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.
Journal: Environmental Science & Technology
Journal Article: “Molecular Characterization of Nitrogen Containing Organic Compounds in Biomass Burning Aerosols Using High Resolution Mass Spectrometry”
Scientists in Washington State are reporting the first discovery of potent mutagenic substances in smoke from forest fires that often sweep through huge stands of Ponderosa pine in the western United States and Canada. Their discovery of these mutagens — substances that can damage the genetic material DNA — is scheduled for the June 1 edition of ACS’ Environmental Science & Technology, a semi-monthly journal.
In the study, Julia Laskin and colleagues note that forest fires long have been recognized as major sources of organic compounds containing nitrogen. But their research is the first to show that the nitrogen compounds exist as alkaloids, which are naturally occurring mutagens that are produced by trees and other plants.
Ponderosa pine trees, the researchers note, often grow in droughty areas and in forests subject to large-scale outbreaks of fires, and have high levels of alkaloids in their needles. Fires help to transfer alkaloids from needles into tiny particles that can be then transported through the air. Noting that the alkaloids can be transported long distances, the scientists say that fires involving Ponderosa pines could have adverse human health effects. — JS
In an advance that will help speed global development of new drugs and patenting of new commercial and industrial products, a scientist in New Mexico is reporting development of the first computer program that can quickly and accurately translate complex chemical names from one language into another. The study is in the current edition of ACS’ Journal of Chemical Information and Modeling, a bi-monthly publication.
Roger Sayle notes that a universal system for naming chemicals does exist. However, translating chemical names from one language into another can be a complex task due to differences in spacing, capitalization, spelling, and other factors. Proper translation from English to Chinese, for example, often requires the use of specially trained chemists who are fluent in both languages. Although scientists have tried for decades to create computer software for quickly translating chemical names into other languages, there’s been limited progress in this area until now, Sayle notes.
Sayle reports development of a new version of a powerful computer program called Lexichem that can perform those translations. The study describes how that program translated a group of more than 250,000 chemical names from English to seven other languages (and back) with a 98 percent accuracy rate. — MTS
Scientists in Japan are reporting an advance toward giving artificial cells another hallmark of life — the ability to tap an energy source and use it to undergo sustained movement. Their study, published in the Journal of the American Chemical Society, describes the first “self-propelled” oil droplets (used as a model for research on artificial cells) that can run on a chemical “fuel.”
Tadashi Sugawara and Taro Toyota and other colleagues note in the new study that scientists have tried for years to find a method for producing oil droplets that undergo controlled movement from one point to another. Despite identifying several promising approaches, researchers have never found an ideal method that they can easily control.
The new study describes development of oil droplets equipped with chemical “engines” — highly reactive catalysts — that provide self-propelled motion in the presence of a chemical “fuel.” This fuel consists of special substances that react in the presence of the catalyst. When the researchers placed droplets in water containing the fuel, the droplets moved in a controlled fashion toward areas with the highest concentration of fuel. The researchers also say that when another droplet comes close the newcomer it is trapped by the trail of wastes released by the first droplet. Then the two move together in a “communicative” manner. When the fuel was exhausted, the droplets slowed down and stopped. The study serves as a long-awaited blueprint for designing similar locomotion systems in artificial cells, the scientists say. — MTS
Journal: Environmental Science & Technology
“Mercury Trends in Ringed Seals (Phoca hispida) from the Western Canadian Arctic since 1973: Associations with Length of Ice-Free Season”
Researchers in Canada are reporting for the first time that high mercury levels in certain Arctic seals appear to be linked to vanishing sea ice caused by global warming. Their study, a new insight into the impact of climate change on Arctic marine life, is scheduled for the May 1 issue of ACS’ Environmental Science & Technology, a semi-monthly journal.
Gary Stern and colleagues note in the new study that Canadian Arctic ringed seals, like many Arctic marine animals, have relatively high levels of mercury. However, researchers have never determined how these levels are linked to sea ice extent and the resulting composition of arctic cod and other prey containing mercury available to ringed seals.
The scientists analyzed the mercury content in muscle samples collected from ringed seals between 1973 and 2007. They then compared the levels to the length of the so-called “summer ice-free season,” a warm period marked by vanishing sea ice in the seals’ habitat. They found that the seals accumulated more mercury during both short (2 months) and long (5 months) ice-free seasons and postulate that this is related to the seals’ food supplies. Higher seal mercury concentrations may follow relatively short ice-free seasons due to consumption of older, more highly contaminated Arctic cod while relatively long ice-free seasons may promote higher pelagic productivity and thus increased survival and abundance of Arctic cod with the overall result of more fish consumption and greater exposure to mercury. Longer ice-free seasons resulting from a warming Arctic may therefore result in higher mercury levels in ringed seal populations as well as their predators (polar bears and humans).— MTS
Homeowners throughout the nation are complaining of stinky odors, copper pipe and wire corrosion, and respiratory problems in an ongoing crisis that officials say is linked to drywall imported from China. An article on this topic is scheduled for the May 4 issue of Chemical & Engineering News, ACS’ weekly newsmagazine.
Journal: Chemical & Engineering News
Journal Article: ““Wallboard Woes”
This story will be available on May 4.
C&EN associate editor Bethany Halford explains in the article that drywall — also known as wallboard, plasterboard, and gypsum board — is composed of a gypsum, a chalk-like material. Spurred by complaints from homeowners that their homes smell like rotten eggs, investigators have traced the problem to drywall imported from China starting in 2004. But officials do not know the exact chemicals that are causing the problem and how they got into the drywall.
Researchers suspect that the odors are caused by certain sulfur-containing substances in the drywall. Released as gases, these substances can corrode copper pipes, wiring, and air conditioning coils, the article notes. Although officials believe that the gases do not pose a serious health threat, many homeowners with the drywall have reported nosebleeds, sinus problems, and respiratory infections. Several government agencies are now investigating the exact health effects caused by exposure to these gases as well as the electrical safety issues related to corrosion of copper wiring.
The American Chemical Society’s Office of Public Affairs (OPA) has created a new pressroom blog to highlight prominent research from ACS’ 34 journals. The blog includes daily commentary on the latest news from the weekly PressPac, including video and audio segments from researchers on topics covering chemistry and related sciences, including nanotechnology, food science, materials science and the environment. The pressroom blog will also cover updates on ACS’ awards, the national meetings and other general news from the world’s largest scientific society.
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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.