Thursday, August 4, 2011

Chemicals & Chemical Byproducts In The Great Lakes

Aug 4: A study released by the Alliance for the Great Lakes takes a hard look at the existing data on chemicals and chemical byproducts in the Great Lakes, and at what science tells us that could mean for our health. According to a release, the discovery of pharmaceutical byproducts in Lake Michigan and more recently, Lake Erie, is raising concerns about the potential health risk to the more than 40 million who rely on the Great Lakes for drinking water -- as well as concerns about what else might be circulating in the water. 

    The Alliance indicates that more troubling is that "these pharmaceuticals represent just a fraction of the chemical contaminants that make up what some researchers look upon as a vast chemical soup stretching from Minnesota to New York." The study reports that many emerging contaminants are found in the Great Lakes today, among them flame retardants, modern pesticides, pharmaceuticals, the antibacterial and antifungal agent Triclosan, and the insect-repellent DEET. The now-notorious bisphenol A (BPA), commonly used in a wide variety of plastics such as baby bottles and food packaging, was found in more than half the water samples analyzed in all the studies to date.

    The report, Emerging Contaminant Threats and the Great Lakes: Existing science, estimating relative risk, and determining policies, says there's too little data from the lakes and not enough understanding of the effects of these emerging contaminants. "What is known, it concludes, is worth worrying about." Dr. Rebecca Klaper, Shaw Associate Professor at the Great Lakes WATER Institute in Milwaukee and lead author of the report said, "Exposure to some of these chemicals . . .  is cause for consternation for people and concern over fish and wildlife impacts." 

    The Alliance is calling for legislation to reform the federal Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), the 1976 law from which EPA derives its authority to require reporting, record-keeping and testing of chemical substances. Among the needed reforms they are calling for: Grant the EPA administrator the ability to act immediately on chemicals we know are dangerous, such as persistent and bioaccumulating toxics, asbestos and formaldehyde; Require chemical manufacturers to provide basic information on the health and environmental hazards associated with their chemicals, and grant the public full access to information about a chemical's safety; and Ensure chemicals meet a standard of safety for all people -- including children, pregnant women and workers.
    There are currently nine co-sponsors to a bill introduced by U.S. Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) which they said "calls for a comprehensive approach to managing chemicals." The Safe Chemicals Act of 2011 (S.847) would increase chemical safety, curb emerging contaminants from entering the environment in the first place, and address chemicals that are persistent, bioaccumulative and toxic. The following five Great Lakes senators are co-sponsoring the legislation: Dick Durbin (D-IL), Al Franken (D-MN), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Amy Klobuchar, (D-MN), and Chuck Schumer (D-NY).
    Access a release from the Alliance and link to the complete report, executive summary and fact sheet and (click here).

New App Provides Beach Water Quality & Information

Aug 4: The Great Lakes Commission (GLC), in partnership with LimnoTech and the Great Lakes states, has developed a smartphone application that provides more options and opportunities for public access to beach advisories and other environmental information. Funded by the U.S. EPA-led Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI), the myBeachCast application (app) provides the public with real-time information on beach water quality advisories, weather and water conditions in a form that is location-aware and easy to access. The app allows users to discover local beaches based on the user's location, save favorite beaches, and quickly locate other nearby beaches in the case of a water quality advisory at their favorite beach.

    Currently in the beta testing phase, the app retrieves advisory and closure data from the states of Michigan, Indiana and Ohio, all of which utilize BeachGuard, a centralized reporting database for monitoring data collected by health departments across each state. Data from the other Great Lakes states will be incorporated in time for the app's full launch in May 2012. The app was designed for the Android platform by LimnoTech, a water resources and engineering company based in Ann Arbor, MI, in partnership with GLC and the states. A mobile-enhanced website available on the Great Lakes Information Network will offer complementary information for other mobile devices. Funding is being sought to develop a corresponding native app for the iPhone.
    Access a posted release on the app with contact information (click here). Access the myBeachCast app (click here). Access the BeachGuard for more information (click here).