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Mapped Data Offers Insights about Water Quality and Birth Defects

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Aggregated data about metals in North Carolina’s well water indicate some disturbing connections between birth defects and well water in some parts of the state.

By Gabe Rivin

First, pull up a state map. Next, gather six years’ worth of childbirth records from across the state. Top it off with a surplus of data about the state’s drinking-water wells.

Confused what to do next?

If the connection isn’t immediately clear, you might want to ask Rebecca Fry, a professor at UNC-Chapel Hill and an expert in the harms wrought by heavy metals, such as arsenic and cadmium. Fry, along with researchers from UNC and the state’s government, recently combined these disparate data sets while studying the connections between well water and birth defects.

What they found, Fry said, was striking.

Water wells throughout the center of the state are saturated with manganese, they found. And babies in North Carolina were more likely to have heart defects if their mothers drank water from these manganese-rich wells.

In recent years, health researchers have increasingly turned their attention to heavy metals – such as cadmium, mercury, chromium and arsenic – particularly for their effects on unborn children. Fry and others have shown that cadmium can potentially harm newborns’ health and that the heavy metal has accumulated in mothers’ blood.

A map with average concentrations of four heavy metals in well water, listed in parts per billion. Graphic courtesy Rebecca Fry

A map with average concentrations of four heavy metals in well water, listed in parts per billion. Graphic courtesy Rebecca Fry

So it’s not entirely novel that a metal has been implicated in a health problem. But what is new, according to Fry, is that researchers have turned to data-rich maps to make these findings.

“Just being able to map those metals across the state is very new,” said Fry.

Mapping big data

Fry said she and her colleagues had a surfeit of data to work with.

For their study, published in September, the researchers gathered six years’ worth of childbirth data from across the state, captured by the state’s Birth Defects Monitoring Program. That program is part of the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services and keeps records on newborns’ birth defects in all 100 state counties.

The researchers gathered data from about 20,000 babies born with birth defects. As a control, they also considered about 668,000 born without defects.

The babies were born in counties in all regions of the state. And that meant that the babies’ mothers lived in counties across the state where water quality can vary dramatically from well to well.

The researchers wanted to know whether well water had anything to do with newborns’ birth defects. But they were limited, Fry said, since they couldn’t measure the mothers’ actual water consumption.

The Carolina slate belt runs from Virginia to Georgia and through central North Carolina, where it saturates drinking water wells with manganese. Graphic courtesy U.S. Geological survey

The Carolina slate belt runs from Virginia to Georgia and through central North Carolina, where it saturates drinking-water wells with manganese. Graphic courtesy U.S. Geological Survey

“We don’t have active environmental monitoring in everyone’s home,” she said.

So, to estimate the water that the mothers drank, the researchers instead relied on geocoding, a technique that allows different types of data to be plotted on maps.

It’s a technique that’s gaining momentum in public health research, according to Tzy-Mey May Kuo, a research associate at UNC’s Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center.

“This is not new, but it’s a technique that’s become popular,” she said, noting that geocoding is used in popular websites like Google Maps, whose maps are enriched with street-level images and information about businesses.

For the study’s authors, geocoding helped explain what was in the water that the mothers drank.

Using state records about well water, the researchers mapped out the different quality of the water across the state. They then combined this water data and another key data set – the locations of mothers’ homes while they were pregnant – in order to predict, on average, what sorts of heavy metals were entering the women’s bodies and potentially the bodies of their unborn children.

This complex method allowed them to answer three simpler questions: Where in the state is well water a problem, where are children being born with defects and is there a connection between the two?

The need for biomonitoring

When the data crunching was done, the picture was clear.

Manganese is highly concentrated in many North Carolina wells, the researchers found, especially in the central counties of the state, which sit above the Carolina slate belt, a cross-state geologic formation with an abundance of manganese. In fact, about 20 percent of private water wells exceeded the EPA’s suggested limit for the metal.

well image image is courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

2.3 million North Carolinians rely on wells for their drinking water, but some 20 percent of the wells surveyed in the study had manganese levels that exceeded the EPA’s recommended limit. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

And the manganese appeared to be causing harm. Newborns had a higher chance of being born with heart defects if their mothers drank the manganese-rich water, the study found.

Manganese toxicity follows a basic principle: the dose makes the poison. The body needs a small amount of the metal to function properly. But excessive amounts can be harmful.

Health researchers have known since the 1800s that manganese, which is used to harden steel, can cause neurological disorders in humans who’ve had high enough doses. Its effects, in fact, can emulate those of Parkinson’s disease. Among children, it’s also suspected of causing problems with neurological development.

But while their finding is worrisome, the researchers admit that their study had several significant limitations.

Though their sample size was large, the researchers were hampered by a lack of data about the mothers’ actual water consumption.

The study’s authors say their lack of individual measurements points to the need for biomonitoring, or chemical measurements of study participants’ bodies. But North Carolina currently doesn’t have any biomonitoring programs for pregnant women, they add.

They also note that until 2008 state government did not require residents to test well water – and even then, the tests were only made mandatory for new wells. So while the study relied on data from 1998 to 2010, the pre-2008 data would have come from residents who chose to have their wells tested. And that could have biased the data, the researchers say.

What well users can do

The UNC and government researchers used a sophisticated method to calculate health risks for newborns. But for residents concerned about their water, the solution can be much simpler. County health departments offer tests of private water wells, including tests for a number of heavy metals, including manganese.

In Montgomery County, well tests run between $35 and $85, and can measure pesticides, inorganic chemicals and petroleum. Teresa Davis, an environmental health coordinator with the county, said that most people seek out the county’s services on their own.

“Being such a small community, people know to call the health department,” she said.

Fry said that this is a good idea since federal and state regulations don’t cover the quality of well water. Residents can also install technology to remove heavy metals if they’re having an issue, she added.

But those filters can be more expensive than conventional water filters, like those made by Brita, Fry said. One, manufactured by Apyron, removes about 92 percent of arsenic from water but costs about $500. A reverse-osmosis system made by Certex costs about $300 and removes about 86 percent of arsenic.

The N.C. Department of Health and Human Services also collects water samples from newly drilled wells.

“The wells are sampled and the resident is given a list of contaminants (if any), possible remedies for such contaminants, as well as any health risks associated with consuming the water,” said Alexandra Lefebvre, a press officer with DHHS, in an email interview. “We recommend to all new well owners to sample their well annually after the first samples are collected.”

From North Carolina Health News.

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Statins: Widely used drugs may protect people from air pollution

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By Brian Bienkowski
Staff Writer
Environmental Health News

Nov. 24, 2014

One of the most widely prescribed drugs in the United States may have an extra benefit: protecting people from air pollution.

Statins, prescribed to lower cholesterol and reduce risks of heart attacks and strokes, seem to diminish inflammation that occurs after people breathe airborne particles.

AJC1/flickr
About one in four Americans over 45 takes statins.

“Health impacts from spikes in particulates in the air are substantial. Statins seem to protect not only lungs from these impacts but the heart, too,” said Dr. Norman Edelman, the American Lung Association’s senior medical advisor.

About one in four Americans over the age of 45 takes statins, including Lipitor, Zocor and other brand names.

Although drugs cannot be prescribed to protect people from air pollution, several studies show that people who take statins have fewer proteins in their blood that indicate inflammation of tissues, said Dr. Stephan van Eeden, an associate professor at the University of British Columbia who specializes in lung health. This inflammation may aggravate respiratory and cardiovascular diseases.

Most recently, a study of 1,923 U.S. women found that those taking statins are less likely to have signs of inflammation, said Bart Ostro, an epidemiologist with California’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment who led the study.

“There are some specific groups [such as diabetics] that seem to have higher levels of inflammation after long-term exposure,” Ostro said. “On the converse side, we found that people on statins seem to be protected from the inflammatory effects of PM2.5.”

In the women taking statins, there was no association between PM2.5 – the tiny particles emitted mostly by burning diesel and other fossil fuels – and the proteins indicating inflammation, while for most of the other groups the links were quite strong.

It’s not the first time researchers have noticed this link: University of Michigan researchers found decreased blood indicators of inflammation in people who took statins in a study of 92 people in Boston. A national study of 5,778 people also reported that statins canceled out the presence of signs of inflammation from PM2.5, carbon monoxide and nitrogen dioxide.

“Health impacts from spikes in particulates in the air are substantial. Statins seem to protect not only lungs from these impacts but the heart, too.” –Dr. Norman Edelman, American Lung AssociationScientists believe that inflammation is a key factor in heart disease.

“The older thinking was that plaque in coronary arteries caused heart attacks,” Edelman said. “Now the thinking is that it’s also due to some living tissue under plague that gets inflamed and that disrupts the plaque. We already knew statins ameliorate heart disease, and always thought it was through lipids, but here’s a new pathway.”

Around the world, studies have shown that whenever particulates increase, deaths from heart attacks and respiratory disease rise, too. Experts estimate that fine particles are linked to about 800,000 deaths annually worldwide.

Ben Amstutz/flickr
Despite significant air quality improvement over the past decade, some U.S. cities such as Chicago still struggle with particle pollution.

Particulate pollution has been on a steady decline in the United States: The national average for PM2.5 decreased 34 percent from 2000 to 2013, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. However, high concentrations of the pollution still persist in some cities with heavy traffic and industry, such as Los Angeles and Chicago.

When van Eeden and colleagues gave statins to rabbits before exposing them to particulate matter they had decreased lung inflammation. In a second studyof rabbits, statins seemed to help clear large particles from the lungs by promoting the movement of white blood cells to nearby lymph nodes, which protects the lungs against pending inflammation.

“It’s clear that if the animals are treated for about a month with statins before they’re exposed to particles, you can significantly lower the amount of particles generated in the lungs and decrease the blood vessel inflammatory process,” van Eeden said.

It’s not clear how statins may cause fewer particles in the lungs, but van Eeden said statin-treated rabbits have more particles in lymph nodes, suggesting the drugs stimulate particles to move to the nodes.

In another animal test mice given Zocor prior to oil fly ash or particulate exposure did not experience lung injuries and inflammation like their non-treated counterparts did, according to a 2011 study in Argentina.

“It’s clear that if the animals are treated for about a month with statins before they’re exposed to particles, you can significantly lower the amount of particles generated in the lungs and decrease the blood vessel inflammatory process.” –Dr. Stephan van Eeden, University of British ColumbiaVan Eeden and colleagues are now trying to figure out if the animal findings hold true for human lungs. So far, their work looks “very promising,” he said.

His lab is examining lung tissue from people who had part of a lung removed. Many were smokers and had a lot of particles in their lungs. They haven’t finished the study but so far they’re seeing that “it’s quite clear that people who used statins had less particles in their lungs,” van Eeden said.

“Once again it suggests anti-inflammatory properties and seems to clear the particles,” van Eeden said. “And these were people chronically exposed to air pollution or cigarette smoke.”

However, it’s too early for doctors to prescribe statins for people exposed to air pollution, said Dr. Martha Daviglus, a cardiovascular epidemiologist at Northwestern University and University of Illinois.

“We need more evidence. We already have a lot of people taking statins for cholesterol, and we don’t fully know the effect of taking the drugs for years and years, and decades yet,” Daviglus said.

University of British Columbia
Dr. Stephan van Eeden

The number of people taking the drugs is already expected to rise as the American Heart Association last year advocated for increased statin use to combat high cholesterol.

The.Comedian/flickr
Lipitor is one of the most common statins.

It remains unclear if people would have to take statins immediately prior to breathing air pollution, and, if so, for how long, in order for the drugs to help.

“It seems they have some good effects with regards to air pollution, but we need to conduct clinical trials with people living near roads or high-emitting facilities,” Daviglus said.

Ostro said it would be “somewhat of a leap” to prescribe statins to mitigate air pollution impacts, given some of their known side effects, such as liver problems.

Food and Drug Administration spokesman Kristofer Baumgartner said that any new claims about additional benefits for a drug have to be reviewed by a team of scientists, and the benefit would have to outweigh any risks.

Two pharmaceutical giants who sell statins, Pfizer and AstraZeneca, would not comment on the air pollution studies.

There is no research on whether other anti-inflammatory drugs, such as ibuprofen, would also protect people from air pollution.

Van Eeden sees potential for statins to play a role in reducing effects of air pollution, possibly in the near future. One possible group could be those suffering from asthma, which causes inflamed and constricted air passages.

“If this human study confirms what we found in rabbits, then if there is an episode of air pollution, maybe people at high risk can get a short course of statins for that period until the air pollution clears,” he said. He is currently seeking funding to test statins on firefighters to see if they reduce lung inflammation caused by smoke.

Edelman said the answer to protecting people is still cleaning the air.

“We don’t want people to start thinking now we have a drug to control effects of air pollution so we don’t have to worry about air pollution,” he said. “It’s still a large threat.”

Follow Brian Bienkowski on Twitter.

EHN welcomes republication of our stories, but we require that publications include the author’s name and Environmental Health News at the top of the piece, along with a link back to EHN’s version.

For questions or feedback about this piece, contact Editor in Chief Marla Cone at mcone@ehn.org.


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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

Most IQ losses due to lead exposure fall outside of the federally established threshold. (Bruce Lanphear)

‘Little Things Matter’ Exposes Big Threat To Children’s Brains

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Tiny amounts of lead, chemical flame retardants and organophosphate pesticides, among other toxins, course through the blood of nearly every American. But just how much worry is a little poison worth?

Find out more from “Little Things Matter” at The Huffington Post.


Most IQ losses due to lead exposure fall outside of the federally established threshold. (Bruce Lanphear)



A breast cancer awareness charm bracelet for children sold at a Party City store in Albany County was found to contain cobalt, a heavy metal linked to cancer, according to tests of childrens' products done by public health advocates. More than two dozen toys sold at stores including Target and Ocean State Job Lot were found to contain unsafe levels of heavy metals or chemicals.

Danger on the toy shelf

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Study finds toxic metals and chemicals in children’s items sold at local stores
By Brian Nearing


A breast cancer awareness charm bracelet for children sold at a Party City store in Albany County was found to contain cobalt, a heavy metal linked to cancer, according to tests of childrens' products done by public health advocates. More than two dozen toys sold at stores including Target and Ocean State Job Lot were found to contain unsafe levels of heavy metals or chemicals.


The little metal toy charm of a cute fairy being sold at Ocean State Job Lots looks innocent enough, but it could expose any child who touches it — or puts it in his or her mouth — to dangerous levels of cadmium, a heavy metal linked to cancer, kidney and lung damage, and early onset of puberty, according to a report to be released Monday by a local public health group and an environmental advocacy organization.

That fairy charm was among nearly two dozen children’s toys on store shelves in Albany County allegedly found to contain unsafe levels of dangerous chemicals or metals like cadmium, arsenic, cobalt, mercury or lead, the report by Clean and Healthy New York and the New York League of Conservation Voters states.

Other tainted items included beads, hair clips, key chains, a luggage tag and jewelry. The metal in the fairy charm, the report states, was found to be almost 25 percent cadmium, a carcinogen with no safe level of exposure for children, according to federal guidelines.

“Parents who looked at the labels on these products have no way of knowing they are not safe,” said Kathleen Curtis, executive director of Clean and Healthy New York. Her group tested children’s toys sold at stores including Target and Party City, as well as Ocean State, using a hand-held X-ray fluorescence analyzer.

Curtis said tests were done to draw support and attention to a proposed Albany County law that would fine stores selling tainted toys up to $500 per toy, and up to $1,000 per toy for repeat violators.

Two allegedly contaminated toys sold at Target — a Lego “Legends of Chima” LED light key chain and a Monster High doll based on Dracula — were found to have unsafe levels of cobalt, a heavy metal linked to cancer, lung problems and development problems, or antimony, another heavy metal that can damage the heart, liver and respiratory tract.

A Target spokesman was unable to provide comment for this story Friday.

At Party City, a charm bracelet promoting breast cancer awareness was found to contain unsafe levels of cobalt, which is carcinogenic, the groups claim.

Bobbi Chase Wilding, a Clean and Healthy New York staffer who conducted the tests, said nearly all the dangerous toys were manufactured in China. She also said Target has a policy that urges — but does not require — its suppliers not to use hazardous chemicals or metals in their children’s products.

The New York League of Conservation Voters also supported the testing, the first time the group has gotten involved in measuring chemical exposure in children’s products, said Christopher Goeken, director of public policy and government relations for the league.

Test results point to a failure of federal and state regulators to inspect toys being imported for sale in the U.S., Wilding said. “In the absence of leadership by the federal government or state, Albany County is taking on this issue itself,” she said.

The proposal by county Legislator Bryan Clenehan, a Guilderland Democrat, would allow the county health commissioner to inspect children’s products in stores for the presence of banned or unsafe chemicals. Lead, for example, is banned in any product intended for children 13 or younger, but nine toys tested were found to contain lead.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends toys contain no more than 40 parts per million of lead. A hair clip sold at Ocean State tested out at more than 1,600 parts per million of lead, according to the report. That same clip was also found to be 11 percent cadmium.

Corporate offices for Ocean State and Party City did not return several telephone calls seeking comment for this story.

bnearing@timesunion.com518-454-5094@Bnearing10

Story originally published at http://www.timesunion.com/local/article/Danger-on-the-toy-shelf-5897618.php

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How phthalate exposure impacts pregnancy

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In recent years, scientists have linked chemicals known as phthalates with complications of pregnancy and fetal development. Phthalates are chemicals used to make plastic materials more flexible and can also be found in personal care products such as perfumes, deodorants and lotions. They can enter the human body by being ingested, inhaled or through the skin. Most often phthalates are metabolized and excreted quickly, but constant contact with them means that nearly everyone in the United States is exposed, some more than others.

Read more at Science Daily.

PVC pipe

Residents Sue National Pipe (PVC) NY

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Nearly 50 Endicott, NY residents have banded together in a lawsuit filed last week against National Pipe & Plastics, accusing the manufacturer of having “devastated the neighborhood” where it opened a new plant earlier this year.  The lawsuit claims noise and odors wafting from the polyvinyl chloride (PVC) pipe manufacturing plant at 15 Mills Ave. have created an “ongoing public nuisance” to residents of the West Endicott neighborhood.

Read more.

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Those who say it cannot be done, should get out of the way of those that are doing it.

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Calvin Tillman, Mayor Emeritus, Town of DISH, TX wrote this note after a major win in Texas against the gas industry. I felt his words deserved to be heard beyond my and others in his networks in box. Thank you Mayor Tillman for your dedication to the people you served.

On November 4, 2014, there was a historical vote in Denton, TX, which of course was when the residents voted to ban hydraulic fracturing within the corporate limits of the city. This is a bit shocking considering the political make up of this area and the amount of funding that the industry sunk into defeating this measure. Another interesting thing is the margin of victory for this measure, for all the money that was sunk into this election by the industry, they were not even close to victory. What is also shocking is that candidate races in the area still went heavily to republicans. In the Texas State Representative race for House District 64 which encompasses Denton, the republican Myra Crownover easily won with 64 percent of the vote. So is clear that a large number of republicans supported this ban.

Many years ago, during a meeting with the industry, I voiced my displeasure with the manner in which they did business and told them that if they continued down this path, that no one would want this industry doing business near them. I hate to so I told you so, but I did. Now the question is will they ever learn, and the initial response is “no”, they will never learn. After getting their tails kicked pretty badly in an election where they had all of the advantages, they chose not to change their business practices, and truly try to be the good neighbors they say they are on TV, but they filed a lawsuit. This makes it clear that they’re never going to try and be a good neighbor. Instead of running to make amends for their wrong doings, they try force their way into the neighborhoods, continuing to be bad actors.

At least in places like Denton, this probably could have all been avoided if this industry had one ounce of compassion for the communities they do business in. However, they chose to violate the wishes of the community, resulting in the ban on a technique that was developed a few miles up the road from here. Denton is also a town that has a large industry presence, with several of these companies having offices and other facilities there. However, when you trample all over people private property rights, kill their property values, and destroy their quality of life, you should expect something like this.

Instead of trying to work with the communities that they were pissing all over, the industry runs to Austin for help. To which the Texas Railroad Commissioners came running with bells on. Unfortunately, the trio better known as the three stooges here in Texas, did nothing more than what the industry did, which was like pouring “gas” on a flame, and made the situation much worse. Did anybody ever give those who were working on the ban any respect for their complaints? No, they all just insulted them even more, accusing them being buddies with Putin, and other false and misleading statements, which of course didn’t work, but again fanned the flames.

I was taught something at young age which was; when you find yourself in a hole…stop digging. However, the oil and gas industry and their supporters must have missed that little piece of common sense. The results are that they gave a couple goofballs $800,000.00, which turned out to be a big waste of money. I know this may be a shock to those in the industry, but after years of misleading and lying to people, nobody trusts you. Therefore, when you give money to someone that lies on your behalf, that makes them paid liars, and even a fool can spot a paid liar.

What is even more damning for the industry is that the paid liars are losing the battle in other areas as well. A total of 4 bans on hydraulic fracturing were passed around the country. And these bans were not implement with millions of dollars from Russian backed environmental groups, but rather by a small group of local citizens. Normal people who have regular jobs, but are tired of seeing their property rights trampled all over by an industry who couldn’t care less. One of my most trusted advisers says “there is a billion dollars beneath our feet and they don’t care who they trample on to get it”. This is truly a case of Goliath being taken down with a slingshot and smooth stone.

Of course, the Texas Railroad Commission is not the only one running to the industry’s aid, the other prostitutes will come running with their aid as well. The Texas Land Office has joined the industry filing a lawsuit. The Texas Land Office mission states: “The Texas General Land Office serves the schoolchildren, veterans, and all people of Texas by preserving their history, protecting their environment, expanding economic opportunity, and maximizing state revenue through innovative administration and prudent stewardship of state lands and resources.” Not sure what makes them think they have dog in this fight, other than the fact that most of the Texas elected officials at the state level fight over the opportunity to pimp themselves out to this industry.

State Representative Phil King, of Texas House District 61, who serves on the Energy Resources Committee, has already committed to introducing legislation that removes a Texas municipality’s right to ban hydraulic fracturing. Of course Representative King, is another who will fight for the opportunity to pimp himself out to the industry, and never look his citizens in the eye while doing it. Texas House District 61 encompasses the Azle, TX area where they have had the rash of earthquakes caused by the fracking waste injection wells. However, Representative King did not show up at the meetings held by the state, and has thus far refused to talk with his citizens about these earthquakes. It must be noted that Representative King has multiple ethics violations and is therefore technically a “crook”. He also refuses to look me in the eye when I testify before the Energy Resources committee; therefore, I take him as a coward. He also refuses to take a stand to protect the property rights of hard working Texans.

It is strange that Representative King would choose to remove local control when on his website he states that “Local control and limited government must be the first resort not the last”. However, it is clear that those positions go out the window when we are talking about the Oil and Gas industry. When it comes to this subject, it appears that the Austin cronies are good with an overbearing state government, which takes away local control from municipalities. It is also clear that the Austin Cronies like Representative King, are more than willing to ignore a valid election, and overturn the will of the people. I guess when you are a prostitute for the oil and gas industry, things like local control and limited government, are just buzzwords.

One thing that is missed in all of this by the industry and their prostitutes is that the people who are affected by all of this have property rights also. Our private property rights start where our property line begins, so why doesn’t the industry consider keeping their noise, odors, bright lights, and hazardous chemicals on their side of the fence? They trespass their crap on our property and expect us to take it. The hardworking, honest Texans who voted for this ban don’t want a noisy, smelly industrial site, 200 feet from the backdoor, and those other than the industry and their cronies understand that fact.

The people of Denton passed an ordinance that would have helped protect people’s private property rights, and the industry ignored their wishes. What exactly did the industry expect? Don’t blame the people of Denton for this ban, blame the industry and the prostitutes who support them. Common sense tells you that you cannot keep ramming this stuff down the throats of the people without consequences. So if you’re in the oil and gas industry or are one of their elected prostitutes, it was you who got yourself into this, not environmental groups funded by Russia, but you. The blame is yours, so take the whipping that you deserve.

Calvin Tillman, Mayor Emeritus, Town of DISH, TX

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Childhood Leukemia from Power Lines

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We previously reported an association between childhood leukemia in Britain and proximity of the child’s address at birth to high-voltage power lines that declines from the 1960s to the 2000s. We test here whether a ‘corona-ion hypothesis’ could explain these results. This hypothesis proposes that corona ions, atmospheric ions produced by power lines and blown away from them by the wind, increase the retention of airborne pollutants in the airways when breathed in and hence cause disease. We develop an improved model for calculating exposure to corona ions, using data on winds from meteorological stations and considering the whole length of power line within 600 m of each subject’s address. Corona-ion exposure is highly correlated with proximity to power lines, and hence the results parallel the elevations in leukemia risk seen with distance analyses. But our model explains the observed pattern of leukemia rates around power lines less well than straightforward distance measurements, and ecological considerations also argue against the hypothesis. This does not disprove the corona-ion hypothesis as the explanation for our previous results, but nor does it provide support for it, or, by extension, any other hypothesis dependent on wind direction. Read more.

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Will You Support the Children and Firefighter Protection Act?

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85% of couches tested recently contained toxic or untested flame retardants. Exposure to toxic flame retardants is linked to a variety of health concerns like cancer, hormone-disruption, and harm to the developing brain.

Tell your senator to support a federal bill to get toxic flame retardants out of our living rooms and our children’s rooms.

As you may know, children are uniquely vulnerable to the toxic effects of these chemicals because they have a completely different physiology and metabolism than adults. Fire fighters are also exposed to a variety of toxic chemicals including flame retardants when a house is burning. But guess what? These chemicals are not effective in preventing fires and provide no meaningful protection from small open flames for upholstered furniture.

Please support The Children and Firefighters Protection Act (S. 2811) sponsored by Senator Chuck Schumer (NY).

The Schumer bill bans the ten worst toxic flame retardants from use in upholstered furniture and children’s products, and allows the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) to ban similar chemicals shown to be hazardous.

Take action now and urge your U.S. senator to cosponsor The Children and Firefighters Protection Act (S. 2811).

Act Now!

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Pesticide levels on food unknown due to poor government testing

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The U.S. Food and Drug Administration does not perform enough pesticide residue tests — on either imported or domestic foods – to say whether the American food supply is safe, according to federal auditors.

The Government Accountability Office report, which was released Thursday, said FDA is testing less than one-tenth of 1 percent of all imported fruits and vegetables and less than 1 percent of domestic fruits and vegetables. Federal auditors said the agency’s pesticide testing program is not “statistically valid,” making it impossible for it to meet one of its mandates, which is to “determine the national incidence and level of pesticide residues in the foods it regulates.”

Read the full story from Kimberly Kindy at The Washington Post.