Category Archives: Environmental Policy & Regulation

Environment Exposure to Microplastics and Affiliated Toxic Chemicals

A guest post by Mai Lei

The following post is one of a series previewing the research that will be presented at the SETAC North America 29th Annual Meeting in Sacramento, California (4–8 November 2018).

Can you imagine our beautiful planet becoming a “plastic planet”? In the BBC documentary film Blue Planet II, members of the producing team noted that plastic waste is ubiquitously floating in the sea, including fishing lines, plastic packages, and plastic bottles. Marine organisms can be trapped by plastic waste that is everywhere in the oceans, even in the deepest and most remote parts. So it is essential to carry out intensive studies of plastic waste. Large plastics can either be physically or chemically broken into fragments after having been in the water a long time, traveling long distances. Such fragments, coupled with ones that were released into seas as fine plastic particles (smaller than 5 mm), are collectively called microplastics.

Untitled

Surface water trawling for floating microplastic collection on the Pearl River estuary in China.  Inset pictures are pieces of microplastic (fragments, pellets, and lines) from the trawl.  Credit: Lei Mai.

Continue reading

Tax Havens Drive Environmental Degradation

7651081700_2e77d08283_m

Republished courtesy: Flickr user thetaxhaven

By Roberta Attanasio, IEAM Blog Editor

The expansive and opaque offshore system used for tax-dodging all around the world — and detailed in the leaked classified files known as the “Panama Papers” and “Paradise Papers” released in the past few years — is responsible for significant losses of tax revenues, currently estimated at around US$500 billion annually. This offshore system, which includes a variety of so-called tax havens and is used by wealthy individuals, companies, and financial institutions, causes serious concerns related to the global economy and has a tremendously negative effect on the global fight to end poverty.

Continue reading

Natural Toxins and Harmful Algal Blooms (HABs): Analysis, Toxicity, and Risks

The following post is one of a series previewing the research that will be presented at the SETAC Europe Annual Meeting in Rome, Italy (13-17 May 2018).

A guest post by Gemma Giménez Papiol

How do toxic natural compounds such as microalgae toxins or plant secondary metabolites affect water quality, ecosystem functioning, and human health?  For the majority of natural toxins—of which there are at least 25,000 different compounds—we do not know! Natural toxins include some of the worlds’ most toxic substances. Continue reading

Household Products Are Now a Major Source of Outdoor Air Pollution in Urban Areas

By Roberta Attanasio, IEAM Blog Editor

6789942482_dbd03d330a_o

Credit: Philip WilsonCC BY-ND 2.0

Air pollution is defined by the World Health Organization as the “the world’s largest single environmental health risk” and causes millions of premature deaths annually. Exposure to air pollution is associated with respiratory diseases (including asthma and changes in lung function), cardiovascular diseases, adverse pregnancy outcomes (such as preterm birth), and even death. In 2013, the World Health Organization concluded that outdoor air pollution is carcinogen to humans. In other words, air pollution is an invisible killer—may not always be visible, but it can be deadly. Continue reading

What to Expect in 2018: Horizon Scanning Identifies Risks and Opportunities Related to Global Biological Diversity

By Roberta Attanasio, IEAM Blog Editor

What are the emerging issues that will likely affect global diversity, ecosystem services, and conservation efforts in 2018? Results from the 9th annual horizon scan, conducted by 24 experts and described in a recently published study, identified early signs of the 15 top future challenges and trends related to themes that include new mechanisms driving the emergence and geographic expansion of diseases, innovative biotechnologies, reassessment of global change, and the development of strategic infrastructure to facilitate global economic priorities. Continue reading

Market-Based Environmental Policies: Providing Incentives That Minimize Costs

A guest post by Garth Heutel

Many advocates of environmental policy see the Trump administration’s view of the environment and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as a setback that dims the prospects for new and stronger environmental laws. Consequently, some state and local governments are picking up the slack. For example, California recently expanded its cap-and-trade program for greenhouse gases, and the mayor of Atlanta vowed to meet his city’s commitments to lower carbon dioxide emissions, despite the President’s decision to withdraw from the Paris climate accord. In this current complex landscape, economic theory can contribute valuable insight when designing climate and environmental policies at the federal, state, or local level. In particular, economic theory suggests that market-based environmental policies may provide clear advantages when compared to command-and-control policies. Let me explain why.

5381287934_8dfc2c6160_o

Illustration credit: Mike Licht, CC BY 2.0.

Continue reading

A Twist to the Great Story of Plastic-Eating Caterpillars

By Roberta Attanasio, IEAM Blog Editor

19051745004_4c6553e683_k

Wax worm (Galleria mellonella). Credit: USGS Bee Inventory and Monitoring Lab, public domain.

“Like diamonds, plastics are forever,” began a recent New York Times editorial. Or are they? No one knows exactly how long it takes for conventional plastics to completely degrade—it could be hundreds or thousands of years. In other words, a very long time. Even when broken down, plastics persist as tiny bits called microplastics.

6029340283_bd6fa7f913_b

Beach plastic, Otter Rock, Oregon, USA. Credit: Jason Karn, CC BY-ND 2.0.

The first global analysis of the production, use, and fate of all plastics ever made was published in July 2017. The study shows that by 2015, humans generated 8.3 billion metric tons of plastics. Of these, 6.3 billion tons had already become waste. Only 9% of the waste was recycled, 12% was incinerated, and 79% accumulated in landfills or the natural environment. These staggering numbers explain why it is necessary to find strategies to degrade accumulated plastics.

A 2017 study published in Current Biology raised considerable interest in those seeking to limit the impact of plastic pollution. Science journalists jumped on the wagon, and rightly so—the study results promised a possible solution to the accumulation of plastic bags. Worldwide, one trillion plastic bags are used each year, 380 billion of which are used in the United States alone. Most plastic bags are not recycled. Journalists were also captivated by the story leading to the study, which was widely reported in the news.

Continue reading