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Saturday, 28 May 2011

Ashes To Ashes

Another spasm of volcanic activity in Iceland has produced more ash in the atmosphere with the usual effects. Amongst them are disruptions to flights. These affect not only the geographical areas where the ash occurs but the knock on effects around related services.

It does not take much common sense to realise that a cloud of ash and modern jet powered airplanes do not mix and that where they might in the same place then one should give way to the other. It takes even less common sense to work out that this will be the aircraft.

However, the leaders of the major corporations running some airlines, notably Walsh of BA and O’Leary of Ryanair have rushed to the media howling and arm waving to the effect that the authorities have over reacted and that the planes should fly because in their opinion there is not much ash and that is nothing to worry about.

As an exercise in the abandonment of any human or corporate moral responsibility it is a classic of its kind. What they are doing, and this tells us a lot about modern management and the media, is going in for cheap point scoring against the agencies and governments who are stuck with sorting out the problem.

In past centuries it may have been impossible or very difficult to judge exactly what the ash could do and why. It became better in the second half of the 20th Century and is now much more expert. The one thing that is certain is uncertainty and the risks are as high as ever when the ash first goes up and then comes down.

For the latest ash cloud just when Walsh and O’Leary were hitting the headlines scientists in Aberdeen took a look at their car wind screens, did not like what they saw, took some samples and analysed them. They were the familiar remains of a volcanic ash cloud and they were very nasty stuff indeed.

Now information is much more readily available and in a form that the majority of people can understand. Below are three links to help, also you only have to put “volcanic ash” into search, with the variants you use to learn a great deal very quickly.

When the leaders of major corporations act in this fashion with one thing where the information is so readily available and accessible how can we trust them with matters that are more difficult or complicated?

Please make your own list.

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

At The Heart Of It

A major difficulty for those who believe that the effects of air pollution may involve more than the obvious ones of skin or lung issues is to identify the mechanism by which damaged occurs.

There are obvious difficulties here in relation to the brain but also the heart. Post mortem examinations may reveal the presence of polluting substance in them but finding just what they might or might not do is a different matter.

The article below is about research that attempts to make the connection between polluting agents and the cardio vascular system. There are blood vessels in the eyes that can be examined by digital means and what happens when they encounter pollution might offer a plausible means for cardiac effects.

The article says there is a great deal of work to be done but does suggest that there are possibly serious medical conditions in which pollution is a factor beyond those we are already aware of.

Friday, 20 May 2011

Sense And Sensibility

The journal “Science” has featured a report from the University of Texas concerning the sense of smell and the development of the brain in mammals in the long past.

The link is below, the thesis seems to be that when mammals began to be able to use the sense of smell better and more effectively this jump started the development of the brain.

An implication of this is that if humans have high performance brains then this might just be because they had a sense of smell that enabled the thought processes to function far more efficiently and selectively.

As the scale and nature of air pollution in modern urban society probably means that most of us now have this sense seriously impaired does this mean that the urban human race is reverting to a more dismal past?

To judge by the way most of the human race now functions I really do wonder if things are going backwards increasingly quickly.

Sunday, 15 May 2011

My Brain Hurts

Below is a link to another Science Daily article. It is this web site that supplies most of the traditional media with summaries on which they base their news items.  These may or may not reflect the real content nor may the interns who mostly do the work have much understanding.

However, whilst the link is all about insect sense of smell and brain function the scientists involved believe that it gives us some insight and guidance into the way the human brain may work.

Some of us are coming to believe that in our modern world the human brain seems to working a lot less well than in the past and perhaps wonder why.

It could be that the scale of the disruption now in ordinary lives together with the loss of basic sense functions such as smell, taste and perception may have the answer.

Ask your nearest locust, or failing that the spider in the bathroom.

Monday, 9 May 2011

Microbes My Health

The article below suggests that for good health in plants there needs to be a network of microbes in the soil which interact to help the plant to thrive and to defeat many diseases.

The implication is that if some or many of these are not present or are impeded from functioning as they should then the risks to the plants increase.

If we see ourselves as complicated entities that have in common with plants a dependence on a variety of microbes interacting to enable our physical well being then it follows that all those things which counter, remove or damage those microbes will entail damage to the human body.

Just how much stuff is there in the average house now designed to do just that?

Friday, 6 May 2011

Testing Out The Future

The item below was picked up from MCS America as a news flash from the US Environmental Working Groups and it is self explanatory.

EWG News release:

Lautenberg Advances Bill to Protect Kids from Toxic Chemicals

Introduces Safe Chemicals Act of 2011
CONTACT: EWG Public Affairs: 202.667.6982. April 14, 2011
Washington, D.C.

In 2005, Sen. Frank R. Lautenberg (D-N.J.) was the first lawmaker ever to offer a road map for fixing the Toxic Substances Control Act of 1976, which has allowed tens of thousands of toxic substances onto the marketplace with little or no testing.

Today, Lautenberg continues pressing to revamp the law by introducing the Safe Chemicals Act of 2011. It would require chemical companies to prove their products are safe for human health and the environment before allowed in commerce.

“We're pleased that Senator Lautenberg is introducing the Safe Chemicals Act of 2011,” said Jason Rano, Senior Legislative Analyst for Environmental Working Group. “Nobody has provided more leadership in the effort to protect children from exposure to dangerous toxic chemicals.”

Environmental Working Group has documented through two landmark reports that chemical contamination in people begins in the womb, largely due to the failure of federal law.

“The path chemicals travel from inception to people’s bodies is short and smooth,” said Rano. “The Lautenberg plan forces chemical companies to prove each of their products is safe before becoming ingredients in the products we buy. At its core, this legislation is about protecting the public health of all Americans, especially children.”

Lautenberg’s legislation would establish a protective standard by which chemicals’ safety would be determined. It would go a long way to eliminating spurious claims of confidential business information.

The Environmental Protection Agency would set priorities among more than 84,000 chemicals in the agency’s inventory. Companies would be required to submit all health and safety data to EPA and could, no longer keep this vital information secret.

“Senator Lautenberg is the father of modern day chemicals policy reform,” Rano said. “We look forward to working with him to build support for this rigorous, common-sense approach.”

# # #

EWG is a nonprofit research organization based in Washington, DC that uses the power of information to protect human health and the environment.


If only………….

Tuesday, 3 May 2011

Eating Out Or In

For those with allergies going out and eating out can present problems.

With so little plain food with wholly natural content on modern menus and so much pre-prepared food that is delivered to the restaurant, pub’ chain or fast food outlet that might be visited it is difficult to be certain of what they contain.

A look at the contents of many similar food products available in supermarkets and even in “health” shops can reveal many and unexpected things in the content.

So in this article in Science Daily about allergy issues in eating places is really no surprise. The reactions and assumptions of staff mirror those experienced by people who have other allergies than food

If the allergic reaction a person might have is mild it is one thing, but if it is very uncomfortable and hurts it is another. It does mean that many are unwilling to take the chance.

In a world now where the typical products contains a wide range of substances, natural and synthetic the risks are greater. Also, the amounts in total and complexity of content and production methods all add to the risk of provoking other allergies or higher level reactions.