By Keith Schneider
Amid increasing scrutiny of a potential link between Iowa farm chemicals and cancer, a new report is generating controversy as it blames rising cancer rates not on the toxins used widely throughout the state, but on something else entirely: binge alcohol consumption.
The Iowa Cancer Registry, a health research group housed at the University of Iowa, reported on February 20 that Iowa has the second-highest and fastest-rising incidence of cancer among all states. An estimated 21,000 new cancer cases are expected to develop this year and 6,100 Iowans will die from cancer, Iowa Cancer Registry Director Mary Charlton said in announcing the new report. Iowa, she said, has the highest rate of binge drinking in the Midwest with 22% of residents reporting binge drinking, more than the national average of 17%. Overall, Iowa has the 4th highest incidence of alcohol-related cancers in the US, according to the report.
“Alcohol is a known carcinogen and a risk factor for several cancers including oral cavity, pharynx, larynx, esophagus, rectum, liver, and female breast cancers,” Charlton said in a news conference.
The assessment has drawn questions and sparked doubts, however, from state leaders and health and environment researchers who have been calling for a probe into just how much the state’s agricultural industry may be contributing to the spread of disease.
“Is alcohol responsible for the increase in cancer incidence here since 2014? I personally doubt that,” said James Merchant, a retired professor of occupational and environmental health, and former dean of the University of Iowa College of Public Health.
“What needs to be looked at are things that are probable or possible carcinogens that have increased beginning about 1990, because of the well-recognized latency of environmental cancers,” Merchants said. “Those carcinogens associated with industrial agriculture are the ones that really need to be looked at very closely.”
By Shannon Kelleher
Hundreds of chemical facilities around the US must implement new procedures to try to better safeguard communities from accidents that are happening with alarming frequency and jeopardizing human and environmental health.
New measures announced Friday by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) require industrial operators to “prevent accidental releases of dangerous chemicals that could otherwise cause deaths and injuries, damage property and the environment, or require surrounding communities to evacuate or shelter-in-place.”
The final rule, which amends the EPA’s Risk Management Program (RMP) that applies to plants dealing with hazardous chemicals, asks facilities to evaluate the risks of natural hazards and climate change, makes information about chemical hazards more accessible for people living near these facilities. The rule also allows for plant employees to stop working when they think there is a potential hazard.
This new requirements are expected to reduce the frequency and severity of accidents, building on revisions proposed in 2022. They provide the most protective safety provisions for chemical facilities in the EPA’s history, EPA deputy administrator Janet McCabe said on a press call.
Accidental releases of chemicals from industrial facilities cost the US more than $540 million each year, McCabe said on the press call, not including major catastrophes that can individually cost much more.
By Johnathan Hettinger
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has not properly reviewed the safety of a popular flea and tick collar that has been linked to more than 3,000 pet deaths, according to the agency’s top watchdog.
The EPA’s Office of Inspector General (OIG), an independent office in the agency tasked with holding the agency accountable, published a report on Thursday calling on the EPA to make a proper, science-based decision on the Seresto product and improve its processes for making safety determinations for pet products..
The report found that the agency has not conducted or published animal risk assessments as it promised to do, and continues to rely on an inadequate 1998 companion animal safety study.
Seresto pet collars work by releasing two active ingredients, the pesticides flumethrin and imidacloprid. The OIG found that the EPA has failed to properly review those active ingredients, including in a new analysis last year.
At a Congressional hearing in June 2022, pet owner Faye Hemsley, of Pennsylvania reported that her dog, Tigger, began to suffer from neurological issues, including his head drooping and a loss of energy, before dying five days after she first put the Seresto collar on him.
Thomas Maiorino, of New Jersey, also testified at the hearing that his family’s dog, Rooney, suffered neurological issues and eventually a seizure, after wearing Seresto. They eventually decided to put the dog down. Many other pet owners reported neurological issues in their animals, including seizures, as well as pet deaths.
The collars have been the subject of more than 105,354 incident reports, including the 3,000 pet deaths, more than any other EPA regulated product in history, according to the EPA’s incident database. From 2012 through 2022, the EPA received more than 100,000 incident reports related to the collars, including more than 2,500 pet death reports and nearly 900 reports of human pesticide incidents related to the Seresto pet collars.
A new analysis of US Department of Agriculture (USDA) funding for “climate-smart” conservation practices argues that several are unlikely to actually have climate benefits and one may even increase harmful emissions, though government officials say the analysis is deeply flawed and based on “incorrect assumptions.”
With nearly $20 billion from the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) to be used between 2023 and 2026, the USDA is investing more money than ever in combating greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture, which makes up 10% of US emissions, according to the EPA.
The analysis from the Environmental Working Group (EWG), a nonprofit environmental research and advocacy organization examines elements of the USDA’s Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), which provides funding for conservation practices. Congress designated $8.45 billion for EQIP specifically. As part of that, an increasing amount of money is going towards so-called “climate-smart” practices aimed at sequestering carbon in soil or reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
EWG said that USDA is allowing farmers to claim this climate funding for implementing many practices that are unproven to help reduce emissions.
The report alleges, for example, that money can go toward a waste storage facility, used for livestock, would likely increase greenhouse gas emissions, according to the USDA’s own data.
The USDA expanded its “climate-smart” list – the specific practices that are eligible for funding – to allow 15 provisional practices, on which the USDA currently lacks data about their effect on emissions, EWG noted in its report.
USDA Press Secretary Allan Rodriguez called EWG’s analysis “fundamentally flawed, speculative, and rest on incorrect assumptions.”
“Unfortunately, EWG did not take into account the rigorous, science-based methodology used by USDA to determine eligible practices, nor the level of specificity required during the implementation process to ensure the practices’ climate-smart benefits are being maximized,” Rodriguez said in an emailed statement.
The single largest conservation practice funded over the past six years is the use of cover crops, according to EWG, with $505 million (9% of overall funding) going toward the practice. The use of cover crops is widely considered a strongly beneficial practice for soil health and sequestering carbon.
But only one of the other top 10 uses of the money is on the climate-smart list. Six of the new “provisional” practices were also in the top 10.