Fuming?

March 12, 2008

Diesel fuelled cars, the greener alternative to petrol run vehicles emitting less CO2 and better fuel efficiency.  

Better for the environment but what about our health? 

A new study released this week claims that inhaling diesel exhaust fumes triggers a stress response in the brain.  

A research team from the Netherlands used 10 volunteers in an enclosed room to expose them to typical levels of diesel fumes found in a busy street. 

The volunteers were exposed to the fumes inside the room for an hour where their brains were scanned and monitored. Once they left the fume filled room the researchers continued scanning. To gain comparative data the research was repeated without the fumes. 

The researchers found that within half an hour of breathing in the diesel fumes there was increased brain activity in the cortex which causes stress. This activity continued to increase after the volunteers had left the enclosure of the room.

Oxygen deprivation in the heart has been speculated to be another bodily response to diesel fumes.

It is still unclear what part of diesel pollution cause these effects. However previous research on rats suggest that minuscule soot particles, major components of diesel exhausts make their way directly to the brain which can only be speculated to be responsible for the effects on the brain.

Research leader Paul Borm said “Further studies are necessary to explore this effect and to assess the relationship between the amount of exposure to particles and the brain’s response, and investigate the clinical implications of these novel findings.”

A spokes person from the ETA (Environmental Transport Association) commented on the environmental health implications of diesel fumes “There is a popular belief that due to their lower average CO2 emissions, diesels are better for the planet. Unfortunately it appears that it is people, particularly those in built-up areas, that may be paying the price”.

The ETA also suggest using their car buyers guide and green driving advice to help reduce your impact on the environment when buying or driving a car.

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Image by Chris Seufert at Flickr 

The Food Standard Agency are reviewing weekly fish intake. 

Last month the Food Standards Agency expressed their concerns about fish farming sustainability.  

Our weekly quota of fish that they recommend currently stands with at least 2 portions a week but the growth of climate change threatening food production they are reviewing their advice in relation to maintaining fish farming sustainability. 

Which fish are at risk? 

 North Sea cod, marlin, skate, big eye tuna and wild Atlantic salmon and Chilean sea bass are a few of the popular consumed fish that are so endangered they could be at risk of disappearing forever due to over fishing.  

What’s being done to tackle the problem? 

Supermarkets such as Waitrose are under way with tackling issues of fish depletion. All their fresh and frozen fish come from well managed fisheries. This includes cod and haddock from fish farms in Iceland and mackerel from farms in Cornwall. All of which focus on producing healthy fish stock that prioritises the sustainability of fish farming.  

The Marine Steward Council (MSC) works together with supermarkets and other fish retailers to make sure their produce has been reared to meet the organisations environmental standards.  

If produce meets the requirements of the MSC they are labelled with the MSC logo. This helps shoppers acknowledge that the produce they are purchasing has come from sustainable farms. 

Are sustainable farms always successful?  

The world’s first organic cod farm- No Catch cod– was launched three years ago hoping  to sustain 10% (30,000 tonnes) of the demand for cod in the UK.  

Sainsbury’s, Tesco’s and Carrefour in France are all supermarkets that began to stock No Catch produce to support their ambitious plans. However the future of the organisation is at threat after running up £40m worth of debt over nearly two years. 

The company employs around 120 people and have already made 14 of these workers redundant to cut the company’s costs. No Catch cod takes three years to rear to full maturity and without the use of artificial feed’s, intervention of chemicals and medicines to sustain their pledge of organic farming has proved to be a very expensive production.  

The shelf price of the cod has also contributed to the debt with the cod being fed on mackerel and herring off-cuts it was selling for as much as 50% more than wild caught cod.  

The future of the No Catch fish farming organisation is still unclear. A number of businesses are interested in taking over the brands name.  

A major Norwegian firm is rumoured to be one of the potential owners however they are said to be more interested in producing high volume salmon, mussels and sea trout than developing their niche market No Catch has already successfully created- sustainable cod farming. 

Jon Harman from The Sea Fish Industry Authority who supports No Catch with market and business information said “Cod farming is in its infancy, and No Catch had ambitious plans to overcome production hurdles and establish a significant brand. As world whitefish supplies adjust to climate change … we are confident that farmed cod will contribute to this supply base, helping to maintain a sustainable resource.”

Greener décor

March 9, 2008

 Graham and Brown have just launched their new range of eco friendly interior collection 

The range has been cleverly designed by Central St Martin students which includes minimally packaged, low emission wall papers. 

Wallpapers emit VOC’s (volatile organic compounds) that contain chemicals that can cause short term and long term health problems.  Many other household products also emit VOC’s such as paints and lacquers, paint strippers, cleaning supplies, pesticides and graphics and craft materials including glues and adhesives.

 Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Total Exposure Assessment Methodology studies found that levels of several organic pollutants were 2 to 5 times higher inside homes than outside during and several hours after activities using such products as paint stripper and disinfectants. This was found the same regardless whether the houses were situated in rural areas or heavily industrial areas, we are all still exposed to similar levels of VOC’s. 

So what are the health implications of VOC emissions?

Some people experience eye and respiratory tract irritation, headaches, dizziness, visual disorders, and memory impairment soon after using VOC’s. Many organic compounds also cause cancer in animals and some believed to cause cancer in humans. 

The EPA suggests following these steps to reduce VOC exposure:

  • Use household products according to manufacturer’s directions.
  • Make sure you provide plenty of fresh air when using these products.
  • Throw away unused or little-used containers safely; buy in quantities that you will use soon.
  • Keep out of reach of children and pets.
  • Never mix household care products unless directed on the label.

Graham & Brown “are committed to environmental issues”. All their wallpapers are labelled with The Forestry Stewardship Council (FSC) logo which means that the paper has come from sustainable managed forests, those better managed than non-accredited forests.

50% of each roll of wallpaper is also made from renewable resources and their inks and coating are also non acidic which is also much better for the environment and our health.

  For more eco friendly interior check out:

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                 Image by Phil Sharp at Flikr

A new Japanese study finds that the use of mobile phones does not cause brain cancer. 

Last year a government funded £8.8 million, six year research programme by the Mobile Telecommunications and Health Research association revealed that the use of mobile phones was not related to short term health implication. However long term affects were left unaddressed. 

Following this Tokyo’s women’s medical study have conducted further research into the long term affects of mobile phone use by looking at the three main types of brain cancer- glioma, meningioma and pituitary adenoma. 

 The team carried out over 1000 interviews with mobile phone users, 322 of them had been diagnosed with brain cancer. 

They included research into the length of time the participants had been using their mobile phones over years and the length of time their phones were used daily with different types of mobile phones that emitted different strengths of radiation. This was then analysed by taking into account how the emissions would affect different parts of the brain. The full study has been published in the British journal of Cancer.

The research was led by Professor Naohito Yamaguchi who said “Using our newly developed and more accurate techniques, we found no association between mobile phone use and cancer, providing more evidence to suggest they don’t cause brain cancer.

Since the 1980’s mobile phone use has hugely increased however studies show that in this time the number of brain cancer victims has not changed accordingly. 

Cancer Research UK director Dr Lesley Walker said “So far, studies have shown no evidence that mobile use is harmful, but we can’t be completely sure about their long-term effects. Research is still ongoing and Cancer Research UK will continue to look for new evidence.”

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Image by Oi at Flickr

New research suggests that British nuclear plant workers are more likely to suffer from heart attacks than cancer from occupational radiation. 

The study used 64,937 individuals that worked at plants across Britain from 1946-2005. The researchers used personal dosimeters on the majority of the workers that were classified as “radiation workers” to measure their individual radiation exposure.  

The study found a clear link between the rise in radiation exposure and the occurrence of heart attack, the higher exposure to radiation the greater chance of developing circulatory health problems.

 In 1980 new technologies were brought into the nuclear plants that control and reduce radiation exposure. Therefore those working on the plants before the 80’s are thought to be those at any significant risk of developing circulatory diseases 

200 nuclear plant workers from four of nuclear plants studied have died up to a year earlier than expected. However more research is needed to prove whether or not radiation exposure was the main cause of their deaths. 

Other contributing factors such as diet, exercise and stress have not been ruled out completely. Michael Gillies, a statistician on the study team said “Many studies associate these factors with an increased risk of circulatory disease and this is clearly something that requires more detailed investigation.”