Monthly Archives: June 2014

Solvent, paint exposure beyond moderate level could be a memory buster, says new study

By Judy Mottl, http://www.techtimes.com

brainExtensive exposure to solvents, paints and glue may lead to memory issues later in life, says a new research report, though moderate exposure appears not to have such a damaging effect.

The study released Tuesday evaluated lifetime exposure among 2,143 utility workers in France who spent workdays dealing with petroleum solvents, benzene and chlorinated solvents. Of the group, 26 percent were exposed to benzene, 33 percent to chlorinated solvents and 25 percent to petroleum solvents.

“Our findings are particularly important because exposure to solvents is very common, even in industrialized countries like the United States,” said study author Erika L. Sabbath, of the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston.

The results state that cognitive impact among moderately exposed workers may subside over a period of time but that may not be the case for higher-exposure situations.

“This has implications for physicians working with formerly solvent-exposed patients as well as for workplace exposure limit policies,” states the study. Read more

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Contractor admits bungling Kensington Heights asbestos work

By Phil Fairbanks, http://www.buffalonews.comDanger Asbestos

During their work at the Kensington Heights housing complex, Ernest Johnson’s employees dumped asbestos down holes cut in the floor.

They also failed to adequately treat the cancer-causing material while it sat waiting for leak-tight containers.

One of the consequences, the former contractor acknowledged Wednesday, was the repeated release of asbestos into the environment around the East Side complex.

Johnson’s admissions Wednesday are part of a plea deal in which he acknowledged his company’s role in bungling the five-year-old clean-up effort of Kensington Heights, a collection of vacant public housing towers.

“There was asbestos left in the buildings,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney Aaron J. Mango.

By pleading guilty to violating the federal Clean Air Act, Johnson became the most important defendant to admit guilt in the case.

His company, Johnson Contracting of Western New York, was accused of orchestrating a scheme designed to cut corners at Kensington Heights and then cover it up. Read more

LOWE’s to Pay $18.1 Million Settlement for Environmental Violations

Alex Bastian & Maxwell Szabo, http://www.sfdistrictattorney.org

San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón, along with 31 other California District Attorneys and two city attorneys, announced today that Alameda County Superior Court Judge George C. Hernandez has ordered North Carolina-based Lowe’s Home Centers, LLC, to pay $18.1 million as part of a settlement of a civil environmental prosecution.

“The dangers inherent in dumping hazardous waste cannot be understated, it is absolutely essential that we protect our environment for future generations,” said District Attorney George Gascón. “Those who would jeopardize our environment are on notice – they will be held liable.”

The judgment is the culmination of a civil enforcement action filed yesterday in Alameda County claiming that more than 118 Lowe’s stores throughout the state unlawfully handled and disposed of various hazardous wastes and materials over a six and a half year period. Those hazardous wastes and materials included pesticides, aerosols, paint and colorants solvents, adhesives, batteries, mercury-containing fluorescent bulbs, electronic waste and other toxic, ignitable and corrosive materials.

Lowe’s was cooperative throughout the investigation and has adopted enhanced policies and procedures designed to eliminate the disposal of hazardous waste products in California. Stores are required to retain their hazardous waste in segregated, labeled containers so as to minimize the risk of exposure to employees and customers and to ensure that incompatible wastes do not combine to cause dangerous chemical reactions. Hazardous waste produced by California Lowe’s stores through damage, spills and returns is being collected by state-registered haulers, taken to proper disposal facilities and properly documented and accounted for.

From 2011 to 2013, district attorney investigators along with investigators from the California Department of Toxic Substances Control and environmental regulators statewide, conducted a series of waste inspections of dumpsters belonging to Lowe’s stores. The inspections revealed that Lowe’s was routinely and systematically sending hazardous wastes to local landfills throughout California that were not permitted to receive those wastes. The inspections also revealed that at some Lowe’s stores, instead of recycling batteries and compact fluorescent light bulbs that the company had gathered from customers at store recycling kiosks as part of a program to responsibly reduce waste, employees were unlawfully discarding these items directly to the trash. Read more

Staten Island elected officials want city to remove mold from abandoned homes

statenislandmoldBy Jillian Jorgensen, http://www.silive.com

With blighted, mold-infested homes still dotting the neighborhoods hit by Hurricane Sandy, Staten Island elected officials are looking again to pass a law allowing the city to enter abandoned homes and remove mold there.

“We think we have a bill that navigates that fine line between actually being effective and respecting property rights,” Borough President James Oddo said.

The bill — to be introduced at Wednesday’s City Council meeting — would create a “Remediation of Unsafe Flooded Homes Program” allowing two city agencies to inspect flood-damaged vacant homes and remove mold or other dangerous conditions inside.

It isn’t the first attempt at allowing the city to remove mold from private homes — as a councilman, Oddo introduced a similar bill in July 2013. But it was met with resistance from the Bloomberg administration, leaving the problem unresolved a year and a half after the storm — a timeline Oddo called “an embarrassment.”

“Nineteen months later, we’re trying to find the right language to make a constitutional bill to get government to do something on mold,” Oddo said Monday. “That’s beyond a joke, but that’s where we are. We’re using all the tools we have at our disposal.”

The bill introduced last year asked the Health Department with tackling the mold problem — and went nowhere with the agency’s leadership at the time, with the department saying it did not consider mold in neighboring homes a community health concern. Read more

After ‘Cadmium Rice,’ now ‘Lead’ and ‘Arsenic Rice’

leadriceBy DIDI KIRSTEN TATLOW, http://sinosphere.blogs.nytimes.com

Soil in China’s leading rice-producing region shows high levels of heavy metal contamination, in a study that suggests that the proximity of mining and industry to agricultural areas is posing serious threats to the country’s food chain.

In “Cadmium Rice: Heavy metal pollution of China’s rice crops,” researchers for Greenpeace East Asia sampled farmland and uncultivated soil, water and rice grown near a smelter of non-ferrous metals in Hunan Province, China’s top rice producer.

In some locations of the study, the researchers found soil containing cadmium levels more than 200 times the national health standard, adding to a growing body of evidence that parts of the country’s soil are heavily degraded after decades of fast industrialization and high economic growth. All but one of the rice samples exceeded the maximum level of cadmium in rice for human consumption in China. Read more