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Judge in North Carolina Says No to Coal Ash Permits

Administrative Law Judge reversed earlier decision in a coal ash case, ruling that state environmental officials exceeded their authority when they allowed the ash to be disposed in unexcavated areas of the Brickhaven and Colon mines. Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League organizer Therese Vick praised the decision and admonished the agency for issuing the permits. “DEQ knew what they did was wrong, yet they kept trying to defend the indefensible,” Vick wrote in a press statement. “No community should ever have to go through this again.”  Read more.

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Study to determine if living near a chemical plant will cause cancer

Louisiana health officials have plans to initiate a new study to determine how many individuals surrounding the Denka Performance Elastomer plant in St. John Parish have developed cancer. The Denka plant is the only one in the country to release chloroprene, a likely carcinogen to humans. The study will include graduate students going door to door of 1,900 homes in a 2.5 kilometer range to determine who has developed cancer. Read More.

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Cancer Alley May be Expanding

Formosa, a Taiwanese plastics production company, has proposed to build a $9.2 billion facility in St. James Parish, Louisiana. St. James Parish, positioned on a bend of the Mississippi River is already an area highly concentrated with industry and overburden by harsh chemicals. If approved, the facility project would be the largest in state history, with a plant spanning the length of 80 football fields, consisting of 16 facilities and releasing the cancerous chemicals ethylene oxide, benzene and formaldehyde. Read More.

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Oil lobbyist brags about criminalizing gas and oil pipeline protests

Derrick Morgan, senior vice president for federal and regulatory affairs for oil lobby group American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers (AFRM), bragged about how successful the industry has been in pushing anti-protest legislation, as heard in leaked audio obtained by The Intercept. What kind of protests are we talking about? In this case, pipeline protests. And as more states are passing laws to criminalize these protests, this boasting is nothing to brush off. Read more.

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Backyard Talk

Changing the Traditional Understanding of How Chemicals Affect Our Health

The way scientists think about how chemicals cause their toxic effects is changing. Recent scientific research tells us that the traditional notion of how chemicals act is being replaced by a better understanding of the actual features of exposures to environmental chemicals. These features include the timing and vulnerability of exposures, exposures to mixtures, effects at low doses and genetic alterations called epigenetics.
Traditional thinking tells us that how much of a chemical you are exposed to (the dose) determines the effect. This principle assumes that chemicals act by overwhelming the body’s defenses at high doses. We’re learning now that this principle is not always accurate and its place in evaluating risks needs to be reconsidered. What we now know is that some chemicals cause their adverse effects at low exposure levels that are not predicted by classic toxicology.
Recent research has shown that environmental chemicals like dioxin or bisphenol A can alter genetic make-up, dramatically in some cases.  These changes are so powerful that they can alter the genetic material in eggs and sperm and pass along new traits in a single generation, essentially by-passing evolution.
It wasn’t too long ago that scientists believed that the DNA in our cells was set for life, that our genes would be passed on from one generation to the next, and that it would take generations to change our genetic makeup. That’s no longer the case.
This new field – called epigenetics – is perhaps the fastest growing field in toxicology and it’s changing the way we think about chemical exposures and the risks they pose. Epigenetics is the study of changes in DNA expression (the process of converting the instructions in DNA into a final product, such as blue eyes or brown hair) that are independent of the DNA sequence itself.
What researchers are learning is that the “packaging” of the DNA is just as important as a person’s genetic make-up in determining a person’s observable traits, such as blue eyes, or their susceptibility to diseases such as adult on-set diabetes, or to the development of lupus.
The environment is a critical factor in the control of these packaging processes. We may be born with our genes, but epigenetics changes occur because of environmental influences during development and throughout life. These influences include chemicals in the food we eat, the air we breathe, the water we drink, and they appear to contribute to the development of cancer and other diseases.
Epigenetics may explain certain scientific mysteries, such as why certain people develop diseases and others don’t, or why the person who smoked for 30 years never developed lung cancer. There is still much to learn, but an early lesson to take away from this emerging science is that we need to rethink our traditional ideas of how chemicals affect our health.
For more information see
https://www.healthandenvironment.org/environmental-health/social-context/gene-environment-interactions

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Opinion: Fix trade secret law to protect precious water from fracking

If the public is going to have a robust debate about the merits of fracking, both sides need to know what’s being pumped into the ground. <Read more>.

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First Responders, Health Professionals Question EPA’s Decision to Hide Fracking Chemicals

This month, representatives of a group of first responders, health professionals and scientists questioned EPA’s decision to withhold the secret identities of 41 chemicals used for oil and natural gas drilling and hydraulic fracturing that the EPA’s own regulators identified as posing health risks. <Read more>.

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E.P.A. Plans to Get Thousands of Deaths Off the Books by Changing Its Math

The Environmental Protection Agency plans to change the way it calculates the future health risks of air pollution, a shift that would predict thousands of fewer deaths and would help justify the planned rollback of a key climate change measure, according to five people with knowledge of the agency’s plans. <Read more>

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Homepage Superfund News

City, state in $24M deal to spur Portland Harbor Superfund work

Portland and Oregon have struck a deal with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency aimed at accelerating work on the Portland Harbor Superfund cleanup. <Read more>.

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Minden added to EPA’s Superfund National Priorities List

Minden, a small Fayette County [WV] community, is now officially on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s National Priorities List of Superfund sites, making it a federal priority for enforcement, cleanup and funding. <Read more>