Mar 31, 2016

USA: PHMSA Publishes Final Rule on "Reverse Logistics"

Hazardous Materials: Reverse Logistics (RRR)
AGENCY: Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), DOT.
ACTION: Final rule.
SUMMARY: In this final rule, the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) is adopting regulatory amendments applicable to the reverse logistics shipments of certain hazardous materials by highway transportation. This final rule revises the Hazardous Materials Regulations (HMR) to include a definition of 
"reverse logistics" and provides appropriate provisions for hazardous materials within the scope of this definition. This final rule also expands a previously existing exception for return shipments of used automobile batteries transported between a retail facility and a recycling center. The PHMSA incorporated recommendations from petitions for rulemaking and public comment into this rulemaking.

Mar 30, 2016

Links for new OSHA/DoL silica dust standard

Under the new rules, permitted exposures to silica throughout the construction and general industry would be cut to 50 micrograms per cubic meter of air over an eight-hour period from 100 micrograms under the old standard.  OSHA is also now labeling silica a known human carcinogen, as it has been judged by IARC since 1996. This new rule may enable many developing countries to get much more serious about controlling silica dust levels in order to reduce the toll of silicosis, silicoTB,  autoimmune diseases, and lung cancer.

This very important rule-making is long overdue and is based on a huge amount of published  research. 

 I shake my head about the arguments opposing this inadequate standard. Canadian jurisdictions have been using 25 for a while, and CAN measure it. British Columbia's substitution regulation requires that carcinogens be replaced where possible. Furthermore, BC's construction companies requested improved protections for workers (see

NPR and NYTimes report that OSHA/DoL releases the new silica dust standard:

NPR covers mystery oilfield deaths of young workers this morning

I urge you to check out this strong story about acute deaths among young oil field workers working alone to measure oil levels in rural tank farms.  It has some strong and insightful words from Association of Occupational & Environmental Clinics (AOEC) President and UCSF Professor Bob Harrison.

Also see Dr. Harrison and colleagues very useful report in the MMWR on this same topic from January, 2016:

Mar 29, 2016

Preterm Births Linked To Air Pollution Cost Billions In The US

Air pollution leads to 16,000 premature births in the United States each year, leading to billions of dollars in economic costs, according to new research. Researchers behind the study, published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives, found that preterm births associated with particulate matter -- a type of pollutant -- led to more than $4 billion in economic costs in 2010 due to medical care and lost productivity that results from disability. And, like many other public health issues, affected populations tend to be concentrated in low-income areas home to large numbers of minorities. "This is another piece of the evidentiary pie about why we should really be doing something about air pollution," says Tracey Woodruff, a professor who studies reproductive health and the environment at the University of California, San Francisco. "When you reduce air pollution you get lots of different health benefits." Countless studies have shown the effect of air pollution on cardiovascular and respiratory health -- killing millions each year. Air pollution leads to inflammation in blood vessels and contributes to lung cancer, asthma and a slew of other disorders. The effect on pregnancy may in some ways be an extension of those effects as air pollution disrupts the way a pregnant woman delivers oxygen to the fetus. Air pollution may also disrupt the endocrine system, keeping women from producing a protein needed to regulate pregnancy, researchers say.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

U.S. EPA To Require Stronger Chemical Safety Regulation

Long awaited proposed regulations were published for notice and comment on March 14, 2016 (81 Fed. Reg. 13638) by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to strengthen its Risk Management Program (RMP), 40 C.F.R. Part 68.

Though EPA has been considering changes to the RMP rules for many years, the 2013 explosion at a fertilizer facility in West, Texas that killed fifteen people, at least ten of them first responders, spurred EPA to speed up its revisions to the rules. As a result, the proposed rules contained strengthened emergency response obligations in addition to additional accident prevention requirements and enhanced availability of information to the public.

Comments on the proposed rule will be accepted until May 13, 2016. The proposal, among other changes, would impose (a) additional accident prevention requirements, (b) strengthen emergency response obligations, and (c) provide enhanced availability of public information.

Additional Accident Prevention Requirements:

  • Current rules regarding incident investigation require an analysis of factors that contributed to the incident. EPA seeks to expand this analysis for Program 2 or 3 processes to conduct root cause analysis for catastrophic releases or incidents that could have reasonably resulted in a catastrophic release.
  • For facilities that experience a reportable release, EPA proposes to require a post-incident compliance audit performed by an independent third-party. Current rules allow for the audit to be conducted by an internal representative of the facility's owner or operator.
  • For Program 3 regulated processes in certain SIC codes, EPA proposes a new element to the process hazard analysis (PHA) obligating affected facilities to conduct safer technology and alternatives analysis (STAA) as part of their PHA, and to evaluate the feasibility of inherently safer technology (IST).

Strengthened Emergency Response Obligations:

  • EPA proposes that facilities with Program 2 or 3 processes must coordinate with local emergency response agencies at least once a year, with the intent that such coordination will ensure that resources and capabilities are in place to respond to an accidental release.
  • Facilities with Program 2 or 3 processes would be required to conduct notification exercises annually. This is intended to ensure that emergency contact information is accurate and complete.
  • Facilities subject to subpart E of the RMP rules (emergency response program for "responding facilities") would be required to conduct a field exercise at least once every five years, and a tabletop exercise annually in other years. Also, any responding facility with a reportable accident would need to conduct a full field exercise within a year of the accident.

Enhanced Availability Of Public Information:

  • The proposed rule would require all regulated facilities to make certain basic information available to the public. Internet access would be required if the company maintains a web site, and if otherwise, to be available at the public library or governmental office.
  • A subset of facilities would be obligated to provide additional information, upon request, to the Local Emergency Planning Committee (LEPC), Tribal Emergency Planning Committee (TEPC) or other local emergency response agencies. The additional information to be shared would include summaries relate to: (a) compliance audits (facilities with Program 2 and Program 3 processes); (b) emergency response exercises (facilities with Program 2 and Program 3 processes); (c) accident history and investigation reports (all facilities that have had RMP reportable accidents); and (d) any ISTs implemented at the facility (a subset of Program 3 processes).
  • A timely public meeting with the local community would be mandated for any facility suffering a reportable accident.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is also considering updates to its Process Safety Management (PSM) standards. Though targeting differing communities (employee safety versus public and environmental health), EPA's RMP and OSHA's PSM regulations complement each other.  For example, an employer complying with OSHA's PSM standards can satisfy RMP's "prevention program" and process hazard analysis (PHA) element because PSM's process safety techniques employ systematic methods for evaluating a process and identifying hazards.  EPA's proposed rule creates additional RMP requirements that are not mirrored in OSHA's current PSM regulations.  However, that may change when OSHA releases updates to the PSM regulations.

EPA's proposed rule does not add any additional listed hazardous substances under Section 112(r) of the Clean Air Act. In addition, the proposed rule does not include any changes to EPA's regulations that govern siting of chemical facilities and requirements for buffers or setbacks.

Our take on EPA's proposal is that a regulated facility's compliance burden could significantly increase. Given that enforcement of the Risk Management Program is already a current EPA enforcement priority, regulated facilities should become familiar with the proposed rule changes, and, if appropriate, submit comments to EPA in advance of May 13.

For further information on EPA's national enforcement initiative, see National Enforcement Initiative: Reducing Risks of Accidental Releases at Industrial and Chemical Facilities Fiscal Years 2017-19.

By Jeryl L. OlsonAndrew H. Perellis, and Patrick D. Joyce

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EPA to Hold Public Hearing in Washington, D.C. on Risk Management Program Proposed Rule

U.S. EPA News – Tomorrow, Tuesday March 29, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will hold a public hearing on the proposed Risk Management Program (RMP) rule. The hearing will be held at EPA Headquarters in Washington, D.C., and will provide the opportunity for interested parties to comment on the... 

Mar 26, 2016

Maryland’s honeybees are being massacred, and the weapon might be in your house - The Washington Post

In the end, Maryland lawmakers couldn't ignore the same haunting story from beekeepers. "I go into winter with a really strong population, managed them to be fat and healthy, treated for mites, with plenty of food," said Bonnie Raindrop, a keeper in Baltimore County. "But at the end of winter, you open your hives and they're all dead." 

The keepers joined academics and conservationists in convincing the state General Assembly that the mass deaths over the past four years are likely tied to widespread use of household pesticides linked to honeybee mortality. Both chambers recently passed bills that would ban stores from selling products laced with neonicotinoids to homeowners who tend to lather too much on trees and gardens.

The similar bills  are expected to be forged into a single piece of legislation for Gov. Larry Hogan (R) to sign within two weeks. Hogan's signature would make Maryland the first state to take the harmful pesticides away from amateurs. Farmers and professionals who better understand how to apply them in a way that poses a lesser threat to bees would be exempted by the law when it takes effect in 2018.

Maryland lost more than 60 percent of its hives last year, each with up to 20,000 honeybees. About a dozen other states are considering taking similar steps as bees die and honey production declines. Last year, honey production fell  12 percent among producers with five or more colonies, according to a U.S. Department of Agriculture survey.

Neonicotinoids were introduced to agriculture in the 1990s and made available to the general public more recently because it was thought to be safer for bees than other pesticides. They seep into plants rather than simply coating the surface. Although some researchers insist the chemical doesn't cause bee mortality, other scientists are gathering evidence that it does. The Environmental Protection Agency launched a review to determine if several varieties of the insecticide have contributed to the collapse of bee colonies. Its findings are due in 2018.

Mar 23, 2016

Happy WorldWater Day! 1 Burger takes 660 gallons of water

​California's severe drought has probably made a lot of us more aware of our water footprint, which is the amount of fresh water we use plus the amount used for the goods and services we consume every day.

The obvious contributors to our water footprint are washing clothes and dishes, cooking and bathing. But the biggest contributor to our water footprint is our diet. 

On average, the water we use in our households is about 98 gallons a day, says a U.S. Geological Survey. The industrial goods we use -- paper, cotton, clothes -- that's about another 44 gallons a day. But it takes more than 1,000 gallons of water a day per person to produce the food (and drinks) in the average U.S. diet, according to several sources. More than 53 gallons of water go into making 1 cup of orange juice, for example.   

Just to get a sense of how much water goes into growing and processing what we eat, here's a list of the water footprint for some common foods, via National Geographic:

A 1/3-pound burger requires 660 gallons of water. Most of this water is for producing beef (see below).

1 pound of beef requires 1,799 gallons of water, which includes irrigation of the grains and grasses in feed, plus water for drinking and processing.

1 slice of bread requires 11 gallons of water. Most of this water is for producing wheat (see below).

1 pound of wheat requires 132 gallons of water.

1 gallon of beer requires 68 gallons of water, or 19.8 gallons of water for 1 cup. Most of that water is for growing barley (see below).

1 pound of barley requires 198 gallons of water.

1 gallon of wine requires 1,008 gallons of water (mostly for growing the grapes), or 63.4 gallons of water for 1 cup. 

1 apple requires 18 gallons of water. It takes 59.4 gallons of water to produce 1 cup of apple juice.

1 orange requires 13 gallons of water. It takes 53.1 gallons of water for 1 cup of orange juice.

1 pound of chicken requires 468 gallons of water.

1 pound of pork requires 576 gallons of water.

1 pound of sheep requires 731 gallons of water.

1 pound of goat requires 127 gallons of water. 

1 pound of rice requires 449 gallons of water.

 1 pound of corn requires 108 gallons of water.

1 pound of soybeans requires 216 gallons of water.

1 pound of potatoes requires 119 gallons of water. 

1 egg requires 53 gallons of water.

1 gallon of milk requires 880 gallons of water, or 54.9 gallons of water for 1 cup. That includes water for raising and grazing cattle, and bottling and processing.

1 pound of cheese requires 600 gallons of water. On average it requires 1.2 gallons of milk to make 1 pound of cheese.

1 pound of chocolate requires 3,170 gallons of water.

1 pound of refined sugar requires 198 gallons of water.

1 gallon of tea requires 128 gallons of water, or 7.9 gallons of water for 1 cup.

1 gallon of coffee requires 880 gallons of water, or 37 gallons of water for 1 cup. "If everyone in the world drank a cup of coffee each morning, it would 'cost' about 32 trillion gallons of water a year," National Geographic notes.

Source:  Betty Hallock

Mar 21, 2016

Not For Sale: Indigenous Peoples Protect Their Lands—Sometimes with their Lives @burness

There are few people who would refuse to sell their home—if the price were right.

So investors might assume that money would mollify indigenous and other rural peoples who resist plans to mine for gold, dam local rivers, fell tropical forests to raise cattle, or plant soy or palm oil for export.

But new findings released last month in London by the Rights and Resources Initiative and by TMP Systems revealed the opposite: for indigenous peoples and many local communities in developing countries, land is not a commodity, and money will not compensate them for the loss of that land.

The report targeted investors with the news that weak tenure for local peoples causes costly conflict and imposes risk on investors, and RRI hopes this new evidence will lead powerful economic actors to join other voices in pushing for strong land rights for indigenous peoples and local communities.

Too often, this message falls on deaf ears, and the outcome is conflict and violence. Most recently, Indigenous leader Bertha Cáceres of Honduras was murdered, after years of fighting to stop the construction of a hydropower project that would have destroyed the sacred Gualcarque River of her Lenca people.

Cáceres had received enough death threats to know that her life was in danger, but she continued in "la lucha." She paid with her life when assailants broke into her home, and shot her while she lay sleeping.

According to the RRI and TMP study, more than 93% of conflicts between indigenous and rural communities and operators of projects in agriculture, infrastructure, energy and forestry can be traced back to government failures to recognize the rights of local peoples to their traditional lands.

Indigenous Peoples and local communities in the forests of the Congo Basin, the Amazon, Mesoamerica and Indonesia don't require evidence that they are the best managers of their lands and forests. And they continue to stand their ground in the face of threats and continued violence.

But social change requires such evidence, and advocates must continue to demonstrate the benefits of granting local communities strong rights to their lands—with benefits that accrue to the struggles against both poverty and climate change.

Berta Cáceres stood up to those who saw the river that runs through the land of the Lenca only as a source of wealth. Her death says clearly that compensation is not the solution to avoiding conflict.

What price can you possibly pay someone who is willing to risk everything to keep her ancestral home—not only for her own community, but for generations to come?


By Coimbra Sirica, March 8, 2016

Mar 18, 2016

Rail Hazmat Enforcement Lax in the U.S.

The Inspector General for the U.S. Department of Transportation recently issued a report critical of the U.S. Federal Railroad Administration (FRA).  In the report, the Inspector General calls out the FRA for failing to criminally prosecute serious safety violations involving…

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U.S. EPA Proposes Revisions to its Risk Management Program Regulations

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA) recently proposed revisions to the U.S. Accidental Release Prevention Regulations under section 112(r) of the U.S. Clean Air Act (CAA).  The regulations are also referred to as the Risk Management Program (RMP) regulations. …

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Mar 16, 2016

CDC Advises Against Prescribing Opioids For Chronic Pain

After months of controversy

Today, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued new guidelines for prescribing opioids, the highly addictive prescription drugs often prescribed for chronic pain.

Please continue reading from: Popular Science

Mar 14, 2016

Wisconsin bill would create ban on plastic bag bans

The plastic bag — popular, handy and readily available — has suffered a bit of a backlash, with some communities across the country looking for ways to clamp down on them.

GOP lawmakers in Madison have watched developments in other states and are trying to head off any future local initiatives that would restrict the use of the bags and a variety of other "single-use" containers.

A bill likely to be taken up this week by the state Senate would prohibit communities from banning plastic bags.

There are no restrictions on them now in Wisconsin.

The bill has already been approved by the Assembly, by a 63-35 vote.

The Senate will meet for what is expected to be its final time of the year on Tuesday. Leaders have not yet said what measures they plan to take up, but final session days tend to be long as legislators seek to put their favored bills — some controversial, some mundane — into law.

Among the issues that could come up are proposals by Gov. Scott Walker to address college affordability. But Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) has said on WKOW-TV in Madison that senators are unlikely to take up one Walker idea that would make more interest on college debt tax deductible.

Senators are also debating whether to take up legislation to help people with dementia and penalize local governments if they adopt so-called sanctuary city policies for illegal immigrants.

Plastic bags and other containers have attracted attention in recent years because of their potential to be a source of litter, pollute water and harm wildlife.

Retailers and business groups, however, are concerned that bans on bags in individual communities would lead to a patchwork of regulation and higher business costs.

Senate Bill 601 would restrict a town, village, city or county from regulating "containers" made of plastic, paper, cardboard, metal and glass.

This would prohibit a community from regulating single use bags at retail locations, including restaurants. Communities also could not impose fees or surcharges on plastic bags and containers.

"Most of the time, government is reactive and we are trying to be proactive," said Sen. Roger Roth (R-Appleton), the chief sponsor in the Senate. "This could be very burdensome."

Bill G. Smith, state director of the Wisconsin chapter the National Federation of Independent Business, agreed.

Please continue reading from:

Mar 11, 2016

The hungry little bacterium that could hold the key to the world's plastic waste problem

The discovery of a bacterium with the ability to completely break down PET plastic could be ...

Hundreds of millions of tons of PET (polyethylene terephthalate) plastic are produced each year to package everything from sodas to shampoo. That only a fraction of this is recycled leaves much of it to rest in landfills and the ocean. But efforts to deal with this monumental mess may soon receive a much-needed boost, with scientists in Japan discovering a new bacterium with the ability to completely break down PET plastics in a relatively short space of time.

.. Continue Reading The hungry little bacterium that could hold the key to the world's plastic waste problem

Mar 10, 2016

Number of children prescribed anti-depressants increases by 50% in seven years

The number of children in the UK prescribed anti-depressants increased
by more than 50 per cent between 2005 and 2012, according to a new

The World Health Organisation (WHO) said the use of the drugs to treat
young people was a concern, the BBC said.

After fears that anti-depressants could lead to suicidal behaviour in
young people, usage in Britain fell, but the study suggests there has
been a resurgence in the UK as well as in other Western countries.

Commenting on the results, WHO director of mental health Dr Shekhar
Saxena said: "Anti-depressant use amongst young people is and has been
a matter of concern because of two reasons.

"One, are more people being prescribed anti-depressants without
sufficient reason? And second, can anti-depressants do any major

He also said that the organisation was worried that young people were
being given drugs not licensed for under-18s.

The study, "Trends and patterns of antidepressant use in children and
adolescents from five western countries, 2005-2012", is published in
the European Journal of Neuropsychopharmacology.

In the period examined, there was a 54% increase in the number of
young people prescribed anti-depressants in the UK.

This is compared with rises of 60% in Denmark, 49 per cent in Germany
and just 26 per cent in the US and 17 per cent in the Netherlands, the
BBC said.

The Independent

Japanese court orders shutdown of nuclear reactor

(CNN) ​​A district court in Japan ordered a nuclear plant to stop operations on
Wednesday, the first time an injunction has been issued to halt an
operational nuclear reactor.

The order, granted after residents in the area filed a complaint with the
court, comes just one day before the five-year anniversary of the Tohoku
Earthquake that triggered the Fukushima nuclear disaster.

Kansai Electric Power Company's Takahama nuclear plant in western Japan.
Kansai Electric Power Company's Takahama nuclear plant in western Japan.

Plant operator Kansai Electric Power Co. (KEPCO) suspended the operation of
the No. 3 reactor at the Takahama nuclear plant immediately after the Ohtsu
district court issued its order, the company said in a statement.

The Takahama No. 3 reactor is one of two nuclear reactors running under new
safety standards adopted by the government after the 2011 Fukushima nuclear
incident, KEPCO said. It added that it will appeal the decision immediately.

The No. 3 reactor had just restarted operations in January and is the
second reactor at the Takahama plant to suspend operations in two months.
Operations at the No. 4 nuclear reactor were suspended in February, right
after it had restarted, due to technical problems.
Japan's energy struggles 5 years after Fukushima disaster
japan fukushima energy future ripley pkg_00015522

Japan's energy struggles 5 years after Fukushima disaster 02:39

Japan allowed nuclear reactors to restart last August after a nationwide
moratorium implemented in 2011, hoping to reduce energy imports that had
led to skyrocketing utility bills. However, the decision has generated much
controversy over safety regulations.

Japanese media polls show that as much as 70% of the public oppose the
expansion of nuclear power in the country.

Prior to the Fukushima nuclear disaster, reactors generated about 30% of
Japan's total energy.

Read full at:


Mar 8, 2016

Chinese exports plunge 25% in February - BBC News

Chinese exports have seen their sharpest drop in almost seven years, adding to concerns over the health of the world's second largest economy.

Exports dropped sharply by 25.4% from a year earlier, while imports fell 13.8%.

The weak data comes on the heels of Beijing registering the slowest economic growth in 25 years.

China's National People's Congress, currently underway in the capital, has just revised the 2016 growth target down, predicting a "battle for growth".

The February trade figures are likely to raise new fears over China struggling to maintain economic growth while implementing reforms and trying to shift towards more services and domestic spending.

Please continue reading from:

US Nuclear industry increased safety equipment

The US nuclear industry has developed a three-phased approach to mitigating beyond-design-basis events. 

More on-site portable equipment has been acquired to help ensure that every U.S. nuclear energy facility can respond safely to extreme events, no matter what the cause. The equipment ranges from diesel-driven pumps and electric generators to ventilation fans, hoses, fittings, cables and satellite communications gear. It also includes support materials for emergency responders. There is equipment sharing agreements between plants.

There is more equipment at centralized regional rapid response centers.

Nextbigfuture thinks that having inflatable containment structures that could be airlifted from the regional centers would be useful for situations like Fukushima where there was an ongoing radiation event. This would be like the pipe covers that have been created for any future deep water oil spill. Fukushima went on for months leaking radioactive material from the cooling ponds and the damaged reactor. Being able to created a larger cover over a breached containment building would localize the radiation problem. A localized problem then makes it more like any other industrial accident where the site ends up being a writeoff but it does not impact cities and people around it.

Phase 1

Companies would use permanently installed equipment as an initial means of responding to a serious event.

Phase 2
The phase two concept drove the acquisition and storage of portable equipment at each nuclear plant site to enhance the station's coping strategies. Finally, phase three drove the enhancement of existing inter-utility support agreements and the development of independent, national response centers that house portable safety equipment that can be delivered to any nuclear plant site in America within 24 hours.

Phase 3

The nuclear industry jointly established an implementation plan for phase three. Led by the Institute for Nuclear Power Operations, inter-utility memorandums of understanding were updated to reflect the need to maintain an inventory of on-site, portable equipment that could be moved from site to site as required. The memorandums also re-enforced personnel support among utilities in need of specific expertise.

Read more »// Next Big Future

Mar 1, 2016

Type 1 diabetes is associated with increased risk of several cancers

People with type 1 diabetes have a higher incidence of cancer of the liver, pancreas, kidney, endometrium, and ovary and a lower incidence of prostate cancer than the general population, an analysis of diabetes registers across five countries has shown.1

Previous research has found that people with diabetes have a 20-25% higher incidence of cancer than people without diabetes, but most studies have looked at type 2 diabetes.

Researchers analysed data from nationwide diabetes registers in Australia (2000-08), Denmark (1995-2014), Finland (1972-2012), Scotland (1995-2012), and Sweden (1987-2012). They found 9149 cases of …

Please continue reading from: The BMJ