Pollution

Genes, Ozone, and Autism: Increased risk for autism when genetic variation and air pollution meet
June 23, 2017 03:53 PM - Penn State

A new analysis shows that individuals with high levels of genetic variation and elevated exposure to ozone in the environment are at an even higher risk for developing autism than would be expected by adding the two risk factors together. The study is the first to look at the combined effects of genome-wide genetic change and environmental risk factors for autism, and the first to identify an interaction between genes and environment that leads to an emergent increase in risk that would not be found by studying these factors independently. A paper describing the research appears online in the journal Autism Research.

“Autism, like most human diseases, is complex,” said Scott B. Selleck, professor of biochemistry and molecular biology at Penn State and one of the leaders of the research team. “There are probably hundreds, if not thousands, of genes involved and up until now -- with very few exceptions -- these have been studied independently of the environmental contributors to autism, which are real. Our team of researchers represents a merger of people with genetic expertise and environmental epidemiologists, allowing us for the first time to answer questions about how genetic and environmental risk factors for autism interact.”

NIST/CU Team Launches 'Comb and Copter' System to Map Atmospheric Gases
June 23, 2017 01:49 PM - National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)

Researchers from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and the University of Colorado Boulder have demonstrated a new mobile, ground-based system that could scan and map atmospheric gas plumes over kilometer distances.

The system uses an eye-safe laser instrument to send light that “combs” the air to a flying multi-copter and analyzes the colors of light absorbed along the way to identify gas signatures in near-real time.

The “comb and copter” system may be useful to scan for leaks in oil and gas fields, study the mixing of auto emissions and other gases in the boundary between the Earth’s surface and the next layer of the atmosphere, or, with planned upgrades, detect pollutants or chemical threats and their sources.

Measuring biological dust in the wind
June 23, 2017 09:28 AM - Massachusetts Institute of Technology

In the popular children’s story “Horton Hears a Who!” author Dr. Seuss tells of a gentle and protective elephant who stumbles upon a speck of dust that harbors a community of microscopic creatures called the Whos living the equally tiny town of Whoville. Throughout their journey together, Horton argues for the existence of the Whos traveling around in the air on a dust speck, while doubters dispute the finding. Ultimately, through observation, evidence for the organisms emerges, but regardless of the outcome, this speck altered a world greater than its own.

While this tale is a work of fiction, climate and atmospheric scientists have considered a real-life Whoville scenario — biological particles and inorganic material riding around in the atmosphere affecting the climate. Previous research has shown that some aerosols are very good at nucleating ice, which could form clouds in the troposphere. But due to complex atmospheric chemistries and a lack of data, scientists aren’t sure what percentage of these ice active particles are biological in nature and abundant enough in the troposphere to have an impact on climate. Furthermore, chemically parsing the metaphorical Whos from their speck has proved difficult — until now.

Toxic Exposure: Chemicals Are in Our Water, Food, Air and Furniture
June 22, 2017 02:24 PM - University of California San Francisco

When her kids were young, Tracey Woodruff, PhD, MPH, knew more than most people about environmental toxics. After all, she was a senior scientist at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). But even she never dreamed, as she rocked her children to sleep at night, that the plastic baby bottles she used to feed them contained toxic chemicals that could leach into the warm milk. 

Back then, in the late 1990s, it wasn’t widely known that the chemicals used in plastic sippy cups and baby bottles can potentially disrupt child development by interfering with the hormone system. That, in turn, could alter the functionality of their reproductive systems or increase their risk of disease later in their lives. 

Trash-Picking Seagulls Poop Hundreds of Tons of Nutrients
June 22, 2017 07:27 AM - Duke University

At least 1.4 million seagulls feed at landfills across North America, which aside from the nuisance it might pose, is also a threat to the health of nearby waters, a new Duke University study finds.

Transportation Noise Increases Risk for Cardiovascular Diseases and Diabetes
June 21, 2017 12:16 PM - Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute

How transportation noise affects the health of people remains in many aspects unexplained. Since 2014, an interdisciplinary Swiss consortium has been studying the short- and long-term effects of transportation noise for the population in Switzerland in the frame of the SiRENE study of the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF).

Increased risk for developing cardiovascular diseases

The results published so far show that aircraft, rail and road traffic noise in Switzerland leads to adverse health effects. For cardiovascular disease mortality, the most distinct association was found for road noise. The risk of dying of a myocardial infarction increases by 4 per cent per 10 decibel increase in road noise at home. Also the risk of hypertension and heart failure increases with transportation noise. "Particularly critical are most likely noise events at night regularly disturbing sleep," says Martin Röösli, principal investigator of SiRENE and professor of environmental epidemiology at Swiss TPH and the University of Basel. "The threshold for negative health impact is lower than previously suspected."

New catalyst paves way for carbon neutral fuel
June 21, 2017 09:49 AM - University of Adelaide

Australian scientists have paved the way for carbon neutral fuel with the development of a new efficient catalyst that converts carbon dioxide (CO2) from the air into synthetic natural gas in a ‘clean’ process using solar energy.

Antibacterials in Many Consumer Products Cause More Harm Than Good
June 21, 2017 06:55 AM - YaleEnvironment360

Two antimicrobial chemicals already banned in antiseptic wash products by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration are still found in more than 2,000 widely used consumer products, despite offering no health benefits and actually causing health and environmental harm, according to more than 200 scientists and medical professionals.

California Named State with the Worst Air Quality (Again)
June 19, 2017 04:51 PM - California State University

The quality of the air in California may be improving, but it's still dire.

That's according to the American Lung Association's recent "State of the Air 2017" report, which labeled the state and region a leader in air pollution, with the highest ozone levels.

The annual study ranks the cleanest and most polluted areas in the country by grading counties in the U.S. based on harmful recorded levels of ozone (smog) and particle pollution. The 2017 report used data collected from 2013 to 2015.

California Named State with the Worst Air Quality (Again)
June 19, 2017 04:51 PM - California State University

The quality of the air in California may be improving, but it's still dire.

That's according to the American Lung Association's recent "State of the Air 2017" report, which labeled the state and region a leader in air pollution, with the highest ozone levels.

The annual study ranks the cleanest and most polluted areas in the country by grading counties in the U.S. based on harmful recorded levels of ozone (smog) and particle pollution. The 2017 report used data collected from 2013 to 2015.

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