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Scientists Report Finding Four New Ozone-Depleting Gases in the Atmosphere

Researchers say newly discovered man-made gases are endangering Earth’s protective ozone layer. A team of scientists from Europe and Australia reported finding the traces of four previously undetected gases. The gases, experts said, are of the sort banned or being phased out under a global treaty to safeguard the high-altitude blanket of ozone that protects the planet from dangerous ultraviolet radiation. The scientists, who reported their findings in the journal Nature Geoscience, don’t yet know where the gases are being emitted, but speculate they might be a byproduct of feedstock chemicals used to produce insecticides or solvents used to clean electronic components. The discovery is the first time since the 1990s that new substances damaging the ozone layer have been found, and the experts say there may be more. The Wall Street Journal, Agence-France Presse

Tokyo’s atmospheric radiation levels reportedly return to same level as before the Fukushima disaster. Figures from public health authorities show that the levels are about the same as before the March 11, 2011 earthquake and tsunami that triggered the meltdown of three reactors at the Fukushima plant 137 miles to the northeast of Tokyo. The average radiation readings in central Tokyo of 0.0339 microsieverts per hour is lower than levels recently reported in such other international capitals as London and Paris. In the days after the 2011 disaster, radiation levels soared in Tokyo. Separately, experts are divided about whether the meltdowns are to blame for the higher-than-normal rates of thyroid cancer among children and young adults who lived near the Fukushima plant during the meltdowns. Bloomberg, The Guardian

Auto safety regulators received more than 260 complaints over 11 years about deadly GM defect. The ignition switch flaw, which caused certain General Motors vehicles to suddenly turn off while being driven, is linked to 13 deaths and prompted the recent recall of more than 1.6 million cars worldwide. An analysis of consumer complaints to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found that since February 2003, the agency received an average of two complaints a month about potentially dangerous shutdowns, but it repeatedly responded that there was not enough evidence to warrant a safety investigation. Separately, the terms of GM’s restructuring following its 2009 bankruptcy could reduce its potential legal liability for the ignition flaws by millions of dollars. The New York Times, Automotive News

As cancer surges in China, experts debate the causes. A 2012 report put the number of new cancer cases that emerge every year in China at 3.12 million. Lung cancer rates in particular have skyrocketed. By one estimate, China is home to about 32 percent of the world’s lung-cancer patients. Some experts blame China’s choking air pollution. As evidence, one expert pointed to the rise in a cancer known as adenocarcinoma, which is characterized by duct formations and production of mucus tied to pollution. Other experts say there still isn’t enough scientific evidence to conclude that pollution itself is causing the rise in lung cancer. One point not in dispute: Smoking plays a major role in the nation’s cancer death toll. China is the world’s largest consumer and producer of tobacco, home to more than 300 million smokers. The Wall Street Journal, China Daily

Regulators say two railroads retaliated against workers who reported injuries. The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration found that Grand Trunk Western Railway and Union Pacific Railroad violated U.S. law by suspending from one to 60 days, or by trying to suspend, four workers who reported on-the-job injuries. Also involved was a fifth employee who was threatened with a 45-day suspension for taking time off for treatment for an ongoing medical problem. Grand Trunk was ordered to pay four employees working in Michigan or Indiana a total of $85,580, and Union Pacific was ordered to pay a brakeman in Illinois $10,290. An OSHA official, citing repeated complaints of similar retaliation in the railroad industry, said it reflects “a culture that must be changed.” EHS Today, OSHA 

Compiled by Stuart Silverstein