Rachel's Precaution Reporter #79

"Foresight and Precaution, in the News and in the World"

Wednesday, February 28, 2007.........Printer-friendly version
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Table of Contents...

U.S. Green Building Council's Guiding Principles Include Precaution
  In assessing the suitability of vinyl as a building material, the
  U.S. Green Building Council has reaffirmed its commitment to
  precaution: "U.S. Green Building Council will be guided by the
  precautionary principle in utilizing technical and scientific data to
  protect, preserve, and restore the health of the global environment,
  ecosystems and species."
Workplace Exposure to Nano Materials: The Next Asbestos?
  "To safeguard against a repeat of the asbestos experience, the
  world's second largest re-insurer, Swiss Re, has advocated a strict
  application of the precautionary principle in the regulation of
Environment-Argentina: When One Ocean Is Not Enough
  The Patagonian Sea, which covers two million square kilometres in
  the southwest Atlantic, is one of the planet's richest and most
  productive temperate marine ecosystems, according to the experts at
  the Sea and Sky Project, who promote a management system based on the
  precautionary principle.
Opponents of Open Trash Burning Urge Precautionary Approach
  "We can't say for sure that people are getting cancer from backyard
  barrels. But it's the precautionary principle," she said.... "We have
  unborn babies already exposed to these chemicals," she said. "People
  from other areas can't believe we do this."


From: U.S. Green Building Council Board of Directors, Feb. 26, 2007
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From: U.S. Green Building Council, Board of Directors
Date: Monday, February 26, 2007
Subject: TSAC Report on PVC

[The original memo can be found here.]

Four years ago, the Technical and Scientific Advisory Committee (TSAC)
[of the U.S. Green Building Council] undertook the exploration of a
question posed by the LEED Steering Committee, and raised as an
issue by members through the LEED for Commercial Interiors development
process: what is the technical and scientific basis for a PVC-
related credit within the LEED Green Building Rating System. Having
completed their intensive study of the issue, TSAC's report [2 Mbytes
PDF] is attached. The publication of TSAC's report concludes one
process, and begins another.

Through the course of this assessment, larger questions became
evident. TSAC has thoughtfully raised these in their recommendations.
The built environment itself is a complex system of systems.
Therefore, it's no surprise that the study of any one material would
offer no simple yes or no answers.

In order to apply TSAC's findings to a decision about credits within
LEED, the report points to the fact that we must first address a
series of policy issues raised through TSAC's research. These issues

* How should risks to human health and risks to the natural
environment be reconciled?

* Should LEED offer credits for avoiding less desirable materials, or
create credit incentives for the use of preferable, often innovative
alternative materials or processes?

* Should LEED address individual materials through its credits, or
should it focus on areas of impact?

TSAC's report will provide invaluable technical input to USGBC's
policy-making processes, and will be applied together with our Guiding

* PROMOTE THE TRIPLE BOTTOM LINE: USGBC will pursue robust triple
bottom line solutions to clarify and strengthen a healthy and dynamic
balance between environmental, social and economic prosperity.

* ESTABLISH LEADERSHIP: USGBC will take responsibility for both
revolutionary and evolutionary leadership by championing societal
models that achieve a more robust triple bottom line.

* RECONCILE HUMANITY WITH NATURE: USGBC will endeavor to create and
restore harmony between human activities and natural systems.

* MAINTAIN INTEGRITY: USGBC will be guided by the precautionary
principle in utilizing technical and scientific data to protect,
preserve, and restore the health of the global environment, ecosystems
and species.

* ENSURE INCLUSIVENESS: USGBC will ensure inclusive,
interdisciplinary, democratic decision-making with the objective of
building understanding and shared commitments toward a greater common

* EXHIBIT TRANSPARENCY: USGBC shall strive for honesty, openness and

Going forward, consistent with the 9-step process USGBC has defined
for questions addressed by TSAC, the LEED Steering Committee will
review the report and its recommendations, determine which policy
issues to address first, and engage USGBC's Board of Directors and
other member committees to develop policies and positions in response
to the issues.

Regarding any proposed changes to LEED credits that may result from
this process, USGBC's membership will be the ultimate arbiter through
our consensus balloting process.

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From: AzoNano.com, Feb. 27, 2007
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In Australia, between 1987 and 2010, asbestos exposure is predicted to
result in 16,000 deaths from mesothelioma and 40,000 deaths from lung
cancer. The serious health risks posed by workplace exposure to
nanomaterials share some striking similarities to those presented by
asbestos. As with exposure to asbestos or other toxic dusts, workplace
exposure to nanoparticles has the potential to cause serious pulmonary
and related cardiovascular disease. However the most important
similarity between asbestos and nanoparticle exposure may be the lag
time before the potential onset of serious harm to health -- resulting
in significant human and financial cost.

Insurers Nanotechnology Safeguards

To safeguard against a repeat of the asbestos experience, the world's
second largest re-insurer, Swiss Re, has advocated a strict
application of the precautionary principle in the regulation of
nanotechnology. Swiss Re emphasizes that conservative regulation that
puts health and safety first must be adopted, irrespective of
uncertainties in scientific circles.

The Head of the Science Strategy and Statistics Division of the UK
Health and Safety Executive has also recommended that rigorous
regulation be developed to prevent nanoparticle exposure becoming the
'new asbestos'. He noted that if regulators introduce "controls that
are too lax, significant health effects [will] harm many people. The
history of asbestos should warn all of society of the human and
financial costs of this possibility".

Commercial Products

However despite the hundreds of products containing nanomaterials that
are already being manufactured commercially, and the emerging body of
scientific literature demonstrating the serious risks associated with
nanotoxicity , there are still no laws to manage workplace exposure
and to ensure workers' safety. This suggests that governments have
learnt little from their experiences with asbestos.

Why Are Nanomaterials Different From Larger Particles?

Nanomaterials are the result of engineering at the molecular level to
create extremely small-scale materials with unique properties. One
nanometre (nm) is one billionth of a metre (m). Nanomaterials are
defined as those particles (metal oxides, carbon nanotubes, nanowires,
quantum dots, fullerenes (buckyballs), nanocrystals etc) that exist at
a scale of 100nm or less, or that have at least one dimension that
affects their functional behaviour at this scale. To put 100
nanometres in context: a strand of DNA is 2.5nm wide, a protein
molecule is 5nm, a virus particle 150nm, a red blood cell 7,000 nm and
a human hair is 80,000 nm wide.

The fundamental properties of matter change at the nanoscale. The
properties of atoms and molecules are not governed by the same
physical laws as larger objects or even larger particles, but by
"quantum mechanics". The physical and chemical properties of
nanoparticles can therefore be quite different from those of larger
particles of the same substance. Altered properties can include
colour, solubility, material strength, electrical conductivity,
magnetic behaviour, mobility (within the environment and within the
human body), chemical reactivity and biological activity.

The altered properties of nano-sized particles have created new
possibilities for profitable products and applications. These altered
properties also raise significant health and environmental risks that
remain poorly studied, poorly understood and wholly unregulated.

Evidence Of Probable Harm Associated With Workplace Exposure To

There is a general relationship between toxicity and particle size.
The smaller a particle, the greater its surface area compared to its
volume, the higher its chemical reactivity and biological activity,
and the more likely it is to prove toxic. There is often no
relationship between the toxicity of a nanoparticle and the toxicity
of a larger particle of the same substance. This key principle is yet
to be reflected in the regulatory system.

Because of their small size, nanoparticles are more readily inhaled
and ingested than larger particles, and are more likely than larger
particles to penetrate human skin . Once in the blood stream,
nanoparticles may be transported around the body and are taken up by
individual cells, tissues and organs. We know very little about how
long nanoparticles may remain in the body and what sort of 'dose'
produces a toxic effect.


Animal studies have routinely demonstrated an increase in lung
inflammation, oxidative stress and negative impacts in other organs
following exposure to implanted or inhaled engineered nanoparticles.
Irespective of their chemical composition, engineered nanoparticles
are also recognized to be potent inducers of inflammatory lung injury
in humans.

Workplace exposure to nanoscale fibres (e.g. carbon nanotubes) is of
obvious concern given the well-established association of fibres such
as asbestos with serious pulmonary disease. A recent study exposed
rodents to carbon nanotubes at levels that proportionately reflected
the existing permissible exposure limit for carbon graphite particles
(there are no set exposure limits for nanomaterials). This resulted in
inflammation, reduced pulmonary function and the early onset of
fibrosis. Carbon nanotubes were more toxic than comparable quantities
(by weight) of ultra-fine carbon black or silica dust. The authors
concluded that if workers were exposed to carbon nanotubes at the
current permissible exposure limit for graphite particles, they would
be at risk of developing lung lesions.

Body Damage

Once in the blood stream, nanomaterials are transported around the
body and are taken up by organs and tissues including the brain,
heart, liver, kidneys, spleen, bone marrow and nervous system.
Nanoparticles are able to cross membranes and gain access to cells,
tissues and organs that larger sized particles normally cannot. Unlike
larger particles, nanoparticles may be transported within cells and be
taken up by cell mitochondria and the cell nucleus, where they can
induce major structural damage to mitochondria, cause DNA mutation and
even result in cell death.

Nanoparticles have proved toxic to tissue and cell cultures in vitro.
Nanoparticle exposure has resulted in increased oxidative stress,
inflammatory cytokine production and even cell death. Even low levels
of fullerene (buckyball) exposure have been shown to be toxic to human
liver cells . Fullerenes have also been found to cause brain damage in
fish, kill water fleas and have bactericidal properties.

Skin Penetration

We still don't know whether nanoparticles are able to penetrate intact
skin. We know that organic liquids, lipid-based pharmaceuticals and
phthalate monoesters in personal care products may be taken up by the
skin. However few studies have examined the ability of nanoparticles
to penetrate the skin, and the variety of circumstances in which
occupational skin exposure to nanomaterials is likely to take place
has not yet been investigated. For example uptake of nanoparticles may
be influenced by skin flexing, pressure, wet vs dry conditions, the
presence of bacteria and exposure to other substances.

The ability of micro-scale particles (1000nm) to access the dermis
when the skin was flexed has been demonstrated, suggesting that the
uptake of particles less then 100nm [in diameter] is possible in at
least some circumstances. Broken skin is known to enable the uptake of
microparticles up to 7,000nm wide -- 70 times the size of

Key gaps in our understanding and other critical obstacles to
providing worker protection from nanoparticle exposure

Workers may be exposed to nanoparticles during the research,
development, manufacture, packaging, handling and transport of
nanotech products. Exposure may also occur in cleaning and maintaining
research, production and handling facilities. But despite the
commercial availability of over 720 products containing nanomaterials
, we don't know how many companies are using nanomaterials, how many
workers are exposed, the source or levels of their exposure, and how
to manage or prevent this exposure to ensure workers' safety.

Preventing Unsafe Workplace Exposure Critical obstacles to preventing
unsafe workplace exposure to nanomaterials include:

** No consistent nomenclature, terminology and measurement standards
to characterise and describe nanoparticles and exposure

** Inadequate understanding of nanotoxicity, in particular to
determine whether acceptable exposure limits exist

** No effective methods to measure and assess workplace exposure to
nanoparticles; no data on existing or predicted workplace exposure

** No effective control methods to protect workers from exposure

Essentially, occupational health and safety experts know enough to
recognise that nanoparticles are highly reactive, highly mobile, more
likely than larger-sized particles to produce a toxic effect in
workers, and likely to be ineffectively controlled by current
workplace practice and likely to result in harm to those exposed on a
regular basis. However they don't know enough to predict the
particular risks associated with particular workplace exposures, and
nor do they know how to manage these risks to protect workers' health.
It is completely unknown what sort of levels of exposure can be
considered safe.

Development Moratorium

To prevent nanotechnology becoming the 'new asbestos' The Friends of
the Earth claim there is an urgent need for a moratorium on the
commercial research, development, production and release of
nanoproducts while regulations are developed to protect the health and
safety of workers, the public and the environment.

Source: Friends of the Earth

Copyright 2007 by AZoM.com

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From: Inter Press Service News Agency, Feb. 22, 2007
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By Marcela Valente*

Buenos Aires, Argentina (Tierramerica) -- Thanks to satellite
tracking, a team of Argentine scientists found that southern elephant
seals need much more ocean space to survive than previously thought.
They can dive to a depth of 1,200 meters in search of food in the
southwest Atlantic, and cross the Strait of Magellan to the Pacific.

The mapping of the movements of the Mirounga leonina, which goes far
beyond the Patagonian Sea, is being done in the context of the Sea
and Sky Project, a joint initiative of the Wildlife Conservation
Society and Argentina's National Patagonian Centre.

The results "alert us to the fact that to conserve ocean biodiversity
the small protected areas are not enough, that greater dimensions are
needed, in accordance with the space of the species to be protected,"
the project's executive director, Claudio Campagna, told Tierramerica.

"An integrated model allows us to understand the ecosystem as a whole,
incorporating into the management equation the cost of the impacts, in
order to assure ourselves that the natural capital isn't being
compromised," he said.

The Patagonian Sea, which covers two million square kilometres in the
southwest Atlantic, is one of the planet's richest and most productive
temperate marine ecosystems, according to the experts at the Sea and
Sky Project, who promote a management system based on the
precautionary principle.

The waters off the east coast of Patagonia, in southern Argentina,
hold high concentrations of phyto- and zooplankton, the sustenance of
a wide array of squid, crustaceans and molluscs. And feeding on those
species are many types of birds and sea mammals that reproduce along
the shore.

That natural food chain is threatened by over fishing. "The idea is to
find a balance between the necessities of biodiversity and those of
humans. We hope to determine where the sea can be used without worry,
and where its use causes an environmental impact that should be
stopped," Campagna explained.

In this context, the elephant seal is a good indicator of whether the
environment is viable.

Biologist Valeria Falabella receives satellite data about the location
of the animals from when they leave the Valdes Peninsula, on the coast
of Chubut province, home to the National Patagonian Centre. A
reproductive colony of the elephant seals is found on the coast.

The data is entered into a computer programme that depicts the path
followed by the individual seal wearing a transmitter. The programme
shows where the elephant seal spends its time, where it stops to feed,
providing a comprehensive map of the species' movement.

"Determining areas of relevance for the survival of the species is
fundamental for progress in conservation efforts, and these tools help
us understand the biological requirements of the species and how human
activities interfere," Falabella told Tierramerica.

Since the project began in 2003, 23 elephant seals have been studied
using satellite data. Currently, 11 are being tracked.

Elephant seals are born weighing about 40 kilograms and are weaned at
just three weeks, when they weigh 130 kg, gained solely from mother's
milk. Adult females weigh 600 kg on average, while males are much
larger, reaching 3,000 kg. "Adults live to just 14 or 15 years," said

Tracking the elephant seals has revealed that the adult males feed
mostly along the continental platform and slope -- a band extending
about 300 kilometres from the coast, where there are important
fisheries. The movements of females, meanwhile, extend up to 1,000 km
from shore.

Two of the females that were tracked from the Valdes Peninsula reached
the Pacific, and one returned 228 days later, through the Strait of
Magellan. In her journey of more than 1,800 km, she gained 179 to 196
kg, indicating a long but successful trip.

Another female reached South Georgia Island, at the south-eastern
limit of the Patagonian Sea, and there are data from other seals that
reached the Antarctic Peninsula. In their travels, the elephant seals
dive as deep as 1,200 meters, returning to the surface every half hour
to breathe.

Each time they emerge, the satellite transmitters they wear on their
head emits a locator signal.

Mirtha Lewis, a veterinarian and co-director of the elephant seal
project at the National Patagonian Centre, told Tierramerica that
every October about 14,000 pups are born on the Valdes Peninsula,
where the total population is estimated at 42,000.

"But that total is not simultaneously found on the coast," she

"The elephant seals alternate feeding periods at sea with periods of
several weeks on land when they don't eat," said Lewis. The maximum
observed along a 200-km stretch of coastline there is 25,000, she

"In contrast, when the elephant seals are feeding at sea, the area of
distribution is much broader, covering about 4.7 million square km in
the southwest Atlantic, but some cross to the Pacific and others reach
the Georgia Islands," said the expert.

* Originally published by Latin American newspapers that are part of
the Tierramerica network. Tierramerica is a specialised news service
produced by IPS with the backing of the United Nations Development
Programme and the United Nations Environment Programme.

Copyright 2007 IPS-Inter Press Service

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From: Williamsport (Penna.) Sun-Gazette, Feb. 21, 2007
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They say research data supports their position

By Mike Reuther Mreuther@Sungazette.Com

Few issues ignite the emotions of residents like a burning ban.

But those who've studied the issue claim there exist sound, health-
related reasons to end burn barrel trash fires once and for all.

Evidence indicates that harmful compounds are released into the air
when people burn trash, even when seemingly innocuous paper is afire.

While the material burned does matter, the manner and temperature at
which it is burned are even more important, James Garthe, a Penn State
University instructor of Agricultural Sciences said.

"In a burn barrel, you are looking at an oxygen-starved environment.
The air cannot get into the barrel."

Garthe co-authored the article "Open Burning of Trash" with Jamie L.
McCoy, a Penn State research technician. In the piece, which appeared
in the university's College of Agricultural Sciences magazine, the
authors concluded that minimizing atmospheric pollutants from open
fires would require either an end to burning, or ensuring that fires
achieve complete combustion.

"Achieving complete combustion in open fires is very difficult, if not
impossible, but high temperatures can reduce the amount of harmful
emissions associated with open fires," Garthe said.

Incomplete combustion, he said, results in such harmful emissions as
heavy metal vapors, acid gases and carcinogenic tars.

Thick black smoke from a fire is a strong indicator of incomplete

Pollutants known as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons or PAH's are
highly toxic compounds produced at low combustion temperatures,
according to Garthe.

Included among the PAH family are dioxins, which some experts believe
are among the most toxic carcinogens.

Dioxins are linked to increased risks of cancer, delays in child
development, and damage to the immune system.

The Environmental Protection Agency has concluded that the highest
single source of dioxins are released by the open burning of trash.

In fact, the EPA found that for certain pollutants a single household
burning trash in a barrel produces more contaminants than a well-
operated full scale municipal waste combustion facility.

Garthe said the most frequently measured PAH resulting from incomplete
trash combustion is benzopyrene, another carcinogen.

One study, he added, revealed that open fire smoke contains 70 parts
per million of benzopyrene -- about 350 times that of cigarette smoke.

Other pollutants often emitted from trash fires include chlorine and
metal additives found in plastics.

Chlorine is used in the bleaching process for paper, and releases
dioxins into the air when burned.

Garthe said other materials containing chlorine, such as polyvinyl
chloride or PVC and some plastic containers, are sources of dioxin
when burned at low temperatures.

Other plastics contain metal additives that may emit arsenic and heavy
metals such as lead, mercury, cadmium and chromium when burned. Short-
term exposure to such emissions can cause vomiting, nausea, abdominal
pain and mood disturbance.

Neurological and reproductive systems can be harmed through long-term
exposure to such emissions.

The burning of any plastic releases dioxins.

Barb Jarmoska, the owner of the Fresh Life health food store in
Loyalsock Township, said that are many days when she can look out on
her neighborhood and see a haze of smoke from residents burning trash.

Jarmoska has spoken in favor of a burn ban at township meetings.

"We can't say for sure that people are getting cancer from backyard
barrels. But it's the precautionary principle," she said.

While burning in itself is bad enough, she thinks many people fail to
separate recyclables from the paper products being burned.

"We have unborn babies already exposed to these chemicals," she said.
"People from other areas can't believe we do this."

Loyalsock Township is considering a burning ban, or at least
strengthening its burning ordinance. Meanwhile, other local
communities including Williamsport, Montoursville, and most recently,
South Williamsport, have passed such ordinances.

Jarmoska said she feels the issue comes down to people being opposed
to having government telling them what they can do on their

"A lot see it as an issue of personal freedom. (But) If those people
were to get beyond the emotions of it ..."

Jarmoska thinks there are alternatives to burning.

"I wouldn't be against a municipal waste incinerator," Jarmoska
concluded. "That reduces far less (pollutants)."

She also thinks landfills are a better alternative to open burning.

She said that Pennsylvania's landfills could be freed up if out-of-
state trash they accept is reduced.

The Williamsport Sun-Gazette
252 W. Fourth Street
Williamsport,PA 17701

Copyright 2007 The Williamsport Sun-Gazette

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  Rachel's Precaution Reporter offers news, views and practical
  examples of the Precautionary Principle, or Foresight Principle, in
  action. The Precautionary Principle is a modern way of making
  decisions, to minimize harm. Rachel's Precaution Reporter tries to
  answer such questions as, Why do we need the precautionary
  principle? Who is using precaution? Who is opposing precaution?

  We often include attacks on the precautionary principle because we  
  believe it is essential for advocates of precaution to know what
  their adversaries are saying, just as abolitionists in 1830 needed
  to know the arguments used by slaveholders.

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  provide readers with up-to-date coverage of the subject.

  As you come across stories that illustrate the precautionary 
  principle -- or the need for the precautionary principle -- 
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