The health effects of diesel emissions can include increased risks for heart attacks, asthma, and early deaths. The Clean Air Task Force is asking states to do more to clean up these emissions. (Photo by Greg Perez)
A new report says the Midwest is one of the most polluted areas in the country when it comes to soot pollution from diesel exhaust. The environmental research and advocacy group The Clean Air Task Force says much
of this pollution could be cut using available technology. The Great Lakes
Radio Consortium’s Elizabeth Braun reports:
A new report says the Midwest is one of the most polluted areas in the country when it comes to soot pollution from diesel exhaust. The environmental research and advocacy group the Clean Air Task Force says much of this pollution could be cut using available technology. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Elizabeth Braun reports:
Three Midwestern states: Illinois, Ohio and Michigan are in the Task Force’s top 10 worst states for diesel pollution. The task force says inhaling diesel soot leads to thousands of heart attacks, early deaths and asthma cases. But, they say the trend can be reversed by limiting the amount of exhaust that’s released into the air.
They say one way to do this is to retrofit schoolbuses to reduce emissions. Renate Anderson is with the American Lung Association. She says children are the most at risk from diesel exhaust.
“School buses… that is a specific danger zone. Children have developing lungs, they tend to breathe about fifty percent more per pound of body weight than adults do.”
The task force also recommends passing legislation to limit how long diesel-engine vehicles can idle. The state of Minnesota has a no-idling policy for school buses, and Illinois lawmakers are currently working on such a measure.
A new report by an environmental group says car companies could be using environmentally safer plastics in their automobiles. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Mark Brush has more:
A new report by an environmental group says car companies could be using
environmentally safer plastics in their automobiles. The Great Lakes Radio
Consortium’s Mark Brush has more:
The Michigan based Ecology Center finds that five out of the six top automakers
in the world get below average grades when it comes to the kinds of plastics
they use in their vehicles. The group says many the plastics in today’s cars
release toxic chemicals.
Charles Griffith helped author the report. He says there is one plastic the
car companies should work to phase out now.
“A good starting point for the car companies would be to commit to phasing
out PVC by the end of this decade. That would be a great place to start and
would send a strong signal that they intend to move in the right direction.”
Griffith says of all the plastics used in today’s cars, PVC plastics pose the
biggest threats to environmental and human health. A spokesperson
representing the automakers says the report is too negative.
He says it
fails to recognize the significant progress car companies have made in
moving toward environmentally friendly plastics.
A government watchdog group says a slew of recent court rulings against the U.S. Forest Service show that the agency isn’t doing its job. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Sarah Hulett reports:
A government watchdog group says a slew of recent court rulings
U.S. Forest Service show that the agency isn’t doing its job.
The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Sarah Hulett reports:
The group Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility – or
PEER – cites 44 cases over the last two years in which the Forest Service violated
environmental laws it’s supposed to enforce. PEER cites an internal Forest Service memo. It details instances in which the agency had to pay attorney fees to environmental groups that
successfully sued over issues like illegal logging and over-grazing on forest lands.
Jeff Ruch is the executive director of PEER. He says during the
Administration, there were only a handful of adverse rulings each year.
“And they’re now losing these cases at a greater rate than two a month. So
roughly every 10 days, the Forest Service is found guilty of violating a law
they’re supposed to be implementing, in a federal court.”
But a spokeswoman for the Forest Service says a closer look at the
shows a different picture. She says almost half the cases cited by PEER were
based on decisions the Forest Service made prior to President Bush taking
For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Sarah Hulett.
Researchers have found a strain of walleye that is adapted specifically to the Ohio River. (Photo Courtesy of the USGS)
Scientists have identified a unique strain of walleye that lives in the Ohio River. The discovery has wildlife officials thinking about the way things were and how they could be once again. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Fred Kight explains:
Scientists have identified a unique strain of walleye that lives in
the Ohio River.
The discovery has wildlife officials thinking about the way things
were and how they could be once again.
The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Fred Kight explains:
Fishing for walleye is a big sport on Lake Erie, but many people do
not know that the fish also live in the Ohio River.
Matthew White is a Biological Sciences professor at Ohio University.
He helped determine that the Ohio River walleye have a different
make-up from those in Lake Erie and other northern lakes.
White says the original walleye species was severed from the other
tens of thousands of years ago when the river that is now the Ohio was
blocked and stopped flowing into Lake Erie.
“These walleye evolved in the river, so they’re well adapted to the
river environment. And these walleye have also survived the 100 years of
abuse that we heaped on the river.”
Armed with this new information, wildlife officials are taking steps
to alter their practice of importing Lake Erie Walleye.
Instead, they’ll use the native species for their stocking program.
A new coating on a road surfaces could lower its freezing point, preventing ice formation. (Photo by Cristian Pricop)
Drivers are testing out a new road coating that could reduce accidents in the winter. And as the Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Stephanie Hemphill reports, it might also mean fewer trips for highway salt trucks:
Drivers are testing out a new road coating that could reduce accidents in the winter. And as the Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Stephanie Hemphill reports it might also mean fewer trips for highway salt trucks:
Russ Alger directs the Institute of Snow Research at Michigan Technological University. He’s come up with an aggregate that can absorb road salt. The aggregate is glued to the road surface with a tough epoxy. Alger says the aggregate can hold onto road salt for an entire season. That means when it gets cold, the salt will prevent ice from forming.
“And so in essence what we’ve done is we’ve lowered the freezing point of the pavement itself, and what that means is, twenty degrees pavement temperature now, ice won’t form at the surface of it.”
It also means road crews can use less salt, and make fewer trips to trouble spots. The new coating was installed on a bridge in Northern Wisconsin. Alger says accidents there have been reduced dramatically. It’s also being tried out on some runways at Chicago’s O’Hare airport.
In Chicago, many migrating birds are attracted by the lights on tall buildings. This attraction causes some birds to crash into the buildings, often resulting in death. (Photo by Lester Graham)
Scientists estimate up to a billion birds are killed every year when they collide into building windows in the United States. Now, a group of bird watchers, biologists and architects are working together… hoping to lower the death toll. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lynette Kalsnes has the story:
Scientists estimate up to a billion birds are killed when they collide into building windows in the United States every year. Now a group of bird watchers, biologists and architects are working together, hoping to lower the death toll. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium Lynette Kalsnes has the story:
If you call the group the Chicago Bird Collision Monitors, you’ll hear this message:
“If you have found an injured bird, please place the
bird gently in the bottom of a brown paper sack. A
grocery bag is just fine. Please put the bag with the bird in it in a quiet, dark place that’s warm. Inside, please.”
That’s the voice of the group’s founder and director Robbie Hunsinger. She’s followed those same instructions herself hundreds of times.
During migration season, in a single night, thousands
of birds fly over Chicago. They are attracted to the
lights on tall buildings and crash into the windows.
Hunsinger and other volunteers get up before dawn so
they can rescue the injured birds before the rats and
gulls get them.
After a morning of picking up injured birds, Hunsinger
has filled her car with brown paper bags containing
hurt swallows and cuckoos. Then, she’s driven up to 3
hours round-trip to get the birds to wildlife
She’s even cared for some of those birds herself.
Hunsinger has filled her music studio with mesh cages
and used up all her dishes for food and water. She says she decided to do something to help the birds three years ago after she saw 80 dead birds one morning in just a small area downtown.
“It was horrendous. Everywhere we looked, there were
birds, and they kept coming down. They were still
hitting when we were out there. So you’re standing
there, and birds were falling out of the sky.”
Hunsinger says she found the fallen birds clustered on
the sidewalks just as the busy city began to wake.
“It was rather surrealistic. Especially as the sun
started came up, and people started coming to work.
People were stepping over birds everywhere. People in
suits, people in high heels, coming in from the train
stations, going to their jobs in the Loop.”
Hunsinger says something changed in her that day. She
says she could no longer be an armchair
So, she formed a group of volunteers to help her save
But rescuing injured birds didn’t seem to be enough.
Now she’s working with biologists, architects and bird-watchers to make buildings safer for birds.
Chicago already asks the managers of its tall
buildings to turn out the lights at night during
migration to avoid attracting the birds. But it’s
become clear that something more has to be done to
prevent so many birds from crashing into the building
This spring, the city and the Chicago Ornithological
Society will host what’s believed to be the first
conference on bird-friendly design. Those who’ve studied it say the problem is that birds
don’t recognize glass.
“The glass surface will act as a perfect mirror.”
That’s biology professor Daniel Klem Jr. of Muhlenberg College in Pennsylvania. He estimates that collisions with windows kill a billion birds a year in the U.S.
“A bird is not capable of determining that that image
on the glass surface is not a real tree. It attempts
to fly to it. Or it attempts to fly to light seen in
the window, as if it was a passageway to safety. And
the bird gets whacked and dies.”
Klem says installing windows at an angle or using
patterned glass can help. So can shades or
decals. Klem’s also pushing for research to develop special
glass or coatings that would be invisible to humans
but visible to birds.
It’s a new field. Limiting bird crashes isn’t part of
building design. Ellen Grimes is an assistant architecture professor at
the University of Illinois at Chicago. Grimes says
architects think about light, heat, power, water and
human traffic, but not bird traffic.
“When architects have approached sustainable design,
it’s been an engineering question. But there has not been a lot of consideration of
the biological interactions.”
Grimes acknowledges the issue of protecting birds
might be a hard sell because it might mean
compromising other design elements. But she’s hoping bird friendly design becomes as much
a part of green buildings as energy efficiency.
The rescue group’s Robbie Hunsinger says we share the
migrating birds with other nations. We have an
obligation to be good stewards of the birds.
“This can be fixed. These our our buildings. And we
should do it. We, by God, should do it.”
Meanwhile. Hunsinger is among a group of bird
watchers pushing for a center in downtown Chicago to
care for injured birds that collide with the building
windows. She’d like to keep the cages out of her home music
studio so she can actually practice music.
Gary Tessier of Team Manitoba works on the team's 16-foot-high snow sculpture in Gatineau, Quebec. (Photo by Karen Kelly)
Denis Vrignon-Tessier uses a spade to carve the outline of a fiddle on the snow sculpture. (Photo by Karen Kelly)
Gary Tessier and Real Berard of Team Manitoba work on a snow sculpture that will depict a fiddler lost in the rapids of the Winnipeg River. (Photo by Karen Kelly)
Every year, snow sculptors from the U.S. and Canada travel
to northern cities to carve huge works of art. They often depict things such as legends of sea monsters and native spirits. As the Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Karen Kelly reports, these artists are driven by a shared passion for the outdoors:
Every year, snow sculptors from the US and Canada travel to northern cities to carve huge works of art. They often depict things such as legends of sea monsters and native spirits. As the Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Karen Kelly reports, these artists are driven by a shared passion for the outdoors:
(sound of chipping and scraping)
Gary Tessier is jabbing a spade into the side of a towering block of snow. He and his team are here to compete in a snow sculpture competition in Gatineau, Quebec. It’s just across the Ottawa River from Ottawa, Canada’s capital. The team has 50 hours to transform this 16 foot high block of snow into a work of art. They work from 8:30 in the morning until 10:30 at night – shoveling, scraping and sawing.
“Basically, fundamentally, you use a good sharp spade and these homemade sander kind of things. A whole variety of tools and uh, it doesn’t take much.”
The team is creating a sculpture based on a legend of a fiddler from their hometown of Winnipeg, Manitoba. The fiddler drowned in the Winnepeg River and the legend has it that people can still hear his music in the rapids. Gary uses the spade to follow the outline of a fiddle drawn in black magic marker on the snow.
“I’m working on one of the what do you call that? La manche… du violin… comment t’appelle ca? The fiddlehead! The fiddlehead. When we’re finished, hopefully it’ll be two fiddleheads and the fiddler surrounded by the water that well, he lost his life in, but went on to forever playing music.”
Gary and his sculpting partner Real Berard have been going to snow sculpting competitions for 25 years. They both work in the arts, Gary as an administrator and Real as an artist. Gary says they spend most of their time indoors, hunched over, working at a desk. Which is why he looks forward to a week outside, even if it’s 30 below.
“This is like a pilgrimage, literally, it clears my mind and clears the body, too, of all kinds of awful things. It’s just a reawakening, like a rebirth every time, it’s beautiful, it really is.”
And on the best days, Gary and Real say, the sculpture takes over.
Tessier: “You’re sort of going with the flow, going with the line and going where it’s going.”
Berard: “Yeah, and you see quite often, like we follow the lines. It seems like a snake. It wants to go someplace and there’s no way that you could… it’s stronger than your mind.”
Tessier: “Sometimes you try and fight it and don’t listen – this is really where this thing has got to go – and then ultimately it doesn’t work.”
Kelly: “That’s when you make a mistake?”
Tessier: “Yup, and it shows.”
Not that they’re that concerned about making mistakes. Of course they want the sculpture to look good, but they say they don’t care about winning, which was tough for Denis Vrignon-Tessier, Gary’s son, to accept. He’s 22 and has been with the team for 4 years.
Vrignon-Tessier: “Like at first, in a competition, I’d be like, ‘Oh, I’m going to be real disappointed if we lose,’ and stuff and then just being with them every year, they’ve just showed me that really, it’s not important.”
Kelly: “So what is it about?”
Vrignon-Tessier: “It’s about being here and spending time with them, just joking around, hearing what they have to say. Yeah.”
In the end, the sculpture has two giant violins. There’s a fiddler kneeling in front of them, playing in a swirl of water.
It doesn’t win.
The judges seem to like the sculptures with lots of details carved on them. But Gary and Real like bold, smooth shapes that will last for a while. And sure enough, after a couple days of freezing rain and warm temperatures, a lot of the detailed work on other sculptures is worn away. But the fiddler and the violins stay strong – ready to play into the spring.
Babies and children are frequently in contact with dust. Some scientists worry that potentially-harmful chemicals found in household dust will result in negative health effects. (Photo by Jason Sellers)
Chemicals that are suspected of being hazardous to human health are being found in household dust. The chemicals are flame retardants used in everything from carpet padding to TV sets. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Mark Brush has more:
Chemicals that are suspected of being hazardous to human health
are being found in household dust. The chemicals are flame retardants
used in everything from carpet padding to TV sets. The Great Lakes Radio
Consortium’s Mark Brush has more:
The chemicals are known as poly-brominated-diphenyl-ethers, or PBDEs.
Scientists already knew that these flame retardant chemicals where found in
food. Now researchers are finding the chemicals, in household dust.
Heather Stapleton is a research chemist at the National Institute of
Standards and Technology. She authored a study recently published by the
American Chemical Society.
“I went out and collected some house dust samples from areas within the
Washington D.C. metropolitan area, and brought these samples back to the lab
and just did a preliminary measurement looking at PBDE’s in the house dust
samples and found surprisingly high levels in the house dust.”
Researchers are most concerned about how the chemicals affect developing
babies. Babies have more contact with household dust than the rest of us.
The chemicals have been found to cause developmental and nervous system
damage in rats and mice.
A new study suggests that air pollution has a significant effect on developing babies. (Photo by Lester Graham)
A recent study indicates expectant mothers who are exposed to air pollution see damage to the genetic make up of their newborns. That might increase the babies’ risk of contracting cancer later in life. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester Graham reports:
A recent study indicates expectant mothers who are exposed to
air pollution see damage to the genetic make up of their newborns.
That might increase the babies’ risk of contracting cancer later in
life. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester Graham reports:
The expectant mothers were asked to carry air monitors in backpacks to see how much they were exposed to air pollutants. The Columbia University researchers chose 60 mothers in low-income neighborhoods. Dr. Frederica Perera is chief author of the study.
“All of our mothers in the study were non-smokers. So, the primary source of these pollutants in air would be things like motor vehicles, emissions from residential heating units, burning fossil fuel and also from power plants located even fairly far away.”
It’s the fist study to make a connection between air pollutants causing genetic changes in the womb that could increase cancer risk. Earlier studies by the researchers already revealed greater prenatal exposure to air pollution caused lower birth weights and smaller heads in newborns.
Annex 2001 is being reviewed by the public, and many are saying they want tougher restrictions on water diversions from the Great Lakes. (Photo by Lester Graham)
Proposed rules on taking water out of the Great Lakes are being re-written …and the new language might be tougher against water diversions. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Chuck Quirmbach reports:
Proposed rules on taking water out of the Great Lakes are being
re-written, and the new language might be tougher against water
diversions. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Chuck Quirmbach
Officials who wrote the first draft of the so-called Annex 2001 rules
say they’ve received 10,000 comments on the proposal in the last
few months. Wisconsin Governor Jim Doyle co-chairs the Council of
Great Lakes Governors. Doyle’s chief aide on the diversion issue ,Todd
Ambs says many of the comments call for stronger water conservation by cities that want Great Lakes Water. Ambs says people
also want the rules to be simpler and tougher against diversions
out of the Great Lakes basin.
“So all those messages have been heard loud and clear by the
group and we’ve been working on a variety of adjustments to the
proposed plan to respond to the public comment.”
The Council of Great Lakes Governors says it’s also heard from farmers
and heavy industries that want to use more water inside the Great
Lakes Basin. Another draft of Annex 2001 could be ready this
spring, to be followed by another chance for people to comment.