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The Canary in the Coal Mine

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... In the 1880s, a Scottish physiologist and physician, John Scott Haldane, suggested substituting canaries as a more sensitive but also revivable species (Burton 2014). Th e US Coal Mining Institute reached the same recommendation in 1914 (Pollock 2016). Th rough their own "citizen science, " miners, however, may have already been using them in advance of Haldane's "scientifi c" discovery (Burton 2014). ...
... To my own surprise, the death of mining canaries proved more urban legend than actual proletarian history (see Figure 2). Miners cared dutifully, even lovingly, for their occupational pets, housing them in sophisticated resealable cages with oxygen bottles to resuscitate them aft er signs of distress (Pollard 2018;Pollock 2016). Due to their unique four chamber lungs, canaries inhale four times the amount of air as humans per unit of body mass. ...
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Alongside the melting of glaciers, human bodies warn of another petrochemically driven planetary crisis. Much as climate science ignored the early warning observations of Indigenous peoples, the medical establishment has oft en dismissed the canaries struggling to survive in the mineshaft of modernity. In an aleatory Anthropocene, we know not for whom the toxicity will toll. While case studies of environmental justice remain essential, the privileged must also be jolted into understanding their own ontological precariousness (i.e., vulnerability) from toxicants pervasive in everyday life. Moving beyond “citizen science” with inspiration from feminist ethics of care and relational Indigenous epistemologies, I make a case for the extrasensory value of “canary science.” If managerial “risk” was the keyword of the profiteering twentieth century, a sense of shared vulnerability in the coronavirus era could help usher in the transitions needed for survival in this polluted world.
... 10 Before this announcement, with their bodies strapped and buckled up with breathing apparatuses, miners had been descending into the depths of the coal mine escorted by these feathered companions who played the role of live alarm systems. 11 In addition to portability, it was the canary's specific lung capacity that made it an ideal methane and carbon monoxide gas detector. 12 The tiny golden songbird, whose signs of distress warned miners of the presence of invisible and odourless lethal atmospheric conditions, would simply drop unconscious, if not dead. ...
Article
Are there any ulterior narratives that could be mined through a close examination and interpretation of the coal mine interior spaces? CO2 Interiors is a visual essay that addresses this question. And to do so, it unpacks a meticulously curated group of archival images that expose the covert narratives of colonialism and slow violence embedded in coal mining’s (extra)ordinary interiors. This creative exercise entails integrating text into images that include a 19th Century etching of young children pushing coal-filled carriages through steep mine tunnels; and a still from an animated film produced in the 1950s by the National Coal Board Film Unit in Britain. There is an image of human tissue affected by Black Lung Disease; and a photograph of a former Australian Prime Minister enacting the mythology of the alpha male explorer, plunging into the unknown and forbidden depths of the planet. Collectively, these image/text hybrids posit an experimental narrative—an assemblage—that starkly contrasts with contemporary depictions by the mining industry, focused on the technical and quantitative aspects of the activity or greenwashing its multiscalar and devastating effects. This project engages multiple forms of visual representation (historical, spatial, political, and ideological) that have conjured a mythology of coal mining still present today. In doing so, certain refrains echo and multiply, persisting across time frames and political borders to produce a taxonomy of subterranean effects. Integrating text and images, our devices yield a performative reading that seeks to raise awareness and produce affect. As such, CO2 Interiors amplifies our understanding of coal mining beyond its economic and environmental repercussions and well into its social, political, and cultural implications—especially the spatial ones. While the 2019 Australian Federal Election results attest to the embedded mythology of coal mining that is still impossible to restrain, CO2 Interiors dismantles and reassembles it, recasting the false narrative of progress, equity, and solidarity that has been projected from within the coal mine interior space. This curated assemblage of coal stories accumulates as evidence to be critically analysed in order to truly achieve a sustainable post-carbon future.
... As a "sentinel species," canaries are more sensitive to carbon monoxide exposure than humans. If a canary became symptomatic, miners were warned of a potential toxic exposure and could escape to safety [5]. ...
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Infants are at greatest risk of severe and fatal physical abuse yet they sometimes present for medical care multiple times with abusive injuries prior to being diagnosed with abuse and having protective actions taken. Efforts to identify these infants in a timely manner are critical to prevent repeated, escalating abuse and subsequent harm. Increasing the identification and evaluation of sentinel injuries has been highlighted as a strategy for improving timely detection of abuse in infants. Sentinel injuries are visible, minor, poorly explained injuries in young infants that raise concern for abuse. These injuries include cutaneous injuries such as bruising, subconjunctival hemorrhages and intra-oral injuries. Sentinel injuries can signal concurrent clinically occult but more serious injuries or precede more significant trauma from abuse. As such, sentinel injuries offer an opportunity to intervene and protect infants from further harm. A thorough physical exam is critical for detecting sentinel injuries. Imaging with skeletal survey and, when appropriate, neuroimaging are key components of the medical evaluation of sentinel injuries in these high-risk infants.
... It was also observed that, " mining in the United States, has killed more than 100,000 miners and 250,000 or more retired US miners, suffer from black lungs disease, a form of emphysema caused by prolong breathing of coal dust and other particulate matter" [10]. It was also noticed that miners faced problem of death from a host of perils, including the formation of gases such as methane, carbon dioxide, hydrogen sulphide, and carbon monoxide, which is potentially a deadly gas devoid of color, taste and odor, the gas is extremely flammable and unlike carbon dioxide it sink as levels rise, carbon mono oxide is lighter than air and subsequently more dangerous [21]. Carbon monoxide competitively and reversely binds to heamoglobin, even more than oxygen, and even low levels of carbon monoxide can build up in the body causing death. ...
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Anthropogenic activity especially coal mining contributes immensely to environmental pollution within coalmine and the host community especially if not well managed. This study is on the assessment of air quality in and around Maiganga coalmine, with the objectives of finding out the ambient concentration levels of criteria air pollutants within the coalmine, the Maiganga community and the four control sites 2km north, south, east and west of the coalmine, as well as compare the findings with the concentration levels of pollutants recommended as acceptable safety limits set by Federal Ministry of Environment, FMEnv. Six sampling locations were selected for detail assessment, with one point in each of the sites mentioned. Measurement of concentrations of criteria air pollutants; sulphur dioxide (SO2), nitrogen dioxide (NO2) volatile organic compounds (VOCs), carbon monoxide (CO), ammonia (NH3), and ozone (O3) were taken in-situ using Personal Toxic Gas Monitor (Tango TXI single gas monitor). Fine particulate matter (PM2.5), coarse particulate matter (PM10), were collected using a Portable Counter HT-9601 (PM2.5 and PM10) personal dust meter high volume gravity sampler. Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) were also measured using a Portable Hand Held Gas Detector (Porcheck+). The study was done during the dry season and the results revealed that, coarse paticulate matter (PM10) was above the stipulated safety limit of 250µg/m 3 set by the FMEnv for the coal mine area and Maiganga community but all other parameters were within the safety limits of the FMEnv. CO, NO2, SO2, and NH3 in coalmine area had concentrations lower than in that in control areas because of other anthropogenic activities like burning, heating, waste disposal, agricultural practices and a host of others taking place in the control area and which are not available in the coalmine area. However, the concentrations of the aforementioned parameters were higher in Maiganga community than in the control areas due to higher rate of anthropogenic activities in the community than in the control areas. The hypothesis were tested using student t-test, and the alternative hypothesis was accepted which showed
... Before modern technology, miners would take canaries into the mines to check for methane and poisonous gases, and if the canary became sick or died, miners knew there was a dangerous problem (Chalk, 1982;Pollock, 2016). For decades, school staff members heard data-driven instruction would improve outcomes, but teachers and schools have been unable to translate action into results (Gleason et al., 2019;Neuman, 2016). ...
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National organizations in the United States issued policy proposals for returning to school during the COVID-19 pandemic. A qualitative review, using the constant comparison model, examined six policies from different organizations. The policies operate on the notion of a progressive curriculum, with the values of equity, access, and adaptations driving the planning process. There are five variables national policies utilize to operationalize the progressive curriculum and values: organizing, staffing, scheduling, envisioning, and vulnerabilities. A case study using an individual school district examined the impact on learning within the framework of the policies. Recommendations to improve online and remote learning follow.
... The archetypal concept of the canary in the coal mine re-claims a new life in the twenty-first century. Miners used canaries in the early decades of the twentieth century to detect high levels of carbon monoxide and other toxicants in mine shafts (Pollock 2016). Nowadays, pets are being used as assessment and prediction tools (bioindicators) for the effects of environmental contaminants in human populations. ...
Book
This book provides an up-to-date overview of the current knowledge and research concerning domestic pets as sentinels, forecasters and promoters of human health. Written by leading specialists in the fields of medicine, veterinary, environment, analytical chemistry, sociology and behavioral science, this volume provides a comprehensive understanding of the capabilities of pets in what regards to human health. The first seven chapters are devoted to the use of pets as sentinels for their human companions, in terms of exposure to different classes of environmental chemicals. The following five chapters address the use of pets as models for human diseases and promoters of human health. The final two chapters highlight the psycho-social and psychophysiological aspects of human-animal interactions. The book offers an integrated approach to the One Health concept, providing, in a truly holistic manner, tools to assess the equilibrium between the environment, men and animals. This exercise will highlight and reshape our position towards the planet that despite being “a microscopic dot on a microscopic dot lost in the unimaginable infinity of the Universe” is still our own. At the end of the day, pets will always be there to help us.
... These birds were found to be more sensitive to methane, CO gas, and low O 2 concentrations than humans. 54,55 The use of semiconductors as gas sensors started in 1953, when Brattain and Bardeen found direct evidence for the existence of an electron-depletion region at the free surface of Ge (a semiconducting material). 56 Then, in 1954, Heiland found a correlation between the electrical resistance of ZnO and H 2 gas when ZnO was placed in a H 2 gas atmosphere. ...
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Gas sensors are indispensable for detecting harmful gases in the environment. The morphology of a gas sensor significantly affects its sensing performance. Among the various morphologies, one-dimensional nanowires (NWs) have numerous advantages, such as high surface area, small dimensions, high charge-carrier concentrations, facile synthesis, high crystallinity, and stability. These excellent properties make NWs promising for gas sensing. Resistive-type metal oxide-based gas sensors are widely used for monitoring various toxic gases and volatile organic compounds. In this tutorial, the synthesis of metal oxide NWs, the fabrication of gas sensors, and their sensing mechanisms are discussed. Different types of NW-based gas sensors, such as single NWs, branched NWs, noble metal-functionalized NWs, heterojunction NWs, self-heating NWs, ultraviolet-activated NWs, core–shell NWs, and electronic-nose-based NWs, are comprehensively presented. Finally, we discuss future directions with regard to the improvement and potential of these NW gas sensors. This tutorial aims to provide an overview of the fundamental principle and state-of-the-art technology, which is useful for researchers and students working in the field of resistive-type NW-based gas sensors.
... The archetypal concept of the canary in the coal mine re-claims a new life in the twenty-first century. Miners used canaries in the early decades of the twentieth century to detect high levels of carbon monoxide and other toxicants in mine shafts (Pollock 2016). Nowadays, pets are being used as assessment and prediction tools (bioindicators) for the effects of environmental contaminants in human populations. ...
Chapter
The idea that animals may be used as sentinels of environmental hazards pending over humans and the associated public health implications is not a new one. Nowadays pets are being used as bioindicators for the effects of environmental contaminants in human populations. This is of paramount importance due to the large increase in the worldwide distribution of synthetic chemicals, particularly in the built environment. Companion animals share the habitat with humans being simultaneously exposed to and suffering the same disease spectrum as their masters. Moreover, their shorter latency periods (due to briefer lifespans) enable them to act as early warning systems, allowing timely public health interventions. The rise on ethical constraints on the use of animals and, consequently, on the sampling they can be subjected to has led to the preferential use of noninvasive matrices, and in this case we are looking into hair. This chapter focuses in three non-essential metals: mercury, lead, and cadmium, due to their ubiquitous presence in the built environment and their ability of affecting the mammal nervous system. There is a fairly short amount of studies reporting the concentrations of these metals in pets’ hair, particularly for cats. These studies are characterized, and the metal concentrations corresponding to different parameters (e.g., age, sex, diet, rearing) are described in order to provide the reader with a general vision on the use of this noninvasive matrix on the studies conducted since the last two decades of the twentieth century.
... Avian feathers are an effective non-destructive biomonitoring tool of trace metal signatures, which can be obtained from either living birds or museum specimens [89]. Like the proverbial "canary in the coal mine," birds can be used to warn us of a coming ecological crisis [90], in the case of CFA pollution, a crisis already at hand [15]. The gross contamination of much of the remaining global insect population by components of aerosolised CFA will greatly magnify the concentration of these same elements in birds [24]. ...
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The objective of this review is to highlight the importance of the use and application of bioindicators in the evaluation of the quality of water bodies from their origins to the present Era; during and post Covid-19 Era (2019-2022). More than 800 papers were analyzed in relation to the theme and the discussion of the advantages and disadvantages of the application of biomonitoring studies, criteria for selection of methods and organisms. This review focuses on algae, benthic macroinvertebrates and fish in river ecosystems, reservoirs, and other water bodies. Different types ofbiomonitoring methodologies are addressed, including biotic and diversity indices, multimetric and multivariate approaches, integrative methods, functional metrics, and new generation biomonitoring or "biomonitoring 2.0". Thisreview highlights the great importance of the use and application of bio-indicators and biomonitoring techniques within environmental management and environmental health sustainably.
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Episodes of indoor exposure to toxic compounds in companion animals are frequent. Toxico-epidemiological data on this matter are fundamental not only to take proper corrective actions but especially because domestic animals represent crucial sentinels for environmental toxicants. In this review we will present an overview on indoor poisoning of companion animals by chemicals in Europe, providing information on trends and emphasizing emerging indoor contaminants. In general, pesticides are the most frequent class of toxicants involved in indoor animal poisoning episodes in Europe. Among them, insecticides (in particular anticholinesterase compounds) and anticoagulant rodenticides are frequently implicated, but molluscicides (i.e. metaldehyde) together with household products have also shown a growing or at least stable trend in the poisoning episodes. Considering the emerging molecules, neonicotinoids (imidacloprid and acetamiprid) and glyphosate formulations have been pointed out, whereas with regard to households, besides the well-known ethylene glycol, attention should be paid to emerging products such as sodium polyacrylate polymeric hydrogels, xylitol, glowsticks and liquid laundry detergent capsules. The environmental contamination by chemical households is a global challenge and bioindicators like pets may be valuable tools to perform a comprehensive monitoring and risk assessment.
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In June 1979, Beckett directed Billie Whitelaw as Winnie in Happy Days at London’s Royal Court theatre. James Knowlson attended rehearsals and noted the distinctive quality of movement Beckett encouraged Whitelaw to achieve: ‘Her hands fluttered, bird-like, before they settled on something to which she clung, a precious commodity that […] would enable her to negotiate another phase of her lonely “day”’ (Knowlson, 1985, 16–17). Winnie’s ‘bird-like’ characteristics are suggested by the text of the play. In the first act, as her taciturn husband crawls around behind the mound in which she is trapped,Winnie’s lightness and affiliation with the air is suggested when she muses that if only the earth would release her, she would ‘simply float up into the blue’.
Article
We have traced central nervous pathways controlling bird son in the canary using a combination of behavioral and anatomical techniques. Unilateral electrolytic brain lesions were made in adult male canaries whose son had been previously recorded and analysed on a sound spectrograph. After severral days of postoperative recording, the birds were sacrificed and their brains processed histologically for degeneration staining with the Fink-Heimer technique. Although large lesions in the neostriatum and rostral hyperstriatum had no effect on song, severe song deficits followed damage to a discrete large-celled area in the caudal hyperstriatum ventrale (HVc). Degenerating fibers were traced from this region to two other discrete nuclei in the forebrain: one in the parolfactory lobe (area X, a teardrop-shaped small-celled nucleus) and a round large-celled nucleus in the archistriatum (RA). Unilateral lesions of X had no effect on song; lesions of RA, however, caused severe song deficits. Degenerating fibers from RA joined the occipitomesencephalic tract and had widespread ipsilateral projections to the thalamus, nucleus intercollicularis of the midbrain, reticular formation, and medulla. It is of particular interest that direct connections were found onto the cells of the motor nucleus innervating the syrinx, the organ of song production. Unilateral lesions of n. intercollicularis (previously implicated in the control of vocal behavior) had little effect on song.