what's the buzz...

what's the buzz...

Herbal defluoridation of drinking water

Based on a medicinal herb, researchers in India have developed a filter system, which they say can quickly and easily remove “fluoride” from drinking water. The technology uses parts of the plant Tridax procumbens as a biocarbon filter for the ion.

Drinking water can contain natural fluoride or fluoride might be added as a protective agent for teeth by water companies.  But in some natural drinking water, fluoride levels may be above those considered safe by the World Health Organisation.
Chemist Malairajan Singanan of the Presidency College (Autonomous), in Chennai, pointed out that the WHO guidelines suggest that a safe level of fluoride is 1.5 milligrams per liter.

He added that various techniques to reduce fluoride content have been tried including coagulation, adsorption, precipitation, ion exchange, reverse osmosis, and electrodialysis. However, metal ions with an affinity for fluoride in a biocarbon matrix represent a promising new approach.

Singanan has investigated Tridax procumbens, which is commonly used as a medicinal herb in India, as a biocarbon absorbent for fluoride.

Previously, the plant has been tested in the extraction of toxic heavy metals from water. He explained that by loading up plant tissue with aluminum ions it is possible to create a safe biocarbon filter that will readily absorb fluoride ions from water warmed to around 27 degree Celsius passing through the filter.

His trials showed that it takes just three hours to remove 98 per cent of fluoride with just 2 grams of the biocarbon filter.

The biocarbon filter might provide an inexpensive way to defluoridate water in regions where the natural level of this mineral is high in ground water, including India, China, Sri Lanka, West Indies, Spain, Holland, Italy, Mexico, North and South America.

Soon, cars will detect cyclists and brake automatically

Swedish car manufacturers Volvo has developed a new radar-based system that can detect cyclists and pedestrians and automatically brake to avoid them.  The system, unveiled at the 2013 Geneva motor show, uses both radar and cameras to detect people on pushbikes and automatically apply the car’s brakes if the rider swerves out in front of the vehicle, the Sydney Morning Herald reported.

Volvo said that in Europe, 50 percent of cyclists killed in traffic have been involved in accidents with cars.  The system is an extension of the manufacturer’s existing pedestrian detection program, which can apply the brakes and stop the car completely if it’s travelling less than 25km/h.

The radar detects objects in front of the car and figures out how far away they are, while a camera near the rear-view mirror identifies the object as either another car, a pedestrian, cyclist or motorcyclist.

If the object does something unexpected and a collision is imminent, it issues a warning and applies full brake pressure.
Bitter tasting food may help prevent asthma attacks

 Substances that give some foods their bitter flavors can also act to reverse the contraction of airway cells, scientists at the University of Massachusetts Medical School have found.

This reversal, known as bronchodilation, is needed to treat airway obstructive diseases such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. The new findings could have significant implications for such treatments.

The sense of taste is mediated by taste receptor cells bundled in our taste buds. These receptors were thought to only exist in the tongue, but recent discoveries have shown that they are actually expressed in various cell types throughout the body. In particular, bitter taste receptors exist in smooth muscle cells in the airway, acting to relax the cells when exposed to bitter-tasting substances.

A hallmark of an asthma attack is excessive contraction of these smooth muscle cells, which causes narrowing of the airways and breathing difficulties. The fact that bitter substances can relax these smooth muscle cells suggests that they may have the potential to halt asthma attacks, and in fact could even be an improvement over current treatments since the relaxation effects are quite fast. Indeed, experiments in mice suggest that the effects are stronger.