Common Solvent Keeps Killing Workers, Consumers
Regulators have been slow to act on paint strippers, other products containing methylene chloride
Rita Welch’s son, Johnathan, died on the job at 18 while stripping furniture with methylene chloride.*
By Jamie Smith Hopkins
5:00 am, September 21, 2015 Updated: 12:26 pm, September 21, 2015
Johnathan Welch was 18 and working through lunch when the fumes killed him, stealing oxygen from his brain, stopping his heart.
The chemical linked to his death in 1999 wasn’t a newly discovered hazard, nor was it hard to acquire. Methylene chloride, which triggered similar deaths dating as far back as the 1940s, could be bought barely diluted in products on retail shelves.
It still can. And it’s still killing people.
The solvent is common in paint strippers, widely available products with labels that warn of cancer risks but do not make clear the possibility of rapid death. In areas where the fumes can concentrate, workers and consumers risk asphyxiation or a heart attack while taking care of seemingly routine tasks.
That hazard prompted the European Union to pull methylene chloride paint strippers from general use in 2011. For reasons that aren’t clear, regulatory agencies in the United States have not followed suit — or even required better warnings — despite decades of evidence about the dangers, a Center for Public Integrity investigation found.
A Center analysis identified at least 56 accidental exposure deaths linked to methylene chloride since 1980 in the U.S. Thirty-one occurred before Johnathan Welch died, 24 after. The most recent was in July. Many involved paint strippers; in other cases victims used the chemical for tasks such as cleaning and gluing carpet, according to death investigations and autopsy reports the Center obtained through Freedom of Information Act and state open records requests.
Teenagers on the job, a mother of four, workers nearing retirement, an 80-year-old man — the toxic vapors took them all. A Colorado resident one year older than Welch was killed his first day at a furniture-stripping shop. Three South Carolina workers were felled in a single incident in 1986. Church maintenance employee Steve Duarte, 24, survived the Iraq War only to be killed in 2010 while stripping a baptismal pool in California.
Three decades of death
Methylene chloride, a common ingredient in products such as paint strippers, can kill when its fumes build up in an enclosed area. The Center for Public Integrity, combing through workplace death investigations, coroners’ reports and poison control center reports, found 56 deaths since 1980 that authorities linked to unintentional overexposure to the chemical. The number is likely an undercount because there is no single tally of such deaths. Unless otherwise noted, the key source of information is the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration or state workplace-safety agencies.
(TYH Note: *This sentence has been edited slightly for publication on this blog)
Published on Alternet (http://www.alternet.org)
December 2, 2014 |
The world’s most celebrated olive oil comes from sun-drenched groves of Italy. But Italy is also a hotbed of olive oil subterfuge, counterfeit, and adulteration—and has been since Roman times, as Tom Muellar showed in an eye-opening 2007 New Yorker piece  (which grew into a book called Extra Virginity: The Sublime and Scandalous World of Olive Oil .) Next year, getting real olive oil from Italy is going to be even harder than usual. Here’s the LA Times’Russ Parsons:
As a result of what the Italian newspaper La Repubblica is calling “The Black Year of Italian Olive Oil,” the olive harvest through much of Italy has been devastated—down 35% from last year.
The reason is a kind of perfect storm (so to speak) of rotten weather through the nation:
When the trees were turning flowers to fruit in the spring, freezing weather suddenly turned scorching, causing the trees to drop olives. Summer was hot and humid, leading to all sorts of problems. Then in mid-September, there was a major hail storm, knocking much of the fruit that remained onto the ground.
Other major olive oil-producing nations suffered similar calamities; Parsons reports that in Spain and Mediterranean neighbors, production is also “forecast to be far below last year’s.” And California, that big chunk of Mediterranean-like climate on our west coast, where excellent olive oil is produced? Parsons says the epochal drought is pinching production, and he quotes Muellar to the effect that “frankly, I hear about a lot of games being played there too, with labels and quality alike.” Sigh.
I find all of this distressing. I came of age as a cook in an era of olive oil hegemony. I treat it like the oil that powers my car, as something to be relied on casually, as if it appeared by magic from nowhere. (Nearly all my Tom’s Kitchen columns feature it.)
Once a staple of Mediterranean polyculture—farms and households would feature olive trees in mixed groves along with a multitude of other crops—olive oil production has long since industrialized. Here is The Ecologist  from 2008:
Industrial olive farms grow their olive trees, planted at high densities, in massive irrigated orchards on lowland plains. The olives are harvested by machines that clamp around the tree’s trunk and shake it until the olives fall to the ground. Oil is then extracted by industrial-scale centrifuge, often at high temperatures. In contrast, small, traditional farms are often ancient, their trees typically planted on upland terraces. The farmers manage their groves with few or no agrochemicals, less water and less machinery. Olives are picked off the ground by hand and the oil extracted by grinding the olives in a millstone and press. Demand for cheap, mass-produced oil is making it a struggle for the smaller, traditional farms to be economically viable, however.
Intensive olive farming is a major cause of one of the biggest environmental problems affecting the EU: widespread soil erosion and desertification in Spain, Greece, Italy and Portugal. In 2001, the European Commission ordered an independent study into the environmental impact of olive farming across the EU. The report concluded: ‘Soil erosion is probably the most serious environmental problem associated with olive farming.
I fear that next year’s olive oil crunch is a harbinger of things to come. I am officially in search of alternative cooking fats. One I’ve come to appreciate: lard from pasture-raised hogs. Lard’s rotten nutritional reputation is the result of outdated and discredited science . And it makes food taste really good, too.
 mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org?Subject=Typo on The Looming Olive Oil Apocalypse
Find out why the rainforest is being destroyed in the name of “organic,” “sustainable” and “conservation”…. READ: Way Beyond Greenwashing: Have Corporations Captured Big Conservation?
by Patricia Escarcega 04/02/13 No Comments Tweet
Photo: Kessner/Wikipedia Commons
A new company has developed an organic waste recycling system that it says is capable of converting organic waste into premium grade fertilizer within 24 hours.
This would make the Rapid Thermophilic Digestion System, developed by Singapore-based Biomax Technologies, the fastest known composting process in the organic waste treatment industry.
“Traditional composting methods take around six months to process plantation waste due to its generally fibrous nature,” the company says on its website.
According to Biomax, the Rapid Thermophilic Digestion System uses a special cocktail of BM1 enzymes that are activated at very high temperatures to accelerate the natural composting process.
“The Biomax system of accelerating aerobic digestion through the introduction of carefully selected and cultured microorganisms seems to offer a genuine breakthrough in terms of rapidly treating biowastes at the point of production,” the company says.
The company hopes the system will be used as a one-stop point for waste collection, processing and storage. Biomax says their system has many applications across various industries, including agricultural, livestock and municipal waste treatment.
The company has also developed an automated digestor for use with the BM1 enzyme technology. The Digestor, as the system is known, is designed to produce a highly consistent product that is odorless, pathogen free and rich in organic matter.
“Our system offers a simple solution to the problems faced by many businesses when looking to dispose of organic wastes,” the company says.
New Report Outlines Our Future: Climate Change Set to Make America Hotter, Drier and More Disaster-prone | Alternet
New Report Outlines Our Future: Climate Change Set to Make America Hotter, Drier and More Disaster-prone
The National Climate Assessment was just released and provides the fullest picture of the real-time effects of climate change on US life, and the most likely consequences for the future.
Future generations of Americans can expect to spend 25 days a year sweltering in temperatures above 100F (38C), with climate change on course to turn the country into a hotter, drier, and more disaster-prone place.
The National Climate Assessment, released in draft form on Friday , provided the fullest picture to date of the real-time effects of climate change on US life, and the most likely consequences for the future.
The 1,000-page report, the work of the more than 300 government scientists and outside experts, was unequivocal on the human causes of climate change, and on the links between climate change and extreme weather.
“Climate change is already affecting the American people,” the draft report said. “Certain types of weather events have become more frequent and/or intense including heat waves, heavy downpours and in some regions floods and drought. Sea level is rising, oceans are becoming more acidic, and glaciers and Arctic sea ice are melting.”
The report, which is not due for adoption until 2014, was produced to guide federal, state and city governments in America in making long-term plans.
By the end of the 21st century, climate change is expected to result in increased risk of asthma and other public health emergencies, widespread power blackouts, and mass transit shutdowns, and possibly shortages of food.
“Proactively preparing for climate change can reduce impacts, while also facilitating a more rapid and efficient response to changes as they happen,” said Katharine Jacobs, the director of the National Climate Assessment.
The report will be open for public comment on Monday.
Environmental groups said they hoped the report would provide Barack Obama with the scientific evidence to push for measures that would slow or halt the rate of climate change – sparing the country some of the worst effects.
The report states clearly that the steps taken by Obama so far to reduce emissions are “not close to sufficient” to prevent the most severe consequences of climate change.
“As climate change and its impacts are becoming more prevalent, Americans face choices,” the report said. “Beyond the next few decades, the amount of climate change will still largely be determined by the choices society makes about emissions. Lower emissions mean less future warming and less severe impacts. Higher emissions would mean more warming and more severe impacts.”
As the report made clear: no place in America had gone untouched by climate change. Nowhere would be entirely immune from the effects of future climate change.
A heatwave swept across the US in 2011, with temperatures reaching over 110F (43C). Photograph: Timothy A Clary/AFP
Some of those changes are already evident: 2012 was by far the hottest year on record, fully a degree hotter than the last such record – an off-the-charts rate of increase.
Those high temperatures were on course to continue for the rest of the century, the draft report said. It noted that average US temperatures had increased by about 1.5F since 1895, with more than 80% of this increase since 1980.
The rise will be even steeper in future, with the next few decades projected for temperatures 2 to 4 degrees warmer in most areas. By 2100, if climate change continues on its present course, the country can expect to see 25 days a year with temperatures above 100F.
Night-time temperatures will also stay high, providing little respite from the heat.
Certain regions are projected to heat up even sooner. West Virginia, Maryland and Delaware can expect a doubling of days hotter than 95 degrees by the 2050s. In Texas and Oklahoma, the draft report doubled the probability of extreme heat events.
Monday, September 10, 2012
Another mystery involving the mass death of animals has occurred, this time on Wednesday at Lake Erie. At the lake, tens of thousands of dead seagulls and dead fish appeared. A member of Provincial Parliament for the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario, Rick Nicholls, said,
“First thing that crossed my mind, is there any potential danger to humans from a health point of view? Secondly, as I got more and more into it, what’s the cause of this sudden fish kill in the lake?”
The dead fish and dead birds have been sent out to be tested to find out what happened. The Ontario Ministries of the Environment in Canada is looking into the possibility of a spill that could have changed the ecosystem. The other theory is that of an inversion, which occurs naturally when cold water hits the surface of the lake. The cold water, which has low oxygen levels, suffocates the fish.
“Essentially it’s a rolling over of the lake,” Ontario Ministry of the Environment spokeswoman Kate Jordan said. “Something – whether it be a storm, or cooler temperatures at night, or strong winds – triggers a temperature change in the lake.”
Those who have tested the water in Lake Erie have yet to find any abnormalities in the pH, temperature or oxygen levels. “We did not observe any spill or pollution impacting the lake,” Jordan said. The dead fish that were discovered included suckers, carp, catfish, sheepshead and perch.
The medical officer of health for Chatham-Kent, Dr. David Colby, said, “All kinds of people were woken out of a sound sleep by a stench and it was like a septic tank was backing up.” Colby also proposed the theory of a fish disease known as viral hemorrhagic septicemia and Type E botulism. Colby did clarify that these are not harmful to humans.
May 8, 2012
transfer station and for the items we don’t reuse, my husband takes them in about once a month. Hey, it’s a tiny house and even though I try, I just can’t use everything.
You can keep your plastic milk jugs out of the garbage and the landfills by reusing them for everyday household organization and storage, in your yard and garden and basic toys for your kids. Try out some of these i deas.
Make a cheap, easy and convenient bird feeder.
Use them as a seed starting container by cutting off the jug about 3 inches from the bottom and poking small holes in the bottom for water drainage. Fill with potting soil and some seeds.
Poke holes in the bottom of the jug and use as a watering can for your garden plants and flowers.
Cut into strips and use a permanent marker to make plant markers.
Cut the bottom and part of the handle off and use as a scoop.
Cut off the bottom of the jug, poke a hole at the top of the handle and thread heavy wire through into the soil and use as a protector of your plants from the hot sun or inclement weather.
Use as floaters for your kids when they are swimming or in the water. Tie a string to each handle and then tie around your child.
Cut out a hole opposite the handle and use to store your plastic bags. Save them for when you need water. This works great for me when we forget to let the water drip in the winter and wake up to frozen pipes. I just run down to a friends house or to my dads house and fill up the empty jugs with water. Sure beats melting snow, cause you don’t want to know how much snow it takes to make a gallon of water!!
Cut the top off and use the bottom as a catch all container for things that don’t have a permanent home.
Cut a hole near the top and use to store your toilet brush.
Use to store dry goods such as rice, coffee, and sugar.
Cut a 1/4 inch slit near the top of the milk jug and use as a piggy bank. Decorate your new penny saver however you wish. (LEARN MORE)
Monsanto Is Bad for the Bees and Bad for Us
Submitted by mark karlin on Tue, 04/24/2012 – 12:10pm.
- EditorBlog MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
What would cause the deaths of so many bees?
According to Beeologics, a firm that is attempting to restore a healthy and growing bee population, it is due to a syndrome called Colony Collapse Disorder:
Collapse Disorder (CCD) of honey bees is threatening to annihilate US and world agriculture. Indeed, in the recent outbreak of CCD in the US in the winter of 2006-2007, an estimated 25%, or more than 2.4 million, honey bee hives were lost because of CCD. An estimated 23% of beekeeping operations in the US suffered from CCD over the winter of 2006-2007, affecting an average of 45% of beekeepers’ operations.
According to the Beeologics website, a couple of possible sources include “large scale monoculture [that] has resulted in a lack of natural weeds, and all too often pesticide-laden crop forage.”
These were similar possible causes cited in a recent informative documentary on the problem called “The Vanishing of the Bees.” In fact, on the film’s website there is an appeal: “Help secure funds for a systematic review of the impact of pesticides on our most important pollinators.”
Who might be the world’s biggest producer of GMO mono crops and pesticides that reduce organic crop forage? Why, Monsanto, of course.
But rather than risk restrictions on GMO crops and mega-toxic pesticides such as Monsanto’s Roundup, Monsanto purchased the company looking into saving bee colonies. Yes, Monsanto purchased Beeologic without much fanfare late last year. In short, a company that was independently looking at the collapse of bee colonies and believing that pesticides and GMO development may be a contributory factor is now owned by the primary multi-national company that creates those products likely contributing to the bee die-off.
Maybe, the beekeepers in Poland have the correct reaction to this cynical move to protect the threat Monsanto poses to bees, agriculture and life itself:
On March 15, over 1,500 beekeepers and anti-GMO protesters marched through the streets of Warsaw, depositing thousands of dead bees on the steps of the Ministry of Agriculture in protest of genetically modified foods and their pesticides which are together largely responsible for the killing off of bees, butterflies, moths and other beneficial pollinators in great numbers.
Later that day the Minister of Agriculture, Marek Sawicki, announced plans to ban MON810, which has already produced millions of hectares of pesticide resistant “superweeds” in the US.
The Polish Beekeepers Association organized the protest, joining forces with International Coalition to Protect the Polish Countryside (ICPPC) and the Coalition for a GMO Free Poland. Targeting Monsanto’s MON810 GM corn in particular, they also called for a complete ban on all genetically engineered crops as well as the pesticides found to be most damaging to the environment (and particularly to bees).
Too bad, the White House appointed the former Monsanto vice president for publc policy, Michael Taylor, as second in charge at the Food and Drug Admimistration.
Bad for the bees; bad for us.