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EPA Faces Pesticides, Endangered Species Lawsuit

Environmental conservation groups filed a lawsuit Thursday accusing the Environmental Protection Agency of lax pesticide regulations that caused the poisonings of over 200 endangered and threatened species.

The Center for Biological Diversity and Pesticide Action Network North America said in the filing that the EPA has failed to consult officials with the Fish and Wildlife service regarding pesticide use.

“For decades, the EPA has turned a blind eye to the disastrous effects pesticides can have on some of America’s rarest species,” said Jeff Miller, conservation advocate for the Center for Biological Diversity, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. “This lawsuit is intended to force the EPA to follow the law and ensure that harmful chemicals are not sprayed in endangered species habitats.”

The litigation claims that the pesticides pose a critical threat to 214 species around the country that need protection, including the California condor.

Plaintiffs also named the western snowy plover, northern spotted owl, San Joaquin kit fox, giant garter snake, light-footed clapper rail, California tiger salamander and several Northern California butterflies, rats, snakes, fish, rodents and insect species as vulnerable to lead poisoning and other chemicals in pesticides.

The EPA currently performs a number of tests on pesticides but rarely discusses findings with the Fish and Wildlife Association.

“The ecological risk assessment does not consider the cumulative or synergistic effects posed by multiple pesticides on wildlife or the environment, nor does it address delayed effects of pesticides, referred to as ‘lag effects,”‘ the suit filed in San Francisco federal court alleges.

“Since 1993, there have been only a few completed consultations with the (Fish and Wildlife) Service regarding pesticide impacts to listed species, other than those imposed by court orders,” it added.

18,000 pesticides are registered with the EPA for approved use in the United States.

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Hexavalent Chromium Carcinogen Found in Tap Water of Most Cities

Hexavalent chromium, the cancer-causing chemical at the center of the 2000 film “Erin Brockovich,” was found present in the tap water of 31 of 35 cities tested in a recent survey.

The findings, released Monday by the Washington, D.C.-based Environmental Working Group, are the first study of hexavalent chromium to be made public.

Researchers with the advocacy group have released the study at a time when the Environmental Protection Agency is debating whether to set a cap on the “probable carcinogen”‘s levels in tap water, the Washington Post reports.

Jane Houlihan, EWG’s senior vice president of research, says the toxin has been linked to stomach cancer and leukemia along with other health problems, CBS News reported Monday.

Hexavelent chromium, also known as chromium-6, originates as refuse from steel and pulp mills as well as metal-plating and leather-tanning facilities, EWG said in a statement. It can also contaminate tap water through erosion of natural deposits.

The carcinogen first came into the public eye in 1993, when Erin Brockovich famously sued Pacific Gas & Electric for polluting the drinking water of Hinkley, Calif. The lawsuit eventually yielded $333 million in damages.

Today, the highest levels of chromium-6 can be found in Norman, Okla.; Honolulu; and Riverside, Calif., EWG claimed.

“Every single day, pregnant mothers in Norman, Oklahoma, school children in Madison, Wisconsin, and many other Americans are drinking water laced with this cancer-causing chemical,” EWG senior scientist Rebecca Sutton, Ph.D said in the statement. “If the EPA required local water utilities to test for hexavalent chromium, the public would at least know if it was present in their local water. Without mandatory tests and a safe legal limit that all utilities must meet, many of us will continue to swallow some quantity of this carcinogen every day.”

With regulations on the water supply possibly in the works, what can consumers do to reduce their intake of the toxin?

“With levels this high, it’s critically important that people begin to think about filtering their water,” Houlihan told CBS News. Unfortunately, inexpensive carbon filters commonly found in filtration pitchers and faucet attachments don’t do much to remove chromium-6. Reverse osmosis filtration systems should do the trick, but they can cause hundreds of dollars.

There are no legal restrictions for hexavalent chromium in bottled water, so plastic water bottles may not be a safe option either.

“It is sometimes difficult to understand why I still have to warn the public about the presence of hexavalent chromium in drinking water 23 years after my colleagues and I first sounded the alarm,” Brockovich said in EWG’s statement. “This report underscores, in fairly stark terms, the health risks that millions of Americans still face because of water contamination.”

Posted in Carcinogens, Chemicals, Drinking Water, Groundwater, Springs & Aquifers, Policies, Water, Oceans, & Ice0 Comments

15 Percent of Middle-age Women Depressed

NEW YORK, Oct. 9 (UPI) — Fifteen percent of U.S. women between the ages of 45 and 64 experience frequent depression, a U.S. researcher says.

Katherine Muller, director of Psychological Training at Montefiore Medical Center, says recent research suggests the odds of being diagnosed with depression peak for women at age 44.

“When you’re tense, levels of stress hormone cortisol go up,” Muller tells Women’s Day. “Cortisol affects the balance of mood chemicals in the brain in such a way that you’re more susceptible to depression.”

At this stage of a woman’s life she is usually experiencing transitions and wholesale changes including having children leave for college, doubts about relationships, juggling careers, marriage, aging parents and over analyzing and concerns about “life so far,” Muller says.

“Genetics is a major risk factor for developing a psychiatric disorder” so people with a family history should pay special attention to their behavior, Muller advises.

However, depression is very treatable and getting help in a combination of therapy and medications is a crucial step, Muller adds.

The November issue of Woman’s Day, on newsstands Monday, offers a comprehensive report on the rise of midlife depression in women.

Copyright 2010 United Press International, Inc. (UPI). Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI’s prior written consent.

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Work Noise + Chemicals May = Deafness

ZARAGOZA, Spain, Oct. 6 (UPI) — Spanish researchers say they have linked the combination of noise and chemicals to the loss of hearing in young workers.

Researchers at the University of Zaragoza in Spain say chemical contaminants can interact with noise and modify how workers experience work-related “deafness” — an increasingly common condition among young people. Non-noise caused deafness, the researchers say, is the most common occupational disease in Europe.

“Workers exposed to noise in the presence of metalworking fluids exhibit a delay in hearing alteration in comparison with those exposed only to noise at the same intensity. However, those exposed to noise in the presence of welding fumes experience increased hearing alteration,” lead author Juan Carlos Conte says in a statement. “A problem we detected with respect to welding fumes in the presence of noise was that the protection used is effective for reducing the intensity of noise, but not for reducing the effects of the chemical contaminant.”

The researchers note other factors, such as tobacco-use — smoking is considered a risk factor for the acquisition of initial acoustic trauma — or an injury to the inner ear due to very loud noise may have an impact on advanced acoustic injury.

The study, published in Anales del Sistema Sanitario de Navarra, looked at the way in which various physical and chemical contaminants interact may impact hearing alteration in 558 metal workers.

Copyright 2010 United Press International, Inc. (UPI). Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI’s prior written consent.

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Toxic Chemicals Multiply After Gulf Leak

CORVALLIS, Ore., Oct. 2 (UPI) — The BP oil disaster sent carcinogenic chemical levels soaring in the Gulf of Mexico, researchers said.

Kim Anderson, an environmental toxicology professor at Oregon State University, told the Los Angeles Times she found a 40-fold increase in polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons off the Louisiana coast from May to June.

“It’s an incredibly huge jump in concentration in a natural environment,” she said.

Anderson’s team started testing weeks after the April 20 well blowout, taking water samples at four locations near the shore. Results from early August, after the well was capped and stopped leaking, continued to show elevated levels.

The amount of PAHs in crude oil varies, as does the toxicity of the compounds, which constitute a large class of chemicals. Some are carcinogenic, some are not and some are not toxic, Anderson said. Her samples included PAHs of all three types.

Lisa Faust of the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals said state testing of seafood harvest areas had not detected harmful levels of the pollutant, the Times reported Friday.

Copyright 2010 United Press International, Inc. (UPI). Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI’s prior written consent.

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Food Items Fail Hong Kong Safety Checks

HONG KONG, Sept. 30 (UPI) — Food safety authorities in Hong Kong say recent tests of 3,900 food samples in local shops and restaurants found 14 food items that failed safety checks.

Hong Kong’s Center for Food Safety took about 2,700 samples for chemical tests and the remainder for microbiological and other tests, Xinhua news agency reported.

Among the food items failing were frozen suckling pig with excessive levels of a veterinary drug, frozen fish and shrimp with high mercury levels, and some fresh fish with elevated levels of cadmium, Xinhua said.

A sample of Singaporean-style fried noodles was contaminated with bacteria, while other foods were found to contain banned preservative chemicals.

The food safety center issued citations to the shops and restaurants involved, Xinhua reported.

Copyright 2010 United Press International, Inc. (UPI). Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI’s prior written consent.

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Tiny Tools Could Work Inside Our Bodies

BALTIMORE, Sept. 24 (UPI) — U.S. researchers say they’ve developed tiny tools that could be introduced into the human body for medical procedures and drug delivery.

The millimeter-sized metal tools that can change shape on command, clamping shut or popping open in response to specific chemical cues, may someday be used to biopsy a liver, open a clogged artery or deliver drugs to a specific target, ScienceNews.org reported Friday.

David Gracias and a team at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore have created devices that can respond to chemicals in the right time and place, yet still be friendly inside the body.

The tiny metal devices made with chromium, nickel and gold are assembled with parts that look the petals of a flower or the open palm of a hand.

In the presence of enzymes within the body, the devices can be prompted to spring shut or pop open.

To test their clampers the team made some fake innards from resin and embedded some hard-to-reach bird liver tissue inside.

Using a magnet, they moved the clampers through the simulated bile duct and into the liver, then added a human enzyme, cellulase, with a syringe.

The gripper closed around the bit of bird tissue, then the team guided the grippers back out with a magnet, having performed a rough version of a biopsy.

Copyright 2010 United Press International, Inc. (UPI). Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI’s prior written consent.

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Chlorinated Pools Linked to DNA Damage

BARCELONA, Spain, Sept. 14 (UPI) — Swimming in chlorinated indoor pools can cause DNA damage, but researchers in Spain, Germany and the Netherlands say they don’t suggest not swimming.

Manolis Kogevinas, co-director of the Center for Research in Environmental Epidemiology, and colleagues at the Research Institute Hospital del Mar, the Higher Council for Scientific Research, Hospital Clinic de Barcelona, Universidad Autonoma de Barcelona and scientists from the United States, Germany and the Netherlands, say the study is an exhaustive investigation of disinfection by-products and mutagenicity ability — to cause permanent DNA mutations — in water samples collected from two indoor pools.

The disinfection by-products from pools are the result of the reactions between the water disinfectants found in chlorine pools and organic matter introduced by swimmers through sweat, skin cells and urine.

Despite the results, which require more research, Kogevinas says the positive health impacts of swimming can be increased by reducing the levels of chemicals used in pools.

“In no case do we want to stop (people) swimming, but to encourage the reduction of chemicals in swimming pools,” Kogevinas says.

The study is published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives.

Copyright 2010 United Press International, Inc. (UPI). Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI’s prior written consent.

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Stress Hormone Linked to Heart Disease

LEIDEN, Netherlands, Sept. 11 (UPI) — Dutch researchers say their studies suggest death from cardiovascular disease can be linked to high levels of the stress hormone cortisol.

In a study that followed 860 people over the age of 65 for six years, those with the highest levels of cortisol had five times the risk of death from cardiovascular disease, the BBC reported.

The human body produces cortisol to recover from stress and regain physiological stability.

But very high levels have been linked to risk factors for cardiovascular disease and accelerated atherosclerosis, the buildup of fatty deposits on the walls of the arteries.

“Stress is already associated with an increased risk of heart disease and this study throws up more evidence about the role of cortisol,” Ellen Mason, senior cardiac nurse at the British Heart Foundation, said.

“However, there are other chemicals in our body besides cortisol which play a part when we’re stressed out” she said. “So although this study helps, there is still a lot left to learn.”

The study, conducted by the University Medical Center at Leiden in the Netherlands, was published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism.

Copyright 2010 United Press International, Inc. (UPI). Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI’s prior written consent.

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Scientists Draw Bead on Crop Parasite

TORONTO, Sept. 10 (UPI) — Scientists say they’ve found weapons to combat a parasite that annually lays waste to thousand of acres of crops throughout Africa, Asia and Australia.

Researchers from the University of Toronto say the parasitic plant called Striga, also known as witchweed, is one of the largest challenges to food security in Africa, a university release says.

When crops are planted and begin to grow, their roots release a hormone called strigolactone. Stria seeds in the soil use the hormone as a cue to germinate and infect the crop. Once connected to the crop plants, the parasite kills them by sucking out its nutrients.

“In sub-Saharan Africa alone, Striga has infected up to two-thirds of the arable land,” university cell and systems biologist Peter McCourt says.

The scientists conducted research and screened 10,000 compounds to identify genes and substances that regulate strigolactone levels in plants.

“With chemicals and genes in hand that influence strigolactone production in plants, we should be able to manipulate the level of this compound by chemical application or plant breeding which would break the Striga-crop interaction” McCourt said.

Copyright 2010 United Press International, Inc. (UPI). Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI’s prior written consent.

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