Bioresearch of the week is back. As newer technologies are developed, great minds of the world come together to tackle modern problems of the current climate situation. Today we explore discoveries in health, materials, and farming.
Researchers at Harvard Chan School’s Department of Environmental Health found that low concentrations of air pollution, even at levels permitted under federal regulations, could cause earlier deaths in elderly people in the United States. “We found that among elderly patients enrolled in Medicare, small increases in long-term exposure to both particle and gaseous air pollutants increased the risk of death, even at levels deemed safe by current regulations,” said lead study author Mahdieh Danesh Yazdi. “Our findings suggest that current air pollution limits are not adequate to protect the health of vulnerable groups.”. Learn more here.
Meanwhile on the West Coast, two researchers from the University of Southern California (USC) linked air pollution to a greater risk of Alzheimer’s disease. This risk could be prevented with clean air. Cars and factories produce PM2.5, once inhaled by a person, it passes directly to their brain. “Improving air quality around the country has been a tremendous public health and environment policy success story. But there are signs of a reversal in these trends,” said associate professor of Gerontology and Sociology Jennifer Ailshire. According to the study, people with long-term exposure to PM2.5 have been linked to premature death. More details here.
Microbiology researchers at Oregon State University (OSU) have shown a different perspective of carbon cycling in the ocean, tracking microbes that consume different types of organic carbon produced by common phytoplankton species. “The research is an important step toward forecasting how much carbon will leave the ocean for the atmosphere as greenhouse gas carbon dioxide and how much will end up entombed in marine sediments”, said Ryan Mueller, associate professor in OSU’s Department of Microbiology and the leader of the study. “As global climate change continues to alter oceanic environments at a rapid pace, the availability of food sources for microbes will also change, ultimately favoring certain types over others” said first author Brandon Kieft, a recent Oregon State Ph.D. graduate who is now a postdoctoral researcher at the University of British Columbia. Read the report here.
In the University of Tokyo, a new type of concrete could reduce emissions from the construction industry. It is estimated that around 7% of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions come from the manufacture and use of cement. The newly developed calcium carbonate concrete is made from waste concrete and carbon dioxide from the air. Professor Ippei Maruyama and C4S (Calcium Carbonate Circulation System for Construction) project manager Professor Takafumi Noguchi, both from the Department of Architecture at the University of Tokyo, found a way to match captured CO2 into the industry. “Our concept is to acquire calcium from discarded concrete, which is otherwise going to waste,” said Maruyama. “We combine this with carbon dioxide from industrial exhaust or even from the air. And we do this at much lower temperatures than those used to extract calcium from limestone at present.” More details of the new material are found here.
In the UK, researchers from the University of Cambridge came to the conclusion that concentrated farming limited to small areas with a high yield could be beneficial for species, and even more efficient than eco-friendly agriculture. If intensive farming is limited to these smaller areas, then much more land is left as natural habitats for wildlife and biodiversity. “Most species fare much better if habitats are left intact, which means reducing the space needed for farming. So areas that are farmed need to be as productive as we can possibly make them. Figuring out how to feed, clothe and power 11 billion people without causing mass species extinction and wrecking the climate is this century’s greatest challenge. Preserving diverse life while meeting humanity’s needs will mean enormous trade-offs, but the evidence is starting to point in one direction,” said Prof Andrew Balmford, conductor of the review. Read it here.