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April 17 2012


Q. & A.: Campaigning in an Age of Deadlock

Michael Brune, the Sierra Club's executive director, talks about the Obama administration's record on environmental issues, his group's priorities and the political landscape.

March 28 2012


Coastal California Fog Carries Toxic Mercury, Study Finds

It's not dangerous now, but over time, a new study suggests, significant amounts of methylmercury could be deposited along the coastline as climate change unfolds.
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Reposted bySchrammelhammelMrCoffeinmybetterworldkonikonikonikonikoniambassadorofdumbgroeschtlNaitliszpikkumyygittimmoe

February 04 2012


Attention! Fluorescent lamps contain mercury!

Isn't it better to rate how much mercury there is not in a product rather than to tell how much (how little) there is in it? Any type of fluorescent lamp contains something around 3 mg of mercury. Hence, if you throw one of them into the dustbin, the carbage in there will at average contain about as much mercury as the soil your home is built on.

Ah well, and by the way, this mercury free battery may contain as much mercury as a mercury bearing fluorescent lamp!

December 21 2011


E.P.A. Issues Limits on Mercury Emissions

"By cutting emissions that are linked to developmental disorders and respiratory illnesses like asthma, these standards represent a major victory for clean air and public health," the agency's director says.

Jackson Outlines Mercury Rule

The agency says that the cost to businesses will be dwarfed by the public health savings.

December 13 2011


December 10 2011


North American Air Pollution Statistics Will Take Your Breath Away

Two separate reports released this week offer a grim look at the state of air quality in North America. The continent already produces 6% of the world’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from power plants, resulting in an array of health and environmental problems.

According to a joint report by the Environmental Integrity Project (EIP), EarthJustice, and the Sierra Club, the situation in America is getting worse. Their report rated the top 5 worst states for toxic power plant emissions. Some of the chemicals used to rank the states’ emission status included chromium, arsenic, lead, and mercury. These represent four of the most toxic heavy metals found in power plant emissions.

The report, titled "AMERICA’S TOP POWER PLANT TOXIC AIR POLLUTERS" listed the 5 worst states as follows:

Pennsylvania (#1 rankings for arsenic and lead)
Ohio (#2 rankings for mercury and selenium)
Indiana (#4 rankings for chromium and nickel)
Kentucky (#2 for arsenic)
Texas (#1 rankings for mercury and selenium)

This report comes as the U.S. EPA is working on new standards for power plant emissions. The agency is under a court order to establish new emission standards, but action on air pollution standards has stalled, thanks to an attempt by the Republican-controlled Congress to strip the EPA of their court-granted authority to regulate air pollution.

In addition to the toxic metal rankings, the report made numerous other startling discoveries:

Electric power plants comprise a relatively small number of facilities, but, their toxic emissions dwarf other industrial sectors.

Whereas literally thousands of chemical plants and other industries reported toxic emissions to EPA’s Toxics Release Inventory in 2010, only a few hundred power plants reported mercury and hydrochloric acid emissions, and only 59 power plants reported selenium emissions. Yet, despite the relatively small number of facilities, electric utilities emit more arsenic, mercury, selenium, and hydrochloric acid than any other industrial sector, and the utility industry emits the second highest total emissions of chromium and nickel of all industry sectors.

The electric power industry emits almost two-thirds of the nation's industrial arsenic emissions.

Only 59 power plants representing the entire electric utility sector reported selenium emissions in 2010. Yet, the utility industry is still the top selenium emitter of all industry sectors, releasing 250,220 pounds, or 125 tons, of selenium into the nation’s air. That’s 76.3 percent of all industrial selenium emissions.

Some states have seen major drops in reported emissions of dangerous heavy metals, while other states have made little progress to reduce these air toxics.

From 2009 to 2010, power plant lead emissions actually increased in 16 states.

Pennsylvania – by far the largest state in terms of power plant arsenic emissions – has actually increased its reported power plant arsenic emissions over the past decade, from 15,861 pounds reported in 2001, to 17,666 pounds of arsenic reported in 2010.

While the findings of that report do not bode well for the United States, the situation throughout the rest of North America doesn’t look better. The Commission for Environmental Cooperation’s (CEC) new report - North American Power Plant Air Emissions – examines the emissions of carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxides, methane, sulfur dioxide, mercury, and particulate matter from coal-burning power plants across the continent. CEC’s report details emissions on a plant-by-plant basis, examining which areas are at a higher risk based on what nearby power plants are pumping into the atmosphere.

From CEC’s report:

These pollutants—especially sulfur dioxide, mercury and greenhouse gases—are linked to a range of environmental and public health problems facing the people of North America today, including acid rain, smog, asthma, and global climate change. For sulfur dioxide alone, the major contributor to acid rain, fossil-fuel power plants are responsible for 71 percent of reported emissions from industrial facilities across North America.

North America’s fossil-fuel electricity generating sector is a major contributor to emissions of greenhouse gases, representing 33 percent of North American and six percent of global emissions, mainly carbon dioxide. The combustion of coal accounts for the bulk of these emissions. Coal-fired power plants in Canada and the United States, along with Mexican oil-fired facilities, produced the largest emissions overall of greenhouse gases (GHGs), particularly CO2, although in Canada and Mexico, natural gas-fired power plants were major sources of methane as well as nitrous oxide, both extremely potent greenhouse gases.

The information contained in these reports is nothing to be hopeful about. And when coupled with information about agencies being prevented from doing their jobs to control these toxic emissions, they paint a very bleak picture for the future of North American public health.

June 23 2011


Mountaintop Removal Mining Linked To Birth Defects

Researchers at Washington State University and West Virginia University have released a new report that links an increase in birth defects in Appalachia to the practice of mountaintop removal mining (MTR or MTM). The study shows that communities exposed to the wastes created by blowing up mountains to extract coal experience significantly higher instances of birth defects.

A press release on the new report summarized the findings as follows:

The study was based on analysis of over 1.8 million birth records between 1996 and 2003 in central Appalachia. Prevalence rates were higher in mountaintop mining areas compared to non-mining areas for circulatory/respiratory, central nervous system, musculoskeletal, gastrointestinal, urogenital, and ‘other’ types of defects. Spatial correlation between mountaintop mining and birth defects was also present, indicating that MTM activity in one county may have increased birth defect prevalence rates in surrounding counties.

Nationally, about 1 in every 33 children born in the United States are born with some form of birth defect. The areas in the study were revealed to have a 26% higher chance of birth defects. Researchers were careful to rule out other known causes of birth defects in the study, including smoking and drinking, to make sure that the numbers were reflective of only MTR-exposed mothers.

One of the most prevalent chemicals found in coal and released during the MTR process is mercury. Excessive exposure to mercury has been known to cause severe birth defects.

This new study is just the latest in a long line of studies that have shown how dangerous mountaintop removoal coal mining is for human health. In May of this year, West Virginia University released a study showing that overall public health in areas affected by MTR is lower than that of the general public. For example, those living in communities exposed to the impacts from MTR reported an average of 18 more “unhealthy” or “sick” days than those living in areas that were not exposed to coal.

DeSmogBlog reported in a January 2010post about another study of the impacts of MTR on health:

A group of the nation’s leading environmental scientists is calling on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to stop issuing new mountaintop mining permits, arguing that the ecological and human health costs of the controversial mining practice are “pervasive and irreversible.”  ...

Along with this environmental devastation, the authors confirm major impacts on human health in the Appalachian region, including “elevated rates of mortality, lung cancer, and chronic heart, lung and kidney disease in coal producing communities” according to the study.

For more information on the companies involved in mountaintop removal mining, visit this earlier post: “Massey Energy Is Not The Only Mountaintop Removal Mining Villain.”

For an eye-opening look at the impacts of mountaintop removal on Appalachian communities, keep an eye out for the new movie "The Last Mountain" in theaters. View the trailer below:

March 18 2011


January 11 2011


Stress, Pollution and Poverty: A Vicious Cycle?

The E.P.A. awards $7 million in grants to researchers to study how exposure to pollutants, and non-chemical factors like stress, poverty and poor diet, can amplify the negative effects of a single toxic substance.
Reposted by02mydafsoup-01 02mydafsoup-01

November 19 2010


A Call to Action on Ocean Acidity

States bordering water bodies that are becoming more acidic from the absorption of carbon dioxide should list them as impaired under the Clean Water Act, the Environmental Protection Agency says.

August 10 2010


E.P.A. Cracks Down on Cement Pollution

A new rule could save 960 to 2,500 lives annually starting in 2013, not to mention avert hundreds of cases of bronchitis and 1,500 heart attacks, the Environmental Protection Agency says.

June 28 2010


Toxic Mercury Delights More in Seawater, Study Finds

A new study suggests that mercury in saltwater fish like tuna, mackerel and sharks pose more risks to humans than mercury in freshwater fish. Mercury in seawater is more likely to be present in a toxic form, researcher report in the latest issue of Nature Geoscience.

May 10 2010


April 19 2010


Environmental News Wrap-Up: April 11-19

GlobalWarmingisReal contributor Anders Hellum-Alexander wraps-up the climate and environmental news headlines for the past week:

March 15 2010


November 13 2009


G.M. Recycles Mercury Switches ... For Now

Until 2003, automakers used highly toxic mercury in switches that controlled trunk and under-hood lights. Benign alternatives are now used, but 38 million mercury switches still remain in cars.

September 26 2009


A Global Initiative on Efficient Lighting

From the Global Environment Facility (GEF): Lighting Up the Climate Change Challenge A new global initiative to accelerate the uptake of low energy light bulbs and efficient lighting systems was launched today by the Global Environment Facility and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). The close to $20 million initiative, the Global Market Transformation for Efficient Lighting [...]

August 28 2009


A Green IT Law for Brazil?

Yesterday the Environment Committee and Consumer Protection (CMA) of the Brazilian Senate discussed a draft committee opinion on a green IT bill just introduced last May.  The committee rapporteur for Senate bill (PLS) 173/2009 recommended its approval. The CMA decided to hold a hearing on the bill before deciding on the draft opinion, with invitations [...]
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