City police and firefighters responded to a chlorine leak just before 9:30 a.m. today at Tier Holding, a facility that uses caustic materials to clean and scrubs tank cars for chemical companies. According to the Niagara Falls Fire Department a plume of smoke, later identified as the chemical titanium tetrachloride, was released into the air, affecting some employees on the site at 33 South Hyde Park Boulevard. Both Tier Holding and nearby businesses were temporarily evacuated. The caustic material used for scrubbing had reportedly reacted with a chemical in the tank causing the titanium tetrachloride to be released. The release was identified as a “small leak” that did not register on monitoring meters, according to the Niagara Falls Fire Department, and the site was determined to be under control at 9:47 a.m. About 10 employees took their own vehicles to a local hospital to be checked.
A team with Environment Canada will be heading to the Shelburne area Friday after severe weather caused heavy damage in the region Thursday. Reports from the area, located approximately 100 kilometres northwest of Toronto, list storm-related damages including a destroyed barn and downed power lines along Highway 10. The highway is currently closed as crews work to remove debris. Environment Canada meteorologist Mitch Meredith said that the weather agency’s team will be trying to confirm if a tornado did in fact touch down in the region, as was suggested in preliminary reports from the scene. In a statement released at 9:30 p.m. Thursday, the Township of Melancthon said that hydro crews are currently working to try and restore power to affected customers in the area. There are currently no reports of any injuries connected with the storm, Ontario Provincial Police said.
An Environment Canada team is investigating whether “one or two brief tornados” touched down Thursday evening in Shelburne, Ont., about 100 kilometres northwest of Toronto. The agency says it is unclear if some damage in the Shelburne area was caused by tornadoes or high winds. The roof of a barn was ripped off just northwest of Shelburne and thrown about 150 metres and the side of a barn was sheared off just west of the community. In the Town of East Gwillimbury, meanwhile, police say about 20 hydro poles were knocked down on Woodbine Ave., located between Green Lane and Davis Drive. No one was hurt but about 200 people lost power. OPP Cont. Paul Nancekevill says three areas were damaged. “It looks definitely like a possible tornado when you have buildings ripped apart and roofs taken off, thatâs some pretty severe winds.”
Environment Canada says tornado hit northwest of Toronto
By Staff, The Canadian Press
TORONTO – Environment Canada says a brief tornado hit the Shelburne, Ont., area on Thursday evening.
Investigators say the tornado touched down approximately six kilometres northwest of Shelburne and cut a path of damage 500 metres long and 75 metres wide.
The tornado – rated at “one” on the enhanced Fujita scale – ripped the roof and two walls off a barn and some pieces were found firmly embedded in the ground 50 to 100 metres away.
Hundreds of dead fish floating belly up lined the shore near the Weightman Bridge in Chippawa. The problem isn’t only in Chippawa. People have been reporting dead or dying fish along the shoreline in Fort Erie and as far south as Pennsylvania for weeks. Thousands were seen listlessly floating or struggling to swim on their side downstream in the Niagara River Monday. According to the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resource, the fish are known as gizzard shad and the “die off” is normal for this time of year. Lake Erie is the northern-most extent of the gizzard shad’s range, said ministry spokeswoman Jolanta Kowalski. When temperatures drop they become physiologically stressed and many die. “They die in the winter due to cold stress and when the ice melts they show up on shore,” she said. She said the massive winter mortality rate is pretty common as the fish is a warm water species. Yet, it’s not uncommon to have similar instances happen throughout the summer with temperature fluctuations.
Mass. Die-off (fishes)
This does not included biological hazard category.
The 17th annual protest against police brutality wrapped up in Montreal with more than 250 people arrested and taken away on city buses and in police vehicles.
According to Montreal police, the majority of people were arrested under municipal bylaw P-6, which makes it illegal to cover one’s face while taking part in a protest and for failing to provide authorities with an itinerary.
In a tweet, authorities also said some people were arrested for breach of peace.
At least 150 people left the protest with a $637 fine because of their participation in the illegal event.
Though Montreal police have not yet confirmed the exact number of arrests, authorities were seen verifying the identities of about 100 people gathered on the corner of Sainte-Catherine and Sainte-Élisabeth streets.
Police officers also rounded up several groups and proceeded with mass arrests throughout the duration of the march.
Most of those taking part had formed smaller groups following police orders to disperse after the protest was declared illegal because organizers had failed to provide authorities with an itinerary.
Protesters had first gathered on the corner of Saint-Urbain and Ontario streets near police headquarters around 4 p.m., where they were met by groups of police officers who tried to get them to disperse.
2 officers taken to hospital
Two police officers were taken to hospital, according to Montreal police spokesman Laurent Gingras.
One of the officers had two broken teeth and another felt unwell.
Anticipating the worst, police say
Montreal police had been preparing for the worst in anticipation of the march. “We’re hoping for the best, but we’re getting ready for the worst,” said Montreal police Cmdr. Ian Lafrenière earlier today.
The demonstrations, which have been held in Montreal every March for the past 16 years, are meant to support International Day Against Police Brutality, but have been known to end with violence and mass arrests.
Last year’s march saw 226 arrests.
Lafrenière said the reason for violence in recent years is partly due to fewer activists and more troublemakers hitting the streets.
“It looks like a sport now. Some people are coming to different protests because they want to have a good time,” he said.
Police took extra steps on Friday morning to warn the public, handing out flyers at downtown businesses and metro stations.
Authorities warned that large crowds could create issues for public transit, especially during the evening rush hour.
Montreal Anti-Police Brutality Protest Declared Illegal
CP | By Nelson Wyatt, The Canadian Press Posted: 03/15/2013 5:04 pm EDT | Updated: 03/15/2013 11:20 pm EDT
MONTREAL – Police wasted little time Friday cracking down on an annual protest that has a history of getting rowdy, deploying charging squads of helmeted officers, cops on horseback and pepper spray to corral demonstrators.
Montreal police, who have been dealing with regular protests since student unrest last year, usually let peaceful marches proceed even if they have been declared illegal under municipal bylaws.
On Friday, police massed platoons of officers around their downtown headquarters — which was the target of the annual rally against police brutality — and had made their first arrest before the march even began.
“We sent up a message right at the beginning,” said Cmdr. Ian Lafreniere of the Montreal police at a late evening news conference after the march. “They haven’t shared a route, they haven’t shared their itinerary, they refuse to give us a location where they were heading. That’s the reason we made a stop to that.”
At the march, officers piled on one protester to catcalls from the crowd and quickly hustled him away. Once the march was declared illegal, other protesters were scooped from the mob and police tightened their cordon.
They stopped people and rooted through their bags and backpacks. Wedge formations were used to split the crowd into smaller groups and steer them off into side streets. Pockets were quickly dispersed and some areas were blocked off as people were herded along or rounded up.
By the end of the evening, more than 200 people had been detained and given $637 fines for violating municipal bylaws and 12 others had been arrested for criminal acts including possession of incendiary materials, assault on a police officer, mischief and making threats.
Two groups of those detained had been rounded up in mass arrests in the city’s downtown, said Lafreniere. He also said a number of people were arrested before the protest on a variety of charges.
At least six people — four demonstrators and two police officers — were injured. None of the injuries is life-threatening. One police officer got kicked in the face, Lafreniere said.
One police vehicle was vandalized during the march and two store windows were damaged.
Police also seized a number of items such as golf balls and knives, Lafreniere said.
Demonstrators have gathered in Montreal for the last 17 years to protest against police — and 15 of those marches have seen violence.
This year’s demonstration carried a uniquely bitter undertone after police and protesters clashed almost nightly during the so-called Maple Spring.
The events of last year remain hotly debated here, with many protesters arguing the worst violence at the student marches was committed by police — not the demonstrators.
In the midst of the 2012 holidays, a clever and tenacious Siberian Husky in London, Ontario gave his fellow four-legged friends the gift of safety and freedom.
13-year-old Kiki had been muzzled by his owners and left in an abandoned moving van along with two cats and two other dogs. Despite having his ability to bark suppressed by the muzzle, he remained determined to find a way to call for help: he honked the vehicle’s horn repeatedly until members of the London Police Department arrived.
A woman was found dead on a Via Rail passenger train early Saturday morning. The company says the Vancouver-to-Toronto train stopped near Parry Sound, Ont., because four passengers were showing flu-like symptoms. Emergency crews boarded the train and confirmed that a woman who Via Rail described in a news release as elderly had died. The other three passengers were taken to hospital for treatment, according to the news release. The train was about six hours late getting to Toronto, according to the release. The train had left Vancouver on Christmas Day night. Via said a quarantine was placed on the two rooms the passengers were in, which is part of their standard procedures. It’s not believed anyone else was in those compartments, which will be sterilized. Health officials say it’s not believed that other passengers or the train’s crew were exposed to those taken off the train, which had 200 passengers and 13 crew members on board. The local coroner was trying to determine the cause of death and the Ontario Provincial Police say the woman’s identity was being withheld until all family members were notified.
Unidentified flu-like illness (fatal)
Bacteria and viruses that cause only mild disease to humans, or are difficult to contract via aerosol in a lab setting, such as hepatitis A, B, and C, influenza A, Lyme disease, salmonella, mumps, measles, scrapie, dengue fever, and HIV. “Routine diagnostic work with clinical specimens can be done safely at Biosafety Level 2, using Biosafety Level 2 practices and procedures. Research work (including co-cultivation, virus replication studies, or manipulations involving concentrated virus) can be done in a BSL-2 (P2) facility, using BSL-3 practices and procedures. Virus production activities, including virus concentrations, require a BSL-3 (P3) facility and use of BSL-3 practices and procedures”, see Recommended Biosafety Levels for Infectious Agents.
Heavy snow is blanketing parts of Ontario and Quebec today on the official first day of winter, and the storm system heading north from the U.S. is resulting in some travel delays during the busy holiday season. Heavy snow is forecast for northeastern Ontario on Friday morning, bringing another five to 10 centimetres in the Nickel Belt, CBC meteorologist Jay Scotland said. However, the snowfall is expected to taper off and move into Quebec, with accumulations of as much as 40 centimetres in areas north of Montreal. As the low-pressure system from Colorado, also called the Colorado Low, moves northeast, Ottawa can also expect snowfall of 15 to 20 centimetres by Friday evening, Environment Canada said. By Friday morning, 19 centimetres had already been recorded at the airport in the nation’s capital, Scotland said.
“This is where the nasty weather is, Ottawa and east [of Ottawa],” he said. “And we’re looking at that heavier snow really working its way through southern Quebec.… It’s a messy one today thanks to this [Colorado] low. If you are travelling, do check for travel delays.” Airports in Ottawa, Montreal, and Toronto were reporting some flight cancellations on Friday morning. At Toronto’s Pearson International Airport, more than 130 arriving and departing flights had been cancelled by 9:30 a.m. ET. At Ottawa International Airport and Montreal-Trudeau Airport, 12 and 31 flights, respectively, were cancelled, respectively. CBC reporter Trevor Dunn was at Pearson airport on Friday morning and said passengers arrived to face long lines and some cancellations. “It’s already looking like one of the busiest travel days of the year,” Dunn reported. “Check-in lines are long here at Terminal 1 … but on the whole, flights look like they’re moving well right now.” Downtown Toronto will avoid the worst of the winter storm, but lake effect snow bands are expected off Lake Huron and Georgian Bay, said Scotland. Montreal can expect mostly rain and wind, he added. In Ottawa, however, the wintry blast on Friday morning led to dozens of crashes on roads throughout the city. All Ottawa school bus services were cancelled, but schools in both the public and Catholic boards remain open.
Eight people were taken to hospital after a suspected formaldehyde gas leak at a Waterloo auto parts factory Monday morning. In all, 40 people were assessed by Waterloo Region paramedics outside of Ultra Manufacturing, 640 Conrad Place. Four people were sent to hospital by taxi before paramedics arrived, said John Prno, director of regional emergency medical services. Waterloo firefighters evacuated the plant as paramedics checked on the workers. “We just wanted to make sure it was safe for everybody,” said Platoon Chief Mark Schedewitz. According to Waterloo Regional Police, staff exposed to the chemical had minor injuries. The factory makes plastic auto parts. A detailed company investigation is underway to find out what went wrong, said Ultra president Joe D’Angelo. “It appears two incompatible chemicals were mixed, which released a gas,” he said. Firefighters used self-contained breathing gear to enter the factory to take air samples. All initial tests came back clear, said Deputy Fire Chief Richard Hepditch. The gas released in the production area was confirmed to be formaldehyde, according to Schedewitz. Exposure to formaldehyde can cause nausea, eye and lung irritation. Symptoms can appear up to 48 hours later. It’s not a common chemical for firefighters to deal with Hepditch said. Experts at the University of Waterloo were consulted, he said. A private company with specialized air testing equipment was called to take more samples in the early afternoon, to ensure the building was safe for workers to re-enter. The Ontario Ministry of Labour sent an inspector to the factory to take over the investigation.
Breast cancer victim Carol Bristow, 54, has worked as a machine operator in a plastic auto parts factory in Windsor, Ontario, for 23 years. She believes on-the-job exposures to toxic fumes and dust played a role in her illness.
WINDSOR, Ontario — For more than three decades, workers, most of them women, have complained of dreadful conditions in many of this city’s plastic automotive parts factories: Pungent fumes and dust that caused nosebleeds, headaches, nausea and dizziness. Blobs of smelly, smoldering plastic dumped directly onto the floor. “It was like hell,” says one woman who still works in the industry.
The women fretted, usually in private, about what seemed to be an excess of cancer and other diseases in the factories across the river from Detroit. “People were getting sick, but you never really thought about the plastic itself,” said Gina DeSantis, who has worked at a plant near Windsor for 25 years.
Now, workers like DeSantis are the focal point of a new study that appears to strengthen the tie between breast cancer and toxic exposures.
The six-year study, conducted by a team of researchers from Canada, the United States and the United Kingdom, examined the occupational histories of 1,006 women from Ontario’s Essex and Kent counties who had the disease and 1,146 who didn’t. Adjustments were made for smoking, weight, alcohol use and other lifestyle and reproductive factors.
The results, published online today in the journal Environmental Health, are striking: Women employed in the automotive plastics industry were almost five times as likely to develop breast cancer, prior to menopause, as women in the control group.
These workers may handle an array of carcinogenic and endocrine-disrupting chemicals. They include the hardening agent bisphenol A (BPA) — whose presence in polycarbonate water bottles and other products has unnerved some consumers — plus solvents, heavy metals and flame retardants.
Sandy Knight, who worked at two Windsor plastics plants from 1978 to 1998, had a breast cancer scare in 2000, when she was 41. The cancer was at Stage III — “invasive and fast-growing,” said Knight, 53, who now works at a Ford parts distribution center near Toronto. She had a single mastectomy and, following 10 years of hormonal treatment, is in remission.
Asked if she believed her disease was work-related, Knight said, “I’m suspicious of it because of all the exposures we had.” She remembers the “nauseating kind of odor,” the burning eyes and headaches, all the women with cancer, sterility and miscarriages. She’s upset that little seems to have changed at some plants.
“Why am I speaking to people today, in 2012, who are doing the same processes I did in 1980?” Knight asked. “It just seems like we’re fighting the same battle. A lot of these chemicals should be removed from the workplace.”
The study population included women who had worked at more than 40 plastics factories in the Windsor area. But the implications are broader: Workers in similar plants around the world are exposed to many of the same chemicals. So are members of the public, who encounter the substances — albeit in lower doses — in the course of their daily lives.
“These workplace chemicals are now present in our air, water, food and consumer products,” said one of the two principal investigators, James Brophy, an adjunct faculty member at the University of Windsor and a former occupational health clinic director. “If we fail to take heed then we are doing so at our own peril.”
Jeanne Rizzo, president of the Breast Cancer Fund, a San Francisco-based group that has pressed for more research into environmental causes of a disease that claimed nearly 40,000 lives in the United States last year, called the Windsor study “a very powerful piece of work. The piece that’s really been missing for female breast cancer is occupation.”
In the United States, an estimated 150,000 female workers in the plastics and synthetic rubber industries are likely exposed to many of the same chemicals as the women in Windsor, including polyvinyl chloride, or PVC, plastic; acrylonitrile; formaldehyde and styrene.
“I think the findings, although they’re clearly based on Canadian groups, go well beyond Canada,” said another of the Windsor study’s co-authors, Andrew Watterson, director of the Centre for Public Health and Population Health Research at the University of Stirling in Scotland. “They’re going to be significant for plastics workers in Europe, India, China, Africa, the United States. The chemicals will have the same toxic effects. The same diseases will develop.”
Even minuscule amounts of endocrine-disrupting chemicals like BPA can be worrisome, Watterson said. “This research is raising big questions both about what the [workplace] standards are and even about what happens if conditions are very good, with low-level exposures,” he said.
The American Chemistry Council, the main chemical industry trade association in the United States, questioned the study’s conclusions, saying it includes “no actual determination of [worker] exposures.” The study’s estimates of risk seem to be based on a small sample and are “statistically very uncertain,” the council said in its statement.
“The well-established risk factors for breast cancer are not chemical exposures, but rather a combination of lifestyle and genetic factors,” the council wrote.
Modern cars and trucks are loaded with plastics: bumpers, door panels, license-plate brackets. Dozens of factories in and around Windsor make these parts from plastic pellets melted and shaped in injection molding machines. The parts are then shipped to auto manufacturers.
The Big Three U.S. automakers expressed varying degrees of concern about conditions in the parts plants.
General Motors said its suppliers are “independent businesses which must meet the Health and Safety legislation in the jurisdictions in which they operate.” Ford said it “requires suppliers to ensure that our products — no matter where they are made — are manufactured under conditions that demonstrate respect for the people who make them.” And Chrysler said that while its suppliers are “responsible for their own legal compliance,” its policies “restrict us from using suppliers who we learn do not comply with our requirements or environmental and health and safety laws.”
Conditions in some of the Windsor plants have improved, workers say. In years past, for example, hot plastic would be removed from the molding machines and dumped on the floor, where it might lie for up to an hour. Some companies have altered this process, known as purging, requiring that the reeking muck be put into covered barrels.
Others have relocated grinding machines — bladed devices that chew up scrap plastic and spit out huge quantities of dust — to isolated areas to reduce worker exposures.
Workers say, however, that a lack of local ventilation — vacuums that can suck up fumes and dust straight from the molding and grinding machines and direct them outside — is still the norm at many facilities.
The machines disgorge “pretty toxic stuff – either carcinogenic or endocrine-disrupting chemicals,” said Robert DeMatteo, a retired health and safety director for the Ontario Public Service Employees Union and lead author of an article on the plastics industry scheduled for publication early next year in the journal New Solutions. “All you’re going to do with general ventilation is just dilute it.”
Carol Bristow got into the industry in 1989, having grown impatient with a dead-end cashier’s job at the A&P. “I never felt working in a factory would be my calling,” Bristow said. “The first six months I would come home in tears and in pain, almost praying to God that I wouldn’t get my seniority because it seemed like the wrong place to be. But the money kept coming in, and you just adjusted.”
In 1992, when she was 34, Bristow was diagnosed with cancer in her right breast, which was removed along with about 20 lymph nodes. She kept working and developed endometriosis, a painful condition in which cells from the lining of the uterus grow outside the uterine cavity. Some studies have linked endometriosis with exposure to chemicals such as dioxin, a byproduct of PVC incineration and chlorine production. Bristow underwent a hysterectomy in 2001.
As all of this was going on, Bristow was being tormented by bladder infections. Benign tumors were removed from her bladder in 2010 and again in August of this year. “I’ll have to be scoped every three months for the rest of my life,” she said, referring to a procedure called cystoscopy, in which a tube-like viewing device is inserted through the urethra into the bladder. One study found that women who had worked in the plastics industry had a more than threefold risk of developing bladder cancer.
A newly discovered rat in Indonesia doesn’t have any molars, making it the only known rodent in the world without back teeth.
The long-snouted fuzzball has been dubbed Paucidentomys vermidax. “Paucidentomys” translates roughly to “few-toothed mouse,” while “vermidax” means “worm devourer” — a reference to the new species’ diet.
“When we caught the animal, we were in the forest, and we knew right away that it was something different,” said Jacob Esselstyn, a postdoctoral researcher in biology at McMaster University in Ontario, Canada. “But we couldn’t see inside of its mouth, so had no idea of the unusual lack of teeth.”
Esselstyn and his colleagues caught two specimens of the rat in pitfall traps on Sulawesi Island in Indonesia. These traps are essentially buried buckets, with tops level to the ground so that any small mammal running across the forest floor will fall in.
The rats live in wet, mossy forests at high elevation, Esselstyn told LiveScience. It’s not yet clear how common they are, though they do seem difficult to trap. One of the rats had a stomach full of worm segments and nothing else, suggesting that the rodents eat mostly or only earthworms. [See Photos of the New Rat]
What makes Paucidentomys vermidax unique among rodents is its teeth. Every other rodent species ever discovered has molars for grinding food, Esselstyn said. P. vermidax has none. The rat also has unusual incisors at the front of its mouth. Instead of being wedge-shaped for gnawing like most rodent incisors, this rat’s teeth are double-pointed bicuspids.
These odd teeth “may be used to cut or to tear earthworms into segments, but we don’t really know how that works,” Esselstyn said.
The likely closest relative of the new rat does have molars, Esselstyn said, suggesting that this rat lost its back teeth at some point during its evolutionary history. The ability to grind and gnaw has helped rodents become one of the most successful groups of mammals on the planet, Esselstyn said, adding that it’s interesting this particular species has reversed that trait.
“It’s just a good illustration of how much biodiversity is out there that we’re not yet aware of,” he said.
The researchers announced the find today (Aug. 21) in the journal Biology Letters.
Editor’s Note: This story has been updated to correct the rat’s location. It is found in Indonesia, not the Philippines.
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