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Friday Finds: Maple Syrup Mayhem

Climate change ruins breakfast for everyone
This year’s early arrival of spring is devastating maple production, which generate the most sap when freezing nights follow cool days, reports the Washington Post. Typically a month-long season, maple syrup producers who rely on traditional taps and buckets saw their maple season cut dramatically this year, which means less maple production . One producer only came up with about 40 gallons of syrup when her typical haul is 300. Another family in Wisconsin, which usually collects about 400 gallons of syrup, ended up with only 165 gallons this year. Though, as Grist points out, the heat wave that we’re having now could easily be followed by a cold snap next year, climate change is expected to cause more global weirding like freakishly warmer temperatures, so it’s time to start stocking up on real maple syrup now...or resign yourself to the artificial tastes of Aunt Jemima’s and Mrs. Butterworth.

Ships still dumping pollution despite government crackdown
Over the past 10 years, the Department of Justice has fined ship operators more than $200 million for illegal ship dumping, yet the violations may just be the tip of the iceberg, reports iWatch News. Under federal and international law, ships are required to properly dispose of oily wastewater and sludge, but that costs money and time, so instead ships sometime dump their waste directly into the water using so-called “magic pipes,” which can be detached and easily rerouted when inspectors come by. Though the federal government has stepped up efforts to crack down on polluters by, in part, rewarding whistleblowers with six-figure digits and hunting for magic pipes, there's more work to be done to keep waste out of ocean waters. Last June, Earthjustice successfully defended Alaskans’ right to rein in wastewater dumping from cruise ships, which dump an estimated 148 million gallons of wastewater laced with partially-treated sewage, heavy metals and toxic chemicals like flame retardants into Alaska’s pristine waters every year.

USDA poultry inspection proposal passes the buck of regulation to industry
This week, the USDA announced a proposal that will shift responsibility for examining poultry carcasses for blemishes or visible defects from the government agency to the poultry plants, reports Food Safety News. It’s basically the equivalent of allowing the fox to watch the henhouse. Not surprisingly, food safety advocates and inspectors were quick to criticize the program, arguing that it poses a health risk to consumers by privatizing inspections and allowing industry employers, who are not required to have extensive training on protecting public health, to perform the inspections (at a rate of 200 birds per minute, no less). Though advocates of the program point out that the proposed rule change is expected to save millions of dollars over the next three years, critics argue that this “short-sided thinking” could end up costing the government more when they have to deal with an increase in foodborne illness from dirty, defective poultry. Plus, who wants to eat a questionable meat product just to save a few bucks? If you’re unsure of the answer, just ask the people over at the pink slime factory, which recently filed for bankruptcy.
 
Flame retardants may make fires deadlier
New research has found that a new class of flame retardants, which are added to items like furniture, electronics and carpet padding, could create deadlier fires, reports Environmental Health News. Flame retardants have long been called life-savers for their ability to allow longer escape and response times, but a new study that looked at brominated and chlorinated flame retardants found that, when burned, they release life-threatening amounts of carbon monoxide and hydrogen cyanide, a chemical once used in Nazi gas chambers. Both chemicals, odorless and colorless agents, were meant to replace older flame retardants like polybrominated diphenyl ethers or PBDEs, which were banned in 2004 and have been linked to impaired neurological development and reduced fertility, among other things. Now that eyebrows have been raised about these new chemicals as well, scientists are busy looking for more environmentally-friendly flame retardants. After all, accidental fires aren't going away anytime soon.

 

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