For nearly eight decades, Los Alamos National Laboratory has contaminated waters and soils with myriad hazardous chemicals and radioactive waste. Now, testing by scientists around the nuclear weapons lab reveals widespread PFAS.
For nearly eight decades, Los Alamos National Laboratory has contaminated waters and soils with myriad hazardous chemicals and radioactive waste. Now, testing by scientists around the nuclear weapons lab reveals widespread PFAS.
Paper receipts are small slips that carry with them vast environmental costs and can pose risks to our health through direct contact.
Cancer drops sparse chemical hints of its presence early on, but unfortunately, many of them are in a class of biochemicals that could not be detected thoroughly, until now.
Exposure to Agent Orange sprayed during the Vietnam War has been linked to increased levels of certain hormones in women and their breastfeeding children decades later, potentially putting them at higher risk of health problems, according to a new study in Science of the Total Environment.
Previous research has shown a link between exposure to herbicides that contain chemicals called dioxins – such as Agent Orange – and prostate cancer in men. The new study, by researchers at Kanazawa University in Japan, reveals for the first time the impact of dioxin exposure on women and babies.
“Dioxin hotspots in the South of Vietnam are of the most severely polluted regions in the world,” said Prof. Teruhiko Kido, lead author of the study from Kanazawa University, Japan. “We know exposure to dioxins has an impact on our hormone levels, and we wanted to know if this was being passed through generations and potentially putting babies at risk in these areas.”
Agent Orange is one of the dioxin-contaminated herbicides that were sprayed during the Vietnam War and used in different industrial and agricultural activities. Their use has resulted in hotspots of dioxin contamination, with concentrations of the chemical two to five-fold higher in affected areas in southern Vietnam than in non-contaminated regions.
Dioxins are endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs) – they interfere with how hormones send messages to each other around the body. EDCs have been implicated in causing birth defects, cancer and neurodevelopment disorders. In particular, dioxins have an effect on a hormone called Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA), which is responsible for male and female characteristics in humans. Dioxins put these out of balance, leading to health problems and disfigurement.
“Decades of industrial development and chemicals released during the Vietnam War have led to high levels of dioxins in the soil and atmosphere and people are absorbing these chemicals from the food they eat and the air they breathe,” said Prof. Teruhiko Kido. “We know dioxins have an impact on our hormones, so we wanted to see whether they were being passed from mother to baby.”
In the new study, the team assessed 104 women with their newborn babies from two carefully selected locations. They chose a region in northern Vietnam, which was not occupied by the United States Air Force, and Bien Hoa, an industrial city where the Americans stored approximately 50% of Agent Orange and where there were at least four leaks in 1969-1970. Despite the natural elimination of dioxins in the past five decades, environmental and human samples around this area still contain high levels of the chemical.
The scientists analyzed the level of dioxin in the mothers’ breast milk, and tested non-invasive samples of saliva from the babies for levels of the hormone DHEA. The results showed a nearly three-fold increase in DHEA in babies from the dioxin hotspot compared to non-contaminated regions. This was linked to dioxins being transferred from mother to baby through their umbilical blood and breast milk.
“Our study confirms how sensitive and vulnerable children are to the environmental toxins their parents and even earlier generations have been exposed to,” said Prof. Kido. “There is a lot we still don’t know about what this means for children’s health and what the long term impact could be, but studying people in these dioxin hotspots gives researchers the chance to understand the implications better.”
Prof. Kido and the team plan to follow the children in the study up to the age of 10 to assess more accurately the endocrine impact of dioxin exposure during pregnancy and early life.
While anti-fur protesters were busy mobbing London fashion week earlier this month, Ingrid Newkirk, the co-founder and president of Peta, was otherwise engaged. She was in Israel, “leading a 30,000-strong march through the streets against live export”, she says. She enunciates the words slowly, with emphasis, as if this is the really important story. Because for Newkirk, fur is all but dealt with – “a minority issue”. By which she means it is worn by “older people … ladies of the evening and the occasional foreign visitor from an unenlightened area”. Nothing to worry about there, she says, as neither sex workers nor the elderly are “a good advertisement”.
But surely this is wrong. Despite Yoox Net-a-Porter’s announcement in June that it would no longer sell fur, designers are still using it liberally. One designer recently matter-of-factly enumerated the animals that had gone into a single garment. The most photographed shoe of 2016 was a Gucci kangaroo loafer, and the same house is currently selling a mink coat for £25,000.
If a full fur coat has become a rare sight, the fur industry has trimmed its pelts accordingly and encouraged a thriving market in accessories. This is stealth fur, fur for people who would never wear a coat, but consider a fluffy keyring harmless – or easier to hide. How else to explain the proliferation of fox-fur iPhone cases (£400), mink Prada bag straps (£730), raccoon-trimmed parkas and even Anya Hindmarch mink fur stickers with which to decorate your bag (at £250, let’s hope the adhesive is strong)? Nor is this solely a high-fashion trend. A raccoon pompom hat costs as little as £20.
“What we call ‘a little bit of tat’,” Newkirk says, disapprovingly. She clips the words, as if this is a matter of taste rather than ethics, which seems surprising until she slips, all in the same well-spoken voice, into details of cruelty to animals to make any listener flinch.
Take this story about Beyoncé. The musician is top of Newkirk’s fantasy list of celebrities to front a Peta campaign, but she has proved resistant, even though Newkirk sent her and Jay-Z a faux-fur bedspread as a wedding gift and received “a beautiful letter back”. To continue the courtship, Newkirk arranged for a Peta employee to bid for lunch with Beyoncé in a charity auction.
Along went Hannah from the Peta office in Norfolk, Virginia, and settled down across the table from Beyoncé and Beyoncé’s mother. “And at the lunch,” Newkirk continues, “Hannah brought out a little video and said, ‘I wanted to show you something,’ and showed Beyoncé a video of raccoon dogs being anally electrocuted.” Hannah from the Peta office must have lost Beyoncé at anal electrocution because Beyoncé’s mother apparently promptly whisked her daughter out the restaurant, and Peta was later refunded its bid money.
Newkirk flits from fur to dog leather to the new frontier – feathers.
“Look,” Newkirk says, standing up to show off her new quilted coat by a company called Save the Duck. It looks and feels as if there is down inside, but no, she says, it is stuffed with recycled bottle tops. She is equally excited about Vegea, a new wine leather made from grape skins; pineapple leather; and Stella McCartney’s advances in “skin-free skin”.
Newkirk’s colleagues consider dispatching Pamela Anderson to Jeremy Corbyn’s house with a vegan hamper
Oh, and there is another new frontier. Last winter, Alicia Silverstone stripped off for an update of Peta’s seminal “I’d rather go naked …” advert, but this time the slogan was: “I’d rather go naked than wear wool.”
Wool? Well, they’re never going to win that one.
“Oh, we will!” Newkirk exclaims. “Young people, they’re right on top of it. They understand it. And sheep are so gentle, they’re so dear!” Last year, secret footage that Peta had gathered from sheep-shearing huts in Victoria, Australia, helped to bring about the first convictions of sheep shearers in Australia for cruelty.
“People would always say: ‘It’s just shearing. It’s a haircut …’ The shearers, a lot of them are on amphetamines because they have to work at speed. Men punching these sheep. They smash them on their backs, they punch them on their face. With their fists, with the metal clippers, they sew them up without [painkiller].
“Showed Joaquin [Phoenix] this video,” she says – she has a habit of eliding the pronoun, so it’s not clear if she or a Peta colleague did the showing, but maybe the two amount to the same. Phoenix is a vegan who nonetheless wore wool suits. After he saw the video, “Joaquin did a television ad for us and a print ad for us, wearing his new vegan suit, and saying: ‘I didn’t know.’” The suit was made from so-called “future wool”. Humans are allowed to make mistakes, as long as they repent.
“We’ll win, we’ll win,” Newkirk says briskly. She is fresh from victory over the angora [rabbit fur] trade, and has a whole Hollywood department busily bending the ear of celebrities, and she has Pamela Anderson. The day we meet, Newkirk’s colleagues in London are discussing the possibility of dispatching Anderson to Jeremy Corbyn’s house with a hamper, after the cheese-loving Labour leader talked about his interest in veganism. It was Anderson who wrote to Melania Trump to ask her not to wear fur and secured the first lady’s acquiescence.
I had always thought that the outrageous stunt, especially overdone nudity, was Peta’s favoured weapon of persuasion, but it turns out that they are all furiously writing letters. When I ask Newkirk if Peta has run out of steam – there seem to be fewer stunts, and didn’t it miss a trick with Game of Thrones’s flagrant use of fur on set? – she says: “I think they did get off lightly. We’ve written to them.”
That sounds sedate, given that Newkirk, 68, once occupied Calvin Klein’s studio and a few years ago was photographed beside pig carcasses, hanging naked from a meat hook. Soon she plans to ask members of the public to suggest updates to her famous will, which, if her corpse is intact, will see her flesh barbecued for public consumption. The pathologist and lawyer are on standby; she is at her most gleeful when talking about the enticing scent of frying onions that she hopes to emit.
It is hard to square these antics with the well-mannered woman in a white collar and grey tunic, who is offering macaroons and enthusing about the forgotten art of letter-writing. Even Kim Kardashian received a card, in which Newkirk commiserated with her on having been robbed at gunpoint. “You always hope – I didn’t push it – but you always hope if someone has a frightening or painful experience they’ll relate,” she says. “So I had hope.”
Other old-fashioned campaign tools include bird seed (for lame pigeons) and “Meat Stinks” stickers for the door of ladies’ stalls, both of which she always carries. But really, she says, her main weapon is her mouth.
“The butt-inski, we call it, because we’re always butting in. I’m not going to live for ever. I just want to speak to, write to, do, as much as I can think to do.”
She cheerfully accosts people on the street, in lifts, at the cinema. The other week at Whole Foods, she left her place in the queue to talk to a woman with eggs in her shopping basket. “Excuse me,” Newkirk said, “you know you can get the vegan egg replacement over there, or I use tofu for a scramble.” And last year, she managed to persuade “a number of people” to unzip the fur collar of their £850 Canada Goose jackets and hand them over. How?
“I say: ‘Excuse me, I’m awfully sorry to interrupt you. I’m sure you don’t realise, but that Canada Goose collar comes from a coyote who is caught in a steel trap.’”
She sounds incredibly polite, which is strange because in the past she has been criticised for ‒
“What do you mean?” she says. (This is a different kind of butt-inski.) “How rude!”
In the past she has been criticised for campaigns that seem – well – cruel.
When the then New York mayor Rudy Giuliani was diagnosed with prostate cancer, for instance, Newkirk, who had recently lost her father to cancer, saw “the perfect storm”. To draw a link between milk, which Giuliani enjoyed, and prostate cancer, Newkirk came up with the idea for a billboard that riffed on the “Got Milk?” advertising slogan. Alongside a picture of Giuliani with a milk moustache, it asked: “Got prostate cancer?” (She had already tried writing to him, to no avail.)
The advert was reviled. Well, I say, it does seem unkind, just when someone has been diagnosed with cancer. “I can’t imagine he thought: ‘Oh, that’s hurtful!’” she cries. “I don’t believe it for a moment. Crocodile tears! Nooo!”
For someone who has spent a lifetime campaigning against cruelty to animals, Newkirk can come across as rather sharp towards humans. I mention that attendees of London fashion week, vegetarians among them, were spat at by anti-fur protesters, and she replies: “I’m not sure if that part was made up by the furry nasties or if it was real.”
I wonder if she just doesn’t really like people. She looks astonished at this. “I am a person,” she says, “and other animals are people too.”
Posted on 21 September 2017 by dana1981
Long-time Skeptical Science contributor and our dear friend Andy Skuce passed away last Thursday, September 14th. Andy was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2002, with a median life expectancy of six years, but lived another 15. During that time he made invaluable contributions to Skeptical Science and to educating the public about climate change. His final post Exit, Pursued by a Crab, published just three weeks ago is an insightful personal reflection on his life, cancer, and climate change.
Andy first and foremost was a wonderful person. Those of us who only knew him via the internet valued his wit, kindness, and insightful comments. Those of us fortunate enough to meet Andy in person always enjoyed his company and his warm personality. When any of us traveled to his neck of the woods, Andy and his wife Annick always opened their home as generous hosts.
Andy sometimes described himself as a “recovering oilman,” having worked many years in oil and gas exploration. In a 2012 post, Andy wrote about the evolution of his views on climate change. Once Andy grasped the reality and urgency of the problem, he devoted much of his time to educating others about it, including some of his former oil industry colleagues. In some of his first posts at Skeptical Science, Andy debunked myths perpetrated by the influential Matt Ridley, and nicely summarized the findings of the Berkeley Earth team.
As a resident of British Columbia, Andy was able to clearly explain the details of BC’s important carbon tax, and subsequently Alberta’s, both of which I found immensely helpful. Andy also utilized his oil & gas expertise to write informative posts about oil pipelines, Shell’s internal carbon pricing, BC’s estimate of fugitive methane emissions from the natural gas industry, and carbon capture & storage. He published these pieces not just on Skeptical Science, but also at his own blog Critical Angle, and on Corporate Knights.
Andy also made invaluable contributions to our Denial101x online course. He recorded lectures debunking the myth that volcanoes emit more carbon dioxide than humans (which happened to be the subject of his very first Skeptical Science post 7 years ago) and that we’re just recovering from the Little Ice Age. Best of all, these videos forever preserve Andy’s memory, and his passionate efforts to educate people about climate change.
Andy was also a key contributor to the body of climate consensus research. He was a co-author on both The Consensus Project and Consensus on Consensus papers. When James Powell challenged that we had underestimated the consensus, Andy took the lead in testing that challenge. Powell had claimed that our team’s methodology wouldn’t work in evaluating the expert consensus on plate tectonics.
So that’s exactly what Andy did – he applied the methodology from our climate consensus paper to the theory of plate tectonics. He read the abstracts of 331 papers from the journals Geology and the Journal of the Geological Society, checking whether they endorsed, rejected, or took no position on the theory of plate tectonics. Andy found 29% of the papers’ abstracts included language that implicitly endorsed the theory of plate tectonics, while the rest took no position. In short, of the papers taking a position, he found 100% consensus on plate tectonics in this sample of the peer-reviewed literature. Skuce et al. (2017) conclusively showed that our method worked.
Bear in mind, if we were only interested in getting the message of climate action across, we could have just accepted Powell’s claim that the climate consensus is 99.99%. But instead Andy led the charge in getting the right answer. That shows great integrity, intellectual curiosity, and a willingness to put in the work to get the science right.
It’s also well worth noting that everything mentioned here, Andy did in the years beyond the life expectancy associated with his diagnosis. He truly lived his life to the fullest all the way to the end. A great inspiration for us all.
And so we bid a final farewell to the wonderful Andy. We’ll miss him, we’ll always remember him, and we’ll carry on in his memory.
Researchers say they have taken a big step towards developing a test that can tell people if they have cancer long before the first symptoms show up.
The blood test detected the majority of cancers in people with four of the biggest cancer killers: breast, colon, lung and ovarian cancer, the team at Johns Hopkins University said.
The test is a long way from being used to screen for cancer, but the study shows a way to get there, the team reported in the journal Science Translational Medicine.
“There is a lot of excitement about liquid biopsies, but most of that has been in late-stage cancer or in individuals where you already know what to look for,” said Dr. Victor Velculescu, professor of oncology and pathology at the Johns Hopkins University Kimmel Cancer Center.
“The surprising result is that we can find a high fraction of early-stage patients having alterations in their blood,” said Velculescu, who led the study team.
It was not a slam dunk, but the test found cancer in the blood of more than half the patients who had been diagnosed with stage 1 cancer. It was even more accurate in finding late-stage cancers, but the goal would be to catch cancer in its earliest, easiest-to-treat stage.
There were no false positives in 44 people who did not have cancer, they said.
Several different liquid biopsies are already on the market, used to help track whether cancer treatments are working. But there’s nothing yet that can detect cancer in someone who has not yet been diagnosed.
It’s easy to find tumor mutations if you know what to look for. “The challenge was to develop a blood test that could predict the probable presence of cancer without knowing the genetic mutations present in a person’s tumor,” Velculescu said.
Velculescu’s team developed an approach called targeted error correction sequencing (TEC-Seq for short).
“We have used this approach to examine 58 cancer-related genes,” the team wrote in their report. The method involved deep sequencing – sequencing DNA 30,000 times over to look for mutations in DNA from tumor cells that floats in the blood.
Cancer patients had more of this DNA in their blood, the team found.
They identified 62 percent of the patients with stage I cancer – four out of eight colon cancer patients, and 90 percent of colon cancer patients with stage II, III or IV disease.
They got a positive in 45 percent of the lung cancer patients with stage I disease, 67 percent of ovarian cancer patients with stage I disease and 67 percent of breast cancer patients with stage I disease.
While that's good, it's not a great result. The test still missed a large percentage of cancers and will need much improvement, Velculescu said.
It will also have to be tried in larger groups of patients, and patients with different cancers. The first goal would be to try it in people at high risk of cancer but no symptoms yet – such as smokers, or people with cancer-causing gene mutations like BRCA mutations, Velculescu said.
Catching cancer in its earliest stages could save many lives, he said. Cancer is the No. 2 killer overall in the United States.
”The survival difference between late stage and early stage disease in these cancers would account for more than a million lives each year worldwide,” Velculescu said.
The genetic sequencing is also expensive right now – on the order of several thousand dollars for the 30,000 repeats the team did. But costs are coming down steadily, he said.
Velculescu said Johns Hopkins had patented this test, and Velculescu is himself the founder of a company that does liquid biopsies for advanced cancer patients called Personal Genome Diagnostics.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has been very skeptical of blood tests that claim to diagnose disease before people have symptoms.
The agency has chastised a company called Pathway Genomics over its "liquid biopsy" test , saying the company had not shown the $699 test worked as advertised.
It’s also warned other gene testing companies but finally gave 23andMe the go-ahead to market its home DNA test – which does not include any cancer screening – in April.
Currently, colon cancer can be detected very early with colonoscopies, and even stopped before pre-cancerous growths get out of control. But colonoscopies are uncomfortable and carry a small risk of injury.
Mammograms can detect early breast cancer, Pap smears can detect cervical cancer or pre-cancerous changes and a type of specialized chest x-ray called a spiral CT can detect lung cancer. There’s a debate over the usefulness of screening for prostate cancer but blood tests and physical exams can indicate some men at high risk.
For middle-aged women struggling with their weight, a recent spate of scientific findings sounds too good to be true. And they may be, researchers caution.
Studies in mice indicate that a single hormone whose levels rise at menopause could be responsible for a characteristic redistribution of weight in middle age to the abdomen, turning many women from “pears” to “apples.” At the same time, the hormone may spur the loss of bone.
In mouse studies, blocking the hormone solves those problems, increasing the calories burned, reducing abdominal fat, slowing bone loss and even encouraging physical activity.
The notion that such a simple intervention could solve two big problems of menopause has received the attention of researchers and has prompted commentaries in prestigious journals like The New England Journal of Medicine and Cell Metabolism.
“It’s a super interesting idea,” said Dr. Daniel Bessesen, an obesity expert and professor of medicine at the University of Colorado School of Medicine. With obesity rising, “we definitely need some new ideas.”
The work began when Dr. Mone Zaidi, a professor of medicine at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City, became curious about whether a reproductive hormone — F.S.H., or follicle-stimulating hormone — affects bone density.
It had long been assumed that the hormone’s role was limited to reproduction. F.S.H. stimulates the production of eggs in women and sperm in men.
Researchers knew that blood levels of F.S.H. soar as women’s ovaries start to fail before menopause. At the same time, women rapidly lose bone — even when blood levels of estrogen, which can preserve bone, remain steady.
Dr. Zaidi reasoned that F.S.H. could be a culprit in bone loss. So he and his colleagues created an antibody that blocked F.S.H. in female mice whose ovaries had been removed.
Since the mice were making no estrogen at all, they ought to have been losing bone. Indeed, the bone marrow in such mice usually fills with fat instead of developing bone cells. Much the same happens in women: That’s why their bones become less dense.
But in Dr. Zaidi’s lab, the mice that received the antibody did not developed fat-filled bone marrow — and, to his enormous surprise, they lost large amounts of fat.
“This is a weird, weird finding,” he recalled telling his friend Dr. Clifford J. Rosen, a bone specialist at Maine Medical Center Research Institute. Dr. Zaidi persuaded Dr. Rosen to help repeat the experiments independently, each in his own lab.
At first, Dr. Rosen was dubious: “I said, ‘I don’t believe it, I think it’s not going to work, and it will cost a lot of money.’” But he received a grant for the research, and the two labs got started.
Two and a half years later, they had their results — and they replicated Dr. Zaidi’s original findings. The researchers also came up with a theory that might explain increased metabolic rates in mice in which F.S.H. is blocked.
There are two kinds of fat in the body: White fat primarily stores energy, and brown fat burns calories and throws off heat.
Brown fat is more common in children, but researchers have found that adults also carry small amounts. In the experimental mice, white fat was being converted to brown fat.
At the moment, Dr. Rosen is withholding judgment about whether the results will apply to humans. “I think the idea has some credibility,” he said. “But does it mean anything? I don’t know.”
But these are not the only researchers to find a link between obesity and the strange interplay of hormones.
Wendy Kohrt, a professor of medicine at the University of Colorado, has been studying the effects of menopause on women’s body fat and the amount of calories women burn.
Dr. Kohrt has given healthy premenopausal women a drug that blocks production of estrogen and F.S.H., putting them into a reversible state of menopause.
Within five months, she found, the women’s fat moves to their abdomens, increasing by 11 percent on average. And they burn 50 fewer calories per day.
The effect is reversed when the participants stop taking the drug or when Dr. Kohrt gives them estrogen.
Something similar goes on in men, although it’s not clear that F.S.H. is the sole cause, said Dr. Michael W. Schwartz, director of the Nutrition Obesity Research Center at the University of Washington.
Men with advanced prostate cancer often take Lupron, a drug intended to stop the production of testosterone, which can fuel their tumors. Often, they gain weight, accumulating fat in their abdomens.
Lupron also blocks production of F.S.H., and the mouse studies suggest that this should prevent weight gain. That might be because of the loss of testosterone.
Yet in experiments in which men were given both Lupron and testosterone — leaving F.S.H. the only blocked hormone — they still did not lose weight. F.S.H. clearly is not the only factor at work, then.
But the dream of an easy way to prevent abdominal weight gain is so appealing, you just want it to be true, said Dr. Philipp E. Scherer, a professor of internal medicine at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center.
He has seen too many mouse studies fail in humans to be persuaded that this one will succeed. “I will be on the sidelines waiting,” he said.
Dr. Zaidi is undeterred. He is already preparing to test an anti-F.S.H. antibody in people.
“Whether it works in humans, I have absolutely no idea,” Dr. Zaidi said.
Al Ahlia Insurance’s IPO subscribed by two-and-a-half times
Oman’s leading killer
180 migrants cross border
Are fuel subsidies about to be introduced?
99 expats deported from Oman
12 shops closed, 3kg meat destroyed by municipal agency in Oman
Oman transport: Bus routes to connect to hospitals in Muscat
Oman's cyber gatekeepers blocked nearly 280 million attacks in 2016
Intermittent rain expected for some parts of Oman
Browse this shopping mall in Oman online
OmanPride: Takaful volunteering group attends to the needs of the poor in Sohar
OmanPride: Maithri, providing to the needy in Nizwa
Shabab Oman II: Representing Oman’s heritage and tradition
OmanPride: His Majesty has done wonders for the Sultanate
OmanPride: Basmat Amal's efforts to help orphans around Muscat
China marks 70 years of Inner Mongolia's founding, activist complains of curbs
Hong Kong closes 13 beaches as stinking, congealed palm oil washes ashore
Police arrest 17 in Australia, Dubai, Netherlands drug raids
Saudi-led coalition denies targeting family home in Yemen
NRIs in US welcome Indian government decision to extend proxy voting
Greek GDP statistics gaps prompt suspension of flash data
Topaz awarded $100 million Dragon Oil contract
Commonwealth Bank scraps CEO bonus over money-laundering allegations
China stocks edge up as investors shrug off weak trade data
Egypt expects five IPOs before year-end
Cricket: Balanced England can win Ashes, says Faf du Plessis
Football: Thin Chelsea squad must steer clear of injuries, says Cahill
Football: Man City's Guardiola hopeful of Gundogan return next week
Football: Arsenal's Theo Walcott hails 'absolute tank' Sead Kolasinac
Cricket: Australia captain Smith cool on O'Keefe's hopes of recall
Facebook fights fake news
Kenya's herders swap livestock for chillies as drought bites
The new socialism of fools
Asia’s evolving security order
What makes a human?
Oman technology: Ever evolving WhatsApp
Times Digital Download: Sleeping Dogs
5 steps to a smart home
Oman technology: How to build an online audience
Oman technology: Jurassic Watch - A 150-million year heritage on your wrist
Oman dining: Perfect pairing
Oman dining: 5 kitchen hacks
3 simple homemade yoghurt dip recipes
Sidharth Malhotra keen on turning producer
Always wanted to be a part of true stories, says Diana Penty
This week's events in Muscat
This week's entertainment news
15 best hair care tips and tricks
A peek inside Oman's medical rehabilitation centre
Try archery at Anantara Resort Jabal Akhdar
People in Oman asked not to drink from plastic bottles kept in sun
August 7, 2017 | 11:07 PM By Gautam Viswanathan / firstname.lastname@example.org
Photo -Muscat MunicipalityPeople in Oman asked not to drink from plastic bottles kept in sun
Residents in Oman have been warned not to leave plastic water bottles out ...
People asked #nottodrink from #plasticbottles kept in sun
Muscat: Residents in Oman have been warned not to leave plastic water bottles out in the sun, as this could cause cancer.
“For your health, avoid keeping and storing drinking water under the sun,” tweeted the Muscat Municipality, which is running a campaign on the adverse health effects of chemicals from plastic bottles leaching into the water stored inside them. Dr. Sajeev Bhaskar, a general practitioner at the Al Lamki Polyclinic, highlighted the effects this could have on people.
“These bottles may have the ISO mark of approval, but just because they have that, doesn’t mean it is always safe to drink because sometimes, they are not stored properly,” he explained. “Plastics contain a highly carcinogenic compound called Bisphenol A, which is commonly used for bottled water and leaches into it water at a certain temperature.”
“Bisphenol A stimulates prostate cancer cells and causes tissue changes that resemble the early stages of breast cancer in both mice and humans,” he added. “Higher levels of Bisphenol A in humans have also been associated with ovarian dysfunction. If at all you do need to keep bottles of water in your car, please store them in glass bottles.”
Dr. Basheer, an internist and diabetologist at the Badr Al Sama’a Hospital, also agreed with the need to exercise caution when it came to storing water in the sun.
“In the long-term, plastics in water can cause cancer,” he revealed. “While long-term exposure is definitely dangerous, it is also very common to suffer from lung diseases in the short-term. It is very dangerous to keep plastic bottles in your cars and in places that have direct exposure to sunlight.”
“It is common for those who are involved in field work to keep their bottles in the sun, but this is dangerous,” added Basheer. “If they are working outdoors, it is better to cover these bottles with a cloth, so that sunlight does not directly penetrate them. These provisions must be made by the company that is sending workers into the field, and ideally, they should be provided with a cooler to store their drinks.”
Oman’s Public Authority for Consumer Protection (PACP) also weighed in on the matter. “The World Health Organisation (WHO) suggests 1,000 ppm (parts-per-million) or less,” they tweeted, in response to queries about safe toxin levels in drinking water, adding, “In bottled drinking water, this should be between 100 and 600ppm.”
Raids carried out by PACP have led to caches of improperly stored water in the past. This July, according to the authority, “the Department of Consumer Protection in Al Dakhiliyah Governorate recently destroyed, in cooperation with the Municipality of Izki, a quantity of bottled mineral water containers, because they did not comply with the standard specifications.”
“Drinking water bottle boxes were found packed and stored in unhealthy storage conditions, and samples were taken for examination,” added the PACP spokesperson. “The results of the examination by the Food Control Laboratory of the Directorate General of Regional Municipalities and Water Resources in Al Dhakhiliyah showed that the product does not conform to the reference standard, and there was a change in taste and smell due to storage conditions.”
“The Public Authority for Consumer Protection calls upon all merchants and suppliers to abide by the provisions of the Consumer Protection Law and its executive regulations to avoid legal accountability,” he added.
Although certain bacteria help treat some gut disorders, they have no known benefits for healthy people
By Ferris Jabr | Scientific American July 2017 Issue
Friendly Microbes: Bacteria such as these lactobacilli, which are often added to yogurt and probiotic supplements, help to maintain a healthy environment in the intestine. Credit: Kari Lounatmaa Science Source
Walk into any grocery store, and you will likely find more than a few “probiotic” products brimming with so-called beneficial bacteria that are supposed to treat everything from constipation to obesity to depression. In addition to foods traditionally prepared with live bacterial cultures (such as yogurt and other fermented dairy products), consumers can now purchase probiotic capsules and pills, fruit juices, cereals, sausages, cookies, candy, granola bars and pet food. Indeed, the popularity of probiotics has grown so much in recent years that manufacturers have even added the microorganisms to cosmetics and mattresses.
A closer look at the science underlying microbe-based treatments, however, shows that most of the health claims for probiotics are pure hype. The majority of studies to date have failed to reveal any benefits in individuals who are already healthy. The bacteria seem to help only those people suffering from a few specific intestinal disorders. “There is no evidence to suggest that people with normal gastrointestinal tracts can benefit from taking probiotics,” says Matthew Ciorba, a gastroenterologist at Washington University in St. Louis. “If you're not in any distress, I would not recommend them.” Emma Allen-Vercoe, a microbiologist at the University of Guelph in Ontario, agrees. For the most part, she says, “the claims that are made are enormously inflated.”
THE NUMBERS GAME
This story has played out before, most notably with vitamin supplements, which decades of research have revealed to be completely unnecessary for most adults and, in some cases, dangerous, correlating with higher rates of lung, breast and prostate cancers. But that has not stopped marketers from pushing another nutritional craze. According to a National Institutes of Health survey, the number of adults in the U.S. taking probiotics or their cousins, prebiotics (typically nondigestible fibers that favor the development of gut bacteria), more than quadrupled between 2007 and 2012, from 865,000 people to nearly four million. San Francisco–based business consulting firm Grand View Research estimates that the global probiotics market exceeded $35 billion in 2015 and predicts that it will reach $66 billion by 2024.
The popular frenzy surrounding probiotics is fueled in large part by surging scientific and public interest in the human microbiome: the overlapping ecosystems of bacteria and other microorganisms found throughout the body. The human gastrointestinal system contains about 39 trillion bacteria, according to the latest estimate, most of which reside in the large intestine. In the past 15 years researchers have established that many of these commensal microbes are essential for health. Collectively, they crowd out harmful microbial invaders, break down fibrous foods into more digestible components and produce vitamins such as K and B12.
The idea that consuming probiotics can boost the ability of already well-functioning native bacteria to promote general health is dubious for a couple of reasons. Manufacturers of probiotics often select specific bacterial strains for their products because they know how to grow them in large numbers, not because they are adapted to the human gut or known to improve health. The particular strains of Bifidobacterium or Lactobacillus that are typically found in many yogurts and pills may not be the same kind that can survive the highly acidic environment of the human stomach and from there colonize the gut.
Even if some of the bacteria in a probiotic managed to survive and propagate in the intestine, there would likely be far too few of them to dramatically alter the overall composition of one's internal ecosystem. Whereas the human gut contains tens of trillions of bacteria, there are only between 100 million and a few hundred billion bacteria in a typical serving of yogurt or a microbe-filled pill. Last year a team of scientists at the University of Copenhagen published a review of seven randomized, placebo-controlled trials (the most scientifically rigorous types of studies researchers know how to conduct) investigating whether probiotic supplements—including biscuits, milk-based drinks and capsules—change the diversity of bacteria in fecal samples. Only one study—of 34 healthy volunteers—found a statistically significant change, and there was no indication that it provided a clinical benefit. “A probiotic is still just a drop in a bucket,” says Shira Doron, an infectious disease expert at Tufts Medical Center. “The gut always has orders of magnitude more microbes.”
Despite a growing sense that probiotics do not offer anything of substance to individuals who are already healthy, researchers have documented some benefits for people with certain conditions.
In the past five years, for example, several combined analyses of dozens of studies have concluded that probiotics may help prevent some common side effects of treatment with antibiotics. Whenever physicians prescribe these medications, they know they stand a good chance of annihilating entire communities of beneficial bacteria in the intestine, along with whatever problem-causing microbes they are trying to dispel. Normally the body just needs to grab a few bacteria from the environment to reestablish a healthy microbiome. But sometimes the emptied niches get filled up with harmful bacteria that secrete toxins, causing inflammation in the intestine and triggering diarrhea. Adding yogurt or other probiotics—especially the kinds that contain Lactobacillus—during and after a course of antibiotics seems to decrease the chances of subsequently developing these opportunistic infections.
A 2014 review by Cochrane—an independent network of experts who serve as rigorous arbiters of medical research—found that probiotics may be particularly useful in a hospital's neonatal intensive care unit. The addition of beneficial bacteria to a nutritional regimen seems to significantly reduce the likelihood of developing necrotizing enterocolitis, which is a devastating, poorly understood and often fatal gut disease that primarily afflicts preterm infants—especially the smallest and most premature among them. Researchers think that many cases of the disease begin with an opportunistic bacterial infection in the not yet fully developed intestine of an infant. As the illness progresses, gut tissue becomes increasingly inflamed and often starts to die, which can, in turn, rupture the intestine and flood the abdominal cavity with pathogenic microbes that proliferate to dangerous levels. Researchers estimate that 12 percent of preterm infants weighing less than 3.3 pounds will develop necrotizing enterocolitis and that 30 percent of them will not survive. Standard treatment involves a combination of antibiotics, feeding via intravenous tubes, and surgery to remove diseased and dead tissue. Probiotics probably prevent the disorder by boosting the numbers of beneficial bacteria, which may deter the harmful ones.
Probiotics also seem to ameliorate irritable bowel syndrome, a chronic disease characterized by abdominal pain, bloating, and frequent diarrhea or constipation (or a mix of the two). A 2014 review of more than 30 studies, published in the American Journal of Gastroenterology by an international team of researchers, determined that in some cases, probiotics help to relieve the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome for reasons that are not entirely clear, although it may be that they impede the growth of harmful microbes. The researchers concluded, however, that they did not have enough data to recommend any particular strains of bacteria. Microbiologists often caution that a promising study on a single strain of a particular species of bacteria should not be taken as proof that all probiotics work equally well. “Bacterial strains are so genetically different from one another, and everybody has a different gut microbiota,” Allen-Vercoe says. “There will probably never be a one-size-fits-all probiotic.”
But what if investigators could design probiotics to treat specific individuals? Many researchers think personalized probiotics are the most promising path forward for patients with compromised gut microbiomes. Last year Jens Walter of the University of Alberta and his colleagues published a study that gives a glimpse of this potential future. The researchers decided to see what it would take to get the bacteria in a probiotic to successfully colonize the intestines of 23 volunteers. They chose a particular strain of Bifidobacterium longum that earlier studies had indicated could survive in the human intestine. In the study, the volunteers consumed either a drink containing 10 billion live B. longum bacteria or a placebo in the form of a glucose-based food additive (maltodextrin) each day for two weeks. Periodic fecal samples revealed higher than typical levels of B. longum in participants who did not consume the placebo.
In seven people, however, these bacterial levels persisted for more than five months after the treatment ended. “We never expected they would survive more than a few weeks,” Walter says. A follow-up analysis determined that these seven people had begun the experiment with lower levels of B. longum in the first place. In other words, their gut ecosystems had a vacancy that the probiotic filled. That is exactly the kind of insight that clinicians need to create and recommend more effective probiotics. If a doctor knows that an individual with severe diarrhea has an undersized population of a particular beneficial microbe, for example, then prescribing the missing strain should increase the chance of a successful treatment.
“The key is taking an ecological perspective,” Walter says. “We need to think about which microbes have the right adaptations to survive in a particular gut ecosystem.” Put another way, treatments for microbe-related disorders are most successful when they work in tandem with the human body's many microscopic citizens, not just against them.
Veterans who never saw war, claim American soil made them sick
POSTED: JUN 29 2017 09:45PM PDT
UPDATED: JUN 29 2017 09:49PM PDT
TIBURON, Calif. (KTVU) - They are military veterans, who never saw war, but claim their service on American soil made them sick.
There is a growing organization of so-called "Atomic Veterans" fighting for medical help after they say they were exposed to toxic chemicals and atomic radiation while serving in the armed forces.
Army veteran Daniel Moreska said he had his first seizure 30 years ago. Today, he takes 19 different medications.
“I’ve been diagnosed with COPD, epilepsy, asthma, photosensitive epilepsy, partial epilepsy seizures," said Moreska. Moreska said on June 17, he was newly diagnosed with Severe Spinal Stenosis.
Moreska believes his health problems began with his Army Basic Training. He was stationed for five months in 1983 at Fort McClellan, Alabama.
In 1999, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) closed the base and named it a SuperFund site. Fort McClellan tested Agent Orange and Mustard Gas on the base in the 1960s.
PCBs at a nearby Monsanto Plant also posed a health risk, but a minimal one according to the Department of Veteran's Affairs website.
Moreska said the army never told him about any of the risks.
“There [were] a lot of really deep holes and there was water in them," said Moreska.
"Our canteens were empty because we were marching all day and we asked if we could fill our canteens in that water there. And the drill sergeant said ‘yes’”.
Moreska said his training required him to crawl on the ground and march through a waist-deep creek.
"So, you’re constantly in contact with the ground, constantly breathing the air that was so toxic.”
Moreska has a 2015 medical document from Neurosurgeon Michelle Apperson at the VA Northern California Health Care System. She wrote Moreska was exposed to Agent Orange, Dioxin, herbicides, PCBs, and possibly radiation.
The VA benefits office, however, told Moreska it doesn't think his health problems come from his service and denied several claims he made. Dr. Apperson responded to our inquiry by writing that she no longer works for the VA.
The Department of Veterans Affairs Oakland Office responded to our inquiry about Moreska and said his neurosurgeon may have speculated on Moreska's exposures, and that there is no congressional schedule for veterans' compensation for exposure to toxins or PCBs at Fort McClellan.
Moreska is seeking to be declared 100 percent disabled, but said the VA has listed him as no more than 30 percent disabled.
After World War II, military men were sent to witness the greatest, most destructive weapons of the time - Atomic Bombs.
Bill McGee, 92, served in the U.S. Navy. In 1946, he was sent with a fleet of 50 ships to witness explosion tests off Runit Island and Bikini Atolli.
“You’d close your eyes like this," said McGee as he covered his eyes with both hands.
"You could face the bomb blast, but you really weren’t supposed to see it.”
McGee said you could certainly feel it. The rush of wind and heat from the atomic bomb detonation reached the sailors. McGee said the tests were to see how well US Navy ships could withstand an atomic attack. Several empty ships were stationed close to the explosion site and monitored. He said he was lucky that he wasn't chosen to enter the blast zone the following day.
“They [sailors] were on a ship 10 miles away from the bomb blast, during the bomb drop, but they were sent back the next day when this radiation was everywhere on the ship every nook and cranny," said McGee.
“And then there were the guys who were sent in to wash down the ships to get rid of some of the radiation, to make it safer for more guys to go in. It was very poorly handled.”
His fellow sailors performed these tests wearing only T-shirts and dungarees.
McGee said over time, his fellow shipmates started succumbing to different cancers.
Today, McGee has several melanomas and prostate cancer. He's written a book on his eye witness accounts of the bomb testings titled Operation CROSSROADS - Lest We Forget!
While he's not seeking compensation from the VA, he said other veterans should be getting financial or medical help.
McGee said the atomic test veterans have been largely ignored by the VA for compensation as opposed to Vietnam veterans, because they did not serve in a war.
“I think they’ve [Vietnam veterans] been able to get compensation right from the start fairly easy compared to the radiation sickness from nuclear, because there was a lot more Agent Orange dropped on the troops," said McGee.
Both McGee and Moreska want to know why VA doctors never tracked veterans' exposure after service and would like to see more research committed to testing veterans for harmful radiation or chemical weapons exposure.
There are veterans groups committed to raising awareness about veterans with chronic illnesses that may be related to active duty. One such group is Operation Stand Together.
Children from poor families are up to four times more likely to start puberty early, research reveals.
Boys are at the greatest risk, yet disadvantaged girls are still twice as likely to prematurely develop breasts or pubic hair, a study found.
Researchers believe this may be due to poverty causing youngsters stress, which then leads to the early release of reproductive hormones.
Previous research suggests an early puberty increases a person's risk of certain cancers, such as breast and endometrial in women, and prostate in men.
The past study's author says parents can help delay their child's puberty onset by encouraging them to exercise and eat well. This is because overweight youngsters have more energy reserves that 'trick' the body into sexually maturing.
How the study was carried out
Researchers from Murdoch Childrens Research Institute in Australia asked 3,700 parents of children aged between eight and 11 whether signs of puberty had occurred.
Signs in girls include developing breasts, pubic and armpit hair, menstruating and acne. Puberty symptoms in boys include acne, facial and pubic hair, and muscle and height growth.
The researchers then compared the families' incomes, level of education and occupations between children who had started puberty and those that had not.
Results, published in the journal Pediatrics, revealed that boys from families with the lowest socioeconomic status are four times more likely to start puberty early.
Disadvantaged girls are twice as likely to show early signs of sexual maturity.
The researchers believe this may be due to poverty causing stress, which has an impact on reproductive hormone release.
A disadvantaged upbringing may even change our genetics, which could also result in early hormone release, the researchers add.
They even speculate a hard upbringing may trigger our bodies into becoming sexually mature earlier so that we are able to pass on our genes should we have a premature death.
It is unclear why disadvantaged boys are more at risk of an early puberty than girls.
Consequences of an early puberty
Research published back in April revealed an early puberty raises a person's risk of certain cancers in later life.
For instance, an 11-year-old girl going through puberty has a six per cent higher risk of breast cancer in later life than a girl aged 12, the study found.
The danger of endometrial cancer rises by 28 per cent every year, while boys see their risk of prostate cancer go up by nine per cent, the research adds.
The risk most applies to types of the disease that are associated with sex hormones, such as breast, ovary and endometrial cancers in women, and prostate cancer in men.
This is thought to be due to gene variants that influence puberty's onset also playing a role in our cancer risk.
Study author Dr John Perry from the University of Cambridge, said: 'When girls go through puberty early, typically aged nine or 10, this increases their lifetime exposure to circulating sex hormones like oestrogen.
'We think it is these hormones which fuel the growth of certain types of tumours and cause people to develop cancer.’
How to avoid an early puberty
Dr Perry adds parents can help delay the age their children start puberty by encouraging them to exercise and eat well.
He said: ‘The body appears to go through this transition when it believes it has enough of an energy supply – this is the reason why teenage girls with anorexia may not start their periods.
‘But obese children have lots of energy reserves, so can trick their body into thinking they are ready to make the transition to puberty when in fact they are too young.’
EXPOSURE TO PESTICIDES CAUSES BOYS TO START PUBERTY EARLIER
Exposure to pesticides can cause boys to hit puberty earlier, research revealed back in April.
Scientists say boys with a 10 percent increase of the chemicals in their body are up to 110 percent more likely to be in an advanced stage of puberty.
The pesticides increase levels of hormones that spur the production of testosterone, according to researchers from Zhejang University in China.
GIRLS HITTING PUBERTY BEFORE 13 ARE ALMOST TWICE AS LIKELY TO HAVE A STROKE IN LATER LIFE
Going through puberty early makes women almost twice as likely to suffer a stroke in later life, research revealed back in February.
Starting to have periods before the age of 13 makes girls more prone to reduced blood flow in the body, the study found.
This can lead to a lower amount of oxygen reaching the brain, causing the death of tissue and leading to a potentially deadly stroke, researchers from Tohoku University in Japan warned.
They also noted that women who stopped menstruating at 45 or younger are more likely to get cerebral infarction - restricted blood and oxygen to the brain.
Working with youth writers on a climate-fiction screenplay has opened my eyes to the power of the arts in confronting environmental crises.
The manufacturing plant responsible for PFAS-coated fast food packaging pumps out loads of a banned ozone-depleting compound along with "forever chemicals."