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The Beat

Erin E. Dooley

Erin E. Dooley, MA, is a staff writer for EHP.

Environ Health Perspect 121:a119-a119 (2013). http://dx.doi.org/10.1289/ehp.121-a119 [online 01 April 2013]

News | Forum

News Topics: Environmental Health Education, Energy, Laws, Regulations, and Policy, Waste Disposal, International Environmental Health, Reproductive Health, Smoking and Secondhand Smoke, Arsenic, Food Safety and Regulation, Metals, Soil Pollution, Antibiotic Resistance, Endocrine Disruptors, Personal Care Products

A science teacher and two students in lab coats and goggles discuss an experimentComing soon to a classroom near you: new national science education standards. iStockphoto.com

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Update for Science Education Standards

New national standards for K–12 science education have been finalized and are set for release in spring 2013.1 The Next Generation Science Standards were developed by the National Research Council, the National Science Teachers Association, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the nonprofit Achieve, and 26 states. The standards focus less on rote memorization and more on the practice of science, with an emphasis on college readiness. “There hasn’t been a national effort to update science standards in over fifteen years,” says Chad Colby, communications director for Achieve. “But the science has changed, and the science about how students learn has changed.” Some textbook publishers may incorporate the new standards into their materials as early as next year.

North Carolina Considering Underground Disposal of 
Fracking Waste

In February 2013 the North Carolina Senate approved a bill that would lift the state’s moratorium on hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) for oil and gas by 2015 and overturn a 40-year-old ban on underground injection of waste.2 The bill, now making its way through the House, would set up an emergency fund to remediate oil spills using state royalties from offshore energy development. The geology of central North Carolina, where fracking would take place, is not amenable to underground injection, so the waste would likely be transported to the eastern area of the state.3

A no-smoking sign hangs from the ceiling of a public spaceGradually stricter smoking bans in Belgium tracked with gradual reductions in preterm birth weights. iStockphoto.com

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Smoking Bans and Preterm 
Birth Rates

A Belgian investigation of birth outcomes before, during, and after smoking bans found an association between implemention of such bans and lower rates of preterm birth.4 The reductions followed a pattern consistent with the three-phase introduction of smoking bans in public places/workplaces, in restaurants, and in bars serving food, respectively. No such trend was seen in the years before the bans. Preterm birth, defined as a birth occurring before 37 weeks of pregnancy, has been linked with adverse health effects across a child’s life span.

Take Care When Gardening Near Contaminated Sites

Dirt clings to the roots of a freshly harvested red radishRadishes and other members of the Brassicaceae family have been shown to accumulate high levels of arsenic. © Shutterstock.com / Janis Smits

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A study conducted near an Arizona Superfund site found that certain families of vegetables are especially effective at accumulating arsenic from soil, with the Asteraceae (e.g., lettuces) and Brassicaceae (e.g., radishes, broccoli, cabbage, and kale) families of vegetables packing the most arsenic into their edible portions.5 The study authors recommend that gardeners in areas with naturally high levels of arsenic or those near smelter or mining sites test their soil prior to gardening. They also advise gardeners who live in high-arsenic areas to limit their intake of homegrown vegetables, especially vegetables in the two hyperaccumulator families.

Minnesota State Government Phases Out Triclosan Soaps

In March 2013 the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency announced that within three months state agencies will no longer purchase hand, dish, or laundry soaps containing triclosan.6 This antibacterial agent is a suspected endocrine disruptor and is believed to contribute to antibiotic resistance.7 It is used in a variety of consumer products including soaps, personal care products, cleaning products, fabrics, and plastics. The U.S. FDA, which is conducting an ongoing scientific and regulatory review of triclosan, states that although the compound does provide health benefits in some products (such as toothpaste), there is no evidence that it is any more effective than plain soap and water for bathing or handwashing.8

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References

1. Next Generation Science Standards [website]. Washington, DC:Achieve, Inc. (2013). Available: http://www.nextgenscience.org/contact [accessed 15 Mar 2013].

2. General Assembly of North Carolina. Senate Bill DRS85020-RIfa-3: Domestic Energy Jobs Act. Available: http://www.ncleg.net/Sessions/2013/Bills​/Senate/PDF/S76v0.pdf [accessed 15 Mar 2013].

3. Queram KE. What’s in store for North Carolina’s fracking future? StarNewsOnline, News section (17 Mar 2013). Available: http://goo.gl/EeCTB [accessed 15 Mar 2013].

4. Cox B, et al. Impact of a stepwise introduction of smoke-free legislation on the rate of preterm births: analysis of routinely collected birth data. BMJ 346:f441. 2013. http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.f441.

5. Ramirez-Andreotta MD, et al. A greenhouse and field-based study to determine the accumulation of arsenic in common homegrown vegetables grown in mining-affected soils. Sci Total Environ 443:299–306. 2013. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.scitotenv.20​12.10.095.

6. MPCA. State Will Phase Out Use of Anti-bacterial Chemical [press release]. St. Paul, MN:Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (modified 6 Mar 2013). Available: http://goo.gl/1OxnY [accessed 15 Mar 2013].

7. Bedoux G, et al. Occurrence and toxicity of antimicrobial triclosan and by-products in the environment. Environ Sci Pollut Res 19(4):1044–1065. 2012. http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s11356-011-063​2-z.

8. FDA. Triclosan: What Consumers Should Know [website]. Silver Spring, MD:U.S. Food and Drug Administration (updated 29 Aug 2012). Available: http://goo.gl/Xbk2k [accessed 15 Mar 2013].


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