“Outdoor particulate pollution was responsible for an estimated 4.2 million deaths worldwide in 2015, with a majority concentrated in east and south Asia. Millions more fell ill from breathing dirty air.
This fine pollution mainly comes from burning things: Coal in power plants, gasoline in cars, chemicals in industrial processes, or woody materials and whatever else ignites during wildfires. The particles are too small for the eye to see — each about 35 times smaller than a grain of fine beach sand — but in high concentrations they cast a haze in the sky. And, when breathed in, they wreak havoc on human health.
PM2.5 can evade our bodies’ defenses, penetrating deep into the lungs and even entering the bloodstream. It has been shown to exacerbate asthma and other lung disorders, and increase the risk of heart attack and stroke. This microscopic pollution, named because each particle is smaller than 2.5 micrometers across, has also been linked to developmental problems in children and cognitive impairment in the elderly, as well as premature labor and low birth weights.
Under high levels of particulate pollution, “you can’t function, you can’t thrive,” said Alexandra Karambelas, an environmental analyst and research scientist affiliated with Columbia University. “Having access to clean air is kind of a basic human right.” “
By Steven Kurutz
Feb. 16, 2019
Drowning in plastic, but not sure how to set yourself free? Plastic purgers say you can drastically reduce, if not eliminate, your plastic consumption by changing a few daily habits. Here are nine steps to get you started.
1. Carry a reusable bag.
This is Plastic-Free-Living 101. Take a cloth bag to the grocery store, farmers’ market, drugstore and anywhere else you may be given a plastic bag.
2. Use plastic-free containers.
Glass or metal jars can be used to store grains, nuts, flour and other foods, as well as laundry detergent, dish soap and body creams. But don’t automatically purge all of your plastic containers; that creates unnecessary waste.
Plastic purgers can never have enough stainless-steel bottles.CreditAdam Amengual for The New York Times
3. Pack a travel kit.
Bamboo cutlery and a nonplastic food tray, straw and water bottle will eliminate the need for most single-use plastics while on-the-go. “Restaurants and vendors all over the world are getting much more used to people bringing their own containers,” said Jay Sinha, a founder of Life Without Plastic, an online store.
via 9 Ways to Cut Down on Plastic – The New York Times
By Julie Turkewitz
Feb. 22, 2019
“FOUNTAIN, Colo. — When Army Staff Sergeant Samuel Fortune returned from Iraq, his body battered by war, he assumed he’d be safe.
Then the people around him began to get sick. Neighbors complained of tumors, thyroid problems and debilitating fatigue. Soon, the Colorado health department announced an unusually high number of kidney cancers in the region. Then Mr. Fortune’s wife fell ill.
The military, it turned out, had been leaching toxic chemicals into the water for decades.
Mr. Fortune felt “stabbed in the back,” he said. “We give our lives and our bodies for our country, and our government does not live up to their end of the deal.”
That was 2016. Since then, the Defense Department has admitted that it allowed a firefighting foam to slip into at least 55 drinking water systems at military bases around the globe, sometimes for generations. This exposed tens of thousands of Americans, possibly many more, to per-and polyfluoroalkyl substances, a group of man-made chemicals known as PFAS that have been linked to cancers, immune suppression and other serious health problems.”
By Jim Robbins
Jan. 22, 2019, 24 c
Slow-moving, hulking ships crisscross miles of ocean in a lawn mower pattern, wielding an array of 12 to 48 air guns blasting pressurized air repeatedly into the depths of the ocean.
The sound waves hit the sea floor, penetrating miles into it, and bounce back to the surface, where they are picked up by hydrophones. The acoustic patterns form a three-dimensional map of where oil and gas most likely lie.
The seismic air guns probably produce the loudest noise that humans use regularly underwater, and it is about to become far louder in the Atlantic. As part of the Trump administration’s plans to allow offshore drilling for gas and oil exploration, five companies are in the process of seeking permits to carry out seismic mapping with the air guns all along the Eastern Seaboard, from Central Florida to the Northeast, for the first time in three decades. The surveys haven’t started yet in the Atlantic, but now that the ban on offshore drilling has been lifted, companies can be granted access to explore regions along the Gulf of Mexico and the Pacific.
And air guns are now the most common method companies use to map the ocean floor.
“They fire approximately every 10 seconds around the clock for months at a time,” said Douglas Nowacek, a professor of marine conservation technology at Duke University. “They have been detected 4,000 kilometers away. These are huge, huge impacts.”
The prospect of incessant underwater sonic tests is the latest example cited by environmentalists and others of the growing problem of ocean noise, spawning lawsuits against some industries and governments as well as spurring more research into the potential dangers for marine life.
Some scientists say the noises from air guns, ship sonar and general tanker traffic can cause the gradual or even outright death of sea creatures, from the giants to the tiniest — whales, dolphins, fish, squid, octopuses and even plankton. Other effects include impairing animals’ hearing, brain hemorrhaging and the drowning out of communication sounds important for survival, experts say.
via Oceans Are Getting Louder, Posing Potential Threats to Marine Life – The New York Times
“An ‘Ocean Armageddon’
We are facing what the head of the United Nations Environment Programme called an “ocean Armageddon” in 2017. Every year the world produces 320 million tons of plastic—our packaging, eyeglasses, sneakers, Q-Tips, and cell phones among them. Of that, 90 percent is never recycled. If this continues, by 2050 the plastic in the ocean will outweigh the fish.
At last, a global effort to combat the crisis is making headway. This October the European Parliament approved a sweeping ban of single-use plastics across the EU. Initiatives to reduce consumption are gaining momentum, from Kenya’s ban on plastic bags to California’s legislation against plastic straws. Two-hundred and fifty major brands including Coca-Cola, Kellogg’s, and Nestle have pledged to cut all plastic waste from their operations. And activists and innovators like The Ocean Cleanup are using technology to tackle the problem; its sea-cleaning contraption is already hard at work.
But the problem is greater than we can see. While plastic doesn’t biodegrade, it does break down through sunlight, wind, and the motion of the waves into tiny fragments, microplastics, now found as far as the snow of Antarctica. This doesn’t simply have an impact on sea life and coastal communities; there are implications for every single person on the planet. Especially women—which is where eXXpedition comes in.”
Source: The All-Women Sailing Crew Trying to Save the Ocean of Plastic – Condé Nast Traveler
By HIROKO TABUCHI, NADJA POPOVICH, BLACKI MIGLIOZZI and ANDREW W. LEHREN FEB. 6, 2018
“Anchored in flood-prone areas in every American state are more than 2,500 sites that handle toxic chemicals, a New York Times analysis of federal floodplain and industrial data shows. About 1,400 are located in areas at highest risk of flooding.As flood danger grows — the consequence of a warming climate — the risk is that there will be more toxic spills like the one that struck Baytown, Tex., where Hurricane Harvey swamped a chemicals plant, releasing lye. Or like the ones at a Florida fertilizer plant that leaked phosphoric acid and an Ohio refinery that released benzene.
More Than 2,500 Sites That Handle Toxic ChemicalsAre Located in Flood-Prone Areas Across the Country.
“We can count on this seasonal miracle, healthy fish returning to their birthplaces and then on to the dinner table, so long as the fragile balance of nature remains intact. But with a president who is going after clean air, clean water and the world’s most valuable wild salmon fishery, the fate of creation and all the myriad wonders within it is at stake.
I use “creation” as an appeal to creationists to look at what your president is doing to Eden, or what’s left of it. I also want to appeal to economic nationalists. For the U.S.A. has the greatest home for sockeye salmon on the planet in Alaska’s Bristol Bay. The Trump administration is putting it at risk in order to aid a foreign mining conglomerate.
This American carnage is led by a man whose job is to protect the natural world within our borders, the E.P.A. administrator, Scott Pruitt. As you may have heard, he has sealed himself off from the public with a $25,000 phone security system and an 18-member security detail. It took a court order to pry loose some of the details of his meetings. No surprise, he holds daily lap-dog sessions with the companies he is supposed to regulate.
Pruitt is the swamp, the only wetland the Trump administration wants to protect. He serves the oil, chemical and mining interests that propped him up when he was attorney general of Oklahoma. He now runs the oil, chemical and mining protection agency out of Washington, with our money. You would never guess that this toady in a suit works for us.”
Excellent op-ed piece, and comments after it, such as:
“NEW DELHI — For days, many in Delhi have been living as if under siege, trying to keep the dirty air away from their children and older parents.But it is not easy: Open a window or a door, and the haze enters the room within seconds. Outside, the sky is white, the sun a white circle so pale that you can barely make it out. The smog is acrid, eye-stinging and throat-burning, and so thick that it is being blamed for a 70-vehicle pileup north of the city.
If in past years Delhi’s roughly 20 million residents shrugged off wintertime pollution as fog, over the past week they viewed it as a crisis. Schools have been ordered closed for three days — an unprecedented measure, but not a reassuring one because experts say the concentration of pollutants inside Indian homes is typically not much lower than outside.
Levels of the most dangerous particles, called PM 2.5, reached 700 micrograms per cubic meter on Monday, and over the weekend they soared in some places to 1,000, or more than 16 times the limit India’s government considers safe. The damage from sustained exposure to such high concentrations of PM 2.5 is equivalent to smoking more than two packs of cigarettes a day, experts say.”
Source: Smog Chokes Delhi, Leaving Residents ‘Cowering by Our Air Purifiers’ – The New York Times