Another shorter collection today, mostly because we pulled our Ebola coverage out for a separate EbolaWatch, but there’s still plenty to cover.
First up, via the Los Angeles Times, another cost of meddling with our own internal environments:
Drugs used for anxiety, sleep are linked to Alzheimer’s disease in older people
Older people who have relied on a class of drugs called benzodiazepines to reduce anxiety or induce sleep are at higher risk of going on to develop Alzheimer’s disease, new research finds, with those whose use of the medications is most intensive almost twice as likely to develop the mind-robbing disorder.
Benzodiazepines — marketed under such names as as Xanax, Valium, Ativan and Klonopin — are widely used to treat insomnia, agitation and anxiety, all of which can be early signs of impending Alzheimer’s disease in the elderly. But the current study sought to disentangle benzodiazepines’ use in treating early dementia symptoms, probing instead the possibility that heavy use of the medications may permit, cause or hasten the onset of Alzheimer’s dementia.
The study compared the pattern of benzodiazepine use in 1,796 people elderly people diagnosed with Alzheimer’s with that of 7,184 similar people who had no such diagnosis. Such a study design, conducted by French and Canadian researchers and published Tuesday in the journal BMJ, cannot by itself establish that more intensive use of the medications causes Alzheimer’s disease. But it does strengthen such suspicions.
Next up, the first of today’s water woes posts, via CNBC:
California rice farmer: Drought may make us ‘quit’
California’s ongoing drought is claiming another victim: the state’s rice crop.
Nearly 25 percent of California’s $5 billion rice crop will be lost this year due to lack of water, say experts. And while analysts say the loss is not a crisis just yet, at least one rice producer is ready to call it a day.
“If we keep going through this drought, it may make us quit and sell the ranch,” said Sherry Polit, who grows organic rice with her family on 1,500 acres in the Northern California town of Maxwell. “We had droughts before, but this is like the third bad one in a row,” explained Polit, who also grows organic olives.
MercoPress covers another:
Caribbean nations beaches disappearing because of rising sea level and recurring storms
The World Bank says due to rising sea levels and recurring storms, the beaches in most Caribbean nations have started to disappear. In a new report, the Washington-based financial institution said, in some areas of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, for instance, an estimated 18-30 meters of beach have been lost over the last nine years.
“The highly vulnerable coastal strand and adjacent towns are fighting against increased flood risk from rainfall and storm surge,” said the bank, noting that the issue of challenges faced by small islands around the world was at the center of the just-concluded Third Small Island Developing States (SIDS) conference in Samoa.
The World Bank said beaches are not the only concern, stating that Caribbean ports are also at risk from rising sea levels.
And from Deutsche Welle, yet another:
India ‘overwhelmed’ by intensity of monsoon floods
In the Indian region of Kashmir, rescue teams have begun evacuating tens of thousands of villagers stranded by the worst floods in over a century. 450 people have been killed as a result of the heavy rainfall in the mountainous region between India and Pakistan.
Still another, via South China Morning Post:
Sea cucumber farmers use of chemicals has led to a large number of fish deaths
- Significant amounts used in farms in Pikou town in Liaoning, according to CCTV report
Some sea cucumber farmers in northeastern China have been using large amounts of antibiotics, disinfectants and pesticides leading to the deaths of a large number of several species of fish and endangering the conservation of migratory birds in the area, according to a report by the state broadcaster.
CCTV reported that the farmers in Pikou town, Pulandian city of Liaoning, used “a great amount of antibiotics” in their sea cucumber ponds. The water from those ponds was periodically discharged into the Bohai Gulf, causing the death of plenty of fish, the broadcaster said. The water in the gulf has been documented as being heavily polluted, according to the China Marine Environmental Monitoring Centre.
CCTV images show bodies of fish floating in the gulf close to the Pikou farms. Empty bottles of ceftriaxone were shown at one of them. Ceftriaxone is normally used to treat sexually transmitted diseases and infections of the lungs and urinary tract.
Another one, via the Asahi Shimbun:
Salmon still affected by 3/11 disaster, dealing blow to Tohoku economy
The salmon run in northeastern Japan this autumn will likely plummet by 40 percent compared with last year due to damage to hatcheries caused by the 2011 earthquake and tsunami disaster.
The Fisheries Research Agency said Sept. 9 the sharp decline in returning salmon to spawn in the Tohoku region will impact the economy of the disaster-stricken region. The price of salmon roe–a delicacy–is bound to rise, sources said.
Millions of salmon fry are released from hatcheries to rivers each spring. The adult fish generally return three and a half years later to the rivers where they were released.
And yet another, via Grist:
Living close to a fracking well could have given you that rash
A new study from Yale University – claimed by the lead author to be the largest of its kind – shows a correlation between living in proximity to a fracking well and symptoms of skin and upper respiratory problems.
The study, which was published today, surveyed 180 households in Washington Co., Pa., which lies about 30 miles south of Pittsburgh and has developed into a hotbed of fracking activity in recent years – the county now plays host to over 1,000 wells. It specifically sampled houses dependent on ground-fed water wells, which can be susceptible to contamination from chemicals used in fracking.
The results? Those who lived less than 0.6 miles away from a well were twice as likely to report health issues as their friends who lived over 1.2 miles from it.
From the Guardian, a rare upbeat note:
Ozone layer shows signs of recovery after 1987 ban on damaging gases
- Continued rises in other greenhouse gases, as well as illicit usage of carbon tetrachloride, still has potential to undo gains
The ozone layer that shields life from the sun’s cancer-causing ultraviolet rays is showing its first sign of thickening after years of dangerous depletion, a UN study said on Wednesday.
Experts said it showed the success of a 1987 ban on manmade gases that damage the fragile high-altitude screen, an achievement that would help prevent millions of cases of skin cancer and other conditions.
The ozone hole that appears annually over Antarctica has also stopped growing bigger every year, though it will be about a decade before it starts shrinking, said the report, coproduced by the World Meteorological Organisation and the UN Environment Programme.
And another from the Independent:
Bacteria found in honeybee stomachs could be used as alternative to antibiotics, scientists claim
- Bacteria found in honeybees could be used as an alternative to antibiotics and in the fight against antibiotic-resistant strains of MRSA, scientists have claimed.
For millenia, raw unmanufactured honey has been used to treat infections.
Scientists believe its effectiveness could lie in a unique formula comprised of 13 types of lactic acid bacteria found in the stomachs of bees. The bacteria, which are no longer active in shop-bought honey, produce a myriad of active anti-microbial compounds.
The findings could be vital both in developing countries, where fresh honey is easily available, as well as for Western countries where antibiotic resistance is an increasingly concerning issue.
From the Guardian, delegitimizing Aussie environmentalism:
Queensland passes laws to stop ‘vexatious’ green groups
- Laws that limit the capacity of most Queenslanders to object to new mines have been savaged as an attack on democracy
New state laws will prevent most Queenslanders going to the land court to object to proposed mining projects.
The government says the Mineral and Resources (Common Provisions) bill will stop green groups and others launching “vexatious” objections just to delay projects.
Green groups, the Labor opposition and minor parties have savaged the government’s bill, which passed parliament on Tuesday. They say the new law is an attack on democracy because it limits the capacity of most Queenslanders to object to mining proposals.
The laws mean only directly affected landholders, their neighbours and local councils can now go to the court.
Next up, Fukushimapocalypse Now!, first with Jiji Press:
National Road in Fukushima No-Go Area to Fully Open
The Japanese government plans to fully open a national road that runs north-south along the coast of Fukushima Prefecture on Monday for the first since the March 2011 nuclear accident in the northeastern Japan prefecture, it was learned Wednesday.
The closed 14-kilometer section of Route 6 in a no-go area, where the annual radiation level tops 50 millisieverts, will be open to free traffic after the completion in August of decontamination work, officials said.
The government is expected to announce soon how much the radiation level has been reduced there, according to the officials.
The Japan Times reveals a cover-up attempt:
Tokyo lodged protest over March 2011 U.N. report saying Fukushima plant not under control
The Foreign Ministry unofficially lodged a protest over a U.N. report released immediately after the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami that described the crisis-hit Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant as not being under control, sources said Wednesday.
At the time, a series of hydrogen explosions occurred in the plant’s reactors as Tokyo Electric Power Co. was unable to cool them sufficiently.
In making the protest, the Foreign Ministry said the expression in the report was too strong, the sources said, indicating the government underestimated the disaster, in which meltdowns occurred in reactors 1, 2 and 3.
From the Guardian, ongoing consequences:
Fukushima nuclear disaster: three years on 120,000 evacuees remain uprooted
- Japan’s 2011 plant meltdown has torn apart close families, leaving elderly relatives isolated and villages uninhabited
More than three years after Japan’s Fukushima nuclear disaster more than 120,000 people from the region are living in nuclear limbo with once close-knit families forced to live apart.
Japan’s nuclear watchdog on Wednesday gave the green light for two nuclear reactors at Kyushu Electric Power’s Sendai plant in south-west Japan to restart, but communities are anxious over the safety aspects. The nuclear industry in Japan has been mothballed since the meltdown.
But the Asahi Shimbun announces the inevitable, given the current government:
NRA approves safety at Kagoshima nuclear plant; paperwork next step
The Sendai nuclear plant in Kagoshima Prefecture formally passed tougher safety checks on Sept. 10, but the plant operator must submit a mountain of paperwork before it can restart its reactors.
The Nuclear Regulation Authority’s approval is the first since new safety standards were established following the Fukushima nuclear disaster in March 2011. That means safety checks have effectively been completed for a resumption of operations of the Sendai plant’s No. 1 and No. 2 reactors.
As the next step, Kyushu Electric Power Co., the operator of the Sendai plant, will have to submit to the NRA construction plans that include designs of equipment and the company’s new safety regulations detailing operation procedures and accident responses.
And for our final item, more from the Japan Times:
Japan’s regulator OKs nuclear plant return while pushing to close old reactors
Japan is nearing the end of its first full year without nuclear power since 1966 and public mistrust of the sector remains high after the 2011 Fukushima triple meltdown, the worst such disaster since Chernobyl.
The government is pressing regulators to make the tough decision on whether to decommission the oldest of the country’s 48 reactors, which face higher safety hurdles than the rest. Weeding out reactors that are 40 years old or more may help win public trust in the rest of the industry.
“For myself, I would like to proceed with smooth decommissioning (of some plants) and at the same time the restart of nuclear power stations certified as safe,” Yuko Obuchi, the new minister for economy, trade and industry, who oversees the nuclear industry, said last week.