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PRESS STATEMENT                                                                      April 19, 2017



Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment (UPHE) congratulates Chevron for making a commitment to produce and sell Tier 3 fuels in Utah by the end of 2019 and recognizes Governor Herbert’s support for this move.   If other refineries make the same commitment, we believe there will be a noticeable improvement in our air quality, and a measurable reduction in the many health consequences of air pollution.

Just this week the American Lung Association ranked the Salt Lake metro area as the 20th worst urban area for ozone pollution.  Ozone is a powerful oxidizing agent and has been proven to cause lung damage and increase a person’s risk for heart attacks, strokes, and premature death.  Short-term ozone has also been linked to impaired fetal development and poor pregnancy outcomes which can have life-long adverse health consequences.

UPHE calls on other refiners to follow Chevron’s lead, and do what’s right for our community in reducing air pollution in the state, particularly considering the growing population in the Wasatch Front.



Denni Cawley, UPHE Executive Director, 385-707-3677dcawleyuphe@gmail.com

Global Asbestos Awareness Week

Each year, the first week of April is dedicated to raising awareness about asbestos, a naturally occurring mineral that has been linked to diseases such as lung cancer, asbestosis, and mesothelioma. The latter is a rare and aggressive cancer that forms in the lining of an organ, most often that of the lungs, but it can also develop around the heart and abdomen. Asbestos becomes a risk to health when the material is disturbed and broken into small particles that can easily become airborne and inhaled. Global Asbestos Awareness Week is important because these diseases are completely preventable, and the best way to protect yourself is through education.

So where can asbestos still be found? Currently asbestos is not entirely banned in the United States and can still be found in a variety of products, including potting soil, vehicle parts, and insulation. A current list of allowable uses of asbestos can be found here, but the greatest risk for exposure comes from products installed prior to federal regulations taking effect. The CDC reports that “Current exposures to commercial asbestos in the United States occur predominantly during maintenance operations and remediation of older buildings containing asbestos.” This can impact people working in construction, demolition, plumbing, and the shipbuilding or repair industries, to name a few. And unfortunately even though asbestos is regulated, younger people are still developing asbestos-related illnesses.

Things you can do:

  1. Post on social media using #GAAW or #2017GAAW to help raise awareness
  2. Identify possible sources of exposure in your life and understand the risk
    •  If you have an older home (built before 1970) it might be worthwhile to have your house checked for asbestos, especially before beginning any home renovations
  3. Express concern to your elected officials

Although asbestos is regulated, it is not entirely banned in the United States. However, the EPA announced in the fall of 2016 that it will review ten chemicals for potential future regulation, and asbestos was included in that list.

If you’d like more information or updates on asbestos and mesothelioma, check out the Mesothelioma + Asbestos Awareness Center.

*Content from the Mesothelioma + Asbestos Awareness Center.  UPHE is helping to share this information.


Press Statement: Doctors respond to new Executive Order that Repeals Climate Change Policies

PRESS STATEMENT                                                                      March 28, 2017

*Revised from original following the signing of the EO



The Trump administration is leading us down a path where there would be no turning back in terms of the damage to our health and our environment

(March 28, 2017 – Salt Lake City, UT) – President Trump signed an executive order that would include a review of the Clean Power Plan with the intent to begin a process to repeal the plan that reduces carbon pollution from power plants.  The order is also expected to rescind the moratorium on coal mining in federal lands.  “What the current President and his new EPA administrator Scott Pruitt are proposing, along with the elimination of many other environmental regulations that keep us healthy, amounts to an inexplicable war on public health, and contradicts worldwide scientific consensus on climate change,” says Dr. Brian Moench, Board President of Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment. 

At its core, Pres. Obama’s Clean Power Plan was a critical program to protect public health in two ways–both from reduced pollution from coal and oil energy sources, and from its mitigation of the climate crisis by reducing carbon dioxide emissions, which itself is the most serious long-term threat to public health, and its accompanying pollutants such as nitrogen oxides. The Clean Power Plan came about after thorough research, and years of work and outreach by the EPA.  It provided a flexible approach for states to meet their CO2 emission reduction goals.  The estimated health benefits of the plan are calculated in the billions, and the number of premature deaths from pollution that would be prevented is in the thousands.

Recently, the medical community formally joined the rest of the world’s scientific community in calling for urgent response to the climate crisis.  On March 15, a new consortium of 11 of the top national medical societies was launched, The Medical Society Consortium on Climate and Health. The groups represent almost half a million doctors, about half of all the doctors in the country. Their mission is to inform the public and policymakers “that climate change threatens the health of every American.”

Utah Physicians for a Health Environment asks our state and city leaders to recognize the danger of delaying implementation and speak out for the community in support of the Clean Power Plan.  “It’s time for state and city leaders to take action and stop this downward spiral,” says Denni Cawley, UPHE Executive Director.  “Physicist Dr. Robert Davies has said that we are at the ‘danger zone of climate disruption’.   The Trump administration is leading us down a path where there would be no turning back in terms of the damage to our health and our environment.”    



Denni Cawley, UPHE Executive Director, 385-707-3677dcawleyuphe@gmail.com

Brian Moench, UPHE President, 801-243-9089, drmoench@yahoo.com

Letter Released from Outdoor Industry Coalition for Clean Air to Utah Legislators

OI industry


Letter Released from Outdoor Industry Coalition for Clean Air to Utah Legislator

CLICK HERE For Full Coalition Letter

(January 23, 2017 – Salt Lake City, UT) – An outdoor industry coalition and Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment have sent the attached letter to Governor Gary R. Herbert and Utah legislators last Friday, Jan. 20, in anticipation of the start of this week’s legislative session and recognition of the importance of better air quality for the outdoor industry.

The body of the letter may be found below.  The eleven outdoor businesses that have signed on to the letter include: Alta Ski Area, Armada Skis,  Black Diamond Equipment, Experticity, Goal Zero, Gregory Mountain Products, Patagonia SLC, Petzl, Scott Sports, Snowsports Industry America and Wasatch Touring.




We, the members of the Outdoor Industry, care deeply about our health and believe that good air quality is integral to the success of our industry.  We are teaming up with Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment (UPHE) to bring attention to Utah’s air quality, the impact it has on public health and the outdoor industry, and to influence positive changes to our environment.

The Utah Outdoor Industry employs 65,000 people and adds $5.8 billion to Utah’s economy (Utah Office of Outdoor Recreation website). Many people move to Utah and decide to STAY for the beautiful landscapes and diverse outdoor experiences, including skiing, hiking/backpacking, biking, climbing and much more. Per Utah Governor Gary Herbert’s office: “Poor air quality increases health care costs, discourages recruitment of businesses and talent, dampens tourism, and is a black eye to the perception of Utah.”

We recognize that the quality of the air we breathe is critical to our health and our industry’s future. As a coalition, we are committed to taking action that will help improve and preserve Utah’s air quality, for our employees, our families, our friends and our customers who love the outdoors. With this interest, we support the right of Utahns to breathe clean air, make informed decisions regarding clean air and build a better way of life.

We urge our leaders to please make decisions that create a healthier and cleaner environment.  Our livelihood and our loved ones depend on you.


Outdoor Industry Coalition Members


clean air rally poster



SALT LAKE CITY — Clean air advocates gathered at a press conference Tuesday morning, Jan. 19 during yet another episode of dangerous air pollution to urge state officials to embrace bold proposals to reduce emissions.

The advocates are holding a press conference to inform the public about a major Clean Air rally scheduled for this coming Saturday afternoon, as well as to highlight a new Clean Air Blueprint which advocates have compiled.

Lastly, the clean air advocates will describe several key legislative proposals for which they are urging passage when the State Legislative session begins, within a week.

“Our health and our children’s future is under serious threat by our poor air quality,” says Denni Cawley, executive director of Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment.  “Air pollution affects our children’s brain development and can cause pregnancy complications, acute respiratory symptoms, heart attack, stroke and even death.  We need leaders who will truly speak and act in the best interests of the community.”

Levels of PM2.5 rose above 75ppm when a dangerous inversion hit just before New Year’s Day – twice as high as federal safety standards. In recent days, as a somewhat weaker inversion has settled, Utah has had numerous “yellow” air days, according to official state data, but the independent PurpleAir network has shown many sites with “red” air levels.

Saturday’s “Clean Air, No Excuses” rally – at 1 p.m. on Jan. 21 on the south steps of the Utah State Capitol — promises to draw a significant community of Utahns concerned about air quality. The rally will offer an array of speakers, plus opportunities for attendees to learn how they can become involved in campaigns to fight for clean air.

“The biggest barrier to clean air in Utah is political will and courage. Our ‘Clean Air, No Excuses’ rally is one way to apply political pressure to legislators that want to keep their heads in the smog, while also offering support to those awesome legislators willing to uphold their civic oath to protect the families of Utah,” said Cherise Udell, founder of Utah Moms For Clean Air.

The Clean Air blueprint presented by advocates at the press conference offers a straightforward series of recommendations for policymakers. Advocates point out that for more than 10 years, the air in Wasatch Front’s valleys has been out of compliance with federal safety standards for short-term, small-particle air pollution. The blueprint offers approximately 20 different policy recommendations addressing the three major categories which produce emissions: Vehicles, buildings and Industry.

“Too often, we hear policymakers say that there is little we can do to address dangerous air pollution,” says HEAL Utah’s Policy Director Ashley Soltysiak. “In fact, there are commonsense policy proposals we can and must embrace to ensure that Utah thrives for decades to come.”

Joro Walker, the Utah office director for Western Resource Advocates, added, “The law recognizes that Utahns are entitled to clean air.  Because air pollution along the Wasatch Front repeatedly exceeds national standards, our government is legally compelled to act quickly to reduce emissions of air pollution.  Our Clean Air Blueprint provides reasonable and effective measures for doing exactly that.”

Lastly, advocates highlighted several key proposals that the State Legislature will consider this coming session. One key proposal will be to extend a current state tax credit that supports electric vehicles, which has already expired if lawmakers don’t act. Another proposal would expand diesel emissions testing to additional counties along the Wasatch Front. A third priority is to ensure that the legislature fully funds the portions of Governor Gary Herbert’s budget, which offers several million dollars in new funding for clean air programs.

“Legislators must act with urgency to craft laws and regulations to maintain our clean air, water, and lands,” said Debbie Sigman, executive director of Breathe Utah. “Utahns have demonstrated that they are willing to act and change to care for our health, our children, and our economy. Citizens and legislators alike must make clean air a top Utah priority.”

“Today, we ask our leaders to promote clean air that supports our right to life.  With more than 60 percent of Utahns living in polluted areas susceptible to air pollution, our leaders need to act to preserve our right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” added Jim Catlin, Utah Sierra Club Board Member.

Year-End Report on 2016 Air Pollution and Health Research


UPHE Releases Year-End Report on 2016 Air Pollution and Health Research

Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment (UPHE) released the attached year-end report summarizing air pollution and health research for 2016:

Full report here:  2016 UPHE Air Pollution Research Report

News coverage:  Fox13 News

Research on air pollution’s effect on public health was strengthened and expanded significantly in 2016. Some of the most remarkable research centered on how air pollution contributes to pregnancy complications and impaired fetal development… A common denominator for air pollution’s connection to multiple diseases is the triggering of inflammation, affecting arteries and blood supply throughout the body. Intrauterine inflammation is known to be a pathway for multiple types of pregnancy complications. Air pollution at the level of the Wasatch Front’s annual average increases the risk of intrauterine inflammation by 240%.10  Much higher pollution levels, typical of our winter inversions will undoubtedly increase that risk…

These new research findings should compel Utah lawmakers to address these health hazards with meaningful legislation, going far beyond those of previous years.   UPHE calls on the Utah Legislature and the Governor’s office to make 2017 the year for cleaning up our air.

Key 2016 research include studies that showed:

  • Toxic, nano-sized particles called “magnetites” found in air pollution end up in our brains. People with higher concentrations of the metallic nanoparticles are known to be at higher risk for Alzheimer’s, and the kind of brain damage these “magnetites” can cause are consistent with the disease
  • How the Great London Smog event of 1952 was still impacting people’s health 60 years later.  Those who were infants or babies in-utero when they were exposed to the event (which only lasted 5 days), showed higher rates of respiratory disease measured several decades later
  • The 9/11 dust cloud from the collapse of the Twin Towers in 2001 was associated with significantly higher rates of premature birth and low birth weight. Even short-term exposure is associated with higher rates of pregnancy complications.  Episodes lasting only one to two days can be enough to trigger premature births


Take Action: Keep Pruitt out of the EPA


President Elect-Trump has announced his choice of Scott Pruitt, Attorney General of Oklahoma, to head the EPA.

Given Trump’s campaign rhetoric rejecting climate change and intentions to repeal all of Obama’s environmental regulations, this doesn’t come as a complete surprise. Pruitt has made it the signature of his career to sue the EPA in an attempt to stop or roll back virtually every major clean air, clean water regulation there is, and every and all climate related regulations.

This appointment spells disaster for air quality. A Pruitt led EPA will have direct consequences to the air quality along the Wasatch Front. Please help us in asking Utah Senators Hatch and Lee to deny the confirmation of Pruitt to the EPA.


UPHE members’ statements to be read at EPA public hearing on oil refineries

Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment (UPHE) would like to add our strong support to the statements submitted by a few of our members whose families and loved ones have been directly affected by refinery emissions. These statements will be read along with UPHE’s statement at the Houston, TX public hearing on Nov. 17 (see below for full press release).  UPHE  submitted comments on the refinery rule last year but would like to emphasize our concern over exemptions and loopholes that would allow communities to be exposed to the toxic pollution that we are all trying to work to avoid.

So-called accidental releases, that can take a high share of refinery emissions, would truly amount to the exception swallowing up the rule.   The U.S. refinery industry is more accident prone than those in Europe because we are forcing our plants to produce beyond their designed capacity regardless of safety.  Refinery emissions contain benzene, PAHs (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons) and VOCs such as toluene and xylene, several of which are carcinogens.  Acute and episodic exposure to VOCs can be more harmful than exposure averages.  UPHE has highlighted the danger of these pollutants on fetuses and newborns.  They harm our entire body’s system.

Exemptions on force majeure events and smoking flares cheat communities at risk of the protection they need. Let’s not stop where a true benefit of a strong rule may be found.

CLICK HERE TO TAKE ACTION!  The EPA is taking in public comment until Dec. 19, 2016.



November 16, 2016


On Nov. 17, EPA To Hold Public Hearing On Toxic Air Threats from Oil Refineries

Testimony in Houston Will Address National Requirements for Protection from Air Pollution

Washington, D.C. –   The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is holding a hearing in response to a petition from 11 community and environmental groups challenging the federal agency’s behind-closed-doors decision, giving  U.S. refineries free passes to ignore pollution limits and release uncontrolled amounts of toxic chemicals in certain instances.

What: EPA Hearing with public testimony on national air toxics standards for refineries, last-minute exemptions, and the need for communities to have the full protection from the Clean Air Act every day, not just sometimes.

When: November 17, from 2:00 – 8:00pm (Central time). Speakers may come any time.


Hartman Community Center

9311 East Ave. P.

Houston, TX 77012



Last December, after decades of inaction, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency finally released important new air standards, tightening restrictions on the toxic pollution oil refineries can emit. The rules for the first time required over 140 refineries in the U.S. to monitor and report levels of benzene, a cancer-causing compound, at the boundaries of their properties and to cut emissions if they are too high. The rules targeted all oil refineries across the nation that are major air toxics sources, strengthening standards on emission sources like storage tanks, coker units, and flares, which burn off excess gases, but unfortunately the agency left key parts of its job undone by creating loopholes to several of these requirements at industry’s request and not taking further actions to assure communities are not exposed to unacceptable and unfair health risks .

After the public comment period closed, EPA created dangerous new exemptions from pollution limits during periods of upset or malfunction when refineries can release large amounts of toxic air pollution during short periods of time through pressure relief devices and smoking flares, and threatening the health and safety of communities nearby. EPA created these malfunction exemptions allowing refineries to release unlimited air pollution, without public notice or comment, a gift to the oil industry, meaning that refineries have a free pass to pollute uncontrollably at least once (and possibly twice) every three years for each affected unit, which could result in hundreds of free passes to pollute.

On Feb. 1, 2016 community and environmental groups, represented by Earthjustice and the Environmental Integrity Project, filed an agency petition  urging the EPA to take formal reconsideration action to remove the exemptions in the final rule that were added after the comment period closed.  A hearing on the petition was granted November 3 and EPA is taking comment on reconsideration through Dec. 19, to decide whether it should remove the loopholes in the health protections and whether the agency should ensure that fenceline monitoring applies at all times at all refineries.

Contact: Keith Rushing, Earthjustice, krushing@earthjustice.org; (202) 797-5236; (757) 897-2147; Emma Cheuse, Earthjustice,echeuse@earthjustice.org, (202) 745-5220;

Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment (Salt Lake City, UT), Denni Cawley, (385)707-3677, dcawleyuphe@gmail.com;

Juan Parras, Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Services, (281) 513-7799, parras.juan@gmail.com;

Adrian Shelley or Brian Butler, Air Alliance Houston, (713) 702-8063, Adrian@airalliancehouston.org

Sparsh Khandeshi or Gabriel Clark-Leach, Environmental Integrity Project, (202) 263-4446, skhandeshi@environmentalintegrity.org;

Neil Carman, Sierra Club, 512-288-5772, neil.carman@sierraclub.org

Coalition For A Safe Environment (Wilmington, CA), Jesse Marquez, (310) 704-1265

Del Amo Action Committee (Torrance, CA), Cynthia Babich, (310) 769-4813

Louisiana Bucket Brigade (New Orleans), Anne Rolfes, (504) 484-3433


EPA Website on the reconsideration proceeding:


Community Groups’ Lawsuit and Full Reconsideration Petition for EPA to Strengthen Standards:


Community Groups’ Intervention Opposing Industry’s Lawsuit:



PacifiCorp motion to block coal-plant pollution controls would unacceptably delay clean-up of Utah’s air


PacifiCorp motion to block coal-plant pollution controls would unacceptably delay clean-up of Utah’s air

October 28, 2016

SALT LAKE CITY – The state of Utah, along with the owner of Utah’s two dirtiest coal-burning power plants and others, is attempting to delay new air quality safeguards intended to reduce air pollution that harms national parks. Any delay in implementing the rules would be a major step backward in cleaning up Utah’s polluted air, according to a coalition of health and conservations groups.


The Utah Attorney General and state Department of Environmental Quality filed a motion on today to block implementation of a June decision by the Environmental Protection Agency that requires cuts in nitrogen oxide emissions from the Hunter and Huntington coal-fired power plants in central Utah. That ruling, which is a core part of the agency’s plan to clean up haze pollution in eight national parks in Utah, Colorado and Arizona, was appealed in September by Rocky Mountain Power’s parent company, Warren Buffett-owned PacifiCorp.


PacifiCorp said it intends to file a similar motion today with the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals to block implementation of the EPA ruling. PacifiCorp and the other appellants have until midnight tonight to do so. If granted, the motions would delay the required pollution reductions until after the court rules on the PacifiCorp’s appeal, possibly by years.


HEAL Utah, the National Parks Conservation Association, Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment and the Sierra Club – represented by Earthjustice – say the motion could roll back decisions that will benefit Utahns and the millions of visitors a year who are drawn to treasures like Arches and Canyonlands, the Grand Canyon and Mesa Verde.


The court is allowing the health and conservation groups to participate in the industry’s appeal, representing the millions of people who annually visit the eight national parks affected by pollution from the Hunter and Huntington plants. The groups are opposed to any effort to delay needed pollution reductions to reduce haze in Utah’s iconic national parks and wilderness areas.


Nitrogen oxide pollution from smokestacks is a key chemical in the formation of haze that often shrouds Utah, and the two plants are responsible for 40 percent of all NOx emissions from Utah’s electricity sector. Analyses show that installing pollution controls that are already in use on hundreds of other coal-burning plants around the country would dramatically cut NOx emissions – by 76 percent – to around 3,300 tons each year from Hunter and Huntington.



“Neither PacifiCorp nor the state of Utah should stand in the way of restoring clean air to our national parks. Unabated pollution from the Hunter and Huntington coal plants degrades our world-class national parks, which are major drivers of Utah’s robust outdoor recreation economy. Any further delay in cleaning up these plants would be bad for our parks and bad for business.”

Cory MacNulty, Southwest senior program manager, National Parks Conservation Association.



“How can we encourage tourism and other businesses in Utah if state officials and PacifiCorp undermine the beauty of our national parks and endanger public health by insisting on inadequate pollution control of these coal-burning plants? Even a few months delay in implementing these required controls will have broad-based health consequences. Utahns deserve to have their health protected from these dirty coal-burning power plants.”

– Denni Cawley, executive director, Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment



“Rocky Mountain Power loves to tout its alleged commitment to protecting the environment. But when push comes to shove, the utility would rather spend money on lawyers and fruitless lawsuits than helping our families breathe easier.”

– Michael Shea, HEAL Utah policy associate



“PacifiCorp is literally doing everything it can to stop progress on protecting some of our country’s more sacred places. Twice now, this company has taken legal action to protect its coal plants – some of the dirtiest in the country – at the expense of Utah’s public health, national parks and economy. This is incredibly disappointing and shortsighted.”

– Lindsay Beebe, Utah community organizer, Sierra Club



“Utah and PacifiCorp’s foot-dragging has delayed needed pollution reductions by nearly a decade after the legal deadline. While large polluters in nearly every other state have already been required to upgrade their technology to clear the air in nearby national parks, Utah and PacifiCorp should be ashamed to seek even more delay in pollution reductions that will benefit all Utahns.”

– Jenny Harbine, Earthjustice attorney representing the four groups above


Lead Poisoning Prevention

Lead children

Lead Poisoning Prevention

For Immediate Release

October 24, 2016


Health, Environment & Children’s Groups Call for National Strategy to
End Lead Poisoning and Lead Exposure

Coalition asks federal agencies to make National Lead Poisoning Prevention Week more than symbolic

WASHINGTON, DC – A coalition of organizations across the country have sent a call for action to President Obama’s Task Force on Environmental Health and Safety Risks to Children, calling for the U.S. to finally end lead exposure and poisoning for children. The coalition – comprised of experts in national, state, and local organizations focused on issues ranging from children’s health to labor concerns, and from doctors to environmental justice advocates – are urging federal agencies with a legal responsibility to finally step up and do their jobs to protect children’s health.

Lead is a potent neurotoxin with no safe level of exposure. Elevated blood lead levels harm young children’s developing brains, leading to learning disabilities, loss of IQ points, and behavioral problems. Government scientists have concluded that lead is “reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen.” In addition, prolonged exposure to lead is associated with high blood pressure, heart disease, kidney disease and reduced fertility. The human body mistakes lead for calcium, prompting our bodies to store lead in our teeth and bones. Failure to prevent lead poisoning in childhood affects future generations: lead in pregnant women can cross the placenta and build up in breast milk, meaning children’s harmful exposure to lead often begins before birth and continues through infancy.

“Brain damage from even minimal lead exposure is essentially irreversible.  Utah has not done enough to protect our infants and pregnant mothers from this hazard.  Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment (UPHE) is pleased to join a national coalition in calling for the state and federal government to ensure that no Utah children are exposed to lead,” said UPHE president, Dr. Brian Moench.  UPHE will also launch a joint lead and radon outreach program with our partners, the Salt Lake County Lead Safe Housing Program and the Utah Dept. of Environmental Quality Radon Program.  Salt Lake County administers grant funds supported by the Green & Healthy Homes Initiative to qualifying homeowners, renters and landlords to make homes lead safe for children.  They provide testing for children under the age of six who live in qualifying properties.

“Lead exposure crises are flaring in communities across the country. The high levels of lead in water and soil in Flint, Philadelphia, and East Los Angeles are not stand-alone incidents. They’re alarm bells ringing loud and clear that we need to do everything we can on a national level to prevent neurotoxic lead exposure,” said Lisa Garcia, Earthjustice’s Vice President for Healthy Communities. “We know how harmful lead is for children, but the good news is that we know how to prevent our kids from facing this danger. That’s why we’re calling for a plan of attack that will require federal agencies once and for all to end this public health hazard that hits our children and communities of color hardest.”


The Centers for Disease Control (CDC), Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and independent scientists all agree that there is no safe level of human lead exposure. And yet, the CDC estimates that over half a million preschool age children in the United States have levels of lead in their blood high enough to require medical case management.


New Policy on Lead


The coalition of organizations from around the country sent their plan to the President’s Task Force on Environmental Health and Safety Risks to Children, co-chaired by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Health and Human Services (the plan can be viewed online here). It calls for major actions from legally responsible federal agencies – with a focus on where lead exposure is hurting children, including:


  • EPA must strengthen its standards and enforcement of those standards for lead in air, house paint, dust, soil, and drinking water to prevent the current unacceptable levels of lead exposure in our communities.
    • For example, it is urgent for EPA to reduce new sources of lead in the air children breathe, including from battery recyclers (lead smelters) and aviation fuel. To safeguard children from new lead exposure in everyday life, EPA must prioritize lead as a chemical of concern for immediate health risk evaluation and action under the newly reformed Toxic Substances Control Act this coming December.
  • The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) must move to a primary prevention approach by identifying and remediating lead hazards before a child is harmed, and aligning its policies with current science to better protect families in their homes.
  • The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) must move to ban all lead in children’s and household products, and use its recall authority to do more to protect children from lead in products currently in homes.
  • The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) must withdraw approval for cosmetics and food products currently sold in the U.S. that contain lead.
  • The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) must adopt stronger worker protection standards, including for pregnant women, to prevent and reduce their lead exposure.
  • The CDC must ratchet down its definition of an elevated blood lead level to reflect that there is no safe level of lead exposure. Evidence shows that the CDC’s current reference level of five micrograms of lead per deciliter of blood is far too lax, as levels below that carry harmful health impacts and families need to know much sooner if their children are being exposed to dangerous lead.


The Burden of Lead Exposure Falls Heavily on Children of Color


Due to the widespread industrial uses of lead in gasoline, paint, and metal products for decades in the United States, lead is in our water, soil, dust, and the air we breathe. It also enters our communities every year from new sources of lead, such as wheel weights, certain cosmetics, industrial facilities, and leaded aviation gas for piston-engine aircraft.

Children living in communities of color are most likely to suffer from lead exposure and poisoning. A CDC report from 2004 showed that African American children are over three times as likely to have highly elevated blood-lead levels. African American and Latino communities are often more likely to live near active battery recyclers, former industrial sites, or highways, and to live in older housing that are sources of high levels of lead.
Scientists and Health Professionals Agree That Preventing Lead Exposure Is Urgent

In 2016 a distinguished team of scientists and health professionals united as Project TENDR (Targeting Environmental Neuro-Developmental Risks) released a consensus statement on toxic chemicals with the following statement:

“Lead exposure continues to be a preventable cause of intellectual impairment, ADHD and maladaptive behaviors for millions of children. Scientists agree that there is no safe level of lead exposure for fetal or early childhood development, and studies have documented the potential for cumulative and synergistic health effects from combined exposure to lead and social stressors. Thus, taking further preventive actions is imperative…we call on policy makers to take seriously the need to reduce exposures of all children to lead.”

For full statement, visit http://ehp.niehs.nih.gov/EHP358/

The organizations urging federal agencies to take up this comprehensive plan to prevent lead exposure include:

A Community Voice  * Alaska Community Action on Toxics * Beyond Toxics * BlueGreen Alliance * California Communities Against Toxics * California Safe Schools * Center for Health, Environment & Justice * Clean Water and Air Matter * Coalition for Economic Survival * Comite Civico Del Valle   * Community Science Institute * Connecticut Coalition for Environmental Justice * Del Amo Action Committee * Downwinders at Risk * Earthjustice * East Yard Communities for Environmental Justice * Ecology Center * Environmental Health Coalition * Environmental Health Strategy Center * Farmworker Association of Florida * Food & Water Watch * Friends of the Earth * Green & Healthy Homes Initiative * Health Justice Project  * Healthy Babies Bright Futures * Healthy Homes Collaborative * Hoosier Environmental Council * Inner City Law Center * Institute of Neurotoxicology and Neurological Disorders * International POPS Elimination Network * Jesus People Against Pollution * Korean Immigrant Workers Alliance * Labadie Environmental Organization * Learning Disabilities Association of America * Missouri Coalition for the Environment * Natural Resources Defense Council * New Jersey Citizen Action * Northern Manhattan Improvement Corp. * Ohio Environmental Council * Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition * Oregon Aviation Watch * Pacoima Beautiful * Physicians for Social Responsibility * Public Citizens for Children and Youth * Sierra Club * United Parents Against Lead * Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment * WE ACT for Environmental Justice * Worksafe

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Earthjustice, the nation’s premier nonprofit environmental law organization, wields the power of law and the strength of partnership to protect people’s health, to preserve magnificent places and wildlife, to advance clean energy, and to combat climate change.

Because the earth needs a good lawyer.


Zoe Woodcraft, Earthjustice, (415) 217-2071, (818) 606-7509, zwoodcraft@earthjustice.org

Denni Cawley, Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment, (385.707.3677), dcawleyuphe@gmail.com

Court approves motion of UPHE and other groups to intervene in Utah and RMP appeal

Toxic Utah


Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2016

SALT LAKE CITY – The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals is allowing a group of conservation and public health groups to participate in legal proceedings opposing attempts by Utah officials and the state’s biggest utility to roll back recent progress on cleaning up Utah’s air.

HEAL Utah, the National Parks Conservation Association, Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment and the Sierra Club had asked the court to allow them to intervene in the appeal of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s ruling that requires Rocky Mountain Power to cut nitrogen emissions from its Hunter and Huntington power plants in central Utah. The groups petitioned the court to be included in the proceedings to keep Utah from sliding backward on cleaning up air pollution in iconic national parks including Canyonlands and Arches, saying the millions of people who visit them each year needed a voice in the proceedings.

The court approved their motion today.

In June, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency ruled that Rocky Mountain Power has to cut emissions of nitrogen from Hunter and Huntington. Nitrogen chemicals  are large contributors to shrouds of haze that often hang over five national parks in Utah, and cutting emissions will require Rocky Mountain Power to install industry-standard technology on the plant’s smokestacks. The utility’s parent company, Warren Buffett-owned PacifiCorp, along with the state of Utah and smaller utilities, appealed that decision earlier this month.

The Hunter and Huntington plants spew almost 1.5 tons of nitrogen oxide pollution combined every hour of every day they’re running – around 13,000 tons a year for the units that EPA says must have upgrades installed. The plants are responsible for 40 percent of all nitrogen oxide emissions from Utah’s electricity sector. Analyses show that installing the pollution controls would dramatically cut emissions – by 76 percent – to around 3,300 tons each year from the four units.

“For the state of Utah and Rocky Mountain Power to join forces in an attempt to delay the clean up of Utah’s coal-burning power plants is something that every Utah citizen should find deeply disturbing. Our state government is supported by our taxes and their top priority should be to protect the health and well-being of Utahns, not Rocky Mountain Power’s profits. Cleaning up these old coal power plants is essential to protecting public health in Utah and throughout the West.”

– Dr. Brian Moench, president, Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment

“EPA made the right decision in June to cut nitrogen oxide pollution from these facilities by 76 percent, ensuring that more people will experience the extraordinary beauty of our treasured national parks and breathe healthier air. We believe PacifiCorp and the state of Utah must fulfill, without further delay, their responsibility under the Clean Air Act to restore clean air to our national parks.”

– Cory MacNulty, Southwest senior program manager, National Parks Conservation Association. 

“PacifiCorp’s decision to challenge the EPA’s plan to reduce haze pollution is out-of-touch with the needs and values of their customers, who want clean, healthy air in their national parks. It’s unfair to Utahns across our state and families and businesses throughout the region to delay the inevitable and hold up critical clean air safeguards for parks like the Grand Canyon, Arches and Zion. The delay caused by PacifiCorp’s lawsuit guarantees that coal pollution will continue to damage these sacred places, possibly for years to come.”

– Gloria Smith, managing attorney, Sierra Club Environmental Law Program.

EPA says BLM analysis of Utah oil-shale project is deficient


UPHE has been very active in opposing the proposed oil shale project from an Estonian company, Enefit American Oil, that would be the first of its kind in the lower 48 states. It would open the door to one of the worst sources of dirty energy anywhere in the world.

UPHE has submitted extensive comments to the EPA about why the BLM allowing Enefit a “utility corridor” through federal land is such a poor idea. We think that our analysis helped strengthen the EPA’s case in telling the BLM that they need to resconsider that approval. UPHE’s opposition, along with other organizations’, is mentioned in this Salt Tribune article.

Photo credit:  Bruce Gordon, EcoFlight

“Erin Brockovich” Chemical in Utah’s Drinking Water

Chromium map

UPHE is not just concerned about the safety of the air we breathe, but also the water we drink.  If our water’s not safe according to scientists in California, then we don’t think it’s safe either.   You will hear more from us in the future about the need for us to fight for safe drinking water in Utah.
report by the Environmental Working Group released on Sept 20 reveals that almost 200 million Americans are exposed through their drinking water to chromium-6, a carcinogenic chemical that was brought to the attention of the public though the film, Erin Brockovich.According to the study, only California has set an enforceable legal limit for this chemical in drinking water.  Federal regulations “do not specifically address chromium-6 and do not consider current science showing that drinking water contaminated with the chemical can cause cancer.”  In 2010, scientists at the California Office of Health Hazard Assessment concluded that ingestion of tiny amounts of this chemical can cause cancer and set a much lower public health goal. This report has also been covered by CNN and the Guardian.  
Results of test data in Utah counties can be seen on this interactive map on the EWG site.  As seen in this map, all 18 water systems in Salt Lake County and 12 water systems in Utah County tested positive for chromium-6, with even one measurement going over 200 times the California public health goal of 0.02 ppb.  Not all water systems were tested.  The source of chromium-6 in Utah’s water systems is uncertain, but it’s been demonstrated to be released into the environment from leakage, poor storage and inadequate industrial waste disposal practices.
According to the Division of Drinking Water under the Utah DEQ, EPA’s requirements were for tests to be directed towards systems servicing larger populations.  State law prevents setting regulations that are more stringent than than EPA standards, and since there’s currently no EPA standard, that leaves Utahns with no immediate remedy.  EPA has a drinking water standard of 0.1 milligrams per liter (mg/l) or 100 parts per billion (ppb) for total chromium, not specifically for chromium-6. 
From the EPA website:  “EPA is now reviewing data from a 2008 long-term animal study by the Department of Health and Human Service’s National Toxicology Program, which suggested that chromium-6 may be a human carcinogen if ingested. When the review is completed, EPA will consider this and other information to determine whether the drinking water standard for total chromium needs to be revised.”
We hope for the sake of our health that this review moves faster and that our state takes a more proactive stance!

Draper Residents Appeal Decision on Geneva mining

Point of the mountain

UPHE has worked for several years on educating the public on the dangers fugitive dust from Kennecott and all our gravel pits.  We supported the protest by Draper residents against the expansion of Geneva Rock mining operation that continues to create dust clouds that travel across the Salt Lake and Utah county valleys.  This resulted in Geneva pulling their expansion permit application.  Fugitive dust is composed of harmful particulate matter and often heavy metals including uranium and arsenic.  Crystalline silica present in this dust can cause chronic, irreversible lung disease and lead to lung cancer.  We need consistent air quality monitoring along the fence lines of these gravel, rock and sand mining operations.

For KUTV’s story on Draper resident’s appealing the decision to allow Geneva mining to continue their operations, click here.


Just 3% of Utah kids are tested for dangerous lead exposure

This article in the Salt Lake Tribune by Emma Penrod cites UPHE’s call for more lead testing. We hope this message gains more momentum and wide spread public support. Apparently the Utah Health Dept. says they are engaged on this issue and will have some programs to announce later this summer. We congratulate them on being proactive.

However, we are confused about their statement reported in the article that they intend to try and prevent lead exposure rather than just detect it. Then they talk about testing in schools and day care centers. Our response:

Finding out what lead levels a child has in a day care center, or at school, will not detect or prevent exposure during the most critical time of a child’s brain development, which begins at the moment of conception. So make no mistake, our recommendation for lead testing is not only necessary, but far more useful than waiting until a child becomes the age of pre-schoolers, or in grade school, to find out if they are, or have been exposed to lead

UPHE calls for widespread lead testing for Utah children

UPHE’s proposal to have the state offer to pay for lead testing of prospective parents, pregnant mothers and newborns got nice coverage from the Deseret News. The evidence so far indicates that thousands of Utah kids have lead levels that are high enough to compromise their intellectual development and their behavior. It’s pretty simple: any lawmaker that is willing to spend millions of dollars on the absurd pipe dream of taking over federal lands or subsidizing the dying coal industry, should be willing to pay a tiny bit of money to see if Utah’s children have enough lead exposure to warrant reducing the sources. This is a no brainer (sorry for the terrible pun).

See article here

Unhealthy Fireworks Smoke Prompts Call For New Approach to Utah Fireworks

KUER interviewed UPHE on unhealthy air caused by fireworks. “A nationwide study last year from the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration showed that particulate pollution increased an average of 42 percent on Independence Day based on data from 315 areas.”

“Pretty toxic stuff,” says Brian Moench, founder of the Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment. “And the primary reason is there are a lot of toxic compounds that are in fireworks that you don’t find in tailpipes and smokestacks, heavy metals in particular.”