Tag Archives: pollution

Yoga Pants Are Surprisingly Harmful

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Yoga Pants Are Surprisingly Harmful

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EPA says the water at a Puerto Rico Superfund site is safe. This congressman isn’t convinced.

At a hearing on the federal response to the 2017 hurricane season, New York Congressman Jerrold Nadler questioned the EPA’s decision to declare water drawn from the Dorado Superfund site OK to drink.

In 2016, the agency found that water at Dorado contained solvents that pose serious health risks, including liver damage and cancer. Yet after CNN reported that Hurricane Maria survivors were pulling water from the site’s two wells, the EPA conducted an analysis and found the water fit for consumption.

When Nadler asked Pete Lopez, administrator for Region 2 of the EPA, why his agency changed its position, Lopez responded that the chemicals are present in the water, but are within drinking water tolerance levels.

The EPA’s standards for drinking water are typically higher than international norms, John Mutter, a Columbia University professor and international disaster relief expert, told Grist. Nonetheless, he believes it is unusual for the EPA to declare water safe to drink just one year after naming it a Superfund site.

At the hearing, Nadler said the situation was “eerily similar” to the EPA’s response after 9/11 in New York. One week after the attacks, the agency said the air in the neighborhood was safe to breathe. But since then, 602 people who initially survived the attack have died from cancer or aerodigestive issues like asthma, and thousands more have become sick.

“The [EPA’s] history of making mistakes makes you feel like perhaps they should be challenged,” says Mutter, citing the water contamination crisis in Flint, Michigan.

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EPA says the water at a Puerto Rico Superfund site is safe. This congressman isn’t convinced.

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Toxic water flooded Houston homes after Harvey, tests show

This story was originally published by Mother Jones and is reproduced here as part of the Climate Desk collaboration.

Last month, Hurricane Harvey dropped an unprecedented 50 inches of rain in Houston and across southeast Texas causing deadly floods and environmental disasters, such as chemical plant explosions and flooded toxic sites. Now, residents have another problem to worry about.

According to tests organized by the New York Times and conducted by a team from Baylor Medical College and Rice University, the floodwaters in two Houston neighborhoods have been contaminated with toxins and bacteria that can make people sick. It’s unclear where else these toxins might have spread, but 40 of 1,219 waste treatment plants are not functioning:

The results of The Times’s testing were troubling. Water flowing down Briarhills Parkway in the Houston Energy Corridor contained Escherichia coli, a measure of fecal contamination, at a level more than four times that considered safe.

In the Clayton Homes public housing development downtown, along the Buffalo Bayou, scientists found what they considered astonishingly high levels of E. coli in standing water in one family’s living room — levels 135 times those considered safe — as well as elevated levels of lead, arsenic, and other heavy metals in sediment from the floodwaters in the kitchen.

“There’s pretty clearly sewage contamination, and it’s more concentrated inside the home than outside the home,” said Lauren Stadler, an assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering at Rice University who participated in The Times’s research.

Houston residents who have returned to survey their homes and salvage belongings reported a stench in the air and feeling sick afterwards:

Brad Greer, 49, developed two scabby infections on each of his legs where rain boots had irritated his skin. He took antibiotics, but on Saturday, he said, he started feeling light-headed and weak as he and his brother-in-law tried to move possessions from Mr. Greer’s flooded home.

He went to the emergency room at Houston Methodist, where he was put on an intravenous drip and given another antibiotic prescription. Mr. Greer said swimming pools around his neighborhood are rank.

“All the pools are just giant toilets you’re unable to flush,” he said.

The medical team that tested the water is concerned about residents wading through the toxic waters. “If people have bad headaches, respiratory problems, swelling of a limb, or a bad rash, go see a doctor right away,” Winifred Hamilton, the environmental health service director at Baylor College of Medicine, told the New York Times. “Don’t assume it will go away on its own.”

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Toxic water flooded Houston homes after Harvey, tests show

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Houston communities deal with ‘unbearable’ petrochemical smells

This story was originally published by New Republic and is reproduced here as part of the Climate Desk collaboration.

As historic rainfall and flooding continue to pound America’s fourth-most populated city, residents of Houston’s industrial fence-line communities are reporting strong gas and chemical-like smells coming from the many refineries and chemical plants nearby. “I’ve been smelling them all night and off and on this morning,” said Bryan Parras, an activist at the grassroots environmental justice group TEJAS. Parras, who lives and works in Houston’s East End, on Sunday said some residents are experiencing “headaches, sore throat, scratchy throat and itchy eyes.”

Parras said there are chemical smells in the air all over the East End, but particularly in communities adjacent to Houston’s sweeping petrochemical industry. And residents can’t escape the smell, because flood waters have overtaken the city, and could reach over four feet in some spots. “Fenceline communities can’t leave or evacuate so they are literally getting gassed by these chemicals,” Parras said.

Some Twitter users in Houston also reported concerns about air quality.

It’s still unclear exactly where the smells are coming from, but Parras suspects the source is the many oil refineries, chemical plants, and gas facilities nearby. Several of these plants have shut down or are in the process of shutting down due to Harvey’s historic flooding, and shutdowns are a major cause of “abnormal” emission events, according to a 2012 report from the Environmental Integrity Project. Short-term impacts of these events can be “substantial,” because “upsets or sudden shutdowns can release large plumes of sulfur dioxide or toxic chemicals in just a few hours, exposing downwind communities to peak levels of pollution that are much more likely to trigger asthma attacks and other respiratory systems.” The communities closest to these sites in Houston are disproportionately low-income and minority.

There are huge public health risks from pollution releases during any hurricane, but the risk is particularly high with Harvey. The plants in the area hit directly by the storm “are responsible for roughly 25 percent of the United States’s petroleum refining, more than 44 percent of its ethylene production, 40 percent of its specialty chemical feed stock and more than half of its jet fuel,” according to the New York Times.

On Sunday, Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke — fresh off a bizarrely off-topic mid-hurricane Twitter endorsement from President Donald Trump — hit out at liberals for “politicizing” Hurricane Harvey. But disaster preparedness is always political, and so is environmental justice. As noxious fumes creep over the fence-line communities of the East End, residents there are underwater, and some of them can’t breathe.

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Houston communities deal with ‘unbearable’ petrochemical smells

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Trump is going easy on polluters.

According to a new study from the nonprofit Environmental Integrity Project, the current presidential administration has collected fewer civil penalties and filed fewer environmental enforcement suits against polluting companies than the Obama, Clinton, and George W. Bush administrations did at the same point in office.

The analysis assesses agreements made in the Environmental Protection Agency’s civil enforcement cases. For abuses under laws like the Clean Air Act, the Trump administration has collected just $12 million in civil penalties, a drop of 60 percent from the average of the other administrations. Trump’s EPA has lodged 26 environmental lawsuits compared to 31, 34, and 45 by Bush, Obama, and Clinton, respectively.

The marked decrease in enforcement likely has to do with the EPA’s deregulatory agenda. Since confirmed, administrator Scott Pruitt has systematically tried to knock out key environmental regulations, especially those created during Obama’s tenure.

The Project notes that its assessment is only of a six-month period, so future enforcement could catch Trump up to his predecessors. Or he’ll continue to look the other way.

“I’ve seen the pendulum swing,” said Bruce Buckheit, who worked in EPA enforcement under Clinton and then Bush, “but never as far as what appears to be going on today.”

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Trump is going easy on polluters.

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3 million Mercedes cars got recalled over emissions concerns.

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3 million Mercedes cars got recalled over emissions concerns.

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6 Must-Try Natural Cleaning Shortcuts

As much as I dislike the process of cleaning, I appreciateit when things are clean(and so do our guests).

So, I do my bestto clean smarter instead of harder.

With a little planning and a well-stocked pantry, you can make it easier to clean your home in a safe and eco-friendly manner.

Keep reading for some natural cleaning tips that will save you time and protect your health!

Why Natural Cleaning?

The products with which you choose to clean your home can have a tremendous impact on your health. According to studies conducted by The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) “human exposure to air pollutants indicate that indoor levels of pollutants may be two to five times and occasionally more than 100 times higher than outdoor levels. These levels of indoor air pollutants are of particular concern because most people spend about 90 percent of their time indoors.”

What causes indoor air pollution? Chemical-based household cleaners top the list, which also includes new carpet, paint, adhesives and certain types of upholstery.

Related: 7 Sources Of Indoor Air Pollution

By simply trading these toxic cleaning agents for naturally-made (but equally effective) products, you can drastically improve your indoor air quality. Ready to get started? Here are some of the basic building blocks of natural cleaning you’ll want to keep on hand.

Natural Ingredients & Supplies For Green Cleaning

Ingredients:

White Vinegar
Baking Soda
Castile Soap
Soap Nuts
Essential Oils (Lemon, Tea Tree Oil, Lavender, etc)
Borax
Olive Oil
Flour
Corn Starch
Kosher Salt
Hydrogen Peroxide

Supplies:

Newspaper
Old Socks, T-Shirts, Pillowcases, etc (to be used as cleaning cloths)
Mesh Produce Bags (for DIY pot scrubbers)
Old Toothbrushes
Empty Spray Bottles

6 Natural Cleaning Tips & Shortcuts

Once you’ve collected your natural cleaning ingredients and supplies, it’s time to put them to work in your home. It might surprise you to learn that nearly every conventional cleaning product (from glass cleaner to fabric softener) can be recreated, naturally, right in your own kitchen and at a fraction of the price.

Dirty Oven?

Make this paste out of water and baking soda, and spread all over the walls and bottomof your crusty oven (be careful not to get it on the heating elements, though!). Leave it overnight. In the morning, simply use a damp cloth to remove the paste, taking all that grime with it!

Dirty Toilet?

“Toss afull cupof baking soda right into the bowl and leave it for an hour. Then pour in a cup of white vinegar, let it sit for a few minutes and flush,” writes Chris Sosa for Care2.

Dirty Surfaces?

Use distilled water, vinegar, essential oils and some upcycled washcloths to make your ownDIY disinfectingwipes! Simply roll, stuff and soak in a glass jar that lives on your kitchen counter. Then, whenever there’s a mess that needs cleaning up, you’ve got a reusable, non-toxic wipe at your fingertips. Bonus! They can also be used in place of Swiffer pads.

Dirty Windows?

Screw a spray bottle nozzle directly onto a bottle of club soda. Instant streak-free window cleaner! (Add a little white vinegar if your windows are particularly grimy.)

Dirty Sponges?

Without proper, regular cleaning, your kitchen sponges can become horrifying breeding grounds for bacteria.Throw sponges in the microwave for 2 minutes or add them to your dishwasher’s “sterilize” cycle to kill 99 percent of the stuff hiding in there.

Dirty Ceiling Fan?

“Spritz the inside of an old pillowcase with a vinegar and water solution,” recommends A Part of Life. Place the pillowcase around each fan blade, gently wiping toward the outer end of the blade, trapping the dust inside. Rotate the pillowcase so you have a clean piece of cloth for each blade.

What’s your favorite natural cleaning tip or shortcut? Tell us in the comments!

Related:
10 DIY Green Cleaning Recipes
51 Fantastic Uses for Baking Soda
8’Shower Plants’ That Want to Live in Your Bathroom

Images via Thinkstock

Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.

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6 Must-Try Natural Cleaning Shortcuts

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The lead poisoning of Flint’s children pales in comparison to rates found in parts of California.

Nanette Barragán is used to facing off against polluters. Elected in 2013 to the city council of Hermosa Beach, California, she took on E&B Natural Resources, an oil and gas company looking to drill wells on the beach. Barragán, an attorney before going into politics, learned of the potential project and began campaigning for residents to vote against it. The project was eventually squashed. In November, she won a congressional seat in California’s 44th district.

To Barragán, making sure President Trump’s environmental rollbacks don’t affect communities is a matter of life or death. The district she represents, the same in which she grew up, encompasses heavily polluted parts of Los Angeles County — areas crisscrossed with freeways and dotted with oil and gas wells. Barragan says she grew up close to a major highway and suffered from allergies. “I now go back and wonder if it was related to living that close,” she says.

Exide Technologies, a battery manufacturer that has polluted parts of southeast Los Angeles County with arsenic, lead, and other chemicals for years, sits just outside her district’s borders. Barragán’s district is also 69 percent Latino and 15 percent black. She has become acutely aware of the environmental injustices of the pollution plaguing the region. “People who are suffering are in communities of color,” she says.

Now in the nation’s capital, Barragán is chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus’s newly formed environmental task force and a member of the House Committee on Natural Resources, which considers legislation on topics like energy and public lands and is chaired by climate denier Rob Bishop, a Utah Republican. She knows the next four years will be tough but says she’s up for the challenge. “I think it’s going to be, I hate to say it, a lot of defense.”


Meet all the fixers on this year’s Grist 50.

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The lead poisoning of Flint’s children pales in comparison to rates found in parts of California.

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The Trump administration is about to officially OK the Keystone XL pipeline.

Nanette Barragán is used to facing off against polluters. Elected in 2013 to the city council of Hermosa Beach, California, she took on E&B Natural Resources, an oil and gas company looking to drill wells on the beach. Barragán, an attorney before going into politics, learned of the potential project and began campaigning for residents to vote against it. The project was eventually squashed. In November, she won a congressional seat in California’s 44th district.

To Barragán, making sure President Trump’s environmental rollbacks don’t affect communities is a matter of life or death. The district she represents, the same in which she grew up, encompasses heavily polluted parts of Los Angeles County — areas crisscrossed with freeways and dotted with oil and gas wells. Barragan says she grew up close to a major highway and suffered from allergies. “I now go back and wonder if it was related to living that close,” she says.

Exide Technologies, a battery manufacturer that has polluted parts of southeast Los Angeles County with arsenic, lead, and other chemicals for years, sits just outside her district’s borders. Barragán’s district is also 69 percent Latino and 15 percent black. She has become acutely aware of the environmental injustices of the pollution plaguing the region. “People who are suffering are in communities of color,” she says.

Now in the nation’s capital, Barragán is chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus’s newly formed environmental task force and a member of the House Committee on Natural Resources, which considers legislation on topics like energy and public lands and is chaired by climate denier Rob Bishop, a Utah Republican. She knows the next four years will be tough but says she’s up for the challenge. “I think it’s going to be, I hate to say it, a lot of defense.”


Meet all the fixers on this year’s Grist 50.

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The Trump administration is about to officially OK the Keystone XL pipeline.

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The Heartbreaking Reason Plastic Kills So Many Birds

Plastic waste is slowly taking over our oceans.

For years environmentalists have been warning us about “garbage patches,” swirling gyres of floating plastic bigger than entire countries.

Scientists estimate that millions of plastic trash end up in the ocean each year, a number that’s to increase tenfold in the next decade.

Related: The Dangers Of Plastic

The effects of our plastic addiction and refusal to dispose of it responsibly are worse than just the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, however. There’s also the direct impact that marinewaste has on the creatures who depend on the ocean for their sustenance.

Mistaking bits of floating plastic waste for food, sea creatures consume these items, often with fatal results. But it’s not just how plastic looks that confuses wildlife. Scientists at UC Davis recently discovered that birds are also choked and poisoned by marine wastebecause of how it smells.

“Marine plastic debris emits the scent of a sulfurous compound that some seabirds have relied upon for thousands of years to tell them where to find food, reportsKat Kerlinfor UC Davis. “This olfactory cue essentially tricks the birds into confusing marine plastic with food.”

The culprit is dimethyl sulfide, or DMS. This smelly compound is releasedwhen algae is eaten by animals like krill, one of the birds favorite meals. Unfortunately, it’s also released by the algae that coats floating plastic. When they smell DMS, birds assume it’s time to eat, and they swoop in on what they thing is the source. But instead of krill, it’s a plastic twist tie, bottle cap, bead or straw.

Many seabirds, like this Tristrams storm-petrel, mistake tiny plastic particles for food, and the effects can be fatal. Credit: Sarah Youngren/ Regents of the University of California, Davis campus.

The study also found that the DMS phenomenon affects certain birds disproportionately.

“…species that dont receive lot of attention, like petrels and some species of shearwaters, are likely to be impacted by plastic ingestion, Nevitt said. These species nest in underground burrows, which are hard to study, so they are often overlooked. Yet, based on their foraging strategy, this study shows theyre actually consuming a lot of plastic and are particularly vulnerable to marine debris.

TheEllen Macarthur Foundationprojects that there will be more plastic than fish in the oceans by 2050.

Related:7 Tips For Reducing Plastic Pollution and Saving Our Marine Species

Image Credit: Thinkstock

Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.

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The Heartbreaking Reason Plastic Kills So Many Birds

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