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Environmental Factor, July 2012

This month in EHP

Environmental Health Perspectives July 2012

This month’s feature stories in Environmental Health Perspectives (EHP) (http://ehp03.niehs.nih.gov/home.action) tackle the timely issues of fracking and replacements for toxic chemicals.

Focus — The Future of Fracking: New Rules Target Air Emissions for Cleaner Natural Gas Production

Natural gas is lauded as a cleaner-burning fuel than either coal or oil, but getting the fuel out of the ground can be a dirty process, especially given the widespread adoption of the technology known as hydraulic fracturing or fracking. Concerns about toxic air emissions, from previously unregulated fracking sites, led to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announcement April 18 of new and updated air pollution regulations for these facilities, as well as certain other elements of oil and natural gas production and transmission. Compliance with the new regulations is expected to result in major reductions in emissions of methane and volatile organic compounds, particularly from newly fracked natural gas wells.

Spheres of Influence — Why Is It So Difficult to Choose Safer Alternatives for Hazardous Chemicals?

The discovery of persistent, bioaccumulative, and toxic flame-retardant chemicals everywhere, from animals north of the Arctic Circle to the breast milk of California women, has been a cause for considerable concern. Alternative flame retardants were introduced to replace these chemicals, but investigators had not even produced the first empirical data on the substitutes’ metabolic fate and toxicity, before emerging evidence indicated they, like their predecessors, were accumulating rapidly in the environment. As the post-market research continues, some are wondering, who, exactly, decides on the replacements for toxic chemicals and on the basis of what criteria; and why does finding truly safer alternatives seem so difficult.

Podcast with Bruce Blumberg — What Do We Know About Obesogens?

Human beings, as a species, are putting on weight. Obesity rates are rising in rich and poor countries alike, for a variety of reasons, from changing dietary habits and activity levels, to exposure to artificial nighttime light. Mounting evidence, from over the past decade, suggests that certain chemicals may be playing a role as well. For some people, so-called obesogens may be altering their metabolism and fat cell development, making it harder to maintain a healthy weight. In this month’s Researcher’s Perspective (http://ehp03.niehs.nih.gov/static/podcasts.action) podcast, host Ashley Ahearn talks with NIEHS grantee Bruce Blumberg, Ph.D., about the state of our understanding of obesogens.

Featured commentaries, reviews, and research this month include the following:

  • Information Quality in Regulatory Decision Making
  • Household Sprays and Heart Rate Variability
  • Using Biosensor Zebrafish to Identify Estrogen Targets
  • Autism and Maternal Smoking During Pregnancy



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