November 15, 2021
Electrical hazards killed four workers in Missouri and Kansas in five months in 2021. In Missouri, on Oct. 4, a 40-year-old electrical contractor replacing light fixtures in Sedalia. On Sept. 23, a 22-year-old worker cleaning a Higbee pig barn with a pressure washer. In Wichita, Kansas, a 41-year-old doing heating and air conditioning work on July 13, and a month earlier, a 35-year-old electrical contractor climbing a pole in Lawrence, Kansas, on June 8. Their stories and circumstances may differ, but the cause of death is the same – electrocution.
While OSHA continues its investigations of these employer-reported deaths, the agency is alerting all employers to review safe electrical work practices with their employees in response to a nationwide increase in workplace deaths by electrocution.
“Recent tragedies in Missouri and Kansas are reminders of the danger of electrical exposures in the workplace,” said OSHA’s Acting Regional Administrator Billie Kizer in Kansas City, Missouri. “OSHA’s electrical standards are designed to protect employees from electric shock and electrocution. Employers should implement safety and health programs, and are required to train workers on identifying hazards and use required protective measures to ensure all employees end each workday safely.”
Employers can also use OSHA’s On-Site Consultation Program that offers no-cost and confidential occupational safety and health services, with priority given to high-hazard worksites. Each state has its own program. Visit:
Phillips 66 Carson Refinery Fined for Hazardous Waste Violations
EPA reached a settlement with the Phillips 66 Company for violation of limits on the Company’s storage of hazardous waste at the Phillips 66 Carson, Calif. refinery. Under this agreement, Phillips 66 will pay a penalty of $87,276 and process the remaining excess oil-based hazardous waste into usable product by December 31, 2021.
The company violated the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act
(RCRA), the federal law governing the treatment, storage, and disposal of hazardous waste. The goal of RCRA is to protect public health and the environment, and avoid long and extensive cleanups, by requiring the safe, environmentally sound management of hazardous waste.
“Exceeding storage limits for hazardous waste can increase the risk of spills and worker and community exposure,” said Amy Miller, EPA’s Enforcement and Compliance Assurance Division Director for the country’s Pacific Southwest region. “In this instance, allowing Phillips 66 to complete processing of oil-bearing materials minimizes exposure to hazardous waste and facilitates beneficial recycling.”
The oil-bearing hazardous waste included multiple types of sludge and solids from the petroleum refining process. Phillips 66 cited mechanical issues and reduced processing capacity, due to decreased demand for oil under the COVID-19 pandemic, as the basis for their unpermitted accumulation of the oil-bearing material.
Instead of disposing of the oil-based hazardous waste off-site, Phillips 66 has agreed to provide EPA more oversight of the excess material until it is recycled into useable product.
Guilty Plea for Dumping Used Oil and Hazardous Waste
John Affourtit, of Shelbyville, Kentucky pleaded guilty last Tuesday, before U.S. District Judge Gregory VanTatenhove, to knowingly discharging a harmful quantity of oil into a waterway of the United States.
According to his plea agreement, beginning in March 2017, Affourtit signed an agreement with a company to remove and dispose of the waste material at the company’s abandoned zinc plating facility. In completing the contract, Affourtit admitted to pumping oil waste from the machinery pits into a large 500-gallon water trailer that he had rented. He then took the trailer to his residential property in Shelby County where he discharged it, and it went into a creek that ran through his property. The creek is a perennial stream that flows into waters that are part of the Salt River, a traditional navigable waterway. Affourtit had also disposed of other waste materials, including a container of hazardous waste, from the zinc plating facility on his property in an earthen berm.
Affourtit was indicted in August 2020.
“After agreeing to properly dispose of hazardous materials, the defendant instead chose to endanger the environment and the people that live nearby,” said Carlton S. Shier, IV, Acting United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Kentucky. “Dangerous choices like this have consequences and the defendant must now face those. We appreciate the dedicated work of our law enforcement partners, whose efforts make this prosecution possible.”
“The defendant’s willful disregard of the Clean Water Act put nearby residents and the environment at unnecessary risk,” said Special Agent in Charge Charles Carfagno of EPA’s Criminal Investigation Division in Atlanta. “EPA will continue to hold accountable those that choose to deliberately violate our environmental laws.”
Acting U.S. Attorney Shier; Special Agent in Charge Carfagno; and Anthony R. Hatton, Commissioner, Kentucky Department of Environmental Protection, jointly announced the guilty plea.
The investigation was conducted by EPA-CID and Kentucky Department of Environmental Protection. The United States was represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Emily Greenfield.
Affourtit is scheduled to be sentenced on February 17, 2022 at 3:30 p.m. He faces a maximum of three years in prison and a fine of not more than $250,000. However, any sentence will be imposed by the Court, after its consideration of the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and the federal sentencing statutes.
Former City Council Member Sentenced in Federal Court for Environmental Crimes
A man who unlawfully stored and transported hazardous waste was sentenced on November 8, 2021, in federal court.
Aaron Rochester, 47, from Sioux City, Iowa, pled guilty on March 19, 2021, to one count of unlawful storage of hazardous waste and one count of transportation of hazardous waste.
At various court hearings, evidence showed that from June 2015 through about January 2017, Rochester, as owner and operator of Recycletronics, knowingly and unlawfully stored and transported hazardous waste, namely CRTs (cathode ray tubes) and leaded glass from televisions and computers at various facilities in and around Sioux City, Iowa.
Sentencing was held before United States District Court Chief Judge Leonard T. Strand. Rochester was sentenced to three years’ probation, fined $4,055,978.64, and must serve a term of three years of supervised release.
“Rochester’s disregard for the laws governing proper hazardous waste transportation and storage posed significant risks to nearby communities,” said Special Agent in Charge Lance Ehrig of EPA’s criminal enforcement program in Iowa. “Today’s sentencing demonstrates that EPA and our law enforcement partners are committed to enforcing laws designed to protect human health and the environment.”
The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Shawn S. Wehde and was investigated by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
99 Ranch Market Fined for Selling Unregistered Product with Unsubstantiated COVID Claims
EPA announced a settlement with Welcome Market, Inc., doing business as 99 Ranch Market, for selling G-Sol Antibacterial spray, an unregistered product making disinfectant claims in violation of federal law. The settlement follows a series of enforcement actions the Agency has taken to protect human health and the environment from misleading and harmful claims during the COVID-19 public health emergency. 99 Ranch Market has agreed to pay a $206,805 civil penalty.
“Unregistered disinfectants that are not properly tested and registered can pose a serious risk to consumers,” said Amy Miller, EPA’s Enforcement and Compliance Division Director for the Pacific Southwest region. “EPA remains vigilant and will continue taking enforcement actions against companies selling products that unlawfully claim to be effective against COVID-19.”
In March 2021, EPA conducted an inspection at the 99 Ranch Market store located in Concord, California. During this inspection, EPA found that the store had sold G-Sol Antibacterial spray to 28 customers.
Under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act, products that claim to kill or repel bacteria or germs, including disinfectants, are considered pesticides and must be registered
with the EPA. Public health claims can only be made regarding products that have been properly tested and are registered with the EPA. The agency will not register a disinfectant until it has been determined that it will not pose an unreasonable risk when used according to the label directions. Products not registered by EPA can be harmful to human health, cause adverse effects, and may not be effective against the spread of germs.
New Polymer Detection Method To Turn the (Pep)Tide in the Fight Against Water Pollution
A peptide sensor to detect water-soluble polymers in wastewater, a major contributor to pollution on par with microplastics, has been developed by scientists from Tokyo Institute of Technology. The new technique takes advantage of the bonding that occurs between peptides and different polymers to train a machine learning algorithm that can both identify and quantify a large number of pollutants in a single solution.
From dying coral reefs to diminishing fish populations, marine pollution due to plastics is a growing global concern. Much of the recent conversation on plastic pollution has revolved around microplastics, tiny bits of plastic that are extremely difficult to remove from water. But there is increasing interest in water-soluble synthetic polymers as a source of marine pollution, especially with regard to the risks they pose to soil and water environments. Being water-soluble, they cannot be recovered using normal filtration techniques. Developing alternative approaches to remove these pollutants is key. Thus, understanding the exact nature of the water-soluble polymer pollutant, as well as quantifying its amount in wastewater has become a focal point for researchers.
Polymers are long chains of chemicals made up of much smaller, repeating units. Although they are rarely associated with the term, proteins too can be thought of as polymers because they are made up of thousands of subunits called ‘amino acids.’ Short chains of these amino acids are called peptides. Peptides can undergo specific and non-specific interactions with molecules, such as polymers, in different ways with different levels of affinity. In a new study published in ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces
, researchers from Tokyo Institute of Technology (Tokyo Tech), have exploited these interactions to develop a new peptide sensor for the identification of water-soluble polymers in mixed solutions. “Our technique depends on a machine learning pattern analysis that mimics mammalian odor and taste discrimination. Just like how our noses and tongues can distinguish between myriad odors and tastes using a limited number of receptor proteins, so too can our single peptide senor be used to detect multiple polymers and other molecules,” says Professor Takeshi Serizawa, who led the study.
The research team based the technique around a peptide that binds to a synthetic polymer called poly(N-isopropylacrylamide) (PNIPAM). They then introduced a fluorescent ‘tag’ called N-(1-anilinonaphthyl-4)maleimide (ANM) into the peptide to help obtain signals for its different interactions. The fluorescence of ANM varied based on the interaction of the protein, thereby giving off a detectable signal. The researchers measured the signals from ANM in known solution concentrations of different polymers and used it to train a ‘linear discriminant analysis’ algorithm, which is one of supervised machine learning. They then validated their technique with unknown samples and found that the sensor and algorithm could identify polymers in mixed solutions. Moreover, after adding small amounts of ethanol or sodium chloride to the solutions to slightly modify the chemical interactions, the machine learning algorithm could discriminate against polymers with similar properties. Finally, they tested the new peptide sensor and algorithm on actual wastewater and confirmed its ability to detect different water-soluble polymers.
“Our technique can be used to not only detect dissolved macromolecular pollutants like polymer in water, but also will be used to analyze how they enter into the environment,” says Dr. Serizawa. The research team further plans to extend the method to other peptides and polymers.
With such potent research to help guide the way, remediating and protecting our marine environments could soon become a reality.
Time Series Study First to Suggest that Increased Consumption of Ultra-Processed Foods Has Environmental Implications
A new study
of 30-year changes in the Brazilian diet finds that increased consumption of ultra-processed foods is linked to worsened impacts on the environment, and echoes dietary changes in the UK.
A new study finds that over the last 30 years, Brazil has undergone a nutrition transition toward a diet higher in ultra-processed foods, and that of food types consumed, these have been the largest contributor to worsening impacts on greenhouse gas emissions, the nation’s water footprint and ecological footprint, such as deforestation.
Ultra-processed foods include reconstituted meat products, such as sausages; ready meals; margarines; sweets; soft drinks; and other foods which contain artificial additives like sweeteners and flavors.
Whilst the negative effects of high consumption of ultra-processed foods on health have been outlined for over a decade - including links with obesity, coronary heart disease, diabetes and cancer - there had previously been very little understanding of its effects on the planet.
Experts argue that Britain went through a similar nutrition transition over the last 100 years, and warn that as the economies of more countries grow, so will the trend in the consumption of ultra-processed foods, which could adversely affect their ability to meet climate change targets.
Published in the journal The Lancet Planetary Health
, the study is the first of its kind to use nationally representative data over such a long time-frame to demonstrate how changes in a nation’s diet can affect its contribution to climate change.
The international collaboration of authors, including from the University of São Paulo, Brazil; City, University of London; the University of Manchester; Brunel University London; and the University of Sheffield used household budget survey data taken from urban Brazilian households between 1987 to 2018.
They calculated the environmental impact of food items purchased, per 1,000 calories (kcal) consumed, for four food groups outlined by the widely used NOVA system: unprocessed/minimally processed foods (G1); processed culinary ingredients (G2); processed foods (G3); and ultra-processed foods (G4).
The study found that while the proportion of G1 and G2 foods in the households’ diet had decreased, the amount of G3 and G4 foods consumed had increased. It found that the increasing environmental impact of G4 foods was driven by an increase in consumption of ultra-processed meat, which at least doubled its contribution to daily environmental impacts per individual, reaching about 20 per cent of total diet-related footprints over the 30-year time-frame.
Per 1,000 calories consumed, these changes in the diet were associated with a 21 per cent increased contribution to greenhouse gas emissions, 22 per cent increased contribution to the nation’s water footprint and 17 per cent increased contribution to its ecological footprint.
Nutritionist, and first author of the study, Jacqueline Tereza da Silva
, of the Department of Preventative Medicine, University of São Paulo, said:
"The relationship between food systems and climate change is complex and challenges food security itself. Food systems are responsible for a third of global greenhouse gas emissions, and yet, at the same time, they suffer from the climate impacts that they themselves help to cause."
Co-author of the study, Dr Christian Reynolds
, Senior Lecturer at the Centre for Food Policy, City, University of London said “for our health and sustainability, ultra-processed foods are already a massive, and growing problem. This study shows that Brazil is experiencing a similar transition in their diet to what has happened in the UK. Both in a shorter time frame, and with similar large effects on the environment. “Our findings suggest that diet-related diseases and climate change share an underlying driver and therefore, should be addressed simultaneously. Multicomponent actions and policies targeting multiple areas should be considered. For instance, fiscal interventions such as taxes or subsides, regulation on advertising, and improving food and menus labelling with the addition of environmental impacts.”
“This study shows for the first time how increasing the consumption of ultra-processed foods has produced more greenhouse gas emissions and used more water and land, even in developing countries like Brazil. We need to help people change their diets to protect the environment and live healthy lives. We need to finally acknowledge that impacts to the environment and health have to be tackled together,” said Dr Ximena Schmidt
, co-author and Global Challenges Research Fellow at the Centre for Sustainable Energy Use, Brunel University London.
Long-Term Carbon Dioxide Emissions from Cement Production Can Be Drastically Reduced
Global warming and affordable housing are two dominant topics of public debate. Climate protection is achieved by reducing emissions of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide (CO2
). Housing is generated through more housing being built. This requires concrete, the most important building material in our modern world. At first glance, concrete appears to be unproblematic. It does not contain any fossil fuels, it is non-toxic, and it does not float in the oceans in the form of plastic waste. But this impression is misleading, because cement production is currently the largest industrial emitter of CO2
emissions worldwide, accounting for about 8 percent or 2.7 billion tons of CO2
per year. This is due to the combustion of fossil fuels – mostly coal – at temperatures of around 1,000 degrees Celsius and sintering at around 1,450 degrees Celsius.
Concrete is very versatile, inexpensive, literally hard, and can be cast into almost any shape. It consists, in principle, only of sand, gravel, water, and the binder cement. The latter is made by the calcination of lime, clay, and some other components, and forms stable calcium silicate hydrates during hardening, which are responsible for the properties of concrete.
However, the problem lies precisely in the calcination of lime (CaCO3), because for every molecule of calcium oxide (CaO) produced, the so-called "burnt lime" or "quicklime", one molecule of the greenhouse gas CO2 is released. For an annual world production of around 4.5 billion tons of cement, this is translated into 2.7 billion tons of CO2. This is equivalent to about half the annual CO2 emissions of all transport. China is responsible for about 50 percent, Germany for about 1.5 percent of the emissions from cement production.
Chemists at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) in Germany have now developed a method that could drastically reduce CO2 emissions from cement production in the long run. In this process, the raw lime (CaCO3) is no longer converted into burnt lime in coal-fired kilns but is simply milled with solid sodium silicate (Na2SiO3). This milling step produces an "activated" intermediate that contains the constituents of the cement in uniform distribution. When reacted with sodium hydroxide solution, a product is formed that is structurally similar to the calcium silicate hydrates. The formation of the cement paste and the setting with water proceed via a complex reaction cascade, the elementary steps of which have been analytically elucidated using high-tech methods.
While the calcination of the lime requires temperatures of 1,000 to 1,500 degrees Celsius, the milling step is carried out at room temperature. At 120 kilowatt hours per ton, the mechanical energy input for grinding conventional cement is only about 10 percent of the energy used for the calcination process. However, this is only equivalent to the energy saved – and the associated CO2 emissions – by burning fossil fuels in cement production. More importantly, bypassing lime calcination could ideally avoid CO2 emissions in the gigaton range. Since grinding is a standard process in the cement industry, it would be conceivable to implement the process from laboratory to industrial scale.
The Mainz-based chemists emphasize that the cost and energy estimates are only rough approximations and that laboratory tests cannot be compared to an industrial process, where development, design, feasibility, maintenance, and various other parameters must be considered. A lot of development work is needed for this. "This may be a first step for a non-conventional way of cement production, but it is not yet a fully developed solution," emphasized co-author Marcel Maslyk.
Professor Wolfgang Tremel and Dr. Ute Kolb of Mainz University share this view: "The process is potentially suitable for producing cement for large-scale processes," said the two group leaders at the JGU Department of Chemistry. "However, carrying it out on a technical scale would take many years and thus would not provide a short- or medium-term remedy for CO2 emissions."
Washington Begins Rulemaking For 2021 Plastics Law
The Washington Department of Ecology has begun a process that will change plastics in Washington. Ecology will begin a rulemaking required by the State Legislature that focuses on the recycled content portion
of the 2021 plastics law and will establish how Ecology determines producer fees, oversight, and enforcement of the recycled content program.
Rulemaking also ensures a transparent process, and gives regulated entities and the public time to understand the proposed regulations and offer input. Draft rule language will be available mid-2023 for public comment. Formal public hearings will be scheduled at that time.
Plastic pollution is pervasive in Washington
and poses a threat to human health, wildlife, and the environment. During its lifecycle, harmful chemicals release or leach out of plastics and into the surroundings. This disintegration of the plastic structure also leads to the creation of microplastics, which are found in nearly every environment, including rain. A 2019 National Geographic report
says it's possible humans may be consuming anywhere from 39,000 to 52,000 microplastic particles every year.
Passed by the Legislature in 2021, Washington’s 2021 plastics law
requires recycled content in some single-use plastics and creates end-markets for recyclable plastics. Starting in 2023, some single-use plastic containers must contain a minimum amount of recycled plastic. Over time, recycled content requirements increase and expand to other types of containers. Products covered by the law include plastic beverage bottles, plastic trash bags, plastic containers of household cleaning products, and plastic containers of personal care products.
Washington is the second state in the country to require recycled content for plastic beverage containers and plastic trash bags, and the first to set these requirements for household cleaner and personal care product plastic containers.
Marc Jones Construction LLC Cited for Repeat Fall Hazards in Texas in 2021, 2020
Despite being cited twice in two years for exposing workers to dangerous fall hazards, one of the nation’s leading residential solar panel installation contractors has again violated federal workplace safety requirements, this time at a Naples work site.
After an OSHA investigation, the agency cited Marc Jones Construction LLC – operating as Sunpro Solar – for a repeat violation after inspectors found workers exposed to falls, the leading cause of death and serious injuries in the construction industry. In addition, the agency cited the company for allowing workers to climb up and down extension ladders while carrying loads that could have caused them to fall, and failing to provide fall protection training to employees. OSHA cited the Louisiana-based company for similar violations twice in Texas, in San Antonio in January 2021 and in El Paso in April 2020.
OSHA proposed $160,913 in penalties
for the violations. “Marc Jones Construction has ignored the law repeatedly and failed to protect their workers from well-known fall hazards,” said OSHA Area Director Condell Eastmond in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. “OSHA will continue holding this company accountable until they start meeting their obligations and complying with OSHA standards.”
Based in Mandeville, Louisiana, Marc Jones Construction LLC is a commercial and residential solar panel installation company operating in 21 states. In 2008, the company founded Sunpro Solar, ranked second on “Solar Power World” magazine’s 2021 list of top residential solar installers in the U.S.
The company has 15 business days from receipt of its citations and penalties to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA’s area director, or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.
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