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Gainesville Representative introduces bill to protect waterways

Maia Botek
News Feed
Monday, November 15, 2021

“Nearly a million acres of estuaries and 9,000 miles of rivers and streams in the state of Florida are verified impaired for fecal indicator bacteria,” Berman said. “Thirty-five percent of the verified impaired bodies have been on the impaired list for at least eight years.”

A state representative from Gainesville filed a bill that could raise awareness about the quality of Florida’s waterways. HB 393 Public Bathing Places was filed by Democratic Rep. Yvonne Hinson of District 20 with SB 604 Safe Waterways Act by Democratic Sen. Lori Berman of District 31 and is now awaiting committee review. 

If passed, the legislation would require the Department of Health to create water quality testing procedures and schedules, post proper signage for contaminated bodies of water and redefine public bathing areas to include fresh, salt and brackish water used for swimming, diving or bathing.

“We’re trying to target areas where human beings tend to swim; but where human beings tend to swim, marine life tends to swim too, '' Hinson said. “We've had difficulty getting the current legislature to acknowledge climate change, which is one of the factors of what's happening to our water.” 

The bills are identical and were written with the assistance of the Calusa Waterkeepers, a nonprofit organization focused on protecting Florida’s coastal waterways. State and county departments routinely test water quality, but there are inconsistencies in signage and alerting the public, specifically inland, according to Berman.  

“Nearly a million acres of estuaries and 9,000 miles of rivers and streams in the state of Florida are verified impaired for fecal indicator bacteria,” Berman said. “Thirty-five percent of the verified impaired bodies have been on the impaired list for at least eight years.”

While Berman and Hinson said they are concerned about water quality, local officials have varying opinions about the legislation’s environmental impact for Alachua County. Lake Wauburg, one of the county’s three public bathing areas, has previously closed and issued warnings due to elevated levels of E. coli.

“I anticipate maybe one to possibly two more places that we might have to review results and issue advisories,” said Anthony Dennis, Alachua County’s environmental health director. “If there's a situation where we have to issue an advisory, is that gonna make the environment any better?” 

Hinson and Berman said the signage would likely be inexpensive to enact and could increase awareness about issues of contamination, something Dennis and Greg Owen, a Senior Planner within the water resources division at the Alachua County Department of Environmental Protection, agree with. 

“If it brings attention to areas that are lacking or susceptible to bacteria contamination, I could see it as being a good thing for raising that awareness,” Owen said. 

Berman said she hopes that with enough notification, the public will become alarmed and motivate local departments to take action in addressing the sources of contamination. 

Both bills are awaiting review, and Hinson and Berman must lobby committee chairs to include their respective bills in upcoming meeting agendas. In order to be presented to the governor, bills must pass through three committees and both houses of Florida’s Legislature. 

Because the bills are identical, only one needs to be signed by Gov. DeSantis in order to become a law, but updates and edits to one bill must be reflected in the other. 

On Nov. 3, the Senate referred Berman’s bill to the Environment and Natural Resources, Community Affairs and Appropriations committees and on Nov. 5, the House referred Hinson’s bill to the Professions & Public Health Subcommittee, Health Care Appropriations Subcommittee and Health & Human Services Committee. 

The bills are expected to be voted on when the committees meet for session in January.

Read the full story here.
Photos courtesy of
Maia Botek

Maia Botek is a third-year journalism major and Spanish minor student at the University of Florida who has grown up in South Florida throughout her entire life. As the daughter of a Jamaican father and part-Norwegian mother, an understanding of cultures, diversity and the world around her has always been an important facet in Maia's life which has resulted in a love of the environment, travel and education. She loves spending time outdoors and with friends, especially at the beach, which she loves. Maia is interested in utilizing journalism to educate others on the importance of the Earth's natural resources and ensuring a sustainable and equitable future for all.

Cells of people living in greener areas age more slowly, research finds

Greener neighborhoods can slow ageing process of human cells but effects of environmental racism can erase any benefitsMany studies have shown that people living in greener neighborhoods have several health benefits, including lower levels of stress and cardiovascular disease. But new research indicates that exposure to parks, trees and other green spaces can slow the rates at which our cells age.The study, published in Science of the Total Environment, found that people who lived in neighborhoods with more green space had longer telomeres, which are associated with longer lives and slower ageing. Continue reading...

Many studies have shown that people living in greener neighborhoods have several health benefits, including lower levels of stress and cardiovascular disease. But new research indicates that exposure to parks, trees and other green spaces can slow the rates at which our cells age.The study, published in Science of the Total Environment, found that people who lived in neighborhoods with more green space had longer telomeres, which are associated with longer lives and slower ageing.Telomeres are structures that sit on the ends of each cell’s 46 chromosomes, like the plastic caps on shoelaces, and keep DNA from unraveling. The longer a cell’s telomeres, the more times it can replicate. When telomeres become so short that cells can’t divide, the cells die.“Research is now showing that where we live, what we are exposed to, how much we exercise, what we eat, each of these can impact the speed of telomeres degrading and again our ageing process,” said Aaron Hipp, a professor of parks, recreation and tourism management at North Carolina State and a co-author of the study. “A longer telomere is usually a younger telomere, or a more protective, helpful telomere. It is protecting that cell from the ageing process.”Green space promotes physical activity and community interaction, which are both associated with better health outcomes. Neighborhoods with plenty of trees and greenery are also often cooler, more resistant to flooding and have lower rates of air pollution.However, Hipp noted, participants who lived in green neighborhoods that were also plagued by pollution and segregation did not have longer telomeres than similar communities with less greenery. “Green space [still] matters,” he said. “It just shows how important it is that we get to a level playing field first, so that people have the time and space to go out and enjoy green spaces.”Hipp and his colleagues looked at the medical records (that included measures of telomere lengths from biological samples) and survey responses from more than 7,800 people who participated in a national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention survey conducted between 1999 and 2002. The researchers connected that information with census data to estimate the amount of green space in each person’s neighborhood. They found that a 5% increase in a neighborhood’s green space was associated with a 1% reduction in the ageing of cells. “The more green the area, the slower the cell ageing,” said Hipp.Scott Ogletree, a lecturer in landscape and wellbeing at the University of Edinburgh and the report’s lead author, said that green spaces had little impact on telomere length when participants lived in low-income or segregated areas, raising new questions about the relationship between human health and the environment. “It does seem that the neighborhood context” of pollution and segregation “might be washing out any benefit we see from the green space on this particular aspect of people’s health.”skip past newsletter promotionThe planet's most important stories. Get all the week's environment news - the good, the bad and the essentialPrivacy Notice: Newsletters may contain info about charities, online ads, and content funded by outside parties. For more information see our Privacy Policy. We use Google reCaptcha to protect our website and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.after newsletter promotionHipp said that the study only accounted for where participants were living at the time of their physical examinations. “There’s all sorts of interactions with green spaces, and you do them at different [ages],” he said. Exposure to green spaces in childhood may have a different impact on development than it would during middle age.Peter James, an environmental epidemiologist at Harvard who was not involved with the study said the report was novel in looking at telomeres instead of other measures of health. “We generally find green spaces associated with better health outcomes,” said James. “And this is using telomere length, which is a unique kind of biomarker of ageing.”

Impacting Even Medical Usage – Scientists Uncover Potential Health Hazard in Cannabis

A group of researchers recommends additional investigation and assessment of guidelines for the medical application. Cannabis, even when used for medical reasons, could make some...

A recent study highlights the potential health risks of cannabis use due to harmful fungi contamination, underscoring the need for more research and better regulations. This study calls for greater attention to fungal contaminants in cannabis and hemp, particularly for immunocompromised consumers, and suggests a two-tier system for medical and recreational products to ensure safety. A group of researchers recommends additional investigation and assessment of guidelines for the medical application. Cannabis, even when used for medical reasons, could make some people sick due to harmful fungi that contaminate the plants. That is the finding of a recently published peer-reviewed journal article, whose authors recommend further study and consideration of changes to regulations to protect consumers, especially those who are immunocompromised. They examined data, previous studies, and U.S. and international regulations related to the cannabis and hemp industry. The article was published in Frontiers in Microbiology. It was researched and written by Kimberly Gwinn, professor of entomology and plant pathology at the University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture: Maxwell Leung, assistant professor, and Ariell Stephens, graduate student, both from the School of Mathematical and Natural Sciences at Arizona State University; and Zamir Punja, professor of plant pathology/biotechnology at Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada. Understanding Cannabis and Hemp Pathogens “Hemp and cannabis are new crops, and we are in the early stages of understanding relationships with their pathogens. Several pathogens produce mycotoxins, compounds that negatively impact human health and are regulated in other crops. In this review, we summarize the current literature on mycotoxins in hemp and cannabis products, identify research gaps in potential mycotoxin contamination in hemp and cannabis, and identify potential developments based on research in other crop systems,” Gwinn said. Mature cannabis inflorescences exhibit a large floral structure that is composed of female reproductive organs (pistils), inflorescence leaves, and the bracts surrounding them. Credit: Photo from Frontiers in Microbiology, courtesy of Z. Punja Cannabis research has mostly focused on the substance and medical uses of the plant, but with the increased legalization of cannabis for various uses, this article addresses the need for more study of potential health risks. Fungal Contaminants and Health Risks “Although fungi and mycotoxins are common and well-studied contaminants in many agricultural crop species, they have been generally under-studied in cannabis and hemp. This is partly because human health risk assessment methodologies used to regulate food and pharmaceuticals have yet to become standard for the emerging cannabis and hemp industries. Additionally, the wide range of consumer uses of cannabis and hemp flowers, including for medical use by patients with susceptible conditions, makes it uniquely challenging to assess and manage human health risk of these contaminants,” according to the article. The authors discuss Aspergillus, Penicillium, Fusarium, Mucor, and other fungi that can infect the plants and can produce mycotoxins; review the regulations and assessment methods of the contaminants; and offer recommendations to produce safer products for all consumers. Environmental factors such as where the plants are grown, whether indoors or outdoors, and in soil or soilless media, may impact the kinds of contaminants and ensuing health risks. Vulnerable Populations and Contamination Risks Studies reviewed by the authors show some fungi may cause infection in lung and skin tissues, and these infections were most common when smoked and less common in edibles. They also found cancer patients using cannabis to help with nausea and appetite as well as transplant patients and consumers with HIV and type 1 diabetes may be particularly susceptible to infection. Studies also show workers harvesting cannabis could also be at risk. The authors encouraged consumers who are immunocompromised to use products that have been sterilized until better data are obtained. The authors studied international and U.S. standards for these contaminants, but there is a lack of data on the prevalence of the contaminants and their health impacts. Another issue for consumers is the varying levels of legalization of cannabis products from state to state, which has resulted in each state creating its own regulations. Fusarium mycotoxins, a prevalent class of fungal contaminants in agricultural commodities that can result in vomiting, are not currently regulated. Assessing and testing for pathogens can be problematic, as the authors found when they studied various methods including culture-based assays, immuno-based technologies, and emerging technologies. The article also examines the management of the possible toxins before harvest and after harvest. “A major hurdle faced by cannabis and hemp industries is addressing the disconnect between production-related issues and human safety issues,” the article states. Recreational use of hemp and cannabis is common in many areas and all case studies linking cannabis use and fungal infections, except one, involved patients who were immunocompromised. The authors suggest a potential solution is “to reduce potential harm to medical users of cannabis from toxigenic fungi is to develop a two-tier system that distinguishes products intended for medical and recreational use.” “We wrote this article to bring these issues to the attention of the scientific, medical, and regulatory communities. We hope to encourage further research in this area, particularly in the areas of mycotoxins in products. Better data and public access to data will allow us to fully evaluate these risks and subsequently ensure safe products for consumers,” Gwinn said. Reference: “Fungal and mycotoxin contaminants in cannabis and hemp flowers: implications for consumer health and directions for further research” by Kimberly D. Gwinn, Maxwell C. K. Leung, Ariell B. Stephens and Zamir K. Punja, 4 October 2023, Frontiers in Microbiology.DOI: 10.3389/fmicb.2023.1278189 The study was funded by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture. 

EPA to Require Removal of All Lead Pipes From U.S. Water System

By Robin Foster HealthDay ReporterTHURSDAY, Nov. 30, 2023 (Healthday News) -- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced Thursday that it...

By Robin Foster HealthDay ReporterTHURSDAY, Nov. 30, 2023 (Healthday News) -- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced Thursday that it plans to require the removal of all lead pipes from the country's water systems.The proposed rule, an ambitious effort that will cost up to $30 billion over the next decade, would affect about 9 million pipes that send water to homes in countless communities across the United States.“Lead in drinking water is a generational public health issue, and EPA’s proposal will accelerate progress towards President Biden’s goal of replacing every lead pipe across America once and for all,” EPA Administrator Michael Regan said in an agency news release. “With collaboration and the focused actions proposed today, EPA is delivering on our charge to protect all Americans, especially communities of color, that are disproportionately harmed by lead in drinking water systems.”Utility companies will be expected to cover most of the cost of pipe replacements, but there is $15 billion available in the 2021 infrastructure law to help them pay for it, the agency noted.The proposal "is grounded in the best available science and successful practices utilized by drinking water systems to protect children and adults from lead in drinking water,” added EPA Assistant Administrator for Water Radhika Fox. “Cities like Newark, N.J., Benton Harbor, Mich., and Green Bay, Wisc. have all successfully gotten the lead out of their water systems. Our proposed rule applies the lessons learned to scale these successes to every corner of the country."One Newark official spoke of her city's efforts to remove lead from drinking water.“Here in Newark, N.J., our community persevered through a lead crisis and I’m proud of the work we did removing all 23,000 lead pipes in the city in under three years,” Kareem Adeem, director of the Newark Department of Water and Sewer Utilities, said in the agency news release. “EPA’s new proposed rule will prompt more communities across the country to reduce exposure to lead in drinking water. This action is commendable and represents a positive step forward toward safeguarding the health and well-being of current and future generations.”“A game changer for kids and communities, EPA's proposed new lead and copper rule would help ensure that we will never again see the preventable tragedy of a city, or a child, poisoned by their pipes,” said Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha, a pediatrician in Flint, Mich,, who is also associate dean for public health at Michigan State University College of Human Medicine.The need to get the lead out of America's water pipes is indeed pressing: In children, the neurotoxin can slow learning and damage the brain. In adults, it is linked to high blood pressure, heart disease, decreased kidney function and cancer, the EPA noted.The issue first gained widespread national attention in 2014 in Flint, when a change in the water source and inadequate treatment and testing allowed lead to leach into the tap water of about 100,000 residents within a year.While the proposal puts most of the financial burden of replacing pipes on water utilities, it does not require them to pay for the replacement of lead pipes on private property.However, federal officials did make access to the $15 billion in the infrastructure law contingent on utilities replacing the entire lead pipe, including any portion that sits on private property.Tom Dobbins, chief executive of the Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies, told the New York Times that his members would need technical assistance and more financial help from the federal government to comply with the proposed rule.The association said in a statement that it has repeatedly pointed out several obstacles that make it difficult to replace lead pipes, including rising costs, supply chain problems, labor shortages and incomplete or missing building records.SOURCE: Environmental Protection Agency, news release, Nov. 30, 2023; New York TimesCopyright © 2023 HealthDay. All rights reserved.

Commuting on a Highway? Your Blood Pressure May Pay a Price

By Dennis Thompson HealthDay ReporterWEDNESDAY, Nov. 29, 2023 (HealthDay News) -- It's not just bumper-to-bumper highway traffic that's causing...

By Dennis Thompson HealthDay ReporterWEDNESDAY, Nov. 29, 2023 (HealthDay News) -- It's not just bumper-to-bumper highway traffic that's causing your blood pressure to spike during your daily commute.New research shows that the exhaust fumes spewing from all those vehicles triggers a significant increase in car passengers’ blood pressure.The observed increase is comparable to the effect of a high-salt diet, researchers found, and the effect can last up to 24 hours.“The body has a complex set of systems to try to keep blood pressure to your brain the same all the time. It’s a very complex, tightly regulated system, and it appears that somewhere, in one of those mechanisms, traffic-related air pollution interferes with blood pressure," said researcher Dr. Joel Kaufman, a University of Washington physician and professor of environmental and occupational health sciences.For the study, his team drove healthy adults ages 22 to 45 three times through rush-hour Seattle traffic while monitoring their blood pressure.Unfiltered road air was allowed to enter the car on two of the drives, while on the third the car was equipped with high-quality HEPA filters that screened out 86% of the air pollution from traffic.Breathing unfiltered air resulted in blood pressure increases of more than 4.5 millimeters of mercury, compared to the drives with filtered air, researchers said.The increase occurred rapidly, peaking about an hour into the drive, and it held steady for at least 24 hours.“We know that modest increases in blood pressure like this, on a population level, are associated with a significant increase in cardiovascular disease,” Kaufman said in a university news release. “There is a growing understanding that air pollution contributes to heart problems. The idea that roadway air pollution at relatively low levels can affect blood pressure this much is an important piece of the puzzle we’re trying to solve.”Long-term exposure to highway air pollution already has been linked to increased rates of heart disease, asthma, lung cancer and death, researchers said in background notes.Traffic-related air pollution is also the main reason why air quality is worse in some neighborhoods and better in others.“This study is exciting because it takes the gold-standard design for laboratory studies and applies it in an on-roadway setting, answering an important question about the health effects of real-world exposures," said lead researcher Michael Young, a former University of Washington postdoctoral fellow. "Studies on this topic often have a challenging time separating the effects of pollution from other roadway exposures like stress and noise, but with our approach the only difference between drive days was air pollution concentration.""The findings are valuable because they can reproduce situations that millions of people actually experience every day,” Young added.SOURCE: University of Washington, news release, Nov. 29, 2023Copyright © 2023 HealthDay. All rights reserved.

Coal-powered emissions more deadly than previously thought, study finds

Researchers say policymakers should seriously consider the health effects of lingering coal-fired plants

A new paper published in Science shows that particulate matter from coal plants are more harmful than previously thought. The team of researchers from across the United States looked at data from 480 coal-fueled power plants and found that approximately 460,000 deaths in the Medicare population could be attributed to coal emissions, twice the number of premature deaths that was previously reported. The researchers also ranked coal plants by deadliest, and found the top 10 were associated with more than 5,000 deaths. The study estimated that coal-fueled plants in two states, Ohio and Pennsylvania, likely caused more than 103,000 deaths nationwide since 1999.  “Fine particle air pollution from coal has been treated as if it’s just another air pollutant,” said the paper’s lead author Lucas Henneman, an assistant professor of environmental engineering at George Mason University. “But it’s much more harmful than we thought and its mortality burden has been seriously underestimated.” There was one bit of good news in the data: deaths from coal were highest in 1999, but by 2020 they decreased by about 95 percent. Researchers emphasized that their study shows that cutting emissions from coal-powered plants, and moving toward clean energy, can save lives of those who live near and far away from the plants. As policymakers continue to weigh the future of the coal industry, the researchers say the results of this study should be significantly weighed.  “As countries debate their energy sources — and as coal maintains a powerful, almost mythical status in American energy lore—our findings are highly valuable to policymakers and regulators as they weigh the need for cheap energy with the significant environmental and health costs,” said co-author Francesca Dominici, a professor of biostatistics, population and data science at Harvard Chan School and director of the Harvard Data Science Initiative.  

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