Chemical Plastic

February 10, 2012

We are Back Home: Little Penguins Contaminated by Petroleum Back to the Sea

 

2 months ago, on the Tauranga coast (New Zealand) a serious oil spill occur, which caused more than 300 small penguin homeless. So lucky animal protection experts help them, they washed the body, to feed them belly full. Now, these little guys want to go home! Watch them staggered go to the sea, in addition to interesting, are you still felt a little touched?

Oil spills are a catastrophe, and there is little that can be done to combat the tons of slick oil that leak from the ships that have run aground. The New Zealand oil spill that occurred on October 5th, 2011 has been severely damaging to the local ecosystem.

Now waddling as fast as their little legs can carry them, these excited penguins have good reason to be happy. Their delighted flight towards the sealine on Mount Maunganui beach in Tauranga, New Zealand, follows almost two months in humane captivity. With a mixture of confusion and excitement some ran in the wrong direction, some of the 49 Little Blue Penguins peeked out carefully before emerging onto the sand.

Wildlife officials nursed some 343 of the penguins back to health after they were effectively tarred and feathered when a cargo ship ran aground on a reef near Tauranga in early October, covering them in oil. The vessel called the Rena became stranded on the rocks and its torn hull released some 400 tons of fuel into the ocean. It was New Zealand’s worst sea pollution disaster and it killed more than 2,000 sea birds. But these penguins were the lucky ones and, though they were a little weaker for their time being cleaned and pampered by the wildlife rescue staff, they were always destined to return to the ocean.

This is a warm story happened with cool chemistry, isn’t it?

Original post: 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.

 

November 22, 2011

Canada Making Plastic Bills for People of All Ages


Starting in November, new Canadian polymer bank notes will start to replace paper-cotton bills that wear and tear more easily.

The first bills to go plastic will be the $100 notes. The $50 notes will follow next March. The rest of the plastic money will be in circulation by the end of 2013.

Instead of the normal cotton paper bills, the polymer bills have two see-through windows that make it nearly impossible for amateur counterfeiters to scan or photocopy the banknotes. According to the Bank of Canada, you can “feel, look, and flip” to make sure the bill is real.

The polymer bank notes are more durable than paper money. The Bank of Canada expects the new bills to last 2.5 times longer than the paper ones.

They’re also harder to fake than paper money. Some of the security features built into the new notes include raised ink, hidden numbers and metallic images.

The bills feel smooth and slightly waxy. They don’t crumple easily, but they do crease when you try, and they don’t seem to tear in half.

The new $100s look busier than the paper bills. There are now two portraits of Prime Minister Robert Borden — a large one on the face of the bill and a smaller, metallic one in the clear band running through the note, above an image of Parliament Hill’s Peace Tower.

On the other side of the bill, there’s an image of a researcher at a microscope, a strand of DNA and an electrocardiogram. There’s also a bottle of insulin next to the words “medical innovation.”

Another advantage of the plastic bill is that they don’t curl or fray at the corners. The material causes about 40 percent less jams in automated teller and bill-counting machines, so you’ll never again have to deal with that frustrating experience of having your money spit back at you while you’re trying to buy a soda from the vending machine.

The $50 has an image of CCGS Amundsen — a research icebreaker — and a map of the North. The designs of the $20, $10 and $5 bills will be unveiled later. The colours of the new bills have not changed.

Bank of Canada Governor Mark Carney said the notes are necessary to fight counterfeiting. The number of counterfeit bills in circulation peaked in 2004, but has been steadily declining since.” The polymer notes we’re introducing today are unique,” Carney said. “There’s simply no other currency like them.”

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.

May 9, 2011

Prenatal BPA Exposure May causes Asthma in Children

Guide: Exposure to the chemical bisphenol A during early pregnancy may cause asthma in children, according to a Penn State College of Medicine researcher.

Bisphenol A, or BPA, is a chemical found in many consumer products, including plastic water bottles and food containers, according to a news release from the College of Medicine. It is present in more than 90 percent of the U.S. population, suggesting widespread exposure.

In their study of 367 pairs of mothers and infants, researchers from the Penn State College of Medicine measured BPA levels in the urine of the pregnant women at 16 and 26 weeks’ gestation, as well as after delivery. Nearly all the women had detectable BPA in their urine at some point during pregnancy.

At six months, the odds of wheezing are twice as high for children with mothers who had higher BPA than those who had mothers with lower BPA levels, the study showed.

Researchers also found that high BPA levels detected in women at 16 weeks’ gestation were associated with wheeze in their offspring, but high levels at 26 weeks’ gestation and birth were not, a possible indication that timing of BPA exposure in pregnancy may be more significant than the level of exposure.

“This suggests that there are periods of time during pregnancy when the fetus is more vulnerable,” Spanier said in the release. “Exposure during early pregnancy may be worse than exposure in later pregnancy.”

Until more information is available, Dr. Spanier recommended, women of child-bearing age should consider avoiding products made with BPA.

The researchers reported their findings at the Pediatric Academic Societies’ annual meeting in Denver on May 1. The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences supported this project.

April 20, 2011

How to Cut our Exposure to Bisphenol A (BPA) in Kitchen?

Bisphenol A, commonly known as BPA, is a chemical used to make hard plastic containers and the lining of metal food and beverage cans. Some scientific studies have linked the hormone-disrupting chemical to reproductive abnormalities and a heightened risk of breast and prostate cancers, diabetes, heart disease and other serious health problems.

However, plastic containers and canned foods can be found in most kitchens because they are convenient and affordable. But there is growing evidence that our use of packaged food comes at a cost.

BPA is so ubiquitous – found even on cash register receipts – that more than 90 percent of Americans have traces of it in their urine, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

While scientists continue to study the health effects of BPA and debate what is a safe level to intake, there are steps we can take to cut our exposure to the chemical in our kitchens by opting for safe alternatives.

Experts say BPA is most likely to leach from metal and plastic containers into acidic, salty or fatty foods. BPA levels also rise in food when it comes in contact with plastic containers that are heated, particularly in the microwave. So please not to microwave in plastic, and perhaps the next step is to get rid of plastics, and switching to glass containers.

As reported in The Chronicle on March 30 (bit.ly/gQP8hk), a recent study published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives found that it is possible to significantly reduce exposure to BPA and other synthetic chemicals by limiting packaged foods from our diets and storing food in glass or stainless steel containers.

The study acknowledges that while it’s not practical to avoid food packaging altogether, it’s best to choose fresh or frozen instead of canned food as much as possible.

Food preparation avoided contact with plastic utensils and non-stick-coated cookware, and foods were stored in glass containers with BPA-free plastic lids.

BPA is also found in the epoxy resins used to line metal food cans. In Japan, most major manufacturers voluntarily changed their can linings in 1997 to cut or eliminate the use of BPA in response to concerns about health effects.

“If a plastic container is hard and clear and doesn’t say ‘BPA-free,’ assume it’s made with BPA and don’t buy it,” suggests vom Saal, who uses only plastics marked on the bottom with recycling codes 2 and 5.

* More ways to reduce BPA exposure:

- Get rid of scratched plastic containers, which may harbor bacteria, and if made with BPA, lead to greater release of the chemical.

- Do not put very hot or boiling liquid that you intend to consume in plastic containers. BPA levels rise in food when containers or products made with the chemical are heated and come in contact with the food.

- Use stainless steel water bottles rather than hard plastic, but avoid metal bottles lined with a plastic coating and the type of multi-gallon polycarbonate water coolers typically found in offices.

- Eat at home as much as possible so you know how your food is prepared and stored. Higher BPA and DEHP levels are associated with restaurant meals. When you do eat out, choose restaurants that use fresh ingredients.

Last, please remember that “anything you can do to reduce the amount of BPA in your body will lower your risk of disease.”

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