In case you weren't panicking enough about the way that ambient environmental factors might be surreptitiously destroying your body, the EPA decided that right now would be a great time to change the rules about how they calculate the risk associated with mercury and other toxic metal factory byproducts.
From The New York Times:
The new Environmental Protection Agency rule does not eliminate restrictions on the release of mercury, a heavy metal linked to brain damage. Instead, it creates a new method of calculating the costs and benefits of curbing mercury pollution that environmental lawyers said would fundamentally undermine the legal underpinnings of controls on mercury and many other pollutants.
By reducing the positive health effects of regulations on paper and raising their economic costs, the new method could be used to justify loosening restrictions on any pollutant that the fossil fuel industry has deemed too costly to control.
The real insult-to-injury here is that it would be easy for the EPA to turn a blind eye to these sort of regulations. Offices are closed due to the coronavirus pandemic, and with so much chaos in the world, shady actors in the EPA could deliberately let these rules slip by while still maintaining plausible deniability.
In fact, the EPA already did something like that earlier in this lockdown crisis. In late March, it announced that it was suspending enforcement of environmental compliance — essentially leaving it up to private companies to decide for themselves if they're following pollution laws. Read the rest
Lockdowns have improved air quality in major cities around the world, per nitrogen dioxide measurements mapped here by Steven Bernard. Most cities, anyway.
Data source: ESA Sentinel 5
Data was processed by Descartes Labs showing average pollution levels from Mar 1 to Apr 5 2020, compared with the same period last year.
Data was brought into QGIS and styled and then further design work was done in Adobe Illustrator
You can read the full article hereon how Covid-19 has impacted climate change for good and bad
I wonder if these maps expose a lack of social distancing, continued work travel, etc., that could be correlated to hidden prevalence of the disease. For example, if little has changed in Teheran's and Moscow's NO₂ output, is that evidence that there's no lockdown and a lot more people are getting it (and dying of it) than they're admitting?
Another unusual pattern that differs from other cities: London, where the country/exurbs are markedly less polluted than usual but a small dense area in the center hasn't changed much at all.
I made a crude diffed version (below), showing the change in output for each city. Black means no improvement (bear in mind rural areas with little pollution to begin with), green means a little improvement, red means a lot of improvement
P.S. Had no idea what a choked hellhole Milan is. Read the rest
Say goodbye to America's wetlands and streams. Say hello to new rivers of pollution, and parking lots where cattails, frogs, and minnows once were. Read the rest
Perfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), which are linked to cancer and liver damage, were used in a number of products, including Teflon and Scotchgard. PFAS take such a long time to break down in the environment that they are described as "forever chemicals."
David Andrews, a senior scientist at the Environmental Working Group (EWG), which just issued a report about widespread PFAS pollution in the United States water supply, told Reuters, “It’s nearly impossible to avoid contaminated drinking water from these chemicals.” From the article:
Of tap water samples taken by EWG from 44 sites in 31 states and Washington D.C., only one location, Meridian, Mississippi, which relies on 700 foot (215 m) deep wells, had no detectable PFAS. Only Seattle and Tuscaloosa, Alabama had levels below 1 part per trillion (PPT), the limit EWG recommends.
In addition, EWG found that on average six to seven PFAS compounds were found at the tested sites, and the effects on health of the mixtures are little understood. “Everyone’s really exposed to a toxic soup of these PFAS chemicals,” Andrews said.
Image: by trozzolo - Own work, Public Domain, Link Read the rest
Zuzana Caputova has just been elected to the presidency of Slovakia with 58% of the vote; the political novice rose to prominence with her campaign against a toxic waste dump in her hometown of Pezinok, which earned her the nickname "Slovakia's Erin Brockovoch."
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Microplastics -- the tiny pieces of plastic debris littering our planet -- has been found in human poop, surprising nobody. The pilot study included 8 people from seven countries in Europe plus Japan. While the study was obviously very small, the researchers did discover waste plastic such as that from food wrappers and synthetic clothing in feces from all the participants. According to lead researcher Dr. Philipp Schwabl of the University of Vienna, the study was too small to draw any huge conclusions but it does confirm what sadly was inevitable. From Laura Parker's feature in National Geographic
“I’d say microplastics in poop are not surprising,” says Chelsea Rochman, an ecologist at the University of Toronto, who studies the effects of microplastics on fish. “For me, it shows we are eating our waste—mismanagement has come back to us on our dinner plates. And yes, we need to study how it may affect humans.”
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Every year, an average of eight million tons of plastic waste, most of it single-use varieties, flows into the world’s oceans from coastal regions. There, sunlight and wave action break these waterborne plastics down into bits the size of grains of rice. Fibers from synthetic clothes such as polyester and acrylic make their way into freshwater systems via washing machines. You can see this in action with a fleece jacket; just scratching the arm of the jacket can shed invisible fibers. As a result, tiny plastic fragments and fibers have now spread all over the planet. They're in deep sea trenches and in the air we breathe.
Brazilian artist Butcher Billy was commissioned by STATE bags to create #FlintsFantasticFive, a series of images depicting several key voices in addressing the Flint water crisis. Read the rest
About 10% of plastic ocean pollution is ghost nets, the countless lost or abandoned fishing nets that maim and kill marine life. Jenga Ocean, made of recycled nets, tries to raise awareness, recycle recovered nets, and raise funds to help end this type of pollution. Via Bureo: Read the rest
A staggering eight million tons of plastic trash is dumped in our oceans each year, according to a 2015 Science report.
As a way of putting a spotlight on the issue, Spanish designer Adolfo Correa created the art for The Paradise? Shirt, a Hawaiian-style shirt that, at first glance, looks standard-issue. Look closer and you'll see he's put plastic waste -- like toothbrushes and six-pack rings -- into the design.
The shirt was a collaboration between Wieden + Kennedy Amsterdam, Corona and Parley for the Oceans, created for World Oceans Day (June 8). The limited-edition shirts were being sold at the World Surf League Store for $69/each but have already sold out.
images via Adolfo Correa
(Dezeen) Read the rest
The Community Microscope is a fully-funded, crowdfunded open source microscope hardware kit built around a digital camera: it costs $39 and snaps together in 15 minutes.
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This video accompanies National Geographic's terrific reporting on the global plastic waste crisis. it shows how America became a plastic-addicted throwaway culture, and how the earth is now paying for humanity's short-sighted sin. Read the rest
Some people are more committed to a cause than others. Ben Lecomte? He’s one of those. In an effort to highlight the stunning amount of damage humanity is doing to the world’s oceans and generate awareness about plastic pollution, the 50-year old adventurer plans on swimming through 1,600km of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Lecomte started his swim this morning in Japan. Provided everything goes according to plan, he’ll finish his aquatic ramblings in 180 days, in San Fransisco. This isn’t his first open water rodeo: according to The Guardian, Lecomte swam across the whole damn Atlantic Ocean back in 1998.
From The Guardian:
The Great Pacific garbage patch, according to the latest March estimate, is twice the size of France and contains nearly 80,000 tonnes of plastic.
Also known as the Pacific trash vortex, the patch is caused by the North Pacific gyre – a circle of currents that keep plastic, waste and other pollution trapped.
According to scientists, the patch has been growing “exponentially” in recent years. The March estimate found it was 16 times larger than previously expected.
As Lecomte makes his way through the garbage patch, he and his support team plan on taking water samples and catching fish to test for plastic pollutants and illustrate how plastics have been infiltrating the food chain. This might sound like a a goofy publicity stunt, but if you take a peek at the endeavor's website, you'll see that Lecomte's efforts have the support of some big scientific guns, including NASA, CMER, the Argonne National Labratory and the University of Montana, just to name a few. Read the rest
CFC-11 was phased out under 1987's Montreal Protocol and the immediate halt of its usage has done much to reverse ozone depletion in the years since; but since 2012, atmospheric levels of CFC-11 have risen by 25%, eroding the still-healing ozone layer and suggesting that someone, somewhere, has started manufacturing the substance again.
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Thanks to pollution, bug excrement, and particulates thrown into the air by construction in the vicinity, the Taj Mahal has turned color. Constructed primarily using white marble in the 17th century, the UNESCO world heritage site building has changed in color from white, to a troublesome yellow and, more recently, has become sullied with shades of brown and green. Given the Taj Mahal's importance as a tourist destination (it draws close to 70,000 people per day!) and its cultural significance, India's Supreme Court has said enough's enough: they've ordered the country's government to seek foreign help to bring the building back to its former glory.
According to the BBC, the Indian Supreme Court recently scolded the country's government for allowing the site to fall into such disrepair, with one court justice saying, "Even if you have the expertise, you are not utilizing it. Or perhaps you don't care."
For its part, the Indian government has moved to protect the Taj Mahal in the past: it forced the closure of thousands of factories near the site in an effort to protect the building and grounds from pollution. Unfortunately, fighting pollution in the area is an uphill battle. The mausoleum, located in the city of Agra, sits adjacent to the Yamuna River. The river is rife with raw sewage, which attracts hordes of insects. Those bugs apparently love to poop on the world heritage site. On several occasions over the past couple of decades, the Indian government has attempted to clean the exterior of the building, in the hopes of bringing it back to its original coloring. Read the rest
Searching for Mantas, the poster of this video instead found trash.
The ocean currents brought us in a lovely gift of a slick of jellyfish, plankton, leaves, brunches, fronds, sticks, etc.... Oh, and some plastic. Some plastic bags, plastic bottles, plastic cups, plastic sheets, plastic buckets, plastic sachets, plastic straws, plastic baskets, plastic bags, more plastic bags, plastic, plastic, so much plastic!
Here's a talk from guy working on a solar-powered autonomous vehicle that will head out to the high seas and pick up all the trash we put there.
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In temperate and tropical locales, storm drains are a vital bit of urban infrastructure. As a channel for rain water to drain from city streets, they play an important role in keeping the places most of us live habitable and our roads passable during wet weather. When storm drains get clogged with debris, the water they're meant to carry can't flow and things go sideways, fast. As such, most cities throw a lot of money at cleaning them – and the catch basins that feed into them – out, several times per year.
New Orleans? They've got storm drains. Given the city's history of catastrophic flooding, to say that keeping their waste water flowing would be an understatement. It's a tough job, made more difficult by the annual influx of drunken, horny tourists.
On January 28th, the Times-Picayune reported that in addition to the mud, leaves and garbage that New Orleans public works employees have to suck out of storm drains this year, they discovered something else: 46 tons of Marti Gras beads. For the sober uninitiated, the tradition of passing out strands and necklaces of Mardi Gras beads to boozy revelers started back in the 1800s when people parading as part of the annual celebration handed out the inexpensive mementos to onlookers. As anyone who's been to the five-day festival recently will tell you, just as many strands of the beads wind up on the ground as they do around necks. While the city spends hundreds of thousands of dollars to clean up after the days-long party, the beads still end up getting into places that you don't want them to – kind of like macro-sized glitter. Read the rest
Nothing like going to a tropical dive spot known to be "untouched" by humans, only to find a giant plastic garbage patch stretching as far as the eye can see. The Doobie Brothers music adds a nice touch. Read the rest