Rain on China blast city raises pollution and contamination fears – ground water poisoned from massive blast crater?

China Explosion
August 2015CHINAHeavy rain fell Tuesday on the remains of a Chinese industrial site devastated by giant explosions, complicating clean-up efforts and heightening fears about toxic contamination as ceremonies were held to mark the disaster’s 114 deaths. Around 700 tons of highly toxic sodium cyanide were at the site in the northern port of Tianjin, officials say, and water could spread it more widely. Rainwater could also disperse chemical residues on the ground into the air when it evaporates, and some of the many substances on the scene could react with it. Amid public anger over the disaster more details about the site operator were reported and a senior work safety official was put under investigation. Officials have insisted the city’s air and water are safe, but locals and victims’ relatives have voiced skepticism, while international environment group Greenpeace has also urged transparency. “I’m worried because we don’t know what’s in the rain,” said a taxi driver as he made his way through the morning deluge. “It could be full of poison.”
Out of 40 water testing points, eight showed excess levels of cyanide on Monday, all within a cordoned-off area surrounding the site of the blasts. The highest reading was 28.4 times official standards, said Bao Jingling, chief engineer at the Tianjin environmental protection bureau. The chemical had been detected at another 21 points and cyanide traces were detected at four other seawater testing points, he added. Authorities have built a dam of sand and earth around the blasts’ central 100,000-square-metre (120,000-square-yard) “core area” to prevent pollutant leakage, Bao said, and drained water from pits and pipelines to make space for the rain. Sodium cyanide, which has a variety of industrial uses including gold mining, is a toxic white crystal or powder. It can release hydrogen cyanide gas, used in gas chamber executions in the U.S. Acute exposure at lower concentrations can cause weakness, nausea and eye and skin irritation while chronic exposure can affect the cardiovascular and central nervous systems, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

“We are paying high attention to the rain forecast for the coming couple of days,” Bao told reporters. “We are making plans for the treatment of tens of thousands of tons of polluted water in the pit in the core area.” The air would be “closely monitored” at 18 testing points, and if excessive levels of cyanide or organic compounds were detected the public would be alerted promptly, he promised. But residents are skeptical. “How can we say that the environment is clear?” asked Chen Xingyao, who lived near the blast site and was protesting outside the hotel where the press conference was being held, to demand government compensation for her ruined apartment. “Also, if only the government will test the environment, nobody can know whether it’s good or not.” Amid public anger over the blast and the handling of the aftermath, Chinese media — which are effectively controlled by the authorities — have pointed blame squarely at local officials and the company involved, rather than at any systemic failings in the Communist-ruled country.
The warehouse owner, Ruihai International Logistics, had a license to handle dangerous chemicals at the time of the blast, but there were questions about its certificates and it had previously operated without one, the official Xinhua news agency reported. A total of 10 executives from the firm, including its chief executive, have been detained by police, reports said. The head of China’s national work safety watchdog, Yang Dongliang — a former vice mayor of Tianjin — has been put under investigation for “suspected severe violation of discipline and the law,” the Communist party’s internal anti-graft watchdog said without giving details. The phrase is normally a euphemism for corruption. According to state broadcaster CCTV, a senior fire brigade official said there had been a total of 3,000 tons of dangerous chemicals on the site, in 40 different categories. –Economic Times of India
China Blast
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Air pollution killing 4,000 in China a day, U.S. study finds

China pollution
August 2015BEIJING, ChinaAir pollution is killing about 4,000 people in China a day, accounting for 1 in 6 premature deaths in the world’s most populous country, a new study finds. Physicists at the University of California, Berkeley, calculated that about 1.6 million people in China die each year from heart, lung and stroke problems because of incredibly polluted air, especially small particles of haze. Earlier studies put the annual Chinese air pollution death toll at 1 to 2 million, but this is the first to use newly released Chinese air monitoring figures. The study released Thursday blamed emissions from the burning of coal, both for electricity and heating homes. The study, to be published in the journal PLOS One, uses real air measurements and then computer model calculations that estimate heart, lung and stroke deaths for different types of pollutants.
Study lead author Robert Rohde said that 38 percent of the Chinese population lives in an area with a long-term air quality average that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency calls “unhealthy.” “It’s a very big number,” Rohde said Thursday. “It’s a little hard to wrap your mind around the numbers. Some of the worst in China is to the southwest of Beijing.” To put Chinese air pollution in perspective, the most recent American Lung Association data shows that Madera, California, has the highest annual average for small particles in the United States. But 99.9 percent of the eastern half of China has a higher annual average for small particle haze than Madera, Rohde said.
“In other words, nearly everyone in China experiences air that is worse for particulates than the worst air in the U.S.,” Rohde said. In a 2010 document, the EPA estimates that between 63,000 and 88,000 people die in the U.S. from air pollution. Other estimates range from 35,000 to 200,000. Unlike the U.S., air pollution in China is worst in the winter because of burning of coal to heat homes and weather conditions that keeps dirty air closer to the ground, Rohde said. Beijing will host the 2022 Winter Olympics. Outside scientists praised the research. Jason West at the University of North Carolina said he expects “it will be widely influential.” Allen Robinson at Carnegie Mellon University said in an email that parts of the United States, like Pittsburgh, used to have almost as bad air but have become much cleaner “through tough regulations combined with large collapse of heavy industry (it moved to Asia).”As China starts to clean up its air, limiting coal use, it will also reduce emissions of carbon dioxide, the chief global warming gas, Rohde said. –DW
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Ecuadorian volcano Cotopaxi’s activity is threatening 325,000 lives.

Cotopaxi Volcano
August 2015 ECUADOR It may have been more than 100 years since Cotopaxi’s last major eruption, but it’s Ecuador’s most active volcano and second tallest, at 19,347 feet. Cotopaxi’s most recent activity was when it shot ash a few kilometers in the air Saturday according to CBC reports. This spit of activity started Friday when the volcano shot ash seven miles high. Top disaster official Maria del Pilar Cornejo told reporters that the effects of ash shooting from the volcano is dependent on winds in the area. Cornejo added that the biggest threat to those around the volcano is the potential for fast-moving mud and rock current.
After the initial rumbling, hundreds of people were evacuated from Cotopaxi’s slopes and Correa placed a prohibition on journalists from reporting information that wasn’t from official sources. Correa claimed this prior restraint to be necessary to guarantee the safety of citizen’s around the volcano. According to Decree 755 signed by Correa Saturday, information reporters use must come from the security ministry’s official bulletins. This was done to rumors and misinformation according to the government. “The most important thing is not to create unnecessary panic in the population, and not to create excessive tranquility either,” Fernando Alvarado, Ecuador’s communication minister, said. –US News and World Report
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Superbugs: treatment-resistant head lice have now spread to 25 U.S. states

Lice B
August 2015HEALTHJust in time for the new school year, head lice have become literal superbugs. Lice have developed a high level of resistance to the most common over-the-counter treatments in 25 states, according to research presented at a meeting of the American Chemical Society. “If you overuse a product, over time, the selection pressure will cause insects to develop resistance to it,” Kyong Yoon, an assistant professor of biological and environmental science at Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville and lead author of this ongoing research, told a group of journalists.
Head lice are most commonly treated with pyrethroids, a widely used class of indoor-outdoor insecticides, often used for mosquito control. Yoon and his team found that lice developed a gene mutation, known as knock-down resistance (kdr) against the pyrethroids — rendering them ineffective. In 104 out of the 109 lice populations Yoon tested, the insects were resistant to pyrethroids. “Lice don’t have wings, and they don’t jump, so they move where people move,” Yoon said. That’s why the new school year is such a vulnerable time for head lice transmission. Kids bring lice back from vacations and into the classroom, where they pass the infestation on to their classmates.
“It’s a really, really serious problem right now in the U.S.,” Yoon told Time. “Though head lice aren’t known to transmit any diseases, they can be an itchy nuisance — and now, they’re harder to kill.” Pyrethroid-resistant lice were first discovered in Israel in the 1990s and Yoon was one of the first researchers to report on pyrethroid-resistant lice in the United States, in Massachusetts in 2000. “At this particular time, we have five states that are not completely saturated with the kdr mutations,” said co-author, J. Marshall Clark, a professor of veterinary and animal sciences at the University of Massachusetts. Among those five states, there’s only one state — Michigan — where the population of lice are still largely susceptible to pyrethroids.
There are other chemicals, such asivermectin or spinosad, which are available by prescription, that can kill head lice, but they’re not as safe or as gentle as the pyrethroids that doctors and schools currently recommend. “For the past 20 to 25 years, we only used the products containing over-the-counter pyrethroids,” Clark said. “One, because they were very available. Two, because they are incredibly safe.” To prevent head lice from mutating again the future, said Clark, there need to be a number of anti-lice products on the market at the same time, so that lice can’t select against one particular mutation, the way they did with pyrethroids. –Huffington Post
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Death toll from blasts in China’s chemical factory rises to 104, Xi urges changes

China Explosion
August 2015TIANJIN, ChinaThe death toll from two massive explosions that tore through an industrial area in the northeastern Chinese port of Tianjin has risen to 104, state media said on Saturday, as China’s president urged improvements in workplace safety. Chinese President Xi Jinping said authorities should learn the lessons paid for with blood in Wednesday warehouse blasts, according to the official Xinhua news agency. The number of people killed had previously been put at 85. China evacuated residents who had taken refuge in a school near the site of two huge explosions, state media said, after a change in wind direction on Saturday prompted fears that toxic chemical particles could be blown inland. It was not clear from media reports how many people were evacuated.
The evacuation order came as a fire broke out again at the site of Wednesday’s blasts, a warehouse specially designed to store dangerous chemicals, according to Xinhua. Evacuees were advised to wear long trousers and face masks as they “evacuated in an orderly fashion,” according to a post on the official microblog of the Tianjin branch of the National Health and Family Planning Commission of China. The streets appeared calm. But not all was clear amid emotional scenes as families of missing fire fighters sought answers about their loved ones and officials tried to keep media cameras away. Gong Jiansheng, a district official, told reporters there had been no evacuation.
In one piece of encouraging news, a 50-year-old man was rescued 50 meters away from the blast zone, Xinhua said. The man was suffering from a burnt respiratory tract but was in a stable condition after surviving three days in a shipping container, the official China Central Television (CCTV) and Xinhua said. Chinese police confirmed for the first time the presence of deadly sodium cyanide at the site of the blast as a series of new, small explosions were heard and small fires broke out. Police confirmed the presence of the chemical, fatal when ingested or inhaled, “roughly east of the blast site,” the state-run Beijing News said. It did not say how much had been found or how great a risk it posed but residents expressed concern about the air and water. An area three km (two miles) from the blast site was cordoned off, the Beijing News said. “I do feel a bit afraid,” said construction worker Li Shulan, 49, when asked about the air quality. “It definitely doesn’t feel good. As you can see our boss is making us wear masks.” –Reuters
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Yellowstone Supervolcano eruption could cause up to 90,000 immediate fatalities

August 2015 WYOMING If the massive volcano that lies beneath the Yellowstone erupts, 90,000 people will get killed. The eruption of the supervolcano would emit very high levels of molten lava on the Earth’s surface and very thick clouds of smoke in the skies. There would be no way out and two-thirds of the United States could be wiped out. However, there is an emphasis on ‘if’, as scientists cannot really say when exactly it will erupt, with the last one occurring more than half a million years ago. Wyoming’s Yellowstone National Park, which is America’s oldest national park, is home to spectacular hot springs, bubbling pools of mud, unearthly ponds and the most celebrated Old Faithful Geyser. Five miles below the two million acres where one of nature’s wonders sits, lies the supervolcano.
The Yellowstone supervolcano has had three massive eruptions. The last eruption was 640,000 years ago, a thousand times the size of the 1980 Mount St. Helens eruption that killed 57 people in Washington. The other reported eruption occurred farther back around 2.1 million years ago, and was twice as powerful as the eruption 640,000 years ago. It was two thousand times more powerful than the Mount St. Helen eruption. As powerful as the eruptions are, they are not as frequent. According to experts, chances of a volcanic eruption are slim – one in 700,000 each year. In the rare chances that an eruption of the Yellowstone supervolcano would ever occur in this lifetime, the majority of the U.S. would be put to a state of ‘nuclear winter,’ where a thick layer of ash would cover the landmass and block the sun, leading to very low temperatures.
A supervolcano can emit more than a trillion tons when it erupts. If the Yellowstone supervolcano fully explodes, molten layer could go up to about 10 feet thick. From the explosion site, the molten layer could travel to as far as 1,000 miles. It would be impossible to send out search and rescue teams, as the area would pretty much be blanketed in very high levels of volcanic residue. Even air travel would be suspended. While the chances of an actual massive eruption in Yellowstone are very small, it’s always good to be aware of what could happen, if in case it does, experts say. –Tech Times
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66: Cotopaxi volcano erupts in Ecuador for the first time in 140 years

Cotopaxi Volcano
August 2015 ECUADOR A volcano in Ecuador that has not erupted in nearly 140 years belched a column of ash eight kilometers high on Friday, prompting officials to raise the alert level. In addition to the five-mile plume, several explosions erupted in the course of the day, the Geophysics Institute said. The Cotopaxi volcano stands 5,897 meters (19,500 feet) high and is 45 kilometers (30 miles) south of the capital Quito. Orders have already been given for a million surgical masks to be distributed across the city of 2.3 million, Mayor Mauricio Rodas said. The Geophysics Institute said Cotopaxi is one of the most dangerous volcanoes in the world because of the large amount of snow at its peak and because nearby areas are densely populated. The last time it erupted was in 1877.
The government’s emergency management agency raised the alert level in areas near the volcano to yellow, which is in the middle of the scale. The Environment Ministry declared the volcano off limits to tourists. Fifteen climbers who were preparing to scale the mountain were sent home. One mountain guide who was in the area during the first explosion recounted tourists’ panic. I felt””shocked, not knowing what to do as I saw everything moving. Then the strong odor of sulphur was detected across the mountain. The tourists as well were desperate, wanting to leave as soon as possible,” he told Ciudadana radio.
Authorities are monitoring the volcano closely as they decide whether to order evacuations. However, they have already “decided to mobilize animal species in the area and move them to rescue centers,” said Lorena Tapia, head of the Environment Ministry, without going into further detail. Airports in Quito and in the town of Cotopaxi remained open despite the plume of ash, the civil aviation directorate said. In the town of Machachi, 25 kilometers (16 miles) from the volcano, people started wearing surgical masks. Brian Manzano, a hotel receptionist there, said, “when I got up, I opened the door of the hotel and saw a car covered in ash. I do not know how long it has been falling.” Cotopaxi is one of eight active volcanoes in Ecuador and is closely monitored by scientists. –Telegraph
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Japan raises warning level on volcano not far from nuclear plant

Sakurajima Volcano
August 2015JAPAN Japan warned on Saturday that a volcano 50 km (31 miles) from a just-restarted nuclear reactor is showing signs of increased activity, and said nearby residents should prepare to evacuate. Sakurajima, a mountain on the southern island of Kyushu, is one of Japan’s most active volcanoes and erupts almost constantly. But a larger than usual eruption could be in the offing, an official at the Japan Meteorological Agency said. “There is the danger that stones could rain down on areas near the mountain’s base, so we are warning residents of those areas to be ready to evacuate if needed,” the official added. The agency also said it had raised the warning level on the peak, 990 km southwest of Tokyo, to an unprecedented 4, for prepare to evacuate, from 3. Roughly 100 people could be affected.
Japan on Tuesday restarted a reactor at the Sendai nuclear plant, some 50 km from Sakurajima. It is the first reactor to be restarted under new safety standards put in place after the 2011 Fukushima disaster. Critics have long pointed out that the plant is also located near five giant calderas, crater-like depressions formed by past eruptions, with the closest one some 40 km away. Still, the Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) has said the chance of major volcanic activity during the lifespan of the Sendai plant is negligible. Two years ago, Sakurajima shot ash some 5,000 meters into the air.
Japan lies on the “Ring of Fire” – a horseshoe-shaped band of fault lines and volcanoes around the edges of the Pacific Ocean – and is home to more than 100 active volcanoes. Last year, Mount Ontake in central Japan erupted unexpectedly, killing 63, the worst volcanic disaster for nearly 90 years. In May, a remote island south of Kyushu was evacuated due to another eruption. –Reuters
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