Environmental News

Toxic reaction: how to clear dangerous pollutants out of your home

After tests revealed the levels of harmful chemicals in her blood, the environmental writer vowed to discover the best ways to keep her family safe

People will go to all sorts of lengths to move towards a more environmentally friendly lifestyle. Changing where and how they buy their clothes, cutting down on meat and dairy, and replacing trips in the car with journeys by foot. I’ve done all of those – but I’ve taken it further.

Six months ago, I had my blood tested for 100 different persistent organic pollutants or POPs – chemicals such as pesticides and flame retardants that accumulate inside us and stick around for longer than we’d like. Scientists at a specialist lab in Norway found traces of chemicals that were taken off the market decades ago, such as low levels of a metabolite of the infamous pesticide DDT, alongside concerning levels of some of the less well-known “forever chemicals” known as PFAS (perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances – a class of chemicals that includes the likes of Teflon). Most surprisingly, my blood contained relatively high levels of a chemical called oxychlordane that comes from a pesticide known as chlordane that was banned by the EU in 1981, just a year after I was born, so exposure was probably via the womb. What struck me most is that some of these highly hazardous chemicals last more than a lifetime.

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Noises off: the battle to save our quiet places

We wouldn’t condone litter in our parks and countryside, so why do we put up with sound pollution? Alex Moshakis meets the people tasked with ‘saving quiet for the benefit of all life’ and hears their stories

Last month, I spent a cold morning wandering around Hampstead Heath, one of London’s largest green spaces, with a sound designer named Nicholas Allan. For many, the Heath is an escape. There are almost 800 acres of it: meadows and woodland, hollows and springs, hills and ponds. It is big and important enough to have its own 12-person constabulary, which upholds the park’s 47 bylaws, including firm restrictions on drone flying and car driving. Locals I know walk dogs in and out of old forests and along curling gravelly pathways. On the few days in summer, when the sun shines on the city, the park becomes so busy it seems to vibrate, festival-like. But for the rest of the year it remains mostly hushed.

In July, Allan awarded the Heath “Urban Quiet Park” status. He was acting on behalf of Quiet Parks International, or QPI, a non-profit based in Los Angeles that is “committed to saving quiet for the benefit of all life”. QPI’s purpose is to identify locations around the world that remain free from human-made noise for at least brief pockets of time. As humanity grows louder, these places are in danger of extinction, the organisation argues, even though they are integral to our wellbeing and to the health of the natural world. Some of the locations already identified, like stretches of the Zabalo River in Ecuador, where quiet might linger for several consecutive hours, are in the wilderness. Remarkably, others are in urban centres. The Heath, which QPI calls “a refuge from the noise of the city” that “has shown it provides the experience of being able to fully immerse oneself within the natural environment”, is one of them.

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Finland, Sweden and Norway to cull wolf population

Conservation groups appeal to EU to take action against slaughter they allege flouts rules

Finland is joining Sweden and Norway in culling wolves this winter to control their population, as conservation groups appeal to the European Union to take action against the slaughter.

Hunters in Sweden have already shot dead most of their annual target of 27 wolves, while Finland is to authorise the killing of 20 wolves in its first “population management cull” for seven years.

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Love meat too much for Veganuary? Try Regenuary instead

Proponents say the ‘regenerative farming’ eating challenge encourages consumption of more sustainable animal products – but is it just greenwash?

With Veganuary expected to reach more than 2 million sign-ups globally since its launch in 2014, the 31-day plant-based pledge is once again making headlines this January as food manufacturers, supermarkets and restaurants cater to the movement. But for people wanting to eat more sustainably, yet not willing to cut out meat completely, there is another consumer challenge to try: Regenuary.

The idea for people to source as much food as possible from producers who use regenerative farming methods was hatched three years ago by Glen Burrows, co-founder of the Ethical Butcher, who was a vegetarian for 25 years because he didn’t like the way meat was produced. “Back in 1989, being a vegetarian was basically like being a Martian,” he says. “I became that awkward guy at dinner parties and slightly enjoyed that moral smugness, but then after a long period of time, I wasn’t that well. It wasn’t suiting me.”

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‘Another hellish day’: South America sizzles in record summer temperatures

Argentina, Uruguay, Brazil and Paraguay are reeling from a historic heatwave with temperatures as high as 113F

Cities and towns across southern South America have been setting record high temperatures as the region swelters during a historic heatwave.

“Practically all of Argentina and also neighboring countries such as Uruguay, southern Brazil and Paraguay are experiencing the hottest days in history,” said Cindy Fernández, meteorologist at the official National Meteorological Service.

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