Ten Environmental Reports

May 2024

1.  Hospital admissions for waterborne diseases in England up 60%

See Patrick Parkham, “Hospital admissions for waterborne diseases in England up 60%, report shows,” The Guardian (29 March 2024).  bit.ly/3PEh5z1 via @guardian

“Waterborne diseases such as dysentery and Weil’s disease have risen by 60% since 2010 in England, new figures reveal.

Analysis of NHS hospital admissions by the Labour party has found that the number of people admitted to hospital with diseases transmitted via waterborne infection has increased from 2,085 in 2010-11 to 3,286 in 2022-23.

The analysis follows widespread anger after record sewage spills were revealed this week. Environment Agency data showed that raw sewage was discharged for more than 3.6m hours into rivers and seas last year – a 129% increase on the previous 12 months.

Increased raw sewage in rivers means there is a higher risk of infections, campaigners argue, as people are more likely to come into contact with the bacteria in human waste.”

2.  EU pumps four times more money into farming animals than growing plants

Anniek J. Kortleve, et al., “Over 80% of the European Union’s Common Agricultural Policy supports emissions-intensive animal products,” Nature Food (1 April 2024). bit.ly/3JlhFOZ

The European Union’s Common Agricultural Policy strongly influences the European Union’s food system via agricultural subsidies. Linking global physical input–output datasets with public subsidy data reveals that current allocation favours animal-based foods, which uses 82% of the European Union’s agricultural subsidies (38% directly and 44% for animal feed). Subsidy intensity (€ kg−1) for animal-based foods approximately doubles after feed inclusion. The same animal-based foods are associated with 84% of embodied greenhouse gas emissions of EU food production while supplying 35% of EU calories and 65% of proteins.

See also, Ajit Niranjan, “EU pumps four times more money into farming animals than growing plants,” The Guardian (1 April 2024). bit.ly/43F0bq0

“The EU has made polluting diets “artificially cheap” by pumping four times more money into farming animals than growing plants, research has found.

More than 80% of the public money given to farmers through the EU’s common agriculture policy (CAP) went to animal products in 2013 despite the damage they do to society, according to a study in Nature Food. Factoring in animal feed doubled the subsidies that were embodied in a kilogram of beef, the meat with the biggest environmental footprint, from €0.71 to €1.42 (61p to £1.22).

The EU, which plans to make Europe the first climate-neutral continent by 2050, spends nearly one-third of its entire budget on CAP subsidies. “The vast majority of that is going towards products which are driving us to the brink,” said Paul Behrens, an environmental change researcher at Leiden University and co-author of the study.”

3.  Illegal and informal roads destroying Asia-Pacific tropical forests

Jayden E. Engert, et al., “Ghost roads and the destruction of Asia-Pacific tropical forests,” Nature (10 April 2024).  go.nature.com/3vG9auE

Roads are expanding at the fastest pace in human history. This is the case especially in biodiversity-rich tropical nations, where roads can result in forest loss and fragmentation, wildfires, illicit land invasions and negative societal effects1,2,3,4,5. Many roads are being constructed illegally or informally and do not appear on any existing road map6,7,8,9,10; the toll of such ‘ghost roads’ on ecosystems is poorly understood. Here we use around 7,000 h of effort by trained volunteers to map ghost roads across the tropical Asia-Pacific region, sampling 1.42 million plots, each 1 km2 in area.

See also,  Patrick Greenfield, “Network of ‘ghost roads’ paves the way for levelling Asia-Pacific rainforests: Bulldozed tracks and informal byways in tropical forests and palm-oil plantations ‘almost always’ an indicator of future deforestation, say researchers,” The Guardian (13 April 2024).  bit.ly/3UeSpA4

4.  The continuing broad support in Ireland for actions against climate change

Friends of the Earth, Ireland Thinks Report, April 19th 2024 bit.ly/3w08uQR

Kevin O’Sullivan, “No climate ‘backlash’ in Irish public opinion, Friends of the Earth survey finds,” The Irish Times (22 April 2024).  bit.ly/3WbE7lc via IrishTimes

“There is no significant shift in Irish public opinion against climate action, in contrast to other European countries where there is rowback on support for the EU green deal and the controversial nature restoration law, according to an Irish survey due to be published on Monday.

The research, conducted by Ireland Thinks and involving 1,704 people, for Friends of the Earth shows Irish people are concerned about climate change and supportive of climate action – with no sign of an urban/rural divide.”

5. New NOAA tool:  plug in your zip code to learn what the heat threats are for an upcoming week

“NOAA expands availability of new heat forecast tool ahead of summer,” National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration NOAA (22 April 2024).  bit.ly/3UEG3S3

See also, Kiley Price, “A New Federal Tool Could Help Cities Prepare for Scorching Summer Heat,” Inside Climate News (2 April 2024). bit.ly/4dgPzSy

“Medical experts often call heat a “silent killer” because many people don’t notice the signs of heat stress until it is too late. But as climate change accelerates, the impacts of excessive heat are deafening…

With forecasters predicting another hotter than usual June, July and August, cities across the country are scrambling to prepare for another scorching summer. The good news: A new tool announced on Monday by the federal government could help people forecast potentially dangerous heat up to a week in advance and implement strategies to mitigate it.

 NOAA’s National Weather Service and the CDC teamed up to create the new nationwide experimental heat forecasting system, known as HeatRisk. The interactive dashboard allows users to plug in their zip code to learn what the heat threats are for an upcoming week, denoted by different colors depending on the level of risk.”

6.  Hazardous air and communities of color

American Lung Association, State of the Air www.lung.org/research/sota

See also, Victoria St. Martin,  “More Than a Third of All Americans Live in Communities with ‘Hazardous’ Air, Lung Association Finds,” Inside Climate News (24 April 2024).  bit.ly/3WnsXd0

“In its annual “State of the Air” report, the group noted that while poor air quality is pervasive, communities of color are more than twice as likely to experience the worst impacts.”

7.  Oral history and community engaged-research on superfund sites

Denise Moreno Ramirez, Voices of Sacrifice Zones: Oral History and Community-Engaged Research in Two Arizona Superfund Sites, University of Arizona (dissertation) (2020). repository.arizona.edu/handle/10150/648653

See also, Emma Peterson, “How an Arizona Medical Anthropologist Uses Oral Histories to Add Depth to Environmental Science,” Inside Climate News (21 April 2024).  bit.ly/3xU7GNX

Voices Unheard: getting  closer to the victims of the contamination to better understand the root problem and know how to deal with it most effectively.

8.  Reduced snow cover and shifting vegetation in Alpine ecosystems

Arthur A. D. Broadbent, et al., “Climate change disrupts the seasonal coupling of plant and soil microbial nutrient cycling in an alpine ecosystem,” Global Change Biology (21 March 2024). bit.ly/3JFybt2

See also, Moriah McDonald, “Reduced Snow Cover and Shifting Vegetation Are Disrupting Alpine Ecosystems, Study Finds,” Inside Climate News (20 April 2024). bit.ly/3WoFRaH

“Climate change is disrupting the nitrogen cycle between some plants and soil microbes, bringing “false springs” during the day that leave plants more vulnerable to frigid nights.”

“Reduced snow cover and vegetation shifts in the Alps, driven, to some degree, by climate change, are leading some mountain ecosystems to struggle to hold onto nutrients that feed vegetation, a new study shows.

The study, published in the journal Global Change Biology last month, shows that alpine ecosystems may have trouble retaining vital elements like nitrogen that are necessary for maintaining plant growth and biodiversity.”

9.  Most recent review of pesticides in 59 US fruits and vegetables

Catherine Roberts, “We found unhealthy pesticide levels in 20% of US produce – here’s what you need to know, “The Guardian (18 April 2024).  bit.ly/3UB2O9o

See Consumer Reports for its most comprehensive review of pesticides in 59 US fruits and vegetables

10.  PFAs and cardiovascular disease

Annibale Biggeri, et al., “All-cause, cardiovascular disease and cancer mortality in the population of a large Italian area contaminated by perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (1980–2018),” Environmental Health (16 April 2024).bit.ly/3UF0s9u

See also, Tom Perkins, “PFAS increase likelihood of death by cardiovascular disease, study shows,” The Guardian (29 April 2024).  bit.ly/4de1L6F 

For the first time, researchers have formally shown that exposure to toxic PFAS increases the likelihood of death by cardiovascular disease, adding a new level of concern to the controversial chemicals’ wide use.

The findings are especially significant because proving an association with death by chemical exposure is difficult, but researchers were able to establish it by reviewing death records from northern Italy’s Veneto region, where many residents for decades drank water highly contaminated with PFAS, also called “forever chemicals”.




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