Ethanol-enriched motor fuels, known in many areas of the United States as gasohol, may not be as environmentally appealing as once thought, a new study suggests. Ethanol is praised for its ability to increase the octane rating of gasoline. Higher-octane ratings make gasoline burn more efficiently. Ethanol is among the top octane enhancers used by the oil industry since environmental laws required the reduction of lead levels in gasoline in the late 1970s.
Ethanol-based fuels have also been found to decrease emissions of carbon monoxide and hydrocarbons, the chief components of smog.
A study by US and Brazilian researchers, however, finds that ethanol-based fuels used in vehicles without catalytic converters create increased emissions of aldehydes, which are among the so-called ``greenhouse gases.''
In addition, the researchers say, the aldehyde emissions can lead to the formation of peroxyacetyl nitrate, or PAN, a compound toxic to plants and an irritant to humans.
The study, which researchers stress is preliminary, measured vehicle emissions in Rio de Janeiro, where ethanol is becoming widely used and where emissions are not regulated. It was conducted by scientists from the Los Alamos and Brookhaven National Laboratories in the US and the Catholic Pontifical University of Rio de Janeiro.
Rare parrots, increasingly popular with pet owners, are being smuggled over the US-Mexican border in surprising numbers.
A two-year investigation by the US Fish and Wildlife Service has found that at least 26,000 birds a year are brought across the border illegally at Brownsville, Texas alone. The government says that even more are brought across the California border and elsewhere, all in violation of US laws that protect endangered species.
The parrot trade brings big profits for traffickers, says Andy Pierce, an investigator with Fish and Wildlife Service in Columbus, Ohio. ``A bird that sells for $100 at the border could go for $800 at a pet store,'' Mr. Pierce says.
The majority of the birds are sold as ``captive bred,'' though only a handful actually are. The Amazonas Society has documented 200 double yellowhead parrots bred in captivity. But, Pierce says, ``thousands are sold nationwide.''
While the majority of species brought illegally into the US are native to Mexico, some birds - in particular black palm cockatoos - may be brought through Mexico from Indonesia and Australia, Pierce says.
When the investigation is complete, officials expect 36 people in six states will have been prosecuted on criminal charges. Two people are already serving jail terms for smuggling.
EPA studies indoor pollution
Indoor air pollution affects, in some way, every building in the United States, most environmental experts agree.
Whether or not such pollution constitutes a widespread public health risk continues to be an open question.
The results of a five-year study of indoor air pollution, released recently by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), do little to answer the question, but the data do document significant facts relative to the problem:
Volatile organic compounds - some of which are blamed for illnesses in the workplace - are found everywhere indoors. The EPA study turned up some 500 different airborne chemicals in just four buildings.
Nearly every pollutant documented was found at higher levels indoors than outdoors.
New buildings had levels of some chemicals that were 100 times higher than outdoor levels. The levels remained higher for as much as six months following construction.
The highest emitters of volatile organic compounds were common items: molding and carpet adhesives, latex caulks and paints, vinyl and rubber moldings, cleaning materials. Secondary sources identified included telephone cables, linoleum, carpet and particle board.
``These findings provide strong evidence that indoor contaminants represent a substantial portion of our exposure to air pollution,'' says Erich Bretthauer, EPA's acting assistant administrator for research and development.
The EPA has also released two booklets for consumers on the subject of indoor air pollution: ``The Inside Story: A Guide to Indoor Air Quality'' which describes common causes of indoor air pollution and suggested remedies, and a ``Directory of State Indoor Air Contacts'' which lists names, telephone numbers, and addresses for contacts in each state on several indoor-air-related issues. Both are available from the Public Information Center, EPA, Washington, D.C. 20460.