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Smokestack Heart Attack

Minor increases in urban air pollution can provoke heart attacks, new international research indicates. A study of seven European cities and regions, including London, Madrid, Paris, and Rome, found that when sulfur dioxide levels rose even slightly, hospital visits for coronary problems increased over the following 48 hours. The research, published in the European Heart Journal, is expected to put pressure on government officials to further crack down on polluters. “When this link between pollution and heart disease was first seen, everyone thought there had been some mistake,” said Jon Ayres of Aberdeen University. “But we are now building up …

Karen Salinger, Go Greenbelt! Ride

Karen Salinger is a cyclist on the Go Greenbelt! Ride, a fundraiser for the San Francisco-based Greenbelt Alliance. When not balancing on two wheels, she promotes sustainable agriculture by distributing organic produce through Veritable Vegetable. Sunday, 27 Apr 2003 LOS GATOS, Calif. Every April for the past nine years, I have set out on a 480-mile, seven-day bicycle ride whose primary goal is to raise money for the Greenbelt Alliance. This year is no exception. The ride is in its 14th year, and there are many among the group this year who have done this ride more than once. For …

Cutting the Cord

Fuel cells and hybrids are hot; electric vehicles are not. That’s the word from the California Air Resources Board, which yesterday axed groundbreaking 1990 rules requiring auto manufacturers to sell a fixed number of electric vehicles (EVs) in the state, including 10 percent of cars sold this year. Instead, the board approved more modest regulations that will force car companies to put a set number of fuel-cell and hybrid vehicles on the roads over the next 10 years. Jerry Martin, spokesperson for the board, said the change reflects shifting technologies, not shifting priorities: “Fuel cells are really just another sort …

Logging Off

The Internet has made it far easier for citizens to bend the federal government’s ear — too easy, the U.S. Forest Service says. The agency wants to revise its policies so that it will be free to disregard opinions submitted in “form letters, check-off lists, pre-printed post cards, or similar duplicative materials” when accepting public comment about forest plans. The rule change would apply to land-use decisions in forests — for example, whether specific areas should be used for recreation, logging, or wildlife habitat — but would not apply to proposed timber sales. The USFS says mass-mail input adds to …

Cod Gonnit

The Canadian government this week banned all commercial and recreational cod fishing in an effort to stave off the absolute collapse of the species, putting an end to an industry and a tradition that have defined the country’s Atlantic coast for centuries. The radical decline of Eastern Canadian cod stocks is one of the greatest environmental disasters of the 20th century, attributed to overfishing and, perhaps, subtle changes in the marine environment. The government offered a $30 million compensation package to those affected, including 1,000 licensed fishers and hundreds of others who work in processing plants. Some fishers criticized the …

No-motor Home

Two chemistry professors at the University of La Verne in California say they have created a propane-powered fuel cell that will change the face of the recreational-vehicle industry forever. The fuel cell converts propane to hydrogen and generates enough energy to power everything in an RV but the motor: electricity, heat, and water systems. The scientists say their invention is 2.5 times more efficient than an internal-combustion generator, emits far less pollution, and is quieter. They estimate that it will cost $5 million to $6 million to get the technology ready for market, after which they expect to sell the …

Ignoble Chernobyl

It’s been 17 years since the Chernobyl nuclear catastrophe — but a new disaster could be around the bend if the concrete shield encasing the old power station isn’t rapidly reinforced, according to Russia’s energy minister. “We can see a situation where the roof could fall in, or rather the supports that hold up the roof could fall down. There are a lot of holes in the sarcophagus,” said Alexander Rumyantsev. The minister also said the shield was initially put up quickly under difficult and dangerous conditions, and urgently needs replacing to protect the Ukraine from another — albeit smaller …

War in the Time of Cholera

Iraq’s water, sewage, and waste systems need immediate attention to prevent drastic environmental and human health problems in the wake of war, the United Nation’s Environment Programme announced today. Earlier this week, doctors in Baghdad reported the first suspected incidents of cholera and typhoid, two potentially fatal diseases spread by poor water sanitation. Hundreds of more people are probably afflicted as well, but the country currently lacks the medical equipment to test for the diseases. More than half of the children brought for treatment to a Baghdad hospital suffered from dehydration and diarrhea, both caused by dirty water, water shortages, …

Earth Day in the Balance?

Some critics say Earth Day, which celebrated its 33rd birthday yesterday, has morphed from a nationwide rally to a chance for corporations of questionable environmental repute to engage in greenwashing. In Houston, Tex., for example, Earth Day activities this year were paid for by Waste Management, which owns 293 landfills and has been held responsible for many hazardous-waste sites. In Tucson, Ariz., Earth Day 2003 was sponsored by Raytheon Missile Systems for the ninth consecutive year; other sponsors included the local electric company and Home Depot. “Waste Management sponsoring Earth Day is similar to Enron sponsoring a seminar on corporate …

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