Air Pollutants Get Into the Body via the Skin

While lungs remain the main way by which air pollutants get into the body, and, if in sufficient quantities, cause ill-health effects, a new study shows that certain pollutants (‘semi-volatiles’ like phthalates) can be drawn in by the skin. This effect is known as ‘dermal uptake’ and the levels absorbed can be equivalent to those drawn in through breathing via the lungs.

Source: Air Pollutants Get Into the Body via the Skin

For the curious, here’s the peer reviewed source.  Time to break out the plastic bubble …just make sure it’s BPA free 😉

The study confirms we can (and do) get air pollution via osmosis.  There’s been news in the past about inhaling exhaust changes the expression of our DNA.  Those face masks some people wear?  It’s really only a courtesy as an attempt to minimize spreading what they already have.  Between the grade of mask and fit (no beards!), most consumer grade stuff isn’t worth wearing with respect to limiting your exposure.

Consider stocking up on snake plants and peace lily’s, because they remove 14 different volatile organic compounds (VOCs) from the air in significant amounts.  FYI though: they’re toxic to cats.  HEPA filters won’t help with VOCs.  If you keep your windows shut to maximize the effectiveness of a HEPA filter, you may have higher VOC levels inside.  Activated carbon filters may help, but they’re of limited value. Most “consumer grade” AC filters foul with dust very quickly. you’d need an industrial AC filter (one that periodically heats itself to recharge the AC) for it to be really effective.  Of course a lot depends on your home environment. Do you have a lot of new plastics around? Did you paint recently? Are there people using a lot of cosmetics, hairspray, deodorant, shampoo, etc? I wish there were an inexpensive tester for common VOCs. So far I have not been able to find one.

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Study Confirms that Smoking Causes Emphysema

…due to incomplete combustion of insoluble nanoparticulates of carbon.  The longer you smoke, the worse it gets.

Many people who pass away from severe emphysema are found, at the time of autopsy, to have black lungs. The discoloured lungs are most strongly associated with people who have smoked heavily or worked in certain industries.

Source: New Study Confirms The Lethal Effect Of Smoking

Why is this study is important?  We knew that the black stuff was carbon and nanoparticles are bad, but we weren’t quite sure how much of emphysema was from poisons in the smoke, and how much was from immune cells that ingested the carbon particles (and the underlying mechanisms).  But it would make diagnosing smoking as the cause, and assessing overall health risk from smoking easier… But because of the way the tobacco industry operates, and the limited restrictions placed on it, it probably won’t help many people until it’s too late, but this data can be used to possibly find ways to combat some of it’s harmful effects in the future.

Inhaling smoke from any burning organic matter is likely to be just as hazardous.  Puff, puff, pass on that 😉

What About Diagnosing with X-Rays?

X-ray scans only differentiate between atoms, not molecules. This is because the energy is so high (in order to penetrate through the body) that “molecules” aren’t even visible to the x-ray (it has a small interaction cross section), only individual atoms can block them.

You Have Taste Receptors in Your Colon. Here’s Why.

Taste receptors don’t only exist in your mouth. You can find them all over your body, including your stomach, your lungs, and your colon. Why? It turns out the taste receptors are much more versatile tools than we suppose.

Source: You Have Taste Receptors in Your Colon. Here’s Why.

The flavors are so pronounced, you can just sense the aftertaste on the tip of your bum. But that might only be the spicy food…

How Does Lung Capacity Increase?

Alveoli are the sites in our lungs where oxygen moves from the air to the blood stream.  You can do things like smoking, which damages the alveoli to give you bigger open spaces with less surface area. Less surface area means less efficient. Things like diabetes, or high blood pressure, can cause the space between the alveoli and the blood vessels to increase, making it harder for oxygen to diffuse across and decrease efficiency.

You can’t increase alveoli/surface-area because your lungs are already packed full of them. Thus, you can’t decrease diffusion distance because the space is already as thin as it can be. You can’t increase total volume of your lungs because their size is limited by your ribcage.

The best you can do is just avoid things that make them worse. However, you can increase efficiency of the cardiovascular system which works with the lungs.

There are other things that effect the total picture of “increase stamina” such as increasing stored glycogen in the muscles or increasing one type of muscle fiber and decreasing another type of muscle fiber that is better suited to the activity you are performing (such as for long distance running you will increase Type 1 muscle fibers and decrease Type 2 muscle fibers).

TLDR: Your body becomes more efficient. The blood cells that carry oxygen work better after doing cardio for a while.

How does compare to trying to increase time you can hold your breath?

Holding your breath isn’t the same as cardio. You feel the need to breathe when you have too much carbon dioxide (CO2) in your system, instead of not enough oxygen.

You can train your mind to ignore higher levels of CO2 to pretty absurd degrees.  Another trick is to hyperventilate 3 times before holding your breathe. This rids your body of more CO2 than usual, allowing you to hold your breath for a longer amount of time.

Your lungs never really expand past peak capacity, your body simply uses the air more efficiently.

Researchers Grow Human Lungs in Lab

OK, they didn’t “grow” lungs – they took parts from two sets of lungs, assembled them, and caused the lung cells to replicate until the whole structure was functional.  Still, pretty impressive.

Lungs are a notoriously delicate organ. That makes useable donor lungs hard to come by—in 2010, just 1,800 lung transplants took place in the United States. However, researchers are getting closer to addressing the shortage by growing lungs, for the first time, in the lab. Although these lungs haven’t been actually transplanted, the technology could someday help shorten the list of people waiting for donors.

…In the past, washing a donor organ of its cells could take up to four months to accomplish, but the latest study introduced a device that sped that process up to three days. The resulting lungs are eggshell white, because of the lack of blood flowing in the new organ.

…it will take at least 10 years before they are ready for people in need of a transplant.

Source: Scientists Grow First Functioning Human Lungs

The proof of concept used portions of lungs from deceased children – cadaveric donation is nothing new.  Next step is testing in pigs…

This is actually hope for cystic fibrosis (CF) patients. CF patients get on a waiting list for a maximum of two lung transplants (regardless of if their bodies reject the lungs or not) in their lifetimes, beginning when their pulmonary function tests reach a certain percent of normal lung capacity. The average life expectancy of CF patients is 37 years, but lungs that match their DNA and reduce risk of rejection show promise for greatly increasing this life expectancy.

How is this better than a regular lung transplant?

Besides the lack of viable donor organs, the main issue with transplants today is chronic rejection. If you receive a lung transplant, you’re put on immunosuppressants to stop your immune system from attacking those donor lungs, yet in the long run it usually does just that anyhow. The immune system begins to attack the donor lungs and eventually they’re so damaged that most lung transplant patients end up needing another transplant after a few years.  The life expectancy of lung transplant recipients is 6 years on average before dying either from chronic rejection or one of the side effects of immunosuppression (cancer, opportunistic infections, kidney/liver failure).

With the technique described, rejection and in turn the need for immunosuppression (and all associated negative consequences of being immunocompromised) might be avoided entirely. Doctors could one day take the lung of a deceased donor, reduce it to only the scaffolding, then “rebuild” the lung itself using material from the prospective recipient.  The result would be lungs that are as good as new and genetically identical to the recipient’s own lungs – thus invisible to the recipients’ immune system.

This is an important step towards growing solid organs from scratch. Right now they need to strip down a real lung, but one day it might be possible to 3d-print such a structure without requiring a donor organ. This would solve the organ shortage, eliminating the organ donation waiting lists.  But then the bottleneck will be hospital beds and staff…

Today I Learned: How Fat Leaves the Body

When you lose weight, where does it go? Turns out, most of it is exhaled.

In a new study, scientists explain the fate of fat in a human body, and through precise calculations, debunk some common misconceptions. Fat doesn’t simply “turn into” energy or heat, and it doesn’t break into smaller parts and get excreted, the researchers say.

Source: Exhaled Pounds: How Fat Leaves the Body

But water is still a byproduct of breaking down triglycerides, so sweat can be an indication beyond water weight.  Which also might give some insight into why it can be more difficult for women to lose weight than men.