Public Interest Litigation Program

CEH works to hold corporations accountable for their use of toxic chemicals that endanger public health. We challenge corporations to stop polluting or to lower the toxicity of their consumer products. We motivate change by outreach, education, and when necessary, legal action under California’s Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act (otherwise known as “Proposition 65”). Examples of CEH’s successful lawsuits include getting metal plating companies to stop emitting dangerous chemicals into surrounding low-income neighborhoods, and forcing drug companies to take the lead out of their baby diaper rash cream.
CEH’s Public Interest Litigation Program Homepage

Current Projects

Lead in Baby Bibs

Lead in Lunchboxes

Lead in Children’s Jewelry

Lead in Candy

Pollution Prevention Program
Health Care Without Harm

The Center for Environmental Health is a leading member of Health Care Without Harm (HCWH), a 400-member coalition of hospitals and health and environmental advocates committed to eliminating pollution from health care facilities without compromising patient care or safety. HCWH accomplishes this by advocating for pollution prevention in health care facilities, promoting the use of environmentally safe materials and technology, and educating health care institution providers, workers and patients.

CEH’s Pollution Prevention Program Homepage

Safe Playgrounds Project

In 2001, the Center for Environmental Health (CEH) successfully filed suit against 31 manufacturers of outdoor playground equipment to stop their use of arsenic-treated wood. For this type of pressure-treated wood, chromated copper arsenate (CCA) is used as a preservative, exposing children to unsafe levels of the cancer-causing chemicals arsenic and chromium.

In 2003, thanks in large part to the sustained efforts of CEH and the Healthy Building Network, the industry agreed to stop the manufacture of arsenic-treated wood for residential uses by the end of the year.

As a follow-up to this success, CEH launched an outreach and information campaign called the Safe Playgrounds Project in order to educate the public about how to minimize health threats to children from playgrounds where older equipment made with arsenic-treated wood is already present.

The Safe Playgrounds Project was created to provide information to California parks and recreation sites, school districts, teachers and parents groups, childcare centers and other agencies so that they are properly informed of the health risks arsenic-treated wood poses, and so that they may take the proper actions to minimize these risks. This project was made possible by funds received from the Public Health Trust, a project of the Public Health Institute.

CEH’s Safe Playgrounds Project Web site

Sustainable Food Program
CEH’s Food Program works to leverage the buying power of large institutions in order to expand the market for organic, local and sustainably produced food, and to confront the unhealthy practices of industrial food production. Currently the Food Program is focused on the health care sector, partnering with coalitions like Health Care Without Harm, to encourage Bay Area hospitals and major California-based national health care organizations to adopt healthier food purchasing practices.
By working with health care to change their food buying practices, CEH is creating a model of a healthier food system, and a major market for natural and organic food. We are also engaging new advocates for sustainable food among a very influential sector and creating case studies for institutional food service change.

Community Health Program
The Collaborative on Health and the Environment (CHE)

CEH has taken a leadership role within the Collaborative on Health and the Environment and its Working Group on Asthma and the Environment in order to increase the engagement and participation of grassroots community-based organizations and health-affected groups in the Collaborative. Through the Community Health program, CEH is surveying the interests of the participants in the Asthma Group to prioritize its focus, to assess its scope and identify community-based organizations and those serving disproportionately-affected populations.

CEH also meets with leaders in the environmental health and justice arena to learn their needs and build relationships, as well as utilize the findings from our research to develop a realistic vision of how the Collaborative can better support community-based organizations. As a coordinator of the Asthma Working Group, CEH is committed to integrating an environmental justice perspective within the group, “sharing power” and assisting to identify overlaps as well as gaps to fill in the future.

Asthma & Diesel Exhaust – March 28, 2007, 10am PST/1pm EST

Conference Call Resources:

Ditching Dirty Diesel Collaborative Report: “Paying With Our Health: The Real Cost of Freight Transport in California”

Community and Policy Interventions to Reduce Asthma Disparities PDF File (291 KB)

Clean Air Task Force Commuter Exposure Study: “No Escape from Diesel Exhaust”

“No Escape from Diesel Exhaust” Presentation PDF File (577 KB)

Partnership for the Public Health
In collaboration with People United for a Better Oakland (PUEBLO) and the Alameda County Department of Public Health, CEH participated in a four-year project intended to improve environmental justice and community well-being in East Oakland. We mapped toxic hazards in the neighborhood, worked with PUEBLO to organize the community, and worked with community members to achieve their environmental justice policy goals.

Partnership for the Public Health’s Web site

Protecting Public Health and the Environment
CEH forced many polluters to reduce or eliminate their emissions of methylene chloride, perchloroethylene, and other toxic chemicals into our air and water. These chemicals cause cancer, birth defects, neurological problems, infertility, and other diseases. Many of the industries using such toxic chemicals are located in low-income neighborhoods and communities of color. See examples of our past successes.

Integrated Environmental Systems
CEH was very active in the effort to force the IES medical waste incinerators in Oakland to stop emitting dioxins and heavy metals from their stacks, which were only 1000 yards from the Bay. Working collaboratively with other health and environmental justice organizations, CEH worked to create the foundation that shut down the incinerators in December 2001.

The Justice Fund

CEH files public interest lawsuits against corporate polluters who endanger the health of children, families, and communities in California. Part of the legal settlements from these lawsuits are dedicated to CEH’s Justice Fund to provide small grants to nonprofit organizations and fiscally sponsored projects working in pursuit of environmental justice and community empowerment in California. Priority is given to grassroots, community-based environmental justice groups that serve and are led by low-income people, people of color, and residents of disproportionately impacted communities.

CEH awards Justice Fund grants in the fall, accepting applications until mid September. The application period for the 2006 Justice Fund grants is now closed.

Generation Green
CEH is proud to announce our partnership with Generation Green, a smart and effective advocate for environmental health. This strategic decision comes after examining our work and exploring ways to make it even more effective. One answer was to devote more time to educating the public about our work and about what people can do to protect their families and our society from toxic chemicals.

Generation Green has spent the last eight years doing just that, giving parents and families resources and action steps for safer homes, schools, food, and more. It also harnesses the strength of its dedicated, nationwide membership to push for tough public health protections. Over the years, Generation Green has made its impact felt on many of the issues that matter to CEH, from pesticides in food to arsenic in play structures to lead in children’s lunchboxes.

In short, CEH’s partnership with Generation Green is a a natural fit, and one that we expect to have a lasting impact on public health nationwide.

Environmental Health Policy Program
CEH plays a leadership role locally and nationally helping to draft and implement policies that protect us all from environmental health hazards. In the past, we have been hired by the City of San Francisco Department of the Environment, the Association of Bay Area Governments, and others to help craft cutting edge policies that change the rules of the game so that we are all protected from toxic chemicals in the air we breathe, the food we eat, and the water we drink. We focus these efforts on policies that protect those that are most affected by toxic chemicals: children, workers, and those communities that bear a disproportionate burden of environmental health hazards. Today, CEH is a co-convener of a state-wide California effort to craft precedent-setting chemical policy.

Californians for a Healthy and Green Economy (CHANGE)

CEH and the Just Transition Alliance are the co-conveners of the Californians for a Healthy and Green Economy (CHANGE). CHANGE has come together to develop comprehensive chemicals policy for California that ensures a basic conceptual shift in how we protect the health of people and the environment, regulate chemicals, and enforce laws that are health-protective. CHANGE is collaborating with similar coalitions in seven other states.

Environmental health policy in the United States operates backwards: industries have carte blanche to use and produce untested chemicals until those chemicals are proven to be extremely dangerous. As it stands today, the public bears the onus of protecting our health from dangerous industrial chemicals. Unfortunately, it can take decades to demonstrate the danger of each of the thousands of chemicals used in our country, leaving the public vulnerable to untold harm in the meantime.

CEH is working to reverse this backward approach to public health. As a co-convener of CHANGE, CEH is helping the state government to push for meaningful public health protections from industrial chemicals. Our goal is to help California force powerful corporations to act on the early warnings of sound, precautionary science. We envision a future in which companies must demonstrate that the chemicals in their products and processes are safe before they are allowed to sell and implement them.

This vital work will protect children, families, and communities throughout California.

Green Chemistry in California: A Framework for Leadership in Chemicals Policy and Innovation by Michael P. Wilson of the California Policy Research Center at the University of California.

Framework for California Leadership in “Green Chemistry” Policy web site.


CLEEN is a California unincorporated association of which CEH is a founding member. The Executive Directorship of CLEEN is supported by a project of CEH.

The California League for Environmental Enforcement Now (CLEEN) is a statewide coalition of environmental and public health organizations, advocates and law firms committed to protecting and strengthening laws regulating toxic pollution and keeping drinking water safe.

CLEEN is deeply concerned with the impacts of toxic chemicals on our children, our communities, and our future. CLEEN members believe that the best way to ensure a healthier tomorrow is (1) to enforce the public’s right to know which chemicals are released into the environment and (2) to preserve the public’s power to protect and enforce environmental laws.

CLEEN members believe in the power of building broad coalitions to achieve shared goals. CLEEN members work to achieve their goals in legislative, administrative and judicial settings at the federal, state, and local levels.

CEH’s CLEEN Web site
December 2005: CEH helps write The Louisville Charter.
CEH is a lead author in the The Louisville Charter ( “Act on Early Warnings” and “Require Comprehensive Safety Data for All Chemicals” background papers.

The Louisville Charter is an outline of a chemicals policy reform agenda supported by CEH and many other environmental health NGO’s.

In 2002, CEH attended the UN World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg, South Africa.
September 4, 2002: CEH and other organizations question Bush Administration’s Policies
Video of Michael Green, CEH Executive Director, quoted on CBS Evening News
(Scroll down to the “multimedia” section on the right side of the page. Requires Real Player)
Michael emails first-hand account of the events in Johannesburg)

San Francisco Department of the Environment
In 2001, CEH was awarded the opportunity to develop and write toxics-reduction policies for the City of San Francisco. The San Francisco Department of the Environment (SFE) selected CEH to design, develop and implement city policies and plans to reduce exposure to persistent bioaccumulative toxins for 2 1/2 years. This has worked towards pollution prevention at the city level, one which will set national precedent as a way to protect public health and the environment

As part of the San Francisco work, CEH co-authored a resolution banning city purchase of arsenic-treated wood for use in playgrounds, picnic areas or parks. The resolution was passed into city law by the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. Additional work in San Francisco focuses on reduction of dioxin and mercury, both major threats to public health and the environment.

San Francisco Department of the Environment Homepage
Precautionary Principle

CEH is a founding member of the Bay Area Working Group on the Precautionary Principle (BAWG), a coalition of community, environmental health and justice, and health-effected groups working together to implement the precautionary principle in the Bay Area. The Precautionary Principle says that where there is a serious threat of harm to our health or the environment, we should take action to prevent more harm. The group’s web site can be found at:

Association of Bay Area Governments

CEH was hired in the fall of 2000 by the Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG) Bay Area Dioxins Project, to help facilitate public involvement in the Dioxins Project decision-making process. The Dioxins Project provides guidance to member municipalities — including Oakland, Berkeley, Palo Alto and San Francisco.

Many of these municipalities passed legislation pledging to reduce the public’s exposure to dioxin, which CEH helped to author. The Dioxins Project >produced a report, “Screening Evaluation of Dioxins Pollution Prevention Options” that gives Bay Area cities and counties options for reducing dioxins in their own communities, and facilitates Dioxin Reduction Pilot Projects, to be carried out by individual municipalities.

Industry Change
Coming Clean
Coming Clean is a new campaign to phase out and avoid toxic chemicals, keep the public informed about the chemical industry’s practices, and promote non-toxic alternatives. CEH will play a vital role in moving this new campaign for corporate accountability forward.

Coming Clean’s Web site

Healthy Building Network
CEH works closely with the Healthy Building Network (HBN), a diverse group of organizations working to create ecologically sustainable and healthy buildings by transforming the practices of the building industry, to protect:

Workers who manufacture the products
Construction workers who install the products
Users who live and work with the products

Healthy Building Network homepage

Off The Books: How Corporations Hide Environmental and Human Rights Liabilities.”
“Off the Books: How Corporations Hide Environmental
and Human Rights Liabilities.”
– A film produced by CEH ally Sanford Lewis. See the preview here:

Hi-quality Quick time version (2.5 MB file)
Low-quality Real player version (600 KB file)