Jean-Marc Neveu and Olivier Civil never expected to find themselves battling against disposable mask pollution.
When they founded their recycling start-up Plaxtil in 2017, it was textile waste they set their sights on. The project developed a process that turned fabrics into a new recyclable material they describe as "ecological plastic."
Mounting Piles of Waste<p>It is not only the streets of Chatellerault where pandemic pollution is piling-up, but also the world's beaches and oceans. Once there, they can take up to 450 years to degrade and disappear.</p><p>Esther Röling, co-organizer of the annual Adventure Clean Up Challenge held on Hong Kong Island, has seen this waste firsthand. In October the sports challenge pitted teams against one another in a competition to remove trash from 13 hard-to-reach coastal areas around the city.</p><p>They find tons of both disposable and reusable masks, said Röling. "You wonder how it ended up there. Was it just thrown on the ground? Or was it in a garbage bag that broke open?"</p><p>Almost 10,000 kilometers away in Antibes on the sunny French Riviera, it's a similar picture. For the past few months, divers and clean-up volunteers working with an ocean clean-up non-profit called Operation Mer Propre have been collecting an increasing number of masks found on land and in the sea.</p><p>"Since the beginning of the lockdown when we started to count, we've reached 800, 900, [and now in total] 1000 masks," said co-founder Joko Peltier. </p><p>According to <a href="https://unctad.org/news/growing-plastic-pollution-wake-covid-19-how-trade-policy-can-help" target="_blank">UN estimates</a>, up to 75% of all coronavirus-related plastic could end up as waste in oceans and landfills.</p>
The Limits of Recycling<p>Yet not all are convinced the recycling of this waste is possible on a global scale. </p><p>"What those citizen groups are doing is really beneficial but once they collect it, it should just go to a landfill or an incinerator. They shouldn't necessarily expect it to get recycled," said Jonathan Krones, an industrial ecologist and visiting assistant professor of environmental studies at Boston College.</p><p>That's because mask recycling programs like Plaxtil are few and far between and most don't have the benefit of a readily adaptable production process. </p><p>Even in countries with solid recycling infrastructure, he says, the system is designed to separate out specific types of waste like bottles or cardboard.</p><p>"I imagine that it would be technically feasible to develop a separation process to filter out masks, but there simply aren't enough of them to make that economical," he said.</p><p>Collection is a big hurdle, he adds. Since each mask only weighs a fraction of a gram and they're scattered on roads or mixed with other trash, it is difficult and costly. </p><p>"You need a lot of raw material of the right quality to make investing in the recycling technology and the recycling system worthwhile," he said.<span></span><br></p>
Hemp, Sugar Cane and Sustainable Alternatives<p>Some projects are instead addressing the material used to make masks.</p><p>French company Geochanvre have created a mask made primarily from hemp, while in Australia, researchers at the Queensland University of Technology are experimenting with a disposable product made from agricultural waste. </p><p>Biodegradable options are exciting alternatives to reduce the fossil fuels needed for the creation of plastic-based masks, said Krones, but they don't absolve the wearer from the responsibility of what happens afterwards. </p><p>Bio-based masks often need their own composing solutions, he explains, because in landfill they can produce high amounts of the greenhouse gas methane when anaerobic bacteria feeds on the organic material. Methane is known to be significantly more potent than carbon dioxide.</p><p>"I think as long as we have in our mind that we want to have disposability, we're going to have to wrestle with a variety of different sorts of environmental tradeoffs," he said, adding that reusable, fabric masks are the best option available to most people.</p><p>Precimask is developing a clear face covering with an optional visor made from hard plastic, designed to be long-lasting.<br></p><p>Air enters either side of the cheeks through a technology normally found in pool filters and car exhaust systems, said company spokeswoman Juliette Chambet.</p><p>"We wanted to make ceramic-based filters that would be washable and cleanable, which would allow them to be reused as many times as desired without having to buy a new consumable or produce waste," she said. </p><p>Ultimately, encouraging mask wearers to think about the entire lifecycle of a mask is key, explains Neveu. </p><p>"We want people who put on the masks to realize that they are also responsible for the waste, he said. "It's not inevitable that this [pandemic] will become an environmental catastrophe.</p><p><em>Reposted with permission from </em><em><a href="https://www.dw.com/en/covid-19-recycling-pollution-trash-pandemic/a-55707817" target="_blank">Deutsche Welle</a>.</em><a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/r/entryeditor/2649032193#/" target="_self"></a></p>
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In a year in which the United States has already suffered 16 climate-driven extreme weather events causing more than $1 billion in economic damages, and as millions of American workers face loss of essential unemployment benefits due to congressional inaction, a report published Monday reveals the Trump administration has given fossil fuel companies as much as $15.2 billion in direct relief — and tens of billions more indirectly — through federal COVID-19 recovery programs since March.
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Like many other plant-based foods and products, CBD oil is one dietary supplement where "organic" labels are very important to consumers. However, there are little to no regulations within the hemp industry when it comes to deeming a product as organic, which makes it increasingly difficult for shoppers to find the best CBD oil products available on the market.
Charlotte's Web<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDcwMjk3NS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY0MzQ0NjM4N30.SaQ85SK10-MWjN3PwHo2RqpiUBdjhD0IRnHKTqKaU7Q/img.jpg?width=980" id="84700" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="a2174067dcc0c4094be25b3472ce08c8" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="charlottes web cbd oil" /><p>Perhaps one of the most well-known brands in the CBD landscape, Charlotte's Web has been growing sustainable hemp plants for several years. The company is currently in the process of achieving official USDA Organic Certification, but it already practices organic and sustainable cultivation techniques to enhance the overall health of the soil and the hemp plants themselves, which creates some of the highest quality CBD extracts. Charlotte's Web offers CBD oils in a range of different concentration options, and some even come in a few flavor options such as chocolate mint, orange blossom, and lemon twist.</p>
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By Isabella Garcia
September in Portland, Oregon, usually brings a slight chill to the air and an orange tinge to the leaves. This year, it brought smoke so thick it burned your throat and made your eyes strain to see more than 20 feet in front of you.
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By Jason Farley
COVID-19 has disrupted our daily lives, and it is poised to completely disrupt the holiday season. As people make holiday plans and think about ways to reduce the risks to their loved ones, a strategy is essential.
Are masks really necessary at family gatherings?<p>If you're gathering with friends and family who don't live in your home, yes. Just because you're with people you know doesn't mean you're safe from the coronavirus. Infection rates are <a href="https://coronavirus.jhu.edu/data/new-cases-50-states" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">higher now than they have ever been</a> in the U.S., and <a href="https://youtu.be/ehdgceGzQxs" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">small gatherings have been a source</a> of viral spread. All it takes is one infected person who doesn't know they have the coronavirus to infect others.</p><p>Remember, people can be <a href="https://medical.mit.edu/covid-19-updates/2020/07/how-long-symptom-onset-person-contagious" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">contagious two to three days</a> before symptoms show – that's one thing that makes this virus so hard to stop. And it's why, even if you feel fine, you should wear a mask.</p><p>The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now estimates that when both people are wearing masks, the <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/more/masking-science-sars-cov2.html" target="_blank">likelihood of infection is low</a>.</p>
Who am I protecting when I wear a mask?<p>In a word: everyone. The coronavirus <a href="https://theconversation.com/aerosols-are-a-bigger-coronavirus-threat-than-who-guidelines-suggest-heres-what-you-need-to-know-142233" target="_blank">spreads through respiratory droplets</a> that you send out into the air when you talk, sing or even just breathe. The tiniest of these droplets can float on air currents for long periods.</p><p>Face masks stop many of those droplets, reducing the amount of virus in the air. That lowers your chances of getting infected, and it also lowers the chances that you'll infect someone else.</p><p><a href="https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/more/masking-science-sars-cov2.html" target="_blank">Studies of people who had prolonged exposure</a> to others with COVID-19 have demonstrated how masks can reduce the chance of the virus spreading. In general, <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/more/masking-science-sars-cov2.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">well-fitted cloth masks</a> made up of multiple layers can stop most large droplets and at least half of the tiny ones. Plastic <a href="https://doi.org/10.1101/2020.10.05.20207241" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">face shields</a> alone are far less effective. <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/health/2020/08/13/cdc-mask-guidance-masks-valves/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Face masks with valves or vents</a> might be good for construction work, but they don't stop the wearer from breathing out virus into the air.</p>
Can I reuse a mask and when should I replace it?<p>Reusable masks should be kept clean and dry. We're moving into cold and flu season, and noses get drippy. A rule of thumb: Anytime a mask is wet to the point that you can discern the wetness, it's time for a new one if it's disposable, or it's time to clean your reusable mask.</p><p>Wetness allows viruses to more easily move through paper or fabric because it allows the threads to move and may reduce the electrostatic charge in the masks that add extra protection with some fabrics.</p><p>In general, you can use a mask that stays clean and dry for about a week before you need to wash or discard it.</p>
How should I clean a cloth mask?<p>Washing your mask is like washing your clothes. You know when it is time.</p><p>In general, <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/how-to-wash-cloth-face-coverings.html" target="_blank">cleaning your mask weekly</a> should be sufficient. If odors develop before then, it's a good idea to wash it sooner. Odor generally means bacterial buildup.</p><p>Cleaning your mask by hand with soap and water is your best option. Using a general detergent on a gentle cycle in the washing machine is also fine, but that may increase the risk of damage, depending on the quality of the material. COVID-19 is not a hardy virus. Any soap or detergent should work fine. There's no need for special chemicals, bleach or harsh soaps.</p><p>Be careful to remove any inserts before washing. Inserted filters are generally not washable.</p><p>Air drying masks works best. Remember, masks should be completely dry before use. So be sure to have a replacement mask handy while the one you just washed dries.</p><p>Sunlight is always a great source of heat to dry your mask. Also, sunlight has ultraviolet radiation, which has been shown to <a href="http://doi.org/10.1111/php.13293" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">eliminate coronavirus</a> and is also known to have antibacterial properties.</p>
Can I wear the mask below my nose?<p>Wearing your mask below your nose is, frankly, ridiculous.</p><p>Think about it. If you are breathing through your nose and only covering your mouth, you are effectively eliminating the point of the mask. Properly wearing a mask requires covering both your nose and mouth at all times.</p><p>Studies show that wearing a proper cloth mask or surgical mask while exercising <a href="http://doi.org/10.1513/AnnalsATS.202008-990CME" target="_blank">doesn't affect the flow of oxygen</a> or carbon dioxide in any detectable way. So, unless you have serious heart and lung problems, that isn't an excuse.</p>
How do I safely remove my mask if I’m going to eat or drink?<p>When you <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/how-to-wash-cloth-face-coverings.html" target="_blank">take your mask off</a>, remove it carefully by the straps without touching anything else and put it somewhere safe, like wrapped in paper in a purse, bag or pocket. Then wash your hands or use hand sanitizer. When you put it back on, wash your hands again.</p>
So, how can I have a safe holiday gathering?<p>The safest way to celebrate this year is to do so with members only within your household. The <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/daily-life-coping/holidays.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">CDC is now stressing that point</a>, as well. If you do celebrate with friends and relatives from outside your household, you need an action plan to reduce the risk of exposure.</p><p>Here are five recommendations:</p><ul><li>Limit the number of people – fewer people means fewer opportunities for exposure, and you'll have more room to spread out.</li><li>Require masks when not eating or drinking.</li><li>Use physical distancing when eating. Try to seat people <a href="https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.m3223" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">at least 6 feet apart</a>. Eat outside if you can.</li><li>Consider being tested for COVID-19 before traveling or gathering. It's not a guarantee, but it can help flag illnesses. Remember to self-isolate between the test and the event.</li><li>Be prepared to self-isolate for 14 days after traveling or participating in any event that involves people from outside your home.</li></ul><p>[<em>Research into coronavirus and other news from science</em> <a href="https://theconversation.com/us/newsletters/science-editors-picks-71/?utm_source=TCUS&utm_medium=inline-link&utm_campaign=newsletter-text&utm_content=science-corona-research" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Subscribe to The Conversation's new science newsletter</a>.]</p><p><em>The map has been updated with New Hampshire announcing a mask mandate effective Nov. 20.</em></p><p><em>Jason Farley is a professor, infectious disease-trained epidemiologist and nurse practitioner at the Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing.<br></em></p><p><em>Disclosure statement: Jason Farley, PhD, MPH, ANP-BC, FAAN receives funding from the National Institutes of Health on the Rapid Acceleration of Diagnostics for COVID-19 and Becton Dickinson for studies on SARS-CoV-2 diagnostics.</em></p><p><em>Reposted with permission from <a href="https://theconversation.com/why-face-masks-belong-at-your-thanksgiving-gathering-7-things-you-need-to-know-about-wearing-them-150130" target="_blank">The Conversation</a>. </em></p>
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By Pamela M. Aaltonen
As Americans prepare for the first Thanksgiving in the time of the coronavirus, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a stark warning a week before the big day: Don't travel.
No over the river and through the woods to grandmother's condo. No flying to a beach gathering with the family you choose.
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By Gwen Ranniger
The grocery store is a wonderful place: thousands of ingredients and products at your fingertips available to combine, cook, and eat. However, that choice can be overwhelming: while shoppers in the 1970s chose from a mere 9,000 products, shoppers today choose from more than 47,000.
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By Alexander Freund
Finally, some good news — soon, frontrunning vaccine developers could submit applications for fast-tracked authorizations of their coronavirus vaccines.
Three companies have reported early Phase III successes in the last several days.
Open Questions<p>Many questions, however, remain unanswered. It is unclear, for instance, how effective these vaccines are, and how they affect individuals of different ages and those with pre-existing medical conditions. Little is known about whether the vaccines lead to long-term immunity, or if they can prevent severe, or indeed asymptomatic COVID-19 infections.</p><p>It is also not known how much the vaccines will cost, <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/germany-to-set-up-hundreds-of-vaccination-centers-from-december-report/a-55605652" target="_blank">who will have access to them</a> and in what quantity and at what time, and how they will be distributed around the globe.</p>
How Effective Are These Vaccines?<p>BioNTech and Pfizer claim their vaccine candidate BNT162b2 is 95% effective in preventing a COVID-19 infection. Moderna claims to have developed a candidate, mRNA-1273, that is 94.5% effective. These are unusually high figures.</p><p>By contrast, the vaccine administered for the 2018/2019 influenza season was only 21% effective, according to Germany's disease control and prevention agency, the Robert Koch Institute. This means only around one in five individuals vaccinated were protected by the influenza shot.</p><p>Achieving a vaccine that is 100% effective is practically impossible, as human bodies differ and because viruses such as the influenza pathogen mutate continuously. This explains why each year, influenza vaccines must be adapted to seasonal and emerging virus strains.</p><p>Nevertheless, vaccines significantly lower the risk of an infection. Elaborate studies ascertain the exact vaccine efficacy. It is determined by studying the antibody concentration developed in patients.</p><p>A typical randomized controlled study consists of two groups of participants. BioNTech and Pfizer assessed the efficacy of their vaccine candidate by testing it on 43,538 participants in different countries. One half of the group was administered the vaccine candidate, while the other half received a placebo. The vaccine was administered twice, with a three-week gap in between shots.</p>
Are the Vaccines Safe?<p>Independent monitoring groups registered no serious safety concerns with the vaccines being developed by BioNTech/Pfizer and Moderna. This does not, however, rule out the possibility of serious side effects occurring during large-scale testing, or when vaccines are given to persons with rare pre-existing health issues.</p><p>Intramuscular injections also bear to the risk of causing local reactions. Moreover, immune responses that entail the production of B cells and supportive T cells can lead to fever, chills, muscle aches or headaches.</p><p>In addition, both vaccines — BioNTech/Pfizer's BNT162b2 and Moderna's mRNA-1273 — belong to a new family of vaccines that so far has not been approved for medical use. They contain nucleoside-modified messenger RNA which functions as a blueprint for the virus spike protein. Once administered, the vaccine stimulates the human immune system to produce antibodies against this protein and thus the virus.</p>
When Will the Vaccines Be Approved?<p>The approval process differs in the United States and European Union. Intermediate tests are designed to speed up the procedure.</p><p>BioNTech and Pfizer have announced that they will request emergency use authorization (EUA) for their vaccine from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the coming weeks. By this time, a minimum two-month observation period after the second vaccine shot will have passed. This is an FDA requirement. Moderna similarly plans to request a EUA from the FDA in coming weeks.</p><p>It is unclear when BioNTech will request the stricter European Medicines Agency (EMA) to approve its vaccine. In Germany, the Paul Ehrlich Institute tests and approves vaccines for public use.</p><p>It looks likely that a coronavirus vaccine will become available in Europe later this year, or in early 2021, thanks to the EU's fast-tracked approval process.</p>
Challenges Ahead<p>For months, the EU <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/coronavirus-vaccine-eu-seals-deal-with-biontech-pfizer-to-secure-doses/a-55551329" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">has been in talks with BioNTech and Pfizer</a>. Initially, the bloc aimed to secure up to 300 million vaccine doses. A contract drawn up between the parties now places an order for 200 million doses, with the option of a further 100 million.</p><p>The Commission is reportedly also negotiating with Moderna to secure up to 160 million doses of its vaccine. So far, however, no contract has been finalized.</p><p>In addition, the EU has struck a deal to buy 300 million vaccine doses from AstraZeneca. It has also reached deals with Sanofi-GSK and Johnson & Johnson.</p><p>In early June, Germany, France, Italy and the Netherlands joined forces <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/eu-joins-whos-coronavirus-vaccine-alliance-offers-400-million-investment/a-54774743" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">to create the so-called Inclusive Vaccine Alliance</a>, which will aim to boost vaccine production in as many locations across the EU as possible as soon as possible.</p><p>This way, the EU plans not only to <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/paris-peace-forum-to-raise-more-than-500-million-for-global-coronavirus-vaccine-access/a-55577629" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">make affordable vaccines available</a> to member states but also to poorer nations, for example in Africa.</p><p>Yet big questions still remain over <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/coronavirus-germany-debates-how-to-distribute-a-vaccine/a-55554314" target="_blank">how the vaccines will be distributed</a> and administered across the globe. Most will presumably need to be permanently stored at minus 80 degrees Celsius, which poses a major logistical challenge.<br></p><p><em>This article was translated from German. It has been updated on November 19, 2020 to include the publication of the study on the Oxford-vaccine.</em></p><p><em>Reposted with permission from <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/coronavirus-can-we-trust-recent-covid-vaccine-successes/a-55623111" target="_blank">Deutsche Well</a>.</em><a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/r/entryeditor/2648980453#/" target="_self"></a></p>
By Kenny Stancil
"The Covid-19 pandemic has shown how vulnerable the world is to a truly global catastrophe. But another, bigger, catastrophe has been building for many decades, and humanity is still lagging far behind in efforts to address it."
By Genna Reed
In his first week as president-elect, Joe Biden instituted an advisory board of experts to provide science-based recommendations to respond to COVID-19. This could be a signal that independent science advice under a Biden administration is valued. After four years of watching the norms of science advisory structures eroded and undermined, especially at the EPA, it is hard to visualize the possibilities of a government informed by experts. Once Biden takes office in January, here are the actions I hope his administration will take to shore up the government's fifth arm of external expert advice:
1. Rescind EO 13875 and Reinstate Disbanded Committees<p>In Executive Order 13875, titled "Evaluating and Improving the Utility of Federal Advisory Committees," issued in June 2019<strong>, </strong>President Trump mandated the elimination of one-third of federal advisory committees with an aim of <a href="https://blog.ucsusa.org/genna-reed/trump-executive-order-advisory-committee" target="_blank">reaching the arbitrary total of 350</a>. Some agencies followed the order, cutting committees like <a href="https://blog.ucsusa.org/genna-reed/the-first-cut-of-epa-advisory-committees-is-the-deepest" target="_blank">EPA's Environmental Laboratory Advisory Board (ELAB) and the National Advisory Council for Environmental Policy and Technology (NACEPT)</a>, <a href="https://thehill.com/policy/energy-environment/465001-trump-officials-eliminate-board-that-advised-on-smart-grid" target="_blank">The Department of Commerce's Smart Grid Advisory Committee</a> and <a href="https://blog.ucsusa.org/genna-reed/science-advice-shouldnt-be-at-the-whim-of-a-president-and-his-appointees" target="_blank">Marine Protected Areas Advisory Committee, and DOI's Invasive Species Advisory Committee</a> and CDC's <a href="https://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/science/" target="_blank">Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry's Board of Scientific Counselors</a> and its <a href="https://www.facadatabase.gov/FACA/apex/FACAPublicCommittee?id=a10t0000001gzkCAAQ" target="_blank">Advisory Committee to the Director</a>. Yes, you read that right. As the CDC director responded to a national public health crisis, he did not have a sounding board of leading public health experts to help guide a federal response, as <a href="https://www.facadatabase.gov/FACA/apex/FACAPublicCommittee?id=a10t0000001gzkCAAQ" target="_blank">had been readily available since 1962</a>.</p><p>Neither the White House nor federal agencies released criteria or a full justification for disbanding these committees to the public. This is likely not an exhaustive list. Thus, the Biden administration should allow agencies to bring back disbanded committees quickly so that they can get back to work on projects left unfinished and take on new ones, especially those with direct relevance to providing expertise to the government on responding to COVID-19.</p>
2. Issue a Proactive Executive Order to Affirm the Value of Advisory Committees<p>The president-elect should issue an executive order affirming the value of advisory committees and direct agencies to improve the integrity and transparency of processes to ensure committees meet their chartered objectives. <a href="https://www.ucsusa.org/sites/default/files/2020-09/si-of-federal-advisory-committees.pdf" target="_blank">Our fact sheet</a> includes a long list of measures that should be included in that order, but the goal of the executive order should be threefold:</p><ul><li>address committee membership by requiring agencies to be more transparent and make decisions based solely on experience and technical qualifications in the topic the committees address, and not based on inappropriate criteria (e.g., party affiliation, political opinions, <a href="https://blog.ucsusa.org/michael-halpern/the-epa-science-advisory-board-is-being-compromised-heres-why-that-matters" target="_blank">having received a government grant</a>);</li><li>protect the independence and integrity of advisory committees by protecting against <a href="https://www.ucsusa.org/sites/default/files/2020-09/conflicts-of-interest-at-federal-agencies.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">conflicts of interest</a>;</li><li>ensure that the processes used to establish and terminate advisory committees are clear and transparent and that the government seeks out the advice it needs.</li></ul><p>An order that sets a high ethical bar for external advice can help protect against some of the more egregious violations we saw under the Trump administration, like the appointment of a majority of members with <a href="https://blog.ucsusa.org/genna-reed/biased-science-board-threatens-fetal-tissue-research" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">clear issues of impartiality to the HHS's Human Fetal Tissue Ethics Advisory Board,</a> which then issued sweeping rejections of grant proposals for critical research using fetal tissue.</p>
3. Go Back to the Drawing Board at the EPA<p>The Biden administration should begin to reverse the damage done by former Administrator Pruitt and Administrator Wheeler to <a href="https://thehill.com/opinion/energy-environment/512063-americans-need-the-best-science-more-than-ever-from-government" target="_blank">gerrymander science at EPA</a> and signal a commitment to balanced, independent advice by instituting a new nominations process for all EPA committees, while promoting transparency and public input and listening to its own staff recommendations. The administration should begin by scrapping the <a href="https://thehill.com/policy/energy-environment/521044-shuffle-of-epas-science-advisors-elevates-those-with-industry-tries" target="_blank">Science Advisory Board</a> and <a href="https://blog.ucsusa.org/gretchen-goldman/the-epa-cut-science-out-of-air-pollution-standard-setting-were-putting-it-back" target="_blank">the Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee</a> and start over. Here's why.</p><p>There are still qualified experts on EPA's advisory committees, but since the <a href="https://blog.ucsusa.org/genna-reed/epas-chance-to-get-science-advice-right" target="_blank">process barred EPA-funded scientists from applying from fall 2017 to 2020</a>, the expertise is not balanced and not the most relevant for the issues currently facing EPA. Further, it is unclear whether membership was adequately vetted for conflicts of interest. These are all fair questions, since <a href="https://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-19-280" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">we know Wheeler's administration failed to provide documentation on its selection process</a>.</p><p>The only way to fix a broken process is to start from scratch, instituting some of the norms and processes that were in place before the Trump administration came in, but also updating them to ensure even more transparency. For example, <a href="https://www.ucsusa.org/sites/default/files/2020-09/si-of-federal-advisory-committees.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">we recommend</a> that all agencies, including EPA, publish relevant basic information about each committee member on a public online portal (e.g., integrity.gov), including qualifications, background, employers, and funding sources for the previous five years, along with any conflict-of-interest waivers granted. Additionally, the decisionmaking processes used for committee formation, including how agencies screen members, how they assess committees for balance, and which political officials are involved, should be made public.</p><p>All members of committees re-formed could reapply if they wished to remain. But importantly, a new vetting process would ensure that expertise was prioritized and that conflicts of interest or appearance of impartiality was avoided.</p>
4. Work With Congress on Bipartisan Legislation That Would Increase Transparency and Public Input<p>The <a href="https://blog.ucsusa.org/andrew-rosenberg/improving-transparency-and-disclosure-of-conflicts-of-interest-for-science-advisory-committees" target="_blank">Federal Advisory Committee Act Amendments of 2019</a> would require agencies to open nominations for committee positions, select and publicize from those nominations, and clearly distinguish independent scientists from those representing a particular interest group. The bill would also require disclosure of conflicts of interest to the agency and the public and greater transparency of the meetings themselves. Also, political party affiliation cannot be used as a criterion for selection for a committee, which is important as such political litmus tests have been used in the past to <a href="https://www.ucsusa.org/center-for-science-and-democracy/scientific_integrity/abuses_of_science/a-to-z/fogarty-international-center.html" target="_blank">distort and stack</a> advisory committees under previous administrations.</p><p>Congress could also consider legislation that would institute a formal petition process for the public to request an agency assemble a federal advisory committee for an issue based on a set of criteria. This could ensure a more inclusive and equitable approach to deciding what issues get paid adequate attention by agencies.</p>
Making a Sound Investment in Science Advice<p>We have studied the ways in which science advisory committees have been sidelined or hijacked and over the past four years saw very clearly how changes to norms and the erosion of processes built to uphold integrity can wreak havoc on environmental and public health policy decisions.</p><p>As a new administration takes office, I hope that it takes advantage of this hindsight and sees the opportunities I see: not just bringing back old policies and signaling the importance of government science advice, but finding new ways to make it more responsive to the public than to special interests, and more inclusive of a diverse set of scientists and experts whose voices need to be heard right now. There's no time like the present to modernize our government advisory infrastructure, and <a href="https://www.ucsusa.org/sites/default/files/2020-09/si-of-federal-advisory-committees.pdf" target="_blank">our recommendations feature actions that can help get us there.</a></p>
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