Jul 27, 2017

EPA Issues July Freshwater Harmful Algal Blooms Newsletter

Some highlights from the July edition include articles on:
  • A Method for Examining Temporal Changes in Cyanobacterial Harmful Algal Bloom Spatial Extent Using Satellite Remote Sensing
  • Microcystin Prevalence Throughout Lentic Waterbodies in Southern California
  • Using Fluorescent Microscopy to Distinguish Algae from Cyanobacteria in Lakes 
This monthly newsletter highlights current information about Harmful Algal Blooms in freshwater systems, including news; upcoming events, conferences, and webinars; beach closures and health advisories; recently published journal articles; and other resources. 

Read the July newsletter!

Jul 25, 2017

Have Your Say on the Future of Lake Huron!

We are happy to announce that, in keeping with the 2012 Canada-United States Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement, a draft 2017 Lake Huron Lakewide Action and Management Plan (LAMP) has been prepared, and is currently available for review and comment.  We would like to hear your views on Lake Huron's health, the key environmental issues within your region of the watershed, and the proposed priorities and actions that are intended to restore and maintain its waters for future generations.
The 2017 Lake Huron LAMP is a five-year binational strategy for maintaining and restoring the water quality of Lake Huron and the St. Marys River. The LAMP identifies key priorities, and guides the coordination of binational environmental protection and restoration activities aimed at preserving and protecting the health of Lake Huron's waters. 
The draft LAMP reflects a science-based and shared understanding by members of the Lake Huron Partnership which is made up of Canadian and United States government agencies, and led by the United States Environmental Protection Agency and Environment and Climate Change Canada.
One of the underlying principles embodied in the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement, is that we will work in cooperation with State and Provincial Governments, First Nations, M├ętis, Tribal Governments, Municipal Governments, watershed management and local public agencies, and the public, to successfully meet the commitments under the Agreement.  By making this draft document available for broad review and comment you can help ensure that priority issues are identified in the Lake Huron LAMP. 

Jul 24, 2017

​​Surveillance for Silicosis Deaths Among Persons Aged 15–44 Years — United States, 1999–2015

Various preventable occupational pulmonary diseases are associated with exposure to respirable particles of crystalline silica and other silicate materials, one of which is talc (hydrous magnesium silicate). Detailed information on the circumstances surrounding deaths of silicosis decedents is needed to better target intervention and prevention measures.

What is added by this report?
During 1999–2015, among 55 decedents aged 15–44 years who had pneumoconiosis due to dust containing silica assigned as either the underlying or contributing cause of death, 38 (69%) were assigned pneumoconiosis due to other dust containing silica, and 17 (31%) were assigned pneumoconiosis due to talc dust. Decedents with pneumoconiosis due to other dust containing silica had manufacturing or construction industry frequently listed as the occupation on their death certificates; both industries are well known to be associated with exposures to silica-containing dust. Among 17 decedents with pneumoconiosis due to talc dust, 13 (76%) involved multiple drug use or drug overdose and none worked in talc exposure-associated jobs.

What are the implications for public health practice?
Among deaths in persons aged 15–44 years attributed to pneumoconiosis due to dust containing silica, nearly one third had pneumoconiosis due to talc dust. Most of these cases likely represent nonoccupational exposure to talc. Examining detailed information on causes of death, including external causes, along with industry and occupation of decedents is essential for identifying silicosis deaths associated with occupational exposures and reducing misclassification of silicosis mortality.

= -- = -- = --

Silicosis is usually a disease of long latency affecting mostly older workers; therefore, silicosis deaths in young adults (aged 15–44 years) suggests acute or accelerated disease.* To understand the circumstances surrounding silicosis deaths among young persons, CDC analyzed the underlying and contributing causes† of death using multiple cause-of-death data (1999–2015) and industry and occupation information abstracted from death certificates (1999–2013). During 1999–2015, among 55 pneumoconiosis deaths of young adults with International Classification of Diseases, Tenth Revision (ICD-10) code J62 (pneumoconiosis due to dust containing silica),§ 38 (69%) had code J62.8 (pneumoconiosis due to other dust containing silica), and 17 (31%) had code J62.0 (pneumoconiosis due to talc dust) listed on their death certificate. Decedents whose cause of death code was J62.8 most frequently worked in the manufacturing and construction industries and production occupations where silica exposure is known to occur. Among the 17 decedents who had death certificates listing code J62.0 as cause of death, 13 had certificates with an underlying or a contributing cause of death code listed that indicated multiple drug use or drug overdose. In addition, 13 of the 17 death certificates listing code J62.0 as cause of death had information on decedent's industry and occupation; among the 13 decedents, none worked in talc exposure–associated jobs, suggesting that their talc exposure was nonoccupational. Examining detailed information on causes of death (including external causes) and industry and occupation of decedents is essential for identifying silicosis deaths associated with occupational exposures and reducing misclassification of silicosis mortality.

Various occupationally associated pulmonary diseases are linked to exposure to silica and silicates, a large class of minerals that includes talc (hydrous magnesium silicate) and other nonfibrous silicate minerals (1). Silicosis is caused by inhaling respirable crystalline silica. Occupational exposure to airborne respirable silica particles has been associated with work in mining, quarrying, tunneling, construction, sandblasting, masonry, foundry operations, glass manufacture, ceramic and pottery production, and cement and concrete production and with work with certain materials in dental laboratories (2). Newly emerging occupations and tasks, including fabricating and installing quartz-containing engineered stone products and extracting natural gas by hydraulic fracturing also place workers at risk for silicosis.¶ Approximately 2.3 million workers might be exposed to respirable crystalline silica in the United States.**

Exposure to talc causes talcosis (talco-silicosis or talco-asbestosis if talc is contaminated with silica or asbestos fibers, respectively); inhalation of talc usually results from occupational exposures during talc mining and milling and during production of ceramics, pharmaceuticals, paint, paper, cosmetics, plastics, roofing, rubber, insecticides, and other products (3). Although only 240 workers were employed in talc mining in the United States during 2015 (the number of workers exposed to talc in milling and secondary industries is unknown), 803,000 metric tons of talc were used in various products that year.†† Nonoccupational exposure to talc dust has been associated with use of cosmetic talcum powder (4) and, importantly, with illicit intravenous or inhalation administration of talc-containing legal or illegal drugs, including marijuana, methamphetamine, methadone, promethazine, cocaine, diazepam, acetaminophen, meperidine, pentazocine, oxymorphone, and heroin (3,5–7).

To investigate silicosis deaths among young adults, ICD-10 codes for underlying and contributing causes of death from the 1999–2015 National Center for Health Statistics' multiple cause-of-death mortality data were analyzed to provide detailed information on the circumstances surrounding pneumoconiosis deaths among young adults caused by dust containing silica. Time trends were assessed using a linear regression model. Twenty-one states provided copies of actual death certificates§§ from 1999 through 2013; usual industry and occupation entries were abstracted from these certificates and were coded using the National Institute for Occupation Safety and Health's Industry and Occupation Computerized Coding System.¶¶

During 1999–2015, a total of 55 young adult decedents had ICD-10 code J62 assigned as either the underlying or a contributing cause of death, including 38 (69%) with ICD-10 subcategory J62.8 listed as the underlying (27) or a contributing (11) cause of death. The mean age of these 38 decedents was 38.6 years; most were males (95%), white (82%), non-Hispanic (74%), and born in the United States (71%) (Table 1). None of these 38 deaths involved multiple drug use or drug overdose; three (8%) had received subcutaneous silicone injections.***

Seventeen (31%) of the 55 decedents had subcategory J62.0 listed as the underlying (11) or contributing (6) cause of death. The mean age of these decedents was 37.5 years; slightly more than half (9) were male, 13 were white, 15 were non-Hispanic, and all were born in the United States. Thirteen of these 17 deaths involved multiple drug use and drug overdose. ††† The number of pneumoconiosis deaths due to other dust containing silica and due to talc dust among young adults remained stable during 1999–2015 (Table 1).

To evaluate industry and occupation of decedents with a diagnosis of silicosis, CDC obtained death certificates for 47 young adult decedents reported during 1999–2013 from 21 states§§§ who had ICD-10 code J62 assigned as the underlying or contributing cause of death. Industry and occupation entries recorded on death certificates were reviewed, including 34 (97%) certificates for 35 deaths with any mention of pneumoconiosis due to other dust containing silica and all certificates for 13 deaths with any mention of pneumoconiosis due to talc dust during 1999–2013. Among the 35 decedents with a diagnosis of pneumoconiosis due to other dust containing silica, the majority were associated with working in the manufacturing (e.g., cut stone and stone product manufacturing industry) (12 [34%]) and construction (7 [20%]) industry sectors; 11 (31%) were working in production (e.g., crushing, grinding, polishing, mixing, and blending workers) occupations; five (14%) in construction and extraction occupations; and three (9%) as brickmasons and blockmasons (Table 2). These industries and occupations have well-established associations with exposure to crystalline silica (2). Among the 13 decedents whose death certificates included any mention of pneumoconiosis due to dust containing talc, none was employed in an industry or occupation traditionally associated with exposure to talc. Ten of these 13 decedents were assigned codes indicating multiple drug use or drug overdose. Among these 10 decedents, three worked in the health care and social assistance industry (offices of dentists, ambulatory health care services, and general medical and surgical hospitals) (Table 3).


Among 55 deaths in young adults reported for 1999–2015 with ICD-10 code J62 assigned as either the underlying or a contributing cause of death, 13 were coded as subcategory J62.0, indicating exposure to talc dust, and in most of these cases, the underlying or contributing cause-of-death codes also indicated multiple drug use or drug overdose. These deaths likely represent nonoccupational pulmonary talcosis caused by illicit inhalation or intravenous administration of talc-contaminated drugs (3,5–7). Eight of the 13 pneumoconiosis deaths attributed to talc dust were associated with multiple drug use and drug overdose occurred during 2010–2015, and coincided with the expanding epidemic of drug overdose deaths in the United States (8).

The remaining two thirds of silicosis deaths were coded as J62.8. Among silicosis deaths reported for 1999–2013, manufacturing or construction industries, both of which are known to be associated with exposures to silica-containing dust, were frequently listed on death certificates for these decedents. Three decedents had a history of subcutaneous silicone injections and likely were erroneously assigned code J62.8 as the underlying cause of death.

The findings in this report are subject to at least five limitations. First, no information on silica exposure intensity or duration is listed on death certificates. Silicosis-associated deaths in young adults should be considered sentinel cases, potentially resulting from high exposures that cause short latency to disease onset and rapid disease progression. Second, lifetime occupational histories of decedents were not collected, and the usual industry and occupation listed on death certificates might not accurately represent the industry or occupation where the hazardous silica exposure occurred. However, there is a generally good agreement of industry and occupation information on death certificates compared with that from other sources (9). Third, industry and occupation information was only available for 40 (83%) and 42 (88%) decedents, respectively, who were included in reports during 1999–2013. Fourth, pneumoconiosis as a cause of death might have been misclassified or under- or overreported. Finally, increased recognition of drug-related deaths, improvements in testing, and reporting of deaths involving drug use might have contributed to the high frequency of reported multiple drug use and drug overdose among pneumoconiosis deaths due to talc. The continuing occurrence of pneumoconiosis deaths due to other dust containing silica indicates the need for maintaining measures to limit workplace exposure to respirable crystalline silica. Primary prevention of pneumoconioses relies on elimination or effective control of exposures (https://www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/hierarchy/). Effective silicosis prevention strategies for employers are available from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (https://www.osha.gov/silica/) and CDC (https://www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/silica). The occurrence of pneumoconiosis deaths due to talc associated with multiple drug use and drug overdose reinforces the need for a multifaceted, collaborative clinical, public health, public safety, and law enforcement approach to the drug overdose epidemic (8). Examining detailed information on causes of death, including external causes, along with industry and occupation of decedents, is essential for identifying silicosis deaths associated with occupational exposures and reducing misclassification of silicosis mortality.


Weekly / July 21, 2017 / 66(28);747–752

Jacek M. Mazurek, MD, PhD1; John M. Wood, MS1; Patricia L. Schleiff, MS1; David N. Weissman, MD1

Jul 20, 2017

Free ECHO Compliance Webinar on Water Facility Search Tools

Advanced ECHO Webinar: Water Facility Search Tools

August 22, 2017, Time: 12:30 PM - 1:30 PM CDT
Type: Event

Join the Enforcement and Compliance History Online (ECHO) team for another quarterly webinar. For this webinar, we will be focusing on water facility search tools including the water facility search, effluent charts, and the pollutant loading tool.

Contact Information:

House panel approves $300 million for Great Lakes

Despite a White House proposal to eliminate $300 million for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, the House Appropriations Committee voted late Tuesday to fully fund the program through September 2018.

The vote marks an important step toward securing funding for the Great Lakes cleanup program in the federal budget for the next fiscal year.

The funding was part of an Environmental Protection Agency spending bill. Overall, the bill decreases annual funding for the agency by $528 million. President Trump's budget called for a $2.6 billion cut.

Read our series on the impact of the Trump budget plan.

The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative has a history of strong bipartisan support, and has funded projects aiming to improve water quality, decrease harmful algal blooms, and manage invasive species.

The spending bill also includes funds for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to continue fighting invasive species like quagga mussels and Asian carp.

A similar effort to restore the Chesapeake Bay took a hit. The committee approved $60 million for the bay program — $13 million less than the 2017 allocation.

The committee vote means the bill can now move on to the House.

This story originally appeared on Great Lakes Today and is republished here with permission to Great Lakes Echo. - By Elizabeth Miller

2016 Chemical Data Reporting Results

EPA is releasing the 2016 CDR data in stages. EPA released the initial 2016 CDR data in May 2017. The initial data includes national production volume (released in ranges), other manufacturing information, and processing and use information, except for information that was claimed by the submitter to be confidential business information (CBI) or information that is being withheld to protect CBI. EPA anticipates releasing additional data late in 2017 after completion of an effort to obtain CBI substantiation required by the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act, which amended the Toxic Substances Control Act.

FACT SHEET: Final Rule to Update General Industry Walking-Working Surfaces and Fall Protection Standards

Get the "Fact Sheet"

OSHA: Falls from heights and on the same level (a working surface) are among the leading causes of serious work-related injuries and deaths. OSHA has issued a final rule on Walking-Working Surfaces and Personal Fall Protection Systems to better protect workers in general industry from these hazards by updating and clarifying standards and adding training and inspection requirements.

The rule affects a wide range of workers, from painters to warehouse workers. It does not change construction or agricultural standards.

The rule incorporates advances in technology, industry best practices, and national consensus standards to provide effective and cost-efficient worker protection. Specifically, it updates general industry standards addressing slip, trip, and fall hazards (subpart D), and adds requirements for personal fall protection systems (subpart I).

OSHA estimates that these changes will prevent 29 fatalities and 5,842 lost-workday injuries every year.

Benefits to Employers

The rule benefits employers by providing greater flexibility in choosing a fall protection system. For example, it eliminates the existing mandate to use guardrails as a primary fall protection method and allows employers to choose from accepted fall protection systems they believe will work best in a particular situation - an approach that has been successful in the construction industry since 1994. In addition, employers will be able to use non-conventional fall protection in certain situations, such as designated areas on low-slope roofs.

As much as possible, OSHA aligned fall protection requirements for general industry with those for construction, easing compliance for employers who perform both types of activities. For example, the final rule replaces the outdated general industry scaffold standards with a requirement that employers comply with OSHA's construction scaffold standards.


Most of the rule will become effective January 17, 2017, 60 days after publication in the Federal Register, but some provisions have delayed effective dates, including:

  • Ensuring exposed workers are trained on fall hazards (May 17, 2017),
  • Ensuring workers who use equipment covered by the final rule are trained (May 17, 2017),
  • Inspecting and certifying permanent anchorages for rope descent systems (November 20, 2017),
  • Installing personal fall arrest or ladder safety systems on new fixed ladders over 24 feet and on replacement ladders/ladder sections, including fixed ladders on outdoor advertising structures (November 19, 2018),
  • Ensuring existing fixed ladders over 24 feet, including those on outdoor advertising structures, are equipped with a cage, well, personal fall arrest system, or ladder safety system (November 19, 2018), and
  • Replacing cages and wells (used as fall protection) with ladder safety or personal fall arrest systems on all fixed ladders over 24 feet (November 18, 2036).

New guide will help small businesses comply with OSHA's silica rule for general industry and maritime

Small Entity Compliance Guide for General Industry and Maritime

OSHA has released a Small Entity Compliance Guide for General Industry and Maritime to help small business employers comply with the agency's Final Rule to Protect Workers from Exposure to Respirable Crystalline Silica. The guide describes the steps that employers are required to take to protect employees in general industry and maritime from the hazards associated with silica exposure. These requirements include: assessing worker exposures; using engineering and work practice controls to keep exposures below a specified safety threshold; and offering medical exams to certain highly exposed workers. Enforcement of the final rule in general industry and maritime is scheduled to begin June 23, 2018.

OSHA: Form for electronically submitting injury, illness data available Aug. 1

On Aug. 1, OSHA will launch a web-based form that will allow employers to electronically submit required injury and illness data from their completed 2016 OSHA Form 300A. The webpage will offer three options for submitting data, and includes information on reporting requirements, a list of frequently asked questions, and a link to request assistance with completing the form.

OSHA published a notice of proposed rulemaking last month to extend the deadline for electronically submitting the data to Dec. 1, 2017. The proposed extension gives those affected sufficient time to familiarize themselves with the electronic reporting system, and provides the new administration an opportunity to review the new electronic reporting requirements prior to their implementation. For more information, read the news release

EPA: New TRI Data Available

On July 19, EPA released the preliminary 2016 Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) dataset, the most current TRI data available. These facility-level data show the chemicals that industrial facilities manufacture, process or otherwise use and release into the environment. The data also show pollution prevention activities initiated by individual facilities during 2016. The data are available in Envirofacts and in downloadable files on the TRI website.

Users should note that while the preliminary data have undergone the basic data quality checks included in the online TRI reporting software, they have not undergone the complete TRI data quality process. In addition, EPA doesn't aggregate or summarize these data, or offer any analysis or interpretation of them.

The agency will update the preliminary dataset several times in August and September based on information from facilities. EPA will publish the complete, quality-checked 2016 dataset in October, followed by the 2016 TRI National Analysis in January 2018.

China cracking down more on imported trash

China says it won't take any more foreign garbage
GENEVA (Reuters) - China notified the World Trade Organization (WTO) on Tuesday that it would stop accepting shipments of rubbish such as waste plastic and paper as part of a campaign against "foreign garbage".
The import ban, which will enter into force by the end of 2017, will also cover slag from steelmaking, and many kinds of waste wool, ash, cotton and yarn.
"We found that large amounts of dirty wastes or even hazardous wastes are mixed in the solid waste that can be used as raw materials. This polluted China's environment seriously," China's WTO filing said.
"To protect China's environmental interests and people's health, we urgently adjust the imported solid wastes list, and forbid the import of solid wastes that are highly polluted."
China is a major importer of waste. Last year it imported 7.3 million tonnes of waste plastics, valued at $3.7 billion, accounting for 56 percent of world imports.
Apart from Hong Kong, the biggest sources of that plastic waste were Japan and the United States, which accounted for roughly 10 percent of the volume each, according to data from the International Trade Centre, a United Nations-WTO joint venture.
The same two countries are also the main sources of scrap paper going to China each year, accounting for half of the almost $1 billion business between them.
China's speedy industrial development has seen it struggling to regulate waste disposal, leading to toxic waterways and cities blanketed in smog.
China plans to conduct a nationwide survey of pollution sources, and has urged local authorities to speed things up by launching local investigations by the end of July, the Ministry of Environmental Protection said on Monday.

Jul 18, 2017

We throw away our future....A Million Bottles Per Minute

The immense waste that comes along with one-time-use plastic products is clearly evident, yet despite the growing amount of plastic waste filling up our oceans, coastlines and landfills, their usage continues. The number of plastic bottles alone is staggering, with data obtained by The Guardian suggesting 1 million plastic bottles are purchased every minute worldwide. Worse still, this is expected to increase by 20 percent by 2021 and reach more than half a trillion sold every year by 2020.1

Most of this waste comes from the seemingly insatiable thirst for bottled water, which exists even in areas where access to filtered tap water, which can be brought with you on-the-go via refillable bottles, exists. The Guardian also highlighted increasingly urbanized regions in China and the Asia Pacific regions as adding to the problem, continuing:2

"More than 480bn plastic drinking bottles were sold in 2016 across the world, up from about 300bn a decade ago. If placed end to end, they would extend more than halfway to the sun. By 2021 this will increase to 583.3bn, according to the most up-to-date estimates from Euromonitor International's global packaging trends report."

Most Plastic Bottles End Up in Landfills or the Ocean

While most plastic water and soda bottles are made from highly recyclable polyethylene terephthalate (PET), most such bottles end up littering oceans and landfills. The Guardian reported that fewer than half of the plastic bottles purchased in 2016 were recycled, and only 7 percent were made into new bottles.3 In the U.S., one of the top waste-generating countries, littering is a major issue, especially in the form of single-use plastics, like soda bottles, drinking straws and potato chip bags.

According to environmental advocacy group Ocean Conservancy, some plastic products persist for so long, even in salty ocean water, that they'll still be recognizable after 400 years.4 "The amount of unmanaged plastic waste entering the ocean — known as plastic-waste leakage — has reached crisis levels and has caused significant economic and environmental damage," they state.5

More than 80 percent of the plastic debris in the ocean starts off on land. Once in the ocean, it's known that nearly 700 species (and probably many more) are negatively impacted by such debris. Sadly, at least 17 percent of impacted species are listed on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List as near threatened or worse, and at least 10 percent of the species had ingested microplastics.6

A study published in Marine Policy revealed that ingestion and entanglement from litter poses the biggest threat to marine life, more so than chemical contamination.7 Plastic bags, balloons and utensils were particularly problematic, as seabirds, turtles and marine mammals commonly mistook them for food. That being said, microplastics, which are less than 5 millimeters (mm) in diameter, are also consumed by marine life, with unknown consequences.

If you eat seafood that has been ingesting microbeads, you're at risk of a potentially high dose of environmental toxins as well. One 2014 study even suggested that the average European who eats shellfish may consume 11,000 pieces of microplastic per year.8 Quite literally, the ocean and its inhabitants are teeming with plastic. In the U.K., for instance, one-third of the fish caught were found to contain plastic.9

A Campaign to Eliminate Plastic Straws

Plastic bottles have received a lot of negative press, which in turn has spawned an industry of alternatives, including stainless steel and glass water bottles to take with you on the go. The movement to eliminate plastic straws has received less attention, but it's steadily growing as the consequences of their use become apparent.

According to the Be Straw Free campaign, Americans use 500 million straws daily, which doesn't even account for all of the straws that come attached to juice and milk cartons (including those handed out in school cafeterias).10

Straws are also commonly found littering coastlines and beaches (along with plastic bags and bottles), which isn't surprising when you think about how often and widely they're handed out. While some zoos and theme parks (such as Walt Disney World's Animal Kingdom) have banned their use to protect animals, straws are available for free at virtually every U.S. restaurant, movie theater and coffee shop.

Sadly, marine mammals are often found with straws lodged in their stomachs and sea turtles have been found with straws wedged in their nose. Slowly, cities around the U.S. have taken notice, with California's Manhattan Beach enacting a citywide disposable plastic ban. Others, including Berkeley, California; Miami, Florida; and New York City, as well as 1,800 restaurants, are considering bans on straws or at least have pledged to only hand them out if customers request them.11

This latter strategy alone could cut down on significant amounts of waste, as many people use straws as an afterthought, simply because they're there.

Catherine Greener, vice president of sustainability for Xanterra Parks & Resorts, a concessions company that partners with the National Park Service, told The Washington Post, "Humans didn't really evolve around straws. It's not like we have to consume fluids with this appendage. What really, what is this?"12 For those rare times when a straw really is necessary (or if you just like using one), reusable straws made from stainless steel, bamboo and even glass are widely available.

Plastic Utensils: Billions May Be Tossed Annually

No one's keeping track of how many plastic forks, knives and spoons are tossed out every year, but Mother Jones reported that close to 2 billion takeout orders were placed in the U.S. in 2015. "If at least half those meals involved single-use utensils, that would mean we're tossing out billions of utensils each year," the news outlet reported.13 It's another eye-opening statistic with sobering implications for the Earth.

Plastic utensils and other food and beverage packaging were recently found to make up 67 percent of the litter found in the San Francisco Bay area.14 Like straws, oftentimes plastic utensils are added to carry-out orders even if customers don't request them. "Even just asking customers if they need napkins, straws, and utensils before loading up their takeout bags could make a difference. Many of the straws found on the street by Clean Water Action were still in their wrappers," Fast Company reported.15

Alternatives to plastic utensils are also widely available, with washable metal utensils representing the most obvious choice. It's simple to pack a fork and knife with your lunch, and there are even pocket-sized sets with carrying cases available. Meanwhile, in India one company is making edible cutlery out of rice, wheat and sorghum flour, which it states degrade in the environment within 10 days if they're not eaten first.16

Similarly, in California a company is making compostable forks out of potato starch. Even these seemingly innocuous alternatives come with a downside, however, highlighting the need to simply cut down on waste and use of single-use convenience items. As Mother Jones put it:17

"… [S]uch alternatives, which cost about twice as much as plastic, still require a lot of energy and water to produce, according to Samantha Sommer, who runs a waste-prevention project for Clean Water Action. What's more, not all major cities compost.

And even if biodegradable or compostable utensils make it to a facility, there's a chance they'll end up in a landfill, says Robert Reed, a spokesman for the West Coast recycling and compost plant Recology. Depending on what they're made of, he says, biodegradable utensils might not degrade completely; if they don't, they could be plucked out of the pile and thrown away.

Perhaps diners should take a page from China, where environmental protesters publicized how the roughly 80 billion pairs of disposable wooden chopsticks produced each year eat up 20 million trees in the process.

Greenpeace China launched a BYOC (Bring Your Own Chopsticks) campaign and worked with pop stars to promote reusable chopsticks as a trendy fashion accessory. As a result, disposable chopsticks were banned from use at many venues hosting events at Beijing's 2008 Olympics."

There's No Reason for Bottled Water

There are some creative alternatives to plastic in the works, like the Ooho!, which is a bubble-like sphere made from seaweed extract that's being touted as a completely edible water bottle.18 Reusable glass or stainless steel bottles are another option, of course, which you can fill up with filtered water yourself.

Having access to clean water whenever you're thirsty is a luxury many Americans are reluctant to give up, but there's no need to use plastic water bottles for this purpose.

Simply carry a reusable water bottle with you instead and fill it up as necessary, then wash and reuse. In the U.S., water bottle filling stations are becoming the new drinking fountains, and you can find these "hydration stations" at certain airports, schools and in other public areas. If you're purchasing bottled water for home use, a better option is to place a water filter on your tap.

Another option, which is less problematic pollution-wise than single-use bottles, are the large, 5-gallon water coolers that are often found in offices or delivered for home use. The most dangerous plastic chemicals are those used to make plastic flexible, so those rigid, reusable 5-gallon bottles not only present less waste but also less of a risk in terms of plastics chemicals leaching into your water.

Choose Reusable Over Single-Use Products

Ocean Conservancy has called for a collective global response to curb plastics pollution, starting with a plan to reduce plastic-waste leakage in the top five plastic-polluting countries (China, Indonesia, Vietnam, Thailand and the Philippines). They believe their plan, which includes increasing waste-collection rates, closing leakage points and more, could reduce leakage by 65 percent in those five countries and reduce total global leakage by approximately 45 percent by 2025.19

In the U.S., it's also crucial that we rethink our throwaway culture and become more sustainably creative. Ideally, seek to purchase products that are not made from or packaged in plastic. Another important point is to choose reusable over single-use, which is possible in most instances. For instance, opting for the following will help you to inch closer to a minimal-waste lifestyle while keeping your share of plastics pollution out of the oceans:

Use reusable shopping bags for groceries

Take your own leftovers container to restaurants

Bring your own mug for coffee, and bring drinking water from home in glass water bottles instead of buying bottled water

Request no plastic wrap on your newspaper and dry cleaning

Store foods in glass containers or mason jars rather than plastic containers and plastic freezer bags

Avoid disposable utensils and straws and buy foods in bulk when you can

Opt for non-disposable razors, washable feminine hygiene products for women, cloth diapers, handkerchiefs instead of paper tissues, rags in lieu of paper towels, and infant toys made of wood rather than plastic

Avoid processed foods (which are stored in plastic bags with chemicals). Buy fresh produce instead, and forgo the plastic bags

Read on by By Dr. Mercola

Jul 17, 2017

Mosquito Species Capable of Transmitting Zika Virus Found in Dane County

No evidence of Zika-infected mosquitoes; no known cases of locally transmitted Zika in Midwest

Researchers at the University of Wisconsin Medical Entomology Laboratory (UWMEL) and health officials from the Department of Health Services (DHS) and Public Health Madison-Dane County (PHMDC) today announced that the Aedes albopictus mosquito has been found in Dane County. This is the first documentation of this species of mosquito in Wisconsin. Aedes albopictus is one type of mosquito that is capable of spreading Zika virus, however there is no evidence of Zika-infected mosquitoes in Wisconsin. The discovery of Aedes albopictus is unlikely to indicate an elevated risk of locally transmitted Zika virus in Wisconsin. Zika virus is primarily spread by the Aedes aegypti mosquito, which survives in warmer climates, and has not been found in Wisconsin or any neighboring states.

Since 2016, UWMEL and DHS have been working closely with local health departments and the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to perform active surveillance for Aedes species mosquitoes in Wisconsin. Teams are currently assessing how widespread Aedes albopictus is in Dane County and are looking for the mosquito in other parts of the state. The Aedes albopictus mosquito has previously been detected in neighboring states including Minnesota and Iowa with no populations of this species becoming established and no known cases of locally transmitted Zika virus in the Midwest. 

"The detection of the Aedes albopictus mosquito in Wisconsin is not a cause for alarm. We can look to nearby states that also have small numbers of these mosquitoes, where Zika virus has not been locally spread," said State Health Officer Karen McKeown. "However, we want to remind Wisconsin residents to take precautions to prevent mosquito bites. Other serious diseases, including West Nile Virus, are spread by mosquitoes in our state."

Wisconsin residents at risk for Zika virus infection are people who have traveled or had sexual contact with someone who traveled to locations with active Zika virus transmission(link is external). The detection of Aedes albopictus in Wisconsin does not change the precautions that DHS recommends (PDF) for people with a possible exposure to Zika virus. Anyone who may have been exposed to Zika should contact their doctor if they experience fever, rash, joint pain, or red eyes within two weeks of possible exposure, and avoid mosquito bites for at least three weeks after they first become ill or after last possible exposure (if there are no symptoms).

To protect yourself from mosquito bites:

  • Wear long-sleeved shirts, long pants, socks, and shoes in order to minimize the amount of  skin that is showing.
  • Use an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-registered insect repellent on any exposed skin and apply it according to the label instructions.
  • Mosquitoes may bite through thin clothing, so spraying clothes with a repellent containing permethrin or DEET will give extra protection. Do not use permethrin directly on skin. 
  • Stay and sleep in places with air conditioning and/or screened-in windows.
  • Prevent standing water in your yard by disposing discarded tires, cans, plastic containers; draining standing water from pool or hot tub covers; turning over plastic wading pools and wheel barrows when not in use; keeping drains, ditches and culverts clean of trash and weeds so water will drain properly; and cleaning gutters to ensure they drain properly.

Walking-Working Surfaces: Preparing for the New Regulations – Free Webcast via @JJKeller

Tuesday, July 25, 2017 – 10:00 a.m. Central

For years, general industry employers have sought to prevent slips, trips and falls in their workplaces. Unfortunately, Subpart D, "Walking-Working Surfaces," has provided little in the way of clear, concise requirements. This webcast will discuss the new changes for a variety of walking-working surfaces in contrast to current requirements to help employers understand the totality of the requirements and the impact on their workplace. 

Register now »

It’s official: OSHA delays July 1st electronic reporting date

JJKELLER-OSHA proposed a rule to delay the compliance date for employers to submit their injury and illness data electronically to the Agency. OSHA's May 12, 2016, final rule titled "Improve Tracking of Workplace Injuries and Illnesses" required employers to submit data from their 300-A Summaries electronically to OSHA by July 1st.

The new proposed rule would extend the initial submission deadline for 2016 Form 300-A data to December 1, 2017. OSHA says this will give it time to review the electronic reporting requirements before their implementation and allow affected employers sufficient time to familiarize themselves with the electronic reporting system. The proposed five-month delay will be effective upon publication of a final rule in the Federal Register.

According to OSHA, the web portal for employers to submit their data should available on August 1, 2017.

In addition, OSHA says it plans to issue a separate proposed rule to reconsider, revise, or remove other provisions of the Improve Tracking of Workplace Injuries and Illnesses final rule. The Agency will seek comment on those provisions in the separate proposal.

OSHA will accept comments on the current proposed rule to delay the electronic reporting date for 15 days. Submit comments using Docket No. OSHA-2013-0023 to the Federal eRulemaking Portal.

Jul 15, 2017

EPA to Host Drinking Water Preparedness Best Practice Webinar July 19

EPA's Office of Water is planning a Best Practice Webinar on Promoting Preparedness to Protect a Town's Drinking Water on July 19th at 3:00pm eastern. The presenter will be Jeri Weiss from EPA Region 1, and she will be discussing the Best Practice from our FY 2016 National Water Program Performance, Trends, and Best Practices Report. Region 1 worked with residents of Mattapoisett, Massachusetts and collected stories of the impacts of extreme weather events in their community. They used the stories and visual reminders of past hurricanes to highlight the need to develop an adaptation plan focusing on the threat to the town's drinking water system from a storm surge inundating its drinking water wells.  

Register Here. 

Jul 11, 2017

Monsanto's Roundup to Get Cancer Label

California's Environmental Protection Agency's Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) announced in 2015 that they intended to list glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto's Roundup herbicide, as a chemical known to cause cancer under Proposition 65, which requires consumer products with potential cancer-causing ingredients to bear warning labels.

Monsanto filed formal comments with OEHHA saying the plan to list glyphosate as a carcinogen should be withdrawn. When the agency didn't give in, Monsanto took it a step further and filed a lawsuit against OEHHA in January 2016 to stop the glyphosate/cancer classification. OEHHA filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit, and a Fresno, California, superior court judge ruled on their behalf in February 2017.

California regulators stated that glyphosate will appear on the state's list of cancerous chemicals beginning July 7, 2017,1 which means new labels may be appearing within the next year in California that include a cancer warning on Roundup and other glyphosate-containing weed killers, including Ortho Groundclear, KleenUp, AquaMaster, Sharpshooter, StartUp, Touchdown Total, Traxion, Vector and Vantage Plus Max II, and others.2

California's Move Follows IARC's 2015 Cancer Determination

The final say on whether Roundup will get a cancer warning label is still up in the air for now, as Monsanto has filed yet another appeal in an attempt to block the labeling. California's decision to add the chemical to its Prop 65 list of cancer-causing chemicals came in response to the International Agency for Research on Cancer's (IARC) 2015 determination that glyphosate is a "probable carcinogen."

Monsanto continues to contest the classification, even as it's become clear that they may have worked with a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) official to stop glyphosate investigations.

Email correspondence showed Jess Rowland, who at the time was the EPA's deputy division director of the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention and chair of the Cancer Assessment Review Committee (CARC), helped stop a glyphosate investigation by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), which is part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, on Monsanto's behalf.

In an email, Monsanto regulatory affairs manager Dan Jenkins recounts a conversation he'd had with Rowland, in which Rowland said, "If I can kill this I should get a medal,"3 referring to the ATSDR investigation, which did not end up occurring.

Roundup Cancer Lawsuits Popping up All Over the US

Meanwhile, more than 800 people with cancer are suing Monsanto over claims the glyphosate-based herbicide made them ill — and Monsanto did little to warn the public, despite knowing cancer risks existed.4,5 Glyphosate is said to work by inhibiting only a single enzyme not found in people or pets to kill unwanted plants, but a team of environmental attorneys including Robert F. Kennedy Jr. have accused Monsanto of false advertising in this regard. In addition, Bloomberg reported:6

"The attorneys have spent the last several months poring over hundreds of confidential documents they say show that the company actively worked to downplay the cancer risk for glyphosate. Since March [2017], the lawyers have successfully unsealed a trove of emails, letters and studies intended to inject doubt into the process by which Roundup earned its Environmental Protection Agency approval.

They suggest that Monsanto's scientists ghost-wrote studies that cleared glyphosate of its cancer-causing potential; that the company tried to enlist EPA staff to shut down an investigation into the herbicide; and that officials hired a scientist in 1985 to persuade EPA regulators to change its decision on its cancer classification for glyphosate."

In addition to the glyphosate/cancer lawsuits, plaintiffs from California, Florida, Illinois, New Jersey, New York and Wisconsin are also suing Monsanto over claims that Roundup disrupts the gut microbiome.7

In regard to the claim that Roundup targets an enzyme found in plants but not in people or pets, six consumers from across the U.S. have filed a complaint against Monsanto and Scotts Miracle-Gro (the exclusive marketer of Roundup) alleging that the statement is false and deceptive, as the enzyme is, in fact, found in the gut bacteria of people and pets.

Monsanto has steadfastly claimed that Roundup is harmless to animals and humans because the mechanism of action it uses (which allows it to kill weeds), called the shikimate pathway, is absent in all animals. However, the shikimate pathway is present in bacteria, and that's the key to understanding how it causes such widespread systemic harm in both humans and animals. Beyond Pesticides explained:8

"Because glyphosate disrupts a crucial pathway for manufacturing aromatic amino acids in plants — but not animals — many have assumed that it does not harm humans. However, many bacteria do use the shikimate pathway, and 90 percent of the cells in a human body are bacteria. The destruction of beneficial microbiota in the human gut (and elsewhere in and on the human body) is, therefore, a cause for concern — and a major contributor to disease."


Jul 10, 2017

Babesiosis is an emerging tickborne life-threatening, disease endemic to the northeastern United States and the upper Midwest.

Babesiosis Surveillance — Wisconsin, 2001–2015
Elizabeth Stein, MD1; Lina I Elbadawi, MD2,3; James Kazmierczak, DVM3; Jeffrey P. Davis, MD3

Babesiosis is an emerging tickborne disease endemic to the northeastern United States and the upper Midwest. Many infected persons are asymptomatic but the disease can be life-threatening, especially among older and immunocompromised persons. Prompt diagnosis and treatment in patients with severe infection can prevent serious complications and death.

What is added by this report?
Analysis of Wisconsin babesiosis surveillance data during 2001–2015 indicates expansion of the geographic range and increased incidence. Routine use of polymerase chain reaction testing and automatic electronic laboratory reporting likely contributed to the increased reported incidence of confirmed babesiosis in Wisconsin; however, evidence of blacklegged tick expansion suggests an actual increase in infection rates.

What are the implications for public health practice?
Babesiosis cases in Wisconsin are increasing in number and geographic range. These trends might be occurring in other states with endemic disease, similar suburbanization and forest fragmentation patterns, and warming average temperatures. Accurate surveillance in states where babesiosis is endemic is necessary to estimate the increasing burden of babesiosis and other tickborne diseases and develop appropriate public health interventions for prevention and practice.

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Babesiosis is an emerging zoonotic disease caused primarily by Babesia microti, an intraerythocytic protozoan. Babesia microti, like the causal agents for Lyme disease and anaplasmosis, is endemic to the northeastern and upper midwestern United States where it is usually transmitted by the blacklegged tick, Ixodes scapularis. Although babesiosis is usually a mild to moderate illness, older or immunocompromised persons can develop a serious malaria-like illness that can be fatal without prompt treatment. The most common initial clinical signs and symptoms of babesiosis (fever, fatigue, chills, and diaphoresis) are nonspecific and present diagnostic challenges that can contribute to delays in diagnosis and effective treatment with atovaquone and azithromycin (1). Results of one study revealed a mean delay of 12–14 days from symptom onset to treatment (2). Knowledge of the incidence and geographic distribution of babesiosis can raise the index of clinical suspicion and facilitate more prompt diagnosis and lifesaving treatment (1). The first known case of babesiosis in Wisconsin was detected in 1985 (3), and babesiosis became officially reportable in the state in 2001. Wisconsin babesiosis surveillance data for 2001–2015 were analyzed in 3-year intervals to compare demographic, epidemiologic, and laboratory features among patients with cases of reported babesiosis. To determine possible reasons for an increase in reported Babesia infection, trends in electronic laboratory reporting and diagnosis by polymerase chain reaction testing (PCR) were examined. Between the first and last 3-year analysis intervals, there was a 26-fold increase in the incidence of confirmed babesiosis, in addition to geographic expansion. These trends might be generalizable to other states with endemic disease, similar suburbanization and forest fragmentation patterns, and warming average temperatures (4). Accurate surveillance in states where babesiosis is endemic is necessary to estimate the increasing burden of babesiosis and other tickborne diseases and to develop appropriate public health interventions for prevention and practice.

White-tailed deer are the primary hosts for adult blacklegged ticks, and white-footed mice and other small mammals are reservoirs of B. microti. Most human cases of babesiosis result from tick bites that occur during the spring and summer months, but blood transfusion–related transmission and perinatal transmission have also been reported (1–3,5). Blacklegged ticks were first recognized in Wisconsin in 1968, and during the subsequent decade, their range expanded rapidly, particularly in northwestern Wisconsin (6). Surveys of blacklegged ticks on hunter-harvested deer conducted since 1979 have demonstrated larger numbers of the blacklegged tick population and expansion in geographic range toward northeastern and southeastern Wisconsin (6,7). The concurrent geographic expansion of blacklegged ticks in Wisconsin during recent decades, coupled with observed increases in reported incidence of other tickborne diseases such as Lyme disease and human anaplasmosis in these regions, highlights the need for accurate surveillance for other serious tickborne diseases, including babesiosis (8). Predictive modeling of spatial and temporal trends in tickborne disease in neighboring Minnesota suggests that babesiosis will continue to increase under conditions of warming climate and continued forest fragmentation (4).

In 2001, the Wisconsin Department of Health Services, Division of Public Health defined a confirmed case of babesiosis as the occurrence of fever, anemia, or thrombocytopenia in a patient with confirmatory laboratory findings (i.e., identification of either intraerythrocytic Babesia organisms by blood smear or a fourfold increase or greater in B. microti immunoglobulin G [IgG] antibody titers). A probable case was defined as the occurrence of fever, anemia, or thrombocytopenia in a patient with supportive positive tests (B. microti indirect fluorescent antibody total Ig or IgG antibody titer of ≥1:256 or positive B. microti PCR assay). In 2007, the Division of Public Health expanded the confirmed case definition to include a positive PCR result as confirmatory laboratory evidence, which is consistent with the current Council of State and Territorial Epidemiology babesiosis case definition.* For all reported cases, local health departments interviewed health care providers and patients to assess tick exposure and to document the county of exposure and ascertain the possibility of transfusion-associated transmission.

In 2007, the Wisconsin Electronic Disease Surveillance System (WEDSS) was implemented by the Division of Public Health, and electronic laboratory reporting of babesiosis became possible. During the first 3 years of WEDSS implementation, only 17% of confirmed babesiosis cases were initially reported electronically. However, since 2013, approximately 80% of Wisconsin clinical laboratories use electronic laboratory reporting. All cases with either direct or electronic reporting were included in the analysis. Geographic distribution of reported cases by county of residence was compared during five consecutive 3-year intervals to examine geographic expansion of reported babesiosis cases. Annual incidence rates for county and state were calculated using mid-year population estimates provided by the Wisconsin Division of Public Health, Office of Health Informatics. Mean annual incidence was then calculated for successive 3-year intervals.

During 2001–2015, a total of 430 babesiosis cases were reported to the Division of Public Health, including 294 (68%) confirmed and 136 (32%) probable cases. Among confirmed cases, 189 (64%) occurred in males and 199 (68%) in persons aged >60 years (median age = 66 years; range = 10–100 years). Onset of illness occurred during April–October in 283 (96%) reported confirmed cases. Among 242 (82%) patients with confirmed babesiosis for whom sufficient information was available, 158 (65%) were hospitalized. Three deaths occurred, one in a woman aged 88 years, and two in men aged 64 and 72 years; information on comorbid conditions was unavailable. Three confirmed cases of transfusion-associated transmission were detected in 2008 and one in 2011, before implementation of routine screening for babesiosis by Wisconsin blood banks in 2016. Among probable babesiosis cases, 82 (60%) patients were male, 51 (38%) were aged >60 years (median age = 55 years; range = 6–93 years) and 120 (88%) had illness onset during April–October. Among 108 (79%) patients with probable babesiosis for whom information is available, 26 (24%) were hospitalized and none died. The proportion of all cases reported electronically increased to 51% during 2010–2012 and 67% during 2013–2015, compared with 2007–2009 (Figure 1).

Read on at:

1University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Medicine and Public Health, Preventive Medicine Department; 2Career Epidemiology Field Officer, Office of Public Health Preparedness and Response, CDC; 3Bureau of Communicable Diseases, Wisconsin Division of Public Health.