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World Health Organization expert Dr. Peter Ben Embarek revealed this week that the organization’s team of researchers have found two scenarios that could have transferred COVID-19 to humans. He acknowledges that COVID-19 could have been transmitted through frozen products at the Wuhan fish market, but the most likely scenario was that an intermediary host species transmitted the diseases to humans.
Why This Matters: Early in the pandemic, some speculated that a lab-related incident introduced COVID-19 to humans, but this new evidence undermines this theory — the WHO said it was the least likely of the theories they were considering. This finally puts to rest this speculation that was endorsed by former President Donald Trump that the virus was either manufactured at or accidentally leaked from a lab at the Wuhan Institute of Virology.
“Findings suggest that the laboratory hypothesis is extremely unlikely to explain the introduction of the virus to the human population,” Embarek said.
Moreover, an introduction through an intermediary host prompts ideas for new studies that could bring us closer to the origins of the coronavirus. One hypothesis, in this vein, is a “direct zoonotic spillover” — a direct transmission from an animal reservoir to a human. This also indicates that global leaders must act quickly to protect at least 30% of nature by 2030 in order to limit the transmission of pathogens from animals to humans and prevent the next pandemic.
Finding the Origins of the Coronavirus: Experts believe that the first COVID-19 cases transmitted from the Huanan seafood market were in early December or late November 2019. The WHO team also found evidence that the virus circulated outside the market, even in late 2019.
However, we’re still far from understanding exactly how COVID-19 spread to humans. Dr. Peter Daszak, a zoologist who is part of the WHO team in Wuhan, China, said to CNN that it may take “a couple of years” to get “a really clear picture” of the origins of COVID-19. Finding a “patient zero” for the coronavirus is much more difficult than for other diseases, because there are so many asymptomatic carriers.
This new information from WHO paints a clearer, though not full, picture of how the novel coronavirus came to be. As Embarek put it: “Did we change dramatically the picture we had beforehand? I don’t think so. Did we add details? Absolutely.”
EPA’s acting chief of enforcement sent a memo to staff last week (that The Hill obtained) calling for them to “[s]trengthen enforcement in overburdened communities by resolving environmental noncompliance through remedies with tangible benefits for the community” with a particular emphasis on “cornerstone environmental statutes.”
Why This Matters: The Biden administration can immediately make progress correcting environmental injustice through fair and strong enforcement of current laws
A long battle over the use of a bug-killing pesticide linked to brain damage in children may be coming to an end. In a ruling last week, a federal appeals court gave the Environmental Protection Agency 60 days to ban the pesticide chlorpyrifos, commonly used on oranges, almonds, and other crops — or prove there’s a safe use of the chemical.
Why This Matters: The pesticide industry used the same playbook as with PFAS, tobacco, and oil: raisedoubt about the clear science and prevent immediate action from being taken, to the harm of everyone else.
by Amy Lupica, ODP Staff Writer Decades after scientists first discovered the dangerous public health risks of the pesticide DDT, researchers have confirmed that two generations later, it’s impacting the grandchildren of women exposed in the 1950s and 60s. Those exposed to DDT before it was banned first-hand saw increased rates of breast cancer; subsequently, their children experienced higher […]
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