Discover the most talked about and latest scientific content & concepts.

Journal: Environmental pollution (Barking, Essex : 1987)


This paper investigates the correlation between the high level of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome CoronaVirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) lethality and the atmospheric pollution in Northern Italy. Indeed, Lombardy and Emilia Romagna are Italian regions with both the highest level of virus lethality in the world and one of Europe’s most polluted area. Based on this correlation, this paper analyzes the possible link between pollution and the development of acute respiratory distress syndrome and eventually death. We provide evidence that people living in an area with high levels of pollutant are more prone to develop chronic respiratory conditions and suitable to any infective agent. Moreover, a prolonged exposure to air pollution leads to a chronic inflammatory stimulus, even in young and healthy subjects. We conclude that the high level of pollution in Northern Italy should be considered an additional co-factor of the high level of lethality recorded in that area.


Microplastics are highly bioavailable to marine organisms, either through direct ingestion, or indirectly by trophic transfer from contaminated prey. The latter has been observed for low-trophic level organisms in laboratory conditions, yet empirical evidence in high trophic-level taxa is lacking. In natura studies face difficulties when dealing with contamination and differentiating between directly and indirectly ingested microplastics. The ethical constraints of subjecting large organisms, such as marine mammals, to laboratory investigations hinder the resolution of these limitations. Here, these issues were resolved by analysing sub-samples of scat from captive grey seals (Halichoerus grypus) and whole digestive tracts of the wild-caught Atlantic mackerel (Scomber scombrus) they are fed upon. An enzymatic digestion protocol was employed to remove excess organic material and facilitate visual detection of synthetic particles without damaging them. Polymer type was confirmed using Fourier-Transform Infrared (FTIR) spectroscopy. Extensive contamination control measures were implemented throughout. Approximately half of scat subsamples (48%; n = 15) and a third of fish (32%; n = 10) contained 1-4 microplastics. Particles were mainly black, clear, red and blue in colour. Mean lengths were 1.5 mm and 2 mm in scats and fish respectively. Ethylene propylene was the most frequently detected polymer type in both. Our findings suggest trophic transfer represents an indirect, yet potentially major, pathway of microplastic ingestion for any species whose feeding ecology involves the consumption of whole prey, including humans.

Concepts: Digestive system, Digestion, Apex predator, Pinniped, Gray Seal, Scombridae, Atlantic mackerel, Mackerel


Temporal trends of Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) measured in Arctic air are essential in understanding long-range transport to remote regions and to evaluate the effectiveness of national and international chemical control initiatives, such as the Stockholm Convention (SC) on POPs. Long-term air monitoring of POPs is conducted under the Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme (AMAP) at four Arctic stations: Alert, Canada; Stórhöfði, Iceland; Zeppelin, Svalbard; and Pallas, Finland, since the 1990s using high volume air samplers. Temporal trends observed for POPs in Arctic air are summarized in this study. Most POPs listed for control under the SC, e.g. polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethanes (DDTs) and chlordanes, are declining slowly in Arctic air, reflecting the reduction of primary emissions during the last two decades and increasing importance of secondary emissions. Slow declining trends also signifies their persistence and slow degradation under the Arctic environment, such that they are still detectable after being banned for decades in many countries. Some POPs, e.g. hexachlorobenzene (HCB) and lighter PCBs, showed increasing trends at specific locations, which may be attributable to warming in the region and continued primary emissions at source. Polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) do not decline in air at Canada’s Alert station but are declining in European Arctic air, which may be due to influence of local sources at Alert and the much higher historical usage of PBDEs in North America. Arctic air samples are screened for chemicals of emerging concern to provide information regarding their environmental persistence (P) and long-range transport potential (LRTP), which are important criteria for classification as a POP under SC. The AMAP network provides consistent and comparable air monitoring data of POPs for trend development and acts as a bridge between national monitoring programs and SC’s Global Monitoring Plan (GMP).

Concepts: Canada, Norway, Persistent organic pollutant, Arctic Ocean, Polychlorinated biphenyl, Persistent organic pollutants, Biphenyl, Polychlorinated dibenzodioxins


The blowout of the Deepwater Horizon (DWH) drilling rig in 2010 released an unprecedented amount of oil at depth (1,500 m) into the Gulf of Mexico (GoM). Sedimentary geochemical data from an extensive area (∼194,000 km(2)) was used to characterize the amount, chemical signature, distribution, and extent of the DWH oil deposited on the seafloor in 2010-2011 from coastal to deep-sea areas in the GoM. The analysis of numerous hydrocarbon compounds (N = 158) and sediment cores (N = 2,613) suggests that, 1.9 ± 0.9 × 10(4) metric tons of hydrocarbons (>C9 saturated and aromatic fractions) were deposited in 56% of the studied area, containing 21± 10% (up to 47%) of the total amount of oil discharged and not recovered from the DWH spill. Examination of the spatial trends and chemical diagnostic ratios indicate large deposition of weathered DWH oil in coastal and deep-sea areas and negligible deposition on the continental shelf (behaving as a transition zone in the northern GoM). The large-scale analysis of deposited hydrocarbons following the DWH spill helps understanding the possible long-term fate of the released oil in 2010, including sedimentary transformation processes, redistribution of deposited hydrocarbons, and persistence in the environment as recycled petrocarbon.

Concepts: Petroleum, Sedimentary rock, Atlantic Ocean, Hydrocarbon, Aromatic hydrocarbon, Mexico, Gulf of Mexico, Tonne


We measured size-resolved PNCs in the 5-560 nm range at two different types (4- and 3-way) of TIs in Guildford (Surrey, UK) at fixed sites (∼1.5 m above the road level), sequentially at 4 different heights (1, 1.5, 2.5 and 4.7 m), and along the road at five different distances (10, 20, 30, 45 and 60 m). The aims were to: (i) assess the differences in PNCs measured at studied TIs, (ii) identify the best fit probability distribution curves for the PNCs, (iii) determine vertical and horizontal decay profiles of PNCs, (iv) estimate particle number emission factors (PNEFs) under congested and free-flow traffic conditions, and (v) quantify the pedestrian exposure in terms of respiratory deposition dose (RDD) rates at the TIs. Daily averaged particle number distributions at TIs reflected the effect of fresh emissions with peaks at 5.6, 10 and 56 nm. Despite the relatively high traffic volume at 3-way TI, average PNCs at 4-way TI were about twice as high as at 3-way TI, indicating less favourable dispersion conditions. Generalised extreme value distribution fitted well to PNC data at both TIs. Vertical PNC profiles followed an exponential decay, which was much sharper at 4-way TI than at 3-way TI, suggesting ∼40% less exposure for people at first floor (4.7 m) to those at ground floor around 4-way TI. Vertical profiles indicated much sharper (∼132-times larger) decay than in horizontal direction, due to close vicinity of road vehicles during the along-road measurements. Over an order of magnitude higher PNEFs were found during congested, compared with free-flow, conditions due to frequent changes in traffic speed. Average RDD rate at 4-way TI during congested conditions were up to 14-times higher than those at 3-way TI (0.4 × 10(11) h(-1)). Findings of this study are a step forward to understand exposure at and around the TIs.

Concepts: Measurement, Radioactive decay, Traffic, Debut albums, Building, Storey, Floor, Thirteenth floor


Paris and London are Europe’s two megacities and both experience poor air quality with systemic breaches of the NO2 limit value. Policy initiatives have been taken to address this: some European-wide (e.g. Euro emission standards); others local (e.g. Low Emission Zone, LEZ). Trends in NOX, NO2 and particulate matter (PM10, PM2.5) for 2005-2016 in background and roadside locations; and trends in traffic increments were calculated in both cities to address their impact. Trends in traffic counts and the distribution in Euro standards for diesel vehicles were also evaluated. Linear-mixed effect models were built to determine the main determinants of traffic concentrations. There was an overall increase in roadside NO2 in 2005-2009 in both cities followed by a decrease of ∼5% year-1 from 2010. Downward trends were associated with the introduction of Euro V heavy vehicles. Despite NO2 decreasing, at current rates, roads will need 20 (Paris) and 193 years (London) to achieve the European Limit Value (40 μg m-3 annual mean). Euro 5 light diesel vehicles were associated with the decrease in roadside PM10. An increase in motorcycles in London since 2010 contributed to the lack of significant trend in PM2.5 roadside increment in 2010-16.


Recently, concerns have been raised that residues of glyphosate-based herbicides may interfere with the homeostasis of the intestinal bacterial community and thereby affect the health of humans or animals. The biochemical pathway for aromatic amino acid synthesis (Shikimate pathway), which is specifically inhibited by glyphosate, is shared by plants and numerous bacterial species. Several in vitro studies have shown that various groups of intestinal bacteria may be differently affected by glyphosate. Here, we present results from an animal exposure trial combining deep 16S rRNA gene sequencing of the bacterial community with liquid chromatography mass spectrometry (LC-MS) based metabolic profiling of aromatic amino acids and their downstream metabolites. We found that glyphosate as well as the commercial formulation Glyfonova(®)450 PLUS administered at up to fifty times the established European Acceptable Daily Intake (ADI = 0.5 mg/kg body weight) had very limited effects on bacterial community composition in Sprague Dawley rats during a two-week exposure trial. The effect of glyphosate on prototrophic bacterial growth was highly dependent on the availability of aromatic amino acids, suggesting that the observed limited effect on bacterial composition was due to the presence of sufficient amounts of aromatic amino acids in the intestinal environment. A strong correlation was observed between intestinal concentrations of glyphosate and intestinal pH, which may partly be explained by an observed reduction in acetic acid produced by the gut bacteria. We conclude that sufficient intestinal levels of aromatic amino acids provided by the diet alleviates the need for bacterial synthesis of aromatic amino acids and thus prevents an antimicrobial effect of glyphosate in vivo. It is however possible that the situation is different in cases of human malnutrition or in production animals.

Concepts: Protein, Bacteria, Amino acid, Metabolism, Nutrition, 16S ribosomal RNA, Cell wall, Butyric acid


The explosion of the Deepwater Horizon oil platform on April 20th, 2010 resulted in the second largest oil spill in history. The distribution and chemical composition of hydrocarbons within a 45 km radius of the blowout was investigated. All available certified hydrocarbon data were acquired from NOAA and BP. The distribution of hydrocarbons was found to be dispersed over a wider area in subsurface waters than previously predicted or reported. A deepwater hydrocarbon plume predicted by models was verified and additional plumes were identified. Because the samples were not collected systematically, there is still some question about the presence and persistence of an 865 m depth plume predicted by models. Water soluble compounds were extracted from the rising oil in deepwater, and were found at potentially toxic levels outside of areas previously reported to contain hydrocarbons. Application of subsurface dispersants was found to increase hydrocarbon concentration in subsurface waters.

Concepts: Water, Petroleum, Solubility, Hydrocarbon, Wax, Exxon Valdez oil spill, Oil spill, Oil


To assess the geochemical reactivity and oral bioaccessibility of Cd, Cu, Pb and Zn in urban soils from the Porto area, four extractions were performed including Aqua Regia (AR; pseudototal), 0.43 M HNO(3) (reactive), 0.01 M CaCl(2) (available), and 0.4 M glycine at pH = 1.5, SBET method (oral bioaccessible pool). Oral bioaccessibility in urban soils was higher than in samples from rural, industrial and mining areas which is most likely related to sources of metals and parent materials of corresponding soils. The availability and reactivity were described well by non-linear Freundlich-type equations when considering differences in soil properties. The resulting empirical models are able to predict availability and reactivity and can be used to improve the accuracy of risk assessment. Furthermore, a close 1:1 relationship exists between results from the 0.43 M HNO(3) method and the SBET method which substantially facilitates risk assessment procedures and reduces analytical costs.

Concepts: Scientific method, Evaluation, Risk, Soil, Assessment, Zinc, Risk assessment, Aqua regia


The presence of the synthetic estrogen 17α-ethinylestradiol (EE2) in the environment is of increasing concern due to the endocrine disruption of aquatic organisms. Incomplete removal from wastewater (WW) is one of the main sources of EE2 in aquatic ecosystems, thus improving processes like biological WW treatment/activated sludge (AS) is becoming significantly important. There are opposing results regarding EE2 biodegradability by AS; one discrepancy is the efficacy of heterotrophic bacteria. This research demonstrated the ability of heterotrophs commonly present in AS (B. subtilis, P. aeruginosa, P. putida, R. equi, R. erythropolis, R. rhodochrous, R. zopfii) to remove EE2. R. rhodochrous was the most successful with no detectable EE2 after 48 h; the other bacteria achieved 21%-61% EE2 removal. No additive or synergistic effects were observed due to the combination of the bacterial cultures with maximum EE2 removals of 43% after 300 h.

Concepts: DNA, Bacteria, Organism, Natural environment, Ecosystem, Bioremediation, Heterotroph, Removal