25 December 2008

Danger of polycarbonate and plastic bottles

Plastic polycarbonate bottles are still popular as drinking water bottles. (check the no 7 within the triangle at the bottle's base). However polycarbonate releases a chemical known as bisphenol A also know as BPA.(the Canadian government took the stance to officially declare bisphenol A toxic). Whereas plastic industry safety studies find no significant health effects from typical daily doses of bisphenol A, some US government studies found harmful health effects especially to children and expecting moms, but also for male sexuality and reproduction as well.

The problem is that bisphenol A acts as a "xenoestrogen," which just means it's like the female hormone estrogen, except for two things:

1) it's foreign to the body, which is what "xeno" means, and

2) it is way more harmful than our natural estrogen for everyone, male and female.

Breast cancers are much more of a risk in women who carry a high burden of xenoestrogens, and both sexes are subject to a huge range of other harmful health effects. The most far-reaching effects are birth defects and miscarriages. Another effect is a disruption of beta cell function in the pancreas, which creates a pre-diabetes type condition of high blood insulin and insulin resistance.

Never leave a plastic water bottle on a hot car seat, because the phthalates used in the manufacture of plastics leach into the water that you then drink. Phthalates are another xenoestrogen. However, with the polycarbonate bottles it has been found that even at room temperature, bisphenol A leaches into the water, and more so with increased temperature. Also with repeated use of plastics, you may notice the fine line scratches that you see on an old plastic container. These increase the surface area exposed to the liquid inside and release more of the xenoestrogens into the water.

Sure, glass can break. But if you're careful with it, that's not a problem. And considering all the problematic substances in plastics, the breakability of glass does not seem like such a tragedy. Once you get used to carrying it, it is just as easy as polycarbonate bottles.

So next time you order your favourite teh tarik, make sure it is in glass and not in plastic cup.

18 December 2008

12 Things You Should Know About Aspirin

Aspirin, that old standard in everyone's medicine chest, can really pack a wallop. So much so that the American Heart Association has long recommended aspirin therapy for people who've had a heart attack, stroke caused by blood clot, unstable angina, or "ministrokes." The AHA also notes that even people who have not experienced such an event but who are at increased risk because of family history, say, may also stand to gain from aspirin therapy.

We're certainly familiar with our aspirin: About 60 percent of people ages 65 and older pop aspirin at least once a week. But this cheap, over-the-counter pill is not benign, and regular use should be discussed with a doctor. And beware marketing claims. Bayer was sent warning letters by the Food and Drug Administration today for touting two products—Bayer Women's Low Dose Aspirin + Calcium (Bayer Women's) and Bayer Aspirin with Heart Advantage (Bayer Heart Advantage)—for making unproved health claims.

Along with its benefits, aspirin has limitations, too. A roundup of recent research suggests taking aspirin regularly may do the following:

1) Cut pre-eclampsia risk during pregnancy. A research review published in The Lancet in 2007 suggests that pregnant women who took aspirin or other antiplatelet drugs were 10 percent less likely to develop the disorder that involves high blood pressure and potentially serious complications for mother and fetus. Aspirin therapy during pregnancy should definitely be discussed with an obstetrician.

2) Reduce risk of developing colorectal cancers. The journal Gastroenterology published a study earlier this year that found a significantly lowered risk of developing the cancers in men with regular, long-term aspirin (and other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory) use. The benefits, however, were not evident until individuals had amassed a total of five consistent years of regular use. Also, the dose with the biggest benefit—325-mg pills more than 14 times each week—is greater than typically recommended.

3) Lower a woman's risk of breast cancer. A research review published this month in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute found a 13 percent relative risk reduction in women who used aspirin regularly compared with those who did not. The findings found an overall reduced risk of 12 percent for regular use of NSAIDs in general. Previous research on breast cancer risk and NSAID use has shown conflicting results.

4) Throw off test results for prostate cancer. In an issue of this month's journal Cancer, researchers reported that men who used aspirin and other NSAIDs regularly had about 10 percent lower levels of the prostate marker prostate-specific antigen. The researchers suggest this may hinder the detection of prostate cancer in regular users.

5) Offer some protection against Alzheimer's disease. Research has been inconclusive, but a review published this year in the journal Neurology found people who used aspirin had a 13 percent lower risk of developing Alzheimer's. The study added to an ongoing debate about whether certain types of NSAIDs, say ibuprofen vs. aspirin, were more beneficial.

6) Help prevent strokes—unless you also take ibuprofen. A small study published this year in the Journal of Clinical Pharmacology found that stroke patients taking daily aspirin to prevent another stroke who also took ibuprofen—say, for their arthritis—reaped no antiplatelet benefit. After the patient stopped the ibuprofen, the aspirin became effective. The Food and Drug Administration warns that aspirin's benefits may be diminished by ibuprofen use.

7) Prevent asthma in middle-aged women. A study published in the journal Thorax this year found that women 45 and older who took 100 mg of aspirin every other day were 10 percent less likely to develop asthma over the next decade than women given a placebo. The study authors note that aspirin could exacerbate symptoms in about 10 percent of people already diagnosed with asthma.

8) Protect against Parkinson's disease. A 2007 study published in Neurology suggests that women who used aspirin regularly (defined as two or more a week for at least a month at any point in their life) may be 40 percent less likely to develop the disease.

9) Provide zero protection against heart attacks in people with diabetes. This month, the British Medical Journal published research that suggests diabetics taking aspirin to prevent a first heart attack were no less likely to experience an attack than those taking a placebo. People with diabetes are at least twice as likely to develop heart disease or have a stroke as the general public.

10) Offer no protection to some sufferers of heart attack or stroke. A research review published in the British Medical Journal in January found that nearly 30 percent of people with cardiovascular disease who took prescribed aspirin were resistant to its effects. Such "aspirin resistance," the study found, makes such patients four times as likely as those for whom aspirin had an effect to have a heart attack, stroke, or die.

11) Cause stomach troubles. People taking aspirin or another NSAID are at higher risk of gastrointestinal bleeding and stomach ulcers—particularly with long-term use of the drug.

12) Be less effective in women. This month, a research review published in the journal BMC Medicine found that earlier studies showed a large benefit in men taking aspirin to reduce the rates of fatal heart attack, but women did not reap the same benefit.

16 December 2008

Hollywood actor Omar Regan' s pilgrimmage

One of the millions of people making the pilgrimmage to Mecca was Omar Regan, a Hollywood actor who appeared as a double for Chris Tucker in the film Rush Hour 2. Al Jazeera's Sami Zeidan reports .

11 December 2008

Who is responsible for the Bukit Antarabangsa tragedy?

Now the blaming game has started. Of course somebody has to take the blame. Will it be the former Selangor MBs Khir Toyo and Muhammad Taib, or the present MB Khalid Ibrahim or is it MPAJ?

Slope does not become unstable in the wink of an eye. When there is rainfall, water will find its way into the nearest water courses such as drains or streams and ultimately make its way into rivers and into the sea. Some will sip and percolate into the earth strata. When there is heavy downpour or intense rainfall, drains or streams may be choked up and this will eventually cause the water to swell and overflow. When this happens to hill slopes, the gushing water or runoffs will just overflow over the slopes and erode whatever it comes across . Simply said, over years, there is an increasing pore water pressure building up in the soil, which then caused an overburden in the soil slopes. A point may reach when the slope's soil becomes 'too heavy' and unstable and it no longer can hold its strength anymore, hence,  a slope failure occurs.

Why did the British, our colonial masters build the Klang gate dam in that area?. The simple reason is that it is a big natural catchment area receiving the highest rainfall in the Klang valley. Whoever lives there will tell you it rains cats and dogs when other places gets a drizzle.

As a practising Civil Engineer with 30 years handling slope stability problems, experience shows that almost any modification of a slope by people increases the risk of slope movement, especially in areas receiving high intensity rain. How unstable a slope depends on many environmental factors, so mitigation of slope failures can be complicated. Generally, vegetation can improve the stability of a slope because plant roots increase cohesion and plant leaves intercept rain drops that could otherwise decrease cohesion. Reducing rainfall runoff at the top of a slope and reinforcing the base of a slope can also improve stability. However, the mitigation of slope failures often needs to be prescribed on a case by case basis because every slope is unique.

In areas where slope failures are a hazard, the best solution is not to place any structures on or near a slope that has been determined to be unstable. In the Bukit Antarabangsa case, the slope failure occurs in area where there is vegetation, and no one notice that slope failure is imminent. That shows the slope has been weakening over time due to the failure of interceptor drains (if there are any) or frequent runoff or gushing heavy flows of water due to the clearing of areas on top of the slope due to the developments.

When the Highland Tower collapsed 15 years ago, it was a warning to the authorities to stop all hillside developments in that area. It fell on deaf ears. Muhammad Taib and Khir Toyo should be responsible for this tragedy. They were at the helm of the Selangor state in the last 15 years and development in that areas should have been banned after the Highland Tower tragedy.

Bukit Antarabangsa was once dub the Beverly Hills of the Klang Valley, and now it has become the Tragedy Hill.

I wonder if any of the UMNO delegates would be stupid enough to vote for Muhammad Taib and Khir Toyo in the coming UMNO elections. Would they reject a leader with bloods on their hands?

Nay. In UMNO, money talks and bullshit walks................

10 December 2008

Templer Park: Another disaster waiting to happen

A few years back, if you were traveling towards Rawang using the old Templer Park road, surely you will enjoy the green scenery and cool weather as you make your way up the hill before going downhill to Rawang.

Nowadays the scenery is tainted by developments which are encroaching into the forest reserve. Along the left and right side of the road around Templer Park, developments of high end housing schemes are being build to cater for the rich. These houses are build along terraces cut from the hills and some are sitting smack below the cut slopes.

Maybe those rich buyers have the prudence and wits to secure millions of Ringgit buying their dream homes, but they do not have the sanity, rationality and good judgement, as their million Ringgit property is situated directly below the 100 feet cut slopes. It is a time bomb and a disaster waiting to happen similar to the ones in Bukit Antarabangsa.

Why does the Authority, in this case Majlis Perbandaran Selayang allows such developments on hillsides?. Who was the power that approved the forest reserves around Templer Park to be turn into development lands? We want to know who approved the projects and whether it was done according to rules.

Will someone in charge please do your work before another disaster struck.

01 December 2008

Hip-Hop in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia!

Hip-hop music has become popular in the Arab world since a few years in places like Palestine, Lebanon and Morocco. But today, it is also a reality in the supposedly less flashy country of the whole area, the kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

Qusay, a Saudi-born musician who has lived a few years in the USA before he came back to the KSA (Kingdom of Saudi Arabia), is the leader of a band called The Legend of Jeddah. Their last CD has been an unexpected success.

Obviously, rap music in KSA does not come from the ghetto. Performing in places like the economic forum of Jeddah and adopted by the prestigious MTV Arabia, the Legend of Jeddah has nothing to do with "gangsta rap" music.

On the contrary, its clean hip-hop music can be seen as a perfect advertising for a modern KSA, far away from the clichés of islamic radicalism and moral rigor, something Qusay himself explains in great detail in his various interviews for the Arabic press.

Still, the Legend of Jeddah rappers make clear that things are changing in the KSA. For instance, their greatest hit, the Wedding, is a slightly ironic parody of the local traditions, with a wedding party which almost becomes postmodernist when Qusay starts singing, nicely mixing modern rhythms with traditional tunes.

Have a look at their 5’ minutes clip......