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Environment: Study finds airborne carcinogens downwind of tar sands processing area in Canada

Findings suggest that fossil fuel companies are not reporting all of their toxic emissions

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Using data from a NASA satellite, researchers have found that the emission of pollutants from oil sands mining operations in Canada’s Alberta Province are comparable to the emissions from a large power plant or a moderately sized city. The emissions from the energy-intensive mining effort come from excavators, dump trucks, extraction pumps and wells, and refining facilities where the oil sands are processed. Visit this NASA Earth Observatory web page for more information.

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The mines follow the course of the Athabasca River, the dark brown ribbon of water that runs down the center of the image. The river is essential to the operation. Over the course of its very long lifetime, the river has eroded through the sediment that once covered the oil deposit, gradually bringing it close to the surface. Without the river, the oil sands would likely be buried beneath a thick layer of earth. For more information, visit this NASA Earth Observatory web page.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Airborne pollutants, including cancer-causing chemicals, are showing up downwind of Canada’s largest oil, gas and tar sands processing zone, in a rural area where men suffer elevated rates of cancers linked to chemicals like 1,3-butadiene and benzene.

The findings, compiled by researchers with the University of California-Irvine and the University of Michigan, also suggested that, in some cases, companies are not reporting all of the tons of chemicals they release. The sampling found high levels of 1,3-butadiene that could only have come from one facility, but there were no records of the company reporting those emissions.

“Our study was designed to test what kinds of concentrations could be encountered on the ground during a random visit downwind of various facilities. We’re seeing elevated levels of carcinogens and other gases in the same area where we’re seeing excess cancers known to be caused by these chemicals,” said UC Irvine chemist Isobel Simpson, lead author of the paper in Atmospheric Environment. Continue reading

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Study: Scented laundry products emit carcinogens

If you use scented laundry products, your dryer may be a source of carcinogenic compounds.

SUMMIT COUNTY — Unregulated chemicals in laundry products emit more than 20 volatile organic compounds when they’re used in household dryers. The compounds include seven hazardous air pollutants and two known carcinogens — acetaldehyde and benzene —  for which the EPA has not established safe exposure levels.

The University of Washington research suggests that, based on the amount of laundry products used in the region, household clothes dryers could account for the equivalent of 6 percent of the amount of acetaldehyde emissions coming from automobiles.

The study was done by Anne Steinemann, a UW professor of civil and environmental engineering and of public affairs. Steineman previously used chemical sleuthing to deduce what chemicals are being used in fragranced consumer products.

Steinemann says she was spurred to do the study by people reporting adverse reactions to fragranced air coming from laundry vents. The project’s website includes letters from the public reporting health effects from scented consumer products.

“This is an interesting source of pollution because emissions from dryer vents are essentially unregulated and unmonitored,” Steinemann said. “If they’re coming out of a smokestack or tail pipe, they’re regulated, but if they’re coming out of a dryer vent, they’re not.” Continue reading

LEDs may not be as eco-friendly as touted

Gallium-containing blue LED Christmas lights may pose a health hazard according to recent research from California.

New research shows high levels of lead, arsenic and other heavy metals in Christmas light and other LED products

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Light-emitting diodes, often marketed as an environmental alternative to traditional lightbulbs, may not be as eco-friendly as touted. New research from the University of California Irvine and UC Davis shows that the LEDs contain lead, arsenic and a dozen other potentially hazardous substances, potentially leading to health concerns at every stage of their lifecycle, from production to post-consumer disposal.

Lead, arsenic and many additional metals discovered in the bulbs or their related parts have been linked in hundreds of studies to different cancers, neurological damage, kidney disease, hypertension, skin rashes and other illnesses. The copper used in some LEDs also poses an ecological threat to fish, rivers and lakes.

“LEDs are touted as the next generation of lighting. But as we try to find better products that do not deplete energy resources or contribute to global warming, we have to be vigilant about the toxicity hazards of those marketed as replacements,” said Oladele Ogunseitan, chair of UC Irvine’s Department of Population Health & Disease Prevention. Continue reading

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