Public health

  • Microbial detection array detects plague in ancient human remains

    Scientists who study past pandemics, such as the fourteenth century Black Death, which killed an estimated 30 to 50 percent of the European population from 1347 to 1351, might soon be turning to an innovative biological detection technology for some extra help.

  • International food trade can alleviate water scarcity

    International trade of food crops led to freshwater savings worth $2.4 billion in 2005 and had a major impact on local water stress, a new study finds. Trading food involves the trade of virtually embedded water used for production, and the amount of that water depends heavily on the climatic conditions in the production region: It takes, for instance, 2,700 liters of water to produce one kilo of cereals in Morocco, while the same kilo produced in Germany uses up only 520 liters. The researchers found that it is not the amount of water used that counts most, but the origin of the water.

  • University of Florida Clinical Toxicology Online Graduate Course. Chemical Weapons of Mass Destruction. Arm yourself with knowledge.
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  • Killing superbugs dead with “molecular drill bits”

    Tuberculosis (TB) is a well-known, treatable disease, but resistant strains are cropping up. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that about 170,000 people died from multidrug-resistant TB in 2012. In response to drug-resistant “superbugs” that send millions of people to hospitals around the world, scientists are building tiny “molecular drill bits” which kill bacteria by bursting through their protective cell walls.

  • Climate change will reduce crop yields sooner than earlier thought

    A new study shows that global warming of only 2°C will be detrimental to crops in temperate and tropical regions, with reduced yields from the 2030s onward. In the study, the researchers created a new data set by combining and comparing results from 1,700 published assessments of the response that climate change will have on the yields of rice, maize, and wheat.

  • Synthetic biology makes bioweapons easier to make

    Scientists and policy makers are no longer unconditionally promoting scientific innovation for fear that current and future biological breakthroughs may lead to dangerous applications. Traditionally, government-backed institutions and pharmaceutical firms fueled biological innovation, but today, the barriers that limited innovation to those institutions are diminishing. The low cost and significantly reduced level of necessary expertise have provided anyone interested in developing biological technology the tools to do so. Synthetic biology, the design and engineering of biological devices and systems, has given terrorists the capability to launch attacks using synthetic organisms without detection.

     

  • Methane from Deepwater Horizon oil spill has entered food web

    When millions of gallons of oil spilled into the Gulf of Mexico four years ago, so did large volumes of methane, or natural gas. Now, researchers have confirmed that methane-derived carbon has entered the Gulf’s food web through tiny organic particles floating in the Gulf. The presence of methane is not cause for alarm though, the researchers said. Overall, it has a benign impact on the food that makes it from the sea to people’s dinner tables.

  • Innovative solar-powered toilet to be unveiled in India next week

    Unsafe methods to capture and treat human waste result in serious health problems and death — food and water tainted with pathogens from fecal matter results in the deaths of roughly 700,000 children each year. A revolutionary toilet fueled by the sun is being developed by University of Colorado Boulder researchers to help some of the 2.5 billion people around the world lacking safe and sustainable sanitation. It will be unveiled in India this month.

  • Radiation from Fukushima to reach West Coast in April

    On the third anniversary of the Fukushima nuclear plant incident, scientists are reporting that low levels of radiation from the Fukushima plant will reach ocean waters along the U.S. West Coast by April 2014. The scientists say that the radiation will be at levels too low to harm humans, but they call for more monitoring, including at the federal level.

  • Innovative nuclear radiation detector reaches the market

    A handheld radiation camera developed by University of Michigan engineering researchers offers nuclear plant operators a faster way to find potentially dangerous hot spots and leaky fuel rods. The new Polaris-H detector lays a gamma-ray map over an image of a room, pinpointing radiation sources with unprecedented precision. At least four U.S. nuclear power plants are using versions of the camera, which is now available commercially through the U-M spinoff company H3D.

  • Underground recovery process at WIPP begins

    Nuclear Waste Partnership (NWP), the management and operations contractor at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) for the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), said it has initiated the first phase of an underground recovery process which will lead to the resumption of nuclear waste disposal operations at WIPP. Initial results show no airborne radioactive contamination in the underground shafts.

  • Scotland demands U.K. govt. apology over radiation leak at MoD nuke facility

    In 2012 the U.K. Ministry of Defense decided to refuel the nuclear reactor on board Britain’s oldest nuclear submarine, HMS Vanguard, after a test reactor operating at the Naval Reactor Test Establishment at Dounreay, Caithness, in Scotland was found to have a small internal leak of radiation. The test reactor had been shut down after the fault was detected, and both the independent Defense Nuclear Safety Regulator and the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) had been informed. It now appears that SEPA did not share the information with the Scottish cabinet, or with Alex Salmond, the First Minister of Scotland. Salmond, in a scathing letter to British Prime Minister David Cameron, has demanded an apology from Camron for “disrespecting” the Scottish Parliament and the people of Scotland and for treating both in an “underhanded” manner by not sharing the information about the radiation leaks.

  • Determining long-term effects of West Virginia chemical spill

    A chemical mixture called crude 4-methylcyclohexane methanol (MCHM) is used during the separation and cleaning of coal products. More than 10,000 gallons of the chemical leaked from a storage tank near Charleston, West Virginia, and entered the river upstream of a water-treatment plant on 9 January. The drinking water of more than 300,000 West Virginians was contaminated. Water restrictions began to be lifted on 13 January, but residents are still detecting the telltale odors of MCHM. Virginia Tech faculty engineers and students are unravelling fundamental chemical and health properties of MCHM.

  • New technique allows better monitoring of water quality

    Researchers have developed a new technique that uses existing technology to allow researchers and natural resource managers to collect significantly more information on water quality to better inform policy decisions. In addition to its utility for natural resource managers, the technique will also allow researchers to develop more sophisticated models that address water quality questions.

  • Radiation problems on San Francisco’s Treasure Island persist

    The Army Corps of Engineers created San Francisco’s Treasure Island for the 1939 Golden Gate International Exposition, with plans to turn the island into a civilian airport after the exposition. When the United States entered the Second World War in 1941, the Navy used the island for the Treasure Island Naval Station, where nuclear war training exercises were conducted. The Naval Station was decommissioned in 1993, and parts of the island were transferred to SF for civilian use. Radiation levels on the island are still high, however, and critics charge that the Navy did not do enough to clean the island while downplaying the risks of radiation that still remain.

  • Employees exposed to radiation at nuclear waste disposal site

    Thirteen employees at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant(WIPP),a nuclear waste burial site in New Mexico, have been exposed to  radioactive radiation after a leak in one of WIPP’s underground tunnels. Energy Department officials say it is too soon to determine the scope of health risks the employees will deal with. The employees inhaled plutonium and americium, both of which can irradiate the body’s internal organs with subatomic particles for a lifetime.