Researchers rush to link toxic chemical to health concerns

April 24, 2019 by  
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A new trend in research reflects a growing concern about the health impacts of a commonly used toxic chemical substance called PFAs (per- and polyfluoralkyl substances). The family of chemicals is pervasive in heat and water-resistant technologies– and is now found in soil, drinking water and even in human blood. “Essentially everyone has these compounds in our blood,” Linda Birnbaum, director of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences told NPR . Related: Researchers find weedkiller ingredient Glyphosate in name brand beer and wine PFAs are valued for their resistant qualities and used in a variety of items, including food wrappers, umbrellas, tents, carpets and firefighting foams. PFAs are also used in important emerging and lifesaving technologies, including pacemakers, defibrillators, low-emission automobiles and solar panels . However, the same qualities that makes them attractive to manufacturers and consumers are also what wreaks havoc in the environment. Nicknamed the “forever chemical ” the substances have been found in lakes, rivers and drinking water reserves. Recent research also links the contaminant with serious health concerns. The first study to link PFAs to human health was conducted in 2005, when researchers discovered a connection between PFA emissions and health problems among communities in West Virginia and Ohio, such as kidney cancer and thyroid disease. Since then, there has been growing interest and funding among researchers to further explore this critical connection. Another study indicates that prevalence of PFA in the body may make people resistant to vaccines. No limits: unchecked chemical emissions The Environmental Protection Agency is responsible for setting limitations on potential toxic chemical use and emissions, but rarely conducts studies on new chemicals until a public health concern has been raised. Currently, there is no U.S. law that prohibits the sale of a new chemicals or mandates preliminary research on health impacts.  Even after health problems have been noticed, studies require long-term analysis to prove linkages and are often too slow to prevent serious consequences. Although the science of exactly how the toxic chemicals impact human cells is not fully understood, it is clear there is a connection between their abundance in the environment and problematic health symptoms. As a result, some states have decided to develop limits for PFA prevalence in drinking water , opting to seriously consider the warnings from initial studies in order to protect current and future generations. Via NPR Image via Shutterstock

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Researchers rush to link toxic chemical to health concerns

Nutella ingredient could cause cancer, says EFSA

January 12, 2017 by  
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Everyone’s favorite breakfast spread is under fire again . The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) said last year that palm oil , the ingredient that gives Nutella its smooth texture, could come with a cancer risk. Now Italian company Ferrero , makers of Nutella, are fighting back, even as other big-name companies like Barilla say they’ve ceased using palm oil. EFSA said in May 2016 that palm oil, when refined at temperatures higher than 200 degrees Celsius, produces more of a contaminant called glycidyl fatty acid esters (GE) than other vegetable oils. They said there is sufficient evidence glycidol – what they describe as GE’s parent compound – is carcinogenic, or cancer-causing. Related: Our love of Nutella is wrecking the Earth Ferrero has a high stake in convincing the public of palm oil’s safety; Nutella brings in about one fifth of their sales, according to Reuters. Palm oil is also cheaper than other oils, costing about $800 per ton compared with $845 for sunflower oil or $920 for rapeseed oil. As Ferrero goes through around 185,000 metric tons of palm oil every year, Reuters calculated they would spend an extra $8 to $22 million yearly if they switched to another oil. Ferrero would not give Reuters a comment on those statistics. The company launched a TV commercial that’s played in Italy for the last three months, featuring Ferrero purchasing manager Vincenzo Tapella, who told Reuters, “Making Nutella without palm oil would produce an inferior substitute for the real product, it would be a step backward.” Some politicians have criticized the ad, saying it misleads consumers on environmental and health risks. Ferrero argues they process palm oil at temperatures just under 200 degrees Celsius to lower GE levels to the point where scientific instruments can barely trace the contaminant. They also claim to purchase palm oil approved by the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil . The palm oil industry has been criticized for contributing to deforestation and destroying the habitats of endangered animals like orangutans and Sumatran tigers. Is it time to give it up? Via Reuters Images via Brian Cantoni on Flickr and Janine on Flickr

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Nutella ingredient could cause cancer, says EFSA

Three-mile-high futuristic skyscraper has a smog-eating, self-cleaning coating

January 12, 2017 by  
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What will the world look like in 2062? Manufacturing company Arconic gives us a preview with their latest campaign called ” The Jetsons “. The firm’s engineers teamed up with futurists to update the world of the Jetsons with new design marvels like flying cars and three-mile-high skyscrapers covered in a smog-eating, self-cleaning coating. The thing is, a lot of the technologies showcased in their campaign are already available. Flying cars inspired by nature, 3D-printed aerodynamic airplanes, and solar-powered rovers are among the technologies dreamed up for The Jetsons campaign. But The Jetsons doesn’t only draw on the stuff of imagination; some of the materials utilized are on the market today, such as EcoClean , a coating released in 2011. When water vapor and light mix with the chemicals in EcoClean, free radicals form. The free radicals suck up and break down pollutants so they can be washed off the building “with just the slightest bit of moisture,” like dew or light rain, according to EcoClean . Related: Cambridge researchers are growing bone for greener buildings Sherri McCleary, a chief materials scientist at Arconic, told Business Insider, “The functional coating provides aesthetics, it provides maintenance benefits, and it also provides a benefit to the surrounding environment by reducing the content of pollutants around it.” The company claims 10,000 square feet coated with EcoClean “has the approximate air cleansing power of 80 trees .” Another futuristic technology that will probably hit markets well before 2062 is Bloomframe , invented by Hofman Dujardin and developed by Arconic company Kawneer . Bloomframe is a motorized window that can transform into a balcony in 55 seconds. An Arconic company spokesperson told Business Insider the technology will be available in the “near future.” 3D printing could allow Arconic to bring futuristic technologies to market today; McCleary said the technology could enable buildings that wouldn’t otherwise be feasible to endure unique climates and high winds, and offer architects more options. You can check out the rest of Arconic’s vision for 2062 here . + Arconic Via Business Insider Images via Arconic Facebook

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Three-mile-high futuristic skyscraper has a smog-eating, self-cleaning coating

30 billion tons of stored carbon discovered in Congo peatland

January 12, 2017 by  
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At 3.7 million square kilometers, the Congo Basin contains some of the planet’s largest tropical rainforests and vast wetlands. Buried within this awesome wilderness are the Cuvette Centrale peatlands, recently discovered and mapped swamps that may contain 30 billion tons of carbon. This makes the Cuvette Centrale one of Earth’s most carbon rich ecosystems, one that desperately needs protection to avoid the release of the equivalent to 20 years of carbon emissions from the United States. The Cuvette Centrale peatlands were first discovered five years ago by a UK-Congolese research team, whose research, based on three year’s worth of peat analysis and satellite data, was published in Nature on Wednesday . “These peatlands hold nearly 30% of the world’s tropical peatland carbon,” said research co-leader Professor Simon Lewis of the University of Leeds. “Our research shows that the peat in the central Congo basin covers a colossal amount of land. It is 16 times larger than the previous estimate and is the single largest peatland complex found anywhere in the tropics.” More commonly found in cooler climates, such as Scotland where it is used to flavor scotch, peat is formed from soaked , partially decomposed plant materials. In order for carbon to be stored, peat must not dry out. If it does, due to climate change or land disturbance, decomposition of the material will continue and carbon will be released into the atmosphere. Related: Cambodian floating toilets filter human waste naturally via wetland plants Only recently discovered, the Cuvette Centrale peatlands have not yet been disturbed. However, their protection is of the utmost importance in reducing the impact of climate change. “The maintenance and protection of this peatland complex, alongside protecting our forests, could be central Africa ’s great contribution to the global climate change problem,” said Dr. Ifo Suspense, study co-author and researcher at Université Marien Ngouabi in Brazzaville. In addition to its value as a carbon sink, the Congo Basin is also of enormous ecological value as it is home to gorillas , elephants, okapi and other large mammals threatened by deforestation. The Republic of Congo is considering an expansion of its Lac Télé community reserve to protect an additional 50,000 square kilometers of swamp forest, much of which is peatlands. As governments and scientists move to protect the peatlands and the planet, one cannot help but be awestruck. “It is astonishing that in 2016 discoveries like this can still be made,” said study co-leader Dr. Greta Dargie of University College London. Via the Guardian Images via David Holt  and Flickr

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30 billion tons of stored carbon discovered in Congo peatland

Vincent Callebaut envisions Belgiums industrial zone as an amazing energy-generating community

January 12, 2017 by  
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Designer Vincent Callebaut presents an amazing green facelift to the century-old warehouses at Belgium’s former industrial site Tour & Taxis in his latest designs for a mixed-use eco-neighborhood. His masterplan transforms the 40-hectare post-industrial site into a sustainable community draped in greenery that generates more energy than its residents need. His futuristic design is part of a greater vision to help European cities transition their built environments towards a post-carbon future. Built at the turn of the 20th century to serve as a major freight and customs clearance center, Tour & Taxis was once the shining jewel of industrialization’s golden age with its majestic engineering, ironwork, and stonework. The 40-hectare industrial site was built atop former wetlands located on the Brussels canal close to the heart of the city. Today, the area is undergoing major renewal and many of the impressive warehouses have been converted into offices, shops, restaurants, and exhibition spaces. Callebaut’s masterplan supports the adaptive reuse trend and expands on it with the design of a mixed-use eco-neighborhood to provide residences, as well as additional retail and office space. The redevelopment would be organized along the Brussels canal and is centered on the transformation of the Marine Terminal into the BIOCAMPUS, a 50,000-square-meter mixed-use space constructed with cross-laminated timber and inspired by biomimetic design . Three heavily landscaped residential buildings—called “vertical forests”—would sit across the repurposed Marine Terminal, totaling 85,000 square meters of new residential space. Related: Futuristic oceanscapers are floating villages 3D-printed from algae and plastic waste The energy-efficient architecture is designed to produce more energy than its users need thanks to passive design, renewable energy production through wind and solar, earth-air heat exchangers for natural ventilation, evapotranspiration gardens, geothermal stations, and more. Construction would use biosourced materials that contained recycled content or can be recycled according to cradle-to-cradle standards. Non-motorized transport would be prioritized in the neighborhood. + Vincent Callebaut Images via Vincent Callebaut

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Vincent Callebaut envisions Belgiums industrial zone as an amazing energy-generating community

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