Rachel's Precaution Reporter #44
Wednesday, June 28, 2006

From: Science Magazine ....................................[This story printer-friendly]
June 15, 2006


[Rachel's introduction: "A study of ultrafine particles of titanium dioxide (TiO2) -- used in manufacturing, personal care and food products, and as drug carriers -- indicates that even low concentrations can produce harmful 'free radicals' in brain cells. The findings underscore the need to learn more about how such tiny particles interact with living tissues, the researchers say." Heeding early warnings is an essential part of precautionary action.]

Hundreds of tons of engineered, microscopic particles enter the environment every year, yet little is known of their biological effects. Now, a study of ultrafine particles of titanium dioxide (TiO2)--used in manufacturing, personal care and food products, and as drug carriers--indicates that even low concentrations can produce harmful "free radicals" in brain cells. The findings underscore the need to learn more about how such tiny particles interact with living tissues, the researchers say.

Previous studies have revealed that many nontoxic materials become harmful at particle sizes of less than 100 nanometers. Specifically, they can trigger the production of biologically reactive, oxygen- containing molecules such as free radicals. In addition, some types of particulate matter can enter the brain once they get into the bloodstream. Little is known about the biological effects of TiO2, but its widespread use and distribution means that humans and other animals could be widely exposed.

To investigate the biological effects of TiO2, Bellina Veronesi, a neurotoxicologist with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in Research Triangle Park, North Carolina, and her colleagues exposed mouse microglia--cells that protect the brain from invaders such as viruses and foreign chemicals--to a solution containing minute concentrations of TiO2. The microglia engulfed the particles and released bursts of reactive oxygen molecules for 2 hours. This didn't damage the microglia, but Veronesi says prolonged exposure to these compounds can damage neurons. In fact, a similar mechanism is thought to underlie some cardiovascular and neurodegenerative diseases, including Parkinson's and Alzheimer's, the researchers note in their report, published online 7 June in Environmental Science & Technology.

Environmental toxicologist Gunter Oberdorster of the University of Rochester in New York says the research is a "good proof of principle," but without further studies it would be premature to conclude that TiO2 damages the brain. "The general message is that we should take these results seriously and be very careful with nanoparticles," he says.

Related sites:

More on nanotoxicology

Inventory of nanotechnology consumer products


From: The Peninsula (Doha, Qatar) ........................[This story printer-friendly]
June 10, 2006


[Rachel's introduction: Some advocates for nanotechnology are saying a precautionary approach can inspire public confidence in the people selling this new technology. They say a precautionary approach will lead to public acceptance of nano products. In this case, is precaution a new way to make decisions or is it just a marketing ploy by nano-hucksters who have already concluded nano products are safe? Listen to their pitch...]

By Charles Piller

Magic Nano was billed as a miraculous solution for household drudgery, able to repel dirt and moisture from bathroom surfaces through the wonders of nanotechnology.

Instead, the spray-on ceramic sealant quickly has become an emblem of the growing global fears over incorporating artificial particles tens of thousands of times smaller than the width of a human hair into such everyday products as golf balls, sunscreen and clothing.

Three days after Magic Nano went on sale in Europe in March, it was pulled from store shelves because at least 110 customers reported symptoms including racking coughs, chest pain and difficulty breathing.

"When I started to feel dizzy and nauseous, I got scared," said Carola Sennmann, a 37-year-old hairdresser in the German city of Goettingen, who felt flu-like symptoms within 30 minutes of spraying Magic Nano in her shower.

When she began to gasp for breath, she was rushed to the emergency room and suffered a sleepless, fevered night before the symptoms subsided. Doctors were baffled. Sennmann, though, had her own diagnosis: "I blame it on nanotechnology."

Last week, German regulators released tests that showed Magic Nano contained no nanoparticles. The product was designed to deposit an oil- and-water-repellent nano-thin film composed of silicon dioxide, but lab tests have yet to verify that property.

Experts still don't know what caused the illnesses in a case that highlights the murky definitions and poorly understood risks in one of the fastest-growing segments of science and technology.

"So the speculation begins," said Andrew Maynard, chief scientist of the Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington. "This is the great danger -- you're going to have a response against nanotech as a whole."

Simply understanding what nanotechnology is can be daunting for most people. The scientists and engineers immersed in it face a greater challenge: calculating the immediate and long-term risks of tinkering with the chemical and biological building blocks of matter to construct particles so small they can pass freely through the walls of individual cells.

Nanotechnology involves the manufacture or manipulation of particles or structures that are 1 to 100 nanometers -- billionths of a meter -- in at least one dimension. A human hair is about 100,000 nanometers wide.

Such tiny particles can be made by breaking down larger blocks with ultra-fine grinders, controlled electrical explosions or lasers that blast apart raw materials. Chemical reactions can grow nanosized crystals, and metals can be vaporized to form nanomaterials when cooled.

Nanoparticles take on new chemical, electrical and physical properties that lead to "lighter, stronger, smarter, cheaper, cleaner and more precise" products, nanotechnology pioneer Ralph C Merkle wrote in a seminal 1997 article.

Some scientists believe that within a few decades nanotechnology will produce limitless, pollution-free energy and supercomputers the size of a grain of salt. It will transform deserts into lush gardens with cheaply desalinated sea water, they say, and neutralise noxious wastes by disassembling dangerous molecules into safe, reusable components. "Nanotechnology has the potential to create revolutionary change across multiple, key areas of human endeavor," according to trade group NanoBusiness Alliance. "To maintain its global economic lead and to keep the U.S. homeland secure, we must win the nanotech race." Today's uses are more mundane.

The minute specks already are in hundreds of products, such as spill- proof garments, cosmetics that claim to cure cellulite and health foods. Irving, Texas-based RBC Life Sciences Inc. sells a weight-loss chocolate drink that features "NanoClusters" that are 100,000 times smaller than a grain of sand, which it said "carry nutrition into your cells." Although smaller, the nanoparticles consist of the same substance as sand -- silica.

Carbon nanotubes, far lighter than steel yet 50 times as strong, toughen tennis rackets and may one day be used to build aircraft. Lux Research Inc. in New York projects a $2.6 trillion global market for nanotechnology-enabled products by 2014. In 2005, more than $9.6bn was spent worldwide on nanotech R&D, about half of that by government and half by the industry.

Yet alterations in the chemistry of everyday life can have unpredictable consequences, experts said. New, engineered nanomaterials have variable sizes, shapes and coatings that affect their properties in so far poorly understood ways, said Nigel Walker, who heads the nanotech safety programme of the National Institutes of Health.

Last year, the federal government spent more than $1bn to jump-start nanotech R&D. A US Senate hearing May 4 focused on how to encourage more investment in nanotechnology. But only 4 per cent of the money spent on nanotechnology investigates toxicology or environmental safety.

Critics would prefer more safety research. The government does not regulate nanotechnology, meaning it can be included in food or cosmetics without federal oversight. That strikes some scientists as overly lax.

"We are at the beginning of this industrial revolution," said Dr. Andre Nel, an immunologist at the University of California, Los Angeles' David Geffen School of Medicine. "The large majority of nanomaterials will not be toxic, but to get public confidence, it's important to practice the precautionary principle."

Atomic energy was at first regarded as a safe source of power "too cheap to meter." Chlorofluorocarbons were superior coolants until they opened a hole in the Earth's ozone layer. Pesticides, leaded gas and asbestos were long considered safe until they were revealed as killers.

Only once did an entire field pause to reflect on its potential for harm. In 1973, biologists decreed a yearlong moratorium on gene- splicing to design safer labs and rules for creating transgenic microorganisms.

Unlike those biologists, "a lot of today's physical scientists and engineers playing with nanotechnology have no concept of what the human and ecological dangers may be," said David Rejeski, director of the Woodrow Wilson center's nanotech project.

Research has shown that the smallest nanoparticles can pass through cell walls and damage DNA. In animals they have moved from the nostrils along the olfactory nerve and across the blood-brain barrier -- the last line of defense against brain damage.

Inhaled nanoparticles can cause lung tumors in rats. Some of the particles are virtually indestructible, much like asbestos fibers that cause lung disease, said Dr. John M Balbus, who directs nanotech research for New York-based nonprofit watchdog Environmental Defence. Over the next few years, nanostructures with moving parts will interact with the body and environment in complex ways. In a decade or less, scientists predict, microbots will build themselves atom by atom for benign purposes, such as pest control.

Worst-case scenarios often depict such creations going haywire, proliferating wildly and spreading like dust on the wind -- reducing the environment to "gray goo." Many experts dismiss such notions as farfetched, but few rule them out.

Benefits, however, are clear and several lab tests and years of anecdotal evidence suggest that such products are safe and effective. But the larger issue may be long-term, rather than acute illnesses such as those suspected from Magic Nano.

"It's unknown whether liberated nanotubes could make it to groundwater after being crushed and disposed at a landfill," Lux Research analyst Matthew M Nordan wrote in a recent report.

Several methods to detect or size nanoparticles yield widely divergent results, according to the National Institute of Standards and Technology. Such ambiguities reflect how nanotech defies conventional monitoring that tends to be based on the amount of a substance in the body or environment.

UCLA's Nel is developing a high-speed test system to predict nanomaterial toxicity. He hopes it will help deter a repeat of the transgenic food debacle of the last decade, in which hidden miscalculations and accidents moved unlabeled, altered fish and crops into the marketplace, prompting consumer boycotts.

"Out of transparency comes trust," he said. "Out of trust comes acceptance."

Copyright 2001 The Peninsula


From: Rachel's Precaution Reporter #44 ....................[This story printer-friendly]
June 28, 2006


[Rachel's introduction: The New Zealand Conservation Commission in late 2000 adopted precaution as a guideline for managing ocean fisheries.]

By Peter Montague

The New Zealand Conservation Authority (NZCA) in December 2000 adopted a set of principles that relate to governance, preservation and protection, and sustainable use of the marine environment.

The NZCA is a statutory body established by section 6A of the [New Zealand] Conservation Act 1987 whose members are appointed by the Minister of Conservation on the nomination or recommendation of four specified bodies (4 members), after consultation with three specified Ministers of the Crown (5 members) and after the receipt of public nominations (4 members).

This process ensures that a wide range of perspectives contribute to the advice provided and decisions made by the NZCA. The functions of the NZCA are centred on policy and planning which impacts on the administration of conservation areas managed by the Department of Conservation, and on the investigation of any conservation matter it considers is of national importance. The NZCA has the power to advocate its interests at any public forum and in any statutory planning process.

The NZCA has placed a high priority on marine issues and in December 2000 adopted a series of principles that relate to governance, preservation and protection, and sustainable use of the marine environment. The NZCA Marine Principles follow here:

New Zealand Conservation Authority -- Marine Principles


1. Protection of marine biodiversity and marine ecosystems and marine landforms unique to New Zealand is a national and international responsibility.

2. The marine environment will be governed for the benefit of all New Zealanders.

3. The marine environment is viewed as a taonga -- there for everybody and upon which we rely, rather than as a resource base on which to create property rights.

4. Any allocation of rights to use marine resources will be based on robust and appropriate, environmental research.

5. Decision-making will be informed by traditional knowledge of tangata whenua along with new sources of information and research.

6. Where there is insufficient information, the precautionary principle will apply.

Preservation and Protection

7. Priority for protection will be afforded to our unique indigenous flora and fauna.

8. Responsibilities to future generations requires that non-extractive values of the marine environment -- intrinsic values, wildness values, spiritual values, ecosystem services -- are protected.

9. A spectrum of protection mechanisms will be employed to enable communities to be involved in the protection and preservation as well as the rehabilitation and use of marine ecosystems (e.g. taiapure, mahinga mataitai, reserves).

10. Representative, rare, and special marine ecosystems will be preserved in perpetuity as "no take" areas within the limit of the EEZ.

Sustainable Use

11. The marine environment will be sustainably managed in a way that maintains its potential for future generations.

12. The marine and terrestrial environments will be managed in an integrated way that recognises the complex inter-relationships of land, sea and atmosphere.

13. Rights to use the marine environment should be exercised in an ecologically sustainable manner.

14. Where finite resources are being used e.g. mining of finite resources, this is to be carried out in a manner that mitigates the adverse impacts of the activity on the marine environment.


From: Cincincinnati Enquirer .............................[This story printer-friendly]
June 25, 2006


[Rachel's introduction: Evidence continues to accumulate linking toxic metals to aggression, violence, and poor social control. Added to that are diminished IQ and the frustrations of doing poorly in school. The conclusion seems inescapable that a truly preventive approach to childhood exposures to toxic lead could avoid prison for some young men.]

By Sharon Coolidge

Researchers knew lead poisoning could be deadly to children and cause brain damage in the late 1970s.

What impact that had on the children's behavior was unclear.

That's why Kim Dietrich, a professor of environmental health at the University of Cincinnati, spent from 1979 to 1984 recruiting 305 children with lead in their blood from Cincinnati's poorest neighborhoods for a study that's allowed him to study the children as they grew.

Now, 22 years later, one thing is clear: The more lead in a person's system when they're young, the more likely they are to engage in delinquent behavior such as assaults, property crimes and disturbing the peace -- acts that carry the risk for arrest, experts say.

"We all know there is a relationship between lead and lower IQ, but there is an extension to criminal activity," said Dietrich, who is director of UC's division of epidemiology and biostatistics program and conducted the study with a team of four others. "And this has terrible implications for not only the individual, but for society as a whole."

While the National Institute of Health estimates that lead-poisoned children cost the county an estimated $17.2 billion every year just in medical costs, lost work days and reduced productivity, Dietrich's research means it also potentially costs millions more in criminal justice costs and medical care for crime victims.

Dietrich's findings, based on a look at his study group when its members reached age 16 and 17, were published in 2001.

Dietrich and the study's others authors have monitored the group at ages 20 through 22, and found the trend continues. "Those exposed to higher levels of lead more likely to engage in criminal activities, some that resulted in convictions and incarceration," he said.

"I was interested in this because we know lead attacks areas of children's brains that are involved in aggression and impulse control," Dietrich said. "It was logical to examine this relationship between lead exposure and incidents of delinquent behaviors."

Pittsburgh researcher Herbert Needleman, using his own group of children who had lead poisoning, reached similar conclusions. He found juvenile delinquents are five times more likely than other children to have elevated lead levels.

Lead exposure in early childhood may have played an important role in the national epidemic of violent crime in the late 20th century and the dramatic decline of crime rates over the past decade, said Rick Nevin, an economist for the National Center for Healthy Housing in Washington.

Nevin, hired by the Department of Housing and Urban Development in the early 1990s to do a cost-benefit analysis of removing lead paint from public housing, said he was stunned to discover a strong relationship between the use of leaded gasoline and violent crime. "The statistics show lead has had a significant impact on crime," he said.

Dietrich knows skeptics might say, "Well, the people grew up in Over- the-Rhine and the West End, so they're more likely to commit crimes." But he said the study was adjusted for social class, quality of care they got as children, nurturing they received and their mother's use of alcohol, drugs and cigarettes.

Children in the highest lead group on average said they committed five more acts of delinquency over the last year than children with the lowest levels.

"There are a lot of causes of crime," Dietrich said. "These children are already living in environments with social forces that are conducive to crime. Then, on top of that, their central nervous systems are being attacked by lead, which reduces their ability to resist those forces.

"The city needs to act when they are children, not when they're adults committing crime," he said.

E-mail scoolidge@enquirer.com


From: Global and Mail (Toronto, Canada) ..................[This story printer-friendly]
June 20, 2006


[Rachel's introduction: The Canadian government has concluded that non-stick chemicals are dangerous and should be banned. But corporations like DuPont have the upper hand and will not allow Canada to fully carry out the precautionary approach it would prefer to take. "Ottawa plans to negotiate a deal with the industry to cut emissions."]

By Martin Mittelstaedt

Ottawa is moving on two fronts to ban or place strict limits on a family of widely used chemicals that poses a risk to human health and the environment.

Federal regulators will block the import into Canada of newly developed products such as grease and water repellents that break down into long-chain perfluorinated carboxylic acids, a group of contaminants linked to cancer and altered fetal development.

Regulators also want to reduce emissions from the approximately 60 formulations of non-stick and stain-resistant coatings that can legally be imported because they were on the market before their potential dangers were known. For those products, Ottawa plans to negotiate a deal with the industry to cut emissions.

In doing so, it will be trying for a pact like one the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency negotiated earlier this year that contained 95-per-cent reduction targets.

The actions were announced on Saturday through a notice by Environment Minister Rona Ambrose and Health Minister Tony Clement in the Canada Gazette. It is believed to be the first time any country in the world has taken the dramatic step of trying to prevent further increases in exposures to these perfluorinated carboxylic acids -- or PFCAs -- through a prohibition on new products.

PFCAs are a virtually indestructible pollutant originating from such popular consumer items as non-stick pans and stain-resistant fast-food packaging, clothing and upholstery found in virtually every home in the country. The substances were recently profiled in a series in The Globe and Mail, called Toxic Shock, on dangerous chemicals in everyday use.

The government said it acted to try to reduce exposures to the chemicals to protect human health and the environment. "You can really see these actions as preventing future problems... being ahead of the curve in that sense," said John Arseneau, director-general in charge of risk assessments at Environment Canada.

He said that Health Canada doesn't believe concentrations of the contaminant in the population have reached high enough levels yet to cause adverse human health impacts so he said he wasn't advising consumers "to dump all their kitchenware and things like that."

The government also says it will maintain a prohibition first announced two years ago on four new chemicals, known as fluorotelomers, which companies applied to import into Canada, but were temporarily blocked because of concerns they would break down into PFCAs. Fluorotelomers are the basic chemicals used to make many stain- and water-repellent goods.

That decision was criticized by DuPont, the company that makes some of these chemicals.

"DuPont believes that the decision by Environment Canada to extend its prohibition of four new fluorotelomer substances (of which DuPont manufactures two) is not warranted based on the available science," the company said yesterday in a statement.

DuPont said its fluorotelomer-based products have been used safely for more than 35 years, but that it "will continue working voluntarily with Environment Canada, Health Canada and other interested groups to further the understanding of PFCAs, and to develop and implement effective science-based approaches to deal with PFCAs."

The EPA deal called for eight major chemical companies that make non- stick and stain-resistant coatings, including DuPont, to cut releases of certain PFCAs from manufacturing facilities and products by 95 per cent by 2010, and eliminate releases by 2015.

Mr. Arseneau said Canada wants tough restrictions, consistent with those of the EPA to prevent companies from selling products here that don't meet U.S. standards.

The government's measures deal with so-called long-chain PFCAs, or those that have nine or more carbon atoms arranged in a molecule.

But the most in-depth studies of health effects for this class of chemical have been for the compound with eight carbon atoms, known as perfluorooctanoic acid, or PFOA, which is subject to a separate review now under way by Health Canada and Environment Canada.

The two departments are also studying another related chemical known as perfluorooctanyl sulfonate, or PFOS, that was once used to make the Scotchgard line of stain-resistant coatings.

The lack of firm timelines for dealing with these two other chemicals is a big oversight, according to some environmentalists.

"Given that our testing indicates PFOS and PFOA could be present in 100 per cent of Canadians, often at higher levels in children, there is a clear need for the federal government to move aggressively to ban all of these toxic stain repellents, not just the four that are subject to this decision," said Rick Smith, executive director of Environmental Defence, a Toronto-based group.


Rachel's Precaution Reporter offers news, views and practical examples of the Precautionary Principle, or Foresight Principle, in action. The Precautionary Principle is a modern way of making decisions, to minimize harm. Rachel's Precaution Reporter tries to answer such questions as, Why do we need the precautionary principle? Who is using precaution? Who is opposing precaution?

We often include attacks on the precautionary principle because we believe it is essential for advocates of precaution to know what their adversaries are saying, just as abolitionists in 1830 needed to know the arguments used by slaveholders.

Rachel's Precaution Reporter is published as often as necessary to provide readers with up-to-date coverage of the subject.

As you come across stories that illustrate the precautionary principle -- or the need for the precautionary principle -- please Email them to us at rpr@rachel.org.

Peter Montague - peter@rachel.org
Tim Montague - tim@rachel.org


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