Category Archives: Cancer

Headlines of the day II: Gift that keeps on giving

First, from the London Daily Mail:

Nuclear leak at Washington’s infamous Hanford Site is CATASTROPHIC, former worker claims, as eight inches of radioactive waste escapes core of ‘the world’s safest’ tank

  • Tank has two shells; a crack was spotted in the inner one in 2011
  • Now that crack has widened, spilling waste into the gap between the shells
  • It happened after attempts to pump the waste out of the tank
  • The Department of Energy says this was ‘anticipated’
  • But workers at the plant said they weren’t told it was a possibility 
  • The double-shell tank can contain up to a million gallons of deadly waste
  • It was supposed to be the safest possible container for radioactive liquid 
  • The Hanford Site provided plutonium for the first atomic bomb 

And from the McClatchy Washington Bureau:

The feds won’t pay these ill nuclear pioneers from the space race

  • Department of Energy says only Santa Susana workers in Area IV could be exposed to radiation
  • But former nuclear workers say the system wasn’t so tidy and that they deserve medical compensation
  • Tales of sodium reactor waste dump, radioactive mist

Endocrine disruptors in fracking wastewater

Longtime readers know esnl is somewhat obsessed with the subject of endocrine disruptors, chemicals we’ve created that turn out to be mimics of the chemicals produced by the body’s own endocrine glands capable of inducing conditions ranging from obesity and sterility to ADD and cancer.

We’ve also been concerned with fracking, most notably the federal government’s rules permitting oil companies to keep secret the chemicals they pour into the ground to extract oil and natural gas, chemicals that leach into groundwater supplies or spill into streams through breaches in waste containment dams.

And now comes research that melds these two nightmares.

From the University of Missouri School of Medicine:

Unconventional oil and gas (UOG) operations combine directional drilling and hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” to release natural gas and oil from underground rock. Recent studies have centered on potential water pollution from this process that may increase endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) in surface and ground water and whether populations living near these operations have an increased risk of disease. Now, researchers from the University of Missouri report high levels of EDC activity in the surface water near a hydraulic fracturing wastewater disposal facility in West Virginia. Scientists warn that this level of activity may be associated with negative health effects in aquatic organisms, other animals and humans.

“Surface water samples collected on the disposal facility site and immediately downstream exhibited considerably greater EDC activity than surface water samples collected immediately upstream and in a nearby reference stream” said Susan C. Nagel, PhD, director of the study and an associate professor in the Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Women’s Health in the School of Medicine, and an adjunct associate professor of biological sciences in the MU College of Arts and Science. “The level of EDC activity was within the range or higher than the level known to impact the health of aquatic organisms.”

Dozens of chemicals may be used in fracturing at one site and approximately 1,000 different chemicals are reportedly used across the industry; more than 100 of these chemicals are known as or suspected to be EDCs. Large volumes of wastewater are produced in the process of fracking. Fracking wastewater is laden with chemicals used to drill and frack the well and may also contain radioactive compounds and heavy metals released from deep underground.

Disposal wells, like the one in the current study, are used only to dispose of fluids associated with oil and natural gas production, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

“Approximately 36,000 of these disposal wells are currently in operation across the U.S., and little work has been done to evaluate their potential impacts on nearby surface water,” said Christopher Kassotis, a former graduate student in Nagel’s laboratory and a current postdoctoral fellow at Duke University. “Given the large number of disposal wells in the U.S., it is critical for further investigation into the potential human and environmental health impacts.”

“Endocrine Disrupting Activity in Surface Water Associated with a West Virginia Oil and Gas Industry Wastewater Injection Disposal Site” will be published online in Science of the Total Environment. Research was part of a larger collaboration with Denise Akob, a geomicrobiologist at the U.S. Geological Survey who also directed the study.

More endocrine disrupting chemical dangers

Well, not so much new as newly discovered.

Industrial society and its technologies have unleashed a flood of chemicals into our bodies and the environment, most of them released without any serious efforts to determine whether or not we might be doing serious harm.

Well, guess what? With each passing month we learn of more chemicals that mimic the body’s own compounds, often to considerable harm.

The recent meeting of the physicians and scientists of the Endocrine Society has provided a flood of new evidence of the dangers of our chemical carelessness, and we offer some of them here.

Our first story concerns another ominous new finding about chemical we’ve covered in considerable depth.

From the Endocrine Society:

A new culture system that tests the role of chemical exposure on the developing mammary gland has found that bisphenol A (BPA) directly affects the mammary gland of mouse embryos. The study results, to be presented Friday at the Endocrine Society’s 98th annual meeting in Boston, show that these changes to embryonic mammary tissue occur at a dose comparable to that of humans’ environmental exposure to BPA.

“We exposure in the womb to endocrine disruptors such as BPA may be a main factor responsible for the increased incidence of breast cancer in women,” said the study’s lead investigator, Lucia Speroni, PhD, a research associate and member of the Soto-Sonnenschein lab at Tufts University School of Medicine in Boston.

“We knew from our previous research that BPA causes changes to breast tissue associated with a higher predisposition to breast cancer later in life,” said Speroni, who helped develop the new biological assay. “However, until now, we did not know whether this was a direct effect on the fetus or an indirect effect from the mother’s exposure.”

BPA is a hormone-like industrial chemical that appears in many plastic and resin household products and food containers. It has been detected in most urine samples representative of the U.S. population. Research links BPA to numerous adverse health effects in humans, and it can cross the placenta in the womb.

A second story from Endocrine Society concerns hidden dangers lurking in a compound we avidly slather on our skins:

Many ultraviolet (UV)-filtering chemicals commonly used in sunscreens interfere with the function of human sperm cells, and some mimic the effect of the female hormone progesterone, a new study finds. Results of the Danish study will be presented Friday at the Endocrine Society’s 98th annual meeting in Boston.

“These results are of concern and might explain in part why unexplained infertility is so prevalent,” said the study’s senior investigator, Niels Skakkebaek, MD, DMSc, a professor at the University of Copenhagen and a researcher at the Copenhagen University Hospital, Rigshospitalet.

Although the purpose of the chemical UV filters is to reduce the amount of the sun’s UV rays getting through the skin by absorbing UV, some UV filters are rapidly absorbed through the skin, Skakkebaek said. UV filter chemicals reportedly have been found in human blood samples and in 95 percent of urine samples in the U.S., Denmark and other countries.

Skakkebaek and his colleagues tested 29 of the 31 UV filters allowed in sunscreens in the U.S. or the European Union (EU) on live, healthy human sperm cells, from fresh semen samples obtained from several healthy donors. The sperm cells underwent testing in a buffer solution that resembled the conditions in female fallopian tubes.

And from the Endocrine Society via Newswise, hazards in a chemical we once eagerly used to saturate the fabrics of our daily lives:

Brominated fire retardants, used in many consumer products and known to cause hormonal irregularities, overstimulates an adrenal gland hormone in a way that may lead to the development of cardiovascular disease, new research in human cells finds. Researchers will present their study results Saturday at the Endocrine Society’s 98th annual meeting in Boston.

Flame retardants such as polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) have been widely used in furniture foam cushions, clothes, building materials and electronics to slow the rate of ignition and fire growth. The United States is phasing out use of these industrial chemicals because they are endocrine disruptors, substances that can impair hormone-controlled processes, and mounting scientific evidence shows they can affect neurologic development in infants and children as well as reproductive, thyroid, and metabolic functions.

“However, these chemicals leach into the environment and bioaccumulate, and have appeared in our environment, including house dust, the food supply and breast milk samples in the U.S.,” said the study’s principal investigator, Phillip Kopf, PhD, an assistant professor at Midwestern University in Downers Grove, IL.

Finally, another endocrine disruptor we use in the hopes of sparing us from medical problems. From Endocrine Society via Newswise:

Use of a common nonprescription antimicrobial, triclocarban (TCC), during pregnancy and breast-feeding may alter the offspring’s composition of intestinal bacteria and other micro-organisms, called the gut microbiota, a new animal study finds. Presentation of the results will take place Friday at the Endocrine Society’s 98th annual meeting in Boston.

The gut microbiota contains both beneficial and harmful microbes, and changes in its normal composition are linked to diseases including obesity, diabetes, irritable bowel disease, colon cancer, multiple sclerosis and asthma.

TCC is frequently added to antibacterial bar soap. Many antibacterial personal care products are commonly used during pregnancy and by nursing women to protect against infectious disease, said the study’s lead author, Rebekah Kennedy, a graduate student in Comparative and Experimental Medicine at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.

“Our research adds to the growing body of scientific literature suggesting unintended health consequences related to nonprescription antimicrobial use and will allow pregnant and nursing mothers to make informed decisions regarding use of these antimicrobial products,” she said.

Active fault underlies a Japanese nuclear plant

Plus an update on California nuclear plants. . .

While 9/11 are numbers burned into the American mind, to Japan the equally ominous digits are 3/11, the month and day of the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tidal wave that would claim 18,465 lives and trigger one of the world’s worst nuclear disasters.

Three reactors melted down at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, leading to radiation releases still ongoing five years later, as Scientific American reported this week:

Today the disaster site remains in crisis mode. Former residents will not likely return anytime soon, because levels of radioactivity near their abodes remain high. Even more troublesome, the plant has yet to stop producing dangerous nuclear waste: its operator, the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), currently circulates water through the three melted units to keep them cool—generating a relentless supply of radioactive water. To make matters worse, groundwater flowing from a hill behind the crippled plant now mingles with radioactive materials before heading into the sea.

TEPCO collects the contaminated water and stores it all in massive tanks at the rate of up to 400 metric tons a day. Lately the water has been processed to reduce the concentration of radionuclides, but it still retains high concentrations of tritium, a radioactive isotope of hydrogen. Disputes over its final resting place remain unresolved. The same goes for the millions of bags of contaminated topsoil and other solid waste from the disaster, as well as the uranium fuel itself. Health reports, too, are worrisome. Scientists have seen an increase in thyroid cancers among the children who had lived in Fukushima at the time, although it is too early to tell if those cases can be attributed to the accident.

The nuclear disaster resulted in a mandatory shutdown order for all of Japan’s nuclear plants and a comprehensive review of their sites for seismic safety issues.

As a result of that review it now appears that one of the nation’s other nuclear power plants may have to be shuttered, given that it sits on an active earthquake fault.

From the Yomiuri Shimbun:

One of the faults that run under the premises of Hokuriku Electric Power Co.’s Shika nuclear power plant in Ishikawa Prefecture can be reasonably concluded to be active, according to an evaluation compiled Thursday by an expert panel at the Nuclear Regulation Authority.

The No. 1 reactor at the Shika plant may have to be decommissioned under the new nuclear regulatory standards, which ban the construction of important facilities above an active fault. The fault in question lies directly under the No. 1 reactor building.

The power company has already submitted an application for a safety inspection of the No. 2 reactor, asserting that the fault is not active. The utility also intends to file a similar application regarding the No. 1 reactor in the near future.

After taking the panel’s conclusion into account, the NRA will make a decision during safety reviews as to whether the fault in question is active.

California only has one functioning nuclear power plant complex, with five others in various stages of decommissioning.

The one function facility is the complex in Diablo Canyon in Northern California, a power plant that caused the Union of Concern Scientists to issue a warning in November 2013:

California’s Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant sits near several earthquake fault lines. One of these—discovered in late 2008—is a mere 2,000 feet from Diablo Canyon’s two reactors, and could cause more ground motion during an earthquake than the reactors were designed to withstand.

Despite enforcing seismic regulations in similar situations elsewhere, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) hasn’t enforced them at Diablo Canyon—exposing Americans to undue risk.

The risk of an earthquake at Diablo Canyon is due to the site’s location near a number of fault lines, both offshore and inland from the plant. In fact, dozens of earthquakes have already occurred at or near Diablo Canyon.

Two years later the San Francisco Chronicle issued another warning:

Pacific Gas and Electric Co. replaced $842 million of equipment at the heart of the Diablo Canyon nuclear plant without first making sure the new gear could pass a vital seismic safety test required in the facility’s license, The Chronicle has learned.

Starting in 2008, PG&E swapped out the plant’s old steam generators and reactor vessel heads without evaluating whether the replacements could withstand a major earthquake on the Hosgri Fault — just 3 miles away — and a simultaneous loss of cooling water within the reactors.

Instead, PG&E evaluated each scenario — the earthquake and the loss of coolant — separately, even though Diablo’s license requires that the two be considered together. A severe quake, after all, could rupture pipes connected to the reactor vessels and cause the water to drain, potentially leading to a meltdown.

Pacific Gas & Electric, the plant operator, insists Diablo Canyon is safe.

Until three years ago, California has a second operating nuclear power facility at San Onofre in Southern California. However a serious of mistakes by plant operators and the installation of a tubing system for the plant’s steam generators ultimately led to regulatory investigations culminating in the announcement that the plant would be commissioned, leaving ratepayer to foot the bill for errors made by San Diego Gas & Electric, the facility’s operator.

Here’s a 30 October 2015 video report from KPBS in San Diego on the problems and SDG&E’s failure to notify federal regulators of the crisis:

Edison Never Told Federal Regulators Of San Onofre Equipment Design Flaw

In the cases of both facilities, previously unknown faults not included in the plants’ designs were discovered long after they were up and running, including one major new system at San Onofre capable of producing an 8.0 shocker, ten times larger than the Fukushima shaker and 32 times stranger than the plant was designed to withstand.

We’ve posted extensively about the problems at California’s nuclears plants, both Diablo Canyon and San Onofre.

Native Americans imperiled in ‘national interest’

When the first Europeans arrived in what they called the New World, they were greeted hospitably by the peoples to who the Americas were anything but new.

In additions to guns, armor, and horses, the Europeans brought invisible invaders, microbes that would kill many times more the numbers of indigenous people who fell to the guns and swords of the invaders.

And invisible enemies are still assaulting those who first called this land home, particles far smaller than the living organisms that had brought lethal epidemics of measles, small pox, and other ailments new to the Americas.

These new afflictions were brought by miners and scientists, assaulting the earth for uranium to build the bombs brandished during the Cold War and that still form the backbone of the national arsenal.

In the latest episode of Days of Revolt, journalist Chris Hedges talks with two Native Americans about the radioactive threat to their peoples, as well as the impacts of coal mining and fracking.

Charmaine White Face is of the Oglala Tetuwan Nation, or from POW Camp 344, the original designation of what became today’s reservation. Petuuche Gilbert comes from the Acoma Nation in New Mexico, the oldest continuously inhabited urban community in the country.

One of the deepest concerns of the Acoma has a direct connection to UC Berkeley, the two national laboratories in New Mexico, both of which have intimate connections with the University of California and its Berkeley campus.

From teleSUR English via The Real News Network:

Days of Revolt: Sacrifice Zones

From the transcript:

HEDGES: Let me ask you, Petuuche, in New Mexico are there, is it a similar situation as South Dakota, Wyoming? Different in any way, what you’re confronting?

GILBERT: I think it’s very similar in terms of the dependency of the United States on nuclear energy. So I call New Mexico a very irradiated state because of its attention on nuclear research. So in Mexico not only do you have abandoned uranium mines and mills, but you have your two National Laboratories–.

HEDGES: Los Alamos.

GILBERT: Los Alamos National Laboratories that still makes smart bombs. And that Sandia National Laboratories in Albuquerque that stores supposedly the world’s largest collection of nuclear warheads. And then you have your WIPP, the Waste Isolation Pilot Project plant in Carlsbad which is now closed because of problems, a fire that occurred a couple years ago. And then you have a uranium enrichment facility in New Mexico.

So yet this whole state that’s so dependent on this nuclear research, and the whole nuclear fuel cycle, what our concentration is is up, where I’m from, is the mines and mills which we call the legacy uranium mines and mills in the Grants Mining District. You have today, the EPA tells us there’s 97 abandoned uranium mines and five mills. And of course, all of these have created radioactive poisoning of the land, the people the environment and wildlife.

HEDGES: What is a, what is a mill? What does a mill do?

GILBERT: A mill would process the uranium ore into yellow cake.

HEDGES: I see.

GILBERT: So in, in this Grants [inaud.] you get five plants. They’re all closed, now, and they are administered by the Department of Energy or another [crosstalk].

HEDGES: And are you seeing the same kind of health effects?

GILBERT: Same kind of health effects. The refusal of the state of New Mexico, the refusal of the United States to do epidemiological studies or other real serious risk health impact studies. And that does–for example, today the citizens are okay with going with new uranium mining, because they don’t have the information to influence them, that radiation poisoning affects them and that they were all radiation victims as a result of these mines and mills.

HEDGES: And you’re seeing the elevated cancer rates that you’re seeing in South Dakota.

GILBERT: Yes, yes. There’s this one community that published what they call a death map in the Albuquerque Journal. It’s the Blue Water Valley Downstream Alliance organization. Their villages are less than 100 yards away from an old Homestake [inaud.] mill site, and that the people are dying from cancer, they claim, as a result of living right next and adjacent to this old mill.

So definitely radon gas, or radioactive particles contaminated the groundwater, that are affecting the health and welfare of the people, including the wildlife.

Cancer: Another reason to loathe the TPP

The Trans-Pacific Partnership, the multinational Pacific Rim trading pact, negotiated in secret under the sway of corporate lobbyists and signed today in New Zealand, must be approved by Congress in order to take effect.

Hillary Clinton loves it, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren  don’t.

There are many reasons to loathe the TPP, including its secret tribunal capable of fining nations huge sums for enacting environmental, public health, and other barriers to protect citizens from unalloyed corporate rapacity.

Now comes another good reason, cancer.

From RT’s The Big Picture with Thom Hartmann:

What Today’s TPP Signing Means

Program notes:

Melinda St. Louis, Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch & Zahara Heckscher, Writer/Educator/Social Justice Advocate join Thom. Representatives from 12 countries are gathering in the world’s most remote capital to finally sign the Trans-Pacific Partnership. What effect will this have on the effort to block the deal here in the US?

Charts of the day: Cancer deaths in Europe

From Eurostat [PDF], first the mortality rates by nation [and click on the images to enlarge]:

BLOG EU Cancer rates

And cancer death rates by sex:

BLOG EU Cancer types