Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Chicago Says Goodbye To BPA Plastics

As I reported last September, plastics are scary. Specifically, Bisphenol A, also known as BPA. Independent researchers in white coats, the stuff found in everything from baby bottles to, well, water bottles, and can leach out with repeated uses, cleanings, etc. Researchers claim it is linked to birth defects, early onset of puberty, miscarriages, and other scary things.

For its part, the plastics industry has tried to get everyone to worry about other stuff, like swine flu, and exploding toy helicopters (okay, that was me, but I'm sure they didn't object).

So back in September I said it was time for the government to do something. Well, they have. At least Chicago's government has. Last week they became the first city in the country to outlaw BPA. Here's hoping others follow suit.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Chinese Sofa = Death

A rash of complaints by British couch potatoes has lead to the discovery that as many as 200,000 Chinese-made sofas were made with toxic chemicals that have caused skin rashes, increased the likelihood of cancer, and even allegedly caused one death.

From The Sun:

TOXIC Chinese sofas that left thousands of Brits with burns have now been linked to CANCER, The Sun can reveal.

Medics are probing claims the couches triggered the disease in the skin and lower body.

Lawyer Richard Langton, who has led legal action for victims, said cancer cases were being investigated among 5,000 complaints - including one death.

The Sun told last year how Brits had been left with burns, eye problems and breathing trouble by the sofas, which were packed with toxic fungicide DMF to prevent mould on the voyage from China.

Mr Langton, of lawyers Russell Jones and Walker, said: "The mystery of the sofas is far from over."

"We have several cases involving serious complications - including cancer and even death - and we are investigating."

He said other fungicides may also have been used.

Mr Langton added: "DMF was identified by chance after months of detective work."

"Hundreds of other banned chemicals could cause problems."

It is believed DMF has the effect of stripping the human skin, exposing it to toxins.

A total of 200,000 sofas were sold in stores including Argos and Land of Leather in three years.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Cats Are Controlling Your Thoughts

A study by people in white coats have discovered what many (including The Wife) have assumed for years: Cats are controlling our minds for their evil plans.

What are their plans? It's not entirely clear, but I have some ideas. The first phase involves making everyone anxious (about dogs, no doubt), depressed (leading to the acquisition of a cat), and insecure ("Why doesn't my cat love me? I must buy it more expensive food!"). Some are led to engage in reckless behavior (presumably leading to doomed relationships and the acquisition of more cats). Women also tend to develop a condition of "guilt proneness" ("My cats are unhappy! It's all my fault!").

From LiveScience:

A parasitic microbe commonly found in cats might have helped shape entire human cultures by manipulating the personalities of infected individuals, according to a new study.

Infection by a Toxoplasma gondii could make some individuals more prone to some forms of neuroticism and could lead to differences among cultures if enough people are infected, says Kevin Lafferty, a U.S. Geological Survey scientist at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

In a survey of different countries, Lafferty found that people living in those with higher rates of T. gondii infection scored higher on average for neuroticism, defined as an emotional or mental disorder characterized by high levels of anxiety, insecurity or depression.

His finding is detailed in the Aug. 2 issue of the journal for Proceedings of the Royal Society, Biology.

Manipulating behavior

T. gondii infects both wild and domestic cats, but it is carried by many warm-blooded mammals. One recent study showed that the parasite makes normally cautious rats outgoing and more prone to engage in reckless behavior, such as hanging around areas frequently marked by cat urine, making the rats easy targets.

Scientists estimate that the parasite has infected about 3 billion people, or about half of the human population. Studies by researchers in the Czech Republic have suggested T. gondii might have subtle but long-term effects on its human hosts. The parasite is thought to have different, and often opposite effects in men versus women, but both genders appear to develop a form of neuroticism called "guilt proneness."

Other studies have also found links between the parasite and schizophrenia. T. gondii infection is known to damage astrocytes, support cells in the brain that are also affected during schizophrenia. Pregnant women with high levels of antibodies to the parasite are also more likely to give birth to children who will develop the disorder.

In light of such studies, Lafferty wondered whether high rates of T. gondii infection in a culture could shift the average personality of its individuals.

"In populations where this parasite is very common, mass personality modification could result in cultural change," Lafferty said.

Kind of makes you wonder if this whole Swine Flu (err, sorry, H1N1 flu) paranoia wasn't some sort of a test run by the cats on their human servants...

Friday, May 1, 2009

WHO Declares End Of Swine Flu!

The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared an official end to the swine flu apocalypse of 2009. Due to pressure from the pork industry, the WHO announced that it will no longer refer to the global pandemic as "Swine Flu" but instead will refer to it only as H1N1 influenza A.

H1N1 -- The other virulent infectious disease!