Teledyne Leeman Labs Blog

Lichen: Nature’s Natural Air Pollution Indicator

Posted by Betsey Seibel on Jul 15, 2015 3:26:00 PM

If you’ve never heard of lichen, you’re probably not alone. Lichen is a combination of two organisms,” and “Most of lichen is composed of fungal filaments, but living among the filaments are algal cells, usually from green algae or cyanobacterium.”[i] According to experts, there are more than 1,250 species of lichens in North America. In fact, a scientist from the University of Colorado Boulder discovered two new species in June 2015 while doing research in Boulder.


One of the main reasons that anyone should care about lichens is their ability to absorb trace elements from the environment. Because they are spread out around the world, their ability to absorb elements such as mercury provides a potential model for mercury contamination in a micro-ecosystem modeling system. Lichens are dependent on the atmosphere for their nutrients, making them susceptible to airborne and waterborne pollutants.


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Tags: mercury analysis, Lichen

Mercury Emissions Regulations

Posted by Betsey Seibel on Jul 9, 2015 3:24:13 PM

In 2012, the Environmental Protection Agency adopted new emissions standards that were directed at cutting power plant emisions of mercury and other toxic air pollutants. On June 29, 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected the rules with a vote of 5-4 citing the costs of the regulations to power plant operators. The EPA estimated the rules would force companies to spend $9.6 billion a year on compliance while saving Americans between $37 billion and $90 billion a year from premature death and reduced health complications. The decision reverses a D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals decision that called mercury emissions a “threat to the public and the environment.”


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Tags: mercury

5 Ways to Avoid Problems When Handling Mercury in a laboratory

Posted by Betsey Seibel on Jun 12, 2015 3:10:34 PM

Mercury is a common element found in the lab, particularly in thermometers, barometers, manometers and sphygmomanometers. Given the danger of mercury, many of these instruments are being phased out in place of more environmental- and health-friendly options. As far back as 1991, the Environmental Protection Agency regulated mercury out of latex paint, and in other industries such as pharmaceutical and agricultural, it is being used less and less.


There are three forms of mercury inorganic, organic and elemental mercury, which is most common in the lab. Each is toxic, but organic mercury, which forms in nature, contaminates fish and pollutes waters. Elemental mercury is a silvery and odorless liquid at room temperature, and is the most common source of occupational exposure. The vapors from a spill can “affects the central nervous system (CNS), producing tremors, mood changes and reduced cognitive, sensory, and motor nerve functions. The kidneys are also affected, with renal failure at extremely high doses.”[i]

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Tags: mercury

5 Reasons Why Lab Managers Should Use Twitter

Posted by Betsey Seibel on Jun 1, 2015 12:57:30 PM

There is little doubt we are in the midst of the social media revolution. Question is, do researchers recognize it?

Researchers have a reputation for being the quiet, studious type. They avoid media attention, and therefore, would shun social media tools such as Facebook, Instagram, SnapChat or Twitter. A November 2014 article in Lab Manager addressed the social media revolution and social media’s role in the scientific community in the following way:

“Revolutions rearrange the established order. On one side are the disrupters, agents of change who champion social media. The diehards have a different drift—many of the old lions and scientists in positions of power are defenders of the status quo. Betwixt and between are the majority of scientists, who are of different minds about social media.

“Digital tumult rattles science in its entirety. Researchers certainly hear the roar.”[i]

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Tags: Social Media

Wear Metals and Windmills

Posted by Betsey Seibel on May 12, 2015 3:03:00 PM

Drive along I-65 in northern Indiana, and they’re hard to miss. Look as far west and east as you can and there appear to be hundreds of windmills or wind turbines speckling the countryside. These 300-foot giants have three blades, each measuring 120+ feet long and weighing seven tons. The windmills have changed the landscape along the quiet stretch of highway between Indianapolis and Chicago, and some estimate that they produce enough energy to power a city of 250,000 people.   


The average wind turbine is expected to operate 20 years or more, and considering the costs, owners will do whatever it takes to prolong the life. Replacing a gearbox can cost a company more than $500,000 between equipment, labor and lost revenues.  Mechanical breakdown is the most common risk for mechanical damage to the windmill, accounting for nearly 60% of claims. A study by Indian-firm Cholamandalam MS Risk Services found that 15% of total breakdown damage costs are a result of damage to the gear box.


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Tags: Wear Metals

Metals and Edible Oils

Posted by Betsey Seibel on May 5, 2015 11:25:00 AM

Every year, the average American consumes more than 50 pounds of cooking oil. These oils, which are derived from a variety of plants and plants seeds, are used in everything from salad dressings, margarine, shortenings, snack food and frying. Given the fact that these oils are a significant component of American’s diets, it’s important to make sure they are safe for human consumption. In addition to consumer safety, manufacturers need a quality, shelf-stable product that is free from high concentrations of trace elements such as copper, iron, nickel and magnesium. Trace levels of the metals can impact the hydrogenation of the oils and are often a reflection the oils quality.

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Tags: Edible Oils

Are Mercury Levels Rising in Pacific Tuna?

Posted by Betsey Seibel on Apr 14, 2015 11:20:00 AM

When researchers began analyzing fish off of the coasts of Hawaii for mercury contamination, they discovered an alarming trend. In a study published in the journal, Environmental Toxicology & Chemistry, researchers found that levels of mercury are rising at roughly 4 percent per year in commercially captured fish, particularly tuna. The data suggests that the mercury levels are rising because of human activity, and at this current rate, mercury concentrations off the coast of the North Pacific could double by 2050.

In a statement, the lead author of the study, Paul Drevnick, from the University of Michigan Biological Station and School of Natural Resources and Environment, said, “The take-home message is that mercury in tuna appears to be increasing in lock-step with data and model predictions for mercury concentrations in water in the North Pacific.”

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Tags: Hg analysis

Is Mercury Exposure Causing Autoimmune Diseases?

Posted by Betsey Seibel on Apr 6, 2015 11:20:00 AM

Mercury is a naturally occurring metal that when it combines with other elements can create inorganic or organic compounds that may be harmful to humans. In water or soil, mercury may combine with microscopic organisms and convert to methymercury, which can accumulate in fish and shellfish. Mercury poisoning has long been associated with brain and kidney damage. New research in the February issue of Environmental Health Perspectives has uncovered that the mercury found in some seafood may pose additional threats, including autoimmune disorders among women during their childbearing years.

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Tags: Hg analysis

Mercury contamination in Lake Onondaga – Part 3

Posted by Betsey Seibel on Apr 1, 2015 11:20:00 AM

The Resurgence of Onodaga Lake - Part 2

This is part three of the Onondaga Lake story. In part two, we outlined what happened once rescue efforts started in the 1970s with new laws and standards that helped to drive change in and around the lake. In this post, we want to focus on what happened after Onondaga Lake was declared a Superfund site in December 1994, and after the signing of an historic agreement in 1998 among the county and various government entities that helped reduce phosphorus and ammonium discharges from the city’s waste treatment plant. It was shortly after this agreement that the water quality started to improve, giving the community a reason for optimism.

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Tags: Hg analysis

Mercury contamination in Lake Onondaga – Part 2

Posted by Betsey Seibel on Mar 25, 2015 11:20:06 AM

The Resurgence of Onodaga Lake - Part 2

This is part two of the Onondaga Lake story, one of prosperity, pollution and revival.  In part one, we documented the collapse of the lake, detailing the years of pollution from the municipal sewage plant and surrounding factories. In this post, we will focus on what happened once rescue efforts started in the 1970s until the 21st century.

As we described in part one of this story, in the 1800s, Onondaga Lake was home to resorts, amusement parks and beaches. Over time, the lake became a dumping ground for waste. One of the company’s along the lake produced soda ash beginning in 1884. “Roughly 6 million pounds of salty wastes, made up of chloride, sodium and calcium were discharged daily to Onondaga Lake from the soda ash facility before it closed in 1986.”[i] And from 1946 to 190, experts estimate roughly 165,000 pounds of mercury were also dumped in the lake.

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Tags: Hg analysis