Archive | Chemicals

EPA Publishes Toxic Release Figures

WASHINGTON, July 28 (UPI) — The U.S. Environment Protection agency has released its report on industrial releases and transfers of toxic materials in 2009, officials said.

As part of the Obama administration’s continuing commitment to open government, the latest data on industrial releases and transfers of toxic chemicals in the United States between Jan. 1 and Dec. 31, 2009, has been made available within weeks of the reporting deadline, the agency said in a release Wednesday.

“It is vital that every community has access to information that impacts their health and environment,” EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson said. “The data we’re releasing provides critical insights about pollution and polluters in the places where people live, work, play and learn. Making that knowledge available is the first step in empowering communities to protect the environment in their areas.”

Examples of industries that report to the EPA’s Toxic Release Inventory include manufacturing, metal mining, electric utilities and commercial hazardous waste treatment facilities among others.

Facilities must report their data by July 1 of each year, the EPA said.

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Household Chemicals Eyed in Duck Deaths

DENVER, July 28 (UPI) — Chemicals found in many U.S. household products may have contributed to the deaths of more than 1,000 ducks in the winter of 2007-2008, wildlife officials say.

The study began after abnormally high numbers of birds were dying at various wastewater-treatment plants along the Rocky Mountains in north-central Colorado, The Denver Post reported Wednesday.

Extended periods of cold weather during the winter covered much of the duck habitat in the region with ice, sending the birds to look for open water at wastewater-treatment plants.

There the ducks were exposed to chemicals known as surfactants that break down surface tension in water, the study by the U.S. Geological Survey and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service concluded.

The compound, found on their feathers, likely compromised their ability to shed water.

Surfactants are added to many products including cleaners, detergents and fabric softeners, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services says.

The type of surfactant discovered on the birds’ feathers was polyethylene glycol, considered a compound of “emerging concern” by some regulators, scientists and others, the Post reported.

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Cleaning Products, Breast Cancer Link

NEWTON, Mass., July 21 (UPI) — Women who reported greater use of cleaning products had higher levels of breast cancer risk than those who said they used them sparingly, U.S. researcher say.

Julia Brody of the Silent Spring Institute and colleagues conducted telephone interviews with 787 women diagnosed with breast cancer and 721 comparison women. The researchers questioned women on what products they use, beliefs about breast cancer causes and established and suspected risk factors.

The study, published in the journal Environmental Health, found cleaning products, air fresheners and insect repellents were associated with breast cancer, but little association was observed with overall pesticide use.

“Women who reported the highest combined cleaning product use had a doubled risk of breast cancer compared to those with the lowest reported use,” Brody says in a statement. “Use of air fresheners and products for mold and mildew control were associated with increased risk. To our knowledge, this is the first published report on cleaning product use and risk of breast cancer.”

However, Brody cautions women with breast cancer who believe chemicals and pollutants contribute a lot to the risk of developing cancer may be more likely to report high product usage, or over report such usage. Therefore, more research is needed to avoid recall bias, she said.

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Europe Requires Child Food Dye Warnings

WASHINGTON, July 20 (UPI) — Foods containing artificial food dyes contain a warning label in Europe and a U.S. non-profit advocacy group says the United States should follow suit.

The Center for Science in the Public Interest in Washington says beginning Tuesday in the European Union, most foods that contain artificial food dyes must have warning labels that the food “may have an adverse effect on activity and attention in children.”

Michael F. Jacobson, executive director of the CSPI, says numerous studies conducted during the last three decades proved that some children’s behavior is worsened by artificial dyes and a meta-analysis in 2004 concluded artificial dyes affect children’s behavior.

“At this point, American food manufacturers and regulators alike should be embarrassed that we’re feeding kids foods with chemicals that have such a powerfully disruptive impact on children’s behavior,” Jacobson says in a statement. “European officials are taking the issue much more seriously, and are moving toward a safer food supply as a result.”

The topping for a McDonald’s Strawberry Sundae sold in the United States contains Red 40, but in Britain, the the topping’s color comes from strawberries, Jacobson said.

CSPI filed a regulatory petition in 2008 for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to ban dyes because of the health problems documented in children.

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Scientists Seek Clues to Oil Spill Kills

NEW YORK, July 15 (UPI) — U.S. scientists are studying hundreds of dead animals found along the Gulf coast since the beginning of the oil spill for clues to how they died, officials say.

The bodies of birds, turtles, dolphins and one whale are being examined and autopsied to determine what killed them, The New York Times reported Wednesday.

Although oil is the obvious suspect, the vast majority of the animals examined so far show no visible signs of oil contamination, scientists say.

Scientists will be looking at other suspect causes including oil fumes, oiled food, chemicals used to break up the oil spill or natural diseases, the Times reported.

At issue is the determination of how much BP might pay in civil and criminal penalties if held responsible for causing animal deaths.

Such penalties are far higher for endangered animals like sea turtles.

The investigation is also expected to provide clues to the possible effects of oil on protected species in the gulf.

“It is terribly important to know, in the big scheme of things, why something died,” said Moby Solangi, the director of the Institute for Marine Mammal Studies in Gulfport, Miss., where turtle and dolphin autopsies have been performed.

“We might be doing what we can to address the issues of today and manage the risk,” he said. “But for tomorrow, we need to know what actually happened.”

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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Stuck, Scientists Discover New Adhesive

CORVALLIS, Ore., July 7 (UPI) — An accidental find in a wood products lab produced a new, environmentally friendly pressure-sensitive adhesive, Oregon State University said.

The new adhesive, which costs less than existing petrochemical-based adhesives, can be produced from a range of vegetable oils and could be used for duct or packing tape, sticky notes, labels and postage stamps, the university said Tuesday in a release.

The discovery happenstance occurred when OSU scientists were looking for something that could be used in a wood-based composite product — an application requiring the adhesive to be solid at room temperature but melt as the temperature increases, the university said.

“We were working toward a hot-melt composite adhesive that was based on inexpensive and environmentally friendly vegetable oils,” Kaichang Li, a professor of wood science and engineering in the OSU College of Forestry, said, adding that the result wasn’t good for that purpose.

But from lemons, the scientists made lemonade. Or adhesive, as the case may be.

“Then I noticed that at one stage of our process this compound was a very sticky resin,” Li said. “We put some on a piece of paper, pressed it together and it stuck very well, a strong adhesive.”

Li said he and his post-doctorate research associate, Anlong Li, worked to develop a pressure-sensitive adhesive of the type used on many forms of tape, labels and notepads.

“This adhesive is incredibly simple to make, doesn’t use any organic solvents or toxic chemicals, and is based on vegetable oils that would be completely renewable, not petrochemicals,” the professor said. “It should be about half the cost of existing technologies and appears to work just as well.”

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Air Pollution Along Highways Boosts Asthma

LOS ANGELES, July 5 (UPI) — Brief exposure to ultrafine pollution particles near a Los Angeles freeway can boost the allergic inflammation that makes asthma worse, U.S. researchers found.

Dr. Andre E. Nel of the David Geffen School of Medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles, and colleagues said ultrafine particles are primarily from vehicular emissions and are found in highest concentrations along freeways.

The study, published in the American Journal of Physiology – Lung Cellular and Molecular Physiology, found the tiniest air pollutant particles — those measuring less than 180 nanometers, or about 1,000th the width of a human hair — induced inflammation deep in the lungs.

“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,” Nel said in a statement.

Because of their small size, ultrafine particles — coated with a layer of organic chemicals — have the capacity to carry and deposit a rich load of active organic chemicals deep in the lung, inciting inflammation, Nel 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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Botanist: Common Plant Could Fight Spill

PHILADELPHIA, June 28 (UPI) — A common plant species in the Mississippi delta has properties that could help reduce the impact of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, scientists say.

Abundant in the Mobile, Miss., and Atchafalaya deltas, the delta bulrush, Scirpus deltarum, could be instrumental in decomposing the oil, the Academy of Natural Sciences said in a release Monday.

A close relative of the delta bulrush, the common three-square, can transmit oxygen to underwater microorganisms capable of decomposing oil, says Dr. Alfred Ernest Schuyler, the academy’s curator emeritus of botany.

“Presumably, the closely-related delta bulrush can do the same thing,” Schuyler said.

Schuyler discovered and named the delta bulrush during field research in 1970.

Plants like the delta bulrush will be the first that spilled oil will encounter, and may act as a buffer for the rest of the wetlands, Schuyler says.

“Bulrushes are environmental workhorses, effectively used in sewage lagoons to purify water,” Schuyler said.

This capacity to decompose pollutants in sewage could help in decomposing some chemicals in the oil, he says.

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Gulf Tar Balls, Dispersants a Worry

KINGSTON, R.I., June 26 (UPI) — A Rhode Island biomedical scientist said he is worried about the health effects of the Gulf of Mexico tar balls and oil dispersants.

Bongsup Cho, a professor at the University of Rhode Island, said the saturated hydrocarbons found in crude oil — methane, hexane and octane — evaporate quickly once in the ocean when exposed to sunlight and heat because of their low boiling points.

“These are the chemicals that can cause the respiratory problems in people involved in cleanup operations, but they are not the ones necessarily known as carcinogens,” Cho said in a statement.

However, the tar balls and thick ooze washing up on beaches and into marshes cause more worry, Cho said.

“The tar balls contain the non-volatile, benzene-like, heavily unsaturated hydrocarbons with high boiling points,” Cho said. “That’s where there are a lot of toxins, such as benzoapyrene. This is a known human carcinogen, and it is used as a biomarker to detect human exposure to toxins.”

Cho said another worry is the orange sheen seen on the surface of the gulf water — the result of a chemical reaction involving the sun, crude oil and oil dispersants.

“Nobody knows what’s in that color and how toxic the chemicals are,” Cho said. “Companies keep the chemical makeup of the dispersants secret.”

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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Using Foods to Prevent Cancer a Trend

COLUMBUS, Ohio, June 25 (UPI) — U.S. scientists, who have tried for years to develop drugs to reduce the risk of cancer with limited success, are turning to plant substances, researchers said.

The synthetic drugs finasteride and dutasteride, which treat enlargement of the prostate gland, have been effective at deterring prostate cancer, while the osteoporosis drug raloxifene and the breast cancer treatment tamoxifen — synthetic — have cut the breast cancer rate in half among high-risk women.

However, chemicals from plants and other living organisms are the basis for almost one-third of today’s prescription medicines and scientists have identified a variety of promising candidates that may prevent cancer.

John M. Pezzuto of the University of Hawaii in Hilo and his team, using terrestrial plants, have uncovered several molecules with promising cancer prevention activity, most notably resveratrol, the red-wine compound made by a range of plants.

Gary D. Stoner of Ohio State University has been studying cancer prevention potential of berries and beets and he and his team have used a freeze-dried and powdered black raspberry mixture that blocks formation of esophageal and colon cancers in rats.

However, “this food-based approach to cancer prevention has been hurt” by companies that have made health claims for foods “on the basis of very little research,” Stoner says in the article published in Chemical & Engineering News.

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