CEH's work has improved the lives of many people whose lives and health have been affected by toxic chemicals. Through these personal stories, we can see just how much toxics touch the lives of individuals and families everyday.
Read some of the stories of people who CEH has personally helped through their work.
Marilyn Furer isn't a household name. But this Illinois grandmother did what our government seems unable to do: She got toxic baby products off store shelves.
After reading an article about lead in plastic school lunch boxes, she noticed that her grandson's baby bibs from Wal-Mart, which spent more time in his mouth than his lunch did, seemed to be made out of the same vinyl material. If vinyl is a lead threat in a lunchbox, she reasoned, it could be even worse in a baby’s bib, since even small amounts of lead can cause health and developmental problems.
With a simple lead test purchased at a local hardware store, Marilyn found that there was lead on the surface of the bibs, that could easily come off and expose her grandson. Instead of just throwing the bibs away, she decided to take action so that other babies wouldn't be exposed to the same toxins.
But government agencies hadn’t seemed concerned about lead in lunchboxes, especially during the Bush Administration: the Bush-era federal Consumer Product Safety Commission had even manipulated data to downplay the lead threat from vinyl lunchboxes.
But Marilyn knew that the Center for Environmental Health had a long track-record in protecting children’s health. She called CEH and we agreed to test the baby bibs. After confirming her results with an independent lab test, our joint effort resulted in Wal-Mart taking those toxic bibs off the shelves – and ultimately resulted in other stores taking the same action.
For her part in this effort to protect children’s health, Marilyn was named a “Safety Crusader” by Consumer Reports magazine.
After CEH announced our testing finding high levels of lead in children's bounce houses, we received a phone call from Lawrence Gutierrez. Lawrence rents bounce houses, but he didn't want to rent any if they might contain lead - in fact, he told us, he had cancelled all of his bounce house rentals to protect his customers' kids.
The problem for a one-man rental company - and for parents - is that there is no easy way to tell when a bounce house may contain high levels of lead. With CEH's help, Lawrence was able to determine which of his bounce houses contained high levels of lead, so he could take appropriate action. Through our ongoing work, we hope to make ALL bounce houses safe for children!
When CEH launched our campaign to end the threat to drinking water from lead in wheel weights, one of the most common questions we received was, “What’s a wheel weight?”
Anytime a vehicle’s wheels are balanced, wheel weights may be replaced. The small, metal weights are attached to the rim of the vehicle, to provide a smooth ride and prevent uneven tire wear. Everyone who drives uses wheel weights, even if we don’t know it.
But even thought they don’t yet drive, a team of middle school students knew a lot about wheel weights. After learning that lead in wheel weights can fall off and release lead into the environment – where it can poison drinking water - three students from West Branch Middle School in West Branch Iowa formed “Team DeadWeight,” and started working to end the use of leaded wheel weights in their town.
CEH was also working to end the use of leaded wheel weights. We challenged the leading makers of wheel weights and Chrysler, one of the last car makers still using the leaded weights, to change to safer metals. Our work resulted in the nation’s first binding rules to stop the sale of leaded wheel weights. When state legislation to ban lead in wheel weights came up before the California Governor, CEH presented the Governor with a packet of materials, including information from Team DeadWeight.
Team DeadWeight’s research and advocacy were successful far beyond their town. Ultimately their efforts resulted in a bill introduced in the Iowa state assembly, and the team presented its findings at the United Nations and contributed to the Environmental Protection Agency’s actions to reduce reliance on leaded wheel weights.
To top it off, the students won the inaugural “We Can Change the World Challenge,” a nationwide contest of more than 2,000 student science teams. As the Grand Prize winners, the Team was featured on the Discovery Channel’s “Planet Green” and presented their project to a panel of experts.