Researchers Find Strong Link Between Smog And Heart Disease

A team of European scientists have published a study that finds a stronger connection between high concentrations of smog and particulate matter and heart disease. The report, published in the academic journal BMJ, was enormous in scope and carefully controlled for a number of factors, including smoking and predisposition to heart disease.

The study found that an increase of 5 micrograms per cubic meter in atmospheric concentration of smog correlated with a 13 percent jump in likelihood of having a heart attack, as well as a greater possibility of suffering from angina, the chest pain that often accompanies heart disease. The United States currently has an allowable limit of 12 micrograms per cubic meter of air pollution.

Researchers on the project studied the health of 100,000 people over an average period of 11.6 years, all of whom went into the study without heart disease. During that time, over 5,000 subjects experienced coronary events such as heart attacks. 

"Our study suggests an association between long-term exposure to particulate matter and incidence of coronary events," Giulia Cesaroni, a senior researcher in the epidemiology department at Lazio Regional Health Service, said in the report, according to HealthDay.com.

The results of this research are further evidence that humans continue to create unhealthy conditions by relying on fossil fuels rather than switching to renewables that don't emit carbon and other forms of pollution. Policy makers should continue to aggressively promote the sale of environmentally friendly cars and alternative forms of electricity generation in order to cut down on emissions.

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Furnace Made Out Of Soda Cans Saves Energy

When it comes to green living, eco-friendly individuals across the world are thinking outside of the box. Metropolitan State University of Denver professor Aaron Brown has recently built water heaters made out of empty soda cans for his Colorado community. These furnaces cost only $30 dollars to make and will save you about the same amount of money in energy costs.

"You have to be really creative," Richard Anderson, a Metro State senior who's part of the project team, told DailyLocal.com. "Right now, the unit will last for about a winter without any maintenance. If you bumped up the cost to about $100, it would last three or four times longer. But you're talking about soda cans and computer fans that you can buy six for $10 on eBay and you're supplying heat to an entire house."

The electricity bill used by the fans costs only about two cents a day. The design mechanism is simple: Cool air becomes trapped in the unit's base and then heats up as it moves up drilled holes within the 144 aluminum cans that have been heated up by the sun. A unit that was installed in a room in November heated a room from 60 degrees to 90 degrees within a matter of 20 minutes! More installations are expected to happen during this month.

Even if you aren't as extreme as Brown, taking small steps to live green, including recycling and carpooling, can help contribute to the preservation of the environment. What are you waiting for? Start going green today by checking out LifeIsGreen.com!

How Sunlight Improves Your Blood Pressure

Scientists at the University of Southampton in the United Kingdom have figured out why sunlight can lower your blood pressure. Their findings call into question the assumption that people should spend as much time out of the sun as possible in order to avoid skin cancer.

The Southampton researchers determined that the chemical nitric oxide, which is located in the upper layers of your skin, reacts to ultraviolet light and causes blood vessels to widen. This relieves pressure and results in better blood flow. While the effect is mild in those who have normal blood pressure, the scientists have said that they believe the effect could be more pronounced in those who are already disposed to have higher levels.

"This is an unexpected finding, in that the skin has not been considered to be involved in blood pressure regulation," Martin Feelisch, the lead researcher and a professor of experimental medicine and integrative biology at the University of Southampton, said in a press release. "This is a mild effect. But if you repeat this study in people with high blood pressure, I would predict you will see a more substantial drop."

Feelisch believes that those with higher blood pressure should think green and spend some time outside during the day, though he advised against flat out sunbathing and spending too much time in direct sunlight. But the next time you're feeling stressed out and think your blood pressure may be getting out of control, try heading outside, visiting a local outdoor farmer's market and catching a few rays to relieve the stress and open up your blood vessels!

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Drought Leads To Public Health Problems In California

California has been dealing with record levels of drought, so much so that it has begun to cause public health problems in both the Los Angeles and San Francisco regions. A lack of rain has resulted in the accumulation of fine particle matter near the surface, resulting in increasing reports of breathing problems, particularly for those afflicted with asthma and other respiratory conditions.

The Los Angeles Times reports that public health officials have advised residents not to burn wood fires, and conditions have gotten so bad in some areas that schools have had to cancel sporting events in order to prevent athletes from becoming ill.

Typically, pollution conditions improve in the winter when precipitation effectively washes particles from the air. Doctors will usually see a decrease in the number of patients reporting allergy problems as a result. However, these specialists have seen no such drop in the number of cases walking through their doors.

In the San Joaquin Valley, the average concentration of particles in the air has been around 35 micrograms per cubic meter, about three times as high as federal air standards recommend. Furthermore, weather forecasters aren't predicting any rainstorms will reach the state by the end of the month.

Crises such as the drought in California are a reminder that climate change isn't a problem that we'll have to deal with in the future. In fact, it's a very real threat that is already having dire consequences for the region which will only be exacerbated as we continue to adjust to the situation too slowly. Hopefully, policymakers will see these problems and begin to act with more expediency to switch to green technology for energy production and reduce carbon emissions.

For more information on environmental issues and the benefits of going green, keep checking back with LifeIsGreen.com.

Water Crisis Continues In West Virginia

Residents of Charleston, West Virginia, and surrounding communities are still trying to find out what led to a chemical spill that contaminated the tap water supply for 300,000 people. They're also trying to determine who is responsible, and what can be done to make green business a higher priority in the state.

The chemical spill began on January 9, when those living near a chemical processing site owned by Freedom Industries complained about a licorice-like smell emanating from nearby tanks. State regulators discovered that one of the steel tanks had ruptured and leaked thousands of gallons of 4-methylcyclohexane methanol (MCHM) into the Elk River.

MCHM is not thought to be fatal, but it can cause vomiting and skin and eye irritation. Furthermore, it can't be boiled out of the water, and there are no treatment methods available to make the tap water safe. As a result, the West Virginia National Guard has had to ship tanks of safe drinking water into the area, as bottled water reserves have sold out.

As The Los Angeles Times notes, further investigations into the incident have uncovered a complex web of entangled regulations in which chemical safety officials are pointing fingers at the industry and vice versa about where the fault lies. Federal and state agencies have stated that the tanks at the center of the controversy fell into a loophole that led to them remaining uninspected since 1999. At the same time, some local politicians are claiming that existing laws are strict enough, and that they need only be enforced to prevent such accidents from happening in the future.

What is clear is that Freedom Industries failed to alert state authorities to the spill immediately, and as a result, hundreds of thousands of people are still without safe drinking water. The disaster reinforces the notion that in the struggle to make the country greener and safer, the government needs to make private industry take public health seriously.

Keep checking back with LifeIsGreen.com as we continue to monitor the situation in West Virginia.

Top Green Living Habits

It's time to go green! If helping protect the environment and living green is among your list of New Year's resolutions, take a look at some energy-saving habits to implement in your day-to-day life. Although going completely green may feel like a big jump, the key is to take baby steps throughout the year.

Check out some of the top tips suggested by the Huffington Post for green home improvement projects:

  • Commuting: Commuting to work every day can waste a lot of energy as well as lead to unhealthy smog in the atmosphere. If you work close to your home, try walking or biking instead. Or, opt to use public transportation. If you must drive, carpool with a colleague so that you save gasoline.
  • Green gardening: If you have a green thumb, complement it with green living habits. The news source suggests collecting water from your drain pipe and using it to water your lawn. Also, stay away from any harsh fertilizers and chemical pesticides. Instead of putting toxins into the land, look for all-natural formulas  at your local store.
  • Light-switch: "Start with conserving the amount of energy you use in the home," suggest the source. "Turn a light off when you leave a room or when you're no longer using it. Replace fluorescent bulbs with energy saving lights. Changing one light can save you six dollars a year in electricity costs, and they use 75 percent less energy than traditional incandescent light bulbs."

For more energy conservation tips, be sure to follow our blog and visit LifeIsGreen.com!

The Mental Health Benefits Of Being Outside

A research team at the University of Exeter Medical School in the United Kingdom recently published a study which found that residents of urban environments with green areas experience improved mental health over those who live in more built-up neighborhoods.

The team, whose report was published in the journal of Environmental Science and Technology, used data from the British Household Panel Survey, which gathers information from households all over the country. They focused on residents who had moved to greener regions and those who had moved away from such areas. They also adjusted their findings for factors such as higher incomes and education so that these factors didn't skew results.

These findings are important for urban planners thinking about introducing new green spaces to our towns and cities, suggesting they could provide long-term and sustained benefits for local communities," Dr Ian Alcock, the lead researcher on the study, said in a statement. "What we've found suggests that the mental health benefits of green space are not only immediate, but sustainable over long periods of time."

The study also found that even just the anticipation of moving to a city with less green space had detrimental effects on mental health.

The hope is that studies like this will reach the desks of urban planners around the country, who must take into consideration a variety of factors in determining how a city should be organized and run. This includes striking a balance between urban spaces that are dense and promote public transit, but still feature green areas where residents can still come in contact with a natural environment.

Keep visiting LifeIsGreen.com for more news and information about going green ideas and research.

Professor Honored For Creating Eco-Leather From Chicken Feathers

A University of Delaware professor has been honored by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for creating a leather substitute out of chicken feathers, which could lead to the production of many different eco friendly products in the fashion industry. Dr. Richard Wool's Eco-leather is made without the use of destructive chemicals that are typically involved in the manufacture of cowhide and leather items.

Eco-leather is made by compressing chicken feathers with plant oils under extreme amounts of heat and pressure to create a soft, pliable but strong texture. The process was developed from techniques previously used in the aerospace industry. According to Wool, there's plenty of the base material lying around to make this substance commercially viable.

"There [are] about 6 billion tons of these chicken feather fibers that are a waste stream material, and a bit of a nuisance to the chicken processing companies," Wool tells FastCoexist.com. "They're either sent to a landfill–burning them isn't a very good option for them–or they're rendered down to make certain kinds of animal feed, because the current protein can have some food value."

Conventional leather production requires the use of chemicals and heavy metals that can cause severe public health problems, including cancer and respiratory diseases. And while the fashion industry has attracted negative attention for clinging to use of furs, it has largely evaded responsibility for clinging to leather as a material.

Wool has already worked on developing prototypes of new Eco-leather sneakers with Nike and Puma, so hopefully you'll one day be able to purchase shoes made from this material in any department store. 

LifeIsGreen.com will continue to provide news and information about green products, so keep visiting!

Indoor Plants Improve Air Quality

It may seem counterintuitive, but the air inside your home can contain much more pollution than the air outside. In fact, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has many resources on its website dedicated to educating the public about the adverse effects of too much exposure to pollution from indoor sources.

What are these sources? Sometimes it's something as simple as cigarette smoke, which can have detrimental health effects not just for the smoker but for those around them. Other times it may be the paint on the walls that is slowly releasing toxic particles into the air, or mold spores that have developed in dark, moist corners of a room.

In any case, ventilating your home can mitigate the effects of these pollutants, but that's not always an option. If you live in an area where temperatures drop dramatically in winter, it's simply not economical to leave windows open and waste energy from your heating system.

One solution you may want to consider instead is to stock your house with indoor plants. As LivingGreenMag.com points out, there are a number of species of plant that are particularly adept at purifying the air in your home and removing toxins that can cause long-term health issues. Some examples include the spider plant, ivy and ferns, all of which are very low maintenance, require only indirect light and do a good job of filtering out carbon dioxide and other pollutants.

The effects of too much exposure to indoor air pollution are very real, and range from lung cancer and asthma to heart disease. But by using house plants as air filters, and embracing healthy green living, you can avoid these problems and live a longer, happier life.

Keep checking back with LifeIsGreen.com for continuing coverage of green news, topics and information.

Practice E-cycling To Avoid Toxic Waste

Despite the harms that can be caused by disposing of electronics in landfills along with other refuse, e-cycling is mandated by law in only half of the United States. As a result, in many areas it is left up to the consumer to make sure they throw away their used batteries, computers, cell phones and other equipment through the proper channels.

According to 8NewsNow.com, a Nevada local news station, electronic waste is the fastest growing stream of garbage in the country. But very few people realize that all of those items they're tossing in the garbage can contain heavy metals and toxic substances that, if sent to a landfill, could seep into the groundwater supply and contaminate drinking water.

Some municipalities also burn their trash for energy. When electronic refuse ends up in these incinerators, it can release toxic materials into the atmosphere, causing respiratory problems for local populations.

Another reason to have your electronic products recycled is that they often contain valuable materials that can be reused in other consumer goods. This could result in lower prices for electronics in the long run as manufacturers don't have to mine for new materials, and can instead rely on a steady stream of recycled supplies.

In other words, e-cycling isn't just an environmental imperative, it's also an economic one. If you're unsure where you can dispose of your used electronic items, we recommend checking out the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's website. There you can find information on local recycling programs, as well as the many public health risks associated with improper disposal of e-waste.

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