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Environmental News

Environmental News from the Great Lakes Region

Friday, July 7, 2017
Attempts to limit the use of hazardous substances in Europe are being hindered by poor implementation of Europe's chemical laws
Governments who want to limit the use of toxic chemicals are being set a high burden of proof while industry concerns are being accepted with little evidence by the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA), analysis by the European Environmental Bureau (EEB) has found. Source: European Environmental Bureau, 6/22/17

Thursday, July 6, 2017
Study finds climate change damages U.S. economy, increases inequality
Unmitigated climate change will make the United States poorer and more unequal, with the poorest third of U.S. counties projected to sustain economic damages costing as much as 20 percent of their income if warming proceeds unabated, according to a new study published in the journal Science Source: University of Chicago, 6/29/17

Restaurants Are Returning Their Empty Oyster Shells To The Ocean To Rebuild Decimated Reefs
A partnership between a nonprofit and a waste-management company in Mobile, Alabama has already diverted 2.8 million oyster shells from landfill. Source: Fast Company, 7/5/17

Paint Stripper Poses An Increasing Threat to Ozone Layer, Study Finds
Concentrations of a paint-stripping chemical are building in the atmosphere and scientists believe it threatens to significantly delay repair of the damaged ozone layer, which shields the earth from high levels of harmful ultraviolet radiation.

The chemical dichloromethane had been left out of the 1987 Montreal protocol, which banned the worst of the ozone-depleting chemicals, in part because it breaks down so quickly. But recent observations published in Nature Communications show its atmospheric concentration is now increasing at a rapid clip. Source: e360 Digest, 6/28/17

Are Fish Consumption Advisories for the Great Lakes Adequately Protective against Chemical Mixtures?
Background: The North American Great Lakes are home to > 140 types of fish and are famous for recreational and commercial fishing. However, the presence of toxic substances has resulted in the issuance of fish consumption advisories that are typically based on the most restrictive contaminant.

Objectives: We investigated whether these advisories, which typically neglect the existence of a mixture of chemicals and their possible additive adverse effects, are adequately protective of the health of humans consuming fish from the Canadian waters of the Great Lakes.

Methods: Using recent fish contaminant monitoring data collected by the government of Ontario, Canada, we simulated advisories using most-restrictive-contaminant (one-chem) and multi-contaminant additive effect (multi-chem) approaches. The advisories from the two simulations were compared to determine if there is any deficiency in the currently issued advisories.

Results: Approximately half of the advisories currently issued are potentially not adequately protective. Of the four Great Lakes studied, the highest percentage of advisories affected are in Lake Ontario if an additive effect is considered. Many fish that are popular for consumption, such as walleye, salmon, bass and trout, would have noticeably more stringent advisories.

Conclusions: Improvements in the advisories may be needed to ensure that the health of humans consuming fish from the Great Lakes is protected. In this region, total polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and mercury are the major contaminants causing restrictions on consuming fish, whereas dioxins/furans, toxaphene, and mirex/photomirex are of minor concern. Regular monitoring of most organochlorine pesticides and metals in fish can be discontinued. Source: Environmental Health Perspectives, April 2017

Thursday, June 29, 2017
Lawmakers scramble to reform e-scrap program in Illinois
Fearing a veto from the governor, Illinois stakeholders are attempting to iron out last-minute changes to legislation that would reshape the state's e-scrap law by requiring manufacturers to fund recycling of all covered material collected through the program. Following the successful passage of Senate Bill 1417 by both the state House and Senate late last month, lawmakers in Illinois have held back on sending the legislation to Gov. Bruce Rauner and have instead worked on a separate bill, HB 1955, to add several tweaks to the legislative overhaul. The changes, according to the Illinois Manufacturers Association (IMA), are aimed at appeasing concerns from the Illinois EPA that likely would have caused Gov. Rauner, a Republican, to veto the original legislation. The Consumer Technology Association (CTA) has also raised concerns about the bill. Source: E-scrap news, 6/29/17

Friday, June 23, 2017
In booming Philadelphia neighborhoods, lead-poisoned soil is resurfacing
Breakneck construction has unearthed a toxic legacy, coating playgrounds and backyards with dangerous levels of lead dust. Source: Philadelphia Inquirer, 6/18/17

Study: Measures of food waste are 'overstated' and potentially consequential
A new study published on behalf of the Agricultural & Applied Economics Association claims measures of food waste are "inconsistent" and may be overstated. Source: Food Dive, 6/21/17

Why chemists -- not just economists -- are key to a circular future
Although some advocates of the circular economy still interpret it as simply increasing recycling rates, it is clear to anyone with a chemical engineering background that the key to resource efficiency is to get best value from materials and products in use -- the stock -- and reduce their flow through the economy. Source:

State of the Great Lakes 2017
The Governments of Canada and the United States are pleased to release the State of the Great Lakes 2017 Highlights Report. Overall, the Great Lakes are assessed as Fair and Unchanging. While progress to restore and protect the Great Lakes has been made, including the reduction of toxic chemicals, challenges remain with issues such as invasive species and nutrients. Source: Canada-United States Collaboration for Great Lakes Water Quality, 6/19/17

Recycling never looked so good: Luxury-quality materials made from waste
This gallery from CNN Style showcases some of the upcycled products on the market right now. Source: CNN Style, 6/22/17

Is It Really So Offal? 'Ugly Food' Boot Camp Entices Chefs And Diners
This James Beard Foundation sustainability boot camp teaches chefs to reduce food waste. Source: NPR, 6/23/17

Thursday, June 22, 2017
Sunlight surprise raises cadmium pollution risk
Exposure to light increases solubility of cadmium red pigment in water, bucking conventional wisdom. Source: Chemical & Engineering News, 6/16/17

Polymer network captures drinking water contaminant
Cross-linked cyclodextrin removes 93% of the perfluorinated chemical PFOA from water in lab tests. Source: Chemical & Engineering News, 6/20/17

Precise Soil, Climate, and Weather Data Help Dairy Optimize Water Use
For irrigated crops, knowing when and how much water to apply has long been a matter of experience and guesswork. In a changing climate, new technology can reduce this uncertainty, enabling farmers to make every drop of water count. Source: U.S. Climate Resilience Toolkit, 1/17/17

How Vermont tackled farm pollution and cleaned up its waters
From Vermont's Lake Champlain to rivers and oceans across the nation, waterways are being overloaded with pollution from farms. But Vermont took an approach that could be a model for states -- especially now that the federal government is in regulatory retreat. Source: FERN, 6/22/17

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