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News articles on health
Mongabay.com news articles on health in blog format. Updated regularly.
(05/07/2013) Exposure to dangerous chemicals from toxic waste sites may be creating a public health crisis in developing countries comparable to that caused by malaria or even air pollution, a new study suggests, highlighting the urgent need to clean up toxic waste. In a study published on Saturday in Environmental Health Perspectives, researchers calculated the number of 'healthy years of life lost' due to ill-health, disability or early death in individuals at risk of exposure to chemicals at 373 toxic waste sites in India, the Philippines and Indonesia.
Citizen group finds 30 toxic chemicals in air following tar sands oil spill in Arkansas
(04/30/2013) Independent air samples by locals have yielded "a soup of toxic chemicals" in Mayflower, Arkansas where an Exxon Mobil pipeline burst on March 29th spilling some 5,000 barrels of tar sands oil, known as bitumen. Chemicals detected included several linked to cancer, reproductive problems, and neurological impacts such as benzene and ethylbenzene. Air samples were taken by community leader and University of Central Arkansas student April Lane a day after the spill. However, the Environment Protection Agency (EPA)'s and Exxon Mobil's air samples have yielded chemical levels below harm except in the direct clean-up area, according to the Arkansas Department of Health (ADH).
Air pollution killed 7 million people in 2010
(04/09/2013) Seven million people died from air pollution in 2010, according to new data from the Global Burden of Disease Study 2010, published in the medical journal Lancet. The research found that indoor air pollution killed 3.5 million people in 2010, outdoor air pollution 3.3 million, and ground level ozone pollution 200,000 people.
Greener neighborhoods have less violent crime
(04/04/2013) Turn your neighborhood green and it may prevent violent crime in the long run, according to a new study in Landscape and Urban Planning, which found that violent crimes (assaults, robberies, and burglaries) occurred less often in greener areas of Philadelphia. The connection between greener neighborhoods and less violent crime even stood up after researchers accounted for education, poverty, and population levels.
Proposed coal plant threatens Critically Endangered Philippine cockatoo
(04/02/2013) One kilometer off the Philippine island of Palawan lays the Rasa Island Wildlife Sanctuary; here forest grows unimpeded from a coral island surrounded by mangroves and coral reefs. Although tiny, over a hundred bird species have been recorded on the island along with a major population of large flying foxes, while in the waters below swim at least 130 species of coral fish, three types of marine turtles, and that curious-looking marine mammal, dugongs. Most importantly, perhaps, the island is home to the world's largest population of Philippine cockatoos (Cacatua haematuropygia), currently listed as Critically Endangered. But, although uninhabited by people, Rasa Island may soon be altered irrevocably by human impacts.
After decades of turning a blind eye, Peru declares state of emergency due to oil contamination in Amazon
(03/26/2013) The Peruvian government has declared an environmental state of emergency after finding elevated levels of lead, barium, and chromium in the Pastaza River in the Amazon jungle, reports the Associated Press. Indigenous peoples in the area have been complaining for decades of widespread contamination from oil drilling, but this is the first time the Peruvian government has acknowledged their concerns. Currently 84 percent of the Peruvian Amazon is covered by potential oil blocs, leading to conflict with indigenous people and environmental degradation.
Heavy metal shark meat: dangerous lead levels found in sharks used as fish food
(03/18/2013) A recent study published in mongabay.com’s open access journal Tropical Conservation Science raises concerns about levels of heavy metals, particularly lead (Pb), present in shark meat, as well as the decline of shark abundance due to global fishing pressures. Sharks are primarily caught as by-catch for other fishing industries. By one account, 70% of the total catch in swordfish long-line fisheries was sharks. Due to consumer demand, this by-catch is sold to Asian fish markets as fin and trunk meat. Much of the trunk and organ meat is used to make fish-meal, which is then fed to farmed fish.
Improving community healthcare helps protect rainforests in Borneo
(03/14/2013) Providing high quality healthcare to communities around a rainforest park in Indonesian Borneo may be helping reduce chronic illegal logging, suggests a new assessment published by a conservation group. The five-year impact assessment published by Indonesia-based Alam Sehat Lestari (ASRI) is based on surveys of nearly 1,500 households and 6,345 people living around Gunung Palung National Park in West Kalimantan. The study compares key health, economic, and conservation indicators to a baseline survey taken in 2007, prior to the launch of the project.
Burning coal may be killing over 100,000 people in India every year
(03/13/2013) India's dependence on coal-fired power plants for energy may be leading directly to the deaths of 80,000 to 115,000 of its citizens every year, according to the first ever report on the health impacts of coal in the country. The report, commissioned by the Conservation Action Trust and Greenpeace-India, deals only with the direct health impact of coal and not climate change. But even ignoring the rising pain of global warming, the bleak report outlines that coal consumption in India is causing over 20 million asthma attacks, nearly a million emergency room visits, and killing some 10,000 children under five annually.
Scientists: stop treating population growth as a 'given' and empower women
(02/27/2013) Climate change, biodiversity loss, resource depletion, water scarcity, and land issues: almost all of the world's environmental problems are underpinned by too many people inhabiting a finite planet. A new study in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B warns that overpopulation—combined with over-consumption—is threatening to push the entire globe into "a collapse of global civilization." But cultural changes, especially more empowerment of women and access to contraceptives, may hold the key to reducing population growth and eventual sustainability.
Stress makes organic tomatoes more nutritious, sweeter
(02/20/2013) Organic tomatoes are sweeter (more sugar) and more nutritious (more vitamin C and anti-oxidants) than tomatoes grown with pesticides and chemical fertilizers, according to a new study published in the open-access journal PLOS ONE. The scientists theorize that stress may be why organic farming produces a more nutritious and tastier tomato.
From slash-and-burn to Amazon heroes: new video series highlights agricultural transformation
(01/31/2013) A new series of short films is celebrating the innovation of rural farmers in the Manu region of Peru. Home to jaguars, macaws, and tapirs, the Manu region is also one of the top contenders for the world's most biodiverse place. It faces a multitude of threats from road-building to mining to gas and oil concessions. Still the impact of smallscale slash-and-burn farming—once seen as the greatest threat to the Amazon and other rainforest—may be diminishing as farmers, like the first film's Reynaldo (see below), turn to new ways of farming, ones that preserve the forest while providing a better life overall.
Presence of trees may mitigate cardiovascular and respiratory disease
(01/17/2013) Scientists with the U.S. Forest Service have observed a link between human health and trees, implying that trees may actually mitigate both cardiovascular and lower respiratory disease. Although the researchers do not yet put forward a reason why or how the presence of trees save lives, they are convinced there is a link.
Mercury hurts birds and people: what we can learn from studying our feathered friends
(01/07/2013) Birds aren't that different from people. We learn from our parents, just like zebra finches learn songs from their fathers. We are active and noisy during the day, like birds, and we can also be territorial. Also like birds, we try to attract mates through colorful displays and beautiful songs. Birds are sensitive to pollution in their environment just like we are: harmful elements such as mercury wreak similar havoc on human and bird biology alike. Because our species share so many attributes, studying birds illustrates the connections between them and us.
Featured video: trailer for Living Downstream
(09/25/2012) After suffering from bladder cancer at 20, Sandra Steingraber began to study the links between toxic chemicals and deadly diseases. Her research led her to write the the much-acclaimed book Living Downstream, which combines her personal struggles with disease and the on-going contamination of our environment. Now, a new film based on the book, Steingraber's life, and the science behind cancer and chemicals in our environmental, is being released worldwide. To see the list of screenings worldwide: LIVING DOWNSTREAM.
Burning forests in Southeast Asia increases mortality rates in the region
(08/13/2012) Clearing forests and other vegetation with fire in Southeast Asia can kill, according to a new study in Nature Climate Change. The research found that fire-induced air pollution, including fine particulates and a rise in ozone, could be linked to thousands of deaths during El Nino years when dry conditions worsen human-set fires. The pollution was found to be worst over Malaysia and Indonesia, the latter where the vast majority of the fires are set.
High-tech hell: new documentary brings Africa's e-waste slum to life
(04/30/2012) Shirtless boys rapidly pull the computer apart, discarding bits and pieces, until they expose the wires, yank them out, and toss them into a fire. Acrid, toxic smoke blooms as the boys prod the wires and the fire strips the plastic around the wires, leaving the sought-after copper. Welcome, to Agbogbloshie, where your technology goes to die. A new film e-wasteland captures the horrors of the world's largest e-waste slum through surreal and staggering images. Shot over three weeks by one-man guerrilla filmmaker, David Fedele, e-wasteland is an entirely visual experience without dialogue or voiceover.
Featured video: Peaceful Walks, nature to soothe the soul
(04/09/2012) Recent research has shown that time spent in nature can have beneficial psychological effects. Renowned filmmaker and conservationist, David Attenborough has stated that nature "keeps us sane."
Indigenous groups fight for recognition and illumination in Peru
(03/26/2012) "Shh, wait here," Wilson told me. I ducked down behind the buttress of a large tree to wait. We had been walking through the jungle for a few hours. At first we followed a path through the undergrowth, a wet world of ferns, trunks and lianas speckled with the sunlight that made it down through the canopy and understory, but soon we simply walked along a route Wilson picked out. I had been trying to concentrate on the myriad sounds: cicadas were the background and various small birds tweeted from different points. We were listening and looking for signs that would lead us to prey—perhaps the calm whistle of a perdiz or the scent—marking of a boar—but just before Wilson became excited I had heard nothing. He stopped and said, "Red monkeys," pointing ahead.
Gold mining in the Peruvian Amazon: a view from the ground
(03/15/2012) On the back of a partially functioning motorcycle I fly down miles of winding footpath at high-speed through the dense Amazon rainforest, the driver never able to see more than several feet ahead. Myriads of bizarre creatures lie camouflaged amongst the dense vines and lush foliage; flocks of parrots fly overhead in rainbows of color; a moss-covered three-toed sloth dangles from an overhanging branch; a troop of red howler monkeys rumble continuously in the background; leafcutter ants form miles of crawling highways across the forest floor. Even the hot, wet air feels alive.
Interactive map reveals the human cost of mountaintop mining
(02/21/2012) Environmental degradation can have major impacts on a community's quality of life and a new interactive map of mountain top mining for coal in the U.S. makes this abundantly clear: based on 21 scientific studies, the map highlights how communities near mountain top mining have lower life expectancy, higher birth defects, worsening poverty, and are more likely to suffer from cancer, as well as heart and respiratory disease. Created by the non-profit Appalachian Voices and posted on ilovemountains.org, the map show that most communities near mountain top removal sites are in the bottom 1 percent for overall well-bring in the U.S.
Six nations, including U.S., set up climate initiative to target short-term greenhouse gases
(02/20/2012) With global negotiations to tackle carbon emissions progressing interminably, nations are seeking roundabout ways to combat global climate change. U.S. Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, announced in India last week a new six nation initiative to target non-carbon greenhouse gases, including soot (also known as "black carbon"), methane, and hydro-fluorocarbons (HFCs). Reductions of these emissions would not only impact short-term climate change, but also improve health and agriculture worldwide according to a recent study in Science.
Innovative conservation: wild silk, endangered species, and poverty in Madagascar
(02/20/2012) For anyone who works in conservation in Madagascar, confronting the complex difficulties of widespread poverty is a part of the job. But with the wealth of Madagascar's wildlife rapidly diminishing— such as lemurs, miniature chameleons, and hedgehog-looking tenrecs found no-where else in the world—the island-nation has become a testing ground for innovative conservation programs that focus on tackling entrenched poverty to save dwindling species and degraded places. The local NGO, the Madagascar Organization of Silk Workers or SEPALI, along with its U.S. partner Conservation through Poverty Alleviation (CPALI), is one such innovative program. In order to alleviate local pressure on the newly-established Makira Protected Area, SEPALI is aiding local farmers in artisanal silk production from endemic moths. The program uses Madagascar's famed wildlife to help create more economically stable communities.
Washing clothing pollutes oceans with billions of microplastics
(02/14/2012) Washing synthetic clothes—such as nylon, polyester, and acrylic—is polluting the oceans with billions of microplastics: plastics that measure less than one millimeter. It may sound innocuous, but research has shown that these microplastics are accumulating in marine species with unknown health impacts, both on the pollution-eating species and the humans who consume them.
Black Swans and bottom-up environmental action
(02/08/2012) The defining events shaping the modern world - economic, social, environmental, progressive and disruptive - are frequently characterized as "Black Swans."The Black Swan term and theory were characterized by author and analyst Nassim Nicholas Taleb who explains, "What we call here a Black Swan (and capitalize it) is an event with the following three attributes. First, it is an outlier, as it lies outside the realm of regular expectations, because nothing in the past can convincingly point to its possibility. Second, it carries an extreme impact. Third, in spite of its outlier status, human nature makes us concoct explanations for its occurrence after the fact, making it explainable and predictable." Taleb identifies the emergence of the internet, the attacks of September 11, 2001, the popularity of Facebook, stock market crashes, the success of Harry Potter, and World War I as among Black Swan events.
California sets tough new clean car standards
(01/30/2012) The U.S. state that takes climate change most seriously—California—has unanimously approved new rules dubbed the Advanced Clean Cars program to lower carbon emissions, reduce oil dependence, mitigate health impacts from pollution, and save consumers money in the long-term. According to the new standards, by 2025 cars sold in California must cut greenhouse gas emissions by 34 percent and smog emissions by 75 percent. The program will also require 15.4 percent of all cars sold in California to be zero or near-zero emissions by 2025.
Targeting methane, black carbon could buy world a little time on climate change
(01/12/2012) A new study in Science argues that reducing methane and black carbon emissions would bring global health, agriculture, and climate benefits. While such reductions would not replace the need to reduce CO2 emissions, they could have the result of lowering global temperature by 0.5 degrees Celsius (0.9 degree Fahrenheit) by mid-century, as well as having the added benefits of saving lives and boosting agricultural yields. In addition, the authors contend that dealing with black carbon and methane now would be inexpensive and politically feasible.
World's most expensive tuna
(01/05/2012) A 593 pound Pacific bluefin tuna sold for $735,000 (56.49 million yen) in Tokyo's Tsukiji market today. This beats the previous record price hit last year by over $260,000. Why so expensive? Bluefin tuna, considered the best sashimi and sushi in the world, have been fished to near extinction with the population of the Pacific bluefin the most stable to date.
Cultural shifts in Madagascar drive lemur-killing
(12/15/2011) Conservationists have often found that some cultural norms, religious beliefs, and taboos play a role in holding back traditional peoples from overusing their environment. Examples of such beliefs include days wherein one cannot hunt or fish, or certain species or regions that are off limits to exploitation. But the influence of the modern world can rapidly extinguish such beliefs, sometimes for the better, in other cases not. In many parts of Madagascar, lemurs are off the menu. These primates, found only in Madagascar, play a big role in Malagasy 'fady' or taboo-related folk stories: lemurs are protectors and, in some cases, even relatives. However, according to a new paper in PLoS ONE an influx of migrants, widespread poverty, lack domestic meat, and poor law enforcement has caused a sudden rise in eating lemurs, many of which are already near-extinction due to habitat loss.
Media campaign says mercury pollution a pro-life issue
(12/14/2011) While pro-life activists usually target abortion, a new campaign is working to broaden the pro-life message. A $250,000 media campaign in the U.S., including TV spots and radio ads in eight states, hopes to pressure conservative senators to protect unborn children by supporting the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) regulations on mercury emissions from coal-fired plants.
The Atlas of Climate Change: Mapping the World’s Greatest Challenge – a book review
(12/12/2011) The Atlas of Climate Change: Mapping the World’s Greatest Challenge presents in clear and concise visual form the impacts and effects, solutions and mitigation actions surrounding climate change - which is our greatest global challenge.
Smelly frogs may be key to fighting antibiotic-resistant infections
(12/01/2011) Foul smelling frogs may save lives, according to new research in the Journal of Proteome Research. Examining nine species of Chinese frogs, known as "odorous" frogs for their off-putting smell, researchers have discovered an astounding variety of antimicrobial peptides, or put simply bacteria-killers.
Zoopharmacognosy: how self-healing animals could save humans
(11/27/2011) As humans we take many things for granted. When we come down with a sore throat, a fever, or the dreaded stomach flu, we drag our aching bodies into our cars and visit the doctor. Animals have no such luxury. Instead they have mastered evolution and have acquired an innate knowledge of the plants, soils, minerals, algae, and other remedies that nature offers to heal their aches and pains.
Forgoing bushmeat hunting has health toll in Madagascar, says study
(11/22/2011) Conservationists shouldn't overlook the detrimental health impacts of shifting local populations away from subsistence bushmeat hunting, says a new study.
Chemotherapy tree facing extinction
(11/10/2011) A yew tree in the Himalayas that produces the chemotherapy drug, Taxol, is in danger of extinction. An update to the IUCN Red List, has moved the tree, named Taxus contorta, from Vulnerable to Endangered. Overharvesting for medicine and fuelwood have placed the species in serious danger.
UN calls for secure contraceptives as wildlife group hands out Endangered Species condoms
(10/06/2011) Sometime at the end of this month, the seventh billion person on Earth will be born: that's seven billions mouths to feed, seven billion throats to water, and seven billion bodies to keep warm. But the population continues to rise: experts believe the global human population could hit 10 billion by 2050. A UN meeting last month said that to meet the needs of the world's women, the developing world needs a secure supply of contraceptives and voluntary family planning initiatives.
Over 100 arrested as tar sands civil disobedience spreads to Canada
(09/27/2011) After two weeks of sustained protesting at the US White House against the Keystone XL pipeline, with 1,252 people arrested, civil disobedience has now spread to Canada, home of the tar sands. Yesterday, around 500 people protested in Ottawa against Canada's controversial tar sands; 117 were arrested as they purposefully crossed a barrier separating them from the House of Commons in an act of civil disobedience.
Children on the frontlines: the e-waste epidemic in Africa
(09/09/2011) In Agbogbloshie, a slum outside the capital city of Accra, Ghana, tons of electronic waste lies smoldering in toxic piles. Children make their way through this dangerous environment, desperate to strip even a few ounces of copper, aluminum, brass, and zinc from worn-out electronics originating from the United States and Europe. "The smell alone will drive all but the most desperate away, but many are so desperate they persevere despite the obvious dangers. It is a very tough thing to witness," explains Dr. Kwei Quartey, a Ghanaian author and physician, in a recent mongabay.com interview.
World's oldest person discovered in Amazon rainforest
(08/31/2011) Maria Lucimar Pereira is arguably the world's oldest living person: a member of the Kaxinawá tribe, Pereira lives in the Brazilian Amazon and will be soon celebrating her 121st birthday, according to Survival International.
Big damage in Papua New Guinea: new film documents how industrial logging destroys lives
(08/29/2011) In one scene a young man, perhaps not long ago a boy, named Douglas stands shirtless and in shorts as he runs a chainsaw into a massive tropical tree. Prior to this we have already heard from an official how employees operating chainsaws must have a bevy of protective equipment as well as training, but in Papua New Guinea these are just words. The reality is this: Douglas straining to pull the chainsaw out of the tree as it begins to fall while his fellow employees flee the tumbling giant. The new film Bikpela Bagarap('Big Damage') documents the impact of industrial logging on the lives of local people in Papua New Guinea.
Oil horror in Nigeria: 30 years, one billion dollars to clean-up
(08/08/2011) Fifty years of oil spills in Nigeria's now infamous Ogoniland region will take up to three decades and over a billion dollars ($1 billion for just the first five years) to restore environments to healthy conditions, according to a new independent report by the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP). The most thorough study to date has found that widespread pollution has hit the Niger Delta even harder than assumed with devastating impacts on fishing grounds and community health. Last week Shell, one of the biggest operators in Nigeria, admitted to two massive oil spills in 2008 totaling 11 million gallons of crude.
Singing frog leads to insights into human hearing
(08/03/2011) New understanding of how female tungara frogs sort out the din of multiple males singing may lead to insights into human hearing, according to a new study in Nature Communications.
Oil company hires indigenous people to clean up its Amazon spill with rags and buckets
(07/13/2011) On Sunday morning children swimming in the Mashiria River in the Peruvian Amazon noticed oil floating on the water. A pipeline owned by Maple Energy had ruptured in Block 31-E, polluting the Mashiria River which is used by the Shipibo indigenous community in Nuevo Sucre for fishing and drinking water. In response to the spill, Maple Energy's local operator—Dublin incorporate transnational—hired 32 Shipibo community members to clean up the spills using only rags and buckets.
Eating rhino horn sends woman to hospital
(06/30/2011) A Vietnamese woman ended up in the hospital after consuming rhino horn, reports savingrhinos.org. Used for a rash around her mouth, the rhino horn instead caused a serious allergic reaction, including reddening skin, itching, and fever. Listed under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), rhino horn is illegal to purchase or sell worldwide.
Is Indonesia losing its most valuable assets?
(05/16/2011) Deep in the rainforests of Malaysian Borneo in the late 1980s, researchers made an incredible discovery: the bark of a species of peat swamp tree yielded an extract with potent anti-HIV activity. An anti-HIV drug made from the compound is now nearing clinical trials. It could be worth hundreds of millions of dollars a year and help improve the lives of millions of people. This story is significant for Indonesia because its forests house a similar species. In fact, Indonesia's forests probably contain many other potentially valuable species, although our understanding of these is poor. Given Indonesia's biological richness — Indonesia has the highest number of plant and animal species of any country on the planet — shouldn't policymakers and businesses be giving priority to protecting and understanding rainforests, peatlands, mountains, coral reefs, and mangrove ecosystems, rather than destroying them for commodities?
Program that cuts illegal logging by providing high quality health care in Borneo wins major conservation award
(05/14/2011) The co-founder of an initiative that discourages illegal logging by bringing affordable, high quality health care to impoverished communities in Indonesian Borneo has been recognized with a prestigious conservation award.
Save the Frogs Day focuses on banning Atrazine in US
(04/26/2011) This year's Save the Frogs Day (Friday, April 29th) is focusing on a campaign to ban the herbicide Atrazine in the US with a rally at the steps of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Kerry Kriger, executive director of frog-focused NGO Save the Frogs! and creator of Save the Frogs Day, says that Atrazine is an important target in the attempt to save amphibians worldwide, which are currently facing extinction rates that are estimated at 200 times the average. "Atrazine weakens amphibians' immune systems, and can cause hermaphroditism and complete sex reversal in male frogs at concentrations as low as 2.5 parts per billion," Kriger told mongabay.com.
What does Nature give us? A special Earth Day article
(04/22/2011) There is no question that Earth has been a giving planet. Everything humans have needed to survive, and thrive, was provided by the natural world around us: food, water, medicine, materials for shelter, and even natural cycles such as climate and nutrients. Scientists have come to term such gifts 'ecosystem services', however the recognition of such services goes back thousands of years, and perhaps even farther if one accepts the caves paintings at Lascaux as evidence. Yet we have so disconnected ourselves from the natural world that it is easy—and often convenient—to forget that nature remains as giving as ever, even as it vanishes bit-by-bit. The rise of technology and industry may have distanced us superficially from nature, but it has not changed our reliance on the natural world: most of what we use and consume on a daily basis remains the product of multitudes of interactions within nature, and many of those interactions are imperiled. Beyond such physical goods, the natural world provides less tangible, but just as important, gifts in terms of beauty, art, and spirituality.
Demand for gold pushing deforestation in Peruvian Amazon
(04/19/2011) Deforestation is on the rise in Peru's Madre de Dios region from illegal, small-scale, and dangerous gold mining. In some areas forest loss has increased up to six times. But the loss of forest is only the beginning; the unregulated mining is likely leaching mercury into the air, soil, and water, contaminating the region and imperiling its people. Using satellite imagery from NASA, researchers were able to follow rising deforestation due to artisanal gold mining in Peru. According the study, published in PLoS ONE, Two large mining sites saw the loss of 7,000 hectares of forest (15,200 acres)—an area larger than Bermuda—between 2003 and 2009.
Scientists follow rise of mercury pollution in seabird feathers
(04/18/2011) Analyzing the feathers of the black-footed albatross (Phoebastria nigripes) going back to 1880. researchers have uncovered rising levels of the toxic methylmercury in the endangered birds that is generally consistent with rising mercury emissions in the Pacific region. Methylmercury is a more toxic compound than mercury that binds with organic molecules when it is released through industrial processes, such as burning coal and other fossil fuels.
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