Articles Posted in Science

IMG_0197-300x200Large agricultural nations, including the EU, China, and Brazil, are becoming more and more inclined to ban pesticides that pose a threat to humans and the environment, while the US maintains approval for many of the same products.

A new report published on BMC identified 500 pesticides and analyzed their approval status across the largest agricultural nations. The study found that several of the pesticides approved for use in the United States are currently banned or in the process of being banned by the EU, China, and Brazil.

The report notes that in 2016 alone, the United States used 322 million pounds of pesticides that have been banned in the EU, 26 million pounds of pesticides banned in Brazil, and 40 million pounds of pesticides banned in China. Across all agricultural nations, the EU takes the lead in the number of pesticides that have been banned, meanwhile the United States offers the worst performance in terms of pesticide regulation.

IMG_0186-300x225According to a new report published in the Environmental Science & Technology journal, Americans ingest between 74,000 to 121,000 microplastic particles each year. However, researchers estimated that these numbers are likely much higher as some forms of microplastics are harder to track. But how does plastic end up in the air we breathe?

Microplastics can make their way into the air in a variety of ways. These small particles typically start out as larger plastic pieces, however eventually break down and become invisible to the human eye. From there they can float through the air and are easily inhaled. Microplastics can also be consumed by landing on food or being ingested by the animals that we eat.

According to the study, substantial data was collected from seafood, beer, water, air, and added sugars, where microplastics were commonly found. However, beef, poultry, vegetables, and grains were found to be free of plastic particles. The highest concentration of microplastics was found in bottled water, air, and seafood. However, researchers of the study note that only a small number of foods were tested, meaning the concentrations of plastic in other types of food that we consume is still unknown.

IMG_0066-300x200In total, the Arctic is home to more than 60 untapped natural gas fields with 43 locations falling inside Russian territory. Consequently, Russia has already set to dominate this area and its resources, building the Yamal LNG plant which cost over $27 billion to develop. New vessels valued at hundreds of millions of dollars each have also been developed specifically to travel the Arctic with greater ease. Once drilling and mining commence, this massive plant will be capable of transporting 18 million tons of natural gas out of the Arctic each year. In total, the Arctic represents 22% of all undiscovered oil and natural gas in the world.

While this represents significant value and power for Russia, its effect on the Nenet people could be devastating. With the reindeer population of the Arctic already threatened by rising temperatures, the industrialization of this land adds an even greater threat.

Previously we published an article detailing Russia’s strategy to dominate the untapped natural gas resources of the Arctic, where we briefly discussed its effect on the Nenet people of this land. Today, we are writing to further explain the struggles of the Nenets as their land becomes a haven for new drilling and mining projects in an effort to gain control over a majority of the world’s natural gas fields.

VW-300x200Six years ago engineer Hemanth Kappanna stumbled upon Volkswagen’s diesel emission fraud, which later resulted in the car manufacturer paying a total of $33 billion to settle the charges. Kappanna eventually secured himself a position with G.M. which involved regular communication with the Environmental Protection Agency, but was let go from the company this year during an unexpected round of layoffs. Unable to find a new position within 60-days, Kappanna had to return to India after having lived in the United States for 17 years for his work and research.

Originally, Kappanna was pursuing his doctorate at West Virginia University when he received the opportunity to develop a proposal for a grant for his department of studies. The proposal he helped create involved testing the emissions of German cars equipped with diesel engines. At the time, testing the actual emission results from a moving vehicle was difficult. However, Kappanna and his team invented an innovative and accurate method to gather information about the emissions. It quickly became apparent that the emissions boasted by the German manufacturer, Volkswagen, were very inaccurate.

It was later discovered that Volkswagen had developed a software designed to falsify the results of their emissions, making them appear more favorable than they actually were. However, the real results were not even deemed passable based on environmental standards. Since emissions were not typically tested in real-time, Volkswagen likely never expected their software to be discovered. However, the company eventually admitted to the fraud and investigators later found that 11 million vehicles had been equipped with this software, including 600,000 which were sold in the United States.

false certifications An investigation by the U.S. Space Agency found that a metals manufacturer had provided hardware to Nasa backed by fraudulent test results. These materials eventually resulted in a loss of over $700 million, as well as multiple failed satellite launches. The company involved in the fraudulent materials scheme was an Oregon based company called Sapa Profiles Inc., which according to the investigation has falsified thousands of parts certifications throughout its nearly 20 years in business.

According to NASA, the faulty parts were used to surround a rocket named the Taurus XL, which was designed to deliver years of satellite research regarding the Earth’s climate. However, with the uncertified parts installed, the rocket was not able to break out of its encasement properly during launch. This effectively destroyed the project and resulted in several years of work and funding put to waste.

When testing results are altered and certifications are provided falsely, missions fail,” stated the director of launch services for NASA, Jim Norman. However, the Taurus XL was not the only equipment ruined by the faulty hardware provided by Sapa Profiles Inc.

sunscreen-chemicals-300x169According to a new study published by the JAMA Network, many of the chemicals found in sunscreen are absorbed into the bloodstream after just one day of use. The study also found that the concentration of these chemicals in the bloodstream continued to rise with each day of use. The bloodstream was found to be clear of these ingredients after a full twenty-four hours of discontinued use of the sunscreen.

The chemicals that were found to be absorbed into the bloodstream were identified as avobenzone, oxybenzone, ecamsule, and octocrylene, which are all compounds that the FDA has stated require further testing and research to verify their safety. However, even with these questionable compounds being absorbed at high levels into the bloodstream, experts state that individuals should still continue to use sunscreen regularly.

While the FDA and other researchers have confirmed the need to perform further tests on the ingredients found in most sunscreens, the complications that can arise from avoiding sunscreen use can be deadly. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, skin cancer is diagnosed among Americans more than every type of cancer combined. As one of the most common types of cancers, melanoma should still be actively prevented despite the possible complications of sunscreen.

cancer-research-300x199At the MD Anderson Cancer Center, a number of senior researchers were found violating the rules of the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH). Three researchers have already been terminated for disclosing confidential information and withholding information involving their foreign connections.

This case was part of an effort the NIH launched in order to address the U.S. government’s concern in foreign nations attempting to gain insight into intellectual property and take unfair advantage of federally funded research. This investigation has promoted over 55 institution investigations, but the MD Anderson case was the first to have led to inquires serious enough to evoke termination. While three of the scientists at MD Anderson were terminated, one is still under investigation, and a fifth is free of termination.

MD Anderson Cancer Center was given $148 million in NIH funding in the year 2018 in order to support their research. The center must adhere to all NIH rules in order to maintain funding.

Princess-Cruise-Lines-300x156Princess Cruise Lines Ltd., a subsidiary of Carnival Corporation, may be prevented from docking ships stationed at U.S. ports following accusations by the federal government regarding its violation of probation agreements after disposing of plastic waste into the ocean.

In 2016, Carnival Corp. was accused of illegally disposing of oil-contaminated waste into the ocean from one of their Princess Cruise Lines ships and then covering it up from authorities. Carnival Corp. eventually plead guilty to seven charges of illegal dumping from the ship and agreed to pay a $40 million settlement fee. However, the penalty also required that the company follow a comprehensive environmental compliance program which would be court-supervised for a total of five years. The agreement included a court-appointed program supervisor, as well as regular audits, for a total of eight Carnival-owned companies.

However, during its probationary period, Carnival Corp. and the cruise ships associated with the company and its subsidiaries failed to follow environmental protocols by repeatedly disposing of plastic waste into the ocean. Carnival Corp. was also accused of organizing a pre-audit program created to hide incriminating information prior to its court-scheduled audits.

drug-resistant-fungus-300x228According to the Centers for Disease Control, a multidrug-resistant fungus, Candida auris, is beginning to spread in numerous countries, including the United States where a total of 617 cases have already been reported. Of these cases, 309 have been reported in New York, while Illinois and New Jersey have also reported high numbers and more cases are currently present in nine other states. However, this is not the first time the C. auris fungus has emerged. Symptoms might not be noticeable because patients infected with C. auris are often already sick in the hospital with another serious illness or condition. The symptoms of C. auris infection depend on the body part that is affected. For bloodstream infections, the most common symptoms are fever and chills.

The very first case of the C. auris fungus was discovered in 2009, upon testing of the ear discharge of a patient in Japan. At the time, there were very few reports of the fungus, however throughout 2018 and 2019 such reports are on the rise. Currently, cases of C. auris have also been reported in South America, South Africa, and Asia. It is likely that the fungus was introduced to the United States when a patient or multiple patients received healthcare from an area where the pathogen has already spread and then returned to the United States.

But, what exactly is the fungus and how dangerous is it? One of the major concerns of the C. auris fungus is that it is difficult to diagnose and seemingly impossible to treat given its resistance to multiple antibiotics. This resilient fungus can be spread through contact with a person exposed with fungus or even through objects where the pathogen has colonized. Patients infected with C. auris have been reported to suffer from severe bloodstream and wound infections, as well as ear infections.