AmeriScan: July 30, 2002

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Air Pollution Linked to Heart Damage From Exercise

DALLAS, Texas, July 30, 2002 (ENS) - Breathing polluted air, particularly smoke from factory smokestacks and the tailpipes of diesel buses and trucks, is bad for people with heart disease, suggests a new study.

The first study of its kind, reported in Monday's issue of "Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association," shows that exposure to pollution tripled a certain type of heart problem in people with existing heart disease.

Patients with heart disease were about three times more likely to have ischemia - decreased oxygen supply to heart muscle - during exercise testing after periods of high level air pollution than when they were tested after periods of negligible air pollution, explained Dr. Juha Pekkanen, a senior researcher at the National Public Health Institute, Unit of Environmental Epidemiology in Kuopio, Finland.

Although many researchers have reported an association between pollution and increased heart attacks and deaths from heart disease, Pekkanen said this new study is the first to look at heart muscle strain and to show ischemia associated with particulate air pollution. The study showed an increased risk of ischemia after periods of increased fine and ultra-fine particles in the air.

The researchers findings are based on data collected from subjects living in Helsinki, Finland during the winter of 1998-1999. Forty-five patients with a history of coronary artery disease, including 21 women, agreed to participate in exercise tests twice a week for six months.

Twenty-three patients experienced symptoms when air pollution was high two days before a clinic visit. The remaining 22 subjects either had no episodes of ischemia or had episodes at every visit regardless of air quality so were unable to provide information about the relationship between air pollution and ischemia.

The new study "highlights myocardial ischemia as a significant potential mechanism responsible for adverse cardiac outcomes associated with poor air quality," states an accompanying editorial by three Harvard University physicians, including Dr. Richard Verrier, Dr. Murray Mittleman and Dr. Peter Stone.

Mittleman said the association between ultra-fine particles and ischemia is important because "it may help to explain regional patterns of pollution and increased coronary events."

Verrier says the link between air quality and heart disease is more subtle than one between pollution and respiratory ailments such as asthma, but noted that the new findings reveal the importance of avoiding outdoor exercise on hazy days. Mittleman said a better option is to exercise in air conditioned settings since "most central air conditioning systems can greatly reduce this type of pollution."

The editorial authors also noted that the study is focused on patients with known heart disease.

"It is unclear whether the risk is present only in those patients with provokable ischemia during exercise testing," they write, adding that it will be important to determine whether other populations are susceptible.

"The problem of particulate air pollution is pervasive and growing," they write in the editorial. "An even greater concomitant impact on public health from this insidious contributor to cardiac disease can be anticipated. The American Heart Association, National Institutes of Health and regulatory agencies have an important opportunity through education, funding and regulation of clean air standards to exert a major impact on cardiovascular health."

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New Report Highlights Successful Traffic Plans

BOSTON, Massachusetts, July 30, 2002 (ENS) - A new report from the Sierra Club highlights some of the best and worst traffic reduction plans from communities across the nation.

With the average American spending 55 workdays a year stuck in traffic, the Sierra Club report is intended to help communities tackle their transportation challenges. The report includes a map, "Smart Choices, Less Traffic," showing successful and unsuccessful tactics for reducing gridlock, including two Boston area projects; the Silver Bus Line and the North/South Rail Link.

"Visionary communities across the country are demonstrating that we can save commuters from traffic jams and air pollution by giving them sensible options for getting to work," said Jeremy Marin, a conservation organizer for the Sierra Club. "The twenty good projects highlighted in this report, including the Rail Link, illustrate that there are creative and effective ways to reduce traffic, pollution and sprawl."

Boston's Rail Link, a one mile stretch of rail, is highlighted in the report as a "transportation solution for the 21st century", while the Silver Bus Line replacement service for the rapid transit that once ran through this area was cited as an example of nearsighted transportation planning.

"Even when the Big Dig is completed Boston will still suffer from a severed artery," said Marin, referring to the city's Central Artery Project. "A one mile rail link between North and South Stations would take thousands of vehicles off the road every day, clearing our roads and our air."

"Simultaneously, the state is wasting millions of dollars trying to pretend that a silver colored bus will miraculously cut through traffic and fulfill a promise made by the MBTA 15 years ago to install light rail," said Marin. "The Silver Bus Line received low marks by refusing to use existing tunnels and implementing the most convenient and efficient technologies in traditionally underserved communities."

Transit ridership in the U.S. has increased by 21 percent in the last five years. According to a 2001 National Association of Realtors poll, 62 percent of Americans would try rail or train service if it is convenient, accessible and safe. Yet public transit projects receive just one-fifth of the federal funding designated for highways.

Each of the 20 projects showcased by the report provides an innovative solution to local problems. Portland, Oregon's Flexcar offers an efficient car sharing program for residents who need a car once in a while. Cities like Richmond, Virginia and Denver, Colorado are restoring their downtown train stations, developing them into modern transportation centers that will spur economic development.

Houston, Texas, Honolulu, Hawaii and Charlotte, North Carolina are all looking to light rail or modern bus systems to relieve congestion and offer choice to their commuters.

The Sierra Club says that many public officials continue to support an unbalanced approach to transportation planning. Expensive and inefficient projects receive the lion's share of taxpayer funding, the group says.

"Smart Choices, Less Traffic" highlights 28 such projects, such as construction of Houston's fourth beltway, Kentucky's I-66, Georgia's Northern Arc, and Raleigh, North Carolina's Outer Loop, which all threaten to increase rural sprawl and generate traffic without reducing congestion problems in the core communities, the Sierra Club argues.

The "Smart Choices, Less Traffic," transportation map is available at: http://www.sierraclub.org/sprawl/report02

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Four New Yorkers Guilty of Asbestos Crimes

NEW YORK, New York, July 30, 2002 (ENS) - Four New York residents have pleaded guilty to Clean Air Act violations and other felonies related to two separate cases of improper asbestos removal.

Failing to properly remove and dispose of asbestos may lead to the inhalation of asbestos fibers, which can cause lung cancer, a lung disease known as asbestosis, and mesothelioma, a cancer of the chest and abdominal cavities.

In one case, Thomas Reed, Jerry Lindquist and Sheon DiMaio pleaded guilty to deliberately contaminating buildings with asbestos in order to gain new customers for their company, AAR Contractor Inc.

Reed, the general manager of AAR, has been charged with 14 counts, including conspiracy under the Racketeer Influenced Corrupt Organization Act, the Clean Air Act, and the Toxic Substances Control Act, as well as multiple tax violations. He faces a maximum sentence of 77 years in prison and possible maximum fines of $3.5 million, plus restitution to victims.

Reed admits he and others used illegal practices to remove asbestos while failing to notify state and federal authorities of the removals, as well as and intentionally contaminating buildings with asbestos in order to defraud owners. Reed said he intentionally left asbestos behind after buildings were reported to be clean, obtaining and sending customers false laboratory reports concerning asbestos tests, submitting false invoices and obstructing justice.

Lindquist pleaded guilty of conspiring on several of these counts, and to making false statements to investigators from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). He faces a possible maximum sentence of 15 years in prison and up to $1 million in fines, plus restitution to victims. Di Maio pleaded guilty of conspiring to violating federal laws, and faces possible prison time and a $500,000 fine.

In the second case, Michael Shanahan became the sixth of nine defendants to plead guilty in a 10 year illegal asbestos removal scheme involving multiple locations and racketeering in upstate New York. He faces a maximum sentence of up to 10 years and a $500,000 fine for conspiracy to violate the Clean Air Act and the Toxic Substances Control Act.

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Los Angeles Spends Millions to Slash Emissions

LOS ANGELES, California, July 30, 2002 (ENS) - The South Coast Air Quality Management District (AQMD) will spend $12.15 million to cut diesel emissions from school buses, backup power generators and snowmaking equipment.

The Los Angeles region's air quality agency said the funding will help reduce the public's cancer risk from air pollution.

"Diesel particulate emissions are responsible for 70 percent of the cancer risk from air pollution in our region," said Barry Wallerstein, executive officer of the AQMD. "This will reduce the cancer risk to school children by putting more than 60 clean fueled school buses on the road and retrofitting more than 400 diesel buses with particulate traps."

AQMD's governing board approved the following projects:

In a related item, the Board approved spending $3.1 million to retrofit heavy duty, diesel powered public fleet vehicles in the region. Funding for all the projects will come from the California Air Resources Board and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

AQMD is the air pollution control agency for Orange County and major portions of Los Angeles, San Bernardino and Riverside counties.

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Black Carp May Be Banned

WASHINGTON, DC, July 30, 2002 (ENS) - The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) is proposing to ban imports of black carp, a fish native to parts of China, Russia and Vietnam.

The black carp, used by American aquaculture farmers to control snails, is feared by scientists who see potential widespread damage should the fish escape into the wild. The USFWS is proposing to name the fish as in injurious species, banned from import or interstate transport under a wildlife law known as the Lacey Act.

The proposed rule is in response to concerns about the possible impact of black carp on imperiled native mussels and snails in the Mississippi River basin, outlined in a petition to the USFWS by the Mississippi Interstate Cooperative Resources Association. The only exceptions to the bans imposed would be for zoological, educational, medical or scientific purposes.

Black carp, also known as snail carp, Chinese black carp, black amur, Chinese roach and black Chinese roach, is a freshwater fish that inhabits lakes and lower reaches of rivers in the wild. It was first brought to the U.S. in the early 1970s in a shipment of imported grass carp that were shipped to a private fish farm in Arkansas.

A second introduction occurred in the early 1980s when the fish was imported as food and as a biological control agent to combat the spread of yellow grub in fish farms. Unlike other species of Asian carp, black carp have not been found in the wild.

Were black carp to escape from aquaculture ponds and enter rivers and tributaries of the lower Mississippi River, they would pose a "significant threat," the USFWS says, to commercial shellfish stocks and threatened and endangered mollusks.

"The value of the potential loss to the citizens of the affected states cannot be estimated at this time, but it is believed to be substantial," according to a USFWS document. Other species of Asian carp which are established in the wild have caused ecological damage to the Mississippi Basin.

However effective black carp might be in the control of yellow grubs, the USFWS says there are alternative means, such as chemical control with hydrated lime, copper sulfate and aquatic herbicides that have been shown to reduce the snail population. In conjunction with biological control, these methods, can eliminate snail infestations during catfish production.

The USFWS will accept comments on the proposal for 60 days, by Email at: blackcarp@fws.gov

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Missouri Fish Kill Cost $3.3 Million

LAKE OF THE OZARKS, Missouri, July 30, 2002 (ENS) - A month long fish kill at Bagnell Dam on the Lake of the Ozarks killed more than 43,000 fish with an estimated value of $3.2 million, shows a report by the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC).

The MDC's interim investigation report assesses damage from the May 2002 fish kill, calling it among the most damaging in Missouri's history.

Large numbers of dead fish began surfacing in the lake and the Osage River on May 23. The MDC's fisheries division staff says there are several ways in which operations at the dam kill fish.

"Fish are killed when trapped against the steel bars designed to keep large debris, like logs, out of the power generation turbines. Those that pass through the steel bars and enter the turbines are chopped up," said Bill Turner, MDC policy coordinator.

Fish are also killed as they are battered in the spillway area of the dam when excess water is released into the Osage River. These fish are following their instincts to go with the flow of the water and are being injured and killed from the impact of the high velocity water.

While the fish kill affected 23 different species in the lake and river, its greatest impact was on paddlefish.

"Over 4,300 paddlefish were killed and many of these were large fish at least 15 to 20 years of age, the size anglers dream of catching," said Turner.

The paddlefish, sometimes called a living fossil, is found in just two river systems worldwide. The North American variety occurs only in the Mississippi River Valley, the other species occurs in the Yangtze Valley in China.

Missouri's paddlefish population depends on stocking, as dams on the Osage River prevent them from spawning. In the past, the utility that owns and operates Bagnell Dam, AmerenUE, has operated a fish hatchery to supplement stocking of the lake. The utility now makes annual financial contributions to MDC hatchery operations.

"This fish kill will have a serious, long term effect on the paddlefish population," said Turner. "It will take many years to restore the large number of fish killed over the last few weeks."

In the coming months, MDC staff will try to assess the impacts of the kill on future paddlefish seasons.

"The Conservation Department has worked hard over the past two years to advise AmerenUE on how to address fish kill problems and other damages caused by operations at Bagnell Dam," said MDC director John Hoskins.

Bagnell Dam provides electricity to customers throughout Missouri and Illinois. AmerenUE has stated that they are committed to developing a long term solution to the problem of fish kills, and have met with MDC and private consultants to address the issue.

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NASA Sensors Could Detect Utility Leaks

PASADENA, California, July 30, 2002 (ENS) - Consolidated Edison of New York, Inc. has turned to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) for help in developing sensor technology to detect and analyze hazardous materials in the field.

Using the best available commercial methods can take several hours of laboratory analysis to determine how to protect the environment and public when there is an environmental accident. Con Edison hopes to reduce that time to less than one hour.

"At Con Edison we are constantly searching for the best technology available to improve our operations," said Jerry Mele, director of Con Edison's corporate environmental department. "We are optimistic that NASA's sensor technology will help make our underground work more efficient and environmentally safer."

Con Edison has signed a technology affiliates agreement with NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena to work with JPL researchers with experience in developing sensors.

The sensor will search for two specific chemical families - polychlorinated biphenyl compounds, or PCBs, and perfluorocarbon tracers or PFTs. PCBs are toxic chemicals that were used to insulate high voltage transformers before the U.S. banned their use in the 1970s.

The current method of identifying PCB concentrations at an environmental accident takes up to eight hours. The crew must drive to the location, take a sample of the suspect liquid or sludge, transport it to a laboratory and then analyze the samples using a gas chromatograph system.

Mounted on a truck, JPL's Reversal Electron Attachment Detection system would allow workers to take a sample and analyze it on the spot in about 30 minutes. Con Edison could then determine what worker protection is necessary and if any personnel or equipment exposed to the PCBs must be decontaminated.

The new test will also characterize the waste for disposal. The increased speed of analysis will allow for faster clean up response and further protection of the environment, Con Edison says.

Another application of the JPL system is the detection of PFTs. Con Edison injects trace amounts of PFTs into the insulating oil used in its high voltage transmission lines routed under the streets of New York City. These trace amounts of PFTs are used to pinpoint insulating oil leaks from underground power lines.

The current system uses a slower PFT detector on a truck. The truck moves along city streets until it detects a leak, then the driver must drive over the area several times to home in on the leak.

The slower the detector, the farther the distance the truck moves from the leak site before a hit is registered, and the longer it takes to backtrack and find the leak. The JPL system would be faster with no lag time.

JPL researchers are now testing pure PCB samples from New York manholes. They have demonstrated that the system can not only detect PCBs, but can also quantify their concentrations. In the second phase, JPL and Con Edison will make the sensors compact and portable, and compatible for use by Con Edison.

"This is one example wherein the increased sensitivity of the JPL detection system translates directly into speed of detection and quantification," said Dr. Ara Chutjian, senior research scientist and leader of the Atomic and Molecular Collisions Team at JPL. " This will be true in New York City. It will also be true for detecting other chemical vapors, such as explosives and nerve agent detection at airports, harbors and in public buildings where speed is key in attaining security without impeding the commercial flow."

The sensor technology being applied to help Con Edison was first developed through two separate partnerships with the Federal Aviation Administration to detect explosive vapors at airports, and with the U.S. Navy to detect unexploded ordnance on the ocean floor.

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Park Manager Honored for Blocking Drilling

WASHINGTON, DC, July 30, 2002 (ENS) - Ron Clark, chief of resource management at Big Cypress National Preserve in Florida, is being recognized for his work to reduce mineral mining in the park.

On Monday, Clark received the National Parks Conservation Association's (NPCA) National Park Achievement Award for his years of creative, innovative work in oil and gas management and for his efforts to promote the federal purchase of much of the privately owned mineral rights in the park.

"Ron Clark's accomplishments are impressive," said Mary Munson, regional director of the NPCA. "The millions of future visitors that will appreciate Big Cypress as unspoiled wilderness free from oil wells and access roads will have Ron Clark to thank. His career so far has distinguished itself as a model for staying true to the purposes and mission of the National Park Service."

In May, the Interior Department announced plans to acquire the mineral rights under Big Cypress National Preserve, Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge (NWR), and Ten Thousand Islands NWR - all located within the historic expanse of the Florida Everglades - from Collier Resources Company.

The historic arrangement will prevent any new oil and gas production in the preserve, and provide permanent protection from the risks associated with those activities. President George W. Bush and Florida Governor Jeb Bush hailed the announcement as a major victory, and the NPCA calls it "one of the Park Service's crowning achievements."

In 2002, Big Cypress National Preserve was named to NPCA's list of America's Ten Most Endangered National Parks for the fourth consecutive year, in part because of the threats posed by private oil drilling plans.

"For 12 years, Ron Clark's commitment to the ecological sustainability of the natural resources of the preserve has involved managing and protecting resources that face a combination of potential threats unparalleled at other park units," said Munson. "Ron has helped design off road vehicle plans and has managed activities such as hunting, and airboat and swamp buggy use with dedication and integrity, earning praise from his colleagues and the public."

NPCA's National Park Achievement Award recognizes outstanding efforts by citizen activists, politicians, corporations, or entire communities whose accomplishments on behalf of the National Park System are worthy of public recognition.