Oceangoing ships are not the cleanest form of transportation. Their fuels usually have high sulfur content, which leads to high particulate emissions. And air that is high in particulates has been linked to health problems like asthma, heart attacks and lung cancer, particularly among people who live in coastal areas. As a result, the International Maritime Organisation has adopted policies calling for reducing the sulfur content of marine fuels, from an average of about three per cent currently to 0.5 per cent by 2020.

A few areas have been created, notably in the Baltic and North seas, that will require use of fuel with even less sulfur.

A study in the journal Environmental Science and Technology suggests that such reductions, if enforced, would cut the number of potential premature deaths due to ship emissions in half in some cases. James J Winebrake of the Rochester Institute of Technology and colleagues modelled the impact of reducing sulfur content globally, and within 200 miles of coastal areas, versus maintaining the status quo. They found that by 2012, with no reduction in sulfur content, about 87,000 premature deaths annually could be attributed to ship emissions.

Reducing sulfur content to half of one per cent worldwide would cut that number by about 41,000, they said.

Henry FountainNYT News Service

Water footprint label, say health groups
Food and drink products should carry a new label to give consumers more information about their “water footprint” – the hidden amount of water used in the manufacturing process – according to recommendations of two health and food lobby groups.
More transparency is needed about the huge volumes of water used to produce food, which most consumers are unaware of, said the joint report by the Food Ethics Council (FEC) and the health and food group Sustain.

It is calling for the proposed new label to reflect good practice, by taking into account the extent to which companies and manufacturers are already working to use water in ways that are fair and environmentally sustainable. Water scarcity is now a fast-growing sustainability problem across the world, the report says, with the amount used to produce an item far greater than the water contained within it. For example, one cup of fresh coffee needs 140 litres of water to produce while the production of one kilogram of beef requires 16,000 litres of water. In order to understand how to reduce our use of water, we need to measure this “embedded” or “virtual” water, the report says.

Higher value crops such as sugar and vegetables are more water-intensive than cereals, and meat and dairy is even more water-intensive. The report’s co-author Tom MacMillan said: “Public awareness of water scarcity remains low. In the UK, citizens are rarely exposed to the direct effects of severe water shortage and cannot readily see the links between their purchases and water shortage in other countries. Water use is not reflected in the price of the final product.”

Rebecca Smithers
The Guardian

DH Newsletter Privacy Policy Get top news in your inbox daily
Comments (+)