SACRAMENTO — Lawsuits filed Monday in California seek potential class-action damages from Dow Chemical and its successor company over a widely used bug killer linked to brain damage in children.
Chlorpyrifos is approved for use on more than 80 crops, including oranges, berries, grapes, soybeans, almonds and walnuts, though California banned sales of the pesticide last year and spraying of it this year. Some other states, including New York, have moved to ban it.
Stuart Calwell, lead attorney in the lawsuits, argued that its effects linger in Central Valley agricultural communities contaminated by chlorpyrifos during decades of use, with measurable levels still found in his clients’ homes.
Lawyers project that at least 100,000 homes in the nation’s largest agricultural state may need to dispose of most of their belongings because they are contaminated with the pesticide.
“We have found it in the houses, we have found it in carpet, in upholstered furniture, we found it in a teddy bear, and we found it on the walls and surfaces,” Calwell said. “Then a little child picks up a teddy bear and holds on to it.”
All that needs to be cleaned up, he says, because “it’s not going away on its own.”
State records show 61 million pounds of the pesticide were applied from 1974 through 2017 in four counties where the lawsuits were filed, Calwell said.
Officials with Dow and its affiliated Corteva Inc. did not immediately respond to telephone and email requests seeking comment.
Corteva stopped producing the pesticide last year. The Delaware-based company was created after a merger of Dow Chemical and Dupont and had been the world’s largest manufacturer of chlorpyrifos. The company has said it believes the product is safe and said it stopped production because of declining sales.
Scientific studies have shown that chlorpyrifos damages the brains of fetuses and children. It was first used in 1965 but was banned for household use in 2001.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is weighing whether to ban the product or declare it safe, including for infants and children. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in April ordered the EPA to make a decision after studying the product for more than a decade. The Trump administration had halted the rule-making process.
The lawsuits were filed on behalf of people in Fresno, Kings, Madera and Tulare counties, though Calwell said they are a precursor to seeking class-action status. Aside from Dow-related companies, they name various farming companies they say applied the chemical near the plaintiffs’ homes.
In each case, the plaintiffs are parents suing on behalf of children who suffer from severe neurological injuries that the lawsuits blame on their exposure to the chemical while they were in the womb or when they were very young.
Aside from nearby spraying, the lawsuits say the parent, relatives or others in frequent contact with the child worked in the fields or packing plants and became contaminated with the chemical that they passed on to the child.
Calwell filed related lawsuits last fall on behalf of farmworkers who his firm said “spent years marinating in the pesticide.”
The first of those related lawsuits blames chlorpyrifos for causing autism, cognitive and intellectual disabilities in a now-teenager born in 2003.
The teen’s father worked spraying pesticides on farm fields and his mother packed what the lawsuit says was chlorpyrifos-covered produce in a facility surrounded by fields treated with the pesticide, often applied by aerial spraying.
Calwell similarly sued Monsanto for damages he alleged it caused to homes in Nitro, West Virginia, with its use of dioxin to make the defoliant known during the Vietnam War era as Agent Orange.
That case settled for $93 million, with Monsanto paying to decontaminate 4,500 homes, a fraction of those that he alleges in California will require more extensive decontamination followed by medical monitoring.
The fire tornado, which obliterated entire neighborhoods in Redding, California, during the massive Carr Fire, still haunts former hotshot supervisor Aaron Humphrey. He says that terrifying moment forever changed his outlook.
“You are in a fog and expecting death or disaster around every corner … It collectively killed my hotshot spirit,” Humphrey, 44, said of the fire tornado.
“Hump,” as fellow firefighters and friends call him, supervised hotshot crews from the US Forest Service on blister-inducing hikes to dig out fire lines, hack down trees and set blazes to fight advancing flames. Hotshot crews of 20 to 22 people spearhead fire attacks, and it’s not uncommon for them to hike 10 miles daily with fire gear packs that can weigh up to 45 pounds.
Hump rose up from a seasonal rookie firefighter to the prestigious position of supervisor of the Eldorado Hotshots. He called it the “best job in the world.”
The pay discrepancy between federal hotshots, most of whom are employed by the US Forest Service, and firefighters for other jurisdictions is staggering.
First-year federal hotshots make $13.50 an hour, according to David Alicea, vice president of the Forest Service Union in California.
“Yes, you can make overtime, but we’re putting them through the meat grinder,” Alicea told CNN. “We’re abusing them because we are short-staffed, and they are not getting their rest periods. They get laid off when fire season is over, and they choose not to come back.”
These usually young, seasonal firefighters are some of the ones who are leaving. But all levels of firefighters are moving on, including top managers who have the most experience.
“We have experienced staffing challenges as a result of issues such as compensation, remote and hard-to-fill duty stations, a competitive employment market, and the physical and mental stress of year-round fire conditions on fire personnel,” Regina Corbin, a spokeswoman for the US Forest Service, told CNN via email.
Corbin said that Region 5, which includes California, is converting temporary seasonal positions to permanent full-time posts to improve recruitment and retention.
She says the problems are not new and apply to other federal firefighters.
“We’re down engine crews,” he said. “I know of three or four forests that are down staffed.”
He estimates they are missing hotshots in 35 key positions this summer in California.
California Sen. Dianne Feinstein pressed the US Forest Service in a May hearing on how it can stop losing hotshots to other places offering bigger salaries.
“We have 19 million acres [of California forestland] under federal jurisdiction,” Feinstein said in the May 26 hearing on Capitol Hill. “State pay is $70,000, that’s what Cal Fire pays to a state firefighter. The United States Forest Service pays $38,000.”
During the hearing, US Forest Service Chief Vicki Christiansen confirmed the average yearly pay for a US Forest Service firefighter is $38,000.
“State, local and private entities can range from $70,000 to $88,000 a year, and their benefits are better,” she said.
On Wednesday, Senators Feinstein and Alex Padilla of California, Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona and Steve Daines of Montana wrote a letter proposing a plan to raise federal firefighter pay. They are asking the Subcommittee on Financial Services and General Government to include it in the 2022 funding bill, according to the letter.
The recent fires are part of a larger trend in California.
The seven largest wildfires in state history happened within the last four years, according to Cal Fire. The Carr Fire, which changed Hump’s perspective on his work, ranked as the 12th largest fire in state history.
The increase in California’s wildfire intensity and acres burned can only be explained by factoring in climate change, according to a recent analysis of several peer-reviewed studies. Land management plays a role in the trend, experts say, but it alone cannot explain why the state’s fires have become so much more destructive.
On top of fiercer fires, an unrelenting drought and another big fire season on the horizon, California is losing hotshots, the rock star firefighters with the track records to successfully fight these mega blazes.
“I needed to be home with my family,” Hump told CNN. “The level of stress I was bringing home (from massive fires) — I didn’t even recognize myself anymore.”
Hump, a married father with three children — ages 12, 10 and 8 — now works for Pacific Gas and Electric, as a lead on the utility’s safety infrastructure protection team.
Hump says he’s paid at least $40,000 more annually than what he made before as a hotshot supervisor. The money comes with peace of mind, as he now attends all of his children’s events, even coaching some flag football.
Not enough firefighters to form hotshot crews
There are hotshot shortages across the country, but California hotshots are getting hit harder, according to Jonathan Miller, chairman of the National Forest Service Firefighters Union.
“We’ve seen some attrition across the federal crews and engines, but nothing like the shortages in California,” Miller said.
Alicea says 15 California Interagency Hotshot Crews don’t have enough members to activate as a full firefighting unit. CNN obtained a CIHC document that confirms that number.
When a hotshot crew isn’t big enough, it’s harder to fight fires, Hump says. Smaller crews can’t split up into small squads or help teams with special missions as effectively.
Members with particular qualifications are required to be called a hotshot crew, which were nicknamed for fighting the hottest fires. These crews are trained to tackle “strategic and tactical wildfire assignments,” according to the US Forest Service website.
Two crews, Modoc and Horseshoe Meadow, are operating as even lesser-staffed firefighting modules.
The Eldorado Hotshots may soon lose another seasoned manager, captain D.J. McIlhargie.
“I have five irons in the fire right now,” McIlhargie told CNN. “I’m looking for something that will work for my family more. And my wife knows that I’m tired of waiting for the forest service to give me a commensurate salary to what other departments pay.”
The father of two boys, 7 and 10, McIlhargie lives an hour outside Sacramento. He described feeling “wiped out” and “frustrated” by battling the recent streak of super fires.
McIlhargie, 39, says there are just not enough firefighters to take on massive blazes such as the ones that ravaged Northern California last year.
He says the Eldorado Hotshots spent a month trying to stop the largest wildfire in California history, the August Complex fire, which scorched more than 1 million acres.
The years in fire battle wear down the hotshots from helmet to boots, McIlhargie says.
“My knees ache every day,” he said. “My rotator cuffs are ratchety and clicky from swinging tools and carrying cans (used for backfire fuel) and carrying saws and carrying your (back) pack.”
“Your range of movement in your hips starts to go,” McIlhargie said.
More homes will burn without enough hotshots
If vacant hotshot positions don’t get filled, the firefighters CNN interviewed said more homes will burn.
“It used to be for us hotshots we are up in the mountains, the back country fighting these fires,” McIlhargie said. “Now it seems that every single fire has some element of wild land fire meets urban interface.”
Maeve Juarez spent a year as a Redding Hotshot in 2004.
The 41-year-old mother of two left her US government job as a battalion chief in the Los Padres National Forest four years ago.
“I left because I took a higher paying job with the Montecito Fire Department that allowed me to spend more time with my kids, and it’s less stress,” she said.
Juarez says the pay is significantly higher in her new role as wildfire specialist in Montecito.
Because of her experience, Juarez serves as an operations section chief on major fires, a sort of general directing fire troops from many agencies.
Juarez says losing hotshots, especially supervisors, to other jobs is hindering California’s effort to fight mega fires.
“These hotshot supes know the terrain, what type of brush is burning, how it burned in an area in the past,” Juarez said. “They are a big part of our decision making, strategy and tactics on fighting fires.”
She added: “When a veteran superintendent leaves, we lose that experience, and they are our backbone.”
Hump recalls his hotshot decades, visions of firefights, falling trees, crew members seriously burned and hotshots dying. He helped set up a memorial service in Arizona for the 19 Granite Mountain Hotshots killed when a fire burned over them eight years ago.
“It’s this feeling of doom, that every fire you go to you are going to lose someone you care about,” Hump said. “It’s terrifying. It’s hard to communicate with your family because you don’t want to scare them. You just hug them and never want to leave.”
Leaving behind the doom of that deadly fire tornado in 2018, Hump is looking ahead to this Fourth of July do something he’s never done before.
“I plan on teaching my kids to fish,” he said. “I’ve never had the time.”
Earthquakes can be like Jell-O. A simple, yet often used analogy is that if you’re sitting in a valley or basin, it acts like a bowl of gelatin and it will shake more than surrounding rock.
But not all earthquakes are created equal and the ground you walk on can make all the difference.
“The local geology definitely matters — what you’re sitting on,” said Dr. Susan Hough, a geophysicist with the US Geological Survey. “What the topography is, it definitely matters.”
Earthquakes are broken down into two basic wave types: body waves (often called P-waves or S-waves which travel through the Earth) and surface waves (which travel along the Earth’s surface).
The surface of the Earth is made up of a variety of soil types – from sand to clay to rock and many others, so the damage resulting from those basic wave types can vary as an earthquake travels through these varying types of terrain.
Hough explains further that while the waves themselves travel the same way, in the sense that a P wave is still a P wave, and a S wave is still a S wave, however, their speeds and amplitudes will change depending on the rock type.
Whether it is sedimental rock or a young sandy soil, it makes a difference.
Because the particle motion of surface waves is larger than that of body waves, surface waves tend to cause more damage.
Earthquakes occur on every continent in the world — from the highest peaks in the Himalayan Mountains to the lowest valleys like the Dead Sea to the bitter cold regions in Antarctica. However, the distribution of these quakes is not random.
Haitians walk past the collapsed Sacre Coeur Church in Port-au-Prince on January 14, 2010, following the devastating earthquake that rocked Haiti two days before.
(Thony Belizaire/AFP/Getty Images)
Ground failure estimates from a 6.0 magnitude quake in India in 2021
Houses in a poor neighborhood of Port-au-Prince lie in ruins a day after an earthquake struck the Haitian capital on January 12, 2010.
When it comes to earthquakes, the size is very important. The physical size of an earthquake is measured in magnitude. For example, a 5.5 is a moderate earthquake, and a 6.5 is a strong earthquake. Because the scale is logarithmically based, each whole number increase in magnitude represents a tenfold increase. So, a 6.5 magnitude quake is 10 times bigger than a 5.5 magnitude, not one times bigger like the number implies.
But just because the magnitude of an earthquake is bigger does not always mean the resulting damage is worse.
For example, in January 2010, a magnitude 7.0 quake struck Haiti. More than 200,000 people lost their lives during that event with estimated damages between $7.8 and $8.5 billion.
In 2019 a 7.1 magnitude quake struck near Ridgecrest, California. For this stronger quake only one person lost their life, with an estimated $5 billion in damages.
Besides the magnitude being similar, the depths were also similar. The Haiti quake was 8 miles (13 km) deep, and the California quake was 5 miles (8 km) deep. While 8 miles may not sound shallow, it is in terms of earthquakes. Geologically speaking, any earthquake that is less than 43 miles (70 km) deep is considered shallow. The shallower an earthquake is, the more likely damage will occur since it is closer to the surface.
So why was there such a disparity between the fatalities and damages from two quakes with such similar magnitudes and depths? The answer has a lot to do with plate tectonics and how buildings are constructed.
Earthquakes emit low and high frequencies. If the ground vibrates slowly, it is low frequency. If the ground vibrates quickly, it’s more of a high frequency.
Low frequencies mainly affect multistory buildings in particular. In fact, the lower the frequency, the bigger the buildings that will be affected. Whereas high frequencies tend to affect small buildings.
Frequency was just one factor in why the Haiti earthquake was so devastating.
“The earthquake itself, like most large earthquakes, released energy with a wide range of frequencies,” Hough tells CNN. “The bigger the earthquake, the greater the level of booming low tones. But big earthquakes also release a lot of high-frequency energy. The high-frequency energy gets damped out quickly as it travels through the earth, so the Haiti earthquake was damaging to Port-au-Prince in part because the fault rupture was so close.”
Subsoil is often just as important as magnitude and frequency.
In Haiti and other island nations, you have rocks that rise from the surface, on which houses are built, to much softer zones which can actually amplify the seismic waves.
These factors can locally intensify the seismic waves, therefore leading to additional damage.
“In the 1906 California earthquake, some people living 100 miles away slept through the quake,” Hough said. “Whereas the New Madrid earthquakes (which happened in 1811 and 1812 in present-day Missouri), it actually rang church bells in Charleston, South Carolina. That has to do with how the waves travel through the crust. There’s a difference.”
California’s terrain varies widely. There are active faults, mountain ranges, valleys, basins and beaches. When an earthquake occurs in California, the energy is scattered around and gets attenuated by the varying terrain, which means it just doesn’t make it very far out into the crust.
In contrast, the East Coast has an older crust. When an earthquake happens, it reverberates like the waves produced by a ripple in water. The waves can travel for hundreds of miles, usually much farther in the East than in California.
“There’s three important factors with earthquakes, there’s energy that leaves the source, there’s amplification by the local geology when it gets to a site, and then there’s what happens in between,” Hough said. “It’s the in between that really matters for East Coast versus West Coast.”
Haiti also has a topographical aspect to it. Port-au-Prince sits mostly at sea level, with sandy sediments in those low-lying areas. But just 10-15 miles away, the elevation increases several thousand feet into a more mountainous terrain with harder rock at the surface.
Shaking is amplified by low-lying sandy sediments in Port-au-Prince, but also on some of Haiti’s hills and ridges due to a topographic effect.
But we must also build structures according to the soil and/or rock that we are building on.
Constructing on harder ground provides more stability for the buildings because essentially the rock absorbs the waves. Hough cited the 2015 magnitude 7.8 earthquake that struck Nepal and leveled multistory buildings in the capital of Kathmandu.
“In Kathmandu in 2015, there was a booming amplification because it’s a lake bed zone, but the valley was sloshing back and forth with a five-second period, and you can see that on closed captioned TV. You had things that went to one side … one one thousand, two one thousand, and then back three one thousand, four one thousand. It’s a fairly slow motion, and it was strong due to the lake bed. But the effect on buildings depends on the size of the buildings.”
Hough uses an analogy of a big swell in the ocean explaining that waves will be damaging if they jostle the boat violently. For a large ship on a big swell its bow would go up while the stern goes down, generating stress within the boat. If the ship is smaller than the swell, the entire ship just goes up and down — essentially going along for the ride.
When the ground becomes a liquid
Another significant contributor to earthquake damage comes from earthquake-triggered landslides and liquefaction, collectively known as ground failure.
The USGS has a ground failure product that provides near-real time regional estimates of landslide and liquefaction hazards triggered by earthquakes.
“It takes time for first responders and experts to survey the actual damage in the area, so our product provides early estimates of where to focus attention and response planning,” according to the USGS.
Though the models provide initial awareness, overall extent, and indicate areas in which they are most likely to have occurred, they do not predict very specific occurrences.
Using satellite imagery, the USGS was able to map more than 23,000 landslides that were triggered by the strong shaking across the island of Hispaniola from the 2010 Haiti quake.
But landslides are just one component of ground failure.
Liquefaction is a process where water-saturated sediments are shaken hard enough to start behaving more like a liquid rather than a solid.
“There is something called non-linearity, and it turns out that if you try to shake soft sediments really hard, it’s not a bowl of Jell-O as much as it is a sandbox,” Hough says.
For example, Hough explains that if you shake a sandbox really hard, it’s going to stop acting like rock. Things are going to shift around at grain-size level and that process absorbs energy.
A tweet surfaced during a 6.0 magnitude quake that struck India in 2021 showing how liquefaction occurred.
“If the sand is water-saturated, as I imagine it is in many places in India, it can start to behave like a liquid. Liquefaction has a couple of consequences for shaking: some of the potentially damaging shaking gets absorbed, which can be a good thing, but if the ground beneath a structure starts behaving like a liquid, the structure no longer has a solid foundation. It’s like it’s sitting on quicksand. Even a well-built building can just tip over,” Hough told CNN.
Any aftershocks will further the damage since buildings could be already structurally compromised from the initial quake. Building on a slope, or especially soft ground, can lead to the sinking of the foundations and allow the waves to multiply the devastating impact of the earthquake.
It’s also important to note that what works in one disaster does not work in another.
It is often mentioned that buildings in Haiti are not built to the same standards that buildings are in California, New Zealand or Chile where earthquakes are also common. While this is true, it only tells part of the story.
Haiti is more likely to be hit by a major hurricane in any given year than they are by a major earthquake.
Hough explains that they have a building style where they put very heavy roofs on for hurricanes, so the roof doesn’t blow off. But when an earthquake happens, the very heavy concrete roof gets displaced and compromises the underlying structure, which likely already had some element of building vulnerability to begin with.
LOS ANGELES (AP) — After a state appeals court blocked Kern County’s effort to speed up new oil and gas drilling, officials overseeing the state’s prime oil patch have revised an ordinance that could permit tens of thousands of new wells over the next 15 years.
The Kern County Board of Supervisors is poised to vote Monday on the plan that would streamline the permitting process by creating a blanket environmental impact report for drilling as many as 2,700 wells a year.
While the petroleum industry supports the changes, environmentalists and community groups have said the plan has barely changed and doesn’t address violations of the California Environmental Quality Act.
The 5th District Court of Appeal in Fresno last year found the 2015 plan violated the law by not fully evaluating or disclosing environmental damage that would occur from drilling.
“They’re attempting this huge end-around of this fundamental environmental protection,” said attorney Hollin Kretzmann of the Center for Biological Diversity. “If you drill a well in Kern County, you’re going to get a rubber-stamp permit.”
Kern County, about 100 miles (161 kilometers) north of Los Angeles, is the state’s leading fossil fuel producer. About 1 in 7 workers in the county has a job tied to the industry.
The county hasn’t been able to issue permits in a year and the industry is facing challenges from lawmakers as well as environmental groups for creating air and water pollution and for significant contributions to climate change.
Gov. Gavin Newsom ordered a ban on the sale of new gas-powered passenger cars and trucks by 2035. New legislation would ban all fracking by 2027, limiting a technique by energy companies to inject water, sand, gravel and chemicals in the ground at high pressure to extract hard-to-reach oil and gas.
The county planning department, which developed the ordinance with the help of the petroleum industry, defended the revised plan and said it would promote public health and safety.
The county says that under the revised plan, for example, barriers will be placed around oil drilling rigs to keep the noise down.
Planning Director Lorelei Oviatt refused to comment in advance of the hearing.
Kevin Slagle, vice president of the Western States Petroleum Association, said the group strongly supports the ordinance.
The controversy over the ordinance began when the county amended its zoning code in 2015 to allow it to approve new oil and gas extraction permits after a review that determined applications would meet the requirements of a blanket environmental impact report. Environmentalists argued that a one-size-fits-all approach didn’t address different factors that vary by location such as habitat or proximity to neighborhoods.
The ordinance was designed to avoid costly, time-consuming environmental reviews of individual wells and was approved despite “significant, adverse environmental impacts,” the appellate court said.
“The ordinance’s basic purpose is the acceleration of oil and gas development and the economic benefits that might be achieved by that development,” the ruling said. “Its basic purpose is not the protection of the environment.”
Juan Flores of the Center on Race, Poverty and the Environment said the county hasn’t addressed the court’s concerns. His organization will likely be returning to court if the board approves the latest iteration of the proposal, he said.
“The biggest issue for the community is that they’re trying to excuse thousands upon thousands of wells with just one environmental impact report,” Flores said. “They shouldn’t get a pass on putting the science behind their oil wells so they can prove there’s no negative impact on the environment or human health.”
The US is once again the shark attack capital of the world in 2020. Thanks, Florida!
Last year, the US reported 33 unprovoked shark attacks, accounting for about 58% of the total number of unprovoked shark attacks that occurred worldwide, according to the Yearly World Shark Attack Summary from the International Shark Attack File (ISAF).
This is a decrease from 2019, when 64% of the global unprovoked bites occurred in the US.
ISAF categorizes shark attacks by first deciding if they were provoked or unprovoked.
“Unprovoked attacks are defined as incidents in which an attack on a live human occurs in the shark’s natural habitat with no human provocation of the shark,” ISAF said.
“Provoked attacks occur when a human initiates interaction with a shark in some way. These include instances when divers are bitten after harassing or trying to touch sharks, bites on spearfishers, bites on people attempting to feed sharks, bites occurring while unhooking or removing a shark from a fishing net and so forth.”
ISAF said it investigated 129 alleged shark-human interactions worldwide in 2020 — 57 were unprovoked shark bites on humans, and 39 were provoked bites.
Of the 33 unprovoked shark attacks in the US, 16 of them were in Florida. The state’s 16 cases represent 28% of unprovoked bites worldwide.
“For decades, Florida has topped global charts in the number of shark bites, and this trend continued in 2020,” ISAF said in its summary. “However, the state saw a significant drop from its most recent five-year annual average of 30 incidents.”
Eight of the shark bites in Florida, or 50% of the state’s total in 2020, occurred in Volusia County, according to the ISAF.
How the pandemic impacted shark attack reporting process
ISAF said that while the incidence of bites both in the US and globally have been declining over time, “2020’s numbers represent a more drastic drop than would be expected.”
Gavin Naylor, director of the Florida Museum of Natural History’s shark research program, said that Covid-19’s impact was something he and his colleagues speculated about back in March.
According to Naylor, the pandemic hasn’t necessarily caused a drop in cases — but it has impacted researchers’ ability to follow-up and confirm cases when they are reported.
“We typically talk to emergency room doctors and nurses to create our reports,” Naylor said. “However, they’ve been so overwhelmed with the Covid-19 response that they haven’t always had time to talk to a bunch of scientists that are asking detailed questions about a shark attack.”
Based on its research in the last year, ISAF said the “observed drop in shark bite incidents may have been caused by the widespread quarantines, closed beaches and minimized vacation travel in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Spike in shark-related fatalities reported worldwide
There were 13 shark-related fatalities this year, 10 of which were confirmed to be unprovoked, ISAF said in its Yearly Worldwide Shark Attack Summary.
“This number is above the annual global average of four unprovoked fatalities per year,” ISAF wrote.
But, “despite 2020’s spike in fatalities, long-term trends show a decreasing number of annual fatalities. Year-to-year variability in oceanographic, socioeconomic and meteorological conditions significantly influences the local abundance of sharks and humans in the water.”
Of the global fatalities, Australia saw “a higher incidence of fatal bites than normal in 2020,” ISAF said. The country had six confirmed fatal shark attacks.
“Australians are not naive when it comes to the inherent dangers of surfing and swimming,” Naylor said. “So I was surprised that the number was as high as it was this year.”
Meanwhile, in the US, there were three confirmed fatal shark attacks last year. This is an increase from 2019, when there weren’t any confirmed cases in the US.
The three fatal attacks happened in Hawaii, California and Maine. Although Florida is usually home to most of the unprovoked attacks, the state didn’t have any confirmed fatalities last year.
How to avoid a shark attack
Most bites — 61% of the total cases in 2020 — were related to surfing and board sports, ISAF said.
But don’t worry: “Short-term trends still show both fatal and non-fatal bites to be decreasing,” ISAF said.
“The total number of unprovoked shark bites worldwide is extremely low, given the number of people participating in aquatic recreation each year.”
Officials with the South Coast Air Quality Management District said on Monday, Jan. 25, it has lifted restrictions on the number of cremations allowed in Orange County as officials try to address a backlog of cremations.
Limitations were previously suspended in Los Angeles County and the order is being extended there.
The order signed Monday by Wayne Nastri, executive officer of South Coast Air Quality Management District, comes as the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health and the Orange County Health Care Agency confirm the growing backlog of cremation cases within each county constitutes a threat to public health.
As of Jan. 15, there are more than 2,700 bodies being stored at hospitals and coroner’s offices. The order is effective immediately and expires on Feb. 4.
There are 14 permitted crematoriums in Orange County.
The additional emissions that would be emitted are not expected to have a significant impact on regional air quality, Nahal Mogharabi, spokesperson for the district, said. “Although there will be a temporary increase in emissions during the short period of the emergency order, the expected air toxic impacts resulting from increased activity at these facilities are relatively small.”
To qualify, a cremation facility must be reaching or exceeding its limits. Before getting started, the crematorium must send an email notification to the air quality agency.
Thanks to COVID-19, we’ve never had to wash our hands more and spring cleaning is even more important.
It’s not easy being clean
The COVID-19 virus is about 10,000 times smaller than the period at the end of this sentence. How long it can linger on surfaces is not certain.
A new analysis published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that the virus can remain viable in the air for up to 3 hours, on copper for up to 4 hours, on cardboard up to 24 hours and on plastic and stainless steel up to 72 hours.
A report by Johns Hopkins University found coronavirus molecules remain very stable in external cold, or artificial as air conditioners in houses and cars.
The virus also needs moisture to stay stable, and especially darkness. Therefore, dehumidified, dry, warm and bright environments will degrade it faster.
UV light on any object that may contain it breaks down the virus protein.
Cleaning refers to the removal of germs, dirt and impurities from surfaces. Cleaning does not kill germs.
Disinfecting refers to using chemicals to kill germs on surfaces. This process does not necessarily clean dirty surfaces or remove germs, but by killing germs on a surface after cleaning, it can further lower the risk of spreading infection.
The coronavirus is a protein molecule, it is not killed, but decays on its own. The disintegration time depends on the temperature, humidity and type of material where it lies.
The CDC urges people to wash their hands regularly with soap for 20 seconds.
If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.
The CDC recommends wearing disposable gloves when cleaning and disinfecting surfaces.
Hard surfaces should be cleaned using a detergent or soap and water prior to disinfection.
For disinfection, diluted household bleach solutions, alcohol solutions with at least 70% alcohol and most common EPA-registered household disinfectants should be effective. The EPA lists more than 350 disinfectants to help fight the virus.
Prepare a bleach solution by mixing: 5 tablespoons (1/3 cup) bleach per gallon of water or 4 teaspoons bleach per quart of water
In the bedroom/bathroom dedicated for an ill person, consider reducing cleaning frequency to as-needed.
As much as possible, an ill person should stay in a specific room.
The caregiver can provide personal cleaning supplies for an ill person’s room and bathroom. These supplies include tissues, paper towels, cleaners and EPA-registered disinfectants.
Bathrooms should be cleaned and disinfected after each use by an ill person. If this is not possible, the caregiver should wait as long as practical after use by an ill person to clean and disinfect the high-touch surfaces.
Household members should follow home care guidance when interacting with suspected/confirmed COVID-19 cases. More info: coronavirus.org
Wash hands regularly
These are some of the results of a 2013 study by Michigan State University’s School of Hospitality Business that was published in the Journal of Environment Health. When asked, 95% of people claimed to wash their hands after using public restrooms, but the observational study found the following:
The study also found that:
People are more likely to wash their hands in the morning than in the afternoon or evening.
More women than men wash their hands with soap.
Health care and hand-washing
In the history of hand-washing, it’s helped the most in hospitals.
In the 1850s, Florence Nightingale, considered the founder of modern nursing, insisted people wash their hands in war hospitals during the Crimean War. This resulted in greatly reduced infection rates among wounded soldiers.
In today’s hospitals, the most commonly used method to track hand hygiene compliance is direct observation, or someone watching health-care workers.
Germs in the house
The invisible enemy isn’t alone. Here’s a look at germs around the house compiled by British company SCS Cleaning. The information comes from the British National Health Service and the BBC.
According to Authority Dental, 0.5% hydrogen peroxide effectively reduces human coronaviruses on a toothbrush. You can mix hydrogen peroxide with water (1 teaspoon of HP, 1 cup of water) to dilute it. Soak a brush for 1 minute then rinse it under running water.
Sources: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, SCS Cleaning, BBC, Michigan State University
The 2019 theme for Earth Day is ‘protect our species’ so today we look at some that are threatened or near extinction in California.
The California flag features a grizzly bear that roamed the state, stood 8 feet and weighed more than a ton. The bear was considered a threat to livestock and people and has been extinct since the 1920s. The California grizzly was designated the official state animal in 1953, 30 years after it was killed off. Gray wolves were the other large mammal to join the path of extinction in the 1920s but now are moving back in from other states to Northern California.
Giant of the skies
California condors were listed as endangered in 1967 and were nearly extinct by 1987, when all of the wild birds (22-27) were captured to save the population. The birds were kept in breeding facilities at the Los Angeles Zoo and the San Diego Wild Animal Park.
The captive breeding of the birds was a gamble that paid off. Condor recovery is slow because their reproductive rate is one egg laid every year or two. By 1992, several of the birds were released back into the wild in Ventura County and by 1994, captive condors had laid more than 100 eggs.
Biologists have released California condors from captivity every year since 1996.
Getting the lead out
Condors’ food includes animals that were shot, and lead poisoning from spent ammunition was found to be partially responsible for the population’s decline.
California bans lead ammunition in the outlined area shown on the map, but as of July 1, the prohibition will be statewide.
The ban only applies to hunters; target shooting and personal protection are not impacted. Many shooting ranges will recycle lead ammo shot by customers.
The list of fully protected animals
The state Department of Fish and Wildlife issues citations to those suspected of breaking laws protecting wildlife. Violations involving endangered species can bring fines up to $50,000 and up to a year in jail, while crimes against threatened species can result in a $25,000 fine and six months behind bars.
Some species listed are extremely rare in California, such as the wolverine, whose numbers were thought to be as low as eight 10 years ago in the Tahoe National Forest and which have not been seen much since.
Two other California species that have bounced back from near extinction are the sea otter and the Channel Islands dwarf fox. Sea otters were hunted down to about 2,000 by 1911. Their worldwide population is about 100,000 today.
The foxes’ numbers were down to about 100 in 1999. The foxes were mostly hunted by golden eagles, which resulted in some birds being relocated. Some foxes were bred in captivity and now there are more than 2,000 on the islands.
Morro Bay kangaroo rat
Northern elephant seal
Guadalupe fur seal
Pacific right whale
Salt-marsh harvest mouse
Southern sea otter
Colorado River squawfish
Lost River sucker
Owens River pupfish
Unarmored three-spine stickleback
Santa Cruz long-toed salamander
Blunt-nosed leopard lizard
San Francisco garter snake
American peregrine falcon
California black rail
California clapper rail
California least tern
Greater sandhill crane
Light-footed clapper rail
Southern bald eagle
Yuma clapper rail
Sources: California Fish and Wildlife, The Cornell Lab of Ornithology, NatureServe, National GeographicPhotos: SCNG, NOAA
Daylight saving time began at 2 a.m. today, so let’s take a minute to talk about time.
Assembly Bill 7
After a failed attempt to end daylight saving time in California in 2016, Proposition 7 passed with 59.75 percent in favor of ending daylight saving time in 2018.
It’s going to take time before daylight saving ends in the state. AB 7 needs a two-thirds vote by the Legislature and must be signed by the governor, then will need to be approved by the federal government.
The state government is expected to vote on AB 7 this month.
While on diplomatic duty in Paris, Benjamin Franklin became the first to suggest shifting clocks forward in the spring and back in the fall to save money on candles.
On April 30, Germany became the first nation to enact daylight saving time to conserve electricity. The Germans were fighting World War I. The British followed their lead and introduced “summer time” a few weeks later.
The approximate number of countries that observe daylight saving time. They have about one-quarter of the world’s population. Most countries near the equator have no need to change time for more daylight hours.
Daylight saving time is extended from the first Sunday in April in the U.S. to its current length, beginning the second Sunday in March and ending the first Sunday in November.
Hours in the day
By springing forward the clock, we’ll lose an hour. This chart shows the average amount of time per day Americans of various ages spend in selected activities. The data refer to all days of the week and were calculated by the Bureau of Labor Statistics for 2016.
The long and short of it
With the clocks turning forward, you will lose 3,600 seconds of the day. Not much when you consider there are 86,400 seconds in a day.
The first clocks to have a second hand appeared in the 1750s.
Take an eon
In formal usage, eons are the longest portions of geologic time after what’s called an era. Less formally, an eon equates to 1 billion years.
Once in a blue moon
A blue moon happens on average about every 2.7 years. A seasonal blue moon is the third of four full moons in one season. The next seasonal blue moon is May 18.
The second of two full moons in the same month is also called a blue moon.
Just one zeptosecond
In 2016, researchers at the Max Planck Institute in Germany measured minute changes within an atom on the zeptosecond scale. It is the the smallest measurement of time ever recorded. How small? The number would be sitting 21 places behind the decimal point, or a trillionth of a billionth of a second.
In a jiffy
A jiffy is a measurement in electronics, computing, astrophysics, and quantum physics. In physics, it is roughly the time it takes light to travel 1 centimeter in a vacuum, approximately 33.3564 picoseconds (a picosecond is one-trillionth of a second).
Fast as lightning
The bolt of lightning that moves upward travels at about 320 million feet per second, which is about one third the speed of light. Thunder is much slower and travels about 1,100 feet per second.
At the drop of a hat
Gravity accelerates at 9.8 meters per second, per second. A light object, such as a hat falling from about 6 feet, would travel approximately 7.67 meters per second and land in about .78 seconds.
In a heartbeat
The average heart rate is 72 beats per minute, when one heartbeat occurs every .83 seconds.
Sources: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Smithsonian, U.S. Naval Observatory, California Energy Commission
The 22nd annual Great Backyard Bird Count is underway and continues through Monday. To celebrate, we take a look at a few of the more prestigious raptors of California that have come dangerously close to extinction that you might find in your own backyard.
The bald eagle has been the national emblem of the United States since 1782 and a spiritual symbol for Native Americans. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, the bald eagle was close to extinction in the lower 48 states with fewer than 30 nesting pairs in California, largely due to the use of pesticides. It has made a remarkable comeback with surveys showing that the state’s winter population exceeds 1,000.
Golden eagles are found throughout North America, but are more common in western North America. Little is known about the eagle abundance, but it is thought that numbers may be declining in some, if not all, parts of their range. Golden eagle abundance in California is unknown.
The peregrine falcon is the fastest bird in the world, capable of reaching 150 to 200 mph in their dives when chasing prey. They were virtually eradicated from eastern North America by pesticide poisoning in the middle 20th century but have made an incredible recovery and are regularly seen in large cities and coastal areas.
The white-tailed kite earns its name for the way it resembles a kite in flight. With its body turned toward the wind and wings gently flapping, it hovers above the ground like a kite. The white-tailed kite was rendered almost extinct in California in the 1930s and 1940s due to shooting and egg-collecting, but they are now common again. Although their distribution is patchy, they can be found in the Central Valley and southern coastal areas.
While great stretches of the United States, from New York to Iowa, have seen a decline in barn owls since the 1950s, California maintains surprisingly robust populations due to the abundance of open space of natural grasslands and agricultural fields, where rodent populations increase significantly.
FLOCK TO THE WEB
Great Backyard Bird Count participants are asked to count birds for a minimum of 15 minutes on one or more days this weekend and report sightings online at birdcount.org.
You can see what birds are regularly in your area with eBird species maps.