Writing in The Observer, Gethin Chamberlain looks into a rash of deformities and disabilities that have appeared among youth in India’s Punjab region and appear to be linked to high levels of uranium exposure. Chamberlain finds nearby coal-fired power plants to be the most likely source (coal ash can contain high levels of radioactive material) and reports the Indian government appears to be denying that there is a problem.
Staff at the clinics say they were visited and threatened with closure if they spoke out. The South African scientist whose curiosity exposed the scandal says she has been warned by the authorities that she may not be allowed back into the country.
Ken Ward Jr., writing on the Charleston (W.Va.) Gazette‘s Coal Tattoo blog, notes that black lung disease is once again on the rise in Appalachian coal country, and has been steadily climbing since the late ’90s.
Ward notes that a federal appeals court has shut down a miner’s attempt to get it to force tighter coal dust regulations upon the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration, and says the onus is now upon the MSHA to curb the black lung comeback.
According to the administration, it may take until 2011 to write new regulations and Obama’s nominee to lead the MSHA, union veteran Joe Main, has not yet been confirmed by the Senate.
Some resources that could be helpful in reporting on a couple of hot topics today:
Peanut butter is suspected in an outbreak of salmonella that appears to have affected about 200 people in 42 states, prompting a recall of two kinds of peanut butter. Thomas Hargrove of Scripps Howard News Service wrote about foodborne illness outbreaks in a 2007 article for AHCJ. He found that some states did a good job of diagnosing and tracking down the causes of outbreaks, while other states “are virtually blind in detecting outbreaks of food illness.” Read more about the findings and get links to some related resources.
Following the failure of a retention pond for the TVA Kingston Fossil plant, dumping fly ash over 400 acres in Tennessee, Sen. Barbara Boxer has said she plans to file legislation calling on the federal Environmental Protection Agency to regulate coal fly ash ponds across the country. The National Library of Medicine has information about potential effects of fly ash exposure on human health following the TVA Kingston Fossil Plant Coal Ash Spill in December 2008.