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  • News in Brief

    Radioactive material from Fukushima disaster turns up in a surprising place

    Six years after the Fukushima nuclear reactor disaster in Japan, radioactive material is leaching into the Pacific Ocean from an unexpected place. Some of the highest levels of radioactive cesium-137, a major by-product of nuclear power generation, are now found in the somewhat salty groundwater beneath sand beaches tens of kilometers away, a new study shows.

    Scientists tested for...

    10/02/2017 - 15:30 Pollution, Chemistry
  • Feature

    The list of diseases linked to air pollution is growing

    To the residents of Donora, Pa., a mill town in a crook of the Monongahela River, the daily haze from nearby zinc and steel plants was the price of keeping their families fed. But on October 27, 1948, the city awoke to an unusually sooty sky, even for Donora. The next day, the high school quarterbacks couldn’t see their teammates well enough to complete a single pass.

    The town was...

    09/19/2017 - 07:00 Pollution, Climate, Health
  • Science Stats

    Air pollution takes a toll on solar energy

    Air pollution is a drag for renewable energy. Dust and other sky-darkening air pollutants slash solar energy production by 17 to 25 percent across parts of India, China and the Arabian Peninsula, a new study estimates. The haze can block sunlight from reaching solar panels. And if the particles land on a panel’s flat surface, they cut down on the area exposed to the sun. Dust can come from...

    09/08/2017 - 09:00 Pollution, Sustainability
  • Science Ticker

    Ancient mud documents the legacy of Rome’s lead pipes

    Just as modern cities struggle with lead pollution, so may have ancient Rome. And muddy waters preserved the city’s legacy of lead pipes, a new study suggests.

    Researchers examined lead levels in dirt drilled from two Roman harbor sites, Ostia and Portus, on the Tiber River. The samples spanned 1000 B.C. to A.D. 1000. Up until around 200 B.C., harbor waters were pristine, but then...

    08/28/2017 - 16:36 Archaeology, Pollution
  • Science Ticker

    Giant larvaceans could be ferrying ocean plastic to the seafloor

    View the video

    Everybody poops, but the poop of bloblike filter feeders called giant larvaceans could be laced with microplastics.

    Every day, these gelatinous creatures (Bathochordaeus stygius) build giant disposable mucus mansions to round up zooplankton into their stomachs — sometimes sifting through around 80 liters of seawater per hour. Kakani Katija and her colleagues at the...

    08/16/2017 - 15:23 Animals, Oceans, Pollution
  • News

    New material could filter water contaminants that others miss

    A new material can pull a toxic, hard-to-degrade industrial chemical from drinking water more effectively than current methods.

    Perfluorooctanoic acid, or PFOA, hangs around in the environment for years and might cause health problems for people and animals. A new polymer material traps PFOA molecules, making them easy to filter out of water, researchers report in the June 14 Journal of...

    06/20/2017 - 16:23 Toxicology, Pollution
  • Science Ticker

    U.S. will withdraw from climate pact, Trump announces

    President Donald Trump announced on June 1 that the United States will pull out of the Paris climate accord.

    In signing the 2015 Paris agreement, the United States, along with 194 other countries, pledged to curb greenhouse gas emissions to combat global warming. But Trump — who has called climate change a “hoax” despite scientific evidence to the contrary — promised during his campaign...

    06/01/2017 - 17:58 Climate, Pollution, Science & Society
  • News

    When it’s hot, plants become a surprisingly large source of air pollution

    Planting trees is often touted as a strategy to make cities greener, cleaner and healthier. But during heat waves, city trees actually boost air pollution levels. When temperatures rise, as much as 60 percent of ground-level ozone is created with the help of chemicals emitted by urban shrubbery, researchers report May 17 in Environmental Science & Technology.

    While the findings seem...

    05/17/2017 - 17:33 Pollution
  • News

    Peace and quiet is becoming more elusive in U.S. wild areas

    Even in the wilderness, humans are making a ruckus.

    In 63 percent of America’s protected places — including parks, monuments and designated wilderness areas — sounds made by human activity are doubling the volume of background noise. And in 21 percent of protected places, this racket can make things 10 times noisier.  

    Enough clatter from cars, planes and suburban sprawl is seeping...

    05/04/2017 - 14:00 Pollution, Conservation
  • News

    ‘Fossil’ groundwater is not immune to modern-day pollution

    Groundwater that has lingered in Earth’s depths for more than 12,000 years is surprisingly vulnerable to modern pollution from human activities. Once in place, that pollution could stick around for thousands of years, researchers report online April 25 in Nature Geoscience. Scientists previously assumed such deep waters were largely immune to contamination from the surface.

    “We can’t...

    04/25/2017 - 16:12 Sustainability, Pollution, Earth