BPA exposure linked to autism spectrum disorder, study reports


A newly published study is the first to report an association between bisphenol-A (BPA), a common plasticizer used in a variety of consumer food and beverage containers, with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in children. The study, by researchers at Rowan University School of Osteopathic Medicine (RowanSOM) and Rutgers New Jersey Medical School (NJMS), shows that BPA is not metabolized well in children with ASD.


The EPA will investigate whether a North Carolina state agency’s regulation of industrial pig farms discriminates against communities of color


February 25, 2015

By Brian Bienkowski
Environmental Health News

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has accepted a civil rights complaint filed against the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources and will investigate whether lax regulation of industrial pig farms disproportionately impacts communities of color.

Last week the EPA announced it would proceed two days after Environmental Health News reported about the complaint and new research that found high levels of fecal bacteria in water near industrial pig farms in eastern North Carolina. The Charlotte Observer also wrote an editorial about the research and said the state needs to be “more vigilant” about pig waste.

Naeema Muhammad, center, said she and others have been asking state officials for years to more stringently regulate the pig industry.

The complaint was filed last September by the North Carolina Environmental Justice Network, the Rural Empowerment Association for Community Help, the Waterkeeper Alliance, and is being led by Earthjustice.

In a letter to Earthjustice attorneys, Velveta Golightly-Howell, director of the EPA’s External Civil Rights Program, wrote that the agency will investigate the allegation that the state agency’s regulation of “swine feeding operations discriminates against African Americans, Latinos, and Native Americans on the basis of race and national origin.”

The EPA’s acceptance is the latest in a decades-long battle in North Carolina over the industrial pig farms. For years residents have complained about the smells and pollution the farms generate. Many of the farms are located in poor communities of color. The farms’ impacts have spurred a lot of media coverage.

The civil rights complaint was in part a response to the state’s renewal of a general permit for the industrial pig farms to continue operating and storing waste as they have been for years.

In an interview about the complaint and state permitting Naeema Muhammad, a co-director and community organizer at the North Carolina Environmental Justice Network, said residents and organizations “have been asking the state and our representatives for years to do something different about how this industry operates in the state of North Carolina.

“It was an insult to the community and to the people of the state of North Carolina to renew those permits,” she said.

Earthjustice senior associate attorney Jocelyn D’Ambrosio last week said the EPA was “dragging their feet” on the complaint. The news that the agency would proceed was welcomed by her colleague, Marianne Engelman Lado, Earthjustice attorney and lead counsel on the case.

“Change is long overdue. We’re hopeful that EPA’s investigation will lead to the actions needed to protect the health of local communities,” Engelman Lado said in a prepared statement.

The complaint also asked the EPA to investigate whether the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources is failing to enforce its regulatory requirements for pig farms, but Golightly-Howell wrote the EPA needs more information to determine whether or not they will investigate that claim.

Golightly-Howell did not give a timeframe for the investigation.

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 Brian Bienkowski at bbienkowski@ehn.org.

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Chemical in BPA-Free Products Linked to Irregular Heartbeats


New ingredient in plastic bottles, receipts has same effect on lab animals as the old chemical does.


Read the story at National Geographic


AEP Bailout Denied



Yesterday the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) stood up for residential and business customers and denied American Electric Power/Ohio Power’s request to subsidize the Kyger Creek and Clifty Creek coal plants. 

FirstEnergy and Duke Energy have similar bailout requests pending at the PUCO. 

All of the requests hinge on whether or not their customers, large and small, would be forced to guarantee these plants’ viability. These aging, inefficient coal and nuclear plants can’t compete on the open market with new plants, low natural gas prices and falling renewables prices.


Chevron ditches last European fracking project in Romania


US energy giant Chevron is terminating its operations in Romania due to poor exploration results and prolonged protests by environmentalists.The withdrawal from this fracking project will mark the end of the company’s shale gas exploration in Europe.

Reuters / Mike Blake

Read More.

Both hazard and exposure are necessary for a risk to exist.

Staying Safe (Probably): Risk, Hazard and Chemical Regulation


Risk’ and ‘hazard.’

These two words are often used interchangeably, but they have distinct meanings in the context of chemical safety assessment. When we say a particular chemical is ‘hazardous,’ we are noting its mere potential to cause negative health or environmental effects. On the other hand, ‘risk’ describes the probability that these negative effects will actually occur under specific circumstances. In order to generate a measurable risk, some exposure to the hazard in question must occur.

Both a hazard and an exposure are necessary for a risk to exist.

If you have followed my last several posts, you’ve probably caught on to the idea that attempting to declare a chemical ‘safe’ or ‘unsafe’ is an exercise in futility. To comprehensively determine risk, we must know not only the detailed structure and function of a chemical, but also understand the intricacies of its interactions with the environment and the human body. Current chemical regulation in the United States operates within a risk-based framework. We establish standards and criteria for acceptable levels of hazardous compounds in products, in the environment and in our bodies; we enact bans and restrictions on chemicals in order to limit our exposures. These regulations are the product of risk assessments, which report not only the hazardous properties of chemicals but also the likelihood of human exposure.

My recent post on BPA illustrates the complexity of risk assessment. Though BPA has demonstrated hazardous potential, the levels to which humans are exposed to the compound, and therefore the actual risks of its use, are uncertain. Exposure may seem like a simple factor to evaluate, but our understanding of exposure is continually evolving, particularly with consideration for the special vulnerability of developing babies and children.  The ban on BPA in baby bottles reflects this emerging awareness of long-term effects of chemical exposures. However, the replacement of BPA with BPS illustrates the shortcomings of an approach that controls risk by limiting exposure to specific high-profile hazardous compounds.

The replacement of BPA, a known hazard, with BPS – an untested and unregulated compound with a nearly identical structure – may be considered an example of what scientists and regulators refer to as “regrettable substitution.” Regrettable substitution occurs when we eliminate one hazardous chemical from consumer products, only to replace it with a similar or even more hazardous alternative. Our risk-based chemical regulation enables us to remove demonstrably dangerous chemicals from consumer products, but also leaves profound loopholes for new chemicals, untested and unregulated, to enter the market in their stead, as long as risk assessments have not proven them dangerous. In a 2010 post on his Environmental Defense Fund blog, Dr. Richard Denison refers to this process as playing “whack-a-mole” with chemicals. No sooner have we knocked one hazardous chemical back into its hole, than a replacement rears its likely-hazardous head…until we generate evidence of its actual risk and seek to replace it with another unknown quantity.

Is this game of “whack-a-chemical” inevitable, or do more precautionary approaches exist? In Europe, regulators are striving for a balance between risk assessment and the more protective approach of hazard classification. While risk assessment relies on scientific studies to determine the risks of chemicals under different exposure scenarios, hazard classification groups chemicals based on their inherent hazard potential. It is this potential to cause harm that guides regulation, not demonstrated adverse effects.  A hazard classification regulatory scheme might have prevented BPS from entering the market, since its structural similarities to BPA make it a likely health hazard.

Hazard classification is essentially a more precautionary approach to chemical regulations. And when we operate in a framework of precaution rather than risk, the regulatory question itself changes. “A precautionary approach asks how much harm can be avoided rather than asking how much is acceptable,” write Dr. Ted Schettler and coauthors in a 2002 essay on the role of the Precautionary Principle in regulation and policymaking.

How can we better incorporate the Precautionary Principle into the chemical regulation process in the US? This question has been at the epicenter of the debate on reforming the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), which I will cover next time on Backyard Talk.


Fuel-hauling trains could derail at 10 a year


The federal government predicts that trains hauling crude oil or ethanol will derail an average of 10 times a year over the next two decades, causing more than $4 billion in damage and possibly killing hundreds of people if an accident happens in a densely populated part of the U.S.

Chris Jackson, Associated Press - Ap

Read more from Matthew Brown and Josh Funk of the Associated Press.

(Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

TransCanada Will Seek U.S. Approval For Upland Pipeline From North Dakota To Canada


As the Keystone XL debate continues, TransCanada is seeking approval to expand northward with the Upland Pipeline.

(Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Read more at the Huffington Post.


Fracking Industry Distorts Science To Deceive Public And Policymakers, Says Watchdog Group


The oil and gas industry sponsors and spins research to shape the scientific debate over horizontal hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. That’s the conclusion of a watchdog group’s analysis of more than 130 documents distributed to policymakers by industry representatives.

Read more at the Huffington Post


Interior Department Rolls Out First Rules For Arctic Drilling


WASHINGTON –- The Obama administration on Friday proposed the first rules for oil and gas drilling in the Arctic.

Ice breaking up. Beaufort Sea, Alaska. On Friday, the Department of Interior announced new proposed rules for oil and gas drilling in the Arctic. (JEFF FOOTT VIA GETTY IMAGES) | Jeff Foott via Getty Images


The Department of Interior’s Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement and Bureau of Ocean Energy Management announced the rules, which aren’t yet final. Brian Salerno, director of the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement, said the rules would help ensure Arctic resources “are developed safely and responsibly.”

Read more from Kate Sheppard at the Huffington Post.