Pregnant people exposed to cancer-linked chemicals in household items, dyes: study

Read the full story at The Hill.

Pregnant people are being exposed through various household products to toxic compounds that can increase the risk of cancer and harm child development, a new study has found.

Scientists identified two such compounds — the industrial chemical melamine and its byproduct cyanuric acid — in the urine of almost all the pregnant subjects they tested, with the highest levels occurring in women of color and in those with greater exposure to tobacco.

Four types of chemicals used in dyes, called aromatic amines, were also present in the urine of nearly all pregnant participants, according to the study, published in Chemosphere on Tuesday.

$363 million verdict against Sterigenics in first trial over toxic gas emissions: ‘It’s been a long four years,’ plaintiff says

Read the full story in the Chicago Sun-Times.

A Cook County jury on Monday awarded $363 million to a woman who alleged medical tool sterilization company Sterigenics exposed Willowbrook residents to ethylene oxide gas and gave her cancer.

It was the first of nearly 800 lawsuits against the company to go to trial.

The jury reached its verdict after a five-week trial and one day of deliberations, awarding 70-year-old Sue Kamuda $38 million in compensatory damages and $325 million in punitive damages.

The verdict exceeded the $346 million Kamuda’s lawyers sought in closing arguments Thursday against Sterigenics, its parent company, Sotera Health; and corporate predecessor Griffith Foods. The jury ruled Sterigenics should pay $220 million; Sotera, $100 million; and Griffith, $5 million.

Extreme heat + air pollution can be deadly, with the health risk together worse than either alone

Bad air pollution and extreme heat each raise health risks, but they’re worse combined. Brian van der Brug/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

by Erika Garcia, University of Southern California; Md Mostafijur Rahman, University of Southern California, and Rob Scot McConnell, University of Southern California

On the morning news, you see the weather forecast is for high heat, and there is an “excessive heat watch” for later in the week. You were hoping the weather would cool down, but yet another heat wave is threatening human health and increasing the chance of wildfires. On top of these warm days and nights, air quality data has been showing unhealthy levels of pollution.

Sound familiar? This scenario is increasingly the new normal in many parts of the world.

High heat and air pollution are each problematic for human health, particularly for vulnerable populations such as older adults. But what happens when they hit at the same time?

We examined over 1.5 million deaths from 2014 to 2020 registered in California – a state prone to summer heat waves and air pollution from wildfires – to find out.

Deaths spike when both risks are high

The number of deaths rose both on hot days and on days with high levels of fine particulate air pollution, known as PM2.5. But on days when an area was hit with a double whammy of both high heat and high air pollution, the effects were much higher than for each condition alone.

The risk of death on those extra-hot and polluted days was about three times greater than the effect of either high heat or high air pollution alone.

The more extreme the temperatures and pollution, the higher the risk. During the top 10% of hottest and most polluted days, the risk of death increased by 4% compared to days without extremes. During the top 1%, it increased by 21%; and among older adults over age 75, the risk of death increased by more than a third on those days.

Why risks are higher when both hit at once

There are several ways the combined exposure to extreme heat and particulate air pollution can harm human health.

Oxidative stress is the most common biological pathway linked with particulate air pollution and heat exposure. Oxidative stress is an imbalance between production of highly reactive molecules known as reactive oxygen species, or ROS, and the body’s ability to remove them. It’s been linked with lung diseases, among other illnesses.

Antioxidants help clean up these molecules, but particulate air pollution and heat disrupt this balance through excessive metabolic ROS production and lowered antioxidant activity.

Our research also showed that the effects of particulate air pollution and heat extremes were larger when high nighttime temperature and pollution occurred together. High nighttime temperatures can interfere with normal sleep and potentially contribute to chronic health conditions such as heart disease and obesity, and disrupt how the body regulates temperature.

Older adults may be more susceptible to effects of extreme heat and air pollution exposure, in part because this stress comes on top of age-related chronic health conditions like heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes or chronic lung disease. Impaired body temperature regulation in response to heat can also occur with aging. And older adults may be less mobile and therefore less able to get to cooling centers or to medical care and be less able to afford air conditioning.

A future of high temperatures and air pollution

This isn’t just a California problem. Climate change will increase exposure to high heat and air pollution in many parts of the country.

Yearly average temperatures in the U.S. are already more than 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit (1 degree Celsius) warmer than at the beginning of the 1900s. By the end of this century, global temperatures are on pace to be nearly 5 F (2.7 C) warmer. Dangerous extreme heat waves, currently rare, will become more common.

Changing climate is also affecting levels of outdoor fine particulate pollution – for example, through weather changes such as air stagnation events, wind and dust storms, and drier and warmer conditions that contribute to increasingly frequent and intense wildfires.

What to do to stay safe

Further research is needed to better understand these effects, such as the full impact of wildfire smoke exposure. However, enough is known that people should take measures to reduce their risk of harm during periods of extreme heat or air pollution.

That means staying well hydrated and keeping cool. Shopping malls and other air-conditioned public spaces can provide a refuge from heat. Home air conditioning, especially during nighttime, can reduce mortality. A portable air filter in the bedroom can markedly reduce particle pollution levels.

People with symptoms of heat stress, such as headache, nausea, dizziness or confusion, especially the elderly, should seek medical care.

Many county and state health departments already provide alerts about extreme heat and extreme air pollution. Developing a special category of alert during co-occurring extremes may be beneficial to public health.

Governments also need to take steps now to avoid the worst future climate change scenarios. Some best practices for cities include creating cooling shade cover and green space that will also reduce particle pollution.

This article was updated Aug. 31, 2022, with heat advisories in the West.

Erika Garcia, Assistant Professor of Population and Public Health Sciences, University of Southern California; Md Mostafijur Rahman, Postdoctoral Scholar and Research Associate in Environmental Health, University of Southern California, and Rob Scot McConnell, Professor of Population and Public Health Sciences, University of Southern California

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

In ‘Cancer Alley,’ judge blocks huge petrochemical plant

Read the full story in the New York Times.

Louisiana activists battling to block an enormous plastics plant in a corridor so dense with industrial refineries it is known as Cancer Alley won a legal victory this week when a judge canceled the company’s air permits. In a sharply worded opinion released Wednesday, Judge Trudy White of Louisiana’s 19th Judicial District in Baton Rouge noted that the residents in the tiny town of Welcome, where the $9.4 billion petrochemical plant would have been built, are descendants of enslaved Africans.

‘Forever chemicals’ are everywhere. The battle over who pays to clean them up is just getting started.

Read the full story at Politico.

State and local governments across the country are suing manufacturers of toxic chemicals that are contaminating much of the nation’s drinking water, aiming to shield water customers and taxpayers from the massive cost of cleaning them up.

These pervasive “forever chemicals,” known as PFAS, are linked to a variety of health hazards, including cancer. Now, as state lawmakers and federal regulators get serious about removing them, scores of governments and water suppliers are in pitched court battles over who is on the hook for hundreds of billions of dollars in damage — the companies that created the chemicals or the customers who are drinking them.

Rising Waters: Climate Change Impacts and Toxic Risks to Lake Michigan’s Shoreline Communities

Download the document.

This report identifies twelve areas where high lake levels and strong storms could impact industrial facilities, contaminated sites, and communities along Lake Michigan.

If all the vehicles in the world were to convert to electric, would it be quieter?

Apartment buildings in New York City abut the Cross Bronx Expressway. Spencer Platt/Getty Images

by Erica D. Walker, Brown University

Curious Kids is a series for children of all ages. If you have a question you’d like an expert to answer, send it to curiouskidsus@theconversation.com.


If all of the vehicles in the world were to convert to electric, would it be quieter? – Joseph, age 10, Chatham, New Jersey


If everyone everywhere received a free electric vehicle at the same time – and owners were required to travel at really slow speeds across well-maintained roads – the world would sound different.

But that doesn’t mean it would be quieter.

People can have different feelings about the same sound. As the founder of Community Noise Lab at Brown University’s School of Public Health, I am particularly interested in how we, as humans, decide what is a sound and what is a noise – which is what we call unwanted sounds. We perceive the sounds that we experience in our daily lives in many ways, from quiet to loud. And they can make us feel happy, angry or many things in between.

These feelings can affect our health by relaxing or stressing us. Studies also show that chronic exposure to noise can affect your sleep and hearing and contribute to health problems like heart disease.

How loud are cars?

We know that gasoline-powered cars make a lot of noise, especially on highways where they can travel at high speeds. In 1981, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimated that nearly 100 million people nationwide were exposed to traffic noise every year that was loud enough to be harmful to their health. At the time, this was about 50% of the U.S. population.

Many factors influence how loud a car is on the road, including its design, how fast it travels and physical road conditions. On average, cars moving at around 30 mph on local roads will produce sound levels ranging from 33 to 69 decibels. That’s the range between a quiet library and a loud dishwasher.

This video compares the decibel levels produced by loud, moderate and quiet dishwashers.

For cars traveling at typical speeds on the interstate, which is around 70 mph, sound levels range up to 89 decibels. That’s equivalent to two people shouting their conversation at each other.

Electric and hybrid gas/electric cars emit very low sounds at low speeds because they don’t have internal combustion engines producing noise and vibrations. To ensure that pedestrians will hear electric and hybrid vehicles coming, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration requires these vehicles to emit sounds ranging from 43 to 64 decibels when they are moving at less than 18.6 mph. Each manufacturer uses its own warning sounds.

At high speeds, there may not be much difference between gas-powered cars and EVs or hybrids. That’s because other factors like tire and wind noise become louder as cars move faster.

Urban noise is a serious health threat worldwide, and the main source is motor vehicles.

Quieter streets for everyone

Infrastructure also contributes to street noise. Cracks, depressions and holes in roads can increase sound levels as cars travel across them.

Lower-income communities tend to have poorer-quality streets and highways. So failing to fix roads could drown out any improvements in a community’s soundscape from EVs, quite literally.

Another way to reduce traffic noise would be to build more bike lanes and paths in less-wealthy communities, which often lack them, and encourage people to substitute this cheaper, healthier, cleaner and quieter mode of transportation when they can.

Electric vehicles are still out of reach for many people because most models cost more than gas-powered cars. So in reality, the benefits of switching to electric-powered vehicles – such as lower fuel costs, cleaner air and somewhat quieter streets – are going now mainly to people who live in wealthier communities and can afford EVs.

That inequitable distribution of benefits is what the EPA calls an environmental injustice: a situation in which everyone doesn’t have the same degree of protection from environmental and health hazards. To share those benefits more equally, electric vehicles will have to become as affordable as gas-powered versions.

Many people think of noise as a nuisance that’s less urgent than other, more pressing environmental issues like air and water pollution. As a result, governments fail to plan for noise, measure it, mitigate it or regulate it in any meaningful way.

In fact, noise is a significant environmental stressor that negatively affects everyone’s health and well-being, especially those who are most vulnerable. At Community Noise Lab, we aim to shed light on the public health implications of noise, argue for more holistic measurements of sound, and study noise together with other environmental pollutants like water and air pollution, working alongside vulnerable communities across the United States.


Hello, curious kids! Do you have a question you’d like an expert to answer? Ask an adult to send your question to CuriousKidsUS@theconversation.com. Please tell us your name, age and the city where you live.

And since curiosity has no age limit – adults, let us know what you’re wondering, too. We won’t be able to answer every question, but we will do our best.

Erica D. Walker, Assistant Professor of Epidemiology, Brown University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Webinar: Fate of ionizable organic compounds in soil-plant systems

Sep 29, 2022, noon CDT
Register here
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Reuse of reclaimed water for agricultural irrigation is important for the sustainable management of water resources, when the presence of trace organic compounds can pose potential human health risk. We have developed a model for simulating the pH-dependent speciation and fate of ionizable organic compounds in soils and their plant uptake during the application of reclaimed wastewater to agricultural soils. The simulation showed that pH plays an important role in regulating the plant uptake of organic compounds. Such modeling results demonstrate the importance of considering pH, speciation of ionizable organic compounds, and organic matter-mineral association for simulating their fate in the soil-plant system. Our current research has been devoted to understanding the molecular-level processes for organic matter-mineral association in soil environment, with focus on identifying the unknown redox and complexation-reactive organic matter in soil and water environment using a protocol combining chromatographic separation, reactivity screening, and high resolution mass spectrometry analysis. Our efforts hopefully can shed light on uncovering the chemical nature of complex organic matter critical for the biogeochemical cycles of carbon and water reuse.

Speaker 

Yu (Frank) Yang is an Associate Professor in the Dept. of Civil & Environmental Engineering at University of Nevada, Reno. He is currently on sabbatical in the Department of Geosciences at University of Tuebingen (Germany) working with Professor Andreas Kappler. His research expertise & interests have been focused on the environmental chemistry of organic carbon & emerging contaminants in natural & engineering systems, with implications on carbon cycle, climate change, & water reuse. Funded by NSF, DOE, USDA, & industrial partners, his research has led to over 80 peer-reviewed journal publications & 1 book (John Wiley & Sons Publisher). He has served as Associate Editor or equivalent roles for 7 journals & has been recognized by Alexander von Humboldt Research Fellowship, US National Academy of Engineering/EU-US Frontiers of Engineering Selected Attendee, Nevada System of Higher Education Regents’ Rising Researcher Award, RSC Emerging Investigators (twice), EST Best Reviewer & others.

Algorithm formulated to assess environmental risk of personal care products

Read the full story at Cosmetics & Toiletries.

A recent article published in Toxicological Research examines the potential impact of shampoo, conditioner, facial cleansers, etc., on the environment after they are used and the remaining chemicals spiral down the drain. This work responds to concerns by regulators and consumer groups, among others, over the potential for such rinse-off personal care products to be detrimental to ecosystems, most predominantly aquatic life.

Doctors advocate for treating obesity as an environmental problem

Read the full story at Environmental Health News.

Doctors are beginning to incorporate obesogen science into their treatment of patients, but face barriers to making the practice widespread.