Facial deformities in Uganda apes linked to pesticide use

August 29, 2017 by  
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Our pesticides may be harming animals that live nearby, according to new research. A group of 10 scientists led by Paris’ Musée de l’Homme and the Great Ape Conservation Project at Kibale National Park in Uganda found baboons and chimpanzees with facial deformities near an agricultural area where they were told around eight pesticides had been used. 25 percent of chimpanzees the researchers monitored displayed abnormalities like reduced nostrils, reproductive issues, hypopigmentation, cleft lip, or limb deformities. Kibale National Park is close to industrial tea plantations and gardens growing maize, which are often raided by the chimps and baboons, according to the researchers. But it appears pesticides in the crops they’re taking are harming them. Related: Bee-killing pesticides have been found in US drinking water The researchers asked people in tea factories and villages what pesticides were being used, and were told of eight: glyphosate , cypermethrin, profenofos, mancozeb, metalaxyl, dimethoate, chlorpyrifos , and 2,4-D amine. They took samples from soils, fresh maize stems and seeds, and river sediments near where chimpanzees reside between 2014 and 2016 and discovered mean pesticide levels were above recommended limits. They also found the pesticides imidacloprid and DDT, as well as its metabolite pp’ -DDE. And it appears these pesticides may be affecting the animals. Out of 66 chimpanzees monitored, 16 had deformities. The scientists also photographed 35 baboons, and at least six had severe nasal deformities. The researchers said in the abstract of their paper they think “excessive pesticide use…may contribute to facial dysplasia in chimpanzees and baboons.” The suggestion that our agricultural practices are physically altering animals is horrifying; the researchers noted the International Union for the Conservation of Nature lists chimpanzees as endangered . The animals are also of economic importance in Uganda as they draw in ecotourists. The researchers said it may be a conservation priority to minimize threats to their survival, as the use of pesticides may be. The journal Science of The Total Environment published the research online earlier this year. Scientists from institutions in France, Uganda, Canada, and the United States collaborated on the work. Via ScienceDirect Images via Wikimedia Commons ( 1 , 2 )

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Facial deformities in Uganda apes linked to pesticide use

New MIT water purification method eliminates even trace chemical waste and pesticides

May 12, 2017 by  
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Ridding water of tiny concentrations of pollutants isn’t easy. Typically, a lot of energy or chemicals are required to remove these dangerous contaminants – but that could change. Scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and the Technical University of Darmstadt in Germany have come up with an electrochemical process able to pull out toxins like chemical wastes, pharmaceuticals , or pesticides . Their process could help people in developing countries obtain water without those unhealthy compounds. The scientists pioneered an electrochemical process able to selectively get rid of organic pollutants, which can be harmful even in minimal amounts. Here’s how it works: small surfaces are coated with Faradaic materials which can become positively or negatively charged after reactions. An electrical source is added to the surfaces, and then as water flows around the materials, the surface materials are tuned to bind with noxious pollutants. Unlike other systems that require either high pressures or high voltages to work, the new way can function at what chemical engineering professor T. Alan Hatton described as relatively benign low voltages and pressures. Related: Researchers develop solar-powered device to harvest water in the desert The system could help people in the developing world obtain water free of toxic pollutants. Chemical engineer Xiao Su of MIT , lead author on a paper published recently in Energy and Environmental Science , said in a statement, “Such systems might ultimately be useful for water purification systems in remote areas in the developing world, where pollution from pesticides, dyes, and other chemicals are often an issue in the water supply.” Su said the system, which is highly efficient, could operate even in rural locations with a little help from solar panels . The new method isn’t quite ready to go yet, but mechanical engineer Matthew Suss of Technion Institute of Technology in Israel seems hopeful. He said the system still needs to be tested under real-word conditions and for lengthy periods of time to see if it’s durable, but the prototype “achieved over 500 cycles, which is a highly promising result.” Via MIT News Images via Melanie Gonick/MIT and Felice Frankel

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Trumps EPA chief lifts ban on pesticide that poisons children

March 31, 2017 by  
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As part of the Trump administration’s current war to overthrow Obama-era environmental regulations, this week, newly appointed EPA Chief Scott Pruitt signed an order reversing a recommendation to ban a pesticide linked to nervous system damage in children. Chlorpyrifos is sprayed on tree nuts, soybeans, corn, wheat, apples, citrus, and a number of other common crops. In recent years, researchers have found that chlorpyrifos exposure on foods, in drinking water, and in the air can impair cognitive development in children. (Given that the active chemical is related to nerve agent weapons, perhaps this should not be surprising.) Multiple studies have found that children exposed to the pesticide at high levels have lower IQ scores than their peers. In light of the evidence, much of it gathered by the EPA’s own researchers, the agency adopted a “zero tolerance” policy for any residues of the chemical left on food items in 2015. Since it’s impossible to completely remove the chemical, this would have effectively ended its use in the US. This followed a decade of restrictions that have gradually reduced the number of approved crops and circumstances for its use. Despite the risk, it’s still used widely in other countries. Related: EPA chief says carbon dioxide is not a ‘primary contributor’ to global warming Now, Scott Pruitt is ignoring his own agency’s research in order to allow farmers to continue using this toxic pesticide. Of course, that’s not the way he’s spinning it – if you ask him, it’s a win for the scientific process. In a statement about the order, he said, “By reversing the previous administration’s steps to ban one of the most widely used pesticides in the world, we are returning to using sound science in decision-making — rather than predetermined results.” The Natural Resources Defense Council has already pledged to fight the new action in court. Via LA Times Images via Pixabay ( 1 , 2 )

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South Carolina kills millions of bees while spraying for Zika mosquitos

September 2, 2016 by  
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The Zika virus is now officially spreading within the US , so it’s understandable that public health officials are doing all they can to try to stop the spread of the disease before it can gain a foothold. Unfortunately, in the case of one South Carolina county, those efforts have unintentionally resulted in the deaths of 2.5 million bees. Dorchester County generally uses ground-based sprays in order to combat mosquitos , deploying clouds of pesticide by truck in order to keep the insects at bay. However, last Sunday, officials made the decision to switch to an aerial spraying method instead. With little more than a Facebook post on Saturday and a newspaper announcement on Friday to alert locals of the change in plans, an airplane traveled across the county in the early hours of Sunday morning dispensing a mist of the pesticide Naled. Most people seem to have missed the memo from the county, and that included the beekeepers at Flowertown Bee Farm and Supply in Summerville. After the pesticide hit the farm, it wiped out a whopping 46 hives and a total of 2.5 million bees. One visitor to the farm described the scene as “ like visiting a cemetery .” There’s a simple reason why Dorchester County didn’t consider the short notice a problem: Naled is not considered a serious hazard to human beings due to how quickly the chemical dissipates in the air. However, it’s highly toxic to a variety of pollinators, including bees. Normally, if beekeepers are aware of aerial spraying nearby, they’ll cover their hives in order to protect the bees. Moreover, many counties spray for mosquitos at night, because honeybees are primarily active during the day. Related: 44% of US honeybee colonies died off last year Dorchester County officials claimed in an interview with the Washington Post that they had attempted to call all beekeepers in the county, but had made some errors. For one thing, their registry was apparently missing many local beekeepers in the area, particularly hobbyists. Other beekeepers who were on the county’s list apparently slipped through the cracks and weren’t contacted at all. Related: EPA finally admits popular insecticide threatens honeybees While it’s understandable that public officials would want to do everything possible to keep mosquito populations down, in this case, no one followed any of the best practices for protecting local pollinators. Given how colony collapse disorder has already devastated bee populations, it’s incredibly irresponsible to spray when bees are likely to be out and about. Hopefully the negative publicity and backlash from this incident will cause administrators of mosquito control programs across the US to act more carefully in the future. Via TreeHugger Images via Wikipedia and Flowertown Bee Farm and Supplies

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South Carolina kills millions of bees while spraying for Zika mosquitos

Neonicotinoid insecticides kill honeybee sperm

August 1, 2016 by  
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A new scientific study adds to the growing amount of evidence that shows pesticides are harming bees . The study published this month in Proceedings of the Royal Society B is the first to look at how neonicotinoid insecticides impact male honeybee fertility – and the findings aren’t good. Led by Lars Straub of the University of Bern in Switzerland, the researchers took bees that had been exposed to two types of neonicotinoid insecticides, thiamethoxam and clothianidin, and then monitored them in the lab. They found the exposed bees had shorter lifespans and their “living sperm quantity” was reduced by 39 percent, compared with bees not exposed to the insecticides. They said their findings showed “for the first time” that neonicotinoid insecticides can indeed “negatively affect male insect reproductive capacity.” Related: Pesticide industry spending ‘hundreds of thousands of dollars’ to slow U.S. bee protection Drones hit sexual maturity around 14 days, but the research revealed 32 percent of the exposed bees had already died by that time. Only 17 percent of unexposed bees died by that time. Further, exposed bees only live for about 15 days, as opposed to unexposed bees who live for 22 days. These numbers don’t bode well for bees, according to researchers. They said, “This could have severe consequences for colony fitness, as well as reduce genetic variation within honeybee populations.” The Guardian spoke with Peter Campbell of Syngenta, makers of thiamethoxam, about the study. Here’s what he had to say: “Given the multiple mating of honeybee queens it is unclear what the consequences of a reduction in sperm quality would actually have on queen fecundity.” Scientific research has shown neonicotinoids reduce queen bee production and colony growth , and that neonicotinoids compromise physiology and reproductive anatomy in queen bees. The European Union banned neonicotinoids in 2013 , although in 2015 the UK briefly lifted the ban. Via The Guardian Images via Pixabay and Wikimedia Commons

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Two widely used pesticides threaten 97 percent of endangered species

April 8, 2016 by  
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America has a pesticide problem. There are no two ways about it. Although the acreage of farmland across the country is waning, pesticide use is as prevalent as ever in agriculture, in urban settings , in public parks , and on school grounds. Bees are dying off, people are getting sick, and there is no end in sight. Now, a new Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) study warns that two widely used pesticides—malathion and chlorpyrifos—are likely to cause harm to 97 percent of endangered animals and plants in the United States. Read the rest of Two widely used pesticides threaten 97 percent of endangered species

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Six semi-autonomous trucks just drove 1,300 miles across Europe

April 8, 2016 by  
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Six semi-autonomous trucks drove together in a convoy for 1,300 miles across Europe, proving that a platoon is more efficient than a single soldier. In an experiment called the EU Truck Platooning Challenge , trucks representing six brands from five countries were linked together using WiFi to share information about their shared route and road conditions, enabling the trucks to travel in tight formation, taking advantage of their numbers to reduce wind resistance, cut fuel consumption, and even avoid traffic jams. Read the rest of Six semi-autonomous trucks just drove 1,300 miles across Europe

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Maryland governor expected to ban bee-killing pesticides in US first

March 29, 2016 by  
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The declining bee population on Earth has been linked with widespread use of a class of pesticides called neonicotinoids . While the chemicals have already been banned in several countries, they are still widely used in the United States. Maryland, however, is the first state poised to approve a measure that bans the pesticides , after losing 60 percent of its hives last year. The pending legislation has passed the state’s upper and lower chambers, and now awaits the signature of Governor Larry Hogan, which is expected. Read the rest of Maryland governor expected to ban bee-killing pesticides in US first

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Sweet desk hammock lets you take a “nap in a snap”

March 29, 2016 by  
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Why this city spends millions of dollars to eradicate wildflowers

March 17, 2016 by  
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Oxalis, Sourgrass , Wood Sorrel , Bermuda Buttercup , Shamrock , False Shamrock – these are just a few names for a genus of wildly prolific edible plants (aka “weeds”) which grow everywhere around the world. Even if you aren’t familiar with the name of this plant, you’ve likely encountered the clover-like leaves and pretty yellow wildflower of oxalis in a lawn before; it infiltrates grassy areas everywhere, street medians and even sidewalk cracks in cities ranging from New York, to Cape Town, Sydney to San Francisco. Children love to eat it and play with it, and most school kids are familiar with “sourgrass”. In San Francisco in January and February, entire hillsides burst in vivid yellow bloom with Oxalis flowers . Whether this is a problem or not depends on who you ask. Many San Francisco residents see the hillsides of bright yellow flowers as a beautiful first sign of spring, whereas others – especially those who espouse a nativist point of view, see this plant as an “invader” that must be stopped at all costs, even when that environmental cost is dousing entire hillsides in dangerous pesticides such as glyphosate and triclopyr . Read the rest of Why this city spends millions of dollars to eradicate wildflowers

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