Environmental Pollution Is Deadlier Than Smoking, War, AIDS or Hunger, Experts Find

iStock
iStock

In 1970, Congress pushed forward the Clean Air Act, which took aggressive steps to monitor and control pollutants in the environment via federal regulations. Over the years, people living in the United States have been exposed to considerably fewer contaminants such as lead and carbon monoxide.

But as a new study in the Lancet medical journal points out, pollution continues to be a global crisis, and one that might carry a far more devastating mortality rate than previously believed. Analyzing the complete picture of contaminated regions around the globe, study authors believe pollution killed 9 million people in 2015—more than smoking, AIDS, war, or deaths from hunger.

The study’s authors aggregated premature deaths on a global basis that were attributable to pollution, singling out certain regions that continue to struggle with high concentrations of toxic materials. In India, one in four premature deaths (2.5 million) was related to environmental contamination. In China, 1.8 million people died due to illnesses connected to poor air quality.

A lack of regulatory oversight in these areas is largely to blame. Dirty fossil fuels, crop burning, and burning garbage plague India; industrial growth in other locations often leads to pollution that isn’t being monitored or controlled. Roughly 92 percent of deaths as a result of poor environmental conditions are in low- or middle-income countries [PDF].

The study also notes that the 9 million estimate is conservative and likely to rise as new methods of connecting pollution-related illness with mortality in a given area are discovered. It’s hoped that increased awareness of the problem and highlighting the economic benefits of a healthier population (lower health care costs, for one) will encourage governments to take proactive measures.

[h/t Phys.org]

Watch: Rare ‘Ice Volcanoes’ Are Erupting on a Michigan Beach

ehrlif, iStock via Getty Images
ehrlif, iStock via Getty Images

Winter weather leads to all sorts of strange phenomena, from thundersnow to ice tsunamis. But these "ice volcanoes" recently documented on the shores of Lake Michigan are spectacular enough to impress even lifelong veterans of Great Lakes winters.

As News 18 reports, the Grand Rapids, Michigan, department of the National Weather Service shared images of the icy eruptions to its Facebook and Twitter pages on Sunday, February 16. They show geysers of water bursting forth from the tops of snowy mounds on Oval Beach. The scene looks like a bizarre version of a volcano spewing lava, but it's actually the natural result of the lake's tides.

CW50 Detroit reports no one is completely sure how these ice volcanoes form. But Live Science says ice shelves along the coast stop the waves of Lake Michigan from reaching the shore. As the tides move under the ice sheet, pressure builds, and with nowhere else to go, water breaks the ice and spurts through the opening. The water from each eruption freezes when it settles on the ice above the surface, and the ice layers build upon each other to form a cone shape. This is similar to how real volcanoes form, only instead of layers of water freezing into ice, it's molten lava hardening into rock.

There's no seismic activity going on when these ice volcanoes erupt: It's simply the lake's natural tide persisting in spite of freezing temperatures. But, like real volcanoes, they can be dangerous. The ice mounds are hollow and more fragile than the surrounding ice, so onlookers should appreciate them from afar. You can view the phenomenon from the safety of your home by watching the video below.

[h/t News 18]

These Eco-Friendly Bags Are Organic and Break Down in 18 Months or Less

A-Zero
A-Zero

If you’re looking to cut down on the amount of single-use plastics in your life, then reach for these fully compostable organic bags.

The A-Zero bags (which are available on Kickstarter here) may look a lot like their plastic counterparts, but they’re actually made from vegetable starch. According to the campaign, these totes are 100 percent organic, are harmless to nature, and can break down in a matter of 18 months—unlike plastic bags, which take hundreds of years. Each bag also features unique designs created by different artists from all over the world.

When it comes to sizes, you have a few different options. The smallest bag, ideal for snacks and sandwiches, is leak-proof and freezer-friendly, and can even be used in the microwave. A-Zero also makes leak-proof trash bags, grocery bags that can hold up to 18 pounds of food, and a refillable bag dispenser that can hold 20 or more grocery bags and can clip onto a backpack or purse.

You might be thinking that you already have a reusable tote at home, but unfortunately, these also have a detrimental effects on the environment. A 2011 British government study [PDF] estimated that with all the water and energy it takes to create a cotton bag, each one has a carbon footprint of 598.6 pounds of CO2, compared to a plastic bag’s 3.48 pounds.

With $22,522 raised, A-Zero bags already surpassed its original $8000 goal. But you can still help bring the project to life and get your own eco-friendly bags by heading here. Pledge tiers start at $29, and the campaign will be live until April 11.

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