Archive: Pollution & Health
09 May 2013
Along the shores of New York Harbor, scientists are investigating whether this ubiquitous bivalve can be grown in urban areas as a way of cleansing coastal waters of sewage, fertilizers, and other pollutants.
15 Apr 2013
The surge in global coal consumption, driven largely by China and India, has climate scientists deeply worried. But environmentalists and a growing number of financial experts say that alarm over global warming may halt the seemingly inevitable rise of the coal industry.
28 Mar 2013
A new study finds that household lead paint — banned for years in the U.S. and Europe because of its health effects on children — is commonly sold in the African nation of Cameroon. Is lead paint the latest case of Western companies selling unsafe products in developing countries?
13 Mar 2013
Matthew Tejada is taking over the EPA’s Office of Environmental Justice after helping low-income communities in Houston fight air pollution in their neighborhoods. He talks to Yale Environment 360 about how his work in Texas prepared him for the challenges of his new post.
19 Feb 2013
With activists killed in Brazil, Cambodia, the Philippines, and elsewhere, 2012 may have been the worst year yet for violence against those working to protect the environment. So far, little has been done to halt this chilling development.
31 Jan 2013
Scientists are only beginning to understand the impacts of mercury contamination on birds, fish, and other wildlife populations. But what they are finding is alarming — even low levels can cause harm, and chronic exposure has unexpected and troubling effects.
24 Jan 2013
Urban stormwater runoff is a serious problem, overloading sewage treatment plants and polluting waterways. Now, various U.S. cities are creating innovative green infrastructure — such as rain gardens and roadside plantings — that mimics the way nature collects and cleanses water.
17 Jan 2013
A new study indicates soot, known as black carbon, plays a far greater role in global warming than previously believed and is second only to CO2 in the amount of heat it traps in the atmosphere. Reducing some forms of soot emissions — such as from diesel fuel and coal burning — could prove effective in slowing down the planet’s warming.
06 Dec 2012
Conservation organizations are working with industry to try to make beef production more sustainable. But some are questioning whether green groups should be accepting funds from the beef industry or whether they should instead be urging consumers to stop eating beef.
29 Nov 2012
The rapid development of Alberta’s tar sands has spawned a new proposal for a 731-mile pipeline that would transport oil to the British Columbia coast. The project is strongly opposed by conservationists and First Nations leaders, who fear the environmental risks it would bring.
11 Oct 2012
Inadequate sewage systems and the lack of toilets in much of the developing world have created a major public health and environmental crisis. Now various innovators are promoting new kinds of toilets and technologies that use little or no water and recycle the waste.
04 Oct 2012
Experts believe the next deadly human pandemic will almost certainly be a virus that spills over from wildlife to humans. The reasons why have a lot to do with the frenetic pace with which we are destroying wild places and disrupting ecosystems.
23 Aug 2012
From Seattle to Sweden, an ever-growing number of city and regional governments are using roof gardens, specially designed wetlands, and other forms of “green infrastructure” to rein in pollution from countless diffuse sources — and to save money.
10 Jul 2012
The U.S. has long used more energy for air conditioning than all other nations combined. But as demand increases in the world’s warmer regions, global energy consumption for air conditioning is expected to continue to rise dramatically and could have a major impact on climate change.
02 Jul 2012
Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government has been weakening Canada’s environmental regulations and slashing funds for oversight and research — all while promoting aggressive resource development. Critics warn these unprecedented actions pose a major threat to the nation’s vast natural heritage.
21 Jun 2012
When Silent Spring was published in 1962, author Rachel Carson was subjected to vicious personal assaults that had nothing do with the science or the merits of pesticide use. Those attacks find a troubling parallel today in the campaigns against climate scientists who point to evidence of a rapidly warming world.
29 May 2012
In the wake of the Fukushima disaster, Japan has idled all 50 of its nuclear reactors. While the central government and business leaders are warning a prolonged shutdown could spell economic doom, many Japanese and local officials see the opportunity for a renewable energy revolution.
24 May 2012
The regime of President Robert Mugabe has been accused of profiting from the Marange diamond fields in eastern Zimbabwe, garnering illicit funds that could be used to bolster his oppressive security forces. Now critics are alleging the government is failing to stop mining-waste pollution that is sickening livestock and local villagers.
21 May 2012
The Clean Water Act of 1972, one of the boldest environmental laws ever enacted, turns 40 this year, with an impressive record of cleaning up America's waterways. But from New York Harbor to Alaska’s Bristol Bay, key challenges remain.
25 Apr 2012
Ikal Angelei is helping lead a campaign to stop construction of a major dam in Ethiopia that threatens the water supply and way of life of tens of thousands of indigenous people. In an interview with Yale Environment 360, she explains what she believes is at stake in the fight against the Gibe III dam.
16 Apr 2012
The Ogoniland region of Nigeria has long been badly polluted by decades of oil production that has fouled the delta and contaminated drinking water. A United Nations report has recommended a massive recovery initiative, but so far the Nigerian government has shown few signs it will agree to the cleanup project.
10 Apr 2012
Chinese environmentalist Ma Jun played an important role in a recent successful effort to force the government to more strictly monitor air pollution in Beijing. In an interview with Yale Environment 360, he talks about the daunting challenges of China’s anti-pollution battle and how social media is helping lead the fight to improve the nation’s air.
05 Apr 2012
U.S. consumers tell researchers they want to buy environmentally friendly products, but so far they haven’t been doing that on a large scale. Now a host of companies and nonprofits are trying to use new technology — from smartphones to social networking — to make it easier for buyers to make the green choice.
19 Mar 2012
A new study finds that even low doses of hormone-disrupting chemicals — used in everything from plastics to pesticides – can have serious effects on human health. These findings, the researchers say, point to the need for basic changes in how chemical safety testing is conducted.
01 Mar 2012
It is a pattern seen in various parts of the world — children being sickened from exposure to lead from mining activities. But the scale of the problem in Nigeria’s gold-mining region of Zamfara is unprecedented: More than 400 children have died and thousands more have been severely poisoned by exposure to lead dust.
08 Feb 2012
With the passage of strict new auto emission and air pollution standards, California has again demonstrated its role as the U.S.’s environmental pacesetter. In an interview with Yale Environment 360, Mary Nichols, chairwoman of the California Air Resources Board, explains how her state is helping drive a clean-car revolution.
09 Jan 2012
The Japanese government is launching a large-scale cleanup of the fields, forests, and villages contaminated by the Fukushima nuclear disaster. But some experts caution that an overly aggressive remediation program could create a host of other environmental problems.
08 Dec 2011
With aging coal-fired U.S. power plants shutting down, major American coal companies are exporting ever-larger amounts of coal to China. Now, plans to build two new coal-shipping terminals on the West Coast have set up a battle with environmentalists who want to steer the world away from fossil fuels.
21 Nov 2011
The acidification of the world’s oceans from an excess of CO2 has already begun, as evidenced recently by the widespread mortality of oyster larvae in the Pacific Northwest. Scientists say this is just a harbinger of things to come if greenhouse gas emissions continue to soar.
14 Nov 2011
Some U.S. politicians have been attacking environmental regulations, arguing that they hurt the economy and that the costs outweigh the benefits. But four decades of data refute that claim and show we need not choose between a clean environment and economic growth.
24 Oct 2011
In an increasingly interconnected world, fungal diseases are spreading at an alarming rate and have led to deadly outbreaks in amphibian, bat, and bee populations. And in the last decade, researchers note, some of the most virulent strains have infected people.
29 Sep 2011
New studies have underscored the potentially harmful health effects of the most widely used flame retardants, found in everything from baby blankets to carpets. Health experts are now calling for more aggressive action to limit these chemicals, including cutting back on highly flammable, petroleum-based materials used in many consumer products.
26 Sep 2011
The draining and burning of peat bogs is a major global source of CO2 emissions. Now, a pilot project in Russia — where wildfires burned vast areas of dried-out bogs last summer — is looking to re-flood and restore tens of thousands of acres to their natural state.
11 Aug 2011
From understanding the cumulative impacts of widely used chemicals to preparing for life in a warming world, a host of environmental health issues now face medical experts. In an interview with Yale Environment 360
, Lynn Goldman, dean of the George Washington University School of Public Health and Health Services, talks about meeting the challenges.
04 Aug 2011
The contentious practice of hydrofracking to extract underground natural gas has now made its way to South Africa’s Karoo, a semi-desert known for its stark beauty and indigenous plants. But opposition is growing amid concern that fracking will deplete and pollute the area’s scarce water supplies.
18 Jul 2011
With global population expected to surpass 7 billion people this year, the staggering impact on an overtaxed planet is becoming more and more evident. A two-pronged response is imperative: empower women to make their own decisions on childbearing and rein in our excessive consumption of resources.
09 Jun 2011
Workers groups in South Korea report an unusually high incidence of cancers and other serious diseases among employees at Samsung’s semiconductor and other electronics plants. While the company denies any link, the pattern of illnesses is disturbingly similar to that seen at semiconductor facilities in the U.S. and Europe.
16 May 2011
Scientists studying the effects of prenatal exposure to pesticides on the cognitive abilities of children have come to a troubling conclusion: Whether pregnant mothers are exposed to organophosphate pesticides in California fields or New York apartments, the chemicals appear to impair their children’s mental abilities.
07 Apr 2011
With contaminated water from Japan’s crippled Fukushima nuclear complex continuing to pour into the Pacific, scientists are concerned about how that radioactivity might affect marine life. Although the ocean’s capacity to dilute radiation is huge, signs are that nuclear isotopes are already moving up the local food chain.
21 Mar 2011
The world’s worst nuclear reactor mishap in 25 years was caused by a massive natural calamity but compounded by what appear to be surprising mistakes by Japanese engineers. The result has been a fast-moving disaster that has left officials careening from one emergency to the next.
18 Mar 2011
A leading U.S. expert on nuclear energy discusses some of the fundamental failures that led to the intensifying nuclear drama in Japan and looks at what might lie in store for nuclear power worldwide.
17 Feb 2011
For decades, deadly outbreaks of cholera were attributed to the spread of disease through poor sanitation. But recent research demonstrates how closely cholera is tied to environmental and hydrological factors and to weather patterns — all of which may lead to more frequent cholera outbreaks as the world warms.
27 Jan 2011
William Reilly led the national commission that investigated the Deepwater Horizon oil spill and says he was struck by the totally inadequate response plans that were in place. In an interview with Yale Environment 360
, he talks about why it’s crucial to carry out the reforms needed to prevent future disasters.
03 Jan 2011
With high gold prices fueling a global gold rush, millions of people in the developing world are turning to small-scale gold mining. In many countries, including Colombia, miners are putting themselves and those who live nearby at risk by using highly toxic mercury in the refining process.
20 Dec 2010
The Chinese government has begun to make environmental records available to the public, empowering green groups and citizens as they try to force factories — and the Western companies they supply — to comply with the law.
24 Nov 2010
The synthetic chemical, BPA — found in everything from plastic bottles to cash register receipts — is a potent, estrogen-mimicking compound. In an interview with Yale Environment 360
, biologist Frederick vom Saal harshly criticizes U.S. corporations and government regulators for covering up — or ignoring — the many health risks of BPA.
09 Nov 2010
With an aggressive campaign focused on advertising, lobbying, and political contributions, America’s coal industry has succeeded in beating back a challenge from environmentalists and clean-energy advocates. The dirty truth is that Big Coal is more powerful today than ever.
04 Nov 2010
With large swaths of forest destroyed by wartime defoliants, and even larger areas lost to post-war logging, Vietnam has set an ambitious goal for regenerating its woodlands. But proponents of reintroducing native tree species face resistance from a timber industry that favors fast-growing exotics like acacia.
28 Oct 2010
Amid China’s seemingly boundless emissions of industrial pollutants, there are signs of hope. Discharges of sulfur dioxide, which causes acid rain, have actually decreased, offering some evidence that China is starting to establish a culture of pollution monitoring and control.
21 Oct 2010
The sludge spill in Hungary dominated world news for days, as horrific images of red-mud rivers appeared nonstop on the Internet, newspaper front pages, and TV screens. Yet other environmental threats — less visible, but potentially more devastating — often go largely unnoticed.
23 Aug 2010
The Yangtze has been carved up by dams, used as an open sewer, and subjected to decades of overfishing. Now, Chinese scientists — alarmed by the disappearance of the Yangtze river dolphin and other creatures — are calling for a 10-year moratorium on fishing in the world’s third-longest river.
16 Aug 2010
LEED certification has emerged as the green standard of approval for new buildings in the United States. But the criteria used for determining the ratings largely ignore factors relating to human health, particularly the use of potentially toxic building materials.
09 Aug 2010
The Gulf of Mexico’s capacity to recover from previous environmental assaults — especially the 1979 Ixtoc explosion — provides encouragement about the prospects for its post-Deepwater future. But scientists remain worried about the BP spill's long-term effects on the health of the Gulf and its sea life.
02 Aug 2010
While some studies have suggested that frequent use of cell phones causes increased risk of brain and mouth cancers, others have found no such links. But since cell phones are relatively new and brain cancers grow slowly, many experts are now recommending taking steps to reduce exposure.
12 Jul 2010
New technologies, feed-in tariffs, and tax credits are helping propel the small wind industry, especially in the United States. Once found mostly in rural areas, small wind installations are now starting to pop up on urban rooftops.
15 Jun 2010
The images of pelicans and other Gulf of Mexico seabirds drenched in oil have stirred sadness and outrage around the world. But, says conservationist Melanie Driscoll, the unseen effects are probably far greater, with some birds perishing out of sight, far from shore, and others facing spill-related declines in the fish on which they depend.
14 Jun 2010
The massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico is a warning, conservationists say, of what could happen in the Arctic as melting sea ice opens the Arctic Ocean to oil and gas drilling. Many experts argue that the time has come to adopt an Arctic Treaty similar to the one that has safeguarded Antarctica for half a century.
09 Jun 2010
A prominent marine biologist says the impacts of the oil gushing into the Gulf of Mexico will persist for years, no matter when the flow finally stops. What’s more, scientist Thomas Shirley says that most of the damage remains out of sight below the surface, as creatures succumb to the toxic effects of the rapidly spreading tide of oil.
03 Jun 2010
In response to the widening disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, government officials have approved a plan to intercept the oil by building a 45-mile sand berm. But scientists fear the project is a costly boondoggle that will inflict further environmental damage and do little to keep oil off the coast.
10 May 2010
The oil slick spreading across the Gulf of Mexico has shattered the notion that offshore drilling had become safe. A close look at the accident shows that lax federal oversight, complacency by BP and the other companies involved, and the complexities of drilling a mile deep all combined to create the perfect environmental storm.
06 May 2010
Among the natural treasures at risk from the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico is the Breton National Wildlife Refuge, created by Theodore Roosevelt to halt a grave threat to birds in his era — the lucrative trade in plumage. Now, oil from the BP spill is starting to wash up on beaches where Roosevelt once walked.
03 May 2010
Insecticides such as DDT have long been used to combat the scourge of malaria in the developing world. But with the disease parasite becoming increasingly adept at resisting the chemical onslaught, some countries are achieving striking success by eliminating the environmental conditions that give rise to malarial mosquitoes.
26 Apr 2010
Our high-tech products increasingly make use of rare metals, and mining those resources can have devastating environmental consequences. But if we block projects like the proposed Pebble Mine in Alaska, are we simply forcing mining activity to other parts of the world where protections may be far weaker?
15 Apr 2010
With nearly $800 billion in drugs sold worldwide, pharmaceuticals are increasingly being released into the environment. The “green pharmacy” movement seeks to reduce the ecological impact of these drugs, which have caused mass bird die-offs and spawned antibiotic-resistant pathogens.
05 Apr 2010
In Africa and elsewhere, burgeoning population growth threatens to overwhelm already over-stretched food supply systems. But the next agricultural revolution needs to get local — and must start to see rising populations as potentially part of the solution.
08 Mar 2010
Two billion people worldwide do their cooking on open fires, producing sooty pollution that shortens millions of lives and exacerbates global warming. If widely adopted, a new generation of inexpensive, durable cook stoves could go a long way toward alleviating this problem.
18 Feb 2010
The drive to extract and store CO2 from coal-fired power plants is gaining momentum, with the Obama administration backing the technology and the world’s first capture and sequestration project now operating in the U.S. Two questions loom: Will carbon capture and storage be affordable? And will it be safe?
28 Jan 2010
Living on shifting land formed by river deltas, the people of
Bangladesh have a tenuous hold on their environment, with cyclones
buffeting coastal zones and rising seas posing a looming threat. But,
as this Yale Environment 360
video report by Jonathan Bjerg
Møller makes clear, many Bangladeshis already are suffering as a
growing population occupies increasingly vulnerable lands.
07 Jan 2010
In the past dozen years, three new diseases have decimated populations of amphibians, honeybees, and — most recently — bats. Increasingly, scientists suspect that low-level exposure to pesticides could be contributing to this rash of epidemics.
04 Jan 2010
Since the government's collapse after a coup last March, Madagascar's rainforests have been plundered for their precious wood and unique wildlife. But now there are a few encouraging signs, as officials promise a crackdown on illegal logging and ecotourists begin to return to the island.
21 Dec 2009
Much was left undone in Copenhagen, and the many loopholes in the climate accord could lead to rising emissions. But the conference averted disaster by keeping the UN climate negotiations alive, and some expressed hope that the growth of renewable energy technology may ultimately save the day.
17 Dec 2009
As the world weighs how to deal with warming, the idea of human manipulation of climate systems is gaining attention. Yet beyond the environmental and technical questions looms a more practical issue: How could governments really commit to supervising geoengineering schemes for centuries?
12 Nov 2009
Long a ubiquitous part of modern life, plastics are now in everything from diapers to water bottles to cell phones. But given the proven health threats of some plastics — as well as the enormous environmental costs — the time has come for the U.S. to pass a comprehensive plastics control law.
05 Nov 2009
Over the last century, the intensive use of chemical fertilizers has saturated the Earth’s soils and waters with nitrogen. Now scientists are warning that we must move quickly to revolutionize agricultural systems and greatly reduce the amount of nitrogen we put into the planet's ecosystems.
04 Nov 2009
With skepticism growing about the chances of reaching a climate agreement next month in Copenhagen, Rajendra Pachauri, chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, says he is “cautiously optimistic” that a treaty can still be signed. But in an interview with Yale Environment 360, Pachauri says the global community may have to move ahead without any commitment from the United States.
29 Oct 2009
Although it is a heavily urbanized nation, fully two-thirds of Japan remains woodlands. Yet many of the forests are timber plantations inhospitable to wildlife, especially black bears, which are struggling to survive in one of the most densely populated countries on Earth.
14 Oct 2009
During the last two decades, mountaintop removal mining in
Appalachia has destroyed or severely damaged more than a million acres
of forest and buried nearly 2,000 miles of streams.
Leveling Appalachia: The Legacy of Mountaintop Removal Mining, a video report produced by
Yale Environment 360 in collaboration with MediaStorm,
focuses on the environmental and social impacts of this practice and
examines the long-term effects on the region’s forests and waterways.
20 Aug 2009
In the Yaak Valley of Montana, environmentalists have been talking to loggers, snowmobilers and other longtime opponents of wilderness protection about the future of public lands. Their accord is part of a cooperative effort that could lead to the first wilderness-area designation in the state in a quarter century.
17 Aug 2009
China is on its way to becoming the world’s largest producer of renewable energy, yet it remains one of the most polluted countries on earth. A year after the Beijing Olympics, economic and political forces are combining to make China simultaneously a leader in alternative energy – and in dirty water and air.
20 Jul 2009
The environmental damage caused by mountaintop removal mining across Appalachia has been well documented. But scientists are now beginning to understand that the mining operations’ most lasting damage may be caused by the massive amounts of debris dumped into valley streams.
25 Jun 2009
As Borneo's rain forests are razed for oil palm plantations, wildlife centers are taking in more and more orphaned orangutans and preparing them for reintroduction into the wild. But the endangered primates now face a new threat — there is not enough habitat where they can be returned.
16 Jun 2009
The Mekong has long flowed freely, supporting one of the world’s great inland fisheries. But China is now building a series of dams on the 2,800-mile river that will restrict its natural flow and threaten the sustenance of tens of millions of Southeast Asians.
14 May 2009
The magnificent creature at the heart of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem now confronts two grave perils: the loss of its key food source because of rising temperatures, and increased killing by humans. A renowned grizzly expert argues that it’s time to once again protect Yellowstone’s grizzlies under the Endangered Species Act.
12 May 2009
Over the past two decades, mountaintop removal mining in Appalachia has obliterated or severely damaged more than a million acres of forest and buried more than 1,000 miles of streams. Now, the Obama administration is showing signs it plans to crack down on this destructive practice.
26 Mar 2009
Armed with vivid images from space and remote sensing data, scientists, environmentalists, and armchair conservationists are now tracking threats to the planet and making the information available to anyone with an Internet connection.
24 Mar 2009
Two decades after the Exxon Valdez spilled 11 million gallons of crude oil into Alaska’s waters, the Prince William Sound, its fishermen, and its wildlife have still not fully recovered.
05 Mar 2009
The number of vehicles worldwide is expected to reach two billion in the next two decades. Surprisingly, China – where the demand for cars has been skyrocketing – just may offer the best hope of creating a new, greener transportation model.
19 Feb 2009
On March 2, environmentalist Bill McKibben joined demonstrators who marched on a coal-fired power plant in Washington D.C. In this article for Yale Environment 360
, he explains why he was ready to go to jail to protest the continued burning of coal.
26 Jan 2009
In response to industry pressure, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has failed to set adequate restrictions on mercury levels in fish. Now the Obama administration must move forcefully to tighten those standards and warn the public which fish are less safe to eat.
11 Dec 2008
Despite the creation of protected areas in the Amazon and other tropical regions, rain forests worldwide are still being destroyed for a simple reason: They are worth more cut down than standing. But with deforestation now a leading driver of global warming, a movement is growing to pay nations and local people to keep their rain forests intact.
04 Dec 2008
After decades of living with fouled rivers and filthy air, residents of China’s Manganese Triangle are rising up and refusing to accept the intolerable conditions created by illegal mining activity. Their bold protests have shone light on the dark side of China’s economic boom. From Sichuan province, Chinese journalists Zhou Jigang and Zhu Chuhua report.
11 Nov 2008
You’ve heard the environmental horror stories: rivers running black, air unfit to breathe, two new coal-fired power plants a week. But thanks to a surging entrepreneurial spirit and new policies, China is fast becoming a leader in green innovation, from recycling to developing electric cars to harnessing the wind.
03 Nov 2008
Hard-pressed by economic straits, illegal panners are tearing up Zimbabwe’s countryside in search of gold and diamonds. They leave behind a trail of destruction: devastated fields and forests, mud-choked rivers, and mercury-tainted water. Andrew Mambondiyani reports from eastern Zimbabwe.