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Thursday, October 26

We are paying an increasingly high price for modern life. Part 1

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Nobody I know wants to return to the back-breaking labor of life in earlier centuries and everyone I know appreciates the benefits of technology and knowledge available in the modern era. Yet the era is producing horror stories about all kinds of pollution and about the poisons that have crept into the food chain and water sources. 

Then there are horrors about modern life that can't be lumped in a neat category and which aren't even necessarily unique to this age, but which are made worse by the size of the present human population.    

And yet we should be able to enjoy modern life because the horrors it produces aren't inevitable. Many arise from a kind of mass blindness about the cumulative impacts of millions of actions that finally result in serious injury to human mental and physical health on the personal levels, and can be destructive to entire societies.

So what can we do beyond taking personal actions? But these can be like trying to empty the ocean with a sieve when dealing with issues such as water pollution that are created by large numbers of people and the convergence of often very complex factors.

Do we need some kind of new mass social movement to bring concerted actions to bear on the horrors?   

Yet to spend but a little time at YouTube is to realize that a great many people are hard at work on solutions covering a huge range of problems associated with modern life and are eager to share their 'Do it Yourself' approaches with the public.

Meanwhile, however, the horrors continue to appear.  

Governments scramble to keep up with the research studies that detail fresh horrors but just as soon as a government goes to war on one pollutant, another class of threats is discovered.

Three examples of newly-discovered horrors:

New Global Water Contaminant Found: Organ-Penetrating Plastic Nanoparticles

Cancer-causing pollutants detected in most tap water across US - study

Pesticides that pose threat to humans and bees found in honey

The second two headlines are fairly explanatory but the first is not easily described in a few words. Sputnik makes a yeoman attempt in its accompanying report to summarize the newly discovered horror, which turned up from the first-ever global tap water survey [emphasis mine]:
A new environmental study, performed by State University of New York and the University of Minnesota, says there are microscopic fibers of plastic in our water systems and we ingest them with every sip. Yuck.
According to a report by the Sacramento Bee, the researchers examined 159 water samples from many nations across five continents, and found that 83 percent of the samples contained plastic fibers. In the US, 94 percent of samples were found to contain the nasty fibers.
The US samples were reportedly taken from several important locations, including the US Congressional buildings in Washington, DC; Trump Tower in New York; and ironically, the Environmental Protection Agency's headquarters, also in Washington.
Scientists claim that these plastic fibers may also contain toxic chemicals that are released into your system as they are digested.
The smallest particles, deemed "nanoparticles," would also be able to penetrate your body's cells and cause internal damage, the scientists claim.
"If the fibers are there, it is possible that the nanoparticles are there too that we can't measure," Anne Marie Mahon, from the Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology, told the Guardian. "Once they are in the nanometer range they can really penetrate a cell and that means they can penetrate organs, and that would be worrying."
As to where these particles are coming from, scientists can't really tell. One possible explanation says the fibers come from synthetic materials in our clothes, as washing machines reportedly flush about 700,000 fibers into the environment, according to one study by Plymouth University in the United Kingdom.
This is the first global water tap survey ever performed, so the scientists emphasize there is still a lot of research to be done on the topic.
"The results of this study serve as an initial glimpse at the consequences of human plastic use [and] disposal rather than a comprehensive assessment of global plastic contamination," says Mary Kosuth, one of the University of Minnesota researchers.
"These results call for further testing within and between regions."
Is that 700,000 figure from each load of washing, I wonder?  And is it the water itself that washes out the fibers in such large numbers, or the detergents used -- or the type of washing machine action; e.g., agitator?  Or all three? 

Anyway, who knew? Who thinks about these things?  Well, now some scientists have.

A few more examples:

Two-thirds of US baby foods test positive for arsenic, many contain lead & cadmium – study

Rice-Based Infant Cereals Contain More Mercury Than Other Types, New Study Finds: "Rice harbors a growing list of heavy metals, prompting experts to question its safety for infants and young children"

There is a connection between the above two reports in that many baby foods are rice based, and rice contains arsenic -- although as the following report shows, there is a way to prepare rice that greatly reduces its arsenic content:   

Eating poorly cooked rice as dangerous as smoking: study

Then there is this zinger from Sputnik:

Lightning Strikes Triggered by Human Shipping Activity, Research Finds:
Increased lightning strikes along busy maritime routes are being caused by ships releasing soot into the air, according to researcher Joel Thornton at the University of Seattle and his team, who analyzed lightning strike records between 2005 and 2016 collected by the World Wide Lightning Location Network. [...]
There is also bad news from the city of Hyderabad, India that mirrors situations in cities all around the fast-developing world:

City of gardens rapidly losing lung spaces, fighting for its last breath and 
Fishkill poses health risk as pollutants enter food chain

In the harder to quantify bad news about modern life there is USA Today's recent report, Why we're exhausted: Stress and social media are taking their toll

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