This plant might be the answer to water pollution we've been searching for.

Arsenic, once used in pesticides, has been a worry across the U.S. for many years. Food production pollution and natural contamination (arsenic is found in certain rock) has contaminated water and food across the country, from Maine to California's Central Valley.

But one recent scientific breakthrough could help clean up water for good.

Image via iStock.


Meet the arsenic-eating power of warnstarfia fluitans, better known to the outdoorsy as floating hook moss.

Aquatic moss in Stockholm University greenhouse. Photo by Arifin Sandhi, used with permission.

It's mostly found in the Great Lakes region, but floating hook moss also has a home in northern Sweden. That part of Sweden has been the home of iron mining for years, and a type of iron pyrite called arsenopyrites piles up and leaches arsenic out into water supplies. Researches at Stockholm University observed the floating hook moss living in the contaminated water, in water no plant should be able to survive in.

"We thought that this plant could be used as an arsenic phytofilter plant species in a constructed wetland system," says Arifin Sandhi, a doctoral candidate at the university.

Could this moss clean up the water?

In general, plants are extremely effective at cleaning up heavy metals and poisons, which they evolve as a defense mechanism. They take it out of their environment, bind it up in their tissues, and essentially bury it inside themselves. As long as we don't eat it for a snack, and as long as the plant stays alive, it's effectively gone.

The researchers discovered that the floating hook moss not only sucks up arsenic, it sucks it up faster than you can watch your favorite TV show.

When introduced into a container of water with dangerous levels of arsenic, the moss filtered 80% of the chemical out of the water in less than an hour.

Image via Hermann Schachner/Wikimedia Commons.

Even more surprising was that the moss seemed to thrive in the arsenic. It continued to live and grow with as much as double the arsenic it takes to kill other types of moss.

Why does it suck up so much arsenic so fast? Theories abound, and we'll have to wait for molecular biologists to weigh in for any clear answers. The most likely theory, at the moment, is that the moss does it as a form of immunization. By taking in the arsenic and incorporating it into its tissues, it both reduces the chances of the arsenic damaging it externally and gives every branch of the moss a better chance to survive.

This mighty moss has the potential to quickly clean up water sources far beyond northern Sweden.

With it's poison-sucking abilities, the floating hook moss could be used in special gardens planted and grown near sources of pollution. In several towns in France, for example, these handpicked gardens are so good at their jobs that when you reach the final outlet for their sewage treatment plants, you can take a nice dip in the water and never even know where it came from.

The moss is found across the planet, so there's not a huge risk of introducing an invasive species to natural waterways. That said, care will have to be taken that the moss doesn't run out of control, but its speed means that it can be introduced and removed far faster than machine-based solutions.

We don't have to accept the pollution of the past (or present) as the way of the future.

We can do our part by petitioning to build pollution-guzzling gardens and, in places where we can grow aquatic gardens and where we know they won't be invasive, growing them ourselves.

We can make changes, often faster and more powerfully than we thought possible with a little help from the Earth itself.

Courtesy of Verizon
True

If someone were to say "video games" to you, what are the first words that come to mind? Whatever words you thought of (fun, exciting, etc.), we're willing to guess "healthy" or "mental health tool" didn't pop into your mind.

And yet… it turns out they are. Especially for Veterans.

How? Well, for one thing, video games — and virtual reality more generally — are also more accessible and less stigmatized to veterans than mental health treatment. In fact, some psychiatrists are using virtual reality systems for this reason to treat PTSD.

Secondly, video games allow people to socialize in new ways with people who share common interests and goals. And for Veterans, many of whom leave the military feeling isolated or lonely after they lose the daily camaraderie of their regiment, that socialization is critical to their mental health. It gives them a virtual group of friends to talk with, connect to, and relate to through shared goals and interests.

In addition, according to a 2018 study, since many video games simulate real-life situations they encountered during their service, it makes socialization easier since they can relate to and find common ground with other gamers while playing.

This can help ease symptoms of depression, anxiety, and even PTSD in Veterans, which affects 20% of the Veterans who have served since 9/11.

Watch here as Verizon dives into the stories of three Veteran gamers to learn how video games helped them build community, deal with trauma and have some fun.

Band of Gamers www.youtube.com

Video games have been especially beneficial to Veterans since the beginning of the pandemic when all of us — Veterans included — have been even more isolated than ever before.

And that's why Verizon launched a challenge last year, which saw $30,000 donated to four military charities.

And this year, they're going even bigger by launching a new World of Warships charity tournament in partnership with Wargaming and Wounded Warrior Project called "Verizon Warrior Series." During the tournament, gamers will be able to interact with the game's iconic ships in new and exciting ways, all while giving back.

Together with these nonprofits, the tournament will welcome teams all across the nation in order to raise money for military charities helping Veterans in need. There will be a $100,000 prize pool donated to these charities, as well as donation drives for injured Veterans at every match during the tournament to raise extra funds.

Verizon is also providing special discounts to Those Who Serve communities, including military and first responders, and they're offering a $75 in-game content military promo for World of Warships.

Tournament finals are scheduled for August 8, so be sure to tune in to the tournament and donate if you can in order to give back to Veterans in need.

Courtesy of Verizon

via CNN / Twitter

Eviction seemed imminent for Dasha Kelly, 32, and her three young daughters Sharron, 8; Kia, 6; and Imani, 5, on Monday. The eviction moratorium expired over the weekend and it looked like there was no way for them to avoid becoming homeless.

The former Las Vegas card dealer lost her job due to casino closures during the pandemic and needed $2,000 to cover her back rent. The mother of three couldn't bear the thought of being put out of her apartment with three children in the scorching Nevada desert.

"I had no idea what we were going to do," Kelly said, according to KOAT.

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