Friday, September 28, 2012

What a difference a freeway makes; highway closure improves air quality by 83%

In study findings announced today UCLA researchers report that air quality near the closed section of highway 405 last year improved within minutes, reaching levels 83 percent better than on comparable weekends.
Because traffic dipped all over Southern California that weekend, air quality also improved 75 percent in parts of West Los Angeles and Santa Monica and an average of 25 percent regionally — from Ventura to Yucaipa, and Long Beach to Santa Clarita.
The study was led by two professors at UCLA's Institute of the Environment and Sustainability: Yifang Zhu, who is also an associate professor of environmental health sciences at the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health, and Suzanne Paulson, who is also a professor of atmospheric and oceanic sciences.
While the researchers expected cleaner air, they didn't expect the improvement to be so dramatic.
"The air was amazingly clean that weekend," Paulson said. "Our measurements in Santa Monica were almost below what our instruments could detect, and the regional effect was significant. It was a really eye-opening glimpse of what the future could be like if we can move away from combustion engines."
The research gives a peek at what the air would look like in a healthier Los Angeles with a vast majority of hybrid and electric vehicles and shows how quickly less driving can improve key measures of air quality.
Taking measurements
The researchers measured ultrafine particles (less than 0.1 microns in diameter), which are key indicators of real-time traffic levels, and also fine particulate matter known as "PM2.5" (less than 2.5 microns in diameter), which includes tailpipe emissions and new particles created when the emissions interact with the atmosphere. PM2.5 can spread farther from the freeway and last longer than ultrafine particles, but both are pollutants with health risks. Exposure to near-roadway pollutants has been linked to increases in asthma, heart attacks, strokes, diabetes, low birth weight, pre-term births and other ailments, the researchers noted.
Zhu and Paulson found that when traffic dropped more than 90 percent on the closed 405, with only construction vehicles still on the move, ultrafine particles dropped by 83 percent. PM2.5 concentrations dropped 36 percent.
More broadly, ultrafine particles and PM2.5 levels dropped 75 percent across a swath of West Los Angeles near the I-405/I-10 interchange stretching from Santa Monica to Westwood. Elsewhere, they measured PM2.5 and found the air 31 percent cleaner in Ventura, 19 percent cleaner in Yucaipa, 30 percent cleaner in Long Beach, 23.2 percent cleaner in Santa Clarita and 19.9 percent cleaner in Northridge.
"There is no safe level of PM2.5 concentrations, where you would no longer observe health impacts, so any reduction is an improvement," Zhu said. "This study shows that with such dramatic traffic reductions, there are specific air-quality improvements. It gives policymakers and the public incentives to put more effort into reducing traffic emissions."

Thursday, September 27, 2012

New evidence that BPA can disrupt women’s reproductive systems, causing chromosome damage, miscarriages, birth defects

A Washington State University researcher has found new evidence that exposure to the plastic additive BPA can disrupt women’s reproductive systems, causing chromosome damage, miscarriages and birth defects.

Writing in the journal, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, WSU geneticist Patricia Hunt and colleagues at WSU and the University of California, Davis, report seeing reproductive abnormalities in rhesus monkeys with BPA levels similar to those of humans. By using an animal with the most human-like reproductive system, the research bolsters earlier work by Hunt and others documenting widespread reproductive effects in rodents.
"The concern is exposure to this chemical, that we’re all exposed to could increase the risk of miscarriages and the risk of babies born with birth defects like Down Syndrome,” says Hunt. "The really stunning thing about the effect is we’re dosing grandma, it’s crossing the placenta and hitting her developing fetus, and if that fetus is a female, it’s changing the likelihood that that female is going to ovulate normal eggs. It’s a three-for-one hit.”
The research also adds to the number of organs affected by BPA, or bisphenol A, which is found in plastic bottles, the linings of aluminum cans and heat-activated cash register receipts. This May, Hunt was part of another paper in PNAS reporting that the additive altered mammary development in the primate, increasing the risk of cancer.
Hunt’s colleagues at UC, Davis exposed different groups of gestating monkeys to single daily doses of BPA and low-level continuous doses and looked at how they affected the reproductive systems of female fetuses. She saw that in the earliest stage of the adult’s egg development, the egg cell failed to divide properly. Earlier mouse studies showed similar disturbances translated into genetic defects in the mature egg.
A fertilized egg with the wrong number of chromosomes will almost always fail to come to term, leading to a spontaneous abortion or progeny with birth defects.
In monkeys exposed continuously, Hunt saw further complications in the third trimester as fetal eggs were not packaged appropriately in follicles, structures in which they develop. Eggs need to be packaged properly to grow, develop and mature.
"That’s not good,” says Hunt, "because it looks to us like you’re just throwing away a huge number of the eggs that a female would have. It raises concerns about whether or not she’s going to have a really short reproductive lifespan.”

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Secondhand smoke kills 900 infants a year; Black children disproportionately affected

Secondhand smoke is accountable for 42,000 deaths annually to nonsmokers in the United States, including nearly 900 infants, according to a new study.

Altogether, annual deaths from secondhand smoke represent nearly 600,000 years of potential life lost – an average of 14.2 years per person – and $6.6 billion in lost productivity, amounting to $158,000 per death, report the researchers.

The study, which involved the first use of a biomarker to gauge the physical and economic impacts of cigarette smoke, revealed that secondhand smoke exposure disproportionately affects African Americans, especially black infants.

Of the 42,000 total deaths resulting from secondhand smoke, 80 percent were white, 13 percent were black, and 4 percent were Hispanic. The vast majority of deaths were caused by ischemic heart disease. Black babies accounted for a startling high 24 percent to 36 percent of all infant deaths from secondhand smoke exposure, the researchers reported, although blacks represented only 13 percent of the total U.S. population in 2006.

The value of lost productivity per death was highest among blacks ($238,000) and Hispanics ($193,000).

“Black adults had significantly greater exposure rates than did whites in all age groups,” the authors wrote. “The highest secondhand smoke exposure was for black men aged 45 to 64 years, followed by black men age 20 to 44 years. Black women aged 20 to 44 years had a higher exposure rate (62.3 percent) than did any other women.”

“In general, fewer people are smoking and many have made lifestyle changes, but our research shows that the impacts of secondhand smoke are nonetheless very large,” said lead author Wendy Max, PhD, professor of health economics at the UCSF School of Nursing and co-director of the UCSF Institute for Health & Aging. “The availability of information on biomarker-measured exposure allows us to more accurately assess the impact of secondhand smoke exposure on health and productivity. The impact is particularly great for communities of color.”

Exposure to secondhand smoke is linked to a number of fatal illnesses including heart and lung disease, as well as conditions affecting newborns such as low birth weight and respiratory distress syndrome.
About a decade ago, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – using data from the California Environmental Protection Agency – reported that 49,400 adults died annually as a result of secondhand smoke exposure. Additionally, the CDC reported that 776 infants annually died as a result of maternal exposure in utero.

“Our study probably under-estimates the true economic impact of secondhand smoke on mortality,” said Max. “The toll is substantial, with communities of color having the greatest losses. Interventions need to be designed to reduce the health and economic burden of smoking on smokers and nonsmokers alike, and on particularly vulnerable groups.”

The study was published this month in the American Journal of Public Health.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Study To Explore Genetic Link Between PTSD and Respiratory Illness in 9/11 Responders

Doctors at Stony Brook University School of Medicine and the Long Island Clinical Center of Excellence have received a two-year $1 million grant to study the role genetics may play after exposure to environmental toxins in the development of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and respiratory illness in 9/11 WTC responders. Approximately 10 percent of 9/11 responders treated at WTC Health Programs suffer from both conditions.

Numerous studies have linked PTSD with physical illnesses, illustrating the integral association between mental health and physical disease. It will be the first study to investigate the association between genetic changes and the development of both conditions in the 9/11 responder patient population.

“Not only are a large portion of our men and women responders suffering from both conditions, but this type of mental/physical comorbidity has been shown to lead to increased disability and decreased quality of life. This is a detriment to their long-term health and adds to the multiple medical services these patients already need,” says Dr. Benjamin J. Luft, Principal Investigator of the study.

Dr. Luft and colleagues will identify biomarkers in individuals by using methods in epigenetics, the study of changes in the human genome from environmental and other outside exposures. The research team will take blood DNA samples from responders to determine methylation patterns, a chemical process contributing to changes in DNA as a result of exposures. By defining the patterns, they hope to uncover biological mechanisms that can help to genetically characterize pathways linking PTSD and respiratory illness in patients.

“An environmental exposure of such magnitude as experienced by the responders may affect the genome of each individual, and over time some of these genomic changes may trigger the turning on or off of certain genes that are implicated in diseases such as cancer, respiratory conditions and PTSD.”

Approximately 500 patients treated at the LI-CCE for both conditions will be evaluated during the two-year study.


Monday, September 24, 2012

WHO is keeping an eye on SARS-like virus; two people dead

The World Health Organization is on alert after a disease outbreak in Saudi Arabia caused by a virus in the same family as SARS.

The infections have been tied to a newly identified coronavirus. There are many strains of coronaviruses, most just cause colds, however this new virus reportedly causes severe pneumonia and kidney failure.

There have been two confirmed cases and tests results are pending on a third suspected case.

Two of those three people have died.

The 2003 SARS outbreak killed 775 people worldwide.

Common skin bacteria may be linked to chronic sinusitis

A common bacteria ever-present on the human skin and previously considered harmless, may, in fact, be the culprit behind chronic sinusitis, according to a study by scientists at the University of California, San Francisco.

Sinusitis is a painful, recurring swelling of the sinuses that strikes more than one in ten Americans each year. The study, published in the journal Science Translational Medicine, links the condition with an opportunistic bacteria that sets in following an infection.

In their study, the researchers compared the microbial communities in samples from the sinuses of 10 patients with sinusitis and from 10 healthy people, and showed that the sinusitis patients lacked a slew of bacteria that were present in the healthy individuals. The patients also had large increases in the amount of the opportunistic  bacteria, Corynebacterium tuberculostearicum in their sinuses, which are located in the forehead, cheeks and eyes.

The team also identified a common bacterium found within the sinuses of healthy people called Lactobacillus sakei that seems to help the body naturally ward off sinusitis. In laboratory experiments, inoculating mice with this one bacterium defended them against the condition.

“Presumably these are sinus-protective species,” said Susan Lynch, PhD, an associate professor of medicine and director of the Colitis and Crohn’s Disease Microbiome Research Core at UCSF.

What it all suggests, she added, is that the sinuses are home to a diverse “microbiome” that includes protective bacteria. These “microbial shields” are lost during chronic sinusitis, she said, and restoring the natural microbial ecology may be a way of mitigating this common condition.

There are about 30 million cases of sinusitis each year in the U.S., that costs the healthcare system an estimated $2.4 billion dollars.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Researchers find genetic link between smoking, COPD

University of Iowa researchers have found what they believe is the first link between smoking and decreased expression of a new class of noncoding RNAs (microRNAs) in smokers’ immune cells.

“Only 20 percent of smokers get chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), but no one knows why,” says Martha Monick, Ph.D., professor of internal medicine at the UI Roy J. and Lucille A. Carver College of Medicine. “This discovery identifies changes in a new class of molecules, microRNAs, that might be driving gene expression that ultimately leads to COPD/emphysema and other smoking-related disorders.”

Additionally, Monick says the discovery identifies specific smoking altered microRNAs that may provide future therapeutic targets.

The study, which looks at microRNA and gene expression in lung immune cells,was published online recently in the journal PLoS ONE at Monick is co-senior author with Mary Wilson, M.D., UI professor of internal medicine and microbiology. Joel Graff, PhD, a research scientist in Wilson’s laboratory, is primary author, and Thomas Gross, M.D., UI associate professor of internal medicine, is a co-author and oversees the clinical aspects of the research.

According to Monick, the new research identifies changes in microRNAs, a new class of gene expression regulators, in cells from smokers’ compared to nonsmokers' lungs. It is the first study to demonstrate significant down-regulation of these small noncoding RNAs (microRNAs) in lung macrophages from smokers. Macrophages are critical components of the innate immune system and changes in these cells are strongly linked to disease development.

In addition, the study links changes in a specific microRNA (miR-452) to increased production of a protein-degrading enzyme called MMP12, long associated with the development of COPD and emphysema. This research, she says, identifies a novel biological mechanism (changes in microRNA expression controlling disease relevant genes) that may be playing an important role in smoking-related diseases.

“We discovered the massive down-regulation of microRNAs with smoking and are continuing to study the mechanism of that down regulation. We are also working to identify specific microRNAs, like the one we have linked to MMP12, that alter expression of genes involved in smoking-related diseases." Monick says.

“Despite 50 years of accumulating knowledge on the health hazards of smoking, people continue to smoke. Every day approximately 4,000 people under the age of 18 pick up their first cigarette," Monick says.

“Research on the mechanism behind smoking-related diseases and identification of markers to identify high risk individuals remains critically important."

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Air pollution from burger grills worse than trucks

When you think of air pollution, you automatically think of diesel engine fumes, smoke stacks from industrial plants and machine exhaust. You don’t think of a charbroiled hamburger.

Researchers at the University of California, Riverside, however, have found that commercial charbroilers — the same ones that grill hamburgers from your favorite burger joint — emit a large amount of particulate matter into the air we breathe; even more than diesel engines.

As such, UC Riverside is conducting a study on commercial cooking emissions. Co-funded by the South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD) and the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District (SJVAPCD), the project’s goal is to evaluate potential controls by conducting emissions testing.
Commercial cooking equipment generates grease, smoke, heat, water vapor, and combustion products, but there are very few regulations for restaurant emissions. In its 2007 Air Quality Management Plan, SCAQMD determined that commercial cooking is second-largest source of particulate matter in the South Coast Air Basin.

“Emissions from commercial charbroilers are a very significant uncontrolled source of particulate matter…more than twice the contribution by all of the heavy-duty diesel trucks,” said Bill Welch, principal development engineer for the study at UC Riverside’s Center for Environmental Research and Technology (CE-Cert). “For comparison, an 18-wheeler diesel-engine truck would have to drive 143 miles on the freeway to put out the same mass of particles as a single charbroiled hamburger patty.”


Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Higher levels of BPA in children and teens significantly associated with obesity

Chemical, already banned from sippy cups and baby bottles, still used in soda cans

Researchers at NYU School of Medicine have revealed a significant association between obesity and children and adolescents with higher concentrations of urinary bisphenol A (BPA), a synthetic chemical recently banned by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) from sippy cups and baby bottles. Still, the chemical continues to be used in aluminum cans, such as those containing soda.

The study appears in the September 19 issue of JAMA (Journal of the American Medical Association), dedicated to the theme of obesity.

"This is the first association of an environmental chemical in childhood obesity in a large, nationally representative sample," said lead investigator Leonardo Trasande, MD, MPP, associate professor of pediatrics and environmental medicine. "Our findings further demonstrate the need for a broader paradigm in the way we think about the obesity epidemic. Unhealthy diet and lack of physical activity certainly contribute to increased fat mass, but the story clearly doesn't end there."

BPA, a low-grade estrogen, was until recently found in plastic bottles labeled with the number 7 recycling symbol, and is still used as an internal coating for aluminum cans. Manufacturers say it provides an antiseptic function, but studies have shown the chemical disrupts multiple mechanisms of human metabolism that may increase body mass. BPA exposure has also been associated with cardiovascular disease, breast cancer, prostate cancer, neurological disorders, diabetes and infertility.

"In the U.S. population, exposure [to BPA] is nearly ubiquitous, with 92.6 percent of persons 6 years or older identified in the 2003-2004 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) as having detectable BPA levels in their urine. A comprehensive, cross-sectional study of dust, indoor and outdoor air, and solid and liquid food in preschool-aged children suggested that dietary sources constitute 99 percent of BPA exposure," the investigators wrote.

Using a sample of nearly 3,000 children and adolescents, ages 6 through 19 years, randomly selected for measurement of urinary BPA concentration in the 2003-2008 NHANES, Dr. Trasande and his co-authors, Jan Blustein, MD, PhD, and Teresa Attina, MD, PhD, MPH, examined associations between urinary BPA concentrations and body mass.

After controlling for race/ethnicity, age, caregiver education, poverty to income ratio, sex, serum cotinine level, caloric intake, television watching, and urinary creatinine level, the researchers found children with the highest levels of urinary BPA had 2.6 times higher odds of being obese than those with the lowest measures of urinary BPA. Among the participants with the highest levels, 22.3 percent were obese compared with 10.3 percent of the participants with the lowest levels.

Further analyses showed this association to be statistically significant in only one racial subpopulation, white children and adolescents. The researchers also found that obesity was not associated with exposure to other environmental phenols commonly used in other consumer products, such as sunscreens and soaps.
"Most people agree the majority of BPA exposure in the United States comes from aluminum cans," Dr. Trasande said. "This data adds to already existing concerns about BPA and further supports the call to limit exposure of BPA in this country, especially in children. Removing it from aluminum cans is probably one of the best ways we can limit exposure. There are alternatives that manufacturers can use to line aluminum cans."

The researchers wrote in their study that advocates and policy makers have long been concerned about BPA exposure. "We note the recent FDA ban of BPA in baby bottles and sippy cups, yet our findings raise questions about exposure to BPA in consumer products used by older children. Last year, the FDA declined to ban BPA in aluminum cans and other food packaging, announcing 'reasonable steps to reduce human exposure to BPA in the human food supply' and noting that it will continue to consider evidence on the safety of the chemical. Carefully conducted longitudinal studies that assess the associations identified here will yield evidence many years in the future."

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

EPA gives $11M in grants to develop tests for chemicals' toxicity to people and the environment

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will give out nearly $11 million in grants to develop methods to assess the safety of chemicals and the impact of chemical exposure.

These innovative testing methods will be used to predict a chemical’s potential to interact with biological processes that could lead to reproductive and developmental problems, and disruption of the endocrine system.

The eight universities receiving the grants will focus on developing methods and models to predict how exposure to environmental and synthetic (man-made) chemicals and chemical mixtures may harm the public. 

Some synthetic chemicals are known endocrine disruptors, which interfere with or even mimic natural hormones and cause damage to the development and function of vital organs, particularly in young children and developing fetuses. There are currently thousands of chemicals in use and hundreds more introduced every year.

The grantees are:

  • University of Texas at Austin – testing chemicals that impact fertility and embryonic development, and developing a model to classify chemicals according to the risks they pose
  • North Carolina State University – developing innovative methods to understand how chemicals influence the regulation of development, reproduction, and metabolism
  • Oregon State University – using zebrafish testing methods to determine if they have results similar to traditional toxicity tests and to determine if these methods could be used as alternatives for existing toxicity tests
  • University of California Davis – investigating the effect of environmental agents on thyroid hormones and modeling how the chemicals affect organism health
  • Battelle Memorial Institute, Pacific Northwest Division, state of Washington – working with assay systems of the rainbow trout pituitary, liver and ovary to screen for environmental toxins and measure reproductive endocrine functions impaired by these toxins
  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill – developing chemical effect testing for in vitro systems and computational toxicology solutions to measure risk in populations, and creating models based on the resulting data
  • University of Michigan – improving upon an existing in vitro, neurochemical screening assay platform, and modeling adverse reproductive effects associated with toxic exposure in wildlife
  • University of South Carolina – developing a targeted innovative animal imaging method to screen and identify chemicals that exhibit abnormal development in the cardiovascular and nervous systems that lead to indirect adverse effects on muscle development within zebrafish larvae

More information on EPA’s chemical safety research:

Monday, September 17, 2012

Researcher links local asthma to traffic at US-CAN border crossing; State disagrees

The residents of Buffalo New York who live within a stone's throw of the US-Canadian border crossing may have more evidence to back up their concerns about poor air quality. 

The Buffalo Westside Environmental Defense Fund says that tuck exhaust could be making residents sick. A researchers says he's found a direct link between certain airborne particles and high asthma rates on the west side.

"....these particles we associated with high risk of asthma and it's actually not only asthma but we find that they are associated with a whole lot of illnesses that we never thought would be associated with them," Dr. Jemson Lwebuga-Mukasa told local media. 

The New York State Department of Transportation disagrees.

In a letter sent to Buffalo and Fort Erie Public Bridge Authority General Manager Ron Rienas, New York State DOT Commissioner Joan McDonald said unbiased studies show the bridge is not a factor in asthma patterns.

“Local data shows that poverty, race, and socioeconomic factors (not geographic location) have the greatest correlation to asthma-related hospital visits within the City of Buffalo,” McDonald said.

The full report is available on the Peace Bridge Authority's website at

Are you concerned about the impact of traffic pollution? Clean your air with the top air cleaner for particles according to Buy.o.logic TV on the Oprah Winfrey Network.

Source:, St. Catherine's Standard

Friday, September 14, 2012

Bad memory? Study says to blame the smoker in your life

According to researchers at Northumbria University in the UK, non-smokers who live with or spend time with smokers are damaging their memories.

The findings, published in the latest online edition of the journal Addiction is the first study to explore the relationship between second hand tobacco smoke and everyday memory problems.

Dr Tom Heffernan and Dr Terence O’Neil, both researchers at the Collaboration for Drug and Alcohol Research Group at Northumbria University, compared a group of current smokers with two groups of non-smokers – those who were regularly exposed to second-hand smoke and those who were not.
Those exposed to second-hand smoke reported being exposed to second-hand smoke for an average of 25 hours a week for an average of four and a half years.

The three groups were tested on time-based memory (remembering to carry out an activity after some time) and event-based memory (which refers to memory for future intentions and activities).
Researchers found that the non-smokers who had been exposed to second-hand smoke forgot almost 20% more in the memory tests than those non-smokers not exposed. However, both groups out-performed the current smokers who forgot 30% more than those who were not exposed to second-hand smoking.

“According to recent reports by the World Health Organisation, exposure to second-hand smoke can have serious consequences on the said Heffernan.

“Our findings suggest that the deficits associated with second-hand smoke exposure extend to everyday cognitive function. We hope our work will stimulate further research in the field in order to gain a better understanding of the links between exposure to second-hand smoke, health problems and everyday cognitive function.”

Reduce your exposure to second hand tobacco smoke with an activated carbon air purifier designed specifically for smoke. Connect with an air quality expert via live chat, twitter or phone 1888-852-8247.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Indoor air alert: Feeling queasy? It may be your allergies

Many regions across North America are experiencing a wave of aggressive levels of pollen and mold triggering an onslaught of allergic reactions. Yet, while we're all too familiar with stuffy noses and itchy eyes, allergy sufferers may also be feeling something else.....a little queasy.

There are a surprising number of ways that allergies can bring on the feeling of being nauseated. The first is mucus. Seasonal allergies are triggered by the body's overreaction to an airborne allergen. A by-product of that reaction is mucus production which leads to a runny nose and watery eyes. Excess mucus can also run down the throat and pool in the stomach leaving you with that feeling that something just isn't sitting right.

Going hand in hand with mucus is congestion, or that horrible sensation of being stuffed up with pressure in your face and ears. That increase in pressure can actually put your body off-balance leading to feelings of dizziness and nausea.

Probably the most surprising link between nausea and allergies is fluid loss. The human body naturally loses about 10 cups of fluid per day. Add to that a constantly runny nose and leaky eyes and you may be feeling a little dehydrated which could bring on a sick feeling.

The solution? Up your fluid intake and reduce the number of allergens in your home by leaving your shoes at the door, vacuuming frequently and leaving your HEPA air purifier cranked 24/7.

Don't have an air purifier? AllerAir's Air Medic+ was named best air purifier for particles by the consumer products show Buy.o logic on the OWN network. It's designed to remove up to 99.97% of airborne allergens including pollen, mold spores, dander and dust. It also has a huge activated carbon filter for airborne chemicals - which can also trigger allergies.

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Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Seeing is believing for parents who smoke: Air quality monitoring helps reduce children’s exposure to smoke in the home

According to a new study, providing parents who smoke with measurements of their home’s indoor air quality (IAQ), in addition to usual smoking advice, leads to better IAQ and reduces children’s exposure to second hand smoke.

The study carried out by scientists at the University of Aberdeen and  University of Edinburgh aimed to establish whether measurements of IAQ would provide an incentive for parents who smoke to change their habits.
The study which involved 40 families and took place over one month was not aimed at getting parents to quit; but to change their smoking patterns to ensure that the child was not exposed.  This included encouraging them to smoke outside of the home and asking visitors not to smoke in their home. 
 “Smoking is one of the most harmful, but potentially modifiable, lifestyle activities...We have previously observed how parents who smoke find it very hard to quit despite understanding the harmful effects of second hand smoke on children, ” said Dr Steve Turner, Senior Clinical Lecturer in Child Health at the University of Aberdeen
 “We measured IAQ over a 24 hour period and in half of the homes studied and showed parents the IAQ levels (which reflect smoke concentration in the air in their homes) to improve understanding of the harm done to the children. In the remainder of the houses we gave the IAQ measurement results back at the end of the month long study. In homes where the IAQ information was provided at the start of the study, air quality improved by one third over the month long study.”
Parents reported they found getting a number which described how high their indoor air quality was provided extra motivation to change their smoking behaviour. Based on the results of the study, the researchers hope to use indoor air quality measurements as part of smoking interventions in different settings – for example maternity hospitals and occupational health.

Looking to reduce airborne tobacco smoke and odor? Connect with an indoor air quality expert via live chat or twitter for information on how an air purifier for smoke and improve your indoor air.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Early chemical exposure to BPA linked with anxiety; Soy could mitigate the effects

New research  by North Carolina State University shows that exposure to the chemical bisphenol A (BPA) early in life is linked to high levels of anxiety.

“We knew that BPA could cause anxiety in a variety of species, and wanted to begin to understand why and how that happens,” says Dr. Heather Patisaul, an associate professor of biology at NC State.

BPA is a chemical used in a wide variety of polycarbonate plastics and epoxy resins, and is used in consumer products such as some food containers. The anxiety seems to be caused by significant gene expression changes in a specific region of the brain called the amygdala.

Another interesting part of the study found that a soy-rich diet can mitigate these effects.

In the experiment, rats were exposed to low doses of BPA during gestation, lactation (nursing) and through puberty. Blood tests showed that the animals exposed to BPA had BPA levels well within the range found in humans. Similarly, blood tests of animals fed soy showed levels of genistein, an estrogen-like chemical found in soy, were at levels within the human range for vegetarians and others who regularly consume soy foods.

Among adolescent rats on a soy-free diet, both males and females that had been exposed to BPA exhibited significantly higher levels of anxiety. The researchers also found, for the first time, gene changes within the brain associated with this elevated anxiety.

Specifically, the study reveals that gene expression changes in the amygdala, a brain region known to play a role in mediating responses to fear and stress, are associated with the behavioral changes. Two of the affected genes were estrogen receptor beta and the melanocortin receptor 4. Both are required for oxytocin release, thus changes in oxytocin/vasopressin signaling pathways may underpin the behavioral changes. Oxytocin is a hormone and neurotransmitter that has been linked to social behavior.

However, the researchers also found that adolescent rats on the soy-rich diet did not exhibit anxiety – suggesting that the soy-rich diet may mitigate the effects of BPA. But a soy-rich diet raises questions of its own.

“Soy contains phytoestrogens that can also affect the endocrine system, which regulates hormones,” Patisaul says. “It is not clear whether these phytoestrogens are what mitigate the effect of BPA, or if it is something else entirely. That’s a question we’re hoping to address in future research.”

The paper, “Anxiogenic effects of developmental Bisphenol A exposure 1 are associated with gene expression changes in the juvenile rat amygdala and mitigated by soy,” was published in the journal PLOS ONE.


One of the most common routes of human chemical exposure is though inhalation. Clean your indoor air of chemicals, dust, allergens and odors with a high efficiency AllerAir air purifier, named top air cleaner by Buy.o.logic TV on the Oprah Winfrey Network. Chat live with an air quality expert to learn more.

Source: Press Release, North Carolina State University

Monday, September 10, 2012

Can soup help fend off asthma? Clinical trials of “super soup” underway

Those of us impacted by asthma are always on the look-out for the latest research. This story comes via the BBC where they report that scientists are going to begin clinical trials to determine if eating more foods rich in vitamin E during pregnancy prevents childhood asthma.

The women in the trial will eat "super soups" that have been formulated to be naturally high in vitamin E, which has been linked to good lung growth in a developing foetus.

The trial was prompted by research into the impact of diet and the incidence of asthma in children up to the age of five.

"We were able to show, for the first time, that children born to mums with a lower vitamin E intake during pregnancy were more likely to develop asthma by the age of five and have poor lung function," Prof Graham Deveraux told the BBC.

The next challenge for the researchers was to show that adding the vitamin could have an impact, but they didn’t want to do it with pills.

"Most people get their vitamin E from food…I wondered whether it might be the other nutrients that go with vitamin E in food that may be responsible for the effect. There may be interactions between vitamin E and the other nutrients. So, I was very keen to do a dietary intervention rather than a pill or a potion."

The team plans to test the soups in a small pilot study involving 50 women. They will be enrolled during early pregnancy and asked to eat either enriched or normal soup three times a week.

"If we're really lucky we might show that the children [born to women] receiving vitamin E enhancement may actually have better lung function," Prof Deveraux commented.

He later hopes to do a trial on 1000 women.


Already suffer from asthma? Improving your indoor air quality can be an important part of managing the irritants that can trigger an attack. Connect with an air quality expert via live chat or twitter to learn more about HEPA air purifiers for asthma.


Friday, September 07, 2012

Leading Scientists to Congress: Do Not Block Government List of Cancer-Causing Chemicals

 Public Needs Unbiased Assessment; Human Health is at Stake

More than 70 leading scientists are calling on Congress to reject an attempt to block a biennial government assessment of the cancer risks of posed by industrial chemicals and other agents. A letter sent by the scientists to key senators and representatives urged lawmakers to resist efforts by the chemical industry and its allies in Congress to “delay and ultimately destroy” the federal government’s efforts to “provide the public with unbiased, authoritative scientific assessments” of such hazardous industrial chemicals as formaldehyde and styrene.

“Honest, hard-working Americans and their families rely on Congress to protect their right to know about health risks from toxic chemicals in their homes, workplaces, schools, and consumer products,” the environmental health scientists wrote.

Their letter expressed strong opposition to a proposal to defund the annual Report on Carcinogens that was approved on July 18, 2012 by the House Appropriations subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies.

The Report on Carcinogens is compiled biennially by the National Toxicology Program in the Department of Health and Human Services.

“It would be harmful to public health to suspend the Report on Carcinogens,” said Dr. Henry Anderson of the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health. “Health professionals and the public rely on the Report for an up-to-date, clear, and objective assessment of the current science regarding potential cancer-causing substances.”

“The chemical industry is unhappy when a substance like formaldehyde or styrene is listed in the Report on Carcinogens, and their response has been to blame the messenger,” said Dr. Adam Finkel, Professor of Environmental and Occupational Health at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey (UMDNJ). “But a lengthy and inclusive process has led to these evidenced-based determinations. We are calling on Congress not to play along and to instead defend the Report on Carcinogens from special interest attacks.”

Source: NRDC  Press Release

Thursday, September 06, 2012

Urgent Action Needed to Reduce Growing Hazards from Chemicals: UN Report

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The United Nations is calling for industry and governments to take urgent to reduce the growing risks to human health and the environment posed by chemicals. A new study by the U.N. Environment Program [UNEP] finds that better management of chemicals could save millions of lives and provide an economic benefit to nations worldwide.
The release of the study - the first comprehensive assessment of its kind - follows renewed commitments by countries at the Rio+20 summit in June to prevent the illegal dumping of toxic wastes, develop safer alternatives to hazardous chemicals in products, and increase the recycling of waste, among other measures.
By examining global chemicals trends and their economic implications, the UNEP report maps out the most effective approaches for decision-makers to deliver on these commitments.

"Communities worldwide - particularly those in emerging and developing countries - are increasingly dependent on chemical products, from fertilizers and petrochemicals to electronics and plastics, for economic development and improving livelihoods," said UN Under-Secretary General and UNEP Executive Director, Achim Steiner.
"But the gains that chemicals can provide must not come at the expense of human health and the environment. Pollution and disease related to the unsustainable use, production and disposal of chemicals can, in fact, hinder progress towards key development targets by affecting water supplies, food security, well-being or worker productivity. Reducing hazards and improving chemicals management - at all stages of the supply chain - is, thus, an essential component of the transition to a low carbon, resource efficient and inclusive Green Economy," added Mr. Steiner.

At the Johannesburg World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) in 2002, UN member states set a target that by 2020, chemicals should be produced and used in ways that lead to the minimization of significant adverse effects on human health and the environment.
"The economic analysis presented in the Global Chemicals Outlook demonstrates that sound chemicals management is as valid an area as education, transport, infrastructure, direct health care services and other essential public services. This could foster the creation of many green, decent and healthy jobs and livelihoods for developed and developing countries," said Dr. Maria Neira, WHO Director for Public Health and Environment.

"Effective long-term management of chemicals and wastes lays the foundations for a thriving Green Economy, for ensuring a healthier environment, and for a fairer distribution of development benefits across society," added Dr. Neira.
In recent years, international conventions, governments and corporations have taken significant steps in developing national and international capacities for managing chemicals safely and soundly.

But the Global Chemicals Outlook states that the pace of progress has been slow, and that results are too often insufficient.

  • Of the estimated 140,000+ chemicals on the market today, only a fraction has been thoroughly evaluated to determine their effects on human health and the environment.
  • Among primarily OECD countries, the data indicate that inorganic chemicals such as ammonia, hydrogen sulfide, sulfuric acid, and hydrochloric acid and organic chemicals such as styrene, formaldehyde, toluene and acetaldehyde are routinely among the chemical air pollutants released in the highest quantities.
  • Pollutants commonly discharged in large quantities in primarily OECD countries to surface waters include inorganic chemicals such as nitric acid/nitrate compounds, ammonia and manganese and organic chemicals such as methanol, ethylene glycol, phenol, toluene, and formaldehyde.
  • Estimates suggest that up to 75 per cent of the e-waste generated in Europe and approximately 80 per cent of the e-waste generated in the United States goes unaccounted for.
  • Poisonings from industrial and agricultural chemicals are among the top five leading causes of death worldwide, contributing to over 1 million deaths annually and 14 million Disability Adjusted Life Years. The scope of unintended industrial accidents involving chemicals continues to grow rapidly.

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Breathing air polluted with pesticide additive in pregnancy linked with childhood cough

Mothers who breathe air polluted with a widely used pesticide additive piperonyl butoxide (PBO) have heightened risk of their children having noninfectious coughs at ages 5 and 6, according to researchers at the Columbia Center for Children's Environmental Health (CCCEH) at the Mailman School of Public Health and of Columbia University Medical Center. 

The findings, which appear in the journal Environment International, support the premise that the children's respiratory system is susceptible to damage from chemical exposure during the prenatal period. A common symptom, childhood cough can disrupt normal daytime activities and interrupt sleep for both child and parent.

Piperonyl butoxide (PBO) is an organic compound used to bolster the effects of pyrethroid pesticides. Pyrethroids are the most commonly used pesticides for both professional pest control and non-professional residential use, according to a 2011 study by Mailman School researchers. Exposure to one pyrethroid, a variation of permethrin, was linked with increased risk for cough by age 5 in a 2009 study by Rachel Miller, MD. In the current study, Dr. Miller and colleagues sought to build on these findings by exploring the effects of subsequent exposure during childhood, looking specifically at the effects of PBO exposure. 

Researchers looked at 224 mother-child pairs enrolled in the CCCEH birth cohort study of environmental exposures, examining measures of PBO and pyrethroid in personal air monitors worn by the mothers during pregnancy. Air samples also were collected from the home over the course of two weeks when children were between 5 and 6 years old. Questionnaires were used to evaluate respiratory outcomes.

Researchers found that children exposed to PBO during pregnancy had increased odds of reporting cough unrelated to cold or flu. Exposures to PBO during childhood were not a factor. There was no observed association between prenatal or childhood permethrin exposure and cough, something the researchers say may be explained by the fact that PBO is much easier to measure in air samples than permethrin. There was also no association with PBO or permethrin exposure and other respiratory outcomes like wheeze or asthma. While it is unclear whether the effect is due mainly to PBO itself or residential pyrethroids of which PBO is an indicator, it is important to remember, says Dr. Miller, that "these exposures may be a factor in a very common problem for children—cough."


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Tuesday, September 04, 2012

Study Suggests Possible Association Between Cardiovascular Disease, Chemical Exposure
CHICAGO– Exposure to perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), a manmade chemical used in the manufacture of some common household products, appears to be associated with cardiovascular disease and peripheral arterial disease in a study of 1,216 individuals, according to a report published Online First by Archives of Internal Medicine, a JAMA Network publication.

Surveys have suggested that PFOA (widely used in the manufacture of products such as lubricants, polishes, paper and textile coatings, and food packaging) is detectable in the blood of more than 98 percent of theU.S.population. Some evidence has suggested that an association may be biologically plausible between PFOA exposure and cardiovascular disease (CVD), according to the study background.

“Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is a major public health problem. Identifying novel risk factors for CVD, including widely prevalent environmental exposures, is therefore important,” according to the study background.

Anoop Shankar, M.D., Ph.D., and colleagues from the West Virginia University School of Public Health, Morgantown, examined the association between serum (blood) levels of PFOA and the presence of CVD and PAD, a marker of atherosclerosis, in a nationally representative group of adults. The study used merged data from the 1999-2000 and 2003-2004 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES).

The study suggests that increasing serum PFOA levels were positively associated with the presence of CVD and PAD, and the association appeared to be independent of confounders such as age, sex, race/ethnicity, smoking status, body mass index, diabetes mellitus, hypertension and serum cholesterol level, the authors comment.

“Our results contribute to the emerging data on health effects of PFCs [perfluoroalkyl chemicals], suggesting for the first time that PFOA exposure is potentially related to CVD and PAD. However, owing to the cross-sectional nature of the present study, we cannot conclude that the association is causal,” the authors comment.

Compared with the reference level of PFOA in quartile 1, the multivariable odds ratio among participants in quartile 4 was 2.01 for CVD and 1.78 for PAD, according to the results.
“In summary, in a representative cross-sectional sample of the U.S.population, we found that higher PFOA levels are positively associated with self-reported CVD and objectively measured PAD. Our findings, however, should be interpreted with caution because of the possibility of residual confounding and reverse causality. Future prospective studies are needed to confirm or refute our findings,” the authors conclude.

Commentary: Perfluorooctanoic Acid Exposure, Cardiovascular Disease
In a commentary, Debabrata Mukherjee, M.D., M.S., of Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center, El Paso, writes: “These results contribute to the evolving data on the adverse health effects of PFOA, suggesting that PFOA exposure may be potentially related to CVD.”
“However, a major limitation is the cross-sectional nature of the study. Given this significant limitation, causality or the temporal nature of the association between PFOA and CVD cannot be concluded from the current analysis,” Mukherjee continues.

“Although it seems clear that additional prospective research is needed to tease out the true adverse cardiovascular effects of PFOA, given the concerns raised by this and prior studies, clinicians will need to act now. From a societal point of view, it would make sense to limit or to eliminate the use of PFOA and its congeners in industry through legislation and regulation while improving water purification and treatment techniques to try and remove this potentially toxic chemical from our water supply,” Mukherjee concludes.


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