Living Fences, Energy Efficiency Resources, Lead Exposure Risks at Shooting Ranges, and More

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A USDA scientist studying the effects of fertilizers on the nutrient quality of produce found that chard grown without added fertilizers had a higher content of vitamin C in its leaves than chard that had been heavily fertilized.

Living Fences

Nobody makes a meaner fence than Mother Nature–just ask any hiker who’s encountered a sizable bramble patch. Or talk to the people at Oak Ridge, Tennessee’s Barrier Concepts Inc., a company that is helping the government replace chain link fences at nuclear facilities and military installations with formidable “living fences.” The firm uses trifoliate orange, a native Chinese tree that develops tough, intertwined branches armed with sharp, four-inch thorns. A hedge four feet thick, says a company spokesman, can stop a light truck, and because the branches are so thickly tangled, the barrier is all but impossible to remove–even with a chain saw.

Global ReLeaf

What can one person do to help reverse the trend toward global warming? You’ll find a variety of constructive answers on the American Forests’ (formerly American Forestry Association) Global ReLeaf program website. They list effective steps that can be taken on local, national, and international levels; provide tree-planting instructions based on up-to-date horticultural research; and include a complete list of all state coordinators of the program.

Resources for an Energy-Efficient Home

Nothing makes homeowners think energy conservation faster than the arrival of the heating season’s first few fuel bills. For some good advice on reducing those expenses, check out the U.S. Department of Energy’s Energy Savers site. Among the many helpful fact sheets they offer are Insulation, which discusses the various insulating materials and how to buy and install them, and Home Energy Assessments, a valuable guide to professional and do-it-yourself analyses of household power consumption and conservation. 

Indoor Shooting Ranges Pose Lead Exposure Risk

A recent study reported in the American Journal of Public Health points to a significant danger for handgun hobbyists who regularly use indoor shooting ranges: startlingly high blood levels of lead. The study examined lead exposure among members of a police training class before, during, and after a firearm instruction course at a Colorado state-owned indoor firing range. Despite the fact that the range had recently installed a new ventilation system, researchers found air lead levels 40 times the minimum safety standard set by OSHA, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (air lead levels at other ranges, say Colorado health officials, are often even higher). None of the 17 police trainees had elevated blood lead levels before the course, which was conducted over a three-month period, but afterward the blood lead levels of 15 of the trainees were “elevated,” as defined by OSHA, and eight had levels above the limit at which OSHA requires regular medical monitoring. The sources of the lead, say the researchers, are lead styphnate–used as a primer in cartridges–and minute lead particles sheared from the bullet itself as it travels through a gun barrel; both materials become airborne and are breathed into shooters’ lungs. Officials say that although occasional handgun users may not be in danger from such exposure, there is reason for concern over the possible health effects to regular users of indoor ranges–such as any of the 800,000 competitive pistol shooters in the country–and to the employees of such ranges.

Nitrogen Fertilizer Reduces Nutrient Content in Produce

Sharon Hornick, a USDA scientist studying the nutrient quality of produce grown using organic fertilizers as compared to that grown with chemical fertilizers, has come up with an unexpected finding: Too much nitrogen fertilizer, regardless of its source, causes a decline in the resulting produce’s vitamin C content. Chard grown without added fertilizers contained 81.4 milligrams of vitamin C per 100 grams of leaves, while heavily fertilized chard had only 54 milligrams. Hornick found similar nutritional declines in heavily fertilized green beans and kale.