Plastic pollution is causing reproductive problems for ocean wildlife

March 5, 2019 by  
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Plastic pollution is becoming a major problem for ocean wildlife. Organisms that ingest plastics are subject to hormone disruption and issues with reproduction that affect their overall health, a new study finds . Wildlife around the world is exposed to plastic pollutants called endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs). Not much is known about how these chemicals affect marine environments, though scientists have been studying them for years. According to The Guardian , killer whales, for instance, have been found with large amounts of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) in their systems. These chemicals were a common ingredient in plastic products until a global ban in 2004. Scientists monitored a group of killer whales on Scotland’s coast and found PCBs in their system. This pod did not have any children over the course of the 25-year study. Related: Toxic bacteria found in microplastics on 3 different coastlines around Singapore Scientists estimate that the population of orcas around the world will be cut in half over the next 100 years because of high levels of PCBs in marine environments. Although these chemicals have been banned, they still reach the ocean via landfills and other waste sites. Marine life is susceptible to PCBs because of the amount of fat in their tissues, which absorbs the toxic chemicals at a high rate. “We are looking at the possible exposure [of marine life] and evidence of toxicity is still developing,” the Zoological Society of London’s Paul Jepson explained. Once whales have ingested these harmful chemicals, they pass them on to their offspring through the production of milk and extended lactation periods. The cycle is then repeated until the levels of PCBs reach a point where they affect reproduction. Some orcas have been discovered with more than 100 times the safety limit of PCBs, which build up in their lipid tissues. Although EDCs clearly have a negative impact on wildlife , the overall effects of these chemicals remain unknown. Researchers also have not studied how EDCs affect human populations. Scientists believe more research is needed to determine exactly why these harmful substances found in plastic pollution are affecting reproduction systems in ocean wildlife. Via The Guardian Image via Mike Charest

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Plastic pollution is causing reproductive problems for ocean wildlife

Researchers find weedkiller ingredient Glyphosate in name brand beer and wine

February 28, 2019 by  
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Researchers have discovered Glyphosate — an ingredient found in some weedkillers — in name brand wines and beers . Scientists from U.S. PIRG tested 20 different alcoholic brands and found the troubling ingredient in 19 of the labels. Currently, a federal judge is examining the correlation between glyphosate and cancer, as trial has begun against Monsanto, the company behind the popular weedkiller , Roundup, for allegedly causing the plantiff’s cancer. Related: New study finds harmful chemicals, including glyphosate, in disposable diapers The director of U.S. PIRG, Kara Cook-Schultz, believes this is the perfect time to look at glyphosate and warn people that it is more widely spread than most suspect. “This chemical could prove a true risk to so many Americans’ health, and they should know that it is everywhere – including in many of their favorite drinks,” Cook-Schultz explained. Sutter Home Merlot had the most glyphosate with 51.4 parts per billion (ppb). But many of the wines and beers on the list were well above 25 ppb, including Beringer Moscato, Barefoot Sauvignon, Miller Lite, Coors Light, Budweiser and Corona. The only drink that did not test positive for glyphosate was an organic IPA from Peak Beer. These numbers, while troubling, are below what the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency ( EPA ) considers the safety threshold. William Reeves, a toxicologist employed by Bayer, noted that the numbers are 100 times less than the recommended maximum exposure limit. For reference, a person would have to consume an entire bottle of Sutter Home Merlot wine every minute for their entire life just to reach the upper limits of what is considered safe. That said, even trace amounts of glyphosate could have negative health benefits. In the study from U.S. PIRG, the group found that tiny amounts of glyphosate, on the order of 1 part per trillion, could cause cancer cells to grow in breast tissue. The active ingredient also wreaks havoc on the endocrine system, though at what levels is still uncertain. It should be noted that the EPA does not consider glyphosate to be a cancer causing agent in humans, though the World Health Organization did label it as possibly carcinogenic four years ago. Via Eco Watch Image via Shutterstock

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Researchers find weedkiller ingredient Glyphosate in name brand beer and wine

Azulik, an eco-paradise in Tulum, celebrates the four natural elements

February 28, 2019 by  
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The four elements of earth, fire, water and air are reflected in every material, design and spa offering throughout the campus of the Azulik eco resort in Tulum, Mexico. With the goals of conservation and fair-trade at every turn, Azulik is a 48-villa haven of relaxation built seamlessly into the jungle and along the postcard-perfect shoreline of the Caribbean Sea. All of the villas are hand-built from wood with eco-friendly materials sourced locally. There are a range of accommodation styles, each centered around one of the four natural elements, with a focus on relaxation, rejuvenation and healing. Each villa contains a traditional Mayan mosaic tile or volcanic stone tub, extra king-sized beds, mosquito nets and immersive views. Some are intricately interwoven into the surrounding jungle while others hover on the edge of the Caribbean Sea. Some special features exclusive to select villas include outdoor hot tubs, private stairways and even a 24/7 butler service. One obvious omission from the villas is electricity, including a lack of television, radios, Wi-Fi and lights. Related: This breathtaking Tulum art gallery was created by Peggy Guggenheim’s great-grandson The lack of electricity highlights the natural aspect of Azulik, noted by the candle-lit walkways and rooms. It’s not difficult to absorb the natural surroundings with walkways that meander throughout the property. These walkways are designed around existing trees for preservation. Nestled along the gorgeous Caribbean, the property also houses a cenote that feeds traditional mineral water into the villa bathtubs (sorry, no showers here). The on-property wetlands area provides water purification, flood control, carbon sink and shoreline stability. When you drag yourself away from your villa, you can explore the property and the surrounding area through the Mystikal Wanders program, which immerses guests in a unique blend of culture, nature and local history. Follow a tribe guide to meet a traditional shaman and Mayan family, swim in the mineral waters of the cenote and explore the Mayan jungle and ruins. Participate in meditation, paddle yoga, spiritual rituals and massages, or get away on a catamaran to snorkel and explore the sea. On site, take in the IK Lab, an environmentally-conscious art gallery that highlights the work of a variety of local and resident artists. The spa offers a variety of options to disconnect from hurried modern life with processes that highlight spiritual heritage and natural healing. Experience biomagnetism, a temazcal, medicinal music circles, workshops, shamanic chant, yoga, sound massages and human design techniques for memories exclusive to Azulik. While this eco-paradise offers an array of memorable culinary, art, spa, cultural and historical experiences, it won’t come cheap with a price tag ranging from $700-$7000 per night. + Azulik Images via Azulik

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Azulik, an eco-paradise in Tulum, celebrates the four natural elements

Meet the all-natural face cleanser that will change your mornings

February 19, 2019 by  
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Most people wouldn’t mind starting the day with a bowl of warm, sweet oatmeal. So imagine taking that level of comfort and adding it to your skincare routine. This is exactly the kind of experience you get with Speak’s cleansing powder, a simple powder that comes packaged in an adorable glass jar. The best part of “01 Cleansing Powder” is the main ingredient, organic oats. After testing the cleanser for a few weeks, this product has become one of our favorite ways to start our day. Speak’s cleansing powder harnesses the power of saponins and antioxidants found in organic oats. Together, these properties gently cleanse the delicate skin on your face and soothe redness and irritation. In addition to the oats, lavender adds a natural fragrance, kaolin clay cleans deeper to remove dirt and grime and sweet almond oil leaves your skin soft and moisturized long after you’ve finished washing. Related: These are our favorite beauty retailers from the Indie Beauty Expo In a nod to “waterless beauty,” or beauty products that eliminate water as a filler, this natural cleanser comes as a powder in a 0.5 or 2 ounce glass jar (complete with a metal cap — all reusable and recyclable!). A little goes a long way here. Each morning, we add just a dime-size amount of the powder in the palm of our hands. Carefully mix in just a few drops of water to make a thick paste, and then gently rub it on your face. We like to move in upward motions, which can help with lymphatic drainage. It’s incredible — the cleanser smells exactly like our favorite bowl of oatmeal. After rinsing the paste from your skin, you’ll instantly notice how soft and smooth your face feels. While it doesn’t seem to be the right consistency for removing eye makeup, it does move face makeup with ease. It works well for cleansing in the morning or at night. Speak’s line of natural, vegan , cruelty-free skincare (plus clean packaging) doesn’t stop there. We have also tested the natural deodorant, which is incredibly effective at keeping odors at bay, and the prickly pear seed oil, which boosts the moisture in your skin and smells light and pleasant. If all of this isn’t enough to love, Speak is transparent about ingredients, sources and manufacturing. “We believe that when you are smarter about what goes into your skincare, you’re on your way to feeling and being your best,” the website reads. “We will continue to be fully transparent with our ingredients and test our products in independent labs with your safety in mind.” Founders and cousins Mutiara Pino and Nisa Zulkifli founded Speak in December 2017 after battling with ever-changing, hormonal skin and eczema, respectively. Their mission is to provide clean skincare using natural ingredients from ethical sources in reusable, recyclable, upcycled and/or compostable packaging at affordable price points. We highly recommend checking out Speak’s skincare, starting with the oat-based cleanser. See more products here , and learn more about the company’s values here . + Speak Images via Inhabitat and Speak Editor’s Note: This product review is not sponsored by Speak. All opinions on the products and company are the author’s own.

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Shellfish farmers push to use pesticides in oyster beds

February 12, 2019 by  
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Pesticide use for oyster beds is once again threatening Grays Harbor and Willapa Bay. Shellfish growers are making another push to allow for the spray of pesticides on clam and oyster beds in the region, which environmentalists and state officials say is a major risk to invertebrates, like the Dungeness crab. Oyster growers claim they need the pesticides to kill burrowing shrimp that harm oyster beds and prevent them from harvesting their product. The companies are looking to reverse a current ban on the use of pesticides such as the neurotoxic imidacloprid. They area also supporting three bills in the state legislature. If passed, these initiatives would make it legal for the companies to spray pesticides in Willapa Bay and Grays Harbor. The Ecology Department has already put measures in place that prevent the use of pesticides on oyster and clam beds. Related: France is the first country to ban all 5 pesticides linked to bee deaths Officials with the state and federal government claim that there is strong evidence that suggests these pesticides are harmful to the environment . While the chemicals are effective against burrowing shrimp, they also kill other forms of ocean life that include the Dungeness crab. Fortunately, there are a variety of groups that are fighting the oyster growers and the newly proposed laws. This includes the Western Environmental Law Center, the Center for Food Safety, the Center of Biological Diversity and the Coalition to Protect Puget Sound Habitat, all of which are filing appeals to keep the pesticide ban in place. The appeals will be heard at the Pollution Control Hearings Board over the next few weeks. It is unclear if the oyster growers will be successful in their attempts to lobby for legislation that makes it legal to spray pesticides in oyster beds in Willapa Bay and Grays Harbor. Via Capital Press Image via SeahorseDigital

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Throw out your romaine lettuce, CDC declares E.coli outbreak

November 21, 2018 by  
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Romaine lettuce is unsafe to eat … again. The CDC is advising people to throw out and avoid eating all romaine lettuce following an E.coli outbreak that has left 32 people sick and 13 people hospitalized across 11 states in the U.S. so far. The CDC along with public health officials across the U.S. and Canada are investigating another outbreak of E.coli connected to romaine lettuce. The center said that consumers should not eat any romaine lettuce, and restaurants and retailers should not serve this item until the outbreak has been thoroughly investigated. Related: Is your Thanksgiving turkey putting your family’s health at risk? The reported illnesses for this outbreak began on Oct.8, 2018 through Oct. 31, 2018. Thirteen people have been hospitalized, with 32 cases reported altogether at the time of writing. No deaths have been reported. The investigation is still undergoing and no additional information has been reported, but the center advises consumers to throw out all romaine lettuce , even if you have already eaten some and did not get sick. “This advice includes all types or uses of romaine lettuce, such as whole heads of romaine, hearts of romaine and bags and boxes of precut lettuce and salad mixes that contain romaine, including baby romaine, spring mix and Caesar salad,” the CDC said. “If you do not know if the lettuce is romaine or whether a salad mix contains romaine, do not eat it and throw it away. Wash and sanitize drawers or shelves in refrigerators where romaine was stored. Follow these five steps to clean your refrigerator.” Watch: CDC declares romaine lettuce an E. coli risk If you’re worried about the outbreak, here are some symptoms to look for: severe stomach cramps, diarrhea, vomiting and a slight fever. The illness usually begins about two to eight days after swallowing the germ and lasts about a week, but E.coli can cause kidney failure or become life-threatening. Find out more information here .  The CDC is updating consumers on the outbreak and ongoing investigation. + CDC Image via Shutterstock

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California becomes the first state to ban animal-tested cosmetics

October 1, 2018 by  
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A new California law banning the sale of animal-tested cosmetics is the first of its kind in the U.S. The California Cruelty-Free Cosmetics Act was signed by California Governor Jerry Brown on Friday soon after its inception by colleague and Senator Cathleen Galgiani. The regulations will go into effect Jan. 1, 2020, restricting manufacturers wishing to “import for profit, sell or offer for sale” all cosmetics produced with animal testing. Violators will incur a base fine of $5,000, plus $1,000 for each day they continue their illicit activities. Currently, several  animals are manipulated in the cosmetics industry including mice, rats, rabbits and guinea pigs. A large proportion of these test subjects are killed after experimentation, but not before they have been exposed to possibly irritating or even deadly substances. Susceptibility to hazards is determined by force-feeding or causing the animals to inhale chemicals in order to evaluate toxicity levels. Related: LA City Council unanimously agrees to ban the sale of fur The new California law makes the Humane Cosmetics Act, a federal bill that would eliminate the practice of animal testing in the cosmetics industry, all the more significant. The vital legislature was introduced to Congress last year, but has yet to be passed. Unfortunately, the greatest loophole that remains in the groundbreaking law is an exception for products for which no alternative experimentation procedures exist. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has been very lax thus far, simply asking companies to “employ whatever testing is appropriate and effective” to eliminate adverse effects for consumers. California joins a list of governments, such as the EU, India, Israel and Norway, that have already adopted such a ban. But some countries, including China , require animal testing on all imported cosmetics. These animal-tested products could also funnel through the California legislature’s loopholes — as long as animals weren’t used to determine the safety of a product for sale in California specifically. While there has been a push in China to move away from animal testing, there is also greater incentive for companies to stop animal testing. Companies hope to avoid having to pay for two sets of testing, one set of animal tests for China and another to be able to sell the same products in the EU or California. “It gives greater impetus for [the cosmetics] industry to push for changes in other countries,” said Vicki Katrinak, program manager for animal research issues at the U.S. Humane Society. “We’re hoping that California will just be the start of resolving this issue.” + The California Cruelty-Free Cosmetics Act Via The Huffington Post Image via Siora Photography

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California becomes the first state to ban animal-tested cosmetics

The ground under a West Texas oil patch is moving ‘at alarming rates’

March 23, 2018 by  
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Local residents, infrastructure, and oil and gas pipelines could be at risk from the ground heaving and sinking in West Texas after years of fossil fuel production, according to a new study from Southern Methodist University (SMU) scientists. In an SMU statement , research scientist Jin-Woo Kim said, “This region of Texas has been punctured like a pin cushion with oil wells and injection wells since the 1940s and our findings associate that activity with ground movement.” Two large sinkholes around Wink, Texas, may just be the start, according to Kim and SMU professor and geophysicist Zhong Lu. Scientific Reports published their research online earlier this month: Kim and Lu drew on radar satellite images revealing significant ground movement in an area of 4,000 square miles. One spot saw movement of up to 40 inches in two and a half years. Lu said the ground movement isn’t normal. Related: Massive sinkhole opens up in the middle of a Brazilian farming town Imagery and oil well production data from the Railroad Commission of Texas helped the researchers connect the ground movement to oil activity. Pressurized fluid injection into what SMU described as “geologically unstable rock formations” in the area is one of those activities; the scientists discovered ground movement corresponded with “nearby sequences of wastewater injection rates and volume and CO2 injection in nearby wells.” And, outside the 4,000 square mile area, more dangers may lurk. Kim said, “We’re fairly certain that when we look further, and we are, that we’ll find there’s ground movement even beyond that.” SMU said the region is vulnerable to human endeavors because of its geology , including shale formations and water-soluble salt and limestone formations. Lu said, “These hazards represent a danger to residents, roads, railroads, levees, dams, and oil and gas pipelines, as well as potential pollution of ground water . Proactive, continuous detailed monitoring from space is critical to secure the safety of people and property.” + Southern Methodist University + Science Reports Images via Nicolas Henderson on Flickr and Zhong Lu, Jin-Woo Kim, SMU

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The ground under a West Texas oil patch is moving ‘at alarming rates’

Total field ban on bee-harming neonicotinoids likely after new EU assessments

March 1, 2018 by  
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A total ban on pesticides that harm bees is highly likely in the European Union, according to The Guardian . The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) published new assessments Wednesday confirming the risks of neonicotinoids for bees. Countries will vote next month, and a total field ban is likely. EFSA just put out new assessments, releasing conclusions updating ones from 2013 on the neonicotinoids clothianidin, imidacloprid, and thiamethoxam. The assessments cover honeybees , as well solitary bees and bumblebees for the first time, according to The Guardian, which also said the authority scrutinized over 1,500 studies to come to their conclusions. EFSA finalized them after consulting with pesticide experts in the European Union , whom they said supported their conclusions. Related: Over 700 North American bee species are heading towards extinction EFSA’s Pesticides Unit head Jose Tarazona said they were able to arrive at very detailed conclusions as there’s an ample amount of data, saying in a statement, “There is variability in the conclusions, due to factors such as the bee species, the intended use of the pesticide, and the route of exposure. Some low risks have been identified, but overall the risk to the three types of bees we have assessed is confirmed.” Many environmentalists and scientists welcomed the news, according to The Guardian. Friends of the Earth campaigner Sandra Bell said in a statement , “We have been playing Russian Roulette with the future of our bees for far too long. The UK government has already said it will support a complete ban on the outdoor use of these three bee-harming chemicals — a move that is fully justified by this report. Other EU countries must now back a tougher ban too.” The EU passed a partial ban in 2013, according to The Guardian, following EFSA’s first assessment finding unacceptable risks for bees from neonicotinoid pesticides. + European Food Safety Authority Via The Guardian Images via Danilo Batista on Unsplash and Aaron Burden on Unsplash

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Total field ban on bee-harming neonicotinoids likely after new EU assessments

Dutch villa smartly taps into solar energy and optimal site conditions

March 1, 2018 by  
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EVA Architecten took the long view when designing Villa IJsselzig, a modern home optimized for energy efficiency and durability. Set next to the river Hollandse Ijssel, the villa respects the neighboring buildings by adapting a similar form but also quietly stands out with its distinctly contemporary design. Renewable energy including solar and a heat pumps power the home while the carefully positioned openings reduce unwanted solar gain. Topped with a dark copper roof and reddish-brown bricks, Villa IJsselzig was built to appear as a singular sculptural mass. The river-facing facade to the north is left mostly transparent with full-height glazing that wraps around the communal areas while the home’s opposite side on the south is mostly closed off from view and protected by a garden for privacy. The placement of these openings and orientation also mitigate solar gain , particularly unwanted heat build-up from the south, and are supplemented by extra-insulated walls. Related: Solar-powered M House is a light-filled modern Dutch villa In contrast to its dark facade, the interior, designed in collaboration with NEST architects , features a lighter palette. The interior is organized around a wooden core surrounded by white walls. The wooden core contains the staircases, storerooms, and other facilities thus opening up the other rooms to flexible open-plan use. The living spaces are located on the ground floor whereas all the bedrooms are placed on the upper floor and overlook the river. + EVA Architecten Via Dwell Photos by Sebastian van Damme

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