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Public Health Emergency Declared in Flint, Michigan Due to Lead Contamination in Water
After a public health emergency was declared Tuesday due to the ongoing water crisis in Flint, Michigan, the state is now distributing free water filters and bottled water to the city's residents, according to Reuters.
Recent tests from a local children's hospital showed that children had elevated levels of lead in their blood a year after the city began using water from a local river instead of buying Lake Huron water through Detroit in order cut costs.
The tests "found the number of Flint kids under the age of 5 years old with above average lead levels nearly doubled city-wide and in some cases, tripled," reported FOX 2's Randy Wimbley.
"Our children are a top priority given the effects lead can have on their development," Mayor Walling said in a statement. "Any bottled water donations we receive will be used for our children and other high risk groups, such as our seniors."
It appears that the toxic metal had been entering drinking water through corroded pipes and plumbing materials, according to Flintwaterinfo.com.
Or, as Henry Henderson, the director of Natural Resources Defense Council's (NRDC) Midwest office, explained in a blog post, "the water from the Flint River, as treated, is far more corrosive than the Lake Huron water that had previously coursed through the City's pipes and water infrastructure."
"As a result of the change to corrosive river water," Henderson continued, "the aging lead pipes released higher concentrations of lead into Flint's homes. Despite the urgently stated concerns raised by residents and presented to state and local officials, the people of Flint were told their water was safe."
Lead, which is most harmful to pregnant women, women who are nursing and children under age 6, can damage the brain and kidneys, and can interfere with the production of red blood cells. Lead poisoning can also irreversibly stunt a child's mental and physical development.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says that 15 parts per billion (ppb) is the maximum recommended level of lead in household water. However, an alarming Flint Water Study found that about 10 percent of their local water samples had values of lead at levels of 25 ppb.
Local parent Lee-Anne Walters told The Guardian she was “shocked, angry … and hysterical” after learning in March that her son’s immune system was compromised after unsafe lead exposure.
“I just couldn’t believe that we were paying to poison our kids,” she said.
To make matters worse, as The Guardian pointed out, Flint residents "pay some of the highest water rates in the U.S., in the community known for its economic decline."
Officials had been insisting the water in Flint was safe and within federal guidelines. But they finally shifted positions this week after a public health emergency was declared by Genesee County Sheriff Robert Pickell.
Reuters reported that on Friday Michigan Gov. Snyder announced a plan that calls for "increased water testing, additional precautions for families with lead plumbing and long-term solutions to address the city's water infrastructure challenges."
The plan does not include restoring Detroit as a water source.
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Global Banks, Led by JPMorgan Chase, Invested $1.9 Trillion in Fossil Fuels Since Paris Climate Pact
By Sharon Kelly
A report published Wednesday names the banks that have played the biggest recent role in funding fossil fuel projects, finding that since 2016, immediately following the Paris agreement's adoption, 33 global banks have poured $1.9 trillion into financing climate-changing projects worldwide.
By Patti Lynn
2018 was a groundbreaking year in the public conversation about climate change. Last February, The New York Times reported that a record percentage of Americans now believe that climate change is caused by humans, and there was a 20 percentage point rise in "the number of Americans who say they worry 'a great deal' about climate change."
England faces an "existential threat" if it does not change how it manages its water, the head of the country's Environment Agency warned Tuesday.
By Jessica Corbett
A new analysis revealed Tuesday that over the past two decades heat records across the U.S. have been broken twice as often as cold ones—underscoring experts' warnings about the increasingly dangerous consequences of failing to dramatically curb planet-warming emissions.
By Madison Dapcevich
Ask any resident of San Francisco about the waterfront parrots, and they will surely tell you a story of red-faced conures squawking or dive-bombing between building peaks. Ask a team of researchers from the University of Georgia, however, and they will tell you of a mysterious string of neurological poisonings impacting the naturalized flock for decades.
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The unanimous verdict was announced Tuesday in San Francisco in the first federal case to be brought against Monsanto, now owned by Bayer, alleging that repeated use of the company's glyphosate-containing weedkiller caused the plaintiff's cancer. Seventy-year-old Edwin Hardeman of Santa Rosa, California said he used Roundup for almost 30 years on his properties before developing non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.
"Today's verdict reinforces what another jury found last year, and what scientists with the state of California and the World Health Organization have concluded: Glyphosate causes cancer in people," Environmental Working Group President Ken Cook said in a statement. "As similar lawsuits mount, the evidence will grow that Roundup is not safe, and that the company has tried to cover it up."
Judge Vince Chhabria has split Hardeman's trial into two phases. The first, decided Tuesday, focused exclusively on whether or not Roundup use caused the plaintiff's cancer. The second, to begin Wednesday, will assess if Bayer is liable for damages.
"We are disappointed with the jury's initial decision, but we continue to believe firmly that the science confirms glyphosate-based herbicides do not cause cancer," Bayer spokesman Dan Childs said in a statement reported by The Guardian. "We are confident the evidence in phase two will show that Monsanto's conduct has been appropriate and the company should not be liable for Mr. Hardeman's cancer."
Some legal experts said that Chhabria's decision to split the trial was beneficial to Bayer, Reuters reported. The company had complained that the jury in Johnson's case had been distracted by the lawyers' claims that Monsanto had sought to mislead scientists and the public about Roundup's safety.
However, a remark made by Chhabria during the trial and reported by The Guardian was blatantly critical of the company.
"Although the evidence that Roundup causes cancer is quite equivocal, there is strong evidence from which a jury could conclude that Monsanto does not particularly care whether its product is in fact giving people cancer, focusing instead on manipulating public opinion and undermining anyone who raises genuine and legitimate concerns about the issue," he said.
Many regulatory bodies, including the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, have ruled that glyphosate is safe for humans, but the World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer found it was "probably carcinogenic to humans" in 2015. A university study earlier this year found that glyphosate use increased cancer risk by as much as 41 percent.
Hardeman's lawyers Jennifer Moore and Aimee Wagstaff said they would now reveal Monsanto's efforts to mislead the public about the safety of its product.
"Now we can focus on the evidence that Monsanto has not taken a responsible, objective approach to the safety of Roundup," they wrote in a statement reported by The Guardian.
Hardeman's case is considered a "bellwether" trial for the more than 760 glyphosate cases Chhabria is hearing. In total, there are around 11,200 such lawsuits pending in the U.S., according to Reuters.
University of Richmond law professor Carl Tobias told Reuters that Tuesday's decision showed that the verdict in Johnson's case was not "an aberration," and could possibly predict how future juries in the thousands of pending cases would respond.