Kids Asthma Rates Increase Near Traffic

Cars and trucks are Americans’ favorite way to get around. But a study that’s the first of its kind in the U.S. suggests children’s health might be suffering from our love affair with the automobile. The GLRC’s Shawn Allee has our story:

Transcript

Cars and trucks are Americans’ favorite way to get around. But a study
that’s the first of its kind in the U.S suggests children’s health might be
suffering from our love affair with the automobile. The GLRC’s Shawn
Allee has our story:


The University of Southern California studied kids who live near busy
roads and freeways. They found they were fifty percent more likely to
develop asthma than kids who lived farther away.


Professor Rob McConnell co-authored the work. He says homes aren’t
unique. Other places, such as school playgrounds, could pose risks if
they’re near roads, too.


“I think there’re some practical implications for parents or for physical
education teachers in terms of having children exercise away from a
major road.”


McConnell says studies of children in Europe back up his own
conclusions.


Environmentalists say the findings confirm their suspicion that decades
worth of clean air regulations haven’t gone far enough.


For the GLRC, I’m Shawn Allee.

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Group Releases Cosmetics Safety Database

Anyone who slathers on lotions, deodorants, and shampoos can now search an online database to find out how safe those products are for their health. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Sarah Hulett reports:

Transcript

Anyone who slathers on lotions, deodorants, and shampoos can now search an online
database to find out how safe those products are for their health. The Great Lakes Radio
Consortium’s Sarah Hulett reports:


The Environmental Working Group looked at the ingredients of more than 14,000
products, and it rated the safety of those products by matching their ingredients with
government listings of toxic chemicals. Consumers can search the database by product
type or by brand name.


Jane Houlihan is vice president for science at the Environmental Working Group. She
says the database is important because federal regulators in the U.S. leave safety testing
up to the cosmetics industry.


“What we have right now is a system where individual companies have the ability to
decide what’s safe enough to sell. We don’t have a national safety standard for cosmetics.
So safety really varies widely.”


Some of the products that have raised health concerns include dark hair dyes – which
some scientists have linked to bladder cancer, and there are concerns that chemicals used
in nail polishes could cause birth defects in baby boys.


For the GLRC, I’m Sarah Hulett.

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Cleanup of Toxic Sites in Limbo

Monsanto has agreed to clean up one contaminated site of hundreds that need to be cleaned up. The toxic site cleanups have been in limbo because of a recent bankruptcy. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Tom Weber explains:

Transcript

Monsanto has agreed to clean up one contaminated site of hundreds that need to be cleaned up.
The toxic site cleanups have been in limbo because of a recent bankruptcy. The Great Lakes
Radio Consortium’s Tom Weber reports:


Monsanto contaminated this one site in southern Illinois with dioxins, PCB’s and other toxic
chemicals for 40 years.


Legal questions arose because Monsanto created a company called Solutia in 1997. Solutia took
responsibility for Monsanto’s chemical clean ups. But Solutia went bankrupt last year. And it
refused to clean any of the 300 sites across the country while in bankruptcy.


Glenn Ruskin is a Solutia spokesman. He says Solutia can’t clean up the site, but Monsanto’s
decision to do so offers hope for people who live at the other sites.


“It just indicates that there are parties out there who are still in existence that are willing and able
to do that clean up.”


The matter is even more complex because much of Monsanto was bought by Pharmacia. Pfizer
then bought Pharmacia.


A bankruptcy judge will ultimately decide who has to clean which sites.


For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Tom Weber.

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Poultry Farmers Protect Flocks From Avian Flu

Poultry farmers in the Midwest are taking extra precautions after the discovery of avian flu among chickens in Pennsylvania and Delaware, but there are some things the industry can’t control, as the Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Tracy Samilton reports:

Transcript

Poultry farmers in the Midwest are taking extra precautions after the discovery of avian flu
among chickens in Pennsylvania and Delaware. But there are some things the industry can’t
control, as the Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Tracy Samilton reports:


Most commercial poultry farmers practice state-of-the-art biosecurity because of what’s at stake.
Some avian flu is relatively harmless, but if a lethal variety breaks out, the farmer’s entire flock
has to be destroyed. So birds are isolated from contact with visitors and delivery trucks, and
workers frequently change clothes and disinfect their shoes.


Paul Wiley is with Michigan State University’s agricultural extension service. He says
that’s not the case with city émigrés to the country who raise chickens as a hobby.


“The first thing they want to have is two horses, the second thing they want is some kind of flock
of poultry, and they are clueless about poultry!”


Wiley says more backyard flocks could threaten the health of the large commercial flocks. Still,
he says the situation is not nearly as bad as in some Asian countries. There, birds are sold live at
markets, which brings them into frequent contact with people, other birds and wild animals.


For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Tracy Samilton.

Epa Examines Midwest Insulation Processing Plants

The EPA is investigating more than two dozen insulation plants around the country that processed a dangerous form of ore called vermiculite. Five of the plants are in the Midwest. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Tracy Samilton reports:

Transcript

The EPA is investigating over two dozen insulation plants around
the country that processed a dangerous form of ore called vermiculite.
Five of the plants are in the Midwest. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s
Tracy Samilton reports:


The processing plants converted an ore called vermiculite into insulation,
which was then shipped to millions of homes in cold areas of the country.
The vermiculite was laced with mineral fibers that can cause asbestosis and
lung cancer. The government is investigating if plant workers and people
who lived near the plants are at risk of becoming ill from exposure.
Early results from a plant in Illinois found that workers were at higher
risk, but not nearby residents.


Dr. Michael Harbut is an expert in occupational medicine. He says the investigation is long
overdue.


“This is a serious enough danger that the EPA is actually in the process of removing vermiculite
from some attics in some areas the country.”


Some of the processing plants have been shut down, but others have been
converted to other uses. The government plans to make sure those plants
are safe, and locate former workers to assess their health.


For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Tracy Samilton.

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Study Finds Rural Living Unhealthy

A new study from Canada finds people living in rural and northern areas are in worse health than their urban counterparts. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Karen Kelly reports:

Transcript

A new study from Canada finds people living in rural and northern areas are in worse health than
their urban counterparts. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Karen Kelly reports:


The study found rural Canadians have higher rates of obesity, depression, high blood pressure,
and even asthma.


Statistics Canada based its findings on interviews with 130,000 Canadians.


It blames lifestyle differences, such as the greater number of rural smokers.


But Jill Konkin, president of the Society of Rural Physicians of Canada, says a lack of health care
is also responsible.


“Rural areas tend to have people who are poor, they have less access to not just medical care, but
the prevention-promotion part of medicine. There’s less access to all sorts of just community
resources.”


Konkin’s group is one of many calling on the Canadian government to recruit more health care
workers into rural areas.


For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Karen Kelly.

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New Contaminants in the Lakes?

The U.S. EPA is launching studies to look at a new class of chemicals that is being found in water and fish. So far, very little is known about these so-called emerging contaminants – including whether they’re dangerous to human health. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Tracy Samilton reports:

Transcript

The U.S. EPA is launching studies to look at a new class of chemicals that is being found in water
and fish. So far, very little is known about these so-called emerging contaminants – including
whether they’re dangerous to human health. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s
Tracy Samilton reports:


The new chemicals include PBDE’s, used as flame retardants, and PFOS,
which are used in Teflon and other products. One study will look
at the levels of the chemicals in Great Lakes fish. Another will test
water in Lake Michigan for their presence. Canada is doing tests in the
other Great Lakes.


Melissa Hulting is an environmental scientist with the U.S. EPA. She says it’s a mystery how
PFOS in particular have spread so fast.


“People thought they were fairly inert and they would
stay put and what we’ve found is, they haven’t. They’re being found in
the Arctic and in remote areas.”


While the EPA studies the levels of the chemicals in fish and water,
Hulting says other researchers are trying to figure out if the chemicals
are harmful to human health – and if so, at what level they are dangerous.


For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Tracy Samilton.

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Concern Grows Over Flame Retardant Chemicals

A class of potentially toxic chemicals, known as PBDEs, is being found in higher levels in people in North America. The chemicals are used to prevent fires in everything from couch cushions to televisions. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Mark Brush has more:

Transcript

A class of potentially toxic chemicals, known as PBDE’s, is being found in
higher levels in people in North America. The chemicals are used to prevent
fires in everything from couch cushions to televisions. The Great Lakes
Radio Consortium’s Mark Brush has more:


PBDE’s are used extensively throughout North America. In Europe and Asia
the chemicals are hardly used at all for this purpose. To date, four studies have
indicated that North Americans have considerably higher levels of the
chemicals in their bodies, than do Europeans and Asians. The most recent
study tested the breast milk of 47 women in Texas.


Linda Birnbaum co-authored the study published in the journal Environmental Health
Perspectives. She says while these chemicals were created to save lives,
other chemicals should be developed that won’t be absorbed by human tissue:


“Personally I’m concerned about chemicals that persist and bio-accumulate.
They eventually get to a point be that they can be a problem.”


Some animal tests have shown that the chemicals can be toxic. That’s why the
European Union and the state of California enacted a ban on certain types of PBDE’s.


For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Mark Brush.

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Used Tires Dumped in Low-Income Neighborhoods

Some low-income suburbs of major metropolitan areas are dumping grounds for used tires. But who’s dumping the tires continues to stump the authorities. In one state, authorities hauled off more than 40,000 used tires last year… and more keep showing up. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Jenny Lawton has this report:

Transcript

Some low-income suburbs of major metropolitan areas are dumping grounds for used tires. But
who’s dumping the tires continues to stump the authorities. In one state, authorities hauled off
more than 40-thousand used tires last year… and more keep showing up. The Great Lakes Radio
Consortium’s Jenny Lawton has this report:


Today’s job is a small one — inspectors from the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency
have been called in to remove about 3-thousand tires buried in an overgrown junkyard in a remote
corner of Blue Island, a suburb south of Chicago.


The state is paying for this clean-up, because tires are more than a nuisance, they’re a public
health problem.


This unpenned junkyard is overgrown with weeds and swarming with mosquitoes.


State EPA tire inspector George Skrobuton swats a big one from his elbow as he directs his crew.


“You’ve got all these tires here right now. They’re mixed between mattresses, garbage, clothes,
trash, leaves… See what they do is they get these tires out of the trees, the bushes, and the trash –
and they put them in a nice big pile, and they load the piles into the truck – it’s easier that way.
So, I mean, we’ll do the best we can, we’ll try to get every tire off the ground, if possible. And
hopefully, it’ll stay this way.”


The head of a back-hoe pushes aside a heap of garbage and its jaws close on a pile of almost a
dozen tires. Water streams from the knot of rubber as its lifted and dumped into an open semi
truck.


Skrobuton and his team have been called in to remove thousands of tires across the state, piles left
by rogue transporters who are paid to take them away, but pocket their fee instead of taking them
to be processed legally.

Some speculate the dumpers come from as far as Indiana to dump semi-truck-loads of the tires
under the cover of darkness.


Because these tires are on public land, Skrobuton’s team is cleaning them up for free as part of the
state EPA’s tire removal program.


But Skrobuton says this is a problem that just won’t go away.

“We can’t keep cleaning up these tire sites – it costs a lot of money. Y’know especially out here in
the south suburbs, I mean, there are so many forest preserves, and nooks and crannies like this,
that they could dump tires forever. And we don’t know where they’re coming from and that’s a
problem. Y’know, and unlesss they catch them in the act, we’re stuck with this problem.”


Over the last two years, dumpers left over 35-thousand tires in suburban Dixmoor.


With a population of less than 4-thousand, this poor suburb doesn’t have the money to remove the
tires… or fund a police force to keep the dumpers at bay.


So dumpers left their loads in alleys, vacant lots, even behind a school for years.


Village trustee Jerry Smith says the town was helpless until the state EPA came in and removed
all 18-truck-loads of tires last month.


“It’s just horrible, y’know – you go out there one day and it’s clear. And then you come back the
next day, you got 10,000 tires facing you. Well, what are you going to do with them? You can’t
pay the money to dispose them because you don’t have the money to dispose of them. There’s
nothing in our budget we got in there to dispose of tires what’s been dumped. So it’s just a burden
on us.”


But the state EPA’s Todd Marvel says the town had to move the tires because they’re a health
hazard.


He says the mounds of used tires draw more dumpers. And when tires catch fire, they produce a
toxic smoke, and Marvel says spraying water on them just makes things worse.


“So when that tire burns and you put that water on it, you’ve got a pretty contaminated run-off
there, a very oily run-off. And any surface water that’s in the area can be immediately
contaminated if that oily sheen is not contained properly.”


And, of course, there are mosquitoes. Marvel says each tire off its rim can breed thousands of
them, so these dumps are a breeding ground for West Nile.


Because of health concerns in the past, the state started a program to help get rid of these tires.


The state’s used tire clean-up program was created as a way to get the tires out of the state’s
junkyards, and into a useable industry.


People who purchase tires in Illinois pay a fee of $2.50 for each tire, new or used, which goes to
fund clean-ups and put back into the state’s used tire industry.


Most of the tires are shredded and mixed with coal to burn in power plants. Shredded tires can
also be used as the surface for everything from football fields to highways to playgrounds.


Marvel says the program has been so successful, Illinois’s demand for used tires actually exceeds
its generation rate.


“In fact, Illinois is a net importer of used tires. And the state of Illinois is constantly looking at
other markets and developing those markets to ensure that all of the used tires that we generate
and that all of the used tires that we clean-up through the dumps throughout the state have
someplace to go.”


But not all the tires end up where they’re supposed to go. Even though dumpers charge the fees
to process them properly, some of them steal the money and dump them in places such as
Dixmoor.


Dixmoor trustee Jerry Smith says once the tires show up in his town, they don’t have the money
to process them.


He says one company quoted him a price of $6 a tire. Multiply that by thousands.


So for now, he’s hoping the state EPA’s clean-up will last the town a long time.


Although the state EPA has offered Dixmoor support for added surveillance, Smith says a few
well-placed boulders and barricades seemed to do the trick.


Until last week, when 15 truck tires showed up in an alley.


Smith is cautiously optimistic this most recent find won’t multiply overnight.


“Let’s hope not. (laughs) I hope not. I really hope they don’t.”


But Dixmoor’s a small town and can’t afford a large enough police force to stop all the dumpers.


That means, chances are, abandoned tires will start showing up in back alleys and vacant lots
again soon.


For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Jenny Lawton.

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