Best of our wild blogs: 22 Jun 15

Demolition works next to Labrador's natural shore, Jun-Oct 2015
wild shores of singapore

Checking up on Terumbu Semakau
wild shores of singapore

ICCS at Ubin Day 2015: working together to promote solutions!
News from the International Coastal Cleanup Singapore

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Plastic not so fantastic?

SAMANTHA BOH Straits Times 22 Jun 15;

IS IT really safe to use plastic food containers?

The authorities and doctors here say they are safe for now, despite a recent study which found that exposure to hormone-disrupting chemicals in plastic products can lead to lower IQ, adult obesity and male infertility, among other problems.

"So far, our laboratory results have shown that food-contact articles used in Singapore meet our safety standards and are safe for handling food," a spokesman for the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority told The Straits Times.

The study by a panel of experts found that prenatal exposure to the controversial Bisphenol A chemical, or BPA -a hormone disruptor - had a 20 to 69 per cent probability of causing 42,400 new cases of childhood obesity annually, with associated lifetime costs of €1.54 billion (S$2.33 billion) in Europe.

The researchers, who hail from the likes of Harvard and New York universities, also estimated a 70 to 100 per cent likelihood that IQ loss was linked to exposure to organophosphate, commonly used to increase the plasticity or fluidity of a material.

Male infertility was also linked to phthalate - a group of chemicals used in plastics which were found to have an estimated 40 to 69 per cent probability of causing 618,000 additional assisted reproductive technology procedures annually in Europe.

Published in the Endocrine Society's Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism in March, the study is the most comprehensive to date and adds to the growing literature about the harmfulness of endocrine disruptors.

An endocrine disruptor is a synthetic chemical which, when absorbed into the body, mimics or blocks hormones and disrupts the body's normal functions. They are in things such as food containers, plastics, toys and cosmetics.

Research has long drawn links between these chemicals in plastics and health problems - but less documented are how much and how long before they become a risk to consumers.

Dr Ben Ng, an endocrinologist from Arden Endocrinology Specialist Clinic in Singapore, said the study suggests that more regulation in the manufacturing of endocrine disruptors can provide health and economic benefits, but more research is needed.

"Most of the data in the paper is interpretation and informed speculation, and we should accept the data as such," he said.

The European Food Safety Authority has maintained that there is no consumer health risk from oral BPA exposure, when food is consumed from plastic containers, for example, as it is way below the tolerable daily intake. They said health effects were seen only at levels hundreds of times above the tolerable level.

However, some people, like construction manager Shie Chee Hwa, do not want to take any chances.

He does not reuse plastic mineral water bottles and avoids buying hot food in plastic containers as the chemicals have been known to leech into food when the containers are heated.

But, he said, "sometimes we do not have a choice. We cannot be carrying a bowl around".

Dr Abel Soh, a specialist in endocrinology and consultant at Raffles Diabetes and Endocrine Centre, said people should avoid heating food in plastic containers or using them to store fatty foods, as endocrine-disrupting chemicals have been found to accumulate in fats.

"As far as possible, we should (also) use plastic products that are BPA-free," he said.



A study found that prenatal exposure to Bisphenol A chemical, or BPA - an endocrine disruptor - had a 20 to 69 per cent probability of causing 42,400 new cases of childhood obesity annually.


The researchers also estimated a 70 to 100 per cent likelihood that IQ loss is linked to exposure to organophosphate - which is commonly used to increase the plasticity or fluidity of a material.


Male infertility was also linked to phthalate - a group of chemicals used in plastics with 40 to 69 per cent probability of causing 618,000 additional assisted reproductive technology procedures annually in Europe.

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Ideas to solve littering at NEA hackathon

About 150 participants presented 18 ideas to solve littering problems, reduce waste and encourage recycling at National Environment Agency's fourth hackathon event.
Monica Kotwani, Channel NewsAsia 21 Jun 15;

SINGAPORE: Reducing waste, encouraging recycling and solving the problem of littering at leisure and sporting events were issues participants at this year's "Clean and Green" hackathon, organised by the National Environment Agency (NEA), had to come up solutions for.

After two days of deliberating and prototype development, a variety of ideas emerged.

An app that allows users to upload a picture of an item to find out if it can be recycled, and litter bins that reward people for disposing their trash were some of the 18 ideas generated at NEA's fourth hackathon event, which saw about 150 people take part.

A group called Green Sense on Sunday (Jun 21) took home the first prize of S$2,000 cash. The group came up with a mobile messaging platform that uses location-based technology at sporting or leisure events.

The platform will inform spectators of the nearest trash bins based on their location. Spectators can use the app to inform organisers when the bins are full.

"People are good by nature - they just don't end up recycling or put their trash in the wrong place because they are in a new environment or because they are really focused on enjoying - whether at a conference or festival,” said group member Mr Herve Le Gouguec, a business analyst.

"Our app aims to gently remind them. It's based on nudging - which is a social behaviour science. So we hope to achieve this by sending text messages to people at regular intervals or if they are in specific areas.

"For example, if I move to an area where they serve food and I have the app open, I will get a text message to enjoy the food and please remember to put the litter in the right bin.

It can scale to different types of events and locations. It's also a way for event organisers to have a friendly touch. If you show up at a stadium, nobody really says 'hey, welcome' or 'thank you', 'goodbye', or 'be a good citizen'. That's also a way for the platform to be leveraged."

"Green Sense had a really simple but readily executable solution to dealing with litter at big events - so I think that was something the judges liked a lot about that,” said Mr Adam Lyle, executive chairman of Padang & Co. and co-partner of the NEA Clean and Green Hackathon.

"For the second one - 'QBM'- it was a fun and simple way to educate people about what can be recycled - it was both its simplicity and also its fun nature. And the third prize - 'Trashy People' - which is a kind of funny name - it had a refreshing to the cradle-to-grave approach to recycling. They all came from different angles - those three - but they each expressed good insights into how to make Singapore cleaner and greener."

"These are challenges and issues all of us in Singapore face,” said Mr Ronnie Tay, CEO of NEA. "Having such events allow us to reach out and tap the wisdom of the crowd. We can't possibly think of all the solutions and in fact you do need to have the ideas and the views and perspectives of the people involved.

"Having ideas from the people of different ages, lifestyles, professions and occupations is useful. And because they also know what their friends and relatives like - what their habits are.”

NEA says it found a number of ideas from the hackathon useful. It has implemented ideas from previous such events.

- CNA/ec

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Malaysia: Rare dolphin found dead in Pengkalan Balak, Malacca

JASON JOHN New Straits Times 21 Jun 15;

ALOR GAJAH: A male dolphin, weighing about 100 kilograms, was found dead and washed ashore on the beach of Tanjung Serai, here, on Saturday evening.

The 2.13 metre long dolphin, a rare species was found with wounds in its mouth and bruises on the bottom right flipper.

A chalet owner who found the dead dolphin is said to have brought the mammal to the Turtle Management and Information Centre in Padang Kamunting in Pengkalan Balak.

State Fisheries Department head of Fisheries Extension Division, Mohd Azam Jusoh said the department received information about the discovery of a dead fish at about 6pm on Saturday and immediately went to the scene along with four department staff.

He said the dolphin, a Irrawaddy Dolphin, was endangered and rare species is believed to have spent the last few days without food based on the wounds in the mouth caused by ulcer. "Upon arrival we found the dolphins already dead. We believe it had died less than 24 hours based on the animal’s physical form.

"We noted swelling under the right flipper and the animal’s skin had started to peel off as a result of being out of the water for some time," he said.

For the record, Mohd Azam said this was the first time a dolphin was found dead off the coast of the Straits of Malacca since 1998.

Mohd Azam said he had taken a few small samples from the dolphin's fin for research purposes and it would be sent to the laboratory at the Turtle and Marine Ecosystem Centre in Rantau Abang, Terengganu.

"As for the carcasses of fish we will soon bury it for about six weeks before digging up its bones to be exhibited," he said.

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