Minnesota bans anti-bacterial chemical from soaps

Yahoo News

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — It’s widely used nationwide as a germ-killing ingredient in soaps, deodorants and even toothpaste, but it’s being banned in Minnesota.

Gov. Mark Dayton on Friday signed a bill to make Minnesota the first state to prohibit the use of triclosan in most retail consumer hygiene products. The Minnesota House and Senate passed it earlier last week because of health and environmental concerns about the chemical. The ban isn’t due to take effect until Jan. 1, 2017, but one of its lead sponsors, state Sen. John Marty, predicted Monday that the odds are good that most manufacturers will phase out triclosan by then anyway.

“While this is an effort to ban triclosan from one of the 50 states, I think it will have a greater impact than that,” Marty said.

The Roseville Democrat said other states and the federal government are likely to act, too. And he said come companies are already catching on that there’s no marketing advantage to keeping triclosan in its products. He noted that Procter & Gamble’s Crest toothpaste is now marketing itself as triclosan-free.

Triclosan is used in an estimated 75 percent of anti-bacterial liquid soaps and body washes sold across the United States, according to the Food and Drug Administration. The federal agency announced last year that it would revisit the safety of triclosan and other germ-killing ingredients used in personal cleaning products. While triclosan hasn’t been shown to be hazardous to humans, studies have raised concerns that it can disrupt hormones critical for reproduction and development, at least in lab animals, and contribute to the development of resistant bacteria.

Critics including the FDA say there’s no evidence that triclosan soaps are any more effective than washing with plain soap and water for preventing the spread of diseases. A University of Minnesota study published last year found increasing levels of triclosan in the sediments of several lakes, and that the chemical can break down in those waters into potentially harmful dioxins. Two months later, Dayton ordered all state agencies to stop buying hand soaps and dish and laundry cleaners containing triclosan.

The American Cleaning Institute had urged Dayton to veto the new bill, saying triclosan has been thoroughly researched and shown to provide important health benefits.

“Instead of letting federal regulators do their jobs, the legislation would take safe, effective and beneficial products off the shelves of Minnesota grocery, convenience and drug stores,” Douglas Troutman, the trade group’s vice president and counsel for governmental affairs, wrote in a letter to Dayton.

ACI spokesman Brian Sansoni said Minnesota is the only state to enact a ban so far. He said it remains to be seen whether any individual manufacturers would go to the expense of reformulating their products just for the Minnesota market or simply stop selling them in the state. He said triclosan is an issue best regulated at the federal level.

Under an FDA rule proposed in December, manufacturers of anti-bacterial hand soaps and body washes would have to demonstrate that their products are safe for daily use, and more effective than plain soap and water. Otherwise, they would need to reformulate these products or remove anti-bacterial claims from the labels. The agency is still taking public comments on the proposal.

Some manufacturers have announced plans over the last couple years to at least partially phase out triclosan. Procter & Gamble plans to finish dropping the chemical from its products this year. Johnson & Johnson plans to eliminate it from all its consumer products by 2015.

Oceanographer Warns That BP Oil Disaster Created a New Fault Which Could “Release Oil Indefinitely”

Intel Hub
by JG Vibes

The BP oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico hasn’t been in the news much over the past year, but the clean up is far from over and many have warned that the problem was never really resolved.

Just recently, an oceanographer appeared on multiple mainstream media outlets to warn of the possibility that the BP oil disaster opened up a new fault, and could be leaking oil into the ocean indefinitely.

NBC reported that:

“A persistent, mysterious “oil sheen” in the Gulf of Mexico near the site of BP’s Deepwater Horizon disaster grew to more than seven-miles long and one-mile wide during a recent stretch of calm seas, based on aerial observations made by a former NASA physicist turned environmental activist.”

“We had maybe three or four days (of calm weather) and that’s all it took for the stuff to build up considerably,” Bonny Schumaker, the physicist who now runs the non-profit On Wings of Care, which makes regular flights over regions of the Gulf affected by the 2010 oil spill.

In a flight report from Jan. 27 posted on the group’s website, she described the oily expanse as “huge.”

Schumaker first noticed the sheen in September 2012, when it was also reported by BP to the National Response Center, the point of contact for all oil spills and other discharges into the environment.

Since then, BP has inspected the well site four times with underwater robots and found it secure.

However, since BP has been in charge of their own investigation it is very possible that they are taking measures to cover up the situation and make it appear to be less of a problem.

Later in the article the source of this oil sheen is discussed, and the possible implications are revealed:

“Schumaker first noticed the sheen in September 2012, when it was also reported by BP to the National Response Center, the point of contact for all oil spills and other discharges into the environment.

Since then, BP has inspected the well site four times with underwater robots and found it secure.

The concern, he noted, is trying to sort out its source. “The chemical data are a bit ambiguous.”

Some analyses he’s seen suggest the presence of drilling fluid, which is consistent with what Schumaker has heard. But other analyses, from other sources that he said he’s privy to, find no drilling fluid.

In that case, it’s possible that the wreckage in 2010 somehow opened up a new fault on the seafloor.

That possibility is inconsistent with BP’s findings, but would nevertheless indicate potential for an indefinite release of oil.”

It is no surprise that this possibility conflicts with BP’s findings, and it is important to mention that so far BP’s findings and predictions have been far from trustworthy.
At this time though, there have been few other realistic explanations put forward as to why these new slicks are continuing to materialize.

GMO fail: Monsanto foiled by feds, Supreme Court, and science

Grist
by Tom Laskawy

It’s been a good week if you enjoy a little GMO schadenfreude. The FDA has reportedly bowed to public pressure to extend the comment period on its approval of genetically engineered salmon, and Illinois, Maryland, and Iowa are the latest states to buck GMOs by introducing labeling bills into state legislature.

Even the Supreme Court has an opportunity to take Monsanto down a peg. On Feb. 19, the court will hear arguments in a patent infringement case between an Indiana farmer and Monsanto (I covered it in detail here). If Monsanto prevails, it’ll move a few more paces towards agricultural monopoly; if it loses, the company will take a couple steps back. It’s encouraging that the Supreme Court chose to hear the case over the solicitor general’s urging to dismiss it, but Monsanto could have an inside man: As in other Monsanto-related cases, former Monsanto-lawyer-turned-Supreme-Court-Justice Clarence Thomas has no plans to recuse himself.

But GMOs took the biggest punch this week from academia: Tom Philpott highlights a USDA-funded study [PDF] by University of Wisconsin scientists who found that several types of GMO seeds (including Monsanto’s RoundUp Ready varieties) actually produce a lower yield than conventional seeds. Only one seed — a corn that produces its own pesticide to combat the corn borer — offers any significant yield benefit. In other words, planting most genetically modified seeds results in less harvest per acre than planting non-genetically modified seeds.

The researchers looked at 20 years of data from test plots in Wisconsin from 1990-2010, both on research plots and on plots in participating farmers’ fields. Philpott flags a key point from the study:

Then there’s the question of so-called “stacked-trait” crops — that is, say, corn engineered to contain multiple added genes — for example, Monsanto’s “Smart Stax” product, which contains both herbicide-tolerant and pesticide-expressing genes. The authors detected what they call “gene interaction” in these crops — genes inserted into them interact with each other in ways that affect yield, often negatively. If multiple genes added to a variety didn’t interact, “the [yield] effect of stacked genes would be equal to the sum of the corresponding single gene effects,” the authors write. Instead, the stacked-trait crops were all over the map. “We found strong evidence of gene interactions among transgenic traits when they are stacked,” they write. Most of those effects were negative — i.e., yield was reduced.

This matters because stacked-trait crops are a favored approach to combat the superweeds and bugs that are part and parcel of years of GMO crops. But the more you stack, the worse your yield. The scientists also found evidence of a “yield penalty” that comes simply from the act of manipulating plant genes.

In short, the more one meddles with plant genes, the worse yields get; when you change multiple genes at once, yields drop even further. This should give pause to those who see GMO seeds as the means to address more complex problems like drought tolerance, nutritional value, or plant productivity. These are traits involving dozens, if not hundreds, of genes. This study suggests genetic manipulation of food crops at such a scale is a losing game.

A few years ago, the Union of Concerned Scientists published a report with a similar conclusion, but this is one of the first rigorous attempts to establish through controlled experiments the yield benefit (or penalty) of GM seeds. The UW scientists do note that they determined that GM seeds do provide farmers with lower “yield risk”; essentially, that farmers are less likely to face catastrophic crop losses when using GMO seeds. But there are other conventional techniques that researchers have concluded can support yield, reduce environmental harm, and increase farmer income without having to pay big bucks to biotech companies.

Not that we should expect biotech companies to just roll over: With five such companies controlling nearly 60 percent of the global seed business, it may be impossible for farmers to find sufficient conventional seed. (Learn how the seed business became so consolidated in the Center for Food Safety’s new report “Seed Giants vs. U.S. Farmers.”)

But we should take what we can get. Between Supreme Court justices who may be fed up with the company’s aggressive intellectual property tactics and farmers who could get fed up with its ineffective intellectual property, Monsanto’s stumbles could mean a few sure steps forward for food growers and eaters.

Argentinian Study Finds Roundup Ingredient Causes Birth Defects

Natural Society
by Elizabeth Renter

A study out of Buenos Aires has found that glyphosate, an herbicide created by Monsanto, and used on GMO soy in Argentina, could cause birth defects in unborn children. The most interesting thing about this revelation is that the herbicide known as glyphosate in Argentina, is also known to be connected with Roundup in the U.S.

Roundup Ingredient Shown to Cause Birth Defects
According to the Latin American Herald Tribune, researchers with the National Council for Scientific and Technical Research conducted the study on amphibian embryos. The lead researcher says their results are “completely comparable to what would happen in the development of a human embryo.”

“The noteworthy thing is that there are no studies of embryos on the world level and none where glyphosate is injected into embryos,” said professor Andres Carrasco, one of the lead authors of the study.

The amounts shown to cause birth defects were said to be much lower than those levels used in fumigations. However, it’s important to note that the glyphosate was injected directly into the fetuses, not administered via food products, as it would be in humans.

Still, it’s possible, because our food feeds our cells, which in turn would feed an embryo, that digestion of foods containing the chemical would have similar, though perhaps not as dramatic effects. And of course this isn’t the only time glyphosate and Monsanto’s Roundup has been shown to cause birth defects.

GMO soy is Argentina’s leading crop. They are the world’s third largest exporter, and they use between 180 and 200 million liters of glyphosate annually. In agricultural regions, where the spraying of this Monsanto chemical is common, numerous cancers have shown up that are being associated with it.

A district called Ituzaingo, outside of Cordoba, has seen about 300 cancer cases in the last eight years. This district houses only about 5,000 people.

“In communities like Ituzaingo it’s already too late, but we have to have a preventative system, to demand that the companies give us security frameworks and, above all, to have very strict regulations for fumigation, which nobody is adhering to out of ignorance or greed,” said Carrasco.

Carrasco, and others, are calling on the government of Argentina to fund more in-depth research into the effects of glyphosate on humans. He says, “The companies say that drinking a glass of glysophate is healthier than drinking a glass of milk, but the fact is that they’ve used us as guinea pigs.”

N. America’s West Coast to be most contaminated by Fukushima cesium of all regions in Pacific in 10 years — “An order-of-magnitude higher” than waters off Japan

ENE News

In the following years, the tracer cloud continuously expands laterally, with maximum concentrations in its central part heading east. While the northern portion is gradually invading the Bering Sea, the main tracer patch reaches the coastal waters of North America after 5–6 years, with maximum relative concentrations ( > 1 × 10−4) covering a broad swath of the eastern North Pacific between Vancouver Island and Baja California. Simultaneously some fraction of the southern rim of the tracer cloud becomes entrained in the North Equatorial Current (NEC), resulting in a westward extending wedge around 20°N that skirts the northern shores of the Hawaiian Archipelago. After 10 years the concentrations become nearly homogeneous over the whole Pacific, with higher values in the east, extending along the North American coast with a maximum (~1 × 10−4) off Baja California. The southern portion of the tracer cloud is carried westward by the NEC across the subtropical Pacific, leading to increasing concentrations in the Kuroshio regime again…

IQ Ratings Suffer from Car Pollution, Tobacco Exposure

Natural Society

We are all subject to the dangers of air pollution. Even if you live in the country, you are exposed to some level of pollution, from your own vehicle or tobacco if you smoke. But a study from the Columbia Center for Children’s Environmental Health finds that high levels of pollution can affect the eventual intelligence of children, making for lower IQ ratings. Other studies link the same pollutants to depression, asthma, and many other health concerns.

Pollution From Cars, Tobacco Linked with Lower IQ Ratings

The study looked at prenatal exposure to air pollution, specifically polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). What they found was pregnant mothers exposed to high levels of these pollutants gave birth to children who would eventually have significantly lower IQ ratings based on intelligence tests at age 5.

These pollutants (PAHs) come from the burning of fossil fuels, used in vehicles and industry. They are also emitted in smaller amounts from the burning of organic materials like tobacco, according to UPI.com.

The study looked at 214 children born to healthy, non-smoking white Polish mothers between 2001 and 2006. During pregnancy the women wore air monitors in small backpacks to measure their exposure to pollutants. They also provided blood and cord samples at the time of delivery.

The children were then tested and monitored through the age of five. They were tested on reasoning and intelligence and were found to have lower IQ ratings as exposure to pollution increased.

A similar study in New York in 2009 found similar results with low IQ ratings among children born to nonsmoking African American and Dominican American women.

Frederica Perera, author of the New York study says these findings are significant because they show air pollution exposure could be “educationally meaningful in terms of school performance.” She also points out, however, that air pollution, in general, has declined somewhat over the past decade or so.

PAH exposure in the womb has also been linked to things like asthma, low birth weight, premature delivery, and heart malformation.

A more recent study from Environmental Health Perspectives found that prenatal exposure to pollutants is associated with a 24% higher score of anxiety and depression in young children. Children as young as six and seven are experiencing depression and anxiety because of toxins in our air.

According to the Wisconsin Department of Health, we are exposed to PAHs in a number of ways:

Breathing: Most people are exposed to PAHs when they breathe in smoke, auto emissions or industrial exhausts. Most exhausts contain many different PAH compounds. People with the highest exposures are smokers, people who live or work with smokers, roofers, road builders and people who live near major highways or industrial sources.

Drinking/Eating: Charcoal-broiled foods, especially meats, are a source of some PAH exposure. Shellfish living in contaminated water may be another major source of exposure. PAHs may be in groundwater near disposal sites where construction wastes or ash are buried; people may be exposed by drinking this water. Vegetables do not absorb significant amounts of PAHs that are in soil.

Touching: PAHs can be absorbed through skin too. Exposure can come from handling contaminated soil or bathing in contaminated water. Low levels of these chemicals may be absorbed when a person uses medicated skin cream or shampoo containing PAHs.

Using skin care products containing PAHs, cooking with charcoal, and job choice can all impact our exposure.