Archives for the month of: November, 2010


Columbia State:
Drinking water poisoned near sewage disposal site.

Folks in Pelion complained bitterly 21 years ago about human waste and grease that would be dumped on fields in their community. But state regulators approved plans for a sewage disposal site anyway — publicly assuring residents the waste wouldn’t stink up the countryside or hurt the environment. Now, the same agency that approved the sewage dump site is scrambling to stop dangerously high levels of toxic pollutants from spreading in groundwater. More . . .

Associated Press: New USGS study finds mercury widespread in Indiana.

One in eight fish taken from Indiana waterways and analyzed over a five-year period was tainted with the toxic metal mercury, according to federal scientists who last year reported that precipitation that falls near southeastern Indiana’s coal-fired power plants harbors some of the nation’s highest concentrations of atmospheric mercury. The study led by U.S. Geological Survey hydrologist Martin Risch also showed that mercury contamination in both surface waters and fish across Indiana routinely exceeds levels recommended to protect humans and animals. Risch said the front cover of the mercury report includes photographs of an eagle and a boy holding a big fish. More . . .

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From IATPvideo:

Dr. John Peterson Myers, CEO of Environmental Health Sciences and co-author of Our Stolen Future, talks about environmental chemicals and public health.

Dr. John Peterson Myers is founder, CEO and Chief Scientist of Environmental Health Sciences, where he publishes the well-respected, daily Environmental Health News which aims to advance the publics understanding of environmental health issues by providing access to worldwide news about a variety of subjects related to the health of humans, wildlife and ecosystems.

In this video, Dr. Myers discusses the current problem of toxic chemicals in toys and other children’s products, what parents can do, and what changes are necessary in the regulatory system.

 

Tacoma News Tribune: Highly contaminated soil found at Hanford.

Workers have found a nasty surprise beneath a Hanford building just north of Richland — highly contaminated soil from an undiscovered leak. “This is extremely high radiation. Nothing else compares in the river corridor,” said Mark French, Department of Energy project director for environmental cleanup in the river corridor, the 75 square miles of Hanford along the Columbia River.  Radioactivity has been measured at 8,900 rad per hour, which would be about 10 times the lethal dose on contact, according to Hanford officials. The building where the leak was found is about 1,000 feet from the Columbia River. More . . .

Chicago TribuneResidents share worries over cancer cluster fears.

More than 100 residents poured in to the McCullom Lake Village Hall this week after a crushing development in a court case that many had hoped would resolve once and for all whether a nearby chemical plant had polluted the water and air, causing dozens of their friends and neighbors to develop brain tumors.  In all, 32 separate claims were filed against the chemical company. But recently, a judge in a Philadelphia courtroom abruptly halted the first of the cases to go to trial and sent the jury home, reserving harsh words for the expert witness whose report had tried to show the cancers were somehow linked. Margaret Boyer, a longtime resident of the tiny McHenry County community, voiced the fears of many when she said, “We’ll never find out how this story ends.” More . . .

Agence France-Presse: US doctors say chemicals can cause cancer.

Dr Linda Giudice has treated thousands of patients over the years with a range of troubling reproductive disorders, and this week, she joined health experts and a young mother in fingering chemicals as the probable cause. “I have treated thousands of patients… including young men with very abnormal sperm counts or a history of testicular cancer, women as young as 17 and already in the menopause, little girls with the onset of puberty at six or eight,” Giudice told a news conference. “There is increasing evidence that environmental contaminants may be playing a role in these disorders,” said Giudice, who chairs the department of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive sciences at the University of California, San Francisco. More . . .

From www.splitestate.com:

Imagine discovering that you don’t own the mineral rights under your land, and that an energy company plans to drill for natural gas two
hundred feet from your front door. Split Estate maps a tragedy in the making, as citizens in the path of a new drilling boom in the Rocky
Mountain West struggle against the erosion of their civil liberties, their communities and their health.

Here are three parts of a disturbing story from News Channel 7 (Spartanburg, North Carolina).

Shadow of Sickness: Community Wants Answers On Cancer Rate:

Vodpod videos no longer available.

A sad pattern continues down Bennett Dairy Road. In a door-to-door survey of homes in this small area, WSPA documented 25 cases of cancer, 14 of them fatal, dating back to ’75. More . . .

Shadow of sickness: Part 2: Former employee accuses Hoechst Fibers of releasing toxic waste:

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Karen Murph’s spirited fight has inspired those around her, including a man named Ken Easler. He lives not far from her and goes to church with her. And he believes he knows why she and many of her neighbors have gotten sick. More . . .

Spartanburg WSPA TV: Shadow of sickness Part 3.

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Ken Easler, who retired from Hoecsht in 1986, says he had a close friend in upper management who let him in on plant secrets. He says he has decided to share those secrets now because a friend, Karen Murph, is dying of cancer – cancer Easler believes was caused by harmful chemicals Hoechst put in the environment. More . . .

Inter Press Service: Sick for the holidays: Gulf’s toxic effects continue.

In response to the massive spill last summer that released at least 4.9 million barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico, BP admitted to using at least 1.9 million gallons of Corexit dispersants – which have been banned in 19 countries – to sink the oil. The dispersants contain chemicals that many scientists and toxicologists have warned are dangerous to humans, marine life and wildlife. A March 1987 report titled “Organic Solvent Neurotoxicity”, by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), states: “The acute neurotoxic effects of organic solvent exposure in workers and laboratory animals are narcosis, anesthesia, central nervous system (CNS) depression, respiratory arrest, unconsciousness, and death.”  Several chemicals and chemical compounds listed in the NIOSH report, such as styrene, toluene and xylene, are now present in the Gulf of Mexico as the result of BP’s dispersants mixing with BP’s crude oil. More . . .

International Business TimesMercury plagues Indiana.

Indiana has over 30 coal-burning power plants. The smoke rises and disperses in the air, but its chemical contents do not vanish. They linger in the atmosphere and they return to the earth, and to the waterways of Indiana, with the rain. And that poses a danger to Indianans, and Indiana wildlife, and other Americans, too.  The U.S. Geological Survey, in partnership with the Indiana Department of Environmental Management, recently published the results of a decade-long study of Indiana waterways. The title says a lot: Mercury in Indiana Watersheds. “Mercury contamination in water and fish throughout Indiana has routinely exceeded levels recommended to protect people and wildlife,” said the USGS release accompanying the report. “About 1 in 8 fish samples tested statewide had mercury that exceeded the recommended safety limit for human consumption. The causes include mercury in the rain and mercury going down the drain.” More . . .

Today Show: Could your seafood contain toxic chemicals?

When you think of tainted seafood, you may think of the Gulf oil spill. But 80 percent of the fish and shrimp Americans eat actually comes from overseas — and a TODAY investigation that aired Tuesday found that some of that seafood may contain toxic chemicals that can cause serious health problems. Footage taken by a U.S. advocacy group of seafood being raised in Vietnam, for example, showed fish in dirty sewage water, pumped with toxic antibiotics and banned drugs just to keep them alive, boosting production and driving down costs. ‘Disturbing number’ Ron Sparks is commissioner of the state Department of Agriculture in Alabama — one of the few states that tests imported seafood for drugs like chloramphenicol, nitrofurans and malachite green, chemicals so toxic to humans that they’re banned in all food. “In some cases, between 40 and 50 percent of our tests will come out positive,” Sparks said. “That’s a disturbing number.” More . . .

London Independent: None flew over the cuckoo’s nest: A world without birds.

It is nearly 50 years since Rachel Carson wrote Silent Spring, the book that warned of environmental damage the pesticide DDT was causing. Today, DDT use is banned except in exceptional circumstances, yet we still don’t seem to have taken on board Carson’s fundamental message.

According to Henk Tennekes, a researcher at the Experimental Toxicology Services in Zutphen, the Netherlands, the threat of DDT has been superseded by a relatively new class of insecticide, known as the neonicotinoids. In his book The Systemic Insecticides: A Disaster in the Making, published this month, Tennekes draws all the evidence together, to make the case that neonicotinoids are causing a catastrophe in the insect world, which is having a knock-on effect for many of our birds.

Already, in many areas, the skies are much quieter than they used to be. All over Europe, many species of bird have suffered a population crash. Spotting a house sparrow, common swift or a flock of starlings used to be unremarkable, but today they are a more of an unusual sight. Since 1977, Britain’s house-sparrow population has shrunk by 68 per cent.

The common swift has suffered a 41 per cent fall in numbers since 1994, and the starling 26 per cent. The story is similar for woodland birds (such as the spotted flycatcher, willow tit and wood warbler), and farmland birds (including the northern lapwing, snipe, curlew, redshank and song thrush).

Ornithologists have been trying desperately to work out what is behind these rapid declines. Urban development, hermetically sealed houses and barns, designer gardens and changing farming practices have all been blamed, but exactly why these birds have fallen from the skies is still largely unexplained.

However, Tennekes thinks there may be a simple reason. “The evidence shows that the bird species suffering massive decline since the 1990s rely on insects for their diet,” he says. He believes that the insect world is no longer thriving, and that birds that feed on insects are short on food.

So what has happened to all the insects? In the Nineties, a new class of insecticide – the neonicotinoids – was introduced. Beekeepers were the first people to notice a problem, as their bees began to desert their hives and die, a phenomenon known as Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD).

* * *

If that is so, then neonicotinoid insecticides could be the root cause of the problem. But why are they so much worse than other insecticides?

“Neonicotinoids are revolutionary because they are put inside seeds and permeate the whole plant because they are water-soluble (which is why they are called systemic insecticides). Any insect that feeds on the crop dies,” explains Tennekes.

Even small doses can kill. Recent research, carried out on honey bees in the lab, showed that these insecticides build up in the central nervous system of the insect, so that very small doses over a long time period can have a fatal effect. The reason that neonicotinoids can have such a powerful long-term effect is down to the way they work – binding irreversibly to receptors in the central nervous systems of insects.

“An insect has a limited amount of such receptors. The damage is cumulative: with every exposure, more receptors are blocked, until the damage is so big that the insect cannot function any more and dies,” explains van der Sluijs.

And unfortunately the robust nature of neonicotinoids means that they can travel far beyond the crops they were used to treat. “Neonicotinoids are water-soluble and mobile in soil. They can be washed out of soils and into surface and groundwater – as we’ve seen in the Netherlands since 2004. As a result, neonicotinoids are probably readily taken up by wild plants as well, and in this way spread throughout nature, causing irreversible damage to non-target insects,” says Tennekes.

More . . .

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Indianapolis- WTHR: Dumped in Indiana.

Agricultural waste has caused environmental devastation to Ohio’s largest inland lake [see video above]. To help prevent further damage, Ohio is shipping hundreds of millions of pounds of poultry manure to Indiana. Some Hoosiers say the massive piles of manure piling up near their homes are toxic – and state officials say there’s nothing they can do about it. 

Wendy Read is surrounded by farm fields in rural Randolph County, so she’s used to the smell of manure.

But the young mother says she and her family can only take so much.

“We’ve decided we have to leave because everybody’s getting sick,” she said, staring at the farm house that’s been in her husband’s family for generations. “What else can we do?”

Read and her family are moving out of state to escape an onslaught of manure that has made breathing in some parts of eastern Indiana unbearable.

In recent years, a commercial hog farm housing more than 11,000 swine moved in across the street. The pungent odor from a massive lagoon of hog manure constantly wafts over Read’s property line, easily penetrating closed doors and shut windows.

“I love Indiana and I don’t want to leave, but we just didn’t feel we have any other choice for the health of our kids and our family,” Read said with tears in her eyes, pointing to her daughter’s favorite pear tree in the front yard. “It’s making my daughter sick and my husband got sick, and all summer we couldn’t even go outside to use our property.”

The final straw: nearby farmers trucking in tons of poultry manure to fertilize their fields.

More (including video) . . .

Nature: Wastewater chemicals dampen fish fervour.

Pharmaceuticals and household chemicals in rivers and streams may be affecting how fish mate and spawn, scientists warn, even when the substances are not present at levels high enough to cause visible damage. * * * Drugs and chemicals that are flushed down toilets and drains have long been reported in urban waste water and the streams into which it flows. But it has been difficult to work out how this is affecting wildlife. “Subtle effects are the issue,” says Melissa Schultz, a chemist at the College of Wooster in Ohio. “It’s easy to tell if a fish suffers from obvious anatomical changes such as being intersex or not having mature secondary sexual characteristics,” she says. But determining effects on mating behaviour “takes more meticulous work”. More . . .

Discover: Earth on fire.

Thousands of hidden fires smolder and rage through the world’s coal deposits, quietly releasing gases that can ruin health, devastate communities, and heat the planet. More . . .

Sydney Morning Herald: Bees prove a good diet can set our path in life.

YOU are what you eat. Grow up eating a nutrition-rich diet of royal jelly and you will become, well, royalty. Stick to honey and you are destined for life as a worker. That is the way it is for honey bees, research published in the journal PLoS Biology shows. But the research, led by Ryszard Maleszka, of the Australian National University’s college of medicine, biology and environment, has implications for humans, too. The findings suggest environmental factors such as diet could modify the ”genetic hardware” of the human brain, as was the case with the research that found diet not only influenced bee behaviour but its DNA. More . . .

Chemical & Engineering News: Fungicides contaminate western aquatic environments.

Researchers with the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) have found a dozen agricultural fungicides in the waters and sediments downstream of farms and orchards in two western states. Presented Nov. 8 at the annual meeting of theSociety of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry (SETAC) in Portland, Oregon, the findings represent the first such data on fungicides in the western U.S. Farmers routinely use fungus-killing compounds to spray or dust food crops, such as strawberries, corn, and soybeans. Some crops receive up to a dozen doses per growing season. Nationwide, fungicide use has risen considerably since the 1990s, reaching 350 million pounds in 2001. However, the environmental prevalence and effects on wildlife and ecosystems—particularly of newer fungicides—are poorly understood, says Kathryn Kuivila, of theUSGS California Water Science Center. Environmental monitoring programs monitor concentrations of few or no fungicides, she notes. More . . .

Associated Press: For hundreds, lawsuit over coal slurry unresolved.

Eighteen months ago, Christina Doyle packed up her two kids for an eight-hour journey to a West Virginia courthouse, hoping for some resolution to a lawsuit over water pollution she believes caused her daughter’s learning disabilities and slow growth.

This weekend, the 32-year-old who now lives in South Carolina is doing it again. And so will hundreds of others who believe Virginia-based Massey Energy Co. and subsidiary Rawl Sales & Processing have poisoned their water wells with 1.4 billion gallons of toxic coal slurry.

The company has denied wrongdoing, though residents say the proof flows from their faucets as red, orange or black water. They say the chemicals in slurry have left them and their children with developmental disabilities, cancers and other maladies.

* * *

The current and former residents of Rawl, Lick Creek, Sprigg and Merrimac are suing Massey for injecting slurry into 1,000 acres of former underground mines between 1978 and 1987. Slurry is created when coal is washed to help it burn more efficiently.

* * *  The company has defended the practice in court documents, arguing mineral rights agreements dating to 1889 give it “the full right to take and use all water found on the premises.”

For decades, coal companies in Appalachia have injected slurry into worked-out mines as a cheap alternative to dams and other systems that can safely store or treat the slurry. The industry says the practice is safe, but critics contend slurry seeps through natural and manmade cracks, eventually contaminating groundwater.

The state Department of Environmental Protection has imposed a temporary ban on new injection sites. Earlier this year, a team of West Virginia University researchers advised lawmakers to start monitoring coal slurry, even though they could not conclusively demonstrate a hazard to public health.

They also claim Massey drilled 40 more holes than it was permitted, pumping water out to relieve pressure and to make room for more waste. That waste came within feet of their homes, and the lawsuit says tests show the slurry “ripples and bubbles through the system in varying degrees, from highly toxic to simply toxic.”

* * *

All Christina Doyle wants is what’s best for her daughter, whose monthly drugs and daily hormone injections would cost more than $3,000 without insurance. Savannah was born without a pituitary gland, which is in the brain and regulates the body’s growth hormones.

The injections cause “horrible mood swings” that make a teenage girl’s life even more difficult. Savannah struggles with homework and cannot have children, said Doyle, who was raised in Lick Creek and lived there while pregnant with her daughter.

Despite Savannah’s problems, she made local news last year when she plunged into a pond to save a drowning 3-year-old neighbor.

Still, Doyle says she’s long been told by specialists that genetics can’t account for her daughter’s poor health.

“I did not do drugs. I did everything right. I took prenatal vitamins,” Doyle says. “I can’t think of anything else it could have been but the water.”

More . . .

Image source.

Reuters HealthWork exposure to diesel fumes tied to lung cancer.

Miners, railway workers and others with years of on-the-job exposure to diesel exhaust may have a heightened risk of developing lung cancer, a new research analysis suggests. The study, which combined the results from 11 previous studies in Europe and Canada, found that workers with the greatest lifetime exposure to diesel exhaust had a 31 percent higher risk of lung cancer than people with no such occupational exposure. More . . .

Canadian Press: Microwave popcorn bags may contain harmful chemicals.

University of Toronto scientists have discovered chemical contamination in the blood of those who ingest foods wrapped in these papers. Perfluorinated carboxylic acids or PFCAs are the breakdown products from chemicals used in the manufacture of certain products, such as non-stick pans, clothing and food packaging. Theses PFCAs have been discovered in humans and have been worrying scientists for years. Now it seems the major source of human PFCA exposure may be in the consumption of polyfluoroalkyl phosphate esters or PAPs, which are the chemicals found in junk food papers. “Those chemicals called PAPs move into food, make it into humans upon ingestion and metabolically are transformed into the PFCAs,” said Scott Mabury, the lead researcher and a professor in the Department of Chemistry at the University of Toronto. More . . .

Nature: Oil spill’s toxic trade-off.

Chemicals used to reduce oil slicks during the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico may have rendered the oil more toxic than official reports suggest, according to a Canadian toxicologist. * * * The chemicals, known as dispersants, are used to reduce the surface tension of spilled oil, allowing wind and waves to break it into microscopic droplets. These droplets disperse through sea water rather than floating in massive oil slicks that can blow on to shorelines. They are also more easily attacked by oil-eating bacteria. But until it is degraded by such bacteria, the dispersed oil becomes mixed into the water rather than sitting on top of it. This means that its toxic constituents, most notably polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), are likely to have a greater effect on marine wildlife. * * * The problem, explains Hodson, is that the dispersed cloud of microscopic oil droplets allows the PAHs to contaminate a volume of water 100–1,000 times greater than if the oil were confined to a floating surface slick. This hugely increases the exposure of wildlife to the dispersed oil. More . . .

From CBS News: Gas drilling is linked to contamination in people’s drinking water and it’s dividing rural landowners. Armen Keteyian reports.

Center for Public Integrity: One town’s recurring coal ash nightmare.

Stand before the pond known here in southwestern Pennsylvania as Little Blue Run, and you’ll see nothing that resembles its bucolic-sounding name. The one-time stream is now an industrial pond, filled with arsenic-laced waste from a coal-fired power plant.

The one-time stream is now an industrial pond, filled with arsenic-laced waste from a coal-fired power plant. The pond spans nearly 1,000 acres of rolling, rural landscape in Pennsylvania and West Virginia, along the Ohio River. Millions of tons of coal ash have landed in the 35-year-old dump, looming over some 50,000 people in southeastern Ohio, held back by a 400-foot-tall dam, that federal regulators have deemed a “high hazard” to human life if it ever let loose.

Here in tiny Greene Township, where the pond consumes more than 10 percent of the total land, Little Blue Run seems a wasteland.

Coal ash, tinted blue, has overtaken the valley, rising each year by a million tons, blanketing the trees so they look like pixie sticks. Residents say dry ash wafts into their yards, its sulfuric smell burning their throats. At night, they hear a swooshing sound as coal ash cascades down a pipe stretching seven miles from the Bruce Mansfield Power Station, in Shippingport, Pa.

“It will keep rising,” says Marci Carpenter, who lives in a neighborhood dotted with vacant properties and abandoned homes, “and soon it’ll be above my house.”

Unless, that is, coal ash is regulated by the federal government.

More . . . 


CBCBisphenol A linked to sterility in roundworms.

The controversial chemical bisphenol A can render roundworms sterile, kill their embryos, and damage their chromosomes, according to a new lab study. The findings are sure to re-ignite debate over the health safety of the chemical commonly known as BPA, which is widely used in such consumer products as hard plastic toys, bottles and food container linings. Geneticists at the Harvard Medical School found that in roundworms exposed to BPA, some DNA repair processes were impaired in the very cells that are essential for the formation of sperm and eggs. Exposure to the chemical also damaged chromosomal integrity and led to cell death, the authors found. While chromosomes in the control group of roundworms appeared normal, the chromosomes in the group exposed to BPA were frayed and fragmented. That led to embryo death and less fertile worms. More . . .

Nature: A warming earth could mean stronger toxicants.

Global warming may be making pesticide residues, heavy metals and household chemicals more dangerous to fish, wildlife and, ultimately, humans, scientists warn. At the North American branch of the Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry’s 31st annual meeting in Portland, Oregon, on 8 November, environmental chemists warned that complex interactions between chemistry and climate change might be making chemicals more toxic and the environment more susceptible to damage. For example, Erin Mann, a PhD student studying environmental chemistry at the University of Toronto in Scarborough, Canada, said that melting sea ice in the Arctic Ocean exposes more seawater to the atmosphere, which may make it easier for toxic chemicals in arctic waters to escape into the air. “So global warming could produce more air pollution in the arctic,” she said. More . . .

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