Trade Group Opposition Overcomes Baby Bottle BPA Ban in Senate

November 17, 2010
By: GreenAnswers Staff

Efforts in the Senate to ban bisphenol A (BPA) from baby bottles failed today as opposition from the industry’s trade group and Republicans overcame Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s (D-Calif) efforts.
BPA, a synthetic estrogen, is widely used in consumer products ranging from hard plastics to canned goods. Studies are still mixed on the exact health threats from BPA, however evidence has shown potentially widespread reproductive and other health dangers.

Feinstein’s ban on BPA in baby bottles would have taken effect in 6 months. However, the American Chemistry Council (ACC), the chemical industry’s lobbying group, led the efforts to prevent the ban.

Feinstein voiced frustration over the chemical group’s opposition, saying she didn’t understand how the chemical group could oppose a measure to protect the endocrine systems of infants just because they were set to lose money should it pass.

Feinstein had been working with Sen. Michael Enzi (R-Wyo.) to insert the measure into the Senate’s pending food safety bill. Among others, Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) was against the proposed BPA ban.

Republicans Consider Controversial Figures for Energy Chair

November 11, 2010
By: GreenAnswers Staff

Having won control of the House, Republicans are gearing up to pick a leader for the powerful Energy and Commerce Committee. Two of the leading candidates are Texas Representative Joe Barton and Michigan Representative Fred Upton.

Although Barton has reached a Republican party term limit by serving three consecutive terms as the Republican leader of that committee, he is petitioning for a waiver from the rule. Barton caused a national stir earlier in the year by apologizing to BP and claiming the company was the victim of a White House “shake down” when BP was asked to designate a $20 billion recovery fund for the Gulf oil spill.

Momentum for Barton has been growing in Republican circles, as his rival for the committee position, Representative Upton, has been receiving criticism for his support of energy efficiency laws. Specifically, Upton, along with California Democratic Representative Jane Harman, co-sponsored a bill to phase out incandescent bulbs and to require that they be at least three times as efficient as today’s bulbs by 2020, as a part of the Energy Independence and Security Act.

Upton’s support of energy efficiency regulations are in stark contrast to both Barton, as well as Illinois Representative John Shimkus, who is also seeking the committee chair. Shimkus, who is an ardent climate change skeptic, on Wednesday reiterated to Politico his earlier claims that climate change is not a threat to humans since “I do believe in the Bible as the final word of God… and I do believe that God said the Earth would not be destroyed by a flood.” In 2009, Shimkus had made a similar argument in a subcommittee hearing, explaining that carbon dioxide is “plant food… So if we decrease the use of carbon dioxide, are we not taking away plant food from the atmosphere?… So all our good intentions could be for naught. In fact, we could be doing just the opposite of what the people who want to save the world are saying.”

In 2007, Shimkus was also criticized for comparing the war in Iraq to a baseball game between his “beloved” St. Louis Cardinals and the “much despised” Chicago Cubs.

The final candidate for the leadership post is Florida Representative Cliff Stearns, who is an advocate of expanded offshore drilling, as well as drilling the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Stearns has also questions the science behind climate change.

Videos of Representative Shimkus discussing climate change at a subcommittee hearing.

Tesla Loses $35 Million and Shares Rally 19 Percent

November 10, 2010
By: GreenAnswers Staff

Stock prices for Electric vehicle manufacturer Tesla Motors rose 19 percent today on heavy trading. Interestingly, this increase is  in response to Tesla’s reported third quarter earnings, which marked a loss of $34.9 million. Wall Street analysts had been predicting a larger loss and were encouraged by the announcement.
Much of Tesla’s costs last quarter were used in the development of its new electric vehicle, the Model S. The Model S will be an electric sedan with a more affordable sticker price than the Tesla Roadster, which is priced at $101,500.
Meanwhile, sales of Tesla’s iconic Roadster fell by about half last quarter to 151 units.
Tesla is aiming for a mid-2012 launch of the Model S, which is being assembled at a newly upgraded plant in Fremont, CA.
Despite Tesla’s losses, the stock price of the company continues to remain strong. Much of this is due to recent collaborations Tesla has pursued with major car manufacturers, such as Toyota, as well as market confidence in the company founder, Elon Musk.

Similac Recalled After Beetles Found in Baby Formula and Factory

[img_assist|nid=195027|title=|desc=|link=none|align=left|width=225|height=225]Sep 22, 2010 (GreenAnswers) – Abbot Laboratories is recalling five million containers of Similac after two consumers found beetles in the popular baby formula. Beetles were also found in the Michigan plant where the product is manufactured.

According to reports, the recall affects only the powdered infant formulas. Liquid formulas are not included in the recall.

Based on concerns about contamination, the company recently tested their product line and discovered only 0.02% of all containers were contaminated with beetles.

Abbott spokeswoman Melissa Brotz indicated that “The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has determined that while the formula containing these beetles poses no immediate health risk, there is a possibility that infants who consume formula containing the beetles or their larvae could experience symptoms of gastrointestinal discomfort and refusal to eat.”

The voluntary recall will reportedly cost the company $100 million.

Study: Education About Sunbathing and Tanning Bed Risks Effective

[img_assist|nid=194839|title=|desc=|link=none|align=left|width=250|height=183]Sep 21, 2010 (GreenAnswers) – Educating adolescents about the dangers of lying out in the sun and using tanning beds is an effective means of changing their behavior, according to U.S. researchers.

A recently completed study looked at the tanning behavior of 1,500 U.S. boys and girls aged 11 through 18. The study took half the group and educated them about the benefits of using sunless tanning products as an alternative to laying out and using a tanning bed. Two months later, this group reported a 33 percent decrease in sunbathing activities versus 10 percent in the control group.

Educating adolescents about the dangers of sunbathing is a major public policy issue. Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the U.S., with more than one million cases each year. Melanoma, the most deadly form of skin cancer, kills 8,700 people every year.

Fortunately, skin cancer is also one of the most preventable forms of cancer. Simply avoiding tanning beds, limiting exposure to the sun and using sunscreen, are very effective means of decreasing the risk.

FDA Panel To Continue Review of Genetically Modified Salmon

[img_assist|nid=194824|title=|desc=|link=none|align=left|width=150|height=145]Sep. 21, 2010 (GreenAnswers) – The FDA panel tasked with reviewing a request to permit genetically modified salmon to be sold in the U.S. decided on Monday to not vote on the matter. ABC News reports that several members of the panel were concerned that there was not enough data presented to allow a determination to be made regarding the safety of genetically modified salmon.

Ron Stotish, the CEO of AquaBounty Technologies, indicated that the panel was confused by the large amount of information presented during the eight hour hearing.

The non-decision is a temporary setback for AquaBounty Technologies, which is hoping to introduce a salmon egg which includes a growth hormone gene that causes salmon to grow twice as quickly.

Opponents have argued that the potential health and environmental effects are too great to permit genetically modified salmon to be produced and consumed.

Genetically Modified ‘FrankenFish’ Headed To Your Table?

[img_assist|nid=194725|title=|desc=|link=none|align=left|width=300|height=156]Sep. 20, 2010 (GreenAnswers) – Over the next few days, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration will be conducting hearings regarding a proposal to allow genetically modified salmon to be sold to U.S. consumers.

Termed “FrankenFish” by its critics, the genetically modified salmon eggs are produced by a company called AquaBounty Technologies. The eggs include a hormone gene that cause the salmon to grow twice as quickly as regular salmon. AquaBounty is hoping the FDA will approve this product for sale and distribution throughout the country.

However, critics contend that the potential health and environmental risks are too great to justify allowing the genetically modified fish to be produced and sold. Among many theorized risks, one obvious concern is that the engineered fish escape into the wild and breed with regular fish. The effects the resulting offspring could have on native fisheries could be devastating.

The FDA panel will be making four determinations, including: whether genetic engineering is safe for the fish; whether there is reasonable certainty the fish are safe to consume; whether the data really does indicate the fish grow faster; and the potential environmental impacts the production of these fish could pose.

If the genetically modified salmon is approved, it would mark the first time that American’s are fed genetically modified animals. Until now, the only genetically modified foods approved for human consumption in the U.S. have been soybeans and corn. Approval of genetically modified salmon could usher in a new era of genetically engineered super animals on American’s dinner plates.

Environmental Benefits of Working and Shopping From Home Are Questioned

[img_assist|nid=193919|title=|desc=|link=none|align=left|width=300|height=200]Sept. 17, 2010 (GreenAnswers) – Working from home and buying goods online is not necessarily more environmentally friendly, according to a study recently released. The study was conducted by the Institution of Engineering and Technology, a British professional body for those working in engineering and technology.

The IET study found that certain actions, previously believed to be beneficial to the environment, might actually have unintended consequences that overshadow those benefits. Specifically, the study found that shoppers must buy at least 25 items in a single online purchase in order to receive any environmental benefits. Otherwise, the energy required to send a delivery truck to that person’s home could outweigh the benefit of that person not driving themselves.

Additionally, the study also notes that buying goods online is more efficient only if it replaces three and a half traditional shopping trips or if the distance traveled to the point of purchase is more than 31 miles.

The study also looked at telecommuters, concluding that working from home can actually lead to a 30% increase in energy consumption. This is because working from home does not spread energy resources across a group, as is done in an office setting, and it also encourages workers to live in the suburbs, which contributes to urban sprawl and increased transportation needs.

Although some of the conclusions of the study are disheartening, the chairman of the panel that produced the report, Professor Phil Blythe, warned “we must not get overwhelmed by the task and use rebound effects as an excuse not to act.”

Drug Resistant ‘Superbug’ Found in the United States

[img_assist|nid=193620|title=|desc=|link=none|align=left|width=127|height=170]Sept. 14, 2010 (GreenAnswers) – Concerns about an antibiotic resistant “superbug” are growing after three cases of infection were reported in the United States.

The gene found in some bacteria, known by the medical community as NDM-1 (New Delhi metallo-beta-lactamase) permits it to escape destruction by the world’s strongest antibiotics. This broad drug resistance has made NDM-1 potentially very deadly.

Fortunately there are no known deaths in the U.S. from this superbug. However, as people continue to travel abroad for medical care (“medical tourism”), the risk of infection and transmission will grow.

The three individuals in the U.S. who contracted NDM-1 all had either spent time recently in India, or are from that country, where the superbug has firmly established itself.

Safety and Effectiveness of Natural Botanical Supplements is Questioned

[img_assist|nid=193589|title=|desc=|link=none|align=left|width=350|height=238]Sept. 14, 2010 (GreenAnswers) – Questions about the safety and effectiveness of “natural” botanical supplements have been growing in recent years. The Wall Street Journal conducted an in-depth report on this rapidly expanding industry which raises questions about these popular “natural” remedies.

The botanical supplement industry, once a small niche, has grown into a major player with over $5 billion in sales in 2009. According to American Botanical Council, this is up 17% from 2004.

Despite this volcanic growth, there has been very few empirical studies conducted to support the claimed health benefits of these supplements. Not only are the health benefits unproven, many supplements have been shown to contain contaminants such as bacteria and lead. Additionally, many supplement providers have been accused of making false marketing claims.

Although many botanical supplements have not been proven to be effective, there also is not conclusive evidence disproving their effectiveness. Instead, a widespread lack of regulation and research has left a large information and credibility gap.

While the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is required to test and approve pharmaceutical drugs, they do not have a Congressional mandate to do the same with botanical supplements. Small progress is being made with plans to begin requiring supplement manufacturers to follow quality manufacturing standards as of 2011. However, the FDA rarely conducts physical inspections of these manufacturing plants.