In Print: Chemical Makeup Predicts Wealth, Mailing Poop

The Newscripts blog would like to be closer Internet buddies with our glossy print Newscripts column, so here we highlight what went on in last week’s issue of C&EN. Here's a trick for appearing wealthy: Put on sunscreen. As mentioned in last week's Newscripts column, a team of researchers at the University of Exeter, in England, has identified nine chemicals that tend to appear more often in those of higher socioeconomic status and nine chemicals that tend to appear more often in those of lower socioeconomic status. As one of the team's researchers, Jessica Tyrrell, explains in the above video, these 18 toxicants were identified after conducting an analysis of 10 years' worth of data from the National Health & Nutrition Examination Survey, which monitors general health in the U.S. Through its analysis, the research team noticed that benzophenone-3, a sunscreen ingredient, appeared more often in wealthier individuals. The same was true for arsenic and mercury, which the team believes are more prevalent in the wealthy since they consume more shellfish. Lead and cadmium levels were higher in poorer individuals given their higher rates of smoking and working in heavy industry, the team posits. "We know that humans have low-level exposures to lots of chemicals, hence we have chemical cocktails in our bodies," Tyrrell tells Newscripts. "Efforts need to be made to have a greater understanding of the health effects of these chemicals so that policymakers can make informed decisions about which chemicals need to be more tightly controlled." Moving from England to Spain, the second part of last week's Newscripts column visits the town of Brunete, where a rather unorthodox approach was taken to encourage dog owners to pick up after their pets: The town mailed left-behind poop back to dog owners. According to a New York Times article published last month, Brunete mayor Borja Gutiérrez came up with this idea after enlisting the help of a marketing firm to battle his town's poop problem. The firm proposed having volunteers stake out popular dog centers. Volunteers could then nonchalantly approach negligent dog owners, pet their pooches, and ask for their animals' breed and name. After waiting for an offending dog and its owner to leave, volunteers would scoop the poop and then head over to city hall to look up the offending dog's registration information. Before long, a box of the left-behind poop was delivered to the door of the responsible party. Here's a video describing the process. At its beginning, be on the lookout for the remote-controlled poop figurines that initially roamed around Brunete in an effort to educate dog owners about their responsibility to pick up after their pets. Unfortunately, the figurines elicited more laughs than civic action, and they were soon discontinued. As the video says, 147 packages were ultimately delivered to offending dog owners over the course of two weeks earlier this year. Gutiérrez says that the effort has resulted in a dramatic improvement to the cleanliness of his town's parks and sidewalks. To figure out if a similar program would work stateside, Newscripts contacted Ali Ryan, manager of the Portland Parks & Recreation Dog Off-Leash Program, which supports dogs and their owners in the Oregon city. "Here in Portland, we mostly rely on what we call 'petiquette' to encourage dog owners to do their duties regarding doody," says Ryan, who laughs off the idea of mailing poop back to negligent dog owners. Instead, starting this month, Ryan's city will begin issuing fines of up to $150 for scoop/leash law violations while also rolling out a citywide petiquette education campaign. "Our goal with all our many education and enforcement efforts is compliance with leash and scoop laws," she says. "Ideally, folks [will be] alerted to the impacts of their behavior and stop doing it--no citation needed."

Author: Jeff Huber

Jeff Huber is an associate editor at C&EN. He enjoys finding peculiar news stories that make him laugh and/or tilt his head in a thoughtful manner. This hobby has served him well as a contributor to the Newscripts blog.

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