Rachel's Precaution Reporter #47
Wednesday, July 19, 2006

From: Rachel's Precaution Reporter #47 ...................[This story printer-friendly]
July 19, 2006


[Rachel's introduction: 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.]

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.


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


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.


From: Rachel's Precaution Reporter #47 ...................[This story printer-friendly]
July 19, 2006


[Rachel's introduction: 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.]

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.


From: Chemical Week ......................................[This story printer-friendly]
July 11, 2006


[Rachel's introduction: 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.]

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.


From: The Australian .....................................[This story printer-friendly]
July 18, 2006


Wildlife protection laws are hampering development

[Rachel's introduction: In Australia, the precautionary principle is being used to protect endangered species, but land developers complain bitterly that they are being inconvenienced.]

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


From: The Sunday Times (Malta) ...........................[This story printer-friendly]
July 16, 2006


[Rachel's introduction: "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.]

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 ....................................[This story printer-friendly]
July 15, 2006


[Rachel's introduction: 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.]

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.

ÂCopyright 2006 The Washington Post Company


From: The Northender (Oyster Bay, N.Y.) ..................[This story printer-friendly]
July 14, 2006


[Rachel's introduction: "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?"]

A group of health advocates gathered with Huntington [N.Y.] Town Councilwoman Glenda A. Jackson this week to mark "Prevention is the Cure" week, a week devoted to highlighting ways in which women can protect themselves against breast cancer.

Councilwoman Jackson sponsored the forum with the Neighborhood Network (an environmental group dedicated to protecting and enhancing Long Island's natural resources), the Huntington Breast Cancer Action Coalition (HBCAC), and the Town's Women's Advisory Council. The focus was to highlight ways in which pesticides, which many scientists believe can cause can cancer, can be avoided. A power point presentation was conducted to illustrate a program called "4 Steps to a Toxic-Free Organic Lawn".

"Essentially, we're saying that we know that these things can cause cancer in animal tests. As environmentalists, we're operating on the assumption that if it can cause cancer in them, it can cause cancer in us, so why are we putting them on our lawns to kill a weed?" says Beth Fiteni, Program Director of Neighborhood Network.

A description of the four steps to an organic lawn can be found on the Neighborhood Network's website. The steps consist of smart lawn maintenance, promoting soil life, adding "soil amendments", and pest control.

Maintenance practices can include avoiding over-watering and mowing lawns higher to deprive weed seeds of sunlight and to increase photosynthesis. The remaining three principles include eliminating toxins from the lawn-tending process and instead utilizing compost and organic fertilizers, lawn enhancers and pest control. Neighborhood Network's website contains a directory of landscapers throughout the Island who use organic methods.

"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? It's just a matter of educating people."

"Like many of us here this afternoon, I have been touched by Breast Cancer in my family," Councilwoman Jackson was quoted as saying in a press release about the event. "Long Island women in particular have a much higher risk of developing breast cancer than in most other parts of the country. It is vitally important during Prevention Is the Cure Week to recognize ways in which women can protect themselves from this devastating disease."

"It has been a pleasure for the Division of Women's Services to work with Councilwoman Jackson, Neighborhood Network and HBCAC in a united effort to keep our community pesticide free," Rhonda Shephardson, Director of Women's Services for the Town, said in the press release.

Ms. Shephardson also said that more research needs to be devoted to potential links between pesticides and breast cancer.

Copyright 2006 Northender.com


Rachel's Precaution Reporter offers news, views and practical examples of the Precautionary Principle, or Foresight Principle, in action. The Precautionary Principle is a modern way of making decisions, to minimize harm. Rachel's Precaution Reporter tries to answer such questions as, Why do we need the precautionary principle? Who is using precaution? Who is opposing precaution?

We often include attacks on the precautionary principle because we believe it is essential for advocates of precaution to know what their adversaries are saying, just as abolitionists in 1830 needed to know the arguments used by slaveholders.

Rachel's Precaution Reporter is published as often as necessary to provide readers with up-to-date coverage of the subject.

As you come across stories that illustrate the precautionary principle -- or the need for the precautionary principle -- please Email them to us at rpr@rachel.org.

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