Study Reveals High Levels of Formaldehyde in Child Day Care Centers

In a comprehensive survey conducted by University of California (UC), Berkeley, researchers analyzed the indoor environmental quality of day care centers. In general, the results were similar to most indoor environments except for formaldehyde. This and several other contaminants were found to exceed California state health guidelines. The source is believed to be the cleaning and sanitizing products and furniture coatings.

‘Aquaponics’ Help Islanders Cultivate Crops and Raise Fish

A pilot aquaponics experiment is now underway in the Cook Islands that has the potential to become the South Pacific region's best chance for preventing food shortages. First announced during the Pacific Islands Forum earlier this year (27–31 August), the pilot project combines aquaculture (raising aquatic animals like fish in tanks) and hydroponics (cultivating plants in water) in symbiosis, a strategy that can be replicated in other island nations. The project's long-term objective is to give Pacific islanders — who are facing climate-related issues such as drought and fish poisoning — a way to sustainably grow crops using minimal water and no pesticides.

Survey Shows Business Community Moving Toward Sustainability

Initially, corporate sustainability was a tertiary practice that focused on reporting; increasingly, it is influencing core strategic business decisions. A proactive stance on sustainability is becoming a competitive necessity to attract investors, source talent, meet the requirements of supply chain partners, and address growing consumer demand. Companies are seeing the value of operating in ways that address environmental concerns, health and safety issues and operational risks. They increasingly understand that good product stewardship, responsible energy consumption, and low carbon practices are necessary components of a competitive business. Although a sustainability strategy can be onerous, it is an increasingly essential aspect of a viable business. Engaging sustainability requires that companies are innovative and that they know consumers. Obviously, they must avoid greenwashing and they must tie sustainability to their core business. Some of the contemporary realities that are emerging around the issue of sustainability involve collaborative approaches and securing appropriate external certification.

Earthquake aftershock forecasting must be improved

The need to speed up work on a reliable system for predicting potential aftershocks in the days following a strong earthquake has become more urgent, say US scientists, after a rare quake earlier this year was found to have triggered many large, and potentially damaging, earthquakes around the world.

Reconstructing Communities with Green Buildings

Green building is taking the construction industry by storm, and its benefits are perhaps best seen in disaster-related rebuilds. The pros of sustainable and energy-saving construction are easy for most to identify. Reducing energy consumption with efficient building materials, household appliances, and heating and cooling systems benefits the environment and saves the building owner money. Green buildings often last longer, too, meaning they won't require frequent updates and remodels. However, most people become initially concerned with green building startup costs. In this sense, disaster zones can be something of a blank slate for developers: When towns or cities need rebuilds, developers often have an easier time incentivizing home and business owners to construct with water and energy efficiency in mind.

Bacteria Evolution

The ancestors of modern bacteria were single-celled microorganisms that were the first forms of life to appear on Earth, about 4 billion years ago. For about 3 billion years, all organisms were microscopic, and bacteria and archaea were the dominant forms of life. Bacteria have a bad rap as agents of disease, but scientists are increasingly discovering their many benefits, such as maintaining a healthy gut. A new study now suggests that bacteria may also have helped kick off one of the key events in evolution: the leap from one-celled organisms to many-celled organisms, a development that eventually led to all larger multi-celled animals, including humans.

Meat Production Affected by Disease and Drought

Global meat production rose to 297 million tons in 2011, an increase of 0.8 percent over 2010 levels, and is projected to reach 302 million tons by the end of 2012, according to new research conducted for our Vital Signs Online service. By comparison, meat production rose 2.6 percent in 2010 and has risen 20 percent since 2001. Record drought in the U.S. Midwest, animal disease outbreaks, and rising prices of livestock feed all contributed to 2011’s lower rise in production. Also bucking a decades-long trend, meat consumption decreased slightly worldwide in 2011, from 42.5 kilograms (kg) per person in 2010 to 42.3 kg. Since 1995, however, per capita meat consumption has increased 15 percent overall; in developing countries, it increased 25 percent during this time, whereas in industrialized countries it increased just 2 percent.

New technology helps researchers decipher world’s oldest writing system

Deciphering modern day handwriting is sometimes challenging so reading ancient manuscripts that have been preserved from 3,200 to 3,000 BC can be especially difficult. To the naked eye, ancient artifacts appear weathered, worn, and downright old, but thanks to reflectance transformation imaging technology that takes pictures of these ancient manuscripts, digital images can capture never-before-seen details and lead researchers to new and exciting discoveries.

Air Conditioning Consumes One Third of Peak Electric Consumption in the Summer

Air conditioning in homes may account for up to one third of electricity use during periods in the summer when the most energy is required in large cities, according to a study carried out by Carlos III University of Madrid (UC3M) and the Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas (Spanish National Research Council -- CSIC). The research attempts to determine not only the amount of energy that is consumed, but also its environmental impact.

Authorities confiscate 600 dead elephants’ worth of ivory in Hong Kong

Hong Kong authorities have confiscated two massive shipments of elephant tusks, totaling 1,209 tusks, stemming from Kenya and Tanzania. Representing over 600 poached elephants, the shipments are estimated to be worth $3.4 million on the black market.