Effects of dioxin exposure appear in third generation of rats

A study from scientists at the Center for Reproductive Biology at Washington State University describes the intergenerational transfer of generic damage in rats arising from exposure to dioxin. The study found that great grandchildren experienced a significant increase in diseases such as kidney disease in males, pubertal abnormalities in females, ovarian primordial follicle loss and polycystic ovary disease, attributable to their great grandparents’ sub-acute level exposure to dioxin.

While there is no information as to whether similar effects might be observed in humans, the authors state that the study demonstrates the potential of dioxin to promote genetic changes leading to transgenerational inheritance of disease. “Although not designed for risk assessment, these results have implications for the human populations that are exposed to dioxin and are experiencing declines in fertility and increases in adult onset disease, with a potential to transmit them to later generations.” It is not known whether these effects are unique to the dioxin family of substances or whether similar results might be observed from other substances which cause genetic mutations in the reproductive system.

An abstract and the complete article are available at http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0046249

News Corp blasted by Concerned Scientists over climate change reporting

News Corporation, owner of Fox News, the Wall Street Journal, and many other media and communication outlets, has been heavily criticized in a report prepared for the Union of Concerned Scientists. Among many findings, the UCS report states that:

  • Over a recent six-month period, 93 percent of Fox News Channel’s representations of climate science were misleading (37 out of 40 instances).
  •  Similarly, over the past year, 81 percent of the representations of climate science in the Wall Street Journal’s opinion section were misleading (39 out of 48 instances).

UCS’s examination finds that the misleading citations include broad dismissals of human-caused climate change, disparaging comments about individual scientists, rejections of climate science as a body of knowledge, and cherry picking of data. Fox News Channel citations also included several discussions in which misleading claims dominated accurate ones.

Much of this coverage denigrated climate science by either promoting distrust in scientists and scientific institutions or placing acceptance of climate change in an ideological, rather than fact-based, context.

One of the basic tenets of a democratic society is an informed electorate. In GallonDaily’s view, intentional spreading of false news is an inherently anti democratic activity.  Companies and organizations that ally themselves with misinformation disseminated by News Corporation media outlets may feel that they are serving worthy shareholder goals but could find themselves the target of a severe customer or regulator reaction at some point in the future.

The Union of Concerned Scientists report can be found at http://www.ucsusa.org/global_warming/science_and_impacts/global_warming_contrarians/news-corporation-climate-science-coverage.html?utm_source=SP&utm_medium=more&utm_campaign=news%2Bcorp

Climate change may influence US election

A study by the Yale University Project on Climate Change Communication has indicated that climate change may have a greater impact on the outcome of the US election than many pundits currently expect.

The study, based on poll results, states that 7% of electors remain undecided regarding their vote for President:

  • Most undecided likely voters (80%) believe that global warming is happening, while only 3% say it is not happening – which is very similar to likely Obama voters (86% and 4%, respectively).
  • Undecideds are markedly different than likely Romney voters, fewer than half of whom believe global warming is happening (45%). In fact, one in three likely Romney voters say it is not happening.
  • While two out of three likely Obama voters (66%) believe that most scientists think global warming is happening, few likely Romney voters do (22%) – a three to one margin.
  • Though few likely voters say global warming is the “single-most important” issue to them in this election, majorities of both likely Obama voters (75%) and Undecideds (61%) say it will be one of several important issues determining their vote for President. The issue is of notably less importance to likely Romney voters.
  • Undecideds as well as likely Obama voters say that President Obama (64% and 61% respectively) and Congress (72% and 78%) should be “doing more” about global warming.
  • There is broad agreement among all likely voters – including likely Romney voters – that the U.S. should use more renewable energy sources (e.g., solar, wind, and geothermal) in the future.
  • About four out of ten Undecideds and likely Romney voters (40% and 36% respectively) – say they could “easily change their mind” about global warming.

The study report is available at http://environment.yale.edu/climate/news/global-warming-2012-election/

Europe may cap biofuel use

Since climate change became an international issue the European Union has been among the leaders in promoting biofuels through legislated mandates, requirements that petroleum fuels contain a specified minimum percentage of fuel produced from plant-based materials rather than from fossil resources. Now the EU may be about to turn this policy on its head, capping the percentage of biofuel that can be used in transportation fuels.

One of the leaders in the fight against biofuels from food lands is Oxfam. In a recent press release and report, Oxfam claims that “Europe’s biofuels policies are making climate change worse, not better, and poor people are paying the highest price.”

If, as is possible, the Canadian and US governments follow what may be the European lead, billions of dollars in investment in biofuel production, distribution, and utilization will be seriously devalued. Much of the cost of poorly-planned policies will fall on the agricultural community which is now welcoming higher corn and soybean prices in the aftermath of a North American drought.

Not only does Canada need a food policy but the world needs a food policy that can help buffer these boom-bust cycles. Agricultural interests claim that there is room for both biofuel and food production but governments seem unable to find the global balance.

Information, including the leaked EC policy document and the Oxfam analysis, can be found at http://www.oxfam.org/en/eu/pressroom/pressrelease/2012-09-17/europes-thirst-biofuels-spells-hunger-millions-food-prices-shoot-up

Largest ever pesticide fines against respected US company

The largest fines under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act were imposed by a US court last week against Scotts Miracle-Gro Company in the United States. According to Scott’s, the Company ordered a recall of it wild bird seed products in 2008 when it discovered that they had been treated with a pest control product not authorized for use on wild bird food. The company voluntarily disclosed the matter to the government.

Scott’s claims that the pesticide was authorized for use on the wild bird seed products by a rogue employee without the Company’s knowledge. The same employee had created fraudulent documentation that allowed certain lawn and garden products to be marketed without proper approval from the US Environmental Protection Agency. The employee is still facing charges.

The pesticides were apparently added to the seed to protect it from insect pests during storage.

There is some disagreement between the Company and the press over the amount of the penalties. The Company claims that they total about $4.5 million while some press reports put the total over $12 million. Either way they are significant only as numbers, representing a tiny percentage of the Company’s $366 million profit in the quarter ended June 30th 2012. Greater harm may come from customer response, especially as Scott’s has claimed many of its lawn and garden products as “organic”.

Scott’s take on the charges is available at http://scotts.mediaroom.com/index.php?s=43&item=304 and


A somewhat more interesting media take on the story, one of many, is at http://uk.news.yahoo.com/scotts-pay-big-fine-fake-pesticides-poison-bird-015159063.html

The lesson for companies in the lawn and garden products industry sector: you can never be too careful.

GallonDaily’s parent company, CIAL Group, helps companies implement environmental management regimes that can reduce the risk that problems of this kind will occur.

Putting to rest the lightbulb myths

It seems that new technologies almost always attract criticism, sometimes well founded but often less so. So it has been with efforts to transition society from conventional incandescent lightbulbs to compact fluroescents and now to light-emitting diodes. With each of the new technologies there have been voices raised challenging the claims of environmental benefits.

Now a detailed study by the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory of the United States Department of Energy has provided what we hope is enough data to put the concerns to rest or at least to put the debate on a more sound scientific footing.

The reports, prepared for  the Solid-State Lighting Program of DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy, have used Life Cycle Analysis tools to rigorously compare the three types of lighting. The lightbulbs have been compared on fifteen LCA parameters, including:

  •  hazardous waste
  • radioactive waste
  • non-hazardous waste
  • abiotic resource depletion
  • terrestrial ecotoxicity
  • ecosystem damage
  • land use
  • global warming
  • acidification
  • photochemical oxidation
  • stratospheric ozone depletion
  • human toxicity
  • freshwater aquatic toxicity
  • marine aquatic toxicity
  • eutrophication

On all but one parameter, LED lightbulbs were found to be environmentally better than compact fluorescent lightbulbs.  Both LEDs and CFLs were significantly better than incandescent lightbulbs in all parameters. The one area where LEDs are slightly worse than CFLs is generation of hazardous waste. LED lightbulbs use an aluminum heatsink and manufacture of that aluminum adds to the hazardous waste element of their lifecycle. The researchers expect that this element will decline as new technology LEDs are introduced over the next few years. The new technology LEDs will produce less heat and therefore will require a smaller heatsink, the production of which generates less hazardous waste. However, even with the aluminum heatsink issue being taken into account, the data are pretty conclusive that LEDs are, from an environmental perspective, the best type of lightbulb currently available.

With CFLs now being shown quite clearly to be environmentally better than the incandescent bulb, GallonDaily hopes that both the federal and Ontario governments will return to their commitment to phase out traditional incandescent bulbs. This should be one of the easiest ways to pick up an approximately 5% reduction in electricity use with very little if any economic cost and a significant number of environmental co-benefits.

The Department of Energy LCA reports on lightbulbs, along with a press release, are available at http://www.pnnl.gov/news/release.aspx?id=940

Battle over carcinogen reporting in US

The US Department of Health’s National Toxicology Program runs an initiative known as the Report on Carcinogens. Every two years the ROC provides updated information on substances (and other things) in the environment that in our environment that may potentially put people in the United States at increased risk for cancer.

Now some members of Congress, backed by some in the chemical industry operating under the banner of the American Chemistry Council, an industry group, are trying to stall the Report on Carcinogens initiative. The response has been significant: a group of leading scientists has written to the relevant Senate and House of Representatives committees urging Congress to reject the ACC intervention. According to the Environmental Defense Fund, the industry group decided to oppose the ROC’s work after the initiative identified formaldehyde as a known human carcinogen and styrene as reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen.

A battle over suppressing cancer risk information is one that industrial organizations are unlikely to win, at least beyond the very short term. GallonDaily wonders why usually sensible organizations like the ACC allow themselves to be drawn into this kind of political bun fight.

Information about the battle from the reputable environmental group Environmental Defense Fund can be found at http://blogs.edf.org/nanotechnology/2012/09/05/hands-off-the-report-on-carcinogens/#more-2375

Democrat National Convention goes green

If the Democrat National Convention, being held this week in Charlotte, North Carolina, can take steps to becoming a green event, is there any excuse for any other major conference or expo for not doing the same?

According to a number of media reports, the DNC is using:

  • improved recycling programs
  • low toxicity paints
  • reusable water bottles
  • shuttle bus service for delegates
  • bicycle buses, each holding eight delegates
  • electric powered machinery
  • non-toxic adhesives
  • recycled polyester carpeting
  • reusable structures
  • locally sourced and organic foods

One of the better sources of information about the greener DNC is TheHill.com at http://thehill.com/conventions-2012/dem-convention-charlotte/246927-democrats-work-to-go-green-at-venues-during-convention