The Environment

  • Thousands of sippy cups and bottles recalled due to lead poisoning hazard
    by rcoleman on Nov 29, 2022 at 7:35 pm

    Thousands of sippy cups and bottles recalled due to lead poisoning hazard rcoleman November 29, 2022 WASHINGTON – On November 23, the baby product company Green Sprouts issued a voluntary recall of more than 10,000 stainless steel bottles and sippy cups because of lead poisoning concerns. “It is unacceptable that these cups may have exposed children to lead, a potent neurotoxin,” said Olga Naidenko, Ph.D., vice president of science investigations at the Environmental Working Group. “Companies must vigorously test their products for lead, especially those marketed for use by babies and children.” According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, the faulty products include 6-ounce and 8-ounce stainless steel cups and bottles. The recall affects all stainless steel bottles with a removable base cover. The bottom base cap of these cups can break off to expose a solder dot containing lead that could pose a hazard.  Consumers should immediately stop using the affected products and discard them.   There is no safe blood lead level in children, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Exposure causes an array of health problems, including brain damage, lowered IQ and other harm to brain and nervous system development. Even small amounts can cause behavior and learning problems, slow growth, impair hearing and the ability to pay attention, and weakens overall cognitive development.  Because of their developing bodies, babies and young children are especially vulnerable to the effects of lead exposure – they absorb four to five times as much ingested lead as adults, according to the World Health Organization. Today babies and kids are exposed to lead mostly through paint in older, badly maintained residential units and contaminated drinking water.  “We’ve known for decades that even a tiny amount of lead exposure during childhood can affect neurodevelopment, including behavior changes, problems with cognitive development and attention deficit difficulties,” said Naidenko.  “No infant or child should be exposed to the damaging effects of this dangerous heavy metal. The impact of elevated lead levels in a child’s blood can include devastating lifelong consequences,” she added. ###  The Environmental Working Group is a nonprofit, non-partisan organization that empowers people to live healthier lives in a healthier environment. Through research, advocacy and unique education tools, EWG drives consumer choice and civic action. Areas of Focus Family Health Children’s Health Toxic Chemicals Lead Press Contact Monica Amarelo (202) 939-9140 November 29, 2022 Disqus Comments

  • EPA needs funding boost to meet new TSCA requirements
    by rcoleman on Nov 29, 2022 at 2:07 pm

    EPA needs funding boost to meet new TSCA requirements rcoleman November 29, 2022 EWG presents this guest article by David Coursen and Betsy Southerland from the Environmental Protection Network. The Environmental Protection Agency continues to suffer from long-term congressional underfunding, which has starved it of the resources needed to meet its existing and future needs. The agency needs more resources to equip it to handle these all-important challenges. By the start of the Biden administration, the EPA’s workforce and budget had declined to levels not seen since the 1980s. Yet when Congress provided the new administration with its first annual EPA appropriation, it rejected 85 percent of its requests for new funding – $1.7 billion in all – to rebuild the agency’s depleted workforce and restore its core capacity to protect the environment, address climate change, and advance environmental justice. That effectively froze the EPA’s budget at the 2021 funding levels negotiated by the Trump administration, with a nominal 4 percent “increase,” less than half the inflation rate.  Inadequate funding has been especially harmful to the EPA’s ability to manage toxic substances. The agency has received no new funding to meet significant new responsibilities under the 2016 amendments to the Toxic Substances Control Act, or TSCA, commonly referred to as the Lautenberg Act. The new amendments gave the EPA deadlines for addressing new mandates, including evaluation of chemical substances already in use based on their health and environmental risks, and restrictions or bans on uses that pose unreasonable risk.  The amendments also require the EPA to conduct new chemical safety risk assessments and determine that substances are safe before allowing their use. And they called for increasing the transparency of chemical data while protecting legitimate confidential business information, issuing orders requiring industry to fill critical data gaps, and setting fees needed to fund agency responsibilities.  Although the act imposing these new responsibilities passed with bipartisan support, the Trump administration asked Congress to cut funding for toxics risk review. And the EPA has received little additional funding since then, though the increased responsibilities doubled the workload.   The EPA recently reported to Congress on its implementation of the Lautenberg Act. The report concedes the agency missed many of its statutory deadlines because it lacks the capacity to review and regulate these chemicals on the schedule Congress intended. The EPA failed to complete the risk evaluations or meet risk management rules required for the first 10 existing chemicals and will likely miss the deadlines for the next 20 existing chemicals.  The report also acknowledges that the EPA lacks the resources to review new chemicals and determine their safety within the 90-day statutory time period. Lack of resources has led to out-of-date, inadequately supported and poorly run IT systems plagued by breakdowns and shutdowns. One recent shutdown in the new chemical review program lasted nearly two weeks.  The report points out that during the Trump administration the agency did not adequately assess its need for resources or request the staff and funding required to implement its new responsibilities. That failure is illustrated by the Trump administration’s consistent requests to reduce TSCA support by up to 35 percent. The EPA’s much higher fiscal year 2023 budget request, along with the updated TSCA fees rule expected this year, reflect the cost of implementing TSCA.  To meet TSCA requirements for the review of new and existing chemicals, this year’s budget seeks $59 million and 175 new full-time staff above the fiscal year 2022 enacted levels. The new resources would allow the EPA to expand and diversify its scientific expertise, enabling faster, more robust chemical reviews of both new and existing chemicals. New resources would be used to modernize IT systems, promoting timely and effective work that will also save money.   The EPA expects program costs to decline as it learns to work more efficiently with increased staff and updated IT.   In addition, the EPA plans to use these resources to develop better scientific and regulatory tools for assessing chemical risks to potentially exposed and vulnerable subpopulations and addressing occupational safety. The EPA also intends to work more efficiently and kick-start decision-making through earlier identification and resolution of controversies in risk evaluations and management issues. These measures will lead to more efficient and cost-effective program operation.   Costs may also decline in the existing chemical program because the first chemicals mandated by the act for risk evaluation and management were substances that are widely used, with known health and environmental concerns. So addressing them was complicated, costly and time-consuming. Subsequent substances, with fewer uses, may be cheaper and easier to evaluate and address. The new resources included in the 2023 budget request are essential if the EPA is to ensure our nation’s chemicals are evaluated and managed as Congress intended. Congress put enormous effort into developing the 2016 amendments to TSCA, the first major revision of an environmental statute in over 20 years. Now it’s time for Congress to put equal effort into giving the EPA the resources it needs to implement the new law effectively.      Areas of Focus Personal Care Products Household & Consumer Products Toxic Chemicals Chemical Policy Guest Authors David Coursen (Environmental Protection Network) and Betsy Southerland (Environmental Protection Network) November 29, 2022 Disqus Comments

  • This California city needs housing. But is a new development destined to burn?
    by Jake Bittle on Nov 29, 2022 at 11:45 am

    Still reeling from the 2018 Camp Fire, Chico residents are divided over a large new subdivision planned in the path of the last blaze.

  • Houston is just the latest Texas city to boil water for safety
    by John McCracken on Nov 29, 2022 at 11:30 am

    The infrastructure woes behind a water failure

  • Google Doodle Celebrates Marie Tharp, Who Mapped the Ocean Floor
    by Columbia Climate School on Nov 28, 2022 at 6:12 pm

    Tharp co-published the first world map of the ocean floors and helped prove the theory of continental drift.

  • Despite Biden’s promises, logging still threatens old forests and U.S. climate goals
    by Grist Creative on Nov 28, 2022 at 4:13 pm

    Federal agencies continue to move dozens of logging projects forward in federal forests across the United States.

  • The Challenge of Sustainable Fashion
    by Steve Cohen on Nov 28, 2022 at 1:19 pm

    Young people, who are the primary market for fast fashion, are beginning to understand the environmental damage caused by the industry.

  • Herschel Walker, South Park, and the Prius: How loving gas-guzzlers became political
    by Kate Yoder on Nov 28, 2022 at 11:45 am

    Why do Republicans defend polluting vehicles? Because Democrats love the saintly Prius.

  • As the outdoor industry ditches ‘forever chemicals,’ REI lags behind
    by Joseph Winters on Nov 28, 2022 at 11:30 am

    Here are some of the other brands that have promised to phase out PFAS.

  • A Study Offers New Insights Into the Record 2021 Western North America Heat Wave
    by Kevin Krajick on Nov 24, 2022 at 4:00 pm

    Several weeks during summer 2021 saw heat records in the western United States and Canada broken not just by increments, but by tens of degrees, an event of unprecedented extremity. To what degree was it climate change, bad luck, or a combination?

  • EWG applauds Hochul for enacting first-in-U.S. freeze on cryptocurrency mining
    by rcoleman on Nov 23, 2022 at 4:18 pm

    EWG applauds Hochul for enacting first-in-U.S. freeze on cryptocurrency mining rcoleman November 23, 2022 WASHINGTON – The Environmental Working Group today applauds New York Gov. Kathy Hochul, a Democrat, for signing into law a bill that places a two-year pause on cryptocurrency mining in the state. It’s the first state freeze on cryptocurrency mining, which harms the climate by wasting enormous amounts of electricity. The law places a moratorium on new and renewed air permits needed to operate fossil fuel power plants that provide the electricity for a cryptocurrency mining process known as proof of work. It also requires New York’s Department of Environmental Conservation to study the environmental impacts of cryptocurrency mining. “Digital currencies that rely upon proof of work are wasteful by design,” said Scott Faber, EWG’s senior vice president for government affairs. “The incentives baked into digital assets like bitcoin demand more and more electricity – not less – at a time when all of us need to use electricity more efficiently. “It’s not just the climate that’s harmed by the growing electricity use by bitcoin mines. Local communities are also affected by increased air and water pollution when bitcoin mines revive or extend the life of fossil energy plants. “Gov. Hochul is right to make New York the first state in the nation to pump the brakes on bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies that threaten our climate and our communities.” Between 2017 and 2022, annual estimated electricity demand from bitcoin mining increased from 7 terawatt-hours, a measure of electricity, to more than 90 terawatt-hours. By contrast, electricity demand by comparable sectors has not increased – and even declined in some. Data centers have not hiked their electricity demand, even though internet traffic and data center workloads have ramped up significantly. Cryptocurrency mining doesn’t need to waste electricity, since much more energy efficient processes, like proof of stake, exist as alternatives to proof of work. Ethereum, second only to bitcoin in market capitalization, recently “merged” to adopt proof of stake. “The recently completed ethereum merge and past code changes show that change by the bitcoin community is possible – just like the changes we’ve all made to how we power our homes and cars and how we grow our food,” Faber said. “Every industry can reduce its electricity use, including the financial sector. Adding more electricity demand – as proof of work mining will ultimately require – moves us in the wrong direction. “But there is no requirement – under current law – that proof of work mines must be powered by renewable energy or be more energy efficient. We will need all the clean energy we can get to power our homes, cars and businesses. We should not divert clean energy to an inherently wasteful use of electricity. “We’re at a crossroads. The merge shows what’s possible. The bitcoin community should follow ethereum’s lead. But regulators and legislators should not stand on the sidelines.” EWG has joined Greenpeace USA in launching a national campaign to shed light on the electricity and climate implications of bitcoin mining and its effect on our climate goals. Find out more here about the campaign, Change the Code, Not the Climate. ### The Environmental Working Group (EWG) is a nonprofit, non-partisan organization that empowers people to live healthier lives in a healthier environment. Through research, advocacy and unique education tools, EWG drives consumer choice and civic action. Areas of Focus Change the Code, Not the Climate Press Contact Alex Formuzis (202) 667-6982 November 23, 2022 Disqus Comments

  • How Studying the Clouds Can Improve Climate Models
    by Guest Blogger on Nov 23, 2022 at 2:34 pm

    Kara Lamb discusses her research using machine learning to study cirrus clouds and how it can increase the accuracy of climate models.

  • Planning your 2023 travel? Skip these places in order to save them
    by Brett Marsh on Nov 23, 2022 at 11:30 am

    With environmental and cultural strains, places like Lake Tahoe could use a break

  • Tanzania drops murder charges against 24 Maasai land defenders
    by Joseph Lee on Nov 23, 2022 at 11:15 am

    The alleged murder occurred when state security forces tried to evict the Maasai to create a hunting preserve.

  • Iron-Rich Dust From South America Played Role in Last Two Glacial Periods, Says Study
    by Columbia Climate School on Nov 22, 2022 at 6:28 pm

    Dust from the land that gets blown into the ocean appears to influence natural climate swings. A new study looks into where much of that dust came from in the past 260,000 years.

  • What Did COP27 Accomplish?
    by Guest Blogger on Nov 22, 2022 at 5:07 pm

    Delegates from Columbia Climate School discuss the achievements and shortfalls of COP27, as well as what took place outside the negotiation room.

  • Hiding in household products: Study links phthalates to uterine fibroids
    by rcoleman on Nov 22, 2022 at 2:08 pm

    Hiding in household products: Study links phthalates to uterine fibroids rcoleman November 22, 2022 A new study finds exposure to the harmful class of chemicals known as phthalates poses particular risks for women. These substances lurk in many household items people use every day, including personal care products, clothing and more. The study, by scientists at Northwestern University, finds a cause-and-effect link between phthalates and the growth of uterine fibroids, the most common type of tumors among women. As many as four in five women may develop them during their lifetime. The research was published in the peer-reviewed journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Uterine fibroids are round, firm growths in the uterus whose size can vary widely, from smaller than a pea to as large as a grapefruit. Women with this type of tumor might develop symptoms that can include pelvic and back pain, heavy menstrual bleeding and more. The fibroids rarely develop into cancer, according to the Mayo Clinic.  These problems alone are reason for concern about the potential for phthalates to increase uterine fibroids. Earlier epidemiological studies have shown a positive association between exposure to phthalates and impacts to women’s health. Because phthalates are used in so many household items, exposure is widespread in the U.S. These chemicals don’t bind to other materials, so they can leach from products, exposing people. The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, has found that about 75 percent of U.S. adults have detectable phthalates in their urine. The new research builds on these findings by evaluating the biological effects of phthalates on uterine fibroid cells. The new study found that women who had a 10 percent increase in exposure to five of the most common phthalates had a 6 percent higher risk of developing uterine fibroids. Of those five phthalates, the most widely used, diethyl phthalate, or DEHP, had the strongest link to uterine fibroids. This chemical is found in many consumer and industrial products, including toys, food storage containers, plastic of all kinds, construction materials, furniture, medication, personal care products and clothing. Phthalates are a family of chemicals that disrupt the hormonal system. They may also harm the developing brain, which can cause difficulty with learning and attention and behavioral disorders. They have also been linked to changes in hormone levels, harm to the male reproductive system, obesity, diabetes and thyroid irregularities. Exposure to phthalates may also harm future generations, according to the new study. “In utero or prepubertal phthalate exposure,” the researchers said, “may also predispose women to fibroid development and growth.” The runaway use of potentially harmful phthalates in so many everyday products shows how badly broken our chemicals regulatory system is. To better protect public health, Congress must address concerns about chemicals like phthalates and reform how they’re approved for use. It’s possible to minimize your exposure to phthalates in consumer products. Among other things, avoid heating food in plastic containers, skip fast food, and consult EWG’s Skin Deep® cosmetics database and Guide to Healthy Cleaning to find personal care and cleaning products free from phthalates and undisclosed fragrance.  Areas of Focus Personal Care Products Cosmetics Family Health Reproductive Health Toxic Chemicals Phthalates Authors Homer Swei, Ph.D. November 22, 2022 Disqus Comments

  • Faculty Spotlight: John Williams
    by Guest Blogger on Nov 22, 2022 at 1:30 pm

    He’s teaching “Geographies of Environmental Justice and Sustainability” in the Sustainability Management program this fall.

  • Inside the COP27 fight to get wealthy nations to pay climate reparations
    by Naveena Sadasivam on Nov 22, 2022 at 11:45 am

    How developing countries’ 30-year battle for “loss and damage” funding culminated in a new agreement in Egypt.

  • COP27 is over. What did it achieve?
    by Blanca Begert on Nov 22, 2022 at 11:30 am

    The climate conference delivered a historic deal on loss and damage — but little else.

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