Wednesday, March 4, 2009

eco perils

Hey everyone! How about some really happy environmental news to start your day off, here at method lust! And by really happy, I mean that in an extremely sarcastic way. In fact, these two items are downright scary. (Well, ok, the hunting one, not so much. Moreso another case of a group of people that perhaps aren't aware of the damage they're doing to their own environmental surroundings. But the India story, oh. my. word.) So, hey, enjoy! And don't forget to call a friend after reading this first story. Trust me, you'll need a hug. Just so you'll be able to feel some hope. That this world will wake up and realize just WHAT a mess we're making of it. Ok? Ok! (And PS - the guy gets a little out there with his "vision of the future" BUT it really does make a lot of sense if you break it down, and think it over. It's just really so scary. Have I mentioned that, like, fifty times by now?)

"Hydro-Pharmacology | BLDG BLOG

Medical researchers have found that some of the streams, rivers, and groundwater in Patancheru, India, are really "a soup of 21 different active pharmaceutical ingredients, used in generics for treatment of hypertension, heart disease, chronic liver ailments, depression, gonorrhea, ulcers and other ailments. Half of the drugs measured at the highest levels of pharmaceuticals ever detected in the environment."

"If you just swallow a few gasps of water," a German doctor said to MSNBC, "you're treated for everything. The question is for how long?" Indeed, all of this has the unsurprising effect that "some of India's poor are unwittingly consuming an array of chemicals that may be harmful, and could lead to the proliferation of drug-resistant bacteria." For instance, amongst this mix are high levels of Ciproflaxin.

The more bacteria is exposed to a drug, the more likely that bacteria will mutate in a way that renders the drug ineffective. Such resistant bacteria can then possibly infect others who spread the bugs as they travel. Ciprofloxacin was once considered a powerful antibiotic of last resort, used to treat especially tenacious infections. But in recent years many bacteria have developed resistance to the drug, leaving it significantly less effective.

With sources of freshwater all over the world now showing at least trace signs of pharmaceutical pollution, is some kind of global superbug brewing?

Aside from the very real health implications of this story, though, I'm fascinated by these drugs' effect on the landscape; in other words, millions of pounds' worth of loose pharmaceuticals will surely someday form a detectable layer in the soil, given time.

Pharmaco-geological formations take shape in the sand, compacted into strange new types of stone. The locals dissolve slices of it in their tea, as it's used to treat illnesses.

Thousands of years pass; then millions. The rocks you're looking at in the wall of that canyon are made of lithified Prozac. Tylenol. A deltaic geography of sedimentary Tamiflu is eventually mined as a building material; temples of this unusually smooth rock are built; visits to them are believed to help prevent infection.

And how will this affect plants? If river grasses and trees begin to accumulate this novel class of mineral, taking pharmaceutical-rich waters up into their roots, will it change the way they grow? - Day of the Triffids.

"We don't have any other source, so we're drinking it," a local woman named R. Durgamma explains to MSNBC. In a particularly chilling detail that reveals how those in power clearly know what is happening there, she adds: "When the local leaders come, we offer them water and they won't take it."

...And then we have a great little story on hunting.

"Should hunters switch to 'green' bullets? | By John D. Sutter, CNN

Three years ago, Phillip Loughlin made a choice he knew would brand him as an outsider with many of his fellow hunters: He decided to shoot "green" bullets.

"It made sense," Loughlin said of his switch to more environmentally friendly ammo, which doesn't contain lead. "I believe that we need to do a little bit to take care of the rest of the habitat and the environment -- not just what we want to shoot out of it."

Lead, a toxic metal that can lower the IQs of children, is the essential element in most ammunition on the market today.

But greener alternatives are gaining visibility -- and stirring controversy -- as some hunters, scientists, environmentalists and public health officials worry about lead ammunition's threat to the environment and public health.

Hunting groups oppose limits on lead ammunition, saying there's no risk and alternatives are too expensive.

The scope of the trend is difficult to measure. Americans spent an estimated $1.08 billion on ammunition in fiscal year 2008, according to tax reports from the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau. But the bureau does not track ammunition sales by type.

Industry groups are tight-lipped about their sales figures. Manufacturers contacted by CNN declined to release specific numbers.

Barnes Bullets, which manufactures copper bullets because, the company says, they perform better than lead, is seeing increased interest in its non-lead products, said Jessica Brooks, the Utah company's spokeswoman.

Loughlin, of Union City, California, has noticed new manufacturers jumping into the green bullet game.

"They're definitely coming out. Winchester and Remington, all the big-name ammo makers are loading green ammunition now," he said.

Some firing ranges are banning lead for safety reasons. Lead bullets contaminate military training grounds across the country and are the subjects of many environmental cleanups.

California and other state governments have taken up lead bullets as a matter of policy. They worry that lead from the bullets contaminates ecosystems and could affect people.

Last year, California banned lead bullets in the chunk of the state that makes up the endangered California condor's habitat. The large birds are known to feed on scraps of meat left behind by hunters. Those scraps sometimes contain pieces of lead bullets, and lead poisoning is thought to be a contributor to condor deaths.

Arizona, another condor state, gives out coupons so hunters can buy green ammunition. Utah may soon follow suit.

In North Dakota, a hunter has raised concerns about lead's potential impact on humans.

Dr. William Cornatzer, a dermatologist and falconer, saw a presentation about the potential dangers of lead at a board meeting of the Peregrine Fund, a group devoted to conserving birds of prey. He decided to collect and test venison samples that were going to be donated to a local program for the hungry. About half of the 100 samples -- all shot by hunters -- tested positive for lead, he said. Food banks and shelters pulled the meat from their shelves after the report.

"When we did this, I about fell out of my shoes," he said. "The scary thing is these fragments are almost like dust in the meat. They're not like metal fragments you would feel when you bite down."

States in the area started investigating the issue after Cornatzer's findings.

Working with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the North Dakota Department of Health ran a test to find out the health effects of lead-shot game. The agency compared blood-lead levels of people who regularly eat meat shot with lead bullets with the levels of those who don't eat much wild game."

Head here to read the rest of the article.

Now, go hug a friend. Or two.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

Uhhh no one really uses or makes lead bullets...
That's like making a news story about how proudly Hanes no longer makes asbestos underware 40 years after it is found to cause cancer.

Feel good tripe.

Anonymous said...

If the article was about pencils or indoor plumbing, you would have a point. Try pressing your fingernail into a bullet -- it is lead. Look it up. 20 million metric tons of lead were spread out in the 20th century by bullets in the U.S. As an element, lead doesn't break down into less toxic substances over time. Cite one biologically useful or compatible compound that includes Pb in the chemical name.

Nathan Aaron said...

Well, I'm not gonna pretend to be knowledgable on this particular subject, BUT given that it's CNN, I'd think this line "Lead, a toxic metal that can lower the IQs of children, is the essential element in most ammunition on the market today." would go against your "no one makes lead bullets anymore" statement?

As for the SECOND anonymous poster (or is it the same one?) I'm not sure what you're trying to say. That it IS toxic, isn't toxic? The point of the article is it IS bad for the environment, which sounds like what you're trying to back up, but honestly, I'm not sure... maybe you could give more details into your thinking? Thanks!

Rebecca Rodgers said...

The lead bullet thing is part fact and part hype. Most hunters have enough sense to know how to dress their game-meaning removing the area where the bullet hit...so yeah...eating lead dust. I don't think so.

Banning lead from bullets does make sense. As anonymous poster #2 said-20 million metric tons of lead were spread out in the 20th century by bullets in the U.S. As an element, lead doesn't break down into less toxic substances over time.

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