Sunday, March 28, 2010

FIRESIDE CHAT Hudson River PCB Dredging: The Case of the Predictable Waterborne PCB Exceedances

On 28 March recently analyzed Hudson River water samples were reported to harbor PCB levels four times higher than the Federal drinking water standard of 500 parts per trillion (ppt). This news should have surprised no one. Indeed, my analysis of GE’s ‘bucket files’, reported to EPA and released to the public, revealed that the preponderance of sediment disturbed by dredge buckets during Phase I of EPA-mandated Hudson River dredging was left on the river bottom. That is, it was not placed in waiting barges for transport by rail and disposal in Texas (see chart below; click on it to enlarge).

Residual sediments disturbed by dredging are mobile, along with their PCB load. If a full dredge bucket averages five cubic yards, then just about a quarter of dredged sediment was transferred to barges. Some of the remainder flows downstream with the current. The rest falls back to the river bottom, where it exists as loosely agglomerated piles of mud, which river currents erode gradually back into the water column, from which PCBs may enter the air and ecosystems, including migrating fish and birds.

EPA’s website indicates that the turnaround time for GE samples sent to the laboratory for analysis is approximately three weeks, so towns relying on Hudson River water for drinking may have continued to use the tainted water for most if not all of that time. According to Halfmoon Town Supervisor Mindy Wormuth: “Yesterday’s events revealed that EPA was not processing the test results quickly enough for the town to switch to the alternative source prior to the affected water reaching our intake.”

Examination (on 28 March) of EPA’s website for Hudson River dredging data revealed that the reported PCB exceedance was not posted. Indeed, no PCB water sample data more recent than 3 February were posted, nearly two months after sampling. A 29-March Daily Gazette article indicates that the sample was “pulled” on 23 March, and Town officials were notified of the result three days later, whereas the rapidly flowing river would have brought PCBs to the drinking water intake in just about 17 hours. One can speculate about the ambiguities:

--Maybe the turnaround time for analysis of water samples taken "weekly" is more rapid than 21 days indicated on EPA’s website for "baseline" samples, OR

--Maybe the sample was “pulled” from the database (flagged as excessive) on 23 March, after being “pulled” from the river three weeks earlier… in which case residents’ exposure to elevated PCB levels in drinking water would have been three weeks longer.

Hopefully, water sampling now will be more frequent than “weekly,” since unacceptable elevations of PCB have been documented. Of course, the public will not know for how many of the seven days between weekly sampling events PCB levels were elevated, because GE’s EPA-approved Quality Assurance Project Plan (QAPP; 1) calls for weekly rather than daily or continuous water sampling. A related concern is that PCBs in the water generate airborne PCBs from the river surface, but the QAPP requires no ambient air sampling for PCBs at all between dredging phases (except for several air monitors near the dredge spoils treatment facility, located remote from the Phase I dredging corridor).

The enforceable Federal PCB Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL) for drinking water is 500 ppt as reported, but that fact is misleading. For substances that are carcinogens, such as PCBs, the recommended MCL (termed the RMCL) is not 500 ppt, but zero. Zero is not an enforcement level, but it does constitute a guidance level that should inform agency policy regarding activities, such as dredging, that might elevate PCB levels in water.

Literature Cited

1. GE RAM QAPP. River PCBs Site, Phase I Remedial Action Monitoring Program, Quality Assurance Project Plan; Final. Prepared for General Electric Company (GE; Albany, New York) by: Anchor QEA, LLC (Liverpool, New York) in conjunction with Environmental Standards, Inc. (Valley Forge, Pennsylvania) and ARCADIS (Syracuse, New York); 344 pages, i.p., May 2009.

Copyright © 2010 by The Center for Health Risk Assessment and Management, a Division of RAM TRAC Corporation

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Bismuth toxicity

From UPCC, published by the Utah Poison Control Center: Bismuth toxicity was common when soluble bismuth salts were used in the treatment of syphilis and amebiasis. Symptoms included fever, weakness, jaundice, diarrhea, stomatitis, and blackening of the oral mucosa... Between 1973 and 1980 approximately 1000 cases of bismuth related neurotoxicity and over 70 deaths were reported in France... Today bismuth salts are primarily used for the treatment of gastrointestinal (GI) illnesses. Toxicity is uncommon from oral administration of over-the-counter preparations (Table 1) but the potential still exists...
If you are interested in risks potentially posed to human health by exposure to bismuth or its compounds, please click here: TOX-PROFILE: Bismuth and Compounds, CAS No. 7440-35-9 to go to the purchase page for the Bismuth Tox-Profile prepared by Dr. Michaels. This toxicological profile is offered for sale by the Center for Health Risk Assessment and Management.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

NEWS: Chronic beryllium disease from occupational exposure

From the 2010.03.13 TriCity Herald (Tacoma, Washington): KENNEWICK -- The Hanford Advisory Board is questioning whether the Department of Energy is doing enough to protect Hanford workers from an incurable lung disease caused by exposure to beryllium.

If you are interested in risks potentially posed to human health by exposure to beryllium or its compounds, please click here: TOX-PROFILE: Beryllium and Compounds, CAS No. 7440-41-7 to go to the purchase page for the Beryllium Tox-Profile prepared by Dr. Michaels. This toxicological profile is offered for sale by the Center for Health Risk Assessment and Management.

DOE officials in Washington, D.C., are about to launch a review of the Hanford beryllium protection program because of the concerns of some workers.

But by the time that review is finished, three more cases of chronic beryllium disease could be diagnosed if current trends continue, said board member Mike Korenko at a meeting Thursday of the advisory board in Kennewick.

"How can you not look at that data and have adrenaline flowing?" he asked Doug Shoop, deputy manager of the DOE Hanford Richland Operations Office.

Ten months have passed since the advisory board last recommended that DOE improve its beryllium protection program, and since then three more Hanford cases of chronic beryllium disease have been verified. That brings the total with the disease to 32 and the number of workers determined to be sensitized to beryllium to 95, up from 88.

Workers with an allergy-like sensitivity to beryllium are at risk of developing potentially debilitating and fatal lung disease if exposed to fine particles of the metal. Beryllium was used at Hanford in the production of fuel for reactors, among other uses, and particles remain in the dust in some buildings.

If workers test positive for the sensitivity to the metal, their risk of developing chronic beryllium disease may be reduced if they are not further exposed to the metal.

Today the board will consider sending a letter to DOE highlighting its concerns with the program. It also is expected to issue advice that it discussed Thursday, saying that DOE should arrange an independent review of the beryllium program rather than doing it internally.

If DOE does it itself, "it does not pass the snicker test" for affected workers, said Keith Smith, a board member.

When the board sent recommendations to DOE last spring on its beryllium protection program, DOE replied that it was already doing everything suggested, according to the board.

"Unfortunately, status quo is not adequate" given increasing cases of chronic beryllium disease, according to a draft letter the board will discuss sending to DOE today.

DOE could be using easily available techniques to pinpoint the source of beryllium, the draft letter said. That includes questioning sensitized employees about where they have worked to determine potentially undiscovered sources of beryllium.

Many Hanford workers are reluctant to be tested for beryllium sensitivity, the draft letter said. But DOE has not conducted a study to determine the reason employees are not being tested and to find ways to motivate them to be tested, the draft letter said.

DOE needs to be more aggressive in letting retired workers know they may be at risk of chronic beryllium disease, the draft letter said. Some board members believe that most former workers have not heard of the disease.

The board is hoping that a new prevention program that started being used across the site last month will better protect workers, even if further improvements are needed.

Affected workers and union safety officials were directly involved in developing the new program, so DOE believes it will be accepted well by Hanford workers, Shoop said.

It would provide uniform policies among contractors which would better protect workers such as electricians who may move from project to project. It also offers new training and more controls for beryllium, Shoop said.

Last summer, leaders of the advisory board met with Ines Triay, the DOE assistant secretary for environmental cleanup, and told her they were concerned that the recommendations and commitments from two earlier independent reviews of Hanford's beryllium prevention programs had not been implemented, according to the board's proposed advice.

In some cases workers with beryllium sensitivity may still have done work in buldings suspected of beryllium contamination, Smith said.

Triay agreed to review past recommendations and commitments and separately DOE told a group of workers with chronic beryllium disease or beryllium sensitization that there would be an independent review of the Hanford program, according to some board members.

Those commitments have not been met, according to the proposed advice, although DOE is expected soon to send a team from its Washington, D.C., Office of Health, Safety and Security to Hanford to start planning a review of the program.

"That plan does not meet the definition of independent and is not likely to attain the confidence of the work force," said the proposed advice. Some board members also want workers with beryllium disease to have a say on what experts conduct the review.

The board meeting will continue today at 8:30 a.m. at the Columbia Center Red Lion, 1101 N. Columbia Center Blvd., Kennewick. The beryllium issue is planned to be discussed in the afternoon, but could be heard ahead of schedule.

-- Annette Cary: 582-1533;; more Hanford news at

Friday, March 12, 2010

NEWS: Cadmium in children's jewelry

Fears grow over cadmium in children’s jewelry

LOS ANGELES — Federal regulators expanded their efforts Thursday to go after children’s jewelry that contains high levels of the toxic metal cadmium by telling parents to throw away “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer”themed charm bracelets.

The warning from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission came after agency scientists found that the jewelry released alarmingly high levels of cadmium in lab tests, potentially exposing children to a carcinogen that also can damage kidneys and bones.

If you are interested in risks potentially posed to human health by exposure to cadmium or its compounds, please click here: TOX-PROFILE: Cadmium and Compounds, CAS No. 7440-43-9 to go to the purchase page for the Cadmium Tox-Profile prepared by Dr. Michaels. This toxicological profile is offered for sale by the Center for Health Risk Assessment and Management.

The “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” chain-link bracelets were sold at dollar-type stores
between 2006 and March 2009.

The charms feature characters from the classic Christmas movie, including Rudolph and the abominable

— Associated Press

Thursday, March 11, 2010

NEWS: Barium Link to Multiple Sclerosis?

Source: Sage Journals Online © 2008 by SAGE Publications (26/08/08)

Chronic barium intoxication disrupts sulphated proteoglycan synthesis: a hypothesis for the origins of multiple sclerosis
High level contamination by natural and industrial sources of the alkali earth metal, barium (Ba) has been identified in the ecosystems/workplaces that are associated with high incidence clustering of multiple sclerosis (MS) and other neurodegenerative diseases such as the transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSEs) and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).
If you are interested in risks potentially posed to human health by exposure to barium, please click here: TOX-PROFILE: Barium and Compounds, CAS No. 7440-39-3 to go to the purchase page for the Barium Tox-Profile prepared by Dr. Michaels. This toxicological profile is offered for sale by the Center for Health Risk Assessment and Management.


Analyses of ecosystems supporting the most renowned MS clusters in Saskatchewan, Sardinia, Massachusetts, Colorado, Guam, NE Scotland demonstrated consistently elevated levels of Ba in soils (mean: 1428 ppm) and vegetation (mean: 74 ppm) in relation to mean levels of 345 and 19 ppm recorded in MS-free regions adjoining. The high levels of Ba stemmed from local quarrying for Ba ores and/or use of Ba in paper/foundry/welding/textile/oil and gas well related industries, as well as from the use of Ba as an atmospheric aerosol spray for enhancing/refracting the signalling of radio/radar waves along military jet flight paths, missile test ranges, etc.

It is proposed that chronic contamination of the biosystem with the reactive types of Ba salts can initiate the pathogenesis of MS...

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

NEWS: Arsenic and Bladder Cancer Linked?

JR Meliker, et al. Lifetime exposure to arsenic in drinking water and bladder cancer: a population-based case–control study in Michigan, USA. Cancer Causes and Control, 19 January 2010.

Objective. Arsenic in drinking water has been linked with the risk of urinary bladder cancer, but the dose–response relationships for arsenic exposures below 100 μg/L remain equivocal. We conducted a population-based case–control study in southeastern Michigan, USA, where approximately 230,000 people were exposed to arsenic concentrations between 10 and 100 μg/L.
If you are interested in risks potentially posed to human health by exposure to arsenic, please click here: TOX-PROFILE: Arsenic and Compounds, CAS No. 7440-38-2 to go to the purchase page for the Arsenic Tox-Profile prepared by Dr. Michaels. This toxicological profile is offered for sale by the Center for Health Risk Assessment and Management.

Methods. This study included 411 bladder cancer cases diagnosed between 2000 and 2004, and 566 controls recruited during the same period. Individual lifetime exposure profiles were reconstructed, and residential water source histories, water consumption practices, and water arsenic measurements or modeled estimates were determined at all residences. Arsenic exposure was estimated for 99% of participants’ person-years.
Results. Overall, an increase in bladder cancer risk was not found for time-weighted average lifetime arsenic exposure >10 μg/L when compared with a reference group exposed to <1>10 μg/L were similarly not elevated when compared to the reference group (OR = 0.94; 95% CI: 0.50, 1.78).
Conclusions. We did not find persuasive evidence of an association between low-level arsenic exposure and bladder cancer. Selecting the appropriate exposure metric needs to be thoughtfully considered when investigating risk from low-level arsenic exposure.

Monday, March 8, 2010

NEWS: Aluminum and Your Health

The Claim: Aluminum in Antiperspirants Causes Alzheimer's Disease

THE FACTS Is it safe to use deodorant again? About 20 years ago, scientists noticed that the brains of people with Alzheimer's disease had high levels of aluminum, leading many people to discard their pots and pans and shun almost anything that contained the metal - including antiperspirants.

Today, the rumor lives on, but studies have found that there is probably no reason to sweat it.

While no one disputes that aluminum can be toxic, the metal is so ubiquitous that some exposure is inevitable, and many scientists doubt that the trace amounts in antiperspirants pose any danger.


If you are interested in risks potentially posed to human health by exposure to aluminum, please click here: TOX-PROFILE: Aluminum and Compounds, CAS No. 7429-90-5 to go to the purchase page for the Aluminum Tox-Profile prepared by Dr. Michaels. This toxicological profile is offered for sale by the Center for Health Risk Assessment and Management.

Of all the studies that examined the rumor, at least one, in 1990, suggested a possible link. But the study, which compared the habits of 130 patients with the disease to those of a group of healthy subjects, had a serious flaw: It relied on surrogates to answer for the Alzheimer's patients.

More rigorous studies have challenged the aluminum hypothesis. The most recent, published in 2002, followed 4,615 people for several years and found no increased risk of the disease in people who used antiperspirants or antacids, another common source of the metal.

As for aluminum in patients' brains, scientists say this may be a result, not a cause, of Alzheimer's. Dying cells are often unable to eliminate toxins, making them more likely to contain high levels of the metal.

THE BOTTOM LINE Studies suggest that aluminum in antiperspirants is safe.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

FIRESIDE CHAT: Carbon, Energy, and a Fiscally Sustainable US Postal Service

Today, if you want your mail to remain in the post office, you must pay extra for a post office box; but if you want your mail delivered to your home or business, that service is free and, to boot, you don't have to pay for a post office box. Achieving fiscal sustainability of U. S. Postal Service (USPS) operations requires correcting this intrinsically uneconomical business model, and thereby also contributing to environmental sustainability. As illustrated, the USPS business model includes charging for services not delivered, and delivering services not charged. USPS customers should not be charged for post office boxes, that is, for opting out of mail delivery. Close to 150 million home and business addresses receive mail delivery each day, at no charge, and at significant cost to the USPS for labor and energy, and to the U. S. (and planet) for the huge ‘carbon footprint’ associated with use of fossil fuel by postal vehicles. The time has come for USPS to: --1. reduce postage for senders, --2. provide post office boxes for free, and --3. start charging recipients for home or business delivery if they want this service.
for more information: RAM TRAC Corporation
USPS operations, despite rapidly increasing postal rates in recent years, now cost more than income generated from postage. This imbalance has resulted in fiscal losses, and stimulated proposals to cut USPS costs by reducing service, specifically by reducing the number of mail delivery days from six per week to five. This USPS fiscal problem will remain intrinsic to its business model as long as labor and energy costs are recovered by charging mail senders but not mail recipients. The energy cost of postal delivery operations can be and should be recovered via a USPS charge for home and business delivery of mail. This can be achieved via an incremental charge, or by reducing charges to senders while imposing charges on recipients to recover labor and energy costs for home and business delivery.

Accordingly, USPS need not cut home and business mail delivery from six days to five per week. Instead USPS may cut unpaid service from six days to zero days per week. Charging postal customers for home or business delivery potentially can go a long way toward balancing the USPS budget, essentially by requiring them to internalize labor and energy costs that they traditionally have externalized at USPS (and public) expense.

In this scenario, the charge to mail senders would cover the traditional service of USPS delivery of mail to addressees’ post office, where it typically is sorted to a box. Post offices would open all boxes to the public lobby, rather than just those boxes that are paid for by post office box customers opting for in-person pick-up of their mail. Post office boxes would be available for free to all customers. Instead of charging customers for box rentals, USPS would charge for home or business delivery, thereby recovering (at least) the labor and energy cost of delivery.

The resulting charge might be deemed unacceptably onerous for people in the lowest income brackets. Low-income customers also might be especially dependent upon USPS services, because they are least likely to have access to computers and e-mail. This regressive aspect of a home or business delivery charge can be addressed, for example via a tax credit granted annually to low-income customers in the amount of their annual postal delivery charge.

In this manner, USPS customers can decide whether or not the cost of home- or business-delivery is economical in their individual circumstance, or whether in-person mail pick-up is more economical. In-person pick-up might be preferred, for example by people who can walk to their post office, or by people who routinely drive by their post office on their way to or from work. Economics would be enlisted to optimize energy efficiency, in some cases by continuing home or business delivery, in other cases by discontinuing it in favor of in-person mail pick-up.

Copyright © 2010 by The Center for Health Risk Assessment and Management, a Division of RAM TRAC Corporation

Saturday, March 6, 2010

NEWS: Antimony found in juices

Scientists find antimony in juice above EU drinking water limits

By Guy Montague-Jones, 18-Feb-2010

Scientists have found antimony levels in commercial juices and cordials that exceed the EU limit for drinking water and raise concern about leaching from packaging.

Writing in the Journal of Environmental Monitoring, scientists at the University of Copenhagen studied antimony levels in various juices, mainly red fruit juices, packaged in PET bottles, glass bottles and Tetra Pak cartons.

Studying antimony levels is of interest because of concern about the impact of increased exposure on human health and the environment. Of particular concern is antimony trioxide, a suspected carcinogen that is used in the production of PET.


If you are interested in risks potentially posed to human health by exposure to antimony and its compounds, please click here: TOX-PROFILE: Antimony and Compounds, CAS No. 7440-36-0 to go to the purchase page for the Antimony Tox-Profile prepared by Dr. Michaels. This toxicological profile is offered for sale by the Center for Health Risk Assessment and Management.

Acidic impact

Previous studies had found that organic acids are efficient extractants of antimony so Claus Hansen and colleagues at the University of Copenhagen therefore decided to test the hypothesis that more antimony could be present in PET packaged acidic fruit drinks than PET bottled water.

Looking at 42 juice drinks from 16 different brands, the scientists found antimony concentrations above EU limits for drinking water in eight products. The scientists said there are no previous reports of beverages exceeding this limit exist, although no antimony limits exist for foodstuffs so no legislation has been broken.

One of the more striking findings of the study was that highest antimony levels were measured in the juices with the highest carbohydrate content, with cordials containing the most carbohydrate, and most antimony. The scientists suggested that carbohydrate may aid extraction of antimony.

The carbohydrate links supports the hypothesis that leaching from packaging could be to blame for high antimony levels and raises questions about the use of PET to package sugary juice drinks. But the scientists urged caution as elevated antimony levels were observed in juices packaged in PET bottles and Tetra Pak cartons, indicating that antimony could have been present before packaging.

The scientist wrote: “In conclusion, we have measured antimony in juices with up to 17-fold higher concentrations compared to previous reports on beverages in PET-bottles. Trends in the data indicate that the antimony has leached from the packing material; however, it cannot be excluded that the antimony was present prior to packing. Thus, further studies are warranted.”

Source: Journal of Environmental Monitoring
Elevated antimony concentrations in commercial juices
DOI: 10.1039/b926551a (published online 17 February 2010)
C Hansen, A Tsirigotaki, S.A Bak, S.A Pergantis, S Stürup, B. Gammelgaard and H.R. Hansen

Friday, March 5, 2010

NEWS: PCBs found in fish oil dietary supplements

Suit: Fish Oil Contains Undisclosed PCB Levels

Manufacturers' failure to warn violates longstanding California law

By Jon Hood,

March 4, 2010
In the world of over-the-counter dietary supplements, fish oil has attained an unrivaled status. Unlike fad drugs that flame out or quietly disappear, fish oil has steadily grown in popularity. Indeed, in a February poll, more respondents said they use fish oil than a standard multivitamin pill.


If you are interested in risks potentially posed to human health by exposure to PCBs, please click here: TOX-PROFILE: Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs) to go to the purchase page for the PCB Tox-Profile prepared by Dr. Michaels. This toxicological profile is offered for sale by the Center for Health Risk Assessment and Management.

But a lawsuit filed on Tuesday says there's a dark side to the supplements that most consumers aren't aware of: many of them dangerously high levels of PCBs, a chemical linked to birth defects and several types of cancer.

The plaintiffs, led by the Mateel Environmental Justice Foundation and two environmentalists from New Jersey, tested 10 brands of fish oil supplements and found varying levels of PCBs in each; the highest level was 850 nanograms, and the lowest only 12.

But the 10 brands all had something in common: they all contained some level of PCBs, which puts them all in violation of California's Proposition 65. That law, enacted in 1986, requires manufacturers to warn consumers of exposure to “any detectable amount” of a listed chemical, including PCBs.

PCBs are a class of organic compound that were once common in coolant and certain electrical equipment. PCPs were banned by Congress in 1979 -- and by U.N. Treaty in 2001 -- due to their link to melanoma, liver cancer, and brain cancer, among others. Despite their three-decade hiatus from production, PCBs are still present in waterways and, unsurprisingly, in the fish that inhabit them.

Indeed, eating fish is the most common route of exposure to PCBs.

An EPA estimate from 2000 says that eating certain kinds of fish from the infamously PCB-contaminated Hudson River raises the risk of developing cancer to one in 2,500, an amount 1,000 times higher than the EPA's target level. And according to the California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment, PCBs in fish “can reach levels hundreds of thousands of times higher than the levels in water.”

Whether the suit has any significant effect on fish oil sales remains to be seen. Omega-3, the supplement's purportedly beneficial ingredient, is said to reduce the risk of everything from heart disease to depression to Alzheimers.

Among the defendants are Omega Protein – the world's biggest producer of fish oil supplements – General Nutrition Corp, Now Health Group Inc, and CVS and Rite Aid, which sell the supplements.

The Council of Responsible Nutrition, which describes itself as the “leading trade association representing dietary supplement manufacturers and ingredient suppliers,” jumped on the suit as ill-informed and misguided.

“PCBs are ubiquitous within the environment, which means that all fish -- whether fish found in oceans and rivers or fish oil supplements -- contain at least trace amounts of PCBs,” said Andrew Shao, a Senior Vice President of CRN. Shao said that the plaintiffs are “attempting to frame this as a public health concern, when in reality, fish oil has enjoyed decades of safe use.”

Pharmavite, another fish oil supplement manufacturer named in the suit, said that the “magnitude of the science supporting the benefits of consumption of fish oil far outweighs the results of this extremely limited investigation.”