Fish started swallowing plastic in the 1950’s … matching the growth of our plastics industry ever since


A strand of microplastic from museum fish/Loren Hou

Forget diamonds–plastic is forever. It takes decades, or even centuries, for plastic to break down, and nearly every piece of plastic ever made still exists in some form today … To learn how these microplastics have built up over the past century, researchers examined the guts of freshwater fish preserved in museum collections; they found that fish have been swallowing microplastics since the 1950s and that the concentration of microplastics in their guts has increased over time…

Tim Hoellein and his graduate student Loren Hou were interested in examining the buildup of microplastics in freshwater fish from the Chicagoland region. They reached out to Caleb McMahan, an ichthyologist at the Field Museum, who helped identify four common fish species that the museum had chronological records of dating back to 1900: largemouth bass, channel catfish, sand shiners, and round gobies. Specimens from the Illinois Natural History Survey and University of Tennessee also filled in sampling gaps…

The researchers found that the amount of microplastics present in the fishes’ guts rose dramatically over time as more plastic was manufactured and built up in the ecosystem. There were no plastic particles before mid-century, but when plastic manufacturing was industrialized in the 1950s, the concentrations skyrocketed.

“We found that the load of microplastics in the guts of these fishes have basically gone up with the levels of plastic production,” says McMahan. “It’s the same pattern of what they’re finding in marine sediments, it follows the general trend that plastic is everywhere.”

Another stream of pollution contributing to the general poisoning of portions of the whole ecosystem we live within. Why we now have a field of medical practice called environmental medicine. Researchers get to examine air, water, soil and food … and how our industries can make these dangerous.

Tiny bits of plastic are a significant part of global pollution

Ocean plastic pollution is an urgent and global problem … Most of the attention paid to the issue has focused on daily-use goods such as food and consumer product packaging. However, Pew found that tiny fragments known as microplastics make up significant amounts of ocean plastic pollution that are often not accounted for in pollution estimates or possible solutions …

Although there is no standard definition of microplastics, they are commonly defined as plastic particles smaller than 5 millimeters—about the diameter of a standard pencil eraser. Despite their size, studies have shown that microplastics are major contributors to plastic pollution and are found widely in the environment—from high up Mount Everest to the deep sea—and even in humans and other animals …

Alarming studies regularly come out with new information about the impacts and growing scale of the microplastics problem, but there is still hope for fixing it. With concerted action that begins now, we can greatly reduce the plastic pollution flowing into our lands, rivers, and oceans over the next two decades.

RTFA, learn more about the problem and check out some of the latest ideas on how to counter this flavor of pollution. Too many of our politicians think the only side they need to defend is the one that brings jobs to their local voters … and campaign dollar$ into their bank account.

Until we legalize weed nationwide…

…folks won’t stop inventing new ways to deliver pot.

…The impossible sounding, high-octane story of a sophisticated smuggling network that used skydiving planes to sneak millions of dollars worth of weed and cash across state borders in the United States from 2010 to 2014. In what was termed one of Colorado’s “largest and most sophisticated criminal enterprises” since medical marijuana was legalised in 2000, a smuggling ring operated from the throngs of the legal weed business in Denver, running an extremely profitable and illegal side-business.

Over the course of four years that the drug trafficking ring was alive, a team of more than 71 individuals operated a highly sophisticated smuggling network that used skydiving planes to sneak 12 million dollars worth of weed and cash across state borders. One of its most intriguing aspects was that it operated smack in the middle of Denver’s most popular and profitable legal weed growing warehouses, its growers posing as medical caregivers to evade regulation and taxation.

Of course, like most highs, it didn’t last too long.

Interesting story. Absurd in a supposedly modern nation that still treats growing and using cannabis as a creation of Satan. Courtesy of our archaic “states rights” it will probably only take another half-century for (almost) all this nation to go legal. Not that Congress is anymore advanced than most local politicians. They just get paid more.

A new beverage billed as “water with alcohol”

Many people enjoy having a few drinks after work or on the weekend. Only a subset of them actually enjoy the taste of whatever cocktail or malt beverage they’re sipping on. Others would prefer to get the buzz and inhibition release without actually choking down liquor or beer. Whether it’s that earthy pine-tree-in-a-bottle flavor of gin or the harsh burn of cheap whiskey, alcohol can be downright painful. Air, “the first water with alcohol,” provides an alternative with a light flavor profile purported to be closer to club soda than beer or spirits.

Air advertises itself as “Water + Air. Carbonated.” The taste is supposedly as simple as the tagline; the malt beverage combines water, alcohol and natural fruit flavors for a taste that’s barely there. It claims to use all natural ingredients. While we haven’t given it the proverbial swig, the description has us thinking of lightly fruit-flavored club soda spiked with alcohol…

Air distribution is currently limited to a handful of states on the West Coast of the US [of course]. A recent tweet indicates the company also plans to come to the eastern states. It’s sold in such stores as Whole Foods and Albertsons. The minds behind the young drink have been hosting launch parties in major cities like LA, Las Vegas and Portland throughout the summer.

So is Air really the Holy Grail for drinkers (i.e. all the fun of alcohol without any of the strong, acquired taste)? We’re guessing it’s more like the latest Zima or Smirnoff Ice – a fruity malt beverage that only the ladies can get away with drinking – but we’ll have to taste it to know for sure … maybe once they get around to filling liquor store coolers in our neck of the woods.

If it shows up in our local Whole Foods, I’ll give it a try. That’s about all I’ll guarantee.

A coal-fired power plant, cancer and a small town in Georgia

Robert Maddox is a bulky man with gray hair, a deeply lined face, squinty eyes and a thick Southern accent. He lives in Juliette with his wife, Teresa. The two of them invested their life savings building their home. It’s a large ranch house on several acres, and the plan was the two of them would leave it for their sons and grandchildren. They gave up that dream after Maddox’s mother developed a rare form of ear cancer and died after living at the home for three years.

“I’m not going to bring my grandchildren up in this,” Maddox says. “Anybody who does would be a fool, I think.”

The problem, Maddox explains, is now he and his neighbors are getting sick. For Maddox, the first signs of trouble would come in the middle of the night, when he would wake up with nose bleeds mixed with clear mucus. Then his muscles started twitching, and then he got kidney disease, and then sclerosis of the liver.

His doctor wondered whether Maddox was an alcoholic.

“I don’t drink,” Maddox says dismissively before ticking off his other health problems…

The neighbor who used to live in the now-empty next door house has abdominal cancer. In the house two doors over, a once healthy woman has a form of dementia that’s left her “unrecognizable,” according to Maddox.

“Besides us all being sick, we’ve all been approached by Georgia Power, with them looking to buy us out” Maddox says. “And in that house next door, [Georgia Power] has sealed the well…”

Y’know it’s coming from over there,” he says, nodding in the direction of one of the largest coal plants in the world, right across the two lane highway where Maddox collects his mail.

RTFA for a pretty typical tale of an environment distorted and made lethal by a power generation juggernaut. Georgia Power has been able to take the relatively easy way out of the death and disease they brought to Juliette, Georgia – in the name of electrification and profit. Buying folk’s homes, moving the people out of the way of any class action is always cheaper than law and justice.

But, then, this is Georgia and the concept of law, justice and politicians challenging a wealthy public utility is pretty much laughable.

IBM is developing an air battery for 500-mile range electric cars

One nagging issue with electric vehicles is range. While today’s lithium-ion batteries are much better than yesterday’s nickel-metal hydride batteries, they still don’t offer enough energy storage to take an EV much further than 100 miles without a lengthy recharge. Even if the Li-ion batteries were up to the challenge, there is still the awkward problem of where to pack 1,000 pounds (or more) of bulky storage cells into a vehicle’s chassis.

IBM thinks it has a solution with a promising new lithium-air battery. According to the technology giant, a typical Li-air battery cell has a theoretical energy density more than 1,000 times greater than today’s industry-standard Li-ion battery cell. Even better, Li-air batteries are one-fifth the size and they offer a lifespan at least five times as long.

So, what has been holding IBM back? It appears that there was a problem with the the original Li-air automotive application, as frequent recharging cycles compromised battery life. However, the engineers have recently found alternative electrolyte compounds that look very promising. The team’s goal is to have a full-scale prototype ready by 2013, with commercial batteries on sale by the end of the decade.

Bravo! I’m afraid we’ll have to replace my wife’s decades-old Volvo before an affordable EV is actually available on the car lots of New Mexico. But – I keep watch on projects like this, anyway. Maybe, we’ll get the opportunity to buy one, yet.