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Global Capital and Disease Hot Spots

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Our world is more connected than ever. It's now easy to live in the United States, buy airfare to Europe, send money to Africa and eat food from Asia. And while this global connectivity comes with a slew of benefits, it also opens the door to the spread of disease and potential for worldwide epidemics.

Robert Wallace, visiting scholar with the Institute for Global Studies, discussed the need to rethink how we define "disease hot spots" from locations where outbreaks originate to global centers of capital that drive disease-causing practices in his Frontiers in the Environment lecture on April 16.

Unfair Air?

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People of color in the U.S. are exposed to 38 percent more nitrogen dioxide air pollution in the neighborhoods in which they live than are white people, according to new research from the University of Minnesota. The exposure they receive results in approximately 7,000 heart-related deaths per year. 

U of M Instititute on the Environment resident fellows Julian Marshall and Dylan Millet and fellow researcher Lara Clark compared U.S. Census data and nitrogen dioxide levels in cities across the country and found that, irrespective of income, nonwhites had higher average exposure to nitrogen dioxide than whites. The findings received extensive coverage in the media this past week. 

"The molecule [nitrogen dioxide] is not racist," said Marshall, responding to a tongue-in-cheek comment from Melissa Harris-Perry on her Sunday, April 20, MSNBC show. "But people do not live in places at random, as people have talked about on your show thus far. On average there are differences in exposure by race."

Marshall says that because this type of pollution comes from burning fuels, such as gas and diesel from motor vehicles and coal from electricity generation, the way to close the "pollution gap" would be to target emission reductions where people are the most exposed. 

Speaking on MSNBC's NewsNation on Monday, April 21, Marshall said the next step will be to determine why there are large differences between cities. 

Julian Marshall is an associate professor in the College of Science and Engineering; Dylan Millet is associate professor in the College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences; and Lara Clark is a CSE doctoral student. 

Read more about the study on the U of M homepage in "Groundbreaking Study Finds that People of Color Live in Neighborhoods with More Air Pollution than Whites, and check out this YouTube video abstract of the report. Of course, a Google search will yield many more articles about the study.



Photo, "Duality," by Brian Carson (Flickr Creative Commons)

Can Cleaner Cookstoves Save Lives?

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A global partnership led by Institute on the Environment researcher Jill Baumgartner will investigate the health and climate impacts of advanced cooking and heating stoves as part of a three-year study on clean household energy technology in rural China.

Indoor air pollution contributes to 4 million premature deaths each year and is the single leading environmental health risk factor globally, according to the 2010 Global Burden of Disease Study. Half the world's people breathe in the dirty smoke from coal, wood and other solid fuels burned in inefficient cooking and heating stoves. In addition to respiratory health impacts like childhood pneumonia and lung cancer, studies point to indoor smoke as a risk factor for cardiovascular disease. It is also a major contributor to regional and global climate warming.

Will Humanity's Appetite Leave Land for Nature?

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Feeding the world's growing population is shaping up to be the challenge of the century, but where does conservation fit into the equation?

Joe Fargione, senior director for The Nature Conservancy - North America Region, attempted to answer just that in last Wednesday's Frontiers in the Environment presentation, "Peak Cropland: Saving Room for Nature While Feeding Humanity this Century."

U Students Buck the Status Quo in 2012-13 Acara Challenge

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Spirited voices mixed with the scent of Indian spices in The Commons: Meeting and Art Space at Institute on the Environment last Monday night. Dozens of Acara students, mentors and investors were gathered for a showcase of the 2012-13 Acara Challenge contestants.

Attendees supped on fare from Gandhi Mahal and mingled with the young entrepreneurs before settling in for brief presentations on seven start-ups developed by Acara alumni. The goal of each business - in addition to viability and profit - is to address a social or environmental issue at home or abroad.

Are All Tomatoes Created Equal?

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The warnings about the negative health impacts of consuming food grown using pesticides, fertilizers and other chemicals echo across the food movement landscape, with research to back up those claims.
 
But insufficient studies exist to explain the effects of food nutrients on toxicity.  For example, what effect does dietary folate have on arsenic elimination?

The opinions expressed in this blog are those of the author(s) and not necessarily of the Institute on the Environment/University of Minnesota.

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This page is an archive of recent entries in the Health category.

Green Chemistry is the previous category.

IonE Discovery Grant is the next category.

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