Green-News: Saturday 7.26.08

"This is a product that we don't believe meets our high standards for the general population, particularly for small children who are more sensitive," said James Gulliford, EPA associate administrator for the office of prevention, pesticides and toxic substances. "While there is little exposure today [to the pesticide], we don't think there's a need, a reason for any exposure."

A million pounds of carbofuran are applied each year in the United States, affecting less than 1 percent of the nation's farmed acres, according to the EPA, but it is used more heavily in developing countries on crops including rice, bananas, coffee and sugar cane. The EPA had indicated earlier this year that it would not apply the ban to imported food, but yesterday it said it will.

"This could have major ramifications around the world, as there are many countries that export rice, coffee and bananas to the U.S.," said Michael Fry, director of conservation advocacy for the American Bird Conservancy. "It's one of the most widely used pesticides in the world."
Charging for plastic bags at the supermarket works--people really do bring their own. Ten weeks ago Marks & Spencer instituted a 5 pence (10 cents) charge on plastic bags at its stores. Since then customers have used 70 million fewer bags. That's an 80% decrease in use. Who would have thought! These are among the first statistics showing the impact of banning bags and they are impressive. At the same time, the company has sold ten million of its own store-brand hessian green bags-for-life; donating the 1.85pence profit made on each one to Groundwork, an environmental charity--$400,000 so far.


The British Government, in its upcoming Climate Change Bill, has given the other big supermarkets until next April to switch over to charging. If they don't do it, the Government will set a mandatory fee for bags. A representative of British supermarkets has called this move "a steamroller to crack a walnut". Environmentalists are concerned that the over-packaging of food is a much more important issue--one the Bill does not address.
  • Granite countertops are growing in popularity, but the increased demand means deeper mining for granite—that sometimes digs up uranium! More from Kate Murphy of The New York Times:
“It’s not that all granite is dangerous,” said Stanley Liebert, the quality assurance director at CMT Laboratories in Clifton Park, N.Y., who took radiation measurements at Dr. Sugarman’s house. “But I’ve seen a few that might heat up your Cheerios a little.”


Allegations that granite countertops may emit dangerous levels of radon and radiation have been raised periodically over the past decade, mostly by makers and distributors of competing countertop materials. The Marble Institute of America has said such claims are “ludicrous” because although granite is known to contain uranium and other radioactive materials like thorium and potassium, the amounts in countertops are not enough to pose a health threat.

Indeed, health physicists and radiation experts agree that most granite countertops emit radiation and radon at extremely low levels. They say these emissions are insignificant compared with so-called background radiation that is constantly raining down from outer space or seeping up from the earth’s crust, not to mention emanating from manmade sources like X-rays, luminous watches and smoke detectors.
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Tiffany Daniels - July 30, 2008 1:15 PM

We understand why homeowners would be alarmed by this story, but the Marble Institute of America would like to assure people that research shows granite countertops pose no threat. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Consumer Reports and repeated independent studies have shown granite countertops pose no health hazard.
--EPA stated Friday: “EPA has no reliable data to conclude that types of granite used in countertops are significantly increasing indoor radon levels.” (http://iaq.custhelp.com/cgibin/iaq.cfg/php/enduser/std_alp.php)
--University of Akron researchers found no threat. (www.marble-institute.com/industryresources/radontesting_u-akron2008.pdf
--An independent scientific analysis of a variety of studies shows that, accounting for normal airflow in the typical home, radon contributed by granite countertops ranges from 0.01 – 0.02 pCi/L – levels that are 200 to 400 times lower than the EPA guideline of 4 pCi/L.

By some measures, the amount of radon emitted by a granite countertop is less than one millionth of that already present in household air from other sources. Many granite countertops do not emit radon at all, and those treated with sealant reduce emissions even further.

Tiffany Daniels
Cohn & Wolfe on behalf of the Marble Institute of America

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