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

Environment: Colorado Supreme Court OKs GMO food labeling ballot initiative

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Decision clears way for statewide petition drive

Staff Report

FRISCO — Coloradans will likely have a chance to vote on new labeling requirements for genetically modified foods in November, after the Colorado Supreme Court this week rejected a challenge to the proposed ballot initiative.

The court’s decision will enable backers to start gathering the signatures needed to add the measure to the ballot.

“We are pleased that the state Supreme Court ruled in favor of the GMO labeling ballot title, and we look forward to bringing a GMO labeling initiative before the voters of Colorado this fall,” said Right to Know Colorado organizer Larry Cooper. Continue reading

Travel: National Parks boost healthy, sustainable food

The cafeteria at Muir Woods National Monument in California showcases organic, locally produced foods.

The cafeteria at Muir Woods National Monument in California showcases organic, locally produced foods. bberwyn photo.

New guidelines also encourage shift to locally produced food

By Bob Berwyn

Hot dogs and hamburgers will remain on the menu at 250 national park snack bars and restaurants, but 23 million park visitors are also finding healthier options like fish tacos and yogurt parfaits.

The changes come under a new two-part set of rules finalized in April 2013 and  rolled out across the country this summer.

“Park visitors are going to  see really tasty choices that are healthy for them, with sustainable attributes, some regionality and a softer environmental footprint,” said Kurt Rausch, a National Park Service contracting specialist who helped develop the new guidelines for businesses offering food sales in parks. Continue reading

‘Superbugs’ spreading from water treatement plants

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E. Coli bacteria.

‘There’s no antibiotic that can kill them …’

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Scientists already know that genetic mutations have made some bacteria resistant to antibiotics, and new research suggests that those superbugs are able to withstand purification efforts at water treatment plants. The bacteria are even multiplying in the very facilities meant to eliminate them.

“We often think about sewage treatment plants as a way to protect us, to get rid of all of these disease-causing constituents in wastewater,” said Rice University environmental engineer Pedro Alvarez, who led the recent study at two wastewater treatments plans in China. “But it turns out these microbes are growing. They’re eating sewage, so they proliferate. In one wastewater treatment plant, we had four to five of these superbugs coming out for every one that came in.” Continue reading

Study: Ecosystem alterations leading to widespread human health impacts

Research consortium proposes systematic assessment approach

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In Belize, agricultural runoff is changing lowland wetlands to favor a proliferation of mosquitoes that are efficient malaria vectors. bberwyn photo.

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — The accelerating pace of human-caused changes to natural systems may threaten the Earth’s ability to sustain a growing population at a fundamental level, a team of researchers said in a new paper published last week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The paper describes a new branch of environmental health that focuses on the public health risks of human-caused changes to Earth’s natural systems. Researchers contributing to the paper work with the Health & Ecosystems: Analysis of Linkages consortium.

The approach differs from the classic discipline of environmental health, which focuses on micro-level impacts — for example, how changes in the home environment can affect the health of an individual or a family, said Dr. Samuel Myers, a research scientist in the Department of Environmental Health at Harvard School of Public Health. Continue reading

Health: Building a better pizza

A made-from-scratch Napoli-style pizza, with anchovies and black olives.

A made-from-scratch Napoli-style pizza, with anchovies and black olives.

Scottish researchers go back to pizza’s roots to find a healthy recipe

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — It turns out the secret to a better pizza might not be a double-stuffed cheese crust — all it takes is a little bit of seaweed and some whole grain flour, according to nutritionists with the School of Medicine at the University of Glasgow.

“Traditional pizza should be a low-fat meal containing at least one portion of vegetables, so mainly made from ingredients associated with better cardiovascular health,” said Professor Mike Lean.

“However, to enhance shelf-life, commercial pizza recipes today include much more fat and salt than desirable. Until now, nobody has stopped to notice that many essential vitamins and minerals are very low or even completely absent. From a nutrition and health perspective, they are hazardous junk,” Lean said. “Pizzas are widely consumed and regarded as meals in themselves, and yet their impact on human nutrition does not seem to have been studied,” he added.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. Historically, pizzas were made from a few humble ingredients: Bread, tomatoes and a little cheese, combined to form a traditional, healthy meal. Continue reading

Health: Self-employed Summit County residents facing higher insurance costs under state-administered insurance system

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A state map shows the different areas for rating insurance costs in Colorado.

U.S. Rep. Jared Polis seeks readjustment of rating area boundaries

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — Access to health insurance may become a reality for many under the Affordable Care Act, but other residents of the Colorado high country are frustrated by the changes, which could result in higher premiums and less choice for people who are self-employed.

“It’s a huge problem for Summit County … it’s a major barrier to implementation of the Affordable Care Act in Summit County,” said Congressman Jared Polis, a Boulder Democrat who represents Summit County.

“Summit County has one of the highest rates of uninsured residents in the State,” said Sarah Vaine, CEO of Summit Community Care Clinic. “Many people have been anxiously awaiting the opportunity to purchase health insurance for themselves and their families. It is worrisome and disappointing that rates in our area may be priced beyond our residents’ ability to pay. We are hopeful that something can be done to make products on the exchange more accessible,” Vaine said. Continue reading

Health: Is your vacuum cleaner making you sick?

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‘Bioaerosols’ may pose indoor health risk.

Study finds potential pathogen hotbed vacuum cleaner dust

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — As if you didn’t already have enough things to worry about, Australian and Canadian scientists say that vacuum cleaner dust contains bacteria and mold that “could lead to adverse effects in allergic people, infants, and people with compromised immunity.”

The researchers said the findings are worrisome because sampling found resistance genes for five common antibiotics in the sampled bacteria, along with the Clostridium botulinum toxin gene, which may be implicated in sudden infant death syndrome.

The research was done by scientists at the University of Queensland and Laval University and the findings have been published in the October issue of Applied and Environmental Microbiology. Continue reading

Colorado: New online health insurance shopping website reports busy first day

More than 1,400 Coloradans sign up for new health insurance plans

The new Connect for Health Colorado website was so busy that it crashed for a short time.

The new Connect for Health Colorado website was so busy that it crashed for a short time.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — In a pretty clear sign that Republican lawmakers are flat-out lying through their teeth when they say Americans don’t want Obamacare, new websites set up around the country to offer health insurance plans were busy Tuesday (Oct. 1), with thousands of people signing up for new plans.

In Colorado, the new online health insurance marketplace for individuals, families and small businesses opened with a strong and busy start, offering hundreds of health plans from 11 carriers.

“We’re very pleased with our progress today and the strong interest that we’ve seen from consumers,” said Connect for Health Colorado CEO Patty Fontneau. “Thousands of Coloradans have already begun learning about their new options and shopping for health insurance through our Marketplace and we are providing high quality customer support.” Continue reading

Tracking West Nile Virus in the age of global warming

Caption: Known as a vector for the West Nile virus, this Culex quinquefasciatus mosquito has landed on a human finger. Eliminating puddles and small containers of water can greatly reduce this mosquito's population. Credit: CDC/Jim Gathany

 Known as a vector for the West Nile virus, this Culex quinquefasciatus mosquito has landed on a human finger. Eliminating puddles and small containers of water can greatly reduce this mosquito’s population.
Credit: CDC/Jim Gathany

Study shows nuanced response to climate change

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — The season for mosquitoes carrying West Nile Virus is likely to grow longer across the U.S. overall, but thanks to global warming, the number of bugs could go down because of hotter and drier conditions in mid-summer, according to University of Arizona researchers.

The climate-driven mosquito population model suggests that public health officals will need to take a local local approach to managing the disease, the scientists said in their study, published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The changes in mosquito populations will vary depending on temperature and precipitation. Drops in summer mosquito populations are expected to be significant in the South, but not further north where there will still be enough rain to maintain summer breeding habitats and extreme temperatures are less common. Continue reading

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