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Virus plus microplastics equal double whammy for fish health

Microplastics—tiny particles generated as plastics weather and fragment—pose a growing threat to ecosystem and human health. A new laboratory study…

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Microplastics—tiny particles generated as plastics weather and fragment—pose a growing threat to ecosystem and human health. A new laboratory study shows these threats extend beyond direct physical or chemical impacts, revealing that the presence of microplastics increases the severity of an important viral fish disease.

Credit: Dr. Meredith Evans Seeley/VIMS.

Microplastics—tiny particles generated as plastics weather and fragment—pose a growing threat to ecosystem and human health. A new laboratory study shows these threats extend beyond direct physical or chemical impacts, revealing that the presence of microplastics increases the severity of an important viral fish disease.

Lead author on the study, published in Science of the Total Environment, is Dr. Meredith Evans Seeley, who conducted the research as part of her Ph.D. program at William & Mary’s Virginia Institute of Marine Science. Joining her as co-authors were VIMS professors Rob Hale, Andrew Wargo, and Wolfgang Vogelbein; W&M professor Patty Zwollo; and VIMS laboratory technician Gaelan Verry.

“Microplastics and pathogens are everywhere,” says Seeley, “but they’re often present at highest concentrations in densely populated aquatic environments such as fish farms. We wanted to explore if microplastics could affect the severity of IHNV infections in aquaculture.” IHNV is a virulent pathogen in salmonid aquaculture, affecting members of the salmon family including rainbow trout, steelhead trout, chinook salmon, and sockeye salmon.

The team wanted to determine if a “cause-and-effect” may occur between microplastics, virus, and fish mortality.  Seeley and colleagues thus exposed aquarium-kept rainbow trout to low, medium, and high concentrations of three different types of microparticles, and then added the IHN virus to half the tanks. They chose plastics that are both widely used in aquaculture and commonly found as breakdown products in nature: polystyrene foam (often in floats, buoys, home insulation, and food containers); and nylon fibers (lost from fishing nets, fishing lines, and clothing). They also exposed infected and healthy fish to tiny fragments of the common saltmarsh cordgrass Spartina alterniflora. Control tanks held no virus or microparticles.

Their results? “We found that co-exposure to microplastics and virus increased disease severity,” says Seeley, “with nylon fibers having the greatest impact. This is the first time this interaction has been documented, and emphasizes the importance of testing multiple stressors, which is more environmentally realistic.” 

Dr. Rob Hale, an environmental chemist and Seeley’s doctoral advisor at VIMS, agrees. “Our results,” he says, “show we must consider toxicity of microplastics not just alone but in combination with other environmental stressors.”

Dr. Andrew Wargo, an expert in the ecology of infectious diseases, notes that IHNV is a worldwide issue. “It originated in the Pacific Northwest, where it continues to cause major problems for both salmonid aquaculture and conservation. Our study shows there is an interaction between microplastics and IHNV. What we don’t know yet is how this interaction is playing out in aquaculture or wild environments, which will ultimately depend on the amount of plastic pollution and IHNV in any given area.”

Not all microparticles are created equal

Based on their laboratory results, the researchers suspect that exposure to microparticles increases disease severity by physically damaging the delicate tissues of the gills and gut lining, thus making it easier for the virus to colonize its host.

Exposure to synthetic microplastics—nylon and polystyrene—had greater impact than natural microparticles derived from Spartina. Most impactful was exposure to the nylon-derived microfibers. The researchers suspect this may be due to their larger size, extended length, or the greater hardness of the plastic compared to plant matter.

“Nylon microfibers are larger and may be more likely to become trapped in and damage the delicate tissues of the gills and gut lining,” says Seeley. “That could make it easier for the virus to enter and stress the host, ultimately increasing disease virulence.”

Broader implications

The team’s work has major implications beyond fish farming. “Our research question is very relevant in aquaculture,” says Seeley, “but it’s applicable to natural environments as well. Microplastics are distributed worldwide, so at any given time they may be co-occurring with a variety of natural pathogens.”

“Disease and microplastics may interact to produce worse outcomes across a range of aquatic and terrestrial systems,” says Hale, “including in wild fishes, corals, and birds. If you just test microplastics alone you might not see any impacts and call it a day, but in the real world those microplastics may interact with pathogens, rising temperatures, decreasing pH, increasing water turbidity, and other variables.”

Seeley says the team’s results may be relevant to human health as well. “Indoor environments are dense with microplastics—in household dust for example,” she says. “This makes us wonder how indoor microplastic contaminants may affect the progression of airborne diseases such as COVID-19.”


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Government

Federal Food Stamps Program Hits Record Costs In 2022

Federal Food Stamps Program Hits Record Costs In 2022

In early January, The Wall Street Journal Editorial Board warned that one peril of a…

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Federal Food Stamps Program Hits Record Costs In 2022

In early January, The Wall Street Journal Editorial Board warned that one peril of a large administrative state is the mischief agencies can get up to when no one is watching.

Specifically, they highlight the overreach of the Agriculture Department, which expanded food-stamp benefits by evading the process for determining benefits and end-running Congressional review.

Exhibit A in the over-reach is the fact that the cost of the federal food stamps program known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) increased to a record $119.5 billion in 2022, according to data released by the U.S. Department of Agriculture...

Food Stamp costs have literally exploded from $60.3 billion in 2019, the last year before the pandemic, to the record-setting $119.5 billion in 2022.

In 2019, the average monthly per person benefit was $129.83 in 2019, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. That increased by 78 percent to $230.88 in 2022.

Even more intriguing is the fact that the number of participants had increased from 35.7 million in 2019 to 41.2 million in 2022...

All of which is a little odd - the number of people on food stamps remains at record highs while the post-COVID-lockdown employment picture has improved dramatically...

Source: Bloomberg

If any of this surprises you, it really shouldn't given that 'you, the people' voted for the welfare state. However, as WSJ chided: "abuse of process doesn’t get much clearer than that."

In its first review of USDA, the GAO skewered Agriculture’s process for having violated the Congressional Review Act, noting that the “2021 [Thrifty Food Plan] meets the definition of a rule under the [Congressional Review Act] and no CRA exception applies. Therefore, the 2021 TFP is subject to the requirement that it be submitted to Congress.” GAO’s second report says “officials made this update without key project management and quality assurance practices in place.”

Abuse of process doesn’t get much clearer than that. The GAO review won’t unwind the increase, which requires action by the USDA. But the GAO report should resonate with taxpayers who don’t like to see the politicization of a process meant to provide nutrition to those in need, not act as a vehicle for partisan agency staffers to impose their agenda without Congressional approval.

All of this undermines transparency and accountability for a program that provided food stamps to some 41 million people in 2021. The Biden Administration is using the cover of the pandemic to expand the entitlement state beyond what Congress authorized.

The question now is, will House Republicans draw attention to this lawlessness and use their power of the purse to stop it to the extent possible with a Democratic Senate.

And don't forget, the US economy is "strong as hell."

Tyler Durden Sat, 01/28/2023 - 09:55

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Spread & Containment

A Royal Caribbean Cruise Line Adult Favorite Has Not Come Back

The cruise line has almost fully returned to normal after the covid pandemic, but one very popular activity hasn’t been brought back.

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The cruise line has almost fully returned to normal after the covid pandemic, but one very popular activity hasn't been brought back.

In the early days of Royal Caribbean Group's (RCL) - Get Free Report return from its 15-month covid pandemic shutdown, cruising looked a lot different. Ships sailed with limited capacities, masks were required in most indoor areas, and social distancing was a thing.

Keeping people six feet apart made certain aspects of taking a cruise impossible. Some were made easier by the lower passenger counts. For example, all Royal Caribbean Windjammer buffets required reservations to keep the crowds down, but in practice that system was generally not needed because capacities were never reached.

Dance parties and nightclub-style events had to be held on the pool decks or in larger spaces, and shows in the big theaters left open seats between parties traveling together. In most cases, accommodations were made and events more or less happened in a sort of normal fashion.

A few very popular events were not possible, however, in an environment where keeping six feet between passengers was a goal. Two of those events -- the first night balloon drop and the adult "Crazy Quest" game show -- simply did not work with social-distancing requirements.

One of those popular events has now made its comeback while the second appears to still be missing (aside from a few one-off appearances).

TheStreet

The Quest Is Still Mostly Missing

In late November, Royal Caribbean's adult scavenger hunt, "The Quest," (sometimes known as "Crazy Quest") began appearing on select sailings. And at the time it appeared like it was coming back across the fleet: A number of people posted about the return of the interactive adult game show in an unofficial Royal Caribbean Facebook group.

It first appeared during a Wonder of the Seas transatlantic sailing.

Since, then its appearances continue to be spotty and it has not returned on a fleetwide basis. This might not be due to any covid-related issues directly, but covid may play a role.

On some ships, Studio B, which hosts "The Quest," has been used for show rehearsals. That has been more of an issue with the trouble Royal Caribbean has had in getting new crew members onboard. And while that staffing issue has been improving, some shows may not have had full complements of performers, so using the space for rehearsal has been a continuing need.

In addition, while covid rules have gone away, covid has not, and ill cast members may force the need for more rehearsals.

Royal Caribbean has not publicly commented on when (or whether) "The Quest" will make a full comeback

Royal Caribbean Balloon Drops Are Back   

Before the pandemic, Royal Caribbean kicked off many of its cruises with a balloon drop on the Royal Promenade. That went away because it forced people to cluster as music was performed and, at midnight, balloons fell from the ceiling.

Now, the cruise line has brought back the balloon drop, albeit with a twist. The drop itself is appearing on activity schedules for upcoming Royal Caribbean cruises. Immediately after it, however, the cruise line has added something new: "The Big Recycle Balloon Pickup."

Most of the dropped balloons get popped during the drop. Previously, crewmembers picked up the used balloons. Now, the cruise line has made it a "fun" passenger activity.

"Get environmentally friendly as you help us gather our 100% biodegradable balloons in recycle baskets," the cruise line shared in its app. 

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Spread & Containment

What’s Still Missing on Royal Caribbean Cruises Post Covid

The cruise line has almost fully returned to normal after the covid pandemic, but one very popular activity hasn’t been brought back.

Published

on

The cruise line has almost fully returned to normal after the covid pandemic, but one very popular activity hasn't been brought back.

In the early days of Royal Caribbean Group's (RCL) - Get Free Report return from its 15-month covid pandemic shutdown, cruising looked a lot different. Ships sailed with limited capacities, masks were required in most indoor areas, and social distancing was a thing.

Keeping people six feet apart made certain aspects of taking a cruise impossible. Some were made easier by the lower passenger counts. For example, all Royal Caribbean Windjammer buffets required reservations to keep the crowds down, but in practice that system was generally not needed because capacities were never reached.

Dance parties and nightclub-style events had to be held on the pool decks or in larger spaces, and shows in the big theaters left open seats between parties traveling together. In most cases, accommodations were made and events more or less happened in a sort of normal fashion.

A few very popular events were not possible, however, in an environment where keeping six feet between passengers was a goal. Two of those events -- the first night balloon drop and the adult "Crazy Quest" game show -- simply did not work with social-distancing requirements.

One of those popular events has now made its comeback while the second appears to still be missing (aside from a few one-off appearances).

TheStreet

The Quest Is Still Mostly Missing

In late November, Royal Caribbean's adult scavenger hunt, "The Quest," (sometimes known as "Crazy Quest") began appearing on select sailings. And at the time it appeared like it was coming back across the fleet: A number of people posted about the return of the interactive adult game show in an unofficial Royal Caribbean Facebook group.

It first appeared during a Wonder of the Seas transatlantic sailing.

Since, then its appearances continue to be spotty and it has not returned on a fleetwide basis. This might not be due to any covid-related issues directly, but covid may play a role.

On some ships, Studio B, which hosts "The Quest," has been used for show rehearsals. That has been more of an issue with the trouble Royal Caribbean has had in getting new crew members onboard. And while that staffing issue has been improving, some shows may not have had full complements of performers, so using the space for rehearsal has been a continuing need.

In addition, while covid rules have gone away, covid has not, and ill cast members may force the need for more rehearsals.

Royal Caribbean has not publicly commented on when (or whether) "The Quest" will make a full comeback

Royal Caribbean Balloon Drops Are Back   

Before the pandemic, Royal Caribbean kicked off many of its cruises with a balloon drop on the Royal Promenade. That went away because it forced people to cluster as music was performed and, at midnight, balloons fell from the ceiling.

Now, the cruise line has brought back the balloon drop, albeit with a twist. The drop itself is appearing on activity schedules for upcoming Royal Caribbean cruises. Immediately after it, however, the cruise line has added something new: "The Big Recycle Balloon Pickup."

Most of the dropped balloons get popped during the drop. Previously, crewmembers picked up the used balloons. Now, the cruise line has made it a "fun" passenger activity.

"Get environmentally friendly as you help us gather our 100% biodegradable balloons in recycle baskets," the cruise line shared in its app. 

Read More

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