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ACS News Service Weekly PressPac: Wed Jun 17 16:42:03 EDT 2009

Note to Journalists and Other Viewers

Here is the latest American Chemical Society (ACS) Office of Public Affairs Weekly PressPac with news from ACS’ 34 peer-reviewed journals and Chemical & Engineering News.

This information is intended for your personal use in news gathering and reporting and should not be distributed to others. Anyone using advance ACS Office of Public Affairs Weekly PressPac information for stocks or securities dealing may be guilty of insider trading under the federal Securities Exchange Act of 1934.

Please cite the individual journal, or the American Chemical Society, as the source of this information.

News Items in this Edition

Many floors in U. S. homes have “measurable” levels of pesticides

Insecticides used in and around homes — including products voluntarily removed from the market years ago — were measured on the floors of U.S. residences, according to the first study large enough to generate national data on pesticide residues in homes. It is scheduled for the June 15 issue of ACS’ semi-monthly journal Environmental Science & Technology.

Scientists at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) collected samples with surface wipes from U.S. kitchen floors. Additionally, occupants were surveyed regarding pesticide use and housing factors. The most frequently detected pesticides, after permethrin (89 percent), were chlorpyrifos (78 percent); chlordane (74 percent); piperonyl butoxide (52 percent); cypermethrin (46 percent); and fipronil (40 percent). While in most cases, the pesticide concentrations measured were low, the insecticides may serve as a potential source of exposure to occupants.

Scientists launched the study to understand the frequency and concentration of pesticide residues that might be found in U.S. homes. EPA and HUD scientists plan to further investigate these findings and the study’s questionnaire results to explore the relationships between pesticide concentrations found in homes and housing factors (age of home, housing type, occupancy, etc.), geographical location, pet treatments, and recent home pesticide applications.

“Milking” microscopic algae could yield massive amounts of oil

Scientists in Canada and India are proposing a surprising new solution to the global energy crisis —“milking” oil from the tiny, single-cell algae known as diatoms, renowned for their intricate, beautifully sculpted shells that resemble fine lacework. Their report appears online in the current issue of the ACS’ bi-monthly journal Industrial Engineering & Chemical Research.

Richard Gordon, T. V. Ramachandra, Durga Madhab Mahapatra, and Karthick Band note that some geologists believe that much of the world’s crude oil originated in diatoms, which produce an oily substance in their bodies. Barely one-third of a strand of hair in diameter, diatoms flourish in enormous numbers in oceans and other water sources. They die, drift to the seafloor, and deposit their shells and oil into the sediments. Estimates suggest that live diatoms could make 10−200 times as much oil per acre of cultivated area compared to oil seeds, Gordon says.

“We propose ways of harvesting oil from diatoms, using biochemical engineering and also a new solar panel approach that utilizes genetically modifiable aspects of diatom biology, offering the prospect of “milking” diatoms for sustainable energy by altering them to actively secrete oil products,” the scientists say. “Secretion by and milking of diatoms may provide a way around the puzzle of how to make algae that both grow quickly and have a very high oil content.”

Study advises Chinese government to change fuel in millions of households

Scientists in China are recommending that the Chinese government consider phasing out the direct burning of traditional chunks of coal in millions of households. It suggests that the government substitute coal briquettes and improved stoves for cooking and heating to help reduce the country’s high air pollution levels. The recommendation stems from one of the first scientific studies showing that this approach is effective in improving air quality, including a 98 percent reduction in air pollution from tiny, inhalable particles of coal soot. Their study is scheduled for the July 15 issue of ACS’ Environmental Science & Technology, a semi-monthly journal.

In the new study, Yingjun Chen and colleagues note that government officials have said for years that coal briquettes and improved stoves with better ventilation may cut emissions, but few scientific studies have tested this claim. Millions of homes in rural China and other parts of the world burn raw coal chunks in small, low-efficiency stoves for cooking and heating. Studies indicate that emissions from incomplete coal combustion in these stoves contribute significantly to China’s serious air pollution levels — among the highest in the world.

The scientists compared emissions between traditional and improved stoves using either raw (unprocessed) coal chunks or coal briquettes. The briquettes consist of coal powder and clay and are molded into multihole columns. They found that burning briquettes in well-ventilated stoves dramatically reduced black carbon emissions by 98 percent and other emissions by more than 60 percent. The study concludes that this approach can bring about “explicit benefits in environment and health, together with possible gains in climate stabilization.”

New evidence that vinegar may be natural fat-fighter

Researchers in Japan are reporting new evidence that the ordinary vinegar — a staple in oil-and-vinegar salad dressings, pickles, and other foods — may live up to its age-old reputation in folk medicine as a health promoter. They are reporting new evidence that vinegar can help prevent accumulation of body fat and weight gain. Their study is scheduled for the July 8 issue of ACS’ Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, a bi-weekly publication.

Tomoo Kondo and colleagues note in the new study that vinegar has also been used as a folk medicine since ancient times. People have used it for a range of ills. Modern scientific research suggests that acetic acid, the main component of vinegar, may help control blood pressure, blood sugar levels, and fat accumulation.

Their new study showed that laboratory mice fed a high-fat diet and given acetic acid developed significantly less body fat (up to 10 percent less) than other mice. Importantly, the new research adds evidence to the belief that acetic acid fights fat by turning on genes for fatty acid oxidation enzymes. The genes churn out proteins involved in breaking down fats, thus suppressing body fat accumulation in the body.

No more test tubes on four feet? EPA moves toward animal-free toxicity tests

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) plans to switch to a new generation of animal-free tests for predicting the toxicity of chemicals to humans, according to an article scheduled for the June 22 issue of Chemical & Engineering News, ACS’ weekly newsmagazine.

C&EN associate editor Britt Erickson points out that there are more than 80,000 chemicals on the market, with about 700 more added each year. Over the next ten years, EPA plans to increasingly rely on so-called toxicity-based pathways to evaluate these substances.

This approach involves using human cell cultures to screen newly marketed chemicals for adverse effects. The new tests will produce results in a fraction of the time now required with animal studies.

But the switch won’t be easy, the C&EN article notes. Some experts question the validity of these next-generation tests. Meanwhile, new technologies for predicting toxicity may emerge and complement conventional animal tests, according to the article.

Journalists’ Resources

  • Save the Date: ACS August National Meeting
    Join more than 11,000 scientists expected to gather in Washington, D. C., Aug. 16-20 for one of the year’s largest and most important scientific conferences. The 238th National Meeting of the American Chemical Society will feature 8,000 reports on new discoveries about chemistry, medicine, health, food, fuels, the environment and other topics. For advance complimentary news media registration: https://www.xpressreg.net/register/acsf089/media/start.asp.
  • Save the Date: Green Chemistry conference on sustainability begins June 23
    Jean-Michel Cousteau, noted explorer, film-producer and environmentalist, and Len Sauers, Ph.D., Vice President of Global Sustainability for The Procter & Gamble Company, are the featured keynote speakers at the upcoming 13th annual Green Chemistry & Engineering Conference in June in College Park, Md. The focus of this year’s conference, June 23-25 at the Marriott Inn and Conference Center, is on progress made toward research objectives identified in the National Academy of Sciences’ 2006 report, “Sustainability in the Chemical Industry: Grand Challenges and Research Needs.” Sauers will address the convention on June 24, Cousteau on June 25. For more information on the conference, please visit www.gcande.org.
  • Writing on Green Chemistry?
    Here is a treasure trove of some of the most significant scientific research articles published in 2008.
    http://pubs.acs.org/stoken/presspac/presspac/full/10.1021/op900082k
  • Press releases, briefings, and more from ACS’ 237th National Meeting
    http://www.eurekalert.org/acsmeet.php

    http://www.ustream.tv/channel/acslive
  • Must-reads from C&EN: A lesson in Recession Chemistry 101
    With the economy mired in a recession, colleges and universities across the United States are feeling the pinch. State universities are experiencing budget cuts because of decreasing tax revenue, tuition-dependent schools are worried about students’ ability to pay, and endowment-based institutions have had fund values drop by as much as 30 percent. Some chemistry department chairs say they are coping, but others say there are just hanging on. As one chair put it, “We had a reserve for a rainy day, but we didn’t expect a hurricane.” For a copy of this story, send an e-mail to m_bernstein@acs.org.
  • ACS pressroom blog
    The American Chemical Society’s Office of Public Affairs (OPA) has created a new pressroom blog to highlight prominent research from ACS’ 34 journals.
  • Bytesize Science blog
    Educators and kids, put on your thinking caps: The American Chemical Society has a new blog for Bytesize Science, a science podcast for kids of all ages.
  • ACS satellite pressroom: Daily news blasts on Twitter
    The American Chemical Society’s Office of Public Affairs (OPA) new satellite press room has quickly become one of the most popular science news sites on Twitter. To receive press room updates, create a free account. Then, visit http://twitter.com/ACSpressroom and click the ‘join’ button beneath the press room logo.
  • ACS Press Releases

General science press releases on a variety of chemistry-related topics.

  • New Website on everyday chemicals
    Whether you want to learn more about caffeine, benzoyl peroxide (acne treatment), sodium chloride (table salt), or some other familiar chemical, CAS Common Chemistry can help. The new Web site provides non-chemists and others with useful information about everyday chemicals by searching either a chemical name or a corresponding CAS Registry Number. The site currently contains approximately 7,800 chemicals of general interest as well as all 118 elements from the periodic table, providing alternative names, molecular structures, a Wikipedia link, and other information.
  • From Chemical Abstracts Service (CAS)
    CAS - Science Connections
    is a series of articles that showcases the value of CAS databases in light of important general-interest science and technology news. Ranging in topics from fruit flies to Nobel Prize winners, the CAS - Science Connections series points to the CAS databases for a more complete understanding of the latest news

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PressPac information is intended for your personal use in news gathering and reporting and should not be distributed to others. Anyone using advance PressPac information for stocks or securities dealing may be guilty of insider trading under the federal Securities Exchange Act of 1934.

The American Chemical Society — the world’s largest scientific society — is a nonprofit organization chartered by the U.S. Congress and a global leader in providing access to chemistry-related research through its multiple databases, peer-reviewed journals and scientific conferences. Its main offices are in Washington, D.C., and Columbus, Ohio.