When the former KGB agent Alexander V. Litvinenko was found to have been poisoned by radioactive polonium 210, there was one group that must have been particularly horrified: the tobacco industry. The industry has been aware at least since the 1960s that cigarettes contain significant levels of polonium. Exactly how it gets into tobacco is not entirely understood, but uranium “daughter products” naturally present in soils seem to be selectively absorbed by the tobacco plant, where they decay into radioactive polonium. High-phosphate fertilizers may worsen the problem, since uranium tends to associate with phosphates. In 1975, Philip Morris scientists wondered whether the secret to tobacco growers’ longevity in the Caucasus might be that farmers there avoided phosphate fertilizers. How much polonium is in tobacco? In 1968, the American Tobacco Company began a secret research effort to find out. Using precision analytic techniques, the researchers found that smokers inhale an average of about .04 picocuries of polonium 210 per cigarette. The company also found, no doubt to its dismay, that the filters being considered to help trap the isotope were not terribly effective. (Disclosure: I’ve served as a witness in litigation against the tobacco industry.)
Tag Archives | Chemicals
Now here’s corporate thinking to believe in, gotta please those shareholders. As the author of the article says, eating fewer chips potato chips is not an option. Hamilton Nolan writes on Gawker:
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Health food manufacturer and exponentially dimensionalized fulcrum of universal gravity PepsiCo is investing hundreds of millions of dollars in an effort to make America healthier, with things like “designer” salt crystals for Lay’s potato chips. What else could they do?
Because of inherent concern about the health of you, the consumer, PepsiCo spent more than $400 million in product development costs last year, all with an eye towards developing products that will kill Americans more slowly. “What we want to do with our ‘fun for you’ products is to make them the healthiest ‘fun for you’ products,” said PepsiCo chairman Indra Nooyi, emphasizing PepsiCo’s dual commitment to health and to providing a nonstop party in your mouth.
Nico Hines writes on the Times:
Rescue and recovery workers who were exposed to a toxic brew of smoke and dust in the aftermath of the September 11 terrorist attacks have been awarded $650 million in a compensation deal struck in New York.
Thousands of 9/11 heroes, including firefighters, police officers, construction experts and emergency workers, have filed lawsuits since 2003 but last night’s agreement is expected to put an end to years of legal battles.
The settlement, worth up to $657.5 million (£434 million), was reached after negotiations between lawyers representing more than 10,000 people exposed to the debris from the World Trade Center and New York City’s federally financed insurer.
Some workers are likely to receive payments of only a few thousand dollars. Others could be in line to get more than $1 million, depending on their injuries.
Read More in the Times
Tim Barribeau writes on io9.com:
Booze, for all its magical wonder, still has big drawbacks: You can’t sober up quickly, and you often get a hangover. Now Korean researchers have found a way of tweaking booze to limit the fallout — without cutting its strength.
Doctors Kwang-il Kwon and Hye Gwang Jeong of Chungnam National University studied the properties of oxygenated alcohol — booze with oxygen bubbles added — which is a popular concoction in their country. In these drinks, oxygen is added the way carbonation is usually added to soda, and the scientists wanted to know if these oxygenated beverages affected people differently than non-oxygenated ones. The answer was a resounding yes.
They ran three experiments using 19.5% alcohol drinks, and measured the speed at which people’s blood alcohol dropped to 0.000%. In other words: How fast did they sober up?
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Via the Daily Mail:
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A high number of children are being born with birth defects in an Iraqi city where U.S. forces may have used chemical weapons during a fierce battle in 2004.
Children in Fallujah are being born with limb, head, heart and nervous system defects.
There is even a claim that a baby was born with three heads. The number of heart defects among newborn babies is said to be 13 times higher than the rate in Europe.
The city, 40 miles west of Baghdad, was the scene of some of the fiercest fighting of the Iraq war in late 2004. U.S. Marines led Operation Phantom Fury to recapture it from insurgents.
British troops were involved in manning checkpoints on the outskirts of the city as the Americans went in. The U.S.
By Ferris Jabr for Scientific American:
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Chemicals derived from flowers may sound harmless, but new research raises concerns about compounds synthesized from chrysanthemums that are used in virtually every household pesticide.
For at least a decade, pyrethroids have been the insecticide of choice for consumers, replacing organophosphate pesticides, which are far more toxic to people and wildlife. But evidence is mounting that the switch to less-toxic pyrethroids has brought its own set of new ecological and human health risks.
About 70 percent of people in the United States have been exposed to pyrethroids, with children facing the highest exposure, according to a study published this month. Although the human health threats are unknown, animal studies have found evidence of damage to neurological, immune and reproductive systems.
In addition, pyrethroids are flowing off yards and gardens, contaminating some streams and rivers at concentrations that can kill small creatures vital to the survival of fish and other aquatic life.
DEBORAH GOUGH writes in the Age:
SCORES of starving and pain-ridden kangaroos have been culled after developing tooth and bone deformities from breathing and ingesting fluoride emissions. Many more are believed to be suffering from growths that will kill them.
The affected kangaroos are living near the Alcoa aluminium smelter in Portland, in the state’s south-west, and the Austral Bricks factory at Craigieburn.
Autopsies performed at Melbourne University on 49 kangaroos culled at Alcoa on a single day last year found all but one were suffering from flurosis, which leads to excessive bone growths, or lesions, on joints in the paws, ankles and calves.
It can also cause tooth and jaw deformities that hinder eating and foraging. The Sunday Age has been told more than 200 ill kangaroos living near both affected sites have been culled in recent years, but this figure could not be confirmed.
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Meg Kissinger reports in the Journal Sentinel:
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U.S. Food and Drug Administration officials say they are powerless to regulate BPA, although they have declared the chemical to be a safety concern for fetuses, babies and young children.
A quirk in the rules allows BPA makers to skirt federal regulation.
“We may have to go after legislation to change it,” Joshua Sharfstein, the FDA’s principal deputy director, told the Journal Sentinel. The newspaper has been investigating the government’s lack of regulation regarding BPA for three years.
FDA officials announced Friday that they had reversed their position that bisphenol A is safe. The chemical, used to line most food and beverage cans, has been found in the urine of 93% of Americans tested.
The agency now considers BPA to be of some concern for effects on the brain, behavior and prostate glands of fetuses and the very young. Scientific studies have raised concerns about the chemical’s link to breast and prostate cancer, diabetes, obesity, heart disease, reproductive failures and behavioral problems.
Jim Morris and M.B. Pell write on the Center for Public Integrity:
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After years of fielding complaints about the ubiquitous weed-killer and water pollutant atrazine, the Environmental Protection Agency has decided to take a closer look at the product, used on corn and other crops, mainly in the Midwest. Some of those complaints are documented in a database produced by the Center in 2008 as part as of our perils of the New Pesticides investigation.
Last week, an EPA advisory panel began assessing the latest science on the chemical, frequently found in surface waters and groundwater, and two more meetings of the advisory group are planned for later this year.
The Perils of the New Pesticides project includes a tool that allows the public to search 15 years of previously undisclosed EPA data for reported environmental and health effects of specific products. A search of “atrazine” produces 242 pages of results from 1992 through 2007.
By Ethan A. Huff for Natural News:
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The 1976 Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) requires that manufacturers of products containing potentially toxic chemicals disclose their ingredients to the federal government, however a loophole in the requirement allows manufacturers to arbitrarily withhold information that they deem sensitive to their business. As a result, over 17,000 product chemicals remain secret not only from the public but from government officials.
Each year, over 700 new chemicals are introduced by manufacturers, many of which do not get disclosed either to the public or to government agencies. About 95 percent of new chemical notices submitted to the government request some kind of secrecy. Critics allege that manufacturers are exploiting the original intent of TSCA, abusing it to hide sensitive information about ingredients that are likely toxic and may otherwise get banned.
For the first time in many years, Congress is addressing the issue of disclosure abuse with promises of reforming the regulatory provisions.