The E.P.A.’s Top 10 Toxic Threats

The Environmental Protection Agency has published a list of 10 toxic threats it will evaluate first under a law passed last year intended to crack down on hazardous chemicals. They are among 90 chemicals identified by the agency that may harm children, damage nerve tissue, cause cancer, contaminate the environment, accumulate in the bloodstream or show up in consumer products. As the review begins, industry and other interest groups are urging the E.P.A. to limit any restrictions.

Asbestos

Where you may find itAsbestos has not been manufactured in the United States since 2002, but imports surged last year, and it is still used in certain vehicle braking systems, asphalt roof coatings and gaskets. Asbestos is also commonly used by chlorine manufacturers.

How it could hurt you: Asbestos is associated with lung cancer and mesothelioma, a rare form of cancer that is found in the thin lining of the lung, heart, chest and abdomen.

Industry intervention: The trade group representing the chlorine industry, the American Chemistry Council, argues that “the few remaining uses for asbestos are tightly controlled,” and that banning it would not do much to protect health.

1-Bromopropane

The geologists Brenda Buck, left, and Rodney Metcalf have found asbestos on rocks and soil near Las Vegas.CreditIsaac Brekken for The New York Times

Where you may find it1-bromopropane is used as a refrigerant, a lubricant, a degreaser and a solvent in spray adhesives and dry cleaning. Its use in agricultural chemical manufacturing and foam-cushion manufacturing has also been reported.

How it could hurt you: Exposure can cause dizziness, headaches, slurred speech, confusion, muscle twitching, difficulty walking and loss of consciousness. Studies on animals suggest that exposure is also associated with reduced blood cell counts along with toxicity to the liver and the reproductive and nervous systems.

Industry intervention: The Alkylphenols & Ethoxylates Research Council, which represents companies that manufacture the chemical, arguethat the E.P.A. should not consider health threats that occur when people do not follow warning labels.

Carbon Tetrachloride

Where you may find it: Carbon tetrachloride, a clear liquid with a sweet smell, was once used in refrigeration fluids, aerosol propellants, pesticides, cleaning fluids, spot removers and degreasing agents. Most of those uses have been banned, but it is still has industrial applications, such as manufacturing petrochemicals.

How it could hurt you: It can cause injuries to the liver and kidneys and, at high levels, can result in fatal damage to the brain and nervous system.

Industry intervention: Halogenated Solvents Industry Alliance arguesthat worker exposures are already regulated by Labor Department safety rules and that “occupational conditions of use do not pose an unreasonable risk.”

1,4-Dioxane

Where you may find it: 1,4-dioxane is a flammable liquid with a variety of industrial applications, such as the manufacture of adhesives and sealants and other chemicals. It is used in paint strippers, dyes, greases, varnishes and waxes, and it can be found in antifreeze, aircraft de-icing fluids, deodorants, shampoos and cosmetics.

How it could hurt you: The E.P.A. says that the chemical is “likely to be carcinogenic to humans” and that it may cause kidney and liver damage. It is now often found at low levels in drinking water supplies.

Industry interventionThe American Cleaning Institute argues that while many consumer products may have small amounts of 1,4-dioxane, they are “extraordinarily low levels” and should be ignored.

Cyclic Aliphatic Bromide Cluster

Where you may find it: Cyclic aliphatic bromide cluster is a group of chemicals found in flame retardants, plastic additives and certain polystyrene foams used in the construction industry for thermal insulation boards.

How it could hurt you: People may be exposed to the chemicals from products and dust in the home. Animal test results suggest potential reproductive, developmental and neurological effects.

Industry intervention: The American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers argues that the E.P.A. should not consider “potential of an accident or misuse, whether intentional or unintentional,” when deciding to restrict these chemicals, as “misuse is not even predictable and should never be included in toxicological risk assessment.”

Methylene Chloride

Where you may find it:Methylene chloride is used in pharmaceutical manufacturing and polyurethane foam manufacturing. It is also found in paint strippers, adhesives, metal cleaners and aerosol solvents. Many products are sold at home improvement stores.

How it could hurt you:Exposure can harm the central nervous system, with effects including dizziness, incapacitation and, sometimes, death. It is also linked to liver toxicity, liver cancer and lung cancer. It has been associated with dozens of deaths. The E.P.A., just days before the end of the Obama administration, proposed banning its use as a paint stripper because of these hazards.

Industry intervention: W.M. Barr & Company, the largest national manufacturer of solvents, removers, fuels and cleaning products, asked the E.P.A. to withdraw its proposed rule to ban methylene chloride in paint strippers, arguing that its products do “not present an unreasonable risk.”

N-Methylpyrrolidone

Where you may find it: N-Methylpyrrolidone is a solvent used in petrochemical processing. It can be found in plastics, paints, inks, enamels, electronics, industrial and consumer cleaning products and arts and crafts materials.

How it could hurt you: It may pose a particular risk to women who are pregnant or of childbearing age, according to studies on animals that suggest delayed fetal development.

Industry intervention: The NMP Manufacturers Group argues that the chemical “is used in many industry sectors, in varied processes,” and that it would be “unworkable for industry and unworkable for EPA” to evaluate them all.

Perchloroethylene

Where you may find it: Perchloroethylene, also known as perc, is a solvent widely used in dry-cleaning chemicals, automotive-care products, cleaning and furniture-care products, lubricants, greases, adhesives, sealants and paints and coatings.

How it could hurt you: High-level inhalation exposure is associated with kidney dysfunction, dizziness, headache, sleepiness and unconsciousness, while long-term inhalation exposure may affect the liver, the kidneys and the immune and reproductive systems. The E.P.A. has classified it as likely to be carcinogenic to humans, as it is associated with bladder cancer, non-Hodgkin lymphoma and multiple myeloma. It is also a drinking-water contaminant.

Industry intervention: The Drycleaning and Laundry Institute and the National Cleaners Association argue that “any future decision to reduce or phase out the use of perc in drycleaning will put an oppressive burden on thousands of cleaners” and that “sadly, in taking any radical regulatory action the EPA will be doing little to reduce the negligible risks associated with the use, while threatening the future viability of thousands of dry cleaners.”

Pigment Violet 29

Where you may find it: Pigment Violet 29 is used in watercolors, acrylic paints, automotive paints, inks for printing and packaging, cleaning and washing agents, pharmaceuticals, solar cells, paper, sporting goods and industrial carpeting. It is also approved to be used in food packaging.

How it could hurt you: There are limited health studies, but preliminary work suggests “acute toxicity, eye irritation, skin irritation, skin sensitization,” and perhaps reproductive and developmental toxicity.

Industry intervention: Color Pigments Manufacturers Association argues that it “does not pose any known hazard in any reasonably foreseeable use or misuse, and therefore cannot present an unreasonable risk.”

Trichloroethylene

Where you may find it: Trichloroethylene, also known as TCE, is used to make a refrigerant chemical and remove grease from metal parts. It is also a spotting agent for dry cleaning and can be found in consumer products. The E.P.A., in the final days of the Obama administration, proposed a ban on its use in dry-cleaning chemicals, spot removers and aerosol degreasers.

How it could hurt you: It is associated with cancers of the liver, kidneys and blood. Animal studies suggest that it may also be a factor in birth defects, testicular cancer, leukemia, lymphomas and lung tumors. TCE is also a drinking-water contaminant.

Industry intervention: The Halogenated Solvents Industry Alliance, which manufactures the chemical, argues that the E.P.A. has conducted a “very deficient risk assessment.” Pointing to one study the E.P.A. has used, the group says that “a single flawed study should not be the basis for the toxicological value that serves as the basis for regulation.”

No one hurt when Jeep cracks through icy Indiana lake

It happened Tuesday night on Tamarack Lake at the Kingsbury Fish and Wildlife Area.

Source: No one hurt when Jeep cracks through icy Indiana lake

High Rates of Lead Poisoning / Asthma can be Life-Threatening in many Communities Worldwide

High Rates of Lead Poisoning / Asthma a deadly consequence of residing near industrialized neighborhoods.  Pollution resulting from our Built Environment have resulted in  extensive health disparities worldwide:
About 25% of the USA’a housing —some 24 million homes— contains significant lead-based paint hazards, i.e. deteriorating lead paint or lead contaminated dust. (HUD, 2009).

Benxi steel mills blowing smoke over residential buildings. Benxi was for long considered one of the most polluted city in China. Over the past decade thousands of workers have been made redundant as the city steel mills and power plants were closing down or reducing their output.
Benxi steel mills blowing smoke over residential buildings. Benxi was for long considered one of the most polluted city in China. Over the past decade thousands of workers have been made redundant as the city steel mills and power plants were closing down or reducing their output. Via Bing

The majority of resources and statistics concerning community correlations with respect to health disparities in the U.S. point to a direct correlation between industrialized, lower income communities and rates of Lead Poisoning / Asthma associated with living in a those particular communities. Over 4 million children in the U.S. had an asthma attack last year. (National Safety Council, 2015).
Better neighborhoods, generally associated with a higher income, had newer and higher housing standards, and were more financially able to comply with government regulations of lead content and smoke inhalation guidelines. Residents of privileged neighborhoods felt safer than families living in lower income neighborhoods. Poorer, disadvantaged neighborhoods where tenants are dependent on a landlord’s approval to address safety issues, may face a lengthy process if they wish to upgrade and make their living situation safer, or may not be able to afford a particular safety upgrade. This adds to feelings of perceived loss of personal control over ones own living situation resulting in an increased fear factor as well as elevated stress levels, which can have detrimental health effects.
When you’re a little more worried every day, you’re always a little more vigilant, looking around at things, checking people, places and things out a little more carefully. If you think about doing that day after day, year after year, it can be exhausting after a while. Constant worrying about stress and about how and when one is going to pay all the bills that are piling up adds an incredible amount of stress to life. Chronic stress wears on the body system resulting in lowered immunity and increased risk of disease and illness. (Lee, 2015).

Practitioner reports of disabled and impaired motor skills in children are more prevalent in older neighborhoods where lower income, minorities reside. Children in disadvantaged neighborhoods to be less likely to venture outside to exercise and inhale fresh breath fearing the consequences of doing so in a high crime neighborhood.

mex3
Mexico Beach House via JZ Photography

Other physical features that can have a negative effect on health outcomes:
1. Ground Soil Pollution: Lead manufacturing that has resulted in damages to the ground and environment having had profound affects on safe housing for families worldwide. Children from poorer families are the hardest hit by this type of pollution because parents don’t always have the additional resources to relocate their families to safer communities. Children have growing organs that are easily affected by toxic chemicals, and most kids participate in playtime that may include touching the ground on a regular basis exposing them to dangerous toxins.

2. Air Pollution: Asthma and other bronchial related problems resulting from Lead Poisons being emitted into the air as industrial factories release their by products in the form of poisonous gasses as a part of their manufacturing process. Children can be affected for decades after a plants closure. Lead findings as high as 70 times the USDA recommended Lead levels have had devastating effects on public health reports and statistics in towns where communities have been built close to lead and mercury producing facilities. (National Safety Council, 2009). Another similar source of pollution that would have residual effects for years to come was Regular gasoline that included a lead additive which was not known to be harmful till it was finally discontinued in the early 1980’s due to a government regulated Lead ban.

How affordable quality, and safe housing conditions promote health:

By educating practitioners, schools and parents, regarding the government resources available for improving all buildings and homes in an effort to get them up to code with acceptable levels of toxic lead and fume inhalation guidelines. All communities should be declared safe according to government standards, regardless of wealth or relative neighborhood status. We can minimize current health care problems and prevent future health issues by educating all individuals of their rights to safe housing, thus allowing all children to reach their full potential. Equal rights translate to equality of life expectancies throughout the U.S. for all residents. Our founding fathers created the U.S. Constitutional principles upon this premise. (Lee, 2012). Written by: JZ
References:

National Safety Council. (2009) Lead Poisoning. Retrieved from
http://www.nsc.org/NSCDocuments_Advocacy/Fact%20Sheets/Lead-Poisoning- Fact- Sheet.pdf.

City of Roseburg. (2015). Public works projects. Retrieved from
http://www.cityofroseburg.org/departments/public-works/projects/.

Lee, E. (Producer & Director). (2008). Living in disadvantaged neighborhoods is bad for
your health [Video excerpt]. In L. Adelman (Executive producer), Unnatural causes:
Episode 5—Place matters. Arlington, VA: Public Broadcasting Service. Retrieved from
http://www.unnaturalcauses.org/video_clips_detail.php?res_id=217.

 

Asbestos Tradgedy in Big Sky Country

. Welcome to Libby, Montana, population 2,691. In many ways, Libby is like any other small town. It sits nestled between bits of national forest, it has a train station and a few schools (go Loggers!), and for many years its economy was supported by the nearby logging and mining operations. But in other ways, Libby is very different.

Downtown Libby, Montana. Image: U.S. EPA.

  Libby has a heartbreaking story to tell.

For decades, the company W.R. Grace operated a vermiculite mine in Libby. Vermiculite is a mineral used for insulation and fireproofing in many building materials. (By the way, it’s also the material used for those little white balls in potting soil.)

The vermiculite mine in Libby provided … over 70% of all vermiculite sold in the U.S. between 1919 and 1990.

The vermiculite mine in Libby provided hundreds of jobs, as well as over 70% of all vermiculite sold in the U.S. between 1919 and 1990. And while vermiculite itself isn’t known to be harmful, the Libby mine also included a large deposit of something much more dangerous: asbestos.

The asbestos in Libby’s mine has caused 400 deaths — and counting.

Mining the vermiculite that lay alongside asbestos released harmful asbestos fibers into the air. The asbestos appeared as a fine dust that coated the entire mine — it goteverywhere — and caused harm not only to the mine workers, but to their friends, family, and other town residents as well.

But it’s never easy to criticize a company that plays such a huge role in a town’s life. In the 2004 documentary “Libby, Montana” by High Plains Films, one resident explained:

[W.R.] Grace was on the school board, Grace was on the hospital board, Grace owned the bank. And when you talked about dust control here and … what [the dust] was doing harmful to these people here, the first thing to come out of their mouth was ‘You gonna close that mine down, and you gonna put all these people out of work?’ Well you didn’t have very many friends here when you started talking like that.”

Mine manager Earl Lovick held town positions outside the mine. Images: “Libby, Montana.”

Fast-forward to today: An estimated 400 people in Libby have died from asbestos-related diseases, and more than 2,000 have been sickened by the asbestos. Hundreds more deaths are expected from these diseases, as they can take decades to manifest.

Records show that W.R. Grace knew about the adverse health effects from asbestos in the mine many years before the mine’s closure in 1990. Mine manager Earl Lovick, who died of asbestosis in 1999, testified to having knowledge of the presence and dangers of asbestos. (Check out 9:46 and 12:24 in the video below for clips of Lovick’s statements.)

The company has since paid out millions of dollars in settlement money for civil cases concerning the effects of the asbestos. In 2008, W.R. Grace faced thousands of personal injury claims and agreed to settle all present and future claims via a trust. The amount of money they’re doling out is nearly incomprehensible. But does it really make up for the deaths and the sickness?

Libby continues to heal … slowly but surely.

In 1999, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency responded to widespread concerns surrounding the asbestos in Libby. The agency collected hundreds of samples from around Libby. In 2002, the site was declared a Superfund site, and cleanup began.

A 2014 draft of the EPA’s human health risk assessment states, “It is now possible to live and work in Libby without excessive exposure to asbestos. … Remaining asbestos needs to be safely managed.”

The asbestos risk may be under control (or close to it), but that doesn’t mean the people of Libby have forgotten how W.R. Grace changed the course of their town’s history.

An abbreviated version of the feature documentary, LIBBY, MONTANA.

View the complete film on iTunes –
https://itunes.apple.com/us/movie/lib…

More about the Movie –
A small company town in Montana is beset by the worst case of a widespread toxic contaminant in U.S. history. For decades, the corporate conglomerate W. R. Grace knew what the residents of Libby did not: that they were being exposed to a deadly form of asbestos. All the while, the company allowed the spread of the contaminant all over the town — in the school grounds, the Little League baseball field, and in countless homes and yards. Now, the U.S. government has determined that nearly one quarter of the residents have some form of asbestos-related lung abnormality, and hundreds have already died of asbestos-related causes.  Libby, Montana is the story of the American dream gone horribly wrong.  Libby, Montana was broadcast on the national PBS Series, POV/The American Documentary. It was nominated for a national News and Documentary Emmy Award in 2008.

ABOUT THE FILMMAKERS
Doug Hawes-Davis and Drury Gunn Carr, co-founded High Plains Films in 1992, and have collaborated on nearly 30 documentaries. Their most recent feature film, ALL THE LABOR premiered at the SXSW Film Festival in 2013. In 2012, their feature documentary FACING THE STORM: STORY OF THE AMERICAN BISON was broadcast on the national PBS series, Independent Lens, and won a Northwest Emmy Award for best documentary feature. In 2007, their documentary feature, LIBBY, MONTANA was broadcast nationally on the acclaimed PBS Series, POV, and was nominated for a National Emmy Award the following year. Other well-known High Plains Films include, BRAVE NEW WEST, KILLING COYOTE, VARMINTS, THIS IS NOWHERE, and THE NATURALIST.

Hawes-Davis is the founder of the annual Big Sky Documentary Film Festival. Now in its eleventh year, the festival is consistently recognized as one of the world’s finest documentary cinema events. Both Carr and Hawes-Davis remain involved in festival programming and development.

Millions of coffee makers recalled due to burn hazard

WASHINGTON (AP) — Keurig is recalling some 7 million of single-serve coffee brewing machines because of reported burns.

Keurig says its Mini Plus Brewing Systems, with model number K10, can overheat and spray water during brewing. Keurig says it had received about 200 reports of hot liquid escaping from the brewer, including 90 reports of burn-related injuries.

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission released details on the recall Tuesday. The recalled brewers have an identification number starting with “31” printed on the bottom. They were sold online and in stores in the U.S. and Canada between 2009 and 2014. Featured image

Consumers are being urged to call Keurig Green Mountain Inc. of Waterbury, Vermont, at 1-844-255-7886 to arrange for free repair.

___

On the Web:

http://www.cpsc.gov/en/Recalls/2015/Keurig-Recalls-MINI-Plus-Brewing-Systems/

Keurig Recalls Mini Coffee Makers due to burn hazzard

How an Ingredient in Airbags Might Turn Explosive

Ammonium nitrate, commonly used as a fertilizer, is also used in airbags:

Toyota and Nissan Recall cars

Featured imageAn airbag can save your life, but if improperly manufactured, it could mean your death. At least five people have died after airbags made by Japanese company Takata exploded during deployment in crashes, bombarding passengers with sharp metal fragments. Now more than 14 million cars using the airbags are up for recall worldwide. The recall highlights a delicate balance of electrical, mechanical, and chemical processes inside an airbag—all of which are vulnerable to contamination and failure.

First, some background on how airbags work: Before an airbag deploys, the control unit has to detect a crash through various sensors on the car. Crash sensors are rigged to detect the sudden deceleration of a crash, but not be affected by the normal stopping and starting of driving. One form of sensor is the “ball and tube” setup, where a small metal ball is held in place by a magnet. In the event of a collision, the ball detaches from the magnet, rolls down and completes an electrical circuit that triggers the inflation. Similar sensors use weights connected to a coiled-up spring that unrolls with a sudden stop. Another type of sensor can be located inside the front doors, where it monitors air pressure; a collision from the side that pushes the door inwards will change the air pressure, and trip the sensor.

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If the sensor detects a crash, it tells the airbag’s inflator system to kick into gear. Most airbags are inflated when the inflator unit ignites a pellet of a compound called sodium azide (NAN3), kickstarting a swift chemical reaction that fills up the airbag with nitrogen gas (N2), sending it bursting out to cushion a car’s occupants. All of this happens within less than half the time it takes you to blink once.

But in the 1990s, Takata started looking for alternatives to sodium azide, due to the fact that the compound could release toxic fumes when the airbags deployed. First, the company’s engineers replaced the sodium azide with a compound called tetrazole. But tetrazole, while less toxic than sodium azide, proved more expensive. Eventually, over the objections of some employees, Takata developed a propellant using the ammonium nitrate (NH4NO3), more commonly used as a fertilizer.

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Ammonium nitrate “shouldn’t be used in airbags,” Missouri University of Science and Technology explosives expert Paul Worsey told the New York Times, saying the compound is really better for large-scale demolitions. “But it’s cheap, unbelievably cheap.”

Part of the danger with ammonium nitrate lies in the compound’s ability to transition through various solid states due to changes in temperature, pressure and moisture. The transition point between state IV, called beta-rhombic, and state III, called alpha-rhombic, occurs at 32.3 degrees Celsius (89.6 degrees Fahrenheit). The temperature cycles that a car experiences through days and nights, especially in hotter and more humid areas, may be enough to cause the compound to switch between these crystalline states, making it less stable.

WORLD SCIENCE FESTIVAL: Some Assembly Required

Takata senior vice president Hiroshi Shimizu told U.S. lawmakers in early December that the true cause of the airbag ruptures is still unknown, and the company has advocated for recalls to be limited to humid regions. Meanwhile, while still not characterizing its airbag propellant as defective, Takata has quietly modified the recipe for the propellant used in the replacement bags for recalled cars—though ammonium nitrate still remains a key component.

This article originally appeared on World Science Festival.

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