Let’s cut out on toxic styrofoam! (why and how)

A couple of years ago, I had my worst experience with Styrofoam. I was travelling from Islamabad to Karachi (its a 24 hour journey by bus) with my parents. We bought some rice from a famous restaurant at I guess 9:00 am. That particular restaurant opened at 9:00 am. Well, we had no idea. We chose to take our food in Styrofoam boxes for convenience. When I opened the box at noon, I observed that they just heated the already packed food from yesterday. Till night, the Styrofoam became moist and started breaking from every where. It was a very uncomfortable situation. I could also spot pieces of foam in the rice. Well, we did ate that but the thought of taking in toxic plastic still haunts me!!


Like always, there is a very good and informative info-graphic at the end of this post…

Why avoid Styrofoam?

Styrofoam is the trade name of polystyrene foam. In United States, polystyrene is the 6th largest source of hazardous waste. Polystyrene is composed of styrene and benzene, both of which are known human carcinogens. Therefore, heating food in Styrofoam must be strictly avoided as it leads to release of harmful chemicals into food.


Moreover, the process of generation of this polymer is energy intensive.

How can I reduce my consumption of styrofoam?

We can take some measures at personal level to avoid the use of these toxic polymers, which include:
1- Avoid buying meat products and other products using Styrofoam. For instance, meat can be bought directly from butcher.
2- Bringing your own containers for takeout food from restaurants (something we know but never do!).
3- Using reusable dishes instead of disposable Styrofoam cups, plates, and boxes.

How can I reuse waste Styrofoam?

There are several ways through which we can reuse Styrofoam for home items. Some of these methods include using it as filler for beanbag chairs and pillows, making models, packaging, making a palette for paints, and insulation.



Factsheet on effects of anti-fouling paints released during activities such as shipbreaking in Pakistan

Anti-fouling paints are used to prevent the growth of living organisms on the ship hulls. Growth of living organisms on ship hulls typically generating resistance in ship movement and subsequently utilization of more fuel.

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Use of Mercury for Artisanal and Small-Scale Gold Mining

This specific issue became evident to me when I surfing twitter. Artisanal and small-scale gold mining (ASGM) is the extraction of minerals by miners working in small and medium sized operations, using rudimentary techniques.  Simple practices with minimum economic investment are employed be these miners. It is the largest intentional-release source of mercury in the world.


How can mercury be used for gold-mining? Mercury is used to separate and collect the gold from the rocks. Mercury binds with gold to form an amalgam which facilitates it to separate from rock, sand or other material. The amalgam is then heated to vaporize the mercury leaving the gold behind.


Mercury is a powerful neurotoxin that is harmful to people, especially to developing fetuses, and young children. Once emitted, it can travel great distances through the atmosphere, causing global contamination of ecosystems, fish, birds, mammals, and the human food chain.Local exposures in mining communities that use mercury can be acute.


What to do now?

  1. The most important measure a mining community can take to reduce its mercury use is to concentrate the gold-containing portion of the ore before adding mercury. This can be done by crushing and grinding the ore and then using carpeted or magnetic sluice boxes or gravity concentration techniques such as panning or centrifuges. In this way, more gold will be captured, less mercury will be required and residual mercury can be more completely captured.
  2. Protective measures include the use of retorts when burning amalgam and the use of gloves by those handling mercury or amalgam.
  3. Most promising technology to replace the use of mercury is cyanidation, but this method may not be affordable or technically available to all artisanal miners. Also, cyanidation methods must be used with care and carefully introduced due to its significant risks to human health and the environment.

For further info check reference texts http://www.unep.org/hazardoussubstances/Portals/9/Mercury/AwarenessPack/English/UNEP_Mod3_UK_Web.pdf


Ever Used This Device?

I hope you did use it at some point of your lives. This pulse oximeter measures the oxygen level in blood and also records heart rate. It’s so amazing and thought provoking that such a small device can do such wonders. Let’s see how it does so!


So, the basic principle of pulse oximetry is based on the red and infrared light absorption characteristics of oxygenated and deoxygenated hemoglobin. Oxygenated hemoglobin absorbs more infrared light and allows more red light to pass through. Deoxygenated hemoglobin absorbs more red light and allows more infrared light to pass through. Pulse oximeter uses a light emitter with red and infrared LEDs that shines through a reasonably translucent site with good blood flow.

figure-1-dr-petty-brochure An emitter and photo detector are involved in the transmission and receiving of these LEDs. After the transmitted red (R) and infrared (IR) lights pass through the measuring site and are received at the photodetector, the R/IR ratio is calculated. For example,

  1. a R/IR ratio of 0.5 equates to approximately 100% SpO2,
  2. a ratio of 1.0 to approximately 82% SpO2,
  3.  and a ratio of 2.0 equates to 0% SpO2.


References and further reading



How pulse oximeters work explained simply.


Sadness Beyond Reasons

Does it ever happen to you that you suddenly feel sad and lonely even if you are sitting in the middle of a crowd? You become distant from others? Your mind wanders and all you want to do is to look at something far away? Your voice suddenly lacks any emotions? You speak in a low tone, a lonely tone?

There are some days when I feel like it. Maybe that is why I love this picture so much. Maybe that is why I love autumn and lonely benches. Maybe that is why I want wind to breeze through me. Maybe that it why I love looking at the rain droplets running down my glass window.

But then I think. I look around me. Observe my life. Look at all the beautiful things God has blessed me with. Look at family, my uncles, my aunts, my friends. Look at those who love me, care about me, and can sacrifice everything for me. And suddenly realize that I have no legitimate reason to be unhappy. I shouldn’t be unhappy. I should be thankful to Allah for giving me whatever is best for me.

Test: How Well Do You Know Your Environment?

Hi. I am thinking about starting a daily quiz on environment. I hope you enjoy it and that it helps us know more about our environment! Please answer my question by typing in the correct option in the comments section. The winner’s name will be shared in the next quiz along with the correct option.

Which element causes the minamata disease?

a) Arsenic

b) Mercury

c) Cadmium

d) Uranium