Water | Fish & Wildlife | Ecotrope

Pick your poison: Raw sewage, airborne mercury or early puberty

Ecotrope | Aug. 10, 2010 7:01 a.m. | Updated: Feb. 19, 2013 1:47 p.m.

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A round-up of today’s environmental news items:

  • Good advice: Avoid sewage spills. After a contractor working on the Eastside Portland Streetcar extension blocked a pipe Monday, 1,400 gallons of raw sewage spilled out into the Willamette River. Locals are advised to avoid contact with the water between the Morrison and Hawthorne bridges today.
  • Algae, algae, everywhere: Seven bodies of water in Oregon are contaminated with a naturally occurring but toxic blue-green algae. The algae release toxins that make the water harmful if it is swallowed or comes into contact with skin.
  • Two items on shrimp: All aglow (don’t worry about it; shrimp are meant to glow in the dark) or all drugged up (cause for concern). In the latter case, scientists say Prozac flushed into the water is mimicking a parasite that leads shrimp to swim toward light where they are more likely to become prey for other animals.
  • No special privileges for Durkee cement plant: The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has declined to make an exception to mercury emission rules for the Ash Grove Cement Co. near Baker City. The company has reduced its mercury emissions, but not enough to meet new regulations. The type of limestone the plant quarries carries more mercury than other limestone and makes it the second largest source of airborne mercury in the country.
  • The problem with pesticides: A study published in the journal Toxicology suggests pesticides may be more deadly to bees than originally thought because their longevity in soil and water. This renews suspicions that pesticides are causing a widespread bee die-off (aka colony collapse). Environmental groups in the UK are agitating for a pesticide ban. This is an issue near and dear to Oregon farmers who employ bees to pollinate their crops.
  • Diet and/or exposure to endocrine disruptors: Is exposure to chemicals that act on hormones causing earlier puberty in girls? A study in the journal Pediatrics found that some girls are entering puberty earlier than they were 10 years ago. But it’s not clear if it’s driven by obesity, chemical exposure, or something else…

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