AmeriScan: July 11, 2003

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New Drinking Water Rules to Cut Illness, Cancer Risks

WASHINGTON, DC, July 11, 2003 (ENS) - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today proposed rules that would require drinking water systems to monitor for and increase protection against the microbe cryptosporidium while expanding the monitoring and control of disinfection byproducts. The two new rules will reduce the risk of illness from microbes and decrease cancer risks from chemicals that form during drinking water treatment, the agency said.

The EPA estimates that full implementation of one of the rules will reduce cases of cryptosporidiosis by over one million cases per year, and may prevent up to 140 premature deaths. The economic benefit is estimated at up to $1.4 billion annually.

EPA Acting Administrator Linda Fisher said, “These rules take the right approach toward minimizing and balancing the risks from microbial contamination and disinfection byproducts. They represent the culmination of more than a decade of analysis, research, and partnership focused on making the nation’s drinking water safer.”

The two new rules - the Long Term 2 Enhanced Surface Water Treatment Rule (LT2) and the Stage 2 Disinfection Byproduct Rule - are required by the Safe Drinking Water Act. They were developed in partnership with water systems operators, environmental groups, state, and local health officials.

Cryptosporidium is a widespread waterborne pathogen that is resistant to common disinfectants like chlorine. Ingestion of cryptosporidium causes gastrointestinal illness – cryptosporidiosis. Health effects in sensitive populations, such as children, the elderly, and the immuno-compromised, can be severe, including risk of death, Fisher said.

New data on cryptosporidium indicate that most public water systems now provide sufficient treatment. The proposed LT2 rule requires additional treatment in drinking water systems that are at higher risk for the microbe. The additional treatment required under the LT2 rule may also reduce exposure to other pathogens, the agency said.

Annual costs of the LT2 rule are estimated to range from about $73.5 to $111 million. The average annual household cost is estimated to be $1.07 to $1.68 per year, with more than 98 percent of households experiencing annual costs of less than $12 per year.

The Stage 2 Disinfection Byproducts Rule contains a risk targeting approach to better identify monitoring sites where customers are exposed to high levels of disinfection byproducts, which have been linked both to bladder, rectal, and colon cancer and to a potential risk of reproductive and developmental health concerns.

The Stage 2 Rule will reduce the incidence of bladder cancer cases by up to 182 cases per year, the agency said, with an associated reduction of up to 47 premature deaths. The economic benefits from these avoided illnesses and deaths is estimated to be up to $986 million annually.

EPA Assistant Administrator for Water G. Tracy Mehan III said, “The Stage 2 Disinfection Byproducts Rule stresses the importance of addressing potential risks of miscarriage and fetal loss. Although the science is still uncertain, EPA must act on the weight of existing research to protect human life, and our efforts will be focused in this area in the coming years.”

In other actions, the agency has concluded that the monitoring requirements for total coliform, an indicator of bacterial contamination of drinking water, should be revised.

In addition, the EPA has concluded a six year review of 69 drinking water regulations and has finalized regulatory determinations for nine contaminants on the Contaminant Candidate List. The agency ruled that "at this time it is not appropriate to develop regulations" for acanthamoeba, aldrin, dieldrin, hexachlorobutadiene, manganese, metribuzin, naphthalene, sodium, and sulfate.

Two of those contaminants, aldrin and dieldrin, are supposed to be eliminated worldwide under the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants.

EPA’s website has additional information on the proposed LT2 rule at: http://www.epa.gov/safewater/lt2/index.html.

Information on the six year review is available at EPA’s website: http://www.epa.gov/safewater/review.html, and the information on the Contaminant Candidate List Regulatory Determinations is available on EPA’s website at: http://www.epa.gov/safewater/ccl/cclregdetermine.html.

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Panama Debt Reduced by $10 Million to Fund Conservation

WASHINGTON, DC, July 11, 2003 (ENS) - The United States, Panama, and the Nature Conservancy have signed agreements under the auspices of the Tropical Forest Conservation Act that will reduce Panama's debt payments to the United States by $10 million over the next 14 years.

The U.S. Department of the Treasury said Thursday that as part of the agreements, Panama will fund $10 million in local conservation projects over the next 14 years to protect the Chagres River Basin.

The Chagres National Park is a 318,000 acre national protected area covering the Chagres River Basin. It provides over half the water necessary for the operation of the Panama Canal, as well as drinking water for the two largest cities in the country - Panama City and Colon.

As the United States is one of the largest users of the canal, and the canal itself moves more than five percent of world trade, preserving the watershed is of material economic importance to the United States, the Treasury Department said.

The Chagres National Park is inhabited by endangered species such as jaguars, mantled howler monkeys and anteaters.

It is also a bird sanctuary for more than 560 species, including the harpy eagle - the largest eagle in the world and Panama's national bird.

The funds resulting from this agreement will be channeled to two sources - funding conservation activities in the Chagres National Park over the next 14 years, and creating a permanent endowment to provide sustainable funding to the park.

This agreement complements ongoing environmental programs being provided to Panama by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and will be managed by a group that includes the government of Panama, local non-governmental organizations including Fundación Natura, the USAID mission to Panama, the American Embassy and The Nature Conservancy.

The Tropical Forest Conservation Act was enacted in 1998 to provide eligible developing countries the opportunity to reduce their concessional debts owed to the United States while at the same time generating funds for activities to conserve tropical forests.

The July 10 agreement marks the third debt-for-nature swap the United States has completed under the act.

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Senate Approves $20 Million to Control Mormon Crickets

WASHINGTON, DC, July 11, 2003 (ENS) - Nevada Senator Harry Reid, a Democrat, secured $20 million today to control and eradicate Mormon crickets in Nevada, Utah and Idaho. The funds will be spent to combat the large insects that have invaded the West in large numbers this year, devouring crops and leaving disgusted residents who must drive and walk through swarms of live Mormon crickets or navigate over slippery piles of dead ones.

The Mormon cricket not really a cricket but a katydid, similar to a grasshopper. It was named for Utah's Mormon settlers in 1848 when swarms invaded their fields.

Reid’s Mormon cricket amendment was unanimously approved by the Senate as part of the Supplemental Appropriations Bill that provides funding for forest fires, floods and other emergency spending needs. The bill was approved by the Senate today and now moves to a House-Senate conference, with final passage and enactment expected to take place by August.

Once the legislation is signed into law, the money will be divided equally among the three states, assuring that Nevada will receive over $6 million to control the worst cricket infestation in 40 years.

Reid said, “The Mormon cricket infestation is devastating Nevada’s rural communities. This funding will give the local officials and volunteers who have been working so hard the resources necessary to get rid of these crickets.”

The money will be used to control cricket infestations on both public and private lands. Reid said, “Local officials have told me that federal funds I secured last year have not be available for use to control crickets on private lands. I fixed this problem to make sure the funds could be used on private lands so that we can be sure to protect Nevadans’ homes and businesses.”

Reid said he included Utah and Idaho in his amendment because the infestation in those states may also impact Nevada. “We need a comprehensive control effort to get this plague under control and we can’t do that unless all the states suffering from the infestation have the resources to address it.”

In Utah, the Mormon cricket destroys sagebrush, alfalfa, small grains, seeds, grasses, and vegetable crops.

Mike Pace, Utah State University Extension Agent for Millard County says, "This devastating insect plagued the early pioneers. Today, 150 years later, the Mormon cricket still economically devastates some parts of Utah."

The most effective way to reduce Mormon cricket populations is to use carbaryl bait, sold under the name Sevin bait, says Pace. This is usually oatmeal coated with the chemical insecticide carbaryl.

The bait is applied with handheld fertilizer spreaders or with large machines that blow the poisoned grain a long distance. "The idea is to apply a barrier of bait around or in front of a band of migrating crickets. Once the first wave consumes the bait they will die within a few minutes. The crickets coming from behind will eat the dead crickets causing a chain reaction of crickets being killed by the bait," Pace explains.

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Survey: Midwest Nurses Perceive Low Risk of Bioterrorism

ST. LOUIS, Missouri, July 11, 2003 (ENS) - Three out of every four health care professionals surveyed for a new study believe the United States is at a high or somewhat high risk of bioterrorism, but the same professionals believe that their individual communities are at low risk of an attack.

"It appears to be an it can't happen to me response," said Brooke Shadel, Ph.D., M.P.H., assistant professor of public health and associate director of the Center for the Study of Bioterrorism and Emerging Infections at Saint Louis University School of Public Health.

Shadel said that if health professionals perceive the risk is low in their communities then they may not value training information and may be less likely to seek out information or maintain current references.

"This low perception of risk may leave the professionals who are supposed to be on the frontlines of such an event unprepared, and that's our concern," she said.

Shadel and her co-investigators at Saint Louis University surveyed more than 1,200 infection control practitioners in all 50 states. In this study, which was funded by the federal Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the majority of those surveyed were nurses whose job it is to identify and control infectious outbreaks.

Shadel and her team found that infection control practitioners in the Midwest and in rural areas felt they were less at risk of attack than those living in urban areas and in other regions of the country. Study details were published in the current issue of the American Journal of Infection Control.

Shadel said the investigation was designed to identify not only risk perceptions about bioterrorism and emerging infections but to understand how receptive these practitioners are to training and how they prefer to receive the information.

"We asked the practitioners where they would go for information if there were a crisis and a majority said the Internet or a hotline," Shadel said.

"By studying other events, such as the West Nile outbreak in 1999 and the World Trade Center bombing in 2001, we know that these technologies aren't always available," Shadel said. "Power goes down. Phone lines are jammed. These technologies may not be adequate resources during a crisis."

Shadel said the research demonstrates the need for reference materials, such as pocket cards and CD ROMs, that are not reliant on these technologies.

The Center for the Study of Bioterrorism and Emerging Infections has been working with the CDC to develop such materials over the past three years. Shadel said recent events are making this task easier.

"I think the SARS outbreak, even more than the anthrax scare, helped health care professionals realize the potentially devastating consequences of an event," she said. "They saw how quickly the disease spread from person to person, its impact on the economy and how quickly it created a fury for the need for information. We have that information. We just have to work toward better awareness and improved infrastructure for delivering it."

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Allergy Free Peanut Found

NEW ORLEANS, Louisiana, July 11, 2003 (ENS) - Americans enjoy peanuts at baseball games, picnics and for sandwiches and snacks, but not everyone can eat the popular legumes, because peanuts induce an allergic reaction in 1.5 million Americans. Peanut allergy is one of the most common food allergies because the peanut proteins can act as powerful allergens, even in tiny amounts.

Now scientists with the U.S. Agricultural Research Service scientists are developing a hypoallergenic peanut.

Soheila Maleki and her colleagues at the agency's Southern Regional Research Center (SRRC) in New Orleans, have found a peanut variety lacking one of the major peanut allergens. If their search turns up another allergen free variety, researchers can crossbreed them to produce a safer nut.

Maleki's peanut allergy work was presented Thursday at a news conference, by phone, hosted by the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (AAAAI).

To find a peanut that does not trigger allergic reactions, scientists needed a diverse supply of peanut plants to screen. So, SRRC researchers obtained 300 peanut varieties from a collection at North Carolina State University.

Maleki and her colleagues then developed antibodies against the three main peanut allergens to determine if any of the 300 varieties were missing these allergy causing components. They found what they had hoped for - a peanut variety lacking a key allergen.

Varieties showing lower levels of allergens can be used in traditional crossbreeding experiments to produce a hypoallergenic peanut plant.

Along with new peanut processing methods and vaccine development in the works, a cultivar with reduced allergens could be the answer peanut allergy sufferers have been waiting for.

Thousands of people a year are taken to the emergency rooms because of accidentally eating peanuts. For the sensitive person who has an allergy to peanuts, the AAAAI says, it is a lifelong allergy, and even small amounts can lead to a serious reaction, sometimes resulting in death.

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Western Hemisphere Migratory Bird Conservation Funded

WASHINGTON, DC, July 11, 2003 (ENS) - Conservation organizations in 15 states and 17 Latin American and Caribbean countries will share $3 million in grants for neotropical migratory bird conservation, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced Thursday. Partnering organizations will match these grants with $13 million.

There are 341 species of nearctic-neotropical migrants, birds that breed north of the Tropic of Cancer and winter south of that line. These migrant birds include pelicans, vultures, falcons, cranes, owls, hummingbirds, bluebirds, and orioles.

"The conservation of neotropical migratory birds extends beyond our borders and depends on partnerships with other nations as well as states, conservation organizations and many others here at home," said Interior Secretary Gale Norton. "Through these grants, the Interior Department is contributing to on-the-ground conservation projects from Maine to Cape Horn."

The Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation Act of 2000 establishes a matching grants program to fund projects that promote the conservation of neotropical migratory birds in the United States, Latin America and the Caribbean. The money can be used to protect, research, monitor and manage these bird’s populations and habitats as well as in areas of law enforcement and community outreach and education.

"Neotropical migratory birds are important for our ecosystems," said Norton. "They work as nature’s pest controllers, pollinators and provide many hours of enjoyment for birdwatchers and outdoor enthusiasts."

Details of the funded projects are online at: http://birdhabitat.fws.gov/NMBCA/projectsNar.htm

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Florida Scientist Photographs Malaysian Tigers

GAINESVILLE, Florida, July 11, 2003 (ENS) - Of the estimated 7,000 tigers left in the world, scientists know the least about the roughly 2,000 animals thought to remain in Southeast Asia. A new study by recent University of Florida graduate Dr. Kae Kawanishi provides the first scientifically rigorous estimate of a tiger population in Malaysia and one of the first such studies in the region.

Unstable or repressive political conditions in Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Laos, Myanmar and Malaysia have long impeded Western biologists trying to study tigers there, the university said, releasing the results of Kawanishi's study on Thursday.

The tigers were captured on film with self-activating cameras in Taman Negara National Park, a 1,677 square-mile protected area that is one of the largest parks in Southeast Asia. Kawanishi and a support team of Malaysian assistants and rangers set up some 150 camera traps on three 75 square mile study sites.

When animals approached the cameras, they tripped infrared sensors that triggered the shutters. Researchers returned periodically to pick up film, change batteries and ready the camera for more pictures.

Taman Negara's terrain made setting up and monitoring the cameras a mammoth, risky project. The hilly park is dominated by huge, ancient trees with rivers and streams cutting through valleys. Elephants and poisonous snakes, insects, leeches, bees and scorpions posed constant difficulties.

Kawanishi used population models to estimate that the park supports a population of between 52 and 84 adult tigers. She found no evidence of illegal hunting or other human threats to the tigers.

"When you compare that result with the threat to tiger populations in similar sized parks in other tiger ranges, Taman Negara is unique and superb," said Kawanishi, now a technical adviser for research and conservation to the Malaysian national park system.

The team captured thousands of photos of reptiles, birds, and mammals such as porcupines, wild dogs, sun bears, elephants and mouse deer. They found that all the 150 leopards they photographed are black because of a recessive gene.

Kawanishi said the team recorded the first evidence of the storm's stork, a rare bird, in the park. During her time in the rainforest, Kawanishi never saw a tiger - but her 61 photos of the animals were just enough for the study to succeed.

The research "has greatly advanced our understanding of the dynamics of tigers and their prey and, for the first time, given us a holistic picture of tigers living in the rain forest," said John Seidensticker, a research scientist at the Smithsonian's National Zoological Park in Washington, DC, and chairman of ExxonMobil's Save The Tiger Fund Council.

"This is essential to securing the tiger's future through much of the rainforest remaining in Southeast Asia," Seidensticker said.

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Online Animal Lovers Filled 13.6 Million Bowls Last Year

SEATTLE, Washington, July 11, 2003 (ENS) - During its first year, completed this month, the Animal Rescue Site provided 13.6 million bowls of food for some of the 10 million abused and neglected animals that wind up in shelters each year. At The Animal Rescue Site, part of The Hunger Site Network, anyone with Internet access can help feed animals for free simply by clicking on the purple "Feed an Animal in Need" button.

Visitors pay nothing, as site sponsors cover the cost of the food given with each click. The Animal Rescue Site, a part of the larger Hunger Site, gives fees paid by the site's sponsors to animal welfare charities that rescue and care for abandoned animals.

The Hunger Site Network launched The Animal Rescue Site in July 2002.

"The Hunger Site Network is in awe of the love and concern for animals shown by supporters of The Animal Rescue Site in only its first year," said Tim Kunin, co-owner of the family of cause related Web sites. "Together with our millions of caring visitors, we're able to give animals in need the happy, healthy lives they deserve."

The Animal Rescue Site's following was formed not through paid advertising, but by a "word-of-mouse" phenomenon among supporters. Visitors have steadily increased the number of clicks, and the number of animals helped, by spreading the word about the site via e-mails to family and friends.

The Animal Rescue Site gives the funding to The Fund for Animals and North Shore Animal League America (NSAL). These nonprofit organizations use the funds to feed rescued animals in their care.

The Fund For Animals operates four animal care facilities including the Black Beauty Ranch sanctuary for abused and rescued animals, the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center for medical treatment of injured wildlife, and the Have-A-Heart Spay and Neuter Clinic for dogs and cats in low income families.

NSAL puts to funds to work to care for thousands of animals awaiting adoption in its network of shelters. Through programs such as Pet Adoptathon, Sponsor A Dog and the Animal Poison Hotline, the League has saved the lives of more than 800,000 animals worldwide.

"Thanks to the efforts of The Animal Rescue Site, all the little orphans at North Shore Animal League America are benefiting tremendously," said John Stevenson, president of NSAL.

The Animal Rescue site is online at: http://www.theanimalrescuesite.com

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