Category Archives: Pollution

River Thames ‘severely polluted with plastic’

Getty Images Image caption Plastic on the banks of the River Thames

The River Thames has some of the highest recorded levels of microplastics for any river in the world.

Scientists have estimated that 94,000 microplastics per second flow down the river in places.

The quantity exceeds that measured in other European rivers, such as the Danube and Rhine.

Tiny bits of plastic have been found inside the bodies of crabs living in the Thames.

And wet wipes flushed down the toilet are accumulating in large numbers on the shoreline.

Researchers at Royal Holloway, University of London, are calling for stricter regulations on the labelling and disposal of plastic products.

They warn that careless disposal of plastic gloves and masks during the coronavirus pandemic might make the problem of plastic pollution worse.

“Taken together these studies show how many different types of plastic, from microplastics in the water through to larger items of debris physically altering the foreshore, can potentially affect a wide range of organisms in the River Thames,” said Prof Dave Morritt from Royal Holloway.

“The increased use of single-use plastic items, and the inappropriate disposal of such items, including masks and gloves, along with plastic-containing cleaning products, during the current Covid-19 pandemic, may well exacerbate this problem.”

The scientists point out that the Thames is cleaner than it used to be with respect to some pollutants, such as trace metals.

What plastics were found in the River?

Many forms of microplastics were found in the Thames, including glitter, microbeads from cosmetics and plastic fragments from larger items.

The bulk of the microplastics came from the break-down of large plastics, with food packaging thought to be a significant source.

“Flushable” wet wipes were found in high abundance on the shoreline forming “wet wipe reefs”.

Study researcher, Katherine McCoy, said, “Our study shows that stricter regulations are needed for the labelling and disposal of these products. There is great scope to further research the impacts of microplastics and indeed microfibres on Thames organisms.”

Where does the plastic come from?

Fibres from washing machine outflows and potentially from sewage outfalls, plus fragments from the breakup of larger plastics, such as packaging items and bottles, which are washed into the river.

Katharine Rowley of Royal Holloway said it’s unclear why there’s such a high density of plastic in the River Thames, but called for people to think about the plastic they use and throw away.

“People can make much more of a difference than they might think,” she said.

What is the plastic doing to wildlife in the river?

Some animals living in the river are ingesting microplastics, including two species of crab.

Crabs contained tangled plastic in their stomachs, including fibres and microplastics from sanitary pads, balloons, elastic bands and carrier bags.

“Tangles of plastic were particularly prevalent in the invasive Chinese mitten crab and we still don’t fully understand the reason for this.”

Clams near the wet wipe “reefs” contained synthetic polymers, some of which may have originated from the wet wipes and other pollutants found on the site such as sanitary items.

How do the findings compare with other rivers?

Much of the work on microplastics has been carried out in seas and oceans rather than rivers.

By comparison, the Thames has higher quantities of microplastics than levels recorded in the Rhine in Germany, the Danube in Romania, the River Po in Italy and the Chicago River in the US.

However, levels appear lower than those reported for China’s Yangzte river.

Other scientists previously tested river sediments at 40 sites throughout Greater Manchester and found “microplastics everywhere”.

The latest research was carried out in collaboration with the Natural History Museum and Zoological Society, London.

Dr Paul Clark of the Natural History Museum said, “What our students have shown in this collaboration is that although the Thames is certainly cleaner with regards some chemical pollutants, eg. heavy metals, the River is severely polluted with plastic. And once again our wildlife is threatened.”

The research is reported in two papers in Environmental Pollution and in one paper in Science of the Total Environment.

https://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-53479635

India air pollution at ‘unbearable levels’, Delhi minister says

10DE066D-AB22-4AF9-86B3-A76D33143735Worshippers braved the smog to enter the polluted River Yamuna as part of the Hindu religious festival of Chatth Puja

Air pollution in the north of India has “reached unbearable levels,” the capital Delhi’s Chief Minister Arvid Kejriwal says.

In many areas of Delhi air quality deteriorated into the “hazardous” category on Sunday with the potential to cause respiratory illnesses.

Authorities have urged people to stay inside to protect themselves.

Mr Kejriwal called on the central government to provide relief and tackle the toxic pollution.

  • How a food crisis led to Delhi’s foul smog

Schools have been closed, more than 30 flights diverted and construction work halted as the city sits in a thick blanket of smog.

Delhi Health Minister Satyendar Jain advised the city’s residents to “avoid outdoor physical activities, especially during morning and late evening hours”.

The advisory also said people should wear anti-pollution masks, avoid polluted areas and keep doors and windows closed.

How bad is the smog?

Levels of dangerous particles in the air – known as PM2.5 – are far higher than recommended and about seven times higher than in the Chinese capital Beijing.

An Indian health ministry official said the city’s pollution monitors did not have enough digits to accurately record pollution levels, which he called a “disaster”.

Five million masks were handed out in schools on Friday as officials declared a public health emergency and Mr Kejriwal likened the city to a “gas chamber”.

The World Health Organization (WHO) says a third of deaths from stroke, lung cancer and heart disease are due to air pollution.

“This is having an equivalent effect to that of smoking tobacco,” the WHO says on its website.

How are people reacting?

Mr Kejriwal’s most recent comments are unlikely to please government officials, reports the BBC’s South Asia regional editor Jill McGivering. She said Indian politicians were blaming each other for the conditions.

On Sunday young people in Delhi came out to protest and demand action.

“You can obviously see how terrible it is and it’s actually scary you can’t see things in front of you,” said Jaivipra.

She said she wanted long-term and sustainable anti-pollution measures put in place.

“We are concerned about our futures and about our health but we are also fighting this on behalf of the children and the elderly who bear the biggest brunt of the problem here,” she said.

Some ministers have sparked controversy on social media by suggesting light-hearted measures to stay healthy.

Harsh Vardhan, the union minister for health and family welfare, urged people to eat carrots to protect against “night blindness” and “other pollution-related harm to health”.

Meanwhile, Prakash Javadekar, the minister of the environment, suggested that you should “start your day with music”, adding a link to a “scintillating thematic composition”.

“Is that the reason you have turned deaf ears to our plight on pollution?” one Twitter user responded. “Seems you are too busy hearing music that you are not able to hear us!”

What’s caused the pollution?

A major factor behind the high pollution levels at this time of year is farmers in neighbouring states burning crop stubble to clear their fields.

This creates a lethal cocktail of particulate matter, carbon dioxide, nitrogen dioxide and sulphur dioxide – all worsened by fireworks set off during the Hindu festival Diwali a week ago.

Vehicle fumes, construction and industrial emissions have also contributed to the smog.

Indians are hoping that scattered rainfall over the coming week will wash away the pollutants but this is not due until Thursday.

 

 

 

 

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-50280390

 

 

 

 

 

Pesticide poisoned French paradise islands in Caribbean

pest
GETTY IMAGES
Image captionBananas are a big export industry for Martinique and nearly all are shipped to France.

The French Caribbean islands of Guadeloupe and Martinique thrive on their image as idyllic sun, sea and sand destinations for tourists.

But few visitors are aware that these lush, tropical islands have a chronic pollution problem.

A pesticide linked to cancer – chlordecone – was sprayed on banana crops on the islands for two decades and now nearly all the adult local residents have traces of it in their blood.

French President Emmanuel Macron has called it an “environmental scandal” and said the state “must take responsibility”. He visited Martinique last year and was briefed on the crisis on the islands, known in France as the Antilles.

The French parliament is holding a public inquiry which will report its findings in December.

“We found anger and anxiety in the Antilles – the population feel abandoned by the republic,” said Guadeloupe MP Justine Benin, who is in charge of the inquiry’s report.

“They are resilient people, they’ve been hit by hurricanes before, but their trust needs to be restored,” she told the BBC.

Large tracts of soil are contaminated, as are rivers and coastal waters. The authorities are trying to keep the chemical out of the food chain, but it is difficult, as much produce comes from smallholders, often sold at the roadside.

Drinking water is considered safe, as carbon filters are used to remove contaminants.

In the US a factory producing chlordecone – sold commercially as kepone – was shut down in 1975 after workers fell seriously ill there. But Antilles banana growers continued to use the pesticide.

 

 

 

 

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-50144261

In Early Holiday ‘Gift to Polluters,’ Trump Guts Protections for 60 Percent of Nation’s Streams, Wetlands, and Waterways

pollution photophoto caption: The Trump administration unveiled a regulatory
rollback of the Waters of the U.S. rule, meant to protect
streams and wetlands from pollution and development. (Photo:
Laurence Arnold/Flickr/cc)

“Piece by piece, molecule by molecule, Trump is handing over
our country to corporate polluters and other industrial
interests at the expense of our future.”

By Julia Conley, staff writer

Sixty percent of U.S. waterways will be at risk for pollution
from corporate giants, critics say, following the Trump
administration’s announcement Tuesday that it will roll back
an Obama-era water rule meant to protect Americans’ drinking
water and all the waterways that flow into it.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that the
Obama administration’s 2015 Waters of the U.S. rule (WOTUS)
rule would be redefined and no longer protect many of the
nation’s streams and wetlands.

“This is an early Christmas gift to polluters and a lump of
coal for everyone else,” said Bob Irvin, president of the
national advocacy group American Rivers. “Too many people are
living with unsafe drinking water. Low-income communities,
indigenous peoples, and communities of color are hit hardest
by pollution and river degradation.”
Under the Trump administration’s proposal, which Common Dreams
reported as imminent last week, streams that flow only after
rainfall or snowfall will no longer be protected from
pollution by developers, agricultural companies, and the
fossil fuel industry. Wetlands that are not connected to
larger waterways will also not be protected, with developers
potentially able to pave over those water bodies.

“The Trump administration will stop at nothing to reward
polluting industries and endanger our most treasured
resources.” —Jon Devine, NRDC

EPA Acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler suggested that WOTUS
had created unfair roadblocks for industries, farmers, and
ranchers who wanted to build and work near the nation’s
waterways and were kept from doing so because of the potential
for water pollution.

But green groups slammed the EPA for once again putting the
interests of businesses ahead of the families which rely on
the rule that keeps at least 60 percent of the nation’s
drinking water sources safe from pollution while also
protecting wildlife and ecosystems which thrive in wetlands
across the country.

“The Trump administration will stop at nothing to reward
polluting industries and endanger our most treasured
resources,” Jon Devine, director of the Natural Resources
Defense Council’s (NRDC) federal water program, said in a
statement. “Given the problems facing our lakes, streams and
wetlands from the beaches of Florida to the drinking water of
Toledo, now is the time to strengthen protections for our
waterways, not weaken them.”

Ken Kopocis, the top water official at the EPA under President
Barack Obama, told the Los Angeles Times that the regulatory
rollback will create potential for the pollution of larger
bodies of water, even though they are technically still
covered under WOTUS and the Clean Water Act.

“You can’t protect the larger bodies of water unless you
protect the smaller ones that flow into them,” said Kopocis.
“You end up with a situation where you can pollute or destroy
smaller streams and bodies, and it will eventually impact the
larger ones.”

Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food and Water Watch,
called the revised WOTUS rule a “steamroller” to environmental
oversight that American families rely on.

“Piece by piece, molecule by molecule, Trump is handing over
our country to corporate polluters and other industrial
interests at the expense of our future,” said Hauter.

“The proposed rule will take us back five decades in our
effort to clean up our waterways,” argued Theresa Pierno of
the National Parks Conservancy Association (NPCA). “We must
ensure clean water protections extend to all streams,
wetlands, lakes and rivers that contribute to the health of
larger water bodies downstream, and our communities, parks,
and wildlife that depend on them.”

“We will fight to ensure the highest level of protections for
our nation’s waters—for our health, our communities and our
parks,” Pierno added.

 

https://www.commondreams.org/news/2018/12/11/early-holiday-gift-polluters-trump-guts-protections-60-percent-nations-streams