From the Mercury News09/25/2014

chris jordan albatross“I’ve appreciated the ocean since my first dive. As an explorer, educator and film producer, I’ve seen how important the ocean is to our happiness and prosperity as residents of a water planet. This is especially true for California, from our spectacular coast to the whales, orcas and leatherback sea turtles that enrich our corner of the Pacific.

This month, Gov. Jerry Brown is reviewing critical legislation to protect our ocean. I urge him to sign a single-use plastic bag ban and support consumers’ right to know about toxic flame retardants in furniture.

Plastic debris is a threat to wildlife worldwide and single-use plastic bags are one of the worst offenders. Marine debris is known to harm 660 species, according to the United Nations Environment Programme. More than 80 percent of marine debris is plastic, and most comes from land. Single-use plastic bags entangle fish, birds and other animals, sometimes strangling or suffocating them. Sea turtles eat these bags, mistaking them for edible jellyfish. One analysis of 370 leatherback sea turtle necropsies found that one in three turtles had ingested plastic, most often a plastic bag. Researchers have also documented dead whales with plastic bags in their stomachs.

These bags are a pervasive environmental pollutant, one of the most common garbage items removed from California beaches during Coastal Cleanup Day. They are up to 8 percent of the trash flowing into the San Francisco Bay through local storm drains, according to a 2012 report by the Bay Area Stormwater Management Agencies Association. We’ve all seen plastic bags polluting our streets, our parks and rivers. This is why more than 125 local governments, representing one in three Californians, have already opted to ban them. Outside the U.S., about 20 countries are tackling plastic bag pollution with bans or fees.

Senate Bill 270 (Padilla, De León, Lara) bans single-use plastic bags statewide. Brown should sign it.

During an expedition a few years ago, my team and I discovered that many populations of killer whales are contaminated with toxic, synthetic chemicals, including a class of flame retardants known as PBDEs. California requires these chemicals to be added to furniture and many children’s products. They leak into the environment through the air, are carried by dust and water and enter the food chain. Flame retardants persist in the environment, concentrate over time and are toxic with likely adverse effects for both orcas and humans. They’ve been linked to lower IQs in children, reduced fertility and increased cancer risks.

Flame retardants in our environment are doubling every five years, and worst of all, they’re not preventing fires as promised. Instead, they can produce more toxic smoke containing cancer-causing chemicals like furans and dioxin. Firefighters are exposed to flame retardants and their byproducts, which can penetrate protective gear and likely contribute to higher rates of cancer, heart disease and lung disease among firefighters.

Senate Bill 1019 (Leno) helps to address this problem by ensuring that consumers have the right to know whether the furniture they are purchasing contains toxic flame retardant chemicals. Manufacturers would simply add this disclosure to the existing product labels in California.Protecting our incredible ocean is everyone’s responsibility. Thousands of activists have worked to ban plastic bags and control toxic flame retardants. Environmental groups, labor unions, businesses, local governments and, for flame retardants, firefighters themselves have helped to pass the legislation. I applaud the California Legislature for sending these two proposals to the governor and urge him to sign them.”

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