By the Numbers

Beyond propaganda and rhetoric, numbers tell the real story.

THE OBAMA ADMINISTRATION has shut down construction of two-thirds of a solar project in the Mojave Desert in order to protect an estimated 600 endangered desert tortoises inhabiting several square miles in the Ivanpah Valley. The U.S. Bureau of Land Management disputed findings by BrightSource Energy that only 38 tortoises would be harmed by the solar developer if it built a 392-megawatt plant outside Primm, Nev. BrightSource received a $1.6 billion federal loan guarantee for the solar energy project, which the BLM now says would destroy 3,000 acres of desert inhabited by tortoises. BLM reports that building the solar plant would require moving 160 tortoises from the area in addition to the 600 that would be killed.

For more information, go to www.latimesblogs.latimes.com/greenspace/2011/04/desert-tortoise-ivanpah-brightsource-solar-energy-san-bernardino.html.

JAPAN'S NUCLEAR and Industrial Safety Agency released a report April 30, 2011, on radiation exposure for emergency workers at the country’s nuclear power facilities following the 8.9 magnitude earthquakes this past March. The report measured radioactive exposure levels of workers at Onagawa NPS, Tohoku Electric Power Co. Inc., Fukushima Dai-ichi NPS and Japan Atomic Power Co. The annual radiation exposure limit for workers is 250 milliSieverts. A summary of the NISA report compiled by TEPCO revealed only two personnel with a combined total value of internal and external exposure levels between 200 and 250 mSv; eight individuals between 150 mSV and 200 mSv; and 11 exposed to 100 mSv and 150 mSv. None of the 50 workers at the Fukushima plant had reached the annual exposure limit as of March 31. Only 21 had reached at least 40 percent of the limit, due to diligent monitoring and crew rotations. NISA also reported the general public residing outside the 20-kilometer evacuation zone received no harmful exposure levels to radiation, but recommended individuals refrain from eating leafy vegetables grown outside the zone as well as take a household shower if caught in the rain.

For more information, go to www.nisa.meti.go.jp/english/files/en20110430-3-1.pdf.

THE BANGLADESH Daily Star reports that the International Rice Research Institute has developed the world’s first vitamin A-rich rice. The IRRI created what it’s nicknamed “Golden Rice” by implanting beta carotene-producing genes from corn into BRRI Dhan 29, which was already the country’s most productive rice variety. According to data from the World Health Organization, Vitamin A deficiency is responsible for the deaths of 6,700 children worldwide each year, and is further considered the leading cause of preventable childhood blindness — believed to afflict at least 350,000 children annually. Additionally, 25 percent of Bangladesh’s preschool children and another 25 percent of the country’s women suffer from vitamin A deficiency. A 150-gram serving of Golden Rice will provide one-half of the recommended daily allowance of Vitamin A for adults. Safety trials for the new rice are anticipated to conclude by 2015.

For more information, go to www.thedailystar.net/newDesign/news-details.php?nid=182319.

THE LOS ANGELES Times reports exposure to nine-banded armadillos may result in Hansen’s Disease,  more commonly known as leprosy. The newspaper quotes a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine by the National Hansen’s Disease Program in Baton Rouge, La. Leprosy previously was thought to only pass from human to human, but research conducted by a team led by Hansen’s Director of Microbiology Richard W. Truman revealed the majority of the 100 to 150 cases of leprosy diagnosed in the United States each year occurred in Louisiana and Texas. While two-thirds of these leprosy cases may be attributed to exposure overseas, the remainder of cases may be caused by handling armadillos. The bacterium Mycobacterium leprae — closely related to the microbe that causes tuberculosis — is the culprit behind leprosy, which afflicts its victims with skin lesions and, in extreme cases, nerve damage and limb deformation. Repeated contact with the microbe is necessary for the 5 percent of the population prone to leprosy infection to be infected. While only 3,600 people in the United States are diagnosed with leprosy, nearly 20 percent of the armadillo population in some parts of the country is believed to be infected. Truman’s team took samples from 50 leprosy patients and 33 wild armadillos and diagnosed with leprosy. DNA samples revealed that a genotype pattern known as 3I-2-V1 existed in all the armadillos and in 26 of the 29 test subjects who had not lived overseas. Further research concluded 28 of the armadillos and 25 of the human patients tested positive for the 3I-2-v1 genotype.

For more information, go to www.articles.latimes.com/2011/apr/27/health/la-he-leprosy-armadillos-20110428.