Discovered: Thousands of nasty groundwater sites won't be cleaned anytime soon; malaria vaccine's effectiveness declines; ash tree attacks are here to stay; coral reef defense tactics.
Many groundwater sites will remain contaminated. The U.S. government has protocols in place for treating the most horrendously polluted bodies of water, as anyone familiar with the Superfund program will know. But even these efforts aren't able to keep up with the crushing amount of work to be done on the 126,000 groundwater sites across the country that remain very contaminated, such as the Columbia River in Richland, Washington, the polluted body near the Hanford nuclear site pictured above. About 10 percent of those sites come under the "complex" category, which means that they're not likely to be cleaned up in less than 50 to 100 years according to a new report from the National Research Council. It will cost up to $127 billion to clean these sites up, they estimate. [National Academy of Sciences]
More work needed on malaria vaccines. Researchers working to develop inoculations for malaria must be so frustrated. Last year the RTS,S vaccine was 56 percent effective at immunizing babies from the mosquito-borne disease that ravages sub-Saharan Africa, Asia, and other regions. But a new clinical trial shows that it now prevents malaria contraction in only 31 percent of those vaccinated between the age of six and 12 weeks. Malaria's adaptability to the shots prove that more work will need to be done before RTS,S becomes a reliable staple of childhood immunization routines. "RTS,S can help," says a still-hopeful Salim Abdulla, the director of one of the vaccination sites studied. "Efficacy was lower than what we saw last year, but there are many possible explanations. We will continue to explore the complex factors behind the differences." [Science Now]