The Birds and the Bees at Risk?: Science Integrity Watch, April 1


Editor’s Note: Until 2009, the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) published an important weekly digest of news called “Integrity in Science Watch.” Journalist Merrill Goozner aggregated the most important conflict-of-interest stories from around the web in order to raise awareness about how these conflicts affected regulation, legislation, patient care, and academic research. Although they are big shoes to fill, the Public Trust Project will be attempting to resurrect the important public service that CSPI’s “Integrity in Science Watch” provided with our own version of a weekly science integrity newsletter. Watch this space weekly for updates. -AF

Science Integrity Watch, April 1, 2013: 

The coal tar industry has funded a tax exempt lobbying firm to produce research contradicting federal, state, and academic findings that coal tar sealants used on playgrounds, parking lots, and driveways release toxic chemicals that harm human health and wildlife. These tactics have successfully stymied legislation that would ban coal tar sealants in Michigan, Illinois, and Maryland. Chicago Tribune

Citing costs, 70 companies are resisting EPA efforts to clean the Passaic River, a highly contaminated, 17-mile long Superfund site. Resistance from the business community has included attempts to cultivate support for cheaper proposals by industry scientists whose solutions are seen as ineffective by environmentalists and the EPA.

The continuing resolution to fund the federal government includes provisions that give protection to big chicken companies and producers of genetically engineered seeds. USDA can no longer enforce contract fairness measures between poultry integrators and their contractors, while businesses like Monsanto are allowed to continue planting seeds even after courts determine they have been illegally approved. Food & Water Watch

Michael Mann, the scientist who helped produced a groundbreaking piece of climate research known as the “hockey stick “graph, reflects on the industry-driven attacks against him that have made him into a public figure. Among his most ardent critics is Ken Cuccinelli, the soon-to-be Republican candidate in Virginia’s race for governor. The Scientist

A new study finds that natural gas leakages, which at about 2.2-3.2 percent leakage rates nullify the benefits of natural gas as a cleaner burning fuel, occur at a rate of about 5 percent. The gas then enters the atmosphere as methane, a more potent greenhouse gas, leading to doubts that expanded use of natural gas would have positive environmental benefits. Alternet

Over half of rivers in the United States are in poor health and unable to support aquatic life, according to a report released by the EPA. The most widespread problems facing the nation’s waterways are nutrient runoff and land development. Washington Post

A Newcastle University study found that neonicotinoid pesticides damage the brains of bees, interfering with their ability to harvest flowers and support their colonies, contradicting a prior, “flawed” study that found the pesticide has no effect on bees. The EU has been moving to ban neonicotinoids; regulators in the US are taking no action. Telegraph

In related news:

Neonicotinoid pesticides harm both birds and bees. A new Canadian analysis found that the widespread use of neonicotinoid damages birds, bees, and aquatic insects that serve as a dietary staples to multiple higher species. Mother Jones

Lead paint, long banned in the United States and Europe for its negative effects on human health and growing children, is being sold in the third world without warning labels or precautions. US-based PPG, the world’s second largest paint company, owns a French subsidiary that has been producing paint with lead 5,500 times above US standards for use in Africa. Yale Environment 360

The EPA is set to make new rules slashing the amount of sulfur allowed in gasoline and instituting higher fuel standards for vehicles starting production in 2017. The standards, which would achieve the pollution gains of taking 33 million cars off the road, would lead to a cost increase of less than a penny for a gallon of gasoline, administration sources estimate, but oil and gas representatives claim that it would raise prices nine cents a gallon. Washington Post

Municipalities in China have been shown to withhold information on polluters and pollution from the public. The lack of transparency and accountability has increased following major international news stories on China’s air quality. South China Morning Post