ByAnna Casey/Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting |
Midwest U.S. states do not require any buffer zone between schools and crop fields and seldom require any notification that pesticides are about to be sprayed, a review of laws by the Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting has found. University of Iowa researchers are analyzing chemical spray drift for advice on such a buffer.
When her black cat rapidly dropped from a healthy 14 pounds to a skeletal five pounds, it was natural for Arlene Blum to investigate whether a toxic chemical in her home might be to blame. The veterinarian’s diagnosis raised that possibility, and Blum had expertise in the harm that chemicals can cause. Her research as a chemist in the 1970s helped reveal the possible health hazards posed by flame retardants used in children’s sleepwear. What surprised Blum, executive director of the nonprofit Green Science Policy Institute in Berkeley, Calif., was the chemical she discovered in Midnight’s blood, in the foam of her couch and in dust throughout her house. It was a substance only slightly different than the one that, decades earlier, she encountered in kids’ pajamas, leading to a federal ban on the compound for that sort of use.
White Iowans made strong gains in high school and college graduation rates, poverty, median family income and home ownership from 1960-2010 but black and Latino achievements in these areas grew far more slowly, or in some cases declined. This IowaWatch Connection radio podcast looks at ways some are trying to level the playing field.
The growing number of aging Iowans means more are dealing with Alzheimer’s disease. Some 64,000 in the state suffer from this disease at a time when Iowa is tightening its Medicaid system, which pays for long-term nursing home care for Alzheimer’s patients.
Many Americans don’t always know what’s in their water – and even when they do, the science can’t always make definitive connections between tainted water and health problems. Health officials, from the federal level down to the local authorities, also face budget constraints that can limit how they investigate, monitor, report and treat water contamination.
Iowa’s wide expanses of row-cropped fields produced roughly 2.5 billion bushels of corn and 554 million bushels of soybeans in 2015. And for many, those high yields are thanks in part to pesticides. But what impact, if any, do those chemicals have on our health? It’s a controversial topic and the answer is hard to pin down. In many cases, those we spoke with said the jury is still out.
Despite links to health problems, including a World Health Organization report confirming that processed meats cause colorectal cancer, bacon has been popular enough in the last few years for pork industry workers to start referring to a “bacon tsunami.” The trend is good economic news for Iowa, the top pork-producing state in the US.