Short items

Selenium for our daily bread

Britons would be healthier if small amounts of selenium were added to fertiliser applied to wheat fields,
says Steve McGrath of Rothamsted Research. Finland already adds the element to its fertiliser, and soil in the US is naturally selenium-rich, but average intake in the UK is half recommended levels. Selenium’s health benefits include lower rates of cancer and strengthening the immune system. 
The Times, 10 September 2009 

Degrading plastic pollutes seas 

The enormous amounts of plastic waste floating in oceans across the world are releasing toxic contaminants as they are degraded by extended exposure to sunlight and seawater. Of most concern are bisphenol A and short oligomers of styrene coming from breakdown of polystyrene foam. Significant levels of styrene monomer, dimers and trimers have been found by Japanese researchers in water samples from the Pacific Ocean.  Independent, 20 August 2009 

Teflon coated diabetes implant 

Encasing pancreatic islet cells in a polytetrafluoroethane (PTFE) membrane pouch prevents them being attacked by the immune system, but could allow them to secrete enough insulin to replace diabetes patients’ daily injections. The non-stick properties and good biocompatibility of PTFE make it ideal for medical implants. The device has been tested in mice but could take years to transfer into an effective human treatment. 
Daily Mail, 1 September 2009 

Toxic fumes from seaweed suspected in lorry driver death 

A French lorry driver, who died while clearing decaying sea lettuce from a beach in Brittany in July, is thought to have been poisoned by hydrogen sulfide gas emanating from the rotting seaweed. A report from the ecology ministry showed concentrations of 1000ppm in the bay - 500ppm can potentially be fatal when inhaled, and the driver had no protective equipment. 
The Times, 8 September 2009