Published: Friday 31 December 2004

the strongest acid: The world's strongest acid, at least a million times more potent than concentrated sulphuric acid, has been made in a lab in California. It is also one of the least corrosive. Called carborane acid, is the first 'superacid' that can be stored in a bottle. The previous record-holder, fluorosulphuric acid, corroded everything. The new acid's 'gentleness' is due to its remarkable chemical stability, says Christopher Reed of the University of California, USA, who is one of the acid's creators.

safe is unsafe: The so-called 'safe' levels of benzene also damage cells of the immune system and could lead to cancer and other ailments, as per the findings of US and Chinese researchers. A study of factory workers in China shows that tiny amounts of the chemical can affect bone marrow and blood cells; this suggests the chemical is even more dangerous than believed. The findings are significant, as benzene is present in large quantities in automobile emissions.

rubber from mushroom: Japanese researchers say they have produced rubber from a substance extracted from a wild mushroom variety commonly found in the country. Researchers at Gunma University have not only produced rubber from the chichitake mushroom, the end product also has the advantage of not containing a protein that can cause allergies among humans. At present, it takes more than 10 kilogrammes (kg) of mushrooms to make only one kg of the rubber. The researchers are now refining their process to overcome this major drawback.

not kidding: Air pollution has chronic adverse effects on lung development of children 10 to 18 years old, as per US researchers. During their 10-year-long study, they measured lung function of 1,759 children from 12 schools of Southern California, who were exposed to varied levels of pollutants such as ozone, acid vapour, nitrogen dioxide, ultrafine particulate matter and elemental carbon. By age 18, 7.9 per cent of the kids (exposed to the highest levels of particulate matter smaller than 2.5 micrometers) had 'diminished' lung function, whereas only 1.6 per cent of the kids living in areas with cleaner air had an impaired lung functioning.

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