WHENEVER A PLASTIC bag or bottle degrades, it breaks into ever smaller pieces that work their way into nooks in the environment. When you wash synthetic fabrics, tiny plastic fibers break loose and flow out to sea. When you drive, plastic bits fly off your tires and brakes. That’s why literally everywhere scientists look, they’re finding microplastics—specks of synthetic material that measure less than 5 millimeters long. They’re on the most remote mountaintops and in the deepest oceans. They’re blowing vast distances in the wind to sully once pristine regions like the Arctic. In 11 protected areas in the western US, the equivalent of 120 million ground-up plastic bottles are falling out of the sky each year. And now, microplastics are coming out of babies. In a pilot study published today, scientists describe sifting through infants’ dirty diapers and finding an average of 36,000 nanograms of polyethylene terephthalate (PET) per gram of feces, 10 times the amount they found in adult feces. They even found it in newborns' first feces. PET is an extremely common polymer that’s known as polyester when it’s used in clothing, and it is also used to make plastic bottles. The finding comes a year after another team of researchers calculated that preparing hot formula in plastic bottles severely erodes the material, which could dose babies with several million microplastic particles a day, and perhaps nearly a billion a year. - Wired
President Joe Biden’s infrastructure plan proposes to spend $16 billion plugging old oil and gas wells and cleaning up abandoned mines. But there’s no authoritative measure of how many of these sites exist across the nation. In a recent study, my colleagues and I sought to account for every oil and gas well site in the lower 48 states that was eligible for restoration—meaning that the well no longer was producing oil or gas, and there were no other active wells using that site. We found more than 430,000 old well sites, with associated infrastructure such as access roads, storage areas, and fluid tanks. They covered more than 2 million acres—an area larger than Delaware and Rhode Island combined. - Fast Company
What if someone told you that we have everything we need to decarbonize most of the economy? We would just need to start electrifying every new car, furnace, water heater, drier, and cookstove, and industrial process starting right now. And yeah, and put solar on every roof that can handle it. If we are on a wartime footing for decarbonizing the economy, our guest, Saul, could be considered a 5-star general of the “electrify everything” movement. He founded or co-founded around a dozen companies and organizations. And he has a PhD from MIT in materials science and information theory. Saul is now trying to marshal the world around his “a defensible and believable” pathway for decarbonizing America with clean electricity. - Energy Gang
An estimated 4.1 million people in the lower 48 states are potentially exposed to arsenic levels that exceed EPA’s drinking water standards A new USGS highlights the importance of homeowners testing their well water to ensure it is safe for consumption, particularly in drought-prone areas. The first-of-its-kind national-scale study of private well water, conducted in collaboration with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, showed that drought may lead to elevated levels of naturally occurring arsenic and that the longer a drought lasts, the higher the probability of arsenic concentrations exceeding U.S. EPA's standard for drinking water.- USGS
Have you ever enjoyed firework displays while also wondering, "Hey, what kinds of metals are those putting out? How persistent are the pollutants? Are there health impacts like asthma resulting from this?
You're in luck. This paper's abstract addresses those concerns. If you are interested, we can try to get the entire paper. - American Chemical Society
I started a CGCC Facebook page in May of '20 to share geo-environmental news but had concerns about FB's issues with accuracy. This page, GeoNews, is a response and partial solution, sharing a few items from reliable sources each week.