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What A Week It Was: Apocadocuments from
View By Scenario:
Species Collapse:(1)
Plague/Virus:(3)
Climate Chaos:(8)
Resource Depletion: (4)
Biology Breach:(12)
Recovery:(6)
This Week's Top Ten Very Scary Tags:
contamination  ~ health impacts  ~ climate impacts  ~ toxic buildup  ~ anthropogenic change  ~ unintended consequences  ~ global warming  ~ invasive species  ~ antibiotic resistance  ~ efficiency increase  ~ ecosystem interrelationships  



ApocaDocuments (12) for the "Biology Breach" scenario from this week
[see full week] ~ [see full Biology Breach scenario and stories]
Sun, Apr 18, 2010
from Chicago Tribune:
Growing concern in the water
Despite growing health concerns about atrazine, an agricultural weedkiller sprayed on farm fields across the Midwest, most drinking water is tested for the chemical only four times a year -- so rarely that worrisome spikes of the chemical likely go undetected. High levels of the herbicide can linger in tap water during the growing season, according to more frequent tests in some agricultural communities. Spread heaviest on cornfields, atrazine is one of the most commonly detected contaminants in drinking water. Studies have found that exposure to small amounts of the chemical can turn male frogs into females and might be more harmful to humans than once thought. Manufacturers say their own research proves the chemical is safe. But alarmed by other studies, the Obama administration is conducting a broad review that could lead to tighter restrictions. It is also mulling changes in laws that require water utilities to test for atrazine just once a quarter or, in some cases, once a year. ...


Like I always say, trust the self-interested!

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Sun, Apr 18, 2010
from Yale 360:
As Pharmaceutical Use Soars, Drugs Taint Water and Wildlife
In recent years, scientists have detected trace amounts of more than 150 different human and veterinary medicines in environments as far afield as the Arctic. Eighty percent of the U.S.'s streams and nearly a quarter of the nation's groundwater sampled by the United States Geological Survey (USGS) has been found to be contaminated with a variety of medications.... Drugging our bodies inevitably drugs our environment, too, as many medications can pass through our bodies and waste treatment facilities virtually intact. And it is difficult to predict where and how unexpectedly vulnerable creatures may accrue potentially toxic doses.... A large body of evidence has connected this contamination with excess feminization in fish. In one study, U.S. and Canadian government scientists purposely contaminated an experimental lake in Ontario with around 5 nanograms per liter of ethynyl estradiol, and studied the effects on the lake's fathead minnow population, a common species that fish like lake trout and northern pike feed on.... Exposed to ethynyl estradiol, the male minnows' testicular development was arrested and they started making early-stage eggs instead. That year's mating season was disastrous. Within two years, the minnow population crashed. ...


Hey, the world is sick. We do what we always do: medicate.

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Sat, Apr 17, 2010
from Science:
Mercury surprise: Rice can be risky
Ask toxicologists how best to avoid mercury poisoning and they'll almost certainly advise against eating too much of the wrong types of fish. (Never mind that there's considerable confusion about what the wrong types are.) But a new study out of China shows that for millions of people at risk of eating toxic amounts of mercury-laced food, fish isn't the problem. Rice is. And that's bad news because in their part of the world rice is the dietary staple... the researchers report that although mercury exposures for these communities varied dramatically, in every one of them -- rice accounted for 94 to 96 percent of the probable daily intake of methylmercury -- the most neurotoxic and readily absorbed form of mercury. ...


And here we thought rice was nice.

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Fri, Apr 16, 2010
from CBC:
Atlantic plastic garbage patch found
The floating garbage -- hard to spot from the surface and spun together by a vortex of currents -- was documented by two groups of scientists who trawled the sea between scenic Bermuda and Portugal's mid-Atlantic Azores islands. The studies describe a soup of micro-particles similar to the so-called Great Pacific Garbage Patch, a phenomenon discovered a decade ago between Hawaii and California that researchers say is likely to exist in other places around the globe. "We found the great Atlantic garbage patch," said Anna Cummins, who collected plastic samples on a sailing voyage in February. The debris is harmful for fish, sea mammals -- and at the top of the food chain, potentially humans -- even though much of the plastic has broken into such tiny pieces they are nearly invisible. Since there is no realistic way of cleaning the oceans, advocates say the key is to keep more plastic out by raising awareness and, wherever possible, challenging a throwaway culture that uses non-biodegradable materials for disposable products. "Our job now is to let people know that plastic ocean pollution is a global problem -- it unfortunately is not confined to a single patch," Cummins said. ...


"Confined to a single patch"!

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Fri, Apr 16, 2010
from Reuters, via DesdemonaDespair:
World marine debris totals 10 million pieces in 1-day cleanup
More than 10 million pieces of trash were plucked from the world's waterways in a single day last year. But for Philippe Cousteau, the beach sandals that washed up in the Norwegian arctic symbolized the global nature of the problem of marine debris. "We saw flip-flops washing ashore on these islands in far northern Norway near the Arctic Circle," Cousteau, a conservationist and grandson of famed oceanographer Jacques Cousteau, said in a telephone interview.... "People don't wear flip-flops in the Arctic, at least not if they're sane," Cousteau said. "I think people are starting ... to realize that this is a global problem." ... Last year, 10,239,538 pieces of junk were retrieved from shorelines on one day, September 19, 2009, by about half a million volunteers in the conservancy's annual international coastal cleanup. This year's cleanup day is September 25. ... Nearly 20 percent of the items collected threaten public health, including bacteria-laden medical waste, appliances, cars and chemical drums, the report said. Some debris is a threat to marine animals, which can become tangled in dumped fishing nets and line or ingest floating plastic junk. ...


Unfortunately, "sanity" has not been demonstrated to be held in high regard.

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Thu, Apr 15, 2010
from USDA/Agricultural Research Service via ScienceDaily:
Geraniums Could Help Control Devastating Japanese Beetle
Geraniums may hold the key to controlling the devastating Japanese beetle, which feeds on nearly 300 plant species and costs the ornamental plant industry $450 million in damage each year, according to scientists with the Agricultural Research Service (ARS). The beetle, Popillia japonica Newman, can feast on a wide variety of plants, including ornamentals, soybean, maize, fruits and vegetables. But within 30 minutes of consuming geranium petals, the beetle rolls over on its back, its legs and antennae slowly twitch, and it remains paralyzed for several hours. The beetles typically recover within 24 hours when paralyzed under laboratory conditions, but they often succumb to death under field conditions after predators spot and devour the beetles while they are helpless. ...


Those must be Geronimo geraniums!

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Thu, Apr 15, 2010
from Environmental Health News:
BPA makes mice anxious, forgetful
Memory and anxiety behavior were affected in mice that were exposed to low levels of BPA as youngsters, adding more concrete evidence that early life exposure to the synthetic estrogen can alter brain function. Mice exposed to low levels of bisphenol A (BPA) during early development had impaired memory and altered levels of anxiety later in life, finds a study published in the journal Synapse. These behavioral effects could be related to the changes seen in certain regions of the rodents' brains that control cognition and impulsiveness. The results support a growing body of research that suggests exposure to BPA early in life alters brain development and affects behaviors in a number of ways. It also adds more evidence to concerns about exposure of humans to BPA during fetal development and infancy. The period of exposure in this study is similar to the third trimester and right after birth in people. ...


My god, that's terrible... wait. what... what was I talking about?

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Thu, Apr 15, 2010
from BBC:
China ship 'seriously damaged' Great Barrier Reef
The Australian authorities have said a Chinese bulk carrier which ran aground off Queensland has caused widespread damage to the famed Great Barrier Reef. The cleanup is likely to be the biggest operation ever undertaken there...The authorities are particularly worried about toxic paint that has been scraped off the hull - because it has immediately started killing off corals in the vicinity. ...


More reef grief.

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Wed, Apr 14, 2010
from NUVO Newsweekly:
Foul Farms
Barbara Sha Cox knows that there's nothing funny about leaking, underground gasoline tanks or abandoned, polluted industrial sites known as brownfields. The lifelong family farmer is part of a group of environmentalists that meets monthly with the Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM). And she is a regular at committee meetings of all kinds held by the General Assembly and other state agencies like IDEM. But she chuckles when considering how little state government has learned from the past. "I sit in those meetings, and I think, 'They're talking about all these underground tanks, the brownfields, and how they've got to deal with them and all the leakage,'" the retired nurse says. "I keep thinking, 'How can you not have the foresight to see that you have this huge environmental problem that you are not acknowledging?'"...just a few hundred yards away, looms a 7.2-acre manure lagoon that has lately drawn national media attention from publications as diverse as the Huffington Post and Wall Street Journal due to fears it could explode from methane gas buildup. ...


It might explode just from all this media attention!

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Tue, Apr 13, 2010
from USA Today:
'Growing concern' over marketing tainted beef
Beef containing harmful pesticides, veterinary antibiotics and heavy metals is being sold to the public because federal agencies have failed to set limits for the contaminants or adequately test for them, a federal audit finds. A program set up to test beef for chemical residues "is not accomplishing its mission of monitoring the food supply for ... dangerous substances, which has resulted in meat with these substances being distributed in commerce," says the audit by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Office of Inspector General. The health effects on people who eat such meat are a "growing concern," the audit adds. ...


A "growing concern" in more ways than one!

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Mon, Apr 12, 2010
from The Times of India:
Burnt e-waste raises health alarm for locals
The plastic scrap market in Mundka which caught fire early morning on Sunday was a big dumping ground for electronic waste items. Several tonnes of hazardous e-waste -- discarded television sets, computers, photocopying machines and inverter batteries -- were burnt in the fire, posing a serious health concern for people living in the vicinity. "Toxic metals like mercury, lead and cadmium -- which are present in electronic items -- are dangerous for health. Large scale burning of these materials can cause heavy damage to the lungs. It can precipitate respiratory problems like bronchitis and asthma," said Dr Bir Singh, head of the community medicine department of AIIMS. When e-waste burns in open air, said experts, highly toxic elements are emitted and these can cause respiratory problems and skin diseases not just among the workers but also residents who live close to the scrap yard. ...


We call that a good ol' fashioned conflagration.

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Mon, Apr 12, 2010
from Michigan Public Radio:
Invasive Species and PCBs
New University of Michigan research finds invasive species are accelerating PCBs up the food chain. Recent dredging of the Saginaw River was intended to remove PCB contaminated soil. U of M fishery biologist David Jude says tests indicate the dredging worked. But he says walleyes are showing signs of increased PCB contamination. Jude traces the problem to two invasive species, zebra mussels and round gobies. "Zebra mussels filter a liter of water a day. They are removing a large amount of the algae out of that water," says Jude, "and as a result of that they are picking up a lot higher concentration of PCBs. There are some really outrageous high concentrations of PCBs in zebra mussels in the Saginaw River." Jude says as other aquatic life eats the invasive mussels, the PCBs move up the food chain. ...


Can we just call it unintended bioremediation?

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