Archives for the day of: December 20, 2010

NatureCan European companies meet the deadline for registering chemicals?

The European Union’s REACH (Registration, Evaluation, Authorization and Restriction of Chemicals) legislation is the world’s most extensive attempt at improving the safe use of chemicals. By today all chemicals produced or sold in quantities of more than 1,000 tonnes a year must be registered, their existing toxicity data must be submitted along with proposals for additional tests to fill in gaps in safety information. Nature has investigated whether the European chemicals industry will meet the deadline and what will happen if it does not.  More . . .

Michigan Messenger: Students ask MSU to end coal power.

Michigan State University, the nation’s premier land grant college, built a central heating system in 1890 after fireplaces proved a risky way to heat school buildings. Now a student group is trying to convince the school that powering that plant with coal poses unacceptable health and environmental risks.

The university’s T.B. Simon coal plant burns around 250,000 tons of coal each year and provides all of the electricity for the school. It also provides steam heat for buildings and powers the water system. Coal-fired power plants are the leading source of greenhouse gas emissions and a study by the Clean Air Task Force this year found that air pollution form coal plants will cause 13,200 deaths this year.

MSU Beyond Coal, a campaign sponsored by the Sierra Student Coalition, is asking the university to commit to ending the use of coal for power. The effort is part of a national Sierra Club campaign to end coal burning on college campuses. In recent months the campaign has focused on on-campus rallies to raise awareness of the university’s reliance on coal. More . . .

Agence France-Presse: Tiny blood vessels show pollution, heart disease link.

By photographing tiny blood vessels in a person’s eyes, researchers have found a way to link exposure to air pollution with a higher risk of heart disease, a study published Tuesday said. “New digital photos of the retina revealed that otherwise healthy people exposed to high levels of air pollution had narrower retinal arterioles, an indication of a higher risk of heart disease,” said the study in PLoS Medicine.

A person who was exposed to low level of pollution in a short time period showed the microvascular — or extremely tiny — blood vessels “of someone three years older,” it said. Someone who faced longer term exposure to high levels of pollution had the blood vessels of someone seven years older, it said.  More . . .

The 2010 Report by the President’s Panel on Cancer had this to say about the inefficacy of existing regulations of chemical toxins:

The prevailing regulatory approach in the United States is reactionary rather than precautionary. That is, instead of taking preventive action when uncertainty exists about the potential harm a chemical or other environmental contaminant may cause, a hazard must be incontrovertibly demonstrated before action to ameliorate it is initiated. Moreover, instead of requiring industry or other proponents of specific chemicals, devices, or activities to prove their safety, the public bears the burden of proving that a given environmental exposure is harmful. Only a few hundred of the more than 80,000 chemicals in use in the United States have been tested for safety.

U.S. regulation of environmental contaminants is rendered ineffective by five major problems: (1) inadequate funding and insufficient staffing, (2) fragmented and overlapping authorities coupled with uneven and decentralized enforcement, (3) excessive regulatory complexity, (4) weak laws and regulations, and (5) undue industry influence. Too often, these factors, either singly or in combination, result in agency dysfunction and a lack of will to identify and remove hazards.

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