High levels of plastic byproducts discovered in children, study finds

September 18, 2019 by  
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A “human biomonitoring” study, jointly conducted by the German Environment Ministry and the Robert Koch Institute, is sounding the clarion warning that plastic pollution is present — and not just in our oceans, estuaries and the fish we eat. Rather alarmingly, the study found toxic levels of plastic byproducts in 97 percent of the blood and urine samples gathered from 2,500 children tested. The children in the research study ranged from 3 to 17 years of age. Of the 15 plastics under scrutiny, researchers detected 11 in the children’s test samples. Presence of these plastic byproducts in the children’s bodies increases their risk of hormonal dysfunction. That’s because plastics , at the micro level, can mimic the action of particular hormones, thus confusing the human endocrine system. The disruption, in turn, can manifest as obesity, metabolic disease, cancers, reproductive disorders, behavioral aberrations or developmental delays. Related: How to teach children about climate change What’s disquieting is that exposure to these plastic substances can arise from the most mundane things — storage containers, DVD cases, receipts, package linings, PVC piping, imitation leather, treated furniture, carpeting, even toys and medical devices. Plastics and microplastics surround us; consequently, we cannot avoid being exposed. One of the scientific authors, Marike Kolossa-Gehring, stated, “Our study clearly shows that plastic ingredients, which are rising in production, are showing up more and more in the body.” The study also revealed that the most susceptible subjects were younger children and children from poorer families. Both at-risk groups registered more plastic residue than their counterparts. Similarly, the study addressed the issue of replacements, citing that substances classified as perilous to humans should not be replaced by similar chemicals. After all, the substitutes might be just as toxic and detrimental. Hence, replacing with similar chemicals does not mitigate the chances of being exposed to harm. Researchers expressed uneasiness about the high levels of perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) in the young subjects. The apprehension surfaces from the fact that PFOA is extremely persistent, bioaccumulative and rather toxic. PFOA is typically used in the process for making Teflon, which explains why it is usually found coating non-stick cookware and waterproof clothing. PFOA is a threat because it is toxic to both the reproductive system and the liver. The European Union is expected to ban PFOA in 2020. The scientists concluded that more research is needed to discover the pathways that plastics take to enter the human body. A solution is likewise needed to minimize the risks of children accumulating plastic byproducts at unsafe levels. Via Spiegel Online and TreeHugger Image via Ruben Rubio

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High levels of plastic byproducts discovered in children, study finds

Ireland plans to ban single-use plastics

September 18, 2019 by  
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In a move that has environmentalists cheering, Ireland recently overhauled its waste sector by announcing a ban on single-use plastics, including cutlery, straws, cups, food containers and cotton bud sticks. The initiative also called for doubling the rate of recycled material and is considering new levy requirements for non-recyclable plastics, such as those found in food packaging at groceries. Richard Bruton, the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment, explained that the new policies are part of the Irish government’s improved climate action campaign to eliminate unnecessary packaging, reduce food waste by 50 percent, improve plastic recycling by 60 percent and cut landfill disposal by 60 percent. Related: Ireland will plant 440 million trees in 20 years In recent years, single-use plastic pollution has skyrocketed, prompting dismal reports that project an Earth of 2050 where our oceans are filled with more plastic than fish. Many people are realizing the urgency, and government officials are being pressured into addressing the plastic waste dilemma. Accordingly, the European Union has proposed banning single-use plastics — and Ireland is the latest EU member to join the bandwagon. That the campaign to remove single-use plastics has already taken hold on the Emerald Isle is a profound step in the right direction. To date, it is estimated that every person in Ireland annually generates more than 400 pounds of waste packaging, of which 130 pounds are plastic, and these per capita statistics are above the EU average. Implementing this single-use plastic ban is expected to bring promising results to Ireland’s ongoing war on plastic pollution . Bruton said, “All along the supply chain we can do better — 70 percent of food waste is avoidable, half of the material we use is not being segregated properly, two-thirds of plastic used is not on the recycling list and labels are confusing.” For those sectors unable to readily comply with the ban, heavy environmental taxes will have to be paid. These tax levies are a further measure designed to deter the widespread use of single-use plastics, especially non-recyclable ones. Conservation and ecology advocates are supportive of Ireland’s ban, confirming that plastic consumption must be reduced to safeguard the environment. Supporters also uphold that the cost of the added tax should reflect the dire impact single-use plastic has on the environment. Of course, the issue is not without its critics, some of whom claim the tax would do little to alleviate environmental conditions but would instead disproportionately affect lower-income consumers. Nonetheless, optimists assert that the Irish ban on plastic waste will mobilize a shift in industrial, business and consumer behavior that can ultimately contribute to a cleaner, greener Ireland, perhaps bringing the country closer to a sustainable Emerald Isle ideal. Via EcoWatch , RTE and Irish Times Image via Flockine

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These works of art record and provide shelter to urban wildlife

September 18, 2019 by  
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The Interaction Research Studio at Goldsmiths, University of London is proving that you don’t have to leave the city to experience wildlife. Inspired by both art and nature, the studio has created a series of habitats that use hidden cameras to capture images of wildlife. The habitat structures use My Naturewatch wildlife cameras, easy-to-find materials and simple electronics and are designed to be used by even the most novice of nature-lovers. The structures are also built with natural materials to make the animals feel more at-home, with the potential to serve as both shelters or food. The natural materials include things like wood, coconut shells, stones and branches, in combination with recycled materials such as plastic water bottles (used as a waterproof protective casing around the camera lens). Related: IKEA teams up with London artists to upcycle old furniture into funky abodes for birds, bees ?and bats This marriage of natural and human-made components not only benefits the animals but also serves as an important metaphor for the intricacy of urban environments and the problems that city animals face on a daily basis. The habitats are a welcomed sight to the animals; they provide the creatures with an acting shelter, feeding station, watering station and a spot to mingle with other wildlife . The studio is calling the project “ Nature Scenes ” and is presenting it as part of the Brompton Biotopia expedition taking place in September during the London Design Festival. Along with a series of similar projects showcasing sustainable shelters for animals by fellow designers, Nature Scenes will serve as an inspiration for others to build their own animal shelters using recycled or natural materials as well as the My Naturewatch cameras. Most residents don’t realize how many animals they share their surroundings with: rats, squirrels, falcons, foxes, mice and more. The ability to watch these animals living their lives without the interruption of human interaction is a great way to connect with nature — especially for those living in city environments. + Interaction Research Studio + Naturewatch Via Dezeen Images via Interaction Research Studio at Goldsmiths, University of London

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These works of art record and provide shelter to urban wildlife

Sustainable tech powers the Corten steel-clad Cube in Denmark

September 18, 2019 by  
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When Danish architectural firm Christensen & Co. Architects was asked to design the new headquarters for the Helsingør Power Plant, they felt it would be fitting if the project serve as an extension of the client’s commitment to sustainable supply technologies. Clad in Corten steel as a nod to the surrounding industrial architecture, the sustainably powered Forsyning Helsingør Operations Center has been dubbed The Cube after its geometric shape. For a reduced energy footprint, the office complex draws excess heat from a nearby wood-chipping plant, while rainwater is collected from the roof and reused in the building. Spanning an area of 6,000 square meters, the Forsyning Helsingør Operations Center includes the five-story Cube as well as an Operating Facilities complex that contains storage space, garages, and all the operations equipment. The ground-floor of the public-facing Cube is organized around a central light-filled atrium that connects to administrative rooms, a customer service center, as well as an exhibition area. Large skylights and full-height windows also let in ample amounts of natural light and are shielded with Corten steel solar fins . “The design for Helsingør Power Plant´s new HQ supports the narrative about the municipality’s sustainable supply technologies – from wastewater treatment to energy and waste handling,” explains Christensen & Co. Architects in their project statement. “The project comprises the Cube and Operating Facilities, two buildings that will stand adjacent to the power plant with its distinctive architecture. The facility forms a protective shield around the central working area while screening the surroundings from noise.” Related: Danish city becomes world’s first to power water treatment plant with sewage Information about the sustainable technologies used in the building and by the municipality are made available to visitors in the Cube. Visitors can also enjoy views from the ground-floor customer center to the entire building thanks to the large atrium .  + Christensen & Co. Architects Via Dezeen Images by Niels Nygaard

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Sustainable tech powers the Corten steel-clad Cube in Denmark

Harvard Scientists to Build Endurance-Prolonging Smart Suit for U.S. Military

July 29, 2012 by  
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Scientists at Harvard are working toward a “novel wearable system” that could prolong the physical endurance of soldiers in the field. While this may seem a bit too much like they’ll be saving Gotham City, ahem – real life Batsuits , the   Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency  has already granted $2.6 million to the university’s  Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering  for the project.   Click ahead to read more about the high-tech suit and how it will delay the onset of fatigue. READ MORE > Permalink | Add to del.icio.us | digg Post tags: darpa , darpa grant , harvard , military designs , performance enhancement , performance enhancement suit , smart suit , wearable technology , wyss institute

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Harvard Scientists to Build Endurance-Prolonging Smart Suit for U.S. Military

Kenya Snares Gang of Rhino Poachers

January 5, 2010 by  
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Image credit: Mara 1 /Flickr The December 28 discovery of a 10-year-old female white rhino in Kenya that had been killed by poachers launched a nation-wide manhunt for the culprits.

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Kenya Snares Gang of Rhino Poachers

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