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Articles by Fawn Pattison

Fawn Pattison is the Executive Director of Toxic Free NC, a non-profit organization based in Raleigh, North Carolina.

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When eco-minded people become parents, it seems like they frequently become even bigger green freaks.  I know that’s been true for my partner and me since we embarked on the journey to parenthood last year – decisions around our house that used to be made based on a variety of factors have become green mandates.  I admit to having once spent most of a Saturday night early in my pregnancy researching every personal care product we use on the Cosmetics Safety Database and finding replacements for the bad-scorers.

So for parents who’ve gone VOC-free on the paint, made the switch to organic foods, gotten pesticides and other toxic chemicals out of the house…  what about the other places the kids hang out all day long?  Like their school?  Child care center? 

While there is a concerted effort going on around the country to clean up hazardous pollutants in our schools, child care centers seem to be lagging behind.  I work at Toxic Free North Carolina, who just put out a new report (for which I can’t take any credit): Avoiding Big Risks for Small Kids, which takes a look at how child care centers are manag... Read more

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  • EPA gives manufacturers three years to adjust to new regulations designed to protect children

    The U.S. EPA announced today that it would be tightening up the safety requirements on ten nasty rodenticides that are blamed for poisoning around 10,000 children -- mostly black and Latino inner-city kids -- every year. Those ten chemicals will no longer be available in the form of little pellets that look like candy, and that small children are so prone to stick in their mouths. The new rules will require non-agricultural users of rat poison to use it only inside tamper-resistant bait stations designed to protect kids.

    This is great news, and a long time in coming. There's just one catch: These new safety requirements aren't going into effect for a while. Manufacturers get three years to change their practices. EPA has determined a final "release for shipment" date for the last batch of deadly pellets on June 4, 2011.

    Three years ... let's see, three years times 10,000 poisonings a year ... let me get my calculator ... That means about 30,000 more sick kids before we clean this mess up. You've got to be kidding me.

  • Home Depot announces an end to traditional pesticide sales in Canada

    For consumers concerned about pervasive toxics in the environment, this has been a very good Earth Week.  Especially if you live in Canada.

    Home Depot announced this week that it would stop selling "traditional" lawn and garden pesticides in all its Canadian stores.

    The reason? Consumers don't want them anymore. People in Canada seem to have discovered that you don't need to spread poisons around your yard in order to garden. Amazing! A huge part of that awakening is happening because of committed advocates, particularly from the public health community, that have helped lead hundreds of local by-laws in communities around Canada that have ended the use of "cosmetic" pesticides on lawns & gardens.

    I am trying to imagine what it would be like to walk into the garden aisle in a big-box home improvement store without the noxious bags of granulated death ... I think I like it.

    The bell is tolling in Canada for lawn & garden pesticides. I hope we catch whatever they've got.

  • Nalgene dumps estrogenic ingredient

    Have you been fretting over the reports of gender-bending pollutants leaching from reusable water bottles? Finally, some good news: Nalgene is dumping polycarbonate plastic, according to a report in The New York Times today.

    Nalgene made its decision in response to Health Canada's announcement earlier this week that it would list bisphenol A as a toxicant. BPA is the estrogenic plastic additive that makes polycarbonate a dubious choice for food and beverage containers. Grist reported earlier this week that the National Institutes of Health is also expressing increased concern about the chemical, which has been at the center of a battle over industry influence over consumer safety standards.

    Next stop on the BPA express: Wal-Mart says it will be dumping BPA from baby bottles later this year. The chemical is still widely used in baby bottles, the linings of steel cans used for canned food, water coolers, compact discs, and plenty of other consumer products.

    At least the campers can gulp freely.

  • Farmworker Awareness Week is a chance to recognize the people whose labor means we can eat

    This is Farmworker Awareness Week, a time to support the millions of farmworkers whose labor puts food on every American table, and who work and live in some of the worst environmental conditions in our nation.

    It's estimated that 2 to 3 million farmworkers plant, tend, and harvest American crops every year. Many farmworkers in the U.S. are migrants who move from place to place following the harvest. Where I live, in North Carolina, migrant farmworkers are the majority. The average annual income for a farmworker in the United States is about $11,000, or about $16,000 for a farmworking family (though pay on the East Coast is lower than the national average). Farmworkers live in overcrowded housing and very few receive health care or unemployment benefits. Here in North Carolina, about half of our farmworkers cannot afford enough food for themselves and their families.