Day: January 18, 2017

EPA and FDA Issue Final Fish Consumption Advice

Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued final advice regarding fish consumption.  This advice is geared toward helping women who are pregnant or may become pregnant – as well as breastfeeding mothers and parents of young children – make informed choices when it comes to fish that are healthy and safe to eat. (This advice refers to fish and shellfish collectively as “fish.”)

To help these consumers more easily understand the types of fish to select, the agencies have created an easy-to-use reference chart that sorts 62 types of fish into three categories:

  • “Best choices” (eat two to three servings a week)
  • “Good choices” (eat one serving a week)
  • “Fish to avoid”

Fish in the “best choices” category make up nearly 90 percent of fish eaten in the United States.

An FDA analysis of fish consumption data found that 50 percent of pregnant women surveyed ate fewer than 2 ounces a week, far less than the amount recommended.  Because the nutritional benefits of eating fish are important for growth and development during pregnancy and early childhood, the agencies are advising and promoting a minimum level of fish consumption for these groups.  The advice recommends 2-3 servings of lower-mercury fish per week, or 8 to 12 ounces.  However, all fish contain at least traces of mercury, which can be harmful to the brain and nervous system if a person is exposed to too much of it over time. The maximum level of consumption recommended in the final advice is consistent with the previous recommended level of 12 ounces per week.  The new advice is consistent with the 2015 – 2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

For adults, a typical serving is 4 ounces of fish, measured before cooking. Serving sizes for children should be smaller and adjusted for their age and total calorie needs. It is recommended that children eat fish once or twice a week, selected from a variety of fish types.

“Fish are an important source of protein and other nutrients for young children and women who are or may become pregnant, or are breastfeeding. This advice clearly shows the great diversity of fish in the U.S. market that they can consume safely,” said FDA Deputy Commissioner for Foods and Veterinary Medicine Stephen Ostroff, M.D. “This new, clear and concrete advice is an excellent tool for making safe and healthy choices when buying fish.” Choices lower in mercury include some of the most commonly eaten fish, such as shrimp, pollock, salmon, canned light tuna, tilapia, catfish and cod.

When updating the advice, the agencies took a cautious and highly protective approach to allow consumers to enjoy the benefits of fish while avoiding those with higher levels of mercury, which is especially important during pregnancy and early childhood. The average mercury content of each type of fish was calculated based on FDA data and information from other sources. The updated advice cautions parents of young children and certain women to avoid seven types of fish that typically have higher mercury levels: tilefish from the Gulf of Mexico; shark; swordfish; orange roughy; bigeye tuna; marlin; and king mackerel.

For fish caught recreationally, consumers are urged to check for local advisories where they are fishing and gauge their fish consumption based on any local and state advisories for those waters. If no information on fishing advisories is available, eat just one fish meal a week from local waters and also, avoid other fish that week. Consumers should clean and trim the fish they catch of fat and skin, since locally-caught fish may contain contaminants besides mercury that can be reduced by proper trimming and cooking, (e.g. broiling instead of frying can reduce some contaminants by letting fat drip away from the fish).

“It’s all about eating and enjoying fish of the right kind and in the right amounts,” said EPA Director for Water Science and Technology, Elizabeth Southerland, Ph.D. “This joint advice not only provides information for fish consumers who buy from local markets, but it also contains good information for people who catch their own fish or are provided fish caught by friends or relatives.”

All retailers, grocers and others are urged to post this new advice, including the reference chart listing fish to choose, prominently in their stores so consumers can make informed decisions when and where they purchase fish. The agencies will be implementing a consumer education campaign working with a wide array of public and private partners featuring the new advice.

In June 2014, the agencies issued draft advice which encouraged pregnant women and others to eat between 8 and 12 ounces of fish a week of fish “lower in mercury” but did not provide a list showing consumers which fish are lower in mercury. The advice issued today also takes into account more than 220 comments received from academia, industry, nongovernmental organizations and consumers as well as an external peer review of the information and method used to categorize the fish.

For More Information:

EPA to Put in Place Process to Evaluate Chemicals That May Pose Risk; First Time in 40 Years

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is moving swiftly to propose how it will prioritize and evaluate chemicals, given that the final processes must be in place within the first year of the new law’s enactment, or before June 22, 2017.

“After 40 years, we can finally address chemicals currently in the marketplace,” said Jim Jones, assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention. “Today’s action will set into motion a process to quickly evaluate chemicals and meet deadlines required under, and essential to, implementing the new law.”

When the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) was enacted in 1976, it grandfathered in thousands of unevaluated chemicals that were in commerce at the time. The old law failed to provide EPA with the tools to evaluate chemicals and to require companies to generate and provide data on chemicals they produced.

EPA is proposing three rules to help administer the new process. They are:

Inventory Rule. There are currently over 85,000 chemicals on EPA’s Inventory, and many of these are no longer actively produced. The rule will require manufacturers, including importers, to notify EPA and the public on the number of chemicals still being produced.

Prioritization Rule. This will establish how EPA will prioritize chemicals for evaluation. EPA will use a risk-based screening process and criteria to identify whether a particular chemical is either high or low priority. A chemical designated as high priority must undergo evaluation. Chemicals designated as low priority are not required to undergo evaluation.

Risk Evaluation Rule. This will establish how EPA will evaluate the risk of existing chemicals. The agency will identify steps for the risk evaluation process, including publishing the scope of the assessment. Chemical hazards and exposures will be assessed, along with characterizing and determining risks. This rule also outlines how the agency intends to seek public comment on chemical evaluations.

These three rules incorporate comments received from a series of public meetings held in August 2016.

If EPA identifies unreasonable risk in the evaluation, it is required to eliminate that risk through regulations. Under TSCA, the agency must have at least 20 ongoing risk evaluations by the end of 2019.

Comments on the proposed rules must be received 60 days after date of publication in the Federal Register. At that time, go to the dockets at www.regulations.gov and search for: HQ-OPPT-2016-0426 for the Inventory Rule; HQ-OPPT-2016-0636 for the Prioritization Rule; and HQ-OPPT-2016-0654 for the Risk Evaluation Rule.

Learn more about today’s proposals.

Learn more about the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act

EPA Report Shows Air Emissions of Toxic Chemicals from Industrial Facilities Down More Than Half Since 2005

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has released its annual Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) National Analysis, which shows releases of toxic chemicals into the air fell 56% from 2005-2015 at industrial facilities submitting data to the TRI program.

“Today’s report shows action by EPA, state and tribal regulators and the regulated community has helped dramatically lower toxic air emissions over the past 10 years,” said Jim Jones, EPA Assistant Administrator for the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention. “The TRI report provides citizens access to information about what toxic chemicals are being released in their neighborhoods and what companies are doing to prevent pollution.”

The report shows an 8% decrease from 2014 to 2015 at facilities reporting to the program contributed to this ten-year decline. Hydrochloric acid, sulfuric acid, toluene and mercury were among chemicals with significantly lower air releases at TRI-covered facilities. Medical professionals have associated these toxic air pollutants with health effects that include damage to developing nervous systems and respiratory irritation.

Combined hydrochloric acid and sulfuric acid air releases fell more than 566 million pounds, mercury more than 76,000 pounds, and toluene more than 32 million pounds at TRI-covered facilities. Coal- and oil-fired electric utilities accounted for more than 90% of nationwide reductions in air releases of hydrochloric acid, sulfuric acid and mercury from 2005 to 2015 in facilities reporting to the program. This trend is helping protect millions of families and children from these harmful pollutants. Reasons for these reductions include a shift from coal to other fuel sources, the installation of control technologies, and implementation of environmental regulations.

In 2015, of the nearly 26 billion pounds of total chemical waste managed at TRI-covered industrial facilities (excluding metal mines), approximately 92% was not released into the environment due to the use of preferred waste management practices such as recycling, energy recovery, and treatment. This calculation does not include the metal mining sector, which presents only limited opportunities for pollution prevention. The TRI Pollution Prevention (P2) Search Tool has more information about how individual facilities and parent companies are managing waste and reducing pollution at the source.

EPA, states, and tribes receive TRI data annually from facilities in industry sectors such as manufacturing, metal mining, electric utilities, and commercial hazardous waste management. Under the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA), facilities must report their toxic chemical releases for the prior calendar year to EPA by July 1 of each year. The Pollution Prevention Act also requires facilities to submit information on pollution prevention and other waste management activities of TRI chemicals. Nearly 22,000 facilities submitted TRI data for calendar year 2015.

This year’s report also includes a section highlighting the new Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act. This section focuses on the overlap between TRI chemicals and chemicals designated as Work Plan chemicals by EPA’s Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA).

The TRI National Analysis website includes new interactive features such as an automated “flipbook” [https://www.epa.gov/trinationalanalysis/30-year-anniversary-tri-program-slideshow] depicting how the TRI Program has evolved over the past 30 years, and a new embedded dashboard that allows users to build customized visualizations of TRI data by a chemical or a sector. These features are intended to promote more user engagement and exploration of TRI data.

To access the 2015 TRI National Analysis, including local data and analyses, visit www.epa.gov/trinationalanalysis

Information on facility efforts to reduce toxic chemical releases is available at www.epa.gov/tri/p2.

Can scientists crack the case of an Antarctic ice shelf’s growing rift?

Read the full story in the Washington Post.

Cracks in the ice shelf are par for the course. But one crack just keeps growing – and it has scientists hunting for answers.

In Antarctica’s Larsen C ice shelf, what started as a tiny crack in the 1960s has become a 90-mile rift nearly a third of a mile deep. Most of the change has occurred since 2014, when that crack suddenly began growing more rapidly. And unlike other cracks, which tend to stop opening at some point, this rift has continued to expand.

Gordon Ramsay Cooking at Food Waste Pop-Up

Read the full post at Eater.

Chef/vegetable whisperer Dan Barber — whose New York destination Blue Hill at Stone Barns simultaneously manages to be the Best Restaurant in America while also pioneering the chefs-saving-the-world movement — is taking his WasteED pop-up to London. And as promised, some major UK culinary stars will join him: Michelin-starred chefs Gordon Ramsay, Claire Smyth, and Tom Kerridge are among the just-announced guest chefs.

Institute for Journalism & Natural Resources accepting applications for 2017 Drinking Water Institute

Applications due February 10, 2017
Apply at https://ijnr.submittable.com/submit/73785/institute-application

Lack of access to clean, safe drinking water is often seen as a problem suffered in “developing” countries. Recent events in North America, however, have highlighted the fact that our own water is not to be taken for granted.

There is no better place to explore these issues than the Great Lakes -where 40 million people get drinking water from a basin holding one-fifth of all of the world’s available fresh water. From April 2nd through the 8th, 2017, IJNR will get journalists out from behind their desks and take them into the field to see how safe, clean drinking water is “made” and what issues threaten that supply.

During this expenses-paid, weeklong fellowship journalists will:

  • Tour the water treatment plant in Toledo, Ohio to learn what’s being done to prevent a future event like the 2014 algal bloom in Lake Erie that cut off the water supply of half a million people.
  • Travel to Flint, Michigan to talk with residents about how they’re dealing with the aftermath of the lead crisis and meet city and state officials trying to restore faith in the municipal water system.
  • Spend a day in Walkerton, Ontario, where a deadly e. coli outbreak in 2000 brought the issue of drinking water security and agricultural runoff to the front page, leading to the creation of strict new water laws and the state-of-the-art Walkerton Clean Water Centre, where thousands of Ontario water providers have been trained to manage their own supply.
  • Speak with officials in Guelph, Ontario about their concerns over the future of their public drinking water aquifers as both their growing population and private water-bottling companies like Nestle seek to draw water from the same wells.
  • Learn how nutrient pollution and a resulting “dead zone” in Lake Erie complicate the job of the water department in Cleveland.
  • Meet scientists and engineers working on the latest clean water technologies.

Join your colleagues as they explore these and other to-be-determined issues in our freshwater supply and security. IJNR will also provide training sessions in some of the latest digital media technologies and other techniques to improve writing and reporting on natural resource issues. Participants will return to work armed with story ideas, background knowledge, expert sources and training to tell these stories better and inform and engage their readers, listeners and viewers across North America.

Hearing on Nomination of Attorney General Scott Pruitt to be Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works is holding Scott Pruitt’s confirmation hearing today. Pruitt has been nominated by President-Elect Trump to lead the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Video of the hearing is available on the committee’s web site.

Educational Partnerships for Innovation in Communities (EPIC) Workshop

Wednesday, February 1, 8:00 AM – 5:00 PM
Location: Marriott St. Louis Grand Hotel, St. Louis, MO
Register at https://www.newpartners.org/pre-conference-activities/

Sponsored by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), this all-day workshop is designed to introduce university and local government representatives to the Educational Partnerships for Innovation in Communities (EPIC) Framework. This adaptable and replicable campus-community partnership model is now succeeding at more the two dozen higher-education institutions across the country. The model focuses the energy, expertise, and effort of a university campus in a single location to help advance local priority sustainability and resiliency initiatives.

Workshop Includes:

  • An introduction to the EPIC Framework, calendar, logistics, and benefits including case studies from proven EPIC Partnerships
  • A panel discussion with university and city representatives that have implemented the model
  • Guidance on setting up a pilot year
  • Highlight of available EPA Decision Support Tools to support EPIC projects

EPIC Programs help universities build capacity by providing resources including ready-made experiential learning projects. Universities provide their students with hands-on experience assisting local governments achieve the sustainability and resiliency goals as identified in the local government’s own work plans. EPIC Partnerships enable cities to reach their goals in an affordable manner while transforming higher education into an arena where students learn through real-life problem solving and develop valuable skills. The projects are as diverse as the universities and their local government partners.  As an example, San Diego State University implemented the Sage Project based on the EPIC Framework developed through the University of Oregon Sustainable City Year Program.

The long-term objective of these programs is to establish partnerships that help communities become more sustainable and resilient, build resource capacity within the universities, and provide students with real-world experience.

EPA encourages interested university representatives to attend and to identify a local government representative that might want to pilot the EPIC Program with them to attend the workshop as well.

The intended workshop participants include:

  • University Representatives (faculty, administrators, sustainability professionals, service learning / community engagement professionals). Ideally, there will be at least two representatives from each university.
  • Local Government Representatives (Local government managers, staff, and other representatives)
  • Nonprofit / Philanthropic organizations that support municipal or community related projects or issues
  • Federal representatives that support community projects

For questions regarding the workshop program, please contact Dr. Laura Bloch or Dr. Jose Zambrana. For questions regarding registration contact Khrystyna Platte at kplatte@lgc.org.

There is a $69 registration fee to attend this workshop. Coffee and lunch will be provided.

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