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The Lead

Designing less odorous latrines

May 28, 2015 11:37 am | by American Chemical Society | News | Comments

About 2.5 billion people worldwide don’t have access to sanitary toilets. Latrines are an option for many of those people, but these facilities’ overwhelming odors can deter users, who then defecate outdoors instead. To improve this situation, fragrance scientists paired experts’ noses and analytical instruments to determine the odor profiles of latrines with the aim of countering the offensive stench.

Study: Europeans to suffer more ragweed with global warming

May 25, 2015 12:04 pm | by Seth Borenstein, AP Science Writer, Associated Press | News | Comments

Global warming will bring much more sneezing and wheezing to Europe by mid-century, a new study...

Improved way to assess cancer risk of pollutants

May 11, 2015 9:16 am | by Gail Wells, Oregon State Univ. | News | Comments

Scientists at Oregon State Univ. have developed a faster, more accurate method to assess cancer...

EPA suggests guidelines to spot algae in drinking water

May 7, 2015 2:00 pm | by John Flesher, AP Environmental Writer, Associated Press | News | Comments

The EPA is proposing guidelines to help state and local officials detect dangerous levels of...

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Gulf health five years after BP spill: Resilient yet scarred

April 17, 2015 10:05 am | by Seth Borenstein And Cain Burdeau, Associated Press | News | Comments

From above, five years after the BP well explosion, the Gulf of Mexico looks clean, green and whole again, teeming with life: a testament to the resilience of nature. But there's more than surface shimmering blue and emerald to the aftermath of the Deepwater Horizon spill. And it's not as pretty a picture, nor is it as clear.

China’s thriving export industry comes with a high cost

April 17, 2015 8:35 am | by American Chemical Society | News | Comments

China has become the world’s largest exporter, leading to the country’s rapid economic development, and notorious pollution that’s harmful to human health. For the first time, scientists have estimated this trend’s health cost. They report in Environmental Science & Technology that in 2007, export-related emissions in China led to almost 160,000 deaths.

Sensors detect spoiled meat

April 15, 2015 11:32 am | by Anne Trafton, MIT News Office | News | Comments

The researchers have filed for a patent on the technology and hope to license it for commercial development.

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Air pollutants could boost potency of common airborne allergens

March 23, 2015 11:43 am | by American Chemical Society | News | Comments

A pair of air pollutants linked to climate change could also be a major contributor to the unparalleled rise in the number of people sneezing and wheezing during allergy season. The gases, nitrogen dioxide and ground-level ozone, appear to provoke chemical changes in certain airborne allergens that could increase their potency. That, in combination with changes in global climate, could explain why airborne allergies are more common.

Bird Study Finds Older Parents Have Fewer Grandkids

March 10, 2015 8:44 am | by Max Planck Institute for Ornithology | News | Comments

In a long term study on a population of house sparrows, researchers found that offspring of older parents themselves produced fewer young. Such a transgenerational effect is important for the understanding of the evolution of longevity.

Syria's civil war linked partly to drought, global warming

March 2, 2015 5:09 pm | by Seth Borenstein, AP Science Writer, Associated Press | News | Comments

The conflict that has torn Syria apart can be traced, in part, to a record drought worsened by global warming, a new study says. In what scientists say is one of the most detailed and strongest connections between violence and human-caused climate change, researchers trace the effects of Syria's drought from the collapse of farming, to the migration of 1.5 million farmers to the cities, and then to poverty and civil unrest.

Turning smartphones into personal, real-time pollution monitors

February 20, 2015 8:48 am | by American Chemical Society | News | Comments

As urban residents know, air quality is a big deal. When local pollution levels go up, the associated health risks also increase, especially for children and seniors. But air pollution varies widely over the course of a day and by location, even within the same city. Now scientists, reporting in Environmental Science & Technology, have used smartphone and sensing technology to better pinpoint where and when pollution is at its worst.

Air Filter Could Help Beijing Breathe Easily

February 19, 2015 2:00 pm | by Stanford Univ. | News | Comments

A professor and his students have turned a material commonly used in surgical gloves into a low-cost, highly efficient air filter. It could be used to improve facemasks and window screens, and maybe even scrub the exhaust from power plants.  

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Beavers Inspire Method to Aid Tooth Enamel

February 13, 2015 7:00 am | by Northwestern Univ. | News | Comments

Beavers don't brush their teeth, and they don't drink fluoridated water, but a new study reports beavers do have protection against tooth decay built into the chemical structure of their teeth: iron. This pigmented enamel, the researchers found, is both harder and more resistant to acid than regular enamel, including that treated with fluoride.

New membrane permits cheaper, more efficient water purification

February 4, 2015 10:35 am | by Univ. of Twente | News | Comments

New selective membranes in the form of thin hollow straws can improve water purification. This emerges from research by Joris de Gooth from UT's MESA+ research institute. The membranes that De Grooth jointly developed make it possible to purify water in a single process step, while preliminary treatment is always required in existing water treatment plants.

Worms lead way to test nanoparticle toxicity

February 3, 2015 8:12 am | by Mike Williams, Rice Univ. | News | Comments

The lowly roundworm is the star of an ambitious Rice Univ. project to measure the toxicity of nanoparticles. The low-cost, high-output study measures the effects of many types of nanoparticles not only on individual organisms but also on entire populations. The researchers tested 20 types of nanoparticles and determined that five, including the carbon-60 molecules (“buckyballs”) discovered at Rice in 1985, showed little to no toxicity.

Man trumps dog: Earlier assumption about BPA exposure confirmed

January 28, 2015 8:18 am | by Mary Beckman, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory | News | Comments

Coating the mouth with BPA-containing food does not lead to higher than expected levels of BPA in blood, according to a new study. The study concludes that oral exposure does not create a risk for high exposures. BPA, also known as bisphenol A, is used to make some plastics and to seal canned food containers against bacterial contamination. Food, which picks up trace amounts of BPA from packaging, is the major source of human exposure.

Atomic Scientists: We're getting even closer to doomsday

January 22, 2015 2:18 pm | by Seth Borenstein, AP Science Writer, Associated Press | News | Comments

The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists says Earth is now closer to human-caused doomsday than it has been in more than 30 years because of global warming and nuclear weaponry. But other experts say that's way too gloomy. The advocacy group founded by the creators of the atomic bomb moved their famed "Doomsday Clock" ahead two minutes on Thursday.

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Officials begin testing mystery gunk linked to bird deaths

January 21, 2015 2:18 pm | by By Kristin J. Bender - Associated Press - Associated Press | News | Comments

San Francisco Bay Area officials have begun laboratory tests and necropsies on dead seabirds found coated with a mysterious substance that looks and feels like dirty rubber cement. More than 125 dead birds have been found along the bay's shorelines, said Andrew Hughan, spokesman for the California Dept. of Fish and Wildlife.

Mass animal die-offs may be increasing

January 15, 2015 8:08 am | by Bill Hathaway, Yale Univ. | News | Comments

Mass die-offs of animals may be increasing in frequency and in severity as well, according to a study of 727 mass mortality events since 1940. Despite the ecological importance of individual mass mortality events, in which a larger than normal number of individuals die within a population, little research has been conducted on patterns across mass mortality events.

How to predict responses to disease

January 14, 2015 10:18 am | by Larry Hardesty, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Sometimes the response to the outbreak of a disease can make things worse. The ability to anticipate when such overreactions might occur could help public health officials take steps to limit the dangers. Now a new computer model could provide a way of making such forecasts, based on a combination of data collected from hospitals, social media and other sources.

Poll: Americans support labeling genetically modified foods

January 13, 2015 9:36 am | by By Mary Clare Jalonick - Associated Press - Associated Press | News | Comments

A large majority of Americans support labeling of genetically modified foods, whether they care about eating them or not. According to a December Associated Press-GfK poll, 66% of Americans favor requiring food manufacturers to put labels on products that contain genetically modified organisms, or foods grown from seeds engineered in labs. Only 7% are opposed to the idea, and 24% are neutral.

Guide for healthy eating may consider environment

January 3, 2015 3:35 am | by By Mary Clare Jalonick - Associated Press | News | Comments

The government issues dietary guidelines every five years to encourage Americans to eat healthier. This year's version may look at what is healthy for the environment, too. A new focus on the environment would mean asking people to choose more fruits, vegetables, nuts, whole grains and other plant-based foods—possibly at the expense of meat.

Obama: Ebola still priority as public focus shifts

December 2, 2014 6:00 pm | by By Jim Kuhnhenn And Stacy A. Anderson - Associated Press - Associated Press | News | Comments

Declaring the "fight is nowhere close to being over," President Barack Obama on Tuesday heralded strides in the effort to confront Ebola in West Africa and in protecting the U.S. against the spread of the deadly virus. He said squelching the disease remains an urgent priority even if the American public's attention has shifted elsewhere.

Study: Light may skew lab tests on nanoparticles’ health effects

November 19, 2014 8:38 am | by Chad Boutin, NIST | News | Comments

Truth shines a light into dark places. But sometimes to find that truth in the first place, it’s better to stay in the dark. That’s what recent findings at NIST show about methods for testing the safety of nanoparticles. It turns out that previous tests indicating that some nanoparticles can damage our DNA may have been skewed by inadvertent light exposure in the lab.

Research quantifies health benefits of reducing greenhouse gas emissions

November 19, 2014 8:31 am | by Allan Chen, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory | News | Comments

Reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, which result from the burning of fossil fuels, also reduces the incidence of health problems from particulate matter (PM) in these emissions. A team of scientists has calculated that the economic benefit of reduced health impacts from GHG reduction strategies in the U.S. range between $6 and $14 billion annually in 2020, depending on how the reductions are accomplished.

Common fracking chemicals no more toxic than household substances

November 12, 2014 4:15 pm | by Laura Snider, CU-Boulder Media Relations | News | Comments

The “surfactant” chemicals found in samples of fracking fluid collected in five states were no more toxic than substances commonly found in homes, according to a first-of-its-kind analysis by researchers at the Univ. of Colorado Boulder. Fracking fluid is largely comprised of water and sand, but oil and gas companies also add a variety of other chemicals, including surfactants.

Japan's nuclear cleanup stymied by water woes

November 12, 2014 6:58 am | by Mari Yamaguchi - Associated Press - Associated Press | News | Comments

More than three years into the massive cleanup of Japan's tsunami-damaged nuclear power plant, only a tiny fraction of the workers are focused on key tasks such as preparing for the dismantling of the broken reactors and removing radioactive fuel rods. Instead, nearly all the workers at the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant are devoted to a single, enormously distracting problem: coping with the vast amount of contaminated water.

Thirdhand smoke: Toxic airborne pollutants linger long after the smoke clears

November 4, 2014 2:47 pm | by Julie Chao, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory | News | Comments

Ever walked into a hotel room and smelled old cigarette smoke? While the last smoker may have left the room hours or even days ago, the lingering odors are thanks to thirdhand smoke. Scientists at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, who have made important findings on the dangers of thirdhand smoke and how it adsorbs strongly onto indoor surfaces, have published a new study assessing the health effects of thirdhand smoke constituents.

Distillers grains with calcium oxide improve cattle diets

November 4, 2014 8:08 am | by Darrin Pack, Purdue Univ. | News | Comments

Research by Purdue Univ. scientist Jon Schoonmaker and his colleagues has shown that small amounts of calcium oxide can neutralize the acid in distillers grains, a commonly used alternative to corn in many livestock feed mixes. The findings are good news for beef producers hoping to provide a more nutritious, better balanced diet to their animals while keeping their feed budgets manageable.

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