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#885 -- Trouble with Precaution, 14-Dec-2006


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Rachel's Democracy & Health News #885

"Environment, health, jobs and justice--Who gets to decide?"

Thursday, December 14, 2006.............Printer-friendly version
www.rachel.org -- To make a secure donation, click here.

Featured stories in this issue...

Trouble with the Precautionary Principle
  The precautionary principle gets us searching for root causes of
  serious problems, forcing us to ask questions that usually don't get
  asked in polite company.
Another Pennsylvania Township Strips Corporations of 'Rights'
  Innovative work to re-establish local control over corporations is
  continuing to develop. In East Brunswick, Pa., a new ordinance
  recognizes the rights of nature and asserts the right of residents to
  sue corporations as state actors.
Can Coal Be Clean?
  As the end of the petroleum era peeks over the horizon, the
  chemical industry and the energy industry are planning to shift to
  "clean" coal. Unfortunately, there is no such thing as "clean" coal.
Payne vs. Payout of Burying Garbage
  To get to the new world of green chemistry and sustainable
  business, we'll first have to end cheap waste disposal in incinerators
  and landfills. As we learn here, there are good public health reasons
  to do so.
Bisphenol-A May Trigger Human Breast Cancer
  A common chemical in plastics has now been linked to breast cancer.
  If this hypothesis is correct, breast cancer is triggered by exposure
  that occurs in the womb.
The Great Lakes Have Become A Giant Toilet
  A new report says massive discharges of sewage into the Great
  Lakes are making fish unsafe to eat, rendering the lakes unsafe for
  recreation, and polluting one of the main sources of drinking water in
  the region. The Lakes contain 84% of all the fresh water in North


From: Rachel's Democracy & Health News #885, Dec. 14, 2006
[Printer-friendly version]


By Peter Montague

The goal of the precautionary principle is simply to prevent harm.
(Look before you leap. A stitch in time saves nine.) However, if you
want to prevent harm, you need a pretty good idea of where the harm is
coming from. So you start looking for root causes. If you don't know
the root causes of a problem, how can you take effective action to
prevent it? (Putting a Band-Aid on a cancer may make you feel better
for a short while, but if you don't confront the cancer you'll find
yourself in real trouble. And if we never ask what's causing the rise
in cancer rates, the trouble just multiplies.)

To me, this is the most important aspect of the precautionary
principle. It gets us searching for root causes of harm. Even though
this is a good thing -- and necessary -- it can still get you into

Precaution defines a sustainable society -- one that is always doing
its best to look ahead, to avoid trouble. Taking a precautionary
approach does not guarantee that a civilization can avoid collapse.
But the alternative approach, which dominated our thinking from 1850
to now -- "Shoot first and ask questions later," or "Damn the
torpedoes, full speed ahead!" -- has damaged the natural environment
and human health so badly that the Millenium Ecosystem Assessment
(result of 6 years study by 1366 scientists in 95 countries) concluded
last year, "At the heart of this assessment is a stark warning. Human
activity is putting such strain on the natural functions of Earth that
the ability of the planet's ecosystems to sustain future generations
can no longer be taken for granted." A stark warning indeed.

Precaution is an ancient technique for survival, developed long before
humans arrived on the scene. Animals have always taken a precautionary
approach to life. Crows, woodchucks, monkeys -- all have lookouts who
scan the horizon (and the neighborhood), calling out at the first sign
of trouble. But, more than this, each member of the animal clan takes
on the role of self-appointed guardian, attentive to threats. This
precautionary approach has allowed animals to sustain themselves for
millions of years in a world that is constantly changing and always
uncertain. Survival under these conditions is the very definition of

We humans seem to have lost this precautionary perspective. We have
come to believe that we can manufacture the conditions for our own
survival, regardless of conditions in the world around us. In the
early 1990s, a group of scientists actually constructed an artificial
ecosystem and tried to live in it; they called it Biosphere II (the
earth itself being Biosphere I). The whole thing was a colossal
failure; the ants took over and the humans were clueless.

During the 20th century, our novel approach -- behaving as if we are
in charge of nature -- brought us multiple disasters, several of
which are still unfolding today:

** The nuclear industry has covered the planet with radioactive pots
of poison that no one will ever clean up -- radioactive wastes dumped
into the oceans; radioactive canyons in New Mexico where the bomb-
makers buried their mistakes in unmarked graves; mountainous heaps of
radioactive uranium mine wastes blowing on the wind; radioactive
residues from factories making products with radium and thorium;
swaths of radioactive fallout worldwide. Now nuclear power plants --
often the precursors for nuclear weapons -- are proliferating across
the globe. The list of unmanageable problems unleashed by nuclear boy-
toys continues to grow at an accelerating pace. This technology alone
should teach us that our 20th-century ways are unsustainable.

But we have a second set of experiments to learn from. The
petrochemical industry has littered the planet with staggeringly large
numbers of toxic waste sites buried in the ground, or simply strewn
across the surface. For example, after 25 years of cleanup efforts,
New Jersey still lists 16,000 contaminated sites with 200 to 300 new
contaminated sites still being discovered each month. Around the
world, the petrochemical industry is, daily, creating hundreds more
that will remain to plague our children's children's children. The
size of this problem is too large to even catalog. And 750 new
chemicals are still being put into commercial channels each year.

The regulatory system set up to oversee nuclear and petrochemical
technologies has always given the benefit of the doubt to rapid
innovation for economc growth, rather than to public health. This may
have made sense when capital was scarce and nature was abundant. But
now that capital is abundant and nature is scarce, the regulatory
system's priorities are causing more harm than good. The world is
fundamentally different from the world of 100 or even 50 years ago,
and our legal system needs to adapt to these new conditions.

Now the same corporations that created the nuclear and petrochemical
messes have been rushing pell mell to deploy a new generation of far
more powerful inventions -- biotechnology, nanotechnology, and
synthetic biology (the creation of entirely new forms of life that
have never existed before).

With these new technologies, no one is even pretending that regulation
can stanch the flood of ill-considered innovations, or the harms they
seem certain to bring.

So we have to try something new. The best hope, it seems to me, is for
all of us to try to change the culture, to make a precautionary
approach standard procedure. (If we do that, it will quickly become
apparent that many of our existing laws and institutions, such as
freewheeling corporations larger than many nations, no longer make
sense and need to be rethought.)

Just as our great-grandparents managed to make slavery unthinkable,
now we can make it unthinkable to take any big decision without doing
our best to anticipate the consequences, to examine our options, and
to choose the least harmful way. (Publicly-held corporations, as they
are strucrured today, cannot aim to minimize harm; as a matter of law,
they can only to do what is profitable for their shareholders.)

Using a precautionary approach, we would still make painful mistakes.
But maybe we could avoid the extinction that threatens to snuff us out
if we continue on our present path.

So it seems important to search for root causes of our troubles. This
is what the precautionary principle would have us do. This gets us
asking questions that are not usually asked in polite company.

Q: Why did we develop corporations?

A: To mobilize investment capital to advance economic growth to make
more stuff and accrue more capital.

Q: At one time this made sense, but now that there is more than enough
stuff to go around -- and nature is sinking under the weight of it all
-- why do we need more economic growth?

A: Because growth is what produces return on capital investment.

Q: Since we are already spending huge sums to convince people to buy
stuff they don't need, just to produce return on capital investment --
why do we need even more return on investment?

You see what I mean? Searching for root causes of our accelerating
train wreck gets us asking questions that some people may not want
asked. That's how the precautionary principle can get you into
trouble. But delicious trouble it is, I confess.


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From: Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund, Dec. 6, 2006
[Printer-friendly version]


Chambersburg, Pa. -- On December 6th, 2006, the Board of Supervisors
for East Brunswick Township in Schuylkill County, Pa., unanimously
passed a law declaring that sludge corporations possess no
constitutional "rights" within the community.

East Brunswick is the eighth local government in the country to
abolish the illegitimate "rights" and legal privileges claimed by
corporations, and the fourth community in the nation to recognize the
rights of nature.

The ordinance takes the offense in challenging corporate managers in
Pennsylvania and around the nation, who effortlessly wield those
constitutional "rights" and legal privileges to dictate corporate
values and nullify local laws.

The East Brunswick Township law

(1) bans corporations from engaging in the land application of sewage
sludge within the Township;

(2) recognizes that ecosystems in East Brunswick possess enforceable
rights against corporations;

(3) asserts that corporations doing business in East Brunswick will
henceforth be treated as "state actors" under the law, and thus, be
required to respect the rights of people and natural communities
within the Township; and

(4) establishes that East Brunswick residents can bring lawsuits to
vindicate not only their own civil rights, but also the newly-mandated
rights of Nature.

In the ordinance, the Township Board of Supervisors declared that if
state and federal agencies -- or corporate managers -- attempt to
invalidate the ordinance, a Township-wide public meeting would be
hosted to determine additional steps to expand local control and self-
governance within the Township.

Adoption of the ordinance came after community residents organized
educational forums and hosted the Community Environmental Legal
Defense Fund to discuss its rights-based strategy for confronting
corporate and state preemptions of community self-governance.

Annette Etchberger, Regina Wiyda and Dr. Glen Freed took the lead in
generating tremendous public support for an ordinance that asserts
rights and creates tools for their enforcement. Traveling door-to-door
and inviting hundreds to attend meetings that typically draw a handful
of citizens, they put pressure on defiant Township Supervisors, who
reluctantly called special meetings for discussion of the cutting edge

Success was not immediate. Faced with intense public pressure from
residents who packed meetings and insisted on passage of the
ordinance, former Vice Chairman Mark J. Killian Sr. resigned on
October 12th and former supervisor Glenn Miller, resigned on November
1st. They had been unwilling to act upon the will of the people by
confronting the sludge-hauling corporations. Their resignations
delayed consideration of the law until replacements were appointed.
But on December 6th, with a newly constituted Board of Supervisors,
the ordinance was passed unanimously.

Ben Price, the Projects Director for the Community Environmental
Legal Defense Fund, the organization that helped draft the ordinance
said, "The East Brunswick Township Board of Supervisors has, at last,
heard the voice of the people and acted in the best interests of human
and natural communities. Instead of protecting the interests of
corporate directors for sludge hauling corporations, they've taken
their oaths seriously, to protect the health, safety and welfare of
everyone in East Brunswick. The people of East Brunswick Township have
for months been demanding that their Supervisors challenge the
usurpation of local democracy by corporate officers. They've been
telling their elected officials that it is time to confront the
illegitimate delegation of constitutional privileges on corporations,
and reject the State's nullification of community self-governance. On
December 6th, they finally listened."

Richard Grossman, the Legal Defense Fund's historian, noted: "A slave
system once drove the entire country, North and South. Our nation is
now governed by a corporate system. Like the slave system, today's
corporate system calls upon the law to deny fundamental rights of
people and communities.

"East Brunswick has joined other Pennsylvania municipalities in
contesting the constitutional, legal and cultural chains that bind
communities to the corporate system. They have heroically nullified
corporate privilege delivered from on high by exercising democratic
rule of law from below."

The East Brunswick ordinance is the result of countywide ferment
against state regulatory agency interference in local decision-making
on behalf of sludge and dredge corporations. Thousands of people in
Schuylkill County now see that regulatory laws and agencies aid and
abet corporate managers to dump their toxins, pathogens and
carcinogens in people's front yards and into the living environment.
In September of this year Tamaqua Borough and Rush Township passed
similar ordinances.

Schuylkill County has a long history of people's struggles to wrest
rights and governance from oppressive corporate railroad and coal
barons. As Prof. Grace Palladino has detailed in her gripping history,
Another Civil War -- Labor, Capital, and the State in the Anthracite
Regions of Pennsylvania, 1840-1868, "in the coal regions... corporate
lawyers and government officials creatively interpreted the law.
Industrialists retained a remarkable ability to command the coercive
power of the state to protect their particular economic interests."
Since the 1840s, as the people who live there well know, corporations
have used the County as a resource colony. Today, state and federal
government officials join corporate directors in viewing Schuylkill
County as a "sacrifice zone" where they can simply plug the old
corporate holes that enriched a few tyrants with new corporate poisons
that help fuel today's corporate system.

Schuylkill citizens are asserting their inalienable rights, and are
rallying to pass local laws to create democratic self-governance in
the County.

The Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund, located in
Chambersburg, has been working with people in Pennsylvania since 1995
to assert their fundamental rights to democratic self-governance, and
to enact laws that end destructive and rights-denying corporate
action aided and abetted by state and federal governments.

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From: The Economist, Dec. 2, 2006
[Printer-friendly version]


Making power from coal is still a grubby business, but various
technologies can make it much cleaner

Two new coal-fired power plants will soon appear on the banks of the
Ohio River if American Electric Power (AEP), a utility, gets its way.
There is nothing unusual about that, of course: a rival firm, TXU,
unveiled plans to build 11 new coal-fired plants in Texas earlier this
year. All told, there are some 150 plants on drawing boards around
America, which derives 56% of its power from coal. But AEP's two
plants are different in one critical respect: their design would make
it relatively easy to filter the carbon dioxide out of their
emissions, should the company ever need to do so. America's first
"capture-ready" power plants, to use the industry parlance, are
nearing construction.

Coal has several advantages as a fuel. It is abundant. It is widely
distributed: countries that are short of other fossil fuels, such as
Germany and South Africa, have mountains of it. As a result, it is
cheap. Even though the price has risen in the past few years, it is
still less expensive to run a power plant on coal than on almost
anything else.

But coal is also dirty. It releases lots of soot and various noxious
chemicals as it burns, and so has fallen out of favour in many Western
countries. Worse, coal-fired plants produce roughly twice as much
carbon dioxide per unit of electricity generated than those that run
on natural gas. Power generation contributes more to global warming
than any other industry, and coal is the dirtiest part of it. Coal-
fired plants are responsible for perhaps 8 billion out of the 28
billion tonnes of man-made carbon dioxide released every year, and are
thus a prime target for emissions cuts. If environmentalists had their
way, there would be no coal-fired plants at all: protesters recently
called for the closure of Drax, Britain's biggest coal-fired power

Yet the number of coal-fired plants is growing. The International
Energy Agency (IEA), a think-tank funded by power-hungry countries,
estimates that consumption of coal will increase by 71% between 2004
and 2030. Developing countries, in particular, rely on it. Coal
provides some three-quarters of the power in both India and China.

The obvious solution is to make coal-fired generation cleaner. And
that's what utilities in Western countries have been doing for years,
to comply with ever stiffer air-pollution standards. Many literally
wash coal to remove some of the impurities before burning it. Other
technologies concentrate on purifying the smoke created during
combustion. Small particles of ash, for example, are normally removed
by forcing the flue gases, as the fumes from the furnace are known in
the trade, between electrically charged plates. (Ash particles have a
small electric charge, and are then trapped on one of the plates.)
Other filters and chemical "scrubbers" catch oxides of sulphur and
nitrogen that would otherwise cause acid rain.

Reducing emissions of carbon dioxide, however, is another matter. Most
utilities tackle the problem indirectly, by attempting to improve the
efficiency of their plants, and so to squeeze more electricity from
each tonne of coal consumed or carbon dioxide produced. Most firms
want to make such improvements anyway, since they cut costs and
improve profits. In Britain, as in most rich countries, the average
efficiency of coal-fired power stations is about 35%. But Mitsui
Babcock, an engineering firm, says its most recent designs can achieve
efficiencies as high as 46%. It reckons that switching from an old
design to a new one can cut fuel consumption and emissions by 23%.

Most of the gains in efficiency come from increasing the heat and
pressure of the steam used to turn a plant's turbines. The newest ones
heat the steam to as much as 600 deg. C -- a state physicists call
"supercritical". But there is no reason to stop there. Engineers
believe that hotter boilers would raise yields even more. Such "ultra-
supercritical" boilers, they say, could achieve efficiencies of over
50%, reducing emissions still further.

Substituting biomass for some of the coal burned can also help.
Plants, after all, grow back after being harvested, so burning them
does not add to overall levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. By
replacing 20% of their fuel with biomass, power stations can reduce
their emissions by a further 20%. (Any more than that, says Lars
Stromberg of Vattenfall, a European energy firm, and the ash from
burning it would gum up the works of most furnaces.) Emissions also
fall if biomass fuel is used to pre-heat the steam before it enters
the boiler. All told, Mitsui Babcock calculates, these measures could
cut emissions from coal-fired plants to the same level as those using
natural gas.

The coal burnt in power plants can also be improved, mainly by drying.
Less dense types, such as sub-bituminous and lignite coal, can contain
up to 50% water. When burned, the water escapes as steam up the
chimney, carrying valuable heat with it. Evergreen Energy, an American
firm, is selling heat- and pressure-treated coal which, it claims, is
as much as a third more efficient than ordinary coal.

Such techniques are particularly important in America, where power
plants use a lot of sub-bituminous coal from the Powder River Basin in
Wyoming and Montana. Coal from this region is low in sulphur, and so
burns more cleanly, but has a relatively low energy density unless
treated. Meanwhile, RWE, a German utility, is building a plant which
will use the residual heat of its own flue gas to dry lignite before
burning it. That increases the overall efficiency of the plant at
little cost, since the coal can be treated without having to generate
any extra heat.

These methods can reduce the various emissions produced by coal-fired
power stations, so that they are at least no worse than gas-fired
stations. But technologies also exist to make coal cleaner still, by
filtering out carbon dioxide from the flue gas and storing it somehow.
This is theoretically possible, but expensive. Other pollutants, after
all, are essentially impurities, which can be washed from the coal or
filtered out of the flue gas. But carbon dioxide is not a
contaminant -- it is the inevitable by-product of carbon in the coal
reacting with oxygen in the air. Along with nitrogen, the inert
remainder of the air, carbon dioxide is the chief component of flue

Gases, of course, are bulky and difficult to store. Most plans for
carbon-dioxide storage involve liquefying it and pumping it
underground into former oilfields, gasfields or coal beds -- an
energy- intensive and thus expensive process. Separating the carbon
dioxide from the nitrogen in the flue gas is also expensive, but
necessary, since nitrogen turns liquid at a much lower temperature
than carbon dioxide, and so requires even more energy to liquefy.

Moreover, unlike modifications that improve efficiency, there are no
savings to be had by adding carbon-capture technology to a power
plant. As a result, no such plants have been built. A few firms are
building demonstration projects, while they wait to see whether
governments impose long-term restrictions on carbon-dioxide emissions.
Others, especially in Britain, which is blessed with natural storage
tanks in the form of the declining oil and gasfields of the North
Sea, have announced feasibility studies for clean-coal plants. Some
utilities, such as AEP, are planning commercial plants that will
initially lack carbon-capture facilities, but are designed to allow
the technology to be added fairly easily at a later date. All are
looking for government hand-outs or regulatory incentives to pursue
these experiments, in the absence of any more compelling commercial

How does carbon capture work?

Most utilities are eyeing one of three basic designs. The simplest,
and easiest to bolt on to existing plants, treats carbon dioxide like
any other pollutant, and extracts it from the flue gas. As this gas
passes through a solution of chemicals called amines, the carbon
dioxide is absorbed but the nitrogen is not. The carbon dioxide can
later be released, by heating the solution, for subsequent
liquefaction and storage. Many firms already use this "amine
scrubbing" approach to remove carbon dioxide from natural gas, for
example. But it is not so practical for large- scale uses, since the
amines are expensive, as is heating them to release the captured
carbon dioxide. The extra energy required would reduce a state-of-the-
art supercritical plant's overall efficiency by about 10%, according
to the IEA.

"Oxy-fuel" plants sidestep the difficulties of separating oxygen and
nitrogen in the flue gas by burning coal in pure oxygen rather than
air. The resulting flue gas is almost pure carbon dioxide. But the
energy used to separate oxygen from air before burning is almost as
great as that needed to filter out nitrogen afterwards, leading to a
similar loss of efficiency. Oxy-fuel enthusiasts claim that modern
plants can be easily retro-fitted to operate as oxy-fuel plants.

The third approach, called "integrated gasification combined cycle"
(IGCC), also requires oxygen, but for use in a chemical reaction
rather than for burning. When heated in oxygen, coal reacts to form
carbon dioxide and hydrogen. An amine solution then absorbs the carbon
dioxide, while the hydrogen is burnt in a modified furnace. The amine
scrubbing is cheaper than usual, since the reaction generates carbon
dioxide in a more concentrated form. Engineers are also experimenting
with membranes that would allow hydrogen to pass, but not carbon

There are four IGCC demonstration plants operating in America and
Europe, although none currently captures carbon dioxide permanently;
instead, it is simply released into the atmosphere. AEP's planned new
plants will follow a similar design. The attraction of IGCC plants,
aside from their carbon-capture potential, is that they produce fewer
traditional pollutants and also generate hydrogen, which can either be
put to industrial uses or burnt. But most utilities doubt that IGCC
plants are suitable for mainstream power generation, because of higher
capital costs and frequent breakdowns. Proponents retort that teething
problems are natural, since IGCC is a newer technology, which combines
previously unrelated processes from different industries.

George Bush is a believer, at any rate. In 2003 he unveiled a
subsidised scheme to build a zero-emissions IGCC plant called
"FutureGen" by 2013. The European Union, for its part, is giving money
to utilities dabbling in oxy-fuel, among other schemes. Handouts from
the taxpayer are needed, power firms argue, since the technology in
question is still young. But it is hard to believe that it will ever
grow up unless subsidies give way to stronger measures, such as long-
term caps or taxes on carbon-dioxide emissions. The technology to
eliminate such emissions from coal-fired plants exists, but it will
not be adopted without regulatory incentives from governments.

Return to Table of Contents


From: Rachel's Democracy & Health News #864, Dec. 7, 2006
[Printer-friendly version]


By Jill McElheney**

Thirty years ago, Florrie and Mamie Payne appealed to the Athens (Ga.)
Clarke County government. A new landfill was being considered in their
community, and they were concerned with the potential environmental
health threats their families would face. These sisters were told by
elected leaders in the mid 1970's that the landfill would be placed in
their community because not many people lived on their Dunlap Road.

Being labeled "low target population" is a phrase government still
uses today to place economic gain above the environmental values of
communities which include safe air, water and soil. Robbing
communities of dignity, health and their common good, "low target
population" is an affront to a free society.

The Paynes had no choice but to raise their families next to the
problematic landfill. Their foreshadowed nightmares have come to
pass. University of Georgia football standout, Jimmy Payne, died in
1998 of bone cancer. He was Florrie's son and Mamie's nephew. Now,
Jimmy's dad has cancer. The low target populations are the ones who
suffer greater irretrievable losses with their pain financing economic

A photo is worth a thousand words. Taken from an aerial view, the
Haynes' family home shows that their garden was eerily located next to
the landfill. Their daughter, Sharon, was born and raised within yards
of the property line where trash often blew into their yard. She has
medical problems so extensive that doctors find it difficult to
diagnose her.

Research indicates that children are more vulnerable to environmental
health hazards. Prenatal exposures can produce lifelong problems such
as learning disabilities. Childhood contact with chemicals found at
the landfill can show up as diseases in adulthood. Most recent
studies inform that children who live next to landfills have elevated
rates of asthma, and that some effects from chemical exposures can
even be passed down to unexposed future generations through genetics.
In essence, you can take the person from the landfill, but not the
landfill from the person.

Another red flag that waves on Dunlap Road, which could be an
indicator of exposures to toxicants from the landfill, are the
children who did not make it. This includes spontaneous abortions,
stillbirths, and infant deaths. The Clark family has had their fair
share of this heartache. Natalie and Rozenia have lost children after
full term pregnancies. Deaths unexplained.

If one counts up the babies from multigenerations that didn't survive,
there appears to be a serious problem. Are we looking at a gene
variant of families on Dunlap Road which put them at even a greater
risk to toxicants from the landfill? Is it possible that the babies
are genetically the most vulnerable of the vulnerable?

The older Clark women also have their losses to cope with. Brenda
lost her 28 year old son suddenly in 2005. She can tell of relatives
up and down Dunlap Road who have buried their children rather than the
natural life process where parents pass first.

Science has supported Florrie & Mamie. In 2000, Georgia Public
Health stated that: "some contamination might have entered the
groundwater as early as 1977 when the landfill began operating." Help
came over a decade late for Dunlap Road when cleanup began, but by
then the damage had been done. Dr. Kevin Pegg concluded in 1997 that
"it is likely that residents have already been exposed to the highest
amounts of toxins that they they will be exposed to."

Community member Charles Nash believes cancer is the biggest killer on
Dunlap Road. He challenges the conclusions of the local landfill
management that no one is a victim of toxic poisoning. He joined the
Northeast Georgia Children's Environmental Health Coalition to learn
more, and to take that knowledge to improve the lives of his
neighbors. He organized an environmental health fair which was
attended by over 100 community members, and a walk highlighting
awareness of the links between environmental health and the landfill.
He believes that forecaring for future generations, a term coined
"precautionary principle," should drive any decision to expand the
landfill. His young grandsons Kenyada and Dornell are often by his
side displaying the evidence of why he is so passionate about
children's environmental health.

Dunlap Road residents and members of Billups Grove Baptist Church are
allowing the precautionary principle to lead the way for change in
their community. Attending a Georgia Environmental Protection
Division (EPD) public hearing this year, which renewed the air permit
for the landfill, they learned a shocking fact: no ambient (outdoor)
air tests were required for the permit approval. Residents
questioned EPD officials how any permit can be issued before assuring
the safety of the surrounding residents with tests.

Anyone who has visited the landfill can often see the powerdy dust
stirring, and traveling with the wind. The odor, which trespasses
and chronically lowers the quality of life for residents, is a
frequent complaint. Furthermore, no indoor air sampling has ever been
taken from homes near the contaminated groundwater plume, which could
possibly be compromising residential air quality by vapor intrusion.

Today, Athens Clarke County has reached the time to make another
critical decision about the landfill. We are running out of waste
capacity in Northeast Georgia, and one of the options is to expand our
Dunlap Road landfill. The values of Dunlap Road residents should be
put on the table with the sketchy economic gain that comes from
burying trash.

Dr. Bill Sheehan, director of the Product Policy Institute, and a
waste management expert, has evaluated the landfill and concluded:

"Bottom line: the 6 to 8 year landfill capacity is simply a function
of the low ($34) tipping fee -- absurdly low compared to the real
environmental impact, to the future financial liability, or to the
future rates we will pay without a landfill (e.g., Madison County's
$60/ton). You could fill it up in 1 year if you price it low enough,
or stretch it out to 100 years."

Sheehan believes there are better options including producer
responsibility and greater use of recycling. He will be submitting
them to the Mayor & Commissioners to encourage them in a new
direction. Dr. Sheehan easily communicates just how economically
unsound it is to put garbage into the ground.

Burying trash is like a bad habit. We've done it for so long without
consideration for the people most impacted. It's time to examine the
pain and payout of the regional waste management plan of our future,
and consider Florrie & Mamie's concerns this time around.


** Jill McElheney is the founder of Micah's Mission in Winterville,

Micah's Mission
Ministry to Improve Childhood & Adolescent Health
P.O. Box 275
Winterville, GA 30683
706.742.7826 (phone)
706.543.1799 (fax)
website: http://babuice.myweb.uga.edu/MICAH/index.htm

He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord
require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly
with your God. -- Micah 6:8

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From: Chemical & Engineering News, Dec. 6, 2006
[Printer-friendly version]


Study in rats provides strongest case yet against common environmental

By Bette Hileman

A new study finds the strongest evidence yet for the hypothesis that
widespread environmental exposure to bisphenol A during fetal life
causes breast cancer in adult women. The research, led by Ana M.
Soto, professor of anatomy and cellular biology at Tufts University
School of Medicine, in Boston, was published Dec. 6 in the online
edition of Reproductive Toxicology (DOI: 10.1016/j.reprotox.2006.10.0

Soto and her colleagues exposed pregnant rats to bisphenol A at doses
ranging from 2.5 to 1,000 micrograms per kg of body weight per day. By
the time the pups exposed at the lowest dose reached the equivalent of
puberty (50 days old), about 25% of their mammary ducts had
precancerous lesions, a proportion three to four times higher than
among the nonexposed controls. Mammary ducts from all other exposure
groups showed elevated levels of lesions. Cancerous lesions were found
in the mammary glands of one-third of the rats exposed to 250

Bisphenol A, a known estrogenic compound, is ubiquitous in the
environment. Many people receive exposures of about 2.5
micrograms/kg/day, and mammary gland development in rats and humans is
very similar. Therefore, Soto says, "bisphenol A could be one factor
causing the increase in breast cancer incidence over the past 50

Bisphenol A is used in the manufacture of polycarbonate plastics and
epoxy resins. It is found in many food and beverage containers,
including baby bottles. It is also found in canned food linings and
dental composites, and it leaches from all of these products. In one
study, Soto notes, urine samples from 95% of the human subjects
contained the chemical.

According to Soto, a large body of previous research suggests
bisphenol A might cause breast cancer. One study shows that the
daughters of women who took the potent synthetic nonsteroidal estrogen
diethylstilbestrol (DES) during their pregnancies between 1948 and
1971 have 2.5 times the normal incidence of breast cancer. Bisphenol
A, which is structurally similar to DES, may act by a similar
mechanism, she explains.

"What is important to note is that Soto's research is not a one-shot
finding," says Frederick vom Saal, professor of biology at the
University of Missouri. "It follows five years of research
demonstrating precancerous changes in the mammary glands of mice with
prenatal bisphenol A exposure. Now, Soto has switched to the rat,
which is considered a much better animal model for studying human

The Environmental Protection Agency has set a safe human intake dose
of 50 micrograms/kg/day for bisphenol A. "On the basis of the effects
observed in recent studies, this seems to be an unsafe level," Soto

Copyright 2006 American Chemical Society

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From: The New Standard, Dec. 4, 2006
[Printer-friendly version]


By Catherine Komp

A new report has found that U.S. and Canadian cities are polluting
the Great Lakes system with billions of gallons of a toxic "cocktail"
of sewage and storm water each year.

The Canadian-based Sierra Legal Defence Fund, which produced the
report, says it means parts of the largest freshwater ecosystem on the
planet are "in peril."

The researchers say the massive discharges of sewage into the lakes
are making fish unsafe to eat, rendering the lakes unsafe for
recreation, and polluting one of the main sources of drinking water in
the region. About 84 percent of North America's "surface fresh water"
comes from the Great Lakes, according to the US Environmental
Protection Agency.

The "Great Lakes Sewage Report Card" analyzed twenty US and Canadian
cities, from Deluth to Kingston to Cleveland. It concluded that
despite billions of dollars invested to improve sewage treatment over
the last three decades, the cities dump a combined 24 billion gallons
of municipal sewage -- a mixture of water, human waste, micro-
organisms, disease-causing pathogens and toxic chemicals -- directly
into local water systems each year.

Detroit and Cleveland ranked the lowest in the Sierra Legal report,
generating a combined 338 billion gallons of sewage per year. Both
scored poorly for some 19 billion gallons of "overflow" from their
sewer systems into the environment.

Green Bay, Wisconsin received one the highest scores in the report
because it had no known discharges of untreated sewage, no sewage
overflow and no pollution-related violations.

Unlike Green Bay, the researchers said, numerous cities around the
Great Lakes use combined sewage systems, or CSOs, that carry both
sewage and storm-water. During heavy rainfall, these systems can
exceed capacity and raw sewage can overflow directly into the

The US government drafted a Combined Sewer Overflow Control Policy in
1994 and requires communities to develop long-term CSO control plans
to help local governments comply with the Clean Water Act. The problem
is not isolated to the Great Lakes region. As previously reported by
The NewStandard, some 770 cities across the country use combined

In 2004, President Bush signed an executive order creating the Great
Lakes Interagency Task Force to deal with the accumulating
environmental problems facing this freshwater system. The task force's
responsibilities include improving water quality.

Calling the Great Lakes "a gift to all that live in the basin," Sierra
Legal makes several recommendations, including a bigger financial
investment from federal and local governments to improve CSOs. The
group also says that more regulations, from banning toxic substances
in manufacturing industries to enforcing sewer-use laws, could help to
protect the water and biodiversity of the Great Lakes region.

"Countries as wealthy as Canada and [the] United States can surely
afford to adequately treat their waste accordingly," wrote the
report's authors.

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