How air pollutants hurt wheat

Air pollutants like ozone can cause damage to plants. Wheat currently provides 20% of dietary protein and caloric intake for the world’s growing population. A recent analysis led by Gina Mills and scientists from across the globe reports that increased levels of ozone will decrease global production of wheat by 85 million tons. Furthermore, the negative effects of ozone may counteract the positive effects of irrigation in wheat fields.

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Why coastal flood maps are wrong: the tale of compound hazards

Coastal flooding is expected to increase in frequency due to future sea level rise and more extreme weather, but most coastal flood hazards maps do not portray the increase risk. We dive deeper into how these maps are made and uncover why the current flood hazard maps may be misleading.

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The science behind the pesticide that was almost banned

Last year, there was considerable news coverage on the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) decision to not ban chlorpyrifos, a pesticide which is believed to cause negative effects on brain development in children. While a lot of the media coverage focused on the nature of the decision, little was reported on the science itself. Thus, I have summarized below EPA’s assessment on the health effects of the pesticide on humans.

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It’s getting hotter in here: outlining strategies for protecting public health during heat waves

Heat waves, or prolonged periods of abnormally warm temperatures, have become increasingly common throughout the globe as a result of climate change. Since heat waves pose a risk to public health they have become a growing concern, particularly in urban environments. A recent analysis led by Gertrud Hatvani-Kovacs at the University of South Australia, outlines strategies for protecting public health during heat waves and mitigating the impacts of heat waves by instituting new policies. Among the suggestions of Hatvani-Kovacs and her colleagues are increasing the dissemination of information to the public regarding heat waves, providing guidelines for heat stress resistant building design, building public cool spaces, and introducing tariffs on water and electricity usage during peak demand.

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Drug resistance in one of the remote regions of the world

Drug resistance is a common problem due to the human activities. Indiscriminate use of antibiotics has resulted in the development of resistance in disease-causing bacteria (microorganisms) found in soil. But, scientists have also found this resistance even in the soil from remote regions far away from human influence.

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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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