WBEZ | chemicals http://www.wbez.org/tags/chemicals Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en An Industrial Chemical Finds its Way into Great Lakes Trout http://www.wbez.org/news/industrial-chemical-finds-its-way-great-lakes-trout-114670 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/great_lakes_trout.png" alt="" /><p><p>An industrial chemical is showing up in trout from all five of the Great Lakes. It&rsquo;s called perfluoro-1-butane sulfonamide, or FBSA.</p><p>Researchers traced this chemical back to several products on the market. Those include detergents and surfactants first used in 2003. Surfactants are materials made to stainproof and waterproof products.</p><p><a href="http://michiganradio.org/post/industrial-chemical-finds-its-way-great-lakes-trout#stream/0"><em><strong>LISTEN TO THE STORY</strong></em></a></p><p>This research was&nbsp;<a href="http://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/acs.est.5b05058">published in the Environmental Science and Technology</a>&nbsp;journal.</p><p>Robert Letcher is one of the study&#39;s authors. He&rsquo;s a senior research scientist for&nbsp;<a href="http://www.ec.gc.ca/cc/">Environment and Climate Change Canada</a>, a department of the Canadian government.</p><p>Letcher says his team tested trout samples from seven different sites throughout the Great Lakes. They also tested fish from four other lakes in Canada.</p><p>Almost all of the fish his team tested had detectable levels of the&nbsp;FBSA chemical in their bodies. Thirty-two of the 33 samples tested came back showing the chemical. To be clear, we&rsquo;re talking low levels here &mdash; parts per billion low.</p><p>Letcher says it was a surprise to find the chemical in fish.</p><p>&ldquo;We were the first ever to find this compound in the environment &mdash; like to demonstrate its presence,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s never been reported before.&rdquo;</p><div><img data-interchange-default="http://michiganradio.org/sites/michigan/files/styles/default/public/201602/figure_1.png" data-interchange-large="http://michiganradio.org/sites/michigan/files/styles/large/public/201602/figure_1.png" data-interchange-medium="http://michiganradio.org/sites/michigan/files/styles/medium/public/201602/figure_1.png" data-interchange-small="http://michiganradio.org/sites/michigan/files/styles/small/public/201602/figure_1.png" src="http://michiganradio.org/sites/michigan/files/styles/large/public/201602/figure_1.png" style="height: 247px; width: 310px; float: right; margin-left: 10px; margin-right: 10px;" title="The fish sampling sites. (From &quot;A New Flourinated Surfactant Contaminant in Biota&quot;)" /><div><div>The researchers don&rsquo;t know exactly what&rsquo;s happening here. It could be that other chemicals are breaking down into FBSA in the environment. But the chemical might also be coming straight from industrial products.</div></div></div><p>Letcher says some companies started using FBSA to replace a different chemical, called FOSA, or perfluorooctane sulfonamide. Studies showed that chemical was breaking down, and part of it was building up in the food web.</p><p>In 2006, the Environmental Protection Agency put together an industry-wide agreement to phase that chemical out. So industries replaced it with chemicals like FBSA. And that&rsquo;s the chemical Letcher and his team are now finding in fish.</p><p>He says scientists often have to play catch up to figure out if there are problems with new chemicals brought onto the market.</p><p>&ldquo;When a body of evidence &mdash; scientific evidence &mdash; builds up great enough to basically render a negative decision against a compound, and it gets regulated or what have you, companies phase these compounds out and they look for alternatives which to use that are safer, but also to serve their purpose,&rdquo; Letcher says.</p><p><strong>Unknown Effects</strong></p><p>He says research into FBSA is so new, they just don&rsquo;t know much about what this might mean for fish or for people who eat the fish.</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s completely impossible to tell, because nobody&rsquo;s done anything regarding toxicology,&rdquo; Letcher says. &ldquo;That&rsquo;s usually the way things go. Somebody like us, we find a new chemical, and in this case in fish. And obviously a lot of aquatic fish toxicologists out there are going, &lsquo;Well, we should really try to understand what this chemical could be doing to the fish.&rsquo;&rdquo;</p><p>Letcher says one of the next steps is to look at other species in the food web. That way his team can figure out if this chemical is building up in other creatures.</p><p>The American Chemistry Council said the FBSA chemical is not made by any of its<a href="https://www.americanchemistry.com/Membership/MemberCompanies">member companies</a>, and was therefore unwilling to comment.</p><p>&mdash;<a href="http://michiganradio.org/post/industrial-chemical-finds-its-way-great-lakes-trout#stream/0"><em> via Michigan Radio</em></a></p></p> Tue, 02 Feb 2016 09:14:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/industrial-chemical-finds-its-way-great-lakes-trout-114670 4 New Elements Are Added to the Periodic Table http://www.wbez.org/news/4-new-elements-are-added-periodic-table-114358 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/element117_yellow_big_wide-fe7bcf0fa2bce8decc94509bad49e51b40e2caf1-s800-c85.jpg" alt="" /><p><div id="res461910472" previewtitle="An artist's illustration shows element 117, which has now been officially added to the periodic table of the elements."><div data-crop-type="" style="text-align: center;"><img alt="An artist's illustration shows element 117, which has now been officially added to the periodic table of the elements." src="http://media.npr.org/assets/img/2016/01/04/element117_yellow_big_wide-fe7bcf0fa2bce8decc94509bad49e51b40e2caf1-s800-c85.jpg" style="height: 348px; width: 620px;" title="An artist's illustration shows element 117, which has now been officially added to the periodic table of the elements. (Kwei-Yu Chu/LLNL)" /></div><div><div><p>For now, they&#39;re known by working names, like ununseptium and ununtrium &mdash; two of the four new chemical elements whose discovery has been officially verified. The elements with atomic numbers 113, 115, 117 and 118 will get permanent names soon, according to the&nbsp;International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry.</p></div></div></div><p>With the discoveries now confirmed, &quot;The 7th period of the periodic table of elements is complete,&quot; according to the IUPAC. The additions come nearly five years after elements 114 (flerovium, or Fl) and element 116 (livermorium or Lv)&nbsp;<a href="http://www.npr.org/2011/06/10/137065238/how-to-put-a-new-element-on-the-periodic-table">were added to the table</a>.</p><p>The elements were discovered in recent years by researchers in Japan, Russia and the United States. Element 113 was discovered by a group at the Riken Institute, which calls it &quot;the first element on the periodic table found in Asia.&quot;</p><p>Three other elements were discovered by a collaborative effort among the Joint Institute for Nuclear Research in Dubna, Russia, the&nbsp;<a href="https://www.llnl.gov/news/lawrence-livermore-credited-discovery-elements-115-117-and-118">Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory</a>&nbsp;in California, and the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee. That collaboration has now discovered six new elements.</p><p>Classified as &quot;superheavy&quot; &mdash; the designation given to elements with more than 104 protons &mdash; the new elements were created by using particle accelerators to shoot beams of nuclei at other, heavier, target nuclei.</p><p>The new elements&#39; existence was confirmed by further experiments that reproduced them &mdash; however briefly. Element 113, for instance, exists for less than a thousandth of a second.</p><div id="res461914842" previewtitle="The seventh period of the periodic chart is now complete, thanks to the addition of four new elements."><div data-crop-type="" style="text-align: center;"><img alt="The seventh period of the periodic chart is now complete, thanks to the addition of four new elements." src="http://media.npr.org/assets/img/2016/01/04/home160104_custom-8aa807c1aa2bb149b075caccb021af178c502a94-s300-c85.png" style="height: 176px; width: 400px;" title="The seventh period of the periodic chart is now complete, thanks to the addition of four new elements. (IUPAC)" /></div><div><div><p>&quot;A particular difficulty in establishing these new elements is that they decay into hitherto unknown isotopes of slightly lighter elements that also need to be unequivocally identified,&quot; said Paul Karol, chair of the IUPAC&#39;s Joint Working Party, announcing the new elements. The working group includes members of the International Union of Pure and Applied Physics.</p></div></div></div><p>The elements&#39; temporary names stem from their spot on the periodic table &mdash; for instance, ununseptium has 117 protons. Each of the discovering teams have now been asked to submit names for the new elements.</p><p>With the additions, the bottom of the periodic table now looks a bit like a completed crossword puzzle &mdash; and that led us to get in touch with Karol to ask about the next row, the eighth period.</p><p>&quot;There are a couple of laboratories that have already taken shots at making elements 119 and 120 but with no evidence yet of success,&quot; he said in an email. &quot;The eighth period should be very interesting because relativistic effects on electrons become significant and difficult to pinpoint. It is in the electron behavior, perhaps better called electron psychology, that the chemical behavior is embodied.&quot;</p><p>Karol says that researchers will continue seeking &quot;the alleged but highly probable &#39;island of stability&#39; at or near element 120 or perhaps 126,&quot; where elements might be found to exist list enough to study their chemistry.</p><p>International guidelines for choosing a name say that new elements &quot;can be named after a mythological concept, a mineral, a place or country, a property or a scientist,&quot; according to the IUPAC.</p><p>In 2013, Swedish scientists confirmed the existence of&nbsp;<a href="http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2013/08/27/216222043/scientists-say-theyve-confirmed-a-new-element">the Russian-discovered ununpentium (atomic number 115)</a>. As the Two-Way described it, the element was produced by &quot;shooting a beam of calcium, which has 20 protons, into a thin film of americium, which has 95 protons. For less than a second, the new element had 115 protons.&quot;</p><p>While you&#39;re not likely to run into the new elements anytime soon, they&#39;re not the only ones with have short existences. Take, for instance, francium (atomic number 87) and astatine (atomic number 85).</p><p>As&nbsp;Sam Kean, author of a book about the periodic table called&nbsp;<em>The Disappearing Spoon</em>, wrote of those elements:</p><blockquote><div><p><em>&quot;If you had a million atoms of the longest-lived type of astatine, half of them would disintegrate in 400 minutes. A similar sample of francium would hang on for 20 minutes. Francium is so fragile, it&#39;s basically useless.&quot;</em></p></div></blockquote><p>As for why scientists keep pursuing new and heavier elements, the answer, at least in part, is that they&#39;re hoping to eventually find an element &mdash; or a series of elements &mdash; that are both stable and useful in practical applications. And along the way, they&#39;re learning more and more about how atoms are held together.</p><p>&mdash;<a href="http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2016/01/04/461904077/4-new-elements-are-added-to-the-periodic-table?ft=nprml&amp;f=461904077" target="_blank"><em> via NPR</em></a></p></p> Mon, 04 Jan 2016 11:01:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/4-new-elements-are-added-periodic-table-114358 EcoMyths: The big reasons not to flush old medicines down the toliet http://www.wbez.org/series/ecomyths/ecomyths-big-reasons-not-flush-old-medicines-down-toliet-105716 <p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=http%3A%2F%2Fapi.soundcloud.com%2Ftracks%2F80812811&amp;color=ff6600&amp;auto_play=false&amp;show_artwork=false" width="100%"></iframe></p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/AP120218166375_3.jpg" style="float: left; width: 243px; height: 346px;" title="Area residents dispose of unneeded medications at the drug take back event on Feb. 18, 2012, at Walgreens and other participating locations in Palm Springs, CA. The event was sponsored by the C.A.R.E.S. Alliance, with support from the Palm Springs Police Department. (Rodrigo Pena/AP Images for The C.A.R.E.S. Alliance and Palm Springs Police Department)" />Over the years, you may have heard that the recommended way to dispose of unused pharmaceuticals is to flush them down the toilet or pour them down the drain - not anymore.&nbsp; The EPA and FDA backed off this recommendation for almost all drugs (exceptions are listed on the <a href="http://www.fda.gov/Drugs/ResourcesForYou/Consumers/BuyingUsingMedicineSafely/EnsuringSafeUseofMedicine/SafeDisposalofMedicines/ucm186187.htm#Flushing_list">FDA website</a>).&nbsp; Medicines are among the thousands of &ldquo;chemicals of emerging concern&rdquo; the EPA and much of the scientific community now monitor and study.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">Today for our <a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/ecomyths"><em>EcoMyths</em></a> segment, Jerome McDonnell and I discuss the pros and cons of flushing medicines with two experts: &nbsp;<a href="http://www.greatlakes.org/Document.Doc?id=1154">Olga Lyandres, PhD</a> of the <a href="http://www.greatlakes.org/Document.Doc?id=1154">Alliance for the Great Lakes</a>, author of the paper &ldquo;<a href="http://www.greatlakes.org/document.doc?id=1263">Keeping Great Lakes Water Safe: Priorities for Protecting against Emerging Chemical Pollutants</a>&rdquo;; and <a href="http://apps.mwrd.org/commissioners/shore.pdf">Commissioner Debra Shore</a> of the <a href="http://www.mwrd.org">Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago</a> (MWRD).&nbsp; Both had a lot to say about the dangers of and the solutions for the contamination of our drinking water by dissolved pharmaceuticals and other household products.<strong> See how we &quot;flush&quot; <a href="http://ecomythsalliance.org/2013/02/flushing-meds/">this myth</a> at the EcoMyths Alliance website!</strong></div><p><u>Why Dispose of Unused Drugs?</u></p><p>The &ldquo;chemical soup&rdquo; that Lyandres mentions is of concern because of the strange mix of chemicals that we dispose of in our waste stream.&nbsp; These chemicals show up in trace amounts in our drinking water, creating a potentially harmful cocktail of chemicals.</p><p>Source: <a href="http://www.jonbarron.org/article/aqua-horribilis">http://www.jonbarron.org/article/aqua-horribilis</a></p><p>Common chemicals in the waste stream include Prozac, Viagra, and caffeine. &nbsp;As she explained, no one understands the chemistry that occurs when these and other compounds are mixed together. Nor is much is known about the potential impacts on human health. But studies show adverse ecological impacts of <a href="http://epa.gov/endo/pubs/edspoverview/whatare.htm">endocrine disruptors</a> in our waterways, including &ldquo;intersex fish&rdquo; &ndash; that is, the male fish in the Potomac River Watershed <a href="http://www.fws.gov/contaminants/DisplayNews.cfm?NewsID=E2FDE07T-74%20D0-11D4-288DC74E7914EA01">bearing eggs</a>!</p><p><strong><u>Two really important reasons to properly dispose of unused medicines</u></strong></p><ul><li>To prevent accidental, and possibly fatal, use of the drug by people for whom the medicine was not prescribed.&nbsp;</li><li>To prevent environmental contamination in of our waterways and soils.</li></ul><p><u>What Can a Person Do To Help?</u></p><p>First, it is important to note that using expired medications is potentially harmful to your health.&nbsp; Once a medicine expires, not only can it lose its potency, but also its chemical composition may have changed.&nbsp;</p><p>Over the past two years, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency has increased focus on this issue by instituting nationwide pharmaceutical &ldquo;Take Back Days&rdquo;.&nbsp; By making it easier for people to dispose of their medicines safely, the DEA has collected millions of pounds of drugs as a result of this program. The next <a href="http://www.deadiversion.usdoj.gov/drug_disposal/takeback/index.html">National Drug Take Back Day</a> is April 27, 2013 and will be administered by state law enforcement.&nbsp;</p><p>Commissioner Shore points out that sewage treatment plants do not have the capabilities to clean out the thousands of chemicals that get into the waste stream from home plumbing, storm water, and other sources.&nbsp; So we have to do our part to keep chemicals out of the water system in the first place.</p><p>Both Shore and Lyandres advise people to keep an eye on the expiration dates of their prescribed and over-the-counter medications.&nbsp; When the drugs are expired or unused, there are several safe ways to dispose of medicines to keep them out of getting into your drinking water.&nbsp; Below are our experts&rsquo; recommendations on safe disposal.</p><p><u>Disposing of Medicines Safely</u></p><ul><li><u>Local Municipal and Other Agency Collection Sites</u>: Commissioner Shore recommends finding a drug collection location near your home.&nbsp; The Illinois <a href="http://www.epa.state.il.us/medication-disposal/locations/index.html">EPA lists medication disposal locations in by county</a> on its website. The MWRD also participates in the DEA Take Back days at several of its water treatment plants in Cook County.</li></ul><ul><li><u>Special Envelopes Sold at Local Stores</u>:&nbsp; Major pharmacies, such as <a href="http://info.cvscaremark.com/newsroom/press-releases/cvs-caremark-helps-launch-partnership-drugfreeorgs-national-campaign-curb-te">CVS</a> and <a href="http://www.walgreens.com/topic/sr/sr_community_safe_medication_disposal.jsp">Walgreens</a>, sell specially designed envelopes for mailing used medicines to safe disposal facilities.</li></ul><ul><li><u>Trash it as a Last Resort</u>:&nbsp; If there are no local medicine disposal alternatives, the FDA recommends throwing away old medicine in a plastic bag after mixing it with kitty litter or coffee grounds.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; This is not the best option, since the bag goes into a landfill. There is a chance that eventually the package could leak and the drugs leech into groundwater. However, disposing expired medications in the trash is still better than flushing them down the toilet.</li></ul></p> Mon, 25 Feb 2013 09:00:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/series/ecomyths/ecomyths-big-reasons-not-flush-old-medicines-down-toliet-105716 Hair straightener contains dangerous chemicals, FDA says http://www.wbez.org/story/2011-09-08/hair-straightener-contains-dangerous-chemicals-fda-says-91709 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//npr_story/photo/2011-September/2011-09-08/blowout.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Nearly a year ago, we warned you that a popular hair product which turns frizzy locks smooth and luxurious may be <a href="http://www.npr.org/blogs/health/2010/10/19/130667357/blowing-the-whistle-on-brazilian-blowout-hair-straightener">endangering</a> the health of the salon workers who use it. Well, now the Food and Drug Administration has made it official.</p><p>The FDA issued a <a href="http://www.fda.gov/ICECI/EnforcementActions/WarningLetters/ucm270809.htm">warning</a> letter to the makers of <a href="http://www.brazilianblowout.com/?reload">Brazilian Blowout</a> saying their product contains dangerously high levels of formaldehyde. Known to many as the stuff used to pickle frogs for biology class, <a href="http://www.epa.gov/iaq/formalde.html">formaldehyde</a> is a chemical the <a href="http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/factsheet/Risk/formaldehyde">National Cancer Institute</a> calls a cancer-causing substance.</p><p>But the company says the product is safe and is working with the FDA to clear up the "misunderstanding."</p><p>Brazilian Blowout markets itself as formaldehyde free, but an FDA analysis of the product found unacceptably high levels of methylene glycol, the liquid form of formaldehyde. Levels ranged from 8.7 percent to 10.4 percent, far higher than the 0.2 percent considered safe by the <a href="http://www.cir-safety.org/findings.shtml">Cosmetic Ingredient Review Panel.</a></p><p>The FDA told the California company that makes Brazilian Blowout to stop misleading customers and misbranding its product. In the warning letter, Michael W. Roosevelt, acting director of the <a href="http://www.fda.gov/AboutFDA/CentersOffices/CFSAN/default.htm">Office of Compliance at the FDA's Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition</a> wrote: "It is your responsibility as a manufacturer, to ensure that the products your firm markets are safe."</p><p>Mike Brady, the chief executive for Brazilian Blowout, points to numerous tests done by <a href="http://www.osha.gov/">OSHA</a> (the Occupational Safety and Health Administration). "We have been tested countless times by OSHA," Brady says, "And we have never exceeded a safety standard ever."</p><p>Brady says he will work with the FDA, but in the mean time, he says salons can "continue to confidently offer the Brazilian Blowout Treatment to your customers with the knowledge that Brazilian Blowout falls well below the stringent standards set forth by OSHA," he says in a <a href="http://www.brazilianblowout.com/fda">statement</a> on the company website.</p><p>The investigation of Brazilian Blowout was prompted by complaints from an Oregon hair stylist who said she suffered chest and throat pain and nosebleeds after using the product.</p><p>According to the FDA, other complaints have included eye irritation, blurred vision, nausea, rashes and vomiting.</p><div class="fullattribution">Copyright 2011 National Public Radio.</div></p> Thu, 08 Sep 2011 15:45:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/2011-09-08/hair-straightener-contains-dangerous-chemicals-fda-says-91709 Settlement could lead to big park for Mexican neighborhood http://www.wbez.org/story/settlement-could-lead-big-park-mexican-neighborhood-90552 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//story/photo/2011-August/2011-08-12/00_580x350_parks6.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>The city of Chicago could be near the end of a five-year legal battle for control of a former industrial site with potential to help form a 24-acre park. If an eminent-domain settlement holds up, the land could be an asset for a Mexican-American area of the Southwest Side.<br> <br> Cook County Circuit Court Judge Sanjay T. Tailor this week signed off on the deal, under which the city will pay more than $7.5 million for about 19 acres owned by 2600 Sacramento Corp.<br> <br> “I don’t get a penny,” company owner Joanne Urso said Friday afternoon. The money will go to the Cook County Treasurer’s Office and remain there as Urso tries to settle with a bank that has filed suit to foreclose on the property, according to her attorney.<br> <br> Urso’s land could combine with an adjacent five acres the city already controls. The park would total about five blocks, all just west of South Sacramento Avenue and north of West 31st Street. The perimeter would pass residential buildings, industrial properties and the Cook County Jail.<br> <br> Activists in the Little Village neighborhood hailed the settlement. “We have not seen any park development in over 75 years,” said Kim Wasserman, executive director of the Little Village Environmental Justice Organization.<br> <br> Wasserman said the deal could inspire other neighborhoods to push for public amenities and services. “Regardless of language and regardless of immigration status, as long as there is determination in these communities, we can continue to get the things that we need,” she said.<br> <br> The park concept has the backing of the local alderman. “That’s what we’re pushing for,” said Juan Manzano, an aide to Ald. George Cárdenas, 12th Ward.<br> <br> The property served industrial manufacturers for more than 70 years, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Their output included asphalt, coal tar and driveway sealer. Celotex Corp. made roofing products on the site from 1967 to 1982, the EPA says.<br> <br> Allied Chemical and Dye Corp. purchased that operation. A series of mergers and acquisitions turned Allied into New Jersey-based Honeywell International Inc. The corporation dismantled the Celotex facilities between 1991 and 1993, according to the EPA. Urso’s company bought the property later.<br> <br> After cancer-linked chemicals turned up in nearby homes and yards, the EPA designated the area a Superfund site. A Honeywell cleanup consisted largely of covering the land with gravel. The cleanup finished last year, the agency says in a statement.<br> <br> Chicago filed the eminent-domain suit in 2006. The case became more complicated in August 2010, when Texas-based United Central Bank filed the foreclosure suit, a nearly $10 million claim, in federal court. The loan involves both the Celotex site and another Urso property.<br> <br> The city’s payment for Urso's land will consist of $6 million from the Chicago Park District and more than $1.5 million from city general-obligation bonds, according to Jennifer Hoyle, a spokeswoman for Mayor Rahm Emanuel.<br> <br> But the timeframe for creating the park is not clear. Ownership of Urso’s property will transfer to Chicago upon payment, due September 7, but the city is not specifying a date for turning over the acreage to the Park District. “Possibly later this year,” Hoyle wrote Friday afternoon.<br> <br> A possible obstacle is a Chicago Fire Department facility on the adjacent five acres.</p><p>The biggest challenge could be funding the park construction. Wasserman’s group is calling for playgrounds, a farm, sports fields, an amphitheater and a community center. Building all those amenities could cost hundreds of millions of dollars, the group says.</p></p> Fri, 12 Aug 2011 22:35:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/settlement-could-lead-big-park-mexican-neighborhood-90552