Humanity is badly damaging the oceans. To give one example, we are filling them with 8 million metric tons of plastic annually. That amount of debris is the same as five trash bags filled with plastic for every foot of coastline in the world.
It’s a given fact that this much trash is harming the oceans and the organisms that live in them. But plastic and other forms of trash wash ashore and mar the shorelines, and thus the experience of beach-goers.
According to new research, this may actually take a toll on the human psyche, or at least undermine any potential psychological benefits that come with going to the beach.
Research has shown that nature walks decrease harmful mental rumination (a risk factor for depression), that kids who go to schools that feature more greenery perform better on cognitive tests, and that viewing images of nature helps performance on difficult cognitive tasks.
Kayleigh Wyles, who conducted the study from Plymouth University, argues that “the main conclusion is that the state of the environment is fundamental when it comes to the psychological benefits that people receive.”
To read more about the study, click here.
Seen from above, the Appalachian Mountains jut from the earth like a spine curving through the eastern U.S., reaching north into Canada and south into Mississippi. For most Americans, this lush region conjures the strum of a banjo, the songs of Loretta Lynn and the gentle twang of a thick mountain accent. A closer listen reveals other, more disconcerting noises: the raspy voices, heavy wheezing and sighs of resignation that so frequently accompany a diagnosis of lung cancer.
A diverse and growing alliance including The City Project submitted public comments regarding the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed strategic plan on environmental justice and health, which will be called EJ 2020.
These comments highlight leadership and best practice examples for EPA to ensure compliance with civil rights, and environmental justice and health, laws and principles.
The study is the first to look at kids’ exposure to air toxics at home and its impact on their school performance. It bolsters a growing body of evidence that air pollution can impair success in school.
“This is an interesting paper that deals with a serious problem affecting millions of children around the world,” said Dr. Lilian Calderón-Garcidueñas, a researcher who studies air pollution and health effects at the University of Montana in an email.
“These exposures start in utero, so the detrimental effects upon the developing brain are affecting the embryo and the fetus and continue once the child is exposed to the outside environment,” said Calderón-Garcidueñas, who was not involved in the study.
University of Texas at El Paso researchers analyzed the grade point averages of 1,895 children and, using their home location, estimated their exposure to air toxics—such as benzene, arsenic, lead, mercury, hydrochloric acid, toluene, vinyl bromide, xylenes, and diesel particulate matter—using federal data.
They found that for all types of air pollution sources, more exposure corresponded with lower grade point averages. Read more.
By: Dylan Lenzen
In recent years, e-cigarettes, or vaporizers, have been increasingly marketed as a safe alternative to smoking. E-cigarettes are classified as electronic nicotine delivery systems and operate through the use of a heating element that heats fluid contained in the device and creates a vapor which is then inhaled by the user. While research has not yet been able to conclude for certain if using e-cigarettes is safer than smoking tobacco, there may be reason to believe that they pose a risk to public health.
For those using e-cigarettes as an alternative to smoking, or in an effort to quit smoking all together, there is some information that should be considered. While the nicotine-containing fluid that is converted to vapor contains far fewer toxic ingredients than tobacco products, e-cigarettes are not yet regulated by the FDA and much about the devices remain unknown. There may be less overall toxins in e-cigarette vapor, but the concentrations of certain dangerous compounds that users can be exposed to have caused concern among scientists. Just recently, a study showed that levels of formaldehyde, a known carcinogen generated by vaporizers at a high voltage greatly exceeds that contained in traditional cigarettes.
Beyond the chemicals produced through the use of e-cigarettes, the vapor particles they produce are similar to the size found in traditional cigarette smoke. This allows them to reach small, deep airways much like cigarette smoke. These particles could also pose a risk to those exposed to secondhand vapor. Exposure to secondhand vapor is also more likely than tobacco smoke as there is currently little regulation of e-cigarette use, allowing many to use them indoors where traditional smoking bans exist. One study has shown that among other nanoparticles, a high concentration of heavy metals has been observed in e-cigarette vapor. The same study suggested these concentrations were derived from the heating element that consists of nickel-chromium wire, coated in silver, and soldered with tin.
Another possible risk associated with e-cigarettes concerns the nicotine refill cartridges, which can be unintentionally consumed, particularly by children. The number of these unintentional consumption events has been increasing in recent years according to a study by tobacco control. The amount of nicotine in some refill solutions could potentially be lethal to children.
While e-cigarettes could potentially be safer than traditional cigarettes, they certainly deserve regulatory action in order to ensure that human health is protected. For those that are looking for a safe method to quit smoking, e-cigarettes should be avoided until definitive research concludes they are safe. Until that time, it is probably wise to utilize other methods that are FDA-approved.
Peak oil, or peak water? Peak water might be the (unfortunate) answer. Alternative sources of energy may become more widely available, but there are no alternatives to water. The ongoing depletion of groundwater contained in aquifers—one of the most important sources of water on our planet—is a significant threat to our future.
In 2010, the year of the BP oil spill, the Associated Press (AP) published a report that the Gulf of Mexico was littered with more than 27,000 unused oil and gas wells, including 14% left with just temporary seals.
A new analysis of federal data from the AP shows that the neglect of these long-idle wells has intensified since 2010 despite the federal push after the BP accident. Just 5 years after the Obama administration promised to move swiftly to permanently plug unused wells, even more are lingering for longer periods with only temporary sealing.
The investigation by the AP showed that since 2010:
- 25% more wells have now stayed temporarily sealed for more than a year
- Wells sealed temporarily for more than a year make up 86% of all temporarily sealed wells, up from 78%
- The number of wells equipped with temporary barriers from more than 5 years has risen by 16%
To learn more, click here.
The state Board of Regents approved a five-year provisional charter for a museum that would focus on climate and climate change. This will become the nation’s first climate museum.
The idea first came to the executive director of the Climate Museum Launch Project, Miranda Massie, after Superstorm sandy.
The museum will focus on climate solutions instead of death and destruction related to climate change, and will even encourage museum-goers to contribute. “Our point is to get people active and engaged on climate in a way that recognizes that if we come together we can solve the problem,” said Massie.
The museum is not expected to open for another 5-6 but it will be in front of the public much sooner with pop-up exhibits and education programs aimed to test ideas for the museum itself and build momentum.
To learn more, click here.
“Mercury emissions from major Massachusetts sources have declined by 90 percent over the past two decades, but mercury levels in the state’s freshwater fish hold stubbornly high, with many species too contaminated for pregnant women and children to eat.
Yet languid summer days and the lure of Massachusetts’ 3,000 freshwater bodies – from the Berkshire’s Lake Pontoosuc to Boston’s Jamaica Pond – send many anglers casting for a good fish dinner.
The inability to reduce mercury in fish to safe eating levels troubles environment and health officials – and added to that concern is growing evidence that some freshwater fish in similar northern latitudes, from the Great Lakes to Scandinavia, appear to have increasing mercury levels after years of decline. The New England Center for Investigative Reporting found six studies in the past decade that point to increasing mercury levels in freshwater fish.”