Category Archives: Guests Posts

Guest Post: J. Jacobs – The Health Implications of the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill

Photo Courtesy of Mary Smith and Mountain Pine High School EAST Lab students.

For the past several weeks, I’ve been taking Arkansas Earth Institute’s A World of Health discussion course. It explores the connections between human health and the environment, and how we can sustain both. I’ve been reading all about chemicals in our environment, so when Tara with An Apple a Day approached me about a possible guest post, I asked her for one on the health implications of the Gulf oil disaster.

I know many of my readers have been concerned about the Gulf oil spill and its impact on the environment and health. I have been, too, especially since I work for an organization that protects birds, widlife, and their habitats. I hope you find this post as insightful as I did.

The Health Implications of the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill

The oil spilled that occurred on April 20, 2010, produced disastrous consequences for the marine environment, but we have only begun to realize what adverse effects that spill will have on human health. When a bubble of methane gas escaped from the well of the rig and ignited, many dangerous toxicants were released into our environment. These include volatile organic compounds (VOCs), polyaromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), and organic solvents. Although we can speculate, we have yet to find out the exact implications these compounds have for human health. Of course, oil spill workers will experience the most severe health effects associated with these toxicants because they have the greatest exposure, however it is important to know that much larger population is also at risk for health damage.

Volatile Organic Compunds (VOCs) – Benzene

Benzene can be absorbed through the skin, inhaled, ingested, or may come into contact with the eyes. It is so dangerous because in addition to being toxic, it is also known as a carcinogen that can lead to leukemia. Benzene has been reported to cause oxidative DNA damage in factory workers exposed to medium concentrations (40-200mg/m3). Some oil spill workers are exposed to even greater concentrations than this, so it is scary to think what health consequences these workers may face.

Polyaromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs)

PAHs have also been identified by the EPA as carcinogenic to humans. Humans can become exposed to PAHs by inhaling them directly or eating PAH-infected marine life. Oysters are of a particular concern with many oyster reefs having been polluted in the Louisiana and Mississippi regions. There is no telling how long it will take before seafood of this region, such as oysters, is safe again to consume. Both oil spill workers and the residents of the area where the oil spill occurred are at risk for PAH inhalation.

Organic Solvent – Toluene

When spilled, this colorless liquid can easily seep into the soil and nearby surface or groundwater. Humans then ingest toluene when they drink this contaminated water, inhale the evaporated liquid, or absorb the liquid through their skin. Humans react similarly to toluene as they do to alcohol. Low levels of exposure affect the central nervous system, causing weakness, confusion, tiredness, memory loss, nausea, loss of appetite, hearing loss, and color vision loss. At higher exposures to toluene, people experience severe nervousness, lack of emotional control, muscular fatigue, loss of consciousness, and even death. Depending on the route of exposure, the severity of reactions to toluene will vary. Moreover, chronic exposure to toluene has been associated with anemia, decreased blood cell count, bone marrow hypoplasia, liver and kidney damage, and dermatitis. Toluene has even been found to damage unborn fetuses. When an expecting mother is exposed to toluene, her child may experience birth defects, mental retardation, and/or stunted growth.

Future Implications

The Gulf Oil Spill is an unfortunate reminder of how human carelessness can essentially ruin a piece of our environment. Not only did the contaminants released into the environment have adverse implications for the health of humans, but they damaged and killed much of the surrounding marine life as well. The Deepwater Horizon oil spill is not the first of its kind, and sadly will not be the last, but as a human race we must learn from this event to possibly prevent a spill of such magnitude from happening again.

For more information concerning our common Mother Earth, please visit Environmental Education Resources.

J. Jacobs is a guest blogger for An Apple a Day and a writer on earning your nursing degree online for the Guide to Health Education.

Advertisements

Guest Post: Jonelle Doughty – Super Quick and Easy Fridge Pickles

Finished product

Finished product

Look at all the spices!

Look at all the spices!

When planting a vegetable garden, it’s often hard to decide how much is too much. Cucumbers are one of those prolific veggies that are especially difficult to gauge. This year I decided to plant only three cucumber plants, all of the “Bushy” variety. On average, they grow to be 4” to 5” long and 1” to 3” in diameter.

For the last couple of months, I’ve consistently gathered two to four cucumbers a day. But I’ve found I only eat about two cucumbers a day. The rest get thrown into the veggie drawer of the fridge where I tend to forget about them until they start to wrinkle and wither. Oops!!

If you’re like me and have found yourself with a few too many cucumbers to eat in a timely manner, but not quite enough for a full batch of proper pickles, refrigerator pickles may be the solution you’re looking for.

There are a million recipes out there for refrigerator pickles. Some involve bell peppers and onions. Most require quite a bit of sugar. Since I’m not a huge fan of sugary pickles and only had cucumbers to work with, I improvised my own recipe. I must say, I’m quite happy with the finished product.

Super Quick and Easy Fridge Pickles

Add the following four ingredients to a pan on stovetop:

  • 1 ½ cups Bragg’s apple cider vinegar
  • ½ cup water
  • 2 Tbsp honey
  • 1 Tbsp pickling/canning salt

Let simmer until salt and honey are dissolved, then bring to a boil.

To each jar add:

  • 2 cloves of garlic, peeled but whole
  • 1 tsp mustard seed
  • 1 tsp dill seed
  • 1 tsp peppercorns (can be eliminated for no spice, or increased for more spice)
  • 2 cloves

Fill jars with thinly sliced cucumbers (see note), then pour in boiling vinegar mixture. Leave ¼” of headroom in jars. Screw on lid, and let sit out on counter for 24 hours. Refrigerate. Eat.

Note: I used 8 to 10 medium-sized Bushy cucumbers which made exactly two pint jars of pickles.

Guest Post: Eddy Moore – Today’s Hearing: Who Gets to See the Books?

The Arkansas Public Service Commission is a regulatory agency whose responsibilities include oversight of the utility industry.

The Arkansas Public Service Commission is a regulatory agency whose responsibilities include oversight of the utility industry.

Electric and gas bills frequently add up to 5%, 10% or even 20% of the income of many Arkansans.

Even though rates are regulated by the state government, you will never see or hear much of the information that determines how much of a rate increase you pay.  That is because it is legally kept secret on the theory that publishing it could hurt the competitive position of the electric or gas company.

Still, there are private individuals and companies that get to see the utility company books and argue for lower rates.  They get special permission from the state government if they can prove they have a legitimate reason, and if they promise not to disclose utility company secrets.  Usually, only a few big businesses and state officials participate.

Recently, SWEPCO, which sells electricity to the western part of Arkansas, has asked for a rate increase of over $50 million per year.  The state government has agreed to let Wal-Mart and a group of other large Arkansas businesses help look into whether the rate increase is justified.

In what may be a first in several decades in Arkansas, two environmental groups and a group of concerned citizens and small businesses have asked permission to participate.  While the large businesses were let in without any opposition, Audubon Arkansas, Sierra Club, and northwest-Arkansas-based Citizens Advancing Reasonable Rates (CARR) have spent the last several weeks waiting for a decision and battling utility company and government opposition.  At a hearing today at the Arkansas Public Service Commission, the state will hear arguments from both sides to render a final decision.

SWEPCO and some state officials have argued that the citizen and environmental groups have no legitimate purpose looking into the rate increase and would just bog down the proceedings.

SWEPCO particularly doesn’t want any opponents of its new coal-fired power plant to be able to investigate the details of its requested rate increase, even though it says that about half of the increase is needed to begin paying for the new plant.  So far, no one who opposed the plant has been given permission to be a part of the investigation.

The citizen and environmental groups argue that there are several reasons they should be allowed to help review SWEPCO finances before a significant rate increase, any one of which could justify their participation.  Some government officials counter that state experts can take care of all of the citizen concerns without actually letting them participate.

The Arkansas Public Service Commission will hold a hearing todayat 1:30 p.m.  to decide whether the citizen and environmental will be allowed to be a part of the investigation into what promises to be the first of several utility rate increases over the next few years.

Guest Post: Angela Wisely – Tell the President to Work Harder for Clean Energy & Green Jobs!

solar-powerThe Arkansas C-Campaign has a sign-on letter for organizations of all types to sign (see below). The letter applauds President Barak Obama for his work thus far on cap and trade legislation and encourages the President and our entire government to work even harder toward clean energy and green jobs.  The organizations that sign will be presented to Congress and listed in an online ad in Politico, a D.C. publication.  You can check out the Politico’s site at www.politico.com.  The Arkansas C-Campaign is still looking for signers.  If your organization is interested in free PR and a chance to message directly to our nation’s leaders, please contact Angela Wisely, Outreach Coordinator, Audubon Arkansas, at awisely@audubon.org or (501)244-2229.

The deadline is Wednesday, March 18, 2009.

[Date]

Dear President Obama:

We applaud your commitment to make global warming and clean energy top priorities in 2009.  We look forward to working with you to adopt bold goals to repower, refuel, and rebuild America; to announce a plan early in 2009 to reach these goals; and to utilize the economic recovery package and federal budget and to get us started.

From the big cities of the coasts to the industrial heartland to our rural communities, the slumping economy is taking its toll in shuttered businesses, disappearing jobs, bankruptcies, foreclosures, and an increased sense of anxiety about our collective future.  To revive the American dream, we need to rebuild our economy on a sound foundation – one that ends our dependence on oil, puts people back to work, contributes to long-term prosperity, rebuilds our communities, and addresses global warming.  The one path to achieve all of these goals is to take the lead on global warming by moving to a clean energy future.

America is up to the challenge.  We have the technology, the tools, and the know-how to use energy more wisely and to obtain our energy from clean, renewable sources.  Clean energy will create new jobs, protect consumers from skyrocketing fossil fuel costs, and drive billions of dollars in capital investment into our economy—even as we save the planet. What’s more, clean energy can be produced right here at home, freeing us from foreign sources of energy and creating new jobs in all sectors of the nation’s economy – including many jobs that can never be outsourced.

Americans are already beginning to see the benefits of clean energy in their local economies. Laid-off workers in the nation’s “Rust Belt” are getting back to work building wind turbines and solar cells; farmers in the Midwest are supplementing their incomes with royalties from wind farms; residents of economically distressed inner cities are learning how to install solar panels and weatherize homes for greater energy efficiency.  Every part of the country has the opportunity to benefit from a transition to a new energy future.

But to turn this trickle of green jobs into a torrent of new economic opportunities, we need to act boldly – and fast.  The key to moving to clean energy is enactment of a strong measure that caps global warming pollution, requires polluters to reduce and pay for their pollution, and drives massive new investments in clean energy technologies.  We can:

  • Move to 100% clean electricity from sources such as wind, solar, geothermal, and sustainable biomass.  Achieving this goal won’t happen overnight, but America has vast, untapped clean energy resources.  For instance, the wind blowing over just five U.S. states – North Dakota , South Dakota , Kansas , Montana and Texas – could produce enough electricity to power the entire United States .  To harness these clean sources of energy, we need an aggressive national renewable electricity standard, strong national energy efficiency standards, and the right policies, public investments, and infrastructure to deliver clean energy to America in an environmentally-responsible manner.
  • Cut our dependence on oil in half. America can use oil far more efficiently, shift to low-carbon fuels, and transition some of our travel to more affordable and sustainable transportation choices.  To get started, we need to significantly increase the fuel economy of our cars and trucks, create new incentives for plug-in electric vehicles, and adopt a federal low-carbon fuel standard that will bolster rural economies and cut global warming emissions.  We also must make major new investments in infrastructure, rail transportation, and public transit to provide Americans with more affordable and sustainable transportation choices.
  • Create 5 million new clean energy jobs. Our country should make major new investments in infrastructure and technology to put Americans back to work.  Central to this effort is a plan to retrofit millions of buildings and homes in the United States , which will save consumers and businesses money and create new jobs.  We can help fund this investment by putting science-based limits on global warming pollution and requiring polluters to reduce and pay for their pollution.  Investment in clean energy and energy efficiency will speed our economic recovery and create millions of new jobs here at home in every part of the country.
  • Reduce total U.S. global warming pollution by at least 80 percent. The latest climate science indicates that the United States must reduce emissions of global warming pollutants quickly and dramatically if we hope to avoid the worst impacts of global warming.  America must take decisive action now by putting science-based limits on global warming pollution and requiring polluters to reduce and pay for their pollution.  This also will enable the United States to play a leadership role in achieving a global commitment to strong action.

Today, we have the opportunity to turn in a new direction and achieve a new economic and energy future for America .  It will take vision and commitment from all sectors of American society.  But it is up to you to provide the leadership to repower, refuel, and rebuild America.

We hope to work with you to adopt the goals described above, to announce a plan early in 2009 to reach these goals, and to utilize the economic recovery package and federal budget to get us started.

Sincerely,

[Organization Name]