Safety matters

Read the full editorial in Nature.

Two Q&As in this issue consider aspects of chemical safety in industry and academia. And when it comes to the latter, a Review Article concludes that much more research is required to better understand — and improve — safety in academic laboratories.

PFAS: More Questions Than Answers Right Now

Read the full story at Waste360.

In this month’s edition of Business Insights, we take an initial look at PFAS, including the current regulatory status, as well as early estimates on the future direction.

15 surprising biodiversity trends to watch for in 2020

Read the full story at Ensia.

What are the biggest emerging opportunities and threats the year ahead holds for efforts to conserve biodiversity? Nearly two dozen scientists, conservation professionals and future scanners recently came together to ask and answer that question as part of an annual “horizon scan” led by Cambridge University conservation biologist William Sutherland. The group narrowed a list of 89 issues to 15 emerging or anticipated trends that have a strong potential to benefit or harm living things but are not yet on the radar for most conservationists. Here are their top picks, published this week in the scientific journal Trends in Ecology & Evolution:

They built a Chinese boomtown. It left them dying of lung disease with nowhere to turn.

Read the full story in the Washington Post.

Ill and defeated, Xu Chunlin approached the railing, the limits of a search for justice.

Before him was a 30-foot plunge into Shenzhen’s rush-hour traffic. Behind him stood police he had just clashed with. On the overpass with him were about 80 other former construction workers mulling the same desperate calculus.

Leap now? Or wait to die when their lungs gave out?

The journey that led them to that bridge began in the early 1990s. The men were young and healthy then, wide-eyed migrant laborers from rural Hunan province. Shenzhen was a scruffy border boomtown to the south — not yet today’s cosmopolitan hub of 12 million — where they flocked for off-the-books jobs as drillers.

Many Hunanese worked for years, even decades, boring into the bedrock to build subway lines and the foundations of Shenzhen’s whole cityscape. But they didn’t know the inadequacy of the $1.50 cotton masks they were given, or the irreversible harm of inhaling silica dust that caked their faces once their drills bit into granite-streaked crust.

More than 100 former laborers from Hunan have died in the past decade from silicosis, an incurable condition caused by inhaled dust particles that scar and harden the lungs.

A Complete History of Collecting and Imitating Birdsong

Read the full story in the MIT Press Reader.

From field recordings to bird box automata and clocks, humans have been reproducing and utilizing bird sound for centuries.

Everyone’s Voice Matters: Making Science Open and Accessible to the Public

Read the full post from the National Institutes of Health.

Last month, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) released its Draft NIH Policy for Data Management and Sharing and Supplemental Draft Guidance (Draft NIH Policy), making it available for public comment. Comments are due by January 10, 2020. Because everyone’s voice matters, I’m calling on the Musings audience to review the draft and offer your perspectives on this policy now! 

ISO 14001, EMAS and environmental performance: A meta‐analysis

Artitzar Erauskin‐Tolosa, Eugenio Zubeltzu‐Jaka, Iñaki Heras‐Saizarbitoria, Olivier Boiral (2019). “ISO 14001, EMAS and environmental performance: A meta‐analysis.” Business Strategy and the Environment, online ahead of print.

Abstract: The adoption of voluntary environmental certifications such as ISO 14001 and Eco‐Management and Audit Scheme (EMAS) has gained momentum in the last two decades. The scholarly literature has analyzed in depth the performance implications of the adoption of these certificates. Yet the findings are scattered and inconclusive. This article aims to shed light on this issue by meta‐analyzing the influence of the adoption of voluntary environmental certifications on corporate environmental performance, drawing on a sample of 53 scholarly studies analyzing a total of 182,926 companies. The findings show a positive influence of ISO 14001 and EMAS certifications on corporate environmental performance. A set of underlying moderating effects are also identified, such as a more pronounced positive effect for adoptions based on environmental innovation and for firms with a more mature certification. Implications for scholars, managers, and other stakeholders are discussed.

In search of clean water: Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago conference discusses ag solutions to environmental issues

Read the full story in Successful Farming.

A slate of speakers attending the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago’s annual Agriculture Conference addressed the effects and impacts of agriculture on the environment on November 20. 

The knowledge and tools exist to fix environmental challenges to waterways, but represent a shift in current thinking. 

Can adoption of pollution prevention techniques reduce pollution substitution?

Lee S, Bi X (2019) Can adoption of pollution prevention techniques reduce pollution substitution? PLoS ONE 14(11): e0224868.

Abstract: Pollution prevention (P2) has become an integral part of the U.S. environmental policy that emphasizes the benefits of preventing pollution generation at the source over treatment or recycling after the generation of wastes. This study extends the existing literature on the effect of voluntary adoption of P2 in reducing toxic wastes by examining the extent to which it reduces pollution substitution. We use facility panel data from the Toxics Release Inventory from 1991 to 2011 to examine the effect of the adoption of P2 techniques on the ratios of water releases to air releases, amounts of treatment to total releases, and amounts of recycling to total releases while controlling for endogeneity of the adoption of P2 techniques and facility fixed effects. We find that the adoption of P2 techniques reduces toxic air and water releases equally, but it is associated with increases in treated and recycled wastes over total releases to the environment.

Why polar bears at sea have higher pollution levels than those staying on land

Read the full story from the American Chemical Society.

As the climate changes, myriad animal populations are being impacted. In particular, Arctic sea-ice is in decline, causing polar bears in the Barents Sea region to alter their feeding and hunting habits. Bears that follow sea-ice to offshore areas have higher pollutant levels than those staying on land — but why? A new study reports the likely reasons.