Enn Original News

Budget Woes and Ozone
February 15, 2012 08:00 AM - Editor, ENN

Budgets are being cut all over. So something has to be hurting. U.S. scientists are raising the alarm about Environment Canada saying cuts in the department could go far beyond ozone monitoring. Programs tracking pollution wafting into Canada from Asia, Europe and the U.S. are also being hit, they say. And it’s an open question if Canada will be able to fulfil its obligations under several international agreements if more cuts go ahead, five leading atmospheric scientists write in the newsletter of the American Geophysical Union, which has 61,000 members in 148 countries.

Mariana Trench Clam Fields
February 15, 2012 07:22 AM - Andy Soos, ENN

Clam can be used in several different ways: one, as a general term covering all bivalve molluscs. The word can also be used in a more limited sense, to mean bivalves that burrow in sediment, as opposed to ones that attach themselves to the substrate (for example oysters and mussels), or ones that can swim and are migratory, like scallops. Scientists have long marveled at the unusual life forms thriving at high temperature hydrothermal vents of the deep ocean. Now the discovery of clam communities near the lower temperature vents in the Mariana Trench is providing information about both the biogeography of the clams and the extent of the serpentinite vents that sustain them. A team of scientists from the United States and Japan discovered the vesicomyid clams while conducting deep sea dives from the Japanese R/V Yokosuka to study the geology of the southern Mariana.

Chang Shan
February 14, 2012 01:51 PM - Editor, ENN

Many new medicines have been found by analyzing old folklore and herbal remedies. For roughly 2,000 years, Chinese herbalists have treated malaria using a root extract, commonly known as chang shan, from a type of blue evergreen hydrangea that grows in Tibet and Nepal. More recent studies suggest that halofuginone, a compound derived from this extract’s bioactive ingredient, could be used to treat many other autoimmune disorders as well. Now, researchers from the Harvard School of Dental Medicine have discovered the molecular secrets behind this herbal extract’s power.

Coal Tar Sealant Health Hazards
February 14, 2012 01:04 PM - Andy Soos, ENN

Coal tar is a brown or black liquid of extremely high viscosity, which smells of naphthalene and aromatic hydrocarbons. Coal tar is incorporated into some parking-lot sealcoat products, which are marketed as a means of protecting and beautifying underlying pavement. Sealcoat products that are coal-tar based typically contain 20 to 35 percent coal-tar pitch. Coal-tar-based sealants are emitting polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) into the air at rates that may be greater than annual emissions from vehicles in the United States, according to new reports by the U.S. Geological Survey, published in the scientific journals Chemosphere and Atmospheric Environment. Children living near coal-tar-sealed pavement are exposed to twice as many PAHs from ingestion of contaminated house dust than from food, according to a separate new study by Baylor University and the USGS, published in the journal Environmental Pollution. Several PAHs are probable human carcinogens and many are toxic to fish and other aquatic life.

Ice Caps and Glaciers Contend for Biggest Loser Award
February 14, 2012 10:27 AM - David A Gabel, ENN

There are few things on Earth that have undergone a more dramatic weight loss than the world's ice caps and glaciers. According to a recent study, they have lost about 150 billion tons per year from 2003 to 2010. Such a large quantity of ice has translated to a 0.4 millimeter rise in sea levels each year. At this rate, it will take 2,500 years for sea levels to rise one meter. However, indications point towards accelerated ice loss in the future. Plus, if including ice lost from the major land-based ice sheets, sea level rise is much worse.

Magma Phase Changes within Planets
February 13, 2012 07:58 PM - Andy Soos, ENN

There is a weirdness deep inside planets. There are intense pressures and temperatures during their formation. Just as graphite can transform into Just as graphite can transform into diamond under high pressure, liquid magmas may similarly undergo major transformations at the pressures and temperatures that exist deep inside Earth-like planets. Using high-powered lasers, scientists at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and collaborators discovered that molten magnesium silicate undergoes a phase change in the liquid state, abruptly transforming to a more dense liquid with increasing pressure. The research provides insight into planet formation.

Tetrachloroethylene Toxicity EPA Risk Assessment
February 13, 2012 11:04 AM - Editor, ENN

Tetrachloroethylene, also known under its systematic name tetrachloroethene and many other names, is a chlorocarbon. It is a colorless liquid widely used for dry cleaning of fabrics and is sometimes called "dry-cleaning fluid". It has a sweet odor detectable by most people at a concentration of 1 part per million (1 ppm). It is also used in the cleaning of metal machinery and to manufacture some consumer products and other chemicals. Confirming longstanding scientific understanding and research, the final EPA risk assessment characterizes this material as a likely human carcinogen. The assessment provides estimates for both cancer and non-cancer effects associated with exposure to it over a lifetime.

The Pygmy Nile Crocodile
February 13, 2012 09:47 AM - David A Gabel, ENN

A new study from researchers at the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) has uncovered secrets of the mysterious pygmy Nile crocodile. Once thought to be a unique population of the more well-known Nile crocodile, the pygmy Niles are in fact a very distinct crocodile species of West Africa. A couple years ago, their existence was confirmed within the nation of Uganda. The recent WCS study found that their habitat extends into more areas, shedding insight upon this beautiful rare creature.

Price of Solar Energy Decreasing in India
February 13, 2012 08:40 AM - Scott Sincoff, ENN

Solar energy may have a reputation to be more expensive in most parts of the world, but not in India. In the world’s second most populous nation, electricity stemming from solar energy is now cheaper than oil-based energy. The Indian government also has an objective to inaugurate 20,000 megawatts of solar panels by 2022. India’s solar success may have positive implications for other developing countries to show a new and inexpensive alternative energy source for use in not only for basic heating, but to also use for new and innovative technology.

The Decline of Wild Salmon
February 10, 2012 08:12 AM - Andy Soos, ENN

The Chinook salmon, Oncorhynchus tshawytscha, is the largest species in the pacific (Oncorhynchus) salmon family. Other commonly used names for the species include King salmon, Quinnat salmon, Spring salmon and Tyee salmon. Chinook are an anadromous fish native to the north Pacific Ocean and the river systems of western North America ranging from California to Alaska. Scientists have found that only about ten percent of the fall-run Chinook salmon spawning in California's Mokelumne River are naturally produced wild salmon. A massive influx of hatchery-raised fish that return to spawn in the wild is masking the fact that too few wild fish are returning to sustain a natural population in the river. The study, published in the online journal PLoS ONE, highlights the danger of relying on ordinary census techniques to evaluate the health of wild salmon populations and their habitats. Most hatchery fish in California are unmarked and therefore undetectable in population surveys. For this study, the researchers were able to identify hatchery fish by using a novel technique to detect traces of a hatchery diet preserved in the ear bones of adult fish.

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