Environmental Health News

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  • Garden Mosaics projects promote science education while connecting young and old people as they work together in local gardens.
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  • In August 2002, the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) Board voted to ban soft drinks from all of the district’s schools

#9 - How Can You Protect Yourself From The Danger Of Toxic Lead In Your Drinking Water Supply, 25-Jan-1987

Late in 1986 the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reported
that at least 40 million Americans drink water containing more lead
than the EPA's recommended exposure. Excess levels of lead can cause
severe learning disabilities in children, blood pressure and
neurological ailments in adults and complications in pregnancy. High
concentrations of lead in the body can be fatal.

Most of the lead in drinking water comes from pipes joined using lead
solder in copper plumbing. Less often, lead comes from old lead pipes
connecting water mains with homes, and increasingly rarely, from lead
pipes in old public water systems. In 1985 the EPA banned the use of
lead in new public and private water systems and in plumbing repairs.
Many homes--most homes--still contain plumbing with lead. To check for
lead, look at your house's pipe joints. Joints made of lead are a dull
gray while joints that are silver are made of other materials.

According to the EPA, homeowners who think they may have a lead problem
can take steps to protect themselves and their families, including
letting the tap run for at least two to three full minutes before using
the water for cooking or drinking, to flush out lead that may have
accumulated while the line was not in use and to avoid using hot water
(which dissolves more lead from pipes and solder) for cooking or mixing
baby formula. Water can be tested by local water supply systems or by
private laboratories.

The WaterTest Corporation of New London, New Hampshire [phone: (603)
526-6756] offers a mail order test for $31.95. The president of
WaterTest says remedial actions can be taken to remove or reduce the
amount of lead in water, including replacing lead solder with silver,
using special chemical filters to remove lead, and buying tanks that
remove corrosive materials from water (thus reducing the water's
ability to dissolve lead from pipes and pipe joints). The EPA says
another possibility is to use bottled water for drinking; however, the
agency says, unlike public water supplies, bottled water does not have
to meet federal standards. EPA officials said that people who find high
levels of lead in their water might want to have blood tests to
determine how much has entered their systems.

--Peter Montague

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NEW INDUSTRY IN NJ TO STERILIZE HUMAN FOOD USING RADIOACTIVITY

With relaxed federal restraints on the process of irradiation, plants
in New Jersey are gearing up to irradiate food, in addition to their
current service, which is sterilizing medical supplies by irradiating
them (exposing them to radioactivity). Radiation of food is being
promoted as an alternative to treat food with pesticides,fungicides,
and other preservatives.

Critics of irradiation, including environmentalists and antinuclear
groups, say all the chemical byproducts of the process aren't fully
understood and may pose cancer risks. They say irradiation will
increase the hazards of producing, transporting and storing the
radioactive isotopes to treat the food. With seven irradiation plants
in the state, New Jersey is one of the leading centers of the
irradiation industry. Radiation Technology Inc. of Rockaway has two
irradiation plants in the state and is building a third. Isomedix, Inc.
of Whippany, the country's biggest irradiation company, is building its
first all- food irradiation plant in California.

The American Medical Association (AMA), the World Health Organization
(WHO) and other supporters of irradiation say the process greatly
increases the shelf life of fruits, vegetables and meats, reducing
dangers of food-borne illnesses and lessening world hunger by reducing
the spoilage that some estimates say

claim a quarter of the global production of food. Twenty countries,
including Japan, the Netherlands and South Africa, irradiate their
food. In the U.S., only spices (only 1% of them) are treated with
radiation. In April, 1986 the Food and Drug Administration (FDA),
having already approved irradiating potatoes, onions and spices, issued
rules allowing the treatment of some fruits, vegetables and pork at
restricted doses. The FDA says its new rules, with an estimated
dilution of radiolytic products (the chemical byproducts of
irradiation) at 3 parts per million of consumable food, is so minuscule
as to pose little threat to humans.

--Peter Montague

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LUNG CANCER OVERTAKES BREAST CANCER AS #1 KILLER OF U.S. WOMEN

The American Medical Women's Association is beginning a nationwide
campaign against smoking. In 1985, lung cancer overtook breast cancer
as the leading cause of cancer deaths in women. The trend is expected
to continue, with an estimated 41,100 lung cancer deaths in 1986. Lung
cancer remains the leading cause of cancer deaths in men, with 87,000
deaths in 1985 and 89,000 in 1986. The campaign is the first concerted
effort by women who are physicians to tackle smoking as a problem of
par- ticular concern to women. Besides lung cancer, smoking has been
linked to heart attacks, cardiovascular disease, strokes, em- physema
and problems related to pregnancy and childbirth, including low birth
weight and an increase in the risk of miscarriage, premature delivery
and neonatal death.

--Peter Montague

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Descriptor terms: water pollution; epa; lead; drinking water; remedial
action; watertest corporation; testing; monitoring; nj; american
medical association; who; fda; food; food irradiation; radiation;
pesticides; preservatives; fungicides; radiation technology, inc;
isomedix, inc; japan; netherlands; south africa; food safety; lung
cancer; smoking; females;