Recent research at Lund University in Sweden has revealed that the air along many coastlines is contaminated with nanoparticles due to sea traffic and not traditional automotive pollution. This study was unique in that it was able to make the distinction between the two sources of hazardous waste material.
The Lund University researchers were able to make this distinction by studying the air flow from a station in Southern Sweden. They followed the flow across the Baltic Sea, and measured it again at a station on the Lithuanian Coast. The nanoparticles that it picked up along the journey were those resulting from Sea traffic.
Nanoparticles are especially dangerous to the environment as well as human health since they are so small. The tiny particles penetrate the lungs and other tissues deeper that larger particles. This results in a higher risk of cardiovascular and other pulmonary diseases. Other than the effects on lung tissue, there has not been a lot of research conducted on the other health risks or how nanoparticles travel throughout the body after inhalation. With that said, many of the true dangers of nanoparticles to human health remain a mystery. The researchers at Lund University estimate that the pollution from the North Sea & Baltic Sea may be playing a part in up to 10,000 premature deaths a year.
Nanoparticles can also be harmful to the respiratory systems of animals, affecting the entire food chain. Nanoparticles can also form a sort of haze that allows less sunlight to shine on affected areas. The decreased sunlight results in plant deaths, again affecting the entire food chain.
The Lund University team advocates stricter environmental regulation of sea traffic emissions as a solution. This can be done by better regulating the levels of nitrogen oxides and sulfates in shipping fuel. Sea traffic emissions are anticipated to increase significantly in the near future, which is why being proactive and implementing regulation now is so important. In contrast, traditional automobile emissions are decreasing due to regulations passed over the previous few decades.
One regulation that has been introduces limits the sulfate content in fuel to .1% for any vessels on the North and Baltic Seas. Researchers are excited to study the potential positive effects that this change has on the level of nanoparticles in the air.
The shipping industry as well as any other boaters must also do their part by ensuring that they properly maintain their vessels so that they burn fuel efficiently. Proper maintenance will result in the least amount of pollution emissions as possible. Abiding by any current and future environmental compliance is also important.
The shipping, fishing, and recreational boating industries also create other environmental issues besides for air pollution. Ships can spill oil or other dangerous chemicals into our waterways. Trash can be thrown overboard adding to the masses of floating garbage heaps in our oceans. The industries also create a disturbance of natural habitat. Industry regulations have helped limit these potential environmental hazards serving as a great example as to how regulating ship emissions could also be affective.
The United States and Cuba have recently found themselves working together on environmental regulations that will protect their ocean waters, marine life and coastlines. The partnership comes just as the two nations have reestablished diplomatic relations in July 2015. It is important that the countries continue making joint environmental decisions since they are only a mere 90 miles apart and share many of the same migratory marine life. Both nations have a lot at stake since they are not only aiming towards protecting the environment, but also looking to protect their tourist industries that are vital to their local economies.
The historic environmental agreement has been made between four research and conservations groups. The Florida Keys and Texas Flower Garden Banks Sanctuaries is located in the United States and the Guanahacabibes National Park and Banco de San Antonio in Cuba. All four groups share similar marine life; including delicate coral reefs. They hope to protect the reefs from the negative effects of a growing tourist industry as well and the quickly expanding oil exploration in the Gulf of Mexico.
The first step in this agreement will consist of the groups carefully mapping and inventorying all of the species in the shared ecosystem. The United States will also study the Cuban coral reefs, which are in nearly perfect health in order to come up with solutions for dying American reefs. The collaboration also creates unique opportunities for research regarding the protection of endangered species and the prevention of invasive species. Cuba will also receive much need funding now that it is working with the U.S., so that their environmental health and safety programs can grow.
The Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) has begun to work with Cuba on other environmental issues like programs to protect shark populations and systems to record what fishing boats capture to ensure environmental sustainability.
Perhaps most importantly, this environmental partnership serves as a great example for the two nations to work together diplomatically on other political matters.
The state of Illinois’ Department of Agriculture (IDOA) has reached a historic agreement with the Illinois Green Industry Associate (IGIA) in order to solve on of their most pesky current environmental issues. The IGIA has agreed to replace dozens of trees that were removed from the State Fairgrounds due to an invasive species called the Emerald Ash Borer.
The Emerald Ash Borer was first detected in Detroit, Michigan in 2002 and has killed approximately 250 million trees in the United States. The exact source of how the pest made its way from its native Asia to the U.S. is unknown. Many assume it came from packing materials in international storage containers. The adult borer feeds on the leaves of Ash trees which is minimally harmful. It is the insect’s larvae that burrow under the bark of the trees, starving it and ultimately killing it.
In the early summer of 2015 IDOA officials decided that seventy-three trees located on the fairground property needed to be removed due to the damage caused by the insect. Many of the trees posed safety risks to fairground visitors.
The IGIA had agreed to plant 50 trees on the fairground property per year until 2019. The trees will be planted in clearings that are free from any underground pluming or electrical. This will ensure that they trees can continue to grow without being disturbed. In 2015 that Association has decided to donate 25 evergreen trees and 25 deciduous trees. One of the trees being planted this year is a seedling from a famous tree in Washington, D.C. that had been dedicated to President Lincoln. This tree will be planted near the Fairground’s Lincoln statue due to its special historical connection.
State officials as well as environmental groups are thrilled with the partnership between the Illinois Department of Agriculture (IDOA) and the Illinois Green Industry Association (IGIA). They believe it is a perfect example of all sides working together for a common good.
Many states as well as the federal government have instituted quarantines and other environmental regulations regarding the transporting of ash logs and other products containing the wood in order to prevent the invasive species from spreading.
A West Virginia bankruptcy judge has ruled that more than $2.9 million will be distributed to the state as a result of Freedom Industry’s financial liquidation. The money will be distributed to the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection to clean up the remnants of a chemical spill that occurred last year. A portion of the money will also be going towards public interest projects involving those individuals and businesses affected by the water contamination. Many businesses could not operate without clean water and went bankrupt as a result. Those companies are seeking compensation.
In January 2014, approximately 7,500 gallons of a coal cleaning chemical known as 4-mthylcyclohexanmethanol (MCHM) was leaked into the Elk River in West Virginia. The spill occurred as a result of a one inch hole in a storage tank located at Freedom Industries’ Charleston site. More than 300,000 area residents spread over nine counties were affected by the water contamination. A ban on drinking water lasted as many as ten days until Freedom Industries could finish emptying the remaining MCHM from the storage tank and vacuum up what had been spilled in the water.
Six executives at Freedom Industries have pleaded guilty this year to violating federal pollution laws, including the Clean Water Act. Evidence has shown that the company was aware of weaknesses in the tanks that leached the coal cleaning chemical. The company eventually admitted that did not conduct proper inspections of the chemical storage plants.
The decision to distribute the bankruptcy liquidation is an important one, since collecting fines would be next to impossible from a bankrupt company. The $2.9 million will come mainly from Freedom Industries’ insurance policies. There are rumors that executives took several steps right after the spill to hide the true value of the company, but those accusations have not been substantiated yet.
As if the state of California was not facing enough current environmental issues, hazardous dust can now be added to the mix. The dust is a result of the ever shrinking Salton Sea located in Coachella Valley. The lake is located in the Salton Sink and spans approximately 350 square miles.
Over the past few decades the Salton Sea has been shrinking due to evaporation in the 110 degree desert temperatures and California’s continued drought. Since the lake is uniquely shallow at five feet deep, even a slight drop in water levels can expose the lake bottom. This dried lake bottom contains all sorts of hazardous waste materials that are blown into the air by the desert winds. The dust has been causing a great deal of air pollution in Imperial County. In fact, the county has been experiencing the highest asthma hospitalization in the state of California.
The Salton Sea has been a dumping ground for nearby farm irrigation for a long time. The Coachella Valley and Imperial Country became popular farming lands in the late 1800s after developers realized that the area contained rich soil resulting from the years of Colorado River flooding. The sunny hot climate also made the area perfect for crops as long as irrigation was built. This irrigation system led decades of pesticides and herbicides being fed into the Lake.
The Salton Sea flourished during the 1900s, becoming a popular tourist attraction and rich fishing area. The area had become as popular as Palm Springs, drawing 1.5 million viewers at its peak. Despite the Lake’s popularity, no one ever put in any environmental compliance measures or plans in place to maintain and protect it. For instance a series of severe tropical storms and hurricanes completely flooded the area, with little repaired after waters receded. The tourist industry never really recovered either.
Over the following decades the water continued to recede, increasing the concentration of pesticides, chemicals, and salt. The salt content eventually became so high that all of the fish died off, with the exception of the tilapia. If the salinity continues to rise, the tilapia will also perish.
The Salton Sea’s future is looking even bleaker as a 15 year agreement to continue cultivating the land made between farmers and the county is coming to an end in 2017. If the State doesn’t act soon, farmers may be stop irrigating crops. The Salton Sea will then have no water source flowing into it, allowing it to shrink even more.
This is not the first time that a lake has dried up in California. Owens Lake, located to the West of the Sierra Mountains was completely drained in the 1920s to supply Los Angeles with fresh water. The dried lake bed became one of the largest sources of hazardous dust in the United States. The city of Los Angeles has spent about $1.2 billion on suppressing the dangerous dust. The Salton Sea is a much larger lake, in a much more populated area, with far more toxic dust, so it will be a much more dangerous and expensive environmental and health issue. Any potential solutions to the lake drying up are also costly. For instance a 2007 plan estimated it could cost $9 million. The cost of the cleanup may be worth it compared to the human health risks.