Politicians and Pollution

A story that makes my blood boil: politicians dithering and being petty about enforcing environmental laws. They treat pollution like it is an earmark, or something to be bartererd. No you evil people, it isn’t – toxic death is permanent, and willfully destroying the health of your citizens should be a felony. The Illinois EPA is so corrupt and toothless, the entire organization’s staff should be fired, and new employees brought in, preferably not from the ranks of energy-related corporation employees.

Blago Jogging on May Street

Even though the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency had plenty of evidence to file charges against the owner and operator of Anchor Metal Finishing, top agency officials sat on the case for more than a year. Meanwhile, carcinogenic solvents and caustic acids kept leaching from barrels packed haphazardly into a ramshackle building, two blocks away from a Schiller Park subdivision.

What appeared to be an obvious violation of state environmental laws became entangled in one of former Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s political feuds, delaying action for months. Dozens of other cases against polluters languished as well, largely because Blagojevich and his top aides refused to refer them to his archnemesis, Atty. Gen. Lisa Madigan, a Tribune investigation found.

The bitter dispute still reverberates through state government today, eight months after Blagojevich was arrested on federal corruption charges and then impeached and removed from office. Nearly 19 months after it was discovered, the Schiller Park site still hasn’t been cleaned up, and several other older cases are moving through an enforcement system that Gov. Pat Quinn and Madigan only recently have begun to repair.

Blagojevich and Madigan started out on amicable terms after they were elected in 2002. But EPA referrals of civil and criminal violations to the attorney general began to drop sharply in 2005, and fell to a record low of 114 in 2007, according to state records.

The agency hasn’t sent a criminal case to the attorney general in two years, records show.

[Click to continue reading Illinois pollution enforcement hampered by politics — chicagotribune.com]

Up Yours Illinois!

and this is just horrible:

Federal regulators also cited Midwest Generation, the owner of six coal-fired power plants that records show are some of the biggest contributors to dirty air in the Chicago area. Madigan’s staff documented thousands of pollution violations at the plants, but the state EPA repeatedly refused to take action against the company, which was represented for years by one of Blagojevich’s top campaign aides.

Business lobbyists persuaded lawmakers in 2002 to require a less-confrontational approach that doesn’t involve the attorney general’s office unless there is an imminent threat to the environment; lawsuits still can be filled if an agreement can’t be brokered.

Although the state EPA declined to cite Midwest Generation — the agency agreed with the company that frequent bursts of soot from its coal plants weren’t harmful — Scott noted the Blagojevich administration negotiated a deal that will force the aging generators to clean up or shut down by the end of the next decade. Environmental groups are seeking to impose tighter deadlines.

Withered and Died

The EPA agreed with the polluter that frequent bursts of soot from its coal plants weren’t harmful? Un-fucking-believable. The EPA should be forced to move their offices to be located adjacent to pollution sites like the Midwest Generation plants, or adjacent to the Crestwood polluted well.

Read the whole article if you can stomach it.

Pesticides in your peaches

Monica Eng of the Chicago Tribune writes about peaches, pesticides, and best practices:

Preliminary 2008 U.S. Department of Agriculture tests obtained by the Chicago Tribune show that more than 50 pesticide compounds showed up on domestic and imported peaches headed for U.S. stores. Five of the compounds exceeded the limits set by the Environmental Protection Agency, and six of the pesticide compounds present are not approved for use on peaches in the United States.

These are the types of findings that have landed peaches on one environmental group’s “Dirty Dozen” list — 12 fruits and vegetables that retain the highest levels of pesticide residues — and give many consumers pause as they shop grocery aisles. It seems that peaches’ delicate constitutions, fuzzy skins and susceptibility to mold and pests cause them to both need and retain pesticides at impressive rates.

To get some hard facts and new insights, the Tribune paid for lab tests on California organic peaches bought here and local farmers market peaches from Illinois and Michigan.

The newspaper sent these samples to the same federal lab where the USDA does its pesticide testing and found promising results. Of the 50 compounds the Tribune had tested for, one showed up on the organic peaches and three or fewer pesticides were detected on the Michigan and Illinois peaches.

[Click to continue reading Pesticides in your peaches: Tribune and USDA studies find pesticides, some in excess of EPA rules, in the fragrant fruit — chicagotribune.com]

Blueberries, Peaches, Strawberries, Plums et al
[fruit at the Green City Market]

This factoid disturbed me:

More surprising, however, was the presence of the unapproved pesticide fludioxonil on the organic peaches from California. According to Shane, the pesticide is often used on conventional peaches postharvest to slow rot and extend shelf life.

University of Illinois entomologist and extension specialist Rick Weinzierl suggested that the unapproved pesticide could have come from drift or cross-contamination at processing facilities. “But there is always the chance that a farmer is not doing what he is saying,” he added.

Rayne Pegg of the USDA’s agriculture marketing service confirmed that fludioxonil is not an approved compound for organic farming but added, “as long as the concentrations don’t exceed 5 percent of EPA tolerances, it can be sold as organic.” In fact, the USDA allows such levels of any legal pesticide to be present on organic produce. In the wake of recent allegations about slipping standards in the USDA’s National Organic Program, Congress has widened a probe into the NOP and recently USDA announced an independent audit of the program. The organic world was further rocked last month by a controversial British review of nutrient studies that challenged the nutritional benefits of organic produce.

Exactly why we should be paying attention to the Food Safety Enhancement legislation – organic produce shouldn’t have pesticide on it, that defeats the whole purpose of being organic. The testing should be rigorous as well, most of the items labeled organic in the supermarket have never been tested by a federal scientist.

As to Ms. Eng’s last point, not many people who choose to purchase organic produce do so believing they are buying extra nutrients, we buy organic foods so as to avoid ingesting toxic chemicals1

According to the Environmental Working Group, there are twelve kinds of produce (PDF) that contain the most pesticides. They call them The Dirty Dozen, and suggest avoiding non-organic versions of these as much as possible. There’s even an iPhone app that lists the Dirty Dozen, and the Clean Fifteen.

What are the Dirty Dozen? In reverse order (the items with the most pesticide residue first):

peaches, apples, bell peppers, celery, nectarines, strawberries, cherries, kale, lettuce, grapes (imported)2, carrots, pears. The list of 47 fruit and veggies is here check it out. Avocado, for instance, has one of the lowest pesticide loads – so there’s no need to purchase organic avocados.

  1. well, as much as possible – there is too much toxicity to avoid it completely. But if you can, by choice, remove some known carcinogens from your diet, why wouldn’t you? []
  2. domestic grapes 21 of 47 []

Coal Plants in Chicago

Kudos to the citizen groups for “taking to the streets“. It is really a travesty that in a world-class, allegedly green city like Chicago, these polluters are allowed to operate their stacks with impunity. Outrageous, indeed.

Withered and Died

Frustrated by inaction at every level of government, several environmental watchdog organizations announced plans today to sue the owner of Chicago’s two coal-fired power plants for alleged violations of the federal Clean Air Act.

The coal plants are among the biggest sources of dangerous air emissions in the region, but authorities have moved only haltingly to compel them to clean up.

Just a week ago several environmental groups chided Chicago officials for failing to get tough with the plants, which studies have blamed for scores of ER visits and premature deaths every year. Today the groups essentially took aim at the state and federal governments, which they contend should do more to force plant owner Midwest Generation to slash its emissions of dangerous soot.

The organizations sent a letter to the company and government regulators declaring their intention to sue within two months. They charge that in its own reports to the state Midwest Generation has repeatedly admitted it produced a higher concentration of soot than allowed. Soot, otherwise known as particulate matter, has been linked to heart disease, asthma, cancer, and other ailments.

“How do they get away with that?” asked Faith Bugel, a senior attorney with the Environmental Law and Policy Center. “Beats me. That’s why we’re outraged.”

[Click to continue reading The latest salvo in the fight to clean up Chicago’s air | The Blog | Chicago Reader]

Satanic Gift

If you ask me, this lame excuse by Midwest Generation is not sufficient. All coal plants should be shut down if they can’t control their exceedances.

Midwest Generation spokesman Charley Parnell says the environmental groups are blowing things out of proportion. “We have acknowledged that there have been exceedances from our operations, as there are with every coal-fired power plant in the country,” he said. “The [government] agencies have always allowed for those exceedances because it’s impossible to run a coal plant without them.”

EPA Fiddles while Neurotoxin In Our Food


Keep away from children

One of the most comprehensive analyses yet of human exposure to PBDEs, or polybrominated diphenyl ethers, shows that the chemical — long used in everything from computers to sleeping bags — enters humans through their diets, not just their household.

“The more you eat, the more PBDEs you have in your serum,” said Alicia Fraser, an environmental health researcher at Boston University’s School of Public Health who headed the new study, published this month in Environmental Health Perspectives.

PBDEs are chemical cousins of polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs, which are known to cause birth defects and neurological impairments. PCBs were banned throughout the world by the mid-1970s, when PBDEs were gaining popularity as flame retardants. PBDEs were soon found in most plastic-containing household products.

By the late 1990s, trace amounts of PBDEs had been found in people all over the world, with the highest exposures measured in the United States. Researchers became nervous: Low doses caused neurological damage in laboratory animals, and the highest human PBDE levels were found in breast milk.

Whether PBDEs posed an immediate threat to humans was uncertain. Direct testing is unethical, and population-wide epidemiological studies are difficult to run. But there’s enough reason for concern that the European Union banned two of the three most common PBDE formulations in 2004.

The Environmental Protection Agency, which in January admitted that it lacked the ability to establish basic standards of chemical safety, has not followed suit, but three states — California, Washington and Maine — have banned PBDEs since 2007. Many manufacturers have either stopped or plan on stopping their use.

“They are persistent in the environment. They don’t get broken down. Therefore, it takes a really long time for the contamination to leave our environment and our bodies,” said Fraser. “Even though we don’t know the health effects at this point, most people would want policies that would stop us from being exposed to them.”

[Click to continue reading Potential Neurotoxin Could Be in Our Food | Wired Science | Wired.com]

I’m sure the plastic council has a different answer as to the toxicity of PBDEs, but they have zero credibility. If the EPA wasn’t such a corporate tool, they would have been actively removing PBDEs from our environment decades ago.

Data Dump

The real long term solution would be to adopt similar practices to the European model: prove that a chemical is harmless before it is allowed to be used. In the US, there have to be lawsuits and deaths1 before the EPA will even begin to study if a chemical is harmful. Years of litigation follow, yadda yadda. A system that totally and unequivocally favors chemical manufacturers in other words.

REACH requires all chemicals sold or used in Europe to be registered with the European Chemicals Agency. Manufacturers or distributors must supply the agency with the chemicals’ properties, materials safety data sheets (MSDSes), risk management guidelines, and safety measures for downstream users. Many hazardous chemicals (over 1,500 of them) will require permission from the European Commission to use; some chemicals will not be allowed at all. Consumers can also request (could be WWF, Greenpeace, or just person) chemical safety and environmental impact data from manufacturers. Perhaps most importantly, the government is not burdened with proving any chemicals are harmful, it falls to industry to test the toxicity of their chemicals, and the EU need only do monitoring and compliance-checking when they believe a company has submitted incomplete or bogus information. REACH covers all chemicals, both substances and mixtures, existing and new (new chemicals are less than 1% of market). It includes intentionally released chemicals (like inkjet ink) and non-intentionally released ones (like dye in jeans); anything that will have more than one metric ton per year produced or imported into Europe. It includes not only the chemicals a company makes, but all the chemicals contained in a product the company sells. It also includes chemicals used in manufacturing that don’t end up in products, if the manufacturing happens in Europe. Unfortunately the amount of time for questions was very limited, so I didn’t get to ask what they define as a “chemical”; I presume it’s any substance that isn’t elemental and requires processing to get out of the natural world.

[Click to continue reading Worldchanging: Bright Green: What Does REACH Mean For Products?]

The US EPA is just a sick joke. A joke that damages all of us.

The Environmental Protection Agency’s ability to assess toxic chemicals is as broken as the nation’s financial markets and needs a total overhaul, a congressional audit has found.

The Government Accountability Office has released a report saying the EPA lacks even basic information to say whether chemicals pose substantial health risks to the public. It says actions are needed to streamline and increase the transparency of the EPA’s registry of chemicals. And it calls for measures to enhance the agency’s ability to obtain health and safety information from the chemical industry.

Earlier in 2008, the Journal Sentinel revealed that the EPA’s Voluntary Children’s Chemical Evaluation Program, which relies on companies to provide information about the dangers of the chemicals they produce, is all but dead. And it disclosed that the agency’s program to screen chemicals that damage the endocrine system had failed to screen a single chemical more than 10 years after the program was launched.

[Click to continue reading EPA a failure on chemicals, audit finds – JSOnline]

No wonder so many EPA officials get jobs in the chemical industry after their EPA tenure is over.

Richard Wiles, executive director of Environmental Working Group:

“The EPA joins the hall of shame of failed government programs,” Wiles said.

The EPA is at high risk for waste, fraud, abuse and mismanagement and needs a broad-based transformation, the auditors found.

“The EPA lacks adequate scientific information on the toxicity of many chemicals that may be found in the environment – as well as on tens of thousands of chemicals used commercially in the United States,” the GAO report said. “EPA’s inadequate progress in assessing toxic chemicals significantly limits the agency’s ability to fulfill its mission of protecting human health and the environment.”

I haven’t been able to locate the GAO report yet, but did find this:

Since 1976, the EPA issued regulations to control only five existing chemicals determined to present an unreasonable risk. Its 1989 regulation phasing out most uses of asbestos was vacated by a federal appeals court in 1991 because it was not based on “substantial evidence.”

In contrast, the EU and a number of other countries banned asbestos, a known human carcinogen that can cause lung cancer and other diseases. The GAO previously recommended that Congress amend the TSCA to reduce the evidentiary burden the EPA

[Click to continue reading GAO: EPA Needs Stronger Authority to Improve Effectiveness of Toxic Substances Control Act]

Five substances in over 30 years? Yeesh, that’s pretty lame.

  1. or at least lots of negative publicity []

Dangerous Anthropogenic Interference – Blue tone

Coal plant looming over Indiana Dunes

From my vast, unknowable photo archives

the original photo (from my first digital camera, an Olympus C3040Z) was a little generic, so added a blue tone for atmosphere.

Bush Aides Rush to Enact a Rule Obama Opposes

Is it January yet?1

I like to eat paste

The Labor Department is racing to complete a new rule, strenuously opposed by President-elect Barack Obama, that would make it much harder for the government to regulate toxic substances and hazardous chemicals to which workers are exposed on the job.

The rule, which has strong support from business groups, says that in assessing the risk from a particular substance, federal agencies should gather and analyze “industry-by-industry evidence” of employees’ exposure to it during their working lives. The proposal would, in many cases, add a step to the lengthy process of developing standards to protect workers’ health.

Public health officials and labor unions said the rule would delay needed protections for workers, resulting in additional deaths and illnesses.

With the economy tumbling and American troops fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, President Bush has promised to cooperate with Mr. Obama to make the transition “as smooth as possible.” But that has not stopped his administration from trying, in its final days, to cement in place a diverse array of new regulations.

[From Bush Aides Rush to Enact a Rule Obama Opposes – NYTimes.com]

  1. oops, forgot to post this a while ago. Still true that President is rushing to strip away as many anti-pollution regulations as his administration can, as far as I know []

EPA veils hazardous substances

Oh, just lovely. Susanne Rust and Meg Kissinger write:

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency routinely allows companies to keep new information about their chemicals secret, including compounds that have been shown to cause cancer and respiratory problems, the Journal Sentinel has found.

The newspaper examined more than 2,000 filings in the EPA’s registry of dangerous chemicals for the past three years. In more than half the cases, the EPA agreed to keep the chemical name a secret. In hundreds of other cases, it allowed the company filing the report to keep its name and address confidential.

This is despite a federal law calling for public notice of any new information through the EPA’s program monitoring chemicals that pose substantial risk. The whole idea of the program is to warn the public of newfound dangers.

The EPA’s rules are supposed to allow confidentiality only “under very limited circumstances.”

Legal experts and environmental advocates say the practice of “sanitizing,” or blacking out, this information not only strips vital information from the public, it violates the agency’s own law.

Section 14 of the Toxic Substances Control Act, the foundation for all the EPA’s toxic and chemical regulations, stipulates that chemical producers may not be granted confidentiality when it comes to health and safety data.

“The EPA has chosen to ignore that,” said Wendy Wagner, a law professor at the University of Texas-Austin.

The newspaper’s findings are just the latest example of how EPA administrators more often than not put company interests above the needs of consumers.

[Click to continue reading EPA veils hazardous substances – Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Online]

not really news, just further confirmation that the EPA hates humanity.

Pollution is not Stewardship

George Bush and his Republican lackeys envision a world without environmental regulation as a good thing, a goal worth striving for. I’m afraid they want this to happen:

The Citarum River, which winds its way through West Java past terraced rice paddies and teeming cities, is an assault on the senses. Visitors can smell the river before they see it.

Some fishermen still make their living off the river’s fouled waters, but many are no longer casting lures. Instead, they row their boats through floating garbage, foraging for old tires and other trash they can sell.

The river, considered by many environmentalists to be among the world’s most polluted, is woven tightly into the lives of the West Javanese.

Environmentalists blame rapid, and unregulated, industrialization and urbanization over the past 20 years for the degradation of the 5,000-square-mile river basin.The environmental damage is already costing lives; flooding, caused by deforestation and drains clogged with garbage, is a constant problem in cities along the Citarum.

[From Trying to Stop Pollution From Killing a Lifeline – NYTimes.com]

You might think I’m using hyperbole, but Bush doesn’t believe in being a steward of our planet: he’d rather corporations evade a few onerous regulations than protect the environment, and us.

Tim Dickenson of Rolling Stone writes:

With president-elect Barack Obama already taking command of the financial crisis, it’s tempting to think that regime change in America is a done deal. But if George Bush has his way, the country will be ruled by his slash-and-burn ideology for a long time to come.

In its final days, the administration is rushing to implement a sweeping array of “midnight regulations” — de facto laws issued by the executive branch — designed to lock in Bush’s legacy. Under the last- minute rules, which can be extremely difficult to overturn, loaded firearms would be allowed in national parks, uranium mining would be permitted near the Grand Canyon and many injured consumers would no longer be able to sue negligent manufacturers in state courts. Other rules would gut the Endangered Species Act, open millions of acres of wild lands to mining, restrict access to birth control and put local cops to work spying for the federal government.

“It’s what we’ve seen for Bush’s whole tenure, only accelerated,” says Gary Bass, executive director of the nonpartisan group OMB Watch. “They’re using regulation to cement their deregulatory mind-set, which puts corporate interests above public interests.”

While every modern president has implemented last-minute regulations, Bush is rolling them out at a record pace — nearly twice as many as Clinton, and five times more than Reagan. “The administration is handing out final favors to its friends,” says Véronique de Rugy, a scholar at George Mason University who has tracked six decades of midnight regulations. “They couldn’t do it earlier — there would have been too many political repercussions. But with the Republicans having lost seats in Congress and the presidency changing parties, Bush has nothing left to lose.”

[From Bush’s Final F.U. : Rolling Stone]

and despite common belief that the new President will be able to just overturn these last minute regulations, that isn’t really the case:

John Podesta, the transition chief for the Obama administration, has vowed that the new president will leverage his “executive authority” to fight Bush’s last-minute rule changes. But according to experts who study midnight regulations, there’s surprisingly little an incoming executive can do to overturn such rules. TheBush administration succeeded in repealing just three percent of the regulations finalized before Bill Clinton left office in 2001. “Midnight regulations under Bush are being executed early and with great intent,” says Bass of OMB Watch. “And that intent is to lock the next administration into these regulations, making it very difficult for Obama to undo what Bush just did.”

To protect the new rules against repeal, the Bush administration began amping up its last-gasp regulatory process back in May. The goal was to have all new regulations finalized by November 1st, providing enough time to accommodate the 60-day cooling-off period required before major rule changes — those that create an economic impact greater than $100 million — can be implemented.

Now, however, the administration has fallen behind schedule — so it’s gaming the system to push through its rules. In several cases, the Office of Management and Budget has fudged the numbers to classify rules that could have billion-dollar consequences as “non-major” — allowing any changes made through mid-December to take effect in just 30 days, before Obama is inaugurated. The administration’s determination of what constitutes a major change is not subject to review in court, and the White House knows it: Spokesman Tony Fratto crowed that the 60-day deadline is “irrelevant to our process.”

Once a rule is published in the Federal Register, the Obama administration will have limited options for expunging it. It can begin the rule-making process anew, crafting Obama rules to replace the Bush rules, but that approach could take years, requiring time-consuming hearings, scientific fact-finding and inevitable legal wrangling. Or, if the new rules contain legal flaws, a judge might allow the Obama administration to revise them more quickly. Bush’s push to gut the Endangered Species Act, for example, was done in laughable haste, with 15 employees given fewer than 36 hours to review and process more than 200,000 public comments. “The ESA rule is enormously vulnerable to a legal challenge on the basis that there was inadequate public notice and comment,” says Pope of the Sierra Club. “The people who did that reviewing will be put on a witness stand, and it will become clear to a judge that this was a complete farce.” But even that legal process will take time, during which industry will continue to operate under the Bush rules.

Arsenic in Water at EPA Approved Standards Linked to Heart Disease

This is the true legacy of George Bush, Dick Cheney and their evil crew: an Environmental Protection Agency that actively works towards lowering our national health.

Battle for Hearts and Minds

In the U.S., many locations are known to have groundwater containing arsenic concentrations in excess of the new Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) standard of 10 parts per billion. But now comes research that suggests the EPA’s supposedly “safe” level of arsemic allowed in water supplies for public consumption isn’t safe at all. In fact, water laced with the federally-approved amount of arsenic could be causing high blood pressure and artery-clogging arhterosclerosis.

According to animal research by University of Pittsburgh scientists set to be published in the December issue of the Journal of Clinical Investigation, and available online now at http://www.jci.org/articles/view/35092, arsenic at EPA-approved levels for drinking water causes pores in liver blood vessels to close, potentially leading to cardiovascular disease and hypertension. This study calls into question whether present Environmental Protection Agency standards (currently based only on the risks of arsenic causing cancer) are stringent enough.

[From Arsenic in Water at EPA Approved Standards Linked to Heart Disease]

Rural (so-called Red States) are prime targets for the death dealers at the EPA:

The current federal standard for arsenic in public water systems not only may be too high, but it only applies to drinking water sources that serve more than 20 people. “We are especially concerned about water from individual wells in small, rural and semi-rural communities that are exempt from the EPA requirement and often contain levels of arsenic that exceed the EPA limit,” Dr. Barchowsky stated in the press release. “Our findings raise some concerns about whether current EPA-developed standards can effectively protect against cardiovascular risks posed by arsenic in drinking water.”

The study is a strong reminder that no one in the U.S. should assume that because their water supply is dubbed “safe” by the EPA that it doesn’t contain not only arsenic but other toxins. For example, most public water supplies are known to contain a host of pharmaceutical and pesticide residues,too. Testing your water or finding a proven system of safe water filtration are the only known ways to make sure you are putting pure water into your body.

EPA undercuts clean-air rule

Speaking of Still-President Bush and his anti-environment practices, Michael Hawthorne catches the EPA again letting politics trump science:

Satanic Gift

Looking to bolster the fight against childhood lead poisoning, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency last month approved a tough new rule aimed at clearing the nation’s air of the toxic metal.

A key part of the initiative is a new network of monitors that will track lead emissions from factories. But the Bush administration quietly weakened that provision at the last minute by exempting dozens of polluters from scrutiny, federal documents show.

Critics say the change undermines a rule that otherwise has been widely hailed as a powerful step forward in protecting children’s health.

In Illinois, at least a dozen factories that would have been monitored could now fall through the cracks, the state EPA estimates, including a steelmaking-waste recycler on Chicago’s Southeast Side and a lead-acid battery manufacturer in Naperville.

[From U.S. undercuts clean-air rule — chicagotribune.com]

Is it January yet?

I like to eat paste

Faced with a court order to act more aggressively, the U.S. EPA last month lowered the maximum amount of lead allowed in the air. The new standard, 0.15 micrograms per cubic meter, is 10 times more stringent than the old standard, set in 1978.

To help meet the new limit, the EPA had planned to require lead monitors next to any factory emitting at least a half-ton of lead a year. But after the White House intervened, the agency raised the threshold to a ton of lead or more, according to e-mails and other documents exchanged between the EPA and the Office of Management and Budget.

As a result, dozens of factories won’t be checked regularly. Federal and state officials debate the exact number, but a Tribune review of EPA records found that the number of U.S. plants monitored could drop by nearly 60 percent, from 203 to 87.

“This sleight of hand by the administration ignores major sources of a dangerous neurotoxin,” said S. William Becker, executive director of the National Association of Clean Air Agencies.

Read the whole sorry tale here, and the AP (at Wired) has slightly more on the corruption of science at the EPA, including:

President George W. Bush has made clear that he believes the Clean Air should not be used, in permitting new plants, to control greenhouse gases. It is not clear how the Obama administration will address regulating carbon dioxide. The Supreme Court has told the EPA it must decide on whether carbon dioxide endangers public health and welfare, and if it does it must be regulated.

Michael Gerrard, a lawyer not involved in the Bonanza case and author of “Global Climate Change and the Law,” said the decision “will embolden the lawsuits” challenging construction of new power plants based on their impact on climate.

“It means that the appeals board recognizes that carbon dioxide regulation of power plants is a very live and open issue. It does not ban them. It puts a cloud over them, by making it clear that this is a real issue,” Gerrard said in an interview.

Still President Bush Still wants to Kill Us All

Still President Bush still wants to kill us all using his proxies in the EPA to gut any and all regulatory restrictions on polluting. Rebecca Clarren has written a compelling overview of the problem in Salon.

the story of the hundreds of sick people who live near the former Kelly Air Force Base illuminates an entirely new manner in which the Bush administration has diluted science and put public health at risk. This year, largely in obeisance to the Pentagon, the nation’s biggest polluter, the White House diminished a little-known but critical process at the Environmental Protection Agency for assessing toxic chemicals that impacts thousands of Americans.

As a coalition of more than 40 national and local environmental organizations put it in a letter to EPA administrators [4 page PDF] this past April: “EPA, under pressure from the Bush White House, has given the foxes the keys to the environmental protection henhouse.”

[From Environmental Protection Agency The Stalin Era Salon ]

Mechanics at the former Kelly Air Force Base in San Antonio used a toxic chemical called tetrachloroethylene (or PCE for short) to degrease parts on the various airplanes serviced at the base. The chemical was discarded haphazardly, and seeped into the ground and water everywhere.

Although it has conducted limited testing, the EPA acknowledges that it’s possible for PCE vapor to rise from groundwater into people’s living rooms and kitchens. Yet it says the Alvarados and their neighbors have nothing to fear. Based on EPA air quality tests inside five area homes, the nation’s environmental guardian claims that it’s safe for residents to live above the plume for the next 40 to 100 years, or the amount of time it will take for the chemicals to naturally dissipate.

The fact is, EPA scientists haven’t completed an updated scientific assessment of PCE, including its health risks, for a decade. Worse, a comprehensive review of the carcinogenic chemical may never be coming. Anti-regulatory crusaders inside the Bush White House have peopled the EPA with top officials apparently more concerned with limiting government spending than public health. According to critics within and outside the EPA, the agency has stifled independent research and compromised scientific assessments of all manner of toxins and carcinogens that Americans breathe, drink and touch.

“It feels like Stalin-era Russia, like the administration set themselves up to decide what’s allowable science and what isn’t,” says a high-ranking staff scientist at the EPA, who spoke on condition of anonymity. “Until the recent economic crash, this has been such an anti-regulatory administration. One of the ways to undermine regulations is to undermine the science behind them. It’s absolutely shocking what’s going on.”

Public health officials say this attempt to derail the scientific evaluation of toxins is one of the most damning legacies of the Bush administration. In late September, the Government Accountability Office issued a scathing critique of the EPA’s new toxic-assessment procedures. It concluded that the secretive procedures compromise scientific credibility and sacrifice the public’s trust in government. Despite such hefty criticism, public officials fear that because the new procedures have been instituted at the EPA so far below the public radar, their harmful impact will survive long after Bush leaves office. It will take a bold and expedient move by Barack Obama or the next Congress to curtail the influence of the Pentagon and other government agencies on the EPA.

There is also the national scourge of perchlorate, an ingredient of rocket fuel that has been found in the water supply of most states.

Since the early 1990s, the EPA has been conducting a toxic assessment of perchlorate, a major component in rocket fuel, used by the military and its contractors in bases throughout the country.

The chemical is incredibly widespread. It shows up in the groundwater of 35 states from New England to California; it has contaminated 153 public water systems in 26 states. Between 17 million and 40 million Americans are exposed to perchlorate at a level many scientists consider unsafe. According to a 2006 CDC study, 36 percent of American women are iodine deficient, putting them at risk for perchlorate-related thyroid problems. Due in part to perchlorate-contaminated irrigation water, most Americans who eat lettuce in the winter ingest the chemical. It has also appeared in melons, spinach and milk, according to 2005 and 2006 studies by the Food and Drug Administration.

A 2002 IRIS assessment led the EPA to call for a safe exposure dose of one part per billion — roughly the equivalent of a drop of water in a home swimming pool. That finding was expected to propel a stringent cleanup policy, one that could cost the Department of Defense billions of dollars.

That did not happen because the Pentagon has an ally in the EPA, an ally that decided that the budget of the Department of Defense was much more important than the health and safety of the nation.

In 2005, the EPA distributed a proposal to revise the chemical assessment process; officials at the Office of Management and Budget sat down with the IRIS blueprint and pulled out a red pen.

The plan that emerged calls for expanding the role of other federal agencies in determining which chemicals are assessed each year. It allows agencies like the Pentagon, Department of Energy and NASA to identify “mission critical” chemicals to the agency’s operations.

Significantly, the new process affords OMB more oversight and involvement in what critics say should be a purely scientific assessment. Now OMB and other non-health agencies have three additional opportunities to comment. Such comments are off-limits to public scrutiny and not available to congressional review unless subpoenaed. If OMB doesn’t agree with certain scientific findings, it can effectively block EPA from moving forward with the assessment.

Obama’s administration could reverse this crap, if they wanted. The question is, do they want to?

With a flick of a pen, Obama could reinstate the old IRIS process. Whether this will happen remains to be seen. His transition office didn’t return calls and e-mails asking if it would be likely to reverse the Bush administration changes to the IRIS process.

“If the Obama administration is serious about protecting poisoned communities, fixing the IRIS program is the place to start,” says Jennifer Sass, a toxicologist at Natural Resources Defense Council. “This should be the top priority at EPA. It’s really fundamental.”

Rep. Brad Miller, D-N.C., chairman of the Subcommittee on Investigations and Oversight of the House Committee on Science and Technology, has taken matters into his own hands. In September, he introduced legislation that would make EPA solely responsible for the IRIS process. The agency would be barred from consulting with any agency, including OMB, that had a conflict of interest in the scientific review.

Read the entire article here.

Plastic linked to smaller penises

Nice. No wonder the Republican EPA wants to ensure phthalates in the nation’s water supply: parity. Republicans already start out with a disadvantage, they are looking for anything that can even the odds.

Exposure of expectant mothers to phthalates, a common ingredient in many plastics, has been linked to smaller penis size and incomplete descent of testicles in their baby boys, according to a new research paper that found the chemical also appears to make the overall genital tracts of boys slightly more feminine.

The findings are sure to add more controversy to phthalates, a chemical that is added to polyvinyl chloride plastic to make it less brittle, and to many types of personal care products including fragrances, hair sprays and nail polish.

The research was conducted on children from three different areas of the United States, and found a strong statistical correlation between expectant mothers who had above-average levels of the chemical in their urine while pregnant and the feminizing effect on their sons.

Phthalates are “probably reproductive toxins and should be eliminated from products gradually because we don’t need them,” said Shanna Swan, director of the Center for Reproductive Epidemiology at the University of Rochester’s school of medicine, who led the team of scientists who examined the boys.

The paper is published in the current issue of the journal Environmental Research.

[From globeandmail.com: Plastics ingredient linked to smaller penises]

EPA hates Americans

The Bush cronies in the EPA want to kill and maim American citizens, presumedly to bring on The Rapture. Their latest scheme to damage public health: ignore perchlorate in the nation’s drinking water because cleaning it up would cost the Pentagon too much money. The Pentagon has much more important tasks to accomplish with its trillion dollar budget: like killing people in other countries.

The Environmental Protection Agency has decided there’s no need to rid drinking water of a toxic rocket fuel ingredient that has fouled public water supplies around the country.
EPA reached the conclusion in a draft regulatory document not yet made public…

The ingredient, perchlorate, has been found in at least 395 sites in 35 states at levels high enough to interfere with thyroid function and pose developmental health risks, particularly for babies and fetuses, according to some scientists.

The EPA document says that mandating a clean-up level for perchlorate would not result in a “meaningful opportunity for health risk reduction for persons served by public-water systems.”

[From EPA won’t limit rocket fuel in U.S. drinking water – USATODAY.com]

I like to eat paste

The EPA chooses to ignore common sense, and the criticism of non-Bushies like Barbara Boxer:

“This is a widespread contamination problem, and to see the Bush EPA just walk away is shocking,” said Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., who chairs the Senate’s environment committee.

Lenny Siegel, director of the Center for Public Environmental Oversight in Mountain View, Calif., added: “This is an unconscionable decision not based upon science or law but on concern that a more stringent standard could cost the government significantly.”

The Defense Department used perchlorate for decades in testing missiles and rockets, and most perchlorate contamination is the result of defense and aerospace activities, congressional investigators said last year.

The Pentagon could face liability if EPA set a national drinking water standard that forced water agencies around the country to undertake costly clean-up efforts. Defense officials have spent years questioning EPA’s conclusions about the risks posed by perchlorate.

Granite Countertop Radiation Risk

Why Go to Night School?
[The Pope checks out our Volga Blue granite table]

A mildly scary story you are bound to hear of sooner or later1

SHORTLY before Lynn Sugarman of Teaneck, N.J., bought her summer home in Lake George, N.Y., two years ago, a routine inspection revealed it had elevated levels of radon, a radioactive gas that can cause lung cancer. So she called a radon measurement and mitigation technician to find the source.

“He went from room to room,” said Dr. Sugarman, a pediatrician. But he stopped in his tracks in the kitchen, which had richly grained cream, brown and burgundy granite countertops. His Geiger counter indicated that the granite was emitting radiation at levels 10 times higher than those he had measured elsewhere in the house.

[Click to read more details of What’s Lurking in Your Countertop? – NYTimes.com]

For me the real crime is hinted at in a paragraph towards the end of the article:

Radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer after smoking and is considered especially dangerous to smokers, whose lungs are already compromised. Children and developing fetuses are vulnerable to radiation, which can cause other forms of cancer. Mr. Witt said the E.P.A. is not studying health risks associated with granite countertops because of a “lack of resources.

What the hell is the EPA doing instead? Going to lunch with the chemical industry executives who are offering future employment? What? The Environmental Protection Agency should have the funding and desire to conduct careful study of such topics so that there is real data available for consumers to make informed decisions whether granite countertops are a risk or whether they are harmless. How about instead of buying yet another Trident Missile or B2 Spirit, the government throws a few pennies at the EPA?

Dean Armstrong also notices this story, and writes, in part:

But is this a hazard? Granites I’ve encountered have rates ranging from nothing to about 10x background. This isn’t that much. Time spent at cruising altitude is about 40x background at 500ft. It certainly wouldn’t be worth the fuss of ripping up a kitchen, unless it was proven to be the source of elevated radon levels. After reading the literature about naturally occurring radon sources, I have difficulty assigning the radon to just a small granite piece. Any soil or rock within 4 gas-diffusion-days of the basement or slab can be a source of radon for a home, and the total amount of uranium in that quantity is going to exceed the amount in the countertop (especially the part of the countertop that is within radon’s half-life time of the surface). If you covered your walls in granite it might be different.

  1. such news stories are custom made for our sensationalistic media []