Friday, November 30, 2012

Study: Could Mistletoe be the Kiss of Death for Colon Cancer?

Mistletoe is normally associated with stolen kisses during the holidays, but Australian scientists say it also has the potential to be used as an alternative therapy for sufferers of colon cancer.

At the University of Adelaide, scientists are interested in how the extract of mistletoe could either assist chemotherapy or act as an alternative to chemotherapy.

Colon cancer is the second greatest cause of cancer death in the Western world. Mistletoe extract is already authorised for use by sufferers of colon cancer in Europe.

For her Honours research project recently completed at the University of Adelaide, Health Sciences student Zahra Lotfollahi compared the effectiveness of three different types of mistletoe extract and chemotherapy on colon cancer cells. She also compared the impact of mistletoe extract and chemotherapy on healthy intestinal cells.

In her laboratory studies, she found that one of the mistletoe extracts - from a species known as Fraxini (which grows on ash trees) - was highly effective against colon cancer cells and was gentler on healthy intestinal cells compared with chemotherapy.

Significantly, Fraxini extract was found to be more potent against cancer cells than the chemotherapy drug.
"This is an important result because we know that chemotherapy is effective at killing healthy cells as well as cancer cells. This can result in severe side-effects for the patient, such as oral mucositis (ulcers in the mouth) and hair loss," Ms Lotfollahi says.

"Our laboratory studies have shown Fraxini mistletoe extract by itself to be highly effective at reducing the viability of colon cancer cells. At certain concentrations, Fraxini also increased the potency of chemotherapy against the cancer cells.

"Of the three extracts tested, and compared with chemotherapy, Fraxini was the only one that showed a reduced impact on healthy intestinal cells. This might mean that Fraxini is a potential candidate for increased toxicity against cancer, while also reducing potential side effects. However, more laboratory testing is needed to further validate this work," Ms Lotfollahi says.

"Mistletoe extract has been considered a viable alternative therapy overseas for many years, but it's important for us to understand the science behind it," says one of Ms Lotfollahi's supervisors, the University of Adelaide's Professor Gordon Howarth, a Cancer Council Senior Research Fellow.

"Although mistletoe grown on the ash tree was the most effective of the three extracts tested, there is a possibility that mistletoe grown on other, as yet untested, trees or plants could be even more effective.This is just the first important step in what we hope will lead to further research, and eventually clinical trials, of mistletoe extract in Australia," Professor Howarth says.

EDITOR'S NOTE: This medial study is posted as information only. Ingesting parts of the mistletoe plant can be poisonous and lead to illness or death.

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VIDEO: 18 treated for chemical exposure after New Jersey train derails

As if the region hasn't had enough to contend with post-Sandy, now residents of three southern New Jersey towns are facing chemical exposure after a bridge collapsed today, causing a freight train to derail.

Three train cars fell into a creek in Paulsboro in Gloucester County at about 7 a.m. said officials. At least one of the cars is believed to contain vinyl chloride, a potentially hazardous chemical. Exposure can cause dizziness and harm breathing. At least 18 people have been treated for exposure.

Raw Footage from the Associated Press:

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Women 16-49 at Risk from Multiple Pollutants, Which Could Harm Brain Development of Fetuses and Babies

Nearly 23 percent of American women of childbearing age met or exceeded the median blood levels for all three environmental chemical pollutants — lead, mercury, and PCBs — tracked in an analysis of data on thousands of women by Brown University researchers.

All but 17.3 percent of the women aged 16 to 49 were at or above the median blood level for one or more of these chemicals, which are passed to fetuses through the placenta and to babies through breast milk.

The study, published in the journal Environmental Research, identified several risk factors associated with a higher “body burden” for two or more of these chemicals.

The three pollutants are of greatest interest because they are pervasive and persistent in the environment and can harm fetal and infant brain development, albeit in different ways, said study lead author Dr. Marcella Thompson. But scientists don’t yet know much about whether co-exposure to these three chemicals is more harmful than exposure to each chemical alone. Most researchers study the health effects of exposure to an individual chemical, not two or three together.

“Our research documents the prevalence of women who are exposed to all three of these chemicals,” said Thompson, who began the analysis as a doctoral student at the University of Rhode Island College of Nursing and has continued the research as a postdoctoral research associate for Brown University’s Superfund Research Program with co-author Kim Boekelheide, professor of pathology and laboratory medicine. “It points out clearly the need to look at health outcomes for multiple environmental chemical co-exposures.”

Most of the childbearing-age women — 55.8 percent — exceeded the median for two or more of the three pollutants.

Risks of exposure

Data were collected between 1999 and 2004 from 3,173 women aged 16 to 49 who participated in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES). The survey was designed to represent the national population of 134.5 million women of childbearing age. Because the original study also elicited a wide variety of information on health behaviors, socioeconomic and demographic characteristics, Thompson and Boekelheide were able to identify specific risk factors associated with increased odds of having higher blood levels of lead, mercury, and PCBs.

“We carry a history of our environmental exposures throughout our lives.” Credit: David Orenstein/Brown University
They found several statistically significant risk factors. The most prominent among them was age. As women grew older, their risk of exceeding the median blood level in two or more of these pollutants grew exponentially to the point where women aged 30 to 39 had 12 times greater risk and women aged 40 to 49 had a risk 30 times greater than those women aged 16 to 19.

Thompson said women aged 40 to 49 would be at greatest risk not only because these chemicals accumulate in the body over time, but also because these women were born in the 1950s and 1960s before most environmental protection laws were enacted.

Fish and heavy alcohol consumption also raised the risk of having higher blood levels. Women who ate fish more than once a week during the prior 30 days had 4.5 times the risk of exceeding the median in two or more of these pollutants. Women who drank heavily had a milder but still substantially elevated risk.

Fish, especially top predators like swordfish and albacore tuna, are known to accumulate high levels of mercury and PCBs, Thompson said. However, there is no known reason why they found a statistically higher association between heavy drinking and a higher body burden of pollutants.

One risk factor significantly reduced a woman’s risk of having elevated blood levels of the pollutants, but it was not good news: breastfeeding. Women who had breastfed at least one child for at least a month sometime in their lives had about half the risk of exceeding the median blood level for two or more pollutants. In other words, Thompson said, women pass the pollutants that have accumulated in their bodies to their nursing infants.

Although the study did not measure whether women with higher levels of co-exposure or their children suffered ill health effects, Thompson said, the data still suggest that women should learn about their risks of co-exposure to these chemicals well before they become pregnant. A woman who plans to become pregnant in her 30s or 40s, for example, will have a high relative risk of having higher blood levels of lead, PCBs, and mercury.

ZARA to Detox Supply Chain After Being Outed by Greenpeace for Chemical Use

Greenpeace is reporting that that worldwide clothing giant Zara has committed to eliminate all discharge of hazardous chemicals from its supply chain and products by 2020.

Zara’s commitment comes just nine days after Greenpeace launched its report “Toxic Threads: The Big Fashion Stitch-Up”.

“Greenpeace welcomes Zara’s commitment to toxic-free fashion. If the world’s biggest fashion retailer can do it, there’s no excuse for other brands not to clean up their supply chains and make fashion without pollution,” said Martin Hojsik, Detox Campaign Coordinator at Greenpeace International.

The group tested 141 clothing items from major brands for nonylphenol ethoxylates (NPEs) and carcinogenic amines from certain dyes.

NPes can break down into hormone-disrupting chemicals when released into the environment and water supplies – as a result, some countries have restricted the industrial use of NPEs for almost 20 years.
Greenpeace said all of the brands had several items containing NPEs, while Zara was the only retailer selling items contaminated with both NPEs and toxic amines.

"Some of the Zara items tested came out positive for substances that break down to form cancer-causing or hormone-disrupting chemicals which is unacceptable for both consumers and the people living near the factories where these clothes are made," said Hojsik
Zara will now require at least 20 suppliers to start releasing pollution discharge data by the end of March 2013, and at least 100 suppliers by the end of 2013. The supply chain disclosure project will include azo dyes that give rise to cancer causing amines.

“People around the world have spoken out against toxic fashion and it’s now time for other brands such as Esprit, Gap and Victoria’s Secret to listen to their customers and urgently Detox.”


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Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Santa needs an air purifier: North Pole pollution levels remain among the highest in the country

Live Capture Photo of the North Pole  from
From FNSB Air Quality Near-Real-Time
Particulate pollution in the North Pole has been higher than most of the 300+ cities in the continental U.S. over the last few days according to a report in the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner.

Last night the particulate level peaked at 245 micrograms. The highest levels in the Lower 48 states today is 69 at Olympia, Washington
The forecast for today for North Pole remains "very unhealthy," with a warming that states: "People with respiratory or heart disease, the elderly and children should avoid any outdoor activity; everyone else should avoid prolonged exertion."
Fine particle pollution is considered particularity unhealthy to breathe as it has the potential to lodge deep into the lungs. Once inhaled, these particles can affect the heart and lungs and cause serious health effects. 
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Your couch is laced with potentially cancer-causing toxic flame retardants say scientists

We may want to start reconsidering where we like to spend our down time. Scientists are reporting today that more furniture manufacturers are using flame retardants in our couches.

They analyzed 102 foam samples from couches purchased in the last seven years and found that 93 percent contained flame retardants. More than half of those couches contained untested flame retardants or retardants that have raised health concerns, including "Tris," which is considered a probable human carcinogen based on animal studies and was phased out from use in baby pajamas in 1977.

When broken down by manufacturer about 85 percent are now using flame retardants in their couches.

Past research studies have found that flame retardants can migrate from foam to household dust into people and pets. Other research has linked flame retardants with adverse health effects.

In a study was published in ACS' journal Environmental Science & Technology.


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Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Autism and Traffic Pollution: VIDEO ON THE NEW STUDY

Research conducted by University of Southern California (USC) and Children's Hospital Los Angeles scientists demonstrates that polluted air -- whether regional pollution or coming from local traffic sources -- is associated with autism.

For more stories on health, pollution, chemical exposure and improving your indoor air quality visit or call to speak to an air quality expert about improving the air in your home 1-888-852-8247.

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Exposure to traffic pollution in pregnancy, first year of life appears to be associated with autism

Exposure to traffic-related air pollution,  during pregnancy and during the first year of a child's life appears to be associated with an increased risk of autism, according to a new report published by Archives of General Psychiatry.

Researchers at the University of Southern California, looked at the relationship between traffic-related air pollution, air quality and autism in a study that included 279 children with autism and control group of 245 children with typical development.

"Exposures to traffic-related air pollution, PM [particulate matter] and nitrogen dioxide were associated with an increased risk of autism. These effects were observed using measures of air pollution with variation on both local and regional levels, suggesting the need for further study to understand both individual pollutant contributions and the effects of pollutant mixtures on disease," the authors comment.

The authors used mothers' addresses to estimate exposure for each pregnancy trimester and for a child's first year of life. Children living in homes with the highest levels of traffic-related air pollution were three times as likely to have autism compared with children living in homes with the lowest exposure.

Autism is a diverse disorder with genetic and environmental factors likely contributing to its origins. Autism spectrum disorders are commonly characterized by problems in communication, social interaction and repetitive behaviors. Emerging evidence suggests the environment plays a role in autism, but only limited information is available about what exposures are relevant and what stages of  development in which they act.

"Although additional research to replicate these findings is needed, the public health implications of these findings are large because air pollution exposure is common and may have lasting neurological effects," the authors conclude.


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Monday, November 26, 2012

Do you have questions about lung cancer treatments? Tweet Chat tomorrow with top cancer center experts

The date: November 27, 2012.
The time: 1:00 PM Pacific Standard Time.
To join the conversation: Use #UCDcancerchat.
Follow them: @UCD_Cancer

The event is being hosted in honor of Lung Cancer Awareness Month by The University of California Davis Comprehensive Care Center.

Twitter users are invited to log in and join the conversation about new medical, surgical and radiation oncology approaches to the disease from cancer center experts.

 We at AllerAir air purifiers will be following! You can also follow us on twitter @allerair .

Study: Preschoolers found to be at high risk for exposure to pesticides and toxins linked to cancer and developmental problems

In a sobering study published in the journal Environmental Health, researchers measured food-borne toxin exposure in children and adults by pinpointing foods with high levels of toxic compounds and determining how much of these foods were eaten.

The researchers found that family members in the study, and preschool children in particular, are at high risk for exposure to arsenic, dieldrin, DDE (a DDT metabolite), dioxins and acrylamide. These compounds have been linked to cancer, developmental disabilities, birth defects and other conditions.

"Contaminants get into our food in a variety of ways," said study principal investigator Irva Hertz-Picciotto, professor and chief of the Division of Environmental and Occupational Health at UC Davis. "They can be chemicals that have nothing to do with the food or byproducts from processing. We wanted to understand the dietary pathway pesticides, metals and other toxins take to get into the body."

Researchers assessed risk by comparing toxin consumption to established benchmarks for cancer risk and non-cancer health risks. All 364 children in the study (207 preschool children between two and seven and 157 school-age children between five and seven) exceeded cancer benchmarks for arsenic, dieldrin, DDE and dioxins. In addition, more than 95 percent of preschool children exceeded non-cancer risk levels for acrylamide, a cooking byproduct often found in processed foods like potato and tortilla chips. Pesticide exposure was particularly high in tomatoes, peaches, apples, peppers, grapes, lettuce, broccoli, strawberries, spinach, dairy, pears, green beans and celery.

"We focused on children because early exposure can have long-term effects on disease outcomes," said Rainbow Vogt, lead author of the study. "Currently, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency only measures risk based on exposures of individual contaminants. We wanted to understand the cumulative risk from dietary contaminants. The results of this study demonstrate a need to prevent exposure to multiple toxins in young children to lower their cancer risk."

Perhaps most disturbing, preschool-age children had higher exposure to more than half the toxic compounds being measured. Even relatively low exposures can greatly increase the risk of cancer or neurological impairment.

"We need to be especially careful about children, because they tend to be more vulnerable to many of these chemicals and their effects on the developing brain," says Hertz-Picciotto.

Though these results are cause for concern, the study also outlines strategies to lower family exposure. For example, organic produce has lower pesticide levels. In addition, toxin types vary in different foods. Certain pesticides may be found in lettuce and broccoli, while others affect peaches and apples.

"Varying our diet and our children's diet could help reduce exposure," said Hertz-Picciotto. "Because different foods are treated differently at the source, dietary variation can help protect us from accumulating too much of any one toxin."

Families also can reduce their consumption of animal meat and fats, which may contain high levels of DDE and other persistent organic pollutants, and switch to organic milk. While mercury is most often found in fish, accumulation varies greatly by species. Smaller fish, lower on the food chain, generally have lower mercury levels. In addition, acrilomides are relatively easy to remove from the diet.

"Acrilomides come from chips and other processed grains, said co-author Deborah Bennett, associate professor of Environmental and Occupational Health at UC Davis. "Even if we set aside the potential toxins in these foods, we probably shouldn't be eating large amounts of them anyway. However, we should be eating fruits, vegetables and fish, which are generally healthy foods. We just need to be more careful in how we approach them."

The study also highlights a number of policy issues, such as how we grow our food and the approval process for potentially toxic compounds. Though the pesticide DDT was banned 40 years ago, the study showed significant risk of DDE exposure.

"Given the significant exposure to legacy pollutants, society should be concerned about the persistence of compounds we are currently introducing into the environment," said Bennett. "If we later discover a chemical has significant health risks, it will be decades before it's completely removed from the ecosystem."

While the study has profound implications for dietary habits, more work needs to be done to quantify risk. Specifically, researchers need to determine how these food-borne toxins interact collectively in the body.

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Friday, November 23, 2012

It only takes ten minutes of this activity to boost a child's chemical exposure by 30%

Just 10 minutes spent in the car with a smoker, boosts a child’s daily exposure to harmful pollutants by up to 30%, reveals research published online in Tobacco Control.

Pollutant levels exceeded those found in restaurants, bars, and casinos, the study showed.

Children are very vulnerable to the effects of second hand smoke, because most of this occurs in cars and private homes—locations not covered by outright public bans on smoking—say the authors.

They base their findings on 22 assessments of the air quality inside a stationary vehicle after three cigarettes had been smoked over the course of an hour.

On each occasion, levels of pollutants that are normally emitted by cars as well as by cigarettes, were measured in the back seat of a vehicle at the breathing height of a child—with the front windows completely down (position 1), and again with the windows open just 10 cm (position 2).

These pollutants were also measured outside the vehicle and included particulate matter, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH), and carbon monoxide, plus nicotine.

Exposure to PAH, in particular, has been linked to immune system disturbances, wheeze, IQ changes, and allergic sensitisation, say the authors.

The pollutant levels inside the car at both window settings were three times as high as those measured outside, the results showed.

The average particulate matter levels inside the car were 746.1 µg/m3 at position 1 and 1172.1 µg/m3 at position 2. The average size of the particulate matter was 0.3 µm.

Average levels of carbon monoxide reached 2.8 parts per million when cigarettes were extinguished, while those of PAH were around 10 times as high inside the car as they were outside.

Nicotine levels varied between 5.06 µg/m3 and 411.3 µg/m3 for both window positions inside the car.

On the basis of their findings, the authors calculate that spending even a short amount of time inside a car with a smoker would make a significant difference to a child’s daily exposure to harmful pollutants.

“Children are more vulnerable than adults, and their exposures to tobacco smoke in a vehicle are completely controlled by the adults with whom they share the vehicle,” they write.

“Although regulations have been enacted to protect non-smokers, including children in many public venues, second hand smoke exposures to children in vehicles are permitted in 44 of 50 US states, and in most countries worldwide.”

They conclude that their findings support moves to restrict this type of exposure in cars, especially those carrying children.

Click here to view full paper:


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Thursday, November 22, 2012

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Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Bad air means bad news for seniors' brainpower

Living in areas of high air pollution can lead to decreased cognitive function in older adults, according to new research.

This finding is based on data from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Health and Retirement Study.

"As a result of age-related declines in health and functioning, older adults are particularly vulnerable to the hazards of exposure to unhealthy air," said researcher Jennifer Ailshire, PhD.

"Air pollution has been linked to increased cardiovascular and respiratory problems, and even premature death, in older populations, and there is emerging evidence that exposure to particulate air pollution may have adverse effects on brain health and functioning as well."

This is the first study to show how exposure to air pollution influences cognitive function in a national sample of older men and women. It suggests that fine air particulate matter — composed of particles that are 2.5 micrometers in diameter and smaller, thought to be sufficiently small that if inhaled they can deposit deep in the lung and possibly the brain — may be an important environmental risk factor for reduced cognitive function.

The study sample included 14,793 white, black, and Hispanic men and women aged 50 and older who participated in the 2004 Health and Retirement Study (a nationally representative survey of older adults). Individual data were linked with data on 2004 annual average levels of fine air particulate matter from the Environmental Protection Agency's Air Quality System monitors across the country. Cognitive function was measured on a scale of 1 to 35 and consisted of tests assessing word recall, knowledge, language, and orientation.

Ailshire discovered that those living in areas with high levels of fine air particulate matter scored poorer on the cognitive function tests. The association even remained after accounting for several factors, including age, race/ethnicity, education, smoking behavior, and respiratory and cardiovascular conditions.

Fine air particulate matter exposures ranged from 4.1 to 20.7 micrograms per cubic meter, and every ten point increase was associated with a 0.36 point drop in cognitive function score. In comparison, this effect was roughly equal to that of aging three years; among all study subjects, a one-year increase in age was associated with a drop 0.13 in cognitive function score.

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Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Work in a bar or casino? You have an increased risk of breast cancer

Does your job increase your breast cancer risk? A study published in BioMed Central's open access journal Environmental Health confirms that certain occupations do pose a higher risk of breast cancer than others, particularly those that expose the worker to potential carcinogens and endocrine disrupters.

"Our results highlight the importance of occupational studies in identifying and quantifying environmental risk factors and illustrates the value of taking detailed occupational histories of cancer patients. Mounting evidence suggests that we need to re-evaluate occupational exposure limits in regulatory protection, "  says James T Brophy, lead study author.

Breast cancer is the most frequent cancer diagnosis among women in industrialized countries, and North American rates are among the highest in the world. Endocrine-disrupting chemicals and carcinogens, some of which may not have yet been classified as such, are present in many working environments and could increase breast cancer risk.

The study included 1006 breast cancer cases with 1147 randomly selected and matched community controls. Using interviews and surveys, the team collected data on participants' occupational and reproductive histories. All jobs were coded for their likelihood of exposure to carcinogens and endocrine disruptors, and patients' tumor pathology regarding endocrine receptor status was assessed.

The authors found in this group of participants that, across all sectors, women in jobs with potentially high exposures to carcinogens and endocrine disrupters had an elevated breast cancer risk. Sectors with increased risk included:

  • Agriculture
  • Bar/gambling
  • Automotive plastics manufacturing
  • Food canning
  • Metal-working

Importantly, premenopausal breast cancer risk was highest in the automotive plastics and food canning industries.

The findings also suggested that women with lower socioeconomic status had an elevated risk of breast cancer, which may result from higher exposures to endocrine-disrupting chemicals in the lower-income manufacturing and agricultural industries of the study area.


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Monday, November 19, 2012

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Friday, November 16, 2012

How does city pollution end up in the Arctic? Scientists say pollutants hitch a ride...

For decades, atmospheric scientists have been trying to explain how particles manage to transport harmful pollutants to pristine environments thousands of miles away. Now a new study has uncovered a detail that could provide an explanation.

Researcher have long thought that pollutants coat other particles in the air, but scientists at the Department of Energy's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory say that the pollutants actually travel inside other particles and are therefore protected from decay.

"In this study, we propose a new explanation for how polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) get transported so far, by demonstrating that airborne particles become a protective vessel for PAH  transport," said physical chemist Alla Zelenyuk. "What we've learned through fundamental studies on model systems in the lab has very important implications for long-range transport of pollutants in the real world."

Floating in the air and invisible to the eye, airborne particles known as secondary organic aerosols live and die. Born from carbon-based molecules given off by trees, vegetation, and fossil fuel burning, these airborne SOA particles travel the currents and contribute to cloud formation. Along for the ride are pollutants, the PAHs.

Zelenyuk and her colleagues developed an ultra-sensitive instrument that can determine the size, composition and shape of these individual particles.

Called SPLAT II, the instrument can analyze millions of tiny particles one by one. The ability of this novel instrument to characterize individual particles provides unique insight into their property and evolution.

Using SPLAT II to evaluate laboratory-generated SOA particles from alpha-pinene, the molecule that gives pine trees their piney smell, Zelenyuk has already discovered that SOA particles aren't liquid at all. Her team's recent work revealed they are more like tar -- thick, viscous blobs that are too solid to be liquid and too liquid to be solid.

Armed with this data, Zelenyuk and researchers from Imre Consulting in Richland and the University of Washington in Seattle set out to determine the relation between the SOA particle and the PAHs. Again they used alpha-pinene for the SOA. For the PAH, they used pyrene, a toxic pollutant produced by burning fossil fuels or vegetation such as forests.

They created two kinds of particles. The first kind exemplified the classical SOA: first they produced the particles with alpha-pinene and then coated them with pyrene. The second kind resembled what likely happens in nature: they mixed alpha-pinene and pyrene and let the particles form with both molecules present. Then they sent the particles through SPLAT and watched what happened to them over time.

With the pyrene-coated particles, the team found the PAH pyrene evaporating off the surface of the particle quickly, all of it gone after four hours. By the next day, the particle itself had shrunk by about 70 percent, showing that the alpha-pinene SOA also evaporates, although more slowly than pyrene.

When they created the particles in the presence of both SOA and PAH, the PAH evaporated much more slowly. Fifty percent of the original PAH still remained in the particle after 24 hours. In addition, the SOA particle itself stayed bulky, losing less than 20 percent of its volume.

These results showed the team that PAHs become trapped within the highly viscous SOA particles, where they remain protected from the environment. The symbiotic relationship between the atmospheric particles and pollutants surprised Zelenyuk: SOAs help PAHs travel the world, and the PAHs help SOAs survive longer.

Zelenyuk and her colleagues performed comparable experiments with other PAHs and SOAs and found similar results.

In the real world, Zelenyuk said, the evaporation will be even slower. These results will help modelers better simulate atmospheric SOA particles and transport of pollutants over long distances.


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Foetus suffers when mother lacks vitamin C

Researchers at the University of Copenhagen say maternal vitamin C deficiency during pregnancy can have serious, irreversible consequences for the foetal brain.

“Even marginal vitamin C deficiency in the mother stunts the foetal hippocampus, the important memory centre, by 10-15 per cent, preventing the brain from optimal development,” says Professor Jens Lykkesfeldt.

 Population studies show that between 10-20 per cent of all adults in the developed world suffer from vitamin C deficiency. Therefore, pregnant women should think twice about omitting the daily vitamin pill.

For their study the scientists studied pregnant guinea pigs and their pups. Just like humans, guinea pigs cannot produce vitamin C themselves.

“We used to think that the mother could protect the baby. Ordinarily there is a selective transport from mother to foetus of the substances the baby needs during pregnancy. However, it now appears that the transport is not sufficient in the case of vitamin C deficiency. Therefore it is extremely important to draw attention to this problem, which potentially can have serious consequences for the children affected,” says Jens Lykkesfeldt.

The study has also shown that the damage done to the foetal brain cannot be repaired, even if the baby is given vitamin C after birth.

When the vitamin C deficient guinea pig pups were born, scientists divided them into two groups and gave one group vitamin C supplements. However, when the pups were two months old, which corresponds to teenage in humans, there was still no improvement in the group that had been given supplements.

The scientists are now working to find out how early in the pregnancy vitamin C deficiency influences the development of foetal guinea pigs. Preliminary results show that the impact is already made early in the pregnancy, as the foetuses were examined in the second and third trimesters. Scientists hope in the long term to be able to use population studies to illuminate the problem in humans.

The scientists emphasized that if pregnant women eat a varied diet, do not smoke, and for instance take a multi-vitamin tablet daily during pregnancy, there is no reason to fear vitamin C deficiency.

“Because it takes so little to avoid vitamin C deficiency, it is my hope that both politicians and the authorities will become aware that this can be a potential problem,” concludes Jens Lykkesfeldt.

Read the article in the scientific journal PLOS ONE.

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Thursday, November 15, 2012

Possible link between immune system and Alzheimer's

An international research team including scientists from the University of Toronto's Faculty of Medicine has discovered a link between a mutation in an immune system gene and Alzheimer's disease.

Using data from 25,000 people, researchers from the Faculty of Medicine and University College London's Institute of Neurology discovered that a rare genetic mutation in the TREM2 gene — which helps trigger immune system responses — is also associated with increased risk of Alzheimer's. The discovery supports an emerging theory about the role of the immune system in the disease.

"This discovery provides an increasingly firm link between brain inflammation and increased risk for Alzheimer's," says Dr. Peter St George-Hyslop, director of U of T's Tanz Centre for Research in Neurodegenerative Diseases. "This is an important step towards unraveling the hidden causes of this disease, so that we can develop treatments and interventions to end one of the 21st century's most significant health challenges."

St George-Hyslop, renowned for identifying five genes associated with Alzheimer's disease, says the breakthrough is, "another win for U of T scientists who are building on a worldwide legacy of expertise in neurodegenerative research."

The team began by sequencing the genes of 1,092 people with Alzheimer's and a control group of 1,107 healthy people. The results showed several mutations in the TREM2 gene occurred more frequently in people who had the disease than in those without the disease. One mutation – known as R47H – had a particularly strong association with the disease.

The mutation makes a patient three times more likely to develop the disease, although it affects just 0.3 per cent of the population.

"While the genetic mutation we found is extremely rare, its effect on the immune system is a strong indicator that this system may be a key player in the disease," says Dr. Rita Geurreiro from UCL, the study's lead author.

The study is published now in the New England Journal of Medicine. 

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Study: Chemical exposure and pollutants may impact ability to conceive

Researchers at the National Institutes of Health are reporting that couples with high levels of PCBs and similar environmental pollutants take longer to conceive a child.

PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls) are chemicals that have been used as coolants and lubricants in electrical equipment. They are part of a category of chemicals known as persistent organochlorine pollutants and include industrial chemicals and chemical byproducts as well as pesticides.

The compounds are also resistant to decay, and may persist in the environment for decades. Some, known as persistent lipophilic organochlorine pollutants, accumulate in fatty tissues. Another type, called perfluorochemicals, are used in clothing, furniture, adhesives, food packaging, heat-resistant non-stick cooking surfaces, and the insulation of electrical wire.

Exposure to these chemical pollutants is known to have a number of effects on human health, but their effects on human fertility-- and the likelihood of couples achieving pregnancy-- have not been extensively studied.

To conduct the study, the researchers enrolled 501 couples from four counties in Michigan, and 12 counties in Texas, from 2005 to 2009. Couples provided blood samples for the analysis of organochlorines (PCBs) and perfluorochemicals (PFCs). Women kept journals to record their monthly menstrual cycles and the results of home pregnancy tests. The couples were followed until pregnancy or for up to one year of trying.

For each standardized increase in chemical concentration the researchers measured, the odds of pregnancy declined by 18 to 21 percent for females exposed to PCB congeners 118, 167, 209, and the perfluorchemical, perfluorooctane sulfonamide. Perfluorooctane sulfonamide is one of a broad class of compounds known as perfluoroalkyls, which have been used in fire fighting foams.

With increasing exposure, the odds for pregnancy declined by 17 to 29 percent for couples in which males were exposed to PCB congeners 138, 156, 157, 167, 170, 172, and 209 and to DDE, produced when the pesticide DDT degrades in the environment. DDT is banned for use in the United States, but is still used in some countries.

The investigators noted that they cannot rule out that some of the delays they observed may have been due to exposure to multiple chemicals. They added that these associations would need to be confirmed by other researchers.

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Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Head Injury + Pesticide Exposure = Triple the Risk of Parkinson’s Disease

A new study shows that people who have had a head injury and have lived or worked near areas where the pesticide paraquat was used may be three times more likely to develop Parkinson’s disease.

Paraquat is a herbicide commonly used on crops to control weeds. It can be deadly to humans and animals.

“While each of these two factors is associated with an increased risk of Parkinson’s on their own, the combination is associated with greater risk than just adding the two factors together,” said study author Beate Ritz, MD, PhD, of UCLA’s Fielding School of Public Health.

“This study suggests that the physiological process that is triggered by a head injury may increase brain cells’ vulnerability to attacks from pesticides that can be toxic to the brain or the other way around, for example, chronic low dose exposure to pesticides may increase the risk of Parkinson’s after a head injury.”

The study involved 357 people with Parkinson’s disease and 754 people without the disease, all of whom lived in an agricultural area in central California. The participants reported any head injuries they had ever received with a loss of consciousness for more than five minutes.

The researchers determined participants’ exposure to the weed killer based on a 500-meter area around their home and work addresses, using a geographic information system (GIS) that combined data on paraquat use collected by the state of California’s Pesticide Use Reporting system with land use maps.

People with Parkinson’s disease were twice as likely to have had a head injury with loss of consciousness for more than five minutes as people who did not have the disease. Of the 357 people with Parkinson’s disease, 42, or 12 percent, reported ever having had such a head injury, compared to 50 of the 754 people without the disease, or 7 percent.

People with Parkinson’s disease were 36 percent more likely to have exposure to paraquat than those who did not have the disease. Of those with Parkinson’s, 169 had exposure to the weed killer, or 47 percent, compared to 291 of those without the disease, or 39 percent.

The study was published in medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.


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Beyond Allergies: An Odor-Busting Air Purifier Offers More

Americans spend over 500 million dollars a year on air cleaners. The driving force for many of those air purifier purchases is allergy relief, but investing in a more versatile, multi-purpose unit that also tackles odors will quickly turn a simple dust collector into the most appreciated appliance in your home. 

More Uses = Better Value
We all want the things we buy to give us the most for our money, so why opt for a one-dimensional air purifier? Most standard air purifier models only collect dust and particles. To get more out of your air purifier look for a unit with serious odor “adsorbing” filters like AllerAir’s5000 Exec which has HEPA filtration and a thick 18 lb. activated carbon filter. An air purifier with a deeper carbon filter will clean the air more effectively and require fewer filter changes than a thin mesh filter.

An Air Purifier to the Rescue
There are few things more aggravating than a bad smell in your home and while none of us like to dwell on it, there are many sources for odor lurking in every corner. Here are a few examples of where an odor-busting air purifier can provide some relief: 

Pet Odors
If it’s got fur and is living in your home, you can bet that you have some level of odor. The toughest and most unpleasant is urine. Whether it was a protest pee on your carpet or the constant smell of a cat litter box, the right air purifier with activated carbon can make a surprising difference.  Just remember if you have multiple cats or a more significant pet odor problem be sure to consult an air quality expert for advice on choosing the right unit.

New Home, Upgrades or Renos
A few years ago scientists revealed that the “new car” smell people seemed to love was actually a toxic mix of chemicals coming from the materials used to make the interior. A new or renovated home is no different. It’s filled with off-gassing products like new flooring, lumber, particle board, paint and furniture, which can significantly compromised air quality. An air purifier with activated carbon will not only address the odors from all of these materials, but can help remove the more serious airborne VOC’s (volatile organic compounds) that may be harmful to human health.

General Odors
A multi-purpose air purifier is also very handy to have for general odors like that horrible stink when you run the self-cleaning oven, the corner where you’ve shoved the diaper pail or that musty storage area. The downside is you’ll find so many places to use your unit, you may find yourself needing more than one.

Ask an Air Purifier Expert
To learn more about a multi-purpose air purifier for allergies and odors, or an affordable and fully customized air purifier for smoke or MCS contact an AllerAir air quality expert today at 1-888-852-8247 or connect via live chat or Twitter.