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  • 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:

  • 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.


    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.


    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

  • Arsenic in Well Water Poses a Health Threat to Residents Across the USA

    ** Newly released scientific journal study highlights danger of Arsenic in private wells across the US and Canada

    ** Researcher suggests "Arsenic is the biggest public-health problem for water in the United States"

    ** Low level arsenic exposure reduces IQ in children along with impaired lung function, heart disease and cancer

    ** Many homeowners unaware of potential exposure due to lack of state regulation

    ** USGS Graphic below shows arsenic hot spots wide-spread across the US

    Arsenic that occurs naturally in private wells across many states in the US, as well as Canada, poses a health risk to people who rely on these wells for drinking water, according to a series of scientific studies published this week in a special section of the scientific journal Science of the Total Environment. The studies provide insight into the geological mechanisms that cause this contamination, and highlight the present and continuing risk posed by arsenic contaminated well water due to lack of regulation across most states and inadequate precautionary or mitigation measures put in place by homeowners.

    The reports add to a new body of evidence that show that exposure to low levels of arsenic can reduce IQ of children, and existing evidence that arsenic poses an increased risk of impaired lung function, heart disease, and cancer.

    Arsenic Hot Spots in US Arsenic Hot Spots in US

    "Arsenic is the biggest public-health problem for water in the United States--it's the most toxic thing we drink," said geochemist Yan Zheng, an adjunct research scientist at Columbia University's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, who coedited the special section and coauthored some of the articles. "For some reason, we pay far less attention to it than we do to lesser problems."

    Soil and rocks very often contain traces of arsenic that are inert and harmless, but recently geologists have noticed that certain geological sediments can become arsenic enriched, and under certain conditions can chemically react with groundwater to release the arsenic into these aquifers. This problem is not unique to the US - it has been identified in around 70 countries throughout the world, with Asia being the most severely affected.

    In the US private wells that are mostly unregulated provide drinking water to 43 million people. Previous studies conducted by the US Geological Survey (USGS) found that 6.8% of wells tested fail to meet drinking water safety standards set by the EPA for arsenic in public drinking water supplies, which was reduced from 50 parts per billion (ppb) to 10 ppb in 2001.

    Given these figures, it is believed that around 3 million Americans are affected, but according to Joseph Ayotte, a USGS hydrologist and coeditor of the special section published in this journal, distribution of high concentrations of arsenic are spotty, making it difficult to reliably predict the amount of people directly affected. Maps of arsenic distribution show patches throughout New England and the Great Lakes, extending from the Pacific Northwest down to California and across the western part of the country to Texas. In New England 20% of wells are contaminated, and in Maine, where the contamination rate is as high as 45%, approximately 80,000 residents are affected.

    Public water supplies that provide water to more than 25 people have to meet the safety standards, and while most do, through additional filtration when necessary, a recent study conducted in 2014 by the Columbia Water Center shows that 500 public water utilities (primarily small public water utilities in rural areas) still fail to meet the safety standard, largely due to the additional cost associated with arsenic removal.

    However, unlike public water utilities, private wells are completely unregulated and in many cases have never been tested for arsenic. The authors estimate that up to a third of the population in the study area are at risk of exposure to levels of arsenic that are above the safety standard.

    In one study conducted by Sara Flanagan, a researcher at Lamont-Doherty, a group of homeowners who had been notified 3-7 years prior to the study that water in their wells was contaminated, were surveyed. Forty-three percent of these homeowners had since resorted to water filtration to reduce their exposure, while 30% resorted to other measures (e.g. purchasing bottled water) to reduce their risk. However, the remaining 27% simply did nothing to reduce their exposure to arsenic, choosing to be optimistic instead.

    "People say, 'I'm not going to worry about it--maybe I'll get cancer, maybe I won't," said pharmacologist Joseph Graziano, a leading arsenic expert and Earth Institute professor at Mailman who oversees Columbia's work on the issue. "For [local and state] government, it's a hardy perennial--once in a while it gets some press, there's a little shuffle of activity, then it dies again until the next study comes out."

    Research conducted on households within the Maine study area, revealed that even when homeowners did take steps to filter their water, 15% of homes failed to produce water that met the safety standards set by the EPA for arsenic.

    Furthermore, researchers feel that the reduced level of 10ppb set by the EPA may not be low enough. While past studies have shown that arsenic levels higher than this pose a high risk of lung, bladder and skin cancer, as well as heart disease, a more recent study conducted in Maine school districts in 2014 by a research team affiliated to the Columbian researchers found that arsenic levels as low as 5 ppb reduced children's IQs by 5-6 points. While the state of New Jersey -- one of the few states to take a proactive approach -- has since reduced the safety limit for arsenic to 5ppb, 20% of Maine's wells are thought to violate the 5ppb level, according to state officials.

    "The risk for pregnant women and children is much higher," said Graziano. "We're hoping that recognition may be a turning point in getting more action."

    The Columbian research team is now working with the Maine Geological Survey and Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention to assess ways they can motivate homeowners to get their wells tested. State officials in Maine are also contemplating implementing a law that requires making the testing of wells mandatory whenever a home is sold.

    If you are concerned about the levels of arsenic in your drinking water, any of the systems from Big Bekey Water Filters will handle this for you.  Both the standard black berkeys that come with all our systems, as well as the PF-2 add-on filters target arsenic removal from the drinking water.

    Journal Reference

    Papers from the special section, "Arsenic in well waters of the northeastern United States and Atlantic Canada," (pages 1237-1379 of Science of the Total Environment) can be accessed online.

  • Fracking Chemicals Harmful to Reproduction and Child Development

    ** Cross functional team examined more than 150 peer-reviewed studies fracking chemicals

    ** Concluded exposure to chemical products released during hydraulic fracturing operations pose a health risk to both men and women, as well as children

    ** Strong evidence of decreased semen quality in men, higher miscarriages in women and increased risk of birth defects in children

    Unconventional oil and gas (UOG) extraction methods use a combination of drilling and fracking to extract natural gas that is contained within fissures and pockets in underground rock. There has been much debate regarding the potential for chemicals used within these practices to pollute the surrounding air as well as precious drinking water sources, and the effect this has on residents that live within a mile of these operations.


    Now, a research team consisting of researchers from the University of Missouri, the Institute for Health and the Environment, and the Center for Environmental Health, have conducted an intensive review of research related to hydro-fracking byproducts, and the impact they have on human reproduction and development. They concluded that exposure to chemical products released during hydraulic fracturing operations pose a health risk to both men and women, as well as children, and have recommended that further studies should be conducted to determine the level of risk.

    "We examined more than 150 peer-reviewed studies reporting on the effects of chemicals used in UOG operations and found evidence to suggest there is cause for concern for human health," said co-author, Susan Nagel, an associate professor of obstetrics, gynecology and women's health in the School of Medicine at the University of Missouri. "Further, we found that previous studies suggest that adult and early life exposure to chemicals associated with UOG operations can result in adverse reproductive health and developmental defects in humans."

    The review of studies published in peer-reviewed journals and scientific publications, thoroughly examined previous studies that assessed at the health effects of UOG chemicals on humans, looking for any patterns and/or links. The findings were recently published online in the scientific journal Reviews on Environmental Health. According to the researchers, traces of UOG chemicals have been found in water and air surrounding UOG sites, and are linked to harmful effects on both humans and animals. Exposure to water and air polluted by chemicals released during UOG operations is thought to be associated with poor semen quality, increased risk of infertility and miscarriage, as well as stunted fetal development and birth defects.

    "There are far fewer human studies than animal studies; however, taken together, the studies did show that humans can be harmed by these chemicals released from fracking," said Nagel. "There is strong evidence of decreased semen quality in men, higher miscarriages in women and increased risk of birth defects in children. There is a striking need for continued research on UOG processes and chemicals and the health outcomes in people."

    Journal Reference

    Ellen Webb, Amanda Cheng, Christopher D Kassotis, Victoria Balise, Susan C. Nagel. Developmental and reproductive effects of chemicals associated with unconventional oil and natural gas operations. Reviews on Environmental Health. Volume 29, Issue 4, Pages 307–318, ISSN (Online) 2191-0308, ISSN (Print) 0048-7554, DOI: 10.1515/reveh-2014-0057, December 2014.

  • Exposure to BPA During Pregnancy Increases Risk of Heart Disease and Diabetes in Mother and Child

    Studies have shown that exposure to Bisphenol A (BPA), a known endocrine disrupter, during pregnancy and early childhood poses numerous health risk to the unborn child. A recent study showed that exposure to BPA in the perinatal stages of development is likely to increase the chances of a child becoming food intolerant in later life. Now a new study published in Endocrinology, shows that exposure to BPA during pregnancy can result in oxidative damage to the baby's system that may increase the risk of the child developing heart disease or diabetes when he or she gets older.


    BPA is an endocrine-disrupting chemical that is commonly added to epoxy resins and plastics during the manufacture process. These contaminated materials are then used to manufacture a wide range of consumer products that are used in our daily lives such as food cans, plastic bottles (including water bottles and baby bottles) and receipts printed from cash registers. As an endocrine disruptor, BPA has the ability to mimic, block or interfere with hormones produced by our bodies. According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it is estimated that over 96% of the US population have BPA in their bodies.

    The body suffers from oxidative stress when it is exposed to excessive amounts of free radicals -- chemicals that are highly reactive and which could potentially cause cellular damage as oxygen is processed by the body -- if our body is not able to neutralize these chemicals fast enough. Free radicals are typically found in environmental pollutants such as ionizing radiation, tobacco smoke, and some metals; and according to the NIH and the NCI, exposure to these environmental toxins may result in free radicals being absorbed into the body, and may also cause the body to produce more free radicals.

    "This study provides the first evidence that BPA exposure during pregnancy can induce a specific type of oxidative stress known as nitrosative stress in both the mother and offspring," said lead author, Vasantha Padmanabhan, of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. "Oxidative stress is associated with insulin resistance and inflammation, which are risk factors for diabetes and other metabolic disorders as well as cardiovascular disease."

    For the study, the research team examined blood samples of 24 mothers and their infants to assess the effect of BPA exposure during pregnancy. The mothers all had blood samples taken during the first three months of their pregnancy, where BPA levels were measured. The mothers were then split into two groups according to the level of BPA in their bloodstream (high and low). Blood samples were taken from the babies umbilical cords as they were delivered, and the levels of chemical byproducts produced due to oxidative stress were measured.

    Analysis of the blood samples showed that mothers who were exposed to high levels of BPA as well as their babies exhibited symptoms of oxidative damage due to overexposure to free radicals derived from nitric oxide (the most prominent byproduct found in the study samples).
    The researchers also examined the effects that BPA had on pregnancy in non-human subjects -- mice, rats and sheep. After feeding the study animals a diet consisting of either low or high levels of BPA, the scientists took blood samples from both the mothers and their young to assess the levels of oxidative stress. The results supported the findings from the study conducted on human mother-infant pairs.

    "Whether or not BPA is harmful to human health has been vigorously debated," Padmanabhan said. "These findings demonstrate that more studies like this one are needed to determine the disease risk of exposure to BPA. In the interim, these results indicate that pregnant women should minimize their exposure to BPA to safeguard their babies and themselves from oxidant injury."

    Learn more about the health effects of endocrine-disrupting chemicals such as BPA by downloading an information guide published by the Endocrine Society. The black berkey filters that come standard with the berkey systems have been tested and shown to remove BPA from the water.

    Journal Reference:

    The study, "Impact of Gestational Bisphenol A on Oxidative Stress and Free Fatty Acids: Human Association and Interspecies Animal Testing Studies," was published online, ahead of print in the Endocrine Society's journal, Endocrinoly. Other authors of the study include: A. Veiga-Lopez, S. Pennathur, D.C. Dolinoy and L. Zeng of the University of Michigan; K. Kannan of the New York State Department of Health in Albany, NY; and H.B. Patisaul of North Carolina State University in Raleigh, NC.

  • Nitrogen-rich Recycled Water Good For Turfgrass

    As the demand for fresh water resources intensifies and the price of fertilizers soar, the horticulture sector is eyeing recycled wastewater as a potentially valuable resource to meet both the water and nutritional demands of urban landscaping. Wastewater is not only a valuable source of recycled water, but it is rich in nitrogen and phosphorous, two of the key nutrients found in commercial fertilizers.

    golf course

    The state of Florida provides a key example of how recycled water can be put to good use -- more than half of the state's reclaimed wastewater is reused for irrigating recreational facilities such as parks, sports turf, golf courses, and residential landscaping. Recent studies have shown that using recycled water for irrigation is not only an efficient use of our water resources, but offers additional benefits to turfgrass, as it is rich in nutrients that are essential for plant growth and vitality.Nitrogen-rich Recycled Water Good For Turfgrass

    According to a study that was recently published in the journal HortTechnology, wastewater treatment undergoes three stages of treatment: a primary stage; a secondary stage; and an advanced stage of treatment. Reclaimed wastewater that has undergone at least the first two stages of treatment can be defined as reclaimed water. According to the study's authors, the primary difference between reclaimed water that has undergone secondary treatment compared to reclaimed water that has undergone advanced treatment is that the latter further reduces the levels of chemicals and nutrients found in the water.

    "Water receiving advanced treatment typically has 25% of the nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P) and less soluble salts than contained in secondary treatments," explained Jinghua Fan and George Hochmuth, co-authors of the study. "Increasingly, the reclaimed water used for irrigation is from advanced wastewater treatment facilities."

    The interest in making use of this valuable resource for residential and urban irrigation is growing as more wastewater is reclaimed and research in this area expands. One of the key benefits of utilizing nitrogen-rich recycled wastewater is that it potentially allows for the reduction in the application of other nitrogen-rich fertilizers. However, we do need to proceed with caution, as nitrogen is a drinking water contaminant that could potentially contaminate groundwater sources.

    "It is important to determine the optimum combinations of water and nutrient applications to support turfgrass production without impairing groundwater through losses of nutrients from the landscape," Fan and Hochmuth explained, noting that little research has been conducted on to what degree urban lawns could utilize the nitrogen available in reclaimed water that has undergone advanced treatment.

    Results of a study conducted by researchers from the University of Florida show that irrigation water containing higher nitrogen concentrations benefited turfgrass growth, but wastewater that has undergone advanced treatment, reducing nitrogen levels significantly, has little benefit to turfgrass growth at concentrations less than 5 mg/L.

    Maximizing the benefits of the nutrients in wastewater for irrigating urban landscapes without polluting underground water sources could therefore be a fine balance.

    Journal Reference
    Jinghua Fan, George Hochmuth, Jason Kruse and Jerry Sartain. Effects of Reclaimed Water Irrigation on Growth and Nitrogen Uptake of Turfgrass. HortTechnology October 2014 24:565-574.

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