Climate crisis seriously damaging human health, report finds

The Guardian reports:

A report by experts from 27 national science academies has set out the widespread damage global heating is already causing to people’s health and the increasingly serious impacts expected in future.

Scorching heatwaves and floods will claim more victims as extreme weather increases but there are serious indirect effects too, from spreading mosquito-borne diseases to worsening mental health.

“There are impacts occurring now [and], over the coming century, climate change has to be ranked as one of the most serious threats to health,” said Prof Sir Andrew Haines, a co-chair of the report for the European Academies’ Science Advisory Council (Easac).

However, there were also great benefits from action to cut carbon emissions, the report found, most notably cutting the 350,000 early deaths from air pollution every year in Europe caused by burning fossil fuels. “The economic benefits of action to address the current and prospective health effects of climate change are likely to be substantial,” the report concluded. [Continue reading…]

Lies pave the way for anti-abortion laws. To defeat the laws we must fight the lies

Rebecca Solnit writes:

Anti-abortion laws are built on anti-abortion lies. Lies about things like who has abortions, how abortions work, how women’s bodies work and how fetuses develop. The lies pave the way for the laws.

There are the old lies, like the ones suggesting that the women having abortions are careless hussies (51% of abortions are to women who were using contraception; 59% are to women who are already mothers; 75% are to poor and low-income women). Lately, there’s a huge new lie making the rounds, that women and doctors are conspiring to kill babies at birth and calling it abortion. This is a lie that encourages conservatives to regard pregnant women and medical caregivers as potential ruthless killers who should be hemmed in with yet more laws targeting them. While a lot of older abortion lies were distortions and exaggerations, this one is a complete and dangerous fabrication.

At a late April rally in Wisconsin, Donald Trump said: “The baby is born. The mother meets with the doctor. They take care of the baby. They wrap the baby beautifully, and then the doctor and the mother determine whether or not they will execute the baby.” (Apparently the closest thing to this far-fetched scenario is when babies are born with fatal problems and, at the discretion of the parents, receive palliative care rather than often tortuous interventions that will delay their inevitable death.) Fox host Ainsley Earhardt amplified the lie, saying :“I think it backfired on those Democrats when they all said you can have an abortion even after the baby is born or kill the baby after the baby is born.” [Continue reading…]

People eat at least 50,000 plastic particles a year, study finds

The Guardian reports:

The average person eats at least 50,000 particles of microplastic a year and breathes in a similar quantity, according to the first study to estimate human ingestion of plastic pollution.

The true number is likely to be many times higher, as only a small number of foods and drinks have been analysed for plastic contamination. The scientists reported that drinking a lot of bottled water drastically increased the particles consumed.

The health impacts of ingesting microplastic are unknown, but they could release toxic substances. Some pieces are small enough to penetrate human tissues, where they could trigger immune reactions.

Microplastic pollution is mostly created by the disintegration of plastic litter and appears to be ubiquitous across the planet. Researchers find microplastics everywhere they look; in the air, soil, rivers and the deepest oceans around the world.

They have been detected in tap and bottled water, seafood and beer. They were also found in human stool samples for the first time in October, confirming that people ingest the particles.

The new research, published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology, took the data from 26 previous studies that measure the amounts of microplastic particles in fish, shellfish, sugar, salt, beer and water, as well as in the air in cities. [Continue reading…]

The myth of the eight-hour sleep

Stephanie Hegarty writes:

We often worry about lying awake in the middle of the night – but it could be good for you. A growing body of evidence from both science and history suggests that the eight-hour sleep may be unnatural.

In the early 1990s, psychiatrist Thomas Wehr conducted an experiment in which a group of people were plunged into darkness for 14 hours every day for a month.

It took some time for their sleep to regulate but by the fourth week the subjects had settled into a very distinct sleeping pattern. They slept first for four hours, then woke for one or two hours before falling into a second four-hour sleep.

Though sleep scientists were impressed by the study, among the general public the idea that we must sleep for eight consecutive hours persists.

In 2001, historian Roger Ekirch of Virginia Tech published a seminal paper, drawn from 16 years of research, revealing a wealth of historical evidence that humans used to sleep in two distinct chunks. [Continue reading…]

Fears grow that ‘nuclear coffin’ is leaking radioactive waste into the Pacific

Trevor Nace writes:

The tropical blue skies over the southern Pacific Ocean were enveloped by towering mushroom clouds lingering over the Marshall Islands in 1954 as the United States continued its testing of nuclear weapons.

The United States conducted 67 nuclear weapon tests from 1946 to 1958 on the pristine Marshall Islands. The most powerful test was the “Bravo” hydrogen bomb in 1954, which was about 1,000 times more powerful than the bomb dropped on Hiroshima, Japan.

The extensive nuclear bomb testing blanketed the islands in radioactive ash, covering it in the fine, white, powder-like substance. Children, unaware of what the radioactive ash was, played in the “snow” and ate it according to the Atomic Heritage Foundation.

Today, there are growing concerns that the temporary containment of the nuclear waste resulting from those tests is leaking into the Pacific Ocean and could be cracked wide open from the next storm that rolls by. Specifically, the site is believed to be leaking one of the most toxic substances in the world, the radioactive isotope plutonium-239, a byproduct of nuclear bombs that decays with a half-life of 24,100 years. [Continue reading…]

 

World’s rivers ‘awash with dangerous levels of antibiotics’

The Guardian reports:

Hundreds of rivers around the world from the Thames to the Tigris are awash with dangerously high levels of antibiotics, the largest global study on the subject has found.

Antibiotic pollution is one of the key routes by which bacteria are able develop resistance to the life-saving medicines, rendering them ineffective for human use. “A lot of the resistance genes we see in human pathogens originated from environmental bacteria,” said Prof William Gaze, a microbial ecologist at the University of Exeter who studies antimicrobial resistance but was not involved in the study.

The rise in antibiotic-resistant bacteria is a global health emergency that could kill 10 million people by 2050, the UN said last month.

The drugs find their way into rivers and soil via human and animal waste and leaks from wastewater treatment plants and drug manufacturing facilities. “It’s quite scary and depressing. We could have large parts of the environment that have got antibiotics at levels high enough to affect resistance,” said Alistair Boxall, an environmental scientist at the University of York, who co-led the study. [Continue reading…]

Trump’s EPA is ‘cooking the books’ to justify its attack on clean air rules

Think Progress reports:

Trump’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is working to distort the way it measures the benefits of some of the agency’s most impactful policies, regulations that safeguard human health by limiting air pollution. The primary beneficiary of such distortion? The coal industry.

When the government evaluates the health and financial benefits of clean air, the calculation typically incorporates the number of lives saved and the scale of reduced health impacts thanks to reducing pollution — also known as “co-benefits.” Incorporating these factors into a cost-benefit analysis forms the very foundation upon which many environmental protections are based.

But now, experts warn the EPA is opening the door to industry challenges to these clean air rules by changing the way it evaluates the long-accepted science on the risk of particulate matter — microscopic particles polluting the air that are linked to increased heart attacks, strokes, and respiratory disease.

The agency may also be laying the groundwork, experts say, for using these “biased and misleading” calculations in other policy contexts. That fear was stoked by a new EPA memo released this week, ushering in a formal process to change the way the agency calculates its cost-benefit analysis across a slew of issues, from water pollution to pesticides. [Continue reading…]

Poisoning America: EPA wants to triple level of rocket fuel chemical allowed in drinking water

Think Progress reports:

The Trump Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) wants to raise the threshold for a chemical found in rocket fuel to triple the previous limit allowed in drinking water supplies. This is the first new drinking water rule introduced by the agency since the George W. Bush administration.

In the EPA’s latest move to weaken environmental and health protections, it released a notice on Thursday requesting public comment on its proposal to raise the maximum level allowed for the chemical perchlorate — which is linked to thyroid problems — to 56 micrograms per liter.

This is three times higher than what the EPA previously recommended as a safe level for drinking water (15 micrograms per liter). The previous recommendation was just an advisory to help guide states, as opposed to an enforceable limit, which is what the agency is now proposing. [Continue reading…]

Lax regulations expose Americans to 1,300 chemicals banned by Europe

The Guardian reports:

A brief but telling piece of legislation was put forward in Connecticut in January. Just three lines in length, the bill calls for any cosmetics in the state to “meet the chemical safety standards established by the European Union”.

The move, unlikely to be made law, is the latest signal of mounting anguish over the enfeebled regulation of everyday products in the US compared with European countries. Across a span of cosmetics, including makeup, toothpaste and shampoo, to items ranging from household cleaners to fruit juice to cheese, hundreds of potentially harmful ingredients banned in the EU are legally allowed in the US.

“Many Americans are unaware that they are absorbing untested and unsafe chemicals in their products,” said Alex Bergstein, a state senator who put forward the Connecticut legislation. Bergstein was previously the chair of the Mount Sinai Children’s Environmental health center.

“Generally, the EU has got it right. In the US we have a strong favouritism towards companies and manufacturers, to the extent that public health and the environment is being harmed. The pendulum has swung in an extreme way and it’s really going to take a general awakening by the public.” [Continue reading…]

EPA plans to ignore thousands of deaths by changing its methods of risk assessment

The New York Times reports:

The Environmental Protection Agency plans to change the way it calculates the future health risks of air pollution, a shift that would predict thousands of fewer deaths and would help justify the planned rollback of a key climate change measure, according to five people with knowledge of the agency’s plans.

The proposed change would dramatically reduce the 1,400 additional premature deaths per year that the E.P.A. had initially forecast as a result of eliminating the old climate change regulation — the Clean Power Plan, which was President Barack Obama’s signature climate change measure. It would also make it easier for the administration to defend its replacement, known as the Affordable Clean Energy rule.

It has been a constant struggle for the E.P.A. to demonstrate, as it is normally expected to do, that society will see more benefits than costs from major regulatory changes. This is one of many examples of the Trump administration downgrading the estimates of environmental harm from pollution in regulations.

The new modeling method, which experts said has never been peer-reviewed and is not scientifically sound, would most likely be used by the Trump administration to defend further rollbacks of air pollution rules if it is formally adopted. But the proposed change is unusual because it relies on unfounded medical assumptions and discards more than a decade of peer-reviewed E.P.A. methods for understanding the health hazards linked to the fine particulate matter produced by burning fossil fuels. [Continue reading…]