News digest (Dec 2013): Highlights of recent chemical news & opinion

December 8, 2013 at 1:16 pm | Posted in News and Science Bulletins | Leave a comment

Twenty tips for interpreting scientific claims. The authors suggest 20 concepts that should be part of the education of civil servants, politicians, policy advisers and journalists — and anyone else who may have to interact with science or scientists. (Nature)

Parkinson’s Disease: The Pesticide Connection. The rats in a room at the University of Pittsburgh regularly get hit with doses of pesticide. But the researchers in J. Timothy Greenamyre’s lab don’t expose the rodents because of an infestation problem. They give the neurotoxin to the animals to learn more about Parkinson’s disease. (C&EN)

What are you afraid of? Picture the scene: A new shampoo comes on the market, advertised as being ‘all natural’, and devoid of ‘chemicals’. Cue outrage among chemists, decrying the ignorance of the public. Don’t they know that everything is made of chemicals? Something should be done. But what? Aside from some internal unhappiness and hand-wringing, how are chemists addressing a chemophobic public? And where does the problem stem from? (Chemistry World)

Scientists reach consensus on EDC thresholds. It is possible thresholds do not exist for activity of endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) agree scientists representing both sides of the EDC debate. The conclusion is one of several reached during a recent meeting hosted by the EU chief scientific advisor Anne Glover, who is seeking a more constructive debate in several areas of disagreement surrounding the subject. (Chemical Watch)

Toxic flame retardants in furniture could be on the way out nationwide. For decades, U.S. manufacturers have filled upholstered furniture with pounds of toxic chemicals to comply with a flammability standard set by a single state, California. The obscure rule, known as Technical Bulletin 117, brought flame retardants into homes across the country. American babies came to be born with the highest recorded average concentrations of the chemicals among any infants in the world. But California has now thrown out the 38-year-old rule and approved a new one that furniture manufacturers can meet without using flame retardants. (Chicago Tribune)

Generation Toxic. That Perera was even looking at environmental causes of illness was both unusual and unfashionable. For the past two decades, cancer researchers and other molecular biologists have spent much of their time riveted by the genome, believing it would unlock the secrets of disease. But cellular life isn’t determined simply by the blueprints of DNA: to truly understand human health and disease, scientists need to look at both the genome and—to use a term coined in 2005 by Christopher Wild, a cancer epidemiologist—the “exposome.” (OneEarth)

The Toxins That Affected Your Great-Grandparents Could Be In Your Genes. Michael Skinner’s biggest discovery began, as often happens in science stories like this one, with a brilliant failure. Back in 2005, when he was still a traditional developmental biologist and the accolades and attacks were still in the future, a distraught research fellow went to his office to apologize for taking an experiment one step too far: she had accidentally bred the grandchildren of rats being used to test the toxicity of vinclozolin. (Smithsonian)

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