Does Global Progress on Sanitation Really Lag behind Water? An Analysis of Global Progress on Community- and Household-Level Access to Safe Water and Sanitation
Safe drinking water and sanitation are important determinants of human health and wellbeing and have recently been declared human rights by the international community. Increased access to both were included in the Millennium Development Goals under a single dedicated target for 2015. This target was reached in 2010 for water but sanitation will fall short; however, there is an important difference in the benchmarks used for assessing global access. For drinking water the benchmark is community-level access whilst for sanitation it is household-level access, so a pit latrine shared between households does not count toward the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) target. We estimated global progress for water and sanitation under two scenarios: with equivalent household- and community-level benchmarks. Our results demonstrate that the “sanitation deficit” is apparent only when household-level sanitation access is contrasted with community-level water access. When equivalent benchmarks are used for water and sanitation, the global deficit is as great for water as it is for sanitation, and sanitation progress in the MDG-period (1990–2015) outstrips that in water. As both drinking water and sanitation access yield greater benefits at the household-level than at the community-level, we conclude that any post–2015 goals should consider a household-level benchmark for both.
See: Study calls for new global standard for safe drinking water and sanitation (Science Daily)
How do the holidays – and the possible New Year’s resolutions that follow – influence a household’s purchase patterns of healthier foods versus less healthy foods? This has important implications for both holiday food shopping and post-holiday shopping.
207 households were recruited to participate in a randomized-controlled trial conducted at two regional-grocery chain locations in upstate New York. Item-level transaction records were tracked over a seven-month period (July 2010 to March 2011). The cooperating grocer’s proprietary nutrient-rating system was used to designate “healthy,” and “less healthy” items. Calorie data were extracted from online nutritional databases. Expenditures and calories purchased for the holiday period (Thanksgiving-New Year’s), and the post-holiday period (New Year’s-March), were compared to baseline (July-Thanksgiving) amounts.
During the holiday season, household food expenditures increased 15% compared to baseline ($105.74 to $121.83; p<0.001), with 75% of additional expenditures accounted for by less-healthy items. Consistent with what one would expect from New Year’s resolutions, sales of healthy foods increased 29.4% ($13.24/week) after the holiday season compared to baseline, and 18.9% ($9.26/week) compared to the holiday period. Unfortunately, sales of less-healthy foods remained at holiday levels ($72.85/week holiday period vs. $72.52/week post-holiday). Calories purchased each week increased 9.3% (450 calories per serving/week) after the New Year compared to the holiday period, and increased 20.2% (890 calories per serving/week) compared to baseline.
Despite resolutions to eat more healthfully after New Year’s, consumers may adjust to a new “status quo” of increased less-healthy food purchasing during the holidays, and dubiously fulfill their New Year’s resolutions by spending more on healthy foods. Encouraging consumers to substitute healthy items for less-healthy items may be one way for practitioners and public health officials to help consumers fulfill New Year’s resolutions, and reverse holiday weight gain.
Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons are widespread urban air pollutants from combustion of fossil fuel and other organic material shown previously to be neurotoxic.
In a prospective cohort study, we evaluated the relationship between Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder behavior problems and prenatal polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon exposure, adjusting for postnatal exposure.
Materials and Methods
Children of nonsmoking African-American and Dominican women in New York City were followed from in utero to 9 years. Prenatal polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon exposure was estimated by levels of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon- DNA adducts in maternal and cord blood collected at delivery. Postnatal exposure was estimated by the concentration of urinary polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon metabolites at ages 3 or 5. Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder behavior problems were assessed using the Child Behavior Checklist and the Conners Parent Rating Scale- Revised.
High prenatal adduct exposure, measured by elevated maternal adducts was significantly associated with all Conners Parent Rating Scale-Revised subscales when the raw scores were analyzed continuously (N = 233). After dichotomizing at the threshold for moderately to markedly atypical symptoms, high maternal adducts were significantly associated with the Conners Parent Rating Scale-Revised DSM-IV Inattentive (OR = 5.06, 95% CI [1.43, 17.93]) and DSM-IV Total (OR = 3.37, 95% CI [1.10, 10.34]) subscales. High maternal adducts were positivity associated with the DSM-oriented Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Problems scale on the Child Behavior Checklist, albeit not significant. In the smaller sample with cord adducts, the associations between outcomes and high cord adduct exposure were not statistically significant (N = 162).
The results suggest that exposure to polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons encountered in New York City air may play a role in childhood Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder behavior problems.
See: A Link Between Air Pollution and Adolescent ADHD (The Atlantic)
The Prevalence and Correlates of Lifetime Psychiatric Disorders and Trauma Exposures in Urban and Rural Settings: Results from the National Comorbidity Survey Replication (NCS-R)
Distinctions between rural and urban environments produce different frequencies of traumatic exposures and psychiatric disorders. We examine the prevalence of psychiatric disorders and frequency of trauma exposures by position on the rural-urban continuum.
The National Comorbidity Survey Replication (NCS-R) was used to evaluate psychiatric disorders among a nationally-representative sample of the U.S. population. Rurality was designated using the Department of Agriculture’s 2003 rural-urban continuum codes (RUCC), which differentiate counties into levels of rurality by population density and adjacency to metropolitan areas. Lifetime psychiatric disorders included post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety disorders, major depressive disorder, mood disorders, impulse-control disorders, and substance abuse. Trauma exposures were classified as war-related, accident-related, disaster-related, interpersonal or other. Weighted logistic regression models examined the odds of psychiatric disorders and trauma exposures by position on the rural-urban continuum, adjusted for relevant covariates.
75% of participants were metropolitan, 12.2% were suburban, and 12.8% were from rural counties. The most common disorder reported was any anxiety disorder (38.5%). Drug abuse was more common among metropolitan (8.7%, p = 0.018), compared to nonmetropolitan (5.1% suburban, 6.1% rural) participants. A one-category increase in rurality was associated with decreased odds for war-related trauma (aOR = 0.86, 95%CI 0.78–0.95). Rurality was not associated with risk for any other lifetime psychiatric disorders or trauma exposure.
Contrary to the expectation of some rural primary care providers, the frequencies of most psychiatric disorders and trauma exposures are similar across the rural-urban continuum, reinforcing calls to improve mental healthcare access in resource-poor rural communities.
Who Will Come to Your Bird Feeder in 2075?
Source: USGS/PLoS ONE
The distribution of birds in the United States today will probably look very different in 60 years as a result of climate, land use and land cover changes.
A new U.S. Geological Survey study predicts where 50 bird species will breed, feed and live in the conterminous U.S. by 2075. While some types of birds, like the Baird’s sparrow, will likely lose a significant amount of their current U.S. range, other ranges could nearly double. Human activity will drive many of these shifts. The study was published today in the journal PLOS ONE.
Plastic Pollution in the World’s Oceans: More than 5 Trillion Plastic Pieces Weighing over 250,000 Tons Afloat at Sea
Plastic pollution is ubiquitous throughout the marine environment, yet estimates of the global abundance and weight of floating plastics have lacked data, particularly from the Southern Hemisphere and remote regions. Here we report an estimate of the total number of plastic particles and their weight floating in the world’s oceans from 24 expeditions (2007–2013) across all five sub-tropical gyres, costal Australia, Bay of Bengal and the Mediterranean Sea conducting surface net tows (N = 680) and visual survey transects of large plastic debris (N = 891). Using an oceanographic model of floating debris dispersal calibrated by our data, and correcting for wind-driven vertical mixing, we estimate a minimum of 5.25 trillion particles weighing 268,940 tons. When comparing between four size classes, two microplastic 4.75 mm, a tremendous loss of microplastics is observed from the sea surface compared to expected rates of fragmentation, suggesting there are mechanisms at play that remove <4.75 mm plastic particles from the ocean surface.
Effects of Climate Variability and Accelerated Forest Thinning on Watershed-Scale Runoff in Southwestern USA Ponderosa Pine Forests
The recent mortality of up to 20% of forests and woodlands in the southwestern United States, along with declining stream flows and projected future water shortages, heightens the need to understand how management practices can enhance forest resilience and functioning under unprecedented scales of drought and wildfire. To address this challenge, a combination of mechanical thinning and fire treatments are planned for 238,000 hectares (588,000 acres) of ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa) forests across central Arizona, USA. Mechanical thinning can increase runoff at fine scales, as well as reduce fire risk and tree water stress during drought, but the effects of this practice have not been studied at scales commensurate with recent forest disturbances or under a highly variable climate. Modifying a historical runoff model, we constructed scenarios to estimate increases in runoff from thinning ponderosa pine at the landscape and watershed scales based on driving variables: pace, extent and intensity of forest treatments and variability in winter precipitation. We found that runoff on thinned forests was about 20% greater than unthinned forests, regardless of whether treatments occurred in a drought or pluvial period. The magnitude of this increase is similar to observed declines in snowpack for the region, suggesting that accelerated thinning may lessen runoff losses due to warming effects. Gains in runoff were temporary (six years after treatment) and modest when compared to mean annual runoff from the study watersheds (0–3%). Nonetheless gains observed during drought periods could play a role in augmenting river flows on a seasonal basis, improving conditions for water-dependent natural resources, as well as benefit water supplies for downstream communities. Results of this study and others suggest that accelerated forest thinning at large scales could improve the water balance and resilience of forests and sustain the ecosystem services they provide.