Archive | Chemicals

Drugs Seen As 'new' Pollutants

DENVER, Sept. 10 (UPI) — U.S. authorities say water pollution by “emerging contaminants” — antidepressants, antibiotics, birth-control pills and cosmetics — threatens public health.

Scientists who trace urban contaminants entering water supplies through human waste, bathing and flushing are concerned they may harm people, The Denver Post reported Friday.

In Colorado several years ago, Denver Water officials discovered trace amounts of antibiotics and pharmaceuticals in water sources used to supply 1.3 million metro-area residents with drinking water.

“The fact that some compounds were detected surprised us and shows that even the best watersheds are experiencing the impacts of consumer products,” Denver Water spokeswoman Stacy Chesney said.

This summer, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency teams began testing at Denver Water’s Dillon Reservoir and the South Platte and other rivers.

The EPA is making emerging water contaminants a top national research priority, agency spokesman Rich Mylott said.

Colorado, with EPA funding, is expanding a pharmaceutical take-back program launched in 2009.

Colorado is one of several states with take-back programs aimed at preventing improper disposal of harmful chemicals in sewers and trash.

“We recognize that pharmaceuticals and medications have greatly improved the health of Americans,” but we need to deal with the consequences, EPA toxicologist Kristen Keteles told the Post. “We want to do what we can — eliminate the improper disposal.”

Copyright 2010 United Press International, Inc. (UPI). Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI’s prior written consent.

Posted in Chemicals, Consumer Products, Drinking Water, Other, Water Pollution0 Comments

Non-stick Cookware Linked to Cholesterol

MORGANTOWN, W.Va., Sept. 8 (UPI) — Chemicals used in making non-stick cookware and waterproof fabrics appear linked to elevated cholesterol levels in children and teens, U.S. researchers say.

Stephanie J. Frisbee of the West Virginia University School of Medicine in Morgantown and colleagues assessed serum lipid levels in 12,476 children and adolescents — average age 11.1 — included in the C8 Health Project, which resulted from the settlement of a class-action lawsuit regarding perfluorooctanoic acid contamination.

Perfluoroalkyl acids — including perfluorooctanoic acid and perfluorooctanesulfonate — are found in drinking water, dust, food packaging, breast milk, cord blood, microwave popcorn, air and occupational exposure. Perfluoroalkyl acids are used in the manufacture of fluoropolymers, which give non-stick heat resistance to cookware and waterproof fabrics and upholstery.

The children and teens submitted blood samples in 2005 and 2006. Among the participants, perfluorooctanoic acid was found in 29.3 nanograms per milliliter compared with a national survey of 3.9 nanograms per milliliter, but perfluorooctanesulfonate concentrations were similar — 19.1 nanograms per milliliter vs. 19.3 nanograms per milliliter.

After factoring for other variables, higher perfluorooctanoic acid levels were linked to increased total cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein, or “bad” cholesterol, and perfluorooctanesulfonate was associated with increased total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol and HDL or “good” cholesterol.

The findings are published in the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine.

Copyright 2010 United Press International, Inc. (UPI). Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI’s prior written consent.

Posted in Chemicals, Drinking Water, Other0 Comments

Non-stick Cookware Linked to Cholesterol

MORGANTOWN, W.Va., Sept. 8 (UPI) — Chemicals used in the production of non-stick cookware and waterproof fabrics appear more likely to have elevated cholesterol levels, U.S. researchers say.

Stephanie J. Frisbee of West Virginia University School of Medicine in Morgantown and colleagues assessed serum lipid levels in 12,476 children and adolescents — average age 11.1 — included in the C8 Health Project, which resulted from the settlement of a class-action lawsuit regarding perfluorooctanoic acid contamination.

Perfluoroalkyl acids — including perfluorooctanoic acid and perfluorooctanesulfonate — are found in drinking water, dust, food packaging, breast milk, cord blood, microwave popcorn, air and occupational exposure. Perfluoroalkyl acids are used in the manufacture of fluoropolymers, which give non-stick heat resistance to cookware and waterproof fabrics and upholstery.

The children and teens submitted blood samples in 2005 and 2006. Among the participants, perfluorooctanoic acid was found in 29.3 nanograms per milliliter compared to a national survey of 3.9 nanograms per milliliter, but perfluorooctanesulfonate concentrations were similar — 19.1 nanograms per milliliter vs. 19.3 nanograms per milliliter.

After factoring for other variables, higher perfluorooctanoic acid levels were linked to increased total cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein, or “bad” cholesterol, and perfluorooctanesulfonate was associated with increased total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol and HDL or “good” cholesterol.

The findings are published in the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine.

Copyright 2010 United Press International, Inc. (UPI). Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI’s prior written consent.

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Smoking Moms Take Large Toll on Babies

ATLANTA, Sept. 7 (UPI) — More than 1,000 U.S. babies die each year because of the effects of maternal smoking, the head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.

A CDC report released Tuesday finds 20 percent of U.S. adults smoke cigarettes, 40 percent of non-smokers were exposed to cigarette smoke during 2007-2008 and 90 million non-smoking Americans are exposed to secondhand smoke and have measurable levels of toxic chemicals from cigarette smoke.

“Virtually no kids who live with smokers — only 1 percent to 2 percent — actually are smoke-free when we test their blood for tobacco toxins caused by tobacco smoke,” Dr. Thomas R. Frieden, director of the CDC said in a telephone news conference. “This reminds us is that there really is no ventilation solution to smoke-free. You have to go smoke-free, whether it’s in a business or in a home. Smoke-free means no smoking anywhere.”

That 40-year decline in tobacco use in the United States stalled from 2005 to 2009, with no further reduction in tobacco use, Frieden said.

“Today and every day this year, more than 1,000 people will be killed by smoking,” Frieden said.

Strong state laws that protect against secondhand smoke, higher cigarette prices, aggressive ad campaigns that show smoking’s effects and well-funded tobacco control programs would decrease the number of adult smokers and save lives, Frieden said.

Copyright 2010 United Press International, Inc. (UPI). Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI’s prior written consent.

Posted in Chemicals, Other, Smoking0 Comments

Biomass Could Yield Chemical Bonanza

AMES, Iowa, Sept. 7 (UPI) — U.S. researchers say they’ve produced high-value chemicals from biomass rather than traditional petroleum sources.

Scientists at Iowa State University looking to produce sugar derivatives from cellulose and other forms of biomass were surprised when their process yielded significant amounts of ethylene glycol and propylene glycol, a university release said.

“It was a real surprise,” chemistry Professor Walter Trahanovsky said. “These products were unexpected, so we never looked for them. But they were always there.”

Ethylene glycol is used in auto antifreeze, polyester fabrics and plastic bottles. Propylene glycol can be used as a food additive, a solvent in pharmaceuticals, a moisturizer in cosmetics and as a coolant in liquid cooling systems.

“There is potential here,” Trahanovsky said. “It’s not a wild dream to think this could be developed into a practical process.”

The method, using biomass materials in alcohol at high temperatures and pressures, works without the usual expensive reagents such as acids, enzymes, catalysts or hydrogen gas.

“The starting materials for this are cheap,” Trahanovsky said. “And the products are reasonably high-value chemicals.”

Copyright 2010 United Press International, Inc. (UPI). Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI’s prior written consent.

Posted in Chemicals, Hydrogen, Other0 Comments

China Covered Up Cooking Oil Contamination

BEIJING, Sept. 3 (UPI) — Authorities in China allegedly covered up the discovery of cancer-causing chemicals in cooking oil for five months, an Internet watchdog site said.

Food safety monitors in Hunan province reportedly found high levels of the carcinogen benzoapyrene in 42 tons of Camellia oil used for cooking in China but suppressed the news to maintain social stability, Britain’s Daily Telegraph reported.

An Internet blogging site leaked word of the coverup two weeks ago, the newspaper said.

The Hunan Jinhao Camellia Oil Corp. initially dismissed the claims as rumors but backed down in the face of mounting media pressure and admitted a batch of its oil had been contaminated.

In a statement on its Web site, the company admitted it “did not inform the public about the substandard products in time and did not inform people thoroughly about the recall process.”

Hunan authorities have seized 22 tons of the oil manufactured between March and April, and 11 tons have been recalled from markets, but 9 tons remain in circulation, the Beijing News reported.

Copyright 2010 United Press International, Inc. (UPI). Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI’s prior written consent.

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Nanostructure Stores Gas — and is Edible

EVANSTON, Ill., Sept. 2 (UPI) — U.S. researchers say they’ve discovered a class of nanostructures that could be used for gas storage and food or medical technologies — oh, and they’re edible.

Northwestern University scientists say the porous crystals are the first known all-natural metal-organic frameworks that are simple to make. Most MOFs are made from petroleum-based ingredients, but you can pop the Northwestern MOFs into your mouth and eat them — and the researchers have, the university says.

“They taste kind of bitter, like a Saltine cracker, starchy and bland,” Ronald A. Smaldone, a postdoctoral fellow at Northwestern, said. “But the beauty is that all the starting materials are nontoxic, biorenewable and widely available, offering a green approach to storing hydrogen to power vehicles.”

Metal-organic frameworks are well-ordered, lattice-like crystals. Within their very spacious pores, MOFs can easily store gases such as hydrogen or carbon dioxide, making the nanostructures of special interest to engineers as well as scientists.

“Using natural products as building blocks provides a new direction for an old technology,” Jeremiah J. Gassensmith, a postdoctoral fellow in the Northwestern lab said.

“The metal-organic framework technology has been around since 1999 and relies on chemicals that come from crude oil,” said Ross S. Forgan, also a postdoctoral fellow in the lab. “Our main constituent is a starch molecule that is a leftover from corn production.”

The research group included a trio of postdoctoral fellows in chemistry at Northwestern and colleagues from the University of California, Los Angeles and the University of St. Andrews in England.

Copyright 2010 United Press International, Inc. (UPI). Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI’s prior written consent.

Posted in Chemicals, Hydrogen, Other0 Comments

Bacteria Could Make Self-healing Concrete

DELFT, Netherlands, Sept. 1 (UPI) — Concrete might heal its own hairline fractures — as living bone does — if bacteria are added to the wet concrete during mixing, European researchers say.

Cracks in concrete surfaces make them vulnerable, allowing water and tag-along aggressive chemicals in, says Henk Jonkers of Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands.

Patching cracks in old concrete is a time-consuming business, and rebuilding concrete structures is expensive. Jonkers thinks the answer is to fight nature with nature by packing the concrete with bacteria that use water and calcium lactate “food” to make calcite, a natural cement, NewScientist.com reported Wednesday.

Most organisms can’t survive in a pH above 10, typical of concrete. To find bacteria that are happy in such an alkaline environment, Jonkers and his colleagues looked to soda lakes in Russia and Egypt, where the pH of the water is naturally high, and found strains of Bacillus thriving there.

Bacteria can take on a dormant spore state for long periods — up to 50 years — without food or water. Jonkers compares them to seeds waiting for water to germinate.

When water starts to seep into a hairline crack, Jonkers says, the bacteria would activate and begin to consume calcium. As they fed, they would combine the calcium with oxygen and carbon dioxide to form calcite –- essentially pure limestone.

Jonkers presented his work at the EU-U.S. Frontiers of Engineering symposium in Cambridge, England.

Copyright 2010 United Press International, Inc. (UPI). Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI’s prior written consent.

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Plants Can Summon Help with Chemical 'SOS'

AMSTERDAM, Netherlands, Aug. 27 (UPI) — Plants can send out a chemical “mayday” distress signals to summon insects to save them from being consumed by caterpillars, Dutch and German researchers say.

In an article in the journal Science, researchers from the Netherlands and Germany say the caterpillars’ saliva activates this signal, which attracts predatory insects that feed on caterpillar larva and eggs, rescuing the plant and gaining a meal, the BBC reported Friday.

When leafy tobacco plants were attacked by tobacco hornworm caterpillars, the caterpillar saliva caused a chemical change in “green leaf volatiles,” pungent chemicals that the plants produce, the researchers said.

Such green leaf volatiles are responsible for the familiar smell of cut grass.

The modified “chemical SOS” seems to “betray the location of the feeding caterpillar,” the scientists said.

Copyright 2010 United Press International, Inc. (UPI). Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI’s prior written consent.

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Fertilizers Found to Damage Aquatic Life

RALEIGH, N.C., Aug. 27 (UPI) — Fertilizer chemicals that end up in streams and rivers may be causing development abnormalities in aquatic life, U.S. researchers say.

North Carolina State University toxicologists found that nitrates and nitrites — common agricultural fertilizer chemicals — are taken up by water fleas and converted to toxic nitric oxide, a university release said Friday.

Nitric oxide can be toxic to many organisms, and the study found the water fleas were plagued with developmental and reproductive problems consistent with the toxicity, even at what would be considered low concentrations.

This raises questions about the effect the chemicals may have on other organisms, Dr. Gerald LeBlanc, professor of environmental and molecular toxicology at NC State, said.

“There’s only limited evidence to suggest that animals could convert nitrates and nitrites to nitric oxide, although plants can,” he said. “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.”

He said the toxic effects even at low concentrations worried him.

“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 in which water flea babies were born on schedule but were underdeveloped and, in some cases, lacked appendages important for swimming.

Copyright 2010 United Press International, Inc. (UPI). Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI’s prior written consent.

Posted in Animals, Aquatic Life, Chemicals, Other0 Comments

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