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Friday
Apr112014

7 Million Deaths Linked To Air Pollution In 2012 Says New Report By World Health Organization

The United Nations’ World Health Organization (WHO) just released a shocking report linking severe air pollution – both indoor and outdoor combined – to about seven million deaths across the globe in 2012.

“This finding more than doubles previous estimates and confirms that air pollution is now the world’s largest single environmental health risk,” said WHO.

In the case of outdoor air pollution, a report by the UN’s World Health Organization (WHO) estimated that “there were 3.7 million deaths in 2012 from urban and rural sources worldwide.” Photo courtesy of Clear The Air New Blog.

The health organization said that the new data shows “a strong link between both indoor and outdoor air pollution exposure and cardiovascular diseases, such as strokes and ischaemic (coronary) heart disease, as well as between air pollution and cancer.

“This is in addition to air pollution’s role in the development of respiratory diseases, including acute respiratory infections and chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases (COPD).” The estimates were based on WHO mortality data from 2012 associated with conditions related to exposure to air pollution.

Looking at indoor air pollution worldwide, the health organization estimated that indoor air pollution was linked to about 4.3 million deaths in 2012, which was related to “households cooking over coal, wood, and biomass stoves.”

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Wednesday
Apr022014

Buffalo To Reduce Lake Erie Pollution With Grant from the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has awarded the City of Buffalo, NY, a $500,000 grant from the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) that will be used in conjunction with another $500,000 in funding from Empire State Development to provide green infrastructure in an effort to minimize polluting stormwater runoff into Lake Erie.

Space view of the Great Lakes.

Empire State Development is New York State’s chief economic development agency that works to promote the growth of the state economy through loans, grants, tax credits, and other forms of financial assistance to projects and initiatives that will create business growth and job creation.

A major focus of this project will be building a green infrastructure along a one-mile stretch of Buffalo’s Niagara Street that’s part of the Great Lakes Seaway Trail and National Scenic Byway. This area currently accumulates untreated stormwater that drains directly into the Black Rock Navigation Channel and the Niagara River.

Northern waterfront of the Niagara River. Photo from Wikimedia.org.

The EPA says the project will include the installation of porous asphalt, stormwater planters, rain gardens, and the reduction of impervious pavements. The new project is expected to capture stormwater from about 15 acres along Niagara Street and result in the reduction of about 5 million gallons of stormwater runoff per year.

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Friday
Mar212014

Buffet Foundation Donates $23.7 Million to Combat Rhino Pouching in South African National Park

While pouching has always been a problem on the African continent, over the last several years the decimation of rhino populations in South Africa’s Kruger National Park have accelerated at a frightening rate, and conservation groups as well as investment institutions are stepping up efforts to help.

Protecting the African rhino. Photo courtesy of South Africa’s Kruger National Park.

SANParks (the South African National Parks system) reported last year a total of 1,004 rhinos were pouched in country, up from 668 pouched in 2012, and 448 pouched in 2011.

The rampant pouching is increasing, and the latest report from the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) found that, “This year alone, 172 rhinos have been poached since January with 113 of those occurring in the Kruger National Park.”

To add to the significance, “Kruger is currently home to over 40 percent of the world’s remaining 22,000 rhinos, the largest single population of rhinos in the world,” says SANParks.

In response to the worsening situation, authorities have continued stepping up their prevention efforts. SANParks reported that last year, the number of people arrested for rhino poaching-related offenses climbed to 343, with 133 of them in the Krugar National Park. Since the beginning of 2014, six alleged poachers have been arrested.

SANParks says that Kruger’s poaching problem is fueled mainly by illicit criminal networks in Mozambique, South Africa, and East Asia, but evidence suggests that armed groups elsewhere in Africa derive significant funding from poaching activities.”

Standard Bank of South Africa, which supports anti-pouching measures, explained that “wildlife crime is a source of funds for warlords and terrorist activity on the continent, and that, “Stopping wildlife crime therefore means a more secure life and economy for local people.”

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Wednesday
Feb262014

EPA Sued Over Pesticide In Pet Flea Collars Feared To Cause Neurological Damage In Kids

Image courtesy of veterinary.answers.com.

The Natural Resource Defense Council (NRDC) has filed a lawsuit this month against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency because the agency has failed, after years of petitions from the group, to remove two pesticides from pet flea collars – propoxur and tetrachlorvinphos (TCVP) – that are known to cause neurological and other problems in small animals, and are considered possible and probable human carcinogens.

Miriam Rotkin-Ellman, a scientist with the NRDC’s health and environment program, expressed on her blog that while the EPA has made progress “in that the majority of the most neurotoxic pesticides have been banned, or severely restricted, for use in the home – propoxur and TCVP in flea collars have been overlooked and continue to pose a serious health threat.

“In November of 2007 and April of 2009, we brought this oversight to the attention of the EPA and filed formal petitions seeking a ban on pet uses of the pesticides because of the risks to kids. Unfortunately, all these years later, EPA has still not responded to those petitions and we have to go to court to get action to protect families.”

All pesticides that are sold and distributed in the United States have to be registered and approved by the EPA. The agency has acknowledged the risks of the pesticides, and has sought public comments on the issue, but has yet to take any action in banning them in pet flea collar products.

The EPA classifies propoxur as a carbamate insecticide used to control ants, roaches, and hornets in and around residences and commercial food handling establishments. The formulations include aerosols, baits, dusts and powders, pest strips, shelf paper, ready-to-use solutions, and pet flea collars.

The EPA acknowledges that propoxur poses a “potential carcinogenic risk to pest control operators and the general public during indoor and outdoor applications, and risks to occupants of buildings treated with propoxur products.”

For occupational use, the agency requires that professional applicators use “personal protective clothing, including long-sleeve shirts, long pants, chemical resistant gloves, and shoes plus sox.” The EPA says it “believes that there are no other reasonable measures that could be imposed to further reduce risk.”

Another issue of concern that the agency acknowledges is that propoxur can persist in effectiveness for months when disseminated and can be mobile.

The irony here is that there are protective requirements for professional use, but open unrestricted exposure is allowed for homes via pet flea collars or other forms of dissemination. 

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Tuesday
Feb112014

Green Global Coalition Ties Two Schools For 2013 “Greenest School On Earth” Award

The Global Coalition For Green Schools has announced a tie of two winning schools – the Sing Yin Secondary School in Hong Kong, China, and the Waterbank School at Uaso Nyiro Primary in Laikipia, Kenya – for the 2013 Greenest School on Earth Award.

The coalition is an initiative of the Center for Green Schools at the U.S. Green Building Council, and the award was announced at the World Green Building Council Annual Congress.

The Sing Yin Secondary School in Hong Kong, China.

The Center for Green Schools said that the award’s goal is to “highlight a K-12 school that exemplifies how sustainability can be integrally woven into the infrastructure, culture, and curriculum of a school.”

The schools submitted for the award were evaluated for criteria, including: the efficient use of resources and reduced environmental impact; the enhanced quality of health and learning for students, teachers, and staff; and the emphasis on sustainability and resource-conservation education.

Rick Fedrizzi, president, CEO, and founding chair of the U.S. Green Building Council, said during the announcement that the aim of the award is “to showcase a school’s commitment to sustainability.

“But when we sat down to review this year’s submissions, we felt that we had two schools whose environmental efforts, though very different, were extraordinary in both execution and achievement.”

The two winning schools were each awarded $5,000 to put toward a new or ongoing sustainability project.

The Sing Yin Secondary School in Hong Kong, China

An impressive aspect of the Sing Yin school is that while it serves largely low-income students, the school also boasts an organic farm, two green roofs, a bamboo corner, and an aquarium. Most of the classrooms are equipped with thin-film solar panels or sun-shading devices, as well as other technologies including: advanced LED lighting, light sensors, and motion sensors.

In addition, the school says that it recruits about 100 students every year to serve as environmental monitors, prefects, and ambassadors. Notably in 2012, within the community, the students organized a “Green School, Green Family” campaign, in which they and their families had to conduct energy saving activities to lower household electricity use.

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