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Thank you to the 255 signatories for their recently-published letter to the editor “Climate Change and the Integrity of Science” in the 7 May 2010 issue of Science. The letter, a polite request to de-escalate political assaults on scientists, is concise, direct, and refreshing (almost radical). Here’s an excerpt:

We also call for an end to McCarthy-like threats of criminal prosecution against our colleagues based on innuendo and guilt by association, the harassment of scientists by politicians seeking distractions to avoid taking action, and the outright lies being spread about them.

Gratitude is expressed to the 255 signatories because they are speaking out and challenging what could become, or has become, status quo.

I hear the rally cry expressed by the signatories and will respond by doing what I can to continue to fight for the integrity of science and the people who practice and teach it.

All citizens should understand some basic scientific facts.

Sign me up.


On the 40th anniversary of Earth Day, I paid $0.05 for a plastic bag in which to place the whole wheat bread and organic fruit purchased at a local big box grocery store in Washington, DC.

Am I doing this right? Read the rest of this entry »

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) is currently soliciting comments on the definition they will use in measuring green jobs, the industry list of green jobs, or any other aspect of the information provided in the Notice of solicitation of comments published in the Federal Register. I’ve decided this is an excellent opportunity to voice my thoughts to the BLS as well as with our readers.

I encourage you, too, to comment on the Notice; the deadline is April 30, 2010.

Read the rest of this entry »

On April 1, 2010, OSHA sponsored a green jobs information session. The purpose of the session was to describe OSHA’s green job efforts and discuss workplace hazards associated with green jobs. A blog post written here provided a less-than-enthusiastic review of the event.

There were a few shining moments, however. One highlight was the presentation given by Don Ellenberger, Environmental Hazard Training Director from The Center for Construction Research and Training (formerly known as The Center to Protect Workers’ Rights (CPWR)), concerning the safety and health outlook for workers. He reminded us that the U.S. Green Building Council’s internationally-recognized green building certification system (aka Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED)) verifies that a building or community was designed and built using strategies aimed at improving performance in energy savings, water efficiency, greenhouse gas emissions, and improved indoor environmental quality.

Despite this altruistic system to improve building occupant health and productivity, Mr. Ellenberger made a strong, clear statement regarding green buildings.

Read the rest of this entry »

By Kas

OSHA’s Directorate of Cooperative and State Programs hosted an informational session for small businesses titled Green Jobs: Safety and Health Outlook for Workers and Small Employers on April 1st at the Department of Labor.  The purpose of the session was to describe OSHA’s green job efforts, discuss workplace hazards associated with green jobs, present opportunities and challenges posed by green jobs, and review best practices and strategies for small businesses in reducing safety and health hazards associated with green jobs.

Despite the informative, professional, and bright presentations made by the three panel members invited to present on construction, wind energy, and waste-to-energy industries, the gestalt of the session was lackluster.

Why?

Read the rest of this entry »

The start of the New Year means different things to different people, e.g., a fresh start to dieting, exercise, or financial savings…and, a fresh start to promoting human health and the environment.

Here’s a sample of State and local regulations that take effect in January 2010.

Noise Pollution
Leaf blowers used within the Brookline, Massachusetts city must be operated such that they do not generate sound levels greater than 67 decibels measured at 50 feet.

Smoke Free
North Carolina restaurants, bars, and many lodging establishments will be smoke-free thanks to the North Carolina Smoke-Free Restaurants and Bars Law.

Plastic Bags
The Anacostia River Clean Up and Protection Act is intended to reduce the negative environmental impacts associated with the widespread use of carryout bags in the District of Columbia, namely bag pollution in the Anacostia River.  The regulation bans the use of non-recyclable plastic bags and levies a $0.05 fee for consumers on each recyclable carryout bag provided by a retail establishment.

Lead in Plumbing
All pipes, pipe or plumbing fittings, fixtures, solder, or flux intended to convey or dispense water for human consumption through drinking or cooking must be certified as lead-free by an independent third party accredited by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI).  Lead-free, for purposes of this new law, means no more than a weighted average lead content of 0.25% for the wetted surfaces of the pipe and 0.2% lead in solder and flux

Mercury in the Air
Maine requires that air emission sources may not emit mercury in excess of 25 pounds per year.  Compliance with this limit must be specified in the license of the emissions source.  In addition, any air emission source emitting mercury in excess of 10 pounds must develop a mercury reduction plan.

On November 13, 2009, the Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families campaign presented a webinar on “Chemicals Policy Reform and its Importance for Business“.  More than 200 participants from diverse sectors listened as professionals from industry and nongovernmental organizations discussed opportunities for meaningful changes to the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA).

The TSCA reform platform aims to take action on the worst chemicals, ensure the right to know, hold industry responsible for demonstrating chemical safety, and require basic information for all chemicals.  We look forward to watching how TSCA reform will shake out in the hands of policy makers in Washington, DC.

In the meantime, we highlight one company who has taken the initiative to communicate information about the ingredients in their products: S. C. Johnson & Son, Inc.

We know SC Johnson as the makers of Pledge, Windex, Raid, and a host of other household products that are intended to control dust and make the air smell good.  How do they do it?  Well, they use cocktails of chemicals.  It’s not a secret.

As a matter of fact, it’s the opposite of a secret.

SC Johnson has disclosed the ingredients of all of its home cleaning and air care products on the website What’s Inside SC Johnson and on product labels and via a toll-free consumer hotline.  In addition to listing the ingredients, they are defining them and including an explanation of their purpose in the product.  Soon, the information will be available in Spanish.

Kudos to S.C. Johnson for their efforts to communicate to consumers.

Granted, I still don’t understand the risks to a pet canary from the Benzophenone-12 stabilizer in the Baked Pear™ & Cinnamon Treat® candle, but the house smells really good.

Beth Griffin was a Research Assistant at Yerkes Regional Primate Research Center at Emory University when she was splashed in the eye with fluids from a rhesus macaque.  She acquired a Cercopithecine herpesvirus 1 (B virus) infection and died 42 days after exposure.  She was 22 years old.

Every day, high school and university students walk into science laboratories.  They may be students fulfilling a curriculum requirement, interns, or budding researchers.  Will they have received safety training unique to the potential biological, chemical, and physical hazards they may encounter in their lab environments?  Will they have received training that they understand given their ages and limited experience working in a lab?

To ensure young scientists learn safe lab practices, the National Institutes of Health has published a truly one-of-its-kind laboratory safety training developed for students.  This training, called STAR-LITE (Safe Techniques Advance Research – Laboratory Interactive Training Environment), is web-based and available for free.

STAR-LITE is built on a video game platform.  It allows users to determine their own fate as they step through a series of lab experiments.  The training covers biological, chemical, and physical hazards, safe work methods, engineering controls, and personal protective equipment.  It includes lesson plans for teachers to download for classroom use.

Thank you NIH.  You’ve demonstrated an innovative (and fun) way to teach an otherwise ignored subject.

STAR-LITE is dedicated to Beth Griffin and all young scientists and their families who have needlessly suffered exposure to preventable lab-based accidents.

The environmental and occupational health impacts of end-of-life management of stuff (not people!) are often downplayed.  Unless the landfill or incinerator is in your backyard, the management of stuff as waste is generally ignored.  Throwing away stuff is a subconscious activity for most people, but probably not the families and friends of the waste management and remediation services workers who died while working in 2008.

The Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries data are still preliminary, yet the refuse and recyclable material industry is already starting to take notice.  In 2008, there were 34 fatalities recorded for Solid Waste Collection (NAICS 562111), as reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.  There were 31 fatalities recorded in 2007 for the same classification of workers.  Solid waste collection fatalities in 2008 occurred as a result of transportation incidents and from contact with objects or equipment.

To address the occupational hazards for solid waste collectors, both the collectors and the motorists they share the roads with could probably benefit from safety training and from changing behaviors.  However, the processes required to collect waste using human-power may remain inherently dangerous.

Maybe the biggest change would occur if the true cost of stuff included the economic, environmental, and social impacts of end-of-life management.  Would this spur innovation of novel waste management methods?  Or even spur innovation of novel repurposing of goods such that there is no waste at all?

The American Chemical Society Green Chemistry Institute® (ACS GCI) has teamed with stakeholders from industry, non-governmental organizations, and Federal and State agencies to develop a Sustainable Chemical and Process Technology Standard for the chemical industry.  As stated in the January 2009 memo from the ACS GCI, the new Standard is intended to…

…establish consistent requirements for sustainable chemical products and production technology…to demonstrate how chemical products can conform to the environmental, economic, and social principles of sustainability throughout the supply chain; and to encourage participation by all chemical manufacturers to maximize impact reductions and enhance environmental accomplishments.

It’s curious how this Standard will integrate with existing environmental regulations at chemical production facilities.  For example, Shell Chemical Yabucoa, a petrochemical facility in Puerto Rico, has received a compliance order from the USEPA.  The facility has a permit to discharge treated wastewaters, yet it violated the permit by discharging to the wrong location, a.k.a., leaking pollutants, twice so far in 2009.  We are hopeful that the Shell Chemical personnel at this facility are making efforts to reduce impacts to the environment, yet they seem to be having a hard time with this persistent leak.

Will the Sustainable Chemical and Process Technology Standard capture how the facility responds to the leak, the turnaround time to repair the leak, the adverse environmental health consequences of the leak, or the compliance penalties assessed by Federal agencies?  Let’s hope that the new Standard will be able to identify and assess chemical production footprint fluctuations all along the supply chain.

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