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The Beat

Posted Sep 01 2011 12:00am

Open Access

News | Forum

The Beat

Formal Correction: This article has been formally corrected to address the following errors.

Erin Dooley

Citation: Dooley E 2011. The Beat. Environ Health Perspect 119:a384-a385. http://dx.doi.org/10.1289/ehp.119-a384b

Online: 01 September 2011

U.S. Forest Service Examines Fire Retardant Policy  Top

As fire season in the western United States peaks, the U.S. Forest Service is incorporating public comments into a draft environmental impact statement (DEIS) published earlier this year. 1 The DEIS was developed in response to a July 2010 ruling by Montana’s Federal District Court that U.S. Forest Service protocols for aerial application of fire retardants to fight wildfires violated the Endangered Species Act. Although aerial application in remote areas is not considered a direct threat to human health—the smoke from wildfires is deemed a greater hazard 2 —it does carry the risk of inadvertent contamination of waterways and traditional food sources. A final EIS is expected by the end of 2011.

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The U.S. Forest Service is assessing the impact of aerial application of fire retardants.

Sherri R. Camp/Shutterstock.com

Teen Hearing Loss Linked to SHS  Top

A new study shows that children aged 12–19 years exposed to secondhand smoke (SHS) were nearly twice as likely as nonexposed teens to experience sensorineural hearing loss, a type of hearing loss typically associated with aging and congenital deafness. 3 Exposed teenagers performed worse across every sound frequency tested, especially those frequencies vital to understanding speech. Most of the teens with hearing loss were unaware of the deficiency. The researchers point out that although the effects are subtle, they still may be serious enough to impair learning in classroom settings. More than half of all U.S. children are estimated to be exposed to SHS. 4

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RoHS is expanding to cover all electronic equipment, cables, and spare parts.

Huguette Roe/Shutterstock.com

EU Expands Rules on Electronic Equipment  Top

In July 2011 a new extension to the Restriction on Hazardous Substances (RoHS) directive on electronic equipment entered into force in the European Union. 5 The extension, which will be phased in by 2019, broadens the scope of the original directive to include all electronic equipment, cables, and spare parts. The extension continues the ban of lead, mercury, cadmium, hexavalent chromium, polybrominated biphenyls, and polybrominated diphenyl ethers from use in electronics, and offers clearer rules for seeking exemptions to the ban. RoHS applies to any business that sells applicable products, subassemblies, or components either directly or indirectly to RoHS countries.

Casting Nanofiber Nets for Indoor Pollutants  Top

Conventional methods to detect formaldehyde in air can be time-consuming, expensive, and inadequately sensitive. A team of researchers has designed a nanofiber net that, when used as a coating on a device known as a quartz crystal microbalance detector, provides a faster, more sensitive method for measuring low levels of formaldehyde. 6 The new method uses an electrospinning netting technique to deposit polymide membranes on the microbalance, providing a large surface area and high porosity and adhesive force. The nets also may have uses for detecting viruses and bacteria.

Exploring the Potential of Frankia  Top

Frankia are nitrogen-fixing bacteria that live symbiotically in the roots of actinorhizal plants. A new study shows these bacteria have the genetic capacity to produce products such as antibiotics, herbicides, and anticancer agents. 7 Researchers used bioinformatic analysis of three strains of Frankia to identify dozens of biosynthetic gene clusters—that is, genes used by Frankia to manufacture the compounds it needs to survive and thrive. Products have not been observed or characterized for most of these biosynthetic pathways, but this analysis predicts many that are structurally similar to valuable compounds such as vancomycin.

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Frankia species offer a potential source of useful compounds.

Louis S. Tisa/University of New Hampshire

References  Top

  1. 1. U.S. Forest Service. Aerial Application of Fire Retardant. Draft Environmental Impact Statement. Washington, DC:U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture. Available: http://tinyurl.com/42wpfb4 [accessed 17 Aug 2011].
  2. 2. Weinhold B.. Fields and forests in flames: vegetation smoke and human health. Environ Health Perspect 119(9):A386–A393. 2011. http://dx.doi.org/10.1289/ehp.119-a386
  3. 3.
  4. 4. Yolton K, et al. Exposure to environmental tobacco smoke and cognitive abilities among U.S. children and adolescents. Environ Health Perspect 113(1):98–103. 2005. http://dx.doi.org/10.1289/ehp.7210
  5. 5. Official Journal of the European Union. Directive 2011/65/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 8 June 2011 on the restriction of the use of certain hazardous substances in electrical and electronic equipment (recast). Brussels, Belgium:European Union (2011). Available: http://tinyurl.com/6hclfnj [accessed 17 Aug 2011].
  6. 6. Ding B, et al. Polyamide 6 composite nano-fiber/net functionalized by polyethyleneimine on quartz crystal microbalance for highly sensitive formaldehyde sensors. J Mater Chem 21(34):12784–12792. 2011. http://dx.doi.org/10.1039/C1JM11847A
  7. 7. Udwary DW, et al. Significant natural product biosynthetic potential of actinorhizal symbionts of the genus Frankia, as revealed by comparative genomic and proteomic analyses. Appl Environ Microbiol 77(11):3617–3625. 2011. http://dx.doi.org/10.1128/AEM.00038-11
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