Oct 282011

Cooking on human remains

The Sun

19 October 2061

Villagers at Fallbridge were horrified to discover that for years they had been cooking their meals and heating their homes with gas from the decomposing bodies of a serial killer.

Loner Fred East lured his victims to his home in Upton St Davids where he murdered them and then disposed of their bodies by dissecting them in his shed and taking their remains at night to the local bio-digester. There they decomposed to the methane and hydrogen gas that is used by most of the homes in the village for cooking and heating purposes. Villagers are allowed to dispose of waste meat and even dead animals, such as birds and rodents, in the digester and it was only when this was given its 5-year overhaul that officials discovered remains of human skulls.

Dental records allowed some of these to be identified as those of missing persons and DNA tests have revealed their true identities, which in turn led to Smith being questioned as the person last seen with some of them leaving a local night club in nearby Cheltenham.

Oct 262011

Enzymes in biological detergents cause eczema

Almost a quarter of the laundry detergents sold in the UK are of the ‘non-bio’ type meaning non-biological, in other words they contain no enzymes. The normal type of detergent contains these agents because they are good at digesting biologically-based stains on fabrics such as food stains and the stains we don’t talk about. However, it is only in the British Isles that ‘non-bio’ detergents are sold and this is as a result of a scare story of 30 years ago.

Back in the early 1980s, Unilever launched a new type of detergent called Persil New System which contained enzymes. Not all welcomed this advance in cleaning technology, and some claimed it caused them to break out in rashes and even develop eczema. Sadly, BBC TV gave them air time and this of course resulted in many more people discovering that they too appeared to be affected.

However, there never was any real scientific evidence to support these claims – and there never has been. (Those who were truly affected by detergents were found to be sensitive to the fragrance molecules that were included in detergents in those days, and not only in Persil. Even these are no longer used.)

Nevertheless, the belief that enzymes cause some people to be adversely affected has persisted to the present day, such can be the powerful and long-lasting effect of a media scare story. Nowhere else in the world are ‘non bio’ detergents sold, although of course there is just the possibility that British people really do have more delicate skin.

Oct 212011

Saliva is a cocktail of natural chemicals

The average healthy person secretes half a litre (500 mls) of saliva a day into their mouth from six glands. When we are at rest the rate of saliva production falls to around 0.3 ml per minute but when we start chewing something it then rises to 5 ml per minute . As we continue to chew it slowly falls and after about 20 minutes it will be around half this rate.

Of course the vast majority of saliva is water (99.5% in fact). However, the other 0.5% is a mixture of soluble chemicals which play a key role in providing enzymes to help us digest our food. And not only does saliva do this, it also keeps our mouth and teeth in good condition.

The chemicals in saliva are various organic molecules, inorganic ions, and large organic molecules including proteins.

The organic molecules are urea, amino acids, fatty acids, uric acid, lactate and glucose and they come from the body’s plasma so they vary according to amounts in that fluid.

The inorganic ions are chloride (Cl-), potassium (K+), sodium (Na+), phosphate PO43-), bicarbonate (HCO3-), calcium (Ca2+), and magnesium (Mg2+). The calcium and phosphate are needed to keeping the teeth in good condition because tooth enamel is a type of calcium phosphate, and saliva can help repair the teeth. The pH of saliva is 7, in other words it is neutral, and this helps to promote re-mineralisation of the tooth enamel. It is only when the pH falls below 5.5 that slight demineralisation occurs.

The large molecules in saliva are proteins, glycoproteins, antibodies, lipids and enzymes. The last of these are amylase, peroxidase, and lysozyme. Lysozyme also acts as an antibacterial agent which is why licking wounds can keep them clean of infection. The number of proteins identified in saliva has increased to around 50 and some of their functions are still unknown.

The inability to produce enough saliva is known as xerostomia and is a symptom of some conditions, including being a side effect of some drugs. Chewing gum is an ideal remedy to stimulate more saliva production.