Environmental Pollution Is Deadlier Than Smoking, War, AIDS or Hunger, Experts Find

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iStock

In 1970, Congress pushed forward the Clean Air Act, which took aggressive steps to monitor and control pollutants in the environment via federal regulations. Over the years, people living in the United States have been exposed to considerably fewer contaminants such as lead and carbon monoxide.

But as a new study in the Lancet medical journal points out, pollution continues to be a global crisis, and one that might carry a far more devastating mortality rate than previously believed. Analyzing the complete picture of contaminated regions around the globe, study authors believe pollution killed 9 million people in 2015—more than smoking, AIDS, war, or deaths from hunger.

The study’s authors aggregated premature deaths on a global basis that were attributable to pollution, singling out certain regions that continue to struggle with high concentrations of toxic materials. In India, one in four premature deaths (2.5 million) was related to environmental contamination. In China, 1.8 million people died due to illnesses connected to poor air quality.

A lack of regulatory oversight in these areas is largely to blame. Dirty fossil fuels, crop burning, and burning garbage plague India; industrial growth in other locations often leads to pollution that isn’t being monitored or controlled. Roughly 92 percent of deaths as a result of poor environmental conditions are in low- or middle-income countries [PDF].

The study also notes that the 9 million estimate is conservative and likely to rise as new methods of connecting pollution-related illness with mortality in a given area are discovered. It’s hoped that increased awareness of the problem and highlighting the economic benefits of a healthier population (lower health care costs, for one) will encourage governments to take proactive measures.

[h/t Phys.org]

Environmental Group Lets You Kayak European Waterways for Free in Exchange for Picking Up Trash

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iStock/levers2007

Between airfare, hotels, and dining out, not every traveler to Europe has room in their budget for a kayaking tour. GreenKayak, an environmental organization based out of Denmark, offers tourists and locals a way to explore waterways in some European countries for free—they just have to be comfortable with picking up some trash along the way.

As Lifehacker reports, GreenKayak launched its pollution-fighting initiative in April 2017. The concept is simple: Volunteers receive free kayak rentals in exchange for using the trip as a chance to beautify their surroundings. Two hours of free kayaking time comes with a paddle, a life vest, a trash-grabber, and a garbage pail. In the past two years, GreenKayakers have collected close to 24,000 pounds of trash from lakes, canals, and rivers in Europe.

GreenKayak started its environmental project in Denmark, a country that's famous for its picturesque waterways. The initiative has since expanded to cities in Ireland, Germany, Sweden, and Norway. Anyone interested in taking a free boat tour and making the world a cleaner place can book a kayak for up to two people through GreenKayak's website.

Kayaking isn't the only way people can clean up polluted waterways in Europe. Amsterdam is home to the Plastic Whale: an open-air boat made from recycled material on which tourists can "fish" for discarded trash.

[h/t Lifehacker]

2624-Year-Old Cypress Tree Discovered in North Carolina Swamp

iStock/earleliason
iStock/earleliason

National Love a Tree Day on May 16 is a day to appreciate all the world's trees, but a bald cypress recently identified in North Carolina is especially deserving of recognition. As Live Science reports, scientists date the tree to 2624 years old, making it one the oldest living non-clonal trees on Earth.

For their study, recently published in the journal Environmental Research Communications, a team of researchers studied the rings of trees in North Carolina's Black River swampland to learn more about climate history in the eastern United States. Bald cypresses are known to have impressive lifespans, but after analyzing specimens in the Black River's Three Sisters Swamp, an area that's notable for its long-lived trees, the scientists discovered that cypresses can grow to be even older than previously believed. The 2624-year-old cypress tree they found predates the Great Wall of China and the Roman Empire. Other remarkably old trees, including a 2088-year-old cypress, were also identified in the same grove.

The North Carolina cypresses are old, but there are other types of trees that can grow to be much older. Clonal tress are genetically identical plants that reproduce asexually from a single ancestor. Old Tjikko, a clonal tree in Sweden, has a root system that dates back 9550 years.

Despite all that North Carolina's bald cypress trees have endured, their lives are under threat. The swamp where the 2624-year-old tree stands is located just 6.5 feet above sea level, which means that floods driven by climate change could damage its habitat. And though the grove is in a protected area, industrial runoff and logging that's happening nearby could impact the trees' health. North Carolina is considering establishing a Black River State Park where the trees grow to further protect the ancient natural wonders.

[h/t Live Science]

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