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New Study Links Air Pollution to Dementia
There's no question that air pollution is bad for your body, from lung cancer to heart disease. Even President Trump's coal-friendly U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) admits that dirty air can increase adverse health effects and cause death.
Now, researchers from Arizona State University have determined another air pollution risk: dementia.
The new paper, published by the National Bureau of Economic Research, compared fifteen years of Medicare records for 6.9 million older adults with the EPA's air quality data. They tested whether these individuals' onset of dementia was correlated with long-term exposure to tiny pollution particles known as PM2.5.
Indeed, the researchers found that a 1 microgram-per-cubic-meter (μg/m³) increase of PM2.5 over the course of a decade increases a person's odds of receiving a dementia diagnosis by 1.3 percentage points.
PM2.5, which is particulate matter with a length of 2.5 microns or less, is often a cocktail of toxins from power plants, automobiles and other industrial sources.
The World Health Organization has PM2.5 guidelines of 10 μg/m³—a threshold that 95 percent of the world's population does not meet.
The good news is that average PM2.5 concentrations have decreased in the U.S. from 13.5 μg/m³ in 2000 to 8.0 μg/m³ in 2017, thanks to the EPA's strict air pollution regulations.
As the paper was authored by economists, they concluded that air pollution regulations have helped the U.S. save money to the tune of $150 billion since the year 2000, as Slate noted from the study.
The bad news is the Trump administration could roll back these protections. Last month, in efforts to replace the Obama-era Clean Power Plan that regulates coal plants, EPA acting administrator Andrew Wheeler released the "Affordable Clean Energy Rule," which projects 470 and 1,400 premature deaths annually by 2030 due to increased rates of PM2.5.
Other studies have found a link between air pollution and damage to the brain. A study in May suggested that many heavy metals found in the air may make it into brain tissue, and those pollutants are activating genes that may lead to cancers or neurodegenerative disorders. Additionally, a China-based study published last month found that high levels of toxic air "is equivalent to having lost a year of education."
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By Will Sarni
It is far too easy to view scarcity and poor quality of water as issues solely affecting emerging economies. While the images of women and children fetching water in Africa and a lack of access to water in India are deeply disturbing, this is not the complete picture.
The Past is No Longer a Guide to the Future
We get ever closer to "day zeros" — the point at when municipal water supplies are switched off — and tragedies such as Flint. These are not isolated stories. Instead they are becoming routine, and the public sector and civil society are scrambling to address them. We are seeing "day zeros" in South Africa, India, Australia and elsewhere, and we are now detecting lead contamination in drinking water in cities across the U.S.
"Day zero" is the result of water planning by looking in the rear-view mirror. The past is no longer a guide to the future; water demand has outstripped supplies because we are tied to business-as-usual planning practices and water prices, and this goes hand-in-hand with the inability of the public sector to factor the impacts of climate change into long-term water planning. Lead in drinking water is the result of lead pipe service lines that have not been replaced and in many cases only recently identified by utilities, governments and customers. An estimated 22 million people in the US are potentially using lead water service lines. This aging infrastructure won't repair or replace itself.
One of the most troubling aspects of the global water crisis is that those least able to afford access to water are also the ones who pay a disproportionately high percentage of their income for it. A report by WaterAid revealed that a standard water bill in developed countries is as little as 0.1 percent of the income of someone earning the minimum wage, while in a country like Madagascar a person reliant on a tanker truck for their water supply would spend as much as 45 percent of their daily income on water to get just the recommended daily minimum supply. In Mozambique, families relying on black-market vendors will spend up to 100 times as much on water as those reached by government-subsidized water supplies.
Finally, we need to understand that the discussion of a projected gap between supply and demand is misleading. There is no gap, only poor choices around allocation. The wealthy will have access to water, and the poor will pay more for water of questionable quality. From Flint residents using bottled water and paying high water utility rates, to the poor in South Africa waiting in line for their allocation of water — inequity is everywhere.
Water Inequity Requires Global Action — Now.
These troubling scenarios beg the obvious question: What to do? We do know that ongoing reports on the 'water crisis' are not going to catalyze action to address water scarcity, poor quality, access and affordability. Ensuring the human right to water feels distant at times.
We need to mobilize an ecosystem of stakeholders to be fully engaged in developing and scaling solutions. The public sector, private sector, NGOs, entrepreneurs, investors, academics and civil society must all be engaged in solving water scarcity and quality problems. Each stakeholder brings unique skills, scale and speed of impact (for example, entrepreneurs are fast but lack scale, while conversely the public sector is slow but has scale).
We also urgently need to change how we talk about water. We consistently talk about droughts happening across the globe — but what we are really dealing with is an overallocation of water due to business-as-usual practices and the impacts of climate change.
We need to democratize access to water data and actionable information. Imagine providing anyone with a smartphone the ability to know, on a real-time basis, the quality of their drinking water and actions to secure safe water. Putting this information in the hands of civil society instead or solely relying on centralized regulatory agencies and utilities will change public policies.
Will Sarni is the founder and CEO of Water Foundry.
Note: This post also appears on the World Economic Forum.
Reposted with permission from our media associate Circle of Blue.
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- Mice exposed to nicotine-containing e-cigarette vapor developed lung cancer within a year.
- More research is needed to know what this means for people who vape.
- Other research has shown that vaping can cause damage to lung tissue.
A new study found that long-term exposure to nicotine-containing e-cigarette vapor increases the risk of cancer in mice.
Six months: That's how much time Mexico now has to report on its progress to save the critically endangered vaquita porpoise (Phocoena sinus) from extinction.
It may seem innocuous to flush a Q-tip down the toilet, but those bits of plastic have been washing up on beaches and pose a threat to the birds, turtles and marine life that call those beaches home. The scourge of plastic "nurdles," as they are called, has pushed Scotland to implement a complete ban on the sale and manufacture of plastic-stemmed cotton swabs, as the BBC reported.
By Tim Radford
Scientists in the U.S. have added a new dimension to the growing hazard of extreme heat. As global average temperatures rise, so do the frequency, duration and intensity of heatwaves.
Oscar-award winning actress and long-time political activist Jane Fonda was arrested on the steps of Capitol Hill in Washington, DC on Friday for peacefully protesting the U.S. government's inaction in combating the climate crisis, according to the AP.
By Caroline Hickman
I'm up late at night worrying that my baby brothers may die from global warming and other threats to humanity – please can you put my mind at rest? – Sophie, aged 17, East Sussex, UK