The Six Scenarios:
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from Time Magazine:
Labs Fail to Detect Cases of Bacterial Food Contamination
Foodborne illnesses are a continuing problem in the U.S., but labs that are supposed to detect the presence of pathogens aren't up to snuff, according to a new report. The analysis, presented at the 113th General Meeting of the American Society for Microbiology, revealed worrisome gaps in the ability of food laboratories to detect or rule out the presence of common disease-causing bacteria such as E. coli, Salmonella, Listeria, and Campylobacter.
from Durban Mercury:
Alien plant to blame for rhino "pink lips"
The surprise discovery of rhinos with bright pink lips and swollen eyes in northern KwaZulu-Natal has raised alarm bells over the potentially devastating spread of an alien invader plant which can kill cattle and decimate the fields of peasant farmers.... the lips and nostrils of both animals had turned bright pink, while their eyes and eye sockets were "puffed up like Popeye" -- apparently from eating an invader plant known in Ethiopia as "famine weed".
from Center for Public Integrity:
'Upset' emissions: Flares in the air, worry on the ground
....unplanned emissions -- known in regulatory parlance as "upsets"ť -- are occurring more often than industry admits or government knows, according to more than 50 interviews with regulators, activists, plant representatives, workers and residents, and an analysis of tens of thousands of records by the Center for Public Integrity. For many communities, these upsets have evolved into an invisible menace: They disrupt lives, yet offenders are rarely punished.
from Michigan Live:
Small crack found in tank at Palisades nuclear plant; inspection still ongoing, executives say
Eight days after Palisades Nuclear Power Plant shut down May 5, an inspection is still ongoing of the safety injection refueling water tank. Until that inspection is complete, residents of Southwest Michigan won't know what the permanent solution to repair the leaking tank will be. It will, however, have to pass muster with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, said U.S. Rep. Fred Upton, R-St. Joseph....So far, the inspection has turned up a crack about ˝-inch-long around a nozzle...
US approves new pesticides linked to mass bee deaths as EU enacts ban
In the wake of a massive US Department of Agriculture report highlighting the continuing large-scale death of honeybees, environmental groups are left wondering why the Environmental Protection Agency has decided to approve a "highly toxic" new pesticide.... One group, Beyond Pesticides, has called the EPA's recent green light for use of a new insecticide known as sulfoxaflor irresponsible in light of its "highly toxicâ€ť classification for honey bees.
from Center for Public Integrity:
'Chemicals of Concern' list still wrapped in OMB red tape
For anyone anxious about toxic chemicals in the environment, Sunday marked a dubious milestone. It has been three years since the "chemicals of concernâ€ť list landed at the White House Office of Management and Budget. The list, which the Environmental Protection Agency wants to put out for public comment, includes bisphenol A, a chemical used in polycarbonate plastic water bottles and other products; eight phthalates, which are used in flexible plastics; and certain flame-retardant compounds called polybrominated diphenyl ethers, or PBDEs....The EPA proposal arrived at OIRA on May 12, 2010. There it remains -- a symbol, some say, of a broken regulatory system.
When Science Goes Silent
... It's just one of many such stories of muzzled federal scientists and suppressed research that are being brought to the union's attention, he says. All against the backdrop of sweeping cuts to water, air and wildlife monitoring programs, a total restructuring of federal environmental reviews, and the downloading of responsibility for lakes and rivers to the provinces. "It's almost like this government doesn't want any of this stuff to be open to public discussion," says the union leader. "What we're seeing is a total lockdown." Since taking power in 2006, Stephen Harper's government has rarely been caught on the wrong foot. Disciplined on the hustings, in the House, and above all with the media, Tory ministers and MPs have largely avoided the gaffes and unvarnished opinions that used to plague the conservative movement. But to many of its critics, Ottawa's obsession with controlling the message has become so all-encompassing that it now threatens both the health of Canada's democracy and the country's reputation abroad.... Current policy doesn't just seek to dampen the odd controversial story, it passes every bit of information through a political filter from which almost nothing emerges. "All the government scientists I know tell me that it's never been worse," says Hutchings. "It's like an Iron Curtain has been drawn across the communication of science in this country. And I think there's reason for all of us to be worried about that."
from Huffington Post:
Ocean Acidification Threatens Arctic Ecosystem, Study Shows
The Arctic ecosystem, already under pressure from record ice melts, faces another potential threat in the form of rapid acidification of the ocean, according to an international study published on Monday.... Cold water absorbs carbon dioxide more readily than warm water, making the Arctic especially vulnerable. The report said the average acidity of surface ocean waters worldwide was now about 30 percent higher than at the start of the Industrial Revolution. "Arctic marine waters are experiencing widespread and rapid ocean acidification," said the report by 60 experts for the Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme, commissioned by the eight nations with Arctic territories. "Ocean acidification is likely to affect the abundance, productivity and distribution of marine species, but the magnitude and direction of change are uncertain."
from Science News:
Toxic waste sites may cause health problems for millions
Living near a toxic waste site may represent as much of a health threat as some infectious diseases, a study in three developing countries finds. Researchers analyzed 373 toxic waste sites in India, Indonesia and the Philippines, where an estimated 8.6 million people are at risk of exposure to lead, asbestos, hexavalent chromium and other hazardous materials. Among those people at risk, the exposures could cause a loss of around 829,000 years of good health as a result of disease, disability or early death, the team reports May 4 in Environmental Health Perspectives.
from Environmental Health News:
'Chemicals of high concern' found in thousands of children's products
Cobalt in plastic building blocks and baby bibs. Ethylene glycol in dolls. Methyl ethyl ketone in clothing. Antimony in high chairs and booster seats. Parabens in baby wipes. D4 in baby creams. An Environmental Health News analysis of thousands of reports from America's largest companies shows that toys and other children's products contain low levels of dozens of industrial chemicals, including some unexpected ingredients that will surprise a public concerned about exposure. The reports were filed by 59 large companies, including Gap, Mattel, Gymboree, Nike, H&M and Wal-Mart, to comply with an unprecedented state law.
from Detroit Free Press:
Palisades nuclear power plant shuts down after water leak
COVERT TOWNSHIP, MICH.-- Operators of the Palisades Nuclear Power Plant in southwestern have removed it from service because of a repeat water leak from a tank that caused seepage into the control room last year.... The plant is owned by New Orleans-based Entergy Corp. and has been under extra NRC scrutiny after numerous safety issues. There were four shutdowns last year and at least two this year.
from InsideClimate News:
The Case of the Disappearing Dilbit: How Much Oil Was Released in 2010 Pipeline Spill?
A key piece of data related to the biggest tar sands oil spill in U.S. history has disappeared from the Environmental Protection Agency's website, adding to confusion about the size of the spill and possibly reducing the fine that the company responsible for the accident would be required to pay. The July 2010 accident on an Enbridge Inc. pipeline dumped thousands of barrels of Canadian dilbit into the Kalamazoo River and surrounding wetlands. But almost three years and two federal investigations later, one of the most important questions about the spill remains unanswered: Exactly how much oil spilled from the pipeline?
from International Herald Tribune:
Billions of Cellphones Polluting the World
Once considered a status symbol, cellphones have become ubiquitous. There are now 6.8 billion mobile subscriptions worldwide, 800 million more than at the end of 2011. But mobile technology poses serious environmental challenges, both because of the raw materials needed to produce the hardware and the pollution associated with disposal.
from New York Times:
Flow of Tainted Water Is Latest Crisis at Japan Nuclear Plant
Two years after a triple meltdown that grew into the world's second worst nuclear disaster, the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant is faced with a new crisis: a flood of highly radioactive wastewater that workers are struggling to contain. Groundwater is pouring into the plant's ravaged reactor buildings at a rate of almost 75 gallons a minute. It becomes highly contaminated there, before being pumped out to keep from swamping a critical cooling system. A small army of workers has struggled to contain the continuous flow of radioactive wastewater, relying on hulking gray and silver storage tanks sprawling over 42 acres of parking lots and lawns. The tanks hold the equivalent of 112 Olympic-size pools.
from Climate Central:
Hurricane Sandy's Untold Filthy Legacy: Sewage
Hurricane Sandy was one of the largest storm to hit the northeast U.S. in recorded history, killing 159, knocking out power to millions, and causing $70 billion in damage in eight states. Sandy also put the vulnerability of critical infrastructure in stark relief by paralyzing subways, trains, road and air traffic, flooding hospitals, crippling electrical substations, and shutting down power and water to tens of millions of people. But one of the larger infrastructure failures is less appreciated: sewage overflow.
from Environmental Health News:
Chemicals on federal radar pervasive in Chicago air
On the brink of federal regulatory review, chemicals in deodorants, lotions and conditioners are showing up in Chicago's air at levels that scientists call alarming. The airborne compounds -- cyclic siloxanes -- are traveling to places as far as the Arctic, and can be toxic to aquatic life. "These chemicals are just everywhere,"ť said Keri Hornbuckle, an engineering professor at the University of Iowa... But whether there are any risks from breathing the chemicals is unknown. There have been no studies to measure people's exposures or investigate potential health risks.
Empty nets in Louisiana three years after the spill
There used to be two or three people working with him; now he's alone. The catch that's coming in is light, particularly for crabs. "Guys running five or six hundred traps are coming in with two to three boxes, if that," said Stander, 26.... "My fellow fishermen who fish crab and who fish fish, they're feeling the same thing," Barisich said. "You get a spike in production every now and then, but overall, it's off. Everybody's down. Everywhere there was dispersed oil and heavily oiled, the production is down."... "Things's changing, and we don't know what's happening yet," said oysterman Byron Encalade.
from New York Times:
In China, Breathing Becomes a Childhood Risk
... Levels of deadly pollutants up to 40 times the recommended exposure limit in Beijing and other cities have struck fear into parents and led them to take steps that are radically altering the nature of urban life for their children. Parents are confining sons and daughters to their homes, even if it means keeping them away from friends. Schools are canceling outdoor activities and field trips. Parents with means are choosing schools based on air-filtration systems, and some international schools have built gigantic, futuristic-looking domes over sports fields to ensure healthy breathing.
from Sustainable Pulse:
New Review Links Roundup to Diabetes, Autism, Infertility and Cancer
A new peer-reviewed scientific review paper has been released in the US stating that glyphosate-based herbicides such as Roundup are contributing to gastrointestinal disorders, obesity, diabetes, heart disease, depression, autism, infertility, cancer and Alzheimer's disease. The review paper states that "glyphosate enhances the damaging effects of... food borne chemical residues and environmental toxins. Negative impact on the body is insidious and manifests slowly over time as inflammation damages cellular systems throughout the body. Here, we show how interference with CYP enzymes acts synergistically with disruption of the biosynthesis of aromatic amino acids by gut bacteria, as well as impairment in serum sulfate transport. Consequences are most of the diseases and conditions associated with a Western diet, which include gastrointestinal disorders, obesity, diabetes, heart disease, depression, autism, infertility, cancer and Alzheimer's disease."... [Eighty percent] of genetically modified crops, particularly corn, soy, canola, cotton, sugar beets and most recently alfalfa, are specifically targeted towards the introduction of genes resistant to glyphosate, the so-called "Roundup Ready® feature".
Report: Seismic research on East Coast could harm 140,000 whales & dolphins
Nearly 140,000 whales and dolphins could be injured if the Obama administration allows energy companies to conduct seismic research aimed at identifying oil and gas along the Atlantic Coast, according to a new report issued Tuesday. The assessment by the conservation group Oceana shines a light on the potential casualties of seismic studies that energy companies use to map the ocean floor and the underground geology of a region. Air guns used in the process send off pulses of sound that penetrate through the ocean and under the seafloor before bouncing back with clues about what lies below. Along the way, Oceana said, the sound waves could devastate marine life, including some of the 500 critically endangered North Atlantic right whales estimated to still exist. Air gun blasts also could cause widespread whale displacement and disrupt loggerhead sea turtles along the Atlantic Coast, Oceana concluded.
from Wired Science:
Pesticide Suspected in Bee Die-Offs Could Also Kill Birds
According to a report by the American Bird Conservancy, the dangers of neonicotinoid pesticides to birds, and also to stream- and soil-dwelling insects accidentally exposed to the chemicals, have been underestimated by regulators and downplayed by industry. "The environmental persistence of the neonicotinoids, their propensity for runoff and for groundwater infiltration, and their cumulative and largely irreversible mode of action in invertebrates raise environmental concerns that go well beyond bees," stated the report, which was co-authored by pesticide policy expert Cynthia Palmer and pesticide toxicologist Pierre Mineau, both from the American Bird Conservancy.... Insect-eating birds are indeed declining in the Netherlands and elsewhere, a trend that dates to the 1960s and is blamed on a variety of factors, including earlier generations of pesticides, habitat alteration and climate change. Neonicotinoids represent a fairly new threat, but van der Sluijs is not alone in his concerns. Ecotoxicologist Christy Morrissey of the University of Saskatchewan said there is "considerable circumstantial evidence that these chemicals are causing large-scale reductions in insect abundance. At the same time, we are observing serious declines in many species of birds in Canada, particularly aerial insectivores, swifts and swallows for example, that are highly dependent on insects to raise their young."
from Great Lakes Echo:
Toxic chemicals turn up in Great Lakes plastic pollution
Toxic chemicals clinging to plastics could cause health problems for fish and other organisms in the Great Lakes. They were discovered in samples from the first-ever Great Lakes plastic survey in Lake Erie, Lake Huron and Lake Superior last summer, Lorena Rios Mendoza, an assistant chemistry professor at the University of Wisconsin -- Superior, announced Monday. And instead of just sitting in sediments as some scientists previously thought, those pollutants might be traveling with plastics to other parts of the Great Lakes.
from New York Times:
Ex-Regulator Says Reactors Are Flawed
All 104 nuclear power reactors now in operation in the United States have a safety problem that cannot be fixed and they should be replaced with newer technology, the former chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission said on Monday. Shutting them all down at once is not practical, he said, but he supports phasing them out rather than trying to extend their lives.... it is highly unusual for a former head of the nuclear commission to so bluntly criticize an industry whose safety he was previously in charge of ensuring....Dr. Jaczko cited a well-known characteristic of nuclear reactor fuel to continue to generate copious amounts of heat after a chain reaction is shut down. That "decay heat" is what led to the Fukushima meltdowns.
from New Scientist:
Sea urchins evolving to cope with ocean acidification
As the oceans become more acidic, many marine animals will have a harder time extracting the calcium from seawater that they need to build their skeletons. Marine biologists fear an ecological catastrophe could be imminent unless animals evolve to take up calcium more efficiently.... In their lab, they reared larvae of the purple sea urchin in water of normal or elevated acidity, corresponding to atmospheric CO2 levels of 400 and 900 parts per million. To their surprise, they found that the more acidic water had no apparent negative effect on the development of the larval skeletons. Behind that apparent stability, though, was a lot of genetic change. When Pespeni used gene sequencing to study the developing larvae, she found that gene frequencies had shifted dramatically during that time. In particular, genes related to growth, lipid metabolism and the movement of ions into and out of cells showed significantly more changes in urchins reared under high-acidity conditions. All these types of genes help cells cope with increased acidity - a strong hint that the changes are the result of natural selection.
Exxon won't pay into cleanup fund because oil spilled in Arkansas isn't "oil"
Despite spilling tens, if not hundreds of thousands of gallons of oil and chemicals into an Arkansas neighborhood, thanks to a loophole in a law from 1980, ExxonMobil will not be paying into a federal oil spill cleanup fund because the oil they spilled is not the right type of oil. It is a twisted example of the legal technicalities and lax regulations that all too often favor oil companies, but a coalition of environmental groups are working to close the loophole.
from InsideClimate News:
At Oil Spill Cleanup in Arkansas, Exxon Running the Show, Not Federal Agencies
...The town of 2,000 people is now suddenly the focus of national attention in the divisive debate over whether President Obama should approve the Keystone XL, a $5 billion pipeline to ship Alberta's heavy crude to U.S. refineries along the Texas coast. The stakes are high and Exxon is running the show here, with federal agencies so far publicly invisible.
from Associated Press:
Oil spill leaves sheen on Grand River in Lansing
Cleanup crews were working Tuesday to contain about 300 to 500 gallons of hydraulic fluid that spilled from a Lansing power plant and left a sheen on the Grand River.
from Associated Press:
Leak near Colo. plant highlights pipeline problems
Authorities are investigating after construction crews discovered a problem with a liquid gas pipeline that allowed a carcinogen to seep into the ground near a large creek that feeds into the Colorado River. The leak near an energy plant in Western Colorado was discovered largely by accident, even though several state and federal agencies are charged with monitoring gas pipelines in the state. "It's possible that we've narrowly dodged a bullet this time," said Michael Saul, with the National Wildlife Federation. The breach, however, should be a "wake-up call" for involved agencies, he said, underscoring concerns over the risk of a larger danger.
from Washington Post:
Exxon Mobil pipeline leaks "a few thousand" barrels of crude oil in Arkansas
Exxon Mobil said that one of its pipelines leaked "a few thousandâ€ť barrels of Canadian heavy crude oil near Mayflower, Ark., prompting the evacuation of 22 homes and reinforcing concerns many critics have raised about the Keystone XL pipeline that is awaiting State Department approval. The pipeline breach took place late Friday, Exxon said, in the 20-inch diameter, 95,000-barrel-a-day Pegasus pipeline, which originates in Patoka, Ill., and carries crude oil to the Texas Gulf Coast, the country's main refining center. Mayflower is about 25 miles north of Little Rock.
from New York Times:
Study Shows Bacteria Moves From Animals to Humans
A new study used genetic sequencing to establish that a strain of antibiotic-resistant bacteria has been transmitted from farm animals to people, a connection that the food industry has long disputed.
from Huffington Post:
Biological Computer: Stanford Researchers Discover Genetic Transistors That Turn Cells Into Computers
In a paper published in the journal Science on Friday, the team described their system of genetic transistors, which can be inserted into living cells and turned on and off if certain conditions are met. The researchers hope these transistors could eventually be built into microscopic living computers. Said computers would be able to accomplish tasks like telling if a certain toxin is present inside a cell, seeing how many times a cancerous cell has divided or determining precisely how an administered drug interacts with each individual cell. Once the transistor determines the conditions are met, it could then be used to make the cell, and many other cells around it, do a specific thing--like telling cancerous cells to destroy themselves. "We're going to be able to put computers into any living cell you want," lead researcher at the Stanford School of Engineering Drew Endy explained to the San Jose Mercury News. "We're not going to replace the silicon computers. We're not going to replace your phone or your laptop. But we're going to get computing working in places where silicon would never work."
from Reuters, via NBC, through DesdemonaDespair:
EPA: More than half of U.S. rivers unsuitable for aquatic life
Fifty-five percent of U.S. river and stream lengths were in poor condition for aquatic life, largely under threat from runoff contaminated by fertilizers, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said on Tuesday. High levels of phosphorus and nitrogen, runoff from urban areas, shrinking ground cover and pollution from mercury and bacteria were putting the 1.2 million miles of streams and rivers surveyed under stress, the EPA said.... Twenty-one percent of the United States' river and stream length was in good biological condition, down from 27 percent in 2004, according to the survey, carried out in 2008 and 2009 at almost 2,000 sites.
Neonicotinoid pesticides 'damage brains of bees'
Commonly used pesticides are damaging honey bee brains, studies suggest. Scientists have found that two types of chemicals called neonicotinoids and coumaphos are interfering with the insect's ability to learn and remember. Experiments revealed that exposure was also lowering brain activity, especially when the two pesticides were used in combination.... Dr Christopher Connolly said: "We found neonicotinoids cause an immediate hyper-activation - so an epileptic type activity - this was proceeded by neuronal inactivation, where the brain goes quiet and cannot communicate any more. The same effects occur when we used organophosphates. "And if we used them together, the effect was additive, so they added to the toxicity: the effect was greater when both were present."
from Agence France-Press:
Dead ducks in Chinese river as swine flow eases
SHANGHAI -- At least 1000 dead ducks were found floating in a Chinese river, state media reported Monday, after Shanghai said it had almost finished recovering thousands of deceased pigs from its main waterway. The ducks were fished out of a section of river by authorities in the southwestern Chinese province of Sichuan, the official Xinhua news agency said. They were then buried in plastic bags three meters underground, the report added. It did not specify how the ducks had died. The report came after Shanghai officials said a clean-up was close to ending after an embarrassing pollution case which saw dead pigs floating down the city's main river, with the total number recovered standing at more than 16,000.
from London Guardian:
One in five French bottled waters 'contain drugs or pesticides'
They are sold as being cleaner, healthier and purer than the water that spouts from the average French tap. Now, however, an investigation has discovered traces of pesticides and prescription drugs -- including a medicine used to treat breast cancer -- in almost one in five brands of bottled water on the shelves of France's supermarkets. While scientists say the contamination is minuscule and the water remains safe, consumer groups are warning of a "potential cocktail effect" for drinkers, and say the findings raise serious environmental concerns.
from Associated Press:
Chevron fuel spill in Utah much worse than thought
A Chevron fuel spill near a northern Utah bird refuge is much worse than originally thought as up to 27,000 gallons might have leaked, authorities said. A split in a pipeline that runs from Salt Lake City to Spokane, Wash., is suspected of releasing diesel fuel into soil and marshes at Willard Bay State Park ... Initial reports pegged the spill at up to 6,000 gallons, and Chevron later revised that to some 8,100 gallons.
from AP, via HuffingtonPost:
Asian Carp Spawning Areas Are More Varied Than Previously Thought: Study
Asian carp are reproducing in more places and under more varied conditions than experts had believed they could, yet another reason to worry about the greedy invader's potential to infest waterways and crowd out native species, scientists said Tuesday. Several varieties of carp imported from Asia have migrated steadily northward in the Mississippi River and its tributaries since escaping from Southern fish farms and sewage treatment ponds in the 1970s. They've been spotted in more than two dozen states. Bighead and silver carp gobble enormous volumes of plankton, a crucial link in the aquatic food chain, while silver carp sometimes collide with boaters by hurtling from the water when startled.
from USA Today:
Bird group calls for halt to widely applied insecticide
...The [Anerican] Bird Conservancy, one of the nation's most active bird-conservation groups, released a 97-page report Monday that says that independent studies of the damage to birds and aquatic ecosystems they depend upon for food raise "significant environmental concerns" and that the Environmental Protection Agency has been too lenient in allowing the use of this class of insecticides, called neonicotinoids. Their possible role in the decline of honeybee populations in the USA and Europe has spurred intense debate among scientists, wildlife advocates and manufacturers, and the EPA is re-evaluating its registration of this class of insecticide.
from Associated Press:
Crippled Japanese nuclear plant suffers blackout
A power failure at Japan's tsunami-damaged nuclear plant on Monday night has left three fuel storage pools without fresh cooling water for hours, the plant's operator said. Tokyo Electric Power Co. said the power failure at the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant was brief at its command center but continued for hours at three of the seven fuel storage pools and at several other facilities, including one that treats water contaminated with radioactivity.
from Environmental Health News:
Fish lose sense of smell in polluted waters
Fish in lakes tainted with metals are losing their sense of smell, stoking concern among experts that the problem could devastate populations. But if the fish can just get into cleaner water -- even if they've been exposed to pollutants their whole life -- they start sniffing things properly again, according to new research out of Canada. Fish use their sense of smell to find mates and food, and to avoid getting eaten. It helps them navigate their often murky world, and it is necessary for their growth and survival. But when metals contact fish nostrils, the neurons shut down to protect the brain. "We've tested everything from leeches to water fleas to several species of fish,â€ť said Canadian scientist Greg Pyle. "Every species and every metal we've observed has had effects at low, environmentally relevant concentrations.â€ť
from Associated Press:
2,800 pigs dumped in Shanghai river raises concern
BEIJING--A surge in the dumping of dead pigs upstream from Shanghai--with more than 2,800 carcasses floating into the financial hub through Monday--has followed a police campaign to curb the illicit trade in sick pig parts. The effort to keep infected pork off dinner tables may be fueling new health fears, as Shanghai residents and local media fret over the possibility of contamination to the city's water supply, though authorities say no contamination has been detected. Authorities have been pulling out the swollen and rotting pigs, some with their internal organs visible, since Friday--and revolting images of the carcasses in news reports and online blogs have raised public ire against local officials.
from Midwest Energy News:
Report: A "ripped safety net" at Midwest nuclear plants
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has a "ripped nuclear safety net,â€ť according to a new study by the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS). The report, by nuclear engineer Dave Lochbaum, details 14 incidents in 2012 where the NRC did special inspections at reactors and considered that the likelihood of a core meltdown had increased at least 10-fold over normal circumstances. In the past three years, 40 of the nation's 104 reactors logged such incidents.
from Associated Press:
Women's Lifespan Declining For Some In US, Says Study
A new study offers more compelling evidence that life expectancy for some U.S. women is actually falling, a disturbing trend that experts can't explain. The latest research found that women age 75 and younger are dying at higher rates than previous years in nearly half of the nation's counties -- many of them rural and in the South and West. Curiously, for men, life expectancy has held steady or improved in nearly all counties. The study is the latest to spot this pattern, especially among disadvantaged white women. Some leading theories blame higher smoking rates, obesity and less education, but several experts said they simply don't know why.
Second sinkhole appears in Tampa area
A second sinkhole appeared in the Tampa area on Monday, just miles from one that opened beneath a home last week and swallowed a man from his bed, though the latest one appeared not to pose immediate danger, police said. The latest sinkhole opened between two homes and was about 12-feet round, 3 feet deep around the edge and about 5 feet deep in the center, said Hillsborough County spokesman Willie Puz. He said the latest sinkhole appears to be unrelated to the one that opened last Thursday under the home of 37-year-old Jeff Bush.
from Dave Weigel, in Slate:
"They're the Birthers of Fracking." A Conversation with Josh Fox.
... "I wouldn't blame a person for leasing if he's one mortgage payment away from foreclosure, and the lease can fix that," says Fox. "But these companies are exploitative. The government's not helping by providing a way out. These same people could lease their land for solar, we're one line change away in the solar power laws, to allow this. Instead, they're turning PA into Nigeria as we speak." Meaning: The fracking business is expanding faster than its affects can be studied. "The impacts of fracking go far beyond methane migration," says Fox. "Chemical migration has been confirmed by the industry. That's not surprising -- we're talking about wells up to three miles deep, with one inch of cement keeping the chemicals inside. We've seen industry documents saying 5 percent of wells fail immediately, and 50 percent to 60 percent fail over a 30-year period. And they have known about this problem for decades. The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection did the same thing, they had video of cracking cement. they didn't publish for 16 months until Rendell said, you should do something."
from Associated Press:
High-stakes trial begins over 2010 Gulf oil spill
BP put profits ahead of safety and bears most of the blame for the disastrous 2010 spill in the Gulf of Mexico, a U.S. Justice Department attorney charged Monday at the opening of a trial that could result in the oil company and its partners being forced to pay tens of billions of dollars more in damages... Justice Department attorney Mike Underhill said the catastrophe resulted from BP's "culture of corporate recklessness." "The evidence will show that BP put profits before people, profits before safety and profits before the environment," Underhill said in opening statements. He added: "Despite BP's attempts to shift the blame to other parties, by far the primary fault for this disaster belongs to BP."
from San Francisco Chronicle:
Toxic nap mats draw suit in Oakland
An Oakland watchdog group said Tuesday it is suing major manufacturers and retailers, including Target and Amazon.com, for selling nap mats made with a toxic flame retardant that is also a known carcinogen.... Many foam nap mats, which are widely used at places like day care centers, are doused with flame retardants linked to obesity, hormone disruption and infertility, according to the lawsuit. One of those flame retardants is chlorinated Tris, a carcinogen that was banned more than 30 years ago from children's pajamas, the group says. These chemicals are released into the air that infants and toddlers inhale as they doze on the mats, said Caroline Cox, the center's research director.
from Umea University:
Fish Become Bolder and More Gluttonous from Mood-Altering Drug Residue in Water
Anxiety-moderating drugs that reach waterways via wastewater create fearless and asocial fish that eat more quickly than normal. These behavioral changes can have serious ecological consequences.
Why Beef Is Becoming More Like Chicken: Cheap, uniform, and bland.
A new cattle drug called Zilmax is being widely used in the industrial feedlots where most of America's beef comes from, but not because it produces a better sirloin. In fact, it has been shown to make steak less flavorful and juicy than beef from untreated cattle. Many feedlot owners, big meatpackers, and at least one prominent industry group resisted the drug, worrying that the beef industry would turn off consumers if it started churning out lower-quality steaks. So what accounts for the sudden popularity of Zilmax? Zilmax is a highly effective growth drug, and it makes cattle swell up with muscle in the final weeks of their lives. And despite concerns within the industry, the economics of modern beef production have made the rise of Zilmax all but inevitable.... The drought created a perfect opening for Zilmax. Now, drug salesmen are roving Middle America, pitching Zilmax as an antidote to hard times in cattle country. With Zilmax, a feedlot owner can get more meat from a cow without feeding it any additional grain or letting it drink any additional water. According to one Zilmax salesman, using the drug could help a feedlot owner make about $30 in additional profit per cow by adding about 33 pounds of extra meat to each carcass.
Businesses balk at dealing with ocean threat
Business interests say a proposal to deal with the rising acidity of Washington's coastal waters is "not ready for prime time." The Association of Washington Business and the Washington Farm Bureau lined up Wednesday against a bill to create a council to advise the state government on how to tackle ocean acidification. The bill also calls for considering the acidity of water runoff in urban planning efforts. "Most of those recommendations (by a 2012 scientific, business and legislative panel on how to deal with ocean acidification) the business community doesn't believe are ready for prime time," AWB representative Brandon Houskeeper told the Senate Environment and Energy Committee.
from Brisbane Times:
Mutant cane toads invade Gladstone
A concerning rate of "mutant toads" with extra limbs and missing eyes are being found in the industrial Queensland city of Gladstone. Scott Wilson from Central Queensland University said up to 20 per cent of cane toads in certain areas in Gladstone were found with "malformations", compared with 1 per cent of the population in non-urban areas... Cane toads have been found with a fifth leg growing from their chest, while others have been found with missing limbs....Gladstone is home to a coal-fired power station, two aluminium refineries, and a developing liquefied natural gas industry.
from Yale Environment 300:
Mercury's Silent Toll On the World's Wildlife
This month, delegates from over 140 countries gathered in Geneva and finalized the first international treaty to reduce emissions of mercury. The treaty -- four years in the works and scheduled for signing in October -- aims to protect human health from this very serious neurotoxin. But barely considered during the long deliberations, according to those involved in the treaty process, was the harm that mercury inflicts on wildlife ... Lately, though, Hopkins and others have uncovered mercury in reptiles, amphibians, insects, spiders, terrestrial songbirds, and a wider variety of mammals than expected..
Beijing shuts factories, removes cars, but pollution stays high
Beijing temporarily shut down 103 heavily polluting factories and took 30 percent of government vehicles off roads to combat dangerously high air pollution, state media reported on Tuesday, but the capital's air remained hazardous despite the measures. Air quality in Beijing has mostly stayed above "very unhealthy" and "hazardous" levels for about two weeks. On Tuesday, it hit 517 on an index maintained by the U.S. Embassy in Beijing, which described the pollution as "Beyond Index".
Minor oil spills are often bigger than reported
By analysing satellite images, oceanographers have found that small oil spills in the heavily drilled northern Gulf of Mexico are often much larger than reported. The researchers presented their results last week at the Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill and Ecosystem Science Conference in New Orleans, Louisiana.
Crude oil spills into Mississippi River after oil barges crash
Two oil barges pushed by a tugboat slammed into a railroad bridge in Vicksburg, Mississippi, on Sunday, causing one to leak crude oil into the Mississippi River, the U.S. Coast Guard said. Officials used an "absorbent boom" to contain the undetermined amount of oil that leaked into the river after the collision, which occurred shortly after midnight and damaged both barges, Lieutenant Ryan Gomez said. The barge that is leaking was holding 80,000 gallons of light crude oil, he said....No one was injured in the accident.
Fukushima debris hits Hawaii
Debris set adrift by the 2011 Japanese tsunami has made its way to Hawaii, triggering concerns over the unknown effects of the radiation it may carry from the meltdown of the Fukushima reactor. Debris has washed ashore the islands of Oahu and Kauai and the state's Department of Health has been asked to test some of the incoming material for radiation levels. Refrigerator parts, oyster buoys, housing insulation, storage bins, soda bottles, toys, fishing nets, plastic trash cans and even Japanese net boats have all washed up on Hawaiian sands in the past few weeks, triggering serious environmental concerns over both water pollution and radiation exposure.... Aside from the unknown radiation risks, some of the debris is bringing invasive species to Hawaii, thereby threatening the island chain's ecosystem and introducing the possibility of consuming contaminated seafood. The 24-foot boat found by the fisherman was covered in blue mussels, which are native to Japan and harmful to Hawaii's marine life - especially the corals.
from London Daily Mail:
Sperm quality has declined by 38 percent in a decade
Sperm counts are falling at an alarming rate - up to 38 per cent in a decade - with diet and lifestyle largely to blame. A Spanish study has found that even in young men, sperm concentration fell by an average of two per cent a year - and could soon hit levels where fertility is compromised. A ten year-study of more than 200 men found the average concentration went from 72 million spermatozoids per millilitre in 2001 to 52 million/ml in 2011.... It is believed the trend is linked to diet, lifestyle and 'gender bender' chemicals - and possibly even tight underwear.... The findings also confirm research over the past 20 years that has shown sperm counts declining in many countries across the world.
Under A Cloud Of Austerity, Real Smoke Clouds Greece As Well
In this winter of austerity and Depression-era unemployment, a fog of woodsmoke hangs over the Greek capital on cold nights. It's coming from the tens of thousands of fireplaces and wood-burning stoves Athenians are using to heat their homes. Most can no longer afford heating oil, the price of which has risen 40 percent since last year. The government also cut a fuel subsidy for low-income families earlier this month. Some Greeks buy cheap firewood; others used their discarded Christmas trees as kindling. The most desperate are burning old furniture and raiding protected forests. Someone even hacked away the remains of a 3,000-year-old olive tree where Plato is said to have taught.
from The Times of India:
Thought Beijing air was bad? Delhi's no better
Beijing's air pollution made international news over the weekend when fine particulate matter (PM2.5) in the city air rose to an 'out-of-index' level of 755 mg/cu m. Pictures showed Beijing residents wearing masks amid advisories that they should stay indoors. Meanwhile, it was business as usual in Delhi on Monday when despite a clear windy day, the PM2.5 levels ranged from 130 to 565 mg/cu m. According to World Health Organization, the safe level of PM2.5 is 20 mg/cu m. The Indian standard for this pollutant -- that can cause respiratory illnesses and worsen heart ailments -- is 60 mg/cu m. On Monday, the highest value of 565 mg/cu m -- considered very hazardous -- was recorded at R K Puram for about two hours.
from London Independent:
Made in Britain: The toxic tetraethyl lead used in fuel sold to world's poorest
A British company convicted of bribing foreign officials to maintain sales of a poisonous lead fuel additive is continuing to sell the chemical abroad to unstable countries, despite mounting evidence that it is responsible for long- term damage to human health and may be linked to violent crime.
from New York Times:
On Scale of 0 to 500, Beijing's Air Quality Tops 'Crazy Bad' at 755
That day the Air Quality Index, which uses standards set by the United States Environmental Protection Agency, had crept above 500, which was supposed to be the top of the scale. So what phrase ["Crazy bad"] is appropriate to describe Saturday's jaw-dropping reading of 755 at 8 p.m., when all of Beijing looked like an airport smokers' lounge? Though an embassy spokesman said he did not immediately have comparative data, Beijing residents who follow the Twitter feed said the Saturday numbers appeared to be the highest recorded since the embassy began its monitoring system in 2008.
from Inside Climate News:
New York Times Dismantles Its Environment Desk
The New York Times will close its environment desk in the next few weeks and assign its seven reporters and two editors to other departments. The positions of environment editor and deputy environment editor are being eliminated. No decision has been made about the fate of the Green Blog, which is edited from the environment desk. "It wasn't a decision we made lightly," said Dean Baquet, the paper's managing editor for news operations. "To both me and Jill [Abramson, executive editor], coverage of the environment is what separates the New York Times from other papers. We devote a lot of resources to it, now more than ever. We have not lost any desire for environmental coverage. This is purely a structural matter."... Baquet said the change was prompted by the shifting interdisciplinary landscape of news reporting. When the desk was created in early 2009, the environmental beat was largely seen as "singular and isolated," he said. It was pre-fracking and pre-economic collapse. But today, environmental stories are "partly business, economic, national or local, among other subjects," Baquet said. "They are more complex. We need to have people working on the different desks that can cover different parts of the story."
from E&E Publishing:
Harmful algae blooms increase as water warms in the world's major lakes
The warming waters of one of central Europe's most popular holiday destinations, Switzerland's Lake Zurich, have created an ideal environment for a population explosion of algae including Planktothrix rubescens, a toxic cyanobacterium. It has the potential to harm humans, animals and the tourism that pumps up the economies of lake districts. Although harmful algal blooms have been documented for more than a century, recently the number and frequency of cases have drastically increased. According to research published in leading scientific journals, Lake Zurich is by no means alone. Cyanobacteria now threaten the ecological well-being of some of the world's largest water bodies, including Lake Victoria in Africa, Lake Erie in the United States and Canada, Lake Taihu in China, the Baltic Sea in northern Europe, and the Caspian Sea in west Asia.
from Associated Press:
EPA fracking study may dodge some tough questions
An ongoing U.S. Environmental Protection Agency study on natural gas drilling and its potential for groundwater contamination has gotten tentative praise so far from both industry and environmental groups. Glenn Paulson, the EPA's science adviser, describes the project as "one of the most aggressive public outreach programs in EPA history." The final report won't come out until late 2014. But a 275-page progress report was released in December and, for all its details, shows that the EPA doesn't plan to address one contentious issue -- how often drinking water contamination might occur ... for example, once every 100,000 wells or once every 1,000.
from Environmental Health News:
Study finds insecticide in Costa Rican children near banana and plantain plantations
Children living near traditional plantations in Costa Rica are exposed to twice as much of the insecticide chlorpyrifos compared to children living near organic plantations, a study reports. More than half of the 140 studied children -- mostly indigenous Ngabe and Bribri -- had higher daily exposures than what is considered safe by U.S. standards. Residential use of the pesticide, which has been linked to neurological effects in children, is banned in the United States, although it is still permitted on some crops. Costa Rica's banana and plantain plantations export products to U.S. and European markets.
from Anchorage Daily News:
Shell drilling rig grounds off Kodiak Island after towlines fail again
Royal Dutch Shell's Kulluk drilling rig, re-secured to two vessels with towlines early Monday, grounded around 9 p.m. in rocky water off the southern coast of Kodiak Island during a pounding Gulf of Alaska winter storm, according to the U.S. Coast Guard. The vessel grounded off Sitkalidak Island, at the northern end of Ocean Bay, officials said.... The grounding was the worst development yet in a crisis that began Thursday night when the $290 million, 266-foot-diameter Kulluk first lost a towline after the mechanical failure of a shackle used to connect it to the Aiviq. Crews struggled against worsening weather and a mobile drilling unit that was unmanned with no propulsion capability of its own.
from St. Louis Post-Dispatch:
One in five kids in parts of St. Louis area struggles with asthma
...Nationwide, about 1 in 10 children has asthma. But in some of the poorest areas in north St. Louis and St. Louis County, a staggering 1 in 5 has the chronic disease, recent studies have found. Asthma is a lung disease that causes episodes of breathing difficulty. But most people can live symptom-free if they receive medical care, use medications properly and limit triggers in their environment. Yet four children under age 15 died from asthma in the city and county in 2009 and 2010, the latest numbers available.
from Anchorage Daily News:
Tow lines reconnected to Shell drilling rig
...An unmanned mobile oil drilling rig owned by Royal Dutch Shell is adrift -- again -- south of Kodiak Island after it lost towlines Sunday afternoon from two vessels trying to hold it in place against what have been pummeling winds and high seas, according to incident management leaders.
from Environmental Health News:
Components of air pollution may increase the risk of stillbirth
Pregnant women exposed to higher levels of air pollution had a small increase in risk of stillbirth as compared to pregnant women exposed to lower levels of air pollution, found a study from New Jersey. Some of the air pollution components appeared to be more important risk factors early in pregnancy and some of the components appeared to be more important risk factors later in pregnancy. This study contributes to a small number of studies looking at air pollution and stillbirth, although not all studies have observed similar adverse associations. In the United States, about 1 in 160 pregnancies (26,000 per year) ends in stillbirth, defined as fetal death after the 20th week of gestation. Rates of stillbirth are higher in the United States than in many other developed countries.
from Associated Press:
West Coast girds for more tsunami debris in winter
Volunteers who patrol California beaches for plastic, cigarette butts and other litter will be on the lookout this winter for flotsam from last year's monstrous tsunami off Japan's coast... The March 2011 disaster washed about 5 million tons of debris into the sea. Most of that sank, leaving an estimated 1 1/2 million tons afloat. No one knows how much debris -- strewn across an area three times the size of the United States -- is still adrift.
from Los Angeles Times:
Wireless companies look to church towers for cell sites
To expand service, cellular phone companies are turning to a higher power. They're not increasing the wattage of their transmitters. They're looking for churches near residential areas willing to let them hide cell sites in steeples, belfries and crosses.
from London Guardian:
Pollution from car emissions killing millions in China and India
An explosion of car use has made fast-growing Asian cities the epicentre of global air pollution and become, along with obesity, the world's fastest growing cause of death according to a major study of global diseases. In 2010, more than 2.1m people in Asia died prematurely from air pollution, mostly from the minute particles of diesel soot and gasses emitted from cars and lorries. Other causes of air pollution include construction and industry. Of these deaths, says the study published in The Lancet, 1.2 million were in east Asia and China, and 712,000 in south Asia, including India.
Poisoning the Well: How the Feds Let Industry Pollute the Nation's Underground Water Supply
Federal officials have given energy and mining companies permission to pollute aquifers in more than 1,500 places across the country, releasing toxic material into underground reservoirs that help supply more than half of the nation's drinking water. In many cases, the Environmental Protection Agency has granted these so-called aquifer exemptions in Western states now stricken by drought and increasingly desperate for water.... The recent surge in domestic drilling and rush for uranium has brought a spike in exemption applications, as well as political pressure not to block or delay them, EPA officials told ProPublica. "The energy policy in the U.S is keeping this from happening because right now nobody -- nobody -- wants to interfere with the development of oil and gas or uranium," said a senior EPA employee who declined to be identified because of the sensitivity of the subject. "The political pressure is huge not to slow that down."
Conflicts, Errors Revealed In Positive Fracking Study
A report that shed favorable light on fracking is at the center of a controversy at the University of Texas ... The author of the study, Dr. Charles Groat, retired in the wake of the scathing review ... The original fracking study concluded that hydraulic fracturing was safe, the danger of water contamination low and suggestions to the contrary mostly media bias. But then it was reported this summer that Professor Groat sat on the board of a natural gas drilling company and received more than a million and a half dollars in compensation. That information was not disclosed in Groat's report.
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