How Chemours and DuPont Avoid Paying for PFAS Pollution – The New York Times

“FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. — One humid day this summer, Brian Long, a senior executive at the chemical company Chemours, took a reporter on a tour of the Fayetteville Works factory.

Mr. Long showed off the plant’s new antipollution technologies, designed to stop a chemical called GenX from pouring into the Cape Fear River, escaping into the air and seeping into the ground water.

There was a new high-tech filtration system. And a new thermal oxidizer, which heats waste to 2,000 degrees. And an underground wall — still under construction — to keep the chemicals out of the river. And more.

“They’re not Band-Aids,” Mr. Long said. “They’re long-term, robust solutions.”

Credit…Ed Kashi for The New York Times

Yet weeks later, North Carolina officials announced that Chemours had exceeded limits on how much GenX its Fayetteville factory was emitting. This month, the state fined the company $300,000 for the violations — the second time this year the company has been penalized by the state’s environmental regulator.

GenX is part of a family of chemicals called per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS. They allow everyday items — frying pans, rain jackets, face masks, pizza boxes — to repel water, grease and stains. Exposure to the chemicals has been linked to cancer and other serious health problems.

To avoid responsibility for what many experts believe is a public health crisis, leading chemical companies like Chemours, DuPont and 3M have deployed a potent mix of tactics.

They have used public charm offensives to persuade regulators and lawmakers to back off. They have engineered complex corporate transactions to shield themselves from legal liability. And they have rolled out a conveyor belt of scantly tested substitute chemicals that sometimes turn out to be just as dangerous as their predecessors.”

This Fjord Shows Even Small Populations Create Giant Microfiber Pollution – The New York Times

“Svalbard, a Norwegian archipelago chilling halfway between the Nordic country and the North Pole, is known as much for its rugged beauty as its remoteness. From the village of Longyearbyen, visitors and roughly 2,400 residents can appreciate the stark terrain around the fjord known as Adventfjorden.

But the beauty of this Arctic inlet conceals messier, microscopic secrets.

“People see this nice, clean, white landscape,” said Claudia Halsband, a marine ecologist in Tromso, Norway, “but that’s only part of the story.”

The fjord has a sizable problem with subtle trash — namely microfibers, a squiggly subset of microplastics that slough off synthetic fabrics. Microfibers are turning up everywhere, and among researchers, there’s growing recognition that sewage is helping to spread them, said Peter S. Ross, an ocean pollution scientist who has studied the plastic fouling the Arctic. While the precise impact of microfibers building up in ecosystems remains a topic of debate, tiny Longyearbyen expels an extraordinary amount of them in its sewage: A new study shows that the village of thousands emits roughly as many as all the microplastics emitted by a wastewater treatment plant near Vancouver that serves around 1.3 million people.”

Federal Judge Strikes Down Trump Rule Governing Water Pollution – The New York Times

“WASHINGTON — A federal judge on Monday struck down a Trump-era environmental rule that drastically limited federal restrictions against pollution of millions of streams, wetlands and marshes across the country.

The Biden administration had already begun the lengthy process of undoing the policy, which President Donald J. Trump established in 2020 to please real estate developers and farmers. Mr. Trump’s policy allowed the discharge of pollutants such as fertilizers, pesticides and industrial chemicals into smaller streams and wetlands.

But on Monday, Judge Rosemary Márquez of the United States District Court for the District of Arizona found “fundamental, substantive flaws” with the Trump administration’s policy and said that it was in conflict with the 1972 Clean Water Act. She warned of the “possibility of serious environmental harm” if the Trump rule remained in place.”

Opinion | The Proliferation of Toxic Plastics and Chemicals Must End – The New York Times

“As the United States comes to grips with the climate crisis, fossil fuels will slowly recede from being primary sources of energy. That’s the good news. But the bad news is that the petrochemical industry is counting on greatly increasing the production of plastics and toxic chemicals made from fossil fuels to profit from its reserves of oil and gas.

That transition is why the challenges of climate, plastic pollution and chemical toxicity — which at first might each seem like distinct problems — are actually interrelated and require a systems approach to resolve. The danger is that if we focus on only a single metric, like greenhouse gas emissions, we may unintentionally encourage the shift from fuel to plastics and chemicals that are also unsafe and unsustainable.

Already, according to a 2018 report from the International Energy Agency, petrochemicals, which are made from petroleum and natural gas, “are rapidly becoming the largest driver of global oil demand.”

Petrochemicals are ubiquitous in everyday products, and many of them are poisoning us and our children. Stain repellents, flame retardants, phthalates and other toxics are contributing to cancer, falling sperm counts, obesity and a host of neurological, reproductive and immune problems, research has shown.”

Margaret Renkl | We Were Born to Be Wild – The New York Times

” . . . . During my childhood in the 1960s, it was common to see people casually throwing trash out of their car windows, but these days human indifference to the natural world tends to be better hidden, even from ourselves.

Market forces have worked hard to make sure we don’t notice the depredations we’re complicit in: the microplastics that pollute our waterways every time we wash a fleece jacket or a polyester blouse, the toilet tissue that’s destroying the boreal forest, the poisons we spray on our yards — up to 10 times as much, per acre, as farmers use — because they are marketed to us as benign “applications.”

As I waited in line at a garden center last week, I listened to the store owner telling another customer about a “treatment” she could spray on every bush and tree in her yard to “take care of” any kind of bug that might be feeding on them. He didn’t tell her it would also kill butterflies and bees and obscure bird grasshoppers. He didn’t tell her she would also be poisoning the songbirds that would feed on the poisoned insects or the predators that would feed on the weakened songbirds.

Perhaps she’ll remember making a “lantern” from a Mason jar when she was a child, and then maybe she’ll wonder why there are no lightning bugs for her own children to catch. But I wouldn’t bet on it.   . . . “

Who Gets to Breathe Clean Air in New Delhi? – The New York Times

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“Around 7 in the morning, Monu, 13, lifts his mosquito netting and crawls out of bed onto a dirt floor. Outside, his mother cooks breakfast over an open fire.

A few miles across New Delhi, the world’s most polluted capital, 11-year-old Aamya finally gives in to her mom’s coaxing. She climbs out of bed and treads down the hall, past an air purifier that shows the pollution levels in glowing numbers.”

David Lindsay Jr.
Hamden, CT | based on my NYT Comment:
Wonderful, horrible story, thank you to all who made this piece with its product of offering some painful clarity. My favorite class at the Foster School of Business at the University of Washington in Seattle, was on Organization Development taught by Cecil Bell. The basic premise of Organization Development is that most people are natural problem solvers. If you get the right people together and give them good data, they will normally want to think and work to solve the problems that they now can see. This kind of excellent data gathering could lead to many good works. While Family planning might  appear to go to the top of the list. if you read the many most recommended comments, you see that the main problems in India are too many wood burning stoves, fossil fuel burning vehicles, and farmers burning their waste, rather than adopting cleaner methods of sustainable farming. There is way too much dirty energy being used. It is time for India to step up and become famous for something other than maintaining its status as one of the most corrupt governments and business economies in the world.

Opinion | Our Oceans, Our Future – By Fabien Cousteau – The New York Times

Mr. Cousteau is an ocean explorer.

Credit…Anthony Wallace/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

This is an article from Turning Points, a special section that explores what critical moments from this year might mean for the year ahead.

Turning Point: The spread of Covid-19 in 2020 led to dramatic reductions in global carbon dioxide emissions, with one study finding that emissions fell by roughly 1.5 billion metric tons during the first half of the year compared to the same period in 2019 — the largest half-year decline in recorded history.

” “No ocean, no life.” Being a Cousteau, this message was practically written into my DNA. And it’s one I’ve tried to share with the world through my many years of work as an environmental advocate.

Unfortunately, given the dire state of our oceans today, it’s clear that the message hasn’t gotten through to most people.

As we reflect on 2020 — one of the most socially and scientifically difficult years in recent memory — and look for ways to move forward, it’s crucial that we understand this simple fact: Without a healthy ocean we will not have a healthy future.

Many of us have experienced the magic and beauty of the ocean. Yet its vital connection to our daily lives — the ways in which it supplies the oxygen we breathe and nourishes the crops we eat — remains far less understood.

I’ve had the challenge — and the privilege — of spending 31 continuous days living in an underwater habitat, which has given me a unique perspective on the intrinsic value of the ocean as our primary life support system. The truth, to paraphrase Arthur C. Clarke, is that our planet would more appropriately be called Ocean, not Earth. Without our water, Earth would be just one of billions of lifeless rocks floating in the inky-black void of space.

How can we change our perspective on the ocean as it relates to our planet? We can start by heeding the lessons of 2020. While the coronavirus has caused great suffering and tragedy, it has also shed light on some of the invisible structures that underpin our daily lives, from racial injustice to the extreme disparities in wealth that burden our communities. While these realities have always been plain to some, it took the seismic shifts created by the pandemic for many of us to wake up to them.

The pandemic has also served to remind us of the beauty of nature. As Covid-19 spread across the globe in the spring, prompting nation upon nation to impose strict lockdown measures, the natural world briefly reasserted itself: Cloudy Venetian canals grew clearer. The smog dissipated over the Hollywood Hills. Cars vanished from the roads, leading to a significant, though temporary, drop in carbon dioxide emissions. These developments were encouraging, suggesting that dramatic change was possible, and that there was hope for a greener future after all.

Yet, as the pandemic has continued, it has also caused the use of disposable plastics to skyrocket. Grocery bags and latex gloves fill our trash bins. Discarded face masks flow down the drains of our city streets and into our waterways, potentially harming sea life. Whether we realize it or not, discarded plastics are choking the life out of our ecosystem.”

Excellent, sad, and disturbing. Thank you, Excellent comments also.  Here is one I especially liked:

David Roy,  Fort Collins, Colorado   4h ago

The conceit of humanity is two-fold: We have created a global system of commerce and economics that we believe we have to depend on for our survival, and we enforce that global system of commerce with the institutions of politics, grounded in law. At our essence, humans are neither economic or political beings. Like every species we share this planet with, we are biological beings first. Our wealth is accumulated from what we take from the earth. The extraction of that bounty is the bio-diversity of life. We are destroying what humanity itself needs just to simply survive. The politics that are in play, the rules and the laws governing commerce, puts wealth ahead of bio-diversity in the courts of law across the planet. Simply saying that humans are more valuable than the values of the state puts individuals in harms way, and in jail. As soon as humanity adjusts to reality, and accepts that we are no more and no less than all of the other forms of life we share this planet with, than we will begin to find and create solutions to the problems that are vexing us. Climate change will obliterate our civilization, and we take only intellectual baby steps at doing our best to mitigate it. Over-population devours what is left of once was our bounty, too many mouths feeding at too little of a degraded planet. This condition makes the unthinkable more real, the use of nuclear weapons to protect a nation(s) from the scarcity we are all inflicting on our planet. Live simply.

Reply10 Recommended

The Link Between Parkinson’s Disease and Toxic Chemicals – By Jane E. Brody – The New York Times

“Michael Richard Clifford, a 66-year-old retired astronaut living in Cary, N.C., learned before his third spaceflight that he had Parkinson’s disease. He was only 44 and in excellent health at the time, and had no family history of this disabling neurological disorder.

What he did have was years of exposure to numerous toxic chemicals, several of which have since been shown in animal studies to cause the kind of brain damage and symptoms that afflict people with Parkinson’s.

As a youngster, Mr. Clifford said, he worked in a gas station using degreasers to clean car engines. He also worked on a farm where he used pesticides and in fields where DDT was sprayed. Then, as an aviator, he cleaned engines readying them for test flights. But at none of these jobs was he protected from exposure to hazardous chemicals that are readily inhaled or absorbed through the skin.

Now Mr. Clifford, a lifelong nonsmoker, believes that his close contact with these various substances explains why he developed Parkinson’s disease at such a young age. Several of the chemicals have strong links to Parkinson’s, and a growing body of evidence suggests that exposure to them may very well account for the dramatic rise in the diagnosis of Parkinson’s in recent decades.”

EWG Urges Ban On Toxic Soft Soap Additive | EWG

FRIDAY, APRIL 8, 2011

 

April 8, 2011

Office of Pesticide Programs (OPP) Regulatory Public Docket (7502P)
Environmental Protection Agency
1200 Pennsylvania Ave., NW.
Washington, DC 20460-0001

Re: Petition for a Ban on Triclosan [EPA–HQ–OPP–2010–0548; FRL–8852–8]

To Whom It May Concern:

Environmental Working Group (EWG) is a non-profit public health and environmental research and advocacy organization based in Washington, DC. We work to combat the health risks from chemical contamination of food, water, consumer products and the environment. As a co-signer to the 2010 Citizen Petition for a Ban on Triclosan, EWG strongly supports a suspension of non-medical uses of triclosan while EPA reexamines the safety of currently registered uses. We are particularly concerned that EPA has not comprehensively assessed the safety of cumulative exposures of triclosan for the developing fetus, infant and child.

Triclosan has been used for 40 years as an antimicrobial ingredient in consumer and commercial products. Despite widespread concerns about the chemical’s toxicity—the fact that the chemical is detected in the majority of Americans, and its potential to harm aquatic life and form toxic byproducts in water or the environment—there are few restrictions on its use. The American Medical Association does not recommend use of antimicrobial products in the home (Tan 2002), stating: “No data support the efficacy or necessity of antimicrobial agents in such products, and a growing number of studies suggest increasing acquired bacterial resistance to them.” According to a Food and Drug Administration Nonprescription Drugs Advisory Committee, triclosan soaps are no better than plain soap and water for preventing the spread of infections or reducing bacteria on the skin (FDA 2005).

EWG research finds that:

  • A wide range of home products contain triclosan and contribute to exposures. EWG research shows that with no assessment of health risks to infants, regulators have approved triclosan for use in 140 different types of consumer products including liquid hand soap, toothpaste, undergarments and children’s toys (EWG 2008). This exposure has been allowed despite the fact that the chemical ends up in mothers’ breast milk and poses potential toxicity to fetal and childhood development.
  • Triclosan commonly contaminates the human body. EWG biomonitoring research has found triclosan in 42 of the 49 participants tested, including all 20 adolescent girls (EWG 2008).

Source: EWG Urges Ban On Toxic Soft Soap Additive | EWG

Where’s Airborne Plastic? Everywhere, Scientists Find. – By  John Schwartz – The New York Times

“Plastic pollution isn’t just fouling the world’s oceans. It is also in the air we breathe, traveling on the wind and drifting down from the skies, according to a new study. More than 1,000 tons of tiny fragments rain down each year on national parks and wilderness areas in the American West alone, equivalent to between 123 million and 300 million plastic bottles worth.

“There’s no nook or cranny on the surface of the earth that won’t have microplastics,” said Janice Brahney, a Utah State University scientist who is lead author on the new study. “It’s really unnerving to think about it.”

While the troublesome presence of plastics in landfillsin the oceans and in freshwater environments like the Great Lakes is well known, research into airborne particles is more recent. Previous papers have described finding airborne microplastics in, among other places, EuropeChina and in the Arctic.

The new paper, published Thursday in the journal Science, reports finding plastic in remote parts of the United States; the researchers collected samples from 11 national parks and wilderness areas.

They found tiny bits of plastic in 98 percent of the 339 samples they collected; plastics accounted for 4 percent of the dust particles that were tested.”