Toxic Exposure: Chemicals are in Our Water, Food, Air and Furniture

by University of California, San Francisco

When her kids were young, Tracey Woodruff, Ph.D., MPH, knew more than most people about environmental toxics. After all, she was a senior scientist at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). But even she never dreamed, as she rocked her children to sleep at night, that the plastic baby bottles she used to feed them contained toxic chemicals that could leach into the warm milk. 

Back then, in the late 1990s, it wasn’t widely known that the chemicals used in plastic sippy cups and baby bottles can potentially disrupt child development by interfering with the hormone system. That, in turn, could alter the functionality of their reproductive systems or increase their risk of disease later in their lives.

“When I had babies, I did many of the things we now tell people not to do,” says Woodruff, who for the past decade has been the director of UC San Francisco’s Program on Reproductive Health and the Environment (PRHE). Also a professor in the University’s Philip R. Lee Institute for Health Policy Studies, she earned her doctorate in 1991 from a joint UCSF-Berkeley program in bioengineering and then completed a postgraduate fellowship at UCSF.

Woodruff’s children have since grown into physically healthy teenagers, but many children are not as lucky. Unregulated chemicals are increasing in use and are prevalent in products Americans use every day. Woodruff is concerned by the concurrent rise in many health conditions, like certain cancers or childhood diseases, and the fact that the environment is likely to play a role in those conditions. What motivates her is the belief that we need to know more about these toxics so we can reduce our exposure to the worst of them and protect ourselves and our children from their harmful effects. (Woodruff points out that the word “toxics” as a noun means any poisonous substances, from either chemical or biological sources, whereas “toxins” are poisons only from biological sources, either plant or animal.)

The PRHE is dedicated to identifying, measuring and preventing exposure to environmental contaminants that affect human reproduction and development. Its work weaves together science, medicine, policy and advocacy.

For example, research over the past 10 years by UCSF scientists and others has showed that bisphenol A (BPA) – an industrial chemical used since the 1950s to harden plastics in baby bottles, toys and other products – is found in the blood of those exposed to items made with BPA and that it can harm the endocrine systems of fetuses and infants. As a result, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) outlawed BPA in baby products in 2012, and some manufacturers developed BPA-free products. But now scientists believe the chemicals that replaced BPA may be just as harmful. 

Furthermore, BPA is only one in a long, long list of chemicals we encounter every day in our homes, schools, workplaces and communities. And scientists have barely scratched the surface of understanding them. Of the thousands and thousands of chemicals registered with the EPA for use by industry, the agency has regulated only a few. 

“In the last 50 years, we have seen a dramatic increase in chemical production in the United States,” Woodruff explains. Concurrently, there’s been an increase in the incidence of conditions like attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), autism, childhood cancers, diabetes and obesity. “It’s not just genetic drift,” Woodruff maintains.

And we’re all at risk from increasing chemical exposure. The water we run from our taps, the lotion we smear on our skin, the shampoo we rub in our hair, even the dust in our houses is full of synthetic chemicals.

Preventing exposure in babies

PRHE experts do more than just measure such trends. They also collaborate with clinical scientists and obstetricians at Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital (ZSFG), so their findings directly benefit pregnant patients. “We partner with the clinical scientists,” explains Woodruff, “because they look at treatments for disease, and environment might be a missing factor in the cause and prevention of disease.”

Though environmental toxics affect us all, there’s a reason PRHE focuses on pregnant women and children, Woodruff adds. Exposure to even tiny amounts of toxic substances during critical developmental stages can have outsize effects. So exposure to toxics is especially detrimental to fetuses, infants and young children, as well as preteens and teenagers.

“If you prevent the problem at the beginning, you get a lifetime of benefits,” says Woodruff.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) began measuring human exposure to chemicals in 1976. These so-called “biomonitoring” studies found a range of toxics in subjects’ blood and urine – substances like DDT, BPA, air pollutants, pesticides, dioxins and phthalates. Phthalates, for example, are a class of chemicals known to be endocrine disruptors but widely used as softeners in plastics and as lubricants in personal-care products. Biomonitoring has determined that women of reproductive age evidence higher levels of phthalates than the population at large. One reason, says Woodruff, is that young women use more products like perfume, deodorant, shampoo and conditioner.

Woodruff herself recently led a study in which UCSF researchers collected blood samples from pregnant women at ZSFG. After the women delivered their babies, the researchers collected umbilical cord blood samples – and discovered that almost 80 percent of the chemicals detected in the maternal blood samples had passed through the placenta to the cord blood. It was the most extensive look yet at how the chemicals that pregnant women are exposed to also appear in their babies’ cord blood (and followed an earlier study by Woodruff that marked the first time anyone had counted the number of chemicals in the blood of pregnant women). Published in the Nov. 1, 2016, print edition of Environmental Science and Technology, the study also found that many chemicals were absorbed at greater levels by the fetuses than by the pregnant women…

more…

https://www.biosciencetechnology.com/news/2017/06/toxic-exposure-chemicals-are-our-water-food-air-and-furniture

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Mysterious ‘unseen planetary mass’ lurking at edge of solar system

Mysterious ‘unseen planetary mass’ lurking at edge of solar system
A mysterious, unseen, planetary object with a mass somewhere between that of Mars and Earth may be lurking in the outer reaches of our solar system, according to new research.

Scientists at the University of Arizona’s Lunar and Planetary Laboratory (LPL) put forward evidence that this unknown “planetary mass object” may explain why the plane of the solar system is warped in the outer reaches of the Kuiper Belt.

US prepares for rare coast-to-coast total solar eclipse https://on.rt.com/8fno 

The Kuiper Belt lies beyond the orbit of Neptune and hosts a vast number of minor planets, mostly small, icy bodies and a few dwarf planets.

All planets in our solar system orbit around the sun on the same plane but, according to the measurements made by the research team, the most distant Kuiper Belt objects (KBOs) appear to be tilted away from this by about eight degrees.

This indicates that something unknown is warping the average orbital plane of the outer solar system.

“The most likely explanation for our results is that there is some unseen mass,” says Kat Volk, lead author of the study. “According to our calculations, something as massive as Mars would be needed to cause the warp that we measured.”

Kat Volk & Renu Malhotra find the plane of the solar system is warped, signaling the presence of a planetary object. http://bit.ly/2sFIvZK 

Photo published for UA Scientists and the Curious Case of the Warped Kuiper Belt

UA Scientists and the Curious Case of the Warped Kuiper Belt

An unknown, unseen “planetary mass object” may lurk in the outer reaches of our solar system, according to new research on the orbits of minor planets to be published in the Astronomical Journal….

The tilt angles of the orbital planes of more than 600 objects in the Kuiper Belt were analyzed for the study.

“We expect each of the KBOs’ orbital tilt angle to be at a different orientation, but on average, they will be pointing perpendicular to the plane determined by the sun and the big planets,” Volk said.

As the team observed KBOs further out, they found that the average plane actually warps away from the invariable plane.

They noted that the chance of the warp being a statistical fluke was no more than 2 percent.

The paper also ruled out the possibility that the mysterious object could be ‘Planet 9’, pointing out that this planet is predicted to be much bigger and much farther out. Planet 9’s existence is unconfirmed, but is expected to be located at more than 200 times Earth’s distance from the sun.

“That is too far away to influence these KBOs,” Volk said.

https://www.rt.com/viral/393710-mysterious-unseen-planetary-mass/

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FEMA Is Preparing For A Solar Storm That Would Take Out The Grid

Noting that the rare, yet “high-consequence” scenario has “the potential for catastrophic impact on our nation and FEMA’s ability to respond.”

by Tyler Durden

FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Administration) is planning for a massive solar storm that would be so strong, it would take down the power grid.

Authored by Maco Slavo via SHTFplan.com,

According to unpublished FEMA documents obtained by Government Attic, a FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) database and non-profit organization, the Department of Homeland Security agency once mapped out a disaster plan for the occurrence of another geomagnetic “super storm” like the one the occurred in 1859.

Back then, the sun flung a giant plume of magnetized plasma out into space. The coronal mass ejection (CME), the sibling of a massive solar flare, traveled the 93 million miles between the Sun and Earth in only 17.6 hours. Today, it’s known as the Carrington Event and is remembered by the largest geomagnetic storm in the history of recorded space weather.

No other storm has matched it in speed or magnitude. When the shock wave of accelerated particles arrived on September 1, 1859, the disturbances to Earth’s magnetosphere were so great that telegraph communications across Europe and North America went on the fritz. Sparks leaped from the telegraph infrastructure, and machinery was so inundated with electric currents that operators were able to transmit messages while disconnected from battery power. Compasses even wiggled, and brilliant auroras were reportedly seen as far south as the Caribbean.

But that doesn’t mean the ill-equipped government isn’t preparing for the inevitability, in fact, they are. Despite our superior ability to predict these events, the stakes are exponentially higher in a modern, hyper-connected world.  FEMA predicts that a geomagnetic storm of this intensity would be “a catastrophe in slow motion.” Space weather events happen all the time, and many are harmless. For example, an event causing radio blackouts, solar radiation storms, and geomagnetic storms would be abnormal, yet the ripple effects on the power grid and communications would severely limit FEMA’s ability to respond to a nationwide crisis.

Within 20 minutes of the CME’s occurrence, FEMA estimates that 15 percent of the satellite fleet would be lost due to solar panel damage.

Solar radiation from the incoming storm would add “3-5 years worth of exposure” to the panels, degrading older satellites to the point of inoperability.

Low orbiting satellites, such as Iridium and Globalstar, may be less affected. Cellular service would be disrupted, and a loss of GPS capabilities could complicate FEMA operations.

Motherboard

Should a storm of this magnitude hit, there wouldn’t be much the government can do. And of course, this would be the perfect opportunity to round up the masses for a trip to a FEMA camp. Individuals would need to band together to help get things back online, but it would all take time.  Those in heavily populated regions would be hit the hardest and evacuation of over 100 million people would be impossible, and even if it was, there would be no unaffected region to send the evacuees – other than the FEMA camps.

Prepare yourself, because the mere fact that this government document exists could mean that there is something we don’t know.

 
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Newly discovered ‘Jade tablets’ depict interaction of advanced alien life with ancient Maya

Priceless discovery documents presence of advance alien life on Earth and their interactions with the Maya

PUEBLA, Mexico (INTELLIHUB) — In March 2016, a team of spelunkers discovered the existence highly-sophisticated and detailed carvings on Jade tablets and large stones in one of three private caves.

News of the new discovery dubbed “the first meeting of the stones” spread quickly through the community after Cinco Radio’s Javier Lopez Diaz posted pictures of the advanced art on Twitter.

jade stone 1
Cinco Radio

Shockingly, carvings found on the stones depict beings from other worlds along with what appear to be alien spacecraft.

jade stone 2
Cinco Radio

The priceless tablets document previous interactions that took place between what appears to be advanced extraterrestrial life and the ancient Maya.

jade stone 3
Cinco Radio

The artifacts are currently being analyzed by researchers from the National Institute of Anthropology and History (NIAH) who will then decide whether the results will be later released publicly.

https://www.intellihub.com/newly-discovered-jade-tablets-depict-interaction-of-advanced-alien-life-with-ancient-maya/

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The Stars: A Mythopoetic Masterpiece Serenading the Night Sky Through Myths and Stories from Around the World

“Light gives light because it is its nature.”

“I sometimes ask myself whether I would be studying galaxies if they were ugly… I think it may not be irrelevant that galaxies are really very attractive,” Vera Rubin, who confirmed the existence of dark matter, pondered in her most extensive interview. More than a century earlier, trailblazing astronomer Maria Mitchell — Rubin’s formative role model — contemplated the same question after attending a lecture on beauty by Emerson: Mitchell, too, found the splendor of the cosmos inseparable from its allure as an object of scientific investigation, each enhancing rather than distracting or detracting from the other. The great physicist Richard Feynman extolled this interplay in his memorable Ode to a Flower, in which he insisted that “the science knowledge only adds to the excitement, the mystery and the awe of a flower,” and Marina Abramović touched on it in her manifesto for art and life, which asserts that “an artist should stay for long periods of time looking at the stars in the night sky.”

Indeed, for as long as we humans have gazed up into the night sky, our imagination has been captivated equally by aesthetic awe and scientific curiosity — something reflected in our earliest sky myths, the Medieval wonder-sighting of comets, and our 4,000-year history of visualizing the universe.

That dual enchantment is what artist Vija Celmins and writer Eliot Weinbergerbring to life in the limited-edition MoMA book The Stars (public library) — an uncommonly poetic ode to the resplendence of the night sky.

Reminiscent of the poet Mark Strand’s 89 meditations on the clouds, Weinberger’s text is a sort of florilegium composed of lyrical descriptions of the stars drawing on various myths, folk tales, or anthropological sources from different eras and cultures. What emerges is a quintilingual mythopoetic masterpiece, written in English and translated in Chinese, Hindi, Japanese, and Maori, accompanied by three stunning celestial etchings by Celmins, each months in the making.

Etching by Vija Celmins for The Stars – a negative image of the night sky

The whimsical text begins:

The stars: what are they?

They are chunks of ice reflecting the sun;
they are lights afloat on the waters beyond the transparent dome;
they are nails nailed to the sky;
they are holes in the great curtain between us and the sea of light;
they are holes in the hard shell that protects us from the inferno beyond
they are the daughters of the sun;
they are the messengers of the gods;
they are shaped like wheels and are condensations of air with flames
roaring through the spaces between the spokes;
they sit in little chairs;
they are strewn across the sky;
they run errands for lovers…

Double gatefold of Vija Celmins’s negative image of the night sky

all stars move and shine in order to be
most fully what they are — light
gives light because it is its nature…

Complement The Stars with Adrienne Rich’s sublime poem “Planetarium,” Henry Beston on how the beauty of the night sky nourishes the human spirit, and the forgotten woman who pioneered the art of astropoetics in the nineteenth century.

https://www.brainpickings.org/

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This Psychologist Is Using A.I. to Predict Who Will Attempt Suicide

According to Joe Franklin, computers are far better than people when it comes to guessing who’s at risk

by Diane Shipley

The U.S suicide rate is at a 30-year high. According to the National Center for Health Statistics, in 2014 (the last year for which figures are available), 42,773 Americans took their own lives, most of them men.

It’s a crisis, one mental health professionals have historically been ill-equipped to handle. Last year, Joseph Franklin (then a postdoctoral fellow at Harvard, now an assistant professor of clinical psychology at Florida State University) looked at 365 studies on suicide over the past 50 years and found that someone flipping a coin had the same chance of correctly predicting whether a patient would die by suicide as an experienced psychiatrist — 50/50.

If humans are so mediocre when it comes to gauging suicidal intentions, could machines be better? Signs point to yes. IBM’s Watson supercomputer diagnosed a rare cancer doctors missed, while in England, the National Health Service is trying out Google’s DeepMind artificial intelligence for everything from diagnosing eye illnesses to finding out how best to target radiotherapy.

The link between A.I and mental health is less hyped, but Franklin and his team have developed algorithms that can predict whether someone will die by suicide with over 80 percent accuracy. He hopes they may soon become standard, in the form of software that every clinician has access to — and thus help save lives.

What made you want to study suicide prediction?
When I got into suicide research, I wanted to look at everything and see where we were. My hope was that would provide me and my colleagues with some more specific direction on what we knew and could build on. And what we found was quite surprising. We figured out that people have been doing this research where we’ve been very bad at predicting suicidal thoughts and behaviors and we really haven’t improved across 50 years.

Are there common misconceptions about suicide risk?
A lot of people believe that only someone who is showing clear signs of depression is likely to have this happen. I’m not saying depression has nothing to do with it, but it’s not synonymous with that. We can conservatively say 96 percent of people who’ve had severe depression aren’t going to die by suicide.

Most of our theories which say this one thing causes suicide or this combination of three or four things causes suicide — it looks like none of those are going to be adequate. They may all be partially correct but maybe only account for 5 percent of what happens. Our theories have to take into account the fact that hundreds if not thousands of things contribute to suicidal thoughts and behaviors.

More men take their lives than women, but more women attempt suicide. Are there any theories why?
One thing people point to now is something called suicide capability, which is basically a fearlessness about death and an ability to enact death, and one assumption is that men, particularly older men, may be more capable of engaging with these behaviors. But evidence on that right now is not conclusive.

Are traditional risk assessments getting some things right?
Talking to people, not making it this taboo subject, I think that’s great. The problem is we haven’t given them much to go on. Our implicit goal has often been to do research so we can tell clinicians what the most important factors are, and what we’re finding is that we’re just not very accurate.

What we’re going to have to do is this artificial intelligence approach so that all clinicians are able to have something that automatically delivers a very accurate score of where this person is in terms of risk. I think we should be trying to develop that instead of, you know, “these are the five questions to ask.”

How does artificial intelligence predict who is most at risk?
We took thousands of people in this medical database and pored through their records, labeled the ones who had clearly attempted suicide on a particular date and ones that could not to be determined to have attempted suicide, and we then let a machine-learning program run its course. We then applied it to a new set of data to make sure that it worked. The machine has now learned, at least within this particular database of millions of people, what the optimal algorithm seems to be for separating people who are and are not going to attempt suicide…

more…

https://melmagazine.com/this-psychologist-is-using-a-i-to-predict-who-will-attempt-suicide-696cd24bbc15

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