DimaBerlin/Shutterstock You can live without food for three weeks and without water for up to three days. But you can’t live without air for more than three short minutes. It’s not just the abundance of air that matters – the quality is essential, too. Unfortunately, air can be contaminated with dangerous germs known as airborne pathogens, such as bacteria and viruses. Airborne diseases are very easily transmitted, and can result in respiratory illness that can be life threatening. It’s therefore no wonder that outbreaks of airborne infectious diseases are a major public health concern, and that researchers are working hard to come up with technologies to provide clean air. So far, however, such technologies have had limited success. Now a new study suggests that non-thermal plasma – a cool gas made up of electrically charged particles, despite having no overall charge – could inactivate airborne viruses and provide sterile air. Although the technology has a long history and many applications (in medicine and food industry), this is a completely new use for it. Devastating outbreaks Viruses that can spread through the air include influenza (flu), common cold (rhinovirus), varicella zoster (chicken pox), mumps and measles. Measles in particular has been labelled a public health time bomb as many parents fail to vaccinate their children. Importantly, vaccination is the only way to completely prevent getting measles. InfectedRead more

This graphic shows how runoff from farms (green areas) and cities (red areas) drains into the Mississippi, delivering nutrients into the Gulf of Mexico and fuelling the annual hypoxic zone.NOAA Dead zones are areas of the world’s water bodies which contain very little or no oxygen, creating lethal conditions for marine life. Every year in the summer months, one of these dead—or hypoxic—zones forms in the Gulf of Mexico in what is one of the largest examples of this phenomenon on the planet. Now, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has predicted that this summer’s Gulf of Mexico dead zone could grow to around 7,829 square miles—or about the same size as the state of Massachusetts—based on data collected by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS.) If the dead zone does reach this size, it would far surpass the average over the past five years (5,770 square miles) although it won’t be the largest recorded. That title goes to the 2017 Gulf of Mexico dead zone, which grew to a size of 8,776 square miles. Scientists say that the annually recurring phenomenon is caused by excessive nutrient pollution—originating from human activity in farms and urban areas—which drain into the Mississippi River Basin and eventually get washed into the Gulf. When this excess of nutrients—particularly nitrogen and phosphorus—enters the Gulf itRead more

London Marathon Replaces Thousands Of Plastic Water Bottles With Edible Water Pouches Bex Spiller, Published on May 22, 2019 The London Marathon is one of the biggest running races all around the world. While many train for months, others don’t want to set foot near the race thanks to one thing: plastic waste. However, the London Marathon recently replaced thousands of plastic water bottles with edible water pouches instead. Plenty Of Waste Believe it or not, but London Marathon runners left behind 920,000 plastic bottles back in 2018. Many have no choice but to drop the bottles to the ground. Sadly, the plastic can take up to 1,000 years to fully degrade and contributes to the growing plastic epidemic happening around the world. Making A Change That was all about to change in 2019. Rather than offering up water at the 23rd mile, runners were given edible water pouches instead. They have no plastic. Runners can eat the pouches as they have no taste or they can drop them to the floor as they degrade in six weeks – leaving no waste in their wake. The Idea Skipping Rocks Lab is behind the Ooho water pouch. The pouches are made from seaweed and are perfect for storing water. The best bit? It’s not just the London Marathon that has used themRead more

By GENE JOHNSON In this April 19, 2019, file photo, Katrina Spade, the founder and CEO of Recompose, a company that hopes to use composting as an alternative to burying or cremating human remains, poses for a photo in a cemetery in Seattle, as she displays a sample of compost material left from the decomposition of a cow using a combination of wood chips, alfalfa and straw. On Tuesday, May 21, 2019, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee signed a bill into law that allows licensed facilities to offer “natural organic reduction,” which turns a body, mixed with substances such as wood chips and straw, into soil in a span of several weeks. Th law makes Washington the first state in the U.S. to approve composting as an alternative to burying or cremating human remains. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson, File) SEATTLE (AP) — Ashes to ashes, guts to dirt. Gov. Jay Inslee signed legislation Tuesday making Washington the first state to approve composting as an alternative to burying or cremating human remains. It allows licensed facilities to offer “natural organic reduction,” which turns a body, mixed with substances such as wood chips and straw, into about two wheelbarrows’ worth of soil in a span of several weeks. Loved ones are allowed to keep the soil to spread, just as they might spread theRead more