Tuesday, June 20, 2023

More PFAS excitement

Ever since Erin Brokovich dramatized it, there has been much heartburn about a common class of chemicals known as PFAS. It is widely used in industry and most Americans as a result have some of it in their blood. And is bad for rats if you give it to them. So it must be bad for people? Sadly for the drama-queens, it isn't. Over many studies PFAS have been found to be harmless to people in the doses normally encountered.

The latest study is one done in Australia and everybody seems very tense about it. You can read below a claim that the government tried to nobble it. In the washup, however, they had no need to. The researchers once again found no conclusive evidence of harm from PFAS. It was a rather pathetic study but I will bypass that for the moment and simply reproduce the actual findings from the study -- below:

For most of these health outcomes, we estimated the differences between the towns and comparison areas to be relatively small. For others, the differences were of modest size, but our estimates were imprecise, meaning the likely size of each difference could be anywhere between quite small to quite large. Even though our studies included almost everyone who had ever lived in the towns in the years we had available data (in some cases dating back to 1983), some of the conditions studied are uncommon and we observed only a few cases. For these outcomes, we could not precisely estimate the differences between the towns and comparison areas, and there is very little we can say about whether a difference really exists.

Due to the nature of our studies, there were certain design limitations. We were unable to fully account for certain risk factors (e.g. smoking) that could have led to observed differences in rates (or lack of them) between the towns and comparison areas (‘confounding’). In particular, we were not able to account for socioeconomic factors as well as we would have liked. This is important, as socioeconomic conditions are strongly linked to health. In addition, some findings could have arisen just by chance alone and not because an association truly exists.

In light of the above, while there were higher rates of some adverse outcomes in individual towns, the evidence suggesting that this was due to living in these areas was limited. We did not have direct measurements of PFAS exposure and we cannot rule out that the higher rates were due to chance or confounding. Further, there was low consistency in our observations across the three towns (something we would not expect if PFAS caused an outcome), and there is limited evidence from other studies observing similar results or explaining how potential biological processes can result in PFAS causing these effects in humans. Overall, our findings are consistent with previous studies, which have not conclusively identified causative links between PFAS and these health outcomes

People living in areas with high PFAS concentrations sometimes blame their illnesses on it but that is an unproven and unlikely claim

Health officials asked university researchers to remove references about potential community concern over elevated rates of cancer found in towns contaminated with “forever chemicals”, even as the federal government was defending multimillion-dollar litigation over the pollution.

Emails obtained by the Herald and The Age under freedom of information laws reveal federal health bureaucrats expressed concern to Australian National University researchers about how they reported “very high” rates of certain types of cancer they uncovered in an independent study of residents exposed to per- and poly-fluoroalkyl chemicals (PFAS) leaching off Defence sites.

Samantha Kelly with her son William, 7, in the garden of their new home after they fled contaminated Williamtown. Kelly fears her son’s health issues could be linked to exposure to “forever chemicals” after he was born with high levels in his blood.

The emails reveal the Department of Health circulated the draft version of the study to other Commonwealth departments “for their review of any red-line issues” in October 2021, while Defence was in court defending a $155 million class action over property devaluation caused by the toxins.

In anonymised emails released to the Herald, a bureaucrat told the researchers it was “counterproductive” to mention throughout their report that residents may be concerned about elevated rates of adverse health outcomes in their communities.

The department suggested researchers “highlight the significance of ‘null findings’” and say their study found “no consistent links between PFAS contamination and the health outcomes observed”.

The researchers declined to add the suggested line. “The research team is independent and did not make changes to any parts of the reports where we disagreed,” said Professor Martyn Kirk, who led the ANU research team.

“The research team did not agree to follow any departmental advice to emphasise null findings.

“We didn’t include anything in the report that we weren’t happy saying, particularly as it relates to causes of disease.”

A large number of the changes the department requested were not made by the researchers, a review of the documents by this masthead confirms.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Health said it did not seek to change the study’s findings but rather to “highlight the findings as presented and draw out the context”.

The spokeswoman rejected suggestions the department tried to “downplay” the findings of elevated rates of certain adverse outcomes in the towns.

“In reviewing the draft reports from the study the minor suggestions made by the department focused on increasing clarity and consistency within the reports,” she said.

“It was a matter for the ANU study team as to how they considered and incorporated any feedback provided.”


The gas stove mania hits Australia

State and territory governments face a new energy battleground this decade, following a new demand to rip out gas appliances and ban new connections to homes and small businesses so Australia can achieve net zero emissions by 2050.

The plan from the Grattan Institute think-tank would trigger a deadline for the sale of gas appliances, a ban on new residential and small commercial gas connections and the need for instant asset write-offs for landlords installing electrical appliances as part of moves to get gas out of Australian homes.

Removing gas from the nation’s energy supplies may also cause a fresh political headache for governments, which are already under pressure to deliver an ambitious green transformation, shifting the electricity network from fossil fuels to renewables.

The Albanese government wants to wean about five million homes off gas, investing $1.6bn to help low-income households and businesses adopt energy-­efficiency measures such as solar panels and electric appliances as part of a sweeping electrification package in the budget.

An ACT plan to ban gas for new homes and businesses has been criticised, with plumbers saying the move will trigger job losses, energy price spikes and the premature shutdown of billions of dollars worth of gas assets.

The bill for phasing out gas has been forecast as exceeding $6bn. While the Grattan Institute says those costs are now lower, the costs of upgrading electricity networks are likely to be dwarfed by the cost to households – exacerbated by supply chain constraints, skilled labour shortages and the sheer scale of the work required.

“In Victoria you would need to convert 200 households every day for the next 25 years. In some ways, it’s more of a logistical problem than a cost problem,” Grattan energy director Tony Wood said. The electrification of Australia’s energy system is already slated to lift demand for electricians across the country, with 2021 estimates from the federal government forecasting the need for another 14,000 trained workers by 2026, to about 157,000.

Another 12,500 skilled workers will be needed for large-scale renewable energy projects, according to AEMO projections.

And the electrification of households will add even more pressure to that skilled labour shortage, the Grattan report says.

“There are 11 million gas appliances in homes across Australia. At a minimum, there are 11 million hours of labour involved in replacing these with electric appliances. Spread over the 27 years to 2050, this amounts to 1400 hours of labour per day – 175 electricians working full time. This is significant added demand for an already stretched workforce,” the report says.

This will come as Australia competes for labour and equipment with other countries, including Britain, the US and Europe, which run similar programs.

The use of gas in homes and commercial buildings accounts for less than 5 per cent of Australia’s annual carbon emissions, but the new report, “Getting off gas: why, how, and who should pay?” highlights the extraordinary logistical challenges facing even that small portion of Australia’s total emissions.

The report argues that, although electric heaters and cookers are ultimately more efficient and cheaper to run, the effort required to replace the estimated five million gas stoves installed in Australian homes – alongside 4.5 million gas water heaters and 2.7 million heating systems that use gas from the mains – means governments need to tighten policy settings immediately to force gas out of Australian homes.

The electrification of Australia’s energy system is already slated to lift demand for electricians across the country.
The electrification of Australia’s energy system is already slated to lift demand for electricians across the country.
“In all sectors, emissions patterns change very slowly. Assets that use gas tend to be replaced only when they reach the end of their useful life. A gas water heater installed today will still be burning gas in 2035. An industrial furnace installed today could still be burning gas in 2063,” the report says.

“To reach net zero, governments need to start changing asset-replacement patterns now.”

Mr Wood told The Australian that the problem, particularly for Victorian households, was not even necessarily dependent on carbon reduction targets – the looming gas shortfall caused by the end of the Bass Strait fields owned by Woodside and ExxonMobil would require the same transition.

Mr Wood said the work to transition Australian households and small businesses away from gas would take decades – but governments needed to set a deadline in order to run the long public advocacy campaigns needed to get the public on board.

The report likens the effort required to that of switching Australia’s broadcast TV stations from analog to digital.

“The decision to move Australian television networks from analog to digital was made in 1998. The switchover itself began in 2010, and was rolled out over three years. Online information for households was available from 2001, and a widespread communications campaign began in 2008,” the report says.

But the cost of conversion remains a major barrier, the report says.

Induction cookers cost, on average, about $400 more than gas equivalents. Heat pumps cost about $1500 more than instantaneous gas hot water systems and – while split system reverse cycle airconditioning units are now broadly equivalent in price to gas heaters paired with an air conditioner for summer use – ducted units suitable for larger buildings cost about $1800 more than gas heating.

Some state governments are already offering rebates and incentives for replacing gas appliances with electric equivalents. The ACT government offers up to $5000 for a range of electric appliances, and the Victorian government offers $1000 towards the cost of installing heat pumps for hot water systems and reverse cycle airconditioning units.

But that will not be enough to help low-income households transition, and additional incentives will also be needed to convince landlords to convert rental properties.

“Rebates can be very costly to the government. Subsidising $5000 per household with gas would cost $25bn. Subsidies also often require households to have money upfront. A rebate that requires the recipient to spend the money installing an electric appliance to replace a gas one, and then wait for their rebate claim to be assessed and paid, is of no use to someone who doesn’t have the money in the first place,” the report says.

Instead other governments should look to the examples set by the ACT government’s sustainable household scheme, which offers up to $15,000 in zero-interest loans, and to add to the recently announced Albanese government scheme that will offer up to $1bn in low-interest loans for energy-efficient household upgrades.

Additional measures will be needed to f to encourage landlords to upgrade the homes of the 31 per cent of Australian households that live in rental properties.

“When landlords are asked why they do not carry out energy retrofits, the most common factor cited is financial constraints. These can include lack of access to capital, but also the landlords’ expectations of net profits from their rental properties, and their perceptions of retrofit costs,” the report says.

“The simplest way to provide private landlords with a financial incentive to move to all-electric appliances is to provide an instant asset write-off for new electric appliances that replace gas ones.”

Mr Wood told The Australian the sheer amount of work involved needs the same kind of careful planning required to electrify the national grid, despite the relatively small amount of carbon emissions generated by household gas use.


NSW premier prepared to clash with councils over affordable housing incentives for developers

Good on him!

NSW Premier Chris Minns has slammed local councils for blocking developments in the Sydney metropolitan region, saying he is prepared to fight for his recently announced policy that will give developers stronger incentives to build.

On Thursday, Minns unveiled a suite of incentives for large private developments containing at least 15 per cent “affordable housing”. The policy would allow developments worth more than $75 million that cleared the 15 per cent hurdle to bypass local councils and planning panels.

Speaking on Monday with Ben Fordham on 2GB, Minns agreed he may be setting himself up for a clash with local councils but was not afraid to fight for the Labor government’s first major reform aimed at helping to solve Sydney’s housing affordability crisis.

“We’re not afraid of that fight, we’re prepared to take it on. A lot of these mayors who I’ve spoken to or heard from in the media in the last couple of weeks have two minds. They have two answers to any question in relation to development and that is ‘no’ or ‘hell no’,” Minns said.

“We can’t grow a city, which is expected to take 37 per cent of all inbound immigrants over the next five years, by saying no to all reasonable developments across the metropolitan area. If we keep doing that, we will have more than 30,000 people fleeing NSW every single year.”

The reforms are set to take effect later this year and are a part of the NSW government’s commitment under the National Housing Accord to construct 314,000 homes over five years.

Government departments and agencies have also been tasked to identify surplus public land to be redeveloped into housing and will set a 30 per cent target for social and affordable housing in any development on that land.

Updated population projections from the May federal budget show NSW will lose more than 124,000 residents to other states over the coming years.

Minns argued the projected exodus from the state was part of the push for increased housing supply.

“People are leaving Sydney, particularly young people going to other jurisdictions because of cheaper housing ... one of the leading conditions of that is supply,” he said

“I have to make decisions to increase supply across the metropolitan area. If that means taking on the fight with councils. That’s what we’ll do.”


Brisbane City Council has short-stay accomodation in its sights

Long stay rentals have been throttled by regulations. Now short stay accomodation will dry up too

In a bid to address the number of short-stay accommodation properties in Brisbane, the council will increase the rates surcharge from 50 per cent to 65 per cent.

The 50 per cent surcharge was announced in last year's budget, with 750 properties in Brisbane paying the increased rate during the 2022-23 financial year.

Mr Schrinner said it had been a "complex and time-consuming task" to identify these properties.

"We will continue to pursue those owners who are yet to comply, including using digital technology to detect them," the lord mayor said.

A taskforce will be established within the council to look at new ways the city can regulate short-term accommodation properties.

Mr Schrinner said this could result in the introduction of permits, as well as capping the number of a days a property can be leased online.

"It could even result in prohibiting short-term accommodation in some areas," he said.


Also see my other blogs. Main ones below:

http://dissectleft.blogspot.com (DISSECTING LEFTISM -- daily)

http://antigreen.blogspot.com (GREENIE WATCH)

http://pcwatch.blogspot.com (POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH)

http://edwatch.blogspot.com (EDUCATION WATCH)

http://snorphty.blogspot.com/ (TONGUE-TIED)

http://jonjayray.com/blogall.html More blogs


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