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March 2010

Yet more BPA nonsense

If you've ever wondered just how much evidence has to be gathered up to put a stake through the heart of notorious junk science, what the formerly Golden State is doing with BPA can serve as a primer.

Last year, the far from chem industry friendly regulators in California decided not to put BPA on their notorious Prop 65 list. Admittedly, they had only done this after virtually every regulatory body in the civilized world had already granted the chemical a clean bill of health.

But, less than a week afterward, the fear entrepreneurs at NRDC—sensing that their golden goose was cooked—filed an amazingly amateurish petition that was enough to get the State to reconsider. Heck, what better for the elite in Sacramento to worry about as their state is rapidly headed from first to worst.

I guess that 5400 studies on BPA aren't quite enough.

Read my complete HND piece, entitled "Raising Up The BPA Boogeyman Yet Again: A Scientific Disgrace."

This time, it really is brain surgery

My latest HND piece gives a brief history of brain surgery, and discusses a promising new product that should make some of these procedures easier, quicker, and safer.

Although most people regard brain operations as the ultimate in complex surgery, historians believe that they were among the first—if not the first—type of surgeries to be performed, with records going back to 7000 BC.

The new product is a simple, but dramatic improvement on retractors, used to position target areas of the brain for surgery. Vycor Medical is the manufacturer, and we give some background on just how the company was founded, and where the idea for the ViewSite Brain Access System came from.

Read the complete article.

Yes, there really is such a thing as green broadband

Contrary to what Kermit the Frog once said, it IS easy being green, mainly because there is no accepted definition of the term. To cite but one example, how was it ever decreed that reusable shopping bags are green?

Even though some of them are made from recycled materials (although the percentage is not easily determined), all of them are derived from petroleum, and are manufactured in what overall cannot be a benign or low-energy process. Then, millions of them are shipped over here from China, at a cost of still more energy and carbon emissions.

They don't last forever, of course, and are then discarded—mostly to landfills, while conventional grocery bags are easily recycled.

Yet, because they are visible and are used by self-affirmed trendsetters, they have become a symbol for environmental stewardship.

Traditional broadband requires laying fiber or cable and the attendant energy and pollution costs. Broadband over power line (BPL), however, allows already in-place power lines to be the conduit, and this is green by anyone's reasoning.

One innovative company in this space is Gridline Communications, coming off successful projects in Africa, Latin America, Texas, Arizona, and New Mexico. CEO Terry Dillon speaks of his company's new intellectual property that will have "disruptive impact" (in a good way) on BPL.

A recent HND article covers green broadband, the smart grid, and smart meters. Check it out.

EPA gets involved with ethylene oxide usage

Ethylene oxide (EtO) is an essential sterilant, used for all sorts of devices that can't take steam processing. For some years, it has been fashionable to pile on this compound. Yet, pesky data—tracing morbidity and mortality of EtO-exposed workers and comparing it to the non-exposed population—shows essentially no difference (beginning in the OSHA era).

Older EtO sterilizers were used in conjunction with separate aerators, so that workers had to unload the sterilizer and place the load into the aerator. Technically, this provided an additional exposure, compared to more modern sterilizers that have built-in aerators.

One would think that such practices would logically come under OSHA, but since ethylene oxide is considered a pesticide, EPA enters the picture.

Pesticides have to be registered and re-registered, so certain new guidelines for EtO came into effect on March 1, 2010, the most important of which is to prohibit the use of separate aerators. Or, to put it more positively, only single chamber sterilizers are now to be used.

The good news for EtO, though is that EPA also found that:

[T]he benefits of EtO use outweigh the occupational risks associated with its use provided that the risk mitigation measures outlined...are adopted and label amendments are made to reflect these measures.

Interscan has posted a Knowledge Base article on this matter, and I would encourage all in health care who might be affected by the new regs, to surf on over.

Tracing back to the moment the Feds went all wrong

It happened earlier than you might think. As a recent Mike's Comment discusses, the fix was in from the beginning. I name names on who screwed it up, but even uber Federalists like Hamilton couldn't have predicted, nor would they have wanted, the mess we're now in.

Continuing my tradition of mocking so-called "landmark" Supreme Court cases, I reveal the one that tore down the whole system. As you might have guessed, old John Marshall had a hand in this case, even if he officially recused himself.

Read the complete article.

Shining a light on a $152 billion health problem

I'm talking about food-borne illnesses. For some reason, everyone is still quoting from a report that came out more than ten years ago, and included these delightful findings:

  • Food-borne diseases cause approximately 76 million illnesses, 325,000 hospitalizations, and 5000 deaths in the United States each year.
  • A certain amount of this illness is caused by agents that have not yet been identified, and thus cannot be diagnosed.

The smart money says that based on increased globalization of the food supply, the current numbers are probably far worse. Just as disturbing is that the methods food companies use to screen for microbes have not really changed in the past 100 years.

Which brings us to San Clemente, CA based Micro Identification Technologies Inc., a company that gets the job done utilizing the well-established principle of light scattering.

Two distinct advantages of this method are the very quick identification time (less than 10 minutes), and the low cost ($0.10 per test). 23 species can now be identified with this technique. An upcoming improvement in the system, according to John Ricardi—the company's executive vice president and chief operating officer—is a single-click facility for immediately identifying Listeria, Salmonella, and E. coli.

Good science to the rescue!

I cover this subject in a recent HND article. Check it out.