Letters from the September 22, 2007, issue of Science News

Personnel question

In “E-Waste Hazards: Chinese gear recyclers absorb toxic chemicals” (SN: 7/14/07, p. 20), researchers found “astronomical concentrations” of deca-BDE in the residents of Guiyu, and the article cites studies showing that related PBDEs harm brain development in mice and rats. So, has any actual increase in brain-development problems been found in people in and around Guiyu?

Joanne Raisner Narad
Los Altos, Calif.

The researchers know of no such health-effects assessment. They say that it would be hard to distinguish the effects of PBDEs from those of other factors in a worker’s environment and that no scientist can ethically dose people with PBDEs to see what happens.—S. Webb

Busting the clot buster

As an experienced emergency physician, I can assure you that physicians who choose not to use tPA for stroke are not, as characterized, “insufficiently trained or too conservative” (“Brain Attack,” SN: 7/14/07, p. 26). There has been, to my knowledge, no study that has shown decreased mortality with the use of tPA for acute stroke. Most of the emergency physicians I know do their best to treat patients on the basis of the best available evidence and to avoid being caught up by marketing like the brain-attack program that ensnared this story.

Dave Ellison
Pelican Rapids, Minn.

There is a lot of research going on in risk detection and stroke prevention. An example is magnetic resonance imaging to detect unstable carotid-artery plaque, which can rupture, block brain arteries, and cause a stroke. Let’s try to prevent the stroke so that we don’t have to attempt a rescue afterward.

Nayak L. Polissar
Seattle, Wash.

Winners and losers

“Check on Checkers: In perfect game, there’s no winner,” (SN: 7/21/07, p. 36) stated that the last player with pieces on the board is the winner. This is not accurate. In fact, no pieces have to be jumped at all for a game to have a winner. The all-encompassing rule is that the last player who has no available move when it is his or her turn is the loser.

Robert Veith
Brandenburg, Ky.

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