Backyard Talk
Sharon H.

New Study Highlights Reproductive Risks from Fracking Chemicals

By Sharon H. : August 28, 2015 11:35 pm

Could pollution from unconventional oil and gas drilling cause reproductive problems? Scientists at the University of Missouri are trying to answer this question. A study published yesterday in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives assessed the research so far on endocrine disrupting compounds (EDCs) in chemicals used for hydraulic fracturing. The study presented research linking fracking to EDCs, and the authors recommended an increased focus on these compounds in assessing health risks from fracking pollution.

Endocrine disrupting compounds are a class of chemicals that can alter the delicately balanced endocrine system of the human body, interfering with processes involved in development and reproduction. Some EDCs prevent the endocrine system from carrying out normal functions, while others can mimic hormones naturally found in the body and cause increased endocrine activity. As the study authors note, EDCs are of particular concern because they can have effects at very low concentrations, especially during the early stages of development. Small doses of EDCs can cause drastic health changes, some of which can persist across generations.

One section of the study looked at the endocrine disrupting properties of individual chemicals in fracking fluid. Unfortunately, the identities of many of the approximately 1000 chemicals used in the fracking process are kept under wraps by industry, limiting the extent to which scientists can test any of the health effects they present. Of the chemicals the researchers were able to test, many had endocrine-disrupting properties. When the scientists assessed water samples from areas where drilling-related spills had occurred, they also found elevated endocrine disrupting activity. Chemicals involved in fracking processes are associated with reproductive effects, adverse pregnancy outcomes, and cancer, and several epidemiological studies cited in the paper found elevated risks for these problems in drilling-dense areas.

The study also focused on identifying gaps in our knowledge of EDCs in fracking chemicals. While our understanding of the impacts of individual chemicals is growing, we need to develop better methods for predicting and assessing how these chemicals might interact as part of a complex mixture, where the presence of multiple compounds could result in a more potent disruptive effect than that of one chemical alone. By studying concentrations of EDCs and their byproducts in people’s systems, we can determine what chemicals people are actually exposed to, and gather better information on whether these exposures are related to long-term health issues.

Overall, the study concluded that fracking health studies should include a significant focus on endocrine disrupting compounds. Among the many risks presented by fracking, exposure to complex mixtures of EDCs in the environment may prove to have extraordinary longterm effects.

Learn more:  http://ehp.niehs.nih.gov/wp-content/uploads/advpub/2015/8/ehp.1409535.acco.pdf

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Lois

I’m Dying of Cancer … It Was Preventable

By Lois : August 24, 2015 8:45 pm

Mary has terminal lung cancer. She never smoked. But what she did do is walk around the local park every morning 24 laps. She believed that she was doing a good thing for her health, getting exercise and fresh air.

Unfortunately, the park that she walked daily was found to be contaminated with radioactive materials. It’s all part of the St. Louis historical work on the Manhattan Project. Mary attended the local meeting this past week about the cleanup of the radioactive wastes. Officials told her that they were not going to close the park that she once walked around daily because the children are back in school. The children, they believe wouldn’t spend much time in the park because of school so they didn’t need to take any  action.

Outraged that no one would close the park, the park she believed was the root cause of her now death sentence, Mary decided to do something about it.  Mary stood in front of the park with a sign that asked people to ask her why she was there, so she could tell them her story. How her grandson will never really know his Nana because she will be gone before they can do much together.

Today the park that Mary once walked laps around  is closed, because Mary wouldn’t leave the entrance with her yellow sign “Park Closed,”  until it was officially closed to innocent children and families. Thank you Mary.

The unfortunate truth is that it took a victim of radioactive exposure, a mother and grandmother to take a stand and protect the innocent from known harm. Where are our health protectors?  Where are the local, state and more importantly federal health authorities that have jurisdiction  and decision making powers when such decisions are needed. Who are they afraid of?

I’m am so tired of the federal government who has investigated and defined the cleanup and testing of this site and so many other sites, turn their heads when it comes to making a decision about protecting the public health. This is not the case when the public is placed at risk from food poisoning or a drug that proved to be more harmful than thought. Why are people exposed to radioactive wastes or toxic wastes the abandoned child? Why is there No Protection or Unequal Protection under government authorities when it comes to working class or low wealth families?

Time and time again we at CHEJ have seen that families are ignored when it comes to the real life threat of exposures to materials that will cause cancer and other diseases. It is well past time that the health professionals who took an oath “to do know harm” to step up to the plate and protect innocent families in the same manner, in the same time frame, as they do families exposed to food related or drug related health impacts.

To hear Mary speak to this issue you can connect to the Youtube video and begin at 1:59, but be sure to have a box of tissues handy to wipe your eyes because the personal testimony is very powerful and sad.

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CHEJ Intern

Renewables Become the Second Most Popular Source of Electricity

By CHEJ Intern : August 19, 2015 11:02 am

By: Katie O’Brien

Renewables have just become the second most popular source of electricity in the World! Making it the first time since 2001, natural gas was bumped from the number two spot. While coal still holds the number one spot, this is a huge step in the right direction for clean energy.

According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), 41% of electricity still came from coal, but over 22% came from renewable sources, such as solar, wind, and wave power. The increase in renewables can be attributed to 34 countries that are apart of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), that work together to seek answers to common problems, identify good practices and provide a platform to compare policy experiences. The increase however is not caused by a growth in renewable infrastructure, but rather an enormous decrease in coal electricity production. A study done by West Virginia University shows that there will be 39% decrease in coal production by 2035.

Europe has been a frontrunner in renewables. In the first quarter of this year, the U.K. alone produced over 22% of their power solar sources. Last year, Scotland provided enough electricity through wind power to power 72% of homes within the country. The European Renewable Energy Council has predicted that by the year 2050 (or sooner), that the European Union will have a completely renewable energy supply for the entire E.U. territory.

The U.S. is also working towards a more renewable future. According to Bloomberg New Energy Finance, in 2004, investments in renewable energy were around $9 billion. In the first quarter of 2015, that number rose to more than $50 billion. With renewables on the rise, and fossil fuels on the decline, the World is looking to a greener, cleaner, and brighter future.

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Steve

70 Years Later: Dropping the Nuclear Bomb

By Stephen Lester : August 17, 2015 1:04 pm

On August 6th 70 years ago, the U.S. government dropped a nuclear bomb on the Japanese city of Hiroshima. Estimates on how many people were killed range from 140,000 to 200,000. It was the first time a nuclear weapon had ever been used in war. Three days later, the U.S. dropped a second bomb on the city of Nagasaki. These events are largely credited for ending World War II.

Tens of thousands gathered at the Peace Memorial Park in Hiroshima on the morning of August 6th to commemorate the dropping of the bomb and to recall the horror of that day 70 years ago. The city has done a remarkable job of memorializing this event and telling the story of what happened to the city and its people in the days following the dropping of the bomb. One photographer who took pictures in the immediate aftermath of the bombing buried his film to be discovered years later, undamaged by the radiation. Many of his photographs can be found in the Peace Memorial Museum that brings the horror to life in vivid black and white images.

I made a visit to Hiroshima several years ago while traveling to Japan for the Rachel Carson Trust of Japan. The exhibits at the Peace Memorial Museum do a remarkable job of reenacting the impact of the bomb on the city and its people. And if that were not enough, the museum hosts a hibakusha or “atomic bomb person” who tells their story of witnessing and surviving the bombing. Their words bring the bombing to life in an unforgettable way. According to a story in the Washington Post, the city is now training young people to be “memory keepers” in order to continue disseminating the tales of the survivors, the average age of whom is 80. There are over 200 atomic bomb story-tellers who are learning the testimonies of the survivors in order to continue telling their stories.

It seems quite important to many of the Japanese people that they not forget how the bombings came about and the devastation caused by the bombings. This sentiment is in stark contrast, however, to the intentions expressed by Japanese Minister Shinzo Abe who supports proposed changes in the Japanese pacifist constitution that was written by its American occupiers in 1945. But many in Japan feel that its pacifist ways have done the country well and challenge Abe not to renounce its existing constitution.

Regardless of how Japan moves forward with its internal struggle to address its role in the war, you cannot help by take-away the key message clearly intended at the museum and peace park and that is the destructive power of nuclear weapons and importance of living in a world without nuclear weapons. A message the U.S. among other countries are reluctant to adopt.

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Lois

Families Expose to Toxic Chemicals Lives’ Matter

By Lois : August 14, 2015 1:58 pm

I am so frustrated and cannot understand how to win equal protection of health for all people.  I’ve been doing this work for over thirty years and observed that unlike food contamination or infectious disease, where health agencies move at the speed of light to keep people safe, when the source is toxic chemicals from a corporation, people are sacrificed.  I’m looking for ideas from those who read this blog.  Just recently we saw the call to action to protect public health  around the cilantro scare.

This week I received requests for help from local leaders CHEJ is working with that related to health studies and public health impacts from chemicals in their environment.

One study around hydro fracking, researchers found that pregnant women living near clusters of fracked wells were more likely to have babies with lower birth weights.  The second study found higher rates of hospitalization for heart conditions, neurological illness, and other conditions among people who live near fracking sites.

Those studies were not enough to stop fracking in the communities. In fact, health authorities said they believe it may not be the fracking at all – it could just be a random clustering of medical problems.

The third study was around a low wealth African American community in Birmingham, Alabama. Adjacent to the community is Walter Coke Facility that manufactures coke, toluene sulfonyl acid, produces pig iron from iron ore and more.

The Federal Agency for Toxic Substance and Disease Registry (ATSDR) conducted a study to determine the health risk to community families based upon exposures to arsenic, lead, and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) found in residential surface soil and homegrown garden produce in the communities collected from November 2012 through January 2015.

ATSDR concluded that:

  • past and current exposure to arsenic found in surface soil of some residential yards could harm people’s health. Children are especially at risk.
  • past and current exposure to lead found in surface soil of some residential yards could harm people’s health. Swallowing this lead‐contaminated soil could cause harmful health effects, especially in children and in the developing fetus of pregnant women.
  • long‐term exposure (i.e., many years) to PAHs found in the surface soil of some residential yards is at a level of concern for lifetime cancer risk.

The agency’s recommendation was for parents to:

  • monitor their children’s behavior while playing outdoors and prevent their children from intentionally or inadvertently eating soil;
  • take measures to reduce exposures to residential soil and to protect themselves, their families, and visitors;
  • have their children tested for blood lead; and
  • for EPA to continue testing for arsenic and lead in the soil and continue with its plans to cleanup additional properties (patch quilt of clean up not community wide as though the wind won’t carry toxic dust from one yard to another) to reduce levels in residential surface soil.

There was no mention of what the polluter should do. No mention of relocating families from the area to safe housing somewhere else. There was no mention of health monitoring or a clinic for people, especially children who are exposed and sick.

What level of human tragedy, suffering and loss of life will it take to stop the poisoning of American people from toxic chemicals?  The ethics behind the two responses of food/infectious disease versus chemical threats to public health is unethical.  Families being exposed to toxic chemicals matter just as much as everyone else. It’s time our health agencies stopped treating them as sacrificial families to protect corporate profits.

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