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Study: Air pollution kills 5.5 million people annually

Air pollution Every year, dirty air sends some 5.5 million people to an early grave.

That's according to researchers at the University of British Columbia, who on Friday presented new data on air pollution at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

"Air pollution is the fourth-highest risk factor for death, globally, and by far the leading environmental risk factor for disease," Michael Brauer, a professor at UBC's School of Population and Public Health, said in a press release. "Reducing air pollution is an incredibly efficient way to improve the health of a population."

The main culprit is particulate matter -- aerosols, smoke, soot, dust and other toxins and fumes suspended in air.

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Japan: Fukushima clean-up may take up to 40 years, plant's operator says

Fukushima clean-up may take forty yearsCleaning up Japan's Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, which suffered catastrophic meltdowns after an earthquake and tsunami hit in 2011, may take up to 40 years.

The crippled nuclear reactor is now stable but the decommissioning process is making slow progress, says the plant's operator Tokyo Electric Power Co, better known as TEPCO.

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Indian Point tritium leak 80% worse than originally reported

Indian Point worse than thoughtNew measurements at the Indian Point nuclear power plant in upstate New York show levels of radioactive tritium 80 percent higher than reported last week. Plant operator insists the spill is not dangerous, as state officials call for a safety probe.

Entergy, which operates the facility 25 miles (40 km) north of New York City, says the increased levels of tritium represent “fluctuations that can be expected as the material migrates.”

“Even with the new readings, there is no impact to public health or safety, and although these values remain less than one-tenth of one percent of federal reporting guidelines,” Entergy said in a statement.

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Ohio fracking tax not on legislative leaders' agenda

Fracking tax not on Ohio agendaRepublican and Democratic leaders of the state legislature say now is the not the time to change Ohio's tax on oil and gas drillers, saying it could be problematic to the industry.

A severance tax increase has been a priority of Republican Gov. John Kasich (KAY'-sik) for years. He contends the tax is too low, and he's wanted to use proceeds of a tax hike on hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, to help cut the state's income-tax rate.

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Flint counsel says manslaughter charge harshest possible

Flint waterFlint’s water crisis, after a switch in the source allowed dangerous levels of lead and potentially caused deadly cases of Legionnaires’ disease, could result in criminal charges as serious as involuntary manslaughter, a top investigator said today.

The emergency will prompt Gov. Rick Snyder to propose another $195 million in aid in his annual budget proposal on Wednesday, including $25 million to potentially replace old lead and copper pipes. Snyder also plans to call for $165 million in funding for infrastructure needs across Michigan in the 2016-17 budget.

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Supreme court to halt enforcement of Obama's sweeping climate change plan

Climate change plans haltedThe supreme court agreed to block the enforcement of Barack Obama’s clean power plan on Tuesday, raising fears that the centerpiece of his climate-change plan could be overturned.

In a surprise move, the judges put a temporary freeze on the plan until a Washington DC circuit court of appeals hears challenges from a coalition of industry officials and more than two dozen mainly Republican states. Arguments are scheduled for 2 June.

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Tap water runs brown in impoverished northeast Louisiana

Brown water in Louisiana“I’m scared to take a bath,” said Ethel Strum, who lives in St. Joseph, a community of barely 1,000 people in northeast Louisiana.

She turned on the tap in the bathroom sink of her tidy one-story home and the water flowed clear for a second before fading to a milky brown. In her kitchen, a few cases of bottled water, which she uses for everything from brushing her teeth to cooking, are stacked on the table.

“I drive to Newellton to shower. It’s a 20-minute drive but I can do it in 12,” she laughed.

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