For most of human history, biological agents were the most significant factor in health. These included pathogenic (disease causing) organisms such as bacteria, viruses, protozoa, and internal parasites. In modern times, cardiovascular diseases, cancer, and accidents are the leading killers in most parts of the world. However, infectious diseases still cause about 22 million deaths a year, mostly in undeveloped countries. These diseases include: tuberculosis, malaria, pneumonia, influenza, whooping cough, dysentery and Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS). Most of those affected are children. Malnutrition, unclean water, poor sanitary conditions and lack of proper medical care all play roles in these deaths.
Compounding the problems of infectious diseases are factors such as drug-resistant pathogens, insecticide-resistant carriers and overpopulation. Overuse of antibiotics have allowed pathogens to develop a resistance to drugs.
For example, tuberculosis (TB) was nearly eliminated in most parts of the world, but drug-resistant strains have now reversed that trend. Another example is malaria. The insecticide DDT was widely used to control malaria-carrying mosquito populations in tropical regions. However, after many years the mosquitoes developed a natural resistance to DDT and again spread the disease widely. Anti-malarial medicines were also over prescribed, which allowed the malaria pathogen to become drug-resistant.
In our industrialized society, chemical agents also have significant effects on human health. Toxic heavy metals, dioxins, pesticides, and endocrine disrupters are examples of these chemical agents. Heavy metals (e.g., mercury, lead, cadmium, bismuth, selenium, chromium, thallium) are typically produced as by-products of mining and manufacturing processes. All of them biomagnify (i.e., they become more concentrated in species with increasing food chain level).
The National Science Foundation (NSF) has released the first in a series of video programs called Science Nation, which examine breakthroughs and the possibilities for new...
Science NationLast Updated on 2009-06-03 10:17:10The National Science Foundation (NSF) has released the first in a series of video programs called Science Nation, which examine breakthroughs and the possibilities for new discoveries about our planet, our universe and ourselves. NSF says
"We are pleased to be able to educate and engage the American public about the diverse range of NSF-funded cutting-edge research that is going on every day," said Jeff Nesbit, director of NSF's Office of Legislative and Public Affairs. "Each week, Science Nation will take a dynamic, entertaining look at the research, and the researchers, that will change our lives."
Q: How do such initiatives as Science Nation affect your understanding of the ubiquity of science? More »
Careers Away from the BenchLast Updated on 2009-04-24 19:40:08Career Trends:
Careers Away from the Bench
Increasingly, Ph.D.-level scientists are searching for career opportunities beyond bench research. Not only are scientists interested in pursuing nonresearch-based careers, but the contrast between the number of graduate students and postdocs, and the limited availability of tenure-track faculty positions means that these are no longer "alternative" career options. From technology specialists to patent attorneys to policy advisers, you can learn more about the sorts of careers that scientists can pursue and the skills you will need to develop in order to succeed in nonresearch careers.
To download your complimentary booklet courtesy of Science/AAAS, click here. More »
Volunteers Taking the Pulse of our PlanetLast Updated on 2009-03-04 00:00:00The U.S. Geological Survey, in partnership with the USA National Phenology Network at the University of Arizona, announces that "Volunteers across the nation are being recruited to get outdoors and help track the effects of climate on seasonal changes in plant and animal behavior."
Visit and Read:
Taking the Pulse of our Planet: Volunteers Needed to Track Seasonal Signs of Climate Change
The USA-National Phenology Network is looking for volunteers to help monitor some 200 plant species found across the United States. This effort will eventually expand to include animals and physical phenomena, such as bird migrations and ice out on ponds. More »
Focus: Impacts of Humans and Their Economy on the EnvironmentLast Updated on 2009-02-27 21:45:49The National Science Foundation (NSF) has issued a Dear Colleague Letter to the scientific community ". . . encouraging increased research . . . on the links among environment, society and the economy."
Image Above: NSF is supporting research on climate change and Earth's environment, society and economy. Credit: Department of Sustainability and Environment, State of Victoria, Australia More »
Year of Science 2009 Kicks Off Across the NationLast Updated on 2009-01-07 00:00:00Year of Science 2009 Kicks Off Across the Nation
The Coalition on the Public Understanding of Science (COPUS) kicked off Year of Science 2009 (YoS2009) -- a national, yearlong, grassroots celebration--this week in Boston at the annual meeting of the Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology. COPUS, which represents more than 500 organizations, is celebrating how science works, who scientists are, and why science matters. Ira Flatow, host of Science Friday, broadcast every week on National Public Radio, launched the week’s events with a plenary presentation encouraging scientists to get involved in communicating and sharing the excitement of science at every opportunity.
Flatow said: “If you don’t stand up for science, then no one else is going to do it. We as journalists and scientists have to figure out ways to share science in plain English whenever possible.” This... More »
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