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Giant snails monitor air pollution in Russia

The Achatina snails, which reach 20 centimetres in length and are widespread in Sub-Saharan Africa, were chosen because "they have lungs and breathe air like humans," the company said.
by Staff Writers
Saint Petersburg, Russia (AFP) Jan 18, 2011
A Russian waterworks has recruited giant African snails to act as living sensors to monitor air pollution from a sewage incinerator, the company said Tuesday.

The waterworks is using six snails as an innovative way to monitor pollution from a incinerator that burns sewage residue on the outskirts of Saint Petersburg, the Vodokanal state utilities company said in a statement.

The Achatina snails, which reach 20 centimetres in length and are widespread in Sub-Saharan Africa, were chosen because "they have lungs and breathe air like humans," the company said.

The snails have been fitted with heart monitors and motion sensors while breathing smoke from the plant and their readings will be compared with a control group, waterworks spokeswoman Oksana Popova told AFP.

While living organisms are frequently used to monitor pollution, an expert dismissed the use of snails to monitor the controversial incinerator as a publicity stunt.

"Burning sludge emits toxic dioxins," said Dmitry Artamonov, who heads the the Saint Petersburg office of Greenpeace environmental campaigning group

"I don't know if snails get cancer, but even if they do, it won't happen straight away, and we will not hear about it from Vodokanal."

Artamonov said that last year Vodokanal refused Greenpeace access when activists wanted to take a water sample at the sewage treatment facility, which is one of the biggest in the country.

earlier related report
US accuses Canada of breaking lumber trade deal
Washington (AFP) Jan 18, 2011 - Washington accused Canada of breaking a five-year-old agreement on lumber exports to the United States Tuesday, and demanded arbitration.

In a statement US trade representative Ron Kirk accused Canada of selling softwood timber from public lands to Canadian lumber exporters for prices below those agreed in a 2006 pact.

The Canadian province of British Columbia is said to have sold exporters timber felled from public lands for a low price of 25 cents per cubic meter.

"Canada is in breach of its commitments," said Kirk. "When we believe our trading partners are not living up to their obligations, we will not hesitate to enforce our rights under our trade agreements."

Washington said talks to resolve the matter without arbitration had failed.

It is the third dispute between the two countries over the 2006 agreement, which was designed to regulate the multi-billion dollar trade.

Canada was ordered to pay over Canadian $68 million (US$68.8 million) in export duties after failing to correctly calculate quotas.

The second case, involving provincial subsidies has not yet been resolved.




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New China pollution targets inadequate: Greenpeace
Beijing (AFP) Jan 17, 2011
Environmental group Greenpeace on Monday praised China for setting new pollution targets but said the measures fell well short of what was needed to curb the country's world-beating carbon emissions. The environmental protection ministry said late last week it had added nitrogen oxide and ammonia nitrogen to a list of major pollutants that it wants reduced by 1.5 percent this year, according ... read more

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