Study reveals ‘huffing’ household chemicals connected to teen suicide

Contact: Dave Brendsel dbrendse@du.edu 303-871-2775 University of Denver

Girls who ‘huff’ are at higher risk of suicidal thoughts and behaviors

DENVER— With suicide as the third leading cause of death among adolescents in the United States, a new University of Denver (DU) study reveals inhaling or “huffing” vapors of common household goods, such as glue or nail polish, are associated with increased suicidal thoughts and attempts.

Of the study’s participants, 33 percent reported having inhaled volatile solvents, 25 percent had attempted suicide, and 58 percent reported suicidal thoughts.

Stacey Freedenthal and Jeffrey M. Jenson of DU’s Graduate School of Social Work joined researchers from Chapel Hill and the University of Pittsburgh in a study of 723 incarcerated youth. “Inhalant Use and Suicidality among Incarcerated Youth” appeared in the September 2007 issue of the academic journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence. The study was the first work to categorize both levels of severity of inhalant use and gender in relation to suicidal ideas and suicide attempts.

The investigators found a significant increase in suicidal thoughts and attempts with higher use of volatile solvents. Researchers did not determine which problem came first, the huffing or the suicidal behavior, but showed that the two are undeniably connected, even when accounting for numerous other factors. Freedenthal warns parents to be aware of the possibility of suicidal thoughts in children who have been caught inhaling household chemicals.

“Inhalant use has many serious, physiological consequences, including death,” says Freedenthal. “Now we are learning ever more strongly that they are also linked to suicidal thoughts and behaviors.”

The study found the correlation between huffing and suicidality greater in girls than boys. More than 80 percent of girls who abused inhalants revealed a history of suicide attempts, while less than 60 percent of boys showed the same history. The study also indicated that suicidal thoughts were much higher for girls than boys. Suicidal thoughts and attempts were considered two separate constructs, since thoughts do not always lead to attempts, and attempts are not always preceded by much thought.

The study involved 723 participants incarcerated by the Missouri Division of Youth Services, 629 boys and 94 girls at an average age of 15. Participants were asked if they huffed any of the 35 common household substances, such as paint, paint thinner, shoe polish, spot remover, floor polish, kerosene, gasoline, antifreeze, permanent markers, nail polish remover, mothballs, waxes, lighter fluid, and others.

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The University of Denver (www.du.edu), the oldest private university in the Rocky Mountain region, enrolls approximately 11,117 students in its undergraduate and graduate programs. The Carnegie Foundation classifies the University of Denver as a Research University with high research activity.

Total undergraduate enrollment for fall 2007 is 5,311, including 1,140 first-time, first-year students, compared to 1,142 last year. Graduate enrollment is 5,806

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Tamiflu survives sewage treatment ( oseltamivir )

Contact: Jerker Fick jerker.fick@chem.umu.se 46-480-446-225 Public Library of Science

Swedish researchers have discovered that oseltamivir (Tamiflu); an antiviral drug used to prevent and mitigate influenza infections is not removed or degraded during normal sewage treatment. Consequently, in countries where Tamiflu is used at a high frequency, there is a risk that its concentration in natural waters can reach levels where influenza viruses in nature will develop resistance to it. Widespread resistance of viruses in nature to Tamiflu increases the risk that influenza viruses infecting humans will become resistant to one of the few medicines currently available for treating influenza.

”Antiviral medicines such as Tamiflu must be used with care and only when the medical situation justifies it,” advises Björn Olsen, Professor of Infectious Diseases with the Uppsala University and the University of Kalmar. “Otherwise there is a risk that they will be ineffective when most needed, such as during the next influenza pandemic.”

The Swedish research group demonstrated that oseltamivir, the active substance in Tamiflu, passes virtually unchanged through sewage treatment.

“That this substance is so difficult to break down means that it goes right through sewage treatment and out into surrounding waters,” says Jerker Fick, Doctor in Chemistry at Umeå University and the leader of this study.

The Swedish research group also revealed that the level of oseltamivir discharged through sewage outlets in certain countries may be so high that influenza viruses in nature can potentially develop resistance to the drug.

“Use of Tamiflu is low in most countries, but there are some exceptions such as Japan, where a third of all influenza patients are treated with Tamiflu,” explains Jerker Fick.

Influenza viruses are common among waterfowl, especially dabbling ducks such as mallards. These ducks often forage for food in water near sewage outlets. Here they can potentially encounter oseltamivir in concentrations high enough to develop resistance in the viruses they carry.

“The biggest threat is that resistance will become common among low pathogenic influenza viruses carried by wild ducks.” adds Björn Olsen.  These viruses could then recombinate with viruses that make humans sick to create new viruses that are resistant to the antiviral drugs currently available.

The Swedish researchers advise that this problem must be taken seriously so that humanity’s future health will not be endangered by too frequent and unnecessary prescription of the drug today.

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Disclaimer

This press release refers to an upcoming article in PLoS ONE. The release has been provided by the article authors and/or their institutions.  Any opinions expressed in this are the personal views of the contributors, and do not necessarily represent the views or policies of PLoS. PLoS expressly disclaims any and all warranties and liability in connection with the information found in the release and article and your use of such information.

Their study was published in the high-ranked journal PLoS ONE. The entire article is available free online, and can be read at the following address: http://www.plosone.org/doi/pone.0000986

Citation: Fick J, Lindberg RH, Tysklind M, Haemig PD, Waldenstro¨m J, et al (2007) Antiviral Oseltamivir Is not Removed or Degraded in Normal Sewage Water Treatment: Implications for Development of Resistance by Influenza A Virus. PLoS ONE 2(10): e986. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0000986

PLEASE ADD THE LINK TO THE PUBLISHED ARTICLE IN ONLINE VERSIONS OF YOUR REPORT (URL live from October 2): http://www.plosone.org/doi/pone.0000986

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APNewsBreak: General investigated over spending – Corruption

Associated PressBy By LOLITA C. BALDOR | Associated Press – 5 hrs ago

WASHINGTON (AP) — A four-star Army general who was the first head of the new U.S. Africa Command is under investigation for possibly spending hundreds of thousands of dollars improperly on lavish travel, hotels and other items, The Associated Press has learned.

Gen. William “Kip” Ward has been under investigation for about 17 months, and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta is expected to make a final decision on the matter before the end of the month, according to several defense officials.

The defense officials said Ward is facing numerous allegations that he spent several hundred thousand dollars allowing unauthorized people, including family members, to fly on government planes, and spent excessive amounts of money on hotel rooms, transportation and other expenses when he traveled as head of Africa Command.

A four-star general is the highest rank in the Army.

While the exact amount of alleged misspending was not disclosed, the estimated total raises comparisons with the $823,000 allegedly spent by dozens of employees of the General Services Administration, who were accused of lavish spending during an October 2010 conference at a Las Vegas resort.

Officials described the investigation to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because it is a personnel matter and the report on the investigation has not been released publicly.

The Defense Department inspector general has completed its investigation into Ward’s activities, and the issue is under legal review.

A request for comment from Ward was not immediately fulfilled Wednesday.

Panetta’s options regarding Ward are limited by complex laws and military guidelines.

Panetta can demote Ward and force him to retire at a lower rank. Because Ward’s alleged offenses occurred while he was a four-star general, he could be forced to retire as a three-star, which officials said could cost him as much as $1 million in retirement pay over time. It was not immediately clear whether Ward also could face criminal charges.

In order for Ward to be demoted to two-star rank, investigators would have to conclude that he also had problems prior to moving to Africa Command, and officials said that does not appear to be the case.

In making his decision, Panetta has to certify to Congress that Ward served satisfactorily at the rank at which he is retired.

Ward stepped down early last year after serving as the first head of the Europe-based Africa Command, which was created in 2007, and he intended to retire. He did all the paperwork and was hosted at a retirement ceremony in April 2011 at Fort Myer in Virginia, but the Army halted his plans to leave because of the investigation.

Ever since then, he has been working in Northern Virginia, serving as a special assistant to the vice chief of the Army.

That Army office long has been used as a holding area for general officers of varying ranks. For some it’s a way station where senior officers under investigation go to await their fate.

For others, it’s a quick stop en route to a new high-level command or assignment; a place they can hang their hat for a few weeks, working on special projects until their new post becomes available.

According to Army spokesman George Wright, Ward currently is the only special assistant to the vice chief, but at other times there can be several assigned there as they move from one command to the next.

For Ward, the investigation has dragged on so long that he technically has been demoted from his four-star general rank to two-star general. Under military guidelines, if a full general is not serving in a four-star command or office for more than 60 days, he or she is automatically reduced to two-star rank.

Major general, or two-star, is the highest rank to which an officer can be promoted by regular military action. Becoming a three-star — lieutenant general — or a four-star general requires a presidential nomination and confirmation by Congress. It, therefore, is not considered permanent, and lasts only as long as the person is serving in a job of that rank.

As a result, Ward’s base pay went from more than $20,000 a month as a four-star to about $14,000 a month as a two-star general. Defense officials said that if the decision is to allow him to retire as a three-star or four-star, he would not receive any back pay for the 15 months he served at the lower rank.

The Stuttgart, Germany-based Africa Command was created in order to place a stronger focus on the continent, including vast sections of the north and east where al-Qaida-linked militant groups train and wage attacks. No U.S. military forces are assigned to Africa Command, other than the roughly 2,000 troops in Combined Joint Task Force Horn of Africa, based in Djibouti.

U.S. military activities in Africa long have been a sensitive subject among many nations that inhabit the sprawling continent and worry that the U.S. would try to establish bases or send forces there. Initial plans to set up a headquarters for Africa Command on the continent hit resistance and were shelved.

A key element of Ward’s job was to dispel worries about the new command, meet with African leaders and work to expand and strengthen U.S. military ties so that the nations there are better able to provide for their own defense.

Gen. Carter Ham took over the command last year, gaining accolades as one of two key U.S. military leaders directing operations in the Libya conflict

http://news.yahoo.com/apnewsbreak-general-investigated-over-spending-194539886.html

Single dose of hallucinogen may create lasting personality change – psilocybin

Johns Hopkins study of ingredient in ‘magic mushrooms’ found participants exhibited more ‘openness’

A single high dose of the hallucinogen psilocybin, the active ingredient in so-called “magic mushrooms,” was enough to bring about a measureable personality change lasting at least a year in nearly 60 percent of the 51 participants in a new study, according to the Johns Hopkins researchers who conducted it.

Lasting change was found in the part of the personality known as openness, which includes traits related to imagination, aesthetics, feelings, abstract ideas and general broad-mindedness. Changes in these traits, measured on a widely used and scientifically validated personality inventory, were larger in magnitude than changes typically observed in healthy adults over decades of life experiences, the scientists say. Researchers in the field say that after the age of 30, personality doesn’t usually change significantly.

“Normally, if anything, openness tends to decrease as people get older,” says study leader Roland R. Griffiths, a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

The research, approved by Johns Hopkins’ Institutional Review Board, was funded in part by the National Institute on Drug Abuse and published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology.

The study participants completed two to five eight-hour drug sessions, with consecutive sessions separated by at least three weeks. Participants were informed they would receive a “moderate or high dose” of psilocybin during one of their drug sessions, but neither they nor the session monitors knew when.

During each session, participants were encouraged to lie down on a couch, use an eye mask to block external visual distraction, wear headphones through which music was played and focus their attention on their inner experiences.

Personality was assessed at screening, one to two months after each drug session and approximately 14 months after the last drug session. Griffiths says he believes the personality changes found in this study are likely permanent since they were sustained for over a year by many.

Nearly all of the participants in the new study considered themselves spiritually active (participating regularly in religious services, prayer or meditation). More than half had postgraduate degrees. The sessions with the otherwise illegal hallucinogen were closely monitored and volunteers were considered to be psychologically healthy

“We don’t know whether the findings can be generalized to the larger population,” Griffiths says.

As a word of caution, Griffiths also notes that some of the study participants reported strong fear or anxiety for a portion of their daylong psilocybin sessions, although none reported any lingering harmful effects. He cautions, however, that if hallucinogens are used in less well supervised settings, the possible fear or anxiety responses could lead to harmful behaviors.

Griffiths says lasting personality change is rarely looked at as a function of a single discrete experience in the laboratory. In the study, the change occurred specifically in those volunteers who had undergone a “mystical experience,” as validated on a questionnaire developed by early hallucinogen researchers and refined by Griffiths for use at Hopkins. He defines “mystical experience” as among other things, “a sense of interconnectedness with all people and things accompanied by a sense of sacredness and reverence.”

Personality was measured on a widely used and scientifically validated personality inventory, which covers openness and the other four broad domains that psychologists consider the makeup of personality: neuroticism, extroversion, agreeableness and conscientiousness. Only openness changed during the course of the study.

Griffiths says he believes psilocybin may have therapeutic uses. He is currently studying whether the hallucinogen has a use in helping cancer patients handle the depression and anxiety that comes along with a diagnosis, and whether it can help longtime cigarette smokers overcome their addiction.

“There may be applications for this we can’t even imagine at this point,” he says. “It certainly deserves to be systematically studied.”

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Along with the National Institute on Drug Abuse, this study was funded by the Council on Spiritual Practices, Heffter Research Institute and the Betsy Gordon Foundation.

Other Hopkins authors of the research include Matthew W. Johnson, Ph.D, and Katherine A. MacLean, Ph.D.

Johns Hopkins Medicine Media Relations and Public Affairs Media Contact: Stephanie Desmon 410-955-8665 sdesmon1@jhmi.edu

NTU-led research probes potential link between cancer and a common chemical in consumer products

study led by a group of Nanyang Technological University (NTU) researchers has found that a chemical commonly used in consumer products can potentially cause cancer.

The chemical, Zinc Oxide, is used to absorb harmful ultra violet light. But when it is turned into nano-sized particles, they are able to enter human cells and may damage the cells’ DNA. This in turn activates a protein called p53, whose duty is to prevent damaged cells from multiplying and becoming cancerous. However, cells that lack p53 or do not produce enough functional p53 may instead develop into cancerous cells when they come into contact with Zinc Oxide nanoparticles.

The study is led by Assistant Professor Joachim Loo, 34, and Assistant Professor Ng Kee Woei, 37, from NTU’s School of Materials Science and Engineering. They worked with Assistant Professor David Leong, 38, from the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, National University of Singapore, a joint senior author of this research paper.

The findings suggest that companies may need to reassess the health impact of nano-sized Zinc Oxide particles used in everyday products. More studies are also needed on the use and concentration levels of nanomaterials in consumer products, how often a consumer uses them and in what quantities.

“Currently there is a lack of information about the risks of the nanomaterials used in consumer products and what they can pose to the human body. This study points to the need for further research in this area and we hope to work with the relevant authorities on this,” said Asst Prof Loo.

The groundbreaking research findings were published in this month’s edition of Biomaterials, one of the world’s top journals in the field of biomaterials research. The breakthrough also validated efforts by Asst Prof Loo and Asst Prof Ng to pioneer a research group in the emerging field of nanotoxicology, which is still very much in its infancy throughout the world.

Nanotoxicology studies materials to see if they are toxic or harmful when they are turned into nano-sized particles. This is because nanomaterials usually have very different properties when compared to when the materials are of a larger size.

Asst Prof Ng said the team will carry out further research as the DNA damage brought about by nano-sized Zinc Oxide particles is currently a result of an unknown mechanism. But what is clear is that besides causing DNA damage, nanoparticles can also cause other harmful effects when used in high doses.

“From our studies, we found that nanoparticles can also increase stress levels in cells, cause inflammation or simply kill cells,” said Asst Prof Ng who added that apart from finding out the cellular mechanism, more focused research is also expected to ascertain the physiological effects and damage that nano-sized Zinc Oxide particles can cause.

Asst Prof Loo pointed out that besides enhancing the understanding of the potential risks of using nanomaterials, advancements in nanotoxicology research will also help scientists put nanomaterials to good use in biomedical applications.

For example, although killing cells in our bodies is typically undesirable, this becomes a positive outcome if it can be effectively directed towards cancer cells in the body. At the same time, the team is also studying how nanomaterials can be “re-designed” to pose a lesser risk to humans, yet still possess the desired beneficial properties.

This research discovery is one of the latest in a series of biomedical breakthroughs by NTU in healthcare. Future healthcare is one of NTU’s Five Peaks of Excellence with which the university aims to make its mark globally under the NTU 2015 five-year strategic plan. The other four peaks are sustainable earth, new media, the best of the East and West, and innovation.

Moving forward, the team hopes to work with existing and new collaborative partners, within and outside of Singapore, to orchestrate a more concerted effort towards the advancement of the fledgling field of nanotoxicology here, with the aim of helping regulatory bodies in Singapore formulate guidelines to protect consumer interests.

The research team would also like to work with the European Union to uncover the risks involving nanomaterials and how these materials should be regulated before they are made commercially available. Asst Prof Joachim Loo, who received his Bachelor and Doctorate degrees from NTU, was the only Singaporean representative in a recent nanotechnology workshop held in Europe. At the workshop, it was agreed that research collaborations in nanotoxicology between EU and South-east Asia should be

Study finds increasing atmospheric concentrations of new flame retardants

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — Compounds used in new flame-retardant products are showing up in the environment at increasing concentrations, according to a recent study by researchers at Indiana University Bloomington.

The study, published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology, reports on concentrations of two compounds measured in atmospheric samples collected in the Great Lakes region between 2008 and 2010. Authors are doctoral student Yuning Ma, Assistant Research Scientist Marta Venier and Distinguished Professor Ronald A. Hites, all of the IU School of Public and Environmental Affairs.

The chemicals — 2-ethylhexyl tetrabromobenzoate, also known as TBB; and bis(2-ethylhexyl) tetrabromophthalate, or TBPH — are used to reduce flammability in such products as electronic devices, textiles, plastics, coatings and polyurethane foams.

They are included in commercial mixtures that were introduced in recent years to replace polybrominated diphenylethers (PBDEs), widely used flame retardants that have been or are being removed from the market because of their tendency to leak from products into the environment.

“We find that the environmental concentrations of these compounds are increasing rather rapidly,” Hites said. “It’s rare to find that concentrations of any compound are doubling within a year or two, which is what we’re seeing with TBB and TBPH.”

The researchers measured concentrations of TBB and TBPH in 507 air samples collected at six locations on the shores of the Great Lakes. The samples were collected by the Integrated Atmospheric Deposition Network, a joint U.S.-Canada project, conducted by IU researchers, to monitor airborne toxic chemicals that are deposited in the Great Lakes.

The results constitute the first self-consistent data set that shows environmental concentrations of TBB and TBPH increasing relatively rapidly. Previous studies have found the compounds in sewage sludge in California, marine mammals in Hong Kong and household dust and furniture foam in the U.S.

As would be expected, the IU researchers found the largest concentrations of TBB and TBPH in atmospheric samples collected in urban areas: Chicago and, especially, Cleveland. But the compounds were also detected in about half the samples from remote sites at Sleeping Bear Dunes and Eagle Harbor in Michigan and Point Petre in Ontario, Canada. They also were detected at rural Sturgeon Point, N.Y.

TBPH was detected more frequently and in higher concentrations than TBB. The concentrations are similar to those reported previously by Hites and Venier for PBDEs at the Great Lakes sites, suggesting the newer-generation flame retardants may be replacing their predecessors in the environment.