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December 17, 2013

More research finds that fracking fills groundwater with toxic poisons

The chemicals that fracking introduces into drinking water include known carcinogens and hormone disruptors. Chemicals Found In Water At Fracking Sites Linked To Infertility, Cancer | ThinkProgress
An analysis of water samples from hydraulic fracturing, or ‘fracking,’ sites found the presence of hormone-disrupting chemicals, according to a new study published Monday in the journal Endocrinology. “With fracking on the rise, populations may face greater health risks from increased endocrine-disrupting chemical exposure,” senior author Susan Nagel told The LA Times. The study tested surface water and groundwater samples in Garfield County, Colorado — one county at the center of the U.S. fracking boom — and found elevated levels of endocrine-disrupting chemicals, or EDCs. The chemicals have been linked to infertility, birth defects, and cancer. Dr. Meg Schwarzman, associate director of the Berkeley Center for Green Chemistry at UC Berkeley, told The LA Times that “even low levels of anti-estrogenic or anti-androgenic activity could potentially alter development in ways that are meaningful.” The researchers gathered samples from five sites where there have been natural gas production spills over the last six years and compared those to control sites where there is no fracking activity. The fracking sites “exhibited more estrogenic, anti-estrogenic, or anti-androgenic activities than reference sites with limited nearby drilling operations,” leading researchers to conclude that “natural gas drilling operations may result in elevated EDC activity in surface and ground water.”

December 11, 2013

A new theory of Easter Island's collapse: rats and STDs

The previous best theory of Easter Island's demise was that thoughtless deforestation ruined them. New evidence suggests stowaway rats were responsible for the deforestation and for keeping the islanders very well fed. It wasn't until explorers found them and boned them and gave them sexually transmitted diseases that things really fell apart. What Happened On Easter Island — A New (Even Scarier) Scenario : Krulwich Wonders... : NPR
Here's their argument: Professors Hunt and Lipo say fossil hunters and paleobotanists have found no hard evidence that the first Polynesian settlers set fire to the forest to clear land — what's called "large scale prehistoric farming." The trees did die, no question. But instead of fire, Hunt and Lipo blame rats. Polynesian rats (Rattus exulans) stowed away on those canoes, Hunt and Lipo say, and once they landed, with no enemies and lots of palm roots to eat, they went on a binge, eating and destroying tree after tree, and multiplying at a furious rate. As a reviewer in The Wall Street Journal , In laboratory settings, Polynesian rat populations can double in 47 days. Throw a breeding pair into an island with no predators and abundant food and arithmetic suggests the result ... If the animals multiplied as they did in Hawaii, the authors calculate, [Easter Island] would quickly have housed between two and three million. Among the favorite food sources of R. exulans are tree seeds and tree sprouts. Humans surely cleared some of the forest, but the real damage would have come from the rats that prevented new growth. As the trees went, so did 20 other forest plants, six land birds and several sea birds. So there was definitely less choice in food, a much narrower diet, and yet people continued to live on Easter Island, and food, it seems, was not their big problem.

November 21, 2013

Lake Erie is dying

Phosphorous runoffs and global warming are killing Lake Erie. Lake Erie Is Dying Again, And Warmer Waters And Wetter Weather Are To Blame | ThinkProgress
“North America’s Dead Sea” is the nickname Lake Erie was given in the 1960s. Nearly 64 million pounds of phosphorus flowed into the lake each year from factories, sewer systems, fertilized farms and lawns. The nutrient pollution caused massive algal blooms which were often not only toxic themselves, but caused enormous dead zones in the lake, killing off fish and other marine life. The U.S. and Canada spent over $8 million in the 70s and 80s to upgrade lakeside sewage plants and dramatically cut phosphates in household detergents. And gradually, the lake began to come back to life, fish populations recovered and the lake’s $10 billion tourism industry rebounded. Now, scientists worry, Lake Erie is dying again. Gradually increasing levels of phosphorus runoff over the years are the primary culprit, but researchers warn that climate change is also playing its part — making a bad situation much worse. In 2011, close to 20 percent of Lake Erie was covered in a layer of pea soup colored, scummy algal bloom that despoiled beaches all summer long and clogged boat motors well into the fall. The algae was microcystis, a form of blue-green algae that produces liver toxins, which cause numbness, nausea, vomiting, and even liver failure, especially in pets. The bloom was blamed on torrential spring rains that hit the area fast and hard, breaking local precipitation records and practically power-washing fertilizer off nearby corn and soybean fields and into the lake. These sorts of intense precipitation events have been increasing since the 1970s as the climate changes, explained Molly Woloszyn, Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant program extension climatologist, during an online presentation on climate change and Lake Erie algal blooms, sponsored by The Ohio State University on Tuesday. “More frequent and intense storms will lead to more phosphorous runoff and more severe blooms,” she said.

November 19, 2013

Video: The mangnapinna squid is a monster from hell

Squids are amazing, monstrous creatures that never should have evolved on this the best of all possible worlds. Whatever Is Underwater Is A Fucking Nightmare And We Should Stay Out Of It | Videogum