ENN summarizes the most important and compelling environmental news stories of the week. In the news November 7th - 11th: Water vapor and warming, Iraq's battered marshlands, EPA considers lead-remodeling regulations, and battery-powered bikes in Cambodia.
The Week's Top Ten
In the news November 7th - 11th: Water vapor and warming, Iraq's battered marshlands, EPA considers lead-remodeling regulations, and battery-powered bikes in Cambodia.
1. Water Vapor May Be Biggest Contributor to Higher Global Temperatures, Researcher Says
The newest alleged global warming culprit? Water vapor. Researcher Rolf Philipona of Switzerland's World Radiation Center led a study that concludes, in his words, "Water vapor is a greenhouse gas. Wherever you have an increase in water vapor, you have an increase in temperature." Philipona says that his team is the first to measure water vapor's effect on temperatures.
2. Japan To Double Usual Whale Kill in New Antarctic Hunt, Expanded To Include Fin Whales
Eight hundred and fifty minke whales were in the sites of some Japanese whalers this week as a fleet headed for Antarctica. The hunt -- an expedition by Japan's Institute of Cetacean Research -- is allowed by the International Whaling Commission because it is classified as research. Critics, such as Greenpeace, say that it's commercial whaling in disguise.
3. EPA Promises Lead-Remodeling Regulation by End of Year
By December 30 of this year, there could be a proposal on the table that would help protect vulnerable populations from the risks of lead paint exposure during remodeling projects. The EPA's proposal would require contractors to take additional precautions during demolition activities that involve lead-based paint. Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) said, "Too many children have needlessly suffered from lead-paint poisoning, and we've already waited far too long to take action to protect them."
4. U.N., Donors Pledge Greater Cooperation To Restore Iraq's Marshlands
By draining the marshland between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers a decade ago as punishment to Shiite supporters dwelling there, Saddam Hussein's regime inflicted even more damage than it intended. Recent projections suggest that the marshes, once covering nearly 3,600 square miles, would disappear entirely by 2008. This week, the Iraqi government and donor countries agreed on a plan to salvage and then restore Iraq's southern marshes.
5. U.S., Chinese Environmental Chiefs Start Regular Meetings on Cleaner Atmosphere
On Tuesday the heads of United States' and China's respective environmental agencies convened to collaborate on ways in which the two countries -- one the world's leading polluter and the other looming large as a significant polluter of the future -- might collaborate on the pollution reduction front. On the subject of his meeting with EPA chief Stephen Johnson, Xie Zhenhua of China's State Environmental Protection Administration said, "I sincerely wish to work with EPA and other U.S. agencies to further deepen our environmental cooperation and make contributions to the global environment not only for us, but also for our future generations."
6. New Rules on Illegal Trails Don't Go Far Enough, Critics Say
Last week's announcement by the Forest Service that off-road vehicles would soon be restricted to designated roads and trails was criticized this week for not going far enough toward protecting the land and the species that wildlife species that inhabit it. According to American Hiking Society's Gregory Miller, "Until the Forest Service commits real resources to combating uncontrolled off-road vehicle use and effectively implementing the regulations, our forests -- and the quiet, natural experiences they provide -- will continue to be put at risk."
7. Hurricanes Take a Bite out of Louisiana's Coastal Restoration
With the Louisiana coast's most valuable natural protection -- its wetlands -- decimated by hurricanes Katrina and Rita, and long-term weather forecasts predicting a several-decades-long cycle of severe storms, scientists fear that the recovery of the area is in doubt. The U.S. Geological Survey estimates that approximately 100 square miles of marshland was thrashed by the storms, turning from swamp to open water. "Grand Isle by itself had at least a $10 million hit," said University of New Orleans coastal expert Shea Penland.
8. Global Warming Could Help Salmon in Norway, Report Says
Some rare evidence of a positive impact of global warming emerged this week with a report indicating that salmon in Norway benefit from the increased amount of rainfall triggered by warmer temperatures that dilutes industrial pollutants in the air and water. "For salmon this is a good situation because nitrate is acidifying the rivers," said researcher and study leader Atle Hindar. "The smolt are extremely sensitive during the spring. If the acidification is reduced it will benefit the smolt."
9. Cambodia Introduces Battery-Powered Bicycles for Tourists Visiting Angkor Complex
Anxious to step up its efforts to reduce pollution and limit noise in the region of its most valuable tourist destination, the government of Cambodia on Tuesday started offering battery-powered bikes for rent. Conservationists have pointed out the effects of noise and vibration caused by automobiles on the temples at Angkor. If the bicycle rental business proves popular with tourists, Cambodian officials say they're prepared to add to the current inventory of 300.
10. Chicken Excrement for Fish Stirs Concern in Vietnam
With the bird-flu scare on everyone's mind these days the habit of feeding chicken excrement to fish in southern Vietnam is under scrutiny. An estimated 100 tons of chicken excrement wind up in Tri An Lake, which feeds into Dong Nai River and through Ho Chi Minh City. Approximately seven million people use purified water from the Dong Nai, so "Dropping chicken excrement into Tri An lake during the period when bird flu is evolving into a pandemic is extremely dangerous," said Le Hoang Sang of Ho Chi Minh City's Pasteur Institute.
Guest Commentary: New Orleans' Toxic Soup Is Served Up All Over America
By Dr. James Martin
News of the "toxic soup" contained in the floodwaters of New Orleans has been making headlines around the world, but this recipe is served up daily in practically every city throughout the United States. While the recipes differ from state to state, the "backbone" ingredients -- pesticides, heavy metals, petroleum products and other industrial chemicals -- are virtually everywhere.
Americans watched in horror and shame as our government -- on every level -- did not live up to our expectations and as a result so many suffered in New Orleans and the surrounding Gulf Coast following hurricane Katrina. Yet this same travesty continues with the toxic assault on our environment that affects everyone within our borders.
So many have put their trust, along with the health and well being of our country, in government agencies like the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), National Institute of Health (NIH) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), but the proverbial levee won't hold here either. To date the EPA has approved over 80,000 synthetic chemicals that continue to be released into the environment. We are told that these toxins are at "acceptable" levels but common sense tells us otherwise.
Toxic chemicals are in our air, our water, our fruits, vegetables, meats, fish and poultry. They're in everyday products like household cleaners, nail polish and remover, make-up, lotions and cigarettes. And now they're showing up in newborn babies.
A study released this summer by the Environmental Work Group (EWG) tested umbilical cord blood of infants born in the U.S. and found an average of 200 industrial chemicals and pollutants. In total, tests identified 287 chemicals of which 180 cause cancer, 217 are toxic to the brain and nervous system and 208 are linked to birth defects or abnormal development.
These findings refute the assertion by some that the placenta shields cord blood (and the fetus) from most chemicals and other toxins in the environment. But we don't need a researcher's study to tell us what we already know -- carrying around these toxins in our systems is not acceptable.
For those who need a little more convincing, consider this: A Washington State University study reported in the June 3 issue of Science Magazine indicates that exposure to environmental toxins impacts health far greater than anyone ever imagined. Researchers found that the effects are passed along to offspring for as many as four generations.
It's time for the national spotlight to shine on the actions we must take to reduce our exposures to these toxins in our homes, schools and businesses. First and foremost -- ignore the chemical industry's assault on our lives. Don't buy into the current "better living through chemistry" mind set. We need to be conscious of our actions. The days are gone when we can spray chemicals without a thought of where these chemicals end up because they end up in our air, our water, our soil and in our children.
There are plenty of all-natural alternatives to keep any surface clean and germ free. The same is true for pesticides. Buying organic fruits, vegetables and meats may be a bit more costly, but what price do you put on the hormones, antibiotics, pesticides and other chemicals in non-organic foods we consume?
We don't have to wait for Congressional confirmation to recognize that our children are facing problems like asthma, leukemia, autism spectrum disorders, ADD/ADHD and diabetes in alarmingly high numbers. And the rates keep rising. There are safe, accessible and effective methods available to eliminate these toxins from the body. This information must be mainstreamed into our national healthcare system and national media.
It's time for America to take a long hard look at our actions -- and inaction -- over the past centuries. Some view our toxic environment as an unavoidable byproduct of our industrialized world; others claim it is callous greed -- the need for power and money at any cost. No matter where we ultimately choose to lay blame, we owe it to our children and to the planet they must inherit to do all we can to clean up our act.
Dr. James H. Martin is a clinical nutritionist, certified naturopathic physician and doctor of chiropractic with an expertise in toxicity. For the past 30 years he has served as clinical director of the Martin Clinic in Sarasota, Florida, which provides complementary/alternative health services to patients from all over the world. Dr. Martin is also the editor and publisher of the Well News Newsletter, a cutting-edge resource of nutritional information.
Photo: Canoe on the Furo do Lago do Cristo Reis during one of the worst droughts ever recorded in the Amazon region. The drought is damaging the world's largest rainforest, with wildfires breaking out, fresh drinking water becoming scarce, and the death of millions fish as the streams dry up. Credit: © Greenpeace/Daniel Beltra.