Safety: Life or Death

i-d48b16e35d3b81f06c8e8834c1fbcdb8-safebuzz.jpgRecognizing the drawbacks of uranium reactors, Mike the Mad Biologist explains that using thorium for nuclear fuel would produce safer energy. Uranium was originally established as the element of choice “since it would yield plutonium which could be used to build nukes,” but thorium reactions produce less waste, less radioactivity, and no leftovers for warheads. Because of its other properties, thorium also works in new reactor designs that are safe from the threat of meltdown. On Effect Measure, Revere shows us the result of an unsafe workplace at a Dupont chemical plant which suffered four dangerous lapses in a span of two days. One of these was the death of a man who walked into a small leak of phosgene gas, a modern pesticide precursor which was once “used as a gas warfare agent in WWI.” And on Respectful Insolence, Orac discusses medical safeguards, such as simple checklists to ensure that surgeons remove the right organ from the right person without leaving anything behind. Disturbed by two recent cases where mismeasured radiation killed ailing patients, Orac warns, “the more complex the system, the easier it is for error to creep in.”

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Virus Season

i-64eb9e49f15b0c13bf0ab3a6b5c821a6-bugbuzz.jpgAs we shiver in the northern hemisphere, holiday cheer isn’t the only thing in the air—there are also flu, cold, and other contenders just waiting to hit a mucous membrane. Revere questions H1N1 terminology on Effect Measure, citing “10,000 deaths, 47 million infections and over 200,000 hospitalizations” caused by the virus, with the “heart of flu season” still to come. On The White Coat Underground, PalMD reports more CDC data, revealing a “death rate from influenza in American Indians/Native Alaskans” that is almost four times the rate of other ethnicities. Rhinovira are also out in force these days, but if you haven’t heard, don’t reach for the Zicam nasal spray—unless you want to lose your sense of smell. Scicurious on Neurotopia shows us a clear-cut study on Zicam which demonstrates that it causes serious and possibly irreversible damage to olfactory tissue. But fret not, snifflers, there are other ways to combat your cold—although Janet D. Stemwedel on Adventures in Ethics and Science admits, “cramming the spout into my nostril was kind of uncomfortable.”

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