Apr 28, 2016

US: U.S. DoT Announces Release of the 2016 ERG

​DOT Releases New Emergency Response Guidebook
More Than 1.5 Million Free Copies to First Responders Nationwide

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Transportation's (USDOT) Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) today released the 2016 Emergency Response Guidebook (ERG2016), providing first responders with an updated go-to manual to help respond to hazardous materials transportation accidents during the critical first minutes.

PHMSA will distribute more than 1.5 million free copies of the guidebook to firefighters, emergency medical technicians and law enforcement officers across the nation.  Emergency first responders will use the ERG2016 to identify specific risks associated with compromised hazardous materials, and the recommended safety measures and procedures they should take to protect themselves and contain the incident as quickly as possible.

Full Press Release: http://goo.gl/rXVZAv

ERG "Landing Page" with all the links: http://goo.gl/8xSH9T

English pdf of the ERG (about 5 MB): http://goo.gl/EeSn10

German Nuclear Plant Infected with Computer Viruses, Operator Says

ReutersA nuclear power plant in Germany has been found to be infected with computer viruses, but they appear not to have posed a threat to the facility's operations because it is isolated from the Internet, the station's operator said on Tuesday.

The Gundremmingen plant, located about 120 km (75 miles) northwest of Munich, is run by the German utility RWE (RWEG.DE).

The viruses, which include "W32.Ramnit" and "Conficker", were discovered at Gundremmingen's B unit in a computer system retrofitted in 2008 with data visualization software associated with equipment for moving nuclear fuel rods, RWE said.

Malware was also found on 18 removable data drives, mainly USB sticks, in office computers maintained separately from the plant's operating systems. RWE said it had increased cyber-security measures as a result.

W32.Ramnit is designed to steal files from infected computers and targets Microsoft Windows software, according to the security firm Symantec. First discovered in 2010, it is distributed through data sticks, among other methods, and is intended to give an attacker remote control over a system when it is connected to the Internet.

Conficker has infected millions of Windows computers worldwide since it first came to light in 2008. It is able to spread through networks and by copying itself onto removable data drives, Symantec said.

RWE has informed Germany's Federal Office for Information Security (BSI), which is working with IT specialists at the group to look into the incident.

Apr 25, 2016

WEBINAR on public revenues & coal, oil, gas, renewables, May 3 (via @BetsyTaylor)

Join us for a webinar on the first annual report of the U.S. Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (USEITI) https://useiti.doi.gov/ a multistakeholder initiative, coordinated out of the U.S. Dept of the Interior by a steering committee with representatives from Civil Society, Government, and Industry

What:   WEBINAR for the 2015 USEITI REPORT 
When: TUESDAY, MAY 3, 2016 2:00 - 4:00 PM, EDT 
Online Webinar Access:
Dial In: 1-210-839-8953
Toll Free: 888-455-2910
Participant Passcode: 7741096

Live Conference Meeting Number: PW7731332
Participant Passcode: 7741096
Live Meeting Net Conference Access:

Physical location:  U.S. Department of Interior, Rachel Carson Room 1849 C St. NW Washington, DC 20240 (come early for security clearance) 
For further information contact: USEITI Secretariat Phone: 202.208.0272 or email: useiti@ios.doi.gov

What is in the USEITI Data Portal & Report?
  • interactive & downloadable datasets of monies that the federal government receives from extraction on public lands and waters 
    • In 2013, $12.64 billion in fees, bonuses, rents, royalties, and penalties
    • In 2013, $11.8 billion in corporate income tax receipts
    • of oil, gas, coal mining (learn more re/ lack of government revenues from other mining)
    • by company and by state
    • of the 44 companies asked to report:
      • 31 companies reported and reconciled $8.5 billion in DOI revenue
      • 12 out of a maximum of 41 applicable companies reported $190 million in corporate income taxes
  • laws, permitting, regulation, and government agencies which oversee extraction -- at federal and state levels
  • jobs data 
  • case studies of impacts on local communities:  
    • Production trends over 10 years & sustainability of government revenues from extraction 
    • Dependency on extractives (measured by % of jobs and % of GDP in extractive sector compared to total county numbers over 10 years) and sustainability of public revenues from extraction 
    • Positive and negative impacts of extractives on public revenues over 10 years—including employment, government revenues, and public costs related to water, reclamation, transportation, and emergency and other public services
12 COMMUNITIES IN CASE STUDIES: OIL--Kern County CA, North Slope Borough AK; NATURAL GAS—DeSoto Parish LA, Tarrant & Johnson Counties TX; IRON—Marquette Co MI, St. Louis Co MN; GOLD—Elko & Eureka / Humboldt & Lander Co's NV; COPPER—Greenlee & Pima Co's AZ; COAL—Boone / Logan / Mingo Co's WV, Campbell Co WY

USA--Transportation Rail Incident Preparedness and Response (TRIPR) --Resources

The Transportation Rail Incident Preparedness and Response, Flammable Liquid Unit Trains resource materials were developed to provide critical information on best practices related to rail incidents involving hazard class 3 flammable liquids, such as crude oil and ethanol. A key component of this initiative is to learn from past experiences and to leverage the expertise of public safety agencies, rail carriers, and industry subject matter experts in order to prepare first responders to safely manage incidents involving flammable liquid unit trains.

These training resources offer a flexible approach to training the first responders and emergency services personnel in pre-incident planning and response. Each module contains a PowerPoint presentation, Student Workbook, and Instructor Lesson Plan. In addition to these materials, there are three interactive scenarios with animation and introduction videos to help instructors lead tabletop discussions. Click on the link below to download the TRIPR materials.

This Battery-Free Computer Sucks Power Out Of Thin Air

Researchers at University of Washington's Sensor Lab have created the WISP, or Wireless Identification and Sensing Platform: a combination sensor and computing chip that doesn't need a battery or a wired power source to operate. Instead, it sucks in radio waves emitted from a standard, off-the-shelf RFID reader -- the same technology that retail shops use to deter shoplifters -- and converts them into electricity. The WISP isn't designed to compete with the chips in your smartphone or your laptop. It has about the same clock speed as the processor in a Fitbit and similar functionality, including embedded accelerometers and temperature sensors. [...] It has about the same bandwidth as Bluetooth Low Energy mode, the wireless power-sipping technology which drives most Bluetooth speakers and wireless headphones.Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Prescription Meds Get Trapped in Disturbing Pee-to-Food-to-Pee Loop

Via: Ars Technica:

If you love something, set it free… so the old adage goes. Well, if the things you love are pharmaceuticals, then you're in luck. Through vegetables and fruits, the drugs that we flush down the drain are returning to us—though we'll ultimately pee them out again. (Love is complicated, after all)

In a randomized, single-blind pilot study, researchers found that anticonvulsive epilepsy drug carbamazepine, which is released in urine, can accumulate in crops irrigated with recycled water—treated sewage—and end up in the urine of produce-eaters not on the drugs. The study, published Tuesday in Environmental Science & Technology, is the first to validate the long-held suspicion that pharmaceuticals may get trapped in infinite pee-to-food-to-pee loops, exposing consumers to drug doses with unknown health effects.

While the amounts of the drug in produce-eater's pee were four orders of magnitude lower than what is seen in the pee of patients purposefully taking the drugs, researchers speculate that the trace amounts could still have health effects in some people, such as those with a genetic sensitivity to the drugs, pregnant women, children, and those who eat a lot of produce, such as vegetarians. And with the growing practice of reclaiming wastewater for crop irrigation—particularly in places that face water shortages such as California, Israel, and Spain—the produce contamination could become more common and more potent, the authors argue.

"The potential for unwitting exposure of consumers to contaminants via this route is real," the authors wrote, adding that their study provides real world data that proves exposure occurs.

Research Credit: alvinroast

Apr 23, 2016

46 Environmental Victories Since the First Earth Day by @socialpyramid

​Never forget...
Every is Earth Day.​

The first Earth Day, on April 22, 1970, was a milestone event for the planet. An estimated 20 million people took to the streets across the U.S. to raise awareness about the impacts of human activities on the environment.  

Since then, the annual tradition has grown to involve billions of people around the world. This year, Earth Day turns 46. To mark this anniversary and to show how much has changed since 1970, we assembled 46 of the most significant accomplishments of the environmental movement since the first Earth Day. (See stunning pictures of trees.)

Please share your own favorite environmental victories in the comments, http://news.nationalgeographic.com/2016/04/160422-earth-day-46-facts-environment/

US Suicide Rate Surges To Highest Level In Almost Three Decades, Says Report

The suicide rate in the U.S. has surged to its highest level in almost three decades, according to a new report from the CDC. There was no explanation for the rise but some experts have pointed to increased abuse of prescription opiates and the financial downturn that began in 2008 as likely factors. The report did not break down the suicides by education level or income, but previous studies found rising suicide rates among white people without university degrees. CDC reported on Friday that suicides have increased in the US to a rate of 13 per 100,000 people, the highest since 1986. The overall suicide rate rose by 24% from 1999 to 2014, according to the CDC. However, the rate increased 43% among white men ages 45 to 64 and 63% for women in the same age-range. In 2014, more than 14,000 middle-aged white people killed themselves. That figure is double the combined suicides total for all blacks, Hispanics, Asians, Pacific Islanders, American Indians, and Alaska Natives. The suicide rate only declined for only two groups: black men and all people over 75.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Apr 20, 2016

Five "citizen scientists" and Milwaukee County Parks Natural Area program honored for work to benefit wildlife, waters

WDNR​ - A Vilas County woman who launched efforts to measure lake levels, a Kickapoo Valley man who completes dozens of bat surveys a year and recruits others to do the same, and an Oconto County youth who has monitored bluebird and other bird populations in her area are among Wisconsin citizens recognized for their outstanding work to collect information important to managing and conserving Wisconsin's waters and wildlife.

Wisconsin's Citizen-based Monitoring Network presented the awards earlier this month during the 7th Citizen-based Monitoring Conference in Stevens Point. The Department of Natural Resources and more than 150 organizations with monitoring programs formed the network in 2004 to improve their effectiveness by providing communications, resources and recognition.

"These are people who are contributing hands-on, on-the-ground, every day to the land and water around them," says Eva Lewandowski, who coordinates the Wisconsin Citizen-based Monitoring Program for DNR. "They are not only providing important information for managing Wisconsin's resources, but are helping get more people involved as well."

A listing of award winners, their hometown, and a brief description of their work follows.

Milwaukee County Parks Natural Areas Program, Citizen-based Monitoring Program of the Year

This county program is using citizen-based monitoring as a way to engage the public in wildlife research and gain more scientific data to guide restoration decisions on the county's 10,000 acres of natural areas. In 2014, staff engaged citizen monitors to inventory and document 430 seasonal or "ephemeral" ponds and followed up in 2015 with aquatic studies. Program staff developed in-class training opportunities as well as hands-on field days for citizens to hone their monitoring skills. Volunteers confirmed populations of tiger and blue-spotted salamanders, discovered the first spotted salamander documented in their county since 1935, a new population of wood frogs (previously only 1 population was known), and 3 new populations of Wisconsin's rarest native crayfish, the Digger's crayfish.

Ben Johnston of Wilton, Outstanding Achievement in Citizen-based Monitoring

Johnston is recognized for his work to conduct wildlife surveys in the 8,600-acre Kickapoo Valley Reserve and build the ranks of citizen scientists in southwestern Wisconsin. He has conducted an average of more than 30 walking surveys a year to detect bats, and has recruiting other volunteers to get involved in the survey as well. Johnston has also recruited volunteers to submit turtle road crossing reports aimed at reducing the number of turtles killed by cars, and has recruited volunteers to participate in frog and toad surveys.

Nancy Carlson of Racine, Outstanding Achievement in Citizen-based Monitoring

Carlson created a program that helps more than 3,000 Racine 4th and 7th graders understand through hands-on outdoors activities and investigations how their daily activities impact water quality, fish and other aquatic life in the Root River and Lake Michigan watershed. Carlson also visits classrooms to help reinforce what students have learned in the field, and has helped establish partnerships with area nature centers and governmental institutions.

Anne Kretschmann of Manitowish Waters, Outstanding Achievement in Citizen-based Monitoring

Kretschmann was honored for her role in starting the first citizen-based lake level monitoring program in Wisconsin in 2008. To address local concerns about dramatic lake level declines, she recruited a retired surveyor, established permanent water level benchmarks on a subset of local lakes, installed staff gauges and recruited local citizens to make weekly water level readings. Now she volunteers to monitor more than 40 lakes across Vilas County and she has coordinated a companion program with the Lac du Flambeau tribe.

Amber H. Van Den Heuvel of Oconto, Outstanding Achievement in Youth Monitoring

Van Den Heuvel participated in projects to monitor everything from amphibians to botulism levels on Great Lakes shorelines to bluebirds and bats. She served as her county coordinator for the Annual Midwest Crane Count and helped establish half of the nine bluebird trails within the city. She also helps monitor wood duck and purple martin houses for Bird City Oconto.

Kris Stepenuck of Burlington, VT, 2016 David N. Redell Award for Lifetime Achievement in Citizen-based Monitoring

Stepenuck, who coordinated the Water Action Volunteers stream monitoring program from 2001-2015, was honored for her work to build citizen-based monitoring in Wisconsin and the country. Stepenuck built the WAV program into a hugely successful, nationally renowned program, co-authored "Exploring Streams," a stream monitoring curriculum for middle and high school students, helped found the national Citizen Science Association and serves on its board, and was a member of the Wisconsin Citizen-based Monitoring Network. Stepenuck is now an assistant professor at the University of Vermont's Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources.

DNR supports water quality improvement efforts through surface water grants

WDNR:  Forty-one projects to restore wetland and waterfront habitat, control aquatic invasive species and implement lake and river management plans are receiving nearly $2.4 in fiscal 2016 surface water grants from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.

Surface water management grants are submitted to DNR each year in February and this year the department received 50 grant applications totaling approximately $3 million. The competitive grant funds originate from a tax on fuel used by boats in Wisconsin.

Shelly Thomsen, DNR lakes and rivers team leader with the DNR Bureau of Water Quality, said this year's grants to lake and river groups, nonprofit organizations and governments in 30 counties leveraged an additional $1.5 million in matching funds.

"These grants provide critical funding for projects that make a real difference in water quality in our state," Thomsen said. "We're excited to see the progress that is being made by public and private groups working in partnership to tackle these challenges."

FY16 Surface Water Grants # Grants Awarded Award
Lake Management Plan Implementation 5 $797,575.12
Healthy Lakes 16 $132,542.86
Wetland/Shoreland Habitat Restoration 1 $100,000
Lake Land/Easement Acquisition 2 $249,487.50
River Management 5 $159,824.50
AIS Control 12 $938,985.59
Total 41 $2,378,415.57


Highlights of the 2016 grants include projects for:

  • Lakes Tainter and Menomin: These lakes in the Red Cedar River Watershed are prone to algae blooms due to excess phosphorous from surface water runoff. The West Central Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission received a $200,000 lake protection grant to implement recommendations from the recently approved Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) implementation plan. The project includes updating water quality and land use data, assessing social networks, behaviors and attitudes of stakeholders in the watershed and determining the economic cost of poor water quality. The project will leverage an additional $450,000 from the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers, UW-Stout, Barron County Soil and Water Conservation Department, Dunn County Land and Conservation Division and Tainter-Menomin Lake Improvement Association to help reduce phosphorus inputs into the lake.
  • The Ridges Sanctuary: The Door County land trust will use an aquatic invasive species control grant to control 3,700 acres of invasive phragmites along 15 miles of Lake Michigan and Clark Lake shoreline. The spread of phragmites has severe consequences to native ecosystems, reduces access to the lakes for recreational opportunities and has economic impacts including reduced property values.
  • Hunting River: The town of Elcho in Langlade County received a river protection grant to restore fish passage by replacing culverts along Hunting River, a high quality, brook and brown trout stream with natural reproduction.
  • Statewide Healthy Lakes efforts: A total of 16 grants were awarded for the second year of the Healthy Lakes program. The program provides grants for homeowners to plant rain gardens and native plants, install diversion or rock infiltration features and deploy fish sticks to create feeding, breeding and nesting areas for all sorts of critters.

    To learn more, search the DNR website, dnr.wi.gov, for "Surface Water Grants."

Up To 35,000 Gallons of Nuclear Waste Leak At Washington State Storage Site

Over the weekend, thousands of gallons of radioactive waste have leaked at a nuclear storage tank in Washington State. One worker called the leak "catastrophic." RT writes, "The Hanford Nuclear Reservation was originally constructed in 1943 as part of the Manhattan Project." It produced plutonium for weapons, including the atomic bomb dropped on Nagasaki, Japan. The U.S. Department of Energy started removing what was left in the tank in March when workers discovered leaked waste had reached a depth of 8.4 inches. The Department of Energy calls the leak "anticipated," posing no threat to the public. Mike Geffre, the worker who discovered the leak, told King5 News, "This is catastrophic. This is probably the biggest event to ever happen in tank farm history. The double shell tanks were supposed to be the saviors of all saviors (to hold waste safely from people and the environment)." The double-wall storage tank AY-102 has been slowly leaking since 2011. It wasn't until March of this year that the U.S. Department of Energy began pumping the waste leftover in the tank.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Apr 19, 2016

Third case of Zika virus confirmed in Mississippi

​"Whether it's Zika or any of the other diseases that mosquitoes can carry we just want to make sure that we're doing all we can to arm Missourians with the info they need so that when they go out to enjoy the wonderful outdoor activities we can do in our state, that they're protecting themselves", said Lyskowski. However, he said, $510 million of this funding will be pulled from resources previously allocated to combat Ebola virus and will weaken efforts in West Africa without additional support. The White House said the emergency transfer is necessary because Congress has continued to deny the administration's .9 billion request, money that would be used to stop Zika from gaining a foothold in the United States. Brazil, which has been hardest-hit by Zika, has reported more than 4,000 cases of microcephaly since October. Urging Congress to act immediately, Donovan said, "We should not play with fire here". All cases involved travelers who were infected with the Zika virus while overseas and returned to the United States with it, except for a handful of cases involving sexual transmission. ​

NOTICE: Employers must post injury and illness summaries now through April

OSHA's Form 300A

OSHA reminds employers of their obligation to post a copy of OSHA's Form 300A, which summarizes job-related injuries and illnesses logged during 2015. The summary must be displayed each year between Feb. 1 and April 30 in a common area where notices to employees are usually posted.

Businesses with 10 or fewer employees and those in certain low-hazard industries are exempt from OSHA recordkeeping and posting requirements. As of Jan. 1, 2015, certain previously exempt industries are now covered. Lists of both exempt and newly covered industries are available on OSHA's website. Visit OSHA's Recordkeeping Rule webpage for more information on recordkeeping requirements.

NOTICE: OSHA State Plan enforcement cases

Enforcement cases with Initial Penalties Above $40,000
The following is a recent example of an enforcement case from a State Plan state. For more examples of state and federal enforcement cases, visit OSHA's online enforcement penalties map.

Washington Division of Occupational Safety and Health has issued $35,000 in fines to Grant County Public Utility District 2 after six workers suffered serious electrical burns from an arc flash explosion in a generator room at the Priest Rapids Dam in Beverly. Inspectors issued citations for five serious safety violations after determining that the incident could have been prevented if the employer had ensured the use of proper procedures to prevent a breaker from being closed when other parts of the circuit were still energized. See the Washington DOSH news release for more information.

National Safety Stand-Down to take place May 2-6

National Safety Stand-Down to Prevent Falls in Construction: May 2-6, 2016
The third annual National Safety Stand-Down will take place from May 2 to 6, as employers across the country pause during the workday to engage workers in discussions, demonstrations, and training on how to recognize hazards and prevent falls. The event is part of OSHA's effort to remind and educate construction employers and workers of the serious dangers of falls, which remain the leading cause of death in the industry.

Please visit OSHA's Stand-Down webpage to learn how to participate as an employer or find an event in your area. All attendees will be eligible to receive a certificate of participation.

Two large-scale events are planned for the D.C. area: On May 3, all work will be suspended on the construction site of the MGM National Harbor Resort while OSHA and construction company representatives give presentations and training on fall prevention. On May 5, local construction companies and associations will host a stand-down event at The Fairgrounds at the Nationals baseball stadium that will include vendor exhibits, safety demonstrations and other interactive events.

In addition, OSHA Training Institute Education Centers will offer free fall protection training courses across the country.

Apr 14, 2016

GE has a prototype 10 Megawatt supercritical CO2 turbine that is ten times smaller than the equivalent steam turbine

GE sees its new supercritical carbon dioxide turbine as a strong rival to batteries for storing power from the grid. GE Global Research is testing a desk-size turbine that could power a small town of about 10,000 homes. The unit is driven by "supercritical carbon dioxide," which is in a state that at very high pressure and up to 700 °C exists as neither a liquid nor a gas. After the carbon dioxide passes through the turbine, it's cooled and then repressurized before returning for another pass.

It's about one-tenth the size of a steam turbine of comparable output, and has the potential to be 50 percent efficient at turning heat into electricity. Steam-based systems are typically in the mid-40 percent range; the improvement is achieved because of the better heat-transfer properties and reduced need for compression in a system that uses supercritical carbon dioxide compared to one that uses steam. The GE prototype is 10 megawatts, but the company hopes to scale it to 33 megawatts.

Doug Hofer, a GE engineer in charge of the project, shows off a model of the turbine.
In addition to being more efficient, the technology could be more nimble—in a grid-storage scenario, heat from solar energy, nuclear power, or combustion could first be stored as molten salt and the heat later used to drive the process.

Doug Hofer, a GE engineer in charge of the project, shows off a model of the turbine

Nextbigfuture has covered supercritical CO2 turbines several times.

Nextbigfuture reviewed the supercritical CO2 turbine roadmap. The Toshiba work is executing to the dates on that roadmap.

* Sandia National Laboratories and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory are involved with Toshiba, Echogen, Dresser Rand, GE, Barber-Nichols in S-CO2 cycles.

* Toshiba, The Shaw Group and Exelon Corporation are engaged in a consortium agreement to develop Net Power's gas-fired generation technology with zero emissions target. This approach uses an oxy-combustion, high pressure, S-CO2 cycle, named Allam Cycle. Toshiba will design, test and manufacture a combustor and turbine for a 25MW natural gas-fired plant. A 250MW full-scale plant is expected by 2017.

* Echogen Power Systems has been developing a power generation cycle for waste heat recovery, CHP, geothermal and hybrid as alternative to the internal combustion engine.

* Pratt and Whitney Rocketdyne is engaged with Argonne National Laboratories in a project with aim to integrate a 1000 MW nuclear plant with a S-CO2 cycle.

The reasons of growing interest toward this technology are manifold:
* simple cycle efficiency potentially above 50%;
* near zero - emissions cycle;
* footprints one hundredth of traditional turbomachinery for the same power output due to the high density of working fluid;
* extraction of "pipeline ready" CO2 for sequestration or enhanced oil recovery, without both CO2 capture facilities and compression systems;
* integration with concentrating solar power (CSP), waste heat, nuclear and geothermal, with high efficiency in energy conversion;
* applications with severe volume constraints such as ship propulsion

There is a DOE project to a make a 10 MWe supercritical CO2 turbine that should be completed in 2015.

Read more »// Next Big Future


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CDC confirms Zika virus causes birth defects and the more that has been learned is scarier than initially thought

Officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said on Wednesday that there is now enough evidence to definitively say that the Zika virus can cause unusually small heads, brain damage and other neurological problems in infants born to infected mothers.

"Most of what we've learned is not reassuring," said Dr. Anne Schuchat, the principal deputy director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "Everything we look at with this virus seems to be a bit scarier than we initially thought."

As summer approaches, officials are warning that mosquito eradication efforts, lab tests and vaccine research may not be able to catch up. There are 346 cases of Zika confirmed in the continental United States — all in people who had recently traveled to Zika-prone countries, according to the most recent CDC report. Of those, 32 were in pregnant women, and seven were sexually transmitted.

But in Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands and American Samoa, the virus is now being transmitted locally.

Schuchat said the virus has been linked to a broader array of birth defects throughout a longer period of pregnancy, including premature birth and blindness in addition to the smaller brain size caused by microcephaly.

Zika has also been linked to an autoimmune disorder that is similar to multiple sclerosis.

Scientists at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have concluded, after careful review of existing evidence, that Zika virus is a cause of microcephaly and other severe fetal brain defects. In the report published in the New England Journal of Medicine, the CDC authors describe a rigorous weighing of evidence using established scientific criteria.

"This study marks a turning point in the Zika outbreak. It is now clear that the virus causes microcephaly. We are also launching further studies to determine whether children who have microcephaly born to mothers infected by the Zika virus is the tip of the iceberg of what we could see in damaging effects on the brain and other developmental problems," said Tom Frieden, M.D., M.P.H., director of the CDC. "We've now confirmed what mounting evidence has suggested, affirming our early guidance to pregnant women and their partners to take steps to avoid Zika infection and to health care professionals who are talking to patients every day. We are working to do everything possible to protect the American public."


The report notes that no single piece of evidence provides conclusive proof that Zika virus infection is a cause of microcephaly and other fetal brain defects. Rather, increasing evidence from a number of recently published studies and a careful evaluation using established scientific criteria supports the authors' conclusions.

The finding that Zika virus infection can cause microcephaly and other severe fetal brain defects means that a woman who is infected with Zika during pregnancy has an increased risk of having a baby with these health problems. It does not mean, however, that all women who have Zika virus infection during pregnancy will have babies with problems. As has been seen during the current Zika outbreak, some infected women have delivered babies that appear to be healthy.

Establishing this causal relationship between Zika and fetal brain defects is an important step in driving additional prevention efforts, focusing research activities, and reinforcing the need for direct communication about the risks of Zika. While one important question about causality has been answered, many questions remain. Answering these will be the focus of ongoing research to help improve prevention efforts, which ultimately may help reduce the effects of Zika virus infection during pregnancy.

At this time, CDC is not changing its current guidance as a result of this finding. Pregnant women should continue to avoid travel to areas where Zika is actively spreading. If a pregnant woman travels to or lives in an area with active Zika virus transmission, she should talk with her healthcare provider and strictly follow steps to prevent mosquito bites and to prevent sexual transmission of Zika virus. We also continue to encourage women and their partners in areas with active Zika transmission to engage in pregnancy planning and counseling with their health care providers so that they know the risks and the ways to mitigate them.
Read more »// Next Big Future

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Zika Virus Officially Causes Rare Microcephaly Birth Defects, CDC Says

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said on Wednesday the Zika virus causes microcephaly and other birth defects. "This study marks a turning point in the Zika outbreak. It is now clear that the virus causes microcephaly," CDC director, Dr. Tom Frieden said. The CDC previously said it was likely the virus in pregnant women was the cause of the rare birth defect that results in an underdeveloped brain and that more evidence and research were needed to conclusively say it is causal. "We started using criteria about a month ago to see which ones had been met and which ones had not been met. We wanted to do this in a systematic and calculated way," said Dr. Sonja Rasmussen, lead author of the New England Journal of Medicine special report. There's was also no alternative explanation to account for the increase in these congenital defects among women who had the Zika virus during pregnancy. The CDC says they are not yet ready to conclude the virus causes Guillain-Barre syndrome.The World Health Organization (WHO) has reported more than 1,000 cases of microcephaly and other fetal malformations believed to be associated with the Zika virus from six countries.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Apr 13, 2016

SCAQMD Names Interim Executive

California's South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD) has a new interim acting executive. The district's governing board has selected Wayne Nastri — a former environmental and energy regulatory advisor for E4 Strategic Solutions Inc., mCapital Management and Dutko Worldwide — to helm the agency during its search for a permanent executive. Nastri's appointment follows the early March dismissal of longtime SCAQMD executive officer Barry Wallerstein, who was removed after a 7-6 board vote. That vote came after the board's recent adoption of emissions rules on refineries and other major pollution sources that some deem too-industry friendly.

Nastri is a former EPA Region 9 administrator, serving under President George W. Bush. According to reports, he held a brief position on SCAQMD's board in 1997-98.

In a recent Los Angeles Times article, California's State Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles), said he will introduce legislation "to add three new members to the South Coast Air Quality Management District [SCAQMD] board — one public health expert and two environmental justice members." That measure would expand the board from 13 members to 16. According to the article, Sen. de León "will push to reverse efforts by the Southern California air quality board to adopt pollution rules friendlier to industry, saying swift action is needed to prevent a rollback of environmental gains."

SCAQMD is the air pollution control agency for all of Orange County and the urban portions of Los Angeles, Riverside and San Bernardino counties, among the smoggiest regions of the country.

"This has been a wholesale takeover, to the detriment of children and families who breathe these harmful contaminants into their lungs every single day," De León said. "We have progressed on our policies, we cannot go backward."

Senate Passes Defend Trade Secrets Act

The bill, introduced July 29, 2015 by Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT), and co-sponsored by nearly two-thirds of the Senate membership, has widespread support in both the Senate and House of Representatives, as well as in the business and manufacturing community.

"Trade secrets are the only form of intellectual property that lack protection under federal civil law," Sen. Hatch has said. The legislation would offer businesses greater legal protection when their trade secrets are stolen, and costs business billions of dollars each year, when that intellectual property is leaked and sold to competitors.

Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.), who partnered with Sen. Hatch on the bill had said "It is clear that Democrats and Republicans in both chambers recognize that American businesses continue losing significant revenue and American jobs to trade secret theft, a national problem the bill intends to fix."

The same day as Senate passage, the White House released a Statement of Administration Policy, supporting the legislation and stating that the "Administration has placed high priority on mitigating and combating the theft of trade secrets, as exemplified in the Administration's Joint Strategic Plan on Intellectual Property Enforcement, the Administration's Strategy on Mitigating the Theft of U.S. Trade Secrets, and Executive Order 13694 authorizing sanctions on those who perpetrate cyber-enabled trade secret theft. S. 1890 would provide important protection to the Nation's businesses and industries, including through the establishment of a Federal civil cause of action for trade secret misappropriation, which would effectively build upon current Federal law and various State laws that have largely adopted the Uniform Trade Secrets Act. As such, the Administration strongly supports the Defend Trade Secrets Act of 2016 and looks forward to working with the Congress on this important piece of legislation as it moves through the legislative process."

An identical companion bill in the House of Representatives, H.R.3326, was referred to the House the Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property, and the Internet on Oct. 1, 2015.

 See more at:

OSHA Lowers Permissible Exposure Limit for Occupational Exposures to Crystalline Silica

According to OSHA, crystalline silica is a common mineral found in many naturally occurring materials and used in many industrial products and at construction sites. Materials like sand, concrete, stone and mortar contain crystalline silica. Crystalline silica is also used to make products such as glass, pottery, ceramics, bricks, concrete and artificial stone. Industrial sand used in certain operations, such as foundry work and hydraulic fracturing (fracking), is also a source of silica exposure. OSHA has been concerned about worker exposure to respirable crystalline silica for decades because of cases of silica inhalation that have caused silicosis, lung disease and kidney disease.

This long-awaited final rule comes after the proposed rule was released by OSHA in late 2013, after which OSHA received over 2,000 public comments, and held 14 days of public hearings where more than 70 interest groups testified. ACA had commented on the proposed rule in February 2014.

OSHA has determined that employees exposed to respirable crystalline silica at the previous permissible exposure limits (PELs) "face a significant risk of material impairment to their health. The evidence in the record for this rulemaking indicates that workers exposed to respirable crystalline silica are at increased risk of developing silicosis and other non-malignant respiratory diseases, lung cancer, and kidney disease." The final rule establishes a new, lower PEL of 50 micrograms of respirable crystalline silica per cubic meter of air (50 μg/m3) as an 8-hour time weighted average (TWA) in all industries covered by the rule. This new limit is 2-5 times lower than the current PEL. It also includes other provisions to protect employees, such as requirements for exposure assessment, methods for controlling exposure, respiratory protection, medical surveillance, hazard communication, and recordkeeping.

According to Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Dr. David Michaels, this new standard is consistent with the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health's (NIOSH) recommendation 40 years ago. Dr. Michaels also stated in his announcement about the final rule that this new standard is the lowest level that can be reasonably achieved through engineering controls and work practices in most operations, and that most employers are already implementing the kinds of measures the final rule prescribes.

Read full at:

WOW...Sherwin-Williams to Acquire Valspar for $11.3 Billion

Wisconsin Attorney General Submits Brief in Support of State Legislature’s Overruling of Thomas

Last month, Wisconsin State Attorney General Brad Schimel submitted a brief supporting defendants/appellants, Milwaukee County Department of Health and Human Services and NL Industries, Inc., in a case before the Wisconsin Supreme Court. In the case, Yasmine Clark, a minor, by her guardian Ad Litem, Susan M. Gramling v. American Cyanamid Company, et al., the plaintiff is challenging the 2013 Wisconsin law that retroactively undid a legal decision, Thomas, which briefly allowed a "risk contribution" theory of liability.

Oral arguments in the case are scheduled for April 5.
In 2005, in the case of Thomas v. Mallett, the Wisconsin Supreme Court said that a plaintiff does not have to prove who actually made the product alleged to have harmed him. Under Thomas, a plaintiff can sue all the manufacturers who were in the market at the relevant time and, if the case is successful, each will share liability for the "risk" to which they have "contributed." However, in 2011, the Wisconsin legislature modified this "risk contribution" theory in a way that makes it inapplicable to lead-based paint cases; as such, cases cannot be brought today using the risk contribution theory.

In the statement of interest of his brief, the attorney general states that "when a law's constitutionality is at stake, the Wisconsin Attorney General is 'entitled to be heard.'" He argues that the Thomas case was wrongly decided, and the legislature was right to overrule it. In that case, Steven Thomas ingested lead paint as a child in the early 1990s, but because the two houses he lived in were built in early 1900s, he could not identify the manufacturer of the paint. The brief posits that the court decision in Thomas wrongly eliminated the standard causation requirement, and that by overruling the Thomas decision in 2011, the legislature restored a hundred years of established expectations that the Thomas six-year tenure had unsettled. In fact, the brief says that the legislature advanced the public interest and restored private settled expectations by overruling Thomas in all of its applications.

In the case, Clark also argues that the legislature violated separation of powers principles by overruling Thomas, suggesting that Thomas's rule was constitutionally required. But the attorney general cited case law that the legislature can "repeal the common law, as long as the change does not conflict with the constitution," and that the legislature has the authority and duty to overturn wrongly decided, common-law cases. As such, he said that Clark's separation of powers and arguments are entirely meritless, and the legislature exercised this authority wisely when it completely overturned Thomas, protecting businesses in Wisconsin from being subject to this unfair and arguably unconstitutional decision.

According to the attorney general's brief, "the law does not violate due process or any other constitutional provision. Rather, it advances core interests grounded in due process and basic fairness by restoring expectations that had been settled for a century before Thomas."

In 2011, ACA supported civil justice fairness for conducting business in Wisconsin and to help the state's economic recovery. Wisconsin was the lone state to permit a "risk contribution" theory of liability, whereby even companies selling legal, necessary products in Wisconsin can be held liable, long after the fact, despite the acknowledgement that these products may have had nothing to do with the alleged damages claimed by the plaintiff. ACA, on behalf of its paint manufacturers in the state and throughout the United States, had successfully urged passage of the Special Legislative Session package of legal reforms by the Wisconsin state legislature to restore fairness and balance.

ACA believes that those civil justice reforms now help expedite legitimate claims, while preserving legitimate, necessary commerce against trial attorney litigation based on novel theories of liability unfounded by proper evidence and proof of actual causation.

Read More By Tom Graves

EPA Releases Proposed Rule Amending Risk Management Programs under the Clean Air Act

On March 14, EPA published in the Federal Register a proposed rule that would amend its Risk Management Program (RMP) regulations. This proposal is part of President Obama's initiative under Executive Order (EO) 13650 to improve chemical facility safety and security. A number of ACA companies are regulated under the RMP program.
EPA will be accepting comments on the rule through May 13.

The RMP program applies to all stationary sources with processes that contain more than a threshold of a regulated substance. The plan elements are intended to prevent accidental releases and reducing the severity of releases that occur. All sources must prepare and submit an RMP to EPA at least every five years.

EO 13650 requires that various federal agencies develop options for improved chemical facility safety and security that identify "improvements to existing risk management practices through agency programs, private sector initiatives, Government guidance, outreach, standards, and regulations." One agency program in existence is the RMP Program implemented by EPA under section 112(r) of the Clean Air Act (42 U.S.C. 7412(r)). Section 6(c) of EO 13650 requires the EPA Administrator to review the chemical hazards covered by the RMP program, and expand, implement and enforce the program to address any additional hazards. EPA released a Request for Information in 2014 with a number of different proposals for how to amend the regulations, and ACA commented on the proposal (see comments). ACA also had a member company serve on the Small Business Review Panel administered by EPA, OMB and SBA to discuss the impacts of some of the proposal on small business entities.
Of the many different proposed options, EPA has chosen seven major areas to focus for proposed amendments, including the following:

  • Third Party Audits – This provision would require a facility that has an RMP reportable accident to use an independent third party to conduct its next scheduled audit. The proposal contains criteria for auditor competence and independence.
  • Incident Investigations and Root Cause Analysis – The proposal would require an incident investigation after any incident that resulted in or could have resulted in a catastrophic release. The facility would identify the root cause of (i.e., the fundamental reason for) the incident and submit a report.
  • Safer Technology Alternatives Analysis – Program 3 facilities in three industry categories (paper manufacturing, coal and petroleum products manufacturing, and chemical manufacturing) would be required to evaluate safer technology and alternatives when conducting the process hazard assessment already required by the current RMP rule.
  • Local Coordination – The proposal would increase communication with Local Emergency Planning Committees (LEPCs) by requiring annual coordination by facilities with LEPCs to clarify response needs, emergency plans, roles, and responsibilities.
  • Emergency Response Exercises – The proposal would require responding facilities to conduct annual tabletop emergency response exercises with a field exercise every five years. All facilities would perform annual notification exercises.
  • Information Sharing to LEPC's – The proposal would add new disclosure requirements for facilities to LEPCs. LEPCs would receive Incident Investigation Reports, a summary of inherently safer technology adopted according to a Safer Technology Alternatives Analysis, and emergency response exercise reports. The public would receive chemical hazard information, summaries of emergency response exercises, and LEPC contact information.
  • Increasing Access to Existing Public Information – The proposal seeks input on increasing the public's access to existing public information to assist participation in accident preparedness planning, including chemical hazard information, summaries of emergency response exercises, and LEPC contact information.

- See more at: http://www.paint.org/epa-releases-proposed-rule-amending-risk-management-programs-under-the-clean-air-act/

I urge everyone to listen to this show, especially those concerned with CDC's warnings about risk of zika later in the spring and summer months.

Apr 12, 2016

Bill Nye say because of Millennials, Climate Change Denial Is 'Running Out of Steam,'

Famed science educator Bill Nye has long been an outspoken critic of people who continue to doubt climate change, the main driver of freaky weather patterns, rising global temperatures and sea level rise around the globe. In an interview with Mic, Nye said that despite lingering skepticisms, there is nearly 100% scientific consensus that climate change is happening and is here to stay -- and people are becoming increasingly anxious about its effects on the planet, particularly younger generations. "Almost every person in denial about climate change is older," Nye said. "It's very hard to find a millennial-aged person that is not concerned about climate change. I think the climate denial movement is running out of steam, I guess that's a pun."

Over 80 Percent of China's Well Water Is Polluted

32.9 percent of the 2,103 underground wells tested in China received grade 4 for water quality -- meaning they're only fit for industrial use and are not safe for drinking water. Another 47.3 percent received a grade 5 for water quality. "These latest statistics are an indicator of how bad the underground water quality is. The sources of pollution are widespread and include a lot of agricultures. I think that would be the main source of pollution," Dabo Guan, professor at the University of East Anglia in Britain, told the New York Times. "From my point of view, this shows how water is the biggest environmental issue in China. People in the cities, they see air pollution every day, so it creates huge pressure from the public. But in the cities, people don't see how bad the water pollution is," said Guan. According to statistics from the country'sMinistry of Water Resources, 70 percent of lakes used as a water source, 60 percent of underground water, and 11 percent of water in reservoirs did not meet the country's safety standards. Even though the study measured water sources close to the surface, the results are shocking and depict the adverse effects air pollution has in China currently and in years to come.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Apr 11, 2016

California Delays BPA Warning Rules, Fearing They Could Scare Away Shoppers

APCalifornia plans to delay state-required warnings on metal cans lined with the chemical BPA, arguing too-specific warnings could scare stores and shoppers in poor neighborhoods away from some of the only fruits and vegetables available — canned ones, officials said Thursday.

Instead, the state on May 11 will require stores to post general warnings at checkout counters about the dangers of BPA and note that some canned and bottled products being sold have liners with the toxic chemical.

The decision and rationale of the California Environmental Protection Agency are angering some community and public-health groups.

It's "ridiculous. It's paternalistic," said Martha Dina Arguello, executive director of Physicians for Social Responsibility-Los Angeles. "I just can't imagine that it's a better idea not to let us know what's in our food."

Apr 8, 2016

Air Quality State Implementation Plans; Approvals and Promulgations: Pennsylvania; Attainment Plan and Base Year Inventory for the North Reading Area for the 2008 Lead National Ambient Air Quality Standards

Apr 7, 2016 — Pre-release — Final Rule — Environmental Protection Agency
...establishes specific consequences if EPA finds that a state has failed to submit a SIP or, with regard to a submitted SIP, if EPA determines it is incomplete or if EPA disapproves it. Additionally, any of these findings also triggers an obligation for EPA to promulgate a federal implementation plan (FIP) if the state has not submitted, and EPA has not approved, the required SIP within 2 years of the finding pursuant to section 110(c) of the CAA. On February 25, 2014, the EPA issued a finding that...

Read full here

Apr 6, 2016

US: Food and Drug Administration Publishes Sanitary Food Transport Final Rule

Sanitary Transportation of Human and Animal Food; Final Rule
21 CFR Parts 1 and 11 [Docket No. FDA-2013-N-0013] RIN 0910-AG98
SUMMARY: The Food and Drug Administration (FDA or we) is issuing a final rule to establish requirements for shippers, loaders, carriers by motor vehicle and rail vehicle, and receivers engaged in the transportation of food, including food for animals, to use sanitary transportation practices to ensure the safety of the food they transport. This action is part of our larger effort to focus on prevention of food safety problems throughout the food chain and is part of our implementation of the Sanitary Food Transportation Act of 2005 (2005 SFTA) and the Food Safety Modernization Act of 2011 (FSMA).

DATES: This rule is effective June 6, 2016. See section V for the compliance dates.
Sanitary Transportation of Human and Animal Food
AGENCY: Food and Drug Administration, HHS.
ACTION: Final rule.
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Michael Kashtock, Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition (HFS-317), Food and Drug Administration, 5100 Paint Branch Pkwy., College Park, MD 20740, 240-402-2022.

Amazon Indians at risk in mercury poisoning crisis,

"Illegal gold mining in the Amazon has a devastating effect on indigenous peoples, writes Sarina Kidd. First the miners bring disease, deforestation and even murder. Then long after they have gone, communities are left to suffer deadly mercury poisoning. Now the UN has been called on to intervene."

Read full at:

Apr 5, 2016

Over 700 million obese adults now and trending to over 1.5 billion obese adults by 2025

If global post-2000 fattening trends continue, by 2025, global obesity prevalence will reach 18% in men and surpass 21% in women; severe obesity will surpass 6% in men and 9% in women. Nonetheless, underweight remains prevalent in the world's poorest regions, especially in south Asia.

The percentage of men who were obese in 2014 (10.7%) is three times what it was in 1975 (3.3%) and the proportion of women who were obese in 2014 (14.9%) was twice what it was in 1975 (6.4%).

Of these countries, the US has the highest of average BMI both for men and women. More than one in four severely obese men and about one in five severely obese women in the world live in the US. The UK comes next, followed by Canada.

The team predicts that, by 2025, about 43% of US women and 45% of US men could be obese. The UK is estimated to have the highest levels (38%) of obese women in Europe.

Read more »
// Next Big Future