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Friday Finds: Highway to the Dementia Zone

Freeway pollution could make you forget you're in traffic

Freeway pollution could make you forget you're in traffic
As if living next to the sound of constant honking wasn't enough, a recent study has linked freeway air pollution with brain damage, a finding that has health implications for those living near the nation's highways, reports the LA Times. The study's authors found that exposing mice to particle pollution thinner than a human hair caused the mice to develop brain damage related to memory loss and Alzheimer's disease, which suggests that "freeway pollution could have a profound effect on the development of neurons and brain health in children and young kids, especially those who attend schools built alongside freeways.” If you think kids shouldn't be breathing polluted air during daycare, tell the EPA to stop letting industry dirty our air.

"Spillionaires" cash in on BP oil tragedy
As the Gulf oil spill's one-year anniversary nears and dead dolphins covered in oil continue to wash up onshore, some people are busy cashing in big on the largest oil spill in U.S. history, reports ProPublica. Nicknamed "spillionaires," these people are busy cutting themselves a big piece of the BP cleanup pie—about $16 billion to date—with little to no documentation as to how they spent the money. Some local powerbrokers made out especially well, either by overcharging the oil company or using their influence to profit from BP claims money. In addition, the Associated Press recently reported that officials along the coast have gone on their own little shopping sprees, dropping "tens of millions of dollars" of BP's money on iPads, Tasers and shiny new SUVs, none of which are, of course, related to spill cleanup. Meanwhile, the real victims of the spill continue to be short-changed and the government has still does nothing to prevent this tragedy from happening again. This is one anniversary that won't be celebrated.

Study finds grass not so green
Forget the munchies. An even more costly side effect of smoking pot is consuming a lot of electricity, reports the New York Times. A recent study by a staff scientist at the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab found that growing cannabis costs about $5 billion in yearly electricity costs and releases carbon emissions equal to about 3 million cars on the road. The large carbon footprint is due, in part, to the fact that these days most grow operations are indoors where growers have to use super bright lights to grow the ganja. In addition to greenhouse gas emissions, the grass is not so green when it comes to water consumption. Each plant requires approximately 3 to 5 gallons of water per day. That's a major downer.

U.S. food labs serve up sloppy crisis handling
According to a recent inspector general investigation, the Food Emergency Response Network (FERN), established by President Bush after the 9/11 attacks to protect food supplies against biological, chemical or radiological contamination, "cannot ensure laboratories within the network actually have the capacity to respond to emergencies," reports the Center for Public Integrity. In light of the recent Fukushima reactor disaster and subsequent radiation recently found in West Coast milk supplies, it's no surprise that FERN's underwhelming performance isn't exactly inspiring confidence in the government's claims that radiated milk poses no harm. Got soy, anyone?

Desperate homeowners paint the grass green
Arizonans anxious to avoid costly fines from homeowner associations for letting their lawns go brown are painting their grass green, reports the New York Times. One homeowner in western Phoenix came up with the idea after he received a citation for neglecting his lawn. In addition, the economic downtown has also played a role in the upsurge in turf painting as realtors look for cheap ways to gussy up properties on the market. The constant struggle to have a perfect yard is even inspiring some to install artificial turf, but all of these pale in comparison (both environmentally and economically speaking) to xeriscaping, which uses a variety of desert landscaping techniques to create a beautiful, environmentally friendly lawn, no plastic or paint required.
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