Health and Medical News and Resources

General interest items edited by Janice Flahiff

[Interactive database] Toxmap provides two ways to explore toxic chemicals in your community

TOXMAP® is a Geographic Information System (GIS) that uses maps of the United States and Canada to help users visually explore data primarily from the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)’s Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) and Superfund Program.Slide2

May 19, 2015 Posted by | environmental health | , , , | Leave a comment

[Press release] EPA’s 2012 Toxics Release Inventory Shows Air Pollutants Continue to Decline

TOXMAP, A Map of benzene release 2007-8 lower ...

TOXMAP, A Map of benzene release 2007-8 lower 48 US (Photo credit: Wikipedia) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Benzene_release_2007-8_lower_48_US.JPG Attribution: The US National Library of Medicine’s TOXMAP, http://toxmap.nlm.nih.govFrom the 4 February 2014 EPA press release

From the 4 February 2014 EPA Press Release

Total releases of toxic chemicals decreased 12 percent from 2011-2012, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) annual Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) report released today. The decrease includes an eight percent decline in total toxic air releases, primarily due to reductions in hazardous air pollutant (HAP) emissions.

“People deserve to know what toxic chemicals are being used and released in their backyards, and what companies are doing to prevent pollution,” said EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy. “By making that information easily accessible through online tools, maps, and reports, TRI is helping protect our health and the environment.”

The 2012 data show that 3.63 billion pounds of toxic chemicals were either disposed or otherwise released into the environment through air, water, and land. There was also a decline in releases of HAPs such as hydrochloric acid and mercury, which continues a long-term trend. Between 2011 and 2012, toxic releases into surface water decreased three percent and toxic releases to land decreased 16 percent. 

This is the first year that TRI has collected data on hydrogen sulfide. While it was added to the TRI list of reportable toxic chemicals in a 1993 rulemaking, EPA issued an Administrative Stay in 1994 that deferred reporting while the agency completed further evaluation of the chemical. EPA lifted the stay in 2011. In 2012, 25.8 million pounds of hydrogen sulfide were reported to TRI, mainly in the form of releases to air from paper, petroleum, and chemical manufacturing facilities.

Another new addition to TRI reporting is a requirement for each facility located in Indian country to submit TRI reports to EPA and the appropriate tribe, and not the state where the facility is geographically located. EPA finalized this requirement in a 2012 rule aimed at increasing tribal participation in the TRI Program.

This year’s TRI national analysis report includes new analyses and interactive maps for each U.S. metropolitan and micropolitan area, new information about industry efforts to reduce pollution through green chemistry and other pollution prevention practices, and a new feature about chemical use in consumer products.

The annual TRI report provides citizens with critical information about their communities. The TRI Program collects data on certain toxic chemical releases to the air, water, and land, as well as information on waste management and pollution prevention activities by facilities across the country.
The data are submitted annually to EPA, states, and tribes by facilities in industry sectors such as manufacturing, metal mining, electric utilities, and commercial hazardous waste. Many of the releases from facilities that are subject to TRI reporting are regulated under other EPA program requirements designed to limit harm to human health and the environment.

Also available is the expanded TRI Pollution Prevention (P2) Search Tool, which now allows users to graphically compare facilities within the same industry using a variety of environmental metrics.

Toxics Release Inventory National Analysis

Under the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA), facilities must report their toxic chemical releases to EPA by July 1 of each year. The Pollution Prevention Act of 1990 also requires facilities to submit information on waste management activities related to TRI chemicals.
More information on the 2012 TRI analysis, including metropolitan and micropolitan areas is available atwww.epa.gov/tri/nationalanalysis.

Read the entire press release here

Resources

What tools are available to help me conduct my own analysis?

A variety of online tools available from the Data and Tools webpage will help you access and analyze TRI data.

Where can I get downloadable files containing the data used in the 2012 National Analysis?

  • Basic Data Files: Each file contains the most commonly requested data fields submitted by facilities on the TRI Reporting Form R or the Form A Certification Statement.
  • Basic Plus Data Files: These files collectively contain all the data fields submitted by facilities on the TRI Reporting Form R or the Form A Certification Statement.
  • Dioxin, Dioxin-Like Compounds and TEQ Data Files: These files include the individually reported mass quantity data for dioxin and dioxin-like compounds reported on the TRI Reporting Form R Schedule 1, along with the associated TEQ data.
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February 9, 2014 Posted by | Public Health | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Five Foul Things That Are Also Good for You

Microbial hotspots on and in the body. (Credit: NIH)

Five Foul Things That Are Also Good for You

ScienceDaily (Apr. 25, 2012) — Usually, we think of mold, feces, nitric oxide, hydrogen sulfide and rat poison as rank, toxic or both. But scientists funded by the National Institutes of Health are learning more about the helpful roles these substances can play.

 From the article

Mold

If you’re a homeowner, mold is definitely a four-letter word. But to scientists, it’s a very important organism. The widely used antibiotic penicillin comes from a mold calledPenicillium. This mold’s bacteria-killing ability was discovered accidentally by Alexander Fleming in 1928 when it drifted in from another lab, landed on Fleming’s petri dish and killed the bacteria on it. Today,Neurospora crassa — the mold that can turn sandwich bread orange — is helping scientists answer questions about how species arise and adapt as well as how cells and tissues change their shapes in different environments. And because it produces spores on a 24-hour cycle, this bread mold is also useful for identifying the molecular timepieces that govern sleep, wakefulness and other rhythms of life.

Feces

Our guts are host to many bacteria, and researchers are analyzing the bacterial colonies in our poop to better understand what they do. Specifically, scientists involved in the NIH-led Human Microbiome Project are using genomic tools to identify these communities in the gut and other hotspots — the nose, mouth, skin and vagina — to learn how they help maintain health or set the stage for disease…

Nitric Oxide

…is a toxic pollutant that we most often smell in car exhaust fumes, but it is critical to our cardiovascular health, brain function and immune system….

Hydrogen Sulfide

We generally associate hydrogen sulfide with the smell of rotting sewage. But some of our body’s cells produce small quantities of this gas, and research indicates that this happens when their protein-making factories start churning out bad products….T

Rat Poison

… Two million Americans start taking warfarin each year to prevent dangerous blood clots that can lead to heart attacks, strokes or even death. They may also take it after major surgery to avoid other clotting problems. But prescribing the right dose is tricky because some people need stronger doses and others need weaker ones. For this reason, the drug is currently the focus of basic and clinical studies to better understand how a person’s genetic makeup can affect his or her response to medicine.


April 26, 2012 Posted by | Consumer Health | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Effects of environmental toxicants reach down through generations

Effects of environmental toxicants reach down through generations

From the 2 March 2012 article at Science News Daily

 Washington State University researcher has demonstrated that a variety of environmental toxicants can have negative effects on not just an exposed animal but the next three generations of its offspring.

English: Environmental contamination with pest...

Image via Wikipedia

The animal’s DNA sequence remains unchanged, but the compounds change the way genes turn on and off — the epigenetic effect studied at length by WSU molecular biologist Michael Skinner and expanded on in the current issue of the online journalPLoS ONE.

While Skinner’s earlier research has shown similar effects from a pesticide and fungicide, this is the first to show a greater variety of toxicants — including jet fuel, dioxin, plastics and the pesticides DEET and permethrin — promoting epigenetic disease across generations…

The field opens new ground in the study of how diseases develop. While toxicologists generally focus on animals exposed to a compound, Skinner’s work further demonstrates that diseases can also stem from older, ancestral exposures that are then mediated through epigenetic changes in sperm.

The study was funded by the U.S. Army to study pollutants that troops might be exposed to. Skinner and his colleagues exposed pregnant female rats to relatively high but non-lethal amounts of the compounds and tracked changes in three generations of offspring.

The researchers saw females reaching puberty earlier, increased rates in the decay and death of sperm cells and lower numbers of ovarian follicles that later become eggs. Future studies can use the molecular tools for risk assessment analysis

March 5, 2012 Posted by | Public Health | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

TOXMAP: Learn about toxic chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing & Update [Wyoming water wells very likely contaminated by fracking]

From the US National Library of Medicine Press Release of 30 November 2011

Hydraulic fracturing (also called hydrofracking or fracking) is a process in which millions of gallons of water, sand and chemicals are pumped underground to break apart rock in order to release oil and natural gas.

The US EPA Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) program requires facilities in certain industries that manufacture, process, or use significant amounts of toxic chemicals, to report annually on their releases of these chemicals. Hydraulic fracturing is currently not a TRI-covered industry and so is not represented in TOXMAP.

EPA scientists are conducting a study of hydraulic fracturing to better understand any potential impacts on drinking water and groundwater. Congress has released a report on hydraulic fracturing (PDF, 156 KB) that lists 29 toxic chemicals used in fracturing (see Table 3 of this report). Click on the links in the table below for additional information on these chemicals:

Acetaldehyde Acetophenone Acrylamide
Benzene Benzyl chloride Copper
Cumene Di (2-ethylhexyl) phthalate Diesel
Diethanolamine Dimethyl formamide Ethylbenzene
Ethylene glycol Ethylene oxide Formaldehyde
Hydrochloric acid Hydrofluoric acid Lead
Methanol Naphthalene Nitrilotriacetic acid
p-Xylene Phenol Phthalic anhydride
Propylene oxide Sulfuric acid Thiourea
Toluene Xylene

December 7, 2011 Posted by | Public Health | , , , , , , | 5 Comments

States struggle to update toxic chemical regulation

From the 5 December 2011 article By Jim Malewitz, Stateline Staff Writer at Stateline

…..

Patchwork of policies

In the past decade, at least 18 states have adopted more than 71 chemical policies – largely with bipartisan support. The policies range from compiling comprehensive lists of hazardous chemicals, as in Washington, California, Maine and Minnesota, to more piecemeal prohibition of chemicals used in manufacturing. In October, for instance, California became one of 11 states to ban the use of bisphenol A – a chemical commonly known as BPA that is thought to inhibit children’s development – from use in infant feeding containers. New York recently became the first state to prohibit manufacturers from using a toxic flame retardant called “chlorinated Tris” in children’s goods.

But state environmental officials say such regulations are burdensome to enact, because, like EPA, state agencies have trouble compiling necessary information on each chemical. In Washington State, Sturdevant says “it’s a lot of work for a lot of folks” to research chemical hazards – a process that can take years for just one chemical.

Dan Wyant, director of the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, agrees. “States do not have the resources to develop 50 individual state chemical management plans across the country,” he said in a release calling for federal reform.

Furthermore, uneven state-by-state rules can make regulating large, complex bodies of water, such the Great Lakes, especially difficult. Even if some states prove able to limit the toxic chemicals that get into the waters, those same substances may still turn up nearby, coming from states with less strict oversight. Some of the most worrisome chemicals in these waters, state environmental officials say, are bioaccumulative toxics, or PBTs – those that are absorbed by organisms and transferred up the food chain.

The inconsistency of policing substances such as PBTs has led many in the chemical industry to call for more federal oversight. One federal policy would be easier to navigate than a “complex maze of regulations across the country,” says Robert Matthews, who represents the Consumer Specialty Products Association. …

December 6, 2011 Posted by | Public Health | , , | Leave a comment

   

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