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Image of Petrochemical company faces hefty fines for 2019 explosions in Texas

Petrochemical company faces hefty fines for 2019 explosions in Texas

A Texas petrochemical company has agreed to pay more than $30 million in fines and penalties for Clean Air Act violations following explosions in 2019 that injured workers and forced mass evacuations.The Associated Press reports.In short:The 2019 explosions at TPC Group’s plant in Port Neches, Texas, forced the evacuation of over 50,000 people and released over 11 million pounds of hazardous substances.The U.S. Justice Department announced the company will pay $30 million in criminal fines and civil penalties and spend $80 million to enhance safety and risk management.The explosions caused more than $130 million in offsite property damage, impacting human health and the environment significantly.Key quote: “Today’s guilty plea shows that businesses that choose to place profits over safeguards and legal compliance will face serious consequences.” — Damien M. Diggs, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of TexasWhy this matters: This case highlights the serious health and environmental risks associated with petrochemical plant safety failures and reinforces the importance of regulatory compliance to minimize future incidents. Read more: Texas has more chemical emergencies than any other state and they’re disproportionately affecting Latino communities.

Image of Bill to fund PFAS cleanup in Wisconsin dies after partisan deadlock

Bill to fund PFAS cleanup in Wisconsin dies after partisan deadlock

A bill to allocate $125 million for PFAS cleanup in Wisconsin has failed due to political gridlock, preventing the release of crucial funds.Henry Redman reports for Wisconsin Examiner.In short:The bill, supported by both environmental and business groups initially, aimed to clean up PFAS contamination but was ultimately vetoed by Gov. Tony Evers.Disputes centered around provisions that critics argued would protect polluters from accountability while taxpayers bore the cleanup costs.The failure of the bill has left Wisconsin communities, including Madison and Wausau, without needed funds to address widespread PFAS contamination.Key quote: “The federal government does not set standards for groundwater. The state does. The reason that we don’t have a promulgated standard under state law is because Senate Republicans stood in the way of that standard.” — Tony Wilkin Gibart, executive director of Midwest Environmental AdvocatesWhy this matters: PFAS, known as “forever chemicals,” are linked to severe health issues including cancer. Resolving this legislative impasse is crucial for addressing widespread contamination and protecting public health. Read more: EPA releases proposed drinking water standards for six “forever chemicals.”

Image of Colorado Gov. Polis vetoes bill ending state incentives for certain recycling techniques

Colorado Gov. Polis vetoes bill ending state incentives for certain recycling techniques

Governor Jared Polis vetoed a bill that would have stopped state incentives for pyrolysis and gasification recycling projects in Colorado.Sam Brasch reports for Colorado Public Radio.In short: Governor Polis rejected a bill that aimed to cut state support for advanced recycling techniques like pyrolysis and gasification. Proponents of the bill argue these methods are environmentally harmful and serve as a distraction from reducing plastic use. The bill’s supporters are disappointed, believing state funds should support projects that align with climate and environmental justice goals. Key quote:“We should not waste taxpayer dollars incentivizing plastics-to-fuel technology that increases pollution, doesn’t recycle materials and isn’t economical.”— Suzanne Jones, executive director of Eco-CycleWhy this matters:Pyrolysis and gasification processes are controversial, as they consume significant energy and emit pollutants. Governor Polis’ decision signals a cautious endorsement of innovative recycling technologies while acknowledging the complexities and challenges involved in their implementation.Learn more about chemical recycling.

Image of Playing with toy bricks can create microplastic pollution

Playing with toy bricks can create microplastic pollution

Playing with plastic building bricks can generate significant amounts of microplastic and nanoplastic particles, potentially adding to indoor pollution and raising concerns about health risks.James Urquhart reports for Chemistry World.In short: Researchers found that plastic toy bricks release thousands of micro- and nanoplastic particles during play. Friction from assembling and disassembling the bricks causes these particles to form, especially at interlocking studs. The health risks of inhaling or ingesting these particles remain unclear, prompting recommendations for supervised play. Key quote:”How do the numbers of micro- and nanoplastics released from building blocks compare to other sources and what is their risk to human health? To understand where best to enact legislation, we need a full understanding of all the sources of microplastics and nanoplastics, and to understand their fate.” — Fay Couceiro, leader of the University of Portsmouth’s microplastic research groupWhy this matters:Microplastics, already a notorious environmental contaminant, infiltrate air, water, and soil ecosystems. Indoors, they settle on surfaces and can be inhaled, posing respiratory risks. The smaller nanoplastic particles are particularly concerning due to their ability to penetrate deep into lung tissues and even enter the bloodstream.

Image of Microplastics discovered in human testicles linked to falling sperm counts

Microplastics discovered in human testicles linked to falling sperm counts

Microplastics have been discovered in human testicles, a finding that could be linked to declining sperm counts in men worldwide.Damian Carrington reports for The Guardian.In short:Scientists found microplastics in all tested human and dog testicles, linking higher contamination with lower sperm counts in dogs.The most common microplastics found were polyethylene and PVC, known for causing endocrine disruption.The study highlights widespread contamination in humans, with microplastics also found in blood, placentas, and breast milk.Key quote: “At the beginning, I doubted whether microplastics could penetrate the reproductive system. When I first received the results for dogs I was surprised. I was even more surprised when I received the results for humans.” — Prof Xiaozhong Yu, University of New MexicoWhy this matters: This study reinforces the dangerous and pervasive nature of plastic pollution as well as its potential threat to human reproductive health. Read more: Are microplastics invading the male reproductive system?

Image of Natural water brands sued for microplastic contamination

Natural water brands sued for microplastic contamination

Recent lawsuits claim that water bottlers like Arrowhead, Evian, and Poland Spring are misleading customers about the purity of their “natural” bottled water, which contains microplastics.Joseph Winters reports for Grist.In short:Six lawsuits allege that bottled water marketed as “natural” contains harmful microplastics, misleading consumers.Research has shown widespread microplastic contamination in bottled water, raising health concerns like heart disease and reproductive issues.The legal cases argue that labels such as “100 percent mountain spring water” are deceptive due to the presence of microplastics.Key quote: “Microplastics and nanoplastics are found throughout the environment in our soil, air, and water, and their presence is a complex and evolving area of science.” — Evian spokespersonWhy this matters: This issue highlights the broader challenge of microplastic pollution, which affects not just bottled water but our entire food and beverage supply, posing significant health risks. Addressing it requires systemic changes, including stricter regulations and a shift towards sustainable packaging. Read more: Are microplastics invading the male reproductive system?

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