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‘Nature of the race’ behind increase in advance voting, expert says

More Ottawans voted in early advance polls ahead of this year’s municipal election than in previous years, and a University of Ottawa political scientist says he expects overall voter turnout to also be higher.

In four advance voting days from Sept. 24 to 27, where eligible voters could drop by any of nine locations across the city, 18,876 Ottawans cast a ballot. 

That’s an increase of more than 3,000 over 2018 and more than 10,000 over 2014, when special advance polls debuted and were open for just three days.

“It’s an indication that people are more engaged,” said Daniel Stockemer, a political scientist at the University of Ottawa who studies political participation.

Early signs of increased interest, Stockemer said, are likely driven by two factors: a competitive mayoral race and the highly “politicized environment” in Ottawa following this winter’s convoy occupation.

“It’s the nature of the race,” he said. “People realize how important it is for them to vote or to be engaged at the municipal level.”

Stockemer estimated the city could see turnout as high as 60 per cent. That’s well above the average for Ontario municipal elections, in which less than half of eligible voters normally make it to the polls.

Just 42.2 per cent of eligible voters cast a ballot in the 2018 Ottawa election, for example, and only 39.9 per cent did so in 2014.

Advance polls ‘too early,’ political scientist says

Advance poll locations attracted a “good, steady flow,” said Michèle Rochette, manager of municipal elections with the City of Ottawa.

Rochette said Elections Ottawa chose to expand early voting opportunities due to the program’s “success and popularity” and to “better serve electors in every ward.”

Stockemer said the people who cast ballots ahead of time would normally vote regardless, but the turnout for advance voting is a useful indication of how engaged people are with the election.

He added he’d prefer if advance voting was actually held a bit closer to the end of the campaign.

“The timing — it’s too early,” he said. “Especially for a municipal election where the mayor is no longer running and where in some ridings you have a lot of candidates, it’s tough to make up your mind.”

Boxes of Elections Ottawa materials at an office on Cyrville Road May 2, 2022, the day registration for October’s municipal election officially opened. (Buntola Nou/CBC)

With candidates running as independents at the local level, voters are much harder pressed to inform themselves, Stockemer said. They may need the extra month of campaigning before they know which candidate they want to support.

He praised Elections Ottawa’s “Voters in Training” program, which debuted at special advance vote locations and allowed kids to practice voting by casting a fake ballot alongside their parents.

Two remaining advance voting days are scheduled to take place from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 7 and Friday, Oct. 14.

Voting day is Monday, Oct. 24.


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Sugarcane pulp to paper: One man’s environmental mission

Every day, Ngorn Makara collects the large blue buckets that the sugarcane juice vendors use to dispose of bagasse – the dry pulpy fibrous material that remains once the juice is extracted – and delivers the containers to the factory he works at. He hopes to make his fortune through up cycling the bagasse into useful products.

The bagasse is dried in the sun before being ground up by a large machine. Makara then boils the small pieces of bagasse and uses them to produce paper plates.

Makara, 31, told The Post, “The bagasse passes through many stages before it becomes the finished product. The process is not as simple as it sounds, because the bagasse cannot be ground until it is completely dry.”

He added that the boiling part of the operation takes five to six hours – and then it needs to be ground again before it can be turned into a sheet of paper. Finally, it must be thoroughly dried out once more before it can be pressed in a mould and cut into shape.

This is a basic breakdown of the process employed by MG Pacific Company Limited to produce its recycled paper plates.

Origins of a green dream

Entrepreneur Taing Socheat, the company’s president, said that he wanted to create something that was unique and environmentally friendly, and spent a lot of time conducting research and making sure he knew what he could realistically achieve.

“My company uses specific bio-waste to produce paper products. I looked into the possibility of making plates from plants, but my research suggested that to be profitable, I would need to invest between $130 and $200 million,” he told The Post.

He said that this was why he elected to operate on a smaller scale. Initially, he considered using bamboo, but he discovered that the bagasse of sugarcane has similar properties. The fact that it is plentiful, and usually given away for free, were also motivating factors.

He stressed that he was not the first in the Kingdom to make products from this material, but the last time it was used was the Sangkum Reastr Niyum era of the 1950s and 60s. He is unaware of anyone else that is currently using it.

“I researched and designed the machinery by myself three years ago – in 2018. I spent a lot of capital and time setting up the equipment and experimenting before we were ready to start selling plates in early 2021. The plates are still limited to small sizes, but we have plans to expand our range,” he said.

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One of MG’s workers turns sugarcane into pulp, used to manufacture the paper plates. SUPPLIED

Many paper products, from toilet paper to newsprint, are made from imported semi-finished products. Manufacturing these semi-finished paper products with local raw materials, locally made machinery and local labour is something Socheat is extremely proud of.

He said to find engineers who could build the machinery he needed, he had to meet with many local experts. Eventually, it was a combination of five or six workshops that built the equipment.

“We had to design the machinery from scratch because nobody was doing this kind of thing on such a small scale. The most common factories that do this kind of work can process 30 to 50 tonnes of raw materials a day, and to set up on that scale would be at least $130 million,” he added.

One advantage of the locally designed and built machinery was that it could be adapted and upgraded with relative ease. Thanks to his experimentation and constant honing of the process – and equipment upgrades – MG Pacific can process three or four thousand litres at a time. Originally, he could boil just one or two hundred.

The operation changed to semi-automatic cutting machines, as cutting them by hand was difficult, labour intensive work. After just ten plates, most workers hands are too weak to continue, so the initial production process was drawn out and difficult.

Socheat could not say with any certainty how many plates were produces per 100 litres of boiled bagasse, describing his production chain as moving like a cartwheel, always shifting, with no clear correlation between the always changing input and output.

“Drying, grinding, boiling and drying is more complex than it sounds, but I think I could employ a variation of the same basic process to use banana leaves and other natural fibres to produce drawing paper,” he added.

Socheat explained why he was currently focused on paper plates. He said that there was less demand for other products, and so far, economies of scale were important to the production process. He said the business was not profitable but there were still people who asked him for his formulas and processes.

For the love of the planet

He joked that they would not have to pay him for his ‘recipes’ – he would pay them if they were brave enough to try and make a profit from them.

“I do not believe that anyone can be involved in this business and become wealthy – and I have been in this industry for almost ten years,” he said.

His plant will soon relocate to larger premises, and Socheat expected to ramp production up to two or three thousand plates per day. The machinery will also be upgraded, he added.

“Paper plates are always more expensive than foam ones – although they are obviously superior from an environmental point of view. There is a lot of competition among paper plate manufacturers, however. Imported Thai products generally retail for eight or nine thousand riel for a packet of ten. Ours, which are larger, sell for 10,000 riel,” he said.

MG Pacific’s plates are now widely available at supermarkets in the capital, including Olympic Market and Carrot Market.

“Not all consumers are concerned about the price, but they do note that our locally made goods tend to be more expensive than imported ones. In our case, this is because our products are made by hand, whereas imported ones use automated machinery. Foreign products are usually made from a mix of bamboo and other substances, and include glue and other chemicals to make the products look white,” he added.

He said products made from pure sugarcane bagasse are a light yellow colour, like rice straw. There are no pure white products which are chemical free, and yet, if most consumers were asked, they would say white was the more expensive option.

He added that an environmentally friendly company would not employ glue in its manufacturing process, but would use natural starches to create a chemical-free alternative.

A vision of expansion

Besides plates, Socheat plans to introduce other products to grow the company.

“We will not grow by selling plates and bagasse paper. Anyone who thinks this could be profitable is welcome to try of course, but I intend to introduce a much wider range, in order to expand,” he said.

He offered to hand control of the business to the five staff who are responsible for production, saying they would be responsible for all income and expenses by themselves. They would be able to pay themselves from the company’s profits, but would receive no salary from him.

“I told the five of them – you guys can make the plates and sell them, and then you can collect the profits instead of getting salaries from me. They all replied ‘No! We are better working for salary.’ I assured them I would cover the rent and utilities, but still they would not agree to the deal,” he said.

When asked why he continues to run the business even at a loss, Socheat said that the company was his contribution to the environment and that he was thinking of the future of the planet.

Neth Pheakdra, secretary of state and spokesman for the Ministry of Environment said the ministry commended the company for processing its products from natural raw materials, or so-called bioplastic.

He said more and more people are aware of the harmful side effects of plastic products and are changing their behaviour, whether using baskets for shopping or carrying refillable water bottles. Many restaurants have implemented zero-plastic policies, as have some schools.

“We urge people to change their attitudes, reduce their use of plastics and choose natural products. For example, disposable products such as plastic straws are easily replaced with those made of paper, bamboo or even lemongrass,” he added.

Socheat suggested that all business owners should be honest about their company’s situation when giving advice to those who were thinking of entering their industry.

“I urge entrepreneurs, business owners and traders to tell each other the truth and stop trying to make themselves look good. Stop telling each other that your businesses are growing and profitable by inflating the numbers – to be honest, it is not easy for a small business to make a profit. Do not encourage people with little capital to risk it in an industry you know will likely cost them more than they earn,” he added.




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Infinity starts process for San José mining licence and environmental permitting

Infinity has kicked off the processes required to secure the mining licence and environmental approvals for its San José lithium project in Spain.

Its wholly-owned subsidiary Extremadura New Energies (ENE) has submitted the “Initial Document” to the Dirección General de Industria, Energía y Minas (General Directorate of Industry, Energy and Mines) and Dirección General de Sostenibilidad (General Directorate of Sustainability) in Extremadura.

This collaboration with the Regional Government of Extremadura and Cáceres Local Government represents the first step in the lodgement of permit applications in relation to an underground-only mining proposal as outlined by the positive Scoping Study released in October last year.

Infinity Lithium (ASX:INF) noted that the Initial Document will provide detail on extraction, processing and also optionality on the possible locations of the fully integrated industrial lithium conversion facility.

The Initial Document is a request for the environmental body to formulate the Environmental Impact Assessment Scoping Document (ESIA) in advance of the commencement of the ordinary EIA procedure.

It also serves to align the project to local and regional stakeholders through a consultative process.

The ESIA is expected to be submitted to ENE within a three-month period from the submission of the Initial Document.

“This scope document for the environmental impact study will incorporate the evaluations and indications from the technical assessment of the project and respond to everything that both the residents of Cáceres and the administrations have told us in terms of environmental sustainability,” ENE chief executive officer Ramón Jiménez said.

Infinity will carry out a collaborative process to identify the preferred location for the industrial lithium conversion facility.

Exploitation Concession

The company has previously confirmed its administrative and legal rights under Spanish law to lodge an Exploitation Concession through an Indirect or a Direct application route.

Likewise, the Regional Government of Extremadura and the Regional Ministry of Ecological Transition and Sustainability have acknowledged that there are a number of legal avenues to exploit the San José lithium resource under Spanish mining law.

The Regional Government has also ratified the Lithium Decree-Law 5/2022 in the Regional Assembly and quashed allegations against the decree, which mandates the requirement for all lithium minerals extracted to be processed in the region.

It enables the accelerated administrative processing of projects, access to public funding, and categorisation of PREMIA (projects of regional interest) to facilitate expropriations that may be required.

Extremadura President Guillermo Fernández Vara noted then that his only priority was to secure a decent life for the people of the region and would use the resources of the region to do so if the laws were complied with.

Sole control

Separately, Infinity has secured administrative control of the San José project after securing sole ownership of the joint venture by finalising payment obligations to its joint venture partner Valoriza Mineria.

It also has the right to move to full project ownership by exercising an upfront call option of between €2m and €4m depending on timing of acquisition.

 

 

 

This article was developed in collaboration with Infinity Lithium, a Stockhead advertiser at the time of publishing.

 

This article does not constitute financial product advice. You should consider obtaining independent advice before making any financial decisions.

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Sutherland filmmaker Robert Aitken’s new environmental film ‘The Dreaming Bog’ to be screened at Lairg

Lairg and District Learning Centre is hosting a screening of a new environmental film, The Dreaming Bog, on Thursday, September 6, as part of the Climate Fringe Festival.

Sutherland born filmmaker Robert Aitken, who directed and produced the film, will be present at the Lairg screening.

The evening will also feature a “climate conversation” and an audience question and answer session.

Poster for The Dreaming Bog.
Poster for The Dreaming Bog.

The Dreaming Bog is based on the opening act of an epic new poem “Six Thousand Years of Sunlight” by Caithness poet and playwright George Gunn.

It merges poetry with environmental concerns through the backdrop of the bogs and peatlands of northern Scotland and the mires and swamps of Finland.

Mr Aitken said: “Filming took place at the end of 2021 under challenging circumstances including a pandemic, a lockdown, two storms and multiple cancellations due to Covid and illness. It is just incredible The Dreaming Bog got made at all.”

Filmmaker Robert Aitken.
Filmmaker Robert Aitken.

The filmmaker said that the global bogs, mires and peatlands were an “incredible gift of life” but were in danger of degradation through human-related activities.

“They are often seen as unexciting landscapes, not fit for much use, but this couldn’t be further from their past story and inherent nature,” he said.

“These places are home to an immense variety of plants and wildlife, and historically, humankind has lived and worked in the bogs of northern Scotland since the arrival of the hunter-gatherer.”

“As carbon keepers, the bogs are four times more efficient at storing gases poisonous to human life, than the rainforests.

“The last 200 years has seen more change and damage to the bogs than the previous 6000 years of civilization.”

The Dreaming Bog contains comments from those who live and work in the bogs of Caithness and Sutherland as well as Finland.

George Gunn said: “I was honoured when Robert wanted to use some of my poems for his new film.

Caithness poet and playwright George Gunn.
Caithness poet and playwright George Gunn.

“The subject matter of the Caithness and Sutherland bog lands is very close to my heart given the Clan Gunn literally, culturally and historically, come out of the bog.”

The full length film runs at 40 minutes and is designed to open up discussions with live audiences.

The Lairg event takes place from 7pm-9pm.

Tickets are £5 and are available in advance through Eventbrite, but can also be booked by contacting the Learning Centre on 01549 402050.

Tickets will also be available on the night but booking in advance is recommended to avoid disappointment.

As is the case with all activities delivered by Lairg and District Learning Centre, if you cannot afford to pay the full price, please contact the centre for information on a reduced ticket.

Still image taken from The Dreaming Bog. The filmaker says the peatland appears to look like a "gigantic brain" from the air.
Still image taken from The Dreaming Bog. The filmaker says the peatland appears to look like a “gigantic brain” from the air.
The Flow Country of Caithness and Sutherland features within The Dreaming Bog. Picture: Robert Aitken
The Flow Country of Caithness and Sutherland features within The Dreaming Bog. Picture: Robert Aitken


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USAID to reward innovators in fight on plastic pollution

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USAID to reward innovators in fight on plastic pollution


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A man cleans plastic bottles by the banks of River Ndarugu in Nakuru County. FILE PHOTO | NMG

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has launched a programme to reward entrepreneurs who come up with the most innovative ways of curbing plastic pollution at the Kenyan Coast.

USAID in partnership with Global Affairs Canada and Challenge Works, a United Kingdom-based organisation rolled out the programme where the top three Coast-based firms and entrepreneurs will share Sh7 million.

The programme will be scaled up to the country’s marine parks and beaches as international partners increase support to the Kenyan government to help fight plastic pollution that is plaguing the Coast.

The Kenyan coastline is grappling with high levels of plastic waste being dumped in the Indian Ocean, beaches and other water bodies, posing a huge threat to marine life and the tourism sector.

“Plastic pollution in Africa is one of the biggest ecological challenges that the world is facing. This is particularly true in Mombasa, where approximately 120 tonnes of plastic waste every day, a significant proportion of which is leaking into marine environments,” Constance Agyeman, Director at Challenge Works said.

Kenya banned single-use plastics in conservation areas including national parks and reserves two years ago but dumping has continued along the beaches, prompting the need of innovative measures to curb the menace.

The United Nations Environmental Programme estimates that 3.7 kilogrammes of plastic is dumped in Mombasa’s waters per capita every year, highlighting the dire state of affairs facing marine life.

Mombasa’s economy relies mainly on tourism and experts have warned that continued choking of the coastline presents a huge to the county and Kenya’s fortunes from the millions of tourists who flock the beaches.

State agencies including the Kenya Coast Guard Service (KCGS) have raised the alarm over increased dumping of plastic waste along the Kenyan Coast, notable beaches in Lamu, Malindi, Kilifi and Kwale.

The competition that targets entrepreneurs aged between 18 and 25 years who are based at the Coast runs from this month to May next year.

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How businesses can stay connected with their clients in a digital environment

Staying connected in a virtual world requires strong communication and collaboration, especially with many workplaces adopting a work-from-anywhere business model. Being able to discuss and share information with clients helps organisations provide a more efficient level of service and lets them better understand their clients on a personal level. When organisations understand their clients, they can meet their evolving needs and establish long-lasting relationships that generate an increased return on investment (ROI).

When businesses fail to prioritise effective communication, it can create misunderstandings, missed opportunities, and reduced productivity within teams. From a client’s perspective, the impact of poor communication is far greater. Companies will miss out on repeat business and create confusion among potential clients, damaging their ability to secure new business.

Without the right collaborative tools in place, it’s harder for teams to come together and contribute their expertise for the benefit of the client and, by extension, the organisation. In a digital workplace, sharing information with colleagues and clients isn’t as simple as placing a document on someone’s desk or holding an impromptu meeting in the boardroom.

Now, it’s all about sharing information via messaging and real-time collaboration tools that empower teams to work on the same project in various time zones. Investing in collaboration solutions can significantly help businesses share, manage, and track files not only with internal teams but also with clients outside the company.

There are three ways businesses can achieve a seamless relationship with their clients in a digital environment:

1. Eliminate data silos

Due to the dispersed nature of remote workplaces, data is often controlled by one department and isolated from the rest of the organisation. This creates data silos which can affect a company’s ability to efficiently share information and collaborate across departments. It also complicates client interactions and creates unnecessary repetition and uncertainty, especially if the goal is to provide a personalised experience. Companies need to have the correct tools in place to eliminate data silos by connecting systems, data, and content across the entire organisation. This will ensure that businesses provide the right information to the right people when they need it.

2. Improve information-sharing processes

When employees and clients collaborate on projects together via a single document, it usually entails back-and-forth emails which is both insecure and inefficient. It also makes it harder to keep track of the most up-to-date version. Businesses should avoid using email to share files and, instead, adopt a centralised, cloud-based file sharing system with real-time co-authoring to simplify the collaborative process. Leveraging client-centric solutions that enhance external collaboration will ensure organisations can give clients access to information via a secure public link and invite them to edit documents simultaneously.

3. Demonstrate compliance and implement robust security

Maintaining compliance helps businesses avoid costly human errors and damage to company reputation and client trust. When collaborating with clients, it’s important to ensure documents are shared only with those who have authorised access. Businesses can leverage document control solutions that encrypt network files while transmitted over the network and prevent unauthorised access to information. They can also create a seamless audit trail for the document’s lifecycle for complete transparency and to prevent fraud.

Organisations are increasingly implementing collaboration solutions to simplify external collaboration and give their clients secure access to important information. With efficient information sharing and collaboration, businesses can support remote employees and clients by making files accessible anywhere, anytime, and from any device.

Leveraging collaboration software that is secure, easy to use, and operates as a seamless extension of an organisation’s brand will help companies maintain strong relationships with their current clients and be better positioned to attract and secure new business.


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Fleeting fall: Catch nature’s season finale while it lasts

Fall colors at Matthiessen State Park in LaSalle County. (Photo courtesy of the Illinois Department of Tourism).

Crisp days, golden sunsets and the colorful, yet fleeting canvas of fall is about to arrive in Illinois.

The early cues are already here — rustling brown cornstalks awaiting harvest, the early changeover of a handful of maple leaves to brilliant oranges and reds, and the persistent beauty of fields of goldenrod, even as other prairie plants have faded.

Fall in Illinois is arguably the loveliest time of the year, but the views won’t last for long.

So now is the time to catch the best of the season thanks, in part, to these tips from the Illinois Department of Tourism and color updates from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.

Northern Illinois: Galena Area

Peak: Second week of October

Cruise along the Mississippi River on the Great River Road to experience fall colors. The road, which starts in northwest Illinois, runs all the way to southern Illinois. An adventure begins in Galena, the idyllic river town surrounded by tree-lined hilltops and beloved destination for fall foliage seekers. Known as one of America’s most beautiful main streets, downtown Galena is full of quaint shops and tasty treats. From Galena Canning Company and Great American Popcorn Company to Pinder Pottery and Galena Cellars Vineyard, there is so much to discover. Also pay a visit to Horseshoe Mound Preserve and take in the incredible river scenery just 30 minutes south of town at Mississippi Palisades State Park.

Northern Illinois: Chicago and beyond

Peak: Second week of October

Chicago’s skyline makes for a dazzling display of its own, but look around and you’ll see plenty of fall foliage popping up in places like Millennium Park, Lincoln Park and Jackson Park. Outside the city, you can’t go wrong exploring the stunning scenery of county forest preserves or visits to the Morton Arboretum in Lisle or Chicago Botanic Garden in Glencoe. Continue north to the beautiful retreat at Illinois Beach State Park in Zion. This beach is Illinois’ only remaining stretch of beach ridge shoreline. Spanning 6.5 miles along the lake, it offers gorgeous views amid 700 species of plants. Take a run to Rockford to visit the legendary Anderson Japanese Gardens, a meticulously landscaped, colorful environment featuring some of the most scenic foliage in Illinois, like the alluring Japanese maples with their crimson-colored leaves.

Starved Rock/Illinois River region

Peak: Second week of October

Visit Starved Rock State Park near Oglesby to see waterfalls, spectacular canyons and colorful, tree-covered bluffs along its 15 miles of hiking trails. Oaks, hickories and other native trees line the bluffs creating a striking palette that complements the views of the namesake rock formation. Immerse yourself in the seasonal splendor with a stay at The Cabins at Starved Rock Lodge. Located a few miles from Starved Rock, Matthiessen State Park offers fall color views just as amazing as its neighbor. The park is home to black and white oak and red cedar trees that coat the rugged terrain in rusty reds and oranges. The Vermilion River and its magnificent bluffs running along the edge add another dimension of picturesque vistas.

Central Illinois

Peak: Late October

Take an old-fashioned paddleboat ride on the Spirit of Peoria on the Illinois River in Peoria where you can view some of the best fall colors on their weekend fall foliage tour. Declared the “world’s most beautiful drive” by President Theodore Roosevelt, nearby Grandview Drive is a 2.5-mile trail and park that autumn lovers can walk, bike or drive. Don’t miss Three Sisters Park in Chillicothe, a 400-acre private park located on the Illinois River. After that, make your way to Wildlife Prairie Park, an 1,800-acre zoological park filled with more than 50 different species of animals native to Illinois. Take a swing east to Champaign-Urbana and picturesque farms and orchards, such as Prairie Fruits Farm & Creamery and The Great Pumpkin Patch. Explore the town of Monticello, home to the 1,517-acre Allerton Park, and see the natural splendor around beautiful Lake Decatur, including the Rock Springs Nature Center.

Wide shot of the Great River Road and the Mississippi River with fall colors. (Photo courtesy of the Illinois Department of Tourism).

Southwest Illinois

Peak: Last week of October

The drive from Alton to Grafton along the Great River Road during peak fall color season is breathtaking. Stop at Pere Marquette State Park at the confluence of the Illinois and Mississippi rivers and, if you’re brave, try Grafton Zipline Adventures for a stunning view from hundreds of feet in the air.

Southern Illinois

Peak: Last week of October

See the leaves turn to fire amid the canopies of Shawnee National Forest — with a great overhead view from Garden of the Gods. Visit early in the morning or after a light rain to see the mist roll over the horizon and add a moody, autumnal filter to the pristine wilderness.

You’ll find more outdoor trails at Giant City State Park, and it’s the perfect time to hike near Carbondale or explore the Shawnee Wine Trail.

 

 

 


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Study links air pollution to higher risk of stroke and related death

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According to a long-term study, air pollution increases the risk of having a first stroke, additional strokes, and death. Fairfax Media Archives/Getty Images
  • A new study tracked the effect of air pollution on the risk of having a first and subsequent stroke and of dying from resulting cardiovascular issues.
  • Researchers tracked the health records of a large number of people and their exposure to air pollutants.
  • The study focuses on PM 2.5 pollution, tiny air particles that are hazardous to human health.

New research from the Sun Yat-sen University School of Public Health in Guangzhou, China, amplifies how air pollution could affect the trajectory of health from stroke to subsequent death.

The study, recently published in Neurology, focused on the health impacts of PM 2.5 granules. This fine particulate matter (PM) is harmful to human health and has a diameter of fewer than 2.5 microns, about 30 times smaller than a single human hair.

Researchers also looked at nitrogen dioxide (NO₂) and nitrogen oxides (NO𝑥) levels in polluted air and measured air pollutant levels by their weight in micrograms — 1-millionth of a gram — per 1 cubic meter of air, expressed as μg/m3.

The study shows that for every PM 2.5 increase of 5 μg/m3, the risk of a first stroke rose by 24%, and the risk of a first fatal stroke increased by 30%.

Each increase of 5 μg/m3 of NO₂ and NO𝑥 was associated with a small risk of a first stroke — 0.2% and 0.1%, respectively.

The pollutants also caused a slight increase in the risk of cardiovascular mortality for people who have already had a stroke. This was especially true of NO₂, which increased mortality risk by 0.04%, although this effect tapered off with time.

Dr. Franco Folino, Ph.D., research cardiologist in the department of Cardiac, Thoracic and Vascular Sciences at the University of Padova in Italy, not involved in the study, told Medical News Today:

“Despite the many studies that have shown the harmful effects of pollution on health, there still seems to be little awareness on the need to take adequate measures to reduce exposure to pollutants, particularly in populations at greater risk.”

“Just like climate change still fails to induce significant changes in environmental policies, the effects of air pollution on health are largely underestimated.”

– Dr. Franco Folino, Ph.D., research cardiologist

The observational study is based on an analysis of the health records of 318,752 people in the UKBiobank and several years of UKBiobank air pollution data.

The researchers tracked the health progress of these individuals for 3,765,630 person-years of follow-up. During that time, 5,967 people experienced first or incident strokes. In addition, 2,985 individuals had post-stroke cardiovascular effects, and there were 1,020 subsequent deaths.

The researchers also used 1 year of air pollution data to estimate exposure based on where people lived. They modeled each individual’s exposure to pollutants based on land use, traffic, population, and topography data.

The data show that people who had strokes during the study had an average exposure of 10.03 µg/m3 of PM 2.5. For people who did not have a stroke, the exposure was 9.97 µg/m3.

“This new study tries to evaluate the ‘dynamic’ effects of pollution on stroke risk and mortality in a large population during a very long follow-up period,” Dr. Folino said.

“In essence, this is another demonstration of the long-term harmful effects of pollution, and in particular of fine particles and nitrogen oxides, on [the] cardiovascular system.”

Outdoors, PM 2.5 comes mostly from fossil-fuel-burning vehicles such as cars, trucks, buses, traditional trains, snowmobiles, and construction equipment. Any process involving burning wood, oil, gasoline, or coal may also contribute, including power plants.

In addition, these small yet dangerous particles can travel in the air, so natural events such as forest fires and volcanos distribute them over long distances.

Inside the home, PM 2.5 may come from cigarettes, burning candles, cooking on a stove or in an oven, fireplaces, and space heaters that burn fuel.

“When we consider air pollution, we do not have to think only of the quality of air we breathe outdoors. Very often, pollution can be greater at home,” Dr. Folino said, adding that people could also consume PM 2.5 in water and food.

“PM 2.5 seems particularly harmful because its small size allows it to enter more deeply into the smallest bronchi, where it can induce the inflammatory phenomena that seem to be largely responsible for the harmful effects of particulate matter.”

– Dr. Franco Folino, Ph.D., research cardiologist

Dr. Adi Iyer, a neurosurgeon at the Pacific Neuroscience Institute at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, CA, told MNT that PM 2.5 could become lodged in the lungs’ alveoli. This could “cause blockage of the oxygenation process of blood, which can lead to all sorts of other issues, from having low oxygen levels, they can lead to pneumonia [or] respiratory infections,” he explained.

Dr. Folino added that “a particulate with greater size is more easily intercepted in the large airways, in the nose, and in the trachea, and is then eliminated with the mucus.”

In the United States, websites such as the federal government’s AirNow provide an assessment of current local air quality. If you have an iPhone, you may be able to view a general assessment of your area’s air quality in the Weather app.

On days when air quality reaches moderate to dangerous levels, the study authors suggest that people should reduce their outside activities, including exercise, and consider wearing masks and using HEPA air purifiers.

“All people, but especially those with a high cardiovascular risk, should avoid exposure to high pollution levels,” Dr. Folino said. “We have to carry out physical activities in healthy areas and pay attention to the possible polluting sources inside [the] home.”

Of course, Dr. Iyer noted that people living in densely populated urban areas aren’t necessarily able to avoid air pollution.

“Take care of your health in other ways to make sure that you have strong lungs by exercising, staying physically fit, having a good diet, and not smoking. Those are all things to mitigate and offset the exposure to particulate matter, air pollution.”

– Dr. Adi Iyer, neurosurgeon


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Tannery owners feel relief over long awaited environmental clearance

Environmental clearance is necessary for the renewal of trade license, bond license and export-import license

02 October, 2022, 02:15 pm

Last modified: 02 October, 2022, 02:21 pm

Photo: Mumit M/TBS

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Photo: Mumit M/TBS

Photo: Mumit M/TBS

Highlights:

  • DoE stopped issuance, renewal of clearance certificates due to pollution and non-compliance by tanneries
  • Expired licenses of 14 tanneries renewed in September
  • Eight more tanneries’ certificate renewal in the process
  • Environmental clearances necessary for renewal of trade, bond and export-import licences

Tannery owners in the country are breathing a sigh of relief as the Department of Environment has decided to renew their environmental clearance certificates, which had remained stopped for around one and a half years.

The department stopped the issuance and renewal of new environmental clearance certificates due to pollution and non-compliance by the tanneries. The decision left the tannery owners in a quagmire.

Entrepreneurs said following green light from the department in early September, the expired licenses of 14 tanneries have been renewed. The renewal of the certificates of eight more tanneries is in the process.

File Photo: Mumit M/TBS

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File Photo: Mumit M/TBS

File Photo: Mumit M/TBS

Md Shaheen Ahamed, chairman of Bangladesh Tanners Association, told The Business Standard, “The tanneries that had environmental clearances are getting their expired clearances renewed from September. The problem of the tannery owners has been reduced with the decision. Everyone should be given clearance in phases.”

Entrepreneurs said that environmental clearances are necessary for the renewal of trade license, bond license and export-import license. But they could not renew the necessary licenses as the renewal of environmental clearances had remained stopped for more than one and a half years.

ShakawatUllah, general secretary of Bangladesh Tanners Association (BTA), said, “Many tannery owners could not release chemicals from the port that they imported as they did not have environmental clearance. They had to pay demurrage for not releasing the chemicals in due time.”

Photo: Mumit M/TBS

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Photo: Mumit M/TBS

Photo: Mumit M/TBS

Md Mizanur Rahman, vice chairman of BTA and director of Samota Leather Complex Ltd, said, “Entrepreneurs face many problems due to a lack of environmental clearances. Many of us failed to release necessary chemicals that were imported before Eid-ul-Azha this year.”

“We faced trouble in processing leather as we could not bring the chemicals to the tanneries. As a result, the prices of the raw materials increased. Now, as our environmental clearance is being renewed, it will ease for us the process of renewing other licenses,” he said.

Recommendation of parliamentary committee

Last Tuesday (27 September), the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Environment, Forest and Climate Change recommended renewing the licenses of the compliant tanneries in a meeting. The committee discussed dividing all leather factories in Savar into three categories.

The committee also recommended increasingthe capacity of Effluent Treatment Plants (ETPs) to 20,000 kilolitres per day within six months.

Photo: Mumit M/TBS

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Photo: Mumit M/TBS

Photo: Mumit M/TBS

It suggested that action be taken against factories that do not have compliance and have not applied for clearance. For factories that do not have compliance but are willing to have it within six months, the committee recommended a renewal of their environmental clearance.

Besides, it has recommended that the ministry formulate and implement specific guidelines on the separation of chromium from tannery wastes.

In August last year, the committee recommended the closure of Savar’s tannery city due to improper waste management.

The Bangladesh Small and Cottage Industries Corporation (BSCIC) established the Leather Industrial City in Savar by setting up a unified zone for the tanneries of Dhaka and its nearby areas.




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