Renewable-fuels fraud cases expose weakness in EPA program. The luxury cars lined up in a Baltimore suburb made the neighbors suspicious. One eventually complained to law enforcement officials, leading to an investigation of one company’s role in an EPA-managed biofuels program. Washington Post [Registration Required]

Former Bush EPA chief sounds alarm on chemical security. Wading into a decade-old controversy, former Environmental Protection Agency chief Christine Todd Whitman has urged current EPA administrator Lisa Jackson to close loopholes in a 2006 chemical security law “before a tragedy of historic proportions occurs.” Center for Public Integrity

Former Bush EPA chief sounds alarm on chemical security. Wading into a decade-old controversy, former Environmental Protection Agency chief Christine Todd Whitman has urged current EPA administrator Lisa Jackson to close loopholes in a 2006 chemical security law “before a tragedy of historic proportions occurs.” Center for Public Integrity

Forecasters using more urgent voice in tornado warnings. The National Weather Service is testing phrases like ‘catastrophic’ and ‘unsurvivable’ to describe looming storm systems in a bid to engage American survival instincts. Saturday’s tornado-bearing storm was called ‘high-end’ and ‘life-threatening.’ Christian Science Monitor

Worker’s death reignites debate on steam extraction of oil. California’s largest oil company failed to warn employees of the dangers in an oil field where a worker was sucked underground and boiled to death last year, state authorities found - and then they fined the firm $350. Los Angeles Times [Registration Required]

River otters rebounding with hospitable habitat. Otters were once found in almost every creek and lake in Northern California, but their numbers seriously dwindled until the 1970s because of hunting, habitat loss and pollution. Particularly harmful was mercury, which seeped into the crayfish, clams, mussels and other shellfish that otters dine on. San Francisco Chronicle, California.

FDA criticized for secrecy in food-illness probes. The FDA’s decision to let a six-state E. coli probe in 2009 go dormant, despite clear leads, is part of what some food safety experts call a worrisome “cone of silence” around leafy green produce problems in the United States. Denver Post, Colorado.

Dental X-rays: Little and not often, please. These days, the main source of ionising radiation for most people is neither fallout from bombs nor radiotherapy; it is dental X-rays. Despite that, surprisingly little research has been done on those X-rays’ effects. Economist

Italy’s ‘triangle of death’ linked to premature ageing. An area of Italy’s Campania region - between Acerra, Nola and Marigliano - has been dubbed the “triangle of death” for the high number of fatalities from cancer found there. Birth defects are also common. Now, studies show that residents are aging more quickly there. New Scientist

Italy’s ‘triangle of death’ linked to premature ageing. An area of Italy’s Campania region - between Acerra, Nola and Marigliano - has been dubbed the “triangle of death” for the high number of fatalities from cancer found there. Birth defects are also common. Now, studies show that residents are aging more quickly there. New Scientist

‘Water schools’ foster more sustainable habits in Mexico. So-called water schools, which educate communities on the resource and its links with the environment, gender and climate change, are helping to raise awareness on proper water management in Mexico, at a time of severe drought. Inter Press Service

During heat waves, elderly people living in city areas where night temperatures remain higher are more likely to succumb to the heat than those in nearby suburban areas where temperatures dip when the sun goes down. Older people living in the city had twice the risk of dying from the heat than those in the suburbs.

Common plastics chemical might boost diabetes risk. High blood levels of chemicals called phthalates - found in soaps, lotions, plastics and toys - may double the risk for type 2 diabetes among older adults, Swedish researchers say. HealthDay News

To keep carbon out of the air, leave it in the ground. New climate policy research suggests that, rather than working from the demand side and attempting to limit the use of fossil fuels, climate coalitions could more effectively work from the supply side by buying up coal, oil sands and other fossil fuel deposits. Charleston State Journal, West Virginia.

Fracking in L.A.? Test wells at urban oil field spark water worries. Earlier this year, the oil company PXP blasted water and chemicals more than one and half miles into the earth to force oil embedded in a sandstone formation to gush to the surface. But PXP wasn’t fracking in the much-touted Marcellus Shale on the East Coast, it was fracking two test wells in urban Los Angeles, where 300,000 people live within a three-mile radius. Inside Climate News

Breaking down traditional Chinese medicine. Despite the popularity of traditional Chinese medicine, the actual contents are often hard to ascertain. Undeclared or mislabeled ingredients can pose serious health risks, and traces of allergens, toxic plants and other undesirable ingredients sometimes find their way into the treatments, as a new study documents. New York Times [Registration Required]

Menthol smokers have more strokes: Study. New research suggests that among smokers, those who prefer mentholated cigarettes tend to have more strokes than non-menthol smokers. Reuters

US tightens rules on antibiotics use for livestock. Farmers and ranchers will for the first time need a prescription from a veterinarian before using antibiotics in farm animals, in hopes that more judicious use of the drugs will reduce the tens of thousands of human deaths that result each year from the drugs’ overuse. New York Times [Registration Required]

Attack of the killer fungi: Rising threat worries scientists. An unprecedented number of diseases caused by fungi have been causing some of the most severe die-offs and extinctions ever witnessed in wild species and jeopardizing crops to boot, scientists now report. LiveScience

Subterranean bacteria are prepared to survive antibiotics. Scientists who collected 93 strains of bacteria from deep inside Lechuguilla Cave at Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico found that all were already resistant to at least one of the antibiotics we use to fight infections. This suggests that the rise in antibiotic-resistant diseases isn’t due entirely to the runaway use of these drugs. Los Angeles Times [Registration Required]

Too-blue oceans: The invisible famine. The greener the water, the more tiny plants there are in it. Tiny marine plants produce half the planet’s food – and there are signs that their numbers are plummeting as the seas warm. New Scientist

Doctors say drilling law hurts public health. Public health advocates and doctors on the front lines of Pennsylvania’s natural gas-drilling boom are attacking the state’s new Marcellus Shale law, likening one of its provisions to a gag order and complaining that vital research money into health effects was stripped at the last minute. Associated Press

Some dental X-rays ‘could pose major health problems’ - A form of dental X-ray could be subjecting people to an increased risk of developing a common primary brain tumour. This is the main finding of a new study carried out by researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Yale University School of Medicine, Duke University, UCSF and Baylor College of Medicine.

Leakage Rates ‘Threaten Green Benefits of Natural Gas’ - Failure to reduce methane leaks has the potential to eliminate much, if not all, of the greenhouse gas advantage of natural gas over coal, according to research published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Children in Ecuador who live with flower plantation workers have lower levels of an essential nervous system enzyme than children who live with adults who do not work on flower farms, report researchers for the first time. They attribute the difference to exposure to pesticides that hitchhike home on the plantation workers’ clothing, tools and skin. 

Autism science is moving ‘stunningly fast.’ Across the country, researchers are scanning the brains of hundreds of autistic children, looking for insights into a condition that has proved frustratingly hard to understand. Researchers today say they’re beginning to make progress, perhaps for the first time, in understanding the autistic brain. USA Today

Chinese NGOs say big brands buy from polluting textile firms. Chinese environmental campaigners have accused 46 Chinese and multinational clothing brands and retailers of purchasing from suppliers who illegally discharge polluted water in China. Multinational companies Zara, Adidas, Nike, Calvin Klein, Armani, and Walmart were among the companies named. Xinhua News Agency, China.

Poll finds support for fossil, renewable energy in US. Politicians on all sides of the nation’s energy debate can find things to ponder in a new poll that suggests Americans are inclined to develop natural gas resources and to build a disputed oil pipeline from Canada, but also want the government to support renewable energy. Houston Chronicle, Texas.

Philadelphia embarks on green stormwater management. Philadelphia’s $2 billion plan to manage its storm water with green methods - porous pavement, green roofs, and a plethora of trees - got the official nod Tuesday from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. It has been described as one of the most ambitious in the nation. Philadelphia Inquirer, Pennsylvania. [Registration Required]

Appeals court hears case of graphic tobacco ads. The government on Tuesday defended graphic tobacco labels and advertising that use pictures of rotting teeth and diseased lungs as accurate and necessary to warn consumers about the risks of smoking. Reuters

EPA cancels applications for $20-million green chemistry program, offers no explanation. In an announcement that stunned scientists, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has cancelled grant applications for what was supposed to be a $20-million, four-year green chemistry program. Environmental Health News

The environmental cost of rare earths. China has been paying a hard price exploiting its rare earths resources. Jiangxi province, rich in rare earths minerals in China, earned 32.9 billion yuan ($4.89 billion) from this industry last year, but it has to spend 38 billion yuan to tackle the environmental pollution in Ganzhou, one city in the province. China Daily

Childhood exposure to lead linked to violent assault. A new study comparing statistics for six cities - Chicago, Indianapolis, Minneapolis, San Diego, Atlanta and New Orleans - concludes that rising levels of airborne lead dust lead to spikes in the rates of aggravated assault as exposed children grew up. The Australian, Australia.

Study questions natural gas’s environmental benefits. As US lawmakers promote natural gas as a way to reduce air pollution, a scientific study published this week questions the benefits of the fuel when used to power vehicles and generate electricity. Wall Street Journal [Subscription Required]

Elderly people more at risk of death due to summer heat. Increased fluctuations in summer temperatures caused by climate change could lead to tens of thousands of extra deaths among elderly people each year, a study has warned. Edinburgh Scotsman, United Kingdom.

Bugs that transmit ‘silent killer’ are biting more in U.S. Transmitted by bloodsucking kissing bugs, tropical Chagas disease—which afflicts millions in Central and South America—may affect more people in the U.S. than previously thought. Scientific American

Dental X-rays can double brain tumor risk, study finds. Dental X-rays could double the risk for the most common brain tumor, according to a study released Tuesday from scientists and doctors at Yale, Harvard and other prestigious institutions published in Cancer, a scientific journal of the American Cancer Society. NBC News

Autism research may be about to bear fruit. In some ways, the search for the causes of autism looks like a long-running fishing expedition, with a focus on everything from genetics to the age of the father, the weight of the mother, and how close a child lives to a freeway. But that perception may soon change. Associated Press

Arizona House OKs secrecy for environmental reports. Mining companies and other businesses will be allowed to keep environmental studies secret, even if they detail possible pollution problems, under industry-backed legislation that gained final House approval Monday. Associated Press

California finds dangerous chemicals in nail polishes that advertise as non-toxic. Some nail polishes commonly found in California salons and advertised as free of a so-called “toxic trio” of chemicals actually have high levels of agents known to cause birth defects, according to state chemical regulators. Associated Press

Maryland set to become first state to ban arsenic in chicken feed. Maryland is about to become the first state to ban the use of additives containing arsenic in chicken feed, a practice already prohibited by Canada and the European Union. Washington Post [Registration Required]

EPA denies an environmental group’s request to ban 2,4-D. The E.P.A. said that the Natural Resources Defense Council, had not adequately shown that the widely used herbicide, 2,4-D, would be harmful under the conditions in which it is used. New York Times [Registration Required]

Fed evaluation: 3 more pesticides may harm salmon. A draft federal evaluation has found that three more common pesticides used on home lawns and agricultural crops jeopardize the survival of West Coast salmon. Associated Press

Environmental Protection Agency crafts new permit for animal feedlots in Idaho. The Environmental Protection Agency has unveiled its new permit to regulate water runoff and pollution from some of Idaho’s biggest cattle and dairy feedlot operators. Associated Press

Rising ocean temps prime the Amazon for fire. Scientists used to think the rain forest, especially in the western Amazon, was too wet to burn. But a warming Atlantic Ocean is drawing moisture away from the Western Amazon, drying the rain forest and catching residents by surprise. Daily Climate

UN environment chief: ‘We haven’t even begun to understand the damage we are bringing to bear on the sustainability of our planet’. It’s a question many people have probably asked themselves, seeing the ever-increasing environmental degradation around the world: why aren’t we doing more to protect our planet? The Independent, United Kingdom.

Marine life ‘has warming defences’. Marine life may be more tolerant of climate change than previously thought, with new research showing the world’s most important calcifying organism can adapt to ocean acidification. The Australian, Australia.

Former mayor battles tech firms over potential server-farm pollution in Central Washington. Former Quincy Mayor Patty Martin is battling the state and high-tech powerhouses such as Microsoft and Yahoo, arguing that server farms being built in her small town pose a pollution risk. The state says the server farms are safe. Seattle Times, Washington.

Study indicates link between autism and obesity. A study published today in the journal Pediatrics found obese mothers were 70 percent more likely to have a child with autism and twice as likely to have a child with other kinds of developmental delays compared with normal-weight moms with normal blood pressure and no diabetes. Sacramento Bee, California.

Flu research and public health: Out, but far from over. Many eminent scientists fret that any restrictions on research will steer their most promising wards to less fraught but blander areas. Who would want to work in a field riddled with bureaucratic pitfalls, from filing grant proposals to submitting papers, they ask. Others are less gung-ho. Economist