Science & Environment

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Evacuations underway in Iceland as possible volcanic eruption looms
Author of the article:Washington Post
Washington Post
Matthew Cappucci, The Washington Post
Published Nov 10, 2023 • 3 minute read

A barrage of hundreds of earthquakes, including two exceeding a magnitude of 5.0 and at least seven topping 4.5, rattled Iceland’s Reykjanes Peninsula on Friday. The seismic swarm suggests the eruption of an area volcano in the hours or day ahead and has prompted the Icelandic Meteorological Office to declare a Civil Protection Emergency Level.


The Fagradalsfjall volcano is in Iceland’s southern peninsula region, about 25 miles southwest of Reykjavik, the country’s capital. A number of tremors have shaken the city, and the famed Blue Lagoon geothermal spa in Grindavik has been closed. It was initially unclear whether Fagradalsfjall was responsible for the increased seismic activity or whether an eruption was brewing elsewhere within the Reykjanes volcanic system.


Shortly before midnight local time, all of Grindavik was asked to evacuate. At 11:30 p.m. local time, the Meteorological Office warned that volcanic fissures could open near or within the town.

“Based on how the seismic activity has evolved since 6 PM today, along with results from GPS measurements, there is a likelihood that a magma intrusion has extended beneath Grindavík,” the office wrote.


Experts believe that a magmatic dike may have formed directly below the town. Dikes are sheets of magma that flow through existing fractures in rock or generate a new crack. The largest volcanoes may contain hundreds of dikes.

A Code Orange – or a Level 3 out of 4 on the universal ground-based volcano alerting scale – has been declared, raising concerns at Keflavik International Airport, which sits just northwest of the seismically active region.

The region has experienced intermittent eruptions since 2021, yet the incipient eruption will probably be markedly more intense.

“The amount of magma involved is significantly more than what was observed in the largest magma intrusions associated with the eruptions at Fagradalsfjall,” the Meteorological Office said.


The office had warned Friday afternoon that earthquakes were located about two miles northeast of Grindavik, with the fault slips occurring about two to three miles below the ground. Earthquakes crept toward the community of 3,300 around sunset.

“The seismic activity has moved south towards Grindavík,” the Meteorological Office said.

“The signs that can be seen now … are similar to those seen on the eve of the first eruption at Fagradalsfjall in 2021, and are very similar to the seismic activity that was measured about a month before that eruption,” the office had cautioned in an earlier update. It had previously estimated that it would take several days for magma to reach the surface and the imminent eruption to begin.


Already, the quaking has ruptured roadways. It appears that up to three inches of uplift, or vertical movement of the ground, has occurred near the volcano.

A total of 295 earthquakes of magnitude 3.0 or greater had been detected in the previous 72 hours, with upward of 90% of those occurring in the past day.

While Iceland is tectonically and volcanically active, the region around the Fagradalsfjall volcano had lain dormant for over 6,300 years until December 2019. That’s when a flurry of earthquakes, including two that reached magnitude 5.6, rattled the peninsula. Then on Feb. 4, 2021, a magnitude-5.7 earthquake caused minor damage to homes. Six weeks later, on March 19, the volcano erupted, with a roughly 2,000-foot-long fissure started spewing lava.

The fissure was later named Geldingadalsgos, representing a possible new shield volcano – a broad volcano with gently sloping sides – and it attracted widespread tourism. Several other fissures opened in April, but only one remained active in May 2021. Another eruption from a separate fissure of Fagradalsfjall took place on Aug. 3, 2022.

Then this past summer, in early July, a new eruption began near Litli-Hrutur, also part of the Fagradalsfjall volcano. It was about 10 times as big as the first two eruptions. It diminished by Aug. 5.
 
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spaminator

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Iceland evacuates town, raises aviation alert as concerns rise volcano may erupt
Author of the article:Associated Press
Associated Press
Published Nov 11, 2023 • 1 minute read

LONDON — Residents of a fishing town in southwestern Iceland left their homes Saturday after increasing concern about a potential volcanic eruption caused civil defense authorities to declare a state of emergency in the region.


Police decided to evacuate Grindavik after recent seismic activity in the area moved south toward the town and monitoring indicated that a corridor of magma, or semi-molten rock, now extends under the community, Iceland’s Meteorological Office said. The town of 3,400 is on the Reykjanes Peninsula, about 50 kilometres southwest of the capital, Reykjavik.


“At this stage, it is not possible to determine exactly whether and where magma might reach the surface,” the Meteorological Office said.

Authorities also raised their aviation alert to orange, indicating an increased risk of a volcanic eruption. Volcanic eruptions pose a serious hazard to aviation because they can spew highly abrasive ash high into the atmosphere, where it can cause jet engines to fail, damage flight control systems and reduce visibility.


A major eruption in Iceland in 2010 caused widespread disruption to air travel between Europe and North America, costing airlines an estimated $3 billion as they canceled more than 100,000 flights.

The evacuation comes after the region was shaken by hundreds of small earthquakes every day for more than two weeks as scientists monitor a buildup of magma some 5 kilometres underground.

Concern about a possible eruption increased in the early hours of Thursday when a magnitude 4.8 earthquake hit the area, forcing the internationally known Blue Lagoon geothermal resort to close temporarily.

The seismic activity started in an area north of Grindavik where there is a network of 2,000-year-old craters, geology professor Pall Einarrson, told Iceland’s RUV. The magma corridor is about 10 kilometres long and spreading, he said.

“The biggest earthquakes originated there, under this old series of craters, but since then it (the magma corridor) has been getting longer, went under the urban area in Grindavik and is heading even further and towards the sea,” he said.
 

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Iceland girds for volcanic eruption that could wipe out town
Author of the article:Bloomberg News
Bloomberg News
Ragnhildur Sigurdardottir
Published Nov 13, 2023 • 2 minute read

The people of Iceland are bracing for what could be the country’s most devastating volcanic eruption in 50 years, with a small fishing town at risk of being destroyed.


There’s a significant likelihood of magma busting to the surface over the coming days at Grindavik, home to over 3,600 people, the Met Office said on Sunday. More than 2,000 earthquakes have rocked the area over the past 48 hours, according to Met Office data. Over the weekend, several roads and other structures were ripped apart.


The town, 40 kilometres from the capital city, was hastily evacuated late Friday with many fleeing so fast that pets and livestock were left behind.

Authorities are set to assess the situation Monday morning, local media RUV and Visir reported.

The area had lain dormant for almost 800 years until early 2020, when intense seismic activity started on the peninsula. Magma rose to the surface in 2021, only to emerge again in August 2022 and July this year. Until now, the eruptions were relatively small fissures in remote areas and posed little risk to people or infrastructure.


The island nation, which calls itself the land of fire and ice, has about 30 volcanic systems and more than 600 hot springs. It is one of the most geologically active places on earth due to its position on the mid-Atlantic ridge where the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates rift apart.

Though Iceland is used to eruptions, residents haven’t experienced an event threatening inhabited areas at such a scale since 1973, when part of a town of some 5,000 people was buried under lava in the Westman Islands. Fatalities from eruptions are rare.

One of the most disruptive volcanic events in the Nordic country’s recent history occurred in 2010, when Eyjafjallajokull erupted in an explosion that released a plume of ash so vast that it grounded air traffic across Europe for weeks, resulting in the cancellation of 100,000 flights and affecting over 10 million people.


Air regulations have since changed, meaning that such widespread interruptions would be unlikely this time around, according to Isavia, which runs the country’s airports. Still, should an eruption begin, flights from Iceland’s main airport Keflavik would be grounded for at least an hour to allow authorities to generate an ash forecast.

At Grindavik, geologists’ models show a 15-kilometre magma intrusion underground just northwest of the town, according to the Met Office. Seismic activity has slowed since Friday, which can indicate that magma is moving closer to the surface, officials said.

“The most likely scenario is that this leads to an eruption,” Magnus Tumi Gudmundsson, professor of geophysics at the University of Iceland, said by phone. “The likely eruption site is very close to Grindavik,” he said. That could cause considerable damage to properties.

A somewhat less likely scenario is that an eruption would occur further north, he said. That would put it in the vicinity of Iceland’s biggest tourist attraction, the Blue Lagoon spa and HS Orka hf’s Svartsengi power plant, which provides heat to about 30,000 inhabitants of peninsula, as well as a number of other businesses centred around geothermal heat.

It cannot be ruled out that the dyke intrusion would extend into the sea, potentially creating an explosive event and spewing out volcanic ash.
 

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Scientists discover what may be first 'vampire' virus
Is it an embrace? A stranglehold? DeCarvalho compares the relationship to viral hitchhiking

Author of the article:Washington Post
Washington Post
Carolyn Y. Johnson
Published Nov 14, 2023 • Last updated 2 days ago • 4 minute read
MindFlayer, the larger virus in this microscope image, was found with the smaller MiniFlayer virus attached to its “neck.” (courtesy of Tagide deCarvalho/University of Maryland, Baltimore County)
MindFlayer, the larger virus in this microscope image, was found with the smaller MiniFlayer virus attached to its “neck.” (courtesy of Tagide deCarvalho/University of Maryland, Baltimore County)
In March 2020, Tagide deCarvalho saw something truly strange – something she thinks no other scientist has ever seen before: A virus with another, smaller virus latched onto its “neck.” The backstory of this viral attachment is like a master class in how wild and weird biology can be.


The two microbes are both bacteriophages, viruses that infect bacteria, that were harvested from a clump of dirt in Poolesville, Md. Bacteriophages, also called simply phages, are among the most abundant organisms on Earth. There can be millions in a gram of dirt.


But with a special kind of microscope that uses a beam of electrons to capture images, deCarvalho witnessed a truly bizarre moment – kind of like a wildlife photographer who captures an animal behavior that no one had anticipated.

“I could see literally hundreds of them had this little guy attached at the neck, and it was clearly not random,” said deCarvalho, who manages the Keith R. Porter Imaging Facility at University of Maryland at Baltimore County. “We know that viruses can do some amazing, interesting things. But this is just another new thing that no one could have predicted we would see.”


In a recent study in the Journal of the International Society for Microbial Ecology, deCarvalho and colleagues explain how the viral odd couple likely came to be. The small virus, called MiniFlayer, lost the ability to make copies of itself inside cells, which is how viruses reproduce. So evolution devised a clever, parasitic workaround. MiniFlayer takes advantage of another virus, dubbed MindFlayer, by grabbing onto its neck, and when they enter cells together, MiniFlayer utilizes its companion’s genetic machinery to proliferate.

Is it an embrace? A stranglehold? DeCarvalho compares the relationship to viral hitchhiking. Her collaborator, Ivan Erill, a computational biologist at UMBC, likens it to a vampire sinking its teeth into its prey. It’s not a perfect analogy, but he notes that sometimes, when they find MindFlayer alone, they can find “bite marks” where MiniFlayer’s tendrils were attached.


“Viruses will do anything. They are the most creative force of nature,” Erill said. “If anything is possible, they will come up with a way to do it. But no one had anticipated that they would do something like this.”

The strange universe of viruses
The discovery started with an undergraduate class designed to teach students basic laboratory techniques, asking them to isolate phages from soil samples and study them using genetics. DeCarvalho has been working with the program for seven years and says that for many of the students, seeing the phage is an exciting moment, like when expecting parents see the ultrasound of a fetus for the first time.

In this case, undergraduates Jenell Lewis and Hira Ahmed isolated and named their phage MindFlayer in 2019. But genome sequencing returned puzzling results, suggesting some kind of contamination. When deCarvalho looked at it with a microscope, she noticed not one phage, but two.


The “virosphere,” as scientists call the strange universe of viruses, is known to include elements called “satellites” that have lost their ability to replicate inside cells. Usually, satellites overcome this deficiency by integrating into the genome of the cells that they infect. They lurk there until another virus, a “helper” that has the missing ingredients, happens to enter the cell. The satellites then seize the opportunity to make copies of themselves.

MiniFlayer is a satellite, but unlike the typical version, it doesn’t have the ability to hide inside cells. That leaves it with a conundrum: How to make sure it ends up in the cell with its helper at the same time.

“What this virus has done is say, OK, I’m going to attach to my helper, attach to its neck – and travel with my helper until we find a new cell,” Erill said.


This is par for the course in microbiology, where tactics like molecular piracy and hijacking have been honed over millions of years of evolution. Bacteria are wildly outnumbered by their viral predators, putting them in an ongoing evolutionary arms race. Bacteria develop defenses, and viral phages develop counter-defense strategies. Phages parasitize other phages.

Researchers are interested in using phages, the natural predators of bacteria, as medicine. Phage therapy can be used to target harmful infections, an approach that could become more important as antibiotic-resistant bacteria have become a growing threat.

Terje Dokland, a microbiology professor at the University of Alabama at Birmingham who was not involved in the study, said the observation of the two attached phages was “intriguing” but called for more images and research to draw firmer conclusions about the interaction, and to tease out whether the two viruses are really co-infecting cells.


The authors hope to collaborate with groups that use a different form of electron microscopy to understand what’s happening more clearly. Unlike a vampire, deCarvalho points out, the MiniFlayer isn’t sucking something out of MindFlayer.

“We don’t know whether or not the satellite is injecting its DNA into the helper or if it’s just hitchhiking along for a ride and then falling off, like a tick,” deCarvalho said. “Hopefully someone else will pick up this work and figure out that really interesting question.”

For more health news and content around diseases, conditions, wellness, healthy living, drugs, treatments and more, head to Healthing.ca – a member of the Postmedia Network.

 

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Woman born with a second uterus is pregnant in both
If one baby is born before the other, she said she will likely undergo a C-section for the second twin

Author of the article:Washington Post
Washington Post
Kyle Melnick
Published Nov 14, 2023 • Last updated 2 days ago • 4 minute read
Kelsey Hatcher is pregnant in each of her two uteruses.
Kelsey Hatcher is pregnant in each of her two uteruses.
When Kelsey Hatcher visited her obstetrician for an ultrasound this year, she smiled when an image of a healthy fetus appeared on the screen.


Before leaving, Hatcher asked the nurse for further examination. Hatcher had been born with a second uterus, and she wanted the nurse to check on the health of that one, too.


The nurse at the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s hospital spread gel on the opposite side of Hatcher’s abdomen and went over it with the wand. They couldn’t believe what they saw on the screen.

Another fetus was growing in Hatcher’s second uterus. One in 1 million women become pregnant with two fetuses in separate uteruses, according to Richard Davis, a maternal-fetal medicine specialist treating Hatcher.

Since that May appointment, Hatcher’s doctors have been monitoring a pregnancy unlike any they have witnessed. Hatcher, 32, is now 34 weeks pregnant and expecting healthy fraternal twin girls next month.


She told The Washington Post that she and her husband, Caleb, are still wrapping their heads around the rarity of her situation.

“I don’t know that we’ll actually fully grasp the reality of it until they’re both here,” Hatcher said.

When Hatcher was a teenager in November 2008, she said doctors in Birmingham discovered that she had been born with two uteruses and two cervices – a condition called uterus didelphys that occurs in about 0.3 percent of women, Davis said. Doctors warned Hatcher that she would face a heightened risk for miscarriages and premature births because of the disorder, Hatcher said. At the time, Hatcher barely thought about the implications, thinking she wouldn’t become pregnant in the immediate future.


But in 2016, she became pregnant with a girl that she and Caleb welcomed early the next year. That baby, and her next two children, were born near their due dates without complications.

Hatcher said she didn’t plan to have more children. But when she unexpectedly became pregnant in March, she and Caleb tried to be optimistic about their ability to raise four kids.

When she was eight weeks pregnant in May, Hatcher went to her first ultrasound appointment at the hospital. Hatcher was relieved when the nurse initially found only one fetus in her right uterus. But when the nurse looked at the left one, she discovered the twin.

Kelsey Hatcher is pregnant with two girls — one in each uterus.
Kelsey Hatcher is pregnant with two girls — one in each uterus.
Hatcher said she couldn’t believe the news and started laughing. The nurse called obstetrician Shweta Patel, who reviewed the images multiple times until she became certain there was a fetus in each of Hatcher’s uteruses.


Patel said that many women with two uteruses have only one fully developed and functional uterus. She said Hatcher’s eggs likely travelled through separate fallopian tubes and into the different uteruses.

About 16 weeks into her pregnancy, Hatcher felt both fetuses kicking simultaneously. She and Caleb joked that the girls were fighting each other. Otherwise, Hatcher said the pregnancy has been similar to her previous three.

But around 28 weeks into her pregnancy, Hatcher began thinking about the possibility of upcoming challenges. Each uterus could contract at different times, meaning the babies could arrive hours, days or weeks apart. If one baby is born before the other, Hatcher said she will likely undergo a Caesarean section to give birth to the second twin within a few days.


Kelsey Hatcher and her husband, Caleb, are expecting their fourth and fifth children next month.
Kelsey Hatcher and her husband, Caleb, are expecting their fourth and fifth children next month.
At almost every doctor’s appointment, Hatcher said medical experts remind her that they have not overseen this type of pregnancy. Hatcher’s doctors said that her fetuses are developing at a similar and healthy pace. But because they can’t lean on experience, they are handling Hatcher’s pregnancy much like a twin pregnancy.

“This is such a rare thing that we don’t have a lot of guidance,” Patel said.

Hatcher said she and Caleb are saving money to buy a house with at least five bedrooms and a van that can fit five booster seats. The couple will give the new babies names that start with an R to match the names of their other children – 6-year-old Raelynn, 4-year-old River and 1-year-old Rhemy.

The babies’ due date is on Christmas, but Hatcher hopes they’ll arrive sooner so the family can celebrate the holiday at their Dora, Ala., house. While Hatcher originally expected to have three children, she’s looking forward to watching her five kids grow up together.

At the same time, Hatcher said she’s trying not to fixate on how unusual her pregnancy is.

“If I let myself dwell on it too much, it can be overwhelming and scary,” Hatcher said. “But I just try to focus on the positive and know that I’m in the best of hands in our area, and things will turn out great.”

For more health news and content around diseases, conditions, wellness, healthy living, drugs, treatments and more, head to Healthing.ca – a member of the Postmedia Network.
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New York sues PepsiCo Inc. for plastic pollution, alleging the company contaminated drinking water
Author of the article:Associated Press
Associated Press
Maysoon Khan
Published Nov 15, 2023 • 2 minute read

ALBANY, N.Y. — New York Attorney General Letitia James announced a lawsuit against PepsiCo Inc. on Wednesday, accusing the soda-and-snack food giant of polluting the environment and endangering public health after its single-use plastics were found along the Buffalo River.


The lawsuit filed in state Supreme Court aims to require PepsiCo and its subsidiaries, Frito-Lay Inc. and Frito-Lay North America Inc., to clean up its mess, where its single-use plastic packaging including food wrappers and plastic bottles have found a way to the shores of the Buffalo River and watershed, contaminating drinking water supply for the city of Buffalo.


“No company is too big to ensure that their products do not damage our environment and public health. All New Yorkers have a basic right to clean water, yet PepsiCo’s irresponsible packaging and marketing endanger Buffalo’s water supply, environment, and public health,” James said in a statement.

PepsiCo is the single largest identifiable contributor to the plastic waste contaminating the Buffalo River, according to the lawsuit. Of the 1,916 pieces of plastic waste containing an identifiable brand, 17.1% were produced by PepsiCo, according to a 2022 survey conducted by the state Office of the Attorney General.


Microplastics have also been found in fish species that are known to inhabit Lake Erie and the Buffalo River, as well as Buffalo’s drinking water supply, according to the lawsuit. Exposure to those chemicals can carry a wide range of adverse health effects.

The Buffalo River was once considered one of the most polluted rivers in the United States until the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation stepped in with a remedial action plan in 1989 to restore the river’s ecosystem.

“Our Buffalo community fought for over 50 years to secure hundreds of millions of dollars to clean up toxic pollution, improve habitat, and restore communities around the Buffalo River,” said Jill Jedlicka, executive director of Buffalo Niagara Waterkeeper, in a statement. “We will not sit idly by as our waterways become polluted again, this time from ever-growing single-use plastic pollution.”


Through the lawsuit, James is also calling for PepsiCo to stop selling or distributing any product in the Buffalo region without warning consumers about the potential health and environmental risks of its packaging. It also seeks to stop the company from contributing to the public nuisance it is causing in the Buffalo region by contributing to plastic pollution, and to develop a plan to reduce the amount of its single-use plastics from entering the Buffalo River.

PepsiCo, which is headquartered in New York, produces and packages at least 85 different beverage brands including Gatorade and Pepsi products, and at least 25 snack food brands that mostly come in single-use plastic containers.

In past years, the company has repeatedly pledged that it would make meaningful strides to reduce its use of plastics. The lawsuit alleges that the opposite is happening, and that PepsiCo misled the public about its efforts to combat plastic pollution.

Email messages left for a spokesperson at PepsiCo were not immediately returned.

The lawsuit also seeks disgorgement, civil penalties, and restitution.
 

petros

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Low Earth Orbit
New York sues PepsiCo Inc. for plastic pollution, alleging the company contaminated drinking water
Author of the article:Associated Press
Associated Press
Maysoon Khan
Published Nov 15, 2023 • 2 minute read

ALBANY, N.Y. — New York Attorney General Letitia James announced a lawsuit against PepsiCo Inc. on Wednesday, accusing the soda-and-snack food giant of polluting the environment and endangering public health after its single-use plastics were found along the Buffalo River.


The lawsuit filed in state Supreme Court aims to require PepsiCo and its subsidiaries, Frito-Lay Inc. and Frito-Lay North America Inc., to clean up its mess, where its single-use plastic packaging including food wrappers and plastic bottles have found a way to the shores of the Buffalo River and watershed, contaminating drinking water supply for the city of Buffalo.


“No company is too big to ensure that their products do not damage our environment and public health. All New Yorkers have a basic right to clean water, yet PepsiCo’s irresponsible packaging and marketing endanger Buffalo’s water supply, environment, and public health,” James said in a statement.

PepsiCo is the single largest identifiable contributor to the plastic waste contaminating the Buffalo River, according to the lawsuit. Of the 1,916 pieces of plastic waste containing an identifiable brand, 17.1% were produced by PepsiCo, according to a 2022 survey conducted by the state Office of the Attorney General.


Microplastics have also been found in fish species that are known to inhabit Lake Erie and the Buffalo River, as well as Buffalo’s drinking water supply, according to the lawsuit. Exposure to those chemicals can carry a wide range of adverse health effects.

The Buffalo River was once considered one of the most polluted rivers in the United States until the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation stepped in with a remedial action plan in 1989 to restore the river’s ecosystem.

“Our Buffalo community fought for over 50 years to secure hundreds of millions of dollars to clean up toxic pollution, improve habitat, and restore communities around the Buffalo River,” said Jill Jedlicka, executive director of Buffalo Niagara Waterkeeper, in a statement. “We will not sit idly by as our waterways become polluted again, this time from ever-growing single-use plastic pollution.”


Through the lawsuit, James is also calling for PepsiCo to stop selling or distributing any product in the Buffalo region without warning consumers about the potential health and environmental risks of its packaging. It also seeks to stop the company from contributing to the public nuisance it is causing in the Buffalo region by contributing to plastic pollution, and to develop a plan to reduce the amount of its single-use plastics from entering the Buffalo River.

PepsiCo, which is headquartered in New York, produces and packages at least 85 different beverage brands including Gatorade and Pepsi products, and at least 25 snack food brands that mostly come in single-use plastic containers.

In past years, the company has repeatedly pledged that it would make meaningful strides to reduce its use of plastics. The lawsuit alleges that the opposite is happening, and that PepsiCo misled the public about its efforts to combat plastic pollution.

Email messages left for a spokesperson at PepsiCo were not immediately returned.

The lawsuit also seeks disgorgement, civil penalties, and restitution.
Id join the CA if they added KFC. Pepsi "killed the Colonel" forever ruining Kentucky Fried Chicken.
 

spaminator

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Federal court quashes cabinet order underlying single-use plastics ban
Author of the article:Canadian Press
Canadian Press
Mia Rabson
Published Nov 16, 2023 • Last updated 1 day ago • 3 minute read
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The Federal Court has quashed a cabinet order that listed plastic manufactured items as toxic under Canada's environmental protection because the category was too broad and the government overstepped its constitutional bounds.
The Federal Court has quashed a cabinet order that listed plastic manufactured items as toxic under Canada's environmental protection because the category was too broad and the government overstepped its constitutional bounds.
OTTAWA — The federal government’s ban on plastic straws and grocery bags is in question after the Federal Court ruled on Thursday that Ottawa had overstepped its bounds in designating all “plastic manufactured items” as toxic.


But one environmental law expert believes that in the long term, the ban of those specific items will stand up to legal scrutiny.


The Liberal cabinet designated plastic manufactured items as toxic in 2021, in order to allow the environment minister to regulate their use in Canada.

In December 2022, the first of those regulations took effect, barring the manufacture and import of six types of single-use plastics, including straws, grocery bags, cutlery, takeout containers, stir sticks and six-pack beverage rings.

The designation was applied to all plastic manufactured items.

In her ruling, Justice Angela Furlanetto noted that evidence shows “thousands” of different items are in that category, and they all have different uses and chemical makeups.


And she said that surely includes some items for which there is no reasonable expectation of environmental harm.

“The broad and all-encompassing nature of the category of (plastic manufactured items) poses a threat to the balance of federalism as it does not restrict regulation to only those (items) that truly have the potential to cause harm to the environment,” Furlanetto wrote.

The Canadian Environmental Protection Act defines toxic substances as those that are or may be dangerous to human life or health, that “have or may have” a harmful impact on the environment or biological diversity or that constitute “a danger to the environment on which life depends.”

Furlanetto said the government’s own report identified several single-use plastic items, including garbage bags, contact lenses and disposable personal care items, that were either not prevalent or were not known to cause environmental harm.


“However, despite recognition that these items are not environmentally problematic, they are included in the category of (plastic manufactured items) that are toxic,” Furlanetto said.

Because the cabinet order that has now been struck down is required to enact the regulations banning some plastic items, those regulations could also now be argued to be improper.

Behind the lawsuit challenging the toxic designation was the Responsible Plastic Use Coalition, which represents companies from the plastics industry that do business in Canada, along with three chemical companies that make plastics.

In a statement on Thursday, the coalition said it is reviewing the decision.

“We are currently analyzing court documents and will be considering our next steps upon completing that review,” the coalition said in an unsigned email.


Stewart Elgie, a law professor and director of the Environment Institute at the University of Ottawa, said the government has options that should allow its ban to stay in place.

For one thing, it can appeal the court decision, and the government says it likely will.

Elgie said the federal government would also likely succeed in asking the court to suspend the judge’s order quashing the toxic designation until that appeal is heard.

Also, Elgie pointed out, Furlanetto’s decision does not suggest that the items the government wants to ban would not meet the test for being designated as toxic if they were given that designation separately.

“I’d say it looks like the federal government can regulate the things they’re now regulating,” Elgie said.


“They just have to do it in a more targeted way.”

The decision does nothing to undermine the government’s ability to regulate toxic substances in general, he added, including greenhouse gases. Elgie noted that in the decision, the judge uses that as an example of a toxic substance under the law.

Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault said in a statement that the government remains steadfast in its commitment to keeping plastics out of the environment, but he didn’t say exactly what it will do.

“The government of Canada is carefully reviewing the Federal Court judgement and are strongly considering an appeal,” he said.

The court decision was “disappointing,” said Kim Elmslie, campaign director at Oceana Canada, a conservation advocacy group that intervened in the case in support of the government’s position.

Elmslie noted that multiple countries are moving to bar the use of many single-use plastics.

“This is the way that the world is moving. (Now) that we’ve recognized that this is a huge crisis in our oceans, on land we need to deal with it. We need to address it,” Elmslie said.

“It’s just very frustrating that at this time, that this is an obstacle right now. It’s a setback.”
 

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A volcano may keep residents out of an evacuated Iceland town for months
Author of the article:Associated Press
Associated Press
Published Nov 18, 2023 • Last updated 1 day ago • 1 minute read
Residents of a fishing town in southwestern Iceland have left their homes after increasing concern about a potential volcanic eruption caused civil defense authorities to declare a state of emergency in the region. Iceland's Meteorological Office says police decided to evacuate Grindavik after recent seismic activity in the area moved south toward the town.
REYKJAVIK, Iceland (AP) — People in southwest Iceland remained on edge Saturday, waiting to see whether a volcano rumbling under the Reykjanes Peninsula will erupt. Civil protection authorities said that even if it doesn’t, it’s likely to be months before it is safe for residents evacuated from the danger zone to go home.


The fishing town of Grindavik was evacuated a week ago as magma _ semi-molten rock — rumbled and snaked under the earth amid thousands of tremors. It has left a jagged crack running through the community, thrusting the ground upward by 1 meter (3 feet) or more in places.


The Icelandic Meteorological Office said there is a “significant likelihood” that an eruption will occur somewhere along the 15-kilometer (9-mile) magma tunnel, with the “prime location” an area north of Grindavik near the Hagafell mountain.

Grindavik, a town of 3,400, sits on the Reykjanes Peninsula, about 50 kilometers (31 miles) southwest of the capital, Reykjavik and not far from Keflavik Airport, Iceland’s main facility for international flights. The nearby Blue Lagoon geothermal resort, one of Iceland’s top tourist attractions, has been shut at least until the end of November because of the volcano danger.


Grindavik residents are being allowed to return for five minutes each to rescue valuable possessions and pets.

A volcanic system on the Reykjanes Peninsula has erupted three times since 2021, after being dormant for 800 years. Previous eruptions occurred in remote valleys without causing damage.

Iceland sits above a volcanic hot spot in the North Atlantic and averages an eruption every four to five years. The most disruptive in recent times was the 2010 eruption of the Eyjafjallajokull volcano, which spewed huge clouds of ash into the atmosphere and grounded flights across Europe for days because of fears ash could damage airplane engines.

Scientists say a new eruption would likely produce lava but not an ash cloud.
 

spaminator

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Low-sodium diet offers big benefits when it comes to blood pressure: Study
Author of the article:Kevin Connor
Published Nov 19, 2023 • 1 minute read
Man checks blood pressure monitor and heart rate monitor.
New research says that for many people, cutting back on salt is as effective as taking a common blood pressure medication.
If you want to lower your blood pressure, cutting back on salt in your diet would help, according to a recent study.


New research said that for many people, cutting back on salt is as effective as taking a common blood pressure medication.


The study, published Saturday in JAMA, found that lowering salt levels lowered blood pressure in the majority of participants.

Researchers monitored 213 participants aged 50 to 75 on their usual diets, as well as high- and low-sodium diets.



The high-sodium diets had about 2,200 mg of added sodium daily and low-sodium diets contained about 500 mg of sodium daily.

After one week of a low-sodium diet, they saw an average 8-mmHg reduction in systolic blood pressure compared to a high-sodium diet and a 6-mmHg reduction compared to a normal diet.


The researchers said that’s comparable to the average benefits of a commonly prescribed drug for high blood pressure.

The low-sodium diet involved reducing salt intake by about 1 tsp per day.

“The low-sodium diet lowered systolic blood pressure in nearly 75% of individuals compared with the high-sodium diet,” the authors wrote.

“High blood pressure, also called hypertension, is known as a silent killer and can increase a person’s risk of heart attack, stroke, chronic kidney disease and other serious conditions.”

Hypertension contributed to more than 691,000 deaths in the United States in 2021, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Nearly half of adults have hypertension, according to the CDC — defined as a systolic blood pressure greater than 130 or a diastolic blood pressure greater than 80. And only about one in four adults with hypertension have it under control, the agency estimated.

However, salt isn’t the only thing in our diets that may have an effect on blood pressure.
 
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Taxslave2

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I can’t believe they needed to do a study to find out what most people already know. I guess it is not a fact until an egghead with a computer declares it so.
 

spaminator

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Woodstock neighbours blame backyard ducks for rat infestation, request bylaw review
20 rats had been trapped as of Sept. 20

Author of the article:Brian Williams • Local Journalism Initiative reporter
Published Nov 19, 2023 • Last updated 1 day ago • 2 minute read

Residents of Arthur Street in Woodstock are concerned about a “rat outbreak” in the community, and suspect a homeowner’s ducks are behind the increased population of the unwanted rodents.


A letter to city council, which has received 15 signatures, proposed politicians consider updating a bylaw to ban or regulate the number of fowl allowed on citizens’ properties within city limits.


The letter from Chelsey Geerlinks-Down and neighbours states: “Many residents of Arthur Street have petitioned together as there is a house on Arthur Street with 14 ducks living in their backyard, which has now attracted a herd of rats.”

The letter also said there was concern the coop wasn’t being kept clean, a reason rats were being attracted to the enclosure.

According to the letter, the issue has been going on for five months, and 20 rats have been trapped as of Sept. 20.

Geerlinks-Down, whose backyard is on the same fence line as the coop, is concerned for the safety of her children and dog, worrying the rats could increase the risk of contracting disease.


“We have to go out and check to make sure there’s nothing back there,” she said. “I have a dog and with rats, disease-bearing issues,” is a cause for stress.

Geerlinks-Down’s concerns are not unwarranted.

On its website, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says: “Infestation of rodents in and around the home is the main reason disease spreads from rodents to people. The best way to prevent a rodent infestation and contact with rodents is to remove food sources, water and items that provide shelter for rodents.” The website does not define an infestation.

The letter to city council said feces from rats are a common sight on properties that have experienced an increased number of the rodents.

Geerlinks-Down said she has spent $500 on extermination, and said, “(The extermination company is) saying the nesting of the rats is coming from that area.”


Cherlyn Vleuten also shares a fence line with the duck coop. She said initially there weren’t as many ducks, but as the number of ducks increased, the rat problem grew.

“They started out with a couple and then they ended up with, I think there’s 13 back there now,” Vleuten said. “So, that’s when we really started to see a lot of the rat problem,” she said.

The matter of backyard ducks falls under the fowl-pigeons bylaw, and Coun. Kate Leatherbarrow thinks the bylaw should be looked at because it hasn’t been updated since 1994.

“That’s something that we should certainly comb through and perhaps while staff are reviewing it, we can look at what other municipalities are doing,” Leatherbarrow said.

Council voted unanimously on Thursday to review the bylaw.

The resident in question couldn’t be reached for comment.

bwilliams@postmedia.com
Twitter.com/BrianWatLFPress

The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada
 

spaminator

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B.C. stream watchers link ’unprecedented’ coho salmon kill to tire toxin and drought
Author of the article:Canadian Press
Canadian Press
Nono Shen
Published Nov 19, 2023 • 3 minute read
Volunteers for the West Vancouver Streamkeeper Society examine a dead coho salmon found near the mouth of Brothers Creek in West Vancouver, B.C., in late October 2023.
Volunteers for the West Vancouver Streamkeeper Society examine a dead coho salmon found near the mouth of Brothers Creek in West Vancouver, B.C., in late October 2023. PHOTO BY HANDOUT /THE CANADIAN PRESS
VANCOUVER — John Barker has been volunteering with the West Vancouver Streamkeeper Society for more than 20 years and says he’s never seen anything like it, dozens of coho salmon, pre-spawn and silvery, looking fresh from the sea, dead at the mouth of Brothers Creek.


“When you have a loss like this, it’s devastating,” said Barker.


He and others suspect the culprit in the “unprecedented” kill in late October could have been a chemical found in tires that has previously been associated with coho deaths, coupled with B.C.’s drought.

He hopes solutions can be found and wants the tire industry to find an alternative to the chemical, called 6PPD-quinone.

“Some people seem to think water that’s picked up off the street is going to a treatment plant. Well, it’s not,” said Barker.

“It’s being deposited straight into the watercourses. If you’ve got hostile product on the roadside and it gets picked up, that’s where it’s going to go,” said Barker. “We’ve seen that firsthand now.”

The society said in a statement that lack of rain may have allowed the chemical to build up on roads before late rains in the fall flushed it into waterways, where low water levels in streams further concentrated the material when the coho arrived.


The chemical, which helps tires last longer but is activated as a toxin by sunlight, is deadly to coho, and does not effect pink or chum salmon, said the statement.

Barker said he had examined six of the dead coho himself, three males and three females. None of the females had spawned, with their roe sacks still intact

Barker said the society had given samples of the dead fish to the Fisheries Department Canada for analysis. He said he was told by the department that there was a “strong possibility” that 6PPD-quinone played a role in the deaths.

A study by researchers in Washington state published in 2020 found that 6PPD-quinone was the likely cause of death of coho returning to urban streams and rivers in Puget Sound.


Tanya Brown, a research scientist for the fisheries department at the Pacific Science Enterprise Centre in West Vancouver, said her team has been testing Brothers Creek for 6PPD-quinone before, during, and after rain events.

She said they don’t have results yet as her lab is still running samples.

However, Brown said her team has also been monitoring 70 creeks across Metro Vancouver over the past 2 1/2 years, and they are have been seeing 6PPD-quinone in lethal concentrations during rain events.

Brown said various salmon species respond differently to 6PPD-quinone, and many research groups, including her lab, are investigating why coho are more vulnerable.

Barker said he hopes strategies will be introduced to mitigate the risks, such as using filtration to help purify run-off.


But in the long run, Barker said the tire industry had to come up with a different chemical.

Brown said it would take decades before 6PPD-quinone could be eliminated from tires.

Michal Majernik, spokesman for the Tire and Rubber Association of Canada, said in a statement the industry has sponsored research on 6PPD-quinone since 2020.

“The industry is currently assessing potential suitable alternatives to 6PPD in the state of California,” read the statement.

But Majernik said it’s not a simple process to change the composition of tires, and any change could affect safety and performance.

He said other strategies could include treating storm water and car owners maintaining proper tire inflation to reduce the release of the chemical.

The society said the danger seems to be over now with a good number of healthy coho recently arriving in creeks.

Barker said he was relieved to see quite a few coho arriving “in good shape” and all looking healthy in November.

He said he hopes the Brothers Creek coho kill opens people’s eyes to the problem.

“Hopefully, there are enough people that care, that will start to affect change and improve this,” said Barker.
coho-death-bc-20231119[1].jpg
 

spaminator

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Feds to appeal court ruling that struck down cabinet order labelling plastics toxic
Author of the article:Canadian Press
Canadian Press
Mia Rabson
Published Nov 20, 2023 • 2 minute read
Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault says the federal government will appeal a Federal Court ruling which struck down a cabinet order which underlies Ottawa's ban of some single-use plastics.
Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault says the federal government will appeal a Federal Court ruling which struck down a cabinet order which underlies Ottawa's ban of some single-use plastics.
OTTAWA — The federal government will appeal a recent Federal Court ruling that struck down a cabinet order underlying Ottawa’s ban of some single-use plastics, Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault said Monday.


The Nov. 16 decision said Ottawa had overstepped by labelling all “plastic manufactured items” as toxic under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act.


Evidence shows “thousands” of different items in that category have different uses and chemical makeups, and there is no evidence all of them can harm human health or the environment, Justice Angela Furlanetto found.

The ruling itself did not undo the government’s ban on the manufacture and import of six single-use plastics — stir sticks, straws, grocery bags, cutlery, takeout containers and six-pack beverage rings.

The designation of toxicity is necessary for the government to regulate substances, however, so without it the federal regulations would have to be rolled back.


Guilbeault said he’s determined to make sure that doesn’t happen.

“The body of scientific evidence showing the impacts on human health, on the environment, of plastic pollution is undebatable,” he said.

The government has been taking steps to eliminate plastic waste by 2030, aiming to take items that are difficult to recycle out of existence entirely, while making sure the rest are recyclable or reusable.

The existing ban on manufacturing most impacted items went into effect in December 2022, with plans to prohibit their sale next month. The manufacture of six-pack rings was banned in June, with their sale to be banned in June 2024.

The court challenge was brought by the Responsible Plastic Use Coalition, which represents plastics companies that do business in Canada, and three chemical companies that produce the materials.


The coalition has said it is “supportive” of the judge’s decision.

“In the interest of Canadians who rely on plastic products that are essential to everyday life, we believe that the federal government and industry can work collaboratively to reduce plastic waste,” it said in a statement.

Some municipalities and provinces have implemented their own bans on plastics, including P.E.I. and B.C. Provincial policies are not impacted by the ruling.

Furlanetto’s decision left room for the government to ban just the items it wants by designating individual items as toxic, rather than manufactured plastic items as a whole.

The government chose those six items to ban, said Guilbeault, because they have alternatives on the market already and are among the most prevalent. They generally represent just three per cent of plastic waste.

In 2019 a Canadian report on plastics said over three million tonnes of plastic is thrown away each year and less than one-tenth of it is actually recycled.
 

spaminator

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Bowie the Lobster a 'one in a 50 million' catch off the coast of Maine
The lobster was named after the late British musician David Bowie

Author of the article:Jane Stevenson
Published Nov 21, 2023 • Last updated 1 day ago • 1 minute read
Bowie the Lobster
Maine fisherman Jacob Knowles shows off Bowie the Lobster on his TiKTok page. PHOTO BY TIKTOK/@JACOB__KNOWLES
A two-tone lobster nicknamed Bowie was all the rage on TikTok, reported the New York Post.


The half-blue, half-brown, half-male, half-female crustacean was show off last Tuesday by Maine lobster fisherman Jacob Knowles on his TikTok page which has 2.6 million followers.


By Monday afternoon, it had been viewed more than 6.3 million times.

“This is the coolest lobster I’ve ever seen,” a Knowles says in the clip, while showing off the lobster.

“Not only it’s split 50-50 right down its back blue and normal, but if you look underneath, it’s actually half-male, half-female.”

According to Knowles, the lobster’s blue side is male, and its brown side is female.

Knowles said he was given the lobster by a friend who caught it, and the University of Maine’s Lobster Institute says the chances of finding a two-tone lobster are 1 in 50 million.


“[It’s] a very unique lobster,” says Knowles.

“Never seen one like it, never heard of one like it,” he said, before adding it was likely “one of the rarest lobsters in the Gulf of Maine.”

Recommended video
After asking his fans to vote on the lobster’s fate, Knowles decided in a follow-up video, which raked in 4.5 million views, to go by his followers’ unanimous wishes and hold onto the crustacean to see if it could lay eggs.

A naming competition resulted in it being named Bowie after the late British musician David Bowie who had different coloured eyes and created an early androgynous alter-ego named Ziggy Stardust.
1700724330536.png
 

spaminator

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Mysterious respiratory illness sickening – and killing – dogs in U.S.
Author of the article:Washington Post
Washington Post
Kelly Kasulis Cho, The Washington Post
Published Nov 21, 2023 • 4 minute read

Marie Heckemeyer had every reason to believe her dog was recovering. Six-year-old Thunder, the beloved Siberian husky she raised from a puppy, was back to digging holes, jumping around the house, playing and seeking back scratches.


Thunder had fallen ill after attending a boarding camp while Heckemeyer and her husband were on a trip to Italy for their 20th wedding anniversary. After about two weeks of treatment – and a veterinary bill topping $16,900 – his cough seemed to have retreated.


But within an hour of playing, Thunder was back in the emergency room with respiratory distress. And soon after that, Heckemeyer and her husband, both residents of Colorado, received a call from the vet to come in and say their goodbyes.

“He was so young,” Heckemeyer said through sobs. “… For this to just come on so quickly – it’s just so hard.”

Thunder, who died on Nov. 6, is one of hundreds of dogs across at least five U.S. states – Colorado, Rhode Island, Oregon, New Hampshire and Massachusetts – thought to have contracted a mysterious respiratory illness that experts are scrambling to understand.


Very little is known about the illness, but veterinarians say it usually starts with a cough that might last for weeks, then progresses to pneumonia (visible on X-rays) and severe respiratory distress. The disease generally does not appear to respond to antibiotics, and in acute cases of pneumonia, poor outcomes are seen in as little as 24 to 36 hours, according to the Oregon Veterinary Medical Association, which has received more than 200 reports of potential cases.

“We don’t know what’s causing it, and we can’t say definitively how it’s being transmitted,” said Lindsey Ganzer, a veterinarian who owns the North Springs Veterinary Referral Center in Colorado. “We just don’t know enough right now.”

Ganzer’s hospital has seen at least 35 cases since about Oct. 20, four of which were fatal “due to severe pneumonia,” she said. None of the dogs appears to be fully recovered yet, and her treatment plan so far includes testing to rule out common viruses and infections, supplementary oxygen and a cocktail of antibiotics – which may help with secondary infections, though she’s not convinced it addresses the root cause.


“We need to be treating sooner rather than later. It’s really important,” Ganzer said. “I’ve had cases where it’ll be two housemate dogs, and one of them will show signs, but I’ve gone ahead and started both on antibiotics. A couple days later, the other one will start to cough but is doing better than the first one.”

From what she has seen, symptoms include fever, cough, lack of appetite, eye and nose discharge, sneezing and difficulty breathing. Most cases start out looking like kennel cough, a common and highly treatable disease, she said.

“Where we’re seeing this end up differently is that the cough is very prolonged, it doesn’t resolve on its own, and it very quickly develops into pneumonia,” Ganzer said. “When it presents in that pattern, we are going ahead and being more aggressive with treatment.”


For Heckemeyer, 48, the illness has ravaged nearly her entire household. Three of her other dogs – 2-year-old Moose, 6-year-old Denver and 6-year-old Bronco – are still sick, and her elderly Jack Russell terrier is quarantining with her son. She has spent more than $15,500 on medical care for the three so far, she said, not including the cost of their prescription foods, over-the-counter medications, future X-rays and antibiotic refills.

Heckemeyer also purchased each of her dogs an oxygen chamber after she noticed the local veterinary office, inundated by possible cases, was running low on spares. To help power them, she pays about $1,500 a month to rent compressors, and one of her dogs – Denver – is in it round-the-clock, she said. Because the chambers overheat and become humid, she runs fresh ice packs to them several times an hour to ensure they are comfortable.


“It’s just a lot of work. … You can walk away for maybe only 10 to 15 minutes,” she said with a laugh. “It’s a good thing I work from home.”

More than a year ago, a veterinary researcher in New Hampshire started hearing stories about a respiratory syndrome that wasn’t responsive to treatment. He began driving out to nearby veterinary practices to collect swabs and examined them in partnership with the Hubbard Center for Genome Studies.

“We found no known viruses, bacteria or fungus that were known pathogens,” said David Needle, the researcher, who works as the pathology section chief at the New Hampshire Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory. Even more intriguing, a colleague who examined the samples found that, “in 21 of 30 initial animals we sequenced, there was this kind of funky little bacteria,” Needle said.


The team has found evidence of the same bacteria in sickly dogs around New England but has only recently started to collect samples from other parts of the United States. There is currently no evidence that humans or other animal species can catch the illness from the dogs.

“We’re not sure what has happened in New England is what’s happening in the rest of the country,” Needle said. “… But in three weeks, we will know so much more.”

For now, the fatality rate of the mystery illness is unclear, but both Needle and Ganzer said it may not be very high. And given that the potential pathogen has been detected in nasal and throat swabs, dogs may be passing it to one another through close contact or by air, especially during play.

“I would strongly recommend that people avoid boarding facilities, doggy day care, anything that’s going to be a high volume of dogs in a space,” Ganzer said. “I know it’s going to be hard with the holidays coming up, but trying to find somebody that will come to your house and take care of your dog is a better option.”
 

spaminator

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What golden retrievers are teaching us about cancer
Author of the article:Washington Post
Washington Post
Marlene Cimons, The Washington Post
Published Nov 21, 2023 • 5 minute read

In September, Sara Fritz lost her six-year-old golden retriever, Emma, to an especially aggressive cancer called hemangiosarcoma. As a pet parent, she was heartbroken. As a practicing veterinary oncologist, she was frustrated.


More than 60% of golden retrievers will develop cancer in their lifetimes, compared to about 25% of other breeds.


“All dogs can develop cancer, but goldens have the highest probability,” said Fritz. “We believe they have many cancer-related gene variants. We just haven’t narrowed them down, hence we haven’t been able to target them.”

This, however, may be changing. Scientists are studying this popular breed, both to help the dogs and to learn more about human cancers. Dogs and humans share most of the same genes.

Golden clues to cancer
The Morris Animal Foundation has had an ongoing study in golden retrievers for more than a decade, trying to identify genetic, environmental, nutritional and other factors that influence cancer. And scientists at the University of California at Davis who are seeking to find out why some golden retrievers live longer than others have discovered a genetic variant associated with increased longevity.


They found that golden retrievers with the variant enjoyed a life span nearly two years longer than those without it, a significant time difference for a dog. Interestingly, the mutation they identified came from a family of genes linked to cancers, including human ones.

The UC Davis researchers took an unusual approach, in that “we didn’t look for genes associated with cancer,” said Robert Rebhun, professor of surgical and radiological services at the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, and co-corresponding author.

“We looked based on how long they lived,” Rebhun said. “The amazing thing is that by looking at how long they lived, the gene variant that popped up is a gene known to be associated with cancer.”


Good dogs and bad variants
More than 300 golden retrievers participated in the study, including Rebhun’s own dog, Jessica. The scientists compared DNA from blood samples of golden retrievers that were alive at 14 to those who died before they were 12. They found that dogs with the gene variant survived longer, on average to age 13.5 years compared to 11.6 years.

Rebhun said the gene appears to have a “good variant” and a “bad variant,” that is, one that promotes survival, the other linked to shorter lives. “Jessie” developed a slow-growing soft tissue sarcoma at 14, but lived until she was 16 ½, he said.

“She had one of the good variants, and one of the bad ones,” he said. “Our theory is that the bad one might contribute to the development of cancer, while the good one staved it off until she was 14.”


The study also found intriguing differences between male and female dogs, raising the possibility that female hormones, such as estrogen, may be involved, he said.

Female dogs with one copy of the bad variant lived significantly shorter times than female dogs that did not have the bad variant. In contrast, there was no difference between male dogs with one copy of the bad variant compared with male dogs that didn’t have it at all.

For male and female dogs, having two copies of the bad variant resulted in significantly shorter lives.

The research “presents some compelling evidence that this variant is linked to longevity in golden retrievers,” said Noah Snyder-Mackler, an associate professor at Arizona State University’s school of life sciences, who was not involved in the study.


“The findings are tantalizing and like most things in science, lead to more questions than they answer,” he said.

A family of cancer genes in dogs and people
The specific variants identified in the study were found on a gene called ErbB4, also known as HER4. It’s the canine equivalent of a gene found in a family of human genes whose variants are linked to cancer.

In the dog study, the ErbB4 gene variant was related to an increase in life that is equivalent to an additional 12 to 14 years in humans, said geneticist Danika Bannasch, professor of population health and reproduction at UC Davis and co-corresponding author.

This study aims “at one of life’s biggest mysteries, not just in dog science but in human health,” said Elinor Karlsson, director of vertebrate genomics at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, who also was not involved in the research.


“Why do some people live longer than others? Why do some dogs live longer than others?” she said. “We don’t know why, but this study is starting to get at that question.”

ErbB4 variants appear to act in two ways. It can act like an oncogene – which drives cancer – or it can behave like a tumour suppressor gene, which puts the brakes on the disease. Rebhun said it’s unclear what triggers each behaviour. “We don’t have the exact mechanism for saying whether this variant is stimulating cancer growth in golden retrievers or prohibiting it, or how it does each,” he said.

The potential of the findings could be significant. Earlier research into a variant of the HER2 gene, which is part of the same family as ErbB4, led to a significant breakthrough in human breast cancer treatment, resulting in a targeted therapy called Herceptin for patients with HER2 positive breast cancer.


Hope for golden retrievers and their humans
Although experts said the practical applications of the study are probably years away, they hope the findings will lead to a test or other diagnostic tool to identify or treat vulnerable dogs – and possibly even humans.

“Dogs and humans share many of the same environmental factors and genes, and they work similarly in both species,” Rebhun said.

He and his colleagues hope to conduct a larger study in golden retrievers and also examine other breeds.

“Maybe we will find something else that increases longevity in other breeds,” he said. “We also want to look at this variant in other breeds that don’t die as much from cancer as goldens.”

The dogs’ cancer risk has done little to diminish their appeal. “They’re simply wonderful dogs, which makes their high cancer rate particularly tragic,” said Kelly Diehl, senior director of science communications for the Morris Animal Foundation. “Almost all golden retriever owners understand this statistic and are passionate about finding a way to reduce the cancer rate in the breed they love.”


Fritz, who practices at Veterinary Referral Associates in Gaithersburg, Md., grew up with golden retrievers, all of them lost to cancer. She said her experience with her childhood dogs inspired her to become a veterinary oncologist.

“They are totally lovely dogs,” she said. “Honest, loyal, and always there for you. Emma was a sweetheart. She slept with my little boy every night and always looked out for him and his little sister.”

Before Emma died, the family added another golden retriever, Jax, now 11 months old. “Even knowing what I know, professionally and personally, I still wouldn’t have any other breed,” Fritz said.
 

spaminator

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Canadian astronaut Joshua Kutryk to join mission to International Space Station
Author of the article:Canadian Press
Canadian Press
Published Nov 22, 2023 • Last updated 1 day ago • 2 minute read

LONGUEUIL, Que. — Canada’s newest astronauts were given marching orders Wednesday, with one bound for a sojourn on the International Space Station while the other will serve as backup on a highly anticipated upcoming lunar mission.


Joshua Kutryk’s six-month mission aboard the space station, parts of which are celebrating a 25th anniversary this year, will take place no earlier than 2025.


Kutryk, 41, an engineer and colonel in the Royal Canadian Air Force from Fort Saskatchewan, Alta., has been working in Houston since 2021 on the Starliner, a Boeing-built spacecraft designed to transport crew to the space station. Kutryk’s mission will mark the Starliner’s first operational mission.

Astronaut Jenni Gibbons was assigned as the backup to Canadian astronaut Jeremy Hansen for the historic Artemis II mission to the moon scheduled for November 2024.

In April, Hansen, 47, of London, Ont., was announced as the first Canadian to venture into deep space, joining three NASA astronauts taking part in the first crewed mission to the moon since the final Apollo mission took flight in 1972.


The four astronauts will orbit Earth once before slinging into deep space for a figure-8 manoeuvre around the dark side of the moon, making Canada and the United States the only two countries to have their astronauts venture that far. Gibbons, 35, will train with Hansen and the others and will serve as his replacement if he’s unable to take part.

The mission is a precursor to the next phase of Artemis: to put a man and woman on the moon as early as 2025 in service of eventually dispatching astronauts to Mars.

Gibbons said she sees her involvement as an investment for future missions if Canada makes it a priority to have an astronaut on the moon.

She will learn about lunar architecture and procedures, act as a test subject and learn details of the mission from launch to splash down. She will also be a key resource to the crew during that 10-day mission.


“Speaking to people who are so far away, further than anyone has gone, it’s an incredible opportunity and operational experience to me,” Gibbons said. “So I look at that as an investment for me and for Canada for what’s next.”

Francois-Philippe Champagne, federal minister of innovation, science and industry, made the announcements at the Canadian Space Agency headquarters near Montreal.

Gibbons and Kutryk are Canada’s newest astronauts, selected in 2017. The two other active astronauts are Hansen and David Saint-Jacques, who both joined the astronaut corps in 2009.

Saint-Jacques, 53, an astrophysicist and medical doctor from St. Lambert, Que., spent more than six months aboard the International Space Station in 2018 and 2019.

Kutryk will become the fourth Canadian astronaut to serve a long-duration mission on the station, and the first to fly under NASA’s commercial crew program. In all, nine Canadians have flown to space, on a total of 17 missions.

“I feel very, very lucky,” Kutryk said of the opportunity. “That space station is a marvel of human engineering and persistence, and it’s going to be my home for a very long time.”
 

55Mercury

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what some people won't do to get into the mile-high club!

or is it the 200-mile-high club?