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Moved by Flint Water Crisis, 11-Year-Old Scientist Invents Lead-Detecting Device
An 11-year-old girl was given a top award after inventing "Tethys," a sensor that detects lead levels in water.
Gitanjali Rao of Lone Tree, Colorado won the 2017 Discovery Education 3M Young Scientist Challenge and a $25,000 prize for the innovation, which she said was inspired by the water crisis in Flint, Michigan.
"I started following the Flint water crisis two years ago when I was nine," Rao told PEOPLE. "And I was surprised that there wasn't a fast, reliable process for testing water for lead."
Rao also pointed out to Reuters that lead contamination is not just an issue in Flint, but in "over 5,000 water systems in the U.S. alone."
She noted that "thousands of adults and children [are] exposed to the harmful effects of lead in water. So it's a pretty big deal out there today."
So how does the device work? "Tethys, the Greek goddess of fresh water, is a lead detection tool," she explained to the news service. "What you do is first dip a disposable cartridge, which can easily be removed and attached to the core device in the water you wish to test. Once you do that, that's basically the manual part. Then you just pull out an app on your phone and check your status and it looks like the water in this container is safe. So that's just very simple, about like a 10 to 15 second process."
Gitanjali said she has always had an interest in science.
"I've always been interested in science because it's all about providing real world ways to solve problems in the world," she told PEOPLE. .
The young inventor plans to put her prize money to her college fund. "I'd like to go to MIT," she said, "and study epidemiology or genetics." She also wants to improve her device to make it ready for public use.
Flint's water troubles began in April 2014, when an unelected state official switched the city's main water supply from Lake Huron to the Flint River to save money. The highly corrosive river water caused old pipes to degrade and leach lead into the water system. The water crisis has been linked to dangerous lead exposure in Flint's population as well as an outbreak of Legionnaires' disease that killed at least 12 people.
While the city's water quality continues to improve, federal regulators still recommend that residents do not drink unfiltered tap water.
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‘Companies Should Not Be Allowed to Use Hazardous Ingredients in Products People Use’: Michelle Pfeiffer Speaks Up for Safer Cosmetics
The beauty products we put on our skin can have important consequences for our health. Just this March, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warned that some Claire's cosmetics had tested positive for asbestos. But the FDA could only issue a warning, not a recall, because current law does not empower the agency to do so.
Michelle Pfeiffer wants to change that.
The actress and Environmental Working Group (EWG) board member was spotted on Capitol Hill Thursday lobbying lawmakers on behalf of a bill that would increase oversight of the cosmetics industry, The Washington Post reported.
By Julia Conley
Scientists at the United Nations' intergovernmental body focusing on biodiversity sounded alarms earlier this month with its report on the looming potential extinction of one million species — but few heard their calls, according to a German newspaper report.
The climate crisis is a major concern for American voters with nearly 40 percent reporting the issue will help determine how they cast their ballots in the upcoming 2020 presidential election, according to a report compiled by the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication.
Of more than 1,000 registered voters surveyed on global warming, climate and energy policies, as well as personal and collective action, 38 percent said that a candidate's position on climate change is "very important" when it comes to determining who will win their vote. Overall, democratic candidates are under more pressure to provide green solutions as part of their campaign promises with 64 percent of Democrat voters saying they prioritize the issue compared with just 34 percent of Independents and 12 percent of Republicans.
President Donald Trump has agreed to sign a $19.1 billion disaster relief bill that will help Americans still recovering from the flooding, hurricanes and wildfires that have devastated parts of the country in the past two years. Senate Republicans said they struck a deal with the president to approve the measure, despite the fact that it did not include the funding he wanted for the U.S.-Mexican border, CNN reported.
"The U.S. Senate has just approved a 19 Billion Dollar Disaster Relief Bill, with my total approval. Great!" the president tweeted Thursday.
"There was a lot of devastation throughout the state," Governor Mike Parson said at a Thursday morning press conference, as NPR reported. "We were very fortunate last night that we didn't have more injuries than what we had, and we didn't have more fatalities across the state. But three is too many."