The Global Fool

our planet is our village

Food Waste Harms Climate, Water, Land and Biodiversity
Sep14

Food Waste Harms Climate, Water, Land and Biodiversity

By The Editors The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) released a few days ago a report detailing the first study to analyze the impacts of global food wastage from an environmental perspective, looking specifically at its consequences for the climate, water and land use, and biodiversity. Key facts and figures from the report are: The global volume of food wastage is estimated at 1.6 billion tonnes of “primary product equivalents.” Total food wastage for the edible part of this amounts to 1.3 billion tonnes. Food wastage’s carbon footprint is estimated at 3.3 billion tonnes of CO2 equivalent of GHG released into the atmosphere per year. The total volume of water used each year to produce food that is lost or wasted (250km3) is equivalent to the annual flow of Russia’s Volga River, or three times the volume of Lake Geneva. Similarly, 1.4 billion hectares of land – 28 percent of the world’s agricultural area – is used annually to produce food that is lost or wasted. Agriculture is responsible for a majority of threats to at-risk plant and animal species tracked by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. A low percentage of all food wastage is composted: much of it ends up in landfills, and represents a large part of municipal solid waste. Methane emissions from landfills represents one of the largest sources of GHG emissions from the waste sector. Home composting can potentially divert up to 150 kg of food waste per household per year from local collection authorities. Developing countries suffer more food losses during agricultural production, while in middle- and high-income regions, food waste at the retail and consumer level tends to be higher. The direct economic consequences of food wastage (excluding fish and seafood) run to the tune of $750 billion annually. “All of us – farmers and fishers; food processors and supermarkets; local and national governments; individual consumers — must make changes at every link of the human food chain to prevent food wastage from happening in the first place, and re-use or recycle it when we can’t,” said FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva. “We simply cannot allow one-third of all the food we produce to go to waste or be lost because of inappropriate practices, when 870 million people go hungry every day,” he added. Achim Steiner, UN Environment Programme (UNEP) Executive Director, said: “UNEP and FAO have identified food waste and loss –food wastage– as a major opportunity for economies everywhere to assist in a transition towards a low carbon, resource efficient and inclusive Green Economy. Today’s excellent report by FAO underlines the multiple benefits that can...

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It’s World Breastfeeding Week!
Aug04

It’s World Breastfeeding Week!

By The Editors World Breastfeeding Week is celebrated every year from 1 to 7 August in more than 170 countries to encourage breastfeeding and improve the health of babies around the world. It commemorates the Innocenti Declaration made by WHO and UNICEF policy-makers in August 1990 to protect, promote and support breastfeeding. According to the Innocenti Declaration, breastfeeding is a unique process that:  Provides ideal nutrition for infants and contributes to their healthy growth and development. Reduces incidence and severity of infectious diseases, thereby lowering infant morbidity and mortality. Contributes to women’s health by reducing the risk of breast and ovarian cancer, and by increasing the spacing between pregnancies. Provides social and economic benefits to the family and the nation. Provides most women with a sense of satisfaction when successfully carried out. Breastfeeding is the normal way of providing young infants with the nutrients they need for healthy growth and development. Virtually all mothers can breastfeed, provided they have accurate information, and the support of their family, the health care system and society at large. WHO recommends exclusive breastfeeding until a baby is six months old, and continued breastfeeding with the addition of nutritious complementary foods for up to two years or beyond.     You can read below the objectives of World Breastfeeding Week 2013: 1. To draw attention to the importance of Peer Support in helping mothers to establish and sustain breastfeeding. 2. To inform people of the highly effective benefits of Peer Counselling, and unite efforts to expand peer counselling programmes. 3. To encourage breastfeeding supporters, regardless of their educational background, to step forward and be trained to support mothers and babies. 4. To identify local community support contacts for breastfeeding mothers, that women can go to for help and support after giving birth. 5. To call on governments and maternity facilities globally to actively implement the Ten Steps, in particular Step 10, to improve duration and rates of exclusive...

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A Not-So-New Role for Bisphenol A: Mammary Gland Carcinogen
Jul24

A Not-So-New Role for Bisphenol A: Mammary Gland Carcinogen

By The Editors Bisphenol A (BPA) is not just a harmful chemical found in many plastic products — it’s also a news champion, and our guess is we’ll keep hearing about it for a long time. The latest? BPA may act as a complete mammary gland carcinogen. BPA is a known endocrine disruptor (a chemical able to interfere with the body’s endocrine system and produce adverse developmental, reproductive, neurological, and immune effects in both humans and wildlife) and a potential environmental obesogen (a chemical able to disrupt the normal development and balance of lipid metabolism, which can lead to obesity). Moreover, mounting scientific evidence strongly suggests a link between BPA and cancer. The Breast Cancer Fund website states: “With regard to mammary development and increased risk for development of breast cancer, several studies using both rat and mouse models have demonstrated that even brief exposures to environmentally relevant doses of BPA during gestation or around the time of birth lead to changes in mammary tissue structure predictive of later development of tumors. Exposure also increased sensitivity to estrogen at puberty. Early exposure to BPA led to abnormalities in mammary tissue development that were observable even during gestation and were maintained into adulthood. Prenatal exposure of rats to BPA resulted in increases in the number of pre-cancerous lesions and in situ tumors (carcinomas), as well as an increased number of mammary tumors following adulthood exposures to subthreshold doses (lower than that needed to induce tumors) of known carcinogens.” Now, a new study published in the scientific journal Environmental Health Perspectives (Perinatally Administered Bisphenol A Acts as a Mammary Gland Carcinogen in Rats, July 23, 2013) concludes that “Developmental exposure to environmentally relevant levels of BPA during gestation and lactation induces mammary gland neoplasms in the absence of any additional carcinogenic treatment. Thus, BPA may act as a complete mammary gland carcinogen”. For their study, the authors used Sprague­Dawley rats, a strain used extensively for toxicology and carcinogenesis studies by the National Toxicology Program at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. Pregnant rats were treated with a wide range of BPA doses for different exposure times. The mammary glands from the offspring were then examined for preneoplastic and neoplastic lesions. Unexpectedly, the investigators observed large mammary carcinomas occurring at BPA doses relevant to human exposure. Tumors were found in animals exposed to BPA across all doses and exposure times. BPA is the building block of polycarbonate plastic. It’s also used in the manufacture of epoxy resins found in many common consumer products as well as in thermal receipts and other paper products. Polycarbonate plastics have many applications including use in some food and...

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Ozone, Plants and Heat Waves: Team Players in Adverse Health Effects
Jul23

Ozone, Plants and Heat Waves: Team Players in Adverse Health Effects

By The Editors Ozone, the principal component of the mixture of air pollutants known as “smog“, is produced from the action of sunlight on air contaminants from automobile exhausts and other sources. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) “Ozone in the air we breathe can harm our health—typically on hot, sunny days when ozone can reach unhealthy levels. Even relatively low levels of ozone can cause health effects. Breathing ozone can trigger a variety of health problems including chest pain, coughing, throat irritation, and congestion. It can worsen bronchitis, emphysema, and asthma. Ground level ozone also can reduce lung function and inflame the linings of the lungs. Repeated exposure may permanently scar lung tissue.”   Ozone Effects on the Airways.  Ozone is a powerful oxidant that can irritate the air ways causing coughing, a burning sensation, wheezing and shortness of breath and it can aggravate asthma and other lung diseases.           In the Summer, strong sunlight and hot weather result in harmful ozone concentrations in the air we breathe. Ozone can be transported long distances by wind.  For this reason, even rural areas can experience high ozone levels.  And, in some cases, ozone can occur throughout the year in some southern and mountain regions. Plants can reduce ozone concentrations. However, in presence of heat waves, they become stressed and stop absorbing ozone and other pollutants. Results from a new study, set to quantify the impact of increased ozone levels on human life, show that this phenomenon led to about 406 premature deaths in the UK during the 2006 Summer heat wave. All estimated premature deaths were in addition to human health and mortality impacts from the heat itself. The study, entitled “Scorched Earth: How will changes in the strength of the vegetation sink to ozone deposition affect human health and ecosystems?” was published a few days ago (July 18) in the scientific journal Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics.   Dr. Lisa Emberson, lead author of the study, explains that “Vegetation can absorb as much as 20 per cent of the global atmospheric ozone production, so the potential impact on air quality is substantial. During heat waves – when the ground is especially dry – plants become stressed and shut their stomata (small pores on their leaves) to conserve water. This natural protective mechanism makes them more resilient to extreme heat and high ozone levels, but it also stops them from absorbing ozone and other pollutants.” The extent of the problem depends on how dry the soil is, since it is the combination of heat and drought that stresses plants the most. Dr. Emberson says the study...

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The Global Threat of Substandard and Falsified Medicines
Jul20

The Global Threat of Substandard and Falsified Medicines

By The Editors Treatment with poor quality medicines — substandard and falsified (fake) medicines — is a significant cause of harm to human populations worldwide. According to a report released on February 13, 2013, by the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies “Falsified and substandard medicines provide little protection from disease and, worse, can expose consumers to major harm. Bad drugs pose potential threats around the world, but the nature of the risk varies by country, with higher risk in countries with minimal or non-existent regulatory oversight. While developed countries are not immune, – negligent production at a Massachusetts compounding pharmacy killed 44 people from September 2012 to January 2013 – the vast majority of problems occur in developing countries where underpowered and unsafe medicines affect millions.” What is the difference between substandard and falsified medicines? Oxfam International explains the difference as follows: “Substandard medicines may contain the wrong type or concentration of active ingredient, or they may have deteriorated during distribution in the supply chain and thus become ineffective or dangerous. Falsified medicines are intentionally misrepresented to consumers. They may be fake in terms of composition or they may be falsely labelled, meaning that the information provided about the product is inaccurate.” In an essay published in the scientific journal PLOS Medicine on July 2, 2013, Agnes Binagwaho and colleagues discuss the widespread problem posed by substandard and falsified anti-tuberculosis drugs available in low- and middle-income countries and describe Rwanda’s successful efforts to ensure drug quality. According to the World Health Organization, tuberculosis is second only to HIV/AIDS as the greatest killer worldwide due to a single infectious agent. In 2011, 8.7 million people fell ill with tuberculosis and 1.4 million died from it. Two basic antibiotics used to treat tuberculosis are isoniazid and rifampicin. Some of the authors of the PLOS Medicine essay recently published a study in The International Journal of Tuberculosis and Lung Disease, showing that ”Among 713 samples of isoniazid and rifampicin purchased at community pharmacies in 19 cities of 17 countries, 65 (9.1%) of the samples had insufficient active pharmaceutical ingredient (API) and failed basic quality control tests. Of those samples 18 (of 65, or 27.7%) were definitely falsified, since they had zero API and obviously fake packaging. The remaining products with insufficient API (47 of 65, or 72.3%) were either substandard or falsified.” The countries involved in the study were Angola, Brazil, China, Democratic Republic of Congo, Egypt, Ethiopia, Ghana, India, Kenya, Nigeria, Russia, Rwanda, Thailand, Turkey, Uganda, United Republic of Tanzania and Zambia. Rwanda was the only African nation whose samples did not include any falsified products. According to Agnes Binagwaho and...

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