Happy Winter Solstice!
This is one of those child-of-the-sixties, stream-of-consciousness posts. No connection among the subjects is implied or should be inferred.
Yesterday I had a nice chat with Jane Lazgin, the Director of Corporate Communications for Nestlé Waters North America. We did not really broach the topic of bottled water but instead spoke of water in general, the need for education, stewardship, Maude Barlow, water books, water films, climate change, and the like. She noted that Barlow is a very nice person (that does not surprise me) and once the press goes away, becomes quite different from the person we see when the cameras are rolling. Not surprising, either - aren't we all that way?
All in all, a nice 40 minute chat, and although we were not videoconferencing I got the impression she did not have two horns on her head. [By the way, Jane, the check is missing a couple of zeroes].
I am waiting for someone to say that the frigid conditions currently being endured by northern Europe are proof that global warming is just so much baloney (forget the difference between weather and climate).
It's instructive to recall that northern Europe, which should have a climate akin to Siberia, has a more moderate climate because of tropical heat being delivered by ocean currents. Those currents are powered by density differences (thermohaline circulation).
If Arctic ice melts and freshens the North Atlantic, those currents could be weakened or even terminated with the result that less heat would be delivered to northern Europe. Less heat? You catch my drift (for more information see an earlier post about this).
Is this freshening causing the current situation? I suspect not, but it does illustrate that global warming does not mean that all places will see temperature increases all the time. There will be 'winners' and 'losers' in terms of warming and cooling.
I found it interesting to note that last winter, when DC and the rest of the East Coast were getting dumped on and some pundits were laughing about global warming, none of them cited the warm temperatures and lack of snow that were plaguing the Winter Olympics in Canada.
The other day the Environmental Working Group made a big splash (and will probably see an increase in donations) by noting that hexavalent (+6 oxidation state) chromium was found in 31 public water supplies of cities around the USA.
Keep in mind that the California 'standard' the EWG is using is a proposed goal. If you click on the accompanying graphic to expand it, you will note that 25 cities exceed that proposed limit and EWG is making hay out of that fact.
EPA regulates total chromium and has a limit of 100 ppb (parts per billion) in drinking water. None of the cities tested even approached that limit. EPA is working on a standard for hexavalent chromium because that form is the most toxic of all the common chromium oxidation states (+1, +3 and +6). Trace amounts of trivalent chromium (+3) are required for sugar and lipid metabolism.
Colleague Bruce Thomson passed on this helpful reference:
Costa, Max, 2003. Potential hazards of hexavalent chromate in our drinking water. Contemp. Issues in Toxicology,188: 1-5.
Note that the paper is from 2003, and that Costa is cited as saying that the EWG results are 'disturbing' and that the California proposed limit is the one that should be used.
Keep in mind that there is a lot of naturally-occurring hexavalent chromium. That doesn't make it good for you, but its presence in water is not part of some nationwide conspiracy by chemical companies to contaminate our drinking water.
Erin Brockovich, wherefore art thou?
Upshot: be skeptical of all claims and if your city is on the list, don't get needlessly worried.
"The optimist learns English. The pessimist learns Chinese. The realist learns Kalashnikov." -- South Caucasian colleague