Monday, July 13, 2009

Climate change: Interesting, whacky ideas to fight ill effects of global warming

By Syed Akbar

Idea No. 1

Injecting sulphur into the sky

What's the colour of the sky? Blue, of course. But if global warming
turns worse shooting up temperatures, mankind may have to explore this option to keep the human planet cool: Inject sulphur into the sky. Temperatures will come
down, but the sky will change its colour. May be to yellow. No matter how the sky appears, it will halt climate change.

Scientists the world over are now giving a deep thought to injecting sulphur or "global dimming" after Australian scientist Tim Flannery proposed this radical solution, which may no longer keep the sky blue.

According to him, climate change is taking place so fast that we may have to pump sulphur into the atmosphere if we want to survive on the earth. Sulphur when injected in its gaseous form into the earth's stratosphere will help prevent
harmful sun rays from falling on us. It will also slow down global warming.

Flannery is confident that this technology will become a reality in the next five years. The process is quite simple. Add sulphur to the fuel of jet engines or aeroplanes. Since the exhaust contains sulphur, it will settle down in the
stratosphere, reflecting back the sunlight.

As Flannery argues, adding sulphur to the atmosphere should be the
last barrier to climate collapse.

Sulphur emissions through automobiles may have been harmful for human and animal health. But this pollutant may become a saviour of mankind, if scientists like Flannery have their way.

Idea No. 2
Feed the sea with iron

Human health and iron are synonymous. Iron keeps us alive by fixing atmospheric oxygen to the blood. In fact, our blood gets is red colour because of the presence of iron.

Now two different batches of marine biologists from the University of Hawaii and Oregon State University are exploring methods to feed the sea with iron. Not to boost its strength, but to save humanity from imminent fallout of global warming and climate change.

Dr Brian von Herzen of The Climate Foundation strongly believes that iron could play a major role in the blooming of phyto and zoo plankton. The blooming plankton will help in obsorption of a large quantity of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, thus bringing down the over all temperatures on the blue planet.

The plankton are capable of utilising large quantities of CO2 through hotosynthesis. Aquatic plankton, particularly, phyto plankton, are known to obsorb many times more carbon dioxide than plants and trees that grow on the land. Just have a small bloom of phyto plankton through iron feeding and this simply equals the task of planting trees on scores of acres of land.

Oceanographers and marine biologists already know that iron will help in plankton bloom. The plankton works in several ways. After obsorbing the harmful CO2 from the atmosphere, it stores the gas in its cells. As the plankton dies it settles down in the ocean's bed, safely carrying the carbon dioxide. A bloom in plankton also means more aquatic life as many marine animals including fish feed on them.

The formula works well in oceanic areas where there's iron deficiency. Who said, oceans and seas are not anaemic, like we humans?

Idea No. 3
Space Umbrellas to the rescue

We have heard our leaders urging us to come under one umbrella. Though it's not literally possible for all to come under one single umbrella, geo-engineers believe it could be possible, scientifically.

Yes, these geo-engineers, a new breed of scientists who want to tinker with the Nature to save mankind from global warming and the resultant climate change, have conceptualised what they call space umbrellas to bounce back the harmful radiation from the sun.

Scientists from the University of Arizona argue that space umbrellas will gradually reduce earth's temperature, and thus the harmful effects of global warming.

The university wants to launch a trillion tiny umbrellas or sunshields into the outer space. Each umbrella will be a small, light spacecraft, weighing about a gram. It carries a sunshade with a diametre of 30 cms. When such mini space umbrellas come together, they act as a sunscreen, filtering harmful radiation.

The area such a sunscreen each covers will extend to one lakh square km. These umbrellas will hover around the earth at a safe distance of 15 lakh km. The geo-engineers believe that such mini space umbrellas will reduce the sunlight's intensity by 1.8 per cent, sufficient to fight global warming.

The university group, which is working on the model, says it could happen by 2035.

Idea No. 4

Power from snow

With the threat of global warming looming large on the future of humanity, environmentalists feel that snow-fed rivers can be easily tackled to generate electricity.

Most of the hydroelectricity plants in the world are located on rivers fed by rains. Since monsoons have been playing truant of late, upsetting the calculations of planners, eco-experts suggest that it's high time policy- makers turned their attention to rivers fed by glaciers and snow.

While rivers fed on rains in their catchment are seasonal, those securing supplies from snow-covered mountains and glaciers are perennial. The runoff from snow-fed rivers is comparatively quite high. If these rivers are harvested for hydel power, the dependence on thermal energy will gradually come down. This will ultimately check rising
temperatures because of carbon emission from thermal energy plants.

As senior environmentalist R Ravi put its, India have a vast potential of energy generation from snow. All the rivers in the north India are fed by snow melt. If mini hydel plants are set up, the energy crisis in the country can easily be

Also experts in global warming warn of snow and glacial melt if carbon emissions are not checked. The time is now apt to act. Before the snow melts under influence of global warming, we should set up hydel plants all along the snow-fed rivers.

Idea No. 5

Chimneys that cool the house

Ever heard of a chimney that's cool to touch. While conventional chimneys attached to our kitchen and industries are hot with pollutants loaded with carbondioxide and carbon monoxide and other gases, scientists in the United States have patented a
chimney that consumes internal energy and reduces temperatures, thus keeping the earth cool.

The latest chimney device for houses and industries is being touted as one of the simple tools to fight global warming.

This patented chimney will also induce water precipitation and produces electricity. It helps in climate control, production of fresh water and energy that's needed to
keep the house and industry cool. When set up in large numbers, such devices will
ultimately bring down the globaltemperatures.

It sucks in warm air from the earth surface and lifts it to a height. Later, it expels the air into the upper atmosphere. The lifting of warm air to higher altitude causes the atmosphere to shed some of its heat. This keeps the earth cool.

"When the air is expelled from the chimney, it is oversaturated with water vapors. Therefore, when it mixes with surrounding air and cools down, water naturally
precipitates causing precipitation in the surrounding area. The amount of that
precipitation can be substantial enough to sustain agriculture in areas such as deserts," claim the inventors

Monday, July 6, 2009

South Indian men more prone to prostate cancers than their counterparts in the north

By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad: South Indian men are relatively more prone to prostate cancers than their counterparts in the north. This is because of their distinct ethnic identity and genetic make-up.
According to a study conducted by the city-based Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology, the repeat of nucleotides - cytosine, adenine and guanine - on chromosomes has a direct bearing on the onset of prostate cancer in men belonging to certain ethnic communities. The androgen receptor gene possesses polymorphic cytosine, adenine and guanine or CAG tandem repeats and the repeat length has been inversely related to the risk of prostate cancer.
"The distinct ethnic variation in the CAG repeat length may be correlated to differences in prostate cancer risk in different populations, says Dr Thangaraj Kumarasamy of CCMB.
As many as 87 prostate cancer patients and 120 control subjects from South India were studied for the purpose. Prostate cancer, one of the most common malignancies in men, exhibits obscure aetiology. The growth of the prostate gland is dependent on circulating androgens and intracellular steroid signalling pathways. The effects of androgen are mediated through the androgen receptor. Moreover, androgen receptor gene transactivation is important for the normal growth and function of the prostate.
He said studies on CAG repeat variation in prostate cancer risk had been inconsistent. In India the one study conducted on the north Indian population showed significant association. However, there have been no studies on South Indian men to date. Since India is known for its unique population structure, having about 5000 endogamous populations, one would expect CAG repeat length variation among South Indians to be different.
"Therefore, we have attempted to analyse the association of CAG repeat number in the androgen receptor gene of the prostate cancer patients as well as control men from the same ethnic background, and to understand whether repeat length is associated with the age of onset and or cancer progression," he pointed out.

Regular sex prevents prostate cancer

By Syed Akbar

Want to get rid of prostate cancer, which is fast becoming a common health hazard in men? Just increase your sexual activity and you will be saved from prostrate cancer to a great extent. Each increase of three ejaculations per month across the man’s lifetime is associated with a 15 per cent decrease in the risk of prostate cancer.
According to Dr June Machover Reinisch of The Kinsey Institute and former professor in the departments of psychology and psychiatry at Indiana University, USA, it is a myth that excessive sexual activity will increase the risk of prostate cancer. The truth is that it will decrease the risk and keeps the prostate gland in good function.
Dr June Machover was in Hyderabad to present her research studies on sex and sexual practices. According to her, many physicians have believed that men who participate in high levels of sexual activity are at increased risk for prostate cancer. One suggested basis for this hypothesis is the possibility that increased sexual activity may be an indication of higher levels of androgen (male hormones) and therefore a higher risk of developing prostate cancer, which has been related to male hormone levels.
However, a study conducted by a group of researchers from the National Cancer Institute and John Hopkins and Harvard University revealed that increased sexual activity will in fact reduce the risk of prostate cancer.
The researchers selected as many as 29,342 men, between 46 and 81 years, and conducted a study on their sexual pattern for over eight long years. Only men who did not have a diagnosis of prostate cancer at the beginning of the eight years were included. So everybody was prostate cancer-free.
At the beginning of the study the men were questioned about the average number of ejaculations per month they had, between the ages of 20 and 29, then between 40 and 49, and then during the past year.
The study focused on the frequency of ejaculation, including sexual intercourse, nocturnal emissions, and masturbation. Every two years after the beginning of the study the men were asked, again, whether they had received a diagnosis of prostate cancer.
"Of the 29,342 men who began the study without a diagnosis of prostate cancer, by the end of eight years 1,449 cases had been diagnosed. That’s approximately 5 per cent of the men. Remember, they are older in age, so we expect them to start to get prostate cancer. With every decade that same percentage get prostate cancer, so we believe that 80 per cent of 80 year olds have prostate cancer, and 90 per cent of 90 year olds have prostate cancer, and 70 per cent of 70 year olds have prostate cancer," Dr June pointed out.
She said between ages 20 and 29 the men reported an average of 15 ejaculations a month. Between 40 and 49, 11 ejaculations a month was average, and between 50 and 59 9.5 per month. Men 60 and older reported an average of 5 ejaculations per month.
"Most categories of ejaculatory frequency were not related to the risk of prostate cancer. However, a lower risk was found in the group of men with the highest frequency of ejaculation. Each increase of three ejaculations per month across the man’s lifetime was associated with a 15 per cent decrease in the risk of prostate cancer. So the more ejaculations you had, the less likely you were to have prostate cancer, and every time you had three more as an average per month, you were 15 per cent less likely to have prostate cancer," she said.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Ill effects of liquid paraffin

By Syed Akbar

Medicinal liquid paraffin along with white soft paraffin and wool alcohol are used as an eye ointment to lubricate the outer surface of the eye to treat dry conditions. There are no known harmful effects when this medicine is used by pregnant or breast feeding mothers.

Ashok T Jaisinghani, nutritionist - Paraffin is known for causing cancer if taken internally. Paraffin is a petroleum product, chemically called petrolatum.

Liquid paraffin or mineral oil is a transparent, colourless, odourless, or almost odourless, oily liquid composed of saturated hydrocarbons obtained from petroleum. Petroleum was used as a medicine at least 400 years before Christ. The earliest internal use of refined petroleum appears to date back to 1872, when Robert A. Chesebrough was granted a patent for the manufacture of "a new and useful product from petroleum".

The use of liquid paraffin gained popularity, after Sir W. Arbuthnot Lane, Chief Surgeon of Guy's Hospital in 1913, recommended its use as a treatment for intestinal stasis and chronic constipation. The popularity of liquid paraffin as a treatment for constipation and encopresis stems primarily from its tolerability and ease of titration. Although conversion of mineral oil to hydroxyl fatty acids induces an osmotic effect.

Potential Health Effects

Eye: Vapours may cause eye irritation.

Skin: Prolonged and/or repeated contact may cause irritation and/or dermatitis

Ingestion: May cause gastrointestinal irritation with nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea. Aspiration of material into the lungs may cause chemical pneumonitis, which may be fatal

Inhalation: May cause respiratory tract irritation

Chronic: Prolonged inhalation may cause respiratory tract inflammation and lung damage. Prolonged or repeated skin contact may cause dermatitis. May cause cancer according to animal studies.

Liquid Paraffin acts by softening and lubricating the faeces. The faeces can then move more easily through the bowel. By doing this it relieves constipation and reduces the pain of some conditions such as piles (haemorrhoids).

Flare-ups of eczema may be triggered, or complicated, by overgrowth of Staphylococcusaureus on the skin

A short course of a suitable oral antibiotic (e.g. flucloxacillin) may be appropriate in patients with physical signs of infection. However, topical antiseptics have also been suggested as a prophylactic measure. Three combination products containing an antiseptic and emollient are currently available in the UK two of which are bath emollients.