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Sustainability Program

UC San Francisco has a robust sustainability program covering sustainability activities across the entire campus and medical center.  Formal and grassroot efforts are happening in many areas of the organization.  Find out more about these efforts at the Sustainability Dashboard located in the Review Metrics & Annual Report links above.

 

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Week starting 3/12/12

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3/18/12
Mercury laden skin creams sought in Bay Area. State health investigators are going undercover in the Bay Area’s ethnic communities to hunt for illegal skin-lightening creams containing high levels of mercury. Contra Costa Times, California.

Smog elevates stroke risk. Teresa Flores-Lopez has spent more than a decade fighting air pollution and traffic problems in her west San Bernardino neighborhood. But three years ago, when Flores-Lopez was 53, a stroke sidelined her activism. Riverside Press-Enterprise, California.

Records questioning county’s conclusions on alleged cancer cluster often kept private. It’s been four years since the McHenry County Department of Health last released an update of its epidemiological investigation of brain cancer rates in McCullom Lake. There have been at least two updates since, but members of the public wouldn’t know that. Crystal Lake Northwest Herald, Illinois.

State policy makers wrestle with how to deal with sea-level rise. It was once considered prime real estate, but some people are beginning to see Connecticut’s shoreline another way – as the delicate border between man and a rapidly rising sea. Bridgeport Connecticut Post, Connecticut.

Could ban on pesticides at schools be lifted? A year and a half after a comprehensive ban on pesticides at certain schools went into effect, the state is attempting to deal with how to allow schools to control pests. New Canaan Advertiser, Connecticut.

Honeybee deaths linked to corn insecticides. What was killing all those honeybees in recent years? New research shows a link between an increase in the death of bees and insecticides, specifically the chemicals called neonicotinoids used to coat corn seeds. ABC News

3/17/12
Healing ozone layer lowers UV exposure, report finds. A new scientific study has confirmed that the healing of the ozone layer is also reducing people’s exposure to harmful UV rays from the sun. It will still take years before the ozone layer recovers entirely, but the string of positive news continues. Der Spiegel

Spotlight on nitrate in Salinas Valley drinking water. The Central Coast’s fields are iconic as a source of fresh produce, but decades of intensive fertilizer and pesticide use have left a legacy of water pollution in the region’s surface and groundwater. Now the Central Coast Regional Water Quality Board has voted to adopt controversial regulations. Salinas Californian, California.

WHO: Antibiotic overuse so prevalent scraped knee could be deadly. Overuse of antibiotics has become so prevalent that if the trend continues, a normal infection can become deadly, according to statements made by World Health Organization Director-General Dr. Margaret Chan. CBS News

Study ties GMO corn, soybeans to butterfly losses. The rapid spread of herbicide-resistant crops has coincided with — and may explain — the dramatic decline in monarch numbers that has troubled some naturalists over the past decade, according to a new study by researchers at the University of Minnesota and Iowa State. Minneapolis Star Tribune, Minnesota.

Common antibiotic linked to asthma. A widely used antibiotic can increase the risk and severity of asthma, according to groundbreaking Canadian research that could help explain why millions of children now need to use puffers. Postmedia News

Congressman moves to ban BPA from food packaging. A Massachusetts congressman asked the federal government on Friday to ban the chemical bisphenol A from use in food and beverage containers, and took a page from the food industry’s own playbook to argue his case. Washington Post [Registration Required]

The dose doesn’t always make the poison. Many common household products contain chemicals that could be hazardous to human health. Now, a new report finds that for some chemicals, a very small dose can have a very large health effect. Host Bruce Gellerman talks to Laura Vandenberg, a researcher at Tufts University Center for Regenerative and Developmental Biology, about how exposure to small amounts of chemicals can act like hormones and have adverse health effects on humans. Living On Earth

“Flameless cremation” idea raises concerns. A proposal to legalize a procedure that uses a hot alkali-water bath to hasten decomposition of corpses has local officials debating the safety and feasibility of flushing the byproducts into the sewer system. Riverside Press-Enterprise, California.

3/16/12
Study finds link between cell phone radiation and behavior problems in mice. Researchers from the Yale School of Medicine found that exposing pregnant mice to radiation from a cell phone resulted in offspring who were more hyperactive, had more anxiety and poorer memory—symptoms associated with ADHD—than mice who were not exposed to radiation. ABC News

You are what your mother ate. The behavior and experiences of our parents and grandparents can affect the traits they pass on to us, new research reveals. A phenomenon called epigenetics shows how environmental influences can flick the switch on genes that might otherwise remain switched off. Sydney Morning Herald, Australia. [Registration Required]

Could air pollution be making us fat? Steadily rising levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere may be affecting brain chemistry, increasing appetite and contributing to the obesity epidemic, according to a new hypothesis, which still awaits rigorous testing and inevitable debate. Discovery Channel

Environmental crunch ‘worse than thought’: OECD. Pressures on Earth’s ecosystem are now so great that future generations could be doomed to falling living standards, the OECD said on Thursday in a report looking to the mid-century. Agence France-Presse

Battle lines form as USDA weighs approval for corn resistant to notorious herbicide. Dow AgroSciences LLC is asking the Department of Agriculture to sign off on a new genetically engineered corn seed that is resistant to not only glyphosate, but also 2,4-D, a World War II-era chemical that has been associated with a host of serious health problems. Greenwire

Legislative battle over cosmetics regulations may not be pretty. Industry and public health groups are gearing up for a fight over the regulation of cosmetics, as the House begins consideration of sweeping Food and Drug Administration legislation. E&E Daily

Natural gas a weak weapon against climate change, new study asserts. Although natural gas burns more cleanly than coal, a new study argues that replacing all the world’s coal power plants with natural gas would do little to slow global warming this century. National Geographic News

Some schools planning to drop ‘pink slime’ meat. Under a change announced Thursday by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, districts that get food through the government’s school lunch program will be allowed to say no to ground beef containing an ammonia-treated filler derisively called “pink slime” and choose filler-free meat instead. Associated Press

3/15/12
Opinion: ‘There are no safe doses for endocrine disruptors.’ As a scientist, I am often asked what “proof” links hormone-altering chemicals to diseases and birth defects. One mother questions whether exposures during her pregnancy caused her child’s autism. Another asks whether chemicals in the foods she ate could have caused her son’s abnormal genitalia. The underlying question raised by these mothers is provocative: Do small amounts contribute to human health problems? My colleagues and I have concluded in a new report that there truly are no safe doses for hormone-altering chemicals. Academic, regulatory and industry scientists must work together to identify and replace such chemicals that are ubiquitous in everyday consumer products. Environmental Health News

Is it safe to play yet? Laura MacCleery was four months pregnant when she started an inventory of the chemicals in her Alexandria, Va., town house. First, she collected 70 products in a pile: things like makeup, shampoo, and sink cleaners. Then she typed the names of the cosmetics into an online database called Skin Deep. The results were not comforting. New York Times [Registration Required]

Cadmium intake is linked to breast cancer risk. In a finding that strengthens the link between environmental pollutants and rising rates of breast cancer, new research finds that women whose diets contain higher levels of cadmium are at greater risk of developing breast cancer than those who ingest less of the industrial chemical in their food. Los Angeles Times [Registration Required]

Protecting, nourishing fluid can also expose fetuses to chemicals. Researchers tested the amniotic fluid of 15 pregnant women in southeast Michigan for flame retardant chemicals called PBDEs. Amniotic fluid both cushions fetuses and provides nutrients for development. The chemicals were in every sample. Great Lakes Echo, Michigan.

A reminder that science can override pressure. The recent death of F. Sherwood Rowland, who, working in 1974 with Mario Molina, discovered that the ozone layer was endangered by a lucrative class of chemicals, is a reminder of the perennial determination of industries to undermine scientific findings that could cost them money or markets. New York Times [Registration Required]

Young people not so ‘green’ after all. They have a reputation for being environmentally minded do-gooders. But an academic analysis of surveys spanning more than 40 years has found that today’s young Americans are less interested in the environment and in conserving resources — and often less civic-minded overall — than their elders were when they were young. Associated Press
http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/2012/03/15/us/AP-US-Not-So-Green.html

US backs antismoking ad campaign. For the first time, the federal government will directly attack the nation’s tobacco addiction with a series of advertisements highlighting the grisly toll of smoking, a campaign that federal health officials hope will renew the stalled decline in the share of Americans who smoke. New York Times [Registration Required]

Mild winters may shift spread of mosquito-borne illness. Mild winters appear to speed annual menu changes for disease-carrying mosquitoes. And the revised biting patterns might play an overlooked role in worsening the risk of brain infections in people and horses. Science News

Environmental groups push EPA to ban lead ammo. A group of 100 environmental organizations has petitioned the Environmental Protection Agency to regulate lead in ammunition as a toxic substance. California Watch

Imported-food outbreaks rise, CDC says. Outbreaks of illness linked to imported food have risen since the late 1990s, casting a spotlight on federal inspection standards for fish, produce and other foods brought in from abroad. Wall Street Journal [Subscription Required]

3/14/12
Toxic Environmental Chemicals: The role of reproductive health professionals in preventing harmful exposure. The paper describes the role of health professionals for preventing exposure to harmful chemicals and provides advice on steps that health professionals can take such as taking an exposure history and asking about exposures at work, at home and in the community.  Authored by Patrice Sutton, MPH; Tracey J. Woodruff, PhD, MPH; Joanne Perron, MD; Naomi Stotland, MD; Jeanne A. Conry, MD, PhD; Mark D. Miller, MD, MPH; Linda C. Giudice, MD, PhD.

Environmental exposures: how to counsel preconception and prenatal patients in the clinical setting. This paper is about clinicians involvement in reproductive environmental health also appears online in AJOG. Led by Sheela Sathyanarayana, MD, MPH, of Seattle Children’s Research Institute, the paper provides a guide outlining exposure risks and reduction tips for some of the most common environmental toxins. 

New research by scientists from Boston University finds striking associations between chemical body burdens of two different types of chemicals and socioeconomic status. Poor people – especially young children dependent upon food assistance – were more likely to have higher levels of bisphenol A (BPA) while wealthier people were more likely to have higher levels of perfluorinated compounds (PFCs). In contrast, the scientists found weaker and inconsistent associations between body burden and education or occupation. Mexican Americans had the lowest levels of both chemical types of any racial/ethnic group

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/14/us/hospital-audit-finds-radioactive-materials-unsecured.html Ten y.ears into a campaign to make radioactive materials harder for terrorists to steal, Congressional auditors have found one hospital where cesium was kept in a padlocked room but the combination to the lock was written on the door frame and another where radioactive material was in a room with unsecured windows that looked out on a loading dock. New York Times [Registration Required]

Rising sea levels seen as threat to coastal U.S. About 3.7 million Americans live within a few feet of high tide and risk being hit by more frequent coastal flooding in coming decades because of the sea level rise caused by global warming, according to new research. New York Times [Registration Required]

California ready to cut greenhouse gases. Next, doing it. California’s historic effort to remake global-warming regulations in the United States is at last starting to take off its training wheels. After five years, California has put in place rules to cut greenhouse-gas emissions statewide back to 1990 levels, beginning 2013. Christian Science Monitor

Environmental groups call for tighter regulation of extreme genetic engineering. Genetically engineered microbes that might one day churn out biofuels, clean up toxic waste or generate new medicines need to be proved safe before they are released into the environment, a coalition of 111 environmental and social justice groups said Tuesday. Washington Post [Registration Required]

3/13/12
Death by bacon? A new study finds that daily consumption of red meat — particularly processed meat — may be riskier than carnivores realize. National Public Radio

Farming communities facing crisis over nitrate pollution, study says. Nitrate contamination in groundwater from fertilizer and animal manure is severe and getting worse for hundreds of thousands of residents in California’s farming communities, concludes a study released today. It is the most comprehensive assessment so far of nitrate contamination in California’s agricultural areas. California Watch

Great Barrier Reef ‘at a crossroads.’ Australia’s Great Barrier Reef draws millions of tourists to its colorful coral and tropical fish. Recently it has been attracting another kind of visitor—big resources companies looking to export coal and gas. Wall Street Journal [Subscription Required]

Fire at nuclear plant called serious threat. A fire last year at an idled Nebraska nuclear plant that broke out after workers ignored warning signs represented the highest level of safety threat tracked by the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission, regulators said Monday. Wall Street Journal [Subscription Required]

F. Sherwood Rowland dies at 84, linked CFCs to ozone hole. F. Sherwood Rowland, the UC Irvine chemistry professor who warned the world that man-made chemicals could erode the ozone layer, has died. His work was about more than just ozone: “It was about the realization that something we do in California could have effects somewhere else in the world.” Los Angeles Times [Registration Required]

Warm spring, more tornadoes? Meteorologists raise red flags. An unusually balmy spring plus cold fronts are a formula for stronger thunderstorms and tornadoes, as hard-hit communities strive to be more resilient. Christian Science Monitor

The season’s public enemies. Mild winter temperatures in many parts of the country—the fourth warmest winter since record-keeping began—have triggered an unusually early release of pollen from trees. That bodes badly for the millions of people who suffer from allergic rhinitis—commonly known as hay fever. Wall Street Journal [Subscription Required]

New study warns about toxic chemicals in jewelry. A new study found a majority of low-cost metal jewelry sold in Michigan stores contain toxic chemicals including lead, cadmium, arsenic, mercury, bromine, chlorine and flame retardants. Detroit WXYZ TV, Michigan.

http://www.usatoday.com/news/health/story/2012-03-12/States-eye-limits-on-indoor-tans-for-teens/53502954/1 Eight.een states are considering measures banning the use of indoor tanning devices for those under 18, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Five more are weighing increased regulation, such as requiring parental consent. USA Today

3/12/12
Schwarzenegger, UN leaders unveil virtual platform Sustainia For sustainability advocates, the failure of the 2009 Copenhagen climate negotiations to produce a strong global agreement was a major setback to climate action. But a group of businesses and leaders saw an opportunity to change the conversation by focusing on a positive future and by bringing more businesses and people into the discussion.  That effort resulted in Sustainia, a concept of the future which will soon be created in a virtual world, former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger announced today in Geneva.

Exotic grass could help clean lead from soil. A subtropical grass might one day be grown in yards across North Jersey as an affordable way to deal with a lingering childhood health concern — lead contamination. Bergen County Record, New Jersey.

Apple workers: Plant inspected hours before blast. Apple’s iPad3 goes on sale this Friday, the latest version of a wildly popular product from an iconic company. In the past couple of months, though, Apple has come under criticism for working conditions in Chinese factories that help build iPads. Morning Edition, NPR.

Water crunch looms without action on waste: UN report. Water problems in many parts of the world are chronic and without a crackdown on waste will worsen as demand for food rises and climate change intensifies, the UN warned on Sunday. Agence France-Presse

Greenland ice melt seen at lower temperatures: Study. The complete melt of the Greenland ice sheet could occur at lower global temperatures than previously thought, a study in the journal Nature Climate Change showed on Sunday, increasing the threat and severity of a rise in sea level. Reuters

GE rejects Republicans’ climate change doubts. General Electric has brushed aside the doubts leading Republican presidential contenders have raised about climate science. The US industrial and financial conglomerate said it had long seen climate change as a valid concern after an internal evaluation of the scientific case in 2005. Financial Times, United Kingdom.

New study says diesel emissions can increase risk of cancer threefold. A landmark government health study released last week provides evidence that the diesel engine exhaust that pervades California highways could be causing cancer at a greater rate than previously known. San Bernardino County Sun, California.

Dangerous beauty: 5 scariest beauty products. Mercury in skin creams? That was the headline-grabber last week, when an FDA investigation found imported skin creams may contain toxic levels of mercury and other heavy metals. The risk is serious; people are actually getting sick from mercury contamination from these products. Forbes

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