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Many home couches contain potentially toxic flame retardants

November 28, 2012 12:28 pm | News | Comments

Scientists are reporting an increasing use of flame retardants in the main gathering spot for adults, children and family pets in the home—the couch. In recent study, Heather Stapleton and colleagues describe the first efforts to detect and identify the flame retardants applied to the foam inside couches found in millions of family rooms and living rooms across the U.S.

Smartphones, labs to reveal health effects of environmental pollutants

November 20, 2012 10:27 am | News | Comments

A major new initiative in the European Union is being launched to build a complete picture of how environmental pollutants influence health. Researchers are being asked to use smartphones equipped with GPS and environmental sensors to monitor study participants and their exposure to potential hazards. This information will be combined with blood and urine analysis to investigate whether exposure to risk factors leaves chemical fingerprints that can be detected in bodily fluids.

Elevated indoor carbon dioxide impairs decision-making performance

October 18, 2012 8:04 am | News | Comments

Overturning decades of conventional wisdom, researchers at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory have found that moderately high indoor concentrations of carbon dioxide can significantly impair people's decision-making performance. The results were unexpected and may have particular implications for schools and other spaces with high occupant density.

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New nanoparticle system finds mercury in water, fish

September 13, 2012 4:33 am | by Erin White | News | Comments

The system currently being used to test for mercury and its very toxic derivative, methyl mercury, is time-intensive, costly, and can only detect quantities at already toxic levels. Researchers at Northwestern University and in Switzerland have invented a device consisting of a strip of glass with a nanoparticle film attached that can detect heavy metals in quantities more than a million times smaller than is currently possible.

Nano-velcro clasps heavy metal molecules in its grips

September 10, 2012 5:31 am | News | Comments

Mercury, when dumped in lakes and rivers, accumulates in fish, and often ends up on our plates. A Swiss-American team of researchers has devised a simple, inexpensive system based on nanoparticles, a kind of nano-velcro, to detect and trap this toxic pollutant as well as others. The particles are covered with tiny hairs that can grab onto toxic heavy metals such as mercury and cadmium.

A greener way to fertilize nursery crops

August 28, 2012 7:48 am | by Dennis O'Brien | News | Comments

Ornamental nursery and floral crops require micronutrients like iron, manganese, copper and zinc. But fertilizers that provide these micronutrients often include synthetic compounds that bind with the micronutrients to make them available to the roots. They also extract metals from sediments, contributing to heavy metals in runoff. A Dept. of Agriculture scientist has found a biodegradable alternative to these agents.

Athletic field paint steals spotlight from the grass it covers

August 27, 2012 7:19 am | News | Comments

Professional athletic field managers maintain trimmed turfgrass with great precision, carefully painting crisp lines and colorful logos on their grass before each game. While these fields appear to be in perfect health, some field managers have noted deteriorating turfgrass beneath repeated paint applications. New research into the relationship between photosynthesis and latex paint suggests why.

Wastewater transformed into fertilizer

August 3, 2012 5:06 am | News | Comments

Sewage sludge, wastewater and liquid manure are valuable sources of fertilizer for food production. Researchers in Germany have now developed a chemical-free, eco-friendly process that enables the recovered salts to be converted directly into organic food for crop plants.

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New model of disease contagion ranks U.S. airports by spreading influence

July 23, 2012 7:27 am | by Denise Brehm, Civil and Environmental Engineering | News | Comments

While epidemiologists and scientists who study complex network systems are working to create mathematical models that describe the worldwide spread of disease, to date these models have focused on the final stages of epidemics, examining the locations that ultimately develop the highest infection rates. But a new study shifts the focus to the first few days of an epidemic, determining how likely the 40 largest U.S. airports are to influence the spread of a contagious disease originating in their home cities.

Experts: Some fracking critics use bad science

July 23, 2012 4:58 am | by Kevin Begos, Associated Press | News | Comments

Shale gas drilling has attracted national attention because advances in technology have unlocked billions of dollars of gas reserves, leading to a boom in production, jobs, and profits, as well as concerns about pollution and public health. In the debate over natural gas drilling, the companies are often the ones accused of twisting the facts. But scientists say opponents sometimes mislead the public, too.

Researchers calculate global health impacts of the Fukushima nuclear disaster

July 18, 2012 3:50 am | by Max McClure, Stanford University | News | Comments

In the first detailed analysis of the Fukushima nuclear diaster's global health effects, Stanford University researchers estimate the number of deaths and cases of cancer worldwide resulting from the release of radiation.

Lab-on-a-chip detects traces of toxic vapors in homes near air base

June 26, 2012 12:28 pm | by Laura Bailey | News | Comments

In a first-of-its-kind departure for lab-on-a-chip technology, a new device was successfully field-tested by University of Michigan researchers to detect trace amounts of air contaminants near the Utah Air Force Base. Even in the presence of 50 other indoor air contaminants, microsystem found very low levels of targeted contaminants.

Eating garbage: Bacteria for bioremediation

June 26, 2012 6:36 am | News | Comments

City officials in Medellín, Colombia, recently faced the difficult task of relocating an entire neighborhood off of a contaminated landfill they were using to grow food and collect water. Unable to pay for removal, officials may have found another way: Researchers at the University of Illinois have put together an experiment to see if biological agents could be used to neutralize the hydrocarbon contaminants at the site.

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Mobile technology to fix hand pumps in Africa

June 11, 2012 6:24 am | News | Comments

Thousands of families affected by the ongoing drought in East Africa are set to benefit from improved water supplies thanks to innovative mobile technology designed by Oxford University.

Scientists: Earth faces impending tipping point

June 7, 2012 5:42 am | by Robert Sanders | News | Comments

A recently published review paper by 22 internationally known scientists contains data that suggests that within just a few human generations there will be a reduction in biodiversity and severe impacts on much of what we depend on to sustain our quality of life. Part of their research gauges how plants and animals respond to major shifts in the atmosphere, oceans, and climate.

Coffee buzz: Study finds java drinkers live longer

May 17, 2012 4:52 am | by Marilynn Marchione, AP Chief Medical Writer | News | Comments

It doesn’t matter if it’s regular or decaf, a big new study find that coffee drinkers are a little more likely to live longer. The results from the largest study ever done on the issue, comes after years of waffling research on coffee and health, even some fear that java might raise the risk of heart disease.

Researchers: Ocean garbage gyre impacting ea life

May 9, 2012 5:27 am | News | Comments

An increase in plastic debris floating in a zone between Hawaii and California is changing the environment of at least one marine critter, scientists recently reported. Over the past four decades, the amount of broken-down plastic has grown significantly in a region dubbed the "Great Pacific Garbage Patch." Most of the plastic pieces are the size of a fingernail.

Test strip rapidly finds bacterial contamination in swimming water

May 1, 2012 11:33 am | News | Comments

Researchers at McMaster University have developed a rapid testing method using a simple paper strip that can detect E. coli in recreational water within minutes. The new tool can close the gap between outbreak and detection, improving public safety.

Nanotechnology meets safety, ethics in medical community

April 30, 2012 3:50 am | News | Comments

Engineers are developing new and innovative ways of coating medical materials with nano-sized particles of silver, an element that has long been known for its antimicrobial properties. However, a recent paper from the University of Notre Dame highlights the fact that a vast majority of bacteria are actually neutral, or even beneficial. Overuse of nanosilver might harm their useful functions in daily life, the paper reports.

FDA issues draft guidance on nanotechnology

April 22, 2012 1:41 pm | News | Comments

The U.S. government has issued its initial draft guidelines on the use of nanotechnology, particularly nanoparticles, in food and cosmetic products. These recommendations, intended to help guarantee consumer safety within these two industries, do not extend to the other products that fall under Food and Drug Administration oversights, such as drugs and medical devices.

Study: Nanoparticles may increase damage to plant DNA

April 19, 2012 6:14 am | News | Comments

Researchers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology and the University of Massachusetts Amherst have provided the first evidence that engineered nanoparticles are able to accumulate within plants and damage their DNA. They have shown that nanoparticles of cupric oxide, a common compound, can enter plant root cells and generate mutagenic DNA base lesions.

Naval research office taps research teams to help reduce jet noise

April 12, 2012 12:28 pm | News | Comments

A person whispering is 20 decibels and a lawn mower is 90 decibels. Jet noise from tactical aircraft can reach 150 decibels on the flight line, and can cause permanent hearing loss to sailors and marines. The Office of Naval Research is funding a new project to help reduce this noise.

FDA rejects call to ban BPA from food packaging

April 3, 2012 10:27 am | by Matthew Perrone, AP Health Writer | News | Comments

Despite concern from some scientists who believe exposure to BPA can harm the reproductive and nervous systems of humans, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has turned down a petition from environmentalists that would have banned the plastic-hardening chemical bisphenol-A from all food and drink packaging, including plastic bottles and canned food.

Panel backs sharing studies of lab-made bird flu

April 2, 2012 5:24 am | by Malcolm Ritter, AP Science Writer | News | Comments

On Friday, the U.S. government's biosecurity advisers said they support publishing research studies showing how scientists made new easy-to-spread forms of bird flu because the studies, now revised, don't reveal details bioterrorists could use. The announcement could end debate sparked by the government’s request last December that scientists refrain from publishing all the details of their work.

Research reveals deep-ocean impact of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill

March 27, 2012 12:19 pm | News | Comments

From an extensive study that grew out of an initial research cruise to the Gulf of Mexico in October 2010, scientists have published the first evidence of the impact of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill on deep-sea corals. The team used underwater vehicles and 2D gas chromatography to determine precisely the source of the petroleum hydrocarbons they found.

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