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Living Well

Women for a Healthy Environment (WHE) Newsletter

Fall 2012


Helping to create a healthier community for women and those who love them.

In This Issue
Teens on the Eco Scene
Food City Fellows - Overbrook
Fragrance-Free Day
Safe Chemicals Act Update
Johnson and Johnson to Reformulate!
Cleaning Product Database Now Available
Upcoming Events
Giving Corner
Quick Links

Special Thanks
Special thanks to our generous funders:


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I suspect many of you, like me, have been asking the same question - where did the summer go? For those who sent children off to school a week or so ago, you may have seen our story about toxins in back to school supplies. WHE co-released a report with the Center for Health, Environment, and Justice which tested backpacks, lunch boxes and folders for PVC content. Unfortunately, many items contained high amounts of chemicals of concern. For instance, 80% (16/20) of supplies sampled contained phthalates and 75% contained levels of phthalates which would be in violation of the federal ban for toys, if back to school items were considered a toy. Phthalates are not chemically bound to the vinyl and can migrate from within the product to surfaces. If you still need to purchase a few items on your school supply list, don't forget to refer to WHE's Green Guide for Back to School . This is a useful resource for teachers and administrators as well! 


Not only does September equate to back to school, it's also a time to celebrate Local Food Month. This is a great opportunity for WHE to announce that it is hosting a Farm to Community conference on November 12, 2012 at the Regional Learning Alliance in Cranberry. Our keynote speakers include Judith Dodd, a registered dietitian, and assistant professor at the University of Pittsburgh. Ms. Dodd is a consultant on child nutrition issues and past president of the American Dietetic Association. WHE is also pleased to present Rodney Taylor. Mr. Taylor has 34 years experience in the food service industry, having worked in college and university, fast-food dining, management consultancy, and school food service administration. He is a noted pioneer and expert in "Farm to School salad bars" and is a charter member of the national Farm to School network. Programs from across the country and within our region will be highlighted that connect schools with local farms, improve student nutrition, and address access to local food in urban and rural communities. For more information and to register, click here.   


Our friends at the PA Association for Sustainable Agriculture are hosting a local food challenge during this month and it's not too late to participate. This week you can learn how to make cheese. I've been promised that it is lots of fun and easy-two prerequisites in our house!     

Below you will find policy updates, corporate updates, as well as information about upcoming events. Please consider donating just $10, $15 or $25 to WHE so that we may continue to work hard to protect you, your families and the environment.



Michelle Naccarati-Chapkis
Executive Director
Women for a Healthy Environment


Teens on the Eco Scene
If you're a teen, or know a teen, look no further! With the generous support of The Grable Foundation WHE is creating a new program called Teens on the Eco Scene. This program will educate and engage teens across the region about the importance of reducing environmental risk factors, improving health and wellness in a community, and creating a sustainable environment through student engagement, competitions and challenges. We will be working with young adults in fun and informative sessions to raise awareness on various environmental topics. If someone you know would like to participate in these engaging activities, contact us today! We hope to get students, parents, and perhaps even schools involved in this learning process. Call our office at 412-420-2290 or email us at to learn more.


Food City Fellows-Overbrook
WHE had another successful year in the garden, even with a little rain...actually a lot of rain! Under the wonderful leadership of WHE intern Chelsea Holmes, the students created Firehouse Farm located adjacent to the Accomando Center at the intersection of Route 51 and Maytide Avenue in Overbrook. You may recall the flood that occurred along Route 51 this summer. The garden was covered in two feet or so of water. However, the students didn't get discouraged. In fact they arrived early the following Monday morning determined to restore and repair their many hours of hard work. In addition to tilling, planting and mulching the garden, the students had classroom time, which included designing the site, discussing environmental topics with an emphasis on agriculture, and preparing fresh health snacks each week. We knew we had success when one student's parent called to say she had prepared salsa for the family that weekend. This is the same student who said at the beginning of the program she didn't eat vegetables! The students also enjoyed visiting Churchview Farms, Garden Dreams and The Porch restaurant. Below are a few of the student quotes:

"Today opened my eyes the different processes our food goes through before buying it."- Earl 


"I am going to try to eat better and more organic food."- Sarah  


"Today was definitely a lot of physical work. But I actually didn't mind the manual labor. There is something about getting one's hands dirty that is immensely satisfying."- Niger 

Food City Fellows-Overbrook share pictures of flood.
This new community garden is open to the public for use and enjoyment, so stop by and visit!
This project was a collaboration with the Overbrook and Carrick Community Councils, the City of Pittsburgh, and Penn State Cooperative Extension. WHE thanks these partners for their assistance in providing the students with this unique learning opportunity. WHE appreciates the support of our generous garden sponsors - The Beckwith Family Foundation and Columbia Gas! 


Fragrance-Free Day
It's back! As you may recall, May 22, 2012 was designated Fragrance-free Day in the City of Pittsburgh. If you weren't able to join us, don't worry! "WHE" had so much fun and met so many folks during the downtown lunch hour that we took your recommendation and decided to host another event this fall. It will be held at the Schenley Plaza in Oakland on October 24th from 10 am - 2 pm. Stop by our tent to receive a fragrance-free toolkit and sample fragrance-free items. In addition, you can take the "Don't Spray for a Day" pledge. Our friends at the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics loved our Fragrance Free day concept as well and will join us! Special thanks to our event sponsors: the Highmark Foundation, The Heinz Endowments, and the Pipitone Group!


Safe Chemicals Act Update

The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee voted favorably on the Safe Chemicals Act in July clearing a hurdle so it could be brought to the Senate floor this fall. Unfortunately, time is running out and we need your help. Please contact public health champion Sen. Harry Reid and ask him to bring the Safe Chemicals Act to the floor for a vote. You can call the Senator's DC office at 202-224-3542. If you are in Reid's district and are calling from a 775 or 702 area code, call 1-866-SEN-REID (736-7343). Thank you! 


Johnson and Johnson to Reformulate

On August 15, 2012 Johnson and Johnson announced that it plans to remove potentially cancer-causing and other dangerous chemicals from nearly all its adult toiletries and cosmetic products worldwide within 3 1/2 years. Johnson and Johnson, the maker of Aveeno and Neutrogena skin and body products, indicates that by 2015 it will:

  • Reduce 1,4 dioxane to a maximum of 10 parts per million in adult products;
  • Phase out polycyclic musks, animal derived ingredients, tagates, rose crystal and diacetyl from fragrances;  
  • Phase out formaldehyde-releasers in adult products;
  • Limit parabens in adult products to methyl-, ethyl- and propyl-;
  • Complete phase-out of triclosan from all products; and
  • Phase out Diethyl Phthalate (DEP) from all products (no other phthalates are currently used). 

We commend Johnson and Johnson for taking this leadership position (Johnson and Johnson previously stated it plans to also reformulate infant products by 2013). Now it's time to issue a challenge to other industry giants such as Avon, Estee Lauder, Loreal, Procter & Gamble, and Unilever to follow J & J's lead and also remove harmful chemicals from their personal care products. Click here to view Ms. Naccarati-Chapkis' interview with Dr. Maria Simbra of KDKA-TV.    


Cleaning Product Database Now Available

This week the Environmental Working Group released its new database that features safety ratings for household cleaning products. We heard from several friends and colleagues that were shocked and frankly infuriated when they looked up what they considered a safe product because it was marketed as "natural." As an example, all of the Baby Ganics products rated a D or lower, most were rated an F. This is another great example of greenwashing and another reason why we need to support laws that would better protect our health (such as the Safe Chemicals Act and Safe Cosmetics Act). As we all know, it's a challenge to shop our way out of the problem. Don't forget to refer to WHE's Recipes for a Healthy Home for Do-It-Yourself recipes. You'll know ALL of the ingredients and the products work just as well!


Upcoming Events
  • The Allegheny County Board of Health will meet on September 19th at 12:30 pm at the Clack Health Center located at 39th and Penn in Lawrenceville. In August WHE submitted comments supporting adoption of the revised Air Toxic Guidelines. (The current guidelines date back to 1988 and utilize decades-old air quality standards.) Show your support too by attending this meeting. 
  • National Pollution Prevention Week Event Silent Spring, a Model for Communicating Science to Drive Change on Thursday, September 20, 2012 in the Welker Room at Laughlin Music Hall, Chatham University.

    Keynote Address:EPA Region III Administrator Shawn Garvin

    Roundtable: Science Transforming Action - Safe, healthy and economic choices in materials use and management

    Moderator: Patricia DeMarco- Director, Rachel Carson Institute

    Panel Speakers:

    • Green chemistry in practice:

    Lalit Chordia, President, Thar Industries

    Matthew Mehalik, Ph.D., Sustainable Pittsburgh

    • Communicating science to the public:-

    Allison Robinson, Ph.D. Sustainability Coordinator, UPMC

               John Butler, Regional Pesticide Expert, Region III EPA

    • Consumer advocacy and outreach-

    Michelle Naccarati-Chapkis, Executive Director, Women for a Healthy Environment

    • University Climate Project-
              Mary Whitney-Sustainability Coordinator, Chatham 
  • The 2012 Rachel Carson Legacy Conference: Our Planet and Our Health - The Impact of Silent Spring after 50 Years on October 26th from 1 - 5 pm. 


    Keynote: Francesca Santoro, Ph.D. Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of UNESCO  

    Panel on Best Practices for a Sustainable Future - Lessons from Rachel Carson - Panel Moderated by Patricia DeMarco, Director Rachel Carson Institute, Chatham University

    50 Years after Silent Spring Perspectives on the Practice of Chemistry - Panel moderated by Madeline Jacobs, American Chemical Society Executive Director CEO  To register, click here! 




Giving Corner


Help us to offer you great programming
and advocate for change!
WHE has not only advocated on behalf of issues related to our health and the environment -- pushing for safer reforms on chemical policy and other important topics in our region -- WHE has also brought our incredibly valuable events and workshops that have educated our communities, putting them on the pathway to healthier living.  Through online communication, we hope the articles and reports we share with each of you have been valuable to understanding the latest scientific findings between our health and the environment.

Our ability to continue to bring our families and friends across western Pennsylvania events and workshops and advocate for policy change that protects our health depends on our ability to fund these activities. 

Today, your support is more important than ever. You can help us in our efforts to create a happier, healthier, better tomorrow for yourself, your family, and the community.
Women for a Healthy Environment
  • Empowering women with reliable scientific information
  • Advocating for environmental policy solutions 
  • Educating the community about environmental health risks

Special thanks to primary grantor The Heinz Endowments and host organization The Children's Institute.


  Women for a Healthy Environment    ::    1405 Shady Avenue   ::   Pittsburgh, PA 15217

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