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AmeriScan: January 21, 2005

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Toxic Soap Additive Widespread In U.S. Waterways

BALTIMORE, Maryland, January 21, 2005 (ENS) - Many rivers and streams in the United States are believed to contain a toxic antimicrobial chemical widely used for decades in hand soaps and other cleaning products, but rarely monitored for or detected in the environment.

The study results suggest that the antimicrobial contaminant triclocarban is present in 60 percent of the U.S. water resources investigated, thereby making it the fifth most frequent contaminant among 96 pharmaceuticals, personal care products and organic wastewater contaminants evaluated.

According to the analysis conducted by researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, the chemical, triclocarban, has been "greatly underreported."

“We’ve been using triclocarban for almost half a century at rates approaching one million pounds per year, but we have essentially no idea of what exactly happens to the compound after we flush it down the drain,” said the study’s lead author, Dr. Rolf Halden, assistant professor in the School’s Department of Environmental Health Sciences and founding member of its Center for Water and Health.

The study is published in the current online edition of "Environmental Science & Technology," a peer-reviewed journal of the American Chemical Society.

The nationwide assessment of triclocarban contamination is based in part on an analysis of water samples collected from rivers in and around Baltimore, as well as from local water filtration and wastewater treatment plants.

From the samples, Dr. Halden and his summer research intern, Daniel Paull, now a graduate student in the Chemistry department at Johns Hopkins University, observed the occurrence of triclocarban in the environment correlated strongly with that of triclosan, another commonly used antimicrobial chemical that has been studied in much greater detail because it is more easily detectable.

Using an empirical model and published data on the environmental occurrence of triclosan, the researchers predicted triclocarban concentrations for 85 U.S. streams.

To determine the validity of the analysis, the researchers compared their predicted nationwide levels of contamination to experimentally measured concentrations in the Greater Baltimore region, and found no statistically significant differences.

The results also show that the levels of triclocarban in water resources nationwide are much higher than previously thought.

In surface water from the Baltimore region, the researchers detected triclocarban at concentrations of up to 6.75 micrograms per liter (parts-per-billion). This maximum concentration was 28 fold higher than previously reported levels, which are currently used by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for evaluation of the ecological and human health risks of triclocarban.

“Along with its chemical cousin triclosan, the antimicrobial compound triclocarban should be added to the list of polychlorinated organic compounds that deserve our attention due to unfavorable environmental characteristics, which include long term persistence and potential bioaccumulation," said Dr. Halden.

"Triclocarban, for example, has an estimated half life of 1.5 years in aquatic sediments," Dr. Halden said. "Do the potential benefits of antimicrobial products outweigh their known environmental and human health risks? This is a scientifically complex question consumers, knowingly or unknowingly, answer to every day in the checkout line of the grocery store."

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Refugee Children at Risk of High Blood Lead Levels

ATLANTA, Georgia, January 21, 2005 (ENS) - Blood lead levels in children aged one to five years are decreasing in the United States, yet the risk for elevated blood lead levels remains high for certain groups such as refugees, according to a new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report.

The report, "Elevated Blood Lead Levels in Refugee Children - New Hampshire, 2004," followed 92 refugee children resettled in New Hampshire. Most of the children studied are from Africa.

The 92 children were tested upon arriving in the United States and tested again three to six months after permanent placement. The study found that 37 children had levels of lead in their blood that were greater than 10 micrograms per deciliter (mcg/dL) - the target level for lead poisoning elimination in U.S. children by the end of the decade.

Follow-up blood lead levels had increased for 35 of these 37 children and the mean increases was 11 mcg/dl.

The blood lead levels of 27 seven children became elevated after resettlement in the United States.

Refugee children are at high risk for lead exposure as a result of exposure in their country of origin as well as health, social and economic factors. Iron deficiency, prevalent among refugee children, increases lead absorption in the gastrointestinal tract, the CDC said. Of the New Hampshire children, 37 percent were chronically malnourished and 25 percent had acute malnutrition.

The Manchester Health Department, New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services, New Hampshire Lead Poisoning Prevention Program and the CDC conducted this investigation as part of followup routine screening examinations of refugee children placed in the state.

"While the cases described in this report were identified in New Hampshire, refugee children resettled in other areas of the country also may be at risk for lead poisoning," the CDC stressed.

Until federal standards for blood lead testing and lead risk assessment in refugee children are implemented, the CDC recommends:

  • Providing pediatric multi-vitamin with iron for refugee children six to 59 months immediately upon arrival in the United States.
  • Blood lead testing, nutritional assessments and hemoglobin or hematocrit level testing for children younger than 6 years within 90 days of arrival in the United States, and a follow-up blood lead test three to six months after placement in a permanent residence.
  • Blood lead screening for children aged six years and older if lead hazards are evident.
The study appears in today's issue of the "Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report." For more information about refugee lead poisoning and prevention, please visit: http://www.cdc.gov/lead/ For information of the New Hampshire Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program: http://www.dhhs.nh.gov/dhhs/clppp/default.htm

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Fishing Captain Charged with Trafficking in Female Lobsters

BOSTON, Massachusetts, January 21, 2005 (ENS) - The captain of two fishing vessels based in New Bedford was charged Thursday in federal court with multiple crimes in connection with commanding his crew members to remove the eggs of female lobsters so that they could be sold in port.

Jose Silva of North Dartmouth, was charged with one count of conspiracy to violate the federal wildlife trafficking statute, the Lacey Act, and with two counts of violating the Lacey Act, one count of making a false statement to Coast Guard boarding officers, and one count of obstruction of justice. The indictment alleges that over a four-year period, Silva, as the captain of the Lutador and Lutador II, commanded his crew to remove the eggs of thousands of female lobsters and "v-notched" female lobsters.

Federal and state law prohibit the taking of female egg-bearing lobsters as a way of protecting the lobster fishery. Federal law requires that fisherman who catch female lobsters return them to the sea.

Lobster fisherman customarily cut a v-shaped notch in the tails of female lobsters so that other fishermen who later catch the same lobsters will know that they are females capable of bearing eggs. Federal law also prohibits the taking of v-notched lobsters.

The indictment alleges that Silva knew that catching egg-bearing and v- notched lobsters was illegal, yet during numerous voyages he instructed his crew to keep egg-bearing and v-notched lobsters, scrub off their eggs with a hose, and store them on board for sale in port in hidden compartments in the vessels' fish holds so that the Coast Guard would not discover them.

On March 7, 2004, the Coast Guard boarded the Lutador II near Quick's Hole, Massachusetts as it was returning to New Bedford. During the boarding, Silva told the Coast Guard that there were no lobsters in the vessel's fish hold, when in fact he knew there were hundreds.

After the Coast Guard discovered the lobsters, Silva is alleged to have submitted to the Coast Guard an inventory of his catch on which he knowingly understated the amount of lobster on board. He later told crew members to tell the Coast Guard that the crew removed lobster eggs during the trip without Silva's knowledge.

In connection with this last trip, Silva paid an administrative fine to the National Marine Fisheries Service's Office of Law Enforcement.

If convicted on these charges, Silva faces up to five years' imprisonment for each count, except the obstruction of justice count, for which he would face a maximum of 20 years' imprisonment. Each of the counts also carry a potential fine of $250,000 and three years supervised release.

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Port of Everett Rail-Barge Pier Gets Environmental Permit

BELLEVUE, Washington, January 21, 2005 (ENS) - The Washington state Department of Ecology has approved a water quality permit needed by the Port of Everett to construct a pier for transferring oversized containers to aerospace industries at Paine Field.

The permit, known as a water quality certification, outlines conditions the port must meet to protect water quality as it builds and operates the project.

"The Port of Everett has agreed to do restoration work that will improve the site, especially the beach," said Ecology Director Linda Hoffman. "This project will demonstrate that it's possible to accommodate new economic development without sacrificing water quality and habitat."

The port will plant 1,100 square feet of eelgrass near the project to make up for about 700 square feet that will be lost to the 850-foot pier's shadow. Eelgrass provides habitat to young salmon and to smaller fish they feed on.

Almost 12,000 cubic yards of sand, gravel and cobble will restore beach areas lost over the years to erosion from a nearby bulkhead. The beach, which will be open to public access, will restore habitat for sand lance and other fish that salmon eat.

The concrete pilings for the pier will be pre-cast and driven into place. This removes the risk of concrete spills and reduces the amount of area disturbed by construction by eliminating the need to build concrete forms on-site. The port also will remove some old creosote-treated wood pilings that are at the site.

"The port very much appreciates the high level of cooperation and professionalism that has been exhibited by the Department of Ecology staff in preparing this permit," said John Mohr, executive director of the Port of Everett. "We believe that Ecology has a firm grasp of the project's complexities."

The pier - just east of the Everett-Mukilteo city line - will serve as a satellite facility to the port's existing deep-water terminals in Port Gardner Bay. Large containers bound for Paine Field industries will be loaded onto barges, moved to the new pier and then placed on short trains that will haul the cargo up Japanese Gulch. This will replace current procedures that close the main rail line for extended periods.

The port still must pursue a federal permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, additional state permits for the constructing and operating the facility, and county and city land-use and construction permits.

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Clean Water Actions Required of Two Minnesota Cities

ST. PAUL, Minnesota, January 21, 2005 (ENS) - The cities of Elko and New Market, Minnesota must adopt and implement measures to manage municipal stormwater that will satisfy state requirements, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) said on Wednesday. The two cities are located in Scott County, about 35 miles south of the Twin Cities.

Many of Minnesota's water resources do not currently meet their designated uses - drinking water, fishing, swimming, or irrigating - because of pollution from both large and small sources, said the agency. For this reason, cleanup action on the part of the two cities is necessary.

In addition, Elko and New Market and their Joint Sewer Board have been required to update and revise a 2003 agreement with the MPCA to deal with environmental violations associated with their wastewater treatment facility.

The two cities and their Joint Sewer Board previously paid a civil penalty of $10,000 for environmental violations associated with their wastewater treatment facility.

Despite mechanical modifications to the treatment facility, discharges continued to exceed water quality standards after the April 28, 2003 stipulation agreement.

Ammonia-nitrogen levels were exceeded 10 times, total suspended solids levels were elevated six times and dissolved oxygen levels were too low five times, the MPCA said.

Under the amended agreement, the Joint Sewer Board must submit a facility action plan that includes a schedule of corrective measures such as trucking wastewater to another plant and the installation of an auxiliary treatment unit to provide additional treatment of wastewater.

The amendment sets specific financial penalties for future discharge violations. Penalty amounts are based on the environmental impact of the violation, whether it is a repeat offense and how quickly the problem is corrected, the agency said.

The MPCA will not consider any application for sewer extensions until the wastewater treatment facility demonstrates four consecutive months of compliance and receives a permit for facility expansion.

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2004 Florida Hurricanes Hit Today's Vegetable Industry

MAITLAND, Florida, January 21, 2005 (ENS) - The effects of last year's four Florida hurricanes are still being felt across the state in the failure of the tomato industry this winter, according to the Florida Fruit & Vegetable Association, an agricultural trade organization.

Low consumer demand for tomatoes as a result of high prices means hundreds of migrant farm workers across South Florida are out of work, and growers are watching what crops they were able to bring to maturity wither on the vines.

Consumers are balking at paying the high prices many supermarkets are charging for tomatoes. A survey commissioned by Florida Fruit & Vegetable Association of several eastern markets shows some retailers are charging up to $4 per pound.

By contrast, Florida growers are receiving less than 15 cents per pound - a price that does not recover the cost of harvesting and packing. Growers cannot afford to hire workers with farm prices so low.

"Supplies of tomatoes and other Florida crops were scarce and prices were high following the hurricanes that hit Florida farms last summer, but we've been close to normal volume since Thanksgiving," said Mike Stuart, president of Florida Fruit & Vegetable Association. "If we can get consumers buying tomatoes again, we can get the farm crews back to work."

"Because some of the farms have not been able to pick, that translates into many harvesters not working, as well as some of the workers in the packinghouses not working," said Tony DiMare, president of DiMare Co. DiMare says some contractors have come to growers looking for pay advances for the workers.

"People forget that farm workers are the ones who can least afford to lose money during a market crisis like this," said Barbara Mainster, executive director of Redlands Christian Migrant Association, an organization that provides child care and educational opportunities for migrant and rural children throughout the state of Florida. "Every day that goes by that workers don't get to pick tomatoes puts them further in the hole," Mainster said.

Relief for the grower, packer and worker may be on the way. Following a tour of tomato fields January 18, Florida Agriculture Commissioner Charles Bronson told farmers in South Miami-Dade County he will launch a national campaign to urge large retailers to drop prices, encourage demand and stimulate work opportunities for South Florida's farmworkers.

"For the sake of the workers who have come to Florida specifically to pick tomatoes, peppers and other crops, growers, retailers and food service distributors need to work together to prevent a human disaster in South Florida," Mainster said.

But damage has already been done. "Because of the marketing situation, if you're not able to pick and pack all your tomatoes, that's going to have a major impact on the workers' revenue stream at the end of the season," said DiMare.

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$6.5 Million Conservation Grant Pool Open to Private Landowners

WASHINGTON, DC, January 21, 2005 (ENS) - The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is seeking proposals for private lands conservation funding through its Private Stewardship Grants Program. About $6.5 million is available FY 2005 through this grant program to support conservation efforts on private lands.

This program provides federal grants on a competitive basis to individuals and groups engaged in voluntary conservation efforts on private lands that benefit imperiled species. The species that benefit can be federally listed endangered or threatened species as well as proposed, candidate and other at-risk species.

Landowners and their partners may submit proposals directly to the Service for funding to support those efforts.

In August 2004, the Service awarded 97 grants totaling more than $7 million to individuals and groups to undertake conservation projects for endangered, threatened and other at-risk species on private lands in 39 states.

A diverse partnership of organizations in Maryland, Pennsylvania and New York received a grant of $55,522 to support local efforts to recover, enhance and restore bog turtle habitat on private lands. Woody and invasive plants have taken over much of the habitat needed for turtle conservation.

Private lands habitat enhancement in Colorado and South Dakota ($114,675) will restore shortgrass prairie rangelands to benefit grassland and riparian species at risk, principally declining grassland birds. Six individual projects were awarded a total of $114,675 to support their various management plans that include reseeding cropland to native prairie, removing invasive species, and altering livestock grazing management.

Several private landowners adjacent to the Rock River in southwest Minnesota will use their $30,000 to work together to restore Topeka shiner habitat by protecting and maintaining the river bank, off channel areas, and adjacent upland fields to reduce erosion and sedimentation into the river and off-channel habitats that are important to this fish.

For more information regarding this grant opportunity and on how and where to submit proposals, please visit the Service=s Private Stewardship Grants Website at: http://endangered.fws.gov/grants/private_stewardship.html.

The Private Stewardship Grants Program is identified in the Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance as number 15.632.

You may also contact: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Branch of State Grants, Endangered Species Program, 4401 N. Fairfax Drive, Room 420, Arlington, VA 22203 Phone: (703) 358-2061.

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WWF President and CEO to Step Down

WASHINGTON, DC, January 21, 2005 (ENS) - After nearly 16 years as president and CEO of World Wildlife Fund, Kathryn Fuller says she will move on before the U.S. arm of the WWF global conservation network ends its current fiscal year in June.

"I firmly believe that change is good for institutions and individuals, and this seems the right time for mine," Fuller wrote in a memo announcing her departure plans to WWF staff.

Her announcement comes as the organization shapes a new long-term strategic plan to build on conservation and institutional successes. "WWF is asking the right tough questions as we frame ambitious, new 10 year conservation goals," Fuller said. "We are poised to deliver lasting results for globally outstanding habitats and species and have strong, engaged leadership from our board and staff."

"Kathryn Fuller has led World Wildlife Fund with great distinction during a time when international conservation emerged as one of the premiere issues of our day," said WWF Board Chairman William Reilly.

"Whether speaking to prime ministers, business directors, nongovernmental leaders or indigenous people, Kathryn has been tireless and skillful in advancing the protection of wildlife and wild places around the world. While there is never a good time for someone of her stature to leave an organization, Kathryn will leave WWF as strong and effective as it has ever been."

Trained as both a lawyer and a biologist, Fuller joined WWF in 1983, serving as director of its wildlife trade unit, director of public policy, general counsel and executive vice president before rising to lead the organization in 1989.

She shepherded the World Wildlife Fund and The Conservation Foundation through their merger in 1990.

Under Fuller's leadership, WWF developed The Global 200, a scientific blueprint for saving the most important reservoirs of the Earth's biodiversity, now used widely by decision makers around the world.

In Africa, WWF played a key role in forging the government, aid agency and nongovernmental collaboration that produced the groundbreaking Yaoundé summit and plan that has safeguarded vast areas of the Congo Basin.

In Brazil, WWF has been instrumental in articulating a 10 year vision for the Amazon in partnership with the government of Brazil, the World Bank, and others. The Amazon Region Protected Areas Program initiative is the most ambitious forest conservation program ever and has already resulted in the establishment of Tumucumaque, the world's largest tropical forest park.

"The WWF Board is putting together a transition process to ensure that we find a successor to Kathryn who can bring an equal measure of vision and energy to addressing conservation challenges across this good earth," said Reilly.



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