Study: Pollinator decline poses huge human health risks

A honeybee gathers pollen on a wildflower in Austria.

A honeybee gathers pollen on a wildflower in Austria.

New study links decline of bees with malnutrition, especially in developing countries

Staff Report

FRISCO — Declines of crucial crop pollinators like bees is likely to put huge numbers of people in developing countries at risk for malnutrition, according to a new study that bolsters links between ecosystem stability and human health.

The research by scientists at the University of Vermont and Harvard University tested the claim that pollinators are crucial for human nutritional health by connecting what people actually eat in four developing countries to the pollination requirements of the crops that provide their food and nutrients. Continue reading

Study links Ebola outbreak to fruit bats

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A CDC map shows infection levels in West Africa.

Children’s play area near bat colony eyed as possible source of infection

Staff Report

FRISCO — A research team suspects that the recent West African Ebola outbreak may have started  from contact between humans and virus-infected bats, perhaps as children played near a  large colony of free-tailed insectivorous bats housed in a hollow tree near the village where the outbreak started.

In a study published this week in the journal EMBO Molecular Medicine, the scientists said that may have resulted in ” a massive exposure to bats.” Continue reading

Environment: Study finds air pollution-autism links

New environmental justice deal signifies progress, experts say.

Exposure to fine particulate air pollution during late pregnancy increases risk of autism.

Findings could open the door for preventive measures

Staff Report

FRISCO — Harvard public health researchers say evidence is growing that exposure to high levels of air pollution during pregnancy may double the risk of having a child with autism. The study was the first to explore the link between airborne particulate matter and autism. Continue reading

Air pollution: There is no ‘safe’ level

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New York smog and ozone.

Outdoor air pollution causes 3.7 million deaths each year

Staff Report

FRISCO — A new study by an Australian researcher underscores the fact that, when it comes to air pollution, there are no safe levels.

The research by Adrian Barnett, of the Queensland University of Technology, shows that the Australian government’s standards for key outdoor air pollutants are misleading, as many authorities wrongly assume them to be ‘safe’ thresholds for health.

But Barnett’s modeling shows that, if levels of those pollutants were all to rise to just below the government-set limit, it would result in 6,000 additional deaths and more then 20,000 hospital visits. Continue reading

Study: There’s huge potential for increased food production on existing land

The recent wheat crisis in Russia is a warning sign for potential large-scale global warming impacts. PHOTO COURTESY THE WIKIMEIDA COMMONS.

The recent wheat crisis in Russia is a warning sign for potential large-scale global warming impacts. PHOTO COURTESY THE WIKIMEIDA COMMONS.

Tweaking farm practices could also reduce greenhouse gas emissions associated with agriculture

FRISCO — A systematic University of Minnesota study of global agricultural resources suggest that improving food systems in a few specific regions could make it possible to both meet the basic needs of 3 billion more people and decrease agriculture’s environmental footprint.

The report, published in Science, focuses on 17 key crops that produce 86 percent of the world’s crop calories and account for most irrigation and fertilizer consumption on a global scale. It proposes a set of key actions in three broad areas that that have the greatest potential for reducing the adverse environmental impacts of agriculture and boosting our ability meet global food needs. Continue reading

Study: Fracking brew blocks basic body chemistry

Human thyroid functions at risk in exposure to fracking fluids

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The United States of fracking?

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By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Exposure to the semi-secret brew of chemicals used for fracking blocks hormone receptors and interferes with other other functions that regulate basic body chemistry, scientists said this week, announcing the results of a study that identifies specific health outcomes related to the poisons.

Previous research has described the impact of endocrine-disrupting toxins to reproductive hormones. In the new study, the biologists found that fracking chemicals also disrupt glucocorticoid and thyroid hormone receptors. Continue reading

Study: CO2 buildup could affect food quality

Wheat field in Upper Austria

A wheat field in Upper Austria ripens under a summer sun. bberwyn photo.

Protein levels in key grains could decline by 3 percent

Staff Report

FRISCO — Along with cutting yields of some key crops, increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide is also expected to affect the nutritional quality of food crops. Field tests by UC Davis scientists show that elevated levels of carbon dioxide make it harder for some plants to convert nitrogen into proteins.

“Food quality is declining under the rising levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide that we are experiencing,” said lead author Arnold Bloom, a professor in the Department of Plant Sciences at UC Davis. “Several explanations for this decline have been put forward, but this is the first study to demonstrate that elevated carbon dioxide inhibits the conversion of nitrate into protein in a field-grown crop,” Bloom said. Continue reading

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