‘Forever chemicals’ pollute water from Alaska to Florida

‘Forever chemicals’ pollute water from Alaska to Florida

SOURCE: The Guardian DATE: December 22, 2020 SNIP: [V]arious forms of PFAS are still used in a spectrum of industrial and consumer products – from nonstick frying pans and stain-resistant carpets to food wrappers and firefighting foam – and have become ubiquitous. The chemicals enter the environment anywhere they are made, spilled, discharged or used. Rain can flush them into surface sources of drinking water such as lakes, or PFAS may gradually migrate through the soil to reach the groundwater – another key source of public water systems and private wells. For the same reasons the chemicals are prized by manufacturers – they resist heat, oil and water – PFAS also persist in the soil, the water and our bodies. More than 200 million Americans may be drinking PFAS-contaminated water, suggests research by the nonprofit Environmental Working group (EWG), an advocacy group which is collaborating with Ensia on its Troubled Waters reporting project. As studies continue to link exposures to a lengthening list of potential health consequences, scientists and advocates are calling for urgent action from both regulators and industry to curtail PFAS use and to take steps to ensure the chemicals already in the environment stay out of drinking water. PFAS dates back to the 1930s and 1940s, when Dupont and Manhattan Project scientists each accidentally discovered the chemicals. The Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing Company, now 3M, soon began manufacturing PFAS as a key ingredient in Scotchgard and other non-stick, waterproof and stain-resistant products. Thousands of different PFAS chemicals emerged over the following decades, including the two most-studied versions: PFOS and PFOA. Oral-B began using PFAS in dental...
Yukon wetlands pushed to tipping point by placer mining, First Nation and conservationists say

Yukon wetlands pushed to tipping point by placer mining, First Nation and conservationists say

SOURCE: The Narwhal DATE: December 11, 2020 SNIP: The Indian River watershed, which used to provide “sweeping” wetland habitat south of Dawson City, Yukon, has been all but destroyed by placer mining, Darren Taylor, Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in First Nation’s director of natural resources, told the territory’s water board during a recent virtual hearing. The time for Yukon to protect its last remaining wetlands is running out, Taylor said.“We are reaching a tipping point, beyond which there’s no turning back,” he warned. “Part of ourselves dies when our relationship with the land is disrupted.” Placer miners scoop rocks and gravel from streams and river beds in a search for gold. It’s a destructive process that disturbs water quality, leading to breathing, feeding and reproductive problems for fish. Placer mining and the piles of waste rock it creates can severely damage the unique riparian ecosystems that act as bridges between land and water. Placer mining, which is regulated under an act written in the early 1900s, before its ecological impacts were well understood, is seen as a low-cost way for operators to enter the mining business without having to shoulder the costs of starting a larger mine. Although placer miners must receive a water licence from the Yukon Water Board to operate, there is no legislation in the territory that protects wetlands or their potential disturbance from mining. If that doesn’t change soon, the territory’s wetlands could be whittled away by mining until they’re gone for good, Randi Newton, conservation coordinator with the Yukon chapter of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS), told The Narwhal. “We’re in real danger of pushing...
Common tire chemical implicated in mysterious deaths of at-risk salmon

Common tire chemical implicated in mysterious deaths of at-risk salmon

SOURCE: Science DATE: December 3, 2020 SNIP: For decades, something in urban streams has been killing coho salmon in the U.S. Pacific Northwest. Even after Seattle began to restore salmon habitat in the 1990s, up to 90% of the adults migrating up certain streams to spawn would suddenly die after rainstorms. Researchers suspected the killer was washing off nearby roads, but couldn’t identify it. “This was a serious mystery,” says Edward Kolodziej, an environmental engineer at the University of Washington’s (UW’s) Tacoma and Seattle campuses. Online today in Science, researchers led by Kolodziej report the primary culprit comes from a chemical widely used to protect tires from ozone, a reactive atmospheric gas. The toxicant, called 6PPD-quinone, leaches out of the particles that tires shed onto pavement. Even small doses killed coho salmon in the lab. “It’s a brilliant piece of work,” says Miriam Diamond, an environmental chemist at the University of Toronto. “They’ve done a tremendous job at sleuthing out a very challenging problem.” Manufacturers annually produce some 3.1 billion tires worldwide. Tire rubber is a complex mixture of chemicals, and companies closely guard their formulations. Because tire particles are a common component of water pollution, researchers have been examining how they affect aquatic life. After Kolodziej arrived at UW’s Center for Urban Waters in 2014, he joined the effort to solve the coho salmon mystery. The group created a mixture of particles from nine tires—some bought new, others provided by two undergraduates who moonlight as mechanics—to mimic what might wash off typical highways. They found several thousand unidentified chemicals in the mixture. Postdoc Zhenyu Tian spent more than...
Toxic ‘Forever Chemicals’ Were Dropped Over Millions of Acres via Aerial Pesticide, Tests Reveal

Toxic ‘Forever Chemicals’ Were Dropped Over Millions of Acres via Aerial Pesticide, Tests Reveal

SOURCE: EcoWatch DATE: December 2, 2020 SNIP: A national nonprofit revealed Tuesday that testing commissioned by the group as well as separate analysis conducted by Massachusetts officials show samples of an aerially sprayed pesticide used by the commonwealth and at least 25 other states to control mosquito-borne illnesses contain toxic substances that critics call “forever chemicals.” Officially known as per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), this group of man-made chemicals — including PFOA, PFOS, and GenX — earned the nickname because they do not break down in the environment and build up in the body. PFAS has been linked to suppressed immune function, cancers, and other health issues. Lawmakers and regulators at various levels of government have worked to clean up drinking water contaminated by PFAS. The newly released results of pesticide testing by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) and the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MADEP) generated alarm about the effectiveness of such efforts. “In Massachusetts, communities are struggling to remove PFAS from their drinking water supplies, while at the same time, we may be showering them with PFAS from the skies and roads,” PEER science policy director Kyla Bennett, a scientist and attorney formerly with U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), said in a statement Tuesday. “The frightening thing is that we do not know how many insecticides, herbicides, or even disinfectants contain PFAS,” added Bennett, who arranged for the testing. “PEER found patents showing chemical companies using PFAS in these products, and recent articles discuss the variety of pesticides that contain PFAS as either an active or an inert ingredient.” PEER executive director Tim Whitehouse detailed the...
L.A.’s coast was once a DDT dumping ground. No one could see it — until now

L.A.’s coast was once a DDT dumping ground. No one could see it — until now

SOURCE: LA Times DATE; October 25, 2020 SNIP: Not far from Santa Catalina Island, in an ocean shared by divers and fishermen, kelp forests and whales, David Valentine decoded unusual signals underwater that gave him chills. The UC Santa Barbara scientist was supposed to be studying methane seeps that day, but with a deep-sea robot on loan and a few hours to spare, now was the chance to confirm an environmental abuse that others in the past could not. He was chasing a hunch, and sure enough, initial sonar scans pinged back a pattern of dots that popped up on the map like a trail of breadcrumbs. The robot made its way 3,000 feet down to the bottom, beaming bright lights and a camera as it slowly skimmed the seafloor. At this depth and darkness, the uncharted topography felt as eerie as driving through a vast desert at night. And that’s when the barrels came into view. Barrels filled with toxic chemicals banned decades ago. Leaking. And littered across the ocean floor. “Holy crap. This is real,” Valentine said. “This stuff really is down there. “It has been sitting here this whole time, right off our shore.” Tales of this buried secret bubbling under the sea had haunted Valentine for years: a largely unknown chapter in the most infamous case of environmental destruction off the coast of Los Angeles — one lasting decades, costing tens of millions of dollars, frustrating generations of scientists. The fouling of the ocean was so reckless, some said, it seemed unimaginable. As many as half a million of these barrels could still be underwater...