Image for What went right this week: the ‘great chemical detox’, plus more positive news

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

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

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

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. 

Image: Kai Dahms

Positive news
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. 

Image: Sangharsh Lohakare

Positive news
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 halve emissions by 2030, compared to 2013 levels. The latest figures represent an overall fall of 18 per cent. There’s still some way to go. 

Image: Tomas Malik

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 on 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.” 

Image: Mike Scheid

Gun crime fell in London, figures suggested

London’s Metropolitan police claimed this week to be succeeding in its aim of reducing gun crime. 

According to figures released by the force on Monday, there have been no fatal shootings in the capital for six months. The number of recorded non-fatal shootings also fell; from 283 in the financial year 2019/20, to 196 in 2021/22.

The Met added that convictions for shootings had gone in the other direction over the same period: from 20 per cent to 38 per cent. The force said the figures were proof that its tactics to disrupt the gun trade are working.

Image: Benjamin Davies

Positive news
A project launched to address climate anxiety

Amid rising anxiety about the climate, the University of East Anglia in England has launched a project to help students turn feelings of despair into positive action. 

The programme, which launched on Monday, will include a series of climate cafes, where people can come together to discuss the climate crisis over tea and baked goods. 

Student volunteers are also being trained to lead climate discussion groups with the intention of extending them to older generations in the community.

Image: Callum Shaw

Positive news
Rhinos were poised for a return to Mozambique

More than 40 years after they were wiped out in the country, rhinos are to be reintroduced to Mozambique, it was announced this week. 

Around 40 rhinos (black and white) are to be relocated from South Africa to Zinave national park, which has seen a remarkable reversal in fortunes in recent years. Almost destroyed during the country’s long civil war, the park is once again home to cheetahs, lions, elephants and buffalo.

“The rewilding of Zinave has been an extraordinary success story,” said Werner Myburgh, CEO of the Peace Parks Foundation, which works to restore depleted national parks.

Image: Andrew Liu

The Med got its first offshore windfarm

The Mediterranean Sea has been a bit late to the renewables party, but this week its first offshore windfarm finally went live. 

Located off the heel of Italy, the Taranto installation is capable of powering up to 21,000 homes.

More windfarms in the Med are set to follow. 

Image: Jan Kopriva

EVs overtook petrol motors on value

Expect to see more smug faces behind the wheels of electric vehicles (EVs), after research revealed they are now cheaper to run than their petrol or diesel equivalents.

The research was conducted by Compare the Market, which analysed car running costs in the UK. It estimated that EVs save drivers £600 a year on average. 

The figures are a sign that EVs may have passed a positive tipping point, however the low-emissions vehicles are not an option for everyone due to their high upfront costs. 

Nor are they a panacea for the environment. Green groups argue that the best way to save the planet is to ultimately reduce car use overall. Here are 12 proven ways to do that.

Image: Michael Fousert
Main image: Huy Hung Trinh

What went right previously