Laurel Peltier

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Laurel Peltier writes the environment GreenLaurel column every Thursday in the Baltimore Fishbowl.

How Flame Retardant are American Breasts?

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Unfortunately, a lot more than European women’s. Hopefully that will change soon.

How flame retardants go from foam to you. Courtesy: Green Science Policy Institute.
How flame retardants go from foam to you. Courtesy: Green Science Policy Institute.

The story of toxic flame retardants is soaked in good intentions gone wrong. Thankfully, though, a “big deal” California regulation just kicked in and flame retardant chemicals will slowly be eliminated from U.S. consumer foam products.

Two Fixes Aimed at Reducing Baltimore’s Crappy Air Pollution

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Satellite image reveals air pollution over Mid-Atlantic region. Ohio Valley power plant emissions float to Baltimore. ©UCAR. Image by Alison Rockwell, NCAR, based on NASA satellite map.

Charm City’s air quality is so bad that we top the list for highest mortality rate from air pollution.  But, this isn’t just a bummer-our-air-quality-is-lousy-post. Have you heard of two proposed government initiatives (yes-that’s code for regulations) that may actually improve our city’s air quality? New EPA smog limits and the Maryland Clean Energy Advancement Act sound kind of wonky, but these “big deal” policies can cut air pollution and hopefully better protect Baltimore’s citizens.

Why Hogan Is Wrong About the ‘Rain Tax’

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1 inch of rain on 1 acre of hard surface creates 27,000 gallons of yucky polluted runoff. Courtesy: Chesapeake Bay Foundation

Rain used to be fun, cleansing, even peaceful. It was about snuggling under blankets and baking cookies. Not anymore. Rain is now a weather event that can be taxed.  Rain is now urban polluted runoff. It’s even a political marketing tool. Rain helped a governor win an election.

Next stop for Oil Bomb Trains: Baltimore?

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How would Baltimore's again train tunnel handle an oil train fire similar to this Lynchburg, VA explosion?
How would Baltimore’s Inner Harbor-area handle an oil train fire similar to this Lynchburg, VA explosion?

If Targa Resources has its way, “oil bomb” trains will rumble through Baltimore’s Inner Harbor on their way to the company’s proposed Curtis Bay oil storage facility.  The same type of oil trains that exploded in West Virginia this week may already be chugging through Baltimore, but no one knows for sure if that’s true or not. Let’s take a look at how our country’s fracking boom may put thousands of Maryland homes squarely in a potential oil train blast zone and also learn who’s trying to protect Maryland’s citizens.

Will Maryland Ban the Microbead?

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Found in personal care products, microbeads don’t biodegrade and make their way into waterways.

Two bills to ban the use of polyethylene plastic “microbeads” in personal care products were recently introduced in Maryland’s General Assembly.  It turns out the super-small plastic beads get flushed into waterways and transform into bloated, little toxic balls that fish, and possibly humans, ingest. Just lovely.

Big Fish: Get Smart About Chemicals with Baltimore’s Toxin Guru McKay Jenkins

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Professor McKay Jenkins helps us answer the question: Are the toxins in everyday products healthy?

 

We’ve launched a year-long series, Beneath the Surface: What’s in Everyday Consumer Products.  Articles in this series will examine how prevalent synthetic chemicals are in everyday products, and the consequences of their use to our health and our environment.

The Beneath the Surface series was inspired by Professor McKay Jenkins’s book: What’s Gotten into Us? Staying Healthy in a Toxic World.  After learning he had a tumor the size of an orange, McKay’s cancer scare led him to research and write this important book.  Based in Baltimore, McKay has authored numerous books, and he’s currently the Cornelius Tilghman Professor of English, Journalism and Environmental Humanities at the University of Delaware. Yes, he commutes to the campus and has for 18 years! 

Who Knew? The Chesapeake Bay Flush Fee Is a Success

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The goal for the Chesapeake Bay is cleaner, more clear water home to grasses.
A prettier Chesapeake Bay: Less pollution, clear water, abundant bay grasses and thriving fisheries.

As Governor Hogan said in his first State of the State address, “No state can match the beauty of the Chesapeake Bay.” We Marylanders are quite proud of our bay, yet we also know that beneath the bay’s surface, it’s a hot mess.  We’ve been talking about “saving the bay” for decades. The most recent yearly Chesapeake Bay Foundation’s State of the Bay report gave the estuary’s health index a 32/D+.

So you may be surprised to learn that the 2004 “flush fee” signed into law by then Governor Ehrlich, a Republican, has been a grand success. The good news is that we know what actions work and we can pinpoint the Chesapeake Bay’s ongoing pollution hot spots. Maybe, just maybe, with some political will, consumer education, financial investments and hard work, the Chesapeake Bay may be restored to a healthier state in the future. 

Is Nonstick Cookware Safe?

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This post is a first in our series, Beneath the Surface: What’s in Everyday Consumer Products? Articles in this series will examine how prevalent synthetic chemicals are in everyday products, and the consequences of their use to our health and our environment. 

Cast iron pans are an inexpensive alternative to nonstick coated cookware. Used for generations, cast iron offers even heating and durability and can also be heated safely to high temps.
Cast iron pans are an inexpensive alternative to nonstick coated cookware. Used for generations, cast iron offers even heating and durability and can also be heated safely to high temps.

My husband asked me two simple questions as he scrambled eggs in our 18-year old nonstick cooking pan: Are we eating this coating? Is it safe?  Better known as “Teflon cookware,” our nonstick pans were gifts from our 1997 nuptials. 

Is the Latest Plastic Bag Ban Bill the Lucky #7?

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Will Baltimore's City Council finally pass a plastic bag ban bill? Bag litter estimated to be half of the trash that flows into Inner Harbor.
Will the Baltimore City Council finally pass a plastic bag ban bill? Bag litter is estimated to be half of the trash that flows into the Inner Harbor.

They’re everywhere. Flying in the wind, adorning trees and littering the Inner Harbor: plastic bags.  The flimsy bags even star in this hysterical Majestic Plastic Bag Mockumentary.

Hoping to combat Baltimore’s plastic bag litter, Councilmember Bill Henry recently submitted a plastic bag ban similar to the version Mayor Rawlings-Blake vetoed in December 2014. This bag bill is attempt #7.  If approved, Baltimore City’s stores and to-go food outlets would not be allowed to offer consumers plastic bags.

How to be a Lazy Environmentalist

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A few key eco-actions (switching to green energy & being a hard-core recycler) make a huge difference in reducing your carbon footprint. And, they're so easy, it's almost lazy.
A few key eco-actions (switching to green energy & being a hard-core recycler) make a huge difference in reducing your carbon footprint. And, they’re so easy, it’s almost lazy.

Most people want to do the right thing for the environment, but two things consistently get in the way of good intentions: our super-busy lives and the perception that being green is expensive and hard.

The good news is there’s nothing wrong with being a lazy environmentalist, if you’re good at it.  As luck would have it, Maryland offers two things most states don’t: deregulated utilities and single-stream recycling*. Give this slacker greenie thing a try, it makes a big difference.

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