Advocacy & Civic Engagement

Protecting the Health of Our Communities

Alaska Community Action on Toxics (ACAT) changes policies, laws, and regulations to prevent pollution of our air, waters, food, and communities. We protect the health of the most vulnerable among us, including Indigenous Peoples, people of color, children, women, workers, those with chronic illnesses, and elders. We advance prevention-based solutions and safe alternatives.

How ACAT does this:

Engage people to build grassroots power and create change

Partner with tribes, labor organizations, healthcare professionals, students, scientists, and other environmental health and justice organizations

Educate policymakers, elected officials, and the public

Conduct and publish community-based scientific research that demonstrates the harmful effects of chemicals on wildlife and people

How you can get involved:

Call or write your elected officials

Write a letter to the editor of your local paper

Attend an event

Here is a summary of some of ACAT's policy wins at the local, state, national, and international levels:


We achieved a precedent-setting policy in the Anchorage School District, the largest in the state, to prevent the use of harmful pesticides in Anchorage schools. The Anchorage School District was using dangerous pesticides in and around schools with no notification. Students, parents, and teachers worked with ACAT to compel the Anchorage School Board to pass the “Least Toxic Pest Management Policy” (passed in 2000) that states, in part:

“The Superintendent shall establish a pest management plan to actively promote a healthy and safe school environment for students and staff. The Anchorage School District will use procedures that safely prevent and control pests while avoiding the unnecessary use of toxic chemicals. Pesticides may pose risks to human health and the environment, with special risks to children. The District will use non-chemical pest prevention and control measures first (such as sanitation and caulking), with pesticides used only as a last resort. The District will provide notification to students, parents/guardians, and staff if a facility is to receive pesticide treatment as detailed in the District's pesticide management plan.”

The use of pesticides is prohibited if they are acutely toxic, carcinogenic, hormone disruptors, neurotoxic, reproductive toxicants, or if they impair the immune system.

ASD pest management policy (02-14-2000)

We successfully passed a “right-to-know” ordinance in Anchorage (2005) that requires notification of planned pesticide spraying in parks, public places, and apartment buildings. The ordinance requires notification at least 48 hours before application and to remain in place for at least 48 hours following pesticide or broadcast chemical spraying. It also prevents pesticide applications during certain wind conditions. Before this ordinance went into effect, the Municipality of Anchorage and private applicators conducted broadcast applications of pesticides without notification. Read more about the ordinance here.

ACAT led the effort to pass the “Pesticide-Free Anchorage” ordinance (AO2017-59) that establishes pesticide-free policies and restrictions for parks, public lands, and properties. This measure strengthens the public’s right to know and fosters a healthy approach to caring for our parks and public lands that minimizes the use of harmful pesticides. The ordinance codifies an approach that focuses on long-term prevention of pests and their damage, using effective alternatives to chemical pesticides.

Ordinance 2017 59 Pesticide-Free Anchorage (As Introduced 3-21-17)

See the news release here.

With a unanimous vote in 2019, the Anchorage Assembly passed Assembly Ordinance 2019-15(S), an ordinance that bans the manufacture and distribution of children’s products, furniture, and mattresses containing four classes of harmful flame-retardant chemicals. This landmark public health ordinance now stands among the strongest laws of its kind in the nation. Throughout the public process, many community groups and individuals testified in favor of the ordinance including the Alaska Fire Chiefs Association, Alaska Professional Fire Fighters Association, community councils, parents, nurses, scientists, and physicians, to name a few.

In collaboration with Anchorage's labor union that represents hotel workers, UNITE HERE Local 878, ACAT advocated for a new ordinance to protect worker and public health from the toxic effects of mold. On October 10, 2017, AO No. 2017-119 passed by a unanimous 11-0 vote in the Anchorage Assembly. The ordinance empowers the municipality to protect the public's health using a complaint-driven process. Mycotoxins, toxic chemicals produced by mold cause adverse health effects that can include triggering and exacerbating asthma attacks; pneumonitis; pulmonary bleeding; sudden infant deaths; and certain cancers.

ACAT contributed significantly toward the successful passage of an ordinance in the Matanuska-Susitna Borough (17-029) to prevent the application of toxic sewage sludge (euphemistically termed “biosolids”) on agricultural and other borough lands (2017). Biosolids may contain pathogenic organisms, heavy metals and other harmful chemicals , that pose a threat to environmental and human health.

In support of residents of the Matanuska-Susitna Borough concerned about protecting water quality and community health, ACAT played a key role in passage of an ordinance to prevent dumping of toxic construction waste in unregulated dumps called monofills. The Matanuska-Susitna Borough Assembly passed the ordinance unanimously in October 2017. Construction waste contains such hazardous materials as asbestos, lead and other heavy metals, wood treated with pesticides, insulation containing brominated flame retardants, PCBs in electrical equipment, formaldehyde, isocyanates, styrene, polyvinyl chloride plastics, and per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). The ban covers a land base of approximately 91 square miles that serve as home for 25,000 residents.


Following our success in the Anchorage School District to establish a “least toxic pest management” policy, we worked to achieve a statewide law that requires the administrator of a school to use preventive and nonchemical methods to control pests, including proper sanitation practices, structural repair, and window screens. The law includes right-to-know provisions, requiring advance notification of parents or guardians about planned pesticide applications.

With sponsorship by then-Representative Kevin Meyer (R-Anchorage) and bipartisan support, the legislature passed House Bill 19 in 2005, a law requiring pesticide applicators to notify the public when they are spraying in public places, such as parks, public sports fields, government buildings, and apartment buildings. The bill also requires pesticide manufacturers to pay a fee for each of their products that they register to sell in Alaska and requires people to pay a fee for their license as pesticide applicators. ACAT ensured passage by advocating for the bill with legislators, providing testimony, and organizing grassroots and organizational support.

We are working to eliminate the use of toxic flame retardants in furniture and baby products through state legislation. House Bill 27 was first introduced in 2019 and advanced through two committees with bipartisan support in 2020. Although it did not pass at that time, we continue our work at the local, state, national, and international levels to eliminate these dangerous chemicals.

Another of our state legislative priorities is to protect drinking water and community health from the harmful effects of PFAS. PFAS is an acronym for a class of more than 12,000 chemicals called per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances. These chemicals share the common trait of having multiple carbon-fluorine bonds, one of the strongest covalent bonds in organic chemistry, making them incredibly persistent. In fact, PFAS chemicals can persist in the environment for such a long time that they are known as “forever chemicals.” Low-level exposures to PFAS are associated with serious health effects including kidney and testicular cancer, ulcerative colitis, adverse reproductive health outcomes, liver diseases, thyroid disease, high cholesterol, and immunotoxic effects (Cordner et al. 2021. The True Cost of PFAS and the Benefits of Acting Now. Environ. Sci. and Technology 55:9630-9633).

In Alaska, the dispersive use of PFAS-based firefighting foams on military bases and airports has contaminated the drinking water of thousands of Alaskans. PFAS are contaminating groundwater and surface waters, fish, wild game, garden produce, and backyard chickens in Alaska. Several Alaskan lakes are now closed to fishing because of PFAS contamination.

In 2021, Senator Jesse Kiehl and Representative Sara Hannan introduced legislation to establish health-protective drinking water standards for PFAS and to phase out the use of PFAS in firefighting foam. House Bill 171 and Senate Bill 121 are companion bills that would require greater protections for communities by addressing PFAS contamination and preventing further harm. The legislation would also facilitate the transition to safe alternatives that are effective, economical, and in use throughout the world at major airports, military bases, and oil and gas facilities. As a result of our advocacy, SB 121 has gained bipartisan support, passed out of the Senate Resources Committee, and has had two hearings in the Senate Finance Committee. The legislation will be re-introduced in the 2023 legislative session.

ACAT has published several reports on PFAS:

  1. Threats To Drinking Water and Public Health In Alaska: The Scope of the PFAS Problem, Consequences of Regulatory Inaction, and Recommendations (2019)
  2. Community Water Quality Sampling Report: PFAS Contamination of Anchorage and Fairbanks North Star Borough Lakes May 9, 2022
  3. PFAS In Drinking Water and Serum of the People Of A Southeast Alaska Community (Gustavus)

Alaska Community Action on Toxics is a partner with Safer States, an alliance of diverse environmental health and justice organizations and coalitions from across the nation committed to building a healthier world. By harnessing place-based power, the alliance works to safeguard people and the planet from toxic chemicals and sparks innovative solutions for a more sustainable future.


The primary law governing chemicals in the United States is the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). It was originally adopted in 1976. Along with our coalition partners in the Safer Chemicals Healthy Families Coalition, we worked for years to compel Congress to enact much-needed reforms of this broke, antiquated federal law. In 2016, Congress passed the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act, a substantial revision of TSCA that requires a health-based standard for chemicals, establishes enforceable deadlines to restrict priority chemicals, and requires protections for vulnerable populations. Although we did not get all we hoped to achieve with the reforms in the Lautenberg Act, it represents a significant achievement for public health. It is critical for the public to stay engaged in order to ensure strong implementation for the protection of the health of children, women, workers, fenceline communities, and Indigenous peoples of the north. For additional details about TSCA and its implementation, please check out this Abbreviated Guide to the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act.

To ensure strong implementation of TSCA, ACAT presents testimony at hearings, prepares technical comments, and pursues legal actions to hold the EPA accountable for protections of vulnerable populations from harmful exposures to persistent, bioaccumulative, toxic chemicals. ACAT also plays a leading role in legal actions to uphold other federal environmental and public health laws including the Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act.


“How could the Arctic, seemingly untouched by contemporary ills, so innocent, so primitive, so natural, be home to the most contaminated people on the planet? I had stumbled upon what is perhaps the greatest environmental injustice on earth.”

—Marla Cone, author of Silent Snow: The Slow Poisoning of the Arctic

The U.N. Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants is a global, legally-binding treaty aimed at eliminating the world’s most dangerous chemicals and protecting human health and the environment. Persistent organic pollutants (“POPs”) share the hazardous characteristics of toxicity, persistence, bioaccumulation, and long-range environmental transport. POPs include many pesticides, industrial chemicals, and by-products of combustion or manufacturing.

In the late 1980s, scientists made the unexpected discovery that levels of persistent organic pollutants (POPs) in the breast milk of Nunavik Inuit women in Arctic Canada were more than five times higher than in the breast milk of women of southern Quebec. This discovery prompted international action to address POPs contamination as a global issue because it demonstrated the capacity of these chemicals to harm people who live in a region of the world that is far distant from areas of production and use.

The Stockholm Convention was adopted by governments from around the world in 2001 and entered into force in 2004 when fifty nations had ratified the treaty. Currently, the Convention includes 185 nations or “Parties” (as of September 2022) that agree to work together toward global elimination of the world’s most dangerous chemicals. It is a living treaty that includes provisions to add new chemicals that meet scientific criteria for persistence, long-range transport, adverse effects, and bioaccumulation.

The initial list of twelve chemicals included in the Convention, the “dirty dozen,” includes: aldrin, chlordane, DDT, dieldrin, endrin, heptachlor, mirex, toxaphene, hexachlorobenzene, PCBs, dioxins, and furans. Since its inception, Parties to the Convention have listed thirty-one chemicals/chemical classes (as of 2022) for global elimination or restrictions. The U.S. has not yet ratified this important treaty and does not participate constructively in its implementation. The scientific committee of the Stockholm Convention, the POPs Review Committee (POPRC), works to determine whether chemicals nominated for inclusion under the Convention meet the scientific criteria and warrant global action.

The POPs Treaty is particularly significant as a means to protect the health of the Arctic environment and its people because it addresses persistent, toxic chemicals that can migrate long distances on wind and ocean currents. The Arctic has become a hemispheric sink for POPs and they tend to accumulate in the fat-rich food webs of northern environments. Arctic Indigenous Peoples have among the highest levels of POPs contamination in blood and breast milk of any population on earth, even though most of these chemicals have never been produced in the Arctic. Exposure to low levels of POPs can harm human health, including interference with learning and development, diseases of the immune system, reproductive disorders, and cancers. The POPs Treaty is strongly based on the precautionary principle.

“Arctic ecosystems and Indigenous communities are particularly at risk because of the biomagnification of persistent organic pollutants and that contamination of their traditional foods is a public health issue.” —from the Preamble of the Stockholm Convention

ACAT played a significant role in the negotiating sessions for the POPs Treaty and now actively works to ensure strong implementation. We bring Indigenous leadership and scientific knowledge to bear on decisions, particularly focusing on the harmful effects of POPs on marine ecosystems and Indigenous peoples of the Arctic. With partners in the International Pollutants Elimination Network (IPEN), we deeply engage in meetings and technical inter-sessional work of the POPRC. We present evidence supporting the listing of new chemicals at the biennial Stockholm Convention Conferences of the Parties as well as annual POPRC meetings. In her elected position as co-chair of IPEN, ACAT’s Pamela Miller helps lead international chemicals policy work under the major international chemicals and waste treaties and supports the work of the more than 600 participating organizations in the IPEN network.

In March 2022, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution to negotiate a new international legally binding and comprehensive agreement by 2024 that addresses the full lifecycle of plastic. As a member of IPEN, ACAT will participate in the negotiating sessions and work to achieve a strong treaty that addresses the human health and climate threats from plastics throughout their lifecycle.

In March 2022, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution to negotiate a new international legally binding and comprehensive agreement by 2024 that addresses the full lifecycle of plastic. As a member of IPEN, ACAT will participate in the negotiating sessions and work to achieve a strong treaty that addresses the human health and climate threats from plastics throughout their lifecycle.

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