Earth/Environment

Breakfast may help get the lead out, plus burrowing trilobites and warmer truffles in this week's news

Burrow down Trilobites, those cute little fossil critters, probably buried themselves under the muddy seafloor while molting to elude predators. Argentinean researchers have unearthed deformed fossils that show for the first time that trilobites must have molted in soft sediment, the team reports in an upcoming issue of Geology . — Alexandra Witze Breakfast and lead risks in kids Preschoolers who ate breakfast at least five days a week had roughly 10 percent lower blood levels of lead — a heavy metal linked to lower IQ — than did kids who don’t receive breakfast, U.S. and Chinese researchers report April 1 in
Environmental Health . Previous data from adults showed that an empty stomach can increase the absorption of lead roughly tenfold. The new study, which is the first to test a meal’s protectiveness in children, studied diet and lead among 1,344 kids from urban to rural regions of China. Why food is protective remains unknown, the scientists say, but could be due to the presence of competing minerals. — Janet Raloff Climate may shuffle truffles
With political and psychological repercussions yet to be determined, the prized truffle named for France’s Burgundy region may be expanding its range into southwestern Germany. During the fall and winter of 2010, a trained dog nosed out a number of truffles in forests near Lake Constance, including one weighing 0.4 kilograms, an international research team reports in the April Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment . This delicacy can retail for more than $800 dollars per kilogram, and as predicted climate changes play out in Europe, truffling geography may shift. — Susan Milius


Common pollutants impair cellular signals Phthalates — a ubiquitous class of solvents and plastic constituents — have biochemical similarities to aspirin. Because phthalates resemble aspirin structurally, European scientists looked for functional similarities between the two. Some phthalates do indeed tamp down prostaglandin signaling, just as aspirin does, the researchers confirm in the April Environmental Health Perspectives . Other widespread pollutants do too, they found, including an estrogenlike compound in soybeans, a paraben used as a preservative in many cosmetics and bisphenol A. The new findings suggest many widespread pollutants may chronically alter prostaglandin communications, which are essential to the regulation of pain, inflammation, male sexual development and more. — Janet Raloff

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