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Pollution

January Marks National Radon Action Month
January 8, 2015 03:56 PM - US EPA Newsroom

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has designated January as national Radon Action Month, a perfect time for you to protect your family by testing your home for radon. Radon is a colorless, odorless, tasteless gas, so testing is the only way to know if radon is present in your home or school. Test kits are available in home improvement centers, hardware stores and online. They cost approximately $20. The kits are simple to use with easy testing and mailing instructions. 

Lake Erie dead zone increased drastically by 2012 drought
January 7, 2015 08:19 AM - Carnegie Science

Lake Erie just can’t catch a break. The lake has experienced harmful algal blooms and severe oxygen-depleted “dead zones” for years, but now a team of researchers led by Carnegie’s Anna Michalak and Yuntao Zhou has shown that the widespread drought in 2012 was associated with the largest dead zone since at least the mid-1980s.

Until now, the size of the dead zone each summer and the factors explaining the variability from year to year have been elusive. Using 28 years of data collected in and around the lake, the team was able to “measure” the size of the dead zone each summer and identify factors that explain the year-to-year variability for the first time. They found that the 2012 drought, with extremely low water inflow from tributaries, was associated with a record-breaking dead zone in the lake, and that meteorological factors together with agricultural practices explain why these events vary annually. Previous studies have focused on phosphorous from agricultural runoff as the primary driver of the lake’s dead zones, but this analysis shows that the inflow of water from tributaries is actually the largest explanatory factor. The results are published in Environmental Science & Technology.

Pharmaceuticals and Personal Care Products Could Taint Pools
January 6, 2015 01:01 PM - Purdue University

A new study suggests pharmaceuticals and chemicals from personal care products end up in swimming pools, possibly interacting with chlorine to produce disinfection byproducts with unknown properties and health effects. Chlorination is used primarily to prevent pathogenic microorganisms from growing. Previous research has shown that many constituents of urine including urea, uric acid, and amino acids, interact with chlorine to produce potentially hazardous disinfection byproducts in swimming pools. However, chemicals from pharmaceuticals and personal care products, or PPCPs, also could be interacting with chlorine, producing potentially harmful byproducts. 

European Environmental Agency finds air pollution the leading environmental cause of death
January 6, 2015 08:32 AM - EurActiv

Responsible for 400,000 deaths each year globally, air pollution has yet to be sufficiently addressed by the world's governments, researchers have warned. Air pollution damages the heart. According to an expert position paper published in the European Heart Journal, many types of cardiovascular disease are linked to poor air quality.

Not only does air pollution exacerbate existing heart problems, but it also appears to play a role in the development of heart disease in otherwise healthy people, the researchers said. There is particularly strong evidence of the harmful effects of suspended particles, as opposed to gas pollution, they said.

Reducing aircraft emissions globally will require effective regulations
January 4, 2015 08:17 AM - Valerie Brown, The Ecologist

Aviation emissions are a major clause of climate change, writes Valerie Brown - yet they remain unregulated. The gap between the best and worst performing airlines demonstrates ample opportunities for improvement - but is the political will there to impose effective regulation?

The performance gap suggests the industry could reduce GHG emissions significantly if the least efficient airlines would emulate the most efficient.

If commercial aviation were a country, it would rank seventh in global greenhouse gas emissions according to a recent report by the International Council on Clean Transportation(ICCT).

California's regulations on diesel trucks are having a positive impact on air pollution
January 3, 2015 08:42 AM - Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory via ScienceDaily.

Ever wonder what's in the black cloud that emits from some semi trucks that you pass on the freeway? Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) scientist Thomas Kirchstetter knows very precisely what's in there, having conducted detailed measurements of thousands of heavy-duty trucks over months at a time at two San Francisco Bay Area locations.

”‹With a specially outfitted research van equipped with sophisticated monitors for several pollutant types, he and his team are studying emissions levels from diesel trucks to understand and analyze the impact of new control technologies and California air pollution regulations.

Don't put old electronic items in the trash!
December 30, 2014 08:36 AM - NationSwell, Care2

Chances are, many Americans received shiny, new gadgets for the holidays — meaning their old electronics will either collect dust in a closet somewhere or get tossed out.

These unwanted laptops, tablets and printers contribute to the enormous amount of electronic waste, or “e-waste,” that continually piles up in our landfills. According to the EPA, 3.4 million tons of tech gear was trashed in 2012, and unfortunately, only 12.5 percent of e-waste is currently recycled.

Road salt not good for streams
December 29, 2014 08:10 AM - Cheryl Corley, NPR

This is the time of year when it's not uncommon to see big trucks barreling down highways and streets spreading road salt.

Steve Corsi, a hydrologist with the U.S. Geological Survey, says that translates into high levels of chloride concentrations for rivers like the Milwaukee in Wisconsin or 18 other streams near urban areas in Illinois, Ohio, Colorado and several other states.

"At many of the streams, concentrations have now exceeded those that are harmful to aquatic life," he says.

The mystery of the disappearing plastic trash in the oceans solved!
December 27, 2014 08:49 AM - Lizabeth Paulat, Care2

Many of us have seen the photos of plastic refuse in the ocean, the large islands of bags and waste that collect at tidal crossroads. Yet when scientists took a survey of the ocean earlier this year, they found a suspicious amount had disappeared. Was it just our good luck that pollution was decreasing? Hardly. It had simply been sinking, breaking apart and embedding itself in the sediment.

Fibers of microplastic, which are similar in diameter to a human hair, have sunk into deep water reserves across the world. For every bag floating across the ocean’s surface, there’s much more of the stuff laying in the ocean floor underneath. How much plastic is there? Well, according to the research, it’s so widespread that they’ve estimated microplastic is on every kilometer of the sea floor across the globe.

NASA maps CO2 emissions over the entire planet
December 25, 2014 11:39 AM - BRIAN KAHN, CLIMATE CENTRAL, via DiscoveryNews

It’s been a busy five months for NASA’s newest carbon dioxide-monitoring satellite, snapping up to 1 million measurements a day of how carbon dioxide moves across the planet. Now NASA scientists have shared the first global maps created using that data, showing one of the most detailed views of CO2 ever created.

The satellite — known as OCO-2 — has been in orbit since July. While it’s returned some preliminary data, NASA showed off its global reach for the first time on Thursday at the annual American Geophysical Union meeting.

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