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Archive for August 10th, 2012

Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance

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Mesothelioma cancer is generally caused by exposure to asbestos, as explained in the article at the link. The problem is that symptoms or signs of mesothelioma may not appear until 20 to 50 years (or more) after exposure to asbestos. Because of the time lag, the true danger of asbestos was not recognized until long after millions of workers had been exposed to it, particularly during WWII. From the article at the link, “Working with asbestos is the major risk factor for mesothelioma.[5] In the United States, asbestos is the major cause of malignant mesothelioma[6] and has been considered “indisputably”[7] associated with the development of mesothelioma.” Further:

Today, the official position of the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the U.S. EPA is that protections and “permissible exposure limits” required by U.S. regulations, while adequate to prevent most asbestos-related non-malignant disease, they are not adequate to prevent or protect against asbestos-related cancers such as mesothelioma.[13] Likewise, the British Government’s Health and Safety Executive (HSE) states formally that any threshold for mesothelioma must be at a very low level and it is widely agreed that if any such threshold does exist at all, then it cannot currently be quantified. For practical purposes, therefore, HSE assumes that no such “safe” threshold exists. Others have noted as well that there is no evidence of a threshold level below which there is no risk of mesothelioma. . .  Again, there is no known safe level of exposure to asbestos as it relates to increased risk of mesothelioma.

The duration of exposure to asbestos causing mesothelioma can be short. For example, cases of mesothelioma have been documented with only 1–3 months of exposure.

In other words, asbestos is unsafe at any level.

More information can be found at the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance and at their associated blog. The time from first exposure to asbestos and the manifestation of the disease is never less than 15 years and peaks at 30-40 years, with 32 years being the overall median.

Written by Leisureguy

10 August 2012 at 12:14 pm

Posted in Daily life, Medical, Science

Mark Bittman writes a sensible column on gun control

with 3 comments

At least the topic seems to be open for discussion now. Bittman in the NY Times:

Back in the administration of W., we looked for the weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. That was the wrong place; they’re here at home. Normally the W.M.D. I write about is the Standard American Diet (yes: SAD); occasionally I talk about food safety, orclimate change, or related topics. But no matter what you look at, the basic problem remains so-called leadership that cannot stand up to big ag, big food, big energy, Wall Street …or the N.R.A.

Since 9/11, 33 Americans have been killed by “terrorists”; roughly 150,000 Americans have been killed by non-terrorists: that is, your run-of-the-mill murderers. Murder, like the leading cause of death — heart disease — is often preventable, through regulations, education and medical intervention.

We don’t know why Jared Loughner — had you, too, forgotten his name before he reappeared in the news on Tuesday? — shot Gabby Giffords, but we do know that he told his shrink that he wished he’d taken the antidepressants he’d been prescribed before the shooting. We don’t know why James Holmes allegedly shot up the Batman crowd, but we do know he was acting in a weird manner, and though his analyst told the police he was troubled, there was no one to help him. We gather that the suicidal Wade M. Page was a racist so ignorant he didn’t know a Sikh from a Muslim.

In any event, none of them seem to have been capable of distinguishing right from wrong. The easy solution to that is to make gun purchases more difficult, especially for disturbed people who appear to think they’re part of some “solution” to a series of “problems” identified by hatemongers. (Remember Bill O’Reilly all but calling for the death of the “baby killer,” the obstetrician George Tiller?)

We already have laws and regulations to protect us from murderers, at least when we call them terrorists. . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

10 August 2012 at 10:15 am

Posted in Daily life, Government, Law

More on your drinking water: Ensuring that the bacteria therein are beneficial

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While on the subject of drinking water, it apparently is easy to ensure that the bacteria carried by the water are beneficial to us. Edyta Zielinski reports in The Scientist:

Although most bacteria are removed from drinking water before it reaches our lips, a few strains survive the filtration and chlorination steps. Researchers from the University of Michigan tracked down the sources of bacteria and found that beneficial populations could be selected by slightly changing the acidity of the water.

The main source of bacterial diversity, surprisingly, was the filters designed to remove the organic matter on which bacteria feed. These filters were shown to play a major role in shaping the bacterial community in the drinking water, suggesting that changing how the filters are cleaned could also steer the microbial community toward beneficial bacteria. The results were published online in last month (July 16)  in Environmental Science & Technology.

Written by Leisureguy

10 August 2012 at 8:12 am

Posted in Daily life, Health, Science

Lead poisoning via your tap water

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One famous notion of Rome’s decline was the gradual lead poisoning of the populace from the lead plumbing used at the time—indeed “plumbing” stems from the Latin word for “lead.” Though that theory seems false, the dangers of lead poisoning are real, and one series of studies found substantial (and to me, convincing) evidence that the decline of violence in the US overall was a result of the shift to unleaded gasoline and the discontinuance of lead-based paints in homes. (Vehicles using leaded gasoline put a lot of lead into the environment, especially in urban areas.) The esteemed criminologist James Q. Wilson, in looking at a number of possible reasons for the decline in violence, notes:

There may also be a medical reason for the decline in crime. For decades, doctors have known that children with lots of lead in their blood are much more likely to be aggressive, violent and delinquent. In 1974, the Environmental Protection Agency required oil companies to stop putting lead in gasoline. At the same time, lead in paint was banned for any new home (though old buildings still have lead paint, which children can absorb).

Tests have shown that the amount of lead in Americans’ blood fell by four-fifths between 1975 and 1991. A 2007 study by the economist Jessica Wolpaw Reyes contended that the reduction in gasoline lead produced more than half of the decline in violent crime during the 1990s in the U.S. and might bring about greater declines in the future. Another economist, Rick Nevin, has made the same argument for other nations.

Read also this Washington Post story about Rick Nevins’s research:

Rudy Giuliani never misses an opportunity to remind people about his track record in fighting crime as mayor of New York City from 1994 to 2001.

“I began with the city that was the crime capital of America,” Giuliani, now a candidate for president, recently told Fox’s Chris Wallace. “When I left, it was the safest large city in America. I reduced homicides by 67 percent. I reduced overall crime by 57 percent.”

Although crime did fall dramatically in New York during Giuliani’s tenure, a broad range of scientific research has emerged in recent years to show that the mayor deserves only a fraction of the credit that he claims. The most compelling information has come from an economist in Fairfax who has argued in a series of little-noticed papers that the “New York miracle” was caused by local and federal efforts decades earlier to reduce lead poisoning.

The theory offered by the economist, Rick Nevin, is that lead poisoning accounts for much of the variation in violent crime in the United States. It offers a unifying new neurochemical theory for fluctuations in the crime rate, and it is based on studies linking children’s exposure to lead with violent behavior later in their lives.

What makes Nevin’s work persuasive is that he has shown an identical, decades-long association between lead poisoning and crime rates in nine countries.

“It is stunning how strong the association is,” Nevin said in an interview. “Sixty-five to ninety percent or more of the substantial variation in violent crime in all these countries was explained by lead.”

Through much of the 20th century, lead in U.S. paint and gasoline fumes poisoned toddlers as they put contaminated hands in their mouths. The consequences on crime, Nevin found, occurred when poisoning victims became adolescents. Nevin does not say that lead is the only factor behind crime, but he says it is the biggest factor.

Giuliani’s presidential campaign declined to address Nevin’s contention that the mayor merely was at the right place at the right time. But William Bratton, who served as Giuliani’s police commissioner and who initiated many of the policing techniques credited with reducing the crime rate, dismissed Nevin’s theory as absurd. Bratton and Giuliani instituted harsh measures against quality-of-life offenses, based on the “broken windows” theory of addressing minor offenses to head off more serious crimes.

Many other theories have emerged to try to explain the crime decline. In the 2005 book “Freakonomics,” Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner said the legalization of abortion in 1973 had eliminated “unwanted babies” who would have become violent criminals. Other experts credited lengthy prison terms for violent offenders, or demographic changes, socioeconomic factors, and the fall of drug epidemics. New theories have emerged as crime rates have inched up in recent years.

Most of the theories have been long on intuition and short on evidence. Nevin says his data not only explain the decline in crime in the 1990s, but the rise in crime in the 1980s and other fluctuations going back a century. His data from multiple countries, which have different abortion rates, police strategies, demographics and economic conditions, indicate that lead is the only explanation that can account for international trends.

Because the countries phased out lead at different points, they provide a rigorous test: In each instance, the violent crime rate tracks lead poisoning levels two decades earlier.

“It is startling how much mileage has been given to the theory that abortion in the early 1970s was responsible for the decline in crime” in the 1990s, Nevin said. “But they legalized abortion in Britain, and the violent crime in Britain soared in the 1990s. The difference is our gasoline lead levels peaked in the early ’70s and started falling in the late ’70s, and fell very sharply through the early 1980s and was virtually eliminated by 1986 or ’87.

“In Britain and most of Europe, they did not have meaningful constraints [on leaded gasoline] until the mid-1980s and even early 1990s,” he said. “This is the reason you are seeing the crime rate soar in Mexico and Latin America, but [it] has fallen in the United States.”

Continue reading.

And yet many Americans are unwittingly drinking water heavily spiked with lead. Kevin Drum reports for Mother Jones:

Historically, there have been four main sources of lead poisoning: paint, gasoline, tin cans, and water pipes. Lead paint was banned years ago, though old paint still remains a hazard in old housing, particularly in window sills. Leaded gasoline is no longer sold, and its only remaining threat is via old lead deposited in soil, especially in urban areas. Tin cans haven’t used lead sealant for decades.

And water pipes—well, they’ve never been the most important source of lead poisoning, but they’ve been the most resistant to change. Thousands of miles of lead pipe are still in service, and as Sheila Kaplan and Corbin Hiar report this week, efforts to fix them have not just run aground, but possibly even made things worse.

The EPA wrote a rule in 1991 that forced water utilities to control lead levels, if necessary by replacing pipes. But the utilities sued, saying they didn’t have the legal authority to replace the portions of pipe on private property—that is, the last 40 or 50 feet of pipe leading into homes. Eventually EPA backed down, but their solution may have just made the problem worse:

After years of industry lobbying, the agency amended its rule in 2000 to permit the utilities to perform so-called “partial pipe replacements,” from the water main to the private property line. In the vast majority of cases, homeowners would be responsible for paying to finish the job.

Few homeowners have done so, to their detriment…Partial pipe replacements can physically shake loose lead fragments that have built up and laid dormant inside the pipe, pushing them into the homeowners’ water, and spiking the lead levels, even where they previously were not high. In addition, the type of partial replacement that joins old lead pipes to new copper ones, using brass fittings, “spurs galvanic corrosion that can dramatically increase the amount of lead released into drinking water supplies,” according to research from Washington University. Similar findings have been published by researchers at the Virginia Tech and elsewhere.

So why are these partial pipe replacements still commonplace?

One reason is that it’s expensive to replace a homeowner’s section of pipe. But another reason is that a lot of water customers don’t know the danger that partial pipe replacement poses. Utilities are required to provide only vague warnings when they do mandatory replacements, which is bad enough. But the vast majority of partial pipe replacements aren’t mandatory. They’re just part of normal maintenance procedures:

The level of warning the 13 water companies made dropped even further when the same utilities were conducting routine voluntary replacements during roadwork or to fix leaks—essentially the same procedure, but not ordered under the law. Only around half of the utilities alert residents to the potential for lead levels to spike after a voluntary partial pipe replacement.

Part of the reason these utilities don’t give the same warnings when doing basically the same procedure is that they’re not required to. EPA offers no guidance for these far more common voluntary partial lead service line replacements done by utilities across the country.

Likely as a result, the vast majority of other U.S. cities that are not under EPA orders to replace their remnant lead pipe systems rarely give any warnings to their customers about lead levels spiking after they do voluntary partial service line replacements.

Full-scale lead removal from the environment would be expensive. It would mean cleaning up all the lead suspended in soil, retrofitting millions of old window fittings, and replacing thousands of miles of lead pipe. But the costs of lead poisoning are enormous too. We’ve known for a long time that high levels of blood lead in children are dangerous, but more recent research shows that the biggest effects actually come at the smallest levels. That is, the amount of damage is bigger going from 0 to 5 mg/dl than from 5 to 10. And that in turn is bigger than going from 10 to 20. So even if lead levels have been reduced significantly over the past few decades—and they have—there are still huge benefits from getting rid of the last remnants. . .

Continue reading for the list of benefits. I believe that a functional Congress would press hard for removing lead from the environment because it is so clearly a matter of the public welfare. I wonder if this or the next Congress will even consider the issue.

Oddly enough, DC was found to have extremely high levels of lead in its tap water a few years back. The article at the link reports how the Center for Disease Control made claims that high lead levels posed no risks.

Written by Leisureguy

10 August 2012 at 8:09 am

Arlington and SK9

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A very nice shave today, albeit with a blade change midway. The Whipped Dog silvertip with the ceramic handle worked up a fine lather from D.R. Harris Arlington shave soap—D.R. Harris really is a top-rate soap—and I began with a previously used Treet carbon-steel Black Beauty in the iKon razor—this one is a two-piece, in which the handle is attached to the base by a bearing ring so the handle can rotate independently, similar to the Pils. The Treet wasn’t really doing the job well, so I switched to a Personna 74 blade, which did quite well.

A smooth finish, a splash of Arlington aftershave, and I’m ready for another day.

The 6th edition of Leisureguy’s Guide to Gourmet Shaving is now available on Amazon, both as Kindle and paperback edition. The reader reviews have not yet been transferred. That apparently takes a few days.

Written by Leisureguy

10 August 2012 at 7:41 am

Posted in Books, Shaving

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