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air pollution

What is air pollution?

‘That may seem like a question that doesn’t really need to be asked. Surely, everyone already knows the answer. Air pollution is, well, wait now . . . OK, what is air pollution, exactly?

Ask most people “what is air pollution?” and they will answer “smog” (another word for ground-level ozone), the smelly stuff that turns the air brown or grey and hovers over urban centers like Los Angeles, Mexico City and Beijing. But air pollution comes in many forms, and may include a number of different pollutants and toxins in various combinations.

What Constitutes Air Pollution?
The two most widespread types of air pollution are the aforementioned ozone (smog) and particle pollution (soot), but air pollution also may include serious pollutants such as carbon monoxide, lead, nitrogen dioxide and sulfur dioxide, and toxins such as mercury, arsenic, benzene, formaldehyde and acid gases.

The specific composition of air pollution in a particular location depends primarily on the source, or sources, of the pollution. Automobile exhaust, coal-fired power plants, industrial factories and other pollution sources all spew different types of pollutants and toxins into the air.

Smog is grimy and dirty. Smelly and foul. It is smog, and it is more dangerous than it seems. Smog is a combination word derived from ‘smoke’ and ‘fog’. However, smog is much more that that.

One of the primary components of smog is ground-level ozone. While ozone in the stratosphere protects life on Earth from excess harmful UV radiation, ozone on the ground is hazardous. Photochemical smog (or just smog for short) is a term used to describe air pollution that is a result of the interaction of sunlight with certain chemicals in the atmosphere. Ground-level ozone is formed when vehicle emissions containing nitrogen oxides (primarily from vehicle exhaust) and volatile organic compounds (from paints, solvents, and fuel evaporation) interact in the presence of sunlight.
The excess amount of ozone that forms can lead to Alert Days issued for public heath. In addition, numerous medical conditions, such as asthma, are exacerbated by smog.

What is Smog?

What we typically call smog today is a mixture of air pollutants—nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds—that combine with sunlight to form ozone.

Ozone can be beneficial or harmful, good or bad, depending on its location. Ozone in the stratosphere, high above the Earth, acts as a barrier that protects human health and the environment from excessive amounts of solar radiation. On the other hand, ground-level ozone, trapped near the ground by heat inversions or other weather conditions, is what causes the respiratory distress and burning eyes associated with smog.

What Causes Smog?
Smog is produced by a set of complex photochemical reactions involving volatile organic compounds (VOCs), nitrogen oxides and sunlight, which form ground-level ozone.

Smog-forming pollutants come from many sources such as automobile exhaust, power plants, factories and many consumer products, including paint, hairspray, charcoal starter fluid, chemical solvents, and even plastic popcorn packaging. In typical urban areas, at least half of the smog precursors come from cars, buses, trucks, and boats.

Major smog occurrences often are linked to heavy motor vehicle traffic, high temperatures, sunshine, and calm winds. Weather and geography affect the location and severity of smog. Because temperature regulates the length of time it takes for smog to form, smog can occur more quickly and be more severe on a hot, sunny day.

When temperature inversions occur (that is, when warm air stays near the ground instead of rising) and the wind is calm, smog may remain trapped over a city for days. As traffic and other sources add more pollutants to the air, the smog gets worse. Ironically, smog is often more severe farther away from the sources of pollution, because the chemical reactions that cause smog take place in the atmosphere while pollutants are drifting on the wind.

What are the Effects of Smog?

Smog is made up of a combination of air pollutants that can compromise human health, harm the environment, and even cause property damage.

Smog can cause or aggravate health problems such as asthma, emphysema, chronic bronchitis and other respiratory problems as well as eye irritation and reduced resistance to colds and lung infections.

The ozone in smog also inhibits plant growth and can cause widespread damage to crops and forests.

Who is Most at Risk from Smog?

Anyone who engages in strenuous outdoor activity—from jogging to manual labor—may suffer smog-related health effects. Physical activity causes people to breathe faster and more deeply, exposing their lungs to more ozone and other pollutants. Four groups of people are particularly sensitive to ozone and other air pollutants in smog:

Children—Active children run the highest risks from exposure to smog. Children spend a lot of time playing outside, especially during summer vacation from school when smog is most likely to be a problem. As a group, children are also more prone to asthma—the most common chronic disease for children—and other respiratory ailments than adults.

Adults who are active outdoors—Healthy adults of any age who exercise or work outdoors are considered at higher risk from smog than people who spend more time indoors, because they have a higher level of exposure.

People with respiratory diseases—There is no medical evidence that the ozone in smog causes asthma or other chronic respiratory diseases, but people who live with such diseases are more sensitive and vulnerable to the effects of ozone. Typically, they will experience adverse effects sooner and at lower levels of exposure than those who are less sensitive.

People with unusual susceptibility to ozone—Some otherwise healthy people are simply more sensitive to ozone and other pollutants in smog than other people, and may experience more adverse health effects from exposure to smog than the average person.

Elderly people are often warned to stay indoors on heavy smog days. According to the most recent medical evidence, elderly people are not at increased risk of adverse health effects from smog because of their age. Like any other adults, however, elderly people will be at higher risk from exposure to smog if they suffer from respiratory diseases, are active outdoors, or are unusually susceptible to ozone.

How Can You Recognize or Detect Smog Where You Live?
Generally speaking, you will know smog when you see it. Smog is a visible form of air pollution that often appears as a thick haze. Look toward the horizon during daylight hours, and you can see how much smog is in the air.

In addition, most cities now measure the concentration of pollutants in the air and provide public reports—often published in newspapers and broadcast on local radio and television stations—when smog reaches potentially unsafe levels.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has developed the Air Quality Index (AQI) (formerly known as the Pollutant Standards Index) for reporting concentrations of ground-level ozone and other common air pollutants.

Air quality is measured by a nationwide monitoring system that records concentrations of ground-level ozone and several other air pollutants at more than a thousand locations across the United States. The EPA then interprets that data according to the standard AQI index, which ranges from zero to 500. The higher the AQI value for a specific pollutant, the greater the danger to public health and the environment.

Hazardous substances that include:

Particulate matter (PM) – These tiny particles of soot, ash, liquids cause a smoky haze in the air and contribute to heart disease and respiratory illnesses. Potentially more damaging than large particles are the fine particles of 2.5 micrometers or smaller that can be inhaled deep into the lungs. Particulate matter is considered one of six criteria pollutants under the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS), as mandated by the Clean Air Act.

Sulfur oxides (SOx) – Sulfur dioxide (SO2) is among the oxides of sulfur linked with asthma and other respiratory illnesses. SOx are considered one of six criteria pollutants under the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS), as mandated by the Clean Air Act.

Nitrogen oxides (NOx) – Nitrogen dioxide (NO2) is one of the oxides of nitrogen linked with elevated levels of asthma, emphysema, bronchitis, and heart disease. NOx are considered one of six criteria pollutants under the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS), as mandated by the Clean Air Act.

Lead (Pb) – Lead contributes to neurological (brain) and renal (kidney) disorders. Lead is considered one of six criteria pollutants under the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS), as mandated by the Clean Air Act.

Mercury (Hg) – Elemental mercury released in coal combustion can convert to a variety of hazardous mercury compounds and species. Mercury in various forms contributes to neurological (brain) disorders in developing children and adults. Because coal-fired boilers emit 48 tons of mercury annually in the U.S., the EPA has proposed pollutant standards for power plants.

Vapor-phase hydrocarbons (such as methane, alkanes, alkenes, benzenes, etc.)

Polychlorinated dibenzo-p-dioxins and polychlorinated dibenzofurans (known as dioxins and furans)

Hydrogen chloride gas (HCl)

Hydrogen fluoride gas (HF)

Source taken from: http://environment.about.com, http://energy.about.com

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Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa P. Jackson today announced the agency’s decision to move forward with the development of a regulation for perchlorate to protect Americans from any potential health impacts, while also continuing to take steps to ensure the quality of the water they drink. The decision to undertake a first-ever national standard for perchlorate reverses a decision made by the previous administration and comes after Administrator Jackson ordered EPA scientists to undertake a thorough review of the emerging science of perchlorate. Perchlorate is both a naturally occurring and man-made chemical, and scientific research indicates that it may impact the normal function of the thyroid, which produces important developmental hormones. Thyroid hormones are critical to the normal development and growth of fetuses, infants and children. Based on this potential concern, EPA will move forward with proposing a formal rule. This process will include receiving input from key stakeholders as well as submitting any formal rule to a public comment process.

In a separate action, the agency is also moving towards establishing a drinking water standard to address a group of up to 16 toxic chemicals that may pose risks to human health. As part of the Drinking Water Strategy laid out by Administrator Jackson in 2010, EPA committed to addressing contaminants as a group rather than one at a time so that enhancement of drinking water protection can be achieved cost effectively. Today’s action delivers on the promise to strengthen public health protection from contaminants in drinking water.

“Clean water is critical to the health and prosperity of every American community and a fundamental concern to every American family. EPA is hard at work on innovative ways to improve protections for the water we drink and give to our children, and the development of these improved standards is an important step forward,” said EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson. “Our decisions are based on extensive review of the best available science and the health needs of the American people.”

Action on Perchlorate:

Scientific research indicates that perchlorate may disrupt the thyroid’s ability to produce hormones that are critical to developing fetuses and infants. Monitoring data show more than 4 percent of public water systems have detected perchlorate and between 5 million and 17 million people may be served drinking water containing perchlorate. The science that has led to this decision has been peer reviewed by independent scientists and public health experts including the National Academy of Sciences. Perchlorate is both a naturally-occurring and man-made chemical that is used in the manufacture of rocket fuel, fireworks, flares and explosives, and may be present in bleach and in some fertilizers. This decision reverses a 2008 preliminary determination by the previous administration, and considers input from almost 39,000 public comments.

Perchlorate is both a naturally occurring and man-made chemical that is used to produce rocket fuel, fireworks, flares and explosives. Perchlorate can also be present in bleach and in some fertilizers. Perchlorate may have adverse health effects because scientific research indicates that this contaminant can disrupt the thyroid’s ability to produce hormones needed for normal growth and development.

EPA is developing a proposed national primary drinking water regulation for perchlorate. EPA is committed to using the best available peer reviewed science and data to develop the perchlorate drinking water regulation. EPA is evaluating the available science on perchlorate health effects and exposure. EPA is also evaluating laboratory methods for measuring and treatment technologies for removing perchlorate in drinking water. The Agency is also evaluating costs and benefits of potential regulatory options for perchlorate.

EPA will continue to evaluate the science on perchlorate health effects and occurrence in public water systems. The agency will also now begin to evaluate the feasibility and affordability of treatment technologies to remove perchlorate and will examine the costs and benefits of potential standards.

Action on Drinking Water Strategy:

EPA will also be developing one regulation covering up to 16 chemicals that may cause cancer. This group of volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which are chemicals such as industrial solvents, includes trichloroethylene (TCE) and tetrachloroethylene (PCE) as well as other regulated and some unregulated contaminants that are discharged from industrial operations. The VOC standard will be developed as part of EPA’s new strategy for drinking water, announced by the administrator in March 2010. A key principle of the strategy is to address contaminants as groups rather than individually in order to provide public health protections more quickly and also allow utilities to more effectively and efficiently plan for improvements.

Additional Information about the Four Drinking Water Strategy Goals

Goal 1. Address contaminants as groups rather than one at a time so that enhancement of drinking water protection can be achieved cost-effectively.

The Agency announced in February 2011 that it plans to develop one national primary drinking water regulation (NPDWR) covering up to 16 carcinogenic volatile organic compounds (cVOCs).   Tetrachloroethylene (PCE) and trichloroethylene (TCE), which the Agency determined were candidates for regulatory revision under the second six year review of the existing NPDWRs, will be included in the cVOC drinking water standard. EPA will propose a regulation to address cVOCs as a group rather than individually in order to provide public health protections more quickly and also allow utilities to more effectively and efficiently plan for improvements. In the near-term, EPA also will evaluate how best to address nitrosamine disinfection byproducts since data from the second Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule indicate that these compounds are being found in public water systems. In the long-term, the various offices within EPA we will continue to work together to evaluate and fill the data gaps for other groups of interest for drinking water.

Goal 2. Foster development of new drinking water technologies to address health risks posed by a broad array of contaminants.

EPA, in partnership with the US Small Business Administration (SBA), promoted the formation of a regional Water Technology Innovation Cluster in the Greater Cincinnati, Dayton, Northern Kentucky, and Southeast Indiana region that involves businesses, universities, and governments working together to promote economic growth and technology innovation. Emphasis has been placed on drinking water needs from early stages of cluster development; however, the scope also includes wastewater, storm water, and water reuse technologies because they increasingly impact each other. After a series of stakeholder meetings and the formation of a Steering Committee for the cluster, EPA Administrator Jackson visited Cincinnati on January 18, 2011, where she and the SBA Administrator announced the establishment of this regional cluster. As stated during the announcement, EPA is investing significant resources to conduct key studies of the environmental technology market place for drinking water. The cluster will develop, test, and market innovative processes and technologies including those that:

    • Are sustainable, and water and energy efficient
    • Will be cost effective for the utilities and consumers
    • Address a broad array of contaminants
    • Improve public health protection

Goal 3. Use the authority of multiple statutes to help protect drinking water.

EPA offices shared collected information and analyses conducted under the drinking water, pesticide, and toxics laws; identified authorities that will enable EPA to collect additional information on pesticides and toxic chemicals to inform analyses of potential health risks. OW and OCSPP jointly developed and released a table of non-cancer human health benchmarks for ~350 pesticides in April 2012. The table of Human Health Benchmarks for Pesticides (HHBPs) provides a tool for states, the public and other stakeholders to use for their internal decision-making processes (e.g., assist in interpreting drinking water monitoring data) when drinking water regulatory values or health advisories are not available.

In November 2010, OCSPP and OW worked together to identify a list of 134 chemicals being considered for screening for their potential to disrupt the endocrine system. Endocrine disruptors are chemicals that interact with and possibly disrupt the hormones produced or secreted by the human or animal endocrine system, which regulates growth, metabolism, and reproduction. The list includes chemicals that have been identified as  priorities under the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) and also pesticide active ingredients that are being evaluated under EPA’s registration review program. The data generated from the screens will provide robust and systematic scientific information to help EPA identify whether additional testing is necessary, or whether other steps are necessary to address potential endocrine disrupting chemicals.

Goal 4. Partner with states to develop shared access to all public water systems (PWS) monitoring data.

In 2010, EPA, the Environmental Council of the States (ECOS), the Association of State Drinking Water Administrators (ASDWA), and the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials (ASTHO) established a Data Sharing Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the goals of:

(a) promoting advanced information technology to facilitate data sharing between states and EPA;

(b) strengthening the analysis of potential drinking water public health concerns;

(c) sharing powerful data analysis tools to target program oversight, compliance assistance, and enforcement; and,

(d) enabling consumers to obtain timely information about the quality of drinking water and the performance of public water systems in meeting drinking water standards.

In December 2010, to ensure that the data sharing goals of the MOU are achieved, a state-EPA work group was formed to focus on such issues as data requirements, characteristics of successful data exchange, uses of compliance monitoring data, and ways to provide easily accessible drinking water quality information to the public.  In 2011, in addition to continuing the work of the state-EPA workgroup, the Agency will begin to redesign the Safe Drinking Water Information System (SDWIS) in which the compliance monitoring data collected under the Drinking Water Strategy will be stored and made accessible to the public.

Source : epa.gov

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How to recognise eco-friendly and buy recycled products

As well as recycling, it is important to buy products made from recycled material. This will increase the demand for recycled products as well as create a good recycling loop. Recycled products are widely available; use this page to become familiar with the different eco-friendly labels you might find on these products.

Mobius Loop. This indicates whether the product can be recycled.

Mobius Loop with Percentage. This indicates how much of the product is made from recycled materials.
Tidyman Symbol. Implies that you should dispose of the product carefully, do not litter.
Green Dot. Indicating that the recovery of packaging material in some European countries has been paid for.
European Ecolabel. A European symbol that shows the product has been produced in an environmentally friendly manner.
Green Seal. A symbol used by the USA to show that a product has been produced in an environmentally friendly manor.
Glass. This symbol indicates to recycle glass in bottle banks.
Aluminium. This symbol indicates that the product is made from recyclable aluminium.
Steel. This symbol indicates that the product is made from recyclable steel.

Plastics

These symbols indicate what type of plastic the product is made from:

Plastic symbol1. Polyethylene Terepthalate

2. High Density Polyethylene
3. PVC
4. Low Density Polyethylene

5. Polypropylene
6. Polystyrene
7. All other resins and multi-materials

Build a House From Recycled Products

You may be surprised, but it is possible to build a house using almost all recycled or recyclable material. Below are some examples of materials that can be used when building a house.

  • Tyres can be packed with earth and arranged on top of one another like bricks, and used as interior walls. They can then be covered with plaster to absorb heat and provide insulation for the house. This method reduces the amount of timber required in the building.
  • Cellulose insulation material can be made from recycled newspapers and can provide insulation for the building.
  • Recycled/recyclable steel can be used for many frameworks in a building. Steel can also be used for creating the roof.
  • Plastic PET bottles can be recycled to make carpet material for the building, and carpet pads can be made from reused textiles.
  • Recycled wood can be used for much of the interior of the house, such as worktops, cabinets and drawers.
  • Reclaimed paint can be used to decorate the building once it has been fully built.

Source : recycling-guide.co.uk

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3R

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

There are three key factors when thinking about how to recycle – The 3 R’s:

ReduceReuseRecycle

Recycling Different Materials

Plastic Bottles

Batteries

Glass Bottles

Mobile Phones

You can find out how to recycle different materials such as GlassBatteries and Mobile Phones by simply using our list on the right hand side.

Recycling Etiquette

Recycling can sometimes be confusing and it can be difficult to know whether you are following all the right rules. Improve your recycling efforts by learning some recycling etiquette rules and check out which type of collection is best and why different areas recycle and collect in different ways.

What’s in your Rubbish Bin?

A large percentage of UK household’s still do not recycle enough and throw everything that they consider ‘rubbish’ into their ordinary bin.

Much of this waste can be recycled and should be disposed of separately to general household waste. Look inside this rubbish bin to see how much of the contents should actually have been recycled.

 

Recycling facts and figures

UK households produced 30.5 million tonnes of waste in 2003/04, of which 17% was collected for recycling (source: defra.gov.uk). This figure is still quite low compared to some of our neighbouring EU countries, some recycling over 50% of their waste. There is still a great deal of waste which could be recycled that ends up in landfill sites which is harmful to the environment.

Recycling is an excellent way of saving energy and conserving the environment. Did you know that:

  • 1 recycled tin can would save enough energy to power a television for 3 hours.
  • 1 recycled glass bottle would save enough energy to power a computer for 25 minutes.
  • 1 recycled plastic bottle would save enough energy to power a 60-watt light bulb for 3 hours.
  • 70% less energy is required to recycle paper compared with making it from raw materials.

Some Interesting Facts

  • Up to 60% of the rubbish that ends up in the dustbin could be recycled.
  • The unreleased energy contained in the average dustbin each year could power a television for 5,000 hours.
  • The largest lake in the Britain could be filled with rubbish from the UK in 8 months.
  • On average, 16% of the money you spend on a product pays for the packaging, which ultimately ends up as rubbish.
  • As much as 50% of waste in the average dustbin could be composted.
  • Up to 80% of a vehicle can be recycled.
  • 9 out of 10 people would recycle more if it were made easier.

Aluminium

  • 24 million tonnes of aluminium is produced annually, 51,000 tonnes of which ends up as packaging in the UK.
  • If all cans in the UK were recycled, we would need 14 million fewer dustbins.
  • £36,000,000 worth of aluminium is thrown away each year.
  • Aluminium cans can be recycled and ready to use in just 6 weeks.

Glass

  • Each UK family uses an average of 500 glass bottles and jars annually.
  • The largest glass furnace produces over 1 million glass bottles and jars per day.
  • Glass is 100% recyclable and can be used again and again.
  • Glass that is thrown away and ends up in landfills will never decompose.

Paper

  • Recycled paper produces 73% less air pollution than if it was made from raw materials.
  • 12.5 million tonnes of paper and cardboard are used annually in the UK.
  • The average person in the UK gets through 38kg of newspapers per year.
  • It takes 24 trees to make 1 ton of newspaper.

Plastic

  • 275,000 tonnes of plastic are used each year in the UK, that’s about 15 million bottles per day.
  • Most families throw away about 40kg of plastic per year, which could otherwise be recycled.
  • The use of plastic in Western Europe is growing about 4% each year.
  • Plastic can take up to 500 years to decompose.

Recycling is Important

Recycling is one of the best ways for you to have a positive impact on the world in which we live. Recycling is important to both the natural environment and us. We must act fast as the amount of waste we create is increasing all the time.

The amount of rubbish we create is constantly increasing because:

  • Increasing wealth means that people are buying more products and ultimately creating more waste.
  • Increasing population means that there are more people on the planet to create waste.
  • New packaging and technological products are being developed, much of these products contain materials that are not biodegradable.
  • New lifestyle changes, such as eating fast food, means that we create additional waste that isn’t biodegradable.

Environmental Importance

Recycling is very important as waste has a huge negative impact on the natural environment.

  • Harmful chemicals and greenhouse gasses are released from rubbish in landfill sites. Recycling helps to reduce the pollution caused by waste.
  • Habitat destruction and global warming are some the affects caused by deforestation. Recycling reduces the need for raw materials so that the rainforests can be preserved.
  • Huge amounts of energy are used when making products from raw materials. Recycling requires much less energy and therefore helps to preserve natural resources.

Importance To People

Recycling is essential to cities around the world and to the people living in them.

  • No space for waste. Our landfill sites are filling up fast, by 2010, almost all landfills in the UK will be full.
  • Reduce financial expenditure in the economy. Making products from raw materials costs much more than if they were made from recycled products.
  • Preserve natural resources for future generations. Recycling reduces the need for raw materials; it also uses less energy, therefore preserving natural resources for the future.

Waste and recyling targets

The need to recycle has been recognised by the government and environment agencies who have set a number of realistic targets over the approaching years. District councils aim to achieve these recycling targets with the aid of government funding.

Government Targets

The Landfill Directive states targets for reducing the amount of waste sent to landfill sites in the UK. The targets are:

  • By 2010, the waste sent to landfills should be 75% of that sent in 1995
  • By 2013, the waste sent to landfills should be 50% of that sent in 1995
  • By 2015, the waste sent to landfills should be 35% of that sent in 1995

In order to achieve this directive, ‘Waste Strategy 2000’ introduced the following targets for waste recovery.

  • Recover 40% of waste by 2005
  • Recover 45% of waste by 2010
  • Recover 67% of waste by 2015

The government has also published national recycling targets in ‘Waste Strategy 2000’.

  • 25% of household waste should be recycled or composted by 2005
  • 30% of household waste should be recycled or composted by 2010
  • 33% of household waste should be recycled or composted by 2015
  • The recycling targets for individual local authorities is 30% by 2005/2006

The government has issued a ‘Waste Performance and Efficiency Grant’ of £260 million to aid local authorities in waste reduction, increased recycling and diversion from landfills.

The Environment Agency

The Environment Agency works to protect and improve the environment in England and Wales. They provide a huge number of environmental services and work with local authorities and government agencies to reach their targets.

The Environment Agency aim to:

  • Continuously improve air, land and water quality.
  • Encourage conservation efforts regarding animals, plants and natural resources.
  • Implement pollution control efforts.
  • Reduce the amount of household waste by encouraging people to reuse and recycle.
  • Improve standards of waste disposal.
  • Educate and inform people about environmental issues.

Where can you recycle?

As well as home recycling bins, there are many recycling banks across the UK that can be used to recycle different materials.
They are located on streets across the UK as well as in supermarkets and outside housing estates.
Most recycling banks are emptied on a regular basis. However, if you do come across one that is over-flowing, contact your local council who will arrange for the bank to be emptied. You can also contact your local council to report vandalism to the recycle banks.

Source : recycling-guide.co.uk

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