Tag Archives: clean air

Fighting for Clean Air in Oklahoma ~ An Interview with Lisa Sharp

Lisa Sharp is a freelance writer, social media marketer and environmental activist, living in a small town in Oklahoma. She has a blog called Retro Housewife Goes Green and runs a website called Green Oklahoma.  Lisa and I have been online friends for a few years, which in internet time equates to forever.  So when I saw Lisa talking about a local cement plant, air pollution, and the subsequent health effects on Facebook, I told her I’d love to interview her for the Moms Clean Air Force

How did you become interested in and first learn about the pollution coming from the local cement plant?

Around 1992, I would have been five, the cement plant tried to get a permit to burn hazardous waste and my grandmother was very active in fighting it. They won that fight so I didn’t think about it much until I became more active in the environmental community. A few years ago I was at a sustainability conference listening to Earl Hatley and I ended up talking to him about the cement plant and it turned out he had been apart of the fight against the plant in 1992. The things he told me sparked my interest and I started researching cement plant pollution more. 

Please give us a summary of the environmental problems caused by the cement plant.  What pollutants are released? Are current emissions standards being exceeded?

After the cement plant lost the battle to get a hazardous waste burning permit they started burning tires. As of a few years ago there were only nine wet-process cement plants burning tires in the U.S. Seven of the nine are in violation of the pollution limits, set by the Clear Air Act. Three are high-priority violators. One of these three plants is the plant in my town. In 2005 they violated the pollution limits more than 1,000 times in one year. They were only fined $321,000. Last I checked they were currently in violation as well.

Some of the toxins the plant puts off include ammonia, benzene, certain glycol ethers, chromium, diethanolamine, dioxin and dioxin-like compounds, ethylene glycol, lead, manganese, mercury, sulfuric acid, and zinc compounds. Cement plants are the third largest contributor of mercury emissions. 

How has your own health and/or your family’s health influenced your environmental activism?

I personally have asthma, as do my mom and brother. My mom’s asthma was very severe when I was young and we were living 0.7 miles from the plant. While many things played a role in her asthma being so bad, we believe one of those things was the cement. Since they have moved from that house, out of town, she has been much better. My asthma was better when living outside of town as well and once I moved back to town, now 2.5 miles from the plant, my asthma has gotten worse. 

I also have many friends that are quite young but already are battling cancer. My town’s cancer rates are above the state average, which is above the national average. I’m tired of seeing my friends sick and dying and knowing there is this plant pumping tons of cancer causing chemicals into our air.

Has the pollution from the cement plant been linked to local health issues?

Officially, no. But as I said our cancer rates are high. I also believe our autoimmune illness rate is high but haven’t been able to research this yet. Many doctors in town have commented on Ada’s cancer rate and citizens are starting to also question this. Benzene is one of the toxins that the cement plant puts off in large amounts and it’s been shown to cause cancer so it’s hard not to question a link. And benzene isn’t the only cancer causing chemical the plant puts off.

Have your local politicians become involved in this issue?

No. There is a city council member in Tulsa that is fighting the cement plant there on burning hazardous waste but that is the only politician I know of. And he is not being well received by others in Tulsa. That will be a very big fight.

What are you hoping will happen? What would be your ideal outcome?

Many people have this idea that I’m trying to get the cement plant closed down, but that’s not the case. I know they are one of the largest employers in my town and that it was cost the city jobs and money that we can’t afford to lose. Also at this time we need cement, I don’t want to close our plant just to end up with another city polluted to make the cement we were making. 

I would love to see the plant follow the current laws and for the laws to be made stronger. I also would like the burning of tires and hazardous waste by cement plants made illegal. This is where a lot of the emissions come from so this would cut them a lot. More scrubbers and other improvements that would help pull out the toxics would be nice as well. The biggest thing for me though, is to first get them to follow the law.

What advice would you give to someone who is interested in becoming an environmental activist?

Don’t do it! Just kidding. It is a very hard job and one that is often thankless but it can also be the most rewarding job you can do. You don’t have to take on a big company like I’m doing. I started by joining my local recycling coalition, I’m currently a board member. Simple things like that can really help your community be a better place. 

More about cement plants from Lisa:

I’d like to thank Lisa for sharing her fight for clean air with the Moms Clean Air Force.  As Lisa said, her goal is to have the cement plant follow current emission standards and she thinks emissions standards need to be strengthened. 

Please join the Moms Clean Air Force in our fight to strengthen clean air standards and protect our children’s health.

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Air Quality Alert – Tips for Indoor Fun

Cross posted at Moms Clean Air Force

There’s an air quality alert today in my neck of the woods thanks to high temperatures and elevated smog levels.  Temps are in the 90′s, humidity is high and it certainly feels hot! Some schools are even dismissing early (not mine, we have air conditioning), and we still have over two weeks left until summer vacation.  Our local health department recommends limiting outdoor activity for little ones, so I’ve got some tips for indoor fun to help your family beat the heat and/or smog!

Healthy Cool Treats

It’s important to stay hydrated when it’s hot.  Make water fun with cute water bottles or cups and by adding slices of lemon, lime, cucumber or berries.  In addition, you can serve juicy fruits like watermelon or try some frozen grapes or bananas.  Use popsicle molds to make your own yogurt pops, which are very easy and one of my favorite treats for a hot day! 

Don’t Let the Sun Shine In

There’s something about keeping the lights turned off that makes you feel cooler.  Close the shades and the blinds to keep the bright sun and heat out of your house.  You can even take it a step further and build a fort or tent for inside play.  Stories, maybe even ghost stories, are best told in a tent.

Keep It Low Key

Inside time is perfect for reading, board games, crafts and family movies.  You won’t exert a lot of effort but you’ll keep little hands and minds busy.  Why not put on a talent or fashion show?

Water Play

Even if it’s too hot or smoggy to go outside, your little ones can still make a splash.  Put on swimsuits, grab the water toys and head to a cool bath tub! Children can burn some energy, keep cool and get clean all at once.

Educate Yourself

As long as you’re stuck inside, read up on smog.  Check out the interactive map at Air Now, read about the Smog Pollution Rule and learn about ground-level ozone.

What’s your best tip to keep your cool (and your sanity) when your family is stuck inside?

Please join the Moms Clean Air Force to help us fight for clean air for our kids. We need your voice! If you haven’t already, please email the EPA to show your support of the new Mercury and Air Toxics rule .  Thank you!

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Calling All Green Moms!

Cross-posted at Moms Clean Air Force

Are you a green mom? Have you taken steps towards reducing your environmental impact? Have you educated yourself on environmental problems? Have you contacted your representatives, the EPA, or written letters to the editor about environmental legislation? Do you blog about your efforts to go green? Do you consider yourself to be an expert environmentalist?

If you answered “Of course!” to any (or all) of those questions, then the Moms Clean Air Force would love to invite you to participate in our online chat on Wednesday, June 1, from 2:00 to 3:00pm EST.  We want to get more moms involved in our movement in support of clean air, and I know that most of my posts at Farmer’s Daughter are “preaching to the choir” or perhaps to the “experts”! I’m counting on you to come share your experiences and ideas in our online chat.  We want to brainstorm about ways to get other moms involved in the fight for clean air! Some more details…

Politicians in Congress, influenced by profit-driven corporations and lobbyists, are trying to gut the Clean Air Act and dismantle the Environmental Protection Agency. We have to rally moms to counter pro-pollution forces for the sake of our kids’ health and their future. If moms don’t fight for clean air, who will?

But moms are busy and may not know how to get involved. How do we get their attention? How do we get them to speak up? How do we recruit them for the Moms Clean Air Force?

 The chat will take place on Facebook, so be sure to “Like” Moms Clean Air Force, then click on the “smiley face” chat tab on the left hand side of the page.  You can RSVP/register here.

To get your gears turning, here’s the first discussion question:

What, for YOU, is the most powerful motivation to be involved in this campaign?

My motivation to preserve, protect and defend the environment is for the benefit of future generations.  I cared about the environment long before I became a mom, since I love spending time in nature, but having a child brings the future into  reality instead of an abstract concept.  When I look down at that little perfect face, I know how important it is to act!  Who better to defend my son’s health and future than his Mommy?

Since I won’t be home from work in time for the chat, I plan to check it out later and join the conversation as I can.  I hope my green friends can help to fill my place!

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Mama Bear

Cross-posted at Moms Clean Air Force

I took this photo of a mama bear and her triplet cubs while on vacation in Alaska

I’m not a confrontational person.  Arguments make me really uncomfortable and I do my best to avoid them.  I don’t need to “win” and am happier to just smile and nod when I disagree with someone about something trivial.  It helps that I have a lot of patience and that I respect people’s right to their own opinion.  But when it comes to my son Joshua’s well being, that’s a different story.

I’ve actually seen mama bears defend their cubs in the wild.  Believe me, it is terrifying.  And now that I’m a mother, I understand.  I’m most likely never going to have to defend him physically, with tooth and claw, but I will stand up to the meanest, scariest, biggest grizzly bear if that’s what I have to do.

So when I think about all the great big scary polluters who threaten my son’s health and future, I have no problem standing up to them.  I’m not afraid to tell them it’s their turn to act. 

It can seem overwhelming to think of my one, tiny little voice telling Great Big Companies to clean up their act.  It’s worth it for my child’s future, and I am not alone.  We are not alone.  All around the world, mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers are banding together to tell polluters that we’re not letting them off the hook.  We’re contacting our representatives and the EPA, organizing public demonstrations and events, launching online events on Facebook and Twitter, and teaching our children to stand up for themselves.  Our voices are united, and I believe we will triumph. 

I never thought I’d say this, but I’m a Mama Bear.  Are you?

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What’s Your Number?

Cross-posted at Moms Clean Air Force

How many premature deaths due to air pollution are acceptable?  American Electric Power (AEP) says 34,000 in two years ia A-okay.  AEP is a huge polluter and they’re spending a ton of money to try to limit clean air standards.  They’ve even drafted legislation that would allow them to continue polluting.

Why does AEP think they can change the laws to allow them to continue polluting? Ordinary citizens, mothers and fathers and children, have the right to stand up to AEP and tell them to stop polluting.  We have the duty to tell our representatives to protect our families’ health.  Why should we allow AEP to continue to pollute? Why should we AGREE to let an estimated 34,000 people die due to air pollution?

Let’s ask AEP: How many lives are you willing to sacrifice with your assault on clean air standards?  #WhatsYourNumber?

Send AEP an email, then spread the word with these tweets:

34k premature deaths from @AEPnews’s dirty air bill. How many deaths are ok? #WhatsYourNumber #CleanAir http://goo.gl/34syA Tweet this!

@AEPnews’s Dirty Air Bill = 240k asthma attacks and 34k premature deaths. Acceptable? #WhatsYourNumber http://goo.gl/34syA Tweet this!

No advanced pollution controls on 40% of @AEPnews’s plants. How many lives is that costing? #WhatsYourNumber http://goo.gl/34syA Tweet this!

@AEPnews #1 polluter spends 0.5% on #energy efficiency. Their legislation would cost 34k lives #WhatsYourNumber http://goo.gl/34syA Tweet this!

@AEPnews #1 polluter dirty air bill = more mercury, more asthma, 34k early deaths. #WhatsYourNumber http://goo.gl/34syA Tweet this!

@AEPnews $1.2 billion in profits and their bill would cause 34k premature deaths. #WhatsYourNumber http://goo.gl/34syA Tweet this!

@AEPnews’s Dirty Air Bill = More kids exposed to toxic mercury, more worry for moms. #WhatsYourNumber http://goo.gl/34syA Tweet this!

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Monitoring Air Quality with Lichen as a Bioindicator

This post is part of the May Green Moms Carnival, hosted this month by the Green Phone Booth.

Cross-posted at Moms Clean Air Force

Joshua explores plant life outdoors (but not lichen!)

 Lichen, which consists of a symbiotic relationship between a fungus and an alga, is sensitive to atmospheric pollution including nitrogen and sulfur emissions that lead to acid rain, as well as toxic lead and mercury emissions.  This sensitivity makes lichen a valuable biological indicator of air quality.  It can be difficult to identify lichen species, even for seasoned naturalists.  We’ll generalize lichen into three categories for this activity. 

  • Crustose lichens form a “crust” onto their substrate of trees, rocks or soil.  The crust is attached so firmly that it cannot be removed without causing damage.
  • Foliose lichens are leafy (think: foliage) that attach loosely, and the lobes of the leaf are often parallel to the surface of the substrate.
  • Fruticose lichens are the three dimensional, often growing perpendicular to their substrate.  They can look like little bushes growing off the side of a tree or rock.

Look at some pictures of each of these lichens until you’re comfortable identifying them.  (See the resources listed at the end.)

Activity: Go for a nature walk around your yard, a park or other favorite natural environment.  As you walk, stop to look at the types of lichen present.  Lichen is very slow-growing, so try not to disturb it as you examine it to determine if it is crustose, foliose or fruiticose.  Younger children can identify the lichen’s color: bright green, gray-green, blue-green, yellow-green, or even pink! Older children may want to bring a field journal along to diagram the lichen that they see.  Keep track of the number of different types of lichen you see while on your nature walk.  Generally speaking, the more lichen you see (in color and quantity) the cleaner the air.

Analysis: Use the modified Hawskworth-Rose Index below to estimate air quality in the area.

  1. No lichens present – very poor air quality
  2. Crustose lichens only – poor air quality
  3. Crustose and foliose lichens – moderate to good quality (based on number of different lichens)
  4. Fruticose, foliose and crustose lichens – very good air quality

What if we have poor air quality?

If you’re lookin’ for lichen but can’t find it anywhere, you may have very poor air quality.  Please write to your representatives and voice your concerns about your local air.  Children can write letters, take photographs or draw pictures to convey their ideas.  You can also tell the EPA that air quality should be a priority!

What if we have good air quality?

I bet that your representatives would love to hear about that, too! Why not send a letter, drawing or photo to let them know that your air is clean and you want it to stay that way?

Extensions:

  • Track changes in your local lichen each year to see if it increases or decreases.
  • Older children and teens can measure the lichen and calculate its area to collect quantitative data and practice graphing.
  • Photograph the lichen and make a guide to your local species. You don’t have to get technical, you can make up your own names.
  • If you want to get technical, consult an online lichen key to find the scientific names.
  • Grow your own lichen! You can paint on rocks or trees with yogurt to promote lichen growth. Not for those seeking immediate gratification…

Resources:

Backyard Nature: Lichens

Lichenland

Lichen Lite

How to Know the Lichens

This post is part of my Fun Family Learning series.  Please let me know what you think about it and feel free to request a topic!

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