/Life

One of the best things you can do to make a real impact

How to Talk to Friends and Family About Climate Change

Life

Even though we're all hyper-aware climate change is happening and of the dangers it poses, it's usually the last thing we want to talk about. Some of the time, a conversation about climate change can feel like an uphill battle about a polarizing topic. But most of the time, it just isn't a fun conversation to have. We'd much rather discuss fun birthday parties, travel plans, or the latest show we binge watched!

But according to scientists, one of the best things you can do to combat climate change is to talk about it (1), which is why we put together a guide of helpful resources on how to talk to friends and family (and even a separate guide for kids!) about climate change. These tips and tricks will help make talking about climate change so much easier.

Why we need to talk about it

Even though climate change is a serious international problem, there seems to be a disconnect between knowing about climate change and talking about it. In fact, even though about 71% of adults in America believe global warming is happening and that it will harm future generations, 64% of the same adults rarely discuss it (1). What's worse, only 25% hear about global warming from a media outlet at least once a week. If we're basically all worried about it, why aren't we talking about it more?! Staying silent about a major issue like climate change, makes it easier to pretend the problem won't impact us as individuals. But if everyone is suddenly talking about climate change, it makes it impossible to ignore. Just take a look at Greta Thunberg- what started as her own school strike turned into a global movement with a huge impact. Just by talking about climate change, Greta made the issue impossible to ignore and inspired countless others to advocate and help put pressure on politicians to create real climate change mitigation policies. That's why we think it's so important to continue to discuss climate change; one small conversation can help create meaningful change.

Tips and Tricks

We know that climate change isn't always the easier subject to talk about, which is how our tips and resources come in. And don't forget- practice makes perfect!

1. Lead with personal impacts

When someone is a climate change skeptic or just not interested in the topic, it's often better to have a conversation about the personal impacts of climate change rather than scientific facts or abstract concepts. Personal examples of how climate change is impacting someone's life like "we've been seeing more ticks this summer, which means more bites and more potential for vector-borne illnesses" or ""wildfires went from once in a while to a constant threat every year. We might move. What about you?" can be much more persuasive than melting icebergs thousands of miles away. Personal anecdotes show that issues caused by climate change are real, local, and are already impacting their lives.

2. It's a conversation, not a lecture

When having a conversation about climate change, it's just as important to listen to the other person's thoughts and opinions as it is to discuss your own. A big part of climate change education is understanding where someone is coming from so you can educate without offending core values of beliefs. And even if someone has dramatically different views than your own, you can always try to connect over shared values. Things like nature, outdoor recreation, and wanting a good world for your children are appreciated and wanted by almost everyone. Connecting with shared values like these can drive home the personal impact climate change can have on our daily lives.

3. Keep Trying

Let's be real, you probably won't change someone's mind on climate change after just one conversation. That's why it's so important to continue the conversation about climate change whenever you can. Every conversation can help move the needle forward and change someone's mind about climate change. Persistence is key!

Climate Change Communications Resources

Yale Climate Opinion Maps 2020

"These maps show how Americans' climate change beliefs, risk perceptions, and policy support vary at the state, congressional district, metro area, and county levels."

What is Climate Change Communication?

The Yale Program on Climate Change Communication is an excellent resource for recent studies and news articles about climate change.

The most important thing you can do to fight climate change: talk about it

This TED Talk by Katharine Hayhoe gives a great overview of why climate change can be a polarizing topic, and how to lead a successful conversation with someone whose views differ from yours.

How Do We Talk About Climate Change? – Speaking of STEM

Rutgers University gives a brief overview of climate change communications and how to go beyond politics while discussing the topic

Speaking of Climate Change | Harvard Public Health Magazine | Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health

C-Change Conversations, whose mission is to discuss climate change with moderate and conservative audiences by meeting them where they are, gives expert advice on how to talk about climate change with someone who has opposing viewpoints.

Persuading Conservatives — Climate Chat

Even though it feels like it shouldn't be a polarizing issue (it's just science, after all), your views towards climate change often align with your politics. Check out this helpful resource for tips on discussing climate change with conservatives.


References

  1. https://www.pnas.org/content/116/30/14804
  2. https://climatecommunication.yale.edu/visualizations-data/ycom-us/
Life

How to Avoid Summer’s Itchiest Pests

The Bugs & Plants Love Climate Change

Summer's officially here, and after some crazy winter weather, we are more than ready to pack up the camping gear for a weekend in the woods or head to the park for a picnic. As we humans keep putting more global warming gases into the air, there's no doubt - it's gettin' weird out there. Did you hear about that day when it was nearly 100 degrees and then snowed two days later ... in Oklahoma? Or when Hawaii got 50 inches of rain in just 24 hours? How about the tick that can make you allergic to meat? While the winters have been crazy, they're also getting shorter and that's changing the way we live, work, and play every day - especially when it comes to the bugs and plants around us. The weird weather stories may grab headlines, but it's the subtle changes around your home that can affect your health. Here's what you need to know about how climate change is making pests and plants more pesky and what you can do to protect yourself and your family.

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As the weather warms up, we want to spend as much time outdoors as possible. This means picnics, pool parties, and of course BBQs! We love a good barbecue because they're super fun, delicious, and a great way to cook and socialize at the same time. Plus there is less mess in the kitchen to clean up. But before you dust off your grill, check out our tips for a healthier BBQ that aren't just about what recipes to use. There are other aspects of health that go beyond just what ingredients you use.

1) Trim Fat and Clean the Grill

To start, let's think about the actual grill. Because of the open flame, grills create some smoke. And while that's sometimes the point (hello smoked salmon), directly breathing in smoke usually isn't the best idea, especially for children and people with asthma. There are some things you can do to make your grilling a little less smokey, though. If you're in the market for a new grill or if you're looking to upgrade your current one, look for a gas grill. While they're not perfect, they produce less smoke than charcoal grills.

If you have a charcoal grill (or prefer that), cut off excess fat to lower the amount of dripping and risk for flare-ups (1). Also, cleaning your grill to remove the charred, stuck-on bits before you cook is good for reducing smoke. And in general, a clean grill is better for you. You should brush or scrape your grill every time you use it, and then do a deep cleaning a few times a year, depending on how often you use it.

2) Marinate, Marinate, Marinate

Now let's get to the actual food and BBQing. Overcooking (or burning) the food raises the amount of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and heterocyclic amines (HCAs) on the food (2). These chemicals are what people talk about when they say that grilling food can make it more likely to cause cancer. But we have good news- you can dramatically lower the amount of PAHs and HCAs by marinating your meat before grilling it. It doesn't have to be marinated for a very long time (even 5 minutes of marination reduces PAHs and HCAs by as much as 92%), but the longer you marinate, the more flavorful the meat will be. Some research has shown that marinades with acid or oil are better than ones high in sugar (3). Additionally, tossing in some basil, mint, rosemary, oregano, or marjoram helps to reduce HCA levels because of their antioxidant properties (4). Easy peasy, and delicious!

3) Use Real Plates or Napkins

After you are done wonderfully cooking your food, you don't want to taint it by putting the piping hot food on plates that could leach chemicals onto the food. Usually BBQs or cookouts are known for using plastic or paper plates for easy cleaning up. But, plastic plates can transfer some harmful chemicals to the food, and so can paper plates if they are made with oil- or water-resistant Teflon-like chemicals. Those water- and oil-proof property in PFAS chemicals (Teflon-like, also called 'forever chemicals'), can easily get into the food items that it touches and takes years to break down, both in your body and in the environment. The best option would be to use real ceramic plates or some of these safe outdoor dishes that you can wash after the party, or unlined paper or bamboo plates that are completely compostable without PFAS chemicals. Hey, if you are really going all out, why not just ditch the plate altogether and create less trash over all. Who really needs a plates for a hotdog and cupcakes anyway?

4) Use Mineral Sunscreen and Safer Inspect Repellent

While this is less to do with the food, sunscreen and insect repellant are often popular for outdoor summertime events. While both have some pretty good benefits, like keeping you from getting burnt or covered in bites that can lead to various illnesses, some sunscreens and insect repellents contain pretty nasty chemicals. A good option is to wear long sleeve, lightweight shirts and pants that would protect you from both insects and sun. If that's just not seeming like an option for you, check out our roundup of safer sunscreen products. When it comes to bug repellant, that is more difficult and using a product with DEET, Picaridin, or IR3535 might still be your best bet. Some do find that oil of lemon eucalyptus (which is a particular active ingredient, different from lemon eucalyptus oil), can also be effective. You can read more about that in our insect repellant article.

5) Limit Plastic Decorations and Toys

The last tip relates to the decorations and activities at your BBQ. We recommend avoiding plastic and opting for reusable decorations when you can. Read more about ideas for throwing a party with less plastic. For items that are more common at a BBQ party near water, try games like corn hole or sharks and minnows. If you are more the type that likes to float around in the water, consider pool noodles instead of rafts and things. While slightly less instagramable or T-Swift inspired, foam noodles are safer than the plastic floats which are almost always made of PVC (which contains phthalates). Get creative for fun ways to play that don't require plastic toys.


References

1) Hall, McKenzie. Reduce your exposure to toxins from grilled meats. Chicago Tribune. July 2, 2014.

2) Chung SY, Yettella RR et al. Effects of grilling and roasting on the levels of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons in beef and pork. Food Chemistry. Volume 129, Issue 4, 15 December 2011, Pages 1420-1426.

3) Farhadian A, Abas F et al. Effects of marinating on the formation of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (benzo[a]pyrene, benzo[b]fluoranthene and fluoranthene) in grilled beef meat. Food Control. 28(2):420–425, December 2012.

          4) Riches, Derrick. Healthy Grilling. The Spruce. April 4, 2017. Accessed April 11, 2018.
          Life

          Why does your activewear stink and what can you do about it?

          The scientific reason behind your bad smelling activewear and easy DIY solutions

          Do you ever take your laundry out of the dryer and realize that your activewear still smells bad? Sometimes it feels like no amount of laundry detergent or scented fabric softener will get rid of that funky smell that lingers in all of your workout clothes. The reason this happens isn't because your washing machine isn't strong enough to get rid of the sweat from your run or all the burpees you did, but it's actually the fabric. Most workout clothes are made from synthetic fabrics or cotton, two materials that are great for working out in, but really bad at getting clean. Luckily there are a few ways to get rid of that smell that doesn't involve lots of harmful chemicals. So instead of throwing those smelly clothes away, check out some of our easy non-toxic cleaning methods and DIY solutions!

          Why do workout clothes trap smell?

          Most people think that the reason their workout clothes stink is because there is sweat trapped in them, but that is only partially true. Sweat by itself actually has no smell at all, but when it comes into contact with the bacteria on your skin, the sweat gets broken down and releases the typical body odor smell (1). So that means there isn't excess sweat trapped in your clothes, it's bacteria, along with dead skin cells and natural particles that are all contributing to the bad smell (2).

          There is also a difference in how natural and synthetic workout clothes are affected by this bacteria. Natural fibers like cotton are more affected by sweat and bacteria compared to synthetic fibers because the bacteria that becomes trapped within the fabric can actually start to break down and degrade your clothes. The fibers of cotton are made completely of cellulose, a natural component of plants, and the bacteria can consume this substance and break down the clothes. Cotton is really good at absorbing sweat, so that means there is bacteria deep inside the cotton fibers and the bacteria can quickly multiply due to their massive food source i.e. your clothes. So not only will the bacteria in your sweat make your natural workout clothes smell bad, it will also degrade them over time until they fall apart (2).

          Synthetic fabrics, on the other hand, are man-made fibers that are derived from petroleum products. Think plastic threads. Fabrics like spandex, polyester, and nylon are all made of synthetic materials and they are often marketed as sweat wicking or having a cooling effect. These types of fabrics collect bacteria in the space between the fibers, but does not absorb the sweat or bacteria in the fibers. These small spaces where the bacteria are trapped are really hard to access with standard cleaning products making the smell linger (2).

          What makes it worse?

          To get rid of the smell a lot of people use more detergent or heavily scented fabric softeners, but this only temporarily covers up the smell. These products coat the fibers and fill up the space between them, creating more and more build up the more you wash the clothes. Having build up on your clothes can trap the bacteria and every time you work out more bacteria will start to grow on your clothes.

          Traditional detergents were made for traditional fibers like cotton, so when trying to get spandex or polyester fabrics clean, these detergents often aren't strong enough to penetrate deep into the synthetic fabric. Also sometimes your washing machine might be too big or too full and isn't able to clean the clothes effectively. The good news is that there are some non-toxic products and DIY methods that will really deep clean your clothes and make them smell brand new!

          What can you do?

          First things first, before you get into the products and DIY solutions, try some of these simple ways to avoid having stinky workout clothes in the first place. Sometimes all it takes is changing the temperature or washing your clothes a little sooner. But if none of these work, check out the special products and DIY solutions that are sure to get your clothes squeaky clean!

          1. Don't overfill your washing machine.
          2. Don't use extra laundry detergent.
          3. Stay away from fabric softener.
          4. Wash clothes as soon as possible after working out, don't let them sit wet.
          5. Always wash workout clothes in cold water.
          6. Use a powdered detergent to prevent buildup.

          Products and DIY solutions


          non toxic laundry products to eliminate odors

          a) Biokleen Bac-Out Stain remover. Uses natural enzymes to get deep in fabrics and kills bacteria. Spray and let sit for 5 minutes and then wash as normal.

          b) Molly Suds Activewear Laundry Detergents. Powdered laundry detergent that uses enzymes and baking soda that penetrates deep within fabrics.

          c) Defunkify Liquid Laundry Detergent. Specifically designed to break down odor and get deep into fibers.

          d) Branch Basics Oxygen Boost. Strips odors and brightens clothes. Add a scoop in addition to detergent.

          e) White Vinegar- Add 1 cup of vinegar to your laundry drum in place of the normal detergent. This helps break down residues that make odors worse.

          f) Baking Soda- Add half a cup to your laundry drum. Baking soda is a natural deodorizer!

          If the smells are really not going away, you can try laundry stripping! Laundry stripping is a way to remove built up oil, dirt, bacteria, and other detergents. Check out our article on stripping and how to do it!



          Sources

          1. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/symptoms/17865-sweating-and-body-odor
          2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4249026/
          3. https://hexperformance.com/pages/about-hex
          Life

          Snow Jackets with PFC-Free DWR

          Stay warm and dry on the slopes without the harmful chemicals

          Updated for 2021!

          A lot of weather-proof jackets contain harmful forever chemicals otherwise known as PFC or PFAS. That's why we found the best winter and ski jackets that are waterproof with PFC-free Durable Water Repellent (DWR) for your next trip to the mountains! DWR is a coating added to fabrics to make them water-resistant. The traditional DWR treatments were made of PFAS chemicals that wear off over time, leaving these chemicals to pollute the great outdoors and wherever else you are. In fact most jackets will say that they need re-treatment at some point in their life. That's why we are so excited that the outdoor industry has started to use DWR without PFAS chemicals. Usually you will see them labeled as PFC-free DWR. A couple of years ago, there were almost no jackets without PFCs, so we are happy to have found so many PFC-free DWR jackets. These jackets will keep you nice and warm without these pesky forever chemicals coatings slowly wearing off.

          But, there is something a little bit tricky. We can't say that all of these jackets are completely PFC-free. Durable water repellents are commonly used in conjunction with a waterproof membrane, which is basically a waterproof fabric. Waterproof membranes are oftentimes made with PFAS (PFC) chemicals like Teflon, the most famous of which is GORE-TEX. While GORE-TEX has recently announced that they have a PFC free waterproof membrane in the works, they have not committed to phasing out their current PFC materials. We note below which jackets still use a GORE-TEX membrane and urge companies and consumers to push for completely PFC-free products in the future. If you would like a jacket completely free of PFCs, please read the notes below.

          a) The North Face Powderflo Jacket Women's and Powderflo Jacket Men's

          b) Marmot Spire Jacket (This jacket has a PFC-free durable water repellent (DWR) but is still made with a GORE-TEX membrane that is made of PTFE, aka Teflon.)

          c) Paramo clothing Women's Jackets and Men's Jackets

          d) Picture Women's Weekend Jacket and Men's Styler Jacket

          e) Fjallraven Bergtagen Eco-Shell Jacket Women's⁠ and Bergtagen Eco-Shell Jacket Men's

          f) Jack Wolfskin Winter Jackets

          g) REI Co-op First Chair Jacket (This jacket has a PFC-free durable water repellent (DWR) but is still made with a GORE-TEX membrane that is made of PTFE, aka Teflon.)

          h) Burton Jackets (This jacket has a PFC-free durable water repellent (DWR) but is still made with a GORE-TEX membrane that is made of PTFE, aka Teflon.)

          i) Houdini Women's Rollercoaster Jacket and Men's Weekend Jacket (Bluesign®-certified, PFC free membrane and PFC free DWR)

          Spooky snacks are so fun, whether you're having a Halloween party or just want to make snack time special. But so many Halloween treats use artificial dyes and food colorings, are filled with refined sugars, and/or are highly processed with lots of unnecessary plastic packaging.

          Today we're sharing our two favorite super easy Halloween spooky snacks. These healthier Halloween treats are really fun to make with kids or just because it's fun to get in the spooky spirit. Both of them use homemade edible googly eyes made from mini-marshmallows and mini chocolate chips. Try them out for your next snack time or for a fun holiday gathering!

          Mummy Graham Crackers with Easy Googly Eyes

          Ingredients

          • Graham Crackers
          • Hazelnut chocolate butter (like Nutella or Justin's) or sub almond butter, peanut butter, sunflower butter
          • Coconut strips
          • Mini-marshmallows
          • Mini chocolate chips

          Instructions

          1. Spread hazelnut chocolate butter on a graham cracker.
          2. Add two marshmallows near the top edge of the graham cracker.
          3. Squish an upside down mini chocolate chip in the middle of the marshmallow.
          4. Arrange coconut strips to make the rest of the cracker look like a mummy.



          Apple Monster Mouths with Easy Googly Eyes

          Ingredients

          • Apple
          • Nut butter (almond butter, peanut butter, sunflower butter)
          • Sunflower seeds
          • Mini-marshmallows
          • Mini chocolate chips

          Instructions

          1. Cut the apple into thick wedges. Then cut out a sliver on the outside of the slice for the mouth.
          2. Add nut butter into the cut out mouth.
          3. Arrange sunflower seeds to look like teeth.
          4. Add a dab of nut butter onto the sides of 2 marshmallow and slice on top of the slice for eyes
          5. Squish an upside down mini chocolate chip in the middle of the marshmallow.



          Life

          Shopping For Costumes? Keep an Eye Out for These Toxics in Kids Costumes

          When it comes to a kid's dress up, costumes can disguise more than a child!

          Imagination is a huge part of a child's development and dressing up in costumes can help foster creativity. Whether it's Halloween or year round dinosaur or princess costume, kids love costumes! However, before you purchase your next costume, you might want to know about some harmful materials that are often present in commercially available costumes. You might be wondering how toxic substances are even allowed in kids costumes, or already thinking about what to look for instead. We've got you covered from which toxic substances to avoid, to costume ideas that won't spoil the fun but will keep your kids safe!
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          Life

          What is Climate Justice?

          Everything you need to know

          We know that the effects of climate change are happening, but we often don't see these effects in our own country. Or when something does impact us, our country has the wealth and resources to fix the problem. However, climate change usually impacts poor and marginalized countries with more frequency and with greater impact.

          This is where the climate justice movement comes in - read on for more information about this important topic and for ways you can help!

          What does climate justice mean?

          You may have come across the term when you were reading about climate change, or when you heard a speech from Greta Thunberg, or even when you were learning how to speak to your children about climate change.

          In short, "climate justice" is a term with an associated social campaign that acknowledges climate change can have differing social, economic, public health, and other adverse impacts on underprivileged populations. These at-risk underprivileged populations (and nations) are not as equipped as wealthier populations (and nations) to adapt to the rapidly changing climate and the catastrophic events it brings.

          The movement aims to frame the climate crisis through a social, human rights lens. The ultimate goal is to shift the discourse from greenhouse gas emissions, numeric temperatures, and melted ice caps to that of a civil rights movement. Once you look for it, connecting the dots between civil rights and climate change are easy to see.

          The climate justice movement shines light on the notion that the worst impacts of climate change will not be shouldered equally or fairly. There are specific communities and populations that are likely at the highest risk, and it is often these communities that are the least able to adapt to the environmental change. The way to do this is through what's known as a "just transition"

          The just transition is "a vision-led, unifying and place-based set of principles, processes, and practices that build economic and political power to shift from an extractive economy to a regenerative economy (1)." The just transition means managing both the positive and negative social and employment implications of climate action across the whole economy. It means thinking ahead and involving both developed and developing countries, and focusing attention on the decentralization of energy systems, and the need to prioritize marginalised communities.

          Which populations will be hit the hardest?

          As a United Nations article describes it: "The impacts of climate change will not be borne equally or fairly, between rich and poor, women and men, and older and younger generations (2)."

          For certain communities and populations, the climate crisis will exacerbate inequitable social conditions. Here are a few examples:

          • Communities of color are at more risk for air pollution. Many toxic facilities, like coal-fire plansIn the United States, race is the number one indicator for the placement of toxic facilities hit by climate change (3,4).
          • Senior citizens and those with disabilities may have a difficult time living through periods of severe heat (and would be at a disadvantage evacuating from major storms or fires) (5).
          • Women are more vulnerable than men globally due to economic, social, and cultural disparities (6). Seventy per cent of the 1.3 billion people living in conditions of poverty are women, including in many communities dependent on local natural resources for their livelihood. And worse, women in these populations are less involved in decision-making at the community level, which means they are unable to voice their needs to adapt to the hardships that climate change brings.
          • The economically disadvantaged are at extreme risk:
            • Those living in subsidized housing may have more trouble with floods as the subsidized housing is often located in a flood plain (7).
            • It has also been shown that inequality can grow in the aftermath of hurricanes, disregarding the poor and powerless communities (8).
          • Globally, the warming of the planet by 2˚C (we're above 1˚C already) would put communities around the world that depend who depend on agriculture, fishing, forestry and conservation - which includes over half of Africa's population - at risk of undernourishment (9).

          The Global Climate Risk Index developed by Germanwatch quantifies the impacts of extreme weather events – both in terms of the fatalities as well as the economic losses that occurred. Eight out of the ten countries most affected by the quantified impacts of extreme weather events in 2019 belong to the low- to lower-middle income category (10).

          So, what can we do to help?

          Organizations working on solutions to these issues

          The first way to help is to spread the word. Educating yourself on these issues and talking to others about them can go a long way.

          Another simple way to help is by donating (money or your volunteer time) to some of the fantastic organizations working for climate justice solution:

          1. The Climate Justice Alliance works to bring race, gender, and class considerations to the center of the climate action discussion. You can join them in many different ways: donate, host a party or dinner to support them, volunteer time, or even find a career with them!
          2. The NAACP is working to fight environmental injustice as well. You can donate or roll up your sleeves and join a local NAACP unit.
          3. Climate Generation is a nonprofit dedicated to climate change education and innovative climate change solutions through youth leadership and community engagement. You can donate, host a workshop, teach students about climate change, or attend one of their fundraising events.
          4. Solar Sister invests in women's clean energy businesses in off-grid communities in Africa. You can donate to them as a monthly supporter, invest in a specific entrepreneur, or even join the team.
          5. Greta Thunberg's Fridays For Future organization seeks to combat the lack of action on the climate crisis in general. You can connect with other climate activists throughout the world to join those striking for climate action.


          References

          1. https://climatejusticealliance.org/just-transition/
          2. https://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/blog/2019/05/climate-justice/
          3. https://naacp.org/know-issues/environmental-climate-justice
          4. https://www.lung.org/clean-air/outdoors/who-is-at-risk/disparities
          5. https://yaleclimateconnections.org/2019/09/how-extreme-weather-threatens-people-with-disabilities/
          6. https://www.un.org/en/chronicle/article/womenin-shadow-climate-change
          7. https://furmancenter.org/files/NYUFurmanCenter_HousingInTheFloodplain_May2017.pdf
          8. https://yaleclimateconnections.org/2020/07/how-inequality-grows-in-the-aftermath-of-hurricanes/
          9. https://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/blog/2019/05/climate-justice/
          10. https://germanwatch.org/sites/germanwatch.org/files/Global%20Climate%20Risk%20Index%202021_1.pdf
          Want an easy way to live healthier?
          Sign up for our newsletter! Curated environmental health news delivered to your inbox every three weeks.
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