Archive | Chemicals

China 'e-waste' Recycling Said Hazardous

CORVALLIS, Ore., Aug. 26 (UPI) — Much of the world’s electronic waste ends up in China for recycling, an activity creating significant health and environmental hazards, researchers say.

Scientists from China and Oregon State University have identified toxic elements in the emissions from cottage-industry recycling workshops in southern China that use low-tech methods to separate reusable electronic components from circuit boards, a university release said Thursday.

Their study was conducted in Shantou City, population 150,000, in southern China’s Guangdong province.

They collected samples as workers were removing the electronic components by heating the circuit boards over grills on stoves burning coal briquettes.

In this “roasting process,” researchers found numerous organic chemicals, heavy metals, flame retardants and persistent organic pollutants being emitted into the air via the smoke.

“The most immediate problem is the health of the workers and the people who live in the city,” Bernd R.T. Simoneit, OSU professor and one of the authors of the study, said. “But this may also be contributing to global contamination. For example, previous studies have found carcinogens in wind-carried dust from Asia.

“The next step is to see to what extent this is harming the environment and creating a health hazard for both the workers, and people living in the path of the emissions,” Simoneit said. “Some of these chemical compounds may be carcinogens; others may be just as harmful because they can act as ‘environmental disruptors’ and may affect body processes from reproduction to endocrine function.”

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 Carcinogens, Chemicals, Coal, Electronic Waste, Other, Recycling0 Comments

Ozone + Nicotine = Bigger Asthma Threat

BERKELEY, Calif., Aug. 17 (UPI) — Ozone can react with secondhand tobacco smoke to form ultrafine particles that may pose a bigger threat to asthma sufferers than nicotine, U.S. researchers say.

Study leader Mohamad Suleiman, a chemist with the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory’s environmental energy technologies division, and colleagues say the ultrafine particles become major components of thirdhand smoke — the residue from tobacco smoke that clings on surfaces, long after a cigarette or cigar has been extinguished.

The study, published in the journal Atmospheric Environment, finds 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.

“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,” Suleiman says in a statement. “It’s been well established by others that the elderly and the very young are at greatest risk.”

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, Ozone0 Comments

Gulf Air Better After Oil Rig Capped

SAN FRANCISCO, Aug. 17 (UPI) — Coastal air quality on the U.S. Gulf Coast is improving now that the oil leak has been stopped, University of California, San Francisco, researchers said.

Senior author Dr. Gina Solomon — director of UCSF’s Occupational and Environmental Medicine Residency and Fellowship Program and senior scientist with the Natural Resources Defense Council in San Francisco — said air quality, skin irritation, mental health and seafood safety are the primary areas of short- and long-term health concerns.

Shortly after the Gulf oil spill began in April, more than 300 people — mostly cleanup workers — sought medical attention for headaches, dizziness, nausea, chest pain, vomiting, cough and respiratory distress that might be consistent with chemical exposure, data collected by the state of Louisiana indicates, the researchers said.

“Louisiana is making an effort to track health complaints,” Solomon said in a statement. “But it is important to remember that these 300 reported cases are only from one state and only within a few months. The Gulf Coast is a large region with many coastal communities, and it is imperative that we do whatever we can to help everyone impacted by this disaster.”

Clinicians should be aware of and look for evidence of toxicity from exposures to oil and related chemicals, said study co-author Dr. Sarah Janssen, assistant clinical professor at UCSF and senior scientist with the NRDC.

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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MRI Can Help Differentiate Prostate Cancer

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J., Aug. 12 (UPI) — Magnetic resonance imaging could help assess prostate cancers that need more aggressive treatment, U.S. researchers say.

Researchers at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, N.J., report more than 90 percent accuracy in distinguishing low-grade from high-grade prostate cancers using magnetic resonance spectroscopy that maps concentrations of certain chemicals that indicate the presence of cancer in the prostate gland.

“The breakthrough we’ve had in the last few months is that we see image signatures that distinguish aggressive cancers from less aggressive ones,” Anant Madabhushi says in a statement. “Now we’re getting beyond merely identifying whether a person has cancer or not.”

In a preliminary study, Madabhushi and colleagues used computer analyses of the images and spectra to differentiate prostate tumors on 19 patients who then had the prostate surgically removed.

Recent studies suggest men with low-risk cancers receive aggressive treatment, but improved diagnostic methods outlined by this study may help patients with low-risk cancers and their physicians feel more confident with watchful waiting, Madabhushi says.

The Rutgers findings are scheduled to be presented at the Medical Image Computing and Computer Assisted Intervention Conference held in Beijing in September.

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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Study: Better Pollution Measuring a Must

BOULDER, Colo., Aug. 11 (UPI) — Pollution produced by the petroleum industry has fallen in recent years, a study says, but a big hurdle remains in accurately measuring the improvement.

Researchers with the University of Colorado at Boulder and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration say the industry still significantly underestimates the amounts of reactive chemicals being released into the air, a university release said Wednesday.

Inaccuracies in the reporting of levels pose big challenges for the reduction and regulation of emissions coming from petrochemical plants, they say.

“Emissions may have decreased some, but there’s still a long way to go,” study author Joost de Gouw, an atmospheric scientist, says. “And the emission inventories by industry were not any better in 2006 than they were in 2000.”

States that suffer from ozone problems are required by the federal government to scientifically model what happens during air pollution episodes and develop plans for mitigation.

For that to happen effectively, modelers need good inventories, the researchers say.

“Initial inventories are not based on measurements. They’re based on estimates,” de Gouw says. “When you go back to verify those estimates, we find they’re not very accurate.”

Industry-reported inventories supplied to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency don’t agree with the figures collected for the new study, researchers say.

“There are a lot of discussions with the petrochemical industry on how to measure these things instead of relying on estimates,” de Gouw says. “I think the number one issue here is awareness. As soon as industry is aware that there could be emissions problems down the road, they can figure out how to fix them at lower cost.”

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, Ozone0 Comments

Chemists Come Up with Safer Plastics

WASHINGTON, Aug. 11 (UPI) — Scientists say they’ve developed a way to prevent emissions of harmful chemicals from a plastic found in packaging, medical supplies, toys and other products.

The technique, described in the journal Macromolecules, could lead to new generations of the common plastic polyvinyl chloride, or PVC, that are safer than the form now being used, an American Chemical Society release said Wednesday.

Manufacturers currently add large amounts of chemicals known as plasticizers to PVC to make it flexible and durable.

Plasticizers sometimes account for a full third of the weight of the finished PVC product, researchers say.

Over time these plasticizers migrate to the surface of the plastic and escape into the environment where they have been found to pose health risks.

Scientists say they’ve developed a method for making plasticizers permanently bond chemically to the internal structure of PVC so they will not migrate.

“This approach may open new ways to the preparation of flexible PVC with permanent plasticizer effect and zero migration,” the journal article says.

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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Device Can Locate Hidden, Buried Bodies

WASHINGTON, Aug. 2 (UPI) — Researches say new technology could help law enforcement find the grave site of a body buried by someone who wanted it to stay undiscovered.

Cadaver-sniffing dogs or ground penetrating radar are traditionally used to detect clandestine grave sites, but can be useless in some scenarios, such as when a body is buried beneath concrete, a National Institute of Standards and Technology release said Friday.

A new method uses technology to sense minute levels of difficult-to-detect chemical compounds from biochemical changes in a decomposing cadaver, the NIST says.

The device uses a simple probe to detect the chemicals collecting in air pockets above and close to grave soil, signaling the presence of decaying flesh.

The device can detect a body buried under a concrete slab by merely by drilling a small hole and inserting the probe, eliminating the need for unnecessary digging, the NIST says.

The device can sense the presence of minute traces of chemicals up to 20 weeks after a body is buried, researchers say.

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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Pet Poisoning Traumatic for Pet and Owner

BREA, Calif., July 29 (UPI) — Pets may often treat anything that falls on the floor as theirs but a U.S. pet health insurer warns pet poisonings are costly physically and financially.

Veterinary Pet Insurance Co. analyzed more than 485,000 pet policies to find the sources of nearly 20,000 pet poisoning claims VPI received from 2005 to 2009.

More than 5,100 claims were caused by accidental ingestion of either pet or human medications; 4,028 claims were for ingesting mouse and rat poison; 3,661 were due to ingesting chocolate or caffeine; 2,808 claims were due to plant poisonings; 1,669 claims were for poisoning by household chemicals and there were fewer than 400 claims each for poisoning due to insecticides, heavy metals, toads, anti-freeze, walnuts, alcohol and strychnine.

The policyholders spent more than $6.6 million from 2005 to 2009 treating their pets for poisoning for an average $791 per claim.

“Not only can a poisoning incident be life-threatening for the pet, it’s traumatic for the pet owner,” Dr. Carol McConnell, chief veterinary medical officer for VPI, says in a statement.

“Depending on what substance the pet has ingested and the amount, the reaction can be sudden with the animal exhibiting alarming symptoms such as staggering, vomiting, drooling, seizures and even loss of consciousness. Pet owners should be aware of which items can be harmful to their pets and keep them out of reach. Don’t assume pets will ignore the bleach in the laundry room or the Philodendron plant by the window.”

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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Chemicals Are 'feminizing' Canadian Fish

CALGARY, Alberta, July 29 (UPI) — Chemicals found in two Alberta rivers are causing some “gender bending” in fish, making males show characteristic of females, Canadian researchers say.

University of Calgary researchers say a cocktail of chemicals is skewing sex ratios of fish populations in the Red Deer and Oldman rivers in southern Alberta, a university release said Thursday.

Organic contaminants, many with hormone-like activity, were found in the water of both rivers, researchers said.

Compounds detected included synthetic estrogens from birth control pill compounds and hormone therapy drugs, Bisphenol A, a chemical used in making plastics, and certain types of natural and synthetic steroids that are byproducts of agricultural run-off and cattle farming.

Testing a native minnow, the longnose dace, scientists found that in 14 of 15 tested locations males showed elevated levels of a protein normally only found in females and involved in the production of eggs.

The results downstream of two local cities were striking, one of the study’s authors said.

“We saw a significant increase in … the presence of compounds with estrogen-like activity in areas downstream, south of Fort Macleod and Lethbridge,” Hamid Habibi said.

“Our results showed females make up 85 per cent of the population of longnose dace. In the upstream locations, females comprise 55 per cent of the population,” Habibi 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, Fish, Other0 Comments

Group Urges Passage of Chemical Bill

WASHINGTON, July 28 (UPI) — Healthcare advocates say they want quick action by Congress on the “Toxic Chemicals Safety Act of 2010″ on the eve of public hearings scheduled for Thursday.

Healthcare professionals pushing for reform of the nation’s chemical regulatory system are highlighting the link between disease prevention, cost containment and law reform, a release from Health Care Without Harm said Wednesday.

“In order to reduce the chronic disease burden of Americans and to contain health care costs, we need to eliminate toxic chemicals that have trespassed into our bodies and into our lives,” stated Gary Cohen, President of Health Care Without Harm.

“There is a wave of real concern in the health community about the link between the widespread exposure to chemicals and the overwhelming epidemic of chronic disease burdening the U.S. healthcare system,” he said.

“Most people believe that the chemicals we use today would not be on the market unless they are safe,” Cohen said. “Unfortunately, this is not true. Chemicals have been regulated under a lax and ineffective system that puts the burden of proof on consumers and those harmed by the chemicals, not on the chemical industry itself.”

“The bill would give the EPA the authority and tools it needs to better protect our society from unregulated toxicants,” he 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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