha Pathak, MD on July 19, 2019 SourcesVelma Slaton, breast cancer survivor and mother of Ann Singley, Covington, GA. Kelly Singley, widower, Covington, GA. Tony Adams, resident, of Smyrna, Georgia. Karen Hays, chief, Air Protection Branch, Georgia Department of Natural Resources, Environmental Protection Division, Atlanta. Richard Peltier, PhD, associate professor of environmental health sciences, University of Massachusetts Amherst. Margie Donnell, co-founder, Stop Sterigenics, Willowbrook, IL. Cassandra Saffold, resident, Smyrna, GA. John Keller, lives near Sterigenics, Smyrna, GA. Jen Jordan, Georgia state senator, District 6, Smyrna, GA. Rene McLeroy, resident of Covington Mill, Covington, GA. Cynthia Newsome, resident of Newton County Housing Authority, Covington, GA. Environmental Protection Agency, Toxics Release Inventory, accessed July 15, 2019. Ethylene Oxide Sterilization Association, position statement, September 2018. EPA, Integrated Risk Information System, Ethylene Oxide, July 15, 2019. EPA, National Air Toxics Assessment, Aug. 22, 2018. The Intercept: “A Tale of Two Toxic Cities.” Georgia Open Records Act request to the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, Environmental Protection Division, April 2, 2019. International Agency for Research on Cancer, ethylene oxide monograph, June 2018. University of California at San Francisco, Industry Documents Library: “Toxicology Conference in Galveston,” July 16-18, 1981. Chicago Tribune: “State Finds More Cancer Than Expected Near the Sterigenics Plant.” ATSDR: “Letter Health Consultation: Sterigenics International, Willowbrook, Illinois.” Area Development magazine: “2018 Top States for Doing Business.” Georgia EPD: “Toxic Impact Assessment Guideline,” accessed July 15, 2019. Sterigenics: “Responses to Georgia Health News.” BD, company statement, June 2019. American Chemistry Council, request for correction, Sept. 25, 2018. Georgia Department of Public Health, Georgia Comprehensive Cancer Registry 2019. ESRI, location intelligence company, 2019 updated demographics. National Cancer Institute, SEER breast cancer data, accessed July 2019.© 2019 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved.

Clayton Van Pelt
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