Day: March 9, 2016

Governments of Canada and the United States Announce Phosphorus Reduction Targets of 40 percent to Improve Lake Erie Water Quality and Reduce Public Health Risk

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy and Canada’s Environment and Climate Change Minister Catherine McKenna have announced that Canada and the U.S. have adopted targets to reduce phosphorus entering affected areas of Lake Erie by 40 percent. The targets announced today will minimize the extent of low oxygen “dead zones” in the central basin of Lake Erie; maintain algae growth at a level consistent with healthy aquatic ecosystems; and maintain algae biomass at levels that do not produce toxins that pose a threat to human or ecosystem health.

Through the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement, Canada and the United States committed in 2012 to combat the growing threat of toxic and nuisance algae development in Lake Erie, and agreed to develop updated binational phosphorus reduction targets for Lake Erie by February 2016. The 40 percent reduction targets are based on 2008 loading levels. Canada and the United States have committed to develop domestic action plans, by no later than February 2018, to help meet the new targets.

“To protect public health, we must restore the Great Lakes for all those who depend on them,” said Gina McCarthy, Administrator, United States Environmental Protection Agency. “The first step in our urgent work together to protect Lake Erie from toxic algae, harmful algal blooms, and other effects of nutrient runoff, is to establish these important phosphorus limits. But, establishing these targets is not the end of our work together. We are already taking action to meet them.”

The Honourable Catherine McKenna, Minister of Environment and Climate Change said, “Canada recognizes the urgency and magnitude of the threat to Lake Erie water quality and ecosystem health posed by toxic and nuisance algal blooms. By establishing these targets, we strengthen our resolve to work with our American neighbours, and Canadian and U.S. stakeholders who share these waters, to protect the tremendous natural resource that is Lake Erie.”

Algae occur naturally in freshwater systems. They are essential to the aquatic food web and healthy ecosystems. However, too much algae, linked to high amounts of phosphorus, can lead to conditions that can harm human health and the environment. Since the 1990s, Lake Erie has seen an increase in algal growth that has compromised water quality and threatens the Lake Erie region’s recreation-intensive economy. The targets were developed after extensive public input from a diversity of sectors.

Quick Facts

  • The 2015 harmful algal bloom in Lake Erie was recorded as the largest bloom this century.
  • Modeling experts from the United States and Canada used nine different computer simulation models to correlate changes in phosphorus levels with levels of algal growth in order to determine phosphorus load reduction targets.
  • A binational public consultation process was held between June 30 and August 31, 2015. Final targets were established following widespread support for the draft targets and the target setting process.
  • More than 40 Canadian and American experts formed a binational team under the leadership of Environment and Climate Change Canada and the United States Environmental Protection Agency to develop the targets.
  • In Canada, more than 50 individuals, groups and agencies representing Agricultural and other non-government organizations, Conservation Authorities, municipal governments, Ontario government agencies, First Nations, and Universities commented on the draft targets through an on-line tool and face-to-face discussions.

Fuel vs. Food?

Read the full story from the University of Virginia.

A new study from a UVA environmental scientist and colleagues shows about a third of the world’s malnourished population could be fed by using resources now used for biofuel production.

EPA’s Use of the Social Cost of Carbon Is Not Arbitrary or Capricious

Read the full post at the Climate Law Blog.

Tucked deep into the opening brief on procedural and record issues filed by opponents to the Clean Power Plan there is an important and under-reported development: The role of the Social Cost of Carbon (SCC) in cost-benefit analysis is now before the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. Petitioners in West Virginia v. EPA have argued that the cost-benefit analysis underlying the plan is “fundamentally flawed” because the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) used the SCC to estimate the benefits of greenhouse gas (GHG) emission reductions. This is only one of many arguments raised by petitioners, but it is noteworthy insofar as it illustrates just how little deference they think the court should afford EPA. But EPA’s use of the SCC to calculate the costs and benefits of the nation’s most significant GHG regulation to date not only makes sense, it is arguably required by law. Read my explanation of why that is after the jump.

How Patagonia Is Recycling Bottles Into Jackets

Read the full story at Earth911.

Did you know that Americans use 50 billion plastic water bottles each year, with a recycling rate of only 23%? From an environmental standpoint, it brings up numerous concerns. Kicking our bottled water habit can conserve resources, but what are we going to do with the billions of plastic bottles that are recycled? How do we boost stubbornly low plastic bottle recycling rates?

Luckily Patagonia has been looking at this issue for decades and has made considerable progress in turning plastic trash into polyester fabric for apparel. The company has found a way to actually upcycle plastic bottles, finding a good use for this waste stream by turning it into a higher value goods.

Clean energy could stress global water resources

Read the full story from the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis.

Efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the energy sector could lead to greater pressure on water resources, increasing water use and thermal water pollution. Dedicated adaptation measures will be needed in order to avoid potential trade-offs between the water and climate change impacts of the energy system.

Climate mitigation efforts in the energy system could lead to increasing pressure on water resources, according to a new study published in the journal Environmental Research Letters. Yet increased energy efficiency and a focus on wind and solar power, which require less water, or the switch to more water efficient cooling technologies could help avoid this problem, the study shows.

Environmental Pollution: An Under-recognized Threat to Children’s Health, Especially in Low- and Middle-Income Countries

Suk WA, Ahanchian H, Ansong Asante K, Carpenter DO, Diaz-Barriga F, Ha EH, Huo X, King M, Ruchirawat M, da Silva ER, Sly L, Sly PD, Stein RT, van den Berg M, Zar H, Landrigan PJ. 2015. Environmental pollution: an under-recognized threat to children’s health, especially in low- and middle-income countries. Environ Health Perspect 124:A42–A45; http://dx.doi.org/10.1289/ehp.1510517.

Abstract: Exposures to environmental pollutants during windows of developmental vulnerability in early life can cause disease and death in infancy and childhood as well as chronic, non-communicable diseases that may manifest at any point across the life span. Patterns of pollution and pollution-related disease change as countries move through economic development. Environmental pollution is now recognized as a major cause of morbidity and mortality in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). According to the World Health Organization, pollution is responsible for 8.9 million deaths around the world each year; of these, 94% (8.4 million) are in LMICs. Toxic chemical pollution is growing into a major threat to children’s health in LMICs. The disease and disability caused by environmental pollution have great economic costs, and these costs can undercut trajectories of national development. To combat pollution, improved programs of public health and environmental protection are needed in countries at every level of development. Pollution control strategies and technologies that have been developed in high-income countries must now be transferred to LMICs to assist these emerging economies to avoid the mistakes of the past. A new international clearinghouse is needed to define and track the health effects of pollution, quantify the economic costs of these effects, and direct much needed attention to environmental pollution as a risk factor for disease.

 

Alternatives Assessment Frameworks: Research Needs for the Informed Substitution of Hazardous Chemicals

Jacobs MM, Malloy TF, Tickner JA, Edwards S. 2016. “Alternatives assessment frameworks: research needs for the informed substitution of hazardous chemicals.” Environ Health Perspect 124:265–280; http://dx.doi.org/10.1289/ehp.1409581

Abstract

Background: Given increasing pressures for hazardous chemical replacement, there is growing interest in alternatives assessment to avoid substituting a toxic chemical with another of equal or greater concern. Alternatives assessment is a process for identifying, comparing, and selecting safer alternatives to chemicals of concern (including those used in materials, processes, or technologies) on the basis of their hazards, performance, and economic viability.

Objectives: The purposes of this substantive review of alternatives assessment frameworks are to identify consistencies and differences in methods and to outline needs for research and collaboration to advance science policy practice.

Methods: This review compares methods used in six core components of these frameworks: hazard assessment, exposure characterization, life-cycle impacts, technical feasibility evaluation, economic feasibility assessment, and decision making. Alternatives assessment frameworks published from 1990 to 2014 were included.

Results: Twenty frameworks were reviewed. The frameworks were consistent in terms of general process steps, but some differences were identified in the end points addressed. Methodological gaps were identified in the exposure characterization, life-cycle assessment, and decision–analysis components. Methods for addressing data gaps remain an issue.

Discussion: Greater consistency in methods and evaluation metrics is needed but with sufficient flexibility to allow the process to be adapted to different decision contexts.

Conclusion: Although alternatives assessment is becoming an important science policy field, there is a need for increased cross-disciplinary collaboration to refine methodologies in support of the informed substitution and design of safer chemicals, materials, and products. Case studies can provide concrete lessons to improve alternatives assessment.

Endocrine-Disrupting Chemicals and Oil and Natural Gas Operations: Potential Environmental Contamination and Recommendations to Assess Complex Environmental Mixtures

Kassotis CD, Tillitt DE, Lin CH, McElroy JA, Nagel SC. 2016. “Endocrine-disrupting chemicals and oil and natural gas operations: potential environmental contamination and recommendations to assess complex environmental mixtures.” Environ Health Perspect 124:256–264; http://dx.doi.org/10.1289/ehp.1409535

Abstract

Background: Hydraulic fracturing technologies, developed over the last 65 years, have only recently been combined with horizontal drilling to unlock oil and gas reserves previously deemed inaccessible. Although these technologies have dramatically increased domestic oil and natural gas production, they have also raised concerns for the potential contamination of local water supplies with the approximately 1,000 chemicals that are used throughout the process, including many known or suspected endocrine-disrupting chemicals.

Objectives: We discuss the need for an endocrine component to health assessments for drilling-dense regions in the context of hormonal and antihormonal activities for chemicals used.

Methods: We discuss the literature on a) surface and groundwater contamination by oil and gas extraction operations, and b) potential human exposure, particularly in the context of the total hormonal and antihormonal activities present in surface and groundwater from natural and anthropogenic sources; we also discuss initial analytical results and critical knowledge gaps.

Discussion: In light of the potential for environmental release of oil and gas chemicals that can disrupt hormone receptor systems, we recommend methods for assessing complex hormonally active environmental mixtures.

Conclusions: We describe a need for an endocrine-centric component for overall health assessments and provide information supporting the idea that using such a component will help explain reported adverse health trends as well as help develop recommendations for environmental impact assessments and monitoring programs.

 

The Year Ahead in Chemicals Regulation

Read the full story from JD Supra Business Advisor.

Companies that manufacture and distribute chemical products across the value chain in the U.S. need to be aware of several legal developments with the potential to impact their business in the year ahead. This Client Alert summarizes regulatory proposals that deserve priority attention, and also notes troubling developments in consumer litigation.

Chemical regulation is economically beneficial for many companies

Read the full story at chemsec.

By studying several aspects of chemical regulation and substitution it is clear that the economic benefits outweigh the drawbacks. This is the main conclusion in ChemSec’s latest publication, The Bigger Picture.

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