PFAS could be reduced by Australian plants

May 3, 2022 by  
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New research  has found that Australian native rushes Phragmites australis ,  Juncus kraussii , and    Baumea articulata  could remove up to 53% of PFAS (per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances) contaminants from the environment. Conducted by researchers at the  University of South Australia , the study found that the once-popular chemicals could be removed from the environment cheaply by using these plants. The three weeds identified as having the potential to remediate PFAS were put to a test in contaminated waters. It was found that the common reed Phragmites australis removed up to 53% of legacy PFAS contaminants from the surface water. These findings provide the much-needed solution that could help remove chemicals from the environment. Related: Hemp is helping clean up PFAS chemicals in Maine PFAS chemicals were once hailed as revolutionary for their uses. They are used on nonstick pans, firefighting foam, and plenty of other products. Even today, some manufacturers still use PFAS in products, despite having been found to be harmful to the environment and human health. The  US Environmental Protection Agency  warns that PFAS could lead to a range of medical complications. Some of the medical issues associated with the chemicals include a decline in fertility, delayed development in children, a high risk of obesity , and weakened immune systems.    Dr. John Awad , one of the researchers, says that the new findings could go a long way in alleviating said risks. By using these plants, PFAS could be significantly sucked out of nature , leading to a cleaner environment for healthy living. “PFAS are often referred to as ‘forever chemicals’ because they don’t break down, instead accumulating in the environment and in our bodies where they can cause adverse health effects,”Awad said. “In Australia, PFAS concerns often relate to the use of firefighting foam, especially legacy firefighting foam, which accumulates in the surface water of our waterways.” According to Awad, the reeds were found to be the most effective in removing PFAs from contaminated stormwater . “Our research tested the effectiveness of Australian rushes to remove PFAS chemicals from stormwater, finding that  Phragmites australis  was the most effective at absorbing chemicals through its roots and shoots,” Awad said. The study was done in partnership with the CSIRO and the University of Western Australia. The researchers used constructed floating wetlands where plants were grown hydroponically. According to Awad, the approach offers a better solution for the natural remediation of contaminated water bodies. “Constructed floating wetlands can be readily installed into existing urban environments, such as holding reservoirs and retention basins, making them highly maneuverable and adaptable to local waterways,” Awad said. Via NewsWise Image via Pexels

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In one week, cigarette waste can fill two White Houses

May 3, 2022 by  
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Depending on where you live, seeing a burnt cigarette butt on the ground can invoke a range of responses. In some places, a person might feel a sense of rage, while in other areas, even a littering of butts on the ground will fail to elicit a response. Regardless of how ubiquitous discarded cigarette butts are where you reside, when the sheer number of them on the planet is calculated, the results are not only difficult to ignore, they’re shocking.  Housefresh, a “team of experts in keeping your house clean and fresh,” dug into the subject by collecting data from a variety of sources and converting it into infographics. The result is a visual representation of the waste created by cigarettes per minute or on a daily, weekly, monthly or annual basis.  Related: How Finland plans to completely eradicate tobacco use by 2040 The team chose iconic locations in the representations to provide a connection viewers can relate to. For example, the study reports, “In one minute, humans dump 8.5 million cigarette butts, equal to 50 cubic meters — or an Olympic boxing ring.” The visual of a large boxing ring filled each minute by smokers around the world is certainly attention-grabbing.  The next visual multiplies the one minute into the pollution caused in a 24-hour window. In one day, 12.3 billion cigarette butts are dumped, which is equal to 72,522m3 — a bit bigger than the Lincoln Memorial. Expanding that snapshot into a week’s worth of cigarette waste means burying another notable building. “In one week, we dump 86.4 billion cigarette butts — that’s 509,050m3 or TWO White Houses. ” The use of these visuals allows us to see the exponential effect of what seems like a small item, when seen as a whole. Two White Houses full of cigarette butts in a single week? It gets worse, of course. In a month, the environment is pummeled with cigarette waste. According to the study, “In one month, we dump 375 billion cigarette butts, which equals 2,205,882m3 or one Capitol Building.” To represent the cigarette dumpage on an annual basis, researchers had to go bigger. They said, “In one year, we dump 4.5 trillion cigarette butts, equaling 26,470,588m3 and enough to cover New York’ s Central Park.” Obviously, the pollution created by cigarette butts is unpleasant to the eye and damaging to the environment. Although tobacco itself comes from a plant , the butts are made from a type of plastic that is neither biodegradable or recyclable. Plus, they contain many chemicals that then leach into the soil and water. Smoking is also a primary contributing factor to major health issues, including lung cancer.  Cleaning up the mess left by smokers is an expensive endeavor. It’s estimated an annual $4 billion (taxpayer) dollars in the U.S. alone. Plus, cigarettes are a common cause of home and forest fires and can be toxic to animals . The Housefresh report refers to a study that concludes, “One butt in a liter of water will kill half the fish.” At the top of the article, we alluded to geographic location having an impact on people’s perspectives around cigarette waste. The fact is, there are huge variations in the prevalence of smoking from one region to another. For example, in Andorra, nearly half of all high school students admit to smoking at least occasionally. Additionally, the average number of cigarettes smoked daily for the population as a whole is 17. The European continent is the largest contributor to cigarette waste , with the average citizen disposing of over 1,800 butts every year. In contrast, smoking is still relatively obscure in Africa with a country like Ghana disposing of an average of 41 butts per person. According to the report, Canadians smoke the most in North America, but the U.S. isn’t far behind. “Up to 40% of items collected in American litter clean-ups are butts, which are the most littered item on U.S. roads, drains, parks and beaches.” There are also high smoking rates throughout regions of Asia and specifically in some islands in the South Pacific. They maintain the highest smoking rates in the world.   The cultural and financial variations around the world make a notable impact on smoking rates. Education about the dangers of smoking also varies wildly. Some countries are making good progress in reducing smoking rates while other countries are just starting the discussion. For example, Andorra just recently banned tobacco advertising and smoking in bars.  The methodology for the study required gathering data from using Omni Calculator, and is based on 170 cigarettes filling one liter of volume. Global numbers of discarded cigarettes were sourced from Science Direct. To calculate the cubic volume of the objects and landmarks in the report, the team looked to Wikipedia and the Google Maps distance measurement tool. Global smoking rates were sourced from the World Bank and Global cigarette consumption was sourced from Tobacco Atlas.   + Housefresh  Images via Housefresh 

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Vegan dog food diets examined in new study

April 14, 2022 by  
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Fido might not like this news, but a new peer-reviewed study concluded that vegan dog food diets are healthier than omnivorous ones. The analysis of 2,500 canines found that vegan  dogs  take fewer medications and require fewer veterinarian visits. Dog owners completed surveys which were analyzed by the study’s authors. Funded by ProVeg, an organization advocating for reduced consumption of animals, the study was  published in the journal PLoS ONE . A little more than half of the survey participants fed their dogs a conventional meat-based diet. A third of the dogs dined on raw  meat , and the other 13% were vegan. Related: Magic Johnson Park is the first off-leash dog park in South LA Of the ordinary dog food dogs, 17% visited the vet four or more times over the year of the study. Nine percent of the  vegan  dogs and 8% of the raw food dogs saw their physicians that frequently. Reports showed that 49% of dogs with a conventional diet had health disorders compared to the 43% on a raw meat diet and the 36% with a vegan diet. The raw meat dogs scored slightly better in some areas than the vegan dogs but were also about a year younger on average. Study leader Andrew Knight, of the University of Winchester, U.K., mentioned that prior studies have revealed that dogs on raw meat diets usually suffer from more pathogenic  bacteria  and parasites than other dogs. “Our study is by far the largest study published to date,” said Knight, as reported by The Guardian. “It revealed that the  healthiest  and least hazardous dietary choices for dogs are nutritionally sound vegan diets.” However, Knight said more research is needed. “The key limitation of our study is that we didn’t have a population of animals locked up in a  research  facility and fed one specific diet without any alteration,” he said. “We studied what real dogs in normal homes ate and their health outcomes. It gives us a good indication as to what the outcomes are for dogs in the real world.” The British Veterinary Association doesn’t want pet owners storming the  tofu  aisle yet, though. Justine Shotton, the association’s president, warns that more research needs to map the health consequences of a vegan diet on a large number of dogs over many years before drawing conclusions. Via The Guardian Lead image via Pexels

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A photographer captures glacier melt over the years

April 14, 2022 by  
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Mona Miri holds many titles in the art world. As photo editor and photo art director of photography for Boston Magazine, she is charged with overseeing all of the photography from cover to cover of each publication. She also is a regularly contributing photographer. Even with those accomplishments, she’s perhaps most well known for her work on changing landscapes. Her ICE PROJECT is one such work, highlighting the melting glaciers as a result of climate change.  The ICE PROJECT is a compilation of five photographs that reflect the change in glacier spread and depth over a period of time. The project also reflects Miri’s passion and focus on the environment through her practice as a sustainability photographer.  Related: Antarctic sea ice melt phenomenon explained in new research Each image is described in detail by the photographer. As an overview, the first two and fifth photographs are diptychs. They are intended to show the before and after landscape of different areas. Two national parks are represented in the work: the Glacier National Park in Montana and Chugach National Forest in Alaska. Furthermore, the series previously exhibited in celebration of Earth month. “In June 2019, ICE #1 from ICE PROJECT was accepted as a finalist in the Earth Photo London, which was exhibited at the Royal Geological Society in London with a traveling exhibition for one year in England’s National Forests,” Miri said. ICE #1 Grinnell Glacier in Montana has seen excessive melting glaciers in the past decade. The glacier is melting so fast that it is one of the most visibly affected by climate change occurring in a U.S. Park. Soon enough, Glacier Park, hence the name, will have no more glaciers because of warming temperatures.  In this image on the right, taken in 2017 at Iceberg Lake in Grinnell Glacier, you can see the receding icebergs and the receding mouth of the glacier, which now is relatively a lake. The image on the left, taken in 1910 by John Morton, in collaboration with University of Montana image archives, shows the peak of Grinnell looking down at the mouth of the glacier. It is visible the contrast of melting glaciers in the before and after comparison. ICE #2 Portage Glacier in Alaska’s Chugach National Forest is another glacier that has seen rapidly changing effects of climate change in the past 100 years. The image on the left was taken in 1939 from the archives of the U.S. Geological Survey. It shows the terminus, or mouth, of the glacier as it appeared during this time. On the right exhibits the front of the glacier in 2017. Since 1939, the terminus and the mouth of the glacier has receded more than three miles from where it used to be in 1939.  ICE #3 Portage Glacier, a close-up image, shows the glacier runoff from the hanging glacier. This is caused when there is excessive and rapid melting. It is also a normal process where the glacier water helps habitation during the summer months. In 2019, Alaska recorded the hottest summer on record, which resulted in excessive melting in the region.  ICE #4 Another close-up view of Portage Glacier and glacier runoff from the receding hanging glacier.  ICE #5 Portage Glacier in 1958 is seen on the left photo taken from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. It shows the glacier and P ortage Lake filled with icebergs and ice. The glaciers already started retreating from the 1930s. Portage Glacier once ended on land, on the other side of what it is now Portage Lake.  About Photographer Mona Miri Miri began her career as a fine art landscape photographer. She has always been drawn to changing landscapes. In addition to the environmental series, her portfolio includes natural scenery, industrial landscapes and urban elements. Her work was featured in The Boston Globe, L.A. times, Improper Bostonian Magazine, PDN Magazine, Digital Photographer Magazine U.S. and U.K., CMYK Photography Magazine and more. Her photography has also been included at the Copley Society of Art Gallery (CO|SO) in Boston . In addition to being recognized in print, her self-portrait, Re?ect, received the JoAnne Gonzalla Award for Excellence in Art and received an Environmental Stewardship Award from Sterling Planet. According to her bio, “In January of 2009, she showcased her Sustainable Photography work sponsored by the city of San Francisco at the Somart Cultural Center. Currently residing in the Fort Point artist community, she has been exhibited at the FPAC gallery, at the Envoy Gallery and has been involved in open studios since 2015.”  As a photographer , Miri’s work on the ICE PROJECT highlights changes that seem to happen too slowly for the human eye to consume. She converts it into an easily digestible, and impactful, statement about the irreversible damage of climate change.  + Mona Miri Photography Photography by Mona Miri Photography 

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A photographer captures glacier melt over the years

How much heat can Earth’s forests handle?

April 11, 2022 by  
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An international team of researchers carried out a study to determine the heat and moisture threshold for Earth’s forests . Published in  Nature Communications , the study answers “how hot is too hot” and “how dry is too dry” for forests. To do this, researchers compiled the first global database of georeferenced forest die-off events at over 675 locations dating to the 1970s.  The study covered all forested continents and compared the information to existing climate data to determine the climatic conditions behind three major mortality episodes. Lead author William Hammond, a University of Florida plant ecophysiologist, says the analysis allows the forests to speak for themselves based on historical occurrences. “In this study, we’re letting the Earth’s forests do the talking,” said Hammond “We collected data from previous studies documenting where and when trees died, and then analyzed what the climate was during mortality events, compared to long-term conditions.” Related: New study provides hope for restoring tropical forests According to Hammond, an analysis of the previous forest mortality events revealed a pattern. The pattern shows that Earth’s forests face the highest mortality risk during extremely hot periods. “What we found was that at the global scale, there was this consistently hotter, drier pattern – what we call a ‘hotter- drought fingerprint’ – that can show us how unusually hot or dry it has to get for forests to be at risk of death,” said Hammond. While every year has hotter months and colder ones, some years are much hotter than others. During these hotter years, Earth’s forests face higher risks of combustion. “Our hotter-drought fingerprint revealed that global forest mortality is linked to intensified climate extremes,” Hammond said. “Using climate model data, we estimated how frequent these previously lethal climate conditions would become under further warming , compared to pre-industrial era climate – 22% more frequent at plus 2 degrees Celsius (plus 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit), to 140% more frequently at plus 4 degrees Celsius (plus 7.2 degrees Fahrenheit).” One finding showed that as the planet warms, the frequency of such extremes increases. This increase further threatens forests’ safety. Especially considering trees’ roles in carbon sequestering, monitoring forest temperatures could help prevent them from getting dry enough for destruction. Via Newswise Lead image via Pexels

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Microplastics contaminate human blood, says new study

March 25, 2022 by  
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New research published in Environment International has confirmed the presence of microplastics in the human blood. In a study involving 22 participants, 80% of the samples tested were found to have microplastics. This is the first study to prove that microplastics can reach the bloodstream. In previous studies, microplastics have been found in animals and human feces. The researchers say they found up to three different types of plastic in some blood samples. They also found particles as small as 0.0007mm in some cases. The findings now prove that microplastics can travel through the body and may lodge in organs. Further research is needed to determine plastic’s effects on the body. However, the researchers behind the study say plastic particles could damage body cells. Previous studies have shown that air pollution particles inhaled cause millions of early deaths annually. Researchers worry the same findings could apply to microplastics. Related: Hermit crab study shows microplastic’s affect on marine life Plastic pollution is a major problem in our modern world. Each year, tons of plastics are dumped into the environment. Previous studies have shown that microplastics now contaminate the entire world, including remote areas. A recent study found 10 times more  microplastic pollution  in the Atlantic than previously thought. Another study found high amounts of microplastics  deposited on sea floors . In 2020, one study established  microplastics in produce  sold at the market. This could be one of the sources of the microplastics found in human bodies. At this point, most food sources consumed by humans are likely contaminated by plastics. Another study conducted in 2021 found  microplastics in cows’ bloodstreams . In the latest study, researchers analyzed samples from 22 unknown blood donors. All donors were healthy adults living a normal lifestyle. Among the samples, 17 contained microplastic contamination. Half the samples contained PET plastic, commonly used in water bottles. “Our study is the first indication that we have polymer particles in our blood – ?it’s a breakthrough result,” said Professor Dick Vethaak, an ecotoxicologist at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam. “But we have to extend the research and increase the sample sizes, the number of polymers assessed, etc.”  The research was funded by Common Seas and the Dutch National Organisation for Health Research and Development. Alongside 80 NGOs and some U.K. MPs, these organizations are calling for the U.K. government to further research microplastic’s impacts on humans. Via The Guardian Lead image via Oregon State University

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Octopus trash activity signals deep sea trouble

March 21, 2022 by  
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A new study published in the  Marine Pollution Bulletin  has found that octopuses are increasingly interacting with plastic and other waste materials in the water. While they have been spotted interacting with different types of litter before, there has been no study to authenticate it. The study led by researchers from Brazil and Italy is the first comprehensive observation of how the octopus interacts with this litter. Before the study, images of octopuses hiding inside bottles or ferrying around discarded coconut shells circulated online. Such photos illustrate how waste that enters the ocean affects animals . Inspired by such images, the researchers behind the study wanted to learn more. Related: Study calls budding octopus farm industry unethical and unsustainable For the study, the researchers collected over 261 images of octopus interactions within littered environments . Taken by divers, the images were collected from all over the world. These images helped researchers determine what exactly the octopuses do with the waste. Maira Proietti, one of the researchers from the Federal University of Rio Grande in Brazil , says that the interactions show the impact of litter on marine life. “The deep-sea records were extremely interesting, because even at great depths these animals are interacting with the litter,” said Proietti. Researchers observed octopuses using trash as shelter and camouflage. Some octopuses were even seen hiding inside bottles. The researchers also noted that some octopuses repurposed objects such as plastic caps and lids. The octopus is one of the smartest animals in the world, with the ability to find solutions even in the most complex situation. However, the researchers say these observations indicate trouble for the ecosystem . For instance, the creatures could be camouflaging in waste due to a lack of seashells. Proietti stressed that “it is not a good thing to think that the animals may be using litter as shelter because the seashells are gone.” Further, the actions taken by the octopuses could be dangerous to their health. For instance, they could get bruised by a glass bottle or exposed to harmful chemicals . One of the animals was even seen hiding in a dumped car battery.  Via HuffPost Lead image via Pixabay Body image via Freitas, et al.

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Fisker is taking reservations for an EV no one has seen

March 21, 2022 by  
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If you have $250 you want to put down on an interesting bet, Fisker is taking reservations for its new PEAR EV . The problem? No one has ever seen the PEAR or knows what it looks like. There aren’t even photos on the website. It feels a bit tempting anyway, though. Why? Because this EV is being made in partnership with Foxconn, which bought a former General Motors factory in Ohio to act as a contract manufacturer for the PEAR and the Endurance pickup. This may all sound a bit confusing. That’s because it’s never been done before. Fisker, an all-electric car company, is determined to build EVs and make them affordable this time. On this project, they’re pulling a Tesla and forming partnerships with other automakers (Tesla depended heavily on Lotus for a while for body parts, among other things). So, the photos might be the last thing pinned down as the PEAR is fleshed out into reality. Fisker is contracting with other companies for production facilities and electronics partnerships to make it happen. Related: This net-zero Big Sur home has enough power to charge EVs Fisker’s first production model, the $37,499 Ocean electric crossover SUV, will start production in November of 2022. Assembly will occur in Magna’s Austrian factory after attempts to use the VW platform fell through. The PEAR isn’t due out until 2024. The Ocean and PEAR models will get electronics from Sharp, part of Foxconn. While Fisker is known for building beautiful cars, the challenge will be creating something impactful and stylish at this price point for a young company still finding its way. That said, $250 to be in on the PEAR is still a tempting offer. As one commenter on Green Car Reports said, “I doubt we will see this car anytime soon. They don’t even have a show model to demonstrate. But I am hopeful that they can produce a car that will be affordable for the average buyer.” + Fisker Motors Via Green Car Reports Images via Fisker

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Fisker is taking reservations for an EV no one has seen

World turns to cloud seeding amid drought and climate change

March 15, 2022 by  
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Global leaders are turning to weather modification to make up for shortages caused by climate change. In the past two years, several western U.S. states have begun cloud seeding. This entails releasing silver iodide particles and other aerosols into the clouds to boost snow or rainfall. States that have invested significantly in cloud seeding include Idaho, Colorado, Utah, California and Wyoming. Seeding is also a key measure in the Colorado River Basin Drought Contingency Plan.  In 2020, a  study  conducted by researchers at the University of Colorado in partnership with the National Center for Atmospheric Research provided evidence that cloud seeding works. The researchers used complex radar and metrological methods to demonstrate that cloud seeding increases precipitation. Consequently, more countries began adopting the approach to deal with drought. Related: China’s new rain-making system could increase rainfall by billions of cubic feet “ Cloud seeding works,” said Katja Friedrich, an atmospheric scientist at the University of Colorado and lead author of the study. “We know that. We know that from experiments in the lab. We also have enough evidence that it works in nature. Really the question is: We still don’t have a very great understanding of how much water we can produce.” Other countries using cloud seeding include China and the UAE. In the UAE, a weather enhancement factory can conduct up to 250 cloud seeding flares each week. Meanwhile, China already spends millions of dollars each year on weather modification. The Chinese government uses anti-aircraft guns to launch iodide flares into the sky in semi-arid regions to the north and west. In recent years, the U.S. has grappled with difficult droughts. A  study  published in Nature Climate Change established that the period between 2000 and 2022 has been the driest in western U.S. history since 800 A.D. The study attributes this to human-caused climate change. While cloud seeding is a reasonable solution to some leaders, some experts warn it is an unreliable solution to drought problems. Cloud seeding only increases precipitation by up to 10%. Further, experts say that there may not be enough storms to seed if climate change continues. Via Grist Lead image via Pexels

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Global warming expected to worsen serious health issues

March 9, 2022 by  
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Global warming could increase the cases of hospitalization due to hyponatremia, a condition where the body experiences dangerously low sodium levels. New research published in the journal Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism shows that a global temperature increase of 2 degrees Celsius would result in a 14% increase in hyponatremia cases. The study was conducted by researchers from the Karolinska Institutet in Sweden. Researchers behind the study say they found a significant relationship between atmospheric temperature and the occurrence of hyponatremia. “Our study is the first to provide precise estimates of how temperature influences the risk of hyponatremia, findings that could be used to inform healthcare planning for adapting to climate change ,” said Buster Mannheimer, one of the study’s authors and a lecturer at the Karolinska Institutet. Related: Terrifying new study warns of more heat-related deaths Hyponatremia can occur due to various diseases , including heart, renal and liver failure. The condition also occurs due to excessive sweating or high fluid intake. If a person sweats excessively, sodium leaves the body through sweat and can lead to sodium deficiency. The study compared data on Sweden’s adult population to 24-hour mean temperature information collected over nine years. Data revealed that 11,000 people were hospitalized for hyponatremia. Most of those affected were women with a median age of 76. Further, the study established that hospitalizations were ten times more likely on the hottest days compared to cooler days. The elderly were found to be at the highest risk, with those over 80 years old being 15 times more likely to experience hospitalization during heatwaves . While hyponatremia cases rocketed at temperatures above 15 degrees Celsius, they seemed to stabilize between -10 to 10 degrees Celsius. Previously, researchers have said that global warming 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial temperatures would lead to an increase in diseases. This study provides insight into how these diseases will manifest. Via Newswise Lead image via Pexels

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