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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No small deal: Evaluating nanomaterials with alternatives assessment, with Rune Hjorth

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Zinc nanoflowers combined with graphene oxide layers help to extend battery life (scanning EM image). Credit: Dilek Ozgit, Engineering, Cambridge Univ., CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

Nanomaterials are small but key components in consumer products like electronics, sunscreens, and antimicrobial clothing, just to name a few. Despite their widespread use, scientists are still struggling to assess their potential hazards, with regulatory policy hinging on these assessments. Author Rune Hjorth discusses how alternatives assessment frameworks can be adapted to evaluate nanomaterials. Access the article, “The applicability of chemical alternatives assessment for engineered nanomaterials,” in the January 2017 issue of IEAM.

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Pulling it all together: Harmonizing marine environmental assessment, with Ruud Jongbloed

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Port of Tagonoura, Japan, with Mt. Fuji in the background. Credit: Hoshner Sigmaniax, CC BY-SA 2.0 (cropped and brightened from original).

Human activities and other pressures on marine ecosystems are ever increasing, underscoring the need for responsible, sustainable management. Several types of environmental assessment exist, but which is the most appropriate for your assessment needs? Enter CUMULEO, a framework that defines common EA elements and introduces consistency, while remaining adaptable to assessments for marine and other ecosystems. We chat with Ruud Jongbloed to get the highlights of CUMULEO. Access the critical review in the October 2016 issue of IEAM.

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At your service! Linking healthy ecological function to human well-being, with Wayne Munns

Shenandoah River. Credit: Mariano Mantel, CC BY-NC 2.0.

 

We benefit from ecosystem services (ES) everyday—the water we drink, the food we eat, even the vacation at the beach. It is widely recognized that we need to protect the ecological processes that deliver these benefits, yet ES have not yet been formally incorporated into environmental risk assessment, one of the primary methods that inform regulatory decision making. Wayne Munns discusses the reasons for and challenges to the routine inclusion of ES endpoints in ERAs. Access the article in the July 2016 issue of IEAM.

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What’s In Your Toolbox? Julie Panko Talks Shop on Tools for Chemical Risk Assessment

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“Tools” by John Griffiths, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Hazardous chemicals and consumer product safety garner tremendous public attention nowadays, and rightly so. The European Commission’s landmark REACH regulation set a high standard, and regulatory agencies around the world are moving towards chemical regulatory reform. The resulting need to characterize thousands of chemicals with regard to their hazard, risk, and exposure potential poses an enormous task, and dozens of chemical assessment tools have been developed to aid assessors. An article in the April 2015 issue of IEAM identifies the most robust and comprehensive tools used in chemical assessment. Author Julie Panko discusses how she and her fellow authors critically evaluated dozens of chemical assessment tools, to help assessors select the right tool for the job.

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From the Ashes: Using BERA to Assess a Coal Fly Ash Spill in Tennessee, with Suzy Walls

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Kingston Fossil Plant, coal ash spill cleanup, 2012. Credit: Appalachian Voices, CC BY 2.0, cropped from original.

The largest coal fly ash spill in US history occurred in 2008, at the Kingston Fossil Plant in Roane County, Tennessee. Over 4.1 million cubic meters of toxic coal fly ash spilled into the surrounding river ecosystem, which included three rivers and a reservoir. The January 2015 issue of IEAM features a special series of articles that detail the Baseline Ecological Risk Assessment (BERA) conducted to assess residual ash remaining in the Watts Bar Reservoir.

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Biomarkers for Good Measure: Assessing Aquatic Ecosystem Status, with Sharon Hook

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Sampling biomarkers with gel electrophoresis. Credit: Iwan Gabovitch, CC0 1.0.

Biomarkers—biological endpoints long used in medical screening and disease detection—are finding new relevance in the environmental science community. Toxicologists have used biomarkers in certain aquatic contaminant assessments; however, these endpoints have barely been tapped as a valuable resource for informing ecological risk assessments and integrated monitoring. Sharon Hook, author of a critical review in the July 2014 issue of IEAM, talks to us about advantages and caveats for using biomarkers in environmental assessments.

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