OKT comments on State’s Lead Poisoning report: Why no mention of higher incidence among children of color?

EFFECTS.jpgOn May 31, Our Kitchen Table attended a hearing at the Kent County Health Department to comment on the  Child Lead Poisoning Elimination Board  report, “Roadmap to Eliminating Child Lead Exposure.”  (See OKT’s comments below.)

Governor Rick Snyder established the board through executive order because “because “…there exists a need in state government for a coordinated effort to design a long term strategy for eliminating child lead poisoning in the state of Michigan.” The board consists of medical, environmental, and child education experts, academics, civic leaders, and state department representatives.

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) recently awarded OKT a $75, 000 Child Lead Exposure Elimination Innovation Grant. Find OKT’s comments on the report below.

The members of the board present were genuinely and passionately concerned about childhood lead poisoning. The CLEEC_Action_Plan they have developed is a great framework for eliminating lead poisoning. It includes recommendations for better testing of home and daycare environments, having all children tested for lead poisoning, testing pregnant women at-risk for lead poisoning, and getting the medical community to be more vigilant about lead poisoning. In short, the plan seeks to eliminate the deep root causes of lead poisoning so children won’t be exposed in the first place.

This good plan faces one huge obstacle: funding. Those in the room last night suggested that to create lead-safe communities state-wide would cost at least $1 billion. In addition, because of potential costs, groups like the Rental Property Owners Association (RPOA) are actively fighting against enhanced requirements for lead testing–and are quick to blame tenants for lead hazards. While Snyder approved funding the creation of the board, he has not championed funding to implement the action plan. And, when fall elections usher in different elected officials, there’s a possibility that the whole board could be scrapped.

Our Kitchen Table Public Comment on Childhood Lead Poisoning

On behalf of Our Kitchen Table and its executive director, Lisa Oliver-King, I thank you for your work on eliminating childhood lead poisoning. As a grass-roots, nonprofit working for environmental justice through the lens of food justice, OKT would like to state that:

  1. While the report discloses that children living in neighborhoods experiencing income-challenges and older housing stock are more likely to experience lead poisoning, it does not relate that children of color are more likely to experience lead poisoning. In fact, African American children are five times more likely to be poisoned by lead than white children— and Latinx children more than twice as likely as white children. Studies conducted the National Institutes of Health right here in Michigan determined that that, in utero, African American babies are more than twice as likely to be lead poisoned. As one of the outcomes of prenatal lead poisoning is premature birth, lead poisoning no doubt contributes to African American infant mortality rates being twice that of white infant mortality rates—right here in Kent County. In addition, the report speaks to higher incarceration rates among those who experienced lead poisoning as children. One could deduce that lead poisoning is also partly responsible for the African Americans having higher rates of incarceration. It’s more than the school to prison pipeline. It’s also a poisoned to prison pipeline. Thus, childhood lead poisoning in Michigan is not just a public health concern but also a justice and civil rights issue. The high rates of lead poisoning among African American children reveal yet another facet of institutional racism.

  2. The report acknowledges soil contamination as contributing to lead poisoning. Through our food gardening work in Grand Rapids 49507, a zip code reporting one of the highest number of lead poisoned children in the state, OKT has discovered that housing stock is not the only contributor to soil contamination. More than a century ago, the area had orchards. Lead was an ingredient in pesticides then used, as well as arsenic. Therefore, sampling soil near built structures is not enough. No doubt, other means of lead contamination have impacted soil in other regions in the state. Housing stock should not be the only cause considered.

  3. The report does mention nutrition and micro-nutrient supplementation as a means to treat lead poisoned children. Studies have shown that certain foods help absorb lead in the body: dark green vegetables and leafy greens, legumes, dried fruits, nuts, seeds, whole grains, dark green vegetables, grapefruit and sweet red pepper. In other words, a healthy, whole foods diet with a huge emphasis on fresh local produce. As the neighborhoods experiencing high childhood lead exposure also experience food apartheid, OKT sees lead poisoning as a food justice issue. If these children — and their mothers — had access to these healthy foods prior to lead exposure, no doubt they would suffer fewer repercussions. The lack of access to healthy foods also bequeaths these same children with a host of other health problems: obesity, diabetes, heart disease, asthma, and behavior issues that Impact school performance.

 

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What does the House Farm Bill ‘No’ Vote Mean for Farmers Market?

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Farm Bill cuts to farmers’ markets’ funding will impact the Southeast Area Farmers’ Market’s and other local farmers’ markets’ programs.

Reposted from the Farmers’ Market Coalition Newsletter

Last Friday, the House of Representatives voted down a draft of the farm bill, with thirty House Republicans joining all of the Democrats in voting ‘no’ on the bill. Thanks to YOU and our allies in food and farming who made their voices heard through visits, emails, and calls, this harmful bill developed opposition across the political spectrum! Many of the ‘no’ votes were based on the substance of the bill itself, while some members of the Freedom Caucus opted to vote ‘no’ in an effort to get a vote on an immigration bill that they support.

If you have a moment, now would be a great time to thank your Representative if they voted no on the bill. You can find the results of the vote here. If your Representative voted no, you can still contact them to express your concern.

So what now?

While exactly what happens next is unclear, we do know that the results of Friday’s vote means it’s less likely that a new farm bill will be complete when the current one expires on September 30th. News this week suggests that House Republicans plan to bring the bill up for another vote on June 22, after voting on the immigration bill in question. It remains unclear if there would be enough votes to pass the bill, especially if no additional changes are made to the bill.

Even if the House does pass a bill, they will have to reconcile it with the Senate version. The Senate version is expected to be much more bipartisan, and as a result, very different from the House version.
What happens if a new bill isn’t negotiated in time?

Should Congress fail to pass a new bill or at least extend the current bill, farm bill programs would revert to what is known as “permanent law,” written back in 1938. This threat has historically served as motivation to complete a deal on time. In the event that lawmakers aren’t able to agree on a new farm bill by September 30th, the most likely scenario is that they will extend current bill, as was done in 2012.

Unfortunately for farmers markets and the farmers who depend on them, a standard extension would only include those programs that have what is known as baseline funding, which would not include the Farmers Market and Local Food Promotion Program, Food Insecurity Nutrition Program, and Senior Farmers Market Nutrition.

Fortunately, some legislators are already beginning to think about the fate of these programs and plan for their future.  FMC is working with our partners at the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition to advocate for continued funding for these important programs.

House Farm Bill Increases Pesticide Risks to Children, Farmworkers

TUESDAY, MAY 8, 2018

The House farm bill includes several proposals that would roll back key pesticide protections, putting children, farmworkers, communities and even endangered species at risk.

Pesticides pose serious health risks, particularly to children. For example, chlorpyrifos is a potent neurotoxin that harms children’s brain development. Other pesticides have been linked to cancer, reproductive issues like lower sperm countsenvironmental harms, and acute health effects like nausea, dizziness and vomiting. Some pesticides, such as atrazine, which is linked to reproductive harm, routinely contaminate drinking water systems.

Because federal laws fall short of protecting Americans from the potential hazards of pesticides, some states and local governments have stepped in to protect their communities by enacting their own restrictions. This map, created by our colleagues at Beyond Pesticides,  shows the number and diversity of communities that have taken action.

For example:

  • Cherry Hill, N.J., just outside of Philadelphia, has a pesticide-free parks program.
  • Rockland County, N.Y., restricts the use of pesticides on public property.
  • New Paltz, N.Y., banned the use of toxic pesticides on village-owned lands and adopted organic pest-control methods.
  • North Miami, Fla., has an integrated pest management law that would restrict the use of some pesticides on city property and encourages use of pesticides to be a last resort.
  • Irvine, Calif., restricts the use of pesticides on public property, including playgrounds, in favor of organic pest control methods.
  • Encinitas, Calif., also has a policy restricting use of some toxic pesticides, neonicotinoids, and urges the use of the least-toxic pesticide first.
  • Washington, D.C., restricts use of toxic pesticides in public spaces like schools, some private spaces like day-care centers, and properties near bodies of water.
  • Wichita, Kan., launched a pilot pesticide-free parks program.
  • South Euclid, Ohio, banned spraying pesticides in parks and on other city-owned properties.

But the House farm bill targets these kind of local restrictions, putting kids and communities at risk.

The House version of the farm bill, introduced last month, would block local governments from adopting their own pesticide regulations, even if those regulations are designed to protect kids and other vulnerable populations. Section 9101 of the bill would prevent cities, counties and communities from passing laws banning the most toxic pesticides like chlorpyrifos, or restricting spraying in places like schools or playgrounds where children might be exposed. Given the critical role that local governments have historically played in regulating pesticide use, this would be a significant setback for public health.

The House bill would also allow farmers to directly spray pesticides into drinking water supplies. Under current law, farmers must get a permit before they can spray pesticides into water, including sources of drinking water. Sections 9117 and 9118 remove the federal requirement that farmers get a permit before spraying pesticides into water and prohibit states from imposing their own requirements.

Making it easier to spray toxic pesticides into sources of drinking water and removing government oversight undoubtedly increases the likelihood drinking water will be contaminated. It also increases the burden on water utilities to clean up the messes pesticide applicators make.

The House farm bill could also hurt the farmworkers responsible for applying pesticides.

Farmworkers are often responsible for applying pesticides, and handling the crops and land where pesticides have been sprayed. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that 10,000 to 20,000 workers may be poisoned by pesticides every year. To better protect the most vulnerable workers, in 2015 the EPA finalized new agricultural worker protection requirements that imposed age requirements for handling pesticides and required better training and access to information for workers. Recently, the EPA delayed implementation of these new requirements and announced plans to roll back some of the key workers’ protections in 2015 rule.

In response, a group of senators led by Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., placed a hold on the reauthorization of a key government pesticide registration program until they receive adequate assurance that workers would be protected. Instead of addressing Udall’s concerns and protecting farmworkers from pesticide exposure, the House farm bill simply reauthorizes the program without any farmworker protections.

The House bill also threatens endangered species.

Under current law, the EPA must consult with other agencies like the Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service before approving a pesticide that could impact an endangered or threatened species. Section 9111 of the House bill would allow the EPA to approve pesticides without going through this process, and would limit the ability of groups to sue when an endangered species is threatened by a pesticide approval. Another provision in the bill would allow for some uses of methyl bromide, a neurotoxic fumigant pesticide currently being phased outbecause it contributes to ozone depletion.

These provisions show how the farm bill is being used to systematically weaken – instead of strengthen – pesticide protections. Congress should prioritize safety for kids and communities, not protect pesticide manufacturers.

OKT JOINS THE ART VAN CHARITY CHALLENGE 2018 ON CROWDRISE

artvanHelp OKT win $50,000 by donating to its CrowdRise campaign

OKT has joined the Art Van Charity Challenge 2018, a fundraising competition on CrowdRise, the largest crowdfunding platform for good.

To help OKT reach its $1000 goal click here.

The Art Van Charity Challenge 2018 focuses on organizations committed to women, children and human services in Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa and St. Louis.  Participating organizations will compete for $305,000 in prize money. We’ve joined the challenge on CrowdRise in hopes of raising money to support the Southeast Area Farmers’ Market.

Taking place 11 a.m. – 4 p.m. Saturdays at MLK Jr. Park, 900 Fuller Ave. SE July 7 through November 10, the Southeast Area Farmers’ Market provides a wide variety of local produce, cottage kitchen foods, personal care items, crafts and ready-to-eat foods. Our vendors are primarily women of color, home growers and residents of OKT’s targeted neighborhoods. In addition to providing access to healthy food, the market hosts meal preparation activities, workshops and guests from community organizations.

We welcome Bridge Card, SNAP, Double Up Food Bucks, WIC and many other assistance and coupon programs. How the Double Up Food Bucks Program Works 
The Art Van Charity Challenge 2018 launched on CrowdRise on Tuesday, May 1st, 2018 at 12pm ET and runs through Tuesday, May 22nd, 2018 at 1:59:59pm ET. The top 5 Tier 2 teams that raise the most during the Challenge will win…

1st Place receives $50,000
2nd Place receives $25,000
3rd place receives $10,000
​4th place receives $10,000
5th place receives $10,000

CrowdRise Challenges are innovative fundraising competitions for charitable organizations designed to build capacity, create massive engagement and leverage, and use the power of the crowd to provide new meaningful funding streams for organizations in every sector.

 

 

While Natural Gas Pipelines Tear through Michigan, MDEQ grants a place to burn– in Dearborn MI

On Friday April 13, the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality approved the permit for DTE Energy to burn “natural gas”, also known as methane gas, in Dearborn Michigan. MDEQ approved the permit, despite the calls from over 100 residents asking MDEQ to deny the permit due to the impact on public health.

In a March community meeting residents, advocates, public health and legal experts met to discuss the permit. University of Michigan scholar Amy Schulz described the health impacts the pollution could have on children, even unborn children, by contaminants coming from the then proposed plant. Dearborn MI is already overburdened by toxic air pollution from dense concentrations of smokestacks and roadway pollution. Nick Leonard of the Great Lakes Environmental Law Center, described how DTE Energy did NOT explore the best pollution controls for protecting human health. Union of Concerned Scientist’s JC Kibbey described better, cheaper, cleaner solutions for Michigan through renewable energy and storage which can create MORE jobs that fossil fuels, pushing against the “rush to gas” narrative.

While natural gas pipelines tear through Michigan countrysides, new gas plants are the places where this will likely be burnt. In 2013, the NEXUS pipeline began developing plans for a 255-mile interstate natural gas transmission pipeline to deliver natural gas from eastern Ohio to southeastern Michigan.  A 50/50 partnership between DTE Energy and Enbridge, this pipeline will deliver methane gas. The project is expected to be completed in late this year.

Michigan Environmental Justice Coalition will be meeting with the Environmental Justice Liaison for MDEQ, Katie Kruse this Wed. April 18, 4pm-6pm at the Michigan State University Detroit Center, 3408 Woodward Ave, Detroit, MI 48201. This event is open to the public.