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EarthTalk®

by the Editors of E/The Environmental Magazine


EarthTalk®
From the Editors of E/The Environmental Magazine

Dear EarthTalk: What is “BPA” used in plastics, and why should I worry about it? Are there certain household items or food containers to avoid because of BPA? -- Tina Sillers, via e-mail

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Bisphenol A (also known as BPA) is a chemical that has been in use for upwards of four decades in the manufacture of many hard plastic food containers, including baby bottles and reusable cups and the lining of metal food and beverage cans (including canned liquid infant formula). The agency further reports that “trace amounts of BPA can be found in some foods packaged in these containers.”

The non-profit Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) reports that “growing amount of scientific research has linked BPA exposure to altered development of the brain and behavioral changes, a predisposition to prostate and breast cancer, reproductive harm, diabetes, obesity and cardiovascular disease.” The group adds that more than 93 percent of Americans have some BPA in their bodies, primarily from exposure through food contamination and other preventable contact.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration was initially dismissive of worries about BPA, but increased public pressure and new research on the potential effects of BPA on the brain and the prostate gland in fetuses, infants and young children have forced the agency to revisit its last survey on the topic from 2008. While we learn more, the Food and Drug Administration is supporting current efforts by industry to stop the manufacture of infant bottles and feeding cups made with BPA…,” reports HHS.

In the meantime, consumers can be vigilant. The plastic items most likely to contain are made of either polyvinyl chloride (PVC, or plastic #3) or from mixed plastic sources, otherwise known in the recycling industry as “other” or plastic #7. PVC plastics—also notorious for leaching toxic phthalates that have been linked to human reproductive and developmental problems—are found in a wide range of products, from shampoo and salad dressing containers to shower curtains and kids’ toys. Those once-ubiquitous polycarbonate unbreakable baby and water bottles reputed to leach BPA are also a #7 plastic, though #7 is a catch-all for otherwise unidentified or mixed plastics; as such, not all #7 plastic will contain BPA.

As for other disposable and non-disposable household items, if you can locate a recycling number and you find a #1 (polyethylene, PET or PETE), #2 (high density polyethylene), #4 (low density polyethylene) or #5 (polypropylene) or #6 (polystyrene), the item should be free of BPA. (Note: #6 polystyrene, often used for disposable cups, plates and cutlery, doesn’t contain BPA but can leach the toxic carcinogen styrene into the foods and beverages it touches, and should also be avoided.)

If there’s no recycling number on the item, you can find out if an item contains BPA yourself with a BPA Test Kit from Home-Health-Chemistry.com. A kit with two swabs, all needed testing solutions and instructions is $4.99; a 10-swab set costs $14.99. Otherwise, you can replace the questionable item with one that you know is BPA-free (many companies now use this as a selling point) and vow to make more informed purchasing choices in the future.

CONTACTS: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services BPA Page, www.hhs.gov/safety/bpa/; NRDC, www.nrdc.org; Home-Health-Chemistry.com, www.home-health-chemistry.com.

SEND YOUR ENVIRONMENTAL QUESTIONS TO: EarthTalk®, c/o E – The Environmental Magazine, P.O. Box 5098, Westport, CT 06881; earthtalk@emagazine.com. E is a nonprofit publication. Subscribe: www.emagazine.com/subscribe; Request a Free Trial Issue: www.emagazine.com/trial.


EarthTalk®
From the Editors of E/The Environmental Magazine

Dear EarthTalk: A friend of mine working on the Gulf Coast oil cleanup says that at least 50 percent of the loose oil is laying on the sea floor. What’s the long-term prognosis of this?

-- Chris H., Darien, CT

It’s true that oil from BPs Deepwater Horizon fiasco is still sticking to and covering parts of the sea floor for some 80 miles or more around the site of the now-capped well. In early September, researchers from the University of Georgia found oil some two inches thick on the sea floor as far as 80 miles away from the source of the leak, with a layer of dead shrimp and other small animals under it.

"I expected to find oil on the sea floor," Samantha Joye, lead researcher for the University of Georgia’s team of scientists studying the effects of the Deepwater Horizon spill, told reporters. “I didn’t expect to find layers two inches thick. It’s kind of like having a blizzard where the snow comes in and covers everything,” Joye said.

But as recently as three months ago the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) reported finding no evidence of oil accumulating on the sea floor in the Gulf. NOAA Administrator Jane Lubchenco told reporters then that the oil from the massive spill that never made it to the surface was dispersed naturally or chemically. She added that only about a quarter of the 200 million gallons of spilled oil remained in the Gulf, the rest having “disappeared” or been contained or cleaned up.

But some researchers say NOAA misled the public by saying that much of the oil simply disappeared. Ian MacDonald, an oceanographer at Florida State University, says that initial reports from NOAA about how much oil remains in the Gulf were too optimistic. The oil “did not disappear,” he says. “It sank.”

One of the reasons why so much oil may have sunk was because it was broken up into tiny droplets by chemical dispersants, making the oil so small that it wasn’t buoyant enough to rise as would otherwise be expected. Also, as oil still in the water column ages it becomes more tar-like in a process called weathering, and as such becomes more likely to sink. And to make matters worse, oil on the sea floor takes longer to degrade than it would on the surface because of the colder temperatures down deep.

The new findings are particularly troubling because of the potential ripple effects the remaining oil could have on the wider ecosystem and industries that rely on a healthy marine environment. Marine biologists and environmentalists worry that the oil is doing significant harm to populations of tube worms, tiny crustaceans and mollusks, single-cell organisms and other underwater life forms that shape the building blocks of the marine food chain.

“Deep-sea animals, in general, tend to produce fewer offspring than shallower water animals, so if they are going to have a population impact, it may be more sensitive in deep water,” reports Louisiana State University oceanographer Robert Carney. “There is also some evidence that deep-sea animals live longer than shallower water species, so the impact may stay around longer.”

CONTACTS: University of Georgia Department of Marine Sciences Gulf Oil Blog, gulfblog.uga.edu; NOAA, www.noaa.gov; Louisiana State University, www.lsu.edu.

SEND YOUR ENVIRONMENTAL QUESTIONS TO: EarthTalk®, c/o E – The Environmental Magazine, P.O. Box 5098, Westport, CT 06881; earthtalk@emagazine.com. E is a nonprofit publication. Subscribe: www.emagazine.com/subscribe; Request a Free Trial Issue: www.emagazine.com/trial.

EarthTalk®
From the Editors of E/The Environmental Magazine

Dear EarthTalk: Is there a way to utilize the energy in my dogs’ poop? I have three dogs and lots of poop and would like to dispose of it in a “greener” manner. -- Mary C., Wallace, ID

No doubt creating a way to do so is possible, as large systems called anaerobic digesters (or biogas digesters) are often used in landfills to wring energy out of trash, as well as on some big farms and ranches where large amounts of cow manure provide plenty of feedstock. In such systems microbes generate methane gas—which can be captured and used for power—once they are set free on manure or trash. The economics of putting biogas digesters in landfills or big cattle operations can make the up-front expense tolerable—money can be made or saved by selling or utilizing the resulting power—but doing so in one’s back yard might be a different story.

Not to say it can’t be done: This past September artist Matthew Mazzotta, armed with a $4,000 grant from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)—where he earned a master's degree in visual studies last year—created the ingenious Park Spark poop converter system that uses dog poop to power a gas lantern that illuminates a corner of the Pacific Street Dog Park in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

The system uses two steel, 500-gallon oil tanks, connected by diagonal black piping and attached to an old gaslight-style street lantern. “After the dogs do their business, signs on the tanks instruct owners to use biodegradable bags supplied on site to pick up the poop and deposit it into the left tank,” reports Jay Lindsay on the Huffington Post. “People then turn a wheel to stir its insides, which contain waste and water. Microbes in the waste give off methane, an odorless gas that is fed through the tanks to the lamp and burned off.” Although the park is small, neighborhood dog owners have provided enough waste for a steady supply of fuel.

The 33-year old Mazzotta got the idea after travelling in
India and seeing people there using poop in small “methane digesters” to cook food. When he visited Pacific Street Park with a friend in 2009 and saw the park’s trash can filled with bags of dog poop, the Park Spark idea was born. He hopes the installation, which was dismantled after its one-month run, has helped point out to people that there are potential energy sources all around us, and that we must consider every option at our disposal, so to speak, as we wean ourselves off oil in the face of impending climate change.

Besides reducing waste going to landfills, another environmental benefit of utilizing dog poop for energy is reducing one’s carbon footprint. Burning methane derived from dog poop or other biodegradable waste material in an anaerobic digester is carbon neutral, meaning it doesn’t contribute any new greenhouse gases into the atmosphere that could exacerbate global warming.

While it might not be worth $4,000 or a degree from MIT for you to create your own version of the Park Spark in your backyard, it’s good to know that such technology exists, and will no doubt someday be available and affordable for the rest of us as long as we continue to show find ways to reduce, reuse and recycle everything we possibly can.

CONTACTS: The Park Spark Project, www.parksparkproject.com; The Huffington Post, www.huffingtonpost.com.

SEND YOUR ENVIRONMENTAL QUESTIONS TO: EarthTalk®, c/o E – The Environmental Magazine, P.O. Box 5098, Westport, CT 06881; earthtalk@emagazine.com. E is a nonprofit publication. Subscribe: www.emagazine.com/subscribe; Request a Free Trial Issue: www.emagazine.com/trial.


EarthTalk®
From the Editors of E/The Environmental Magazine

Dear EarthTalk: Are there efforts to increase bike lanes and paths around the nation? I’d like to be able to bike more instead of drive, but I’m concerned about safety. -- John Shields, Minneapolis, MN

Around the U.S. new bike lanes and paths are all the rage, helping cash-strapped cities simultaneously green operations and trim budgets—adding bike lanes is far less costly (to taxpayers and the environment) than building new roads. Also, the nonprofit League of American Bicyclists reports that real estate values increase with proximity to bike paths. “People enjoy living close to bike paths and are willing to pay more for an otherwise comparable house to be closer to one,” the group reports, citing examples from Indiana, California and elsewhere showing that homes near bike trails command a premium upwards of 10 percent.

In New York City, bicycling is the fastest growing mode of transportation. A 2006 citywide mandate has led to the laying down of some 200 miles of new bike paths recently. Also, the area around Madison Square in midtown is now bike-friendly; seven blocks of Broadway now feature green-painted bike lanes between the curb and the parking lane to provide cyclists with a buffer against rushing motorized traffic.

In September, central Tennessee (Nashville and environs) adopted an ambitious plan to add upwards of 1,000 miles of bike paths (also 750 miles of sidewalks) across seven counties, a scheme that won the “best project” award from the Institute of Transportation Engineers. Nashville itself will increase alternative transportation spending from 0.5 percent to 15 percent of its transportation budget, and hopes to reduce traffic congestion and obesity—Tennessee has the nation’s second highest rate of obesity—in the process.

Portland, Oregon, long a leading U.S. city on environmental policy, has allocated over $20 million over the last few years for bicycle infrastructure improvements, and plans to spend another $24 million upgrading the city’s network of bike paths and trails. One of the city’s latest innovations has been to convert two parking spaces on city streets to bike corrals capable of holding two dozen bicycles. In addition the Bike Portland blog reports that the city now supports some 125 bike related businesses, mostly small and locally owned, covering everything from custom bike building to accessories and repair.

In Davis, California, named America’s top cycling city by the League of American Bicyclists, bikes outnumber cars and bike paths occupy 95 percent of arterial and collector roads there. Some 14 percent of all commuters in Davis commute to work by bike, which is 35 times the national average. Other cities in the League’s Top 10 include Palo Alto and San Francisco in California; Corvallis, Portland and Eugene in Oregon; Boulder, Colorado; Madison, Wisconsin; Tucson, Arizona; and Seattle, Washington.

Some cities—New York, Los Angeles, Seattle—make available maps of bicycle routes. The inclusion of bike routes on Google Maps has also been a boon to cyclists across the country looking for the safest and most direct routes. Users can click on a bicycle icon after hitting “Get Directions.” Local bicycle clubs are a good place to turn to find the best bike-friendly routes though your region; The A1 Trails website provides a comprehensive list of bike clubs and other resources around the U.S. and Canada. With so many tools and new infrastructure, it might be high time to leave the car parked and hop on your bicycle.

CONTACTS: League of America Bicyclists, www.bikeleague.org; Institute of Transportation Engineers, www.ite.org; Bike Portland, www.bikeportland.org; A1 Trails, www.a1trails.com.

SEND YOUR ENVIRONMENTAL QUESTIONS TO: EarthTalk®, c/o E – The Environmental Magazine, P.O. Box 5098, Westport, CT 06881; earthtalk@emagazine.com. E is a nonprofit publication. Subscribe: www.emagazine.com/subscribe; Request a Free Trial Issue: www.emagazine.com/trial.

EarthTalk®
From the Editors of E/The Environmental Magazine

Dear EarthTalk: What, if anything, fills the empty space underground created by the extraction of billions of gallons of oil? Could oil drilling be one of the causes of increasing amounts of land settling and sinkholes in oil rich areas? Can it cause earthquakes? -- Linda Anderson, Sedona, AZ

The crude oil (and natural gas) we drill for the world over is, for the most part, stored in tiny pores within rock up to only about three miles deep in the Earth’s hugely dense crust. At such depths, the oil there is under fairly high pressure. When it is removed, other liquids—usually water—move in to take its place, equalizing the pressure in the process. Sometimes oil extractors pump water into one side of an oil field to push oil toward wells on the other side, and the water replaces the oil accordingly.

In cases where other liquids don’t move in, such as in the North Sea off The Netherlands, the porous rock layer that harbored the oil originally can collapse after extraction, causing slight amounts of land settling (known as “land subsidence”) in the rock layer surfaces above, but typically no more than a few tenths of an inch per year.

Here in the U.S., land subsidence induced by the large volume extraction of underground resources including oil and gas “is more common than most people realize,” according to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), a government agency which collects, monitors, analyzes and provides scientific understanding about natural resource conditions, issues and problems. Flat coastal plains and wetlands near sea level are most at risk from this potential side effect.

Excessive ground water pumping, not oil or gas extraction, is the single largest source of land subsidence, says the USGS, but the agency cites several cases throughout the 20th century which they say demonstrate how “accelerated withdrawal of oil, gas and associated water from shallow unconsolidated reservoirs could lower the land elevation, cause minor earthquakes, and activate faults [around oil fields].”

Subsidence around large, mature oil and gas fields that coincide with faults could add enough stress to trigger small, locally based earthquakes as far as two kilometers away from the offending wells. Most geologists agree, though, that it is unlikely that oil and gas extraction could contribute to or cause major earthquakes, which are generated at depths far deeper than would be practical to drill for oil or gas. The USGS does suggest, however, that the continued withdrawal of oil and gas and the associated decline in underground fluid pressure could even contribute to coastal sea level rises by lowering coastal land elevations.

As for sinkholes, modern oil wells tend to be much deeper than the depth where sinkholes typically can affect people. Nonetheless, in 1980 residents of the West Texas town of Wink awoke one morning to find a 370-foot wide, 110-foot deep sinkhole a couple of miles north of downtown. Geologists suspect the sinkhole formed as a result of historic (and by today's standards outdated) oil production practices in the area whereby extractors pumped saltwater out from underneath the surface and left a void that the above layer of earth eventually collapsed into. A second, even bigger sinkhole opened up nearby in 2002.

CONTACT: U.S. Geological Survey, www.usgs.gov.

SEND YOUR ENVIRONMENTAL QUESTIONS TO: EarthTalk®, c/o E – The Environmental Magazine, P.O. Box 5098, Westport, CT 06881; earthtalk@emagazine.com. E is a nonprofit publication. Subscribe: www.emagazine.com/subscribe; Request a Free Trial Issue: www.emagazine.com/trial.


EarthTalk®
From the Editors of E/The Environmental Magazine

Dear EarthTalk: I’m considering going for a teeth whitening, but is this safe to do?
--
Clara Reid, Kent, Washington

In the U.S., teeth whitening products are not regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, as they are not classified as drugs. As such, long term safety data doesn’t exist for them. But health experts warn that consumers should beware of the risks of using stronger varieties containing hydrogen peroxide. Hydrogen peroxide tends to be more effective (it essentially bleaches the tooth enamel), but it is a harsh chemical that can be poisonous if swallowed.

Europa, the official website of the European Union (EU), cites studies showing that bleaching teeth with hydrogen peroxide-based products can “harm the surface of the teeth, making the enamel more porous and leading to dents, scratches and loss of minerals.” Europa further warns that it’s important for people to keep their tooth enamel in good condition as it is “the protective, hard layer covering the softer dentine inside the tooth” and “does not regenerate.” The EU recommends people avoid tooth whitening products with hydrogen peroxide levels higher than a 1.5 percent concentration; most over-the-counter varieties come in at about a 0.5 percent concentration level. If the label on the product you are considering doesn’t indicate the concentration, it might be better to go with one that has a more complete ingredients listing.

Dentists can access teeth whitening solutions with higher concentrations of hydrogen peroxide than are available over-the-counter; as such a professional job in your dentist’s office will be more effective and last longer than the solutions you can take home from the drug store. And while higher concentrations of hydrogen peroxide might not be what you’re looking for, dentists can apply it in more targeted ways. If you do it yourself at home there is a greater chance you will expose your gums and other parts of your mouth to hydrogen peroxide or swallow more of it than you should.

As for maintaining that bright white look, whether you did it yourself or had it done professionally, your local drugstore or supermarket no doubt carries a wide selection of toothpastes that claim to whiten teeth. The ones which work the best contain—you guessed it!—hydrogen peroxide, which can be irritating if used day after day.

Fortunately for the health-minded home teeth whitener there are many less harsh varieties of these toothpastes now on the market. The website Skin Deep, a free online safety guide to cosmetics and personal care products published by the non-profit Environmental Working Group, lists Tom’s of Maine Natural Antiplaque Tartar Control Plus Whitening Toothpaste—which makes use of all-natural hydrated silica, not hydrogen peroxide, for whitening and stain removal—as one of the safest kinds of whitening toothpastes out there today. Burt’s Bees Natural Fluoride-Free Whitening Toothpaste and CloSYS Toothpaste for Teeth Whitening also get high marks from Skin Deep for their natural, non-toxic ingredients. While such products may not be “advanced” formulations from a leading packaged goods conglomerate, your teeth and body may thank you later.

CONTACTS: U.S. Food and Drug Administration, www.fda.gov; Europa, www.europa.eu; Greenfootsteps, www.greenfootsteps.com; Skin Deep, www.cosmeticsdatabase.com; Tom's of Maine, www.tomsofmaine.com; Burt's Bees, www.burtsbees.com; CloSYS, www.rowpar.com.

SEND YOUR ENVIRONMENTAL QUESTIONS TO: EarthTalk®, c/o E – The Environmental Magazine, P.O. Box 5098, Westport, CT 06881; earthtalk@emagazine.com. E is a nonprofit publication. Subscribe: www.emagazine.com/subscribe; Request a Free Trial Issue: www.emagazine.com/trial.

EarthTalk®
From the Editors of E/The Environmental Magazine

Dear EarthTalk: What are the environmental benefits of the hydroponic growing of lettuce and other crops? -- Bruce Keeler, Oakland, CA

While organic agriculture is all the rage, growing by leaps and bounds to meet increased consumer demand for healthier food, another option that’s less well known but just as healthy is hydroponics, whereby plants are grown in nutrient-fortified water-based solutions without a soil substrate whatsoever. Besides not needing chemical fertilizers or pesticides (most of which are toxic as well as derived from petroleum), hydroponics also take up much less space than traditional agriculture, meaning that even an apartment window can yield impressive amounts of food throughout the calendar year.

In traditional forms of agriculture, soil facilitates the process of providing the mineral nutrients that plants need to grow. Organisms in the soil break down the nutrients into inorganic basic forms that the plants can then take up accordingly and put to use photosynthesizing. Of course, some of the organisms the soil attracts are unwelcome, and not every speck of soil is ideal as a growth medium, so we have come up with ways to kill off unwanted pests (pesticides) and pump up the ground’s productivity (fertilizers).

But growing fruits and vegetables hydroponically obviates the need for fertilizers and pesticides—let alone soil—altogether. “Without soil, there is little to no microbial activity, so the plants depend on direct nutrients from nutrient solutions,” reports Alexandra Gross in E – The Environmental Magazine. “And because hydroponics occur in a highly controlled space and microbial activity is at minimum, pesticides, insecticides and herbicides are not needed.”

In most hydroponic systems, the nutrient solutions include inorganic salt fertilizers and semi-soluble organic materials such as bat guano (manure), bone meal and fish emulsion. Since growing hydroponically does not require chemical fertilizers and pesticides, the method is inherently “organic,” although the federal government doesn’t recognize it as such officially. Hydroponic farmers are trying to get the U.S. Food & Drug Administration to take soil out of the equation when it comes to defining organic so that their products can bear an organic certification label on store shelves and appeal to a quickly growing segment of green-minded consumers.

Hydroponic methods are becoming especially popular with a new wave of green-minded urban gardeners. When artist Britta Riley began growing her own food hydroponically in the window of her fifth floor Brooklyn apartment in 2009—and sharing her findings with like-minded folks all over the world via the Internet—the Windowfarms Project was born. In less than two years, some 13,000 people have joined the online community at the windowfarms.org website, where members can download free how-to instructions for homemade hydroponic systems.

Along with the Windowfarms Project website, a couple of good sources of hydroponic growing information, inspiration and supplies include Hydroponics Online and Simply Hydroponics and Organics.

CONTACTS: E – The Environmental Magazine, www.emagazine.com/view/?5221; The Windowfarms Project, www.windowfarms.org; Hydroponics Online, www.hydroponicsonline.com; Simply Hydroponics and Organics, www.simplyhydro.com.

SEND YOUR ENVIRONMENTAL QUESTIONS TO: EarthTalk®, c/o E – The Environmental Magazine, P.O. Box 5098, Westport, CT 06881; earthtalk@emagazine.com. E is a nonprofit publication. Subscribe: www.emagazine.com/subscribe; Request a Free Trial Issue: www.emagazine.com/trial.


EarthTalk®
From the Editors of E/The Environmental Magazine

Dear EarthTalk: Can pollution affect my child’s IQ? -- Ellen Franzen, Portland, OR

A spate of recent studies suggests that pollution can indeed affect the intelligence of children of all ages (even those still in utero). The primary culprit is smog—ground level pollution comprised of vehicle and smokestack emissions that can form a dense haze on and near busy roadways. While smog has long been known to be a health hazard for asthmatics, heart patients and the elderly, only recently have we begun to learn about its unique effects on our young people.

A 2007 Harvard School of Public Health study found that children between the ages of eight and 11 living and attending school in areas of Boston with higher levels of traffic pollutants scored an average of 3.7 points lower on IQ tests than children living in less polluted areas. “The effect of pollution on intelligence was similar to that seen in children whose mothers smoked 10 cigarettes a day while pregnant, or in kids who have been exposed to lead,” reports Dr. Shakira Franco Suglia, lead author of the study.

A 2009 Columbia Center for Children's Environmental Health study of the effect over a five-year period of exposure to polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs)—toxic pollutants that come from the combustion of coal, diesel or gas—showed even greater effects on the offspring of expecting mothers living in parts of Harlem and the Bronx in New York City. Researchers found that those children exposed to the highest amounts of PAH pollution had IQs some 4.31 to 4.67 lower than non-exposed kids.

“These findings are of concern because these decreases in IQ could be educationally meaningful in terms of school performance,” says Frederica Perera, the study’s lead author and the Columbia Center’s director, adding that the effects of PAHs were similar to the findings of the damage caused by low-level lead exposure. “This finding is of concern because IQ is an important predictor of future academic performance, and PAHs are widespread in urban environments and throughout the world.”

Several other U.S. and international studies in 2009 and 2010 found evidence suggesting that common urban pollutants affect more than just intelligence in kids. Frequent exposure has also been linked to low birth weight and small head circumference as well as miscarriage and preeclampsia (hypertension during pregnancy). “Some researchers believe that traffic pollution acts like secondhand smoke or marijuana use, restricting oxygen and nutrients delivered to the fetus,” reports Hilary Evans in E – The Environmental Magazine, adding that others believe that prenatal exposure to pollutants changes human cell development and causes problems later in life.

Columbia’s Perera is optimistic that we can work our way out of such problems. “Fortunately, airborne PAH concentrations can be reduced through currently available controls, alternative energy sources and policy interventions,” she says. Indeed, urban planners, regulators and eco-entrepreneurs are experimenting with different methods of reducing smog and other pollutants in problem areas. But until such techniques are perfected and clean-up mandates enforced, those living near busy roadways or otherwise polluted areas put their families at risk every time the front door opens.

CONTACTS: Harvard School of Public Health, www.hsph.harvard.edu; Columbia Center for Children's Environmental Health, www.cumc.columbia.edu/dept/mailman/ccceh.

SEND YOUR ENVIRONMENTAL QUESTIONS TO: EarthTalk®, c/o E – The Environmental Magazine, P.O. Box 5098, Westport, CT 06881; earthtalk@emagazine.com. E is a nonprofit publication. Subscribe: www.emagazine.com/subscribe; Request a Free Trial Issue: www.emagazine.com/trial.


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