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The River Eden is one of the most beautiful rivers in the UK, if not all of Europe. It is host to a wide variety of different plant and animal species and is a Site of Special Scientific Interest. Many communities live on or near the River Eden or one of its tributaries. Human impact on the landscape often has unintended or unforeseen consequences on ecosystems, including rivers. Agriculture, primarily through the use of fertilisers, changes the ecology of river systems which affects all plant and wildlife as well as humans.
Over time, pollutants accumulate in the River Eden through farming practices, something that has been of concern to local communities and scientists alike. In order to monitor and develop ways for decreasing diffuse pollution from agriculture, researchers from Durham, Lancaster, Newcastle, the Centre for Hydrology and Ecology, Askham Bryan College (Newton Rigg) and the Eden Rivers Trust, have come together with communities, including farmers, to develop new ways to monitor and improve river water quality. The project known as the Eden Demonstration Test Catchment, or EdenDTC for short, has installed 10 river monitoring stations to monitor the water quality of the River Eden. The EdenDTC has made live, real-time data about the River Eden freely available online. Read more
In this interview with Dr Mylene Riva, co-author of the recent study ‘Coalfield health effects: Variation in health across former coalfield areas in England‘, we looked at some aspects of the research in detail, including how some communities have fared better than others despite living in harsh socioeconomic conditions, perhaps demonstrating resilience.
What are the health patterns that you found within coal mining communities?
What we observed among coalfield communities in England is quite interesting from a public health and public policy perspective. Most research to date has focused on health differences between coalfield communities and other communities in England. In our study we went further and we also looked at variability in health between different coal mining communities. We observed that people living in former coalfield communities were about 27% more likely to report having a limiting long-term illness compared to people living in other communities across England. This ‘coalfield effect’ was evident when we considered the age, sex and socioeconomic status of respondents and the levels of deprivation, social cohesion and the urban-rural location of the communities.
When we focussed on health variation among former coalfield communities only, we observed that the probabilities of reporting limiting long-term illness and less than good health varied across communities, suggesting that some coalfield communities were enjoying better health status than others. This variation was largely explained, but not completely, by the type of people living in the communities, including their age, sex and socioeconomic status. In addition, we observed that people living in the most deprived coalfields were more likely to report poorer health outcomes than people living in better off coalfields and that people living in most rural coalfields were more likely to report less than good health. Read more
A few months back, a statement was issued by the Federal Aviation Administration FAA in the US about chemical oxygen generators being disabled or removed from lavatories because they posed a ‘security vulnerability’ and could potentially be used to start a fire. The problem of course is that if you happen to be in the lavatory of an American commercial aircraft thousands of metres above ground, and there is a loss of cabin pressure, it could lead to hypoxia — when the body is deprived of adequate oxygen supply — causing injury or death.
While loss of cabin pressure itself seems a rarity nowadays, this recent regulation shows that risks posed by terrorism can transform how we view other risks, such as health. And while releasing information about eliminating this security risk definitely seems reasonable, will other airlines outside the US have to follow suit since the risk has been made available publicly? Where do the boundaries lie between security, risk and national law? When does making something secure create new risks while preventing others? Obviously, preventing the possibility of terrorist attacks through various means has priority, as these risks can lead to disasters resulting in the loss of many lives and tremendous damage. Read more
An exciting workshop will be taking place at Durham University on synthetic biology. Synthetic biology is an innovative scientific and technological field that has many potential opportunities for a variety of different sectors including industry, agriculture and medicine, but also concerns regarding how it will be regulated and understood in society. The public dialogue meeting includes an open discussion chaired by Prof Rob Edwards from the Food and Environment Research Agency and University of York and Prof Phil Macnaghten from IHRR and Durham University’s Dept of Geography. Read more
Uncertainty surrounding technology and risk is something we live with everyday, but rarely question in society. I talked to Professor Phil Macnaghten and Dr Matthew Kearnes about their research in how people outside of the scientific community understand nanotechnology in particular. I think social research in this area is something that has large implications for how we will deal with new hazards and risks posed by technology in the present and future, not to mention for understanding the mistakes of the past.