Category: Science

Worker Health and Safety During the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Cleanup in Alaska (Video)

Are today’s workers any safer than they were in 1989?

Watch the vid.

Merle Savage: Workers Cleaning Oil from the Gulf Need Respirators

I received an email this evening from Merle Savage that included a link to the video above. In the video, she references her Web site, Silence in the Sound. Her plea is simple: give respirators to those working to clean the oil hemorrhaging from the Gulf of Mexico, because the oil is toxic. Ms. Savage is asking that we help spread the word.

Here’s a 2009 release from Silence in the Sound:

My name is Merle Savage; I worked as a female general foreman for VECO, during the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill beach cleanup in Prince William Sound, Alaska. After working for 3 days on the oily beaches, I had a persistent cough that developed into bronchitis, headaches, sore throat, upset stomach and fatigue. On the 4th day I reported to the sick bay and was given medication by the doctor who was supplied by VECO, and on the way to my room, I fainted. I had 3 days of bed rest, but went back to work with recurring symptoms. Of the workers that I supervised 80% had the same medical problems. I wonder how many other cleanup workers, like me, went home thinking we would get better, but didn’t? The symptoms escalated until my medical condition took over my life, and was so bad that I have been unable to hold a job.

I know my medical condition was caused, in part by, the toxic fumes I breathed while cleaning the oily beaches, that was outlined in Dr. Riki Ott’s book, Sound Truth and Corporate Myth and DVD, Black Wave. She stated people were sick, and how Exxon didn?t tell the federal health officials about thousands and thousands of workers who had respiratory illnesses during the 1989 cleanup. She had found that many survivors of the cleanup, like me, are continuing to struggle, after 20 years, without any compensation from Exxon. Some of the illnesses workers are having include; neurological impairment, chronic respiratory disease, leukemia, lymphoma, brain tumors, liver damage, kidney damage, cancers, and blood diseases.

Dr. Ott’s web site is: another short video that exposes medical issues generated by Exxon’s toxic cleanup is:

I wrote a book, Silence in the Sound, about my experiences during the cleanup, and have listed many stories about other workers on my web site, who have similar health issues like mine.

I am convinced that Exxon’s toxic cleanup poisoned me, and thousands of other cleanup workers. I found a law firm, Barnett and Lerner to represent me in order to secure future medical care, payment for past medical care and possible compensation.

The firm of Barnett and Lerner is able to represent anyone who was exposed to the poison vapors. I invite you to visit their web site sign on as clients, and allow them to represent your interest against VECO.

Silence in the Sound : The Adventure
is available from Amazon.

Results are In: Jews Have A Lot In Common

The title is tongue in cheek. The research is real.

From Science Magazine:

Who are the Jews? For more than a century, historians and linguists have debated whether the Jewish people are a racial group, a cultural and religious entity, or something else. More recently, scientists have been weighing in on the question with genetic data. The latest such study, published today in the American Journal of Human Genetics, shows a genetic connection among all Jews, despite widespread migrations and intermarriage with non-Jews. It also apparently refutes repeated claims that most Ashkenazi Jews are descended from Central Europeans who converted to Judaism 1000 years ago.

The method and results:

Ostrer and his colleagues analyzed nuclear DNA from blood samples taken from a total of 237 Ashkenazi and Middle Eastern Jews in New York City and Sephardic Jews in Seattle, Washington; Greece; Italy; and Israel. They compared these with DNA from about 2800 presumably non-Jewish individuals from around the world. The team used several analytical approaches to calculate how genetically similar the Jewish groups were to each other and to the non-Jewish groups, including a method called identity by descent (IBD), which is often used to determine how closely two individuals are related.

Individuals within each Jewish group had high levels of IBD, roughly equivalent to that of fourth or fifth cousins. Although each of the three Jewish groups showed genetic admixture (interbreeding) with nearby non-Jews, they shared many genetic features, suggesting common roots that the team estimated went back more than 2000 years. Ashkenazi Jews, whose genetic profiles indicated between 30% to 60% admixture with Europeans, nevertheless clustered more closely with Middle Eastern and Sephardic Jews, a finding the researchers say is inconsistent with the Khazar hypothesis. "I would hope that these observations would put the idea that Jewishness is just a cultural construct to rest," Ostrer says.

Louisiana’s Bad Marriage to the Oil Industry

The state of Louisiana is in a bad marriage that can only end badly.

From The Nation:

No state in the union has been more firmly wedded to the oil and gas industry than Louisiana. No more zealous preachers of the clean oil gospel can be found than the state’s politicians, who were elected by oil money (at the high end of industry campaign funding) and have defended the industry from regulation (including wetland protections), reduced its royalties with tax breaks and "royalty holidays" (thereby depriving the US Treasury of some $53 billion in revenues from existing offshore leases) and beaten the drums for opening the Atlantic Coast and the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil development… because Louisiana’s experience showed oil and the environment to be so compatible. State brochures feature pelicans and oil platforms against the setting sun. The largest exhibit in New Orleans’s Audubon Aquarium of the Americas contains the base of an oil rig, around which swim contented fish, framed by the logos of Shell, Chevron and BP. We have improved on Eden.

The real story was always otherwise; it was just rarely told. Oil was first found in Louisiana a hundred years ago, and the finds swiftly moved south to the coastal zone. Oil companies appropriated the coastal parishes, most notoriously Plaquemines, ground zero for the BP slick; Texaco’s leases in Plaquemines were arranged by the parish district attorney, who conveniently reported only part of the proceeds to the parish police jury and kept the rest (a fact that is emerging only after his death, in a family feud). Local politicians in their pockets, Texaco et al. had one remaining problem: getting men and equipment to the drill sites and laying pipelines to carry off the gold. In the companies’ way were some 5 million acres of coastal marsh, one of the most biologically productive zones in North America.

The solution was soon to come: floating dredges, which would dig canals to the wellheads and more canals for the pipelines. These dredges have worked nonstop ever since. They have ripped through the wetlands of southern Louisiana like bulldozers, severing bayous, drowning adjacent marshes, draining others and introducing salt water from the Gulf of Mexico that sears the plant roots, at which point they disintegrate and the coastal marsh system, made up of billions of stems and roots of living things, falls apart like wet cardboard. There were alternative means of access, but industry rejected them. It could also have backfilled the canals when the job was done, but this too was rejected. The reasons were remarkably like BP’s: those approaches would take time, cost money.

The dredging was not occasional, or here or there. It was pandemic. The industry has laced 8,000 miles of canals and pipelines through the Louisiana wetlands, each one eroding laterally over time, less an assault at this point than a cancer. They are supported by larger navigation canals, requested by the industry and built by the ever-willing Army Corps of Engineers. One such canal, the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet, after killing off 39,000 acres of forest and wetlands between New Orleans and the gulf, ushered Hurricane Katrina right into the city. If you drive down any bayou road in southern Louisiana, you will see marsh grasses out the window. If you fly over them in a plane and look down, you see something that looks like northern New Jersey: water roads and open water through isolated patches of green. The next time you fly over, there will be even less green. We have been losing twenty-five square miles of coastal Louisiana every year, in major part to these canals, to serve the oil and gas industry, which has made tidy sums in the bargain. When I last looked, six oil and energy corporations were listed in the world’s top ten.

And there’s more. Consider this:

Louisiana, the state most vulnerable to climate change and sea level rise, leads the charge against EPA regulation of carbon dioxide (letters of opposition from no fewer than four state agencies and the governor, which must be a record) and the president’s climate change bill.

Now the oil comes home.

A Hole in the World: The BP Oil Hemorrhage

It’s not an oil spill. There is no mere spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

There is a hole in the world. The floor of the Gulf of Mexico is hemorrhaging oil, and no one has a clue how to stop it. When they finally do plug the hold, the damage will likely be with us for decades.

From The Nation:

How long will it take for an ecosystem this ravaged to be "restored and made whole," as Obama’s interior secretary pledged it would be? It’s not at all clear that such a thing is even possible, at least not in a time frame we can easily wrap our heads around. The Alaskan fisheries have yet to recover fully from the 1989 Exxon Valdez spill, and some species of fish never returned. Government scientists estimate that as much as a Valdez-worth of oil may be entering the Gulf Coast waters every four days. An even worse prognosis emerges from the 1991 Gulf War spill, when an estimated 11 million barrels of oil were dumped into the Persian Gulf—the largest spill ever. It’s not a perfect comparison, since so little cleanup was done, but according to a study conducted twelve years after the disaster in the Persian Gulf, nearly 90 percent of the impacted muddy salt marshes and mangroves were still profoundly damaged.

We do know this: far from being "made whole," the Gulf Coast, more than likely, will be diminished. Its rich waters and crowded skies will be less alive than they are today. The physical space many communities occupy on the map will also shrink, thanks to erosion. And the coast’s legendary culture will contract and wither. The fishing families up and down the coast do not just gather food, after all. They hold up an intricate network that includes family tradition, cuisine, music, art and endangered languages—much like the roots of grass holding up the land in the marsh. Without fishing, these unique cultures lose their root system, the very ground on which they stand. (BP, for its part, is well aware of the limits of recovery. The company’s "Gulf of Mexico Regional Oil Spill Response Plan" specifically instructs officials not to make "promises that property, ecology, or anything else will be restored to normal." Which is no doubt why its officials consistently favor folksy terms like "make it right.")

If Katrina pulled back the curtain on racism, the BP disaster pulls back the curtain on something far more hidden: how little control even the most ingenious among us have over the awesome, intricately interconnected natural forces with which we so casually meddle. BP cannot plug the hole in the Earth that it made. Obama cannot order brown pelicans not to go extinct (no matter whose ass he kicks). No amount of money—not BP’s recently pledged $20 billion, not $100 billion—can replace a culture that has lost its roots. And while our politicians and corporate leaders have yet to come to terms with these humbling truths, the people whose air, water and livelihoods have been contaminated are losing their illusions fast.

"Everything is dying," a woman said as the town hall meeting was coming to a close. "How can you honestly tell us that our gulf is resilient and will bounce back? Because not one of you up here has a hint as to what is going to happen to our gulf. You sit up here with a straight face and act like you know, when you don’t know."

"Everything is dying."

More Carbon per Kilowatt: New Study Finds Greenhouse Gasses are Soaring

Found this hiding on Science Magazine’s Web site from 2007:

Stopping the runaway train of world carbon emissions is getting harder by the day, a new global analysis suggests. The culprit is a voracious global appetite for carbon-heavy fossil fuels. In 2003 and 2004, the amount of carbon released for every joule of energy used increased, reversing a long-standing trend, the study reports. That means greenhouse gas levels are rising even faster than previously feared, the authors say, although others aren’t so sure.

As countries develop, they typically generate less carbon dioxide for every unit of energy used. That’s because they typically move away from coal toward more carbon-efficient fuels such as natural gas, and economies evolve away from heavy manufacturing toward less energy-intensive service industries. But that trend of less carbon dioxide per unit of energy seems to be reversing globally.

Christopher Field of the Carnegie Institution in Palo Alto, California, and co-authors analyzed the relations between energy use, carbon emissions, and economics using public data through 2004. The bottom line: From 2000 to 2004, emissions levels have increased 3% per year–three times the rate of increase from 1990 to 1999.

In case any of our critics from the right are reading, Christopher Field is not Al Gore.

To Your Health! The Upside of Recessions

"Na zdrowie!" the Poles say. "To your health!"

And health may be the good news of any global economic downturn.

From Science Magazine:

You’ve lost your job, your house, and your savings. But, hey, you still have your health, right? Actually, you probably do–and it may even be improving. Researchers have found that, historically, Americans were healthier during the Great Depression and other economic downturns than they were during periods of prosperity. And they say the trend may still hold true today.

For many, the Great Depression conjures up images of wan, rail-thin men waiting in bread lines. At its peak in 1932, unemployment hit 22.9% and U.S. gross domestic product (GDP), a standard measure of economic performance, had shrunk by 14%. Despite these hardships, the average American was healthier during this period than during the economic booms that preceded and followed it, according to social researcher José Tapia Granados and his co-author Ana Diez Roux, both of the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.

The pair studied historical life expectancy and mortality data, GDP growth and unemployment rates, focusing on the years 1920 through 1940.

What did they find?

Tapia Granados’s team found an inverse association between economic health and population health: Life expectancy fell during economic upturns and increased during recessions. Mortality, meanwhile, tended to rise during economic upturns and fall during recessions. Deaths related to flu and pneumonia, for example, fell from about 150 per 100,000 people in 1929 to roughly 100 per 100,000 people in 1930, the researchers report online today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Suicide was the only cause of death that increased during times of economic turmoil.

American Poles also quip, "Nie ma robi. Nie ma nic. Nie ma pienadze!, Son of a bitch!"

"I have no work. I have nothing. I have no money…"

"Son of a bitch!"

Na zdrowie!

Did Mammoth Extinction Begin Global Warming?


News from Science Magazine of the imminent release of a new study:

The jury is still out on whether humans wiped out the mammoths. But researchers have found evidence that the disappearance of the woolly giants probably helped to change the climate. If the beasts were indeed hunted to extinction, that means human-driven climate change could have started long ago, the researchers say.

Like modern-day elephants, mammoths were nature’s tree pruners. Their diet included large amounts of leaves and branches from young trees, and they kept the temperate northern lands of North America, Europe, and Asia well trimmed and mostly free of forests. In particular, mammoths feasted in the grasslands that had sprung up in Beringia, the land bridge between Siberia and Alaska that now sits at the bottom of the Bering Sea. But then, starting around 15,000 years ago, mammoth populations in the region plummeted. At about the same time, a genus of birch trees called Betula, native to the northern grasslands, underwent a population explosion.

And the results suggest the expansion of Betula trees actually warmed the earth a bit:

The results, the researchers report in a paper to be published in an upcoming issue of Geophysical Research Letters, suggest that when the mammoths disappeared, the Betula trees expanded across Beringia, forming forests that replaced as much as one-quarter of the grassland. The trees’ leaves, which are darker than grasses, absorbed more solar radiation, and their trunks and branches, which jutted above the snowpack, continued the effect even in winter. The researchers calculated that the mammoths’ disappearance contributed at least 0.1?C to the average warming of the world around 15,000 years ago. Within Beringia, the warming due to the loss of the mammoths was probably closer to 0.2?C, the team concluded.


University Panel Clears Climate Scientist of Altering Data

From the NY Times:

An American scientist accused of manipulating research findings on climate science was cleared of that charge by his university on Thursday, the latest in a string of reports to find little substance in the allegations known as Climategate.

An investigative panel at Pennsylvania State University, weighing the question of whether the scientist, Michael E. Mann, had “seriously deviated from accepted practices within the academic community for proposing, conducting or reporting research or other scholarly activities,” declared that he had not.

Dr. Mann said he was gratified by the findings, the second report from Penn State to clear him. An earlier report had exonerated him of related charges that he suppressed or falsified data, destroyed e-mail and misused confidential information.

The new report did criticize him on a minor point, saying that he had occasionally forwarded to colleagues copies of unpublished manuscripts without the explicit permission of their authors.

The allegations arose after private e-mail messages between Dr. Mann and other scientists were purloined from a computer at the University of East Anglia, in Britain, and posted on the Internet. In one, a British researcher called a data-adjustment procedure Dr. Mann used a “trick.”

The e-mail messages led climate-change skeptics to accuse mainstream researchers, including Dr. Mann, of deliberately manipulating the findings of climate science in order to strengthen their case that human activity is causing the earth to warm up.

There is no doubt in the scientific community that global warming is real, it is happening, human beings are the cause, and we must do everything now to cease destruction of the environment before we make the planet uninhabitable for human beings and so many other forms of life. And science does not happen via email. Scientific studies are published in journals which most lay people in society – non-scientists- can neither read or comprehend.

Try reading a technical article from Science Magazine.

My point is not to affirm how little most of us know about real science – although that is pitifully true. The point is, no science happened in these emails with respect to the climate or anything else. Studies are published for the scientific community then critiqued by members of the scientific community.

I’m not defending Dr. Mann. But the far right must stop throwing mud at the scientific community because attention to climate change will require a rethinking of our economy, and much of that new economy will not include fossil fuels.

Poll: Growing Number of Americans Oppose Repealing Health Insurance Reform Law

A new 60 Minutes/Vanity Fair poll asks a random sample of 855 adults nationwide, interviewed by telephone May 6-9, 2010, whether any parts of the health insurance reform law should be repealed. Results show that a plurality of Americans said they would prefer Republicans to leave the new healthcare law alone and not repeal any parts of it.

As you may know, many Republicans have vowed to repeal President Obama’s health-care-reform law. Which part, if any, WOULD YOU LIKE TO SEE THEM GET RID OF?

Requiring all Americans to buy health insurance 30% 45% 13% 32%
Stopping insurance companies from denying coverage 8 6 6 11
Letting children stay
insured until age 26
8 10 8 7
Expanding prescription
coverage for seniors
2 3 1 1
None; I’d keep them all 42 18 68 38

Tip of the hat to The Wonk Room at Think Progress for this.