Day: October 24, 2012

Students use social media to gather climate change information

Read the full story at Great Lakes Echo.

A group of Central Michigan University students is using social media to gather information on climate change and periodic natural events, in the Great Lakes region.

Tom Rohrer, the director of the Great Lakes Institute for Sustainable Systems at Central Michigan University,  and his students created a Facebook page called  “Climate Change in the Great Lakes Basin.”  On the page students post studies, articles, pictures and other observation, which address changing weather patterns. The page is also open for the public to post  their observations, creating a free and vast collection of climate change information.

Exposure Science in the 21st Century: A Vision and a Strategy (2012)

Download the document.

From the use of personal products to our consumption of food, water, and air, people are exposed to a wide array of agents each day–many with the potential to affect health. Exposure Science in the 21st Century: A Vision and A Strategy investigates the contact of humans or other organisms with those agents (that is, chemical, physical, and biologic stressors) and their fate in living systems. The concept of exposure science has been instrumental in helping us understand how stressors affect human and ecosystem health, and in efforts to prevent or reduce contact with harmful stressors. In this way exposure science has played an integral role in many areas of environmental health, and can help meet growing needs in environmental regulation, urban and ecosystem planning, and disaster management.

Exposure Science in the 21st Century: A Vision and A Strategy explains that there are increasing demands for exposure science information, for example to meet needs for data on the thousands of chemicals introduced into the market each year, and to better understand the health effects of prolonged low-level exposure to stressors. Recent advances in tools and technologies–including sensor systems, analytic methods, molecular technologies, computational tools, and bioinformatics–have provided the potential for more accurate and comprehensive exposure science data than ever before. This report also provides a roadmap to take advantage of the technologic innovations and strategic collaborations to move exposure science into the future.

EPA Awards $1.2 Million to Improve Indoor Air Quality

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced today it will provide a combined $1.2 million in funding to 32 state and local governments, tribes, and non-profit organizations for indoor air quality projects. The funding will support recipients’ efforts to improve indoor air quality, which will better protect the health of Americans in classrooms, communities and homes across the country.

Education projects, training and outreach efforts supported by the funding will help reduce the environmental health risks of indoor air contaminants such as radon and asthma triggers. From organizing and training speakers on how to educate parents of children with asthma, to providing technical assistance that will help school districts develop indoor air quality management plans, these projects will help protect children and families. EPA emphasized selecting projects that assist low income and minority families that are disproportionately impacted by poor indoor air quality.

“EPA is proud to be working with our awardees across the nation to improve the air we breathe at school, work and home,” said Gina McCarthy, assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation. “American communities face serious health and environmental challenges from air pollution. This effort gives us an opportunity to improve indoor air quality by increasing awareness of environmental health risks.”

Indoor air pollutants in homes, buildings, and schools can negatively impact the health of occupants. Some pollutants cause health problems such as sore eyes, burning in the nose and throat, headaches or fatigue. Others can cause worsen allergies, respiratory illnesses (such as asthma) or even cancer (from radon gas).
The projects will help improve indoor air quality and reduce the associated health risks by:

  •  Increasing effective indoor air quality practices through community level education and outreach
  •  Promoting positive indoor air quality management practices in schools by working with school districts and teachers
  •  Increasing the number of homes tested for radon, homes built with radon-resistant features, and existing homes mitigated for radon
  •  Creating awareness to reduce asthma triggers in the home and encourage the use of asthma management plans through community based asthma programs

More information about Indoor Air Assistance Agreements: http://www.epa.gov/iaq/regional_funding.html

NRC Algal Biofuel Study Notes Concerns, Innovations Needed

Read the full story at Algae Industry Magazine.

According to a National Research Council (NRC) study released today—supported by the National Academy of Sciences and sponsored by the Department of Energy—scaling up the production of biofuels made from algae to meet at least 5 percent (approximately 39 billion liters) of U.S. transportation fuel needs would place unsustainable demands on energy, water, and nutrients. However, these concerns are not a definitive barrier for future production, says the report, and innovations that would require research and development could help realize algal biofuels’ full potential.

The NRC study is titled Sustainable Development of Algal Biofuels in the United States, and is available from the National Academies Press.

 

 

EPA Awards Grants to Protect Women and Children from Mercury in Great Lakes Fish

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced two Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) grants totaling almost $1.6 million for projects to protect women and children from mercury exposure through Great Lakes fish consumption.  The funding will be used to improve health screening and to develop more effective fish consumption advisories.

“Many Great Lakes fish are unsafe to eat because of mercury contamination,” said EPA Regional Administrator and Great Lakes National Program Manager Susan Hedman. “These projects will help women make choices that minimize their exposure to mercury, but maximize the health benefits of eating fish.”

The University of Illinois at Chicago will receive $192,258 for a project to recruit Great Lakes area health care providers and their pregnant patients to participate in a study evaluating the link between fish consumption and mercury levels in blood. The project will determine whether a single question about fish consumption is an effective screening tool to predict which women are likely to have elevated mercury levels and a related increase in potential health risks to their children. Data will also be analyzed to determine whether recreational anglers and tribal members have higher levels of mercury in their blood than the general population.

“When families sit down to dinner, they shouldn’t have to worry about contaminants in their food.  Toxins – like the mercury frequently found in the Great Lakes’ fish populations – can be especially harmful to women and children. Today’s funding will help increase awareness of mercury contamination in fish found in the Great Lakes, and give mothers and their families the opportunity to make healthier choices about what they eat,” said Sen. Dick Durbin.

The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) will receive $1.4 million for a project to improve health screening and to develop more effective fish consumption advisories in the Lake Superior Basin, where a previous EPA-funded study found that nearly one in 10 infants had mercury levels higher than those recommended as safe by EPA.   The Grand Portage Chippewa Tribe and the Sawtooth Mountain Clinics in Grand Portage and Grand Marais, Minnesota will participate in the MDH project.  Physicians affiliated with the clinics will survey consenting female patients of childbearing age about fish consumption and test blood mercury levels. Patients will also be counseled to promote safe fish consumption choices.

“Fish are critical to the diets of people all over Minnesota and all around the Great Lakes region – including members of Minnesota’s Native Tribes,” said Sen. Al Franken. “That’s why it’s so important that we do everything we can to protect Minnesotans from dangerous contaminants like mercury that can become concentrated in fish. For years, I’ve been working to support efforts to protect Minnesotans’ health and restore the Great Lakes – including the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative – and I’m so pleased that the Minnesota Department of Health and Grand Portage Band of Lake Superior Chippewa have received this funding.”

Schoolyard Wildlife Habitat Development Grant

The IDNR, Illinois Conservation Foundation, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program are partners in offering funds to teachers and youth group leaders for wildlife habitat development or enhancement on school grounds or other public property. Up to $1,000 per applicant is available. The application deadline is November 30, 2012. Visit http://dnr.state.il.us/education/CLASSRM/grants.htm to access the instructions and application form.

New Study Supports Water Contamination Due to Fracking

Read the full story from EcoWatch.

An independent analysis of new U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) water monitoring data verifies a 2011 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) investigation into whether hydraulic fracturing contaminated the Wind River aquifer near Pavillion, Wyoming — an important groundwater source that provides water to thousands of Wyoming residents and farmers.

The preliminary results of U.S. EPA’s study was one of the first to document hydrocarbons consistent with fracking fluid chemicals in drinking water wells and monitoring wells located near natural gas wells. The U.S. EPA’s preliminary results have since been attacked by the oil and gas industry, as they seek to continue their dangerous practices and protect their own interests over public health and safety. USGS’s study was conducted specifically to check the U.S. EPA’s results.

  • Read Dr. Myers’ analysis here.
  • View the U.S. Geological Survey’s data here.