Published: Tuesday 15 June 2004

air stinkers: Harmful smog can form inside homes through reactions between air-fresheners and the ozone pollutant, indicates findings of researchers from the US Environmental Protection Agency. The reactions generate formaldehyde, classed as a probable carcinogen, and related compounds that many experts believe are responsible for respiratory problems.

touch and infect: Researchers from the US-based New York Blood Centre have recently mapped the SARS coronavirus in the tissues of four patients killed by respiratory diseases in China in 2003. Besides the lungs and gut, where SARS is known to cause infection, they found the virus in a range of organs including kidneys and sweat glands. The results suggest that just by touching a SARS patient, the virus can be transmitted through sweat.

simple solution: Water contaminated with arsenic can be cleaned by growing ferns in it. Researchers from US-based Edenspace Systems Corporation have found that a species of fern, Pteris vittata , sucks arsenic out of water. In less than a day, the arsenic concentration is reduced below the safety limit set by the US Environmental Protection Agency. The ferns can be grown directly in the water, similar to the reed-bed systems currently used to remove organic waste.

chemicals at loggerhead with turtles: Loggerhead sea turtles are threatened because of exposure to organic chemicals, such as polychlorinated biphenyls and pesticides. These are the results of a study from US-based Duke University and National Institute of Standards and Technology. Turtles with more concentration of the contaminants were found to have poor health.

killer asteroid: A asteroid slammed into the Earth 250 million years ago, causing the greatest mass extinction on record, say the scientists who have found the 'smoking gun' of the collision. Geologists located the huge undersea crater off the Australian coast where they think the asteroid hit with the force of one million nuclear bombs. About 90 per cent of marine organisms and 80 per cent of land animals and plants died in the region at the end of the Permian and the beginning of the Triassic periods. If the asteroid's impact is confirmed as the cause of the 'large-scale killing', it will be the second instance of an extraterrestrial object linked with mass extinction. The other 'mass extinction' was the demise of the dinosaurs some 65 million years ago.

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