Thursday, February 24, 2005

Perchlorate (rocket fuel) widely found in breast milk & cow milk in US

It's a brave new world, isn't it? By which I mean, we who live here at this time must be brave to do so. There's random dangers everywhere what with all the chemicals and whatnot that go into creating the plastics and other materials used in everything we use and buy in the stores. Perchlorate is one of these things, a danger that's been growing in significance in recent years.

Perchlorate found in breast milk across US

(16:30 23 February 2005; news service; Maggie McKee)

... [Perchlorate] may disrupt metabolism in adults and lead to mental retardation in children.

Perchlorate is a component of fuel for rockets and missiles and also appears to be made naturally in the atmosphere and stored in the soil. It is widely found in the US water supply and has previously been detected in samples of dairy milk and lettuce.

This New Scientist article discusses a study performed across the U.S., in 23 states. Scary, but exactly what is the danger?

Perchlorate knocks an iodine ion off a protein that transports the ion to the thyroid. That can lead to iodine deficiency, which impairs thyroid development and is thought to be the main cause of mental retardation in young children, says Dasgupta.

Yup, scary

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

C|NET News: Gauging the health of the oceans

Gauging the health of the oceans (Published: February 16, 2005, 5:33 AM PST, By Michael Kanellos, Staff Writer, CNET

A mathematical technique for using satellite images to gauge the growth rate and mass of the ocean's phytoplankton, or plant plankton, could help scientists more fully understand the food cycles of the oceans, as well as global climate change, researchers say.

The new approach--devised by researchers with NASA; the University of California, Santa Barbara; and other institutions--involves studying the "greenness" and brightness of phytoplankton from satellite images. Computers take the data from the images, and then try to mathematically determine the levels of phytoplankton and the rate of reproduction taking place.

You may recall from high school biology that plankton are the bottom of the food chain. Thus the overall health of us depends on the presence of plankton in the ocean, and anything that restricts their presence will eventually come to bite us in the ass.

NYTimes: Pollution Is Linked to Fetal Harm

A year ago I read a book, Having Faith, written by an Ecologist who became pregnant and realized she had become an ecosystem herself. She decided to study herself and her pregnancy from an ecological viewpoint concerning the inner ecosystem occurring within her womb. The sole occupant of that ecosystem? Her child, later to be named Faith

The book details studies from around the world showing effects of pollution in the environment, how various pollutants can cross the blood barrier and enter the womb. The blood barrier is part of the fetal sack, and is supposed to protect the fetus from poisions or diseases through ensuring that only certain things cross from the mothers blood system to the fetus.

However, humans with their ingenuity have come up with whole ranges of chemicals that can cross that barrier. The evolutionary process that created our bodies took millions of years, and the hundred or so years of modern technological might happened much too quickly for evolution to create better filtering techniques. Hence, our biology doesn't know how to reject the environmental pollution plaguing us.

Pollution Is Linked to Fetal Harm (By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS; Published: February 16, 2005; NYTIMES.COM) This article details one study performed at Columbia University in New York City. It centered on non-smoking pregnant women and their children, and showed an increase in persistent genetic abnormalities. The women lived primarily in Harlem and The Bronx.

"We already knew that air pollutants significantly reduced fetal growth, but this is the first time we've seen evidence that they can change chromosomes in utero," Dr. Perera said, adding that the kind of genetic changes that occurred had been linked in other studies to increased risk of cancer.
- said the study's senior author, Dr. Frederica P. Perera, director of the Columbia Center for Children's Environmental Health.

I ask every reader of this article to look at the stickers on the gasoline pump the next time you fill up. Ever see the one that warns that the product sold through that pump is known to cause cancer and other serious diseases?

I also invite you to visit my electric vehicles content for information on non-polluting vehicles. Electric vehicles are the only way to have the vehicles be zero pollution, though the electricity does come from somewhere and the actual pollution effect depends on the electrical power plant in your area. Note that a hydrogen fuel-cell powered vehicle is, in the end, an electric vehicle, it's just using a hydrogen tank to store the power rather than a battery pack. Also, the hybrid vehicles that are all the rage right now, are not much of a solution, since every electron driving the electric half of the car comes from gasoline.

Monday, February 7, 2005

End of life automobile recycling

What happens to your car when it's done, finished, and no longer in the world? Does it just go into a landfill? What about all the valuable materials in the car?

The first step is a junk yard where any salvageable parts are removed. My father used to own a junk yard, and once enough parts were removed the bulk of the car was sent to a scrap yard. At the scrap yard the cars were crushed and melted for their metal.

But what about all the plastics and foams and cloths and whatnot in modern cars? What happens to them?

Agreement Will Reduce Auto Shredder Waste in Europe
: An agreement between Argonne National Labs and a company in Belgium to set up a plant that can process and recycle the mix of foams and plastics that would otherwise be "scrap" left over from shredding automobiles. Yup, this has the hallmarks of yet another technology invented in America but capitalized upon by foreigners. All because our government leaders have their hands so deeply in Industry's hands that they can't do the right thing.

Argonne and Industry to Tackle End-of-Life Vehicle Recycling
: Well, there is hope. This news release talks of cooperation with U.S. industry. And since it is cost effective maybe it will actually be deployed. Here's hoping ;-)

Vehicle Recycling Partnership Plant
: That's because Argonne has this facility for automobile recycling. Presumably it's a pilot plant and they don't mean to operate it commercially.

This page:

Recovering Usable Plastics from Automotive Scrap
on Argonne's site has more details. The Environment

The DidYouKnow site was launched for the 2004 election year, with this idea:

Over the past few years, we've noticed that while a lot of important decisions have been made in Washington about our country and its future, those decisions have been getting drowned out in the media by Chandra and Kobe and sharks and mad cow and orange alerts.

And that's just not healthy for our Republic.

So, because there's so much at stake for our country in this election year, we've compiled important facts that we think every voting American should know before marking their ballot on November 2.

How quaint that they believe the distractive use of the media is anything new. Maybe they believe that under prior administrations the people were better informed? Hah!

In any case, they have done an excellent job with putting together a list of head-turning facts.