For many people, commuting to and from work is a time-consuming, stressful part of their lives. In fact, the average American spends nearly an hour a day facing traffic jams and congested highways. There are direct health hazards in commuting as well. Drivers are exposed to increased amounts of air pollutants that have been linked to a wide range of medical problems including cardiovascular disease, respiratory issues and even lung cancer.
Excess nitrogen in the environment is a big problem. The most visible aspect of the problem is the spread of toxic algae blooms in oceans, lakes and other bodies of water. But there are other effects as well such as unwanted alterations to ecosystems.
Genetic engineering, or equivalently synthetic biology, is a multi-billion-dollar enterprise involved in pharmaceuticals, chemicals, biofuels and, of course, agriculture. In these fields, it is already the source of a great deal of controversy. But there is increasing interest in using synthetic biology (or synbio) technology as a tool for protecting the natural world, which is a prospect some find tantalizing and others find absolutely terrifying.
Clean and abundant water is the most essential need for all human societies and the supply of it is threatened by increasing populations and volatile climate patterns. The quality of water is threatened by a host of contaminants, most of our own making.
Offshore wind farms are becoming increasingly important around the world. Europe has thousands of wind turbines off its coasts generating more and more of its power. The first offshore wind farm in the U.S. opened for business last year and more are on the way.
Mosquito-borne diseases pose a growing risk to public health in urban areas. Asian tiger mosquitoes are a vector of high concern as they thrive in cities, live in close association with people, and can reproduce in very small pools of water.
We’ve discussed the problem of microplastics polluting our oceans at great lengths on this program before. Much of the small plastic particles result from the breakdown of plastic litter, such as plastic bags, packaging, and other materials. Another source is microbeads, which are often found in health products such as face scrubs and even some toothpastes. But there is a another source of microplastic pollution that is quite troubling: dirty laundry.
A recent study has shown that septic systems in the U.S. routinely discharge pharmaceuticals, consumer product chemicals and other potentially hazardous substances into the environment. The comprehensive study, published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology, raises health concerns since these chemicals can end up in groundwater and drinking water supplies.
The world’s rivers carry billions of cubic yards of sediment – sand, silt and other material – and transport it to wetlands and coastal areas. Until fairly recently, this was viewed as a negative thing. But that has changed.
We have talked about the monarch butterfly on a number of occasions. The population of these iconic orange and black butterflies in North America has plummeted from 1 billion to 33 million over the past 20 years. People have undertaken a variety of efforts to try to save the species but now a major project to restore the dwindling habitat of the monarch is underway.
Sea pickles are translucent, tubular creatures that are usually found in tropical ocean waters. Also known as pyrosomes, they are actually made up of many small multicellular organisms that are linked together in a tunic to form a tubelike colony that is closed on one end.
There have been many stories in the media about the ongoing environmental crisis at Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. Over the past two years, the reef has lost almost half of its coral because of bleaching events. Faced with this situation, the Australian government created the Reef 2050 Plan, a strategy to protect and maintain the reef through the year 2050.
Recently, we talked about the problems New York’s native turtles have during their mating season as they cross roads and highways seeking places to lay their eggs. The state Department of Environmental Conservation even issued recommendations for how people can help turtles avoid getting crunched by cars.
A tipping point is a point in time when a small thing can make a big change happen. The term was popularized in sociology in recent decades, but really comes from physics where is refers to adding a small amount of weight to a balanced object causing it to topple over.
A new study warns that coral reefs are in danger of disappearing forever. According to U.N. research, the world’s coral reefs could die out completely by mid-century unless carbon emissions are reduced enough to slow ocean warming.
Global consumption of coal dropped by 1.7% last year. This is a major change considering that it had increased by an average of 1.9% per year from 2005 to 2015. China, which accounts for about half of the coal burned in the world, used 1.6% less in 2016, as compared to an increase of 3.7% per year over the previous 11 years.
A group of more than 200 scientists and medical professionals has issued a consensus statement in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives urging that antimicrobial chemicals like triclosan and triclocarban should not be used in consumer products. The experts say that these substances offer no health benefits and are actually causing health and environmental harm.
We are well-aware of the negative effects of air pollution on human health and on the environment, but a recent study at Duke University has revealed that global solar energy production is taking a major hit due to air pollution and dust.
The Paris Climate Agreement seeks to reduce global carbon emissions. The nearly 200 countries who signed it have pledged to reduce their own emissions within their borders. And therein lies the rub: the agreement says nothing about the impact their products have across the world. For some countries, the problem is not so much the emissions they produce; it is those they export.