Friday, October 24, 2014

Fall is coming

Fluorescent lamp recycling

Fluorescent lamp recycling is the recovery of the materials of a spent fluorescent lamp for the manufacture of new products. Glass tubing can be turned into new glass articles, brass and aluminium in end caps can be reused, the internal coating can be reprocessed for use in paint pigments, and the mercury contained in the lamp can be reclaimed and used in new lamps.[1] In the United States, about 620 million fluorescent lamps are discarded annually; proper recycling of a lamp prevents emission of mercury into the environment, and is required by most states for commercial facilities.[2] The primary advantage of recycling is diversion of mercury from landfill sites; the actual scrap value of the materials salvaged from a discarded lamp is insufficient to offset the cost of recycling.[3]

Mercury in lamps[edit]

The amount of mercury in a fluorescent lamp varies from 3 to 46 mg, depending on lamp size and age.[4] Newer lamps contain less mercury and the 3–4 mg versions are sold as low-mercury types. A typical 2006-era 4 ft (122 cm) T-12 fluorescent lamp (i.e., F32T12) contains about 12 milligrams of mercury.[5] In early 2007, the National Electrical Manufacturers Association in the US announced that "Under the voluntary commitment, effective April 15, 2007, participating manufacturers will cap the total mercury content in CFLs under 25 watts at 5 milligrams (mg) per unit. CFLs that use 25 to 40 watts of electricity will have total mercury content capped at 6 mg per unit."[6]
Only a few tenths of a milligram of mercury are required to maintain the vapor, but lamps must include more mercury to compensate for the part of mercury absorbed by internal parts of the lamp and no longer available to maintain the arc. Manufacturing processes have been improved to reduce the handling of liquid mercury during manufacture and improve accuracy of mercury dosing.[7]
Mercury-free discharge lamps have considerably lower production of visible light, about half; mercury remains an essential component of fluorescent lamps.[8]
A broken fluorescent tube will release its mercury content. Safe cleanup of broken fluorescent bulbs differs from cleanup of conventional broken glass or incandescent bulbs.[how?] 99% of the mercury is typically contained in the phosphor, especially on lamps that are near their end of life.[9]


Lamps made up to the 1940s used toxic beryllium compounds, which were implicated in the deaths of factory workers.[10][11] However, it is very unlikely that one would encounter any such lamps.[12]
Formerly, toxic materials such as beryllium, arsenic, cadmium, and thallium were used in phosphor manufacture. Modern halophosphate phosphors resemble the chemistry of tooth enamel. The rare-earth doped phosphors are not known to be harmful.[13]

Mercury containment[edit]

When discarding a fluorescent tube, the main concern is the mercury, which is an important pollutant. One way to avoid releasing mercury into the environment is to combine it with sulfur to form mercury sulfide, which is insoluble in water. One advantage of sulfur is its low cost. The reaction is shown with the equation:
Hg + S → HgS
The easiest way to combine sulfur and mercury is to cover a group of fluorescent tubes with sulfur dust and break them; when the glass is put into a bag to continue with the reaction, the mercury will combine with sulfur without any other action. The glass can be recycled where an appropriate facility exists. A quantity of 25 kg of dust sulfur is enough for 1000 tubes.

Disposal methods[edit]

The disposal of phosphor and mercury toxins from spent tubes can be an environmental hazard. Governmental regulations in many areas require special disposal of fluorescent lamps separate from general and household wastes. For large commercial or industrial users of fluorescent lights, recycling services are available in many nations, and may be required by regulation. In some areas, recycling is also available to consumers.
Spent fluorescent lamps are typically packaged prior to transport to a recycling facility in one of three ways: boxed for bulk pickup, using a prepaid lamp recycling box, or crushed for pickup. A fluorescent lamp crusher can attach directly to a disposal drum and contain dust and mercury vapor. [14] In some states, drum top crushers and self crushing lamps is not allowed. Minnesota Department of Health Drum Top Bulb Crusher Demonstration Disposal methods are regulated at both the state and federal level. Proper recycling of fluorescent lamps can reduce risk of human exposure to mercury. Companies that recycle spent fluorescent lamps include Air Cycle Corporation, Mercury Technologies of Minnesota, Inc., USA Lamp & Ballast Recycling, Inc, Waste Management, and Veolia.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Marathoners Face Menacing Beijing Smog on Race Day

Despite heavy pollution blanketing Beijing on Sunday, an international marathon went ahead, with face masks and sponges among the equipment used by competitors to battle the smog.
The 34th Beijing International Marathon began at Tiananmen Square with many of the tens of thousands of participants wearing face masks. The 26-mile course ended at the Chinese capital's Olympic Park, on a day when buildings across the city disappeared into the gray-tinged mist.
"Actually, on a normal day, nobody would run in such conditions," said participant Liu Zhenyu, a computer engineer. "But the event is happening today, so what can we do?"

Image: Runners jog past Tiananmen Gate shrouded in haze Andy Wong / AP
Runners wearing masks to protect themselves from pollutants jog past Chang'an Avenue shrouded in haze while taking part in the 2014 Beijing International Marathon in Beijing, China on Oct. 19.
About 30,000 people were expected to take part in the marathon and the half-marathon. The organizing committee made 140,000 sponges available at supply stations along the marathon route so runners could "clean their skin that is exposed to the air," the Beijing News reported.
The air Sunday was deemed severely polluted, according to the real-time monitoring of Beijing's environmental center. It was the most serious level on China's air quality index, and came with a warning for children, the elderly and the sick to stay indoors, and for everyone to avoid outdoor activities.
The U.S. Embassy, which tracks the Beijing air from a monitoring station on its roof and uses a different air quality index, said the air was hazardous. It gave a reading of 344 micrograms per cubic meter of PM2.5 particulate matter. The World Health Organization considers 25 micrograms within a 24-hour period a safe level.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Extremely Rare White Rhino Dies in Kenya—His Kind Nearly Extinct

The 34-year-old Suni was one of two breeding males of his subspecies left on Earth.

The youngest male rhino, Suni at the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya on Nov. 19, 2010.
Suni, seen here at Kenya's Ol Pejeta Conservancy in November 2010, died at age 34.
Photograph by Barcroft Media, Getty Images
Christine Dell'Amore
The northern white rhinoceros is one step closer to extinction with the death of Suni, one of only two breeding males left of his kind.

The 34-year-old animal was found dead October 17 in his enclosure in Kenya's Ol Pejeta Conservancy, possibly from natural causes, the reserve said in a statement. White rhinos are thought to be able to live up to 40 or 50 years. An autopsy is under way, but officials are certain poachers did not kill Suni, as the animal was monitored around the clock. (See "1,000+ Rhinos Poached in 2013: Highest in Modern History.")

The death of the rare creature, which had not fathered any offspring, leaves only six northern white rhinos left on Earth, including just one male of that subspecies. The southern white rhino, a related subspecies, is considered near threatened by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.
Born at the Dvůr Králové Zoo in the Czech Republic, Suni had been an emblem of hope: He was one of four of the world's eight remaining northern rhinos sent to the Kenyan conservancy in 2009 as part of a last-ditch effort to save the critically endangered subspecies.
So far, it hasn't worked. "It's a shame the subspecies got to that point—that's the worst-case scenario in trying to bring back a subspecies," said Matthew Lewis, senior program officer for African species conservation at WWF.
The northern white rhinoceros is a "victim of evolution," Lewis added—it was a remnant population cut off from the southern white rhinoceros by the Great Rift Valley and the dense forests of Central Africa.
Already isolated and occurring in low numbers, the northern subspecies got caught up in political turmoil in Sudan, the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Uganda, and its numbers quickly dwindled because of poaching and habitat loss. (Related: "Why African Rhinos Are Facing a Crisis.")
"Not Just Another Charismatic Animal"
With just one breeding male left, the outlook for the subspecies is grim. Stuart Pimm, a conservation ecologist at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, now considers the animal basically extinct.
That "we've lost [the subspecies] is a statement of just how bad off large animals are across Africa," said Pimm, who is also a contributor to National Geographic's News Watch blog. "It's a measure of the fact that rhinos are being massively poached and in trouble wherever they are."
From African lions to elephants, many of the continent's megafauna species are plummeting in number due to poaching and other human causes. (See a map of the international illegal trade in rhinos.)
"It also means we're losing this distinctive, important animal within the savanna ecosystem," he said.
Rhinoceroses are key to keeping grasslands healthy, as they eat—and keep in check—particular species of savanna plants.
"It's not just another charismatic animal—it's also a species that has a very clear ecological role, and we need to be very worried that we have lost that," Pimm said.
The youngest male rhino, Suni at the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya on Nov. 19, 2010.
Suni takes a walk in November 2010 at Ol Pejeta Conservancy, where he moved in 2009 from his birthplace in the Czech Republic.
Photograph by Barcroft Media, Getty Images
Rhino Lessons
The story of the northern white rhinoceros is "a fantastic lesson on what not to do, and how we need to avoid getting to this point with the other rhinos," Lewis noted.
The black rhinoceros, which has four subspecies, is doing relatively well, though widespread poaching for the animals' horns, which are used in Asian traditional medicine, continues to flourish, he said.
Conservationists are now focusing their efforts on ensuring the safety of these animals and reducing the demand for rhino horn in Asian countries such as Vietnam. (Read "Rhino Wars" in National Geographic magazine.)
But scientists aren't ready to give up on the northern white rhino entirely, he added.
For instance, if the last breeding male doesn't mate, scientists may be able to breed the northern white rhino females with the southern subspecies.
That would preserve some of the genes of the northern white rhino, even if the genes are mixed with those of their relative.
And the Ol Pejeta Conservancy is still on the case.
"We will continue to do what we can to work with the remaining three animals on Ol Pejeta," the reserve said in a statement, "in the hope that our efforts will one day result in the successful birth of a northern white rhino calf."
Follow Christine Dell'Amore on Twitter and Google+.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Michigan Landfill to Take Radioactive Fracking Waste

A landfill in eastern Michigan was ready to accept up to 36 tons of low-level radioactive fracking waste last week that had already been rejected from two other states, according to the Detroit News.
A number of local residents, as well as the Michigan director of the Sierra Club, expressed public safety concerns about the pending shipment, including the possibility of groundwater contamination.
As of Monday, it was not clear whether the waste had actually arrived at Wayne Disposal, the facility designated to accept it.

The waste originated from Range Resources, an oil and gas company with drilling operations in Washington County, Pa. The waste had previously been rejected from a landfill in western Pennsylvania this year after heightened radiation was detected.

Range Resources then took the material to a landfill in West Virginia, but was stopped when the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection sought more information and instituted new rules tightening the state’s management of radioactive drilling wastes.

According to a spokesperson for Range Resources, the radioactivity levels in the material measured between 40 and 260 microrems per hour and were not detectable a few feet from the source.
Wayne Disposal received approval from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality to accept the material in 2006. According to Brad Wurfel, a DEQ spokesperson, the material’s radiation levels were not high enough to be considered a public health threat.

Wurfel added that sending the material to a facility such as Wayne Disposal – where it could be treated and disposed of properly – was actually an example of responsible operation.

Earlier this year Range Resources applied for a Pennsylvania “beneficial use” permit to use gas well drilling waste rock material as paving material, noting that it would benefit the environment by reducing the amount of mined aggregate needed and the amount of waste material sent to landfills.
Oil and gas companies have been under increased scrutiny of late as the result of radioactivity showing up in wastewater from gas field landfills.

Photo Credit: Michigan Sign via Shutterstock

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Monday, October 20, 2014

Another Ebola challenge: Disposing of medical waste in Los Angeles and Irvine CA

One Ebola patient treated in a U.S. hospital will generate eight 55-gallon barrels of medical waste a day
Incineration is recommended for Ebola medical waste, but it's illegal in California and other states
Southern California hospital group on Ebola: 'We fully expect that it's coming our way'
A single Ebola patient treated in a U.S. hospital will generate eight 55-gallon barrels of medical waste each day.
Protective gloves, gowns, masks and booties are donned and doffed by all who approach the patient's bedside and then discarded. Disposable medical instruments, packaging, bed linens, cups, plates, tissues, towels, pillowcases and anything that is used to clean up after the patient must be thrown away.
Even curtains, privacy screens and mattresses eventually must be treated as contaminated medical waste and disposed of.
Dealing with this collection of pathogen-filled debris without triggering new infections is a legal and logistical challenge for every U.S. hospital now preparing for a potential visit by the virus.
In California and other states, it is an even worse waste-management nightmare.
Though the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend autoclaving (a form of sterilizing) or incinerating the waste as a surefire means of destroying the microbes, burning infected waste is effectively prohibited in California and banned in at least seven other states.
"Storage, transportation and disposal of this waste will be a major problem," California Hospital Assn. President C. Duane Dauner warned Sen. Barbara Boxer in a letter.
Even some states that normally permit incineration are throwing up barriers to Ebola waste.
In Missouri, the state attorney general has sought to bar Ebola-contaminated debris from a St. Louis incinerator operated by Stericycle Inc., the nation's largest medical waste disposal company.
Because of restrictions on burning, California hospital representatives say their only option appears to be trucking the waste over public highways and incinerating it in another state — a prospect that makes some environmental advocates uneasy.
Under federal transportation guidelines, the material would be designated a Class A infectious substance, or one that is capable of causing death or permanent disability, and would require special approval from the Department of Transportation, hospital representatives say.
"These are some pretty big issues and they need some quick attention," said Jennifer Bayer, spokeswoman for the Hospital Assn. of Southern California.
"We fully expect that it's coming our way," Bayer said of the virus. "Not to create any sort of scare, but just given the makeup of our population and the hub that we are, it's very likely."
The Ebola virus is essentially a string of genetic material wrapped in a protein jacket. It cannot survive a 1,500-degree scorching within an incinerator, or the prolonged, pressurized steam of an autoclave.
"The Ebola virus itself is not particularly hardy," CDC Director Dr. Thomas Frieden said under questioning on Capitol Hill recently. "It's killed by bleach, by autoclaving, by a variety of chemicals."
However, CDC guidelines note that "chemical inactivation" has yet to be standardized and could trigger worker safety regulations.
California health officials recently tried to reassure residents that the state's private and public hospitals were up to the task and were actively training for the possible arrival of Ebola.
"Ebola does not pose a significant public health risk to California communities at the present time," said Dr. Gil Chavez, an epidemiologist and deputy director at the California Department of Public Health. "Let me tell you why: Current scientific evidence specifies that people cannot get Ebola through the air, food or water. ... The Ebola virus does not survive more than a few hours on impervious surfaces."
It was unclear whether California officials viewed the waste issue as a potential problem.
Although a third of the state's private hospitals and "a few" of its public hospitals reported to Boxer's office that there would be problems complying with the CDC's incineration recommendation, and others, a state public health official told reporters he was not aware of any conflicts.
Dr. David Perrott, chief medical officer for the California Hospital Assn., said there was also confusion about whether infected human waste could be flushed down the toilet.
"Here's what we've heard from the CDC: It's OK," Perrott said. "But then we've heard from some sources that maybe we need to sterilize it somehow and then flush it down the toilet or you have to check with local authorities. It sounds maybe a little gross, but there is a real question about what to do with that waste."
Dr. Thomas Ksiazek, a professor in the department of microbiology and immunology at the University of Texas Medical Branch, has said he believes there's been a lot of overreaction on the topic of Ebola medical waste.
"There are other ways to deal with the waste; autoclaving would be chief among them," Ksiazek said. "The problem is most hospitals don't use it for most disposable items. They're quite happy to bag them up and send them to a regular medical disposal company."
But Allen Hershkowitz, a senior scientist at the Natural Resources Defense Council, said incineration was simple and effective and should be available to hospitals to help dispose of the mountain of waste.
Hershkowitz said states began to crack down on medical waste incineration years ago because many materials that did not need to be burned were being sent to combustors and were emitting dangerous pollutants.
In the case of Ebola medical waste, he said California should reconsider its restrictions.
"There's no pollutant that's going to come out of a waste incinerator that's more dangerous than the Ebola virus," Hershkowitz said. "When you're dealing with pathogenic and biological hazards, sometimes the safest thing to do is combustion."

HVAC boot cleared of Asbestos in Los Angeles