As ocean temperatures rise, so does mercury exposure in seafood

August 12, 2019 by  
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In case there weren’t already enough reasons to limit global warming to less than 1.5 degrees Celsius, a new study released in Nature reveals that even a 1 degree increase in ocean temperatures leads to a significant increase in mercury exposure among fish — and the people that consume them. The joint study was published by Harvard’s School of Public Health and School of Engineering and Applied Sciences and used a variety of simulation models to examine and predict how environmental factors affect the levels of mercury in cod and dogfish. Their models use historical data, as far back as 1970, when cod had approximately 6 to 20 percent less mercury in their diets. Yet researchers also found that dogfish had 33 to 61 percent higher mercury in their diets in 1970, because overfishing at the time led them to eat squid that are high in mercury. Related: These fish and meat options are the most environmentally costly In the last four decades, policies that regulate and limit mercury emissions have made a dent in mercury exposure, but the researchers concluded that rising ocean temperatures are reversing this progress. “This research is a major advance in understanding how and why ocean predators, such as tuna and swordfish, are accumulating mercury,” said Elsie Sunderland, senior author and a Harvard professor in environmental chemistry. According to the researchers, unusually warmer water makes it harder for fish to breathe and swim; therefore, it forces fish to consume more energy . The more they eat, the higher their levels of mercury exposure are. Warmer temperatures might also alter the availability of their preferred diet, forcing fish like the dogfish to eat high-mercury options such as squid. For every 1 degree the ocean warms, dogfish are exposed to 70 percent more mercury . Cod, which also live in the researchers’ study area off the coast of Maine, are exposed to approximately 32 percent more mercury for every single degree the ocean warms. “Climate change is going to exacerbate human exposure to methylmercury through seafood,” Sunderland said. “So to protect ecosystems and human health , we need to regulate both mercury emissions and greenhouse gases.” + Nature Via Harvard Gazette Image via Pixabay

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As ocean temperatures rise, so does mercury exposure in seafood

Arsenic found in bottled water sold at major retailers

June 24, 2019 by  
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Multiple studies have found arsenic in bottled water sold around the country. Major companies Whole Foods and Keurig Dr. Pepper are under fire for their spring water brands Peñafiel and Starkey, which, according to the California Center for Environmental Health, exceed the federal limit for arsenic. Keurig Dr. Pepper has voluntarily withdrawn its unflavored mineral water from shelves at retail outlets like Target and Walmart and is offering a refund for customers that return the contaminated bottles. Related: Ragú pasta sauce pulled from shelves for possible plastic contamination A corroborating study by Consumer Reports also found that the waters exceeded the federal limits for arsenic by 10 parts per billion. Despite pressure from the Food and Drug Administration, Whole Foods has not issued a recall . According to Whole Foods, an internal study found that its water is within the federal safety limits. The Center for Environmental Health did not release the exact findings of its study, as it has launched a lawsuit against both companies. The specific results of the analysis are confidential until further notice. “Arsenic when present in the diet at very high levels, well above those detected in recent samples of Peñafiel, is associated with numerous chronic diseases ,” Keurig Dr Pepper said in a company press release. “Water quality tests of Peñafiel samples conducted by an independent laboratory on behalf of Keurig Dr Pepper detected arsenic at levels that exceeded the FDA’s bottled water standards for mineral water of 10 ppb.” Peñafiel is imported from Mexico, where bottling has halted until further investigation. Starkey is bottled from a spring source in Idaho that was recently lauded for its purity during the brand’s launch in 2016. By 2017, however, the Food and Drug Administration had already recalled the water for the first time. Bottled water is the top selling bottled beverage in the U.S., with most consumers assuming it is safer and more regulated than municipal tap water. Via Huffington Post Image via FotoBlend

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Arsenic found in bottled water sold at major retailers

These biodegradable sweaters ditch fast fashion in favor of sustainable cashmere

June 24, 2019 by  
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With a goal of replacing fast fashion with consciously consumed fashion, Frances Austen’s summer 2019 collection features 100 percent biodegradable sweaters made from sustainably sourced cashmere and silk. After many years in the fashion business, Frances Austen founder Margaret Coblentz was tired of seeing the trends in fast fashion , including a flurry of wasteful production and post-consumer disposal. With the clothing industry consistently falling into the highest-ranking waste production industries, she decided to do something about it with a very basic philosophy — make quality clothing that is versatile and long-lasting. Her goal is to encourage consumers to re-wear clothing, both because it’s good for the planet and because they love what they’re wearing. With that in mind, the luxury product line aims to be both trendy and timeless. Related: H&M releases sustainable fashion line made from fruit and algae “The lightbulb moment was years in the making,” Coblentz said. “After a decade of witnessing firsthand the overproduction of fast fashion that is not re-wearable, recyclable or re-sellable, we decided to do something about it. We saw amazing qualities in luxury fabrics , silk and cashmere, and envisioned game-changing clothing that is 100 percent sexy on you as well as the environment. If you want to help the planet, it starts by re-wearing your clothes, and our aim at Frances Austen is to make that easier for you. All our pieces are made to last, versatile for every occasion and comprised of biodegradable materials and are 100 percent cashmere.” Sustainability begins with the materials used during production, so the yarn comes from specialists in the industry, spun by Cariaggi in Italy. All of the yarn is Oeko-Tex Standard 100 certified, a certification only earned with chemical-free production and high international safety standards. For production, the company partnered with Johnstons of Elgin, a family-owned factory in Scotland. In business for over 200 years, it is the largest employer in the small community of Hawick. Long associated with luxury and an emphasis on craftsmanship, Johnstons of Elgin is a name known for its socially responsible practices. With reliable material and manufacturing partnerships in place, Frances Austen shifted focus to long-lasting durable designs in the sweaters themselves. Dedicated to using the finest fibers (15 micron), the goal of less pilling leads to durability and a softer feel over the life of the garment. Hoping to meet the needs of a range of consumers, the product line includes crop designs, lantern sleeve, raw edge crew and a longer, reversible V-neck in a range of colors from citrine and kiwi to traditional charcoal and soft white. As a result of my interest in writing about the sustainably focused 2019 summer sweater line, Frances Austen sent me a sample sweater to experience. The Reversible V in blush mauve is uniquely designed to allow a deep V front or a stylish V back and crew neck front. In my opinion, this adds to the versatility of the piece, giving it more value as a long-lasting article in my closet. The material is remarkably soft and comfortable on the skin. Time will tell the story of durability, but I’m excited to put it to the test as a staple of my wardrobe for many years to come. + Frances Austen Images via Frances Austen and Dawn Hammon / Inhabitat Editor’s Note: This product overview and review is not sponsored by Frances Austen. All opinions on the products and company are the author’s own.

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These biodegradable sweaters ditch fast fashion in favor of sustainable cashmere

Doctors orders: 2 hours in nature boosts mental health, study says

June 17, 2019 by  
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According to British researchers, only two hours of sitting in nature per week could have measurable benefits on mental health. This is the first study to examine exactly how long people should spend in the natural environment to feel a positive impact. The researchers believe that with further confirmation, the two hour threshold could be added to similar health recommendations, such as five fruits and vegetables per day or 150 minutes of exercise per week. The study was published in Scientific Reports and used data from Natural England , the largest data set on the topic. The researchers analyzed more than 20,000 people in England to assess their physical activity from the previous week, their general health and their level of satisfaction with life. Their findings showed that people who had spent at least two hours in nature indicated a significant shift away from dissatisfaction — just 14 percent felt their health was poor after spending time in nature compared to 25 percent of other participants who did not spend time in nature but reported poor health. The researchers did not notice any significant changes among those who had spent more than two hours outside and therefore reached the conclusion that two hours is the recommended duration. Related: How forest bathing can profoundly improve your health and well-being “It’s fascinating to see this link between exposure to nature and better health and well-being,” said professor Helen Stokes-Lampard from the Royal College of General Practitioners. “This research makes a strong case for people to get out and about in more natural environments.” The findings held true across the diverse study participants, irrelevant of wealth, disabilities, illness or urban location. The findings also revealed that the nature benefits are not necessarily tied to physical exercise , and that there is a benefit to spending time in nature, even if it is just sitting on a park bench. + Scientific Reports Via The Guardian Image via Pixabay

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How environmental policies changed in 2018 under Trump

December 28, 2018 by  
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There is no doubt that President Trump has significantly changed environmental policy since taking office that have caused a great deal of public outcry. The current administration’s decisions have affected everything from rolling back on policies enacted by former Presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton to cutting funding for different environmental and scientific programs. With so much to keep up with, here is a rundown of the Trump Administration’s environmental action in 2018 and how it has impacted the planet. EPA loosens toxic air pollution regulations A Clinton-era policy known as “once in, always in” or OIAI was an effort to permanently reduce the hazardous air pollution from industrial sources. The law required major sources of pollution to retool their processes and reduce their emissions to lower levels set by industry peers. This was known as Maximum Achievable Control Technology, or MACT, standards. Industry lawyers have long argued that eliminating OIAI would give businesses a stronger incentive to reduce emissions , and in a brief legal memo, Trump’s EPA abruptly dropped OIAI at the beginning of 2018. NASA climate monitoring program cut Back in May, the Trump administration ended NASA’s carbon monitoring system (CMS), which was an effort to improve the monitoring of global carbon emissions. The program cost $10 million a year, but a March 2018 spending deal did not include funding for the program. CMS supported work was relevant to the Paris Agreement because it verified if other nations were meeting their pledges to reduce carbon emissions. But the Trump administration has rejected that agreement and is downsizing the NASA climate science program. Rollbacks proposed for Endangered Species Act rules This summer, the Trump administration proposed to make several key changes to the 1973 Endangered Species Act, including eliminating a rule that forbids referring to the economic impact of listing a threatened species. The changes would still allow for determinations to be based on biological considerations, and they also would give regulators more freedom, so they can avoid designating critical habitat for endangered species . Fuel economy rule change One of the signature climate change policies from President Obama was a plan to increase vehicle mileage standards for cars made during the next decade. However, the Trump administration is dismantling the plan, but not nixing it entirely. President Obama’s plan required light cars made after 2012 to average almost 54 miles per gallon by 2025, with hopes that the new efficiency standards would save billions of barrels of oil . However, President Trump has mileage targets of 34 miles per gallon because some automakers believe anything more than that would be too difficult to reach. Methane rules repealed Another rollback to Obama’s climate change policy, Trump’s EPA reduced the requirements on oil and gas companies to monitor the releases of methane from wells. Some in the industry had complained that the Obama rules were too much of a burden and a “record-keeping nightmare” that was impossible to execute. However, when the EPA announced this new rule, the attorneys general in California and New Mexico filed a lawsuit to challenge the change. EPA air pollution review panel disbanded The Particulate Matter Review Panel – made of scientists who are experts in the health dangers of soot – has advised the EPA over the years about safe levels of air pollution. However, they will no longer meet starting in 2019, but they didn’t reveal why. Conservation groups believe that eliminating the panel will make it easier to roll back pollution standards, but they had also complained that the panel wasn’t robust enough to protect public health. Ocean plastic cleanup bill In October, President Trump signed legislation to improve efforts to clean up plastic trash from the world’s oceans. He also called out nations like China and Japan for using the oceans as landfills and said that he will do everything he can during his Presidency to stop them. The law passed with bipartisan support, and it amended the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Marine Debris Act. It also funded the program through 2022. Arctic offshore drilling approved Earlier this year, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management issued Hilcorp a conditional use permit for its Liberty Project, and they will begin drilling from an artificial island in the Beaufort Sea. The federally controlled waters of the U.S. arctic have been cleared for oil and gas production wells after years of debate about the risks and rewards. Coal power plant rollback In 2015, the Obama Administration adopted a rule restricting carbon dioxide pollution from future power plants. The energy industry criticized the rule, saying the technology was unproven and the required equipment was extremely expensive. So, earlier this month, the Trump administration rolled back the climate rule by lifting some of the restrictions on greenhouse gas emissions from coal power plants. The goal is to spur construction of new coal plants and to relieve America’s energy providers of excessive burdens. Via National Geographic Image via Sam Jotham Sutharson

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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

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