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Plastics ingredient linked to smaller penises

Martin Mittelstaedt, Globe and Mail
Exposure of expectant mothers to phthalates, a common ingredient in many plastics, has been linked to smaller penis size and incomplete descent of testicles in their baby boys, according to a new research paper that found the chemical also appears to make the overall genital tracts of boys slightly more feminine.

The findings are sure to add more controversy to phthalates, a chemical that is added to polyvinyl chloride plastic to make it less brittle, and to many types of personal care products including fragrances, hair sprays and nail polish.
(7 October 2008)

Interview: “Bottlemania”
(audio & slideshow)
Lester Graham, The Environment Report’
Author Elizabeth Royte encourages people to buy reusable water bottles instead of disposable. Just make sure your water bottle doesn’t have BPA in it like this one! (Photo by Rebecca Williams)

We buy a lot of bottled water. Globally, sales are more than 60-billion dollars a year. Elizabeth Royte just wrote a new book about the whole bottled water phenomenon. It’s called ‘Bottlemania’. The Environment Report’s Lester Graham asked her how we got to where we’re carrying a plastic bottle of water with us at all times:
(6 October 2008)

Water treatment firms help industry close the water loop

Melody Voith, Chemical & Engineering News
The Other Scarce Resource

CHEAP AND PLENTIFUL, water was for centuries a manufacturing tool that industry took for granted. But population growth, globalization, and climate change are shepherding in a new water-constrained era. Good, clean water just cannot be replaced—and it is getting harder to come by.

For big industrial companies such as Dow Chemical and General Electric, water presents both an operational challenge and an opportunity for growth. As manufacturers, they must manage their physical operations in a way that conserves and reuses water. As suppliers to other manufacturers, they are investing in new technologies to take advantage of the evolving demand for water treatment chemicals, services, and equipment.

Manufacturers have been keeping a keen eye on rising energy prices; their concerns about water, in contrast, are turning more and more to the risk of running out. “Everyone shares this water model where it’s cheap, cheap, cheap—then unavailable,” says Scott Noesen, director of sustainability and business integration at Dow Water Solutions. For Dow, water has become a major strategic issue. “It’s huge because we’re trying to grow around the world, and where we want to grow often has issues of fresh water,” Noesen says.

… ANOTHER REASON for the decrease is the significant migration of U.S. manufacturing overseas. Now, industry has to manage water use under two very different scenarios: at home in older facilities where local water and environmental rules are becoming more stringent and at new sites in developing regions where there may be little or no water allotment for industry at all.

In industrial water management, geography is destiny. “We’ve grown to understand that water is a local or regional issue. Each place will have unique issues around water,” says Gena Leathers, global technology leader for water and wastewater for Dow’s chemical operations. Her team stays busy doing studies of risk related to water availability at a particular location, either an existing facility or one where Dow might want to build.

The findings help the company choose among several possible strategies: retooling to use municipal wastewater rather than fresh water, recycling, new treatment technologies, or even simple solutions such as a waste reduction awards program. But these strategies have many possible constraints. “Where you don’t have ability to discharge, that becomes the driver,” Leathers says.
(6 October 2008)
Industry-oriented article from a trade journal. -BA

Measuring your water footprint

Rachel Oliver, CNN
HONG KONG, China — Most people by now will be familiar with the term ‘carbon footprint’ and may even have calculated it themselves, but how many are familiar with their ‘water footprint’?

It’s about time we all learned what it is, says Professor Arjen Y. Hoekstra, Professor in Multidisciplinary Water Management at the University of Twente in the Netherlands, as soon it will be influencing how we live our lives.

Hoekstra created the water footprint concept in 2002 when he was undertaking research on what is known as virtual water trade flows for the UNESCO-IHE Institute for Water Education.

CNN finds out what it is and why it’s important.

CNN: So, what is a water footprint?

Hoekstra: It relates to how much water is being used to make a product, but it also refers to where that water is being used and when that water is being used. This is about the water use in different parts of the world to make products for businesses and individuals, so this enables an impact assessment and a formulation of policy to improve the water sustainability of these products.

CNN: What can businesses or individuals do to save on water?

Hoekstra: Businesses or individuals can become “water neutral” by reducing the effects of their water footprints. They can have incentives for that, because once they are water neutral they can market that and consumers may like that so there are other mechanisms there.

CNN: How would one go about becoming water neutral?

Hoekstra: The water footprint of a business has two components — the water used during operations and the water used in the supply chain. In order for a product to be sustainable you have to make both operations of the business sustainable as well as the supply chain…
(6 October 2008)