The global cosmetics industry is huge, with sales estimated to be around $170 billion annually. Broken down into the segments of hair care, skin care, fragrance, makeup and miscellaneous, the chemical industries behind the production of most cosmetics create products that appeal to the eyes, skin and nose, yet too often contain toxic chemicals. Hormone-disrupting additives, preservatives and colorants may make for an attractive cosmetic product, but at an immeasurable cost to human health.

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Chronic illnesses and fatigue syndromes are plaguing our health these days and it may be of use to consider how the products we put on and in our bodies affects the proper function of the human body. TheEnvironmental Working Group, and EcoWatch have put together an important list of the 7 most dangerous chemical additives in cosmetics that should be avoided by anyone who uses beauty products.

1. Phthalates 
Scientific studies link phthalate exposure to reproductive abnormalities in baby boys, reduced testosterone and sperm quality in men and early puberty in girls. Animal experiments underscore their toxicity to the reproductive system. Where might you encounter these pernicious chemicals? In some cosmetics fragrance mixtures. Since the law doesn’t require full disclosure, you have no way to know when phthalates lurk in that bottle of lotion. To be on the safe side, buy unscented personal care products.

2. Formaldehyde releasers
Some cosmetics chemicals are designed to react with water in the bottle to generate a littleformaldehyde, a preservative, to keep the product from growing mold and bacteria. But formaldehyde is a potent allergen which the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the World Health Organization consider carcinogenic. Formaldehyde releasers include DMDM hydantoin, imidazolidinyl urea, diazolidinyl urea, and quaternium-15. Where do you find them?Shampoos, conditioners, bubble bath and other personal care products—even those intended for children. A 2010 study found that nearly one fifth of cosmetic products contained a formaldehyde releaser. Johnson & Johnson, a personal care products giant, is phasing out formaldehyde releasers under pressure from health advocates. We hope other cosmetics makers will follow Johnson & Johnson’s lead.

3. Parabens
Parabens are used as preservatives in some cosmetic products, but so-called “long-chained” parabens can act as estrogens and disrupt hormone signaling. A recent study by scientists at the Harvard School of Public Health linked one type of paraben to impaired fertility in women.  Johnson & Johnson agreed to stop using most parabens in 2012, but they can still be found in numerous cosmetics. Read the labels carefully to spot products that contain parabens, especially the long-chained varieties—propylparaben, isopropylparaben, butylparaben and isobutylparaben.

4. Triclosan and triclocarban
Triclosan is a bacteria-killing chemical used in Colgate Total toothpastes (to prevent gingivitis), liquid hand soaps, body washes, clothing, cutting boards and other household goods. It has been shown to interfere with thyroid signaling and male and female sex hormone signaling. Triclocarban is the active ingredient in some antibacterial bar soaps. Researchers have linked it to reproductive abnormalities in laboratory animals. Last month, the federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced that these chemicals should not be considered safe or effective in antibacterial soaps and body washes and gave manufacturers time to substantiate their claims or phase them out of the market. Already, Johnson & Johnson and Proctor & Gamble have pledged to rid their personal care products of triclosan. We hope to see other companies do the same.

5. Retinyl palmitate and retinoic acid
Retinoic acid is used in anti-aging skin creams. Retinyl palmitate, a related chemical, is added to roughly one-quarter of the sunscreens in EWG’s Guide to Sunscreens database. U.S. government scientists have found that these chemicals speed the development of cancerous lesions on sun-exposed skin. The results suggest that people who go out in the sun while wearing retinyl palmitate creams and sunscreens may be at an increased risk for skin cancer. Instead of restricting these chemicals immediately, the FDA has ordered additional testing. EWG recommends that you avoid products containing retinoic acid and retinyl palmitate.

6. Hair straighteners with formaldehyde or formaldehyde-like chemicals
Some hair straighteners can contain as much as 10 percent pure formaldehyde. The cosmetic industry’s own scientific advisory board has warned against formaldehyde-based hair straighteners. The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration has issued warnings and fines to numerous salons that use them, exposing their workers to intense, and potentially cancer-causing, formaldehyde fumes.  Some nations ban formaldehyde-based hair straighteners. Yet some small companies persist in making and selling them to unwitting consumers, and the FDA has failed to take punitive action. People who want to straighten their hair or undergo a “smoothing” treatment should find out if the salon uses a product containing formaldehyde, also called methylene glycol. If it does, avoid it.

7. Lead acetate in men’s hair dye 
Lead acetate in some men’s hair dyes, such as “Grecian Formula” products, can increase the body’s lead level. Because lead is a potent neurotoxin, lead acetate has been banned in Canada and the European Union. The FDA should restrict lead acetate in hair dyes. In the meantime, consumers can use EWG’s Skin Deep database to find lead-free hair dyes.

One more New Year’s resolution: the FDA and Congress should develop tougher requirements for proving cosmetic chemicals are safe before coming to market. All too often, products are on the market for years before scientists catch up with possible hazards in their formulations. Once hazards are suspected, the FDA moves at a snail’s pace in regulating potentially harmful ingredients. Responsible manufacturers can voluntarily remove these ingredients and we hope they will. Ultimately, it’s up to consumers to read labels, vote with their pocketbooks and force the market to change for the better.

Electric buses with wireless charging set for UK runs in Milton Keynes.

The UK can celebrate the launch of its first electric bus routes, to swing into operation this month in Milton Keynes, where eight electric buses will be running, taking over a busy “Number 7” 15-mile route, and covering two suburbs of Wolverton and Bletchley. These buses are the first of their kind in the UK. The new timetable will be implemented later this month. The electric bus fleet is operating as a five-year, multi-partner trial program. Among the participants are the European division of Japanese company Mitsui and design engineering consultancy Arup According to Arup, the data collected in the Milton Keynes trial could be used to kick-start electric bus projects in other towns and cities worldwide.

Electric buses set for UK runs in Milton Keynes

The launch this month is a test to see if these electric buses, which are to run a continuous, 17-hour service, can match their diesel counterparts in performance under busy real-world conditions. The program is to be closely monitored in order that the program’s participants can assess if these buses’ technical and commercial viability meet expectations.

“If we can demonstrate true parity with diesel buses during this trial, we’ll have reached a tipping point for low-carbon transport – we’ll have proved it can be cost-effective as well as green,” said Professor John Miles of Cambridge University, department of engineering and Arup consultant.

The technology at play involves  where the  batteries get their charge from underground induction coils positioned at the start and end of a bus driver’s route. Charging plates are set into the road, for transferring power to the receiving plates under the bus.

A report in IEEE Spectrum further explains what takes place: “Inductive  occurs when an electric current run through a coil, creates a magnetic field, which, in turn, induces current in any nearby conducting loops. When a bus stops at either of the charging stations, its on-board induction loops, lowered to four centimeters above ground, enter the magnetic field. The resulting current tops up its batteries enough to ensure it has enough energy to make it to the other end of the route and its next charge up.”

After a night charging at a depot, where the bus will get a full charge from its source, a bus will be able to replenish its batteries during its daily runs throughout the day with a ten-minute charge from the plates which are buried in the road. Two charging points can service all eight buses, which will charge in the time scheduled for driver breaks.

The inductive charging approach has the advantage of allowing the buses to run with smaller lighter batteries, with less dependence on onboard energy storage.

Metformin improved survival in patients with cancer, diabetes.

Patients with cancer and type 2 diabetes treated with metformin experienced longer OS and cancer-specific survival than patients treated with other glucose-lowering medications, according to results of a meta-analysis.

The reduction in risk for death was significant among metformin users with pancreatic and colorectal cancers.

“Metformin can make a substantial difference in outcome for diabetic cancer patients,” researcher Ming Yin, MD, of the department of internal medicine at the Geisinger Medical Center in Danville, Pa, said in a press release.

Yin and colleagues reviewed data from 20 studies that included 13,008 patients with cancer and type 2 diabetes. Of them, 6,343 patients received metformin alone or in combination with another glucose-lowering therapy. The other 6,665 patients received other treatments.

Nineteen of the studies assessed OS, and nine assessed cancer-specific survival.

Researchers found that metformin was associated with improved OS (HR=0.66; 95% CI, 0.55-0.79) and cancer-specific survival (HR=0.62; 95% CI, 0.46-0.84) compared with non-metformin regimens.

Results of a random-effects model analysis indicated the reduction in risk for death was significant in patients with type 2 diabetes and pancreatic (HR=0.65; 95% CI, 0.49-0.86) and colorectal (HR=0.65; 95% CI, 0.56-0.77) cancers.

Patients with lung cancer (HR=0.77; 95% CI, 0.28-2.15), breast cancer (HR=0.64; 95% CI, 0.37-1.12) and prostate cancer (HR=0.66; 95% CI, 0.36-1.21) also demonstrated reduced risks for death, but the results were not statistically significant.
When researchers stratified results by country, the random-effects analysis indicated metformin was associated with a survival benefit in Asian (HR=0.49; 95% CI, 0.37-0.65) and Western countries (HR=0.73; 95% CI, 0.61-0.87).

“Our meta-analysis demonstrated that metformin could be the drug of choice in patients with cancer and concurrent type 2 diabetes if there are no contraindications because it was associated with increased OS and cancer-specific survival compared with other diabetic medications,” Yin and colleagues concluded. “Future prospective studies with larger sample sizes and alternate study design are required to confirm our findings.”

Source: Endocrine Today.


Tight glycemic control failed to benefit pediatric ICU patients.

Tight glycemic control in critically ill children had no significant effect on the number of days alive and free from mechanical ventilation, according to researchers.

Children admitted to the pediatric ICU (aged ≤16 years) who were expected to require mechanical ventilation and vasoactive drugs for at least 12 hours were randomly assigned to tight glycemic control with a target blood glucose range of 72 mg/dL to 126 mg/dL or conventional glycemic control with a target level less than 216 mg/dL.

Besides assessing the number of days alive and free from mechanical ventilation at 30 days after random assignment, the Control of Hyperglycemia in Pediatric Intensive Care (ChiP) trial researchers examined the costs of hospital and community health services.

Of 1,369 patients at 13 centers in England, 694 were assigned to tight glycemic control and 675 to conventional glycemic control. Of those, 60% had undergone cardiac surgery, according to researchers.

Data indicate that the mean between-group difference in the number of days patients were alive and free from mechanical ventilation at 30 days was 0.36 days (95% CI, –0.42 to 1.14).

In addition, severe hypoglycemia was observed in children in the tight glycemic control group compared with those in the conventional glycemic control group (7.3% vs. 1.5%, P<.001).

The mean 12-month costs were less in the tight glycemic control group compared with the conventional glycemic control group (cost per patient difference of –$4,815; 95% CI, –$10,298 to –$668), according to data. The cardiac surgery subgroup costs were similar in each group. However, in the subgroup that did not undergo cardiac surgery, the mean cost was less in the tight glycemic controlgroup compared with the conventional glycemic control group (–$13,120; 95% CI, −$24,682 to −$1,559), researchers wrote.

In an accompanying editorial, Michael S.D. Agus, MD, of Boston Children’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School, wrote that the trial was well designed but would require further study.

“Although the improved 1-year health care outcomes in the non–cardiac-surgery patients is compelling, it remains impossible to determine best practice for the child who requires critical care for reasons other than cardiac surgery or burns until either a meta-analysis of several trials is performed on an individual-data level or until data from an ongoing large, multicenter trial are accrued,” Agus wrote.

Source: Endocrine Today.