I know you are hearing a lot about the water… the rivers, the oceans, the water in the tap.. and that it all seems complicated and overwhelming. Indeed, there are gyres of plastic in the ocean the size of a city and there are drugs in the tap water in New York City and the coral reefs are dieing off from pollution.. but there’s another one. One that hits really close to home and should be a major concern for you.

Recent studies prove that chemicals in the water supply (from the ocean up the waterways to your kitchen sink) are bending genders in wildlife. These chemicals are what is known as endocrine disruptors, similar to the BPA everyone has been talking about, and they change the sex in organisms. Aquatic organisms are switching from male to female and back again as a result of exposure to these chemicals. But the stuff isn’t isolated to distant waterways where nothing but creeping anemones sprawl on rocks and in caves; this stuff is right out there, where you might even be swimming. For sure, they are moving into the water that is used to make our tap water. No kidding.

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As you know from my previous writings on the subject, BPA or Bisphenol A is an organic compound used in a huge number of retail products, including plastic food and beverage containers, kitchen appliances, electronics (casings) and packaging of all kinds. It is even included in the resins used to line soda, soup and vegetable cans. It is currently known to be an “endocrine disrupter” or a synthetic chemical known to mimic the behavior of estrogen. It has been found to disrupt normal heart muscle function and prompt arrhythmia or irregular heartbeat. BPA has come under increasing scrutiny by medical researchers for this endocrine-hormone-disrupting potential and has gotten a lot of media attention for this. This new information proves that it can interfere with reproductive, egg and fat cell development, as well as with thyroid hormone and neurological functions. The chemical has also been labled an “obesegen”, meaning it is linked to conditions that can prompt obesity and diabetes.

Suspected of being hazardous to humans since as early as the 1930s, current concerns about the use of bisphenol A in consumer products began in 2008. At that time several governments and their agencies issued reports questioning its’ safety. The news media grabbed the story and many retailers quietly removed products containing BPA from store shelves. Up until now, the main concern have been regarding the exposure of fetuses, infants and young children to products loaded with the compound.

But there is new, disheartening (excuse the pun), news. A study released this week by researchers at the University of Cincinnati says that exposure to bisphenol A may increase heart disease in women. And guess what? New research proves that these effects can occur at very low levels of exposure. In other words, you don’t have to drink more than a couple sodas a day or use more than 1 or 2 plastic food storage containers.

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I saw this in an online news outlet from New Delhi. I had already become aware of this problem in the past and I spoke about it here on this blog under the article, How To Make eWaste Processing Easier. What is happening is that India has imported a ton of electronics waste from all over the world. This is in addition to its own electronics waste, which is substantial. The end result to this unfortunate situation is a disposal dilemma.

According to the article, there are no separate figures for e-waste generated by Indians and the amount of it that was imported but the scale of the problem is growing. In fact, the local authorities expect it to reach 800,000 tons by the end of this year. This is, I think, outrageous. The effects of this pollution will be devastating to the poor populations of this struggling country and will eventually effect us all through the air and water.

Pollution control officials are saying that India only has six regular recycling units with a total yearly capacity of only 27,000 tons. This is obviously not enough. Consider that a single state in our country has more capacity than this and India is more densely populated than we are!

But they are just as high tech hungry as we are. They have become enamored of the modern mobile phones and televisions with a burgeoning middle class who sees electronic appliances as important status symbols. This is a mirror of our own culture, as Americans hold a similar view. Also, much of the waste from abroad comes to India in the form of charity donations of old technology. Schools and businesses snap this stuff up in order to provide their population with the advantages of modern tools. It also ends up being refurbished and sold to an Indian population that wants badly to join the technology boom that the US and other wealthy countries currently enjoy. But then this stuff finds its way to dumps and recycling centers, creating the dangers of plastics leaking dioxins and LCDs.

One of the worst side effects of this situation in India is that there is no mechanical method of dismantling or breaking down this gear and most of it is done by hand. This exposes the workers to carcinogenic metals including barium, lead, copper and cadmium. I guess cancer will soon be a big problem over there as well.

Add to this that most of the stuff is recycled in hazardous conditions and you have a recipe for disaster. It has been realized over the past few decades that plastic leaks dioxin during the breakdown process so it is no longer recycled in the US. However, this is not keeping India and other poor countries from importing tons of the stuff and then recycling it after use. There is no shortage of sickness, including cancer and other fatal diseases, in the slums that sit adjacent to these recycling centers and landfills.

Currently, the government is trying to bring in legislation to curb the imports of e-waste and regulate recycling. But it may be very hard to do with an eager customer base of people too poor to afford new.

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I know this is not new news. I know it was first presented to the public back in March of 2009 but I can’t help but comment on this. Did you know that six major baby bottle makers in the United States have agreed to stop using the toxic chemical Bisphenol-A, an obesegen and toxic chemical, in their baby bottles?

The six companies are: Avent, Disney First Years, Gerber, Dr. Brown, Playtex and Evenflow. They have all agreed to voluntarily ban BPA from bottles that they manufacture. This is a huge victory for human health in this country and now you have a choice. Buy the junk others make, loaded with BPA, or limit your purchases to these thoughtful companies.

Consumer groups in New Jersey and Delaware wrote in October, 2008, to the companies urging them to stop using the controversial chemical, widespread in plastic, after studies linked BPA to a range of health problems in infants. Not to mention that science has linked this chemical to obesity; so much so that scientist call it an “obesegen”. Read my recent post on Harmony Green. In fact, over 130 studies over the past decade have linked even low levels of BPA to serious health problems, breast cancer, obesity and the early onset of puberty, among other disorders.

Vocal consumer watchdog groups have been calling, loudly, for a complete ban on BPA. But this is small comfort in my opinion when you realize how much of this is going on, and not just with baby bottles. We should be in fear for our lives. In addition to all the other horrors discovered about BPA alone, toxicologists at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) found last year that the chemical could interfere with the brain development of fetuses and newborns. Ever wonder why so many of our kids are fat, hyperactive and have to be medicated for brain disorders? Is it going to come down to how rich some company can get? Is our health and well being a price you’re willing to pay?

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and its European counterpart, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), have said the chemical is safe in the amounts used in such products as baby bottles. For my opinion on this matter, read my previous post on how the EPA lies to us about the chemicals in the products we buy.

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As I’ve reported before in this blog, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), as a rule, allows companies to keep new information about chemicals they use in their products a secret from the public. This includes compounds and additives that have been shown to cause cancer, respiratory problems and immune reactions. This boils down to a conspiracy of sorts, whereby the EPA and the companies they protect lie to the American people.

In a recent investigation, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel newspaper examined more than 2,000 filings in the EPA’s registry of dangerous chemicals for the past three years. In more than half the cases, the EPA was shown to have agreed to keep the chemical name a secret. In hundreds of other cases, it allowed the company filing the report to keep its name and address confidential.

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As of today, now playing in a theatre near you, is a film with a fascinating new look at the oil industry and it’s dark side. CRUDE, the film, tells a shocking story that Chevron, the 5th largest company on this planet, does not want the world to know. Like, The Cove, another documentary about the uglier side of industry, this one is a bombshell that should awaken everyone who sees it to the environmental tragedies that are ongoing here on Earth and the battle to save our planet.

Three years in the making by acclaimed filmmaker Joe Berlinger (Brother’s Keeper, Paradise Lost, and Metallica: Some Kind of Monster), CRUDE chronicles the epic legal battle to hold Chevron accountable for its systematic contamination of the Ecuadorian Amazon. If you are not aware of the disaster, it was an environmental tragedy experts call the “Amazon Chernobyl,” and believe is the worst case of oil-related contamination on Earth. I have had my own firsthand experience with the self absorbed and mostly indifferent oil industry in my own life; we had a property that was contaminated by big oil and basically lost our fight. I know how hard it is to battle these powerful people.

But here’s the story on this current battle. While drilling in the Ecuadorian Amazon from 1964 to 1990, Texaco, which is now called Chevron, deliberately dumped more than 18 billion gallons of toxic wastewater, spilled roughly 17 million gallons of crude oil, and left hazardous waste in hundreds of open pits dug out of the forest floor. The company selfishly resorted to substandard practices that were obsolete in order to increase its profit margin by a mere $3 per barrel of crude. Of course, the local people and ecosystems paid the price instead, and at a much higher price than $3.00. In fact, many have paid with their lives and their livelihoods. But, good for them, they have been fighting back and this is where the film comes in.

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Duke Energy’s Integrated Gasification Combined-Cycle (IGCC) plant in Edwardsport, Ind. is taking a significant step forward in the use of cleaner coal technology. Notice that I say “cleaner coal” and not “clean coal” because the former is possible while the latter is not. But in the noble effort of creating the former to help meet the country’s future energy requirements, the first major pieces of equipment have arrived. Using GE IGCC technology, the plant is expected to be the largest cleaner coal IGCC facility of its type in the world when it is complete. An Integrated Gasification Combined Cycle, or IGCC, is a power plant using synthesis gas (syngas). This gas is often used to power a gas turbine whose waste heat is passed to a steam turbine system, also referred to as a combined cycle gas turbine.

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