Tag Archives: USA

Taking showers ‘can make you ill’

Showering may be bad for your health, say US scientists, who have shown that dirty shower heads can deliver a face full of harmful bacteria.

Tests revealed nearly a third of devices harbour significant levels of a bug that causes lung disease. Levels of Mycobacterium avium were 100 times higher than those found in typical household water supplies. M. avium forms a biofilm that clings to the inside of the shower head, reports the National Academy of Science.

In the Proceedings journal [1], the study authors say their findings might explain why there have been more cases of these lung infections in recent years, linked with people tending to take more showers and fewer baths. Water spurting from shower heads can distribute bacteria-filled droplets that suspend themselves in the air and can easily be inhaled into the deepest parts of the lungs, say the scientists from the University of Colorado at Boulder.

[...] While it is rarely a problem for most healthy people, those with weakened immune systems, like the elderly, pregnant women or those who are fighting off other diseases, can be susceptible to infection. They may develop lung infection with M. avium and experience symptoms including tiredness, a persistent, dry cough, shortness of breath and weakness, and generally feel unwell.

[...] Since plastic shower heads appear to “load up” with more bacteria-rich biofilms, metal shower heads may be a good alternative. Showers have also been identified as a route for spreading other infectious diseases, including a type of pneumonia called Legionnaires’ disease and chest infections with a bacterium called Pseudomonas aeruginosa.

Hot tubs and spa pools carry a similar infection risk, according to the Health Protection Agency.

[1] Feazela, L.M. …[et al.] (2009). Opportunistic pathogens enriched in showerhead biofilms. PNAS. Published online before print 14 Sep 2009, doi:10.1073/pnas.0908446106

Source: BBC, 14 Sep 2009

USA – Solid Waste Industry Managing Trash as a Resource

Technological Innovation Turns Garbage into Energy, While Reducing Emissions, Says Industry Leader in Speech to Washington Economists

WASHINGTON–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Forget your old-fashioned ideas about the solid waste industry. It’s not just about hauling garbage anymore.

So said Bruce J. Parker, president and CEO of the National Solid Wastes Management Association (NSWMA), in a speech today to the Society of Government Economists in Washington. NSWMA represents the private sector solid waste industry in the United States.

“Most Americans probably don’t recognize today’s garbage industry for who we really are – one of the most environmentally responsive and innovative industries in the nation,” said Parker. “The nearly 400,000 American men and women who work in the public and private sectors of our industry – in positions as varied as haulers, mechanics, civil engineers and environmental scientists – have long moved beyond simply picking up trash.”

“Americans throw out more than 250 million tons of garbage each year. Our industry continues to protect public health and the environment by managing this waste,” Parker said. “But in recent years, we’ve pioneered technologies that have changed the ways we deal with our trash. We’ve invested tens of millions of dollars, not only to modernize landfills and boost recycling rates, but also to cut greenhouse gas emissions and air pollutants, and find renewable sources of energy that reduce our dependence on fossil fuels.”

Parker pointed to waste-based energy projects, which turn household garbage into clean, renewable energy. In addition to 87 waste-to-energy facilities operated by the industry – generating enough electricity to power 1.7 million homes – it also operates 470 landfill-gas-to-energy projects that provide electricity and heat for corporate and government users in 44 states. The U.S. EPA has identified an additional 520 landfills across the nation as potential candidates for similar energy projects.

“Landfill-gas-to-energy projects also address global warming by capturing methane, a potent greenhouse gas,” Parker noted. The EPA estimates that using methane as renewable, “green” energy brings environmental and energy benefits equivalent to eliminating the carbon dioxide emissions of 195 million barrels of oil a year. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has noted that landfill-gas recovery directly reduces greenhouse gas emissions.

Other industry initiatives include working with truck manufacturers to develop more fuel-efficient vehicles, investing in the development of alternative fuels such as biodiesel, compressed natural gas and ethanol, using renewable sources of energy such as solar to power compacting equipment, and placing solar panels and wind turbines on landfills to produce even more energy.

“Increasingly, the industry is relying on cleaner-burning fuels to power our fleet of 130,000 trucks,” Parker said. “We’re also looking toward hybrid technology to further reduce greenhouse emissions and improve air quality.”

Recycling and composting offer another important environmental success story, Parker said. The industry processed recycling for or composted slightly more than one third of all municipal solid wastes in 2007, conserving precious resources, protecting air and water from potential pollution and leading to a 2.5 percent reduction in America’s total greenhouse gas emissions, according to the U.S. EPA.

“The solid waste industry is proud of its environmental achievements, but there is much more to do. Our collective efforts have made a difference, and we continue to raise the bar,” Parker said.

NSWMA represents for-profit companies in North America that provide solid, hazardous and medical waste collection, recycling and disposal services, and companies that provide professional and consulting services to the waste services industry. For more information about how America’s solid waste management professionals are serving as environmental health and safety stewards, protecting our environment and serving our communities, please visit http://www.everydayenvironmentalists.org/environmentalists.

Source – Business Wire

Bush Sewage Plant plan flushed

The Republican brand may have stunk on Election Night, but not enough for San Francisco voters to rename a sewage treatment plant after President George W. Bush. [Voters rejected a proposition to change] the city’s Oceanside Water Pollution Control Plant to the George W. Bush Sewage Plant. Apparently they did not think the prank on the unpopular president was worth the [estimated] $50,000 [...] it would cost to not only change the name on the facilities, but also the lettering on materials and publications.

Source: Erika Slife, Chicago Tribune, 06 Nov 2008

USA: Leadership needed for sewer projects

(…) These lawmakers are looking at the staggering evidence that two out of every three West Virginia families still don’t have acceptable sewage facilities.  The reason?   Most people living in smaller communities have incomes of less than $20,000 and can’t afford basic sanitation service. (…)

Read all The Lincoln Journal

USA: resolution in support of International Year of Sanitation takes effect

On August 1st, 2008, the United States Senate passed H.Con.Res 318, supporting the goals and ideals of the United Nations’ declaration of 2008 as the International Year of Sanitation. Introduced by Congressman Donald M. Payne and Senator Richard J. Durbin [D-IL], the concurrent resolution encourages the US government and other relevant stakeholders to recommit to helping developing countries obtain access to basic sanitation and safe drinking water.

Following its introduction on 14 March 2008, the resolution has passed in both the House of Representatives (10 June 2008) and in the Senate, and now takes effect. It does not require the signature of the President and does not have the force of law.

Source: U.S. Congress / allAfrica.com, 01 Aug 2008

USA – If You Think You Can’t Replace a Toilet, Think Again

It may be surprising to learn (well, I was surprised, anyway) that toilets use 30-40 percent of the water in our homes, far exceeding all other single activities. Delivering water takes energy, electricity to be specific, since it’s pumped to our homes from great distances.

While we do take advantage of the natural fall from the Sierras, we still use over 10 percent of our total state energy budget moving water. Making electricity generates carbon in many cases (we do have some hydroelectric power in the state as well as some nuclear) and this increases global warming as well as the acidity of the oceans just to mention two of the effects we’re aware of.

As of Aug. 1 this year, East Bay Municipal Utility District (EBMUD) has us on a Drought Emergency Rate Schedule for water service. You’ve probably heard. Families will be expected to keep their use under 172 gallons per day or pay at a higher rate. The base rate is $2/100 cubic feet of water and goes up to as much as $3.05 if you can’t get your teenager out of the shower in something under an hour.

With all this in mind, I suggest that you take on the, relatively simple, task of replacing one or more of your toilets. It’s actually not that hard.

More – Berkeley Daily Planet

USA – Texas: Thousands Live in Filth as Millions of Dollars to Improve Border Towns Go Unspent

SANTA ROSA, Texas — Along the Rio Grande, more than 400,000 mostly poor people live in ramshackle neighborhoods where sewage runs in open ditches. Although the U.S. Congress has set aside $300 million to improve sanitation, more than a quarter of that has gone unspent, a federal audit shows.

The need for better hygiene was obvious during a recent afternoon rainstorm, when brothers Angel and Salvador Badillo sat under a tin roof with a couple of friends, sipping beers as the open drainage ditch in front of their clapboard house filled like a moat.

Soon, neighbors’ septic tanks could begin to overflow, creating a smelly and potentially disease-ridden mess.

More – FOXNews

USA – Why public toilets should pay you

What? You’ve been giving away your urine for free?

All these years, you’ve been sitting there like an idiot—or standing, or squatting, or whatever it is you do—pissing away a perfectly good liquid asset. Turns out, you could have sold it.

Many of us haven’t just been giving our waste away; we’ve been paying to unload it. Hundreds of cities have automated public toilets, known as APTs. In New York or Los Angeles, you drop in a quarter, and the door opens. But your quarter hardly pays the bills. New York’s new APTs reportedly cost more than $100,000 apiece; Los Angeles’ cost $300,000; Seattle installed five at a cost of $6.6 million. At 25 cents a flush, 20 to 130 times a day, a toilet brings in only $2,000 to $11,000 per year.

More – Slate

USA: Tropical disease still common in poor areas in the US

A group of germs, viruses and parasites that are typically associated with tropical developing countries are still plaguing poor areas of the United States, according to a new study published in the Public Library of Science journal PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases. (…)

(…) The commonly neglected diseases often result from poor sanitation or inadequate healthcare and they may be brought to the country from overseas or have been existent in the country for a long time. They primarily affect people in the poverty-stricken regions such as Appalachia, inner cities, Mississippi Delta and the border with Mexico, the report says.

Read all foodconsumer.org

Abstract of the study available at PLOS, by Hotez, P.

Related: LosAngelesTimes: “Many of the diseases are typically associated with tropical developing countries but are surprisingly common in poor regions of the United States, according to the analysis, published in the Public Library of Science journal PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases. “

USA – E. coli Outbreak Associated with Lettuce Prompts Call for Better Sanitation

MINNEAPOLIS–BUSINESS WIRE–According to Pritzker Ruohonen & Associates, P.A., ten cases of E. coli O157:H7 in the state of Washington have been associated with the consumption of lettuce. Based on interviews of those sickened, health officials believe the source of the outbreak is bagged, commercial romaine lettuce.

Six of the people sickened were Pierce County residents. Five of them had laboratory-confirmed cases of E. coli O157:H7. The sixth person had symptoms identical with those of the other five, but a lab test was not done to confirm E. coli O157:H7. The cases may be associated with a restaurant and an educational institution. Because the outbreak is deemed over, health officials are not releasing the names of either, but Internet accounts of the outbreak indicate that some of those sickened may have eaten salads at Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma.

“This is yet another example of contaminated lettuce causing illness, stated Pritzker. At the bottom of every E. coli outbreak is bad sanitation. It is up to the lettuce industry to clean up its act and use good sanitation practices on every farm, every day.

Read More – Business Wire