Gas Stoves Are Major Cause of Childhood Asthma in the U.S., Study Finds

Photo: Shutterstock (Shutterstock)

New research points to an under-appreciated cause of childhood asthma: gas stoves. The study estimates that about one in every eight cases in the U.S. can be attributed to the indoor pollution emitted by gas stoves. The findings are only the latest to highlight the harmful effects of this ubiquitous way of cooking.

Gas stoves have been around since the 1800s, and over 40 million homes in the U.S., or more than one third of households, are thought to still rely on them today. For several decades, though, some scientists have warned that these stoves can be a major source of indoor air pollution—warnings that have only recently begun to receive wider public attention. These stoves, especially if not properly maintained or used in poorly ventilated homes, can emit unsafe levels of pollutants like nitrogen dioxide, carbon monoxide, methane, and benzene, even when not in use.

Air pollution is an important risk factor for many health problems, especially asthma. But researchers in the U.S. and Australia appear to be the first to try measuring the impact that gas stoves in particular are having on childhood asthma cases in the U.S. To do this, they looked at past studies that analyzed how often gas stove use could contribute to childhood asthma. Then they cross-referenced that with census data on how many children live in homes with gas stoves.

All told, the authors estimated that 12.7% of childhood asthma cases in the U.S. are caused by gas stoves. For context, they add, these numbers are roughly comparable to the asthma risk posed by secondhand smoke. And in states with a higher amount of gas stove use, the toll is likely even greater. More than 20% of asthma cases were attributed to gas stoves in Illinois and California, for instance, while Florida had the lowest percentage of cases attributed to gas stoves, at 3%.

“Our results quantify the U.S. public health burden attributed to gas stove use and childhood asthma,” the authors wrote in their paper, published last month in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health.

G/O Media may get a commission

The findings are based on a number of assumptions, so it’s possible that they might over- or undersell the dangers posed by gas stoves, the authors note. But they do line up with an earlier study from some of the same researchers that tried to quantify the asthma risk from gas stoves in Australia. And no one disputes that the pollutants created by gas stoves can cause or worsen childhood asthma. These emissions aren’t just bad for human health either, but the environment as well. A study last year estimated that annual methane emissions from gas stoves over the past 20 years in the U.S. have been equivalent to the annual carbon dioxide spewed out by 500,000 cars.

Citing the many potential harms of gas stoves, scientists, activists, and even local governments have increasingly been calling for homes and businesses to abandon them for electric or induction-based stoves, which produce much lower emissions. But natural gas companies, lobbyists, and some Republican-led governments have pushed back hard against plans to phase these stoves out. New federal regulations on gas stoves might arrive as early as this year, but it could still take years or even decades for them to become wholly discontinued.

In light of that, the authors say that more can be done to make these stoves safer today, such as ensuring proper ventilation in homes. But these stopgap methods, they say, would likely only reduce, not eliminate the risk they pose to kids.

More: Gas Stoves Are the Scariest Thing in the Kitchen

via Gizmodo

January 5, 2023 at 03:33PM

Lightyear announces its second solar-powered EV, below $40,000

If you live in Seattle, the prospect of a solar-powered electric car may not be that exciting, but enough people in sunnier places want to try the futuristic vehicle that automaker Lightyear has announced its second model. The Lightyear 2 is expected to enter production at the end of 2025 and go on sale with a starting price below $40,000.

According to the company, the Lightyear 2 will halve the lifetime vehicle CO2 emissions compared to a traditional EV. The vehicle also promises 500 miles of range between charges, and the company says it has received 21,000 preorders from car-leasing and ride-sharing companies. Though the amount of solar-powered range was not shared specifically, the car will add several miles each day from its solar panels, the amount determined by the level of available sunlight. 

Lightyear shared few other details, other than that the car will offer an impressive 0.175 drag coefficient, which will make it one of the slipperier cars around. The company did say its 500-mile estimate is based on how much sun would contribute to range during 15,000 miles of driving per year in Chicago.

The crossover-like 2 follows the insanely futuristic-looking Lightyear 0. That car features a range of 388 miles, and the company says its solar panels can add more than 6,800 miles per year. It also costs more than $263,000, so it’s far from becoming a mainstream hit.

Lightyear announced that hopeful buyers could enter their information to get on the waitlist for the car, but a spokesperson told Autoblog that the waitlist is more of an email list to distribute information. Signing up gives priority when preorders and reservations do open, though, so it’s probably best to sign up if you’re at all interested.

If you haven’t been paying close attention, it might seem like solar-powered EVs are coming out of nowhere, but there are at least a couple of other companies in the mix. The Sono Sion is a $25,000 solar EV that should begin production in Europe later this year. It offers a range of 190 miles and provides 5,700 miles of solar charging per year, or around 15 miles per day.

Aptera took a completely different approach than Lightyear and Sono, building a three-wheeled solar EV that looks like an airplane missing its wings. The funky car features up to a 1,000-mile range in the top model and can add up to 30 miles of range in a sunny location.

Solar-powered EVs, like solar-powered homes, are somewhat at the mercy of the weather. The bulk of their range is gained like any other EV, through plugging in, but solar charging contributes. Most of the range numbers seen here are taken in sunny locations, such as Aptera’s, which quotes Southern California as the region. Those of us living in less fantastic climates will see less of an impact from the solar panels, but any ability to charge for free should be welcomed.

via Autoblog

January 5, 2023 at 12:21PM

Can’t Decide What to Do About Twitter? Here Are Some Options

As 2023 arrives, it’s time to take action. Consider it a deadline for those of us who’ve been dithering: Twitter is in crisis, and each user must decide their own course of action.

It’s not just that Twitter has been a toxic dumping ground for hate, harassment, and abuse. That’s been the case for at least half a dozen years, and users stuck around. But 2022 left longtime Twitter users shell-shocked. Billionaire Elon Musk’s takeover of Twitter, which once seemed like an unlikely stunt, came to pass, and the results have been disastrous. With an exodus of employeesincrease in hateful languagebannings of journalists, the paid verification mess, concerns about Twitter’s overall securityaccessibility and stability, and a strong sense that the party is winding down to an ugly conclusion, it’s time (perhaps past time) for a user exit strategy. Consider all of this and more the Case Against Staying on Twitter.

Should you opt for the possibly greener pastures of alternative networks like Mastodon or Post, where many high-profile Twitter users have already migrated? Or should you stay and hope things turn around? Or hey, what about stopping with this type of social-media posting entirely and freeing up some time? Here are some things to consider as you weigh your options:

The Case for Staying on Twitter

If entropy is your thing, staying on Twitter means you don’t have to take any action at all. You could sit on the sidelines, stop posting, and just ride things out to see if the reign of Musk passes and Twitter is somehow able to survive and regain some of its former glory.

Why would anyone do this? You may feel the sunk cost of investing so many years building your followers, lists, and reputation on the platform is too much to let go. You may still see things that make you smile and feel good on the platform. If you’ve carefully curated the list of people you follow, you may be insulated from much of the ugliness on the rest of Twitter. Maybe you only dip in and out and the chaos hasn’t affected your experience. Maybe you don’t care about what’s happening outside of your own Twitter account.

The Case for Going to Mastodon

Mastodon has gotten the lion’s share of attention as alternatives to Twitter have entered the conversation. It launched in 2016 and has a familiar format and feel that doesn’t seem foreign to longtime Twitter users. The character-count limit of 500 is higher than Twitter’s, and there are lots of ways to post images, sound, animations, links, and polls. Unlike on Twitter, you can edit posts, but old versions of the posts are still visible to others, and if your edited post was reposted, others will be made aware of your edits. Mastodon also has a useful content warning feature that allows you to warn followers about sensitive or triggering information in a post.

Because different server instances can be tailored to specific interests or types of communities, you may be able to find people with similar interests and feel welcome more quickly than you would on other social networks. Plus, there are tools to help reconnect with other users who came over from Twitter.

The Case Against Going to Mastodon

Because of its decentralized nature, all of Mastodon’s users aren’t on one server; instead they’re spread across different communities, and new users must choose where they want to start. There are directories to help, but if you’re indecisive, it could be an obstacle to getting started.

Mastodon has no official verification process, paid or otherwise, for users, because of its decentralized nature. Users can get links to home pages automatically verified, but not their Mastodon profile itself

The service boasts close to 6 million users, about 3.6 million of them active, which seems like a lot—but it’s nowhere close to Twitter’s user base of nearly 238 million. Of course, that includes bots and fake accounts, but it’s significantly more people to connect with. Still, the rush of users who moved to Mastodon in November caused outages across the platform itself.

via Wired Top Stories

January 5, 2023 at 07:10AM

3 Seconds of Every TNG Episode Is a Wild Way to Experience Star Trek

There’s a lot of Star Trek, and a lot of it is very watchable—especially in the iconic sophomore series The Next Generation, which helped truly catapult the franchise into the pop culture stratosphere. Asking a Trek neophyte to dive into over five days of TV is a daunting task, however. So why not just give them an  appetizer of everything?

This incredible mash-up of all 178 episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation by Sentinel of Something condenses the seven seasons of boldly going done by Captain Jean-Luc Picard and the crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise into a little over nine minutes… by giving you three random seconds of every episode. It’s unhinged and it’s perfect.

3 Seconds of Every Star Trek: TNG Episode

There’s an artistry to the consideration here. Do you pick an iconic visual, a perfect, but short enough line of dialogue, a joke, a sad moment, or a shot of action? Just how do you distill an entire episode of TNG, from the very best to the very worst, in just three seconds? The answer is that you not take Star Trek seriously, so what you get is three manic seconds of out-of-context weirdness, 178 times in a row.

Okay, it’s probably not helpful to a Star Trek newbie looking to shave some time off of a marathon. But for TNG fans, it’s a delightfully zany whirlwind trip through one of the best sci-fi TV shows of all time.

Want more io9 news? Check out when to expect the latest Marvel, Star Wars, and Star Trek releases, what’s next for the DC Universe on film and TV, and everything you need to know about the future of Doctor Who.

via Gizmodo

December 26, 2022 at 11:04AM

Startup Claims It’s Sending Sulfur Into the Atmosphere to Fight Climate Change

A startup says it has begun releasing sulfur particles into Earth’s atmosphere, in a controversial attempt to combat climate change by deflecting sunlight. Make Sunsets, a company that sells carbon offset “cooling credits” for $10 each, is banking on solar geoengineering to cool down the planet and fill its coffers. The startup claims it has already released two test balloons, each filled with about 10 grams of sulfur particles and intended for the stratosphere, according to the company’s website and first reported on by MIT Technology Review.

The concept of solar geoengineering is simple: Add reflective particles to the upper atmosphere to reduce the amount of sunlight that penetrates from space, thereby cooling Earth. It’s an idea inspired by the atmospheric side effects of major volcanic eruptions, which have led to drastic, temporary climate shifts multiple times throughout history, including the notorious “year without a summer” of 1816.

Yet effective and safe implementation of the idea is much less simple. Scientists and engineers have been studying solar geoengineering as a potential climate change remedy for more than 50 years. But almost nobody has actually enacted real-world experiments because of the associated risks, like rapid changes in our planet’s precipitation patterns, damage to the ozone layer, and significant geopolitical ramifications.

Make Sunsets did not respond to an emailed request for comment on this story.

Though we know that sulfur particles can reflect sunlight away from Earth and cool the planet, the unintended consequences of such an action are less understood and potentially catastrophic. Some studies suggest that sulfur injection over the northern hemisphere would lead to massive droughts in the Sahel, Amazon rainforest, and elsewhere. Conversely, adding sulfur over the southern hemisphere could dramatically increase the number of Atlantic hurricanes in the northern hemisphere.

Plus, if and when we get enough sulfur into the atmosphere to meaningfully cool Earth, we’d have to keep adding new particles indefinitely to avoid entering an era of climate change about four to six times worse than what we’re currently experiencing, according to one 2018 study. Sulfur aerosols don’t stick around very long. Their lifespan in the stratosphere is somewhere between a few days and a couple years, depending on particle size and other factors.

Presumably, while this theoretical geoengineering is happening, we’d still be adding greenhouse gases into the atmosphere as well as sulfur particles. If, at any point, the sulfur delivery system were to break down, all that CO2 and methane would rapidly catch up with us—heating up the planet super quickly, all at once. Ecosystems would be thrown extra out of whack, as animals and plants would’ve stayed in place under the artificially cooled climate. Ocean acidification would continue unabated. TLDR; it would be a clusterfuck.

Now, Make Sunsets founder, Luke Iseman, is apparently walking all of us Earthlings toward the edge of that proverbial plank without any sort of regulatory approval or international permission.

Rogue agents independently deciding to impose geoengineering on the rest of us has been a concern for as long as the thought of intentionally manipulating the atmosphere has been around. The Pentagon even has dedicated research teams working on methods to detect and combat such clandestine attempts. But effectively defending against solar geoengineering is much more difficult than just doing it.

In Iseman’s rudimentary first trials, he says he released two weather balloons full of helium and sulfur aerosols somewhere in Baja California, Mexico. The founder told MIT Technology Review that the balloons rose toward the sky but, beyond that, he doesn’t know what happened to them, as the balloons lacked tracking equipment. Maybe they made it to the stratosphere and released their payload, maybe they didn’t. The weather balloon method has been previously proposed but not tested or demonstrated to be effective, according to an earlier 2019 MIT Technology Review report. Regardless, some scientists are alarmed by the attempt.

“To go ahead with implementation at this stage is a very bad idea,” Janos Pasztor, head of the Carnegie Climate Governance Initiative and a trained nuclear engineer, told MIT Technology Review. “The current state of science is not good enough,” to justify such experiments or predict their outcome, he explained.

Iseman and Make Sunsets claim that a single gram of sulfur aerosols counteracts the warming effects of one ton of CO2. But there is no clear scientific basis for such an assertion, geoengineering researcher Shuchi Talati told the outlet. And so the $10 “cooling credits” the company is hawking are likely bunk (along with most carbon credit/offset schemes.)

Even if the balloons made it to the stratosphere, the small amount of sulfur released wouldn’t be enough to trigger significant environmental effects, said David Keith to MIT Technology Review. Keith is one of the most well-known names in geoengineering and is part of a Harvard research team that’s been trying to get its own sulfur tests off the ground for years. Nonetheless, Keith is worried by the prospect of privatized, for-profit geoengineering. “Doing it as a startup is a terrible idea,” the scientist said, highlighting the risks of runaway financial motivations.

Geoengineering will almost certainly be part of future climate-focused efforts, whether every expert gets on board or not. The Biden Administration officially approved research funds for solar geoengineering earlier this year. And as the consequences of unabated climate change accelerate, the idea has transitioned from the realm of speculation and science fiction into mainstream discussion. But to prevent solar geoengineering from becoming yet another human-caused climate disaster, much more (and much more careful) research into the strategy is needed.

The solution to climate change is almost certainly not a single maverick “disrupting” the composition of Earth’s stratosphere. But that hasn’t stopped Make Sunsets from reportedly raising nearly $750,000 in funds from venture capital firms. And for just ~$29,250,000 more per year, the company claims it can completely offset current warming. It’s not a bet we recommend taking.

via Gizmodo

December 27, 2022 at 03:41PM

Frustrated United Customer Tracks Lost Luggage via AirTag While Claiming Her Bag Was ‘Held Hostage’

Bad weather, flight cancellations, and lost luggage have made traveling without incident over the holidays next to impossible.
Image: Anthony Kwan (Getty Images)

Traveling has been an absolute nightmare for many over the past few weeks, to put it mildly. Flights have been cancelled, airports have been mobbed, and luggage has been lost—or has it? A traveller’s lost luggage journey has gone viral on Twitter after she documented her belongings moving across Washington D.C. with an Apple AirTag, contradicting United Airlines’ claims to her.

According to her Twitter thread, Valerie Szybala claimed on January 1 that United Airlines lost her bag and was lying to her about its whereabouts. Szybala’s Apple AirTag that was attached to her luggage led her to an apartment complex where she found other bags (but not her own) from United Airlines flights near the building’s dumpsters, as seen in photos she shared on Twitter. After reaching out to United’s customer service via Twitter DM’s, and explaining that she tracked her back to a random apartment complex, Szybala was told to “calm down” and that United would deliver her bag to her since it was sitting “at the delivery service.”

In an update that same day, Szybala says that her luggage was moving for the first time since December 30 and was sitting near/in a McDonald’s outside of downtown Washington D.C. The AirTag then moved from the McDonald’s back to the apartment complex Szybala was first led to.

Yesterday morning, Szybala reported that her AirTag was moving again and was located 16 miles outside of Washington D.C. downtown, where she suspected it could be a part of a delivery from United. However, the AirTag did return to the same apartment complex again. Szybala says that after she returned to the apartment complex—with news crews who were documenting her story—she finally got her bag back, albeit under odd circumstances.

“Hello Valerie, I hope you re [sic] having a happy and blessed holiday season,” a text message Szybala received said from a person who claims to be associated with a company called DCA Couriers United. “I’m delivering the luggage missing from your flight with AA/UA. I want to apologise [sic] for the inconvenience that you’ve had with your bag. Imma deliver it to you today. The issue was that the bag was given to me under a different passenger and I delivered your in a different address and had to go back to that place and pick it up.”

After calling the number associated with that text message, Szybala says she was greeted by a man that “looked a little surprised” to see her with the news crews. While skeptical of the circumstances around the text message, Szybala was excited to have her bag back, but is still interested in answers around why the bag spent so much time moving around the Washington D.C. area while returning to a residential apartment complex.

Szybala and United Airlines did not immediately return Gizmodo’s request for comment. This lost luggage debacle comes as many travelers have started using AirTags to help keep track of their bags.

via Gizmodo

January 3, 2023 at 09:22AM