Skip navigation
A. A New Way to Gauge the Effects of Harmful Pollutants

Narrator: This is Science Today. There's a new simple way to estimate the potential harm of chemicals that may pose an environmental hazard. Scientist Thomas McKone, of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, says the goal is to gauge the effects of persistent organic pollutants.

McKone: Persistent pollutants are pollutants that can last days or months once they're put into the environment, which is very important because if you look at the patterns of wind across the northern hemisphere, it means that something released in Los Angeles or San Francisco can make it all the way across the country.

Narrator: These persistent pollutants include dioxins, DDT and PCBs. McKone says their new way to estimate the potential harm of these pollutants is actually based on an old idea called dose fraction.

McKone: We just have promoted it for a new use. What it is, is you would like to figure out what fraction of the molecules that you've released will end up in the human tissue. It really pulls out the bad actors quickly as sort of a screening tool.

Narrator: Such a tool would enable policy-makers to zero in on those pollutants that pose the most environmental harm. For Science Today, I'm Larissa Branin.