AmeriScan: November 7, 2006

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Industrial Chemicals Impair Child Brain Development

BOSTON, Massachusetts, November 7, 2006 (ENS) - Researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health and the Mount Sinai School of Medicine have found that 202 industrial chemicals have the capacity to damage the human brain. They conclude that chemical pollution may have harmed the brains of millions of children worldwide.

In a new study, the authors conclude that the toxic effects of industrial chemicals on children have generally been overlooked.

Fetal and early childhood exposures to industrial chemicals in the environment can damage the developing brain and can lead to neurodevelopmental disorders - autism, attention deficit disorder, and mental retardation. Still, the researchers say, there has been insufficient research done to identify the individual chemicals that can cause injury to the developing brains of children.

In the study, published online in "The Lancet" today, researchers examined publicly available data on chemical toxicity in order to identify the industrial chemicals that are the most likely to damage the developing brain.

"The human brain is a precious and vulnerable organ. And because optimal brain function depends on the integrity of the organ, even limited damage may have serious consequences," says Philippe Grandjean, adjunct professor at Harvard School of Public Health and the study's lead author.

One out of every six children has a developmental disability, usually involving the nervous system, the scientsts said.

Treating neurodevelopmental disorders is difficult and costly to families and society. In recent decades, a gathering amount of evidence has linked industrial chemicals to these disorders.

Lead, for example, was the first chemical identified as having toxic effects to early brain development, though its neurotoxicity to adults had been known for centuries.

Grandjean and co-author Philip Landrigan, professor at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, conclude that industrial chemicals are responsible for what they call a silent pandemic that has caused impaired brain development in millions of children worldwide.

Today, it is estimated that the economic costs of lead poisoning in U.S. children are $43 billion annually; for methylmercury toxicity, $8.7 billion each year.

"Other harmful consequences from lead exposure include shortened attention spans, slowed motor coordination and heightened aggressiveness, which can lead to problems in school and diminished economic productivity as an adult. And the consequences of childhood neurotoxicant exposure later in life may include increased risk of Parkinson's disease and other neurogenerative diseases," says Landrigan.

To protect children against industrial chemicals that can injure the developing brain, the researchers urge a precautionary approach for chemical testing and control. Such an approach is beginning to be applied in the European Union under the new REACH system. It puts in place strong regulations, which could later be relaxed, if the hazard were less than anticipated, instead of current regulations that require a high level of proof.

At present in the United States, requirements for toxicity testing of chemicals are minimal.

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Connecticut Company to Process Chinese Hazwaste

WILTON, Connecticut, November 7, 2006 (ENS) - China has purchased the services of a U.S. company to dispose of hazardous wastes in the heavily industrialized northeast region.

Startech Environmental Corporation of Connecticut will install its 20,000 pound-per-day plasma converter system to process hazardous polychlorinated biphenyls, PCBs, and persistent organic pollutants, POPS. The system is scheduled to go on-line next year.

Steve Landa, Startech vicepresident, said, "These are very nasty industrial materials. The Plasma Converter System destroys each and every one of these materials totally and irreversibly. The Converter is ideally suited to completely and safely destroy POPs, PCBs and other hazardous products no matter how persistent and no matter what the form or the chemical composition."

Startech President Joseph Longo said, "With 20 percent of the world's population, and the challenges of its white-hot industrialization, China has put environmental stewardship and sustainable development very high on its list of priorities."

Startech's Plasma Converter System "safely and economically destroys wastes, no matter how hazardous or lethal, and turns them into useful and valuable products," the company says.

The system achieves closed-loop elemental recycling to destroy municipal solid waste, organics and inorganics, solids, liquids and gases, hazardous and non-hazardous waste, industrial by-products and also items such as electronic waste, medical waste, chemical industry waste and other specialty wastes.

Products of the system include metals and a synthesis gas called Plasma Converted Gas™.

PCG can be used to produce green power, and alternative fuels such as ethanol and other alcohol fuels, synthetic diesel fuels and also hydrogen for use and for sale.

Startech also has agreements to process tires and refinery tank bottoms in northern China at the rate of 100 tons per day, and agreements to process tires in Hunan provinces and in Nanjing.

The company is also undertaking waste-to-hydrogen projects in South Korea and hazardous waste projects in the Philippines.

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Puget Sound Energy Spills Diesel in National Forest

BELLEVUE, Washington, November 7, 2006 (ENS) - Puget Sound Energy is working with state and federal agencies to contain and clean up an estimated 18,000 gallon leak of diesel fuel from the company's backup electricity generator at the located on Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest land below the Crystal Mountain ski area in Pierce County.

Emergency cleanup crews from PSE, Washington Department of Ecology and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, EPA, have been working around the clock since the initial report of the spill on Friday to contain the diesel fuel and protect the nearby wetlands and Silver Creek.

The cause of the spill is under investigation.

On Sunday, the fuel was observed in Silver Creek, which is approximately 1,200 feet from the spill site and about 15 miles upstream from the town of Greenwater.

On Monday, state Ecology officials were concerned that an undetermined amount of diesel fuel had entered Silver Creek due to extraordinary rains and complex soil conditions at the spill site.

Silver Creek is an important salmon-bearing creek. State and tribal fish and wildlife officials have begun conducting wildlife surveys in the area and downstream of the spill site.

Working with the U.S. Forest Service, PSE Friday notified homeowners in the area about the spill and recommended safety precautions such as bottled water.

In addition, PSE representatives and outside technical experts were available on Saturday during the Silver Creek Homeowners Association's annual meeting at the Greenwater Fire Department to answer questions and concerns about the spill.

Drivers are asked to use extra caution in the area, and responders are asking the public to avoid the area for safety reasons.

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Illinois Poised to Enact Tough Mercury Emissions Standard

SPRINGFIELD, Illinois, November 7, 2006 (ENS) - The Illinois Pollution Control Board Thursday adopted a mercury pollution reduction plan that requires Illinois coal-fired power plants to install modern pollution control equipment designed to reduce mercury pollution by 90 percent or more by June 30, 2009.

Proposed by Governor Rod Blagojevich in January, the newly adopted state standards reduce toxic mercury emissions faster than federal restrictions adopted last year and will achieve the largest overall amount of mercury reduction of any state in the country. Other states, such as Pennsylvania, are also wrking towards state mercury standards.

"Today’s action by the Pollution Control Board is a big win for public health in Illinois. Now we need legislators on the administrative rules committee to take the final step to making this rule official,” said Governor Blagojevich.

“Mercury poses a major threat to new mothers and children," the governor said. "If it’s ingested, it can cause serious physical and developmental disabilities in fetuses and kids. That’s why, when the federal government wouldn’t go far enough, we set out to significantly reduce mercury emissions from one of the leading sources in our state – power plants."

The Illinois EPA filed the proposal with the Pollution Control Board in March. After two public hearings, the Board received a record number of more than 7,000 public comments, the vast majority of which were in support of the strong mercury reduction plan.

“The Governor’s mercury proposal that was approved today is among the strongest in the nation, and has led to even greater multi-pollutant reductions, making it even more beneficial to improving the quality of life for people throughout the state,” said Doug Scott, director of the Illinois EPA.

The Blagojevich administration has written agreements with two of the three major coal-fired power companies in Illinois, reducing not only mercury, but other toxic emissions as well.

Through agreements with Ameren, Illinois’ second largest utility, and Dynegy, Illinois’ third largest electric utility, 96 percent of their capacity will utilize pollution control equipment by 2009, and will achieve the mercury standards called for by the governor. The remaining four percent of plants will install controls able to meet the standards by 2012.

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Environmental Defense and Yahoo! Promote Green Cars

WASHINGTON, DC, November 7, 2006 (ENS) - U.S. car buyers now have a simple way to compare vehicles for environmentally friendly features. The advocacy group Environmental Defense has partnered with Yahoo! Autos to make Green Ratings available to consumers next to vehicle prices and other common car information online.

"Consumers can think of the Yahoo! Green Rating as a yardstick that measures how well a given car cuts pollution," said John DeCicco, senior fellow for automotive strategies at Environmental Defense.

"The Yahoo! Green Rating covers all of the major environmental impacts associated with a motor vehicle," he said, "from health-harming tailpipe pollution to greenhouse gases that cause global warming."

Rated on a scale of 1-100, the Yahoo! Green Rating reflects a vehicle’s total environmental impact. The higher the rating, the greener the car and the lower its harm to humans and the planet.

Car shoppers can find the most environmentally friendly model by just picking the car or truck that has the best Green Rating among the models they are considering.

"Americans' care for their environment runs deeper than the ups and downs of gas prices," said DeCicco. "The Yahoo! Green Ratings provide a lasting way for consumers to act on their values and comparison shop with the environment in mind."

Because fuel efficiency factors into the Green Ratings, greener choices cut oil use and help U.S. energy security.

To access the Green Ratings and see the Yahoo! Autos new Green Center, go to http://autos.yahoo.com/green_center/.

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Invasive Lionfish Proliferate on Southeast Coast

WASHINGTON, DC, November 7, 2006 (ENS) - NOAA researchers reported Monday that non-native lionfish populations will continue to grow and cannot be eliminated using conventional methods.

Lionfish have taken hold along the southeast United States coast, placing divers and fishermen at risk of their painful, venomous sting, as well as leaving native fish populations potentially susceptible to new and unstudied hazards from their interactions with this species.

The scientists said that the cost and effort to dispatch trained divers — the only effective elimination method currently known — would be impractical, due to the expansive deepwater reef habitats of the southeast coast of the United States and Bahamas, an area encompassing more than 62,000 square miles.

Lionfish, popular in the aquarium trade, were likely introduced through releases by amateur aquarists no longer wishing to keep the fish.

Lionfish, a native of the Indian and Pacific oceans, are now considered established in the Atlantic Ocean.

First discovered off the coast of North Carolina in 2000 by the NOAA National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science, they are believed to have been present off the east coast of Florida since the mid-1990s.

Lionfish impacts to reef fish communities may be reduced by local control in smaller regions. For example, lionfish have not been found in the NOAA Gray's Reef or Florida Keys national marine sanctuaries.

"We are currently considering early detection and rapid response efforts to keep lionfish out of the sanctuaries," said ecologist James Morris, NOAA National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science. "It is unclear at this time if these attempts will be successful."

NOAA researchers have determined that lionfish reach sexual maturity within two years and spawn multiple times during the spawning season. Each spawn can produce up to 30,000 eggs.

Lionfish are believed to spend the winter from North Carolina to the Bahamas, with juveniles found as far north as Rhode Island during summer months where the potential for successful survival during the winter months is not possible due to cold water temperatures.

How lionfish will affect native fish populations has yet to be determined or assessed, including the potential impacts to the commercial fishing industry.

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