Displaying items by tag: Health and Environment
Despite the evidence that endangered species laws are effective, governments in Canada are proceeding with deregulation and abdicating their responsibilities for wildlife habitat protection, often quietly. After all, only a few environmental watchdogs such as the David Suzuki Foundation are looking out for creatures that otherwise have no voice. But our governments underestimate the public. The federal government likely wagered few would pay much attention when it stripped protections from the Fisheries Act and Environmental Assessment Act. But concerned citizens not only noticed, they protested loudly across the country.
Read this story from the LA Times on a coalition of environmental groups taking on the health and environmental impacts of processing low-grade Canadian bitumen at local refineries. (Apr. 2, 2013)
A coalition of environmental groups says it has discovered that large-scale shipments of low-quality heavy crude oil from Canada's tar sands are being delivered by rail for processing by Southern California refineries.
The groups on Tuesday called for an investigation by air-quality officials to evaluate the effects on health, air quality, safety and the climate of processing the heavy Canadian crude, which requires intensive processing to remove higher levels of sulfur to meet U.S. standards.
The Natural Resources Defense Council and Communities for a Better Environment say they worry that refineries now processing the semi-solid form of oil have increased their noxious emissions and raised risks of accidental spills and accidents. The process of refining tar sands oil is more corrosive on refinery equipment and produces more greenhouse gases than liquid crude, environmentalists said.
"Tar sands crude is a whole new level of bad," said Julia May, senior scientist at the Communities for a Better Environment, a nonprofit dedicated to preventing and reducing pollution in California's low-income communities. "Bringing it into the Los Angeles area by rail has taken everyone by surprise."
Of particular concern is the low-income community of Wilmington, a Los Angeles harbor town surrounded by five oil refineries and long decried by social justice groups as a "sacrifice zone" of commerce and toxic pollution. Three of the Wilmington refineries — Valero Energy Corp., Phillips 66 Co. and Tesoro Corp — recently announced plans to use rail cars to bring in more of the heavy Canadian crude.
Joe Gorder, president and chief executive of Valero Energy Corp., told shareholders recently that his company plans to import an additional 30,000 barrels a day of the Canadian crude to its Wilmington refinery. Deliveries of the heavy crude totaled about 29,000 barrels a day last year for the entire Los Angeles area, NRDC scientists said.
Valero also wants to build a rail terminal to supply its refinery in the Bay Area community of Benicia with 70,000 barrels a day of petroleum products, including dirtier crudes such as tar sands.
Oil company officials say they are operating within state and federal regulations. As cleaner, liquid crude oil from California declines, they say they must rely on a variety of sources, including heavy Canadian crude, to remain profitable and ensure the future of their operations.
In an interview, Valero spokesman Bill Day said, "Valero follows the law. If we add more Canadian crude it will mean no net increase in emissions."
The request for an investigation, submitted to the South Coast Air Quality Management District, argues that "the highly corrosive nature of tar sands will increase the likelihood for spills and accidents, posing direct safety risks and increased toxic emissions for both plant workers and the surrounding community."
May said the sulfur found in heavy crude speeds corrosion in equipment and could lead to explosions like the one last summer at Chevron's refinery in Richmond. A Cal/OSHA investigation into the Aug. 6 explosion at the Bay Area refinery found that the company did not follow safety recommendations made by its inspectors to replace a pipe corroded by sulfur. The pipe ruptured and fueled the fire.
Environmentalists also worry that increases in carbon pollution will make it harder to meet requirements of the state's global warming law, AB 32, which created a market that puts a price on greenhouse gas emissions. Owners of power plants and factories buy and sell permits to release the gases into the atmosphere.
Read more: http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-0403-dirty-oil-20130403,0,7952694.story
Not only have humans learned no lessons, we continue to go backwards at an unsustainable rate. The past week has been especially hard for this old guy to handle. The premier of the province tells us that an oil refinery in Kitimat will blow our troubles away. She tells us that the “Prosperity Fund”, from Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) revenues, will put, someday soon, $100 BILLION into our kitty for safe keeping. The federal government is utterly bent on having the Enbridge Pipeline approved. And Captain Paul Watson, recently designated a “pirate” by the US District Court of Appeals, has resigned from the Sea Shepherd Society and left its anti-whaling fleet.
Read this story from The Province on Enbridge's decision to drop its name from the annual Ride to Conquer Cancer in BC, following controversy over its sponsorship. (Feb 14, 2013)
The Enbridge logo is a no-go for the 2013 Ride to Conquer Cancer.
Enbridge, which has received very mixed reviews in B.C. for its proposed Northern Gateway oil pipeline, remains the national title sponsor, but has decided to remove its name from the B.C. ride.
The version of the fundraising ride in oil-rich Alberta remains the Enbridge Ride to Conquer Cancer, while in eco-friendly B.C. the firm’s name has been dropped despite its continued sponsorship.
“It’s a subtle change unless you’re looking for it,” said Doug Nelson, president of the B.C. Cancer Foundation, which uses the money raised by the ride on cancer patient care and research.
“To their credit, Enbridge came forward and said they didn’t want the focus taken away from the riders and the people they are riding for.”
Reports of riders boycotting the event or running into trouble with fundraising surfaced as British Columbians grapple with the proposed oil pipeline, which has run into widespread opposition in B.C.
Nelson said he didn’t personally know of any riders who had dropped out because of the Enbridge sponsorship.
“I’ve read media reports that that was happening, but I don’t know about it myself,” said Nelson. “Last year we grew by 183 riders to 3,011, and fundraising grew by $100,000 to $11.2 million.”
With B.C. headed into a provincial election — Premier Christy Clark has put five B.C. conditions on approval of the pipeline, while B.C. NDP leader Adrian Dix opposes the pipeline — Nelson said the timing was poor for an Enbridge-sponsored ride.
“We didn’t want this to be an election issue,” said Nelson. “There is no political issue for us other than we support funding for cancer research.”
Enbridge spokesman Todd Nogier said his company’s goal is cancer fundraising, and when it appeared that might be hurt, the company dropped its name “by mutual agreement.
Read this story from the Guardian on a new report which finds a popular insecticide manufactured by pharmaceutical giant Bayer poses an 'unacceptable' risk to bees. (Jan 16, 2013)
The world's most widely used insecticide has for the first time been officially labelled an "unacceptable" danger to bees feeding on flowering crops. Environmental campaigners say the conclusion, by Europe's leading food safety authority, sounds the "death knell" for the insect nerve agent.
The chemical's manufacturer, Bayer, claimed the report, released on Wednesday, did not alter existing risk assessments and warned against "over-interpretation of the precautionary principle".
The report comes just months after the UK government dismissed a fast-growing body of evidence of harm to bees as insufficient to justify banning the chemicals.
Bees and other pollinators are critical to one-third of all food, but two major studies in March 2012, and others since, have implicated neonicotinoid pesticides in the decline in the insects, alongside habitat loss and disease. In April, the European commission demanded a re-examination of the risks posed by the chemicals, including Bayer's widely used imidacloprid and two others.
Scientists at the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), together with experts from across Europe, concluded on Wednesday that for imidacloprid "only uses on crops not attractive to honeybees were considered acceptable" because of exposure through nectar and pollen. Crops that attract honeybees include oil seed rape, corn and sunflowers. EFSA was asked to consider the acute and chronic effects on bee larvae, bee behaviour and the colony as a whole, and the risks posed by sub-lethal doses. But it found a widespread lack of information in many areas and had stated previously that current "simplistic" regulations contained "major weaknesses".
"This is a major turning point in the battle to save our bees," said Friends of the Earth's Andrew Pendleton: "EFSA have sounded the death knell for one of the chemicals most frequently linked to bee decline and cast serious doubt over the safety of the whole neonicotinoid family. Ministers must wake up to the fact that these chemicals come with an enormous sting in the tail by immediately suspending the use of these pesticides."
Prof David Goulson, at the University of Stirling and who led one of the key 2012 studies, said: "It is very pleasing that EFSA now acknowledge there are significant environmental risks associated with these chemicals. It begs the question of what was going on when these chemicals were first approved. Rachel Carson's Silent Spring was 50 years ago but we have not learned the lessons."
Read more: http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2013/jan/16/insecticide-unacceptable-danger-bees
Read this story and check out the video from CBS' Miami affiliate on a new study which raises health concerns about compact fluorescent light bulbs - such as ultraviolet leading to skin damage. (Jan. 2, 2013)
MIAMI (CBSMiami) — Every time you turn on the lights, you may be putting yourself at risk, according to a disturbing new study.
Energy efficient bulbs are eco-friendly and can save you big bucks, but experts say that some could also have a dark side.
“When there is something in your house, you don’t perceive any danger, you wouldn’t get that close to an x-ray in a doctor’s office,” explained Miriam Rafailovich, Professor of Materials Science at Stony Brook University in New York.
Money saving, compact fluorescent light bulbs emit high levels of ultra violet radiation, according to a new study. Research at Long Island’s Stony Brook found that the bulbs emit rays so strong that they can actually burn skin and skin cells.
“The results were that you could actually initiate cell death,” said Marcia Simon, a Professor of Dermatology.
Exposure to the bulbs could lead to premature aging and skin cancer, according to doctors.
“It can also cause skin cancer in the deadliest for, and that’s melanoma,” said Dr. Rebecca Tung.
In every bulb that researchers tested they found that the protective coating around the light creating ‘phosphor’ was cracked, allowing dangerous ultraviolet rays to escape.
Read more and watch video: http://miami.cbslocal.com/2013/01/02/study-eco-friendly-light-bulbs-may-put-health-at-risk/
Read this story from CBC.ca on the new diet and movement building around the bestselling book Wheat Belly and growing concerns about the health impacts of wheat. (Oct. 8, 2012)
An increasing number of books, blogs and celebrities have fingered wheat as the cause of a variety of conditions, from obesity to heart disease, as well as a host of digestive problems.
One of the most talked-about health books right now is Wheat Belly: Lose the Wheat, Lose the Weight and Find Your Path Back to Health, a New York Times bestseller by U.S. cardiologist Dr. William Davis.
Earlier this year, reality-TV star Kim Kardashian made headlines when she announced that she had cut wheat from her diet.
"I think people are willing to do anything to alleviate their digestive concerns and try anything to resolve their weight issues," says Susan Watson, a registered dietitian in Winnipeg, about the growing anti-wheat movement.
"From a general health standpoint, unless you're celiac or have a diagnosed wheat intolerance, cutting any food group or any food product completely out of your diet is not generally recommended," says Watson.
The antipathy to wheat is partly attributable to a growing awareness of celiac disease, an autoimmune condition that affects approximately one in every 133 people in Canada. Celiac disease occurs when the small intestine is unable to properly digest gluten, a protein that appears in wheat as well as other grains such as barley, rye and spelt.
For celiacs, eating gluten-rich foods can make it difficult for the body to absorb nutrients, which can lead to everything from anemia to osteoporosis.
There is also another subset of people who suffer "non-celiac gluten sensitivity," which can include an allergy to wheat.
Although celiacs and the wheat allergic may experience similar symptoms, such as cramps and diarrhea, "a wheat allergy does not damage the intestine, whereas celiac disease does," explains Novella Lui, a Toronto-based dietitian.
In any event, doctors and naturopaths generally counsel celiacs and those with non-celiac gluten sensitivity to go gluten-free.
As a result, gluten-free guides have sprung up all over the place, including such high-profile titles as The G-Free Diet by Elisabeth Hasselbeck, co-host of the popular U.S. daytime talk show The View and a celiac herself.
But the current anti-wheat trend isn't simply a response to celiac disease. In fact, it is increasingly being pitched as a healthy choice for everyone, which is what Davis argues in Wheat Belly.
Raises Blood Sugar
Davis says he discovered the harmful effects of wheat several years ago, "when I made myself diabetic by accident."
Despite being on a low-fat, vegetarian diet and jogging up to eight kilometres a day, Davis found that his blood sugar was inexplicably spiking.
It didn't become clear to him what was going on until he began doing research into how to prevent heart disease. Then he learned that it was impossible to control the risks of heart disease – such as coronary atherosclerosis – if the patient was diabetic or pre-diabetic.
And one of the things that raises blood sugar is wheat, which is the basis of everything from bread to pasta to pastries.
"The glycemic index of wheat is very high, and wheat products dominate the diets of most Canadians and Americans," Davis said during a phone interview from his office in Milwaukee, Wis.
Not only does wheat raise blood sugar, but Davis says that in the digestion process, one of the proteins contained in wheat — gliadin — becomes "degraded to a morphine-like compound" that creates an appetite for even more wheat.
Read more: http://www.cbc.ca/news/health/story/2012/10/05/f-anti-wheat-diet.html
Read this story from examiner.com on a new study from tony Brook University that shows compact fluorescent light bulbs can harm human skin cells. (July 19, 2012)
Environmentalists have pushed to abolish traditional incandescent light bulbs, in order to reduce the amount of electricity needed to light up our homes.
However, a small but vocal minority has insisted that the curlicue-shaped compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) pose a threat to human health.
Now, a group of scientists at Stony Brook University has proven that CFLs do emit ultraviolet (UV) light rays that can harm human skin cells.
Cracks in CFL coating
In the first part of their study, the researchers purchased CFLs from different stores in two different counties. Then they measured the invisible UV rays given off by the bulbs when lit.
The rays appeared to escape through tiny cracks in the white phosphor coating on the inside of each CFL bulb’s glass. The phosphor particles actually glow with visible light as a result of an electrochemical reaction inside the bulb.
The scientists noted that these cracks in the phosphor were present in all the CFLs they studied. They found significant levels of UV were emitted from the bulbs.
Skin cell specialists
The research team included scientists from Stony Brook’s Advanced Energy Research and Technology Center (AERTC) and the New York State Stem Cell Science (NYSTEM).
The team exposed human skin tissue cells to the CFLs they had collected, as well as to traditional incandescent bulbs with the same brightness (intensity).
The scientists also added titanium dioxide (TiO2) nanoparticles to some of the skin cells, because this chemical is commonly used in sunblock lotions to absorb UV rays.
Damage from UV radiation
“Our study revealed that the response of healthy skin cells to UV emitted from CFL bulbs is consistent with damage from ultraviolet radiation,” said Miriam Rafailovich, Professor of Materials Science and Engineering and the lead scientist for the study.
“Skin cell damage was further enhanced when low dosages of TiO2 nanoparticles were introduced to the skin cells prior to exposure,” she said.
The researchers found that incandescent light of the same intensity had no effect on healthy skin cells, with or without the presence of TiO2. Incandescent lamps do not emit significant quantities of UV radiation.
Based on a European study
The Stony Brook scientists decided to research the possible effects of UV radiation from CFLs partly because of a 2008 European Commission study, conducted by the Scientific Committee on Emerging and Newly Identified Health Risks (SCENIHR).
The European report had found that some CFLs emit UV radiation, which under prolonged exposures at short distances (less than 8 inches) may approach the workplace limit set to protect workers from skin and retinal damage.
However, at the time of the SCENIHR report, peer-reviewed test data comparing incandescent light bulbs to CFLs was not available to provide a clear answer to the questions of whether CFLs emit UV radiation that may be harmful to particularly sensitive patients, and whether they may be harmful to the general public when in close proximity to the skin.
Four years later, the Stony Brook team published its data in the peer-reviewed journal, Photochemistry and Photobiology.
Read more: http://www.examiner.com/article/scientific-study-proves-energy-efficient-bulbs-can-harm-human-skin-cells
It is estimated that over 22,000 women in Canada will be diagnosed with breast cancer this year and nearly ten times as many in the United States. Almost a quarter of these people will die. Nobody knows why. Yes, there are established risk factors, such as early commencement of menstruation, never breastfeeding a child, late onset of menopause, all of which increase a woman’s lifetime production of estrogen. Then there is the inheritance of the long-researched "breast cancer gene". These risks apply to approximately 30% of breast cancer cases, leaving the vast majority unexplained. Or are they? For the past two decades, scientists like Devra Davis have been pointing the finger at “foreign” estrogens, contaminants introduced into the body from the environment, which can mimic the action of estrogen or alter hormonal activity.
Read this story from Reuters on a new study from the US Geological Survey confirming earlier tests results that showed natural gas fracking operations contaminated groundwater in Wyoming. (Sept. 28, 2012)
SALMON, Idaho, Sept 28 (Reuters) - Government testing of a drinking water aquifer near a tiny Wyoming town has shown concentrations of gases like ethane and propane and diesel compounds, but a natural gas company said it did not cause the contamination.
A report by the U.S. Geological Survey showed petroleum-based pollutants in samples from a monitoring well in the aquifer adjacent to Pavillion, Wyoming, which is at the center of a national debate over hydraulic fracturing, or fracking.
A draft study released in December by the Environmental Protection Agency linked fluids used in fracking, a drilling method that has unlocked vast shale gas deposits across the nation, to pollution in the underground formation that supplies drinking water to residents near Encana Corp's gas production wells east of Pavillion.
The findings contradicted claims by gas drillers that fluids from fracking, which injects water, sand and chemicals underground to boost extraction of fuel, have never contaminated drinking water.
Criticism by the oil and gas industry and Wyoming officials of the methods the EPA employed to collect water quality data and regulators' interpretation of the findings prompted recent retesting under a monitoring plan designed by the state, the USGS and the EPA.
Compared to the 2011 EPA study, the USGS results from testing of one of two monitoring wells in the aquifer indicated higher levels of gases like methane, lower levels of diesel-range organics and the absence of such solvents as toluene, an Encana analysis showed.
The EPA is expected in coming days to release its testing of water from two groundwater monitoring wells, several domestic wells and a public well. The data sets are to be submitted for peer review.
The EPA said the groundwater monitoring data in its 2011 report and USGS findings were "generally consistent."
But Encana spokesman Doug Hock said the findings are not equal and singled out USGS for providing "credible data" in research whose "implications are not just for Encana but for the whole industry."
Hock and Simon Lomax, research director of an arm of the Independent Petroleum Association of America, underscored a decision by USGS to discount samples from the second of two monitoring wells because of concerns that low water quantity and other factors might skew results.
"The USGS effectively disqualified one of the EPA's two monitoring wells," Lomax said in a statement.
He pointed to a March 1 letter by Donald Simpson, director of the Bureau of Land Management office in Wyoming, that recommended the installation of additional monitoring wells for a "larger and much more robust study effort and investment prior to drawing any conclusions, particularly in the case about the role of hydraulic fracturing use in development of the oil and gas resource."
Encana's Hock said the Canadian company denies the pollution in Pavillion is related to its operations.
But Rob Jackson, professor of environmental sciences at Duke University, said his review of USGS data shows it is consistent with EPA's initial results, "which suggested the contamination at the site from fracking is a real possibility."
Jackson, co-author of a peer-reviewed paper that showed fracking in the Marcellus shale in Pennsylvania did not pollute adjacent drinking water wells with brine, said the report by the USGS should quiet criticism of the EPA.
"You can't say that EPA botched the job if USGS goes on and gets similar numbers," he said.
Read more: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/09/29/usgs-aquifer-tests-pavillion-wyoming_n_1924604.html