Discussion on the Ecology Topics

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Inhalation of pollutants in the air such as particulate matter has been associated with negative impacts on health. This is a major problem especially in highly industrialized countries. Countries that have high production of toxic waste from industries have a lot of particulate matter suspended in the air and inhalation increases the likelihood of individuals getting adverse health consequences and cardiovascular events. Diesel is one of the fuels used to run heavy combustion engines and it produces a lot of particulate matter as waste. Phenanthraquinone (PQ) is a frequently occurring constituent of diesel exhaust (Prisby et al., 2008). PQ is of great research interest because it mars endothelium-dependent vasodilation of the femoral principal nutrient artery. Subsequently, it would be of great scientific importance to understand the people most susceptible to this toxicant based on age, gender, and/or hormonal status.

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Phenanthraquinone according to a study by Prisby et al., (2008) has no influence on vasodilator capacity of the femoral principal nutrient artery based on gender. The toxicant is therefore not variant based on gender and affects both genders tested equally. Across both genders, there was a decline in endothelium-dependent vasodilation according to age. This finding suggests the toxicant is more toxic on the elderly to be specific. Additional findings of the study established that vasodilation was impaired 63% in male rats six months old but had no effect in female rats of the same age. Young female rats had a vasoprotective mechanism linked to their endogenous ovarian hormones. The findings suggest that the toxicant is wholly age specific and partially gender specific to an extent. The elderly, males and postmenopausal women are highly likely to be more susceptible to the negative impacts of the toxicant. A possible question from the research is whether the results would be reproducible in humans. In addition, can other variables affect the results?

Unit IV Journal

Use of animals in laboratory testing is a controversial issue by itself. Organizations such as PETA are dedicated to lobbying against the use of animals in laboratory experiments and other forms of product testing. Animal testing for immunocompetence tests may not be the best alternative for the tests. Interspecies variations in physiology, biochemistry and anatomy have made it difficult for scientists to accurately extrapolate data from animal tests to human subjects. The use of animal testing in immunocompetence tests is better suited for experiments that are aimed at providing solutions to animal problems. For instance, in providing solutions to animals that have long standing unsettled safety issues of cell and gene therapies.

There are viable options to animal; testing for immunocompetence tests. One viable option is the organ-on-chips method that has been developed by scientists at Harvard (Wyss Institute, 2016). The method has the ability to save millions in research funds and uses microchips that can be used in place of animals and attain similar results (Wyss Institute, 2016). In addition, the method is highly flexible and can be used from immunocompetence tests to drug testing. Another viable option is the use of in silico modeling. In silico modeling makes use of computer models that simulate human biology (Martonen et al., 2003). This method is safer than the use of animal testing or use of human subjects. Immunocompetence tests using in silico modeling has the ability to eliminate use of animals in the tests.

Unit VI Journal

After nuclear weapons, biological agents of warfare are possibly the next most potentially catastrophic weapons of war. The potential impacts on the environment in the immediate and long-term are great. Depending on the scope of the threat, agents of biological warfare can inflict serious damage on human, animal and plant populations (Szinicz, 2005). Viruses or bacteria used in biological warfare in the short term can cause medical conditions to humans or plants. Among the short-term effects of biological agents are hemorrhagic fevers, headaches, loss of vitals, and possibly death depending on the dosage and type of biological weapon used (Dudley & Woodford, 2002). Biological weapons also have the possibility of reducing ecological diversity in the short and long term (Dudley & Woodford, 2002). Countries that have dumped unused bioweapons in the sea have set up a time bomb that threatens to destroy the ecology of the sea and its supported ecosystems (Harigel, 2001). In time, the bioweapons under seas such as the Balkan will leak and release their contents in to the sea causing damage to the ecological system.

The impact of discharge of bioweapons or their manufacturing components in the environment can have a chain effect. For instance, Harigel recounts the dumping of mercury in the US (mainly at Oak Ridge, also at Hanford/Washington) (2001). Mercury moves up the food chain and affects all animals in the chain. Trinitrotoluol or TNT is a commonly used propellant of weapons and its link to bioweapons is its popularity as a propellant of choice in launching bioweapons. TNT is persistent and commonly infiltrates water sources where it is toxic to consumers of the water (Harigel, 2001).

Unit VIII Journal

Where proper measures are not taken to protect workers from toxicants in the workplace, it is possible to have them transmit the toxicants they are exposed to, to others outside of the workplace. For instance, a hypothetical situation involving a man working at a battery manufacture company that does not have proper containment and protective measures for its employees. The man has a family comprised of a wife and children. After work, the man goes out for a drink at a local establishment. On his way to the club, he takes the train. The man is still in his work clothes. He has interacted with people on his way to the train station, in the train and off the train on his way to the pub. His clothes are mainly contaminated with lead. The toxicant rubs of those he interacts with at the club and on his way home. At home, he hugs his children and wife exposing them to the toxicant he has picked up from work.

The effects of exposure to the toxicant vary due to the amount and period of exposure. The people that the man meets with for a short time on his way from work vary in their level and time of exposure to the toxicant. His family on the other hand is at high risk of falling victim to the short term and long-term effects of the toxicant. They are exposed to the toxicant for longer because his clothes transmit the toxicant in the house and when he returns each day, the level of toxicant is either kept steady or rises. Eventually, if the transmission is not discovered in time, the family may succumb to the effects of exposure to lead.


Dudley, J. P., & Woodford, M. H. (2002). Bioweapons, Biodiversity, and Ecocide: Potential

Effects of Biological Weapons on Biological Diversity Bioweapon disease outbreaks could cause the extinction of endangered wildlife species, the erosion of genetic diversity in domesticated plants and animals, the destruction of traditional human livelihoods, and the extirpation of indigenous cultures. BioScience, 52(7), 583-592.

Harigel, G. G. (2001). Chemical and Biological Weapons: Use in Warfare, Impact on Society

and Environment. Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.Martonen, T., Fleming, J., Schroeter, J., Conway, J., & Hwang, D. (2003). In silico modeling of

asthma. Advanced drug delivery reviews, 55(7), 829-849.

Prisby, R. D., Muller-Delp, J., Delp, M. D., & Nurkiewicz, T. R. (2008). Age, gender, and

hormonal status modulate the vascular toxicity of the diesel exhaust extract phenanthraquinone. Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health, Part A, 71(7), 464-470.

Szinicz, L. (2005). History of chemical and biological warfare agents.Toxicology, 214(3), 167-


Wyss Institute. (2016). Organs-on-Chips : Wyss Institute at Harvard. Retrieved from http://wyss.harvard.edu/viewpage/461/

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