Inequality in labeling chemicals

Interesting article on chemical and their labeling !!!!!

Anuja Sawant (Sarangdhar)

Symbols 2

As a student who has studied chemicals, observing tankers carrying chemicals interests me and may also interest you after you read this post. If you haven’t observed these tankers closely, may be you will now. By knowing such symbols, one can prevent injuries, not just in chemical factories but also in offices, homes and places where chemicals are used. This is because it is not only the tankers that bear such information, other products have it too.

The picture above is of NH3 on NH17. NH3 is the chemical formula for ammonia. It was shot on one of India’s national highways NH17, one of the busiest and 7th longest in the country. In it, you can see all kinds of indicators that are on the tanker. These are:

  • rear lights -to indicate the speed of the vehicle
  • a triangle with a light reflective material on it – a warning of a vehicle…

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Hormone Disruptors !!!

ImagePic: Dipper (Cinclus cinclus) courtsey,

From fishes to humans, effects of hormone disrupting pollutants has be recognized everywhere. A new research has shed light into effect of hormone disrupting pollutants in birds along the urban rivers of South Wales. An article published in the Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry journal revealed that the chicks of the Eurasian Dipper, a known river bird, found in upland stream, where found to be underweight as compared to their rural counterparts. These birds which are nesting near urban rivers were found to have altered levels of hormones, resulting in hatching of fewer female chicks as compared to the birds nesting near the rural rivers. This could have a direct impact on the population’s breeding and survival.

Researchers from Cardiff University along with University of Saskatchewan and Exeter and Natural Envrionment Research Council, state that urban contaminants such as PCB (polychlorinated biphenyls) and PBDR a flame retardant chemicals (polybrominated diphenyl ethers) are the key pollutants. The birds acquire them through their food. A strong correlation between these contaminants and depressed thyroid hormone levels in chicks has been found; one of these hormones where of 43% lower in chicks found around urban rivers as compared to that of rural rivers.

ImageTable: Example of EDC’s hormone targets, and aquatic receptors (2)

Professor Steve Ormerod(1) stated: “Our findings are important in showing that pollutants are still a source of concern for the wildlife along Britain’s urban rivers despite very major recovery from the gross pollution problems of the past. Wild birds, such as dippers, are very important indicators of environmental well-being and food-web contamination, and we need to know if populations, other species – or even people – are also at risk”. Professor Steve Ormerod from Cardiff University School of Biosciences, has spent 35 years investigating rivers.

Study showed that urban dippers found along the heavily polluted rivers of South Wales, are exposed to complex mix of chemical contaminants, of which PCB and PBDE are dominant. Endocrine system is important and sensitive, since it controls thyroid and other hormones, alteration in thyroid hormone levels is an important predictor in pollution induced development effects. The effects of altered levels of thyroid hormone on birds are diverse. The primary effects include impaired growth; cognitive dysfunction; compromised immune function; changes in motor activity; and behavioural abnormalities which can persist into adulthood.

Dippers being top predators are important monitors for river pollution, helping in the assessment of urban contaminants which are influencing wildlife. Latest findings have led scientist to examine the effects of dippers sex ratio and thyroid hormone levels, as a consequence at an individual level, which could as a result alter the population dynamics. Locating the exact source of the pollution is one of the many solutions being considered.

RSPB’s Futurescape Officer John Clark said: “The return of Dippers to urban rivers is a fantastic outcome of pollution reduction in the UK. However, this study highlights the importance of birds as an indicator that some pollutants still persist in our rivers at harmful levels. We need to work in partnership with water companies, regulators, statutory agencies and communities at a catchment scale to address those practices that continue to introduce damaging chemicals to our rivers. The RSPB’s Futurescapes conservation work programme is doing exactly that – tackling environmental challenges at a truly large, landscape-scale, level.”

Problem with thyroid disruptors is emerging everywhere around the world. A joint effort is required in tackling these pollutants which throw environment off balance. WHO in their annual report on endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDC) state: The identification of chemicals with endocrine-disrupting potential, among all of the chemicals used and released worldwide, is a major challenge and it is likely that we are currently assessing only the tip of the iceberg. Adding greatly to the complexity of the issue, and to the number of chemicals in our environment, are the unknown or unintended byproducts that are formed during chemical manufacturing and combustion processes and via environmental transformations. In addition, many EDC sources are unknown because a large number of products, materials and goods, as well as waste products and e-waste, lack declarations indicating their chemical constituents (3)




1) Morrissey, C. A., Stanton, D. W.G., Tyler, C. R., Pereira, M. G., Newton, J., Durance, I. and Ormerod, S. J. (2014), Developmental impairment in eurasian dipper nestlings exposed to urban stream pollutants. Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry, 33: 1315–1323. doi: 10.1002/etc.2555

2) Doris S V. 2011. Background: Endocrine Disruption. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 20 June 14].

3) Europe, W.H.O, 2014. Identification of risks from exposure to endocrine-disrupting chemicals at the country level. 2nd ed. Europe: WHO Regional Office for Europe.



Aging and Chemicals


How smoking accelerates aging(9)


Why some 70+ year olds are very active while others can barley move around? Researchers explain in the article, that such difference from one person to other occurs due to exposure towards certain chemicals in the environment. Your date of birth on your certificate gives your chronological age, which might mean little in terms of the biological age of the cells inside the body. Chemicals like, benzene, cigarette smoke, and stress were identified as causative factors.

In an article(1) researcher explains the need to have more knowledge about the chemicals involved in aging and biomarkers(5) to measure them. Dr Norman Sharpless from University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, states, “The rate of physiologic, or molecular, aging differs between individuals in part because of exposure to ‘gerotogens’, that is environmental factors that affect aging”. He further said, “We believe just as an understanding of carcinogens has informed cancer(6)biology, so will an understanding of gerontogens benefit the study of aging. By identifying and avoiding gerontogens, we will be able to influence aging and life expectancy(7)at a public health level.”

Differences in individual aging rates in the future can be determined using blood test evaluating biomarkers of molecular age. Tests like these measure key pathways in the process of cellular aging or chemical modifications to DNA(8).

Dr Sharpless stated that cigarette smoking is the most important gerontogen. Cigarette smoking has been linked with cancers. It has also been linked with atherosclerosis(4), pulmonary fibrosis(3) and other disease linked with aging. Even sun through UV radiation has also been proven to cause aging; Dr Sharpless and his colleague recently showed that chemotherapy(2) treatment also being strong gerontogen.

Using mouse model, Dr Sharpless and his team is prepared to study gerontogens and other factors in more detail. A concerted research is required to understand the clinical use for molecular tests of aging as well as the epidemiology of accelerated aging. “We believe the comparison of molecular markers of aging to clinical outcomes should begin in earnest,” Sharpless said.

Other ways of measuring molecular age will be through molecular determinations of DNA methylation proving useful biomarkers for this purpose. The concept of carcinogen has provided the foundation for cancer biology, the concept of gerontogen and its measurement using appropriate animal models and human biomarkers, will be crucial to a modern understanding of human aging.


 1)    E. Sharpless, Norman , 2014. Defining the toxicology of aging. Trends in Molecular Medicine, 13, 13-23.