By Adam Uliana
Most people on Earth get fresh water from lakes and rivers. But these account for only 0.007% of the world's water. As the human population has grown, so has demand for fresh water. Now, two out of every three people in the world face severe water scarcity at least one month a year.
Other water sources – like seawater and wastewater – could be used to meet growing water needs. But these water sources are full of salt and usually contain such contaminants as toxic metals. Scientists and engineers have developed methods to remove salts and toxins from water – processes called desalination. But existing options are expensive and energy-intensive, especially because they require a lot of steps. Current desalination techniques also create a lot of waste – around half of the water fed into some desalination plants is lost as wastewater containing all of the removed salts and toxins.
I am a doctoral student in chemical and biomolecular engineering and part of a team that recently created a new water-purification method that we hope can make desalination more efficient, the waste easier to manage and the size of water treatment plants smaller. This technology features a new type of filter that can target and capture toxic metals while removing salt from water at the same time.
Membranes filled with small particles that can capture specific toxic metals can clean water in one step. Adam Uliana / CC BY-ND
Designing an All-in-One Filter
To build a single filter that could both capture metals and remove salt, my colleagues and I first needed a material that could remove many different contaminants – mostly heavy metals – from water. To do this, we turned to tiny, absorbent particles called porous aromatic frameworks. These particles are designed to selectively capture individual contaminants. For example, one type of absorbent particle can catch only mercury. Other types specifically remove only copper, iron, or boron. I then embedded these four different types of particles into thin plastic membranes, essentially creating custom filters that would capture contaminants according to the type of particle I put in the membrane.
A colleague and I then placed these membrane filters into an electrodialysis water purifier. Electrodialysis is a method that uses electricity to pull salts and toxins out of water, across a membrane and into a separate waste stream. This waste – often called brine – can become toxic and expensive to dispose in existing desalination processes.
This new approach to desalination – called ion-capture electrodialysis – uses thin membranes and electricity to capture toxic metals as they are pulled from water along with salts. Ada Uliana / CC BY-N
In my team's modified process, called ion-capture elecrodialysis, our hope was that the membranes packed with the tiny metal-absorbing particles would capture toxic metals instead of allowing them to move into the brine. This would achieve three benefits at the same time in an energy-efficient manner: Salts and metals would be removed from the water; the toxic metals would be captured in a small, easily disposable membrane – or even potentially be reused; and the salty waste stream would be nontoxic.
How Effective is Ion-Capture Electrodialysis?
Once our team had successfully made these membranes, we needed to test them. The first test I ran used membrane filters embedded with mercury-capturing absorbents to purify water from three sources that contained both mercury and salts: groundwater, brackish water and industrial wastewater. To our team's excitement, the membranes captured all the mercury in every test. Additionally, the membranes were also great at getting rid of salt – over 97% was removed from the dirty water. After just one pass through our new electrodialysis machine, the water was perfectly drinkable. Importantly, further experiments showed that no mercury can pass through the filter until nearly all the absorbent particles in the filter are used up.
My colleagues and I then needed to see whether our ion-capture electrodialysis process would work on other common harmful metals. I tested three membrane filters that contained absorbents for copper, iron or boron. Every filter was a success. Each filter captured all of the target contaminants without any detectable amount passing into the brine, while simultaneously removing over 96% of salts from the water, purifying the water to usable conditions.
Our results show that our new water purification method can selectively capture many common contaminants while also removing salt from water. But there are still other technological challenges to figure out.
First, the highly selective absorbent particles – the porous aromatic frameworks – that my colleagues and I mixed into the membrane are too expensive to put into mass-produced filters. It is probably possible to place cheaper – but lower-quality – absorbents into the filters instead, but this might worsen the water purification performance.
Second, engineers like me still also need to test ion-capture electrodialysis on scales larger than those used in the laboratory. Issues can often come up in new technologies during this transition from the laboratory into industry.
Finally, water treatment plant engineers would need to come up with a way to pause the process right before the membrane absorbents are maxed out. Otherwise, the toxic contaminants would start to leak through the filter into the brine wastewater. The engineers could then restart the process after replacing the filter or after removing the metals from the filter and collecting them as separate waste.
We hope our work will lead to new methods that can efficiently and effectively purify water sources that are more abundant – yet more contaminated – than fresh water. The work really is worth it. After all, the effects of water scarcity are gigantic, on both a social and worldwide level.
Disclosure statement: Adam Uliana receives funding from the National Science Foundation through a Graduate Research Fellowship and is an Affiliate of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. The University of California, Berkeley has applied for two patents on some of the technology discussed here; Adam Uliana is listed as co-inventor on both.
Reposted with permission from The Conversation.
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Former coal lobbyist and current U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) administrator Andrew Wheeler is expected to announce on Tuesday a rule tobacco consultants devised as an "explicit procedural hurdle" to protecting public health.
The rule — sometimes called the 'Secret Science' rule — will require EPA to give less credence to scientific studies that take into account individuals' medical histories and other data that cannot be made public. Such studies have served as the foundation for a half-century of clean air and clean water protections.
"It's as absurd as it sounds," Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.) said in a statement. Had the rule been in place, the EPA would have been unable to require mercury pollution cuts from coal-fired power plants because it would have been unable to show how mercury impairs brain development. It could also effectively bar EPA from relying on foundational research — including findings that lead paint dust harms children and that air pollution causes premature deaths — when existing public health protections come up for renewal.
"The people pushing it are claiming it's in the interest of science, but the entire independent science world says it's not," Chris Zarba, a former director of the EPA's Science Advisory Board, told The Washington Post.
As reported by The New York Times:
"Right now we're in the grips of a serious public health crisis due to a deadly respiratory virus, and there's evidence showing that air pollution exposure increases the risk of worse outcomes," said Dr. Mary Rice, a pulmonary and critical care physician who is chairwoman of the environmental health policy committee at the American Thoracic Society.
"We would want E.P.A. going forward to make decisions about air quality using all available evidence, not just putting arbitrary limits on what it will consider," she said.
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For nearly as long as solar panels have been gracing rooftops and barren land, creative people have been searching out additional surfaces that can be tiled with energy-generating photovoltaic (PV) panels. The idea has been pretty straightforward: if solar panels generate energy simply by facing the sun, then humans could collectively reduce our reliance on coal, oil, gas and other polluting fuels by maximizing our aggregate solar surface area.
So, what kind of unobstructed surfaces are built in every community and in between every major city across the globe? Highways and streets. With this in mind, the futuristic vision of laying thousands, or even millions, of solar panels on top of the asphalt of interstates and main streets was born.
While the concept art looked like a still from a sci-fi film, many inventors, businesses and investors saw these panels as a golden path toward clean energy and profit. Ultimately, though, the technology and economics ended up letting down those working behind each solar roadway project — from initial concepts in the early 2000s to the first solar roadway actually opened in France in 2016, they all flopped.
In the years since the concept of solar roadways went viral, solar PV has continued to improve in technology and drop in price. So, with a 2021 lens, is it time to re-run the numbers and see if a solar roadway could potentially deliver on that early promise? We dig in to find out.
Solar Roadways: The Original Concept
Solar roadways are complex in execution, but in concept, they're as simple as they sound. They're roads "paved" with extremely strong solar panels that are covered in glass that can withstand environmental stressors and the weight of vehicles driving over them on a consistent basis.
The idea was something that got people really excited when the initial Solar Roadways, Inc. project (which is still seeking funding) burst onto the scene in 2014:
More advanced designs included solar roadways outfitted with LED lights that could be used to illuminate lane lines, communicate to drivers and more. Other iterations included weight sensors that would detect when obstructions were on the road or could alert homeowners if unexpected vehicles were approaching their driveway. Embedding these kinds of technology into the solar roadways renderings only added to their appeal and the initial hype around the concept.
Key Selling Points of Solar Roadways
Early innovators of solar roadways touted the numerous benefits of their ideas. These included:
- Sunlight shines down on roads at no cost, making the energy not only readily available, but also free (aside from installation and maintenance).
- The ability to power street lights with solar roadways eliminated the need to pull extra energy from the grid.
- Having electronics embedded into the roadway opened up a world of possibilities for communicating with drivers in ways that didn't require painting and repainting of roads.
- The ingenuity to attach weight sensors on the solar panels could be used to alert drivers about potential obstructions, such as animals, disabled vehicles or rocks on the road.
- In a future of electric vehicles, the possibilities were seen as even more beneficial, as solar roadways could be used to power electric vehicle charging stations or to charge the cars while they're driving.
While some early thinkers may also have envisioned these roadways sending solar energy to the local power grid, the most impactful way solar roadways could utilize the energy they generated is right around the road itself: lighting street lights, heating mechanisms to melt snow on the roadway, or powering small emergency equipment on road shoulders.
Using the energy for on-road applications would mean that the power didn't have to be sent long distances before being used, which results in energy loss. However, in more rural or remote locations, having the solar roadway energy available for nearby homes and businesses could be a huge benefit, especially if there's an outage in the overall grid.
Why Solar Roadway Tests Have Failed
To much of the general public — and especially to people who weren't well versed in the intricacies of solar panels or road structures — solar roadways seemed like a slam-dunk solution that both looked futuristic and had benefits that went far beyond electricity generation. It was the kind of innovation that had people exclaiming: "How has no one done this yet?!" But in reality, the execution of solar roadways was much more complex than the idea.
Here are a few reasons solar roadway tests have failed:
Cost of Manufacturing and Maintenance
The cost of the energy from the sun may be free, but the investment to install and maintain the solar roadways was undeniably prohibitive. The reason asphalt is used by default to pave roadways is because it is immensely affordable and low-maintenance, which is especially critical on vast, expansive roadways and interstates.
In 2010, Scott Brusaw, co-founder of Solar Roadways, Inc., estimated a square foot of solar roadway would cost about $70. However, when the first solar roadway was built in France by a company called Colas, it measured 1 kilometer and cost $5.2 million to build — or about $1,585 per foot of roadway. Of course, this was a small iteration and bulk manufacturing would cost less, but either way, it's hard to believe the cost of a solar roadway would ever be competitive with the price of asphalt, which is about $3 to $15 per square foot.
Further, the cost and complexity to send a crew to repair individual panels that fail would far outweigh those to maintain asphalt. So, while one of the presumed benefits of solar roadways is the cost savings associated with self-generated energy, even back-of-the-envelope math highlights how the numbers would simply not add up to be more cost-effective in the long run.
Energy Required to Produce the Panels
Another limiting factor appears when considering the energy it takes to make asphalt versus high-durability glass and solar panels. Most asphalt used on roads today is a byproduct of distilling petroleum crude oil for products such as gasoline, which means it makes use of a substance that would otherwise be discarded as waste.
The solar roadway panels, although intended to save energy in the long run, take much more to produce. Typical rooftop solar panels can easily make up for the extra energy used in production because the glass doesn't need to withstand the weight of vehicles driving over them, but solar roadways have that added complexity.
Power Output of the Panels
When estimating power output, early optimists seemed to perform calculations based on the raw surface area they could cover — and not much else. However, beyond the stunted energy generation that any solar panels face on cloudy days or at night, solar roadways presented unique new performance challenges.
For example, vehicles constantly driving over solar roadways would interrupt sun exposure. Plus, they'd leave behind trails of fluid, dirt and dust that can dramatically reduce the efficiency of solar panels. Being installed on the ground is a challenge in itself because of how readily shade would find the roads; that's the reason you find most solar panels on rooftops or elevated off the ground and angled toward the sun.
Issues With Glass Roadways
Lastly, driving on glass surfaces is simply not what modern cars are designed to do. Asphalt and tires grip each other well, being particularly resilient in wet conditions. If the asphalt is replaced with glass — even the textured glass that's used for solar roadways — tire traction could be reduced dramatically. Wet or icy conditions could lead to catastrophic situations on solar roadways.
Could Recent Advances in Solar Technology Bring Solar Roadways Closer to Reality?
For all of these challenges and even more roadblocks that early solar roadway projects have run into in the past, the reality is that solar technology continues to improve. In the seven years since the first Solar Roadways, Inc. video went viral, solar panels have developed to be more durable, more cost-effective and more efficient at converting sunlight to electricity. To put some numbers behind these trends:
- The average solar PV panel cost has dropped about 70% since 2014.
- In 2015, FirstSolar made news with panels that were 18.2% efficient. Today, the most advanced prototypes are able to exceed 45% efficiency.
- Total solar energy capacity in 2021 is nearly six times greater than in 2014, and with that explosion has come advances to flatten the learning curve and increase the general public's acceptance of the benefits of solar.
- Solar jobs have increased 167% in the last decade, giving the industry more capable workers able to take the reins of a solar roadway project and more professionals who know how to affordably install solar.
The question to ask is whether these advances are enough to bring solar roadways from failure to success.
Despite the improvements, many of the original challenges with solar roadways remain, and the scale of execution is immense. Even with decreasing solar PV costs, outfitting long stretches of roadway with such complex technologies will require tremendous capital.
Rather than a future where solar roadways cover the country from coast to coast, a more likely outcome is that these advances will bring solar roadways to viability in narrow, niche applications.
Just like tidal energy is a great opportunity for small coastal communities but can't be scaled to solve the energy crisis across the world, it's conceivable that limited-scope solar roadways could be constructed around the world. However, large-scale solar roadways may never be more than a pipe dream.
San Diego-based sustainable seafood creator BlueNalu has been selected to compete in the semifinal round of the next XPRIZE Foundation Challenge – Feed the Next Billion. The food tech company's success is a good indicator of the opportunities in fish.
The concept of sustainable seafood – whether it exists, what it means and if it will help our ocean – is white-hot right now. And it's no wonder: seafood is a multibillion-dollar industry, and the United Nations has placed its hope in feeding the world on aquaculture and finding ways to sustainably source ocean resources. In fact, the global seafood market is slated to reach $133.9 billion by 2026, PR Newswire reported.
The XPRIZE Feed the Next Billion (FTNB) competition hopes to drive innovations that will do just that. The multi-year, $15M contest aims to inspire companies to produce chicken breast or fish fillet alternatives that replicate or outperform conventional chicken and fish in access, environmental sustainability, animal welfare, nutrition and health, as well as taste and texture, Business Wire reported. The goal is to "reinvent how humanity will feed future generations" by addressing the need for alternative proteins at scale, the report and the XPRIZE website noted.
"Over the past several years, as our global population continues to grow and the demand for meat products increases, it has become clear that our current global food chain cannot keep up," said Caroline Kolta, XPRIZE Feed the Next Billion Program Lead, reported Business Wire. "We know we need more nutritious, environmentally-friendly and sustainable alternatives to conventional animal-based products, and that wide-scale adoption will require additional innovation continuously being brought to market. I am thrilled about the international cohort of Semifinalists selected to embark on this journey of innovation and exploration to shape a future of food, starting with chicken and fish."
After stringent evaluation, BlueNalu was named as one of 28 semifinalist teams out of about 270 global applicants. Collectively, the semifinalists will share a portion of a total of $500,000 awarded this round to support the development of their product. Over the next year, semifinalists will also work closely within the XPRIZE ecosystem to develop the first iteration of their products.
"We're thrilled that the XPRIZE Feed the Next Billion competition was created as it not only recognizes that our food supply chain needs innovative change but also it continues to validate that this new way to produce seafood is close to reality," BlueNalu President and CEO Lou Cooperhouse told EcoWatch.
Lou Cooperhouse, BlueNalu's President and CEO, in front of their headquarters and pilot food production facility in San Diego, California. BlueNalu
BlueNalu has made a name for itself in the cell-cultured industry, specifically in the seafood space. All of BlueNalu's cell-cultured seafood products are healthy for humans, humane for sea life and sustainable for our planet, Cooperhouse said. The company specifically targets species that are overfished, primarily imported and difficult to farm-raise. In doing so, they aim to reduce fishery pressure, displace the need for imports, create jobs, enhance food security, and redefine local seafood in each region they go to market, he added.
But what exactly is cell-cultured fish?
Well, for starters, it's actual fish. It looks like, cooks like and tastes like fish because it is fish. BlueNalu produces its seafood in a new way, directly from the cells of target fish species, Cooperhouse explained. They grow cells of muscle, fat and connective tissue in large, stainless-steel tanks, "similar to a brewery." These different cell types are then formed into fillets, cubes for poke and other dishes and products that consumers enjoy.
"Our cell-cultured seafood will provide the same taste, texture, nutritional, and culinary attributes of conventional seafood products, but without any mercury, microplastics, pathogens, parasites or other harmful contaminants that might otherwise be found," he added.
BlueNalu's whole-muscle, cell-cultured yellowtail prepared in a poke bowl. BlueNalu
BlueNalu's goal is to provide a third option to complement wild-caught and farm-raised seafood, to alleviate the stressors on wild fisheries and allow them to replenish, Cooperhouse said.
"Demand for seafood is at an all-time high and anticipated to increase significantly in the years ahead, yet our global supply chain is increasingly vulnerable, and there is already a very challenging and fundamental gap in our ability to feed the planet with high-quality protein that will continue to widen during the coming decades," Cooperhouse said. BlueNalu hopes to fill in that impending gap in the seafood supply chain, he added.
BlueNalu's entry into the global competition will be a cell-cultured bluefin tuna fillet, which is also the initial product they anticipate launching in commerce at a large scale. The company decided to compete with this "prized fish of the sea" because the species has been severely overfished and is known to contain high amounts of mercury, yet still remains in high demand, Cooperhouse said.
The semi-final round of judging will take place in Fall 2022, and the top ten teams will then compete in the final round of judging in late 2023. The grand prize team will create at least twenty-five cuts of structured chicken breast or fish fillet analogs of 115 grams, or four ounces, that replicate the sensory properties, versatility, and nutritional profile of conventional chicken or fish, Business Wire reported. They will take home a $7 million prize.
The interest in and financing of cell-based foods like BlueNalu's tuna point to widespread popular concern over the health of the oceans. There has been a shift in consumer behavior to desire products that are healthy for humans and the planet, Cooperhouse said. National governments are also increasingly concerned about food security and are providing support to the new cell-cultured foods sector as a possible solution, he added. Overall, people want to find ways to enjoy resources from the sea without worry or guilt. Competitions like XPPRIZE help to drive innovation and create that reality.
BlueNalu's whole-muscle, cell-cultured yellowtail prepared in acidified form in a kimchi recipe. BlueNalu
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Two separate studies presented at the Goldschmidt geochemistry conference this week found mercury in fish and crustaceans living 11,000 meters (approximately 36,000 feet) under the sea in the Mariana Trench.
"This is a surprise," Dr. Ruoyu Sun, a scientist from Tianjin University in China who led one of the research teams, said in a Goldschmidt Conference press release published by Phys.org.
Scientists have long known that mercury, which is poisonous to both humans and animals, enters the ocean and the animals within it, concentrating in higher amounts as it works its way up the food web through a process called bioaccumulation. Swordfish, for example, contain 40 times the amount of mercury that salmon do. This means that humans who eat lots of fish are at risk from mercury poisoning, Newsweek pointed out. This can cause neurological and heart damage, and is especially dangerous for developing fetuses.
However, scientists previously thought that this process was mostly taking place in the upper ocean. Then Sun's team found methylmercury, a toxic form of the metal that easily accumulates in animals, in the ocean's deepest trench.
"Previous research had concluded that methlymercury was mostly produced in the top few hundred metres of the ocean. This would have limited mercury bioaccumulation by ensuring that fish which forage deeper than this would have had limited opportunity to ingest the methylmercury. With this work, we now believe that isn't true," Sun said in the press release.
Sun's team uncovered their results by sending deep-sea lander vehicles in 2016 and 2017 to the Mariana and Yap trenches — "amongst the most remote and inaccessible locations on Earth," Sun said in the press release."
They collected deep-sea animals like amphiopods and snailfish at 7,000 to 11,000 meters (approximately 23,000 to 36,000 feet) and sediments at 5,500 to 9,200 meters (approximately 18,000 to 30,000 feet), according to an abstract. They found mercury in all the animals and could tell it came from the upper ocean because of its "isotopic fingerprint," or chemical signature. The results showed human mercury emissions are "much more pervasive across deep oceans than was previously thought," the abstract concluded.
A separate study led by Dr. Joel Blum of the University of Michigan found similar results in the Mariana Trench and in the Kermadec trench near New Zealand.
"The key finding is that mercury released by humans and deposited from the atmosphere to the surface of the oceans is being transported to the most remote and deepest environments in the ocean," Blum told Newsweek.
While some mercury could have come from natural sources like volcanic eruptions, humans emit almost three times more mercury than nature does through processes like burning fossil fuels or mining metals.
"We know that mercury is introduced into the environment from a variety of natural sources such as volcanic eruptions and forest fires. However, human activities, such as coal and petroleum burning, mining, and manufacturing, are mainly responsible for mercury deposition to marine environments," University of Hawaii professor Ken Rubin, who was not involved in the research, said in the press release. "We are now learning from these two studies that the effects of this deposition have spread throughout the ocean into the deep sea and the animals that live there, which is yet another indicator of the profound impact of modern human activities on the planet."
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2020 was the largest wildfire season in California's modern history, according to state agency Cal Fire. And, as the climate crisis continues to increase fire risk, there are concerns that 2021 could be just as devastating.
To adapt to this new normal, California leaders Thursday announced a more-than half a billion dollar plan to prevent and prepare for wildfires.
"The hots are getting hotter. The dries are getting drier. There's a new reality," California Gov. Gavin Newsom said as he announced the plan, as The Mercury News reported. "If you don't believe in climate change, if you don't believe in science, you believe your own damn eyes. Something is happening as it relates to the issue of climate that's exacerbating conditions and making the challenge of wildfire suppression and prevention that much more ominous."
CA isn't waiting until peak wildfire season to protect our communities. We proposed more than $1B for wildfire res… https://t.co/OBCLeb4DKN— Office of the Governor of California (@Office of the Governor of California)1617919919.0
The $536 million Wildfire Prevention and Resiliency package earmarks $350 million for forest management, including vegetation thinning, as well as $25 million to help homeowners pay for prevention measures on their properties, The Guardian reported. Newsom also touted the importance of adapting controlled burning techniques that were practiced for centuries by the state's first inhabitants. These smaller, necessary fires were suppressed by European settlers, contributing to the buildup of dried vegetation that has fueled historic blazes in recent years.
The new measure is an arrangement with California state lawmakers and has been introduced in both the House and Senate, according to The Mercury News. It is expected to pass Monday and be signed by Newsom next Tuesday. It builds on Newsom's pledge last week to hire around 1,400 new firefighters.
"For every dollar we spend on wildfire prevention, our state saves $6 to $7 in damage. But it's not just about saving money – this is about saving Californians' lives, their homes, and their livelihoods," Senate President Pro Tempore Toni G. Atkins (D-San Diego) said in a statement. "We've already had a wildfire break out in the San Gabriel mountains this month, and we're heading into a summer of hot, dry weather with another drought upon us."
Indeed, San Francisco is in the midst of its second driest two-year stretch in recorded history, according to The Mercury News. The state's rainy season this winter was the third driest on record and the snowpack of the Sierra Nevada mountains was just 59 percent of its historic average as of April 1.
This leads experts to predict another devastating fire season. California Natural Resources Secretary Wade Crowfoot warned reporters thursday that summer of 2021 promised "more of the same," as NBC News reported.
"The science is clear: Warming winter temperatures and warming summer temperatures are creating more dangerous and challenging wildfire conditions," he said. "Clearly much more needs to be done on a proactive, upfront basis to reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfire."
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California governor Gavin Newsom expanded an emergency drought declaration from two to 41 of the state's 58 counties on Monday.
About 40 million people, around 30% of the state's population, now live under a drought emergency that Newsom said is likely to expand.
"The hots are getting a lot hotter in this state, the dries are getting a lot drier," Newsom said.
"We have a conveyance system, a water system, that was designed for a world that no longer exists."
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A seal that had won the hearts of West London had to be put to sleep after a dog attack Sunday.
The 10-month-old harbor seal, nicknamed Freddie Mercury, was taken to the South Essex Wildlife Hospital, where staff discovered he had a fractured flipper and dislocated joint, the hospital wrote on Facebook. They also said he was not eating and had a spreading infection.
"At this stage we believe the only ethical and fair option we have is to end his suffering," the hospital wrote.
Freddie first gained public fame in February after being rescued from the Teddington Lock in Southwest London, where he got a fishing lure stuck in his mouth, The Guardian reported. He was released on the Isle of Sheppey off the Kent coast, but returned to the Teddington stretch of the Thames to Londoners' delight.
However, a dog mauled Freddie as he basked along the riverside on Sunday, The Guardian reported. Four people rushed to pry open the dog's jaws, including a vet. The dog and its owner then left, while emergency workers from the British Divers Marine Life Rescue (BDMLR) rushed the seal to the hospital.
In a Facebook post, BDMLR concurred that nothing more could be done for Freddie.
"Freddie was a wild seal and after the ferocious attack on Sunday he suffered a serious broken and dislocated flipper," BDMLR CEO Alan Knight wrote on Facebook. "We contacted one of the UK's leading orthopedic surgeons, and he said that unfortunately the only option was to euthanize the seal."
Both the hospital and BDMLR said the incident underscored the importance of giving wildlife the space they need.
"Sadly, Freddie is not the only seal we have had to care for that this has happened to," the hospital wrote. "Please folks do not go near seals and always, always, keep dogs on leads and under control."
"We are all absolutely gutted to hear about the extent of the injuries Freddie suffered, and highlights yet again the serious problems that can arise when humans and dogs encounter wild animals," the group wrote. "We hope that his story will go a long way to helping educate people to look up and follow the appropriate guidelines for how to behave respectfully around wild animals and not cause disturbance or worse to them."
This could be life-saving advice for the harbor seals that frequent the Thames. The Zoological Society of London's Thames Marine Mammal Survey has so far reported 117 seal sightings along the river this year, the Evening Standard reported.
"It is not unusual for seals to find their way into harbors or rivers such as the Thames and they have been known to travel inland quite some distance," a spokesperson for the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals told Metro. "They are often just looking for more food and generally they find their way out to sea again."
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A Congressional report reveals high levels of toxic metals in common baby foods. Jose Luis Pelaez Inc. / DigitalVision / Getty Images
Toxic metals arsenic, lead, cadmium, and mercury were all present at levels beyond what the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) considers safe for other products. Yet infants are particularly susceptible to these toxins, which can impair their neurological development and have lifelong impacts on their ability to earn a living and avoid criminal behavior.
"No level of exposure to these metals has been shown to be safe in vulnerable infants," Linda McCauley, dean of the Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing at Emory University, told The New York Times.
The report was published Thursday by the House Oversight Committee's subcommittee on economic and consumer policy. It was prompted by a 2019 report from Healthy Babies Bright Futures, which found that heavy metals were present in 95 percent of commercially available baby foods.
"What they did was take food off store shelves and test it. We said we should go straight to the companies and ask for their materials," subcommittee Chair Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-Ill.) told The Washington Post.
The subcommittee requested internal testing data from Nurture, Beech-Nut, Hain, Gerber, Campbell, Walmart and Sprout Foods. The first four companies agreed to the request, while Campbell, Walmart and Sprout did not.
Arsenic, lead, and cadmium were found in the products of all the responding companies, while mercury was found in products from Nurture, the only company that tested for it.
The impacted products were:
- Nurture (HappyBABY), which sold products with as much as 180 parts per billion (ppb) arsenic, 641 ppb lead, more than five ppb cadmium and as much as 10 ppb mercury.
- Hain (Earth's Best Organic), which sold products with as much as 129 ppb arsenic and used ingredients with as much as 309 ppb arsenic. It also used ingredients containing as much as 352 ppb lead and 260 ppb cadmium.
- Beech-Nut, which used ingredients that included as much as 913.4 ppb arsenic, 886.9 ppb lead and 344.55 ppb cadmium.
- Gerber, which used rice flour containing more than 90 ppb arsenic, ingredients with as much as 48 ppb lead and carrots with as much as 87 ppb cadmium.
The FDA has currently only set one legal limit for toxic metals in baby food, according to The New York Times. It requires that rice cereal not have more than 100 ppb arsenic. However, many of the ingredients tested far exceeded the legal limits set by the government for drinking water. The FDA limits for bottled water are 10 ppb inorganic arsenic, 5 ppb lead, and 5 ppb cadmium, while the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has mandated there be no more than 2 ppb mercury in drinking water.
"The test results of baby foods and their ingredients eclipse those levels: including results up to 91 times the arsenic level, up to 177 times the lead level, up to 69 times the cadmium level, and up to 5 times the mercury level," the report authors wrote.
The report addressed corporate practices that might contribute to these high numbers. First, companies set high maximum levels for toxins. For example, Nurture set its internal standard for arsenic in rice cereal at 15 percent above the FDA standard. Second, companies still sell products that surpass their internal standards. Third, companies often test just the ingredients, not the final product. Finally, additives like minerals can increase the presence of toxic metals in baby foods.
The subcommittee expressed concerns about the products of the companies who had not submitted reports.
"For the companies that didn't participate, it raises the concern that they might possess information that indicates the toxic metals in their foods might be even higher than their competitors," Krishnamoorthi told The Washington Post.
The report authors made four recommendations:
- The FDA should require baby food makers to test their finished products, not just their ingredients.
- The FDA should require baby food makers to label their products with the amounts of toxic metals present.
- Baby food makers should phase out or find substitutes for ingredients that have high values of toxic metals, like rice.
- The FDA should set maximum thresholds for toxic metals in baby foods.
- Parents should avoid baby foods that contain high levels of toxic metals.
However, the representatives acknowledged that parents need support to make informed decisions.
"The FDA must set standards and regulate this industry much more closely, starting now. It's shocking that parents are basically being completely left in the lurch by their government," Krishnamoorthi told The Washington Post.
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Krill oil has gained a lot of popularity recently as a superior alternative to fish oil. Basically, the claim goes, anything fish oil can do, krill oil does better. Read on to learn what makes krill oil supplements better than fish oil supplements, why you should consider adding these to your list of vitamin subscriptions and supplements, and which brands we recommend.
What is Krill Oil?
Krill oil is made from a tiny, shrimp-like crustaceans that live in the ocean and usually serve as whale food. In fact, krill means "whale food" in Norwegian. These tiny organisms actually play an extremely important role in the food chains of marine ecosystems. The krill used to make krill oil are usually found in the waters around Antarctica.
Just like the fish oils found in supplements, krill oil is rich in omega 3 fatty acids that contain EPA and DHA, two compounds that are proven to have a number of health benefits. Krill oil can help support healthy skin, in addition to other vitamin supplements for dry skin. While you can also take supplements to boost your immune system, improving the health of your skin is a great way to help fight off infections too.
But what makes krill oil better than fish oil?
It's believed that krill oil is better absorbed in the body than fish oil. Both derive most of their benefits through the EPA and DHA that are contained in their fatty acid stores. However, for the same dose, krill oil will result in more fatty acids in the blood than fish oil. A potential explanation for this is that while fish oil's fatty acids come as triglycerides, krill oil's come as phospholipids which are more easily processed by the body.
Additionally, the oil from krill contains astaxanthin which is an antioxidant that has anti-inflammatory properties that might have an enhanced positive effect on heart health. Studies have shown that krill oil is more effective than fish oil at lowering blood pressure and lowering bad cholesterol.
Our Picks for the Best Krill Oil Supplements
Each product featured here has been independently selected by the writer. You can learn more about our review methodology here. If you make a purchase using the links included, we may earn commission.
- Best Overall - Sports Research Antarctic Krill Oil
- Best for Joint Health - Viva Naturals Antarctic Krill Oil
- Best for Heart Health - NOW Neptune Krill Oil
- Strongest: Bulletproof Omega Krill Complex
- Best for Cognitive Health - Onnit Krill Oil
- Best for Sustainability - Vital Plan Krill Oil Plus
How We Chose Our Favorite Supplements
Here are the factors that we considered when comparing the best krill oil brands to create our list of recommended supplements.
Omega-3 Content - We looked to see the amount of omega-3 fatty acids contained in each krill oil softgel or capsule.
Astaxanthin Content - The best krill oil pills contain this naturally-occurring antioxidant.
Third-Party Lab Testing - For any nutritional supplement, we choose brands that guarantee the quality of their product through independent lab testing.
Krill Source - We also compared these supplements for the source of their krill oil, and only recommend brands that use sustainably-harvested krill.
Complete Reviews of the Top Krill Oil Supplements
Best Overall: Sports Research Antarctic Krill Oil
- Omega-3s - 240 mg per softgel
- Astaxanthin - 500 mcg per softgel
- Source - Antarctica
Why buy: IKOS certified and made with their proprietary Superba krill oil formula, Sports Research Antarctic Krill Oil is an excellent choice if you're looking to enjoy the benefits that quality omega-3 fatty acids can provide. Every softgel capsule contains 1000 mg of krill oil, making it a potent source of omega-3 fatty acids. We like that their krill oil is also certified as sustainably sourced by the MSC.
Best for Joint Health: Viva Naturals Antarctic Krill Oil
- Omega-3s - 330 mg per 2 capsules
- Astaxanthin - 1.6 mg per 2 capsules
- Source - Antarctica
Why buy: Viva Naturals uses a trademarked Caplique capsulation to avoid any krill oil odor or potential fishy burps. WIth 90 mg of DHA and 165 mg of EPA per 2 capsule serving, this supplement will definitely give you your money's worth, as they pack more DHA and EPA than your average supplement. We like that these capsules contain a higher concentration of the antioxidant astaxanthin, and are designed to eliminate any fishy aftertaste.
Best for Heart Health: NOW Neptune Krill Oil
- Omega-3s - 250 mg per 2 softgels
- Astaxanthin - 360 mcg per 2 softgels
- Source - Antarctica
Why buy: NOW Neptune Krill Oil supplements use 100% Neptune krill oil, a patented oil derived from Antarctic krill (Euphausia superba). Two softgels contain 250 mg of omega-3 fatty acids and 360 mcg of astaxanthin that can promote better cardiovascular and joint health. We like NOW Neptune Krill Oil because they also get their krill oil from a Friend of the Sea certified source.
Strongest: Bulletproof Omega Krill Complex
- Omega-3s - 1,560 mg per 2 softgels
- Astaxanthin - 2 mg per 2 softgels
- Krill Source - Antarctica
Why buy: Bulletproof Omega Krill Complex offers the highest concentration of omega-3s on our list. Made with a unique blend of wild-caught Atlantic and Pacific sardine, anchovy, and mackerel oils, Norwegian herring roe oil, and Antarctic krill oil, it packs 1,560 mg of omega-3 fatty acids into two softgels. We love that they only partner with MSC or Friend of the Sea certified sustainable fisheries for their oils.
Best for Cognitive Health: Onnit Krill Oil
- Omega-3s - 240 mg per 2 softgels
- Astaxanthin - 200 mcg per 2 softgels
- Krill Source - Antarctica
Why buy: Onnit Krill Oil makes it easy to supplement your diet with the essential nutrients found in krill with just two softgels per day. The DHA and EPA fatty acids, plus astaxanthin, contained in these supplements can help support better cognitive, heart, and joint health. Plus, they source their krill from a Friend of the Sea certified supplier.
Best for Sustainability: Vital Plan Krill Oil Plus
- Omega-3s - 330 mg per 3 softgels
- Astaxanthin - 150 mcg per 3 softgels
- Krill Source - Antarctica
Why buy: We love Vital Plan Krill Oil Plus because it contains omega-3 fatty acids, astaxanthin, and choline to help promote brain, cardiovascular, and joint health, and because it is made with sustainably-harvested Antarctic krill. In fact, Vital Plan uses Superba krill oil, which is certified sustainable by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) and is 100% traceable.
The Research on Krill Oil Supplements
Research has long demonstrated the health benefits of omega-3 fatty acids commonly found in foods like fish, nuts, and certain grains like flax seed. Since krill oil naturally contains higher levels of these beneficial nutrients, it has also been found to provide a number of health benefits.
Numerous studies have linked the omega-3 fatty acids found in fish and krill oil to cardiovascular health, finding that those who ingest higher levels of these nutrients are at lower risk for coronary heart disease, potentially lower risk of stroke, and have lower cholesterol levels. Another study found that krill oil supplements offer a safe alternative to fish oil for those seeking cardiovascular benefits in a smaller and more convenient form.
Krill oil supplementation has also been found to help reduce the symptoms of knee and joint pain.
Additionally, researchers found that rats given krill oil supplements showed improved cognitive function and benefited from anti-depressant-like effects. However, more research on its effect for human brain development and function is needed.
How to Choose the Right Krill Oil Supplement
When shopping for a krill oil supplement, there are important pieces of information that you should always look for. Here are some tips on how to compare brands and how to read labels.
What to Look For
For any supplement, always check to see if it has undergone third-party lab testing for quality and safety. This is especially important for any fish or krill oil to make sure that it does not contain any harmful compounds like mercury.
Look for the amount of krill oil contained in each capsule and each serving (as these will sometimes differ). You should choose supplements that offer between 200 mg and 350 mg of omega-3 fatty acids per serving for the best results.
Make it a priority to learn where the brand sources its supply of krill oil. We recommend brands that use sustainably-harvested Antarctic krill oil because the process of harvesting is more tightly regulated by various groups.
This is good advice for all nutritional supplements, but be sure the krill oil you choose does not contain any unwanted or unnecessary ingredients. All of our recommendations contain just the krill oil and the capsule it comes in.
How to Read Labels
When you are comparing krill oil supplements, here are some key things to look for on any label:
- Supplement Facts - This is where you can find information on the amount of krill oil in each capsule, how many capsules make up one serving, and a breakdown of how many omega-3 fatty acids and other nutrients are contained in the supplement.
- Other Ingredients - Listed at the bottom of the supplement facts table, this list will tell you what the capsule itself is made of and if there are any additional ingredients present.
- Certifications - Check the label for important certifications and seals of approvals that can tell you if a krill oil is IKOS-certified, third-party lab tested, or sustainably harvest.
How to Use Krill Oil Supplements
Krill oil supplements typically come in capsules that you swallow with water, just like any probiotic supplements or digestive enzymes. For most brands, 2 to 3 capsules make up a single serving, and you can take a serving either once or twice per day. Some brands recommend their supplements be taken with food to aid in their digestion and absorption.
Safety & Side Effects
While krill oil supplements are generally considered safe for most adults, it is extremely important to note that you should not take krill oil if you are allergic to shellfish. The potential side effects for krill oil are considered mild and similar to fish oils, including:
- Upset stomach
- Fishy taste
The Toxic-Free Cosmetics Act, or Assembly Bill 2762, targets 24 toxic chemicals including mercury and formaldehyde that have been linked to cancer, birth defects, hormone disruption and other negative health impacts, Environmental Working Group (EWG) reported. While these ingredients have been barred from cosmetics and personal care products in the EU, they are not regulated in the U.S. on the national level.
"Every day, Californians are exposed to hazardous chemicals hiding in their cosmetics and personal care products. Children, communities of color and pregnant women are especially vulnerable to these ingredients, which are not actively regulated by the federal government," Newsom said in a press release. "California is leading the nation by banning toxic ingredients from our cosmetics. This legislation will save lives and keep Californians and our environment safe."
The bill was introduced by Democratic Assemblymember Al Muratsuchi and will go into effect in 2025, The Associated Press reported.
"The science is clear on the harmful nature of these chemicals and AB 2762 will provide Californians with the same consumer protections already provided in the European Union," Muratsuchi said in the press release.
Cosmetics regulations have not been significantly updated in the U.S. since 1938. Currently, the makers of beauty products do not have to register their products with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), supply the government with an ingredients list, follow safe manufacturing standards or report safety records and any adverse health impacts.
This lack of regulation is an issue of health and environmental justice, supporters of the California bill pointed out.
"Some of the most toxic ingredients are being aggressively marketed to Black women," Black Women for Wellness policy director Nourbese Flint told EWG. "Levels of formaldehyde that could be used to embalm a body are being used in hair straighteners, and Black women who dye their hair are 60 percent more likely to develop breast cancer. That's why we demand safe cosmetics now. This law means we can finally protect women from the toxic exposures they currently face on every trip to the salon."
The law will also protect salon workers, who are 47 times more likely to develop fragrance skin allergies than people in other professions, the California government pointed out.
Also on Wednesday, Newsom signed Senate Bill 312, which mandates that cosmetics makers report any harmful fragrances or flavors to the California Department of Public Health Safe Cosmetics Program.
"I thank Governor Newsom for signing SB 312 which will ensure that consumers in California know what ingredients are in the beauty and personal care products they bring home to their families and use on their bodies," Democratic State Senator Connie Leyva, who introduced the bill, said in the press release. "This first-in-the-nation legislation empowers consumers and underscores the belief that no toxic ingredients should be kept secret."
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Coastal darkening is a change in the color and clarity of water. According to Hakai Magazine, the underlying causes include fertilizer pollution creating algal blooms, along with boats stirring up silt. Both of these issues block light. Even heavy rains can contribute when they loosen organic matter from decaying plants and soil, carrying them to the ocean as a brown, light-blocking slurry, Hakai Magazine noted.
According to Science Norway, sunlight hitting these particles gets absorbed or blocked, instead of penetrating further down the water column. The result is that the underwater world is darker. Science Norway also reported that the amount of loose organic material that ends up in the sea has increased during the last 30 years.
"It's affecting the quality of the sea we know," Oliver Zielinski, who runs the Coastal Ocean Darkening project at the University of Oldenburg in Germany, told Hakai Magazine.
According to the project's website, "Light availability in the coastal ocean is closely coupled to its physical, biological and chemical processes and is experiencing changes on all spatial and temporal scales." This will have profound ecological implications that are just beginning to be understood.
First, physical impediments create biological changes in water. A study from the Coastal Ocean Darkening project published in Frontiers in Marine Science showed that as more organic matter blocked sunlight from penetrating the water, phytoplankton concentrations dropped. Because phytoplankton are the base of the oceanic food chain, decreasing numbers and shifting concentrations of specific types could have catastrophic, cascading consequences for the entire ecosystem, Hakai Magazine reported.
Over time, other biological changes in marine life might be observed, the study found. Decreased light availability benefits creatures such as jellyfish that don't rely on sight to hunt, while hindering those that are visual hunters, such as fish, Hakai Magazine reported. A 2009 study found that coastal water darkening was implicated in regime shifts of predominant animals in Norwegian fjords. For example, jellyfish enjoyed a "mass occurrence" after more than 70 years of coastal darkening in the fjords.
A 2021 report of Norwegian fjords found that darkening makes life difficult for plankton, kelp, seagrass and fish because all depend on light to make their food, reported Science Norway. Reductions in vast ecosystems, such as kelp forests and seagrass beds because of light scarcity, have negative consequences for fish species that use these areas as nurseries, the report added.
The Coastal Ocean Darkening study predicted that ongoing and future climate change would intensify this darkening. The climate crisis and warming ocean temperatures will result in more extreme weather and increased rainfall, Science Norway reported. These, in turn, will intensify runoff into coastal ecosystems, causing browner, darker water. Human activity and changes in land use could also result in "large pulses of soil and sediment" smothering coastal ecosystems and reducing light penetration and water clarity, Hakai Magazine reported.
A separate study from the Norwegian Institute for Water Research published by the American Chemical Society found that ocean darkening is also changing the chemical makeup of the water. When less light penetrates, methyl mercury, which results when sunlight breaks down toxic chemicals, lingers and accumulates in the water. This allows methyl mercury and other organic contaminants to readily transfer into the fish food web and, eventually, humans, Hakai Magazine reported.
So, what can be done?
Science Norway suggested stricter land-use regulations for areas that drain to rivers and other bodies of water. Reducing nutrient runoff to these areas will also reduce the amount that eventually makes it to the sea.
"For example, the authorities could impose stricter regulations on when farmers are allowed to plow their fields, or a requirement to preserve wetlands," said Helene Frigstad, the project manager behind the 2021 report on Norwegian fjords.
With this relatively unknown environmental phenomenon already altering waterways along the world's coasts, more research is needed to pinpoint exact consequences and potential solutions.
- Human Noise Pollution Is Harming Ocean Creatures - EcoWatch ›
- Mercury Pollution Found in Deepest Part of Ocean - EcoWatch ›
- Study: Plastic Pollution Increases Ocean Acidification - EcoWatch ›
- The Dangers of Runoff From Land ›
Juvenile great white sharks have historically spent their time in Southern California waters, but after a marine heat wave started in 2014, they began to spend more time further north in Monterey Bay. This is bad news for prey animals such as sea otters, whose area numbers have fallen 86 percent since the sharks moved in, The Guardian reported.
"White sharks aren't just another species — they're an apex predator and all eyes are on them in the ocean," Kyle Van Houtan from the Monterey Bay Aquarium, who co-authored a new study on the phenomenon, told The Guardian.
The study, published in Scientific Reports on Tuesday, used data from juvenile great white sharks tagged in 2002 to monitor their movements, according to a Monterey Bay Aquarium press release published in EurekAlert! Researchers used 22 million electronic data records from 14 sharks and compared them to 38 years of ocean temperature data to find the coldest temperature the sharks could stand.
Juvenile sharks range between five and nine feet long and often prefer warmer water, where they feast on fish, rays and squid, according to The Mercury News. After two or three years the sharks set out for colder, deeper waters after growing more than ten-feet long and developing wider, more serrated teeth.
Between 1982 and 2013, the young sharks never ventured further north of Santa Barbara, at 34 degrees North, according to the press release. However, after the marine heat wave in 2014, their range shifted 4.5 degrees North to Bodega Bay. The sharks' current range limit remains at 36 degrees North near Monterey Bay. The cold water limit for the sharks moved about 373 miles north between 2014 and 2020, according to The Guardian.
At the same time, the sharks' suitable water temperature range actually shrank by five percent. This is a problem for their prey.
"It doesn't seem big in the overall scheme of things but predators and prey are now compressed into a smaller place, where prey have fewer places to hide. So you're seeing a really rapid decline in fish, including salmon," Van Houten told the Guardian.
The shift has also impacted humans who now share their surfing and swimming spots with the predators.
"I've seen sharks right under surfers — just a few feet away," Chris Gularte, a Specialized Helicopters chief pilot who conducts tours in the area, told The Mercury News. "When the water is warm and they come in the bay, you can see them swim near people all day long. Standup paddlers and kayakers will go right up to them and not realize they are there."
A 2020 attack killed a surfer near Santa Cruz when a shark bit an artery in his leg. However, California shark attacks decreased 91 percent since 1950 because people are more informed on how to avoid sharks, The Guardian explained.
The scientists stressed how sharks are not to blame for their northward shift.
"White sharks, otters, kelp, lobsters, corals, redwoods, monarch butterflies — these are all showing us that climate change is happening right here in our backyard," Van Houtan said in the press release. "It's time for us to take notice and listen to this chorus from nature. We know that greenhouse gas emissions are rapidly disrupting our climate and this is taking hold in many ways... But let's be clear: The sharks are not the problem. Our emissions are the problem. We need to act on climate change and reduce our reliance on fossil fuels."
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