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Pollution

New study calculates magnitude of plastic waste going into the ocean
February 12, 2015 03:30 PM - Stephanie Schupska, University of Georgia

A plastic grocery bag cartwheels down the beach until a gust of wind spins it into the ocean. In 192 coastal countries, this scenario plays out over and over again as discarded beverage bottles, food wrappers, toys and other bits of plastic make their way from estuaries, seashores and uncontrolled landfills to settle in the world's seas.

Children in cities have increased risk of neurological damage due to air pollution
February 12, 2015 08:47 AM - University of Montana

Pollution in many cities threatens the brain development in children. Findings by University of Montana Professor Dr. Lilian Calderón-Garcidueñas, MA, MD, Ph.D., and her team of researchers reveal that children living in megacities are at increased risk for brain inflammation and neurodegenerative changes, including Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s disease. Calderón-Garcidueñas’ findings are detailed in a paper titled “Air pollution and children: Neural and tight junction antibodies and combustion metals, the role of barrier breakdown and brain immunity in neurodegeneration.” 

Autoimmune disease risk found related to mercury exposure
February 10, 2015 07:03 AM -

One of the greatest risk factors for autoimmunity among women of childbearing age may be associated with exposure to mercury such as through seafood, a new University of Michigan study says.

The findings, which appear in Environmental Health Perspectives, found that mercury - even at low levels generally considered safe - was associated with autoimmunity. Autoimmune disorders, which cause the body's immune system to attack healthy cells by mistake, affects nearly 50 million Americans and predominately women.

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. 

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