Please romaine calm- there might be cancer-causing compounds in your lettuce

Washing fruits and vegetables before eating is standard practice- a good scrub removes dirt as well as bacteria that can make us sick. However, there’s more to this story- researchers at Georgia Tech found cancer-causing compounds inside the produce, as a result of industrial washing. In a recently published paper, they took the first step, looking at the leftover water used to wash the produce. Chlorinated wash water plays an important role in making sure produce is safe to eat, by eliminating harmful bacteria, but at what cost?

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The Fate of Our Microplastics

Microplastics, or plastics smaller than a sesame seed, have become a growing concern for marine environments. A majority of facial cleaners contain microplastics, such as microbeads or micro exfoliates, which get washed down the sink drain and end up in our oceans. A research team in Auckland, New Zealand investigated four local brands, and determined all four brands contained about 150 microplastics per 1.5 grams of cleanser. Most were around the size of a grain of sand, and some were irregularly shaped and susceptible to breaking down into smaller pieces. The apprehension of these findings is that small plastic particles could be confused for food by microscopic marine life, and the plastic could accumulate up the food chain and harm marine life. Furthermore, microplastics can also accumulate chemical toxins in the ocean, and their environmentally persistent nature allows for them to become more toxic as they age. Therefore, simple measures such as using organic facial cleansers, and becoming more aware of our daily habits and products use, are essential to reducing ocean pollution.

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Climate and Vector-Borne Diseases – The Clock is ‘Tick’ing

Bloodsucking, disease-spreading creatures are spreading throughout the United States. This is not a horror movie plot, but a real description of the rapid spread of ticks over the last few years. Thanks largely to warmer winters brought about by climate change, ticks are now common in areas they didn’t exist in just a few years ago. More importantly, many diseases spread by these ticks are now being seen in these areas for the first time. This is a looming public health catastrophe.

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It’s a nutrient, it’s a deicer, it’s polluting our environment.

Winter is over… Or at least according to the calendar. Yet, this morning I awoke to flurries in Cambridge, Massachusetts. These flurries turned into full-fledged snowfall by the time I got to work. Really? It’s April 2nd. The good thing is that hopefully the city will not see the need to salt the roads heavily because it should be warm enough to prevent ice patches from forming.

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Wineries: don’t waste the wastewater

The recycling of wastewater at large-scale production facilities such as wineries is considered by some to be a sustainable and innovative response to the harsh climate and water shortages many areas are currently facing. However, the question of what impact this wastewater will have on both the facilities and the surrounding environment is still up for debate. Recent research has investigated the effect that irrigating vineyards with wastewater has on the crops, the soil, and the wine produced by several wineries in California.

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Sweet Science: Artificial sweeteners can help track septic effluent

Some homes treat waste onsite using what is called a septic system. These systems release treated water (effluent) into the ground where it eventually combines with natural groundwater. Septic effluent is a concern because it could contaminate groundwater that is used as drinking water. As a result, researchers have been searching for ways to track septic effluent in groundwater. The scientists in this study examined whether artificial sweeteners could do the trick.

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A Hazy Outlook over the North China Plain

Beijing, the cultural and political capital of China, is home to a massive population of almost 25 million people has long been known for its air pollution. A team of scientists at Peking University in Beijing looked at the chemistry of the city’s haze and found something surprising: the inorganic mass fraction, normally dependent on only human activities, increased with increasing relative humidity. That’s right: how bad anthropogenic emissions actually are depends on the weather. Exploring this trend will help us to understand how haze forms, which could help Beijing and other major cities to manage their air pollution problems more effectively.

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