AmeriScan: November 9, 2006

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Firefighters at Increased Risk for Four Cancers

CINCINNATI, Ohio, November 9, 2006 (ENS) - Firefighters are more likely to develop four different types of cancer than workers in other fields, according to new research from University of Cincinnati.

Firefighters are twice as likely to develop testicular cancer and have significantly higher rates of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma and prostate cancer than non-firefighters. The researchers also confirmed previous findings that firefighters are at greater risk for multiple myeloma.

"We believe there's a direct correlation between the chemical exposures firefighters experience on the job and their increased risk for cancer," says Grace LeMasters, professor of epidemiology and biostatistics at University of Cincinnati.

The research is reported in the November edition of the "Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine." The UC-led study is the largest comprehensive study to date investigating cancer risk associated with working as a firefighter. Researchers from Puerto Rico and Egypt participated in the study.

Firefighters are exposed to many compounds designated as carcinogens by the International Agency for Research on Cancer, including benzene, diesel engine exhaust, chloroform, soot, styrene and formaldehyde, LeMasters explains.

These substances can be inhaled or absorbed through the skin and occur both at the scene of a fire and in the firehouse, where idling diesel fire trucks produce diesel exhaust.

The UC-led team analyzed information on 110,000 firefighters, most of them full-time, white male workers, from 32 previously published scientific studies to determine the comprehensive health effects and correlating cancer risks of their profession.

UC epidemiologists found that half the studied cancers, including testicular, prostate, skin, brain, rectum, stomach and colon cancer, non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, multiple myeloma and malignant melanoma, were associated with firefighting.

The findings suggest that the protective equipment firefighters have used in the past did not do a good job in protecting them against cancer causing agents they encounter in their profession, the researchers say.

"There's a critical and immediate need for additional protective equipment to help firefighters avoid inhalation and skin exposures to known and suspected occupational carcinogens," says James Lockey, MD, professor of environmental health and pulmonary medicine at UC. "In addition, firefighters should meticulously wash their entire body to remove soot and other residues from fires to avoid skin exposure."

The research was supported in part by a grant from the Ohio Bureau of Workers Compensation.

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Armed Forces Get Vets Day Fee Waiver for Public Lands

WASHINGTON, DC, November 9, 2006 (ENS) - United States veterans, members of the U.S. armed forces and their families will be admitted free of charge on Veterans Day November 11 to public lands managed by the Departments of the Interior and Agriculture.

The fee waiver applies to Active Duty, National Guard and Reserve service members.

Access to most national parks usually costs anywhere from $4 to $20 per vehicle. The price is dependent on the number of days people plan to visit, with some parks issuing additional fees for camping, picnic areas, hunting permits, tours and recreational services.

Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne and Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns announced the fee waiver program in September.

The administrative fee waiver of entrance and standard amenity fees will apply annually on Veterans Day at public recreation lands managed by Interior's National Park Service, Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management and Bureau of Reclamation and Agriculture's U.S. Forest Service.

"This is a great way to demonstrate our appreciation for the brave men and women who have made incredible sacrifices to serve our country," said Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dale Hall. The Fish and Wildlife Service has 36 entrance fee sites.

The Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act, passed in December 2004, overhauled the fee system that governs the National Park System, the National Wildlife Refuge System, the National Forest System, certain public lands administered by the Bureau of Land Management and recreational lands administered by the Bureau of Reclamation.

The act established a new multi-agency pass to cover entrance fees and standard amenity fees on these lands. The target rollout of the new pass is scheduled for January 2007.

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Safe Harbor for Texas Ocelots

AUSTIN, Texas, November 9, 2006 (ENS) - In an effort to provide habitat for the ocelot and build a partnership between landowners and wildlife advocates, Environmental Defense and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service have signed a 30 year Safe Harbor agreement for the endangered feline.

Landowners in a five county Texas region could be protected under this cooperative agreement if they choose to allow their land to be made more suitable for the endangered ocelot. The agreement covers Cameron, Hidalgo, Kenedy, Starr, and Willacy counties.

There are estimated to be fewer than 100 ocelots left in the United States, all living along the south Texas coast. A small cat, the ocelot was listed as federally endangered within the United States in 1982.

About 30 to 40 of the remaining ocelots live on or around the Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge. The 65,000 acre refuge is inhabited by nine endangered or threatened species including the ocelot.

"Safe Harbor Agreements are very important," said Environmental Defense wildlife biologist Linda Laack. "If landowners decide that they would like to help develop habitat for an endangered animal, then they must know that they will not be punished for their good deed."

The agreements guarantee that landowners will not face future regulatory restrictions by making their land more inviting to endangered wildlife.

The Service has acquired 2,500 acres of privately owned land near the refuge to extend more protected habitat for the few remaining ocelots.

Environmental Defense will be authorized to issue certificates of inclusion to landowners who agree to abide by the terms and conditions of the Safe Harbor Agreement by developing habitat for the ocelot, while not giving up their rights to future development.

"Private land is a primary habitat for many endangered species," said Dr. Benjamin Tuggle, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Regional Director. "Conservationists rely on the non-federal lands as well as government supported wildlife preserves and refuges to help protect species such as the ocelot. Landowners must feel comfortable in allowing endangered species onto their lands. This agreement allows that to happen."

To be eligible for a Safe Harbor agreement, landowners must have habitat or potential habitat for a federally listed endangered or threatened species. By agreeing to make land improvements including planting vegetation, especially native thornscrub, and installing watering systems to ensure plant development, landowners will receive financial and technical support.

The first safe Harbor Agreement was established in 1995 in the Sandhills of North Carolina and proved beneficial to the Red-Cockaded Woodpecker.

By the 10th anniversary of Safe Harbor program, 327 landowners had signed up to be part of 31 different agreements in 17 states protecting more than 3.5 million acres of habitat for 35 different species across the country.

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Hurricane Cleanup Recovers Millions of Hazwaste Containers

NEW ORLEANS, Louisiana, November 9, 2006 (ENS) - More than 4.5 million hazardous material containers have been recovered from areas damaged by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in southern Louisiana.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality, Coast Guard and Army Corps of Engineers have all participated in collecting the hazwaste containers.

Since collection began in September 2005, more than 17 million pounds of hazardous waste has been recycled or properly disposed of to prevent future environmental and public health problems, according to the EPA.

Household hazardous materials include products like bleach, propane, batteries, paints, solvents, pesticides and fertilizer. Materials are collected by crews going house to house or are brought to collection centers by residents.

More than four million of the containers are categorized as "small," holding a few ounces or as many as 54 gallons.

In addition, more than 40,000 55-gallon drums, 45,000 propane tanks, 76,000 cylinders and 6,400 larger containers containing hundreds to thousands of gallons of hazardous materials were collected.

As homes are gutted and demolished, the segregation of household hazardous waste ensures the proper disposal of this material.

Residents are reminded about the importance of separating water-damaged household hazardous materials, placing them curbside, and keeping the materials away from water meters and fire hydrants.

"We ask that the household hazardous waste not be put in plastic bags. By setting the material curbside, our job of protecting the state’s landfills and citizens becomes much easier," said Nancy Jones, EPA’s incident commander for the agency’s hurricane response.

For those areas of New Orleans where debris collection has stopped, household hazardous waste can be dropped off at any of three public sites which are located at 2301 Hendee Street, Crowder Road and I-10, or at 2829 Elysian Fields.

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Chesapeake Bay Summer Healthier Than Last Year

ANNAPOLIS, Maryland, November 9, 2006 (ENS) - Three key measures of Chesapeake Bay health showed minor improvements during the 2006 summer months compared to a year ago, according to data released today by the Chesapeake Bay Program.

Summer dissolved oxygen levels, an essential measure of water quality for nearly all bay species, were somewhat better in 2006 than during the same period last year. But the levels are still typical of the generally poor water quality that affects the Chesapeake every summer.

Underwater bay grasses may be showing areas of improvement, according to bay scientists, but important beds in the lower bay have not fully recovered from major losses in the late summer of 2005.

Researchers also looked at the extent and duration of harmful algal blooms that regularly hit Potomac River waters and found mixed results.

In May, bay scientists and researchers released their 2006 ecological forecast for the bay, predicting "typical" conditions in three key areas relating to overall Chesapeake Bay health.

"Based on an analysis of spring weather conditions and 20 years of Chesapeake Bay monitoring data, the forecast anticipated the annual return of oxygen-deprived dead zones in the bay's deeper waters, slight increases in beneficial underwater grasses and a moderately high likelihood of harmful algal blooms on the tidal Potomac River," said Bill Dennison, vice president of science application, University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science.

Dennison is chair of the Bay Program's Tidal Monitoring and Analysis Workgroup, which was largely responsible for the forecast.

Spring 2006 weather conditions were considered extreme, with lower than average rainfall from mid-February to mid-May. The region was then deluged at the end of June with rainfall leading to the 100 year flood mark in some areas. The remainder of the summer weather was fairly average until August, when the remnants of Hurricane Ernesto washed into the area.

"Summer conditions are determined largely by the pollutant load washed into the bay by rain in the preceding winter and spring," said Carlton Haywood, chair of the Bay Program's monitoring panel and director of program operations for the Interstate Commission on the Potomac River Basin.

"The health of the bay in the critical summer season will improve as we take action in the fall to reduce the level of pollutants in the watershed," Haywood said.

Planting winter cover crops that stop pollutants from washing into local rivers with spring rains is just one of many practical actions we can take that will have a positive impact on the Chesapeake," he said.

"However, if we are going to have a balanced, healthy bay ecosystem," he said, "we need to break this typical cycle and begin to show vast improvement."

The Chesapeake Bay watershed is home to more than 16 million people living in parts of Delaware, Maryland, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia and the District of Columbia. Since 1983, the Chesapeake Bay Program has coordinated the restoration of the bay and its watershed.

For more detailed information including graphics, charts and maps, visit the Chesapeake Bay Program website at: http://www.chesapeakebay.net/bayforecast.htm.

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Audio Telescope May Avert Bird-Plane Collisions

ROCKVILLE, Maryland, November 9, 2006 (ENS) - An "audio telescope" has been developed by a public-private team of researchers that could help airports more efficiently avoid costly and hazardous bird-aircraft collisions by locating and identifying birds by their calls.

The concentric array of 192 microphones 39 inches in diameter would be mounted parallel to the ground to listen to the skies.

Researchers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology, NIST, Intelligent Automation, Inc. and the University of Missouri-Columbia have modified a NIST-designed microphone array to make the audio telescope.

Collisions with birds in flight, called "bird strikes," caused over $2 billion worth of damage to aircraft in the United States or U.S. aircraft abroad, since 1990, according to statistics from the Federal Aviation Administration.

Worldwide, wildlife strikes, mostly birds, have destroyed more than 163 aircraft and killed more than 194 people since 1988.

Airports use X-band radar and infrared cameras to monitor birds, but neither technology can distinguish between different kinds of birds, particularly in bad weather. Not all birds are equally hazardous to aircraft, and closing runways because of the proximity of unknown birds imposes costs in delays and increased aircraft congestion.

By comparing the arrival time of sounds at different microphones, the array can determine the direction from which the sound came, even distinguishing simultaneous sounds coming from different directions.

The researchers adapted mathematical algorithms designed to allow speech recognition systems to identify different speakers in order to distinguish different species by their calls. The system can tell a Canada goose from a gull or a hawk within a couple of seconds.

Development of the prototype was funded by the U.S. Air Force Office of Scientific Research.

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