The Beat

By Dooley, Erin E. | Environmental Health Perspectives, September 2000 | Go to article overview

The Beat


Dooley, Erin E., Environmental Health Perspectives


Ending the Chornobyl Threat

Just over 14 years after explosions damaged the Chornobyl nuclear power plant, the Ukrainian government announced on 5 June 2000 its decision to close the plant by 15 December 2000. During a visit to Ukraine coinciding with the announcement, President Clinton offered $78 million in U.S. assistance to rebuild the safety structure surrounding the plant's damaged reactor in order to reduce the continuing problem of radioactive dust.

Besides the funding announced by Clinton, the Department of Energy is pledging $2 million to help ensure the safe decommissioning of the plant and to upgrade safety measures at the four other nuclear power plants in Ukraine. U.S. agencies are also focusing on ways to mitigate the economic effects of the plant closure.

Ocean Protection in Motion

On 26 May 2000 President Clinton announced plans to protect Hawaii's coral reefs through an executive order that outlines the creation of a network of marine protected areas. The order calls for federal agencies to better manage the more than 1,000 marine areas already under protection and to establish new protected areas that fully represent the variety of ecosystems found along U.S. coasts. A new Marine Protected Area Center is to be established within NOAA in cooperation with the Department of the Interior to develop national guidelines for marine environmental research and prioritize protection needs for those areas.

The order also directs the U.S. EPA to strengthen Clean Water Act regulations for coastal and ocean waters to aid the review of proposals for activities that might result in pollution of these waters, and recommends the agency enact more stringent protection for unique and vulnerable areas.

Phasing Out Scotchgard

On 16 May 2000 3M announced it would voluntarily stop production of several of its well-known Scotchgard repellants and surfactants by the end of 2000. The decision stemmed from recent tests that found that perfluorooctanyl chemicals involved in their production can persist in the environment and human tissue for many years. Although current environmental concentrations of the chemicals are believed to pose no risk to human health, 3M official Charles Reich says the decision "anticipates increasing attention to the appropriate use and management of persistent materials." 3M takes in over $15 billion in annual sales.

In a 17 May 2000 Reuters news release, National Resources Defense Council scientist Linda Greer hails 3M's proactive position. Since chemicals related to the Scotchgard compounds cause a range of human and animal health problems, she says, "what you worry about is long-term buildup in tissues or organs to the point where it could cause some problems."

Closing the Circle Awards

On 6 June 2000 the White House presented the annual Closing the Circle Awards, given out since 1995 to federal agencies and individual federal employees to recognize efforts in such areas as waste reduction, recycling, and facility design.

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