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A new study reveals the health risks posed by the making, use and disposal of plastics. Jeffrey Phelps / Getty Images

With eight million metric tons of plastic entering the world's oceans every year, there is growing concern about the proliferation of plastics in the environment. Despite this, surprisingly little is known about the full impact of plastic pollution on human health.

But a first-of-its-kind study released Tuesday sets out to change that. The study, Plastic & Health: The Hidden Costs of a Plastic Planet, is especially groundbreaking because it looks at the health impacts of every stage in the life cycle of plastics, from the extraction of the fossil fuels that make them to their permanence in the environment. While previous studies have focused on particular products, manufacturing processes or moments in the creation and use of plastics, this study shows that plastics pose serious health risks at every stage in their production, use and disposal.

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PeopleImages / E+ / Getty Images

By Daniel Ross

Hurricane Florence, which battered the U.S. East Coast last September, left a trail of ruin and destruction estimated to cost between $17 billion and $22 billion. Some of the damage was all too visible—smashed homes and livelihoods. But other damage was less so, like the long-term environmental impacts in North Carolina from hog waste that spilled out over large open-air lagoons saturated in the rains.

Hog waste can contain potentially dangerous pathogens, pharmaceuticals and chemicals. According to the state's Department of Environmental Quality, as of early October nearly 100 such lagoons were damaged, breached or were very close to being so, the effluent from which can seep into waterways and drinking water supplies.

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Marshes at Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge on Maryland's eastern shore. Ataraxy22 / Wikimedia, CC BY-SA

By Jennifer Weeks

World Wetlands Day on Feb. 2 marks the date when 18 nations signed the Convention on Wetlands in 1971, in the Iranian city of Ramsar on the shores of the Caspian Sea. Since that time, scientists have shown that wetlands provide many valuable services, from buffering coasts against floods to filtering water and storing carbon. These five articles from our archive highlight wetlands' diversity and the potential payoffs from conserving and restoring them.

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PeopleImages / DigitalVision / Getty Images

By adopting three practices—no-till farming, cover crops and diverse crop rotations—farmers worldwide can help preserve the world's soils, feed a growing global population, mitigate climate change and protect the environment.

This was the key message of a presentation by David Montgomery, professor of geology at the University of Washington, at the Iowa Organic Conference in November.

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Adam Hester / Blend Images / Getty Images

The climate needs your help, the water needs your help, the land needs your help. In 2019 be part of the solution. The soil you walk on and grow food in holds a secret to some of the biggest problems facing the planet today.

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Terramera CEO and founder Karn Manhas. Terramera / YouTube screenshot

By Karn Manhas

Wildfires across North America, Europe and Australia. Animal species dying out at unprecedented rates. Extreme weather events. Rising sea levels. Climate change, long an invisible menace, exacted a very real toll in 2018. But beneath the surface lies another, widely overlooked link between these calamities: the way we grow our food.

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Hundreds gathered in San Francisco with the youth-led Sunrise Movement on Dec. 11. Peg Hunter / Flickr, CC BY-NC 2.0

By Eric Holt-Giménez

Over eight decades ago, the Dust Bowl devastated over 100,000,000 acres of agricultural land and the Great Depression threw 15 million Americans out of work. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt instituted the New Deal with sweeping national programs for work, agriculture, food, and land conservation.

Today, the plan for a Green New Deal recently announced by congressional representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Bernie Sanders is facing down even greater crises.

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A spruce-fir forest in New Hampshire on March 26, 2018. cappi thompson / CC BY 2.0

By Andrew Reinmann and Pamela Templer

Climate change often conjures up images of heat, drought and hurricanes. But according to the latest U.S. National Climate Assessment, released on Nov. 23, 2018, winters have warmed three times faster than summers in the Northeast in recent years. These changes are also producing significant effects.

Historically, more than 50 percent of the northern hemisphere has had snow cover in winter. Now warmer temperatures are reducing the depth and duration of winter snow cover. Many people assume that winter is a dormant time for organisms in cold climates, but decades of research now shows that winter climate conditions—particularly snowpack—are important regulators of the health of forest ecosystems and organisms that live in them.

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Experimental field of a salt-tolerant rice variety in Bangladesh. IRRI Photos, CC BY-NC-SA

By Joyce J. Chen and Valerie Mueller

Salt is essential for cooking, but too much salt in soil can ruin crops and render fields useless. According to legend, Roman general Scipio Aemilianus Africanus sowed the soils of Carthage with salt after conquering the city during the Punic Wars. And after defeating the Italian town of Palestrina in 1298, Pope Boniface VIII is said to have plowed its lands with salt "so that nothing, neither man nor beast be called by that name."

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The battlefield of Verdun is part of France's Zone Rouge, cordoned off since the end of WWI. Oeuvre personnelle / Wikimedia Commons

World War I ended 100 years ago on Sunday, but 42,000 acres in northeast France serve as a living memorial to the human and environmental costs of war.

The battle of Verdun was the longest continuous conflict in the Great War, and it so devastated the land it took place on that, after the war, the government cordoned it off-limits to human habitation. What was once farmland became the Zone Rouge, or Red Zone, as National Geographic reported.

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Gilles Douaire / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

In a recent video filmed in Sacre-Coeur, Quebec, Mother Nature appears to be gasping for air. Even the surrounding trees are struggling to stand under the literal force of nature.

Is Earth breathing a collective sigh? To be fair, she's had a pretty rough 2018 after a string of record-breaking hurricanes, destructive wildfires and a dire warning from scientists about catastrophic climate change.

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