December 18, 2013

Scientists Turn Their Gaze Toward Tiny Threats to Great Lakes

Source: The New York Times, December 15, 2013
Posted on:

The newest environmental threat to the Great Lakes is very, very small.

Tiny plastic beads used in hundreds of toiletries like facial scrubs and toothpastes are slipping through water treatment plants and turning up by the tens of millions in the Great Lakes. There, fish and other aquatic life eat them along with the pollutants they carry — which scientists fear could be working their way back up the food chain to humans.

Scientists have worried about plastic debris in the oceans for decades, but focused on enormous accumulations of floating junk. More recently, the question of smaller bits has gained attention, because plastics degrade so slowly and become coated with poisons in the water like the cancer-causing chemicals known as PCBs.

”Unfortunately, they look like fish food,” said Marcus Eriksen, executive director of the 5 Gyres organization, speaking of the beads found in the oceans and, now, the lakes. His group works to eliminate plastic pollution.

Studies published in recent months have drawn attention to the Great Lakes, where there may be even greater concentrations of plastic particles than are found in oceans. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has also been looking at the impact of microplastics on marine life.…

January 6, 2012

Environmental Insurance: Global Exposure Management

Source:, January 2012
By: Anita Hawser

Environmental risk insurers are offering more sophisticated solutions and a broader range of coverage amounts.

A fire broke out at a chemical plant in Moerdijk, Netherlands, in January 2011. The plant belonged to Dutch chemicals company Chemie-Pack, which used it to store hazardous chemicals. Although no one was injured in the fire, it destroyed the properties of two neighbouring companies and, according to reports, resulted in 35,000 square meters of contaminated water and 1,800 tons of contaminated soil.

Unfortunately for Chemie-Pack, the cost of environmental damages, which go significantly beyond the scope of normal liability and property insurance, contributed to the company’s filing for bankruptcy, according to Simon Johnson, Aon Risk Solutions’ environmental director for the UK, Europe, Middle East and Africa. Johnson said there were various claims for injuries from emissions released by the fire, for cleanup of the polluted site and for environmental damage.

As regulators globally pay closer attention to environmental risks and expect polluters to foot the bill for their actions, more companies, even those that do not handle hazardous materials, are finding themselves exposed. “Previously regulation was largely focused on active polluters,” says John Beauchamp, lead environmental risk underwriter for London’s Beazley Group. “Now, however, regulation applies to all companies who may not be active polluters, but by virtue of their operations can have environmental exposures.”…