Environmental Policy

UTA study finds air contamination near fracking sites result of operational inefficiencies
August 29, 2016 10:39 AM - University of Texas at Arlington via EurekAlert!

Chemists at the University of Texas at Arlington have published a new study that indicates that highly variable contamination events registered in and around unconventional oil and gas developments are the result of operational inefficiencies and not inherent to the extraction process itself.

The study, published today as "Point source attribution of ambient contamination events near unconventional oil and gas development" in Science of the Total Environment, found highly variable levels of ambient BTEX, or benzene, toluene, ethyl benzene, and xylene compounds, in and around fracking gas drilling sites in the Eagle Ford shale region in South Texas. BTEX compounds in high concentrations can be carcinogenic and have harmful effects on the nervous system.

Blending wastewater may help California cope with drought
August 26, 2016 11:56 AM - University of California – Riverside via EurekAlert!

Recycled wastewater is increasingly touted as part of the solution to California's water woes, particularly for agricultural use, as the state's historic drought continues. The cost of treating wastewater to meet state health standards for reuse and to reduce salt levels that damage crops presents a new set of challenges, however.

Researchers at the University of California, Riverside have developed an economic model that demonstrates how flexible wastewater treatment processes which blend varying levels of treated effluent can be optimized to produce a water supply that is affordable, and meets and surpasses a variety of water quality requirements.

Perfluorinated compounds found in African crocodiles, American alligators
August 25, 2016 11:12 AM - National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) via EurekAlert!

American alligators and South African crocodiles populate waterways a third of the globe apart, and yet both have detectable levels of long-lived industrial and household compounds for nonstick coatings in their blood, according to two studies from researchers at the Hollings Marine Laboratory in Charleston, South Carolina, and its affiliated institutions, which include the National Institute of Standards and Technology.

Production of some compounds in this family of environmentally persistent chemicals--associated with liver toxicity, reduced fertility and a variety of other health problems in studies of people and animals--has been phased out in the United States and many other nations. Yet all blood plasma samples drawn from 125 American alligators across 12 sites in Florida and South Carolina contained at least six of the 15 perfluorinated alkyl acids (PFAAs) that were tracked in the alligator study.

How Elephant Seals Are Helping Scientists Study Climate Change
August 24, 2016 06:10 PM - Yale Environment 360

A group of southern elephant seals is helping scientists monitorhow climate change is impacting Antarctica by tracking water temperature, depth, and salinity as they swim and dive around the frozen continent. 

Nanofur for oil spill cleanup
August 23, 2016 10:51 AM - Karlsruher Institut Für Technologie (KIT) via EurekAlert!

Some water ferns can absorb large volumes of oil within a short time, because their leaves are strongly water-repellent and, at the same time, highly oil-absorbing. Researchers of KIT, together with colleagues of Bonn University, have found that the oil-binding capacity of the water plant results from the hairy microstructure of its leaves. It is now used as a model to further develop the new Nanofur material for the environmentally friendly cleanup of oil spills. (DOI: 10.1088/1748-3190/11/5/056003)

Damaged pipelines, oil tanker disasters, and accidents on oil drilling and production platforms may result in pollutions of water with crude or mineral oil. Conventional methods to clean up the oil spill are associated with specific drawbacks. 

Fixing America's Waste Problem
August 19, 2016 04:14 PM - Nithin Coca, Triple Pundit

America’s massive, growing landfills are the result of many decades of bad policies and decisions. And it will take a concerted, society-wide effort to solve this problem. Let’s dive deeper into just how big our landfill waste problem is and how we can begin to shift toward a circular economy.

New Study Challenges Assumption of Asbestos' Ability to Move in Soil
August 19, 2016 03:23 PM - University of California - San Diego via EurekAlert!

A new study led by Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California San Diego scientist Jane Willenbring challenges the long-held belief that asbestos fibers cannot move through soil. The findings have important implications for current remediation strategies aimed at capping asbestos-laden soils to prevent human exposure of the cancer-causing material.

Willenbring, along with University of Pennsylvania postdoctoral researcher Sanjay Mohanty, and colleagues tested the idea that once capped by soil, asbestos waste piles are locked in place. Instead they found that dissolved organic matter contained within the soil sticks to the asbestos particles, creating a change of the electric charge on the outside of the particle that allows it to easily move through the soil.

Cloth masks offer poor protection against air pollution
August 19, 2016 11:12 AM - University of Massachusetts at Amherst via EurekAlert!

Results of a new study by environmental health scientists at the University of Massachusetts Amherst suggest that inexpensive cloth masks worn by people who hope to reduce their exposure to air pollution vary widely in effectiveness and could be giving users a false sense of security, especially in highly polluted areas.

Researchers Richard Peltier, Kabindra Shakya and colleagues believe theirs is the first study to rigorously test disposable surgical masks and washable cloth masks, which are widely used in Asia and Southeast Asia for personal protection against airborne particulate matter. Their study shows that "wearing cloth masks reduced the exposure to some extent," but "the most commonly used cloth mask products perform poorly when compared to alternative options available on the market."

Climate Change Is Altering Our National Parks Forever
August 18, 2016 03:23 PM - Julie M. Rodriguez, Care2

If you’ve ever taken a camping trip, hiked up a forested mountain trail or simply gone bird watching in an American national park, I have bad news: climate change is increasingly putting our nation’s wilderness in danger. And with July 2016 officially declared the hottest month on the planet since recordkeeping began, matters are only poised to get worse.

Rising global temperatures and changing weather patterns are already having wide-reaching effects on these wild places. Nowhere is this more apparent than in areas that used to be thick with ice and snow.

Blue Cut Fire in California spreads quickly
August 18, 2016 01:43 PM - NASA/GODDARD Space Flight Center via EurekAlert!

The Blue Cut Fire, just outside of Los Angeles, is a quickly growing fire that is currently an imminent threat to public safety, rail traffic and structures in the Cajon Pass, Lytle Creek, Wrightwood, Oak Hills, and surrounding areas. An estimated 34,500 homes and 82,640 people are being affected by the evacuation warnings that have been issued. 

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