High PFAS levels associated with breastfeeding issues

September 17, 2021 by  
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A study of 1,286 pregnant women found that those with high levels of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances ( PFAS ) in their bodies are 20% more likely to stop breastfeeding early. Published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, research also found that PFAS affect pregnancy outcomes, growth and development into puberty and other aspects of reproductive health. PFAS are synthetic chemicals commonly used in oil- and water-resistant materials. Common products that may contain PFAS include carpets, textiles and cookware. While common in the manufacturing field, PFAS are dangerous to the human body. These chemicals do not easily break down and thus accumulated over time. Related: Indoor air contains concerning levels of forever chemicals Dr. Clara Amalie Gade Timmermann, a co-author of the study and professor at the University of Southern Denmark in Copenhagen, Denmark, says that the findings must be taken seriously Almost everyone is exposed to PFAS and the risks associated with the chemical. “Our findings are important because almost every human on the planet is exposed to PFAS. These man-made chemicals accumulate in our bodies and have detrimental effects on reproductive health ,” said Timmermann. In the past, lack of breast milk in the early stages of breastfeeding was associated with stress. The study authors now say that, while mental and emotional health is important, other factors must be considered. “Early unwanted weaning has been traditionally attributed to psychological factors, which are without a doubt important, but hopefully our research will help shift the focus and highlight that not all mothers can breastfeed despite good intentions and support from family and healthcare professionals,” said Timmermann Researchers analyzed blood samples and collected information about each participant’s breastfeeding habits through mobile phone questionnaires. The researchers found that those with high levels of PFAS in their system were more likely to stop breastfeeding early. “Because breastfeeding is crucial to promote both child and maternal health, adverse PFAS effects on the ability to breastfeed may have long-term health consequences,” Timmermann said. Via Newswise Lead image via Pexels

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Los Angeles County to begin phasing out oil and gas drilling

September 17, 2021 by  
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When people think of  Los Angeles , celebrities and fast cars probably come to mind before oil and gas drilling. But the county has a surprising number of active and abandoned wells. On Wednesday, Los Angeles County supervisors said no more drilling. As County Supervisor Janice Hahn put it, the plan is “a framework for how we transition from dirty  fossil fuels  to clean energy and make sure we bring our labor partners with us.” L.A. County currently has 1,046 active oil wells, 637 idle wells and 2,731 abandoned wells. The supervisors voted to start a program that will make sure the wells are properly closed and the land cleaned up. The county will also expand a task force to help fossil fuel workers transition to another kind of employment. Related: Big Oil is in big trouble as courts, shareholders demand accountability “The goal is to provide direction to county departments to begin addressing the variety of issues, environmental and climate impacts created by these active and inactive  oil  and gas wells,” said Supervisor Holly J. Mitchell, as reported by EcoWatch. Mitchell’s district includes Inglewood Oil Field, one of the country’s largest urban oil fields. Owned by Sentinel Peak Resources, Inglewood covers 1,000 acres and contains more than half the gas and oil wells found in L.A. County’s unincorporated area. In the last decade, Inglewood produced between 2.5 million and 3.1 million barrels of oil per year. Closing Inglewood Oil Field will probably delight many locals and help them breathe deeply again. Residents of nearby Ladera Heights, Baldwin Hills and View Park have been complaining of bad smells and worrying about the oil field’s impact on their  health  for years. Some have seen oil bubbling up in sidewalk cracks. “There are tens of thousands of people who live in very close proximity to oil wells, 73% of whom are people of color,” said Mitchell. “So, for me, it really is an  equity issue .” Via EcoWatch Lead image via Pixabay

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Potty-trained cows: A new approach to reduce emissions

September 14, 2021 by  
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In a recent study, scientists “potty-trained” cows in an attempt to reduce the animals’ greenhouse gas emissions. The study, published in  Current Biology , included 16 calves trained to defecate in one spot. After several weeks of training, 11 out of 16 calves successfully learned to use the spot. Researchers suggested the calves that didn’t pick up the habit may just need more training to master the process.  These efforts are an attempt to reduce agriculture-based emissions . Currently, farming is the largest source of ammonium pollution, with livestock farming contributing over 50% of the waste. While ammonia from cow urine itself does not contribute to greenhouse gases, when it leaches in the soil, it is converted into nitrous oxide. This oxide is the third most prevalent greenhouse gas after methane and carbon dioxide. Related: Organic and conventional meat production cause equal amounts of emissions Researchers say that if all cattle could be trained to defecate in designated areas, treating the urine could help reduce greenhouse gas emissions by over half. There haven’t been significant attempts to train cows like this before, so the recent attempt helps gauge whether cows can learn and hold on to the training for a meaningful amount of time. The calves were trained using a system known as MooLoo, which directed them to defecate in a designated area in their barn . This was achieved by rewarding those that urinated in the right place and gently punishing those that did not. Jan Langbein, an animal psychologist at the Research Institute for Farm Animal Biology in Germany, said cows can be trained much like dogs and other animals . “Cattle, like many other animals, are quite clever and they can learn a lot,” said Langbein “Why shouldn’t they be able to learn how to use a toilet?” The team is now working on creating a system that automates cattle potty training. They say that the system should be able to help train calves with minimal intervention from the farmers . “We want to develop some kind of sensor technology which is all-inclusive,” said Langbein. “In a few years all cows will go to a toilet.” Via The Guardian Lead image via Pexels

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Indoor air contains concerning levels of forever chemicals

September 1, 2021 by  
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Maybe you live in an area far from polluting industries, buy only organic food and have had your home screened for radon. But you’re probably still bringing dangerous per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) into your home. These are nicknamed “forever  chemicals ” because they stay in your body until death do you part. And death may come sooner, according to scientists who are worried about high concentrations of PFAS. PFAS are approximately 9,000 different compounds that make products resistant to heat, water and stains. Not only are they forever, they’re practically ubiquitous — in food packaging, cosmetics, floor waxes, carpeting, shoes. Dozens of industries use PFAS in everyday products. But they accumulate in humans and other animals, disrupting hormones, decreasing immunity and possibly contributing to birth defects, cancer, thyroid and liver  disease . Related: EWG warns ‘forever chemicals’ are contaminating US drinking water at levels far worse than expected A new study by researchers at the Green Science Policy Institute and the University of Rhode Island was published on Tuesday in  Environmental Science & Technology Letters . Researchers tested indoor air quality at 20 sites. Seventeen locations had PFAS. The airborne compounds likely break off of  clothes , carpets and other products treated with PFAS. As we breathe them in, they start doing their nasty damage. “It’s an underestimated and potentially important source of exposure to PFAS,” said Tom Bruton, a senior  scientist  at Green Science and one of the study’s authors, as reported by The Guardian. According to the study, young  children  are the most at risk, especially from biotransformed perfluorinated alkyl acids [PFAA]. Unfortunately, some of the highest levels the study found were in kindergarten classrooms. All that time sitting on the floor on rugs makes it easy to inhale unwanted substances. As the study put these concerning findings, “This research highlights inhalation of indoor  air  as an important exposure pathway and the need for further reduction of precursors to PFAA.” Via The Guardian Lead image via Pixabay

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The Gulf Stream may be near collapse

August 6, 2021 by  
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The  ocean  current commonly known as the Gulf Stream is hurtling towards a terrifying tipping point, according to scientists in an article published in the journal Nature Climate Change. Its collapse could threaten civilization as we know it. The strong current, which scientists call the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC), has been compared to a conveyor belt bringing warm surface water from the Gulf of Mexico north into the  Atlantic Ocean . It simultaneously sends cold, deep, low-salinity water southwards. Related: Ice melt releases ‘forever chemicals’ into Arctic Ocean “The study method cannot give us an exact timing of a possible collapse, but the analysis presents evidence that the AMOC has already lost stability, which I take as a warning that we might be closer to an AMOC tipping than we think,” said Levke Caesar, a postdoctoral researcher at Maynooth University in  Ireland . Caesar was not involved in the research. The AMOC influences the climate of the east coast of North America and the coasts of northwestern Africa and western Europe. If it failed, sea levels would rise on the U.S.’ Atlantic coast, threatening cities. This could also decimate the world’s food supply, as it would affect rainfall from South America to  India  and West Africa. Additionally, the Antarctic ice sheets and the Amazon rainforest would be in even more trouble than they already are. Niklas Boers of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in  Germany  was surprised by what he found in his recently published research. “The signs of destabilisation being visible already is something that I wouldn’t have expected and that I find scary,” he said, as reported by The Guardian. “It’s something you just can’t [allow to] happen.” As the title of Boers’s paper states, “Observation-based early-warning signals for a collapse of the AMOC.” Boers analyzed ice-core data from the last 100,000 years and discovered that the AMOC has a fast, strong state and a slow, weak state. For millennia, AMOC moved fast. But as global temperatures rise, the AMOC could suddenly go sluggish. This might happen in 10 years. Or maybe 50. Nobody knows, because how much CO2 is necessary to destroy AMOC is unknown.  “So the only thing to do is keep  emissions  as low as possible,” said Boers. “The likelihood of this extremely high-impact event happening increases with every gram of CO2 that we put into the atmosphere.” Via The Guardian Lead image via Pexels

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Dragonflies are losing their color due to climate change

July 13, 2021 by  
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A  new study  published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Science shows that dragonflies are losing key features due to climate change . The study has established that global warming is causing male dragonflies to lose their color, a feature used to attract mates. The study was lead and co-authored by Michael Moore, an evolutionary biologist at Washington University in St. Louis. In the study, researchers analyzed over 300 dragonfly species from across the U.S., Canada and Mexico. They also cross-referenced wing colors between about 2,700 individual dragonflies from different locations and climates. It was found that male dragonflies were losing their wing colors due to increasing global temperatures.  Related: Global warming driving mass migration of marine life “Our research shows that males and females of these dragonfly species are going to shift in pretty different ways as the climate changes,” Moore said in an interview. “These changes are going to happen likely on a much faster timescale than the evolutionary changes in these species have ever occurred before.” A  different study  done in 2019 found that male dragonflies with darker wing patterns thrive in colder conditions. The darker pigmentation absorbs more heat and is likely to increase their body temperature by 2 degrees Celsius. In contrast, they tend to give away their color to adapt to higher temperatures.  “Evolutionary changes and wing coloration are a really consistent way that dragonflies adapt to their climates ,” Moore said. “This got us wondering what the role of evolutionary changes in wing coloration might be as dragonflies respond to the rise in global temperatures.” While the study raises serious concerns about the future of dragonflies and mating, the researchers are unable to explain the changes experienced in female dragonflies. According to Moore, female dragonflies usually do not show drastic changes to climate change, and when they do, it is the opposite of what happens to male dragonflies. In other words, female dragonflies may get darker as temperatures rise. “We don’t yet know what’s driving these evolutionary changes in female wing coloration,” Moore said. “But one of the very important things that this indicates is that we shouldn’t assume that males and females are going to respond to climatic conditions in exactly the same way.” Via CNN Lead image via Pixabay

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Scientists just discovered evidence of a hidden chamber in the Great Pyramid of Giza

November 2, 2017 by  
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Legend says that there are undiscovered chambers hidden within the Great Pyramid of Giza — a monument which has existed for over 5,000 years. Scientists recently announced a startling discovery supporting this notion, which was previously passed off as myth. Using cosmic rays, researchers confirmed the presence of a large empty space — a void which might signal the presence of a hidden chamber. The Great Pyramid of Giza was built around 2500 B.C. and is considered to be one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Until now, no one knew the hidden void even existed — which his why scientists are so baffled. The void is located above a tall, cathedral-like room known as the Grand Gallery. According to a report in the journal Nature , the room is about 100 feet long. Said Peter Der Manuelian , an Egyptologist at Harvard University who did not take part in the research: “All we know is that we have a void, we have a cavity, and it’s huge, which means possibly intentional and certainly worthy of further exploration .” He noted that it is unknown whether or not there is more than one chamber. “In that sense it’s obviously frustrating,” Manuelian added. “On the other hand, as an architectural discovery, something we didn’t know about the interior of the Great Pyramid, it’s absolutely big news.” This is the first significant internal structure found within the Great Pyramid since the 19th century. Related: Ancient papyrus scroll offers insight into Great Pyramid of Giza mystery Mehdi Tayoubi , with the HIP Institute in Paris, said that the goal was to investigate the pyramid using non-destructive analytical techniques. He and his colleagues settled on a type of imaging that involves muons, tiny particles similar to electrons . NPR reports that muons are formed when cosmic rays from deep space hit the atoms of the upper atmosphere. As they rain down, they pass through materials — like the thick stones of the pyramid — and lose energy. When the researchers placed muon detectors in strategic locations, they were able to create a kind of picture that reveals whether the material above is dense — like stone — or an empty space. Said Tayoubi, “The first reaction was a lot of excitement, but then we knew that it would take us a long, long time, that we needed to be very patient in this scientific process . The good news is the void is there. Now we are sure that there is a void. We know that this void is big. I don’t know what it could be. I think it’s now time for Egyptologists and specialists in ancient Egypt architecture to collaborate with us, to provide us with some hypotheses.” The researcher is eager to see if small robots might somehow enter the space through tiny cracks or holes to reveal more information. + Nature Via NPR , Gizmodo Images via ScanPyramids Mission

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Scientists just discovered evidence of a hidden chamber in the Great Pyramid of Giza

Light-manipulating algae could boost solar power technology

October 19, 2017 by  
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You probably learned about diatoms , a prolific type of algae , back in grade school. But you may not have learned these single-celled organisms, which are inexpensive and can be found in different types of water and even tree bark, can manipulate light . Now scientists are putting them in organic solar cells to enhance their energy efficiency. Could diatoms hold the key to better solar power ? A research team from Yale University , Princeton University , Lincoln University , and the NASA Glenn Research Center is utilizing them in organic solar cells, a lower-cost alternative to conventional solar cells . The so-called jewels of the sea have a nanostructured silica or glass skeleton, and study lead author and Yale Ph.D. student Lyndsey McMillon-Brown said, “They help trap and scatter light for the algae to photosynthesize, so we’re able to use something directly from nature and put it in a solar cell.” Related: Ancient Marine Diatoms Could be Used to Make Biofuels, Electronics and Health Foods Organic solar cells usually suffer from a design issue: they need to have thin layers, so their efficiency is restricted. Nanostructures that trap and scatter light can help overcome that issue – but are typically too expensive for production on a large scale. Not so with cheap diatoms. The researchers put the algae – abundant in nature – right in the solar cells’ active layer. They saw the same electrical output levels even as they cut the amount of material necessary for the active layer. The team employed a grinding process because at first the diatoms were too big for the active layer. They think they could obtain even better results by utilizing different species and tailoring them to the correct size. McMillon-Brown’s focus is biomimicry ; she said, “We’re always on the hunt for new patterns in nature because we believe that nature solves all our engineering problems – we just have to find the solutions.” The journal Organic Electronics published the research online this month. Via Yale University Images via Depositphotos , Wikimedia Commons and Yale University

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Researchers detect 100-million-year-old virus in pregnant women’s blood

October 9, 2017 by  
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Here’s a startling thought: the human genome contains ancient viruses . Researchers recently detected a 100-million-year-old virus called a human endogenous retrovirus (HERV)—that would have infected our ancestors when dinosaurs roamed the Earth—in the blood of pregnant women. They are still puzzling over how retroviruses might affect us in the long term. Eight percent of the human genome is made up of ancient viruses and scientists are still trying to puzzle out their function. Three scientists, led by Gkikas Magiorkinis of the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens , wrote an article available online the end of September for Trends in Microbiology , delving into the mystery behind HERVs. They said, “Are they merely fossils that, like mosquitoes in amber, were stuck and preserved in large host genomes while their functions decayed?” They noted the 100-million-year-old retrovirus, first detected by another research group, “became a human gene that is expressed in embryos and cancers , and can be detected in the blood of pregnant women.” Related: University of Queensland scientists uncover an ‘explosion’ of new life forms Retroviruses insert a DNA copy of their RNA into a genome, according to IFLScience – this has devastating consequences with the human immunodeficiency virus, or HIV , for example. The 100-million-year-old HERV looks to be inactive during most stages, with low expression in many normal tissues, but it is expressed in the placenta, some stem cells, and cancer tissues like those of ovarian cancer, according to the scientists. The expression pattern “suggests potential roles for manipulation of stem cells and early life events, which could have very important impacts on adult diseases.” IFLScience points out the find has raised more questions than it solves – the three researchers suggest a hypothesis at the end of their paper, but no definitive conclusions. They say scientists should explore the roles of endogenous retroviruses to pin down potential anticancer treatments. Via IFLScience Images via freestocks.org on Unsplash and Pixabay

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Researchers detect 100-million-year-old virus in pregnant women’s blood

Muscle-packed pigs in Cambodia raise alarms

October 9, 2017 by  
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Videos and images of Cambodian pigs with extremely muscular physiques have gone viral in recent weeks, raising concerns and questions over the origin and well-being of these augmented animals. Although PETA claims that these animals have been genetically modified , there is no clear evidence to confirm this theory. It is possible that the animals were simply bred to display these characteristics. “We could do this through breeding,” said Jin-Soo Kim, a researcher at Seoul National University, “but then it would take decades.” Regardless of the specific reason for the pigs’ appearance, one can certainly add this to the already long list of unsettling happenings in the meat industry. In 2015, Kim and his peers at  Seoul National University led an experiment in which pigs were genetically modified to posses “double muscles” by altering the myostatin gene, a relatively minor tweak to the genetic code. By changing the amount of lean meat on an animal, these modifications could increase profits for animal producers. The pigs in Cambodia could have come from the same lineage. However, there is no evidence yet to confirm that this is the case. Related: Chinese scientists genetically engineer muscular superdogs While the US Food and Drug Administration has declared that GMO salmon is as safe to eat as natural salmon, no other GMO animal product has yet been approved for human consumption in the United States. However, pigs have been genetically modified in the past, for meat production or otherwise. The EnviroPig is a trademarked, genetically modified organism created in Canada that has been altered to produce waste that contains less phosphorus, which decreases the environmental costs of hog raising. Scientists in Japan have spliced spinach genes into pigs to create a less fatty animal. While the pigs in Cambodia may appear disturbing, there may be benefits to humans and the environment from genetic modification. However, further study is needed and animal welfare standards must be improved around the world. Via Newsweek Images via Facebook/Duroc Cambodia and  Xi-jun Yin

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