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3D Maps Reveal a Lead-Laced Ocean 266

sciencehabit writes "About 1000 meters down in a remote part of the Atlantic Ocean sits an unusual legacy of humanity's love affair with the automobile. It's a huge mass of seawater infused with traces of the toxic metal lead, a pollutant once widely emitted by cars burning leaded gasoline. Decades ago, the United States and Europe banned leaded gas and many other uses of the metal, but the pollutant's fingerprint lingers on—as shown by remarkably detailed new 3-D maps released this week. The 3D maps and animations are the early results of an unprecedented $300 million international collaboration to document the presence of trace metals and other chemicals in the world's oceans. The substances, which often occur in minute quantities, can provide important clues to understanding the ocean's past—such as how seawater masses have moved around over centuries—and its future, such as how climate change might shift key biochemical processes."

One Tenth of China's Farmland Polluted With Heavy Metals 412

eldavojohn writes "A report form China's Environmental Ministry reveals that one tenth of China's 1.22 million square kilometers of farmland are polluted with heavy metals and other toxins. The AFP lists 'lead, mercury and cancer-causing cadmium' and points to the rapid pace of China's industrialization as well as factories and their operators flouting regulations and laws. Cheap batteries and lead refineries are slowly turning China into a land where whole villages are poisoned (11 incidents so far this year). According to Human Rights Watch the government's response to this scourge is laughable. The poisoned are denied treatment and China's Environmental Ministry offers no possible help: 'The report documents how local authorities in contaminated areas have imposed arbitrary limits on access to blood lead testing, for example by permitting only people living within a small radius of a factory to be tested. When tests are conducted, results have often been contradictory or have been withheld from victims and their families. And children with elevated blood lead levels who require treatment according to national guidelines have been denied care or told simply to eat certain foods, including apples, garlic, milk, and eggs.'"

Environmental Chemicals Are Feminizing Boys 614

pickens writes "Denmark has unveiled official research showing that two-year-old children are at risk from a bewildering array of gender-bending chemicals in such everyday items as waterproof clothes, rubber boots, bed linen, food, sunscreen lotion, and moisturizing cream. A picture is emerging of ubiquitous chemical contamination driving down sperm counts and feminizing male children all over the developed world. Research at Rotterdam's Erasmus University found that boys whose mothers were exposed to PCBs and dioxins were more likely to play with dolls and tea sets and dress up in female clothes. 'The amounts that two-year-olds absorb from the [preservatives] parabens propylparaben and butylparaben can constitute a risk for oestrogen-like disruptions of the endocrine system,' says the report. The contamination may also offer a clue to a mysterious shift in the sex of babies. Normally 106 boys are born for every 100 girls: it is thought to be nature's way of making up for the fact that men were more likely to be killed hunting or in conflict. But the proportion of females is rising. 'Both the public and wildlife are inadequately protected from harm, as regulation is based on looking at exposure to each substance in isolation, and yet it is now proven beyond doubt that hormone disrupting chemicals can act together to cause effects even when each by itself would not,' says Gwynne Lyons, director of Chem Trust."

Watching China Turn Off the Pollution 427

NewbieV points out coverage of the effort to assess Beijing's air pollution control efforts. Quote from one of the investigators: "This will be a very interesting experiment that can never happen again." Here's the main project scientist's site on the monitoring effort, and Newsweek coverage that brings out a paradoxical effect of reducing pollution on global warming. "Unmanned aerial vehicles are measuring emissions of soot and other forms of black carbon. The instruments are observing pollution transport patterns as Beijing enacts its 'great shutdown' for the Summer Olympic Games. Chinese officials have compelled reductions in industrial activity by as much as 30 percent and cuts in automobile use by half to safeguard the health of competing athletes immediately before and during the games."

The World's 10 Dirtiest Cities 286

neever writes "You may already know about the pollution plight of Linfen, China. But how about the heavy metals Pittsburghers breathe in on a daily basis? Or the incomparable smog Milanesi put up with? PopSci has culled an eye-opening selection of some of the world's most problematic cities. From the painfully high cancer rates in Sumgayit, Azerbaijan to the acid rain destroying La Oroya, Peru, writer Jason Daley walks readers through the lowest of the low; and explains why, despite it all, there's still hope for these places."

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