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Monday, 28 June 2010

Know Your Enemy

This is a long and difficult article, but you should try your best. For me the punch below the belt comes towards the end. This science is done for Unilever and is of special purpose for shampoo’s and conditioner’s. The essential meaning is that the impact and force of future product development is to be much greater than it has become in the last five or so years. If it is bad now how much worse will it be in the foreseeable future. Is anyone researching the health implications? Unlikely, that aspect does not give “added value”.


Viscosity at the Nanoscale: Intriguing 50-Year-Old Puzzle Solved

Science Daily, 25 June 2010

At a snail's pace, this is how proteins should move inside living cells where viscosity of environment exceeds the viscosity of water by a million times. However, proteins move not much slower than in water.

While looking for a solution to this puzzle, scientists from the Institute of Physical Chemistry of the Polish Academy of Sciences discovered a new principle of physics.

Why do biological processes occur in a nucleus? It is so overcrowded by macromolecules, so viscous, that proteins should move extremely slowly there. Under such conditions the pace at which proteins aggregate into complexes and at which molecules join DNA chains cannot be effective.

"But we know that proteins in living cells move several hundred thousand faster than they should. We managed to discover why this is so," says Prof. Robert Hołyst from the Institute of Physical Chemistry of the PAS (IPC PAS).

Human senses do not allow us to identify changes in viscosity well. The viscosity of rape oil seems to be relatively similar to the viscosity of water, though the latter is 400 times lower. Consequently, we often confuse viscosity and density. For example, shampoo comprises 95% of water and has similar density but due to its high viscosity it spills over a hand slowly. Honey is also viscous, not dense.

Viscosity appeared as a parameter in physics in the Navier-Stokes equations discovered in the 19th century. They describe river flow and air flow around plane wings correctly. According to this description, viscosity is not dependent on scale and should produce the same results in the case of a flying airplane and a protein particle moving inside a nucleus.

However, measurements show something different. As early as in the 1950s, experiments, conducted in ultracentrifuges and concerning sedimentation of small particles at high load factors, revealed a surprising fact. It turned out that objects several billion times smaller can feel viscosity several thousand and even hundred thousand lower than a macroscopic object.

A reason of such a dramatic change in viscosity could not be found for a long time.
Although viscosity was already examined by Newton, it has remained a mysterious property of nature to date. We understand its origin in gases: when two layers of gas move against each other, a molecule may jump from one layer to the other, there are collisions and the motion slows down.

However, when gas becomes dense and turns into liquid, there are interactions between molecules and it is hard to indicate phenomena that are directly responsible for the origin of viscosity. As a result, scientists are still examining viscosity in the simplest real fluids made of atoms of argon and other noble gases.

A group of researchers from the Institute of Physical Chemistry of the PAS, under the direction of Prof. Hołyst, has shown recently that in each hydrodynamic system there is a fundamental length scale at which there is a transition from macroviscosity to nanoviscosity. The size of this scale depends on the size of objects present in the fluid: in the case of polymers it will be the size of a random coil, and in the suspension of viruses, the length of a virus rod.

"If the size of a polymer coil is 10 nanometres, each object bigger than the coil, immersed in the polymer solution will feel macroscopic viscosity, and every smaller one, nanoviscosity," explains Prof. Hołyst. It is particularly interesting that changes in viscosity are exponential in length, which means that near the fundamental length scale they are very sharp.

The decrease of the size of a floating object may result in the change of viscosity by as much as 5-6 orders of magnitude. The discovery of the researchers from the IPC PAS means that the existing hydrodynamic equations in which the parameter of viscosity is constant will have to be reformulated in future.

The measurements were conducted as part of the research project with the use of the newest methods and equipment such as a confocal microscope with Fluorescence Correlation Spectroscopy. This new research technique allows the behaviour of individual protein molecules in liquids with capacity of cubical micrometers to be watched in the laser focus.

The experiments were carried out for six years; for two years they were sponsored by the British concern Unilever, interested in the application of the results in the creation of new shampoos and conditioners.

From the scientific point of view, research on nanoviscosity is of fundamental importance since nanoviscosity influences the rate of diffusion and limits the speed of biochemical reactions inside living cells. "

It is not incidental that proteins in a cell, usually the small ones, create complexes only in the vicinity of a place where the biochemical reaction is to proceed. This is necessary since a large complex would move million times slower than each protein separately," explains Prof. Hołyst.

Scientists hope that their discovery will be used by industry, where viscosity plays a key role in many biotechnological reactions. Producers of shampoos and cosmetics will certainly benefit from the results.

The new principle of physics will also be important for the construction of nanodevices. "Science still hardly understands phenomena occurring at such a small scale. If we want to build nanomachines, we should learn as much as possible about phenomena typical for the world in which they are to work," concludes Prof. Hołyst.


Monday, 21 June 2010

Who Opened The Bottle?

It was reported that Katie Price, otherwise known as “Jordan” in the past, has had to take urgent action to protect her reputation. It would be too easy to make fun of a leading member of the celebrity culture and that is not the point.

Like very many others she endorses products with her name to encourage sales. It is common now for fragrance products to be a favourite item. I suspect that very few have asked the simple questions of where do they come from, what is in them, and what might the side effects on users and others?

Katie is unlucky enough to be the one who has been caught out. The report below tells it all.


Katie Price orders perfume probe

Katie Price has ordered a "full report" into allegations of low wages paid to Indian workers making bottles for her perfume. An investigation by The Observer newspaper centred on allegations involving workers at a Pragati Glass factory in Kosamba in the state of Gujarat.

Earlier this week, Superdrug confirmed that it had cleared Katie's “Stunning” and “Besotted” fragrances from its shelves. Glamour girl Katie, also known as Jordan, is thought to be worth around £30 million, thanks to a business portfolio including book deals, clothing ranges and reality TV shows.

A statement issued by Katie's spokesman said the star has suspended her contract with the UK licensee. The spokesman said: "When The Observer's claims about low wages at the Indian perfume bottle manufacturer were brought to Katie's attention, she suspended her contract with the UK licensee, and asked it to provide her with a full written report on the low wages allegations.

She now awaits that report."


To date the concern is rightly over the low wage issue but the other issues of the nature of the chemical contamination of the local environment and effects on the workers are also important. There are enough horror stories in the East to warn us that there is a great deal of filthy production about and a good deal of it to do with consumer products for the West, notably fragrances.

The use of the words “Besotted” and “Stunning” give a clue as to the chemical purpose embodied in the design of the engineering of these products. Roughly translated they mean “Addictive” and “Brain Damaging”.

What a great pity that from her wealth Katie is not helping to fund research into the health implications of these products both for Asian workers and for British consumers.

Thursday, 17 June 2010

Put A Sock In It

If you do not believe the world is mad, read this, then check out the washing basket and have a sniff at the socks. If they do not smell because they are anti-bacterial then sit down and consider your options.


As Nanotechnology Goes Mainstream, 'Toxic Socks' Raise Concerns; Unknown Risks From Nanosilver Cited

Nanotechnology is now available in a store near you. Valued for it's antibacterial and odor-fighting properties, nanoparticle silver is becoming the star attraction in a range of products from socks to bandages to washing machines.

But as silver's benefits propel it to the forefront of consumer nanomaterials, scientists are recommending a closer examination of the unforeseen environmental and health consequences of nanosilver.

"The general public needs to be aware that there are unknown risks associated with the products they buy containing nanomaterials," researchers Paul Westerhoff and Troy M. Benn said in a report scheduled for the 235th national meeting of the American Chemical Society (ACS).

Westerhoff and Benn report that ordinary laundering can wash off substantial amounts of the nanosilver particles from socks impregnated with the material. The Arizona State researchers suggest that the particles, intended to prevent foot odor, could travel through a wastewater treatment system and enter natural waterways where they might have unwanted effects on aquatic organisms living in the water and possibly humans, too.

"This is the first report of anyone looking at the release of silver from this type of manufactured clothing product," said the authors.

Behind those concerns lies a very simple experiment. Benn and Westerhoff bought six pairs of name brand anti-odor socks impregnated with nanosilver. They soaked them in a jar of room temperature distilled water, shook the contents for an hour and tested the water for two types of silver, the harmful "ionic" form and the less-studied nanoparticle variety.

"From what we saw, different socks released silver at different rates, suggesting that there may be a manufacturing process that will keep the silver in the socks better," said Benn. "Some of the sock materials released all of the silver in the first few washings, others gradually released it. Some didn't release any silver."

The researchers will present the specific brands they studied at their ACS presentation.

If sufficient nanosilver leeches out of these socks and escapes waste water treatment systems into nearby lakes, rivers and streams, it could damage aquatic ecosystems, said Benn. Ionic silver, the dissolved form of the element, does not just attack odor-causing bacteria. It can also hijack chemical processes essential for life in other microbes and aquatic animals.

"If you start releasing ionic silver, it is detrimental to all aquatic biota. Once the silver ions get into the gills of fish, it's a pretty efficient killer," said Benn. Ionic silver is only toxic to humans at very high levels. The toxicity of nanoparticle silver, said Westerhoff, has yet to be determined.

Westerhoff and Benn did not intend to establish the toxicity of silver. "The history of silver and silver regulation has been set for decades by the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency, we're not trying to reexamine or reinvent that," said Westerhoff.

They do hope to spark a broader examination of the environmental and health consequences of nanomaterials, as well as increasing awareness of nanotechnology's role in everyday consumer goods.

Silver has been used historically since ancient roman times, though its nanoparticle form has only recently appeared in consumer products. Beyond socks, nanosilver appears in certain bandages, athletic wear and cleaning products. Benn suggested that most consumers are unaware of these nano-additions.

"I've spoken with a lot of people who don't necessarily know what nanotechnology is but they are out there buying products with nanoparticles in them. If the public doesn't know the possible environmental disadvantages of using these nanomaterials, they cannot make an informed decision on why or why not to buy a product containing nanomaterials," said Benn.

To that end, the researchers suggest that improved product labeling could help. Westerhoff proposes that clothing labels could become like the back of a food packaging, complete with a list of "ingredients" like nanosilver.

Westerhoff and Benn expect to expand their leeching experiments to other consumer products imbued with nanomaterials. They hope to find the moment in each product's lifecycle when nanomaterials could be released into the environment, as well as developing better detection methods to characterize nanoparticles in water and air samples.

"Our work suggests that consumer groups need to start thinking about these things," said Benn. "Should there be other standards for these products?"

Saturday, 12 June 2010

Does This Smell Nice?

On Saturday, 12 June the Dr. Mercola web site in the USA featured a video and long description concerning how major companies influence scientific research and used the system to their advantage. Inevitably, what applies to the major pharmaceutical companies applies just as much in other fields, notably those less regulated. It will certainly apply to household and cosmetic products and with even greater force to the companies making extensive use of fragrances.

Big Pharma’s Bald Faced Lies And The Destruction Of Health
Dr. Mercola – Saturday 12th June 2010

Dr. Golomb is one of those rare commodities. She has earned an MD and a PhD and, is an associate professor of medicine, and associate professor of family and preventive medicine at the University of California at San Diego. But she is a rare commodity because she has integrity, and has not sold out to the drug companies while most other researchers have.

"I was initially perplexed by the disparities I saw between the published evidence, review papers, guidelines, and follow-up papers after trials were published," she explains, when asked how she became interested in the topic of Big Pharma distorting scientific evidence.

She had been researching statins (cholesterol lowering drugs), and she was perplexed by how people could come to the conclusions they were coming to, based on the data. "I would ask my colleagues, how could they have read this paper and come to this conclusion?"

Over time, as she began examining the evidence relating to conflict of interest and published results, she discovered there were forces at play that lead to disparities between the evidence that was published, relative to the "truth" of that evidence, and the secondary representations of that evidence and the evidence that was published originally

"There is actually widespread evidence, even within the medical literature, showing that these forces can lead to qualitative differences in the conclusions relative to the fact," Golomb says.

A Perfect Example of Drawing the Wrong Conclusion from Published "Scientific Evidence"

Early in the interview Dr. Golomb cites a perfect example of the qualitative difference between the scientific facts amassed and the conclusions drawn.

"FDA analysts now have access to clinical trials whether or not they are published because of the clinical trial registries that some journals now require. (That doesn't actually require that those results then be published, but at least now there is opportunity for the FDA to get access to those studies, and sometimes to the evidence from the studies.)

So the FDA conducted an analysis of antidepressant drug trials and found that of 38 trials for which the evidence appeared favorable, 37 had been published. Whereas of 36 trials for which the evidence did not appear favorable toward antidepressant drugs, 22 were not published at all, and 11 were published in a way that misleadingly conveyed the outcome as though it was favorable.

So that research, the "published evidence," would be that over 90 percent of publications were favorable, relative to "truth" (at least as determined by the FDA analysts), which was about 50 percent.

So that's an example of how the evidence we see can be dramatically different from the evidence that was procured, and there are actually a number of mechanisms that lead the evidence that was procured to already have disparities, generally favoring treatment benefits, relative to truth."

Many of the critics against natural or alternative health claim that we have abandoned the scientific method, and I think nothing can be further from the truth.
I have enormous respect for the scientific method, and I think when it is done properly it can clearly provide us with profound and valid truths that can guide and direct our treatment protocols.

But what many people fail to appreciate is that much of the research published has been deeply influenced and severely tainted by tremendous conflicts of interest and profit-driven motives.

Dr. Paul Offit, for example, an infectious disease specialist at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, has been quoted as saying: "Science is not a democracy where people's votes decide what is right. Look at the data, look at science and make a decision based on science that has been published."

But what he is really advocating with this statement is blind faith in "facts" that may have been produced in the midst of, and sorely skewed by, massive conflicts of interest.

You Won't Find What You Purposefully Avoid Looking for

Dr. Golomb was previously the scientific director for the Department of Veteran Affairs and on the Research and Advisory Committee on Gulf War Veterans' illnesses. This experience also predisposed her to being more sensitive to issues that many other physicians are not attuned to.

"Part of the reason I got interested in the Gulf War area was because I was already concerned about the way inferences were drawn about that condition… I had seen the conclusions of the Institute of Medicine and the Presidential Advisory committee reports relevant to Gulf War illness at that time, and… inferences were basically absence of proof of a connection between organic factors and illness, which is interpreted as "proof of absence" of a connection.

But no one had looked, and therefore no one had "proved" that the exposures they had received were related to their illness. They then concluded that there couldn't be a relationship. But you couldn't conclude there was "no relationship because there was no evidence" because nobody had looked, or even asked if it was biologically possible and therefore merited more inquiry."

This seems to happen more frequently than you might think. Absence of proof of a connection between a toxic exposure and disease tends to morph into "proof of absence of a connection." But in reality, the absence of proof is oftentimes little more than a refusal to investigate the matter in any serious way.

"It was clear that some of the exposures Gulf War veterans had, had strong biological plausibility as precipitants for their illness, and I outlined… a research plan that would help to evaluate whether in fact there was a cause of relationship.

I suggested that we look at the genetic variants of the enzymes that detoxify some of the chemicals they were exposed to, on grounds that if these chemicals were causally linked to illness, [then] people who have sluggish variants of these detoxifying chemicals should be more likely to be ill, and sure enough, they are. And people who had higher levels of exposure to these chemicals would be more likely to be ill, and sure enough, they are."

Why is There so Little Independent Research When We Know Profit Motives Drive Conclusions?

Not surprisingly, based on Dr. Golomb's investigations into statin drug studies, ALL of the large randomized control trials of statin drugs have been funded by drug companies. And when you consider that the pharmaceutical industry makes about half a trillion dollars annually, it's easy to see how statin drug research may have been clouded by conflict of interest.

So why is there not more independent research being done?

"It's very expensive to do those studies," Golomb explains. "The only other source of funding for reasonable sized studies is the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
We approached the NIH to conduct a study to see whether coenzyme Q10 might mitigate muscle side effects of statins, and we were told by NIH officers that they wouldn't even consider to do the study unless we ask the drug company to supply the statin.

So I contacted the NIH and I said, "I'm really trying to have a career free of drug company conflict of interest, would it be such a problem to have one study that doesn't have a drug company involved in it?"

And they said, somewhat reasonably, that their interest is in leveraging their funding and therefore, no, they would not consider an application unless we asked the drug company to supply the drug, which of course already set some level of conflict of interest."

So, unfortunately, the need of the government to leverage their investment has the unfortunate side effect of also producing ties to industry. Clearly, a pharmaceutical company is not going to jump at the chance to give their drug to an independent researcher who may find that the drug has significant problems.

If they voluntarily supply the drug, they're naturally going to want to have a say in what results are published at the end.

How the Publication Process Can Easily Add to the Problem

But looking at the funding, and hence the potential for direct conflict of interest, of the research in question is not the only problem we face when trying to decipher the truth of any given study.

Once the data has been collected, there's a whole other set of variables that come into play, with respect to submitting them to peer-reviewed journals. "We've already alluded that there are funding disparities, and that less favorable studies – if they are drug company funded – are less likely to be submitted for publication. And then there are issues at the level of the journal.

It would be nice to think of medical journals as these bastions of truth and light that have no bias, but in fact, they're businesses, and they make their money, in many cases, from drug company advertisement, and also from sales of the glossy reprints of the drug favorable articles to industry.

And interestingly, several former editors and chiefs of major medical journals, Richard Smith of the BMJ (British Medical Journal), Richard Horton of the Lancet, and also a couple of former editors-in-chief of the New England Journal of Medicine have written books and opined heavily on the favorable impact of drug company influence on medical publishing.

There are strong conflicts by the journal to publish drug company favorable articles in order to reap those hundred thousand dollars or so in reprint sales for the favorable articles, and also to keep the drug companies happy so that they continue to get drug company advertising."

This is an important point that I don't want you to miss: There are drug reps whose sole responsibility is to "educate" physicians about new drugs, and one of their primary tools is to provide reprints of favorable studies. This is not something that they can simply photocopy in their office, because that would be copyright infringement. So they actually have to pay for that reprint from the journal, and that's exactly what Dr. Golomb refers to here as "reprints."

In many cases, these reprints can amount to income in the six figures, over and above the income the journal generates from the drug company's advertisements in the journal. This profit-driven motive to publish shoddy studies of dangerous drugs creates a major conflict of interest within the journal itself.

"The evidence that this has an impact comes from several sources," says Golomb. "One was the Annals of Internal Medicine that, some years ago, published an article on the impact of drug company advertising on physician behavior and the article was not flattering to drug company advertising.

Somebody tracked the impact on the Annals revenues before the article, and after the article, and they estimated that they lost $1-1.5 million in advertising revenue over the ensuing several years as an apparent consequence of having published that unflattering article. And there is direct evidence now as well, of drug companies rejecting unfavorable articles -- articles unfavorable to industry, based on factors other than article quality."

Two additional problems that have flourished within scientific publishing are the issues of ghostwriting, and duplicate publications. I expounded on both of these issues in this previous article. Although it is considered a serious ethical breach to publish the same clinical trial more than once, this is in fact what has happened with some drug trials, which Golomb discusses in this interview.

Why is this problematic?

Because, for example, if you were to do a meta-analysis, where you review all available studies on a particular drug, you'd be mislead to believe that there are far more favorable studies than there really are. And if that republished study was flawed or the results manipulated through conflicts of interest to begin with, then what you end up with is essentially scientific fraud.

Then there's the process of gaining favorable reviews by other experts, another area fraught with potential conflicts of interest. To learn more about the ins and outs of the peer review process, I urge you to listen to the interview in its entirety, or read through the transcript.

In it, Dr. Golomb discusses the policies in place regarding conflict of interest; why these policies so often fall short; and how pharmaceutical companies manage to circumvent these policies to still publish their sometimes downright imaginary findings.

Some of her stories detail the devastating collapse of the entire system that occurs far more often than anyone could possibly imagine. But she also discusses the potential for reforming the system. Part of rescuing the honor and validity of the scientific method is to put an end to the indoctrination by pharmaceutical companies that occur from day one in every medical school.

"Most of the physicians who are doing the training are conditioned by the existing literature and the existing "expertise," which is influenced by all the factors that we've just mentioned. So they legitimately believe the benefits of these drugs often to a degree that's not even supported by the published randomized trial evidence, because it will also be supported by the follow-on review papers, commentary expertise, and guidelines.

But medical students have actually been on the vanguard of trying to make change and the American Medical Student Association actually developed a policy of trying to rate the impact of conflict of interest in the classroom.

My understanding is that this was motivated initially by a medical student at Harvard who had listened to their lecture on statins, and somebody in the classroom had raised their hand and asked the question about statin adverse effects and it was answered in such a derisive and dismissive way that this other student looked up the lecturer online and discovered that he had all these conflicts of interest with statin industry. That ended up prompting the student group to try to take action."

Isn't that always how real change starts? With just one person, asking the right questions, expecting answers, and being willing to look deeper rather than accept something as "truth" at face value. It's unfortunate, but the science based system we currently have has some fatal flaws.

It's virtually impossible to expect a publicly traded pharmaceutical company, which has a major obligation to its stockholders, to simultaneously have the patient's best interest at heart. As Golomb says, the two are fundamentally incompatible. And yet this is THE source of the vast majority of the funding for all our science-based evidence.

Remember, the end consumer here is you, if you take any type of drug. So although these issues may seem far removed from your life, they absolutely affect a vast majority of you, every single day. The decisions about what drugs to prescribe are being made based on the research published. Oftentimes individuals will decide they want to take a specific drug based on a TV advertisement they just saw, which also spouts claims derived from this scientific process.

Knowing what you know now, after listening to this interview, how comfortable do you feel about taking Paul Offit's advice to just "make a decision based on science that has been published"? Hopefully, this interview will cause you to think a little deeper about the process of the scientific model in general, and how to evaluate scientific evidence in particular.

Sunday, 6 June 2010

Post Contamination Syndrome

Post Contamination Syndrome

Post Contamination Syndrome (PCS) is a period of reaction, shorter or longer, that manifests itself as weariness, physical or mental or both. It is a reaction to contamination by a substance that impacts on the immune, respiratory or brain function with allied effects on mental and body performance.

The length and strength of the PCS reaction will depend on the extent of effect and the nature of the substance, complex or simple, and the impact of the initial and following reactions in relation to the state of general and other health of the person affected.

In those cases where there is awareness of the contamination and measures are taken to either avoid or to reduce risk and impact the effect may be contained within a few hours. Often it will be more prolonged, perhaps days, if the PCS reaction is severe and/or measures to contain and control it are delayed.

Successive waves of contamination occurring in series that are not diagnosed or realised will result in prolonged PCS reactions and issues entailing a persistent debilitating condition that may be mistaken for illness arising from other causes.

A complication is that where a substance or product containing those substances is chemically designed to impact on the sense of smell and effectively either negates or significantly degrades its capability then there is a major risk that the lack of both awareness and ability to take avoiding or controlled measures will occur with more prolonged and severe reactions.

Other issues arise where it is not immediately evident that contamination is present because the PCS reactions might be delayed. This can arise in many instances. One type is where an individual may be subject to a chemical reaction and is not aware of the extent of the chemical haze now common in many public areas and facilities.

These mostly arise from personal and other products with synthetic aromatics, carrier, dispersal and penetrating agents. In those cases where nanotechnology has been applied to the relevant substance in the products the contamination may occur at a distance that makes avoidance and recognition difficult.

In cases where an individual may be subject to other either severe asthmatic reactions or anaphylaxis the PCS onset may occur after an unpredictable period of delay that will make identification more difficult.

The causes of the initial onset of vulnerability are normally complex and can arise from a variety of medical situations. Consequently their impact and diagnosis is often complex and requires rigorous and detailed analysis of the relevant conditions.

One area that presents difficulty is the role of virus infections. The illness may create vulnerability and as the virus trace remains in the blood it is easy to assume that the PCS reactions to contamination by one or more chemicals represent a persistent and difficult to treat feature of the virus.

The virus will have affected the immune or other body system in such a way that its resistance to certain forms of contamination is then weakened. This is hard to predict and the effect of a virus may lead to a range different reactions including PCS in different people.

As modern living and movement enables the wider spread and greater variety of virus infections and the levels of chemical contamination in the immediate environment of the great majority of the population have substantially increased the incidence of virus infections, subsequent chemical reactions and PCS will have risen progressively.

The increased rapidity of the application of new synthetic chemicals, techniques of manufacture and marketing together with the increased impact and power of products in the competition for market share will have outstripped the capacity or capability of modern science and medicine to recognise, diagnose or deal with the extent of the effects on human systems.