Pollution & Health
15 Aug 2012:
Belo Monte Dam Halted By
Brazilian Judge Over Lack of Consultation
A Brazilian judge has ordered a suspension of the controversial Belo Monte dam project, saying that local indigenous people who will be affected by the massive hydroelectric project were not sufficiently consulted
Illustration of the Belo Monte proposal
during the environmental assessment process. In a ruling issued Tuesday, Judge Souza Prudente of the Federal Tribunal of Brazil’s Amazon region found that no consultations were held with local communities
before Congress approved what would be the world’s third-largest dam project. The $16 billion project, which is expected to produce 11,000 megawatts of energy, would flood 260 square miles of rainforest in Brazil’s Para state and displace more than 20,000 people
who depend on free-flowing rivers for their livelihoods. “Legislators can only give the go-ahead if the indigenous communities agree with the project,” Prudente wrote. The developer of the project, Norte Energia, will be fined $250,000 per day
if construction on the project continues. The company says it will appeal the decision.
Watch an e360 video report
14 Aug 2012:
Radiation from Fukushima
Caused Butterfly Mutations, Study Says
Radioactive materials emitted during the Fukushima disaster caused physical mutations and genetic damage to butterfly populations living near the nuclear plant, a
University of the Ryukyus, Okinawa
new study says. In a series of tests, Japanese scientists found that butterflies collected from the Fukushima area about two months after the 2011 accident were more likely to have leg, antennae, and wing shape mutations
than those found elsewhere. According to their findings, published in the journal Scientific Reports
, butterflies found in areas with higher levels of radiation developed much smaller wings and eye irregularities. After breeding these butterflies in a laboratory, researchers found the next generation had numerous abnormalities not seen in the previous generation, including malformed antennae. And adult butterflies collected near Fukushima six months after the initial tests were more than twice as likely to have mutations than those found soon after the accident.
13 Aug 2012:
Shifting Climate Makes Frogs
More Vulnerable to Disease, Study Says
Increasingly unpredictable swings in the weather are making frogs more vulnerable to the deadly chytrid fungus
, according to a new study. In a series of tests, scientists at Oakland University in Michigan exposed Cuban treefrogs living under a variety of conditions in laboratory incubators to chytridiomycosis, a highly infectious fungal disease that has decimated amphibian species globally
. The scientists found that frogs that were exposed to unpredictable temperature changes were more susceptible to the disease. For example, frogs that were shifted to incubators at a temperature of 15 degrees C (59 degrees F) after spending four weeks at a temperature of 25 C (77 F) were far more likely to suffer infections
than those frogs already accustomed to living at 15 C. According to Thomas Rafell, an Oakland University researcher and lead author of the study, the fungus was likely able to adapt faster to the temperature shift because it is smaller and has a shorter generation time than its host. The study was published in the journal Nature Climate Change
13 Aug 2012:
Auto-Related Pollution in L.A.
Declined 98 Percent Over 50 Years
Levels of some automobile-related pollutants in Los Angeles have plummeted by 98 percent since the 1960s
, even as gasoline consumption nearly tripled during the same period, a new study says. Levels of volatile organic
compounds (VOCs), which are emitted from the tailpipes of cars and are a key ingredient in ground-level smog, have dropped steadily and fell by about half between 2002 and 2010, researchers found. “The reason is simple: Cars are getting cleaner,” said Carsten Warneke, a researcher at the University of Colorado and lead author of the study, published in the Journal of Geophysical Research
. Using data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and California air quality measurements, the scientists calculated that VOC levels declined by an average of 7.5 percent per year. Researchers attributed the steep decline to the required use of catalytic converters, introduction of fuels less prone to evaporate, and improved engine efficiency.
09 Aug 2012:
New Atmospheric Compound
Tied to Human Health and Climate Change
An international team of researchers says it has discovered a new atmospheric compound
that reacts with sulfur dioxide to form sulfuric acid, which produces acid rain, has negative respiratory effects on humans, and causes increased cloud formation. Reporting in Nature
, the scientists from the U.S., Finland, and Germany identified the new compound as a type of carbonyl oxide, formed by the reaction of ozone with natural and manmade hydrocarbons, known as alkenes. When the carbonyl oxide compounds react with sulfur dioxide — which is primarily produced by coal and other fossil fuel combustion at power plants — large amounts of sulfuric acid are produced. The scientists say it is the first time that this complex new interaction of atmospheric compounds has been documented. Sulfuric acid creates acid rain that is harmful to terrestrial and aquatic life, and airborne sulfuric acid particles play the main role in the formation of clouds, an increase of which could help cool the planet. Smaller sulfuric acid particles near the planet’s surface have been shown to cause human respiratory ailments.
07 Aug 2012:
Dozens of Small Earthquakes
Detected Near Texas Drilling Sites
A new study by researchers at the University of Texas has found that dozens of small earthquakes occurred in a shale region of north Texas within a two-year period, with many occurring close to injection wells associated with oil and gas drilling projects. In an analysis of seismic data, study author Cliff Frohlich found that 68 earthquakes had occurred between November 2009 and September 2011
— all with a relatively weak magnitude of 3 or lower — in the Barnett Shale region, a large area that covers several Texas counties and contains a geological formation increasingly targeted for extraction of oil and gas from shale formations. According to the study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
, 23 of those quakes occurred within two miles of high-volume injection wells
that pump wastewater from controversial hydrofracturing drilling technology deep underground. “You can’t prove that any one earthquake was caused by an injection well,” Frolich said. “But it’s obvious that wells are enhancing the probability that earthquakes will occur.”
03 Aug 2012:
NASA Study Quantifies
Vast Amount of Dust Reaching North America
A new NASA study calculates that nearly 64 million tons of dust, pollution, and other tiny particles enter the atmosphere above North America from other continents each year
, nearly as much as the 69 million tons of
aerosols produced domestically through natural processes and human activities. The vast majority of the particles entering the atmosphere, scientists say, consist of natural dust and not pollutants. In a first-of-its-kind study, NASA researchers used satellite data and wind speed estimates to calculate that about 88 percent of the microscopic particles, or 56 million tons, consists of dust carried in wind currents, particularly during the spring when an increase in cyclones and mid-latitude westerlies propel powerful atmospheric currents across the Pacific Ocean. According to the study, published in the journal Nature
, about 60 to 70 percent comes from Asia, and the remaining 30 to 40 percent comes from Africa and the Middle East. But only about 5 percent of the dust drops within the lowest 1.2 miles of the atmosphere, where it can be inhaled by humans. NASA scientists say the study provides critical insights into how aerosol particles across the planet affect air quality and the climate
02 Aug 2012:
Planet’s Carbon Storing Capacity
Keeping Pace with Human Emissions
A new study finds that earth’s oceans and lands continue to absorb more than half of the human-caused greenhouse gas emissions
, suggesting that the planet has not yet reached its carbon-storage capacity even as emissions continue to escalate. Writing in the journal Nature
, a team of U.S. scientists calculate that the world’s natural systems — including seas, forests, and soils — have absorbed about 55 percent of the roughly 350 billion tons of greenhouse gases emitted during the last 50 years. With human-based emissions rising steadily over five decades, those systems have had to absorb an ever-increasing amount of carbon, storing an estimated 5 billion tons in 2010 compared with 2.4 billion tons in 1960, the study found. These calculations are consistent with findings by the Global Carbon Project, according to Reuters
. The planet’s capacity to store carbon has been a critical factor in preventing an even greater increase in global temperatures, but authors of the new study say that storage capacity will not remain indefinitely. “It’s not a question of whether or not natural sinks will slow their uptake of carbon, but when,” said Ashley Ballantyne, a researcher at the University of Colorado and lead author of the study.
31 Jul 2012:
Low Levels of Caffeine Found
In Waters of U.S. Pacific Northwest
In a new study, scientists document low levels of caffeine pollution in the waters off the Oregon coast, fresh evidence that contaminants from human waste are entering marine ecosystems with unknown risks to wildlife and human health. In a series of tests conducted at 14 coastal locations, researchers found that caffeine levels were higher — about 45 nanograms per liter — in remote waters, while levels were below reporting limits (about 9 nanograms per liter) near “potentially polluted” areas such as sewage treatment plants, the mouths of rivers, and larger communities, National Geographic reports
. According to the findings, published in the journal Marine Pollution Bulletin
, the higher levels are likely occurring near sites with on-site waste disposal systems that are subject to less monitoring than larger wastewater treatment plants. While the environmental effects of such low-level contamination are not known, experts say they are a reminder of the range of pollutants — from pharmaceuticals to artificial sweeteners — entering natural ecosystems through human waste.
27 Jul 2012:
Powerful Storms Linked to
Depletion of Ozone Layer, Study Says
A new study warns that a surge in powerful storms, perhaps linked to a warming climate, could be causing a depletion of the planet’s protective ozone layer
. Writing in the journal Science
, Harvard researchers explain that water vapor inserted into the normally dry stratosphere by strong thunderstorms is triggering chemical reactions with now-banned chlorofluorocarbons, CFCs, essentially creating ozone-destroying conditions identical to those occurring over the Antarctic, high southern latitudes, and parts of the Arctic. That, in turn, could lead to an increase in UV radiation reaching the earth’s surface, posing a higher risk of skin cancer for humans as well as potentially harmful conditions for some plants and crops. Lead author James G. Anderson said more research is necessary, including direct measurements of the effects of water vapor on ozone chemistry. But he said that given recent research linking climate change to an increase in extreme weather events, these findings could portend increased ozone loss in years to come. “It’s the union between ozone loss and climate change that is really at the heart of this,” Anderson told the New York Times
. “Now, they’re intimately connected.”
26 Jul 2012:
Pulling Carbon From Air
Should Be Pursued Despite Costs, Study Says
Columbia University scientists say that technologies to extract carbon dioxide from the air will likely become a critical part of any strategy to stabilize the global climate and should not be abandoned because of high costs
. Writing in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
, the researchers from the university’s Earth Institute argue that the use of technologies to remove emissions at the source — such as at coal-powered plants — will not go far enough because they don’t address the transportation sector, which accounts for up to half of global CO2 emissions. In addition, the scientists say that the shift to renewable energy sources will likely not occur fast enough. Technologies that remove CO2 from the atmosphere on a large scale — such as forests of artificial trees or the use of absorbent liquids that extract CO2
— could help avert potentially dangerous warming. While the costs will likely be high at first, the paper said, they will come down as the technologies are more widely deployed. “The field of carbon sequestration as a community is too timid when it comes to new ideas,” said Klaus Lackner, lead author of the paper.
20 Jul 2012:
Smog Rules Could Have
Saved Thousands of Lives Annually
By declining to implement tougher regulations on smog last fall, President Obama rejected measures that could have saved several thousand lives a year
and prevented millions of cases of asthma attacks and other acute respiratory problems, according to a new study. Reporting in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives,
scientists from Johns Hopkins University said that the tougher smog rules would have prevented 2,400 to 4,100 additional deaths annually from cardiac and respiratory problems. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson was about to announce a new standard last fall that would have required a reduction in ozone concentrations from 75 to 70 parts per billion, but Obama rejected the change, saying it would have cost the U.S. economy billions of dollars for air pollution cleanup at a time of economic recession. Johns Hopkins scientists said the tougher standards for ozone, the main lung-irritating ingredient in smog, “would result in dramatic public health benefits,” particularly in large cities such as Los Angeles, New York, and Chicago.
17 Jul 2012:
Study Calculates Health Impacts
Of Japan's Fukushima Nuclear Disaster
Roughly 130 people are likely to die from radiation exposure and another 180 die from cancer as a result of the March 2011 meltdown of the Fukushima-Daichi nuclear power station in Japan, according to a new study by Stanford University researchers.
The researchers presented a wide range of possible fatalities from the disaster, estimating that 15 to 1,300 people could die from direct radiation exposure; they also said an estimated 24 to 2,500 people could contract cancer from exposure to radiation following the meltdown. Reporting in the journal Energy and Environmental Science
, the researchers settled on the figures of 130 direct exposure fatalities and 180 cancer fatalities as their best estimates. Nearly all of the people affected live in Japan. The Stanford scientists said only 19 percent of the released radioactive material fell on land, noting that mortality rates would have been far higher if most of the radiation had not been blown out to sea. The researchers came up with their estimates by using a 3-D global atmospheric model to predict the transport and concentrations of material released from the stricken reactors.
12 Jul 2012:
Mountain Roads Trigger
Longterm Consequences in Southeast Asia
The rapid expansion of roads across the rural mountains of Southeast Asia often triggers unintended environmental consequences
that in many cases
Roy C. Sidle
Logging roads in Myanmar
undermine the socioeconomic benefits, according to an article in the journal Nature Geoscience
. While international organizations have supported “aggressive” efforts to expand road networks to increase agricultural development, trade, and tourism in remote regions, poorly designed mountain roads can cause landslides, soil erosion, and increased deforestation, write researchers Roy Sidle and Alan Ziegler. An increase in road density has been “directly linked to drastic transformation, or even elimination, of traditional shifting cultivation methods (as practiced in rural uplands) and have been implicated in deforestation and land exploitation in remote regions,” they note. Without proper drainage systems, these roads can destabilize hillside and soil erosion, degrading water quality, aquatic habitats, and agricultural productivity.
11 Jul 2012:
Technique ‘Sees Through’ Clouds
To Measure Atmospheric Pollution
U.S. scientists say they have developed a technique to measure atmospheric levels of pollution, including soot, with satellite technology even when skies are cloud-covered. While clouds typically impair a remote-sensing
Clouds over the coastline of Chile and Peru
satellite’s ability to detect pollution levels closer to the ground, University of Iowa scientists say their new technique enables them to calculate particle concentrations
by measuring the degree to which those pollutants affect the properties of the clouds above them. After calculating the number of droplets in the clouds using satellite data, they say, researchers assimilate those results with a numerical model that estimates particle concentrations by describing the interaction between the aerosols and the clouds. “This technique can directly improve predictions of near-surface, fine-mode aerosols — such as coal-fired electric generating plants and wood-fueled cooking stoves — responsible for human health impacts” and low-cloud solar heating, said Greg Carmichael, lead author of the study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
10 Jul 2012:
Salmon More Susceptible to
Predators After Copper Exposure
Exposure to even tiny amounts of copper can impair a salmon’s ability to detect and evade predator species
, a new study has found. While salmon typically become still and alert after they smell a compound called Schreckstoff, which is released when a fish is damaged nearby, Washington State University (WSU) researchers say fish exposed to just five parts of copper per billion are unable to detect the substance, making them more vulnerable to attack. In a series of tests conducted in a four-foot diameter tank, salmon that weren’t exposed to copper would freeze after smelling the Scheckstoff, delaying by 30 seconds, on average, attack from cutthroat trout also swimming in the tank. Fish swimming in tanks containing copper, however, continued to swim, and were attacked by predators in about five seconds. “A copper-exposed fish is not getting the information it needs to make good decisions,” said Jenifer McIntyre, a WSU researcher and lead author of the study, published in the journal Ecological Applications
. These findings could mean that fish could face greater risk in the wild after exposure to copper from stormwater runoff or mining operations.
09 Jul 2012:
Water Use by Tourists Outstrips
Local Use in Poor Nations, Report Says
The disproportionate use of freshwater by tourists in resorts across the developing world exacerbates the poverty of local residents
and in some cases has triggered conflicts, a new report says. In a study of five tourist destinations — including Bali, Zanzibar, and Goa and Kerala in southern India — the UK-based group Tourism Concern
found a wide disparity between the amount of water used by resort hotels and how much is available to local residents. In some Zanzibar villages, for instance, tourists use 16 times more water daily per person than locals, with visitors to five-star hotels consuming 3,195 liters per room compared with about 93 liters per local resident, according to the report, which will be released next week. In some cases, frustrated Zanzibar residents have attempted to sabotage water pipelines leading into hotels, forcing the hotels to hire security guards. Two years ago, a cholera outbreak in a Zanzibar village was blamed in part on sewage from hotels contaminating water supplies.
06 Jul 2012:
Coral Reef Systems Collapsed
During Earlier Changes to Climate
An increase in ocean temperatures that occurred 4,000 years ago triggered a collapse of coral reef systems in the eastern Pacific
that lasted for about 2,500 years, according to a new study. In an analysis of 17-foot core samples taken from the frameworks of coral reefs off the Panama coast, scientists from the Florida Institute of
Technology found that the reefs stopped growing during a period that coincided with the start of a period of dramatic swings in the El Nino-Southern Oscillation, including periods when ocean temperatures elevated significantly. They say this gap in growth also occurred in reef systems as far away as Japan and Australia. “For Pacific reefs to have collapsed for such a long time and over such a large geographic scale, they must have experienced a major climatic disturbance,” said Lauren Toth, a co-author of the study published in the journal Science
. While the scientists said the results may foretell similar catastrophic events for reef systems worldwide as ocean temperatures rise as a consequence of climate change, they noted that it also suggests that coral systems may have the resilience to rebound if climate change is mitigated or reversed.
28 Jun 2012:
Wildfires Across Western U.S.
Depicted in NASA Satellite Image
A new map released by NASA
depicts the large scale of wildfires sweeping across the western U.S. and Mexico, where experts say exceptionally dry conditions have made many regions a tinderbox. The map, based on
satellite data collected by the agency’s Ozone Mapper Profile Suite, illustrates high atmospheric concentrations of aerosols (including smoke particles) from Mexico to Montana. Intense fires in Colorado, Utah, and Nevada are marked by dark brown and rust-red on the map, reflecting a high concentration of smoke and aerosols. High aerosol concentrations also are visible over parts of Texas and Mexico, probably as a result to a combination of dust and fires in dry regions. A fire official in Colorado, where ten separate fires are currently burning, said that a light winter snow pack, dry conditions, and the long-term effects of climate change combined to make the region especially susceptible to fires this year
27 Jun 2012:
BP Oil Spill Accelerated
Erosion of Louisiana Marshlands
The 2010 BP oil spill hastened the loss of Louisiana’s already fragile salt marshlands
, a new study says. In a comparison of erosion rates at three healthy marsh sites and three areas affected by the oil spill, University of Florida scientists found
that oil from the spill coated thick grasses on the outer edge of some wetlands, killing off salt marsh plants 15 to 30 feet from the shoreline. When those grasses died, the deep roots that held the soil sediment died as well, causing the rate of erosion on shore banks to more than double. In Louisiana’s Barataria Bay, for instance, oiled marshes have receded nearly 10 feet per year after the spill — about twice the normal rate of erosion in a region already losing huge areas of marshland as a result of channelization of the Mississippi River and rising sea levels. “We already knew that erosion leads to permanent marsh loss, and now we know that oil can exacerbate it,” said Brian Silliman, a University of Florida biologist and lead author of the study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
26 Jun 2012:
Elevated Ozone Levels
Trigger Heart Risks for Healthy Adults
Exposure to ozone at levels sometimes present in the world’s most polluted cities can trigger potentially dangerous changes to human cardiovascular systems, according to a new study
. In a series of tests conducted
Mexico City smog
on 23 healthy adults, scientists found evidence of cardiac inflammation and heart rhythm disturbance after exposure to air containing ozone at 0.3 parts per million for two hours — about the same dose they would receive if exposed to ozone levels exceeding the U.S. standard of 0.075 parts per million over eight hours. According to the findings, published in the journal Circulation
, the blood levels of several inflammatory agents increased — more than doubling in some cases — after ozone exposure. This finding “caught us by surprise,” said Robert Devlin, a toxicologist with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and lead author of the study. “We think it’s one of the more important and significant findings.” Heavily polluted cities such as Beijing and Mexico City often have extremely high ozone levels, and ozone in U.S. cities such as Los Angeles and Houston can reach levels equal to those used in the experiment.
Video: Belo Monte Dam Controversy
The Belo Monte dam, now under construction in the Amazon, is heralded as a much-needed power source for Brazil’s burgeoning economy. But critics contend the project’s benefits are outweighed by the environmental and social costs — the flooding of 260 square miles of rainforest and the displacement of more than 20,000 people. In a Yale Environment 360
video report, multimedia journalist Charles Lyons explores both sides of this controversial project.
Watch the video
19 Jun 2012:
Being Killed at Alarming Rate, Report Says
At least one person is killed per week in disputes over environmental protection or land rights as the competition for natural resources globally becomes increasingly violent, according to a new report
. In a survey of incidents worldwide, the group Global Witness estimated that 711 environmental activists, journalists or community members have been killed during the last decade over disputes involving land and forest rights. In 2011 alone, the number was 106, which was twice the number of killings in 2009. The report's authors say it provides a stark reminder of a “hidden crisis” and highlights a culture of impunity and a lack of oversight in many countries. The greatest number of killings reportedly occurred in Brazil, Colombia, the Philippines and Peru. “It is a well-known paradox that many of the world's poorest countries are home to the resources that drive the global economy,” the report said
. “Now, as the race to secure access to these resources intensifies, it is poor people and activists who increasingly find themselves in the firing line.”
08 Jun 2012:
Parasitic Mite Found to Play
Key Role in Collapse of Bee Populations
Extensive research in Hawaii has shown that a major cause of so-called colony-collapse disorder, which has sharply reduced bee populations in many parts of the world, is related to the spread of the parasitic varroa mite.
Scientists at the University of Sheffield in England were able to track the arrival and spread of the varroa mite, Varroa destructor
, on Oahu Island in Hawaii. Within a year of the blood-sucking mite’s arrival in 2007, 65 percent of the 419 bee colonies on Oahu were wiped out, according to the research, published in the journal Science
. The following year the mites reached the big island of Hawaii and devastated bee colonies there, the study said. The Sheffield scientists said the mites spread a devastating ailment called deformed wing virus, which rapidly spread through bee colonies, killing nearly all the bees. The scientists said other factors also may be playing a role in the collapse of bee colonies worldwide, including the use of pesticides and the loss of flowering plants.
06 Jun 2012:
Flame Retardant Triggers
Health Risks at Low Doses, Study Says
Even small doses of a flame retardant commonly used in furniture and baby products has been linked to harmful health effects
, including obesity and developmental and reproductive problems, according to a new study. Speaking at a conference in Canada, Duke University chemist Heather Stapleton said baby rats whose mothers ate small amounts of the flame-retardant chemical, Firemaster 550, gained more weight than those that weren’t exposed. Female offspring exposed to the chemical were more anxious, reached puberty earlier, and were shown to have abnormal reproductive cycles. While earlier studies found that harmful effects were evident only at doses of 50 milligrams per kilogram of weight, the new study assessed exposure to doses as low as 3 milligrams per kilogram. “This raises red flags about a widely used chemical that we know little about,” said Stapleton, co-author of the study. According to the Chicago Tribune
, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency next year will conduct a risk assessment of two brominated compounds found in Firemaster 550.
06 Jun 2012:
Urban Climate Adaptation
Hampered by Fiscal Restraints, Survey Finds
Cities worldwide are increasingly aware of the need to prepare for the effects of climate change — including increased variability in temperatures and extreme
weather events — but are often hampered by limited financial resources and political commitment, according to a new survey by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In a survey of 468 cities worldwide
, including 298 in the U.S., researchers found that about 68 percent of cities are pursuing adaptation planning in the face of climate changes that include increased stormwater runoff, a jump in electricity demand, and loss of natural ecosystems. Cities in Latin America and Canada have the highest percentage of planning — 95 and 92 percent respectively— while the U.S. has the lowest, at 59 percent. According to the survey, 95 percent of U.S. cities reported that funding is a challenge, and 36 percent said the federal government does not understand the challenges they are facing.
05 Jun 2012:
Carbon Emissions Declined
23 Percent Under Regional U.S. Program
Power plants subject to a regional cap-and-trade program in the northeastern U.S. known as the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI
) reduced their carbon dioxide emissions by an average of 23 percent during the first three years of the program, the group says. According to a RGGI report
, 206 of 211 power plants participating in the program met their compliance obligations from Jan. 1, 2009 to Dec. 31, 2011, the first three-year control period of the program. During that time, the average annual CO2 emissions were 126 million tons, a 23-percent decline compared with the previous three-year period. Emissions for the 2009-2011 period were about 33 percent below RGGI’s annual pollution cap of 188 million tons, which was due to a shift from coal to natural gas, the economic recession, and energy efficiency programs
. The RGGI regime requires major power plants to buy allowances at auction for each ton of carbon dioxide they emit. Companies that emit lower emissions can sell their unused allowances to other companies. Program participants include the six New England states and New York, Delaware, and Maryland.
01 Jun 2012:
France to Ban Pesticide
Possibly Linked to Decline of Bees
French authorities plan to ban a pesticide made by the Swiss company, Syngenta, after scientists said the pesticide’s use could be linked to a sharp decline in bee populations
known as colony collapse disorder. France says it plans to withdraw the permit for farmers to spray Cruiser OSR, a pesticide used to protect rape seeds. The government took the action after the French Health and Safety Agency, ANSES, agreed with a recent scientific study suggesting that a low dose of thiamethoxam, a molecule contained in Cruiser, made bees more likely to lose their way and die. Other studies worldwide also have linked colony collapse disorder to increased pesticide use in agriculture. Syngenta has disputed the study involving thiamethoxam, saying the amounts of pesticide used in the research were far higher than the quantities used by farmers. The company has two weeks to submit its own evidence contradicting the government’s findings.
24 May 2012:
Los Angeles Becomes
Largest U.S. City to Ban Plastic Bags
Los Angeles has become the largest U.S. city to impose a ban on plastic bags
at supermarkets and other stores, a significant victory for environmental advocates seeking to keep plastic waste out of the region’s landfills and waterways. In a vote Wednesday, the City Council approved plans to phase out plastic bags at approximately 7,500 stores over the next 16 months. The council will conduct a four-month environmental review of the ban, after which larger stores would have six months to shift away from plastic bags while smaller retailers would have a year, according to a report in the Los Angeles Times
. “Let’s get the message to Sacramento that it’s time to go statewide,” said Councilman Ed Reyes. While the city backed away from a similar ban on paper bags, stores will be required to charge 10 cents for each paper bag one year after the plastic ban is enacted.
23 May 2012:
Street Lights Can Cause
Long-Term Ecological Changes, Study Says
The presence of artificial street lights can alter the behavior of ground-dwelling invertebrates and insects
and ultimately change the structure and function of some ecosystems, according to a new study. In a series of tests in Cornwall in western England, researchers from the University of Exeter used 28 traps to capture 1,200 animals on the ground beneath street lights and in darker areas between the lights. According to their findings, published in the journal Biology Letters
, invertebrate predators and scavengers were more common underneath the lights, even during the daylight hours. Thomas Davies, a researcher at the University of Exeter and lead author of the study, said these findings suggest that nocturnal behavior is affecting habitat preference overall, and could have implications for critical ecosystem services, including pollination and the breakdown of organic matter. “It’s amazing how long we’ve been using street lighting and artificial lighting, and how little research has been done on the impact of those lights on the environment,” he told BBC News