Archives for the month of: December, 2011


From Agence France-Presse:

Washington. Many of the Republican candidates vying for their party’s nod to take on President Barack Obama, dismiss science in favor of strong evangelical faith, playing to a hard-line conservative electorate.

Only one of the White House contenders, former Utah governor Jon Huntsman, has come out with force to proclaim a belief in man-made climate change, as he condemned his party’s hostilityto science.

“To be clear, I believe in evolution and trust scientists on global warming. Call me crazy,” he wrote in an August post on micro-blogging site Twitter.

“The minute that the Republican Party becomes the anti-science party — we have a huge problem,” the former US ambassador to China later told ABC television’s “This Week.”Sea surface temper

Other major political figures, such as New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, have lambasted the lack of scientific faith of Republican hopefuls seeking the highest office of the world’s first superpoTwer.

“We have presidential candidates who don’t believe in science. I mean, just think about it, can you imagine a company of any size in the world where the CEO said ‘Oh, I don’t believe in science’ and that person surviving to the end of that day? Are you kidding me? It’s mind-boggling!” Bloomberg told an economic forum in November.

The importance of the ultra-conservative vote, championed by a religious, anti-evolution electorate, is not lost on the contenders seeking their party’s nod to face Obama in November’s presidential election.

In Iowa, where caucuses kick off the months-long nominating process on Tuesday, just 21 percent of Republican voters said they believe in global warming, and 35 percent in the theory of evolution, according to a Public Policy Polling survey.

Frontrunner Mitt Romney, a Mormon former governor of Massachusetts, has reversed his pro-science support in favor of more conservative views in a bid to gain favor among the more conservative base of his party.

The shifts in position go to the core of the mistrust from his critics, who label Romney a “flip-flopper.”

As Massachusetts governor, he introduced in 2004 a statewide Climate Protection Plan, billed as “an initial step in a coordinated effort to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases.”

And as recently as 2007, he defended the theory of evolution.

But at a New Hampshire town hall meeting in September, he changed his tune.

“The planet is probably getting warmer. I think we’re experiencing warming,” Romney said. “I believe that we contribute some portion of that. I don’t know how much. It could be a lot, it could be a little.”

Later he sought to clarify himself, saying: “My view is that we don’t know what’s causing climate change on this planet.”

Other candidates are not so nuanced in their views. Texas Governor Rick Perry came out strongly against climate science by claiming the data had been “manipulated” by scientists in exchange for funding money.

Representative Michele Bachmann, who in April voted for a House bill preventing further regulation of greenhouse gases, similarly spoke of “manufactured science.”

Former senator Rick Santorum has also dismissed fundamental theories of man-made climate change as “patently absurd,” and Representative Ron Paul has labeled the science “the greatest hoax.”

The Republican Party “has a strong religious base and the evangelical vote is a significant part of that,” said Andrew Kohut, director Pew Research Center for the People & the Press.

There are however, “a fair number of more secular and more moderated religious people who have doubt about global warming.”

The larger issue, Kohut said, is how the federal government uses power to regulate global warming, and the issue is politicized, as Republicans fight what they see as government encroachment into the lives of Americans.

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From Charleston Gazette:

Jury selection in the class-action lawsuit against Monsanto will begin next week after no settlement was reached during about eight hours of mediation Tuesday, the lead plaintiffs’ attorney confirmed.

Residents allege in a class-action case, filed in 2004, that Monsanto unsafely burned dioxin wastes and spread contaminated soot and dust across Nitro, polluting homes with unsafe levels of the chemical.

The lawsuit set to begin next week will seek medical monitoring for at least 5,000 – and perhaps as many as 80,000 – current and former Nitro residents.

Before Putnam Circuit Judge O.C. Spaulding recused himself from hearing the case after being diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s disease, he ruled that residents could not sue collectively to seek remediation of homes they allege are contaminated with dioxin.

On Tuesday, several hundred plaintiffs gathered at the Marriott hotel in Charleston for a court-ordered mediation. Circuit Judges Booker Stephens of McDowell County and Alan D. Moats of Taylor County attempted to resolve the case to avoid trial.

A mediation held in October also failed to produce a settlement.

Stuart Calwell, the lead plaintiffs’ attorney, said he plans to call 18 experts to testify during the trial.

“This is an extraordinarily important case,” Calwell said. “[Plaintiffs] want their town back. What they’re interested in is having a safe home to live in — I don’t think that’s too much to ask.”

Monsanto’s lead attorney, Charles Love of Charleston, would not comment on the upcoming trial.

For more than 50 years, the former Monsanto plant churned out herbicides, rubber products and other chemicals. The plant’s production of Agent Orange created dioxin as a toxic chemical byproduct.

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Image from USNews.

From

Mount Sinai’s Dr. Landrigan discusses how obesity has become an epidemic within the United States. The rates of obesity have tripled since the 1970s, and this has led to a significant increase in type 1 and type 2 diabetes as obese children are at a much higher risk of developing diabetes.

Dr. Landrigan also provides tips on how to prevent obesity and the diabetes that commonly follows obesity. Studies are being conducted at the Children’s Environmental Health Center to determine whether there is a link between common chemicals and obesity.

To view Mount Sinai’s Children’s Health Campaign containing tips, facts, videos, articles and more on important children’s health issues such as diabetes, autism, asthma, allergies and nutrition, click here.

To view the Children’s Environmental Health Center, click here.

From American Scientist:

When research suggests that a single chemical may cause harm, public concern rises, as it has for the plastic additive bisphenol A (BPA) in recent years. But many more of the 83,000 or so humanmade chemicals used in the United States receive little attention. The possible effects of chemicals in combination get still less scrutiny, even though the potential that some chemicals will interact is high, given their numbers.

This may be due in part to the staggering amount of work required to discern those effects. It would be a very difficult task to keep up with research on all of these substances, much less evaluate their relative risk as new results appear. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has put considerable effort into this under the Toxic Substances Control Act, but the Act has not been updated since its passage in 1976 and excludes many substances from the agency’s purview.

Substances that have the potential to disrupt development in an organism are of special concern. The results of exposure to such chemicals can range from birth defects to developmental irregularities that don’t appear until later in life. Determining whether a substance is an endocrine disruptor, how strongly it acts and at what concentrations, not to mention deciphering hormone pathways themselves, takes a great deal of time and resources. Studies in the lab can’t be directly extrapolated to real-life situations, but they can offer clues about new routes to explore, along with help in evaluating the risk posed by various chemicals.

Heather Patisaul, a biologist at North Carolina State University, studies the effects of BPA and other compounds suspected to disrupt hormonal processes, using female rats as models. “The biggest unknown,” she says, “is if human harm is indeed resulting from exposure to these chemicals at low doses. If it is, it requires a major paradigm shift in how we approach toxicology, because the current strategies are ill equipped to deal with endocrine disruptors.”

A new study adds several more pieces to the puzzle. In a September 2011 study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the U.S.A., Eunah Chung, Maria C. Genco, Laura Megrelis and Joan V. Ruderman chose a less known, but widely used, substance to investigate: triclocarban (3,4,4’-trichlorocarbanilide, or TCC).

TCC has been used as an antimicrobial in consumer products since the 1950s. A 2001 study found that it was present in 84 percent of antimicrobial bar soaps sold in the United States. It’s often mentioned in the same breath with triclosan: Both are halogenated carbons used in soaps and other products, but their chemical identities are unique. The EPA reports that between 1 and 10 million pounds of TCC were used in the United States in 2002. People who shower with soap containing TCC absorb it through their skin. It is metabolized quickly by humans but persists in surface waters and in sewage sludge that is spread on agricultural fields.

Ruderman and her coauthors looked at the gene aromatase-B (AroB) in the brains of developing zebrafish embryos. AroB is regulated by estrogen, among other compounds, and is expressed in subregions of the brain including the hypothalamus and preoptic areas. To determine what concentration of TCC to use, they tested a range, then chose one that did not show signs of developmental delay or toxicity. The 0.25 micromolar experimental concentration was about 1600 times higher than a high-end estimate of levels in surface waters in an industry report to the EPA, and about 12 times higher than a high-end estimate from a university-based study in Environmental Health Perspectives.

The team found that TCC had little effect on AroB when introduced without estrogen, but that it strongly enhanced the effects of introduced estrogen on the gene, with a twofold greater increase than that induced by estrogen alone. They also tested the effects of BPA and found that it induced the gene’s expression even without estrogen present.

Then the researchers exposed embryos to TCC and BPA together. Rather than amplifying the effect of the estrogen-mimicking BPA, TCC suppressed it: Its presence along with BPA resulted in about a twofold decrease in transcription of aromatase-B compared to embryos exposed to BPA alone.

“The experiments we did with BPA plus TCC were an example where each one has a positive effect on an estrogenlike process,” Ruderman says. “But you put them together and they are not additive—in fact in some ways they suppress each other.” It’s surprising that TCC would amplify estrogen’s effect but reduce the effect of an estrogen mimic—a reminder that chemicals in combination can act unpredictably.

In a 2008 study in Environmental Health Perspectives, Bruce Hammock, an entomologist at the University of California, Davis, and colleagues found that TCC enhanced estrogen- and testosterone-dependent gene expression by 2.5 times in human cells. “The major significance” of Ruderman’s study, he says, “is an elegant demonstration that there is the potential for two known environmental chemicals to synergize for an enhanced biological effect.” He thinks it’s unlikely that environmental exposure to both chemicals will be high enough to create such effects, but he notes, “This is a cautionary tale in terms of mixtures in general. As a society we are using thousands of high-volume chemicals with little regard to environmental or human health effects.”

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This is the beginning of the film Troubled Waters, about the role agriculture has played in water pollution from Minnesota to the Gulf of Mexico. The film gives farmers a platform to talk about the solutions they are developing in their fields and asks hard questions about the government policies that have contributed to the pollution.

From the Associated Press:

When winter comes to Utah and atmospheric conditions trap a soup of pollutants close to the ground, doctors say it turns every resident in the Salt Lake basin into the equivalent of a cigarette smoker.

For days or weeks at a time, an inversion layer in which high pressure systems can trap a roughly 1,300-foot-thick layer of cold air — and the pollutants that build up inside it — settles over the basin, leaving some people coughing and wheezing.

“There’s no safe level of particulate matter you can breathe,” said Salt Lake City anesthesiologist Cris Cowley, who is among a number of Utah doctors raising the alarm over some of the nation’s worst wintertime air.

The doctors and a lobby group of Utah mothers are blaming a company that mines nearly a mile deep in the largest open pit in the world for contributing one-third of Salt Lake County’s pollution. The rest is from tailpipe and other emissions.

They have filed a lawsuit against Kennecott Utah Copper, accusing it of violating the U.S. Clean Air Act. The company operates with the consent of state regulators who enforce the federal law.

The company is the No. 1 industrial air polluter along Utah’s heavily populated 120-mile Wasatch Front and operates heavy trucks and power and smelter plants. It says the claims are “without merit.”

Kennecott cites the blessing of Utah regulators for expanded operations and new controls that hold emissions steady.

Utah’s chief air regulator, however, acknowledged Kennecott is technically violating a 1994 plan adopted by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency that limited the company to hauling 150 million tons of ore a year out of the Bingham Canyon Mine.

Utah has twice allowed the company to exceed that limit, most recently to 260 million tons, as the company moves to expand a mine in the mountains west of Salt Lake City. In each case, Utah sought EPA’s consent, but the EPA didn’t take any action.

The lawsuit could force EPA’s hand, said Bryce Bird, director of the Utah Division of Air Quality.

Bird said the old limit would defeat changes Kennecott made to curb dust and emissions since 1994.

The EPA rules that set production instead of emissions limits puts many companies in a similarly “awkward position” and undermines confidence in Utah’s air pollution permits, Bird said.

Kennecott disputes the doctors’ figure and says it contributes about 16 percent of Salt Lake County’s overall emissions.

An examination by The Associated Press of emissions figures provided by Kennecott to state regulators shows the company’s share of pollutants ranges from 65 percent of Salt Lake County’s sulfur dioxide emissions to 18 percent of its particulates.

Particulates are tiny flecks of dust that doctors say can attract heavy metals. The particulates are ingested through the nose and lungs and can become lodged in brain tissue. They are especially damaging to the development of children.

Medical research has found that the first few minutes of exposure to air pollution does the most damage, with many people’s bodies able to react and fight off longer bouts of exposure, the doctors said.

Yet exposure to dust, soot and gaseous chemicals constricts vessels and send blood pressure soaring, making some people’s hearts flutter and spiking emergency hospital visits while putting fetuses in the womb at risk, the doctors say.

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Image from Flickr.

From (Dec 12, 2007):

So far this year, more than 30 million lead-laced imported toys have been recalled in the United States. That’s on top of millions more toys that pose choking and other hazards. Killer toys kinda make it hard for kids to truly enjoy the holidays. So a group of youngsters came together to offer the following yuletide message. Feel free to sing along – preferably with a group of carolers outside your local Congress member’s office

Roger Magnusson, Lawrence O. Gostin, and David Studdert recently posted their paper, “Can Law Improve Prevention and Treatment of Cancer?” on SSRN:

The December 2011 issue of Public Health (the Journal of the Royal Society for Public Health) contains a symposium entitled: Legislate, Regulate, Litigate? Legal approaches to the prevention and treatment of cancer. This symposium explores the possibilities for using law and regulation – both internationally and at the national level – as the policy instrument for preventing and improving the treatment of cancer and other leading non-communicable diseases (NCDs). In this editorial, we argue that there is an urgent need for more legal scholarship on cancer and other leading NCDs, as well as greater dialogue between lawyers, public health practitioners and policy-makers about priorities for law reform, and feasible legal strategies for reducing the prevalence of leading risk factors. The editorial discusses two important challenges that frequently stand in the way of a more effective use of law in this area. The first is the tendency to dismiss risk factors for NCDs as purely a matter of individual ‘personal responsibility’; the second is the fact that effective regulatory responses to risks for cancer and NCDs will in many cases provoke conflict with the tobacco, alcohol and food industries. After briefly identifying some of the strategies that law can deploy in the prevention of NCDs, we briefly introduce each of the ten papers that make up the symposium.

You can download the paper for free here.

From

Mount Sinai’s Dr. Landrigan discusses the rise of autism in the United States. The Children’s Environmental Health Center at Mount Sinai has studied the causes of autism and found that chemical exposures can contribute to autism and other learning disabilities.

To view Mount Sinai’s Children’s Health Campaign containing tips, facts, videos, articles and more on important children’s health issues such as diabetes, autism, asthma, allergies and nutrition, click here.

To view the Children’s Environmental Health Center, click here.

From the Maine Public Broadcasting Network:

Maine is among just a handful of states that require manufacturers to report the use of certain chemicals in their products. It also has the earliest deadine for companies to report. This week the results are in, and more than 650 products are on the list. Business representatives and state regulators say the reported presence of the chemicals does not indicate there’s a risk present. But health advocates say the list will help consumers protect their health from chemicals that leach out of products.

Listen to the four minute story here.

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From iWatch News:

Three years into Lisa Jackson’s tenure as head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, more than a dozen formal complaints alleging air pollution is disproportionately harming low-income, minority communities remain unresolved. Each of these complaints has languished — in some instances, for more than a decade — in the EPA’s Office of Civil Rights despite Jackson’s stated commitment to environmental justice.

“We must include environmental justice principles in all of our decisions … especially with regard to children,” Jackson wrote in a January 2010 memo outlining the agency’s top priorities.

But EPA documents obtained by the Center for Public Integrity’s iWatch News and interviews with activists and residents reveal that the administrator’s words have brought little relief to underprivileged communities overburdened with pollution.

The Office of Civil Rights — whose leader reports directly to Jackson — has in its files a total of 38 unresolved complaints dating to July 1994, according to a list published on the office’s website following a Freedom of Information Act request from iWatch News. Fifteen of these OCR complaints involve air pollution.

The EPA did not explain why so many cases remain unresolved. However, a spokeswoman said in an email that “the Agency has made meaningful progress on many of the complaints that remain on its docket.”

Environmental justice advocates are dubious. “The backlog doesn’t seem greatly improved, and it’s not clear what processes they use to evaluate the complaints” said Marianne Engelman Lado, a lawyer at Earthjustice, a nonprofit environmental law firm. “Why is that progress?”

Poverty and pollution

Tammy Foster, a 39-year-old housewife turned environmental activist from Corpus Christi, Texas, has had several miscarriages in the 17 years that a complaint alleging discrimination in her community has been pending at OCR. Doctors don’t know why she’s been unable to conceive, she said. “If I had to guess, I’d say living on Refinery Row,” a 10-mile stretch of oil refineries and other industrial plants.

Foster blames emissions from the plants that border the Dona Park neighborhood on three sides for a birth defect that causes her to average four kidney infections per year and for regular outbreaks of hives and blisters. “When I’m gone, I feel great,” she said.

Dona Park, where Foster has lived most of her life, is about 70 percent Hispanic, according to the 2010 census. The U.S. Census Bureau’s most recent American Community Survey found that about a quarter of all families in the community live below the poverty line.

In Ford Heights, Ill., a solidly African-American exurb of Chicago, about 40 percent of all families are in poverty, according to the American Community Survey. In April 2006, residents filed a complaint — still unresolved by OCR — against the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency for failing to act on Geneva Energy, LLC, which bought a tire-burning power plant located only blocks from a community center that housed a preschool program.

The plant has operated intermittently due to financial and environmental problems that include a long list of air pollution violations. “The only way that you would know [it was running] is that the smoke was in the air,” said Melva Smith-Weaver, who worked at the Head Start program in Ford Heights until 2007.

”There was quite a few children during that time that were asthmatic. You would expect to have out of 102 kids, one or two that are asthmatic, but we had quite a few — maybe 15 to 20.” In 2009, the preschool program moved to new location about a mile away, but middle school students still attend classes just down the road from the plant.

“This facility is clean and safe for the surrounding community,” said Geneva Energy CEO Ben Rose. He acknowledged the air pollution violations but said “there is little evidence that plants such as ours increase asthma attacks.” Rose said it’s “outrageous that this complaint wasn’t addressed immediately” by OCR.

Ford Heights Mayor Charles Griffin agreed. In an October letter to Jackson, he noted that Geneva Energy is the city’s biggest private employer and taxpayer. “This could have been dismissed after a brief investigation, lifting the cloud of uncertainty from the facility,” Griffin wrote.

The Corpus Christi and Ford Heights complaints are among at least 15 Clean Air Act cases pending with OCR; three of these cases date to the 1990s. Twenty-three other pending complaints allege violations of laws governing water pollution, toxic waste and pesticides.

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Image from Flickr.

From Reuters:

Toxic contamination from coal ash, a waste product of coal-fired power plants, has been detected in ground water and soil at 20 sites in 10 U.S. states, an environmental watchdog group reported on Tuesday.

These sites are the latest to contribute to a total of 157 identified by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the independent Environmental Integrity Project, which released the report.

Coal ash is left after coal is burned at power plants and has concentrations of heavy metals and salts that can leach into the environment unless disposed of properly in ponds with liners and covers, said Jeff Stant, the report’s editor.

But most states do not require ponds to be lined, have any construction standards or any monitoring or cleanup requirements, Stant said, adding that almost half the wastes from coal-burning in the United States are dumped this way.

Nineteen of the 20 newly identified sites show ground water contaminated with arsenic or other toxic metals exceeding the maximum contaminant level set out in the Safe Drinking Water Act.

The 20th site showed contaminated soil with arsenic 900 times the federal screening level for site cleanups, the report said.

Those who live near these sites, including three people who spoke at a briefing, reported contaminated streams, respiratory problems and air pollution powerful enough to turn a white house black. In one case, a rancher said he closely monitors the amount of sulfate in the water his cattle drink because this chemical can reach lethal levels.

PUBLIC HEALTH CONCERN

The Environmental Integrity Project released an open letter to Congress signed by more than 2,000 people living near coal ash sites, decrying “legislation that would stop EPA in its tracks and replace real standards with imaginary state ‘plans’ that polluters could ignore …”

Stant and others noted at a briefing that the House of Representatives has passed and the Senate is considering legislation that the environmental group said would give the states, instead of the federal government, authority to address the problem of coal ash contamination of water and soil.

“We already have here a clear and present danger to America’s public health,” Stant said at a telephone briefing. “It is no solution for Congress to hand authority for addressing the problem permanently to states that have refused to enforce common-sense standards for the last 30 years and hope that the whole problem goes away.”

John Ward, of the American Coal Ash Association, disputed that interpretation of the measure now in Congress.

“There are no federal standards for coal ash right now,” Ward said by telephone. “This bill would also expand EPA’s enforcement authority from what it is now.”

Ward noted that coal ash is generated in vast quantities and can be reprocessed into such consumer goods as wallboard and shingles.

“We think the solution to coal ash problems is to stop throwing it away, to alleviate the need to have these disposal ponds at all,” Ward said.

More.

  • The full Environmental Integrity Project report is available online at environmentalintegrity.org.
  • For the report click here.
  • For the news release click here.
  • Read the letter to Congress from more than 2,000 Americans living near coal ash sites
  • Listen to the December 13, 2011 news event here.

From the Washington Post:

The Obama administration finished crafting tough new rules Friday curbing mercury and other poisons emitted by coal-fired utilities, according to several people briefed on the decision, culminating more than two decades of work to clean up the nation’s dirtiest power plants.

As part of last-minute negotiations between the White House and the Environmental Protection Agency, the regulations give some flexibility to power plant operators who argued they could not meet the three-year deadline for compliance outlined by the EPA. Several individuals familiar with the details declined to be identified because the agency will not announce the rules until next week.

The new rules will cost utilities $10.6 billion by 2016 for the installation of control equipment known as scrubbers, according to EPA estimates. But the EPA said those costs would be far offset by health benefits. The agency estimates that as of 2016, lowering emissions would save $59 billion to $140 billion in annual health costs, preventing 17,000 premature deaths a year along with illnesses and lost workdays.

* * *

Several experts said the new controls on mercury, acid gas and other pollutants represent one of the most significant public health and environmental measures in years. The rules will prevent 91 percent of the mercury in coal from entering the air and much of the soot as well: According to EPA estimates, they will prevent 11,000 heart attacks and 120,000 asthma attacks annually by 2016.

“I think this will prove to be the signature environmental accomplishment of the Obama administration,” said Frank O’Donnell, who heads the advocacy group Clean Air Watch. “It will soon mean the end of the smoke-spewing coal power plant as we know it today. At the same time, the administration is trying to add a bit of flexibility to extinguish the bogus claim that these standards could mean lights out.”

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Congress exempted toxic pollution from power plants — which can include arsenic, chromium, lead, formaldehyde and dioxins, among other substances — when it amended the Clean Air Act in 1990. In 2000, under the Clinton administraion, the EPA determined that it should be regulated, but a lengthy legal and lobbying battle ensued.

The EPA finalized the rules Friday to meet the terms of a court-ordered settlement with several advocacy groups that had sued the agency over its 10-year delay in issuing the regulations.

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Image from Flickr.

From Portland Tribune:

In late-October, Multnomah County enacted Oregon’s first restrictions against products containing bisphenol A, a widely used chemical compound often called BPA. The ban on BPA-laced baby bottles, sippy cups, and reusable water bottles will have little impact on what’s sold in the county, because retailers have largely stopped selling them.

But county commissioners’ unanimous decision gives momentum to broader campaigns against BPA and other toxic chemicals in our environment, especially in the food supply.

It’s only a “baby step” in the right direction, says Maye Thompson, Oregon Physicians for Social Responsibility’s environmental health program director. However, she says, “I think it’s going to make people ask, ‘What’s next?’ ”

There are rumblings that other counties may follow Multnomah County’s lead and adopt local BPA bans, says Renee Hackenmiller-Paradis, Oregon Environmental Council’s environmental health program director, and a leader of the statewide anti-BPA campaign. Those could put more pressure on the Legislature to act, as businesses often dislike facing a patchwork of local regulations.

When the Legislature returns to Salem for a brief session in February, it’s unlikely that anti-BPA forces will push the same bill that passed in the Senate this year but was blocked in the House, says state Rep. Alissa Keny-Guyer, D-Portland. House Republicans still have a 30-30 tie with Democrats and could, as in the 2011 session, prevent a House floor vote on the bill.

Instead, Keny-Guyer and other environmental-minded lawmakers may pursue a broader toxics bill modeled after those passed by Washington and other states.

“It’s kind of ridiculous to go through the Legislature to pick off chemical by chemical that is harmful to kids,” Keny-Guyer says.

Washington’s 2009 law requires authorities to create a laundry list of toxic chemicals that are of greatest health concern. Once the list is fashioned, the law will require manufacturers to disclose the presence of those substances in children’s products.

“I believe Oregon should be looking to pass similar policies,” says state Sen. Jackie Dingfelder, D-Portland, who led the campaign against BPA in the Legislature and chairs the Senate Environment and Natural Resources Committee.

Other products targeted

The anti-BPA campaign is rapidly spreading to other products where there’s substantial human exposure to the substance, such as cash register receipts and canned foods and beverages.

Bisphenol A helps make plastic products durable and shatter-resistent, and has been widely used in bottles, computers, CD cases, bicycle helmets, baby pacifiers and other items.

BPA also is used in canned food and drink linings to prevent corrosion, contamination and spoilage. It has proved highly effective at warding off bacterial infections such as botulism.

However, BPA is an endocrine disrupter that mimics the effects of estrogen in the human body. Though there are disputes among scientists — largely between independent and industry-funded researchers — scores of studies have shown potential health hazards from exposure to BPA, including breast and prostate cancer, heart disease and obesity.

Canned food battle looms

Canned food is shaping up as the next major battlefield. “We need to get it out of the food supply,” Thompson says.

But bisphenol A has safeguarded the canned food supply for four or five decades, so it’s “no light matter” trying to find a reliable substitute, says Peter Truitt, president of Salem’s Truitt Brothers Inc. “We’re not going to run the risk of making someone ill,” he says, referring to BPA’s role in preventing food-borne bacteria. “We know that risk. It brings you to your knees overnight.”

However, studies show BPA in canned goods leaches into the food and beverages, particularly in foods that are fatty and highly acidic, such as tomato products.

A 2011 research project by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration detected BPA in 71 of 78 canned foods it tested. “It is well established that residual BPA . . . migrates into can contents during processing and storage,” the FDA reported.

A 2011 report by the Breast Cancer Fund tested canned foods and found widely varying amounts of BPA, even in health foods. It was detected in Spaghettios, Chef Boyardee pasta and meatballs, Earth’s Best Organic Noodlemania Soup and Anni’s Homegrown Cheesy Ravioli.

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Image from Flickr.

From

Dr. Landrigan discusses why the Children’s Environmental Health Center (CEHC) was created at Mount Sinai. Scientific evidence is strong and continuing to build that hazardous exposures in the modern environment are important causes of these diseases. Indoor and outdoor air pollution are now established as causes of asthma. Childhood cancer is linked to solvents, pesticides, and radiation. Furthermore, the National Academy of Sciences has determined that environmental factors contribute to 28% of developmental disorders in children.

The Mission of the CEHC is to address this challenge — to protect children from toxic chemicals in their air, their water, and their food by spearheading efforts to track the root environmental causes of disease. The Center’s research builds on over three decades of work by its director Dr. Philip Landrigan, a renowned pediatrician and epidemiologist who has devoted his career to protecting children against environmental threats to health.

To view Mount Sinai’s Children’s Health Campaign containing tips, facts, videos, articles and more on important children’s health issues such as diabetes, autism, asthma, allergies and nutrition, click here.

To view the Children’s Environmental Health Center, click here.

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