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Science in the News

Latest on-line papers from the SEGH journal: Environmental Geochemistry and Health

  • Endocrine-disrupting chemicals in the Pearl River Delta and coastal environment: sources, transfer, and implications 2014-12-01

    Abstract

    A study was conducted to investigate the occurrence and behavior of six endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs) in sewage, river water, and seawater from the Pearl River Delta (PRD). The six EDCs under study were 4-nonylphenol (NP), bisphenol A (BPA), 17α-ethynylestradiol (EE2), estrone (E2), 17β-estradiol (E2), and estriol (E3). These EDCs, predominated by BPA, were found in high levels in the influents and the effluents of sewage treatment plants in the area. The relatively high concentrations (0.23–625 ng/L) of the EDCs detected in the receiving river water suggested that the untreated sewage discharge was a major contributor. The EDCs detected in eight outlets of the Pear River and the Pear River Estuary were in the ranges of 1.2–234 and 0.2–178 ng/L, respectively. The estrogen equivalents in the aquatic environments under study ranged from 0.08 to 4.5 ng/L, with E1 and EE2 being the two predominant contributors. As the fluxes of the EDCs from the PRD region to the nearby ocean are over 500 tons each year, the results of this study point to the potential that Pearl River is a significant source of the EDCs to the local environment there.

  • Occurrence of tar balls on the beaches of Fernando de Noronha Island, South Equatorial Atlantic 2014-12-01

    Abstract

    This work reports on the widespread occurrence of tar balls on a pebble beach of Sueste Bay on Fernando de Noronha Island, a Brazilian national marine park and a preserve in the South Equatorial Atlantic. Environmental regulations preclude regular visitors to the Sueste Bay beach, and the bay is a pristine area without any possible or potential sources of petroleum in the coastal zone. In this work, these tar balls were observed for the first time as they occurred as envelopes around beach pebbles. They are black in color, very hard, have a shell and coral fragment armor, and range in average size from 2 to 6 cm. The shape of the majority of the tar balls is spherical, but some can also be flattened ellipsoids. The polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon analyses of the collected samples revealed the characteristics of a strongly weathered material, where only the most persistent compounds were detected: chrysene, benzo(b,k)fluoranthene, dibenzo(a,h)antracene and benzo(a)pyrene.

  • Evaluation of geochemical characteristics and health effects of some geophagic clays southern Nigeria 2014-12-01

    Abstract

    The geochemical characteristics of geophagic clays from Calabar and Okon-Eket, southern Nigeria were evaluated to determine their quality and the possible health effects of their consumption. The study involved the measurement of the pH, electrical conductivity (EC) and total dissolved solids (TDS) of the slurried clay samples soaked in distilled water for 48 h using digital multi-parameters probe as well as the elemental and mineralogical analyses of twenty geophagic clay samples for elemental and mineralogical constituents using both the ICP-MS and XRD, respectively. Medical data were also mined from medical facilities within the area in addition to the administering of questionnaire to adults involved in the geophagic practices in order to determine their justification for the practice as well as their and clay preferences. Results of physicochemical measurement revealed that the pH range of the samples ranges from 3.9 to 6.9 and 6.5 to 7.0; EC 0.3–377.7 and 0.12–82.38 µS/cm; TDS 1.98–2,432.65 and 0.08–52.95 mg/L for consumed and non-consumed clay, respectively. The elemental analyses revealed that the concentration of some potential harmful elements, PHEs, exceeded the recommended dietary intake by humans. This is especially true for Cu (9.1–23 ppm), Pb (16.7–55.6 ppm), Zn (13–148 ppm), Ni (11.1–46.4 ppm), Co (1.8–21.7 ppm), Mn (16–338 ppm), As (BDL-15 ppm) and Cd (BDL-0.2 ppm). The predominant phases established in the clay samples are quartz and kaolinite, while the minor minerals were montmorillonite and muscovite in all the clay samples. Respondents revealed that capacity for relief from gastrointestinal problems believes in the curative power to cure skin infections and cultural reasons as main justification for the geophagic practices. This is, however, not in conformity with information gleaned from the medical records which still indicated that the prevalent diseases in the area still include gastrointestinal problems in addition to malaria, hypertension and cardiac failure with minor cases of respiratory tract infections. The high concentrations of the PHEs may be responsible for or contribute in part to the prevalence of hypertension, cardiac failures and gastrointestinal problems within the study areas. Though the kaolinite present in the geophagic clays makes them suitable for use as traditional antacids; however, the toxic trace element concentrations and significant quartz content will most likely mask the beneficial effects of such kaolinite.