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Report: Corn ethanol mandate hurting environment

   Washington, D.C. – 7/18/2014 - A proposal now being considered by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to cut the amount of corn ethanol required in gasoline would lower greenhouse gas emissions by 3 million metric tons, according to a new report released by the Environmental Working Group.
  If the EPA reduces corn ethanol by 1.39 billion gallons as proposed, it would prevent as much greenhouse gas pollution as taking 580,000 cars off the road annually, EWG found.
  The current mandate, known as the Renewable Fuel Standard, requires oil companies to increase so-called renewable fuels in gasoline every year, from 9 billion gallons in 2008 to 36 billion gallons in 2022. For the first time since this law took effect, the EPA has proposed to reduce the amount of corn-based ethanol used as fuel for the nation’s cars and trucks.
   “The Obama administration has a real opportunity to scale back the corn ethanol mandate and make a significant contribution in the fight against climate change,” said Emily Cassidy, EWG research analyst and co-author of EWG’s new report, Ethanol’s Broken Promise. “As our research shows, corn-based ethanol is actually worse for the climate than regular gasoline.”
  Click here to read the full report.
  Blending corn ethanol into gasoline has significantly increased greenhouse gas emissions because higher demand for ethanol for fuel has encouraged farmers to plow up wetlands and grasslands to grow corn. This increased agricultural activity releases more soil carbon into the atmosphere. Corn requires intensive fertilizer, which breaks down to emit nitrous oxide, another greenhouse gas, according to EWG’s study.
   EWG estimates that 85 million to 236 million metric tons of greenhouse gases were emitted from 2008 to 2011, when more than 23 million acres of grassland and wetlands were converted to grow crops. Researchers found that most studies that claim the corn ethanol mandate reduces emissions do not properly account for the resources needed to improve crop yields and significantly underestimate the emissions from conversion of land to corn production driven by the federal ethanol mandate.
   Since President Obama took office in January of 2009, his administration has made substantial progress to combat climate change. New fuel economy standards and a 10-fold increase in solar energy production have helped reduce U.S. greenhouse gas pollution to the lowest level in almost 20 years.
   “In the absence of any real effort by Congress to address climate change, President Obama has stepped up repeatedly, doing more than any previous President to lower greenhouse gas emissions,” Scott Faber, EWG senior vice president for government affairs, said. “If the administration stands strong against the ethanol lobby and implements EPA’s proposed ethanol rollback, it will be a huge victory for the environment.”
  Source: environmental working group

Law would ban BPA from food containers

   WASHINGTON, D.C. – 7/17/2014 - Several members of Congress are pushing a bill to better protect consumers – particularly the elderly, pregnant women children, and workers – from a known toxic hormone disruptor bisphenol-A, or BPA.
   Introduced  by long-time champion Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), the Ban Poisonous Additives Act of 2014 would ban BPA from food and beverage containers. It would also grant waivers to manufacturers seeking safer replacements for BPA while requiring them to place specific warning labels on any packaging that still contains the toxic substance. The legislation would also mandate the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to review the safety of all materials deemed safe for use in food and beverage containers .
   Reps. Lois Capps (D-Calif.) and Grace Meng (D-N.Y.) introduced a companion bill in the House.
   “Science shows that BPA is present in the vast majority of Americans and is harmful to human health,” said Jason Rano, EWG’s director of government affairs. “It has been linked to cancer, obesity, diabetes, infertility, hormone disruption and early puberty in children. Congress is taking an important step on behalf of our most vulnerable populations to help reduce exposure to BPA.”
   BPA, a synthetic estrogen, is in the epoxy linings that coat the inside of most canned foods and beverages and ultimately leaches into those products. Some companies have voluntarily taken BPA out of the linings of their containers, and in 2012 the FDA banned BPA in baby bottles and children's sippy cups.
   “It was an important step when the FDA banned BPA in baby bottles and sippy cups, but BPA has no place in food packaging and must be replaced with alternatives that don’t pose a serious health threats to humans,” added Rano. “This legislation would help make that a reality while providing manufacturers with the additional time they need to find safer options.”
   EWG recommends that consumers limit their intake of canned food and beverages and look for products labeled “BPA-free” or packed in glass jars or cardboard cartons, not metal cans.
   Source: Environmental Working Group

Study: obesity dramatically shortens lifespan

   (NIH) - 7/11/2014 - Adults with extreme obesity have increased risks of dying at a young age from cancer and many other causes including heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and kidney and liver diseases, according to results of an analysis of data pooled from 20 large studies of people from three countries. The study, led by researchers from the National Cancer Institute (NCI), part of the National Institutes of Health, found that people with class III (or extreme) obesity had a dramatic reduction in life expectancy compared with people of normal weight. The findings appeared July 8, 2014, in PLOS Medicine.
   “While once a relatively uncommon condition, the prevalence of class III, or extreme, obesity is on the rise. In the United States, for example, six percent of adults are now classified as extremely obese, which, for a person of average height, is more than 100 pounds over the recommended range for normal weight,” said Cari Kitahara, Ph.D., Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics, NCI, and lead author of the study. “Prior to our study, little had been known about the risk of premature death associated with extreme obesity.”
   In the study, researchers classified participants according to their body mass index (BMI), which is a measure of total body fat and is calculated by dividing a person’s weight in kilograms by their height in meters squared. BMI classifications (kilogram/meter-squared) are:
  • Normal weight: 18.5-24.9
  • Overweight: 25.0- 29.9
  • Class I obesity: 30.0-34.9
  • Class II obesity: 35.0-39.9
  • Class III obesity: 40.0 or higher
   The 20 studies that were analyzed included adults from the United States, Sweden and Australia. These groups form a major part of the NCI Cohort Consortium, which is a large-scale partnership that identifies risk factors for cancer death. After excluding individuals who had ever smoked or had a history of certain diseases, the researchers evaluated the risk of premature death overall and the risk of premature death from specific causes in more than 9,500 individuals who were class III obese and 304,000 others who were classified as normal weight.
   The researchers found that the risk of dying overall and from most major health causes rose continuously with increasing BMI within the class III obesity group. Statistical analyses of the pooled data indicated that the excess numbers of deaths in the class III obesity group were mostly due to heart disease, cancer and diabetes. Years of life lost ranged from 6.5 years for participants with a BMI of 40-44.9 to 13.7 years for a BMI of 55-59.9. To provide context, the researchers found that the number of years of life lost for class III obesity was equal or higher than that of current (versus never) cigarette smokers among normal-weight participants in the same study.
   The accuracy of the study findings is limited by the use of mostly self-reported height and weight measurements and by the use of BMI as the sole measure of obesity. Nevertheless, the researchers noted, the results highlight the need to develop more effective interventions to combat the growing public health problem of extreme obesity.
   “Given our findings, it appears that class III obesity is increasing and may soon emerge as a major cause of early death in this and other countries worldwide,” said Patricia Hartge, Sc.D., Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics, and senior author of the study.
   Source: National Institutes of Health

Photo by Steve Rensberry (c) 2014