SAN FRANCISCO, 1 October 2012 – All over the state of California residents are organizing to protect themselves and their community from environmental health hazards in air, water and soil. The Sierra Fund joined leaders and organizers from this movement at the Conference on Environmental Health sponsored by The California Wellness Foundation in San Francisco last month.
Diana M. Bontá, R.N., Dr.P.H., President and CEO of The California Wellness Foundation gave a thoughtful and challenging opening speech. Wellness Foundation is one of the few foundations in the country investing in understanding and combating public health problems that originate in environmental exposures to toxic materials in drinking water, food, air and soil. She outlined some of their accomplishments and discussed their newly launched strategic planning efforts that the Foundation will undertake over the next couple of years.
The workshops presented creative and effective work going on all over the state. For example, residents working in a community that has become home to enormous warehouses are using equipment loaned by UCLA to document impacts on air quality of giant trucks driving through – and idling in – their communities as they drop off or pick-up loads from these giant warehouses. People fighting to protect their water from agricultural chemicals or consumer products from carcinogens presented their strategies, victories and lessons learned. Efforts to use existing laws, like the California Environmental Quality Act, to protect human health were discussed.
“This conference was tremendously useful for me,” noted Elizabeth “Izzy” Martin, CEO of The Sierra Fund. “Not only did I get an opportunity to learn about some of the freshest ideas for bringing this complicated topic into the public dialogue but I also got a chance to create new relationships with people around the state that will help us all improve our efforts to protect public health from environmental exposure. And, at the Mercury Roundtable organized by The Sierra Fund and Clean Water Action on the second day of the conference, we had a very focused meeting to talk about next steps around mercury regulation,” she added. “I left the event inspired and re-invigorated.”