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Saturday, 30 April 2011

Heart Problems From Hydrocarbons

This link below to E Science News of today adds another question to the list of effects of these substances that is ever lengthening.

In this case it is the long term cardiac effects of certain exposures.

At the end it suggests that limiting maternal exposure to this kind of compound is advised. By extension, this could be a few other related substances.

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Blast From The Past

A little off the usual beat is this article from e-science news about the volcanic eruption in Iceland last year that stopped a good deal of air traffic in the Northern Hemisphere.

At the time there was some severe criticism of the authorities from executives of airlines and others, including some politicians, who wanted definitive proof of danger before any warnings were issued.

My view was that volcanoes can put a lot of dangerous stuff into the air and if you do not know what exactly is in it and the experience of history tells us it is far better to avoid it than to take chances.

Recent research is showing that the grounding of air traffic was right.

The scientists involved have devised very sensitive measuring techniques to help find out what is up there and how bad it is in the event of future eruptions.
Given the amount of muck that is going into the air from other sources that may not affect aircraft all that much but does affect people on the ground it is a pity the same time and effort does not go into measuring other stuff.

But that may not turn a profit and might cause some big operators to lose.

Friday, 22 April 2011

Suffer Little Children

One of the features of getting older is the idea that children are getting worse. The problem these days is that there is increasing evidence that this may be the case. Moreover it is down to our consumption and production practices and the implications of modern urbanized life.

In this case, reported by e!science news the issue of pesticides arising again in relation to unborn children:

There are a great many uncertainties, but the basic principle is that if people ingest strong substances from any source there is like to be impact on the brain of some kind is unavoidable.

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Watch The Birdie

Flame retardants are now a feature of carpeting and furnishings in almost all homes and places where people attend. Like many other substances they do not stay in the products but “travel” and can be found almost anywhere, including the eggs of rare birds.


Science News

New Pollutants: Flame Retardants Detected in Peregrine Falcon Eggs

ScienceDaily (Apr. 18, 2011) — Flame retardants are chemical compounds added to fabrics and plastics to keep them from burning easily, but these can be toxic.

Now a team of researchers from Spain and Canada has detected some of these emerging pollutants for the first time in peregrine falcon (Falco peregrinus) eggs in both countries.

"The presence of 'dechlorane plus' and other related, chlorinated compounds used as flame retardants have been detected for the first time in the European biota (flora and fauna of the region)," explains Ethel Eljarrat, co-author of the study and scientist at the Institute of Environmental Assessment and Water Studies (IDAEA-CSIC, Spain).

The researchers have found these substances in peregrine falcon (Falco peregrinus) eggs in both Spain and Canada. The flame retardants are often added to textiles, electronic circuits and other products to inhibit or resist the spread of fire, but can be transferred to the environment.

In nature these compounds are "bioaccumulating and bioconcentrating" all along the food chain, as evidenced by the research published in the Environmental Science & Technology journal. The international research team for this study was led by Begoña Jiménez of the Institute of Organic Chemistry (CSIC, Spain), and Environment Canada researchers, Kim Fernie and Mehran Alaee.

Having received the relevant permits, eggs that had failed to hatch from various active falcon nests in Canada and Spain, were collected. The collection involved 13 eggs from Spain (five in Guadalajara -- a territory representative of an inland habitat of the Iberian Peninsula -- and eight in Bilbao -- representing a coastal environment), and 12 eggs from Canada (Great Lakes Region and Eastern provinces).

The levels of some of the measured contaminants have been found to be somewhat higher in Bilbao than in Guadalajara, and the authors believe this may be due partially to the difference in the falcons' diet: more aquatic in the former and more terrestrial in the latter.

In fact, if fish is highly contaminated, peregrines would accumulate more of the harmful substances. While peregrine falcons do not eat fish, they prey upon other birds, some of which may eat fish.

Selecting the peregrine falcon was no accident. This species was endangered in many areas of the northern hemisphere due to the use of organochlorinated pesticides, particularly DDT, though when this was prohibited in the 1970s the populations recovered.

Furthermore, falcons are at the top end of the food chain and accumulate substances carried by their prey.

Highest levels in the Canadian samples

The results reveal that the concentrations of 'dechlorane plus' and some of the other chlorinated halogens were "significantly higher" in the Canadian falcons' eggs than in those of Spain.

The reason for this could be that the industry that has manufactured these compounds for decades (although they are now also produced in China) is located in New York State close to the area where samples were collected. In addition, the use of these compounds has generally been higher in North America than Europe.

The researcher acknowledges that the effects that these flame retardants may have on the falcons' eggs or on their development are still unknown, "but their detection is a first step."

These are emerging pollutants, which comprise both those which have appeared more recently and those that have been used for a long time but are just lately the subject of environmental interest.

Other flame retardants, including some brominated flame retardants, have already been confirmed as toxic endocrine disruptors, and their use has been prohibited in some of the commercial mixes in Europe and America.

Furthermore, they are candidates for inclusion on a list of Persistent Organic Pollutants to be eliminated, a list compiled by the Stockholm Convention which includes other pollutants such as DDT or dioxins.

This study forms part of the doctoral thesis submitted this month by the researcher Paula Guerra from IDAEA on "The analysis of emerging halogenated flame retardants and their impact on the environment and on humans." All of the eggs were analyzed by her during her exchange studies at Environment Canada.

A research group at IDAEA led by Damià Barceló has also confirmed the presence of these compounds in sediment and fish in the rivers of the Ebro basin (Spain).


Nothing and nobody is safe anymore.

Friday, 15 April 2011

Microbes In New Born Children

This was something I saw on the online discovermagazine dot com section on health and medicine. It caught my eye because of the recent report on the high level of still births in the UK.

Given the nature and extent of synthetic substances of one sort or another in our foods and environment it has to happen that both an embryo and a new born child, dependent on bodily defences may have them impaired by these.


The Trillions of Microbes That Call Us Home—and Help Keep Us Healthy

The human body is a habitat for a huge range of harmless and beneficial microbes, which may be the key to fighting disease without antibiotics.

By Michael Tennesen

In the intensive care nursery at Duke University Medical Center, doctors and nurses attend to premature infants in rows of incubators surrounded by ventilators and monitors. As new parents holding packages of breast milk watch their tiny babies, neo¬natologist Susan LaTuga makes her rounds, checking vital signs and evaluating how the infants tolerate feeding.

She consults with nurses, dietitians, and pharmacists about the course of the day’s treatment for the babies, some of whom weigh as little as one pound and were born as much as 17 weeks early.

At the end of her shift, LaTuga stops at a freezer and inspects stool samples from some of the infants that are at the center of a remarkable new study. Across the Duke campus, technicians are waiting to analyze them with a powerful gene sequencer capable of penetrating the hidden world of the billions of microorganisms growing inside each infant.

LaTuga is one of several medical researchers at Duke working with microbial ecologists to study the development of the human microbiome—the enormous population of microbes, including bacteria, fungi, and viruses, that live in the human body, predominantly in the gut.

There are 20 times as many of these microbes as there are cells in the body, up to 200 trillion in an adult, and each of us hosts at least 1,000 different species. Seen through the prism of the micro-biome, a person is not so much an individual human body as a superorganism made up of diverse ecosystems, each teeming with microscopic creatures that are essential to our well-being.

“Our hope is that if we can understand the normal microbial communities of healthy babies, then we can manipulate unhealthy ones,” LaTuga says.

The Duke study is just one of many projects begun in the past five years that use genetic sequencing to explore how the ¬diversity of the microbiome impacts our health.

Two of the largest efforts are the Human Microbiome Project, funded by the National Institutes of Health, and the European Union’s Metagenomics of the Human Intestinal Tract. Although these groups have only just begun to publish their findings, it is already clear that the micro¬biome is much more complex and very likely more critical to human health than anyone suspected.

Understanding and controlling the diversity of our germs, as opposed to assaulting them with anti¬biotics, could be the key to a range of future medical treatments.


For subscribers there is more to read but the above says a great deal.

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Formaldehyde Does Not Just Preserve

As we know formaldehyde is present in many products and when subject to the kind of other chemicals used for transferring and allowed air transmission of aromatics etc. will be present along with these in affecting the body.

There has been a continuing debate in the USA on this chemical and its effects and the latest situation is summarized in the Science Daily article below:

It is undoubtedly a substance that needs a good deal of care in its handling and use. This is something that simply has not been happening. Given the rapid expansion in complex household and personal products in the last three decades we can expect the effects to have become more widespread.

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

The Eyes Have It

Going about we have noticed that one effect of fragrances is to cause eye irritation, watering an soreness.

It is possible to put it down to ordinary air pollution, but I came across this link:

Although it was very small scale research 10 out of 42 is quite high. If that is typical then a number of people can be affected.

But what might happen to the eyes if the irritation they experience can be almost permanent where air fresheners etc. are in use?

Friday, 1 April 2011

More Food For Thought

There has been a lot of publicity and comment in recent years about diet and eating problems amongst youngsters. These have ranged from the issues of obesity to those of anorexia with the risks of poor nutrition arising from either very fussy eating or eating a very limited range of foods.

Yet in the developed world the proportion of food costs to domestic income has fallen steadily and the typical supermarket has a very wide range of choices on offer. Also, there is no shortage of information available about cooking, recipes or diets.

However, if you look in the shopping trolleys of very many typical families you will see a high proportion of pre-prepared, packaged and manufactured foods. They are certainly easy to get to the table and apparently geared to tastes.

But “tastes” and demand can arise from marketing and heavy hitting advertising aimed at both families and children. All the skills and techniques derived from experience, psychology and consumer research are deployed to sell the goods and maximise the returns.

Critically, these days there is a vast armoury of synthetic chemical colourings, flavourings, flavour enhancers, fillers and substances designed to impact and sharpen the experience. There are still some relatively natural ones, but these are often enhanced or concentrated, notably sugars.

Whilst these foods affect the whole of the body one way or another there are two senses that have the first effects, smell and taste. There is a great deal of work done in the design and making of these products to ensure that they hit those senses hard and in a way that determines preferences both immediate and future.

There are a number of problems that are potential here. An obvious one is if the design leads to cravings and the desire for more than is needed, especially if the foods lead to weight gain. Another is that the effect and impact of the artificial tastes and smells means that children are not simply unused to ordinary and natural foods but because of the more subtle or different tastes come to reject them.

However, there is another possibility that seems not to be considered at all in relation to those who fail to eat or refuse. Is it possible that the body is telling that person that it has grown to react to the substances in the products and can neither cope with them nor want them?

One special issue is how far the recent dependence on manufactured foods etc. has actively degraded or grossly distorted the senses of taste and smell. So that an individual cannot cope with ordinary food and nor can they cope with the substances within the various chemically designed and manufactured ones.

Not only may we now have two generations of people whose senses have been degraded, who have little experience or knowledge in actively managing their foot intakes and simply do not know how to deal with basic ordinary food.

With food prices beginning to rise sharply and manufacturing and transport costs in turn going up faster, the prospects are not good.