Rachel's Precaution Reporter #44

"Foresight and Precaution, in the News and in the World"

Wednesday, June 28, 2006.............Printer-friendly version
www.rachel.org -- To make a secure donation, click here.

Table of Contents...

New Nano-headache?
  "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.
Science's Tiny, Big Unknown
  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
Precaution Guides Ocean Fisheries Policy in New Zealand
  The New Zealand Conservation Commission in late 2000 adopted
  precaution as a guideline for managing ocean fisheries.
Researchers Confirm Toxic Lead Is Linked to Crime
  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
Canada Tries to Limit Exposures to Non-stick Chemicals
  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."


From: Science Magazine, Jun. 15, 2006
[Printer-friendly version]


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

Return to Table of Contents


From: The Peninsula (Doha, Qatar), Jun. 10, 2006
[Printer-friendly version]


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

"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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Copyright 2001 The Peninsula

Return to Table of Contents


From: Rachel's Precaution Reporter #44, Jun. 28, 2006
[Printer-friendly version]


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

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

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

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.

Return to Table of Contents


From: Cincincinnati Enquirer, Jun. 25, 2006
[Printer-friendly version]


The higher the levels, the more likelihood for delinquent behavior

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

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

Return to Table of Contents


From: Global and Mail (Toronto, Canada), Jun. 20, 2006
[Printer-friendly version]


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

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.

Return to Table of Contents


  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

  To start your own free Email subscription to Rachel's Precaution
  Reporter send a blank Email to one of these addresses:

  Full HTML edition: join-rpr-html@gselist.org
  Table of Contents edition: join-rpr-toc@gselist.org

  In response, you will receive an Email asking you to confirm that
  you want to subscribe.

Environmental Research Foundation
P.O. Box 160, New Brunswick, N.J. 08903