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Permanent Monitoring Panel -

Members of the Panel:

Lorne Everett (USA),

Richard Ragaini (USA),

Members and Associate Members:
Charles McCombie (Switzerland)
John Ahearne (USA)
Rudolph Alexakhin (Russia) alexakhin@yandex.zu
Gina Calderone (USA)
Frank Parker (USA)
Rainer Friedrich (Germany)
James Rispoli (USA)
Stafano Parmigiani (Italy)
Fredrick vom Saal (USA) vomsaalf@missouri_edu
Robert Clark (USA)
William Sprigg (USA)
Majid Hassanizadeh (Netherlands)
Zenonas Rudzikas (Lithuania)
Andrew Thompson (USA)
Aurielio Aureli (Italy)
Salvatore Carrubba (Italy)

(Associate Members are a community of scientists who provide support and expertise for the working of the Permanent Monitoring Panel.)

Summary of the Emergency

The continuing environmental pollution of Earth and the degradation of its ecosystems both constitute one of the most significant planetary emergencies today. This emergency is so overwhelming and so encompassing, it requires the greatest possible international East-West and North-South cooperation to implement effective ongoing remedies.

It is useful to itemize the environmental issues addressed by the Pollution Permanent Monitoring Panel (PMP), since several PMPs are dealing with other environmental issues. Global pollution, for example, including ozone depletion and the greenhouse effect, is being addressed by other PMPs at the World Federation of Scientists.

The Pollution PMP has been involved in addressing the following environmental emergencies:

  • degradation of surface and groundwater quality
  • degradation of marine and freshwater ecosystems
  • degradation of urban air quality
  • impact of air pollution on ecosystems

In the process of addressing these environmental emergencies, the Pollution PMP is evaluating specific world-wide pollution issues, as they emerge:

Methyl Tertiary-Butyl Ether (MTBE) in Groundwater

MTBE has been widely used as a gasoline additive. It is used to enhance engine performance, improve combustion efficiency, reduce emissions of air pollutants, and is a source for groundwater contamination. Due to its high solubility in water, it stays in solution and has been detected in groundwater in thousands of communities world-wide. The health effects of direct exposure to MTBE are not well known, although initial laboratory tests indicate it is a carcinogen.

Chlorinated Volatile Organic Compounds in Groundwater

This is a world-wide issue associated with the increase in industrialization. These toxic compounds tend to remain in the dissolved phase in groundwater, and can migrate deep into bedrock aquifers as dense non-aqueous phase liquids, or drinking water supplies.

Long-Term Stewardship of Nuclear and Hazardous Waste

This issue impacts nearly every country in the world. There are no universal governing regulatory criteria for proper disposal practices for nuclear and hazardous wastes. Members of the Pollution PMP have worked with other participating countries and governmental agencies with the responsibility for ensuring compliance of environmental laws and protection of public to address Long-Term Stewardship issues and activities world- wide. A proposed Memorandum of Agreement between the World Federation of Scientists and the United States, United Kingdom, Japan, Russia, and Canada on Long-term Stewardship at Radioactive and Hazardous Waste Facilities in the World has been drafted for consideration.

Endocrine-Disruptor Chemicals in Oceans, Surface Water, Groundwater, and Drinking Water Supplies

Endocrine-disruptor chemicals (EDCs) are chemicals that can disrupt thyroid hormones, androgens, estrogens, and other endocrine processes by interfering with the hormonal signals that control normal development of the brain and other organ systems. The effects of EDCs on developing organisms are of greatest concern, since the disruptive effects are permanent and irreversible. Chemicals that are known human EDCs include diethylstilbesterol (the drug DES), dioxin, polychlorinated biphenyls, DDT, and some other pesticides. Several chemicals, particularly pesticides and plasticizers, are suspected EDCs based on limited animal studies. The increase in environmental contamination associated with these types of organochlorine compounds is becoming a global problem, resulting in serious negative consequences for both human and ecological health. The Pollution PMP is involved in collaboration with the EDC PMP to address and further understand this global issue.

Life Cycle Environmental Impacts of Alternative Energy Options

The comparative environmental impacts of alternative energy choices when a life cycle view is taken was evaluated. When the production and distribution and not just the use of an alternative energy source is considered, there will be important considerations for the environment. Generally each fuel choice comes with good and bad consequences and it maybe a matter of picking your poison. We all remember MTBE. We know a lot about what to look for to identify sources and make attribution to dischargers for petroleum products we now widely use. What about fuels of the future? What will be the things we should be thinking about from an environmental pollution point of view? For example, many have advocated the increased use of biofuels, such as ethanol or biodiesel, because they may prove to be carbon neutral. On the other hand, it is possible that increased production may also mean increased use of fertilizers, herbicides, and pesticides, changes in land use, and increased water degradation. What are the impacts of the failure modes for different energy choices? It may be helpful to consider potential failure modes in addition to normal operation emissions when making life cycle comparisons. In some cases the failure modes can be significant barriers to the implementation of an energy choice, e.g., Nuclear Power spent fuel storage. How will our risk management strategies change? For example, while biodiesel is classified by some as a food product to make it a viable, fungible product, we need to apply a variety of additives to the finished fuel. Among them are biocides. Since many risk management strategies are based on assumed biodegradation, what happens when we release biocides along with the fuel? There are other biodiesel additives that may be environmentally interesting as well and this is just considering biodiesel. These technical and resulting social considerations will continue to receive consideration from the pollution panel.

Global Nuclear Waste Issues and Sustainability

Nuclear energy is a strong candidate for one of the practically sustainable energy sources. A number of problems may limit its implementation including resolving nuclear waste management issues. The public is concerned about waste because it believes it is a permanent threat. Transportation is an issue because it impacts so many people.

In August 2008, the Pollution PMP session provided several presentation which provided an overview of the pollution resulting from nuclear power and weapons systems, the disposal of nuclear waste bi-products, and the current political policy and public perception/concerns all of which are affecting the sustainability of nuclear energy as a viable energy source.

Priorities in Dealing with the Emergency

The Pollution PMP monitors the following priority issues:

  • Degradation and cleanup of existing surface and groundwater supplies from industrial and municipal wastewater pollution, agricultural run-off, deforestation, and military operations.
  • Reduction of existing air pollution and resultant health and ecosystem impacts from long range transport of pollutants and trans-boundary pollution.
  • Development of technologies for prevention and/or minimization of future air and water pollution.
  • Training scientists and engineers from developing countries to identify, monitor, and clean up pollution.
  • Provide an informal channel for experts to exchange views and make recommendations regarding environmental pollution.

In the process of monitoring the priority issues, the Pollution PMP has launched the following initiatives:

  • Vulnerability of Groundwater to Pollution in Sicily
  • Containment of Nuclear and Hazardous Wastes in the Subsurface Regime
  • Laser Drilling as a New Technique for Drilling Subsurface Wells
  • Evaluation of the Ecological Impacts of the Contamination of Water by EDCs

Workshop, Meeting Reports, Papers and Publications

The following workshops and seminar sessions have been sponsored by the Pollution PMP and held in Erice, Sicily since its beginning in 1997. These workshops and seminar sessions highlight the global and regional impacts of pollution-related issues in developing countries:

  • 1998: Workshop on Impacts of Pharmaceuticals and Disinfectant By-Products in Sewage Treatment Wastewater Used for Irrigation
  • 1999: Seminar Session on Contamination of Groundwater by Hydrocarbons
  • 1999: Workshop on Black Sea Pollution
  • 2000: Seminar Session on Contamination of Groundwater by MTBE
  • 2000: Workshop on Black Sea Pollution by Petroleum Hydrocarbons
  • 2001: Workshop on Caspian Sea Pollution
  • 2001: Seminar Session on Trans-Boundary Water Conflicts
  • 2001: Workshop on Water and Air Impacts of Automotive Emissions in Mega-Cities
  • 2003: Seminar Session on Water Management Issues in the Middle East
  • 2003: Workshop on Monitoring and Stewardship of Legacy Nuclear and Hazardous Waste Sites
  • 2005: Task Force Meeting on Groundwater Pollution Vulnerability Mapping of Sicily
  • 2006: Workshop on Plastic Contaminants in Water (Co-Sponsored with the EDC PMP)
  • 2007: Global Monitoring of the Planet-Life Cycle Nuclear Energy Environmental Issues
  • 2008: Resolving the Nuclear Waste Issue on the Road to Sustainability

Published papers and reports from the following workshops and task forces are available on this web site for inspection:

Statements and Recommendations

The members of the Pollution PMP have been instrumental in facilitating Memoranda of Agreement on environmental and pollution issues between the World Federation of Scientists and other international bodies. The following Memoranda of Agreement are available on this web site for inspection: