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#47 -- N.Y. Requires Green Cleaning in Schools, 19-Jul-2006

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Rachel's Precaution Reporter #47

"Foresight and Precaution, in the News and in the World"

Wednesday, July 19, 2006.............Printer-friendly version
www.rachel.org -- To make a secure donation, click here.
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Table of Contents...

N.Y. Requires Green Cleaning Products in All Schools
In early 2005, New York Governor George Pataki signed Executive
Order #134 requiring state agencies to use "green" cleaning
products. In August 2005 this was extended by legislation to include
all schools in New York, public and private.
Precaution Training Set for Minneapolis Sept. 8-10
A precautionary principle training has been scheduled for the
Minneapolis area September 8-10, 2006. A few scholarchips may still
available. Total enrollment is limited to 15. First come, first
served.
REACH Proposal Adds Pressure for Adoption of Safer Alternatives
The European Union's REACH proposal is increasing the pressure on
corporations to evaluate alternatives to toxic chemicals. Two new
reports, from Clean Production Action and from the Toxics Use
Reduction Institute (TURI at U. Mass, Lowell) demonstrate that
alternatives assessment of toxicants is feasible and is already being
used by some corporations today.
Australian Developers Chafe at Precaution for Endangered Species
In Australia, the precautionary principle is being used to protect
endangered species, but land developers complain bitterly that they
are being inconvenienced.
Archaeogical Society of Malta Urges Precautionary Policy
"The precautionary principle should be followed at all times to
safeguard the unknown part of Malta's cultural heritage resources as
required by the Cultural Heritage Act," the society said.
Some Dry Cleaners Told to Phase Out Toxic Solvent
U.S. EPA has taken a bold step to prevent residential exposures to
the hazardous dry cleaning fluid, perc. People living in a building
that also contains a dry cleaning shop will only have to inhale perc
for 14 more years, assuming the dry cleaning industry allows EPA to
adopt and enforce its new regulation.
Health Forum: Organic Lawns Decrease Risk of Breast Cancer
"The whole idea is the precautionary principle," says Ms. Fiteni.
"If you don't need to use these pesticides, why are we doing so when
there are these more natural alternatives that you can use?"

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From: Rachel's Precaution Reporter #47, Jul. 19, 2006
[Printer-friendly version]

N.Y. REQUIRES GREEN CLEANING PRODUCTS IN ALL SCHOOLS

New York state will soon adopt regulations to limit exposure of
students and staff to toxic cleaning and maintenance products in all
New York schools, public and private. The change has resulted from
relentless pressure by the Healthy Schools Network, Inc.

It began when Governor George Pataki issued Executive Order #134 in
January 2005. The state legislature carried the idea further, passing
Education Law Section 9, Article 409 in June 2006, directing state
agencies to adopt regulations intended to protect students and staff
from toxic cleaning products.

State agencies are now writing regulations defining what the new law
means. Because of the bizarre rule-making system we have developed in
the U.S., citizens seeking health-protective regulations are now
opposed by corporations who are working overtime to increase the
allowable exposures of students and staff to toxicants. As always, the
resulting regulations will most likely not be truly health-protective
but will be a compromise between the health of children and staff of
New York schools and the "right" of the corporations to turn a buck.

The draft regulations that were issued for public comment this spring
(the comment period closed in early May) proposed that the state would
adopt Green Seal standards for several lines of products, including
general purpose cleaners, paper towels, toilet paper, etc. In other
words, no chlorine. Citizens asked for more, including the elimination
of hormone-disrupting chemicals and fragrances.

A free Guide to Healthier Cleaning and Maintenance: Products and
Practices for Schools is available here.

Contact:

Claire L. Barnett, MBA, Executive Director
Healthy Schools Network, Inc.
and
Coordinator, Coalition for Healthier Schools

www.healthyschools.org

202-543-7555, 518-462-0632

Mail:
773 Madison Avenue
Albany, NY 12208
or
110 Maryland Ave, NE, Ste 505
Washington, DC 20002

Visit www.healthyschools.org, subscribe to NewsSlice, use Guides-
factsheets.

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From: Rachel's Precaution Reporter #47, Jul. 19, 2006
[Printer-friendly version]

PRECAUTION TRAINING SET FOR MINNEAPOLIS SEPT. 8-10

What: Minnesota Precaution Academy at the Women's Environmental
Institute at Amador Hill, North Branch, MN (about an hour north of the
Twin Cities)

When: September 8-10, 2006

Contact: Sherri Seidmon (sherri@sehn.org)

The Science and Environmental Health Network (www.sehn.org) and
Environmental Research Foundation (www.rachel.org and
www.precaution.org) have created The Precaution Academy to offer an
intensive weekend of training to prepare participants to apply
precautionary thinking to a wide range of issues in their communities
and workplaces.

The Academy is intended to serve the needs of community activists,
government officials, public health specialists, small business
owners, journalists, educators, and the engaged public.

Presenters and discussion leaders include Carolyn Raffensperger,
executive director of the Science and Environmental Health Network
(SEHN); Ted Schettler, SEHN's science director; and Peter Montague,
director of Environmental Research Foundation and an editor of
Rachel's Precaution Reporter and of Rachel's Democracy & Health News.

The cost of the Precaution Academy is $350, which includes hotel,
meals, and instructional materials, including SEHN's new book on the
precautionary principle.

Limited scholarships may be available; please inquire with Sherri
Seidmon (sherri@sehn.org).

Participation is limited to 15 people. Please check with Sherri
Seidmon (sherri@sehn.org) to learn whether space is available. Send
your check to Science and Environmental Health Network, P.O. Box
50733, Eugene, OR 97405

======================================================

At least two weeks prior to the date of the Academy, participants will
receive a copy of the new book, Precautionary Tools for Reshaping
Environmental Policy (MIT Press, 2006; ISBN 0-262-63323-X),
supplemented by a short workbook of articles. Academy participants are
urged to read selected portions of these materials before the session
begins on Friday evening.

The purpose of the Precaution Academy is:

** to prepare participants to apply precautionary thinking and action
to problems in their home communities and workplaces;

** to familiarize participants with the history of the regulatory
system, quantitative risk assessment, and the development of
precautionary thinking. What is different about the world today that
makes a precautionary approach necessary and appropriate?

** to clarify the different kinds of uncertainty involved in
contemporary problems and the role of precaution in addressing
uncertainty;

** to prepare participants to respond to criticisms of the
precautionary approach;

** to help participants recast and rethink familiar problems and
issues within a precautionary framework, and to explore how a
prevention philosophy differs from a problem-management philosophy;

** to familiarize participants with some of the many ways that
precaution is being applied in the U.S., Canada and abroad so that you
can considering trying these approaches at home.

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From: Chemical Week, Jul. 11, 2006
[Printer-friendly version]

PRODUCT REPLACEMENT

By Kara Sissell

[We have added links within the text. --RPR Editors]

The European Union's upcoming Registration, Evaluation, and
Authorisation of Chemicals (Reach) law will require companies to
examine the availability of alternatives to chemicals classified by
the EU as persistent, bioaccumulative, endocrine disrupters, or
"substances of like concern." The availability of alternatives will
therefore dictate how long an existing chemical can be sold or used,
at least in the EU market, attorneys say. And, while it is not clear
which substances will fall into those categories, it is certain is
that Reach is the beginning of the end for at least a handful of
substances, they say.

Reach, if it functions as intended, will spur the phaseout of more
toxic substances and the development of safer alternatives, experts
say. But environmentalists acknowledge that many companies are not
likely to let their products be restricted by Reach without first
"defending, appealing, and delaying" any regulatory rulings to
restrict their products. "There's going to be a big fight to keep
chemicals off the list, and what gets on will depend on the strength
of the regulatory agency involved and the support in the corresponding
political structure," says at environmental group Clean Production
Action (CPA; Medford, MA) Mark Rossi, research director.

Law firms say there are some chemicals that will not be able avoid
restrictions, but that many others could be protected by producers
building the best possible scientific case for keeping a substance on
the market. Companies should also lobby their politicians for a
favorable version of the legislation, and take a careful look at Reach
and their products to decide how their portfolios will fair, says Herb
Estreicher, an attorney at law firm Keller and Heckman (Washington).
Companies counting on aggressive industry lobbying or political
opposition to make Reach simply go away are going to be disappointed,
Estreicher says. "This is not like several years ago when you had Tony
Blair and other politicians being very vocal regarding their concerns
about Reach," he says. "There's no groundswell of opposition in Europe
this time as far as we can tell."

Some of the elements of Reach are not yet clear, however. The
Parliament and Council will have to resolve their differences by
December 31, and there are some key areas of disagreement, Estreicher
says. "The Council would authorize the use of substances of very high
concern (SVHCs) as long as they are adequately controlled, except for
persistent, bioaccumulative toxins (PBTs) or very persistent, very
bioacummulative toxins (vPvBs), where one would need to show that
socio- economic benefits outweigh any residual risk and there are no
suitable alternatives," Estreicher says. Parliament would not grant
authorization if suitable alternatives exist for any SVHC, not limited
to PBTs or vPvBs, even if the risk is adequately controlled and the
socio-economic benefits outweigh the residual risk, he says. "The
intent of the Reach law is that substitutes will only be required if
they are well understood and that any exposure is carefully managed,"
he adds.

Chemical manufacturers say that the final Reach law should allow
companies to continue to use a chemical for which the socio-economic
benefits outweigh the risks as long as measures are put in place to
prevent exposure, rather than having companies go through the process
of proving that no alternatives are available. Companies also say they
are concerned about the proposed five-year permit review process for
reevaluating chemicals that have been granted authorization. Once
equipment or other measures are put in place to control exposure, they
should be allowed to continue to use those chemicals as long as
exposure is prevented, ACC says. "Where a manufacturer has shown that
the socioeconomic benefits outweigh risk, the review period for the
authorization that is granted should be determined on a case by case
basis, rather than in an arbitrary, across-the-board manner," says ACC
senior director Steve Russell.

Candidate List Concerns

In the meantime, there are several places companies can look to see if
their chemical is likely to end up on Reach's "candidate" list of
SVHCs. "What companies need to think about is if they have chemicals
that are identified in Germany or Canada as PBTs, and see what
scientific models are used for by those countries," Estreicher says.
"All the data on the Environment Canada Web site is based on
predictive values and may involve data that is not appropriate to
measure those properties," he says. "Companies, if doing business in
Europe, should think about building a scientific case that their
substance is not a PBT," he adds.

Predicting which substances may be subject to restrictions as
endocrine disrupters is much more difficult because there is no
established criteria, either in the U.S. or Europe, for identifying
them, Estreicher says. The EU does have a "working list," however, and
companies should "start thinking about good science to establish
materials showing the substances are not endocrine disrupters," he
says. Companies can also look at the data coming out of the EU's
technical working groups on this issue, and at Denmark's list of
undesirable chemicals for likely endocrine disrupters," he adds.

Another section of the legislation that is unclear is the catch-all
category "substances of like concern," he says. "It's not clear what
is going to fall into that category and companies need to watch it
closely." As in the other sections of Reach, the Council has proposed
a much more stringent definition than the Parliament and it "is an
important area of disagreement," he adds.

EU restrictions aside, consumer and customer trends indicate that
chemical suppliers are not likely to escape the increasing demand for
use of safer alternatives, environmental groups say. A recent report
by CPA [2.8 Mbyte PDF] cites the chemical use-reduction policies of
six major corporations, several of which have told their suppliers to
not use substances ranging from polyvinyl chloride (PVC) to
perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA). Furniture manufacturer Herman Miller
requires that suppliers provide information on a parts per billion
basis describing the toxicity of the product, and clothing retailer
H&M conducts random testing to enforce its policy that restricts
toxics in the products it buys, in effect "pushing the precautionary
principle up the supply chain," Rossi says.

The CPA also report details the toxics use reduction programs
initiated by textile manufacturer Interface Fabric; health care firm
Kaiser Permanente; Avalon Natural Products cosmetics; and computer
retailer Dell.

H&M has a protocol in place requiring its suppliers eliminate more
than thirty substances, including azo dyes and pigments, flame
retardants, short-chained chlorinated paraffins, PVC, phthalates, and
bisphenol A. Dell has stopped the use of PVC and brominated flame
retardants, and Kaiser Permanente has committed to PVC-free carpeting
and building materials, as well as PVC-free intravenous tubing and
plastic sheeting. Interface has a strict protocol for use of non-toxic
dyes in its fabrics, and Avalon Natural Products has committed to
eliminating certain substances, including parabens and phthalates, and
to avoid use of petroleum products. Herman Miller has a strict
chemicals use policy, and demands specific chemical content data from
all its suppliers.

"We and others in our industry realize we are at the beginning of a
long journey. As a relatively young industry we're learning quickly
how to meet both business and environmental goals and how to
effectively manage these issues with our supply chain," says Mark
Newton, senior consultant for environmental policy at Dell.

Rossi says that the companies profiled in the CPA report are the
leaders in a wide field of players in terms of environmental
responsibility. "Companies fall into five basic groups when it comes
to the diffusion of new, safer products or technologies: innovator;
lead adopter; early majority; late majority; and laggards," Rossi
says. Environmentalists say that chemical industry trade groups
usually take the lowest common-denominator approach to toxic use-
reduction policy. That approach serves not only to reflect the varied
positions of its members, but also makes it easier for the better
performing companies to position themselves as leaders in the field of
innovation and corporate responsibility, says Lee Ketelsen,
director/New England for environmental group Clean Water Action
(Boston).

State Level Activity. Adding to the pressure to adopt safer
alternatives are U.S. states and municipalities, some of which have
their own initiatives for restricting certain substances. "States are
the incubators of new ideas in the U.S.," Rossi says. "We are going to
see a lot more activity at the state level percolate up to companies,"
he says.

Massachusetts legislators are considering a bill that would require
companies to in some cases adopt alternatives to lead, formaldehyde,
trichloroethylene, perchloroethylene (perc), dioxins and furans,
hexavalent chromium, organophosphate pesticides, pentabromopdiphenyl
ether, di-(2-ethylhexyl)phthalate (DEHP), and 2,4-
dichlorophenoxyacetic acid. The state's 1989 Toxic Use Reduction Act
(Tura) required officials to set up the Toxic Use Reduction Institute
(Turi; Lowell, LA), a state-financed organization that helps companies
make sure they are in compliance with the state and other
environmental regulations, including the European restriction on
hazardous substances (RoHS) directive for electronics, and will be
doing the same for Reach's potential impacts, says Turi deputy
director Liz Harriman. "It's hard enough to keep producing in the U.S.
We wanted to make sure companies could service the global market for
safer materials," Harriman says. Massachusetts's Turi is the only
government organization in the U.S. that provides this level of
assistance to companies, she says.

Turi recently completed a report on the availability of alternatives
for certain uses of five chemicals: lead, formaldehyde; diethyl (2-
ethylhexyl) phthalate (DEHP); hexavalent chromium; and
perchloroethylene. The Turi report, which the Massachusetts
legislature commissioned to help lawmakers evaluate the expanded Tura
legislation, found that all five substances examined have viable
alternatives, or process changes, but the degree of applicability
varies depending on specific uses. For example, hexavalent chromium is
used in decorative chrome bumpers for automobiles and other vehicles,
but trivalent chromium is a safer alternative. "It still doesn't look
the same, which is a big problems for decorative chrome applications,"
she says. On the other hand, the U.S. government has done a lot of
work investigating process changes to eliminate the need for
hexavalent chromium in hard chrome, which is used by aerospace and
defense industries for jet engine parts and military applications.

The report looks at the safety of various alternatives, but does not
rank the safety of one alternative compared to another. However, some
of the alternatives did raise red flags as far as substituting one
danger with another, Harriman says. Some solvent-based vapor
degreasers that are used as an alternative to perc in dry cleaning,
has environmental and occupational safety "impacts," the report says.
The advisability of using cleaners made with n-propyl bromide is in
doubt because "it's a neurotoxin, and its carcinogenicity is under
study," the reports says. "Other concerns are that the solvents have
higher vapor pressures than perc, which "will lead to greater
evaporation and potential to escape from the degreaser; this will
increase the potential for worker exposure, and may cause greater
fugitive emissions than with perc," it says.

Plastics processors were heavily involved in contributing to the
report's section on DEHP alternatives, Harriman says. Many of those
companies point out that they no longer use DEHP in toys or children's
products. It is also hard to determine how much exposure occurs to
people in the U.S. from furniture, flooring or other PVC products
imported from abroad, she says. Many imports come from countries where
the manufacturers have not taken such steps, which raises a policy
quandary for federal regulators, she says. "Controlling what comes
into the country is a lot harder than having our manufacturers do the
right thing," she adds.

The Massachusetts experience shows how the absence of data can at
times work to forestall regulations. Had more data been available at
the time, proponents of the legislation likely would have considered
including pefluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and bisphenol A in the bill
pending in Massachusetts. In addition, Harriman says Turi did not
examine suspected endocrine disrupters because there are no federal
criteria for defining the term. "We would have had to make a
toxicological judgment call, which would be a big issue," she says.

Chemical companies often say more data is needed on certain products
before they can be regulated, but environmental groups often use new
studies to launch campaigns against a chemical. The availability of
toxicity data, the availability of alternatives, the severity of
suspected health effects, and the usefulness of the product all play a
part in determining whether a substance will be targeted by
environmental groups, Ketelsen says. For example, some may argue that
there is a social need for DDT, which is seen as essential to stem the
spread of disease in some countries. Other product uses, such as the
flashing light feature on children's tennis shoes which used mercury-
based switches, are obvious candidates. Pressure from environmental
groups caused most shoe manufacturers to switch to a safer switching
mechanism, she says.

Environmental groups say, however, that prioritizing campaigns for
alternative chemicals can be an arbitrary process, and that it is
sometimes driven by a "flavor of the month" mentality that causes
groups to focus on certain substances because they are in the news or
in vogue. There tends to be a lot of interest in chemicals with new
information, but "you have to remind yourself 'let's not forget about
formaldehyde and lead' in the meantime," Ketelsen says.

Copyright 2006. Access Intelligence.

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From: The Australian, Jul. 18, 2006
[Printer-friendly version]

CREATURE DISCOMFORTS

Wildlife protection laws are hampering development

By Greg Roberts

The Coxen's fig-parrot is so scarce it has never been photographed.
Yet purported sightings of the tiny green birds have been used to
frustrate developments, including the $200 million Paradise Dam near
Childers, southeast Queensland.

Now, opponents of a proposed dam at Traveston on the Mary River, near
Gympie, are claiming Coxen's fig-parrots live in the area to be
flooded. Protesters are quick to invoke the name of an endangered
species to pressure Canberra to intervene with the aim of stopping or
delaying a project they oppose.

A recent decision by federal Environment Minister Ian Campbell to
scrap a planned $220million wind farm at Bald Hills, Victoria, has
thrown the spotlight on the endangered species industry, so dubbed by
environmental consultants who are making a lucrative living out of
developers forced to comply with laws to protect rare wildlife.

Campbell acted because of his department's concerns that the wind farm
threatened another rare bird, the orange-bellied parrot. His
controversial decision -- the farm's proponents and the Bracks
Government claim the parrots do not occur at the site -- has sparked
debate among experts about laws to protect endangered species. Some
are questioning the quality of information in the federal database on
rare wildlife on which the laws are based.

Take the Coxen's fig-parrot. Almost $1 million of public money is
being spent on a recovery program to save it from extinction.
Thousands of fig trees are being planted to provide the fruit the
parrots fed on before their rainforest habitat was long ago bulldozed
for farmland in southeast Queensland and northeast NSW.

The problem with all the fuss and expense is the parrot is probably
extinct, notwithstanding a claim by Queensland Parks and Wildlife
Services officer Ian Gynther that he has documented more than 30 of
what he describes as "reliable" records.

"There are just too many sightings of the parrot by too many people
for them not to be seeing the right thing," Gynther says. "The
evidence is irrefutable."

Critics say there is no evidence to back any record; no photograph, no
specimen, no tape-recording of the bird's call. On no occasion since
the 1980s has a sighting been independently verified. Ornithological
consultant Glenn Holmes was commissioned to search for the parrots in
the '90s without success and believes they are extinct. "I think the
last of them died out in the '80s," Holmes says. "I think we've had a
lot of dodgy sightings, some of them politically motivated."

He believes that if a few parrots are hanging on, their extinction is
inevitable.

When a Coxen's fig-parrot was reported in the Paradise Dam catchment,
the dam's builder, Burnett Water, was forced to commission a study.
Federal endangered species laws are triggered if the Government's
wildlife database shows an animal living in an area proposed for
development. That usually happens when consultants hired by the
developer find such an animal, or when people protesting about a
development point to the presence of a listed animal.

The costs of federal involvement vary from $15,000 or $20,000 for a
study to tens of millions of dollars in delays and redrawn plans. In a
worst case scenario for developers, a project may be scuttled.

Zoologist Glen Ingram, head of Brisbane consultancy Biodiversity
Assessment and Management, is critical of the database. Ingram says it
is derived from computer modelling of climatic and other information
that can be inaccurate and irrelevant.

"It is mostly virtual, not real," Ingram says. "The data can be quite
wrong. Developers may have to go to a lot of unnecessary trouble and
expense."

A Brisbane property developer recently commissioned an expensive study
after the database showed the giant barred frog occurring in an area
planned for a housing estate. "The frogs do not live anywhere near the
area," Ingram says. "The nearest ones are in mountains far away. The
study was money down the drain."

Yet developers, who have no avenue of appeal against information in
the database, do not quibble.

"They've invested a good deal of money," Ingram says. "They're
petrified; a project delay could bankrupt them. They do whatever they
feel they have to."

Although he believes changes are needed, Ingram supports the general
thrust of the laws. "It would be much worse for the animals if they
weren't there," he says.

The federal Environment and Heritage Department says its database is
based on high quality scientific evidence. "This is a living
document," a departmental spokesman says. "We are constantly adding to
our body of information and have processes in place to actively review
our data, and to validate and update it when necessary to reflect the
best available information."

It is not difficult for developers to be caught in the endangered
species net. The known or potential occurrence of any one of 381
animals listed under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity
Conservation Act in a development area can trigger a "controlled
action" from Canberra, requiring measures to protect the animal. Many
more animals and plants are listed by state authorities, which have
their own regulations.

Two tiny frogs -- the wallum froglet and the wallum sedge frog -- have
collectively tripped up dozens of development plans in coastal
southern Queensland and northern NSW. Although listed as threatened,
both frogs are common in wallum wetlands in places including Fraser
Island and Cooloola in Queensland.

As the proponents of the $650 million Penola Pulp Mill in South
Australia have discovered, something does not even have to be a
species -- a taxonomic classification given to a plant or animal that
is sufficiently distinct from its relatives -- to trigger federal
intervention.

Penola Pulp was forced to purchase a 200ha [500-acre] property as
habitat for the "endangered" red-tailed black cockatoo after potential
nesting trees were found on the mill site. Yet the cockatoo is
numerous as a species in northern and inland Australia. It is only the
local variety, or subspecies, that is endangered; it occurs in South
Australia and western NSW.

Penola Pulp Mill project manager John Roche is unimpressed. "If this
is only a subspecies or isolated population or whatever, you have to
wonder what is so special about them," Roche says. "I was told there
were 1000 red-tailed black cockatoos left in the world, not 1000 of
some subspecies."

Cockatoo researcher Martine Maron says the subspecies of cockatoo in
question has been isolated from other populations for so long it is
distinctive. "This genetic variation following isolation is how new
species arise," Maron says. "It is evolution in action."

However, wildlife taxonomy has always been highly divisive among
scientists. For instance, Canberra's database lists several "species"
of albatross that many experts to do not recognise as distinct
species, or even as subspecies. This may be the humdrum and esoteric
exchange of academic views -- is this bird or frog a species, a
subspecies or none of the above? -- but it has become central to the
decision-making process surrounding developments in Australia.

Rosie Booth, who runs a breeding program for endangered species at
David Fleay Wildlife Park on the Gold Coast, argues that development
barriers are a small price to pay to protect endangered wildlife.
"Saving other species is critical to our own survival," Booth says.
"If we don't protect biodiversity, we threaten the survival of the
planet. It's as simple as that."

Real Estate Institute of Queensland chairman Peter McGrath believes
the pendulum has swung too far towards the wildlife. "Genuinely
endangered species have to be protected but extra costs are imposed on
developers which aren't necessary," McGrath says. He points to plans
for the $540 million Tugun Bypass on the Gold Coast that have been
frustrated by the wallum froglet and wallum sedge frog.

"Tens of millions of dollars have been added to costs and there's
still the threat of legal action over frogs by the road's opponents,"
he says.

Other developers are more relaxed. Villa World recently found out that
the golden sun moth stood in the way of its $400 million Eynesbury
residential development near Melbourne. "We were able to resolve
potential difficulties," Villa World chief executive Brent Hailey
says. "I would hate to be sitting here as the CEO of a public company
and finding out we were responsible for an endangered species
disappearing from an area."

The biggest concern of some developers is the so-called precautionary
principle: that a development should be modified or prevented if it
poses a risk. "It is the view of governments that you don't take any
risks if you don't have all the facts," says David Finney, Cairns
manager of consultancy Natural Solutions. "It's unreasonable. They've
gone overboard."

For instance, it is difficult for the aquaculture industry to prove
that pollution from proposed fish farms will be within prescribed
limits. "The rules are so strict that in the case of aquaculture, they
are killing the industry," Finney says.

The Howard Government insists its environmental laws are fair. A
spokesman for Environment Minister Campbell says that of 2000 projects
referred to Canberra in relation to rare wildlife, just four were
rejected since the legislation was introduced in 1999.

"Despite potential impacts, the vast majority of projects are able to
be appropriately amended through the assessment process to ensure that
unacceptable impacts are avoided," he says.

Queensland's Paradise Dam was completed notwithstanding the Coxen's
fig-parrot and other endangered species in its catchment, but not
before overcoming a series of delays and cost blow-outs.

Greg Roberts is a senior writer with The Australian.

Copyright The Australian

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From: The Sunday Times (Malta), Jul. 16, 2006
[Printer-friendly version]

ARCHAEOLOGICAL SOCIETY URGES PROTECTION OF SENSITIVE AREAS

By Fiona Galea Debono

The Archaeological Society of Malta, one of the NGOs in the Flimkien
ghal Ambjent Ahjar coalition, said yesterday that some
archaeologically sensitive areas would be subjected to unnecessary
urban pressure as a result of the government's rationalisation scheme.

Having viewed aerial photographs of the areas earmarked for inclusion
in the development zone rationalisation, submitted following the issue
of the draft local plans for public consultation, the society said
that many appeared to go far beyond the criteria outlined in the
Cabinet memo and should not be considered.

"The Gozo submissions in particular can only be described as a request
to ravage its fragile landscape," said its president Patricia
Camilleri. "No one with the good of Gozo at heart could possibly
imagine that such submissions could be accepted, whether they
interfere with archaeology or not."

An inventory of archaeology and archaeologically sensitive areas has
already been compiled by the Malta Environment and Planning Authority
for the purposes of the local plans and "in no way should these
guidelines be transgressed", the society insisted.

It felt that several areas needed proper and professional
investigation to ensure that the criteria outlined in the Cabinet memo
were being adhered to.

However, it said, it was not simply a question of sticking to the
criteria laid down by the Cabinet. "Retaining the integrity of Malta's
archaeology is not only a matter of making sure that cart ruts are not
built over, temple sites left untouched and buffer zones respected.
Much of Malta's archaeology still lies under the ground and often
stretches way beyond the visible, or recorded signs.

"The precautionary principle should be followed at all times to
safeguard the unknown part of Malta's cultural heritage resources as
required by the Cultural Heritage Act," the society said.

Also, in line with the European Convention on the Protection of the
Archaeological Heritage, physical manifestations of archaeology should
be kept integral within their particular landscape. If this is
encroached upon, the archaeology is, at the very least, disturbed and
often dismembered, the society said.

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From: Washington Post, Jul. 15, 2006
[Printer-friendly version]

SOME DRY CLEANERS TOLD TO PHASE OUT TOXIC SOLVENT

By Juliet Eilperin

The Environmental Protection Agency tightened public health standards
for dry cleaners yesterday, saying that cleaning shops in residential
buildings must stop using a toxic solvent in their machines by 2020.

Administration officials said the new restrictions on
perchloroethylene, or perc, a hazardous air pollutant, would reduce
Americans' exposure to a chemical linked to cancer and neurological
damage. But environmentalists said the rule did not go far enough,
since it will take years to phase out machines using the harmful
solvent.

About 28,000 dry cleaners across the country, many in major cities
such as New York and Washington, use perc in the wash cycle to clean
clothes. Of the total, 1,300 operate in residential buildings.

Several scientific studies have found a connection between dry
cleaning employees' exposure to perc and impaired neurological
function, along with a higher cancer risk. One study of two New York
couples living above a dry cleaner on the Upper West Side found
elevated levels of the chemical in their blood, urine and breast milk,
as well as vision impairment linked to exposure.

"This is an important step in our comprehensive strategy to expand and
enhance public health protections in the dry cleaning industry," said
William Wehrum, EPA's acting assistant administrator for air and
radiation. "The phaseout in residential buildings and improved
protections are good for public health and good for the environment."

Judith Schreiber, chief scientist for the New York attorney general's
Environmental Protection Bureau, said "there's good news and there's
bad news" in the EPA's decision. She welcomed the ban on any new perc
operations in residential buildings, but she questioned why the agency
was allowing cleaners 14 years to get rid of their old machines and
why they were allowing dry cleaners in buildings housing offices and
day-care centers to meet a less stringent standard.

"An entire generation of newborns, infants and nursing mothers will be
certain to be exposed to elevated perc levels in their homes,"
Schreiber said in an interview.

Frank O'Donnell, president of the advocacy group Clean Air Watch,
noted that agency officials say Americans living above dry cleaners
will still be exposed to the chemical for several years under the new
regulations. In a fact sheet accompanying the rule, officials wrote
that the rule would "gradually reduce risk from existing co-
residential dry cleaners. However, risks from these co-residential
facilities could remain significantly higher than EPA considers
acceptable in some buildings until the phase-out of perchloroethylene
machines is complete."

Agency officials wrote that the phaseout allows the government to
protect the public health "without causing unacceptable adverse
economic impact" on the industry.

Tong Luu, who runs Cleaner Express in Aspen, Colo., said he did not
object to the new rules but believes that the government may
eventually ban perc. Luu's machines capture all perc emissions before
they enter the atmosphere, he said, but he has not found a substitute
that cleans as well.

"It's not a bad thing, but sometimes you can't be asking for perfect,
100 percent" compliance, he said. Luu added he had to attend a one-day
class in Colorado Springs after state inspectors found he did not lock
the plastic container containing perc in back of his store.

The new rule also requires dry cleaners in nonresidential buildings to
use devices to detect leaks and to reduce emissions by conducting the
wash and dry cycles in the same machine. About 12 major dry cleaning
operations would also have to install machines to capture emissions.
New residential dry cleaners are not allowed to use perc, and existing
ones must phase out the chemical as their older machines wear out.

Dry cleaners have reduced perc emissions from 25,000 tons to 10,000
tons a year over the past decade by replacing older dry cleaning
machines and improving their machines' efficiency, the EPA said.

.
:::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::: Rachel's Precaution Reporter #47 "Foresight and Precaution, in the News and in the World" Wednesday, July 19, 2006.............Printer-friendly version www.rachel.org -- To make a secure donation, click here. ::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

Table of Contents...

N.Y. Requires Green Cleaning Products in All Schools
In early 2005, New York Governor George Pataki signed Executive
Order #134 requiring state agencies to use "green" cleaning
products. In August 2005 this was extended by legislation to include
all schools in New York, public and private.
Precaution Training Set for Minneapolis Sept. 8-10
A precautionary principle training has been scheduled for the
Minneapolis area September 8-10, 2006. A few scholarchips may still
available. Total enrollment is limited to 15. First come, first
served.
REACH Proposal Adds Pressure for Adoption of Safer Alternatives
The European Union's REACH proposal is increasing the pressure on
corporations to evaluate alternatives to toxic chemicals. Two new
reports, from Clean Production Action and from the Toxics Use
Reduction Institute (TURI at U. Mass, Lowell) demonstrate that
alternatives assessment of toxicants is feasible and is already being
used by some corporations today.
Australian Developers Chafe at Precaution for Endangered Species
In Australia, the precautionary principle is being used to protect
endangered species, but land developers complain bitterly that they
are being inconvenienced.
Archaeogical Society of Malta Urges Precautionary Policy
"The precautionary principle should be followed at all times to
safeguard the unknown part of Malta's cultural heritage resources as
required by the Cultural Heritage Act," the society said.
Some Dry Cleaners Told to Phase Out Toxic Solvent
U.S. EPA has taken a bold step to prevent residential exposures to
the hazardous dry cleaning fluid, perc. People living in a building
that also contains a dry cleaning shop will only have to inhale perc
for 14 more years, assuming the dry cleaning industry allows EPA to
adopt and enforce its new regulation.
Health Forum: Organic Lawns Decrease Risk of Breast Cancer
"The whole idea is the precautionary principle," says Ms. Fiteni.
"If you don't need to use these pesticides, why are we doing so when
there are these more natural alternatives that you can use?"

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From: Rachel's Precaution Reporter #47, Jul. 19, 2006
[Printer-friendly version]

N.Y. REQUIRES GREEN CLEANING PRODUCTS IN ALL SCHOOLS

New York state will soon adopt regulations to limit exposure of
students and staff to toxic cleaning and maintenance products in all
New York schools, public and private. The change has resulted from
relentless pressure by the Healthy Schools Network, Inc.

It began when Governor George Pataki issued Executive Order #134 in
January 2005. The state legislature carried the idea further, passing
Education Law Section 9, Article 409 in June 2006, directing state
agencies to adopt regulations intended to protect students and staff
from toxic cleaning products.

State agencies are now writing regulations defining what the new law
means. Because of the bizarre rule-making system we have developed in
the U.S., citizens seeking health-protective regulations are now
opposed by corporations who are working overtime to increase the
allowable exposures of students and staff to toxicants. As always, the
resulting regulations will most likely not be truly health-protective
but will be a compromise between the health of children and staff of
New York schools and the "right" of the corporations to turn a buck.

The draft regulations that were issued for public comment this spring
(the comment period closed in early May) proposed that the state would
adopt Green Seal standards for several lines of products, including
general purpose cleaners, paper towels, toilet paper, etc. In other
words, no chlorine. Citizens asked for more, including the elimination
of hormone-disrupting chemicals and fragrances.

A free Guide to Healthier Cleaning and Maintenance: Products and
Practices for Schools is available here.

Contact:

Claire L. Barnett, MBA, Executive Director
Healthy Schools Network, Inc.
and
Coordinator, Coalition for Healthier Schools

www.healthyschools.org

202-543-7555, 518-462-0632

Mail:
773 Madison Avenue
Albany, NY 12208
or
110 Maryland Ave, NE, Ste 505
Washington, DC 20002

Visit www.healthyschools.org, subscribe to NewsSlice, use Guides-
factsheets.

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From: Rachel's Precaution Reporter #47, Jul. 19, 2006
[Printer-friendly version]

PRECAUTION TRAINING SET FOR MINNEAPOLIS SEPT. 8-10

What: Minnesota Precaution Academy at the Women's Environmental
Institute at Amador Hill, North Branch, MN (about an hour north of the
Twin Cities)

When: September 8-10, 2006

Contact: Sherri Seidmon (sherri@sehn.org)

The Science and Environmental Health Network (www.sehn.org) and
Environmental Research Foundation (www.rachel.org and
www.precaution.org) have created The Precaution Academy to offer an
intensive weekend of training to prepare participants to apply
precautionary thinking to a wide range of issues in their communities
and workplaces.

The Academy is intended to serve the needs of community activists,
government officials, public health specialists, small business
owners, journalists, educators, and the engaged public.

Presenters and discussion leaders include Carolyn Raffensperger,
executive director of the Science and Environmental Health Network
(SEHN); Ted Schettler, SEHN's science director; and Peter Montague,
director of Environmental Research Foundation and an editor of
Rachel's Precaution Reporter and of Rachel's Democracy & Health News.

The cost of the Precaution Academy is $350, which includes hotel,
meals, and instructional materials, including SEHN's new book on the
precautionary principle.

Limited scholarships may be available; please inquire with Sherri
Seidmon (sherri@sehn.org).

Participation is limited to 15 people. Please check with Sherri
Seidmon (sherri@sehn.org) to learn whether space is available. Send
your check to Science and Environmental Health Network, P.O. Box
50733, Eugene, OR 97405

======================================================

At least two weeks prior to the date of the Academy, participants will
receive a copy of the new book, Precautionary Tools for Reshaping
Environmental Policy (MIT Press, 2006; ISBN 0-262-63323-X),
supplemented by a short workbook of articles. Academy participants are
urged to read selected portions of these materials before the session
begins on Friday evening.

The purpose of the Precaution Academy is:

** to prepare participants to apply precautionary thinking and action
to problems in their home communities and workplaces;

** to familiarize participants with the history of the regulatory
system, quantitative risk assessment, and the development of
precautionary thinking. What is different about the world today that
makes a precautionary approach necessary and appropriate?

** to clarify the different kinds of uncertainty involved in
contemporary problems and the role of precaution in addressing
uncertainty;

** to prepare participants to respond to criticisms of the
precautionary approach;

** to help participants recast and rethink familiar problems and
issues within a precautionary framework, and to explore how a
prevention philosophy differs from a problem-management philosophy;

** to familiarize participants with some of the many ways that
precaution is being applied in the U.S., Canada and abroad so that you
can considering trying these approaches at home.

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From: Chemical Week, Jul. 11, 2006
[Printer-friendly version]

PRODUCT REPLACEMENT

By Kara Sissell

[We have added links within the text. --RPR Editors]

The European Union's upcoming Registration, Evaluation, and
Authorisation of Chemicals (Reach) law will require companies to
examine the availability of alternatives to chemicals classified by
the EU as persistent, bioaccumulative, endocrine disrupters, or
"substances of like concern." The availability of alternatives will
therefore dictate how long an existing chemical can be sold or used,
at least in the EU market, attorneys say. And, while it is not clear
which substances will fall into those categories, it is certain is
that Reach is the beginning of the end for at least a handful of
substances, they say.

Reach, if it functions as intended, will spur the phaseout of more
toxic substances and the development of safer alternatives, experts
say. But environmentalists acknowledge that many companies are not
likely to let their products be restricted by Reach without first
"defending, appealing, and delaying" any regulatory rulings to
restrict their products. "There's going to be a big fight to keep
chemicals off the list, and what gets on will depend on the strength
of the regulatory agency involved and the support in the corresponding
political structure," says at environmental group Clean Production
Action (CPA; Medford, MA) Mark Rossi, research director.

Law firms say there are some chemicals that will not be able avoid
restrictions, but that many others could be protected by producers
building the best possible scientific case for keeping a substance on
the market. Companies should also lobby their politicians for a
favorable version of the legislation, and take a careful look at Reach
and their products to decide how their portfolios will fair, says Herb
Estreicher, an attorney at law firm Keller and Heckman (Washington).
Companies counting on aggressive industry lobbying or political
opposition to make Reach simply go away are going to be disappointed,
Estreicher says. "This is not like several years ago when you had Tony
Blair and other politicians being very vocal regarding their concerns
about Reach," he says. "There's no groundswell of opposition in Europe
this time as far as we can tell."

Some of the elements of Reach are not yet clear, however. The
Parliament and Council will have to resolve their differences by
December 31, and there are some key areas of disagreement, Estreicher
says. "The Council would authorize the use of substances of very high
concern (SVHCs) as long as they are adequately controlled, except for
persistent, bioaccumulative toxins (PBTs) or very persistent, very
bioacummulative toxins (vPvBs), where one would need to show that
socio- economic benefits outweigh any residual risk and there are no
suitable alternatives," Estreicher says. Parliament would not grant
authorization if suitable alternatives exist for any SVHC, not limited
to PBTs or vPvBs, even if the risk is adequately controlled and the
socio-economic benefits outweigh the residual risk, he says. "The
intent of the Reach law is that substitutes will only be required if
they are well understood and that any exposure is carefully managed,"
he adds.

Chemical manufacturers say that the final Reach law should allow
companies to continue to use a chemical for which the socio-economic
benefits outweigh the risks as long as measures are put in place to
prevent exposure, rather than having companies go through the process
of proving that no alternatives are available. Companies also say they
are concerned about the proposed five-year permit review process for
reevaluating chemicals that have been granted authorization. Once
equipment or other measures are put in place to control exposure, they
should be allowed to continue to use those chemicals as long as
exposure is prevented, ACC says. "Where a manufacturer has shown that
the socioeconomic benefits outweigh risk, the review period for the
authorization that is granted should be determined on a case by case
basis, rather than in an arbitrary, across-the-board manner," says ACC
senior director Steve Russell.

Candidate List Concerns

In the meantime, there are several places companies can look to see if
their chemical is likely to end up on Reach's "candidate" list of
SVHCs. "What companies need to think about is if they have chemicals
that are identified in Germany or Canada as PBTs, and see what
scientific models are used for by those countries," Estreicher says.
"All the data on the Environment Canada Web site is based on
predictive values and may involve data that is not appropriate to
measure those properties," he says. "Companies, if doing business in
Europe, should think about building a scientific case that their
substance is not a PBT," he adds.

Predicting which substances may be subject to restrictions as
endocrine disrupters is much more difficult because there is no
established criteria, either in the U.S. or Europe, for identifying
them, Estreicher says. The EU does have a "working list," however, and
companies should "start thinking about good science to establish
materials showing the substances are not endocrine disrupters," he
says. Companies can also look at the data coming out of the EU's
technical working groups on this issue, and at Denmark's list of
undesirable chemicals for likely endocrine disrupters," he adds.

Another section of the legislation that is unclear is the catch-all
category "substances of like concern," he says. "It's not clear what
is going to fall into that category and companies need to watch it
closely." As in the other sections of Reach, the Council has proposed
a much more stringent definition than the Parliament and it "is an
important area of disagreement," he adds.

EU restrictions aside, consumer and customer trends indicate that
chemical suppliers are not likely to escape the increasing demand for
use of safer alternatives, environmental groups say. A recent report
by CPA [2.8 Mbyte PDF] cites the chemical use-reduction policies of
six major corporations, several of which have told their suppliers to
not use substances ranging from polyvinyl chloride (PVC) to
perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA). Furniture manufacturer Herman Miller
requires that suppliers provide information on a parts per billion
basis describing the toxicity of the product, and clothing retailer
H&M conducts random testing to enforce its policy that restricts
toxics in the products it buys, in effect "pushing the precautionary
principle up the supply chain," Rossi says.

The CPA also report details the toxics use reduction programs
initiated by textile manufacturer Interface Fabric; health care firm
Kaiser Permanente; Avalon Natural Products cosmetics; and computer
retailer Dell.

H&M has a protocol in place requiring its suppliers eliminate more
than thirty substances, including azo dyes and pigments, flame
retardants, short-chained chlorinated paraffins, PVC, phthalates, and
bisphenol A. Dell has stopped the use of PVC and brominated flame
retardants, and Kaiser Permanente has committed to PVC-free carpeting
and building materials, as well as PVC-free intravenous tubing and
plastic sheeting. Interface has a strict protocol for use of non-toxic
dyes in its fabrics, and Avalon Natural Products has committed to
eliminating certain substances, including parabens and phthalates, and
to avoid use of petroleum products. Herman Miller has a strict
chemicals use policy, and demands specific chemical content data from
all its suppliers.

"We and others in our industry realize we are at the beginning of a
long journey. As a relatively young industry we're learning quickly
how to meet both business and environmental goals and how to
effectively manage these issues with our supply chain," says Mark
Newton, senior consultant for environmental policy at Dell.

Rossi says that the companies profiled in the CPA report are the
leaders in a wide field of players in terms of environmental
responsibility. "Companies fall into five basic groups when it comes
to the diffusion of new, safer products or technologies: innovator;
lead adopter; early majority; late majority; and laggards," Rossi
says. Environmentalists say that chemical industry trade groups
usually take the lowest common-denominator approach to toxic use-
reduction policy. That approach serves not only to reflect the varied
positions of its members, but also makes it easier for the better
performing companies to position themselves as leaders in the field of
innovation and corporate responsibility, says Lee Ketelsen,
director/New England for environmental group Clean Water Action
(Boston).

State Level Activity. Adding to the pressure to adopt safer
alternatives are U.S. states and municipalities, some of which have
their own initiatives for restricting certain substances. "States are
the incubators of new ideas in the U.S.," Rossi says. "We are going to
see a lot more activity at the state level percolate up to companies,"
he says.

Massachusetts legislators are considering a bill that would require
companies to in some cases adopt alternatives to lead, formaldehyde,
trichloroethylene, perchloroethylene (perc), dioxins and furans,
hexavalent chromium, organophosphate pesticides, pentabromopdiphenyl
ether, di-(2-ethylhexyl)phthalate (DEHP), and 2,4-
dichlorophenoxyacetic acid. The state's 1989 Toxic Use Reduction Act
(Tura) required officials to set up the Toxic Use Reduction Institute
(Turi; Lowell, LA), a state-financed organization that helps companies
make sure they are in compliance with the state and other
environmental regulations, including the European restriction on
hazardous substances (RoHS) directive for electronics, and will be
doing the same for Reach's potential impacts, says Turi deputy
director Liz Harriman. "It's hard enough to keep producing in the U.S.
We wanted to make sure companies could service the global market for
safer materials," Harriman says. Massachusetts's Turi is the only
government organization in the U.S. that provides this level of
assistance to companies, she says.

Turi recently completed a report on the availability of alternatives
for certain uses of five chemicals: lead, formaldehyde; diethyl (2-
ethylhexyl) phthalate (DEHP); hexavalent chromium; and
perchloroethylene. The Turi report, which the Massachusetts
legislature commissioned to help lawmakers evaluate the expanded Tura
legislation, found that all five substances examined have viable
alternatives, or process changes, but the degree of applicability
varies depending on specific uses. For example, hexavalent chromium is
used in decorative chrome bumpers for automobiles and other vehicles,
but trivalent chromium is a safer alternative. "It still doesn't look
the same, which is a big problems for decorative chrome applications,"
she says. On the other hand, the U.S. government has done a lot of
work investigating process changes to eliminate the need for
hexavalent chromium in hard chrome, which is used by aerospace and
defense industries for jet engine parts and military applications.

The report looks at the safety of various alternatives, but does not
rank the safety of one alternative compared to another. However, some
of the alternatives did raise red flags as far as substituting one
danger with another, Harriman says. Some solvent-based vapor
degreasers that are used as an alternative to perc in dry cleaning,
has environmental and occupational safety "impacts," the report says.
The advisability of using cleaners made with n-propyl bromide is in
doubt because "it's a neurotoxin, and its carcinogenicity is under
study," the reports says. "Other concerns are that the solvents have
higher vapor pressures than perc, which "will lead to greater
evaporation and potential to escape from the degreaser; this will
increase the potential for worker exposure, and may cause greater
fugitive emissions than with perc," it says.

Plastics processors were heavily involved in contributing to the
report's section on DEHP alternatives, Harriman says. Many of those
companies point out that they no longer use DEHP in toys or children's
products. It is also hard to determine how much exposure occurs to
people in the U.S. from furniture, flooring or other PVC products
imported from abroad, she says. Many imports come from countries where
the manufacturers have not taken such steps, which raises a policy
quandary for federal regulators, she says. "Controlling what comes
into the country is a lot harder than having our manufacturers do the
right thing," she adds.

The Massachusetts experience shows how the absence of data can at
times work to forestall regulations. Had more data been available at
the time, proponents of the legislation likely would have considered
including pefluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and bisphenol A in the bill
pending in Massachusetts. In addition, Harriman says Turi did not
examine suspected endocrine disrupters because there are no federal
criteria for defining the term. "We would have had to make a
toxicological judgment call, which would be a big issue," she says.

Chemical companies often say more data is needed on certain products
before they can be regulated, but environmental groups often use new
studies to launch campaigns against a chemical. The availability of
toxicity data, the availability of alternatives, the severity of
suspected health effects, and the usefulness of the product all play a
part in determining whether a substance will be targeted by
environmental groups, Ketelsen says. For example, some may argue that
there is a social need for DDT, which is seen as essential to stem the
spread of disease in some countries. Other product uses, such as the
flashing light feature on children's tennis shoes which used mercury-
based switches, are obvious candidates. Pressure from environmental
groups caused most shoe manufacturers to switch to a safer switching
mechanism, she says.

Environmental groups say, however, that prioritizing campaigns for
alternative chemicals can be an arbitrary process, and that it is
sometimes driven by a "flavor of the month" mentality that causes
groups to focus on certain substances because they are in the news or
in vogue. There tends to be a lot of interest in chemicals with new
information, but "you have to remind yourself 'let's not forget about
formaldehyde and lead' in the meantime," Ketelsen says.

Copyright 2006. Access Intelligence.

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From: The Australian, Jul. 18, 2006
[Printer-friendly version]

CREATURE DISCOMFORTS

Wildlife protection laws are hampering development

By Greg Roberts

The Coxen's fig-parrot is so scarce it has never been photographed.
Yet purported sightings of the tiny green birds have been used to
frustrate developments, including the $200 million Paradise Dam near
Childers, southeast Queensland.

Now, opponents of a proposed dam at Traveston on the Mary River, near
Gympie, are claiming Coxen's fig-parrots live in the area to be
flooded. Protesters are quick to invoke the name of an endangered
species to pressure Canberra to intervene with the aim of stopping or
delaying a project they oppose.

A recent decision by federal Environment Minister Ian Campbell to
scrap a planned $220million wind farm at Bald Hills, Victoria, has
thrown the spotlight on the endangered species industry, so dubbed by
environmental consultants who are making a lucrative living out of
developers forced to comply with laws to protect rare wildlife.

Campbell acted because of his department's concerns that the wind farm
threatened another rare bird, the orange-bellied parrot. His
controversial decision -- the farm's proponents and the Bracks
Government claim the parrots do not occur at the site -- has sparked
debate among experts about laws to protect endangered species. Some
are questioning the quality of information in the federal database on
rare wildlife on which the laws are based.

Take the Coxen's fig-parrot. Almost $1 million of public money is
being spent on a recovery program to save it from extinction.
Thousands of fig trees are being planted to provide the fruit the
parrots fed on before their rainforest habitat was long ago bulldozed
for farmland in southeast Queensland and northeast NSW.

The problem with all the fuss and expense is the parrot is probably
extinct, notwithstanding a claim by Queensland Parks and Wildlife
Services officer Ian Gynther that he has documented more than 30 of
what he describes as "reliable" records.

"There are just too many sightings of the parrot by too many people
for them not to be seeing the right thing," Gynther says. "The
evidence is irrefutable."

Critics say there is no evidence to back any record; no photograph, no
specimen, no tape-recording of the bird's call. On no occasion since
the 1980s has a sighting been independently verified. Ornithological
consultant Glenn Holmes was commissioned to search for the parrots in
the '90s without success and believes they are extinct. "I think the
last of them died out in the '80s," Holmes says. "I think we've had a
lot of dodgy sightings, some of them politically motivated."

He believes that if a few parrots are hanging on, their extinction is
inevitable.

When a Coxen's fig-parrot was reported in the Paradise Dam catchment,
the dam's builder, Burnett Water, was forced to commission a study.
Federal endangered species laws are triggered if the Government's
wildlife database shows an animal living in an area proposed for
development. That usually happens when consultants hired by the
developer find such an animal, or when people protesting about a
development point to the presence of a listed animal.

The costs of federal involvement vary from $15,000 or $20,000 for a
study to tens of millions of dollars in delays and redrawn plans. In a
worst case scenario for developers, a project may be scuttled.

Zoologist Glen Ingram, head of Brisbane consultancy Biodiversity
Assessment and Management, is critical of the database. Ingram says it
is derived from computer modelling of climatic and other information
that can be inaccurate and irrelevant.

"It is mostly virtual, not real," Ingram says. "The data can be quite
wrong. Developers may have to go to a lot of unnecessary trouble and
expense."

A Brisbane property developer recently commissioned an expensive study
after the database showed the giant barred frog occurring in an area
planned for a housing estate. "The frogs do not live anywhere near the
area," Ingram says. "The nearest ones are in mountains far away. The
study was money down the drain."

Yet developers, who have no avenue of appeal against information in
the database, do not quibble.

"They've invested a good deal of money," Ingram says. "They're
petrified; a project delay could bankrupt them. They do whatever they
feel they have to."

Although he believes changes are needed, Ingram supports the general
thrust of the laws. "It would be much worse for the animals if they
weren't there," he says.

The federal Environment and Heritage Department says its database is
based on high quality scientific evidence. "This is a living
document," a departmental spokesman says. "We are constantly adding to
our body of information and have processes in place to actively review
our data, and to validate and update it when necessary to reflect the
best available information."

It is not difficult for developers to be caught in the endangered
species net. The known or potential occurrence of any one of 381
animals listed under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity
Conservation Act in a development area can trigger a "controlled
action" from Canberra, requiring measures to protect the animal. Many
more animals and plants are listed by state authorities, which have
their own regulations.

Two tiny frogs -- the wallum froglet and the wallum sedge frog -- have
collectively tripped up dozens of development plans in coastal
southern Queensland and northern NSW. Although listed as threatened,
both frogs are common in wallum wetlands in places including Fraser
Island and Cooloola in Queensland.

As the proponents of the $650 million Penola Pulp Mill in South
Australia have discovered, something does not even have to be a
species -- a taxonomic classification given to a plant or animal that
is sufficiently distinct from its relatives -- to trigger federal
intervention.

Penola Pulp was forced to purchase a 200ha [500-acre] property as
habitat for the "endangered" red-tailed black cockatoo after potential
nesting trees were found on the mill site. Yet the cockatoo is
numerous as a species in northern and inland Australia. It is only the
local variety, or subspecies, that is endangered; it occurs in South
Australia and western NSW.

Penola Pulp Mill project manager John Roche is unimpressed. "If this
is only a subspecies or isolated population or whatever, you have to
wonder what is so special about them," Roche says. "I was told there
were 1000 red-tailed black cockatoos left in the world, not 1000 of
some subspecies."

Cockatoo researcher Martine Maron says the subspecies of cockatoo in
question has been isolated from other populations for so long it is
distinctive. "This genetic variation following isolation is how new
species arise," Maron says. "It is evolution in action."

However, wildlife taxonomy has always been highly divisive among
scientists. For instance, Canberra's database lists several "species"
of albatross that many experts to do not recognise as distinct
species, or even as subspecies. This may be the humdrum and esoteric
exchange of academic views -- is this bird or frog a species, a
subspecies or none of the above? -- but it has become central to the
decision-making process surrounding developments in Australia.

Rosie Booth, who runs a breeding program for endangered species at
David Fleay Wildlife Park on the Gold Coast, argues that development
barriers are a small price to pay to protect endangered wildlife.
"Saving other species is critical to our own survival," Booth says.
"If we don't protect biodiversity, we threaten the survival of the
planet. It's as simple as that."

Real Estate Institute of Queensland chairman Peter McGrath believes
the pendulum has swung too far towards the wildlife. "Genuinely
endangered species have to be protected but extra costs are imposed on
developers which aren't necessary," McGrath says. He points to plans
for the $540 million Tugun Bypass on the Gold Coast that have been
frustrated by the wallum froglet and wallum sedge frog.

"Tens of millions of dollars have been added to costs and there's
still the threat of legal action over frogs by the road's opponents,"
he says.

Other developers are more relaxed. Villa World recently found out that
the golden sun moth stood in the way of its $400 million Eynesbury
residential development near Melbourne. "We were able to resolve
potential difficulties," Villa World chief executive Brent Hailey
says. "I would hate to be sitting here as the CEO of a public company
and finding out we were responsible for an endangered species
disappearing from an area."

The biggest concern of some developers is the so-called precautionary
principle: that a development should be modified or prevented if it
poses a risk. "It is the view of governments that you don't take any
risks if you don't have all the facts," says David Finney, Cairns
manager of consultancy Natural Solutions. "It's unreasonable. They've
gone overboard."

For instance, it is difficult for the aquaculture industry to prove
that pollution from proposed fish farms will be within prescribed
limits. "The rules are so strict that in the case of aquaculture, they
are killing the industry," Finney says.

The Howard Government insists its environmental laws are fair. A
spokesman for Environment Minister Campbell says that of 2000 projects
referred to Canberra in relation to rare wildlife, just four were
rejected since the legislation was introduced in 1999.

"Despite potential impacts, the vast majority of projects are able to
be appropriately amended through the assessment process to ensure that
unacceptable impacts are avoided," he says.

Queensland's Paradise Dam was completed notwithstanding the Coxen's
fig-parrot and other endangered species in its catchment, but not
before overcoming a series of delays and cost blow-outs.

Greg Roberts is a senior writer with The Australian.

Copyright The Australian

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From: The Sunday Times (Malta), Jul. 16, 2006
[Printer-friendly version]

ARCHAEOLOGICAL SOCIETY URGES PROTECTION OF SENSITIVE AREAS

By Fiona Galea Debono

The Archaeological Society of Malta, one of the NGOs in the Flimkien
ghal Ambjent Ahjar coalition, said yesterday that some
archaeologically sensitive areas would be subjected to unnecessary
urban pressure as a result of the government's rationalisation scheme.

Having viewed aerial photographs of the areas earmarked for inclusion
in the development zone rationalisation, submitted following the issue
of the draft local plans for public consultation, the society said
that many appeared to go far beyond the criteria outlined in the
Cabinet memo and should not be considered.

"The Gozo submissions in particular can only be described as a request
to ravage its fragile landscape," said its president Patricia
Camilleri. "No one with the good of Gozo at heart could possibly
imagine that such submissions could be accepted, whether they
interfere with archaeology or not."

An inventory of archaeology and archaeologically sensitive areas has
already been compiled by the Malta Environment and Planning Authority
for the purposes of the local plans and "in no way should these
guidelines be transgressed", the society insisted.

It felt that several areas needed proper and professional
investigation to ensure that the criteria outlined in the Cabinet memo
were being adhered to.

However, it said, it was not simply a question of sticking to the
criteria laid down by the Cabinet. "Retaining the integrity of Malta's
archaeology is not only a matter of making sure that cart ruts are not
built over, temple sites left untouched and buffer zones respected.
Much of Malta's archaeology still lies under the ground and often
stretches way beyond the visible, or recorded signs.

"The precautionary principle should be followed at all times to
safeguard the unknown part of Malta's cultural heritage resources as
required by the Cultural Heritage Act," the society said.

Also, in line with the European Convention on the Protection of the
Archaeological Heritage, physical manifestations of archaeology should
be kept integral within their particular landscape. If this is
encroached upon, the archaeology is, at the very least, disturbed and
often dismembered, the society said.

Print article Back to article

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From: Washington Post, Jul. 15, 2006
[Printer-friendly version]

SOME DRY CLEANERS TOLD TO PHASE OUT TOXIC SOLVENT

By Juliet Eilperin

The Environmental Protection Agency tightened public health standards
for dry cleaners yesterday, saying that cleaning shops in residential
buildings must stop using a toxic solvent in their machines by 2020.

Administration officials said the new restrictions on
perchloroethylene, or perc, a hazardous air pollutant, would reduce
Americans' exposure to a chemical linked to cancer and neurological
damage. But environmentalists said the rule did not go far enough,
since it will take years to phase out machines using the harmful
solvent.

About 28,000 dry cleaners across the country, many in major cities
such as New York and Washington, use perc in the wash cycle to clean
clothes. Of the total, 1,300 operate in residential buildings.

Several scientific studies have found a connection between dry
cleaning employees' exposure to perc and impaired neurological
function, along with a higher cancer risk. One study of two New York
couples living above a dry cleaner on the Upper West Side found
elevated levels of the chemical in their blood, urine and breast milk,
as well as vision impairment linked to exposure.

"This is an important step in our comprehensive strategy to expand and
enhance public health protections in the dry cleaning industry," said
William Wehrum, EPA's acting assistant administrator for air and
radiation. "The phaseout in residential buildings and improved
protections are good for public health and good for the environment."

Judith Schreiber, chief scientist for the New York attorney general's
Environmental Protection Bureau, said "there's good news and there's
bad news" in the EPA's decision. She welcomed the ban on any new perc
operations in residential buildings, but she questioned why the agency
was allowing cleaners 14 years to get rid of their old machines and
why they were allowing dry cleaners in buildings housing offices and
day-care centers to meet a less stringent standard.

"An entire generation of newborns, infants and nursing mothers will be
certain to be exposed to elevated perc levels in their homes,"
Schreiber said in an interview.

Frank O'Donnell, president of the advocacy group Clean Air Watch,
noted that agency officials say Americans living above dry cleaners
will still be exposed to the chemical for several years under the new
regulations. In a fact sheet accompanying the rule, officials wrote
that the rule would "gradually reduce risk from existing co-
residential dry cleaners. However, risks from these co-residential
facilities could remain significantly higher than EPA considers
acceptable in some buildings until the phase-out of perchloroethylene
machines is complete."

Agency officials wrote that the phaseout allows the government to
protect the public health "without causing unacceptable adverse
economic impact" on the industry.

Tong Luu, who runs Cleaner Express in Aspen, Colo., said he did not
object to the new rules but believes that the government may
eventually ban perc. Luu's machines capture all perc emissions before
they enter the atmosphere, he said, but he has not found a substitute
that cleans as well.

"It's not a bad thing, but sometimes you can't be asking for perfect,
100 percent" compliance, he said. Luu added he had to attend a one-day
class in Colorado Springs after state inspectors found he did not lock
the plastic container containing perc in back of his store.

The new rule also requires dry cleaners in nonresidential buildings to
use devices to detect leaks and to reduce emissions by conducting the
wash and dry cycles in the same machine. About 12 major dry cleaning
operations would also have to install machines to capture emissions.
New residential dry cleaners are not allowed to use perc, and existing
ones must phase out the chemical as their older machines wear out.

Dry cleaners have reduced perc emissions from 25,000 tons to 10,000
tons a year over the past decade by replacing older dry cleaning
machines and improving their machines' efficiency, the EPA said.