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Pollution

Earliest evidence of human-produced air pollution linked to Spanish conquest of the Inca
February 9, 2015 03:55 PM - Pam Frost Gorder, The Ohio State University

In the 16th century, during its conquest of South America, the Spanish Empire forced countless Incas to work extracting silver from the mountaintop mines of Potosí, in what is now Bolivia—then the largest source of silver in the world. The Inca already knew how to refine silver, but in 1572 the Spanish introduced a new technology that boosted production many times over and sent thick clouds of lead dust rising over the Andes for the first time in history. Winds carried some of that pollution 500 miles northwest into Peru, where tiny remnants of it settled on the Quelccaya Ice Cap. There it stayed—buried under hundreds of years of snow and ice—until researchers from The Ohio State University found it in 2003.

Why you should throw out your old TV
February 6, 2015 02:44 PM - Nsikan Akpan, Science/AAAS

We may think we’re a culture that ditches our worn technology at the first sight of something shiny and new, but a new study reveals that we keep using our old gadgets well after they go out of style. That’s bad news for the environment—and our wallets—as these outdated devices suck up much more energy than their newer counterparts.

Airline industry makes strides in adopting sustainable biofuels
February 5, 2015 08:38 AM - ClickGreen Staff, ClickGreen

Air travel emits more than 650 million metric tons of carbon pollution annually – equivalent to the pollution from 136 million cars – making the increased use of sustainable biofuels a critical to reducing the industry’s carbon footprint. According to a first-of-its-kind scorecard released today by the Natural Resources Defense Council, the industry is making strides in adopting sustainable biofuels, with some airlines doing better than others as they incorporate these new fuels into their fleets. Air France/KLM is by far the leader of the pack.

Seabirds suffer from pollutant exposure
February 4, 2015 08:38 AM - Shayna Wilson, MONGABAY.COM

Seabirds, aerial ocean predators, are known to amass harmful contaminants over their lifespan. Scientists believe this exposure to pollutants, such as blood mercury (Hg), cadmium (Cd), and persistent organic pollutants (POPs), negatively impacts survival rates as well as reproduction, therefore contributing to large-scale population declines. Although previously these assumptions were largely theoretical, recent research in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B involving blood samples from wandering albatrosses points to new conclusions. 

Study Finds Leaks in Boston's Natural Gas Pipelines
February 2, 2015 04:37 PM - S.E. Smith, Care2

A team of researchers led by Kathryn McKain of Harvard University has recently discovered that approximately three percent of the natural gas delivered to Boston leaks directly into the atmosphere, taking with it a heavy load of methane, a known greenhouse gas. Their study doesn’t just have significant environmental implications: It’s estimated that the city is losing around $90 million to leaks every year. Correcting leaks is a relatively straightforward task, though it would require some investment in natural gas infrastructure and consumer education. However, these costs would be mitigated by the substantial savings offered if Boston was able to cut down on its methane problem.

Millions may be exposed to arsenic in private well water
February 2, 2015 09:29 AM - The Earth Institute - Columbia University

Naturally occurring arsenic in private wells threatens people in many U.S. states and parts of Canada, according to a package of a dozen scientific papers to be published next week. The studies, focused mainly on New England but applicable elsewhere, say private wells present continuing risks due to almost nonexistent regulation in most states, homeowner inaction and inadequate mitigation measures. The reports also shed new light on the geologic mechanisms behind the contamination. The studies come amid new evidence that even low doses of arsenic may reduce IQ in children, in addition to well documented risks of heart disease, cancer and reduced lung function. The reports comprise a special section in the journal Science of the Total Environment.

Light rail-based air quality monitoring study launched in Salt Lake City
January 31, 2015 09:33 AM - University of Utah

A team of University of Utah researchers has launched an air pollution monitoring project that will result in a better understanding of air quality across the Wasatch Front.

Utah researchers Logan Mitchell, Erik Crosman, John Horel, and John Lin of the University of Utah’s Department of Atmospheric Sciences are a few months in to the ongoing project, in which data are being gathered from sensors mounted on TRAX trains, in coordination with several partners in the community.

The project seeks to measure pollutants, including fine particulate matter (PM2.5) ozone and greenhouse gases, as well as meteorology using instruments installed on the Utah Transit Authority’s light rail train (TRAX) that travels through the Salt Lake Valley. 

New analysis explores trends in global plastic consumption and recycling
January 28, 2015 03:35 PM - Gaelle Gourmelon, Worldwatch Institute

For more than 50 years, global production of plastic has continued to rise. Some 299 million tons of plastics were produced in 2013, representing a 4 percent increase over 2012. Recovery and recycling, however, remain insufficient, and millions of tons of plastics end up in landfills and oceans each year, writes Gaelle Gourmelon, Communications and Marketing Manager at the Worldwatch Institute, in the Institute’s latest Vital Signs Online article.

Pollution Blamed as Leading Cause of Death in Developing World
January 28, 2015 08:51 AM - Alexis Petru, Triple Pundit

In 2012, pollution – in the form of contaminated soil, water, and both indoor and outdoor air – was responsible for 8.4 million deaths in developing countries, finds Pollution: The Silent Killer of Millions in Poor Countries. That’s almost three times more deaths than those caused by malaria, HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis combined: Malaria claimed 600,000 lives in 2012, HIV/AIDS caused 1.5 million deaths and tuberculosis killed 900,000 individuals.

Fracking has been with us for more than 60 years. It is evolving.
January 28, 2015 07:50 AM - U.S. Geological Survey

Two new U.S. Geological Survey publications that highlight historical hydraulic fracturing trends and data from 1947 to 2010 are now available.

Hydraulic fracturing is presently the primary stimulation technique for oil and gas production in unconventional resource reservoirs. Comprehensive, published, and publicly available information regarding the extent, location, and character of hydraulic fracturing in the United States is scarce. 

“These national-scale data and analyses will provide a basis for making comparisons of current-day hydraulic fracturing to historical applications,” said USGS scientist and lead author Tanya Gallegos.

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