Category Archives: Health & Ecological Risk Assessment

California Oil Spills: Impacts on Habitat and Wildlife

A guest post by Ashley McConnell

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).

The Gaviota Coast in southern California is a precious resource to people and wildlife; a scenic stretch of coastline home to a wealth of biota, sand beaches, intact habitats, and natural drainages that allow the undisturbed flow of water between land and ocean. On 19 May 2015, eyes around the world turned to this stunning stretch of coastline, as newspapers and television screens flashed images of crude oil seeping into the waters of the Santa Barbara Channel. 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

Micro and Nanoplastics in the Environment: Risk for the Environment and Human Health

A guest post by Francisca Fernandez-Piñas, Miguel Gonzalez-Pleiter, and Roberto Rosal

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).

The use of plastic materials has been increasing since the mid-20th century to reach current production volumes of more than 300 million metric tons per year. The global flow of plastic materials is still linear, which means it is not “circular,” or a closed loop that results in sustainable re-use. From manufacturing to landfilling, more than 30% of plastic materials end up leaking into the environment in an uncontrolled manner. This is particularly evident in the aquatic environment where plastic debris has been detected in increasing amounts since the 1970s. 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

Increased Rainfall Resulting from Climate Change Could Exacerbate Toxic Algal Blooms

By Roberta Attanasio, IEAM Blog Editor

One of the main previsions of climate science is an increase in precipitation and extreme rainfall events, which may easily cause flooding and challenge water management.  The phenomenon finds its basis in the magnified evaporation caused by warming, resulting in the swelling of water vapor in the atmosphere. In this situation, when it rains, it rains a lot, as there is more vapor available to come down as rainwater. Rainwater may fall not only in large amounts but also in short, localized bursts, too quickly for the ground to absorb it. Sadly, these climate science forecasts are coming true. Although the relationship between global warming and increased precipitation is complex, there are no doubts about the marked increase in intense rainfall events, resulting in severe flooding throughout the United States and globally.

South Carolina National Guard aids Southeast Texas after Hurricane Harvey

Flooding in Port Arthur, Texas, USA, after Hurricane Harvey (photo taken 31 Aug 2017). Credit: SC National Guard, public domain.

Continue reading

Pesticides and Pollinators: New Research on the Impacts of Farming Activities on Bee Populations

A guest post by Erica K. Brockmeier

The following post is one of a series generated from research presented at the SETAC Europe Annual Meeting in Brussels, Belgium (7-11 May 2017). Each post features the latest research findings from SETAC scientists on emerging topics of interest.

Are pesticides hurting pollinators?

The widespread loss of honeybee populations in Europe and the reduced numbers of wild bees in other countries sparked concern among scientists, policymakers, and farmers all across the world. Recent research conducted on historical field data found a potential connection between the use of certain insecticides and changes in wild bee populations. This was especially true for species that are known to visit flowering crops like oil seed rape.

4568630259_6a544f41fa_b cropped

Bumblebee (Bombus sp.) on oil seed rape, England (cropped from original). Credit: Dean Morley, CC BY-ND 2.0.

Continue reading