Chat session result of the brainstorm with Biocurious

Started over 1 year
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Here you can read the chat session that was held during the brainstorm session with Biocurious:

Rhian Cope
Mercury vapors are also very important
This is the major industrial exposure

Lizzie Milward
Fluorescent lights do contain mercury, so if you break one I understand it is best to leave the room for a few minutes with windows wide open to avoid vapors.

Rhian Cope
The other phenomenon is atmospheric transport i.e. supposedly pristine cold environments can actually be surprisingly contaminated

Lizzie Milward
I'm just thinking something smaller might be useful. There are a lot of small communities in the north of Canada that are heavily dependent on wild fish and they are unlikely to have easy access to ICP-MS or other large expensive options.

Jonathan Reyles
Is atomic absorption spectrometry the most accurate way of determining methylmercury levels ? What are some things that are similar and possibly cheaper to this?

Lizzie Milward
DMA 80 is newer and faster. I'm not sure of price.

Peter Sullivan
These is a new saliva test for lead that just came out

Lizzie Milward
Not having to send samples to labs that may be hundreds of km away is better.

Jonathan Reyles:
Do these test strips work in urine too? If not, why? http://inspectusa.com/mercury-water-test-strips-1000-ppm-480048-tests-p-804.html

Peter Sullivan
I think you're on the righ track - some existing tests for water may also work for urine for saliva
Some are chemical strips like PH paper, but others are electrical sensors (see Hanna instruments)

Jonathan Reyles
So what are some of the chemcal/electrical properties of Mercury we could examine that could be powerful enough to even be detected in urine?

Babasola Oladije
Thanks Peter. My question is that, is the concept focused more on quantitative detection or qualitative detection?

Peter Sullivan
quantitative is ideal, but qualitative might be the best we can do as a screener

Peter Sullivan
Another non-invasive approach would be a functional screen for eye tracking, or reaction time
that woud be a simple mobile app

Rhian Cope
Peter, this is a very good idea because it not only potentially tests burden, it tests neurological impact

Peter Sullivan
think "DUI screen"

Lizzie Milward
Wouldn't reaction time be affected by lots of other things, like alcohol consumption?

Peter Sullivan
Exactly!

Peter Sullivan
It would drive you to move deeper to find a cause - mercury or a host of other causes

Lizzie
True. You might want to warn people that alcohol will affect it though, or you will get lots of false positives.

Rhian Cope
I particularly like the one about nail polish that changes color

Rhian Cope
Mostly because (A) it is a measure of longer term expopsure/burden; (b) it is simple; (c) it is non-invasive; (d) there is a "cool" factor to it;

Jonathan
So if we're doing something completely noninvasive, which is just supposed to notify those who are potentially at-risk, could we do a geographical heat map? what if we encouraged people who have done the mail-in et to submit test-results to our website?
we could also combine this with a questionnaire, to start getting data about how dietary choices influence MeHg lvels

Rhian Cope
The other potential tests could be neurologically based

Peter Sullivan
I love the idea of a "tox map"
They just posted a mercury map of Europe in the press

Rhian Cope
Again, GIS applications etc. might be helpful
Remember though that Hg undergoes substantial atmospheric transport
This is the reason that areas like the artic and Antarctica (and its wildlife) are actually surprisingly contaminated

Peter Sullivan
The only issues is that if might give you a false sense of safety - there is so much person to person variance

Rhian Cope
True: speaks to the false negative issue
Social acceptance and compliance are going to be big issues!
Tragic really because there were lots of extremely experienced people woking on these things in the US EPA until their programs were cut
NZ has marketed itself as being "clean and green" so they are interested in anything that might tarnish this image

Peter Sullivan
When I watched the movie "Flight" they mentioned doing tox testing on skin samples. I had never heard of that. Does anyone know how that works?

Rhian Cope
Similar to hair: idea is that some metals (As, Hg, Pb) accumulate in keratin
You can also use nail clippings

Peter Sullivan
How do they collect the sample? is it painful or fairly non-invasive?

Rhian Cope
Skin scrapping - not too painful

Peter Sullivan
From what site on the body?

Rhian Cope
You need atomic absorption spec to measure
Any side
However, I take your point: non-invasive, potentially collect and mail in the sample etc.
How the sample is collected is very important though: what you used to scrape the skin, wash before collection to remove any surface contamination etc, etc.
It is a very good idea, however, particularly for a screening program

Peter Sullivan
CDC told us to watch for nail polish (the colorings sometimes have metals).
Skin sample would avoid that issue

Rhian Cope
Yes: they should not have Hg or Pb based on the EU and US legislation, but often contaminated materials are used (illegally)
Also watch out for some of the cheap and illegally formulated cosmetics

Nathaniel Bailey
Yeah use the replacement series to result in a color change Cu -> Hg blue green to diffreent color

Peter Sullivan
Yes - biomonitoring could be used to create a "tox map"

Rhian Cope
Regarding the paper test: there are millions to billions of urine dipstick tests used per year. If you can get a manufacturer of these urine dipstick tests interested in adding a metals pannel to the stick, this could be a real winner!

Peter Sullivan
In the developing world, the approach is usually to go after the pollution site (see blacksmith institute)

Rhian Cope
The other thing about urine dipsticks is that they are incredibly cheap and simple to use: a simple color change, which is matched to a visual readout on the pack

Peter Sullivan
Working with an existing company is acceptable. We could fund a "project" as opposed to a company
Yes - maybe even combined wit pregnancy test

Babasola Oladije
Peter, in developing countries I think going after the point sources will not create the needed change.

Peter Sullivan
For the Biocurious folks in Sunnyvale, I'm happy to come by and meet in person too. I'm right near you in Los Altos.