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Friday Finds: Pesticide Trials and Errors

EPA proposes strict rules on pesticide testing

EPA proposes strict rules on pesticide testing
The EPA recently proposed strict rules meant to keep pesticides manufacturers from paying people to eat or drink pesticides, enter pesticide vapor "chambers," or have pesticides sprayed in their eyes, reports FairWarning. The proposal, spurred on by a 2010 court settlement between Earthjustice clients and the EPA, will essentially make it harder for the chemical industry to use people as guinea pigs, hopefully resulting in fewer of these tests occurring in the first place.

Multiple "Snowmageddons" put cash-strapped cities in a pickle
As New England and the Midwest shovel their way out of the latest snowstorm, penny-pinching government employees are coming up with unusual ways to de-ice their roads. This past week, administrators in Bergen County, New Jersey have started using pickle juice to combat the ice and snow, reports Time magazine. It turns out that the salty solution is much cheaper than road salt and works just as well at keeping cars from sliding off the roads. Meanwhile, the city of Boston continues to pile up with so-called "snow farms," basically huge piles of snow dumped in vacant lots.
Designers find new home for wind turbines
What do you do with old viaducts that would take billions of dollars to remove? Turn them into wind turbine bridges, suggested a group of designers who recently took part in a contest to decide the fate of a handful of unused viaducts in Italy. The Solar Wind proposal would generate 40 million kilowatt-hours per year and power approximately 15,000 homes, reports Popular Science. And, the revamped viaducts also include options for solar panels, walking paths and even self-sufficient greenhouses, which could turn many Italians' daily commute into a pleasant stroll in the park.
Nuclear waste leaves toxic legacy in animals
Researchers in South Carolina tasked with cleaning up toxic waste leftover from nuclear weapons production are testing animals for radiation levels to determine whether a site is still contaminated, reports USA Today. During the Cold War, workers often dumped nuclear waste into unlined pits that allowed toxic contamination to spread into the soil and water. Though some animals, like a very annoyed-looking alligator, have come back with a clean bill of health, other research sites like Hanford haven't had as much luck, recently discovering a highly contaminated rabbit. The U.S. government estimates that cleaning up the sites will cost as much as $300 billion and take 70 years.

US unleashes genetically modified alfalfa into commercial use
Organic farmers and environmental groups suffered a major blow late last week with Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack's announcement that the government would allow the unrestricted commercial use of Monsanto's genetically modified alfalfa, reports the New York Times. Vilsack's decision is almost a complete 180 from his previous position on alfalfa, which recognized that allowing farmers to grow the super-pollinating plants would present a huge risk to organic farmers and organic dairy producers, which depend on organic alfalfa to feed their cows.