Top Stories

BPA in Plastics and Aluminum Cans Linked to Heart and Kidney Disease

New scientific data has been released linking a chemical commonly found in plastic bottles and inside aluminum cans to a biomarker for higher risk of heart and kidney disease in children and adolescents. The chemical, known as bisphenol A (BPA) is used to provide an anti-septic function to the liquids and food products it contains. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently banned the chemical, but it is still widely used in aluminum cans. Previous studies have found that BPA can disrupt various mechanisms in human metabolism. The new study from the NYU School of Medicine shows that it can also increase the chance of developing coronary heart disease and kidney dysfunction. >> Read the Full Article

In the News: West African lions nearing extinction

The report, by conservation group LionAid, says that as few as 645 lions may now remain in the wild in western and central Africa, following a worrying decline in recent years. This decline has been mirrored across Africa, with estimates suggesting that only around 15,000 wild lions remain across the whole continent, compared to about 200,000 a few decades ago. This iconic species is now extinct in 25 African countries, and virtually extinct in another 10. >> Read the Full Article

Mercury Strategies

Natural sources, such as volcanoes, are responsible for approximately half of atmospheric mercury emissions. Humans contributed most of the rest through fuel combustion. International negotiators will come together next week in Geneva, Switzerland for the fifth and final meeting to address global environmental controls on mercury. Ahead of the negotiations, researchers from MIT and Harvard University are calling for aggressive emissions reductions and clear public health advice to reduce the risks of mercury. >> Read the Full Article

Severe Weather in the Middle East - Another Result of a Changing Climate?

Severe weather is pummeling the Middle East. Latest reports puts the death toll at dozens. I'm fresh back from a trip to my family's two homesteads: the USA, where we toured New Jersey's hurricane-battered shoreline, and the UK, where new lakes of rainwater cover Cotswolds' fields and the British Meteorological Office declared the highest annual precipitation since they began keeping records. An exceptional spate of extreme weather events? Or is this climate change? (I'll duck under my keyboard so comment-hurling can commence). Bad weather's no stranger to those places, but the Mid East dressed up in alpine weather? Surreal. Early this week, the Greater Amman Municipality announced a moderate state of emergency in the capital to deal with predicted severe weather conditions. Yesterday, the Prime Minister issued a directive closing all government and public offices; most schools had already issued pre-emptive shut-downs. >> Read the Full Article

Australia reels from record heatwave, fires

Yesterday Australia recorded its highest average temperature yet: 40.33 degrees Celsius (104.59 Fahrenheit). The nation has been sweltering under an unprecedented summer heatwave that has spawned wildfires across the nation, including on the island of Tasmania where over 100 houses were engulfed over the weekend. Temperatures are finally falling slightly today, providing a short reprieve before they are expected to rise again this weekend. >> Read the Full Article

Python Trade Influenced by Fashion Industry

A report released last month by the International Trade Centre has raised concerns over many aspects of the snake skin trade, most notably high levels of illegal trading, plus concerns about the welfare and conservation of the species involved. The report, entitled "The Trade in South-East Asian Python Skins", was backed by the wildlife trade monitoring network TRAFFIC, and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, (IUCN). The authors used information gathered from interviews with exporters and importers, hunters, government officials, conservationists and vets to highlight the now urgent need for more control over a trade which is threatening the survival of pythons. >> Read the Full Article

Drought Still Threatens Mississippi River

A new year has started, but last year's drought is still afflicting the United States. The latest map from the U.S. Drought Monitor shows nearly 73 percent of the contiguous U.S. is still in drought. Rain has slaked the thirst of parts of the Northeast and Southeast, but dry conditions expanded in other regions. >> Read the Full Article

Genetic Obesity

For those who are overweight, it is not entirely your fault. Researchers at UCLA say it's not just what you eat that makes those pants tighter — it's also genetics. In a new study, scientists discovered that body-fat responses to a typical fast-food diet are determined in large part by genetic factors, and they have identified several genes they say may control those responses. The study is the first of its kind to detail metabolic responses to a high-fat, high-sugar diet in a large and diverse mouse population under defined environmental conditions, modeling closely what is likely to occur in human populations. The researchers found that the amount of food consumed contributed only modestly to the degree of obesity. >> Read the Full Article

iWind Power?

Apple may be the world’s valuable company and brand, but to sustainability and corporate social responsibility advocates, the company is often a pariah. But a patent application the company filed last year, first revealed on the Apple Insider blog, shows that some of that cash on which Apple is sitting could be invested in a new clean energy technology. Filed last year, the application describes a set of rotating blades that converts rotational energy from a wind turbine into heat that is then stored in a vessel containing "low heat capacity fluid." The system would then selectively transfer the heat as needed from that low heat capacity fluid to a "working fluid" and hence would generate electricity. Heat, not rotational energy, would would be the result of the turbine's blades rotating; and even more exciting, energy could be used when needed, as when there is little or no wind. >> Read the Full Article

Coral Fighting Back

Corals are marine animals typically living in compact colonies of many identical individual polyps. The group includes the important reef builders that inhabit tropical oceans and secrete calcium carbonate to form a hard skeleton. Coral reefs are under stress around the world often due to climate change issues. Researchers have uncovered a pattern of gene activity that enables some corals to survive in higher temperatures. The finding suggests a way to predict how different corals will fare in the warmer waters expected to result from climate change over the coming decades. Such information could help to focus future conservation efforts, the researchers say. >> Read the Full Article