Archives for the month of: May, 2011

From The Oklohoman:

California researchers who first established a link between two commonly used pesticides and Parkinson’s disease have found a third crop-enhancing chemical — ziram — that appears to raise the risk of developing the movement disorder. And they have found that people whose workplaces were close to fields sprayed with these chemicals — not just those who live nearby — are at higher risk of developing Parkinson’s.

In a study published in the European Journal of Epidemiology, a team of researchers led by UCLA neurologist Dr. Beate Ritz found that exposures to the trio of pesticides were higher in workplaces located near sprayed fields than they were in residences. And the combination of exposure to all three pesticides appears to be cumulative, the team led by Ritz concluded.

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From Greenpeace:

Before dawn, a team of eight Greenpeace activists climbed the 450 foot smokestack at the Fisk power plant in Chicago. From the stack, they are demanding that the operators shut down the dirty, dangerous Fisk and Crawford coal plants. The plants — operated by Edison International subsidiary Midwest Generation— are among the oldest in the United States. More people live in range of these plants than any other coal plant in America; nearly one in four Chicagoans live in a three mile radius of one or both plants.


From Living On Earth (Bruce Gellerman):

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GELLERMAN: Investigators found that the mine’s owner – Massey Energy – operated the Upper Big Branch in “a profoundly reckless manner.” The report also provides insight into another cause of needless deaths among coal miners: black lung. Living on Earth’s Jeff Young reports the old scourge of coal mining is back with a vengeance.

YOUNG: Gary Quarles is a West Virginia coal miner, as was his father, his grandfather, and his son, Gary Wayne Quarles. Gary Wayne was one of the 29 miners killed in the explosion in Massey Energy’s Upper Big Branch Mine. Early this year, Quarles learned that even before the explosion, his son was likely already doomed to suffer because of his work in the mines.

QUARLES: Gary Wayne had been in the mines for 13 years and from the autopsy report, at 34 years old, he already had black lung.

YOUNG: Black lung, technically coal workers’ pneumoconiosis, is caused by breathing coal dust. Since the early 70s, regulatory controls on dust greatly reduced the number of cases. But the lungs of the Upper Big Branch Mine victims show stark evidence that black lung is back.

MCATEER: Some 71% had some level of coal workers’ pneumoconiosis.

YOUNG: That’s Wheeling Jesuit University Vice President Davitt McAteer, a mine safety expert who directed the independent investigation of the disaster. McAteer says the autopsies show a disturbing rate of the disease.

MCATEER: But it’s really a sad fact when we have other countries around the world that have virtually eliminated black lung that we now are seeing a reemergence of this dreaded disease for the miners.

YOUNG: McAteer’s evidence supports what pulmonologists and occupational health experts have been tracking in recent years: a dismaying increase in black lung cases. For decades, West Virginia University professor and pulmonologist Dr. Edward Petsonk had studied the decline in black lung,

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From (2011):

Kirsten Bibbins-Domingo of UCSF details the many health consequences of hidden sugars and a high salt content in the modern American diet. She provides some basic guidelines for food choices to help us avoid these potentially devastating health conditions.

From The Washington Post:

Several environmental and public health groups filed suit against the Food and Drug Administration on Wednesday to try to force the government to stop farmers from routinely adding antibiotics to livestock feed to help animals grow faster.

The groups say widespread agricultural antibiotic use and the FDA’s allowance of the practice are compounding a public health crisis: the increasing prevalence of “superbugs” that infect people and do not respond to antibiotics.

“The longer we use these drugs, the less effective the arsenal becomes,” said Margaret Mellon, a senior scientist at the Union of Concerned Scientists, which filed the complaint in federal court with the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Center for Science in the Public Interest, Food Animals Concern Trust and Public Citizen.

About 80 percent of the antibiotics used in the United States are consumed by farm animals.

Groups including the American Medical Association and the Infectious Diseases Society of America have called on the FDA to ban feeding antibiotics to healthy animals.

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From ABC7 News (Fort Detrick):

For years, Rosemary Gruden was worried whether the water from her well and the soil in her garden are safe. She feared they were contaminated by chemical runoff. She considered moving. “I really don’t want to pull up roots and move,” she said.The Grudens live one mile from Fort Detrick. ABC7 has been investigating alleged spraying of the chemical known as Agent Orange at the Fort.“I don’t think it’s safe for people who work there. I really don’t,” she said.Gruden’s father, Charles, was a Detrick test lab worker for 30 years. He died of colon cancer. Her husband, Joe, was an employee at the Fort for 15 years. He suffers from blood cancer.“Frederick has a very high cancer rate and it always has,” Gruden said. “Lots of people have had cancer. Five of my neighbors, close neighbors. And now my husband.”

From Southern Environmental Law Center:

Virginia Uranium Inc. is pushing to lift a 30-year ban on uranium mining in Virginia so it can mine and mill the radioactive metal in Southside where the waste would remain toxic for centuries. Citizens statewide are concerned about the dangers of uranium mining to drinking water, air quality, farm products, fishing, and tourism. Sign petition here.

From The Telegraph:

Scientists at the Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, at the University of Sherbrooke Hospital Centre in Quebec, took dozens of samples from women.

Traces of the toxin were found 93 per cent of the pregnant mothers and in 80 per cent of the umbilical cords.

The research suggested the chemicals were entering the body through eating meat, milk and eggs from farm livestock which have been fed GM corn.

The findings appear to contradict the GM industry’s long-standing claim that any potentially harmful chemicals added to crops would pass safely through the body.

To date, most of the global research which has been used to demonstrate the safety of GM crops has been funded by the industry itself.

It is not known what, if any, harm the chemicals might cause but there has been speculation it could lead to allergies, miscarriage, abnormalities or even cancer.

One of the researchers told the scientific journal Reproductive Toxicology: “This is the first study to highlight the presence of pesticides associated with genetically modified foods in maternal, foetal and nonpregnant women’s blood.”

Pete Riley, the director of GM Freeze, a group opposed to GM farming, described the research as “very significant”.

The Agriculture Biotechnology Council, which speaks for the GM industry, has questioned the reliability and value of the research.

Dr Julian Little, its chairman, said: “Biotech crops are rigorously tested for safety prior to their use and over two trillion meals made with GM ingredients have been safely consumed around the world over the past 15 years without a single substantiated health issue.”

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From Solve Climate News:

New scientific research has found increased levels of some carcinogenic chemicals linked to oil sands mining in the Athabasca River, refuting long-held industry and government claims that natural sources are responsible for the pollutants.

The chemicals, called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), have been shown to cause cancer in laboratory animals as well as other health problems.

PAH concentrations in Athabasca River sediments located downstream of oil sands projects increased 41 percent between 1999-2009, according to the study, published earlier this month in the journal Environmental Science and Technology.

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From Environmental Health News:

Eighty percent of cushions used in car seats, portable cribs and other baby furnishings contain chemical flame retardants that can accumulate in babies’ bodies, according to a new study published Wednesday. More than one-third of the tested products contained the same carcinogenic compound that was removed from children’s pajamas in the 1970s. For many of the chemicals, the potential health effects remain unknown and unstudied. The study’s lead author, Duke University’s Heather Stapleton, said many of them have been used in foam cushions only recently, replacing another chemical that was banned after 2004 because it was building up rapidly in human bodies.

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From the Associated Press:

A provocative documentary screened Tuesday at the Cannes Film Festival argues that the human and environmental devastation of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill has been covered up by authorities eager to return to business as usual.

“The Big Fix,” by husband-and-wife American directors Josh and Rebecca Tickell, features interviews with Louisiana fishing families whose livelihoods and health have been hit by the spill, then expands into a sweeping critique of American capitalism.

The title cuts two ways: the movie argues the U.S. political and economic system is rigged, and huge changes are required to correct it.

Josh Tickell, whose last film was another oil-related documentary, “Fuel,” said the current movie argues that “screwing in a light bulb or buying a hybrid car are not going to change the relationship between the government, the energy industry and the financial sector.”

“It’s like playing cards, and the house has the deck stacked against you,” Tickell told The Associated Press.

“The Big Fix” has high-profile support from Tim Robbins and Peter Fonda, executive producers on the movie. Fonda also appears in the film, which is sure to be strongly criticized by the energy industry.

The film disputes industry claims that the millions gallons of oil spilled after the April 22, 2010, explosion on the BP PLC-owned Deepwater Horizon rig have largely been cleaned up or dispersed.

It says a huge undersea slick is poisoning the ocean and that chemical dispersants used to break up the oil are harming the region’s residents, many of whom say they have developed blisters, rashes and respiratory problems.

BP and the U.S. government have said the use of the main chemical, Corexit, was the best option in the circumstances.

BP said Tuesday that it “worked hand-in-hand with and under the direction of the Coast Guard and the EPA (the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency) on the use of dispersants.”

Made in the polemical documentary style popularized by Michael Moore, “The Big Fix” depicts Louisiana as a petro-state controlled by oil companies, and Washington politicians as in hock to powerful lobbyists.

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From Yale 360 (by Elizabeth Grossman):

New York City’s low-income neighborhoods and California’s Salinas Valley, where 80 percent of the United States’ lettuce is grown, could hardly be more different. But scientists have discovered that children growing up in these communities — one characterized by the rattle of subway trains, the other by acres of produce and vast sunny skies — share a pre-natal exposure to pesticides that appears to be affecting their ability to learn and succeed in school.

Three studies undertaken independently, but published simultaneously last month, show that prenatal exposure to organophosphate pesticides — sprayed on crops in the Salinas Valley and used in Harlem and the South Bronx to control cockroaches and other insects — can lower children’s IQ by an average of as much as 7 points. While this may not sound like a lot, it is more than enough to affect a child’s reading and math skills and cause behavioral problems with potentially long-lasting impacts, according to the studies.

“This is not trivial,” said Virginia Rauh, one of the study authors, speaking from Columbia University, where she is deputy director of the university’s Center for Children’s Environmental Health and professor of population and family health. What is particularly significant, she said, is that these studies involved so many children from such different communities, yet produced consistent evidence of the pesticides’ effects on cognitive skills and short-term memory.

Rauh said that the new studies were prompted by the long-standing awareness of the neurotoxicity of these pesticides on animals and the chemicals’ widespread use. Given science’s growing knowledge about the measurable effects of neurotoxic chemicals and elements, such as lead, on children’s cognition and behavior, the three recent studies were a logical next step in such research, Rauh explained.

The studies in New York and California were a continuation of research that has been ongoing for 12 years. Two of the studies, led by researchers at Columbia University and the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City, looked at more than 660 children, ages six to nine, living in the South Bronx, Harlem, and other inner city neighborhoods. The New York mothers were exposed primarily indoors, as they lived in buildings where these pesticides were used in public areas and inside apartments. Previous studies of pregnant women in the same New York City neighborhoods had found organophosphate pesticides in all indoor air samples and in the majority of umbilical cord blood taken from these women when they gave birth.

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Learning more about the specific mechanisms by which individual chemicals act — and and the effects they trigger — can point the way to which insecticides should be banned. In their next studies, Rauh and her colleagues plan to follow the children in their study group as they progress through school, using brain-imaging studies, blood analysis, and continued intellectual testing. Engel’s group plans to examine additional genetic factors that may help explain susceptibility to organophosphates.

Two generations after the U.S. stopped widely using the pesticides that Rachel Carson wrote about in Silent Spring, scientists are just beginning to get a distinct picture of how replacement pesticides are affecting the health of children. “We now have additional safety regulations for pesticides,” says Lanphear, ”but that doesn’t mean they’re safe.”

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Listen to TreeHugger Radio podcast interview of Elizabeth Grossman via iTunes, or just click here to listen, right-click to download.

From Movie Website:

The feature film Forks Over Knives examines the profound claim that most, if not all, of the degenerative diseases that afflict us can be controlled, or even reversed, by rejecting our present menu of animal-based and processed foods.

From

“I was concerned before I heard all this,” said one resident at the end of the meeting. “Now I am terrified….” She had heard local scientist and world renowned author Sandra Steingraber explain that 40% to 70% water used in the hydrofracking process never sees the light of day again. “When you brush your teeth leaving tap water running, you are not “wasting” water in the sense that it goes into the sewage system and eventually enters a stream, a river, a lake or the ocean, evaporates, turns into rain and and falls to earth to facilitate life once again.” But the water frackers poison and then inject into the earth is gone…forever.” Steingraber, a biologist who has written extensively about environmental toxins, also expressed grave concerns about the level of carbon emissions and methane leakage which inevitably accompany large-scale industrial hydrofracking operations.

From The Telegraph:

Mobile phones and computers with wireless internet connections pose a risk to human health and should be banned from schools, a powerful European body has ruled.

A Council of Europe committee examined evidence that the technologies have “potentially harmful” effects on humans, and concluded that immediate action was required to protect children.

In a report, the committee said it was crucial to avoid repeating the mistakes made when public health officials were slow to recognise the dangers of asbestos, tobacco smoking and lead in petrol.

The report also highlighted the potential health risks of cordless telephones and baby monitors, which rely on similar technology and are widely used in British homes.

Fears have been raised that electromagnetic radiation emitted by wireless devices can cause cancers and affect the developing brain.

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