One of the greatest threats to public health these days, especially in developing countries, is poor water quality. Everyone needs water to live, right? But if that water isn’t clean, it can lead to a ton of health problems. Some estimates figure that 6,000 people die each day due to health complications from drinking poor water.
Solving big problems usually takes big solutions. But a Swiss weaving company have developed an easy, low-cost way to get around the problems of drinking impure water. It’s developed a device called LifeStraw.
It’s a portable water purifying system. People can wear a LifeStraw around their neck and use it to safely slurp up surface water from just about any natural location. The ten-inch-long tube contains a series of fabric filters inside. Those filters can screen out nearly all micro organisms that carry water-borne diseases, including diarrhea, dysentery, typhoid and choler. The filters are fine enough to screen out particles that are up to 15 micorns small.
The makers of LifeStraw say their product can last for about a year until it needs to be replaced, processing about 700 liters of water in its life time. That averages out to about two liters a day, the size of a large soda pop bottle.
There is some minimal maintenance required with a LifeStraw. Users occasionally need to blow out their last gulp of water plus some air through the straw to clean out the filters and any silt or mud that may get drawn into the straw.
What’s really remarkable about this is the price tag for LifeStraw. Each device costs $3. But you’re not going to find them on the shelves of Wal-Mart, Target or a grocery store.
LifeStraw’s parent company, Vestergaard Frandsen sells LifeStraws in bulk quantities to charitable groups who then get them to needy areas of the world through service projects. Rotary Clubs in Great Britain are among the biggest participants in the LifeStraw distribution effort.
More information on how to get involved in distributing LifeStraws is available at the organization’s website: www.lifestraw.com
Nanotechnology research is kicking into full gear the world over but almost everyone agrees that we simply don't know how to properly regulate its use. What will particles billions of times smaller than a meter do to our bodies and the environment? Well...they might cure our cancers and clean up our water. But they also might penetrate our blood brain barriers and stick in our gray matter or cause ecosystems to decline due to tiny tiny pollutants.
Well, at least our government is beginning to look at this stuff. The EPA announced on Thursday that they will be regulating all use of nano-silver in US commercial products. If you make odor eating socks with nano-silver you now have to make sure that it won't get out into the environment and cause harm.
The city of Berkeley, California is also looking at creating the first local government nanotech regulations. This isn't surprising for two reasons.
I will be watching this closely and hope that the concerned community members and the scientists can come to some middle ground where research isn't totally crippled by massive regulation but where unknown safety risks are considered.
Fun times in the nanoworld.
In northern India, particularly Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, the polio virus persists, despite good vaccination coverage, due to overcrowded living conditions and poor sanitation. Researchers at the Imperial College in London say that the three polio strains in the trivalent vaccine can interfere with each other inside the body, producing immunity to one strain but not another. So switching from a vaccine that protects against three strains of polio to a vaccine that protects only against the dominant one, along with stepped up vaccination efforts, could help eliminate the virus from its few remaining reservoirs.
More polio stories on the Buzz:
A recent study in Poland showed that a flu shot can significantly reduce the risk of death for people with coronary artery disease. Dr. Arnold Monto, professor of epidemiology at the University of Michigan, said,
"We know that people die of flu who have underlying cardiopulmonary disease. It's only logical that if you are able to prevent flu with vaccine, you can prevent these deaths."
Autism is a serious concern in our country today, with 1 out of every 166 children diagnosed with some form of the disorder. But could the sharp rise in Autism (it was only 1 in 2500 30 years ago) be linked to the increased prevalence of TV in our homes? Economists from Cornell University say that the data shows a pretty strong correlation.
Michael Waldman and Sean Nicholson looked at populations in California, Oregon, and Washington using the Department of Labor's American Time Use Survey. They compared this information with clinical autism data and found a statistically significant correlation between and increase in early childhood hours spent watching TV and autism rates.
Well, the authors of the study will be the first to say that this isn't definitive proof that TV causes autism (or that autism causes TV...sorry, bad joke). And these guys are economists looking at population data not medical scientists studying individuals with autism. But that doesn't mean this study is without merit. Something in our environment causes autism and we don't really know what it is. I support any unique thought on the subject that gives us new research questions to evaluate.
Do you have a story or thought on autism? Have you heard of other possible causes of autism?
Last June 4th, I reported that MIT researchers used a self-assembling peptide nanofiber scaffold to repair severed brain structures in blind rodents and restore their sight. Those same researchers noticed the material's dramatic ability to stop bleeding in the brain and began testing it on a variety of other organs and tissues.
In a study published online October 10 in Nanomedicine the researchers report that the liquid controlled bleeding in rodents within 15 seconds in seven other wound types, including cuts to the spinal cord, liver [view video here] and femoral artery as well as skin punctures.
The liquid does not seem to form a conventional blood clot, the group notes. Electron microscopy turned up no sign of the platelets that would normally gather in a clot. The proteins might instead form tangles that act like hair blocking a drain, Ellis-Behnke suggests.
The gel eventually breaks down into amino acids, the building blocks of proteins, that can be used by surrounding cells for tissue repair.
This discovery has created lots of excitement, especially by surgeons. Still, they caution that extensive clinical trials are needed to make sure the materials work properly and are safe. The MIT researchers hope to see those crucial human trials within three to five years.
I don't know about you but I think I would be pretty much last on the list to volunteer for surgery on a plane. Especially if that that plane is flying up and down, up and down, thousands of feet each minute to simulate zero gravity.
But that's just what Philippe Sanchot signed up for. Doctors removed a benign tumor from his arm as part of an experiment to see how surgery in space might work. They flew aboard the specially designed plane, Zero-G, which climbs very high and then dives quickly to simulate weightlessness.
The main surgeon on the team said:
"Now we know that a human being can be operated on in space without too many difficulties."
These techniques might be used in the future to remotely preform surgery abroad the space station or other futuristic space craft.
The CDC has more than 100 million doses of this year's flu vaccine available--enough so that anyone who wants one can get one. (Doctors and clinics will start receiving the vaccine next month.)
Last year 86 million doses were available, but 4.8 million went unused. Yet 200 million Americans are either considered high risk themselves or have close contact with someone at high risk and should consider getting the shot.
People on the CDC's priority list include:
It's best to get vaccinated in October or November so there's time for immunity to develop before the flu season hits. But numbers of influenza cases usually peak in February, so even a late shot offers some protection.
Every year somewhere between 5 and 20% of the US population catches influenza. 200,000 of them need hospital care, and 36,000 die.
So...will you be getting a flu shot this year? Vote in our poll, and tell us why or why not.