The Link between the Environment and Our Health

From the Scientific American, January 28, 2011…

Would people care more about the environment if they had a better understanding of how it affects them personally?

No doubt many of the ways we harm our environment come back to haunt us in the form of sickness and death. The realization that the pesticide-laced foods we eat, the smokestack-befouled air we breathe and the petrochemical-based products we use negatively affect our quality of life is a big part of the reason so many people have “gone green” in recent years.

Just following the news is enough to green anyone. Scientific American reported in 2009 that a joint U.S./Swedish study looking into the effects of household contaminants discovered that children who live in homes with vinyl floors—which can emit hazardous chemicals called phthalates—are twice as likely to develop signs of autism as kids in other homes. Other studies have shown that women exposed to high levels of polybrominated diphenyl ether (PBDE) flame retardants common in cushions, carpet padding and mattresses—97 percent of us have detectable levels of these chemicals in our bloodstreams—are more likely to have trouble getting pregnant and suffer from other fertility issues as a result. Cheaply produced drywall made in China can emit so much sulfur gas that it not only corrodes electrical wiring but also causes breathing problems, bloody noses and headaches for building occupants. The list goes on and on….

Follow the dialogue here >>

If you think you can’t do anything about it, wise up! Check out this segment from Protecting our Children’s Health:

Our video on Philly’s Green Infrastructure program is making the rounds; Clevelanders “green” with envy…

Our friends at the Philadelphia Water Department continue to draw kudos for their smart approach to stormwater management, this time on

Philadelphia Manages Stormwater with Green Infrastructure.

This video explains how the city of Philadelphia is reducing storm water management costs using “green infrastructure” such as bioswales. Meanwhile, the Cleveland region spends $3 billion under an order from the EPA to separate its storm and sanitary sewers. Perhaps if there would have been more thoughtful planning …

Yup, they’re using our Green City, Clean Waters video as an example of what smart planning can do. Nice!

You can Check out the article here and see what people think >>

Salt on the Roads: Good for Safety, bad for the environment…

As we dig out from another winter storm here in the Northeast–and road crews work to stay on top of the snow–we’re all focused on getting around safely. Whether we’re driving, cycling (yup, people still do, despite windchills and slippery ground), or navigating on foot, clearing roads and sidewalks quickly and effectively is a primary concern.

And that means we’re using all kinds of salt. Nothing does the job as well or as economically–but we’ve been going overboard without thinking about where the salt goes. We’re after the plusses, but aren’t tuned in to the negative effects.

Remember last winter’s massive storms and those images of front loaders dumping snow into the Schuylkill and Delaware Rivers? That snow is loaded with the salt and sand that gives us traction on the roads. What about the snowmelt that washes into the storm drains? You guessed it: this runoff is also loaded with salt–and it may be heading straight into local creeks, rivers, and streams. Studies are showing that sodium levels in waterways all across the country have been rising–and that’s not a good thing. Plants and fish are being adversely affected; in fact, the entire aquatic ecosystem is being thrown out of whack.

The Philadelphia Inquirer’s Sandy Bauers wrote a good piece about the problem over the holidays. In case you missed it, you can find the article here >>

She draws from a study by the US Geological Survey that says salt deicing can turn waterways toxic to aquatic life. Check it out here >>

Thought provoking stuff. We want everyone to be safe out there, but let’s use our salt wisely. Like it or not, all of our actions have some unintended effect…

Google wants to make young scientists the rock stars of tomorrow, launches Global Science Fair

From Google Science Fair, the official source for information about Google’s Science Fair:

Are you a student who loves science? Do you have a good idea for an experiment that you’d like to share with the world? In 1996, two young computer science students, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, had a hypothesis that there was a better way to find information on the web. They did their research, tested their theories and built a search engine which (eventually) changed the way people found information online. Larry and Sergey were fortunate to be able to get their idea in front of lots of people. But how many ideas are lost because people don’t have the right forum for their talents to be discovered? We believe that science can change the world—and one way to encourage that is to celebrate and champion young scientific talent as we do athletes and pop idols.

Check out the teaser on Youtube:

Find out how to get involved at the official Google Global Science Fair Site >>