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EPA finalizes tough new rules on emissions by power plants. The Obama administration finished crafting tough new rules Friday curbing mercury and other poisons emitted by coal-fired utilities, according to several people briefed on the decision, culminating more than two decades of work to clean up the nation’s dirtiest power plants. Washington Post [Registration Required]
Evangelicals, Catholics back mercury limits. Mercury from power plants can be harmful to developing fetuses. In an unusual alliance that has the potential to shift pollution politics, Catholics and evangelical Christians opposed to abortion are joining forces with child health advocates to lobby for stricter limits on mercury pollution. Living On Earth
Wood smoke now a major Northwest air polluter. The warning label on the wrapping of neatly split firewood is one we’re more accustomed to seeing on cigarettes or heavy-duty chemicals: \“known… to cause cancer, birth defects or reproductive harm.\” But in fact, heart attacks, strokes, high blood pressure, asthma attacks and premature death – in addition to cancer – all are linked to wood smoke pollution. National Public Radio
As permafrost thaws, scientists study the risks. A recent estimate suggests that permafrost, which underlies nearly a quarter of the Northern Hemisphere, contains twice as much carbon as the entire atmosphere. Temperatures are warming across much of the region and signs are emerging that the frozen carbon may be becoming unstable. New York Times [Registration Required]
Death-by-air in Beijing exposes untold heart risk. As smog grounded hundreds of flights from Beijing last week, emergency doctors at Peking University People’s Hospital faced a rush of patients. Lungs weren’t the problem, says Ding Rongjing, the hospital’s deputy head of cardiology. Bloomberg News
Applegate Farms amplifies appeals for antibiotic-free food. Three out of four Americans want government to curb overuse of antibiotics on animal farms that supply most of the nation’s meat, and nearly as many believe the rise of antibiotic-resistant bacteria – “superbugs” – is a serious threat to human health, a new survey commissioned by Applegate Farms has found. Forbes
International tribunal finds six agrochemical companies ‘guilty’ of violating human rights. The Permanent People’s Tribunal laid down a guilty verdict in Bangalore, India against six of the world’s biggest agrochemical companies “responsible for gross, widespread and systematic violations of the right to health and life, economic, social and cultural rights, as well as of civil and political rights, and women and children’s rights.” Quezon City Bulatlat, Philippines.
Study connects large-scale dairies, feedlots to increased air pollution. A recent scientific study that took place in the Yakima Valley has linked large-scale dairies and animal feed lots to air pollution, providing what environmentalists hope will be a useful tool for enforcing air-quality regulations on such operations. Yakima Herald Republic, Washington.
Are you inhaling secondhand coke? We’ve all seen those color-coded air-quality charts on the news—warnings about smog, ozone, and pollen. Now it may be time to add a new alert to the list: illegal drugs. Researchers have found that regions with greater cocaine and marijuana use have higher levels of these drugs in the surrounding atmosphere. Science
Looking into the past for a deeper understanding of autism. Scientists are just beginning to find cases of autism that were overlooked or called something else in an earlier era. If their research shows that autism has always been present at roughly the same rate as today, it could ease worries that an epidemic is on the loose. Part 4 of 4. Los Angeles Times, California. [Registration Required]
At Gundersen Health System, we believe healthcare organizations need to be honest with themselves and ‘look in the mirror’ when it comes to environmental factors that affect human disease. Our mission is to improve the health of the communities we serve, and we cannot accomplish this mission without looking at our organization’s environmental impact and how that contributes to disease.Leadership_Gundersen_12_12_2011.pdf
Leadership Walks, Talks, and Envisions a Healthier Future - A 50% reduction of regulated medical waste (RMW) over the past year. This was accomplished through audits, the realignment of waste containers, and staff education. This reduction not only benefits the environment but creates a significant cost savings. RMW is irradiated at a local facility and then transported and placed in landfill. Reducing this waste then reduces concurrent costs, both monetary and environmental.
Chemists have demonstrated a new approach using simpler methods that require less energy and solvent than conventional approaches to synthesize a key ingredient of a widely used over-the-counter medicine. It’s all about shaking, ‘mechanochemistry.’ To make the drug this new way, they mix the two main dry ingredients then add the rest and vigorously shake the paste in a special shaker. The new method also creates no harmful by-products.
Putting farmland on a fertilizer diet. The USDA released a document yesterday that got no attention on the nightly news, or almost anywhere. Its title is a snooze: National Nutrient Management Standard. Yet this document represents the agency’s best attempt to solve one of the country’s – and the world’s – really huge environmental problems: The nitrogen and phosphorus that pollute waterways. National Public Radio
Wha’s next for anti-BPA campaign? Multnomah County commissioners’ enactment of Oregon’s first restrictions against products containing a widely used chemical compound, bisphenol A, gives momentum to broader campaigns against BPA and other toxic chemicals in our environment, especially in the food supply. Portland Tribune, Oregon.
Children’s leukemia risk tied to father’s smoking: Study. Children whose fathers smoked around the time of their conception have at least a 15 percent higher risk of developing the most common form of childhood cancer, a type of leukemia, according to an Australian study. Reuters
Real Christmas trees save water. Fake Christmas trees might be convenient and seem eco-friendly at first glance, but their environmental costs – measured in greenhouse gas emissions and landfill space – far outweigh their benefits, say conservationists who urge consumers to \“stay real\” this holiday season. National Geographic News
EPA neglects discrimination claims from polluted communities. Three years into Lisa Jackson’s tenure as head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, more than a dozen formal complaints alleging air pollution is disproportionately harming low-income, minority communities remain unresolved. Center for Public Integrity
Japan radiation hazard is detailed in new survey. Hundreds of Fukushima residents were exposed to radiation well above the level permitted for the general public following the March 11 nuclear disaster, according to an official survey released Tuesday, confirming the accident’s broad impact on local communities. Wall Street Journal [Subscription Required]
Farmers slow to adopt new pesticide. A year after environmentalists lost a regulatory battle to keep the controversial pesticide methyl iodide off the California market, they appear to be winning the ground war against the chemical. HealthyCal, California.
Chinese fume over honor to tobacco academic. Chinese health officials and commentators have assailed one of the country’s most prestigious academic bodies for recruiting a scientist who specialized in refining low-tar cigarettes — at a time when the government has said it is fighting smoking. Reuters
Resistant bedbugs ‘from tropics.’ New results suggest that insecticide use in the tropics is to blame for the re-emergence of bedbug infestations. Exposure to treated bed nets and linens meant that populations of bedbugs had become resistant to the chemicals used to kill them, researchers said. BBC
Opinion: News stories miss important points of breast cancer report. Some media reported that a new analysis of environmental links to breast cancer tells women to stop worrying about consumer products. But these stories ignore the report’s explanation that definitive evidence is not attainable and lack of human evidence of harm doesn’t mean something is safe.The real news is that for the first time, an authoritative medical group stated that scientific evidence plausibly links pollutants and industrial chemicals with biological activity that suggests breast cancer risk. Environmental Health News
Canada pulls out of Kyoto. Canada became the first nation to formally renounce the Kyoto Protocol, saying the accord won’t solve the climate crisis. Environment Minister Peter Kent said the move saves Canada $14 billion in penalties for not achieving its Kyoto targets. Associated Press
Vermont Law School’s Top 10 Environmental Watch List for 2012. Vermont Law School just released its second annual Top 10 Environmental Watch List of issues and developments that should be closely followed in 2012. Top of the list? Republican attacks on the Environmental Protection Agency. Los Angeles Times, California. [Registration Required]
Teens swapping cigarettes for flavored mini cigars. They come in ice cream flavors such as strawberry, watermelon, vanilla and chocolate. They are packaged in colorful wrappers. “Little cigars” are finding a niche among teens, who like the price — about a dollar — and the taste. Washington Post [Registration Required]
Healthiest US states ranked. Where do you live? Good health depends on a confluence of factors: behavior, genes, community environment, access to care and not least of all, where you live. Americans in the deep South, in states with high poverty rates and low access to high-quality medical care, rank at the bottom. Time Magazine
Brominated battle: Soda chemical has cloudy health history. Patented as a flame retardant for plastics, and banned in food throughout Europe and Japan, a brominated chemical called BVO has been added to sodas for decades in North America. Now some scientists have a renewed interest in this little-known ingredient, found in 10 percent of sodas in the United States. After a few extreme soda binges – not too far from what many video gamers regularly consume – a few patients have needed medical attention for skin lesions, memory loss and nerve disorders, all symptoms of overexposure to bromine. Environmental Health News
Kidney disease killing thousands of sugar cane workers. Chronic kidney disease is cutting a swath through one of the world’s poorest populations, along a six-country stretch of Central America’s Pacific Coast. Its victims are manual laborers, mostly sugarcane workers. Is it caused by heat stress, or exposure to some unknown contaminant? Center for Public Integrity
Acidic oceans threaten fish. Ocean acidification - caused by climate change - looks likely to damage crucial fish stocks. Two studies published today in Nature Climate Change reveal that high carbon dioxide concentrations can cause death and organ damage in very young fish. The work challenges the belief that fish, unlike organisms with shells or exoskeletons made of calcium carbonate, will be safe as marine CO2 levels rise. Nature
Autism boom: An epidemic of disease or of discovery? Nearly 1% of U.S. children have some form of autism, 20 times the prevailing figure in the 1980s. The increase has stirred parents’ fears and mobilized researchers to pinpoint why the disorder appears to be affecting so many more. Los Angeles Times, California. [Registration Required]
Climate conference approves landmark deal. A UN climate conference reached a hard-fought agreement Sunday on a complex and far-reaching program meant to set a new course for the global fight against climate change for the coming decades. Associated Press
Quality of air? That’s as murky as Western sky. The question of how clean the air is in the American West has never been an easy one to answer, strange to say. And now scientists say it is getting harder, with implications that ripple out in surprising ways. New York Times [Registration Required]
Water demand ‘will outstrip supply.’ Businesses, farmers and householders need to take steps to become more water-efficient as climate change and population growth increase pressures on resources and lead to more droughts, two reports have warned. Press Association
Researcher sees a biological regime change under way in Alaska. Is climate change pushing Alaska toward another major abrupt shift, similar to the transition from grassy steppe to peaty tundra that took place thousands of years ago? ClimateWire
Baby boomers seek green gifts. Credit it to more cognizant consumers or the 99 percent who are re-thinking life’s priorities, but gifts with an environmental conscience are popular this year, especially for baby boomers. Poughkeepsie Journal, New York.