Tag Archives | Pollution

Is Air Pollution a Risk Factor for Suicide?

PIC: Joseph Herman Bolduc: (PD)

PIC: Joseph Herman Bolduc: (PD)

John Upton writes at Pacific Standard:

Saying “it’s so smoggy I could kill myself” may seem as flippant as uttering “I’m so hungry I could eat a horse.”

But it’s not.

Four years ago, Asian researchers reported links between air pollution and suicide rates in South Korea; and between air pollution, asthma, and suicides in Taiwan. Now, University of Utah scientists say they have uncovered similar links in pollution-prone Salt Lake County.

Delegates who have gathered in Los Angeles for the American Association of Suicidology’s annual get-together will hear this evening about the unpublished research, which compared the timing of 1,500 suicides in the Beehive State with air quality data.

Suicide can be difficult to talk about, but it’s America’s 10th leading cause of death. It’s the eighth-leading cause in Utah, home to some of the nation’s smoggiest cities. Earlier this year, the pollution problem prompted a 5,000-person protest outside the state’s capitol building.

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Chinese Man Sues Government Over Smog

Benxi Steel IndustriesIs this a sign that China is becoming a nation with a legal system that can actually protect its citizens against oppressive government? Suing the Chinese government could have been a one way ticket to prison or worse in years past, but Reuters via Haaretz is reporting on a brave soul who thinks it’s time to try litigation to solve China’s smog problem:

A Chinese man in a smoggy northern city has become the first person in the country to sue the government for failing to curb air pollution, a state-run newspaper reported on Tuesday.

Li Guixin, a resident of Shijiazhuang, capital of Hebei province, has submitted his complaint to a district court, asking the Shijiazhuang Municipal Environmental Protection Bureau to “perform its duty to control air pollution according to the law”, the Yanzhao Metropolis Daily said.

He is also seeking compensation from the agency for residents for the choking pollution that has engulfed Shijiazhuang, and much of northern China, this winter.

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How the U.S. Exports Global Warming

AirPollutionSourceSad but not surprising that as the Greedy Lying Bastards of Big Carbon are being exposed and opposed in the United States, they are turning to less developed countries to make their megabucks. Tim Dickinson reports for Rolling Stone:

The greening of American energy is both real and profound. Since President Obama took office, the nation’s solar capacity has increased more than tenfold. Wind power has more than doubled, to 60,000 megawatts – enough to power nearly 20 million homes. Thanks to aggressive new fuel-efficiency standards, the nation’s drivers are burning nearly 5 billion fewer gallons of gasoline a year than in 2008. The boom in cheap natural gas, meanwhile, has disrupted the coal industry. Coal-power generation, though still the nation’s top source of electricity, is off nearly 20 percent since 2008. More than 150 coal plants have already been shuttered, and the EPA is expected to issue regulations in June that will limit emissions from existing coal facilities.

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Poison-Breathing Bacteria May Be Boon to Industry, Environment

Pic: Cir_Flickr (CC)

Pic: Cir_Flickr (CC)

Interesting that they list industry first, seeing as how economic activity depends on the environment.  Via ScienceDaily:

Buried deep in the mud along the banks of a remote salt lake near Yosemite National Park are colonies of bacteria with an unusual property: they breathe a toxic metal to survive. Researchers from the University of Georgia discovered the bacteria on a recent field expedition to Mono Lake in California, and their experiments with this unusual organism show that it may one day become a useful tool for industry and environmental protection.

The bacteria use elements that are notoriously poisonous to humans, such as antimony and arsenic, in place of oxygen, an ability that lets them survive buried in the mud of a hot spring in this unique saline soda basin.

“Just like humans breathe oxygen, these bacteria respire poisonous elements to survive,” said Chris Abin, author of a paper describing the research published recently in the journal Environmental Science & Technology and a doctoral candidate in microbiology.

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Reclaimed Iron Oxide: Ceramic Artists Use the Byproduct of an Environmental Clean Up

Pic: CAD (C)

Pic: CAD (C)

Skip Sensbach writes at Ceramic Arts Daily:

Iron is a common element that is found in most of the ceramic materials we use. From clay to glazes, we come in contact with iron on a daily basis, usually in the form of iron oxide. Iron is a useful and important element in forming the color of our clays and glazes as well as in some instances acting as a flux. For many ceramic artists, the need to add iron oxide to clay and glazes usually ends up with a phone call to a clay supplier to order several pounds of the material. The iron oxide is then shipped, possibly traveling over many miles before arriving at the studio. However, for artists who live in an area that has a history of mining, a more environmentally friendly source of iron oxide might be in your own back yard.

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300,000 West Virginians Left Without Clean Water Following Chemical Spill

freedom industries

For the past five days authorities have been scrambling to provide emergency water rations to West Virginians who have been ordered not to drink or even touch the tap water in their region, thanks to one “Freedom Industries.” Via MSNBC:

Roughly 300,000 residents have been left without usable water after chemicals spilled into a West Virginia river Thursday. The West Virginia American Water Company has advised residents of nine state counties not to drink or bathe in their running water. Local stores have been flooded with customers looking for bottled drinking water.

The spill originated at a chemical storage facility run by the Charleston-based company Freedom Industries, when a 48,000 gallon tank dumped an indeterminate amount of 4-Methylcyclohexane Methanol into the Elk River. The chemical, also known as MCHM, is used by coal companies to wash and prepare their product. People who are exposed to it may experience vomiting, skin blistering and shortness of breath.

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Pollution Makes Computers Sick, Too

Pic: Pluke (CC)

Pic: Pluke (CC)

Mike Rogoway writes at OregonLive:

The symptoms of industrial pollution are everywhere in Asia, where pedestrians wear surgical masks to filter the air and urban smog is sometimes so thick that Beijing’s Forbidden City is rendered nearly invisible behind a cloak of soot. Just this month, Chinese authorities canceled flights at Beijing’s main airport amid especially heavy pollution, and shuttered highways in and out of the city.

The implications for human health are obvious; studies show that pollution is shortening lifespans in northern China by five years or more.

Intel engineers in Oregon are now discovering that rotten air is also taking a toll on electronics in China and India, with sulfur corroding the copper circuitry that provides neural networks for PCs and servers and wrecking the motherboards that run whole systems.

“We got the board and it was pretty obvious. You open the chassis up and you see blackish material on every type of surface,” said Anil Kurella, the Hillsboro material scientist who’s leading Intel’s research effort.

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On the Slow Kill of the World’s Oceans

Picture: speakupforblue.com

Picture: speakupforblue.com

Aaron Dames writes for Divided Core:

It is probable that every major ecological pillar however tenuously stabilizing the structure of the oceans is crumbling.  Although some endangered fish populations and coral reef systems are being protected and restored, the seas overall are in deep shit.  Overfishing and pollution are reducing biodiversity by killing-off larges swaths of ocean life.  The destruction of vast marine habitats will have catastrophic repercussions for humanity.  [According to some earth scientists, oceanic ecocide poses a greater threat to the existence of humanity than climate change.  Higher global temperature averages which melt icecaps and glaciers will lead to higher sea levels and the inundation of a plethora of coastal industries, cities, and urban centers that are responsible for contributing to environmental destruction and the mass production of excessive, heat-trapping, carbon-dioxide emissions. As in times of major economic depressions or financial stagnation, the inundation of coastal megalopolises will result in a decrease of industrial activity which may subsequently benefit nature as a whole (until industrial activity is resumed), but would have horrible consequences for humanity, especially for those hundreds of millions of impoverished coastal inhabitants who already live in deprivation, and who would become environmental refugees in the event of a significant increase in sea levels.  (Click here to view an interactive map from National Geographic which depicts how coastlines would change if all glaciers and icecaps on Earth were to melt.)]

Not that there’s anything wrong with them, but human beings have caused a lot of trouble for life in the world’s oceans.  The process in which the destruction of sea life occurs is largely two-fold.  Large-scale destructive events like oil spills (Deepwater Horizon) and nuclear power plant disasters (Fukushima) can cause serious damage to the affected aquatic areas.  Damage from such disasters is often immediately evident, such as the deformed and eyeless fish and shrimp that appeared in the Gulf of Mexico after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, or the dying sea lions pups and seals with bleeding lesions that have washed up on beaches in California and Alaska the wake of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant meltdown.  Yet as grave and harmful as they are, explosive, headline-making disasters are less deleterious to life in the seas than the cumulative, synergistic effects of routine human activities such as oceanic commerce, commercial fishing, and pollution.  For example, a 2002 study by the National Academy of the Sciences found that the 85 percent of the 29 million gallons of marine oil pollution originating from North America derives from runoff from cars and oil-based machines and accessories (like lawnmowers and household robots) – and the sum of these tiny releases of oil, carried into the ocean by streams and storm drains, is equivalent to an Exxon Valdez oil spill every eight months.  [As additional food for thought: there are apparently 90,000 cargo ships in the world.

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Fique Fibers from Andes Mountains Part of Miracle Solution for Dye Pollution, Find Scientists

Picture: Cornell University (C)

Picture: Cornell University (C)

Via ScienceDaily:

A cheap and simple process using natural fibers embedded with nanoparticles can almost completely rid water of harmful textile dyes in minutes, report Cornell University and Colombian researchers who worked with native Colombian plant fibers.

Dyes, such as indigo blue used to color blue jeans, threaten waterways near textile plants in South America, India and China. Such dyes are toxic, and they discolor the water, thereby reducing light to the water plants, which limits photosynthesis and lowers the oxygen in the water.

The study, published in the August issue of the journal Green Chemistry, describes a proof of principle, but the researchers are testing how effectively their method treats such endocrine-disrupting water pollutants as phenols, pesticides, antibiotics, hormones and phthalates.

“These molecules are contaminants that are very resilient to traditional water-purification processes, and we believe our biocomposite materials can be an option for their removal from waste water,” said study co-author, Marianny Combariza, a researcher at Colombia’s Universidad Industrial de Santander.

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The Ocean Is Broken

Pacific-garbage-patch-map 2010 noaamdpAustralia’s Newcastle Herald describes the sorry tale of Ivan Macfadyen’s adventures in the polluted Pacific Ocean. Here’s a particularly depressing excerpt:

“After we left Japan, it felt as if the ocean itself was dead,” Macfadyen said.

“We hardly saw any living things. We saw one whale, sort of rolling helplessly on the surface with what looked like a big tumour on its head. It was pretty sickening.

“I’ve done a lot of miles on the ocean in my life and I’m used to seeing turtles, dolphins, sharks and big flurries of feeding birds. But this time, for 3000 nautical miles there was nothing alive to be seen.”

In place of the missing life was garbage in astounding volumes.

“Part of it was the aftermath of the tsunami that hit Japan a couple of years ago. The wave came in over the land, picked up an unbelievable load of stuff and carried it out to sea.

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