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Cell-ebrate

Every year, hundreds of millions of new cell phones come into the world — and now, thanks to a deal brokered by the United Nations Environment Programme, when they leave the world, they may do so in a relatively eco-friendly fashion. Yesterday, the giants of the electronics industry (including market leaders Nokia, Motorola, Philips, and Samsung) promised to work with UNEP to pilot programs ensuring that the plastics, metals, and nickel-cadmium batteries from cell phones are disposed of safely in the future. The agreement does not establish any firm targets or timetables, but manufacturers affirmed that they would work with …

A Hull of a Problem

Oil continues to seep out of the sunken oil tanker Prestige, further threatening coastal areas of northwestern Spain that have already suffered severe damage from the spill. An estimated 33,000 gallons of fuel oil are leaking each day from numerous cracks in the vessel, officials warned yesterday. If unaddressed, the leaks could continue into 2006, said Emilio Lora Tamayo, head of a scientific commission studying the environmental disaster. To stem the tanker’s oily tide, the main cracks could be sealed using a robot or the remaining oil could be pumped out to a platform on the surface, but both options …

Music to Calm the Salvage Beast

Salvage-logging operations that extract downed trees from storm-damaged areas may actually wreak more havoc on forests than did the original storm, according to a study conducted at the University of Colorado at Boulder. The research, which was partially funded by the U.S. EPA, focused on Colorado’s Routt National Forest, where a 1997 windstorm blew down 13,000 acres of spruce trees. In spots where salvage logging was conducted after the storm, heavy erosion and reduced shade made it more difficult for new tree seedlings to take root. In contrast, in areas that had been left alone, the forest was growing back …

Sperm Wail

Next time you’re perusing the cosmetics counter at Macy’s or the personal-care aisle of CVS, you might want to take a pass on the lip liner and aftershave. According to new research conducted by scientists at the Harvard School of Public Health, exposure to monoethyl phthalate, a chemical commonly used in cosmetics and fragrances, may lead to DNA damage in men’s sperm. Other studies have linked chemicals in the phthalates family to birth defects in animals, but this is one of the first studies on the effects of phthalates in humans. The finding comes just weeks after a controversial decision …

Umbra on skiing

Dear Umbra, With winter fast approaching, I was thinking of learning to ski. I was wondering how skiing ranks among recreational activities in terms of its environmental impact. What are all the effects of clearing ski trails, making snow, and operating ski lifts? Not to mention all the resorts and roads that sprout up to service the skiers. Should I hit the slopes or stay inside sipping hot cocoa (organic, shade-grown, and fairly traded, of course)? Curiously yours, BelindaDavis, Calif. Dearest Belinda, Good news and bad news, as usual. The bad news you already know or can guess: Downhill (or …

The Mice That Roared

Researchers at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, have established a first-ever link between urban air pollution and genetic damage that can be passed on from generation to generation. In a study published in the most recent issue of the U.S. journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, biologists at the university found that male laboratory mice that were placed downwind of two different steel mills in and around Hamilton for 10 weeks underwent one and a half to two times as many genetic mutations as a control group placed in a rural, mill-less area; the damaged genes were …

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