By Fabian Schmidt
The simple mouth and nose protector — a mask made of a rather thin paper fleece, which is knotted behind the head with ribbons - was formerly used almost exclusively in operating theaters.
Doctors and assistants wear this mouthguard primarily to prevent their patients on the operating table from being infected with germs and pathogens. If the wearer of the mask coughs or sneezes, for example, most of the droplets from the mouth and throat get caught in the mask.
In the long run, however, this only works if the mask is changed regularly and disposed of hygienically and safely. In surgery, doctors must change their mask at least every two hours. If, on the other hand, a mask of this type is worn repeatedly, it quickly loses its effectiveness.
How Much Protection Does the Mask Provide?
The wearer of the mask can protect himself against droplet and smear infections, but only to a very limited extent. Although the virus usually enters the body through the mouth or eyes — if there are no open wounds — the hands play the most important role in transporting the virus.
If you decide to wear a mask, you should probably also opt for protective goggles. The surgical masks, albeit less effective in keeping the viruses out, merely function as a constant reminder not to touch your nose with your hands when it itches. Neither should you rub your eyes.
Half Masks Offer Better Protection
In addition to surgical masks, which look more like multi-layer disposable kitchen towels, there are also half masks with a real filter effect. These are more familiar to those who work in dusty environments or with aerosols. They are available either as disposable masks, usually made of strong pressed cellulose with a filter element and an exhalation valve, or as plastic masks in which a suitable filter is then inserted.
In the European Union these types of masks are divided into three FFP protection classes (filtering face piece). Although masks of protection level FFP1 are still better than surgical masks, they do not offer the desired protection against viruses. They are intended for carpenters, for example, who work at a band saw with a vacuum extraction system. Workmen may wear them to catch the coarser dust, which the vacuum cleaner is unable to catch. Or a bricklayer can put them on before mixing cement with a trowel, kicking up some dust.
Only FFP-3 class masks effectively protect the wearer from droplet aerosols, protein molecules, viruses, bacteria, fungi and spores, and even from highly dangerous dusts such as asbestos fibers.
If a Mask is Needed — Then it Needs to Be the Right One
Such high-quality filter masks can protect the wearer — unlike simple surgical masks — from infection due to their design. In other words, also from a highly infectious pathogen such as measles or tuberculosis.
But here too, protection only works if many other protective measures are taken at the same time: Strict hygiene when putting on a mask, protective goggles, gloves and plastic apron or overall, proper disposal of possibly contaminated disposable items and regular hand washing. In addition, the surroundings must always be systematically disinfected.
These masks - together with all other protective clothing — are therefore used in quarantine stations, for example, where patients who are already infected are cared for. The medical staff has to put on and take off all the protective clothing, including the protective mask, at considerable expense.
For traveling in public transport or working at a keyboard at alternating workstations, which happen to be among the worst germinators of all, this effort would be completely disproportionate.
And What About Tear Gas?
The demonstrators in Hong Kong also wore a variety of different protective masks - from simple surgical masks to half masks with filters.
Surgical masks are probably only effective in concealing the demonstrators' identity. However, when the police fire tear gas grenades that spray an aerosol, only FFP-3 filters can provide some protection. To prevent the tear gas from getting into the eyes, airtight protective goggles are absolutely necessary.
However, occupational safety filters from the hardware store do not offer any real protection. A proper full face gas mask with a military NBC filter would do the job.
And of course this also provides good protection against viruses. But in everyday life nobody wants to walk around like this.
Best Protection: Don't forget to Wash Your Hands
All masks and goggles are of little use if the most important hygienic principles are neglected. For example, if you come home after a long bus or train ride, where you touched handrails and handles, take off the mask and scratch your nose, You could have left out the protective mask just as well.
It's the same at work: if you have been typing on the computer keyboard all morning and then go to lunch without washing your hands first, you take a considerable risk. Then, wearing a mask at the computer workstation would have been of little use either.
Reposted with permission from Deutsche Welle.
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By Elliott Negin
On July 19, President Trump hosted Apollo 11 astronauts Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins and their families, along with the family of their deceased colleague Neil Armstrong, at a White House event to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the first manned landing on the moon.
"Tomorrow will represent 50 years from the time we planted a beautiful American flag on the moon," Trump said. "And that was an achievement, possibly one of the great, considered one of the great achievements ever."
Trump's fractured syntax notwithstanding, the Apollo program was indeed a stunning triumph of federal science, involving more than 34,000 National Aeronautics and Space Administration employees and 375,000 industry and university contractors. It was one of many spectacular achievements by federal and federally funded scientists over the last half-century, such as the creation of the internet, fiber optics and magnetic resonance imaging technology, not to mention the role those scientists played in providing the technical underpinning for health and environmental standards that save lives and protect critical ecosystems and wildlife habitats.
Trump's lauding of the Apollo 11 mission rang a particularly discordant note given the lengths to which his administration has gone to destroy federal science by censoring scientific findings, gagging agency scientists and fostering a hostile working environment. Since taking office, the administration has launched more than 100 attacks on science, according to my organization, the Union of Concerned Scientists — more than the George W. Bush administration amassed over its two four-year terms.
Just a day before Trump's Apollo photo op, for example, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced it would reject scientific evidence and the recommendation of its own staff scientists by not banning chlorpyrifos, the widely used agricultural pesticide shown to hamper childhood brain development. It was the agency's second scientifically indefensible chemical-related decision of the year. In April, it overruled the advice of its own scientists who urged the agency to follow the example of 55 other countries in completely banning asbestos, a known carcinogen.
“By allowing chlorpyrifos to stay in our fruits and vegetables, Trump’s @EPA is breaking the law and neglecting the… https://t.co/DCZpzQKdi9— On Capitol Hill (@On Capitol Hill)1566388800.0
Today's EPA offers a stark example of the Trump administration's crusade to dismantle science-based agencies. Nearly 1,600 employees left the EPA during the first year and a half of the EPA administration, while only 400 were hired, according to data obtained by The Washington Post through a Freedom of Information Act request. Of 1,600 employees who left, at least 260 were scientists, 185 were "environmental protection specialists" and 106 were engineers. The total number of employees at the agency today — 14,172 — is the lowest in 30 years.
Besides chopping staff, the EPA has dramatically reduced the role of outside science advisers. Last fall, EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler, a former coal industry lobbyist, disbanded a 20-member scientific advisory committee on particulate matter, failed to convene a similar panel on ozone, and packed a seven-member advisory committee on air quality standards with industry-friendly participants.
The EPA is not the only agency pushing scientists out the door. The same day the EPA made its chlorpyrifos announcement, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced that nearly two-thirds of 395 Washington, D.C.-based employees in its Economic Research Service, which provides analyses on a range of issues, and National Institute of Food and Agriculture, which oversees $1.7 billion in scientific funding, will quit rather than relocate to Kansas City.
The department's dubious rationale for moving the Research Service and National Institute is placing researchers closer to farmers and cutting costs, but its ulterior motive is to hollow out their staffs, hindering their ability to carry out their missions. Mick Mulvaney, acting White House chief of staff, acknowledged as much during a speech he gave at an Aug. 2 Republican fundraiser in South Carolina.
"You've heard about 'drain the swamp.' What you probably haven't heard is what we are actually doing," he said. "I don't know if you saw the news the other day, but the USDA just tried to move, or did move, two offices out of Washington, D.C…. Guess what happened? More than half the people quit…. What a wonderful way to sort of streamline government, and do what we haven't been able to do for a long time."
Capitol Hill Science Defenders
Some members of Congress are fighting back. Late last month, for example, the House Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress — a temporary committee with an equal number of Democrats and Republicans — unanimously approved a recommendation to resurrect the Office of Technology Assessment, a congressional watchdog agency that then-House Speaker Newt Gingrich killed in the mid-1990s.
The select committee's recommendation comes on the heels of a draft House spending bill for the 2020 fiscal year that includes $6 million to jumpstart the agency, which provided Congress with analyses on a range of topics, from acid rain to climate change to renewable energy, from 1972 to 1995.
Meanwhile, House Democrats and Republicans alike voiced their support for protecting federal science during a recent Science, Space and Technology Committee hearing on scientific integrity. Two dozen federal agencies have adopted scientific integrity policies since 2010, but they are inconsistent and difficult to enforce, so some members of Congress want to codify protections in a law.
"Allowing political power or special interests to manipulate or suppress federal science hurts, and hurts all of us," said New York Rep. Paul Tonko at the July 17 hearing. "It leads to dirtier air, unsafe water, toxic products on our shelves, and chemicals in our homes and environment. And it has driven federal inaction in response to the growing climate crisis."
Earlier this year, Tonko introduced the Scientific Integrity Act, which would guarantee federal scientists the right to share their findings with the public, ensure the accuracy of government science-related communications, and protect scientific research from political interference.
Federal science has taken an unprecedented beating during the Trump administration and remains a long way from its glory days half a century ago when it landed men on the moon. Tonko recognizes that protecting scientific integrity is a critical first step to rebuilding American scientific enterprise and that it deserves bipartisan support.
"Scientific integrity is a longstanding concern that transcends any one party or political administration," Tonko said. "The abuses directed by this president and his top officials have brought a new urgency to the issue, but the fact remains whether a Democrat or Republican sits in the [House] speaker's chair or the Oval Office, we need strong scientific integrity policies."
Elliott Negin is a senior writer at the Union of Concerned Scientists.
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Throughout Texas, there are a number of solar power companies that can install solar panels on your roof to take advantage of the abundant sunlight. But which solar power provider should you choose? In this article, we'll provide a list of the best solar companies in the Lone Star State.
Our Picks for the Best Texas Solar Companies
Each product featured here has been independently selected by the writer. If you make a purchase using the links included, we may earn commission.
- Sunpro Solar
- Longhorn Solar, Inc.
- Solartime USA
- Kosmos Solar
- Sunshine Renewable Solutions
- Alba Energy
- Circle L Solar
- South Texas Solar Systems
- Good Faith Energy
How We Chose the Best Solar Energy Companies in Texas
There are a number of factors to keep in mind when comparing and contrasting different solar providers. These are some of the considerations we used to evaluate Texas solar energy companies.
Different solar companies may provide varying services. Always take the time to understand the full range of what's being offered in terms of solar panel consultation, design, installation, etc. Also consider add-ons, like EV charging stations, whenever applicable.
When meeting with a representative from one of Texas' solar power companies, we would always encourage you to ask what the installation process involves. What kind of customization can you expect? Will your solar provider use salaried installers, or outsourced contractors? These are all important questions to raise during the due diligence process.
Texas is a big place, and as you look for a good solar power provider, you want to ensure that their services are available where you live. If you live in Austin, it doesn't do you much good to have a solar company that's active only in Houston.
Pricing and Financing
Keep in mind that the initial cost of solar panel installation can be sizable. Some solar companies are certainly more affordable than others, and you can also ask about the flexible financing options that are available to you.
To guarantee that the renewable energy providers you select are reputable, and that they have both the integrity and the expertise needed, we would recommend assessing their status in the industry. The simplest way to do this is to check to see whether they are North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP) certified or belong to the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) or other industry groups.
Types of Panels
As you research different companies, it certainly doesn't hurt to get to know the specific products they offer. Inquire about their tech portfolio, and see if they are certified to install leading brands like Tesla or Panasonic.
Rebates and Tax Credits
There are a lot of opportunities to claim clean energy rebates or federal tax credits which can help with your initial solar purchase. Ask your solar provider for guidance navigating these different savings opportunities.
Going solar is a big investment, but a warranty can help you trust that your system will work for decades. A lot of solar providers provide warranties on their technology and workmanship for 25 years or more, but you'll definitely want to ask about this on the front end.
The 10 Best Solar Energy Companies in Texas
With these criteria in mind, consider our picks for the 10 best solar energy companies in TX.
SunPower is a solar energy company that makes it easy to make an informed and totally customized decision about your solar power setup. SunPower has an online design studio where you can learn more about the different options available for your home, and even a form where you can get a free online estimate. Set up a virtual consultation to speak directly with a qualified solar installer from the comfort of your own home. It's no wonder SunPower is a top solar installation company in Texas. They make the entire process easy and expedient.
Sunpro Solar is another solar power company with a solid reputation across the country. Their services are widely available to Texas homeowners, and they make the switch to solar effortless. We recommend them for their outstanding customer service, for the ease of their consultation and design process, and for their assistance to homeowners looking to claim tax credits and other incentives.
Looking for a solar contractor with true Texas roots? Longhorn Solar is an award-winning company that's frequently touted as one of the best solar providers in the state. Their services are available in Austin, Dallas, and San Antonio, and since 2009 they have helped more than 2,000 Texans make the switch to energy efficiency with solar. We recommend them for their technical expertise, proven track record, and solar product selection.
Solartime USA is another company based in Texas. In fact, this family-owned business is located in Richardson, which is just outside of Dallas. They have ample expertise with customized solar energy solutions in residential settings, and their portfolio of online reviews attests to their first-rate customer service. We love this company for the simplicity of their process, and for all the guidance they offer customers seeking to go solar.
Next on our list is Kosmos Solar, another Texas-based solar company. They're based in the northern part of the state, and highly recommended for homeowners in the area. They supply free estimates, high-quality products, custom solar designs, and award-winning personal service. Plus, their website has a lot of great information that may help guide you while you determine whether going solar is right for you.
Sunshine Renewable Solutions is based out of Houston, and they've developed a sterling reputation for dependable service and high-quality products. They have a lot of helpful financing options, and can show you how you can make the switch to solar in a really cost-effective way. We also like that they give free estimates, so there's certainly no harm in learning more about this great local company.
"Powered by the Texas sun." That's the official tagline of Alba Energy, a solar energy provider that's based out of Katy, TX. They have lots of great information about solar panel systems and solar solutions, including solar calculators to help you tabulate your potential energy savings. Additionally, we recommend Alba Energy because all of their work is done by a trusted, in-house team of solar professionals. They maintain an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau, and they have rave reviews from satisfied customers.
Circle L Solar has a praiseworthy mission of helping homeowners slash their energy costs while participating in the green energy revolution. This is another company that provides a lot of great information, including energy savings calculators. Also note that, in addition to solar panels, Circle L Solar also showcases a number of other assets that can help you make your home more energy efficient, including windows, weatherization services, LED lighting, and more.
You can tell by the name that South Texas Solar Systems focuses its service area on the southernmost part of the Lone Star State. Their products include a wide range of commercial and residential solar panels, as well as "off the grid" panels for homeowners who want to detach from public utilities altogether. Since 2007, this company has been a trusted solar energy provider in San Antonio and beyond.
Good Faith Energy is a certified installer of Tesla solar technology for homeowners throughout Texas. This company is really committed to ecological stewardship, and they have amassed a lot of goodwill thanks to their friendly customer service and the depth of their solar expertise. In addition to Tesla solar panels, they can also install EV charging stations and storage batteries.
What are Your Solar Financing Options in Texas?
We've mentioned already that going solar requires a significant investment on the front-end. It's worth emphasizing that some of the best solar companies provide a range of financing options, allowing you to choose whether you buy your system outright, lease it, or pay for it in monthly installments.
Also keep in mind that there are a lot of rebates and state and federal tax credits available to help offset starting costs. Find a Texas solar provider who can walk you through some of the different options.
How Much Does a Solar Energy System Cost in Texas?
How much is it going to cost you to make that initial investment into solar power? It varies by customer and by home, but the median cost of solar paneling may be somewhere in the ballpark of $13,000. Note that, when you take into account federal tax incentives, this number can fall by several thousand dollars.
And of course, once you go solar, your monthly utility bills are going to shrink dramatically… so while solar systems won't pay for themselves in the first month or even the first year, they will ultimately prove more than cost-effective.
Finding the Right Solar Energy Companies in TX
Texas is a great place to pursue solar energy companies, thanks to all the natural sunlight, and there are plenty of companies out there to help you make the transition. Do your homework, compare a few options, and seek the solar provider that's right for you. We hope this guide is a helpful jumping-off point as you try to get as much information as possible about the best solar companies in Texas.
Josh Hurst is a journalist, critic, and essayist. He lives in Knoxville, TN, with his wife and three sons. He covers natural health, nutrition, supplements, and clean energy. His writing has appeared in Health, Shape, and Remedy Review.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) passed a new rule on asbestos Wednesday that it says will "close the door" on new, unapproved uses. But public health advocates warn the rule could actually open the door to increased use of the carcinogenic fibrous material.
The Significant New Use Rule (SNUR) would require any company seeking to manufacture or import asbestos for any of 15 discontinued purposes would need to get the approval of the EPA. The regulation also includes a blanket rule requiring review for "any use of asbestos not previously identified," The New York Times reported.
"Prior to this new rule, EPA did not have the ability to prevent or restrict certain asbestos products from being reintroduced into the market," EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler said in a statement reported by The New York Times.
News: EPA Strengthens Regulation of Asbestos to Close Loophole, Protect Consumers: broad new rule strengthens EPA's… https://t.co/DbV8pgO5Gj— U.S. EPA (@U.S. EPA)1555525173.0
However, some public health advocates worry that the rule creates a mechanism by which companies can introduce new uses of asbestos as long as they get approval.
"This toothless regulation requires companies to seek approval from EPA to resume manufacturing, importing, and processing of asbestos for 15 obsolete uses. It does not ban these uses, but leaves the door open to their return to the marketplace. To think that any company would willingly attempt to resurrect these 15 obsolete asbestos uses is ludicrous. That EPA would enable it is unconscionable," Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization President Linda Reinstein said in a statement.
ADAO responds to @EPA’s @EPAAWheeler dangerously inadequate new #asbestos #SNUR rule that puts corporate profits ah… https://t.co/gcNHLzECIW— Linda Reinstein (@Linda Reinstein)1555528706.0
Reinstein also noted that the rule does not cover existing uses of asbestos, such as its use by the Chlor-Alkiki industry. It also does nothing about the asbestos left in schools, homes and offices from when the material was widely used as an insulator and flame retardant.
Assistant administrator at the EPA's chemical office Alexandra Dunn told CNN that the agency was still reviewing current uses of asbestos and might propose additional regulations or bans. A few days before the new rule was announced, Wheeler told the House Energy and Commerce Committee he would ban current uses, The New York Times reported, but health advocates like Reinstein argue that Wednesday's rule does not qualify.
Consumer protection groups have spent a decade lobbying for a law change that would empower the EPA to fully ban asbestos, which kills between 12,000 and 39,275 Americans each year. When an amendment to the Toxic Substances Control Act was finally passed in 2016, requiring the EPA to assess and regulate chemicals and enabling it to do so based exclusively on their health and environmental impacts, advocates hoped a ban was in sight.
Asbestos was added to the first 10 chemicals to be assessed under the amendment, but when the EPA first issued its proposed SNUR in June 2018, advocates were disappointed. Some employees voiced concerns the rule could open the door to new asbestos uses.
The final rule is stronger than the original proposal, The New York Times pointed out, because it requires approval for any new use, not just one of 15 former uses. Some public health advocates do think it is a good start.
"Most of the things coming out of the EPA these days aren't good," retired EPA employee and current Environmental Protection Network member Gary Timm told CNN, "but their asbestos work is so well documented." However, he also thought a full ban would be a logical next step.
Environmental Working Group legislative attorney Melanie Benesh also thought a full ban was in order.
"This new rule makes it more difficult for industry to resume some abandoned uses of asbestos, but that is a half step at best," Benesh said in a statement. "Administrator Wheeler should use the authority under the new Toxic Substances Control Act law and ban all uses of asbestos. That is the only way the public can trust industry will never again be able to use this dangerous material that has literally killed tens of thousands of Americans."
Great article by @EcoWatch: Why #Asbestos Is Still a Major Public Health Threat in the U.S. by @orosane. @EPA… https://t.co/dzwD4xlsgZ— Linda Reinstein (@Linda Reinstein)1534890401.0
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The climate crisis got its moment in the sun during the ninth Democratic primary debate in Las Vegas Wednesday.
The six qualifying candidates discussed the issue for a full 16 minutes, Grist reported. The debate also marked the first time that a climate journalist was numbered among the moderators: Telemundo climate correspondent Vanessa Huac, who has covered environmental issues for more than 20 years.
"People in the United States and all over our planet are realizing that climate change is one of the most important issues of our times," Huac told NPR Tuesday ahead of the debate. "So, this is a great opportunity to really raise this issue and raise important questions to the candidates to see what are the plans, what are the proposals, how are they planning to face this existential crisis that we're facing."
This sense of public urgency around the issue is reflected in the pool of Nevadans who are likely to participate in the Democratic caucus Saturday. Eighty-six percent of them rated climate and the environment as very important or the most important issue of 2020, according to a League of Conservation Voters and Nevada Conservation League poll released last week. The poll also found that the issue came second to health care for most voters when deciding who to vote for. But for Latinx voters, who make up 20 percent of the Nevada voting block, climate was even more important than health care and immigration, InsideClimate News reported.
As we kick off climate talk in the #DemDebate, remember 86% of likely caucus-goers in Nevada think climate & the en… https://t.co/1RMNH0DvHK— LCV – League of Conservation Voters (@LCV – League of Conservation Voters)1582167857.0
So how did the candidates address voters' concerns?
Wednesday's climate discussion was kicked off by Jon Ralston of the Nevada Independent, who pointed out that Reno and Las Vegas were among the fastest-warming cities in the country. He then directed his first question at former Vice President Joe Biden.
"What specific policies would you implement that would keep Las Vegas and Reno livable, but also not hurt those economies?" he asked, according to an NBC debate transcript.
Biden first focused on technical solutions, saying he would invest $47 billion in renewable energy and battery technology. He also said he would reverse President Donald Trump's environmental rollbacks and install 500,000 new electric vehicle charging stations in every highway his administration built or repaired.
"And I would invest in rail, in rail. Rail can take hundreds of thousands, millions of cars off the road if we have high-speed rail," Biden said.
While calling climate change the existential threat facing humanity, @JoeBiden calls for greater investments in gre… https://t.co/AGBQMGwTiW— LCV – League of Conservation Voters (@LCV – League of Conservation Voters)1582169414.0
Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, meanwhile, touted his success shuttering 304 of 530 coal plants in the U.S. as part of his Beyond Coal campaign with the Sierra Club. He also said he would rejoin the Paris agreement.
Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) repeated her argument that addressing climate change requires addressing corruption in government.
"The first thing I want to do in Washington is pass my anti-corruption bill so that we can start making the changes we need to make on climate," she said. "And the second is the filibuster. If you're not willing to roll back the filibuster, then you're giving the fossil fuel industry a veto overall of the work that we need to do."
One major point of disagreement between the candidates was on whether or not to ban fracking.
Both Sen. Amy Klobuchar, (D-Minn.) and Bloomberg argued that natural gas is a "transitional fuel" between dirtier fuels like coal and renewable energy. Klobuchar said she would review every natural gas permit on a case-by-case basis and only approve them if they were safe. Bloomberg also said it was important to make sure natural gas extraction was done properly to not release excess methane. But he said it was not possible to abandon the fuel.
"We want to go to all renewables. But that's still many years from now," Bloomberg said.
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), on the other hand, has called for a fracking ban within the next five years, and addressed concerns that such a ban would hurt jobs. Sanders said the moment was too urgent not to act, and that the Green New Deal he supports would create as many as 20 million well-paying jobs.
"This is a moral issue, my friends. We have to take the responsibility of making sure that the planet we leave our children and grandchildren is a planet that is healthy and habitable," he said. "That is more important than the profits of the fossil fuel industry."
"We are fighting for the future of this planet," said @BernieSanders. "And the #GreenNewDeal, which I support by th… https://t.co/kTosBHGPCM— LCV – League of Conservation Voters (@LCV – League of Conservation Voters)1582170252.0
Also on the issue of jobs, Warren was challenged on her plan to ban mining and drilling on public lands, which is an important industry in Nevada. Public lands are also potential sources of minerals like lithium and copper necessary for renewable energy technology.
Warren said she would make an exception for minerals that are needed to transition away from fossil fuels.
"If we need to make exceptions because there are specific minerals that we've got to have access to, then we locate those and we do it not in a way that just is about the profits of giant industries, but in a way that is sustainable for the environment," she said.
Another point of disagreement was how to respond to China, which is currently the world's No. 1 emitter of greenhouse gases.
Bloomberg argued that it was important not to "go to war" with China on emissions but rather to negotiate.
"What you have to do is convince the Chinese that it is in their interest, as well. Their people are going to die just as our people are going to die. And we'll work together," he said.
But Former South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg argued for the need for "hard tools" to ensure emissions fell worldwide.
"I'm a little skeptical of the idea that convincing is going to do the trick when it comes to working with China," he said. "America has repeatedly overestimated our ability to shape Chinese ambitions."
Both Biden and Warren, unprompted, raised the issue of environmental justice.
"[M]inority communities are the communities that are being most badly hurt by the way in which we deal with climate change," Biden said while answering a question about his plans to hold fossil fuel executives accountable for their pollution. "They are the ones that become the victims. That's where the asthma is, that's where the groundwater supply has been polluted. That's where, in fact, people, in fact, do not have the opportunity to be able to get away from everything from asbestos in the walls of our schools."
Warren later spoke up to "make sure that the question of environmental justice gets more than a glancing blow in this debate."
She touted her $1 trillion dollar plan to repair the environmental damage that had already been done to communities of color.
"We have to own up to our responsibility," she said. "We cannot simply talk about climate change in big, global terms. We need to talk about it in terms of rescuing the communities that have been damaged."
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FDA testing turned up tremolite asbestos in the following products, the agency said:
- Claire's Eye Shadows – Batch No/Lot No: 08/17
- Claire's Compact Powder – Batch No/Lot No: 07/15
- Claire's Contour Palette – Batch No/Lot No: 04/17
Claire's, which markets jewelry and makeup to teens and pre-teens, told the FDA that it did not believe the products in question were still for sale in its stores, but the FDA urged anyone who still had these products at home to stop using them.
#WARNING: FDA is advising consumers NOT to use certain @claires eye shadows, compact powder, & contour powder produ… https://t.co/8jHDCrlHkp— FDA Cosmetics (@FDA Cosmetics)1551815733.0
Reports that Clare's cosmetics contained tremolite asbestos first emerged in 2017, CNN reported, and the retailer took nine makeup products off of the shelf in response. The FDA then tested the products as a response to those concerns.
"Each day, cosmetic products are sold to consumers across the U.S. – some to children under the age of 18, still in the formative years of development. These products are used as part of daily beauty and cleansing routines, often times on the skin's most sensitive areas, like the face, eyelids and lips. That's why it's so important that cosmetic products are safe, properly labeled and free of contamination," outgoing FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb and Director of the Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition Susan Mayne said in a statement about the test results.
Claire's, which filed for bankruptcy in March 2018 and only emerged last October, disputed the FDA's results.
"The recent test results the FDA have shared with us show significant errors. Specifically, the FDA test reports have mischaracterized fibers in the products as asbestos, in direct contradiction to established EPA and USP criterion for classifying asbestos fibers. Despite our efforts to discuss these issues with the FDA, they insisted on moving forward with their release," the company said in a statement.
At Claire’s, customer safety is paramount, and we pride ourselves on providing our customers with the highest quali… https://t.co/qyacKoOYRU— Claire's (@Claire's)1551883118.0
Claire's further claimed that tests conducted by independent, accredited laboratories in 2018 had shown that the products followed safety guidelines.
"Out of an abundance of caution, we have removed the three products identified by the FDA from our stores, and are also removing any remaining talc-based cosmetic products," company spokeswoman Melanie Berry told The New York Times. "There is no evidence that any products sold by Claire's are unsafe."
Asbestos can end up in makeup products because it is found near talc, a common cosmetics ingredient. Because of this, talc can end up being contaminated with asbestos if not mined carefully, the FDA explained. Late last year, a Reuters investigation revealed that Johnson & Johnson had known about asbestos contamination in its talcum baby powder for decades. Asbestos is a known carcinogen that has been linked to many health problems including mesothelioma, an aggressive cancer.
In their statement, Gottlieb and Mayne explained that the law governing the FDA's oversight of cosmetics had not been updated since 1938 and does not require the FDA to test cosmetics products before they are sold to customers.
"[W]hen it comes to cosmetics," they said, "our authority hasn't changed in many years even as the industry has undergone rapid evolution. Right now, when it comes to cosmetics, companies and individuals who market these products in the U.S. hold the responsibility for the safety and labeling of their products."
Gottlieb and Mayne announced various steps they would take to help ensure cosmetics sold in the U.S. are safe, including
1. Ask cosmetics manufacturers for information on how they make sure their products are safe, especially concerning how they ensure talc is asbestos free.
2. Ask companies to voluntarily register their products and list their ingredients with the FDA's Voluntary Cosmetic Registration Program (VCRP).
4. Continue work on keeping talc safe from asbestos specifically.
5. Work with Congress to update the ways that the FDA is empowered to regulate cosmetics.
The 2017 testing also showed asbestos in Justice makeup products, and the FDA's testing confirmed its presence in one Justice cosmetic, but the product in question was recalled in December 2017. While Clarie's has withdrawn the products, it has refused to recall them, the FDA said.
"We understand how concerning this finding is for any consumer and parents whose children may have used one of these products. We take these concerns, and our obligation to protect consumers, seriously. Because of the health risks posed by asbestos, which are well-documented by other government agencies, we want to reassure all parents and consumers that the FDA is dedicated to exploring new ways to better protect Americans from this and other public health risks and preventing consumers from being exposed to similar risks from cosmetics," Gottlieb and Mayne said.
‘Companies Should Not Be Allowed to Use Hazardous Ingredients in Products People Use’: Michelle Pfeiffer Speaks Up for Safer Cosmetics
The beauty products we put on our skin can have important consequences for our health. Just this March, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warned that some Claire's cosmetics had tested positive for asbestos. But the FDA could only issue a warning, not a recall, because current law does not empower the agency to do so.
Michelle Pfeiffer wants to change that.
The actress and Environmental Working Group (EWG) board member was spotted on Capitol Hill Thursday lobbying lawmakers on behalf of a bill that would increase oversight of the cosmetics industry, The Washington Post reported.
Today in celebrity spotting on the Hill: Michelle Pfeiffer https://t.co/zg0xVN2zAJ— Tal Kopan (@Tal Kopan)1558631389.0
Pfeiffer was there to promote the Personal Care Product Safety Act, a bi-partisan effort co-sponsored by Democratic California Senator Dianne Feinstein and Republican Maine Senator Susan Collins to update cosmetic regulations that have remained largely unchanged since 1938.
"Thanks to Sens. Feinstein and Collins and other congressional leaders for taking on such an important and overdue cause to clean up the cosmetics industry," Pfeiffer said in an EWG press release. "Companies should not be allowed to use hazardous ingredients in products people use and apply to their skin every day. As a parent, I am particularly concerned about the ingredients in products marketed toward infants and children. Parents and expectant parents deserve to know that the soaps, lotions and other products they put on their kids' skin is free of toxic chemicals."
Currently, as EWG explained, cosmetic manufacturers do not have to:
- Register their products with the FDA
- Submit ingredients lists
- Follow safe manufacturing standards
- Share safety records
- Report hospitalizations or other health impacts
Food and medical products, on the other hand, are subject to all or most of these controls. The act supported by Pfeiffer would close these loopholes and empower the FDA to recall products if a company refuses to do so voluntarily, according to EWG's bill summary.
Pfeiffer has long been concerned with the safety of cosmetics, particularly perfume, Fast Company noted. In addition to lobbying for change, she has also launched her own brand of perfume called Henry Rose that limits its ingredient pool to 250 out of the 3,000 used by most perfumers. Hers is the first perfume to earn the EWG VERIFIED™ mark, the group said.
"Michelle first found EWG after doing her own research about what products were the safest for her family, and no one is more committed to seeing these much-needed reforms by Sens. Feinstein and Collins become law," EWG President Ken Cook, who joined Pfeiffer on Capitol Hill Thursday, said in the press release. "EWG has advocated for new federal cosmetics industry standards for nearly 20 years, and it feels like the moment is upon us."
"@EWG has advocated for new federal #cosmetics industry standards for nearly 20 years, and it feels like the moment… https://t.co/UxQdFWXPzA— Monica (@Monica)1558636800.0
Pfeiffer isn't the first celebrity to team up with EWG for safer cosmetics. Last year, Kourtney Kardashian attended a Senate briefing on the bill at EWG's invitation, The Washington Post reported.
- Asbestos ›
- Asbestos-Laced Makeup: Children's Products Continue to Be ... ›
- Claire's Cosmetics Test Positive for Asbestos, FDA Warns - EcoWatch ›
By Elliott Negin
On July 8, President Trump hosted a White House event to unabashedly tout his truly abysmal environmental record. The following day, coincidentally, marked the one-year anniversary of Andrew Wheeler at the helm of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), first as acting administrator and then as administrator after the Senate confirmed him in late February.
The good news, if there is any, is that Wheeler is an Eagle Scout compared to his ethically challenged predecessor, Scott Pruitt. The bad news is, as predicted, Wheeler has been more effective than Pruitt in rolling back and eliminating EPA safeguards.
My organization, the Union of Concerned Scientists, has compiled a list of 80 Trump administration attacks on science since taking office, and Wheeler has been the driving force behind many of them. Below are 10 of the more egregious ways he has undermined the EPA's time-honored role to protect public health and the environment so far.
1. Sidelined Scientists
Wheeler, a former coal industry lobbyist, has taken a number of steps to systematically reduce the role of scientists in the agency's policymaking process. Last fall, for example, he eliminated the agency's Office of the Science Advisor, which counseled the EPA administrator on research supporting health and environmental standards, and placed the head of the EPA's Office of Children's Health Protection on administrative leave. He also disbanded a 20-member scientific advisory committee on particulate matter, or soot; failed to convene a similar panel on ozone; and packed a seven-member advisory committee on air quality standards with industry-friendly participants.
2. Proposed to Restrict the Use of Scientific Data
Claiming his intent is to increase "transparency," Wheeler is promoting a rule Pruitt proposed that would dramatically limit the scientific studies the agency considers when developing health standards. If adopted, the rule would restrict the use of scientific studies in EPA decisions if the underlying data are not public and reproducible, which would disqualify many epidemiological and other health studies the EPA relies on to set science-based public safeguards. Given that EPA health standards often rely on studies that contain private patient information, as well as confidential business information that cannot be revealed, the rule would significantly hamper the agency's ability to carry out its mission. Wheeler plans to finalize the rule sometime this year.
3. Gutted the Coal Ash Rule
The first major rule Wheeler signed as acting administrator refuted his claim that he could fulfill President Trump's directive to "clean up the air, clean up the water, and provide regulatory relief" at the same time. By rolling back the Obama-era coal ash rule, Wheeler provided regulatory relief to his old friend the coal industry by weakening environmental protections established in 2015 to clean up coal ash ponds, which are laced with toxic contaminants that leak into groundwater. The move was a top priority for coal baron Bob Murray, owner of Murray Energy, Wheeler's most lucrative client when he worked for the Faegre Baker Daniels law firm.
Coal-fired power plants have been dumping this residue from burning coal into giant, unlined pits for decades. According to the EPA, there are more than 1,000 coal ash disposal sites across the country, and a recent analysis by Earthjustice and the Environmental Integrity Project found that 91 percent of the coal plants filing monitoring data required by the 2015 rule are polluting water with unsafe levels of toxic contaminants. Wheeler's EPA says the new rule—which extends the deadline for closing some leaking ash ponds and allows states to suspend groundwater monitoring and set their own standards—will save utilities as much as $31 million. But the agency ignored the enormous costs of cancer and neurological and cardiovascular diseases linked to coal ash ingredients, which include arsenic, chromium, lead and mercury.
4. Recommended Unsafe Levels of Drinking Water Contaminants
Poly- and perfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), which are used in firefighting foam and a variety of nonstick, cleaning, packaging and other household products, have been linked to thyroid disease and kidney, liver, pancreatic and testicular cancer. According to a recent study by the Environmental Working Group and Northeastern University, these chemicals threaten the drinking water supplies of an estimated 19 million Americans. A 2018 Union of Concerned Scientists report, meanwhile, found that PFAS water contamination at 130 military bases across the country exceed the 11-parts-per-trillion safety threshold determined by the Department of Health and Human Services Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. Nearly two-thirds of the sites had contamination that was more than 100 times higher than the safe level.
In February, Wheeler announced the "first-ever nationwide action plan" to regulate PFAS chemicals in water, saying the agency would develop and set a limit for two of the most prevalent PFAS chemicals, perfluorooctanoic acid and perfluorooctanesulfonic acid. During the announcement, he told reporters he believes the agency's voluntary 70-part-per-trillion health-advisory level for the chemicals is "a safe level for drinking water," despite the fact that this level is more than six times higher than what the Disease Registry considers safe.
While Wheeler slow-walks the EPA's response, members of Congress have introduced at least a dozen bills to address PFAS contamination, and the Senate recently passed a defense bill that would require the EPA to set a science-based standard for PFAS in drinking water.
5. Rolled Back Clean Water Act Protections
Clearing up a decade-long dispute over the scope of the Clean Water Act, the Obama EPA adopted a broad, science-based definition of the law that included protecting intermittent and ephemeral streams and wetlands that do not have surface water connections to other waterways. A 2015 EPA meta-analysis of more than 1,200 peer-reviewed studies concluded that even infrequently flowing small streams and isolated wetlands can affect "the integrity of downstream waters." Trash them and that pollution could wind up in rivers, lakes, reservoirs and estuaries.
Regardless, Wheeler announced plans during a December telephone press briefing to reverse the Obama EPA definition of waters protected by the Clean Water Act, a thinly disguised gift to land developers and the agriculture industry. When asked what wetlands would no longer be protected, Wheeler replied, "We have not done … a detailed mapping of all the wetlands in the country." Likewise, EPA Office of Water head David Ross—who represented industry clients against the EPA before joining the Trump administration—told reporters on the call that the agency had no idea how many streams would be dropped from Clean Water Act protection under the proposal.In fact, Wheeler and Ross were well aware of the damage their new definition would do. At least 18 percent of streams and 51 percent of wetlands across the country would not be covered under their proposed definition, according to an internal 2017 slideshow prepared by the EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers and obtained by E&E News under the Freedom of Information Act.
6. Suppressed an Inconvenient Formaldehyde Report
Last August, Wheeler disingenuously told a Senate committee that the EPA was holding up the release of a report on the risk of cancer from formaldehyde to confirm its veracity. "I am sure we will release it," he said, "but I need to make sure that the science in the report is still accurate."
In fact, the report—which concluded that formaldehyde can cause leukemia and nose and throat cancer—was completed by EPA scientists a year before Wheeler testified, according to a Senate investigation, and their conclusion was hardly a surprise. Both the World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services National Toxicology Program have already classified formaldehyde as a known human carcinogen.
The EPA's review process normally takes 60 to 90 days. The formaldehyde report has been in limbo for at least a year and a half, a blatant giveaway to the American Chemistry Council, the U.S. chemical industry's premier trade association, which has blocked tighter restrictions on formaldehyde for decades.
7. Ignored EPA Scientists’ Advice to Ban Asbestos
Instead of heeding the advice of agency scientists and lawyers to follow the example of 55 other countries and ban asbestos completely, the EPA announced in April that it would tighten restrictions on asbestos—not ban it—despite overwhelming scientific evidence of its dangers. Manufacturers will be able to continue to use the substance if they obtain EPA approval.
Asbestos has not been produced in the United States since 2002, but is still imported for use in a wide range of commercial and consumer products, including auto brake components, roofing, vinyl floor tile, fire-resistant clothing, and cement pipes, sheets and shingles. One of the deadliest known carcinogens, asbestos kills nearly 40,000 Americans annually, mainly from lung cancer.
8. Weakened the Mercury Emissions Rule
In late December, the EPA proposed to significantly weaken a rule restricting mercury emissions from coal-fired power plants by recalculating its costs and benefits. The Obama EPA, which issued the rule in 2011, estimated it would cost utilities $7.4 billion to $9.6 billion annually to install pollution controls and lead to $37 billion to $90 billion in health benefits by reducing not only mercury, a potent neurotoxin, but also sulfur dioxide and soot, thus preventing 130,000 asthma attacks, 4,700 heart attacks, and as many as 11,000 premature deaths. The Wheeler EPA ignored the "co-benefits" of limiting sulfur dioxide and soot, and flagrantly lowballed the health benefits of curbing mercury alone at only $4 million to $6 million annually.
Most utilities have already complied with the mercury rule at a fraction of the estimated cost, but health advocates fear that this new, industry-friendly accounting method, which makes it appear that the cost to polluters far outweigh the rule's benefits, will set a precedent for the EPA to sabotage an array of other public health protections.
9. Slammed Vehicle Emission Rules Into Reverse
Last August, the EPA and the Transportation Department issued a proposal to freeze vehicle tailpipe pollution and fuel efficiency standards, rolling back a 2012 Obama-era rule requiring automakers to boost passenger vehicle fuel economy to a fleetwide average of 54 miles per gallon by 2025. In a Wall Street Journal opinion piece titled "Make Cars Great Again" published a few days before the two agencies announced their proposal, Wheeler and Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao charged that the Obama-era standards—the first to limit vehicle carbon emissions—are too burdensome for automakers and "raised the cost and decreased the supply of newer, safer vehicles."
Parroting the Trump administration's line of reasoning, Wheeler and Chao argued that fuel-efficient cars—which weigh less than gas-guzzlers—are not as safe, a contention that has been widely debunked. In fact, a 2017 study concluded that reducing the average weight of new vehicles could result in fewer traffic fatalities.
In any case, freezing the standards at 2020 levels would be hard on the planet, not to mention Americans' wallets, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists. It would result in an additional 2.2 billion metric tons of global warming emissions by 2040, amounting to 170 million metric tons in 2040 alone—the equivalent of the annual output of 43 average size coal-fired power plants. It also would cost drivers billions of dollars. In 2040 alone, they would have to pay an additional $55 billion to fill their gas tanks. Meanwhile, the design improvements automakers have made so far to meet the standards have already saved drivers more than $86 billion at the pump since 2012, and off-the-shelf technological fixes, the Union of Concerned Scientists says, would enable automakers to meet the original 2025 target.
10. Rescinded the Clean Power Plan
Perhaps Wheeler's most damaging move to date came late last month when he signed a final rule to repeal and replace the Obama-era Clean Power Plan, which would have required coal-fired power plants to dramatically cut their carbon emissions. Yet another gift to the coal industry, Wheeler's so-called Affordable Clean Energy rule grants states the authority to determine emissions standards but sets no targets, leaving them the option to do absolutely nothing.Before Wheeler released the final rule, an April study in the journal Environmental Research Letters found that his draft version would boost carbon emissions in 18 states and the District of Columbia and increase sulfur dioxide emissions in 19 states. The EPA's own analysis of the draft rule, meanwhile, found that the proposal could have led to as many as 1,400 premature deaths annually by 2030 due to an increase in soot, and as many as 15,000 cases of upper respiratory problems.
Reversing Decades of Bipartisan Protections
If Wheeler truly cared about transparency, he would petition the Trump administration to change the name of his agency to "Every Polluter's Ally." In just 12 months, he has killed or weakened dozens of safeguards with the sole intention of bolstering polluting industries' profit margins even after Congress slashed the corporate tax rate. As a result, millions of Americans will be drinking filthier water and breathing dirtier air, and more will suffer from serious diseases, according to his agency's own accounting.
Wheeler and his predecessor Pruitt have sullied the bipartisan track record of one of the nation's agencies entrusted with protecting public health and safety. So it is little wonder that three former EPA administrators who, notably, served under Republican presidents, recently sounded the alarm on Capitol Hill, urging legislators to step up their oversight of the agency and denouncing its attempts to hamstring science."There is no doubt in my mind that under the current administration the EPA is retreating from its historic mission to protect our environment and the health of the public from environmental hazards," former EPA Administrator Christine Todd Whitman, who served under President George W. Bush, stated in her written testimony for the House Committee on Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations. "This administration, from the beginning, has made no secret of its intention to essentially dismantle the EPA…. Therefore, I urge this committee, in the strongest possible terms, to exercise Congress's oversight responsibilities over the actions and direction of the EPA."
Elliott Negin is a senior writer at the Union of Concerned Scientists.
By Karen Spangler
If you're a new parent, it can be confusing to keep up with the latest recommendations about how to give your baby a healthy start. As scientists learn more about the dangers of toxic chemical exposure to babies' developing bodies and brains, some products haven't stood the test of time. Here are three of the biggest differences about what parents do now compared to just a generation ago.
1. Choosing Organic
Parents have been making their own baby food at home for generations, and it's a great way to know what's on your baby's plate. Who doesn't love some home-mashed sweet potatoes smeared across that cute face? But today we know more about the damaging health effects of pesticide exposure, and how long pesticide residue can linger in the fruits and vegetables we buy. Doctors recommend limiting babies' pesticide exposure as much as possible due to increased risks of tumors, leukemia and effects on brain development from these chemicals.
When you're making your baby's first foods, consider organic fruits and vegetables, or those with lower levels of pesticide residues. EWG's 2019 ranking of pesticide contamination in produce found that avocados were No. 1 on the Clean Fifteen™ list of produce least contaminated with pesticide residue. Of all the produce tested, strawberries, spinach and kale top the Dirty Dozen™ list of fruits and vegetables most likely to be contaminated with pesticide residue. To reduce your baby's exposure, buy versions of these items produced with organic farming methods.
If you're short of time, don't forget you have more options than ever for organic premade baby food, both at specialty retailers and major grocery stores.
2. Tossing the Baby Powder
Baby powder is another classic you'd think would be great for, well, babies. But airborne particles can make their way into a baby's lungs, which is especially concerning since talcum powder can contain unknown amounts of asbestos. Asbestos is a deadly carcinogen, and inhaling even a tiny amount can cause cancer later in life. Make sure to check EWG's Skin Deep® so you avoid using other products on your baby that could contain talc.
There's another reason to ditch the baby powder: It often contains fragrance, a common cause of skin irritation. Manufacturers are allowed to keep the exact fragrance ingredients under wraps, but they can include chemicals such as phthalates, which have been linked to harmful health effects.
Good alternatives: Zinc-based diaper creams create a strong protective barrier, and there are a number of EWG VERIFIED™ options. You can also find safer alternatives for your baby's personal care products in EWG's guide to choosing safer personal care products for kids.
3. Avoiding Flame Retardants
Decades ago, concerns about the fire danger of foam furniture, like sofas and mattresses, led manufacturers to add flame-retardant chemicals to many kids' products. Today scientists know these toxic chemicals carry their own serious health effects, including cancer and disruption of the endocrine system.
Penta-BDE, for years the main flame retardant added to foam products, is now banned, due to reproductive toxicity. But its replacement, triphenyl phosphate, has also been shown to accumulate in the bloodstream and cause reproductive and developmental abnormalities in animals. Considering that the average infant sleeps 12 to 16 hours a day, it's worth scrutinizing that mattress label.
To keep your baby safe, choose a crib mattress made with wool or polylactic acid for flame resistance, rather than chemical flame retardants. You should also make sure to check with the manufacturer on any hand-me-downs for flame retardants.
Additionally, avoid PVC or vinyl waterproof mattress covers; choose natural cotton with a PUL layer, or polyethylene instead.
To steer clear of flame retardants in your baby's clothing, choose snug-fitting cotton or wool pajamas, as "loose-fitting" kids' sleepwear is required by law to be flame resistant, often using toxic chemicals.
To learn more about protecting your child's health as they grow, see EWG's Children's Health Initiative for the latest research and tip sheets.
By Jessica Corbett
A Reuters investigation published Friday charges that Johnson & Johnson, a multi-billion dollar company known for its healthcare products, knew for decades that its iconic talcum baby powder "was sometimes tainted with carcinogenic asbestos," but concealed the information from regulators and the public.
Johnson & Johnson knew for decades that asbestos lurked in its Baby Powder https://t.co/iK51sDGSBS via @ReutersTV… https://t.co/s1LDDF2KCt— Reuters (@Reuters)1544805060.0
Asbestos, "the name given to six minerals that occur naturally in the environment as bundles of fibers," has been used in North America's automotive, construction and shipbuilding industries since the late 1800s, according to the National Cancer Institute. The World Health Organization (WHO) warns that "all types of asbestos cause lung cancer, mesothelioma, cancer of the larynx and ovary, and asbestosis (fibrosis of the lungs)."
Because asbestos sometimes occurs in the earth along with talc, contamination is possible. Reuters—along with attorneys for more than 11,000 plaintiffs currently suing Johnson & Johnson, claiming the company's products caused their cancer—examined memos, internal reports, and other confidential documents as well as deposition and trial testimony.
That mountain of evidence, according to Reuters, revealed:
... that from at least 1971 to the early 2000s, the company's raw talc and finished powders sometimes tested positive for small amounts of asbestos, and that company executives, mine managers, scientists, doctors, and lawyers fretted over the problem and how to address it while failing to disclose it to regulators or the public.
The documents also depict successful efforts to influence U.S. regulators' plans to limit asbestos in cosmetic talc products and scientific research on the health effects of talc.
While, over the past two decades, some legal challenges claiming that Johnson & Johnson products were tainted with asbestos and caused cancer have been unsuccessful, three recent developments seem to signal a shift. A pair of cases in New Jersey and California saw significant awards for mesothelioma patients, and a "watershed" verdict in St. Louis expanded the company's potential liability.
Outlining the St. Louis case, Reuters explained:
The 22 plaintiffs were the first to succeed with a claim that asbestos-tainted Baby Powder and Shower to Shower talc, a longtime brand the company sold in 2012, caused ovarian cancer, which is much more common than mesothelioma. The jury awarded them $4.69 billion in damages. Most of the talc cases have been brought by women with ovarian cancer who say they regularly used J&J talc products as a perineal antiperspirant and deodorant.
"When people really understand what's going on," said Mark Lanier, an attorney for one of the plaintiffs, "I think it increases J&J's exposure a thousand-fold."
Johnson & Johnson, as Reuters noted, "has dominated the talc powder market for more than 100 years, its sales outpacing those of all competitors combined ... And while talc products contributed just $420 million to J&J's $76.5 billion in revenue last year, Baby Powder is considered an essential facet of the healthcare-products maker's carefully tended image as a caring company—a 'sacred cow,' as one 2003 internal email put it."
Another attorney who's not tied to the cases against Johnson & Johnson concluded on Twitter that the 1970s memos mentioned in Reuters' report are "on par with key docs uncovered in the tobacco litigation."
Journalist Eoin Higgins, also responding on Twitter, simply said: "What a story. What the fuck."
Johnson & Johnson, meanwhile, has vowed to appeal all verdicts against it and maintains that its products are safe. The company's vice president of global media relations, Ernie Knewitz, wrote in an email to Reuters:
Plaintiffs attorneys out for personal financial gain are distorting historical documents and intentionally creating confusion in the courtroom and in the media ... This is all a calculated attempt to distract from the fact that thousands of independent tests prove our talc does not contain asbestos or cause cancer. Any suggestion that Johnson & Johnson knew or hid information about the safety of talc is false.
Following the report, the publicly traded company's shares plummeted by more than 11 percent.
Johnson & Johnson shares on track to post their biggest percentage drop in more than a decade after @Reuters report… https://t.co/lvVTe2RXGu— Reuters (@Reuters)1544803151.0
Reposted with permission from our media associate Common Dreams.
- Why Asbestos Is Still a Major Public Health Threat in the U.S. ›
- Johnson & Johnson to Stop Selling Talc Baby Powder in U.S. and Canada - EcoWatch ›
President Donald Trump's U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will not ban the agricultural use of chlorpyrifos, a toxic pesticide that the EPA's own scientists have linked to brain damage in children, The New York Times reported Thursday.
The decision, announced Thursday, was a response to a petition from public health and environmental groups who had pushed for a ban. The agency ruled that "critical questions remained regarding the significance of the data" on the pesticide's health effects, according to The Guardian.
BREAKING: Trump's @EPA announced the brain-damaging pesticide chlorpyrifos is safe and can still be used on food, although mainstream science says this pesticide is unsafe for children and farmworkers. #BanChlorpyrifos https://t.co/rzfwPovUL9— Earthjustice (@Earthjustice) July 18, 2019
The ruling is the latest in a series of Trump EPA decisions that weaken chemical safety rules, The New York Times pointed out. In April, it opted against a full ban on asbestos in favor of restrictions that critics say could usher in new uses. Also this year, it issued restrictions on a paint-stripping chemical that were weaker than a ban proposed during the Obama years. Finally, just last week, it widely expanded the use of the pesticide sulfoxaflor, which its own scientists have shown can harm bees, as HuffPost reported.
"Siding with pesticide corporations over the health and well-being of kids is the new normal at the EPA," Environmental Working Group President Ken Cook said in a statement. "Today's decision underscores the sad truth that as long as the Trump administration is in charge, this EPA will favor the interests of the chemical lobby over children's safety."
The EPA's decision came after a federal court ordered the agency to make a final call on the ban by mid-July. Chlorpyrifos has been banned for home use since 2000, but farmers have continued to spray it on crops like apples, strawberries, broccoli and corn. The Obama administration had initiated a ban on agricultural uses of the pesticide, but Trump's EPA reversed it, setting off a legal battle with environmental advocates. In the absence of federal action, states have moved against the pesticide on their own. Hawaii became the first state to ban chlorpyrifos in 2018, and California announced it would ban the chemical in May. New York is also moving towards a ban, The New York Times reported.
Research has linked chlorpyrifos exposure to lower IQ, memory loss, breathing problems and increased risk of autism in babies born to mothers who lived near farms where it was sprayed, according to The Guardian.
"What we have with chlorpyrifos is multiple academic research projects that have shown that actual children who actually live in California are being harmed by this chemical," Center for Environmental Health senior scientist Caroline Cox told The Guardian. "It's pretty rare that you have that kind of evidence for any toxic chemical."
So how was the EPA able to decide that the science wasn't conclusive? The New York Times explained that the ruling was a direct consequence of former EPA administrator Scott Pruitt's decision to limit the kinds of studies that regulators could use to make decisions:
Under Mr. Pruitt, the agency proposed a rule saying it could not consider scientific research unless the raw data behind it was made public, saying the issue was a matter of transparency. Scientists argued that studies measuring human exposure to pesticides and other chemicals often rely on confidential health information and argued the E.P.A.'s real motivation was to restrict the ability to develop regulations.
In opting not to ban chlorpyrifos, the E.P.A. rejected a major study conducted by Columbia University on its effects on children in New York City. The E.P.A. said because it was unable to obtain the raw data and replicate that study, which linked the insecticide to developmental delays, it could not independently verify the conclusions.
The 12 groups who brought the petition against the EPA vowed to keep fighting.
"We will continue to fight until chlorpyrifos is banned and children and farmworkers are safe from this dangerous chemical," they said in a joint statement reported by Earthjustice, the legal organization that represented the groups.
Former senior EPA attorney Kevin Minoli thought that federal courts would ultimately rule in favor of a ban.
"To me, this starts the clock on the use of chlorpyrifos on food crops in the US," he told the Associated Press.
- Entire Pesticide Class Must Be Banned to Save Children's Health ... ›
- California, Nation's Top User of Chlorpyrifos, Announces Ban on ... ›
- Trump White House Pushes to Let Minors Spray Brain-Damaging ... ›
- Trump EPA Won’t Regulate Toxic Drinking Water Chemical That Harms Children’s Development - EcoWatch ›
Paris officials sealed off the area around the Notre Dame Cathedral to remove lead particles that have settled after a devastating fire destroyed the iconic cathedral's roof and spire in April.
After the April 15 blaze, tons of lead melted and dispersed to the surrounding area, landing on homes, shops, schools and the streets. On Tuesday morning, police closed off an area around the cathedral to vehicles and pedestrians while workers put up a barrier fence for the 10-day cleanup to begin. The nearby train station was also closed and buses were rerouted to avoid the cleanup site. It is a priority to make sure schools and day care centers are decontaminated before a new school term starts in September, according to The Guardian.
"After the melting of at least 300 tons of lead in the gables of the spire and in the roof, Notre-Dame de Paris is now a polluted site," French environmental group Robin des Bois said in a statement, as CNN reported. "The cathedral has now become filled with toxic waste."
The cleanup crews will use two decontamination techniques for the surrounding neighborhood on Ile de la Cité, according to the cultural ministry. One method will use high-pressure water hoses with chemical agents to remove lead debris. The other involves slathering an adhesive gel on benches, streetlights, mailboxes and other fixtures to absorb the lead. After the gel dries for several dies, experts then vacuum it up with the hope that it will remove all the lead. The project should take nearly three weeks to complete, as the AP reported.
The painstaking work of decontaminating and cleaning the cathedral was suspended on July 25 after concerns were raised about the safety of the workers. Activists and nearby residents accused Paris officials of underestimating the threat of lead poisoning, according to the AP. The break from work also allowed the workers to miss the crippling heat that set new high-temperature records at the end of July. The work will resume again next week with high temperatures predicted in the lower to mid-70s.
"Our priority is to foresee any risk that could affect employees working on the site," Michel Cadot, the prefect, said in a statement, as CNN reported. "With new safety protocols and the delivery of two new decontamination units, the quality of lead decontamination of workers, machinery and equipment will be optimized. Thus, the site will continue to be safely ramped up."
The threat of lead came to the forefront last week when Paris officials announced that a young boy needs monitoring since he is at risk of lead poisoning. So far, 162 children who live near Notre Dame have been tested for lead poisoning since the fire. From that cohort, 16, or nearly 10 percent, tested just shy of "at-risk" and warrant monitoring and future testing, according to Fox News.
"We have to realise that the 400 tons of lead that were spread corresponds to four times the lead emissions in the whole of France for a year," said Annie Thébaud-Mony, research director at the National Institute for Health and Medical Research, as The Guardian reported. "Lead is as bad as asbestos in terms of poison. At the time of the blaze, the firefighters should have been better protected, in my opinion. The same goes for those who began work (on the cathedral)."
President Emmanuel Macron has set a five-year target to complete renovations on the 850-year-old cathedral.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) isn't doing enough to protect the 50 million school children and seven million teachers and staff who spend time in U.S. private and public schools from asbestos exposure.
That's the conclusion of a report released Monday by the EPA's Office of Inspector General (OIG), the agency's internal watchdog.
The report assessed the EPA's compliance with the Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act (AHERA) of 1986, an amendment to the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) that requires local education agencies to inspect schools for asbestos, make asbestos management plans and carry out actions to reduce or prevent asbestos exposure.
"Even though the EPA was responsible for conducting AHERA compliance inspections for the majority of states, it conducted fewer inspections overall than the states responsible for their own inspections," the report found.
Between 2011 and 2015, the EPA conducted only 13 percent of inspections required under AHERA, while states in charge of their own inspections conducted 87 percent.
The report further found that only one EPA region had a strategy for monitoring compliance under TSCA, and five of 10 regions only inspected for asbestos when there was a complaint.
"Without compliance inspections, the EPA cannot know whether schools pose an actual risk of asbestos exposure to students and personnel," the report said.
The OIG recommended that the EPA mandate that regions incorporate asbestos monitoring into TSCA monitoring plans generally and tell local education agencies that they must work with regional offices to establish asbestos management plans that are maintained and to make sure the plans are being followed.
Trump's EPA blamed the Obama administration for the lax enforcement, and it is true that the period highlighted by the study coincides with the Obama presidency.
"The previous administration did not do enough to provide adequate protections to children from asbestos exposure. The Trump administration is taking proactive steps to reduce asbestos exposure, which includes a new proposed regulation that, for the first time, would prohibit the currently unregulated former uses of asbestos," EPA spokesman Michael Abboud said in a statement reported by The Hill.
The proposed regulation in question, the Significant New Use Rule (SNUR) for asbestos, would require manufacturers to gain EPA approval before starting importing, manufacturing or processing of asbestos.
But public health advocates, and some EPA staffers, have expressed concerns that the SNUR could actually be used to expand the use of asbestos in the U.S. by allowing companies to petition for uses on a case-by-case basis.
Trump's EPA has also been criticized for saying it will not consider the health risk posed by asbestos already in the environment when it evaluates it as one of the first 10 chemicals it will study for a potential ban under a 2016 amendment to TSCA.
Significant amounts of asbestos were used in American schools from 1946 to 1972, the OIG report said.
It was commonly used as insulation and flame retardant, and can be found in older schools in vinyl flooring, textured paint and patching on walls and steam and water pipes.
Children and teachers in schools can be exposed when asbestos is disturbed by construction or remodeling, the OIG said.
"Asbestos exposure risk is higher in children because they are more active, breathe at higher rates and through the mouth, and spend more time closer to the floor where asbestos fibers can accumulate," the report said.
Sixty-five countries currently ban #asbestos which was once widely used as an insulator and flame retardant in buil… https://t.co/koY3eGWh3L— Save the U.S. EPA (@Save the U.S. EPA)1534909630.0