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No link between prenatal mercury exposure and autism-like behaviors found

No Link Between Prenatal Mercury Exposure and Autism-Like Behaviors Found

The potential impact of exposure to low levels of mercury on the developing brain — specifically by women consuming fish during pregnancy — has long been the source of concern and some have argued that the chemical may be responsible for behavioral disorders such as autism. However, a new study that draws upon more than 30 years of research in the Republic of Seychelles reports that there is no association between pre-natal mercury exposure and autism-like behaviors. (Credit: © Yoram Astrakhan / Fotolia)

“This study shows no evidence of a correlation between low level mercury exposure and autism spectrum-like behaviors among children whose mothers ate, on average, up to 12 meals of fish each week during pregnancy,” said Edwin van Wijngaarden, Ph.D., an associate professor in the University of Rochester Medical Center‘s (URMC) Department of Public Health Sciences and lead author of the study which appears online today in the journal Epidemiology. “These findings contribute to the growing body of literature that suggest that exposure to the chemical does not play an important role in the onset of these behaviors.”

The debate over fish consumption has long created a dilemma for expecting mothers and physicians. Fish are high in beneficial nutrients such as, selenium, vitamin E, lean protein, and omega-3 fatty acids; the latter are essential to brain development. At the same time, exposure to high levels of mercury has been shown to lead to developmental problems, leading to the claim that mothers are exposing their unborn children to serious neurological impairment by eating fish during pregnancy. Despite the fact that the developmental consequences of low level exposure remain unknown, some organizations, including the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, have recommended that pregnant women limit their consumption of fish.

“The Seychelles study was designed to follow a population over a very long period of time and focus on relevant mercury exposure,” said Philip Davidson, Ph.D., principal investigator of the Seychelles Child Development Study and professor emeritus in Pediatrics at URMC. “While the amount of fish consumed in the Seychelles is significantly higher than other countries in the industrialized world, it is still considered low level exposure.”

… lends further evidence to an emerging belief that the “good” may outweigh the possible “bad” when it comes to fish consumption during pregnancy. Specifically, if mercury does adversely influence child development at these levels of exposure then the benefits of the nutrients found in the fish may counteract or perhaps even supersede the potential negative effects of the mercury.

“This study shows no consistent association in children with mothers with mercury level that were six to ten times higher than those found in the U.S. and Europe,” said Davidson. “This is a sentinel population and if it does not exist here than it probably does not exist.”

Read entire article at ScienceDaily.

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A Simple Fix for Farming – NYTimes.com

A simple fix for farming - Image Credit: Rosie Gainsborough

Image Credit: Rosie Gainsborough

IT’S becoming clear that we can grow all the food we need, and profitably, with far fewer chemicals. And I’m not talking about imposing some utopian vision of small organic farms on the world. Conventional agriculture can shed much of its chemical use — if it wants to.

This was hammered home once again in what may be the most important agricultural study this year, although it has been largely ignored by the media, two of the leading science journals and even one of the study’s sponsors, the often hapless Department of Agriculture.

The study was done on land owned by Iowa State University called the Marsden Farm. On 22 acres of it, beginning in 2003, researchers set up three plots: one replicated the typical Midwestern cycle of planting corn one year and then soybeans the next, along with its routine mix of chemicals. On another, they planted a three-year cycle that included oats; the third plot added a four-year cycle and alfalfa. The longer rotations also integrated the raising of livestock, whose manure was used as fertilizer.

The results were stunning: The longer rotations produced better yields of both corn and soy, reduced the need for nitrogen fertilizer and herbicides by up to 88 percent, reduced the amounts of toxins in groundwater 200-fold and didn’t reduce profits by a single cent.

In short, there was only upside — and no downside at all — associated with the longer rotations. There was an increase in labor costs, but remember that profits were stable. So this is a matter of paying people for their knowledge and smart work instead of paying chemical companies for poisons.

And though critics of this path can be predictably counted on to say it’s moving backward, the increased yields, markedly decreased input of chemicals, reduced energy costs and stable profits tell another story, one of serious progress.

via A Simple Fix for Farming – NYTimes.com.

Social Justice Crusader

 

Quiz: What Kind of Liberal Are You?

My Liberal Identity

You are a Social Justice Crusader, also known as a rights activist. You believe in equality, fairness, and preventing neo-Confederate conservative troglodytes from rolling back fifty years of civil rights gains.

Take the quiz at
About.com Political Humor

LOL

Actress Q’orianka Kilcher Arrested at Trade Agreement Protest – ICTMN.com

Q’orianka Kilcher Arrested

Negotiations over the controversial trade agreement were taking place at a golf resort in Leesburg, Virginia; Kilcher was filming a protest occurring outside the hotel when she was handcuffed. Before her arrest, Kilcher made the following statement, according to a Rainforest Action Network release:

“The Trans Pacific Partnership would be devastating for people around the world and it is being negotiated in complete secrecy to hide the content, because these agreements would never see the light of day if US citizens and congress were allowed to see what is being proposed in our names. While hundreds of corporate advisors have access to the information contained within these documents, the American public, the media and even members of congress do not. This sort of secrecy is highly undemocratic and is a complete disregard of all the systems of checks and balances established by the U.S. Constitution to avoid exactly this sort of thing.”

The Trans Pacific Partnership has been criticized on a number of grounds; for one, the negotiations strike opponents are unusually secretive, as Kilcher’s statement indicates. The draft proposals are said to include excessive provisions for international enforcement of copyright and intellectual property law that would overrule established intellectual property practices. It has been suggested that this could have wide-ranging effects, including restricting the distribution of medicine and criminalizing such common pop-cultural practices as parody and cosplay. A group called StopTheTrap warns that fines and punishments could follow from internet use deemed illegal under the terms of the TPP.

Source: ICTMN.com.

Higgs Boson announcement live: Cern scientists discover new subatomic particle

9.32am: Today’s discovery is “unbelievably exciting”, according to Harvard physicist Lisa Randall.

She told the Guardian:

“I really didn’t expect this. They got enough data and improved analysis to the point where we know about a new particle months before I expected (based on
asking lots of people)! It is unbelievably exciting.”

9.29am: “#CERN” is trending worldwide. As is #Higgs, and #GodParticle (sorry), and ATLAS. No #Higgsteria yet though, despite a valiant effort by social media types.

9.23am: Gianotti is still presenting Atlas’s results but the reaction is already pouring in. Here’s are the first few paragraphs from Ian Sample’s first take on today’s momentous announcement.

“There comes a time in a scientist’s life when the weight of evidence can no longer be ignored. That moment came today for physicists at Cern, home of the Large Hadron Collider near Geneva, who announced overwhelming evidence for the obscure but profoundly important Higgs boson, the particle that sparked the greatest hunt in modern science.

In presentations given to a packed auditorium at the laboratory on Wednesday morning, and webcast around the world, the leaders of two research teams, who worked independently of each other, said they had spotted a new particle amid the microscopic flashes of primordial fire created inside the world’s most powerful atom smasher.

Cern stopped short of claiming official discovery of the Higgs boson, even as many physicists conceded the evidence was now so compelling they had surely found the missing particle.

Formal confirmation of the discovery is expected within months, though it could take several years for scientists to work out whether they have found the simplest kind of Higgs particle that theories predict, or part of a more complex picture: for example, one of a larger family of Higgs bosons. The discovery of more than one kind of Higgs particle would open the door to an entirely new realm of physics.”

Source: http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/blog/2012/jul/04/higgs-boson-discovered-live-coverage-cern

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