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Pharmaceutical residues reach ‘potentially damaging’ levels in freshwater: study

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A new study out of the Netherlands indicates increased levels of pharmaceutical residue found in the world’s lakes and rivers has become “potentially damaging” to the environment.

The study — released Friday in the journal Environmental Research Letters — examined the levels of the anti-epileptic drug carbamazepine and the antibiotic ciprofloxacin in fresh water and found the environmental risks of these drugs in the water were 10 to 20 times higher in 2015 compared to 20 years prior.

The environmental experts at Radboud University in Nijmegen blame the increased global use of ciprofloxacin by humans on the increased levels in the water and say the drug can have damaging effects on the ecosystem.

“The concentrations of this antibiotic can be harmful for bacteria in the water, and these bacteria in turn play an important role in various nutrient cycles,” Rik Oldenkamp, lead author of the study, said in a news release. “Antibiotics can also have a negative impact on the effectiveness of bacteria colonies used in wastewater treatment.”

The study is the first of its kind to examine the levels of two particular drugs found in freshwater on a global scale. Oldenkamp is hoping their work opens the door for further research in the field.

“Getting an accurate picture of the environmental risks of pharmaceuticals around the world depends on the availability of data, which is limited,” he said. “Our model predicts a relatively high environmental risk for ecoregions in densely populated and dry areas such as the Middle East, yet those are precisely the areas where there is little data on pharmaceutical use and concentrations in surface waters.”

In regions like the Middle East, where little data is available, the researchers predicted the levels by comparing drug consumption in other areas with various socio-economic differences between the two countries. They then looked at the area’s available water sources and the region’s access to sewage systems to estimate the level of pharmaceuticals that would be present in their water.

The World Health Organization cites antibiotic resistance as “one of the biggest threats to global health,” but the agency only refers to the problem as a misuse of prescription drugs, rather than bacteria developing a resistance to the drugs by being constantly exposed to them in a water source.

“There’s little awareness of the role of the environment in this problem, even though it becomes increasingly clear that the environment functions as a source of resistance for various pathogens,” Oldenkamp said.

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More groups join in support of women in STEM program at Carleton

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OTTAWA — Major companies and government partners are lending their support to Carleton University’s newly established Women in Engineering and Information Technology Program.

The list of supporters includes Mississauga-based construction company EllisDon.

The latest to announce their support for the program also include BlackBerry QNX, CIRA (Canadian Internet Registration Authority), Ericsson, Nokia, Solace, Trend Micro, the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, CGI, Gastops, Leonardo DRS, Lockheed Martin Canada, Amdocs and Ross.

The program is officially set to launch this September.

It is being led by Carleton’s Faculty of Engineering and Design with the goal of establishing meaningful partnerships in support of women in STEM.  

The program will host events for women students to build relationships with industry and government partners, create mentorship opportunities, as well as establish a special fund to support allies at Carleton in meeting equity, diversity and inclusion goals.

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VR tech to revolutionize commercial driver training

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Serious Labs seems to have found a way from tragedy to triumph? The Edmonton-based firm designs and manufactures virtual reality simulators to standardize training programs for operators of heavy equipment such as aerial lifts, cranes, forklifts, and commercial trucks. These simulators enable operators to acquire and practice operational skills for the job safety and efficiency in a risk-free virtual environment so they can work more safely and efficiently.

The 2018 Humboldt bus catastrophe sent shock waves across the industry. The tragedy highlighted the need for standardized commercial driver training and testing. It also contributed to the acceleration of the federal government implementing a Mandatory Entry-Level Training (MELT) program for Class 1 & 2 drivers currently being adopted across Canada. MELT is a much more rigorous standard that promotes safety and in-depth practice for new drivers.

Enter Serious Labs. By proposing to harness the power of virtual reality (VR), Serious Labs has earned considerable funding to develop a VR commercial truck driving simulator.

The Government of Alberta has awarded $1 million, and Emissions Reduction Alberta (ERA) is contributing an additional $2 million for the simulator development. Commercial deployment is estimated to begin in 2024, with the simulator to be made available across Canada and the United States, and with the Alberta Motor Transport Association (AMTA) helping to provide simulator tests to certify that driver trainees have attained the appropriate standard. West Tech Report recently took the opportunity to chat with Serious Labs CEO, Jim Colvin, about the environmental and labour benefits of VR Driver Training, as well as the unique way that Colvin went from angel investor to CEO of the company.

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Next-Gen Tech Company Pops on New Cover Detection Test

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While the world comes out of the initial stages of the pandemic, COVID-19 will be continue to be a threat for some time to come. Companies, such as Zen Graphene, are working on ways to detect the virus and its variants and are on the forefronts of technology.

Nanotechnology firm ZEN Graphene Solutions Ltd. (TSX-Venture:ZEN) (OTCPK:ZENYF), is working to develop technology to help detect the COVID-19 virus and its variants. The firm signed an exclusive agreement with McMaster University to be the global commercializing partner for a newly developed aptamer-based, SARS-CoV-2 rapid detection technology.

This patent-pending technology uses clinical samples from patients and was funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research. The test is considered extremely accurate, scalable, saliva-based, affordable, and provides results in under 10 minutes.

Shares were trading up over 5% to $3.07 in early afternoon trade.

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