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PHOTOGRAPH BY DAVID MCNEW, GETTY

Chemical in BPA-Free Products Linked to Irregular Heartbeats

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


PHOTOGRAPH BY DAVID MCNEW, GETTY



Read the story at National Geographic

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AEP Bailout Denied

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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.


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Chevron ditches last European fracking project in Romania

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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

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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.

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Fuel-hauling trains could derail at 10 a year

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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

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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.

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

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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

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Interior Department Rolls Out First Rules For Arctic Drilling

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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.

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Exposure to low levels of common chemical (phthalates) shown to possibly affect reproductive health of male newborns

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“…”Our findings show that even at low levels, environmental exposure to these ubiquitous chemicals can adversely affect male genital development, which in turn may impact male reproductive health later in life,” said Dr. Swan, who is also a faculty member of The Mindich Child Health and Development Institute at Mount Sinai. “Because most pregnant women are exposed to phthalates, our findings not only have a profound effect on public health, but on the public policies meant to protect women as well as the general population.”"

Read more at Science Daily.

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Toxic Waste Spill in North Carolina: Coal Ash (Part 1)

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Vice News delves into the story of coal ash, the toxic remains of coal combustion. Travel to North Carolina and explore the fallout from a broken pipe beneath a coal ash pond that has contaminated drinking water.  

Full story and video at Vice News.