“The study’s results so far show that most Greenpoint backyard samples contain lead levels higher than the EPA’s recommended 400 ppm. Image: Franziska Landes


“…some 92 percent of Greenpoint backyards have at least one sample that exceeds the lead level that the EPA designates as safe for residential soil. Some yards contain seven or eight times more lead than they should — higher than the levels found in some polluted Peruvian mining communities Landes has studied…”

“This chart shows the number of children per 1,000 expected to have blood lead levels exceeding five micrograms per deciliter, the level at which the CDC recommends taking action. Source: NYC Dept of Health, 2015”


“Lead is a potent neurotoxin that accumulates in soft tissues and bone over time. Lead poisoning was documented in ancient Rome, Greece, and China. Lead(II) acetate (also known as sugar of lead) was used by the Roman Empire as a sweetener for wine, and some consider this to be the cause of the dementia that affected many of the Roman Emperors

Lead affects almost every organ and system in the body, targeting primarily the central nervous system but also the cardiovascular system, kidneys, and the immune system. Long-term exposure will cause significant impairment to the nervous system, severely damage the brain and kidneys and, in cases of exposure to high lead levels, ultimately cause death…”

Greenpoint, Brooklyn


“Lead accumulates and makes its home in our bones, where the body prefers to store it. This is done in an effort by the body to protect vital organs. From there, it is released into the blood stream… Meaning, lead can continue to be released into the blood long after exposure… Lead begins leaching into their bodies from the breakdown of bone tissue. Symptoms like fatigue and brain fog begin to occur due to lead toxicity…

It has also been found that exposure to lead early in life may cause neurodegeneration in later life. Among the many neurocognitive effects of lead are: brain damage, mental retardation, memory loss, vision loss, behavior problems, antisocial behavior, and even violence…”

“Vehicles using leaded gasoline that contaminated cities’ air decades ago have increased aggravated assault in urban areas”


-“Lead/pb causes mental regression in adults.  Lack of motor control, partial to full paralysis, coma, and death can be attributed to lead/pb.
-Lead/pb is proven to cause cancer.
-Lead/pb can make your kidneys stop working.
-Lead/pb causes confusion, dizziness, forgetfulness, emotional disorder like self doubt, lack of self confidence.
-Lead/pb can make you lose your balance when you are trying to walk.
-Lead/pb causes blurred vision.
-Lead can make you see things that are not there.
-Lead/pb can cause stuttering, slurred speech, dyslexia.  Lead/pb can make it difficult to talk out loud.
-Lead/pb makes your sense of smell go away.
-Lead/pb can make your teeth fall out earlier in life.
-Lead/pb can make you experience horrible anger.”


“NOTE: Potential hot spots of lead hazards in housing are identified based on indicators, not lead monitoring data. Because local data on lead contamination are generally unavailable, Scorecard relies on housing and demographic indicators to identify areas with housing that has a high risk of lead hazards. Scientific studies have demonstrated that housing built prior to 1950 and households with income below the poverty threshold have an elevated risk of lead contamination. Scorecard uses data from the 2000 U.S. Census for both of these risk factors to estimate potential lead hazards in housing.”

Lead neurotoxicity in children / Brain, Volume 126, Issue 1, 1 January 2003
by Theodore I. Lidsky & Jay S. Schneider

“The direct neurotoxic actions of lead include apoptosis, excitotoxicity, influences on neurotransmitter storage and release processes, mitochondria, second messengers, cerebrovascular endothelial cells, and both astroglia and oligodendroglia. Although all of lead’s toxic effects cannot be tied together by a single unifying mechanism, lead’s ability to substitute for calcium [and perhaps zinc (Bressler and Goldstein, 1991)] is a factor common to many of its toxic actions. For example, lead’s ability to pass through the blood–brain barrier (BBB) is due in large part to its ability to substitute for calcium ions (Ca2+). Experiments with metabolic inhibitors suggest that back‐transport of lead via the Ca‐ATPase pump plays an important role in this process (Bradbury and Deane, 1993). More direct evidence for the role of the Ca‐ATPase pump in the transport of lead into the brain has been provided by in vitro studies of brain capillary endothelial cells, the primary constituent of the BBB (Kerper and Hinkle, 1997a, b)…

Red Hook,Brooklyn

Apoptosis (programmed cell death) can be induced by a variety of stimuli. Apoptosis occurs when a cell activates an internally encoded suicide programme as a response to either intrinsic or extrinsic signals. One of the better characterized apoptotic cascade pathways has mitochondrial dysfunction as its initiator. Mitochondrial dysfunction initiated by the opening of the mitochondrial transition pore leads to mitochondrial depolarization, release of cytochrome C, activation of a variety of caspases and cleavage of downstream death effector proteins, and ultimately results in apoptotic cell death. While a variety of stimuli can trigger opening of the mitochondrial transition pore and cause apoptosis, a sustained intracellular increase in Ca2+ is one of the better‐known triggers; accumulation of lead is another. Lead disrupts calcium homeostasis, causing a marked accumulation of calcium in lead‐exposed cells (Bressler and Goldstein, 1991; Bressler et al., 1999). Lead, in nanomolar concentrations, also induces mitochondrial release of calcium (Silbergeld, 1992), thus initiating apoptosis…

Lead accumulates in and damages mitochondria (Anderson et al., 1996), the organelles mediating cellular energy metabolism. Haem biosynthesis, a function of normal mitochondrial activity, is affected by lead, with disruptive effects on synaptic transmission in the brain (see below, Indirect neurotoxic effects of lead). However, decreased mitochondrial functioning also can transform ordinarily benign synaptic transmission mediated by glutamate into neuron‐killing excitotoxicity (Beal et al., 1993)…”

How to stop lead poisoning / Feb 22nd 2018

“Lead has proved to be such a useful, malleable metal that it turns up everywhere, from water pipes to window flashing and printing type. It went into car batteries and petrol additives. It also helped make bright pigments, used to paint walls, metalwork and toys. Yet lead is also a poison, and its ubiquity makes it a pernicious one (see article). In the worst cases it causes comas, convulsions and death. More often it acts insidiously. It is a menace to toddlers, who are most likely to ingest contaminated dust and paint chips. Their brains are especially vulnerable. Only years after exposure are the results apparent in lower IQs, behavioural disorders and learning disabilities.

Far Rockaway, Queens

The dangers of lead have long been known. America banned it from paint 40 years ago, and by the late 1990s leaded petrol had been phased out in almost all rich countries. But the effects linger. Half a million American children are diagnosed with lead poisoning. The situation is more alarming in the poor world, where the use of lead-based paints is spreading. Curbing lead poisoning more than pays for itself. There is little excuse for poor countries to repeat the mistakes of rich ones.

The Romans did themselves no good by using lead for water pipes and sometimes even as a food sweetener. In 1786 Benjamin Franklin wrote a letter to a friend noting how the use of lead in distilleries had caused North Carolina to complain against New England Rum “that it poison’d their People, giving them the Dry Bellyach, with a Loss of the Use of their Limbs.”

“Members of the Michigan National Guard deliver water, filters, replacement cartridges and water test kits to Flint residents. Photo: Maj. Joe Cannon / U.S. National Guard via Flickr Creative Commons.”

In 2015 the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, a research institute in Seattle, estimated that exposure to lead globally caused about 500,000 deaths that year and 12% of developmental disabilities, such as cerebral palsy and epilepsy. Another estimate is that lead poisoning costs Africa $135bn a year in lost output, the equivalent of 4% of GDP. The most urgent task is to stop putting more lead into the environment. As people in Asia and Africa become richer, they start to spruce up their homes. But the paint they use, even from pots labelled “lead-free”, often contains it. And they lack facilities to recycle lead batteries properly.

It is neither difficult nor expensive to stop using lead. All countries should ban lead in paint. There should be no exemptions for industrial use, because the contamination spreads and industrial paint inevitably finds its way into the consumer market. Yet only four sub-Saharan African countries have formally enacted bans and local manufacturers are often unaware of the harm that lead causes.

The next step is to find and remove more of the lead introduced decades ago, particularly in rich countries. This will not be cheap, especially when the clean-up involves replacing lead pipes, as it often does in America. But the costs are worth it. The Pew Charitable Trusts, an NGO, reckons that every dollar spent on “lead abatement”—painting over old painted walls or removing flaking woodwork—saves at least $17 in medical and special-education costs, and lost productivity.

In America investigations are typically carried out only in known cases of lead poisoning. However, children should not be used to test dangerous living conditions. It would be better to test older houses before problems appear. Cities and states need to make sure that landlords carry out remedial work. When poor owners cannot afford to fix their homes, the government should help as a prophylactic to save money on health care and education later. Charities that seek to help sick children and poor countries can contribute, too. There is no need to poison so many young minds.”




The Surprisingly Strong Case for Colonizing Venus
by James McGirk / July 1, 2014

“Why worry about building a colony on Mars when instead you could float one high above the surface of Venus? Science fiction writer Charles Stross recently revived the idea of building a Venutian colony when he suggested, cheekily, that billionaires ought to be compelled to donate to massive humanity-improving projects. He suggested two: a Manhattan Project-like focus on developing commercial nuclear fusion, or the construction of a floating city on Venus.

The second planet from the Sun might seem like a nasty place to build a home, with a surface temperature hot enough to melt lead and an atmosphere so dense it would feel like being submerged beneath 3000 feet of water. But the air on Venus thins out as you rise above the surface and cools considerably; about 30 miles up you hit the sweet spot for human habitation: Mediterranean temperatures and sea-level barometric pressure. If ever there were a place to build a floating city, this would be it. Believe it or not, a floating city might be a feasible project. Scientist and science fiction author Geoffrey Landis presented a paper called “Colonizing Venus” [PDF] at the Conference on Human Space Exploration, Space Technology & Applications International Forum in Albuquerque, New Mexico back in 2003. Breathable air floats in Venus’s soupy carbon dioxide atmosphere, which means on Venus, a blimp could use air as its lifting gas, the way terrestrial blimps use helium to float in our much thinner atmosphere.

A group of science fiction authors and scientists have been discussing the idea on the blog Selenian Boondocks, which founder Jonathan Goff describes as “a blog I founded to discuss space politics, policy, technology, business, and space settlement.” One of the biggest problems with a lunar or Martian colony is that an astronaut’s bones and muscles deteriorate in low gravity. No one knows yet how much gravity a human needs to prevent deterioration, but Venus’s gravity is the closest to Earth’s, at about 9/10ths. Mars only has a third of the gravity that the Earth does, while the moon has a mere sixth.Atmospheric pressure is also crucial. Think of the difference between jabbing a car tire and letting air out of a half-inflated balloon. Gases seek equilibrium. Since there’s barely any atmosphere on the moon or Mars, a rip in the hull of an enclosed human habitat would suck oxygen out at tremendous force. Thirty miles above Venus, it would merely seep out. This also means a Venutian cloud colony wouldn’t need as much reinforcement. Venus has other boons, too. Its rich atmosphere blocks radioactivity and could be mined for useful materials. And with a gentle temperature, far less energy would have to be spent on heating or cooling the colony.

“A hypothetical floating outpost 30 miles above the surface of Venus.”

Of course, it’s hard enough landing on the surface of another planet, let alone at 30 miles above the surface, but Landis hypothesized a way to do it. A sphere with titanium skin 0.04″ thick would be able to survive reentry and float a couple of miles above the surface, he argued. Goff, who who describes himself as a space entrepreneur and space settlement advocate, suggests that rocket stages (the parts that drop off of a spaceship during liftoff) could also be engineered to float after use and be re-used, providing a way to and from the colony so that building materials could be mined from the surface. The well-informed space enthusiasts who frequent the Selenian Boondocks also helped Goff map out the chemical processes required to extract breathable air (a mixture of nitrogen and oxygen), water and various fuel and construction materials.

After the chemical processes involved with producing life-supporting materials are demonstrated and perfected, the Selenian Boondocks team suggest small robotic labs could be sent to Venus, where they would bob in the atmosphere, extracting life-sustaining materials, gradually inflating great bladder-like structures (perhaps a Bigelow Aerospace module made of Kevlar). Years into the project, it might look like a gargantuan bunch of grapes. Permanent settlers could tether these floating blobs together, extending walkways and building platforms, creating something that might eventually look like a massive floating oil rig, complete with tubes dangling dozens of miles below to gather materials from the surface.

Goff plans to continue fleshing out the details on his site over the coming months (plans were temporarily put on hold after the birth of his youngest child). “I still need to talk about chemicals that seem easy to get to from the raw materials,” he says, “and how those impact colony design.” As to what life perched high above Venus might really feel like, frequent Selenian Boondocks commentator George Turner imagines how a tough colonist might dangle meat into Venus’s ferocious, acidic atmosphere as a cooking source:

One day perhaps we’ll see this handy Venus tip: To properly cook your turkey, put it outside at an altitude of 35 km where the temperature is 455 Kelvin (360 F), the pressure is 6 atmospheres, and the density is 6.8 kg/m^3, and leave it there for three to four hours…

Why put it in a plastic bag? The small amounts of sulfuric, hydrofluoric, and hydrochloric acid should act like lemon juice to help tenderize and cook the meat, and the inert CO2, N2, and argon atmosphere should do no harm at all, kind of like roasting it over a nice warm fire…

Acid is good for meat, and breaks down connective tissue, fats, and tenderizes it. Run the pH the other way and it turns into soap and you might as well bite into a urinal cake. Venus is not for the timid, or people too afraid to shove a fat bird out the airlock and let the harsh laws of thermodynamics do the work…

Ultimately there will have to be a compelling reason to spend trillions of dollars to move off-world: a vital resource located on Venus, mass over-crowding, nuclear apocalypse. But if we do colonize the skies of Venus, it will be the soft factors like the plausibility of a Venutian acid-baked cuisine that will make us stay.”




“Some fungi can use a molecule called melanin, a pigment also found in human skin, to harvest the energy from radiation and use it for growth”


“Discovery of radiotrophic fungi came from the observation of ‘black molds’ growing in and around the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in Ukraine [5]. Specifically, fungal species that were later distinguished as melanin-containing were observed to have colonized the walls of the damaged reactor number 4 at Chernobyl [1]. Similarly, fungal species were found in the damaged reactor’s cooling pool water, which had circulated through the nuclear reactor core for cooling purposes and was largely radioactive [1].

Radiotrophic fungi have been observed to inhabit some remarkable environments on the planet where high levels of radiation naturally occur, including the Arctic and Antarctic regions, as well as high altitude terrains [2]. Interestingly, orbiting spacecrafts in outer space are another environment where radiotrophic fungi are found [1]. They are able to grow extensively despite the high levels of ionizing radiation present beyond the protective shield of the Earth’s atmosphere, as seen in the fact that the Russian orbital station, Mir, must be continually cleaned due to accumulation of fungal growth [1].”

A microscopic fungus thrives amidst acid, heavy metals and radiation
by Kate Baggaley  /  January 29, 2018

“During the Cold War, the United States produced a truly mind-boggling amount of radioactive waste. We failed to properly dispose of much of that sludge, and it’s been leaking from underground storage tanks since the 1950s. Over the years it has contaminated more than 2 billion cubic feet worth of soil and nearly 800 billion gallons of groundwater at low levels.

Cleaning this mess up will be a daunting task, but scientists have just enlisted a new ally. It turns out our best bet for containing radioactive waste might be to stick yeast on it. Many of these tiny fungi can survive extremely radioactive and acidic conditions, scientists reported January 8 in the journal Frontiers in Microbiology. What’s more, they form gunk called biofilms that could potentially trap the waste. “The potential for yeast is enormous,” says coauthor Michael Daly, a pathology professor at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences (USU) in Bethesda, Maryland. “You have a huge group of organisms that are already there, naturally in the environment, that could be harvested for this sort of work.”

“Summer 1943, Hanford became the Manhattan Project’s newest atomic boomtown”

The scale of the problem these yeasts would tackle is almost indescribably vast, Daly says. Radioactive waste from the 46,000 nuclear weapons built between 1945 and 1986 is stored in 120 sites around the country. The largest is the sprawling Hanford Site in southeastern Washington, where the first atomic bombs were assembled during the Manhattan Project.

It houses more than 50 million gallons of waste. Leakage at Hanford has contaminated enough soil and sediments to bury 10,000 football fields a yard deep, and polluted enough groundwater to keep Niagara Falls flowing for a month. It’s mostly contained within the soils and aquifers at Hanford, Daly says, although small amounts are slowly seeping into the nearby Columbia River.

The Cold War waste is an assortment of radioactive versions of elements such as strontium, uranium, and plutonium: acids once used to extract metal out of uranium ores, heavy metals like mercury and lead, and toxic chemicals. Scientists have long hoped to find microbes tough enough capture it, a technique known as bioremediation. Bacteria and other microorganisms are relatively cheap to grow. Certain microbes can catch radioactive waste so rain doesn’t wash it away, feed on toxic chemicals, or transform heavy metals into less dangerous states.

For decades, Daly and his colleagues have tried to harness a microbe so tough its nickname is Conan the Bacterium. This microbe, more properly called Deinococcus radiodurans, is one of the most radiation-resistant life forms we know of (it can also withstand drought, lack of food, extreme temperatures, and the vacuum of space). Over time, scientists managed to genetically engineer this bacterium to have the ability to transform toxic chemicals and heavy metals into less deadly forms. But they couldn’t get it to thrive in acidic conditions. “At the end of the day the thing wouldn’t grow at lemon juice pH ranges,” Daly says.

“Genome analysis of R. taiwanensis MD1149”

He and his colleagues decided to search for better candidates in nature, and sampled microbes from deserts, mines, rivers, and hot springs around the world. The most promising was a red-hued fungus from an abandoned acid mine drainage facility in Maryland. The yeast, a species called Rhodotorula taiwanensis, surprised researchers with its endurance in the face of acid and chronic radiation.

“Pairwise genome alignments of R. taiwanensis MD1149 and related species”

On top of this, it tolerates heavy metals and even forms biofilms under these trying circumstances, a trick Conan never mastered. The researchers tested a total of 27 yeasts to see if they could handle exposure to noxious substances like mercury chloride. “These are really toxic heavy metals,” Daly says. “If we got a little bit in us they would kill us, and these microbes are flourishing in these mixtures of heavy metals, radiation, and [acid].”

“Ranking of representative fungi by the survival index

Most bacteria can’t tolerate acidity or radiation, but both skills turn out to be very common among yeasts. “They are masters of the low-pH world,” Daly says. On the other hand, fungi tend to be more sensitive to heat than bacteria. R. taiwanensis prefers to grow around room temperature, but the decaying nuclear wastes can heat the soil around the steel storage tanks to around 120 degrees Fahrenheit. This wouldn’t necessarily thwart the microbes, though. Placed a small distance away from the storage tanks, the yeasts could capture leaking waste without succumbing to the warmth.

Ideally, different strains of yeasts and bacteria could team up, says Rok Tkavc, an adjunct pathology professor and staff scientist at the Henry Jackson Foundation for the Advancement of Military Medicine at USU. He recently reported that when Deinococcus radiodurans mixes with other bacteria it seems to endow its neighbors with radiation resistance. These cocktails could potentially be used to combat radioactive waste released by nuclear meltdowns as well as that left over from the Cold War.

For the Hanford Site, a successful cleanup would mean keeping radioactive elements out of the Columbia River for the thousands of years it takes them to decay to less dangerous forms. “We cannot get rid of the radiation; no one can do that,” Daly says. “The only thing we can conceivably do to protect ourselves is to contain it, to keep it from coming out.”