Archives for posts with tag: toxins

From the Denver Post:

Black goo is still seeping into waterways from Suncor Energy’s oil refinery north of Denver, and the latest tests show benzene levels 48 times the limit for drinking water, even downstream of the point at which Sand Creek flows into the South Platte River.

Federal labor officials have launched an investigation of possible worker exposures at the refinery, where tap water also is tainted.

State regulators say they’re working with Suncor to find a way to block the toxic material from burbling into the bed of Sand Creek.

Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment data — from samples taken by Suncor — showed benzene concentrations at 720 parts per billion on Jan. 9 at the point where Sand Creek meets the South Platte, up from 190 on Jan. 6, and 144 times higher than the 5 ppb national drinking-water standard. Benzene is a chemical found in crude oil that is classified as cancer-causing, especially affecting blood.

Downriver on the South Platte, the data show benzene at 240 ppb on Jan. 9, a decrease from 590 on Jan. 6 but still 48 times higher than the standard.

The South Platte River is the main water source for northeastern Colorado and the Denver area.

Spilled contaminants from decades of refinery operations at the site have seeped underground, “and it is snaking through. The pressures change. It finds the path of least resistance, and that’s apparently what has happened: It has found the path of least resistance to get into Sand Creek,” Colorado health department environmental-programs director Martha Rudolph said in an interview last week.

“We were not expecting that to occur,” she said. “If we were expecting that to occur, we would have taken steps to stop it.”

State regulators favor construction of underground clay walls at the creek and the refinery to try to block toxic material before it spreads; vapor-extraction systems to remove it from soil; and pumping of contaminated groundwater — all aimed at preventing further pollution.

They characterized the spill as one where hydrocarbons dissolved in groundwater enter through the bottom of Sand Creek, which carries them into the river. Aerators are being installed on Sand Creek to try to release toxic vapors trapped in water into the air — which is analogous to blowing through a straw in a fizzy drink to release what is trapped in the bubbles.

Preventing further pollution of Sand Creek has become a top-tier priority, Rudolph said. “We need to accelerate our responding to that particular issue — to get it out of Sand Creek, to stop that.”

For utilities such as Aurora Water, which serves 335,000 people, the situation has proved the importance of state-of-the-art water-treatment systems that can remove benzene before water reaches residents’ homes. Aurora Water currently is not drawing from its Prairie Waters intake system, 13 miles downriver, and will assess the upstream seepage before doing so, spokesman Greg Baker said.

Shortly after the spill was discovered Nov. 28, benzene in Sand Creek reached 120,000 ppb, according to state data released after a written request by The Denver Post.

Under Suncor’s property, a monitoring well detected benzene in groundwater at 74,000 ppb, with ethyl benzene at 7,300 ppb (standard is 700), toluene at 110,000 ppb (standard: 1,000), and xylenes at 38,000 ppb (standard: 1,400).

Meanwhile, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration is investigating both air and water on Suncor property in response to a complaint that workers may have been exposed.

“It’s going to definitely take weeks, by the time we review all the information,” said Herb Gibson, director of OSHA’s Denver-area office. “We have not found any over-exposures. We’re focusing on benzene because that is the chemical that has the lowest exposure limit.”

However, OSHA lacks jurisdiction to look into the situation at the nearby Metro Wastewater plant, where toxic vapors forced workers to wear respirators and the closure of a technical-services building.

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Image from Flickr.

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From Huffington Post:

The U.S. Navy is asking government investigators to suppress information concerning the toxic water scandal at the Marine Corps’ Camp Lejeune, according to a letter obtained Thursday by The Huffington Post.

The letter, signed by Maj. Gen. J.A. Kessler of the Marine Corps and dated Jan. 5, 2012, asks the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Agency for Toxic Substances & Disease Registry to withhold from a forthcoming report details about the whereabouts of water lines, wells, treatment plants and storage tanks on the North Carolina military base — in the name of national security.

“The Marine Corps understands the need to share information with the scientific community,” writes Kessler, the Marines’ assistant deputy commandant for installations and logistics. “Prudence requires, however, that information sharing be within the rubric of responsible force protection.”

Government watchdogs and environmental advocates said they interpret the letter as further evidence of a Navy effort to evade culpability for what many call the worst and largest drinking water contamination in U.S. history.

Congress assigned the disease registry to trace when, where and at what levels Camp Lejeune’s drinking water was tainted with toxic industrial chemicals from the late-1950s to the 1980s. The research is a prerequisite for a series of health studies exploring links between chemical exposures and what appears to be increased levels of disease among former Camp Lejeune residents, including male breast cancer and childhood leukemia.

As part of its research, the disease registry must map the entire water system on the base, past and present. And for the findings to be credible, the registry must release all of the information, so other scientists can review or replicate the results. The Navy’s pressure could stymie that effort.

“This is exactly what happens when you have one federal agency investigating another,” said retired Master Sgt. Jerry Ensminger, the central character of a new documentary, “Semper Fi: Always Faithful,” which tells the Camp Lejeune contamination story.

Ensminger added that the information the Navy seeks to suppress has been in the public domain for decades, including in print materials distributed by the Marines. “Anyone with Google Earth can zoom in on Camp Lejeune and see those red and white checkered tanks popping out of the housing areas,” said Ensminger, who lost his 9-year-old daughter Janey to a rare type of leukemia. Janey was conceived at Camp Lejeune.

Ensminger and other advocates said they are concerned that the letter represents another maneuver by the Navy to cover up its actions and inactions, and to delay justice for the estimated 1 million Marines and family members who were exposed to contaminated drinking water at Camp Lejeune over 30-odd years.

As the documentary explains, base officials received multiple warnings from 1980 to 1984 that tests of the drinking water showed toxic chemicals including the solvents trichloroethylene (TCE) and perchloroethylene (PCE), and the fuel additive benzene. Yet the first contaminated well wasn’t closed until late-1984, when the co-owner of an outside lab that had conducted three of those tests notified North Carolina environmental officials. By the end of 1985, 10 more contaminated wells had been closed.

The Marine Corps denies any delay or wrongdoing. TCE, a metal degreaser, and PCE, a dry-cleaning solvent, were unregulated by the Safe Drinking Water Act when they were discovered in water, Capt. Kendra N. Hardesty, a Marine Corps spokeswoman, told HuffPost in an email.

“The test results varied between drinking water samples collected at different times,” Hardesty added. “Base officials were confused and unable to immediately identify the source of the chemicals.”

Legislation is currently pending in the House and Senate that seeks to provide healthcare to Camp Lejeune residents suffering as a result of exposure to the contaminated drinking water. The Senate bill passed the Committee on Veterans’ Affairs over the summer and awaits further action. Legislators are on the hunt for offsets to cover its $340 million price. The House version of the bill, named after Janey Ensminger, has yet to move out of committee.

For Richard Clapp, the Camp Lejeune controversy triggers a bit of deja vu. Decades ago, the cancer expert at the Boston University School of Public Health helped link well water contaminated with TCE and PCE to an unusual number of childhood leukemia cases in Woburn, Mass. — a battle that became the basis of the book and movie, “A Civil Action.”

He recalled his first thought when those same two chemicals “popped up” in the Camp Lejeune water: “Here we go again.”

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From The Los Angeles Wave:

While attorneys fight in the courtroom against the County of Los Angeles and several other entities, many residents who lived in and around the shuttered Ujima Village complex are left to wonder whether their health problems are the result of toxic contamination.

Formerly the Athens Tank Farm between the 1920s and 1960s, the site was acquired from ExxonMobil and transformed into an apartment housing complex in 1972, with financing from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). The site was later sold by HUD to the Los Angeles County Housing Authority and the Community Development Commissioners (the five sitting Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors at the time) for $1.

In 2004, after poor workmanship of the original construction led to deterioration of the units, the Housing Authority tried to solicit developers to purchase, rehabilitate and operate the site; but the selected developer “later backed out of the proposed transaction, identifying gasoline and crude oil in the soil, soil gas and groundwater below Ujima Village,” said a county document on the chronology of village, which was named after the Swahili word for “collective work and responsibility.”

Willie Mitchell, son of Cordia Mitchell, lived on and off at the village with his mother. He last resided there was the year before the county began removing residents from the area.

In 2007, 64-year-old Cordia died following a battle with leukemia. “The doctor told her she had to have picked up from somewhere or that she was born with it,” Mitchell, 46, said. “She stayed at home a lot, she didn’t really work, she did babysitting. … They said she had to be working somewhere like an oil refinery or somewhere there are a lot of chemicals. Leukemia is not in the family at all, neither side.”

Prior to his mother’s passing, “I noticed that a lot of people over there were dying. I just knew something was wrong,” Mitchell added. “I would leave and then come back home and it was a ghost town over there. They were moving people out. We didn’t understand what happened to her when she got sick and how this came about. I noticed people who lived there after so many … years, they would start getting sick. My mom lived there for over 12 years, she was diagnosed in 2005.”

Mitchell said he knows of neighborhood children who have developed irritable skin rashes, pneumonia, bronchitis and other respiratory problems, while elderly residents reported suffering from various forms of cancer.

There was also talk of birth defects. According to Mitchell, he grew up with two girls who were born with one kidney. “It’s not a coincidence, there is something really wrong going on over there that they are trying to cover up for whatever reason,” he contends. “We are tying to find answers.”

A non-smoker, Mitchell said he has bronchitis and experiences severe migraines and itching. Nervousness, he said, may be due to lingering grief over his mother’s death.

“Sometimes it feels like I’m going to scratch my skin off,” he said, “and it takes a good 10 to 15 minutes before I can even soothe it.”

Don Brown, 57, lived at Ujima for approximately five years. He is currently undergoing chemotherapy for stage four cancer of the liver, which has spread to his intestines.

“When I first realized that something wasn’t right was when my neighbor caught pneumonia — a little boy who was about five caught pneumonia. I caught pneumonia twice,” he said. “My neighbor who was on the back side of my apartment, he caught pneumonia and he died. His neighbor, she caught pneumonia. And then a lot of the kids started having respiratory problems.

“We would get information from the mailbox,” he added. “You would go and get the mail and hear Miss So-and-So passed or so-and-so is real sick. You have over 29 people who have died, you have a lot of people like myself who have cancer and a lot of the kids who lived there have respiratory problems. There are a number of women in there who have had miscarriages. There is a real problem here.”

Brown said he learned of his cancer during a routine check-up. The doctor, he said, was astonished by what she found. “For my age and the health that I am, the cancer is rare and she hadn’t seen it before, and where it was … in the backside of my liver. She said it was real unusual.”

At several community outreach meetings, Brown said he and other residents were never warned about the possible health risks that could be associated with the toxic remnants left behind by Exxon Mobil after the former tank farm was acquired by HUD.

When residents began to question county officials about contamination on the site and possible health risks, “it was hushed,” Brown said. “They said there was nothing around us — yet 20 feet from my door, they were drilling holes. You have people dying. No one came over to Ujima Village to rescue us, they just had us there with a bunch of lies. They left us there to fend for ourselves.”

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From the Associated Press:

A $35 million settlement between Massey Energy and some 600 southern West Virginiaresidents who blamed the mining company for poisoning their wells with coal slurry finally has court approval.

Ohio County Circuit Judge James Mazzone signed an order declaring the deal reached July 27 “fair, just and reasonable under the circumstances.” Mazzone headed a three-judge Mass Litigation Panel that had been set to try the 7-year-old case against Massey and its Rawl Sales & Processing subsidiary.

Both companies were absorbed in June by Virginia-based Alpha Natural Resources. Under the deal, they admit no wrongdoing.

The order signed Wednesday directs Alpha Appalachia Holdings Inc. to pay up within 30 days. It also schedules a hearing for Dec. 16 to hear from any guardians for minors who have yet to appear and to hear a petition for approval of wrongful death settlements.

Lawyers for both sides remained under a gag order Thursday and could not comment.

The terms of the settlement were supposed to be confidential, but The Associated Press obtained a letter sent to the plaintiffs and reported its contents. The letter explained that Massey had offered $35 million besides the $5 million it had previously agreed to put into a fund to cover medical testing.

The settlement was reached after a marathon session with two judges who were mediating the case while the other three prepared for the trial.

Current and former residents of Rawl, Lick Creek, Merrimac and Sprigg had accused Massey of contaminating their aquifer and wells by pumping 1.4 billion gallons of toxic coal slurry into worked-out underground mines between 1978 and 1987.

Slurry is created when coal is washed to help it burn more cleanly. The residents say it seeped out of the old mine workings and into their aquifer, turning their well water varying shades of red, brown and black, and causing ailments ranging from learning disabilities to cancer.

The plaintiffs are now mostly served by a public water system but believe chronic exposure to metals and chemicals are to blame for birth defects and other health problems.

For decades, coal companies in Appalachia have injected slurry into worked-out mines as a cheap alternative to dams and other systems that can safely store or treat it. The industry claims underground injection is safe, but critics say slurry leaches into water tables through natural and man-made cracks in the earth.

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Image from Flickr.

From WisconsinWatch.org:

In 1956, 17-year-old Janis Schreiber moved to this tiny city on the Mississippi River, married and settled downtown to raise a family. Several times a week she drove her three children to the countryside to escape what she called the “dirty mess” — the coal-fired power plant in Alma and the black soot that hung over Main Street like fog.

Now, half a century later, the sky is clearer. Schreiber and other residents can hang laundry outside without it turning black. Dairyland Power Cooperative, which owns Alma’s two coal-fired plants, is investing $400 million in pollution controls.

Dairyland and other Wisconsin coal-fired plants have begun lowering emissions, but not necessarily in response to demands by regulators at the federal Environmental Protection Agency or state Department of Natural Resources.

Many of the changes have resulted from pressure and lawsuits brought by the nonprofit Sierra Club, which has campaigned for a decade to cut emissions from coal combustion.

Some polluters in Wisconsin and nationwide have violated clean-air laws for years but faced no enforcement from state or federal agencies, according to a collaborative investigation by the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism, the Center for Public Integrity’s iWatch News, National Public Radio and other nonprofit investigative news organizations across the country.

In addition, enforcement actions are inconsistent. The Wisconsin Center found three coal-fired plants in Wisconsin at which federal regulators allege violations of the Clean Air Act but state regulators do not.

The EPA lists nine coal-fired power plants in Wisconsin as being “high-priority violators” of the Clean Air Act — sites that regulators believe are in urgent need of attention, where violations may have continued for years. But the DNR and EPA have yet to take formal enforcement action against five of these plants, records show.

An EPA spokeswoman said the agency is involved in enforcement actions at nine coal-fired plants in Wisconsin for alleged violations but declined to name them.

“There is a pattern of companies ignoring this (clean air) law,” said Kim Bro, a Washburn, Wis., environmental scientist and former state health official. “They’re trying to stay under the radar, and if the DNR and EPA are failing to enforce, the public suffers.”

Dairyland is not on the EPA high-priority violators list. In its most recent inspection, the DNR found no violations at the Alma facilities.

Yet in 2010, the Sierra Club sued the La Crosse-based company for alleged Clean Air Act violations. The suit charged that Dairyland failed to install modern pollution controls required by federal law when it made a series of major changes between 1993 and 2009 to its plants at Alma and Genoa, about 70 miles south of Alma on the Mississippi River. As a result, the suit said, Dairyland released unlawful amounts of pollution into the air.

The complaint also alleged Dairyland did not conduct required monitoring or get permits from the DNR during the upgrades.

When the lawsuit was filed in June 2010, the Sierra Club noted that the state agency still had taken no enforcement action for the alleged violations.

In an interview last month, Marty Sellers, the DNR engineer who inspects the plant, echoed the sentiments of other DNR officials in saying his agency lacks the staff and funding to fully enforce air-pollution laws. He said the DNR couldn’t afford to install an air-quality monitor in Alma, which one resident requested in 2006.

Dairyland spokeswoman Deb Mirasola defended the company’s actions, saying in a statement, “We remain firm in our belief that we operated our plants in compliance with state and federal regulations, including the provisions of the Clean Air Act.”

The utility company, the EPA and the Sierra Club are now negotiating a possible out-of-court settlement, said Bruce Nilles, senior director of the national Sierra Club anti-coal campaign.

In recent years, according to DNR data, emissions of some pollutants from the two Alma plants 190 miles northwest of Madison have fallen by 73 percent. Mirasola said this was due to pollution controls, adding that the upgrades will help the plants comply with state and federal environmental laws. Dairyland, she said, began retrofitting its plants with pollution controls in 2007, three years prior to the Sierra Club lawsuit.

So why did the group sue Dairyland, which already was spending hundreds of millions to clean up? In part, said the Sierra Club’s Jennifer Feyerherm, it’s to make up for years when the air around Alma should have been cleaner.

“It’s not like we’re singling out Dairyland,” said Feyerherm, an organizing representative with the Sierra Club’s Wisconsin chapter. “They didn’t put on pollution controls when they should have … It’s part of the pattern of noncompliance that we see at coal plants across the state.”

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From the San Diego Union-Tribune:

Long a pacesetter in efforts to control dangerous chemicals, California is moving toward sweeping new rules to reduce toxins in cleaning products, cosmetics, electronics, toys and possibly many other consumer goods.

They are among the most cutting-edge codes of their kind since 1986, when voters passed Proposition 65. That law set a national precedent by forcing businesses to warn customers if they “knowingly and intentionally” expose people to chemicals the state determined to cause cancer or reproductive toxicity. Otherwise, regulators often deeming chemicals or other compounds safe until proven harmful.

The newly proposed Safer Consumer Products Regulations will be debated by industry, academics and environmentalists for months as they move toward final form in late 2012.

They would roughly quadruple the number of chemicals targeted by the state and require companies not just to notify consumers, but to look for less-damaging alternatives. Companies must phase out toxins, do more research, take other measures approved by regulators or face fines of $25,000 per day.

The still-evolving plan was created to minimize “regrettable substitutions,” swapping one risky compound for another.It should help prevent scenarios like the one in which jewelry manufacturers traded lead for cadmium, another dangerous metal.

“This is revolutionary stuff. This is a real sea change in chemical policy,” Tim Malloy, an environmental law professor at UCLA, told regional business leaders at a forum last week in San Diego.

On Monday and Tuesday, the state’s Green Ribbon Science Panel will meet in Sacramento to assess the strategy as it moves through the Department of Toxic Substances Control.

There’s something in the draft rules for almost everyone to embrace and everyone to question. The proposal faces criticism from business backers concerned about the state driving companies away with “chemophobia,” along with myriad practical questions about how a regulatory program will work.

It’s not clear how much compliance will cost, which chemicals and products will be targeted first, how to balance company secrets with demands for transparency, which kinds of human harm will take precedence in ranking health problems and how the toxics control department will develop a rigorous oversight program without additional money.

“Industry wants clarity and certainty. DTSC wants something that’s enforceable,” said John Ulrich co-chairman of the Green Chemistry Alliance, a business-based group. “Somehow or another, we have got to find the balance.”

Kathryn Alcántar, California policy director for the nonprofit Center for Environmental Health in Oakland, says the rules could create significant benefits for consumers but she fears the current version gives businesses too much ability to hide product information.

“If there is not enough transparency … then people are not going to have faith in the program,” she said.

Once implemented, the new rules will influence manufacturing around the world to the extent that companies align their entire product lines with California law to avoid raising questions about differences between products. They also could foster of a new industry in the state devoted to finding safer products.

“There is an equal feeling across the planet — an unease — with evidence of harm that we are seeing in the natural world, the buildup of chemicals in our bodies that we were never evolved to deal with, and a realization that the source of those chemicals probably isn’t only the manufacturing but actually consumer products,” said Debbie Raphael, director of the toxics control agency.

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From Scientific American:

A workplace accident might mean a paper cut or spilled coffee for many—or even loss of life or limb for others. For a select few scientists, however, a little slipup on the job could release a deadly virus or toxin into the environment.

Some 395 reported “potential release events” of “select agents” occurred in U.S. government laboratories between 2003 and 2009, the University of Minnesota’s Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy (CIDRAP) reported. “Select agent” is government-speak for a biological agent or toxin that is considered to pose “a severe threat” to human, animal or plant health—or livestock and agricultural products. Special approval from the government is required to handle these agents and toxins, and that can only happen in specially equipped labs.

Not all labs, of course, are of the Contagion and Outbreak biosafety level-4 ilk that handle mega-killers such as Ebola and smallpox. But there are plenty of other organisms studied in government labs that can easily infect and sicken humans if an accidental release occurs.

Just what were these little incidents? Most (196) were an unspecified “loss of containment.” There were also 77 reported spills and 46 accidental needle sticks or other “sharps” injuries, according to unpublished data collected in 2010 by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). With all of these incidents, however, only seven lab-acquired infections were reported: four Brucella melitensis (which also infects cows and sheep), two Francisella tularensis (also known as rabbit fever, which is a class A, highly virulent bacterium) and one case of San Joaquin Valley Fever (Coccidioides, an infectious fungus).

These CDC mishaps are described as part of a National Research Council (NRC) review published earlier this month in preparation for assessing the risks of a proposed bio-research facility at Fort Detrick in Frederick, Md. (The CDC plans to publish a more detailed analysis of potential releases in early 2012, CIDRAP noted.)

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From

In this film, Earthjustice Managing Attorney David Guest talks about the threat to the health and wealth of Florida’s citizens posed by toxic algae outbreaks. The outbreaks are caused by pollutants from sewage, fertilizer and manure that big business pump into Florida’s waterways. Earthjustice, on behalf of several local groups, has filed suit to establish limits on these pollutants that will help end this problem.

Learn more and take action to help clean Florida’s waterways here.

From Michigan Messenger:

Nicholas Forte has spent the last year with an array of health issues. Headaches. Migraines. Nausea. Breathing problems so severe they would land him in the hospital.

“We have no idea what it is,” the 22-year-old Battle Creek resident told Michigan Messenger. “Then it escalated to seizures.”

And while the seizures landed him in the hospital — at one point stopping his heart and his breathing — doctors are at a loss to understand why. Tests indicate none of the expected patterns for epilepsy.

Finding out why the formerly healthy young man had suddenly fallen ill drove him and his family to listen to Riki Ott, an environmental toxicologist who has been tracking the health impacts of oil spills on human beings since her home was impacted by the Exxon Valdez spill in Alaska. Ott was in Battle Creek Wednesday night at the invitation of local activists.

And when Forte asked Ott about his symptoms, she nodded an affirmative.

“We see that in 16-year olds in the Gulf,” she said. And Forte was not the only person she may have given much needed answers to. Nearly 50 people gathered to talk about headaches, nausea, burning eyes, memory loss and rashes. There were young and old, African-Americans and whites, rural residents and city dwellers, all with one thing in common — they live by the Kalamazoo River and were exposed to last year’s Enbridge Energy Partners Lakehead Pipeline 6B.

For Ott, it was a litany list of symptoms and voices of frustration she has heard from Alaska to South Korea to the Gulf Coast and now in Calhoun county. And Calhoun, she says, represents exposures to both tar sands and lighter oils, each with its own chemical make ups and attendant toxins.

“You’ve got the worst of two worlds. You’re getting a fully double whammy,” she says of the Cold Lake Crude Oil. “Peoples’ health problems (from the Enbridge spill) are identical to the Gulf.”

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Spraying stops pests from eating crops, however it may also contribute to a host of diseases. Most recently it has been linked to Parkinson's disease

From The Daily Mail:

Scientists have shed new light on a link between Parkinson’s disease and two pesticides, which they hope will improve both prevention and treatment for the neurodegenerative disease.

At present fewer than five per cent of Parkinson’s cases are attributed to genetics while 95 per cent have unknown causes.

Now a team from the University of Missouri School of Medicine thinks toxins such as pesticides could play a part.

The scientists studied the molecular dysfunction that happens when proteins are exposed to enivironmental toxins such as rotenone and paraquat.

‘This study provides the evidence that oxidative stress, possibly due to sustained exposure to environmental toxins, may serve as a primary cause of Parkinson’s,’ said assistant professor Zezong Gu.

‘This helps us to unveil why many people, such as farmers exposed to pesticides, have an increased incidence of the disease.’

Scientists already knew that the disease was associated with oxidative stress, which is when electronically unstable atoms or molecules damage cells.

However, the latest study reveals how oxidative stress causes parkin, a protein responsible for regulating other proteins, to malfunction.

Assistant professor Gu and his team invented a new antibody that allowed them to detect how oxidative stress affected proteins when exposed to a variety of pesticides, including rotenone and paraquat.

They then demonstrated how oxidative stress caused parkin proteins to cluster together and malfunction, rather than performing normally by cleaning up damaged proteins.

‘This whole process progresses into Parkinson’s disease,’ Gu said.

‘We illustrated the molecular events that lead to the more common form of the disorder in the vast majority of cases with unknown causes.

‘Knowing this, we can find ways to correct, prevent and reduce the incidence of this disease.’

Roteone is used in the UK and the U.S however paraquat was banned in Europe in 2007.

The team hope to extend their investigation into preventive treatments and therapies through work at MU’s Center for Botanical Interaction Studies.

After Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease is the most common neurodegenerative disorder.

The condition affects around one million people in the U.S and 120,000 in the UK.

The latest study was published in the journal Molecular Neurodegeneration.

From NJ.com:

Piles Creek is an offshoot of the Arthur Kill — a dead-end waterway that stops in an industrial no-man’s-land in Linden.

To the west is the rumbling New Jersey Turnpike and a cluster of puffing smokestacks. To the north a horizon of power lines and refineries. To the east and south factories and a brownfield.

And what lives here is not quite normal — a strange ecosystem of creatures large and small that seem cast from a bad toxic apocalypse movie.

Grass shrimp and fiddler crabs are larger, and tend to thrive — even though they eat less. In fact, they are not eaten as much themselves.

Their predators, like killifish and bluefish, are smaller, more sluggish and can’t hunt as well — perhaps because their thyroid glands and neurotransmitters are abnormal.

The blue crabs are sluggish and feeding on easily-available food like algae and sediments. But they are also hardier when exposed to toxicity and more savvy at avoiding predators — even becoming nasty and aggressive when provoked.

“It’s a tough neighborhood to grow up in — that’s the way we thought of it in the lab,” said Rutgers University marine biologist Judith Weis, a 70-year-old grandmother of three who has spent the past two decades documenting the creek’s slow recovery since the beginnings of the environmental movement.

For most of the 20th century, wildlife at Piles Creek had no chance to survive. Weis once saw no life in the brackish water, which is still contaminated by mercury, other metals and a whole mess of acronyms, including PAHs and PCBs. Even now, a bridge of gas and oil pipelines runs over the water, marked with neon stakes. A sign warns trespassers of danger.

Over time, though, the Clean Water Act and other environmental protections since the 1960s have slowly brought life back to Piles Creek. But the recovery has left a toxic legacy — a strange process caused by heavy industry, according to Weis.

Her team from Rutgers meticulously documented five species’ transformations. The food chain was in disarray. She said pollution has created its own variety of unnatural effects on the creatures in Linden and Newark Bay, compared with their counterparts in the cleaner waters of Tuckerton some 80 miles to the south.

The team found healthy creatures introduced into the tainted environment were immediately affected. Blue crabs and killifish from Tuckerton lost their innate hunting abilities when they were put into the polluted water.

“If a predator is worse off than you are, it’s an advantage,” Weis noted.

Despite the slow comeback of Piles Creek, it remains an ecological war zone. Lauren Bergey, a student of Weis’s who is now an assistant biology professor at Centenary College, said she once saw a male fiddler crab waving his huge claw atop a Thermos bottle, trying to attract a mate. He had made his burrow inside the container, she said.

“I still do work out there, and when I come back, I smell like an oil refinery,” Bergey said.

The Rutgers study is unique in that pollution-effects studies most often just examine the effects of poisons by dosing specimens in the laboratory, the researchers said.

“I’m hoping this leads to more research out in the field, instead of just exposing species to the contaminants in the lab,” said Weis, who wrapped up decades of observations of the return of life to the polluted water in a study published last month in BioScience.

Weis — who is chair of the science advisory board of the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, has served on committees for the Environmental Protection Agency, and is currently writing about water for the United Nations — believes the Clean Water Act and other environmental protections since the 1960s have brought life back to Piles Creek and other places. Yet she said the environmental threats remain.

“The current regulations are allowing really dreadful places like Piles Creek become better,” she said. “However, it will take a lot more effort, money and stronger regulations — and a lot of years — for them to really become healthy environments.”

From Scientific American:

The French parliament voted on June 30 to ban the controversial technique for extracting natural gas from shale rock deposits known as hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, the web sites of Le Monde and other French media reported.

The bill had already passed the National Assembly, the country’s lower chamber, on June 21, and on June 30 a Senate vote of 176 to 151 made France the first country to enact such a ban, just as New York State is preparing to lift a moratorium on the same method.

The vote was divided along party lines, with the majority conservative party voting in favor and the opposition voting against the bill, according to Le Monde. The Socialist Party, in particular, opposed the bill because it did not go far enough. The bill’s critics said that it left open possible loopholes and that in particular it does not prevent the exploitation of oil shale deposits by techniques other than fracking. An earlier version of the bill, which the Socialists had supported, would have banned any kind of development of the deposits, Le Monde reported.

Companies that currently own permits for drilling in oil shale deposits on French land will have two months to notify the state what extraction technique they use. If they declare to be using fracking, or if they fail to respond, their permits will be automatically revoked.

Fracking requires the injection of vast quantities of water and potentially hazardous chemicals into the ground to force the release of natural gas. The U.S. government is investigating the environmental impact of the technique, which critics say produces toxic waste and pollutes water wells.

From the Utah News:

Could Utah’s high autism rates be related to Salt Lake County’s large number of toxic chemical releases?

University of Utah researchers say the question deserves more study after their preliminary review shows children with autism spectrum disorders and other intellectual disabilities are more likely to have been born near industries that emit toxic chemicals or heavy metals.

“If you take this combined with the other studies [showing links between pollution and autism], it’s pointing to something that we need to seriously look at,” said Judith Pinborough-Zimmerman, research assistant professor in the U.’s Department of Psychiatry.

She and researchers from the Rocky Mountain Center for Occupational and Environmental Health and the Utah Department of Health presented their findings at The International Society for Autism Research conference last month in San Diego.

They examined the maternal addresses found on birth certificates of children born in 1993 and 1994 in Davis, Salt Lake and Utah counties who were later diagnosed with autism or other mental disabilities. They also mapped the addresses of children without a known neurodevelopmental disorder.

They found that children born to mothers who lived within a mile of what are called Toxic Release Inventory sites that emit certain chemicals and heavy metals were more likely to have those problems.

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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 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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