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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

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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

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

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