Post by Lisa Petrison on Dec 23, 2011 16:25:55 GMT -5
Someone who was considering moving to the Palm Springs (California) area wrote to me the following:
If you do know anyone who is looking to relocate to Palm Springs, a little FYI: Steer clear of Desert Rose area in Palm Desert. Palm Desert and its redevelopment agency are defendants in a $12 million lawsuit over toxic mold in its homes.
Feb. 4, 2012 Coachella Valley to get $53M for air quality improvements The Desert Sun
The Coachella Valley will get $53 million to help clean its air, a windfall that will likely set off a contest between east and west valley communities.
The board of the South Coast Air Quality Management District voted unanimously on Friday to direct the so-called mitigation funds from a power plant being built near Desert Hot Springs plant to the valley.
The decision is a big win for the valley because the air quality board could have spread the money between the valley and other parts of the region.
Riverside County Supervisor John Benoit, one of 13 members of the air quality board, had pushed for the money to stay in the valley, supported by local political leaders who put aside competing agendas to present a united front.
But that front began to fracture soon after Friday's vote, as various officials began compiling a list of projects.
The most ambitious of those proposals is a 54-mile paved trail along the Whitewater River. It would stretch from Desert Hot Springs to Coachella and provide access for neighborhood electric vehicles, golf carts and bikes.
Coachella Councilman Steve Hernandez called it a “luxury amenity.”
“There are other priorities within given jurisdictions that need to be done now before they can sign onto this trail,” said Hernandez, who noted that the money could be used for solar panels on city buildings or to help farmers transition their equipment from diesel to natural gas.
“The trail for us is a luxury amenity. But we're not there yet. We still want to get the streets and the sidewalks and the quality of life improvement things done.”
The $53 million is coming from the owners of the Sentinel Power Plant, an 800- megawatt natural gas-powered facility being built north of Interstate 10 near the wind turbines west of Desert Hot Springs.
Known as a “peaker plant,” the facility kicks in to provide power to Southern California Edison during times of high demand.
Its owner, Maryland- based Competitive Power Ventures, was required to set aside money to offset the pollution it is expected to generate over the next decades.
The law requires that at least 30 percent of the mitigation fund be spent within 6 miles of the plant, meaning projects in Desert Hot Springs will be prioritized.
At least another 30 percent must go to new AQMD “environmental justice” zones, areas that have a poverty rate of at least 10 percent and high exposure either to the fine dust or toxic particles in the desert air.
The regional air quality board, which represents nearly 17 million people across Southern California, will spend the next four months determining how best to divide the fund.
“We have a really unique opportunity,” said Benoit, one of the creators of the Whitewater trail plan.
“A lot of people think it's a good way to make a lasting impression not just on air quality but on other aspects of life. But there's going to be a large amount of money spent on those other projects.”
This marks the first time since the federal stimulus bill was approved in 2009 that local leaders have had a new pot of funding to tap for major capital projects.
It will inevitably elevate the debate between some of the valley's poorest and most wealthy communities.
Some of the valley's more affluent residents — who laud outdoor, active, sustainable desert living — have backed the multi-use Whitewater trail as a way to cut car emissions, ease traffic congestion and fight the valley's widespread obesity problem.
Advocates hope as much as $40 million would go toward building the Whitewater trail.
But activists in other communities have argued those millions could be better spent paving dust-swept roads at mobile home parks, closing illegal dumps, modernizing smoggy school buses, and making other basic improvements to benefit air quality for the valley's poorer residents, many of whom are plagued by asthma and other respiratory ailments.
Already, an east valley group has been compiling its own list of priorities.
“Everybody wins with this one,” said outspoken trail opponent Luis Olmedo, director of Comité Cívico Del Valle Inc., a group that advocates for environmental justice in the Imperial and Coachella valleys.
At least seven valley officials and residents trekked to Diamond Bar to plead their case before the AQMD board on Friday. One of them was Desert Hot Springs Councilman Russell Betts.
“As long as we can show that we've got clean air projects, this is a lot of money coming into our city,” Betts said.
“It's 2 miles from our downtown, and they needed to see a face to know that 6-mile circle should stay just as it is.”
The Coachella Valley Association of Governments' executive board in December endorsed the Neighborhood Electric Vehicle/Bicycle Parkway and agreed to spend as much as $100,000 studying it.
But the agency — whose member cities will inevitably be seeking some of the money — would still need to vote to actually apply for some of the $53 million.
CVAG executive director Tom Kirk downplayed any intra-valley fighting that may come.
“It's a great day for both the environment and the economy of the Coachella Valley, however the money winds up getting spent,” Kirk said.
Kate McGinty contributed to this report. Desert Sun reporters Marcel Honoré and Erica Felci can be reached at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Post by Lisa Petrison on Mar 9, 2012 11:47:19 GMT -5
Some information about a family in Berkeley, CA.
What's in you?
Part one of a three part series Douglas Fischer - STAFF WRITER Posted: 03/10/2005 12:36:00 PM PST Updated: 03/27/2006 03:40:01 PM PST
In a pioneering study, we tested a Bay Area family for a suite of chemical pollutants. The results stunned even scientists.
A casual observer of Rowan Hammond Holland sees a little towhead, devilishly cute, who grins impishly while tossing food at the family dog.
A pediatrician sees a kid who's a bit small for his age: 30-odd inches tall, 22 pounds, about 10th percentile for 20-month-old boys.
But not even his mother could guess what's in his blood: flame retardants, at concentrations higher than measured almost anywhere in the world for someone not handling the stuff for a living.
He's a typical kid from a typical family, picked for an Oakland Tribune investigation of chemical pollutants in our bodies.
The surprising result, scientists say, suggests infants and toddlers have vastly higher levels of some chemical pollutants than health officials suspect — or even consider safe.
But no one can say. Rowan is the only toddler, at least in the United States, who's been tested for such things, despite evidence these compounds taint our blood, our food, our house dust, our kids.
This is our "body burden" our chemical legacy, picked up from our possessions, passed to our children and sown across the environment. It's the result, scientists say, of 50 years of increasing reliance on synthetic chemicals for every facet of our daily lives.
Only recently have regulators grasped its scope. Health officials have yet to fully comprehend its consequence.
We are all, in a sense, subjects of an experiment, with no way to buy your way out, eat your way out or exercise your way out. We are guinea pigs when it comes to the unknown long-term threat these chemicals pose in our bodies and, in particular, our children.
In the first study of its kind, Rowan and his family had their blood, hair and urine tested for a suite of chemical pollutants thought to be ubiquitous in our environment.
The tests showed PCBs, plasticizers, mercury, lead and cadmium in each family member. Chemicals used to make Teflon and GoreTex contaminated their blood. Mikaela, Rowan's 5-year-old sister, had more dibutyl phthalate — a plasticizer found in nail polish and cosmetics — in her urine than 90 percent of the 328 kids age 6-11 tested so far in the United States.
The shock was the family's level of a class of flame retardants — polybrominated diphenyl ethers, or PBDEs — used in everything from TV casings to rugs to foam cushions. In the United States, where levels are 10 to 100 times higher than the rest of the world, the average adult is thought to have 36 parts per billion in their blood.
A cocktail mixed at that concentration would have 36 drops of gin in a rail tank car of tonic. Rowan's mom, Michele Hammond, had 138 ppb. His dad, Jeremiah Holland, 102. His sister, 490. And Rowan: 838 ppb. Scientists start to see behavioral changes in lab rats at 300 ppb.
"This is a very serious warning of very small children being heavily exposed," said Aake Bergman, professor of environmental chemistry at Stockholm University in Sweden and one of the world's foremost experts on human exposure to fire retardants. "We may have many more people being exposed at similar levels." Proportions will vary, and indeed, a follow-up test of the Hammond Hollands found lower — but still alarming — PBDE levels in the children. A similar chemical stew can be found in every adult and child in the country, scientists say. The exposure comes courtesy of our lifestyle, in which synthetic chemistry imbues the modern world with convenience beyond that of any generation in history.
We make perfume from petroleum and preserve food in plastic. Our chances of dying in a building fire are almost nil. We clean bathrooms without scrubbing, spill coffee without worry of a stain.
Yet these modern wonders come with a price. As synthetic chemicals have saturated our lives, so too have they permeated our bodies.
We don't know the effect it has on our health. But scientists do have suspicions.
Autism, once an affliction of 1 in 10,000 children, today is the scourge of 1 in 166.
Childhood asthma rates have similarly exploded. And one in 12 couples of reproductive age in the United States is infertile.
One may not cause the other; to draw such links remains, for now, beyond the grasp of science. Industry and other scientists say exposure remains well below levels considered harmful — the Hammond Holland's numbers notwithstanding. Our ability to detect these compounds, invisible even five years ago, has outstripped our ability to interpret the results.
Publishing body burden data, in other words, does little but make people worry.
But if it was your 2-year-old, would you want to know?
------- MONDAY NIGHT at the Hammond Holland's Berkeley home, and life is quiet.
Jeremiah, 35, a high school photography teacher and coach of the school's mountain biking team, is away leading a team cycling class at the Berkeley YMCA.
Mikaela started kindergarten last fall and has mastered the alphabet, which she proudly shows off: big A's and little c's, small d's and capital Z's, painstakenly written by small fingers with remnants of red polish on the nails. The alphabet is in random order but amazingly complete.
Rowan is finishing dinner — corn, carrots, pasta with tomato sauce, hard-boiled egg yolk and cheese. He has dispensed with bib and utensils in favor of a more direct hand-to-mouth approach, announcing he's done by shoveling a big handful of spaghetti off his high-chair tray onto the floor.
Michele, watching, doesn't mind. The dog will get it. And at least Rowan is eating.
In February 2004, Rowan fell off the growth charts, registering below the zero percentile for kids his age. He's since held steady at the 10th percentile, but Michele, 36, says it's never been easy to get him to eat — or sleep.
His location at the lower end of normal and the upper end of active could be a simple result of genetics. Or it could be his thyroid.
The danger of PBDEs, says Dr. Mark Miller, director of the Pediatric Environmental Health Specialty Unit at the University of California, San Francisco, is that they act as developmental neurotoxins and disrupt thyroid activity in rats and other lab animals. And they do so at levels one-third of Rowan's, say scientists at the state Environmental Protection Agency.
Michele, who figures her son is just a small, active kid, tries not to dwell on that thought.
Doctors such as Miller who specialize in environmental contaminants see no reason the family should have such high exposures. Researchers at Albemarle, a Louisiana-based manufacturer of brominated flame retardants, are equally mystified.
"It's hard to interpret the results, yet so important," said Dr. Gina Solomon, associate director of Miller's UCSF clinic and a senior scientist at the Natural Resources Defense Council. "The fact that (the family's) levels are on the high side is symptomatic of what's going on out there."
Swedish scientists such as Bergman first alerted ®MDNM¯the world to growing levels of PBDEs in our bodies. Researchers monitoring Swedish breast milk samples for a slew of contaminants found PBDE concentrations doubling every five years over the 1980s and 1990s.
The United States recently launched a similar program but it tracks only a dozen of chemical families and won't release PBDE data until 2007. Efforts to create a similar program in California for a suite of environmental contaminants, including PBDEs, were shot down last year after the state Chamber of Commerce labeled it a job killer.
But tipped off by the Swedes, researchers here found concentrations in wildlife, human blood and breast milk doubling even faster — every 18 months.
That's just fire retardants. And one type, at that.
There are organochlorine pesticides such as DDT, the pesticide that launched the modern environmental movement. Banned in the 1970s, they can be found today in our house dust, food and bodies.
PCBs, banned in 1979, similarly plague us. Decades worth of evidence shows these chemicals —predecessors of and close chemical cousins to PBDEs — don't belong in the body. Numbers have declined over the years, but they're there in Rowan and Mikaela and all of us — a lifetime's supply, courtesy of Monsanto Chemical Co, once the only domestic manufacturer.
Also everywhere, but with little known of the health consequences, are phthalates — plasticizers that make lotions absorbable, nail polish pliable, cologne scented and plastic soft. Our kidneys filter them quickly from our body, but a daily replenishing shower from our material world keeps our bodies' phthalate levels steady.
Then there's Teflon, GoreTex, Scotchgard and other non-stick and stain-repellent wonders. In 2000, 3M, the sole U.S. manufacturer of the two crucial ingredients necessary to make such products, announced it had found traces of one — perfluorooctane sulfanate — in virtually every human blood sample it had tested in the United States and Europe.
Sure enough, the two compounds turned up in the Hammond Hollands, too.
------- MICHELE IS ANGRY , but not worried. Not yet. "If in the next year something goes wrong with Rowan, then I'm all of a sudden going to freak out about these numbers," she said.
Michele is a classic naturalist, most at home in the field, where she identifies birds from their songs and can name the grasses underfoot. At the University of California, Berkeley, she researches grassland ecology.
She finds most frustrating her inability to protect her kids from the pollutants. If she wanted to curb Rowan's and Mikaela's exposures, Michele wouldn't know where to start.
Sources are everywhere, yet impossible to track.
PBDEs show up in foam cushions and plastic casings. But which ones? One manufacturer might use a brominated flame retardant, another might use phosphorous. There's aluminum trihydrates and magnesium hydrates. The label never says.
"You can't make a universal judgment that just because it's a plastic, it has flame retardant," said Paul Ranken, senior research and development adviser for Albemarle, one of three domestic manufacturers of decaBDE, a brominated flame retardant.
"Your house may be different from my house. Your carpeting might be different. You might have a little bit of polypropylene … I might have nylon." Phthalates (THAAL-ates) are similar. We need them to make plastics soft and flexible. Without them fragrances could not be dissolved into lotions and colognes. Ink would flake off bread bags. Your vinyl shower curtain would crack as you pulled it open.
But like PBDEs, some products have them. Some don't. Good luck trying to tell the difference.
"The fact of life is that phthalates are a remarkably useful product that … allow people without a lot of money to have a first-world lifestyle," said Marian Stanley, manager of the Phthalate Esters Panel for the American Chemistry Council. "The risk is a theoretical risk. If you had the smallest baby with the most exposure for the longest time, you theoretically have a risk. Practically, do you have a risk? Nobody's seen it yet."
But is anybody looking?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is conducting the only widespread biomonitoring program in the United States, looking at national exposure to pesticides, PCBs, dioxins and phthalates, among others. Its next report, cataloging some 148 compounds, is due later this spring. But there are gaps.
Its last report, released in 2003, summarized the results of 2,541 people tested for dibutyl phthatalate, an additive found in nail polish, cosmetics, pill coatings, printing inks and, oddly, insecticides.
Of those, 328 were children under the age of 11. None were younger than 6. Yet exposure increases as the age group gets younger, with kids between 6 and 11 on average having twice the level as adults over 20.
That's true with the Hammond Hollands. Mikaela's levels are three times her mom's and almost nine times her dad's.
"There's not enough (information) to allow for big generalizations," said Solomon, the UCSF physician, who with Miller met with the family and helped interpret their results. "What it does do is show the huge need for this information, both to allow us to put these results in context and also give us information on what's going on out there over time and over age groups.
"We're blind to what's going on out there."
------- FORTY-SEVEN minutes in and Jeremiah's heart is churning at close to 180 beats per minute. His legs blur against his stationary cycle, thighs and calves straining, as he leads his high school bike team through a Monday night "spin" class.
A furious beat thumps from the room's loudspeakers. Sweat pours off Jeremiah's nose. Flywheels spin, pedals whirl. Then the pitch jumps a notch as Jeremiah goads the teens and the pace, incredibly, picks up.
Two years ago Jeremiah weighed 237 pounds. Today he's 180. He went from a size 40 waistband to a size 34, which he last wore in high school.
His wedding suit is too big for him.
He shed those pounds on the bike trails, trying to keep up with his students. He gave up alcohol and started eating better.
PCBs, dioxins, DDT, PBDEs, phthalates all love fat. Which is one reason many stick around so long, sequestered in our waistlines.
So as Jeremiah's fat burned off, so, too, did some of his body burden, doctors surmise. It could explain why his exposures, in many instances, are lower than his children's.
He also — unwittingly — played a dangerous game, Solomon and Miller said. As the fat broke apart, contaminants were freed. Some got trapped by the bile and were eliminated. Some landed in other fat cells. And some likely migrated to nerve cells or the brain.
Michele, meanwhile, shed her body burden as only a woman can.
Breast milk is 4 percent fat. As Michele nursed Mikaela and then Rowan, she drained a life's accumulation of pollutants into her children.
Her PCB results show that most dramatically: Mikaela has 207 ppb — slightly more than her dad.
Rowan has 355. But Michele has 69.
That's no reason to stop breast-feeding, cautioned Kim Hooper, the state PBDE expert with Cal EPA who has done extensive work with breast milk. Quite the opposite. Because in addition to fat, breast milk contains essential vitamins, minerals, growth hormones, enzymes, proteins and antibodies.
Plenty of evidence also suggests Rowan and other children get a far bigger dose from their environment. Several studies have found dust studded with these contaminants in the part-per-million range — 100 to 1,000 times what's found in humans. We all ingest a little dust daily, with children eating far more than adults due to higher hand-to-mouth contact.
The other big route to our bodies is food.
------- THREE YEARS AGO, Arnold Schecter, a professor at the University of Texas School of Public Health, set out to show how much our diets contribute to our body burden.
He pulled 30 everyday items off the shelves of three Dallas supermarkets. They got sliced, diced and mashed to a pulp, washed in hexane, vaporized and shot into a high-resolution gas chromatograph. He found PBDEs in eggs, milk, steak and fish. He also found them in soy infant formula, albeit at a minuscule 16 parts-per-trillion <cm-cq> concentration.
In Emeryville, Richard Wenning is doing the same thing with chickens, finding no difference in PBDE levels between free-range organic hens and factory-farmed roasters.
The compounds are spread far and wide, in air and dust. They're taken up by plants, eaten by animals. We eat the animals and spread our sewage sludge back on the fields.
In this respect, organically grown food is no different from conventional, said Wenning, a principle at Environ International Corp., an environmental consulting firm advising industry and regulators. "It's all recycled … Until we can actually break the molecules apart, they're going to come around again."
As Michele and Jeremiah look around their house and wonder, industry — and to a certain extent regulators — see red herrings.
It would make little sense to toss the family's hand-me-down polystyrene carpet or their recently purchased foam-and-coil mattress and replace them with all-natural products, even if they could afford it. Nobody understands how PBDEs migrate from your living room couch. Or if they even do.
Come summer, mother and daughter will still polish their toenails together, as they always have. With phthalates everywhere, would doing otherwise make any difference? ; Not if the Tribune's lab results are any indication. Michele uses no cosmetics beyond nail polish, yet her level of mono-butyl phthalate — the body's byproduct of a compound common in beauty products _ sits above average for American women, based on CDC data.
The CDC cannot say whether that's good or bad for her health.
That, industry says, is the problem with trace analysis. We can see in the parts-per-trillion range, but we have little idea what it means. While consumers may be alarmed, industry looks at the numbers and sees the need for further study.
"The science doesn't say (exposure) is going to grow to any level where we see concern anytime soon," said Ron Zumstein, vice president for health, safety and environment at Albemarle, the decaBDE manufacturer.
"That's kind of how we look at it. You've got a huge margin of safety."
Others note we didn't see epidemics 30 years ago, when DDT and PCB use were at their height. Teflon has been applied to pots since 1962, with no apparent problems from the compound or its precursors.
Zumstein and a crew of Albemarle scientists analyzed the Hammond Holland's PBDE results at the Tribune's request. They were skeptical.
The samples could have been contaminated, they said. There's no easy explanation for why the children would be so much higher than their parents, and the results don't seem to match what little we know about PBDEs.
The EPA is assessing exposure risks and is expected to announce soon what it sees as the gaps in the research. Zumstein and his team say they're waiting for that before taking the next step.
"The (family's) results are outside the range of what we've seen," Zumstein said. "We don't want to jump to conclusions if the science has not been scrutinized yet."
That's exactly what industry has been saying for years, contend critics seeking to reform U.S. chemical oversight.
We don't know what these chemicals do in our body. The science is still being scrutinized. Yet we still put these compounds in our products, expose them to our children, eat them daily for dinner.
------- IN A COUNTRY OF 300 MILLIION, we know the levels of fire retardant in fewer than 200 individuals. Meanwhile annual worldwide demand for PBDEs, according to industry groups, was almost 150 million pounds in 1999, up 67 percent from 1990. Half of that ends up in the U.S. market.
We have a legacy of reacting after the fact — lead, asbestos, mercury, ozone depletion.
Studies, notoriously difficult to construct, remain scarce. The federal government hasn't made funding such science a priority, declining, for example, to underwrite any studies of toxins in breast milk, Schecter said.
Would we curb our appetite — take more of a precautionary approach — if we all knew, like the Hammond Hollands, what lurks in our bodies?
"I'm not happy with a few data points. We cannot draw final conclusions from a family of four," said Bergman, the Swedish PBDE researcher. But "this is an indication of a very serious problem that society has to address."
Post by Lisa Petrison on Mar 9, 2012 11:48:26 GMT -5
A previous discussion on the San Francisco Bay Area:
It sure seems like a lot of people got CFS when they lived in the SF Bay Area. I wonder if there are any statistics?
I lived in Silicon Valley in 1988 when I came down with the extreme case of CFS that I still have. I just did a Google search and found an interesting article about the amount of toxins flooding the air and water there. These toxic gases permeating the atmosphere can travel for miles and stay in the air for a very long time, accumulating.
The key points in this article are: "[Chip-making] factories...release thousands of pounds of toxic gases into the air every year." The second key point is that nobody knows what these chemicals are doing to people. And, third, the groundwater in Silicon Valley has been contaminated and will take 70 to 300 years to clean up. These three sentences are probably true to some extent of many industries & areas around the world.
[In Silicon Valley, at Moffit Field in Mountain View,] is a 15-year cleanup at one of the largest and most dangerous toxic waste sites in the county, stretching from Middlefield Road across Highway 101 to the bay. Decades ago, GROUNDWATER here was discovered to be contaminated by chipmaking giants Fairchild, Raytheon and Intel, whose toxic chemical leftovers had mixed with the underground waste products of nearby Moffett Field. And each year the deadly brew of solvents used by the chip industry that are all suspected CARCINOGENS--xylene, TCE, TCA, and 111-TCA, moving in an underground plume-- leaches closer to the bay. The cleanup consists of pumping contaminated water out of the ground, spraying it against the walls of the pipe at high pressure, and pushing it back into the earth. The leftover chemicals evaporate up out of the pipe and into the breeze just outside Netscape's glistening front door, a process expected to go on for another 70 to 300 years.
Though the computer industry has won its way into the hearts of cities throughout the Bay Area, the Southwest and the world by billing itself as a clean industry, its 50-year history here has left Santa Clara County with more Superfund sites than any other county in America.
THIS COULD JUST as easily be called ARSENIC Alley as Silicon Valley... Arsenic is as important to computer chip manufacturing as silicon. Arsenic changes the chemical properties in the chip, allowing it to better conduct electricity. Arsenic is just one of the more than 1,000 chemicals that go into making a chip.
...dozens of companies still manufacture components here, including IBM, Intel, National Semiconductor and Cypress Semiconductor.
To make a single six-inch silicon wafer, companies use 2,275 gallons of water, 20 pounds of chemicals and 22 cubic feet of hazardous gases and produce seven pounds of hazardous waste. Here in Silicon Valley, the entire toxic food chain from chemical supplier to hazardous waste disposal is scattered throughout the cradle between the Santa Cruz Mountains and the Diablo Range. Though tons of chemicals are hauled up and down Highway 101 every day, very little is known about most of them. ... of the 70,000 chemicals in use today, only a small portion have even been tested on animals. And despite the rampant use of thousands of chemicals in one of the most populous areas of the country, scientists have studied the impact of only a fraction of these chemicals on humans.
Glycol ethers, once a commonly used solvent, have been shown to cause miscarriages. For people living near plants who are concerned about the impact of these chemicals--whether airborne or in the soil and water--there is very little information.
[Chip-making] factories...release thousands of pounds of toxic gases into the air every year.
Intel, the largest chip-maker in the world, still does some manufacturing locally, but it is small-scale and geared toward the development of new products. This 60,000-square-foot manufacturing space is one-third the size of Intel's newer production facilities in Oregon, Arizona and Ireland. Small as it is, Intel still discharges 650,000 gallons of water a day and uses a soup of chemicals so extensive that John Carpenter, the production manager, is uncertain about what all is on the list.
Venting vapors into the community has also been a problem in the past. Before ozone-depleting chlorofluorocarbons were phased out of the industry, IBM released 1.5 million pounds of CFCs a year from its valley plant.
These days, the discussion of chemicals that are vented into the air takes on an almost rumor-like quality. Smith gets calls from people who live near manufacturing plants, complaining of horrible solvent smells that burn nasal passages, especially at night. Though the industry says it is clean, toxins are still pushed out of factories through smokestacks, like the "dirty manufacturers" elsewhere. According to the EPA's Toxic Release Inventory, in 1996 IBM's Cottle Road facility belched 170 pounds of ethylene glycol and 4,900 pounds of N-Methyl-2-Pyrrolidone into the air. Ethylene glycol can cause nausea, vomiting, headache, kidney and liver damage, and in some cases death. The other chemical is not described by the EPA.
Post by Lisa Petrison on Mar 9, 2012 11:49:38 GMT -5
Some information about the San Francisco Bay Area:
Environmentalists, cosmetic lobby air views on perfume ban MICHAEL DORGAN Knight-Ridder Newspapers SUN 10/13/1991 HOUSTON CHRONICLE, Section A, Page 11, 2 STAR Edition
SAN FRANCISCO -- The nation's fragrance industry has put its nose to the wind and smells trouble.
It's wafting in from the West Coast, where chemically sensitive activists have launched a movement to ban perfumes and other scented products from public meetings.
When news of a request to ban perfume at Marin County Parks Commission meetings surfaced a few weeks ago, it generally got a light, only-in-Marin treatment by the local and national media. But for the nation's $18 billion cosmetics industry, it was no laughing matter.
E. Edward Kavanaugh, president of the powerful Cosmetic, Toiletry and Fragrance Association, fired off a news release from the association's Washington headquarters. "Would sniffers be posted at every door to detect and turn away people who smell good?" he asked.
Kavanaugh said he sympathized with those who suffered what he called "idiosyncratic reactions." But he said that their numbers were few and that "if everything that might cause such a reaction were banned, everything would be banned."
"We see no reason to single out perfumes and fragrances," he wrote. On that final point, many who support the ban are in full agreement. They view the requested Marin County perfume ban as a modest first step toward eliminating thousands of products that they say are damaging the health of tens of millions of Americans.
In dispute are the effects of even low-level exposures to literally tens of thousands of chemicals -- including those in many paints, plastics, construction materials, copy papers and cleaning products.
Proponents of an idea called "multiple chemical sensitivity," also known as MCS or "environmental illness," maintain that many chemicals can damage any or all of the body's vital systems. Single or multiple exposures, or simultaneous exposure to combinations of chemicals, can produce symptoms ranging from sniffles to seizures, they say.
Mainstream physicians tend to view the chemically sensitive as a different kind of bird. Many think the problems of these patients are rooted in their minds, not in a poisonous environment.
Dr. Abba Terr, a San Francisco immunologist who teaches at Stanford University Medical School, wrote a book on the topic, concluding: "As defined and presented by its proponents, multiple chemical hypersensitivities constitutes a belief and not a disease."
The California Medical Society conducted a study several years ago and came to a similar conclusion. Focusing on the unrecognized medical specialty called clinical ecology -- now more widely known as environmental medicine -- the study found no link between the total load of low-dose environmental chemicals and the onset of disease or between the frequency of exposure and sensitivity to those substances.
A growing number of physicians are skeptical of that finding. They say the lack of evidence supporting chemical sensitivity has more to do with a dearth of research than faulty hypotheses. Virtually no federal money has been allocated for research into chemical sensitivity, despite mounting anecdotal evidence that it is a major cause of illness.
Dr. James Cone, an occupational health specialist on the clinical faculty of the University of California-San Francisco Medical Center, says he has seen too much to believe that chemical sensitivity is merely a psychosomatic condition.
"The problem doesn't go away if you stick your head in the sand," he said. "People continue to get sicker."
Cone does not stand alone in his challenge to mainstream medicine. About 400 physicians have joined the Denver-based American Academy of Environmental Medicine, and spokesman Earon Davis estimates that 1,000 other physicians have also begun to search for environmental causes to many of their patients' problems.
California Watch Life expectancy varies by zip code in San Joaquin Valley March 9, 2012 | Bernice Yeung
Where you live can be an indicator of how long you'll live, according to a new study on San Joaquin Valley health.
Published by the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies in Washington, the report found that in counties spanning from Tulare to Stanislaus, life expectancy varied markedly by ZIP code. In the most extreme cases, there was as much as a 21-year difference between neighborhoods.
“It doesn’t have to do with the attributes of the individuals in a community, but often the conditions they find themselves living in,” Brian Smedley, vice president and director of the center’s Health Policy Institute, said of the wide swing in life expectancy across the valley. “Some people in neighborhoods that enjoy the best and worst health are just a few miles apart.”
For public health experts, life expectancy is a stark indicator of a community’s overall public health risks.
"Even 10 to 12 years is huge by an international comparison,” said John Amson Capitman, a public health professor at CSU Fresno who helped produce the report, which is funded by the National Institutes of Health. “It’s the difference between the life expectancy in Thailand and Japan, or between Tonga and the U.S.”
Income and race also are factors.
“ZIP codes with the lowest life expectancy tend to have a higher percentage of Hispanic and low-income residents,” stated the report released this month.
In Fresno, residents living in more affluent and primarily white Woodward Park can expect to live up to nine years longer compared with residents in historically black and lower-income Southwest Fresno, about 20 miles away. Meanwhile, residents in Huron, a small town about an hour from the city of Fresno, live to age 94.
Southwest Fresno resident Eric Payne, who described his community as a “fast food swamp,” said there are zoning and environmental reasons why his ZIP code is less healthy compared with other Fresno communities, and life expectancy is 75. He said poor access to healthy food, combined with industries located there – a trash facility, two meat processing plants and an animal fat rendering plant – means that residents live less active lifestyles.
The rendering plant, especially, “really disrupts the well-being and livability of the community,” said Payne, who is African-American and oversees a neighborhood youth group called the Fresno Youth Council for Sustainable Communities. “It really hinders your physical activity. The smells make you not want to go outside. It smells like roadkill.”
But in the neighborhood of Woodward Park, residents can expect to live nearly a decade longer, to age 84. It’s “a different kind of community,” Payne said. “There’s money in that community,” as evidenced by the high-end retail, sit-down restaurants, universities and health care facilities, he said.
Public health experts like CSU Fresno's Capitman said these differences in life expectancy reflect how income has become a proxy for whether communities have the "basic ingredients for a good quality of life" that can influence health.
“These dramatic differences in life expectancy speak to a broad sense of factors like air pollution, housing quality, other toxics exposure in the environment, as well as stressors associated with poverty, lack of educational opportunity and safety concerns,” Capitman said. “All of that adds up to create differences in life outcomes.” Public policies, he said, have "created and sustained the concentration of health risks in these communities."
The report also found that the rate of premature deaths in the lowest-income ZIP codes of the San Joaquin Valley is nearly twice that of high-income neighborhoods, and areas near and around Tulare faced the highest risks for respiratory problems related to toxic air.
These health issues can begin to be addressed by reorienting the agricultural industry toward social and environmental responsibility and adopting land use policies “that reflect an emphasis on smart and equitable growth,” the report said.
The findings of the San Joaquin study mirror a 2008 Alameda County analysis [PDF], which found that residents in the wealthier Oakland Hills area could expect to live 10 years longer than people living in lower-income West Oakland. An updated Alameda County report will be published by the Joint Center later this year, and similar studies will be completed in eight locations across the country, including Chicago and the Mississippi Delta.
The Joint Center’s Smedley said the health disparities reported in the San Joaquin Valley study reflect national patterns.
“This report documents the distribution of social, economic, environmental health risks, and it finds that many risks cluster in high-poverty communities and communities of color,” he said. “Unfortunately, that is not surprising. We see that in community after community in the United States.”
For the past four years, what most people in the Coachella Valley have heard about Competitive Power Ventures' natural gas-fired Sentinel electric plant can be summed up in two words: Power and money.
The 800-megawatt peaker plant now under construction in North Palm Springs amid hundreds of windmills has been promoted as the answer to the valley's need for extra power during its blistering summer days and for a supplement to its growing supplies of solar and wind energy.
The $900 million, privately funded project would power the desert economy as well, creating hundreds of jobs and generating millions of dollars in sales and property taxes for local coffers.
Then there's the windfall $53 million coming to the region in mitigation fees CPV has paid to the South Coast Air Quality Management District to fund clean air initiatives.
“It's important to note as well that by bringing a new facility like this one online, it enables us to put offline older, less efficient and more heavily polluting facilities,” said Assemblyman V. Manuel Pérez, the Coachella Democrat who wrote the law that created the mitigation fund.
But — as controversy grows over what kind of projects that money should be used for — what's been missing from the equation are the hundreds of thousands of pounds of pollution and greenhouse gases the plant will pump into the valley's air over its expected 30-year life-span.
As a peaker plant — able to run a maximum of 116 days a year once it begins operating next winter — Sentinel and its eight 90-foot-tall smokestacks could spew more than 1 million tons of carbon dioxide per year, according to the final approval from the California Energy Commission.
That's the equivalent of adding 188,334 cars per year to the valley's roads, using formulas from the Environmental Protection Agency.
The region already suffers from high pollution rates from smog, ozone and other emissions blown in from Los Angeles ports and carried east with about a million trucks that travel Interstate 10. The valley's surrounding mountains, low elevations and strong winds further aggravate the problem.
>Top water pollution regulators are poised this week to force an unprecedented cleanup of San Diego Bay, and there’s a sense among participants that the plan may avoid endless legal appeals after a major reduction in its scope.
>After nearly seven years of debate over the cleanup order, dredging could start in September and wrap up five years later. It would be by far the largest cleanup of its kind among similar efforts over the past two decades, and it would set the tone for addressing several other contaminated sites in a bay that used to be one of the most polluted in the nation.
>A three-member panel of the San Diego Regional Water Quality Control Board has recommended removing about 143,400 cubic yards of polluted sediment from the bay bottom to protect marine life and people from chemicals and heavy metals lodged in the muck. The six-member board is expected to adopt the recommendations as part of a final ruling Wednesday.
>Lead, arsenic and PCBs are among the toxins causing concern because they are linked to cancer or problems such as altering brain development and disrupting hormones. Environmentalists, scientists and community activists say the pollutants are harming the marine ecosystem and endangering the health of people who eat fish and shellfish from the bay. The biggest problems linger from the era before the Clean Water Act and other laws strictly controlled what companies and agencies could discharge to the bay.
Some info on fire retardants in the San Diego Bay:
>Nitrate contamination in groundwater from fertilizer and animal manure is severe and getting worse for hundreds of thousands of residents in California’s farming communities, according to a study released today by researchers at UC Davis.
>Nearly 10 percent of the 2.6 million people living in the Tulare Lake Basin and Salinas Valley might be drinking nitrate-contaminated water, researchers found. If nothing is done to stem the problem, the report warns, those at risk for health and financial problems may number nearly 80 percent by 2050.
RICHMOND, Calif.—A half-century after California officials discovered that large amounts of the pesticide DDT had been discharged into a San Francisco Bay canal, the chemical is still poisoning fish and posing a threat to human health there despite numerous cleanup attempts. DDT, a chemical banned by the U.S. in 1972, was dumped into a shipping channel near the city of Richmond by the pesticide processing company United Heckathorn starting in the late 1940s and ending in 1966.
In 1990, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency listed the former plant and the adjacent canal, called the Lauritzen Channel, as one of the most polluted places in the nation, and began the laborious and expensive process of trying to clean it up—so far with limited success.
EPA records show that the last cleanup project, which cost about $12 million, has made no progress in the canal. The most recent fish tissue tests found levels of DDT and another pesticide called dieldrin at the same or higher levels than tests in 1994—four years before the agency dredged tons of pesticides from the canal.
The EPA said this month it is launching a three-year plan to help unravel the mystery of why its cleanup attempts are failing, and will work with the city to increase awareness among anglers who rely on bay fish to supplement their diets.
Dangerous Levels of DDT Pollution in Richmond Harbor It will take almost half a century to clean up a chemical mess one company left behind
By WENDI JONASSEN, RICHMOND CONFIDENTIAL on March 19, 2012 - 2:18 p.m. PDT Source: The Bay Citizen
There wasn’t a cloud in the sky last Thursday morning, and the sun beat off Richmond Bay in an inlet just east of Point Richmond. In this part of Richmond, the natural mixes closely with the industrial: construction equipment and piles of scrap metal standing a quarter of a mile high jutted obtrusively into the view of the sun on the water. From the dock, a group of Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) representatives quietly watched a snorkeler on the side of a small pontoon boat as he pulled on bright blue flippers. A minute later, he slipped off the edge, and with a small splash, he was in the water, swimming toward a deflated soccer ball floating in the middle of Lauritzen Channel, a trail of bubbles tracking behind him. The soccer ball was tied to a basket of mussels embedded in the sediment at the bottom of the channel. In the past, when EPA officials attached the mussels to a normal buoy, people would steal them, possibly thinking they were lobster traps, says Penny Redding, an EPA project manager for the Lauritzen Channel. The soccer ball deceptively looks like a piece of trash floating in the water, which protects the mussels from thieves.
The mussels will give scientists and the EPA an estimate of how much DDT—a carcinogenic and nerve-damaging chemical—is left in the area. The chemical is a part of a toxic stew left behind by the chemical company United-Heckathorn when it went bankrupt and abandoned the site in 1966. The EPA cleared more than three tons of pure DDT in 1996 during a massive cleanup effort. But it didn’t completely clean the area. The Lauritzen Channel has more DDT in it than before the 1996 cleanup, and some fish are turning up with DDT levels in their tissues hundreds of times higher than their counterparts in the rest of the San Francisco Bay. It took one company less than two decades to create a chemical mess in the Lauritzen Channel that will take almost half a century to identify and clean.
In 1947, Prentiss & Co., a New York based chemical company, sent Eugene Heckathorn to Richmond to supervise a DDT-grinding plant, meant not for manufacturing but for processing and distribution, on the Lauritzen Channel. He intended to stay in California for only a short time, but he liked the West. He bought the DDT-grinding plant from Prentiss and quickly merged with United Chemical Co. to start an insecticide company—United-Heckathorn. “Heckathorn soon built a reputation for doing the jobs no one else wanted,” boasted one article in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry in 1958.
Though United Heckathorn worked with other chemicals, like dieldrin, processing DDT accounted for 95 percent of its business. United Heckathorn imported technical grade DDT from Montrose Chemical Corporation and Shell Oil Company ground it into a powder in air mills or chemically converted it to a liquid. The company then packaged and shipped it out as an agricultural insecticide and as a combatant to malaria. United Heckathorn expanded exponentially and by 1958 it was producing more than 25 billion pounds of liquid DDT and enough insecticide to treat more than eight million acres of farmland.
The dangers of DDT weren’t known while United-Heckathorn was an active company, but now, decades later, scientists have extensively studied and documented the dangers. The United States banned DDT in 1972 after studies linked exposure to breast cancer, diabetes, miscarriages, and neurodevelopment problems in children. It resists organic decay, persisting in an ecosystem for decades. As fish and plants absorb the chemicals into their tissue and cells, and birds eat them, they spread the chemicals through the food chain, creating a perpetually dangerous cycle.
United-Heckathorn’s housekeeping policies, though, reflected the ignorance of the time. These chemicals weren’t considered dangerous and even if they were, no one was there to scold them or stop them. “It was a little bit of a standard of the time,” said Rusty Harris-Bishop, a superfund division liaison for the EPA. “Folks just didn’t pay attention to that sort of thing.”
When employees dumped the powder form of DDT from one transport container to another, clouds of dust flew out and spread over the area. Pipes running under the Lauritzen Channel leaked and spills weren’t cleaned.
In 1966, United-Heckathorn went out of business and abandoned its factory on the Richmond harbor. A few years later, the buildings were demolished and shortly afterward dead fish started floating to the top of the water. The California Department of Fish and Game noticed a milky liquid oozing from Lauritzen Channel. While the EPA’s Penny Reddy isn’t sure if the dead fish and the DDT were related, she said it was a red flag that the ecosystem wasn’t healthy.
In 1982 the EPA declared the Lauritzen Channel a superfund site, meaning it is officially designated as a hazardous site in need of serious cleanup. In 1990, the EPA put it on the national priorities list. Six years later, the EPA dredged the bay, cleared soil from the site, and put concrete caps on some areas. It cleaned three tons of pure DDT from a 100,000 cubic yard area and cleared three feet of pure product from the top portion of the soil.
But dredging and cleaning equipment wasn’t as effective then as it is now, and large amounts of contaminants were left in place. For example, the EPA couldn’t reach areas under piles of scrap metal, under docks, or near barriers. It also turns out that the clamshell dredges used to pull up mud ended up spraying water and sediment everywhere.
”What we have learned since then is that 50 percent of those efforts have failed,” said Kelly Manheimer, EPA site manager for the Heckathorn Site. “We didn’t know that at the time. We thought it was the perfect thing to do.”
Years of boats coming in and out of the bay shuffled the soil on the bottom and DDT spread throughout the channel again. By 2011, DDT concentrations exceeded 1994 levels. Something had to be done.
Cleaning up old industrial sites is tedious. Before the process can start, the EPA needs to run tests. And without accurate maps, in this case marking where United-Heckathorn stored and processed DDT, the agency has to play detective to determine where the highest levels of pollution might be. They are testing the soil and water, and even using mussels to measure the pollution levels. Mussels are natural barometers for aquatic health because they are static and absorb everything in the water flowing past. The EPA gathered mussels from Bodega Bay, a relatively clean area, and put them in the Lauritzen Channel for a month. At the end of the month, the EPA officials stood on the edge of the dock and watched a scuba diver emerge and hand over a muddy bag of mussels to a scientist in a pontoon boat before pulling himself up.
A scientist from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology will examine the mussels, but the results won’t be ready until July. And then they will have to be bundled with sedimentation and water samples before the EPA can start to draft a cleanup plan, which has to go through its own bureaucratic loopholes before it can implemented. “We have this whole process,” Redding said. The EPA won’t actually start dredging and cleaning until 2015 and even then, it will likely take many years.
As the EPA representatives, scientists, and scuba divers wrapped up and left the dock the day remained gorgeous — a stark contrast to the unseen DDT that will linger in the water for decades.
Several scientists, EPA representatives, and scuba divers worked to pull up mussels that had been in the bottom of the Lauritzen Channel for a month. The mussels measure the level of pollutants in the water.
Post by Lisa Petrison on Apr 3, 2012 10:20:52 GMT -5
For years, Fresno County has been No. 1 on a California list that you won't find at the chamber of commerce -- pesticide detections in water wells. On the latest list, the county had more than one-third of the state's 286 detections.
But the real news is what the state leaves out of this and other annual pesticide reports, advocates for healthy drinking water say.
There is no mention of perhaps the most dangerous and widespread chemical related to pesticides in the San Joaquin Valley.
It is 1,2,3-trichloropropane, or TCP, a toxic leftover from a fumigant used decades ago to kill tiny worms called nematodes.
Post by Lisa Petrison on Apr 24, 2012 9:07:29 GMT -5
From November 2011.
If it works, the Nevada Irrigation District's novel plan to clear toxic Gold Rush mercury from Combie Reservoir could be an answer to an age-old problem in the Sierra Nevada range.
But it won't be cheap.
District officials are asking Sen. Dianne Feinstein to support an appropriation of $7.8 million over three years to fund the bulk of the $9 million project. The request was under review Friday, according to Gil Duran of Feinstein's Washington, D.C., office.
The project costs far exceed the financial capability of the district, General Manager Ron Nelson said in a letter he recently sent to Feinstein. Federal funding is appropriate, as widespread mercury contamination was the result of uncontrolled hydraulic mining in the late 1800s.h
NID Director John Drew lauded the idea, noting that it had grown from a whim to NID being a leader in the state, if not the nation, in mercury removal.
No one else is using NID's process, according to project consulting scientist Dr. Carrie Monohan.
The project gis a unique application of cutting-edge science and engineering to address a century-old problem, Monohan said.
The mercury was used to bind gold, making the ore easier to find in hydraulic mine slurry, according to NID documents. When it moves in a stream or reservoir, it can form toxic methylmercury in the food chain, which can move up from plankton to fish.
Pregnant women who eat tainted fish can pass it to their unborn children, and it can attack a baby's central nervous system, according to the California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment.
There have been no instances of mercury poisoning in California caused by eating fish exposed to mercury in sediment, according to the state office. However, officials fear what large consumption of fish ladled with methylmercury could do, based on deaths in Japan in the 1950 and 1960s, where fish is a diet staple.
NID had Canadian firm Pegasus Earth Sensing Corp. demonstrate the system last fall and managed to extract six grams of mercury per ton of sediment dredged from the bottom of the reservoir. NID routinely dredges the reservoir to extract silt and keep water capacity as high as possible for customers.
Pegasus designed their centrifuge to extract gold from ancient river rock, but company officials found it did a better job of trapping mercury, according to Monohan.
The consultant is also on the staff of the Sierra Fund in Nevada City, which has been educating Californians about the mountain range's toxic mining past in recent years.
Gold Rush miners used an estimated 26 million pounds of mercury during hard rock and hydraulic mining, Monohan added. About 20 to 30 percent of that is believed to have been left behind in the environment.
gIf this project is successful, it could be used in a number of reservoirs in the Sierra Nevada as a best-management practice to clean mercury out of watersheds, Monohan said.
Mike Thornton helped develop the Sierra Fund's educative Mining Toxic Legacy Initiative; his organization strongly supports NID's Combie plan, he said.
It really is cutting edge and certainly could act as a role model for other water systems, Thornton said. We know the mercury's there, and it needs to be cleaned up if for no other reason for NID's capacity at the reservoir.
The State of California issues fish consumption warnings and recommends that children and women from 18 to 45 not eat bass or sucker fish caught from Combie Reservoir. All others are urged to have only one serving of either fish per week from the lake, which splits the Nevada and Placer county lines along the Bear River.
Similar safe eating guidelines exist for Rollins Reservoir upstream on the Bear River, and Lake Englebright on the Nevada and Yuba county lines.
Two million gallons of sewage hit TJ River — again
Written by Mike Lee
12:46 p.m., April 25, 2012 Updated 7:32 p.m.
A second sewage release of 2 million gallons in less than a month has fouled the Tijuana River, one of the most polluted waterways in the country.
San Diego County officials said Wednesday that the leak lasted for about 12 hours until midnight Tuesday and was caused by a broken sewer line near Mexico’s Rio Alamar, which drains to the Tijuana River and eventually the Pacific Ocean.
It’s unlikely that either accident will result in major penalties because the most recent incident happened in Mexico, where California officials have no authority, and the earlier spill was at a plant owned by the United States government, which generally is immune to fines under the Clean Water Act. For a municipal agency in San Diego County, a 2 million-gallon leak could generate hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines.
None of the sewage spilled Tuesday was recovered before it poured into San Diego County, according to the county Department of Environmental Health. It said beaches that typically would be closed by such a spill already were off-limits to water contact because of sewage-tainted flows that have been entering the United States since mid-March.
It’s not clear when beach closures will be lifted; health officials said they will remain in place until water testing shows the water is safe for swimmers and surfers.
Despite hundreds of millions of dollars of spent on both sides of the border, contaminated runoff from neighborhoods in Tijuana regularly streams downhill into San Diego County following rains — and that problem is exacerbated by equipment failures and other upsets.
The huge back-to-back incidents boosted concern in the South Bay.
“Accidents happen, but there are concrete measure and specific infrastructure upgrades that can be made to reduce the risk of sewage spills and polluted beaches,” said Paloma Aguirre of Wildcoast, an environmental group that works on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border. “We (can’t) afford to continue to jeopardize the health of ocean users, our tourism economy and the brand new Tijuana Rivermouth Marine Protected Area because of the accidental release of sewage.”
On April 4, an estimated 2 million gallons of sewage spilled into the Tijuana River Valley due to what officials called operator error and a computer glitch. That incident was at a plant in San Ysidro owned by the U.S. section of the International Boundary and Water Commission, where the sewage overflow damaged pumps.
A spokeswoman for the boundary commission said Wednesday that the agency expected to get its pumps back online Thursday.
The commission also said it had improved its notification process so that groups such as Wildcoast are alerted to spills quickly. After the early April incident, residents and organizations complained about not getting notice for several days. Aguirre lauded the boundary commission’s improved communication effort this time around and said she met with regulators on Wednesday to press for investments such as refurbished wastewater pipes to avert future problems.