Land contaminated by waste from factories in Lanzhou, Gansu province. (File photo/Xinhua)
China Begins Soil Pollution Clean-up amid Doubt over Funding
Apr 11, 2014
BEIJING (Reuters) – China has announced its first pilot projects to treat metal pollution in soil and prevent farmland from further contamination, but critics say the government’s overall efforts are underfunded and inefficient.
The Ministry of Finance will subsidize soil pollution prevention and treatment in three cities in the central province of Hunan, state media reported, as pilot efforts to halt developments that have rendered 3.33 million hectares (8 million acres) of Chinese farmland too polluted to grow crops on.
Hunan was the source of rice containing dangerous levels of toxic cadmium sold in the southern city of Guangzhou last year.
Under the plan, the Ministry of Agriculture will monitor and control metal residues to prevent them from leaking into the soil, while the rice crop will be replaced with cotton and other non-edible products.
But government efforts to protect agricultural and urban soil fall massively short of what is needed, said Lan Hong, a professor at Renmin University’s School of Environmental and Natural Resources.
In the current five-year plan, the Ministry of Finance has budgeted 30 billion yuan ($4.8 billion) in spending on soil pollution prevention efforts, but Lan said it would cost at least 140 billion yuan, nearly five times above the budget, to solve the problem.
“The funding is based on data from the Ministry of Environmental Protection, but it is at the lower end of estimates. Some of the environmental damage will only be exposed after many years,” Lan told Reuters.
Chinese scientists have developed soil remediation technologies to prepare for large-scale applications.
The technologies focus on using plants to absorb heavy metal contaminants in soil.
The technologies were developed by the Center for Environmental Remediation of the Institute of Geographic Sciences and Resources Research under the Chinese Academy of Sciences, which began research 10 years ago.
Soil contamination is serious in China, with large areas of cropland polluted, said Lei Mei, a professor at the center.
Soil remediation technologies have been applied on 133 hectares of land in the Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region, Henan, Yunnan and Hunan provinces and Beijing on a trial basis, and Lei said she believes the technologies will have “good application prospects”.
A report from the Ministry of Environmental Protection on Thursday showed that about 19.4 per cent of farmland in China was polluted, according to Xinhua News Agency.
“The publication of the survey result is a milestone for soil remediation in China,” Lei said.
Beijing still not releasing soil pollution data: Xinhua
Technical staff examine soil contaminated by heavy metal pollution. (File photo/Huang Chih-liang)
China’s Ministry of Environmental Protection will not issue data related to soil pollution for the time being but will discuss the situation after an in-depth investigation, the ministry confirmed on Thursday. The ministry said it will be difficult to investigate soil pollution nationwide, adding that it will conduct further investigations in heavily polluted areas.
In January, Beijing lawyer Dong Zhengwei sent an application to the ministry asking it to issue soil pollution data, as well as create detailed measures to handle it.
The ministry said in February that the data is a state secret and refused to issue it. Dong was not satisfied and sent a second request. In response the ministry said soil pollution is still being investigated and related data remains a state secret, adding that data will be released after further evaluation. After news of Dong’s requests spread online, many people began to wonder just how polluted the country’s soil is.
Ma Jun, head of the Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs, said in an interview with the Legal Daily that polluted soil may affect public health via food, crops and underground water.
“Soil pollution is related to public health. Therefore, the public should have the right to be informed about the situation,” Ma said.
More dead pigs found in China river: report Beijing (AFP) April 17, 2014 – At least 170 dead pigs have been found in a Chinese river, state media reported Thursday — the latest in a string of similar incidents that have raised fears over food safety.The animals were found floating in a tributary of China’s second-longest waterway, the Yellow River, in northwestern Qinghai province, the official Xinhua news agency said.The grim discovery follows a series of scandals involving dead pigs in Chinese rivers. Last year 16,000 carcasses were found drifting through the main waterway of the commercial hub of Shanghai.In Qinghai — the furthest west such an incident has been reported — “the source of the dead pigs is still under investigation,” Xinhua said, citing local authorities.Industry analysts say sick pigs are sometimes dumped in rivers by farmers hoping to avoid paying the costs of disposing of the animals by other means.Around 500 dead pigs are recovered every month from a Chinese reservoir in the southwestern province of Sichuan, state-run media reported in March.
Authorities also found 157 dead pigs last month in a river in central Jiangxi province.
China is a major producer of pork, which surveys have found to be the country’s most popular meat.
A huge area of China’s soil covering more than twice the size of Spain is estimated to be polluted, the government said Thursday, announcing findings of a survey previously kept secret.
Of about 6.3 million square kilometres (2.4 million square miles) of soil surveyed — roughly two thirds of China’s total area — 16.1 percent is thought to be polluted, the environmental protection ministry said in a report.
The study, which appeared on its website, blamed mining and farming practices among other causes.
“The national soil pollution situation is not positive,” the ministry said, adding that more than 19 percent of the farmland which was surveyed is polluted.
The ministry last year described the results of its soil pollution survey as a state secret and refused to release the results, a move which incensed environmental campaigners.
The government has come under increasing pressure in recent years to take action to improve the environment, with large parts of the country repeatedly blanketed in thick smog and waterways and land polluted.
Relentless Pollution is Poisoning China’s Food, Soil
In many parts of China, officials are caught between two competing priorities: industrial development and food production. Most often, officials’ prime concern is industrial development—characterized by factories and mining, usually—since it is the bigger driver of economic growth. But, predictably, unfettered industrial development results in extremely poor conditions for food production. And it’s getting worse. Much worse. An article in yesterday’s New York Times has some sobering statistics.
An alarming glimpse of official findings came on Monday, when a vice minister of land and resources, Wang Shiyuan, said at a news conference in Beijing that eight million acres of China’s farmland, equal to the size of Maryland, had become so polluted that planting crops on it “should not be allowed.” [...]
One-sixth of China’s arable land — nearly 50 million acres — suffers from soil pollution, according to a book published this year by the Ministry of Environmental Protection. The book, “Soil Pollution and Physical Health,” said that more than 13 million tons of crops harvested each year were contaminated with heavy metals, and that 22 million acres of farmland were affected by pesticides.
The result of farming on polluted land is unsurprising: poisoned food. 155 batches of rice collected from markets and restaurants in Guangdong Province in May were found to have excess levels of cadmium.
Drawing by Gonneke and released into public domain on Wikimedia Commons
April 9th, 2014
Urine testing shows glyphosate levels over 10 times higher than in Europe
Initial testing shows Monsanto and Global regulatory bodies are wrong regarding bio-accumulation of glyphosate, leading to serious public health concerns
Testing commissioners urge USDA and EPA to place temporary ban on all use of Glyphosate-based herbicides to protect public health, until further more comprehensive testing of glyphosate in breast milk is completed.
In the first ever testing on glyphosate herbicide in the breast milk of American women, Moms Across America and Sustainable Pulse have found ‘high’ levels in 3 out of the 10 samples tested. The shocking results point to glyphosate levels building up in women’s bodies over a period of time, which has until now been refuted by both global regulatory authorities and the biotech industry.
The levels found in the breast milk testing of 76 ug/l to 166 ug/l are 760 to 1600 times higher than the European Drinking Water Directive allows for individual pesticides. They are however less than the 700 ug/l maximum contaminant level (MCL) for glyphosate in the U.S., which was decided upon by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) based on the now seemingly false premise that glyphosate was not bio-accumulative.
by Daniel J. Graeber Edmonton, Alberta (UPI) Apr 18, 2013
Canada gives OK to West Coast LNG terminal Calgary, Alberta (UPI) Apr 17, 2013 – The approval of an export license for Triton LNG Ltd. from a port in British Columbia gives Canadian energy companies access to new markets, a regulator said.Canada’s National Energy Board gave approval for a 25-year application to send about 320 million cubic feet of liquefied natural gas per day from a port to be located either at Kitimat or Prince Rupert, British Columbia.NEB said the approval is in response to the glut of natural gas in North America.
“One of the major impacts of this increase is lower demand for Canadian gas in traditional gas markets in the United States and eastern Canada,” it said in a statement Wednesday. “As a result, the Canadian gas industry is seeking to access overseas gas markets.”
Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper has sought to add a layer of diversity to an energy export economy that depends on the United States. Asian markets are among the world’s largest consumers of LNG and Harper recently signed a free-trade deal with South Korea.
NEB said the terminal for LNG hasn’t been constructed yet and needs further regulatory approval before it can begin.
The provincial government in Alberta, Canada, said it set aside more than $1 billion for carbon storage and storage facilities for oil sands projects.
Provincial Energy Minister Diana McQueen said two projects tied to the oil sands sector would be able to store more than 2.7 million tons of carbon dioxide each year.
“With [these projects], we are showing the world we take the responsible development of our resources seriously and we’re becoming a world leader in CCS technology,” she said in a statement Thursday.
Alberta holds some of the largest oil deposits in the world at its Athabasca deposit, located in the east of the province.
The heavier grade of crude oil found there is seen as a threat to the environment because it’s carbon-intensive to produce.
By Emily AtkinDecember 30, 2013 at 1:45 pm Updated: December 30, 2013 at 1:31 pm
“Scientists Find 7,300-Mile Mercury Contamination ‘Bullseye’ Around Canadian Tar Sands“
Just one week after Al Jazeera discovered that regulatory responsibility for Alberta, Canada’s controversial tar sands would be handed over to a fossil-fuel funded corporation, federal scientists have found that the area’s viscous petroleum deposits are surrounded by a nearly 7,500-square-mile ring of mercury.
Canadian government scientists have found that levels of mercury — a potent neurotoxin which has been found to cause severe birth defects and brain damage — around the region’s vast tar sand operations are up to 16 times higher than regular levels for the region. The findings, presented by Environment Canada researcher Jane Kirk at an international toxicology conference, showed that the 7,500 miles contaminated are “currently impacted by airborne Hg (mercury) emissions originating from oilsands developments.”
The Canadian government touts Alberta’s oil sands as the third-largest proven crude oil reserve in the world, next to Saudi Arabia and Venezuela. The region’s heavy crude oil is mixed with clay, bitumen, and a good deal of sand — hence the name “oil sands.” This makes for a unique and energy-intensive extraction process that some scientists say produces three times the greenhouse gas emissions of conventionally produced oil. Environment Canada has said it expects production emissions from tar sands to hit 104 million tonnes of CO2 by 2020 under current expansion plans.
Monsanto under investigation for ‘illegal dumping’
by SEAN POULTER
Last updated at 18:04 12 February 2007
Monsanto is under investigation amid allegations it sanctioned the dumping of toxic waste on sites across the country despite evidence that it would poison the landscape for generations.
The activities of the US chemical giant, best-known in the UK for its support of GM farming, are being examined by the government’s Environment Agency and public health bodies.
The focus of the investigation is a site in south Wales that has been called ‘one of the most contaminated’ in the country.
It appears that toxic chemicals were dumped in the Brofiscin quarry in the 1960s and 1970s despite the fact there was no licence for these materials and the site was not lined or sealed.
This meant a cocktail of highly poisonous chemicals has been able to escape into the environment and threatens to poison local streams and rivers.
The quarry, which is on the edge of the village of Groesfaen, near Cardiff, first erupted in 2003, spilling fumes over the surrounding area.
Since then surveys have found that 67 chemicals, including Agent Orange derivatives, dioxins and PCBs which could have been made only by Monsanto, are leaking from the site.
The Environment Agency says that if the dumping were to take place today there would be a criminal prosecution and civil action to raise the money needed to clean up the site.
However, it appears that much of the dumping was carried out during years when Britain’s regime for environmental protection was more lax.
Consequently, there are doubts as to how far any legal action can go or which companies should be liable for clean-up costs that are expected to run into tens of millions of pounds.
A spokesman for the Environment Agency said: “Our overall aim is to understand the current risks to ground water and surface waters and to determine the most cost-effective way forward to protect the local environment and to recover costs from those liable.”
Fracking fluids dumped into the ocean
Environmentalists are trying to convince the EPA to ban the dumping of fracking fluids, in federal waters off the California coast. The Center for Biological Diversity claims that at least a dozen off shore rigs in Southern California are dumping wastewater right into the Pacific. RT’s Ramon Galindo has the story.
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RT’s Ramon Galindo talks about a recent legal petition by environmental groups in California calling for the Federal government to force an end to the practice of offshore fracking, and the dumping of hundreds of millions of gallons of fracking waste in the ocean every year.
Abby Martin calls out Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson for his blatant hypocrisy after filing a lawsuit against a fracking water tower being built near his property.
A farmer tills a rice paddy field on the outskirts of Colombo, Sri Lanka (Reuters / Andrew Caballero-Reynolds)
A heretofore inexplicable fatal, chronic kidney disease that has affected poor farming regions around the globe may be linked to the use of biochemical giant Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide in areas with hard water, a new study has found.
The new study was published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health.
Researchers suggest that Roundup, or glyphosate, becomes highly toxic to the kidney once mixed with “hard” water or metals like arsenic and cadmium that often exist naturally in the soil or are added via fertilizer. Hard water contains metals like calcium, magnesium, strontium, and iron, among others. On its own, glyphosate is toxic, but not detrimental enough to eradicate kidney tissue.
The glyphosate molecule was patented as a herbicide by Monsanto in the early 1970s. The company soon brought glyphosate to market under the name “Roundup,” which is now the most commonly used herbicide in the world.
The hypothesis helps explain a global rash of the mysterious, fatal Chronic Kidney Disease of Unknown etiology (CKDu) that has been found in rice paddy regions of northern Sri Lanka, for example, or in El Salvador, where CKDu is the second leading cause of death among males.
Furthermore, the study’s findings explain many observations associated with the disease, including the linkage between the consumption of hard water and CKDu, as 96 percent of patients have been found to have consumed “hard or very hard water for at least five years, from wells that receive their supply from shallow regolith aquifers.”
http://www.democracynow.org – We speak with a University of California scientist Tyrone Hayes, who discovered a widely used herbicide may have harmful effects on the endocrine system. But when he tried to publish the results, the chemical’s manufacturer launched a campaign to discredit his work. Hayes was first hired in 1997 by a company, which later became agribusiness giant Syngenta, to study their product, Atrazine, a pesticide that is applied to more than half the corn crops in the United States, and widely used on golf courses and Christmas tree farms. When Hayes found results Syngenta did not expect — that Atrazine causes sexual abnormalities in frogs, and could cause the same problems for humans — it refused to allow him to publish his findings. A new article in The New Yorker magazine uses court documents from a class-action lawsuit against Syngenta to show how it sought to smear Hayes’ reputation and prevent the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency from banning the profitable chemical, which is already banned by the European Union.
Federal officials said Tuesday that toxic coal ash has coated the bottom of a North Carolina river as many as 70 miles downstream of a Duke Energy dump where a massive spill occurred two weeks ago.
The US Fish and Wildlife Service advised that a massive pile of coal ash about 75ft long and as much as 5ft deep has been detected on the bottom of the Dan river near the site of the February 2 spill. Deposits varying from 5in deep to less than 1in coated the river bottom across the state line into Virginia and to Kerr Lake, a major reservoir.
Federal authorities expressed concern for what long-term effect the contaminants will have on fish, mussels and other aquatic life. Public health officials have advised people to avoid contact with the water and not eat the fish.
“The deposits vary with the river characteristics, but the short- and long-term physical and chemical impacts from the ash will need to be investigated more thoroughly, especially with regard to mussels and fish associated with the stream bottom and wildlife that feed on benthic invertebrates,” said Tom Augspurger, a contaminants specialist at the federal wildlife agency. Benthic invertebrates are small animals that live in the sediments of rivers and lakes, such as clams, worms and crustaceans.
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — North Carolina officials said Tuesday that groundwater containing unsafe levels of arsenic apparently leaching from a Duke Energy coal ash dump is still pouring into the Dan River, which is already contaminated from a massive Feb. 2 spill.
The state Department of Environment and Natural Resources ordered Duke to stop the flow of contaminated water coming out a pipe that runs under a huge coal ash dump at its Eden power plant. A nearby pipe at the same dump collapsed without warning two weeks ago, coating the bottom of the Dan River with toxic ash as far as 70 miles downstream.
State regulators expressed concern five days ago that the second pipe could fail, triggering a new spill. The water coming out of that pipe contains poisonous arsenic at 14 times the level considered safe for human contact, according to test results released by the state on Tuesday.
Video taken last week by a robot sent inside the 36-inch-wide concrete pipe showed wide gaps between seams through which groundwater is gushing in, likely from the toxic dump above.
Tests on water from the pipe before it goes under the dump showed none of the dangerous contamination detected at the other end. The concrete inside the pipe is heavily stained around the numerous leaks, suggesting the contamination is likely not new.
A state inspector received the video recorded by Duke during a Feb. 11 visit to the site, but did not review it until Thursday. On Friday night, the state agency went public with concerns about the pipe’s structural integrity.
Duke spokeswoman Paige Sheehan quickly issued a statement, downplaying the risk.
“After reviewing the videotape, we determined that no immediate action was necessary,” it said.
In the wake of the initial spill, public health officials issued advisories telling people to avoid contact with the river water and not eat the fish.
Authorities said public drinking water in Danville, Va., and other communities downstream of the Duke plant remain safe. Heavy metals detected in the river at levels exceeding state and federal safety standards — including arsenic, lead and selenium — are being successfully filtered out of water drawn from the river at municipal treatment plants, they said.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said Tuesday a massive pile of coal ash about 75 feet long and as much as 5 feet deep has been detected in the river by the site of the Feb. 2 spill. Deposits varying from 5 inches deep to less than 1 inch coated the river bottom across the state line into Virginia and to Kerr Lake, a major reservoir.
Federal authorities expressed concern for what long-term effect the contaminants will have on fish, mussels and other aquatic life.
“The deposits vary with the river characteristics, but the short- and long-term physical and chemical impacts from the ash will need to be investigated more thoroughly, especially with regard to mussels and fish associated with the stream bottom and wildlife that feed on benthic invertebrates,” said Tom Augspurger, a contaminants specialist at the federal wildlife agency.
Workers inspect an area outside a retaining wall around storage tanks where a chemical leaked into the Elk River at Freedom Industries storage facility in Charleston, West Virginia, Jan. 13, 2014.
February 15, 2014
Experts are calling for a targeted strategy to restrict the use of toxic industrial chemicals, which they say are causing a “silent pandemic” of brain disorders in children worldwide. Scientists are urging action as more so-called neurotoxins have been identified but remain largely unregulated.
A rise in the number of pediatric brain disorders, including attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, dyslexia, cerebral palsy and autism, may be the result of increased use of unregulated toxic chemicals around the world.
In the past seven years, researchers have identified six new chemicals that have been shown to be capable of damaging the brains of developing human fetuses and young children. The discovery brings to twelve the number of confirmed neurotoxins. Experts estimate one in six children worldwide suffers from a neurodevelopmental disorder.
PUBLISHED: 08:09 EST, 15 February 2014 | UPDATED: 08:41 EST, 15 February 2014
The number of industrial chemicals known to trigger brain development problems like autism has doubled in just seven years, experts warned today.
A new study suggests toxic chemicals may be triggering increases in neurological disabilities among children, including autism, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder and dyslexia.
The researchers warn that chemical safety checks need to be tightened up around the world to protect our vulnerable youngsters from a ‘silent epidemic’ of brain disorders.
A tractor sprays barley crops: Pesticides are among the toxic chemicals which may be triggering neurological disabilities among children, including autism, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder and dyslexia
Their work also found that the list of chemicals known to damage the human brain but not regulated to safeguard children had also risen from 202 to 214.
These substances are found in everyday items including food, clothing, furniture and toys.
‘The greatest concern is the large numbers of children who are affected by toxic damage to brain development in the absence of a formal diagnosis,’ said Dr Philippe Grandjean, of the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston.
‘They suffer reduced attention span, delayed development, and poor school performance.
‘Industrial chemicals are now emerging as likely causes.’
He and his co-authors are calling for universal legal requirements forcing manufacturers to prove that all existing and new industrial chemicals are non-toxic before they reach the market place.
In the EU, the Reach (Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals) regulations already impose such rules.
But without them being applied globally, the world faces a ‘pandemic of neurodevelopmental toxicity’, warned Dr Grandjean.
‘Current chemical regulations are woefully inadequate to safeguard children whose developing brains are uniquely vulnerable to toxic chemicals in the environment,’ Dr Grandjean pointed out.
Neurodevelopmental disorders such as autism, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), dyslexia and cerebral palsy affect one in six children worldwide.
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