Pet owners around the country are seeing their beloved canines perish after letting them cool off in waters harboring toxic algae.
Dogs in North Carolina, Georgia and Texas have all died recently after swimming in waters covered in a harmful algae bloom, which is difficult to detect.
"Your typical lay person will not be able to tell one algae from another, or a good from a bad," said Dr. Mark Aubel, of Greenwater Laboratories who studies harmful algae blooms, to Atlanta's 11 Alive. "It just kind of behooves anybody that sees algae in a lake, in a pond, that they'd probably want to be cautious and just not expose themselves to it or to their pets."
Last Thursday, a couple in Wilmington, NC tried to give their three dogs some relief from the heat by letting the dogs splash around in a nearby pond. Within 15 minutes of leaving the water, one of their West Highland terriers started to suffer from seizures. When they arrived at the veterinarian's office, the other Westie started to decline, followed shortly by the couple's "doodle" mix therapy dog. By midnight, all three dogs were dead, as CNN reported.
All three died from ingesting harmful blue-green algae, or cyanobacteria, in the water.
"What started out as a fun night for them has ended in the biggest loss of our lives," wrote Melissa Martin, one of the dog owners, in a Facebook post that has been shared more than 15,000 times, according to CNN.
Since she did not see any warning about the harmful algae bloom, "We are now on a mission to put signs at every body of water that can have this deadly bacteria," Martin added at the end of her Facebook post.
In Austin, TX, three dogs have died after exposure to the toxic algae at Lady Bird Lake in Red Bud Isle. While people are not allowed to swim in the water, the popular spot for an off-leash dog walk had no signs warning dog walkers to keep their dogs away from the lake.
Now, after three dogs have died, the city closed Red Bud Isle to the public after discovering that 40 percent of Lady Bird Lake's surface is covered in a harmful algae bloom.
The first dog death at Red Bud Isle happened a month ago when an Austin dog-owner's German shepherd-Rhodesian ridgeback mix lost control of his legs and struggled to breathe after swimming in the lake. The dog was brain dead shortly after arriving at the vet's office, the Austin American-Statesman reported.
The other two dogs died on Aug. 1 and 3, respectively. All three dogs had the same story: after entering the water, the dogs struggled to keep their balance and lost the ability to stand. Within an hour they were dead, the Austin American-Statesman reported.
It's not fair, and it's not okay," wrote Brittany Stanton, the owner of the last dog to die from swimming in Lady Bird Lake, in a lengthy post on Facebook. "Word needs to be spread about this incredibly devastating risk."
This weekend, a similar story happened in Georgia, when a couple took their border collie to Lake Allatoona. Shortly after splashing around, the dog began to vomit and by the time the owners reached the vet, the dog was brain dead, according to the owner's Facebook post.
This summer has seen an unusually intense wave of algae blooms that have shut down lakes in the Pacific Northwest, New Jersey and every beach on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. Scientists say the climate crisis is probably a factor in the increase of cyanobacteria, which can grow in dense clusters and produce toxic substances. An increase in the frequency and intensity of rainstorms has pushed fertilizer runoff into waterways. Furthermore, hot, sunny days and the conditions are set for a harmful algae bloom, which are appearing more frequently and earlier in the season, according to The New York Times.
Dogs are particularly vulnerable to cyanobacteria because they swallow so much water when they swim, as Heavy.com reported.
The Many Hazards of Toxic Algae Outbreaks https://t.co/VDx3L4PPR0— Enviro Voter Project (@Enviro_Voter) September 18, 2018
If you're looking to cool off in the waters of Mississippi's Gulf Coast, think again.
A toxic algal bloom has made the waters dangerous to humans and their pets. The Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality has shut down swimming at all of its beaches due to a blue-green harmful algal bloom, according to CNN.
Toxic algae are dangerous to touch and poisonous when swallowed. It can cause rashes, stomach cramps, nausea, diarrhea and vomiting, the state agency warned.
While the sand on the beaches is still open, the state's DEQ said beachgoers should avoid water contact or consumption of anything from the waters "until further notice," as CNN reported. The agency also advised anyone exposed to the water to wash with soap and water and to not eat fish or any other seafood taken from affected areas.
The blooms are not technically algae, but cyanobacteria — aquatic and photosynthetic bacteria. Many things, including changes in water temperature and fertilizer run-off, can trigger its bloom. Once the conditions are right for the cyanobacteria to spawn rapidly, they produce harmful toxins, as The Week reported.
"I had a feeling it was going this way. Water always flows west to east," Pascagoula resident Bill Kenan told Biloxi ABC affiliate WLOX. "It just keeps going and going and going. I don't know if it's ever going to get better. I hope it does."
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said that the climate crisis and increases in nutrient levels of bodies of water due to fertilizer run-off are potentially causing harmful algal blooms to occur more often and in areas not previously affected, ABC News reported. Warmer waters with a marked increase in surface temperature or a change in sea currents are particularly susceptible to the bloom. A harmful algal bloom can look like foam, scum or mats on the surface of water and can be different colors, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
This bloom was triggered in part by the opening of the Bonnet Carre spillway in Louisiana, which introduced an excessive amount of freshwater to the coastline, according to the Jackson Clarion-Ledger.
The spillway was opened to offset a rising Mississippi River that experienced massive swelling after an especially wet winter that caused flooding in along the river's coastlines.
The spillway is expected to close mid-July after the river's waters recede. Experts believe its closure will prompt the algae bloom to dissipate. "Once they close the structure, conditions will start to change pretty quickly," said John Lopez, of Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation, a conservation organization that monitors water conditions throughout the Gulf Coast region, as reported by CBS New Orleans.
That prognosis will offer little relief to residents and tourists along the Mississippi Gulf Coast where temperatures will hover in the mid-90s all week.
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CBD, or cannabidiol, now comes in a variety of different forms, including CBD oils, CBD gummies, CBD capsules, and even water soluble CBD powders. You can also use CBD vape oil like you would any other vape juice. Our guide to the best CBD vape oils will help you identify the top brands to consider and will provide important information about CBD, vaping, and wellness.
What is CBD Vape Oil?
CBD can be vaporized and inhaled. To that end, many companies offer CBD vaping products, sometimes referred to as CBD vape juice, CBD vape pens, or CBD vape cartridges. These products normally come as disposable or refillable cartridges for vape pens . The vape pen vaporizes the specially made CBD contained in the cartridge, which is then inhaled. It is the same principle behind e-cigarettes and THC vape products.
Vaporization is normally considered a potent way to ingest CBD and so it is not for everyone. Because the vapor is inhaled, the molecule enters the bloodstream much quicker, so vaping produces a fast and relatively intense feeling.
While CBD vape oil may be used as an aid to help you quit smoking, we do not recommend smoking or vaping CBD as your primary method of ingesting CBD because of the health concerns associated with smoking. For alternative methods of taking CBD, check out our oil tincture and CBD gummy reviews.
Note that new federal laws went into in effect starting April 2021 as part of the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021, that place new regulations and restrictions around the online sale and delivery of all vaping products. In order to purchase any vape product online, you will need to verify your age and use a shipping service that requires an adult signature upon delivery. As a result, several brands have discontinued their CBD vape pens or no longer sell them online.
Top CBD Vape Oil Products for 2021
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.
How We Chose the Best CBD Vape Oils
Here is a list of factors we consider when choosing and ranking our brand selection.
Hemp source - Hemp source is one of the most important parts of the CBD manufacturing process. We make sure to only pick companies that grow hemp according to the most up-to-date botanical and cultivation methods. We also make sure to choose companies that use organically grown, locally-sourced hemp.
Extraction process - There are three primary types of extraction for CBD products. The first involves crushing the leaves and stems and removing the residual mixture. Solvent extraction involves running the hemp plant through a solvent mixture (most of the time ethanol) then boiling away the solvent to leave the oil residue. The last common method is called supercritical CO2 extraction. Supercritical CO2 extraction is considered the gold standard when it comes to CBD production. As such, we try to find companies that use supercritical methods for their products.
Manufacturing standards - There are several third-party organizations that vet companies based on manufacturing standards and the quality/accuracy of their products. These agencies test company products to make sure that they are made properly and actually contain what they are advertised to contain. As such, we only choose products and companies that have readily accessible third-party lab reports ascertaining the quality of ingredients and production. Any company that does not provide this information for consumers is automatically excluded from consideration.
Extra ingredients - CBD products rarely contain just CBD and nothing else. Many contain a full spectrum of cannabinoids and other molecules such as terpenes. Some may contain delta-8 THC. We make sure that any companies we choose use all-natural ingredients and do not rely on any synthetic or artificial chemicals. We also look at the type and quality of alternative ingredients
Potency - Potency, or concentration, refers to the overall strength of the mixture. Potency is normally measured in milligrams per milliliter (mg/ml). Most of the time a product will list the potency on the label along with the quantity and volume of the product. Potency is very important because it determines the recommended dose that you should take.
Brand transparency - It is important when dealing with CBD companies that the brand is transparent about their products, methods, and supply chains. So, when looking for companies, we make sure only to pick those that have reliable and transparent business practices, product labelings, and company information/policies.
Customer reviews and testimonials - The last major factor we consider is customer reviews and testimonials. Customer reviews encompass more than just the quality of products. They also talk about how it is to interact with the company and the overall company experience. Customer reviews can also give insights in specific matters that general product descriptions cannot give. They also give a good indication of the public reputation of a company.
The Best CBD Vape Oils of 2021
Best Overall: CBDistillery CBD E-Liquid
- CBD - Broad Spectrum
- Strength - 1000 mg CBD per bottle
- Flavor - Mango
Best for Relaxation: Botany Farms CBG Vape Cartridge
- CBD - Full Spectrum (includes Delta-8 THC)
- Strength - 35% CBD, 25% CBG, 9% Delta-8 THC, 7% CBN, 7% CBC per 1 gram
- Flavor - Lemon Diesel
Why buy: This Botany Farms CBG vape cartridge offers a full spectrum blend of CBD and other cannabinoids, including delta-8 THC, for a calming and relaxing experience with a bright, citrusy flavor. Because it does contain full spectrum hemp extract and delta-8, we strongly recommend only using this product to relax in the evenings and that you do not drive after use.
The Research on CBD Vape Oils
CBD has become an interesting object of study by scientists because of its potential therapeutic and medicinal properties. CBD may help support relief from certain health conditions, including:
- Chronic pain
- Joint pain
Out of all these effects, the potential pain reducing and anti-inflammatory properties of CBD are the most well-established. CBD has been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties and has also been shown to be to help with pain management in certain cases.
The exact mechanism of action of CBD is through the body's endocannabinoid system. The endocannabinoid system (ECS) is a large network of cannabinoid receptors throughout the body's brain and nervous tissue. Research has shown that the endocannabinoid system is involved in mediating several homeostatic processes in the body.
To be clear, CBD is not medicine and is not generally approved by the FDA for medical use. CBD is not intended to serve as a substitute or replacement for any approved medical treatment and CBD is not known to cure any diseases.
In fact, there are only 2 FDA-approved medicines that contain CBD as their active ingredient, both of which are meant to treat certain forms of epilepsy. Since CBD is not approved for medical use, you should always talk to your doctor first before using a CBD product.
How to Choose the Right CBD Vape Oil
With any CBD vape juice or oil, it's important to make sure that you choose a product that is safe and made using quality, natural ingredients. Make sure you consider these factors when shopping.
What to Look For
Here are the key things to look for when comparing CBD vape oil products:
Type of CBD: Always known the type of CBD contained in any CBD vape oil product, whether that's full spectrum, broad spectrum, or CBD isolate.
Hemp Source: Look for brands that source their hemp from organic farms in the United States.
Lab Testing: The most important factor to consider is independent third-party lab testing. You should never purchase a CBD product that does not offer proof of independent testing.
Instructions: Some CBD vape cartridges will include specific instructions on how to to use them with your existing vape pen or device, as well as if they can be mixed with other e-liquids.
How to Read Labels
Take the time to read the label of any CBD vape juice product before you buy. Always look for the following information.
- Strength - Check to see how much CBD is contained in the product so you know how much will be in each serving.
- Other Ingredients - Make sure you know what other cannabinoids or ingredients are included in the vape, especially if you are concerned about THC.
- Test Results - The best brands include links or QR codes to the certificates of analysis from the lab tests of their CBD. Use these to check the results for yourself.
Safety & Side Effects
CBD can cause a certain number of side effects, though most of them are mild.. The most common reported side effects of CBD are:
- Dry mouth
- Changes in appetite
- Upset stomach
The most commonly reported side effect is fatigue and tiredness. CBD can also interact with certain prescription medications, so be sure to consult with your doctor before using CBD if you take any prescription medicines.
It's also important to note that vaping or smoking of any kind carries serious health risks. While vape oils may be used to aid in the cessation of smoking, it is not advised as the primary method of taking CBD.
You should always take the time to research any CBD product that you purchase, but this is especially important when it comes to CBD vape oils and CBD vape pens. You can also explore other CBD options including oil tinctures, gummies, capsules, and water soluble mixes in order to enjoy the potential benefits of CBD.
Toxins enter the body through what we eat, drink, breathe in, and process in any way. Once inside, toxins overtax our immune system and detoxification system and leave us more vulnerable to illness — not ideal during cold and flu season, and especially not this year during a pandemic — and make us age a little faster, too.
Fortunately, there are a lot of simple things you can do from the comfort of your own home to keep toxins out of your body, flush them out of your system faster, and boost your immunity all at the same time, says Dr. Bill Rawls, Medical Director of Vital Plan. He shares his top 10 strategies below.
1. Source Your Food Wisely
Try to stay away from packaged and processed foods that contain ingredients you can't pronounce, and instead reach for fresh food from natural sources. Aim to make vegetables more than 50% of your daily diet — their fiber is a great natural binder, and they're full of beneficial phytochemicals — and minimize your red meat consumption.
Also, whenever practical, choose organic over conventional products. That said, we know organic prices and accessibility can be an issue, so for help making strategic decisions, refer to the Environmental Working Group (EWG) "Dirty Dozen" and "Clean Fifteen" lists:
The Dirty Dozen:
(*While raisins aren't technically a fresh food, the EWG found that they are "one of the dirtiest produce commodities on the market — and even some organic raisins are contaminated.")
The Clean Fifteen
- Sweet corn
- Frozen sweet peas
2. Consider Detoxifying and Immune-Boosting Herbs
There are a number of herbs and natural ingredients that can help support detoxification and immune health. Here are the ones at the top of Dr. Rawls' list:
Chlorella: This nutrient-rich freshwater algae binds to toxins so they can be eliminated from your body more efficiently. Chlorella works particularly well for withdrawing heavy metals. Pure chlorella can be purchased in the form of bulk powder, tablets, or capsules.
Milk Thistle: It's been used for thousands of years to support a healthy liver, the primary organ responsible for detoxification.
Dandelion: Known to help support liver function, research suggests dandelion helps promote the body's natural detoxification and elimination processes.
Bitters: Bitter flavors are important to digestion — they stimulate the release of the saliva, enzymes, and bile that help break down your food. Include bitter herbs and foods in each meal, or take a botanical extract that blends bitter herbs like dandelion root, burdock root, orange peel, and gentian root
Reishi mushroom: An extensively studied adaptogenic mushroom, reishi has exceptional immunomodulating and antiviral properties. It helps normalize inflammatory cytokines and promotes healthy immune response against threatening microbes.
Rhodiola: Another adaptogen, rhodiola improves stress tolerance by reducing fatigue, supporting energy levels, and improving tissue oxygenation.
Turmeric: This popular spice is well loved for its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.
Shilajit: An herbo-mineral adaptogen, shilajit has a long history of use in traditional Indian medicine for longevity and strength. It's also an immunomodulator with antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and antiviral properties.
Gotu Kola: Best known for improving memory and mood, gotu kola is also great for promoting a normal response to inflammation, balancing stress hormones, and supporting circulation.
Vital Plan is a certified B Corporation — one of only eight supplement companies recognized for achieving the highest standards of social and environmental performance, accountability, and transparency. If you make a purchase using the link above, EcoWatch may earn a commission.
3. Filter Your Water
Much of America's tap water has been shown to contain pollutants, so filtering what comes out of your kitchen sink is smart. To be sure you're using a filter that does the trick, keep these guidelines in mind:
- Look for a filter certified by NSF International or the Water Quality Association.
- Choose one that removes the contaminants in your water (check your local drinking water quality report to see what's present).
- Change your water filters on time.
4. Choose Safe and Effective Cleaning Supplies
When buying household cleaning products, don't bring home chemicals that could harm your health more than some of the microbes you're trying to get rid of. Fortunately, there are a number of products on the market that work safely; here are some ways to shop wisely:
- Look for the Green Seal, Ecologo, or Safer Choice (EPA) seals.
- Opt for fragrance-free options.
- Avoid triclosan and quaternary ammonium compounds or "quats." (One tactic is to choose products that don't advertise as "antibacterial.")
- Consult the EWG's list of safe and effective products for guarding against coronavirus.
5. Opt for Non-Toxic Beauty and Personal Care Products
There are a lot of claims made on beauty and self-care products these days, but words alone, like "natural," "organic," "non-toxic," "clean," "green," and "eco-friendly," don't mean a thing — they aren't backed by any sort of regulatory or certification processes. Instead, to find non-toxic products you trust, you have to do a little research.
- USDA Organic
- EWG Verified
- Made Safe
- NSF/ANSI 305
- Natural Products Association Certified
- Whole Foods Market Premium Body Care
6. Get Outside
One more reason to get outdoors beyond combatting cabin fever: The air in natural environments is generally much cleaner than indoor air. For one, outdoor air contains ⅔ less carbon dioxide, high levels of which negatively affect our productivity, sleep, and more.
Forest air in particular contains phytoncides, organic compounds emitted by trees and plants that have been shown to boost our immune system function, plus plants in general help neutralize toxic substances in the air. Forests, open spaces, and open water are also rich in negative ions, which reduce inflammation.
So take your pick of natural environs, and get out there as often as possible — while still maintaining at least 6 feet of distance between yourself and others, of course.
7. Bring Nature Indoors
Plants are natural air purifiers, so bringing some plants indoors can help clear the air in your home. Here's a list of the top 10 air-purifying plants to consider:
- Areca palm
- Lady palm
- Bamboo palm
- Rubber plant
- English ivy
- Dwarf date palm
- Boston fern
- Peace lily
8. Drive Less, Move More
Staying off the roads decreases air pollution, and the fact that many of us are driving less these days is noticeably improving air quality. If your commute is on hold, try to translate some of your usual travel time into getting more physical activity, or sneak in more movement between other normal routines.
Exercise improves circulation, oxygenates your tissues, and enhances the work of the lymphatic system through muscle contractions — all of which make it easier to move toxins out of your body.
9. Practice Forgiveness
Through the practice of gratitude, we stay centered and in the present moment. This allows us to move through situations from our heart. Take time to forgive someone or yourself for things in the past. When we forgive, we expand and open up to endless possibilities.
10. Quit a Bad Habit
Are you a smoker? Pack rat? Chronically sleep-deprived? In a bad relationship? Toxins come into our lives in many forms. Consider if you're participating in any unhealthy patterns or holding onto anything that no longer serves you, and then find a way to limit those things in your life.
Dr. Rawls is a licensed medical doctor in North Carolina and a leading expert in integrative health. He has extensive training in alternative therapies, and is the Medical Director of Vital Plan, a holistic health and herbal supplement company in Raleigh, NC.
Reposted with permission from Vital Plan.
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A women fills a water bottle with a filter from an alpine lake in the mountains around Pemberton, British Columbia, Canada. Canada is on the front lines of rapid climate changes that affect the water cycle. Ben Girardi / Aurora Photos / Getty Images
By Corinne Schuster-Wallace, Robert Sandford and Stephanie Merrill
In recent years, the daily news has been flooded with stories of water woes from coast to coast to coast.
There are melting glaciers and ice sheets in northern and western Canada and lead in drinking water in the older neighborhoods of many cities in Canada. We see toxic blue green algae threatening pets, livestock and drinking water as well as catastrophic floods, droughts and fires.
In 2018, parts of British Columbia experienced devastating floods, followed by wildfires a couple of months later.
Our water resources are under threat from contamination, land use, urbanization and climate change. If we're not careful, it may not be clean enough or available when we need it.
An Opportunity to Lead
The public supports environmental — and water — leadership in Canada. Many political pundits have suggested the federal election result of October 2019 was a clear call for climate action.
And yet Canada is on the front lines of rapid climate changes that affect the water cycle. Where, when, and how much rain, snow or freezing rain falls is changing across Canada.
This is the water that we depend upon to replenish our groundwater, rivers and lakes, which continue to have a significant and increasing impact on water availability and quality in Canada and around the world.
However, Canadians remain divided on energy policy and resource development, and on appropriate solutions that balance environmental, economic and social needs. As Canadians, we must move beyond this and implement changes to better manage our water resources sustainably.
Water Front and Center
We must manage our water sustainably because water is central to environmental, social and economic sustainability and therefore sustainable societies. This is the focus of the UN's Sustainable Development Goals. These 17 goals identify targets that must be achieved for livelihoods, health, education, environment, cities, oceans, equity and partnership.
It's important to understand that these goals are not isolated, but interrelated. This is why, even though there is a goal for water (SDG 6), there are 40 targets in the other 16 goals that relate directly to water.
For example, we cannot have good health if we do not have clean and accessible water, and children cannot go to school or adults to work, if they are not healthy. With water often at the heart of many social and economic inequities, it is critical to address water quantity, quality and access issues in order to meet all of the goals and to achieve the global sustainable development vision.
The recipe for managing Canada's water resources in a sustainable and equitable manner requires all of us to urgently recognize our changing climate and water resources, including drinking water, and act appropriately.
It requires federal co-ordination and leadership on water to overcome challenges of fragmented jurisdiction, such as following through with their commitment to create a Canada Water Agency, develop a national flood forecasting system and ensure universal access to adequate drinking water supplies.
Research institutions must also step up to advance our knowledge, develop and assess decision support tools and solutions, and communicate their findings to communities, governments and economic sectors.
Finally, it requires reconciliation through shared nations' governance of water resources and recognition of the long history of successful, sustainable management of natural resources through indigenous knowledge and historical local knowledge.
Getting Our Own House in Order
Canada could support the world in achieving water sustainability, but it must first get its own house in order and achieve the UN's water goals nationally.
Canada's water opportunities and challenges. Global Water Futures
Canada still has not reached universal access to reliable, potable water supplies for everyone, especially First Nations communities. Lead pipes, disinfection byproducts and aging infrastructure are interrupting drinking water service and negatively affecting human health.
The Bottom Line
Canada already has the expertise, technologies, industries and research capacity to make good on a commitment to water sustainability and universal achievement of the UN's water goals for all Canadians. But it needs leadership to advance research and practice to expand our existing strengths, and export these internationally.
Canadian research institutions have a role to play in bringing the country together by showing Canada and the world the solutions and benefits of achieving these goals.
There are significant long-term benefits at stake, including the enhanced health and well-being of current and future generations, as well as expanded economic opportunity. But, to achieve these, political leadership needs to transcend partisan lines in order to do what is right.
Ultimately, we have an opportunity to make where we live a better place and to get our own watersheds in order. This will help us create a better, more just, equitable and sustainable world for all. The alternative is, quite simply, unthinkable.
Corinne Schuster-Wallace is an associate professor in the Department of Geography and Planning at the University of Saskatchewan.
Robert Sandford is the Chair in Water and Climate Security at United Nations University.
Stephanie Merrill is a research scientist in knowledge mobilization at the Global Institute for Water Security, Global Water Futures Program, University of Saskatchewan.
Disclosure statement: Corinne Schuster-Wallace receives funding from Global Water Futures and the Canadian Tri-Agency. She is co-chair of the Working Group on Climate Change for the Canadian Coalition for Global Health Research.
Robert Sandford receives partial funding from the Global Water Futures program at the University of Saskatchewan.
Stephanie Merrill is a volunteer board member of the Saskatchewan branch and National board of the Canadian Water Resources Association and the Nashwaak Watershed Association.
Reposted with permission from The Conversation.
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The last red tide in Florida lasted 15 months — pictured here at Bean Point Beach. TriggerPhoto / iStock / Getty Images Plus
Scientists from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Research Institute announced Friday that samples of water taken off the shore of Collier County turned up high concentrations of the toxic algae that causes the tide, according to The Associated Press. There were also reports of dead fish and respiratory problems in the area.
"We have received reports of dead fish for several locations in Collier County including Barefoot Beach, Naples Bay near the Gordon River and by the Naples Pier," Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission spokeswoman Kelly Richmond told the Fort Myers News-Press. "Mullet appeared to be the most affected species but other unidentified fish have also been reported dead."
The news comes only about eight months after the state's longest red tide this decade finally faded away in February, according to The Tampa Bay Times.
It's back. https://t.co/h35ce9N9s2— Tampa Bay Times News and Weather (@Tampa Bay Times News and Weather)1570286700.0
That red tide began in November 2017, killed thousands of fish, turtles and marine mammals and harmed the economy of coastal towns that rely on tourism. At its peak, it touched all three of Florida's coasts.
This red tide is currently only impacting the state's southwest coast. In addition to Collier County, Lee County also tested positive for low concentrations of the algae, The Associated Press reported.
It is not yet known how long this bloom will last or where it will spread, according to The Tampa Bay Times.
The University of South Florida's College of Marine Science predicted it would move northwest in the next few days, The Fort Myers News-Press reported.
Red tides are caused by the organism Karenia brevis. The Tampa Bay Times explained how these tiny organisms create such big problems:
Small, scattered colonies of microscopic Red Tide algae live in the Gulf of Mexico all year long. Usually their numbers are so tiny that no one notices. But every now and then, usually in the late summer or fall, the algae population 10 to 40 miles offshore explodes into something called a bloom.
During a bloom the algae multiply rapidly and spread across the water's surface, staining it a rusty color that gives the phenomenon its name. Then winds and currents carry it toward shore, where it can be fed and prolonged by pollution from fertilizer, sewage spills and leaky septic tanks.
So far, this red tide has killed hundreds of fish. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration warned that those in the Naples area who have chronic respiratory illnesses or are especially sensitive to red tide will face breathing irritation, The Fort Myers News-Press reported.
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By Max G. Levy
In seabird after seabird, Anna Robuck found something concerning: per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS, lurking around vital organs.
"Brain, liver, kidney, lung, blood, heart," Robuck says, rattling off a few hiding spots before pausing to recall the rest. Robuck, a Ph.D. candidate in chemical oceanography at the University of Rhode Island, quickly settles on a simpler response: She found the chemicals everywhere she looked.
PFAS — a group of synthetic chemicals — are often called "forever chemicals" due to their quasi-unbreakable molecular bonds and knack for accumulating in living organisms. That foreverness is less of a design flaw than a design feature: The stubborn, versatile molecules help weatherproof clothing; smother flames in firefighting foam; and withstand heat and grime on nonstick pans.
Through consumption and disposal, the chemicals seep into ecosystems and bodies, where they have been linked to cancers, pregnancy complications, and reproductive and immune dysfunction. Recent attention has focused on the prevalence of PFAS in drinking water.
"Over the past 10-15 years we've really developed this super negative picture of what PFAS do to humans," Robuck says. "But we've barely scratched the surface of that in wildlife."
One particular area of concern is the marine ecosystem. Long seen as a bottomless sink for pollutants, the ocean is a final stop for PFAS trickling into the ecosystem. Once in the ocean, PFAS can persist for decades or longer — and travel long distances. As a result, a growing body of scientific research suggests that marine wildlife are accumulating dangerous amounts of "forever chemicals."
"If we continue to emit PFAS, then the capacity of the ocean to dilute them is going to be exceeded," says Jamie DeWitt, an environmental toxicologist at Eastern Carolina University. "For all we know, oceans could be reservoirs that re-pollute the land."
Journeying Across the Globe
Coastal environments seem especially vulnerable to PFAS seeping from the chemical plants and military bases responsible for heavy contamination. Charlotte Wagner, a researcher at Harvard University studying the global transport of pollutants, says it's still unclear what fraction of PFAS pollutants remain contained at their source, and what fraction has already leached into other environments.
But the fact that they do spread — and far — is clear. They generally wind up in oceans, according to Wagner. And not just the ones nearby. Studies in the early 2000s showed that PFAS survived decades-long journeys from manufacturers to remote ocean basins without breaking down.
"The ocean is not this static pool or bathtub," she says. Large-scale ocean circulation moves pollutants huge distances across the globe. Some varieties of PFAS may degrade slightly over the course of years, until they convert into one of the more stable "terminal PFAS" subgroups, including PFAAs.
"To the best of our knowledge PFAAs don't degrade at all under natural environmental conditions," says Robuck. Rather than diluting PFAS to infinitely low concentrations, oceans carry them to remote areas, like the Arctic and Antarctic.
Other pollutants that reach the ocean, like DDT and PCBs, will stick to algae and sediment that eventually fall to the ocean floor. "That is a really important removal process," Wagner says. "For PFAS, that process is minor." Plants, algae and sediment only remove a small fraction of PFAS from the water column. That leaves more to accumulate in animals, reaching concentrations thousands of times higher than surrounding waters.
And those chemicals could travel right back to humans. Eating a lot of seafood, especially fish high on the food chain like tuna, would be concerning, she says.
But it's not just fish — and humans eating them — that are at risk. A study last year reported PFAS in seawater and plankton dozens of miles off the Mid-Atlantic coast. Other research has revealed PFAS compounds — even some that have been previously phased out of production — in manatees, loggerhead turtles, alligators, seabirds, polar bears, dolphins and whales.
Measuring Harm to Ocean Life
In North Carolina's Cape Fear River, striped bass carrying high levels of PFAS showed distinct signs of impaired immune and liver function. But in the vastness of ocean water, can PFAS levels be high enough to cause harm?
"In recent years there have been increases in immune-based diseases in turtles and dolphins," says DeWitt. One of the most well-studied health effects of PFAS is immune dysfunction. Most experiments are limited to humans, rodents and chickens, but researchers are piecing together the role of PFAS in marine immune issues.
One study concluded that PFOS, a phased-out PFAS that still circulates today, triggers "chronic immune activation" in bottlenose dolphins. A similar link between PFOS and susceptibility to disease appeared in sea otters. Other research links multiple PFAS to hormonal changes in polar bear brains. But these aquatic wildlife health studies are few and far between.
"PFAS in wildlife is kind of the wild west," says Robuck. "Wildlife are inherently difficult to study in a lot of ways."
Zeroing on the health effects for individual species is tricky because scientists lack baseline data about stress responses and pollutant levels. They have no choice but to presume consequences in wildlife based on hormonal, immune and reproductive effects in lab animals. For Robuck, that means judging how a pelican will respond to its measured PFAS levels according to health data collected from a chicken. "That's a really crappy comparison," she says.
In one sense, the method is conservative: Lab animals are well cared for, so their health effects may be a best-case scenario compared to the stressful baseline of wild animals' experience. But it also means we don't have an accurate sense of what dangerous thresholds are for most aquatic life — despite a parade of red flags.
Endless Stream of Pollutants
Part of the problem is the sheer number of different compounds. Of the thousands of known PFAS, studies have only deduced health thresholds for a handful. Scientists screening their effects simply can't keep up with the pace.
The chemical compounds that fall under the PFAS umbrella are also not all the same. Some are long, bulky molecules; others are smaller and more agile. Some forms tend to naturally convert into others; others don't degrade whatsoever. Each molecule has the potential to be more toxic or bioaccumulative than the next. But for a lot of PFAS, Wagner says, scientists don't even have standardized methods of detecting them.
To make matters worse, even as some of the most dangerous chemicals are being phased out, companies are making alternatives. But they may not be any safer than what they're replacing. And scientists have found these alternatives are also accumulating in the bodies of fish and polar bears.
"It seems that we haven't learned anything from the past," says Belén González-Gaya, an analytical chemist at the University of Basque Country in Spain. "We keep on substituting compounds [for] others without any knowledge of biological effects."
Sydney Evans, a research scientist for the nonprofit Environmental Working Group, suggests that researchers shouldn't have to prove the health risks for thousands of similar compounds in order to warrant regulatory action. "The burden needs to be on these companies and manufacturers to prove their compounds are safe," she says.
And while there is much we don't know about the majority of PFAS, experts argue that we do know enough to assume they all share fundamental features: persistence, bioaccumulation and health risks. For this reason a group of scientists recently published a call for governments and companies to treat all PFAS, old and new, as a single hazardous group.
"It's really the only way that we can be ahead of the curve," says Wagner, who cowrote the article. "Rather than always realizing that a compound is toxic once it's already everywhere and we measure it on a remote ice-site somewhere in Greenland."
To shut off the flow of PFAS into the ocean, scientists say that manufacturers should phase out the chemicals and focus on proving safer alternatives.
With so many open questions, Robuck hopes to see research that more closely predicts threats to marine life — and by extension people, too.
"As humans, we rely on every natural resource under the sun," she says. "When we undercut a healthy environment, we undercut our own health."
Max G. Levy is a freelance science journalist. He writes stories about the environment, public health, basic science, and how technology shapes policy.
Reposted with permission from The Revelator.
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By Josh Bonifield
The Australian brewery Young Henrys is working to fight climate change with an unusual ingredient—algae.
The fermentation process that occurs during beer production releases massive amounts of carbon dioxide (CO2), which can contribute to climate change. It takes a tree approximately two days to absorb the CO2 released from producing one six pack of beer. But, Young Henrys says their in-house cultivated algae not only absorb the CO2 released, they also produce as much oxygen as two and half acres of wilderness.
Algae, a photosynthetic organism, are often seen as a nuisance because they can cause red tide—a toxic algal bloom —or infect local water sources. But, they are also up to five times more effective at absorbing carbon than trees, according to the technology company Hypergiant.
Oscar McMahon, Young Henrys' Co-Founder, sees their potential to curb beer production emissions. McMahon tells Food Tank, "This is a unique project and the focus is not to profit. It is to create something that we can then share with other people to adapt and use."
Young Henrys signed onto this project with the University of Technology Sydney to reach carbon neutrality. To experiment with the effectiveness of its system, Young Henrys uses two bioreactors to cultivate algae. The first, a control, contains CO2, oxygen, and algae. The second contains the same three components but is connected to a fermentation tank. As the fermentation process produces additional CO2, the gas flows into the bioreactor.
According to McMahon, at the end of each day, the control bioreactor consistently contains 50 percent less algae. This demonstrates that the algae in the experimental bioreactor successfully consume the harmful greenhouse gas, McMahon tells Food Tank. The hope is that this system can not only lower CO2 emissions from beer production, but ultimately convert it into oxygen.
This specific project will continue for one more year, but McMahon hopes that algae will continue to lower Young Henrys carbon emissions as they find additional uses for the organism.
Young Henrys is currently experimenting to incorporate algae into food, pharmaceuticals, and bioplastics. Other companies around the world are also developing energy bars, dietary supplements, protein shakes, and other food and drink items using algae.
To scale up algae production and develop these new products, McMahon and Young Henrys are in consultation with engineering and beer industry groups to make this process scalable. McMahon says that both micro-breweries and national breweries will require the infrastructure and technology to easily incorporate algae in beer production.
McMahon describes the beauty of algae and the microorganisms used in beer fermentation as "ying and yang organisms, similar things that live in big tanks of liquid that conduct opposite yet correcting jobs."
Reposted with permission from Food Tank.
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During summer in central New York, residents often enjoy a refreshing dip in the region's peaceful lakes.
But sometimes swimming is off-limits because of algae blooms that can make people sick.
"Some of the algae may produce chemical toxins that can have harmful effects on people, fish, shellfish, terrestrial and marine mammals, and birds," says Jennifer Graham, a research hydrologist with the United States Geological Survey.
She says reports of harmful algal blooms are increasing across the country, and climate change could be part of the reason.
Some harmful algae prefer warm temperatures, so blooms may be growing more common as rivers and lakes warm.
Extreme weather can also contribute to algal blooms because heavy rain can cause nutrients to run off farm fields and sewage systems into waterways.
"Nutrients are basically the food source for algae," Graham says.
In New York's Finger Lakes and other locations across the country, the USGS is monitoring algal blooms.
Graham says they are trying to better understand toxic bloom growth and severity, so local agencies can make informed decisions about how to protect people.
Reposted with permission from Yale Climate Connections.
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Sunscreen pollution is accelerating the demise of coral reefs globally by causing permanent DNA damage to coral. gonzalo martinez / iStock / Getty Images Plus
On July 29, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed into law a controversial bill prohibiting local governments from banning certain types of sunscreens.
SB 172 responds to and reverses the City of Key West's 2019 ban on the sale of sunscreens containing oxybenzone and octinoxate to protect its coral reef. The ban was set to take effect Jan. 1, 2021, but the new law strikes down that ban and prohibits similar ones.
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Key West sits on Florida's Reef Tract, the only barrier reef in the continental U.S.
Florida's multi-billion coastal economy "is highly tied to the coral reefs and dependent on their health," the Environmental and Energy Study Institute found.
Sunscreen pollution is accelerating the demise of coral reefs globally by causing permanent DNA damage to coral, according to experts, reported ABC News.
"(Coral reefs) provide billions of dollars in economic and environmental services, such as food, coastal protection, and tourism," said a NOAA infographic article about the harms of sunscreens. The infographic focuses on how sunscreen chemicals enter the ocean environment, the harm they cause to marine life including corals, fish, algae, etc. and alternative, reef-safe ways to stay protected from the sun.
Common chemicals in sunscreens and cosmetics are "highly toxic" to marine life and "even very low concentrations" of oxybenzone and octinoxate accumulate in coral tissue, inducing bleaching, damaging coral DNA and deforming and killing young coral larvae, according to NOAA.
This harm to the next generation of reefs threatens the survival of corals generally at a time when reefs are already heavily imperiled. NOAA called nontoxic sunscreen alternatives "critical" to protect reefs against "exacerbating effects posted by climate change and bleaching."
Oxybenzone and octinoxate also disrupt the human endocrine system.
Even while the new Florida bill was moving towards DeSantis' desk, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration removed most chemical sunscreens from its list of "safe and effective" products pending health studies, instead designating mineral-based sunscreens containing zinc oxide or titanium dioxide as "safe and effective, reported Florida Phoenix.
Proponents of the bill, including many business interests, claim sunscreen is necessary to protect the residents and visitors to the sunshine state from skin cancer.
Senate Appropriations Chairman Rob Bradley spearheaded the bill, disputing the science claiming that sunscreens harm reefs. He argued that protecting tourists and residents from cancer trumps protecting coral reefs, reported Florida Phoenix and CBS Miami.
Those criticizing the bill call it the latest attack on local government home-rule authority as well as on coral reefs, reported Star Tribune.
Some have called the bill a "gross overreaction" to Key West's "measured and reasonable limitation" meant to protect their lucrative, important natural resource, reported Sun-Sentinel.
"When it comes to protecting Florida's coral reefs, the Governor is standing with corporate interests, despite millions of taxpayer dollars spent on reef preservation and restoration," environmental groups said Tuesday in a joint press release, reported Florida Phoenix.
NOAA said that "although pollution is a major cause of coral reef degradation," it is also "the easiest factor to mitigate" because manufacturers and consumers can choose to create and purchase less harmful products. The only issue, NOAA found, was that regulation of the toxic chemicals in sunscreens "has largely been ignored."
DeSantis did not issue statements as his office Monday night released the new bill, reported CBS Miami.
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By Anne Schechinger
Over the Fourth of July holiday, many of us love to beat the heat in a favorite lake, pond or river. But this year, vacationers from coast to coast will have to look out for a potentially record-breaking number of algae blooms.
So far this year there have been news stories about 107 algae outbreaks, compared to just 63 this time last year. That's a 70 percent increase. EWG's interactive map tracks news reports of blue-green algae blooms across the country since 2010, and this year is on track to have the most so far.
Recreating in or near water stricken by an algae bloom can lead to serious health consequences. Short-term exposure — whether through skin contact or ingestion — to the toxins sometimes produced by algae outbreaks has been linked to sore throat, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and liver damage.
These outbreaks don't just affect peoples' health, they also hurt their wallets. Algae keeps people away from businesses near affected lakes, such as marinas and restaurants.
Lake Hopatcong, in New Jersey, is currently suffering the biggest bloom ever recorded in the state. Hopatcong Mayor Mike Francis says it could have devastating impacts on the health of residents and his town's economy.
In many cases, algae outbreaks are preventable. Reducing the amount of chemicals that run off farm fields can greatly reduce the number and severity of blooms in agricultural areas.
Lake Macbride, in Iowa, is an example of a lake surrounded by farmland that has algae bloom and E. coli problems. Mandated agricultural conservation practices could go a long way toward cleaning up water bodies like Lake Macbride.
If you plan a lake outing this holiday, it's vital to know what to look for to figure out whether a toxic blue-green algae bloom is present in the water. Before your next trip to a lake, check out our new video to find out.
By Sarah Graddy and Robert Coleman
This summer, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) is tracking outbreaks of potentially toxic algae across the U.S. We have been startled to find that these outbreaks are erupting everywhere: from the East Coast to the West Coast, from the Great Lakes to the Gulf of Mexico.
Though outbreaks of algae vary in type, severity and health hazards, all toxic algae outbreaks have serious consequences.
They Make People Sick
Every summer, people fall ill following exposure to algae outbreaks. Exposure can be caused by contact, ingestion or inhalation. Short-term health effects can range from skin irritation and numbness to fever and headaches. Long-term exposure can lead to cancer, liver failure and sperm damage. Some studies have even linked ingestion of cyanotoxins to brain inflammation.
What is traditionally called blue-green algae is actually a class of microscopic organisms called cyanobacteria. Cyanobacteria can be toxic and can also produce various types of cyanotoxins that have different hazards. Here's a breakdown of the various health risks of each type of cyanotoxin.
They Threaten Children's Health
For children pumped to play in and around the water, lake or beach vacations can be ruined by water infested with slimy blue-green algae. With their small, developing bodies, children are especially endangered by algae exposure.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that in 2009-2010, 61 people in Ohio, New York and Washington got sick from toxic algae outbreaks in lakes, and two-thirds of them were children or teenagers. Children may be at a greater risk of illness from the toxins generated by toxic algae outbreaks because they more frequently come in contact with or ingest contaminated water.
Here are some helpful tips for parents looking to shield their children from algae exposure. Be sure to keep an eye on young children around potentially contaminated water and warn them about the exposure risks and telltale signs of outbreaks.
They Poison Our Drinking Water
In 2014, half a million people in and around Toledo, Ohio, were told not to drink their tap water—or even shower in it—for three days after bacteria from a massive algae outbreak in Lake Erie got into the water supply.
Toledo was the first major U.S. city where toxic algae outbreaks made tap water unsafe for human consumption. But it probably won't be the last, especially since the number of these outbreaks across the nation seems to be multiplying each year. Because algae outbreaks are so widespread and seem to be growing, they may be fouling tap water even in places where officials have not issued a do-not-drink warning.
They Contaminate the Air We Breathe
Recent studies indicate that the toxins produced by some outbreaks can become airborne, where they can be inhaled by people in, on or near contaminated water.
Whether by sunbathing on the shore or taking a cruise on a boat, inhalation of contaminated water can cause coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath and other respiratory ailments.
They Harm or Even Kill Pets
There are many documented cases of dogs and other pets becoming seriously ill or even dying from the toxins from algae outbreaks. Splashing in or drinking contaminated water can be dangerous for pets. If you believe your pet may have been exposed, be on the lookout for symptoms such as lethargy, seizures, diarrhea or vomiting. Exposure to high levels of cyanotoxins can lead to liver failure and death.
They Provide a Breeding Ground for Mosquitos
Algae outbreaks thrive in still, warm water—and so do mosquitos. Recent news stories from Florida report that residents are concerned their homes near blue-green algae outbreaks are breeding grounds for mosquitos, which can carry dangerous diseases like West Nile virus, encephalitis and malaria.
Much is still unknown about the relationship between algae outbreaks and mosquitos, but it is still important to act in an abundance of caution. Check out EWG's Guide to Bug Repellents on tips on how to avoid mosquitos and other disease-carrying insects.
They Worsen Climate Change
Scientists have new evidence that algae outbreaks are significant sources of greenhouse gases. A study earlier this year found that as algae outbreaks decrease the level of oxygen in lakes and other bodies of water, carbon and methane emissions from decomposing plants rise exponentially. And as climate change gets worse, the resulting warmer waters are causing more algae outbreaks, creating a toxic feedback loop.
They Devastate Ecosystems
Dying algae consume oxygen in water, creating dead zones where nothing can survive, including microorganisms. The toxins in algae outbreaks can be ingested by small fish and shellfish. As those animals are consumed by larger aquatic creatures, they can cause large fish kills and die-offs of other animals.
The same emissions that contribute to climate change can also enter the water cycle as acid rain that damages forests and other ecosystems, and pollute the air we breathe.
They Wreak Havoc on Economies
Because people can be exposed to cyanotoxins just by being around contaminated water, algae outbreaks understandably scare away people from visiting affected lakes, rivers or beaches. Communities that struggle with regular, serious toxic algae outbreaks, like some cities in South Florida and around Lake Erie, can lose billions of dollars from lost tourism and recreation.
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By Donald Scavia
Every year in early summer, scientists at universities, research institutions and federal agencies release forecasts for the formation of "dead zones" and harmful algal blooms in the Gulf of Mexico, the Chesapeake Bay and Lake Erie. This year the outlook is not good.
The dead zone that forms annually in the Gulf of Mexico is likely to approach, if not surpass, record size at roughly 7,250 square miles. Another dead zone in the Chesapeake Bay is projected to be within the top 20% recorded over the past 20 years — about 2.1 cubic miles, equivalent to over 3.5 million Olympic-size swimming pools. And Lake Erie is also projected to set records, with almost 50,000 tons of potentially toxic algae.
The key factor driving these forecasts is winter and spring rainfall considerably above normal across the central U.S. The winter of 2018-2019 was the wettest on record across the nation, and May was the second-wettest month on record.
Predicting the results isn't rocket science. More rain means more flooding and more runoff from farmlands. These waters carry heavy loads of nutrients, mainly from fertilizer, that fuel algal blooms. The end results include fish kills, closed beaches, possible drinking water alerts and loss of coastal property value.
Algal blooms occur when water bodies become overloaded with nitrogen and phosphorus from farms, water treatment plants and other sources. Warm water and nutrients promote rapid growth of algae. Some strains can be toxic or even fatal to aquatic life and humans.
Eventually algae settle to the bottom and decay. This process depletes dissolved oxygen in the water, creating "dead zones" where oxygen levels are low enough to kill fish.
Scientists and public officials have understood this problem for decades, but progress toward addressing it has been painfully slow. Nutrient loads, dead zones and harmful algal blooms in these systems dominated by agriculture have increased or held grudgingly steady for decades.
Dead zone and harmful algal bloom trends with 2019 forecasts in red.
The main policy tool available now to combat nutrient losses from agricultural lands is the Farm Bill, enacted about every five years, which provides funds for voluntary conservation efforts. Between 1995 and 2015, the U.S. Department of Agriculture provided almost $32 billion in conservation incentive payments. U.S. water quality would be much worse without these programs, but they simply have not been sufficient to reduce nutrient loads over time.
Nutrient load trends; 2019 loads in red.
Warmer and Wetter
Scientists predict that as the climate warms, this problem is likely to get worse.
Most climate models forecast increased precipitation, especially intense spring rains, for most of the Midwest, the Great Lakes basin and the mid-Atlantic. As air warms, it can hold increasing amounts of water vapor, which contributes to more precipitation during extreme weather events. In turn, heavier rainfall will impact nutrient runoff and dead zone formation.
Under a worst-case climate change scenario, in which global temperatures rise nearly 5 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels by 2100, very heavy precipitation events in the Midwest, Great Plains and Southeast regions would increase sharply.
A Dietary Strategy
Farm-based conservation programs are important, and some new practices could improve nutrient management. For example, farmers can widen drainage ditches to create two-stage ditches, which allow water to flow onto vegetated side "benches" that capture nutrients during periods of heavy rainfall.
A two-stage ditch has a low-ﬂow channel and a vegetated side 'benches' that are ﬂooded during higher ﬂows. The grass slows water flow and allows nutrients to settle out.
Ohio State University Extension, CC BY
But even these measures would have to be implemented at unprecedented scales to be effective. The challenge is even more daunting when recognizing that, for example, while the annual total phosphorus load to Lake Erie is large, it is only 10% of the amount applied in fertilizer each year. In addition, as with the Chesapeake and Mississippi watersheds, soils around Lake Erie are already laden with nitrogen and phosphorus.
In my view, part of the solution could be using markets to drive a shift away from industrial-scale corn production, which is a major source of nutrient pollution. One major step would be eliminating the federal mandate requiring oil companies to blend corn-based ethanol into gasoline, which consumes 40% of U.S. corn production.
This will be politically difficult as long as presidential primaries start in Iowa. But other strategies may be more feasible, such as encouraging private-sector companies to demand corn raised through more sustainable practices.
Reducing meat consumption, which consumes another 36% of U.S. corn production for animal feed, could also have a significant impact. Studies have shown that reducing this demand for row crops reduces nutrient pollution.
This idea has gained momentum with the growth of the alternative meat industry. The success of startups like Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods is luring giants like Tyson and Perdue into the game. Some are even struggling to keep up with demand for plant-based meat alternatives, particularly in China. One recent market analysis suggests that plant-based "meat" will surpass animal sources globally by 2040.
AT Kearney, CC BY-ND
Shrinking Agriculture's Footprint
Scientists have understood for decades that excess nitrogen and phosphorus degrade Lake Erie, the Chesapeake Bay and the Gulf of Mexico. Nutrient inputs from sewage treatment plants and other discreet, easily identifiable sources have declined because they are regulated under the Clean Water Act.
But the nutrients fouling these water bodies now come mostly from diffuse sources, particularly industrial-scale row crop agriculture. Those operations are not subject to the Clean Water Act, and voluntary conservation programs seem to have at best kept pace with the expansion of large-scale farming.
After analyzing these issues and providing policy advice on them for much of my 45-year career, it's frustrating to see so little change. But I am hopeful that current work that addresses agricultural pollution in broader contexts may have an impact.
For example, recent reports connecting reduced meat consumption to both positive environmental effects and improved health should provide additional incentives for change. Research institutes and scholars are laying out comprehensive global pathways to more sustainable agriculture that are designed to feed the world and protect and restore natural ecosystems.
My hope lies in the combination of health- and market-driven movement toward plant-based meat substitutes and enlightened policies that support more sustainable practices in agriculture's critical role of providing food and fiber to the world.
Near Record ‘Dead Zone’ Predicted for Gulf of Mexico https://t.co/glpoleJ4ih— Enviro Voter Project (@Enviro_Voter) June 12, 2019
Donald Scavia is professor emeritus at the School for Environment and Sustainability, University of Michigan.
Disclosure statement: Donald Scavia has received funding from the National Science Foundation, the Environmental Protection Agency, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Environment and Climate Change Canada, the Erb Family Foundation, the Joyce Foundation, and the C.S. Mott Foundation.
Reposted with permission from our media associate The Conversation.
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