Flame Retardants and Pesticides Overtake Heavy Metals as Biggest Contributors to IQ Loss

Adverse outcomes from childhood exposures to lead and mercury are on the decline in the United States, likely due to decades of restrictions on the use of heavy metals, a new study finds.

Despite decreasing levels, exposure to these and other toxic chemicals, especially flame retardants and pesticides, still resulted in more than a million cases of intellectual disability in the United States between 2001 and 2016. Furthermore, as the target of significantly fewer restrictions, experts say, flame retardants and pesticides now represent the bulk of that cognitive loss.

NYU Grossman School of Medicine researchers found that IQ loss from the toxic chemicals analyzed in their study dropped from 27 million IQ points in 2001 and 2002 to 9 million IQ points in 2015 and 2016.

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While this overall decline is promising, the researchers say, their findings also identify a concerning shift in which chemicals represent the greatest risk. Among toxin-exposed children, the researchers found that the proportion of cognitive loss that results from exposure to chemicals used in flame retardants, called polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PDBEs), and organophosphate pesticides increased from 67 percent to 81 percent during the same study period.

“Our findings suggest that our efforts to reduce exposure to heavy metals are paying off, but that toxic exposures in general continue to represent a formidable risk to Americans’ physical, mental, and economic health,” says lead study investigator Abigail Gaylord, MPH, a doctoral candidate in the Department of Population Health at NYU Langone. “Unfortunately, the minimal policies in place to eliminate pesticides and flame retardants are clearly not enough.”

The substances analyzed are found in household products from furniture upholstery to tuna fish, and can build up in the body to damage organs, researchers say. Heavy metals, lead and mercury in particular, are known to disrupt brain and kidney function. In addition, they, along with flame retardants and pesticides, can interfere with the thyroid, which secretes brain-developing hormones. Experts say exposure at a young age to any of these toxins can cause learning disabilities, autism, and behavioral issues.

In their investigation, the researchers found that everyday contact with these substances during the 16-year study period resulted in roughly 1,190,230 children affected with some form of intellectual disability. Overall childhood exposures cost the nation $7.5 trillion in lost economic productivity and other societal costs.

“Although people argue against costly regulations, unrestricted use of these chemicals is far more expensive in the long run, with American children bearing the largest burden,” says senior study author Leonardo Trasande, MD, MPP, the Jim G. Hendrick, MD Professor at NYU Langone Health.

Publishing online Jan. 14 in the journal Molecular and Cellular Endocrinology, the new study is the only long-term neurological and economic investigation of its kind, the authors say. The investigators analyzed PBDE, organophosphate, lead, and methylmercury exposures in blood samples from women of childbearing age and 5-year-olds. Data on women and children was obtained from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.

The researchers used results from several previous environmental health studies to estimate the annual number of IQ points lost per unit of exposure to each of the four main chemicals in the study. Then, they estimated the lost productivity and medical costs over the course of the children’s lives linked to long-term intellectual disability using a second algorithm, which valued each lost IQ point at $22,268 and each case of intellectual disability at $1,272,470.

While exposure to these chemicals persists despite tightened regulations, experts say Americans can help limit some of the effects by avoiding the use of household products or foods that contain them.

“Frequently opening windows to let persistent chemicals found in furniture, electronics, and carpeting escape, and eating certified organic produce can reduce exposure to these toxins,” says Trasande, who also serves as chief of environmental pediatrics in the Department of Pediatrics at NYU Langone.

Trasande notes that the impact of these chemicals may be worse than their study can capture since there are far more hazards that affect brain development than the four highlighted in the investigation, and other potential consequences beyond IQ loss. “All the more reason we need closer federal monitoring of these substances,” she says.

The study authors say they plan to explore the cost of exposure to endocrine-disrupting chemicals in other countries.

Source: New York University

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Bees Absolutely Love Cannabis and It Could Help Restore Their Populations

By Elias Marat

Bees are major fans of hemp and a recent study has found that the taller the hemp plants are the larger the number of bees that will flock to it.

The new research, spearheaded by researchers at Cornell University and published last month in Environmental Entomology, shows that humans aren’t the only fans of weed. The findings also reinforce a study published last year at Colorado State University that discovered the same thing.

The study shows how bees are highly attracted to cannabis due to the plant’s plentiful stores of pollen, and it could pave the way for scientists to figure out new ways to support their struggling population as well as floral populations.

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According to the study, the greater the area covered by the hemp plant the greater the chance that bees will swarm to the area. Additionally, those hemp plants that are taller have a much greater likelihood of attracting bees with the tallest plants attracting a stunning 17 times more bees than the shortest plants.

The study also found that as time went on greater amounts of bees visited the hemp plots on a more frequent basis. It sounds almost like the word-of-mouth effect among humans who hear about great deals at a dispensary, no?

The researchers also discovered that hemp, a major cash crop with multiple applications, can support no less than 16 different varieties of bees in the northeastern United States.

The findings may seem strange considering that cannabis doesn’t produce the sweet, sugary nectar that your typical floral varieties produce to attract insects. Nor does hemp flower come in the dazzling array of bright colors that likewise attract bugs. However, the pollen produced by male flowers is highly attractive to the 16 bee subspecies in the study for reasons that remain unknown.

Female flowers—the kind that humans like to smoke for its intoxicating and soothing effects—are basically ignored by bees since they don’t produce any actual flowers.

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The study’s author’s wrote:

The rapid expansion of hemp production in the United States… may have significant implications for agroecosystem-wide pollination dynamics.

As a late-season crop flowering during a period of seasonal floral dearth, hemp may have a particularly strong potential to enhance pollinator populations and subsequent pollination services for crops in the following year by filling gaps in late-season resource scarcity.

What makes the findings so compelling is the crucial impact it could have on suffering bee populations across the United States.

Bees are perhaps one of the most important managed pollinators in U.S. agriculture. Spreading the male sex cells of flowers to their female counterparts in a natural process that is highly crucial to plant reproduction.

According to the UN Food and Agricultural Organization, pollinators are worth anywhere from $235 and $577 billion worldwide owing to their pivotal role in the production of global crops. In the U.S. alone this means that bees are responsible for $20 billion of domestic crop production. Without bees we can kiss almonds, blueberries, watermelon, and other crops goodbye.

The authors of the study made clear that the combination of bees plus hemp won’t mean that folks should worry about cannabinoid-rich pollen sneaking it into their diets nor will the bees start producing honey enriched with tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)—as nice as that sounds.

Likewise, the presence of cannabinoids like THC in hemp pollen is “not likely to have an impact on bee development due to the loss of cannabinoid receptors in insects.”

So while we often like to focus on the recreational or medicinal use of marijuana—in its edible, smokeable, and vape-able forms—this new research shows that the plant can in fact help nature and agriculture in amazingly important ways.

By Elias Marat | Creative Commons | TheMindUnleashed.com

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Australia’s “Rain Bomb” Lands as Thunderstorms Put Out Dozens of Fires in Drought-Stricken Region

By Elias Marat

Australia is beginning to receive its first significant rainfall in months as a low-pressure system sweeps in from the east bringing a much-needed respite to parched and fire-ravaged regions across the country.

On Thursday morning, downpours already began extinguishing 32 fires across the hard-hit state of New South Wales (NSW) with the number of blazes dropping from 120 to 88, the Daily Mail reports.

Communities in NSW and Victoria are both expected to see a healthy weekend of rain from Thursday into the weekend with forecasters saying that heavy downpours and thunderstorms in the region are likely.

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The Bureau of Meteorology said that it expects anywhere from over an inch (30mm) to over 3 inches of rain through the weekend in eastern Australia.

According to Sky News, a month’s worth of rain fell over Melbourne in only a few hours.

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Earlier this week, the NSW Rural Fire Service tweeted that the rainfall would be “all of our Christmas, birthday, engagement, anniversary, wedding and graduation presents rolled into one.”

NSW Rural Fire Service Inspector Ben Shepherd said:

“It’s the most positive forecast the RFS has had in months and will give crews a chance to regroup and work on containment lines.“

However, due to an extended drought period this weekend’s rain is unlikely to put out all of the fires which authorities have warned could continue raging through March.

The bureau also warned that while the rain can help with the fires the risk of other calamities has increased. Bureau meteorologist Sarah Scully said Wednesday:

“Hopefully some of this heavy rainfall will fall over fire sites and help control or even extinguish fires.

But it’s a bit of a double-edged sword because heavy rainfall and gusty thunderstorms bring the potential for flash flooding, particularly in the burnt-out areas of NSW and Victoria which are now vulnerable to landslips and trees coming down.”

The rain could also bring a new calamity to the country by washing toxic ash into waterways potentially leading to mass fish deaths and contaminating the drinking water supplies for millions of people.

Prof Stuart Khan, an environmental engineer and water expert at the University of New South Wales, told the Guardian:

“We are in a vulnerable position with all that ash sitting on a catchment that’s unstable and prone to erosion that could include landslides and trees being dislodged.

We’re not expecting extreme rainfall, but if any places do and they’re areas that have been burned, then we’d expect ash and soil running into waterways.”

Since the fire crisis broke out in September, at least 28 people have been killed and countless others forced to evacuate—sometimes more than once—as the unprecedented wave of bushfires swept across the country. The fires have consumed upwards of 25.5 million acres (10.3 million hectares) of land, an area equal to the size of South Korea.

Over 2,000 homes have also been destroyed during the crisis with more than half being destroyed by the nightmarish blaze since January 1.

By Elias Marat | Creative Commons | TheMindUnleashed.com

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7 Major Earth Changes That Are Happening Right Now That Everyone Needs To Know About

By Michael Snyder

There has never been a time in modern human history when our planet has been changing as rapidly as it is changing right now.  The sun is behaving very strangely, freakishly cold weather is breaking out all over the world, ocean temperatures continue to rise, volcanoes all over the globe are shooting ash miles into the air, Australia is experiencing the worst wildfires that they have ever seen, and the north magnetic pole has been moving at a pace that is deeply alarming scientists.  Could it be possible that all of this bizarre activity is leading up to some sort of a crescendo?

Sadly, most people don’t even realize what is happening, and that is because the mainstream media only emphasizes stories that fit with the particular narratives that they are currently pushing.

But it has gotten to the point where nobody can deny that really weird things are happening.  The following are 7 major earth changes that are happening right now that everyone needs to know about…

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#1 According to NASA, solar activity has dropped to the lowest level in 200 years.  The following comes from the official NASA website

The forecast for the next solar cycle says it will be the weakest of the last 200 years. The maximum of this next cycle – measured in terms of sunspot number, a standard measure of solar activity level – could be 30 to 50% lower than the most recent one. The results show that the next cycle will start in 2020 and reach its maximum in 2025.

Of course NASA insists that everything will be just fine, but others are wondering if this lack of solar activity could potentially spawn another “Little Ice Age”

When solar activity gets really low, it can have the effect of a “mini ice age.” The period between 1645 and 1715 was marked by a prolonged sunspot minimum, and this corresponded to a downturn in temperatures in Europe and North America. Named after astronomers Edward Maunder and his wife Annie Russell Maunder, this period became known as the Maunder Minimum. It is also known as “The Little Ice Age.”

#2 When solar activity gets very low, it has traditionally meant very cold and very snowy winters, and right now we are seeing snow in places that are extremely unusual

The Egyptian capital, Cairo, was also turned white at the start of the month, despite the city not having snow in 112 years, and experiencing less than an inch of rain each year.

Many parts of Greece were covered in snow in early January, with low temperatures and strong frost.

The cold front named ‘Hephaestion’, after an Ancient Greek army general, thrashed the Greek landscape, bringing rain, sleet and ice in the east.

#3 Meanwhile, the oceans of the world just keep getting hotter and hotter.  In fact, ocean temperatures off the California coast have been setting new all-time record highs.  It is odd that this is taking place at a time of such low solar activity, but according to NBC News this is definitely happening…

The world’s oceans hit their warmest level in recorded history in 2019, according to a study published Monday that provides more evidence that Earth is warming at an accelerated pace.

The analysis, which also found that ocean temperatures in the last decade have been the warmest on record, shows the impact of human-caused warming on the planet’s oceans and suggests that sea-level rise, ocean acidification and extreme weather events could worsen as the oceans continue to absorb so much heat.

#4 There have always been wildfires, but we have never seen anything like this.  During the summer, countless catastrophic fires burned millions upon millions of acres in the Amazon rainforest, and this winter Australia’s fires have actually been a total of 46 percent larger than the fires that we witnessed in the Amazon.  Australia has never seen anything like this before, and according to NASA the smoke from these fires will completely circle the Earth

Once was bad enough, but smoke from Australia’s devastating bushfires is set to return to the country to complete a round-the-world trip that has seen it impact on air quality as far away as South America.

By Jan. 8, the smoke had made its way halfway around the world and will make at least one full circuit, according to scientists at NASA, citing satellite tracking data. New Zealand experienced severe air quality issues, while hazy skies and colorful sunsets and sunrises were seen in parts of Chile and Argentina.

#5 During the first half of 2020, volcanoes all over the world have been roaring to life and have been shooting giant clouds of hot ash miles into the sky.  For example, in the Philippines the Taal volcano shot ash nine miles into the air on Sunday, it has also been shooting scorching hot lava half a mile into the air, and the ground around the volcano is starting to crack wide open.

But even after all the devastation that we have already seen, authorities are warning that it could “re-explode at any moment”

The gray ash is knee-deep. It covers the homes, the bloated cadavers of cows and horses, their limbs protruding at unnatural angles in the shadow of a sulking volcano that could re-explode at any moment.

“My home is now gone,” said Melvin Mendoza, 39, a boatman who returned on Tuesday to Taal, the volcanic island in the middle of a freshwater lake just 40 miles south of Manila, which erupted on Sunday like an atomic bomb mushroom cloud.

Let us hope that this volcanic activity does not spread throughout that general area, because the largest super volcano caldera in the entire world has been discovered not too far from the Philippines

A team including members from GNS Science have identified an ancient mega-volcano that could have the largest known caldera on Earth.

The 150km (93.2 miles) wide feature is on the crest of Benham Rise, an oceanic plateau off the Philippines coast. In comparison, the caldera at Taupō is about 35km (21.8 miles) wide, and that at Yellowstone about 60km (37.3 miles).

#6 All of this is taking place while the north magnetic pole is moving toward Russia at a very rapid pace.  The following comes from CNN

The north magnetic pole has been slowly moving across the Canadian Arctic toward Russia since 1831, but its swift pace toward Siberia in recent years at a rate of around 34 miles per year has forced scientists to update the World Magnetic Model — used by civilian navigation systems, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, and US and British militaries — a year ahead of schedule.

#7 On top of everything else, the Earth’s magnetic field has been steadily weakening over time, and this has some experts extremely concerned

In a forum on Quora, science fiction writer and journalist C Stuart Hardwick revealed that satellite data, such as those collected by the European Space Agency’s SWARM mission, revealed that the magnetic field has been weakening for about 5 percent each century. He noted that currently, the strength of the magnetic field is at 29.5 microteslas, which is 14 percent weaker than its previous state three centuries ago. According to Hardwick, the SWARM satellites detected increased deterioration within regions of the magnetic field over North America. He said these regions weakened by about 3.5 percent over the span of just three years.

Without our magnetic field, life on Earth could not exist for long.

And it doesn’t have to disappear completely to be a massive problem.  If it simply gets weak enough, dwelling on the surface is going to become exceedingly difficult.

As I keep warning, our planet is becoming increasing unstable, and what we have experienced so far is just the beginning.

The demands of life can often cause us to focus on things that don’t really matter.  Hopefully, we can get more people to wake up while there is still time, because the clock is ticking for humanity and for our planet as a whole.


About the Author: I am a voice crying out for change in a society that generally seems content to stay asleep. My name is Michael Snyder and I am the publisher of The Economic Collapse Blog, End Of The American Dream and The Most Important News, and the articles that I publish on those sites are republished on dozens of other prominent websites all over the globe. I have written four books that are available on Amazon.com including The Beginning Of The End, Get Prepared Now, and Living A Life That Really Matters. (#CommissionsEarned) By purchasing those books you help to support my work. I always freely and happily allow others to republish my articles on their own websites, but due to government regulations I need those that republish my articles to include this “About the Author” section with each article. In order to comply with those government regulations, I need to tell you that the controversial opinions in this article are mine alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of the websites where my work is republished. This article may contain opinions on political matters, but it is not intended to promote the candidacy of any particular political candidate. The material contained in this article is for general information purposes only, and readers should consult licensed professionals before making any legal, business, financial or health decisions. Those responding to this article by making comments are solely responsible for their viewpoints, and those viewpoints do not necessarily represent the viewpoints of Michael Snyder or the operators of the websites where my work is republished. I encourage you to follow me on social media on Facebook and Twitter, and any way that you can share these articles with others is a great help.

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Study Shows Animal Life Thriving Around Fukushima (PHOTOS)

Nearly a decade after the nuclear accident in Fukushima, Japan, researchers from the University of Georgia have found that wildlife populations are abundant in areas void of human life.

Raccoon dog

The camera study, published in the Journal of Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, reports that over 267,000 wildlife photos recorded more than 20 species, including wild boar, Japanese hare, macaques, pheasant, fox and the raccoon dog—a relative of the fox—in various areas of the landscape.

UGA wildlife biologist James Beasley said speculation and questions have come from both the scientific community and the general public about the status of wildlife years after a nuclear accident like those in Chernobyl and Fukushima.

This recent study, in addition to the team’s research in Chernobyl, provides answers to the questions.

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Badger

“Our results represent the first evidence that numerous species of wildlife are now abundant throughout the Fukushima Evacuation Zone, despite the presence of radiological contamination,” said Beasley, associate professor at the Savannah River Ecology Laboratory and the Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources.

Species that are often in conflict with humans, particularly wild boar, were predominantly captured on camera in human-evacuated areas or zones, according to Beasley.

“This suggests these species have increased in abundance following the evacuation of people.”

The team, which included Thomas Hinton, professor at the Institute of Environmental Radioactivity at Fukushima University, identified three zones for the research.

Wild boar

Photographic data was gathered from 106 camera sites in three zones: humans excluded due to the highest level of contamination; humans restricted due to an intermediate level of contamination; and humans inhabited, an area where people have been allowed to remain due to “background” or very low levels of radiation found in the environment.

The researchers based their designations on zones previously established by the Japanese government after the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi accident.

For 120 days, cameras captured over 46,000 images of wild boar. Over 26,000 of those images were taken in the uninhabited area, compared to approximately 13,000 in the restricted and 7,000 in the inhabited zones.

Other species seen in higher numbers in the uninhabited or restricted zones included raccoons, Japanese marten and Japanese macaque or monkeys.

Japanese serow

Anticipating questions about physiological condition of the wildlife, Hinton said their results are not an assessment of an animal’s health. “This research makes an important contribution because it examines radiological impacts to populations of wildlife, whereas most previous studies have looked for effects to individual animals,” said Hinton.

The uninhabited zone served as the control zone for the research.

The scientists said although there is no previous data on wildlife populations in the evacuated areas, the close proximity and similar landscape of the human-inhabited zone made the area the ideal control for the study.

The team evaluated the impact of other variables: distance to road, time of activity as captured by the cameras’ date-time stamps, vegetation type and elevation.

Wild hare

“The terrain varies from mountainous to coastal habitats, and we know these habitats support different types of species. To account for these factors, we incorporated habitat and landscape attributes such as elevation into our analysis,” Beasley said.

“Based on these analyses, our results show that level of human activity, elevation and habitat type were the primary factors influencing the abundance of the species evaluated, rather than radiation levels.”

Macaque monkeys

The study’s results indicate the activity pattern of most species aligned with their well-known history or behavior patterns. Raccoons, who are nocturnal, were more active during the night, while pheasants, which are diurnal animals, were more active during the day. However, wild boar inside the uninhabited area were more active during the day than boar in human-inhabited areas, suggesting they may be modifying their behavior in the absence of humans.

One exception to these patterns was the Japanese serow, a goat-like mammal. Normally far-removed from humans, they were most frequently seen on the camera footage in rural human-inhabited upland areas. The researchers suggest this might be a behavioral adjustment to avoid the rapidly growing boar population in the evacuated zone.

The free-roaming menagerie in Fukushima also included the red fox, masked palm civet, weasel, sika deer and black bear. The full list of wildlife captured on camera and additional details on the study can be found at: esajournals.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/fee.2149

Additional authors on this study include Phillip Lyons, University of Georgia’s Savannah River Ecology Laboratory, Aiken, South Carolina, and UGA’s Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources, Athens, Georgia; Kei Okuda and Thomas Hinton, Institute of Environmental Radioactivity, Fukushima University, Fukushima, Japan; and Mathew Hamilton, SREL, Aiken, South Carolina.



Source:

University of Georgia

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Australian Fires Biggest In The World And 5 Times Larger Than Amazon Fires

By John Vibes

The wildfires that are current ripping across Australia have gotten only passing mention in the global media, but they are actually far more serious than similar events in recent years. Very few people around the world are aware of the magnitude of these fires, even when compared to the recent and ongoing fire crisis in the Amazon.

To put the current situation into perspective, about 12 million acres have burned so far in the Australian fires. Meanwhile, just over 2 million acres of land have been burned so far during this year’s fires in the Amazon. 2 million acres is certainly still significant, but it is one part of a wider problem that is impacting ecosystems all over the world.

The graphic above created by Statista, with information provided by the BBC, the New York Times, as well as local fire and rescue organizations, gives a visual illustration of just how big the fires in Australia are. The graphic also notes that 6.7 million acres of land were burned in Siberia.

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The fires have become so large that the resulting smoke has disrupted weather patterns across the continent, and has even caused the glaciers of neighboring New Zealand to turn brown.

As Truth Theory reported in early January, nearly a half-billion animals are estimated to have been killed in the fires since they began in September.

Heavy rains last week gave emergency crews a bit of help in some areas, but over 100 fires are still burning across the country. So far, up to 17 people have died in the fires and an incalculable amount of property damage has occurred.

As Truth Theory reported last month, the fires in New South Wales could be responsible for wiping out all of the koalas in the region, who were already experiencing dangerously low population levels.

According to a report published last year by WWF Australia and the Nature Conservation Council (NCC), koalas were already on their way to becoming extinct in New South Wales due to deforestation, and this was before the fires even began.


John Vibes is an author and journalist who takes a special interest in the counter culture, and focuses solutions-oriented approaches to social problems. He is also a host of The Free Your Mind Conference and The Free Thought Project Podcast. Read More stories by John Vibes

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Ecotherapy Aims to Tap into Nature to Improve Your Wellbeing

By Carly Wood, University of Westminster

As many as one in six adults experience mental health problems like depression or anxiety every week. And not only is mental ill-health one of the most common causes of disease worldwide – it’s also on the rise. Finding ways to improve mental health is therefore essential.

One type of therapy that is starting to become more popular is “ecotherapy”; which advocates claim can improve mental and physical wellbeing. Sometimes referred to as green exercise or green care, this type of formal therapeutic treatment involves being active in natural spaces. It’s also sighted to be one of 2020’s biggest wellness trends, though the practice is far from new.

Although definitions of ecotherapy vary, most agree it’s a regular, structured activity that is:

  1. therapist led
  2. focuses on an activity (such as gardening), rather than a health outcome
  3. takes place in a natural environment
  4. involves interacting with and exploring the natural world, and
  5. encourages social interaction.
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However, the key difference between ecotherapy and recreation is the presence of a trained practitioner or therapist. The role of the therapist is often overlooked, however they are key to facilitating the clients interactions with both the natural and social environment and setting clinical aims for the session. Examples of ecotherapy activities might include gardening, farming, woodland walks, and nature art and crafts. Like the client, the therapist actively takes part in the ecotherapy session; in fact, it’s often difficult to distinguish between the client and therapist.

But why do people believe ecotherapy is so beneficial to mental health? The scientific basis for ecotherapy comes from past research which has shown that natural settings are good for both mental and physical health. One systematic review analysed the benefits of natural environments for health and found that interacting with natural settings – such as walking or running in a public park – can provide a range of health benefits, including reduced stress and improved mood, wellbeing, and self-esteem.

Research has also shown that natural settings also encourage physical activity. For example, an ecotherapy gardening session not only involves interacting with nature but also the moderate-vigorous physical activity associated with gardening. Studies show that physical activity in natural settings has greater health benefits compared to physical activity in other environments. Some of these benefits include lower stress and improved mood.

Ecotherapy might also provide opportunities to socialise, giving another reason for its use as a mental health treatment. Research shows that loneliness and social isolation are twice as harmful to health as obesity. They’re also more harmful than physical inactivity and are as damaging to our health as smoking 15 cigarettes daily. Socialising is also associated with higher life expectancy, with research indicating a 50% increased likelihood of survival in elderly people who have strong social relationships.

Increased socialisation during ecotherapy sessions is beneficial to mental health. Syda Productions/Shutterstock

Ecotherapy can also give people a sense of achievement and purpose. It can provide structure and routine to people who might not have these in their lives, perhaps because of their poor mental health. Having structure and routine is one aspect of being employed that research shows is beneficial to mental health.

The therapist is not only key to facilitating the clients involvement in the natural and social environments; but also ensuring that each of the ecotherapy sessions have a defined purpose. It is common for both the client and therapist to be working towards achieving this aim. For example, in the case of an ecotheraphy gardening project the aim might be to develop a community garden. In recreation activities the specific environment, types and frequency of social interaction and purpose of the chosen activity are all driven by the participant.

The evidence for ecotherapy

Currently, much of the evidence showing the benefits of ecotherapy comes from qualitative data. For example, one study interviewed people referred to mental health services to understand the effects of ecotherapy. The programme reportedly improved physical and mental health, and provided daily structure and routine. It also allowed participants to learn new skills and socialise. But, there was no statistical data to support these findings. This means the study’s findings were based solely on the reported experiences of the participants, which might not provide an accurate picture of the effect ecotherapy would have on the wider population.

Despite this, research into ecotherapy’s benefits is growing. One in-depth analysis looked at nine different ecotherapy programmes. It found that people who had participated in any type of ecotherapy programme had significant improvements in self-esteem, wellbeing and social inclusion from the start of their treatment, and also felt more connected to nature. Participants also had significant improvements in mood, with feelings of anger, tension, depression, and confusion reduced after just one ecotherapy session.

Other studies have suggested reduced physiological stress, and improvements in anxiety, depression, mood, and self-esteem in people with a range of psychiatric illnesses, including bipolar disorder, major depression, and better wellbeing and increased social engagement for people with dementia who took part in a gardening programme.

Despite increasing reports of the health benefits of ecotherapy, there is still a need for high quality scientific evidence to better support its effectiveness. However, large-scale, randomised, and rigorously controlled research is difficult, as all ecotherapy projects are unique. Each involve different activities and environments, varying exercise intensities, and participants may have a range of health needs. However, the versatility and uniqueness of these programmes might be the very thing that contributes to positive health outcomes.The Conversation

 


Carly Wood, Lecturer in Nutrition and Exercise Science, University of Westminster

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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Thousands of Tons of Radioactive Fukushima Water to be Dumped in Pacific as Independent Testing Banned

By Phillip Schneider

The Japanese government is refusing to allow independent testing of contaminated water found in the nuclear power plant at Fukushima, which has been leaking ever since a tsunami and earthquake devastatingly hit the facility in March 2011.

The decision not to allow independent testing was allegedly arrived to over “safety concerns” in relation to the storing and transportation of the radioactive water.

Other organizations are not permitted to carry out tests of the water…If we are going to allow external organizations to test the treated water then we would need to go through very strict procedures and due process because that water is contaminated. If it is taken outside this facility, then there need to be strict regulations. – Hideki Yagi, a spokesman for the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO)

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However, independent environmental groups including Greenpeace and Citizens’ Nuclear Information Centre (CNIC) assert that this is indeed a cover-up against the true level of contamination in the water used to cool three damaged reactors.

There would need to be lots of checks because there is a lot of water, but right now it looks very much to the outside world that they are trying to cover something up – as they have a long history of doing. – Hideyuki Ban, co-director of CNIC

Although the contaminated water is deemed too dangerous to test for potency, the government of Japan and TEPCO both regard it as not too dangerous to dump into the Pacific Ocean as they likely plan to do as soon as their storage tanks reach maximum capacity in the summer of 2020.

READ: FUKUSHIMA – THE UNTOUCHABLE ECO-APOCALYPSE NO ONE IS TALKING ABOUT

The amount of contaminated water at Fukushima is astounding. On top of an undisclosed amount, which we still don’t know the potency of, ground water continues to seep into the basement levels of the facility with an additional 120 tons accumulating every day, according to the London Telegraph.

The decision not to allow third-party testing of the contaminated water at Fukushima is not only causing the public to lose faith in the government’s ability to safely manage emergencies, but whether Japanese citizens can trust them to tell the truth about the dangers they face as a country.

Tepco has lost trust across society in Japan as well as in the international community, including in South Korea, and providing samples for analysis would be in their best interests – unless they are covering something up…so providing samples that could verify their reports on content would go some way to demonstrating their commitment to transparency. – Shaun Burnie, Senior Nuclear Specialist for Greenpeace

In 2016, the Japan government estimated the cost of the Fukushima disaster to be about 21.5 trillion yen ($188 billion), nearly doubled compared to their previous projection of 11 trillion yen in 2013.

In 2012, exactly one year after the disaster, 79.6% of polled Japanese citizens favored phasing out nuclear power altogether. This led to the then-prime minister Yoshihiko Noda announcing a plan to phase out Japanese nuclear power completely by 2040. However, current prime minister Shinzo Abe walked back that statement in 2016, announcing that Japan “cannot do without” nuclear power as anywhere from 3.1-4.7% of Japan’s electricity is supplied by nuclear. By 2030, the government that number to be between 20-22%.

Since Abe’s government took power in late 2012, they have given the green light to several nuclear power plants, including the Onagawa reactor which was also damaged by the earthquake on March 11, 2011.

They claim that the disposal of Fukushima’s radioactive water will have only a “small” impact on humans, but how do we know that’s true without independent testing? How do we know what impact the radiation will have on marine life, fish, and in turn, humans who eat fish caught near the dumping site?

The Japanese government and nuclear companies want you to believe that what they’re doing is completely safe, “but that has to be full of caveats because the way that information has been presented is confusing and not transparent so ordinary people do not understand and cannot make informed decisions,” says Azby Brown, lead researcher for Safecast Japan, a Tokyo-based group which monitors radiation.


Read more articles from Phillip Schneider.

Phillip Schneider is a student as well as a staff writer and assistant editor for Waking Times. If you would like to see more of his work, you can visit his website, or follow him on the free speech social network Minds.

This article (1000’s of Tons of Radioactive Fukushima Water to be Dumped in Pacific as Independent Testing Banned) as originally created and published by Waking Times and is published here under a Creative Commons license with attribution to Phillip Schneider and WakingTimes.com. It may be re-posted freely with proper attribution, author bio, and this copyright statement.

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“We Were in Hell” — Thousands in Australia Seek Refuge on Beach as Wildfires, Dry Storms Rage

By Elias Marat

Thousands of locals and vacationers were plunged into nightmarish conditions Tuesday as fast-moving bushfires tore through southeast Australia, ripping through popular tourist sites and forcing people to seek refuge on nearby beaches.

Coastal towns filled with tourists who hoped to usher in 2020 in idyllic beach conditions instead were confronted with apocalyptic skies that glowed red as the massive fires mingled with choking black smoke, reports AFP. In the meantime, terrifying extreme dry-lightning storms raged nearby, threatening more fires.

About 4,000 people fled to the beaches in the town of Mallacoota as fires encircled the seaside towns, with many residents on boats even taking to the seas in a bid to ensure safety in the face of the encroaching inferno.

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Authorities had been warning tens of thousands of tourists enjoying their Australian summer holiday to evacuate the area, but many waited until it was too late to leave.

Local resident Jason Selmes, who evacuated his Mallacoota home, told CNN that “there’s no way in or out” of the seaside town.

Since late Monday, dozens of properties are estimated to have been destroyed while at least seven people remain missing in New South Wales (NSW) and Victoria.

In Batemans Bay, NSW, hundreds of families fled their homes Tuesday as the sky turned forebodingly orange. Vacationer Zoe Simmons told CNN:

“It was like we were in hell … We were all covered in ash.”

Intense fires, thick smoke, and dry-lightning storms provoked by the historic blazes combined to prevent aerial reconnaissance and water-bombing operations from proceeding, according to the New South Wales Rural Fire Service.

Australia’s bushfires have grown so monstrous that they are generating their own weather in the form of pyro-cumulonimbus clouds, or thunderstorms that create more fires, according to Victoria’s Bureau of Meteorology.

On Monday, the bureau tweeted:

“Pyro-cumulonimbus clouds have developed to altitudes over 16km in East #Gippsland this afternoon. These fire-induced storms can spread fires through lightning, lofting of embers and generation of severe wind outflows.”

Temperatures near bushfires zones can easily climb into hundreds of degrees Celsius, creating lethal perimeters around the fire that are so hot they kill anyone who is nearby long before the flames reach them.

Because of this, Victoria’s authorities urged residents to flee to the ocean as a “last-resort option.”

The historic bushfires devastating vast regions of Australia have been raging since September, laying waste to wildlife and private property alike. However, the unprecedented firestorms have only grown in the face of strong winds and a brutal heatwave that has threatened major population centers like Sydney and Melbourne.

On Monday, roughly 100,000 people in suburban Melbourne were urged to flee as the bushfire crisis rapidly closed in on the region, killing a volunteer firefighter and pushing the death-toll to 11.

City officials in Sydney still plan to hold a New Year’s Eve fireworks show despite the city being enveloped in toxic haze from the bushfires. Meanwhile, similar shows in Canberra and other regional towns have been canceled.

The Australian government headed by Prime Minister Scott Morrison has belatedly acknowledged the role of climate change in the bushfire crisis. However, Morrison’s government has also come under withering criticism for ruling out any further action to reduce emissions while continuing to pledge his support to the lucrative coal-mining industry. The government has been accused of obstructing global summits on climate change and skirting its obligations under the 2015 Paris accord.

By Elias Marat | Creative Commons | TheMindUnleashed.com

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Researchers Turn Plastic Water Bottles Into Diesel and Jet Fuel

A research group led by Washington State University scientists has found a way to turn daily plastic waste products into jet fuel.

In a new paper published in the journal Applied Energy, WSU’s Hanwu Lei and colleagues melted plastic waste at high temperature with activated carbon, a processed carbon with increased surface area, to produce jet fuel.

“Waste plastic is a huge problem worldwide,” said Lei, an associate professor in WSU’s Department of Biological System Engineering. “This is a very good, and relatively simple, way to recycle these plastics.”

How it works

In the experiment, Lei and colleagues tested low-density polyethylene and mixed a variety of waste plastic products, like water bottles, milk bottles, and plastic bags, and ground them down to around three millimeters, or about the size of a grain of rice.

The plastic granules were then placed on top of activated carbon in a tube reactor at a high temperature, ranging from 430 degree Celsius to 571 degrees Celsius. That’s 806 to 1,060 Fahrenheit. The carbon is a catalyst, or a substance that speeds up a chemical reaction without being consumed by the reaction.

“Plastic is hard to break down,” Lei said. “You have to add a catalyst to help break the chemical bonds. There is a lot of hydrogen in plastics, which is a key component in fuel.”

Dr. Hanwu Lei and his research team in the lab, working to find a use for plastic waste. Credit: University of Washington

Once the carbon catalyst has done its work, it can be separated out and re-used on the next batch of waste plastic conversion. The catalyst can also be regenerated after losing its activity.

After testing several different catalysts at different temperatures, the best result they had produced a mixture of 85 percent jet fuel and 15 percent diesel fuel.

Environmental impact

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, landfills in the U.S. received 26 million tons of plastic in 2015, the most recent year statistics are available. China has recently stopped accepting plastic recycling from the U.S. and Canada. Conservative estimates by scientists say that at least 4.8 million tons of plastic enters the ocean each year worldwide.

Not only would this new process reduce that waste, very little of what is produced is wasted.

We can recover almost 100 percent of the energy from the plastic we tested,” Lei said. “The fuel is very good quality, and the byproduct gasses produced are high quality and useful as well.”

He also said the method for this process is easily scalable. It could work at a large facility or even on farms, where farmers could turn plastic waste into diesel.

“You have to separate the resulting product to get jet fuel,” Lei said. “If you don’t separate it, then it’s all diesel fuel.”

Article by University of Washington.

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