Ohio Earthquakes Underscore Fracking Dangers

This opinion piece originally ran in local newspapers around the country starting January 16.  You are free to repost to your own blog or Web site, or to submit to your own local newspaper, attributed to Andrew Korfhage, online editor at Green America. 

Add yet another new concern to the growing list of reasons to oppose hyraudlic fracturing, the natural-gas extraction process known as “fracking”: Earthquakes.

That’s right, following a New Year’s Eve earthquake in Youngstown, Ohio — the town’s eleventh since D&L Energy began injecting drilling waste underground in December 2010 — state leaders put a hold on proposals for new natural-gas extraction wells within a five-mile radius.

With earthquakes previously rare in this northeastern corner of Ohio, seismologists from Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory (LDEO) affirmed the likelihood that fracking activities had caused the quakes. Even with the moratorium, they predicted that the current damage would cause more earthquakes in the region for up to a year.

“You’re pumping this fluid into a crack and the pressure of this fluid is encouraging the fault to slip,” LDEO’s John Armbuster told National Public Radio. “The well has been pumping for a year. It’s going to take a period of time comparable to that for the effects of this pumping to completely dissipate.”

Continue reading “Ohio Earthquakes Underscore Fracking Dangers”

Take Action to Eliminate BPA from Canned Foods

As Green America senior writer Sarah Tarver-Wahlquist reported in her “Plastic(-free) Monday” blog post last week, there’s a problem with toxic chemicals in our canned food.

The problem is bisphenol-A (BPA), a common additive in plastic products, including the plastic inner linings of food cans. BPA is an endocrine disruptor that has been linked to an array of frightening health problems, including heart disease, reproductive problems, and cancer. Now, our allies at the Breast Cancer Fund have published the results of a new study that found BPA lurking in a number of the staples of a Thanksgiving table, having leached from the can-linings into the food itself.

The Breast Cancer Fund tested canned foods like turkey gravy, creamed corn, cranberry sauce, canned pumpkin, evaporated milk, green beans, and cream of mushroom soup. They found that single servings of nearly half of the tested products showed BPA levels linked to adverse health effects. The study also found high variability in BPA levels even among cans of the same product. Their conclusion: Until BPA is phased out entirely from can linings, consumers can never be sure if their canned food contains BPA or not.

Some good news: Eden Foods has recently developed promising alternatives to the BPA epoxy resin that lines most canned foods. These alternatives must also still be subjected to rigorous testing for safety, however.

In the meantime, join with us and the Breast Cancer Fund to send a holiday “wish list” message to conventional food companies, asking them to phase out BPA from their products. Please take the action, check out the Breast Cancer Fund’s report, and weigh in on our blog with strategies for keeping your kitchen BPA-free.

No Link Between Cell Phones and Cancer? Riiiiiiiight.

A new Danish study released on October 20 claims that to have found no link between radio-frequency radiation emitted by cell phones and cancer of the brain or central nervous system. What a surprise.

I wish I could tell you that this is the last word on cell phone safety, and you’re just fine carrying your phone in your pocket or putting it next to your head for hours on end, but I can’t.

Dr. Devra Davis, director of Environmental Health Trust and author of Disconnect: The Truth About Cell Phone Radiation, What the Industry Has Done to Hide It, and How to Protect Your Family, mustered a counter-response from colleagues from around the world who are concerned about cell phone safety. Many of you will remember that Dr. Davis was the subject of an in-depth interview on cell phone safety in our January/February 2011 issue of the Green American.

The new Danish study looked at 358,403 mostly male cell phone subscribers over the age of 30 during the period 1990-2007.  The report is a follow-up to an earlier Danish analysis of the same group when the average use of cellphones was less than a decade that also reported no cell phone-cancer link.

As she did with the original Danish study, Davis calls the new study “deeply flawed.”

Davis and her colleagues criticize the study on the following grounds:

  • The study excluded 300,000 business users, who would have been among the heaviest cell phone users for the 17 years in which the study took place.
  • It defined a user as someone who made one call a week for an average of six months, “ ignoring the fact that phone calls were more expensive and shorter years ago, [which] reduces the group’s average exposure and makes it very unlikely to find any evidence of increased risk.”
  • The report analyzed the rates of brain tumors in those who began using cell phones after 1987, and compared them to a “control group” made up of those who were not using them in 1990, when the study started. This also understates the risk, say Davis and her colleagues, because most of the people in the control group became cell phone users later on and accumulated almost as many cell phone hours as the “exposed” subscribers.
    In comparing these two similar groups, therefore, one wouldn’t see much of a difference between them and could conclude that the cell phones posed little extra risk of brain tumors.
    “When Michael Kundi and colleagues from the Medical University of Vienna mathematically corrected for this concern in the earlier Danish study, they found a significantly increased risk for brain tumors,” note Davis and her colleagues.
  • “Cell phone users who began using cell phones after 1995 and those under the age of 30 were not considered ‘subscribers’ in the study (as with the business users and pay-as-you go users), thus significantly diluting the results and underestimating the risk.” As most people are aware, cell phone use didn’t really boom until the late 1990s and early 2000s,and young people were among the earliest adopters.

Dr. Denis L Henshaw, Emeritus Professor of Human Radiation Effects, University of Bristol in U.K., says, “This seriously flawed study misleads the public and decision makers about the safety of mobile phone use. I consider that their claims are worthless.”

As we noted in a recent Green American, the World Health Organization recently declared cell phone radiation a Class 2b carcinogen, putting it in the same category as lead and the dry cleaning chemical perchloroethylene.

So I urge you, be just as careful with your cell phone as you are with lead exposure. The simple step of keeping your cell phone away from your  head and body can reduce your exposure to radio-frequency radiation from cell phones considerably.

Once more with feeling:

1)     Get a headset and use it—always. Hollow-tube corded headsets are the safest option, but corded and Bluetooth headsets will also reduce your exposure –a lot. Pick whichever one you like best. (Personally, I like the corded headsets because I can hear just fine, and I don’t have to remember to charge them.

2)     Don’t carry your cell phone in your pocket or bra. Keep it in a purse or bag (or on a table in front of you) with the back (antenna) pointed away from you.

3)     If you let a child play with the cell phone (or tablet computer, for that matter), put it in airplane mode, so it isn’t emitting radiation.

4)     Don’t keep it next to your bed or under your pillow. Away, away, away from your head. It’s okay to turn your phone off, especially at night!

5)     Remember, the same rules apply to cordless phones. Get a headset for those, too, or just pick up some corded models. (They’re super cheap at secondhand stores!)

If you don’t have our cell phone issue of the Green American, you can find the whole thing here.

Have you modified your cell phone practices since reading about the dangers? Or are you still skeptical? What have you done to reduce your exposure to cell phone radiation?

Plastic Monday: Say No to “Stupid Plastic”

We just sent our latest issue of the Green American to the printer, so in about three weeks, you’ll be getting “Take the Plastic Challenge” in your mailboxes—or e-mail inboxes, if you’ve signed up to get our publications in digital format. In honor of the editorial team hitting our latest deadline, I thought I’d offer a small sneak peek at our upcoming plastics-centered theme.

When my fellow editors and I started looking into the social and environmental impacts of plastic, we expected to find plenty of things to be concerned about. What we didn’t expect was to be freaking out as much as we are about plastic.

Because once you really start thinking about it, you notice that plastic is EVERYWHERE. As author Susan Freinkel points out in her book Plastic: A Love Story, you probably can’t go five minutes after waking up in the morning without touching something plastic (i.e. alarm clock, glasses, toothbrush, soap dispenser, towel rack, and oh-my-gosh … toilet seat).

There are two big reasons to flip out over how pervasive plastic has become worldwide since Leo Hendrik Baekeland invented Bakelite (the first commercially successful plastic) in 1907:

Continue reading “Plastic Monday: Say No to “Stupid Plastic””