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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

Beyond the Headlines

Air Date: Week of

Companies are now adopting carbon labels to inform customers of a product’s estimated carbon footprint. (Photo: Gwire, Flickr, CC BY 2.0)

This week Environmental Health News editor Peter Dykstra joins host Jenni Doering to talk about a chemical factory fire in Rockton, Illinois that was put out with flame retardants containing PFAS "forever chemicals". Next they dive into companies like Logitech and Panera Bread that are putting carbon labels on their products. Finally they look back on when Senator Jim Inhofe, a well-known climate denier in Congress, fell seriously ill after swimming in a lake full of blue green algae from record heat levels.


BASCOMB: It’s Living on Earth, I’m Bobby Bascomb.

DOERING: And I’m Jenni Doering

It's that time of the broadcast when we take a look beyond the headlines with Peter Dykstra. Peter's, an editor with environmental health news that's ehn.org and dailyclimate.org and he joins us from Atlanta, Georgia. Hey, Peter, what do you got for us this week?

DYKSTRA: Hi, Jenni. There's a story that you may have seen in the past few weeks if you watch too much cable TV like I do, about a factory in Rockton, Illinois, that erupted in flames and one of those just horrible looking fires. This is a chemical plant, they made degreasers and lubricants. The owners of the plant brought in specialists who put out the fire using flame retardants that contain PFOAs those substances we've come to know as forever chemicals.

DOERING: Well, I mean, a chemical fire sounds pretty scary. But these PFAS chemicals, they can be pretty dangerous too, huh?

DYKSTRA: Yes, they can. we're discovering more and more potential health risks, including cancer, including liver disease, kidney disease, and these forever chemicals are so named, because they never degrade in the environment, and they can potentially bio accumulate. That's the big worry.

DOERING: Well, so Peter, and I think there are alternatives at this point. Is that right?

DYKSTRA: There are, there alternatives developing. But we also have to be very careful that when you replace potentially dangerous substance, you don't replace it with something that is as dangerous or even more dangerous. That was the case with some replacements for CFCs. Those refrigerant chemicals that are known to damage the Earth's stratospheric ozone layer. What we had in Illinois is a situation with the dangers from the fire, where arguably less than the dangerous from the stuff they use to put the fire out.

DOERING: Well, what else do you have for us this week Peter?

DYKSTRA: There's some news from the retail front. There are companies like Logitech, Panera Bread, Unilever, that are adopting carbon labels on their products, essentially the same as if you buy a box of breakfast cereal or some other food. You'll see the carbs, fat, calories, amount as sugar listed on the label on the side of the box. They're now listing the potential carbon footprint. And Unilever is known for many products. The one arguably best known by many of us is Ben and Jerry's ice cream.

DOERING: Well, so the nutrition label on a pint of Ben and Jerry's Peter is regulated by the FDA. But are these carbon labels going to be regulated at all?

DYKSTRA: Not yet. These companies like Logitech and Panera Bread and Unilever say they're doing this for transparency. That's kind of like waving a red flag to various potential investigators to see if it's true. Right now the companies would have a lot more to lose. If it turns out they were somehow fudging on these labels. So let's assume they're doing the right thing.

DOERING: Peter, what do you have for us from the history vaults this week?

Jim Inhofe has been serving as a U.S. Senator since 1994. He is a well-known climate denier who once threw a snowball on the Senate Floor in an effort to debunk climate change. (Photo: Gage Skidmore, Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0)

DYKSTRA: Here's a 10th anniversary: June 27, 2011. Senator Jim Inhofe fell seriously ill after swimming in an Oklahoma lake near his home. That lake was contaminated with an outbreak of blue green algae, blue green algae is that deadly stuff that can be brought on by record breaking heat.

DOERING: Hmm. Senator Inhofe is kind of the main climate denier in Congress, isn't he?

DYKSTRA: He's the alpha dog of climate denial in Congress, we're happy to say that he made a full recovery. So a few years ago, I called his office and asked for an interview. And on the occasion of his 100th birthday, we're going to have a chat about the climate hoax and how he sees it being carried out.

DOERING: Well, it'll be quite an occasion to look forward to Peter

DYKSTRA: Right. He accepted, so 10:30 Eastern Time, November 17, 2034, we'll do the interview. And hopefully you can all hear it on the 43rd year of Living on Earth.

DOERING: I think we will. Peter Dykstra is an editor at Environmental Health News. That's ehn.org and daily climate.org. Thanks, Peter. We'll talk to you next time.

DYKSTRA: All right, Jenni, thanks a lot. Talk to you soon.

DOERING: And there's more on these stories at the living on earth website. That's l o e dot org.



ABC | “Foam containing 'forever chemicals' used against plant fire”

The Washington Post | “Companies Bet Carbon Labels Will Can Help The Climate. Will Consumers Catch On?”

The Oklahoman | “Sen Jim Inhofe Believes Swimming In Grand Lake Caused His Illness”


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