JoNova

A science presenter, writer, speaker & former TV host; author of The Skeptic's Handbook (over 200,000 copies distributed & available in 15 languages).


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Plastics are not forever: Bugs already evolved 30,000 new plastic eating enzymes

flockine

Plastics are a free dinner for life on Earth so it was just a matter of time before microbes evolved to eat it.

A PET bottle normally takes 16 – 48 years to break down, but if it were lunch for microflora it would take weeks instead. Hydrocarbons are ultimately just different forms of C-H-O waiting to be liberated as carbon dioxide and water. The only question was “how long” it would take bacteria and fungi to break those unusual bonds.

Sooner or later all plastic will be biodegradable.

Polyethylene-terephthalate (PET)

The first bacteria known to chew through PET bottles was discovered at a Japanese rubbish dump in 2016. But we had no idea then just how advanced the microbial world of plastic processing was.

Instead of hunting for single bacteria Zrimec et al mined through collected metagenomes of soil and ocean and found not just 5 or 10 new enzymes but 30,000. It appears that they could metabolize at least ten different types of plastic.

And in places where there was more plastic pollution, there were more enzymes. All over the world a whole new ecosystem is rising out of the puddles and bubbles […]

Air conditioning reduces indoor air pollution — give me cheap electrons

Just another way cheaper electricity saves lives.

Photo by Photo by noodle kimm on Unsplash

It turns out hotter rooms have higher indoor pollution. Levels of formaldehyde are lower in the morning and rise with the temperature. Air conditioning in hot summers, keeps the temperature down and will reduce the amount of formaldehyde and other pollutants from out-gassing from furniture and gypsum walls. Obviously those who can’t afford to run the air conditioner and who live in warmer rooms in summer will be exposed to more pollution.

Though the worst situation was in 1970s homes with radiant heaters installed on gypsum sheets. In that case, people who can’t afford to heat may avoid some fumes.

Opening windows will clear out the indoor pollution, but houses are increasingly being designed to stop draughts to be more energy efficient.

The message: get rich or open windows when it’s nice outside, move those bar heaters off the walls, and buy peace lilies, bamboo palms, and dracaenas.

Researchers uncover indoor pollution hazards

By Tina Hilding, Voiland College of Engineering and Architecture

PULLMAN, Wash – When most people think about air pollution, they think of summertime haze, traffic or smokestack […]

Australian cars fail outdoor emission tests too. To reduce pollution we must only drive in laboratories…

Australian cars just as bad — one hybrid car puts out 400% more CO2 than “advertised”

The AAA tested 30 cars under Australian real on-road conditions and found that like VW and so many others, the cars pass pollution tests in the lab, but fail in the real world:

— Sydney Morning Herald

The report by the Australian Automobile Association, members of which include the NRMA and RACV and RACQ, says real-world testing reveals some new cars are using up to 59 per cent more fuel than advertised. Almost six in 10 exceeded the regulated limit for one or more pollutant in cold-start tests.

The report found that, on average, real-world fuel consumption was 23 per cent higher than laboratory results, including one diesel vehicle that used 59 per cent more fuel than lab tests indicated.

One fully charged plug-in hybrid electric car consumed 166 per cent more fuel than official figures suggest – or 337 per cent more when tested from a low charge. It also emitted four times more carbon dioxide than advertised.

Of 12 diesel vehicles tested, 11 exceeded the laboratory limit for nitrogen oxides emissions….

Environmentalists […]

Up to 4 million die from indoor air pollution annually (they need cheap coal-fired electricity!)

People who have no cheap electricity burn wood or coal inside their homes to make dinner and stay warm. The smoke produces real pollution (as opposed to the fake kind which feeds plants). In India, some homes have pollution levels “three times higher than a typical London street”. Not surprisingly, living in smoke does not work out well for lungs and hearts. “Estimates suggest that household air pollution killed 3·5 to 4 million people in 2010. “

We can argue about the numbers and whether they are exaggerated, but there’s no doubt that millions of people would lead better lives if they had access to cheap electricity, which in practical terms means coal-fired power. In Niger, Africa, 17 million people use less electricity than Dubbo, NSW, a town of 40,000.

Where are the Greens? Children in poverty are suffering from lung damage now. The Greens priority is to spend billions to stop them dying in 2100 from seas rising at 1mm a year. How many people does expensive electricity kill? — Jo

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Household air pollution puts more than one in three people worldwide at risk of ill health, early death 8.9 out of 10 based on 61 ratings […]