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Irish Teen Wins 2019 Google Science Fair For Removing Microplastics From Water

An Irish teenager just won $50,000 for his project focusing on extracting micros-plastics from water.

Google launched the Google Science Fair in 2011 where students ages 13 through 18 can submit experiments and their results in front of a panel of judges. The winner receives $50,000. The competition is also sponsored by Lego, Virgin Galactic, National Geographic and Scientific American.

Fionn Ferreira, an 18-year-old from West Cork, Ireland won the competition for his methodology to remove microplastics from water.

Microplastics are defined as having a diameter of 5nm or less and are too small for filtering or screening during wastewater treatment. Microplastics are often included in soaps, shower gels, and facial scrubs for their ability to exfoliate the skin. Microplastics can also come off clothing during normal washing.

These microplastics then make their way into waterways and are virtually impossible to remove through filtration. Small fish are known to eat microplastics and as larger fish eat smaller fish these microplastics are concentrated into larger fish species that humans consume.

Ferreira used a combination of oil and magnetite powder to create a ferrofluid in the water containing microplastics. The microplastics combined with the ferrofluid which was then extracted.

After the microplastics bound to the ferrofluid, Ferreira used a magnet to remove the solution and leave only water.

After 1,000 tests, the method was 87% effective in removing microplastics of all sorts from water. The most effective microplastic removed was that from a washing machine with the hardest to remove being polypropylene plastics.

With the confirmation of the methodology, Ferreira hopes to scale the technology to be able to implement at wastewater treatment facilities.

This would prevent the microplastics from ever reaching waterways and the ocean. While reduction in the use of microplastics is the ideal scenario, this methodology presents a new opportunity to screen for microplastics before they are consumed as food by fish.

At 18 Ferreira has an impressive array of accomplishments. He is the curator at the Schull Planetarium, speaks 3 languages fluently, won 12 previous science fair competitions, plays the trumpet in an orchestra and has a minor planet named after him by MIT.

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I am a geologist passionate about sharing Earth’s intricacies with you. I received my PhD from Duke University where I studied the geology and climate of the Amazon.

 

Source: Irish Teen Wins 2019 Google Science Fair For Removing Microplastics From Water

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Massive Sinkhole Leaks Radioactive Water Into Florida’s Aquifer – Trevor Nace

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A massive sinkhole recently collapsed nearby Mulberry, Florida, draining approximately 215 million gallons of radioactive and contaminated water into Florida’s aquifer. The sinkhole was located directly below a wastewater storage pond used by Mosaic, the largest phosphate fertilizer producer in the world. There is local outcry that the event in fact took place three weeks before the local community was notified, despite the fact that this is Florida’s largest and primary aquifer for potable water…….

Read more: https://www.forbes.com/sites/trevornace/2016/09/23/massive-sinkhole-leaks-radioactive-water-into-floridas-aquifer/?fbclid=IwAR3n9mATbQzjTfq0I1Rra5iCO__arO_L74Mfupci8GKD9Tc8O7zib-R8vxs#652ad5f15ed8

 

 

 

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Bottled Water & Why Aussies Still Drink It Tap Water is Best – Jamie McKinnell

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With one of the most stringent governances of tap water in the world, you would think developing a booming bottled water market in Australia is akin to selling ice to Eskimos.

Key points:

  • Over 250 guidelines govern Australian tap water
  • The bottled water industry generates more than $700 million a year
  • Blind testing has shown many people can’t tell the difference between bottle and tap

But despite publicity about plastic waste, effective marketing is not the only force steering consumers to a bottle.

Age, gender, culture, and lack of trust in water utilities all contribute.

Sydney Water last year commissioned research to understand the decline in trust of tap water, and confirmed bottled water marketing had an influence.

Western Sydney University’s Professor Gay Hawkins, who worked on the project, said the bottled water companies promoted purity.

“Even though the bottled water markets don’t explicitly criticize tap water, they undermine it by creating a new set of values around water in bottles,” she said.

The chief executive of the Australian Beverages Council, Geoff Parker, said strong labelling and consumer laws ensure what appears on labels is true, particularly with respect to spring water claims.

He said the industry — which now generates over $700 million annually — had expanded in the past five years largely due to consumers’ preference for convenience, taste and rising health consciousness.

A Queensland Urban Utilities survey found 35 per cent of people preferred bottled water over tap water, while 29 per cent thought it was better for them than tap water.

Blind testing in South Australia revealed many people cannot tell the difference without packaging.

What we take for granted

Australia’s governance of tap water is extremely strict and bottled water is not subject to the same checks.

Water utilities follow about 250 rigorous guidelines, developed by the National Health and Medical Research Council, which cover everything from metals to microbiology.

Adam Lovell, the executive director of peak body Water Services Association of Australia (WSAA), said when the World Health Organisation set up guidelines, it used Australia as a model.

“Australia is a world leader in that respect,” he said.

Most people have only a basic understanding of water services, Mr Lovell added.

Professor Hawkins thinks many take the system for granted.

“They don’t understand it and they certainly wouldn’t take it for granted if they knew what it was like to live in a country where bad governance means there is unsafe water.”

A national report monitoring outcomes shows nearly 100 per cent compliance.

“You won’t see that in many other countries, believe me,” Mr Lovell said.

Mr Parker believes bottled water is not an alternative to tap water, but to all other packaged beverages — and with Australia’s expanding waistlines that alternative is important.

“Water is also a great choice for people who want fast and easy hydration without worrying about calories, and bottled water provides those benefits away from home,” he said.

Culture, age and gender

According to a WSAA survey, 60 per cent of people drink tap water and under 40s are far more likely to drink bottled water.

Women represent a higher proportion of bottled water drinkers. Professor Hawkins said the industry was built up by initially targeting fitness-conscious females, but there are also fitness arguments about the need to be “constantly sipping”.

Sydney Water focus groups also revealed Mandarin-speaking communities demonstrate “profound cultural resistance” to drinking from the tap.

Professor Hawkins said there was an “absolute ingrained habit” to boil drinking water, but also different cultural meanings around drinking.

“That community liked to drink tea more than water,” she said.

“You can’t say everyone has the same relationship to water utilities.”

The waste problem

According to the National Waste Report (2016), Australia produces about 64 mega tonnes of waste a year, or 2,705 kilograms per capita.

About 58 per cent of it was recycled and a comparison by Planet Ark suggests Australia’s recycling rate is relatively on par with northern European countries.

The ABC’s War on Waste this year highlighted the impact of single-use plastics, with more than 666,000 tonnes of plastic waste produced by Australian households every year.

Mr Parker said bottled water has one of the lowest environmental footprints of any commercial beverage and the industry is taking steps to tackle the waste problem posed by plastic bottles.

“Australian bottlers lead the way in new technologies designed to minimise the environmental impact of their product, including light weighting of plastics used, world leading water use ratios, blow fill bottling technology,” he said.

The industry has also been supporting governments that want to introduce container-deposit schemes.

Professor Hawkins believes the waste problem does sway some consumers, but water bodies need to encourage people to celebrate being lucky enough to live in a country where good governance leads to a safe supply.

“The challenge is to manage it carefully so it’s protected and distributed fairly,” Professor Hawkins said.

“Water utilities do that in the name of population health, economic growth and environmental sustainability.

“They need to promote that.”

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How Do You Know You’re Drinking Enough Water – Jane E. Brody

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I wonder how we all survived — and even thrived — in our younger years without the plethora of water bottles that nearly everyone seems to carry around these days.

In reading about the risks and consequences of dehydration, especially for the elderly and anyone who exercises vigorously in hot weather, it is nothing short of a miracle that more of us had not succumbed years ago to the damaging physical, cognitive and health effects of inadequate hydration.

Even with the current ubiquity of portable water containers, far too many people still fail to consume enough liquid to compensate for losses suffered especially, though not exclusively, during the dehydrating months of summer.

For those of you who know or suspect that you do not drink enough to compensate for daily water losses, the good news is you do not have to rely entirely on your liquid intake to remain well hydrated.

Studies in societies with limited supplies of drinking water suggest you can help to counter dehydration and, at the same time, enhance the healthfulness of your diet by consuming nutritious foods that are laden with a hidden water source. Plant foods like fruits, vegetables and seeds are a source of so-called gel water — pure, safe, hydrating water that is slowly absorbed into the body when the foods are consumed.

That is the message in a new book, Quench, by Dr. Dana Cohen, an integrative medicine specialist in New York, and Gina Bria, an anthropologist whose studies of the water challenges faced by desert dwellers led to the establishment of the Hydration Foundation, a nonprofit group that promotes understanding and consumption of nonliquid sources of water.

More about these foods later. First, I must convince more of you that remaining well hydrated is crucial to your health. However solid your body, the majority of it is water, ranging from 75 per cent of the body weight of infants to 55 per cent of the elderly. Every bodily process, every living cell, depends on water to function properly. Water transports nutrients, regulates body temperature, lubricates joints and internal organs, supports the structure of cells and tissues and preserves cardiovascular function. People can survive for only three or four days — a week at most — without water.

But more to the point is the quality of survival. Inadequate hydration can cause fatigue, poor appetite, heat intolerance, dizziness, constipation, kidney stones and a dangerous drop in blood pressure. Brain effects include mood shifts, muddled thinking, inattentiveness and poor memory. A loss of only 1 to 2 per cent of body water can impair cognitive performance, according to studies at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University.

Your body’s water balance is determined by how much you consume, your age and activity level and environmental conditions. The body loses water through the skin, lungs, kidneys and digestive tract; in other words, by sweating, breathing and elimination of waste, both liquid and solid.

“Water needs can vary from person to person — and no one person will need the same amount of fluid from one day to the next,” the Virginia scientists wrote in the American College of Sports Medicine’s Health and Fitness Journal.

ABS data shows the average amount of plain water and water from non-discretionary beverages consumed by an Australian is 1,389 ml per day. But people who engage in quasi-vigorous physical activity daily need more, and those who exercise strenuously for more than an hour a day need even more than that, perhaps supplemented by a sports drink containing the electrolytes sodium and potassium (but avoid those with more than a pinch of sugar). Keep in mind that skimping on your liquid intake or relying on sugary drinks can take a toll on your physical performance.

If you are planning to engage in strenuous exercise or do physical work outdoors on a hot day, it is best to start hydrating the day before. Check the color of your urine; the paler it is, the better. Also continue to drink water or other fluids throughout your activity and for hours afterward.

A critical factor in remaining well hydrated is not to rely on thirst to remind you to drink but rather to be proactive by consuming enough liquid before, during and after meals and physical activity. The long-standing advice to drink eight glasses of water a day was something I (among many others) was never able to achieve. I am happy to say that experts have since modified that rule. Current thinking calls for getting about 70 per cent of daily water needs from liquids (including coffee and tea, by the way, though not alcohol) and the rest from solid foods.

The authors of Quench suggest two dozen fruits and vegetables that are especially hydrating, ranging from cucumbers (96.7 per cent water) to grapes (81.5 per cent water). Surely you can find many you would enjoy in a list that includes lettuce, tomatoes, cauliflower, spinach, broccoli, carrots, peppers, watermelon, strawberries, pineapple, blueberries, apples and pears.

Even chia seeds, an ancient so-called superfood said to sustain the ultrarunning prowess of the Tarahumara Indians of Mexico, can be a force against dehydration; they absorb 30 times their weight in water and can provide the body with slow-release hydration, especially during long bouts of physical activity in high heat and humidity.

Naturally packaged plant water hydrates more efficiently than plain drinking water, the Quench authors maintain, because it is already purified, is packed with soluble nutrients and gradually supplies the body with water.

That said, while there is considerable anecdotal evidence for the effectiveness of plant water, especially among enthusiasts of green smoothies, well designed clinical studies are still lacking. Yet I feel comfortable in recommending an increased reliance on these hydrating foods because, at the very least, they can result in a more nutritious diet and foster better weight control.

Getting more of your water from plant foods can also help to cut down on pollution. The Earth is being overrun with disposable plastic water bottles that litter streets and parks and float in rivers, oceans and lakes everywhere. Unless you are visiting a region of the world where it is unsafe to drink the water, try to avoid buying water. If you are in doubt about the safety of your municipal water supply, if you rely on well water that has not been tested or if you dislike the taste or your local water, consider installing a faucet filter or using a portable filter container like Brita.

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