In 2011, Lake Erie experienced a record-breaking algae bloom that began in the lake's Western region in mid-July and eventually covered an area of 230 square miles. At its peak in October, the bloom had expanded to more than 1,930 square miles, three times greater than any other bloom on record. According to recent research, the bloom was triggered by long-term agricultural practices coupled with extreme precipitation, followed by weak lake circulation and warm temperatures.
Every year, millions of tons of environmentally harmful ash is produced worldwide, and is mostly dumped in landfill sites or, in some countries, used as construction material. The ash is what is left when rubbish has been burnt in thermal power stations. A researcher from Lund University in Sweden has now developed a technique to use the ash to produce useful hydrogen gas.
A common test used to determine mercury exposure from dental amalgam fillings may significantly overestimate the amount of the toxic metal released from fillings, according to University of Michigan researchers. Scientists agree that dental amalgam fillings slowly release mercury vapor into the mouth. But both the amount of mercury released and the question of whether this exposure presents a significant health risk remain controversial.
Facing public outrage over smog-choked cities and filthy rivers, China's leaders are promising to clean up the country's neglected environment—a pledge that sets up a clash with political pressures to keep economic growth strong.
A research group in Japan has recently discovered that it is possible to detect diluted ionic mercury in water with more than 10 times higher sensitivity than with the conventional spectroscopy method. Ionic mercury is a harmful substance when dissolved in rivers and lakes, even in trace amounts. In contrast to the conventional spectroscopic detection method, the infrared spectroscopy detection method was used for this method.
Millions of people in Bangladesh and neighboring countries are chronically exposed to arsenic-contaminated groundwater, which causes skin lesions and increases the risk of certain cancers. According to an international team of scientists, human activities are not the primary cause of arsenic found in groundwater in Bangladesh. They found instead that the arsenic is part of a natural process that predates any recent human activity, such as intensive pumping.
It's no secret that China is faced with some of the world's worst pollution. Until now, however, information on the magnitude, scope and impacts of a major contributor to that pollution—human-caused nitrogen emissions—was lacking. A new study has revealed that the problem is rooted in nitrogen.
By identifying two genes required for transforming inorganic into organic mercury, which is far more toxic, scientists today have taken a significant step toward protecting human health. The question of how methylmercury, an organic form of mercury, is produced by natural processes in the environment has stumped scientists for decades, but a team led by researchers at Oak Ridge National Laboratory has solved the puzzle.
In the same week that a team of researchers in France announced the harmful effects of bisphenol A (BPA) on hormone levels in human tissue, researchers in Texas have demonstrated through experiments that the BPA substitute bisphenol S also disrupts hormone activity at an extremely low level of exposure, and in an even more problematic way.
The compound bisphenol A, which is found in plastics and resins, has been under scrutiny as chemists attempt to determine whether it is a health hazard for humans. According to researchers in France, even weak concentrations of bisphenol A are sufficient to produce a negative reaction in human testicles, reducing the production of testosterone hormones.
If you're reading this, odds are you've already used running water in your home today. But you're in a minority: Globally, at least a billion people have no nearby source of water, while of the remaining six billion or so, only 42% have running water in their homes or a tap in the yard, according to the World Health Organization. Now a new field experiment shows just how much access to clean water matters to people.
Claiming that recent product recalls and bans indicate that product manufacturers do not have adequate tools for identifying and avoiding the use of harmful chemicals in their products, a group of scientists from North America and Europe has developed a five-tiered testing system that manufacturers can use to ensure that the consumer products they produce are free of endocrine disrupting chemicals like BPA or DDT.
Mosquito control officials in the Florida Keys are waiting for the federal government to sign off on an experiment that would release hundreds of thousands of genetically modified mosquitoes to reduce the risk of dengue fever in the tourist town of Key West. If approved by the Food and Drug Administration, it would be the first such experiment in the U.S. Some residents, however, are worried about the risks.
A new form of contraception could take an unexpected shape: electrically spun cloth with nanometer-sized fibers. These fibers, designed by a University of Washington team, can dissolve and release drugs, providing a cheap and discreet platform for protecting against unintended pregnancy, as well as HIV infection.
A series of papers published recently in the journal The Lancet are calling attention to the rapid spread of vector-borne, zoonotic diseases such as West Nile virus, dengue fever, and Lyme disease. These diseases, spread to humans by animals like mosquitos and ticks, are advancing as a result of urbanization, land use, and more intensive agricultural practices.
Results from field and lab tests have found that 7 to 9% of the kerosene in wick lamps—used for light in 250-300 million households without electricity—is converted to black carbon when burned. In comparison, only half of 1% of the emissions from burning wood is converted to black carbon. Kerosene is the primary source of light for more than a billion people in developing nations.
Scientists are reporting an increasing use of flame retardants in the main gathering spot for adults, children and family pets in the home—the couch. In recent study, Heather Stapleton and colleagues describe the first efforts to detect and identify the flame retardants applied to the foam inside couches found in millions of family rooms and living rooms across the U.S.
A major new initiative in the European Union is being launched to build a complete picture of how environmental pollutants influence health. Researchers are being asked to use smartphones equipped with GPS and environmental sensors to monitor study participants and their exposure to potential hazards. This information will be combined with blood and urine analysis to investigate whether exposure to risk factors leaves chemical fingerprints that can be detected in bodily fluids.
Overturning decades of conventional wisdom, researchers at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory have found that moderately high indoor concentrations of carbon dioxide can significantly impair people's decision-making performance. The results were unexpected and may have particular implications for schools and other spaces with high occupant density.
The system currently being used to test for mercury and its very toxic derivative, methyl mercury, is time-intensive, costly, and can only detect quantities at already toxic levels. Researchers at Northwestern University and in Switzerland have invented a device consisting of a strip of glass with a nanoparticle film attached that can detect heavy metals in quantities more than a million times smaller than is currently possible.
Mercury, when dumped in lakes and rivers, accumulates in fish, and often ends up on our plates. A Swiss-American team of researchers has devised a simple, inexpensive system based on nanoparticles, a kind of nano-velcro, to detect and trap this toxic pollutant as well as others. The particles are covered with tiny hairs that can grab onto toxic heavy metals such as mercury and cadmium.
Ornamental nursery and floral crops require micronutrients like iron, manganese, copper and zinc. But fertilizers that provide these micronutrients often include synthetic compounds that bind with the micronutrients to make them available to the roots. They also extract metals from sediments, contributing to heavy metals in runoff. A Dept. of Agriculture scientist has found a biodegradable alternative to these agents.
Professional athletic field managers maintain trimmed turfgrass with great precision, carefully painting crisp lines and colorful logos on their grass before each game. While these fields appear to be in perfect health, some field managers have noted deteriorating turfgrass beneath repeated paint applications. New research into the relationship between photosynthesis and latex paint suggests why.
Sewage sludge, wastewater and liquid manure are valuable sources of fertilizer for food production. Researchers in Germany have now developed a chemical-free, eco-friendly process that enables the recovered salts to be converted directly into organic food for crop plants.
While epidemiologists and scientists who study complex network systems are working to create mathematical models that describe the worldwide spread of disease, to date these models have focused on the final stages of epidemics, examining the locations that ultimately develop the highest infection rates. But a new study shifts the focus to the first few days of an epidemic, determining how likely the 40 largest U.S. airports are to influence the spread of a contagious disease originating in their home cities.