Elizabeth Grossman

This Is What the Brutal Consequences of Trump's Proposed Budget Slash for the Labor Dept. Would Look Like

The Trump administration’s “budget blueprint” would devastate worker safety, job training programs and legal services essential to low-income workers. Its cuts include a 21 percent, or $2.5 billion, reduction in the Department of Labor’s budget.

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Will Workplace Safety Survive a Trump Presidency?

On the campaign trail, Donald Trump repeatedly promised to bring back U.S. factory jobs. The message resonated with blue-collar workers and Trump’s success is credited, in large part, to voters who have seen their jobs disappear and livelihoods diminish as U.S. manufacturing companies moved toward automation or just plain moved—to places with lower labor costs, like Mexico. Trump also campaigned on a promise to eliminate regulations, a position now central to his incoming administration’s policies.

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10 Things You Need to Know About the New U.S. Chemicals Law

“This is a big deal,” said President Barack Obama as he signed into law the bill that updates — for the first time in 40 years — the nation’s main chemical safety legislation. Called the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act to honor the late senator for whom this was a special cause, the law revises the Toxic Substances Control Act that gives the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency authority to regulate chemicals used commercially in the United States.

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As Temperatures Climb Across the Country, Workers Will Suffer

The summer of 2016 is barely two weeks old, but this year is already on track to break high temperature records in the United States. On June 20, cities across the Southwest and into Nevada reached all-time triple-digit highs. Meanwhile, every single state experienced spring temperatures above average, with some in the Northwest reaching record highs. These temperatures have already proved deadly, killing five hikers in Arizona earlier this month. Triple-digit heat earlier that same week is also being blamed for the deaths of two construction workers, 49-year old Dale Heitman in St. Louis, Missouri, on June 15 and 55-year old Thomas F. “Tommy” Barnes on June 14 at the Monsanto campus in nearby Chesterfield, Missouri. 

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New Study Reveals Just How Brutal Meat and Poultry Work Is for Workers

The meat and poultry industry remains exceptionally dangerous, despite a decline in reported injuries and illnesses over the past 10 years, according to a new Government Accountability Office (GAO) report. Further, says the report, the injury and illness rates reflected in Department of Labor numbers are significantly underreported. As a result, these figures do not fully represent what is actually happening within this industry that employs about 526,000—including many recent immigrants and noncitizens. The report also found evidence of workers being denied proper medical treatment on the job and that they often fail to report injuries for fear it will cost them their jobs.

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This New Rule Will Make Information About On-the-Job Injuries at Dangerous Workplaces Public

More than 3 million U.S. workers suffer a workplace injury or illness every year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics—numbers that are thought to be significantly underreported. But astonishingly, little or no information about at which workplaces these occur is made available to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the agency responsible for enforcing U.S. workplace safety. Neither is this information made public.

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We've Changed a Life-Giving Nutrient Into a Deadly Pollutant - Can We Change It Back?

Coastal dead zones, global warming, excess algae blooms, acid rain, ocean acidification, smog, impaired drinking water quality, an expanding ozone hole and biodiversity loss. Seemingly diverse problems, but a common thread connects them: human disruption of how a single chemical element, nitrogen, interacts with the environment.

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'Epidemic' of Premature Births Increasingly Linked to Air Pollution

One in 10 babies in the United States is born prematurely, before 37 weeks of pregnancy. Preterm birth is the leading cause of death for children under five and is linked to numerous health problems that persist throughout life. Many factors can contribute to preterm birth but air pollution – particularly fine particulate pollution – is increasingly being linked to the incidence of premature birth in the US and elsewhere around the world. According to a study published today inEnvironmental Health Perspectives, the annual economic costs of the nearly 16,000 premature births linked to air pollution in the US each year has reached $4.33 billion.

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6 Things to Know About the EPA’s New Pesticide Rules

For the first time since 1992, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has updated the pesticide protections it requires for the more than two million people who plant and harvest our food. The new protections, which will go into effect in early 2017, could be a game-changer for American farms and workers.

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One of the Most Common Chemicals Used in Modern Life Is Now Being Seen as a Health Threat

On Friday, in a substantial shift in policy, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced that it has "some concern" about the health effects of bishphenol A (BPA), particularly on infants and children. While not currently advocating regulation, the FDA is proposing steps that could lead to restrictions.

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A Chemical Found in Most Consumer Products May Cause Heart Disease in Women

A study released this week by researchers at the University of Cincinnati says that exposure to bisphenol A may increase heart disease in women.

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Cod Is Dead

"It's a fire alarm," says Richard Ellis about his new book, The Empty Ocean (Island Press), which joins a chorus of recent publications documenting the precipitous decline of world fisheries and the dire state of the marine environment. That alarm should make you think long and hard about your lunchtime tuna sandwich or the sashimi you order at your favorite Japanese restaurant.

Ellis, a research associate at the American Museum of Natural History in New York, is the author of over a dozen books about marine life. From 1980 to 1990, he was a member of the U.S. delegation to the International Whaling Commission, and he is also a renowned painter of ocean life. "I've been working on this subject for over 20 years," Ellis says over a cup of coffee in Portland, Ore., "and we are entering a moment of serious peril as far as fish stocks are concerned."

In The Empty Ocean, Ellis recounts the historical eradication of entire marine species, including Caribbean monk seals, Labrador ducks, and Steller's sea cow, which was slaughtered to extinction in less than 30 years.

"Only recently have biologists come to understand the intricacies of fish breeding, recruitment, and migration, and for many species the revelations have come too late," Ellis writes. Yet despite all we have learned about ecology and biology, he says, we continue to decimate ocean species: "We have entered an era in which the lesson of the sea cows has been ignored, usually in the name of short-term profits."

His assessment dovetails with the Pew Oceans Commission's report, America's Living Oceans, released in May. According to the report, only 22 percent of federally managed fish stocks are fished sustainably. At the same time, coastal development, nutrient runoff, and other pollution sources are hastening the loss of wetlands, estuaries, native aquatic plants, and coral reefs, all of which are vital to nurturing marine species. Meanwhile, those same species are also suffering from problems caused by invasive plants and animals, aquaculture, and climate change. If we don't curtail these trends, says Ellis, "we face a dim future."

]Ellis's claims are also supported by an article published in the May 15, 2003 issue of Nature. There, scientists Ransom Meyers and Boris Worm show how industrialized fishing of large predator fish in coastal regions has depleted stocks by at least 80 percent, with potentially serious consequences for ocean ecosystems worldwide. Recent research described by author and marine biologist Carl Safina and others reveals that many of these fish depend on enormous expanses of habitat that are adversely affected by fishing, land-use practices, development, and industry.

Nor is it just our consumption of large fish (such as cod, swordfish, and tuna) that threatens these species; it is also our depletion of their food sources. Fisheries biologist Daniel Pauly calls this "fishing down the food chain." That chain, says Ellis, is actually more a web of interdependence; for example, when California sea otters were hunted almost to extinction, their preferred food, sea urchins, proliferated. The urchins in turn destroyed kelp beds, which once provided habitat for numerous fish -- and thus the cycle of destruction and alteration persists and magnifies.

Another factor increasing the pace of "fishing down the food chain" is aquaculture, or fish-farming. According to Ellis, fish-farming tripled in volume between 1990 and 2000, with the result that aquaculture currently accounts for over 25 percent of all fish eaten by humans. Among the problems with aquaculture is that most carnivorous farmed fish are fed fishmeal, which is made from wild ocean species. Other industries are gobbling up vast quantities of wild fish as well. The poultry, pork, cattle, sheep, and pet food industries consume enormous amounts of fishmeal. Ellis notes that the chicken industry is the largest industrial user of meal made from menhaden, an Atlantic coastal fish that is also used to produce cooking and food-processing oils. Menhaden numbers have dropped 60 percent in the past four decades.

Among the other species whose fate Ellis describes are cod, salmon, sea turtles, sharks, whales, sea lions, seals, rockfish, and tuna. Since 1980, stocks of bluefin tuna have fallen by 80 percent in the European Atlantic and by 50 percent on the U.S. side. While those fisheries are now tightly managed, a "loophole big enough to drive a factory ship through has been discovered in the regulations governing Mediterranean bluefin tuna fishing": Although numbers of those fish legally caught by net or harpoon are strictly limited, there are no restrictions on the number of bluefin that can be caught and kept in what are called "post-harvesting pens," where they are fattened up before slaughter.

Although you could find much of the information contained in The Empty Ocean in environmental reports or scientific journals, Ellis' poignant narrative provides a thorough and readable overview of the damage inflicted on ocean ecosystems by global pollution and industrial fishing practices. While Ellis is an expert in the field and has visited nearly every place that figures in the book, The Empty Ocean is not built around his own fieldwork, nor does it offer much in the way of scenic detail; but it is evocative nonetheless, thanks to his careful interweaving of historical accounts and marine biology. As he makes abundantly clear, unless urgent action is taken, we are facing a tragedy -- one in which far too many of us are complicit.

"There is no great mystery about what happened to the codfish of the North Atlantic," writes Ellis. "The fishermen caught them, and the rest of us ate them."

So what do we do now?

"I wish we could turn the clock back," says Ellis. Barring that, he says, we must take steps to protect and restore what's left. "Marine reserves that incorporate no-take zones, which means no fishing by anybody," are essential to stemming the decline of world fisheries," he writes. But, he adds, "even penicillin won't work if you don't take it." How, then, to ensure that marine ecosystems get the protection they need? "We have to keep this going," says Ellis of the current barrage of books, articles, reports, and editorials detailing the plight of the oceans. Otherwise, he says, "the only way these lessons will get driven home, is when fish is no longer on the menu."

Elizabeth Grossman is the author of "Watershed: The Undamming of America" and "Adventuring Along the Lewis and Clark Trail."

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