Will a death toll of 900,000 be the body count it takes for the public to finally say enough, already? Or will it also take another set of grisly photographs of maimed bodies, deformed skulls, misshapen mouths and twisted spines?
The breaking news out of Wilmington, NC today has both.
Unfortunately, this latest episode is not a single, isolated incident. It is but the latest attack by a serial killer that has taken thousands of lives all across the country, on what has become a nearly 30-year killing spree. The culprit is notorious; the whodunit was solved decades ago. Yet, authorities allow the mayhem to go on, so the death and destruction continues unabated.
A new study confirms that Duke Energy’s toxic coal ash pollution is killing more than 900,000 fish and deforming thousands more each year in Lake Sutton, a popular fishing destination just outside of Wilmington, NC. Dr. Dennis Lemly, Research Associate Professor of Biology at Wake Forest University and a leading expert on selenium poisoning conducted the study. He analyzed more than 1,400 fish from the lake and found disturbing mutations of the heads, mouths, spines and tails in several species of fish. Here are just seven of the 18 photos of deformed fish that were included in the study report.
Facial and spinal deformities in baby fish affect their ability to eat and swim. Many young fish die before reaching maturity; long before someone trying to put supper on the table can catch them. One of the many jaw-dropping revelations in the study was the fact that no juvenile largemouth bass (less than 3 inches long) were found in two separate collection events at Lake Sutton. In contrast, many young bass were found in a single collection event at the non-contaminated reference lake that served as a baseline for the study. The most recent fish population assessment of Lake Sutton by the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission noted that largemouth bass were in "poor condition," declining 50 percent in both abundance and size between 2008 and 2010.
The value of lost natural resources at Lake Sutton goes well into the millions of dollars each year. The replacement cost of the lost fish is more than $4.5 million per year according to the study. If North Carolina replaced all fish killed by selenium pollution over the last 25 years in Lake Sutton, taxpayers would face a bill of more than $112 million. Duke Energy owned coal plants have been among the most notorious and prolific fish killers in the U.S. since 1976. See table below.
The U.S. Enviromental Protection Agency (EPA), the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and Duke Energy have known for decades that selenium contamination from coal-fired power plants is a monumental fish killer. Nationwide, there are 22 other cases where coal-fired power plants caused severe damage to fisheries in Texas, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, Michigan, Georgia, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming. The total estimated cost of all these fishery damage cases is $ 2.32 billion.
After Duke obliterated 17 species of fish in Belews Lake in the 1970’s, steps should have been taken to prevent selenium poisoning from killing more fish. Sadly, that didn’t happen and once coal-fired power plants operators saw Duke get away with it, the copycat serial killing of fish continued year after year.
Fortunately, the EPA has proposed two long overdue regulatory updates that could go a long way to addressing this serious problem, if the final rules are sufficiently strong. They are the stalled coal ash rule that was proposed 3 years ago and the coal power plant toxic water pollution rule that was just proposed earlier this year. It is important to note that both rules propose weaker options that will not fix the selenium fish kill problem. Only option 5 of the coal water pollution rule and the hazardous waste classification in the coal ash rule will have any chance of making the killing stop.
Lake Sutton is the 23rd public fishery to be severely damaged by toxic discharges from a coal-fired power plant. If you want to put your foot down and say: enough, already, we won't allow this egregious toxic pollution any more, then take action here.
Tell U.S. EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy to move forward with the strongest coal ash and coal water pollution rules possible because it is time to put an end to serial killing coal-fired power plants.
By Gwen Ranniger
Fertility issues are on the rise, and new literature points to ways that your environment may be part of the problem. We've rounded up some changes you can make in your life to promote a healthy reproductive system.
Infertility and Environmental Health: The Facts<ul> <li>Sperm count is declining steeply, significantly, and continuously in Western countries, with no signs of tapering off. Erectile dysfunction is on the rise, and women are facing increasing rates of miscarriage and difficulty conceiving.</li><li>Why? A huge factor is our environmental health. Hormones (particularly testosterone and estrogen) are what make reproductive function possible, and our hormones are increasingly being negatively affected by harmful, endocrine-disrupting chemicals commonplace in the modern world—in our homes, foods, and lifestyles.</li></ul>
What You Can Do About It<p>It should be noted that infertility can be caused by any number of factors, including medical conditions that cannot be solved with a simple change at home.</p><p><em>If you or a loved one are struggling with infertility, our hearts and sympathies are with you. Your pain is validated and we hope you receive answers to your struggles.</em></p><p>Read on to discover our tips to restore or improve reproductive health by removing harmful habits and chemicals from your environment.</p>
Edit Your Health<ul><li>If you smoke, quit! Smoking is toxic, period. If someone in your household smokes, urge them to quit or institute a no-smoking ban in the house. It is just as important to avoid secondhand smoke.</li><li>Maintain a healthy weight. Make sure your caloric intake is right for your body and strive for moderate exercise.</li><li>Eat cleanly! Focus on whole foods and less processed meals and snacks. Studies have found that eating a Mediterranean-style diet is linked to increased fertility.</li><li>Minimize negative/constant stress—or find ways to manage it. Hobbies such as meditation or yoga that encourage practiced breathing are great options to reduce the physical toll of stress.</li></ul>
Edit Your Home<p>We spend a lot of time in our homes—and care that what we bring into them will not harm us. You may not be aware that many commonly found household items are sources of harmful, endocrine-disrupting compounds. Read on to find steps you can take—and replacements you should make—in your home.</p><p><strong>In the Kitchen</strong></p><ul> <li>Buy organic, fresh, unprocessed foods whenever possible. <a href="https://www.ehn.org/clean-grocery-shopping-guide-2648563801.html" target="_blank">Read our grocery shopping guide for more tips about food.</a></li><li>Switch to glass, ceramics, or stainless steel for food storage: plastics often contain endocrine-disrupting chemicals that affect fertility. <a href="https://www.ehn.org/bpa-pollution-2645493129.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Learn more about the dangers of plastic here.</a></li><li>Ban plastic from the microwave. If you have a plastic splatter cover, use paper towel, parchment paper, or an upside-down plate instead.</li><li>Upgrade your cookware: non-stick may make life easier, but it is made with unsafe chemical compounds that seep into your food. Cast-iron and stainless steel are great alternatives.</li><li>Filter tap water. Glass filter pitchers are an inexpensive solution; if you want to invest you may opt for an under-the-sink filter.</li><li>Check your cleaning products—many mainstream products are full of unsafe chemicals. <a href="https://www.ehn.org/how-to-shop-for-cleaning-products-while-avoiding-toxics-2648130273.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Check out our guide to safe cleaning products for more info</a>.</li></ul><p><strong>In the Bathroom </strong></p><ul> <li>Check the labels on your bathroom products: <em>fragrance-free, paraben-free, phthalate-free</em> and organic labels are all great signs. You can also scan the ingredients lists for red-flag chemicals such as: triclosan, parabens, and dibutyl phthalate. Use the <a href="https://www.ewg.org/skindeep/" target="_blank">EWG Skin Deep database</a> to vet your personal products.</li><li>Ditch the vinyl shower curtain—that new shower curtain smell is chemical-off gassing. Choose a cotton or linen based curtain instead.</li><li>Banish air fresheners—use natural fresheners (an open window, baking soda, essential oils) instead.</li></ul><p><strong>Everywhere Else</strong></p><ul><li>Remove wall-to-wall carpet. If you've been considering wood or tile, here's your sign: many synthetic carpets can emit harmful chemicals for years. If you want a rug, choose wool or plant materials such as jute or sisal.</li><li>Prevent dust build-up. Dust can absorb chemicals in the air and keep them lingering in your home. Vacuum rugs and wipe furniture, trim, windowsills, fans, TVs, etc. Make sure to have a window open while you're cleaning!</li><li>Leave shoes at the door! When you wear your shoes throughout the house, you're tracking in all kinds of chemicals. If you like wearing shoes inside, consider a dedicated pair of "indoor shoes" or slippers.</li><li>Clean out your closet—use cedar chips or lavender sachets instead of mothballs, and use "green" dry-cleaning services over traditional methods. If that isn't possible, let the clothes air out outside or in your garage for a day before putting them back in your closet.</li><li>Say no to plastic bags!</li><li>We asked 22 endocrinologists what products they use - and steer clear of—in their homes. <a href="https://www.ehn.org/nontoxic-products-2648564261.html" target="_blank">Check out their responses here</a>.</li></ul>
Learn More<ul><li>For more information and action steps, be sure to check out <em>Count Down: How Our Modern World Is Threatening Sperm Counts, Altering Male and Female Reproductive Development, and Imperiling the Future of the Human Race</em> by EHS adjunct scientist Shanna Swan, PhD: <a href="https://www.shannaswan.com/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">available for purchase here.</a></li><li><a href="https://www.ehn.org/st/Subscribe_to_Above_The_Fold" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Sign up for our Above the Fold Newsletter </a>to stay up to date about impacts on the environment and your health.</li></ul>
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