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by?Dominika Heusinkveld, MD, MPH Researchers at NASA and the University of Arizona, among others, are hoping to make real-time air quality forecasting a reality in the next few years. The NASA Health and Air Quality Applied Sciences Team, or HAQAST, is collaborating with health departments, county and state agencies, and university researchers to get the word out about its satellite data. The data, available for free online, can help track air quality indicators, heavy metals in air, dust, and other atmospheric components which can affect human health. Photo courtesy of NASA Image Library…
Earth Justice, the United Steelworkers, the Environmental Defense Fund and other public interest groups are suing the Trump administration over two new regulations to address toxic substances. The groups filed petitions last week with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit. They are asking to court to review the rules which EPA published on July 20, 2017.?The groups will argue that the regulations are contrary to Congress' intent. The Natural Resources Defense Council's Daniel Rosenberg and Jennifer Sass use these photos to illustrate the matter. ?It's the difference between what…
In late July, while many of us were preoccupied with Republican Senators’ attacks on healthcare, the Trump administration released its first regulatory agenda (technically, the Current Unified Agenda of Regulatory and Deregulatory Actions). These routine updates are published so the public can see what they can anticipate from federal agencies in the way of rulemaking. (Celeste Monforton has been tracking the Department of Labor regulatory agenda for years.) The Trump administration’s first entry into this genre is better described as a de-regulatory agenda. It’s a dizzying array of delays,…
My favorite way to capture students’ attention about lead poisoning is to tell them about Dr. Herbert Needleman and his use of children’s baby teeth. In the late 1960's, Needleman recruited school teachers in Chelsea and Somerville, MA to collect their young students’ deciduous teeth when they fell out. It was a non-invasive way----no needlesticks, no bone biopsies---to get data on lead burden in children. Needleman’s team analyzed the teeth for lead which helped them establish a population distribution of tooth lead levels. (It did not exist up to that time.) ?In 1972, he published?the…
Members of the public health community are aware of many of the ways the Trump administration and the 115th Congress are hindering and reversing evidence-based actions for public health – from an executive order requiring agencies to scrap two regulations each time they create a new one to advancing legislation that would make it harder for EPA to obtain and use the most up-to-date science in its work. With so many threats to public health arising each month, it can be hard to catch all of them, though. The Union of Concerned Scientists has performed a tremendous service by producing the…
[This post is dedicated to Doug Larkin. Doug was the co-founder of the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization. He suffered in recent years with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) and passed away yesterday.]? Dallas-based OxyChem imports about 300,000 pounds of asbestos each year. Yes, asbestos. The deadly mineral that most Americans think is banned (it's not) and responsible for about 15,000 U.S. cancer deaths annually. OxyChem is likely the largest asbestos importer in the U.S. The company is required under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) to report its asbestos imports to the EPA.…
The Environmental Defense Fund’s (EDF) Richard Denison, PhD tipped me onto news that the chemical industry’s chief trade association now has one of its own in a key EPA office. Nancy Beck, PhD began work on Monday as second in command of EPA’s Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention. Immediately prior to her appointment, Dr. Beck was with the American Chemistry Council (ACC) in the position of Senior Director of Regulatory Science Policy. Prior to that she worked in the White House's regulatory czar's office during parts of the G.W. Bush's and Obama's administrations. President…
A new commentary by CUNY School of Public Health professor Franklin Mirer?is timed perfectly for this weekend's Marches for Science. Mirer writes about the ongoing interference?by Members of Congress on the science behind the designation of formaldehyde as a carcinogen. His commentary, "What’s Science Got to Do with It?"?appears in the current issue of?April issue of the Synergist, a membership publication of the American Industrial Hygiene Association. Mirer's example concerns a rule published by EPA in December 2016 on testing formaldehyde emissions from composite wood products (e.g.,…
A coincidence? A tip from the well-connected? Divine intervention? Whatever the reason, the timing couldn't have been more appropriate. Last weekend, a hundred physicians, patients, and trade unionists were attending the 13th Annual ADAO International Asbestos Awareness and Prevention Conference. At exactly the same time, comedian Bill Maher was skewering the Trump Administration and Republican lawmakers for their defense of asbestos. Maher's?smackdown of the Republican's anti-science and anti-health policies came in a pointed 5-minute segment on the April 7 episode of HBO's Real Time. The…
The House of Representatives has passed two bills that, if they clear the Senate and are signed by President Trump, will make it much harder for EPA to do the important work of analyzing, warning about, and regulating health threats in the environment. The HONEST Act, introduced by House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology Chair Lamar Alexander (R-Texas), would severely limit the research findings EPA could use in creating a wide range of communications, standards, and regulations. The EPA Science Advisory Board Reform Act, introduced by Representative Frank Lucas (R-Oklahoma), would…
The U.S. Senate passed a resolution last night urging Surgeon General Vivek H. Murthy to warn the public about the risk of asbestos exposure. The deadly mineral continues to be imported to the U.S. S. Res. 98 designates the first week of April as “National Asbestos Awareness Week.” The Senators note that the U.S. continues to use tons of asbestos every year despite its well-known danger. The resolution acknowledges: Thousands of workers in the U.S. face significant asbestos exposure Thousands of people in the U.S. die from asbestos-related diseases every year The ?U.S. Geological Survey…
President Trump's pick to head the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was confirmed today by a Senate vote of 52-46. The former attorney general of Oklahoma has been hostile to new EPA safeguards for air and water, most notably by suing the EPA 14 times over his career. The Senate's approval of Pruitt has environmental and public health advocates wondering what the future will be for environmental protection. Maine Senator Susan Collins was the only Republican senator to oppose Pruitt's nomination: "His actions leave me with considerable doubts about whether his vision for the EPA is…
Representative Mat Gaetz (Republican, Florida) introduced HR 861, "To terminate the Environmental Protection Agency" which is said to defund and remove from existence the Environmental Protection Agency. Details are unclear, but the idea is to have states and local communities regulate their environmental pollution. The EPA centralizes research programs, policy guidance, and regulatory procedures. To ask each community to do this amounts to a huge tax increase, because the same effort would have to be repeated many times across the country. The reason we have a national EPA is because…
The Pump Handle is on a holiday break. The following, which was originally published on April 25, is one of our favorite posts from 2016. by Celeste Monforton, DrPH, MPH During 1999-2000, reporter Andrew Schneider blew the lid off the asbestos disaster in Libby, Montana. Schneider’s original stories, published in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, drew national attention to the public health catastrophe in the town. The culprit was the W.R. Grace Company, with supporting roles played by lax regulatory agencies and cowardly public officials. Schneider wrote dozens of articles for the Post-…
Canada's Minister of Science?Kirsty Duncan announced today that her country plans to implement a comprehensive ban on asbestos by 2018. The proposal includes: Banning the import of asbestos-containing products such as construction materials and brake pads; Expanding the on-line registry of asbestos-containing buildings; Prohibiting the use of asbestos in new construction and renovation projects; and Improving workplace health and safety rules to limit the risk of contact with asbestos. Duncan indicated that the Canadian government's action will involve several agencies. Foreshadowing that…
EPA deserves another pat on the back. The agency is again moving swiftly to use its authority under the chemical safety law passed by Congress earlier this year. Yesterday the agency announced a proposed rule to ban the use of trichloroethylene (TCE) in two specific applications. If adopted, TCE would be prohibited from use as a spot- cleaning agent in dry cleaning operations and as an aerosol spray degreaser in commercial and consumer settings. Exposure to TCE is associated with adverse health effects to the kidneys, liver, and immune and reproductive systems. It is a developmental toxin,…
Good for them! They beat Congress’ deadline by 20 days. That’s the first thing that came to mind yesterday when I read EPA’s announcement about the first 10 chemicals it's selected for risk evaluations. EPA’s announcement is the first major milestone established by Congress when it passed sweeping changes earlier this year to the Toxic Substances Control Act. One provision of the law (Section 2605(b)(2)(A)) directed EPA to select 10 chemical substances from its 2014 "TSCA Work Plan for Chemical Assessments" and begin risk evaluations on them no later than 180 days after the law was enacted (i…
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has announced the first five chemicals it will “fast-track” under the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety Act for the 21st Century (LCSA). The EPA now has until June 22, 2019 to identify where these chemicals – all considered persistent, bioaccumulative and toxic – are used, how exposures occur, and propose possible restrictions on their use. “The threats from persistent, bioaccumulative and toxic chemicals [PBTs] are well-documented,” Jim Jones, assistant administrator in EPA’s office of chemical safety and pollution prevention, explained in a…
Just 10 years ago, it wouldn’t have been possible to bring leading physicians, scientists and advocates together in a consensus on toxic chemicals and neurological disorders in children, says Maureen Swanson. But with the science increasing “exponentially,” she said the time was ripe for a concerted call to action. Swanson is co-director of Project TENDR (Targeting Environmental Neuro-Developmental Risks), a coalition of doctors, public health scientists and environmental health advocates who joined forces in 2015 to call for reducing chemical exposures that interfere with fetal and child…
“If you’re a farmworker, you’re still using something that’s been deemed too dangerous to use in homes,” said Amy Liebman, Migrant Clinicians Network director of environmental and occupational health. What she’s talking about is the pesticide chlorpyrifos, a neurotoxic, organophosphate insecticide that’s used widely on food crops. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) banned it for residential use in 2000 due to concerns about its toxicity, particularly to children. But it is still heavily used on numerous food crops. Chlorpyrifos also is one of the five pesticides most often…