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Concept: Environment


The genetic predispositions which describe a diagnosis of familial Alzheimer’s disease can be considered as cornerstones of the amyloid cascade hypothesis. Essentially they place the expression and metabolism of the amyloid precursor protein as the main tenet of disease aetiology. However, we do not know the cause of Alzheimer’s disease and environmental factors may yet be shown to contribute towards its onset and progression. One such environmental factor is human exposure to aluminium and aluminium has been shown to be present in brain tissue in sporadic Alzheimer’s disease. We have made the first ever measurements of aluminium in brain tissue from 12 donors diagnosed with familial Alzheimer’s disease. The concentrations of aluminium were extremely high, for example, there were values in excess of 10μg/g tissue dry wt. in 5 of the 12 individuals. Overall, the concentrations were higher than all previous measurements of brain aluminium except cases of known aluminium-induced encephalopathy. We have supported our quantitative analyses using a novel method of aluminium-selective fluorescence microscopy to visualise aluminium in all lobes of every brain investigated. The unique quantitative data and the stunning images of aluminium in familial Alzheimer’s disease brain tissue raise the spectre of aluminium’s role in this devastating disease.

Concepts: Alzheimer's disease, Scientific method, Protein, Neuron, Environment, Dementia, Beta amyloid, Amyloid precursor protein


Many populations have been exposed to environmental lead from paint, petrol, and mining and smelting operations. Lead is toxic to humans and there is emerging evidence linking childhood exposure with later life antisocial behaviors, including delinquency and crime. This study tested the hypothesis that childhood lead exposure in select Australian populations is related to subsequent aggressive criminal behaviors.

Concepts: Biology, Environment, Natural environment, Crime, Lead, Antisocial personality disorder, Juvenile delinquency


BACKGROUND: The burden of ill-health due to inactivity has recently been highlighted. Better studies on environments that support physical activity are called for, including longitudinal studies of environmental interventions. A programme of residential street improvements in the UK (Sustrans ‘DIY Streets’) allowed a rare opportunity for a prospective, longitudinal study of the effect of such changes on older adults' activities, health and quality of life. METHODS: Pre-post, cross-sectional surveys were carried out in locations across England, Wales and Scotland; participants were aged 65+ living in intervention or comparison streets. A questionnaire covered health and quality of life, frequency of outdoor trips, time outdoors in different activities and a 38-item scale on neighbourhood open space. A cohort study explored changes in self-report activity and well-being postintervention. Activity levels were also measured by accelerometer and accompanying diary records. RESULTS: The cross-sectional surveys showed outdoor activity predicted by having a clean, nuisance-free local park, attractive, barrier-free routes to it and other natural environments nearby. Being able to park one’s car outside the house also predicted time outdoors. The environmental changes had an impact on perceptions of street walkability and safety at night, but not on overall activity levels, health or quality of life. Participants' moderate-to-vigorous activity levels rarely met UK health recommendations. CONCLUSIONS: Our study contributes to methodology in a longitudinal, pre-post design and points to factors in the built environment that support active ageing. We include an example of knowledge exchange guidance on age-friendly built environments for policy-makers and planners.

Concepts: Cohort study, Longitudinal study, Research methods, Epidemiology, Environment, Cross-sectional study, Natural environment, Sociology


Starting at least in the 1970s, empirical work suggested that demographic (population) and economic (affluence) forces are the key drivers of anthropogenic stress on the environment. We evaluate the extent to which politics attenuates the effects of economic and demographic factors on environmental outcomes by examining variation in CO2 emissions across US states and within states over time. We find that demographic and economic forces can in part be offset by politics supportive of the environment-increases in emissions over time are lower in states that elect legislators with strong environmental records.

Concepts: Carbon dioxide, Environment, Natural environment, Climate change, Natural gas, Greenhouse gas, Emission standard, Global warming


The nanoparticle industry is expected to become a trillion dollar business in the near future. Therefore, the unintentional introduction of nanoparticles into the environment is increasingly likely. However, currently applied risk-assessment practices require further adaptation to accommodate the intrinsic nature of engineered nanoparticles. Combining a chronic flow-through exposure system with subsequent acute toxicity tests for the standard test organism Daphnia magna, we found that juvenile offspring of adults that were previously exposed to titanium dioxide nanoparticles exhibit a significantly increased sensitivity to titanium dioxide nanoparticles compared with the offspring of unexposed adults, as displayed by lower 96 h-EC(50) values. This observation is particularly remarkable because adults exhibited no differences among treatments in terms of typically assessed endpoints, such as sensitivity, number of offspring, or energy reserves. Hence, the present study suggests that ecotoxicological research requires further development to include the assessment of the environmental risks of nanoparticles for the next and hence not directly exposed generation, which is currently not included in standard test protocols.

Concepts: Environment, Natural environment, Data, Assessment, Titanium dioxide, Star Trek: The Next Generation, Daphnia, Jonathan Frakes


Children in households of lower socioeconomic status (SES) are more likely to be overweight/obese. We aimed to determine if home physical activity (PA) environments differed by SES and to explore home environment mediators of the relation of family SES to children’s PA and sedentary behavior.

Concepts: Environment, Socioeconomic status, Household


Environmentally Degradable Parameter ((Ed)K) is of importance in the describing of biodegradability of environmentally biodegradable polymers (BDPs). In this study, a concept (Ed)K was introduced. A test procedure of using the ISO 14852 method and detecting the evolved carbon dioxide as an analytical parameter was developed, and the calculated (Ed)K was used as an indicator for the ultimate biodegradability of materials. Starch and polyethylene used as reference materials were defined as the (Ed)K values of 100 and 0, respectively. Natural soil samples were inoculated into bioreactors, followed by determining the rates of biodegradation of the reference materials and 15 commercial BDPs over a 2-week test period. Finally, a formula was deduced to calculate the value of (Ed)K for each material. The (Ed)K values of the tested materials have a positive correlation to their biodegradation rates in the simulated soil environment, and they indicated the relative biodegradation rate of each material among all the tested materials. Therefore, the (Ed)K was shown to be a reliable indicator for quantitatively evaluating the potential biodegradability of BDPs in the natural environment.

Concepts: Carbon dioxide, Environment, Natural environment, Environmental remediation, Biodegradation, Environmentalism, Bioremediation, Bioplastic


Agro-industrial wastes are generated during the industrial processing of agricultural products. These wastes are generated in large amounts throughout the year, and are the most abundant renewable resources on earth. Due to the large availability and composition rich in compounds that could be used in other processes, there is a great interest on the reuse of these wastes, both from economical and environmental view points. The economic aspect is based on the fact that such wastes may be used as low-cost raw materials for the production of other value-added compounds, with the expectancy of reducing the production costs. The environmental concern is because most of the agro-industrial wastes contain phenolic compounds and/or other compounds of toxic potential; which may cause deterioration of the environment when the waste is discharged to the nature. Although the production of bioethanol offers many benefits, more research is needed in the aspects like feedstock preparation, fermentation technology modification, etc., to make bioethanol more economically viable.

Concepts: Environment, Natural environment, Natural resource, Material, Recycling, Habitat conservation, Environmentalism, Ethanol fuel


To investigate the biological, social, behavioural and environmental factors associated with non-consent, and non-return of reliable accelerometer data (≥2 days lasting ≥10 h/day), in a UK-wide postal study of children’s activity.

Concepts: Cohort study, Cohort, Epidemiology, Environment, Accelerometer


The horseshoe effect is a phenomenon that has long intrigued ecologists. The effect was commonly thought to be an artifact of dimensionality reduction, and multiple techniques were developed to unravel this phenomenon and simplify interpretation. Here, we provide evidence that horseshoes arise as a consequence of distance metrics that saturate-a familiar concept in other fields but new to microbial ecology. This saturation property loses information about community dissimilarity, simply because it cannot discriminate between samples that do not share any common features. The phenomenon illuminates niche differentiation in microbial communities and indicates species turnover along environmental gradients. Here we propose a rationale for the observed horseshoe effect from multiple dimensionality reduction techniques applied to simulations, soil samples, and samples from postmortem mice. An in-depth understanding of this phenomenon allows targeting of niche differentiation patterns from high-level ordination plots, which can guide conventional statistical tools to pinpoint microbial niches along environmental gradients. IMPORTANCE The horseshoe effect is often considered an artifact of dimensionality reduction. We show that this is not true in the case for microbiome data and that, in fact, horseshoes can help analysts discover microbial niches across environments.

Concepts: Scientific method, Statistics, Environment, Ecology, Natural environment, Observation, Microbial population biology, Horseshoe