Jul 28, 2015
The study consisted of 219 pollen samples and 53 honey samples from 62 hives in 10 counties in Massachusetts, Bhanoo writes. Honeybees, which pollinate $15 billion worth of crops, lost 42.1 percent of colonies last year, but overall colony numbers are the highest in 20 years. The study is behind a paywall.
Jul 24, 2015
Elizabeth Grossman, Contributing Writer, Earth Island Journal
If you think every chemical used in every consumer product on our store shelves has been tested and deemed safe, think again. If you think current laws in the United States explicitly prohibit the use of some of the most hazardous chemicals, such as asbestos, in consumer products, think again.
Photo by Laura Gilmore Asbestos in kids crayons — what's TSCA reform got to do with it?
Last week, new test reports released by the Environmental Working Group Action Fund found asbestos in children's crayons. This is alarming, given that even small amounts of asbestos exposure can cause serious and even fatal lung disease. What may be even more disturbing is that asbestos' presence in these crayons is not explicitly prohibited by the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), the primary law that regulates chemicals used commercially in the US.
The US Environmental Protection Agency has been struggling to regulate the more than 84,000 chemicals now registered for commerce in the US using this nearly 40-year-old act that hasn't been updated since it was signed into law in 1976 by President Gerald Ford. Now, after almost six years of wrangling, Congress is poised to act on legislation to reform TSCA. The House has passed its TSCA reform bill (H.R. 2576) and the Senate is expected to vote on its bill (S. 697) perhaps even before Congress breaks for its August recess.
Everyone — from the EPA to environmental health advocates to chemical industry representatives — agrees that TSCA is outdated and ineffective and badly in need of revision. There is also wide agreement that there's enough momentum behind the issue to make it very likely that the two bills will be voted on before Labor Day and sent to the president's desk this year.
Yet whether these bills will ensure meaningful improvement in how the US manages chemicals continues to be a matter of considerable debate among those who've been watching this process closely. Before wading into the weeds it's worth stepping back to ask what TSCA does, does not do and what changes the House and Senate bills propose.
The most basic thing that TSCA does is require that the EPA keep a current list of all chemicals used commercially in the US. That list, known as the TSCA Inventory, now includes more than 84,000 chemicals, but it does not include pesticides, pharmaceuticals, or chemicals used in food, cosmetics and personal care products. Other laws regulate those.
TSCA does not, however, require that the listed chemicals be tested for a full range of environmental and human health effects before they're put into use. While TSCA does require manufacturers to submit certain information on new chemicals to the EPA, there are some 60,000 chemicals that were in use at the time TSCA was enacted that were allowed to continue being used without any additional safety testing or review. This has meant that these chemicals – that include some of those most widely used such as bipshenol A (BPA), formaldehyde, many flame retardants and plasticizers – have been assumed to be safe, even though we don't know whether they are so or not.
Under TSCA the EPA has been reviewing chemicals — assessing their safety and issuing what it considers "safe" exposure levels. But this process has been extremely slow, with some individual chemical evaluations taking decades to complete. In those instances when a chemical's use has actually been restricted or discontinued, it's often been under voluntary agreements with manufacturers or because the chemical is no longer in use.
Complicating and further limiting what we know about chemicals on the TSCA inventory is the fact that TSCA allows manufacturers to claim some information submitted to the EPA – including the chemical's identity – as a trade secret.
While TSCA does include some restrictions and even bans on some uses of hazardous chemicals, including PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls) and lead, it makes it very difficult to actually restrict the use of chemicals found to be hazardous after they're on the market. To do so — or even to require testing of a chemical already in use — whoever (EPA included) claims the chemical is harmful must present evidence of that harm. Not only is the level of such proof TSCA requires extremely high, but the law also requires that risk of harm be reduced in the way that's "least burdensome" to the chemical manufacturer.
Asbestos is perhaps the prime example of how hard TSCA makes it for the EPA to completely prohibit a chemical's use. While TSCA does bar some uses of asbestos — in certain insulation products — it does not keep them out of all products, including those like children's crayons that may contain talc contaminated with asbestos, an issue about which federal health authorities have been aware since 2000.
"These toys are an example of a failed system in which voluntary action by industry doesn't completely clean up products in the market," says EWG senior analyst, Sonya Lunder and co-author of the asbestos-in-crayons report.
"Since 1976, TSCA has failed to protect Americans from asbestos and thousands of other chemicals," Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization president and CEO, Linda Reinstein told EIJ via email. "The time is now for Congress to pass real TSCA reform that ensures the EPA can expeditiously review and take action to ban asbestos. Enough is enough."
So what are the House and Senate proposing and will it be "real" TSCA reform?
Both bills largely concur on what needs fixing in TSCA, but how effectively they do so depends on who you ask.
Among the big ticket items being tackled by both bills are — the pace of the EPA's chemical assessments and how the EPA prioritizes chemicals for safety review; how TSCA handles companies' confidential business information or trade secrets claims; amending TSCA's "least burdensome" requirement on chemical restrictions and its definition of chemicals that may pose an "unreasonable risk" of harmful exposure. The other extremely big-ticket item on the table is how a revised TSCA will work with state and other local level chemical regulations.
This last issue is huge since in the absence of effective federal regulation on chemicals, states have been busy filling in the gaps. There are now some 172 individual laws regulating chemicals in about 35 states and an additional 100-plus similar bills have been under consideration in 28 states this year. These regulations range from laws restricting specific uses of individual chemicals to ones – such as those in Maine and Washington — that require manufacturers to report on use of scores of potentially hazardous chemicals used in children's products or California's Proposition 65 that sets limits on and requires businesses to warn the public about possible exposure to carcinogens, reproductive and developmental toxins.
Whether in California, with its enormous economy, or in a small state like Maine, these state laws are having a huge influence on the consumer marketplace, in many cases prompting manufacturers to change product formulations even without any federal restrictions.
The Senate bill, sponsored by Democrat Senator Tom Udall and Republican Senator David Vitter, now has nearly 50 co-sponsors (a nearly equal mix of Democrats and Republicans). It also has the support of a large coalition of business groups, including the American Chemistry Council, US Chamber of Commerce, Consumer Electronics Association and CropLife America. Others supporting the bill include the National Wildlife Federation, March of Dimes and the Humane Society of the United States.
"From our perspective the Senate bill is a much stronger package, having been negotiated for a longer period of time," says Environmental Defense Fund senior scientist Richard Denison. The House bill, Denison says, "is more piecemeal and from our perspective that's a problem because it leaves out major areas of TSCA. The Senate bill has tackled those in a more comprehensive way."
Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families, a coalition of more than 450 environmental, health and consumer advocacy groups across the country, is endorsing neither bill but prefers the House approach, which is now being supported by the National Governors Association, National Conference of State Legislatures and the Environmental Council of States. The House bill "needs fewer tweaks to make modest reforms," says Tony Iallonardo, Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families communications director.
Both EDF and Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families have released side-by-side comparisons of the two bills. A close read of both the legislation and the comparisons suggests that the devil is indeed in the details and that anyone hoping to see state chemicals laws continue unimpeded by TSCA as they are now, will be disappointed.
Some critics, like Scott Faber, EWG senior vice-president for government affairs, say that both bills fall short of what's needed.
"Ordinary people expect that chemicals, especially the most dangerous chemicals, have been reviewed by a government agency and are shocked," that they are not, Faber told EIJ. The legislation now under consideration "won't change that," he said. His big concern: that neither bill will require the EPA to act quickly enough on reviewing and potentially restricting use of the most dangerous chemicals, including asbestos.
Perhaps the big take-away is that even if new legislaton gets adopted, it's not going to lead to an overnight change in the way potentially toxic chemicals are regulated in this country.
"It's going to take time to deal with this problem," Denison says. But, he says, "it's important that we get started… on shifting away from this system that puts all of the onus on EPA to find harm."Elizabeth Grossman, Contributing Writer, Earth Island Journal
Jul 23, 2015
The 2:41 a.m. earthquake on the border of Fremont and Union City occurred on the Hayward Fault at a depth of 5 miles. The epicenter was at a spot just north of the intersection of Niles Canyon Road and Mission Boulevard.
The quake caused some BART delays early Tuesday while work crews checked the tracks, but appears to have caused no major damage. At least 13 smaller quakes or aftershocks had been reported near the same location as of 6:42 a.m., the largest of which was a 2.7-magnitude at 2:56 a.m.
While damage from the quake was minimal, scientists warn that a much larger one is expected on the Hayward Fault, which extends from San Pablo Bay in the north to Fremont in the south and passes through heavily populated areas including Berkeley, Oakland, Hayward and Fremont.
The last big earthquake on the fault, estimated to have a 6.8-magnitude, occurred in 1868, according to the USGS.
Therefore, with massive bee die-offs (otherwise known as 'colony collapse disorder'), it has been the plight of many scientists, beekeepers, and educated activists to do whatever it takes to ensure bees survive.
Some theories exist as to what is causing colony collapse, such as Monsanto's GMO crops, the insecticides used to treat them, and EMF frequencies from excessive technological use… but debate persists.
In wake of all the controversy, the German Beekeepers Association (DIB), which represents almost 100,000 beekeepers, decided to take action by calling for a nationwide ban on GMO cultivation. The news comes from a report published by the German NGO keine-gentechnik.de.
As GMWatch shares, this call for a ban follows controversial legislation allowing EU member states to opt-out of GM cultivation, even though it has been approved at the European Union level.
As might be expected, many pro-GMO advocates are angry about the new law, calling it "unfounded," and stating that it "lacks scientific justification." Many non-GMO supporters – especially beekeepers – stand strong in their stance, however, and point to the many documented dangers (and unproven suspicions) of genetically modified foods. They also bring to attention the known damage caused by herbicides and pesticides used to grow them, as well as the decimation of pollinating insects.
Beekeepers are hoping that the Agriculture Minister Christian Schmidt (CSU) will soon administer a nationwide ban. At this point, they – and the rest of the world – need action to be taken to preserve the declining numbers of pollinating bees. So far, the Minister has argued in favor of allowing each state individually decide if they will ban GMOs.
Because bees can fly up to eight kilometers to pollinate and search for food, this is far from the compromise bee advocates are seeking. Even if one state banned GM crops, cross-contamination from crops of a nearby state could occur, further harming bee populations.
Beekeepers state that this would be "environmentally and agriculturally unacceptable."
In addition, the exposure of bees to biotech chemicals like glyphosate (which was determined to be 'probably carcinogenic' by the WHO's IARC), would no doubt compromise their numbers even more.
We agree with the DIB's statement: "Bees know no borders."
For this reason, it is essential individuals recognize the importance of bees and band together to demand a ban on GMOs in their own country. No doubt a ban so large will be tough to uphold, but at this point measures must be taken.
Jul 22, 2015
Global expenditures for wind turbine operations and maintenance (O&M) will reach $17 billion by 2020, from $9.25 billion in 2014, according to report from consultancy GlobalData.
According to GlobalData, an aging turbine fleet and a preponderance of offshore wind installations are the catalysts for the rise.
The report, "Global Wind Turbine Operations & Maintenance Market, Update 2015 - Market Size, Major Contenders, Trends, and Analysis to 2020," finds that offshore wind O&M is two to four times more expensive than its onshore counterpart. Offshore wind power accounted for about 2.4% of the world's cumulative wind power capacity in 2014 but accounts for approximately 10% of the global wind O&M market.
Because it contributes to value creation, increases turbine availability and boosts returns, wind farm O&M is critical, according to Harshavardhan Reddy Nagatham, GlobalData's analyst covering power.
"Regular O&M reduces the downtime of a turbine and optimizes electricity generation, which leads to an increase in revenue," he says. "In optimal conditions, O&M activity guarantees a useful life of 20 years for a wind farm, which is further extended through improvements and adaptations during the later years of its lifecycle.
"A wind farm's O&M costs account for 10 percent to 15 percent of the total cost of power generation in an onshore wind farm and 25 percent in an offshore wind farm. Offshore wind maintenance is more expensive as it requires specialists to lift and install components during repairs and general maintenance, while accessibility for scheduled O&M work can be hampered by harsh weather conditions."
Nagatham adds that while the onshore wind O&M market was valued at over nine times that of its offshore equivalent in 2014, the offshore arena is set to expand at a much faster rate over the forecast period.
"The global onshore wind O&M market is forecast to grow in value from $8.34 billion in 2014 to $13.43 billion by 2020, at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 9.2 percent.
"However, the offshore wind O&M market value will increase at a rapid CAGR of 26 percent, from an estimated $0.91 billion in 2014 to $3.57 billion by 2020, boosting its share from 9.8 percent to 21 percent."
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Polylactic acid (PLA) is a biodegradable bioplastic that is already used to produce a variety of everyday items, such as cups, trays, bowls and vegetable wrapping foil. Unfortunately, the current PLA production process is expensive and produces waste. Researchers at the KU Leuven Centre for Surface Chemistry and Catalysis in Belgium have now developed a new production technique that is cheaper and greener and makes PLA a more attractive alternative to petroleum-based plastics... Continue Reading New production process makes PLA bioplastic cheaper and greener
Jul 17, 2015
Neonicotinoid's are the world's most widely used insecticides.
"The results from this study not only replicate findings from the previous study, but also reinforce the conclusion that the sublethal exposure to neonicotinoids is likely the main culprit for the occurrence of CCD."
These pesticide components are found in soil, they are also found in fields where the chemicals are not even sprayed. Bees also actively transfer contaminated pollen from primarily pesticide treated corn crops and bring it back to their hives.
Jul 16, 2015
Please continue reading from: Environmental Health News
Jul 15, 2015
Determining whether wind turbine noise causes adverse health effects is an important issue. In response to public concern, Health Canada asked the Council of Canadian Academies to conduct an in-depth expert panel assessment. The Panel's report presents findings on the acoustic characteristics of wind turbine noise; evidence on causal relationships between exposure to wind turbine noise and adverse health effects; knowledge gaps and further research; and promising practices to reduce adverse community response. The resulting report is evidence-based and does not espouse recommendations. Its purpose, rather, is to assess the scientific evidence on the question of wind turbine noise and human health in order to provide a foundation of knowledge to support governments, policy-makers, communities, and the industry.
The Panel used a comprehensive approach to identify and review relevant research. They identified 32 symptoms and health outcomes that have been attributed to exposure to wind turbine noise by members of the general public (e.g., annoyance, sleep disturbance, stress, irregular heartbeat, muscle pain etc.). The Panel then reviewed the empirical research for those symptoms and selected 38 key papers that constituted the core evidence base for their assessment. After completing their assessment the report was sent out for an anonymous peer review. The final report is reflective of the input that came from the peer-review process.
It should be noted that the Panel's ability to fully assess the prevalence of adverse health effects was limited by a lack of available data. As a result, the report outlines where more research is required in order to fill knowledge gaps, including for vulnerable populations.
The Panel has 11 main findings that are outlined in the full report. Some findings include:
- The evidence is sufficient to establish a causal relationship between exposure to wind turbine noise and annoyance.
- There is limited evidence to establish a causal relationship between exposure to wind turbine noise and sleep disturbance.
- The evidence suggests a lack of causality between exposure to wind turbine noise and hearing loss.
- For all other health effects considered (fatigue, tinnitus, vertigo, nausea, dizziness, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, etc.), the evidence was inadequate to come to any conclusion about the presence or absence of a causal relationship with exposure to wind turbine noise.
- Technological development is unlikely to resolve, in the short term, the current issues related to perceived adverse health effects of wind turbine noise.
- Impact assessments and community engagement provide communities with greater knowledge and control over wind energy projects and therefore help limit annoyance.
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Dr. Paul Lioy, a brilliant exposure scientist, leader in environmental and occupational health... he will be sorely missed.
Dr. Paul Lioy's outstanding work was part of the successful scientific arguments enabling the building workers union members to achieve their settlement last month. He was on the faculty of Rutgers University School of Public Health, in Piscataway, N.J. He was major leader in environmental and occupational health and will be sorely missed.
NYT obituary for Dr. Paul Lioy,
The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration promised the move would bring closer scrutiny for DuPont facilities around the country, but did not fully explain how agency inspectors would apply the initiative to three dozen facilities — including two in West Virginia — that DuPont last week spun off into a separate company called Chemours.
"OSHA is currently evaluating how to proceed further in this case," agency spokesman Juan J. Rodriguez said in an email response to questions about the situation.
In May, OSHA had proposed $99,000 in fines for violations related to the Nov. 15 leak of methyl mercaptan that killed four workers at the Texas facility. On Thursday, agency officials announced another $274,000 in proposed fines for additional violations OSHA inspectors found in an expanded review at the La Porte operation.
OSHA also said it was adding DuPont to what agency officials call their "Severe Violator Enforcement Program," or SVEP. An agency press release said the program "concentrates resources on inspecting employers who have demonstrated indifference towards creating a safe and healthy workplace by committing willful or repeated violations, and/or failing to abate known hazards." The program "also mandates follow-up inspections to ensure compliance with the law," the release said.
"DuPont promotes itself as having a 'world-class safety' culture and even markets its safety expertise to other employers, but these four preventable workplace deaths and the very serious hazards we uncovered at this facility are evidence of a failed safety program," said David Michaels, the Obama administration's assistant secretary of labor in charge of OSHA.
Dan Taylor, a DuPont spokesman, said that the company "is disappointed with OSHA's classification" and would "be working with the agency to understand its decision."
Jeff Dugas, a spokesman for the Keep Your Promises DuPont campaign, which has been monitoring impacts of the Chemours spinoff, said his organization wanted to take a closer look at how OSHA would be treating the former DuPont facilities now owned by the Chemours.
"It would certainly seem to me that the spinoff should not be an excuse for any recently spun-off DuPont facilities to escape any additional regulatory scrutiny," Dugas said Friday....
Read full from Ken Ward Jr., Staff writer at wvgazette.com and follow @kenwardjr on Twitter.
Jul 14, 2015
California Loses Important EPA Tool to Handle Nuclear Disaster...Decision Could Leave CA Vulnerable to Nuclear Disaster
It's a move some lawmakers and emergency response experts believe could leave California vulnerable.
For years, the United States Environmental Protection Agency has housed their Mobile Environmental Radiation Lab, or "MERL," in Las Vegas, so it could respond to a nuclear incident on the West Coast within hours. But today, the agency began moving the lab — comprised of two large trucks — to a new home at an EPA radiation office in Montgomery, Alabama.
"It's the best radioactivity lab I've seen on wheels and it's better than most stationary radioactivity labs," said Professor Vern Hodge of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, who teaches nuclear science at the campus near the MERL's former home.
Decision Could Leave CA Vulnerable to Nuclear Disaster
"If they move this asset, they are on purpose jeopardizing the lives of people," Hodge added.
Nuclear radiation experts, including current and former employees, tell the NBC4 I-Team that if there was a dirty bomb detonated in the LA area, or an accident at a nuclear power plant, the MERL could quickly identify radiation in the air, water, and soil, and the MERL staff could then help emergency responders decide when and where to evacuate people.
When the MERL was housed in Las Vegas, it could get to a nuclear incident in California's biggest cities within hours. Now, once it arrives at its new base in Alabama, it could take five days or longer to respond to a disaster on the West Coast.
"Do you want to be the one who says 'I decided to get rid of this laboratory,' and then (an incident) happens?" asked Dr. Richard Flotard, a retired US-EPA radiation chemist. Flotard was among the current and former EPA officials who told the I-Team they opposed moving the emergency lab so far from California.
The EPA official in charge of the MERL, Mike Flynn, said he was moving the lab to Alabama to save money, where there's a second MERL that will be taken out of service. "We don't have the resources to support two, and also we can accomplish our mission with one," Flynn said.
But lawmakers in several western states asked the EPA in recent weeks to leave the lab in Las Vegas. Gov. Jerry Brown's Office of Emergency Services told the EPA in a letter that it "strongly objects" to moving the MERL so far from California.
But the EPA moved ahead with its decision, and Monday morning, without an announcement, rolled the lab out of Las Vegas, beginning its journey to Alabama.
Life on Earth has always been dependent on the conditions of the Sun, so scientists spend a lot of time studying its activity. A recent announcement from solar scientists suggests that the Sun may soon enter a period of significant reduced activity, possibly causing a mini ice age by 2030 – just 15 years from now.
These predictions were announced at the National Astronomy Meeting in Llandudno, Wales, so it hasn't been possible to evaluate the research yet. However, Professor Valentina Zharkova from the University of Northumbria who made this announcement claims that the findings come from a computer model of sunspots that has made "unprecedentedly accurate predictions," as reported in The Telegraph.
The model has shown to have a 97% accuracy when mapping the past movements of sunspots, using data of solar cycles from 1976 to 2008. And if this reliability continues, then the model also has some alarming predictions for the future: a mini ice age sometime around the 2030s.
To achieve these findings, the scientists mapped the movement of solar fluid that moves in roughly 11-year cycles, which correspond to weather cycles on Earth. Around the year 2022 (labeled cycle 25), a pair of waves will be moving to the Northern and Southern Hemispheres of the Sun, getting slowly out of synch and reducing solar activity – and thus our warm weather.
"In cycle 26, the two waves exactly mirror each other – peaking at the same time but in opposite hemispheres of the Sun. Their interaction will be disruptive, or they will nearly cancel each other. We predict that this will lead to the properties of a 'Maunder minimum'," said Zharkova.
Mozilla Firefox has blocked Adobe Flash, due to its horrible ongoing security problems. The block will last until you're running a version with all known vulnerabilities patched.
After the earlier revelations of three unpatched "zero-day" vulnerabilities in Flash, luminaries from Firefox and Facebook are saying, "Enough is enough!"
In IT Blogwatch, bloggers secure their sensitive endpoints.
Your humble blogwatcher curated these bloggy bits for your entertainment.
Jul 10, 2015
Don Torino remembers past summers when monarch butterflies could be seen in every corner of the Teaneck Creek Conservancy as they made their famed 6,000-mile round trip between Canada and Mexico.
But their numbers have plummeted in the past few years, to the point where a sighting of a single orange and black monarch can lead to email chains and Facebook posts.
"If I can count five in the last two years, that's a lot," said Torino, president of the Bergen County Audubon Society, who sports colorful tattoos of butterflies on his arms. "They're not here anymore."
It's not just Teaneck. The monarch population has declined 90 percent in the U.S., from 1 billion in 1996 to about 100 million today, according to the federal government. While monarchs have been hit hard by a number of factors, much of their decline has been attributed to the gradual loss of milkweed, the only plant a monarch's larvae will eat.
The drop in the butterfly population has not gone unnoticed by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which launched the Save the Monarch campaign this year, in part because it is one of the few insects that can pollinate over long distances, helping plant colonies to thrive.
Key to the effort is reestablishing milkweed. The skyrocketing use of the chemical glyphosate, the key ingredient in many herbicides, including the widely popular Roundup, has been blamed for milkweed's decline.
But while the Obama administration has been praised for the campaign, it has been criticized by environmentalists for turning down a formal petition last month to limit glyphosate use.
"The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency apparently plans to study the monarch migration to extinction," said Sylvia Fallon, a senior scientist with the Natural Resources Defense Council, which had asked the agency for greater regulations on glyphosate. "Everyone loves the monarchs, including the Obama White House. But love isn't going to save monarchs from glyphosate."
Although Roundup has been around since the Monsanto Co. introduced it in the 1970s, its use by farmers has increased exponentially in recent years, since Monsanto introduced genetically modified crops like corn and soybeans that are not harmed by glyphosate. These "Roundup Ready" crops have become popular, especially at large Midwestern farms, because it's easier to kill weeds, including milkweed.
A Monsanto spokeswoman would not say whether Roundup has affected the monarch population, but the company has pledged this year to donate $4 million to restore milkweed habitats.
The White House released plans in May to create a 1,500-mile "butterfly highway" in the country's midsection by planting milkweed and restoring habitats friendly to migrating monarchs.
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Jul 9, 2015
FEDS FIND GAPING HOLES IN CAL/OSHA SAFETY NET Serious Enforcement and Inspection Failures Put California Workers at Risk
Contact: Leola Webb (202) 265-7337
Washington, DC — The, U.S. Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) has cited the worker health and safety program in California for falling below minimum performance standards in response to a complaint filed by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). As a result, the state
Division of Occupational Safety & Health (Cal/OSHA) must upgrade its enforcement and inspection programs or face a variety of federal sanctions.
In a letter to PEER dated June 26, 2015, OSHA Area Director David Shiraishi upheld the bulk of the "Complaint about State Program Administration" that PEER filed in February 2014. In its review, OSHA found that Cal/OSHA:
- Fails to conduct an adequate number of inspections in dangerous workplaces and fails to follow its own policy of doing follow-up inspections on serious violators;
- Does not issue citations in a timely manner, thus delaying hazard abatement and prolonging dangerous conditions. OSHA found the "amount of time Cal/OSHA takes to issue citations is 69% longer than OSHA for safety inspections and 33% longer for health inspections"; and
- Takes too long to respond to worker complaints of unsafe or unhealthy conditions. Cal/OSHA "averaged almost working four days to initiate investigations for complaints alleging serious hazards" with one serious complaint sitting 106 days. For non-serious complaints, Cal/OSHA averaged more than two weeks before inspecting with one case sitting 300 days.
The OSHA letter contains recommendations for how Cal/OSHA can remedy the identified failures while concluding that "the State Plan is required to remedy these deficiencies." Like California, nearly half the states are funded by OSHA to operate their own state plans which, by law, must be at least as effective as the federal program. This finding means that California is not meeting that minimum threshold.
"California workers are more at risk than those in other states and have less protection on the job now than at any other time in a generation," stated PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch, noting that California has more game wardens than workplace inspectors. "This is a failing grade that Cal/OSHA cannot ignore if it wants to keeps its doors open."
Under Governor Brown, Cal/OSHA has suffered from a leadership revolving door and a siphoning off of funding for other programs. The last OSHA annual audit in 2014 confirmed that Cal/OSHA "remains understaffed and, as a result, is challenged to fulfill its important mission."
The only PEER charge that OSHA did not sustain was that OSHA failed to conduct an adequate number of health inspections. OSHA found that while the number of Cal/OSHA health inspections actually decreased, the ratio of health versus safety inspections increased.
"In California, environmental protection stops at the factory door," added Ruch. "The Golden State often justifiably prides itself for being a national trendsetter but in terms of worker health and safety California is leading a race to the bottom."
Read more of this story at Slashdot.
Jul 8, 2015
In short, the business of recycling in the US has stalled. And industry leaders warn that the situation is worse than it appears. "If people feel that recycling is important – and I think they do, increasingly – then we are talking about a nationwide crisis," said David Steiner, chief executive of Waste Management, America's largest recyclerRecycling in Washington is now costing the city $63 per ton - more than the cost of incinerating or even landfilling. The recyclers are getting far less than they used to; glass is almost worthless, paper a fraction of what it used to be. Only cardboard is holding up, because of the demand for boxes for all those Amazon purchases we are making.
Interestingly, the manufacturers are contributing to the problem by making packaging with less material; the bottled water people makers proudly talk about how they are using less plastic, but now the bottles are so light that they don't get properly separated, and the recyclers are handling the same number of pieces and getting less material out of it.
Even when it pays, recycling is a sham; for most non-metals, it's all downcycling to a lower quality material in a lower quality product, bottles into lawn chairs and plastic lumber, glass into roadbeds.
So in the end, the consumer is subsidizing the manufacturers of pop and beer who won't sell refillable containers, the bottled water makers who have convinced us to buy a product we don't need, the takeout and packaged food containers that we purchase for convenience.
Then there are the green bins that many cities are using to keep organic waste out of the landfills, turning it into compost. In one Canadian city, the taxpayers are paying C$654 per ton to get rid of it. "At this price, kitchen scraps become more valuable than rice ($563), wheat ($323) or corn ($306) according to commodity markets." You know something is wrong with the system when food is cheaper than compost.
Of course there are solutions to the problem that consumers and governments could do.
- Producer responsibility. Make the people who sell us stuff responsible from start to finish, whether by making their products reusable, having take-back programs like Dell and Apple do, or charge the producers for the cost of taking their stuff away instead of charging the consumer through taxes.
- Deposits on everything. In countries with returnable beer bottles, everyone takes them back for the deposit. In Ontario where there are deposits on wine bottles, it is an industry for the homeless and the poor. If there was a deposit on every Starbucks and Tim Hortons paper cup, a lot more people would probably use refillable containers.
- Consumer education. Really, how long have we been trying to get people to stop buying bottled water? We have to turn it into the new smoking. Make zero waste living the cool new thing.
- Better food management. That's what the green bins are full of- the stuff that rots in the fridge or the excess scraped off the plates. Perhaps some stems and cuttings and peels from people who do actually cook themselves, but that's a small proportion of it.
Reuters: Heroin overdose deaths in the United States nearly quadrupled between 2002 and 2013, fueled by lower costs as well as increased abuse of prescription opiate painkillers, U.S. health officials said on Tuesday.
The report found that heroin use increased by 63 percent from 2002 to 2013. In 2013, roughly 517,000 people reported that they had used heroin in the last year, a 150 percent increase from 2007. As many as 8,200 people died from heroin overdoses in 2013 alone.
Such medicines, which include Vicodin, OxyContin and Percocet, increase individuals' susceptibility to heroin addiction, Dr. Thomas Frieden, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told Reuters.
"Everything we see points to more accessible, less-expensive heroin all over the country," Frieden said of the joint report by the CDC and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration which analyzed national survey data on drug use from 2002 to 2013.
The report found that nearly all people (96 percent) who use heroin also use multiple other substances, and that the strongest risk factor for heroin abuse is prescription opiate abuse. In recent years people in nearly every demographic group are using the drug more: For example, heroin use has doubled among women.
According to the report, individuals who abuse prescription opiates have a 40 times greater risk of abusing heroin. The increased use has fueled sharp increases in overdose deaths.
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Jul 7, 2015
The Zoku Loft is a 269 square foot (25 sq m) micro apartment, which is unique in that it can act as both a home as well as a home office. Given the limited space the architects had to work with, it is impressive just how much functionality they were able to squeeze into it.
The Zoku Loft apartment features a small kitchen, a living area, a bathroom, a lofted bedroom hidden behind a screen, and a recessed working area, which is separated off from the main part of the apartment, and located in a small hallway. According to Zoku Loft co-founder and managing director Hans Meyer the design of this living/working space is an answer to the changing paradigm of today's working and leisure life, which are becoming more and more blended with the boundaries between them starting to fade.
The loft basically divides the apartment space into two areas, namely the living space and the working space. This is achieved via a built in central unit, which rises up to create the bedroom and a hallway. On one side the unit contains the bathroom, while on the other there is an alcove working desk and lots of storage space. One side of the unit contains a small kitchen.
The living area features more storage, complete with a wardrobe, ample shelving and a TV placed into an alcove in the unit. There is also a unique retractable staircase that leads to the bedroom, and which slides in and out of the unit, effectively saving space. The wooden screens that shield the bedroom from the rest of the apartment offer privacy for when guests come over, or if the apartment is used for a business meeting. Despite its small area, the apartment also features a dining table that can seat four people and is great for eating, as well as working or relaxing.
The Zoku Loft is intended to be rented out to short-stay guests. The creators of the concept are planning to open the first Zoku hotel in Amsterdam by the end of 2015, with more to follow elsewhere around the world.
Gizmag: A photoelectrochemical cell (PEC) is a special type of solar cell that gathers the Sun's energy and transforms it into either electricity or chemical energy used to split water and produce hydrogen for use in fuel cells. In an advance that could help this clean energy source play a stronger role within the smart grid, researchers at the University of Texas, Arlington have found a way to store the electricity generated by a PEC cell for extended periods of time and allow electricity to be delivered around the clock... Continue Reading New energy cell can store up solar energy for release at night
Jul 6, 2015
Scientific American [feedly], India—On a drizzly Monday afternoon here a few weeks ago, patients crowded around a door in a hallway in P. D. Hinduja Hospital—a private, nonprofit facility that caters to around 350,000 people per year. There is a loud, steady roar of voices, and patients and nurses have to shoulder past one another to get through the door, which leads to the office of lung specialist Zarir Udwadia. The walls are clean and white, and the air carries the tangy smell of disinfectant.
Against one of those white walls a grizzled old man with a breathing tube in his nose lies moaning on a stretcher. Nearby, clutching a sheaf of prescriptions, the father of a sick college student tries to catch the attention of one of Udwadia's assisting physicians. Several families have traveled thousands of kilometers to be here. Many of these patients, like 19-year-old Nisha, an engineering student from the central state of Madhya Pradesh, have tuberculosis (TB). Nisha, who asked that her real name be withheld, has been treated for lung problems for more than a year, only to learn that inaccurate diagnoses and prescription errors have supercharged the disease rather than curing it. "My doctors kept on changing the drugs," says Nisha. Dressed in jeans and a floral-print blouse and black Buddy Holly–style horn-rimmed glasses, she speaks in a bright, optimistic voice, although her battle with TB has left her anorexic-thin.
By exposing Nisha's TB to various drugs without wiping it out, her doctors just made it stronger, a problem that Udwadia—the doctor who first identified extreme drug resistance in the germ—and other health experts say is becoming increasingly widespread in India. Too few diagnostic laboratories, too many poorly-trained health practitioners and thousands of infected people living in crowded, unsanitary conditions has made India home to the world's largest epidemic of drug-resistant TB. More than two million Indians every year get the highly contagious disease, and a patient dies every two minutes. Around 62,000 of these people harbor TB that is immune to at least four types of drugs, according to the World Health Organization, and as many as 15,000 may have an even more dangerous type called "extensively drug-resistant" TB that fights off almost every antibiotic in the medical arsenal.
Now, difficult-to-kill TB is no longer just India's nightmare. In June U.S. health authorities confirmed that an Indian patient carried this extreme form of the infection, called XDR-TB, across the ocean to Chicago. The patient drove from there to visit relatives as far away as Tennessee and Missouri. Health officials in several states are tracking down everyone with whom the patient—who is now quarantined and being treated at the National Institutes of Health in Maryland—had prolonged contact. The disease can be cured in only 30 percent of patients and sometimes requires surgery to remove infected parts of lungs. Although TB's slow rate of infection makes explosive epidemics unlikely, the Chicago episode shows how easy it might be for the illness to become a worldwide export.
Jul 2, 2015
The Milwaukee-based organization promotes awareness of sustainable building practices through programs including annual awards recognizing newly built projects, as well as community and educational projects like the 30x30 Nature Challenge and the Green Apple Day of Service program.
The 22-year-old U.S. Green Building Council, based in Washington, D.C., is responsible for certifying green buildings under the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, or LEED, initiative.
Rob Zimmerman, president of the Wisconsin organization, called the move to integrate with the 22-year-old national organization "a strategic business decision which will allow us to enhance our operations and strengthen our focus on Wisconsin-based education and advocacy about the built environment."
As a result of the change, back-office functions will be handled by the national organization, freeing up the alliance's two employees to focus on local initiatives.
According to a news release, WGBA members will have increased access to professional education programs and certifications. "As an integrated chapter of USGBC we will have more time to focus on our mission and mission related projects & programming," said Korinne Haeffel, the alliance's executive director, in an email to members and Facebook post.
Please read more by By Thomas Content of the Journal Sentinel;
Gov. Scott Walker signed legislation on Wednesday that bans manufacturers from using tiny plastic beads in products after studies showed they are turning up in the Great Lakes and other waterways.
The small bits of plastics — known as microbeads — are added to products because of their abrasive qualities. They are flushed down sinks and toilets and eventually find their way into streams, rivers and lakes.
Scientists say the beads carry harmful environmental effects because they resemble fish eggs. Fish and other aquatic life eat them, absorbing toxins and potentially harming shorebirds — and possibly humans who consume the fish.
The bill signed by Walker was a rare example in recent years of bipartisanship on an environmental issue, with Republicans and Democrats both jumping in to co-sponsor the legislation.
It will phase out the manufacture and sale of products that contain microbeads. The synthetic beads will be phased out of personal care products by Dec. 31, 2017. The products will be fully phased out, including for over-the-counter drugs, by Dec. 31, 2019.
Other states have instituted bans, including Illinois.
Manufacturers are also voluntarily phasing out microbeads from products, or have already done so. They include Procter & Gamble, Johnson & Johnson and L'Oréal, the world's largest cosmetics company.
Two Republican legislators initially circulated the bill — Sen. Robert Cowles (R-Allouez) and Rep. Mary Czaja (R-Irma).
"It really offends me that these little plastic beads are in all of this stuff and we're sending it into our waterways," Cowles told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel in January.
Cowles said in a statement Wednesday: "This legislation creates a level playing field and requires all of the personal care products industry to remove microbeads and protect our state's water bodies."
Research on the prevalence of the microbeads includes work by Lorena Rios Mendoza, an assistant professor of chemistry at the University of Wisconsin-Superior. In 2012, she found beads in water samples in Lake Superior, Lake Huron and Lake Erie.
Jul 1, 2015
Over 8,400 arrested in China for environmental crimes in 2014 - Number of criminal cases in 2014 double the prior decade. Facing mounting public pressure, leaders declare war on pollution, saying they'll abandon growth-at-all-costs economic model that's spoiled much of its water, skies & soil.
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CBRE Study Finds Significant Gap Between Large and Small Office Buildings in Green Adoption in the U.S.
The post Study shows 62% of large buildings are green, compared to 5% of small buildings appeared first on HazMat Management.
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