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Archives for October 2013

Oklahoma City and Tulsa Two of the Worst Cities for Asthma

Oklahoma City SkylineEach year the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America looks at the largest 100 cities in America and their impact on asthma. The cities are ranked based on 12 contributing factors to asthma symptoms. The factors are asthma prevalence, death rate, air pollution, annual air quality, pollen counts, medication usage, poverty rates, public smoking laws, inhaler access in schools, uninsured rate, emergency room visits, and number of specialists.

Oklahoma City and Tulsa did not do well in the ranking. Tulsa did improve from their 2012 rank of 11 but are still on the top 15 list at 15. Oklahoma City ranks worse in the latest report than it did in 2012. In 2012, Oklahoma City ranked 8th but now ranks 5th.

That’s not the only bad news for lungs in Oklahoma, Oklahoma City  and Tulsa also receive F ratings from the American Lung Association’s State of the Air 2013 report.


And even more bad news comes from the American Lung Association’s State of the Air 2013 report. Tulsa and Oklahoma city both made the list of worse cities for ozone. Oklahoma city ranked #20, while Tulsa came in at #25.

Oklahoma has a lot of work to do to improve our air quality over the next  several years. These are not the top lists we want to stay on.

Do you suffer from asthma? Share your thoughts in the comments below or on our Facebook page.  

Photo credit- Daniel Mayer

Chunky Chicken Soup

Cooler weather for me means loads of soups, stews and chili. I am slightly obsessed with my slow cooker. I find it fascinating that you can just throw some meat and veggies inside, go about your business and come back to a delicious home cooked meal. It’s nothing short of magical. This recipe is as easy as it gets. It’s one of my go-to meals no matter what season. I’ve shared it with family and friends and everyone always raves about it. I hope you enjoy it as much as my family does.

soup

Ingredients

  • 2 onions
  • 6 cloves of garlic
  • 1 bunch of carrots or 1 lb bag of baby carrots
  • 1 bunch of celery
  • 2 lbs of chicken thighs
  • 32 oz. broth ( I use Pacific brand vegetable broth or bone broth if I have it but any stock or broth will work)
  • 1 can of coconut milk ( I prefer Native Forest organic brand, bpa-free can)
  • Poultry Seasoning ( I use a jar of Litehouse freeze-dried poultry season, but alternatively you can use a couple tablespoons of regular poultry seasoning)

Now comes the hard part.

Directions

  1. Chop all your veggies into bit sized chunks.
  2. Place veggies, then the chicken in the slow cooker.
  3. Throw in your seasoning
  4. Pour in your broth and coconut milk
  5. Cook on low for 4 -6 hours. It’s generally ready at the 4 hour mark but you can leave it on low for as long as you like. I leave mine on low until it’s gone, usually a day or two. It just gets thicker and tastier!

Let me know if you try it and like it! If you make any modifications I’d love to hear about those as well. Enjoy!

Share your thoughts in the comments below or on our Facebook page.  

 

Oklahoma Earthquake Activity Up By Nearly 4,000 Percent

It used to be a rare occurrence to feel an earthquake in Oklahoma, not anymore. Between 1975 to 2008 we had around 1 to 3 magnitude 3.0 earthquakes annually. Between 2009 to mid 2013 we have had more than 200 magnitude 3.0 or greater in Oklahoma. This increase is not believed to be due to natural fluctuations in seismicity activity.

The United States Geological Survey (USGS) released a statement about the earthquake swarms and the believed cause, stating one part of gas and oil drilling could be at fault.

“The analysis suggests that a contributing factor to the increase in earthquakes triggers may be from activities such as wastewater disposal–a phenomenon known as injection-induced seismicity.”


This is consistent with several recent studies that have linked earthquakes in Oklahoma with wastewater disposal wells. One study even linked Oklahoma’s largest earthquake, back in November of 2011, to disposal wells.

The USGS and Oklahoma Geological Survey (OGS) are making progress in evaluating the swarms. They have also encouraged Oklahomans to be aware of the hazards of these swarms.

“Important to people living in the Oklahoma City region is that earthquake hazard has increased as a result of the swarm. USGS calculates that ground motion probabilities, which relate to potential damage and are the basis for the seismic provisions of building codes, have increased in Oklahoma City as a result of this swarm.  While it’s been known for decades that Oklahoma is “earthquake country,” the increased hazard has important implications for residents and businesses in the area.”

Studies of these swarms will continue but it does appear that wastewater disposal wells have played a role in the swarms.

Share your thoughts in the comments below or on our Facebook page.

Photo credit: martinluff

Plastics 101: A Series on Plastic Recycling Part 1: The Life of a Plastic Bag

plastic bagI have frequently wondered what happens to the plastics placed in Oklahoma’s recycle bins. Is it actually being recycled? What happens if a plastic bag is placed with plastic #3? What does plastic #3 really mean anyway? These questions pushed me to understand more about plastic recycling.  My research into plastics is too lengthy for a single blog post; therefore, I have partitioned the story into three sections. Part one focuses on the life cycle of a plastic bag.

As Americans, we throw away approximately 100 billion plastic bags annually and less than 5 percent of all plastic bags used are recycled. Yep – less than 5 percent. It is estimated that 1 trillion bags are used each year around the world, which equates to approximately 1 million bags every minute.  46,000 pieces of plastic are floating in our oceans and 3.5 million tons of plastic were disposed of in 2008.

Plastic bags were first introduced into stores in 1977. A product of crude oil, natural gas, and other molecules[i], plastics bags were lauded for being cheap to manufacture and purchase, as well as convenient for carrying groceries. However, anything made from petroleum products brings with it the problem of disposal. Plastic bags are not biodegradable.

Four things can happen to used plastic bags:

  1. They can fill and contaminate a landfill.
  2. They might be recycled here in America.
  3. They could be exported to an overseas recycling market.
  4. They might be reused by the consumer.

The can fill and contaminate a landfill
This happens when plastic bags simply end up in the trash. It takes 1,000 years for a plastic bag to decompose, but it never completely biodegrades. Instead, sunlight breaks down the plastic into small contaminating bits that weasel their way into soil and marine life.

They might be recycled here in America
Based on the petroleum and other complex molecules plastic bags are made of, they are coded as a mix of plastic #4 and plastic #2[ii]. However, placing plastic bags inside your cities’ recycle bin will cause the recycling machines to clog and malfunction. Therefore, plastic bags are only accepted at certain locations. You can enter your zip code at the plasticfilmrecycling.org for locations near you.

Notice that this website refers to plastic film. Yes, plastic bags often fall into a larger category called plastic film. Usually locations that accept plastic bags (call ahead to inquire first) will also accept the following plastic items you were never quite sure what to do with:

  • Bread bags
  • The thin packaging around napkins, paper towels, bathroom tissue paper, and diaper wrap
  • Case wrap (like the plastic film around water bottles)
  • Produce bags
  • Newspaper bags
  • Air pillows
  • The thin plastic dry cleaning bags around your clothes
  • Cereal box liners
  • Sealable food storage bags (no food inside!)
  • Shipping envelopes

According to Wal-Mart, once the plastic bag recycle bins are full, they are picked up by an outside recycling company and transported to regional recycling centers. I have contacted Wal-Mart for more information and will provide you with an update when I hear back from them.  Target and Lowes are also popular retailers that offer plastic bag and film recycling.

So what are these plastic bags and films recycled into? One type of product is composite wood which can be used to make outdoor decks, window and door frames.  Other possible items your plastic bags might turn into include: garden products, crates, pipe, and new film packaging.

According to multiple sources, it is challenging to recycle plastics. First, it is costly to collect and sort through plastics. It costs $4,000 dollars just to recycle one ton of plastic. The recycled product can then be turned around and sold for just $32.00, according to the Clean Air Council.   Recycling plastics also releases many greenhouse gas emissions, harming the environment. Recycling plastics can also be difficult because after all, it is an economic market. If there are buyers for recycled plastics, then the plastics will likely be recycled, if there are no buyers for the product……then the plastic might end up in a landfill anyway.

Exported to an overseas recycling market
A lot of our plastic bags are shipped to China for recycling and reuse. However, as explained at myplasticfreelife.com, entire communities might be hurt by emissions from the recycling process there.

Reused by the consumer
Many consumers find ways to reuse plastic bags at home. For example, some may use them as trash can liners and others to pick up their dog’s poop. You could also bring them with you to the store for reuse. For those of you with a crafty side, visit this website for cool ways to reuse your bags.

Tips for Reduction of Plastic Bag Use:
1)      Get reusable bags
2)      When you purchase only 1 or 2 items at the store, decline the bag. You can carry those items out in your hand.
3)      Go to stores that don’t use plastic bags

 


[i] Approximately 12 million barrels of oil are used annually to make plastic bags. (Americans consume 18 million barrels of oil per day)

[ii] I’ll explain more about what plastic numbers actually mean in my next two posts

Photo Credit- EdinburghGreens

Natural Gas Pipeline Explosion Sparks Fire


Last night around 10:35 p.m. a 30-inch natural gas pipeline near Rosston in Harper County, Oklahoma, just four miles south of the Kansas state line, exploded. The explosion caused a large fire and the evacuation of homes within two miles of the blast and highway 284 was shut down.

Around 75 firefighters responded from Oklahoma and Kansas. People reported seeing the flames in southern Kansas and all over the Oklahoma Panhandle. A family of three was living in a home around 200 yards away, according to authorities, they escaped unharmed. No injuries have been reported.

As of around 7 a.m. Wednesday, the fire was under control and the firefighters were letting it burn itself out. The cause of the explosion is unknown and the investigation could take days to weeks to complete.


 

 

Disposal Well Shutdown After Possibly Triggering Earthquakes

Love County EarthquakesA disposal well in Love County was shutdown last week after it was suggested by a state seismologist that it may have triggered an earthquake swarm in the area in September.

The well is located near Marietta and is a new well that started on September 3rd. The earthquakes started two weeks later.

“The Oklahoma Corporation Commission last week ordered the well operation reduced to less than 5 percent of its designed capacity. The operator then shut in the well because it was not economic at the reduced rates, commission spokesman Matt Skinner said.” –Love County Well Potentially Linked to Earthquakes, NewsOK


The geological survey is continuing its investigation. Austin Holland, a seismologist at the Oklahoma Geological Survey and author of the Love County report, still needs more information to be sure of the earthquakes cause.

“There are states where at this point the well would have been shut in. But we know earthquakes occur naturally in Oklahoma. We need to rule out natural occurrences as a possibility.”  –Love County Well Potentially Linked to Earthquakes, NewsOK

Past studies have linked Oklahoma’s increase in earthquakes to disposal wells. One study even linked Oklahoma’s largest earthquake, back in November of 2011, to disposal wells. As these studies continue to find links many Oklahomans are worried about the damage these earthquakes may cause. The Love County earthquakes did some damage to homes, including causing rocks to fall from a chimney.

More studies are still needed for us to know how disposal wells are impacting our increase in earthquakes and how much of a threat it really is. It is not clear when the Love County disposal well will be functioning again. You can find the Preliminary Analysis of the 2013 Love County Earthquake Swarm, on StateImpact Oklahoma.

Share your thoughts in the comments below or on our Facebook page.

Map Credit: U.S. Geological Survey
Department of the Interior/USGS