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POSITIVE NEWS - What went right this week: the ‘great chemical detox’, plus more positive news

Posted 29th April 2022 • Written by •

The EU hatched a plan to outlaw thousands of toxic chemicals, there was a potential cancer breakthrough, and rhinos were mooted for a ‘historic’ return to Mozambique, plus more positive news

The EU proposed a ban on dangerous chemicals

It is being billed as the ‘great detox’. The plan? To outlaw thousands of potentially harmful chemicals that are found in food packaging, cosmetics, toys, building materials and more. Its architect? The EU, which unveiled the proposals on Monday.  

If implemented, it will be the largest ever regulatory removal of chemicals anywhere in the world. It would also represent a major victory for campaigners, who have fought for decades to have the chemicals outlawed. 

“This ‘great detox’ promises to improve the safety of almost all manufactured products and rapidly lower the chemical intensity of our schools, homes and workplaces,” said Tatiana Santos of the European Environmental Bureau. “It is high time for the EU to turn words into real and urgent action.”

The announcement follows warnings by scientists that chemical pollution has reached dangerous levels for humans and the planet. 

A major DNA analysis provided cancer clues

Scientists have unearthed a “treasure trove” of clues about the causes of cancer – findings that could improve patient diagnosis and treatment.

In the biggest study of its kind, scientists at the University of Cambridge used whole genome sequencing to analyse the DNA of 12,000 cancer patients in England.

Researchers were able to identify 58 new mutational signatures (patterns in the DNA of cancer), suggesting there are causes of cancer that we don’t yet fully understand. Their findings were published in the journal Science. 

“Mutational signatures are like fingerprints at a crime scene, they help to pinpoint cancer culprits,” said Prof Serena Nik-Zainal, who led the research. 

As well as improving our understanding about the causes of cancer, mutational signatures can lead to improved treatments. “They can highlight abnormalities that may be targeted with specific drugs, or may indicate a potential ‘Achilles heel’ in individual cancers,” added Nik-Zainal.

Japan’s emissions fell to a record low

Japan – the world’s third largest economy – belched out fewer emissions in the last financial year than at any point since records began, according to government figures. 

The reported 5.1 per cent contraction is the seventh consecutive year that the country’s emissions have fallen. The rollout of renewables and a pandemic-induced pause in heavy industry were attributed with the decline. 

The figures are positive news, but Japan needs to ramp things up to meet its emissions targets. Last year, Tokyo pledged to almost half emissions by 2030, compared to 2013 levels. The latest figures represent an overall fall of 18 per cent. There’s still someway to go. 

The US restored environmental protection rules

The Biden administration has restored federal rules that require environmental reviews of infrastructure projects, such as highways, pipelines and oil wells – including their likely impacts on climate change and communities.

The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) was watered down by the Trump administration to fast track development. Conservationists welcomed moves to revive it. 

“We are encouraged to see the Biden administration take action to restore this bedrock environmental protection,” said Leslie Fields of the Sierra Club, a US environmental organisation. “NEPA plays a critical role in keeping our communities and our environment healthy and safe.” 

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