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Toxic Toys? After Nine Years, a Ban on Harmful Chemicals Becomes Official

Phthalates are a particularly harmful type of chemical, used, among a range of other ways, to soften plastic in children's toys and products like pacifiers and teething rings. In response to mounting concern about the serious health impacts of phthalates—most notably, interference with hormone production and reproductive development in young children—Congress voted overwhelmingly in 2008 to outlaw the use of a few phthalates in these products and ordered the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) to assess the use of other types of the chemical in these products. After much delay, the CPSC voted 3–2 Wednesday to ban five additional types of phthalates in kids' toys and childcare products.

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Pruitt Wants to Make the EPA Less Accountable to the Public

When the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) breaks the law by missing deadlines, allowing polluters to violate regulations that protect our health and environment, one way the public holds it accountable is by taking the agency to court. Scott Pruitt and his corporate polluter allies see this as a problem, so Monday, the administrator moved to curtail the agency's practice of settling lawsuits with outside groups, making it easier to skirt the law.

"Pruitt's doing nothing more than posturing about a nonexistent problem and political fiction," John Walke, director of the Natural Resources Defense Council's Climate and Clean Air program said in reaction. "His targeting of legal settlements, especially where EPA has no defense to breaking the law, will just allow violations to persist, along with harms to Americans."

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Animals
The Amur tiger is the extinct Caspian tiger's closest living relative. Mathias Appel / Flickr

After a Half-Century, Tigers May Return to Kazakhstan

Wild tigers may be on their way back to Kazakhstan.

This news is surprising for a few reasons. First, most people associate tigers with the jungles of India or Sumatra, even the snowy slopes of eastern Russia—not the dry landscapes of Central Asia. But Iran, Turkey and Kazakhstan were once home to thriving populations of Caspian tigers. Unfortunately, sometime between the 1940s and '70s, this subspecies went extinct due to widespread trapping, hunting, poisoning and habitat degradation.

Second, Kazakhstan isn't a nation that often comes up in conversations about conservation. In fact, if Americans recognize the world's largest landlocked nation for anything, it's probably the movie Borat.

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Trump EPA 'Cooks the Books' to Hide Benefits of Clean Power Plan

It appears that the Trump administration has seriously underestimated the costly toll of climate change in its efforts to repeal the Clean Power Plan (CPP) based on a new document released Tuesday by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

The 198-page proposed analysis shows the supposed costs and benefits of undoing the Obama-era climate policy. However, as the Washington Post reported, the document shows that the Scott Pruitt-led EPA puts the cost of one ton of emissions of carbon dioxide between $1 and $6 in the year 2020—a dramatic decrease of the previous administration's 2020 estimate of $45.

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Animals
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UK Takes Significant Step Towards Ivory Ban

By Elly Pepper

The last few years have seen a number of countries close their ivory markets as a way to help curb the current poaching crisis, which is driving elephants towards extinction. Indeed, the U.S. placed a near-total ban on its ivory market between 2014 and 2016 and China will close its market—the biggest in the world—by the end of this year.

Friday, the United Kingdom—one of the world's largest domestic ivory markets—joined these countries in combating the illegal ivory trade by releasing an impressive proposed ivory ban and requesting public comments.

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TransCanada Terminates Energy East Pipeline

TransCanada, the same company behind the controversial Keystone XL, is abandoning its proposed Energy East pipeline and Eastern Mainline projects.

President and CEO Russ Girling said Thursday morning in Calgary that the company will inform Canada's pipeline regulator, the National Energy Board (or NEB), and Quebec's Environment Department that "we will no longer be proceeding" with the projects.

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Will the EPA Weaken Landmark Clean Car Standards?

By Luke Tonachel

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that it is reconsidering landmark clean car standards that were poised to provide deep reductions in carbon pollution and save consumers $92 billion at the pump. The agency determined in January that the standards for model years 2022 to 2025—originally set in 2012—are achievable and should remain in place. Now, at the urging of automakers, the EPA is shifting into reverse.

The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) strongly opposes reopening and weakening the clean car standards, a point we made clear in recent testimony to the EPA. The automakers can meet the current standards with known technologies at reasonable cost. They have no excuses. Rolling them back, however, would increase pollution, raise costs for drivers, slow innovation and put jobs at risk.

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Animals
A young black bear in Bozeman, Montana. James Hager / Media Bakery

Resolving a Real-Life Rivalry Between Bears and Honeybees

By Corey Binns

Dressed in a white beekeeping suit, Zack Strong tried to ignore the honeybees buzzing around his hood as he pounded fence posts into late summer's rock-hard ground about 20 miles southwest of Columbus, Montana. The native Montanan and advocate for the Natural Resources Defense Council's (NRDC) Land and Wildlife program had made the trip from his home in Bozeman to these endless, rolling plains stretching north and east of the towering Beartooth Mountains to resolve a conflict between a storied pair of rivals, bees and bears. Black bears had recently bothered bee yards in this area, jeopardizing business for local apiarists in the nation's second-largest honey-producing state.

As anyone familiar with Winnie the Pooh will know—and as Dr. Alex Few, a biologist with U.S. Department of Agriculture's Wildlife Services, will attest to—conflicts between honeybees and bears are not new. Both black and grizzly bears love honey and will also eat bees and their larvae. But now that bear populations are expanding, conflicts are cropping up in new areas, Few noted.

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Zinke’s Monument Review: Another Gift to Oil, Gas and Coal

By Jacob Eisenberg

Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke has recommended that his boss, President Trump, do what no President has done before: fundamentally change and substantially diminish America's national monuments. "Energy dominance" is a theme that has permeated Zinke's statements and acts as Interior Secretary. But its conspicuous scarcity in his rhetoric around the monument review should not fool anyone into thinking that increasing the availability of fossil fuel is not a significant motivation for the administration's attack on our monuments.

Rather, fossil fuel boosters played a key role in placing the monuments in the Secretary's crosshairs. The Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments, in particular, have faced a concerted campaign for their elimination by, among others, fossil fuel-linked advocates who want to open access to the oil, gas and coal resources within and around their boundaries. If the president or Congress accept Zinke's recommendations, it would be against the will and interest of the American public—a capitulation of American treasures to pad the profits of the world's richest industries.

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