Tag Archives | Pollution

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. 

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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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World Heath Organization Says Air Pollution Is Leading Cause Of Cancer

LandscapeDon’t breathe, it will kill you. Via the South China Morning Post:

The World Health Organization has classified outdoor air pollution as a leading cause of cancer.

“The air we breathe has become polluted with a mixture of cancer-causing substances. We consider this to be the most important environmental carcinogen, more so than passive smoking,” said Kurt Straif, head of the WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer.

The agency evaluates cancer-causing substances. This is the first time it has classified air pollution in its entirety as causing cancer.

The most recent data, from 2010, showed that 223,000 lung cancer deaths worldwide were the result of air pollution. The expert panel’s classification was made after scientists analysed more than 1,000 studies worldwide and concluded there was enough evidence that exposure to outdoor air pollution causes lung cancer.

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Barbecue Ban Fails to Help Chinese See Across Tiananmen Square

chinesebarbeqLloyd Alter writes at TreeHugger:

According to the Real Time Air Quality Index, a score of 150-200 is unhealthy, and “Everyone may begin to experience health effects; members of sensitive groups may experience more serious health effects.” A score of 201-300 is very unhealthy, “Health warnings of emergency conditions. The entire population is more likely to be affected.” Over 300: “Health alert: everyone may experience more serious health effects.”

It hit 271 on Sunday. On Saturday morning when I took these photos, you could barely see across Tiananmen Square. It made my eyes water and my throat sore. Much of it is from seriously damaging particulates known as PM2.5, or particulate matter smaller than 2.5 microns, coal fired power stations and industries around Beijing are blamed. There are a lot of VOC’s (volatile organic chemicals); China Daily notes that these weren’t even measured until 2010.

“If we hope to see real changes to the country’s air quality, coordinated control of multiple pollutants, including VOCs, is a must,” Yang Jintian, head of the Atmospheric Environment Institute at the Chinese Academy for Environmental Planning, told China Daily.

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MIT Study Claims Air Pollution Kills 200,000 Americans Each Year

200,000I believe this is the ultimate example of what is known as “cost externalizing.” Via the MIT News Office:

Researchers from MIT’s Laboratory for Aviation and the Environment have come out with some sobering new data on air pollution’s impact on Americans’ health.

The group tracked ground-level emissions from sources such as industrial smokestacks, vehicle tailpipes, marine and rail operations, and commercial and residential heating throughout the United States, and found that such air pollution causes about 200,000 early deaths each year. Emissions from road transportation are the most significant contributor, causing 53,000 premature deaths, followed closely by power generation, with 52,000.

In 5,695 U.S. cities, the researchers [found] the highest emissions-related mortality rate in Baltimore, where 130 out of every 100,000 residents likely die in a given year due to long-term exposure to air pollution.

Barrett says that a person who dies from an air pollution-related cause typically dies about a decade earlier than he or she otherwise might have.

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