Archives for the month of: December, 2010

Greenwire: Document shows BP made risky decisions in Gulf to save time.

The companies involved in the Gulf of Mexico oil spill made several risky decisions to save time — and consequently money — ahead of the disaster, according to a document that was pulled at the last minute from a presentation of the president’s oil spill commission earlier this month.  The document (pdf) obtained by Greenwire shows BP PLC, Halliburton Co. and Transocean Ltd. made a series of 11 unnecessary decisions that may have increased the chances of disaster. The findings paint a harsher picture than statements made by the panel’s chief counsel during a recent presentation that workers onshore and on the drilling rig didn’t cut corners on safety to save money. And it may be a harbinger of stronger findings in the panel’s final conclusions due out in January. More . . .


From Youtube:

“Dr. James Haney presents ‘Environmental Injustices World Wide,’ with Dr. D. Padgett, a Professor and Environmental Scientist at Tennessee State University, who talks about the relationship between Environmental justice in the United States and throughout the world.”

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Science News: California’s New Chemical Regulations Face Opposition From Manufacturers, Criticism From Environmentalists

Hidden elements in drinking-water lines can shed large amounts of lead, a toxic heavy metal. And it’s quite legal, even if it does skirt the intent of federal regulations. . . . Lead adds ductility to brass, making it easier to bend or machine into desired shapes. To limit the risk of lead poisoning, U.S. law prohibits new brass plumbing parts in drinking water lines from containing more than 8 percent lead by weight. Yet two shut-off valves containing only about 6.5 percent lead leached toxic amounts of the metal into drinking fountains at the University of North Carolina. More . . .

Huffington Post: California aims to remove toxic chemicals in products.

It’s almost unthinkable now that environmentalists and manufacturers once stood together as Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed a bill making California the first state to regulate toxic chemicals in consumer products. Two years later, with regulations set to take effect in January, the longtime foes are increasingly at odds over how the state should implement regulations that would apply to everything from baby bottles to cars. Environmentalists complain the plan is too slow to be effective, while manufacturers say the state rushed to draft regulations so bureaucratic and broad they would even apply to the sale of a used boat. More . . .

Monterey County Herald: Study shows Central Coast waters among most toxic in state.

A statewide study released last week shows that stream waters sampled from the Central Coast are among the most toxic in the state. This study comes in the wake of a lawsuit filed last month by Monterey Coastkeeper against the Monterey County Water Resources Agency, claiming the agency is illegally discharging polluted waters. “We think that our water, being more toxic than Los Angeles water, is disgusting,” said Steve Shimek of Monterey Coastkeeper, a local environmental group that follows water issues. “We’re hopeful that this will lead to greater awareness in Monterey County — that all is not perfect in paradise, and that this will lead to greater regulation of agricultural discharges.” More . . .

From Tampa Tribune: Lead in bags, other products result of global economy:

That’s the most likely reason why recent tests commissioned by The Tampa Tribune found elevated lead levels in elaborately decorated grocery bags sold at Winn-Dixie and Publix, according to executives in the promotional merchandise manufacturing industry.

Lead shouldn’t be in paint, and there are better alternatives. But making a newly popular item like reusable bags sometimes involves a dizzying array of subcontracting and handoffs stretching around the globe. And, too often, someone, somewhere will substitute cheaper, dangerous ingredients, like lead, to support their profit margins.

The same problems cropping up with bags echo troubles with other tainted products: Cadmium in drink cups sold at McDonald’s, toxins in household drywall, lead in children’s lunchboxes. Just Friday, the Food and Drug Administration warned of lead in hand-made pottery coming from Mexico.

Toxic metals are a problem that Wayne Greenberg has been warning his industry about for years, and he’s not altogether surprised lead would show up in some reusable bags.

“The whole issue is that there’s a bunch of suppliers who just want to have the cheapest bags,” said Greenberg, former chair of the Promotional Products Association International, and owner of the promotional gear company JB of Florida in Tampa. “They may not mean to increase the lead content … but they don’t know the difference between a 99-cent bag and a $1.29 bag is whether it was tested or not.”

More . . .

From Living On Earth (portions of an interesting radio discussion of the “new curriculum in chemistry”):

GELLERMAN: . . . . In laboratories across the country chemists are trying to come up with new formulas to make safer products. And students at many universities are learning how to do it. It’s called green chemistry. Living On Earth’s Ingrid Lobet reports on the changes at one of the nation’s most influential chemistry departments: the University of California, Berkeley.

WILSON: Our field has typically been about measuring the extent of the damage, and I became interested in the next level of question which was: Why are we creating these occupational and environmental health hazards in the first place? Don’t we have the have the talent and the resources to create safer chemicals and safer products from the beginning?

LOBET: These questions led Wilson to the field of green chemistry. Established by Paul Anastas and John Warner in the 1990s, it’s the emerging field that looks at where chemicals end up in people and the environment, and advocates safer substances. Next, Wilson began talking with the university chemistry department.

WILSON: What we found here at the Berkeley campus was that chemistry education hadn’t really changed much in the last 30-40 years.

LOBET: Not too long after, Wilson met a new chemistry grad student who’d arrived at the university. Marty Mulvihill and Mike Wilson had something in common—call it a public interest approach.

MULVIHILL: While I was here, it was really important to me not only that I do research, but that I reach out to my community and think about the ways that chemists specifically could influence society. Like, we use a lot of resources from society—chemistry is a very resource intensive thing—like, how do we give back?

LOBET: With this kind of community orientation it was natural that the first thing Mulvihill did when he got to Berkeley was start organizing other chemistry grad students.

MULVIHILL: The name of that group was actually Chemists for Peace, which turned out to be far too controversial for a place like Berkeley. I mean, there’s like that perception that Berkeley is an activist-oriented thing, but when you look at chemistry, anything that even appears political is not widely accepted.

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WILSON: Our field has typically been about measuring the extent of the damage, and I became interested in the next level of question which was: Why are we creating these occupational and environmental health hazards in the first place? Don’t we have the have the talent and the resources to create safer chemicals and safer products from the beginning?

LOBET: These questions led Wilson to the field of green chemistry. Established by Paul Anastas and John Warner in the 1990s, it’s the emerging field that looks at where chemicals end up in people and the environment, and advocates safer substances. Next, Wilson began talking with the university chemistry department.

WILSON: What we found here at the Berkeley campus was that chemistry education hadn’t really changed much in the last 30-40 years.

LOBET: Not too long after, Wilson met a new chemistry grad student who’d arrived at the university. Marty Mulvihill and Mike Wilson had something in common—call it a public interest approach.

MULVIHILL: While I was here, it was really important to me not only that I do research, but that I reach out to my community and think about the ways that chemists specifically could influence society. Like, we use a lot of resources from society—chemistry is a very resource intensive thing—like, how do we give back?

LOBET: With this kind of community orientation it was natural that the first thing Mulvihill did when he got to Berkeley was start organizing other chemistry grad students.

MULVIHILL: The name of that group was actually Chemists for Peace, which turned out to be far too controversial for a place like Berkeley. I mean, there’s like that perception that Berkeley is an activist-oriented thing, but when you look at chemistry, anything that even appears political is not widely accepted.

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From Tavis Smiley Radio:

This week the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, better known as the E.P.A, celebrates its 40th anniversary. From that time to the present, America’s environmental history has seen both dramatic events and undergone remarkable progress. But while we’ve made great strides in the ongoing environmental movement, Administrator Jackson believes much more can be done.

Tavis Smiley interviews EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson in the following podcast.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Washington Post: Environmental justice issues take center stage.

The winding Mataponi Creek looks clear in the sunlight, with marsh grasses lining its banks. But some of the coal ash waste from a nearby power plant is also coursing through its waters, and residents are worried it is contaminating their well water.  The area around the Brandywine ash storage site – where waste from Mirant Mid-Atlantic’s Chalk Point plant containing carcinogens and heavy metals ends up – is a fairly rural community, with residents who are far from politically active and have little leverage with elected officials who might act on the matter. . . . The controversy over toxic coal ash waste in this corner of Prince George’s County – and fights for greater coal ash regulation from Alabama to Puerto Rico – highlights an issue that has been around for decades and is again in the spotlight: environmental justice.  More . . .

Associated Press: Cadmium, lead found in drinking glasses.

Drinking glasses depicting comic book and movie characters such as Superman, Wonder Woman and the Tin Man from “The Wizard of Oz” exceed federal limits for lead in children’s products by up to 1,000 times, according to laboratory testing commissioned by The Associated Press. The decorative enamel on the superhero and Oz sets — made in China and purchased at a Warner Brothers Studios store in Burbank — contained between 16 percent and 30.2 percent lead. The federal limit on children’s products is 0.03 percent. The same glasses also contained relatively high levels of the even-more-dangerous cadmium, though there are no federal limits on that toxic metal in design surfaces. More . . .

Associated Press: US probes lead in kids’ drinking glasses.

Federal regulators launched an investigation on Monday into lead levels in themed drinking glasses depicting comic book and movie characters, declaring them children’s products subject to stricter standards than those intended for adult collectors.  The US Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) said it was collecting samples of all glasses cited in an ongoing Associated Press investigation into dangerous metals in children’s merchandise, generally those containing the more dangerous toxin cadmium. The company that imported the Chinese-made glasses depicting the likes of Superman, Wonder Woman and characters from The Wizard of Oz, such as Dorothy and the Tin Man, announced it would voluntarily recall them, despite its insistence that they were marketed to adults. More . . .

Vodpod videos no longer available.

North Carolina:

From the air there appears to be nothing left of the Sangamo-Weston Plant that once stood in Pickens.But, unfortunately, the industry left plenty behind.

“Everybody says, ‘Oh, we didn’t know it was so harmful.’ Bull manure! They did know it was harmful,” Federal Judge Ross Anderson said.

Anderson is talking about the 400,000 pounds of PCBs the plant dumped into 12-Mile River during the 60s and 70s.

The cancer-causing substance found its way to Lake Hartwell where today, people are still warned not to eat the fish.

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“We’re going to be paying a price for our environment for at least the lifetime of my grandson,” he said.

More.

In my interview of Drs. Carlos Sonnenschein and Ana Soto, I asked them about some of their favorite authors and writings on the topic of environmental health.  This video contains their responses, which are also included with links below (duration: 11:34).

Dr. Soto’s Five Favorites:

Dr. Sonnenschein’s Five Favorites:

The full, edited interview is now available on the Upstream Website.

Gasland is a documentary written and directed by Josh Fox. It focuses on communities in the United States impacted by hydraulic fracturing.

Los Angeles Times: Latinos, Asians more worried about environment than whites, poll of California voters finds.

California’s Latino and Asian voters are significantly more concerned about core environmental issues, including global warming, air pollution and contamination of soil and water, than white voters, according to the latest Los Angeles Times/USC poll. For example, 50% of Latinos and 46% of Asians who responded to the poll said they personally worry a great deal about global warming, compared with 27% of whites. Two-thirds of Latinos and 51% of Asians polled said they worry a great deal about air pollution, compared with 31% of whites.  Similarly, 85% of Latinos and 79% of Asians said they worry a great or a fair amount about contamination of soil and water by toxic waste, compared with 71% of whites. More . . .

Spokane Spokesman-Review: Study of Columbia River pollution continues.

A massive study of industrial pollution in the upper Columbia River is wrapping up its second year of sampling. Researchers have tested 2,300 fish above Grand Coulee Dam for lead, mercury, arsenic, PCBs and other contaminants. While initial results don’t raise alarm bells for sport fish, higher readings were found in suckers, a long-lived species that prowls the river bottom. “They’re bottom-feeders, and they ingest a lot of sediment,” said Anne Fairbrother, a scientist working on the study. More . . .

Los Angeles Times: Schwarzenegger declares emergency over water contamination in Barstow.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger declared a state of emergency Saturday for San Bernardino County, where the water supply for the city of Barstow was found to be contaminated with a toxic chemical used to make explosives and rocket fuel. A day earlier, Golden State Water Co. warned residents of the desert town that their drinking water contained high levels of perchlorate, a contaminant often associated with defense and aerospace activities. Perchlorate, a type of salt derived from perchloric acid, has been found in drinking water in at least 35 states. It can interfere with iodine uptake in the thyroid gland. The thyroid, which releases hormones, helps with proper development in children and helps regulate metabolism. More . . .

From IATPvideo:

Dr. David Wallinga, Director of the Food and Health Program at the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, talks about the findings of a recent IATP study on the presence of mercury in high fructose corn syrup and in common food and beverage products.

Boulder Daily Camera: Coloradans’ ‘recycled’ computers can end up in the third-world, local landfills.

As the holiday season approaches, a host of tempting new electronic gadgets awaits. But what actually happens to Colorado’s old electronics? The answer may surprise you. It surprised government regulators. An investigation by the I-News Network uncovered illegal exporting, backyard recycling and more. This is the first in a four-part series reporting their findings. More  . . .

Scripps Howard News Service: Fracking wells blamed for polluted water; inspectors overwhelmed.

A widespread method of extracting natural gas by shooting chemical-laced water underground is a growing threat to water supplies in 28 states, say scientists, landowners and environmentalists.

Known as “fracking,” the practice fractures underground rock formations to release vast but otherwise unreachable quantities of natural gas. In cases surfacing around the country, nearby landowners are claiming their water became poisoned shortly after the drilling process began — and they’re convinced frack wells are the cause. But the science of frack wells is uncertain, and the natural gas industry is pushing back hard, saying they’re not to blame. Affected landowners, angry that they’ve been unwittingly subjected to poisoned water, say their frustrations have been compounded by unresponsive regulators who fail to fix their water or hold the drilling companies accountable.

In fact, a Scripps Howard News Service investigation has found:

— Overwhelmed, understaffed state inspectors aren’t keeping up with the booming industry.

— In the last decade, well drillers in Ohio have been cited for 14,409 violations. The violations were from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources’ Mineral Resources Management Division. Many were for small infractions like out-of-date paperwork, but some were for more serious violations like releasing toxic fluids, though sloppy bookkeeping precludes regulators from running computer checks to identify patterns of unresolved violations.

— An oversight system that landowners say is stacked against them, including regulator salaries paid by drilling royalties and political campaigns flush with natural gas-linked financial donations.

More . . .

A CNNMoney video about how fracking threatens local water supplies in Pennsylvania: