Water Filters Needed to Protect U.S. Communities from Lead & Plastic Pollution

Water filter distribution is critical to provide safe, clean drinking water to U.S. communities during water crises without causing massive amounts of plastic pollution. 

Aging infrastructure, natural disasters, toxic contaminants, and a severe lack of funding are just some of the crises U.S. water systems are facing that result in unsafe water for disproportionately Black, Brown, and low-income communities. Without a reliable clean water source, many families have turned to purchasing single-use plastic water bottles for cooking, washing, and drinking in the hopes of protecting their children and family members from polluted water. 

However, single use-plastic water bottles are an expensive additional financial cost to families, and filtered tap water is far more affordable. This, in addition to the harmful health costs of consuming water from plastic bottles that can release nano & microplastics into the water, along with toxic plastic additive chemicals. Filters, not bottles, can provide a safe, affordable water solution, especially during the U.S. lead service line replacement. 

Filtered Not Bottled Water Could Prevent the Use of Hundreds of Billions of Single-Use Plastic Bottles

Water systems must implement a “filter first” strategy, providing a filter certified to remove lead to impacted households to provide an immediate safe water source. World health experts agree there is no safe level of lead exposure, especially for children who can face irreversible health consequences from even low levels of exposure. While there have been significant advancements in recent years on lead service line replacement (LSLR), it will still be 10 years before many cities replace their last lead line, and over 40 years for cities like Chicago to have clean drinking water. 

Providing filters to families impacted by lead service line replacement in the U.S. could provide an immediate clean water source while preventing the use of hundreds of billions of single-use plastic bottles over the course of the project. Supplying the 22 million impacted people in the United States with single-use plastic water bottles for just six months would require over 32 billion water bottles. Ensuring expedient distribution of filters and proper education is critical to provide families with safe, clean drinking water as soon as possible without polluting single-use plastics. 

EPA Lead and Copper Rule Improvement Must Go Further with Filters

On November 30, 2023, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released the Draft Lead and Copper Rule Improvement (LCRI), a strengthened version of the Lead and Copper Rule created to control lead and copper in drinking water. As strongly recommended by Plastic Pollution Coalition, the drafted rule requires water systems with consistently high levels of lead to make available filters certified to remove lead from water, rather than single-use water bottles. This is a significant step forward. However, the draft language on filters does not go far enough to provide clean water to impacted communities. The LCRI draft must be strengthened to:

  1. Require water systems to fund the purchase and distribution of filters to customers.
  2. Require water systems to provide in-depth education materials and training on filter efficacy, and filter use and maintenance. 
  3. Reduce the number of lead action level exceedances and time period required in order to mandate filter distribution, as well as the time for filter program implementation.

Water systems must actively distribute water filters to lead-impacted homes. “Making filters available” as currently mandated in the draft LCRI is simply not enough. Education materials and training must also be provided on filter efficacy and filter use and maintenance. Community trust in water filters and accurate servicing of the filter is critical to ensure families don’t turn to costly polluting single-use plastic water bottles or improperly use the filters, resulting in exposure to unsafe water contaminants. Proper distribution and education is critical to ensuring customers can access, trust, and properly use their filter, as seen in Denver, Colorado where, with advanced distribution and education measures, Denver achieved 80% filter adoption rates

The EPA must also minimize the period that families must wait for a filter by reducing the time and number of lead level exceedances required to constitute “consistently high levels of lead” and expedite filter program implementation as any amount of lead exposure is unsafe. A “filter first” approach will ensure families have access to clean, safe drinking water in the many years to come as the LCRI is implemented and lead service lines are replaced. 

Additional Measures Must Be Taken

Additionally, Plastic Pollution Coalition, along with Beyond Plastics, calls on EPA to provide recommendations for safe replacement pipe materials such as recycled copper and stainless steel, and advise against dangerous alternatives such as PVC and CPVC plastic pipes, which introduce another source of plastic pollution into peoples’ lives. These materials are an environmental injustice nightmare, as evidenced by the derailment of a train carrying vinyl chloride almost one year ago in East Palestine, Ohio, and can leach dangerous contaminants into the water they transport such as vinyl chloride and microplastics. 

We also support calls for EPA to reduce the lead action level from 10 to 5 ppb and require water systems to pay for full service line replacement. This is a critical opportunity for EPA to increase clean water access without the distribution and pollution of toxic plastic bottles and pipes.

Take Action

Sign the petition to urge the EPA to strengthen the proposed LCRI language on filter distribution and ensure families have access to safe water without toxic lead or plastic pollution!

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Plastic water bottles, a long-known enemy of our Earth, are finding their way into human bodies in huge quantities—well, pieces of them are. A study published this week shows just how much plastic we drink with bottled water: Researchers from Columbia University and Rutgers have found at least 240,000 plastic particles in the average liter of bottled water, a major health concern.

Most of the plastic particles found by the researchers were extremely small nanoplastics, which have a diameter of less than one micrometer—making them invisible to the naked eye. Nanoplastics have been historically challenging to study due to their extremely small size, but as technology has improved, scientists are now finding them almost everywhere—including in the environment, plants, animals, beverages, foods, and our human bodies.

We know at this point that our skin is constantly shedding. And this is what these plastic items are doing — they’re just constantly shedding.

— Dr. Sam Mason, professor and director of sustainability at Penn State Behrend, said to The Washington Post

Tiny Plastics Present Big Dangers

Looking at microplastic under microscope at beach.

Plastics do not benignly break down like natural substances. Instead, they break apart into infinitely smaller pieces that remain plastic. This process can be sped up when plastics are exposed to water, such as in the ocean or in a water bottle, or when plastic is heated, like when lawn furniture is left in the sun or a plastic container of food is microwaved. In addition to creating nanoplastics, plastic items also shed slightly larger and more visible microplastics. And unfortunately these particles are becoming virtually impossible to avoid. Another recent study shows that commonly consumed plant and animal proteins are contaminated with microplastics

Due to their small size, nanoplastics and microplastics accumulate in and travel through our environment, and this means these tiny plastic pieces are increasingly entering bodies. We are especially exposed to microplastics and nanoplastics when we drink, eat, and breathe. Over the past several years, scientists have detected the presence of tiny plastic particles all throughout people’s bodies, including in our hearts, bloodstreams, veins, lungs, placentas, feces, testes/semen, breast milk, and brains, with more worrying research now on the way. Observations of wild animals in nature show us that interactions with plastic particles can be lethal—especially nanoplastics which are so small they can travel from animals’ bloodstreams into their brains, other organs and tissues, and living cells. Children and pregnant people are especially vulnerable to the effects of plastic.

While the full range of health effects of nanoplastics and microplastics in our bodies is not yet fully understood, what experts do know is already very concerning. Like all plastics, microplastics and nanoplastics are known to contain any mix of additive chemicals. More than 16,000 such chemicals have been counted in plastics, and none have been classified as “safe.” At least 25% are already officially classified as hazardous. A few concerning plastic chemicals include hormone-disrupting and cancer-causing phthalates, PFAS, and bisphenols; asbestos and toxic heavy metals such as lead and arsenic; and much more. Additionally, microplastics can absorb and accumulate toxic chemicals in the environment, which leach into living bodies, waters, soils, and plants.

Take Action

Tiny plastic particles are also present in tap water, due to the use of plastic pipes, water storage and treatment equipment, and environmental pollution—but in far smaller quantities. Certain filters can help remove plastic particles from tap water. Drinking from plastic-free ceramic, glass, or stainless steel reusable water bottles can help drastically reduce your exposure to plastic particles. Further, when choosing foods, select the least processed options, such as loose fruits and vegetables which are usually less contaminated by plastic, and in general avoid food that is packaged in plastic—instead, look for foods in paper, banana leaves, or no packaging.

While it’s helpful and healthy to cut plastic out of your life to protect your health, we still need major systems change to stop this urgent global crisis. One major step we can take is to ban plastic water and beverage bottles, and all other plastic, from school lunchrooms to protect children’s health. Please tell the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Service to eliminate the use of plastics as part of the National School Lunch Program.

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Drinking water filters are a safe solution to protect your family’s health from plastic and other pollutants.

Water comprises the majority of the planet and our bodies, and without it, there would be no life on Earth. Water is so important that the United Nations recognizes it as a Human Right. Unfortunately, water is not guaranteed to all: An estimated 2 billion people do not have access to safe drinking water worldwide, and 800 million do not have access to any reliable drinking water source. Ultimately every person, everywhere, is at risk of water scarcity; new research shows that global fresh water demand will outstrip supply by 40 percent by 2030.

Human-caused environmental change is exacerbating clean water issues due to the widespread production of manmade toxic chemicals and substances such as plastics; increasing climate-driven droughts; overuse of water resources by agriculture and industries; and sea-level rise. As a result, fresh waters traditionally tapped for drinking—including lakes, reservoirs, rivers, springs, and underground aquifers, and the rain and snow which feed them, are increasingly under threat. 

A historic lack of strong water protections, systemic racism and classism, and uneven investments made to public health have led to injustices in access to safe drinking water for many Americans. In the U.S., tens of millions of people get their drinking water from unsafe and unreliable sources. Are you one of them? Read more to learn how to find out what’s in your water and how to find a water filter that can ensure your access to safe drinking water, protecting your family’s health.

Plastic Bottled Water is Not a Solution

During times of water trouble, including contamination, federal, state, and local governments have commonly provided and/or recommended that affected communities use bottled water. However, bottled water is not the safest choice. Here’s why: Most bottled water is just repackaged tap water without additional treatment (and only added plastic and plastic chemicals). And toxic chemicals manufactured into plastic water bottles leach into water. Most plastic water bottles are made of PET (polyethylene terephthalate) plastic. At least 150 chemicals are known to leach from PET plastic beverage bottles into the liquid inside, including heavy metals like antimony and lead, and hormone-disruptors like BPA. Plastic PET bottles are even more likely to leach toxic chemicals if they are recycled, or are kept in warm environments, are exposed to sunlight, or are reused.

There is little-to-no regulation of the water inside plastic bottles. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates bottled water, often relying on outdated state and local testing and enforcement. The FDA holds bottled water to EPA standards on an as-needed basis only if contaminants are detected.

Plastic particles are numerous and widespread in bottled water. If you drink bottled water you’re consuming at least twice as many plastic particles in your water as those who drink only tap water. Plastic particles are now found in human blood, veins, lungs, and placentas, and feces

Plastic bottled water has high economic costs. One gallon of bottled water costs about $7.00–$8.00. If the average person uses about five gallons of water per week for drinking and cooking, that comes to about $1,820–$2080 per year if bottled water is used. In comparison, tap water costs $0.002–$0.008 per gallon on average—that’s $0.52–$2.08 per year. With a filter, tap water is still much less expensive than bottled. 

Plastic bottled water has high human and environmental costs. Plastic water bottles  shed plastic particles not only into human bodies but also into the environment. Most plastic water bottles are not recycled. Hazardous chemicals are released throughout plastics’ toxic existence. Plastics and petrochemicals cause massive injustice on the front lines of their production, transportation, disposal, and use. There are also high energy costs of producing plastic bottled water.

The plastic water bottle industry worsens global water issues. Fresh water is extracted from the Earth to fill billions of plastic bottles a year, and this poses a threat to drinking water resources while driving the plastic pollution crisis. UN research finds that the industry’s growth helps distract attention and resources away from funding the public-water infrastructure desperately needed in many countries, according to the report.

Common Drinking Water Contaminants

Tap water is generally considered safe for consumption across the U.S., thanks to federal and state standards regulating its quality (which is sadly not the case in all areas of the world). However, just because standards exist does not necessarily mean all people in the U.S. have reliable access to clean water. Further, legal limits for many drinking water contaminants were established decades ago and many are based on outdated science, potentially putting peoples’ health at risk. 

In the U.S., people who are Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC); low-income; and/or reside in rural areas are most likely to face water insecurity as the result of longstanding environmental injustices. Drinking water systems that continually violate the Safe Drinking Water Act—the country’s federal health-based standards for public drinking water—are 40% more likely to be located in communities of color. Privately tapped well water, which is common in rural areas, is not regulated by the Safe Drinking Water Act. 

State standards further regulate the levels of contaminants that are permitted to exist in drinking water. Public water suppliers must treat water to remove contaminants, such as toxic chemicals, disinfection byproducts, heavy metals, and bacteria, and report their findings to water users. But even after treatment, drinking water may not be fully remediated, or it may contain other contaminants picked up along its delivery route to your home.

A few common drinking water dangers include lead, plastics, and per and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS).

► Lead

Despite widespread understanding of the dangers of lead, an extremely toxic heavy metal that can cause irreversible damage to the brain and body, outdated lead pipes and fittings still deliver water into the homes of an estimated 22 million Americans, across the U.S.. Children, whose brains and bodies are developing, and pregnant people and the fetuses they carry, are particularly vulnerable to the dangers of lead exposure from drinking water and other sources. Even low levels of lead exposure can cause children and those still in the womb to develop brain and nervous system damage, learning disabilities, reduced physical growth, impaired hearing abilities, and blood cell disease. Adult exposure to lead is linked to heart disease, reproductive issues, kidney disease, and other serious health problems. 

Thankfully, in 2021 the U.S. government approved $15 billion dollars to begin replacing toxic lead pipes. Communities with the highest lead exposure levels and who face environmental injustice will be prioritized. These federal funds are essential to providing clean drinking water and protecting the health and safety of our families and communities. However, it will take time to replace these lines. As lead pipes are replaced, we need to prioritize replacing these lines with safer materials other than plastic polyvinyl chloride (PVC)—another potent toxic chemical known to harm human health—and ensure impacted communities can access safe filtered drinking water during lead pipe replacement.

► Plastics

While plastic PVC pipes are considered more affordable than well-studied metals like copper, steel, and iron, experts point out that the long-term effects of PVC use are less clear, and could be seriously hazardous. PVC, like all plastics, is known to shed toxic microplastic and nanoplastic particles containing hormone-disrupting chemicals linked to cancers, reproductive and immune system issues, and other health problems in humans, and accumulate in the natural environment. What’s more, PVC is made with hazardous chemicals, including vinyl chloride, a chemical known to cause cancer in humans and poses a serious fire and explosion risk wherever it is manufactured and transported.

PEX (cross-linked polyethylene) is another plastic commonly used to move drinking water that has been found to leach chemicals. Microplastics and nanoplastics are not only a concern when transported in plastic PVC and PEX pipes, but also when piped out from water authorities, which often do not have technology to filter out plastic particles from drinking water sources. Well water, especially that drawn from groundwater, is also increasingly polluted by microplastics and nanoplastics, which travel through Earth’s waters, air, and soils after shedding from the plastics people make and use. 

► PFAS

In March, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced the country’s first-ever proposed guidelines for limiting six common types of per and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) “forever chemicals” in drinking water. PFAS are a class of more than 9,000 hazardous chemicals widely used in industrial processes and consumer products, especially plastics—including those used to make water pipes. 

PFAS also commonly leach out from under landfills and other industrial sites into soils and water sources. As a result, at least 200 million Americans currently have detectable levels of PFAS in their drinking water. These chemicals do not easily degrade and are known to interfere with many human body functions, contributing to risk of cancers, hormone issues, obesity, and many other serious issues.

What’s in Your Water?

All people deserve safe solutions that can increase water equity and enhance their personal autonomy and ability to protect their family’s water sources. The first step to ensuring you and your family have access to the safest water possible is to find out what’s in your water. Here’s how: 

  1. If you’re connected to a public water supply: Learn what water issues may be relevant for your area by typing your zip code into the Environmental Working Group (EWG)’s Tapwater Database. Learn what contaminants exceed EWG’s science-based health guidelines for common drinking water contaminants. You can also check your local water supplier’s annual Consumer Confidence Report (which are required under federal regulations) for up-to-date testing on your local water quality.
  2. If you’re connected to a private well: Consider getting your home’s drinking water supply tested. Find a laboratory in your state that is certified to do independent water testing. Your local health department may provide private well testing for free. If not listed on your test results, see the EPA’s “List of Drinking Water Contaminants and their Maximum Contaminant Levels (MCL)” with which you can compare your results.

If you do find contaminants in your water, do not panic. There are solutions immediately available to you: Choose filtered, not bottled water.

How to Filter Your Water

Child is using filter to purify drinking water. Kitchen faucet. Filling cup beverage. Pouring fresh drink. Healthy lifestyle. Quality check. World water monitoring day. Environmental pollution concept

Home water filters are an economical, accessible, and healthy choice that can make your home drinking water safer for you and your family. But where to begin? It’s simple. Take the following steps to take to find the right filter for your family:

  1. Find a filter for your needs. First compare the capabilities of different filter types. The most common home filters include activated carbon, reverse osmosis, and ion exchange water softeners. Some filters can be installed at or beneath your sink (these are called point-of-use filters). Others sit on your countertop and use gravity to draw water through the filter material. And some are used to filter water for your entire house. Each of the filter types removes a different range of contaminants, and each style fits different needs. You may need to use more than one filter to fully remove contaminants from your drinking water, though note that many filters are certified to remove dozens of contaminants.
  2. Find a filter for your budget and space. Consider your budget and how much space you have available in your house for a water filtration unit. At the most affordable price range, you’ll find pitcher filters (some are available in glass housing) that sit on your counter or can be stored in your fridge, faucet-mounted filters, and faucet-integrated filters, which often cost under $50. Next, there are on- and under-counter filtration units, which usually cost between $100 to $300. Pricier still are whole-house filtration units, which can run in the several-thousand dollar range. Filters for pitchers need to be changed every four months or so, while larger units need filter changes every six months to one year. Filters may cost $10–$100, depending on the filter you choose.
  3. Find a filter near you. There are hundreds of filters available online and often in local hardware stores. To narrow down your search, seek out third-party filter testing, particularly NSF/ANSI 53 (and optionally 42 and 401). Such testing helps ensure the filter you are considering is effective at removing contaminants of concern.
  4. Install, use, and maintain your filter. Once you set up your filter, you need to maintain it to optimize its use. Pitcher-type filters require filter changes every three to four months. Under-sink, faucet, and whole-house filters require change every six months to one year. You can find filters for maintenance online or in your local hardware store.

We suggest watching this helpful video EWG, which breaks down the process of finding a filter that works best for you and your family.

In addition to filtering your water, it’s important to store your drinking water in safe and healthy containers. While some water filters may be made of plastic and/or have plastic components, these are still safer than bottled water. Ideally, however, we recommend transferring your filtered water to a non-plastic container for storage before use. Some healthy options include glass, stainless steel, and ceramic. Such containers can safely be kept refrigerated or on your countertop.

Choose Filtered Not Bottled Water

Scientists, communities, individuals, and organizations are now advocating for federal and state governments to take more serious steps to protect drinking water and public health. In the meantime, you can best protect your family’s health by choosing  Filtered Not Bottled  water.

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Yesterday, the Biden-Harris Administration proposed the first-ever national standards for six dangerous “forever chemicals,” which have been detected throughout drinking water sources in the U.S.

“We applaud the Biden Administration’s ambitious new standards for regulating six common toxic ‘forever chemicals’ in U.S. drinking water. However, much more work must be done to regulate industries making the thousands of PFAS that currently exist, to end the use and production of these dangerous forever chemicals—which are so commonly used as additives in plastics, and to remediate and restore our environment.”

– Julia Cohen, MPH, Co-Founder and Managing Director of Plastic Pollution Coalition

PFAS, or per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, have highly versatile properties and have been used near ubiquitously in consumer and industrial products—especially in firefighting foam and equipment, and plastic products and packaging—since the 1950s. This latest Federal action complements existing actions already set forth by the Biden Administration to address toxic PFAS pollution in drinking water, including major investments to help communities on the frontlines of PFAS pollution and health assistance to firefighters exposed to PFAS. 

To date, more than 9,000 PFAS chemicals have been invented and used worldwide. PFAS chemicals do not easily degrade in nature and are now found widely detected in air, soils, drinking water, and human bodies—where a growing body of research alarmingly indicates PFAS can lead to serious health problems, including cancers, reproductive issues, hormone problems, and more. Children and pregnant people are especially vulnerable to the toxic effects of PFAS. PFAS can be removed from tap water by using NSF-53 certified filters containing activated carbon or reverse osmosis membranesit is important to note and often overlooked that bottled water is commonly contaminated by PFAS. Plastic Pollution Coalition has been advocating for the use of Filtered Not Bottled water during U.S. lead pipe replacement projects.

RELATED UPCOMING WEBINAR:

Plastic Pollution Coalition is hosting a webinar next Thursday, March 23: “Safe Drinking Water for All: Protecting Communities from Plastic During U.S. Lead Pipe Replacement.” Panelists will discuss the health hazards of single-use plastic bottles and plastic pipes such as those made from polyvinyl chloride (PVC) and will recommend options for safe, non-plastic drinking water solutions during lead pipe replacement as well as tips and resources to ensure community water sources remain free of pollutants. These solutions are applicable not only for lead-impacted communities, but also the growing number of communities impacted by PFAs, microplastics, and other chemicals that commonly contaminate water resources.

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March 23, 2023 , 5:00 pm 6:30 pm EDT

2023 March Webinar

Date: Thursday, March 23
Time: 2-3:30 pm PT | 5-6:30 pm ET
Click here to convert to your timezone.

All people deserve access to safe drinking water. As part of the UN 2023 Water Conference, we are highlighting the need to keep plastic—and its toxic impacts—out of our water systems. Plastics are a health threat at every stage of their existence and are a critical environmental injustice issue disproportionately harming rural, low-income, and communities of color on the front lines of plastic production and disposal. That’s why plastic is not the solution for replacing the toxic lead pipes that currently deliver water into the homes of 22 million people in the United States. With $15 billion designated for lead pipe replacement over the next 5 years, this is the time to influence how the federal and local government use these funds to provide toxic-free drinking water without plastic

During our March 23 webinar, we will discuss the health hazards of single-use plastic bottles and plastic pipes such as those made from polyvinyl chloride (PVC). We’ll recommend options for safe, non-plastic drinking water solutions during lead pipe replacement as well as tips and resources to ensure community water sources remain free of pollutants. These solutions are applicable not only for lead-impacted communities, but also the growing number of communities impacted by PFAs, microplastics, and other chemicals that commonly contaminate water resources. Tune in to learn ways to keep your family safe with filtered, toxic-free water. 

Joining us will be Brandi Williams, Good Trouble Department Civil and Human Rights & Fields Campaign Director, Hip Hop Caucus; Sharon Lavigne, founder of Rise St. James and 2021 recipient of the Goldman Environmental Prize; Judith Enck, President of Beyond Plastics and former Regional Administrator for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency; Dr. Terrence Collins, Professor of Green Chemistry at Carnegie Mellon University; and Erica Cirino, Plastic Pollution Coalition Communications Manager and author of Thicker Than Water: The Quest for Solutions to the Plastic Crisis. The webinar will be moderated by Madison Dennis, Filtered Not Bottled Campaign Coordinator, Plastic Pollution Coalition.


PANELISTS

Erica Cirino
Erica Cirino
Communications Manager of Plastic Pollution Coalition & Author of Thicker Than Water: The Quest for Solutions to the Plastic Crisis

Erica Cirino is the Communications Manager of Plastic Pollution Coalition and author of Thicker Than Water: The Quest for Solutions to the Plastic Crisis (Island Press, 2021). In the book, she documents plastic across ecosystems and elements; shares stories from the primarily Black, Brown, Indigenous, rural, and low-income communities that are disproportionately harmed by industrial pollution and injustice globally; and uncovers strategies that work to prevent plastic from causing further devastation to our planet and its inhabitants. Erica has spent the last decade working as a science writer, author, and artist exploring the intersection of the human and nonhuman worlds, and she is best known for her widely published photojournalistic works that cut through plastic industry misinformation to deliver the often shocking and difficult truths about plastic—the most ubiquitous and insidious man-made material on Earth.


Dr. Terrence Collins
Teresa Heinz Professor of Green Chemistry & Director of the Institute for Green Science at Carnegie Mellon University

Dr. Terrence Collins is the Teresa Heinz Professor of Green Chemistry and Director of the Institute for Green Science at Carnegie Mellon University. The Institute is dedicated to “the intellectual growth and technical education of a new generation of ethically aware professionals who understand and practice science in the pursuit of sustainability—from the molecular level on up.” Terrence earned his undergraduate and doctoral degrees from the University of Auckland with postdoctoral work at Stanford University. He has authored/co-authored over 250 publications, delivered over 600 public lectures, and holds over 20 career awards. He developed the first Chemistry and Sustainability university class in 1992, and believes that “achieving a sustainable global chemical enterprise is first and foremost a human character challenge.”

Judith Enck

Judith Enck
CEO of Beyond Plastics

Judith Enck is the Founder and CEO of Beyond Plastics and former Regional Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency under President Obama, where she oversaw environmental protections in New York, New Jersey, eight Indian Nations, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. She founded Beyond Plastics in 2019 with a mission to end plastic pollution through education, advocacy, and institutional change. She is a Senior Fellow and visiting faculty member at Bennington College, where she currently teaches classes on plastic pollution. Previously, Judith served as Deputy Secretary for the Environment in the New York Governor’s Office, Policy Advisor to the New York State Attorney General, Senior Environmental Associate with the New York Public Interest Research Group, and Executive Director for Environmental Advocates of New York. Judith is a past President of Hudson River Sloop Clearwater and a regular contributor to public affairs discussions.

Sharon Lavigne

Sharon Lavigne
Founding Director of Rise St. James

Sharon Lavigne is the Founding Director of Rise St. James, a faith-based organization focused on preventing worsening pollution from and expansion of the petrochemical industry. An environmental justice activist based in Louisiana, Sharon’s work focuses on combating petrochemical complexes and their negative health impacts on local populations in her state as well as others that comprise Cancer Alley. She is the 2022 recipient of the Laetare Medal, the highest honor for American Catholics, and a 2021 recipient of the Goldman Environmental Prize. She has testified before Congress and is also a collaborator on the Coalition Against Death Alley, a regional environmental justice group. She is also a plaintiff in White Hat v. Landry, an environmental justice case, focused on changes in Louisiana Oil and Gas law.

Brandi N.Williams

Brandi N. Williams
Civil and Human Rights, Good Trouble Department Field Campaigns Director for Hip Hop Caucus

Brandi “Bea” Williams serves as the Civil and Human Rights, Good Trouble Department Field Campaigns Director for the Hip Hop Caucus. She is an award-winning and accredited public relations professional turned broker for change who uses her diverse public relations background to negotiate opportunities, equity, and liberation for Black people. Brandi’s advocacy ranges from environmental sustainability to education and mental health. Recently, Brandi earned the Eatmon Award, which is given annually to a person dedicated to educating Black voters. Brandi received her certification as a health coach and launched SoulMed, a holistic health collaborative for Black women. As a survivor of childhood sexual abuse and trauma, domestic violence, and anxiety and depression, she believes health is a radical act of social justice that can help change the trajectory of outcomes for Black people. As such, Brandi is dedicated to ensuring Black people have access to one of the most basic human rights—clean water.

RESOURCES