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  • High Levels of Methane Recorded in Pennsylvanian Stream

    Using a newly developed stream-based environmental monitoring system, researchers from the US Geological Survey (USGS) and Penn State University found methane at high levels along a stretch of a Pennsylvanian stream situated in close proximity to the site of a recently reported shale gas leak. This environmental monitoring system could potentially be of great value as a screening tool for conducting environmental assessments of the impacts associated with extracting shale gas by hydraulic fracking.

    Asylum_Township

    After analyzing several water samples collected from Sugar Run, a stream flowing through Lycoming County, the scientists found evidence of methane in groundwater inflows similar to that found in natural gas. The findings were recently published in Environmental Science and Technology.

    Susan Brantley, a professor of geosciences at Penn State and co-author of the paper, finds it startling that after monitoring 15 streams, one instance of shale gas degassing has already been observed that could legitimately be explained by a known gas well leak sited nearby.

    After finding high concentrations of methane in Sugar Run, the researchers were also informed that several surrounding domestic water wells had reportedly been contaminated due to a defective cement casing of a nearby shale gas well.

    Upon conducting further analyses on the methane in the stream, the authors found characteristics that were common to that of leaking shale gas well. Unfortunately, as the researchers do not have access to baseline water samples from Sugar Run, they are unable to prove that the methane in the stream originates from the leaking gas well. However, the findings show how stream monitoring can be used as an efficient and effective method of monitoring the environmental impacts of fracking.

    "We hope this new technique developed by the USGS can now be used as a way of monitoring stray gas not only when it gets into drinking water, but when it gets into streams, which are much easier to access than homeowner wells," said Brantley. "In addition, streams collect water from nearby areas and may be very cost effective waters to target for monitoring because they integrate over larger land areas."

    Monitoring has up until now been largely restricted to water wells that supply domestic drinking water. But according to the researchers, because water wells can be spread out, particularly in rural settings, this limits the effectiveness of assessing the real impact of gas drilling operations. Water (and the chemicals in them) flows into streams from watersheds; thus sampling the streams enables us to detect leaks that would otherwise be impossible to trace.

    Journal Reference:

    Victor M. Heilweil, Paul L. Grieve, Scott A. Hynek, Susan L. Brantley, D. Kip Solomon, Dennis W. Risser. Stream Measurements Locate Thermogenic Methane Fluxes in Groundwater Discharge in an Area of Shale-Gas Development. Environmental Science & Technology, 2015; 150330072215005 DOI: 10.1021/es503882b

  • New Research Shows BPA can Negatively Affect Reproduction In Fish for Three Generations

    ** Bisphenol A, commonly known as BPA, is a chemical compound that is widely used in many everyday consumer products

    ** Researchers have found that when fish are exposed to endocrine-disrupting chemicals such as BPA, the adverse impacts remain in effect for up to 3 generations

    ** Findings showed a 30% decrease in the fertilization rate of fish two generations after exposure and a 20% reduction after three generations

    Bisphenol A, commonly known as BPA, is a chemical compound that is widely used in many everyday consumer products, including water and soft drink bottles, linings of metal food and beverage cans, as well as dental composites. Unfortunately, these and other contaminants typically end up in our freshwater systems where they can have profound ecological effects.

    Now, researchers from the University of Missouri-Columbia and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) have found that when fish are exposed to endocrine-disrupting chemicals such as BPA, the adverse affects of these contaminants are not only passed on to their offspring, but also onto their offspring's offspring, and their offspring too. Consequently the adverse impacts of BPA remains in effect for up to three generations.

    800px-Oryzias_latipes(Hamamatsu,Shizuoka,Japan,2007)-2

    BPA is a known hormone disruptor that mimics the functions of natural hormones in both humans and animals. Fish and other aquatic species are typically exposed to these chemical contaminants during critical stages of their development, and in some cases may be exposed throughout their entire life cycle.

    According to lead author, Ramji Bhandari, an Assistant Professor of Biological Science at the University of Missouri who is a visiting scientist at the USGS, "this study shows that even though endocrine disruptors may not affect the life of the exposed fish, it may negatively affect future generations."

    Bhandari together with fellow research scientists Frederick vom Saal, a Professor at the University of Missouri, and USGS research toxicologist, Don Tillitt, exposed medaka fish to BPA and other chemicals for a week during the embryonic development stage. The scientists then monitored their offspring for four generations. None of the future generations were exposed to BPA or other chemicals. While there was no evidence of reproductive abnormalities in the first two generations of offspring, the scientists found the rate of fertilization to be lower, and embryo mortality higher, in future generations.

    Bhandari explains that the medaka fish was selected for this study due to their shorter generations, which made it the perfect candidate for the research study at hand. "Findings showed a 30% decrease in the fertilization rate of fish two generations after exposure and a 20% reduction after three generations. If those trends continued, the potential for declines in overall population numbers might be expected in generations far removed from the initial exposure."

    According to co-author,Don Tillet: "This study examined concentrations of BPA and other chemicals that are not expected to be found in most environmental situations. However, concern remains about the possibility of passing on adverse reproductive effects to future generations at lower levels."

    As BPA is known to have reproductive and other ill effects on humans, take precautions to protect yourself and the future generations of your family by ensuring the water you drink is free from BPA and other chemical contaminants. Berkey Water Filters are BPA free, and the Black Berkey filter elements that are fitted in the upper filter chamber have been proven to remove BPA from drinking water to >99.9%.

    Journal Reference

    Ramji K. Bhandari, Frederick S. vom Saal, Donald E. Tillitt. Transgenerational effects from early developmental exposures to bisphenol A or 17α-ethinylestradiol in medaka, Oryzias latipes. Scientific Reports, 2015; 5: 9303 DOI: 10.1038/srep09303

  • What Is Aluminum Oxide?

    Aluminum Oxide is media that is used in the Berkey PF line of filters that remove fluoride from the water. This article provides some additional information and insight into what exactly aluminum oxide (or alumina) actually is.

    Aluminum Oxide is an inert compound of aluminum and oxygen and has been utilized in removing fluoride from water since 1936. It is a naturally occurring, non-toxic, and also known as corundum. Rubies and Sapphires are an example of gem quality corundum. The research scientist Corrin (1963a; 1963b) noted that aluminum reacts with water but is not able to do so when coated with inert aluminum oxide. Aluminum oxide is no more toxic or water-soluble than are rubies and sapphires.

    The fact that alumina is a compound of aluminum and oxygen should not be cause for concern as the properties of the compound differ greatly from the plain components. For example, pure aluminum reacts so readily with water that, according to the laws of chemistry, the aluminum shell of an airplane should actually dissolve in the rain.  However, when aluminum is placed in the atmosphere, a thin layer or aluminum oxide forms on the metal surface and acts like a protective, rust-resistant shield.  Aluminum oxide is the most stable form of aluminum known and it is not soluble in water. An analogy would be table salt (NaCl), a compound of sodium and chlorine, each by themselves a harmful substance, but together is something the human body needs. Likewise, both oxygen and hydrogen are highly flammable, yet a compound of both creates water (H20) which is used to extinguish fire. As such, Aluminum oxide was taken off the United States Environmental Protection Agency's chemicals lists in 1988.

    When water molecules come in contact with aluminum oxide, the aluminum and oxygen atoms on the surface move apart -- in some cases separating by more than 50 percent compared to their normal molecular positions. As a result, when the outer layer of aluminum oxide gets hydrated or wet, its structure changes just enough to become chemically inert and thus unable to react rapidly with additional water molecules or atmospheric oxygen. This change in molecular structure is why aluminum oxide metal resists corrosion.

    BIOCOMPATIBILITY OF ALUMINUM OXIDE

    There are no known bodily functions that react with aluminum oxide, hence it has excellent biocompatibility. Aluminum oxide is a well-proven, biocompatible ceramic that has been used as a dental porcelain pigment for some 60 years and as a ceramic restoration substructure for 25 years. It has a variety of orthopedic uses such as hip and knee joints where it has demonstrated excellent biocompatibility over the long term.

    Aluminum oxide is utilized in sunscreen and cosmetics such as blush, lipstick, nail polish, and many types of sandpaper. It is a major component of the cue tip "chalk" used in billiards and the powder is used in some CD/DVD polishing and scratch-repair kits. Its polishing qualities are also why it is used as a base in toothpaste. Some other applications include use as a dosimeter for radiation protection for its optically stimulated luminescence properties, in addition to insulation for high-temperature furnaces are often manufactured from aluminum oxide.

    WHY DOES ALUMINUM OXIDE APPEAR TO BE THE SAME AS PURE ALUMINUM WHEN WATER IS TESTED FOR ALUMINUM CONTAMINATION LEVELS?

    When laboratories test for metal contamination in water it is first necessary to break apart the oxidized metal ions from their oxygen component. Then an ion count is taken. This is the same for Aluminum oxide. The oxygen is separated from the pure aluminum molecules so that the aluminum ions can then be counted. It is for this reason that laboratory tests do not distinguish between aluminum oxide and pure aluminum in their test water. In other words, such tests generate a false positive by separating the aluminum from the oxygen and then reporting the amount of pure aluminum in the sample.

    However, as illustrated above, pure aluminum and aluminum oxide have vastly different characteristics. Pure aluminum is water-soluble, it is highly reactive and it is associated with negative health effects. By contrast aluminum oxide is not water-soluble, is inert, very stable, and not associated with any known negative health effects.

    Resources

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2782734/
    http://news.stanford.edu/pr/00/aluminum511.html
    http://www.lenntech.com/periodic/water/aluminium/aluminum-and-water.htm http://vitanorthamerica.com/support/user-guides/faqs/biocompatibility-of-aluminum-oxide/
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aluminium_oxide
    Physical constants of inorganic compounds, in: David R. Lide (Ed.) CRC Handbook of Chemistry and Physics. Boca Raton: CRC Press, 1994.

  • Chlorine Treatment of Wastewater May Contribute to Antibiotic Resistance

    ** Chlorine is a chemical commonly used to disinfect wastewater at sewage treatment plants

    ** Preliminary studies show that chlorine treatment at sewage plants may promote the development of new strains of antibiotics

    ** Results showed that when doxycycline was exposed to chlorine in treated wastewater, the antibiotic properties of their wastewater samples increased

    ** Strong recommendation for better methods to remove pharmaceuticals at treatment plants required, in addition to education regarding alternate means of pharmaceutical disposal

    Chlorine, a chemical that is commonly used to disinfect wastewater at sewage treatment works, may fail to completely remove pharmaceuticals from wastewater that enters these plants. Consequently, trace levels of pharmaceuticals, including drugs, are continually discharged into our waterways from wastewater treatment plants. Now, scientists report that preliminary studies show that chlorine treatment at sewage plants may promote the development of new strains of antibiotics, that could then also be released into the environment where they can in turn potentially promote antibiotic resistance.

    Graduate student Nicole Kennedy measures the antibiotic activity of various samples in the lab. Graduate student Nicole Kennedy measures the antibiotic activity of various samples in the lab.

    The findings, which were presented at an American Chemical Society (ACS) Chemistry of Natural Resources exhibition being held over the course of this week, suggest that wastewater treatment facilities need to re-evaluate the methods they use to treat and disinfect wastewater prior to discharge.

    "Pharmaceuticals that get out into the environment can harm aquatic life, making them react slowly in the wild and disrupting their hormone systems," explains Olya Keen; adding that when organisms are exposed to more antibiotics -- even when levels are low -- antibiotic resistant microbes can develop, which can ultimately result in antibiotics being less effective at fighting human bacterial infections.

    "Treated wastewater is one of the major sources of pharmaceuticals and antibiotics in the environment," says Keen. "Wastewater treatment facilities were not designed to remove these drugs. The molecules are typically very stable and do not easily get biodegraded. Instead, most just pass through the treatment facility and into the aquatic environment."

    But apart from their inability to remove all pharmaceuticals from sewage, wastewater treatment plants that use chlorine during the disinfection process may actually further promote the formation of new strains of antibiotics in the water that is discharged. Keen, together with her research team from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, conducted a series of laboratory experiments to test this theory. The results showed that when doxycycline -- an antibiotic that is widely used across America -- is exposed to chlorine in treated wastewater, the antibiotic properties of their wastewater samples increased.

    "Surprisingly, we found that the products formed in the lab sample were even stronger antibiotics than doxycycline, the parent and starting compound," Keen explains. The researchers are in the process of identifying the properties of these "transformation products", and are particularly interested in determining if these compounds are new, as yet unidentified antibiotics.

    Keen suggests that for now, reducing the amount of pharmaceuticals that enter a wastewater treatment facility may be the best, if not only, solution to this problem. However, because disposal of pharmaceutical products is currently unregulated, she proposes that people should be encouraged to collect and incinerate unused drugs and other pharmaceutical products rather than simply flushing them down toilet or throwing them out with the garbage, as both these scenarios can result in increased environmental exposure, ultimately contributing to antibiotic resistance.

    Furthermore, this research also has implications for drinking water treatment facilities, many of which disinfect drinking water with chlorine during the treatment process. For chlorine to be effective at purifying drinking water, it needs to remain in the water distribution pipe network for hours. This prohibits the growth of microbes, but it also gives the chlorine plenty of time to interact with any pharmaceutical drugs that may be present in the water, and this interaction could encourage the formation of new antibiotic strains.

    RESEARCH CONTACT:
    Olya Keen, Ph.D.
    University of North Carolina at Charlotte
    9201 University City Blvd.
    Charlotte, NC 28223-0001
    Phone: 704-687-5048
    Email: okeen@uncc.edu

  • Study Identifies First Human Population Adapted to Arsenic

    ** Argentina, scientists have identified the first known humans adapted to cope with high levels of arsenic

    ** Arsenic occurs naturally in rocks and soils and can leach into groundwater

    ** Scientists they did not know how populations could adapt to this toxin

    ** The adaptation is based on the rise in frequency of nucleotide variants helping metabolize arsenic faster

    ** Nucleotide variants observed in a sample of mummified women from approximately 7,000-10,000 years ago

    High up in the Andes mountain range of Argentina, scientists have identified the first known human population that is uniquely adapted to cope with the high levels of the toxic arsenic chemical found in their drinking water. Inhabitants of some areas of the mountainous Andes have been exposed to high concentrations of the naturally occurring arsenic for centuries.

    Arsenic occurs naturally in rocks and soils and can leach into groundwater that provides a source of drinking water to communities. Scientists know that arsenic occurs naturally, and that is poses a health risk to people exposed to it over long periods. However, until now, they did not know how populations such as this could adapt to this toxin to enable them to tolerate the potentially lethal killer chemical.

    Arsenic Poisoning Arsenic Poisoning Shown On The Skin

    In a study that was recently published online in Molecular Biology and Evolution, a team of Swedish researchers, led by Karin Broberg, a professor at the Karolinska Institutet, Uppsala University, conducted a genome wide survey of a sample group comprising 124 Andean women, looking at their ability to metabolize the chemical arsenic. After analyzing urine samples from the women, the researchers made a startling discovery. According to the research report: 'The study pinpointed a key set of nucleotide variants in a gene, AS3MT, which were at much lower frequencies in control populations from Columbia and Peru.'

    However, a mummified hominid that was recently excavated from the region was found to have high levels of arsenic in hair samples tested. Based on age analysis on the mummy, the scientists estimate the rise in frequency of these nucleotide variants observed in the women sampled in the study occurred relatively recently -- approximately 7,000-10,000 years ago.
    The results show how human populations are able to adapt to their environment of time to ensure their survival. This particular Andean population adapted to the environmental effects of arsenic by developing an increase in the frequencies of nucleotide variants that offer protection against this toxin.

    According to the researchers: "The set of AS3MT nucleotide variants, harbored on chromosome 10, were distributed worldwide, with the highest frequencies in Peruvians, Native Americans, Eastern Asia and Vietnam."

    They suggest that this localized adaptation may have developed as an evolutionary response to the severe adverse health effects suffered by the population due to arsenic exposure in their drinking water, and the need for the body to metabolize arsenic faster if they were to survive.

    This population is not the only one in the world that is exposed to toxic arsenic in their drinking water. A study conducted in 2007 found that more than 137 million people from over 70 countries worldwide, including some areas of the US, are likely affected by arsenic poisoning as a result of their drinking water being contaminated. The limit for arsenic in drinking water as recommended by the World Health Organization is 0.01 mg/L, or 10 parts per billion (ppb), however studies have shown that consuming drinking water with arsenic levels as low as 0.00017 mg/L (0.17 ppb) over a prolonged period can cause arsenicosis, or arsenic poisoning.

    Considering that this study suggests it takes thousands of years for local populations to adapt to arsenic by developing mechanisms to eliminate arsenic from the body, this is not going to help individuals cope in the short term. Thankfully we can take steps such as water filters to eliminate arsenic from our drinking water before it enters our bodies.

    Journal Reference

    C. M. Schlebusch, L. M. Gattepaille, K. Engstrom, M. Vahter, M. Jakobsson, K. Broberg. Human Adaptation to Arsenic-Rich Environments. Molecular Biology and Evolution, 2015; DOI: 10.1093/molbev/msv046

  • Generating Clean, Green Energy From Water and Wastewater

    Flushing water down the drain needs no longer to be seen as a complete waste of this valuable resource. Well, not for residents of Portland, Oregon at any rate. Portland has taken the bold initiative to harness hydroelectric power from water flowing through pipes leading to and from private residences in the city.

    According to an article published recently in Inhabitat, when either drinking water or wastewater flows down pipes that are equipped with turbines, it generates energy that is fed into a separate power-grid, which currently supplies power to 150 homes in Portland. The project is currently only being operated on a small scale, but if all the water pipes in the city were to be retrofitted with power-generating turbines, there would be enough power to provide electricity to hundreds of thousands of residences.

    Toilet Turbines Toilet Turbines

    Hydroelectric power is nothing new, however, replacing hydroelectric dams with pre-existing water and wastewater pipe infrastructure is a novel approach. What's more, it is much more environmentally friendly as it doesn't disrupt natural ecological processes that endanger freshwater fish and other forms of wildlife. It is also a very reliable source of energy. There is a constant flow of water to and from residences, so it is less likely to be impacted by seasonal fluctuations in water levels that very often limit the effectiveness of hydroelectric dams, or the daily changes in weather that affect solar or wind power.

    To see how water pipes generate hydroelectric power, check out the video below:

    The domestic hydroelectric project is coordinated by Portland based start-up, Lucid Energy. Lucid Energy's CEO, Gregg Semler, finds it exciting that his company is a leading innovator in finding renewable energy solutions. “I really love doing things that other people haven’t done before,” said Semler.

    However, while this latest innovation is enticing and holds lots of promise, it is also expensive to implement, perhaps prohibitively so for many cities. The cost of implementation may be discouraging to many cities, and thus may limit the extent to which water pipes are retrofitted with energy-generating turbines. On the upside; it is much more cost effective to implement the technology into new pipes designed specifically for that purpose, making it a viable option for new or expanding communities to consider.

    However, even though the cost of retrofitting existing water pipes is expensive, the outlay should prove to be cost effective in the long-term. As transporting water uses lots of energy, cities could minimize energy costs by harnessing the power generated directly from the water being supplied. Surplus energy can be fed into the grid to power local homes or be sold to local energy utilities to reimburse the initial outlay.

    While some may find the idea of using wastewater for energy distasteful, if you stop and consider the impact and pollution caused by burning fossil fuels, the idea begins to get a tad more appealing. Even though the source may be considered dirty, the energy produced is both clean, green and renewable.

    Image Suggestion:

    http://www.inquisitr.com/1870220/portland-oregon-uses-toilet-turbines-to-power-city-genius/

  • Fluoride in Drinking Water Linked to Increased Risk of Underactive Thyroid in the UK

    Scientists in the UK are stressing the need to switch to an alternative approach in efforts to combat tooth decay after results of a study that was recently published in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health suggest fluoridation has negative health effects.
    According to the study, fluoride in drinking water is associated with a 30% increased risk of hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid) in England, prompting the research team to question public health policies relating to water fluoridation as a tool to protect the public's dental health.

    Roughly 10% of the English population, amounting to some 6 million people, reside in areas that receive drinking water that either contains natural fluoride or is artificially fluoridated with 1mg fluoride per liter of water.

    SONY DSC

    The scientists examined data supplied by the Drinking Water Inspectorate to assess fluoride levels in drinking water supplies by area for 2012. They then compared this data set with data relating to underactive thyroid diagnoses obtained from family doctors in 2012-2013. They obtained complete data from 7935 out of 8020 general family practitioners.

    The research team also conducted a secondary analysis, where they compared two urban areas: West Midlands, whose drinking water supplies are fluoridated; and Greater Manchester, whose drinking water supplies are not treated with fluoride.

    After taking influential factors, such as older age and female sex -- both linked to a higher risk of underactive thyroid -- into account, the researchers found that there was a link between the level of fluoride in drinking water and higher rates of hypothyroidism.

    In areas where fluoride levels where higher than 0.7 mg/l, rates of underactive thyroid where higher than expected compared to areas where fluoride levels were lower than this. In areas where drinking water contained fluoride at levels higher than 0.3mg/l, doctors saw at least a 30% increase in hypothyroidism cases. Furthermore, incidents of hypothyroidism were almost twice as common in the West Midlands compared to Greater Manchester.

    The researchers acknowledge that this was purely an observational study, and as they did not take other sources of fluoride, such as those found in toothpaste and other products, into account, no conclusive statements relating to cause and effect can be made. However, they stress that these results echo the findings of previous studies, and while they only assessed diagnosed cases, there are likely to be other undiagnosed cases that they missed.

    "Consideration needs to be given to reducing fluoride exposure, and public dental health interventions should stop those reliant on ingested fluoride and switch to topical fluoride-based and non-fluoride-based interventions," the researchers conclude.

    If you are concerned about the health impacts of fluoride in your drinking water, you can take steps to remove fluoride with a drinking water filter that is capable of removing fluoride. The Berkey range of filters that accommodate filters in the bottom housing can be fitted with fluoride cartridges that will remove fluoride and arsenic from your drinking water, making it safe for your family to drink.

    Journal Reference

    S Peckham, D Lowery, S Spencer. Are fluoride levels in drinking water associated with hypothyroidism prevalence in England? A large observational study of GP practice data and fluoride levels in drinking water. Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health, February 2015 DOI: 10.1136/jech-2014-204971

  • California Municipal Water Authorities Cited For 1800 Violations (2012-2013)

    California's drinking water supplies exceeded safety limits for pollutants over 1,000 times during a one year period between 2012 to 2013, according to a recently released report that lists high levels of nitrates and arsenic as well as other contaminants.  The high level of citations violated federal safety standards, triggering a reporting requirement to the EPA.

    The report, which was conducted on behalf of the Californian Senate's Environmental Quality committee, forms part of the states wider efforts to improve compliance with safety standards set for drinking water following criticism of previous failings in this area.

    "Although the vast majority of Californians who receive drinking water from a public water system receive water that met quality standards in recent years, there are still many who may have consumed unsafe water," Senate researchers said in the report.

    The report states that in 2013, around 98% of drinking water supplied by the California's public water utilities complied with safety standards set for drinking water quality. However, during the 2012-2013 fiscal year, state regulated public water systems that supply water to 38 million Californian residents faced around 1,800 enforcement actions from the state's water regulators.

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    According to the report, the contaminants mostly responsible for the violations included high levels of pollutants such as nitrates, arsenic, perchlorates (both from natural and anthropogenic sources such as chemicals used in explosives and rocket fuel), as well as radioactive minerals. Because there were more than 1000 incidents where California's drinking water violated federal safety standards, reports were submitted to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

    The contaminants originated from both naturally occurring and man-made sources. Nitrates, which pose a serious health risk, particularly to babies, tend to originate from leaking sewage systems, fertilizer run-off and erosion. Arsenic, a toxin that is associated with an increased risk of cancer, circulatory problems and skin damage, occurs naturally in soils and rocks, but human sources can add to these natural sources, pushing levels dangerously high.

    "Water is a basic human right and we need to do everything possible to protect it," said Senate Democratic leader Kevin de Leon.

    The State Water Resources Control Board plan to use the report to help guide policy decision-making so that it can roll out a plan to ensure residents are supplied safe drinking water. But while the powers-that-be ponder a plan, residents in California should carefully review their municipal water reports to determine if they are being affected. For those that are, one can take measures to ensure their drinking water is free from toxins by simply investing in a quality home water filter.

  • Six Strategies to Reduce Water Scarcity by 2050

    Water scarcity is a global challenge that poses a problem for both developing and developed countries alike. In the US, federal officials recently warned communities living in Nevada and Arizona that they may face cuts in water supplies delivered by the Colorado River in 2016, while Californian legislators have proposed an emergency water plan estimated at around 7.5 billion US dollars.

    These measures have become necessary due to increased pressure on water resources due to residential and industrial water usage habits, and irrigation methods, combined with water shortages as a result of climate change.

    78597_web Water Shortages Across the Globe

    However, even though the world's current water woes seem to be a difficult problem to tackle, scientists from McGill and Utrecht University feel that we can still reverse the current state of affairs and substantially reduce water scarcity by 2050.

    In a paper published last year in Nature Geoscience, the researchers propose six key strategies that can be used in different combinations in different areas of the world to reduce water scarcity and relieve water stress. Water stress occurs when more than 40% of available freshwater is in effect unavailable due to it being utilized elsewhere -- a situation that around a third of the world's population currently find themselves in, and may increase to affect as much as half the world's population by 2100 if no action is taken to reduce water usage.

    The researchers categorize the six key strategies into two paths: hard path measures, which involve constructing infrastructure such as reservoirs and desalination plants to improve water storage and/or supply; and soft path measures, where the focus is more on reducing the demand for water rather than increasing the water supply. According to the researchers, the soft path measures are generally a more realistic option to reduce water stress, however some of the proposed measures may be more difficult to implement due to cultural, social and economic factors.

    The proposed strategies to reduce water scarcity include:

    "Soft measures"

    1. Improving agricultural water usage in water stressed basins where crops are commonly irrigated by introducing new cultivars together with improved soil nutrient application could help reduce the fraction of people affected by water stress by 2% by 2050. However, concerns over the impacts of eutrophication and genetic modification need to be addressed.

    2. Improving irrigation efficiency, for example by using drips or sprinklers instead of flood irrigation, in irrigated agricultural basins could help improve irrigation efficiency, however capital outlay is a significant factor, and soil salinization could result.

    3. Improving both domestic and industrial water consumption in areas that are water stressed by taking steps to reduce leaks in pipes and fittings that supply water, and enhancing water-recycling plants.

    4. Stemming population growth is a key strategy to relieve reduce water scarcity in water-stressed areas, but in order to be effective the population would need to remain below 8.5 billion in 2050. This can be achieved through tax incentives and family planning assistance, but given current population trends this may be difficult to achieve.

    "Hard measures"

    5. Increasing water storage by building more reservoirs or enlarging existing ones could improve storage capacity to assist water-stressed basins. However, this would require substantial capital investment, and could also have a negative impact on the environment and local communities.

    6. Utilizing seawater by building desalination plants could add another source of water in coastal areas; or existing desalination plants could be expanded to increase their capacity. Again, this would involve a significant capital outlay, together with substantial energy costs, and would produce wastewater that would require safe disposal.

    "There is no single silver bullet to deal with the problem around the world," says Prof. Tom Gleeson, of McGill's Department of Civil Engineering and one of the authors of the paper. "But, by looking at the problem on a global scale, we have calculated that if four of these strategies are applied at the same time we could actually stabilize the number of people in the world who are facing water stress rather than continue to allow their numbers to grow, which is what will happen if we continue with business as usual."

    "Significant reductions in water-stressed populations are possible by 2050," adds co-author Dr. Yoshihide Wada from the Department of Physical Geography at Utrecht University, "but a strong commitment and strategic efforts are required to make this happen."

    Journal Reference:

    Yoshihide Wada, Tom Gleeson, Laurent Esnault. Wedge approach to water stress. Nature Geoscience, 2014; 7 (9): 615 DOI: 10.1038/ngeo2241

  • Children Exposed to a Commonly Used Pesticide at Greater Risk of ADHD

    ** Common Pesticide (deltamethrin) found to increase child's risk of ADHD

    ** Deltamethrin, considered a less toxic pesticide, is widely used in vegetable crops, golfing greens, lawns, gardens and other areas in the home

    ** Pregnant women and young children may be more vulnerable to pesticide exposure as the chemicals are not metabolized as readily by their systems

    ** Reduction of 3 most common forms of pesticide exposure  (air, water, and food) reenforced by scientists

    A common pesticide that is widely used to control both agricultural and household pests may impair the development and functioning of the area of the brain that controls cognition and emotional expression, increasing a child's risk of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), according to a study recently published online in the Journal of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB).

    Image by: Vincent Horn Image by: Vincent Horn

    The study, led by researchers from Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, assisted by a research team from Wake Forest University, Emory University, and the University of Rochester Medical School, found that developing mice that were exposed to deltamethrin -- a pyrethroid pesticide -- in the mother's womb or when lactating following birth, showed signs associated with ADHD such as hyperactivity, impulsive behavior, attention deficits, and impaired dopamine signaling within the brain.

    According to lead author of the study, Jason Richardson, who is an associate professor in the Department of Environmental and Occupational Medicine at Rutgers, the results strongly support the notion that pyrethroid pesticides such as deltamethrin, which is considered a less toxic pesticide that is widely used to control pests in vegetable crops, golfing greens, lawns, gardens and other areas in the home, need to be considered a risk factor for ADHD.

    "Although we can't change genetic susceptibility to ADHD, there may be modifiable environmental factors, including exposures to pesticides that we should be examining in more detail," says Richardson.

    ADHD is a common behavioral disorder that mostly affects children. Figures for 2011 show that approximately 6.4 million children (11%) of children aged between 4-17 have been diagnosed with the disorder, with boys being 3-4 times more susceptible than girls. Young children aged between 3-6 may exhibit symptoms such as being unable to sit still, focus or follow instructions, but diagnoses are typically made once children begin school, when these behavioral traits become more apparent.

    The results of this study showed that female mice were less affected than male mice, echoing the trend observed children affected with ADHD. The ADHD symptomatic behavior observed in the mice persisted through adulthood even after the pesticide was no longer present in their bodies.

    Scientific research suggests that genetics play a key role in determining a child's susceptibility to ADHD, however to date no scientists have not identified a specific gene responsible for the disorder, leading scientists to believe that exposure to certain environmental triggers contribute greatly to the development of ADHD in children.

    Study Background - Who's Most Vulnerable

    For this study, the researchers used data gleaned from the National Health and Nutritional Examination Survey (NHANES) and from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) to analyze urine samples and questionnaires related to health-care of 2,123 children and teenagers. Parents were asked whether their children had ever been diagnosed with ADHD by a physician, checking the prescription medication history for each child to determine if any medication commonly prescribed for ADHD had been prescribed. They found that children whose urine samples had high levels of pyrethroid pesticide metabolites present were at least twice as likely to have been diagnosed with the disorder.

    The researchers believe that pregnant women and young children may be more vulnerable to pesticide exposure as the chemicals are not metabolized as readily by their systems. They believe that studies need to be conducted on human subjects to assess the effects of pesticide exposure on the developing fetus and on developing young children.

    "We need to make sure these pesticides are being used correctly and not unduly expose those who may be at a higher risk," Richardson says.

    We are exposed to pesticides in the air we breathe, in the foods we eat, and in the water we drink. Pesticides enter surface water systems through runoff and can percolate through soils to contaminate groundwater supplies. To eliminate pesticides from your drinking water, we'd recommend investment in a good quality drinking water filter such as a Berkey that is capable of removing pesticides to high degrees.

    Journal Reference:
    J. R. Richardson, M. M. Taylor, S. L. Shalat, T. S. Guillot, W. M. Caudle, M. M. Hossain, T. A. Mathews, S. R. Jones, D. A. Cory-Slechta, G. W. Miller. Developmental pesticide exposure reproduces features of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. The FASEB Journal, 2015; DOI: 10.1096/fj.14-260901

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