Chemical Plastic

January 4, 2013

Plastic Electronics is just in the Ascendant

Filed under: Chemical Plastic Research — Tags: , , , — Administrator @ 8:52 am

In electronics there’s a common understanding that silicon and other elements are responsible for bringing our gadgets to life while plastic serves as the supporting structure. But what if that plastic could be both the brains and the brawn? Better yet, what if plastic was pliable enough to form all sorts of wearable electronics and even implantable medical devices?

Actually, electronics made from conductive plastic have been in the works for at least a decade. Among them, one of the difficulties has been overcoming is a loss of conductivity when plastic electronics are stretched too far.

A team of researchers from the U.S., South Korea and China say that they have found a method to keep an electrical connection even after stretching their specially made plastic more than four times its normal size. The key is to make a highly porous polymer, and then fill those pores with liquid metal.

Imagine that, these “3-D stretchable conductors” being used to make artificial eyes that restore vision or synthetic skin that monitors blood glucose levels. A bit out-there, I know, but science has a knack for catching up with science fiction.

* Originally posted: Plastic Electronics is in the Ascendant

November 14, 2012

Attention: Common Household Chemicals may Causing Cancer!

Brief:  Common chemicals found in household products may be causing a range of medical problems such as cancer, reduced fertility and obesity, the Daily Telegraph reported.

Common chemicals found in household products may be causing a range of medical problems such as cancer, reduced fertility and obesity, the Daily Telegraph reported. The European Environment Agency (EEA) warned other items such as cosmetics and medicines which contain endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) could be harmful to humans.

Recently, CNN reported that, according to the Environmental Working Group, 75 percent of 800 sunscreens tested in the US contained potentially harmful ingredients. Only one-fourth of them were effective at protecting our skin without any toxicity.

Officials said there was strong evidence that these chemicals cause harm and cautioned against their use, but stopped short of recommending a complete ban.

For instance, 56 percent of the products contained oxybenzone, which serves to absorb UV. But studies show that oxybenzone can be absorbed through the skin, and it is believed to be linked to hormone disruption, cell damage and may lead to skin cancer.

The agency warned that five classes of chemicals needed more scrutiny. These included phthalates, which are often found in pesticides. Also included were bisphenol A and other PCBs, which are increasingly found in sunscreen and chemicals used in contraceptive pills.

* Originally posted: Attention: Common Household Chemicals may Causing Cancer!

September 26, 2012

WHO confirmed Diesel Exhaust can Cause Lung Cancer

Filed under: Chemical Plastic Research — Tags: , , , , — Administrator @ 9:08 am



Brief:
BBC reported recently that A panel of experts working for the World Health Organization says that exhaust fumes from diesel engines can actually cause cancer. It concluded that the exhausts were definitely a cause of lung cancer and may also cause tumors of the bladder.

A panel of experts working for the World Health Organization says that exhaust fumes from diesel engines can actually cause cancer, BBC reported. It concluded that the exhausts were definitely a cause of lung cancer and may also cause tumors of the bladder.

The study based its findings on research among high-risk workers such as miners, railway workers and truck drivers. However, the panel said everyone should try to limit their exposure to diesel fumes.

The International Agency for Research on Cancer has now labeled exhausts as a definite cause of cancer.

Diesel exhausts are now in the same group as carcinogens ranging from wood chippings to plutonium, and from sunlight to alcohol.

It is thought people working in high-risk industries have about a 40% increased risk of developing lung cancer.

* Originally posted: WHO confirmed Diesel Exhaust can Cause Lung Cancer

June 18, 2012

Should we Ban Plastic Bags Altogether?

Brief: We all know plastic bags are bad for the environment. They litter the landscape and pose a threat to wildlife. But should we ban plastic bags altogether? In a survey recently conducted by the European Commission, most people favored an outright ban on plastic bags, the BBC reported. But are other options more eco-friendly?

 We all know plastic bags are bad for the environment. They litter the landscape and pose a threat to wildlife.

Discarded plastic bags accumulate as “plastic soup” in the Pacific Ocean, covering more than 15,000,000 square kilometers, according to the BBC.

According to the Commission, every year 800,000 tons of so-called single-use plastic bags are used in the European Union.

The average EU citizen used 191 of them in 2010, the Commission says, and only 6 percent were recycled. More than 4 billion bags are thrown away each year.

If shoppers stop using plastic bags, they must start using other kinds of bags, but there is no perfect solution.

Stronger, heavier bags, whether made of fabric or paper, may have a bigger environmental impact than standard plastic bags.

Whatever type of bag is used, the key to reducing the impact is to reuse it as many times as possible.

Another way to reduce the impact is to use plastic bags that are biodegradable.

These bags will biodegrade in the natural environment, but they come in different types. Those made of corn will biodegrade in a landfill environment, but while doing so they produce methane, a powerful global warming gas.

Another type of bag is oxo-biodegradable, which will biodegrade if exposed to air or water, but not in landfill and the cost to make them is much higher.

Paper bags have been the traditional shopping bag in the US, but while these biodegrade in landfill, the UK Environment Agency study says that they have a higher carbon footprint than standard plastic carrier bags.

It also says the available evidence suggests paper bags are not generally reused, either as bin liners–a purpose for which they are not well suited–or for other purposes.

Why are paper bags still popular in the US? The pressure from the powerful wood pulp industry in the country is one important reason.

Originally posted: Chemical Plastic

January 16, 2012

The Truth About Plastic

Filed under: Chemical Plastic Research — Tags: , , , , — Administrator @ 7:05 am

Our food and water come wrapped in plastic. It’s used in our phones and our computers, the cars we drive and the planes we ride in. But the infinitely adaptable substance has its dark side. Environmentalists fret about the petroleum needed to make it. Parents worry about the possibility of toxic chemicals making their way from household plastic into children’s bloodstreams.

 

If you know where to find a good plastic-free shampoo, can you tell Jeanne Haegele? Last September, the 28-year-old Chicago resident resolved to cut plastics out of her life. The marketing coordinator was concerned about what the chemicals leaching out of some common types of plastic might be doing to her body. She was also worried about the damage all the plastic refuse was doing to the environment. So she hopped on her bike and rode to the nearest grocery store to see what she could find that didn’t include plastic. “I went in and barely bought anything,” Haegele says. She did purchase some canned food and a carton of milk–only to discover later that both containers were lined with plastic resin. “Plastic,” she says, “just seemed like it was in everything.”

She’s right. Back when Dustin Hoffman received the most famous one-word piece of career advice in cinema history, plastic was well on its way to becoming a staple of American life. The U.S. produced 28 million tons of plastic waste in 2005–27 million tons of which ended up in landfills. Our food and water come wrapped in plastic. It’s used in our phones and our computers, the cars we drive and the planes we ride in. But the infinitely adaptable substance has its dark side. Environmentalists fret about the petroleum needed to make it. Parents worry about the possibility of toxic chemicals making their way from household plastic into children’s bloodstreams. Which means Haegele isn’t the only person trying to cut plastic out of her life–she isn’t even the only one blogging about this kind of endeavor. But those who’ve tried know it’s far from easy to go plastic-free. “These things are so ubiquitous that it is practically impossible to avoid coming into contact with them,” says Frederick vom Saal, a biologist at the University of Missouri.

Vom Saal is a prominent member of a group of researchers who have raised worrisome questions in recent years about the safety of some common types of plastics. We think of plastic as essentially inert; after all, it takes hundreds of years for a plastic bottle to degrade in a landfill. But as plastic ages or is exposed to heat or stress, it can release trace amounts of some of its ingredients. Of particular concern these days are bisphenol-a (BPA), used to strengthen some plastics, and phthalates, used to soften others. Each ingredient is a part of hundreds of household items; BPA is in everything from baby bottles to can linings (to protect against E. coli and botulism), while phthalates are found in children’s toys as well as vinyl shower curtains. And those chemicals can get inside us through the food, water and bits of dust we consume or even by being absorbed through our skin. Indeed, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that 92% of Americans age 6 or older test positive for BPA–a sign of just how common the chemical is in our plastic universe.

Scientists like vom Saal argue that BPA and phthalates are different from other environmental toxins like lead and mercury in that these plastic ingredients are endocrine disrupters, which mimic hormones. Estrogen and other hormones in relatively tiny amounts can cause vast changes, so some researchers worry that BPA and phthalates could do the same, especially in young children. Animal studies on BPA found that low-dose exposure, particularly during pregnancy, may be associated with a variety of ills, including cancer and reproductive problems. Some human studies on phthalates linked exposure to declining sperm quality in adult males, while other work has found that early puberty in girls may be associated with the chemicals.

Does that mean even today’s minuscule exposure levels are too much? The science is still murky, and human studies are few and far from definitive. So while Canada and the Democratic Republic of Wal-Mart are moving to ban BPA in baby bottles, the Food and Drug Administration maintains that BPA products pose no danger, as does the European Union. Even so, scientists like Mel Suffet, a professor of environmental-health sciences at the University of California, Los Angeles, say avoiding certain kinds of plastics is simply being better safe than sorry.

As researchers continue to examine plastic’s impact on our bodies, there’s no doubt that cutting down on the material will help the environment. Plastic makes up nearly 12% of our trash, up from 1% in 1960. You can literally see the result 1,000 miles (1,600 km) west of San Francisco in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, a swirling mass of plastic debris twice the size of Texas. The rising cost of petroleum may get plastic manufacturers to come up with incentives for recycling; current rates stand at less than 6% in the U.S. But the best way to reduce your plastic impact on the earth is simply to use less.

Here’s how. You can avoid plastic bottles and toys labeled with the numbers 3 or 7, which often contain BPA or phthalates, and steer clear of vinyl shower curtains and canned foods–especially those with acidic contents like tomatoes. Vom Saal counsels that the cautious should also avoid heating plastic in microwaves. But get rid of the stuff altogether? “It’s hard to go all the way,” says Haegele, who, 10 months into her experiment, is leading a mostly plastic-free life. Although she still uses a plastic toothbrush, she’s experimented with her own toothpaste (made of baking soda, cinnamon and vodka; for the recipe, go to her blog, lifelessplastic.blogspot.com She has used vinegar for conditioner and is searching for a decent shampoo that doesn’t come in a plastic bottle. She has tried soaplike bars of shampoo, but they make her hair feel sticky. Plus, they sometimes come wrapped in–you guessed it–plastic.

 

October 24, 2011

Scientists form American and Japan Won the The 2010 Nobel Prize in Chemistry in Common

 

The 2010 Nobel Prize in Chemistry goes to the University of Delaware’s Richard Heck, Purdue’s Ei-ichi Negishi and Hokkaido University’s Akira Suzuki for their work in developing new ways to synthesize complex organic molecules by way of what are called palladium-catalyzed cross-couplings.

Two organic compounds that ordinarily would not readily react with other easily both bond to an atom of palladium. Carbon atoms on the two molecules, now in close proximity, bond to each other, forming a new compound.

Biochemist Lars Thelander at the announcement from the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences: “Palladium-catalyzed cross-coupling has made it possible to synthesize carbon based molecules, for example, new medicines, agricultural chemicals and organic compounds used in the electronics industry.”

A prime example is discodermalide, produced naturally by a marine sponge, but in very small quantities. After it was found to have anti-tumor properties, large quantities were able to be made using palladium-catalyzed cross-coupling.

September 21, 2011

New Study Show Evidences that BPA May Cause Breast Cancer

In a study published on September 1, 2011, researchers suggest that BPA (bisphenol-A) and methylparaben (collectively referred to here as “BPA”) could inhibit the effectiveness of new breast cancer drugs, and potentially cause healthy breast cells to act similar to cancerous cells.

BPA is a chemical used in everyday life; it is found in plastic food containers, the lining of canned food and soda cans, water bottles, other plastic items, and sometimes even on cash register receipts. Methyalpaben is a chemical commonly used in beauty products.

The study, published in the Oxford University Press Journal, Carcinogenesis, found that healthy breast cells, when exposed to BPA and methylparaben, triggered mTOR, the cell mechanism that controls cancer growth. Because the study focuses on BPA and methylparaben and the ability of these chemicals to convert healthy cells into cancerous cells, the findings of the study are also relevant in understanding cancer in women and provides insight for preventative care.

During the study, Drs. Goodson and Dairkee took samples of healthy breast epithelial cells from women that were high-risk for developing cancer or had a personal history of breast cancer. Then, the samples were grown and exposed to BPA at levels similar to those found today in blood, breastmilk, and placental tissue. The researchers found that some of the samples after exposure to the chemicals BPA and methylparaben demonstrated activation of the cell’s central mechanism that controls cancer growth.

Additionally, the study found that when healthy breast cells were exposed to the cancer-preventing drug Tamoxifen after exposure to BPA, the cells did not die as hypothesized. Tamoxifen is proven to trigger “cell death” or apoptosis in the cancer cells when used to treat patients with cancer, so this is both a surprising and troubling finding. Additionally, the study found that BPA also prevented cancer cell death that is known to be triggered by the drug Rapamycin, which is part of a newer class of anti-cancer drugs that were designed to turn off the cancer growth gene. Thus, this study seems to indicate that exposure to BPA and methylparaben may inhibit the effectiveness of cancer fighting drugs.

“We don’t know yet how reversible these effects of BPA are, particularly if cancer has already developed,” says Dr. Goodson. “But it is intriguing to speculate that reducing BPA exposure might have a beneficial effect on any malignant changes that have been induced, and even decrease the overall risk of cancer.”

This is just one of a number of studies that continue to provide us with further evidence regarding the harmful effects of BPA. Presently, Chicago has initiated a ban on baby bottles and cups that contain BPA. Canada went so far as to list BPA as a toxic substance under its environmental protection act and has introduced regulations that will ban selling, advertising, manufacturing or importing baby bottles with BPA-related plastics.

Nowadays, BPA products are embedded into our daily life: from the makeup we wear in the morning, heating our plastic lunch boxes, grabbing a BPA-plastic water bottle, or grabbing a soda can at dinner; we are surrounded in BPA. We have a long way to go to understand the effects of BPA and take effective action to protect ourselves.

August 15, 2011

Food with Fake Fats May Promote Weight Gain

Guide: Counting on food with fake fats to help you slip into last year’s bathing suit? Better count again.

A new study with rats shows that low-cal fat substitutes can actually promote weight gain. The work appears in the journal Behavioral Neuroscience. (Susan Swithers, Sean Ogden and Terry Davidson, “Fat Substitutes Promote Weight Gain in Rats Consuming High-Fat Diets”)

Dieters can choose from an array of snacktackular options in which sugars and fats are replaced by artificial, low-calorie substitutes. That sleight of hand seems ingenious. You can let your body think it’s getting the sweets and fats it craves while keeping the calorie count to a minimum.

But the new study suggests that this strategy is likely to backfire. Rats that consumed a mix of full-fat chips and chips with olestra wound up eating more and got fatter than rats that noshed on regular chips alone.

Their bodies were apparently getting mixed messages. A mouthful of fat is usually a signal that calories are coming, and the body reacts by getting ready to burn fuel. But olestra, which tastes like fat, carries no calories at all. So the body soon learns to stand down in the face of fat. All fat. Even real fat. Because as Shakespeare almost said, a chip by any other name still swells your seat.

July 13, 2011

Anti Pollution, Start From Fabrics of Clothing

Guide: The clothing we usually wearing, whose manufacturing process it will produce much air pollution, recently, researchers mad out a type of clothing made of nanometer material, which can purify the atmospheres, reduce air pollution thus to improve the air quality.


Designers at Catalytic Clothing claim their nanotechnology ‘Herself’ dress can reduce pollution and purifies the air.

Although the dress looks like something you’d see on a high-fashion catwalk, at molecular level some very interesting science is occurring.

Behind the layer of chiffon is a photocatalyst which breaks down airborne pollutants by harnessing energy from sunlight. For large cities like London and Beijing this could have a serious impact on air quality.

The “Herself” dress is sprayed with a Titanium Dioxide solution.

The dress is the result of collaboration between Professor Helen Storey of the London College of Fashion and scientist Professor Tony Ryan of Sheffield University. Professor Ryan explains how the technology behind the dress works.

“A light ray comes in, hits the particle, that excites electrons. Those electrons then interact with oxygen. And oxygen has two oxygen atoms together joined by a bond and it splits them apart and makes this thing called a free radical that has a lone electron. Electrons like to go around in pairs, so this lone electron runs around to find another electron to pair with and it makes peroxide and that peroxide does all the rest of the reactions.”

Professor Ryan believes that this is a key development because the technology requires wind to make it work. For a stationary building this relies on nature to provide the breeze, but as human beings move around they create their own source of wind.

But the technology only works if people are prepared to wear the clothes. For this reason, designers at the London College of Fashion created a dress with the wow factor to convert sceptics.

The data available from its architectural applications shows one square meter takes out half a gram of nitrous dioxide every day.

One dress is not going to make much difference to the air quality in London, but Professor Ryan believes if the technology became widespread it could cause a dramatic reduction in the levels of pollution.

“Let’s say there are 10 million people in London. So a conservative estimate would be that those 10 million people – if they only took one gram out each – that would take out ten tons of nitrous oxide in London every day.”

In many big cities – where smog drifts across a burning sun – it could have a positive impact on the population’s quality of life.

June 10, 2011

Warn from Health Experts: Common Chemicals May Lead to Autism

Guide: Autism experts are calling for greater scrutiny of chemicals found in the environment, which could potentially lead to autism, a type of neurodevelopmental disorders.

Environmental health officials say lead, mercury and other chemicals that were once thought to be safe in small amounts may have a profound effect on the developing brain.

“We live, breathe and start our families in the presence of toxic chemicals mixtures and constant low-level toxic exposures, in stark contrast to the way chemicals are tested for safety,” said Donna Ferullo, Director of Program Research at The Autism Society.

“Lead, mercury, and other neurotoxic chemicals have a profound effect on the developing brain at levels that were once thought to be safe,” she said.

They also have concerns about a chemical present in plastic water bottles, because doctors say it could interfere with an expectant mother’s hormones.

Autism spectrum disorders are being diagnosed at unprecedented rates, partly because of improved diagnostic tools and criteria, but also a host of other factors including what mothers-to-be are exposed and consequently their unborn children too, said Irva Hertz-Piccotto, Chief of the Division of Environmental Health at the University of California, Davis, and a faculty member at the Mind Institute.

About 1 in 110 children in the United States has autism, a group of developmental disorders that lead to impairments in behavior, communication and socialization. The cost of autism is staggering: $3.2 million for the care of a person with autism throughout his or her life; behavioral therapy can be hard to come by and be very limited,  and most medications don’t help much.

Studies have strongly suggested a genetic component in the cause of autism, but it’s becoming clear that genetics alone isn’t the whole story; there could be interactions between susceptibility genes and environmental chemicals.

Recent research from her group, appearing in the journal Epidemiology, showed that prenatal vitamins taken prior to conception seem to interact with certain metabolizing genes that are inherited.  Those women who did not take the vitamins, and had the high-risk genotypes, were more likely to have a child with autism.  Still, this was a small study limited in scope, and more research should be done to confirm these findings.

The central nervous system of the fetus is sensitive to a wide range of chemicals, Hertz-Piccotto said.  Hormones, such as estrogens and androgens, are essential for proper brain development. Endocrine-disrupting compounds need more research, she said. Flame-retardant chemicals called PBDEs interfere with the body’s hormones.  Even though many of them are no longer used in manufacturing, they can hang around in the environment and the human body for a long time.  The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is aware of concerns about these chemicals and is working on accessing substitutions (see the action plan).

Bisphenol A, present in plastic food packaging and water bottles, among other products, is another big concern, she said, because it could interfere with the body’s natural estrogen system, antimicrobials added to soaps, toothpaste and other products can artificially enhance androgenic activity.

“That means that they could potentially play a role in autism or other neurodevelopmental disorders,” Hertz-Piccotto said.

Moreover, many children with autism spectrum disorders have abnormal immune responses. The chemical messengers in the immune system interact with the receptors in the brain, so chemicals that affect immunity could also be implicated in autism.

Thyroid dysfunction is common in children with autism that psychiatrist Dr. Suruchi Chandra sees, even though that’s not part of the classical symptoms of the condition.  She believes the abnormalities are due to the thyroid hormone disruptors such as BPA and flame retardants.

“Thyroid hormone is critical for brain development in early life, and even small alterations in hormone levels can have serious consequences; long-lasting and perhaps irreversible consequences in terms of brain function,” she said.

Air pollution from traffic has also been shown to have associations with autism, studies have shown. Maternal conditions could partially result from chemicals in the environment.

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