Aug 28, 2013

Food Labs Use An Average of 2000 Chemicals To Create 500 'Natural Flavors' You Would Never Suspect Are Artificial

The flavor industry is worth billions. Flavor engineers are paid big bucks to make sure you never know the difference between "natural flavors" and the real thing. Chemists working for half a dozen companies make approximately 80 percent of all the natural and artificial flavors in the world to please consumers with convincing tastes and aromas they find delicious and appealing. So what constitutes a natural flavor? Certainly nothing natural.

There are hundreds of different flavor compounds that are derived from amino-acids, fatty acids, carbohydrates and other nutrient pathways to achieve specific a taste and smell. 

Companies like Givaudan and Cargill create and manufacture flavors for a wide variety of foods, beverages, confections, pharmaceuticals (including chewable medications and liquid prescriptions), oral care products (like toothpaste and mouthwash), cosmetics (including lip balm), nutrition products (vitamins and sports gels), and even pet food. And in fact, the general principles they follow are very similar to what's done in the perfume industry.

Although these companies are responsible for ensuring their products are safe for human consumption (which includes preventing allergic reactions or avoiding toxicity), no long-term studies are ever pursued in humans to find out what those effects actually are. Priority number one for the industry is to help the food companies make huge profits, not ensure human health and safety...

S. 1254, Harmful Algal Blooms and Hypoxia Research and Control Amendments Act of 2013

S. 1254 would reauthorize and modify the Harmful Algal Bloom and Hypoxia Research and Control Act of 1998. The bill would authorize the appropriation of $20.5 million annually over the 2014-2018 period for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to mitigate the effects of harmful algal blooms and hypoxia (reduced oxygen level) in certain bodies of water.

Aug 27, 2013

EPA Final Rule — Electronic Reporting of Toxics Release Inventory Data (TRI Reporting)

In this final rule, EPA requires facilities to report non-trade-secret Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) forms to EPA using electronic software provided by the Agency. Electronic reporting of TRI forms provides numerous benefits, including making it easier for facilities to report accurate information, expediting form completion due to the pre-population of many form elements, decreasing the cost to EPA of processing forms, and providing TRI information more quickly to the public. The only exception to this electronic reporting requirement is for the few facilities that submit trade secret TRI information, which will continue to submit their trade secret reporting forms and substantiation forms in hard copy.

Under this rulemaking, EPA also requires facilities to submit electronically via the Internet (i.e., not on paper forms or CD-ROMs) any revisions or withdrawals of previously submitted TRI reporting forms. Additionally, EPA will no longer accept submissions, revisions, or withdrawals of TRI reporting forms submitted for reporting years prior to reporting year 1991. For trade secret submissions, EPA will still only accept revisions or withdrawals of previously submitted trade secret information on paper forms, though only for reporting years back to reporting year 1991.

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Big Day! Occupational Safety and Health Standards for Aircraft Cabin Crewmembers

This notice announces the availability of a new policy statement regarding the regulation of some occupational safety and health conditions affecting cabin crewmembers on aircraft by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. This policy statement will enhance occupational safety and health in the aircraft cabin by establishing the extent to which the Occupational Safety and Health Administration requirements may apply to the working conditions of aircraft cabin crew while they are onboard aircraft in operation.

Please see Federal Register's full text here:

Aug 26, 2013

OSHA announces proposed rule to protect workers exposed to crystalline silica

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration today announced a proposed rule aimed at curbing lung cancer, silicosis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and kidney disease in America's workers.

The proposal seeks to lower worker exposure to crystalline silica, which kills hundreds of workers and sickens thousands more each year. After publication of the proposal, the public will have 90 days to submit written comments, followed by public hearings.

"Exposure to silica can be deadly, and limiting that exposure is essential," said Dr. David Michaels, assistant secretary of labor for occupational safety and health. "Every year, exposed workers not only lose their ability to work, but also to breathe. This proposal is expected to prevent thousands of deaths from silicosis — an incurable and progressive disease — as well as lung cancer, other respiratory diseases and kidney disease. We're looking forward to public comment on the proposal."
Once the full effects of the rule are realized, OSHA estimates that the proposed rule would result in saving nearly 700 lives per year and prevent 1,600 new cases of silicosis annually.

Exposure to airborne silica dust occurs in operations involving cutting, sawing, drilling and crushing of concrete, brick, block and other stone products and in operations using sand products, such as in glass manufacturing, foundries and sand blasting.

The proposal is based on extensive review of scientific and technical evidence, consideration of current industry consensus standards and outreach by OSHA to stakeholders, including public stakeholder meetings, conferences and meetings with employer and employee organizations.

"The proposed rule uses common sense measures that will protect workers' lives and lungs — like keeping the material wet so dust doesn't become airborne," added Michaels. "It is designed to give employers flexibility in selecting ways to meet the standard."

OSHA cites Sikes Farm in silo incident: ‘should have been preventable’

The February incident in which two men were trapped in a grain silo "should have been preventable," an Occupational Safety and Health Administration official said.

Furthermore, Greg Sikes Farm LLC in Brooklet "cannot continue to fail its workers by not providing employees with a safe and healthful work environment," said Robert Vazzi, the area director of OSHA's Savannah Area Office.

Greg Sikes LLC, doing business as Greg Sikes Farm LLC, was cited "with two willful and five serious safety violations and proposed penalties of $127,400," OSHA spokesman Michael D'Aquino said. "The Brooklet farm was inspected in February upon notice that a worker had become entrapped inside a grain handling storage bin while attempting to clear soybeans from a jammed auger."

Aug 25, 2013

Fla. oyster industry declared federal disaster; governor says he'll sue Ga. for using too much water

On Monday federal officials declared a fishery disaster for Florida's oyster industry in the Gulf of Mexico, and Tuesday Florida Republican Gov. Rick Scott said the state is going to sue Georgia for causing the problem by using too much water from rivers that flow into the gulf.(Tampa Bay Times photo)

"In the last year, the oyster industry has lost 44 percent of its revenues as the oyster population in the Gulf of Mexico has declined an estimated 60 percent," Mary Ellen Klas reports for the Tampa Bay Times. Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson asked the federal government to declare the fisheries disaster a year ago, and Scott made the same request in September. (Read more)

"The collapse of the oyster industry last year came after a drought reduced freshwater flowing into Apalachicola Bay," The Associated Press reports. "But state officials have also blamed the lack of freshwater flow due to increased consumption in Georgia. Alabama, Georgia and Florida have fought for years over the amount of freshwater coming downstream from Georgia to the other states." Last year Florida "obtained a $2.7 million federal grant to pay 200 dislocated oystermen for a project to re-shell the bay in the Florida Panhandle to help it recover and re-open to harvesting." (Read more)

"Florida, Georgia and Alabama have been wrangling for more than 20 years over where Atlanta gets its water, a fight dubbed the Tri-State Water War," Craig Pittman reports for the Times. "To officials in Florida and Alabama, Atlanta is at fault for wasting water and failing to plan for its future. Atlanta officials insist they're now doing more water conservation than anywhere else in the nation, and Florida and Alabama's water demands are unreasonable."

The Apalachicola Bay "produces 90 percent of all of Florida's oysters, and 10 percent of all the oysters consumed in the U.S.," Pittman reports. "Amid court battles, congressional power plays, even a brief bid to move Tennessee's state line to give Georgia even more water, nobody has come up with a compromise that suits everyone. And Georgia's consumption is expected to nearly double by 2035 to 705 million gallons per day." (Read more)

Thoroughly cleaning boats is keeping invasive species out of two Michigan lakes

The simple act of thoroughly washing boats has significantly decreased the amount of invasive species in two northern Michigan lakes, Leslie Mertz reports for Great Lakes Echo, a project of the journalism department at Michigan State University. "While the Great Lakes and other lakes across the state struggle with a collection of non-native species that can affect fishing, swimming and lake ecology, Big and Little Glen lakes are nearly invasive-free." The program, which began in 1994 in Big and Little Glen Lakes, will wash about 4,000 boats this year. (Echo photo by Leslie Mertz: Sallyanne Morris flushes a boat engine) 

Boaters can be fined $500 for refusing to have their boat washed, but it's a simple process that takes five minutes, Mertz reports. "Vehicles trailering a boat pull up to the station, a little wooden shack at theDepartment of Natural Resources public boat launch that services the two adjoining lakes. A boat-wash worker asks the driver if the boat has been in another lake in the past 10 days. If so, the worker sprays off the hull and trailer with heated water and flushes the engine to remove or kill hitchhiking species that might still cling to life there. The worker asks drivers if they are bringing in bait minnows. Store receipts are checked to verify that the minnows are virus-free and not a potential source of the deadly infectious fish disease called viral hemorrhagic septicemia."

The cost to run the operation at Little Glen is $29,000 a year, Mertz reports. The funds come from lake association dues. Sarah Litch, who is on the Glen Lake Association boat-wash committee, told Mertz, "Looking at milfoil alone, the $29,000 we spend is a pittance compared to the cost for fighting just that one species in your lake." (Read more)

New EPA chief pledges to build trust with farmers

In the recent past, the Environmental Protection Agencyadministrator has not always had the best relationship with farmers and agriculture workers. But new EPA chief Gina McCarthy told an audience in Iowa that she plans to change that. She said, "My commitment to you is that at the end of my term, we will have a stronger, more productive, more trusting relationship between EPA and the agriculture community. Why are we going to do that? It benefits me, it benefits you and it will make this country stronger," Jennifer Jacobs reports for the Des Moines Register. McCarthy didn't take questions from reporters. (Associated Press photo by Charlie Neibergall: From left, Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad, Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds and EPA chief Gina McCarthy)

"The Iowa farmers in the audience – including those who have chafed at the thought of regulation of farm dust and youth employment and heavy penalties for farm run-off problems – all applauded her warmly," Jacobs reports. Nancy Beyer, a co-owner of Koszta Farm Corp. corn and soybean farm in rural Belle Plaine, told Jacobs, "She's probably the most on-track EPA director we've ever talked to."

While farmers are happy with McCarthy, environmental activists are not, Jacobs reports. "They say proposed plans for more oversight of Iowa farm facilities are too weak and won't do enough to stop pollution in Iowa's waterways. Iowa is in the middle of a long fight over how state officials will comply with the federal Clean Water Act. Environmental groups say lax regulation of pollution by livestock operations has contributed to more manure spills, more manure reaching rivers and streams and higher drinking-water treatment costs."

"Some activists contend that the government officials, including the Republican-led Iowa DNR and [Republican Gov. Terry] Branstad, are too cozy with farm interests in conducting the negotiations for how to provide oversight to prevent pollution from manure," Jacobs writes. Barb Kalbach, a fourth-generation Iowa farmer, told Jacobs, "Iowa already has 628 impaired waterways and nothing is reversing in an industry that's voluntarily regulated. It won't work in this state." (Read more)

Solar power to trump shale, helped by US military #solar #energy

Ambrose Evans Pritchard at The Daily Telegraph is having a good week this week, with his latest article looking at the renewable energy transformation underway - Solar power to trump shale, helped by US military.
The Department expects a "nonlinear" surge in solar expansion once the key threshold is reached, "paving the way for rapid, large-scale adoption of solar electricity across the US", with solar providing 27pc of the country's power by the middle of the century. If so, solar may prove to be the bigger story than shale in the end.

"This could take off very fast and catch a lot of people by surprise. The oil and gas industry is starting to smell that renewables are really dangerous for them," said Mr Leggett.

Like all solar survivors, he has emotion invested in his dream, and the prospect of vindication is sweet. What is new is that big global banks are starting to agree. Earlier this year UBS published a report on the "unsubsidised solar revolution", arguing that every rooftop in Italy, Spain and even Germany should have a solar cover based purely on hard economics.

"We believe the solar sector is at an inflection point," says Vishal Shah from Deutsche Bank. "It has passed the tipping point for grid parity in 10 major markets worldwide."

Deutsche Bank said the dramatic fall in the price of solar panels to between $0.60 and $0.70 per watt - lower than thought possible five years ago - has already rendered solar power competitive "without subsidies" in Japan, South Korea, Australia, Italy, Greece, Spain, Israel, South Africa, Chile, Southern California, Hawai and Chile - in some cases because electricity prices are ruinous. (Italy's solar is not efficient but electricity retails at $0.38 per kilowatt hour, compared with $0.15 in Germany and the UK).

These regions could be joined within three years by Thailand, Mexico, Argentina, Turkey and India, among others. Mr Shah said emerging markets are likely to embrace solar over the next decade for hard-headed commercial reasons, without the need for government subsidies. "Solar is now cheaper compared with diesel-based electricity generation in many markets such as India and Africa," he said.

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100% of new Australian power plants are wind or solar

RenewEconomy reports that new Australian power generation has gone 100% renewable - 100% of new Australian power plants are wind or solar.
The rapidly changing nature of Australia's coal-fired electricity grid has been highlighted by a new report from the Australian Energy Market Operator, which reports that all new electricity generation proposals received in the last 12 months have been either for large scale wind farms or solar facilities.

In its annual assessment of Energy market opportunities (known in the industry as ESOO, or Electricity Statement of Opportunities), AEMO notes the pivotal of renewable energy sources in the National Electricity Market, and in particular the influence of rooftop solar.

In the past year, the building out of residential rooftop solar totaled 774MW across the NEM (which includes the eastern states and South Australia, but excludes WA, the Northern Territory,Mt Isa and other isolated networks). Solar analysts expect a similar amount of rooftop solar to be installed in 2013/14, despite the removal of most subsidies.

This compares with 522.7MW of new large-scale generation that came online in 2012/13, most of which (439.5MW) came new wind energy facilities – including the 420MW Macarthur wind farm in Victoria), along with 60MW from a coal plant expansion and 39MW from two co-generation and landfill gas facilities.

Of the 1,000MW of new generation committed – but not yet completed - in the past 12 months, AEMO says that 945.5MW came from six new wind farm projects, and a further 45.5 MW from new solar generation (including the Kogan Creek solar booster in Queensland) and the Mildura concentrated solar PV demonstration plant in Victoria.

Over the same time, some 770MW of capacity at the Tarong black coal power plant in Queensland has been mothballed, as well as the 170MW Collinsville power station, which is trying to reinvent itself as a solar/gas hybrid plant. This adds to other retirements including the Playford B power station in Port Augusta and the seasonal retirement of the neighbouring Northern power station....published on Peak Energy // visit site

New Heavy oil recovery process can get over 80% of oil in place and is 11% better than previous method

A new enhanced heavy oil recovery (EHOR) process called Cyclic Production with Continuous Solvent Injection (CPCSI) has been developed at the University of Regina in Canada.

In this process, a vapourized solvent near its dew point is continuously injected into the reservoir to maintain reservoir pressure and also supply extra gas drive to flush the diluted oil out through an injector that is located on the top of the reservoir; while a producer, which is located at the bottom of the reservoir, is operated in a shut-in/open cyclic way. A series of experiments have been conducted to evaluate the CPCSI performance. The recovery factors (RFs) are up to 85% of original oil in place (OOIP) in 1-D tests, and the RF is improved by 11% by using the 2-D lateral CPCSI, compared with the traditional 2-D lateral VAPEX. Well configurations and the producer shut-in/open scenarios are key optimization factors that affect the CPCSI performance. Experimental results show that the foamy oil flow and solvent trap are the two major EHOR mechanisms for enhancing the oil production rate during the production period. In comparison with continuous injection process, such as vapour extraction (VAPEX), and cyclic injection process, such as cyclic solvent injection (CSI), CPCSI offers free gas driving, and the reservoir pressure is maintained during the producer opening period so that the diluted oil viscosity is kept low. This work shows that CPCSI could be an alternative optimization production scenario for applying solvent based in situ EHOR techniques for heavy oil reservoirs in Western Canada.

• We tested a new enhanced heavy oil recovery technique, named cyclic production with continuous solvent injection (CPCSI).
• 1-D and 2-D experimental tests were conducted to test the performance of this process.
• The oil recovery factor for this process can reach 80%.
• Compared with the classical VAPEX process, the oil recovery factor is increased by 11%.

This solvent based approach would work far better than SAGD for thin heavy oil formations.

Read more »

Fuel Cycle Costs for the major types of nuclear reactors

David Le Blanc's extra slides for his Molten Salt reactor talk had breakdowns of the fuel cycle costs for each of the major types of nuclear reactors.

LWR (Light Water Reactor) Fuel Cycle Costs
All assume 100$/kg Uranium and 150$/kg SWU (enrichment)
• Light Water Reactor(per Gwe)
• 20M$ Uranium(200 Tonnes, 100$/kg)
• 20M$ Enrichment
• 10M$ Fuel Fabrication
• Annual Fuel Cost 0.6 cents/kwh
• But must pay off initial fuel load
– 3 to 5 Tonnes U235 + Fabrication
– ~200M$ = 0.26 c/kwh (10% Discount Rate)
• Total Fuel Cycle ~ 0.86 cents/kwh

Size of Heat Exchangers for different types of nuclear reactors
Read more »

NASA warns of solar storm racing toward Earth this week

Computerworld - NASA issued a warning Tuesday that a coronal mass ejection may reach Earth this week, possibly affecting satellites and electronic systems on the ground.

On Tuesday, at 4:24 a.m. ET, the sun erupted with an Earth-directed coronal mass ejection, which is a huge burst of solar wind and magnetic fields shooting into space, NASA reported. This solar phenomenon can launch billions of tons of particles into space, reaching Earth one to three days later.

With that time frame, the particles could reach Earth between today and Friday.

The solar particles won't harm humans, but they can affect satellites and electronic systems, breaking up communication signals and causing electrical surges in power grids.

The space agency noted that the coronal mass ejection burst from the sun at speeds of about 570 miles per second.

Geomagnetic storms, or temporary disturbances in the Earth's magnetosphere, caused by coronal mass ejections are generally mild.

Early in 2012, the largest solar flare in six years caused problems for some GPS systems, airline communications systems and satellites for a few days.

The Little Green Data Book pocket-sized ready reference on key environmental data for over 200 countries.

The Little Green Data Book is a pocket-sized ready reference on key environmental data for over 200 countries. Key indicators are organized under the headings of agriculture, forestry, biodiversity, oceans, energy, emission and pollution, and water and sanitation. The 2013 edition of The Little Green Data Book introduces a new set of ocean-related indicators, highlighting the role of oceans in economic development.

EPA: New Pesticide Labels Will Better Protect Bees and Other Pollinators

WASHINGTON – In an ongoing effort to protect bees and other pollinators, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has developed new pesticide labels that prohibit use of some neonicotinoid pesticide products where bees are present. 

"Multiple factors play a role in bee colony declines, including pesticides. The Environmental Protection Agency is taking action to protect bees from pesticide exposure and these label changes will further our efforts," said Jim Jones, assistant administrator for the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention.

The new labels will have a bee advisory box and icon with information on routes of exposure and spray drift precautions. Today's announcement affects products containing the neonicotinoids imidacloprid, dinotefuran, clothianidin and thiamethoxam. The EPA will work with pesticide manufacturers to change labels so that they will meet the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) safety standard.

In May, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and EPA released a comprehensive scientific report on honey bee health, showing scientific consensus that there are a complex set of stressors associated with honey bee declines, including loss of habitat, parasites and disease, genetics, poor nutrition and pesticide exposure. 

The agency continues to work with beekeepers, growers, pesticide applicators, pesticide and seed companies, and federal and state agencies to reduce pesticide drift dust and advance best management practices. The EPA recently released new enforcement guidance to federal, state and tribal enforcement officials to enhance investigations of beekill incidents. 

More on the EPA's label changes and pollinator protection efforts:

View the infographic on EPA's new bee advisory box:

The Electricity-Free Biobulb Uses Bacteria to Glow in the Dark

Technology has come a long way since Edison patented the light bulb back in 1880. A group of undergraduates at the University of Wisconsin-Madison are launching a project to crowdfund the production of the Biobulb—a light bulb that uses bacteria to glow in the dark. Essentially creating an "ecosystem in a jar", the bulb takes advantage of ahost of microorganisms and natural light to feed the shining bacteria.

biobulb, university of wisconsin-madison, bioluminescence, synthetic biology, light bulb, e.coli, bacteria, researchers

The Biobulb uses a strain oE.coli that has been engineered to incorporate a plasmid that encodes genes for bioluminescence. Their project plans to experiment with different proteins in order to maximize the amount of light given off by the bacteria. They also hope to find a way to avoid mutations, code for different color emissions, and to begin experimenting with different triggers to coax the bacteria to give of light on cue.

The bacteria are fed by a host of other microorganisms selected by the team to play unique roles in the cycling of nutrients. By creating a living light bulb, the group hopes to promote the field of synthetic biology. The Biobulb is currently a finalist in the Popular Science #CrowdGrant Challenge and the subject of a RocketHub campaign. For a pledge of $100, the team will send a starter kit that lets biology buffs create a bacteria bulb of their own. + Biobulb

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Food Packaging Tied to Metabolic Trouble in Kids

Urinary concentrations of two chemicals commonly found in food packaging -- bisphenol A (BPA) and di-2-ethylhexyl phthalate (DEHP) -- were associated with risks for obesity in children and insulin resistance in teens, two studies showed.

In one study, greater urinary concentration of BPA, commonly found in food and drink packaging, was significantly associated with higher risk of body mass index (BMI) in the 95th percentile or greater, as well as greater odds of an abnormal waist circumference-to-height ratio, according to Joyce Lee, MD, of the Child Health Evaluation and Research Unit at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, and colleagues.

Another study of adolescent exposure to the plasticizer di-2-ethylhexyl phthalate (DEHP) showed that each three-fold increased concentration of the chemical in urine was associated with a 27% increased risk for insulin resistance, reportedLeonardo Trasande, MD, of New York University's Langone Medical Center in New York City, and colleagues. Both studies appear in the journalPediatrics.

DEHP is another chemical compound found in plastics used in the manufacture of food and drink containers.

Past research has linked BPA exposure with elevated weight in girlsraised testosterone concentrations in menaltered thyroid function in pregnant women and their children, and early risks for later-life kidney and cardiovascular disease in kids and teens.

In July 2013, the FDA issued a ban on BPA in infant formula packaging.

Lee and colleagues evaluated the relationship between concentrations of BPA in urine with adiposity measures, cholesterol, insulin, and glucose in a population of 3,370 children and adolescents, ages 6 to 18, whose data were available through NHANES (National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey) from 2003 to 2010.

Please continue reading By Cole Petrochko, Staff Writer, MedPage Today

Aug 24, 2013

Promising antibacterial coating created from green tea and salt

Researchers at Northwestern University have discovered new ways of utilizing the properties of naturally occurring polyphenols found in green tea, red wine and dark chocolate. Dissolving polyphenol powders in water with a small amount of salt instantly produces transparent coatings that kill bacteria on contact, have antioxidant qualities and are non-toxic. The sticky nature of polyphenols and the low cost of materials could open the door to a wide range of uses for these coatings. .. Continue Reading Promising antibacterial coating created from green tea and salt 

U.S. rapid wireless growth has contributed to a spike in deaths among tower workers,

The race to build out advanced cellphone networks in the U.S. has contributed to a spike in deaths among tower workers, making this one of the industry's deadliest years and drawing fresh scrutiny from federal regulators, according to The Wall Street Journal. At least 10 workers have died in falls from communication towers so far this year, and three more were seriously injured. The accidents, nine of which were related to cellphone network work, come during one of the biggest building booms in years, as Sprint Corp. and T-Mobile US Inc. ramp up major network upgrades in an attempt to catch up with Verizon Wireless and AT&T Inc. Read more  from Slashdot 

The cancer villages of China, where cancer rates are spiking, thought to be due to rapidly worsening pollution

Locations of communities where cancer rates have spiked recently. (Global Times via Weibo)

Locations of communities where cancer rates have spiked recently. (Global Times via Weibo)

China's problem with "cancer villages," or communities where cancer rates are spiking, thought to be due to rapidly worsening pollution, have become such a big problem that even Communist Party-run outlet Global Times felt compelled to share this map on Chinese social media.

Child poverty U.S. ranks 34th out of the developed world’s 35 countries by child poverty rates

Click to enlarge. Data source: UNICEF. (Max Fisher/Washington Post)

Click to enlarge. Data source: UNICEF. (Max Fisher/Washington Post)

The United States ranks 34th out of the developed world's 35 countries by child poverty rates, above only Romania. The United States doesn't do much better on overall child well-being.

Global crop yields are stagnating

One of four maps showing projected changes in major crop yields. (University of Michigan)

One of four maps showing projected changes in major crop yields. (University of Minnesota)

A University of Minnesota study recently published in the journal Nature found that a significant share of the world's crop-growing regions are seeing growth stagnate, slow or even collapse. They published three other maps; see the others and why they think it's so important to "sound the alert" here.

Aug 23, 2013

Public comment & peer review of Dichloromethane and N-Methylpyrrolidone TSCA Chemical Risk Assessment;

EPA's contractor, The Scientific Consulting Group (SCG), Inc., has
identified a panel of scientific experts to conduct a peer review of
EPA's draft Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) chemical risk
assessment, "TSCA Workplan Chemical Risk Assessment for
Dichloromethane and N-Methylpyrrolidone." EPA will hold three peer
review meetings by web connect and teleconference. EPA invites the
public to register to attend the meetings as observers and/or speakers
providing oral comments during any or all of the peer review meetings
as discussed in this notice. The public may also provide comment on
whether they believe the appearance of conflict of interest exists for
any proposed peer review panel expert.
Read full at:

Aug 22, 2013

Germany, one of Europe’s greenest countries - Fracking Since 1955

Excerpt: Perhaps one of the more eyebrow-raising presentations at London's 2011 Shale Gas Environmental Summit was that of Germany's Klaus Sontgerath, head of department, Lower Saxony State Authority for Mining, Energy and Geology. In his presentation, he illustrated that Germany – one of Europe's greenest countries - produces more onshore natural gas than any country in Europe apart from the Netherlands.

Please continue reading at:

New Radioactive Water Leak At Fukushima: 300 Tons and Growing #Safe #Energy

"Radioactive water has leaked from a storage tank into the ground at Japan's Fukushima plant, operator TEPCO says. Officials described the leak as a level-one incident — the lowest level — on the International Nuclear and Radiological Event Scale (INES), which measures nuclear events. This is the first time that Japan has declared such an event since the 2011 earthquake and tsunami. A puddle of the contaminated water was emitting 100 millisieverts an hour of radiation, equivalent to five year's maximum exposure for a site worker. In addition up to 300 tonnes a day of contaminated water is leaking from reactors buildings into the sea." There was a significant leak back in April as well.

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What's Causing the Rise In Obesity? Everything.

We all know — because we are being constantly reminded — that we are getting fat. Americans are at the forefront of the trend, but it is a transnational one. Apparently, it is also trans-species: Over the past 20 years, as the American people were getting fatter, so were America's laboratory macaques, chimpanzees, vervet monkeys and mice, as well as domestic dogs, domestic cats, and domestic and feral rats from both rural and urban areas. Researchers examined records on those eight species and found that average weight for every one had increased. The marmosets gained an average of 9% per decade. Lab mice gained about 11% per decade. Chimps are doing especially badly: their average body weight had risen 35% per decade. What is causing the obesity era? Everything.

Read more from Slashdot 

US States Banned From Exporting Trash To China Are Drowning In Plastic

Not only we depend on Chinese labor for the imports but we also depend on them to clean up our mess. Being green is getting a lot harder for eco-friendly states in the U.S., thanks to the country's dependency on overrun Chinese recycling facilities since the start of China's Green Fence policy this year. Recycling centers in Oregon and Washington recently stopped accepting clear plastic "clamshell" containers used for berries, plastic hospital gowns and plastic bags, while California's farmers are grappling with what to do with the 50,000 to 75,000 tons of plastic they use each year. The Green Fence initiative bans bales of plastic that haven't been cleaned or thoroughly sorted. That type of recyclable material, which costs more to recycle, often it ends up in China's landfills, which have become a source of recent unrest in the country's south. For every ton of reusable plastic, China has received many more tons of random trash, some of it toxic. That has helped build 'trash mountains' so high they sometimes bury people alive. For a country facing environmental crisis after environmental crisis, it is no longer tenable to accept US waste exports.
Read on from Slashdot 

This is fantastic: Algonquin EcoLodge - 12 kW Micro-Hydro Turbines from stream

For folks with a large stream on their property, a Pelton Wheel system like this is fantastic: Algonquin Eco-Lodge - 12 kW Micro-Hydro Turbines

Redox Power Plans To Roll Out Dishwasher-Sized Fuel Cells That Cost 90% Less Than Currently Available Fuel Cells - Forbes


Redox Power Systems, a Fulton, MD-based start-up company founded last year, sealed the deal on a partnership with researchers at the University of Maryland to commercialize a potentially game-changing distributed generationtechnology.

Redox says that it plans to bring to market a fuel cell that is about one-tenth the size and one-tenth the cost of currently commercial fuel cells by 2014.

The breakthrough solid oxide fuel cell technology is the brainchild of Eric Wachsman, the director of the University of Maryland's Energy Research Center.

Redox says that it will provide safe, efficient, reliable, uninterrupted power, on–site and optionally off the grid, at a price competitive with current energy sources.

The promise is this: generate your own electricity with a system nearly impervious to hurricanes, thunderstorms, cyber attacks, derechos, and similar dangers, while simultaneously helping the environment.

Aug 21, 2013

Air Quality State Implementation Plans; Approvals and Promulgations: Wisconsin; Disapproval of PM2.5 Permitting Requirements; Correction

Correction to 40 CFR Part 52 [EPA-R05-OAR-2011-0502; FRL-9900-30-Region 5]
Approval and Promulgation of Air Quality Implementation Plans;  Wisconsin; Disapproval of PM2.5 Permitting Requirements; 

AGENCY: Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). 
ACTION: Final rule; correction. 
SUMMARY: EPA published a final rule in the Federal Register on July 25, 2013, disapproving a Wisconsin State Implementation 
Plan revision pertaining to permitting requirements relating to particulate matter of less than 2.5 micrometers (PM2.5). An error in the amendatory instruction is identified and corrected in this action. 

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Bad week for Japan: Fukushima nuclear alert level rise 'significant' may raise leak to 'serious'

Japan nuclear watchdog may raise leak to 'serious'

USA TODAY - 4 minutes ago
SHARE 8 CONNECT 30 TWEETCOMMENTEMAILMORE. TOKYO (AP) — The Japanese nuclear watchdog on Wednesday said they are taking the leakage of highly radioactive water at the crippled Fukushima nuclear power plant seriously, and proposed ...

Fukushima alert level rise 'significant'

BBC News - 7 minutes ago
The increase of the severity level of a radioactive water leak at the Fukushima plant is being regarded as a "significant" rise in Japan. The leak was first classified as level one, but has now been upgraded to level three of a possible seven on the International ...

Fukushima leak most serious since tsunami

Livemint - 13 minutes ago
A file photo of Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear power plant in Okuma, Japan. Photo: Bloomberg. Also Read. Fukushima springs another leak in battle with radiated water · Nagasaki marks 68th anniversary of US atomic bombing · Japan's nuclear nightmare ...

Fukushima nuclear plant danger levels to be upgraded to 'serious'

Irish Independent - 25 minutes ago
The deepening crisis at the Fukushima nuclear plant in Japan will be upgraded from a level 1 "anomaly" to a level three "serious incident" a spokesman for Japan's Nuclear Regulation Authority said today.

Japan may upgrade radioactive water leak at Fukushima to 'serious incident'

Fox News - 28 minutes ago
Japan is taking the leakage of radioactive water at the Fukushima nuclear power plant seriously, its watchdog said Wednesday, proposing raising the rating to describe it as a "serious incident" rather than "an anomaly." The operator of the plant said about ...

Disturbing thyroid cancer rise in Fukushima minors

RT (blog) - 48 minutes ago
Six minors in Fukushima Prefecture who were 18 or younger at the time of the March 2011 nuclear disaster have been diagnosed with thyroid cancer since June. Ten other children are believed to have developed the same form of cancer in that time period.

Average NY Mother on Welfare gets benefits greater than the annual salary of a first-year school teacher.

A new CATO Institute study found that a mother in New York State with two children is eligible for $38,004 in welfare benefits--which is greater than the annual salary of a first-year New York school teacher. Note where Idaho falls in the benefits spectrum.
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Not video games or TV But, Soda may make children more violent, destroy things, and attack others - CBS News

Studies of young soda drinkers often focus on added risk for childhood obesity. But now, a new study suggests the sweet stuff could actually be making kids more violent.

Public health researchers looked at thousands of 5-year-olds, and found the more sugary soft drinks they consumed, the more likely they were to inflict damage and hurt others.

"We found a significant relation with soda consumption with the overall measure of aggression and with the three specific behaviors we felt were most indicative of aggression: destroying things belonging to others, getting into fights and physically attacking people," wrote the authors, led by researcher Dr. Shakira Suglia, an assistant professor of epidemiology at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health in New York City, said in a written statement.

For the study, researchers at Columbia University, Harvard and the University of Vermont analyzed about 3,000 kids — mostly black and Hispanic children — from 20 large U.S. cities. They had been enrolled in a study that followed them since birth, in which moms were given surveys about their child's behavior.

More than 40 percent of the children had at least one soft drink per day, while only 4 percent consumed four or more.

But, the more soda kids drank, the more problems with attention, aggression and withdrawn behaviors were reported.

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Aug 20, 2013

FACT: In 1971 more energy came from renewables than in 2011

The Decline of Renewable Energy. By Bjørn Lomborg

Excerpt: Many today believe that renewable energy will let us get off fossil fuels soon. Unfortunately, the facts say otherwise. According to International Energy Agency data, 13.12% of the world's energy came from renewables in 1971, the first year that the IEA reported global statistics. In 2011, renewables' share was actually lower, at 12.99%. … Burning wood in pre-industrial Western Europe caused massive deforestation, as is occurring in much of the developing world today. The indoor air pollution that biomass produces kills more than three million people annually.

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Aug 18, 2013

930,000 square feet of the Skycity will be the largest vertical farm in the world [feedly]

About 12% of the 1.05 million square meters (11.3 million square feet) of the 202 story skycity will be vertical organic farm, parks and open air gardens. It will be 930,000 square feet (86,400 square meters or over 21 acres). The entire Skycity project is to cost about $1.5 billion (9 billion yuan). There will also be 26,880 square meters of indoor park and 8000 meters of open air gardens.

Indoor farming can produce crops year-round. All-season farming multiplies the productivity of the farmed surface by a factor of 4 to 6 depending on the crop. With some crops, such as strawberries, the factor may be as high as 30.

The crops would be sold in the same infrastructures in which they are grown, they will not need to be transported between production and sale, resulting in less spoilage, infestation, and energy required than conventional farming encounters. Research has shown that 30% of harvested crops are wasted due to spoilage and infestation, though this number is much lower in developed nations.

The controlled growing environment reduces the need for pesticides, namely herbicides and fungicides. Advocates claim that producing organic crops in vertical farms is practical and the most likely production

The Eden project in the UK cost 140 million pounds ($210 million), which included about 40 acres beyond the 2.4 hectares of domed greenhouse. The Eden project is a greenhouse and not a vertical farm.

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published on Next Big Future // visit site