The Six Scenarios:
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Researchers predict average-sized 'dead zone' for Gulf of Mexico in 2016
A University of Michigan researcher and colleagues from several institutions are forecasting an average but still large "dead zone" in the Gulf of Mexico this year. The forecast calls for an oxygen-depleted, or hypoxic, region of 5,898 square miles, an area roughly the size of Connecticut and similar to the past several years. The forecast was released today by the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration, which sponsors the work. Farmland runoff containing fertilizers and livestock waste, much of it from as far away as the Corn Belt, is the main source of the nitrogen and phosphorus that cause the annual Gulf of Mexico hypoxic zone, which is also known as a dead zone. The gulf contains diverse marine life, including nationally important commercial and recreational fisheries. Organisms unable to leave the low-oxygen dead zone become stressed and can die of suffocation.
from E&E Publishing:
Okla. shaking jumped 50 percent in 2015
The number of earthquakes in Oklahoma rose 50 percent last year, easily surpassing the record number that hit the state in 2014. Oklahoma Geological Survey (OGS) data show that the state was shaken by 881 earthquakes of magnitude 3 or greater, or an average of 2.4 per day. That's up from 585 in 2014. U.S. Geological Survey data show that California had 128 such quakes in 2015. Scientists and state officials say the increase in earthquakes in Oklahoma likely has been caused by wastewater disposal from oil and gas operations. Oil production methods that yield unusually large volumes of water have combined with favorably aligned faults under the state to cause the unprecedented shaking.
from Wisconsin State Journal:
Pipeline company sues county over moot insurance requirement
A Canadian oil pipeline company that is building a tar sands oil pumping station in northeastern Dane County sued the county on Monday over the continued inclusion of permit language requiring it to buy spill insurance, despite a new state law forbidding that requirement.... The state Legislature included language in the state budget, signed by Gov. Scott Walker in July, that prohibits such insurance requirements, but the county zoning committee on Sept. 29 voted to restore the requirement, adding a note that reflects the state law... County Board Chairwoman Sharon Corrigan has said that the board left the insurance requirement in the permit in case a future Legislature changes the law.
from Science, via Vice Motherboard:
Every Forest Biome on Earth Is Actively Dying Right Now
Forests are ecological superheroes--they ventilate the planet, nurture the most biodiverse habitats on Earth, and regulate global climate and carbon cycles. From the poles to the equator, our survival is completely dependent on healthy woodlands. But according to the latest issue of Science, which is devoted to forest health, every major forest biome is struggling. While each region suffers from unique pressures, the underlying thread that connects them all is undeniably human activity.... "The health of the immense and seemingly timeless boreal forest is presently under threat, together with the vitality of many forest-based communities and economies," the researchers said. Temperate forests aren't faring much better, according to another study from the issue written by US Geological Survey ecologists Constance Millar and Nathan Stephenson. Temperate forests are primarily composed of deciduous trees that shed their leaves seasonally, and are common in mid-latitude regions around the world....
from The Guardian:
Eleven Thousand Cubic Yards of Radioactive Nuclear Test Debris Leaching into Ocean
Officially, this vast structure is known as the Runit Dome. Locals call it The Tomb.... Below the 18-inch concrete cap rests the United States' cold war legacy to this remote corner of the Pacific Ocean: 111,000 cubic yards of radioactive debris left behind after 12 years of nuclear tests. Brackish water pools around the edge of the dome, where sections of concrete have started to crack away. Underground, radioactive waste has already started to leach out of the crater: according to a 2013 report by the US Department of Energy, soil around the dome is already more contaminated than its contents.... "Runit Dome represents a tragic confluence of nuclear testing and climate change," said Michael Gerrard, director of the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law at Columbia University, who visited the dome in 2010. "It resulted from US nuclear testing and the leaving behind of large quantities of plutonium," he said. "Now it has been gradually submerged as result of sea level rise from greenhouse gas emissions by industrial countries led by the United States."
from New York Times:
Oklahoma Court Rules Homeowners Can Sue Oil Companies Over Quakes
The Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that homeowners who have sustained injuries or property damage from rampant earthquakes they say are caused by oil and gas operations can sue for damages in state trial courts, rejecting efforts by the industry to block such lawsuits from being decided by juries and judges. ...
from Rolling Stone:
What's Killing the Babies of Vernal, Utah?
...an alarming number of babies were dying in Vernal -- at least 10 in 2013 alone, what seemed to her a shockingly high infant mortality rate for such a small town... in Vernal, a town literally built by oil, raising questions about the safety of fracking will brand you a traitor and a target... Suspect One: the extraordinary levels of wintertime pollution plaguing the Basin since the vast new undertaking to frack the region's shale filled the air with toxins.
from LA Times:
Ruptured pipeline was corroded, federal regulators say
Corrosion had eaten away nearly half of the metal wall of a pipeline that ruptured and spilled up to 101,000 gallons of crude oil along the Santa Barbara coast last month, federal regulators said Wednesday... The 10.6-mile pipeline had "extensive" external corrosion, and the thickness of the pipe's wall where it broke had degraded to an estimated one-sixteenth of an inch, the pipeline agency said.
from Beaver County Times:
Pitt study shows link between fracking, lower birth weights
University of Pittsburgh researchers say a groundbreaking study focusing on southwest Pennsylvania released Wednesday shows that pregnant women living near natural gas fracking wells are more likely to have babies with lower birth weights... The team determined that the mothers closest to wells with hydraulic fracturing, commonly referred to as fracking, were 34 percent more likely to have babies who were "small for gestational age" compared to mothers who lived farthest away from wells.
from InsideClimate News:
In Heavily Fracked Ohio County, Unsafe Levels of Toxic Pollutants
Emissions generated by fracking operations may be exposing people to some toxic pollutants at levels higher than the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency considers safe for long-term exposure, according to scientists from Oregon State University and the University of Cincinnati... The team found chemicals released during oil and gas extraction that can raise people's risk of cancer and respiratory ailments.
from Endocrine Society:
BPA harms dental enamel in young animals, mimicking human tooth defect
A tooth enamel abnormality in children, molar incisor hypomineralization (MIH), may result from exposure to the industrial chemical bisphenol A (BPA), authors of a new study conclude after finding similar damage to the dental enamel of rats that received BPA. The study results will be presented Friday at the Endocrine Society's 97th annual meeting in San Diego. "Human enamel defects may be used as an early marker of exposure to BPA and similar-acting endocrine disruptors," Babajko said.... Recent published data show that MIH affects up to 18 percent of children ages 6 to 9 years. Although the cause is unclear, it appears to have an environmental origin, according to the study authors.
Utah Suicides Linked to Air Pollution
Suicide may be linked to air pollution, according to new research that finds spikes in completed suicides in the days following peak pollution levels. The research took place in Utah, part of the United States' western "suicide belt." Suicide is the 10th-leading cause of death in the United States; in Utah, it is the eighth. Though the notion that suicide and air quality could be linked may not seem intuitive, similar studies in South Korea, Taiwan and Canada have also linked the two.... They found that suicide risk went up two to three days after levels of fine particulate matter and nitrogen dioxide rose.
What are we doing to our children's brains?
The numbers are startling. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 1.8 million more children in the U.S. were diagnosed with developmental disabilities between 2006 and 2008 than a decade earlier. During this time, the prevalence of autism climbed nearly 300 percent, while that of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder increased 33 percent. CDC figures also show that 10 to 15 percent of all babies born in the U.S. have some type of neurobehavorial development disorder. Still more are affected by neurological disorders that don't rise to the level of clinical diagnosis.... a significant and growing body of research suggests that exposure to environmental pollutants is implicated in the disturbing rise in children's neurological disorders.
Chemical in Plastics May Alter Boys' Genitals Before Birth
Baby boys who are exposed in the womb to a chemical used in soft plastics may show small signs of altered genital development, according to new research published today. The study, which included more than 700 infants in four U.S. cities, is the largest of its kind to date. It confirms earlier findings in humans and animals that exposure to certain types of chemicals called phthalates may lead to changes in the way the male reproductive tract develops, said Dr. Russ Hauser, an epidemiologist at the Harvard School of Public Health, who was not involved in the new study. Phthalates are a large group of industrial chemicals used in a variety of consumer products, such as food packaging, flooring, perfumes and lotions.
Tests planned on mysterious 'milky rain' in U.S. Pacific Northwest
Scientists from two U.S. Pacific Northwest laboratories plan to conduct tests of unusual precipitation that fell across the region over the weekend in hopes of pinpointing the origins of so-called "milky rain" that has mystified residents, officials said on Wednesday.... The National Weather Service has said it believes the powdery rain was most likely a byproduct of dust storms hundreds of miles away in Nevada, although it could not rule out volcanic ash from Japan as a possible culprit.
from Climate Progress:
The Ocean Now Has At Least 700 Pieces Of Plastic Per Person On Earth
A study published on Wednesday estimates that the ocean contains over 260,000 tons, or 5.25 trillion pieces, of plastic. The study found that the amount of microplastics, pieces of plastic that are less than half a centimeter, found on the ocean's surface were much smaller than expected.... Over 90 percent of the searches that the study did contained plastic, and polystyrene made up most of the plastics found. One of the researchers said that in some areas with larger amounts of debris, there was more plastic in the water than living creatures.
Boxer Rebellion: A Pocketed Cellphone May Be Behind Your Infertility
The object that billions of people around the world hold to their face to make calls or place in their pocket when not in use emits radio frequency energy, which is considered a potential health hazard... "With fertility, the verdict isn't out anymore," contended Michael Lam in an interview with Newsweek. Lam is the co-founder of Belly Armor, a company that got its start in 2009 making maternity, prenatal and nursing products out of a silver conductive textile. In September, the company expanded their products into the world of male fertility by launching a radiation-shielding boxer brief for men. The underwear, which is specifically targeted to men trying to conceive, costs about $50 a pair due to the high cost of silver fabric.
from Mother Jones:
That Takeout Coffee Cup May Be Messing With Your Hormones
Most people know that some plastics additives, such as bisphenol A (BPA), may be harmful to their health. But an upcoming study in the journal Environmental Health finds that entire classes of plastics--including the type commonly referred to as styrofoam and a type used in many baby products--may wreak havoc on your hormones regardless of what additives are in them... The new study suggests that sometimes the resins themselves are part of the problem, though additives such as dyes and antioxidants can make it worse. In the case of polystyrene, the resin used in styrofoam and similar products, the authors tested 11 samples and consistently found estrogen seepage after exposure to intense steam or ultraviolet rays.
EPA Power Plant Mercury Rule Gets U.S. Supreme Court Review
The U.S. Supreme Court agreed to decide whether the Obama administration went too far with new power-plant pollution caps the government estimates will cost almost $10 billion a year. The justices today said they will hear industry and state contentions that the Environmental Protection Agency didn't adequately consider those costs when it limited mercury and other hazardous pollutants.
Chemicals in sunscreen, aftershave may affect male fertility
A new study suggests chemicals in sunscreen may impair men's ability to father children, government scientists say, but other experts question whether the chemicals wound up in men's urine from sunscreen or through another route. The FDA has not authorized the substances - benzophenone-2, known as BP-2, and 4-hydroxybenzophenone, known as 4-OH-BP - for use in sunscreens. And BP-2 does show up as an ingredient in aftershaves, colognes, antiperspirant and other personal-care products.
from Associated Press:
Fracking to be permitted in GW National Forest
Environmentalists and energy boosters alike welcomed a federal compromise announced Tuesday that will allow fracking in the largest national forest in the eastern United States, but make most of its woods off-limits to drilling. The decision was highly anticipated because about half of the George Washington National Forest sits atop the Marcellus shale formation, a vast underground deposit of natural gas that runs from upstate New York to West Virginia and yields more than $10 billion in gas a year.
from New York Times:
Obesity Is Tied to Pollutants
Exposure to secondhand smoke and roadway traffic may be tied to increased body mass index in children and adolescents, a new study suggests. Researchers studied 3,318 children in 12 Southern California communities beginning at an average age of 10, and then followed them through age 18. They used parental questionnaires to establish exposure to smoking, and data on traffic volume and levels of nitrogen dioxide, ozone and particulates to track pollution.
Armyworm resistance to GMO crops seen in U.S. -study
Crop-devouring armyworms are showing increasing resistance in some U.S. farm fields to a popular type of genetically modified crop that should kill them, scientists said on Monday. The evolution of insect resistance "is a great threat" long- term to the sustainability of the GMO crop biotechnology that has become a highly valued tool for many U.S. farmers, according to Fangneng Huang, an entomologist at Louisiana State University (LSU) and lead researcher for a three-year study.
from San Francisco Chronicle:
Traces of radiation from Fukushima detected off California
The first faint traces of radioactivity in the ocean from the Fukushima nuclear disaster have been detected 100 miles off Eureka, a scientist who has been monitoring radiation levels across the Pacific reported Monday. The levels of the radioactive element Cesium-134 were far lower than any radiation that would pose a threat to human or marine life, said Ken Buesseler, a nuclear chemist at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution on Cape Cod. The radioactivity was detected in samples of ocean water volunteers aboard a research vessel from the Moss Landing Marine Laboratory in Monterey County collected last August. The samples were sent for analysis to Buesseler's lab at Woods Hole.... No federal government agency finances efforts to track radioactivity in ocean water, so Buesseler has created a volunteer organization of coastal residents to collect water samples periodically and send them to his lab at Woods Hole. He has volunteers collecting water samples along the coast from San Diego to Canada and around Hawaii.
from David Suzuki:
The New 'F' Word
While dithering over neonicotinoids -- bee-killing pesticides banned in Europe -- Canadian regulators are poised to approve a closely-related poison called flupyradifurone. We call it the new "F"-word. Like neonics, flupyradifurone attacks the nervous system of insect pests. Both are systemic pesticides that are taken up by plants and move through their tissues into pollen, fruits and seeds. Both are also persistent, sticking around in the environment and, with repeated applications, building up over time. Health Canada says flupyradifurone may pose a risk to bees, birds, worms, spiders, small mammals and aquatic bugs -- familiar words to anyone following Canada's slow-motion review of neonics. Dust from corn seed treated with neonics is implicated in large-scale bee die-offs during planting season in Ontario and Quebec. Not only is this is alarming in its own right; the dead bees are the proverbial canaries in the coal mine, signalling broader ecological consequences.
Graph of the Day: Distribution of plastic pollution in the Pacific, Atlantic, and Indian oceans
When marine ecologist Andres Cozar Cabanas and a team of researchers completed the first ever map of ocean trash, something didn't quite add up. Their work, published this month in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, did find millions of pieces of plastic debris floating in five large subtropical gyres in the world's oceans. But plastic production has quadrupled since the 1980s, and wind, waves, and sun break all that plastic into tiny bits the size of rice grains. So there should have been a lot more plastic floating on the surface than the scientists found. "Our observations show that large loads of plastic fragments, with sizes from microns to some millimeters, are unaccounted for in the surface loads," says Cozar, who teaches at the University of Cadiz in Spain, by e-mail. "But we don't know what this plastic is doing. The plastic is somewhere--in the ocean life, in the depths, or broken down into fine particles undetectable by nets."
from London Daily Mail:
Chemicals in plastic 'are making women less interested in sex': Low libido linked to additives used to soften materials found in every home
Chemicals found in PVC flooring, plastic shower curtains, processed food and other trappings of modern life may be sapping women's interest in sex. A study has linked low libido with the additives used to soften plastics which are found in every home. Women with the highest levels of phthalates in their bodies were more than twice as likely to say 'not tonight dear' as those with the lowest amounts.
from Mother Jones:
Why Did Top Scientific Journals Reject This Dr. Bronner's Ad?
David Bronner, CEO of Dr. Bronner's Magic Soaps, presides over a company with famously wacky product labels. Sample sentence, from the 18-in-1 Hemp PEPPERMINT soap bottle: "Each swallow works hard to be perfect pilot-provider-teacher-lover-mate, no half-true hate!" But Bronner himself, grandson of the founder (the one with the elaborate prose style), has emerged as a serious, though fun-loving, activist, particularly around pesticides and genetically modified crops, as Josh Harkinson's recent Mother Jones profile shows. But apparently, Bronner's writing on GMOs is too hot for the advertising pages of the English-speaking world's two most renowned science journals, Science and Nature--even though a slew of magazines, including Scientific American, The New Yorker, Harper's, The Nation, Harvard, and, yes, Mother Jones, accepted the Bronner ad. It consists of a short essay, known in publishing as an advertorial, that's nothing like the wild-eyed rants on his company's soap bottles. Bronner's ad (PDF) focuses on how GMO crops have led to a net increase in pesticide use in the United States, citing an analysis by Ramon Seidler, a retired senior staff scientist at the Environmental Protection Agency.
from Wageningen University and Research Centre, via ScienceDaily:
Plastic nanoparticles also harm freshwater organisms
Organisms can be negatively affected by plastic nanoparticles, not just in the seas and oceans but in freshwater bodies too. These particles slow the growth of algae, cause deformities in water fleas and impede communication between small organisms and fish.... In the study into the effects of tiny plastic particles in freshwater, PhD candidate Ellen Besseling and student Bo Wang exposed water fleas to various nanoplastic concentrations. At higher concentrations, algae growth declined. Water fleas were also smaller following exposure to nanoplastics and their offspring malformed in various ways. 'These are the first malformations that have been seen in freshwater organisms and we do not yet know how big the problem really is', says Ellen Besseling. She believes that more research is needed into the sources, concentrations and effects of nanoplastic in water and on other organisms.
from London Guardian:
Drugs flushed into the environment could be cause of wildlife decline
Potent pharmaceuticals flushed into the environment via human and animal sewage could be a hidden cause of the global wildlife crisis, according to new research. The scientists warn that worldwide use of the drugs, which are designed to be biologically active at low concentrations, is rising rapidly but that too little is currently known about their effect on the natural world. Studies of the effect of pharmaceutical contamination on wildlife are rare but new work published on Monday reveals that an anti-depressant reduces feeding in starlings and that a contraceptive drug slashes fish populations in lakes.
from Canadian Press:
Pesticides linked to bee deaths pose 'massive' ecological threat, watchdog warns
The widespread use of neonicotinoid pesticides by Ontario farmers, which has been linked to the deaths of bees, could have a "massive impact" on our ecological system, the province's environment watchdog warned Tuesday. "All the science is not done, but everything that I have before me ... suggests to me that this is the biggest threat to the structure and ecological integrity of the ecosystem that I have ever encountered in my life, bigger than DDT, " said Environmental Commissioner Gord Miller as he released his annual report. Dichloro-diphenyl-trichloroethane was banned in Canada in 1972 because of environmental and safety concerns, and even Environment Minister Glen Murray admitted the neonicotinoid class of pesticides is "much more toxic" than DDT.
from St. Louis Post-Dispatch:
Study: EPA carbon rules would save thousands of lives in Illinois and Missouri
A new study concludes that Missouri and Illinois would reap some of the largest public health benefits in the country from rules requiring utilities to cut back on carbon pollution. Researchers at Harvard, Boston and Syracuse universities found the two states could save thousands of lives from 2020 to 2030 if utilities implement carbon control measures at coal plants. Limiting carbon dioxide pollution from coal plants also leads to reduced soot and other pollutants that cause heart and respiratory problems. Under a scenario similar to the EPA's recently proposed carbon pollution rules, the researchers estimated Missouri could prevent 1,200 deaths between 2020 and 2030. In Illinois, about 2,100 lives could be saved.
U.S. foods labeled 'natural' often contain GMOs, group reports
majority of U.S. packaged foods labeled as "natural" and tested by Consumer Reports actually contained a substantial level of genetically modified ingredients, according to a report issued Tuesday by the non-profit product testing group. Consumers are being misled by the "natural" label, said Urvashi Rangan, executive director of Consumer Reports Food Safety and Sustainability. Consumer Reports said it had conducted a survey of more than 80 different processed foods containing corn or soy, the two most widely grown genetically engineered crops in the United States, to determine whether labeling claims for GMO presence were accurate. While foods labeled as "non-GMO," or "organic" were found to be free of genetically modified corn and soy, virtually all of the foods labeled as "natural" or not labeled with any claim related to GMO content contained substantial amounts of GMO ingredients, Consumer Reports said.
Typhoon Phanfone Bears Down on Japan
The southern coast of Honshu, from the prefectures of Wakayama to Chiba, will bear the brunt of Phanfone's fury. Destructive wind gusts of 160 to 195 kph (100 to 120 mph) threaten to cause widespread and significant damage to trees and structures. Residents should prepare for extensive and lengthy power outages.... Residents should prepare for widespread flooding, damage to trees and some structures, power outages and flight cancellations. The worst of Phanfone will blast Tokyo later on Sunday night through Monday morning. Douty expects conditions to rapidly improve around Tokyo on Monday afternoon as Phanfone races out to sea and transitions to a non-tropical system. Widespread rain totals of 200 to 250 mm (8 to 10 inches) are also expected from eastern Shikoku to the Honshu prefecture of Fukushima, triggering widespread and life-threatening flash flooding.
from JAMA - Journal of the American Medical Association:
Waistlines of U.S. adults continue to increase
The prevalence of abdominal obesity and average waist circumference increased among U.S. adults from 1999 to 2012, according to a study. Waist circumference is a simple measure of total and intra-abdominal body fat. Although the prevalence of abdominal obesity has increased in the United States through 2008, its trend in recent years has not been known.... The overall age-adjusted prevalence of abdominal obesity increased significantly in the U.S. from 46.4 percent in 1999-2000 to 54.2 percent in 2011-2012.
from London Guardian:
Lack of toilets blights the lives of 2.5bn people, UN chief warns
The world's lack of progress in building toilets and ending open defecation is having a "staggering" effect on the health, safety, education, prosperity and dignity of 2.5 billion people, the UN deputy secretary general, Jan Eliasson, has warned.... According to the UN, 2.5 billion people still lack "improved sanitation facilities" - defined as ones that "hygienically separate human excreta from human contact", down only 7 percent since 1990, when 2.7 billion lacked access, and more than a billion people - most of whom live in rural areas - have to defecate in gutters, behind bushes or into water. More people have access to mobile phones than toilets, it says.
from Daily Kos :
Fire retardant chems, cancer, health problems
In a reckless, "hope-for-the-best" approach that puts us all at risk, U.S. policy allows the release of synthetic chemicals into the environment--before their potentially devastating impacts have been adequately evaluated. Multiple Senate bills to fix this toxic system over the past decade have been snuffed out. On July 24, 2014, U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR) introduced a bill, the "Protecting American Families from Toxic Chemicals Act" (S. 2656), which would ban a number of "persistent, bioaccumulative, and toxic" synthetic chemicals such as brominated fire (or flame) retardants (BFRs).... BFRs enter our bodies mainly when we inhale or swallow dust. Various BFRs have been linked to cancer, thyroid disruption, memory and learning problems, delayed mental and physical development, lower IQ, early puberty, and reduced fertility. Ironically, BFRs start "fires" in our bodies by causing inflammation.
China police seize 30,000 tonnes of tainted chicken feet
Chinese police have seized over 30,000 tonnes of tainted chicken feet, common on restaurant menus in China, in the latest food scandal to hit the country. Authorities have detained 38 people involved in the sale of the chicken feet in provinces including the eastern province of Zhejiang, the official Xinhua news agency reported on Tuesday. The arrests followed raids on nine supplier factories in nearby Jiangsu, Anhui, Henan and Guangdong provinces, Xinhua said, adding police found that excess hydrogen peroxide was being added to the meat.
from Washington Post:
Jellyfish swarm takes over Florida beaches, stinging hundreds
They don't get the same attention as shark attacks (or even great white sightings), but jellyfish ruin far more weekends, descending on beaches like water-bound locusts. The latest example came in the waters along Daytona Beach and New Smyrna Beach. This past weekend, more than 400 swimmers were stung by jellyfish at the Florida beaches, according to Reuters. The swarm of serial stingers prompted lifeguards to raise purple flags warning of hazardous marine life.
from National Center for Atmospheric Research/University Corporation for Atmospheric Research:
Trash burning worldwide significantly worsens air pollution
Unregulated trash burning around the globe is pumping far more pollution into the atmosphere than shown by official records. A new study estimates that more than 40 percent of the world's garbage is burned in such fires, with emissions that can substantially affect human health and climate.
from South China Morning Post:
Toxic alert as Hong Kong suffers highest number of red tides in 26 years
The city has been hit by the worst six months of red tides in 26 years, with the highest number of potentially harmful algae species recorded, analysis by the Post has revealed. Scientific experts said the algal blooms might indicate that pollution is increasing and climate patterns shifting. They would not rule out the possibility that a lethal red tide - that can kill off marine life en masse - could strike soon, although these are almost impossible to forecast.
from Associated Press:
Less shake from artificial quakes, fed study says
Man-made earthquakes, a side effect of some high-tech energy drilling, cause less shaking and in general are about 16 times weaker than natural earthquakes with the same magnitude, a new federal study found. People feeling the ground move from induced quakes -- those that are not natural, but triggered by injections of wastewater deep underground-- report significantly less shaking than those who experience more normal earthquakes of the same magnitude, according to a study by U.S. Geological Survey geophysicist Susan Hough.
from Rodale News, via TruthOut:
New GMO Poised for Approval Despite Public Outcry
Despite its own admission that it will cause an up to sevenfold increase in chemical pesticide use, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is poised to approve a new type of genetically engineered seed built to resist one of the most toxic weedkillers on the market. Now, total approval hinges on the Environmental Protection Agency. If that federal body approves the new GMO, farmers will be free to plant corn and soy seeds genetically manipulated to live through sprayings of Dow's "Enlist Duo" herbicide, a chemical cocktail containing both glyphosate and the antiquated, toxic chemical 2,4-D. Ironically, in the 1990s, chemical companies said the development of GMOs would eliminate the need to use older, more dangerous chemicals like 2,4-D. But as GMO use ramped up over the last few decades, chemical use increased, and many weeds are no longer responding to glyphosate, the main ingredient in Roundup and the current chemical of choice for GMO farmers. This has created a "superweed" crisis, resulting in millions of acres of U.S. fields' being infested with hard-to-kill weeds.
Mexico acid leak leaves orange river, toxic water
Yesenia is one of 20,000 people left without water since a massive sulfuric acid leak last week at the Buenavista copper mine in northwestern Mexico, one of the largest in the world. She waited in the sweltering heat with her mother and two daughters for water brought into the town of Arizpe by a tanker truck, but left empty-handed after the truck ran dry, unable to meet the demand from the seven affected towns.... An estimated 40,000 cubic meters (10.6 million gallons) of sulfuric acid, which is used to dissolve copper from ore for processing ,leaked out of a holding tank at the mine, owned by leading Latin American mining company Grupo Mexico. The spill happened on August 6, but the authorities say the company only informed them 24 hours later.... Juan Rebolledo, Grupo Mexico's vice president for international relations, downplayed the impact. "The content of these acids is not toxic in itself," he said on radio network Formula. "There's no problem, nor any serious consequence for the population, as long as we take adequate precautions and the company pours lime into the river, as it is currently doing." The mine has dumped 100 tonnes of lime into the Sonora to neutralize the acidity, according to the state government.
from Los Angeles Times:
Oil companies fracking into drinking water sources, new research shows
Energy companies are fracking for oil and gas at far shallower depths than widely believed, sometimes through underground sources of drinking water, according to research released Tuesday by Stanford University scientists.... "Thousands of gallons of diesel fuel and millions of gallons of fluids containing numerous inorganic and organic additives were injected directly into these two formations during hundreds of stimulation events," concluded Dominic DiGiulio and Robert Jackson of Stanford's School of Earth Sciences... they point out that there is no way of knowing the effects of fracking into groundwater resources because regulators have not assessed the scope and impact of the activity.
from Scientific American:
BPA-Free Plastic Containers May Be Just as Hazardous
... recent research reveals that a common BPA replacement, bisphenol S (BPS), may be just as harmful. BPA is the starting material for making polycarbonate plastics. Any leftover BPA that is not consumed in the reaction used to make a plastic container can leach into its contents. From there it can enter the body. BPS was a favored replacement because it was thought to be more resistant to leaching.... Nearly 81 percent of Americans have detectable levels of BPS in their urine. And once it enters the body it can affect cells in ways that parallel BPA. A 2013 study by Cheryl Watson at The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston found that even picomolar concentrations (less than one part per trillion) of BPS can disrupt a cell's normal functioning, which could potentially lead to metabolic disorders such as diabetes and obesity, asthma, birth defects or even cancer.
from Center for Effective Government:
GAO Report Finds Problems with EPA Groundwater Protection Program
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is not adequately monitoring more than 172,000 wells used to enhance oil and gas drilling and dispose of drilling wastewater, according to a July 28 report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO). The report, based on two years of research, identified several significant problems with EPA's program to protect groundwater from drilling chemicals and wastes. Since millions get their drinking water from groundwater, these problems raise significant questions about how effectively and consistently we are protecting public drinking water.
Tailings pond breach in BC threatens pristine deepwater lake system, sockeye salmon; state of emergency declared
A local state of emergency has been declared in an area where a B.C. tailings pond wall collapsed, sending millions of cubic metres of mine waste water and metals-laden sand into local waterways.... The breach sent 10 million cubic metres of water and 4.5 million cubic metres of metals-laden sand out into local waterways, scouring away the banks of Hazeltine Creek and sending debris flowing into Quesnel Lake and Polley Lake, which rose 1.5 metres.... A summary of the material dumped into the tailings pond last year was filed with Environment Canada. It said there was 326 tonnes of nickel, over 400,000 kilograms of arsenic, 177,000 kilograms of lead and 18,400 tonnes of copper and its compounds placed in the pond last year.
from Columbus Dispatch:
Ohioan gets prison after workers dump toxic drilling brine
The owner of a northeastern Ohio business that collected and stored toxic fluids from oil- and gas-drilling operations was sentenced yesterday in Cleveland to 28 months in federal prison and fined $25,000.... "Clean air and fresh water is the birthright of every man, woman and child in this state," U.S. Attorney Steven Dettelbach said in a statement after the sentencing. "Intentionally breaking environmental laws is not the cost of doing business. It's going to cost business owners their freedom."
from Washington Post:
As more male bass switch sex, a strange fish story expands
...In the latest study, smallmouth bass and white sucker fish captured at 16 sites in the Delaware, Ohio and Susquehanna rivers in Pennsylvania had crossed over into a category called intersex, an organism with two genders.... The previous studies detected abnormal levels of compounds from chemicals such as herbicides and veterinary pharmaceuticals from farms, and from sewage system overflows near smallmouth-bass nesting areas in the Potomac. Those endocrine-disrupting chemicals throw off functions that regulate hormones and the reproductive system. In the newest findings, at one polluted site in the Susquehanna near Hershey, Pa., 100 percent of male smallmouth bass that were sampled had eggs,
from Associated Press:
Toledo's water crisis was a decade in the making from farms and sewage plants, experts say
The toxins that contaminated the drinking water supply of 400,000 people in northwest Ohio didn't just suddenly appear. Water plant operators along western Lake Erie have long been worried about this very scenario as a growing number of algae blooms have turned the water into a pea soup color in recent summers, leaving behind toxins that can sicken people and kill pets. In fact, the problems on the shallowest of the five Great Lakes brought on by farm runoff and sludge from sewage treatment plants have been building for more than a decade.
from London Daily Mail:
Do foam cups contain cancer-causing chemicals? Leading panel says styrene may be a 'human carcinogen'
A chemical used in foam cups and disposable food containers may cause cancer, scientists have warned. Styrene can be 'reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen', the National Research Council in the U.S. said yesterday. The conclusion was reached by a team of 10 experts in toxicology, chemistry and medicine.
from Mother Jones:
Halliburton Fracking Spill Mystery: What Chemicals Polluted an Ohio Waterway?
On the morning of June 28, a fire broke out at a Halliburton fracking site in Monroe County, Ohio. As flames engulfed the area, trucks began exploding and thousands of gallons of toxic chemicals spilled into a tributary of the Ohio River, which supplies drinking water for millions of residents. More than 70,000 fish died. ... This episode highlights a glaring gap in fracking safety standards. In Ohio, as in most other states, fracking companies are allowed to withhold some information about the chemical stew they pump into the ground to break up rocks and release trapped natural gas.... According to a preliminary EPA inquiry, more than 25,000 gallons of chemicals, diesel fuel, and other compounds were released during the accident, which began with a ruptured hydraulic line spraying flammable liquid on hot equipment. The flames later engulfed 20 trucks, triggering some 30 explosions that rained shrapnel over the site and hampered firefighting efforts.
from The Independent (UK):
Drug-resistant bacteria: Sewage-treatment plants described as giant 'mixing vessels' after scientists discover mutated microbes in British river
Superbugs resistant to some of the most powerful antibiotics in the medical arsenal have been found for the first time in a British river - with scientists pinpointing a local sewage-treatment plant as the most likely source. Scientists discovered the drug-resistant bacteria in sediment samples taken downstream of the sewerage plant on the River Sowe near Coventry. The microbes contained mutated genes that confer resistance to the latest generation of antibiotics. The researchers believe the discovery shows how antibiotic resistance has become widespread in the environment, with sewage-treatment plants now acting as giant "mixing vessels" where antibiotic resistance can spread between different microbes.
Company That Caused Historic West Virginia Chemical Spill Fined $11k
The company responsible for letting 10,000 gallons of a mysterious chemical seep into West Virginia's drinking water supply this past January was fined $11,000 by the U.S. Department of Labor on Monday, just two days before the six-month anniversary of the historic spill. After inspecting the facilities at Freedom Industries' chemical storage site in Charleston, the Labor Department's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) found that, at the time of the spill, Freedom Industries' chemical tanks containing crude MCHM had been surrounded by a wall that was not liquid tight. That violation that warranted a $7,000 fine. OSHA also hit Freedom Industries with an additional $4,000 fine for not having railings on an elevated platform used for loading and storing the chemical in the tanks. Both violations were labeled by OSHA as "serious," warranting monetary penalties.... Wednesday marks the sixth month anniversary of the day when Freedom's tanks spilled 10,000 gallons of crude MCHM -- the licorice-scented chemical mixture used in the coal production process -- into West Virginia's Elk River, tainting the water supply for 300,000 civilians. In the aftermath, nearly 600 people checked themselves into local hospitals with what federal epidemiologists called "mild" illnesses, such as rash, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, and diarrhea.
Leading scientists express rising concern about 'microplastics' in the ocean
Microplastics - microscopic particles of plastic debris - are of increasing concern because of their widespread presence in the oceans and the potential physical and toxicological risks they pose to organisms.... In an article published today in the journal Science, the two scientists have called for urgent action to "turn off the tap" and divert plastic waste away from the marine environment. Microplastics have now been documented in all five of the ocean's subtropical gyres - and have even been detected in Arctic sea ice - with some of the highest accumulations occurring thousands of miles from land. These plastic bits have been found in organisms ranging in size from small invertebrates to large mammals, and are known to concentrate toxic chemicals already present in seawater. This raises concern about the potential consequences to marine organisms....
Neonicotinoids linked to recent fall in farmland bird numbers
New research has identified the world's most widely used insecticides as the key factor in the recent reduction in numbers of farmland birds. The finding represents a significant escalation of the known dangers of the insecticides and follows an assessment in June that warned that pervasive pollution by these nerve agents was now threatening all food production. The neonicotinoid insecticides are believed to seriously harm bees and other pollinating insects, and a two-year EU suspension on three of the poisons began at the end of 2013. But the suspected knock-on effects on other species had not been demonstrated until now.... At least 95 percent of neonicotinoids applied to crops ends up in the wider environment, killing the insects the birds rely on for food, particularly when raising chicks.
Marine bacteria unfazed by rising ocean acidification
The new study, published in Environment Microbiology Reports, shows for the first time that even if ocean acidification reaches the levels predicted for the year 2100, the bacterial community will remain unaffected.... He suspects that the resistance of marine bacteria to ocean acidification means they will be able to evolve an even higher level of resilience before 2100, as they get used to higher acid levels. 'Hitting them with a big stick we see a huge capacity for resistance, but over the long term they have an enormous evolutionary capacity, he says. 'Over the next 100 years there will be millions of generations of bacteria, so if we still have a steadily increasing amount of carbon dioxide, as is predicted, being absorbed into oceans the bacterial communities will adapt.'
U.S., stung by bee decline, sets plan to save pollinators
The White House on Friday announced a federal strategy to reverse a rapid decline in the number of honey bees and other pollinators in the United States that threatens the development of billions of dollars in crops. As part of the plan, the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced $8 million in funding for farmers and ranchers in five states who establish new habitats for honey bee populations.... Over recent years, bees have been dying at a rate the U.S. government says is economically unsustainable. Honey bees pollinate plants that produce about a quarter of the food consumed by Americans, including apples, watermelons and beans.... The recent increased loss of honey bee colonies is thought to be caused by factors including a loss of natural forage and inadequate diets, mite infestations and diseases, loss of genetic diversity, and exposure to certain pesticides.
Fracking's magic-bullet moment fading fast
I was cruising the Internet a couple of weeks ago when this headline in the Los Angeles Times made my eyes pop: "U.S. officials cut estimate of recoverable Monterey shale oil by 96 per cent." Ninety six per cent! Since the Monterey formation accounts for two-thirds of the supposed reserves available for fracking that would make the U.S. not only energy independent but a powerhouse exporter to the world, this was a big bubble bursting. Amazing that you haven't heard of it, but such is the tenacity of the world's built-in resistance to energy reality.
from The Tyee:
Canada's 500,000 Leaky Energy Wells: 'Threat to Public' -- Fracking Makes It Worse
Alberta, for example, has failed to collect baseline data on the state of its groundwater resources prior to and after intense oil and gas activity for decades despite repeated warnings by scientists to do so. In recent years the increasing use of hydraulic fracturing has had the effect of drawing a red circle around the hidden liability of wellbore leakage. Fracking has not only added more wellbores (and methane pathways) to the landscape in the rush to develop difficult hydrocarbons trapped in shale rock and coal but added more pressure and stress to wellbores causing more leaks. The Waterloo report, quietly released last month, notes that the fluid injection of steam, water, sand or chemicals to force out more hydrocarbons "elevates the mechanical and thermal loading on wellbores, and significantly increases the probability of leakage problem development during the operational lifetime of the wellbore, before final abandonment."
from Earth Institute, via Science Daily:
Modern ocean acidification is outpacing ancient upheaval: Rate may be ten times faster
Some 56 million years ago, a massive pulse of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere sent global temperatures soaring. In the oceans, carbonate sediments dissolved, some organisms went extinct and others evolved. Scientists have long suspected that ocean acidification caused the crisis -- similar to today, as humanmade CO2 combines with seawater to change its chemistry. Now, for the first time, scientists have quantified the extent of surface acidification from those ancient days, and the news is not good: the oceans are on track to acidify at least as much as they did then, only at a much faster rate.... "We are dumping carbon in the atmosphere and ocean at a much higher rate today -- within centuries," said study coauthor Richard Zeebe, a paleoceanographer at the University of Hawaii. "If we continue on the emissions path we are on right now, acidification of the surface ocean will be way more dramatic than during the PETM."
from Associated Press:
Cow blamed for causing spill in North Dakota oil patch
A cow is suspected of causing a spill of natural gas liquids near a tributary of the Little Missouri River, prompting North Dakota regulators to warn energy companies to ensure their facilities are bovine-proof. State Environmental Health Chief Dave Glatt said Thursday that a cow might have rubbed against a tank valve two days earlier, spilling about 20 barrels of natural gas condensate near Sully Creek, south of Medora in western North Dakota.
from Mother Jones:
Big Dairy Is Putting NanoMetal in Your Food
The rapid emergence of nanotechnology suggests that size does, indeed, matter. It turns out that if you break common substances like silver and nickel into really, really tiny particles--measured in nanometers, which are billionths of a meter--they behave in radically different ways.... According to the Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies (PEN -- a joint venture of Virginia Tech University and the Wilson Center... lists 96 food items currently on US grocery shelves that contain unlabeled nano ingredients. Examples include Dannon Greek Plain Yogurt, Silk Original Soy Milk, Rice Dream Rice Drink, Hershey's Bliss Dark Chocolate, and Kraft's iconic American Cheese Singles, all of which now contain nano-sized titanium dioxide. As recently as 2008, only eight US food products were known to contain nanoparticles, according to a recent analysis from Friends of the Earth--a more than ten-fold increase in just six years.
from Alaska Dispatch:
Arctic sea ice littered with tiny bits of 'microplastic' pollution
Dartmouth scientist Rachel Obbard was looking at samples of Arctic sea ice for small organisms when something else caught her eye: Tiny, bright-colored bits and pieces and miniature string-like objects that did not seem to belong. Those small specks turned out to be a type of pollution known as microplastics. Their presence in sea ice collected from the central Arctic Ocean showed that some of the vast quantities of garbage and pollution floating in the world's seas has traveled to the northernmost waters.... sea ice holding the small bits of trash is thinning and likely to shed them back into the water, where they can be ingested by fish, birds and mammals...
from New Orleans Advocate:
BP plans to appeal oil spill settlement ruling to the Supreme Court
After a federal appeals court denied a request to rehear its case, international energy company BP will seek relief with the nations highest court. The decision handed down by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit this week would close the door on BP's attempt to have a court redefine the terms of a settlement agreement that governs the criteria in which claims are paid. For much of the past year, the company has disputed the current standard, arguing that failing to require claimants to show "direct evidence of causation" essentially expands the class of people eligible to receive payments.
from Associated Press:
Probe finds scant oversight of chemical plants
The government has no way of fully knowing which U.S. chemical facilities stock ammonium nitrate, the substance that exploded last year at a Texas fertilizer plant and killed 14 people, congressional investigators say. Outdated federal policies, poor information sharing with states and a raft of industry exemptions point to scant federal oversight, says a new report obtained by The Associated Press. The report found regulatory gaps in environmental and worker protections and urged broad changes to U.S. safety rules.
from Huffington Post:
Minnesota Becomes First State To Ban Antibacterial Chemical Triclosan From Soaps
It's widely used nationwide as a germ-killing ingredient in soaps, deodorants and even toothpaste, but it's being banned in Minnesota. Gov. Mark Dayton on Friday signed a bill to make Minnesota the first state to prohibit the use of triclosan in most retail consumer hygiene products. The Minnesota House and Senate passed it earlier last week because of health and environmental concerns about the chemical.
from Huffington Post:
53 Million Gallons Of Nuclear Waste May Soon Be Stored Right Next To The Great Lakes
A proposed Canadian nuclear waste site near the shores of Lake Huron is facing mounting criticism from Michigan lawmakers who say it's dangerous and called on the federal government to intervene.... "Building a nuclear waste dump less than a mile from one of the largest freshwater sources in the world is a reckless act that should be universally opposed," Michigan Rep. Dan Lauwers (R-Brockway Township) said in a statement Monday.
from Associated Press:
Fed govt failed to inspect higher risk oil wells
The government has failed to inspect thousands of oil and gas wells it considers potentially high risks for water contamination and other environmental damage, congressional investigators say. The report, obtained by The Associated Press before its public release, highlights substantial gaps in oversight by the agency that manages oil and gas development on federal and Indian lands. Investigators said weak control by the Interior Department's Bureau of Land Management resulted from policies based on outdated science and from incomplete monitoring data.
from New York Times:
Still Counting Gulf Spill's Dead Birds
After the Deepwater Horizon oil rig blew out in the Gulf of Mexico some 50 miles from the nearest land, responders were left to cope with a search area of nearly 40,000 square miles, as well as wind and currents that kept evidence of damage away from the more easily searchable coastline. Patrollers recovered fewer than 3,000 dead birds. But some had suspected that many more were unaccounted for. Now a team of scientists has tried to quantify the extent of damage inflicted on the gulf's bird population from the oil spill caused by the explosion. Based on models using publicly available data, the studies estimated that about 800,000 birds died in coastal and offshore waters.
Rare Earthquake Warning Issued for Oklahoma
Mile for mile, there are almost as many earthquakes rattling Oklahoma as California this year. This major increase in seismic shaking led to a rare earthquake warning today (May 5) from the U.S. Geological Survey and the Oklahoma Geological Survey. In a joint statement, the agencies said the risk of a damaging earthquake -- one larger than magnitude 5.0 -- has significantly increased in central Oklahoma... While scientists haven't ruled out natural causes for the increase, many researchers suspect the deep injection wells used for the disposal of fracking wastewater could be causing the earthquake activity.
from Columbus Business First:
Fracking disposal wells may cause quakes 30 miles away, researchers say
Oil and gas development could induce earthquakes at a further range than previously thought, according to new seismic research. Wastewater disposal wells, which hold millions of gallons of leftover fracking-related fluid, may be changing stress on existing faults and causing earthquakes spread out from the actual well. "Our results, using seismology and hydrogeology, show a strong link between a small number of wells and earthquakes migrating up to 50 kilometers (31 miles) away," Katie Keranen, assistant professor of geophysics at Cornell University, said in a release.
from Huffington Post:
Mysterious Holes In Indiana Sand Dune Could Be 'New Geological Phenomenon'
Mysterious holes that were discovered at an Indiana sand dune last year -- and which nearly swallowed a child -- will keep a Lake Michigan park closed indefinitely. The National Park Service announced last week that Mt. Baldy in the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, about an hour from Chicago, will be closed for the summer and beyond. The decision was made after two new holes in the dunes were found. "The continued development of these holes in the dune surface poses a serious risk to the public," Acting Superintendent Garry Traynham said in a statement. Scientists have been unable to determine how the holes, which seem to appear and disappear within a day, are formed in the 43-acre dune.
Well, there's more stories than this -- but that was 75 of them! You may want to try the PANICloud for more specific topics!