29% of Water Deemed Unsuitable for Human Consumption in China's Top Coal Province
We know that Trump digs coal, but of all the fossil fuels, coal is Earth's biggest polluter. The environmental impact of the coal industry is vast and devastating. And now, production of this cheap energy source has rendered nearly a third of the surface water in China's largest coal province unsuitable for human consumption.
A woman fetches water from the Yangtze river. Since 2003, factory construction has erupted all around Yanglingang. Today the little fishing village is surrounded by power plants, paper-making factories, and chemical plants.© Lu Guang / Greenpeace
The Shanxi Environmental Protection Bureau, a local environmental watchdog, announced that 29 out of 100 surface water sites tested in the first three quarters of 2016 were found to be "below grade five," Reuters reported. At that pollution level, water has "lost functionality" and may only be suitable for industrial or agricultural use.
According to Reuters, the bureau said that while the water quality improved at 11 test sites compared to the year before, eight had deteriorated, including five sites in the major coal hub of Datong. Coal production in Shanxi decreased to 944 million tonnes in 2015 compared to 976 million tonnes in 2014.
Sure, China's coal industry provides jobs and allows people to heat their homes but the smog-choked country has paid a price for it. As Dr. David Suzuki wrote, "Beijing's 21-million residents live in a toxic fog of particulate matter, ozone, sulphur dioxide, mercury, cadmium, lead and other contaminants, mainly caused by factories and coal burning. Schools and workplaces regularly shut down when pollution exceeds hazardous levels. People have exchanged paper and cotton masks for more elaborate, filtered respirators. Cancer has become the leading cause of death in the city and throughout the country."
That being said, China's coal use is on the decline. After reaching peak coal in 2013, the country is rapidly shifting to renewables, according to the latest International Energy Agency's World Energy Outlook Report.
"Coal generated 84 percent of all electricity in China in 2014, the IEA's current policy scenario forecasts that market share is going to drop down to 54 per cent in 2040," Institute of Energy Economics and Financial Analysis director Tim Buckley told ABC.net.
In a new study published in the journal Earth System Science Data, researchers found that China's decline in coal has led to a global slowdown in carbon dioxide emissions. "Emissions have leveled off at about 36 billion metric tonnes in the past three years even though the world economy has expanded," the Independent reported from the study.
China's shift from coal is actually part of a larger global trend. An Energydesk analysis revealed that coal use around the world is dropping at a record-breaking rate as commodity markets are tanking, renewable energy is rising and energy demand growth is slowing.
Meanwhile, President-elect Donald Trump has pledged to bring back coal in the U.S. The climate-denier-in-chief has also promised to gut the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, pull out of the Paris climate treaty and undo President Obama's signature Clean Power Plan aimed at reducing carbon pollution from power plants to tackle climate change.
Earth to Donald #Trump: If you really are a smart businessman, you'll go #green https://t.co/kkY9b6DZin… https://t.co/30m4cuNBri— RachelCarsonCouncil (@RachelCarsonCouncil)1479151266.0
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It is undisputed that vitamin D plays a role everywhere in the body and performs important functions. A severe vitamin D deficiency, which can occur at a level of 12 nanograms per milliliter of blood or less, leads to severe and painful bone deformations known as rickets in infants and young children and osteomalacia in adults. Unfortunately, this is where the scientific consensus ends.
Where Does the Deficiency Begin?<p>Nobody knows exactly how much vitamin D a person actually needs. The question of when a deficiency starts is correspondingly controversial. However, vitamin D is becoming increasingly popular.Not only is the pseudo-scientific literature on the "sun vitamin" experiencing an upswing, but the number of published studies has also increased enormously in recent years. For example, in 2019 <a href="https://academic.oup.com/edrv/article/40/4/1109/5126915" target="_blank">a study found that</a> Vitamin D is responsible for keeping the skeleton functional and is associated with cardiovascular diseases, type 2 diabetes and various types of cancer. <br></p>
An All-Rounder<p>Vitamin D levels in the body rise and fall according to sun exposure. If sufficient UV rays reach the skin, the body is able to produce the vitamin itself. However, the human body only derives an estimated 10 to 20 percent of its daily requirement from food.</p><p>The vitamin D that we synthesize from sunlight or food is not biologically active at first. Before the kidneys can produce the biologically active form of the vitamin, known as calcitriol, and release it into the blood, some metabolic processes must take place beforehand.</p><p>In addition, many organs have receptors to which the precursor of calcitriol binds. Further, this substance is also present in blood.</p><p>From this precursor, the organs then produce calcitriol themselves, which the body then uses for countless other processes in the body. This form of vitamin D thus regulates insulin secretion, inhibits tumor growth, and promotes the formation of red blood cells as well as the survival and activity of macrophages, which are important for the <a href="https://www.mdpi.com/2072-6643/5/7/2502/htm" target="_blank">immune system.</a></p>
Low Vitamin D, Severe COVID-19 Disease?<p>A research study carried out <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2352364620300067?via%3Dihub" target="_blank">at the University of Hohenheim</a> has now established a link between vitamin D deficiency, certain previous diseases, and severe cases of COVID-19.</p><p>According to the study, "there is a lot of evidence that several non-communicable diseases (high blood pressure, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, metabolic syndrome) are associated with low vitamin D plasma levels. These comorbidities, together with the often accompanying vitamin D deficiency, increase the risk of severe COVID-19 events."</p><p>"This statement is completely correct," said Martin Fassnacht, head of endocrinology at the University Hospital of Würzburg. However, he qualifies that it is a pure association, "i.e. a mere observation that these events occur together.</p><p>Dr. Fassnacht is very critical of the hype surrounding vitamin D, but not because he denies the vitamin serves important functions. However, studies on humans have not been able to show that vitamin D has the healing powers many often propagate.</p><p>Fassnacht says, "If you take a closer look, the hopes that the administration of vitamin D has a healing effect have not been confirmed so far."</p>
Association Versus Intervention Studies<p>Many studies on the vitamin are association or observational studies. "By definition, these studies cannot prove the causal relationship, but only point to mere correlations," said Fassnacht. The physician tries to illustrate this with an example:</p><p>"Imagine two groups of 80-year-olds. One group is spry, active and does sports. If you compare them with another group living in nursing homes, the difference in vitamin D levels will be dramatic. Life expectancy would also be extremely different."</p><p>But to try to explain the difference in fitness by vitamin D status alone is far too simplistic. "Vitamin D levels are a good measure of how sick someone is. But not more," says Fassnacht. </p><p>According to Fassnacht, none of the intervention studies carried out to date -- that specifically examined the effect of vitamin D on various diseases -- has been able to confirm the previous association and laboratory studies or the presumed positive effect of vitamin D.</p>
Further Research Is Needed<p>"If a coronavirus infection is suspected, it is therefore absolutely necessary to check the vitamin D status and quickly correct any possible deficit," said the recommendation of the paper published by the University of Hohenheim.</p><p>"Studies are underway to see whether vitamin D helps in COVID-19 infection, but I personally do not believe that this is really the case," says endocrinologist Fassnacht. Nevertheless, he says it is of course useful to carry out these studies.<br></p><p>"I don't want to rule out that there are actually subgroups of people who benefit from an additional vitamin D dose," he says. After all, this has been proven to be the case with a severe deficit.</p><p>In view of the study situation, Fassnacht does not think much of preventive, nationwide vitamin D substitutes. "My belief that the vitamin helps somewhere is very low. But, of course, I can be wrong."</p>
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