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News and announcements related to environmental impacts on human health, collected from a multitude of sources, especially Environmental Health News. For additional items or to subscribe to this feed, visit healthandenvironment.org/CHE.xml.

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Low-level toxic metal exposure in healthy weaning-age infants: association with growth, dietary intake, and iron deficiency.

April 26, 2017

This study investigated toxic metal exposure on healthy weaning-age infants and its relationship with growth, diet, and iron/anemia status. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health.

Target to phase out expanded polystyrene packaging.

April 26, 2017

US retailer Target has vouched to eliminate expanded polystyrene (EPS) in its own brand packaging by 2022 because it is "a pain to recycle" and "a major cause of ocean plastic contamination." Chemical Watch.

New study: California drought increased electricity bills and air pollution.

April 26, 2017

California's brutal five-year drought did more than lead to water shortages and dead lawns. It increased electricity bills statewide by $2.45 billion and boosted levels of smog and greenhouse gases. San Jose Mercury News, California.
[See the report: Impacts of California’s Five-Year (2012-2016) Drought on Hydroelectricity Generation]

One big legal obstacle keeps Trump from undoing greenhouse gas regulation.

April 26, 2017

Trump officials face a major roadblock in their efforts, legal scholars say. It is the US Environmental Protection Agency's 2009 formal "endangerment finding," which states carbon dioxide and five other greenhouse gases emitted from smokestacks and other man-made sources "threaten the public health and welfare of current and future generations." Scientific American.

Trump officials face a major roadblock in their efforts, legal scholars say. It is the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s 2009 formal “endangerment finding,” which states carbon dioxide and five other greenhouse gases emitted from smokestacks and other man-made sources “threaten the public health and welfare of current and future generations.” This agency rule, supported by two Supreme Court decisions, legally compels the government to do exactly what its new leaders want to avoid: regulate greenhouse gases. Although EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt publicly doubtsa connection between human-produced carbon emissions and global warming, any attempt to undo this rule “would be walking into a legal buzz saw,” says Michael Gerrard, faculty director of the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law at Columbia University. Endangerment is “the linchpin for everything—all of the carbon regulation under the Clean Air Act,” says Patrick Parenteau, a professor of environmental law at Vermont Law School.

The rule’s fundamental power is exactly why Pruitt has to remove it, says Myron Ebell, who oversaw the Trump transition team at the EPA. “You can’t just take out the flowers—you have to take out the roots—starting with the endangerment finding,” says Ebell, a senior fellow at the conservative think tank the Competitive Enterprise Institute. “You can undo the Obama climate agenda on the surface by reopening the Clean Power Plant rule, the methane rule, rescinding the [auto emissions] standards and so on. But the underlying foundation remains.” The conservative Web site Breitbart, read widely among Trump’s supporters and still tied to its former publisher, White House adviser Steve Bannon, has attacked Pruitt as a political careerist for reportedly resisting pressure to revoke the finding.

The rule rests on a 2007 Supreme Court decision in the case Massachusetts v. EPA, which determined the agency has the authority under the Clean Air Act to regulate greenhouse gases. When the finding itself was later challenged, the Court upheld it. The endangerment finding prevents Pruitt from ignoring climate change or eliminating greenhouse gas regulations outright. The EPA can attempt to water down these standards and regulations, perhaps substantially. But Pruitt “would have to come up with a scientific basis for saying that greenhouse gas emissions do not in fact pose a threat to public health and welfare,” Gerrard says. “That would be a very difficult finding, considering every court that has addressed the issue of the science of climate change has found there to be a solid factual, scientific basis for it.”

To begin to remove the endangerment rule, the EPA would have to go through a formal rule-making process. That means inviting public comments, reviewing available evidence and scientifically justifying every point. Formulating and then defending such a document in court would be a big challenge, given it cuts against the legal and scientific consensus linking carbon to climate change. Even Ebell concedes this is a formidable obstacle. “That’s why a lot of people on our side say it’s not worth the trouble,” he says. “The people who disagree with me are not nuts—they are making substantial arguments for why we should not do it.”

The endangerment finding has its roots in the waning days of the Clinton administration, when then–EPA General Counsel Jonathan Cannon drafted a legal memo stating the agency had the authority to regulate carbon emissions. At the time this was a novel and counterintuitive idea. CO2 is a ubiquitous, naturally occurring gas, essential to photosynthesis and other basic processes of life on Earth. It’s not poisonous like smog and other dangerous pollutants targeted by the Clean Air Act. “CO2 is a different sort of pollutant than many that the EPA regulates,” says Cannon, now a professor at the University of Virginia School of Law. “Its effects are felt over time through the climate system, not as immediate effects on one’s lungs or physical systems.

But the Clean Air Act “has a very broad definition of what a pollutant can be and what harm a pollutant causes,” says George Kimbrell, legal director of the International Center for Technology Assessment and the Center for Food Safety, two related groups among a coalition of environmental organizations that formally petitioned the EPA to regulate carbon in 1999. The law defines “air pollutant” as "any air pollution agent or combination of such agents, including any physical, chemical, biological, radioactive...substance or matter, which is emitted into or otherwise enters the ambient air.” According to Kimbrell, “The breadth of that language suggested greenhouse gas emissions would qualify under the statute.”

The language prompted a lawsuit from states and small environmental groups, during the George W. Bush administration, to sue the EPA to force it to regulate carbon. The result was the Supreme Court’s 5–4 2007 Massachusetts decision. Following that ruling, the endangerment finding then spelled out the legal rationale and the scientific basis for regulation.

What can the Trump administration do to get out of this regulatory box? It could push Congress to amend the Clean Air Act to explicitly exclude carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases from the list of air pollutants. But even if it passed the Republican-dominated House, Parenteau notes, such a bill could be effectively opposed by Democrats in the Senate, who have enough votes to hold up or change legislation. . The EPA could also target climate rules not based on the endangerment finding, such as procedures for monitoring and reporting greenhouse gases, according to Gerrard.

The most likely outcome, legal scholars say, is a series of incremental battles in which the administration and Congress try to weaken individual climate rules and enforcement—while those efforts are repeatedly challenged in court by states and environmental groups hoping to run out the clock on the Trump administration. “One reason the endangerment finding is important,” Cannon says, “is that, should administrations change, it provides the basis for further climate initiatives.”

Rights & Permissions

Latest News

Gut Microbes Help Keep Starved Flies Fecund

Gut Microbes Help Keep Starved Flies Fecund

NASA's Cassini Mission Conducts Daring Dive through Saturn's Rings

NASA's Cassini Mission Conducts Daring Dive through Saturn's Rings

Broken Bones Hint at Earlier Human Arrival in the Americas

Broken Bones Hint at Earlier Human Arrival in the Americas

Ancient Bones Spark Fresh Debate over First Humans in the Americas

Ancient Bones Spark Fresh Debate over First Humans in the Americas

Trump Order Could Remove Protections for National Monuments

Revealed: deadly toxic air enters bloodstream 15 minutes after cyclists inhale it.

April 26, 2017

A groundbreaking study shows for the first time that nanoparticles in vehicle emissions are able to “cross the barrier” from the lungs into blood vessels. Evening Standard, United Kingdom.
[See the study: Inhaled nanoparticles accumulate at sites of vascular disease]

Study suggests ancient underground water sources not immune to today's pollution.

April 26, 2017

The research yielded two interesting findings—up to 85 per cent of the fresh, unfrozen water in the upper kilometre of the earth's crust is more than 12,000 years old and it's possible for ancient and recent water sources to mingle deep underground. Thunder Bay Chronicle Journal, Ontario.
[See the study: Global aquifers dominated by fossil groundwaters but wells vulnerable to modern contamination]

The Arctic Ocean is on track to be ice-free in summer by 2040.

April 26, 2017

Also new since 2011 is emerging information about how amplified Arctic warming affects the rest of the world. There is new information about far-north warming causing the jet stream to slow, meander and exacerbate midlatitude weather problems, the SWIPA report says. ADN.com.
[See the report: Snow, Water, Ice and Permafrost. Summary for Policy-makers]

Study bolsters evidence that pesticides contribute to honeybee colony collapse.

April 26, 2017

A new study finds that a controversial pesticide, restricted in many parts of Europe but allowed in the US, significantly impairs honeybees’ ability to fly. San Diego Union Tribune, California.
[See the study: A common neonicotinoid pesticide, thiamethoxam, impairs honey bee flight ability]

Obesity "frightening" in Latin America, driving disease and draining economies.

April 26, 2017

More than two thirds of people living in Chile, Ecuador and Mexico are overweight or obese, costing their economies tens of billions of dollars every year, driving rates of disease and straining health services, a U.N. report said on Tuesday. Reuters.
[See the report (in Spanish): El costo de la doble carga de malnutrición: impacto social y
económico
]

Occurrence and in vitro bioactivity of estrogen, androgen, and glucocorticoid compounds in a nationwide screen of United States stream waters.

April 25, 2017

Incorporation of in vitro bioassays as complements to chemical analyses in standard water quality monitoring efforts would allow for more complete assessment of the chemical mixtures present in many surface waters. Environmental Science & Technology.

Expanded target-chemical analysis reveals extensive mixed-organic-contaminant exposure in US streams.

April 25, 2017

The 10 most-frequently detected anthropogenic-organics included eight pesticides (desulfinylfipronil, AMPA, chlorpyrifos, dieldrin, metolachlor, atrazine, CIAT, glyphosate) and two pharmaceuticals (caffeine, metformin) with detection frequencies ranging 66–84% of all sites. Environmental Science & Technology.

Governor Cuomo announces new regulations to require disclosure of chemicals in household cleaning products.

April 25, 2017

Copies of the Draft 2017 Household Cleaning Product Information Disclosure Certification Form are available on DEC’s website. Public comment on the form will be accepted through June 14, 2017.

Flame retardant chemicals in college dormitories: flammability standards influence dust concentrations.

April 25, 2017

Student dormitory rooms tended to have higher levels of some FRs compared to common rooms, likely a result of the density of furniture and electronics. Environmental Science & Technology.

Cardiovascular and respiratory conditions linked to drought.

April 25, 2017

Researchers at the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies have found that drought-prone conditions such as low rainfall may increase the risk of mortality from cardiovascular and respiratory illnesses during the onset of high-severity drought. Yale News.
[See the study: Drought and the risk of hospital admissions and mortality in older adults in western USA from 2000 to 2013: a retrospective study]

Pollution from Canada’s oil sands may be underreported.

April 25, 2017

The study shows that air samples collected using aircraft may be a more accurate way to tally air and climate pollution from oil and gas production than using industry estimates. Climate Central.
[See the study: Differences between measured and reported volatile organic compound emissions from oil sands facilities in Alberta, Canada]

Study: Fracking didn’t impact West Virginia groundwater, but wastewater spills pollute streams.

April 25, 2017

Fracking the Marcellus Shale did not pollute groundwater in northwestern West Virginia, but wastewater spills did contaminate surface water, according to a new study from Duke University. NPR State Impact.
[See the study: The geochemistry of naturally occurring methane and saline groundwater in an area of unconventional shale gas development]

Bacteria may be reason some foods cause heart disease, stroke.

April 25, 2017

"The new study provides the first direct evidence in humans that consuming excess choline, an essential nutrient plentiful in a Western diet, raises both levels of the bacteria-produced compound, called trimethylamine N-oxide (TMAO), and the tendency of platelets to clump together and form clots," the American Heart Association, which publishes Circulation, said in a statement. NBC News.
[See the study: Gut microbe-generated trimethylamine N-oxide from dietary choline is prothrombotic in subjects]

Consumers being misled by labeling on 'organic' beauty products, report shows.

April 25, 2017

The makers of many “organic” beauty products have been accused of confusing and meaningless labelling, according to a new survey in which 76% of consumers admitted they felt misled. The Guardian.
[See more about the Come Clean About Beauty League Table]

Concerns explode over new health risks of vaping.

April 25, 2017

Researchers link e-cigs to wounds that won't heal and 'smoker's cough' in teens. Science News for Students.
[See the studies not previously included here: Myofibroblast differentiation and its functional properties are inhibited by nicotine and e-cigarette via mitochondrial OXPHOS complex III, Electronic cigarette use and respiratory symptoms in adolescents and E-cigarettes as a source of toxic and potentially carcinogenic metals]

'It's going to hit the poorest people': Zika outbreak feared on the Texas border.

April 25, 2017

As mosquito season ramps up again, activists and health workers fear the worst for the the Rio Grande Valley, where conditions are ripe for mosquitoes to breed. The Guardian.

That perfect, toxic lawn: American suburbs and 2,4-D.

April 25, 2017

Originally developed as a chemical weapon, this weedkiller can be found in garages across America. Los Angeles KCET TV, California.

Ninth Circuit upholds cellphone warning law.

April 25, 2017

In a 2-1 decision, a Ninth Circuit panel on Friday refused to overturn a ruling upholding a Berkeley, California, law that forces retailers to warn consumers about the potential health risks of cellphones. Courthouse News Service.

Diet rich in plant protein may prevent type 2 diabetes.

April 24, 2017

While plant protein may provide a protective role, meat protein was shown to increase the risk of type 2 diabetes. Medical News Today.
[See the study: Intake of different dietary proteins and risk of type 2 diabetes in men: the Kuopio Ischaemic Heart Disease Risk Factor Study]

At least global warming may get Americans off the couch more.

April 24, 2017

With less chilly winters, Americans will be more likely to get outdoors, increasing their physical activity by as much as 2.5 percent by the end of the century, according to a new study in Monday's edition of the journal Nature Human Behaviour. But the affect varies by month and location. Associated Press.
[See the study: Climate change may alter human physical activity patterns]

The risks of lifetime environmental exposures explored at YSPH symposium.

April 24, 2017

Leading scientists from around the United States and England discussed the challenges associated with exposome research as well as its potential to transform environmental epidemiology. Yale School of Public Health.

Use of antibiotics linked autoimmune diseases.

April 24, 2017

According to research conducted by a team of scientists in Australia, giving antibiotics to children impedes the normal growth and development of "good" bacteria that inhabit the digestive tract (gut). Nairobi Daily Nation, Kenya.
[See the study: Early-life antibiotic treatment enhances the pathogenicity of CD4+ T cells during intestinal inflammation]

Free bicycles reducing pollution in China.

April 24, 2017

What began as an experiment to see if it was possible to reduce both air pollution and congestion has become a major success story, not just in Hangzhou but in 175 cities across the country. Perhaps the most surprising aspect of the Hangzhou Bicycle Service is that it makes a profit. Climate News Network.

These 6 activists are risking it all in the name of environmental justice.

April 24, 2017

The 2017 Goldman Environmental Prize winners fight mining, poaching, and deforestation—sometimes at great personal risk. Outside.

Big Agro on campus.

April 24, 2017

Universities claim industry-funded research on chemical and pesticide safety is scientifically sound. Not everybody is convinced. The Walrus, Canada.

Cancer has exploded in Bihar as people drink water poisoned with arsenic.

April 24, 2017

Arsenic levels in water have been as high as 3,880 parts per billion in parts of the state. Pollution standards cite 50 parts per billion as harmful. Scroll.in, India.