In pursuit of safer alternatives using California’s SCP Alternatives Analysis, with Kelly Grant

Podcast Summary:

Credit: © Totojang1977 / Adobe Stock

Every day we encounter various chemicals through the simple act of going about our lives—from the beauty products in your morning routine, to the packaging for your takeout meal, to the furniture you sit on. Chemicals are found in just about everything we touch or consume, and not all of them are completely benign. The identification and substitution of safer chemicals is a constant work in progress for regulatory bodies and manufacturers alike. In California, the Safer Consumer Products Program is committed to identifying safer alternatives to chemicals of concern through a process called alternatives analysis. Alternatives analysis goes beyond traditional alternatives assessment by requiring the inclusion of broader and deeper aspects such as a greater number of toxicological endpoints and life cycle impacts over a product’s lifespan. We spoke with lead author Kelly Grant to find out more of what the SCP program is about and what we can learn from it. Access the article in the July 2022 issue of IEAM.

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The skinny on sunscreens: UV filter impacts on coral reefs, with Yasmine Watkins

Credit: rh2010, Adobe Stock.

We all know that it’s important to protect our skin from the harmful rays of the sun. But what happens to the sunscreen that washes off into the water—whether swimming in the ocean or lake, or down the drain while showering afterward? We have only recently begun to learn about the consequences of sunscreen use, from endocrine disruption to harmful effects on wildlife and environmental damage. The September 2021 issue of IEAM features a special series on sunscreen in aquatic ecosystems. One article reviews the impacts of chemical sunscreens on coral reefs and then identifies knowledge gaps and research priorities. We spoke with lead author Yasmine Watkins to learn more. Access the article “Investigating the exposure and impact of chemical UV filters on coral reef ecosystems: Review and research gap prioritization” in the September 2021 issue of IEAM.

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Gene drives: Navigating perils of engineered eradication, with Christoph Then

Image credit: Adobe Stock.

Imagine a world without natural enemies like parasites or deadly pathogens. Where crops grow unfettered by rodent and insect pests. Advances in genetic engineering now hold the possibility to alter genomes at the population level, but is it too good to be true? A critical review in the September 2020 issue of IEAM delves into environmental risk assessments for controversial gene drives in the European Union. Lead author Christoph Then talks with us about the challenges facing risk assessors of gene drives and a potential cut-off criteria presented in the study. Access the article in the September 2020 issue of IEAM.

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First peoples, last in environmental justice, with Nil Basu

#NODAPL street art
Street art in opposition to the Dakota Access Pipeline.
Credit: Loz Pycock (Flickr), CC BY-SA 2.0.

Indigenous peoples around the world face multiple injustices as a result of environmental pollution. These highly vulnerable populations make up just 5% of the global population yet experience a disproportionate number of negative impacts from pollution that affect their environment, health and well-being, and culture. We talk with co-author Nil Basu to find out what their critical review “A State-of-the-Art Review of Indigenous Peoples and Environmental Pollution” reveals. Access the article in the May 2020 issue of IEAM.

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Do no harm: Evaluating non-lethal fish sampling, with Alyse Kambeitz

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Fish sampling with a seine. Credit: USFWS (Public Domain Mark 1.0).

The goal of any environmental monitoring program is to assess and protect the health of the organisms being monitored. Yet the most common methods require the sacrifice of a large number of individuals to collect enough data to ensure the well-being of the entire population. A new study published in IEAM set out to find a better way to monitor fish populations in Canadian waters affected by mining activity. We spoke with lead author Alyse Kambeitz to hear more. Access the article in the November 2019 issue of IEAM.

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Cleaning products: The fine print, with Alison Pecquet

“Sculpture by the sea” by Dushan and Miae, CC BY-SA 2.0

Do you know what’s in your household cleaning product? A new article in IEAM spotlights chemicals that are common in household cleaning products yet are lacking sufficient data to allow for proper environmental risk assessments. The chemicals of focus in this study are polymers, organic compounds with a wide range of functions including emulsifiers, dispersants, or defoaming agents. Read More »

From individuals to populations: Assessing endocrine impacts of pesticides, with Mark Crane

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Starling murmuration. Credit: Airwolfhound, CC BY-ND 2.0.

The European Commission recently proposed to protect vertebrate wildlife using hazard-based approaches for regulating pesticides with endocrine-disrupting properties. Researchers are familiar enough with using lab-based studies to test whether chemicals cause adverse effects in the usual animal models, but how do we identify those substances that will have adverse effects at the population level? Mark Crane and co-authors present an approach for evaluating protection goals for these compounds based on population responses within an ecosystem services framework. Read More »

A deep dive into the complexities of deep-sea mining, with Andrea Koschinsky

CSmith deep sea cnidarian
A cnidarian (Relicanthus sp.) with 8-foot long tentacles attached to a dead sponge stalk on a manganese nodule in the eastern Clarion-Clipperton Zone. Credit: Diva Amon and Craig Smith.

The world’s growing population increases the already heavy demand on mineral resources on land, and so people are looking once more to the minerals found on the ocean floor, sometimes buried thousands of meters below the surface. The November 2018 issue of IEAM contains a critical review that explores the complexities of deep-sea mining, including the environmental, legal, economic, and societal impacts. In this episode we speak with lead author Andrea Koschinsky to learn more about this fascinating topic and the long road ahead to make it a reality.

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Finding balance: Resilience in ERA, with Marco Vighi and Andreu Rico

resilience graphic
Credit: Phil Loring, CC BY-NC-SA 3.0

The concept of resilience has been discussed in ecology since the 1970s, but practitioners are now applying the concept to improve accuracy and realism in ecological risk assessments. The September 2018 issue of IEAM features invited commentaries that discuss ecological resilience and what it means in practice for risk and impact assessments. Join us as we talk with authors Marco Vighi and Andreu Rico about how to incorporate resilience into ecological risk assessment, and the challenges and opportunities facing the regulatory community.

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What lies beneath: The fallout of biomobilization at the Hanford site, with Sara Lovtang

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Hanford Site, Washington, USA. Credit: Stacy James, US Fish and Wildlife Service.

Soil caps are a commonly employed technique in remediation efforts at contaminated sites. Once cleanup efforts are complete, however, plants and animals at these sites may inadvertently disrupt the best laid plans if not properly accounted for. In this episode we explore what happens when natural biota and processes kick in post remediation. We chat with Sara Lovtang, lead author on an IEAM article that defends the established depth of the biologically active zone at Hanford, a nuclear waste site that processed plutonium fuel during World War II at the height of its operations.

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