Archives for the day of: November 16, 2010

Jennifer Loren put together an outstanding story (including a series of videos) about a battle between the coal industry and some local residents in Oklahoma over whether and how fly ash should be regulated.

From, here are a few excerpts:

Right now, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is trying to decide if it should regulate an industrial byproduct called Fly Ash. It’s a battle that pits environmentalists against the $66 billion US coal industry. A group of small-town Oklahomans have inserted themselves into the middle of the battle because they say fly ash is killing them, literally.

Trains ship billions of tons of coal into Oklahoma every year to be burned at coal-fired electric power plants. The byproduct of burned coal is a powdery substance called Coal Combustion Waste, more commonly called fly ash. . . .

There are at least 12 fly ash sites scattered across Oklahoma, but none bigger than the one in Bokoshe. It’s an old mine that’s being “reclaimed” with the fly ash, but it’s 55 feet tall and covers more than 20 acres. It’s about a mile from the center of Bokoshe.

The lone cafe in town, Sassy’s, has become headquarters for the people of Bokoshe, fighting in the battle of their lives. It’s a battle against big coal, power companies and it turns out, the very state agencies put in place to protect them.

“They thought that they could come into a town of about 450 people and they could do pretty much what they wanted to do and that we would sit back and allow them to do so, but they underestimated their opponent,” said Sharon Tanksley, Bokoshe Resident.

It took seven years living in a haze of fly ash, but small town Oklahoma won their first battle against the state last year. They proved to the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality that the ash was being dumped illegally and blanketing their town in harmful chemicals. DEQ now requires that water is mixed with the ash to keep it from contaminating the air.

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Lifelong resident, Charles Tackett, said he believes their victory came too late.

“We have had a very bad rash of cancers and respiratory problems,” Tackett said.

Tackett said people in 14 of the 20 families living closest to the dump have died from or are living with cancer.

In the local sixth grade classroom, fly ash is often a topic of discussion. The children have learned the environmental effects of the dust they breathed for so many years. They said they’re living with the health effects.

“Would you raise your hands please if you have respiratory problems?” asked the teacher. Half the class raised their hands. Nine out of the 17 sixth graders have asthma. That’s six times the national average.

Bokoshe residents cannot prove their health problems are caused by the fly ash, but fly ash contains dozens of chemicals proven to be harmful. EPA documents show the local power plant dumped fly ash containing more than 56,000 pounds of arsenic compounds, 1,100 hundred pounds of mercury and 1,000 pounds of lead at the site in 2007 alone.

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The entire story and a series of videos here.   Image source here.

Inter Press Service: Black Floridians await settlement on toxic contamination.

For close to four decades, residents of Tallevast in southwest Florida lived side by side with the American Beryllium Company, which employed local men and women to manufacture parts for nuclear weapons. Each day, workers inhaled beryllium dust and brought it home on their clothing. * * * Unbeknownst to Tallevast residents, toxic chemicals used in the plant, including dioxin and TCE, were seeping into the ground. By the time local regulators investigated, a poisonous plume had spread across 200 acres below the small historically Black town. The plant was sold to defence contractor Lockheed Martin in 1996, and the leakage was discovered as the company prepared to sell the property in 2000. The state of Florida and Manatee County officials were notified but the problem was hidden from residents. State officials quietly began removing soil until a resident questioned their actions. In late 2003 information was finally released on the groundwater contamination. Only then did the truth of this environmental nightmare begin to come to light. By this time, nearly one person in every household had been diagnosed with a type of cancer, and many people were dying very young. More . . .

NewsweekSins of the grandfathers.

Michael Skinner just published a paper confirming epigenetic changes in sperm which are carried forward transgenerationally. This confirms that these changes can become permanently programmed. Michael Skinner has just uttered an astounding sentence, but by now he is so used to slaying scientific dogma that his listener has to interrupt and ask if he realizes what he just said. Which was this: “We just published a paper last month confirming epigenetic changes in sperm which are carried forward transgenerationally. This confirms that these changes can become permanently programmed.” OK, so it’s not bumper-sticker-ready. But if Skinner, a molecular biologist at Washington State University, were as proficient with soundbites as he is with mass spectrometry, he might have explained it this way: the life experiences of grandparents and even great-grandparents alter their eggs and sperm so indelibly that the change is passed on to their children, grandchildren, and beyond. It’s called transgenerational epigenetic inheritance: the phenomenon in which something in the environment alters the health not only of the individual exposed to it, but also of that individual’s descendants.  More . . .

Australian Associated Press: Traffic link to ‘worsening’ child asthma.

Researchers assessed the cases of more than 600 children and adolescents who between 2002 and 2006 were rushed to West Australian hospitals suffering a serious asthma attack. Air-quality records for the period leading up to each attack were checked, and this revealed a strong trend of rising traffic-related pollutants ahead of each hospital trip. Atmospheric levels of nitrogen dioxide and carbon monoxide were often elevated on the day before a child suffered the asthma attack.  An epidemiologist at the University of WA, Gavin Pereira, said the study showed how traffic pollution was a major factor in the “worsening of this respiratory condition” in children.  More . . .

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