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Superbugs found breeding in sewage plants

December 18, 2013 8:37 am | News | Comments

Tests at two wastewater treatment plants in northern China revealed antibiotic-resistant bacteria were not only escaping purification but also breeding and spreading their dangerous cargo. Scientists found “superbugs” carrying New Delhi Metallo-beta-lactamase (NDM-1), a multidrug-resistant gene first identified in India in 2010, in wastewater disinfected by chlorination.

FDA: Anti-bacterial soaps may not curb bacteria

December 17, 2013 8:13 am | by Matthew Perrone, AP Health Writer | News | Comments

After more than 40 years of study, the U.S. government says it has found no evidence that common anti-bacterial soaps, which contain triclosan and other sanitizing agents, prevent the spread of germs. Regulators want the makers of Dawn, Dial, and other household staples to prove that their products do not pose health risks to consumers.

Ethanol blends carry hidden risk

December 13, 2013 7:57 am | News | Comments

Blending ethanol into fuel to cut air pollution from vehicles carries a hidden risk that toxic or even explosive gases may find their way into buildings. The problems would likely occur in buildings with cracked foundations that happen to be in the vicinity of fuel spills. Vapors that rise from contaminated groundwater can be sucked inside; and, once there, trapped pools of methane could ignite and toxic hydrocarbons causing health issues.

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Food-tech startups aim to replace eggs and chicken

December 9, 2013 1:35 pm | by Terence Chea, Associated Press | News | Comments

Funded by prominent Silicon Valley investors and Microsoft founder Bill Gates, Hampton Creek Foods seeks to disrupt a global egg industry that backers say wastes energy, pollutes the environment, causes disease outbreaks and confines chickens to tiny spaces. The company, which just started selling a mayonnaise made without eggs, is part of a new generation of so-called food-tech ventures that aim to change the way we eat.

Scientists identify new catalyst for cleanup of nitrites

November 26, 2013 7:41 am | News | Comments

Chemical engineers at Rice Univ. have found a new catalyst that can rapidly break down nitrites, a common and harmful contaminant in drinking water that often results from overuse of agricultural fertilizers. Nitrites and their more abundant cousins, nitrates, are inorganic compounds that are often found in both groundwater and surface water. The compounds are a health hazard.

Colorado's proposed emissions rules get a hearing

November 21, 2013 6:58 pm | by KRISTEN WYATT - Associated Press - Associated Press | News | Comments

Colorado's proposal to curb air pollutants from oil and gas operations got praise from industry representatives and environmental activists Thursday at its first hearing. But both sides warned the Colorado Air Quality Control Commission that there will still be haggling over the particulars of three rule changes introduced this week.

Connection found between nitrogen levels in water, toxic algae production

November 20, 2013 10:15 am | News | Comments

Scientists have long known that phosphorus fuels growth of algae in lakes and streams. Wisconsin Sea Grant researchers have found that nitrogen levels are a factor in whether or not these algae—specifically, blue-green algae—produce toxins. The findings, published in PLOS ONE have parts of the scientific community buzzing.

NASA determines hazards of deep-space radiation

November 19, 2013 10:11 am | by Paul Gabrielsen, NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center | News | Comments

An instrument on NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) has learned more than ever before about the high-energy hazards at and around the moon. These dangers are serious but manageable, and human exploration missions will rely on these measurements to know how much radiation to expect in deep space and how best to shield against it.

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Clean Air Act has improved water quality in the Chesapeake Bay watershed

November 7, 2013 7:00 am | News | Comments

A new study shows that the reduction of pollution emissions from power plants in the mid-Atlantic is making an impact on the quality of the water that ends up in the Chesapeake Bay. The study confirms a decreased amount of emissions of nitrogen oxide from coal-fired power plants.

Innovation kills waterborne microorganisms, produces safer drinking water

October 24, 2013 8:56 am | News | Comments

Researchers at Purdue Univ. have developed prototypes of a water disinfection system to take advantage of ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun, which is plentiful in many areas where clean water is lacking. Their water disinfection system pumps water through a UV-transparent pipe placed on a parabolic reflector, effectively magnifying the effect of UV radiation, which damages microorganism DNA.

"Killer apps" that could keep you healthy

October 22, 2013 12:38 pm | News | Comments

For those wanting to keep their distance from health threats like E. coli-contaminated lettuce or the flu, there are two upcoming apps for that. Pacific Northwest National Laboratory hosted a competition last summer where graduate students used Android development tools and web-based analytics to design mobile apps that could help fight the threats of food-related illnesses and the flu.

FDA lays out rules for some smartphone health apps

September 24, 2013 8:32 am | News | Comments

With the rise of the iPhone, Android and other mobile devices has come a flood of applications designed to help people stay healthy. Food and Drug Administration officials say they will now begin regulating applications and gadgets that work with smartphones to take medical readings and help users monitor their health.

Higher lead levels may lie just below surface

September 18, 2013 2:54 pm | News | Comments

A study of data from hundreds of soil samples taken around six old water tower sites in southern Rhode Island finds that even when lead levels on the surface are low, concentrations can sometimes be greater at depths down to a foot. The findings inform efforts to assess the effect of lead paint from old water towers on surrounding properties.

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Scientists reveal how organic mercury can interfere with vision

September 12, 2013 10:43 am | News | Comments

More than one billion people worldwide rely on fish as an important source of animal protein, consuming low levels of methylmercury. Methylmercury compounds specifically target the central nervous system, but now researchers have combined synchrotron x-rays with methylmercury-poisoned zebrafish larvae to learn that they may also affect our vision.

Study: Changes in river chemistry affect water supplies

August 26, 2013 11:58 am | News | Comments

Human activities are changing the basic chemistry of many rivers in the Eastern U.S., with potentially major consequences for urban water supplies and aquatic ecosystems, a Univ. of Maryland-led study has found. Over time spans of 25 to 60 years, two-thirds of the 97 streams and rivers reviewed in the study had become significantly more alkaline and none had become more acidic.

Scientists analyze the extent of ocean acidification

August 26, 2013 8:11 am | News | Comments

In a new study, biologists have compiled and analyzed all available data on the reaction of marine animals to ocean acidification. From this collection of 167 studies with data from more than 150 different species, they found that while the majority of animal species investigated are affected by ocean acidification, the respective impacts are specific and can vary widely from species to species.

Study: Toxic nanoparticles might be entering human food supply

August 23, 2013 9:13 am | by Diamond Dixon, Univ. of Missouri | News | Comments

Over the last few years, the use of nanomaterials for water treatment, food packaging, pesticides, cosmetics and other industries has increased. A growing concern is that these particles could pose a potential health risk has prompted a large number of studies, including recent work at the Univ. of Missouri that showed the retention of silver nanoparticles in pear skin, even after repeated washing.

Plasma-treated nano filters could help purify world water supply

August 21, 2013 12:56 pm | News | Comments

An international team of researchers have recently showed that water purification membranes enhanced by plasma-treated carbon nanotubes are ideal for removing contaminants and brine from water. The study may lead to the next generation of portable water purification devices, which could be rechargeable and the size of a teapot.

Sensor-equipped construction helmet can detect carbon monoxide

August 19, 2013 10:38 am | News | Comments

Carbon monoxide poisoning is a significant problem for construction workers because it can build up quickly in enclosed spaces from use of gasoline-powered tools. New research calls for the use of a wearable computing system installed in a helmet to protect construction workers from this type of poisoning.

Looking for hazardous pollutants in your kitchen

August 7, 2013 2:22 pm | Videos | Comments

For decades, teams of Berkeley Lab scientists have investigated the ways that indoor air quality affects human health. In Berkeley Lab's test kitchen scientist Brett Singer and his team are measuring the pollutants emitted by cooking foods and evaluating how effective various range hoods are in capturing the pollutants.

China, Russia halt some imports in botulism scare

August 4, 2013 9:52 pm | by The Associated Press | News | Comments

China and Russia have halted imports of some New Zealand dairy products in response to a botulism scare, according to New Zealand government officials. New Zealand dairy giant Fonterra announced Saturday that up to 1,000 tons of infant formula, sports drinks and other products sold in seven countries could be tainted after tests turned up bacteria in whey protein that could cause botulism.

When writing antibiotic prescriptions, doctors favor strongest drugs

August 1, 2013 1:55 pm | News | Comments

A study at the Univ. of Utah finds that more than 60% of antibiotic prescriptions are for types that kill multiple kinds of bacteria. Unfortunately, in more than 25% of cases such prescriptions are useless because the infection stems from a virus, which cannot be treated with antibiotics. This overuse of antibiotics has a number of downsides.

Controlling contagion by restricting mobility

July 31, 2013 7:50 am | by Denise Brehm, Civil and Environmental Engineering | News | Comments

In an epidemic or a bioterrorist attack, the response of government officials could range from a drastic restriction of mobility to moderate travel restrictions in some areas or simple suggestions that people remain at home. Deciding to institute any measure would require officials to weigh the costs and benefits of action, but at present there’s little data to guide them. However, a new study comparing contagion rates may come in handy.

Battelle team wins DARPA sepsis medical device contract

July 25, 2013 6:23 pm | News | Comments

As many as 10% of combat wounds result in life threatening infections that ultimately lead to septicemia and/or sepsis. Battelle, in partnership with NxStage Medical Inc. and Aethlon Medical, has won a nearly $23 million contract from DARPA to develop a new medical device that would holistically treat for sepsis by removing blood and cleaning it in a manner similar to dialysis.

Off-grid sterilization

July 23, 2013 7:40 am | News | Comments

Rice Univ. nanotechnology researchers have unveiled a solar-powered sterilization system that could be a boon for more than 2.5 billion people who lack adequate sanitation. The “solar steam” sterilization system uses nanomaterials to convert as much as 80% of the energy in sunlight into germ-killing heat.

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