Many homes in this region lack basic sanitation: Scientists in Houston have lifted the lid on one of America’s darkest and deepest secrets, says the U.K.’s Guardian newspaper. “Hidden beneath fabulous wealth, the U.S. tolerates poverty-related illness at levels comparable to the world’s poorest countries,” the newspaper says. According to the article, more than one in three people sampled in low-income Lowndes County,  Ala., tested positive for traces of hookworm, a gastrointestinal parasite that was thought to have been eradicated from the U.S. decades ago. Hookworm not only survives in communities  lacking even basic sanitation, but does so on a breathtaking scale. Parasite exposure was found to be prevalent, as was shockingly inadequate waste treatment. READ MORE

FOOD SECURITY

What would happen if atomic test site collapses: Chinese scientists looking at geologic and seismic data have raised the possibility that the North Korean Punggye-ri test site could collapse, releasing dangerous radioactive materials into the atmosphere. If this prediction becomes a reality, the environmental effects will be profound in the region. Agriculture would be dramatically affected in such a scenario, since radionuclides would enter the food chain.

According to the Atomic Archives website, the hazards of nuclear explosions depend on a variety of interacting factors: weapon design, explosive force, altitude and latitude of detonation, time of year, and local weather conditions. The nuclear fragments of heavy-element fission that are of greatest concern are radioactive atoms (also called radionuclides), which decay by emitting energetic electrons or gamma particles. An important characteristic is the rate of decay, which is measured in terms of “half-life” (the time required for one-half of the original substance to decay), which ranges from days to thousands of years for the bomb-produced radionuclides of principal interest. Another critical factor in determining the hazard of radionuclides is the chemistry of the atoms, which determines whether they will be taken up by the body through respiration or the food cycle and incorporated into tissue. If this occurs, the risk of biological damage from the destructive ionizing radiation is multiplied.

According to the site, the most serious threat is probably cesium-137, a gamma emitter with a half-life of 30 years. It is a major source of radiation in nuclear fallout, and since it parallels potassium chemistry, it is readily taken into the blood of animals and men and may be incorporated into tissue. Other hazards are strontium-90, an electron emitter with a half-life of 28 years, and iodine-131 with a half-life of only eight days. Strontium-90 follows calcium chemistry, so it is readily incorporated into the bones and teeth, particularly of young children who have received milk from cows consuming contaminated forage. Iodine-131 is a similar threat to infants and children because of its concentration in the thyroid gland. In addition, there is plutonium-239, frequently used in nuclear explosives. A bone-seeker like strontium-90, it may also become lodged in the lungs, where its intense local radiation can cause cancer or other damage. Read more HERE and HERE.

After Hurricane Harvey, farms suffer: In addition to heavy damage in a number of communities, agricultural interests from the coast to nearly 130 miles inland suffered from wind damage and heavy flooding from unprecedented downpours that left as much as 15 feet of water on some fields and roads, stranding, scattering and destroying livestock on many farms. READ MORE

Online tool could help farmers, ranchers hit by feed shortages: Flooded pastures and ruined stockpiled feed in the wake of Hurricane Harvey likely will lead to feed shortages that will quickly become urgent and start showing up on the news as soon as hurricanes stop dominating the headlines, says Food Defense blog contributor Dr. Stephanie Ostrowski. “After Katrina and more recent natural disasters, feed stores in those regions had difficulty meeting the increased hay demands for horses, etc., and devastated owners could not afford to pay a premium,” she says. “After the wildfires across north Texas and the Oklahoma Panhandle last year, which scorched tens of thousands of acres, a ‘hay lift’ and ag recovery fund started up.” Dr. Ostrowski said she personally knows some folks near Birmingham who loaded up round bales, medications, and bandages for burned horses on a flatbed-trailer and drove them out to the fire-devastated High Plains last year. She notes that an important resource is a new online tool from Nebraska Extension, which aims to connect farmers and cattle producers to encourage mutually beneficial agreements to use crop residue for grazing. The Crop Residue Exchange tool provides a searchable database of cropland available for grazing. READ MORE

FOOD SAFETY

Listeriosis sickens four: Four people have been sickened and one person has died from listeriosis after eating salmon processed in Poland and sold in Denmark. Listeria monocytogenes was detected in two packages of cold smoked salmon. The four people affected had severe underlying disease. The salmon has been recalled from some 600 grocery stores in Denmark. READ MORE

Listeria prompts produce recall: Multiple media outlets reported Sunday that Listeria concerns prompted Southeastern Grocers LLC to recall fresh-cut produce products from BI-LO, Harveys, Winn-Dixie and Fresco y Más grocery stores. READ MORE

USDA issues food safety recommendations for upcoming hurricane: The USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) is issuing food safety recommendations for those who may be impacted by Hurricane Irma. Hurricanes present the possibility of power outages and flooding that can compromise the safety of stored food. FSIS recommends that consumers take steps to reduce food waste and the risk of foodborne illness during this and other severe weather events. READ MORE

PUBLIC HEALTH 

Houston’s petrochemical industry leaked tons of pollutants: Hurricane Harvey has resulted in Houston’s petrochemical industry leaking thousands of tons of pollutants, with communities living near plants damaged by the storm exposed to soaring levels of toxic fumes and potential water contamination. Refineries and chemical plants have reported more than 2,700 tons, or 5.4m pounds, of extra air pollution due to direct damage from the hurricane as well as the preventive shutting down of facilities, which causes a spike in released toxins. READ MORE