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Week starting 2/20/12
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Mercury treaty should reflect lessons of Minamata disease. There is growing debate about how to reflect on the lessons learned from Minamata disease in the so-called Mercury Treaty, which is now being discussed with the aim to reduce the use and transfer of mercury in the world to prevent it from damaging the environment and public health. Kyodo News, Japan.
Renewable energy riding high. Over the past two years, China has already leapfrogged competitors from Denmark, Germany, Spain and the United States to become the world’s largest maker of wind turbines and solar panels. China Daily
Old king coal. As China and India race towards prosperity, they will burn coal in huge volumes. The resulting emissions of carbon dioxide will be among the biggest hurdles in the way of a global agreement on limiting climate change. Economist
High wintertime ozone levels found near oil, gas wells. High levels of winter ozone air pollution have been recorded in a Utah oil and gas field — after the phenomenon was seen in Wyoming — raising concerns that such pollution could become more widespread. Denver Post, Colorado.
Three common environmental chemicals - lead, organophosphate pesticides and methylmercury - may have effects on children’s IQ in the overall population similar to the impacts of major medical conditions such as preterm birth or ADHD – two of the most prevalent in U.S. children. The finding from this reanalysis of published data hints that the societal toll of exposures to these invisible yet widespread contaminants may be more severe than what previous studies of individual risk would suggest.
Is your tap water safe? Antibiotics, hormones, a chemical found in gasoline ...research shows that hundreds of unregulated contaminants may be flowing from your tap. No one can say for sure, because the government doesn’t require testing for them. And although they’re at low levels, no one knows how dangerous they might be when they’re all mixed together in the water supply and consumed over a lifetime. Good Housekeeping
Fracking depletes water supply. When water is used for fracking, it’s used to extinction. While water used for agriculture and most other uses is returned into the hydrological cycle and used again, most water used for fracking is not. Fort Collins Coloradoan, Colorado.
How climate change could be the ruin of Los Angeles. Few cities are facing the serious environmental double whammy that’s most likely in store for Los Angeles. Not only do scientists predict that sea level rise will increase coastal flooding, but rising temperatures could threaten the Sierra Nevada snowpack that provides about a third of L.A.‘s drinking water. The Atlantic
A tiny horse that got even tinier as the planet heated up. Rising seas, killer storms, droughts, extinctions and money wasted on snowblowers are not the only things to worry about on a warming planet. There is also the shrinking issue. New York Times [Registration Required]
Fears over plastic packaging safety. Scientists have called for “drug-style safety trials” to be carried out on a chemical commonly used in plastic food packaging—bisphenol A—after research suggested it could be linked to an increased risk of developing heart disease. Press Association
Bird flu may not be so deadly after all, new analysis claims. Bird flu may be far less lethal to people than the World Health Organization’s assessment of a death rate topping 50 percent, scientists said on Thursday in a finding that adds fuel to the heated controversy over publication of bird flu research. Reuters
Higher prenatal exposure to an insecticide commonly used worldwide was associated with poorer motor development in the children at 2 years of age, suggesting that fetal carbamate pesticide exposures may have lasting consequences. The study is one of the first to assess developmental affects of gestational exposure to the pesticide propoxur on children’s growing nervous system.
What’s in pepper spray? California’s Proposition 65 requires that the governor publish an annual list of chemicals known to the state to cause reproductive toxicity or cancer. Both PCE and TCE made the list in April 1988. Yet no law is on the books in California to prevent PCE’s or TCE’s use in products meant to be sprayed directly into somebody’s face. LA Weekly, California.
Large areas of open ocean starved of oxygen. Large regions of the open ocean are being starved of oxygen because of warmer sea temperatures according to studies showing that fish and other marine creatures are moving into narrower habitats to avoid suffocation. London Independent, United Kingdom.
Infertile couples are exposed to three to five times higher levels of phthalates compared to fertile couples who have naturally conceived a child, finds a study from Italy. The couples had higher levels of four different classes of phthalates in their urine, including the phthalate compound most commonly used in plastics and the compound most commonly used in cosmetics. More…
Michigan passes health study on to Emory University. For more than three decades Michigan tracked the health of about 4,000 residents who ingested fire retardant chemicals accidentally introduced into the food supply. Now the state is handing off the study – not because of mollified fears or chemical-free participants. There’s no money. Great Lakes Echo, Michigan.
Study: Organic Rice Syrup Linked to High-Arsenic Baby Formula Dartmouth College researchers have found arsenic in commercially available organic brown rice syrups – and the products that contain them. The researchers found that an organic infant milk formula containing the syrup as a primary ingredient had total arsenic concentrations up to six times the EPA safe drinking water limit.
Republicans not listening to their own scientists on climate change. A number of prominent U.S. climate scientists who identify themselves as Republican say their attempts in recent years to educate the GOP leadership on the scientific evidence of man-made climate change have been futile. Now, many have given up trying. Inside Climate News
How using antibiotics in animal feed creates superbugs. Researchers have nailed down something scientists, government officials and agribusiness proponents have argued about for years: whether antibiotics in livestock feed give rise to antibiotic-resistant germs that can threaten humans. National Public Radio
Cadmium in mascara, lead in lipstick, and arsenic in eyeliner: The ugly secrets that the beauty industry isn’t telling you. There have long been suspicions over the levels of toxins in make-up, with numerous reports paying close attention to lead levels in lipsticks. London Daily Mail, United Kingdom.
Medical officials find mercury in lightening cream. Scouring the home of an Alameda County woman for the likely source of mercury poisoning, California health officials determined that an illegal skin-lightening cream smuggled in from Mexico was to blame. Associated Press
Obesity rates rise, threaten health in OECD nations. A large global study last year found that more than half a billion people, or one in 10 adults worldwide, were obese and that the obesity epidemic was rapidly spilling over from wealthy into poorer nations. Reuters
Birders beware: climate change could push 600 tropical birds into extinction. There may be less birds for birders to see in the world as the planet warms. Climate change, in combination with deforestation, could send between 100 and 2,500 tropical birds to extinction before the end of century, according to new research published in Biological Conservation. Mongabay
Science historian eyes toxics law. As efforts to reform the Toxic Substances Control Act falter because of deeply divided partisan politics and stakeholder disputes, science historian Jody Roberts has stepped beyond the current-day wrangling to scrutinize the early days of TSCA’s development and implementation. Chemical & Engineering News
Scientist says he lied to obtain climate papers. Peter Gleick, a prominent environmental researcher, activist and blogger from California, admitted Monday night that he had deceitfully obtained and distributed confidential internal materials from the Heartland Institute, a libertarian group devoted in part to questioning the reality of global warming. New York Times [Registration Required]
Can a Gates foundation-funded toilet-design initiative end a foul practice in the developing world? Advocates for universal access to and use of basic personal sanitation hope their efforts will get a big boost in August, when the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation present several hygienic innovations developed through its Reinventing the Toilet Challenge. Scientific American
Does Tylenol worsen asthma for kids? There are no scientific studies proving that acetaminophen - brand name Tylenol - causes asthma. But Dr. John McBride, a pediatric pulmonologist at Akron Children’s Hospital in Ohio, says it may make asthma worse in kids who already have it. Morning Edition, NPR.
Civilisation faces ‘perfect storm of ecological and social problems.’ The 18 past winners of the Blue Planet prize - the unofficial Nobel for the environment - today warn that civilisation is faced with a perfect storm of ecological and social problems driven by overpopulation, overconsumption and environmentally malign technologies. The Guardian, United Kingdom.
When the Darla Moore School of Business is completed next year, the University of South Carolina will have 1.2 million square feet of green building space. The Moore School will be the largest net-zero building in the world.
Another look at the inside of Fukushima Daiichi. As the clock ticks down toward the first anniversary of Japan’s big nuclear accident last March, many of the reactors are still off-limits, with radiation readings peaking at 1,500 microsieverts per hour – more than a thousand times what was normal pre-accident. Wall Street Journal [Subscription Required]
Even relatively limited exposure to some common chemical solvents at work or through hobbies may increase the risk of having Parkinson’s disease (PD), report researchers who found a higher risk regardless of the number of exposures, their duration or lifetime totals. They also found that the first symptoms of the disease - the second most common neurodegenerative disease in the United States - may not surface until decades after exposure.
Genetics and man-made chemicals equally to blame, say researchers. Researchers around the world continue to struggle with the complexity of autism. They now believe that genetic factors and brain changes triggered by man-made chemicals in the environment are equally to blame for the development of autism in young children. Dublin Irish Times, Ireland.
Organic farmers sue Monsanto to stop patent suits. After years of taking farmers to court to assert their patent rights, agri-giant Monsanto Co. is being sued by farmers. Lots of farmers. Los Angeles Times [Registration Required]
Attacks paid for by big business are ‘driving science into a dark era.’ Most scientists, on achieving high office, keep their public remarks to the bland and reassuring. Last week Nina Fedoroff, the president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), broke ranks in a spectacular manner. She confessed that she was now “scared to death.” London Observer, United Kingdom.
Unsafe levels of lead still found in California youths. Despite enormous strides over the last 20 years in protecting children from lead, health workers still find unsafe levels in thousands of youngsters every year. At the same time, programs to combat lead poisoning are being slashed. Los Angeles Times [Registration Required]
‘Climate-gate’ researchers enter Heartland debate. Today, an open letter from seven researchers whose emails featured in the stolen ‘climate-gate’ documents that were posted online in 2009 and 2011 say that “although we can agree that stealing documents and posting them online is not an acceptable practice, we would be remiss if we did not point out that the Heartland Institute has had no qualms about utilizing and distorting emails stolen from scientists”. Nature
Carbon dioxide breaking down marine ecosystems. If carbon dioxide emissions don’t begin to decline soon, the complex fabric of marine ecosystems will begin fraying — and eventually unravel completely, two new studies conclude. Science News
Keeping food safe. Media reports of food-safety lapses—from low-level detection of the fungicide carbendazim in orange juice last month to adulteration of milk with melamine in 2008—have heightened consumer concerns about the integrity of the products they are tossing into their grocery carts. Chemical & Engineering News