The Colloborative on Health and the Environment -- Washington

Weekly Bulletin
January 31, 2006

Please check the CHE-WA website to stay abreast of the latest postings, news and events:

To join the Collaborative on Health and the Environment (CHE) and CHE-Washington, please complete the form at Be sure to mark that you want to join the Washington State Regional Group at the bottom of the application.


  1. The Precautionary Principle Working Group will have a conference call on Wednesday February 1st at 11:00 a.m. Pacific. Call-in information and an agenda have been distributed to members. Please contact Elise Miller with questions:
  2. The Environmental Justice Working Group will meet on Wednesday February 15th at 3:00 - 4:30 p.m. in Room 103 at Antioch University in Seattle. The primary focus of this meeting will be developing the Work Group goals for 2006 and discussing a possible conference co-sponsored by CHE-WA and the Health Justice Network on health disparities and environmental health.


Environmental Health Lecture -- "Plastic Promises: Better Living or Bodily Harm?"

February 15, 2006
Seattle, Washington
at Town Hall, 1119 Eighth Avenue (at Seneca Street)

Plastics permeate our lives -- from CDs and cell phone casings to baby bottles and incubators for premature infants. Mounting evidence suggests that exposures to certain chemicals found in hard plastics may contribute to a variety of lifelong human health problems. Frederick vom Saal, PhD, is a Professor of Biological Sciences at the University of Missouri-Columbia and has been published in numerous peer-reviewed journals, such as Neurotoxicology and Teratology and Environmental Health Perspectives. Dr. vom Saal will present his seminal research on the health effects of low dose exposures to endocrine-disrupting chemicals, specifically bisphenol A. Bisphenol A, found in many household, medical and baby products, is now associated with compromised uterine function, thwarted fetal development, decreased sperm production, neurological problems, prostate and other cancers, aggressive behaviors, and more. He will also discuss how this research may catalyze the plastics industry to develop less toxic materials.




  1. The Corporation: Its Impact on a Global Society -- Lecture by Bob Willard
  2. Environmental Justice Listening Session
  3. Breakfast Broadcast: Environmental Health Literacy
  4. Northwest Sustainability Conference 2006
  5. My Struggle for Democracy: 30 Million and Growing -- Lecture by Wangari Maathai


  1. Updated Bibliography of Studies Addressing Health Effects of Air Pollution (American Lung Association)
  2. Maine Makes TV, PC Monitor Makers Recycle (MSNBC)
  3. Chemical: Mixtures More Toxic Than Their Parts (Oakland Tribune)
  4. Study: Half Breast Cancers Tied to Environment (Oakland Tribune)
  5. EPA Seeking PFOA Reductions (EPA news release) and Envirnomental Working Group statement
  6. EPA Helps Schools and Child Care Facilities Reduce Lead in Drinking Water (EPA news release)
  7. EPA Questioned on Lead in Drinking Water (Washington Post)
  8. First Report on North American Children Finds High Asthma Rates (Environmental New Service)
  9. Harmful Teflon Chemical to Be Eliminated by 2015 (Washington Post)
  10. FDA Tests Show Risk in Tuna (Chicago Tribune)
  11. Climate Expert Says NASA Tried to Silence Him (New York Times)
  12. Traces of Prescription Drugs Found in Southland Aquifers (Los Angeles Times)
  13. EPA Joins Other Federal Agencies to Adopt High Performance and Sustainable Building Principles (EPA news release)


1) Public Lecture -- The Corporation: Its Impact on a Global Society

February 1, 2006
7:00 - 9:00 p.m.
Seattle, Washington
at Antioch campus, 2326 Sixth Avenue, room 100

Bob Willard, Center for Creative Change Guest Visiting Faculty, is a leading expert on the business value of corporate sustainability strategies. During his 34+ years at IBM Canada, he held leadership positions in marketing, technical support, education and human resources, including 20 years in management, and worked with managers and executives to develop leadership skills. He now works with corporations, consultants, academics, and nongovernmental organizations to emphasize the value of the triple bottom line -- people, environmental benefits to the planet and profit. He is the author of The Sustainability Advantage: Seven Business Case Benefits of a Triple Bottom Line and The Next Sustainability Wave: Building Boardroom Buy-in. Presented by Antioch University Seattle's Center for Creative Change Strategic Communication program.

Contact: Kevin Inouye, 206-268-4906 or

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2) Environmental Justice Listening Session

February 4, 2006
9:00 a.m. - 1:00 p.m.
Seattle, Washington
at the at the Brockey Conference Center, South Seattle Community College 6000 16th Ave. SW

Representatives of the Washington Department of Ecology will also be in attendance. The objective of the listening sessions is to hear, in their own words, the range of current environmental justice issues faced by residents of Washington State. Issues raised in the sessions will be documented and responses made. Additionally, listening session input will help to guide the development and implementation of the Region 10 EPA Environmental Justice Program. The intended audiences are all environmental justice stakeholders including tribes/nations, the private sector, academia, media, professional groups such as health-care workers and teachers, rural and urban community groups, nongovernmental organizations, environmental organizations and government agencies at all levels of government. EJ stakeholders are encouraged to submit their environmental justice concerns in writing. Written comments may be sent by e-mail to or by letter to Running-Grass, Environmental Justice Program Manager, Office of Civil Rights and Environmental Justice, OMP-143, 1200 Sixth Ave, U.S. EPA, Region 10, Seattle, WA. 98101-3188 Written Listening Session comments will be accepted until February 4, 2006.

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3) Breakfast Broadcast: Environmental Health Literacy

February 16, 2006
9:00 - 10:00 a.m. EST

The University at Albany School of Public Health Continuing Education Program is pleased to announce its Third Thursday Breakfast Broadcast, featuring Christina Zarcadoolas, PhD, Associate Professor, Department of Community and Preventive Medicine, Mt. Sinai School of Medicine. Environmental problems, conservation and planning are often not about nature as much as they are about humans and human behavior. Environmental literacy is the range of skills and abilities that enable people to understand the information needed to lessen environmental risk and take positive individual and corrective actions. Dr. Zarcadoolas will how environmental literacy enhances the ability of citizens to participate in environmental decision making. For the location of the nearest T2B2 downlink site, to register for a free satellite downlink, or to obtain online Nursing Contact Hours, CHES and CME credits for participation, visit the website below.


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4) Northwest Sustainability Conference 2006

March 10 - 11, 2006
9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Seattle, Washington
at the Mountaineers Conference Center, 300 Third Avenue West

This conference is an opportunity to learn about recent developments in sustainability practices, especially those in the Pacific Northwest. Over 40 professionals and community leaders who have dedicated their lives to working for a more sustainable future will lead sessions. Speeches, workshops and films will cover topics including Simpler Living, Clean Energy, Eating for Sustainability, Waste Reduction and Green Building to name a few. The goal of the conference is to provide practical information, methods, and resources to empower attendees to live their lives and practice their work more sustainably.


Contact: Emi Morgan, 206-762-1976 or

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5) My Struggle for Democracy: 30 Million and Growing

March 17, 2006 (tickets must be reserved by January 31, 2006)
8:00 p.m.
Seattle, Washington
in the Mark Taper Auditorium, Benaroya Hall

Honorable Wangari Muta Maathai, Assistant Minister for Environment and Natural Resources, Republic of Kenya; Member of Parliament, Tetu Constituency, Nyeri District, Republic of Kenya; Founder and Former Coordinator, the Green Belt Movement and 2004 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, will speak. The Norwegian Nobel Committee says of her, "Maathai stands at the front of the fight to promote ecologically viable social, economic and cultural development in Kenya and in Africa. She has taken a holistic approach to sustainable development that embraces democracy, human rights and women's rights in particular. Her efforts have been adopted by other countries as well. We believe that Maathai is a strong voice speaking for the best forces in Africa to promote peace and good living conditions on that continent."

Contact: 206-322-9448 or

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1) Updated Bibliography of Studies Addressing Health Effects of Air Pollution

from the American Lung Association

Now available: the American Lung Association's annual compilation of scientific studies on the health effects of particulate matter and ozone air pollution. This annotated bibliography presents brief summaries selected research papers published in 2005 (or in press in January 2006) on the health effects of particulate and ozone air pollution. Some of the highlights of the new studies include:

The bibliography is available at

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2) Maine Makes TV, PC Monitor Makers Recycle

State is first to require them to pay for recovery of trashed equipment

from MSNBC
January 18, 2006

Portland, Maine -- A first-in-the-nation law that went into effect Wednesday in Maine requires makers of televisions and computer monitors to pick up the tab to recycle and safely dispose of their products once they are discarded. Under the law, which mirrors the approach taken in Europe and Japan, manufacturers must pay for consolidators to gather and sort the electronic waste, then ship it to recycling centers where toxic materials such as lead and mercury are removed. Environmental activists and state and local officials met with reporters at a recycling center where consumers can now drop off their old electronic boxes for $2 apiece, instead of the $15 or $20 that it cost a day earlier.

"It's time to bring them out of the attics, out of the garages, out of the closets, out of the basements," said Jon Hinck, an attorney with the Natural Resources Council of Maine, which lobbied for the new law. "It's going to be a lot cheaper than it's been before, and we're happy to say that these things will all be recycled in an environmentally sound way."

Variations in other states
The Maine law is the first of its kind because it bills the manufacturers directly for the cost of sorting, recycling and disposal, Hinck said. A California law requires payment of a disposal fee when a TV or computer monitor is purchased, while Maryland assesses registration fees from computer makers and disburses the proceeds to municipalities for use in collecting and recycling old computers.

Maine has approved five consolidators to manage the "e-waste," send it to recyclers and bill manufacturers for the costs according to the amount of waste they originated, said David Littell, acting commissioner of the Department of Environmental Protection. Disposal costs for "orphan units" whose manufacturers are no longer in business will be shared by the other companies in proportion to their overall costs. Littell said the program requires no added costs to the state and no additional state employees.

Toxic concerns
TVs and older computer monitors each contain between four and eight pounds of lead, along with an array of other toxic materials, and newer flat-screen monitors contain mercury, according to the Natural Resources Council, the state's largest environmental group. The primary purpose of the law is to keep those materials from being released into the environment from incinerators or landfills, but it's also intended to encourage manufacturers to use less lead and to design products that lend themselves to recycling, advocates said.

Cities and states across the country are considering various versions of electronic waste legislation designed to address what the Environmental Protection Agency has called the nation's fastest-growing category of solid waste. The Electronic Industries Alliance, a trade group representing manufacturers of computers and televisions, expressed concern about the Maine law, suggesting that the state may have difficulty holding some foreign and small generic manufacturers to the same standards imposed on makers of brand-name equipment. "We clearly want to see this addressed at a national level. We think that's one way to avoid some of those loopholes," said Rick Goss, the association's director of environmental affairs in Arlington, Va. Goss said there are advantages and disadvantages to the approaches taken by Maine and California. He said his group is keeping close watch on both states to see how their respective programs work in practice.

Apple slow to join
In Maine, Hinck praised Hewlett-Packard Co. for backing the law and noted that it had testified before the Legislature in favor of Maine's approach. He said Apple Computer Inc. initially opposed the measure but later reversed its stance. Joining in the announcement was Sandy Cort of the Learning Disabilities Association of Maine, who said capturing potential neurotoxins before they are released in Maine's air and water "will help protect the neurological health of generations of Maine children."

Gov. John Baldacci applauded the law as an example of Maine's strong environmental leadership. "Maine's electronic waste recycling law based on product stewardship is a national model as it protects our environment, saves taxpayers money and puts costs where they belong to encourage safe design and recycling of electronic wastes," he said in a statement.

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3) Chemical: Mixtures More Toxic Than Their Parts

Studies find pesticides and other chemicals are more potent when added together

by Douglas Fischer, Oakland Tribune
January 24, 2006

Chemical mixtures, such as the soup of pesticides found in agricultural run-off, can be vastly more toxic to humans and creatures than a single chemical, suggesting current efforts to assess health risks posed by such compounds significantly underestimate their danger, researchers find. The threat comes not just from pesticides: The plastic lining your soup can, the additives used to keep nail polish from chipping and beach balls from cracking, even the trace amounts of DDT found in your house dust all can have an effect when mixed with others far greater than any single chemical alone. And that means, scientists say, that safety tests used by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Food and Drug Administration -- where one compound is tested and regulated in isolation -- miss the real effects of the chemical stew making up our world.

The most recent finding came Tuesday from University of California Berkeley professor Tyrone Hayes. His report, published in the online version of the journal Environmental Health Perspectives, found significant harmful effects on frogs given mixtures of pesticides commonly found in agricultural runoff -- even though levels of the individual pesticides were thought not to cause harm and were 10 to 100 times below EPA standards:

And in a related paper, also published Tuesday, Hayes showed these chemicals are quite efficient at switching testosterone to estrogen. Which means the testes of exposed male frogs don't produce sperm. They produce eggs.

"Metolachlor" -- a common herbicide -- "Doesn't do anything on its own," Hayes said Tuesday. "But mix it with something else and it becomes bad somehow. You add them all up and you get significant effects. Representatives of CropLife America, a trade group representing pesticide companies, had no comment Tuesday on the new findings. The group has long said, however, that there is insufficient evidence that pesticides harm frogs. Chemical manufacturers decry any effort to link extremely low levels of their chemicals to harm. "The data are extensive. The exposure is quite low. It takes really high levels (to see effects)," said James Lamb, a former regulator who is now consulting for the American Chemistry Council. "We don't have a lot of data on children, but with data on adults, we don't see effects."

But what alarms Hayes is that he sees effects in frogs at 0.1 parts per billion, far below any health threshold. The urine of a farm worker contains, on average, 2,400 ppb of some of these compounds. Hayes said he could dilute that urine and effectively castrate 720,000 frogs. We don't know what that means for humans, however. But Dr. Shanna Swan, a researcher at the University of Rochester, has found an association between low fertility in men and pesticide concentrations in urine as low as 0.1 ppb. "All we know is that humans are exposed to large amounts of chemicals," Swan said. "Rodents are exposed to one chemical at a time."

Swan has found similar problems in baby boys born to women with high levels of phthalates (THAAL-ates), a common additive used to make nail polish chip-proof, to dissolve fragrances in cosmetics, and to soften plastics.

That meshes with research by the U.S. EPA in North Carolina that finds phthalates, when added together at levels known to cause little or no problems individually, somehow afflict upwards of a quarter of the test animals with permanent reproductive damage. Levels of those phthalates in the amniotic fluid of the most highly exposed women in the U.S. are not too far from levels known to cause harm in rats. And, Hayes notes, a fetus in amniotic fluid is not all that different from a tadpole in a pond. "It's like pregnancy: The longer you're pregnant, the bigger your baby. The longer the tadpole (stage), the bigger the frog," Hayes said.

But for the tadpole, at least those in pesticide-laced run-off, that is no longer true. "It's like, the longer she's pregnant, the smaller your baby's going to be," Hayes added. "That says the womb is not a nurturing place."

This newspaper's investigation of our chemical "body burden" can be found on the web at Wire services contributed to this report. For the full article, please see

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4) Study: Half Breast Cancers Tied to Environment

Analysis of 350 studies finds half of cases are unrelated to genetic risk or lifestyle choices

by Douglas Fischer, Oakland Tribune
January 24, 2006

As many as half of all new breast cancers may be foisted upon woman by pollutants in the environment, triggered by such items as bisphenol-A lining tin cans or radiation from early mammograms, according to a review of recent science by two breast cancer groups. Their report, "State of the Evidence," released Tuesday, buttresses what many researchers increasingly suspect: that repeated low doses -- particularly in early childhood -- to chemicals normally considered harmless can have a profound effect.

It also suggests that, for half of the 211,240 woman diagnosed with breast cancer in 2005, lifestyle choices and genetics played no role. "You just can't blame it on lifestyle factors, like when you have children, or if you have children," said Nancy Evans, health science consultant for the Breast Cancer Fund and the report's principle author. "Half the cases are not explained by genetics or the so-called `known risk factors.' There's something else going on."

The report, by the San Francisco-based groups Breast Cancer Fund and Breast Cancer Action, analyzed the findings of more than 350 experimental, epidemiologic and ecological studies assessing breast cancer. Breast cancer rates have climbed steadily in the United States and other industrialized countries since the 1940s. In the U.S., for instance, one in seven women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in her lifetime, almost triple the rate in the 1960s. Researchers believe less than one in 10 cases occur in women born with a genetic predisposition for the disease. Instead, the report says, recent science makes very clear the cancer arises from a multitude of factors, from slight genetic mutations to altered hormone production to even radiation.

For instance, the report cited a study from Tufts University that found that exposing pregnant mice to extremely low levels of bisphenol-A altered the development of the mammary gland in their offspring at puberty. And that alteration makes the gland more susceptible to breast cancer, Evans said. Bisphenol-A, originally developed as a synthetic hormone in the 1930s, today is used as an additive to make plastic shatterproof and to extend the shelf-life of canned goods. Nearly 6 billion pounds are produced annually.

Industry has long maintained there is no evidence repeated low doses of compounds such as bisphenol-A can have such deleterious effects. A legislative effort to ban some of these chemicals from children's toys failed last week after industry scientists argued there was no cause for concern. "A lot of work has been done on those issues," said Lorenz Romberg, a former U.S. Environmental Protection Agency scientist who now works as a consultant and testified before the Legislature on behalf of the chemical industry last month. "When you look at this body of evidence in total, we didn't find any evidence that there is a marked, repeatable-across-laboratories effect that has any clear scientific standing." But the report, Evans said, makes clear there is no one culprit for rising breast cancer rates. What happens, for instance, when bisphenol-A or any several estrogen-like synthetic compounds on the market gets combined with the harm from a few low-dose X-rays?

No one knows, but new research from the National Academy of Sciences suggests there is no safe radiation dose: The lowest possible dose still increases cancer risk. Yet the American Cancer Society still recommends women over age 40 have a mammogram, despite evidence such procedures are not effective until women are 50 years old. "We have to have a replacement for mammography. It's so aggressively promoted, especially for young women," Evans said. But does the chance of early detection outweigh the risks? "I'm not saying they should or shouldn't," Evans said. "They need to be aware of the risk. An additional 10 years of radiation is not insignificant."

The report, "State of the Evidence," can be found at

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5) EPA Seeking PFOA Reductions

news release, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
January 25, 2006
Contact: Enesta Jones, 202-564-4355 or

(Washington, D.C.-Jan. 25, 2006) EPA is launching a global stewardship program inviting companies to reduce PFOA (Perfluorooctanoic acid) releases and its presence in products by 95 percent by no later than 2010 and to work toward eliminating sources of exposure five years after that but no later than 2015.

PFOA is an essential processing aid in the manufacture of fluoropolymers,and fluorotelomers, which are used in the manufacture of a wide range of non-stick and stain-resistant surfaces and products. PFOA may also be produced by the breakdown of fluorotelomers, which are used to impart water, stain, and grease resistance to carpets, paper and textile. PFOA is persistent in the environment, it has been detected in low levels in wildlife and humans, and animal studies conducted have indicated effects of concern.

"The science is still coming in, but the concern is there so acting now to minimize future releases of PFOA is the right thing to do for our environment and our health," said Susan B. Hazen, acting assistant administrator of EPA's Office of Prevention, Pesticides and Toxic Substances. "EPA is pleased to provide companies the opportunity to step up to the plate and demonstrate their leadership in protecting our global environment."

Participating companies will commit to reduce by 95 percent facility emissions and product content levels of PFOA, PFOA precursors, and higher homologue chemicals, by no later than 2010, with the year 2000 as the baseline for measuring reductions. The program also calls for companies to commit to work toward eliminating these sources of PFOA exposure five years after attaining the 95 percent reduction but no later than 2015. Companies are being asked to meet these commitments in the United States as well as in their global operations.

Also, participants are being asked to provide their commitment to EPA by March 1, 2006, and to submit their year 2000 baseline numbers for emissions and product content to EPA by Oct. 31, 2006. Annual public reports on their progress toward the goals will be due in October of each successive year. To ensure comparable reporting of reductions, participating companies must commit to work with EPA and others to develop and agree upon analytical standards and laboratory methods for these chemicals. EPA will also initiate efforts to add PFOA and related chemicals to the Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) to help monitor the results of the stewardship program.

This stewardship program is a result of the Agency's on-going process with industry, stakeholders, consumer groups, and interested parties to identify and develop the scientific information needed to fully understand how people are being exposed to PFOA and what, if any, concerns those exposures may pose. Industry has responded by initiating new studies, including through enforceable as well as voluntary testing efforts, and this important data gathering effort will continue as an additional element under the Stewardship Program.

PFOA, also known as C8 or Ammonium Perfluorooctanoate (APFO), is used in the manufacturing process of fluoropolymers. Fluoropolymers impart desirable properties, including fire resistance and oil, stain, grease, and water repellency. They are used to provide non-stick surfaces on cookware and waterproof, breathable membranes for clothing. PFOA can also be found as an impurity in the production of some products.

For more information on the Agency actions on PFOA or to read any available commitment letters, visit

Statement from Environmental Working Group (EWG) President Ken Cook

January 25, 2006

This is one of those days when the Environmental Protection Agency is at its best. With its announcement today, the EPA is challenging an entire industry to err on the side of precaution and public safety and invent new ways of doing business, with the goal of safeguarding human health and the environment against the potentially significant risks posed by a family of perfluorinated chemicals that are indestructible in the environment, toxic and contaminate all of us.

We commend the professional staff and leadership at EPA for forging a stewardship agreement with major companies that will, if properly implemented, dramatically reduce, and eventually eliminate, pollution associated with the chemical known as PFOA, and related chemicals that break down to become PFOA and similar substances. These toxic chemicals pose numerous health risks, are extraordinarily persistent in the environment, and have already found their way into the blood of people worldwide, including most Americans. Indeed, just this past summer, laboratory tests EWG commissioned found that many of these chemicals reach American babies while they are still in the womb.

We also commend individuals like [the Bailey family of Virginia] and communities like Little Hocking, Ohio, who at various times have had the courage to stand up in public to raise health concerns about these chemicals. Todays announcement holds the bittersweet promise that, going forward, we can hope for less pollution and less damage to human health from these chemicals. These chemicals, made by a number of companies, are also the foundation of a multi-billion dollar industry that provides consumers with products that repel water and grease on clothes and food containers, prevent stains on carpets and fabrics, and keep food from sticking to pots and pans. It is our hope that with this agreement, the value of these products, and the jobs associated with them, will be retained, but the pollution will end.

EWG is concerned, and will remain vigilant, about some of the chemicals that may replace PFOA and other chemicals affected by this agreement in industrial processes and consumer products. Based on what we know now, their toxicity is lower, as is their propensity to end up in people. But some of these substances are very persistent, and it is our view they should be seen as an interim step along a path to truly clean, safe technologies.

As harshly as we have singled out DuPont for criticism for its past handling of PFOA pollution, today we want to single out and commend the company, and acknowledge its leadership going forward. We discern in this agreement the DuPont company at its best: forward looking, environmentally sensitive, setting the pace for a cleaner chemical industry, and committed to applying its formidable powers of invention to eliminate pollution from this family of chemicals where they can, and severely restrict it everywhere else. Eventually, we hope DuPont and other companies will find ways to operate without the use of persistent toxic chemicals altogether.

The Environmental Working Group is on record as supporting a ban on PFOA and related substances that are similarly persistent, toxic, and end up in people. We continue to believe that a PFOA ban is needed. No one should confuse the agreement announced today with a ban. It is not a ban. To ask why the government push for industry-wide elimination and control of these pollutants is happening now is to lament that these actions were not taken many years ago, before these companies polluted the farthest reaches of the biosphere with PFOA and related compounds. There are two reasons. First, it is happening now because, from a technological standpoint, the EPA and the companies involved believe they can make it happen. Companies can embrace cleaner production and remain profitable which companies can bring the cleanest technologies to the marketplace. Second, the public is making clear to policymakers and in the marketplace that they do not want toxic industrial chemicals in their bodies. They do not want toxic chemicals emitted into the environment as industrial pollutants. They do not want to be contaminated by toxic chemicals in consumer products.

For this agreement to work, it must be completely transparent. Scientists and regulators in the United States, and globally, must be able to track trends in emissions and product content. And the agreement must be global, embraced by every company in the industry worldwide. EWGs research and advocacy on PFOA and related chemicals have focused on DuPont and 3M, but many other companies have been, or remain, engaged in the roduction of these substances. Our advice to companies and consumers is do not do business with any company that makes these chemicals if they have not signed this agreement. And press any company you do business with, or whose products you buy, to eliminate or severely reduce the use of these chemicals as soon as possible.

Finally, we hope that no one will conclude that this agreement proves that our current system for regulating industrial chemicals works, because it proves just the opposite. It proves we have learned very little since we banned DDT and PCBs a generation ago, chemicals far less persistent, less ubiquitous in the environment, and quite likely less toxic than PFOA. The controlling law for these chemicals, the Toxic Substances Control Act, has left government regulators toothless, purblind, and overly dependent on volunteerism since it was first passed, in 1976. It is the only major modern environmental law that has not been comprehensively reauthorized since its original passage.

We offer the unfolding saga of perfluorinated chemical pollution, including the hopeful chapter opened today, as exhibit number one in the case for enacting the Kids Safe Chemical Act introduced last year by Senators Lautenberg and Jeffords in the Senate, and by Representatives Waxman and Slaughter in the House.

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6) EPA Helps Schools and Child Care Facilities Reduce Lead in Drinking Water

news release, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
January 26, 2006
Contact: Dale Kemery, 202-564-7839

(Washington, D.C. -- January 26, 2006) EPA has released a specialized toolkit to encourage school officials and child care facilities to reduce lead in their drinking water. The "3Ts for Reducing Lead in Drinking Water at Schools and Child care Facilities Toolkit" contains materials to implement a voluntary Training, Testing, and Telling strategy.

"Our drinking water tools for schools teach lead prevention through action and awareness," said Benjamin H. Grumbles, assistant administrator for water. "This new and improved guidance will help students, teachers, and parents have confidence in the quality of their school's tap water."

Testing water in schools and child care centers is important because children spend a significant portion of their days there. The "3Ts Toolkit" explains how to test for lead in drinking water; report results to parents, students, staff, and other interested parties; and take action to correct problems. The toolkit also includes an update to a 1994 EPA technical guidance to help schools design and implement testing programs. Steps in the program include:

EPA developed the toolkit in conjunction with nongovernment organizations and several federal agencies including the U.S. Department of Education, whose Safe and Drug-Free School Coordinators will help promote and distribute the package to schools. Deborah Price, assistant deputy secretary of the Office of Safe and Drug-Free Schools at the Department of Education, said, "An unhealthy school environment is a serious barrier to learning. This toolkit will help schools work with their community partners to understand and reduce children's lead exposure from drinking water."

Printed copies of the toolkit will be available through the Water Resource Center at 800-832-7828 and through the Safe Drinking Water Hotline at 800-426-4791. To view the toolkit visit

EPA will also distribute toolkits at conferences attended by school officials and child care providers throughout 2006. Information about drinking water and children's health is available at

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7) EPA Questioned on Lead in Drinking Water

by Erica Werner, The Associated Press, Washington Post
January 26, 2006

WASHINGTON -- The government has incomplete data about lead in the country's drinking water, and that problem and others may be undermining public health, congressional investigators say. A Government Accountability Office study released Thursday looked at implementation of the Environmental Protection Agency's 1991 Lead and Copper Rule. The rule requires water systems to test tap water at certain high-risk locations. If elevated levels are found, the water systems must notify customers and in some cases take action to lessen corrosion.

According to EPA data, the number of water systems exceeding the lead action level dropped by nearly 75 percent over about a decade beginning in the early 1990s. But GAO investigators found that recent test results from over 30 percent of water systems were missing from EPA data, apparently because states were not reporting them. Also, the EPA requires states to report certain "milestones" to indicate whether water systems' lead levels are acceptable, but this information was missing for more than 70 percent of water systems, the report said. "EPA has been slow to take action on these data problems and, as a result, lacks the information it needs to evaluate how effectively the lead rule is being implemented and enforced nationwide," said the report. This weakness and others -- including standards for plumbing fixtures that might not be protective enough -- "may be undermining the intended level of public health protection."

The EPA defended implementation of its lead rule. "The Lead and Copper Rule has been effective in more than 96 percent of water systems serving 3,300 people or more, and we are committed to further strengthening protections from lead through additional actions," said Benjamin H. Grumbles, assistant administrator for water. He said the agency will be proposing improvements to the rule in coming weeks. The EPA also announced in March plans for stricter lead level monitoring and reporting. The report recommended changes, including improved data collection, lead monitoring requirements and standards for plumbing fittings.

The findings sparked criticism from Democratic Reps. John Dingell of Michigan and Hilda Solis of California and independent Sen. James Jeffords of Vermont, the lawmakers who requested the report. "It is unacceptable that the Bush administration cannot account for the water quality of more than 33 million Californians, including our children," Solis said. "The status quo of allowing our children's health to be put at risk while failing to take action is beyond irresponsible."

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8) First Report on North American Children Finds High Asthma Rates

from Environmental News Service
January 26, 2006

Montreal, Quebec, Canada, (ENS) -- The first report on children's health and environment indicators in North America by a NAFTA Commission shows a rising number of childhood asthma cases across the region, but improvements in children's blood lead levels, and a decrease in deaths from waterborne diseases. It finds that North America's 123 million children remain at risk from environmental exposures.

For the full article, please visit

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9) Harmful Teflon Chemical to Be Eliminated by 2015

by Juliet Eilperin, Washington Post
January 26, 2006

Eight U.S. companies, including giant DuPont Co., agreed yesterday to virtually eliminate a harmful chemical used to make Teflon from all consumer products coated with the ubiquitous nonstick material. Although the chemical would still be used to manufacture Teflon and similar products, processes will be developed to ensure that perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) would not be released into the environment from finished products or manufacturing plants. PFOA -- a key processing agent in making nonstick and stain-resistant materials -- has been linked to cancer and birth defects in animals and is in the blood of 95 percent of Americans, including pregnant women. It has also been found in the blood of marine organisms and Arctic polar bears.

The voluntary pact, which was crafted by the Environmental Protection Agency, will force companies to reduce manufacturing emissions of PFOA by 95 percent by no later than 2010. They will also have to reduce trace amounts of the compound in consumer products by 95 percent during the same period and virtually eliminate them by 2015. The agreement will dramatically reduce the extent to which PFOA shows up in a wide variety of everyday products, including pizza boxes, nonstick pans and microwave-popcorn bags.

While not as sweeping as the federal ban on DDT in 1972, yesterday's agreement is expected to have profound implications for public health and the environment. An independent federal scientific advisory board is expected to recommend soon whether the government should classify the chemical as a "likely" or "probable" carcinogen in humans, which could trigger a new set of federal regulations. "The science is still coming in on PFOA, but the concern is there," said Susan B. Hazen, acting assistant administrator of EPA's Office of Prevention, Pesticides and Toxic Substances. "This is the right thing to do for our health and our environment."

The move, which came just a month after DuPont reached a $16.5 million settlement with EPA over the company's failure to report possible health risks associated with PFOA, drew applause from environmental groups that have frequently criticized both the administration and DuPont. "This is one of those days when the Environmental Protection Agency is at its best. With its announcement today, the EPA is challenging an entire industry to err on the side of precaution and public safety, and invent new ways of doing business," said Ken Cook, president of the Environmental Working Group, an advocacy organization. "As harshly as we have singled out DuPont for criticism for its past handling of PFOA pollution, today we want to single out and commend the company and acknowledge its leadership going forward."

DuPont officials said they were confident they could alter manufacturing methods over the coming decade to contain PFOA exposure from products that generated $1 billion in sales for the company in 2004. "It's important to do this because this is a persistent material in the environment, and it's at low levels in people's blood," said David Boothe, DuPont's global business director. To remove PFOA, he said, the company will subject some of its products to extra heat and will sometimes add a step in the manufacturing process. "We're going to push it really hard and take it as far as we can."

Scientific studies have not established a link between using products containing trace amounts of PFOA, such as microwave-popcorn bags or nonstick pans, and elevated cancer levels. Hazen said yesterday's announcement should "not indicate any concern . . . for consumers using household products" with such coatings. Several other companies agreed yesterday to reduce public exposure to the chemical, including 3M Co., Ciba and Clariant Corp. But DuPont, which settled a class-action suit last year accusing it of contaminating drinking water in Ohio and West Virginia communities near its plant in Parkersburg, W.Va., has attracted the most public scrutiny over its PFOA use.

William Bailey III, who was born in 1981 with multiple birth defects while his mother, Sue, was working with the chemical at the Parkersburg plant, said he will "be watching" to see if the chemical giant complies with the new agreement. "They're trying to save face," said Bailey, who is suing DuPont over his birth defects.

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10) FDA Tests Show Risk in Tuna

U.S. agency finds high mercury levels in some cans and in samples of Chilean sea bass

by Sam Roe and Michael Hawthorne, Chicago Tribune
January 27, 2006,1,7450296.story?ctrack=1&cset=true

Newly released government data provide the best evidence to date that some cans of light tuna -- one of America's favorite seafoods -- contain high levels of mercury. Testing by the Food and Drug Administration found that 6 percent of canned light tuna samples contained large amounts of mercury, a toxic metal that can cause learning disabilities in children and neurological problems in adults. The findings are significant because the government has repeatedly stated that canned light tuna is low in mercury and a good choice for pregnant women and young children.

The FDA also found high mercury levels in samples of Chilean sea bass, which is often sold in high-end restaurants. Previously, the FDA had tested only one sample of the fish. High levels were detected in big-eye tuna, a species sold as ahi tuna and served in sushi. No federal warnings exist for either fish, even though the average mercury level detected in the FDA tests was above the average in albacore tuna, which the government tells pregnant women and young children to limit eating. In all, the FDA released testing results for more than 25 kinds of fish, sampled between 2001 and 2005. The findings were not released until now partly because the analysis wasn't complete, the agency said.

While a few species, such as tuna and Chilean sea bass (also known as Patagonian toothfish), were tested frequently in the latest round of sampling, many were not. Only one catfish, one flatfish, two mahi-mahi, four crabs and seven sardines were tested, the FDA data show. On Thursday, the agency said it would not take any action based on its newly released results, which come at a time when the FDA has been under fire for not adequately policing mercury in seafood, particularly canned light tuna. Most light tuna is made with skipjack, a relatively low-mercury species. But a Tribune investigative series recently reported that the U.S. tuna industry often uses a high-mercury species, yellowfin, to make some cans of light tuna.

Toxic metal high in samples
The FDA had been unaware of the practice, so the agency's latest testing did not address the yellowfin issue. Responding to the Tribune series, though, FDA officials started investigating whether canned light tuna contains hazardous mercury levels. In the 216 samples of canned light tuna tested by the FDA, the mercury levels averaged 0.12 parts per million, in line with previous limited testing and well below the legal limit of 1.0 parts per million. But 12 samples exceeded 0.35 parts per million, an amount the government considers high. When the Tribune recently tested 36 cans of the same type of canned tuna, none of the samples exceeded that level. The discrepancy might be due to the difference in sample size or because mercury levels can vary widely in all fish.

When asked about the FDA's latest testing results on light tuna, an agency official said consumers should not be concerned that 6 percent of canned light tuna tested high in mercury. What's important, the official said, is that on average, such tuna tested relatively low. The official, who answered questions on the condition of anonymity, also said the results for all fish tested indicate that mercury levels in commercial seafood were "relatively stable" compared with previous testing. But many scientists said consumers should be concerned about mercury contamination even in fish that on average test low in the toxic metal. Though it is unclear whether a single high-mercury meal could harm a fetus, many experts said the developing nervous system is so sensitive to toxic substances that caution should prevail. "I give a lot of talks to parents, and they always ask what is a safe fish to eat. I tell them I cannot give them an honest answer," said Vas Aposhian, a University of Arizona toxicologist who resigned from an FDA panel that advised the agency as it crafted its 2004 mercury warning for seafood. He accused the FDA of minimizing the risks and bowing to industry pressure.

Of the five seafoods listed in FDA warnings as low-mercury options -- shrimp, canned light tuna, salmon, pollock and catfish -- only light tuna occasionally tests in the high range. Many of the FDA's new mercury results were from samples taken several years ago. An agency spokesman said results are not released to the public until "the analysis is completed and the quality assurance has been completed. Sometimes that process can be delayed." All the FDA data can be found at

Tuna industry calls food safe
The U.S. Tuna Foundation, the industry's leading lobbying group, said the FDA's new data actually confirm the safety of canned light tuna. "FDA's latest findings about mercury levels in canned tuna should end the debate over whether canned tuna is a safe and healthy food for all Americans," David Burney, the foundation's executive director, said in a statement. "No one is at risk from the minute amounts of mercury in any form of canned tuna."

Medical experts and the U.S. government disagree. In 2004, the FDA and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency jointly warned high-risk consumers to eat no more than 6 ounces of albacore canned tuna per week because of high mercury levels. Even if women of childbearing age and young children followed that suggestion, the EPA's own calculations show they would absorb too much mercury. In addition, the tuna industry acknowledges that tens of millions of cans of light tuna are made each year with yellowfin and contain amounts of mercury equal to cans of albacore. These yellowfin cans are often marketed as gourmet light tuna, though most cans do not indicate that yellowfin is inside.

Among the fish testing relatively low in mercury in the FDA's latest round of tests was tilefish, a species the agency warns pregnant women and young children not to eat. Previous testing in the Gulf of Mexico found high mercury levels in tilefish. The latest samples came from waters off the Atlantic Coast, raising questions about the reliability of the FDA's consumer advice. "They don't fully understand levels of mercury in fish and they're trying to provide advice to people based on shoddy science," said Jane Houlihan, vice president for research at the Environmental Working Group, a non-profit organization that has criticized the FDA's mercury policy.

Doubt cast on FDA warnings
The FDA's recent testing of fresh and frozen tuna raises additional questions about the agency's warnings. Samples of yellowfin and big-eye tuna showed high levels of mercury, the FDA data indicated. One sample of yellowfin tuna was over the legal limit of 1 part per million. Samples of big-eye averaged 0.62 parts per million, among the highest of any fish sold. An industry spokesman previously told the Tribune that high-mercury yellowfin and big-eye are used in gourmet and regular canned light. The Tuna Foundation maintains that only small yellowfin and big-eye are used in the regular cans.

In general, larger fish such as tuna and longer-lived fish such as Chilean sea bass are higher in mercury because they can eat more food contaminated with it. Just how much mercury might be in a single can of tuna is unclear. That is because the FDA does not test individual cans. Instead, it removes small pieces of tissue from 12 cans and mixes the tissue together. The agency then tests the mixture, masking any extreme amounts of mercury in a single can. This is done with other fish species as well.

Testing method questioned
In the FDA's recent testing, one sample of light tuna showed mercury levels of 0.72 parts per million--a high amount but still within the 1.0 legal limit. But because this result was a composite of 12 cans, it is likely that some of the individual cans had higher levels. It is impossible to know whether one of those cans tested over the legal limit. The FDA said it tests a mixture of cans rather than individual cans partly to save money. "It would cost 12 times as much to test 12 separate cans and then average the data, which is what we would have to do," said the FDA official who requested anonymity. That methodology troubles some doctors. "I find that incredibly disturbing," said Jane Hightower, a San Francisco internist who treats patients with mercury-related ailments. "That is falsifying data as far as I am concerned."

Hightower also said the FDA should do a better job of informing consumers about high mercury levels in Chilean sea bass and other fish. "This information should be made available to the public in a user-friendly format and not buried in the depths of an Internet Web site," she said.

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11) Climate Expert Says NASA Tried to Silence Him

by Andrew C. Revkin, New York Times
January 29, 2006,Q2FTQ3FbcIQ3FcQ2FcdEhfQ2FQ2A,Q3FQ3AbQ5BdhcQ3EfhQ5BQ3A

The top climate scientist at NASA says the Bush administration has tried to stop him from speaking out since he gave a lecture last month calling for prompt reductions in emissions of greenhouse gases linked to global warming. The scientist, James E. Hansen, longtime director of the agency's Goddard Institute for Space Studies, said in an interview that officials at NASA headquarters had ordered the public affairs staff to review his coming lectures, papers, postings on the Goddard Web site and requests for interviews from journalists. Dr. Hansen said he would ignore the restrictions. "They feel their job is to be this censor of information going out to the public," he said.

Dean Acosta, deputy assistant administrator for public affairs at the space agency, said there was no effort to silence Dr. Hansen. "That's not the way we operate here at NASA," Mr. Acosta said. "We promote openness and we speak with the facts." He said the restrictions on Dr. Hansen applied to all National Aeronautics and Space Administration personnel. He added that government scientists were free to discuss scientific findings, but that policy statements should be left to policy makers and appointed spokesmen. Mr. Acosta said other reasons for requiring press officers to review interview requests were to have an orderly flow of information out of a sprawling agency and to avoid surprises. "This is not about any individual or any issue like global warming," he said. "It's about coordination."

Dr. Hansen strongly disagreed with this characterization, saying such procedures had already prevented the public from fully grasping recent findings about climate change that point to risks ahead. "Communicating with the public seems to be essential," he said, "because public concern is probably the only thing capable of overcoming the special interests that have obfuscated the topic."

Dr. Hansen, 63, a physicist who joined the space agency in 1967, directs efforts to simulate the global climate on computers at the Goddard Institute in Morningside Heights in Manhattan. Since 1988, he has been issuing public warnings about the long-term threat from heat-trapping emissions, dominated by carbon dioxide, that are an unavoidable byproduct of burning coal, oil and other fossil fuels. He has had run-ins with politicians or their appointees in various administrations, including budget watchers in the first Bush administration and Vice President Al Gore.

In 2001, Dr. Hansen was invited twice to brief Vice President Dick Cheney and other cabinet members on climate change. White House officials were interested in his findings showing that cleaning up soot, which also warms the atmosphere, was an effective and far easier first step than curbing carbon dioxide. He fell out of favor with the White House in 2004 after giving a speech at the University of Iowa before the presidential election, in which he complained that government climate scientists were being muzzled and said he planned to vote for Senator John Kerry.

But Dr. Hansen said that nothing in 30 years equaled the push made since early December to keep him from publicly discussing what he says are clear-cut dangers from further delay in curbing carbon dioxide. In several interviews with The New York Times in recent days, Dr. Hansen said it would be irresponsible not to speak out, particularly because NASA's mission statement includes the phrase "to understand and protect our home planet." He said he was particularly incensed that the directives had come through telephone conversations and not through formal channels, leaving no significant trails of documents.

Dr. Hansen's supervisor, Franco Einaudi, said there had been no official "order or pressure to say shut Jim up." But Dr. Einaudi added, "That doesn't mean I like this kind of pressure being applied." The fresh efforts to quiet him, Dr. Hansen said, began in a series of calls after a lecture he gave on Dec. 6 at the annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco. In the talk, he said that significant emission cuts could be achieved with existing technologies, particularly in the case of motor vehicles, and that without leadership by the United States, climate change would eventually leave the earth "a different planet."

The administration's policy is to use voluntary measures to slow, but not reverse, the growth of emissions. After that speech and the release of data by Dr. Hansen on Dec. 15 showing that 2005 was probably the warmest year in at least a century, officials at the headquarters of the space agency repeatedly phoned public affairs officers, who relayed the warning to Dr. Hansen that there would be "dire consequences" if such statements continued, those officers and Dr. Hansen said in interviews. Among the restrictions, according to Dr. Hansen and an internal draft memorandum he provided to The Times, was that his supervisors could stand in for him in any news media interviews.

Mr. Acosta said the calls and meetings with Goddard press officers were not to introduce restrictions, but to review existing rules. He said Dr. Hansen had continued to speak frequently with the news media. But Dr. Hansen and some of his colleagues said interviews were canceled as a result. In one call, George Deutsch, a recently appointed public affairs officer at NASA headquarters, rejected a request from a producer at National Public Radio to interview Dr. Hansen, said Leslie McCarthy, a public affairs officer responsible for the Goddard Institute.

Citing handwritten notes taken during the conversation, Ms. McCarthy said Mr. Deutsch called N.P.R. "the most liberal" media outlet in the country. She said that in that call and others, Mr. Deutsch said his job was "to make the president look good" and that as a White House appointee that might be Mr. Deutsch's priority. But she added: "I'm a career civil servant and Jim Hansen is a scientist. That's not our job. That's not our mission. The inference was that Hansen was disloyal."

Normally, Ms. McCarthy would not be free to describe such conversations to the news media, but she agreed to an interview after Mr. Acosta, at NASA headquarters, told The Times that she would not face any retribution for doing so. Mr. Acosta, Mr. Deutsch's supervisor, said that when Mr. Deutsch was asked about the conversations, he flatly denied saying anything of the sort. Mr. Deutsch referred all interview requests to Mr. Acosta. Ms. McCarthy, when told of the response, said: "Why am I going to go out of my way to make this up and back up Jim Hansen? I don't have a dog in this race. And what does Hansen have to gain?"

Mr. Acosta said that for the moment he had no way of judging who was telling the truth. Several colleagues of both Ms. McCarthy and Dr. Hansen said Ms. McCarthy's statements were consistent with what she told them when the conversations occurred. "He's not trying to create a war over this," said Larry D. Travis, an astronomer who is Dr. Hansen's deputy at Goddard, "but really feels very strongly that this is an obligation we have as federal scientists, to inform the public." Dr. Travis said he walked into Ms. McCarthy's office in mid-December at the end of one of the calls from Mr. Deutsch demanding that Dr. Hansen be better controlled.

In an interview on Friday, Ralph J. Cicerone, an atmospheric chemist and the president of the National Academy of Sciences, the nation's leading independent scientific body, praised Dr. Hansen's scientific contributions and said he had always seemed to describe his public statements clearly as his personal views. "He really is one of the most productive and creative scientists in the world," Dr. Cicerone said. "I've heard Hansen speak many times and I've read many of his papers, starting in the late 70's. Every single time, in writing or when I've heard him speak, he's always clear that he's speaking for himself, not for NASA or the administration, whichever administration it's been."

The fight between Dr. Hansen and administration officials echoes other recent disputes. At climate laboratories of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, for example, many scientists who routinely took calls from reporters five years ago can now do so only if the interview is approved by administration officials in Washington, and then only if a public affairs officer is present or on the phone. Where scientists' points of view on climate policy align with those of the administration, however, there are few signs of restrictions on extracurricular lectures or writing.

One example is Indur M. Goklany, assistant director of science and technology policy in the policy office of the Interior Department. For years, Dr. Goklany, an electrical engineer by training, has written in papers and books that it may be better not to force cuts in greenhouse gases because the added prosperity from unfettered economic activity would allow countries to exploit benefits of warming and adapt to problems. In an e-mail exchange on Friday, Dr. Goklany said that in the Clinton administration he was shifted to nonclimate-related work, but added that he had never had to stop his outside writing, as long as he identified the views as his own. "One reason why I still continue to do the extracurricular stuff," he wrote, "is because one doesn't have to get clearance for what I plan on saying or writing."

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12) Traces of Prescription Drugs Found in Southland Aquifers

Various medications are detected in drinking water that has been derived from treated sewage. The health risk, if any, is unknown.

by Marla Cone, Los Angeles Times
January 30, 2006,0,5723467.story

Behind a tangle of willows, every second of every day for almost half a century, recycled sewage has gushed into an El Monte creek and nourished one of Los Angeles County's most precious resources: the drinking water stored beneath the San Gabriel Valley. Cleansed so thoroughly that it is considered pure enough to drink, this flow from the Whittier Narrows reclamation plant meets all government standards. Yet county officials now report that they have found some potent -- and until recent months undetected -- ingredients in the treated waste: prescription drugs.

As new technology enables detection of infinitesimally smaller doses of chemicals in the environment, Southern California water-quality officials have learned that an array of hardy pharmaceuticals are defying even the most sophisticated sewage treatments in use. Around the world, waterways and groundwater basins are virtual drugstores, awash in low doses of hundreds of prescription drugs excreted by people and flushed down drains. Wherever there is sewage, there are traces of whatever pills people have popped: antibiotics and antipsychotics, birth-control hormones and beta blockers, Viagra and Valium. "There is no place on Earth exempted from having pharmaceuticals and steroids in its wastewater," said Shane Snyder, head toxicologist at Las Vegas' water provider, the Southern Nevada Water Authority, and one of the nation's leading experts on pharmaceuticals in water. "This is clearly an issue that is global, and we're going to see more and more of these chemicals in the environment; no doubt about it."

Locally, small amounts of medicines for depression, seizures, high cholesterol, anxiety, infections, inflammation and pain -- among other ailments -- have been detected in the wastewater that flows into California streams and seeps into drinking-water aquifers. The contamination raises questions about the safety of reclaimed water consumed by the public and the health of wild creatures that inhabit waterways. The concentrations are so minuscule -- in parts per trillion, or a few drops in an Olympic-sized swimming pool -- that scientists suspect there is little or no human danger. They acknowledge, however, that no one knows the effects of ingesting tiny doses of multiple drugs continuously over a lifetime.

So far, concerns have focused mostly on the ecological threat. Biologists studying frogs on Prozac, insects dosed with anti-seizure drugs, algae killed by antibiotics and fish feminized by birth-control pills have discovered that some streams contain pharmaceuticals and synthetic estrogen at levels harmful to aquatic life. "All the data we have compiled indicates these concentrations are trivial to public health. Even putting massive safety factors on this, it still wouldn't have a [human] impact," Snyder said. "Now for wastewater -- that's a different story. When you have a fish or endangered species that is exposed 24 hours a day, we do need to look at this."

With thousands of varieties of prescription and over-the-counter drugs being sold, there are no government standards restricting any of them in drinking water or in effluent released into streams or lakes. Water and sewage agencies aren't even required to look for them -- and most don't. Testing of drinking water for drugs has been so infrequent that no one knows how much people are ingesting. A national association of wastewater agencies warned in November that pharmaceuticals are a "potential sleeping giant."

Los Angeles and Orange counties are among the world's leaders in recycling sewage to replenish water supplies, and officials there worry that the public's perception of the water supply will be tainted. The Whittier Narrows plant, which has operated in El Monte since 1962, was the nation's first reclamation plant. Since then, nearly half a trillion gallons of treated sewage from Whittier Narrows and two other county plants have replenished the Central Basin aquifer beneath the San Gabriel Valley, which supplies water to 4 million people.

Sewage in Southern California undergoes some of the world's most rigorous cleansing -- tertiary treatment -- to protect rivers and streams from bacteria and nitrogen. Much of the wastewater then is routed into aquifers, where it remains for at least six months so soil can filter out more contaminants before potable water is pumped. In November, the Los Angeles County Sanitation Districts reported at a scientific conference that they found high levels of ibuprofen, naproxen and acetaminophen in raw sewage coming into its Whittier Narrows plant, and very small concentrations going out.

In waste that had undergone treatment, the antibiotic sulfamethoxazole and anti-cholesterol medication gemfibrozil were found at fairly high levels of around one part per billion. The antidepressant fluoxetine, the arthritis drug diclofenac, anti-anxiety and anti-seizure drugs, three more antibiotics and others were detected at lower levels, in parts per trillion. Estrogens also were measured in low levels. Similar findings from two Los Angeles County reclamation plants will be published later this year by Jorg Drewes, an assistant professor of environmental science and engineering at the Colorado School of Mines.

Robert Horvath, the districts' technical services director, said tiny doses of over-the-counter drugs aren't that worrisome, but other less common medications can amount to an involuntary though "extremely low" public exposure. The agency, which operates 10 reclamation plants, is one of a few with the ability to test for pharmaceuticals. "It's such a large list of compounds that even the testing is a lot of work -- just teasing out which ones are important. So far, we have no [federal or state] goals to shoot for," Horvath said.

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13) EPA Joins Other Federal Agencies to Adopt High Performance and Sustainable Building Principles

news nelease, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
January 30, 2006
Contact: Roxanne Smith, 202-564-4355

(Washington, D.C. -- January 30, 2006) In order to save energy and protect our nation's environment, EPA and several federal agencies, including the Department of Defense and General Services Administration, agreed to a set of guiding principles for designing, building, and operating federal facilities. Energy efficiency is a key element of the principles, officially titled, "The Federal Leadership Memorandum of Understanding to adopt Guiding Principles for High Performance and Sustainable Buildings."

"Whether you are running a business, a school, or the government of the United States, getting the most out of our energy dollars just makes sense," said EPA Assistant Administrator for Administration and Resources Management Luis A. Luna. "In meeting President Bush's call to conserve our energy resources, the federal government is leading the way in the national march toward energy security and a cleaner environment." Agreed to at the White House Summit on Federal Sustainable Buildings, the guiding principles integrate design, energy performance, water conservation, indoor air quality, and sustainable materials to ensure that new buildings are among the most energy efficient in the country. They also outline that building components should exceed the energy code, and that the actual energy performance of a building, during and through the first year of operation, should be verified against its design target using EPA's Energy Star performance rating system for buildings.

The federal government owns approximately 445,000 buildings with a total floor space of over 3 billion square feet, in addition to leasing 57,000 buildings comprising 374 million square feet of floor space. If federal buildings reduce energy by 10 percent, in 10 years taxpayers would save $420 million dollars and reduce greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to those from more than 625,000 cars. Energy Star is a government-backed program helping businesses and consumers protect the environment through superior energy efficiency. By partnering with EPA through Energy Star, more than 8,000 private and public sector organizations, in 2004 alone, saved enough energy to power 24 million homes and avoid greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to those from 20 million cars -- all while saving $10 billion.

For more information on Guiding Principles for Federal Leadership in High Performance and Sustainable Buildings, visit EPA's Web site at

For information on Energy Star buildings, visit

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