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Environments, Volume 10, Issue 11 (November 2023) – 11 articles

Cover Story (view full-size image): The study explored the effectiveness of TiO2 cenospheres in mitigating harmful compounds (ammonium, nitrate, and nitrite) in aquariums. The 30-day experiment, comparing three filter types, revealed that the TiO2 cenosphere filter significantly reduced all three pollutants. Nitrite concentrations dropped by 55%. Nitrate and ammonia decreased by 17% and 28%, respectively. These findings suggest that TiO2 cenospheres could enhance sustainability and eco-friendliness in aquarium filtration systems, benefiting fish health. View this paper
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10 pages, 563 KiB  
Article
The Labile and Resistant Soil Organic Carbon Pools in the North America Great Plains
Environments 2023, 10(11), 197; https://doi.org/10.3390/environments10110197 - 16 Nov 2023
Viewed by 1245
Abstract
Among the three major global carbon cycle components, the terrestrial one has been the most uncertain because of the complexity of the soil organic carbon (SOC) dynamics. Previous tracer studies, however, have shown that SOC consists of labile and resistant pools. Labile pools [...] Read more.
Among the three major global carbon cycle components, the terrestrial one has been the most uncertain because of the complexity of the soil organic carbon (SOC) dynamics. Previous tracer studies, however, have shown that SOC consists of labile and resistant pools. Labile pools turn over in decades, and resistant pools turn over in hundreds or thousands of years. Labile pools are active in carbon and nutrient cycles and responsive to land-use management changes, whereas resistant pools are less so. Very few studies have actually quantified labile and resistant SOC pools because the isotopic tracer methods, such as the paired-plot bulk-carbon (PPBC) method, can only be applied to a few special cases. I found a study of SOC in the North America Great Plains, in which some of the data are suitable for the PPBC method. The results revealed that the turnover times of the labile SOC pools ranged from 17 years to 93 years, and the sizes ranged from 1.2 g kg−1 to 17.6 g kg−1. The turnover times of the resistant pools ranged from 899 years to 5138 years, and the sizes ranged from 5.0 g kg−1 to 12.4 g kg−1. Land management practices changed the sizes of the labile pools but not their turnover times. This study also pointed out a possibility that allows the application of the PPBC method to a set of much broader cases. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Soil Organic Carbon Assessment, 2nd Edition)
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19 pages, 1654 KiB  
Article
How Can Climate Change Impact Human Health via Food Security? A Bibliometric Analysis
Environments 2023, 10(11), 196; https://doi.org/10.3390/environments10110196 - 13 Nov 2023
Viewed by 1536
Abstract
Global climate change, induced by anthropogenic causes, has severe consequences for Earth and its inhabitants. With the consequences already visible around the globe, one of them is the impact on food security. The lack of food security has serious impacts on health, especially [...] Read more.
Global climate change, induced by anthropogenic causes, has severe consequences for Earth and its inhabitants. With the consequences already visible around the globe, one of them is the impact on food security. The lack of food security has serious impacts on health, especially in vulnerable populations who highly depend on a nutritious diet for a healthy life. The following research aims to assess the current research status of climate change, food security and health. In this context, the interlinkage of the three key concepts is analyzed, as well as the related health consequences. To achieve the aims of this research, a bibliometric analysis was conducted using VOSviewer, (version 1.6.16) including 453 papers. The data were retrieved from the Scopus database on 10 November 2022. Bibliometric analysis can illustrate emerging and key topic areas using keywords and co-occurrence analysis; hence, it is an adequate method to meet the listed research aims. Five different clusters have been derived from the analysis, each representing a different perspective on interlinkage. From the different clusters, the main consequences of climate change on food security could be derived, such as a decrease in crop yields, less availability of fish and livestock, or food contamination through mycotoxins. These can cause serious health implications, predominantly increasing the rate of malnutrition globally. The work showed the importance of action to prevent the consequences of climate change in relation to food security and health nexus. To do so, adaptation strategies are needed that consider the interdisciplinary scope of the problem, building sustainable measures that benefit each concept. Full article
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11 pages, 2070 KiB  
Article
Micronucleus Induction in Vicia faba Root Tips by Crude Oil-Polluted Soil from Ecuadorian Amazon
Environments 2023, 10(11), 195; https://doi.org/10.3390/environments10110195 - 10 Nov 2023
Viewed by 1317
Abstract
In the past four decades, the Amazon rainforest has emerged as a crucial zone for crude oil extraction in the South American region. In the Ecuadorian Amazon rainforest, hydrocarbon blocks (called “bloques”) cover vast zones, including agricultural and livestock farms, protected natural regions [...] Read more.
In the past four decades, the Amazon rainforest has emerged as a crucial zone for crude oil extraction in the South American region. In the Ecuadorian Amazon rainforest, hydrocarbon blocks (called “bloques”) cover vast zones, including agricultural and livestock farms, protected natural regions and the territories of uncontacted indigenous tribes. This study proposes a micronuclei assay on Vicia faba following a 24 h exposure to various soil samples collected from Bloque 57 in Ecuador. Sampling was conducted between the Dayuma and Aguarico zones, approximately 30 km from Nueva Loja city. The research aimed to assess the impact of different soil samples, particularly those from areas affected by crude oil spills, to induce micronuclei and mitotic index changes in V. faba roots. Results: The soil pollution caused by crude oil is not the sole factor contributing to cytotoxicity and genotoxicity in V. faba. Most samples from areas polluted by crude oil outside the small-scale farm showed no significant difference in micronuclei rate compared to negative control and Amazon unpolluted soil. Conversely, samples from the small-scale farm displayed a statistically significant genotoxic effect. Furthermore, samples collected from open-air wastewater pools demonstrated higher levels of cytotoxicity compared to the controls and those from small-scale farms. The mitotic index was lower in seedlings exposed to wastewater in open-air pools, especially for the 20 cm deep samples. This phenomenon could be linked to bitumen-like substances and oils floating on the surface, attaching to the small roots and causing suffocation. Full article
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18 pages, 2033 KiB  
Review
The Plastic Within: Microplastics Invading Human Organs and Bodily Fluids Systems
Environments 2023, 10(11), 194; https://doi.org/10.3390/environments10110194 - 10 Nov 2023
Viewed by 1874
Abstract
Microplastics (MPs), small plastic particles resulting from the degradation of larger plastic items and from primary sources such as textiles, engineered plastic pellets, etc., have become a ubiquitous environmental pollutant. As their prevalence in the natural environment grows, concerns about their potential impacts [...] Read more.
Microplastics (MPs), small plastic particles resulting from the degradation of larger plastic items and from primary sources such as textiles, engineered plastic pellets, etc., have become a ubiquitous environmental pollutant. As their prevalence in the natural environment grows, concerns about their potential impacts on human health have escalated. This review discusses current research findings on the presence of MPs in organs such as the liver, blood, heart, placenta, breast milk, sputum, semen, testis, and urine, while also exploring plausible mechanisms of translocation. Furthermore, the review emphasizes the importance of understanding the potential toxicological effects of MPs on various physiological processes within these organs and their broader implications for human health. This review also examines the pathways through which MPs can enter and accumulate in human organs and bodily fluids, shedding light on the intricate routes of exposure and potential health implications. It is worth noting that the invasive medical procedures may permit direct access of MPs to the bloodstream and tissues, serving as a potential contamination source. However, it is evident that a comprehensive understanding of MPs’ invasion into human organs is vital for effective mitigation strategies and the preservation of both human health and the environment. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Plastic Contamination: Challenges and Solutions Volume II)
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14 pages, 2921 KiB  
Article
Radionuclides in Italian Drinking Water and Regulations: Data Collection to Improve Risk Assessment
Environments 2023, 10(11), 193; https://doi.org/10.3390/environments10110193 - 07 Nov 2023
Viewed by 1301
Abstract
Drinking water, in addition to the best-known chemical and biological agents, contains radionuclides of both natural and artificial origin, which can contribute significantly to the overall effective dose received by the population. The Italian Decree Law 28/2016, implementing the 2013/51/EURATOM Directive, establishes the [...] Read more.
Drinking water, in addition to the best-known chemical and biological agents, contains radionuclides of both natural and artificial origin, which can contribute significantly to the overall effective dose received by the population. The Italian Decree Law 28/2016, implementing the 2013/51/EURATOM Directive, establishes the activities for risk management and the parameter values for different radionuclide activity concentrations. In addition to the institutions involved, the National Inspectorate for Nuclear Safety and Radiation Protection (ISIN) annually publishes monitoring reports of environmental radioactivity in Italy, including radioactivity in drinking water. The purpose of the study was to integrate ISIN reports with 2018–2020 data by collecting measurements performed by institutional laboratories to obtain more complete information and adding, for the Campania region, some data not yet published. This new updated report was not significantly different from ISIN’s one, meaning that those publications are nevertheless extremely representative of the radioactivity in Italian drinking water. However, the study allowed us to obtain more detailed data, including measurements not considered in ISIN reports, for instance, radon-222 activity concentrations. This may be of great usefulness for all radiation protection stakeholders in order to ensure environmental protection, pollution prevention, and population safety. Full article
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26 pages, 2204 KiB  
Review
Managing Earthquake Debris: Environmental Issues, Health Impacts, and Risk Reduction Measures
Environments 2023, 10(11), 192; https://doi.org/10.3390/environments10110192 - 03 Nov 2023
Viewed by 1867
Abstract
Earthquakes have the potential to cause severe and widespread structural damage to buildings and infrastructure in the affected area. Earthquake debris mainly results from building collapses during intense ground motion and the emergency demolition of damaged and unstable buildings following a devastating earthquake. [...] Read more.
Earthquakes have the potential to cause severe and widespread structural damage to buildings and infrastructure in the affected area. Earthquake debris mainly results from building collapses during intense ground motion and the emergency demolition of damaged and unstable buildings following a devastating earthquake. Debris management constitutes a major challenge that must be met by all those participating in disaster management as it poses threats to both the natural environment and public health in an earthquake-affected area. This narrative review examines the hazards that arise throughout the early phases of debris removal, when personnel operate in disaster-affected areas, to the last steps of sorting and disposal. Furthermore, emphasis is also given to the environmental impact caused by unregulated debris disposal on natural habitats that are highly sensitive and susceptible to hazardous substances and materials found in the debris. In the same framework, measures are proposed for alleviating the negative impacts of debris management on the well-being of all individuals involved, including workers, volunteers, and the local community, as well as the surrounding natural environment, encompassing soil, surface and groundwater, as well as air quality. Full article
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12 pages, 6558 KiB  
Article
Uncovering the Resistome of a Peruvian City through a Metagenomic Analysis of Sewage Samples
Environments 2023, 10(11), 191; https://doi.org/10.3390/environments10110191 - 02 Nov 2023
Viewed by 3409
Abstract
Background: Antibiotic resistance is a major public health concern globally. In this study, we aimed to evaluate the abundance and diversity of antibiotic resistance genes (ARGs) in sewage water samples from two hospitals and an adjacent community or urban setting in Huanuco, a [...] Read more.
Background: Antibiotic resistance is a major public health concern globally. In this study, we aimed to evaluate the abundance and diversity of antibiotic resistance genes (ARGs) in sewage water samples from two hospitals and an adjacent community or urban setting in Huanuco, a Peruvian city located in the highlands. Methods: We collected samples from the community wastewater system and from sewage pipes from the two hospitals in Huanuco. DNA was extracted from 250 mL of sewage water samples (n = 6) and subjected to microbiome profiling using 16S rRNA short amplicon sequencing and shotgun metagenomics. We analyzed the taxonomic and functional content in all samples, including alpha and beta diversity metrics, and searched for ARGs. Results: Our results showed that samples taken from the community wastewater system were compositionally different and harbored greater bacterial taxonomic and functional diversity compared to samples collected from the hospitals’ wastewater system. We found a high abundance of bacteria associated with resistance to beta-lactams, macrolides, aminoglycosides, fluoroquinolones, and tetracyclines in all samples. However, there were no significant differences in the abundance or composition of ARGs between the community wastewater samples and those taken from the two hospitals. Conclusions: Our findings suggest that metagenomics analyses in wastewater sewage could be a useful tool for monitoring antibiotic resistance in urban settings. These data could be used to develop local public health policies, particularly in cities or countries with limited resources to establish large-scale One Health projects. Full article
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17 pages, 2760 KiB  
Article
A Comparative Study of Heavy Metal Pollution in Ambient Air and the Health Risks Assessment in Industrial, Urban and Semi-Urban Areas of West Bengal, India: An Evaluation of Carcinogenic, Non-Carcinogenic, and Additional Lifetime Cancer Cases
Environments 2023, 10(11), 190; https://doi.org/10.3390/environments10110190 - 01 Nov 2023
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 1961
Abstract
Air pollution is an immense problem due to its detrimental health effects on human populations. This study investigates the distribution of particle-bound heavy metals and associated health risks in three diverse areas (Durgapur as an industrial complex, Kolkata as an urban area, and [...] Read more.
Air pollution is an immense problem due to its detrimental health effects on human populations. This study investigates the distribution of particle-bound heavy metals and associated health risks in three diverse areas (Durgapur as an industrial complex, Kolkata as an urban area, and Bolpur as a semi-urban region) in West Bengal, India. Twenty-one (84 samples) sampling sites were chosen, covering industrial, traffic, residential, and sensitive zones. The respirable suspended particulate matter (RSPM) samples were collected using a portable Mini-Vol Tactical Air Sampler, and heavy metal concentrations (Cd, Cr, Mn, Ni, Pb, and As) were analyzed using ICP-OES. The non-carcinogenic and carcinogenic health risks were assessed using exposure concentration (EC), hazard quotient (HQ), hazard index (HI), and additional lifetime cancer cases. The results highlight variations in heavy metal concentrations across the regions, with industrial areas exhibiting higher levels. Principal component analysis (PCA) unveiled distinct metal co-variation patterns, reflecting sources such as industrial emissions, traffic, and natural contributors. The sum of non-carcinogenic risks (HI) of all heavy metals exceeded the US EPA’s risk limit (HI<1) in both Kolkata and Durgapur, except for Bolpur. Similarly, the sum of cancer risk in three distinct areas exceeded the USEPA limits (1.00E-06). The Monte Carlo simulation revealed the 5th and 95th percentile range of cancer risk was 9.12E-06 to 1.12E-05 in Bolpur, 3.72E-05 to 4.49E-05 in Durgapur and 2.13E-05 to 2.57E-05 in Kolkata. Kolkata had the highest additional lifetime cancer cases compared to Bolpur and Durgapur. This study provides information on the complex connections between heavy metal pollution and possible health risks in industrial, urban, and semi-urban regions. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Air Pollution in Urban and Industrial Areas II)
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14 pages, 1979 KiB  
Article
Building-Scale Wastewater-Based Epidemiology for SARS-CoV-2 Surveillance at Nursing Homes in A Coruña, Spain
Environments 2023, 10(11), 189; https://doi.org/10.3390/environments10110189 - 01 Nov 2023
Viewed by 1372
Abstract
Wastewater-based epidemiology (WBE) has become an effective tool in the surveillance of infectious diseases such as COVID-19. In this work, we performed a brief study of monitoring the SARS-CoV-2 viral load in wastewater from six nursing homes located in the metropolitan area of [...] Read more.
Wastewater-based epidemiology (WBE) has become an effective tool in the surveillance of infectious diseases such as COVID-19. In this work, we performed a brief study of monitoring the SARS-CoV-2 viral load in wastewater from six nursing homes located in the metropolitan area of A Coruña (Spain) between December 2020 and March 2021. The main objective was to detect SARS-CoV-2 outbreaks among residents and study the efficacy of the vaccination campaign. SARS-CoV-2 viral load (RNA copies per L of wastewater) was determined by reverse-transcription quantitative PCR (RT-qPCR) using the quantification cycle (Cq) values for the nucleocapsid (N) gene. Our results showed that the increase in viral load preceded the increase in clinical cases, favoring an early warning system that detects COVID-19 outbreaks in advance, making it possible to contain and stop the transmission of the virus among residents. In addition, the efficacy of the new COVID-19 vaccines was evidenced, since after the vaccination campaign in nursing homes in A Coruña, it was observed that many residents did not present any symptoms of the disease, although they excreted high amounts of virus in their feces. WBE is a cost-effective strategy that should be implemented in all cities to prevent new emerging diseases or future pandemic threats. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Wastewater-Based Epidemiology for Infectious Disease Surveillance)
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10 pages, 6407 KiB  
Article
Effects of Substituting Activated Carbon with Titanium-Dioxide-Coated Cenospheres in Conventional Aquarium Filters
Environments 2023, 10(11), 188; https://doi.org/10.3390/environments10110188 - 31 Oct 2023
Viewed by 1147
Abstract
We investigated the effectiveness of TiO2 cenospheres in reducing the concentrations of three common harmful compounds, ammonium, nitrate, and nitrite, in fish aquariums. These cenospheres can contribute to more sustainable and eco-friendly aquarium filtration systems while also improving the health of fish. [...] Read more.
We investigated the effectiveness of TiO2 cenospheres in reducing the concentrations of three common harmful compounds, ammonium, nitrate, and nitrite, in fish aquariums. These cenospheres can contribute to more sustainable and eco-friendly aquarium filtration systems while also improving the health of fish. We designed a 30-day experiment with three treatment groups based on the filter type: (1) a control group with a conventional aquarium filter, (2) a group with a TiO2 cenosphere filter, and (3) a group with a dark TiO2 cenosphere filter. The water quality was the same baseline in all groups, and each tank was monitored daily for changes in temperature, pH, ammonia, nitrate, and nitrite concentrations. We found that the TiO2 cenosphere filter was effective in reducing the concentrations of all three pollutants. By the end of the experimental period, the average concentration of nitrite in the control group was 10.7 µM, while the average concentration in the TiO2 cenosphere filter group dropped 55% to 4.7 µM from the baseline. The average concentration of nitrate was reduced by 17% and ammonia by 28% in the cenosphere-treated group. Hence, the cenospheres were effective in reducing the concentrations of all three pollutants, with the greatest reduction seen for nitrite. These findings support further investigation for incorporating TiO2 cenospheres into aquarium filtration to help reduce the environmental burden of the aquarium industry. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Photocatalytic Applications in Wastewater Treatment)
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21 pages, 4630 KiB  
Article
A Novel Solution to Avoid Mercury Emissions Produced by Highly Contaminated Demolition Debris in Mining Site
Environments 2023, 10(11), 187; https://doi.org/10.3390/environments10110187 - 30 Oct 2023
Viewed by 1342
Abstract
Mercury (Hg) emissions into the air can in some cases be a critical problem for public health and environmental protection. Hence, it is crucial to find cost-effective solutions to tackle this issue. An innovative solution is presented in this study using two case [...] Read more.
Mercury (Hg) emissions into the air can in some cases be a critical problem for public health and environmental protection. Hence, it is crucial to find cost-effective solutions to tackle this issue. An innovative solution is presented in this study using two case studies, diminishing drastically the emissions through covering high Hg-contaminated debris with industrial subproducts (fly-ashes and blast furnace slags). This solution is compared with other two conventional alternatives: (1) removal of the debris to an authorized landfill and (2) in situ encapsulation. The analysis is carried out by comparing costs, carbon footprint and the Environmental–Social–Governance (ESG) impact. It has been noted that the solution proposed has some advantages with respect to conventional alternatives, from both economic and environmental points of view, presenting lower costs and a lower carbon footprint. The worst solution is to remove the debris for ex situ treatment, while the encapsulation represents a middle solution with advantages and disadvantages. The findings of the study can be a step forward in the usage of industrial subproducts, that are currently placed in waste disposal, to solve the problem of sites contaminated by mercury and eliminate its emissions. Full article
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