H/t reader squodgy:
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Scientists on a seven-month circumnavigation in the Arctic Ocean have found that its once-untouched waters are now polluted with billions of pieces of plastic. This is another troubling discovery even as the world struggles to deal with the ongoing problem of plastic pollution. Despite a lack of nearby pollution sources, scientists noted a “high concentration” of plastics accumulating in the Greenland and Barents seas, both located in the Arctic. In a paper published in the journal Science Advances, the scientists noted that ocean circulation systems have not only brought warm waters from the North Atlantic northward, it has also brought buoyant plastic waste as well, leading to the accumulation. Scientists are now calling the region a “dead end” for plastic waste, due to the landmasses and polar ice caps in the area. They collected data starting in 2013, during a circumpolar expedition aboard the research vessel Tara.
Plastic-eating caterpillars known as “wax worms” may one day help reduce the global pollution crisis, a study revealed. Prior to the study, an amateur beekeeper was cleaning her hives and placed the parasitic wax worms in a plastic bag, only to find out that the caterpillars were able to make holes in the plastic. As part of the study, a team of researchers from the Cambridge University in the U.K. and the Institute of Biomedicine and Biotechnology of Cantabria in Spain examined 100 wax worms that were let loose on a plastic bag. The research team noted that holes started appearing in the plastic after a 40-minute mark. The study also revealed that the worms consumed as much as 92 mg of plastic after 12 hours. In comparison, previous research on bacteria showed that the microbes were only able to eliminate 0.13 mg of plastic in 24 hours.
Data from a spectroscopic analysis also showed that chemical bonds present in plastic started to degrade when exposed to the caterpillars. The study also revealed that the insects were able to convert polyethylene into ethylene glycoll. The researchers inferred that the mechanism might be similar to how wax worms digest beeswax.
When soda giant Coca-Cola was asked to participate in a survey of the world’s top six drinks manufacturers by the environmental organization Greenpeace last year, they refused. And boy, has that decision come back to haunt them! Greenpeace went ahead with their survey anyway. In the absence of full disclosure by the company itself, the environmental group examined the yearly sales figures of certain Coca-Cola products, and determined their proportion of the company’s overall packaging mix since 2012, to determine the company’s global plastic impact. Greenpeace calls its findings “eye-popping” and “breath-taking.” They found that Coca-Cola sells between 108 and 128 billion plastic bottles each year – that’s over 3,000 such bottles every second!
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From the article:
“…the FDA also reiterated its belief that BPA is safe to use in the lining of canned foods and beverages.”
And yes, the alternatives are NOT safe either …
– BPA alternative disrupts normal brain-cell growth, is tied to hyperactivity, study says (Washington Post, Jan 12, 2015):
In a groundbreaking study, researchers have shown why a chemical once thought to be a safe alternative to bisphenol-A, which was abandoned by manufacturers of baby bottles and sippy cups after a public outcry, might itself be more harmful than BPA.
University of Calgary scientists say they think their research is the first to show that bisphenol-S, an ingredient in many products bearing “BPA-free” labels, causes abnormal growth surges of neurons in an animal embryo.
The same surges were also found with BPA, though not at the same levels as with BPS, prompting the scientists to suggest that all structurally similar compounds now in use or considered for use by plastic manufacturers are unsafe.
Prior research reports inverse associations between maternal prenatal urinary phthalate metabolite concentrations and mental and motor development in preschoolers. No study evaluated whether these associations persist into school age.
In a follow up of 328 inner-city mothers and their children, we measured prenatal urinary metabolites of di-n-butyl phthalate (DnBP), butylbenzyl phthalate (BBzP), di-isobutyl phthalate (DiBP), di-2-ethylhexyl phthalate and diethyl phthalate in late pregnancy. The Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children, 4th edition was administered at child age 7 years and evaluates four areas of cognitive function associated with overall intelligence quotient (IQ).
And NO, you don’t need to buy their products to protect yourself and be healthy.
– Full Scale Of Plastic In The World’s Oceans Revealed For First Time (Malaysia Digest/The Guardian, Dec 11, 2014):
More than five trillion pieces of plastic, collectively weighing nearly 269,000 tonnes, are floating in the world’s oceans, causing damage throughout the food chain, new research has found.
Data collected by scientists from the US, France, Chile, Australia and New Zealand suggests a minimum of 5.25tn plastic particles in the oceans, most of them “micro plastics” measuring less than 5mm.
The volume of plastic pieces, largely deriving from products such as food and drink packaging and clothing, was calculated from data taken from 24 expeditions over a six-year period to 2013. The research, published in the journal PLOS One, is the first study to look at plastics of all sizes in the world’s oceans.
Large pieces of plastic can strangle animals such as seals, while smaller pieces are ingested by fish and then fed up the food chain, all the way to humans.
This is problematic due to the chemicals contained within plastics, as well as the pollutants that plastic attract once they are in the marine environment.
– The Largest Landfill On Earth: Plastic Garbage In The Oceans? (OilPrice, July 15, 2014):
Think about the last time you got takeout or ate at a fast food restaurant. Or the last time you bought a pre-packaged food item from a store, or drank a bottle of water or soda. Chances are, plastic was involved in all those items — plastic that will still be around up to 1,000 years from now.
Americans throw away over 30 million tons of plastic every year, of which only about 25 percent is recycled. The rest goes to landfills. Unfortunately, the largest “landfill” on Earth is actually in the North Pacific Ocean.
The “Great Pacific Garbage Patch” is estimated to be anywhere from 3,100 square miles to twice the size of Texas.
A shark carcase on Kamilo Beach, Hawaii, where plastic particles outnumber sand grains until you dig down about a foot Photo: ALGALITA MARINE RESEARCH FOUNDATION A jar of Pacific water held by the environmentalist Charles Moore hints at the amount of plastic swirling just below the ocean’s surface Photo: MATT CRAMER/AMRF
Way out in the Pacific Ocean, in an area once known as the doldrums, an enormous, accidental monument to modern society has formed. Invisible to satellites, poorly understood by scientists and perhaps twice the size of France, the Great Pacific Garbage Patch is not a solid mass, as is sometimes imagined, but a kind of marine soup whose main ingredient is floating plastic debris.
It was discovered in 1997 by a Californian sailor, surfer, volunteer environmentalist and early-retired furniture restorer named Charles Moore, who was heading home with his crew from a sailing race in Hawaii, at the helm of a 50ft catamaran that he had built himself.
For the hell of it, he decided to turn on the engine and take a shortcut across the edge of the North Pacific Subtropical Gyre, a region that seafarers have long avoided. It is a perennial high pressure zone, an immense slowly spiralling vortex of warm equatorial air that pulls in winds and turns them gently until they expire. Several major sea currents also converge in the gyre and bring with them most of the flotsam from the Pacific coasts of Southeast Asia, North America, Canada and Mexico. Fifty years ago nearly all that flotsam was biodegradable. These days it is 90 per cent plastic.
‘It took us a week to get across and there was always some plastic thing bobbing by,’ says Moore, who speaks in a jaded, sardonic drawl that occasionally flares up into heartfelt oratory. ‘Bottle caps, toothbrushes, styrofoam cups, detergent bottles, pieces of polystyrene packaging and plastic bags. Half of it was just little chips that we couldn’t identify. It wasn’t a revelation so much as a gradual sinking feeling that something was terribly wrong here. Two years later I went back with a fine-mesh net, and that was the real mind-boggling discovery.’
The ban in the United States has come amid fears about the possible side effects of Bisphenol A, it emerged on Saturday.
Six American manufacturers say they are reacting to consumer demand by removing BPA from their bottles.
But they will continue selling bottles containing BPA in the UK, a decision which has prompted anger among campaigners.
Getting ordinary plastic bags to rot away like banana peels would be an environmental dream come true.
After all, we produce 500 billion a year worldwide and they take up to 1,000 years to decompose. They take up space in landfills, litter our streets and parks, pollute the oceans and kill the animals that eat them.
Now a Waterloo teenager has found a way to make plastic bags degrade faster — in three months, he figures.
Daniel Burd’s project won the top prize at the Canada-Wide Science Fair in Ottawa. He came back with a long list of awards, including a $10,000 prize, a $20,000 scholarship, and recognition that he has found a practical way to help the environment.
Daniel, a 16-year-old Grade 11 student at Waterloo Collegiate Institute, got the idea for his project from everyday life.
“Almost every week I have to do chores and when I open the closet door, I have this avalanche of plastic bags falling on top of me,” he said. “One day, I got tired of it and I wanted to know what other people are doing with these plastic bags.”
The answer: not much. So he decided to do something himself.
He knew plastic does eventually degrade, and figured microorganisms must be behind it. His goal was to isolate the microorganisms that can break down plastic — not an easy task because they don’t exist in high numbers in nature.
First, he ground plastic bags into a powder. Next, he used ordinary household chemicals, yeast and tap water to create a solution that would encourage microbe growth. To that, he added the plastic powder and dirt. Then the solution sat in a shaker at 30 degrees.
A chemical used in all kinds of plastic, including baby bottles and food containers, could be linked to a prostate and breast cancer, a preliminary government report has found.
The federal National Toxicology Program said yesterday that experiments on rats found precancerous prostate tumors, urinary system problems and early puberty when the animals were fed or injected with low doses of the chemical, bisphenol-A.
The latest draft significantly increased the chemical’s risk level from a bisphenol-A statement the government released last year.
“It’s an important step to have a federal agency acknowledge that it has concerns about bisphenol-A and breast cancer and prostate cancer,” said Pete Myers, chief scientist for Environmental Health Sciences, a nonprofit that raises awareness of chemical risks. “It’s a scary compound.”
LONDON, England (CNN) — New technology that can “see” through clothing and detect what’s underneath can now be used to scan crowds, making it a potentially effective tool to prevent terrorist attacks in public places.
The ThruVision T5000 camera picks up Terahertz rays, or T-rays, which are naturally emitted by all objects and can pass through fabric or even walls.
The camera can then image metallic and non-metallic objects hidden under clothing on still or moving subjects without revealing any body detail, according to its British manufacturer, ThruVision Limited.
While similar technology is being unveiled at airports around the world, the T5000 is designed to be used in large, open areas. With a range of 25 meters, the T5000 can screen people in public places, thus avoiding bottlenecks at border crossings or security checkpoints.
It also means people can be screened without knowing it.