Scientists have found that microwave popcorn could be a source of a chemical that might cause cancer in humans. The GLRC’s Mark Brush has more:
Scientists have found that microwave popcorn could be a source of a chemical that might
cause cancer in humans. The GLRC’s Mark Brush has more:
(sound of microwave popcorn)
Alright, I like microwave popcorn too, and I don’t like where this study is going, but the
Food and Drug Administration found that the grease-resistant coating inside microwave
popcorn bags can get into the popcorn oil. The coating is made with chemicals similar to
those found in non-stick pots and pans.
Tim Begley is a research chemist with the FDA. He was the lead author on a study
published in the journal Food Additives and Contaminants:
“A microwave popcorn bag is a very, very, very extreme situation, because of the heat
generated on a microwave popcorn bag.”
He’s talking about 400 degrees in just a minute or two. The chemicals used to make the
grease resistant coatings can break down into a suspected carcinogen known as PFOA,
but Begley stresses it is not known whether people are exposed to PFOA after eating a
bag of microwave popcorn. He says more study is needed.
It’s that time of year when the sound of lawnmowers and weed whackers fills the air. A tree expert says trees that are bumped by mowers or scraped by string trimmers can be seriously damaged or killed. The GLRC’s Fred Kight has the story:
It’s that time of year when the sound of lawnmowers and weed whackers fills the air. A
tree expert says trees that are bumped by mowers or scraped by string trimmers can be
seriously damaged or killed. The GLRC’s Fred Kight has the story:
If your trees could talk, they might be saying “keep that lawnmower away from me!”
Trees that are wounded by lawn equipment become vulnerable to disease, decay and
insects. Urban Forester Ann Bonner says often just one swipe with the trimmer can slice
into a young tree’s thin bark, killing it in no time:
“Some easy ways to protect your trees would be plant shrubbery, or ground covers,
flowers around the base of your trees, or simply mulch them. Planting mulch around
your trees not only will keep the grass away, but it will also help moderate the moisture
and climate extremes that are pretty common.”
Another way to protect trees from lawnmowers and string trimmers is to place plastic
tubing around the base. For the GLRC, I’m Fred Kight.
Officials say a disease might be killing an invasive species of fish in Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River. The GLRC’s David Sommerstein reports:
Officials say a disease might be killing an invasive species of fish in Lake
Ontario and the St. Lawrence River. The GLRC’s David Sommerstein
Where the lake and the river meet, people have been finding dead round
“Dozens in some cases, hundreds of dead gobies that have been washing up on shores.”
Steve Litwiler is with New York’s Department of Environmental
Conservation. He says a change in water temperature or a poison could
cause the die-off, but initial sampling suggests some kind of disease.
“Is it a disease that could potentially affect other fish? Fortunately right
now the only fish that are dying appear to be the round gobies.”
If only the round gobies die, this could be a good news story. Round gobies
hitched a ride from Europe in the ballast of foreign freighters. They’ve
displaced native species across the Great Lakes by breeding faster and eating
other fishes’ eggs and young.
Researchers have studied where a very rare bird spends the summer, but now they’re learning they might need to pay more attention to where it spends the winter. The GLRC’s Rebecca Williams reports:
Researchers have studied where a very rare bird spends the summer, but
now they’re learning they might need to pay more attention to where it
spends the winter. The GLRC’s Rebecca Williams reports:
The Kirtland’s warbler is one of the rarest songbirds in North America.
It spends the summer near the Great Lakes, mostly in Michigan, and the
winter in the Bahamas. The bird’s been on the endangered species list
since 1966. Efforts to control predators and manage habitat in
Michigan have helped the warbler recover, but scientists haven’t known
much about what the warbler needs in winter.
Dave Ewert is the director of conservation science for the Nature
Conservancy’s Great Lakes program. He says his team’s research
indicates that warblers are fattening up on fruit right before they
leave the Bahamas in the spring.
“So if we can identify these sites that produce a lot of food just
before migration, we think that may be a really important key for
conservation implementation in the Bahamas in the future.”
Ewert says the team will need a few more years of research before
recommending specific sites to preserve in the Bahamas.
Millions of ash trees are being killed by a tiny green beetle called the emerald ash borer. Some people say all those dead trees shouldn’t be considered waste, so they’re recycling the trees into lumber.
The GLRC’s Rebecca Williams has more:
Millions of ash trees are being killed by a tiny green beetle called
the emerald ash borer. Some people say all those dead trees shouldn’t
be considered waste, so they’re recycling the trees into lumber. The
GLRC’s Rebecca Williams has more:
Most of the time, when cities cut down their dead ash trees, they chip
up the trees and have them hauled away. Some people are trying to find
uses for the lumber from the trees instead.
Jessica Simons is with the Southeast Michigan Resource Conservation and
Development Council. It’s a nonprofit group that’s giving out grants to
promote the use of ash wood. Simons says cutting ash logs into lumber
can sometimes save cities money, because they can cut back on the cost
of chipping up and hauling away the trees:
“They’re also aren’t paying for lumber for other city projects because
they’re just paying for that wood to be milled and then they have all
the wood they need for projects like park benches or picnic tables or
sideboards for their trucks.”
Simons says because it’s a relatively new concept some cities have had
trouble finding room to store all of the lumber they’ve made from the
trees, but she says the idea’s still starting to catch on, as cities
look for ways to cut costs.
Sometimes tackling environmental problems is not as simple as rounding up volunteers and getting to work. Obstacles get in the way. In one big city, bird lovers face heavy traffic while getting injured birds to the vet. So, they’re bringing the vet a little closer to them. The GLRC’s Shawn Allee has the story:
Sometimes tackling environmental problems is not as simple as rounding up volunteers
and getting to work. Obstacles get in the way. In one big city, bird lovers face heavy
traffic while getting injured birds to the vet, so they’re bringing the vet a little closer to
them. The GLRC’s Shawn Allee has the story:
It’s early morning and Annette Prince is scouring bushes beneath high rise office towers. She’s dodged downtown traffic for several hours now, hunting for birds; specifically,
ones that have flown into windows. Prince pulls her latest find out of a paper sack.
“This is a woodcock.”
“What do you see with the head trauma there?”
“He’s bleeding from his mouth. This bird impacted a building when we were
watching it a few minutes ago. He flew right into the glass and he died
There are survivors, though. Prince stowed some in her green mini van.
Paper sacks hold another woodcock and a tiny, grey-feathered bird called a junco.
“Both were found after they hit a building this morning. They’re resting in the bags
and they’re going to rehab where they’ll receive an evaluation by a wildlife
rehabilitator to decide what kind of treatment they need and what they’re potential
is to be released.”
Injuries such as skull fractures need quick treatment, but when Prince and others find injured birds, their options are limited. The nearest wildlife rehab center is twenty-five miles away from downtown Chicago. In heavy traffic, the drive takes a while.
“People have indicated a great desire to step up and help whenever they can. Up
until now, we’ve had to tell them there wasn’t any place they could take the birds
they found, short of having to drive for more than an hour. And many city residents
can’t. They either don’t have cars or that’s too far a distance.”
But if you can’t get birds to the vets at the rehab center maybe you can bring the vets
closer to the birds. A new bird hospital’s opening near downtown, where people can
reach it by bus or a short cab ride.
Dawn Keller runs a rehab center in a Chicago suburb, and soon she’ll oversee the new
downtown hospital. She says when she’s finished the city will have its own miniature avian ER for immediate
“We’ll be moving in things such as scales, so we can weigh the birds when they come
in, so we can properly dose the medicine. We’ll be bringing in cages, refrigerator,
food supplies, all of the things that we’ll need to properly care for the birds.”
Keller says, birds with the most serious injuries will recover out in her suburban rehab
center. The bird urgent care center isn’t just good for birds, it’s good for volunteers. Keller says area bird watchers bring in about nine hundred birds a year, and sometimes
the volunteers are overwhelmed especially during peak migration times.
“Our peak day, I think was about 127 in one day. We put in a lot of hours on those
days; those are pretty much sleepless nights.”
Keller says, the sleepless nights and long drives through traffic out to the rehab center
add up to volunteer fatigue.
She hopes the convenience of a closer hospital will keep more volunteers on board. Wildlife rehab experts say the Chicago hospital’s part of a trend; professionals are getting
help closer to the problem and making it easier on volunteers. Elaine Thrune directs the National Wildlife Rehabilitators Association. She says most wildlife care centers are small and heavily rely on volunteers.
“Even at a center you have some staff, but the actual hands-on care of feeding the
birds or assisting the veterinarian is done by volunteers.”
Thrune says rehab centers face a location conundrum. Volunteers rescue wildlife in cities or suburbs, but rehab centers and professional staff
are often in far away, rural areas. That’s because injured animals recover best when they’re away from noise and people,
but Thrune says rehab centers are experimenting. They’re opening intake centers in popular spots, like shopping malls.
“It’s a convenient place for people to bring things and to drop them off. And it’s a
good place for a veterinarian or a trained rehabilitator to examine them
immediately and then do what’s necessary.”
Thrune says the drop-off centers are like hospital triages; staff patch up the easy cases
quickly. Then, animals with more serious injuries recover out in the country. The
Chicago bird watchers and wildlife rehabbers are betting on this strategy. They say they’ll need to if they’re to keep the current stable of helpers, and they hope
with the convenience of the nearby downtown center more people will scour near
downtown Chicago for injured birds.
Homeowner Frank Wydra watches as logs from 16 of his ash trees get turned into lumber. All of the ash trees close to his house had to be cut down after they became infested with emerald ash borers. (Photo by Rebecca
Chris Last and his son Kurt operate their portable sawmill. (Photo by Rebecca Williams)
This pile of newly-milled ash lumber will be covered with a tarp and left outside to dry before being finished into cabinets or furniture. (Photo by Rebecca Williams)
Homeowners and cities are losing many of their big, beautiful shade trees. An invasive insect called the emerald ash borer is killing ash trees in Michigan, Ohio, and Indiana… and making neighboring states worried. About 15 million ash trees are dead or dying, leaving behind enormous bills. The GLRC’s Rebecca Williams reports some people are trying to ease the loss by salvaging lumber from their dead trees:
Homeowners and cities are losing many of their big, beautiful shade
trees. An invasive insect called the emerald ash borer is killing ash
trees in Michigan, Ohio, and Indiana… and making neighboring states
worried. About 15 million ash trees are dead or dying leaving behind
enormous bills. The GLRC’s Rebecca Williams reports some people are
trying to ease the loss by salvaging lumber from their dead trees:
(sound of birds chirping)
The emerald ash borer ruined Frank Wydra’s summer plans. His 10 acre
lot is full of ash trees… more than a hundred. Wydra built an
elaborate shade garden underneath a cluster of ash trees, right next to
his brand new house. Right around the time he and his family were
ready to move in… they noticed the trees were looking sick.
“They were here when we bought the property and we sort of built the
property, the house around these trees. I had no alternative but to
cut these down, because they were so close to the house.”
Wydra says he’s losing a lot more than a shady backyard. He says the
emerald ash borer is costing him at least 10-thousand dollars. That’s
the cost for cutting the trees down, grinding the stumps out… and
planting new trees. But there’s one part of that cost he’s not too
upset about: the 100 dollars an hour he’s paying to have his dead ash
trees milled into lumber.
(sound of portable sawmill at work and running under)
“It’s got a very close grain that allows you to mill it without too
much trouble. It’s nice stuff. I wish I hadn’t built all my
Frank Wydra’s already got more board feet of ash piled up here than he
knows what to do with. But he says he’d rather pay to have the logs
turned into something he can use than pay to have them hauled away.
Wydra hired a company called Last Chance Logs to Lumber. Chris Last
brings his portable sawmill to sites like this one, and with some help
from his family members, he loads the logs onto the sawmill and slices
the bark away.
(sound of rolling logs under)
“We’re required to take at least a half inch below those two layers,
you’ll see as we open this up… just the characteristics of the log will
determine that… usually we take off more than that.”
By stripping away the bark and a half inch of the wood beneath the
bark, Chris Last is making sure none of the emerald ash borers will
Researchers have found that carefully debarking ash logs is one way to
make the wood safe to use.
Chris Last created his business four years ago, shortly after the ash
borer was first identified as the pest killing trees in the upper
Midwest. Since then, he says some of his customers have gotten pretty
“The neatest thing is a gentleman that was an architect, when he had
the tree cut down he left the log standing for about 10 feet, and what
he ended up building was an old English cottage house on top of this
stump. I guess he reads up there, but it’s beautiful, it’s absolutely
gorgeous, every bit of it, every stick is made out of ash.”
Last says he’s seen a church craft new pews from their ash trees, and
he’s worked for cities that have built picnic tables from ash, but for
the most part, homeowners and city officials are just starting to
figure out how to use the lumber from their dead trees.
Jessica Simons is with the Southeast Michigan Resource Conservation and
Development Council. It’s a nonprofit group that’s giving out grants
to promote the use of ash wood. Simons says the idea’s catching on,
but there are some real obstacles.
“To be honest, it can be a tricky proposition. What’s easier: go to
Lowe’s and buy lumber, or to have your dead trees removed, hire a
sawmill, have the mill come out, allow wood to dry and then be able to
finish it into a product.”
But Simons says milling ash trees into lumber can sometimes save money.
Right now, most homeowners and cities chip up their dead trees and have
the chips hauled away. Both of those steps cost money. Simons says by
milling trees on site, you can cut back on the disposal costs and end
up with wood for a new dining table or a bunch of park benches.
Jessica Simons points out that not all parts of the ash trees can be
turned into products. She says most of the ash wood waste from
Michigan and Ohio gets trucked up to a co-generation plant in Flint,
Michigan, where the wood chips are burned to generate electricity.
Simons says that is a good use for the lower-value parts of the trees,
like stumps or branches.
“But the only thing we’ve argued throughout this is that a number of
great logs were in that wood as well, and when you think about the
value that wood can have as lumber or a higher value product like a
railroad tie, it’s worth much more than what a truckload of fuel is
Simons admits re-using dead ash trees won’t cut back a lot on the
tremendous costs that homeowners and cities are bearing to deal with
the ash borer, but she argues that turning ash trees into flooring or
furniture could generate a little bit of money instead of just adding
another line onto the bill.
A coalition of environmental groups is urging the Food and Drug Administration to regulate nano-technology. The coalition wants to start with a recall of sunscreens that use nano-materials. The GLRC’s Lester Graham reports:
A coalition of environmental groups is urging the Food and Drug
Administration to regulate nanotechnology. The coalition wants to start
with a recall of sunscreens that use nanomaterials. The GLRC’s Lester
Nanotechnology uses materials as small as a protein molecule… about
one 80-thousandth of the width of a hair. The consumer advocates and
environmental groups say the use of nanomaterials has not been tested
for safety for human use or their impact on the environment.
George Kimbrell is the one of the groups, the Center for Technology
“We’re asking the agency to look into those effects as well, that is
environmental impacts as well as human health impacts of these products.”
Nanotechnology is being used in a variety of lotions and cosmetics and is
promoted as revolutionary technology. That’s because the particles can
get into the skin at the cellular level much more easily.
The environmental groups want the FDA to more strictly regulate
products containing nanomaterials until they are tested for safety.
It’s been more than 17 years since the Exxon Valdez split open on a reef off the coast of Alaska. More than 16,000 tons of crude oil washed up onto the rocky shores. Now scientists have found that the oil is still impacting the region’s ecology. The GLRC’s Mark Brush reports:
It’s been more than 17 years since the Exxon Valdez split open on a reef off
the coast of Alaska. More than 16,000 tons of crude oil washed up
onto the rocky shores. Now scientists have found that the oil is still
impacting the region’s ecology. The GLRC’s Mark Brush reports:
Scientists studied a series of islands that were the first to be hit by the
Exxon Valdez oil spill. It’s estimated that 100 tons of crude oil are still
impacting the region’s shorelines. The researchers found that about half
of the remaining oil is in the more biologically rich areas of the Prince
Jeffery Short is a research chemist with the National Marine Fisheries
Service. He says animals such as sea otters forage for food in these
“And if they were to encounter oil in their search for clams, it would get
on their fur, and since they rely on their fur to stay warm, they would
have to lick it off during preening and then they would ingest it.”
Short says this could be why the numbers of animals in this area still
have not rebounded since the oil spill. An Exxon spokesman told the
Associated Press that they believe the Prince William Sound has
Many wind farm projects are on hold right now. The federal government is concerned about possible interference with military radar installations. The GLRC’s Chuck Quirmbach reports:
Many wind farm projects are on hold right now. The federal government
is concerned about possible interference with military radar installations.
The GLRC’s Chuck Quirmbach reports:
The U.S. Departments of Defense and Homeland Security have ordered a
study on whether spinning wind turbine blades disturb local radar
systems. They’re concerned it might be more difficult to use radar to
Renewable energy advocate Michael Vickerman acknowledges the
turbines might cause some radar clutter, but he says that can be reduced
with special filters on the radar and changes in the tracking systems
protocol. He says more study of the issue is just causing financial
“There’s the lost revenues for host landowners, lost revenues for host
communities, lost opportunities for construction jobs, this has a very
But some people who don’t like the idea of wind farms being built next
door to them say the government does have real national security