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Studies have found that our water supplies are full of pharmaceutical substances, from antibiotics to antidepressants to birth control drugs. Not to worry, though; the heady pharmaceutical cocktail is far too dilute to have any immediate effects.
Of the 28 major metropolitan areas where tests were performed on drinking water supplies, only Albuquerque; Austin, Texas; and Virginia Beach, Va.; said tests were negative. The drinking water in Dallas has been tested, but officials are awaiting results. Arlington, Texas, acknowledged that traces of a pharmaceutical were detected in its drinking water but cited post-9/11 security concerns in refusing to identify the drug.
Contamination is not confined to the United States. More than 100 different pharmaceuticals have been detected in lakes, rivers, reservoirs and streams throughout the world. Studies have detected pharmaceuticals in waters throughout Asia, Australia, Canada and Europe - even in Swiss lakes and the North Sea.Meanwhile, tht beefburger you're eating may well be full of delicious steroid goodness:
Cattle, for example, are given ear implants that provide a slow release of trenbolone, an anabolic steroid used by some bodybuilders, which causes cattle to bulk up. But not all the trenbolone circulating in a steer is metabolized. A German study showed 10 percent of the steroid passed right through the animals.There you have it: it's a scientific fact that eating beef makes you more masculine.
Estrogen-like substances in toxic waste turn male fish female; now, it turns out, they turn male songbirds into super-smooth lotharios, capable of singing the songs that get them all the chicks, like a wave of avian Smoove Bs:
Accordingly, the polluted male starlings sang songs of exceptional length and complexity -- a birdsign of reproductive fitness. Female starlings preferred their songs to those of unexposed males, suggesting that the polluted birds could have a reproductive advantage, eventually spreading their genes through starling populations.(Today's word of the day is "birdsign". If you're an indie-folk songwriter, make a note of that one.)
A US company is planning to start selling human breast milk, buying milk from mothers, packaging it and selling it. Which is even more unusual than it sounds, given that breast milk in the US contains so many toxic chemicals that it would be illegal to sell under the FDA's own rules.
Some good news for Tube commuters: the air on the London Underground may be equivalent to smoking a cigarette every 20 minutes, but it's still healthier than the air up top. I'm not sure whether that's reassuring or worrying.
A Roman Catholic cardinal and a priest in charge of Vatican Radio have been convicted of polluting the atmosphere with electromagnetic radiation; studies have found that magnetic fields around the Vatican Radio transmitters north of Rome were much higher than normal limits allow, and may have caused high rates of cancer in the area.
As a society, we discard an alarming amount of electronic equipment. It has once been claimed that the average PC has a working life of just under 3 years before it is consigned to the landfill, usually still in working condition. Meanwhile, we toss our old mobile phones as soon as the coltan to make new ones is mined from Congolese national parks. Not to mention all those electronic devices which are built to last a few years (my Sony stereo is a case in point; not to mention the fact that anything with firmware in Flash ROM is going to be scrap within a decade). So it's not surprising that the landfills are filling up with old computers, dead TVs and last year's DVD players, all of them leaching toxic chemicals into the groundwater.
Recycling of electronic devices has been a dubious exercise, with horror stories of entire Chinese villages serving as computer graveyards, young children picking futilely through mountains of dead circuit boards, and everybody getting cancer and dying before their time. But the urbane, left-leaning westerner who sent their old Pentium to be recycled (and paid the surcharge for doing so, lining the pockets of the growing guilt-assuagement industry) doesn't see any of this so their social conscience is eased. Perception is everything.
Which is why it gives me hope to see stories like this one, about a new high-tech waste recycling plant in Japan, designed to efficiently disassemble all those old unwanted devices and use as much of their constituent materials to make new things:
Glass in television sets is carefully dissected with Matsushita's own breed of cutter to keep the toxic leaded glass in the rear portion away from the safer glass in the screen. The result is two kinds of glass that ends up in new TVs. Separating the different parts of a washing machine requires a complex arrangement of magnets and wind blowers to produce cleanly divided waste.
Scientists at Johns Hopkins University have found that assessing a community's cancer risk could be as simple as counting the number of trucks and cars that pass through the neighborhood. Another reason to encourage the development of public transport. Not that anybody's listening here, with the government falling over itself to spend billions of dollars on new freeways and spending only the most grudging pittance on public transport (which is next to useless outside of the inner city). (thanks, Toby)
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