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Thursday
Jan302014

NYC Progressing In Retrofit Project To Replace 250,000 Conventional Street Lights With LEDs

Picking up the torch from the Bloomberg administration, New York City is proceeding with plans to retrofit the city’s 250,000 standard street lights with energy efficient LEDs (light-emitting diodes) by 2017.

Upcoming work will involve replacing about 24,400 lights along all major corridors including as the Belt Parkway, Grand Central Parkway, Cross Bronx Expressway, and other highways.

New York City replacing conventional necklace lighting on bridges with LEDs. Photo courtesy of the G4 Report: Your Guide to LED Lighting.

This will be included in the first phase of a three phase plan to replace the city’s standard “cobra head” high pressure sodium street lights across the five boroughs.

Following the replacement of the roadway lighting, the plan will also address decorative fixtures in the city’s business and commercial districts.  

These actions will be among the last legacies of Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s administration, before he left office. The mayor projected that the plan will save the city a yearly total of about $14 million when fully implemented – $6 million in annual energy savings and $8 million in maintenance savings.

The outgoing administration said compared to current standard bulbs which last about six years, the “LEDs can last up to 20 years before needing replacements, potentially producing up to an 80 percent savings on maintenance.”

This project is the first to receive a funding of $10 million through the Accelerated Conservation and Efficiency (ACE) initiative.

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Tuesday
Jan142014

Conglomerate Plans New Solar Power For Israel, As It Brings CA’s Largest Solar Plant Online

As part of development in California’s Mojave Desert, the Ivanpah Solar Generating System, the world’s largest solar thermal power tower system, went online in September for its first energy output test as a jointly-owned project between BrightSource Energy, NRG Energy, and Google. Photo courtesy of Business Wire.

The global solar technology company BrightSource Energy has been partnering up with a number of high profile investors, among them Google, to create some of the world’s largest solar plants.

Megalim Solar Power Ltd., a company formed by BrightSource Energy and Alstom, a provider of equipment and services for power generation, will break ground in Israel within the next few months to build a 121 megawatt solar thermal power plant.

Megalim is now required to plan, finance, build, operate, and maintain the power plant throughout a concession period of 25 years, and then transfer it to the ownership of the State of Israel. The project is scheduled to come online in 2017.

Power Technology said in October that, “Megalim Solar is seeking a €150m loan from the European Investment Bank (EIB) to finance the planned Ashalim concentrated solar power (CSP) plant in Israel, while the EIB has listed the €575m project as ‘under appraisal’ since 27 May 2013.”

Power Technology added that, “Selected through a formal international procedure, the promoters are required to procure 20 percent of its investment domestically according to Israeli law.”

The Megalim plant will be one of three projects selected under Israel’s Ashalim 250 megawatt total solar tender located in the Ramat Negev Regional Council’s 3.15 square kilometer site in the Negev Desert.

BrightSource added that this “Ashalim tender includes two CSP plants and one photovoltaic technology power plant. Once all three Ashlim projects are financed and constructed they will generate approximately two percent of Israel’s installed capacity, and help Israel achieve its goal of having 10 percent of its electricity production from renewable energy sources by 2020.”

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Wednesday
Jan082014

FDA Working With Veterinary Industry To Curb Use Of Antimicrobial Drugs In Livestock Feed

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is now in the early stages of implementing a plan to curb, or phase out, if possible, the use of over-the-counter antimicrobial drugs used in livestock feed or water for the purposes of improving animals’ speed of growth and weight gain with less food.

Image courtesy of blog.friendseat.com.

While faster growth and weight gain are side benefits of antimicrobial drugs, it’s not their main function. As the FDA explains, “Antimicrobial drugs include all drugs that work against a variety of microorganism, such as bacteria, virus, fungi, and parasites.” All antibiotics are antimicrobials that fight against bacteria.

According to the agency, the issue of concern is antimicrobial resistance, which occurs when bacteria or other microbes become resistant to the effects of a drug after being exposed to it. 

Several antimicrobial drugs used in the animal industry are also used to treat human infections, which has also prompted concerns that overuse in the animal industry can contribute to drug resistance in people.

David White, chief science officer in the FDA’s Office of Food and Veterinary Medicine, said in a statement, “The fundamental concern over the agricultural use of antibiotics arises from the potential that resistant bacterial strains can be transferred to humans via direct contact, or ingestion of foods derived from treated animals.

“This is a legitimate concern as epidemiological and microbiological data show that resistant bacteria from food animals can reach humans via the food supply. And most classes of antimicrobials used in animals have human counterparts. Therefore, resistance to an animal drug might translate into resistance to a human drug.”

The agency also explained that governments around the world consider antimicrobial resistant bacteria a major public health threat because “illnesses caused by drug-resistant strains of bacteria are more likely to be potentially fatal when the medicines used to treat them are rendered less effective.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, added that, “When the drug of choice for treating their infection doesn’t work, they require treatment with second-or-third-choice drugs that may be less effective, more toxic, and more expensive.

“This means that patients with an antimicrobial-resistant infection may suffer more and pay more for treatment.”

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Monday
Dec302013

Center for Food Safety Pressuring FDA to Create New Regs to Limit Cumulative Arsenic Exposure

The Center for Food Safety (CFS) has been pressuring the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for years on various fronts to create more concrete regulations to protect Americans from exposure to arsenic found in common grains like rice, produce such as apples and grapes, and drinks including water and fruit juices.

In its most recent action, the CFS has filed a lawsuit against the FDA calling for the withdrawal of arsenic containing feed additives for chickens, turkeys, and hogs.

The CFS has given one of the best explanations of what arsenic is. It’s an odorless and tasteless semi-metal element that occurs in the environment as part of the earth’s crust.

Arsenic can be found in rocks, soil, water, air, plants, and animals, and can be released into the environment through natural processes such as volcanic eruptions, rocks eroding, forest fires, and human activities. Arsenic can appear in inorganic and organic forms.

The CFS says that at one time, organic arsenic was considered less toxic than inorganic arsenic and safe at low levels, which has now been proven wrong.

The non-profit adds that, “Recent studies show that organic arsenic can easily convert to inorganic arsenic in the environment and in the body when ingested by humans and animals.”

Inorganic arsenic, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), is formed when elemental arsenic in the environment is combined with oxygen, chlorine, and sulfur. Inorganic arsenic is a known carcinogen, but can cause a host of other health problems as well.

The FDA says that, “Long-term exposure to high levels of arsenic is associated with higher rates of skin, bladder, and lung cancers, as well as heart disease.” The CDC adds that arsenic can also affect the digestive system, liver, nervous system, and respiratory system from the nose to the lungs.

Research at the CFS has found that “children, infants, and fetuses are among the most vulnerable to arsenic’s toxic effects” due to the differences in their metabolism from adults early in life.

The non-profit added that, “Carcinogens like arsenic are generally more potent in early life exposures” and that, “Children ages two to five are three times more vulnerable to carcinogens than adults.”

The CFS went on to say that evidence shows that arsenic is a hormone disruptor at very low levels, which can alter the way that hormones transmit information between cells.

Consumer Reports, through its own research also explained how arsenic exposure can affect a child saying that, “when arsenic exposure occurs in the womb or in early childhood, it not only increases cancer risks later in life, but also can cause lasting harm to children’s developing brains and endocrine and immune system, leading to other diseases, too.”

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Thursday
Dec122013

Study Finds Communities Exposed To Fracking Have More Fetal and Childhood Health Problems

As the oil and gas industry look for ever cheaper ways to extract resources from deeper pockets of shale, communities are increasingly taking measures to battling back with restrictions, bans, and moratoriums against controversial extraction practices known as fracking.

Fracking, also called hydraulic fracturing or hydrofracking, is the process of forcing a mixture of freshwater and toxic chemicals under high pressure into a well, enlarging the rock fracture to increase the extraction of oil and gas.

Anti-fracking protesters on the march in Pennsylvania. Photo courtesy of the Huffington Post.

The Center for Environmental Health (CEH) reports that fracking exposes communities – among the most vulnerable being pregnant women, their unborn fetuses, and young children – to a cocktail of chemicals and substances, including: methane, BTEX (benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, and xylenes), arsenic, radium, ozone, formaldehyde, radon, nitrogen oxides, methylene chloride, and silica sand.

“These substances are associated with low birth weight, birth defects, respiratory problems, cancer and fertility problems, said the CEH in a report that looked at the health and social effects on communities when fracking is introduced.

The report specifically focused air and water pollution associated with fracking, as well as the social impacts. Focusing on the sheer pollution, it found that “every part of the fracking process” from well construction to operations to transportation can threaten the health of a community.

The report found that pollution can occur in several ways, including from the production and transporting of materials to and from development sites (such as sand mining and trucking wastewater); emissions from drilling and fracking equipment; and equipment used in gas production, processing, transmission, and distribution.

Some of the chemicals that have leached into drinking water from tight oil and shale development sites, include: methane, BTEX, arsenic, and radium. Each of these chemicals have their own particular sort of threat to nearby human populations.

Methane can be flammable and explosive, and when trapped in confined spaces, like a home or garage, can cause suffocation, unconsciousness, and death. For residents near fracking sites, this is a real concern because of the likely direct impacts to them.

The CEH found in a study of 68 drinking wells in Pennsylvania and New York that methane contamination rose significantly with increasing proximity to fracking sites.

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