Searching for bisphenol A
Cans of green beans, peas and chicken-noodle soup from our state have been sent to a research lab for testing, the North Carolina News Service reports.
The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences near Raleigh is using a federal stimulus grant to do more research on the possible health effects of bisphenol A, a chemical often used to line cans to keep foods fresher longer. Researcher John Bucher says the study focuses on kids, who likely face the highest risk. "We found that the ability of the body to metabolize and eliminate bisphenol A is much greater in adults than it is in infants and children," he explains. Canned goods (including sodas) from 19 states were tested for the report. Six states currently ban BPA in food containers.
North Carolina doesn't.
Results indicate that the chemical leaked into foods in 90 percent of the canned goods tested, with varying levels that could not be predicted. Mike Shriberg, director of the Ecology Center (one of the groups that sponsored the testing), says the levels found in some foods are a concern, because BPA acts like a hormone in the human body. "It blocks the body's normal functioning, even at low doses, and it's been linked with things like obesity, neurological problems, cancer, infertility and thyroid malfunction."
The full study, No Silver Lining, is at http://www.ecocenter.org.
Basking in the sunshine
Closer to home, Sundance Power Systems and FLS Energy continue spreading the sunshine.
Architect Chad Everhart, who teaches at Appalachian State University, helped students come up with a solar-friendly design for their E-3 house — "a prototype of a highly energy-efficient modular-design home that can be constructed for use in remote or disaster situations where electricity and access to public sanitation are unavailable," student Nicholas Hurst explains. Sundance provided the solar component, with help from the company's project manager Grayson Nelson.
It's "not intended to be a glamorous custom home," he continues, "but rather a highly efficient and affordable housing solution that could be constructed quickly and moved readily. Its ideal application is in remote locations or disaster-relief situations, although this home could be used virtually anywhere with good solar aspect. It is unique because it offers a healthy and efficient alternative to mass-produced recreational vehicles built from materials that are environmentally unsustainable and ultimately unhealthy to the people living inside."
The project is a steppingstone for participating in the Solar Decathlon this fall on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.. ASU was recently awarded a spot in this prestigious event, which hosts teams from around the world in a contest to design and build small solar homes.
Dennis Scanlin, a professor in the school's appropriate-technology program, writes, "From Appalachian's perspective, this was a great model of private/public collaboration, and I hope it is one we can repeat in the future."
The Renewable Energy Initiative, a student-sponsored group on campus, donated all the financial resources to make the Sundance photovoltaic installation possible. For more information, visit http://rei.appstate.edu/.
Meanwhile, A-B Tech's Global Institute for Sustainability Technologies has partnered with FLS Energy to install 39 thermal collectors on four campus buildings. Funded by a 2008 U.S. Department of Energy appropriation secured by Rep. Heath Shuler, the college's project will provide 1,885 gallons of hot water per day. Installation is slated to begin soon and should be complete by year's end.
The Asheville-based FLS Energy will own, operate and maintain the solar-thermal systems throughout the 10-year lease agreement. The arrangement is projected to save the school about $22,000 over the next decade.
To determine the college's needs, Bill Bondurant, project developer for FLS Energy, collaborated with members of A-B Tech's leadership team: Max Queen, vice president of risk management and operations; Richard Mauney, executive vice president of finance and information systems technology; and Vernon Daugherty, dean of engineering and applied technology.
"It's been a long process, but we have had lots of support. The bidding started in September 2009, and our board of trustees approved the project in February," Queen reports.
An assessment found that the Magnolia Building (which houses the culinary program) and the Birch Building (which is home to the cosmetology programs) use the most hot water. Accordingly, they'll receive 26 and seven thermal collectors, respectively. The other solar panels will go to Fernihurst and to Blue Ridge Food Ventures (at the Enka campus).
FLS has installed 30 large-scale solar-energy systems across North Carolina, notes Bondurant, praising A-B Tech's leadership role in sustainability and environmental-impact reduction.
Send your environmental news to firstname.lastname@example.org or call 251-1333, ext. 152.