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Tuesday, 10 December 2019

Plastic debris is everywhere and has grabbed the attention of environmental policy makers and regulators. When this plastic breaks up into smaller particles – less than 5mm in size – they are called microplastics. In some cases, they can only be seen under a microscope.

There are two types of microplastics: primary and secondary. Primary microplastics are manufactured to be 5mm or less in size. Examples include microbeads used in cosmetics and household products and resin pellets used in abrasive blasting.

Secondary microplastics are formed from the breakdown of larger plastic materials due to photochemical, mechanical and biological processes in the environment.

Sources of microplastics in rivers and oceans include littering, poor waste management, waste water treatment plants, storm water overflow, industrial effluents and even organic solids obtained from sewage treatment processes.

The presence of small plastic fragments in the marine environment was first highlighted in the 1970s. But with renewed interest over the past decade, microplastics are now considered a major emerging contaminant.

Microplastics pick up and transport heavy metals and organic pollutants such as polychlorinated biphenyls and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons. These pollutants can be toxic. They can be carcinogenic – that is, they have the potential to cause cancer – and they can also be mutagenic – they can lead to changes in the genetic makeup of organisms.

Microplastics also release plastic additives into the marine environment. These can contaminate soil, air, water and food. They can damage creatures that live in the sea by blocking their digestive tracts, changing their feeding patterns, decreasing their immune response and altering reproductive activities. They can also be transferred up the food chain to humans when they’re ingested by marine organisms.

Microplastics menace

Microplastics are simply everywhere. Studies have reported their presence in the guts of birds, fishes and marine mammals. They have also been reported in remote areas of the Alps and the Arctic.

Most studies on microplastics have been conducted outside Africa. Currently, there is little or no data on microplastics occurrence in sub-Saharan Africa.

We examined surface sediments from four beaches in Lagos for microplastics. This was the first attempt to investigate microplastic levels in the Nigerian coastal environment.

We found microplastics in all sediment samples collected from the beaches. We found that plastic fragments dominated all the samples we examined. This was followed by pellets and then fibres. The high number of fragments suggests the breakdown of larger plastic items from littering and poor waste management as the most significant source of microplastics in the beaches.

Plastic polymers confirmed were polypropylene, polyethylene and polystyrene. These polymers are used, among other things, to produce rigid food service containers (Styrofoam containers), disposable cups, bottles, as well as plastic wrappings and bags. This study also confirms the ubiquitous nature of microplastics in the Atlantic as reported in studies from different regions and locations.

Going forward

Other countries are already taking action to minimise microplastic pollution. About 127 have implemented policies to regulate plastic production and usage. Nigeria should not be an exception.

The country needs to adopt a series of policies to manage plastics.

The Nigerian government – at all levels – should encourage citizens and organisations to embrace the “new plastics economy” where plastic never becomes waste. Plastic materials with no after-use value – single-use plastics – such as Styrofoam plates and the ubiquitous water sachets should be gradually phased out.

Individuals can also take action by reducing their plastic footprint.The Conversation


Ifenna Ilechukwu, Lecturer of Environmental Chemistry, Madonna University, Nigeria

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Published in Economy
Tuesday, 10 December 2019 10:14

Military Hercules plane crashes with 38 aboard

A Chilean military plane with 38 people aboard “lost radio communication” Monday after taking off from the south of the country for a base in Antarctica, Chile’s Air Force said.

Officials later confirmed that the Air Force plane has crashed.

The C130 Hercules, which took off from the city of Punta Arenas, was flying to President Eduardo Frei Montalva Antarctic Air Base when it disappeared, Chile’s Air Force said in a statement.

The plane, which was transferring personnel to a floating fuel supply pipeline, lost radio contact shortly after 6:00 p.m. Officials later said it had crashed.

It said 17 of those aboard were crew and the other 21 were passengers.

A “dismayed” President Sebastian Pinera, whose country has been witnessing its worst civil unrest in decades, said in a tweet that he would fly to Punta Arenas along with Interior Minister Gonzalo Blumel.

Once there, they would meet up with Defense Minister Alberto Espina to monitor the search and rescue mission.

“A C-130 Hercules aircraft took off at 16:55 (19:55 GMT) from the city of Punta Arenas to the President Eduardo Frei Antarctic Base,” an Air Force statement said.

The Air Force said it declared a “state of alert” over the loss of communication at 6:13 pm with the plane, and had begun a rescue operation with aircraft and Chilean Navy vessels.

The four-engine plane had taken off from the Chabunco air base in Punta Arenas, about 1,873 miles (3,016 kilometers) south of Santiago.

It primarily carried out logistical support tasks and transferred personnel to the Antarctic base in order to inspect the base’s floating fuel supply pipeline and to carry out anticorrosive treatment of the facility.

The incident is the latest drama in a country where Chileans have for nearly two months protested social and economic inequality, as well as an entrenched political elite.

The crisis and its violent demonstrations have led to 26 deaths and more than 12,000 injuries, according to the Organization of American States.

Published in Travel & Tourism

U.S. House Democrats are expected to announce today two articles of impeachment against Donald Trump, after laying out their case at a hearing against a president they branded a “clear and present danger” to national security.

The Washington Post reported Monday evening that the articles will focus on abuse of power and obstruction of Congress, citing three officials familiar with the matter.

It added that the full House of Representatives would vote on the articles next week, ahead of a trial in the Senate.

CNN said a third article on obstruction of justice was still being debated, and the network’s sources cautioned that plans were still being finalised.

Four months after a whistleblower sparked the investigation of Trump for seeking illicit political favours from Ukraine, Democrats said at Monday’s hearing there was abundant evidence that he had committed bribery, abused his power and obstructed the investigation.

“President Trump’s persistent and continuing effort to coerce a foreign country to help him cheat to win an election is a clear and present danger to our free and fair elections and to our national security,” said Daniel Goldman, counsel for the Democrats.

Facing an almost certain vote to make Trump the third American leader impeached and placed on trial, top Republican Doug Collins countered that the effort was simply “a good PR move” for Democrats ahead of next year’s presidential elections.

“It’s all political,” Collins said. “Where’s the impeachable offense? Why are we here?”

The allegations came in a contentious House Judiciary Committee hearing in which Republicans repeatedly punched back, while Trump himself denounced the inquiry as a “disgrace” and “hoax.”

Fueling the partisan divisions in Washington, the Republicans marshaled a Department of Justice report released Monday as ammunition for a counteroffensive.

The DoJ’s inspector general said its review of investigations into four Trump aides did not find evidence of “political bias” in the decisions to open the probes.

The report effectively rebutted Trump’s repeated claims that the FBI illegally spied on his campaign — but Republicans seized on its findings that the bureau committed “numerous serious factual errors” related to the investigations.

Published in World

Eight tourists are still missing at the site of New Zealand White Island volcano as Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern expressed “unfathomable grief” Tuesday for those caught in the deadly eruption.

Five persons have been confirmed dead, with the missing eight presumed dead as well.

Among the missing are tourists from Australia, the United States, Britain, China and Malaysia, as well as New Zealanders who were acting as guides.

Prime Minister Ardern held out no hope for the missing after Monday’s tragedy, saying overnight aerial reconnaissance flights had found no signs of survivors.

“The focus this morning is on recovery and ensuring police can do that safely,” she told a press conference.

“To those who have lost or are missing family and friends, we share in your unfathomable grief and in your sorrow,” Ardern said.

“Your loved ones stood alongside Kiwis who were hosting you here and we grieve with you.”

In addition to the five dead and eight missing, Ardern said 31 people who were on the island during the cataclysm were in hospital with various injuries, including serious burns.

In the hours after the eruption, police had determined the risk was too great for on-land rescues.

Police spokesman Bruce Bird said a helicopter has scoured the area for 45 minutes, checking if anyone was still alive — without success.

Safety concerns have stalled the effort to recover bodies.

“We will only go to the island when it is safe to do so for our people,” said Bird.
A large proportion of the victims are thought to be Australian.

At the time of the eruption, the island was being visited by a group of more than 30 people from a Royal Caribbean cruise ship, the Ovation of the Seas, which left Sydney on a 12-day voyage last week.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said 24 Australians were among those on the volcano tour.

“We must prepare for some difficult news in the days ahead,” he said.

Britain’s high commissioner in New Zealand said two of its citizens were being treated.

The eruption at White Island — also known as Whakaari — occurred just after 2:00 pm Monday (0100 GMT), thrusting a thick plume of white ash 3.6 kilometres (12,000 feet) into the sky.

The island is about 50 kilometres (30 miles) offshore in the picturesque Bay of Plenty and attracts about 10,000 visitors every year.

Seconds before, live camera feeds showed a group of more than a half dozen people walking on the crater floor. Then the images went black.

The threat level at the volcano had been raised in recent days, and questions are already being raised about whether it was safe for tour groups to visit.

Cruise operator Royal Caribbean had sold a day trip to White Island as an “unforgettable” adventure to New Zealand’s most active volcano, one that took visitors so close to the action they could require gas masks and hard hats.

Published in Travel & Tourism

Chinese tech giant Huawei Technologies says it is not in a hurry to deploy its Harmony operating system on its phones, but it will use it to equip other gadgets from next year.

A Huawei spokesman said on Monday there are no plans currently to roll out the OS to its phones, tablets and computers, Huawei’s most popular products.

Wang Chenglu, president of the Huawei consumer business group’s software division made the clarification at a store event held in the city of Shenzhen, where the firm has its headquarters.

The comment was reported in the government-backed Shenzhen Special Zone Daily newspaper.

Huawei unveiled its proprietary OS in August as a possible alternative to Google’s Android, as it copes with trade restrictions by the United States that threatens to cut its access to technology made by US firms.

A “smart screen”, or connected television product was its first product to use Harmony, called Hongmeng in Chinese, but it said at the time that it would stick to Android for smartphones and gradually roll out Harmony to other devices such as smartwatches, speakers and virtual reality gadgets.

Wang reiterated that stance at the store event and noted the company would still prefer to use Android on its phones.

Published in Telecoms
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