10/1999 News Briefs

Published October 1, 1999

Termites Don’t Pass Gas

The University of Iowa has discovered that, despite a high-fiber diet–such as your home–termites do not pass methane gas, as do cattle, which also have a high-fiber diet. The university labels methane a “potent greenhouse gas and major contributor to global warming.” There was no indication that the university would attempt to crossbreed termites with cows.

The same issue of the school’s Illumine magazine reviews a work on Gender and Nationalism in Colonial Cuba. This has nothing to do with the environment, but struck this editor as about as relevant as studying termite flatulence or lack thereof.

Catnip Repels Cockroaches

Iowa State University has discovered that catnip repels cockroaches. So far they have tested the active ingredient in catnip only on the small, brown European cockroach, and not on the larger American variety. According to researchers, the inedible Osage orange also seems to repel the bugs. Next up: the impact of catnip and orange on mosquitoes.

Island Deal a Dead Duck

Representative John Dingell (D-Michigan) has vowed to kill the Interior Department’s attempt to buy a small, uninhabited atoll about 1,000 miles south of Hawaii. The purchase would be financed with revenue from Duck Stamps and duties on imported firearms and ammunition. Ten ducks are known to inhabit the island, whose purchase would cost taxpayers $44,118 per acre.

Worst Case Scenarios Withheld

Both the U.S. House and Senate have passed, by unanimous consent, a measure that puts release of Worst Case Scenario (WCS) information on hold for one year while a reasonable method for managing the information’s distribution can be worked out.

Proponents of the bill contended the early release of WCS information would have provided terrorists with detailed data on hazardous chemical stocks throughout the country, as well as information on how best to blow them up or cause release into the atmosphere. The measure had overwhelming support, causing President Clinton to sign it into law even though he, the Vice President, and EPA Administrator Carol Browner previously had supported the release of the information.

EPA “Home Alone” as Groups Walk out

Groups representing local elected officials. sewer system operators, and other water quality officials walked out in protest from a meeting with the Environmental Protection Agency, held to develop new regulations concerning sanitary sewer overflows. The groups warned the new regulations desired by EPA would require huge tax expenditures but produce little results. They also feared the proposed rules would produce frivolous lawsuits.

Soil Erosion Decreasing

Soil erosion from farmland is decreasing, according to a study by the University of California’s Stanley Trimble, published in the journal Science. One of the first studies to precisely measure and document soil erosion, Trimble’s study refutes previously published reports claiming soil erosion is becoming as serious a problem as it was during the dust bowl, 60 years ago.

Fido Fears

Researchers at Mississippi State University’s School of Veterinary Medicine are launching a study to determine the degree to which children and adults are exposed to organophosphate pesticides by the flea collars worn by dogs and cats. “We’re going to be looking at urine samples from the adults and children to find out how much of that insecticide actually gets into the bodies of the people,” said Janice Chambers PhD, director of the school’s Center for Environmental Health Sciences.

Sludge Protest

Residents of rural Momence, Illinois are protesting a plan by Chicago’s Waste Management, Inc. to spread sludge from Chicago municipal garbage on area farm fields. The company wants to spread up to 60,000 tons of the ground-up garbage per year on land owned by an organic farm. “It’s just not acceptable for farmland. It belongs in a landfill,” wrote Leigh Marcotte in the Kankakee County newspaper, Sentinel.