The Power of Algae; Pesticides and Autism?

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Discovered in Green: The most amazing algae you've ever seen, unintended consequences of the otherwise environmentally friendly ethanol, building greener cities, and the link between pesticides and autism.

  • Algae farms could save the environment, sort of. The scientists at NASA have come up with a way to throw plastic bags full of algae and wastewater (read: sewage) into the ocean, where they'll help clean up the water, produce energy and filter carbon dioxide out of the air. The plastic bags are actually semipermeable membranes and let the algae pull in CO2 from the atmosphere and consume phosphates, nitrogen and other chemicals from the wastewater. This yields fatty lipid cells and oil that can be used as clean energy fuel. [NASA]

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  • Even ethanol is contributing to antibiotic resistance. Most people concerned about the environment think ethanol is a good thing. It's a clean additive to gasoline and also a product that can be made from excess crops. However, researchers at the University of Minnesotta recently learned that a nasty biproduct of the the ethanol distillation process leads to antibiotics making their way into your meat. Ethanol producers add antibiotics like penicillin to keep bacteria out of their finished product, and that leaks into the feed grain for cows, hogs and other farm animals. Eventually, if you eat meat, you're also eating antibiotics and potentially lowering your resistance. Oh, and the grain is really expensive. [Grist]
  • Cities using green infrastructure could save billions. If your local government needs a kick in the pants to get them to take the environmental approach, send your local government a copy of the new report released by American Rivers, the Water Environment Federation (WEF), the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA), and ECONorthwest. These environmental groups crunched the numbers and found that green infrastructure like rooftop gardens, bioswales, and permeable pavement not only help the environment by reusing rainwater but also saves loads of money. New York City for instance is expected to save $1.5 billion over the next 20 years thanks to recent green infrastructure improvements. Plus, those rooftop gardens look really sweet. [Seattle PI]
  • Pesticides are linked to instances of autism. Over the past few years, awareness about autism has skyrocketed and accordingly, the number of young people receiving special education services has for related disorders is up over 90 percent. More attention and research means more answers about how and why some people end up with various forms of autism. A just published report in Clinical Epigenetics points in part to pesticides: "Neurodevelopment can be adversely impacted when gene expression is altered by dietary transcription factors, such as zinc insufficiency or deficiency, or by exposure to toxic substances found in our environment, such as mercury or organophosphate pesticides." [Clinical Epigenetics]


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