The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!
Asbestos Industry Knew and Kept Secret for Decades That Their Product Was Deadly
The asbestos industry was well aware that asbestos was deadly. Yet, the companies that mined asbestos and those that exposed workers, military personnel and consumers to it and their insurers kept what they knew secret for decades—endangering hundreds of thousands of Americans, many of whom perished as a result.
Even in recent years, decades after the dangers of asbestos became widely known, some companies continue trying to cover up—even destroy—evidence of their products' devastation to workers, their families and many others who have been sickened and died from asbestos diseases.
Today, some of the most well-known companies in the country are lobbying Congress to pass legislation that would tip the scales of justice heavily in their favor when facing lawsuits from people who are sick and dying.
Modern knowledge of asbestos' dangers is well over a century old. In 1900, a London doctor discovered asbestos fibers in the lungs of a textile factory worker who died at the age of 33 from severe pulmonary fibrosis, leading the physician to believe asbestos was the cause of death. By 1918, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics noticed a growing number of unusual deaths for those who worked with asbestos. By the early 1930s a name was given to the disease, asbestosis, for those who died after being exposed to asbestos on the job.
While banned in more than 50 other countries, asbestos remains legal and used in the U.S. and the diseases it causes kill up to 15,000 Americans each year.
Industry was Aware of the Asbestos Danger
In 1948, an internal memo from an insulation industry scientist warned that asbestos-based insulation caused asbestosis.
"I realize that our findings regarding Kaylo (brand of insulation) are less favorable than anticipated. However, since Kaylo is capable of producing asbestosis, it is better to discover it now in animals rather than later in industrial workers."
– Dr. Arthur J. Vorwald, director, Trudeau Foundation, Nov. 16, 1948
Hundreds of thousands of lives could have been saved and a national tragedy averted if the insulation industry responded appropriately to the science and removed asbestos from its products. It did not. Instead, it continued to manufacture one of the most widely used asbestos products without informing workers or the public.
A 1949 internal Exxon memo titled "Company Confidential" lists “Cancer of Lungs" as a disease likely caused by asbestos.
In 1958, an inter-office memo from the National Gypsum Co., which mined and used asbestos, stamped “Personal & Confidential" reads: “Just as certain as death and taxes ... if you inhale asbestos dust you get asbestosis." (M.C.M Pollard, National Gypsum Co. Sept. 22, 1958.)
Hiding the Danger from Workers and the Public
Despite a litany of corporate memos acknowledging the medical literature on the affects of asbestos, most companies profiting from its use continued to expose workers and the public to it for decades.
One of the most notorious industry memos, from 1966, shows just how callous executives were toward factory workers who were being exposed to asbestos.
The director of purchases for the Bendix Corporation (now Honeywell) wrote in a memo to an official with the Canadian Johns Manville Co.:
"My answer to the problem is: if you have enjoyed a good life while working with asbestos products why not die from it."
– E.A. Martin, Bendix Corporation, Sept. 12, 1966
Today, Honeywell is one of the biggest corporate backers of legislation, the so-called FACT Act, passed by the House and awaiting action in the Senate that would delay and deny compensation to those who have been sickened from asbestos disease. Between 2010 and 2015, the company contributed nearly $250,000 to a small number of House Republicans who were instrumental in moving the bill through Congress.
An Aug. 7, 1978 memo by an official at Babcock and Wilcox, a company that designs, engineers and manufactures boilers and other power generation equipment, acknowledged the company was aware it was violating the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) standards set to limit worker exposure to asbestos fibers. The company decided to investigate the problem but not to warn workers who were being exposed. Instead, the company official wrote:
"The investigation is going to be handled as discreetly as possible. It is a concern of the meeting attendees that a labor violation such as a walkout or an OSHA citation would be forthcoming if the hourly labor force was aware of the apparent danger of asbestos exposure. ... As the situation stands right now no one in the meeting wants the warning signs posted at this time."
– T.L. Wharton, Babcock & Wilcox, Aug. 7, 1978
While the death toll from asbestos-triggered diseases continued to mount, the industry remained silent on what it knew to be the truth about the risk to workers. A 1971 memo from a Ford Motor Co. executive, unearthed by the Center for Public Integrity, argued that $1.25 per car was too much to spend on safer alternatives to asbestos brakes, concluding the “cost penalty" of switching to metal or carbon brakes “is severe."
Another asbestos industry giant, Union Carbide, went on the offensive when OSHA issued its first asbestos regulations for worker safety in 1972. That same year, the company issued a memorandum to sales executives who might get angry calls from customers concerned about the new regulations.
"If the customer is persistent and threatens to eliminate asbestos—a certain amount of aggressiveness may be effective. Words and catch phrases such as “premature," “irrational" or “avoiding the inevitable" will sometimes turn the table.
"The main objective is to keep the customer on the defensive, make him justify his position. ... Change the mood before discussing anything pertinent about the new regulations. Alternating between an aggressive and submissive attitude is confusing and allows you to bide your time. ... Don't cover too much ground in one confrontation. Even rabies shots are spaced at moderate intervals."
– B.L. Ingalis, Union Carbide June 22, 1972
Public Relations and Science for Sale
A speech from an asbestos industry expert dated June 7, 1973, describes a plan to sway the U.S. press, which had been increasingly reporting on the health impacts of asbestos exposure.
"The 'good' that asbestos does in protecting lives and property is of no concern to the press. ...
"The press relations battle will therefore be won, not when the media starts to print positive or balanced articles about asbestos, but when the press ceases to print anything about asbestos at all. ...
"And now, having heard the bad side of the public relations problems, it's time for some good news. And the the good news is that despite all the negative articles on asbestos-health that have appeared ... very few people have been paying attention."
Matthew M. Swetonic, executive secretary, Asbestos Information Association/North American, June 7, 1973
In the early 1980s, as the U.S. Gypsum Company was being sued by public school districts seeking compensation for the removal of the company's asbestos products, it hired the international public relations firm, Hill and Knowlton to help. The firm designed a comprehensive communications strategy to dissuade other lawsuits and shift the public's perception about asbestos and the asbestos industry. In its plan, Hill and Knowlton called for the creation of a “third-party panel of independent experts to be available for testimony, commentary and technical support in appropriate markets and forums."
By 1984 a number of asbestos companies adopted another recommendation by Hill and Knowlton and formed the front group, the Safe Buildings Alliance (SBA), that allowed the industry to pool resources to push back against its critics in a number of venues, including the media. As Hill and Knowlton described in its recommendations, the SBA “could also act to deflect attention away from affected companies" and “take the heat from activist industry critics."
In 2001, the Ford Motor Company, concerned about mounting lawsuits brought by former auto workers who blamed their mesothelioma on the asbestos-laced brakes the company once made, decided to try and shift the science in its favor in order to sow doubt into the prevailing consensus that auto mechanics are at greater risk of becoming sick with mesothelioma—a disease that the only known cause is from exposure to asbestos.
The company hired a well-known industry consultant, Dennis Paustenbach and his then-firm Exponent and another, Cardno ChemRisk that Paustenbach started in the mid 1980's, to conduct a series of studies, articles for publication as well as expert testimony. Of course, Paustenbach's work on behalf of Ford found that those who worked with or around brake pads were not at greater risk of being diagnosed with mesothelioma. All told, Ford spent more than $40 million between the two consulting firms.
In a Dec. 28, 2010 letter to a Ford attorney, Paustenbach extolled the benefits of his and his colleagues' work to Ford writing that:
… the “asbestos related research which resulted in publications which have been enormously illuminating to the courts and juries. ... In my view, these papers have changed the scientific playing field in the courtroom."
In 2005, Georgia-Pacific recruited Stewart Holm, then director of toxicology and chemical management at Georgia-Pacific, for a new position to be “specially employed to perform expert consulting services in connection with pending and anticipated litigation concerning alleged exposure to asbestos." Holm was to study the harms of chrysotile asbestos, and his work was to be “directed solely by GP's in-house counsel." He agreed to keep his work confidential from anyone outside the company.
Between 2008 and 2011, Holm co-wrote four articles on asbestos published in the journal Inhalation Toxicology that minimized asbestos risks. The articles disclosed that Georgia-Pacific had funded the research. But what they did not disclose—and what Holm later acknowledged in an Oct. 14, 2011 letter in the journal—was that Georgia-Pacific had commissioned the research specifically to address issues that had arisen in asbestos litigation. And he belatedly disclosed that his co-authors were all consulting experts retained by Georgia-Pacific to conduct the research or prepare the articles.
Georgia-Pacific is owned by Koch Industries, which is one of the biggest financial supporters of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), that is currently pushing state legislatures to adopt laws that would run out the clock on dying asbestos victims seeking compensation in court.
Several states, including Arizona, Nevada, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Wisconsin and West Virginia have already passed versions of the ALEC-sponsored bill into law.
Fallout from BASF/Cahill Gordon Cover Up Still Unfolding
The Engelhard Company, which would later become a subsidiary of BASF, conducted tests of its talc in the 1970s and found samples contaminated with asbestos. However, not only did the mining and use of the contaminated talc continue, the tests remained secret until they were revealed during a deposition of an Englehard executive as part of a personal injury lawsuit brought in 1979 by the family of an employee who died from mesothelioma.
In his deposition taken Jan. 28, 1983, Glenn Hemstock, then Engelhard vice president of research and development, acknowledged for the first time under oath that the company knew the talc it mined and used to manufacture products was tainted with asbestos.
In 1984, after the 1979 case was settled and the family signed a binding non-disclosure agreement, Hemstock sent a memo directing employees in possession of any documents pertaining to the company's talc and talc products to gather them up. Court documents suggest that Engelhard executives, as well as its attorneys, including those with Cahill, Gordon, & Reindel, destroyed and hid these documents. These documents suggest Engelhard and Cahill, Gordon & Reindel went to great lengths to bury any evidence of the problem and lie about asbestos that poisoned thousands—a brazen enterprise that continued well after BASF took over the company.
By 1989, company executives were regularly making claims under oath that the talc mined and used by the company was asbestos-free. William H. Ashton, an expert witness for Engelhard, said in a sworn affidavit that “from the 1940s through the 1980s, talc mined in Vermont and specifically, the talc mined by Engelhard Corporation (and its predecessors) ... has been considered to be talc free from contamination by asbestos."
Engelhard and its successor BASF and its lawyers used this affidavit in thousands of lawsuits for decades as evidence that it did not produce asbestos-containing talc and successfully pressured hundreds of victims of asbestos-related diseases to drop their cases against Engelhard. In 2008, Jennifer Riester, an attorney for BASF and two of its subsidiaries, urged the attorney representing a victim of asbestos exposure to voluntarily drop the lawsuits brought against both subsidiaries. Riester, in her letter to the plaintiffs' attorney, noted that more than 500 claimants in six different states dropped their cases after seeing the 1989 Ashton affidavit.
Today, a class action lawsuit has been filed in federal court against both BASF and its former law firm, Cahill, Gordon & Reindel, alleging they conspired to destroy and manufacture evidence in thousands of asbestos injury cases brought against BASF and Engelhard over the years.
BASF and Cahill, Gordon & Reindel attempted to have the case dismissed, but a federal judge denied their request in April 2016. U.S. District Judge Jose Lineras of New Jersey wrote that the defendants:
"[H]ad a duty to preserve evidence when it was relevant in a prior lawsuit and where it was reasonably foreseeable that the evidence would be relevant to anticipated lawsuits of nearly identical subject matter and similarly situated adversaries."
The Judge then found BASF and Cahill, Gordon, & Reindel had a “legal obligation to disclose evidence in connection with an existing or pending litigation." For the thousands of individuals exposed to Engelhard/BASF's asbestos-laden talc, their quest for justice, denied for decades, has now gained new hope.
The Fight to Protect Americans from Asbestos and Ensure Accountability for Those Responsible Continues Today
These are only a few examples of the 70-year conspiracy of corporations and their lawyers to hide the risks presented from exposure to asbestos.
The asbestos industry isn't finished. It is now seeking to change the playing field in court. A well-funded lobbying effort has been in full-swing at both the state and federal levels to get legislation passed that would make it much harder for asbestos victims and their families to recover compensation from these corporations responsible for their illnesses.
Roughly 15,000 Americans continue to die each year from diseases caused from asbestos inhalation, even though the amount used today is far less than was once used when the aforementioned companies and many others were mining and using asbestos.
Diseases triggered from asbestos, including asbestosis, mesothelioma and non-mesothelioma lung cancers, remain among the leading causes of occupational illness and death in the U.S.
With the long latency period of asbestos disease, many people exposed decades ago are being diagnosed today and diagnoses and deaths from asbestos-triggered disease will likely continue at their current levels for years to come.
Unbelievable to many, asbestos, while no longer mined in the U.S., is not banned in this country and continues to be brought in by certain industries and it can still be found in some consumer products, including those meant for children. In 2015, laboratory tests found asbestos in several crayon sets and toy crime scene fingerprint kits imported from China and sold in stores in this country.
As described above, many companies, industry lawyers and consultants knew the risks asbestos presented to workers and public health decades ago and kept it secret in order to protect profits and evade responsibility. And as a result, the fight to prevent asbestos exposures and ensure that all of the corporations responsible are held fully accountable continues to this day.
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Samantha Hepburn
In the expansion of its iron ore mine in Western Pilbara, Rio Tinto blasted the Juukan Gorge 1 and 2 — Aboriginal rock shelters dating back 46,000 years. These sites had deep historical and cultural significance.
The destruction of a significant Aboriginal site is not an isolated incident. Puutu Kunti Kurrama And Pinikura Aboriginal Corporation
Not an Isolated Incident<p>The history of large developments destroying Indigenous heritage sites is, tragically, long.</p><p>A $2.1 billion light rail line in Sydney, completed last year, <a href="https://www.smh.com.au/national/nsw/this-is-a-tragic-loss-sydney-light-rail-construction-destroyed-heritage-site-20190322-p516qk.html" target="_blank">destroyed a site</a> of considerable significance.</p><p>More than 2,400 stone artifacts were unearthed in a small excavated area. It indicated Aboriginal people had used the area between 1788 and 1830 to manufacture tools and implements from flint brought over to Australia on British ships.</p><p>Similarly, <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/aug/27/the-rocks-remember-the-fight-to-protect-burrup-peninsulas-rock-art" target="_blank">ancient rock art</a> on the Burrup Peninsula in north-western Australia is under increasing threat from a gas project. The site contains more than one million rock carvings (petroglyphs) across 36,857 hectares.</p><p>This area is under the custodianship of Ngarluma people and four other traditional owners groups: the Mardudhunera, the Yaburara, the Yindjibarndi and the Wong-Goo-Tt-Oo.</p><p>But a <a href="https://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Committees/Senate/Environment_and_Communications/BurrupPeninusla/Report" target="_blank">Senate inquiry</a> revealed emissions from adjacent industrial activity may significantly damage it.</p><p><span></span>The West Australian government is <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2020/jan/29/australia-lodges-world-heritage-submission-for-50000-year-old-burrup-peninsula-rock-art" target="_blank">seeking world heritage listing</a> to try to increase protection, as the regulatory frameworks at the national and state level aren't strong enough. Let's explore why.</p>
What Do the Laws Say?<p>The recently renamed federal Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment is responsible for listing new national heritage places, and regulating development actions in these areas.</p><p>At the federal level, the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (<a href="http://www.austlii.edu.au/cgi-bin/viewdb/au/legis/cth/consol_act/epabca1999588/" target="_blank">EPBC Act</a>) provides a legal framework for their management and protection. It is an offence to impact an area that has national heritage listing.</p><p>But many ancient Aboriginal sites have no national heritage listing. For the recently destroyed Juurkan gorge, the true archaeological significance was uncovered <em>after</em> consent had been issued and there were no provisions to reverse or amend the decision once this new information was discovered.</p><p>Where a site has no national heritage listing, and federal legislation has no application, state laws apply.</p><p>For the rock shelters in the Western Pilbara, Rio Tinto was abiding by Western Australia's <a href="http://www.austlii.edu.au/cgi-bin/viewdb/au/legis/wa/consol_act/aha1972164/" target="_blank">Aboriginal Heritage Act 1972</a> — which is now nearly 50 years old.</p>
No Consultation With Traditional Owners<p>The biggest concern with this act is there's no statutory requirement ensuring traditional owners be consulted.</p><p>This means traditional owners are left out of vital decisions regarding the management and protection of their cultural heritage. And it confers authority upon a committee that, in the words of a <a href="https://www.dplh.wa.gov.au/getmedia/11dd5b41-fcf9-4216-a1ac-06ece672c087/AH-Review-Position-Comparison-for-Aboriginal-People" target="_blank">discussion paper</a>, "lacks cultural authority."</p>
Weak in Other Jurisdictions<p>The WA Aboriginal Heritage Act 1972 is <a href="https://www.dplh.wa.gov.au/aha-review" target="_blank">under review</a>. The proposed reforms seek to abolish the committee, ensuring future decisions on Aboriginal cultural heritage give appropriate regard to the views of the traditional Aboriginal owners.</p><p><span></span>NSW is the only state with no stand-alone Aboriginal heritage legislation. However, a <a href="https://www.parliament.nsw.gov.au/researchpapers/Documents/aborigines-land-and-national-parks-in-nsw/02-97.pdf" target="_blank">similar regulatory framework</a> to WA applies in NSW under the National Parks and Wildlife Act 1974.</p><p>There, if a developer is likely to impact cultural heritage, they must apply for an Aboriginal Heritage Impact Permit. The law requires "regard" to be given to the interests of Aboriginal owners of the land, but this vague provision does not mandate consultation.</p><p>What's more, the burden of proving the significance of an Aboriginal object depends upon external statements of significance. But Aboriginal people, not others, should be responsible for determining the cultural significance of an object or area.</p><p>As in WA, the NSW regulatory framework is weak, opening up the risk for economic interests to be prioritized over damage to cultural heritage.</p>
Outdated Laws<p>The federal minister has discretion to assess whether state or territory laws are already effective.</p><p>If they decide state and territory laws are ineffective and a cultural place or object is under threat, then the federal <a href="http://www.austlii.edu.au/cgi-bin/viewdb/au/legis/cth/consol_act/aatsihpa1984549/" target="_blank">Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Heritage Protection Act 1984</a> can be used.</p><p>But this act is also weak. It was first implemented as an interim measure, intended to operate for two years. It has now been in operation for 36 years.</p><p>In fact, <a href="http://ymac.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/Extracts-from-Evatt-Review-of-the-Aboriginal-and-Torres-Strait-Islander-Heritage-Protection-Act-1984.pdf" target="_blank">a 1995 report</a> assessed the shortcomings of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Heritage Protection Act.</p><p>It recommended minimum standards be put in place. This included ensuring any assessment of Aboriginal cultural significance be made by a properly qualified body, with relevant experience.</p><p>It said the role of Aboriginal people should be appropriately recognized and statutorily endorsed. Whether an area or site had particular significance according to Aboriginal tradition should be regarded as a subjective issue, determined by an assessment of the degree of intensity of belief and feeling of Aboriginal people.</p><p><span></span>Twenty-five years later, this is yet to happen.</p>
By Tara Lohan
The first official tallies are in: Coronavirus-related shutdowns helped slash daily global emissions of carbon dioxide by 14 percent in April. But the drop won't last, and experts estimate that annual emissions of the greenhouse gas are likely to fall only about 7 percent this year.
What lessons can we learn from your research to guide us right now, in what seems like a really critical time in the fight to halt climate change?<p>What a lot of people don't understand is that to limit warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, we actually have to reduce emissions by around 7-8 percent <em>every single year</em> from now until 2030, which is what the emissions drop is likely to be this year because of the COVID-19 crisis.</p><p>So think about what it took to reduce emissions by that much and think about how we have to do that <em>every single year</em>.</p><p>It doesn't mean that it's going to be some big sacrifice, but it does mean that we need government policy, particularly at the federal level, because state policy can only go so far. We've been living off state policy for more than three decades now and we need our federal government to act.</p>
Where are we now, in terms of our progress on renewable energy and how far we need to go?<p>A lot of people think renewable energy is growing "so fast" and it's "so amazing." But first of all, during the coronavirus pandemic, the renewable energy industry is actually doing very poorly. It's losing a lot of jobs. And secondly, we were not moving fast enough even before the coronavirus crisis, because renewable energy in the<em> best </em>year grew by only 1.3 percent.</p><p>Right now we're at around 36-37 percent clean energy. That includes nuclear, hydropower and new renewables like wind, solar and geothermal. But hydropower and nuclear aren't growing. Nuclear supplies about 20 percent of the grid and hydro about 5 percent depending on the year. And then the rest is renewable. So we're at about 10 percent renewables, and in the best year, we're only adding 1 percent to that.</p><p>Generally, we need to be moving about eight times faster than we've been moving in our best years. (To visualize this idea, I came up with the <a href="https://grist.org/fix/how-quickly-do-we-need-to-ramp-up-renewables-look-to-the-narwhal/" target="_blank">narwhal curve</a>.)</p>
How do we overcome these fundamental issues of speed and scale?<p>We need actual government policy that supports it. We have never had a clean electricity standard or renewable portfolio standard at the federal level. That's the main law that I write all about at the state level. Where those policies are in place, a lot of progress has been made — places like California and even, to a limited extent, Texas.</p><p>We need our federal government to be focusing on this crisis. Even the really small, piecemeal clean-energy policies we have at the federal level are going away. In December Congress didn't extend the investment tax credit and the production tax credit, just like they didn't extend or improve the electric vehicle tax credit.</p><p>And now during the COVID-19 crisis, a lot of the money going toward the energy sector in the CARES Act is going toward propping up <a href="https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-05-15/-stealth-bailout-shovels-millions-of-dollars-to-oil-companies" target="_blank">dying fossil fuel companies</a> and not toward supporting the renewable energy industry.</p><p>So we are moving in the wrong direction.</p>
Clean energy hasn’t always been such a partisan issue. Why did it become so polarizing?<p>What I argue in my book, with evidence, is that electric utilities and fossil fuel companies have been intentionally driving polarization. And they've done this in part by running challengers in primary elections against Republicans who don't agree with them.</p><p>Basically, fossil fuel companies and electric utilities are telling Republicans that you can't hold office and support climate action. That has really shifted the incentives within the party in a very short time period.</p><p>It's not like the Democrats have moved so far left on climate. The Democrats have stayed in pretty much the same place and the Republicans have moved to the right. And I argue that that's because of electric utilities and fossil fuel companies trying to delay action.</p>
And their reason for doing that is simply about their bottom line and keeping their share of the market?<p>Exactly. You have to remember that delay and denial on climate change is a profitable enterprise for fossil fuel companies and electric utilities. The longer we wait to act on the crisis, the more money they can make because they can extract more fossil fuels from their reserves <em>and</em> they can pay more of their debt at their coal plants and natural gas plants. So delay and denial is a money-making business for fossil fuel companies and electric utilities.</p>
There’s been a lot of research, reporting and even legal action in recent years about the role of fossil fuel companies in discrediting climate science. From reading your book, it seems that electric utilities are just as guilty. Is that right?<p>Yes, far less attention has been paid to electric utilities, which play a really critical role. They preside over legacy investments into coal and natural gas, and some of them continue to propose building new natural gas.</p><p>They were just as involved in promoting climate denial in the 1980s and 90s as fossil fuel companies, as I document in my book. And some of them, like Southern Company, have continued to promote climate denial to basically the present day.</p><p>But that's not the only dark part of their history.</p><p>Electric utilities promoted energy systems that are pretty wasteful. They built these centralized fossil fuel power plants rather than having co-generation plants that were onsite at industrial locations where manufacturing is happening, and where you need both steam heat — which is a waste product from electricity — and the electricity itself. That actually created a lot of waste in the system and we burned a lot more fossil fuels than if we had a decentralized system.</p><p><span></span>The other thing they've done in the more modern period is really resisted the energy transition. They've resisted renewable portfolio standards and net metering laws that allow for more clean energy to come onto the grid. They've tried to roll them back. They've been successful in some cases, and they've blocked new laws from passing when targets were met.</p>
You wrote that, “Partisan polarization on climate is not inevitable — support could shift back to the bipartisanship we saw before 2008.” What would it take to actually make that happen?<p>Well, on the one hand, you need to get the Democratic Party to care more about climate change and to really understand the stakes. And if you want to do that, I think the work of the <a href="https://www.justicedemocrats.com/" target="_blank">Justice Democrats</a> is important. They have primary-challenged incumbent Democrats who don't care enough about climate change. That is how Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was elected. She was a primary challenger and she has really championed climate action in the Green New Deal.</p><p>The other thing is that the public supports climate action. Democrats do in huge numbers. Independents do. And to some extent Republicans do, particularly young Republicans.</p><p>So communicating the extent of public concern on these issues is really important because, as I've shown in other research, politicians don't know how much public concern there is on climate change. They dramatically underestimate support for climate action.</p><p>I think the media has a really important role to play because it's very rare that a climate event, like a disaster that is caused by climate change, is actually linked to climate change in media reporting.</p><p>But people might live through a wildfire or a hurricane or a heat wave, but nobody's going to tell them through the media that this is climate change. So we really need our reporters to be doing a better job linking people's lived experiences to climate change.</p>
With economic stimulus efforts ramping up because of the COVD-19 pandemic, are we in danger of missing a chance to help boost a clean energy economy?<p>I think so many people understand that stimulus spending is an opportunity to rebuild our economy in a way that creates good-paying jobs in the clean-energy sector that protects Americans' health.</p><p>We know that <a href="https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20200427-how-air-pollution-exacerbates-covid-19" target="_blank">breathing dirty air</a> makes people more likely to die from COVID-19. So this is a big opportunity to create an economy that's more just for all Americans.</p><p>But unfortunately, we really are not pivoting toward creating a clean economy, which is what we need to be doing. This is an opportunity to really focus on the climate crisis because we have delayed for more than 30 years. There is not another decade to waste.</p>
By Adrienne Santos-Longhurst
Plants are awesome. They brighten up your space and give you a living thing you can talk to when there are no humans in sight.
Turns out, having enough of the right plants can also add moisture (aka humidify) indoor air, which can have a ton of health benefits.
Spider Plant<p>Spider plants are one of the best plants you can buy for increasing indoor humidity, according to <a href="https://krex.k-state.edu/dspace/bitstream/handle/2097/35195/803.full.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y" target="_blank">research</a> from 2015.</p><p>Even NASA agrees. It did a <a href="https://ntrs.nasa.gov/archive/nasa/casi.ntrs.nasa.gov/19930073077.pdf" target="_blank">study</a> in the '80s that found spider plants are able to remove toxins like carbon monoxide and formaldehyde from indoor air.</p><p>Perhaps the coolest part of all? They're super easy to grow.</p><p>Their stems grow long. A hanging container is best so the plant has room to cascade.</p><p>Spider plants grow best in bright, indirect sunlight, so try to keep them near a window that gets a lot of natural light. Aim to keep the soil moist, but not soggy.</p>
Jade Plant<p><a href="https://krex.k-state.edu/dspace/bitstream/handle/2097/35195/803.full.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y" target="_blank">Research</a> shows that a jade plant can increase the relative humidity in a room. Most of its evapotranspiration happens in the dark, making it a good option for increasing humidity during darker months of the year.</p><p>To help keep a jade plant thriving, keep it in a bright spot, like near a south-facing window. As for watering, how much you give it depends on the time of the year.</p><p>The spring and summer is its active growing time, so you'll want to water it deeply, and wait till the soil is almost dry to water it again.</p><p>In the fall and winter, growing slows or stops, so you can let the soil dry completely before watering again.</p>
Areca Palm<p>Palms tend to be great for adding humidity, and the areca palm — also called the butterfly or yellow palm — is no exception.</p><p>They're relatively low maintenance, but they do require lots of sun and moist soil. Keep them near a window that gets a lot of sunlight. Water them enough to keep their soil moist, especially in the spring and summer.</p><p>They can grow up to 6 or 7 feet tall and don't like crowded roots, so you'll need to repot it every couple of years as it grows.<span></span></p>
English Ivy<p>English ivy (<em>Hedera helix</em>) is easy to care for and gives you a lot of bang for your buck because it grows like crazy.</p><p>It's also been <a href="https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11869-018-0618-9" target="_blank">shown</a> to have one of the highest transpiration rates. This makes it a good option for increasing relative humidity AND removing carbon monoxide from indoor air.</p><p>A hanging basket is best for this small-leafed ivy. It'll grow as long and lush as you let it. To keep it controlled, just prune to the size you want.</p><p>English ivy likes bright light and soil that's slightly dry. Check the soil to make sure it's almost dry before watering again.</p>
Lady Palm<p>The lady palm is a dense plant that's low maintenance when it comes to sunlight and water needs.</p><p>It does best in bright light, but is adaptable enough to grow in low-light spots, too, though at a slightly slower pace.</p><p>Lady palms like to be watered thoroughly once the surface is dry to the touch, so always check the soil before watering.</p>
Rubber Plant<p>The rubber plant isn't as finicky as other indoor tropical plants, making it really easy to care for. Rubber plants also have a high transpiration rate and are great for helping clean indoor air.</p><p>Rubber plants like partial sun to partial shade. They can handle cooler temps and drier soil (perfect for people who tend to kill every plant they bring into the home).</p><p>Let the soil dry before watering again. In the fall and winter months, you'll be able to cut watering in half.</p>
Boston Fern<p>The Boston fern has air-purifying properties that add moisture and remove toxins from indoor air. Did we mention they're lush and gorgeous, too?</p><p>To keep a Boston fern healthy and happy, water it often enough so the soil is always moist, and make sure it gets a lot of indirect sunlight by placing it in a bright part of the room.</p><p>Occasionally misting the fern's leaves with a spray bottle of water can help keep it perky when you have the heat blasting or fireplace going.</p>
Peace Lily<p>Peace lilies are tropical evergreens that produce a white flower in the summer. They usually grow up to around 16 inches tall, but can grow longer in the right conditions.</p><p>A peace lily feels most at home in a room that's warm and gets a lot of sunlight. It takes its soil moist.</p><p>No need to stress if you forget to water it on occasion. It'll handle that better than being overwatered.</p><p>If you have cats, you'll want to keep this plant out of reach or avoid it. Lilies are <a href="https://www.aspca.org/pet-care/animal-poison-control/toxic-and-non-toxic-plants/lily" target="_blank">toxic</a> to our feline friends.</p>
Golden Pothos<p>Golden pothos is also called devil's ivy and devil's vine because it's pretty much impossible to kill. You can forget to water it and even forget to give it light for long periods, and it'll still be green whenever you finally remember.</p><p>That said, it thrives in brighter spaces and does like some water. Let it dry out between watering.</p><p>Its trailing stems grow as long as you want it to, so it's perfect for hanging planters or setting on a higher shelf.</p><p>The higher the better if you have pets, though, since some of its compounds are toxic to dogs and cats… and horses, if you happen to live in a big apartment with really relaxed pet rules.</p>
Dwarf Date Palm<p>Dwarf date palms are also called pygmy date palms. They're perfect as far as plants go. They're basically mini versions of the palm trees you see on tropical postcards.</p><p>They can help keep a room's air clean and increase humidity, and are super easy to maintain.</p><p>They can grow to be anywhere from 6 to 12 feet tall with bright, indirect sunlight and moist — not soaking wet — soil.</p><p>They also prefer a slightly toasty environment, so avoid placing them near a drafty window or source of cold.</p>
Corn Plant<p>The corn plant won't give you an endless supply of corn — just leaves that look like corn leaves and the occasional bloom if you treat it nice. It also helps humidify indoor air and remove toxic vapors.</p><p>Maintenance is easy. Let the top inch or so of soil dry before watering, and keep in a well-lit room where it can get a good amount of indirect sunlight.</p>
Parlor Palm<p>This is another high-transpiration palm that doesn't take any real skill to grow. You're welcome.</p><p>Parlor palms like partial sun, but can manage in full shade, too, as long as you keep the soil consistently moist with a couple of waterings per week.</p><p>To help it grow, make sure it's got enough space in the pot by sizing up every year or two, or whenever it starts to look crowded.</p>
Plants to Avoid<p>Plants are generally good for your environment, but some do have the opposite effect when it comes to humidity.</p><p>These plants tend to draw moisture <em>in</em> instead of letting it out. This doesn't happen instantly, and a couple of plants won't have enough of an effect to really zap the moisture out of your home.</p><p>Still, if you're looking for maximum moisture, you may want to limit these.</p><p>Plants that fall into this category are those that require very little water to survive. Think plants that you find in dry climates, like the desert.</p><p>These include plants like:</p><ul><li>cactuses</li><li>succulents</li><li>aloe vera</li><li>euphorbia, also called "spurge"</li></ul>
Pro Tips<p>If you really want to take advantage of all the moisture and purification these plants offer, here are some tips to consider:</p><ul><li><strong>Size matters.</strong> Plants with bigger leaves typically have a higher transpiration rate, so go bigger to humidify and purify a room.</li><li><strong>The more the merrier.</strong> Have at least two good-sized plants per 100 square feet of space — more is even better.</li><li><strong>Keep 'em close.</strong> Group your plants closer together to increase the humidity in the air and help your plants thrive, too.</li><li><strong>Add pebbles.</strong> If you're dealing with dry indoor air, put your plants on a pebble tray with water to create more humidity for your plants <em>and</em> your room.</li></ul>
The Bottom Line<p>If you're looking to combat dry air in your home and have some space, consider stocking up on some houseplants. Just keep in mind that this is one area where less definitely isn't more.</p><p>For a noticeable impact on the air in your home, try to have at least several plants in each room. If you only have room for a few plants, try to go for larger ones with big leaves.</p>
- 5 Common Houseplants That Clean the Air for a Healthier Home ... ›
- 20 Plants That Improve Air Quality in Your Home - EcoWatch ›
- Beat the COVID-19 Blues With These Wildlife and Nature Livecams ... ›
- Bald Eagles Are Still Dying From Lead Poisoning - EcoWatch ›
- Ospreys' Recovery From Pollution and Shooting Is a Global ... ›
The office may never look the same again. And the investment it will take to protect employees may force many companies to go completely remote. That's after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued new recommendations for how workers can return to the office safely.
- Trump Admin Rejects CDC Reopening Guidelines - EcoWatch ›
- Trump Labor Department Encourages States to Report Workers ... ›
- White House Ordered Coronavirus Meetings Be Classified - EcoWatch ›
Scientists and art historians are studying art for signs of climate change and to better understand the ways Western culture's relationship to nature has been altered by it, according to the BBC.
- Climate Change, Inspired By Banksy - EcoWatch ›
- Artists and Activists Rise to Fight Climate Change - EcoWatch ›
By Richard Connor
The University of Southern Denmark on Wednesday announced that its researchers have developed the world's first fully automatic robot capable of carrying out throat swabs for COVID-19.