Saturday, May 09, 2009


This is a classic piece of epidemiological crap -- though this time of Greenie origin. Dump sites tend NOT to be located in prestigious urban locations, where the healthiest people live. They tend to be located nearest to the sort of cheap real estate where the poor live -- and the poor are in general less healthy. And this set of findings is just another proof of that. Yawn! But the hysteria about George Bush would tell anybody that this is a political document, not a scientific one. Overall evaluation: Amazingly dumb

The Bush Administration dragged its feet for more than five years from 2002-2007 on what it now turns out was only the partial release of Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) data showing a disturbingly high cancer risk for up to one out of every 50 Americans living near wet ponds used to dispose of ash and scrubber sludge from coal-fired power plants across the United States, according to a new analysis from the Environmental Integrity Project (EIP) and Earthjustice. Each year, coal-fired power plants dispose of nearly 100 million tons of toxic fly ash, bottom ash, and scrubber sludge in more than 200 landfills and wet ponds, such as the one that burst in Kingston, TN in December 2008.

During the Bush Administration, the EPA made a concerted effort to delay the release of the information about cancer, non-cancer and general environmental risks. Partial disclosure of the coal ash dump site risks was delayed from 2002-2007, with the full picture not coming to light until an underlying 2002 EPA risk screening report was finally made public on March 4, 2009 — seven years after its internal EPA publication. (The 2002 risk screening report pointed to risks associated with the toxic metal selenium, which were omitted from the draft EPA risk assessment issued in 2007.) The 2007 EPA risk assessment came only after substantial delays and Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) pressure, which had resulted in the blacking out of key sections of earlier EPA documents. (See ―Timeline‖ section of this news release.)

What was the Bush Administration EPA hiding? The new analysis from EIP and Earthjustice zeroes in on 100 landfills and 110 surface impoundments examined by the EPA that lack effective synthetic liners to prevent leaks, since the EPA found unlined and clay-lined waste units present far greater risks to both human health and ecosystems.

According to the EIP/Earthjustice analysis of the EPA data, there are high-risk coal ash dump sites in at least three dozen states, with 21 states playing home to five or more such sites: North Carolina (17); Indiana (15); Illinois (14); Ohio (12); Georgia (11); Kentucky (11); Tennessee (11); Texas (10); Alabama (9); Iowa (7); Michigan (7); South Carolina (7); West Virginia (7); Wisconsin (7); Wyoming (6); Kansas (5); Louisiana (5); Maryland (5); North Dakota (5); Oklahoma (5); and Pennsylvania (5). A complete list of these unlined or clay-lined waste disposal units can be found at

Titled “Coming Clean: What EPA Knows About the Dangers of Coal Ash,” the Environmental Integrity Project/Earthjustice report notes: “Can living next to one of these dumpsites increase your risk of getting cancer or other diseases? The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) thinks so, especially if you live near one of those wet ash ponds, or surface impoundments, that dot the landscape near large coal plants, the pond has no protective liner, and you get your drinking water from a well … (N)earby residents have as much as a 1 in 50 chance of getting cancer from drinking water contaminated by arsenic, one of the most common, and most dangerous, pollutants from coal ash. And that’s not all. That same risk assessment says that living near ash ponds increases the risk of damage to the liver, kidney, lungs and other organs as a result of being exposed to toxic metals like cadmium, cobalt, lead, and other pollutants at concentrations far above levels that are considered safe. In addition, the danger to wildlife and ecosystems is simply off the charts, with one contaminant—boron—expected to leach into the environment at levels two thousand times thresholds generally considered to be safe.”

Eric Schaeffer, director, Environmental Integrity Project, said: “We now have the full picture about coal dump sites across America and it is not pretty. The EPA’s data shows that the disposal of coal ash, especially in unlined ponds, results in alarmingly high risks of cancer and diseases of the heart, lung, liver, stomach and other organs and can seriously harm aquatic ecosystems and wildlife near disposal sites. These risks are driven by exposure to toxic metals that leach from groundwater into drinking water, surface waters and sediment. Power industry lobbyists would rather keep the public in the dark about the risk from coal ash disposal; it’s up to EPA to turn the lights on and regulate these hazards. Even as recently as December 2008, after the 1 billion gallon spill from its Kingston Power Plant, the Tennessee Valley Authority claimed that the coal ash posed little risk to human health or the environment. The EPA data we are releasing today brings the real threats to light.”

Lisa Evans, attorney, Earthjustice, said: “Given what the Agency already knows, coal ash ponds must be phased out—and cleaned out—within five years, to keep their toxic cargo from building up and jeopardizing the health of nearby residents, poisoning wildlife, and contaminating rivers and streams. So called “dry landfills”—especially those that are unlined—also pose unacceptable risks, and ought to be regulated as hazardous waste disposal sites. The EPA’s risk assessment clearly establishes that unlined coal ash disposal sites—wet and dry—are hazardous to human health and the environment. We hope the new leadership at the EPA will act on that knowledge before further serious damage occurs to our health and environment.”


The problem may be twice as big as the data indicate. The number of unlined and clay-lined ash ponds and landfills currently in operation in the United States is likely to be more than double the number of units represented in the EPA survey data. In fact, industry has reported at least 427 waste ponds in response to EPA‘s March 2009 information request letter, exceeding by 40 percent EPA‘s estimate of the number of operating waste ponds, EPA does not know how many of these ponds are unlined, but, based on 1995 statistics, approximately three-quarters of these ponds lack any liners.

The coal ash threat could linger for 100 years. Because some of the EPA data go back to the mid-1990s, it is possible that some of the listed dump sites are no longer in use. The EPA warns, however, that peak pollution from ash ponds can occur long after the waste is placed and is likely to result in peak exposures approximately 78 to 105 years after the ponds first began operation—thus ―retired‖ sites still pose very significant threats.

Higher cancer risk for up to 1 in 50 nearby residents. The EPA estimates that up to 1 in 50 nearby residents could get cancer from exposure to arsenic leaking into drinking water wells from unlined waste ponds that mix ash with coal refuse. Arsenic has been found to cause multiple forms of cancer, including cancer of the liver, kidney, lung, and bladder, and an increased incidence of skin cancer in populations consuming drinking water high in inorganic arsenic. Threats are also posed by unacceptable high levels of other metals, including boron, selenium and lead.

More here

Bill Gates funds scientists in unorthodox health research

THERE is a magnet that can detect malaria at the flick of a switch, a flu-resistant chicken, an "antiviral" tomato and a vaccine enhanced with the use of a laser. The ideas are so bold that, as the scientists behind them admit, they can often struggle for funding. Today, though, more than 80 projects at the far edge of innovation in global health research will share millions of dollars of grants to support unorthodox thinking — and the outside chance of a world-changing discovery.

Among the recipients, announced today by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation as part of their Grand Challenges initiative, are three British scientific teams pursuing novel approaches to prevent and treat infectious diseases such as tuberculosis, malaria and pneumonia, as well as viruses such as HIV.

A team of engineers from the University of Exeter is attempting to create a handheld, battery-powered device that uses a magnet to detect the presence of malaria parasites in blood — and dramatically speed the diagnosis of the disease.

Scientists from Royal Holloway University, London, are attempting to compile a library of all possible mutations of HIV — the way that it manages to evade the body’s immune system so effectively — with the ultimate goal of a vaccine that can protect against many variant forms of the virus.

A third team is looking at how to mimic the body’s natural ability to carry pneumococcal bacteria without contracting infections, which appears to improve immunity to the serious illnesses that they can cause. The scientists, from the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, hope that the work might lead to the development of an inhaled vaccine against pneumonia.

Each will receive initial grants of $US100,000 ($135,000) from the Gates Foundation, with the chance of follow-on grants of $US1 million if their projects show success. In a radical departure from conventional funding systems the foundation asked only for a two-page application and no preliminary data for the first stage award. It is hoped that this approach will encourage and accelerate bold and largely unproven research.

Other projects among the 81 recipients of Grand Challenges Explorations grants, which come from universities, research institutes, non-profit organisations and private companies in 17 different countries, include: giving mosquitoes a “head cold” to prevent them from detecting and biting humans; using immunised cows as a means of killing or reducing the reproductive abilities of the mosquitoes that bite them; creating therapeutic tomatoes, modified to deliver antiviral drugs targeting particular viruses; and using a laser on skin before an injection to enhance immune responses stimulated by a vaccine.

Tachi Yamada, president of the Gates Foundation’s Global Health program, said unconventional approaches were required to shake up the thinking on diseases where advances had been slow. He said the five-year program was designed to get projects off the ground and was likely to put $US200 million towards research. “Some things require a revolution, rather than an evolution, in thinking. The problem is we can be locked into an orthodoxy of thinking that shackles us and prevents us from thinking in novel ways,” he said.

Dr Yamada said he and Bill Gates, who was on the review board, which comprises scientists and entrepreneurs, accepted that 90 per cent of the projects might fail, and that there might even be the odd charlatan trying to apply for a grant. “The point is that where there are currently no solutions, we must work hard to find new solutions. We really believe that true innovation is needed. Some of the ideas might seem crazy, but there is a fine line between crazy and absolutely novel.”

Luke Savage and Dave Newman, part of the University of Exeter team, said the support was invaluable. “The grants are being provided with the minimum of procedure — it cuts through the red tape and is very focused,” Dr Savage said. “The Gates Foundation is taking on things with real importance, not just nice, esoteric research. It is very exciting to be part of that community.”

The two other British project leaders, George Dickson, of Royal Holloway, and Stephen Gordon, from Liverpool, said the possibility of accessing funding of $US1 million would transform their work. “These are projects that are examples of high-risk research, in the sense that the outcome is less certain,” Professor Dickson said. “It is difficult to get pilot funding for projects like this through conventional channels.”

Bikul Das, of Stanford University Medical School, was another grant recipient, for work to explore the potential role of stem cells in latent tuberculosis infection. Although a specialist in the study of cancer stem-cell biology for the past decade, Dr Das had maintained an interest in infectious diseases, with clinical training in India and Bhutan. “I am so excited to have this opportunity to join the war against infectious diseases,” he said. “I hope my expertise on cancer and stem-cell biology can help enhance the field and relieve suffering.”

The grant recipients are based in Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe, Latin America, and North America. Applicants were selected from more than 3,000 proposals, with all levels of scientists represented — from veteran researchers to postgraduates — and a range of disciplines, such as neurobiology, immunology and polymer science. The announcement marks the second wave of Grand Challenges Explorations grants, with applications for the next round accepted until the end of this month.

Successful applicants

— Develop a tomato that delivers antiviral drugs when eaten Eric Lam, at Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey

— Immunise cows against mosquitoes, so that when the insect bites them it might die or have reduced ability to reproduce Jefferson Vaughan, at the University of North Dakota

— Develop “sticky nanoparticles” that attach to tuberculosis-infected cells and slowly release anti-TB drugs. The new therapy could shorten treatment time and reduce side-effects, using existing medications Boitumelo Semete, at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research in South Africa

— Test whether protein crystals produced by insect viruses can be used as a new way to deliver vaccines. These “micro-cube” protein particles are stable, could be used against multiple diseases and may not require refrigeration Fasséli Coulibaly, at Monash University in Australia

— Examine the potential to infect malaria-carrying mosquitoes with a fungus that, like a head cold, suppresses their sense of smell and their ability to find human hosts Thomas Baker, at Pennsylvania State University

— Explore whether illuminating skin with a targeted laser before administering a vaccine can enhance the immune response Mei Wu, at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School

— Test whether inducing antibodies against anti-malarial drugs can significantly prolong the half-life of those drugs in the body, extending their effects Erich and Thomas Cerny, of Wissenschaftlicher Fonds Inkologie in Switzerland

— Design a network of outdoor mosquito traps to help to reduce malaria transmission in rural areas Fredros Okumu, of Ifakara Health Institute in Tanzania

— Seek ways to generate “self-targeting antibodies” that attack a receptor protein on human immune cells. This could potentially block HIV from entering cells, preventing HIV infection Lucia Lopalco, of the San Raffaele Scientific Institute in Italy


1 comment:

natural prostate cancer treatment said...

I never understood why neighborhoods around such places still exist when there are many known health threats for such living conditions? If housing is cheap some families may have no other choice but to live under these conditions. That is why i think the government should step in and get rid of these homes so that people will not be faced with such a decision. Perhaps build low budget housing at a safe distance away from the plant?