This short series of reports includes news on hybrid hazel trees, a spice better than BHT, cod-fearing fish, dietary guidelines for the heart, parks and pesticides, radon reports and fuel cell progress.
Bits & Pieces: Hybrid Hazel Trees, Dietary Guidelines and Cod-Fearing Fish
Clean Means Money
Thousands of jobs and billions of dollars in profits are generated each year by the pollution abatement and control industry (known in economic circles as PABCO). Expenditures for PABCO reached $70 billion in 1985, according to a study by Management Information Services, Inc. Though most of the money was spent by public agencies, says the study, private investments totaled $8.5 billion—which alone generated over 167,000 jobs and produced $2.6 billion in corporate profits. The report observed that PABCO has injected new life into "mature industries presently suffering from stagnant sales and foreign competition." PABCO-related activities, for instance, have created over 3,000 jobs in iron and steel manufacturing.
Hybrid Hazel Trees
Folks in the upper U.S. and Canada can take part in an ongoing project to help develop high-yield hybrid hazel trees and bushes suited for North America. The Northern Nut Growers Association is offering packets of special hybrid hazel seed nuts (eight per packet, $4) to anyone interested in participating in the program. The hardy hybrid hazel trees are fast-growing bushes that reach a maximum size of about 20 feet high by 10 feet wide, and start producing edible kernels in four to five years. If you're interested also in joining the Northern Nut Growers Association, a one-year membership is $15, and entitles you to purchase the hazel seed packets for $3 each. Write to the Northern Nut Growers Association, Delphi, IN.
Researchers at Rutgers University have formulated a natural preservative from the spice rosemary that is "equal to or better than BHT." Spices, of course, have been used as food preservatives for centuries, but the distinctive flavors of the spices involved have always limited their applications. The Rutgers scientists, however, have extracted the food-keeping antioxidants present in rosemary and distilled away the smell and taste. Within the food industry, BHT is considered the best synthetic preservative, but it is possible that the new rosemary derivative may someday replace it.
The American Heart Association's latest dietary guidelines for maintaining a healthy heart are designed to promote optimum well-being without imposing unrealistic mealtime restrictions. The guidelines: 1) Limit alcohol consumption to 15% of total caloric intake, and to no more than 1.7 ounces ethanol per day; 2) restrict protein (particularly meat protein) to 15% of total calories; 3) limit total fat intake to 30% of total calories, with no more than 10% saturated fat; 4) keep cholesterol consumption down to 100 milligrams per 1,000 calories, with a maximum 300 mg per day; and 5) limit sodium intake to one gram per 1,000 calories, not to exceed three grams a day.
Typically, only about 5% of the salmon raised in and released from Pacific Northwest fish hatcheries each year survive to return to freshwater spawning grounds. One cause of the high mortality rate, say researchers, is that the homegrown fish have not
learned to avoid cod, a natural salmon predator. So now scientists are trying to learn how to literally put the fear of cod into hatchery salmon. One experimental technique involves immersing a transparent Plexiglas tank containing young salmon in another tank full of hungry cod, which strike the sides of the smaller container. Another approach is to simply drop frozen whole cod into the midst of the salmon, startling them. Though still experimental, the procedures have produced "very dramatic differences" in salmon survival and may someday be used by commercial hatcheries.
Parks and Pesticides
Although it still spreads some 25 tons of pesticides a year, the National Park Service has halved its use of the chemicals since 1978, says a report in Environmental Action magazine (bimonthly, $20; Environmental Action, Washington, DC). Over 200 Park Service employees have been trained in integrated pest management, which stresses minimal use of chemicals and applications carefully timed to coincide with the target pest's natural cycle. The service's consumption of synthetic herbicides and insecticides has decreased from 100,000 pounds in 1979 to less than 50,000 pounds, while use of low-toxicity substances such as Bacillus thuringiensis and boric acid has increased 25%.
Yankee ingenuity is alive and well in Maine, where Martin Madden, Sr., recently converted a 1973 school bus into a sawmill on wheels. Madden and his son removed all the seats except the driver's, installed a standard tractor-type mill behind the seat, then cut through a side wall and added hinges to create an opening for feeding logs into the mill. To power the 40-inch saw, he added an outer rim to a rear wheel, attached an exterior flywheel to the saw, and connected the two with a drive belt. When he arrives at a job site, he merely jacks up the drive wheel, cranks up the bus, and slips the mill into gear. "I'm using about five gallons of gas per 1,000 board feet," he says. "That's not too bad for a small, one-man operation like mine."
At least 8 million homes in the country are thought to have dangerously high concentrations of radon, a naturally occurring radioactive gas that enters buildings through foundation cracks, faulty slabs, and drainage systems. The EPA has blamed radon for 5,000 to 20,000 U.S. lung cancer deaths annually and has warned against smoking in homes where radon levels exceed four picocuries (a measure of radioactivity); in New York State alone, 15% of all homes surpass that level. According to University of Pittsburgh researchers, virtually every state has some radon. The good news: Excessive radon pollution can be controlled. Depending on the severity of the problem, corrective measures can be simple and inexpensive (opening basement windows to improve ventilation) or complicated and expensive (installing a pipeline to divert the gas away from the site). For further information, read A Citizen's Guide to Radon: What It Is and What to Do About It and Radon Reduction Methods: A Homeowner's Guide, both available free from EPA, Office of External Affairs (80 EA), Denver, CO. Also, an easy-to-use radon home test kit is available for $16.95 (or three for $45, for those wanting to test basement, living, and sleeping areas) from The Fund for Renewable Energy and the Environment, FREE Market, Dept. RTK, Washington, DC.
Fuel Cell Progress
Researchers at the Argonne National Laboratory have designed and built a miniature, lightweight fuel cell that-if scaled up--could deliver twice the power and fuel economy supplied by an internal combustion engine of equal weight. Fuel cells produce energy by converting a fuel such as methane, alcohol, or hydrogen directly into electricity by way of chemical reactions that release electrons. Unlike other working fuel cells that generate relatively little current in relation to their considerable size, the Argonne model-which consists of thin, ceramic components honeycombed together like a piece of corrugated cardboard--produces a relatively high current density. The researchers have tested cells only a few inches across that generate up to a watt of electricity, and are now working to develop larger, more powerful units.
Carbon Monoxide Down
The Clean Air Act and, more specifically, auto-emissions controls are credited with a continuing decline in carbon monoxide levels among city dwellers, says Dr. Paul Heckerling of the University of Illinois-Chicago. In a 1985-86 study of 101 nonsmoking adults, the mean carbon monoxide blood level was 0.77%, compared with 1.53% in a similar Chicago study in 1974-75 and 2.04% in 1970.
The President's Commission on Americans Outdoors is considering developing a national network of "greenway corridors": strips of land along streams, old canal paths, abandoned rail lines, and powerline rights of way that could be set aside and used as parks. The commission suggests that the network be started by establishing greenways near urban centers, where most of the population lives; later, extensions could be added to reach into suburban and rural areas. Local and state groups would be responsible for establishing and maintaining the recreation parks, but with additional financial and administrative support from the federal government.