AmeriScan: December 5, 2006

* * *

Common Insecticide Linked to Child Development Problems

NEW YORK, New York, December 5, 2006 (ENS) - Exposures to the common agricultural insecticide chlorpyrifos in pregnancy adversely affect child development finds a new peer-reviewed study funded by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and National Institutes of Health.

Children who were exposed prenatally to chlorpyrifos had significantly poorer mental and motor development by three years of age and increased risk for behavior problems, according to the study published Monday by the American Academy of Pediatrics in its journal, "Pediatrics."

The study is the first to reveal a link between neurobehavioral deficits and prenatal exposure to the insecticide. Previous research findings have shown that prenatal chlorpyrifos exposure can reduce birth weight and length.

Chlorpyrifos, which was banned for residential use in the United States in 2001, is still widely applied to agricultural crops in the United States and elsewhere, including many fruits and vegetables.

The research also has shown that the residential ban on chlorpyrifos use by the EPA has been effective at reducing blood levels of the insecticide.

The study was co-authored by researchers from the Columbia Center for Children's Environmental Health at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health, and from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a federal government agency.

"Our findings have important public health significance," said Robin Whyatt, DrPH, senior author on the study. "Prior to the ban, chlorpyrifos was one of the most widely used insecticides for residential pest control across the United States. Despite a recent regulatory ban on residential use of chlorpyrifos in the U.S., agricultural applications continue in the U.S. and abroad."

The study assessed development of 250 children from New York City who were born between 1998 and 2002. The more highly exposed children were more likely by age three to exhibit early indications of behavior and attention problems.

The investigators controlled for other exposures that might have contributed to developmental problems such as socioeconomic factors and exposure to tobacco smoke, lead, and other environmental contaminants.

"These findings indicate that prenatal exposure to the insecticide chlorpyrifos not only increases the likelihood of developmental delay, but may have long-term consequences for social adjustment and academic achievement," said lead author and investigator on the study, Virginia Rauh, ScD.

"Relatively speaking, the insecticide effects reported here are comparable to what has been seen with exposures to other neurotoxicants such as lead and tobacco smoke," she said.

The study is part of a broader multi-year research project started in 1998, which examines the health effects of exposure of pregnant women and babies to indoor and outdoor air pollutants, pesticides, and allergens.

"By identifying environmental exposures that adversely effect fetal development and also affect children's ability to learn, the research provides new opportunities for prevention," said Frederica Perera, DrPH, director of the Columbia Center for Children's Environmental Health.

"However, protection of children's health and development would be best served by thorough testing of chemicals before they are marketed," she said.

Click here to read the study online.

* * *

National Parks Repay Tax Dollars Four to One

WASHINGTON, DC, December 5, 2006 (ENS) - The nonprofit National Parks Conservation Association, NPCA, today released a new economic analysis that shows that the National Park System generates at least four dollars for state and local economies in return for every tax dollar invested in the national parks’ annual budget.

“This economic study provides hard evidence that national parks generate tremendous value for our economy, and our communities,” said NPCA President Tom Kiernan. “National parks improve our economy, and our quality of life.”

The report, "U.S. National Park System: An Economic Asset at Risk," produced for NPCA by independent economists Hardner & Gullison Associates, relies on a cost-benefit analysis methodology developed by the federal government under the Reagan administration, economic impact analysis, and economic growth analysis.

Through system-wide analysis and the study of 12 individual parks, the report shows that the National Park System plays a major role in attracting and sustaining local businesses and communities in areas near parks.

According to the report, Acadia National Park in Maine and Point Reyes National Park in California, generate economic benefits that exceed the government investment in their annual budgets by a ratio of 14.1 to one.

The intrinsic values of the national parks also attract small businesses and new residents to their region, resulting in economic growth in areas near parks that is an average of one percent per year greater than statewide rates over the past three decades, the report demonstrates.

While evaluating the economic benefits related to small businesses and individuals that relocate to live near national parks, the report cautions against inappropriate development, which is harmful to wildlife, scenic views, natural quiet, clean air, and other values that lure these new residents.

“Our national parks are exceptional economic generators, but need our careful care and attention,” Kiernan said. “If we continue to shortchange the parks of needed funding, we are shortchanging educational programming, maintenance, and the preservation of the very resources that lure visitors.”

The national parks are now short more than $800 million annually.

NPCA is advocating that Congress and the administration provide significant new funding to address the parks’ critical annual needs in the fiscal year 2008 budget.

* * *

National Park Service Unveils Ocean Park Stewardship Plan

VIRGIN ISLANDS NATIONAL PARK, St. John, USVI, December 5, 2006 (ENS) - At an event celebrating the 50th Anniversary of Virgin Islands National Park, the National Park Service Friday announced the release of the Ocean Park Stewardship Action Plan for restoring and maintaining ocean resources in the National Park System for current and future generations.

Supported by President George W. Bush’s U.S. Ocean Action Plan and the Department of the Interior, the Ocean Park Stewardship Action Plan was drafted with input from the NPS National Leadership Council, Park Superintendents and various partners.

The Ocean Park Plan will focus the organizational and scientific capacity of the Park Service on conserving marine, estuarine and Great Lakes resources, in collaboration with state and federal agencies and park stakeholders.

“I am excited to announce the establishment of the Ocean Park Stewardship Action Plan,” said Mary Bomar, director of the National Park Service.

"I am pleased that the Ocean Park Plan highlights collaborations with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and private partners," she said, "including our recent agreement for a seamless network of ocean parks, wildlife refuges, marine sanctuaries and estuarine reserves.”

The Ocean Park Stewardship Action Plan seeks to:

The National Park System contains more than 5,100 miles of beaches, coral reefs, kelp forests, wetlands, historic shipwrecks and forts that attract over 75 million visitors every year.

In 74 parks, spanning 25 coastal states and U.S. territories, people come to camp, fish, snorkel, scuba dive, boat, and watch wildlife. According to the National Park Service, these parks generate over $2.5 billion in economic benefits to local communities.

* * *

Conservationists Dispute Alaska Mine Waste Dumping Permit

SAN FRANCISCO, California, December 5, 2006 (ENS) - Seeking to prevent an Idaho mining corporation from using the federal Clean Water Act to kill all the fish in an Alaskan lake, Earthjustice attorneys argued in federal court Monday that the law is aimed at protecting, not polluting, waterways.

Earthjustice is challenging a permit that lets Coeur d'Alene Mines Corporation dump toxic waste into the lake, killing all fish for at least the 10 year life of the permit.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers issued the permit after redefining language in the law so that toxic wastewater could be considered legally permitted fill.

If allowed to proceed, the Kensington gold mine would be the first to use the new, weakened dumping standard.

The Army Corps' new interpretation contradicts what the law actually says, argued Earthjustice attorney Tom Waldo. "The plain language of the Clean Water Act simply prohibits the discharge authorized by the Corps of Engineers," Waldo told the three judge Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals panel.

The mine site is in Berners Bay, about 35 miles northwest of Juneau. The disputed permit would fill Lower Slate Lake, a 23 acre wooded, sub-alpine lake in the Berners Bay watershed.

Earthjustice is representing the Southeast Alaska Conservation Council, Lynn Canal Conservation, and the Sierra Club in the case.

The gold extraction process at issue creates 210,000 gallons per day of a toxic waste slurry. Kensington chose lake dumping despite the availability of disposal methods less damaging to the environment, Waldo says.

Attorneys representing the mine developers and the federal government argued that the slurry is legal fill, but one of the judges challenged their interpretation of the law.

Judge Procter Hug, Jr. observed that the fill is actually 70 percent water and questioned how water could be considered fill material. He wondered if the Clean Water Act could allow a discharge that would kill an entire lake's fish population.

Waldo pointed out that there is no precedent for this kind of permit. Out of court, the attorney expressed concern that if allowed to proceed, this mining operation would set a precedent, leading to more such mining operations elsewhere in the United States.

The court took the appeal under advisement.

Coeur d'Alene Mines Corporation is the world's largest publicly traded primary silver producer and also mines gold. Headquartered in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, the company has mining interests in Alaska, Argentina, Australia, Bolivia, Chile, and Nevada.

* * *

Polluting Ohio HazWaste Incinerator Fined $750,000

CHICAGO, Illinois, December 5, 2006 (ENS) - U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Department of Justice have reached an agreement with Von Roll America Inc. on alleged clean air and hazardous waste violations at the company's commercial hazardous waste incinerator in East Liverpool, Ohio.

The consent decree resolves a judicial complaint that alleged violations of the Clean Air Act and the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act.

Von Roll has been ordered to comply with the two laws, pay a penalty of $750,000 and implement a $34,000 environmental project which will enhance environmental protection in and around East Liverpool.

The company also will sponsor a household hazardous waste collection in fall 2007.

The agreement resolves EPA allegations that Von Roll failed to properly operate, monitor and maintain its vapor collection and carbon adsorption systems. It ensures that emissions of benzene and other volatile organic compounds, VOCs, from hazardous waste storage tanks will be reduced.

Benzene is a known human carcinogen. Researchers have determined that exposure to benzene causes acute non-lymophocytic leukemia and other blood-related disorders.

VOCs react with nitrogen oxides to form ground level ozone, or smog, which can cause respiratory problems and permanent lung damage.

This complaint is the latest of several Clean Air Act alleged violations Von Roll has settled with the EPA.

In June 2005 the EPA filed an administrative complaint against Von Roll for releasing five times the dioxin limits allowed during a test and failure to properly route air emissions through an EPA-approved air pollution control device, among other violations. EPA proposed a $643,900 penalty.

In October 2004, the company was assessed a $59,400 penalty for lead and cadmium emissions in excess of the federal standard.

The company says the facility's advanced technology is the first to successfully demonstrate compliance with the EPA's latest clean-air standards, known as the Maximum Achievable Control Technology rule.

Von Roll provides 60,000 tons of incineration capacity annually. The company's employees accept, store and incinerate bulk solids, bulk liquids, drums and containers, and lab packs.

* * *

A Piece of Thailand in Pittsburgh

PITTSBURGH, Pennsylvania, December 5, 2006 (ENS) - The Tropical Forest: Thailand opens its doors to the public December 9 at Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens, the 13 room Victorian glasshouse and gardens in Schenley Park.

The Tropical Forest Conservatory rises 60 feet into the air and surrounds visitors with exotic plants and towering trees within the glass structure.

Tropical Forest: Thailand incorporates advanced features such as thermal massing, energy blankets, root zone heating, and insulated glass for heat retention.

In addition, there is a computer controlled shading system and an extensive passive ventilation system, including 1,800 feet of underground tubes for cooling.

Phipps is the first conservatory in the world to use a fuel cell. The Tropical Forest Conservatory will be powered by a solid oxide fuel cell system, which is one of the most energy efficient and environmentally clean technologies on the market. The fuel cell is manufactured by Pittsburgh based Siemens Power Generation Inc.

"We are embarking on a new era of a renovated and reinvigorated Phipps," said Richard Piacentini, executive director of Phipps. "For months we have witnessed the construction of Tropical Forest Conservatory, the delivery of rare and exotic species of plants, the installation of interactive education tools, and now we are eager to unveil this new world to the public."

The new exhibit space will feature a two year rotating exhibit schedule focusing on different tropical forest environments from around the world.

* * *