Sunday, May 15, 2011


     Wastewater treatment is an important mechanism that operates mainly to protect the public health from contamination. Wastewater contains a mixture of liquid and solid harmful pollutants which are eliminated in the process of filtration. Biosolids, or digested sewage solids are the by-product of municipal wastewater treatment that can be beneficially and safely recycled. But how can sewage solids possibly be beneficial? 

     Biosolids are a nutrient-rich organic material and are considered for use as fertilizers to improve and maintain productive soils and as a plant growth stimulator. The land application of biosolids are preferred over the use of conventional fertilizers, which reduces the demand for chemical fertilizers. There are numerous advantages of the responsible and safe biosolids recycling. The use of biosolids can improve crop production, reduce soil erosion and protect water quality, provide topsoil for recreational uses. promote plant growth in abandoned mined lands, conserve landfill space, and also provide economic incentives. The management concept of recycling biosolids has been around for thousands of years in an effort to maintain soil. It has been used for decades, with no demonstrated adverse affects to human health. By recycling biosolids, it provides an environmentally sound alternative to disposal of wastes so we can help conserve landfill space and save communities money. 

     Biosolids can be easily mistaken as an unsanitary practice that can be harmful to the health of humans. The most common concerns related to biosolids have to do with toxic pollutants, odor, nutrients, and pathogens. Biosolids may contain small traces of metals that are known to be potentially harmful to humans. Organic compounds (e.g. pesticides) found in biosolids are present in concentrations near the lowest detectable limits. Improperly managed application of biosolids can cause odor problems, especially in residential areas.

     Overall, the agricultural use of biosolids can be beneficial to humans as we as the environment. Proper management of biosolids will show now significant risk to the environment and human health. The benefits of biosolids far exceeds the disadvantages as it offers an environmentally sound alternative to the disposal of wastes, while health risks are negligible if it complies to the regulatory requirements.


"Biosolids Benefits." N.p., n.d. Web. 10 May 2011. <>.

"Biosolids Program."Department of Environmental Protection. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 May 2011. <>.

"Common Concerns." N.p., n.d. Web. 10 May 2011. <>.

"FAQ - Biosolids."CCWA/ACEPU. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 May 2011. <>.

"Frequently Asked Questions." N.p., n.d. Web. 10 May 2011. <>.

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Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Technology: What's In It For You?

What would we do without technology? We have been so accustomed to living life with technology that we rely on it for transportation, communication, networking, and the list goes on. The development of new technologies drastically changed the healthcare industry and revolutionized the medical profession. Medical technologies such as CT scanning, and ultrasound, enable doctors to view and examine certain parts of the body in great depth. We will now explore various advancements that have further improved our health care industry. 

An x-ray image of a healthy bone structure 
X-rays are a form of electromagnetic radiation. An electric machine and a special screen are used to obtain x-ray images. A simple x-ray image can be extremely informative. X-rays can differentiate dense structures (e.g. bones), metal and contrast agent (such as special dye used to make certain areas of the body visible) which appear white on x-rays from structures containing air (appears black), and muscle, fat, and fluids (appear as shades of gray). The patient, x-ray machine, and film are positioned according to the area of interest for examination. CT scanning is a further development of x-rays.

A computer axial tomography, most commonly known as CT or CAT scan, is an imaging method that uses specialized equipment to generate cross-sectional images of internal body systems. CT scanning procedure have become commonly practiced by radiologists for diagnosing medical diseases. 

An ultrasound serves similar purposes to a CT scan as it aids in diagnosing diseases. The primary function of an ultrasound is to view the organs, which often provides useful information in diagnosing and treating diseases and conditions. This imaging method uses high frequency sound waves to produce precise images of organs, but is not limited to other procedures which includes the examination of the fetus during pregnancy. Although a medical diagnosis are based on a patients history and physical examinations, ultrasounds provide specialized technicians and medical practitioners the ability to diagnose accordingly.

An ultrasound screening
An ultrasound photo of an 18-week old girl

Pre-natal ultrasound

An MRI image of the head
Magnetic resonance imaging, or MRI, is a noninvasive medical examination that uses a powerful magnetic field,  radio waves, and a sophisticated computer to generate  detailed pictures of organs, soft tissues, bone, and  practically every other internal body structures. These  detailed MR images enable physicians to evaluate the  body organs and structures more effectively. A better  quality screening that MR images provide helps determine the presence of various types of diseases that  may not be assessed adequately by other procedures  such as x-ray, CT scanning, and ultrasound. MRI scans  are highly regarded for detecting diseases. 

The role of medical technology has greatly benefited several medical professions and patients. CT scanning, ultrasound, x-ray, and MRI are amongst the various types of advancements in sophisticated medical technology. Further advances are constantly being made with more personalized, more accurate, and more rapid diagnostic techniques to improve the quality of care for patients.


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Friday, January 21, 2011

The Significance of Sustainability

Do you ever wonder what goes in your food and how it was grown? You wouldn’t be mindful of it. The industry doesn't want their consumers to know because if they knew, they wouldn't want to eat it.

Watching Food Inc. raised my awareness on two contrasting methods of production our food systems practice. Industrial agriculture, or factory farming, can be referred to as the modern form of farming in which manual labour is substituted by machineries. This method of food production exploits animals and the environment as thousands of animals are raised in close confinement for the fastest, cheapest and most efficient way for human consumption. 

In recent years, there has been much controversy on the detrimental effects of the industrial food system. The method of production generates harmful effects on the environment. The industrial system’s concern is not so much on sustainability, but on the profit basis of their livestocks. Conventional food production rely on the industrial practices which constitutes our food system. Insufficient growing practices, food processing, storage, and transporting goods thousands of miles are what comprises the negative impacts on our health and our environment.

Take into consideration the sufferance of hens that live in confined, and unsanitary environments. Imagine the dangerous circumstances that will result in the mass production of eggs. Here is a video tackling some of the most controversial issues that arises from industrial agriculture:

An alternative to the standard production method is sustainable agriculture. Sustainable agriculture operates on the basis of their principles and values – environmental condition, economic profitability, and social and economic equity.

Characteristics of this type of agriculture include:
Conserving all resources including water, soil, and air.
Biodiversity. Various types of animals and plants are raised which are rotated in the fields to enrich soil, and help prevent disease and pest outbreaks.
Minimizing waste and environmental damage by limiting or restricting the use of chemical pesticides and fertilizers which pose health risks and chemical contamination of water, soil, air, and wildlife.
Animal Welfare. Farm animals are treated humanely and are permitted to carry out their natural behaviors. 
Economically Profitable. Farmers are paid adequately. Wages are not dependent on subsidies of the government.
Social and economy equity. Farmers are treated justly and working conditions are safe.

The conservation and sustainable development of animal genetic resources should retract from the narrow focus on a few high input breeds, towards a broad focus on adaptive breeds that survive well in the lower input, high stress environments typical of faming systems. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) urged that the emphasis should now be on how to improve the production levels of such adaptive breeds. The development of highly productive crops and livestock are based on the diversity of species, varieties and breeds. The diversity also allows plants and animals to thrive in the face of harsh climatic conditions, pests or diseases. 

Take into account the impacts that livestock operations have on local communities and the environment. What would you choose, factory or farm?

Monday, November 8, 2010

Is there such thing as a 'flawless' baby?

     Could your vision of the ideal baby finally become a reality? Would you consider to eliminate the genes of undesirable traits and inherited diseases to produce a ‘perfect’ customized baby? To what degree is it fulfilling to know that there are innovative technologies making it possible to choose characteristics like picking an item from a catalogue?

     Over 3500 inherited diseases have been linked to faulty genes. Genetic diseases among Canadians include cystic fibrosis, diabetes, hemophilia, Huntington’s chorea, and sickle cell anemia. Advancements in scientific knowledge of the human genome highly influences the increase of the parental demand for designer babies. Reproductive technologies have been developed to enable doctors and parents to screen embryos notonly for certain disease-bearing genes, but also for characteristics such as eye colour, hair colour, and complexion. 

     Advanced reproductive techniques involves In-Vitro Fertilization, or IVF which is a procedure of fertilizing egg cells by sperm outside the mother’s body. This procedure is associated with a technique called pre-implantation genetics diagnosis (PGD) to examine embryos for defects before implantation in the womb. This technique allows us to modify genes by replacing faulty sections of DNA with healthy ones.

     On top of producing a healthy baby, the concept of enhancing and equipping babies with genes for good looks and intelligence can be very enticing. But ask yourself, should your morals or ethical limits apply to the selection of your children’s genes or characteristics? By 2020, it is expected that the demands of embryo screening will increase due to the discoveries of genetic variations that substantially raise the risk of common conditions. This could encourage controversy over the ethics of designer babies.

     In the decision-making process, it is critical to rule out what is important. Are you only choosing traits because you have a specific preference for a particular child or is it to avoid diseases or dysfunction? If it urges you to seek counselling, then by all means seek counselling. However, you should be under the impression that genetic modifications could potentially irreversibly alter human species.

          In my opinion, laws should restrict embryo screenings to prevent abuse of these advanced technologies, and must only undergo procedures under certain circumstances. I consider non-medical purposes of selecting embryos as unethical. We are not entitled to choose from a selection of traits. I view this situation from a different perspective, while in belief that we should just embrace the characteristics and traits that make up who we are.


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Wednesday, September 29, 2010

World Wildlife Fund Promises A Better Future

Saving the planet is a huge notion to grasp on. We can incorporate the word “biodiversity” to comprise the entire concept. The complexity of our planet provides a suitable environment for the millions of distinct biological species. However, the Earth began to lose species and habitats at an increasing rate due to human activity. The conservation of biodiversity is very important. Biological diversity is the resource upon which families, communities, nations and future generations depend. Without biological diversity, life as you know it would end. Fortunately, we have World Wildlife Fund, which is Canada’s leading conservation organizations, taking a step in the right direction. 

     Human health is strongly linked to the health of ecosystems, which meet many of our most critical needs. 
Maria Neira, Director of WHO's Department for 
the Protection of the Human Development

Biodiversity has declined by more than a quarter in the last 35 years due to habitat destruction and wildlife trade. It is difficult to determine how much species we are losing because we don't know exactly how much we have to begin with. However, we have just about enough information to prove that it is harmful.

The dodo is an extinct flightless bird, 
once a native of the island of Mauritius.

Population growth and our consumption of natural resources are the main reasons why over 500 species are dangerously close to extinction. 

Illegal logging is a profitable activity and this over-exploitation is currently unsustainable.

Through a scientific analysis, experts were able to come up with a conclusion that the declining population of species we are seeing today is estimated to be between 1 000 and 10 000 times higher than the natural extinction rate.*

* The natural extinction rate is the relative amount of species extinctions that would occur if humans were not around.

World Wildlife Fund Canada plays a major leadership role to assist in securing the future of biodiversity and the abundance of life on Earth. “By 2050, the integrity of the most outstanding natural places on earth is conserved, contributing to a more secure and sustainable future for all.” WWF promises a better future. To achieve this, WWF will be working with partners worldwide promoting, developing and implementing lasting solutions to the environmental challenges that we all face.


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