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The ozone layer was destroyed during Earth's biggest mass extinction

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Friday, January 6, 2023

Fossils show plants were producing higher levels of sunscreen chemicals to protect against higher ultraviolet light levels at the end of the Permian period

Fossils show plants were producing higher levels of sunscreen chemicals to protect against higher ultraviolet light levels at the end of the Permian period

Fossils show plants were producing higher levels of sunscreen chemicals to protect against higher ultraviolet light levels at the end of the Permian period
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Book Excerpt: Last Year, Americans Were Battered by News Abuse

An excerpt from Project Censored’s State of the Free Press 2024 on how critical news stories were compromised by lies, misdirection, and propaganda in the service of elite interests.

The great failure of the press to carry out the bare minimum of its journalistic mandate—to hold political figures accountable in a representative democracy, and to at least question such obvious electoral fabrications, such as the kind George Santos perpetrated—are prime examples of what Peter Phillips, director of Project Censored from 1996-2010, identified as “News Abuse.” The complacency of corporate media is a crucial indicator of America’s declining democracy, and exposing media distortions and misdirection, including the spread of corporate and government propaganda (in all its many forms, both systemic and targeted), is the mandate for the study of News Abuse. Its analysis is the starting point for understanding the ongoing toxic political environment and the dangerous discourses that have led to devastating consequences for freedom of expression and the press. Cast a glance back at the last year, and it becomes clear that Phillips’s conception of News Abuse remains sadly relevant. The corporate media’s handling of the following stories offered plenty of click-worthy details, but little investigation into the powerful interests operating behind the scenes. The Ohio Train Disaster: Failures of Government Oversight and Corporate Media On February 3, 2023, an eastbound Norfolk Southern freight train carrying 150 cars, including at least five tanker cars containing vinyl chloride, a Class Two flammable gas and known carcinogen, derailed in East Palestine, Ohio, close to the Pennsylvania border. Because of industry lobbying, the train had been exempted from the “high-hazard flammable train” classification that requires more stringent safety regulations. In the following days, vinyl chloride and other unknown toxic chemicals would be released into the atmosphere, exacerbated by a “controlled burn” that lasted for days. The spill would kill wildlife and fish for miles around, as residents complained of toxic air quality that burned their eyes and made it hard to breathe. Though U.S. Environmental Protection Agency officials announced that the community’s water was safe to drink, it was subsequently revealed that sloppy, inaccurate water testing was conducted by the rail industry itself. Images of the environmental and public health catastrophe published by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Air Resources Laboratory used atmospheric transport and dispersion models known as HYSPLIT to track cancer-causing air particles as far north as Montreal, Canada. Corporate media reported what could be seen on the ground with images of the black cloud of smoke looming over the landscape, nearly indistinguishable from the cinematography of disaster films. Overhead shots of the piled-up train cars, jammed accordion-style, dominated coverage. Following sensationalized visual footage, the disaster frame focused corporate media toward official announcements and reactions, offering little in the way of background context. That was left to independent news sources. For example, The Lever published a timely and impressive body of work that detailed years of corporate lobbying and government compliance (under various administrations) aimed at undermining regulatory oversight. Safety measures across the rail industry had been effectively blocked for years, leaving in place a Civil War-era braking system, no requirement to identify many toxic chemicals, and a lack of steel-lined rail cars capable of containing chemicals after a train derailment, among others. Rail companies, including Norfolk Southern, claimed that added safety measures were too expensive, and they continued to increase the number of cars per train, even as they laid off thousands of workers and delivered billions of dollars in profits to CEOs and shareholders. An extensive content analysis of network news reporting between February 4 and February 13 demonstrated the degree to which corporate media failed to inform the American public about the causes and context of the derailment. Media Matters for America found that major television news networks on cable (CNN, Fox News Channel, and MSNBC) and broadcast (ABC, CBS, and NBC) aired nearly three hours of coverage on the Ohio train derailment, across ninety-two segments, but only two programs, both airing on February 13, addressed “how regulations governing the transport of hazardous materials by rail were weakened under multiple administrations by rail industry lobbyists, including those representing Norfolk Southern.” The study concluded that national television news “failed to incorporate critical context about the rail industry’s efforts to weaken safety regulations.” The First Anniversary of the War in Ukraine: All War, All the Time Many factors have led to a pro-war, pro-Western consensus in establishment journalism as independent views are suppressed and the people who express them are treated with ridicule and contempt. Policy positions that argue against belligerence in favor of negotiations are all but absent from news cycles. Media critics have identified a pro-Western bias in press coverage of Ukraine, which constitutes one of the most notable cases of News Abuse this year. As writer Bryce Greene pointed out, the roots of the escalations leading up to the war in Ukraine were “completely omitted from the Western media. When corporate media did "explain" the war in Ukraine, it “almost universally gave a pro-Western view of U.S.-Russia relations.” Meanwhile, troves of documents and investigations about the extent of Western propaganda and anti-Russian information management campaigns have recently been published across a range of online media. However, as with most wars, opinion polls showed slacking public support for U.S. involvement in the war, while the conflict in Ukraine continued with no resolution in sight. For example, in spring 2023, 59 percent of the U.S. public said that limiting damage to the U.S. economy was more important than sanctioning Russia. PBS NewsHour reported that, in March 2022, “the situation was reversed: 55 percent said it was a bigger priority to sanction Russia effectively, even if it meant damage to the U.S. economy.” Yet Pentagon spending is rarely tied to damage done to the U.S. domestic economy. It is time for corporate media to represent the views and interests of the majority of Americans, instead of repeating the increasingly transparent lies told by those in positions of power and wealth. The first anniversary of the devastating war in Ukraine was memorialized with stories of bravery and determination and the strong “Biden-Zelensky bond,” taking up the front page of The New York Times above the fold, with more photographs taken over the course of the war featured on the paper’s inside pages. Few scenes of the horrors of war or accounts of the need to negotiate the conflict between two superpowers were evident in media coverage. Such war propaganda has far-reaching consequences and has led to the most “wildly overfunded military on the planet,” even though the U.S. military has not won a significant conflict since World War II. As author Tom Engelhardt asserted, from Vietnam to Afghanistan, nothing has stopped the U.S. military from being “massively overfunded by whatever administration is in power or whatever party controls Congress.” There is no significant skepticism in political discourse as “the one- party state in this country . . . remains the Pentagon.” The severity of the lockdown on public debate about the war in Ukraine was illustrated when a letter from thirty progressive politicians to President Joe Biden, advocating negotiations to end the war, was withdrawn the next day because of “blowback.” The Pentagon also has enormous influence in shaping popular culture and promoting narratives of militarism across the media spectrum. Since the second half of the twentieth century, the power of the Pentagon over films and entertainment has permeated Hollywood, resulting in a near complete lack of critical narratives, as detailed by filmmaker Roger Stahl’s documentary Theaters of War, which screened at film festivals, on university campuses, and online in 2022. The media consensus that reinforces a militarized ethos of belligerence over any other solution to conflict attests to the intensity of war propaganda, as its influence extends from Hollywood to the reporting of war itself. Time to End News Abuse From political campaigns and environmental disasters to war and the exposure of systemic censorship, establishment media seem incapable of clarification, explanation, or even sketching the contextual origins of news events. Instead, they rely on standardized framing, jingoistic rhetoric, and distractions or outright fabrications—all hallmarks of News Abuse that, no matter how inaccurate, are rarely corrected, and almost never come back to discredit the candidates, pollsters, political officials, propagandists, or pundits who espouse them. It is time for corporate media to represent the views and interests of the majority of Americans, instead of repeating the increasingly transparent lies told by those in positions of power and wealth. Until they do so, establishment media bear a significant share of responsibility for the environmental and human destruction wrought by the endless pursuit of elite interests for money and political control.  This chapter is excerpted from Project Censored’s State of the Free Press 2024, edited by Mickey Huff and Andy Lee Roth (Seven Stories Press) and published on December 5, 2023. Used with permission. Robin Andersen is an award-winning author and professor emerita of communication and media studies at Fordham University. She edits the Routledge Focus Book Series on Media and Humanitarian Action. Read more by Robin Andersen December 6, 2023 7:53 PM

Environmentalists Say Pearl River Flood Control Plan Would Be Destructive. Alternative Plans Exist

Environmental groups in Mississippi say findings from the U_S_ Army Corps of Engineers show a long-debated flood control project along the Pearl River would be “destructive.”

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Environmental groups in Mississippi presented findings Wednesday from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers showing a long-debated flood control project along the Pearl River would be “destructive,” and the groups said alternative projects should be considered instead. But proponents of the plan say the documents were improperly released, incomplete and contained information that could be misleading.The dispute is the latest battle over the One Lake project, which was first proposed years ago to mitigate flooding in the capital city of Jackson and surrounding areas. Opponents said the project is motivated by commercial interests and would harm the environment. “At the core, One Lake is a private real estate development scheme masquerading as flood control for greater Jackson,” said Jill Mastrototaro, the Audubon Delta’s policy director. Documents obtained through a public records request by the environmental groups show alternative plans that could be smaller and less costly, members of the Audubon Delta and Sierra Club said at a news conference. The conservation groups outlined an internal Army Corps of Engineers presentation from August, which analyzed the financial and environmental impacts of the One Lake plan and potential alternatives. The One Lake plan involves dredging and excavation of the Pearl River to widen, deepen and straighten portions of the waterway and reinforce the existing levee system. It could cost between $1.4 billion and $2.2 billion, but proponents say those figures might be inflated. Critics and proponents both say this could lead to commercial development by the new lake.Environmental groups say the plan would destroy 2,000 acres (809.4 hectares) of wetland habitats and raise water levels by as much as 8 feet (2.4 meters) in some areas. That could increase tributary flooding and, according to the Corps' presentation, “induce flooding on approximately 230 structures” in the area. An alternative plan outlined in the presentation would not make structural changes and would cost $199 million, according to the environmental groups. It would elevate and floodproof about 600 structures in the Jackson area without dredging parts of the Pearl River and would not induce any flooding. In a statement responding to the environmental groups, Keith Turner, an attorney representing the Rankin Hinds Pearl River Flood and Drainage Control District, a flood control board that supports the project, said the documents represent an earlier draft of the plan. He said that the proposed alternative could also be damaging and costly.“This alternative would either remove people’s homes and neighborhoods or require their homes to be raised off the ground,” Turner said. "They also ignore the downtown Jackson flooding that will continue under a nonstructural alternative." The Army Corps of Engineers is set to continue reviewing the project’s environmental impacts in 2024.In 2020 and 2022, the Peal River flooded parts of Jackson. Environmental groups and cities downstream from Jackson have argued the project would result in unacceptable environmental harm, such as the destruction of wildlife habitat and wetlands, and a decrease in water flow.Louisiana officials have said they fear a dearth of freshwater would alter the salinity of wetlands, could hurt native species and could affect industrial discharge by providing too little water to dilute chemicals.Michael Goldberg is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues. Follow him at @mikergoldberg.Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

ESA’s Ariel Exoplanet Mission Enters Construction Phase

Ariel, ESA’s mission to identify the chemical elements in exoplanetary atmospheres, successfully passed the spacecraft preliminary design phase and now moves from the ‘drawing board’...

This artist’s concept shows the European Space Agency’s ARIEL spacecraft on its way to Lagrange Point 2 (L2) — a gravitationally stable, Sun-centric orbit — where it will be shielded from the Sun and have a clear view of the sky. Credit: ESA/STFC RAL Space/UCL/Europlanet-Science Office Ariel, ESA’s mission to identify the chemical elements in exoplanetary atmospheres, successfully passed the spacecraft preliminary design phase and now moves from the ‘drawing board’ to the construction phase. Today, the preliminary spacecraft design of the European Space Agency’s future exoplanet mission Ariel got approval from the ESA review board and passed the Preliminary Design Review with flying colours. This concludes the important preliminary design phase B2 of the mission that lasted 19 months. During this phase, the design of the spacecraft has been refined, including the requirements for the interfaces, in particular with the payload elements. Ariel’s development plans have also been finalized. Ariel’s scientific payload, comprising a cryogenic telescope hosting two instruments, Ariel medium-resolution InfraRed Spectrometer (AIRS) and Fine Guidance System (FGS), a cryocooler and several electronic boxes, already passed this crucial review in May 2023. Ariel’s prime contractor Airbus Defence and Space Toulouse can now begin manufacturing the first spacecraft prototypes: the structural model (SM) and the avionics verification model (AVM). Ariel, ESA’s future exoplanet mission, has cleared its Preliminary Design Review, signaling the start of its construction phase and moving closer to exploring the atmospheres of distant planets. (Artist’s impression of Ariel.) Credit: ESA/STFC RAL Space/UCL/UK Space Agency/ ATG Medialab “We are delighted that we have achieved a significant milestone in spacecraft design, marking a solid foundation to proceed with detailed development across all subsystems and with the manufacturing phase,” says Jean-Christophe Salvignol, Ariel’s project manager. “The prospect of witnessing the hardware is truly exciting! I’m especially enthusiastic about the manufacturing and assembly of the structural model, as its structure will closely resemble the final product set to take flight.” Ariel’s structural model will be subjected to tough environmental test conditions to verify that the spacecraft’s subsystems can cope with the conditions expected during launch and in space. The avionics verification model will serve to demonstrate the functionality and the performance of the electronic and software systems used in the spacecraft, including control, communication, navigation, and data processing systems. When these two models work properly, the mission will go through the Critical Design Review and the actual flight model (the one that will go into space) will be built. Spectroscopy is the technique of splitting received starlight into its different colors using a prism. Exoplanets orbit their stars, when they transit – pass by from our point of view – some of the starlight passes through the planet’s atmosphere. Particles in the atmosphere like water vapor, carbon dioxide, methane, and others absorb some of that light. This absorption happens at specific wavelengths of light. By studying at which wavelengths the starlight is absorbed, we can determine what kind of particles are present in the atmosphere. The NASA/ESA/CSA James Webb Space Telescope uses this technique to characterize exoplanets and ESA’s Ariel mission will study the atmospheres of as many as 1000 exoplanets this way. Both missions focus on infrared light because the signatures of molecules are very prominent in those colors. Credit: ESA, CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO “It is fantastic to see the important spacecraft design review successful. Having passed this milestone, we can continue the implementation of this exciting mission that will revolutionize our knowledge of how planets around other stars form and evolve and what their atmospheres are made of,” adds Theresa Lueftinger, Ariel’s project scientist. “Particularly exciting is the ‘coming into existence’ of the hardware: we will soon be able to see and test the Ariel structural model, which is always a very special moment for any scientist working on a space mission.” During its mission Ariel will observe up to 1000 exoplanets, ranging from rocky planets like Earth to gas giants like Jupiter. Using its scientific instruments, Ariel will detect signs of well-known ingredients in the planets’ atmospheres, including water vapor, carbon dioxide and methane. For a few planets, Ariel will even study their weather, monitoring clouds and variations in their atmospheres on both daily and seasonal timescales. About Ariel Ariel was selected as the fourth medium (‘M-class’) mission in ESA’s Cosmic Vision 2015–25 plan in March 2018. It was adopted in November 2020 and is currently under development. Ariel is a collaboration between ESA and the Ariel Mission Consortium. Involving more than 50 institutes from 16 European countries, the Consortium will provide the payload elements, including the large cryogenic telescope and associated science instruments. NASA and CSA are also partners of the Ariel mission by contributing to the Ariel payload. Meanwhile, Airbus is leading the European industrial consortium that is building the spacecraft. They will provide the service module and will be in charge of integrating and testing the overall flight spacecraft, as well as the SM and AVM development models. ESA has the overarching responsibility for the development of the mission, as well as being responsible for the launch and operations. After launch, operations will be conducted jointly by ESA and the Consortium.

Scented period products bring worrisome toxic exposures. Who’s most at risk?

Many everyday household products expose us to chemicals and pollutants. Few products, however, allow these chemicals to interact with our bodies as intimately as pads, tampons, menstrual cups and other period care products. The risks of exposure to potentially harmful chemicals in menstrual products is not equal for everybody. In a new paper, researchers drew from the data of two existing studies to see which individuals were more likely to use scented versus unscented menstrual products. Scented products are more likely to contain harmful volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, which are linked to many different health risks including cancer, skin irritation and organ damage that can leach into the skin compared to unscented products. VOCs are “a very broad chemical class,” but many are well-known carcinogens, said Sung Kyun Park, an associate professor of epidemiology and environmental health sciences at the University of Michigan. Phthalates, for example, are fixatives used to bind fragrance to a product, but they are also endocrine-disrupting chemicals, meaning they alter the normal functioning of hormones. These chemicals are released into the body, and the genital skin is much more permeable than the skin in other body parts, he told EHN. Over decades of periods and using these products, that’s a significant amount of exposure. In the new paper, Zota noted other concerning chemicals found in some menstrual and intimate care products including asbestos, dioxides and per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS—all of which are linked to detrimental health effects. They found that older individuals and those with lower levels of education were more likely to use the riskier, scented menstrual products. Black participants were also more likely than their white counterparts to use scented menstrual products, as well as other intimate care products like vaginal douches and wipes. The new research is published in Frontiers in Reproductive Health. “There are products marketed for odor control, perceived ‘freshness’ and vaginal or vulvar cleanliness” with chemicals carrying potentially serious health risks, lead author Ami Zota, an associate professor of environmental health sciences at Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health and both founder and director of Agents of Change*, told Environmental Health News (EHN). Racial stigmas This study is one step toward elucidating what social drivers might contribute to these trends. For example, using scented products was strongly linked to older age. While this research doesn’t get at why, it could be more awareness in younger generations of harmful chemicals in menstrual products, said Zota, or that younger generations are less accepting of different stigmas surrounding menstruation like odor. Family culture plays a big role. “When it comes to menstrual hygiene, you're very influenced by the people around you that you trust when you're an adolescent,” said Zota. So if your mom, aunts or older siblings use scented products, you’re probably more likely to as well. These practices are more prevalent in Black families, she added — these products tend to be more heavily marketed in Black communities with messages of “cleanliness” and “freshness” that play into racialized stigmas about body odors and uncleanliness. “It is very true that there is a distinct bias that comes from racism that says that Black women are not fresh, are not clean,” Tianna Shaw-Wakeman, the environmental justice program manager for Black Women for Wellness, a non-profit based in south Los Angeles geared toward supporting the health of Black women and girls, told EHN. Black Women for Wellness was part of the steering committee for one of the studies that this new paper was based on. One example is how heavily marketed Johnson & Johnson talc baby powder was to Black communities, and how popular it was because of its scent. That product contained asbestos and was linked to cancer cases. And after myriad lawsuits, it is no longer sold on U.S. markets.Education linked to less exposure Using unscented products was more associated with higher levels of educational attainment. In theory, this may be because “when you go to live away from home, which you often do when you go to a four year college, you’re exposed to new ideas and you’re open to behavior change,” said Zota. People learn to use these products through family, and so you can also unlearn these things with the help of family, Shaw-Wakeman said. To steer people away from scented menstrual products, groups like Black Women for Wellness can take grassroots initiatives and foster education through communities. Zota added that clinicians like gynecologists are often trusted sources of health information and getting more of them to inform patients about the risks of scented products can effectively get the word out.Regulating toxic period care products Health agencies should be aware that these products warrant more regulation, said Zota. For items regulated as “cosmetics” by the Food and Drug Administration, including douching solutions, sprays, wipes and powders, the FDA does not require companies to disclose the ingredients in flavors or fragrances, since these are often proprietary “trade secrets.” But the health risks, especially long-term, of the VOCs often present in scented products are not well studied, said Park. In an email, an FDA representative wrote that the agency is reviewing and potentially updating their guidance document on menstrual pads and tampons and that they are “committed to assuring manufacturers of menstrual products take appropriate steps to ensure their devices are compliant with all relevant FDA guidelines and are safe and effective.” There is certainly more research to be done. Phyllis Mugadza, a PhD candidate in environmental health epidemiology at Harvard University and the founder and CEO of Sprxng LLC, a company developing the next generation of reusable menstrual products, told EHN that she’d like to see more on the link between race and education, and how the interaction of those two things affect product choices. She also noted how variables like lack of access to private bathrooms can affect things like period odor stigma or wider menstrual stigma generally. Menstruation can still be a tough and sensitive thing to talk about for many people — it’s personal and intimate. But “beauty is a form of power,” said Zota, “one that comes with social and economic benefits.” And scents and smells are a part of that, which is what makes this important to both research and discuss. *Editor’s note: The Agents of Change in Environmental Justice program is a partnership between Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health and Environmental Health News.

Many everyday household products expose us to chemicals and pollutants. Few products, however, allow these chemicals to interact with our bodies as intimately as pads, tampons, menstrual cups and other period care products. The risks of exposure to potentially harmful chemicals in menstrual products is not equal for everybody. In a new paper, researchers drew from the data of two existing studies to see which individuals were more likely to use scented versus unscented menstrual products. Scented products are more likely to contain harmful volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, which are linked to many different health risks including cancer, skin irritation and organ damage that can leach into the skin compared to unscented products. VOCs are “a very broad chemical class,” but many are well-known carcinogens, said Sung Kyun Park, an associate professor of epidemiology and environmental health sciences at the University of Michigan. Phthalates, for example, are fixatives used to bind fragrance to a product, but they are also endocrine-disrupting chemicals, meaning they alter the normal functioning of hormones. These chemicals are released into the body, and the genital skin is much more permeable than the skin in other body parts, he told EHN. Over decades of periods and using these products, that’s a significant amount of exposure. In the new paper, Zota noted other concerning chemicals found in some menstrual and intimate care products including asbestos, dioxides and per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS—all of which are linked to detrimental health effects. They found that older individuals and those with lower levels of education were more likely to use the riskier, scented menstrual products. Black participants were also more likely than their white counterparts to use scented menstrual products, as well as other intimate care products like vaginal douches and wipes. The new research is published in Frontiers in Reproductive Health. “There are products marketed for odor control, perceived ‘freshness’ and vaginal or vulvar cleanliness” with chemicals carrying potentially serious health risks, lead author Ami Zota, an associate professor of environmental health sciences at Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health and both founder and director of Agents of Change*, told Environmental Health News (EHN). Racial stigmas This study is one step toward elucidating what social drivers might contribute to these trends. For example, using scented products was strongly linked to older age. While this research doesn’t get at why, it could be more awareness in younger generations of harmful chemicals in menstrual products, said Zota, or that younger generations are less accepting of different stigmas surrounding menstruation like odor. Family culture plays a big role. “When it comes to menstrual hygiene, you're very influenced by the people around you that you trust when you're an adolescent,” said Zota. So if your mom, aunts or older siblings use scented products, you’re probably more likely to as well. These practices are more prevalent in Black families, she added — these products tend to be more heavily marketed in Black communities with messages of “cleanliness” and “freshness” that play into racialized stigmas about body odors and uncleanliness. “It is very true that there is a distinct bias that comes from racism that says that Black women are not fresh, are not clean,” Tianna Shaw-Wakeman, the environmental justice program manager for Black Women for Wellness, a non-profit based in south Los Angeles geared toward supporting the health of Black women and girls, told EHN. Black Women for Wellness was part of the steering committee for one of the studies that this new paper was based on. One example is how heavily marketed Johnson & Johnson talc baby powder was to Black communities, and how popular it was because of its scent. That product contained asbestos and was linked to cancer cases. And after myriad lawsuits, it is no longer sold on U.S. markets.Education linked to less exposure Using unscented products was more associated with higher levels of educational attainment. In theory, this may be because “when you go to live away from home, which you often do when you go to a four year college, you’re exposed to new ideas and you’re open to behavior change,” said Zota. People learn to use these products through family, and so you can also unlearn these things with the help of family, Shaw-Wakeman said. To steer people away from scented menstrual products, groups like Black Women for Wellness can take grassroots initiatives and foster education through communities. Zota added that clinicians like gynecologists are often trusted sources of health information and getting more of them to inform patients about the risks of scented products can effectively get the word out.Regulating toxic period care products Health agencies should be aware that these products warrant more regulation, said Zota. For items regulated as “cosmetics” by the Food and Drug Administration, including douching solutions, sprays, wipes and powders, the FDA does not require companies to disclose the ingredients in flavors or fragrances, since these are often proprietary “trade secrets.” But the health risks, especially long-term, of the VOCs often present in scented products are not well studied, said Park. In an email, an FDA representative wrote that the agency is reviewing and potentially updating their guidance document on menstrual pads and tampons and that they are “committed to assuring manufacturers of menstrual products take appropriate steps to ensure their devices are compliant with all relevant FDA guidelines and are safe and effective.” There is certainly more research to be done. Phyllis Mugadza, a PhD candidate in environmental health epidemiology at Harvard University and the founder and CEO of Sprxng LLC, a company developing the next generation of reusable menstrual products, told EHN that she’d like to see more on the link between race and education, and how the interaction of those two things affect product choices. She also noted how variables like lack of access to private bathrooms can affect things like period odor stigma or wider menstrual stigma generally. Menstruation can still be a tough and sensitive thing to talk about for many people — it’s personal and intimate. But “beauty is a form of power,” said Zota, “one that comes with social and economic benefits.” And scents and smells are a part of that, which is what makes this important to both research and discuss. *Editor’s note: The Agents of Change in Environmental Justice program is a partnership between Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health and Environmental Health News.

Shrimp-like creatures are turned off sexually by plastic chemicals, study finds

The mating behaviors of Echinogammarus marinus are impacted by pollution, posing serious risks for food chains

Scientists have long been concerned by the link between plastic pollution and lower sperm counts in humans. Similarly, experts agree that the amount of plastic being dumped in the ocean is threatening both innocent marine life and the health of planet Earth as a whole. Now a recent study in the journal Environmental Pollution indirectly reinforces both of those concerns with its discovery about shrimp-like creatures known as Echinogammarus marinus. Scientists from the United Kingdom and Brazil examined these animals' reproductive behavior after being exposed to four chemicals commonly found in plastics: NBBS (N-butyl benzenesulfonamide), TPHP (triphenyl phosphate), DBP (dibutyl phthalate) and DEHP (diethylhexyl phthalate.) All of these chemicals are found in common household products like food packaging, electronics equipment, medical supplies and cosmetics. Even low levels of NBBS, TPHP, and DEHP caused pairs of E. marinus to experience lower sperm count and worsened mating practices. Specifically, these marine amphipods usually reproduce by forming pairs and locking together for two days, yet those exposed to the plastic chemicals were less likely to form pairs — and, if they did so, took longer to make contact and re-pair. “This unsuccessful mating behaviour has serious repercussions, not only for the species being tested but potentially for the population as a whole," explained study co-author Professor Alex Ford from the University of Portsmouth in a statement. He added that these animals "are commonly found on European shores, where they make up a substantial amount of the diet of fish and birds. If they are compromised it will have an effect on the whole food chain."

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