It seems not everyone is pro natural energy. On Tuesday, April 3, demonstrators rallied against wind power projects in Ontario, Canada, claiming turbine noise was causing physical illness and rural property values to plummet.
More than just a few people expressed disdain for the wind turbines; roughly 800 farmers rallied outside downtown Toronto protesting against a government subsidy and requested that Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty resign due to his push for clean energy that is allegedly costing citizens more money. The protestors demanded McGuinty cease wind and solar power projects.
Some residents claim they have been forced out of their homes because of the noise.
McGuinty is all for the continued progression of green initiatives throughout Ontario with the goal of reducing Ontario's greenhouse gas emissions by 15 percent by 2020 and 80 percent by 2050; he states on the government website: “Ontario has a vision for green energy – we will be a North American leader. We have practical, aggressive policies to secure green energy generation, research and manufacturing, which will create good jobs in a growing industry.”
McGuinty aims to reach his government's green goal by opting for renewable energy over coal-fired power plants, encouraging conservation, providing tax breaks for energy-efficient products, and creating incentives for green businesses, municipalities and consumers.
While McGuinty stresses the positive side of the green energy movement in Ontario, voices from the citizens personally affected by some projects oppose the initiative – specifically the turbines.
“They’re huge power-producing machines that make noise and produce vibration…that is felt in the inner ear, similar to the bass from a passing car that’s playing loud music,” said Jane Wilson, president of Wind Concerns Ontario to AFP. Wilson is one of many protestors involved in nonprofit organizations participating in the wind power protests. The Ontario Wind Resistance represents more than 50 organizations banning together against wind power. The April 13 protest was just one in an ongoing battle against the turbines – the group even has a calendar highlighting scheduled protests on their website.
The Ontario Wind Resistance website features testimonials from Ontario residents and their experiences with the turbines – some testimonials include citizens of Australia and the United States of America. Check them out for yourself here. Apparently, the whole green movement isn't a good thing for more than a few Ontario residents.
Posted by Christina Miralla on Apr 13, 2012 at 12:43 PM0 comments
HealthyStuff.org, a website run by the Ecology Center, a Michigan-based non-profit, released a report that several national vendors sell low-cost jewelry that contain toxic chemicals known to cause cancer and allergies. The products, which included inexpensive jewelry for adults and children, were tested for chemicals including lead, cadmium, arsenic, mercury, bromine, and chlorine (PVC).
More than half of the tested items resulted in a “high” level of concern because one or more of the dangerous chemicals were detected at high levels. The presence of hazardous substances were found by using an X-ray fluorescence detector. Retailers such as Target, Walmart, Claire’s, and H&M were among several popular national chains represented. To find the items tested by brand name and vendor, click here and see the individual contaminants in each product.
“There is no excuse for jewelry, especially children’s jewelry, to be made with some of the most well-studied and dangerous substances on the planet,” said Jeff Gearhart, Research Director at the Ecology Center and founder of HealthyStuff.org. “We urge manufacturers to start replacing these chemicals with non-toxic substances immediately.”
A total of 27 percent of the 99 tested items contained more than 300 ppm lead in one or more components, which is higher than the legal limit for children’s products. Additionally, ten percent contained cadmium, 93 percent chromium, 30 percent nickel, seven percent brominated flame retardants, and 12 percent PVC. Click here to view a summary of the results as well as other chemicals found.
Cadmium and chromium are known carcinogens. Nickel is carcinogenic in addition to causing skin and lung problems. Brominated flame retardants contain more than 1,000 ppm bromine, which causes nervous system damage and disrupts genetic materials. Chlorine, which is contained in PVC at 25,000 ppm, does not have consistently documented long-term effects, but is know to irritate the skin, lungs, and eyes.
According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), children should not be given cheap metal jewelry because, “Swallowing, sucking on, or chewing a metal charm or necklace could result in exposure to lead, cadmium, or other heavy metals, which are known to be toxic at certain levels of exposure.”
However, the CPSC has failed to regulate cadmium in children’s products in general, instead opting for a voluntary standard developed by the industry. Six states, including California, Connecticut, Illinois, Maryland, Minnesota, and Washington, have moved to regulate the harmful chemical through state law. Also, the Toxics Substance Control Act is in the process of being reformed through a bill, the Safe Chemicals Act (S.847), introduced by Senator Lautenburg in 2011 with 15 co-sponsors.
Click here to watch a video and contact your senators about the Safe Chemical Act.
Posted by Elizabeth Freed on Mar 16, 2012 at 12:43 PM0 comments
When people think about the impacts of war, they usually think in terms of lives lost and dollar spent. While these are valuable considerations, what impact can human conflict have on the land, water, air and animals in the near vicinity?
The most obvious example of harmful warfare is nuclear weapons. Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan in World War II are the only known examples of atomic bombs actually being used. Besides the significant loss of civilian life and subsequent radiation sickness and birth defects, the environmental impact of the A-bombs was profound.
Radioactive dust particles floated and settled nearby on land and in water. Also, debris that was blasted into the atmosphere travelled untold miles. Plants and animals suffered similar burn deaths, or died shortly thereafter due to radioactive rainfall.
The surface water was contaminated, leaving local Japanese (and animals) without safe drinking water for months. The earth was similarly scorched, with dead rice stalks reportedly found up to a seven mile radius from the drop sight.
However, nuclear weapons do not have to be deployed for similar effects to happen during wartime. Probably the most infamous of chemical weapons, Agent Orange, had similar effects on Vietnam’s water supply and natural ecosystem. The defoliant was used extensively during the U.S. conflict in Vietnam. It was used to kill off hundreds of acres of dense rainforest and also found its way into rivers as well.
Although the use of Agent Orange is now illegal, defoliants continue to be deployed as a viable military tactic with devastating effects on the land and water. As recently as 2007, President Bush used defoliants in Colombia to kill coca farms. Unfortunately, cocaine production did not slow down as a result of the seven-year policy, so Colombia decided to revert to the less destructive use of manual removal.
Probably the most controversial of recent chemical war agents, depleted uranium, which is used on tank-busting munitions, has been found to have significant radiological impacts on human health and soil. The weapons were used extensively in Bosnia and Iraq where many birth defects and infant fatalities have been reported.
Chemicals don’t have to be contained in weapons to be used aggressively during war. Although the legality and morality behind the strategy is questionable, chemical production factories are targeted for bombing. In 1998, President Clinton thought a Sudanese factory contained dangerous chemicals and ordered it to be bombed. Luckily for locals, it did not, but the bombing still harmed the Sudanese economy.
Armed conflict in Rwanda took park rangers out of the protected habitats of gorillas, leaving them vulnerable to poachers. Also, the forced migration of refugees has had a detrimental effect on the habitats of endangered species throughout the African continent.
The Environmental Law Institute (ELI) is an organization “concerned with issues of the legality of bombing certain targets, such as chemical plants near populated areas; employing certain weapons, such as depleted uranium munitions and cluster bombs; and adopting certain tactics, such as high-altitude bombing.”
In 1998, following the widely condemned burning of Kuwaiti oil fields and dumping of oil into the Persian Gulf, ELI, the Smithsonian Institution and the Kuwait Foundation for the Advancement of Sciences co-hosted the First International Conference on Addressing Environmental Consequences of War.
A book, The Environmental Consequences of War, was produced from that conference. According to a chapter by Christopher D. Stone, only one provision of all the laws regulating war behavior specifically addresses the environment. All other laws include it incidentally as a secondary factor after human impact. That provision, Article 35(3) of the 1977 Additional Protocol I to the Geneva Conventions of 1949, prohibits methods of warfare: “expected…to cause widespread, long-term and severe damage to the natural environment” (page 21).
This is an excellent start, but has been demonstrated – who decides when the damage is too severe, and when will the consequences for violations be enforced?
Posted by Elizabeth Freed on Mar 05, 2012 at 12:43 PM11 comments
Although few would guess that NASCAR racing is the most environmentally-friendly sport out there, the franchise has worked hard for the last four years to make sure it is. An array of green initiatives including beverage container recycling, cell phone recycling and ethanol gasoline has allowed NASCAR to take the lead in the race to be green.
When racecars rev up for this year’s Daytona 500, it will be the second year in a row that ethanol-blended fuel will power their engines. Last season alone, the Sunoco Green E15 renewable racing fuel, which contains 15 percent American-made corn-based ethanol, saved racers 300,000 regular gallons of gasoline. The ethanol blend also produces 20 percent less greenhouse gas emissions.
Other racetrack-based initiatives include the recycling of batteries, oil recycling and proper disposal and limiting the time that racecar transporters idle on the track. Also, both tracks and teams are jumping on board. For example, Pocono Raceway in Pennsylvania has installed a solar farm to fuel its energy needs and contribute to the local energy grid. It is the largest of its kind for any sports arena in the nation. Additionally, Roush Fenway Racing team recycled 26,660 pounds of plastic, 100,000 pounds of steel and aluminum and 11,335 pounds of paper in 2010.
NASCAR green programs also address more general concerns about the environment. Every time a green flag is dropped, for example, the clean air program will plant 10 trees. The franchise also encourages paper reduction in the home and at the office.
The whole trend started in 2008 when Coca-Cola and Coors teamed up for a consumer recycling initiative at the races. Last year, more than 1,000 tons of cardboard, cans and bottles were recycled as a result of the same campaign.
NASCAR encourages other kinds of consumer recycling as well. The latest initiative is a partnership with Creative Recycling Systems that will promote the recycling of televisions, computers and other electronic equipment. Collection events and informational campaigns will be held to educate consumers about the importance of recycling electronics.
In the past, spectators have been provided with pre-addressed, postage-paid envelopes to recycle their used wireless phones, batteries and accessories. According to NASCAR’s managing director of green innovation, Mike Lynch, NASCAR fan families tout green households 50 percent more than non-fans, an increase in the last three years.
"Things that are good for the environment have become a competitive edge," Lynch said according to Business News Daily. "We are glad we launched it when we did."
Click here for more information.
Posted by Elizabeth Freed on Feb 27, 2012 at 12:43 PM0 comments
When Cascades Tissue Group, North America’s fourth largest producer of towel and tissue paper, unveiled their beige-colored Cascades Moka line of bathroom tissue at a recent tradeshow, distributers were initially concerned by the color.
"Then they would feel the product and say, 'Oh, wow, that is actually very soft!’” said Isabelle Faivre, the marketing director for Cascades Tissue Group. “And when they learned about our method for producing the 100-percent recycled, undyed and unbleached tissue, their interest immediately peaked.”
White toilet paper can be produced from recycled fiber without using chlorine—which is the main grievance against the bleaching process— but Cascades Tissue Group believes they have found an even more sustainable way of producing bath tissue by using a unique pulp recipe that is composed of 80-percent post-consumer paper materials and 20-percent recovered corrugated boxes. When the company performed a detailed life cycle analysis of Cascades Moka bathroom tissue and compared it to their 100-percent recycled bathroom tissue that undergoes a chlorine-free whitening process, it found that the environmental impact was lessened by at least 25 percent.
The United States uses 3.4 million tons of bath tissue annually. Despite having the capabilities to produce bath tissues made from recycled fiber, 54 percent of the tissue consumed continues to be produced using virgin fiber. Cascades estimates that if a complete swap was made to their environmentally preferable 100-percent recycled bath tissue, it would annually save 30.6 million trees and 68 million GJ of energy, which is enough to fuel the annual energy consumption of 619,811 households.
Since consumer tastes and habits often evolve in the public before their behaviors are modified at home, Cascades believes that the commercial market serves as the first frontier for sustainable innovations. Therefore, Cascades Moka is currently only available for the away-from-home market.
In recent years the napkin industry has seen a trend that Cascades thinks will be replicated by the bathroom tissue industry. Companies like Target and Cinnabon, for instance, have successfully waned off of white napkins and replaced them with recycled brown napkins. Many marketers believe that the beige napkins have actually become a badge of honor among businesses that wish to project a positive image to their environmentally-conscious customers.
“Beige is the new green, at least as it relates to towel and tissue,” said Suzanne Blanchet, CEO of Cascades Tissue Group, who personally conceived and championed Cascades Moka bath tissue’s development. “The last several years have brought about countless habit changes meant to preserve the environment. The quality of this bath tissue hasn’t been sacrificed one bit, so adjusting to a new color seems like a small step to take for even greater sustainability.”
But when it comes to bathroom tissue, will American consumers agree? Bath tissue distributed outside of the United States is offered in a variety of colors: apricot in the United Kingdom, green in Poland and orange in Switzerland. Americans, however, are more resistant to such changes.
Again, Cascades looks to the napkin industry as a predictor.
In the late ‘90s Cascades began its Moka concept with the introduction of the Moka napkin line. Commercial sales for the product have steadily increased year by year, as corporate purchasers and their employees and customers become more aware of its environmental benefits. In 2004 the Moka napkin line represented 10 percent of its total away-from-home sales in North America—now it represents more than 23 percent of case sales.
Cascades also believes that, aside from the environmental advantages of using recycled fiber in the production process, their business model will eventually lower the cost of the end product, which will be a savings that is passed on to the consumers.
Virgin pulp prices have more than doubled over the past three years, which has invoked price increases in recycled fiber as well. But by expanding and varying the types of fibers used in the production process, Cascades believes it can hedge its products’ exposure to commodity price fluctuations and white fiber shortages that rest outside of its control, thereby keeping tissue prices affordable in its served markets
Cascades Moka bathroom tissue is currently priced similarly to its white counterpart, with no discount or premium, but Cascades believes that will change as the trend catches on and more North American consumers see the immediate environmental benefits and eventual financial benefits of using recycled bath tissue.
“While the initial feedback for Cascades Moka has been extraordinarily positive,” Faivre said. “In the end, we will have to wait and see how American consumers react when they see our beige bathroom tissue in the stalls of their office, universities and hotels.”
So is America ready to sacrifice the white, virgin toilet paper its grown accustomed to if it means less of an environmental impact? When the benefits are rolled out onto the table, Cascades Tissue Group has faith that the answer will be “Yes.”
Ryan Benson works at Kohnstamm Communications, the agency of record for Cascades Tissue Group. O’Dwyer’s Public Relations News ranked Kohnstamm Communications 94th in its March 2010 annual ranking of independent public relations agencies. For more information, visit www.kohnstamm.com.
Posted on Feb 21, 2012 at 12:43 PM6 comments
In the small town of Le Roy, N.Y., teenagers are suffering from Tourette’s-like symptoms from an unknown cause - possibly related to a 40-year-old chemical spill.
The teens were diagnosed by a local Le Roy doctor with mass psychogenic illness, or, mass hysteria, a rare disease that occurs during periods of stress that is displayed through physical ailments.
A three-month long investigation from state and local health officials ruled out environmental and infectious agents. A physician from the New York Department of Health told NBC News there was no evidence of any environmental factor and ruled out infection or communicable disease.
Another doctor from the DENT Neurologic Institute in Buffalo, N.Y. told CBS News his diagnosis is conversion disorder, which displays symptoms without a cause. So, the cause must be psychological or neurological, according to physicians.
Are mass hysteria or conversion disorder to blame, or could the cause of it all be related to an old chemical spill? Environmental activist Erin Brockovich stepped in to research whether or not a 1970 toxic chemical spill is to blame for the uncontrollable tics, fainting spells and verbal outbursts amongst a group of 15 teenagers in Upstate New York.
Brockovich has questions related to a 1970 chemical spill that occurred a mere three miles away from Le Roy Central High School where the teens attend school. Brockovich states, “There are other people coming out reporting that they lived close to the spill site; that their family is also experiencing health problems.” Brockovich sent her team of investigators to test local water for chemicals that could be linked to the 1970 spill. So far Brockovich’s team has yet to conclude the investigation and have not found anything to link the teen twitching to the spill.
Here at Environmental Protection Online, we know that groundwater contamination can remain for decades and cause harmful effects, so the concern is justified. In the meantime, more Tourette’s-like cases continue and the psychological cause is understandably a diagnosis that’s hard to swallow.
The town of Le Roy, N.Y. just wants proven answers and a cure.
Posted by Christina Miralla on Feb 07, 2012 at 12:43 PM12 comments
The fracking debate rages on. Whether or not you support hydraulic fracturing or are strongly opposed, the residents of Dimock, Penn., don’t care – the proof is in the water. Dimock’s 1,400 residents question the safety of its well water, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has been dragging its feet deciding whether or not to truck fresh water to residents and determining whether or not the town’s drinking water contains toxic level chemicals.
For those unfamiliar with the hydraulic fracturing, or the more commonly known fracking, process, it involves pumping water, sand and chemicals into deep methane-rich shale formations underground to release natural gas. According to the U.S. Energy Department, fracking accounts for about a third of the U.S. gas supply, which is a 14 percent increase from 2009 figures. The Obama administration has advocated for fracking in the U.S. to release the nation’s natural gas, thus reducing the nation’s dependence on foreign oil and coal which has a long list of harmful effects.
Frustrated Dimock residents are not consuming the (potentially toxic) brown water dripping from faucets and surviving thanks to bottled water provided by Cabot Oil & Gas Co. Cabot Oil & Gas Co. is at the center of the contamination allegations since Dimock residents reported brown water spewing out of their faucets years ago. In April 2010, the company settled with the state over methane contamination in 14 water wells in Dimock, and has since postponed drilling there.
According to the Sept. 9, 2011 notice of violation cited to Cabot Oil and Gas Co., the company failed to prevent the migration of gas or other fluids into sources of fresh groundwater, allowed defective casing or cementing and was responsible for unpermitted discharge of polluting substances in a private water supply serving residents in Susquehanna County, Penn. View a copy of the notice here.
According to the notice, methane levels in the private water supply increased from 0.290 milligrams per Liter in the pre-drill sample collected on Nov. 11, 2010 to 49.200 milligrams per Liter in a sample collected on Aug. 16, 2011, and 657.600 milligrams per Liter in a sample collected on Aug. 18, 2011.
If you haven’t been briefed on the town of Dimock, read a profile by Vanity Fair magazine from 2010. Dimock residents have voiced fracking concerns to Pennsylvania legislators for several years now and have experienced the negative effects associated with the hydraulic fracturing process.
On Jan. 18, some Dimock residents marched to Albany, N.Y., to voice concerns related to fracking; informing New York state legislators about their personal water contamination issues believed to have been caused by hydraulic fracturing. Dimock residents displayed samples of brown tinted water from their home wells at the public meeting. New York legislators are in the process of creating a moratorium to move forward with fracking within the state, only this time, follow regulation and monitoring that the Pennsylvania hydraulic fracturing process lacked.
Some facking supporters scrutinize media for the constant sensationalism and exaggerations surrounding the water contamination debate – case in point, an article citing the documentary Gasland as popularizing the methane leaking issue. Really? The issue has nothing to do with pop culture’s influence, but stems from concerned citizens.
Recent U.K. geologists have chimed in on the whole process and deem it “safe.” “Most geologists think this is a pretty safe activity,” Mike Stephenson, head of energy science at the British Geological Survey, said at a briefing in London. “We think the risk is pretty low and we have the scientific tools to tell if there is a problem.”
As recent controversy circulates over the safety of fracking, in the United States, the EPA is still studying the effects to determine whether or not the process should continue and distributed a press release addressing the Dimock, fracking disaster before taking action by hauling fresh water to residents.
“EPA is working diligently to understand the situation in Dimock and address residents’ concerns,” said EPA Regional Administrator Shawn M. Garvin in the press release. “We believe that the information provided to us by the residents deserves further review, and conducting our own sampling will help us fill information gaps. Our actions will be based on the science and the law and we will work to help get a more complete picture of water quality for these homes in Dimock.”
The EPA is monitoring the progress of the groundwater study in Dimock, Penn. online. View all updates provided by the EPA’s testing process here.
The EPA stated in the release that sampling of Dimock water will begin in a matter of days and last approximately three weeks and lab validated results should be available in approximately five weeks following sample date.
However, the EPA is also studying groundwater in Wyoming – where Encana Corp. heads the fracking process – and an estimate for groundwater results could take years. The Wyoming results will not be available until 2014.
Before comments flood the site, know that I am not for, nor against fracking. I am interested in the research that confirms or denies potential health risks directly linked to the fracking process.
* Editor’s note: The Environmental Protection Blog contains opinions expressed by the authors addressing current environmental issues. Opinions do not represent the overall opinions of Environmental Protection Online. Anyone with questions pertaining to blog posts is encouraged to directly contact authors. Christina Miralla can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org *
Posted by Christina Miralla on Jan 20, 2012 at 12:43 PM3 comments