Featured stories in this issue...
- Environmental and Occupational Causes of Cancer: New Evidence
- The war on cancer, begun in 1971, has largely failed. Today, 36 years later, one of every two men and 4 out of every 10 women in the U.S. will get cancer at some time during their lives. Now scientists are emphasizing the need to take a preventive approach to cancer based on an understanding that cancer is caused by multiple interacting factors and not single agents.
- The Danger Within Us?
- "Most people think there are laws in place that protect them from dangerous products," said Kathleen Curtis. "But that's just not the case."
- Fossil Fuel Train Heads into Overdrive
- Rapidly-increasing use of fossil fuels will accelerate even faster in coming decades, driving oil prices higher and virtually guaranteeing catastrophic climate change in the decades to come, according to the usually-staid International Energy Agency (IEA).
- New Web Site Reveals Big Global-Warming Emitters, Plant by Plant
- A new interactive online database provides maps, color-coded categories and detailed information about who is putting 10 billion tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere annually from power plants around the world -- about a fourth of it from the United States.
- Out of Sight, and in the Water
- Once largely overlooked by regulators, coal ash dumps are gaining attention as serious pollution threats, leaking acidic waste and metals into local waterways.
- Global Warming Increases the Risk of War in Many Countries
- Global warming will put half the world's countries at risk of conflict or serious political instability, according to a new report. But it's not too late to take action to avert the worst outcomes.
- Pennsylvania Bans Hormone-free Labels for Milk
- Pennsylvania has outlawed labels that say milk is "hormone-free," handing a huge victory to Monsanto, the manufacturer of rBGH, which is the main hormone added to U.S. milk. Agricultural regulators in New Jersey and Ohio are considering similar labeling bans.
From: Rachel's Democracy & Health News #933, Nov. 15, 2007
ENVIRONMENTAL AND OCCUPATIONAL CAUSES OF CANCER:
A new review of recent scientific studies finds compelling evidence linking cancer with specific exposures, namely:
** Breast cancer from exposure to the pesticide DDT before puberty;
** Prostate cancer from exposure to pesticides and metal working fluids;
** Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma from exposure to pesticides and solvents;
** Brain cancer from exposure to non-ionizing radiation;
** Leukemia from exposure to 1,3-butadiene;
** Lung cancer from exposure to air pollution;
plus a variety of cancers from exposure to pesticides based on early findings from the federal government's Agricultural Health Study.
The new report, titled "Environmental and Occupational Causes of Cancer: New Evidence, 2005-2007," by Richard Clapp, Molly Jacobs and Edward Loechler, synthesizes the recent peer-reviewed scientific literature related to environmental and occupational exposures and cancer.
This is the second report on the environmental causes of cancer by Richard Clapp and colleagues. The earlier report examined 30 years of scientific evidence documenting associations between certain cancers and exposure to cancer-causing agents (chemicals and radiation) in workplaces, schools, and homes. Both reports were published by the Center for Sustainable Production at the University of Massachusetts at Lowell.
This latest report emphasizes the multi-factorial, multi-stage nature of cancer causation and emphasizes the need for a new cancer prevention approach in the U.S., one based on an understanding that cancer is caused by multiple interacting factors and not single agents.
"No longer can we claim that one factor is more important than another and no longer can we afford to have our cancer prevention programs focus on changes in diet or tobacco cessation while ignoring the occupational and environmental links," says Molly Jacobs.
The term "cancer" covers more than 100 different diseases. Devra Davis's important new book The Secret History of the War on Cancer makes clear that the U.S. "war on cancer," which was declared by President Nixon in 1971, was misdirected from the beginning because it never focused on the causes of cancer. Today -- 36 years later -- one of every two men and 4 out of every 10 women in the U.S. will get cancer at some time during their lives.
The two reports by Clapp and his colleagues, plus the important new book by Devra Davis, taken together, blow the lid off the nation's best-kept secret -- that a great deal of cancer is caused by routine exposures to industrial poisons that citizens encounter every day in their air, water, and food, and on the job -- and that the only real hope for solving this problem is prevention.
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From: Albany (N.Y.) Times-Union
THE DANGER WITHIN US?
By Cathleen F. Crowley, Staff Writer
Industrial chemicals found in shower curtains, soda cans and sofas were detected in the blood and urine of 35 volunteers, according to a national report released Thursday by a coalition of environmental groups.
The groups sponsored the study to demonstrate that Americans are absorbing hazardous chemicals from common household products. The coalition is advocating for government regulations to force manufacturers to stop using the chemicals.
Among the volunteers, Clifton Park's Heather Loukmas, 36, had the highest blood level of polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs), a flame retardant used in electronic equipment and furniture foam.
"We can assume that every American has some level of these chemicals in their body," Loukmas said during a news conference Thursday at the Capitol in Albany. Loukmas is executive director of the Learning Disabilities Association of New York State.
Scientists involved with the study traced her exposure back to Michigan where Loukmas grew up. In 1973, the Michigan Chemical Co. accidentally shipped a chemical called Firemaster to cattle farmers instead of Nutrimaster. The product was mixed in with cattle feed and contaminated thousands of people who consumed the meat and milk before the mistake was discovered.
Loukmas was 2 years old at the time, but the experts told her she probably passed it to her two children when she was pregnant.
The environmental groups hope to galvanize support for regulations like the ones adopted by the European Union. Earlier this year, the EU set new rules for 30,000 toxic substances and banned the most hazardous.
The volunteers, who come from across the country, were tested for three classes of chemicals used in plastics and flame retardants. The chemicals, phthalates, bisphenol-A and PBDEs, were targeted because animal studies have linked them to cancer, diabetes and birth defects and because they are found in everyday household products like water bottles, canned food, and computer screens.
The American Chemistry Council said Thursday that the study unnecessarily raises fears because the presence of the chemicals in blood and urine doesn't mean there is a significant health risk.
"To pose a health risk a chemical must exceed a threshold level in the body," the American Chemistry Council said in a statement. "All substances, including naturally occurring chemicals, and even water, can be innocuous at levels below threshold, and produce toxicity when levels exceed the threshold."
The problem with most of the 80,000 chemicals used in the production of consumer goods is that no one knows the threshold for humans.
"Most people think there are laws in place that protect them from dangerous products," said Curtis. "But that's just not the case."
The study titled "Is It In Us?" relied on a small sample of volunteers and was not meant to be a scientific study, merely a demonstration to raise public awareness. It was authored by Bobbi Chase Wilding and Kathleen Curtis of Clean New York and supported by the Commonweal Biomonitoring Resource Center and the Body Burden Work Group. The full study can be found at www.isitinus.org.
On average, the tests detected about 400 parts per billion of phthalates in the volunteers, 75 parts per billion of PBDEs and 1.5 parts per billion of bisphenol-A among the volunteers.
One part per million is the equivalent of one drop of food dye in 16,000 gallons of water or one second in 32 years.
While the chemical levels in the volunteers was minimal, Chase Wilding noted that Viagra takes just two parts per billion to achieve its effect.
Cathleen F. Crowley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The study, "Is It In Us?" tested volunteers for three classes of chemicals commonly found in consumer products. Here's a closer look at the chemicals.
What they are: (THALL-ates) a group of industrial chemicals that add flexibility and resilience to plastic products; additive in fixatives, detergents and solvents.
Found in: Shower curtains, garden hoses, table clothes, vinyl flooring, inflatable swimming pools, plastic clothing such as raincoats, children's toys, automobile upholstery, carpets, time release capsules, soap, shampoo, hair spray, nail polish, deodorants and fragrances.
Health effects: Associated with lower sperm counts, the feminization of male genitalia in male fetuses, childhood asthma, reduced lung capacity
How can I reduce my exposure? Avoid PVC (vinyl) in home remodeling products, use a shower curtain made of natural fibers, polyester or nylon instead of vinyl; avoid plastics marked #3, and products that list "fragrance" as an ingredient; eat fresh food grown without pesticides.
What they are: Production chemicals used in epoxy resin and polycarbonate plastic products; also called BPA
Found in: some water bottles, baby bottles, food storage and heating containers, the lining of metal food cans, dental sealants and toys
Health effects: In animal studies, BPA has been known to simulate estrogen and is associated with cancer and diabetes
How can I reduce my exposure? Use glass, stainless steel or polyethylene bottles (PETE, PET or #1 or #2 plastics) instead of polycarbonate (PC or #7) bottles; avoid heating food in polycarbonate containers; cut back on canned foods; ask your dentist about the ingredients before getting dental sealants. Polybrominated diphenyl ethers
What they are: A class of flame-retardant chemicals added to many products
Found in: Furniture foam, textiles, kitchen appliances, electronics like TVs and computer monitors, and in the fat of some food animals
Health effects: Associate with birth defects, cancer; neonatal exposure affects learning and memory
How can I reduce my exposure? Wash hands frequently; dust with a damp cloth; look for companies that have pledged to create PBDE-free products; choose lean meats and cooking methods that remove excess fat
Resources for finding products that do not use these chemicals:
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From: Inter Press Service
FOSSIL FUEL TRAIN HEADS INTO OVERDRIVE
By Stephen Leahy
BROOKLIN, Canada (IPS) -- Today's skyrocketing fossil fuel use will accelerate far faster in the coming decades, driving oil prices higher and virtually guaranteeing catastrophic climate change in the decades to come, energy experts say.
Emissions of greenhouse gases could increase a staggering 57 percent by 2030 if current trends continue, and with the strong growth of coal and oil energy use in India and China, the International Energy Agency (IEA) reported this week.
"If we get that kind of increase it will be societal suicide," says Gavin Schmidt, a climate researcher at NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies at Columbia University.
"It really is a huge increase," Schmidt told IPS.
Even the normally sanguine IEA -- an independent energy advisor to rich countries -- is worried. It calls these findings "alarming" in its World Energy Outlook 2007 report both in terms of climate change and energy security.
"If governments don't change their policies, oil and gas imports, coal use and greenhouse gas emission are set to grow exponentially through 2030... these trends could threaten energy security and accelerate climate change," said Nobuo Tanaka, executive director of the IEA, in a statement.
To put the IEA projection in context, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has recommended global reductions in emissions of 70 percent from 1990 levels by 2050 to lessen the risks of dangerous climate change. It bears repeating: the IPCC recommendation is to push global emission levels 70 percent lower than they were in 1990.
The gap between where we should be going and where we may end up threatens to become so large that Nobuo calls the IPCC target "scientific fiction".
The IPCC's "stabilisation target" is between 450 to 500 parts per million of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere, which is likely to keep the global average temperature increase to around 2 degrees C.
"That target is a basically a best guess," says Schmidt.
There are many factors at play that make such predictions difficult. Among these are both negative and positive feedbacks, where 450 ppm could translate into a 4.0 degree C rise -- or maybe only 1.5 degrees, he said.
The IEA report calculates that the current trend of skyrocketing growth in fossil fuel use, coal in particular, will drive the global average temperature up 3.0 degrees by 2030 and ultimately climb to 6.0 degrees C in the following decades.
A number of scientific and economic reports predict that any increase over 2.0 degrees C will create a chaotic world of constant crisis. Floods and droughts will affect more than a billion people, hundreds of millions will starve and as many more will become environmental refugees banging on the doors of Europe, the United States, Australia and other rich nations. At the same time, the global economy will suffer tens of billions of dollars in losses.
Even in the IEA's most optimistic scenario, where governments accomplish current promised carbon reductions, emissions would rise by 27 percent by 2030.
Achieving the IPCC stabilisation target will require "exceptionally vigorous policy action", the IEA report concludes.
"Urgent action is needed if greenhouse gas concentrations are to be stabilised at a level that would prevent dangerous interference with the climate system," it says.
The reason for the bleak outlook is that emerging giants China and India, which account for most of the increase in energy demand, will likely use CO2-laden coal as their primary energy source.
The report warns: "...coal sees the biggest increase in demand in absolute terms, jumping by 73 percent between 2005 and 2030" with China and India accounting for 80 percent of that increase.
In just the past year alone, China has built enough new coal power plants to meet India's and Britain's energy needs combined, says Joanna Lewis, a senior international fellow and energy expert at the U.S.-based Pew Centre on Global Climate Change.
Such is the scale of China's huge energy demands that "despite meeting aggressive renewable energy targets, the coal power sector has become even more dominant," Lewis told IPS. "The IEA paints a very scary picture."
However, Lewis notes that IEA projections have been wrong in the past, most notably underestimating energy use by China and India. In addition, many other factors such as political instability or economic recessions could change the details of these projections -- but not the overall trends.
Moreover, technologies are currently available to achieve the stabilisation target, Lewis said.
The IEA's World Energy Outlook fails to incorporate substantial expansion of renewable energy and energy efficiency improvements in its scenarios, says the international environmental group Greenpeace.
Making wide-ranging investments in renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies could stabilise carbon dioxide emissions from China's and India's burgeoning economies and return carbon dioxide emissions to current levels by 2050, says Greenpeace energy consultant Sven Teske.
China and India already produce nearly a quarter of the world's renewable electricity, Teske said in a statement.
Industrialised countries have to do their part and rapidly reduce their CO2 emissions 30 percent below 1990 levels by 2020, instead of the 15 percent emissions increase shown in the IEA projections, he said.
It is important to remember that energy use is not the real problem, it is carbon emissions. Carbon sequestration technologies -- removing carbon and storing it -- do exist, but they are very expensive, says Schmidt. However, with the higher oil and energy prices forecast by the IEA, investments in using and developing sequestration technologies could decouple carbon emissions from the use of fossil fuels by 2030.
Recognising the urgency, the IEA report says that if the world is to avoid dangerous climate change, it will require immediate policy and technological transformation "on an unprecedented scale."
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From: New York Times
NEW WEB SITE REVEALS BIG GLOBAL-WARMING EMITTERS,
PLANT BY PLANT
By The Associated Press
WASHINGTON (AP) -- There's growing worry about global warming, but how much of it is the work of that power plant just outside town? And if Congress limits heat-trapping greenhouse gases, will it affect utility and electric bills? And who's the biggest corporate culprit when it comes to climate change?
Answers to these questions may be only a couple of computer clicks away.
A new interactive online database unveiled Wednesday provides maps, color-coded categories and detailed information about who is putting 10 billion tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere annually from power plants around the world -- about a fourth of it from the United States.
The Web site, which includes information from 4,000 utilities and 50,000 plants, shows not only the biggest CO2 emitters, but also the facilities and companies that are most green, releasing little if any carbon.
"We're trying to provide complete, balanced information. It's an open site," said David Wheeler, a senior researcher at the Center for Global Development, where he directed the creation of the massive database.
Using an array of information filters, a user can find out how much CO2 comes from electricity plants in a particular city or county, in a congressional district, from a specific company, or an individual plant.
Dubbed the Carbon Monitoring for Action database, or CARMA (www.carma.org), it proclaims itself as "the world's best place for power-plant voyeurism."
And there is a bundle of interesting information.
Australians produce 11 tons of CO2 for each of its people from their power plants -- the highest anywhere -- compared to 9 tons per person in the United States and 2 tons per person in China.
But the United States has the most CO2 emissions (2.79 billion tons), followed by China (2.66 billion tons). China, which soon is expected to pass the United States, is home to three of the world's five most CO2-polluting utilities.
China's Huaneng Power International leads all of the world's power companies, releasing nearly 292 million tons of CO2 annually. That's far more than Southern Co. and American Electric Power, the two biggest U.S. carbon emitters that each account for about 170 million tons a year, ranking sixth and seventh in the world.
Such information provides a "a vivid illustration that rich countries and developing countries must work together to overcome the challenge of climate change," said Wheeler, an expert on environmental economics.
Wheeler said in an interview that the interactive database should be of interest not only to individual citizens, but also to investors, insurers and corporate executives as Congress moves closer to imposing limits on carbon emissions to address global warming.
"Never before has this kind of detailed information been made available on a global scale," said Nancy Birdsall, president of the Center for Global Development, a think tank that examines how rich nations interact with developing countries.
While the federal government keeps annual statistics on U.S. CO2 emissions, Webber claims CARMA gives its Web site visitors more complete, worldwide data by expanding on the government's numbers through independent research and extrapolations based on fuel use and electricity production.
The database strives to be consumer friendly.
With a click of the computer mouse, one can see a map showing the top CO2 producers in the world and then move in closer to find information about the individual utility bringing electricity into your home.
Each emitter has a color code from green (the cleanest) to blue, yellow, orange and finally red (most polluting). The icons become larger the more CO2 a plant or company produces. A large red icon shows a plant producing a lot of electricity and a lot of carbon. A green one shows little if any carbon, often a nuclear power plant.
Click on American Electric Power, the Ohio-based utility that owns 25 coal-burning power plants, and one sees a large red icon. It is the country's second largest emitter of CO2 at 169,000 tons a year. Southern Co., based in Atlanta, releases a little more CO2, but its code is a mix of red and orange because of its use of nuclear energy along with CO2-producing coal. Duke Energy, 12th on the list of worldwide CO2 emitters, nevertheless gets an orange icon, also reflecting its ownership of nuclear power plants.
But of most interest to consumers may be the "digging deeper" option that displays CO2 emissions by plants or companies in a region, state, congressional district, town or by ZIP code. The Ohio Valley, the Southeast and Texas rank high in CO2 emissions, reflecting heavy fossil fuel use, while the West Coast, where nuclear and hydroelectric power are in heavy use, has comparatively little CO2 pollution from power plants.
Texas power plants account for the most CO2 (290 million tons) of any state, and Vermont the least (437,000 tons).
Carbon Monitoring for Action: http://www.carma.org
Center for Global Development: http://www.cgdev.org
Copyright 2007 The Associated Press
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From: Baltimore Sun
OUT OF SIGHT, AND IN THE WATER
By Tom Pelton
Les Marshall strode onto his dock in Southern Maryland, looking down at the brownish murk of the Wicomico River. Then he gestured upstream, toward a forested area where a power company has been dumping 150,000 tons of coal ash a year.
"When we first moved here in the 1970s, there were lots of grasses under the water, as well as clams, oyster beds, crabs and abundant fish," said Marshall, a retired satellite engineer. "And since then, the river is pretty much dead. The grasses are gone. The perch are gone."
Other factors might be involved in the river's decline, but state regulators say one source of pollution has been a landfill that receives coal ash from a nearby power plant and has over the years leaked acidic waste and metals into a Wicomico tributary.
Power company Mirant Corp. filters the runoff from its landfill in Faulkner, but the Maryland Department of the Environment believes that some tainted water might still be escaping. It is considering whether to require the Atlanta-based company to install more pollution controls.
The agency is also drafting tighter regulations for all ash dumps, after revelations that one in Anne Arundel County polluted local wells, drawing a $1 million fine. State officials haven't said exactly what they will require, but say the new mandates might include putting liners under every ash landfill to prevent rain from seeping through to contaminate underground water supplies.
Across the country, buried ash is a growing but widely ignored source of pollution from coal-fired power plants, according to a researcher who has studied them.
"We tend to put all our focus on airborne pollutants," said Christopher L. Rowe, an environmental toxicologist at the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science. "This problem has been completely overlooked."
He said filters on the smokestacks of coal-fired power plants catch not only ash, but also mercury, arsenic, chromium and other potential carcinogens. Then the power companies dump the waste into loosely regulated landfills -- from which dangerous metals can seep into streams and wells. So while the filters keep pollutants out of the air, the process "simply increases what we put into the aquatic environment," Rowe said.
Brad Heavner, director of the advocacy group Environment Maryland, said pollution from the Faulkner landfill and the one in Anne Arundel County raises questions about whether there are more leaky ash dumps across the state. "For decades this state has been mismanaging fly ash, and that should change immediately," Heavner said. "Right now, the law on fly ash is basically nonexistent."
There are at least six major ash dumps in Maryland that receive the waste from the burning of coal at power plants -- one each in Charles, Prince George's, Montgomery and Baltimore counties and two in Anne Arundel. But there are few rules governing these sites. At some dumps, the state doesn't require pollution control permits or liners to prevent leakage.
On Oct. 1 the Department of the Environment imposed a $1 million fine on Constellation Energy and dump operator BBSS Inc. for allowing metals such as arsenic, cadmium and thallium to seep into the drinking wells of 23 homes near the Gambrills dump site in Anne Arundel County.
"We have seen some instances... where tighter controls were needed, and we need to make sure that, moving forward, tighter controls are in place," said Assistant Secretary Steve Pattison.
In Southern Maryland, the fly ash dump that opened in Faulkner in 1970 has a history of leaking contaminants. Potomac Electric Power Co. created the Charles County landfill to take ash from its Morgantown plant, about six miles south on the Potomac River. The power plant, which opened the same year as the landfill, supplies enough electricity to light about 1.5 million homes.
The plant burns pulverized coal. About a quarter of the 200,000 tons of waste ash it produces each year is recycled to make cinder blocks and cement. The remainder, 150,000 tons, is trucked -- about 50 to 60 loads a day -- to the landfill, where it is buried.
In 1995, Pepco paid $975,000 in federal fines after the landfill's supervisor was convicted of taking bribes and bypassing the treatment system, dumping pollution into Zekiah Swamp, a protected wildlife area. The contaminated water seeped into nearby waterways, "injuring vegetation and leaving orange coating... in a nearby wetland and streams," according to a National Academies of Science report that examined the dump at Faulkner and other sites nationally.
The state required Pepco to improve its systems that collect and treat rainwater that trickles through the ash. But the systems didn't catch all of the contaminants, records show. The state fined Pepco another $50,000 in 2000 and required the utility and a successor company to build about $3 million more in pollution controls.
Mirant bought the 950-acre landfill site in 2000 when it also purchased the Morgantown power plant. Thirteen of those acres are a black pit where trucks dump ash. Another 128 acres are former waste areas now covered in dirt and grass.
As recently as 2001, Bowling Creek, which flows into Zekiah Swamp and eventually the Wicomico River, had an acidity level high enough to kill fish, according to state and federal reports.
A 2006 study by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources found that some streams near the landfill have improved in recent years. But sulfate pollution levels downstream are not expected to return to normal within the next 50 years, according to the report.
Mirant officials deny that the dump is hurting the Wicomico River, saying the 35 million gallons of water that pours out annually into Zekiah Swamp Run, a tributary to the Wicomico, is treated and filtered. "We've done studies, and they don't attribute any loss of aquatic life to the fly ash," said Misty Allen, a Mirant spokeswoman.
During a recent tour, company officials showed a large ash pit lined with clay, where trucks dumped waste. They also pointed to containment ponds that collect rainwater after it washes through the ash. A treatment system adds pellets of a baking-powder-like substance to reduce acidity, they said.
"I'll drink this water, if you want me to -- I don't have any problem with it," said James Wight, a supervisor for Mirant, as he gulped a mouthful of partially treated effluent.
But the Department of the Environment is worried that some pollution might still be escaping, said Carol Coates, chief of water enforcement. So the state is studying whether to require more pollution controls when it issues a new industrial discharge control permit to Mirant, Coates said.
Because of an exemption in the law that dates back more than a decade, not all ash landfills operate under such permits, which are typically required of factories and other facilities that discharge waste into waterways.
Mirant has told the state agency that water from the dump probably will continue to exceed the acidity limits in its permit, which expired five years ago. So the company is asking the state to provide some "relief" with a lower standard in its new permit, according to e- mail correspondence obtained through a Public Information Act request.
MDE spokesman Robert Ballinger said the state will deny this request. "We are not going to lower the standards," he said.
Charles County tried last year to force the landfill to reduce its intake of ash by 50 percent over five years. Mirant sued, and a court in September struck down the county's limits.
"There is still some leakage, and some leachate coming out, and that's a big concern because there may be mercury in it," said John Buchanan, assistant county attorney.
Some residents who live around the landfill said they don't drink water from their wells because it smells bad and looks cloudy.
"That's exactly what we are afraid of -- that the pollution will get into our drinking water," said Robert Brown, a service station manager who lives beside the landfill.
After The Sun asked the MDE about the foul-smelling water, the agency asked Mirant to test the wells of homes nearby and report the results to the state. "We want to relieve any fears of people in the community," said Ballinger. He said it is standard procedure for environmental regulators to ask companies to report their own pollution.
MDE officials said that by the end of the year, they plan to issue the state's first "comprehensive regulations" on coal ash waste. The agency may start requiring more testing of groundwater, a longer list of contaminants that should be monitored and liners underneath all fly ash dumps, officials said.
Jane Barrett, director of the University of Maryland Environmental Law Clinic, said the question of whether hazardous metals are seeping out of ash waste landfills into groundwater should be investigated statewide. "All these sites need to be looked at," she said.
Copyright 2007, The Baltimore Sun
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From: Planet Ark
GLOBAL WARMING INCREASES THE RISK OF WAR IN MANY
By Peter Apps
LONDON -- Climate change will put half the world's countries at risk of conflict or serious political instability, a report said on Tuesday, making the world more unstable unless nations and communities consider problems now.
International Alert, a London-based conflict resolution group, identified 46 countries -- home to 2.7 billion people -- where it said the effects of climate change would create a high risk of violent conflict. It identified another 56 states where there was a risk of political instability. "It is about half the countries in the world," International Alert secretary general Dan Smith told Reuters in a telephone interview. "I would expect to see some pretty serious conflicts that are clearly linked to climate change on the international scene by 2020."
Climate change will affect water supplies, growing seasons and land use, he said, bringing communities in the poorest and most vulnerable countries into conflict.
Near the top of the list are west and central Africa, with clashes already reported in northern Ghana between herders and farmers as agricultural patterns change.
Bangladesh could also see dangerous changes, while the visible decline in levels of the River Ganges in India, on which 400 million people depend, could spark new tensions there.
Water shortages would make solving tensions in the already volatile Middle East even harder, Smith said, while currently peaceful Latin American states could be destabilised by unrest following changes in the melting of glaciers affecting rivers.
GETTING MESSY FAST
Unless communities and governments begin discussing the issues in advance, he said, there is a risk climate shift could be the spark that relights wars such as those in Liberia and Sierra Leone in west Africa or the Caucasus on Russia's borders. Current economic growth in developing states could also be hit.
"Our experience shows it can be an exacerbating factor of conflict," Smith said. "The question is how well communities and governments handle the risk."
Smith said was difficult to isolate current climate-related wars, although climate shift and farming disputes are a factor in fighting in Sudan's Darfur region.
He said climate-related open fighting was likely to be limited to the world's poorer regions, but that richer nations in northern Europe or North America would suffer from greater global instability.
The good news, he said, was that if groups and officials were able to discuss the issues to help prevent conflict, that would in itself help them deal with the actual problems.
"If there are not the institutions and organisations to handle it, people start looking out for themselves and then they start organising for fighting and you can get a very messy situation very quickly," Smith said.
"There are literally hundreds of millions of people at risk from conflict from climate change and we have to start talking about these issues." (Editing by Catherine Evans)
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From: USA Today
PENNSYLVANIA BANS HORMONE-FREE LABELS FOR MILK
By Daniel Malloy
Harrisburg, Pa. (AP) -- Pennsylvania is stopping dairies from stamping milk containers with hormone-free labels in a precedent-setting decision being closely watched by the industry.
Synthetic hormones have been used to improve milk production in cows for more than a decade. The chemical has not been detected in milk, so there is no way to test for its use, but a growing number of retailers have been selling and promoting hormone-free products in response to consumer demand.
State Agriculture Secretary Dennis C. Wolff said advertising one brand of milk as free from artificial hormones implies that competitors' milk is not safe, and it often comes with what he said is an unjustified higher price.
"It's kind of like a nuclear arms race," Wolff said. "One dairy does it and the next tries to outdo them. It's absolutely crazy."
Agricultural regulators in New Jersey and Ohio are considering following suit, the latest battle in a long-standing dispute over whether injecting cows with bovine growth hormone affects milk.
Effective Jan. 1, dairies selling milk in Pennsylvania, the nation's fifth-largest dairy state, will be banned from advertising that their product comes from cows that have never been treated with rBST, or recombinant bovine somatotropin.
The product, sold by St. Louis-based Monsanto Co. under the brand name Posilac, is the country's largest-selling dairy pharmaceutical. It is also known as recombinant bovine growth hormone, or rBGH.
It has been approved for use in the U.S. since 1994, although safety concerns have spurred an increase in rBST-free product sales. The hormone is banned in the European Union, Canada, Australia and Japan, largely out of concern that it may be harmful to herd health.
Monsanto spokesman Michael Doane said the hormone-free label "implies to consumers, who may or may not be informed on these issues, that there's a health-and-safety difference between these two milks, that there's 'good' milk and 'bad' milk, and we know that's not the case."
Rick North of the Oregon Physicians for Social Responsibility, a leading critic of the artificial growth hormone, said the Pennsylvania rules amounted to censorship.
"This is a clear example of Monsanto's influence," he said. "They're getting clobbered in the marketplace by consumers everywhere wanting rBGH-free products."
Acting on a recommendation of an advisory panel, the Pennsylvania Agriculture Department has notified 16 dairies in Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Massachusetts that their labels were false or misleading and had to be changed by the end of December.
"There's absolutely no way to certify whether the milk is from cattle treated or not treated" with rBST, Wolff said. "Some of the dairies that have enforced this, it's absolutely the honor system."
Rutter's Dairy Inc., a central Pennsylvania company that sells about 300,000 gallons a week, began promoting its milk as free of artificial hormones this summer. It has fired back at the state decision with full-page newspaper ads and a lobbying campaign. It is also urging customers to protest.
"We just think the consumers are more keenly aware in today's world about where their food comes from and how their food is manufactured or handled," said Rutter's President Todd Rutter.
Rutter's sells its milk at the state's minimum price, but a national spot check of prices by the American Farm Bureau last month found "rBST-free" milk typically costs about 25% more.
Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. ========================================================
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette November 14, 2007
State clamps down on dairy labeling
'Hormone free' label prohibition is most controversial
By Daniel Malloy, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Health claims gleam from every aisle of the grocery store, but Pennsylvania has become the first state to crack down on labels in the dairy section in a precedent-setting ruling that opponents say restricts consumer choice.
As of Jan. 1, dairy product labels such as "growth-hormone free" will be illegal in the state.
Pennsylvania Secretary of Agriculture Dennis Wolff announced the decision last month after convening a 22-member Food Labeling Advisory Committee to look into false or misleading claims in "absence labeling."
The ruling covers all dairy products sold in the state, forcing some out-of-state manufacturers, in effect, to make Pennsylvania-only packaging. So far, the state Department of Agriculture has notified 19 companies that their labels must change.
Of the three principal types of labeling affected by the ruling, getting rid of "growth-hormone free" milk labels has proven most controversial.
The labeling refers to recombinant bovine growth hormone -- rBGH or rBST -- produced by St. Louis-based Monsanto Co. under the drug name Posilac that is injected into cows, increasing their milk production by 15 percent. Its use was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 1994, after tests showed that rBST does not appear in milk and does not pose a health risk to people.
"This is a product that has been safety tested and approved by the FDA," said Monsanto spokesman Michael Doane, who said the company did not lobby for the labeling law in Pennsylvania. "It has a very long history of safe use. There have been no documented health claims against the product ever in its existence."
But rBST has been attacked by several dairy groups -- including ice cream maker Ben & Jerry's -- since its introduction because it causes an increase in udder infections in cows, and some studies have shown a correlation between certain types of cancer in humans and elevated levels of insulin growth factor, which is present in rBST-fueled milk.
Monsanto opponents point out that many countries, including Canada, Japan, Australia and the European Union, have not approved the use of rBST because of health concerns.
Pennsylvania's order also bars other kinds of "absence labeling," including claims that milk is free of pesticides or antibiotics, which all milk normally is.
Agricultural regulators in at least two other states, New Jersey and Ohio, are considering following Pennsylvania's lead.
Although synthetic hormones have been used in cows for more than a decade, the growth hormone issue has been pressed to the forefront recently by economics. Consumers now are more concerned about where their food comes from and how it's manufactured -- whether that means locally made, certified organic or growth-hormone free.
For Chuck Turner Jr., of Turner Dairy Farms Inc. in Penn Hills, making sure the milk his company sells is rBST-free makes good business sense.
"There's a certain customer segment out there that is interested in cows not being injected with this Monsanto stuff," Mr. Turner said. "There's nobody saying, 'Give me milk with growth hormones.' That's the way we saw it."
But Monsanto and the Department of Agriculture warn that it's good business for another reason -- higher prices. According to a report last month by the American Farm Bureau, consumers pay an average of 25 percent more for milk labeled rBST-free.
So what are they paying for?
Turner Dairy's suppliers all sign pledges that they will not use rBST on their cows because there is no way to test for it in the milk. The Department of Agriculture argues that pledges aren't good enough.
"There's absolutely no way to certify whether the milk is from cattle treated or not treated [with rBST]," Mr. Wolff, a former dairy farmer who still owns a farm in Columbia County, said. "Some of the dairies that have enforced this, it's absolutely the honor system."
Organic labeling, Mr. Wolff said, involves a certification process that includes surprise audits, so the department does not currently intend to interfere with it.
Mr. Turner still plans to make sure customers know Turner Dairy's milk is produced without rBST. The company's Web site prominently proclaims: "No added growth hormones," and Mr. Turner said the motto will be reinforced with point-of-purchase advertising.
The Department of Agriculture has no jurisdiction over these tactics, only labels.
And the labels will have to change.
But Mr. Turner, who has fielded several curious phone calls and e- mails since last month's announcement, noted that the new restrictions could have the opposite effect on rBST-free sales.
"Actually, what they're doing is bringing it to everybody's attention," Mr. Turner said.
"If anything, this whole thing is good public relations for us."
The Associated Press contributed. Daniel Malloy can be reached at email@example.com or 412-263-1731.
Copyright 1997 -- 2007 PG Publishing Co.
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