Wednesday, February 24th, 2010
The personal care industry has long demanded stricter standards for products labeled “natural,” and in February, the Natural Products Association (NPA), the group representing retailers and manufacturers including Whole Foods and Clorox Co., has released new standards for home-care products.
These include household cleaners for bathrooms and kitchen countertops and laundry detergents. Up until now, there has been no definition of the term “natural” within the home-care products industry.
Daniel Fabricant, NPA vice president of scientific and regulatory affairs, has been quoted as saying that many so-called natural cleaning products contain largely synthetic ingredients. And consumers are already confused about what makes products natural as well as organic.
Saturday, February 20th, 2010
Two of the largest companies involved in natural gas drilling have acknowledged pumping hundreds of thousands of gallons of diesel-based fluids into the ground in the process of hydraulic fracturing, raising further concerns that existing state and federal regulations don’t adequately protect drinking water from drilling.
Rep. Henry A. Waxman, D-Calif., who released the information in a statement Thursday, announced that the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, which he chairs, is launching an investigation into potential environmental impacts from hydraulic fracturing.
The process, which forces highly pressurized water, sand and chemicals into rock to release the gas and oil locked inside, gives drillers unprecedented access to deeply buried gas deposits and vastly increases the country’s known energy reserves. But as ProPublica has detailed in more than 60 articles, the process comes with risks. The fluids used in hydraulic fracturing are laced with chemicals — some of which are known carcinogens. And because the process is exempt from most federal oversight, it is overseen by state agencies that are spread thin and have widely varying regulations. (more…)
Friday, February 19th, 2010
Most people are familiar with automobile air emissions. Perhaps one day there will only be electric cars and no car air emissions. But there are many on other engines in use by commercial and industrial operations that may cause air emissions. In general these are called reciprocating internal combustion engines, or RICE.
On February 17, the Environmental Protection Agency issued a final rule that will further reduce emissions of toxic air pollutants from existing diesel powered stationary reciprocating internal combustion engines.
Thursday, February 18th, 2010
Scientists at Imperial College London report that they have invented a polymer, made from non-food sources, that could be used in packaging and then tossed into compost piles or landfills, where it degrades upon contact with water.
The scientists said they worked three and a half years on a biodegradable polymer that is made from sugars known as lignocellulosic biomass, derived from fast-growing trees, grasses, and agricultural and food wastes.
Lead researcher Charlotte Williams said the team accomplished its goal of producing the polymer from non-food sources and using small amounts of water in the process — an advantage over another biorenewable plastic, polylactide, whose manufacture requires large amounts of water and energy.
Tuesday, February 16th, 2010
In a recent study conducted by researchers at the University of Virginia and published in Environmental Science & Technology, the authors claim that algae causes more harm to the environment than traditional biofuel crops like corn.
However, in this study, the researchers used algae production data from at least a decade ago.
In response, Andres Clarens the lead author of the study said he used the most recent data that he could, which was about 10 years old. Algae biofuel companies keep their research a closely guarded secret, he said.
Monday, February 15th, 2010
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has announced it will mount a legal challenge to the Environmental Protection Agency’s decision to limit greenhouse gas emissions under the Clean Air Act.
Steven J. Law, the chamber’s chief legal counsel, said the business group would not question the science behind global warming but rather would challenge the process by which the EPA decided it had the right to control carbon dioxide emissions as a threat to human health.
The Obama administration has said it would prefer that Congress pass a law regulating carbon emissions, but with the passage of such a law looking increasingly unlikely, a battle is shaping up over the EPA’s possible efforts to control CO2 emissions.
Friday, January 29th, 2010
A ranking of 163 nations based on environmental public health and the vitality of their ecosystems places Iceland, Switzerland, Costa Rica, Sweden, and Norway in the top five, with the U.S. trailing in 61st place and China and India ranking 121st and 123rd respectively.
The Environmental Performance Index, compiled by researchers at Yale and Columbia universities, ranks countries based on 10 main categories such as environmental health, air quality, water management, biodiversity and habitat, forestry, and climate change. Iceland ranked at the top because of its excellent environmental public health and reliance on renewable sources of energy such as geothermal and hydropower.
Tuesday, January 26th, 2010
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recently proposed new ozone standards to protect health and environmental values. These standards will apply to the lower atmosphere, to the air we breathe. In the upper atmosphere, ozone is good.
The “hole” in the ozone layer over Antarctica has worried scientists for years since ozone in the upper atmosphere protects the Earth from harmful ultraviolet radiation from the Sun.
According to research at the University of Leeds, the hole in the ozone layer is now steadily closing. This is a concern, since its repair could actually increase warming in the southern hemisphere, the scientists at Leeds conclude.
Monday, January 25th, 2010
The US EPA continues its New Source Review initiative. The agency has announced that emissions from container glass and Portland cement plants will be reduced under the settlement of a New Source Review case. The settlement requires the affected facilities to install new pollution control equipment Selective Catalytic Reduction, and to continuously monitor their emissions.
The settlements cover 15 U.S. plants owned by Saint-Gobain Containers, Inc., the nation’s second largest container glass manufacturer, and all 13 U.S. plants owned by the Lafarge Company and two subsidiaries, the nation’s second largest manufacturer of Portland cement. These settlements are the first system-wide settlements for these sectors under the Clean Air Act and require pollution control upgrades, acceptance of enforceable emission limits and payment of civil penalties.
Thursday, January 21st, 2010
Ever wonder how the western US has high ozone levels when the winds usually blow in off the Pacific Ocean? Did you think it was all from the cars clogging the freeways? Turns out, it is caused in part from emissions of ozone generating air pollutants from Asia.
A study by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) shows that Springtime ozone levels above western North America are rising, primarily due to air flowing eastward from the Pacific Ocean, a trend that is most significant when the air originates in Asia. These increases in ozone could make it more difficult for the United States to meet Clean Air Act standards for ozone pollution at ground level, according to a new international study published online Jan. 20 in the journal Nature. (more…)