March 5, 2019 0
Banned in Europe, Safe in the U.S.
“Who determines whether chemicals are safe — and why do different governments come up with such different answers?
June 9, 2014 — In the United States, children can drink fruit juice beverages made with Red Dye No. 40 and eat macaroni and cheese colored with Yellow Dye No. 5 and No. 6. Yet in the U.K., these artificial colorings have been taken off the market due to health concerns, while in the rest of Europe, products that contain them must carry labels warning of the dyes’ potential adverse effect on children’s attention and behavior.
Atrazine, which the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says is estimated to be the most heavily used herbicide in the U.S., was banned in Europe in 2003 due to concerns about its ubiquity as a water pollutant. Also widely used by U.S. farmers are several neonicotinoid pesticides that the European Commission says pose “high acute risks” to bees and has placed under a two-year moratorium. These pesticides — with which about 90 percent of the corn planted in the U.S. is treated — have been identified in numerous scientific studies as toxic to bees and are considered likely contributors to the alarming global decline of these essential pollinators.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration places no restrictions on the use of formaldehyde or formaldehyde-releasing ingredients in cosmetics or personal care products. Yet formaldehyde-releasing agents are banned from these products in Japan and Sweden while their levels — and that of formaldehyde — are limited elsewhere in Europe. In the U.S., Minnesota has banned in-state sales of children’s personal care products that contain the chemical.
Use of lead-based interior paints was banned in France, Belgium and Austria in 1909. Much of Europe followed suit before 1940. It took the U.S. until 1978 to make this move, even though health experts had, for decades, recognized the potentially acute — even deadly — and irreversible hazards of lead exposure.
These are but a few examples of chemical products allowed to be used in the U.S. in ways other countries have decided present unacceptable risks of harm to the environment or human health. How did this happen? Are American products less safe than others? Are Americans more at risk of exposure to hazardous chemicals than, say, Europeans?“The policy approach in the U.S. and Europe is dramatically different.” — Stacy Malkan
Not surprisingly, the answers are complex and the bottom line, far from clear-cut. One thing that is evident, however, is that “the policy approach in the U.S. and Europe is dramatically different,” says Stacy Malkan, co-founder of the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics.
An Ounce of Precaution
A key element of the European Union’s chemicals management and environmental protection policies — and one that clearly distinguishes the EU’s approach from that of the U.S. federal government — is what’s called the precautionary principle.
This principle, in the words of the European Commission, “aims at ensuring a higher level of environmental protection through preventative” decision-making. In other words, it says that when there is substantial, credible evidence of danger to human or environmental health, protective action should be taken despite continuing scientific uncertainty.
In contrast, the U.S. federal government’s approach to chemicals management sets a very high bar for the proof of harm that must be demonstrated before regulatory action is taken.
This is true of the U.S. Toxic Substances Control Act, the federal law that regulates chemicals used commercially in the U.S. The European law regulating chemicals in commerce, known as REACH (Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals), requires manufacturers to submit a full set of toxicity data to the European Chemical Agency before a chemical can be approved for use. U.S. federal law requires such information to be submitted for new chemicals, but leaves a huge gap in terms of what’s known about the environmental and health effects for chemicals already in use. Chemicals used in cosmetics or as food additives or pesticides are covered by other U.S. laws — but these laws, too, have high burdens for proof of harm and, like TSCA, do not incorporate a precautionary approach.
Same Study, Different Conclusions
What does this mean in practice? In the case of Red Dye No. 40, Yellow Dye No. 5 and Yellow Dye No. 6, it means that after considering the same evidence — a 2007 double-blind study by U.K. researchers that found that eating artificially colored food appeared to increase children’s hyperactivity — European and U.S. authorities reached different conclusions. In the U.K., the study persuaded authorities to bar use of these dyes as food additives. The EU chose to require warning labels on products that contain them — greatly reducing their use, according to Lisa Lefferts, senior scientist with the nonprofit Center for Science in the Public Interest in Washington, D.C. In the U.S., the study prompted the CSPI to petition the Food and Drug Administration for a ban on a number of food colorings. But in its review of these dyes, presented in 2011, the FDA found the study inconclusive because it looked at effects of a mixture of additives rather than individual colorings — and so these colors remain in use.
While FDA approval is required for food additives, the agency relies on studies performed by the companies seeking approval of chemicals they manufacture or want to use in making determinations about food additive safety, Natural Resources Defense Council senior scientist Maricel Maffini and NRDC senior attorney Tom Neltner note in their April 2014 report, Generally Recognized as Secret. “No other developed country that we know of has a similar system in which companies can decide the safety of chemicals put directly into food,” says Maffini. The standing law that covers these substances — the 1958 Food Additives Amendment to the 1938 Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act — “makes requiring testing [of chemicals] more cumbersome than under TSCA,” says Neltner.
The two point to a number of food additives allowed in the U.S. that other countries have deemed unsafe. Reliance on voluntary measures is a hallmark of the U.S. approach to chemical regulation.Among these are “dough conditioners,” additives to enhance flour’s strength or elasticity. The International Agency for Research on Cancer considers one such chemical, potassium bromate, a possible carcinogen. This has led the EU, Canada, China, Brazil and other countries to ban its use. Although the FDA limits the amount of these compounds that can be added to flour and has urged bakers to voluntarily discontinue their use, it has not banned them. Earlier this year, the sandwich chain Subway made headlines by announcing it would discontinue using the dough conditioner azodicarbonamide, which is approved by the FDA but whose breakdown products have raised health concerns.
Do-It-Yourself Decision Making
Reliance on voluntary measures is a hallmark of the U.S. approach to chemical regulation. In many cases, when it comes to eliminating toxic chemicals from U.S. consumer products, manufacturers’ and retailers’ own policies — often driven by consumer demand or by regulations outside the U.S. or at the state and local level — are moving faster than U.S. federal policy. On June 3, the California-based health-care company Kaiser Permanente announced that all its new furniture purchases — worth $30 million annually — would be free of chemical flame retardants. The same day, Panera Bread announced that the food served in its 1,800 bakery-cafés would be free of artificial additives by the end of 2016. Any number of large manufacturing companies and retailers — Nike, Walmart, Target, Walgreens, Apple and HP to name but a few — have policies barring chemicals from their products that U.S. federal law does not restrict.
This is also true of a number of cosmetic ingredients — for example, chemicals used in nail polish. After the EU banned a plasticizer called dibutyl phthalate from nail polish due to concerns over potential endocrine-disrupting and other adverse health effects in 2004, many global brands changed their ingredients. So while the FDA has not issued a regulation on its use, DBP is now found in fewer nail cosmetics sold in the U.S. In fact, the FDA actually bars only a specific handful of ingredients from cosmetics due to their toxicity.
Industry performs copious testing, but current law does not require that cosmetic ingredients be free of certain adverse health effects before they go on the market.
“Cosmetics regulations are more robust in the EU than here,” says Environmental Defense Fund health program director Sarah Vogel. U.S. regulators largely rely on industry information, she says. Industry performs copious testing, but current law does not require that cosmetic ingredients be free of certain adverse health effects before they go on the market. (FDA regulations, for example, do not specifically prohibit the use of carcinogens, mutagens or endocrine-disrupting chemicals.) So, even though the personal care products and cosmetics products industry has extensive voluntary ingredient safety guidelines — and obvious incentives to meet them — they are not legal requirements.
Warnings, Advisories and Voluntary Phase-outs
Also worth noting is that U.S. laws regulating chemical use in food and cosmetics were first developed to protect American consumers from being sold “adulterated,” mislabeled or otherwise dishonestly marketed products — rather than with an eye on toxicity (though the two goals often coincide). The law continues to work along those lines. For example, when certain hairstyling products were found to contain formaldehyde or formaldehyde-releasing agents at levels causing health problems for salon workers, the FDA issued a warning saying that the products should be labeled (either on the product container or company website) with an appropriate caveat about the products’ potential health hazards. As a result, despite ample scientific evidence about adverse respiratory health effects of formaldehyde exposure and that formaldehyde is a skin irritant and potential occupational carcinogen, these hairstyling products continue to be sold in the U.S.
The process for restricting chemical use under TSCA can also take years; in fact, only a handful of chemicals have ever been barred under TSCA.For the FDA to restrict a product or chemical ingredient from cosmetics or personal care products involves a typically long and drawn-out process. What it does more often is to issue advisories — as it has recently for the antibacterial ingredient triclosan, which is used in many soaps. In the meantime, based on growing scientific evidence of problematic health and environmental impacts — and indications that triclosan may not make hand-washing more effective — a number of manufacturers, among them Johnson & Johnson and Procter & Gamble, decided to eliminate the ingredient from their products. This spring, Minnesota became the first state to legally restrict its use.
The process for restricting chemical use under TSCA can also take years; in fact, only a handful of chemicals have ever been barred under TSCA. Instead, the Environmental Protection Agency, which administers TSCA, often works with companies on voluntary phase-out programs — which also take years to complete — as it has with the flame retardants known as polybrominated diphenyl ethers or PBDEs.
Meanwhile, U.S. companies manufacturing products that range from electronics to office products, sports gear, automobile parts and trendy clothing have been following the emerging science — along with international regulations, local policy and consumer demand — and developing policies and products that eliminate use of chemicals with well-documented hazards. While these voluntary efforts are resulting in products that contain fewer chemicals of concern, they do have limitations. One is transparency: Companies don’t always fully disclose such policy details. Another is that such policies don’t cover all products on the market, leaving many consumers — often those buying at lower prices — without comparable protection.
“It’s something in our psyche,” says John Warner, president of the Warner Babcock Institute for Green Chemistry, of the American predilection for deferring to marketplace rather than government solutions.
Options and Solutions
Consumer demand and concern, often from mothers worried about the implications of certain chemicals for children’s health, has effectively pushed certain products — such as baby bottles made with bisphenol A — off the market. Such action is harder to effect with pesticides, but public outcry has been instrumental in moving the U.S. away from use of DDT and other such chemicals. Currently, public awareness of neonicotinoids’ adverse effects on bees has been raised dramatically by pollinator health advocacy campaigns. Actually shifting the agricultural market away from these products is a more difficult proposition. While the EU has promulgated policy using the precautionary principle and called a temporary halt to some of these pesticides’ use, the EPA is slowly continuing its review of these products — while at the same time approving new pesticides also toxic to bees.
When it comes to determining chemical safety of a consumer product, Warner sees fundamental flaws in the current approach.What such an approach does not include is any guarantee of safer alternatives. Neither TSCA nor FDA regulations include such provisions. Many recently passed U.S. state chemical regulations, including California’s Safer Consumer Products program, have been written to address this concern, with language specifying that replacements for restricted chemicals be without adverse environmental health effects. That U.S. federal policies do not require as much pre-market information about chemical used in consumer products as does the EU system, adds to the difficulty of choosing safer alternatives.
When it comes to determining chemical safety of a consumer product, Warner sees fundamental flaws in the current approach. Restriction of hazardous chemicals in the U.S., EU and elsewhere — and in most corporate policies — is based on lists of chemicals of concern. By focusing on these lists, explains Warner, we fail to consider those chemicals not listed, a process that leads to what’s often referred to as regrettable substitutions. Instead, Warner advocates testing whole finished products and scoring them for health effects. Does a product exhibit carcinogenicity? Is it a neurotoxicant? Does it produce birth defects or adverse hormonal effects? Answering these questions would yield safer products more efficiently and effectively than our current system, says Warner, and would yield data that could be used objectively.
The global marketplace is playing a big role in turning one jurisdiction’s more stringent standards into industry standards because it’s often too costly to make different versions of the same product for different markets.Screening methods that incorporate a comparable approach to rating chemicals’ toxicity by health endpoint, such as the non-governmental organization Clean Production Action’s GreenScreen, are now being used by many companies to assess individual chemicals. Warner argues that looking at whole finished products through this lens would help flag problematic chemicals not previously singled out for scrutiny, whether they are long-used existing compounds or brand new materials such as those he and other green chemists are now formulating.
So what’s the bottom line? Again, it’s complicated. When it comes to manufactured products such as computers and cosmetics, the global marketplace is playing a big role in turning one jurisdiction’s more stringent standards into industry standards because it’s often too costly to make different versions of the same product for different markets. Similarly, individual U.S. state policies restricting chemicals not regulated comparably at the federal level have motivated companies to respond with new formulations that end up being sold nationwide. At the same time, built into the U.S. chemical regulatory system is a large deference to industry. Central to current U.S. policy are cost-benefit analyses with very high bars for proof of harm rather than a proof of safety for entry onto the market. Voluntary measures have moved many unsafe chemical products off store shelves and out of use, but our requirements for proof of harm and the American historical political aversion to precaution mean we often wait far longer than other countries to act.
Shifting policy, particularly in a way such as Warner advocates, is perhaps an even slower proposition. But as Stacy Malkan points out, consumer demand for safe products isn’t going away any time soon.”Leave a reply
February 18, 2019 0
“New Lancet report demonstrates why diet and food production must radically change to improve health and avoid potentially catastrophic damage to the planet
With more than 3 billion people malnourished and food production driving climate change, biodiversity loss and pollution, a transformation of the global food system is urgently needed.
Findings from the EAT-Lancet Commission on Healthy Diets From Sustainable Food Systems provides the first scientific targets for a healthy diet from a sustainable food production system that operates within planetary boundaries for food. The report promotes diets consisting of a variety of plant-based foods, with low amounts of animal-based foods, refined grains, highly processed foods, and added sugars, and with unsaturated rather than saturated fats.
The work behind the report is the result of a collaboration between 37 experts from 16 countries with expertise in health, nutrition, environmental sustainability, food systems, economics and political governance. Stockholm Resilience Centre was the scientific coordinator of the report.
Getting it seriously wrong
Human diets inextricably link health and environmental sustainability, and have the potential to nurture both. However, current diets are pushing the Earth beyond its planetary boundaries, while causing ill health. This puts both people and the planet at risk. Providing healthy diets from sustainable food systems is an immediate challenge as the population continues to grow – projected to reach 10 billion people by 2050 – and get wealthier (with the expectation of higher consumption of animal-based foods).
To meet this challenge, dietary changes must be combined with improved food production and reduced food waste. The authors stress that unprecedented global collaboration and commitment will be needed, alongside immediate changes such as refocussing agriculture to produce varied nutrient-rich crops, and increased governance of land and ocean use.
The food we eat and how we produce it determines the health of people and the planet, and we are currently getting this seriously wrong
Tim Lang, commission co-author, City, University of London, UK
Scientific targets for a healthy diet
Despite increased food production contributing to improved life expectancy and reductions in hunger, infant and child mortality rates, and global poverty over the past 50 years, these benefits are now being offset by global shifts towards unhealthy diets high in calories, sugar, refined starches and animal-based foods and low in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds, and fish.
The authors argue that the lack of scientific targets for a healthy diet have hindered efforts to transform the food system. Based on the best available evidence, the commission proposes a dietary pattern that meets nutritional requirements, promotes health, and allows the world to stay within planetary boundaries.
Compared with current diets, global adoption of the new recommendations by 2050 will require global consumption of foods such as red meat and sugar to decrease by more than 50%, while consumption of nuts, fruits, vegetables, and legumes must increase more than two-fold. Global targets will need to be applied locally – for example, countries in North America eat almost 6.5 times the recommended amount of red meat, while countries in South Asia eat only half the recommended amount. All countries are eating more starchy vegetables (potatoes and cassava) than recommended with intakes ranging from between 1.5 times above the recommendation in South Asia and by 7.5 times in sub-Saharan Africa.
“To be healthy, diets must have an appropriate calorie intake and consist of a variety of plant-based foods, low amounts of animal-based foods, unsaturated rather than saturated fats, and few refined grains, highly processed foods, and added sugars. The food group intake ranges that we suggest allow flexibility to accommodate various food types, agricultural systems, cultural traditions, and individual dietary preferences – including numerous omnivore, vegetarian, and vegan diets,” says co-lead commissioner Walter Willett from Harvard University.
The authors estimate that widespread adoption of such a diet would improve intakes of most nutrients. They also modelled the potential effects of global adoption of the diet on deaths from diet-related diseases. Three models each showed major health benefits, suggesting that adopting the new diet globally could avert between 10.9-11.6 million premature deaths per year – reducing adult deaths by between 19-23.6%.
Since the mid-1950s, the pace and scale of environmental change has grown exponentially. Food production is the largest source of environmental degradation. To be sustainable, food production must occur within food-related planetary boundaries for climate change, biodiversity loss, land and water use, as well as for nitrogen and phosphorus cycles. However, production must also be sustainably intensified to meet the global population’s growing food demands.
”The shift towards sustainable food production will require decarbonising agricultural production by eliminating the use of fossil fuels and turn land use into a net carbon sink. In addition, we need to safeguard existing biodiversity, have no net expansion of cropland, and develop drastic improvements in fertiliser and water use efficiencies,” says commission co-author Line Gordon, director of the Stockholm Resilience Centre.
The authors estimate the minimum, unavoidable emissions of greenhouse gases if we are to provide healthy food for 10 billion people by 2050. They conclude that non-CO2 greenhouse gas emissions of methane and nitrous oxide will remain between 4.7-5.4 gigatonnes in 2050, with current emissions already at an estimated 5.2 gigatonnes in 2010. This suggests that the decarbonisation of the world energy system must progress faster than anticipated, to accommodate the need to healthily feed humans without further damaging the planet.
Phosphorus use must also be reduced (from 17.9 to between 6-16 teragrams), as must biodiversity loss (from 100 to between 1-80 extinctions per million species each year).
Based on their estimates, current levels of nitrogen, land and water use may be within the projected 2050 boundary (from 131.8 teragrams in 2010 to between 65-140 in 2050, from 12.6 M km2 in 2010 vs 11-15 M km2 in 2050, and from 1.8 M km3 in 2010 vs 1-4 M km3, respectively) but will require continued efforts to sustain this level. The boundary estimates are subject to uncertainty, and will require continuous update and refinement.
Using these boundary targets, the authors modelled various scenarios to develop a sustainable food system and deliver healthy diets by 2050. To stay within planetary boundaries, a combination of major dietary change, improved food production through enhanced agriculture and technology changes, and reduced food waste during production and at the point of consumption will be needed, and no single measure is enough to stay within all of the limits.
There is no silver bullet for combatting harmful food production practices, but by defining and quantifying a safe operating space for food systems, diets can be identified that will nurture human health and support environmental sustainability
Johan Rockström, co-lead commissioner, Stockholm Resilience Centre and the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research
Five strategies for change
The commission proposes five strategies to adjust what people eat and how it is produced:
1. Encourage people to choose healthier diets by improving availability and accessibility to healthy food. As this may increase costs to consumers, social protection for vulnerable groups may be required to avoid continued poor nutrition in low-income groups
2. Refocus agriculture from producing high volumes of crops to producing varied nutrient-rich ones. Global agriculture policies should incentivise producers to grow nutritious, plant-based foods, develop programmes that support diverse production systems, and increase research funding for ways to increase nutrition and sustainability
3. Sustainably intensify agriculture while taking into account local conditions to help apply appropriate agricultural practices and generate sustainable, high quality crops
4. Preserve natural ecosystems and ensure continued food supplies. This could be achieved through protecting intact natural areas on land (potentially through incentives), prohibiting land clearing, restoring degraded land, removing harmful fishing subsidies, and closing at least 10% of marine areas to fishing (including the high seas to create fish banks). “In fact, improved capture fisheries governance and reduced aquaculture footprints will be key in determining whether we succeed in maintaining seafood as a component of a healthy diet in the future”, says Beatrice Crona, report co-author, centre researcher and executive director of the GEDB programme at the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences.
5. Half food waste. The majority of food waste occurs in low- and middle-income countries during food production due to poor harvest planning, lack of access to markets preventing produce from being sold, and lack of infrastructure to store and process foods. Improved investment in technology and education for farmers is needed. But food waste is also an issue in high-income countries, where it is primarily caused by consumers. This can be resolved through campaigns to improve shopping habits, help understand ‘best before’ and ‘use by’ dates, and improve food storage, preparation, portion sizes and use of leftovers.
Richard Horton, editor-in-chief at The Lancet, concludes:
“The transformation that the commission calls for is not superficial or simple, and requires a focus on complex systems, incentives, and regulations, with communities and governments at multiple levels having a part to play in redefining how we eat. Our connection with nature holds the answer, and if we can eat in a way that works for our planet as well as our bodies, the natural balance of the planet’s resources will be restored.””
This informative article was found at: stockholmresilience.org/research/research-news/2019-01-17-the-planetary-health-diet.htmlLeave a reply
February 6, 2019 0
Green catalysts with Earth-abundant metals accelerate production of bio-based plastic
How crystalline structure can affect the performance of MnO2 catalysts
Date:January 7, 2019
Tokyo Institute of Technology
Scientists have developed and analyzed a novel catalyst for the oxidation of 5-hydroxymethyl furfural, which is crucial for generating new raw materials that replace the classic non-renewable ones used for making many plastics.
Scientists at Tokyo Institute of Technology (Tokyo Tech) have developed and analyzed a novel catalyst for the oxidation of 5-hydroxymethyl furfural, which is crucial for generating new raw materials that replace the classic non-renewable ones used for making many plastics.
It should be no surprise to most readers that finding an alternative to non-renewable natural resources is a key topic in current research. Some of the raw materials required for manufacturing many of today’s plastics involve non-renewable fossil resources, coal, and natural gas, and a lot of effort has been devoted to finding sustainable alternatives. 2,5-Furandicarboxylic acid (FDCA) is an attractive raw material that can be used to create polyethylene furanoate, which is a bio-polyester with many applications.
One way of making FDCA is through the oxidation of 5-hydroxymethyl furfural (HMF), a compound that can be synthesized from cellulose. However, the necessary oxidation reactions require the presence of a catalyst, which helps in the intermediate steps of the reaction so that the final product can be achieved.
Many of the catalysts studied for use in the oxidation of HMF involve precious metals; this is clearly a drawback because these metals are not widely available. Other researchers have found out that manganese oxides combined with certain metals (such as iron and copper) can be used as catalysts. Although this is a step in the right direction, an even greater finding has been reported by a team of scientists from Tokyo Tech: manganese dioxide (MnO2) can be used by itself as an effective catalyst if the crystals made with it have the appropriate structure.
The team, which includes Associate Professor Keigo Kamata and Professor Michikazu Hara, worked to determine which MnO2 crystal structure would have the best catalytic activity for making FDCA and why. They inferred through computational analyses and the available theory that the structure of the crystals was crucial because of the steps involved in the oxidation of HMF. First, MnO2 transfers a certain amount of oxygen atoms to the substrate (HMF or other by-products) and becomes MnO2-δ. Then, because the reaction is carried out under an oxygen atmosphere, MnO2-δ quickly oxidizes and becomes MnO2 again. The energy required for this process is related to the energy required for the formation of oxygen vacancies, which varies greatly with the crystal structure. In fact, the team calculated that active oxygen sites had a lower (and thus better) vacancy formation energy.
To verify this, they synthesized various types of MnO2 crystals and then compared their performance through numerous analyses. Of these crystals, β-MnO2 was the most promising because of its active planar oxygen sites. Not only was its vacancy formation energy lower than that of other structures, but the material itself was proven to be very stable even after being used for oxidation reactions on HMF.
The team did not stop there, though, as they proposed a new synthesis method to yield highly pure β-MnO2 with a large surface area in order to improve the FDCA yield and accelerate the oxidation process even further. “The synthesis of high-surface-area β-MnO2 is a promising strategy for the highly efficient oxidation of HMF with MnO2 catalysts,” states Kamata.
With the methodological approach taken by the team, the future development of MnO2 catalysts has been kick-started. “Further functionalization of β-MnO2 will open up a new avenue for the development of highly efficient catalysts for the oxidation of various biomass-derived compounds,” concludes Hara. Researches such as this one ensure that renewable raw materials will be available to humankind to avoid all types of shortage crises.
Materials provided by Tokyo Institute of Technology. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.
Eri Hayashi, Yui Yamaguchi, Keigo Kamata, Naoki Tsunoda, Yu Kumagai, Fumiyasu Oba, Michikazu Hara. Effect of MnO2 Crystal Structure on Aerobic Oxidation of 5-Hydroxymethylfurfural to 2,5-Furandicarboxylic Acid. Journal of the American Chemical Society, 2019; DOI: 10.1021/jacs.8b09917
Tokyo Institute of Technology. “Green catalysts with Earth-abundant metals accelerate production of bio-based plastic: How crystalline structure can affect the performance of MnO2 catalysts.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 7 January 2019.
January 22, 2019 0
According to FAO estimates, by 2025 nearly 2 billion people may not have enough drinking water to satisfy their daily needs. One of the possible solutions to this problem is desalination, namely treating seawater to make it drinkable. However, removing salt from seawater requires 10 to 1000 times more energy than traditional methods of freshwater supply, namely pumping water from rivers or wells.
Motivated by this problem, a team of engineers from the Department of Energy of Politecnico di Torino has devised a new prototype to desalinate seawater in a sustainable and low-cost way, using solar energy more efficiently. Compared to previous solutions, the developed technology is in fact able to double the amount of water produced at given solar energy, and it may be subject to further efficiency improvement in the near future. The group of young researchers who recently published these results in the journal Nature Sustainability is composed of Eliodoro Chiavazzo, Matteo Morciano, Francesca Viglino, Matteo Fasano and Pietro Asinari (Multi-Scale Modeling Lab).
The working principle of the proposed technology is very simple: “Inspired by plants, which transport water from roots to leaves by capillarity and transpiration, our floating device is able to collect seawater using a low-cost porous material, thus avoiding the use of expensive and cumbersome pumps. The collected seawater is then heated up by solar energy, which sustains the separation of salt from the evaporating water. This process can be facilitated by membranes inserted between contaminated and drinking water to avoid their mixing, similarly to some plants able to survive in marine environments (for example the mangroves),” explain Matteo Fasano and Matteo Morciano.
While conventional ‘active’ desalination technologies need costly mechanical or electrical components (such as pumps and/or control systems) and require specialized technicians for installation and maintenance, the desalination approach proposed by the team at Politecnico di Torino is based on spontaneous processes occurring without the aid of ancillary machinery and can, therefore, be referred to as ‘passive’ technology. All this makes the device inherently inexpensive and simple to install and repair. The latter features are particularly attractive in coastal regions that are suffering from a chronic shortage of drinking water and are not yet reached by centralized infrastructures and investments.
Up to now, a well-known disadvantage of ‘passive’ technologies for desalination has been the low energy efficiency as compared to ‘active’ ones. Researchers at Politecnico di Torino have faced this obstacle with creativity: “While previous studies focused on how to maximize the solar energy absorption, we have shifted the attention to a more efficient management of the absorbed solar thermal energy. In this way, we have been able to reach record values of productivity up to 20 litres per day of drinking water per square meter exposed to the Sun. The reason behind the performance increase is the ‘recycling’ of solar heat in several cascade evaporation processes, in line with the philosophy of ‘doing more, with less’. Technologies based on this process are typically called ‘multi-effect’, and here we provide the first evidence that this strategy can be very effective for ‘passive’ desalination technologies as well.”
After developing the prototype for more than two years and testing it directly in the Ligurian sea (Varazze, Italy), the Politecnico’s engineers claim that this technology could have an impact in isolated coastal locations with little drinking water but abundant solar energy, especially in developing countries. Furthermore, the technology is particularly suitable for providing safe and low-cost drinking water in emergency conditions, for example in areas hit by floods or tsunamis and left isolated for days or weeks from electricity grid and aqueduct. A further application envisioned for this technology are floating gardens for food production, an interesting option especially in overpopulated areas. The researchers, who continue to work on this issue within the Clean Water Center at Politecnico di Torino, are now looking for possible industrial partners to make the prototype more durable, scalable and versatile. For example, engineered versions of the device could be employed in coastal areas where over-exploitation of groundwater causes the intrusion of saline water into freshwater aquifers (a particularly serious problem in some areas of Southern Italy), or could treat waters polluted by industrial or mining plants.
Materials provided by Politecnico di Torino. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.
Eliodoro Chiavazzo, Matteo Morciano, Francesca Viglino, Matteo Fasano, Pietro Asinari. Passive solar high-yield seawater desalination by modular and low-cost distillation. Nature Sustainability, 2018; 1 (12): 763 DOI: 10.1038/s41893-018-0186-x
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Politecnico di Torino. “Seawater turns into freshwater through solar energy: A new low-cost technology.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 7 January 2019.
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January 18, 2019 0
Recycling In Colorado Just Got Harder Thanks To New Restrictions From China – (A Better Title Would Be “Wishcylcing”)
As a state, Colorado hasn’t been the greatest recycler. New restrictions imposed by China on contamination levels, mixed paper and plastics aren’t making things any easier.
China used to be the leading re-manufacturer of recyclable material, and took in over half of America’s recycling. These new restrictions are not something the industry can easily rebound from. West Coast states that heavily rely on exporting their recyclables to China have even resorted to landfilling their materials. Colorado isn’t at that level yet, but the ripples of China’s decision are being felt around the state.
Alpine Waste & Recycling is responsible for collecting the recyclables for the entire city of Denver. Brent Hildebrand, Alpine’s vice president of recycling, said they were shipping about 40 percent of their materials to foreign markets — the bulk going to China. So the new restrictions presented some challenges for Alpine.
“We had to add some more labor to the system to help sort better and get some of the contaminants out of the stream,” Hildebrand said. “But then on top of that we had to slow down the system so the people could see the materials a little easier.”
The new limit on recycling contaminants set by China is no more than 0.5 percent.
Since January, Alpine has increased its workforce by 15 percent to keep up with the 0.5 percent contamination limit. Hildebrand said they’re still sending as much recycling as they can to China, but they’ve had to find new buyers in other countries to supplement.
Brent Hildebrand, Vice President of Recycling for Alpine Waste and Recycling, June 19, 2018.
Xandra McMahon/CPR News
China is cracking down partly because American material recovery facilities have gotten a little lax about how much contamination goes into the recycling, said Wolf Kray with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. For example, anytime a stray red Solo cup ended up in a bale of mixed paper, the materials were contaminated.
“Because the markets have been so high and there’s been such a demand from China,” Kray said. “We haven’t done the best job necessarily as far as limiting the waste that’s gone into the recycling stream.”
And that “we” includes not just the processing facilities but also anyone who might not be recycling in the most diligent way. Colorado has a problem with what the industry likes to call “wishcycling.” Since there’s no set standard, Kray said it can be tricky to know what each program does and does not accept. “It varies even in the metro area,” he said.
Things We Shouldn’t Be Tossing In Our Purple Bins… But Probably Are*
Crinkly Plastic Cups (Red Solo Cups)
Food Take Out Containers
Plastic Film Wrap (Saran Wrap)
Scrap Metal (Broken Utensils, Old Cookie Sheets)
Plastic Grocery Bags
*Recyclables vary by collector statewide. Be sure to check with your local operator for acceptable items.
“There’s a lot of wishful recycling that goes on where people assume that if it’s got the recycling arrows on it that means it’s automatically a recyclable material and that’s certainly not the case,” Kray pointed out.
Even if the recognizable arrows are there, it doesn’t mean a facility can process or re-sell it. Some things recyclers get are not as questionable. At the Boulder County Recycling Center, conservation manager Darla Arians pointed out every time a shocking object came down the conveyor belt where workers were sorting.
“You can see that huge piece of metal he just pulled out!” she exclaimed. “That would destroy our OCC screen — our cardboard screen — which is the first piece of equipment that the material hits. If that had gone past him, the facility would have to shut down.”
Another way Alpine and other haulers across the state are handling these changes? They’re shipping material to Boulder County. Boulder has become a popular spot thanks to a new plastic sorting machine and the facility’s reliance on American buyers. They’ve been able to save more money than other recyclers around the state, putting Boulder in a position where they can help other haulers.
“Our inbound tonnage has gone up around 1,500 to 2,000 tons per month from other MRFs and haulers in the region because our gate fees are lower here than they are elsewhere,” she said.
In a millisecond, Boulder’s plastic sorting machine is able to tell the difference between a milk jug and a shampoo bottle using infrared detection. It then uses its 100-horse power air jet to shoot the material into the right container. The machine sorts more efficiently than any person, and Arians said a few are considering “this type of equipment, and with the new restrictions from China, they pretty much have to in order to keep up.”
Boulder County’s Conservation Manager Darla Arians inside the county’s recycling center, June 22, 2018.
Xandra McMahon/CPR News
Ninety-eight percent of Boulder’s material goes to American buyers for remanufacturing. Even with Boulder taking other counties’ materials, many are still scrambling to find new markets for a lot of it.
“You have essentially this big buildup of all the recyclables that are still getting collected and stored at recycling centers that need to go somewhere,” CDPHE’s Wolf Kray said. “So, because there’s more generation, essentially it’s devaluing the prices so that’s tough for the recyclers who aren’t making as much money on the actual end products when they sell them.”
Market values for recycled paper, plastics, aluminum, etc. have plummeted since restrictions went into place. That affects all recyclers, even ones like Boulder County that export very little because they sell most of their material stateside.
“If we get to the point where we’re getting a zero dollar or we were gonna be charged for a particular type of material, then we will hold on to it for 30 days and see what sort of pricing we can get in the next month,” Arians said.
For Kray, the solution lies in developing and bolstering domestic markets for recyclables. To that end, CDPHE offers grants to organizations to help develop recycling infrastructure in the state. In 2017, the program handed out 22 grants that went as high as $400,000. An Iowa company called Rewall that buys waste and turns it into building material is expanding to Colorado with the help of the grant program.
Another solution Kray mentioned has to do with the three R’s everyone learned in elementary school — reduce, reuse and recycle. Kray said there should be more emphasis on the first two and less reliance on the third.
this article provided by Colorado Public Radio New <Colorado-Just-Got-Harder-Thanks-To-New-Restrictions-From-China>Leave a reply
October 10, 2018 0
My Hair Trip Salon Denver, along with 167 other Colorado companies has been recognized as an environmental leader in the state of Colorado in 2018.
DENVER – The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment has recognized 168 companies on Oct. 9, 2018 for outstanding environmental achievements that help keep Colorado a desirable place to work and live. The department, in partnership with the Pollution Prevention Advisory Board and the Colorado Environmental Partnership, presented the 19th annual Environmental Leadership Awards at the Infinity Event Center in Glendale. More than 400 government, business and community leaders attended.
The awards recognized Colorado organizations with gold, silver and bronze designations for voluntarily going beyond compliance with state and federal regulations and for their commitment to continual environmental improvement.
“We are proud to recognize all of Colorado’s environmental leaders and work with them to reduce barriers to innovation while protecting public health and the environment,” said Karin McGowan, the department’s interim executive director.
This year’s program will recognize 12 new Gold Leaders, 12 new Silver Partners and 16 new Bronze Achievers. The new Gold Leaders include My Hair Trip Salon Denver, Castle Rock Water, Ela Family Farms, Clifton Sanitation District and Xcel Energy.
The 2018 24-Karat Gold Award winner will be named at the event. Chosen by other Gold leaders, 24-Karat Gold Award winners are individuals or teams who have gone above and beyond required job duties to create and implement a program or initiative that made a measurable contribution to the environment, the economy and society. The Colorado Environmental Leadership Program is open to all Colorado businesses, industries, offices, educational institutions, municipalities, government agencies, communities, nonprofits and other organizations.
For a complete list of organizations with gold, silver and bronze designations and summaries of their environmental efforts, please contact Lynette Myers, Environmental Leadership Program manager, at email@example.com, or visit the department’s Environmental Leadership Program website.Leave a reply
July 7, 2018 0
As Colorado’s #1 rated Organic Salon and the state’s #1 rated eco-friendly salon we are so proud to be members of the Green Circle Salons community with like-minded beauty shops all around the world!
A little about our wonderful partners; Green Circle Salons:
Green Circle Salons provides the world’s first, and North America’s only, sustainable salon solution to recover and repurpose beauty waste ensuring that we can help keep people and the planet beautiful.
We are able to transform beauty waste into a desirable commodity through an award-winning platform built by the industry, for the industry. Our turnkey program allows salons to repurpose and recover up to 95% of the resources that were once considered waste; materials such as hair, leftover hair color, foils, color tubes, aerosol cans, paper and plastics.
Our platform is designed to support salons in four key areas; to be green, to build a recurring revenue, to gain clients, and to save money. We do this in a way that is simple, open and honest – everyone is involved, and everyone wins.
Today more than ever, consumers vote with their dollars and channel spending into responsible brands that support healthy communities. Literally overnight, our program adds layers of value that enhance both customer and staff experience, and publicly position our member salons as responsible stewards of our planet.
Through My Hair Trip The Organic Salon Denver’s partnerships with incredible organizations like Green Circle Salons and Certifiably Green Denver and The Colorado Environmental Leadership Program this revolutionary green eco-salon has become the most highly recognized sustainable salon in Denver, Colorado! We cannot really explain how humbling that is and how grateful we are with our team, partners, clients, families and friends, to be at the forefront of this amazing movement that is growing more and more everyday!
For more information on Green Circle Salons check them out at https://greencirclesalons.com/Leave a reply
May 25, 2018 0
Davines is the #1 sustainable beauty line in the world and you can get it at Denver, Colorado’s #1 rated sustainable salon!
Here’s some of the reasons we love partnering with Davines!
They Help Plant Fruit Trees Around the World
Every April, The Davines Group encourages their salons to fundraise for The Fruit Tree Planting Foundation, a nonprofit charity that helps provide food and income generation to communities and families in need around the world. This year, the proceeds will go to planting 5,000 trees in Peru. Davines and The Fruit Tree Planting Foundation will choose the salon that has the most creative and successful fundraising efforts, and the team members of the winning salon will go to the South American country to help plant the trees alongside the families who receive them.
They’ve Been a Certified B Corp Since 2016
Becoming a Certified B Corp is no easy task! The Davines Group went through a rigorous assessment by nonprofit B Lab®, which evaluated its performance in the areas of employees, environment, governance, community, and customers and ensured it was creating a positive impact on the world economically, socially, and environmentally. It encompasses everything you could imagine: from the types of cars their team drives, the paper the office uses, how employees volunteer, and more! For Davines, becoming a Certified B Corp fits perfectly into its vision of sustainable beauty.
They’re Using Your Hair Clippings To Clean Up the Globe
Davines has partnered with Green Circle Salons to work toward turning salons into a zero-impact industry, which means reducing and offsetting CO2 emissions. Almost everything in a salon can be taken into consideration and reused—even the hair that falls to the floor during a cut, which can be used to help soak up an environmental oil spill.
They Incorporate Slow Foods
Have you checked out your Davines ingredient list lately? In collaboration with Slow Food Foundation for Biodiversity, each of Davines’ nine product families that are a part of the Essential Haircare line includes one active ingredient from a Slow Food Presidium. Take one of our favorites, Davines LOVE Smoothing Conditioner: It’s made with olive extract from the farm of Mr. Carmelo Messina in a small area of Italy called Ficarra.
Their Packaging Is So Much More Than Meets the Eye
The packaging for Davines’ Essential Haircare line is not only chic, but it’s also ready for its next incarnation. The packaging is made out of reusable, food-grade materials, but also can be reused easily by you! Check out these adorable and easy to make succulent pots.
There’s Even a Davines Coffee (Yes, Please!)
You can up your Davines morning routine via its Caffe Vita farm direct coffee collaboration. Just like Davines’ luxe ingredient notes, this one features hints of toasted almonds, caramel, smooth dark chocolate, and hints of bright strawberries. I’ll take a large, please!
Hooray for Davines!Leave a reply
March 23, 2018 0
My Hair Trip Salon Denver is so happy and proud to be Colorado’s #1 rated organic salon and Colorado’s #1 rated eco-friendly salon. A lot of hard work and dedication have gone into My Hair Trip’s climb to success. The key has always been love, love for our clients, love for each other, love for the earth and love for Colorado!
My Hair Trip Salon in Denver is also the only salon and the only business from the beauty industry in the state of Colorado to be recognized as members of the Colorado Environmental Leadership Program. The Environmental Leadership Program (ELP) is our statewide environmental recognition and reward program which offers benefits and incentives to members that voluntarily go beyond compliance with state and federal regulations and are committed to continual environmental improvement.
My Hair Trip Organic Salon Denver is also a certified green business through the Certifiably Green Denver office who offers free sustainability advising services to Denver’s business community. Expert advisors help businesses achieve their sustainability goals and find opportunities to conserve resources while reducing costs in five areas: energy, water, waste, transportation and business management practices. Businesses may elect to receive help with specific initiatives or gain recognition for their achievements by becoming a Certified Green Business.
If you ever take a minute to check out some of My Hair Trip’s customer reviews and ratings you will notice a difference in reviews left for My Hair Trip in comparison to most other salons. Our customer’s reviews are usually much longer and much more in depth than reviews of other salons in Denver and in Colorado. We believe this is because we are unique in the magnitude of our service. We have built our team of highly trained, highly skilled, highly talented stylists and customer service professionals who are not only incredible craftsmen but also have a natural, innate ability to listen, understand and to care for our clients and for each other.
Come check out My Hair Trip, The Organic Salon in Denver, and feel the difference.
Look Good. Feel Good. Be Good. My Hair Trip Salon Denver.
February 15, 2018 0
At Denver’s highest rated 5-star organic hair salon and beauty shop we are the only salon team in Colorado to offer Organic Colour Systems! OCS is the only professional color line in the world that is 100% ammonia free.
The Natural Alternative
Most hair colour products use harsh chemicals like ammonia that damage hair in the colouring process, stripping hair’s natural health and shine.
Organic Colour Systems is different. We’re kind to hair and it shows.
By using more certified organic ingredients and fewer chemicals than anyone else we’ve created an effective way to colour hair as naturally as possible.
With Outstanding Results
And because hair responds better to natural ingredients our products give outstanding results.
Our unique approach is gentler on hair and locks in colour, moisture and goodness to every strand.
So hair looks naturally healthier and glossier with radiant colour.
Made in Britain with TLC
(Tender Loving Colour)
Combining the best of British know-how and natural ingredients we create Tender Loving Colour with absolutely no ammonia, resorcinol or parabens.
We make our beautiful hair products in the heart of the New Forest in Hampshire using lots of lovely natural, organic ingredients.
With Organic Colour Systems hair is naturally healthier.
Why Organic Colour Systems?
“Organic Colour Systems is more than outstanding products – it’s a system of total hair care. Used together, its ranges deliver outstanding results with coloured hair.
Every product in every range is specially formulated to work together for naturally healthier hair and longer-lasting colour.
It works because it’s gentle and
The system is designed to treat coloured hair gently at every stage of every treatment from shampooing to styling.
Most other hair care products use chemicals that strip hair of colour and health as they style, perm and straighten.
Organic Colour Systems takes a different approach. With Organic Colour Systems every product in every range contains the minimum of chemicals and the maximum of certified organic ingredients.
And because all of the OCS products are gentle and non-damaging to hair, hair looks healthier and colour stays locked in. Plus, all of the products can safely be used together.
The care range and colour range
The Organic Colour Systems care range and colour range work together for outstanding results.
Our uniquely natural shampoos and reconstructors soften the hair before colouring and gently open up the outer layer (cuticle) so colour is easily absorbed.
Then our nourishing conditioners close the cuticle completely, and restore hair to its natural pH value. That means colour stays locked in and hair looks smooth and shiny.
Our care range products also contain natural UV light filters to protect hair and keep colour longer-lasting.
Nourishes, protects and strengthens coloured hair
All our products are packed with natural moisturisers and proteins that nourish, protect and strengthen coloured hair during every process from shampooing to straightening. So hair looks healthier than ever.
Even damaged hair can safely be coloured and styled with Organic Colour Systems. Our uniquely nourishing and strengthening formulations work together across all ranges to repair damaged hair in a short time.
With our flexible system, hair in any condition can be successfully coloured, styled, straightened or permed. And these processes can be done one after the other without causing any damage to the hair.
Naturally styled, permed and
Our control range is rich in natural conditioners that add extra body, hold and shine, and protect hair during styling. It doesn’t matter how often hair is styled, it won’t get damaged.
Our straightening system uses a natural product, keratin, to straighten and condition hair at the same time. And our perm system is uniquely gentle and natural for natural, healthy looking curls.
Thanks to our unique system, all our products are safe to use on coloured hair and work together to create long-lasting colour and healthy hair.”Leave a reply