Household Water Watch
October 2011

Testing and Filtration Options

waterThe U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) sets legal limits on contaminants, including chemicals, animal wastes, pesticides and human wastes, in drinking water nationwide. But tests by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) have found that many communities skirt the line of what’s safe. In 2003, NRDC found that several of the U.S. cities they studied delivered tap water that was sufficiently contaminated to pose potential health risks to some consumers; outdated pipes and weak regulations were cited as major factors.

New contaminants are entering water systems all the time, including traces of pharmaceuticals that have never been tested or regulated. The Water Quality Association (WQA) works with the EPA and universities to catalog the new offenders. WQA Executive Director Peter Censky says, “In 10 or 15 years, everyone is going to need filtration devices.” Until then, individuals will want to regularly stay abreast of the status of their tap water.

Surprise Packages
October 2011

Recycled Cardboard Holds Hidden Danger

cardboardThe scientific peer review journal Packaging Technology and Science recently reported on a study in Zurich, Switzerland, showing that harmful mineral oils from printing inks used on cardboard can migrate into food if recycled cardboard is used for food packaging. The oils may contaminate food even if the recycled cardboard is used for the corrugated card transport box that holds individual packs.

Researchers found that food rapidly absorbed 10 times the recommended limit for concentration of these contaminating oils from a transport box. The food studied had a two-year shelf life, so it is possible the absorbed amount could increase even more over time. Even if the food was contained in new, clean paperboard boxes—printed with inks free of mineral oil and wrapped by a polyethylene film—mineral oils from the corrugated cardboard transport box far exceeded the limit deemed safe.

Manufacturers could introduce functional barriers such as internal bags to prevent the migration of mineral oil, or line the boxes with special plastics. The technology and the recyclability of lined paperboard, however, still needs to be tested. Many companies have changed their packaging materials to fresh fiber paperboard printed with inks free of mineral oil, but are still using recycled card in the corrugated board transport boxes.

Source: Wiley

Inappropriate Eats
October 2011

Fish Consume Plastic from Human Trash

Ocean_GarbageThe Great Pacific Garbage Patch, as dubbed by scientists, is a region of floating trash in the ocean that is twice the size of Texas. It comprises plastic debris that includes toys, cups, wrappers and bottles that slowly degrade from the sun’s rays and wave action into ever-smaller fragments until fish often mistake them for food. This finding, from a new study by the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, could have serious implications for the food chain.

Scientists examined 141 fish across 27 species and estimated that small fish were eating as much as 24,000 tons of plastic waste each year, mostly tidbits smaller than a fingernail, and that nearly one in 10 fish in the region had plastic in its stomach. Most fish in the study were lantern fish, which dwell at depths of 650 to 3,200 feet during the day, but then swim near the surface at night to feed on plankton, where they often gulp plastic by mistake.

Small fragments of plastic could leach toxins into the fish, stunt their growth, alter reproduction or even kill them. It is unclear what impact that small, plastic-affected fish have upon larger fish that eat them, and ultimately on human fish-eaters.

GPS Biking
October 2011

Mapnificent Will Show the Way

mapWant to know how far it’s possible to travel by biking or using public transit in under 15 minutes? There’s a map for that. Mapnificent shows the areas one can reach from any point in a city at any given time.

Stefan Wehrmeyer, a Berlin-based software architect, has developed a tool that uses public transit data to help users decide on where to live, work or meet up. Using data from the GTFS Data Exchange and overlaying the extracted information on a Google map, Mapnificent visualizes the reach of public transport in the selected city. This becomes especially useful for decision-making purposes, rather than trip planning.

“Let’s say you found a job in San Francisco and want to move there,” Wehrmeyer explains. “Where can you live so that you need less than 30 minutes to go to your work place? Mapnificent is able to answer that question.”

Mapnificent is available in public beta and can be used for major cities in the United States.

Source: TheCityFix.com

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