Archive for the ‘New Scientist’ Category

Medications are best taken with water because beverages such as milk, mineral water and juice can sometimes alter their effects, warned Ursula Sellerberg, spokeswoman for the Federal Union of German Associations of Pharmacists.

“Milk contains the mineral calcium, which can bind with medications and prevent them from entering the bloodstream,” she said.

For this reason, milk and dairy products reduce the effectiveness of certain active pharmaceutical ingredients, for example in thyroid hormones, medications for osteoporosis and a number of antibiotics.

“A dash of milk in a cup of coffee can be enough to interfere with a medication’s effectiveness,” Sellerberg noted. A similar effect is also possible from calcium-fortified juices and calcium-rich mineral water. There is no problem, however, when one or two hours separate the intake of calcium from the intake of a medication.

Grapefruit juice, on the other hand, can intensify both the effects and side effects of various medications. “The juice inhibits enzymes in the body responsible for breaking down many medicines,” Sellerberg said.

The medicines affected are frequently for hypertension, heart diseases, lipid metabolic disorders and other chronic illnesses. No comparable interactions have been observed to date with orange or apple juice.

Medications should not be washed down with alcoholic beverages either because they, too, can interact with certain active pharmaceutical ingredients.


The sun, a star at the centre of the solar system, is known to provide ideal conditions for life to thrive on Earth. But, astronomers have claimed that it also leaves the planet wide open to harmful cosmic rays.

A joint team from University of Arizona and University of Texas in the US has found that the sun periodically leaves Earth open to assaults from interstellar nasties in a way that most stars do not, the ‘New Scientist’ reported.

The sun protects humans from cosmic rays and dust from beyond the solar system by enveloping in the heliosphere — a bubble of solar wind that extends past Pluto. These rays would damage the ozone layer and interstellar dust can dim sunlight and trigger an ice age.

However, when the solar system passes through very dense gas and dust clouds, the heliosphere can shrink until its edge is inside Earth’s orbit. So, in their research, the team, led by David Smith, has calculated the squeezing of various stars’ protective “astrospheres”.

Mothers Beware!

Do you know that you are systematically poisoning your homes without even knowing you are doing so?

Hear this, 80 per cent of Malaysian households, particularly women and children, used at least one pesticide indoors, in 2005 according to one survey recently.

Also, the majority of the nearly 2000 pesticide products in the market, in fact all of them, may not be safe to be used at all. Yes, all of the pesticides sold in the market are not safe to be used in our homes.

We tend to believe, and in fact, its our present belief that pesticides will solve all our household problems whenever we have unwelcome guests like spiders, cockroaches, mosquitoes or any crawling creatures visiting our homes or entering our space. We use pesticides for purely aesthetic reasons.

We run to the supermarket or sundry shops and at the shelf just pickup an aerosol insecticide spray whenever mosquitoes or cockroaches invade our space and become irritants to us. Its so easy to kill them all, just like making graffiti on side walls using aerosol spray paints. But they keep coming back with a greater vengeance although we double, triple or multiple the dose thinking we had knock down all of them  by our miracle mist the aerosol insecticide spray.

This aerosol insecticide spray is dangerous stuff. Let me tell you readers why. Okay, take the aerosol insecticide spray canister and have a good look at its label. It will read for example,

Perawais Aftik ( active ingredient )  – prallethrin –     0.09% w/w

d- phenothrin – 0.05% w/w

Total   – 0.14 %

Perawis Lengai ( inert ingredient )          –                 99.96% w/w

Now see this properly. Although the pesticide contains only 0.14 % of active ingredient it nevertheless contain significantly more inert ingredients i.e 99.96 % of the total contents. This inert ingredient is not at all identified.

All inert ingredients are not at all identified in Malaysia. We are NEVER told what the inerts are made of. This is the case with all pesticides. So, what are inerts and why are they not identified in the labels?  Why the secrecy?

According to the Pesticide Act, active ingredients is the main ingredient in a pesticide which kills, repels or mitigate pests, while inert ingredients are chemicals which simply helps a pesticide to work better.

A strategically inserted inert can enhance a pesticides toxicity by facilitating absorption of the poison through the mouth parts of an insect or the body of the insect. In other words, the inert helps in the process of the poison to be absorbed into the body of the pest or whatever comes in contact with it, including humans.

We can safely say, inerts are actually, biologically, chemically and toxicological active chemicals which are more toxic than the active ingredients itself.

In the US, some chemicals which are regulated as hazardous waste are even used as inerts in some pesticides. Hence, we can safely say that the truth is most “inerts” are not inert.

The combined effect mixing inert and active ingredient is frequently what makes pesticide products so lethal. A study done in a herbicide “ROUNDUP” manufactured by US chemical giant MONSANTO CORPORATION indicates that the addition of the inert ingredient “POLYOXYETHYLENE” to the active ingredient “GLYPHOSATE” substantially increases its toxicity.

Another study done on xylene, a petroleum derived inert used mainly as a solvent in as many as 2000 pesticides shows that xylene may cause memory and hearing loss, liver and kidney damage, inflamed lungs and even foetal deaths.

According to Dr Mohd Isa Abdul Majid, from the Toxicology Laboratory University Sains Malaysia, the effects of xylene includes memory impairments, personality changes, depression, confusion and thought disorders. Even women exposed to xylene may have longer and heavier menstrual period.

So we ask the question, why is the pesticide manufacturer allowed to omit the chemical names of inert ingredients from pesticides labels when the question of safety have not been properly answered?

The answer is because of PROFITS.

Presently, the Pesticide Board of Malaysia which overseas all pesticide sales, distribution and manufacturing only require identification of inert ingredients if it believes that a chemical ingredient might pose a ” toxicological concern.” Inerts which are ” potentially toxic” are therefore allowed to be omitted from labels.

Surely the label on a pesticide should be as informative as the label on a box of washing powder or even a packet of cream crackers or even a pack of cigarette. But the pesticide manufacturers claim otherwise.

They the manufacturers, say inerts are trade secrets and therefore they do not have to release the names of inert ingredients.

Malaysians should have the information necessary to make a reasoned decision about whether to pick a particular can of insect spray or mosquitoes coil. But they dont have it. Malaysians surely will want to see every ingredient listed on every product, especially when so many chemical poison in the market remain untested.

The law currently maintains ” use until proven deadly” policy. So in this respect, awareness particularly for women and children on the use and handling of aerosol insecticide spray is necessary and a must. The Government should not hide the facts and cover for the pesticide manufactures to make the profits in the name of trade secrets. Tell us the truth and dont compromise on safety.

Public awareness and action are they key to the drive to prevent systematic poisoning in our homes.

Selvaraja somiah

This article can also be read in Daily Express Sabah