Top 10 Environmental Disasters

Top 10 Environmental Disasters

Source : Times Magazine


The worst nuclear-power-plant disaster in history. On April 26, 1986, one of the reactors at the Chernobyl power plant in Ukraine exploded, resulting in a nuclear meltdown that sent massive amounts of radiation into the atmosphere, reportedly more than the fallout from Hiroshima and Nagasaki. That radiation drifted westward, across what was then Soviet Russia, toward Europe. Since then, thousands of kids have been diagnosed with thyroid cancer, and an almost 20-mile area around the plant remains off-limits. Reactor No. 4 has been sealed off in a large, concrete sarcophagus that is slowly deteriorating. While the rest of the plant ceased operations in 2000, almost 4,000 workers still report there for various assignments.
Around midnight on Dec. 2, 1984, an accident at a Union Carbide pesticide plant in Bhopal, India, resulted in 45 tons of poisonous methyl isocyanate escaping from the facility. Thousands died within hours. More followed over subsequent months — about 15,000 in all. In total, about half a million people were affected in some way. Many of those who survived suffered blindness, organ failure and other awful bodily malfunctions. A shockingly high number of children in the area have been born with all manner of birth defects. In 1989, Union Carbide paid out about half a billion dollars to victims, an amount the afflicted say is not nearly enough to deal with the decades-long consequences. Bhopal remains the worst industrial disaster ever.

Kuwaiti Oil Fires

Saddam Hussein knew the war was over. He could not have Kuwait, so he wasn't about to let anyone else benefit from its riches. As the 1991 Persian Gulf War drew to a close, Hussein sent men to blow up Kuwaiti oil wells. Approximately 600 were set ablaze, and the fires — literally towering infernos — burned for seven months. The Gulf was awash in poisonous smoke, soot and ash. Black rain fell. Lakes of oil were created. As NASA wrote, "The sand and gravel on the land's surface combined with oil and soot to form a layer of hardened 'tarcrete' over almost 5 percent of the country's area." Scores of livestock and other animals died from the oily mist, their lungs blackened by the liquid.

e Canal

In 1978, Love Canal, located near Niagara Falls in upstate New York, was a nice little working-class enclave with hundreds of houses and a school. It just happened to sit atop 21,000 tons of toxic industrial waste that had been buried underground in the 1940s and '50s by a local company. Over the years, the waste began to bubble up into backyards and cellars. By 1978, the problem was unavoidable, and hundreds of families sold their houses to the federal government and evacuated the area. The disaster led to the formation in 1980 of the Superfund program, which helps pay for the cleanup of toxic sites.

The Exxon Valdez

On the night of March 24, 1989, the Exxon Valdez oil tanker ran aground on Bligh Reef in the pristine waters of Alaska's Prince William Sound. The first of what would turn out to be 10.8 million gal. of oil began to spew forth into the cold waters. It would eventually spread almost 500 miles from the original crash site and stain thousands of miles of coastline. Hundreds of thousands of birds, fish, seals, otters and other animals would perish as a result, despite the mobilization of more than 11,000 people and 1,000 boats as part of the cleanup. While the Exxon Valdez oil leak is considered to be the largest man-made environmental disaster in U.S. history, the Gulf of Mexico spill may eventually surpass it in severity.

Tokaimura Nuclear Plant

On Sept. 30, 1999, Japan's worst nuclear accident happened in a facility northeast of Tokyo. Three workers at a uranium-processing plant in Tokaimura, then the center of the Japanese nuclear-power industry, improperly mixed a uranium solution. A blue flash heralded trouble. As TIME wrote, "One [worker] was knocked unconscious. Within minutes, the others were nauseated, and their hands and faces were burned bright crimson." Two ended up dying, and hundreds were exposed to various levels of radiation.

The Aral Sea

In early April 2010, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon traveled to Central Asia, where he laid eyes upon a "graveyard of ships" — rusting fishing trawlers and other vessels stranded in a desert that stretched for miles in all directions. It was the Aral Sea ... or what used to be the Aral Sea. Situated between Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan, the Aral was once the fourth largest lake on earth, as big as Ireland. Since the 1960s, however, when Soviet irrigation projects diverted several of its source waterways, the Aral has shrunk 90%. What was once a vibrant, fish-stocked lake is now a massive desert that produces salt and sandstorms that kill plant life and have negative effects on human and animal health for hundreds of miles around. Scores of large boats sit tilted in the sand — a tableau both sad and surreal.

Seveso Dioxin Cloud

On July 10, 1976, an explosion at a northern Italian chemical plant released a thick, white cloud of dioxin that quickly settled on the town of Seveso, north of Milan. First, animals began to die. As TIME wrote about a month after the incident, "One farmer saw his cat keel over, and when he went to pick up the body, the tail fell off. When authorities dug the cat up for examination two days later, said the farmer, all that was left was its skull." It was four days before people began to feel ill effects — including "nausea, blurred vision and, especially among children, the disfiguring sores of a skin disease known as chloracne" — and weeks before the town itself was evacuated. Residents eventually returned to the town, and today a large park sits above two giant tanks that hold the remains of hundreds of slaughtered animals, the destroyed factory and the soil that received the largest doses of dioxin.

Minamata Disease

For years, residents of Minamata, a town located on Kyushu (Japan's most southwesterly island), had observed odd behavior among animals, particularly household cats. The felines would suddenly convulse and sometimes leap into the sea to their deaths — townspeople referred to the behavior as "cat dancing disease." In 1956, the first human patient of what soon became known as Minamata disease was identified. Symptoms included convulsions, slurred speech, loss of motor functions and uncontrollable limb movements. Three years later, an investigation concluded that the affliction was a result of industrial poisoning of Minamata Bay by the Chisso Corp., which had long been one of the port town's biggest employers. As a result of wastewater pollution by the plastic manufacturer, large amounts of mercury and other heavy metals found their way into the fish and shellfish that comprised a large part of the local diet. Thousands of residents have slowly suffered over the decades and died from the disease. It has taken as long for some to receive their due compensation from the corporation.

Three Mile Island

"Nuclear Nightmare," screamed the April 9, 1979, cover of TIME magazine. On March 28, the Three Mile Island nuclear reactor near Harrisburg, Pa., partially melted down. Coming two weeks after the release of the Jane Fonda film The China Syndrome, the Three Mile Island incident became the natural outlet for fears about the nuclear-power industry. The ironic thing is that while it has become known as one of America's worst nuclear accidents, nothing much really happened. No one died, and the facility itself is still going strong. While the near meltdown is often cited as the reason no new nuclear plant has been built in America in the past 30 years, the industry had begun to slow down construction before Three Mile Island ever happened.

Have Clean Air at Home - Limit indoor pollution

Polluted air inside the home can aggravate asthma and allergy symptoms.
The American Lung Association offers these suggestions to help keep the air clean at home:
  • Don't allow smoking in the home.
  • Have your home tested for radon gas.
  • Make sure your home's humidity level is below 50 percent. Install a dehumidifier if humidity levels are too high.
  • To prevent attracting mold, make sure no plumbing is dripping or leaking.
  • Keep trash covered and food securely stored to ward off pests.
  • Avoid using candles or sprays to hide odors.
  • Avoid using household products that contain toxic chemicals.

Breathing Therapy

The nose has a left and a right side; we use both to inhale and exhale.
Actually they are different; you would be able to feel the difference. 

During a headache, try to close your right nose and use your left nose to breathe.

In about 5 min, your headache will go. 
If you feel tired, just reverse, close your left nose and breathe through your right nose.
After a while, you will feel your mind is refreshed.

Most of the guys breathe with their right noses, they get worked up.

Do you notice the moment we wake up, which side breathes faster? Left or right? ?

If left is faster, you will feel tired.
So, close your left nose and use your right nose for breathing, you will get refreshed quickly.

This can be taught to kids, but it is more effective when practiced by adults.

My friend used to have bad headaches and was always visiting the doctor.

There was this period when he suffered headache literally every night, unable to study.

He took painkillers, did not work. He decided to try out the breathing therapy. closed his right nose and breathed through his left nose.

In less than a week, his headaches were gone! He continued the exercise for one month.

This alternative natural therapy without medication is something that he has experienced.

So, why not give it a try?

Airliner Black Boxes

  The "black box" is a generic term for two recording devices carried aboard commercial airliners. The Flight Data Recorder (FDR) records a variety of parameters related to the operation and flight characteristics of the plane. The Cockpit Voice Recorder (CVR) records the voices of the flight crew, engine noise, and any other sounds in the cockpit. All large commercial airliners and certain varieties of smaller commercial, corporate, and private aircraft are required by law to carry one or both of these boxes, which generally cost between $10,000 and $15,000 apiece. The data these devices provide is often invaluable to experts investigating the events leading up to an accident. The recovery of the boxes is one of the highest priorities in any mishap investigation, second only to locating survivors or recovering the remains of victims. FDR information is also often used to study other aviation safety issues, engine performance, and to identify potential maintenance issues.

Example of a Cockpit Voice Recorder (CVR)
Despite the nickname "black box," the FDR and CVR are actually painted a bright high-visibility orange with white reflecting strips to make them easier to spot at a crash scene. The meaning of the term black box itself is somewhat unclear. Some suggest it refers to the black charring that occurs in a post-crash fire while others believe the color black is a reference to the deaths often associated with an accident investigation. The design of modern black boxes is regulated by a group called the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). The ICAO determines what information the black boxes must record, over what length of time it is saved, and how survivable the boxes must be. The ICAO delegates much of this responsibility to the European Organisation for Civil Aviation Equipment (EUROCAE) that maintains a document called the Minimum Operational Performance Specification for Crash Protected Airborne Recorder Systems.
Black boxes first began to appear in the 1950s and became mandatory during the 1960s. These early devices used magnetic tape for data storage, much like that used in a tape recorder. As the tape is pulled over an electromagnetic head, sound or numerical data is recorded on the medium. Analog black boxes using magnetic tape are still present aboard many planes, but these recording devices are no longer manufactured. Newer recorders instead use solid-state memory boards, called a Crash Survivable Memory Unit (CSMU), that record data in a digital format. Instead of the moving parts present in older recorders, solid-state devices use stacked arrays of memory chips similar to a USB memory stick. The lack of moving parts eases maintenance while reducing the chance of a critical component breaking in a crash. Solid-state recorders can also save considerably more data than older magnetic tape devices and are more resistant to shock, vibration, and moisture.

Magnetic tape from within the FDR of EgyptAir 990 that crashed in 1999
Whatever the medium used to record the data, the purpose of the black boxes is to collect information from various sensors aboard an aircraft. The Cockpit Voice Recorder, for example, saves sounds from microphones located on the flight deck. An area microphone is typically placed in the overhead instrument panel between the pilots, and an additional microphone is located in the headset of each member of the flight crew. These microphones pick up conversations between the flight crew, engine noises, audible warning alarms, landing gear sounds, clicks from moving switches, and any other noises like pops or thuds that might occur in the cockpit. The CVR also records communications with Air Traffic Control, automated radio weather briefings, and conversations between the pilots and ground or cabin crew. These sounds often allow investigators to determine the time of key events and system failures.
Analog magnetic tape recorders are required to store four audio channels for at least 30 minutes while digital solid-state devices are required to record for two hours. Both types use continuous recording such that older information is written over as new data is collected beyond the maximum time limit.

Sample data recovered from a Flight Data Recorder
The Flight Data Recorder collects data from a number of sensors to monitor information like accelerations, airspeed, altitude, heading, attitudes, cockpit control positions, thermometers, engine gauges, fuel flow, control surface positions, autopilot status, switch positions, and a variety of other parameters. Most parameters are recorded a few times per second but some FDRs can record bursts of data at higher frequencies when inputs are changing rapidly.
The data measured by the different sensors is collected by the Flight Data Acquisition Unit (FDAU). This device is typically located in an equipment bay at the front of the aircraft beneath the flight deck. The FDAU assembles the desired information in the proper format and passes it on to the FDR at the rear of the plane for recording. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) required the FDR to record between 11 and 29 parameters, depending on aircraft size, up to 2002 but now requires saving a minimum of 88 sets of data. Analog FDRs can save a maximum of around 100 variables while digital recorders are often capable of collecting over 1,000 parameters over the course of 25 hours.

Diagram of data flow to aircraft black boxes
Power for the black boxes is provided by electrical generators connected to the engines. The generators on most large airliners produce a standard output of 115 volt, 400 hertz AC power while some smaller planes instead generate 28 volt DC power. Black boxes are typically designed to use only AC or DC power but not either one. Recorders built for compatibility with the AC power supplies on larger planes cannot be used on small DC-powered aircraft. In the event of engine failure, larger aircraft are also equipped with emergency backup power sources like the auxiliary power generator and ram air turbine to continue operating the black boxes. In addition, the ICAO is considering making a battery mandatory on solid-state recorders to provide an independent power supply in the event of a complete power failure aboard the plane.
A common misconception states that the black boxes are "indestructible." No manmade device is indestructible, and no material has ever been developed that cannot be destroyed under severe enough conditions. The black boxes are instead designed to be highly survivable in a crash. In many of the worst aviation accidents, the only devices to survive in working order are the Crash Survivable Memory Units (CSMUs) in the black boxes. The remainder of the recorders, including the external case and other internal components, are often heavily damaged.

Interior cut-away of a black box design
The CSMU, however, is contained within a very compact cylindrical or rectangular box designed to safeguard the data within against extreme conditions. The box is composed of three layers to provide different types of protection to the recording medium. The outermost shell is a case made of hardened steel or titanium designed to survive intense impact and pressure damage. The second layer is an insulation box while the third is a thermal block to protect against severe fire and heat. Together, these three layered cases allow the FDR and CVR to survive in all but the most extreme crash conditions.
Current regulations require the black boxes to survive an impact of 3,400 g's for up to 6.5 milliseconds. This rapid deceleration is equivalent to slowing from a speed of 310 miles per hour (500 km/h) to a complete stop in a distance of just 18 inches (45 cm). This requirement is tested by firing the CSMU from an air cannon to demonstrate the device can withstand an impact force at least 3,400 times its own weight. The black boxes must also survive a penetration test during which a steel pin dropped from a height of 10 ft (3 m) impacts the CSMU at its most vulnerable point with a force of 500 pounds (2,225 N). In addition, a static crush test is conducted to demonstrate that all sides of the CSMU can withstand a pressure of 5,000 pounds per square inch (350 kg/cm�) for five minutes. The fire resistance of the CSMU is further tested by exposing it to a temperature of 2,000�F (1,100�C) for up to an hour. The device is also required to survive after lying in smoldering wreckage for ten hours at a temperature of 500�F (260�C).

Underwater Locator Beacon on a black box
Other requirements specify survivability limits when immersed in liquids. The CSMU must endure the water pressure found at an ocean depth of 20,000 ft (6,100 m), and a deep-sea submersion test is conducted for 24 hours. Another saltwater submersion test lasting 30 days demonstrates both the survivability of the CSMU and the function of an Underwater Locator Beacon (ULB), or "pinger," that emits an ultrasonic signal once a second when immersed in water. These signals can be transmitted as deep 14,000 ft (4,270 m) and are detectable by sonar to help locate the recorders. A final series of tests includes submerging the CSMU in various fluids like jet fuel and fire extinguishing chemicals to verify the device can withstand the corrosive effects of such liquids.
Upon completion of the testing, the black boxes are disassembled and the CSMU boards are extracted. The boards are then reassembled in a new case and attached to a readout system to verify that the pre-recorded data written to the device can still be read and processed.
Another factor important to the survivability of the black boxes is their installation in the tail of the aircraft. The exact location often varies depending on the plane, but the FDR and CVR are usually placed near the galley, in the aft cargo hold, or in the tail cone. The recorders are stored in the tail since this is usually the last part of the aircraft to impact in an accident. The entire front portion of the plane acts like a crush zone that helps to decelerate the tail more slowly. This effect reduces the shock experienced by the recorders and helps to cushion the devices to improve their chances of surviving the crash.

Flight Data Recorder recovered from United Airlines 93 in 2001
Once the black boxes have been located following an accident, they are typically taken into custody by an aviation safety agency for analysis. In the United States, responsibility for investigating most air accidents belongs to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB). Many countries lacking the capability to analyze black boxes also send their recorders to the computer labs of the NTSB or some of the better-equipped investigative organizations in Western nations. Care must be taken in recovering and transporting the recorders so that no further damage is done to the devices that might prevent important data from being extracted.
Upon receipt of the recorders, the NTSB uses a series of computer and audio equipment to process and analyze any information that can be recovered. The data is translated into formats readily usable by investigators and is usually critical in identifying the probable cause(s) of the accident. This process may take many weeks or months depending on the condition of the black boxes and the level of processing required to make sense of the data. Outside experts are also often consulted to help analyze and interpret the data.

Animation image created using FDR data from American Airlines 587 that crashed in 2001
Flight Data Recorder information is typically presented in the form of graphs or animations used to understand instrument readings, flight characteristics, and the performance of the aircraft during its final moments. Cockpit Voice Recorder information is usually more sensitive and laws strictly regulate how it is handled. A committee including representatives of the NTSB, FAA, the airline, the manufacturers of the aircraft and engines, and the pilots union is responsible for preparing a transcript of the CVR's contents. This transcript is painstakingly created using air traffic control logs and sound spectrum analysis software to provide exact timing. Although the transcript can be released to the public, only select and pertinent portions of the actual audio recording are made public due to privacy concerns.
Flight recorder design has improved considerably since the devices were first introduced in the 1950s. However, no recording device is perfect. Black boxes are sometimes never found or too badly damaged to recover some or all of the data from a crash. To reduce the likelihood of damage or loss, some more recent designs are self-ejecting and use the energy of impact to separate themselves from the aircraft. Loss of electrical power is also a common event in aviation accicents, such as Swissair Flight 111 when the black boxes were inoperative for the last six minutes of flight due to aircraft power failure. Several safety organizations have recommended providing the recorders with a backup battery to operate the devices for up to ten minutes if power is interrupted.

Cockpit Voice Recorder recovered from United Airlines 93 in 2001
Another recommendation is to add a second independent set of recorders on a separate electrical bus to insure redundancy in the event of a system failure. The additional recorders would be located as close to the cockpit as possible while the existing black boxes remain in the tail to reduce the likelihood of a single failure incapacitating both sets. Accident investigators have also argued for the installation of a third black box to record cockpit video. Though pilots have so far resisted the move because of privacy issues, video data would be useful to better understand pilot actions in the moments leading up to an accident.