Category Archives: Health/Environment

Enbridge Line 9: W5 uncovers unreported spills, alarming communities along 830-km pipe

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Investigation unveils 35 spills along Enbridge’s suddenly controversial 830-km pipeline, many not revealed to communities until now.

By Jessica McDiarmid (News reporter) & Annie Burns-Pieper (CTV W5): February 22, 2014

An aging Enbridge pipeline that runs across Ontario has had at least 35 spills — far more than reported to federal regulators — but many municipalities along its route have never been informed of the incidents, a CTV W5 investigation reveals.

The National Energy Board, which regulates pipelines in Canada, has records of seven spills, while Enbridge told the investigative program there had been 13.

But W5’s analysis of information from the energy board, the company and Ontario’s Ministry of the Environment showed 35 spills associated with the 830-kilometre Line 9. (The Quebec government refused to provide W5 with any information).

The company is seeking federal approval to increase and reverse flow on the 38-year-old pipeline and use it to transport, in part, diluted bitumen from Alberta’s oilsands.

“It’s quite alarming,” said Brian McHattie, a city councillor in Hamilton, where seven leaks over the years have released nearly 3,000 litres of crude oil at company facilities northwest of the city. “This is new information for me.”

McHattie said the information raises concern about what is shared with municipalities. Hamilton staff met regularly with Enbridge officials since the company submitted its application, but none, to McHattie’s knowledge, were ever informed of the spills.

“They just haven’t been very forthcoming with us,” said McHattie. “It just makes you less confident in their integrity as a company and their willingness to share information and be above-board.”

Companies are required only to report hydrocarbon spills to the National Energy Board that are larger than 1,500 litres — equivalent to about 25 tanks of gas in an average car — or could have a “significant adverse effect” on the environment.

Enbridge spokesperson Graham White wrote in an email to the Star that the 13 leaks and ruptures noted in pipeline engineering assessments refer to mainline spills. The remainder were spills at facilities, he wrote.

Ontario’s Ministry of the Environment requires all spills to be reported, both those occurring on the main line and those within associated facilities. The ministry recorded 22 spills between 2003 and 2013. Just one occurred on the main line, spokesperson Kate Jordan told the Star.

Provincial law also requires that all spills be reported to municipalities in which they occur, but there are many exceptions. Spills such as those occurring at company facilities are usually exempt.

Cramahe Mayor Marc Coombs said he first learned of five spills that together leached 1,824 litres of oil when he was contacted by a W5 reporter.

“We were not notified of any of them,” said Coombs. “It does (raise concerns), from the point of view of transparency.”

The Calgary pipeline company raised the ire of Terrebonne, just outside Montreal, when municipal officials learned of a 2011 spill of 4,000 litres at Enbridge’s local facility — more than two years later. The revelation came in the midst of controversial public hearings in front of the National Energy Board.

“Terrebonne was surprised (by) the Enbridge attitude in this file, you know, because according to us Enbridge, as a good corporate citizen, has a moral responsibility to inform the city that a spill was occurring in that sector, a sector where there is a college, professional training centre, sports complex, daycare and several more businesses,” spokesperson Joël Goulet told W5.

Goulet said the company was willing to notify Terrebonne of similar incidents in the future.

Sarnia Mayor Mike Bradley said the city isn’t usually notified when spills are contained within facilities and don’t require municipal staff to be involved in containment or cleanup. He said the city hadn’t heard about the nine spills linked with Line 9 facilities in the past decade — but it should.

“It’s just a good practice to notify, and then we can make our own judgment whether we need to do anything further,” said Bradley. “Just tell us. That’s all we want — to know.”

(read the rest at The Star)

Watch Pipeline War on CTV’s W5.


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Long-banned PCB found in clothing, paints, and paper with yellow pigment

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Long-banned PCB found in clothing, paints, and paper with yellow pigment

Polychlorinated biphenyls, banned in Canada and the U.S. 35 years ago, can leach out of clothing and printed materials

By Brian Bienkowski
The Georgia Straight: February 21, 2014

New, unpublished research has found that traces of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs)—banned in the United States 35 years ago—are leaching out of clothing and printed materials from around the world.

PCB-11 was detected in nearly all samples of paper products sold in 26 countries and clothing sold in the United States. The findings shed some light on how the chemical, tied to yellow dyes, inks, and paints, is finding its way into people’s blood, the air, and waterways.

Because it is an unintentional byproduct of pigment manufacturing, the PCB-11 found in the consumer products is exempt from U.S. laws regulating the compounds.

[In Canada, the federal and provincial governments enacted legislation prohibiting or regulating the manufacture, use, handling, storage, and transportation of PCBs in 1977, 1980, and 1985.–GS]

Levels are “worrisome”

“It’s out there in levels that are worrisome,” said Lisa Rodenburg, an associate professor of environmental chemistry at Rutgers University and senior author of the study.

“Even at the parts-per-billion levels, if you find it in almost everything you test, that means people are in almost constant contact,” she said.

Health effects of exposure to traces of PCB-11 have not been studied. But unlike the old PCBs, it doesn’t accumulate in people or animals. The banned PCBs, which are so persistent they are still contaminating the environment, have been linked to reduced IQs, cancer, and suppressed immune systems.

In the new tests, all 28 samples of non-U.S., ink-treated paper products, including advertisements, maps, postcards, napkins, and brochures, contained PCB-11 in the parts-per-billion range. In the United States, 15 of the 18 paper products had it.

Kids’ pyjamas had high levels

In addition, all 16 pieces of U.S. clothing contained PCB-11. Most were children’s items bought at WalMart stores but manufactured overseas, Rodenburg said. In one kids’ pyjama top, the front, which had yellow printing on it, had 20 times more PCB-11 than the back, which was printed in red.

“PCB 11 is ubiquitously present as a by-product in commercial pigment applications, particularly in printed materials,” the authors from Rutgers University and Boston College wrote in a draft of the study, which has undergone initial peer review and is expected to be published this year.

All PCBs were banned in the United States in the late 1970s because they were building up in the environment and in the bodies of people and wildlife. But byproducts of manufacturing are allowed as “unintentional contaminants”.

(read the rest of the article at


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Quebec train derailment spills 3,500 litres of diesel fuel

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St-Henri train derailment spills 3,500 litres of diesel fuel

CBC: February 23, 2014

Emergency crews are cleaning up after the overnight derailment of a CN freight train near the intersection of Saint-Jacques and de Courcelle Streets in St-Henri spilled around 3,500 litres of diesel fuel.

No one was hurt in the incident but firefighters and Urgence-Environnement had a busy morning trying to recover the fuel, which spilled from one of the train’s two locomotives.

The train was transporting containers full of merchandise and tanks of grain from Halifax to Montreal. Two tankers of grain and both locomotives came off the rails but remained upright.

André Ménard, a spokesman for the provincial environmental emergency agency Urgence-Environnement, told Radio-Canada that around 3,000 litres of fuel were recovered and the other 500 litres were absorbed by the soil without risk to the water supply and sewer system.

The Transportation Safety Board and CN are now investigating the derailment.

“It’s too early to suggest a cause,” said Louis-Antoine Paquin, a spokesman for CN.

(read the rest of the report on CBC)


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Study confirms oilsands tailings seeping into Athabasca River

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Study confirms oilsands tailings seeping into Athabasca River

Environment Canada research has confirmed that water from vast oilsands tailings ponds is leaching into groundwater and seeping into the Athabasca River.

By The Canadian Press: February 20, 2014

New federal research has confirmed that water from vast oilsands tailings ponds is leaching into groundwater and seeping into the Athabasca River.

Previous studies using models have estimated the leakage at 6.5 million litres a day from a single pond.

But the Environment Canada study used new technology to actually fingerprint the mix of groundwater chemicals in the area.

It found the mix of chemicals from tailings is different from that in naturally occurring bitumen deposits.

That tailings mix, which contains toxic chemicals, is found in groundwater around mining operations, but not in areas away from development.

It’s also found in groundwater just underneath the Athabasca River.

(read the full article at The Star)


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Exxon CEO Joins Suit Citing Fracking Concerns

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By Daniel Gilbert
WSJ: February 20, 2014

One evening last November, a tall, white-haired man turned up at a Town Council meeting to protest construction of a water tower near his home in this wealthy community outside Dallas.

The man was Rex Tillerson, chairman and chief executive of Exxon Mobil Corp.

He and his neighbors had filed suit to block the tower, saying it is illegal and would create “a noise nuisance and traffic hazards,” in part because it would provide water for use in hydraulic fracturing. Fracking, which requires heavy trucks to haul and pump massive amounts of water, unlocks oil and gas from dense rock and has helped touch off a surge in U.S. energy output.

It also is a core part of Exxon’s business.

While the lawsuit Mr. Tillerson joined cites the side effects of fracking, a lawyer representing the Exxon CEO said he hadn’t complained about such disturbances. “I have other clients who were concerned about the potential for noise and traffic problems, but he’s never expressed that to me or anyone else,” said Michael Whitten, who runs a small law practice in Denton, Texas. Mr. Whitten said Mr. Tillerson’s primary concern is that his property value would be harmed.

An Exxon spokesman said Mr. Tillerson declined to comment. The company “has no involvement in the legal matter” and its directors weren’t told of Mr. Tillerson’s participation, the spokesman said.

(read the report at WSJ if subscriber)


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Albertans are Abandoning Their Homes Due to Toxic Air

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By Michael Toledano
Vice: February 20, 2014

The pages of Karla and Alain Labrecque’s photo albums reek of bitumen. They’re so soaked with toxic fumes that just looking at their photos makes them ill. The Labrecque’s abandoned their farm near Peace River, Alberta, after emissions from a nearby tar sands operation caused each family member to experience health problems. They were the first of seven families to abandon the area, but others living near the Reno and Three Creeks oil fields are left behind and continue to suffer. The vapours that permeated the Labrecque’s home still cling to all of their old possessions, “right down to pictures or paper, our books, our filing cabinets,” Alain Labrecque said.

After hundreds of complaints from residents and a lawsuit against an oil company, in late January, the industry-funded Alberta Energy Regulator held a public inquiry into local emissions. It took place at the appropriately named Belle Petroleum Centre, and was punctuated by tears and emotional outbursts. Carmen Langer, a rancher living in the thick of Three Creeks’ oil fumes, explained that according to community air monitors “one day of the inquiry we were four times over the [normal] background level of the gas. Everybody went to that inquiry stoned out of their minds and angry.”

After years of toxic exposure, Peace River residents had plenty of anger to vent.

Residents blame bitumen emissions for their seizures and shakes, eye twitches, muscle pain and spasms, numbness, crippling headaches, dizziness, nausea, loss of balance, short and long-term memory loss, slurred speech, slowed thought, loss of hearing, shallow breathing, blackouts, swelling, sinus irritation, metallic taste, no sense of smell, nosebleeds, blood in urine, rectal bleedeing, chronic heart burn, insomnia, inability to stay awake, intoxication, sedation, vomiting, diarrhea, constipation, weeping, weight loss, sweating profusely, hot and cold flashes, and bruising. The exact long-term impacts of exposure are unknown, though detected compounds like benzene and toluene may lead to MS, dementia, Parkinson’s, or cancer.

Worse still, those who sought help have only found corruption. Industry and government mislead them, labs skewed air test results, and doctors refused to diagnose them. The Alberta Energy Regulator oversees Alberta’s oil patch and is “100 percent funded by industry”—it essentially allows Peace River companies to regulate themselves. And living in a town where almost everybody works for the oil industry, those speaking out have become outsiders; they are the bearers of an unpopular truth.

“It is just our opinion that we have come up to a wall of systemic, entrenched corruption—people dedicated to misleading us and stifling the truth,” Vivienne Laliberte, a Reno resident forced to leave her home, testified to the AER. “We have not met one person in government, in industry, and the regulator who has demonstrated a functional conscience.”

The Labrecque’s

Unlike the sprawling open-pit mines and poisonous lakes that have made Fort McMurray’s tar sands infamous, many of Peace River’s operations use wells to bring bitumen up to the surface of the land. It is heated it in tall black canisters that line the horizon, then pumped into trucks or pipelines. This method is called CHOPS—or Cold Heavy Oil Production with Sand. It is the only method currently used in Reno.

Despite claims from Shell and Baytex that their CHOPS operations meet or surpass all applicable regulations, few regulations actually exist for this method. Local oil producers are legally permitted to vent toxic gas into the environment in any non-explosive amount, including known carcinogens like benzene, toluene, and poly aromatic hydrocarbons. Baytex leaves the hatches open on many of their tanks, despite years of requests from the Labrecque’s to close them.

“It is rather appalling to know that ‘within regulations’ means that they can poison my family,” Karla Labrecque wrote in an open letter to Baytex. The company took over oil wells half a kilometre from her home in 2011. Within a year, according to the ERCB, recorded emissions jumped by about 6000 percent.

Andrew Loosley, Baytex’s spokesperson, said that even prior to Baytex’s takeover of the oil field “all gasses associated with that production in the Reno operations [were] vented into the atmosphere,” as is permitted by “all applicable regulatory guidelines.” He attributed the increase in gasses to the fact that the previous company, unlike Baytex, “was not recording their numbers.”

But around the time of this documented increase, the Labrecque’s began to get sick. They initially struggled to identify the source of their illnesses, checking for boiler defects and carbon monoxide in their home. The tar-like smell that hung in the air was an obvious but unsuspected culprit—the family had welcomed their new industrial neighbours without suspicion. “I had this naïve thought like everyone else that the oil industry was strictly regulated, and a nightmare like this taking place was just not possible,” Alain said.

After a few months of exposure, Alain suffered from eye-twitches, back pain, headaches, and muscle spasms. He “would just soak the bed from these toxins at night,” had poor balance and foggy memory, and found it increasingly difficult to operate farm equipment. Karla recalled experiencing “a hollow feeling in the arms, hot and cold flashes, [and a] massive left-side headache,” clarifying that “this is not like a migraine. This is like somebody’s taking a 2-by-4 to your head.” At the height of her illness, she discovered that “if I turned my head too far to the left I could actually make myself pass out.”

Their daughter, then two years old, was unable to keep balance. “She would fall off things—you know, one stair up, she’d fall off it. She’d fall off the couch, she’d fall off the chair when she was just sitting, eating supper,” Karla Labrecque explained.

When they spent time away from their home, the Labrecque’s felt better. They moved away and learned that half-hour visits to the farm would cause each family member’s symptoms to reappear. Karla has become particularly sensitive and finds herself bedridden for a day or two whenever she encounters chlorine, windshield wiper fluid, vehicle exhaust, or her old, petro-chemical-soaked possessions.

Alain’s uncle, Mike Labrecque, needs a gas mask to make it through the town. “As soon as I’m exposed, I lose—I lose everything. I lose my hearing, I lose my balance, my speech. I don’t stutter as a rule; I don’t. I lose my ability to talk, I lose my ability almost to comprehend,” he told the AER.

Before abandoning his home, he lived close to Karla and Alain in a forested corner he described as “a park.” He enjoyed his work as a contractor for Baytex, pushing trucks through mud and snow with a tractor. As Baytex’s emissions made him increasingly ill, he struggled to stay awake while operating the vehicle. One day he told Baytex that he didn’t think he could work safely, so they fired him.

“Everything has to be done in a safe manner so we had no choice,” Baytex’s spokesperson Andrew Loosley said.

Alberta’s health services.

Mike mentioned the oil wells near his home to a doctor. And after retreating a little bit they told him that he didn’t need a doctor, he needed a lawyer instead.

Karla Labrecque sought medical attention and a sinus specialist named Dr. Mel Delacruz became convinced that she was being exposed to an airborne pollutant. When Karla mentioned the oil wells just south of her home, Dr. Delacruz “just told me to move. He said, you are just a small, little bolt in this huge robot and you don’t matter. Move.”

Karla recalled that Delacruz “wasn’t too keen on speaking out” and that he referenced Dr. John O’Connor—a physician who was “dragged through the courts” after linking rare cancers to tar sands mining. When Karla insisted on a blood test to check for petroleum by-products in her body, Delacruz refused. “I’m not even allowed to call for that stuff on a blood test,” she was told. Dr. Delacruz could not be reached for comment.

A few months later, Karla tried again. She demanded a blood toxicity test from the Peace River hospital, alleging that a doctor there also refused to take her blood. When she refused to leave, the doctor called an unnamed government representative to seek permission for the test—a process Karla thought was unusual. Permission was granted, but as the Vancouver Observer reported, the hospital ran a type of blood test that is useless for detecting petro-chemical compounds.

“The doctors won’t help you with your symptoms,” Three Creeks resident Carmen Langer said. “It’s the Alberta way. I mean, when you’re working for the Alberta government are you going to recognize this issue until you’re forced to?”

The Langer Ranch.

Carmen Langer says he’s seen dozens of tanker trucks roll over in his community of Three Creeks, a 20-minute drive northeast of Peace River . He’s convinced that truckers are leaving the oil field “drunker than skunks” after getting high on fumes while filling up their vehicles. He knows this experience well, he drove trucks for the oil industry and sometimes felt impaired behind the wheel.

“It’s just like drugs or alcohol in your body. And then when you come off it there are the same effects as an alcoholic or a junkie has,” Langer said. So when testifying before the AER late January, he understandably had little patience to offer.

“I’m not feeling well because we got severely gassed Sunday morning at our place,” he told the regulators. “And again this morning.”

Though the AER’s inquiry focused on Baytex’s Reno oil field, Carmen told the regulators that “there’s only one company in that area—I have five here with constant emissions.” Three Creek’s oil fields host the operations of Shell, Penn West, Murphy, Husky, and Tervita.

“The bitumen smell is so strong in your house and in your pillow, in your blankets, in your blinds, in your drywall, your mattress—everything is contaminated. I live in a contaminated environment because of this… I lay on my couch; it smells like bitumen. I go to open my blinds; they smell like bitumen,” he testified.

For more than a decade prior to the Labrecque’s becoming ill, Langer has had disputes with local industry. An ex-oil worker, he is extremely critical of how industry operates today.

“As a young guy for me it was a blessing because the jobs were unlimited here … good oil sands jobs,” Langer said. Working for Shell, he maintained facilities, fitted pipes, and served as a safety contractor. Shell trained him to watch for hydrocarbon odours on the job and “to get out of the area” if odours became too strong. “Twenty years ago we couldn’t work in these kinds of conditions, but now I have to sleep in them?” he asked.

Langer’s loud, dissenting voice has brought him some unwanted attention. He claims that he’s been threatened by industry and he is currently the subject of an RCMP investigation. He also worries that he has become detested by some in his community—especially those who aren’t affected.

Different homes get different doses of pollution, he explained, arguing that wind patterns and altitude play a major role in determining who gets sick. His ranch is at a low elevation and traps pollutants until heavy winds disperse them because “emissions are heavier than air,” he said. “As they’re leaving the tanks they’re warm, they go up a little bit, then they cool and they fall into a lower spot… that’s why you could have a neighbour up on a hill a mile away, they would hardly get any of it.”

Langer believes that this uneven distribution of pollutants explains why some residents have a hard time believing those who feel ill. “They think come on, the government wouldn’t do this to you. That’s what the majority of the town thought before this inquiry,” he said.
In early 2012, the Labrecque’s received a confusing letter from Alberta Health Services. It told them that “chemicals associated with unrefined petroleum products were detected in air samples” but that they posed “no immediate or long-term risk to health or safety” based on Alberta’s ambient air quality guidelines. The letter also advised the Labrecque’s to “limit your exposure by closing windows and doors when odours are detected.”

Another of Alberta Health’s suggestions played out like a sick joke: “If you or anyone in your family is concerned about their health, please discuss these concerns with your physician at your earliest opportunity,” the letter said.

Mike had lost a lot of weight from vomiting and diarrhea. He sweated profusely at night, testifying that: “If I lied down… I could watch my chest and I could literally see the water coming out and form little rivers.” His breath was shallow, his voice was hoarse, he had trouble going to sleep and getting up. His speech suffered and he became convinced that he was terminally ill. He thought, “maybe I have cancer or something. ‘Cause I’d look in the mirror and it was scary… I could actually see my bone sockets.”

But despite naysayers, Langer’s activism has helped to make a political issue out of Peace River. When Premier Alison Redford visited the town she met with Langer personally. He asked her to “quit selling this stuff until it’s fixed,” and she promised swift action. Now he’s cynical of the whole affair. He said: “As soon as there’s a ribbon cutting in our town, the rotten sons of bitches run to the ribbon cutting where their name’s prominent and it’s good news, but they couldn’t come and face the people here.” He pointed out that as residents of Peace River poured out their hearts at the AER inquiry, Alison Redford was out of the country, promoting the oil sands at the World Economic Forum. “Why isn’t she here listening to the impacts?” Langer asked the AER.

“I have no choice to go anywhere. We’ve lost our total livelihood, we have no income,” he said. Having formerly won awards for their cattle, the Langers “had to get rid of our herd of cattle of eighty years. It was just so gassy. We couldn’t work anymore, we couldn’t get up in the morning to work anymore, and we couldn’t keep our cattle on their feet.” His vet told him to take his cattle and leave, but Langer pushed the government to test his cows for hydrocarbon exposure. When government scientists came to his farm, they tested the cows for venereal disease instead. Langer even believes that they “falsified” their final report. “They never did test for the fat,” he said, adding “[that’s] the only place you’re going to find the hydrocarbons.”

Langer also voiced concern over a growing Three Creek’s dumpsite of oil sands waste and a practice called “landfarming” that his family fell victim to seventeen years ago.

Landfarming, he explained, is a practice promoted by government and industry, where farmers are encouraged to do something rather illogical—to spread waste from oil wells across their land. It began with conventional crude wells in Southern Alberta, whose drillings contained phosphates and nitrites that worked well as fertilizers. But since that time the nature of oil extraction has changed and bitumen drillings are much more toxic, so after seventeen years and millions of dollars in remediation costs, little will grow on Langer’s farm.

(read the rest of the article on Vice)


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Other Sources of Dangerous Radiation

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Can Hemp, Marijuana and Mushrooms Fix Fukushima? Part 4: Other Sources of Dangerous Radiation

By David Malmo-Levine
Cannabis Culture: February 17, 2014

Hemp, cannabis and mushrooms can be used to clean up and protect us from radioactive pollution and nuclear disasters.

Part 4 of this multi-article work looks at other sources that emit radiation damaging to human beings.

Read “Part 1: What Happened?“.

Read “Part 2: Global Consequences“.

Read “Part 3: The Dangers of Nuclear Power“.

There is a lot of natural radiation out there in the world. This is known as “background” radiation, and it varies a bit depending on where you’re at and what you’re surrounded by. It’s everywhere and there’s not much that can be done about it. But then there’s radiation that we have control over. Optional radiation. Extra radiation.

Some of this extra radiation has been done away with. There was a time when radioactive material was used for everything from cosmetics to candy to paint to mineral water to illuminating the hands on the dials of people’s watches. People started to get sick and die from these products, and we stopped using radiation for some of those things as a result. But we still have a long way to go.

Aside from disasters such as Fukushima and Chernobyl, the other main sources of unnecessary, human-made or optional radiation in our environment are, in no particular order, 1) chemical fertilizers, 2) depleted uranium weapons used by the US in Afghanistan and Iraq, 3) the over-use of radioactive medical and dental examinations and treatments, 4) air travel, 5) cell phones, 6) smoke detectors, 7) airport security scans, 8) microwave ovens, 9) power lines, 10) nuclear weapons tests, and 11) uranium mining, nuclear power production and waste storage.

Chemical Fertilizers

The topic of “radioactive chemical fertilizers” is worthy of an article all to itself. What I have been able to ascertain is that all chemical fertilizers are radioactive (that is to say, they test at higher than background levels of radiation), whereas the vast majority of organic fertilizers are not.

Some researchers suggest that the main reason for lung cancer from tobacco smoking is the radioactive chemical fertilizers – not the tobacco itself. I’m inclined to agree, as the spike in lung cancer rates was twenty years after chemical fertilizers overtook organic fertilizers as the main source of soil amendments for farmers – in the early 1900s – not after the introduction of widespread, heavy use of tobacco – in the 1600s.

The Phillip Morris corporation contemplated switching from what they knew to be very radioactive fertilizers back to less radioactive fertilizers, but they called it “a valid but expensive point” and decided to save a buck and keep giving people cancer instead.

As an interesting side note, nobody who smokes cannabis has gone on to get lung cancer from smoking cannabis! And smoking cannabis has shown to have some sort of “slight protection against the harmful effects of smoking tobacco”, according to a study of long-term users in Costa Rica.

Depleted Uranium

According to the Wikipedia entry for “Gulf War syndrome”;

Gulf War syndrome (GWS), also known as Gulf War illness (GWI), is a chronic multisymptom disorder affecting returning military veterans and civilian workers of the Persian Gulf War. A wide range of acute and chronic symptoms have been linked to it, including fatigue, muscle pain, cognitive problems, rashes and diarrhea. Approximately 250,000 of the 697,000 veterans who served in the 1991 Gulf War are afflicted with enduring chronic multi-symptom illness, a condition with serious consequences. … According to a report by the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, it showed that veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan may also suffer from the syndrome.

The same page then goes on to dismiss the possibility of depleted uranium being the cause of GWS. However, the Wikipedia page for depleted uranium tells an entirely different story. The evidence that depleted uranium accounts for the symptoms of GWS is mounting. The evidence that littering Iraq and Afghanistan with DU weapons has led to an increase in cancer is also mounting.

According to a researcher who managed to pin-point the devil in the DU details,

… a number of prestigious institutions have published disinformation on the hazards to health of depleted uranium weapons. These include WHO, IAEA, the European Commission, the Royal Society in the U.K., the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry in the U.S., the Rand Corporation, and the Health Physics Society [10,11,12,13,14,15,16]. All concluded that weaponized uranium creates no adverse health effects when internalized by soldiers on the battlefield and downwind populations. Justification for this conclusion came from a survey of the scientific literature regarding uranium contamination among workers in the uranium and nuclear industries and populations exposed to elevated levels of uranium in their drinking water. Historically, the only two types of adverse health effects documented among these populations is altered kidney function due to uranium’s chemical toxicity and cancer due to uranium’s radioactivity. But studies of veterans suffering from Gulf War Syndrome reveals no evidence of kidney disease. And according to models promulgated by the International Commission on Radiological Protection (ICRP), the radiation dose from battlefield uranium is too low to initiate cancer. The conclusion? Case closed! DU cannot be a factor in the severe suffering of veterans or the increased incidence of cancer and birth defects in Fallujah and other areas of Iraq. As convincing as the logic of these studies attempt to be, they all suffer from fatal flaws. They all fail to acknowledge that combustion-derived micro- and nano-sized particles of uranium have unique biokinetics when internalized that are not comparable to historical types of uranium exposure, and they quite cleverly fail to take into account the most up-to-date research on the toxicology of uranium. New research conducted since the first Gulf War has demonstrated that uranium is genotoxic (capable of damaging DNA), cytotoxic (poisonous to cells), mutagenic (capable of inducing mutations), teratogenic (capable of interfering with normal embryonic development) and neurotoxic (capable of harming nerve tissue). This research has yet to dislodge the stale mantra that uranium is only capable of causing kidney disease and cancer.

It appears as though the same obfuscation engaged by the nuclear power industry regarding the hazards of nuclear power is also utilized by the nuclear weapons industry – the DU weapons industry – regarding the hazards of DU. They even use the same institutions – the WHO and the IAEA – to do the obfuscating for them. At least one researcher has wondered aloud if DU weapons is simply a plan to appear to get rid of radioactive waste, since there is no real way to safely store it – not that littering it all over battlefields across the world really “gets rid” of it.

(read the rest of Part 4: Other Sources of Dangerous Radiation at Cannabis Culture)


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Nuclear site whistleblower fired after complaining about safety conditions

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RT: February 19, 2014

The termination of a safety manager from a Washington state nuclear facility this week marks the second time in four months that a whistleblower was fired from there after speaking out.

Donna Busche, 50, was fired Tuesday morning by URS Corp, a federal subcontractor hired by the United States government to build a $12.3 billion plant that will make glass from the waste being held at the old Department of Energy-owned Hanford Nuclear Reservation in the southeastern part of the state. Construction of the plant is currently on hold because of safety concerns, and the facility has been previously referred to as the most-polluted nuclear weapons production site in the US.

Busche’s termination this week comes nearly five years after she first started working at the plant. Most recently she was employed there as a manager of environmental and nuclear safety at the facility’s construction site, and directed a staff of 140 engineers, scientists and technicians, according to the Los Angeles Times, often raising concerns about safety issues at Hanford during her half-decade tenure. Now she says her willingness to speak honestly about her work there is what got her into trouble.

URS says they had cause to terminate Busche, and told her it was due to “unprofessional conduct.” She is already speaking out about the matter, though, and says she lost her job because her employer wanted to retaliate in response to comments she made publically about the plant in the past.

Busche has been vocal for years about conditions at Hanford. In October 2010 she testified before the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board, an independent federal agency, and made remarks about Hanford contrary to those offered by her superiors at the Department of Energy. She later said she was “openly admonished by former DOE Assistant Secretary Inés Triay for her testimony,” and the following year filed a complaint of discrimination with the Department of Labor alleging her employer retaliated against her for reporting problems at Hanford. The Labor Department is currently considering that complaint, while the Department of Energy has been tasked with investigating the safety claims made by Busche before her termination.

Walter Tamosaitis, a colleague of Busche’s who also raised safety concerns about the plant, was fired last October from URS after 44 years of employment. On Tuesday, Busche told the Associated Press that she has expected for a month now that she would be the next to go.

“We raised technical issues and have received harassment, retaliation. The fact that he was terminated, it sent a resounding message to me, right? And heightened my sense of awareness that I was probably next,” she told CBS News last year after her co-worker was removed from the job.

(read the full report at RT)


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New Leak: 100 tons of toxic water leaked at Fukushima plant

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100 tons of toxic water leaked at Fukushima plant

RT: February 20, 2014

Around 100 tons of highly radioactive water leaked from one of the tanks at Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, the plant’s operator, Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) said on Thursday.

The water reportedly spilled beyond the barrier that is set up to block it from flowing out of tank. TEPCO believes the leakage has not reached the adjacent sea, as there is no drainage nearby that flows out to the sea.

A process to stop the radioactive leak is underway. The spill is said to contain 230 million becquerels per liter of strontium and other beta ray-emitting radioactive substances.

The leak was discovered by workers on patrol at around 11:25 p.m. local time on Wednesday.

It is the latest in a series of leaks that TEPCO has struggled to control at the stricken nuclear power plant. According to previous statements from the company, as many as 20 trillion becquerels of cesium-137, 10 trillion becquerels of strontium-90 and 40 trillion becquerels of tritium have found their way into the sea by way of groundwater leaks between May 2011 and August 2013.

TEPCO has been at the center of a storm of criticism over its management of Fukushima in the wake of the 2011 earthquake-triggered tsunami that decimated the plant. Last week it was revealed that TEPCO had held back reports of dangerously high radiation levels at the plant since September.

Last Thursday the company announced it detected 5 million becquerels per liter of radioactive strontium-90 in a groundwater sample taken some 25 meters from the ocean as early as last September, Reuters reports. The legal limit for releasing strontium into the ocean is just 30 becquerels per liter.

(read the full report at RT)


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WikiLeaks and the Release of the Secret TPP Environment Report

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By Martin J. Frid
The Asia-Pacific Journal: January 27, 2014

WikiLeaks has done it again – made available important documents that governments and corporate interests have tried to keep secret from the general public. Until this new release, we had almost no idea what was going on within the secret Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations involving an extraordinarily diverse group of 12 large and small as well as rich and poor nations of East and Southeast Asia, Australasia, and North and South America. The twelve are Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the United State and Vietnam, with the US driving the agenda. South Korea and Taiwan have also indicated that they may want to join. This time, we get a glimpse of the status of the Environment Chapter with important implications for the people and nature of the region. Wikileaks Press Release

In this cartoon accompanying the release, WikiLeaks shows Mickey Mouse crossing his fingers while promising that “Of course, the environment is in the TPP!” Note the corporate logos symbolizing Texaco and Apple, while the (usually copyrighted) Disney character is singing his merry tune to the crowd of birds and geese (or are they ducks?) representing environmental organization. Crossing fingers can mean wishing for luck but, of course, it also signifies breaking a promise. How appropriate.

We have been told by its proponents that TPP is about reducing and eliminating “trade barriers” and making the world a better place, at least for countries that sign up for this deal. Critics of TPP have responded that it will destroy small-scale agriculture, tighten the corporate grip over intellectual property rights and subvert democratic rule-making. Many people have participated in large-scale protests, including in Japan. It has been difficult, however, to discern the nature of the agreement, since documents have been kept hidden from the general public throughout the protracted negotiations.

In 2010 when the debate about TPP as another Free Trade Agreement started in earnest in Japan, long-term trade critic Yamaura Yasuaki noted: “First of all, we note the negative results that FTA has brought. Examples include environmental destruction and the effect on wildlife as tropical forests have been cut down for palm oil production, and worsening conditions for factory workers as developing countries compete to increase exports at the lowest possible price. From many regions, there are also worrying reports of how staple food production has been sacrificed to export-oriented food production. Moreover, large investments and the expansion of financing have led to deprivation and debt in developing countries. Deregulation and free trade is also the main factor behind the collapse of the industrial order here in Japan, and we consider it directly responsible for deteriorating labour conditions.”

By early 2014 observers were wondering whether significant progress was indeed being made, and what direction TPP would eventually take. How would this trade pact influence obligations to protect the environment and health? Since this is not being negotiated in a transparent way, would the new trade regime undermine efforts to deal with climate change and loss of biological diversity? Enter WikiLeaks on January 15 with the release of a very important report from the chair of one of the many working groups, dealing with the Environment Chapter. WikiLeaks has previously released other documents, including an earlier draft of the Chapter on Intellectual Property Rights, that the US had proposed, which the other countries rejected. The IP Chapter has been seen as a being so contentious that it was holding up the entire process. Now we learn that there is just as much controversy surrounding the Environment Chapter.

TPP has been billed as an ambitious, 21st-century trade agreement. To live up to this, environmental organizations including the World Wildlife Fund and the Sierra Club have insisted that any new trade rules set up a mechanism for dealing with trade in products such as timber or species of animals or plants that are considered rare and near extinction. And many international treaties and conventions have been carefully negotiated elsewhere (usually under United Nations auspices) to make the world a better place by safeguarding the environment. Would TPP overrule these other treaties and conventions? Or might it establish better, more effective environmental protection? The Wikileaks revelations provide the first clear answers to these questions.

One problem is that the United States, the driving force in the negotiations, has not ratified several of the most important recent treaties pertaining to the environment, including the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) or the UN Climate Change Convention (FCCC). Another problem is that TPP involves both developed and developing economies, with different priorities.

(read the full article at The Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus)


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Doctors unsure what’s behind dramatic increase in birth defects in rural Washington

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RT: February 17, 2014

As state and federal officials document the alarming rise of deadly birth defects in rural Washington, health experts are at a loss when it comes to pinpointing the source of the problem.

In the three years prior to January 2013, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found there had been 23 cases of anencephaly – a birth defect in which a child is born without parts of their brain or skull – reported in three Washington counties: Benton, Franklin and Yakima. This rate of 8.4 cases per 10,000 live births quickly attracted the attention of health officials, especially since it’s four times the national average

Anencephaly wasn’t the only severe birth defect confirmed by the CDC, however. Three cases of spina bifida were also uncovered, a condition that involves the failure of a baby’s spine and brain to develop properly.

Since the publication of the report last year, another eight or nine cases of anencephaly and spina bifida have been reported by Susie Ball, a counselor at the Central Washington Genetics Program.

The most worrisome aspect of the whole situation isn’t simply the increased rate of the defects, but the fact that no one is quite sure what’s causing the problem. According to a report by NBC News, the CDC inspected the medical records of hundreds of individuals, looking for disparities between mothers whose children suffered birth defects and those whose children were fine.

Despite examining disease history, the types of medication taken, the source of the water used by mothers, and other factors, the research ultimately yielded disappointing results.

“No statistically significant differences were identified between cases and controls, and a clear cause of the elevated prevalence of anencephaly was not determined,” the CDC report stated.

While some experts, such as the CDC’s Jim Kucik, speculate that the cluster of defects could simply be an unfortunate coincidence, others pointed out that since the investigation did not include interviews of the mothers due to lack of funds, crucial information could have been missed.

“If there were resources, it really would be wonderful to go back to the families to conduct more intensive interviews regarding common environmental exposures,” Allison Ashley-Koch, a professor at the Duke University Medical Center for Human Genetics, told NBC.

Ashley-Koch went on to note that considering the three affected Washington counties contain a significant agricultural presence, the anencephaly cases could be linked to prolonged exposure to pesticides or mold. If the pesticides used in the area contain nitrates, it’s possible they could be playing a role.

(read the full article at RT)


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Excessive radiation levels detected at New Mexico waste site

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By Laura Zuckerman

(Reuters) – Underground sensors have detected excessive radiation levels inside a nuclear waste storage site deep below New Mexico’s desert, but no workers have been exposed and there was no risk to public health, U.S. Department of Energy officials said on Sunday.

An air-monitoring alarm went off at 11:30 p.m. local time Friday indicating unsafe concentrations of radiation inside the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in what DOE officials said appeared to be the first such mishap since the facility opened in 1999.

As of Sunday, the source of the high radiation readings had yet to be determined, and a plan to send inspection teams below ground to investigate was put on hold as a precaution.

“They will not go in today. It’s a safety thing more than anything. We’re waiting until we get other assessments done before we authorize re-entry,” DOE spokesman Bill Mackie said.

The facility, located in southeastern New Mexico near Carlsbad, is designed as a repository for so-called transuranic waste, which includes discarded machinery, clothing and other materials contaminated with plutonium or other radioisotopes heavier than uranium.

The waste, shipped in from other DOE nuclear laboratories and weapons sites around the country, is buried in underground salt formations that gradually close in around the disposal casks and seal them from the outside world.

No workers were underground when the apparent radiation leak was detected in the vicinity of the plant’s waste-disposal platform, and none of the 139 employees working above ground at the time was exposed, the Energy Department said.

The alarm automatically switched the underground ventilation system to filtration to keep any releases from reaching the surface, DOE officials said.

Subsequent testing of surface air in and around the facility showed the incident posed no danger to human health or the environment, Mackie said.

Air-monitor alarms at the facility have been tripped in the past by malfunctions or fluctuations in levels of radon, a naturally occurring radioactive gas. But officials said they believe this to be the first real alarm since the plant began operations.

(Read the full article at Yahoo)


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TEPCO reveals record cesium level in Fukushima No. 1 well

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RT: February 14, 2014

A record high level of radioactive cesium has been found in groundwater beneath the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, it’s operator TEPCO revealed.

On February 13, Tokyo Electric Power Co. reported 37,000 becquerels of cesium-134 and 93,000 becquerels of cesium-137 were detected per liter of groundwater sampled from a monitoring well earlier that day.

Water samples were taken from the technical well, located next to the second power unit, some 50 meters from the coast. These figures (the total reading) are the highest of all the cesium measurements taken previously.

Experts do not rule out that radioactive water is leaking from an underground tunnel, which is located close to the second power unit on the seashore.

However, no exact reason for such a significant increase of radioactive cesium content in the groundwater has been given so far.

Japanese newspaper The Asahi Shimbun reported that the amount of radioactive chemicals seems to be increasing. On Feb. 12, the same sampling well had produced a combined cesium reading of 76,000 becquerels per liter.

Earlier Japan’s nuclear regulator slammed the stricken Fukushima plant operator for incorrectly measuring radiation levels in contaminated groundwater at the site.

The Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) accused TEPCO of lacking basic understanding of measuring and handling radiation almost three years since the reactor meltdowns at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

On Thursday, fears of new leaks surfaced in Japanese media, as the same newspaper reported two cracks in a concrete floor of the No. 1 facility near radioactive water storage tanks.

(read the full report at RT)


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Revealed: TEPCO hid dangerous Fukushima radiation levels for months

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RT: February 13, 2014

Japan’s Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO) is again in the midst of controversy for failing to timely report on record radiation levels at the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant. It is now blasted for holding back strontium measurements since September.

TEPCO on Wednesday revealed that it detected 5 million becquerels per liter of radioactive Strontium-90 in a groundwater sample taken some 25 meters from the ocean as early as last September, Reuters reports. The legal limit for releasing strontium into the ocean is just 30 becquerels per liter.

Although the reading was alarmingly five times the levels taken at the same spot two months prior to that, TEPCO decided not to immediately report it to the country’s nuclear watchdog. That is despite Strontium-90 being considered twice as harmful to people as Cesium-137, which was also released in large quantities during the meltdowns at the Fukushima Daiichi plant in March 2011 caused by powerful earthquake and tsunami.

According to a TEPCO spokesman cited by Reuters, the decision was due to “uncertainty about the reliability and accuracy of the September strontium reading,” which prompted the plant’s operator to reexamine the data.

However, Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) officials say no data came up until now despite repeated demands to TEPCO.

“We did not hear about this figure when they detected it last September. We have been repeatedly pushing TEPCO to release strontium data since November. It should not take them this long to release this information,” Shinji Kinjo, head of the NRA taskforce on contaminated water issues at Fukushima, told the agency.

Top NRA officials, including the watchdog’s chairman, have lashed out at TEPCO for “lacking a fundamental understanding of measuring and handling radiation” while responding to the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster.

“This is not an appropriate way to deal with the desire of the public [for transparency] and in particular, the regulator, which is now very closely regulating issues related to public health, the environment and so on,” Martin Schulz, a senior research fellow at the Fujitsu Research Institute, has said.

On Thursday, fears of new leaks surfaced in Japanese media, as Asahi Shimbun reported two cracks in a concrete floor of the stricken Fukushima No. 1 facility near radioactive water storage tanks. Some contaminated water from the melting snow may have seeped into the ground through the cracks stretching for 12 and 8 meters, TEPCO said.

(read the full report at RT)


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Chemicals again spill into West Virginia water

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Can’t catch a break? Chemicals again spill into W. Virginia water

RT: February 12, 2014

A coal preparation facility breached Tuesday, sending over 100,000 gallons of coal liquid waste leaked from a West Virginia coal preparation facility and into the nearby water supply, officials have announced.

The West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) opened an investigation into a coal slurry spill Tuesday morning. The slurry is made up solid and liquid waste that is created as a by-product of the coal mining process. While officials are unsure exactly how much of the waste leaked into a tributary of West Virginia’s Kanawha River, although one source told the West Virginia Gazette there is already “a significant environmental impact.”

West Virginia American Water, the company responsible for the Kanawha Valley Water Treatment Plant, issued a statement Tuesday saying that the leak is not expected to impact the public water supply.

If that proves true, it will be a relief to West Virginia residents who only weeks ago endured a massive chemical spill that spilled crude 4-methylcyclohexanemethanol (MCHM) from a Freedom Industries plant into the Elk River, another tributary of the Kanawha River. The spill occurred on January 9 near the primary West Virginia American Water intake plant and left 300,000 citizens across nine counties without water for weeks.

(read the full report at RT)


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Fukushima radiation levels underestimated by five times – TEPCO

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RT: Published February 08, 2014, Edited February 10, 2014

TEPCO has revised the readings on the radioactivity levels at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant well to 5 million becquerels of strontium per liter – both a record, and nearly five times higher than the original reading of 900,000 becquerels per liter.

Strontium-90 is a radioactive isotope of strontium produced by nuclear fission with a half-life of 28.8 years. The legal standard for strontium emissions is 30 becquerels per liter. Exposure to strontium-90 can cause bone cancer, cancer of nearby tissues, and leukemia.

Tokyo Electric Power Co. originally said that the said 900,000 becquerels of beta-ray sources per liter, including strontium – were measured in the water sampled on July 5 last year.

However, the company noted on Friday that the previous radioactivity levels had been wrong, meaning that it was also likely reading taken from the other wells at the disaster-struck plant prior to September were also likely to have been inaccurate, the Asahi Shimbum newspaper reported.

The Japanese company has already apologized for the failures, which they said were a result of the malfunctioning of measuring equipment.

TEPCO did not mention the radioactivity levels of other samples of both groundwater and seawater taken from between June and November last year – which totaled some 140.

However, the erroneous readings only pertain to the radiation levels measured in water – readings taken to measure the radiation levels in air or soil are likely to have been accurate.

In the basement of the station, the drainage system and special tanks have accumulated more than 360,000 tons of radioactive water. The leakage of radioactive water has been an ongoing problem in the wake of the accident at the Fukushima-1 nuclear power plant.

TEPCO also said on Thursday that 600 liters of contaminated water – which had 2,800 becquerels of beta-ray sources per liter in it, leaked from piping leading to a tank at the Fukushima nuclear plant.

A record high level of beta rays released from radioactive strontium-90 was detected at the crippled Fukushima nuclear power plant beneath the No. 2 reactor’s well facing the ocean, according to the facility’s operator who released news of the measurements mid-January.

TEPCO measured the amount of beta ray-emitting radioactivity at more than 2.7 million becquerels per liter, Fukushima’s operator said as reported in the Japanese media.

(read the full report at RT)


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