FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

ACS News Service Weekly PressPac: Wed Sep 02 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

Trash or treasure? Discarded U.S. computers often get a second life

More computers discarded by consumers in the United States are getting a second life in developing countries than previously believed, according to a new study –– the most comprehensive ever done on the topic –– reported in ACS’ semi-monthly journal Environmental Science & Technology. The findings may ease growing concerns about environmental pollution with toxic metals that can result from dismantling and recycling computer components in developing countries.

In the study Ramzy Kahhat and Eric Williams focused on the situation in Peru, where Kahhat was born. They used a Peruvian government database that tracks importation of new and used computers and computing equipment. The researchers found that at least 85 percent of computers imported into Peru are reused, rather than going directly into recycling.

The finding challenges the widespread belief that the trade in e-waste was mainly about dumping unusable junk or recycling components is inaccurate, at least for Peru. The U.S. is the source of up to 76 percent of used computers imported to Peru from 2003-2007, the researchers indicated. They note uncertainty on whether the same holds true for other, much larger countries like China and India.

Sustainable fertilizer: Urine and wood ash produce large harvest

Results of the first study evaluating the use of human urine mixed with wood ash as a fertilizer for food crops has found that the combination can be substituted for costly synthetic fertilizers to produce bumper crops of tomatoes without introducing any risk of disease for consumers. The study appears in the current issue of ACS’ Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, a bi-weekly publication.

In the study, Surendra Pradhan and colleagues point out that urine, a good source of nitrogen, has been successfully used to fertilize cucumber, corn, cabbage, and other crops. Only a few studies, however, have investigated the use of wood ash, which is rich in minerals and also reduces the acidity of certain soils. Scientists have not reported on the combinaton of urine and wood ash, they say.

The new study found that plants fertilized with urine produced four times more tomatoes than nonfertilized plants and as much as plants given synthetic fertilizer. Urine plus wood ash produced almost as great a yield, with the added benefit of reducing the acidity of acid soils. “The results suggest that urine with or without wood ash can be used as a substitute for mineral fertilizer to increase the yields of tomato without posing any microbial or chemical risks,” the report says.

Powerful new “Molecular GPS” helps probe aging and disease processes

Scientists in Michigan are reporting the development of a powerful new probe for identifying proteins affected by a key chemical process important in aging and disease. The probe works like a GPS or navigation system for finding these proteins in cells. It could lead to new insights into disease processes and identify new targets for disease treatments, the researchers say. Their study is scheduled for the Sept. 18 issue of ACS Chemical Biology, a monthly journal.

Kate Carroll and colleagues note that scientists have known for years that the excess build-up of highly-reactive oxygen-containing molecules in cells can contribute to aging and possibly to disorders such as cancer and Alzheimer’s disease. Scientists believe that a diet rich in antioxidants, which are abundant in fruits and vegetables, may help deter this cell-damaging process by blocking the accumulation of these molecules, also known as reactive oxygen species (ROS). But until now, scientists have lacked the proper tools to study the effects of these molecules in detail.

The researchers developed a new molecule called DAz-2, which they say functions like a tiny GPS device for quickly finding specific proteins that are affected by ROS. The molecules do this by chemically “tagging” sulfenic acid. Formed in cells, sulfenic acid indicates that a protein has undergone a type of reaction — called oxidation — caused by ROS. In lab studies using cultured cells, the scientists identified more than 190 proteins that undergo this reaction. The study may lead to better strategies for fighting the wide range of diseases that involve these excessive oxidation reactions, the researchers say.

“NanoPen” may write new chapter in nanotechnology manufacturing

More computers discarded by consumers in the United States are getting a second life in developing countries than previously believed, according to a new study –– the most comprehensive ever done on the topic –– reported in ACS’ semi-monthly journal Environmental Science & Technology. The findings may ease growing concerns about environmental pollution with toxic metals that can result from dismantling and recycling computer components in developing countries.

In the study Ramzy Kahhat and Eric Williams focused on the situation in Peru, where Kahhat was born. They used a Peruvian government database that tracks importation of new and used computers and computing equipment. The researchers found that at least 85 percent of computers imported into Peru are reused, rather than going directly into recycling.

The finding challenges the widespread belief that the trade in e-waste was mainly about dumping unusable junk or recycling components is inaccurate, at least for Peru. The U.S. is the source of up to 76 percent of used computers imported to Peru from 2003-2007, the researchers indicated. They note uncertainty on whether the same holds true for other, much larger countries like China and India.

New materials promise safer containers and food and drug packaging

Amid concerns over the potential health effects of substances used in plastic bottles, food wrap, asthma inhalers, syringes and other food and drug packaging, scientists worldwide are looking for new ways to sidestep the leaching of chemicals from packaging into the product. That’s the topic of the cover story of the current issue of Chemical & Engineering News, ACS’ weekly newsmagazine.

C&EN associate editor Sarah Everts notes in the article that plastics, rubber, ink and other materials used in packaging can breakdown into a wide range of substances that leach into food and drugs and may threaten human health. One of the most notable plastic additives, bisphenol A, has drawn increasing scrutiny from the public and media over its potentially harmful health effects, especially after it was banned in Canada for use in baby bottles. But bisphenol A is just one of thousands of substances that can migrate from packaging into food and drugs.

New technology, however, is helping scientists in their quest to develop safer materials. But these new materials tend to cost more, sometimes several times the price of the components they replace, the article notes. “It remains to be seen whether consumers are willing to pay more for expensive packaging that reduces leaching into their food and drugs,” the article concludes.

Journalists’ Resources

  • Press releases, briefings, and more from ACS’ 238th National Meeting
    http://www.eurekalert.org/acsmeet.php

    http://www.ustream.tv/channel/acslive
  • 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
  • Must-reads from C&EN: Screening toys for lead, phthalates not so easy
    When lawmakers set lower limits for lead and phthalates in children’s products they failed to make sure that accurate analytical testing methods were available. Phthalates are esters of phthalic acid that are mainly used as plasticizers. These lower limits were spelled out in the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008. However, the law didn’t contain language covering ways to evaluate those products, according to Eileen M. Nottoli, Ph.D., a California chemist and environmental attorney. She spoke at the American Chemical Society’s 238th National Meeting last month. For a copy of the story, please 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 at https://twitter.com/signup. 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 Web site 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

For Wired Readers

  • Global Challenges/Chemistry Solutions
    This special series of ACS podcasts on some of the 21st Century’s most daunting challenges, and how cutting-edge research in chemistry matters in the quest for solutions. Subscribe at iTunes or listen and access other resources at the ACS web site www.acs.org/GlobalChallenges.
  • Bytesize Science, a podcast for young listeners
    Bytesize Science is a science podcast for kids of all ages that aims to entertain as much as it educates, with new video podcasts and some episodes available in Spanish. Subscribe to Bytesize Science in iTunes using iTunes No iTunes? No problem. Listen to latest episodes of Bytesize Science in your web browser.
  • Science Elements: Science Elements is a podcast of PressPac contents that makes cutting-edge scientific discoveries from ACS journals available to a broader public audience. Subscribe to Science Elements using iTunes. Listen to the latest episodes of Science Elements in your web browser.
  • SciFinder® Podcasts
    Interested in healthful plant phytochemicals, nanotechnology, or green chemistry? Check out the SciFinder series of podcasts, which explore a vast array of current interest topics and new discoveries in the 21st century. The SciFinder podcasts are available in English, Chinese, Japanese, and Portuguese.

More ACS News


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 is a nonprofit organization chartered by the U.S. Congress. With more than 154,000 members, ACS is the world’s largest scientific society 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.