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  • Science Stats

    Humans are overloading the world’s freshwater bodies with phosphorus

    Human activities are driving phosphorus levels in the world’s lakes, rivers and other freshwater bodies to a critical point. The freshwater bodies on 38 percent of Earth’s land area (not including Antarctica) are overly enriched with phosphorus, leading to potentially toxic algal blooms and less available drinking water, researchers report January 24 in Water Resources Research.

    Sewage,...

    02/07/2018 - 11:00 Ecosystems, Pollution
  • News

    Gassy farm soils are a shockingly large source of these air pollutants

    California’s crops are creating some noxious air.

    The Golden State is at the vanguard in the United States in reducing auto emissions of nitrogen oxide gases, which help produce toxic smog and acid rain. But the NOx pollution problem isn’t limited to auto exhaust. California’s vast agricultural lands — particularly soils heavily treated with nitrogen fertilizers — are now responsible for...

    01/31/2018 - 14:13 Earth, Pollution, Agriculture
  • News in Brief

    Plastic pollution increases risk of devastating disease in corals

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    Coral reefs are sick of plastic.

    More than 11 billion plastic objects are polluting Asia-Pacific coral reefs, a new estimate finds. This waste can harbor pathogenic bacteria known to make corals sick. Reefs littered with plastic were at least 20 times as likely to have diseased corals as unpolluted reefs, researchers say. 

    Corals succumbing to disease can throw...

    01/25/2018 - 17:00 Pollution, Oceans, Ecosystems
  • News

    Pollution is endangering the future of astronomy

    OXON HILL, Md. — Even as technological advances allow astronomers to peer more deeply into the cosmos than ever before, new technologies also have the potential to create blinding pollution.

    Three sources of pollution — space debris, radio interference and light pollution — already are particularly worrisome. And the situation is getting worse. In the next two decades, as many as 20,000...

    01/12/2018 - 13:27 Astronomy, Pollution, Technology
  • News

    Fracking linked to low birth weight in Pennsylvania babies

    Living near a fracking site appears to be detrimental to infant health, a study eyeing the gas production practice in Pennsylvania suggests.

    Babies of moms living within one kilometer of a hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, site in the state had a 25 percent greater chance of being born underweight than did babies whose moms lived at least three kilometers away, researchers report online...

    12/13/2017 - 17:55 Health, Pollution
  • News

    Seeds coated in a common pesticide might affect birds’ migration

    MINNEAPOLIS — Pesticides that kill insects can also have short-term effects on seed-eating birds. Ingesting even small amounts of imidacloprid, a common neonicotinoid pesticide, can disorient migratory white-crowned sparrows, researchers report.

    Neonicotinoid pesticides were designed to be safer than traditional pesticides: toxic to insects, but comparatively harmless to other animals....

    11/22/2017 - 10:30 Animals, Pollution
  • News in Brief

    Even a tiny oil spill spells bad news for birds

    MINNEAPOLIS — Birds don’t need to be drenched in crude oil to be harmed by spills and leaks.

    Ingesting even small amounts of oil can interfere with the animals’ normal behavior, researchers reported November 15 at the annual meeting of the Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry North America. Birds can take in these smaller doses by preening slightly greasy feathers or eating...

    11/21/2017 - 07:00 Animals, Pollution
  • News in Brief

    The key to breaking down plastic may be in caterpillars’ guts

    MINNEAPOLIS — To destroy plastic, caterpillars go with their gut bacteria.

    Caterpillars that nibble through polyethylene plastic cultivate a diverse community of digestive bacteria that process the plastic, researchers reported November 13 at the annual meeting of the Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry North America. Dousing old plastic in a similar mix of bacteria might...

    11/17/2017 - 13:12 Animals, Pollution
  • News in Brief

    Pollution killed 9 million people in 2015

    About one in every six premature deaths worldwide is linked to dirty air, water and soil.

    Most of those deaths are concentrated among the world’s poorest populations, according to a study published online October 19 in the Lancet that documents the health and economic toll of pollution in 2015. In the most severely polluted countries, 25 percent of premature deaths could be attributed to...

    10/20/2017 - 17:50 Pollution, Health
  • 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