Thursday

Battery Company Leaves a Trail of Pollution and Health Worries Around the U.S.

Exide Technologies, one of the world’s largest makers and recyclers of lead-acid batteries, has sparked controversies. Since last November, it has closed or suspended three U.S. recycling operations in the face of public and political pressure. Over the years, it has left communities struggling with decades-old contamination and raised questions about why regulators didn’t act sooner. The Georgia-based company, which operates in more than 80 countries, continues to recycle batteries in Missouri and Indiana after halting operations at plants in California, Pennsylvania and Texas. In April, regulators suspended operations at an Exide operation in Vernon, Calif., whose arsenic emissions were believed to be a health risk to 110,000 people. Los Angeles Times

Despite recent Maryland and Connecticut accidents, U.S. railroads are safer. Derailments and crossing accidents have steadily declined even as businesses increasingly rely on trains to move raw materials and products. Accidents fell 43 percent to 1,712 from 2003 through last year. The number of rail-related deaths last year, 705, was down 18.5 percent from 2003. The improvement is attributed to railroad investments in worker training, track and technology. Still, as FairWarning has reported, the industry has sought to scale back and delay a high-tech system known as Positive Train Control that Congress mandated to prevent crashes such as the one that caused 25 deaths and 135 injuries in Chatsworth, Calif., in 2008. The Associated Press

Smoldering trash in a landfill near a Missouri nuclear waste site is raising concerns. The issue worries environmentalists and many people in the densely populated area near Lambert Airport in suburban St. Louis, where the trash burns just 1,200 feet from another landfill that holds radioactive waste dating back to the 1940s. Just below the surface, the layer of trash has burned since at least 2010, fueled by a reaction of decomposing waste. Republic Services, the Phoenix-based owner of both landfills, is spending millions of dollars to ease the noxious odor. But the smell is just the most immediate concern. “I think what we’re seeing is the possibility of a slow-moving disaster right before our eyes,” one environmentalist said. The Associated Press

Responding to drug shortage, the Food and Drug Administration will allow imports. The FDA action applies to drugs used in intravenous solutions in hospitals to nourish premature infants, cancer patients and other people unable to eat or drink. The supplies of the drugs, which include potassium phosphate, will be available to U.S. patients this week. FDA officials said they are temporarily allowing imports of the ingredients from a plant in Norway to ease shortages triggered by the shutdown of American Regent, the primary U.S. manufacturer. American Regent halted operations late last year at its Shirley, N.Y., plant to fix contamination issues uncovered by FDA inspectors, including specks of matter floating in injectable drugs. The Associated Press, Medical Daily

Unapproved genetically engineered wheat discovered growing on an Oregon farm. U.S. officials said the wheat was the type developed by Monsanto to be resistant to the herbicide Roundup. Such wheat was field-tested in 16 states, including Oregon, from 1998 through 2005, but Monsanto dropped the project before the wheat was approved for commercial planting. It isn’t known whether any of the Oregon wheat got into the food supply or into grain shipments. Even if it did, officials said, it would pose no health threat. The Food and Drug Administration reviewed the wheat and found no safety problems in 2004. Still, the mere presence of the genetically modified plant could cause some countries to turn away exports of American wheat. The New York Times

Compiled by Stuart Silverstein

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