• Unraveling the Myriad Causes Of North India's Pollution Pall

    A brown cloud of air pollution now frequently shrouds much of northern India. It’s a growing regional health and environmental problem, and scientists are working to understand its many causes, which range from the burning of agricultural waste to auto emissions.

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  • The Dangers Behind Fast Food Packaging

    We’ve all known for a long time that eating fast food is bad for you. It’s greasy, fatty, high in sodium and the calorie count is obscene. Now comes news that even the packaging that food comes in might be dangerous to your health.

    A new study found dangerous chemical compounds in almost half of the 400 fast food containers it tested from 27 fast food franchises. Packaging tested in this study came from the Big Four: McDonald’s, Chipotle Mexican Grill, Starbucks and Yum! Brands, Inc., which operates Taco Bell, KFC, Pizza Hut and WingStreet.

    The substances in question are perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs). That’s the same stuff that once was used to make Dupont’s Teflon before it had to be removed from the market. It’s also used in carpeting, furniture, clothing and cosmetics because of its water-repellant and stain-resistant qualities. We’re exposed to it every day.

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  • Study shows presence of any calcified plaque significantly raises risk of heart disease for people under age 50

    A major report led by Vanderbilt investigators found that the mere presence of even a small amount of calcified coronary plaque, more commonly referred to as coronary artery calcium (CAC), in people under age 50 — even small amounts — was strongly associated with increased risk of developing clinical coronary heart disease over the ensuing decade.

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  • Drought identified as key to severity of West Nile virus epidemics

    A study led by UC Santa Cruz researchers has found that drought dramatically increases the severity of West Nile virus epidemics in the United States, although populations affected by large outbreaks acquire immunity that limits the size of subsequent epidemics.

    The study, published February 8 in Proceedings of the Royal Society B, involved researchers from UC Santa Cruz, Stanford University, and the New York State Department of Health. They analyzed 15 years of data on human West Nile virus infections from across the United States and found that epidemics were much larger in drought years and in regions that had not suffered large epidemics in the past.

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  • University of Toronto scientist says diesel trains may expose passengers to exhaust

    A new U of T study finds that diesel trains may expose passengers to elevated levels of certain pollutants, especially if they are sitting directly behind the locomotive.

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  • Air pollution linked to heightened risk of Type 2 diabetes in obese Latino children

    Latino children who live in areas with higher levels of air pollution have a heightened risk of developing Type 2 diabetes, according to a new USC-led study.

    Scientists tracked children’s health and respective levels of residential air pollution for about 3.5 years before associating chronic unhealthy air exposure to a breakdown in beta cells, special pancreatic cells that secrete insulin and maintain the appropriate sugar level in the bloodstream.

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  • High Selenium Levels Found in Fish in N.C. Lakes Receiving Coal Ash Waste

    A new Duke University study has found high levels of selenium in fish in three North Carolina lakes receiving power plants’ coal ash waste.

    “Across the board, we’re seeing elevated selenium levels in fish from lakes affected by coal combustion residual effluents,” said Jessica Brandt, a doctoral student in environmental health at Duke’s Nicholas School of the Environment, who led the study.

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  • Campus natural gas power plants pose no radon risks

    When Penn State decided to convert its two power plants from their historic use of coal as a source of energy to natural gas, there was concern about radon emissions. Although radon is known to exist in natural gas, now Penn State research indicates that it does not escape from these two power plants in harmful amounts.

    By converting the West Campus Steam Plant on the University Park Campus, Penn State reduced its greenhouse gas emissions at the plant by nearly 40 percent, but the University wanted to make sure that the conversion was not causing a significant increase of radon levels in the atmosphere. Penn State also operates a second power plant on the East end of campus near its football stadium.

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  • NASA Highlights Science Launching on Next SpaceX Cargo Mission

    NASA will host a media teleconference at 3 p.m. EST Wednesday, Feb. 8, to discuss research investigations launching aboard the next SpaceX commercial resupply flight to the International Space Station. Among the investigations are experiments with potential to fight human disease and a new autonomous spacecraft docking technology for testing.

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  • SLAC Study Helps Explain Why Uranium Persists in Groundwater at Former Mining Sites

    Decades after a uranium mine is shuttered, the radioactive element can still persist in groundwater at the site, despite cleanup efforts.

    A recent study led by scientists at the Department of Energy’s SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory helps describe how the contaminant cycles through the environment at former uranium mining sites and why it can be difficult to remove. Contrary to assumptions that have been used for modeling uranium behavior, researchers found the contaminant binds to organic matter in sediments. The findings provide more accurate information for monitoring and remediation at the sites.

    The results were published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

    In 2014, researchers at SLAC’s Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Lightsource (SSRL) began collaborating with the DOE Office of Legacy Management, which handles contaminated sites associated with the legacy of DOE’s nuclear energy and weapons production activities. Through projects associated with the Uranium Mill Tailings Radiation Control Act, the DOE remediated 22 sites in Colorado, Wyoming and New Mexico where uranium had been extracted and processed during the 1940s to 1970s.

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