Below are excerpts from The 2012 DuPont Challenge© first-place essays.
Nicole Kim, Junior Division First-Place Winner
One Breath Shorter (excerpt)
As a mere six-year old, I never understood the addiction behind my dadís smoking. As a slowly maturing seven-year old, I never understood the reason behind my momís constant struggle to breathe. I remember lying awake in the middle of the night, counting the number of times my mom coughed and wheezed before she drifted off into a deep sleep. I remember holding my breath for as long as my seven-year-old lungs would let me, thinking it would stop the burning and head-pounding sensation of my dadís cigarettes from entering my nostrils. I wanted to fight off the cigarette smoke. I wanted to protect my momís asthma from its worst enemy, but I couldnít. After all, I was only sevenÖ
ÖTobacco smoke is a powerful trigger of asthma symptoms because when a person inhales tobacco smoke, irritating substances settle in the moist lining of the airways, ultimately causing an asthma attack (Chung and Adcock, 2000). Furthermore, tobacco smoke damages tiny hair-like structures in the airways called cilia, which sweep dust and mucus out of the airways (Thomson, 1998). As a result, second-hand smoke can lead to the buildup of mucus in the airways, ultimately triggering an asthma attack. Breathing second-hand smoke for a short period of time can irritate your lungs and reduce the amount of oxygen in your blood. In my momís case, prolonged or repeated exposure to second-hand smoke was all the more dangerous (Asthma: MedlinePlus, 2011).
Taylor Warner, Senior Division First-Place Winner
The Lowly Earthworm: A Powerful Protector of All (excerpt)
I donít remember much of the trip home from our ruined family vacation except that I was violently ill, couldnít open my eyes and was too weak to sit up. I remember my mother quietly crying at the hospital as the doctor explained I had contracted E-Coli (Escherichia coli) and was very sick. For several weeks, I lay in bed unable to lift my head off my pillow and wondering, What happened to me? Ö Like millions of people around the world, I contracted a foodborne illness, otherwise known as food poisoning.
Today, scientists are studying a revolutionary idea which may dramatically reduce the deadly problem of foodborne illness in fruits and vegetables; the idea centers on using fertilizer comprised of composted castings made by Eisenia fetida, the lowly earthworm ÖIn essence, the major purpose of the earthworm is to break down organic material on the soil surface and leave nutrient rich compostÖ
Vermicomposting is an ecologically friendly method of waste disposal for solid, paper and organic waste through the utilization of earthworms. Basically, worms eat trash and waste, then excrete nutrient rich castings for composting. The castings and other decomposed bedding becomes vermicompost, a rich fertilizer which appears to be nearly immune from pathogens and disease. Vermicomposting does not leave a carbon footprint, requires no energy or electricity and does not consume our limited natural resources. In fact, some scientists believe that this soldier of mankind is the answer to saving our planet from further catastrophic damage due to environmental deterioration.