News bites, July – August 2018

This article was originally published in July 2018

Hawaii bans killer sunscreens

Sunscreens containing chemicals that kill coral reefs, such as Banana Boat and Coppertone, may have to reformulate or stop selling their sunscreens in Hawaii. Hawaii’s lawmakers have passed legislation to ban the sale or distribution of sunscreens that contain coral-killing chemicals, such as oxybenzone and octinoxate. At press time, Gov. David Ige (D) reportedly will sign the bill, making Hawaii the first state in the world to protect marine ecosystems by banning coral-killing sunscreens. (Washington Post)

Ocean acidity harms salmon

Reports from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the University of Washington show that wild salmon runs may be affected by rising ocean acidity, particularly in areas along the Alaskan coast. Increased water acidity appears to negatively impact salmon’s sense of smelling ability, crucial to avoiding predators. Salmon decline also may harm Alaska’s salmon fishing industry, which curently employs 33,000 people and generates $1.7 billion in national labor income. (Anchorage Daily News)

Biodegradable water bottle

A British social entrepreneur has created a nontoxic, single-use water bottle that can decompose fully in three weeks. James Longcroft is raising money on Indiegogo to finance the manufacturing and distribution of what he calls, the Choose Water bottle. It’s made of recycled paper coated with a waterproof liner. (Goodnewsnetwork.org)

PFOAS in drinking water

The Environmental Working Group (EWG) says the government is hiding the truth on how much per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, known as PFOAs, are contaminating America’s drinking water. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) chief, Scott Pruitt, says water contaminated with PFOAs is a “national priority” and that he would evaluate limiting them under the Safe Drinking Water Act, take steps to designate them “hazardous substances,” and develop groundwater cleanup recommendations. EWG says Pruitt’s guidelines are too lax and that recommendations for a safe standard from the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Control were suppressed by EPA, the Department of Defense, and the White House. (EWG.org)

Drugs in shellfish

Washington’s Department of Fish & Wildlife (DFW) officials report that shellfish, specifically mussels from Puget Sound, contain pharmaceutical drugs, including oxycodone, an opioid drug to treat severe pain. A DFW study also found mussels from the Sound contain antidepressants, several types of antibiotics, and hormone-disrupting chemicals from detergents and cleaning products. Officials say drugs flushed down toilets and human use are major sources of contamination. (CNN.com)

Regulating wine wastewater

Beginning next year, an estimated 100 Washington wineries will need a permit from the state Department of Ecology (DOE) to discharge wastewater from cleaning bottles, barrels, tanks and other equipment. The DOE says the permits will keep water laced with cleaners, stems and wine sediment from contaminating groundwater. The rules won’t apply to wineries that discharge their wastewater to a treatment plant. (Capital Press)

Fluoride and pregnancy

A study in Occupational & Environmental Medicine shows exposure to fluoride at levels commonly found in U.S. women is linked to lower IQ in their children. Researchers found that for every increase of 1 milligram per liter of fluoride in pregnant women’s urine, their offspring averaged 2.4 points lower IQ scores at age 1–3 years old. The finding is statistically significant and builds on previous research from the same team funded by the National Institutes of Health showing in utero fluoride levels associate with lower IQ in 4 and 6-to-12-year-olds. (Fluoride Action Network)

Radioactive water

More than half of Americans could be drinking tap water tainted with radium, a radioactive element that may increase the risk of cancer. An EWG investigation found 170 million people in all 50 states are exposed to radium from drinking water. An interactive Tap Water Database shows water samples from Edmonds, Kirkland and Mercer Island contained six contaminants above health guidelines. Bellevue’s water contained seven contaminants above guidelines, Redmond’s water contained nine contaminants above health guidelines. (EWG.org)

Full disclosure on cleaning products?

New York is the first state to require manufacturers of cleaning products to disclose all ingredients and hazards. Starting July 2019, they must post information online according to new state Department of Environmental Conservation guidance. In addition to naming ingredients, companies must identify chemicals of concern for cancer, infertility, learning and developmental harm, asthma and other respiratory problems. (New York Dept. of Environmental Conservation)

Productivity without pesticides

Research published in the journal, Nature Plants, demonstrates “virtually all farms” could cut pesticide use without a decline in productivity or profit. The research found that 94 percent of farms would have no production loss if they cut pesticides, with 40 percent actually producing more. Decreased insecticide use showed more production likely at 86 percent of farms, with none losing productivity, and 78 percent of farms to be equally or more profitable when using less pesticides of all types. (The Guardian)

Farmworker pay victory

A divided Washington Supreme Court has ruled that piece-rate farmworkers must be paid also for other job-related tasks, such as meetings, training, traveling between orchards and storing equipment. The ruling stems from a class-action federal lawsuit against Dovex Fruit Co. and parent company, Stemilt Growers of Wenatchee. The decision was the latest of several Supreme Court rulings that have gone against farm operators. The majority said prior practices concealed not paying employees for all hours worked, violating the state’s minimum wage law. (Capital Press)

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