Hurricane Florence could cause dangerous floods of toxic sludge and animal waste

September 12, 2018 by  
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Torrential rains are not the only thing Hurricane Florence will bring once it hits landfall. The massive storm is expected to dump record amounts of rain in the southeastern United States — rain that could overflow toxic chemical waste and animal manure sites along the coast, increasing danger to both public health and the environment. One toxic waste site in North Carolina is particularly vulnerable to the incoming storm. Two years ago, the state tasked Duke Energy Corp. with cleaning up coal-ash ponds in the area following a major spill, because the ponds posed serious hazards to nearby communities. Close to 40,000 tons of toxic waste was dumped near the town of Eden, North Carolina. State officials ordered the company to clean up the ponds by the summer of 2019. Although Duke Energy Corp. has started the cleanup process, it is nowhere near the finish line. The company is currently in the middle of cleaning up the sites and will not be finished by the time Hurricane Florence rolls in. Given the condition of the ponds, excess rain from the hurricane could lead to overflow, dumping the waste into the surrounding environment. Related: Climate change is expected to bring more intense storms like Hurricane Florence North Carolina is also home to lagoons that contain manure from the state’s hog and poultry industries. Hurricane Florence could overwhelm these lagoons with massive amounts of rain, which would dump the animal waste into surrounding waterways. If that happens, the state would be facing a major environmental disaster. That is, of course, if Florence stays on its current path and hits North Carolina. Hurricane Florence is growing in both strength and size as it prepares to make landfall. If the storm continues at its current pace, it could be the strongest hurricane to reach the Carolinas in the last 30 years. With Florence getting closer every day, about 1 million residents have already evacuated. Via Bloomberg Images via NASA and NOAA

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Hurricane Florence could cause dangerous floods of toxic sludge and animal waste

Sick of coal yet?

August 29, 2018 by  
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The recent EPA decision doesn’t just fail sustainability professionals — it will trigger a public health crisis.

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Sick of coal yet?

How REMADE could drive innovation in circular manufacturing techniques

August 29, 2018 by  
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Think of it as a multi-disciplined proving ground.

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From plastic straws to a sea change for plastic

August 29, 2018 by  
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It’s time for some big thinking — and concrete action — on plastic waste.

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From plastic straws to a sea change for plastic

Electric scooters on collision course with pedestrians and lawmakers

August 3, 2018 by  
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As the electrification of rideables speeds ahead, there are still a few road bumps for public health and safety.

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Electric scooters on collision course with pedestrians and lawmakers

How are millennials preferences changing the food industry?

June 1, 2018 by  
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Millennials are dramatically disrupting the way food is produced, packaged, marketed and served. As a highly vocal group, millennials have given food producers little option but to listen to their demands, resulting in changes to not only food choices, but farming techniques and restaurant services as well. These changes have reverberated throughout the food industry, creating a food landscape vastly different from the one experienced by millennials’ parents. Healthy Has a New Look Millennials have altered what it means for food to be healthy. While older generations may have contented themselves with vague “low-fat” or “healthy” labels, millennials have higher expectations, especially when it comes to GMOs. While it’s estimated that 70 percent of processed foods contain GMOs, more than  60 percent of millennials want non-GMO food options, and 68 percent pay more for organic products. It’s likely that demand for these products will only increase, and the food industry is becoming more transparent in order to meet this demand. Localized Food Production Increases Millennials don’t just want to avoid GMOs; they want to know exactly which ingredients are included and where those ingredients come from. This desire for increased transparency has led to a preference for local food brands over national ones, both at the level of production and consumption. Whether buying food at the grocery store or eating out, millennials seek out locally sourced food. Some millennials have taken this trend a step further and started to grow their own food in urban and rooftop farms. Take, for example, the farm on top of the Method Products manufacturing plant in Chicago . One of the world’s largest, this rooftop farm can produce up to 10 million crops each year. And it doesn’t stop there—all the vegetables and herbs on the farm are pesticide-free and grown sustainably. Using rooftops in place of traditional farms helps make better use of available land and provides urban dwellers with access to the locally grown produce that millennials seek out on a regular basis. Eating out Is More Popular Another major change to the food industry includes the increased popularity of eating out. In 1970, only 25.9 percent of consumers ate out , as opposed to 43.5 percent today. Though millennials don’t account for the entirety of this increase, they have contributed significantly to it. According to a recent USDA report , millennials consumed 2.3 percent of their meals in restaurants, which equates to eating out about twice a month. Technology also plays a major role in making restaurants more popular with younger generations. With apps like the Humane Eating project that combine millennials’ love of technology with sustainable eating, it’s no wonder that more people are exploring new places to eat. And apps aren’t the only thing that appeals to millennials—restaurants with guest WiFi and tablet point-of-sale systems tend to draw in younger crowds as well, which suggests these methods may become standard restaurant practice within the next decade. Despite their youth, millennials have already had a strong influence on the food industry. From its focus on healthy eating to its interest in locally sourced and sustainably grown food, this group is poised to turn food production and service around, which could have positive consequences for a world fighting obesity and other health concerns. However, only time will tell if the impact millennials have on the food industry will have long-lasting effects on other facets of life, from the economy to government policy and public health. + Food Industry Executive + Forbes + Organic Trade Association + QSR Magazine + USDA Images via Pexels (1) (2) , Pxhere , and Pixabay

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How are millennials preferences changing the food industry?

Noise pollution is the new ‘secondhand smoke’ according to experts

May 14, 2018 by  
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Noise pollution is “the new secondhand-smoke.” Researchers at New York University are conducting a five-year study of noise in the City  to better understand how the sounds that constantly surround us impact our health, which is important since a recent study showed that 97% of the population is subjected to manmade noise. Scientists generally agree that anything over 50 decibels increases stress, anxiety, hypertension, and heart attack risk – that’s the same level of sound as a quiet suburb. Now, experts are asking what we can do with this information to help change are sound landscape, or risk harming our collective health like we did for decades with secondhand smoke. There have been no definitive studies on change in city noise levels, which is what makes this study so vital. But while there is no official word, yet, there have been greater numbers of lawsuits over noise and more people with hearing problems, as well as short-term studies that point to the negative health effects of noise. “It took decades to educate people on the dangers of secondhand smoke. We may need decades to show the impact of secondhand noise, ”activist Bradley Vite told the Washington Post. Policymakers in the United States have some catching-up to do when it comes to noise pollution. “We’re in active denial,” Rick Neitzel, director of environmental health policy at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, told the Washington Post. “We’re far, far behind what Europe is doing.” In 2009, the European Union (EU) approved regulations that set noise levels to 40 decibels at night to “protect human health,” while also limiting continuous day-time noise to 50 decibels. Related: The National Park System just got its first Dark Sky Sanctuary In the United States, 97 percent of the population must contend with human-caused noise. Even national parks are subject to loud human activity, with over two-thirds reporting significant levels of noise pollution, much of which is caused by airplanes and industrial activity such as drilling. So what can we do? To combat this rising threat, Texas is testing specially-grooved concrete that is capable of reducing highway sound levels by 5.8 decibels on average. In Phoenix, more than 200 highways have been repaved with a concrete-tire mix that uses recycled tires to create a more sound-absorbent roadway. Elkhart, Indiana recently approved high fines on “loud and raucous sounds,” such as caravans of motorcycles. “These biker gangs that roar through town can get up to 125 decibels,” Vite said. As a result of these fines, Elkhart has received $1.6 million in new revenue, which it has used to purchase four new police cars. Via the Washington Post Images via Depositphotos (1)

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New Ebola outbreak strikes the Democratic Republic of the Congo

May 9, 2018 by  
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The deadly virus Ebola has returned to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). A new outbreak of Ebola stuck the northwest town of Bikoro with 21 suspected cases of the virus. Out of five samples sent to the DRC’s National Institute of Biomedical Research (INRB) , only two were positive for Ebola. In 1976, the first case of Ebola was documented in the DRC, and there has been nine outbreaks of the virus since then. The unprecedented Ebola outbreak in West Africa from 2014 to 2016 infected 28,000, killed 11,000 and shocked the world. However, the virus ‘s latest reemergence in the DRC is no reason to panic. Previous outbreaks in the DRC have been contained thanks in part to the country’s vast, largely inaccessible land area, which inhibits travel and trade between towns. The DRC’s last Ebola outbreak occurred in the village of Likati in 2017, however the virus was contained within forty-two days. Related: Ebola mutated to become even deadlier during recent outbreak Led by Jean-Jacques Muyembe Tamfum, the first scientist to document Ebola, the INRB is experienced in responding to Ebola outbreaks. “We’re advanced in public health ,” an epidemiologist at the INRB told the Atlantic . “If you compare us with Europe or the U.S., eh, but here in Africa, we are high. We have experience.” Early monitoring and reporting is key to success. “We have a surveillance system that works,” Kinshasa School of Public Health leader Emile Okitolonda said. “Here, nurses know that if they see a suspected case, they report it.” The INRB will also receive expert assistance from the World Health Organization and Médecins Sans Frontières in responding to Ebola. The primary challenge in the DRC is a lack of resources – a problem that may be exacerbated by President Trump ‘s recent request to cut $252 million in funding for international Ebola relief. Congress must decide within 45 days whether to act on Trump’s request. If they do nothing, as they are wont to do, the funding will remain in place. + INRB Via The Atlantic Images via Wikimedia Commons and Depositphotos

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New Ebola outbreak strikes the Democratic Republic of the Congo

Michigan Governor declares Flint water safe, ends free bottled water service

April 9, 2018 by  
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Michigan Governor Rick Snyder has announced that Flint water is once again safe to drink, and the state will soon cease the free bottled water service it has provided to Flint residents in the wake of the city’s drinking water crisis. “The scientific data now proves the water system is stable and the need for bottled water has ended,” the office of the Republican governor said in a statement. “Since Flint’s water is now well within the standards set by the federal government, we will now focus even more of our efforts on continuing with the health, education and economic development assistance needed to help move Flint forward.” Residents and local representatives are reportedly hesitant to trust assurances from the same administration that was responsible for the water crisis in the first place. Even though officials declared Flint water  safe based on scientific assessments, the multi-faceted damage caused by the water crisis will be hard to repair. “Governor Snyder has failed to address the psychological trauma that his administration put the people of Flint through,” said Michigan State Representative Sheldon Neeley, who represents much of the majority-black city of 100,000. “The fact is, the people of Flint don’t trust the Snyder administration or the science they pay for — science that previously allowed our city to be poisoned.” Related: 11-year old inventor becomes “America’s Top Young Scientist” for creating lead-detecting sensor Although the city switched from Flint River water to Lake Huron water — the original source of clean water for the city — in 2015, the community remains wary. “I don’t trust the water. Period,” Flint resident Debra Coleman told WJRT local news . “It could be five years from now and I’ll still never drink this water.” While trust remains an issue, some of those responsible for the crisis are now being held accountable. In 2017, six current and former state and local officials were charged for actions that contributed to the crisis. Via Ecowatch and Reuters Images via Depositphotos   (1)

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Michigan Governor declares Flint water safe, ends free bottled water service

The Keystone Pipeline leak was nearly twice as big as we thought

April 9, 2018 by  
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New reports show that nearly twice as much crude oil leaked from the Keystone Pipeline in South Dakota last November than originally estimated. TransCanada spokesperson Robynn Tysver said that roughly 9,700 barrels of oil leaked instead of the estimated 5,000 barrels. This new information means the leak is among the biggest onshore spills in the United States since 2010. There are 42 gallons in one barrel of oil, so instead of 210,000 gallons as was originally estimated, around 407,700 gallons leaked in what TransCanada refers to as the Amherst incident . This means the spill was the “seventh largest onshore oil or petroleum product spills” reported to the United States Department of Transportation since 2010, according to Aberdeen American News. Related: Keystone 1 oil pipeline leaks 210,000 gallons days ahead of Keystone XL permit decision TransCanada started utilizing the pipeline again 12 days following the leak. Tysver told American News, “The remediation work on the property has been completed. We have replaced the last of the topsoil and have seeded the impacted area.” The Amherst incident cost the company around $9.57 million, according to the news publication, citing an updated pipeline safety administration report. TransCanada said on their website they sampled groundwater at 12 monitoring wells and there “was no impact to groundwater.” The Keystone Pipeline connects oil fields in Alberta, Canada to refineries in the United States; Reuters described it as a 590,000 barrel-per-day pipeline. Aberdeen American News said according to a preliminary report, the pipe may have been damaged in 2008, during construction. Reuters said they had reviewed documents revealing Keystone has leaked far more oil, and more frequently, “than the company indicated to regulators in risk assessments” before operations started in 2010. The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration , part of the Department of Transportation, could release the final report on the leak in the upcoming few weeks. Via Aberdeen News and Reuters Images via TransCanada

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The Keystone Pipeline leak was nearly twice as big as we thought

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