Hurricane Laura causes dangerous chemical fire in Louisiana

August 31, 2020 by  
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It’s bad enough to stay shut in your house, terrified, as you ride out a Category 4 hurricane. But the people of Westlake, Louisiana had an additional reason to stay inside last week with the windows clamped tight as Hurricane Laura started a fire at BioLab, unleashing chlorine gas over the small town. The hurricane killed at least 14 people, obliterated buildings and tore off roofs as it blustered through southwest Louisiana, home to many of the state’s petrochemical industries. It blew directly over the Hackberry oil field, an area south of Lake Charles that combines active and abandoned oil wells, pipelines and storage tanks with a sensitive marsh ecosystem. It will take some time to figure out the extent of structural and environmental damage. The health consequences may never be known. People who live in this region will only be able to guess in the coming years whether their cancers and other diseases were caused by the chlorine gas or other chemicals, to which they are routinely exposed. Related: Environmental racism in America Chemical leaks are common in Louisiana. Communities around petrochemical companies are accustomed to hearing emergency sirens. Unfortunately, petrochemical companies are often placed in elderly and Black communities. Westlake is less than 5 miles from the decimated town of Mossville, which was started by formerly enslaved peoples in the 1790s. In 2014, the South Africa-based fuel company Sasol bought out most of the residents’ houses to expand its enormous petrochemical plant. Mossville residents were known for staggeringly high concentrations of dioxins in their blood, as found in 1998 tests conducted by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. This highly toxic substance can impair the immune system, disrupt hormone functions, damage the reproductive system and cause cancer and diabetes . Dioxins can form by heating chlorine to high temperatures, which happened last week when BioLab ignited. The BioLab facility, which was built in 1979, occupies 15 acres inside a large industrial complex. It manufactures trichloroisocyanuric acid — a bleaching agent and industrial disinfectant — chlorinating granules and other chemical blends for cleaning products. The fire shut down nearby Interstate 10 and required residents to shelter in place for at least 24 hours. Petrochemical plants often cause problems in hurricanes. Chemical storage tanks are especially problematic. They are built to float, but when the water resettles, the tanks sometimes spring a leak. Floating roofs built to contain vapors often collapse or sink, the wind can buckle tanks and flying debris can puncture a tank’s sides. Because workers are generally evacuated when a storm is on the way, often nobody is there to fix a problem before it has major consequences. Via The Conversation , CNN and The Intercept Image via NOAA

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Hurricane Laura causes dangerous chemical fire in Louisiana

Worlds largest Passive House building to open in Kansas City

August 31, 2020 by  
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The largest Passive House building in the world is set to welcome its first tenants this October in the historic River Market of downtown Kansas City, Missouri. The luxury apartment community — dubbed Second + Delaware — will offer high-end amenities alongside energy-efficient advantages with 80% to 90% energy savings compared to conventional buildings. Jointly developed by Arnold Development Group and Yarco Development, the apartment complex will offer 276 apartment residences including studios, one-bedroom units and two-bedroom units surrounding a central courtyard. Set atop a bluff in the walkable River Market neighborhood, Second + Delaware champions sustainable urban design with its placement and design. The developers took on a 100-year perspective in creating the 330,000-square-foot property, which is centered on a large and spacious shared courtyard. Accessible green space is also found in the landscaping surrounding the building and on the planted rooftops. Related: Award-winning passive tiny house is insulated to combat New Zealand’s weather User comfort and energy efficiency is achieved with triple-glazed , certified windows set within highly insulated frames that let in an abundance of natural light without risking energy loss. Constant fresh air is funneled inside with a Dedicated Outside Air System (DOAS), while superior indoor air quality is ensured with a ventilation system and Variable Refrigerant Flow (VRF) heat pumps. The building envelope is also made airtight with 16-inch-thick walls that include a 6-inch layer of insulation sandwiched between 10 inches of concrete. “Now is the time for developers to think bigger than ever before,” said Jonathan Arnold, co-developer and principal of Arnold Development Group. “We have the technologies we need to deliver safer, more responsible, and equally beautiful solutions to the built world. I hope that Second + Delaware will be the impetus that moves our industry forward.” In addition to energy-efficient appliances, residents will also have access to a saltwater swimming pool, bookable raised rooftop garden beds, fitness and yoga facilities, bicycle storage and electric car -sharing stations. + Second + Delaware Images by Arnold Imaging

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Air pollution may decrease eggs in women’s ovaries

June 26, 2019 by  
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Air pollution doesn’t only affect your lungs as new research suggests air quality may also be linked to a decrease in the number of eggs in women’s ovaries. It has long been known that environmental factors impact our reproductive systems, and multiple studies linked low sperm count with environmental indicators, but fewer examine the connection to ovaries. This newest study, presented at the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology is the first to look at the prevalence of eggs and not just fertility. Italian researchers collected hormone samples from 1,300 Italian women and compared their levels of the AMH hormone to air quality metrics. The AMH hormone typically signals a woman’s egg “reserves” but can also fluctuate depending on the woman’s age, genetics and if they are a smoker. Related: Almost all U.S. national parks have polluted air Researchers found that lower AMH hormone levels were associated with higher air pollution indices. This suggests that air pollution may be connected to lower egg count in ovaries. However, researchers also recognize that often air pollution is concentrated in areas with lower income and other environmental justice issues, therefore there are likely confounding factors that also impact women’s ovaries within these areas. The study also did not measure direct exposure to air pollution, only indirect exposure via the average air pollution index at the participants’ home address. “Living in an area associated with high levels of air pollutants in our study increased the risk of severely reduced ovarian reserve by a factor of two or three,” said Dr. Antonio La Marca, who led the research. Other studies have similarly linked air quality with womens’ reproductive health, including one study that links pollution with irregular menstrual cycles and another that connected ozone pollution with decreased fertility . More research is needed to clarify the findings and determine if this is a temporary or permanent effect for women. Via The Guardian Image via Ian MacNicol

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Air pollution may decrease eggs in women’s ovaries

California adds Monsantos glyphosate to list of chemicals known to cause cancer

June 28, 2017 by  
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Ever since the World Health Organization (WHO) deemed Monsanto’s glyphosate — a key ingredient in its Roundup weed killer — to be “ probably carcinogenic ,” the agrochemical giant has fought back with a vengeance. After California’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) attempted to add glyphosate to its list of cancer-causing chemicals last year, the corporation sued the organization . Now, after rounds of legal battle, the branch of California’s Environmental Protection Agency says it will add glyphosate to a list of chemicals “ known to the state to cause cancer “ Proposition 65 , covered by California’s Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986, requires state officials to publish a list of chemicals which pose harm to human health by means of causing birth defects, cancer or other reproductive harm. It is updated at least once a year and typically includes more than 800 chemicals . As USA Today reports, businesses that sell products with banned ingredients are required to inform California consumers of the risk. As per Proposition 65, state officials were just doing their job by adding a chemical proven to cause birth defects, cancer, autism, ADHD, gluten intolerance , and a host of other ailments to the list. Fortunately, Monsanto lost its lawsuit against the state’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment last year. The company did file an appeal soon after, however – and this appeal’s ruling is still pending. If the company wins the appeal, Monsanto products that contain glyphosate will not require labels saying they cause cancer . Listing the ingredient as a known carcinogen under California’s Proposition 65, however, would require companies that sell the chemical in California to add warning labels to all packaging. Related: EPA official accused of killing investigation into Monsanto weedkiller Environmental groups cheered OEHHA’s decision to list glyphosate as cancer-causing. Nathan Donley, a senior scientist at the Center for Biological Diversity, said: “California’s decision makes it the national leader in protecting people from cancer-causing pesticides .” + California Proposition 65 Via Reuters , USAToday Images via Chafer Machinery , Shutterstock

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California adds Monsantos glyphosate to list of chemicals known to cause cancer

Consumers Reports Confirms Bisphenol A Leaches From Tin Cans

November 5, 2009 by  
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Lambert/Archive Photos/Getty Images Two new bits of research: A new study by members of the Reproductive Toxicology Branch of the EPA did not find any evidence that Bisphenol A (BPA), was a “gender bender” in female rats. BPA “Does not Alter Sexually Dimorphic Behavior, Puberty, Fertility and Anatomy of Female LE Rats” ( Abstract here , via Stats.org ) This is particularly good news in the light of the Consumers Union’s recent report that showed leaching of BPA from canned food, as reported in

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Consumers Reports Confirms Bisphenol A Leaches From Tin Cans

Negawatts From the Men’s Room

November 5, 2009 by  
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See the bee?

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Negawatts From the Men’s Room

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