EWG staffers put our heads together to come up with this list of bad news environmental stories over the last decade that people might have missed. But there were plenty of big stories that hardly anyone could have missed, such as climate change. What’s on your list of the biggest environmental stories of the last 10 years?
1. Secret Gas Drilling Chemical Almost Kills Colorado nurse
Doctors ran into a medical mystery — and a stone wall from industry — when they tried to find what was in a gas drilling chemical that nearly killed a Colorado nurse. Aren’t you glad that Congress exempted these “fracking” chemicals from regulation under the Safe Water Drinking Act?
2. Intersex Fish Turn Up All Over
Are you a boy or are you a girl? That’s the question that scientists are asking as they study the organs of supposedly male fish from coast to coast and find eggs in many of them. The chief suspects: endocrine-disrupting pollutants that even in tiny amounts can mimic hormones and affect sexual development.
3. Prescription Drugs in Your Drinking Water
Take a swallow and call me in the morning. Antibiotics, anti-convulsants, mood stabilizers and sex hormones – they’ve all turned up in tests of drinking water around the country. Could there be health risks from decades of drinking water laced with combinations of potent drugs?
4. And Rocket Fuel, Too
Perchlorate — the stuff is used in rocket fuel and explosives and turns up not just in water but also in milk, lettuce, other foods – and in our bodies. It’s been linked to thyroid problems in pregnant women, newborns and infants. The EPA is reconsidering its earlier decision not to regulate it in water. Stand by.
5. Ethanol — Bad for Your Health, Too
There are a lot of reasons to question the drive for biofuels, especially corn-based ethanol, but there has been much less attention paid to what it means for air pollution and health. For people who like to breathe clean air, the balance doesn’t look promising.
6. Non-stick, No-Stain and No-Good
They were the miracle products that were supposed to make life easier – keeping spills from staining our couches and making it easy to clean our pots without scrubbing — until it all went sour. Chemicals in the original Teflon and now off-the-market Scotchgard were linked to cancer and developmental problems. They have a way of polluting everything and they refuse to go away.
7. Monsanto owns corn (and soybeans, too)
80% of the corn and 95% percent of the soybeans grown in America contain genes inserted by Monsanto scientists, and the company writes tough – and secret – licensing agreements to maintain control and lock out competitors. Now the Justice Department and some states are thinking these practices might violate anti-trust laws. Turnips, anyone?
8. Occupational Hazard: Microwave Popcorn
This fun food turned to be no fun for people who make it. A strange lung malady that sickened workers in plants that make microwave popcorn was traced to a widely used butter flavoring. And one popcorn-crazy consumer was felled, too. It took a while, but OSHA finally took a look, and the stuff is being phased out.
9. Dead (Zone) on Arrival
In the Gulf of Mexico, Chesapeake Bay and elsewhere, vast expanses of ocean have been turned into biological deserts as fertilizer runoff from farms washes downstream and nourish runaway algae growth, which deplete most of the oxygen when the tiny organisms die and decompose. The Gulf dead zone has more than doubled in size since the 1980s – accelerated by the boom in crops grown to make biofuels. In 2009, it was smaller than predicted, but more intense, in 2009.
10. The (Not So) Great Pacific Trash Gyre
It’s hard to spot from the water or even from space, but an estimated 3.5 million tons of mostly plastic trash from all over the world floats just below the surface of the Pacific, swirling slowly around in an area of circular currents twice the size of Texas. It’s devastating to birds and sea creatures that think the plastic bits are food. It’s time to stop adding to the mess – and then see if there’s any way to clean it up.
What stories top your list of the decade’s biggest environmental news??