Dozens Of California Towns Have Childhood Lead Poisoning Rates Higher Than Flint’s

Read the full story in the Huffington Post.

Dozens of California communities have experienced recent rates of childhood lead poisoning that surpass those of Flint, Michigan, with one Fresno locale showing rates nearly three times higher, blood testing data obtained by Reuters shows.

The data shows how lead poisoning affects even a state known for its environmental advocacy, with high rates of childhood exposure found in a swath of the Bay Area and downtown Los Angeles. And the figures show that, despite national strides in eliminating lead-based products, hazards remain in areas far from the Rust Belt or East Coast regions filled with old housing and legacy industry.

As Trump Slashes EPA, Worry Over the Fate of an Agency Doing Similar Work

Read the full story in ProPublica.

Will the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences’ work on the effects of pesticides, chemicals and cancer-causing compounds be undamaged by the new administration?

Antibiotic Resistance: More Information Needed to Oversee Use of Medically Important Drugs in Food Animals

Download the document.

What GAO Found

Since 2011, when GAO last reported on this issue, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has increased veterinary oversight of antibiotics and, with the Department of Agriculture (USDA), has made several improvements in collecting data on antibiotic use in food animals and resistance in bacteria. For example, HHS’s Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a regulation and guidance for industry recommending changes to drug labels. However, oversight gaps still exist. For example, changes to drug labels do not address long-term and open-ended use of antibiotics for disease prevention because some antibiotics do not define duration of use on their labels. FDA officials told GAO they are seeking public comments on establishing durations of use on labels, but FDA has not clearly defined objectives for closing this gap, which is inconsistent with federal internal control standards. Without doing so, FDA will not know whether it is ensuring judicious use of antibiotics. Moreover, gaps in farm-specific data on antibiotic use and resistance that GAO found in 2011 remain. GAO continues to believe HHS and USDA need to implement a joint on-farm data collection plan as previously recommended. In addition, FDA and USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) do not have metrics to assess the impact of actions they have taken, which is inconsistent with leading practices for performance measurement. Without metrics, FDA and APHIS cannot assess the effects of actions taken to manage the use of antibiotics.

Three selected countries and the European Union (EU), which GAO reviewed, have taken various actions to manage use of antibiotics in food animals, including strengthening oversight of veterinarians’ and producers’ use of antibiotics, collecting farm-specific data, and setting targets to reduce antibiotic use. The Netherlands has primarily relied on a public-private partnership, whereas Canada, Denmark, and the EU have relied on government policies and regulations to strengthen oversight and collect farm-specific data. Since taking these actions, the use or sales of antibiotics in food animals decreased and data collection improved, according to foreign officials and data reports GAO reviewed. Still, some U.S. federal officials and stakeholders believe that similar U.S. actions are not feasible because of production differences and other factors.

HHS and USDA officials said they have not conducted on-farm investigations during foodborne illness outbreaks including those from antibiotic-resistant bacteria in animal products. In 2014, USDA agencies established a memorandum of understanding to assess the root cause of foodborne illness outbreaks. However, in 2015 in the agencies’ first use of the memorandum, there was no consensus among stakeholders on whether to conduct foodborne illness investigations on farms and the memorandum does not include a framework to make this determination, similar to a decision matrix used in other investigations. According to a directive issued by USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service, foodborne illness investigations shall include identifying contributing factors and recommending actions or new policies to prevent future occurrences. Developing a framework, in coordination with HHS’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other stakeholders, would help USDA identify factors that contribute to or cause foodborne illness outbreaks, including those from antibiotic-resistant bacteria in animal products.

Why GAO Did This Study

According to the World Health Organization, antibiotic resistance is one of the biggest threats to global health. CDC estimates antibiotic-resistant bacteria cause at least 2 million human illnesses in the United States each year, and there is strong evidence that some resistance in bacteria is caused by antibiotic use in food animals (cattle, poultry, and swine). HHS and USDA are primarily responsible for ensuring food safety, including safe use of antibiotics in food animals. In 2011, GAO reported on antibiotic use and recommended addressing gaps in data collection. GAO was asked to update this information. This report (1) examines actions HHS and USDA have taken to manage use of antibiotics in food animals and assess the impact of their actions, (2) identifies actions selected countries and the EU have taken to manage use of antibiotics in food animals, and (3) examines the extent to which HHS and USDA conducted on-farm investigations of foodborne illness outbreaks from antibiotic-resistant bacteria in animal products.

GAO reviewed documents and interviewed officials and stakeholders. GAO selected three countries and the EU for review because they have taken actions to mitigate antibiotic resistance.

What GAO Recommends

GAO is making six recommendations, including that HHS address oversight gaps, HHS and USDA develop metrics for assessing progress in achieving goals, and USDA develop a framework with HHS to decide when to conduct on-farm investigations. USDA agreed and HHS neither agreed nor disagreed with GAO’s recommendations.

Exposure to Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals can Adversely Affect Brain Development

Read the full story from the Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL).

Findings published today provide evidence that exposure to endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) causes changes in thyroid hormone signalling, which disturbs brain development.

The results are published by Nature in a peer-reviewed paper in Scientific Reports entitled “Human amniotic fluid contaminants alter thyroid hormone signalling and early brain development in Xenopus embryos”.

Report: Environmental Hazards Kill 1.7 Million Kids Under 5 Each Year

Read the full story from NPR.

According to two new World Health Organization reports, about 1.7 million children under the age of 5 die each year because of environmental hazards. It’s the first such estimate of the child death toll from environmental causes.

Download the reports

ISTC Sustainability Seminar: Microplastics in the Aquatic Environment

March 16, 2017 , noon-1pm CST
In person at the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center (1 E. Hazelwood Dr., Champaign) or online at

Presented by Sarah A. Zack – Pollution Prevention Extension Specialist, Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant (IISG) and University of Illinois Extension.

The ecosystem impact of microplastics, a type of land-based marine debris that includes particles less than 5 millimeters in size, is of growing interest in the Great Lakes and other inland waters. Microplastic pollution in freshwater systems is still an emerging science and researchers have just begun to describe its scope, abundance, and distribution. There is still much to be learned about its long-term effects, including impacts to aquatic food webs. Since 2012, Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant (IISG) has been working to conduct and fund research and educate the public about microplastic pollution. IISG is dedicated to supporting continued research on emerging contaminants such as microplastics, and recognizes that there is a need for more information to determine the long-term effects of this pollution on Midwestern lakes and rivers. This seminar will discuss freshwater microplastic sources and types, relevant chemical and physical properties, and potential impacts, as well as provide an overview of the work done by IISG to address this emerging contaminant.

ISTC Sustainability Seminar: Are pyrethroid insecticides a threat to aquatic non-target species?

March 2, 2017 , noon-1pm CST
In person at the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center (1 E. Hazelwood Dr., Champaign) or online at

Presented by Michael Lydy, Ph.D. — Professor in the Departments of Zoology and Chemistry & Biochemistry, Southern Illinois University at Carbondale

Pyrethroid insecticides are currently used for pest control in terrestrial environments in both agricultural and urban areas world-wide, but often their residues are transported to aquatic systems through runoff events. These insecticides are hydrophobic so they tend to associate with the organic carbon portion of sediments and mortality has been linked with sediment pyrethroid residues. Special concern has been raised about the impacts of pyrethroid exposure in urban environments. In addition, several field populations of the freshwater amphipod, Hyalella azteca, from pesticide-exposed waterbodies demonstrate resistance to pyrethroid insecticides. If resistant H. azteca experience pyrethroid exposure, one of the possible consequences is bioaccumulation, which increases the potential for transfer of pyrethroids from the resistant individuals to higher trophic level organisms. This presentation will address how prevalent pyrethroids are in the aquatic environment and whether they are detected at high enough concentrations to cause harm to non-target aquatic species. It will also detail results concerning the potential for transfer of pyrethroids from resistant individuals to higher trophic level organisms.