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Journal: Environment international


Hand washing and maintaining social distance are the main measures recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO) to avoid contracting COVID-19. Unfortunately, these measured do not prevent infection by inhalation of small droplets exhaled by an infected person that can travel distance of meters or tens of meters in the air and carry their viral content. Science explains the mechanisms of such transport and there is evidence that this is a significant route of infection in indoor environments. Despite this, no countries or authorities consider airborne spread of COVID-19 in their regulations to prevent infections transmission indoors. It is therefore extremely important, that the national authorities acknowledge the reality that the virus spreads through air, and recommend that adequate control measures be implemented to prevent further spread of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, in particularly removal of the virus-laden droplets from indoor air by ventilation.


Multiple classes of environmental contaminants have been found in aquatic environments, globally. Understanding internalised concentrations in the organism could further improve the risk assessment process. The present study is concerned with the determination of several contaminant classes (107 compounds) in Gammarus pulex collected from 15 sites covering 5 river catchments across Suffolk, UK. Quantitative method performance was acceptable for 67 compounds including pharmaceuticals, pesticides, illicit drugs and drugs of abuse. A total of 56 compounds were detectable and ranged from


During the rapid rise in COVID-19 illnesses and deaths globally, and notwithstanding recommended precautions, questions are voiced about routes of transmission for this pandemic disease. Inhaling small airborne droplets is probable as a third route of infection, in addition to more widely recognized transmission via larger respiratory droplets and direct contact with infected people or contaminated surfaces. While uncertainties remain regarding the relative contributions of the different transmission pathways, we argue that existing evidence is sufficiently strong to warrant engineering controls targeting airborne transmission as part of an overall strategy to limit infection risk indoors. Appropriate building engineering controls include sufficient and effective ventilation, possibly enhanced by particle filtration and air disinfection, avoiding air recirculation and avoiding overcrowding. Often, such measures can be easily implemented and without much cost, but if only they are recognised as significant in contributing to infection control goals. We believe that the use of engineering controls in public buildings, including hospitals, shops, offices, schools, kindergartens, libraries, restaurants, cruise ships, elevators, conference rooms or public transport, in parallel with effective application of other controls (including isolation and quarantine, social distancing and hand hygiene), would be an additional important measure globally to reduce the likelihood of transmission and thereby protect healthcare workers, patients and the general public.


Microplastics are particles smaller than five millimeters deriving from the degradation of plastic objects present in the environment. Microplastics can move from the environment to living organisms, including mammals. In this study, six human placentas, collected from consenting women with physiological pregnancies, were analyzed by Raman Microspectroscopy to evaluate the presence of microplastics. In total, 12 microplastic fragments (ranging from 5 to 10 μm in size), with spheric or irregular shape were found in 4 placentas (5 in the fetal side, 4 in the maternal side and 3 in the chorioamniotic membranes); all microplastics particles were characterized in terms of morphology and chemical composition. All of them were pigmented; three were identified as stained polypropylene a thermoplastic polymer, while for the other nine it was possible to identify only the pigments, which were all used for man-made coatings, paints, adhesives, plasters, finger paints, polymers and cosmetics and personal care products.


Reduction of preterm births (<37 completed weeks of gestation) would substantially reduce neonatal and infant mortality, and deleterious health effects in survivors. Maternal fine particulate matter (PM2.5) exposure has been identified as a possible risk factor contributing to preterm birth. The aim of this study was to produce the first estimates of ambient PM2.5-associated preterm births for 183 individual countries and globally. To do this, national, population-weighted, annual average ambient PM2.5 concentration, preterm birth rate and number of livebirths were combined to calculate the number of PM2.5-associated preterm births in 2010 for 183 countries. Uncertainty was quantified using Monte-Carlo simulations, and analyses were undertaken to investigate the sensitivity of PM2.5-associated preterm birth estimates to assumptions about the shape of the concentration-response function at low and high PM2.5 exposures, inclusion of provider-initiated preterm births, and exposure to indoor air pollution. Globally, in 2010, the number of PM2.5-associated preterm births was estimated as 2.7 million (1.8-3.5 million, 18% (12-24%) of total preterm births globally) with a low concentration cut-off (LCC) set at 10μgm(-3), and 3.4 million (2.4-4.2 million, 23% (16-28%)) with a LCC of 4.3μgm(-3). South and East Asia, North Africa/Middle East and West sub-Saharan Africa had the largest contribution to the global total, and the largest percentage of preterm births associated with PM2.5. Sensitivity analyses showed that PM2.5-associated preterm birth estimates were 24% lower when provider-initiated preterm births were excluded, 38-51% lower when risk was confined to the PM2.5 exposure range in the studies used to derive the effect estimate, and 56% lower when mothers who live in households that cook with solid fuels (and whose personal PM2.5 exposure is likely dominated by indoor air pollution) were excluded. The concentration-response function applied here derives from a meta-analysis of studies, most of which were conducted in the US and Europe, and its application to the areas of the world where we estimate the greatest effects on preterm births remains uncertain. Nevertheless, the substantial percentage of preterm births estimated to be associated with anthropogenic PM2.5 (18% (13%-24%) of total preterm births globally) indicates that reduction of maternal PM2.5 exposure through emission reduction strategies should be considered alongside mitigation of other risk factors associated with preterm births.

Concepts: Childbirth, Infant, Mathematics, Risk, Particulate, Smog, Air pollution, Dust


Particularly in rural settings, there has been little research regarding the health impacts of fine particulate matter (PM2.5) during the wildfire season smoke exposure period on respiratory diseases, such as influenza, and their associated outbreaks months later. We examined the delayed effects of PM2.5 concentrations for the short-lag (1-4 weeks prior) and the long-lag (during the prior wildfire season months) on the following winter influenza season in Montana, a mountainous state in the western United States. We created gridded maps of surface PM2.5 for the state of Montana from 2009 to 2018 using spatial regression models fit with station observations and Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) aerosol optical thickness data. We used a seasonal quasi-Poisson model with generalized estimating equations to estimate weekly, county-specific, influenza counts for Montana, associated with delayed PM2.5 concentration periods (short-lag and long-lag effects), adjusted for temperature and seasonal trend. We did not detect an acute, short-lag PM2.5 effect nor short-lag temperature effect on influenza in Montana. Higher daily average PM2.5 concentrations during the wildfire season was positively associated with increased influenza in the following winter influenza season (expected 16% or 22% increase in influenza rate per 1 μg/m3 increase in average daily summer PM2.5 based on two analyses, p = 0.04 or 0.008). This is one of the first observations of a relationship between PM2.5 during wildfire season and influenza months later.


Environmental pollutants such as dioxins and PCBs, heavy metals, and organochlorine pesticides are a global threat to food safety. In particular, the aquatic biota can bioaccumulate many of these contaminants potentially making seafood of concern for chronic exposure to humans.

Concepts: Environment, Toxicology, Pollution, Salmon, Soil contamination, Atlantic salmon, Salmo, Marine pollution


Ever since the interest in organic environmental contaminants first emerged 50years ago, there has been a need to present discussion of such chemicals and their transformation products using simple abbreviations so as to avoid the repetitive use of long chemical names. As the number of chemicals of concern has increased, the number of abbreviations has also increased dramatically, sometimes resulting in the use of different abbreviations for the same chemical. In this article, we propose abbreviations for flame retardants (FRs) substituted with bromine or chlorine atoms or including a functional group containing phosphorus, i.e. BFRs, CFRs and PFRs, respectively. Due to the large number of halogenated and organophosphorus FRs, it has become increasingly important to develop a strategy for abbreviating the chemical names of FRs. In this paper, a two step procedure is proposed for deriving practical abbreviations (PRABs) for the chemicals discussed. In the first step, structural abbreviations (STABs) are developed using specific STAB criteria based on the FR structure. However, since several of the derived STABs are complicated and long, we propose instead the use of PRABs. These are, commonly, an extract of the most essential part of the STAB, while also considering abbreviations previously used in the literature. We indicate how these can be used to develop an abbreviation that can be generally accepted by scientists and other professionals involved in FR related work. Tables with PRABs and STABs for BFRs, CFRs and PFRs are presented, including CAS (Chemical Abstract Service) numbers, notes of abbreviations that have been used previously, CA (Chemical Abstract) name, common names and trade names, as well as some fundamental physico-chemical constants.

Concepts: Chemical reaction, Chemistry, Fire retardant, Chlorine, Acronym and initialism, CAS registry number, Abbreviation, Abbreviations


Antibiotic-resistant bacteria (ARB) present a global public health problem. With numbers of community-acquired resistant infections increasing, understanding the mechanisms by which people are exposed to and colonised by ARB can help inform effective strategies to prevent their spread. The role natural environments play in this is poorly understood. This is the first study to combine surveillance of ARB in bathing waters, human exposure estimates and association between exposure and colonisation by ARB in water users.

Concepts: Epidemiology, Bacteria, Evolution, Antibiotic resistance, Escherichia coli, Natural environment, Microorganism, Penicillin


Sensory effects in eyes and airways are common symptoms reported by aircraft crew and office workers. Neurological symptoms, such as headache, have also been reported. To assess the commonality and differences in exposures and health symptoms, a literature search of aircraft cabin and office air concentrations of non-reactive volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and ozone-initiated terpene reaction products were compiled and assessed. Data for tricresyl phosphates, in particular tri-ortho-cresyl phosphate (ToCP), were also compiled, as well as information on other risk factors such as low relative humidity. A conservative health risk assessment for eye, airway and neurological effects was undertaken based on a “worst-case scenario” which assumed a simultaneous constant exposure for 8h to identified maximum concentrations in aircraft and offices. This used guidelines and reference values for sensory irritation for eyes and upper airways and airflow limitation; a tolerable daily intake value was used for ToCP. The assessment involved the use of hazard quotients or indexes, defined as the summed ratio(s) (%) of compound concentration(s) divided by their guideline value(s). The concentration data suggest that, under the assumption of a conservative “worst-case scenario”, aircraft air and office concentrations of the compounds in question are not likely to be associated with sensory symptoms in eyes and airways. This is supported by the fact that maximum concentrations are, in general, associated with infrequent incidents and brief exposures. Sensory symptoms, in particular in eyes, appear to be exacerbated by environmental and occupational conditions that differ in aircraft and offices, e.g., ozone incidents, low relative humidity, low cabin pressure, and visual display unit work. The data do not support airflow limitation effects. For ToCP, in view of the conservative approach adopted here and the rareness of reported incidents, the health risk of exposure to this compound in aircraft is considered negligible.

Concepts: Evaluation, Risk, Assessment, Humidity, Relative humidity, Volatile organic compound, Tricresyl phosphate, Cabin pressurization