AmeriScan: October 10, 2005

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Newborns' Exposure to Toxins May Trigger Asthma, Allergies

ITHACA, New York, October 10, 2005 (ENS) - Exposure of developing fetuses and newborns to low levels of environmental toxins could be responsible for recent sharp rises in asthma, allergies and autoimmune disorders like lupus, says a Cornell University researcher.

The real dangers from environmental toxins such as lead, mercury and dioxin, as well as nicotine and ethanol most likely occur early in life, said Rod Dietert, professor of immunotoxicology at Cornell's College of Veterinary Medicine, in a paper presented October 4 at the 14th Immunotoxicology Summer School Conference in Lyon, France.

Dietert points out that most laboratory studies look at the health effects of the toxins on adult animals.

"We are deluding ourselves to think that adult data are going to allow us to understand the risks of perinatal exposures," said Dietert, referring to the period close to the time of birth. "Right now, we underestimate health risks that are occurring due to early exposure."

He advocates a more detailed two-generation screening in which information on toxins and their impact on immune systems is recorded not only for the adult mother but also for her offspring.

He says current safety testing lacks the ability to detect many early life immunotoxic changes, including those leading to allergy and autoimmunity - an immune state in which antibodies are formed against a person's own body tissues.

One issue resulting from early exposure to environmental toxins and drugs involves two types of immune system helper cells: T helper 1 (Th1) and Th2.

Th1 cells are involved in countering cancer and they attack pathogens, from viruses to intracellular bacteria, that get inside cells.

Th2 cells promote release of some antibodies to counter such extracellular pathogens as bacteria and parasites. However, Th2 cell responses can result in the overproduction of antibodies called IgE antibodies, which are implicated in producing allergic responses.

Throughout pregnancy, both the fetus and mother have inhibited Th1 responses to prevent a fetal-maternal mutual immune attack that would lead to miscarriage.

But as soon as the baby is born, a healthy infant's immune system quickly increases Th1 capacity so that levels are roughly balanced with those of Th2.

"Exposure to certain drugs and chemicals in the last trimester can really mess things up," said Dietert. There is some evidence that low doses of lead, mercury, ethanol or drugs like dexamethasone [a common steroid] can permanently keep an immune system in a late gestational Th2-promoting stage that is out of balance for responses later in life."

Yet, the same low doses of these agents do not impair an adult immune system, Dietert said.

"I think this goes a long way toward explaining the epidemic rises in allergies and autoimmune disorders," said Dietert. When an infant's immune system remains biased toward Th2 responses because of toxin exposure and never matures its own Th1 capacity, the baby develops a higher risk, not only for asthma and allergies during childhood but also for autoimmune diseases and comprised antiviral and anticancer responses in later life.

Dietert outlined seven windows during development when exposure to low levels of toxins can have long-term impacts and are not modeled in the adult.

Lead can interfere with immune-dependent reproductive development; dioxin or nicotine around birth can prevent the crucial maturation steps of certain immune cells, called dendritic cells; and ethanol can impair the ability of immune cells called macrophages to mature in response to lung surfactant proteins that are produced just before birth.

The American Chemistry Council, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences funded Dietert's study.

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Clean Cities Coalitions Celebrate Billionth Gallon Saved

BAYSHORE, New York, October 10, 2005 (ENS) - The Greater Long Island Clean Cities Coalition will join Clean Cities coalitions across the country on Friday to celebrate displacing more than a billion gallons of oil. The coalition says this is important because the United States now imports about two-thirds of the petroleum it uses.

At $68 per barrel, the Long Island coalition points out, Americans are now spending $300 billion per year for imported petroleum - about $200 billion of this for the transportation sector.

"We are spending more than $3.5 billion each week to fuel the economies of other countries when we could be fueling ours by investing in domestic fuels like ethanol or biodiesel," the Long Island coalition said in a statement today.

Clean Cities, part of the U.S. Department of Energyís Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Office, builds partnerships with industry, stakeholders, fleets, fuel suppliers, and business partners with the goal of decreasing petroleum use.

The nationís 88 Clean Cities coalitions focus on alternative fuels and alternative fuel vehicles, hybrid electric vehicles, fuel blends, heavy-truck idle reduction applications, and general fuel economy improvements to help reduce the nationís need for imported oil.

Through those efforts, the Clean Cities initiative has reached the milestone of displacing one billion gasoline gallon equivalents of petroleum, enough gas to fuel two million cars for a year. By using less oil, the Clean Cities coalitions say they have improved the nationís energy, economic, and environmental security.

Clean Cities coalitions are holding events nationwide to commemorate the "billionth gallon saved."

In Syosset, the Greater Long Island Clean Cities Coalition is hosting a media event at the Clean Energy fueling station, 500 Robbins Lane Syosset at 11:45 am, on Friday. The event will showcase alternative fuels being used on Long Island, highlighting compressed natural gas.

Daniel Hogan, New York State Office of General Services Commissioner and Chair of the State Clean Fueled Vehicle Council, said, "Governor [George] Pataki has made the pursuit of cleaner air and use of alternative fuel as one of his administration's top goals and during the last 10 years, New York has become a national leader inthe use and purchase of clean fueled vehicles."

"By passing the billionth gallon milestone," Clean Cities Coordinator Andria Adler said, "Clean Cities coalitions have shown they are making a difference on a local level and a national level. While our thirst for oil puts our economic and energy security at risk, Clean Cities coalitions across the country are demonstrating options that work."

For more information on Clean Cities, visit: http://www.gliccc.org or http://www.eere.energy.gov/cleancities/

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Chinese Apartment Complex First to Win LEED Certification

WASHINGTON, DC, October 10, 2005 (ENS) - The first commercial building in China has been awarded LEED certification, the official green building rating system of the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC). The project has also been awarded the "Guangdong Green Building Demonstration Project" and has been nominated for an award by Chinaís Ministry of Construction.

The building, named TaiGe (Tiger) Apartments, is a 300,000 square foot apartment complex in Shenzhen, near Hong Kong. It was developed by the China Merchant Real Estate Company (CMRE), a subsidiary of the China Merchant Bank.

LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. The LEED Green Building Rating System is a voluntary, consensus-based standard for developing high performance, sustainable buildings.

According to Kenneth Langer, president of EMSI, a Washington, DC consulting firm which served as the projectís sustainability consultant, CMRE has announced that it will incorporate green strategies into all future building projects.

A high performance chiller with energy recovery system, low emissivity window glazing, and other environmentally friendly applications are expected to save 1.3 million kilowatt hours per year, resulting in an annual cost savings of $150,000.

Representatives of CMRE and 10 other Chinese developers will be recognized on November 10 at the U.S. Green Building Council's Greenbuild 2005 conference in Atlanta for their pioneering efforts in transforming Chinaís construction industry through LEED registered or certified projects.

Langer said, "TaiGe is the first of 10 high performance projects that we are working on in China. Together, they should save the country about 11 million kilowatt hours (kWh) per year in electricity and reduce annual carbon emissions by approximately 3,000 metric tons CO2."

Over a 25 year lifetime, Langer calculates, these projects will reduce electricity demand by more than 283 million kWh and avoid 68,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide."

Langer expects reductions in electric power and C02 emissions "to rise exponentially" as more and more Chinese real estate developers pursue green, high performance buildings.

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Trial Set in Milk Driver's Suit Against Dean Foods

LOS ANGELES, California, October 10, 2005 (ENS) - Jury trial is scheduled to begin November 9 against Dean Foods of California, Inc., which processes milk under the name Alta-Dena, Adohr Farms, Albertsons and other major brand names.

Dean Foods of California is a subsidiary of Dean Foods Company, which manufactures Silk soy milk, Horizon organic milk and many other dairy and non-dairy products.

The plaintiff is former employee Pete Guinan, who was a member of the Teamsters. He alleges that the company fired him for complaining about its wrongdoing while he was a milk delivery driver.

According to the complaint, the company routinely violated the Milk Products Safety Act of 1947, California Food & Agricultural Code, and a variety of occupational health and safety laws.

The complaint states that the company was leaking milk onto California highways and that milk used in the company's products "was not being appropriately protected from sources of contamination."

Guinan also complained that "drivers of trucks were being required to violate standards established by the United States Department of Transportation and/or the California Highway Patrol as respects the number of hours they could be on the road; that Defendant was permitting the unsafe loading of trailers which were then permitted to be driven on California highways..."

He complained that "employees were being exposed to dangerous and noxious fumes; that Defendant provided Plaintiff and other employees with an unsafe and dangerous workplace in that the OSHA-required chocks which were used to keep trucks from rolling while being loaded were defective and/or missing, and because Defendant supplied Plaintiff and his coworkers with defective pallet jacks; and that Defendant was requiring employees to work 'off the clock', a form of involuntary servitude."

Because of a ruling of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, the jury will only hear Guinan's complaints concerning milk leakages and contamination.

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NRC Asked to Hold License Transfers for Pennsylvania Nuclear Plants

HARRISBURG, Pennsylvania, October 10, 2005 (ENS) - Harrisburg area nuclear activist Eric Epstein has asked the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to postpone the license transfers of Three Mile Island-1 and Peach Bottom until AmerGen and Exelon can bring their emergency preparedness plans into compliance with their NRC issued licenses.

The transfers are part of a proposed merger between Exelon Corp. and Public Service Electric and Gas.

"The NRC can not transfer out-of-compliance licenses," Epstein said. "Nor can Exelon pretend that the problems will fix themselves."

Epstein says his request was based on the findings of a NRC staff member with 40 years of experience.

He cites the work of Michael Jamgochian, a senior nuclear engineer, who found that the children in Pennsylvania are not safe during a nuclear emergency because they are unplanned for during an evacuation.

He also found that Pennsylvania nuclear power plants do not meet with the federal regulations requiring emergency planning for preschool children.

Epstein asked the NRC to hold the Indirect and Direct License transfers for Three Mile Island-1 and Peach Bottom 2 & 3 in abeyance until the licensees can bring their emergency plans into compliance with their operating licenses and NRC regulations.

Epstein also requested that the emergency plans at Three Mile Island-1 and Peach Bottom 2 and 3 be revised prior to the merger in order to meet NRC licensing obligations.

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Grant Proposals Welcome for Chesapeake Runoff Control

PHILADELPHIA, Pennsylvania, October 10, 2005 (ENS) - Earlier this year, Congress set aside nearly $8 million to establish a pilot program in the Chesapeake Bay watershed that will demonstrate innovative, sustainable and cost-effective strategies for reducing the discharge and runoff of nutrients into the bay and the watershed.

Now the funds are ready for distribution through the new Chesapeake Bay Targeted Watershed Grants Program. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation have issued a request for grant proposals.

"Protecting and cleaning up the Chesapeake Bay is a perpetual project of partnerships and teamwork, and these grants will help support ideas on how we can continue to work toward ensuring that this valuable resource will be protected for future generations," said Donald Welsh, regional administrator for EPAís mid-Atlantic region.

Under the grants program, eight to 12 grants of up to $1 million each will be awarded on a competitive basis to eligible organizations including non-profit groups, universities and state governments that develop proposals on how they will help reduce nutrients in the bay watershed.

Earlier this month, EPA awarded a cooperative agreement to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to administer the grants.

For more information about the program and to download an application form, visit the foundation website at www.nfwf.org/targetedwatershed.

Potential applicants and interested parties are encouraged to attend a free workshop on the watershed grants program from 10 am to 3 pm on Tuesday, October 18 at the Hall of the States, 444 North Capitol St. NW, Washington, D.C. For directions, please visit: www.sso.org/general.htm#direct.

People interested in attending the workshop, should send an email to chesapeake@nfwf.org and plan to arrive 15 minutes early with photo identification. For more information contact Tom Kelsch at 202-857-0166.

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New Jersey Launches Smart Growth Ombudsman's Website

TRENTON, New Jersey, October 10, 2005 (ENS) - New Jersey has opened a Smart Growth Ombudsmanís website designed to inform the public about the stateís smart growth policy and Ombudsman Patrick Gillespie.

"Smart growth in New Jersey is a multi-faceted term," said Gillespie. "The goal of this policy is to alleviate development pressure on New Jerseyís environmentally sensitive lands by encouraging development in areas of the state that have the capacity to absorb growth."

The position of Smart Growth Ombudsman was created as part of the Smart Growth Act, which became law in 2004. The Ombudsman coordinates the smart growth efforts of all state executive departments and in particular the Departments of Environmental Protection, Transportation and Community Affairs to ensure the principles and goals outlined under the Smart Growth Act are met.

"Smart growth improves quality of life in New Jersey," said Acting Governor Richard Codey. "Through this website, the public will learn more about smart growth and why well-planned, well-managed growth is so important."

The term smart growth is used to describe well-planned, targeted growth that adds new homes and creates new jobs, while preserving open space, farmland, and environmental resources.

The Director of the Office of Smart Growth serves as Executive Director and Secretary of the State Planning Commission, whose 17 members represent state government, local government and the public.

"My office is one of the important links in achieving smart growth. This website will serve to inform the public not only about the role of the Ombudsman, but also about other efforts the state has undertaken to implement smart growth policy," Gillespie said.

The Smart Growth Ombudsmanís Website is online at: http://www.nj.gov/smartgrowth.

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