How Dangerous Is Pesticide Drift?


iStock/Thinkstock

❝ If you live near a big farm or an otherwise frequently manicured landscape, “pesticide drift”—drifting spray and dust from pesticide applications — could be an issue for you and yours. Indeed, pesticide drift is an insidious threat to human health as well as to wildlife and ecosystems in and around agricultural and even residential areas where harsh chemicals are used to ward off pests. The biggest risk from pesticide drift is to those living, working or attending school near larger farms which employ elevated spraying equipment or crop duster planes to apply chemicals to crops and fields. Children are especially vulnerable to these airborne pesticides, given that their young bodies are still growing and developing…

❝ Thanks in large part to advocacy by Pesticide Action Network and other groups, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has made strides in protecting more of us against pesticide drift. In late 2009 the agency rolled out new guidelines directing pesticide manufacturers to include labeling on their products indicating how to minimize off-target spray and dust drift. Any spray pesticides manufactured or labeled as of January 2012 and for sale in the U.S. must display the warning on its label: “Do not apply this product in a manner that results in spray (or dust) drift that harms people or any other non-target organisms or sites.”…

Even though spray pesticides are now labeled and 28 states have drift spray regulations on their books, pesticide drift continues to be a problem wherever crops are grown. If pesticide drift is an issue where you live, work, study or play, contact PAN. The group can send out a “Drift Catcher”—a device that collects air samples which can then be analyzed for pesticides. “It enables farmworkers and community members to document and draw attention to otherwise invisible chemical exposures,” says PAN.

Please, please – live or work in an area where this is a problem – contact PAN.

What do you think 102 million dead trees mean for wildfire danger in California?


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The number of dead trees in California’s drought-stricken forests has risen dramatically to more than 102 million in what officials described as an unparalleled ecological disaster that heightens the danger of massive wildfires and damaging erosion.

Officials said they were alarmed by the increase in dead trees, which they estimated to have risen by 36 million since the government’s last survey in May. The U.S. Forest Service, which performs such surveys of forest land, said Friday that 62 million trees have died this year alone….

Scientists say five years of drought are to blame for much of the destruction. The lack of rain has put California’s trees under considerable stress, making them more susceptible to the organisms, such as beetles, that can kill them. Unusually high temperatures have added to the trees’ demand for water, exacerbating an already grim situation…

Although California enjoyed a wet start to the water year in Northern California, the central and southern parts of the state remain locked in what federal officials classify as “extreme” and “exceptional” drought.

Sooner or later – hopefully, the former – folks will realize that climate change means more than a couple paragraphs about global warming. Distorted climates produce untypical environments, often ending in disaster.

Haboob eats Phoenix


Click to enlargeJerry Ferguson

❝ It was a haboob. The word is Arabic and means “blowing or drifting,” and to meteorologists it is the term used to describe intense dust storms inherent to arid regions.

❝ Haboobs are caused when the strong winds blasting out of a thunderstorm hit the ground and kick up the loose sand and dust covering the arid landscapes. Just as a shelf cloud marks the leading edge of a thunderstorm from above, a thick dust cloud marks the leading edge of this same thunderstorm from below.

Arcing across the sky landscape stretching dozens of miles from end-to-end, these dust storms can reach up thousands of feet in the air, and move across the landscape at highway speeds.

❝ While these monstrous haboobs with their menacing shelf clouds hold astonishing beauty, they can be incredibly dangerous. Often accompanied by 60 mph winds or higher, they can pack a serious punch as they steam-roll across the landscape. In addition to the strong winds, the dust can cause visibility to drop to zero in heart beat, blocking out the sun turning day to night, and making it nearly impossible to see until the winds die down and the dust settles…

Phoenix is the haboob capital of the United States. I’ll just leave that alone as a straight line.

Utah law lets authorities take down drones at wildfires


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Utah’s governor has signed into law a measure that makes the state the first to let authorities jam drone signals and crash the devices specifically for flying too close to wildfires.

Republican Gov. Gary Herbert’s office announced Monday that he signed the law over the weekend, just days after lawmakers met in a special session to pass it and a handful of other bills.

State Sen. Evan Vickers, who co-sponsored the law, says it technically allows firefighters and law enforcement to shoot down drones, but they probably won’t do that because it’s too difficult. Instead, authorities are expected to use technology that jams signals and crashes drones.

Utah passed the law after a drone recently was sighted five times over one wildfire, causing firefighters to ground their aircraft and slow their work.

But, but, but…some idjit was seriously getting some dynamite images and video for his YouTube account. Might’ve gone viral and got him a real job.

“President” Trump would threaten world economy as much as jihadi terror

The prospect of Donald Trump winning the race to the White House has joined China’s slowing economy, the Greek debt crisis and Britain’s EU referendum as a major threat to the global economy, according to a respected risk analysis firm…

The EIU placed the possibility of Trump being sworn in as US president next January sixth on their latest list of global threats, as serious as a resurgence of jihadi terrorism, and only marginally less risky than the collapse of the eurozone…

❝ “In the event of a Trump victory, his hostile attitude to free trade, and alienation of Mexico and China in particular, could escalate rapidly into a trade war…”…It added: “His militaristic tendencies towards the Middle East – and ban on all Muslim travel to the US – would be a potent recruitment tool for jihadi groups, increasing their threat both within the region and beyond…”

According to the EIU, there was “a moderate probability” of Trump winning November’s presidential election, and serious conflict in Washington if he succeeded.

“Although we do not expect Mr Trump to defeat his most likely Democratic contender, Hillary Clinton, there are risks to this forecast, especially in the event of a terrorist attack on US soil or a sudden economic downturn,” it said.

But, then, are there any Trump supporters who care a rat’s ass about global commerce, international treaty obligations, friendship and cooperation between nations and nationalities?

Innovation and dysfunction at Los Alamos National Laboratory


Containers of radioactive waste on the way to storage in Carlsbad, NM

On May 3, an electrical accident at a Los Alamos National Laboratory substation injured nine workers, burning one of them so severely he was hospitalized for more than a month.

Federal officials in December cited the incident as a “significant failure” on the part of the contractor charged with managing the nuclear weapons repository and research facility. The contractor — Los Alamos National Security — lost $7.2 million in federal performance fees because of the accident.

The incident also might have been the final straw that cost LANS — a consortium in which the University of California and Bechtel Corp. are the primary players — the lucrative $2.2 billion-a-year contract to manage the lab that it has held for nearly a decade.

The electrical accident was the latest in a string of problems for LANS that include injured workers, improperly handled hazardous waste, missing enriched uranium, stolen tools and the public release of classified documents. The most costly incident occurred in 2014, when a container of radioactive waste repackaged at the lab later ruptured in the nation’s only underground nuclear waste repository, contaminating workers and costing hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars to clean up.

Federal officials told Congress in December that they will put the LANL contract up for competitive bid for only the second time since the lab opened in 1943. The current LANS contract ends Sept 30, 2017.

Investigators say the problems stem from repeated management weaknesses, the kind that were supposed to get fixed when the Department of Energy turned to private industry in 2006 to oversee the lab. It was the first time the federal government had put the lab’s management up for bid, with the idea that a for-profit model, operating under an incentives-based contract, would fix the problems that haunted the nonprofit University of California, which had run the lab since World War II.

RTFA. You really should. Most of our few and treasured national labs probably are managed as erratically, poorly, occasionally as dangerously or worse – as LANL. Folks “up on the hill” are so well-paid they make Los Alamos the richest city/county in the United States. Not all are as dedicated to death and destruction as they once were required to be. News which Congress in its current 19th Century incarnation probably would not welcome. But, since the Beltway crowd mostly fears or hates anything that includes some knowledge of science – they ain’t about to peer too closely.

This is a long detailed, tightly edited history. The topic is worth volumes some of which have been written. Just wandering through I’ve noticed a few omissions, mostly unimportant, just local color. Wen Ho Lee’s avocation away from the labs is well-known. An avid, talented fly fisherman especially with light tackle. I sometimes bumped into him at a stream that also was a favorite of Al Capone.

The Santa Fe NEW MEXICAN has done stellar work criticizing the labs and oversight from the Nuclear Regulation Commission. An award-winning series for the editor BITD. The previous generation of the family that still owns the paper was sufficiently dedicated to the Republican Party and conservative ideology to fire that editor after congratulations. 🙂

US government admits common pesticide harms honeybees

The US government has acknowledged for the first time that one of the world’s most widely used pesticides can be harmful to honeybees.

The results of field trials, released…by the US Environmental Protection Agency, show imidacloprid, a common neonicotinoid, can cause hive populations to fall among the world’s most important pollinators…

Declines in the number of bees and the honey they produced were seen when imidacloprid was at the “low level” of 25 parts per billion (ppbn) in the nectar and pollen of the plants, which worker bees carry back to their hive…

Three neonicotinoids, including imidacloprid, are currently banned in the EU. Imidacloprid was the first of the neonicotinoid chemicals to come on the market in the US and has been in wide use since 1994 on crops from corn to vegetables. The global production of the substance in 2010 was 20,000 tonnes, making it one of the world’s most-used pesticides.

The finding fuelled long-standing demands from campaign groups and beekeeper organisations to restrictthe use of neonicotinoids…

A ban on the use of such chemicals would not be enough on its own to revive the honeybee population, which Walker said have also been affected by habitat loss, disease and parasites. “But this is one factor we can control immediately,” said Larissa Walker, from the Centre for Food Safety…

The report was faulted for its relatively narrow focus on large honeybee colonies – instead of the native bee species and smaller colonies that may also be at risk.

Jones said it was the EPA’s assessment that honeybees would make a good surrogate for other species. But Walker and Chris Connolly, who studies the effects of neonicotinoids on bees at Dundee University in Scotland, disagree, arguing that the level at which the EPA had found honeybees were harmed was much higher than the threshold for other bee species…

The pesticide industry continues to lobby against controls on neonicotinoids. They maintain that realistic field studies show nothing out of the ordinary. OTOH, a major field study last April found neonicotinoids have a “dramatic” impact on populations of bumble bees and other wild bees…including the pesticide applied through seed coating. And so it goes.

Feds launching huge study of oil and gas worker safety

An unprecedented study of the hazards rooted in America’s largest oil patches will be launched next year by federal health officials in Colorado who hope to cut the dangers faced by oil and gas workers.

Scientists from the Denver office of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health — which is part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — will distribute questionnaires to 500 oil field workers in North Dakota, Texas and another unnamed state.

Institute personnel will fan out to so-called “man camps”; training centers; equipment and trucking yards; well sites; and community centers in oilfield towns.

Oil field work is considered one of the most dangerous in the country. Between 2005 and 2009, the national occupational fatality rate for the oil and gas industry was seven times higher than the general industry rate and 2½ times higher than the construction industry rate.

Workers will be asked about the types of injuries they’ve suffered while on the job, what they were doing when they were injured, the training they’ve had and whether oil companies provide bonuses to workers who don’t report an injury or incident over a certain length of time, said Kyla Retzer, a Denver-based epidemiologist with the institute’s oil and gas program…

“We’ve analyzed fatality numbers, and we knew that fatality rates were high among oil field workers,” Retzer said. “But we haven’t talked to workers directly in a systematic way about some of their safety-related behaviors and what their concerns are.”

“It’s not an organized workforce,” Retzer said, “so there is no real access to a specific group.”…

Overdue. Always has been pushed back by every level of government. Dirty money crosses lots of palms.

I haven’t worked in the oil industry since the 1960’s. Nothing has changed.