Information of Interest, Apr 2012

1. Am. Acad. of Env. Medicine Urges Moratorium on “Smart Meters”

( – The American Academy of Environmental Medicine (AAEM) issued a January 19, 2012, letter to the California Public Utilities Commission calling for an immediate moratorium on wireless “smart meters” and for hearings on their health impacts:

Dear Commissioners:

The Board of the American Academy of Environmental Medicine opposes the installation of wireless “smart meters” in homes and schools based on a scientific assessment of the current medical literature (references available upon request). Chronic exposure to wireless radiofrequency radiation is a preventable environmental hazard that is sufficiently well-documented to warrant immediate preventive public health action.

As representatives of physician specialists in the field of environmental medicine, we have an obligation to urge precaution when sufficient scientific and medical evidence suggests health risks, which can potentially affect large populations. The literature raises serious concern regarding the levels of radio frequency (RF – 3KHx – 300 GHx) or extremely low frequency (ELF – 0Hx – 300Hx) exposures produced by “smart meters” to warrant an immediate and complete moratorium on their use and deployment until further study can be performed. The American Board of Environmental Medicine wishes to point out that existing FCC guidelines for RF safety that have been used to justify installation of “smart meters” only look at thermal tissue damage and are obsolete since many modern studies show metabolic and genomic damage from RF and ELF at lower energy densities. These effects accumulate over time, which is an important consideration given the chronic nature of exposure from “smart meters.” The current medical literature raises credible questions about genetic and cellular effects, hormonal effects, male fertility, blood/brain barrier damage and increased risk of certain types of cancers from RF or ELF levels similar to those emitted from “smart meters.” Children are placed at particular risk for altered brain development, and impaired hearing and learning and behavior. Further, EMF/RF adds synergistic effects to the damage observed from a range of toxic chemicals. Given the widespread, chronic and essentially inescapable ELF/RF exposure of everyone living near a “smart meter,” the Board of the American Academy of Environmental Medicine finds it unacceptable from a public health standpoint to implement this technology until these serious medical concerns are resolved. We consider a moratorium on installation of wireless “smart meters” to be an issue of the highest importance.

The Board of the American Academy of Environmental Medicine also wishes to note that the U.S. NIEHS National Toxicology Program in 1999 cited radiofrequency radiation as a potential carcinogen. Existing safety limits for pulsed RF were termed “not protective of public health” by the Radiofrequency Working Group (a federal interagency working group including the FDA, OSHA, EPA and others). Emissions given off by “smart meters” have been classified by the World Health Organization International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) as a Possible Human Carcinogen.

Hence, we call for:

  • An immediate moratorium on “smart meter” installation until these serious public health issues are resolved. Continuing with their installation would be extremely irresponsible.
  • Modify the revised proposed decision to include hearings on health impacts in the second proceedings, along with cost evaluation and community wide opt-out.
  • Provide immediate relief to those requesting it and restore the analog meters.


Members of the Board
American Academy of Environmental Medicine

Click here to see the letter.

2. Greenhouse Gas Emissions Data from Large Facilities Now Available

( – For the first time, comprehensive greenhouse gas (GHG) data reported directly from large facilities and suppliers across the country are now easily accessible to the public through the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) GHG Reporting Program. The 2010 GHG data includes public information from facilities in nine industry groups that directly emit large quantities of GHGs, as well as suppliers of certain fossil fuels.

EPA’s online data publication tool allows users to view and sort GHG data for calendar year 2010 from more than 6,700 facilities in a variety of ways, including by facility, location, industrial sector and type of GHG emitted. This information can be used by communities to identify nearby sources of GHGs, help businesses compare and track emissions, and provide information to state and local governments.

GHG data for direct emitters show that in 2010:

  • Power plants were the largest stationary sources of direct emissions with 2,324 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (mmtCO2e), followed by petroleum refineries with emissions of 183 mmtCO2e.
  • CO2 accounted for the largest share of direct GHG emissions with 95 percent, followed by methane with 4 percent, and nitrous oxide and fluorinated gases accounting for the remaining 1 percent.
  • 100 facilities each reported emissions over 7 mmtCO2e, including 96 power plants, two iron and steel mills and two refineries.


Mandated by the FY2008 Consolidated Appropriations Act, EPA launched the GHG Reporting Program in October 2009, which requires reporting of GHG data from large emission sources across a range of industry sectors, as well as suppliers of products that would emit GHGs if released or combusted. Most reporting entities submitted data for calendar year 2010. However, an additional 12 source categories will begin reporting their 2011 GHG data this year.

Access EPA’s GHG Reporting Program Data and Data Publication Tool.
Information on the GHG Reporting Program.
Information on the U.S. Inventory of Greenhouse Gas Emissions Sources and Sinks.

3. Airborne Geophysical Survey Offers Insight into Permafrost in Alaska

( – A pioneering airborne electromagnetic survey in the Yukon Flats near Fort Yukon, Alaska, by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) has yielded unprecedented images of the presence and absence of permafrost to depths of roughly 328 feet. The airborne survey captured images of permafrost over a substantially larger area, and with greater data density, than has been previously achieved using sparse boreholes and ground-based geophysics.

“Liquid water conducts electricity better than ice,” explained USGS director Marcia McNutt. “We can detect from the air the weak magnetic fields generated by those electric currents, thus distinguishing quickly and easily melted from frozen ground. This new technology, and the maps of changing permafrost, will be valuable for both climate change research and engineering in the challenging Alaskan environment.”

Because the Yukon Flats is near the boundary between continuous permafrost to the north and discontinuous permafrost to the south, it is an important place to study permafrost dynamics. Burke Minsley, PhD and geophysicist in USGS’ Crustal Geophysics and Geochemistry Science Center in Denver and lead author of the study in Geophysical Research Letters, and his team surveyed more than 116 square miles centered 140 miles northeast of Fairbanks. Their data not only capture in detail the distribution of permafrost and its relation to surface- and groundwater features but also the legacy of the Yukon River lateral migration over a period of roughly 1,000 years as manifested as a thawed region of permafrost.

Knowledge of current permafrost distribution is critical for analyses designed to evaluate hydrologic and ecologic consequences of climate warming. It also provides a baseline for future investigation of dynamic evolution of permafrost systems. In addition, the study is important because it presents a methodology for assessing permafrost not only in Alaska but throughout sub-Arctic and Arctic regions. The airborne approach allows periodic monitoring of perennially frozen ground over broad areas as climatic warming decreases the extent of permafrost and accelerates the emission of greenhouse gases.

The study is expected to have significant implications for hydrologists, ecologists, climate scientists, and land managers in the Yukon Flats and elsewhere in the Arctic.

4. 165-Year-Old Mystery of Disappearing Black Swift Bird Solved

( – For 165 years, the Northern Black Swift has pulled a fall migration disappearing act. Where the high-flying bird vanishes to after breeding and spending summers in many parts of western North America has puzzled ornithologists since the species was discovered in 1857. Thanks to a new study, experts now know that at least some of them travel about 4,300 miles to a remote part of western Brazil in lowland rainforest.

The study, published in the March 2012 issue of Wilson Journal of Ornithology, involved attaching geo-locators (tiny devices that record and store tracking information) to four adult Black Swifts from two nesting sites in Colorado, then recapturing the same birds at the same sites the next year to download the stored data. Three of the four tracking devices were recovered and showed the birds departing for their fall southerly migration between September 10 and September 19, and arriving in Brazil between September 28 and October 12. The birds then departed Brazil between May 9 and 20 and arrived back at their Colorado breeding sites between May 23 and June 18.

“The data we acquired is very important to understanding species ecology, including reproductive success, population dynamics, behavioral ecology, evolution and response to changing selective pressures,” said Jason Beason, the study’s lead author from the Rocky Mountain Bird Observatory.

Several factors contribute to the lack of knowledge about migration and winter distribution of this species, including difficulty in accurate field identification of individuals due to their high and rapid flight, problems differentiating this species from similar-sized members of other species that occupy Central and South America, and the inability to verify observation records. No band recoveries exist outside the United States from about 200 Northern Black Swifts banded from 1950 forward.

Further, satellite GPS devices, which transmit real-time tracking of individuals, are not sufficiently small to place on a species the size of the seven-inch-long Black Swift. As a result, geo-locators (which record data but do not transmit it) were used, which meant the study birds would need to be recaptured for location data to be analyzed. That necessity was made easier on one hand by the fact that the birds typically are very committed to returning to their previous breeding colony. But, it was made more challenging because they tend to nest in areas that are incredibly difficult to access – behind waterfalls in deeply shaded niches in steep and narrow canyons.

Curiously, the birds averaged about 211 miles per day during fall migration and about 244 miles per day during spring migration, about a 15 percent increase in average daily distance covered. They spent about 220 days in Brazil before migrating north again.

“Now that we know where this bird winters, we can identify some concerns. The most obvious are climate change impacts and current rate of deforestation in Brazil, which could directly threaten this species. It appears likely that the rate of deforestation will increase rapidly in the coming decades, which could result in the loss of up to 30 percent of the forest cover by 2050,” Beason said.

The Black Swift is a U.S. WatchList species of concern as some data show a 6.3 percent per year range-wide decline from 1966 to 2001. One potential reason is habitat loss and a decrease in the abundance of the bird’s main food source – winged insects – tied to pesticide use.

Other authors of the study include: Carolyn Gunn, Kim Potter (White River National Forest, U.S. Forest Service), Robert Sparks (Rocky Mountain Bird Observatory) and James Fox (British Antarctic Survey and Migrate Technology Ltd.).