Friday, September 9, 2011

The Long-Term Health Consequences of the 9/11 Attacks

With President Obama's success in taking out Osama Bin Laden making the 10th Anniversary observance of the 9/11 attacks a less politically contentious one, are policymakers ignoring the long-term health consequences of the 9/11 attacks at everyone's peril?

By: Ringo Bones

Even though President Obama signed the James Zadroga Health Compensation act of 2010 - named in honor of the first responder who suddenly succumbed to the chronic health effects of the World Trade Center tower debris back in 2006 - to help those first responders, victims and cleaning crew who are suffering from chronic health problems after inhaling the toxic dust and debris when the WTC towers collapsed during the 9/11 attacks. A lot of us still wonder whether there are enough policymakers out there who are doing enough to compensate and take care of everyone affected by the September 11, 2001 terror attacks.

The fallout of the WTC towers collapse are as deadly as that produced by a successfully detonated nuclear device. I mean lead from those 50,000 computer monitors, mercury from countless fluorescent light bulbs, not to mention tons of asbestos and polychlorinated biphenyls or PCBs used in the construction of the World Trade Center towers back in 1971 because these two hazardous materials are yet to be banned in 1976.

It's not just first responders - the New York Fire Department and the New York Police Department personnel - that had acquired chronic health problems years after the 9/11 attacks. Cleaners, telecom engineers and contractors who spent significant amounts of time at the vicinity WTC Ground Zero area are also affected. As the WTC fallout resembles finely pulverized glass, long-term residents in the Lower Manhattan region are affected too.

Studies have shown that a little over 60,000 are already registered at risk while 18, 262 are already receiving treatment for "9/11 Syndrome". Since the September 11, 2001 terror attacks, Prof. Paul Lioy had analyzed the fallout dust and found out that it consists of a mixture of supposedly now-banned hazardous substances like asbestos and polychlorinated biphenyls or PCBs and unburned jet fuel residue. Osama Bin Laden may be dead but the fallout of the 9/11 attacks are still causing unnecessary suffering.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Radioactive Fallout’s Seven Deadliest

Even though the likelihood of atomic warfare is now exceedingly slim, do we still have to be wary of the seven deadliest elements in radioactive fallout?

By: Ringo Bones

Unfortunately, the threat to our health and well-being posed by radioactive fallout in atomic warfare and the one produced by a nuclear fission power plant accident are virtually identical. The recent Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant disaster caused by the tragic March 11, 2011 earthquake and tsunami that hit the north-eastern portion of Japan – which is now had been inevitably compared to the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant accident of April 26, 1986 – has virtually the same threat to our health and well-being posed by multi-megaton MIRVs that “might” be used in an all-out nuclear exchange.

The seven deadliest elements produced by atomic warfare and a nuclear fission power plant accident are as follows:

1)Strontium-89 - has a half-life of 53 days and is similar in effects to strontium-90.

2)Strontium-90 – has a half-life of 28 years. Absorbed in the skeleton, can injure bone and cause anemia. Emits beta particles and may also be absorbed by plants and transferred to humans in food.

3)Iodine-131 – has a half-life of 8.1 days and it primarily affects the thyroid.

4)Cesium-137 – has a half-life of 27 years. Easily absorbed by the body through the biosphere. Emits gamma rays and is a bone-seeker but it’s not as dangerous as strontium-90.

5)Barium-140 – has a half-life of 12.8 days and is similar to strontium-90 in its effects.

6)Cesium-144 – has a half-life of 282 days and has similar effects to cesium-137.

7)Plutonium-239 – primary component of nuclear weapons and a nuclear power plant’s fuel. Has a half-life of 24,000 years. Can injure the bone and cause anemia. Not as dangerous as the other elements listed because of its long half-life.

Strontium: Calcium’s Evil Alter-Ego?

Even though it got a bad reputation as an evil twin of calcium due to its presence in atomic fallout, does strontium really deserve the reputation as calcium’s evil alter-ego?

By: Ringo Bones

Given that 2011 has been declared as the UN’s International Year of Chemistry what better time to reevaluate some of the reputations that the members of the “Periodic Kingdom” seem to have unfairly deserved for the past hundred years or so. Aside from giving fireworks their rich red color, strontium seemingly got a bad rap during the 20th Century’s “Atomic Age” as the evil alter-ego of life-supporting calcium even though both belong to the Alkaline Earth Metal family of the Periodic Table.

Discovered in 1790, the name strontium is derived from Strontian, Scotland. Though much, much rarer than calcium, radioactive strontium-90 is present in significant amounts in atomic fallout – it is absorbed by bone tissue in place of calcium and enough of it destroys bone marrow and can cause cancer by emitting beta particles. But is strontium’s bad rap as the evil alter-ego of calcium really warranted?

Recent advances in medical science has just found a new use for strontium’s strange chemistry – namely as a treatment of postmenopausal osteoporosis. Strontium ranelate – a chemical compound of stable non-radioactive form of strontium and ranelic acid – is now regularly used to treat postmenopausal osteoporosis to reduce the risk of vertebral and hip fractures. Because calcium containing drugs and foods reduce strontium bioavailability by as much as 60 to 70%, strontium containing drugs that treat postmenopausal osteoporosis should be taken two hours apart from calcium-containing drugs and foods. Even though the radioactive isotope of strontium, strontium-90, can cause bone cancer, the non-radioactive stable strontium isotopes simultaneously increase bone formation and reduces bone resorption.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Prosthetic Limbs: Now Better Than Mother Nature’s?

Probably the only significant scientific spin-off of George W. Bush’s malfeasantly run global War on Terror, is current prosthetic limb technology already at par with Mother Nature’s?

By: Ringo Bones

Thanks to better body armor technology, soldiers who got wounded in action while serving George W. Bush’s malfeasantly run global War on Terror of previous years have now a better chance of surviving assault rifle shots and being hit by fragmentation grenades. Unfortunately, this resulted in a growing number of recent war veterans in need of prosthetic limbs – especially advanced myoelectric versions - that is in par with the natural one that they replace in working in everyday situations. Fortunately, prosthetic limb technology is now at a state of development that it had already received rave reviews by their recipients on how good they work in everyday situations. Given the progress of this aspect of medical science, will prosthetic limb technology ever progress to the point that it would have capabilities better than what Mother Nature has already given us? And if it ever did, will most of us opt to have the natural, perfectly-functional limbs that we are born with electively amputated in order to be replaced by better functioning artificial ones?

Dr. Bertolt Meyer – who had the misfortune of being born without a left hand and had an advanced prosthetic version installed – have stated the ethical dilemmas of such issues in a BBC Newsnight interview back in May, 21 2011. The hubbub surrounding recent advances in artificial limb technology really got the undivided attention of the mainstream press and the public-at-large during the airing of a press coverage documenting the plight of an Austrian motorcycle riding accident victim named Milo opting to have his right hand amputated after years of physiotherapy had failed to return it to full-functionality in order to be replaced by an advanced myoelectric version; Though we have to wait for a year to evaluate the success of the procedure.
People opting to have the perfectly-functional limbs that they are born with be replaced by better functioning myoelectric robotic versions reminds me of a science fiction novel I read a few years ago. Titled Antibodies, this David J. Skal work revolves around a cyber-punk themed future where people deliberately mutilate themselves in order to have their perfectly functional limbs and sensory organs – like eyes and ears – be surgically replaced by artificially implanted versions that work far better than the ones they are naturally born with. Will this be the brave new world for the future of artificial limb technology?

Monday, May 16, 2011

Mineral Oil in Cardboard Food Packaging: Latest Health Threat?

Even though it was just recently found out in a health study, are the excess mineral oil content in cardboard food packaging the latest public health threat?

By: Ringo Bones

First it was the undesirable side-effects of hormone-mimicking plastic softeners found in food containers and packaging like bisphenol-A that was deemed the greatest threat to public health after it was found out that bisphenol-A or BPAs were just too profitable to be banned, and now alarmingly high amounts of mineral oil that could pose a public health hazard that’s found in almost all cardboard-based food packaging. But does mineral oil really pose a public health threat?

A recent Swiss study conducted in the public health and food safety conscious EU had just obtained data that measurable amounts – up to ten times the agreed limit in fact – of mineral oil are found in food products packaged in recycled cardboard. Even though virgin cardboard that is freshly made from tree pulp contains no trace of mineral oil whatsoever, virgin cardboard is just too expensive for use in food packaging that’s commonly sold in supermarkets around the world. But should we be worried about the undesirable long-term effects of mineral oil contaminating our daily bread?

The problem is that people who had ingested enough mineral oil that necessitated medical intervention and thus observed by qualified medical personnel for symptomatic study are still few and far between. Before adequate occupational health and safety standards became universally adopted throughout the world, there had been cases around the start of the 1900s of workers in the production and packaging of mineral oil who work for a long time in an atmosphere where they inhale a great deal of mineral oil developed symptoms like those of a mild jag – often called “naphtha jag”.

First symptoms of acute mineral oil poisoning are a sense of excitement and lack of self-control, usually followed by depression, headache, nausea, roaring in the ears, irritation in the throat and a trembling in the hands and arms. If sufficient amount of mineral oil is ingested or absorbed, signs of shallow breathing, weakened heart, convulsions and death could follow.

Unfortunately, there is still no specific antidote for mineral oil poisoning. Therefore under such circumstances, the first thing to do is to wash out the stomach and give a mild laxative. Then stimulants are used in order to sustain life and the patient is then put under medical observation to check for possible organ damage.