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Study Shows Marijuana 114 Times Safer Than Drinking Alcohol

by Marco Torres

We have been led to believe that marijuana is a dangerous and addictive drug that destroys lives and is a far greater risk than other recreational drugs such as alcohol. Governments have tried diligently to to convince the public that people who use pot are more at risk to themselves and the public than those who use alcohol. As the debate over marijuana legalization continues, a new study now shows that smoking the controversial plant is about 114 times safer than drinking alcohol.

In fact, alcohol was found to be the deadliest drug on an individual level, at least when it comes to the likelihood of a person dying due to consuming a lethal dose. Heroin and cocaine were the next most deadly substances, followed by tobacco, ecstasy, and meth. Trailing up the rear was marijuana.

According to the team of international researchers behind the study, published in the journal ‘Scientific Reports,’ the findings suggest that marijuana risks — at least those related to mortality — are trumped when compared to substances like alcohol.

“The results confirm that the risk of cannabis may have been overestimated in the past,” the report reads. “At least for the endpoint of mortality, the [margin of exposure] for THC/cannabis in both individual and population-based assessments would be above safety thresholds (e.g. 100 for data based on animal experiments). In contrast, the risk of alcohol may have been commonly underestimated.”

Both alcohol and cannabis can be considered a narcotic or hallucinogen, that affects the central nervous system, causing changes in behavior and often addiction. But there are major differences in how each reacts with the human body.

As reported by the Washington Post, the study’s results aren’t exactly new, though they do confirm similar findings first reported a decade ago. In a separate story last year, the Post noted that Wayne Hall of the World Health Organization said it’s nearly impossible for even those who smoke large amounts of cannabis to overdose on the drug.

“The estimated fatal dose [of THC, the primary active compound in marijuana] in humans derived from animal studies is between 15 and 70 grams. This is a far greater amount of cannabis that even a very heavy cannabis user could use in a day,” Hall wrote last year.

Even alcohol’s unsafe margin of exposure (MOE) ratio isn’t all that surprising since, unlike heroin and cocaine, it is legal and much more readily available and accepted.

Alcohol, regardless of its type (i.e. beer, wine, liquor, etc) is a class A1 carcinogen which are confirmed human carcinogens. Alcohol consumption has been causally related with breast cancer for some time. Increasing evidence indicates a stronger association with neoplasms, though the risk is elevated for other types of breast cancers too. Regardless of how much alcohol is consumed, it will always be a class A1 carcinogen. That doesn’t mean you will get cancer from drinking a beer or a glass wine, but the classification for the substance is clear.

Marijuana legalization advocates are welcoming the new study, using it to suggest that America’s current ban on the drug is wrong and misguided, considering the mortality rates associated with alcohol and tobacco — both of which are legal and easily accessible to those of age. Marijuana, meanwhile, is still illegal on the federal level and largely illegal on the state level — except in Colorado, Oregon, Alaska, and the District of Columbia.

Even the researchers noted that compared to other drugs, their findings support regulating pot as a legal substance instead of a banned one.

“Currently, the MOE results point to risk management prioritization towards alcohol and tobacco rather than illicit drugs,” the report reads. “The high MOE values of cannabis, which are in a low-risk range, suggest a strict legal regulatory approach rather than the current prohibition approach.”

10 REASONS CANNABIS IS SAFER THAN ALCOHOL

1. Many people die from alcohol use. Nobody dies from cannabis use. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that more than 37,000 annual U.S. deaths, including more than 1,400 in Colorado, are attributed to alcohol use alone (i.e. this figure does not include accidental deaths). On the other hand, the CDC does not even have a category for deaths caused by the use of cannabis.

2. People die from alcohol overdoses. There has never been a fatal cannabis overdose. The official publication of the Scientific Research Society,American Scientistreported that alcohol is one of the most toxic drugs and using just 10 times what one would use to get the desired effect could lead to death. Cannabis is one of — if not the – least toxic drugs, requiring thousands of times the dose one would use to get the desired effect to lead to death. This “thousands of times” is actually theoretical, since there has never been a case of an individual dying from a cannabis overdose. Meanwhile, according to the CDC, hundreds of alcohol overdose deaths occur in the United States each year.

3. The health-related costs associated with alcohol use far exceed those for cannabis use. Health-related costs for alcohol consumers are eight times greater than those for cannabis consumers, according to an assessment recently published in the British Columbia Mental Health and Addictions Journal. More specifically, the annual cost of alcohol consumption is $165 per user, compared to just $20 per user for cannabis. This should not come as a surprise given the vast amount of research that shows alcohol poses far more — and more significant — health problems than cannabis.

4. Alcohol use damages the brain. Cannabis use does not. Despite the myths we’ve heard throughout our lives about cannabis killing brain cells, it turns out that a growing number of studies seem to indicate that cannabis actually has neuroprotective properties. This means that it works to protectbrain cells from harm. Research published in the journals Behavioural Brain Research and Experimental Brain Research demonstrated that even extremely low doses of THC (cannabis’s psychoactive component) — around 1,000 to 10,000 times less than that in a conventional cannabis cigarette — can jumpstart biochemical processes which protect brain cells and preserve cognitive function say researchers from Tel Aviv University(TAU). Another example is one recent studywhich found that teens who used cannabis as well as alcohol suffered significantly less damage to the white matter in their brains. Of course, what is beyond question is that alcohol damages brain cells. Scripps scientists discovered that eleven months of alcohol consumption that produced a blood alcohol level sufficient to be considered intoxicated decreased neurogenesis by more than fifty percent! Furthermore, the decrease in neurogenesis lasted for many weeks of abstinence. In contrast to the effects of alcohol, a series of publications during the past few years suggest that stimulating the brain’s cannabis neurotransmitter system appears to have the exact opposite effects upon neurogenesis in the hippocampus of both young and old laboratory animals and humans, i.e. neurogenesis is increased by stimulation of our brain’s cannabis receptors. When we are elderly, our brain displays a dramatic decline in neurogenesis within the hippocampus. This decline may underlie age-associated memory impairments as well as depression. Research has demonstrated that stimulating the brain’s cannabis receptors restores neurogenesis. Thus, later in life, cannabis might actually help your brain, rather than harm it.

5. Alcohol use is linked to cancer. Cannabis use is not. Alcohol use is associated with a wide variety of cancers, including cancers of the esophagus, stomach, colon, lungs, pancreas, liver and prostate. Cannabis use has not been conclusively associated with any form of cancer. In fact,one study recently contradicted the long-time government claim that cannabis use is associated with head and neck cancers. It found that cannabis use actually reduced the likelihood of head and neck cancers. If you are concerned about cannabis being associated with lung cancer, you may be interested in the results of the largest case-controlled study everconducted to investigate the respiratory effects of cannabis smoking and cigarette smoking. Released in 2006, the study, conducted by Dr. Donald Tashkin at the University of California at Los Angeles, found that cannabis smoking was not associated with an increased risk of developing lung cancer. Surprisingly, the researchers found that people who smoked cannabis actually had lower incidences of cancer compared to non-users of the drug. THC that targets cannabinoid receptors CB1 and CB2 is similar in function to endocannabinoids, which are cannabinoids that are naturally produced in the body and activate these receptors. Researchers suggest that THC or other designer agents that activate these receptors might be used in a targeted fashion to actually treat lung cancer.

6. Alcohol is more addictive than cannabis. Addiction researchers have consistently reported that cannabis is far less addictive than alcohol based on a number of factors. In particular, alcohol use can result in significant and potentially fatal physical withdrawal, whereas cannabis has not been found to produce any symptoms of physical withdrawal. Those who use alcohol are also much more likely to develop dependence and build tolerance. Also when cannabis is more available, studies show that the use of hard drugs like heroin and cocaine actually decreases.

7. Alcohol use increases the risk of injury to the consumer. Cannabis use does not. Many people who have consumed alcohol or know others who have consumed alcohol would not be surprised to hear that it greatly increases the risk of serious injury. Research published this year in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research, found that 36 percent of hospitalized assaults and 21 percent of all injuries are attributable to alcohol use by the injured person. Meanwhile, the American Journal of Emergency Medicine reported that lifetime use of cannabis is rarely associated with emergency room visits. According to the British Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs, this is because: “Cannabis differs from alcohol … in one major respect. It does not seem to increase risk-taking behavior. This means that cannabis rarely contributes to violence either to others or to oneself, whereas alcohol use is a major factor in deliberate self-harm, domestic accidents and violence.” Interestingly enough, some research has even shown that cannabis use has been associated with a decreased risk of injury.

8. Alcohol use contributes to aggressive and violent behavior. Cannabis use does not. Studies have repeatedly shown that alcohol, unlike cannabis, contributes to the likelihood of aggressive and violent behavior. An articlepublished in the Journal of Addictive Behaviors reported that “alcohol is clearly the drug with the most evidence to support a direct intoxication-violence relationship,” whereas “cannabis reduces the likelihood of violence during intoxication.”

9. Alcohol use is a major factor in violent crimes. Cannabis use is not. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism estimates that 25-30% of violent crimes in the United States are linked to the use of alcohol. According to a report from the U.S. Dept. of Justice, that translates to about 5,000,000 alcohol-related violent crimes per year. By contrast, the government does not even track violent acts specifically related to cannabis use, as the use of cannabis has not been associated with violence. (Of course, we should note that cannabis prohibition, by creating a widespread criminal market, is associated with acts of violence.)

10 Alcohol use contributes to the likelihood of domestic abuse and sexual assault. Cannabis use does not. Alcohol is a major contributing factor in the prevalence of domestic violence and sexual assault. This is not to say that alcohol causes these problems; rather, its use makes it more likely that an individual prone to such behavior will act on it. For example, a studyconducted by the Research Institute on Addictions found that among individuals who were chronic partner abusers, the use of alcohol was associated with significant increases in the daily likelihood of male-to-female physical aggression, but the use of cannabis was not. Specifically, the odds of abuse were eight times higher on days when men were drinking; the odds of severe abuse were 11 times higher. According to theRape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN) website highlights alcohol as the “most commonly used chemical in crimes of sexual assault” and provides information on an array of other drugs that have been linked to sexual violence. Given the fact that cannabis is so accessible and widely used, it is quite telling that the word “cannabis” does not appear anywhere on the page.

Sources:

Prevent Disease

Image Credit
columbia.edu
rt.com
saferchoice.org
psychologytoday.com
nih.gov

About The Author

Marco Torres is a research specialist, writer and consumer advocate for healthy lifestyles. He holds degrees in Public Health and Environmental Science and is a professional speaker on topics such as disease prevention, environmental toxins and health policy.

Planet Earth

The activation of volcanoes in Iceland and Russia concern scientists: “This is an anomaly”

Almost all volcanic eruptions of the past, leading to a cooling of the climate, coincide in time with low solar activity. 

Alarmingly, the Sun is currently passing through its deepest solar minimum in 100+ years and looking into the future, NASA found that the next cycle (25) could be “the weakest in the last 200 years” – a return to minimum conditions Dalton. 

The Dalton Minimum (1790-1830) was a period of historically low solar activity that also included the famine-inducing eruption of Mt. Tambor, in 1815.

The eruption of Tambora was one of the most powerful on Earth in the last 2000 years, and it exacerbated the cooling of the Earth, already occurring due to low solar activity. This unfortunate combination led to one of the harshest climates of the modern era – 1816 is also known as the “year without summer”.

ICELAND

Of today’s waking volcanoes, those in Iceland are perhaps the most worrying. It is this highly volcanic region that is likely to be home to the next “big” (repeat of the 536 AD eruption that destroyed the Roman Republic), which will plunge the Earth into a new volcanic winter.

The high frequency of volcanic eruptions allows scientists to detect patterns (precursors). And if these patterns are repeated every time a volcano erupts, then scientists can be more confident in their predictions.

Grimsvötn is Iceland’s most frequently erupting volcano, with approximately 65 known eruptions over the past 800 years. Icelandic scientists are closely following Grimsvotn after its 2011 eruption 

Recently, researchers have seen various signals indicating that the volcano is preparing to erupt again, and have raised the threat level.

The volcano swells as new magma moves into the channel system below it. The increase in thermal activity has led to the melting of more ice, and earthquakes have also become more frequent in recent years.

The time intervals between the eruptions of Grimsvotn are different, writes Dave McGarvey, a volcanologist at Lancaster University. For example, before the larger eruption of 2011, there were smaller eruptions in 2004, 1998, and 1983. Intermittently from four to 15 years. It is important to note that given the next eruption, Grimsvotn appears to have a pattern of infrequent large eruptions that occur every 150-200 years (e.g. 2011, 1873, 1619), with smaller and more frequent eruptions occurring approximately every ten years in between. 

If the previous model of Grimsvotn, consisting of occasional large eruptions with more numerous smaller eruptions occurring in between, continues in the future, then the next eruption should be small (considering that there was a large eruption in 2011). 

Nevertheless, the word “must” is important here, McGarvey stresses, – Iceland’s volcanoes are complex natural systems, and their patterns do not always correspond exactly to reality.

Katla is another Icelandic volcano on the verge of erupting, according to the Icelandic Meteorological Bureau (IMO). Since January of this year, researchers have recorded an upturn in and around Katla, and in recent months have recorded an increase in sulfur dioxide levels close to the site of two previous eruptions.

The previous major eruption of Katla occurred in 1918. This year is within the Hundred Years Low, the previous multi-decade period of low solar activity.

Icelandic authorities are well aware of the dangers posed by the next Katla eruption, and a delegation of volcanologists meets regularly with the Icelandic parliament to discuss how to respond in the event of an eruption.

RUSSIA

Scientists are also concerned about the unusual behavior of Klyuchevskaya Sopka Volcano (also known as Klyuchevskaya Volcano) located on the Kamchatka Peninsula in Russia.

As a rule, a year passes between the eruptions of Klyuchevskoy volcano, but recently this period of calm has been reduced to two months – on October 5, 2020, night cameras recorded the outpouring of lava from the crater of the volcano’s summit.

According to Yuri Demyanchuk, head of the Klyuchevskoy volcanic station IViS, all of this indicates an impending new larger eruption. 

Klyuchevsky’s uncharacteristic behavior can lead to paroxysmal explosions (unpredictable, dangerous explosions).

“The last activation was in 2013, before that – in 1994. But so far we have not observed such an intensity of tremor to speak of an impending paroxysmal activity, ”the expert explains. – “This is an anomaly.”

Seismic and volcanic activity is associated with changes in the Sun.

Volcanic eruptions are one of the key factors pushing the Earth towards the next stage of global cooling. Volcanic ash (particulate matter) ejected more than 10 km away – and therefore into the stratosphere – obscures sunlight and lowers Earth’s temperature. Smaller particles of an eruption can linger in the upper atmosphere for years or even decades.

The recent outburst of volcanoes around the world is believed to be related to low solar activity, coronal holes, a waning magnetosphere, and an influx of cosmic rays penetrating silica-rich magma.

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Planet Earth

The world’s oceans are under attack from man-made disasters

The mass death of marine animals in the Avacha Bay in Kamchatka was due to toxic algae, according to experts of the Russian Academy of Sciences. But there are also signs of technical pollution – increased concentrations of oil products and heavy metals in water. After natural disasters, the ocean recovers itself. And what are technogenic fraught with?

For most of its history, humanity has been more consumerist about the ocean. Only in recent decades has a new understanding begun to form: the ocean is not just a resource, but also the heart of the entire planet. Its beating is felt everywhere and in everything. Currents affect the climate, bringing cold or heat with them. Water evaporates from the surface to form clouds. The blue-green algae that live in the ocean produce virtually all the oxygen on the planet.

Today we are more sensitive to reports of environmental disasters. The sight of oil spills, dead animals and garbage islands is shocking. Each time the image of the “dying ocean” is strengthened. But if we turn to facts, not pictures, how destructive are industrial accidents on big water?

Annushka has already spilled … oil

Of all oil product pollution, the majority is associated with everyday leaks. Accidents account for a small part – only 6%, and their number is decreasing. In the 1970s, countries introduced stringent requirements for tanker ships and restrictions on shipping locations. The world tanker fleet is also gradually being renewed. New vessels are equipped with a double hull to protect against holes, as well as satellite navigation to avoid shoals.

The situation with accidents on drilling platforms is more complicated. According to Peter Burgherr, an expert in assessing technological risks at the Paul Scherrer Institute, the risks will only increase:

“This is connected, firstly, with the deepening of wells, and secondly, with the expansion of production in areas with extreme conditions – for example, in the Arctic “. Restrictions on deep-sea drilling offshore have been adopted, for example, in the USA, but big business is struggling with them.

Why are spills dangerous? First of all, the mass death of life. On the high seas and oceans, oil can quickly take over vast areas. So, only 100-200 liters cover a square kilometer of the water area. And during the disaster on the Deepwater Horizon drilling platform in the Gulf of Mexico, 180 thousand square meters were contaminated. km – an area comparable to the territory of Belarus (207 thousand).

Deepwater Horizon rig fire, 2010 © US Coast Guard via Getty Images

Since oil is lighter than water, it remains on the surface as a continuous film. Imagine a plastic bag over your head. Despite the small thickness of the walls, they do not allow air to pass through, and a person may suffocate. The oil film works the same way. As a result, “dead zones” can form – oxygen-poor areas where life is nearly extinct.

The consequences of such disasters can be direct – for example, contact of oil with the eyes of animals makes it difficult to navigate normally in the water – and delayed. Delayed ones include DNA damage, impaired protein production, hormone imbalances, damage to immune cells, and inflammation. The result is stunted growth, reduced fitness and fertility, and increased mortality.

© AP Photo / Charlie Riedel

The amount of oil spilled is not always proportional to the damage it causes. Much depends on the conditions. Even a small spill, if it fell during the fish breeding season and happened in the spawning area, can harm more than a large one – but outside the breeding season. In warm seas, the consequences of spills are eliminated faster than in cold ones due to the speed of the processes.

Accident elimination begins with localization – for this, special restrictive booms are used. These are floating barriers, 50-100 cm high, made of special fabric that is resistant to toxic effects. Then comes the turn of water “vacuum cleaners” – skimmers. They create a vacuum that sucks the oil film along with the water. This is the safest method, but its main disadvantage is that collectors are only effective for small spills. Up to 80% of all oil remains in the water.

Since oil burns well, it seems logical to set it on fire. This method is considered the easiest. Usually the spot is set on fire from a helicopter or ship. Under favorable conditions (thick film, weak wind, high content of light fractions), it is possible to destroy up to 80–90% of all pollution.

But this should be done as quickly as possible – then the oil forms a mixture with water (emulsion) and burns poorly. In addition, combustion itself transfers pollution from water to air. According to Alexei Knizhnikov, head of the environmental responsibility program for WWF-Russia business, this option carries more risks.

Controlled arson of oil in the Gulf of Mexico, 2010 © AP Photo / Gerald Herbert

The same applies to the use of dispersants – substances that bind oil products and then sink into the water column. This is a fairly popular method that is used regularly in case of large-scale spills, when the task is to prevent oil from reaching the coast. However, dispersants are toxic by themselves. Scientists estimate that their mixture with oil becomes 52 times more toxic than oil alone.

There is no 100% effective and safe way to collect or destroy spilled oil. But the good news is that petroleum products are organic and are gradually decomposed by bacteria. And thanks to the processes of microevolution in the places of the spill, there are more precisely those organisms that are best at coping with this task. For example, after the Deepwater Horizon disaster, scientists discovered a sharp increase in the number of gamma-proteobacteria, which accelerate the decay of oil products.

Not the most peaceful atom

Another part of oceanic disasters is associated with radiation. With the onset of the “atomic age,” the ocean has become a convenient testing ground. Since the mid-forties, more than 250 nuclear bombs have been detonated on the high seas. Most, by the way, are organized not by the two main rivals in the arms race, but by France – in French Polynesia. In second place is the United States with a site in the Central Pacific Ocean.

French atomic bomb test on Mururoa Atoll, 1971 © Galerie Bilderwelt / Getty Images

After the final test ban in 1996, accidents at nuclear power plants and emissions from nuclear waste processing plants became the main sources of radiation entering the ocean. For example, after the Chernobyl accident, the Baltic Sea was in first place in the world in terms of the concentration of cesium-137 and in third place in terms of the concentration of strontium-90.

Although precipitation fell over land, a significant part of it fell into the seas with rain and river water. In 2011, during the accident at the Fukushima-1 nuclear power plant, a significant amount of cesium-137 and strontium-90 was released from the destroyed reactor. By the end of 2014, the isotopes of cesium-137 had spread throughout the Northwest Pacific.

Fukushima NPP after the accident, 2011 © DigitalGlobe via Getty Images via Getty Images

Most of the radioactive elements are metals (including cesium, strontium, and plutonium). They do not dissolve in water, but remain in it until the half-life occurs. It is different for different isotopes: for example, for iodine-131 it is only eight days, for strontium-90 and cesium-137 – three decades, and for plutonium-239 – more than 24 thousand years.

The most dangerous isotopes of cesium, plutonium, strontium and iodine. They accumulate in the tissues of living organisms, creating a danger of radiation sickness and oncology. For example, cesium-137 is responsible for most of the radiation received by humans during trials and accidents.

This all sounds very disturbing. But now there is a tendency in the scientific world to revise early fears about radiation hazards. For example, according to researchers at Columbia University, in 2019, the plutonium content in parts of the Marshall Islands was 1,000 times higher than that in samples near the Chernobyl nuclear power plant.

But despite this high concentration, there is no evidence of significant health effects that would prevent us from, say, eating Pacific seafood. In general, the influence of technogenic radionuclides on nature is insignificant.

More than nine years have passed since the accident at Fukushima-1. Today, the main question that worries specialists is what to do with radioactive water, which was used to cool fuel in destroyed power units. By 2017, most of the water had been sealed off in huge cisterns onshore. In this case, groundwater that comes into contact with the contaminated zone is also contaminated. It is collected using pumps and drainage wells and then purified with carbon-based absorbents.

Storage tanks for radioactive water from the Fukushima NPP, 2019 © REUTERS / Issei Kato

But one element still does not lend itself to such cleaning – it is tritium, and around it most of the copies break today. The reserves of water storage space on the territory of the nuclear power plant will be exhausted by the summer of 2022. Experts are considering several options for what to do with this water: evaporate into the atmosphere, bury or dump into the ocean. The latter option is today recognized as the most justified – both technologically and in terms of consequences for nature.

On the one hand, the effect of tritium on the body is still poorly understood. Which concentration is considered safe, no one knows for sure. For example, in Australia the standards for its content in drinking water are 740 Bq / l, and in the USA – 76 Bq / l. On the other hand, tritium poses a threat to human health only in very large doses. Its half-life from the body is from 7 to 14 days. It is almost impossible to get a significant dose during this time.

Another problem, which some experts consider a ticking time bomb, are barrels of nuclear fuel waste buried mainly in the North Atlantic, most of which are located north of Russia or off the coast of Western Europe. Time and sea water “eat up” the metal, and in the future, pollution may increase, says Vladimir Reshetov, associate professor of the Moscow Engineering Physics Institute. In addition, water from spent fuel storage pools and waste from nuclear fuel reprocessing can be discharged into wastewater and from there into the ocean.

Time bomb

Chemical industries pose a great threat to communities of aquatic life. Metals such as mercury, lead and cadmium are especially dangerous for them. Due to strong ocean currents, they can be carried over long distances and not settle to the bottom for a long time. And off the coast, where the factories are located, infection primarily affects benthic organisms. They become food for small fish, and those for larger ones. It is the large predatory fish (tuna or halibut) that get to our table that are most infected.

In 1956, doctors in the Japanese city of Minamata faced a strange illness in a girl named Kumiko Matsunaga. She began to haunt sudden seizures, difficulties with movement and speech. A couple of days later, her sister was admitted to the hospital with the same symptoms. Then polls revealed several more similar cases. The animals in the city also behaved in a similar manner. Ravens fell from the sky, and algae began to disappear near the shore.

The authorities formed the “Strange Disease Committee”, which discovered a trait common to all infected: the consumption of local seafood. The plant of the Chisso company, which specialized in the production of fertilizers, fell under suspicion. But the reason was not immediately established.

Only two years later, the British neurologist Douglas McElpine, who worked a lot with mercury poisoning, found out that the cause was mercury compounds that were dumped into the water of Minamata Bay more than 30 years since the start of production.

Bottom microorganisms converted mercury sulfate into organic methylmercury, which ended up in fish meat and oysters along the food chain. Methylmercury readily penetrated cell membranes, causing oxidative stress and disrupting neuronal function. This resulted in irreversible damage. The fish themselves are better protected from the effects of mercury than mammals due to the higher content of antioxidants in the tissues.

By 1977, authorities counted 2,800 victims of Minamata Disease, including cases of congenital fetal abnormalities. The main consequence of this tragedy was the signing of the Minamata Convention on Mercury, which banned the production, export and import of several different types of mercury-containing products, including lamps, thermometers and pressure measuring instruments.

Victim of Minamata Disease, 1973 © AP Photo

However, this is not enough. Large amounts of mercury are emitted from coal-fired power plants, industrial boilers and home stoves. Scientists estimate that the concentration of heavy metals in the ocean has tripled since the start of the industrial revolution. In order to become relatively harmless to most animals, metallic impurities must travel deeper. However, this could take decades, scientists warn.

Now the main way to deal with such pollution is high-quality cleaning systems at enterprises. Mercury emissions from coal-fired power plants can be reduced by using chemical filters. In developed countries this is becoming the norm, but many third world countries cannot afford it. Another source of metal is sewage. But here, too, everything depends on money for cleaning systems, which many developing countries do not have.

Whose responsibility?

The state of the ocean is much better today than it was 50 years ago. Then, at the initiative of the UN, many important international agreements were signed that regulate the use of the resources of the World Ocean, oil production and toxic industries. Perhaps the most famous in this row is the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, signed in 1982 by most countries in the world.

There are also conventions on certain issues: on the prevention of marine pollution by dumping of wastes and other materials (1972), on the establishment of an international fund to compensate for damage from oil pollution (1971 and and harmful substances (1996) and others.

Individual countries also have their own restrictions. For example, France has passed a law strictly regulating the discharge of water for factories and plants. The French coastline is patrolled by helicopters to control tanker discharges. In Sweden, tanker tanks are labeled with special isotopes, so scientists analyzing oil spills can always determine which ship was discharged from. In the United States, a moratorium on deep sea drilling was recently extended to 2022.

On the other hand, decisions made at the macro level are not always respected by specific countries. There is always an opportunity to save money on protective and filtering systems. For example, the recent accident at the CHPP-3 in Norilsk with the discharge of fuel to the river, according to one version, occurred for this reason.

The company did not have equipment to detect subsidence, which led to a crack in the fuel tank. And in 2011, the White House Commission to investigate the causes of the accident on the Deepwater Horizon platform concluded that the tragedy was caused by the policy of BP and its partners to reduce security costs.

Elimination of the consequences of a fuel spill at CHPP-3 in Norilsk, 2020 © GU EMERCOM of Russia in the Krasnoyarsk Territory / TASS

According to Konstantin Zgurovsky, Senior Advisor to the WWF-Russia Sustainable Marine Fisheries Program, a strategic environmental assessment system is needed to prevent disasters. Such a measure is provided for by the Convention on Environmental Impact Assessment in a Transboundary Context, which has been signed by many states, including the countries of the former USSR – but not Russia.

“The signing and use of SEA allows in advance, before the start of work, to assess the long-term consequences of a project, which makes it possible not only to reduce the risk of environmental disasters, but also to avoid unnecessary costs for projects that can be potentially dangerous to nature and humans.”

Another problem that Anna Makarova, Associate Professor of the UNESCO Chair “Green Chemistry for Sustainable Development” draws attention to, is the lack of monitoring of waste burials and mothballed industries. “In the 90s, many went bankrupt and quit production. Already 20-30 years have passed, and these systems began to simply collapse.

Abandoned production facilities, abandoned warehouses. There is no owner. Who is watching this? ” According to the expert, disaster prevention is largely a matter of managerial decisions: “The response time is critical. We need a clear protocol of measures: which services interact, where the funding comes from, where and by whom the samples are analyzed. “

The scientific challenges are related to climate change. When ice melts in one place, and storms begin in another, the ocean can behave unpredictably. For example, one of the versions of the mass death of animals in Kamchatka is an outbreak of the number of toxic microalgae, which is associated with climate warming. All this has to be studied and modeled.

So far, the ocean has enough resources to heal their “wounds” on their own. But one day he may present an invoice to us.

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Planet Earth

Scientists told what the food of the future will look like

Danish scientists suggest that in the future, meat will be replaced by more healthy and environmentally friendly seafood – algae, shellfish and tiny fish. The research results are published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology.

Beef farming does not fit well with the concept of sustainable development adopted in Western countries. At the same time, not all people are ready to give up meat in order to preserve the climate.

Researchers from the University of Copenhagen studied consumer behavior in food choices and made a prediction of how it can be influenced and how to replace meat in the European food basket.

It is known that meat products have a special meat flavor, which the Japanese call umami. This taste is created by monosodium glutamate, and the human tongue has special L-glutamate receptors that pick it up. Product manufacturers make good use of this – monosodium glutamate is included in food additives of the E600 – E699 group.

At the same time, umami is present in the taste of some plant foods – walnuts, broccoli, tomatoes, shiitake mushrooms.

“A lot of people just crave the taste of their minds,” the study leader, Professor Ole G. Mouritsen of the Department of Food Science and Consumer Behavior, quoted a press release from the University of Copenhagen. a small amount of animal products such as meat, eggs and milk, along with vegetables. However, alternatives to juicy steak could be considered, of which there are many.”

The authors suggest looking for alternative sources of protein and healthy fatty acids among seafood, especially those with huge renewable reserves, but still not fully exploited. The researchers estimate that only sprat can meet 20 percent of Denmark ‘s protein needs.

“And sprat fishing will help avoid the over-exploitation of more well-known fish species such as cod, flounder and salmon,” explains the professor.

In addition to the sprat, there are many small benthic species of fish – gerbils, gobi, which can serve as a source of protein, as well as seaweed and cephalopods.

Scientists note that today, out of ten thousand types of algae, only 500 are used as food, despite the fact that they are incredibly rich in beneficial nutrients and vitamins. The picture is the same for cephalopods – about 30 out of 800 species are used for food in the world.

“It has a lot to do with our culture and traditions,” says Mouritsen. “It takes time to change our eating habits. We’ve eaten and cooked meat for over a million years. So while seaweed, squid and shellfish contain important fatty acids and vitamins and taste great, we are still reluctant to classify these species as food sources.”

The authors believe food technology, which has long used the two main flavors, sweet and meat, in food flavorings, will help make seafood more attractive.

“Sweetness signals the brain for calories and survival, while umami signals that we are consuming something good for the muscles. However, many seafood, seaweed and vegetables have their own great taste,” the scientist notes.

In particular, according to researchers, many vegetables develop a sweet and umami flavor during fermentation – this can be used to develop a rational diet for the future.

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