According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), chlorine levels of four parts per million or below in drinking water—whether from a private well or municipal reservoir—are acceptable from a human health standpoint. Inexpensive home drinking water test kits (from $5 on up) that can detect levels of chlorine and other elements in water are widely available from online vendors. Administering the tests is easy and can provide parents with a way to involve kids in science for a practical purpose right at home.
Food scarcity is a bigger problem than ever as human population numbers continue to swell, putting additional stress on already fragile food production and distribution systems. And it’s not just happening in far away places: A recent report by the U.S. Department of Agriculture found that the number of U.S. homes “lacking food security” rose from 4.7 million to 6.7 million in just the last five years.
It may be time to upgrade your pans, given that the U.S. government has called for a complete phase-out of polytetrafluorethylene (PTFE, otherwise known as Teflon) and related products by 2015, due to health concerns. When Teflon is exposed to high heat it can degrade, which causes it to release its constituent chemical, PFOA, as a gas. This phenomenon can kill pet birds, and can’t be good for humans either.
Long a poster child of environmental ills and health concerns, McDonald’s has worked steadily over the last two decades to clean up its act. The company will never win over vegetarians, who eschew meat for health, animal welfare and even world hunger concerns (we’d feed more people by using the land used to grow animal feed to grow food for people instead), but it has otherwise made some significant strides.
Home automation may indeed be the next big trend in what consumers can do today to stand up for the environment. By setting up a wired (or even wireless) system, homeowners can optimize lighting level efficiency, cut heating and cooling energy costs and deactivate energy-consuming devices and appliances even when no one is home.
Even for those of us without allergies, poor indoor air quality is an often overlooked health issue. Recent research has shown that the air inside some buildings can be more polluted than the outdoor air in the most industrialized of cities. And since many of us spend some 90 percent of our time indoors, cleaning the air where we live and work might be one of the most important things we can do for our health.
Believe it or not, our pets may be exposed to more harsh chemicals through the course of their day than we are. Researchers at the non-profit Environmental Working Group (EWG) found that pet dogs and cats were contaminated with 48 of 70 industrial chemicals tested, including 43 chemicals at levels higher than those typically found in people.
Yes, anyone can do it—and the benefits can be significant, especially for those in warmer climates who expend a lot of energy keeping cool. But most of the world’s roofs, including on some 90 percent of buildings in the U.S., are dark-colored.
Global warming is no doubt going to cause many kinds of problems (and, indeed, already is), and rivers may well be some of the hardest hit geographical features, given the likelihood of increased droughts, floods and the associated spread of waterborne diseases.