drinking water

071111 Fracking

A Story of Two Academics Involved with Shale gas

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Check out this radio segment on shale gas and two academics involved with it. Terry Engelder, a geologist at Penn State, estimated the amount of natural gas recoverable from the Marcellus shale. Conrad “Dan”  Volz from the University of Pittsburgh calculated the amount of toxic crap that gets into our water supplies because of fracking at the Marcellus shale, a message not kindly received by the industry. Engelder has found internationally acclaim, Volz is now out of a job.

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Top 5 Toxic PVC Stories in the News

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Photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/amagill

Lists, lists, I love lists.  Here are my 5 toxic PVC stories that have been making the rounds in the news, compiled by yours truly.  Some of these are just unbelievable.

1) Cancer-causing vinyl chloride in drinking water – yup, thanks to PVC pipes

A new study by researchers from Cornell University, Stanford University, and Virginia Polytechnic Institute found cancer-causing vinyl chloride in water carried by PVC pipes.   The vinyl industry’s line is that the vinyl chloride is bound to the plastic and doesn’t leach.  Well tell that to these scientists who found:

“PVC/CPVC pipe reactors in the laboratory and tap samples collected from consumers homes (n=15) revealed vinyl chloride accumulation in the tens of ng/L range after a few days and hundreds of ng/L after two years. While these levels did not exceed the EPA’s maximum contaminant level (MCL) of 2 μg/L, many readings that simulated stagnation times in homes (overnight) exceeded the MCL-Goal of 0 μg/L.”

Many other studies have previously found that PVC pipes can also leach toxic organotins into water.

2) WikiLeaks: U.S. Congress members lobbied for vinyl products deemed unsafe by China

Reuters broke the story (thanks to Wikileaks) about how members of Congress lobbied the Chinese government on behalf of healthcare giant Baxter to not restrict the use of phthalates and PVC in China.  According to Reuters:

“Mark Kirk, then a House Republican from Illinois, and Rick Larsen, a Democrat from Washington — returned to Beijing, only this time they had an entirely different message. Kirk and Larsen asked Chinese officials to look the other way as an American company failed to meet regulations restricting the use of a toxic chemical in medical equipment sold to Chinese hospitals.

The company, Baxter Healthcare, was making blood bags for intravenous delivery using polyvinyl chloride (PVC), a plastic softener that has been banned in some other parts of the world. A chemical found in PVC has been shown to build up in humans, causing developmental defects in children, among other things. The European Union banned the chemical in question — commonly known as DEHP — from all household products this year.

According to the diplomatic cables, China was seeking to do the same for its hospitals. Its regulators had already stipulated that new IV bags must be manufactured without PVCs.

On behalf of Baxter, however, the two Congressmen pressed the Chinese commerce minister to buy time for the company, which was the third largest contributor to Kirk’s 2008 reelection campaign.”

3) Are toxic PVC fires killing firefighters?

The Hamilton Spectator ran a terrific story looking at the ongoing health problems suffered by firefighters that fought the infamous Plastimet fire, where at least 400 tonnes of PVC plastic burned for four days.   The facility was storing bales of “jet trimmings” from a manufacturer of automobile interiors. Analysis of soot and ash samples after the PVC fire at the plant, revealed levels of dioxin 66 times higher than permitted even for industrial land. This one fire increased the annual dioxin emissions for the whole of Canada by 4 percent in 1997. Residents were advised not to eat local garden produce or allow their children to play on the grass.

Now, some of these firefighters that battled this blaze have died from massive heart failures.  For years, folks have been sounding the alarm that emissions from the burning of PVC plastic waste could cause health problems for these brave first responders.

4) If it’s good enough for Europe…

The European Union has adopted sweeping new regulations banning PVC-laden cadmium products.  According to Plastics News:

“As regards PVC, the new regulations ban the sale in the EU of such plastics where cadmium content is greater than 0.01 percent by weight of the plastic material. That said, there is an exemption for plastic mixtures manufactured from waste containing PVC – with the new regulation quoting a higher 0.1 percent limit for certain construction products – although these would have to be a labeled with a pictogram warning that they were made with waste PVC.”

“The also ban the use of cadmium in concentrations greater than 0.01 percent by weight in costume jewelry, beads, hair accessories, brooches and cufflinks, all of which can also include plastics.”

5) Even the chemical industry is stopping production of phthalates

Chemical manufacturer Eastman Chemical will no longer manufacture and supply two key phthalates – DEP and DBP.  According to a company spokesperson, these phthalates “no longer form part of our strategic growth plans or vision of the future.”

There you have it.  Any ones I missed?