Hilda Bastian is cartoonist and writer at StatisticallyFunny blog
” Scientists are in a real bind when it comes to peer review. It’s hard to be objective when we’re all among the peer reviewing and peer-reviewed, or plan to be. Still, we should be able to mobilize science’s repertoire to solve our problems. ”
Read Weighing Up Anonymity and Openness in Publication Peer Review on PLOS blogs, and Peer Review BC (Before Citations) on PLOS blogs by Hilda Bastian, May 13 and April 20, 2015.
ALTER-EU and others ask for full lobby transparency
This post content is published by ALTER-EU, a coalition of over 200 civil society groups and trade unions concerned with the influence of corporate lobbyists on the political agenda in Europe.
The Alliance for Lobbying Transparency and Ethics Regulation ALTER-EU has urged European Commission Vice President Frans Timmermans to take strong and urgent action to create a high-quality and legally-binding EU lobby transparency registerin a letter sent to him today, signed by over 100 non-governmental organisations and trade unions, and supported by the European Parliament Intergroup on Integrity.
The letter calls on the Commission to adopt measures to reduce opportunities for unethical lobbying, and to ensure a better balance between corporate and public interest groups in the access to, and influence they have on, EU decision-making processes.
Pam Bartlett Quintanilla of Access Info Europe,
a member of the Steering Committee of ALTER-EU said:
“The EU lobby register still has major weaknesses. Vice President Timmermans promised a mandatory lobby register but his proposals are not mandatory for lobby groups. We need immediate steps that will ban lobby meetings with all Commission officials for un-registered lobby groups and we also need a legislative proposal that will ensure that the information provided in the register is relevant and complete and that there are strong sanctions in case of non-compliance”.
Natalia Alonso, Oxfam’s Deputy Director of Advocacy & Campaigns,
and a signatory to the letter, said:
“A mandatory lobby register would help balance the influence that wealthy elites have over rule-making compared to public interest groups. The EU must put people first and powerful interests of a few, second“.
Jan Willem Goudriaan,
General Secretary of the European Federation of Public Service Unions
and also a signatory to the letter, added that:
“A well-resourced system to register lobby firms is needed to ensure transparency, to counter the dominant influence of corporate Europe and to restore democracy in the EU”.
ALTER-EU, and the 113 signatory organisations to the letter, have specifically called on the Commission to:
Immediately extend its ban on meeting unregistered lobbyists so that it applies to all staff, to further boost registrations.
Make detailed proposals on the disclosure of additional and more precise information, including further details about the dossiers lobbied on.
Commit to an open and transparent process with other EU institutions to improve the lobby register, which would include substantial opportunities for input by citizens and civil society.
Commit to increasing the resources devoted to this area so that monitoring and enforcement of the rules can become far more effective.
Commit to including the objective of a lobby register that is legally-binding on lobbyists and thus truly mandatory (requiring legislation) in its proposed Inter-Institutional Agreement as a medium-term option to ensure that all EU lobbyists sign up.
Civil society groups have previously welcomed the steps the Juncker Commission has taken to increase lobby transparency at the European level, including the ban on senior Commission representatives holding meetings with unregistered lobbyists. However, since the ban on meetings with lobbyists only covers around 300 people out of a Commission staff of 33,000, the current measures still do not go far enough to ensure that the register is “mandatory” in practice.
The standard solution for iron deficiency – iron supplements or tablets – isn’t working in developing countries. Iron supplements tablets are neither affordable nor widely available, and because of the side-effects people don’t like taking them.
Dr Christopher Charles had a novel idea. Inspired by previous research which showed that cooking in cast iron pots increased the iron content of food, he decided to put a lump of iron into the cooking pot, made from melted-down metal.
If the iron fish is used every day in the correct way, Dr Charles says it should provide 75% of an adult’s daily recommended intake of iron – and even more of a child’s.
Trials on several hundred villagers in one province in Cambodia showed that nearly half of those who took part were no longer anaemic after 12 months…
Yet there are positives in something as horrendous as cancer says Douglas MacGowan
” None of my experiences prepared me for my father’s subsequent cancer. Or my wife’s.
I fully expect to have future episodes. Like a phoenix, it will rise again. My lymph and immune systems obviously don’t work well, and I have no right to expect them to do so in the future. And yet there are positives in something as horrendous as cancer. I met some wonderful people throughout the experience. People I never would have met had we not shared an inability to split cells correctly.
No matter how many times the phoenix rises, I will continue to slay it. ”
About the mercury-containing preservative Thimerosal in vaccines
The Evidence Supporting the Immediate Removal of Mercury – a Known Neurotoxin – from Vaccines
Over a decade ago, following a sharp rise in developmental disorders such as autism and ADHD, the mercury-containing preservative Thimerosal was widely believed to have been eliminated from vaccine supplies in the United States and abroad. However, dangerous quantities of Thimerosal continue to be used, posing a significant threat to public health and leading to a crisis of faith in vaccine safety.
In this groundbreaking book, Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., examines the research literature on Thimerosal and makes a very clear statement about its potentially dangerous effects. In the past, the CDC, FDA, NIH, and AAP, as well as the US Congress, the American Academy of Family Physicians, the US Department of Agriculture, the European Medicines Agency, and the California Environmental Protection Agency have expressed concerns over the use of Thimerosal in vaccines. But despite the many voices calling for action, the media and policy makers have repeatedly failed to adequately address the issue.
Now, with Thimerosal: Let the Science Speak, the science supporting the elimination of this toxic chemical from the world’s vaccine supplies, and its replacement with already available safer alternatives, is all in one place. Making this change should increase vaccination rates by restoring the trust of concerned parents in the vaccine program – a program that is so vitally important to public health. Read reviews.
Ninety-four countries voted in favor of global prohibition of pesticide pentachlorophenol
This post content is published by IPEN: toxics-free – a global network of 700+ public interest organizations working to eliminate toxic substances.
(Geneva, Switzerland) – Delegates from more than 90 countries took the unprecedented step of voting for a global ban on pentachlorophenol – a proven toxic pesticide and contaminant found in wildlife and human biomonitoring studies worldwide. The historic vote came at the combined meetings of the Basel, Rotterdam, and Stockholm Conventions – which usually make decisions by consensus – after India repeatedly blocked action.
During the meeting, India surprisingly rejected the findings of the Stockholm Convention’s own scientific expert committee in which they participated. Switzerland triggered the voting procedure – the first in the history of the convention. Ninety-four countries voted in favor of global prohibition of pentachlorophenol; two opposed; and eight countries abstained.
“We commend the global community for this important decision which will help ensure that the Indigenous Peoples of the Arctic and the traditional foods on which they depend are protected against toxic pentachlorophenol,” said Pamela Miller of Alaska Community Action on Toxics. The delegates of the Stockholm Convention also supported international bans on two other industrial chemicals that harm the global environment and human health: chlorinated naphthalenes and hexachlorobutadiene.
Delegates at the Rotterdam Convention failed to list two deadly substances, chrysotile asbestos and a paraquat formulation, despite the fact that exporters would simply have been required to notify and get permission from importing countries. Belarus, Cuba, India, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, and Russia all opposed listing chrysotile asbestos. Guatemala, India, Indonesia, and Paraguay blocked listing of the paraquat formulation.
“All the candidate substances meet the Convention criteria according to the treaty’s own expert committee,” said Mariann Lloyd-Smith, IPEN Sr. Policy Advisor. “That means that a small handful of opposing countries and their powerful industry representatives undermined the treaty with a political decision that disrespects governments’ right to know what substances are entering their borders. They simply put their own economic and trade interests before the health and well-being of the global environment and its inhabitants.”
The Basel Convention considered e-waste guidelines that would exempt equipment destined for repair from the treaty’s hazardous waste trade control procedures, a measure that would open the door to unscrupulous traders claiming all broken equipment as “repairable.” The Convention President pushed a decision to adopt this exemption after the meeting lost interpretation due to the late night hour. Latin American countries protested the procedure and conduct of the meeting.
“Developing countries struggling with e-waste would benefit from good Basel ewaste guidelines,” said Tadesse Amera, Pesticide Action Nexus, Ethiopia. “But they do not want loopholes that allow dumping under the excuse of repair. We needed stronger measures, not a weakened treaty.
The EU pushed dangerous clean-up standards of 1000 ppm for three toxic flame retardant chemicals widely used in building insulation, upholstery and electronics (HBCD, PentaBDE, and OctaBDE). In contrast, the waste clean-up limit for PCBs and other substances already listed in the treaty is 50 ppm – 20 times lower than the EU proposal. For the first time, delegates settled on two options for HBCD (100 ppm or 1000 ppm) and two options for PentaBDE and OctaBDE (50 ppm or 1000 ppm). Although the EU pushed a weak standard that undermines the Stockholm Convention, China and Iran pushed for the more protective standards (50 ppm and 100 ppm) that are more consistent with the serious threats posed by POPs.
Wastewater treatment plants not only struggle removing pharmaceuticals, it seems some drugs actually increase after treatment.
When researchers tested wastewater before and after treatment at a Milwaukee-area treatment plant, they found that two drugs — the anti-epileptic carbamazepine and antibiotic ofloxacin — came out at higher concentrations than they went in. The study suggests the microbes that clean our water may also piece some pharmaceuticals back together.
Carbamazepine and ofloxacin on average increased by 80 percent and 120 percent, respectively, during the treatment process. Such drugs, and their metabolites (formed as part of the natural biochemical process of degrading and eliminating the compounds), get into the wastewater by people taking them and excreting them. Flushing drugs accounts for some of the levels too.
“Microbes seem to be making pharmaceuticals out of what used to be pharmaceuticals,” said lead author Benjamin Blair, who spearheaded the work as a PhD. student at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Blair is now a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Colorado Denver.
Blair and colleagues found 48 out of 57 pharmaceuticals they were looking for at the South Shore Water Reclamation Facility in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, which serves the greater Milwaukee area.
The researchers have a clue as to how this might happen: microbes.
After removing the solids from incoming wastewater, treatment plants use microbes — tiny single-celled organisms — to decompose organic matter that comes in the sewage.
Blair’s best guess is that people take the drugs, their body breaks them down into different metabolites that are excreted, and the microbes take these different parts of the drug and put them back together.
“It’s a fascinating idea,” Blair said.
Tanja Rauch-Williams, principal technologist at the environmental engineering company Carollo Engineers, said it was a strong study but cautioned that this doesn’t mean wastewater treatment plants are acting as pharmaceutical factories.
“It’s a large amount of pharmaceuticals that we [wastewater treatment plant researchers] look at, it’s not a trend that the plants generate higher compound concentrations,” she said. “It’s very specific compounds.”
She said that this apparent piecing back together of metabolites into pharmaceuticals could, in principle, also happen in the environment after effluent discharge.
It’s not the first time researchers have noticed this trend. Canadian researchers found carbamazepine more than doubled its initial medicinal load after treatment at a Peterborough, Ontario, plant.
“When others have found this, people thought it was due to things like sampling errors,” Blair said. “But we found a clear upward trend over time.”
What remains unclear is why only certain drugs would increase post-treatment. Blair and colleagues saw the trend in just two of the 48 pharmaceuticals found in their wastewater samples.
“We need to look for what the structural or metabolic commonality is in these compounds. And then we could possibly predict whether some would increase [after treatment],” Rauch-Willlaims said.
Even with the increases, the pharmaceuticals are at levels far below what could impact humans if they consume the water, she said. But the ubiquity of the drugs in wastewater is a concern for fish and other aquatic creatures.
Carbamazepine, used as an anti-epileptic drug, impacted the enzymes in gills, livers and muscles of common carp, according to a 2011 study. Such enzyme changes are indicative of tissue damage and impaired cells. The drug also has been linked to endocrine disruption and reproductive problems in zebrafish.
Rauch-Williams said the wastewater industry is getting more efficient at removing pharmaceuticals. “Things like advanced oxidation, UV disinfection coupled with peroxide, different membrane processes … these remove a large majority of these compounds,” she said.
Blair said the drawback to many of the more effective treatments is expense. And there’s no urgency for plants to upgrade because there aren’t any U.S. regulations for pharmaceuticals in water, he added.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency evaluates substances that may be in drinking water by developing Contaminant Candidate Lists and periodically issuing a Regulatory Determination.
The EPA’s latest drinking water contaminant candidate list — water pollutants not subject to regulations yet but that might render water unsafe — includes several pharmaceuticals that act on hormones.
For questions or feedback about this piece, contact Brian Bienkowski.