10 posts categorized "Science"

March 30, 2011

Turtle Found that Pooped Plastic for a Month

Mother Nature Network 3.30.11

Main_turtle_16 One of the more disturbing effects of our over-indulgence and reliance on use-and-toss disposables rests in the significant health risks it poses to animals via marine pollution. Of the issues being discussed this week at the Fifth International Marine Debris Conference in Honolulu, Hawaii, one report that has experts talking is the appalling story of a sea turtle that ingested a large piece of plastic that became lodged in its gastrointestinal tract, preventing the turtle from normal digestion. After researchers dislodged the shard of plastic, the animal proceeded to defecate 74 foreign objects over the next month!

According to the report, which was issued by Seaturtle.org's Marine Turtle Newsletter (pdf), about half of all surveyed sea turtles have ingested plastic. 

See what shocking items this turtle ingested by reading the full article here. To access advice and follow conference events, visit the group's website here.
Image: Mnn.com

March 22, 2011

Japan's Wind Turbines Provide Power After Disaster

Treehugger.com 3.18.11

20110318-japan-wind-turbine Since last week, the scale of destruction caused by the Japanese trifecta disaster of earthquake-tsunami-nuclear power plant crisis, and the unfortunate casualties, has captivated individuals worldwide. As Japan struggles to recooperate, they're relying on a familiar, green power source.

Japan's wind turbines are currently producing 175 MW of Japan's approximate total wind capacity of 275 MW, according to the Huffington Post as reported by Kelly Rigg. Operators are being asked to increase operations where possible to assist with electricity shortfalls, and while shares in the Tokyo stock market have fallen during the crisis, the stock price of Japan Wind Development Co. Ltd. has risen from 31,500 yen on 11 March to 47,800 yen on 16 March, according to the Huffington Post.

To read the full article, click here

Image: Treehugger.com

 

March 15, 2011

TED talk: Using Nature's Genius in Architecture

TED.com 02.11

How can architects fuel sustainable architecture and eliminate raw materials? Peering into the beautiful, organic world of molecular plant structures and insect biology, developers are looking at nature for answers. At TEDSalon in London, Michael Pawlyn illustrates how biomimicry could potentially revolutionize the way humans develop and sustain resources.

This extraordinary science and art of emulating nature's complex biological systems to solve human issues involves three habits of nature: radical resource efficiency, closed loops, and drawing energy from the sun. Take a look at why Pawlyn suggests that adopting these habits is not only possible, but critical if we are to encourage sustainable design.

 

December 07, 2010

BPA exposure may lead to pregnancy difficulties

Mouse-science-diabetes Discovery 12.2.10

A study published this month in Environmental Health Perspectives focuses on the affect endocrine-disrupting chemical(and popular water bottle/receipt additive) Bisphenol-A has on the reproductive abilities of mammals over the course of their lifetime. While the study focused on mice, researchers believe the results may lead to further concern for humans in contact with the ubiquitous substance.

The study involved allowing a selection of female mice to become pregnant. At that point, the pregnant mice were separated and given BPA-containing solutions. The concentration of BPA in these solutions ranged from miniscule amounts to a mouse-sized version of the human dose. A control group was given none.

These different groups of mice were then allowed to continue breeding throughout their lifespan to see how the amount of BPA would affect their ability to breed.

Within four months, litters of those given the BPA solution had shrank by 25%, and the frequency of pregnancies was also notably lower.

Read more about it at Discovery.

November 19, 2010

Another good reason to wash your hands...

Serving-hands Science News 12.4.10

French scientists recently published three alarming new studies on how Bisphenol-A enters the human body.

Their research supports the idea that BPA can pass through the skin with relative ease. One study focused on about 400 pregnant Cincinnati residents, and found that those with the highest levels of BPA worked as cashiers. Cashiers handle receipts, and many receipts that do not use ink to print contain BPA.

In order to confirm this, the researchers took several live skin samples from pig and human subjects, and then brushed the dry skin samples with varying amounts of BPA. Three days later, more than half of the endocrine-disrupting chemical had been absorbed.

Read more on the study at Science News.

TED talk: Are mushrooms the new plastic?

TED.com 10.4.10

In July, Eben Bayer gave a speech at an Oxford TED conference detailing how his company turns agricultural waste into truly biodegradable packing material. How biodegradable? It's literally grown from a fungus.

Polystyrene (or styrofoam, as many know it) is commonly used to pack delicate hardware and breakables for shipping; When it degrades in nature, it releases carcinogens. If adopted for widespread use, Bayer's packing material could reduce the production and disposal of polystyrene immensely.

 

October 14, 2010

The Great Atlantic Garbage Patch

WHOI 8.20.2010

Scientists with the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and the Sea Education Association have been collecting data concerning the presence of plastic in the Atlantic Ocean for several decades. They've recently published a pair of studies analyzing the data. Here are a few highlights from the writeup in Oceanus:

Assessing 22 years of data collected by SEA ships ... researchers found that more than 60 percent of the tows contained detectable plastic debris. Average densities rivaled those reported from the “Great Pacific Garbage Patch,” ranging from 1,400 pieces per square kilometer in the Caribbean to more than 20,000 pieces per square kilometer in the Sargasso Sea.

Yes, you read that right. Average density of plastic debris in large areas of the Atlantic "rivaled" the Pacific Garbage Patch. If that's not scary enough, it shattered the Pacific Patch's record in other areas.

...the highest value recorded during the 22-year period was 580,000 pieces per square kilometer at 24.6°N east of the Bahamas. The region, where 83 percent of all the plastic debris was collected, is known as the North Atlantic subtropical gyre, a part of the ocean bounded by a series of wind-driven currents, such as the Gulf Stream, that collectively flow clockwise around the subtropical North Atlantic.

In areas of the North Atlantic, we've recorded plastic present at 30 times the amount of the now-legendary Pacific Patch.

Additionally the research has lead SEA and WHOI to a few answers and a number of intriguing new questions; If PET plastic bottles litter our beaches and continue to make their way into the ocean, why have we found almost no trace of them in the oceanic samples?

Learn more by reading the complete Oceanus article here.

September 21, 2010

A Safe New Way to Dispose of BPA

White-rot-fungus-1 Scientific American 5.10.2010

A new strategy for disposing of plastic containing the pollutant Bisphenol-A was recently published in the journal Biomacromolecules.

Researchers experimenting with fungus already used for bioremediation pre-treated plastic with ultraviolet light and heat. They buried the treated plastic and used untreated plastic as a control group, exposing both to a variety of microorganisms already used for bioremediation (cleaning up polluted sites by way of intentional exposure to certain life forms--fungus in this case).

One year later the control plastic remained untouched, while the treated plastic had been completely broken down by the microorganisms, leaving no trace of the endocrine disruptor.

Check out the abstract in Biomacromolecules or the Scientific American Podcast that brought it to our attention.

BPA Wiping Out Lobster Population

Lobster-die-offs Treehugger 8.11.10

Scientists at the University of Connecticut recently linked a major decline in the population of lobsters native to the New York coast with a rise in a few pollutants, including bisphenol A(BPA) from plastic waste.

The three-year, $3 million dollar study claims that a specific group of pollutants are working as endocrine disruptors. This lengthens the maturing lobsters' molting cycle, leaving them without chitinous armor for weeks at a time. This further results in deformities, increased susceptibility to disease, and in many cases, death. The coastal lobster population has declined 85% in the last twelve years.

Read the whole article here.

Our Take: Most of us have heard about BPA leaching from some plastic bottles. This article just offers further cause for worry. This data confirms the no-brainer advice we've been giving for years - avoid BPA as much as possible. And remember, it's not just plastics that pose a risk. Cans are another important source of BPA

Catastrophes like this come from decades of mindless waste and pollution. Buy high-quality reusables; they won't wind up floating in the ocean and they don't contain toxins like BPA to begin with.

Greener Polycarbonate Production

BPAfreeBottles Researchers from the Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology in Singapore have developed a new method of polycarbonate production that could be used to manufacture BPA-free bottles in the near future.

The bottles would be non-toxic and leach-free, plus the production method would literally take greenhouse gasses out of the air and use them as ingredients to create the bottles. The new polycarbonate can contain 40% C02 by volume. Read the full article here.

Our Take: While this new technology is only in its infancy, the adoption of such green-friendly practices by companies such as Eastman-Tritan(link to Eastman Tritan FAQ) would mark notable progress to reducing our carbon footprint, and another reason to feel good about using a high-quality reusable bottle.