Pet flea treatments poisoning rivers across England, scientists find

Pet flea treatments poisoning rivers across England, scientists find

SOURCE: The Guardian DATE: November 17, 2020 SNIP: Highly toxic insecticides used on cats and dogs to kill fleas are poisoning rivers across England, a study has revealed. The discovery is “extremely concerning” for water insects, and the fish and birds that depend on them, the scientists said, who expect significant environmental damage is being done. The research found fipronil in 99% of samples from 20 rivers and the average level of one particularly toxic breakdown product of the pesticide was 38 times above the safety limit. Fipronil and another nerve agent called imidacloprid that was found in the rivers have been banned from use on farms for some years. There are about 10 million dogs and 11 million cats in the UK, with an estimated 80% receiving flea treatments, whether needed or not. The researchers said the blanket use of flea treatments should be discouraged and that new regulation is needed. Currently, the flea treatments are approved without an assessment of environmental damage. “Fipronil is one of the most commonly used flea products and recent studies have shown it degrades to compounds that are more toxic to most insects than fipronil itself,” said Rosemary Perkins at the University of Sussex, who led the study. “Our results are extremely concerning.” Prof Dave Goulson, also at the University of Sussex and part of the team, said: “I couldn’t quite believe the pesticides were so prevalent. Our rivers are routinely and chronically contaminated with both of these chemicals.” “The problem is these chemicals are so potent,” he said, even at tiny concentrations. “We would expect them to be having significant impacts...
The explosive problem of ‘zombie’ batteries

The explosive problem of ‘zombie’ batteries

SOURCE: BBC DATE: October 26, 2020 SNIP: The Environmental Services Association (ESA), which represents waste firms like Biffa, Veolia and Suez, says too many batteries are going into either recycling bins or black rubbish bags, where they are easily damaged by sorting equipment and start to burn – so-called “zombie” batteries. The ESA has launched a campaign called Take Charge which encourages people to dispose of batteries properly. “Unfortunately, the majority of batteries thrown away in the UK at the moment are not put in the proper recycling bins. Fires caused by carelessly discarded zombie batteries endanger lives, cause millions of pounds of damage and disrupt waste services,” says Jacob Hayler, executive director of ESA. Lithium-ion batteries, which power mobile phones, tablets and toothbrushes, can be extremely volatile if damaged. CCTV footage taken at several recycling centres shows explosions sending flames and debris shooting across sorting areas. And those sorts of batteries are a growing menace. Between April 2019 and March 2020, lithium-ion batteries were suspected to have caused around 250 fires at waste facilities. That is 38% of all fires, up from 25% compared to the previous year, according to the latest data from ESA. In many cases the precise cause of a fire is never established but ESA says it is likely that lithium-ion batteries account for an even bigger proportion of fires. Paul Christensen, professor of pure and applied electrochemistry at the University of Newcastle, has deliberately damaged lithium-ion batteries in experiments to make them explode. [H]e says that even small lithium-ion batteries, similar to the ones in your mobile phone, would explode “with a rocket...
4 months of tear gas in Portland raises concerns for environment

4 months of tear gas in Portland raises concerns for environment

SOURCE: OPB DATE: October 23, 2020 SNIP: Portland has entered a fifth straight month of street protests, often met with a barrage of police-deployed crowd-control munitions, making Portland the most tear-gassed city in America. This has environmental groups, public health and human rights advocates questioning the short- and long-term effects of tear gas — not just on those demonstrating for racial justice, but also on the environment. There is no shortage of information and research about what tear gas exposure does to the human body. The Oregon Health Authority and the Department of Environmental Quality share information on their website from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), where the agency lists health effects from riot control agents or tear gas. But the answers become much murkier when it comes to what those chemical agents do to the environment. The lack of such information is at the heart of a federal lawsuit filed Tuesday by environmental and civil rights groups. They’re seeking an end to the use of tear gas and other chemical munitions by the Department of Homeland Security, alleging it failed to assess the environmental impact and to take other steps required under the National Environmental Policy Act. On the west bank of the Willamette River near the ICE building, aquatic ecologist Juniper Simonis secured himself to a rope tied to a nearby tree and climbed down a steep bushy hill full of thorns. Simonis navigated sharp, slippery and steep rocks to get close enough to a culvert to collect water samples. “I know from my background, a lot of the chemicals that are included in...
Dying birds and the fires: scientists work to unravel a great mystery

Dying birds and the fires: scientists work to unravel a great mystery

SOURCE: The Guardian DATE: October 18, 2020 SNIP: The yellow Townsend Warbler lay lifeless on the gravel ground near Grant county, New Mexico, the eyes in its yellow-striped head closed, its black feathery underbelly exposed. Just days before, the migrating bird – weighing 10 grams, or the equivalent of two nickels – might have been as far north as Alaska. But it met an untimely demise in the American south-west, with thousands of miles still to go before reaching Central America, its destination for the winter. The warbler is one of hundreds of thousands of birds that have recently turned up disoriented or dead across the region, where ornithologists have described birds “falling from the sky”. The mass die-off has been tentatively attributed to the historic wildfires across California, Oregon and Washington in recent months, which may have forced birds to rush their migration. But scientists do not know for sure – in part because nobody knows precisely how wildfire smoke affects birds. A photo of the dead warbler was uploaded to iNaturalist, a crowd-sourced app used to identify plants and animals, as part of the Southwest Avian Mortality Project, a collaboration between New Mexico State University and others that invited users to crowd-source information about the die-off. The project has now logged more than 1,000 observed dead birds, encompassing 194 species – data that is being shared with the researchers to better understand what led to such a major mortality event. Rodney Siegel is the executive director of the Institute for Bird Populations, a non-profit group that works with professional scientists and amateur naturalists to monitor bird populations...
EPA letting some hazardous coal ash ponds stay open longer

EPA letting some hazardous coal ash ponds stay open longer

SOURCE: AP DATE: October 16, 2020 SNIP: The Trump administration will let some leaking or otherwise dangerous coal ash storage ponds stay in operation for years more and some unlined ponds stay open indefinitely under a rule change announced Friday. The move by the Environmental Protection Agency is the administration’s latest rollback of environmental and public health regulations governing operators of coal-fired power plants, which are taking hits financially as cheaper natural gas, solar and wind power make dirtier-burning coal plants less competitive. Friday’s move weakens an Obama-era rule in which the EPA regulated the storage and disposal of toxic coal ash for the first time, including closing coal-ash dumping ponds that were unstable or contaminating groundwater. Coal ash is a byproduct of burning coal for power and contains arsenic, mercury, lead and other hazardous heavy metals. U.S. coal plants produce about 100 million tons (90 million metric tonnes) annually of ash and other waste. Data released by utilities in March 2018, after the Obama administration required groundwater monitoring around coal ash storage sites, showed widespread evidence of contamination at coal plants from Virginia to Alaska. For decades, utilities largely disposed of coal ash by sluicing it into huge open pits. In 2008, the six-story-tall dike on a massive coal ash pond at a Tennessee plant collapsed, releasing more than a billion gallons of coal ash into the Swan Pond community. It remains the largest industrial spill in modern U.S. history and prompted the 2015 regulations that were intended to increase oversight of the industry. But the change in administrations brought a change in priorities, with President Donald Trump...