Clearya is a browser plug-in and a mobile app for iPhone and Android phones that works automatically while consumers are shopping online. When users browse products on Amazon, Sephora, and other online stores, the cosmetics’ ingredients are automatically analyzed. As a result, the user is then instantly notified of unsafe chemicals it detects, including PFAS. The goal is to make it easy for shoppers to choose products without chemicals of concern and make informed decisions.
Health Impact Assessments have been a tool mainly used by state and federal health agencies to review and avoid the adverse public health impacts of their plans and large-scale capital projects. Local land use officials are beginning to employ Health Impact Assessments (HIA) to review community design issues in formulating comprehensive plans and reviewing land use projects to prioritize public health.
Until now, there has been no method to attribute air pollution to individual companies that rely on and pay for trucks to move their goods. A new peer-reviewed framework enables the calculation of local health impacts from diesel trucks based on a company’s market share and public information about their industry sector.
Even though there have been no major wildfires in the region, East Coasters may have seen some concerning smoke-fueled air-quality warnings pop up on their weather apps this summer. The cause is cross-country plumes from Oregon’s massive Bootleg Fire, drifting all the way across the continent to New York, Philadelphia, and Toronto, 2,500 miles away.
A new study warns that that traveling smoke has detrimental health effects on Eastern populations—in fact, it found that there were more total smoke-induced asthma morbidities and mortalities in recent years in the East than in the West. The researchers say Easterners, and especially those with pre-existing conditions, should be aware of these health impacts and take steps to protect themselves, especially as wildfires are due to worsen in coming years.
New research shows that exposure to PFAS chemicals is linked with decreasing nutritional value of breast milk. “It’s nearly impossible for people to avoid these harmful chemicals. Therefore, we must show what effects they have and get such toxic chemicals banned,” says Tuulia Hyötyläinen, professor of chemistry at Örebro University.
EPA researchers are working to improve knowledge about the relationship between exercise and air pollution, which, until recently, has not been an active area of research. In 2010, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) held a workshop to review the state of the science and existing public health guidance on physical activity and outdoor air pollution exposure. The international experts attending the workshop recommended additional research to assist with future public health guidance.
Since then, the study of potential health effects of air pollution during exercise has gained in popularity, especially in the last five years, says Stephanie DeFlorio-Barker, an epidemiologist in EPA’s Office of Research and Development. DeFlorio-Barker and colleagues have conducted a systematic scientific review of the literature published between 2000-2020 on the short-term health effects from exposure to air pollution during outdoor exercise.
Walt Kelly, Illinois State Water Survey (ISWS) groundwater geochemist, answered questions about the findings of his recent study on radium levels in groundwater of the St. Peter Sandstone aquifer, with a study area in north-central Illinois. Radium levels are above the drinking water standard in many community water supply wells open to the aquifer.
What was the purpose of this study?
This study was part of a larger study undertaken to evaluate water supplies in the Middle Illinois Region. We were interested in what the water quality of the major aquifers was, and what the water chemistry could tell us about the evolution of groundwater in the deep aquifers.
Who was the report intended for?
The report was primarily for the scientific community, especially those interested in radioactivity in sandstone aquifers. But it was also intended for those communities and industries that use these aquifers, to help them understand and manage their water quality.
Why is it important to study radium in groundwater?
Drinking or cooking with water that contains too much radium can pose a hazard to human health. Drinking water is required to have no more than 5 picocuries per liter of radium. Being a radioactive element, it can also give us clues about what reactions are occurring within the aquifers and between them.
What are the environmental factors that affect the levels of radium in groundwater, particularly for north-central Illinois?
Radium is formed as uranium and thorium in the rock decay radioactively. There are many factors that can affect whether the radium remains in the water or is removed to solid phases, including the rock and water chemical characteristics.
What role do uranium and thorium play in the water levels of radium?
They are the “parents” of radium. They are formed as the uranium and thorium, which are found in the rocks, decay. The radium further decays, eventually forming non-radioactive lead. One form of radium also decays to radon, a carcinogenic gas. The more uranium and thorium in the rock, the more potential for radium and radon to be found in the groundwater.
What were the major results from the water sampling and analysis?
It’s been known for a long time that there are elevated radium levels in these aquifers. Our work has helped us understand the sources and transport of radium in this enormously complex hydrogeological and geochemical system. One thing we have been able to do is track the movement of Pleistocene meltwater into the aquifers and learn how they have mixed with brines and affected radium and uranium.
Where were the highest levels of radium in the study area and why?
The highest concentration we measured was 17.6 pCi/L. Earlier sampling north of our study region had many higher values, as high as 37 pCi/L. Differences in radium concentrations can be attributed to different amounts of the uranium and thorium and differences in solid and water chemistry that affect whether the radium remains in solution.
What are the implications of this study?
Communities using these aquifers will always have to deal with radium, because it is naturally occurring and is continually being produced. There may be several options, including various treatments or blending. One thing to remember in treatment is that the waste stream is radioactive, and its handling may be regulated by the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency.
What are the plans for future studies?
We have no concrete plans, but we are interested in looking more closely at rock cores to learn more about the association of uranium, thorium, and radium within the solid phase.
The report detailing the study, Hydrogeological and Geochemical Controls on Radium and Uranium in the St. Peter Sandstone Aquifer in the Middle Illinois Water Supply Planning Region, is available in the University of Illinois IDEALS depository. Co-authors include Samuel Panno, Keith Hackley, Daniel Hadley, and Devin Mannix.