Archives for category: Arsenic

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.
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From Consumer Reports:

Findings of a Consumer Reports investigation about arsenic and lead levels in apple juice and grape juice have prompted the organization to call for government standards to limit consumers’ exposure to these toxins.

The tests of 88 samples of apple juice and grape juice purchased in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut by Consumer Reports staffers found that 10 percent of those samples had total arsenic levels exceeding federal drinking-water standards of 10 parts per billion (ppb) and 25 percent had lead levels higher than the 5 ppb limit for bottled water set by the Food and Drug Administration. Most of the arsenic detected in our tests was the type called inorganic, which is a human carcinogen. For our complete test results download Consumer Reports Arsenic Test Results January 2012.pdf.

The investigation included an analysis of the National Center for Health Statistics’ National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) database from 2003 to 2008. The results of that analysis suggest that these juices may be an important contributor to dietary arsenic exposure. Through interviews with physicians and authors of peer-reviewed studies, Consumer Reports also found mounting scientific evidence suggesting that chronic exposure to arsenic and lead even at levels below federal standards for water can result in serious health problems, especially for those who are exposed in the womb or during early childhood. FDA data and other research reveal that arsenic has been detected at disturbing levels in other foods as well.

While federal limits exist for arsenic and lead levels in bottled and drinking water, no limits are defined for fruit juices, which a recent Consumer Reports’ poll of parents confirms are a mainstay of many children’s diets. The FDA says when a fruit juice sample has 23 ppb or more of total arsenic, it will retest the sample to determine how much of it is inorganic, because according to the agency’s 2008 hazard assessment, 23 ppb of inorganic arsenic would represent a potential health risk. But that 23 ppb “level of concern” is not a mandatory limit, nor is it based on arsenic’s well-established cancer risks.

A call for arsenic standards for juice

Consumers Union, the advocacy arm of Consumer Reports, believes the FDA’s “level of concern” is an inadequate reference point for establishing a protective limit for public health. Based on Consumer Reports’ test findings, Consumers Union is urging the FDA to set a more protective standard of 3 ppb for total arsenic and 5 ppb for lead in juice. Such standards are attainable: 41 percent of the samples Consumer Reports tested would meet both thresholds.

Consumers Union was encouraged by recent discussions with FDA officials and by an FDA letter to the consumer advocacy groups Food & Water Watch and Empire State Consumer Project indicating that the agency is considering setting guidance for the level of inorganic arsenic permissible in apple juice. The agency announced that its new initiatives include collecting and analyzing up to 90 samples of apple juice from retailers across the U.S. by the end of 2011 and analyzing levels of organic and inorganic arsenic in other types of juice as well.

Consumers Union believes that the FDA already has the data it needs to set juice standards, and that a guidance level must be followed by the establishment of a legally binding standard.

More.

From the Provo Daily Herald:

The arsenic exposure risk in Fairfield is official, the health danger real.

Those who live in the Cedar Valley town stand a higher risk of getting some cancers, nerve damage and brain injury with exposure to contaminants from old mine tailings over an extended period of time, according to a new Utah study.

“I think this report will go a long way toward helping us get the visibility we need to get some help for this problem,” said Mayor Michael Burch at presentation of the study on Nov. 10 at the Historic Fairfield Schoolhouse.

Residents had some of their arsenic fears confirmed, other worries put to rest and questions answered by representatives from the Environmental Epidemiology Program and Utah Department of Environmental Quality as the agency representatives presented their public health assessment.

Fairfield residents anxiously looked at the map to identify their homes and farmlands and examined copies of the report at the town hall meeting.

Gardening, a popular pursuit in Fairfield, could potentially increase health risks both from exposure to the arsenic in the soil and from eating vegetables that have absorbed the arsenic in areas where the garden soil is contaminated. One of the community questionnaire tables showed that a majority of Fairfield residents have gardens, many watered with irrigation water, so it is important for residents to identify the properties and ditches where contamination levels are high.

“I was diagnosed with Parkinson’s at age 45. I’ve lived here all my life and can’t help but think that the contamination is a factor,” said David Hansen, Fairfield resident and avid gardener.

“I can’t make the statement that it’s a direct result, but I can say that, based on this assessment, there is a risk,” said Dr. Craig J. Dietrich, a Utah Department of Health toxicologist.

More.

Image from Flickr.

From Denver Post:

As mountain snow starts to melt, trickling toxic acid laced with dissolved metals — arsenic, cadmium, copper, zinc — is fouling Colorado watersheds.

Nobody dares try to stop it.

Among the casualties: Peru Creek east of the Keystone ski area has been pronounced “biologically dead.”

State environmental officials also have listed 32 sites along the Animas River in critical condition. Some headwaters of the Arkansas River, too, are “virtually devoid of any aquatic life.”

The source of the contamination is abandoned mines — about 500,000 across the West, at least 7,300 in Colorado. Federal authorities estimate that the headwaters of 40 percent of Western rivers are tainted with toxic discharge from abandoned mines.

Colorado Department of Natural Resources records show 450 abandoned mines are known to be leaking measurable toxins into watersheds. So far, 1,300 miles of streams have been impaired.

But as bad as the damage is, community watershed groups, mining companies and even state agencies contend they cannot embark on cleanups for fear of incurring legal liability.

Under the Clean Water Act, parties who get involved at abandoned mines and accidentally make matters worse — even over the short term — could be vulnerable to federal prosecution for polluting waterways without a permit.

Obama administration officials two years ago promised to break gridlock on this issue, spurring a legislative fix to enable “good Samaritan” cleanups and devoting “significant resources” for watershed restoration.

More.

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