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    Biden’s EPA proposes water rule to finally ditch lead pipes within 10 years / ArsTechnica · Thursday, 30 November - 19:31 · 1 minute

City workers unload a truck containing pallets of bottled water to distribute during a water filter distribution event on October 26, 2021 in Hamtramck, Michigan. The state Department of Health and Human Services has begun distributing water filters and bottled water to residents due to elevated levels of lead found in the drinking water due to old and un-maintained water pipes in the city.

Enlarge / City workers unload a truck containing pallets of bottled water to distribute during a water filter distribution event on October 26, 2021 in Hamtramck, Michigan. The state Department of Health and Human Services has begun distributing water filters and bottled water to residents due to elevated levels of lead found in the drinking water due to old and un-maintained water pipes in the city. (credit: Getty | Matthew Hatcher )

The Environmental Protection Agency on Thursday proposed a stricter rule on lead in drinking water that would require that all lead service lines in the country be replaced within 10 years, and would lower the current lead action level in drinking water from 15 parts per billion to 10 parts per billion.

More than 9.2 million American households have water connections that include lead piping, according to the White House. Lead moves from the pipes into the water when the plumbing experiences corrosion, which is most severe when the water is acidic or has low mineral content. There is no safe level of lead, which is a toxic metal with wide-ranging health effects, including neurotoxic effects. In children, lead exposure can damage the brain and nervous system, slow development, lower IQ, and cause learning, behavioral, speech, and hearing problems. In adults, it can increase the risk of high blood pressure, cardiovascular problems, and kidney damage.

The EPA estimates that the rule will generate between $9.8 billion to $34.8 billion in economic benefits each year based on health improvement, including higher IQs in children, healthier newborns, lower cardiovascular risks in adults, and a reduction in care for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder.

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    Mars rover finds signs of seasonal floods / ArsTechnica · Wednesday, 9 August - 19:34

two images. At left, a sandy, brownish area filled with hexagonal shapes. At right, this image is faded out, but the hexagonal shapes are outlined in red.

Enlarge / The newly described deposits (left) have their shapes highlighted in red at right. (credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS/IRAP )

The prodigious evidence for water on Mars has eliminated scientific debate about whether Mars had a watery past. It clearly did. But it has left us with an awkward question: What exactly did that past look like? Some results argue that there were long-lived oceans and lakes on Mars. Others argue that the water largely consisted of ice-covered bodies that only allowed water to burst out onto the surface on occasions .

The picture is further confused by the fact that some or all of these may have been true at different times or in different locations. Creating a clear picture would help shape our understanding of an environment that might have been far more conducive to life than anything that exists on present-day Mars.

A new paper describes evidence that at least one part of Mars went through many wet/dry cycles, which may be critical for the natural production of molecules essential to life on Earth—though they don't necessarily mean conditions in which life itself could thrive.

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    California hospital staff call for halt of surgeries over bizarre particles / ArsTechnica · Thursday, 8 June, 2023 - 16:05

Surgical implements are seen on a tray during a surgery.

Enlarge / Surgical implements are seen on a tray during a surgery. (credit: Getty | Ritesh Shukla )

More than 70 staff members of a San Diego-area hospital are calling for a halt of all surgeries at the facility due to unidentified black, brown, and gray specks on surgical trays, the San Diego Union-Tribune reported.

The objecting staff have signed a petition to spur hospital officials to pause procedures until the issue is resolved. But officials at the facility, the Kaiser Permanente Zion Medical Center, have rejected the call, according to the Union-Tribune. A spokesperson for the facility did not respond to voicemails from Ars.

"Providing safe, quality, and timely care to our patients is our top priority, and we will continue to schedule surgeries at Zion that can be safely performed," Kaiser told the Union-Tribune in a statement. "We have confirmed that all measures we are taking to clean, process and transport surgical equipment to our Zion Medical Center for use [are] safe and medically appropriate."

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    Chinese Mars rover sends back images of recent water-shaped crusts / ArsTechnica · Thursday, 11 May, 2023 - 22:02 · 1 minute

Image of a bluff and gullies taken from orbit.

Enlarge / Orbital image of the Utopia Planitia region of Mars. (credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona )

Most of Mars appears to be an endless expanse of alien desert, without a river or lake in sight. However, liquid water definitely existed in the planet’s distant past . A new paper has also suggested that it's also possible small quantities of water still might exist in places that otherwise appear barren.

Before China’s Zhurong (also known as Phoenix) rover went into hibernation mode last May, researchers from the National Astronomical Observatories and the Institute of Atmospheric Physics of the Chinese Academy of Sciences discovered something unexpected. Zhurong was exploring the Utopia Planitia region, which is near the planet’s equator. No liquid water was thought to exist at those latitudes. Yet when the rover beamed back data from its Multispectral Camera (MSCam), Navigation and Terrain Camera (NaTeCam), and Mars Surface Composition Detector (MarSCoDe), there was possible evidence for liquid water having been present less than half a million years ago.

“[Our findings] suggest [features] associated with the activity of saline water, indicating the existence of water process on the low-latitude region of Mars,” the researchers said in a study recently published in Science Advances.

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    Hospital’s water purification system stripped out chlorine, killing 3 patients / ArsTechnica · Tuesday, 7 March, 2023 - 18:32

Part of the Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston on Dec. 16, 2021.

Enlarge / Part of the Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston on Dec. 16, 2021. (credit: Getty | John Tlumacki )

Water purification systems installed in two ice machines in a Boston hospital were supposed to make the water taste and smell better for patients on a surgery floor—but it ended up killing three of them, an investigation found.

The purification systems inadvertently stripped chlorine from the municipal tap water, allowing bacteria normally found at low levels to flourish and form biofilms inside the machines. This led to infections in four vulnerable cardiac-surgery patients who had prolonged stays on the hospital floor. Three of them died of their infections.

Researchers detailed the case cluster and ensuing investigation in a study published Monday in the Annals of Internal Medicine .

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    Water found in new locations on the Moon, may be trapped in glass / ArsTechnica · Monday, 26 October, 2020 - 20:39 · 1 minute

Image of an airplane with a dark patch near its tail.

Enlarge / The instrument used to detect the water flies on a 747. (credit: NASA/Jim Ross )

Despite its proximity to a very blue planet, the Earth's Moon appeared to be completely dry, with samples returned by the Apollo missions being nearly devoid of water. But in recent years, a number of studies have turned up what appears to be water in some locations on the Moon, although the evidence wasn't always decisive.

Today, NASA is announcing that it has used an airborne observatory to spot clear indications of water in unexpected places. But the water may be in a form that makes accessing it much harder. Separately, an analysis of spots where water could be easier to reach indicates that there's more potential reservoirs than we'd previously suspected.

Up in the air

With no atmosphere and low gravity, the Moon can't hang on to water on its surface. The first time that sunlight heats lunar water up, it will form a vapor and eventually escape into space. But there are regions on the Moon, primarily near the poles, that are permanently shadowed. There, temperatures remain perpetually low, and ice can survive indefinitely. And, to test this possibility, NASA crashed some hardware into a shady area near the Moon's south pole and found water vapor amidst the debris.

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    Another look at possible under-ice lakes on Mars: They’re still there / ArsTechnica · Monday, 28 September, 2020 - 20:59

Red and blue color-coded contour lines depict under-ice lakes.

Enlarge (credit: ESA )

In recent decades, we've become aware of lots of water on Earth that's deep under ice. In some cases, we've watched this nervously, as it's deep underneath ice sheets, where it could lubricate the sheets' slide into the sea. But we've also discovered lakes that have been trapped under ice near the poles, possibly for millions of years, raising the prospect that they could harbor ancient ecosystems.

Now, researchers are applying some of the same techniques that we've used to find those under-ice lakes to data from Mars. And the results support an earlier claim that there are bodies of water trapped under the polar ice of the red planet.

Spotting liquids from orbit

Mars clearly has extensive water locked away in the forum of ice, and some of it cycles through the atmosphere as orbital cycles make one pole or the other a bit warmer. But there's not going to be pure liquid water on Mars—the temperatures just aren't high enough for very long, and the atmospheric pressures are far too low to keep any liquid water from boiling off into the atmosphere.

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