Pollution

Pollution

Worried about radiation in breast milk? Still best to keep breast-feeding

How can we best protect the wee ones?For survivors of Japan’s devastating earthquake and tsunami, there have been so many concerns: access to clean water and food, the need for shelter, the threat of disease. It’s the same awful list that accompanies natural disasters around the world — but with one big difference. In Japan, survivors also face the ongoing threat of radiation released by six reactors at the Fukushima Daiishi nuclear power plant. Under circumstances still not fully understood, the cooling systems at Fukushima lost power after the earthquake and tsunami. Large amounts of radioactive materials were blown hundreds …

Industrial Agriculture

How industrial agriculture makes us vulnerable to climate change, Mississippi floods edition

An “ephemeral gulley” that carried soil and agrichemicals from an Iowa farm toward the Gulf of Mexico during a 2010 storm. Photo: Environmental Working GroupNancy Rabalais, marine scientist and executive director of the Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium, is probably our foremost authority on the vast, oxygen-depleted “dead zone” that rears up annually in the Gulf of Mexico, fed by fertilizer runoff from large Corn Belt farms. (I interviewed her for my podcast last year.) In a report on the PBS Newshour blog, Rabelais delivers some bad news: Floods in the Mississippi River watershed this spring are washing tremendous amounts of …

What to do about ‘plastic soup’ in the ocean

Is there a less appetizing phrase than “plastic soup”? (Don’t answer that.) The New York Times Green blog reports on what happens to plastic in the oceans — it turns into a soup of seawater and plastic particles — and what we can do about it. The answer, basically: Try to stop putting so much plastic in the ocean, jackholes. The canonical image of ocean debris involves bags clogging waterways, fish trapped in six-pack holders, and other visible trash. But in fact, even a major trash nexus like the Atlantic garbage patch looks mostly like clear water until you trawl …

U.S. marines save lives by ditching bottled water

You probably already know that bottled water is kind of the worst thing ever, but did you know it's getting people in supply convoys blown up? Like other heavy, bulky things our troops have to truck in (primarily fuel), bottled water makes Marines vulnerable to attack by improvised explosives. They don’t even have the luxury of waiting for the BPA to kill them. Afghanistan has water, but a lot of it is contaminated by raw sewage. One solution is the the Lightweight Water Purification System, which "fits in a Humvee and can produce up to 125 gallons of potable water …

Critical List: Reid, enviro groups talk air quality; DDT in Africa

Harry Reid met with Big Environment last night to strategize a defense of the Clean Air Act. Politico says a key point of debate was whether enviros should go after errant, but potentially vulnerable Dems on green issues during the next election cycle. Senators rejected a bill that would have sped up oil drilling, then patted themselves on the back for being awesome about the environment. Meanwhile, 53 new shallow-water drilling permits have been issued under post-spill laws. Flooding in the Mississippi basin: bad for humans who live there, good for humans who like to eat crawfish and shrimp. Expected …

Critical List: Senate wimps out on oil subsidies bill; solar storms loom

The Senate voted down a bill that would have ended tax subsidies for the five biggest oil companies. The bill had little to no chance of passing the House and becoming law, but the Senate wussed out on taking a stand even on a bill crafted only to score political points. In Maryland, "renewable energy" will come from the sun, the wind, and incinerated trash. We told you last week that the Fish and Wildlife Service was set to move forward on evaluating and listing 251 potentially endangered species, after a court settlement. Psych! The Center for Biological Diversity objected …

Mercury? Arsenic? We’ll deal with those problems later, says EPA

Does this story sound familiar? A court orders the EPA to take action under the Clean Air Act. The EPA comes out with a set of rules. Business interests complain. The EPA relents, delaying and then relaxing rules that have compliance deadlines years down the line. That's about the tack the EPA has taken on carbon regulation. But apparently the agency liked it so much, it’s decided to apply the same approach to other environmental threats. This week, the EPA decided to delay indefinitely rules that would limit the amount of mercury, lead and other toxins that boilers in power …

Transportation

Should we label cars the way we label cigarettes?

Photos: New York City Department of TransportationMaybe the flashing skeleton will get their attention. That’s what the New York City Department of Transportation is hoping, anyway. The city announced yesterday that it will start using electronic message boards saying “Speed Limit 30″ and “Slow Down” with a skeleton figure in an attempt to get drivers to stop speeding. The city has also unveiled a billboard with a half-skull, half-child’s face image to bring home the message that when someone is hit at 40 mph, there is a 70 percent chance they’ll be killed; at 30 mph, there’s an 80 percent …

Pollution

We spend $76.6 billion a year on health care for kids made sick by toxic chemicals and air pollution

America spends a staggering $76.6 billion every year to cover the health expenses of our children who get sick because of exposure to toxic chemicals and air pollution, according to a recent study by researchers at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York. That figure includes the cost of medical care and the lost workdays of parents caring for their kids. The inestimable costs of exposure to things like lead in homes and soot in the air include children with severe learning impairment and chronic asthma, among many others. Enforcing pollution laws would reduce illness in kids and …