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Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Just A Tickle In The Chest

Another article from a couple of years back which raises questions about the hell for leather application of new science to commercial products and the implications. In the meantime our leading scientists are trying to tell us it is all in the mind.

Much as coal miners used to be told that their chest problems were their own fault.


Carbon nanotubes behave like asbestos

By Richard Van Noorden - 20 May 2008

Long straight carbon nanotubes may be as dangerous as asbestos fibres, potentially causing cancer in cells lining the lung, a pilot study in mice has shown.

Toxicologists say that those manufacturing and disposing of nanotubes - produced in thousands of tonnes per year worldwide - are most likely to be at risk of an asbestos-like illness, though it's not yet known if workers could be harmed just by inhaling nanotubes at typical exposures. '

We need more research on the toxicology of these materials, and the exposure to them in workplaces,' says Ken Donaldson, who led the research at the University of Edinburgh, UK.

Donaldson's team injected multiwalled carbon nanotubes and asbestos fibres between the membranes lining the lungs and abdominal organs in mice. They found that long straight nanotubes caused inflammation and lesions in membrane cells of the sort that have been shown to lead to cancer - just like asbestos fibres.

The problem, Donaldson explains, is that macrophages, cells which usually swallow up invading objects, can't stretch to engulf fibres that reach beyond about 20 micrometres. Such 'frustrated phagocytosis' leads to inflammation and eventually tumours.

'Anything that's thin, long, and doesn't easily dissolve in body fluids has got to come under suspicion as behaving like asbestos,' Donaldson says.

Nanotubes under twenty micrometres, and long nanotubes which were tangled up into balls, did not cause asbestos-like problems, the researchers found - although the study was not set up to investigate any other potential toxic effects of nanotubes.

'Much more work will be required to provide definitive proof [of whether particular types of nanotubes behave like asbestos fibres], and to show if the same effects are seen if particles are inhaled, and whether exposure levels reach the threshold for the development of cancer,' comments Mike Horton, director of life sciences at the London Centre for Nanotechnology, UK.

But given the terrible effects of asbestos that emerged in the 1960s, researchers are urging caution. 'Those tubes that resemble asbestos should be treated as though they were asbestos and regulated accordingly.

In this way, workers involved in their manufacture, use and ultimate disposal will be protected,' says Anthony Seaton, a chest physician who annoyed nanoparticle manufacturers by linking carbon nanotubes and asbestos fibres two years ago.

Tough enough

But nanotube manufacturers are unconvinced that the study means that stricter health and safety precautions are needed.

Del Stark, the CEO of the European nanotechnology trade alliance (Enta), says companies making nanotubes already take the strictest possible safety precautions, so it's hard to see how the research will change manufacturing practice.

Steffi Friedrichs, director of the UK's Nanotechnology Industries Association says that it is not surprising that long insoluble fibres of any material should behave in this way - glass wool has similar effects. Nanotube makers already take measures to minimise exposure, Friedrichs points out.

'We welcome the study - it gives us a very good insight into the potential problems of some types of carbon nanotubes,' she adds. 'But the study needs to be verified, and the researchers have noted important caveats - for example whether nanotubes can actually get to the place in the body that's going to cause damage.'

It's unlikely that those using nanotube products right now (such as lightweight composites in sports equipment) will be in danger of breathing in dangerous doses of free nanotubes, but researchers agreed they would have to demonstrate, rather than assume, low public exposure. '

Even if you took a mallet and hammered a tennis racket, there's probably no danger because the nanotubes are held in a polymer matrix. So if it turns out there's no long fibres for the public to be exposed to - that's great,' says Donaldson.

Aside from the need for more health and safety research, the study flags up that not much is known about exactly what types of carbon nanotubes are used in commercial products, says co-author Andrew Maynard, chief science adviser with the US-based Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies. '

There are voluntary agreements for reporting in the UK and the US that not too many companies have signed up to,' he says, warning that the nanotube market might suffer if the public lost trust in the technology because of the stigma of asbestos and because of a lack of transparency. '

It is up to governments to give industry as much guidance as possible,' he adds.


Take a deep breath…………

Saturday, 28 August 2010

Scratching Each Other's Backs

The article below taken from Science Daily deals with the effect of low concentrations of pesticides on life forms. The amount of research on pesticide effects is understandable. What others need to have in mind is that the content of pesticides is similar in some respects to other products used on the person and in the home.


Fertilizer Chemicals Linked to Animal Developmental Woes
ScienceDaily (Aug. 27, 2010) — Science News

Fertilizer chemicals may pose a bigger hazard to the environment -- specifically to creatures that live in water -- than originally foreseen, according to new research from North Carolina State University toxicologists.

In a study published in the Aug. 27 edition of PLoS ONE, the NC State researchers show that water fleas take up nitrates and nitrites common chemicals used primarily in agriculture as fertilizers and convert those chemicals into nitric oxide. Nitric oxide can be toxic to many organisms.

The study shows that water fleas introduced to fertilizer chemicals in water were plagued with developmental and reproductive problems consistent with nitric oxide toxicity, even at what would be considered low concentrations.

This raises questions about the effect these chemicals may have on other organisms, says Dr. Gerald LeBlanc, professor of environmental and molecular toxicology at NC State and the corresponding author of the paper describing the results. He adds that additional research will be needed to explore those questions.

LeBlanc says that some of the study's results were surprising.

"There's only limited evidence to suggest that animals could convert nitrates and nitrites to nitric oxide, although plants can," he says. "Since animals and plants don't have the same cellular machinery for this conversion, it appears animals use different machinery for this conversion to occur."

LeBlanc was also dismayed at seeing toxic effects at low chemical concentrations.
"Nitrite concentrations in water vary across the United States, but commonly fall within 1 to 2 milligrams per liter of water," he says. "We saw negative effects to water fleas at approximately 0.3 milligrams per liter of water."

Harmful effects of nitric oxide included developmental delay -- water flea babies were born on schedule but were underdeveloped; some lacked appendages important for swimming, for instance.

LeBlanc now plans to identify the mechanism behind nitric oxide's toxic effects; evaluate the relationship between nitrite and nitrate concentrations in the environment and developmental toxicity; and consider possible risks to humans.

"It's not possible to eliminate nitrates and nitrites from our lives -- they do wonders in agricultural crop production," LeBlanc says. "But we can take measures to ensure that the benefits of these chemicals outweigh their risks by keeping them out of surface waters."

The research was funded by the Environmental Protection Agency and the National Science Foundation.

The Department of Environmental and Molecular Toxicology is part of the university's College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.


Bigger fleas have littler fleas, on their backs to bite ‘em. Little fleas have littler fleas, and so on ad finitum.

Friday, 27 August 2010

Monday, 23 August 2010

My Brain Hurts

Looking around the web for information came across this interesting item. The pictures above give the MRI tests involved. This was in 1993 and I suspect with many modern perfumes the effect would be magnified. is the source.

The pictures above are Before at the top and After below.


APPT. (213)212-5939 - NUCLEAR MEDICINE DEPT. (213-783-5273

This concerns your patient of the above name (omitted) referred for evaluation of cerebral perfusion. On 12/23/93 regional cerebral blood flow by means of Xe-133 was determined with the Shimadzu Brain Dedicated Unit.

After inhalation of 30mCi of Xe-133, cerebral blood flow was found to fluctuate between 40 ml/min/100g in both dorsal frontal lobes and both temporal lobes with focal hypoperfusion also in both posterior parietal lobes.

Maximum perfusion is observed in the visual cortex at 76 ml/min/100g and the remainder of the gray matter blood flow fluctuates between 40 and 64 ml/min/100g.

Thirty minutes post inhalation of perfume with PetCO2 of 32 vs. 35 ml/min/100g, there is an increase perfusion in the dorsal aspects of the frontal lobes from 40 to 60 ml/min/100g with an increase of perfusion also in the right temporal lobe.

Maximum perfusion is 64 ml/min/100g in the basal ganglia and the remainder of the gray matter blood flow fluctuates between 40 and 64 ml/min/100g.

The study was followed by brain SPECT by means of HMPAO (Ceretec, Amersham) for assessment of regional cerebral perfusion. 60 min. after IV injection of 30 mCi of HMPAO, nine 1.6 cm. thick transaxial slices of the brain are acquired and a 3-dimensional image is reconstructed by back projection with adequate filtering.

Coronal and sagittal frames are displayed, demonstrating bilateral temporal hypoperfusion, bilateral dorsal frontal hypoperfusion with diminution of perfusion in the dorsal cingulate gyrus and marked thinning of cortical perfusion in dorsal aspects of frontal and parietal lobes with a pattern of scalloping.

In conclusion, findings suggest: 1) Diminished cerebral blood flow. 2) Bilateral frontal, temporal and parietal hypoperfusion. 3) Marked scalloping pattern of perfusion in frontal and parietal lobes. 4) Vasculitis vs. exposure to neurotoxic substances.


We know the feeling.

Friday, 20 August 2010

Finding A Way Round

For those suffering reactions to chemicals there is now a good deal to be found on the web although relatively little from UK health sources. The quality and reliability are variable but some do deserve careful attention.

Two that I have picked up on are:

Go to the right hand side and look down for the link to an Adobe Acrobat document “ME/CFS Guidelines for GP’s” that is readable, coherent and very informative.

Also available in relation to people with strong fragrance reactions who have to attend hospital or other medical places is the following. It is picked up in the News section from May 2008 and the link is:

We have found them very useful indeed in bench marking our own reactions and the implications.

There are moves now in other places to begin to address these problems and what they mean for those affected. It is evident that the issue has not yet begun to penetrate any sector of the NHS.

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

Smoke Gets In Your Eyes

The article below concerns itself with ozone, tobacco and the effect of this combination to create ultra fine particles that trigger asthma. You may be able to think of other substances that have ultra fine properties which are commonly found in the air in quantity and have a similar effect. Perhaps more of these could be looked at in the detail applied to tobacco.


Ozone and Nicotine a Bad Combination for Asthma

ScienceDaily (Aug. 16, 2010) —

Another reason for including asthma on the list of potential health risks posed by secondhand tobacco smoke, especially for non-smokers, has been uncovered. Furthermore, the practice of using ozone to remove the smell of tobacco smoke from indoor environments, including hotel rooms and the interiors of vehicles, is probably a bad idea.

A new study by researchers with the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) shows that ozone can react with the nicotine in secondhand smoke to form ultrafine particles that may become a bigger threat to asthma sufferers than nicotine itself.

These ultrafine particles also become major components of thirdhand smoke -- the residue from tobacco smoke that persists long after a cigarette or cigar has been extinguished.

"Our study reveals that nicotine can react with ozone to form secondary organic aerosols that are less than 100 nanometers in diameter and become a source of thirdhand smoke," says Mohamad Sleiman, a chemist with the Indoor Environment Department of Berkeley Lab's Environmental Energy Technologies Division (EETD) who led this research.

"Because of their size and high surface area to volume ratio, ultrafine particles have the capacity to carry and deposit potentially harmful organic chemicals deep into the lower respiratory tract where they promote oxidative stress," Sleiman says. "It's been well established by others that the elderly and the very young are at greatest risk."

Results of this study have been reported in the journal Atmospheric Environment. Co-authoring this paper with Sleiman were Hugo Destaillats and Lara Gundel, also with EETD's Indoor Environment Department, and Jared Smith, Chen-Lin Liu, Musahid Ahmed and Kevin Wilson with the Chemical Dynamics Group of Berkeley Lab's Chemical Sciences Division.

The study was carried out under a grant from the University of California's Tobacco-Related Disease Research Program.

The dangers of mainstream and secondhand tobacco smoke, which contain several thousand chemical toxins distributed as particles or gases, have been well documented. This past February, a study, also spearheaded by Sleiman, Destaillats and Gundel, revealed the potential health hazards posed by thirdhand tobacco smoke which was shown to react with nitrous acid, a common indoor air pollutant, to produce dangerous carcinogens.

Until now, however, in terms of forming ultrafine particles, there have been no studies on the reaction of nicotine with ozone.

Released as a vapor by the burning of tobacco, nicotine is a strong and persistent adsorbent onto indoor surfaces that is released back to indoor air for a period of months after smoking ceased. Ozone is a common urban pollutant that infiltrates from outdoor air through ventilation that has been linked to health problems, including asthma and respiratory ailments.

Says co-author Gundel, "Not only did we find that nicotine from secondhand smoke reacts with ozone to make ultrafine particles -- a new and stunning development -- but we also found that several oxidized products of ozone and nicotine have higher values on the asthma hazard index than nicotine itself."

Says co-author Destaillats, "In our previous study, we found that carcinogens were formed on indoor surfaces, which can lead to exposures that are likely to be dominated by dermal uptake and dust ingestion. This study suggests a different exposure pathway to aged secondhand or thirdhand smoke through the formation and inhalation of ultrafine particles.

Also, our group had previously described the formation of secondary organic aerosols in reaction of indoor ozone with terpenoids, commonly present in household products. But this is the first time that nicotine has been tagged as a potential candidate to form ultrafine particles or aerosols through a reaction with ozone."

To identify the products formed when nicotine in secondhand smoke is reacted with ozone, Sleiman and his co-authors utilized the unique capabilities of Berkeley Lab's Advanced Light Source (ALS), a premier source of x-ray and ultraviolet light for scientific research. Working at ALS Beamline 9.0., which is optimized for the study of chemical dynamics using vacuum ultraviolet (VUV) light and features an aerosol chemistry experimental station, the researchers found new chemical compounds forming within one hour after the start of the reaction.

"The tunable VUV light of Beamline 9.0.2's custom-built VUV aerosol mass spectrometer minimized the fragmentation of organic molecules and enabled us to chemically characterize the secondhand smoke and identify individual constituents of secondary organic aerosols," says Sleiman. "The identification of multifunctional compounds, such as carbonyls and amines, present in the ultrafine particles, made it possible for us to estimate the Asthma Hazard Index for these compounds."

While the findings in this study support recommendations from the California EPA and the Air Resources Board that discourage the use of ozone-generating "air purifiers," which among other applications, have been used for the removal of tobacco odors, the Berkeley Lab researchers caution that the levels of both ozone and nicotine in their study were at the high end of typical indoor conditions.

Says Sleiman, "In addition, we need to do further investigations to verify that the formation of ultrafine particles occurs under a range of real world conditions. However, given the high levels of nicotine measured indoors when smoking takes place regularly and the significant yield of ultrafine particles formation in our study, our findings suggest new link between asthma and exposure to secondhand and thirdhand smoke."



Friday, 13 August 2010

Face Cream, Natural And Unnatural

An article from the latest “Ecologist listings on face creams tells a lot about one thing and another.

Can I trust my 'natural' or 'organic' body cream?
Ecologist - Laura Sevier – 5 August 2010

What does it take for a company producing skincare or haircare products to be truly 'natural' or 'organic'? Laura Sevier sorts fact from fiction in the health and beauty stakes

We all know that many of the so-called 'natural' shampoos, creams and shower gels on supermarket or chemist shelves are anything but natural.

You know the ones I'm talking about - those exotic, tasty sounding products (a yoghurt and honey 'shower smoothie' - mmm!) with their pictures of coconut or grapefruit explosions on the label. At best, the fruity names and images brighten up a dull container; at worst they are hugely misleading.

It comes as no surprise that a 2009 report on natural personal care by Kline & Company, a consulting and research firm, which looked at 'natural' brands worldwide, found that an overwhelming majority are merely 'natural-inspired' and mostly made up of synthetics.

Astonishingly, it's perfectly legal to apply the terms 'natural' and 'organic' to cosmetics even if only a tiny percentage of the total ingredients are from natural or organic sources. In other words, they can be used purely for marketing purposes.

Hopefully the Cosmos standard, the result of a six-year consultation between five major national certification bodies to create a Europe-wide standard for organic and natural beauty and health products, will lead to greater truthfulness in marketing claims.

But there's a simpler question to be asked here: just how hard is it for a cream, lotion or gel to be truly natural or organic?

I talked to three brands with exceptionally high standards to find out more.

Organic purists

Peter Kindersley, owner of Neal's Yard Remedies, describes his company as 'the purists of the organic movement'. Although Neals Yard has always sought to make natural products, one of the first things Kindersley did when he bought the brand in 2005 was to 'get them to become much more organic'. Several years ago all of the essential oils used in the products were converted to organic, which was then followed by the base oils.

As a result, Neal's Yard now has the largest certified organic range in the UK (around 218 products). But Kindersley still admits: ‘there are chemicals in our products that we prefer were not there. It's a constant process of inventing new products with new properties and reformulating existing products to make them more organic.'

Unfortunately some plants, such as witch hazel, are difficult to get hold of organically. And in cases where a substance such as salt is used (which can't be certified as organic) certification is impossible. 'Some things we are truly stuck on,' Kindersley says.

How natural is 'natural'?

Many natural brands show the percentage of natural ingredients on the label or website. Green People says the average percentage in its products is 99.6 per cent (with 70 per cent of ingredients from organic sources, and in many cases over 90 per cent).

Weleda and the biodynamic Demeter brands offer products that are 100 per cent natural with no synthetic ingredients, non-natural preseservatives, artificial fragrances or colourants.

But calculating the percentage of natural ingredients is not always straightforward. Susan Curtis, natural health director of Neal's Yard says, ‘it depends on what you call natural. For instance, the detergents we use for the shampoos are plant-derived.

But they are not natural - they are synthesised.' She estimates the majority of their products (bar the shampoos) are around 95 per cent natural. ‘Some companies say their product is more natural than we would choose to say.'

And therein lies the rub. Just what is the definition of 'natural'? Defining ‘organic' is relatively easy: for a bodycare product certified by the Soil Association, to state it is 'made with organic ingredients', a minimum of 70 per cent of agricultural ingredients must be from organic sources. To claim it is organic, (eg 'organic body butter') the percentage must be higher - at least 95 per cent.

A simple definition of 'natural' is: any plant or animal extract, or any rock or mineral obtained from the earth. But then things get murky. Are ‘nature identical' ingredients (lab-synthesised exact copies of natural substances) still natural? And what about processed natural ingredients (such as tinctures and emulsifiers)?

All natural brands have their own criteria. Many aim to make a product as natural as possible but will need to use some non-natural substances, such as preservatives. At the lower end of the scale there are products marketed as natural that may be 98 per cent synthetic but two per cent derived from natural or even 'nature identical' ingredients.

Strictly natural

‘At the end of the day in the world of cosmetics the word 'natural' tells the consumer nothing,' says Loraine Murry, Weleda's natural beauty consultant. ‘What exactly is natural? At one extreme we have an apple from a tree and at the other an apple flavouring, a manmade copy of active substances in the apple. But what about the myriad of possibilities between the two?'

Below is a summary of one working definition of ‘natural' from the accreditation scheme NaTrue, a not for profit independent body and charitable trust who 'aim to safeguard the highest possible standards for natural cosmetics and their ingredients'.

Natural substances are substances of botanic, inorganic mineral, or animal origin (except for dead vertebrates) which are processed using only physical means.
Derived natural substances are produced from the substances above using only very specific defined chemical processes.

Nature-identical - NaTrue gives a short list of such substances which may only be used when natural substances cannot be recovered from nature using reasonable technical effort. These include preservatives, inorganic pigments and minerals specifically approved for use in natural cosmetics.

Weleda has come up with an extremely strict definition of natural: 'No more than a one step chemical change from the natural source'. Loraine Murry tells me all the key ingredients in Weleda products - plant extracts, oils and essential oils - are 100 per cent within this definition and that they are committed to this goal for their range. Most other ingredients that go into their gel, paste or cream also fit into that.

She admits the definition is aspirational, particularly at the level of a finished product. 'If you made a cream with Weleda's ideal definition you'd be using substances like pure beeswax. This makes richer, greasier creams that are fine if you want body care but for facial skincare people expect more sophisticated products. It's a question of making the products truly acceptable to a wider category of the public.'

Weleda is keen to distinguish itself from companies with lower standards. The brand's products were formerly certified with the natural cosmetic accreditation body BDIH, but Weleda wanted a logo that better reflected its own standards with much stricter controls on what is allowed in 'natural' products.

Interestingly, although NaTrue allows nature identical ingredients within its criteria, Weleda don't. 'Weleda believes that some of the natural characteristics or key properties of the ingredient may be lost, and the result would not be so effective as genuinely natural substances,' says Murry.

On preservatives

One of the trickiest areas for a natural brand are preservatives. 'The product has to be safe, to stop it going off. It's about extending shelf life. Without these you'd need to keep them in the fridge,' says Susan Curtis of Neal's Yard.

Neal's Yard either use natural ingredients with preservative properties, such as rose or propolis extract, or small amounts of preservatives 'selected to be safe for use and non-persistent in the environment'. The trademark blue glass bottles also help protect the product so as to minimise preservatives - the glass cuts down 97 per cent of UV light.

Green People has a similar stance on this, using a range of plant extracts in combination with tiny amounts of food-grade preservatives. Where a stronger preservative is necessary the company uses phenoxyethanol, a synthetic. According to Ian Taylor, Green People's information and research manager, phenoxyethanol has has 'an excellent safety profile, does not cause skin irritation or sensitivities and biodegrades rapidly'. It is on the list of permitted preservatives for use in cosmetics certified as organic by the Soil Association.

In its haircare products, Weleda uses natural preservatives made from grapefruit seeds certified by Ecocert. A couple of the ingredients used also have valuable preservative properties such as alcohol (primarily used as an extractive agent). Likewise, essential oils help preserve some formulations. 'It's down to expertise of formulation and packaging,' says Murry.


Do ‘natural' and ‘organic' products have to be more expensive? ‘The truth is that all the ingredients cost more. It's really cheap to try and synthesise ingredients,' says Peter Kindersley.

Ian Taylor agrees. ‘The cost of organic plant oils such as hemp and rosehip are typically 20 times more expensive than mineral oils and denatured non-organic plant oils, and the same applies to organic essential oils when compared to the cost of synthetic fragrance blends.'

Sourcing sustainably can come at a price too. Take palm oil. According to Taylor, ‘emulsifiers made from RSPO certified palm oil and approved for use in certified organic cosmetics are considerably more expensive than synthetic alternatives or those made from cheaper grades of Palm Oil.'

Alongside these bids to be more natural and organic there are, of course, important ethical considerations when sourcing ingredients. Green People, Weleda and Neal's Yard all have fairly traded and/or Fairtrade global partnerships with many of their producers.

Although these truly natural or organic products might cost that little bit extra, knowing what's in them and the effort that's gone into sourcing quality ingredients means they're worth it. Or rather, you're worth it.

Other good brands

Primavera Dr Hauschka Essential Care Bamford Spiezia Organics Earthbound

Laura Sevier is the Ecologist's Green Living Editor

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

Hygiene Can Harm Health

Doing our shopping we now try to avoid the household products aisles at all costs. The smell is dreadful and hits us hard. When we look at the trolleys and see all the chemical stuff piled up we wonder what the homes might be like. We have some idea because often walking past a house we are smacked by a wall of smell that has us almost running.

This comment from a contact says it all:


The village hall where my husband and I play Bridge has become increasingly toxic. The entrance hall, with Ladies and Gents toilets to either side, reeks to high heaven of toxic cleaning detergents, to the extent that no-one will close the front doors, however cold the evening.

Suffice to say that the fresh air makes no noticeable impact indoors, but the detergent's smells fill the formerly fresh air outside the open doors. In former days the hall itself was less toxic and less fragranced, however, over the last few weeks has become more troublesome to more people.

Members complained of 'burning' or 'gritty' eyes, headaches and feeling 'muddled' and 'thick-headed'. Things reached a head when finally, the smell was greater, more complaints were heard, at which point it was noticed that there were patches of flooring that were still wet. We discovered that the floor had been washed around 12-13 hours earlier in the day.

What sort of solution was this that gave off seemingly toxic fumes and refused to dry that, when applied during the morning, had still not dried at 10.30pm at night? We obtained the key to the cleaning cupboard. No wonder it remained under lock and key!

There were countless warnings printed on the side of the container, from 'Hazard', 'Irritant', 'Wear protective clothing' etc etc. The unbelievable clue, highlighted in a large box read: "Do not release into the environment." Now whose environment might that be? The fish in the sea, when tipped diluted down the drain? Or ours?!

The highly toxic cleaners were not only supplied by a local firm 'G&M Supplies' but had their name printed on the containers. Now that's what I call clever marketing. Sell something cheap and very nasty, but keep your own name off the label, and, better still, use that of a long-standing and supposedly trustworthy firm - people who know how to sell but who have little knowledge of the chemical world.

I wonder how many towns and cities across the country have reputable firms distributing this horrendous stuff to community halls where young and old spend their time. I expressed concern for the Brownies. I later discovered that a 'Mother and Babies club' uses the hall once a week.


I keep saying there is a major health issue looming and will be with us soon. Why do so few of us realise this?

Monday, 9 August 2010

Asthma, Inhalers & Cancer

The story below about Asthma Inhalers and Prostate Cancer was in a number of media outlets and the press. This copy below is from the Daily Mail, which was a little longer than some others.

As you may gather the connection is substantially statistical. The nature of the biochemical aspect is a matter for discussion.

What occurs to me is what the contents of the inhalers are in chemical terms and can there be one particular or several interacting chemicals that produce this effect?

Again the reaction from AsthmaUK is worrying. 25% is a large fluke and needs looking at. Clearly because of the risks of severe asthma the balance may be to keep using the inhaler.

Moreover, those of us with wider interests know too well that issues described as “marginal” in many fields other than medicine can all too easily become catastrophic.

In the case of any chemical issue it is possible that a chemical that causes asthma may well have causal effects on other parts of the body.


Asthma inhalers 'increase the risk of prostate cancer'

Drugs used by thousands of men in Britain to treat asthma may increase the risk of prostate cancer, according to research.

It shows men who regularly take inhaled steroids to keep their asthma under control are almost 40 per cent more likely than men without asthma to develop a tumour.

Those who regularly use another type of inhaler, a bronchodilator, to relieve wheezing are 36 per cent more at risk of the disease.

But the biggest danger appears to be among men with severe asthma who frequently need treatment with steroid tablets or injections.

Among this group, according to the study, the risk of cancer increases by up to 70 per cent.

Although the same research found even having asthma appears to increase the risk by around 25 per cent, it said the chances of a tumour are significantly higher in men taking medication.

Asthma sufferers using bronchodilators will usually have two types - one which provides instant relief from symptoms and another to use once or twice day to prevent them developing in the first place.

Cancer experts last night stressed findings were preliminary, from a small study, and needed to be confirmed by much bigger studies before any change in asthma drug use could be considered.

Dr Jodie Moffat, of Cancer Research UK, said: 'The results are quite weak and they could be a statistical fluke.

The researchers themselves note that further studies are needed.' And Dr Elaine Vickers, from Asthma UK, urged men with asthma not to stop taking medication on the basis of the results.

She said: 'This research suggests that there could be a weak association between asthma and prostate cancer risk. However, even if this is true, the association is marginal, and there is no reason for men with asthma to be concerned.'

The study was undertaken by a team of scientists in Melbourne, Australia. They decided to look at the link between asthma and prostate cancer because both arise from inflammation in the body.

The researchers studied 1,179 men who had been diagnosed with prostate cancer and analysed how many had a history of asthma.

The results, published in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention, showed just having asthma meant a 25 per cent increase in a man's chances of a tumour.

But if he was on medication, the risks were even higher.

The researchers admitted it was 'difficult to disentangle' the effects of asthma drugs from the result of just having the condition itself.

But they said the concerns raised by their findings should be investigated in bigger follow-up studies.

Around 5.2 million people in Britain have asthma. According to Asthma UK, it kills one person every seven hours and leaves 70,000 a year needing hospital treatment.

Nearly 32,000 cases of prostate cancer are diagnosed every year in the UK and 10,000 men die from it


Prostate cancer is something that can arise from several causes because of where the gland is in the body and the nature of its function. We would be wise not to be dismissive of any possibility.

Friday, 6 August 2010

Bees In My Bonnet

Pesticides are designed to be sprayed over plants, to fix on them, to affect and to penetrate the plants they are designed to eliminate. Down the decades it has become apparent that they may eliminate other things as well and can have a catastrophic effect on the health of those exposed to them.

Sometimes this takes larger amounts of contamination but in many cases very small amounts will do the damage if they impact sufficiently.

The article below refers to bees. In their case the obvious suspect for doing the damage is one form of pesticide or another and this is addressed by the research.

It is a pity that research is not being done on products that are chemically closely related to pesticides, notably synthetic and processed fragrances now so common. They have the same design characteristics as pesticides with certain differences.

They are designed to adhere almost indefinitely and to transfer from one surface to another, again in series. Also, many now, notably for males, are supposed to be aggressive in their impact on the human sense of smell and brain. Another major feature is that they are made to carry significant distances.

A critical part of the bee’s way of life is to find its way round on the basis of scent. So anywhere that is polluted with fragrance particulates and related chemicals has to affect their functioning.

Much in the same way that traffic emissions and the ultra fine particles, whose basis is in many of the same petrol-chemicals can affect people adversely and maybe the bees.

As Shakespeare said, “Where the bee sucks there suck I.”


‘Growing body of evidence’ links pesticides to bee decline.

Ecologist - 5th August, 2010

Government and retailers, including B&Q and Wyevale, under pressure to impose a ban on sale of pesticides linked to bee population decline following new research.

Environmental groups including the Soil Association and Buglife are making a renewd call for an end to the use of neonicotinoid pesticides, which are among the most commonly used pesticides worldwide, after a new study linked them to a decline in bee in bee populations.

The study, published in the journal Toxicology, says the effects on bees of two particular neonicotinoid pesticides, known as imidacloprid and thiacloprid, have previously been underestimated and may explain the decline in bee populations.

It says even low concentrations of the pesticides may be more deadly then previously thought due to their high persistence in soil and water, supporting claims for the role that pesticides may play in bee deaths.

‘The acceptable limits are based mainly on short-term tests. If long-term studies were to be carried out, far lower concentrations may turn out to be hazardous. This explains why minute quantities of imidacloprid may induce bee decline in the long run,’ says study author Dr. Henk Tennekes.

Calls for a ban

Buglife campaigner Vicky Kindemba has welcomed the new research, saying it adds support to calls for a suspension in the use of the pesticides in the UK.

‘This new information adds to the growing body of evidence that neonicotinoid pesticides are very harmful and even at extremely low levels in our environment they could still negatively impact on UK wildlife including pollinators, soil organisms and aquatic invertebrates,’ Kindemba said.

The Soil Association said other products containing the pesticides should also be withdrawn from general sale in UK supermarkets, hardware stores and garden centres.

‘If the honeybee disappeared off the surface of the globe forever we’d be facing up to an unimaginable food crisis,' said a spokesperson. 'This latest research only adds to the evidence that is already strong enough to justify an immediate ban on neonicotinoids today.'

The campaign group has written to the chief executives of B&Q, Wilkinson's and Wyevale asking them to withdraw any products containing neonicotinoid pesticides from their store.

Government disregards warning

Responding to the new study, Defra said the UK would not be following some other EU countries in restricting the use of neonicotinoids.

'This research highlights a need for more data on long-term risks to bee health. We have already been considering this and pesticide companies will soon need to provide this data under new EU rules.

'We will keep this area under review and will not hesitate to act if there is any evidence of an unacceptable risk to bees,' said a spokesperson.

Useful links

Full Study: The significance of the Druckrey–Küpfmüller equation for risk assessment — the toxicity of neonicotinoid insecticides to arthropods is reinforced by exposure time


So hanging out the washing to get the smell of flowers could well kill off the bees that would enable the natural flowers to grow.

Wednesday, 4 August 2010

Ultra Fine Ultra Nasty

Below is a 1000 word or so article, again culled from Science Daily, on the subject of the effect of ultrafine particles on the respiratory system. This applies to those that come from traffic.

As the content of traffic emissions is not too far removed from most fragranced sprays, deodorants, or products designed to allow the smell to carry for some distance then it may be that these produce the same effect.

In December 2009 an article in Science Daily on Primary Schools in Australia stated that the levels of ultrafine particles inside the classroom was much higher than outside.


From: Science News, EScienceDaily, 5 July 2010

In the picture above:

Oxidative stress and allergic inflammation from filtered air vs. ultrafine particle pollutants.

Exposure to ultrafine particles generated significantly stronger oxidative stress (lower left panel) and allergic inflammation (lower right panel) deep in the lung.

(Credit: Image courtesy of University of California - Los Angeles)


Ultrafine Particles in Air Pollution May Heighten Allergic Inflammation in Asthma

A new academic study led by UCLA scientists has found that even brief exposure to ultrafine pollution particles near a Los Angeles freeway is potent enough to boost the allergic inflammation that exacerbates asthma.

Published online in the American Journal of Physiology-Lung Cellular and Molecular Physiology in June, the study shows that the tiniest air pollutant particles, those measuring less than 180 nanometers, or about one-thousandth the width of a human hair, incited inflammation deep in the lungs.

The researchers used a "real-time" testing method in an animal model to isolate the effects of vehicular emission particles on the immune response in the lung.
Since these ultrafine particles are primarily derived from vehicular emissions and are found in highest concentrations on freeways, the results have particular significance for the study of the impact of traffic-related emissions on asthma flares in urban areas.

The findings also point to the importance of understanding the role air-pollution particles play in asthma flares in order to develop new approaches for asthma therapy.

"The immune processes involved in asthma, and current treatments, are traditionally thought to be dominated by a specific initial immune response, but our study shows that ultrafine pollution particles may play an important role in triggering additional pathways of inflammation that heighten the disease," said the study's principal investigator, Dr. Andre E. Nel, professor of medicine and chief of nanomedicine at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA.

Pollution particles emitted by vehicles and other combustion sources are coated with a layer of organic chemicals that can be released into the lungs. These chemicals generate free oxygen radicals, which excite the immune system in the lung through a cell- and tissue-damaging process known as oxidation. Oxidation contributes to allergic inflammation in the lungs of people with asthma.

Although other studies have shown that larger air-pollution particles can cause an oxidative response in asthma, this is the first study to show that real-time breathing of collected ultrafine pollutant particles triggers the same reaction and may even be more damaging, due to the particles' tiny size, the researchers noted.

Because of their size and large surface area, ultrafine particles have the capacity to carry and deposit a rich load of active organic chemicals deep in the lung. The chemicals coming off the particles in the small airways in the lung promote oxidative stress at those sites.

In the study, researchers initially gave mice a surrogate allergen, similar to exposing humans to an allergen such as pollen. After further sensitization, half the mice received ultrafine pollutants, taken in real time near a freeway in downtown Los Angeles, while the other half breathed filtered air.

The study utilized sophisticated exposure technologies developed by Dr. Costas Sioutas, the Fred Champion Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of Southern California and co-director of the Southern California Particle Center. The multicampus team also included researchers from Michigan State University and the University of California, Irvine.

The research at the Southern California Particle Center and the UCLA Asthma and Allergic Disease Center was funded by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the National Institutes of Health.

Researchers found that exposure to air containing ultrafine particles for a few hours a day over five days significantly enhanced allergic airway inflammation, which correlated to the changes found in the immune system and genes expressed. Scientists discovered that the most profound effects of the allergic inflammation were observed deep in the lung.

"We found that even small exposure amounts to the ultrafine particles could boost the pro-inflammatory effects," said first author Ning Li, an assistant researcher in the UCLA Division of Nanomedicine.

The level of ultrafine particle exposure in the study was two to five times higher than levels commuters are subject to while traveling in their vehicles on Los Angeles freeways.

Researchers noted that the development of asthma may be more complicated than originally thought, with mounting evidence pointing to the involvement of additional pathways of immune activity associated with the effects of oxidative stress.

"A number of new therapies are now targeting the role of oxidative stress in asthma exacerbation," Nel said. "One possible strategy may be the use of antioxidants that may interfere with development of oxidative stress."

In addition to new considerations for asthma treatment, the study findings may also help epidemiologists further establish the link between surges of pollutants near freeways and asthma flares and to pinpoint the amount of ultrafine particle concentrations involved.

The next stage of research will help identify the chemical components responsible for boosting the effect of particulate pollutants on the allergic inflammation found in asthma and will explore the immunological mechanisms behind it at the molecular level.

Asthma, which affects 15 to 20 million people in the United States, is a chronic inflammatory disease of the small airways in the lung and can trigger acute episodes of airway tightening and wheezing.

Other study authors included Jack R. Harkema, Ryan P. Lewandowski, Meiying Wang, Lori A. Bramble, Glenn Gookin, and Zhi Ning.


Just how much in the way of ultrafine particles is now common in the ordinary environment?

Monday, 2 August 2010

Drying Tonight

Personal experience is not “scientific”. Science is only what scientists say it is and proofs are only on terms dictated by them and within a strictly limited almost dogmatic framework. In the real world often we have to make decisions according to experience and other knowledge.

For some time now when we go out to locations involving periods of time in and amongst numbers of other people we wear a particular set of clothing. We put this on just before going out and on return take it off immediately, bag it up securely and head for the shower. In our home we wear other uncontaminated clothing and rigorously avoid mixing the two. Even our banknotes are separately wrapped.

Moreover, in the shower and in the home we use no chemical personal products and the household ones are limited to the very basic minimum of soda’s and vinegar. So the reason is that the Out Gear on return has become contaminated with fragrances etc.

We do not want any of this on our furnishings, in our wardrobes or draws, or affecting other clothing or anything. It is washed separately from any other items. But how does it get so contaminated?

Also, we have been taking large plastic garden bags to sit on in the trains and on any occasional seating. During performances we stand. We try to arrange our journeys to avoid too many people. There is little or no possibility of contamination being by direct contact. It has to come from airborne particles emitted from people’s skin or more often fabrics. The typical reek on Out Gear is that of fabric conditioners.

We have been doing this for long enough now and with sufficient rigour to know that the stink that persists on the clothing has to come from this. Yet in our washing we never use any such product and the detergent is the most basic we can find and also without any fragrances. We have now washed this clothing around fifty times and it is still there.

We have tried vinegar, large doses of soda, sea salt and even triple distilled vodka and nothing stops it. You need to be aware that when I use the word “rigour” it implies full blown Drill Corporal disciplinary methodology. I earned my Drill Certificates on the barracks square and while it may not be science it is certainly controlled.

Also we do not put it in the dryer to avoid extra heat assisting the contamination. So it has been dried naturally for some time by only air and wind and that is controlled. But something strange is happening. It is taking longer and longer to dry. We have washed parallel items of uncontaminated clothing and now this is taking over less than half the time to dry than that of the persistently contaminated.

Clearly the fabric conditioner that has come virtually only from airborne pollution is doing something to fabric that retards its ability to dry. I now know why many of my neighbours complain about their dryers taking so long to deal with a load.

If this is happening long term with people who are taking such steps to avoid it, then there must be something very powerful going on. What is more intriguing is that the contamination is not restricted to the outer clothing it affects the underclothing as well.

If it can do that given my capacity to perspire then how might it affect those parts of the body reached by the particles when I breathe in? One of the odder features of the “safe” claims made by the scientists advising the marketing people is that they do not enter the blood stream or if they do; then there can be no effect on vital organs.

Funny thing science, I think I will continue to use my sense of smell, however deductive or empirical it might be.