The Chemical Edge – A Toxic Chemicals Resource Kit

What you will find in this section:

  • Welcome to The Chemical Edge
  • Principles of Environmental Justice
  • What’s in The Chemical Edge: A Toxic Resource Kit – See Sidebar

                                                                                        Petrochemical Supply Chain – CHE Manager

Welcome to The Chemical Edge

I’ve never had a great answer to the question, “where can I read about all the stuff you’re telling me and just get a general overview? This is the need I’ve tried to fill”

Since the late 1960s I have watched the growth of two amazing and compelling bodies of environmental knowledge. The first is concerned primarily with the species- and civilization-threatening causes, and ever-accelerating timetables of climate change. The second is concerned with the adverse impacts of far, far too many modern day chemicals – consumer as well as industrial – and the pandemic plagues of acute and chronic diseases and disabling syndromes and disorders caused by them that are eroding our health and our viability as well. When the rate of autism spectrum disorder shifts in 50 years from 1 in 10,000 to one in 80, something terrible is going on. The same can se said of cancer rates – some up more than 180 per cent, all more than 50 percent – since the 1970s. And cancer is now the leading cause of deaths in children. Even the obesity pandemic is a red flag.

The term “petrochemical” of course expresses the intimate relationship between the industries that are the base causes for both of these species threats

But I have found that, though almost everyone I know or even encounter casually seems to have grasped the fundamentals of climate change, and many of “climate justice” – strategies and actions to reduce and mitigate global warming along the principles of environmental justice, just below on this page few people have a similar grasp on the threats posed to us by ubiquitous chemical impacts – despite all the knowledge that exists, and how accessible it is. Most people have an idea that “pollution” is bad. But they have little idea of where it is found these days – yes, inside toxic manufacturing sites (a problem, folks think, for those workers), and yes, as leaks and emissions, so in communities of such workplaces (a problem limited to that community, most people think). But wait, what? Inside places such as retails stores and malls, in nail salons and hardware stores, inside schools and hospitals? And right inside my home, in my laundry products and kitchen utensils and baby wipes?  How can that be?

Enormously troubling is that most health professionals seem as ignorant as the average person of the constellation of issues behind today’s chemical regime. I meet many people in the health field – from government officials at senior levels to nurses and doctors – and I am stunned by the ignorance I encounter among them. Last year I was seated next to a distinguished paediatrician, copiously awarded for his life-saving campaigns to replace micro-nutrients in the diets of many African children. After congratulating him on his work, I asked what he thought about the problem of endocrine disruption among young children. Turned out he no idea what an endocrine disrupting chemical was. I was dismayed, but alas, not surprised. The silos of knowledge are high and too often impermeable. And that is holding us all back.

So, finally, prompted by the sheer, suicidal mayhem in both climate and toxics fields created by the deeply anti-environmentalist Trump administration, as well as by some very specific stories and reports released this fall, I have created this on-line resource kit. My goal has been to make a “meta site” that provides brief introductions to a number of the really big components of the chemical crisis, along with additional resources, including numerous informative links, reading lists and some of my own writing (where it’s relevant) for people who are not specialists and want a person-friendly way to learn about current realities.

Where I have chosen to provide a couple of specialized sections, I’ve done it on the phenomenon of extreme chemical sensitivity – called here Environmental Sensitivities/Multiple Chemical Sensitivity, or ES/MCS. This condition involves toxic injury, affects nine times more people than Alzheimers, yet remains almost invisible, misunderstood and even stigmatized – a true exemplar of the broader strategies of deceit, denial, and government compliance, that make up the chemical industries’ playbook. Here you can learn all about this chemical nightmare; and, if so moved, you can also learn about a process in Ontario, ongoing for many years, to bring about integrated care and support for the more than 300,000 people living with it just in my province.

There are many ways to approach environmental issues. For me, the principles of environmental justice have always been critical in the way I try to understand and think about solutions for any given issue.

The Principles of Environmental Justice

Since 1991, when environmental activists of colour met to discuss how the environmental movement was not addressing the de facto racism of environmental crisis – how, far disproportionately, toxic extraction, refining and manufacturing plants were located near black and brown and poor white communities; how urban planning and environmental campaigns were blind to this problem and excluded these communities in planning for solutions; and how environmental rescue had to be based on the principle of “environmental justice,” the environmental movement received a wake-up call. Like many others since then, I have used these principles to guide my own understanding of problems and to think about solutions.

Here are the principles, complete with preamble, taken directly from the manifesto of that summit. Please keep them in mind, in your life, and as you make your way through the material on this website.

Preamble to Principles of Environmental Justice  (October 27, 1991, Washington D.C.)

WE THE PEOPLE OF COLOR, gathered together at this multinational People of Color Environmental Leadership Summit, to begin to build a national and international movement of all peoples of color to fight the destruction and taking of our lands and communities, do hereby re-establish our spiritual interdependence to the sacredness of our Mother Earth; to respect and celebrate each of our cultures, languages and beliefs about the natural world and our roles in healing ourselves; to insure environmental justice; to promote economic alternatives which would contribute to the development of environmentally safe livelihoods; and, to secure our political, economic and cultural liberation that has been denied for over 500 years of colonization and oppression, resulting in the poisoning of our communities and land and the genocide of our peoples, do affirm and adopt these Principles of Environmental Justice.

1. Environmental justice affirms the sacredness of Mother Earth, ecological unity and the interdependence of all species, and the right to be free from ecological destruction.

2. Environmental justice demands that public policy be based on mutual respect and justice for all peoples, free from any form of discrimination or bias.

3. Environmental justice mandates the right to ethical, balanced and responsible uses of land and renewable resources in the interest of a sustainable planet for humans and other living things.

4. Environmental justice calls for universal protection from nuclear testing, extraction, production and disposal of toxic/hazardous wastes and poisons and nuclear testing that threaten the fundamental right to clean air, land, water, and food.

5. Environmental justice affirms the fundamental right to political, economic, cultural and environmental self-determination of all peoples.

6. Environmental justice demands the cessation of the production of all toxins, hazardous wastes, and radioactive materials, and that all past and current producers be held strictly accountable to the people for detoxification and the containment at the point of production.

7. Environmental justice demands the right to participate as equal partners at every level of decision-making including needs assessment, planning, implementation, enforcement and evaluation.

8. Environmental justice affirms the right of all workers to a safe and healthy work environment, without being forced to choose between an unsafe livelihood and unemployment. It also affirms the right of those who work at home to be free from environmental hazards.

 9. Environmental justice protects the right of victims of environmental injustice to receive full compensation and reparations for damages as well as quality health care.

10. Environmental justice considers governmental acts of environmental injustice a violation of international law, the Universal Declaration On Human Rights, and the United Nations Convention on Genocide.

11. Environmental justice must recognize a special legal and natural relationship of Native Peoples to the U.S. government through treaties, agreements, compacts, and covenants affirming sovereignty and self-determination.

12. Environmental justice affirms the need for urban and rural ecological policies to clean up and rebuild our cities and rural areas in balance with nature, honoring the cultural integrity of all our communities, and providing fair access for all to the full range of resources.

13. Environmental justice calls for the strict enforcement of principles of informed consent, and a halt to the testing of experimental reproductive and medical procedures and vaccinations on people of color.

14. Environmental justice opposes the destructive operations of multi-national corporations.

15. Environmental justice opposes military occupation, repression and exploitation of lands, peoples and cultures, and other life forms.

16. Environmental justice calls for the education of present and future generations which emphasizes social and environmental issues, based on our experience and an appreciation of our diverse cultural perspectives.

17. Environmental justice requires that we, as individuals, make personal and consumer choices to consume as little of Mother Earth’s resources and to produce as little waste as possible; and make the conscious decision to challenge and reprioritize our lifestyles to insure the health of the natural world for present and future generations