NASA Satellite Finds Unreported Sources of Toxic Air Pollution

Read the full story from NASA.

Using a new satellite-based method, scientists at NASA, Environment and Climate Change Canada, and two universities have located 39 unreported and major human-made sources of toxic sulfur dioxide emissions.

A known health hazard and contributor to acid rain, sulfur dioxide (SO2) is one of six air pollutants regulated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Current, sulfur dioxide monitoring activities include the use of emission inventories that are derived from ground-based measurements and factors, such as fuel usage. The inventories are used to evaluate regulatory policies for air quality improvements and to anticipate future emission scenarios that may occur with economic and population growth.

But, to develop comprehensive and accurate inventories, industries, government agencies and scientists first must know the location of pollution sources.

“We now have an independent measurement of these emission sources that does not rely on what was known or thought known,” said Chris McLinden, an atmospheric scientist with Environment and Climate Change Canada in Toronto and lead author of the study published this week in Nature Geosciences. “When you look at a satellite picture of sulfur dioxide, you end up with it appearing as hotspots – bull’s-eyes, in effect — which makes the estimates of emissions easier.”

The 39 unreported emission sources, found in the analysis of satellite data from 2005 to 2014, are clusters of coal-burning power plants, smelters, oil and gas operations found notably in the Middle East, but also in Mexico and parts of Russia. In addition, reported emissions from known sources in these regions were — in some cases — two to three times lower than satellite-based estimates.

Bacterial research may lead to less polluted waters

Read the full story from Penn State University.

Phosphorus is a crucial nutrient regularly applied to crops such as corn and soybeans to help them grow efficiently. However, excess phosphorus can be carried by rainwater runoff into lakes and streams, creating potential problems for aquatic environments and the ecosystem services they provide to humans.

In trace amounts (less than 0.02 parts per million), phosphorus is actually good for water systems. It encourages the growth of algae and other florae, providing a healthy habitat for fish and other aquatic organisms. However, when too much phosphorus bleeds into waterways, an overgrowth of algae can occur, leading to depletions in dissolved oxygen that can kill aquatic life. Also, blooms of cyanobacteria can produce toxins that threaten public water supplies.

“Historical applications of manure and fertilizer have built up phosphorus levels in many of our agricultural soils – often times above and beyond what’s needed by crops – which then renders the excess phosphorus susceptible to loss when microbial processes and other hydrological and biogeochemical factors come into play,” said Anthony Buda, a research hydrologist at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Agricultural Research Service.

To combat this problem, researchers at Penn State, in collaboration with Cornell, Central Michigan University and the USDA, are trying to better understand how several kinds of interactions affect phosphorus mobility in agricultural soils and streams. These findings can then be used to develop methods to better control phosphorus losses in agricultural environments.

Vibrant US marine reserve now a coral graveyard

Read the full story from the Associated Press.

Scientists found most of the coral is dead in what had been one of the world’s most lush and isolated tropical marine reserve.

Flint water woes reach beyond lead in drinking supply

Read the full story in the Detroit Free Press.

Water bills for Flint residents are projected to double over the next five years if the system not upgraded and certain costs remain fixed.

Quantifying Exposure to Engineered Nanomaterials (QEEN) from Manufactured Products – Addressing Environmental, Health, and Safety Implications

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This report is the result of a technical workshop sponsored by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and co-hosted by the National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI) on July 7 and 8, 2015, in Arlington, VA. The main goals for the workshop were to (1) assess progress in developing tools and methods for quantifying exposure to engineered nanomaterials (ENMs) across the product life cycle, and (2) to identify new research needed to advance nanotechnology environmental, health, and safety exposure assessment for nanotechnology-enabled products. The workshop included an overview of the field by exposure science experts as well as technical sessions highlighting current research on quantifying exposure at different stages of the product life cycle and in different product media and environments. It also included a poster session and several roundtable discussions organized to help participants better understand the challenges and accomplishments thus far in exposure science.

This report summarizes the presentations and discussions of over 200 participants from the exposure science community regarding progress during the last decade in quantifying ENM exposures. Current gaps in characterization tools and techniques are identified and discussed, along with exposure assessment methodologies, and simulation and modeling tools. Finally, the report suggests a path forward that will help bridge exposure science with toxicology and ultimately benefit data-based risk assessment and risk-based decision making for nanotechnology-enabled products.

New Orleans flood control efforts reflect strategic sea change

Read the full story from the Times-Picayune.

In a metamorphosis, New Orleans — once overwhelmed by failed levees and Hurricane Katrina’s floodwaters — is moving to become a national model of how an urban center can embrace green tactics to tame water.

India’s dying mother

Read the full story at BBC News.

The Ganges is one of the greatest rivers on Earth, but it is dying.

From the icy Himalayan peaks, where it begins, right down to the Bay of Bengal, it is being slowly poisoned.

The Ganges is revered in India but it is also the sewer that carries away the waste from the 450 million people who live in its catchment area.

Pollution from the factories and farms of the fastest-growing large economy in the world – and from the riverside cremation of Hindu true believers – has turned its waters toxic.

The Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, promised two years ago to clean up the Ganges, but can he do it?

Can the sacred mother of Hinduism be saved?

NBC Learn

NBC Learn, the educational arm of NBC News, is dedicated to making NBC News archival stories, images and primary source documents available on-demand to teachers, students, and parents. Sustainability related collections include:

Earth & Environment Classroom Resources

This collection of lessons and web resources is aimed at classroom teachers, their students, and students’ families. Most of these resources come from the National Science Digital Library (NSDL), the National Science Foundation’s online library of resources for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics education. See

Workshop: Pollution Prevention and Lean Principles for Food Manufacturers

July 27, 2016, 8 am-5 pm
77 West Jackson Blvd., Chicago, IL
Ralph H. Metcalfe Federal Building Lake Huron Room
Cost: $125
Register at

This course will provide you with the opportunity to improve the efficiency of your organization through the elimination of pollutants and the application of lean principles within an environmental management system. There will be an overview of principles of lean operations so you are equipped to improve the bottom line, reduce your regulatory burdens, and increase the overall efficiency of your organization. Last year, facilities who implemented lessons in this workshop saved over $400,000 by reducing disposal costs, eliminating air emissions, conserving water and increasing energy efficiency. Although the workshop is targeted at food manufacturers, attendees from other industrial sectors are welcome.

The workshop is hosted by the Great Lakes Regional Pollution Prevention Roundtable. Thomas Vinson from the Zero Waste Network will be conducting the training. The agenda will include a speaker from U.S. EPA Region 5.