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THEME MUSIC Paul reveals new findings 'Tonight, on Catalyst -

on arsenic in the environment.' a toxic legacy from the gold rush. How kids' toenails have revealed more comfortable for space travel.' 'Jonica slips into something exhausting, Space suits are unwieldy, your fingernails fall out. and they can make contribution to science.' 'And octogenarian Nancy Millis'

G'day, welcome to Catalyst. had a huge impact on Australia, The gold rushes of the 19th century and building our country as a nation. both economically, in Melbourne, This is the Old Customs House $80,000 a month that back in the 1850s collected just in gold tax. of gold comes at a cost. But it now seems the wonderful wealth researchers Dr Paul Willis caught up with who have been studying at the University of Ballarat, the ill effects of arsenic, of the gold extraction process. a by-product nine-year-old girl.' 'Meet Rose. She is your typical but she certainly enjoys She's a fairly quiet child, and she's got lots of friends living in this town, right over the whole town. anything unusual about Rose 'In fact, there didn't seem to be in an unusual study, until she participated looking at arsenic conducted in western Victoria, and the children.' in the environment, had the highest levels It turned out that Rose of all the kids tested. I was naturally quite concerned. out there, We thought there might be a problem So we decided to take a closer look. because of the arsenic in the soil. took a most unusual form. And that closer look

from the University of Ballarat, Dora Pearce, began to collect toenail clippings from across western Victoria. from primary school kids collecting them is non-invasive. We used toenails because hurt the children to provide them. They're easy to store. It doesn't over several months And they provide us a timeline have been exposed to. of what the kids that they'd like to give me? Who's got a sample here part of the study 'Perhaps the simplest was the collection of the toenails.'

Cory. What's your name? their child's toenails, 'The parents cut and gave them to Dora.' put them in a plastic bag, Mr Sharson, our science teacher, toenails to school told us about bringing because they thought it was gross. and all the other kids giggled, But it's not actually that gross, has them. because virtually everybody and toenails is a subtle one. 'The link between arsenic it can be excreted If arsenic enters the body, and fingernails, and hair. by shunting it into toe arsenic across western Victoria? But why would there be any extra the largest producer Western Victoria was once During the great gold rush of gold in the world. of people from all over the world of the 1850s and '60s, thousands in search of their fortunes.' rushed to this area found like this, Most of the gold was small flecks trapped in quartz. To get it out,

releasing the gold, and the arsenic. you would crush the whole rock up, 'Crushing quartz became an industry unimaginable.' on a scale that now seems and western Victoria 100 years later, and tailings heaps, is dotted with mullock heaps Some of them contain hundreds, like the one behind me. per kilogram of arsenic. if not thousands, of milligrams from the University of Ballarat, 'Dora teamed up with Kim Dowling other toxins in the environment.' an expert in arsenic and which is locked in minerals In the mining process, arsenic,

is brought to the surface. deep in the earth, it can be made more mobile. And it's oxidised, which means the thing that can have an impact. And so it moves around. And that's

stays here for long enough, It's completely natural, and if it it'll age and not be as mobile. But at the moment, we've got piles of the stuff. throughout the landscape, there would be hot spots of arsenic 'So Kim suspected that dotted across the old gold diggings. any threat to public health. Dora wondered if these presented collecting toenails. That's why she started there was in a toenail But figuring out how much arsenic requires a lot of work. what conventional lab techniques And there were limits to there was in a sample, could say about how much arsenic

and where it came from.' of the arsenic When you generally take a measure getting is an average reading. in the toenail clippings, what you're at one time point And so the arsenic concentration at a different time point. could be much higher than it is to be able to measure So what we really need at a given time point, is arsenic concentration so we know we can relate that back that caused that. to the actual exposure and resolution 'Dora needed the precision by a Synchrotron. that could only be achieved sub-atomic particles, By using high-energy exactly what kinds of atoms a Synchrotron can determine are present at specific locations, of a millimetre. down to a few thousandths was doing her study, Trouble is, when Dora hadn't yet come on-line. the Melbourne Synchrotron She had to go to Chicago. with Andrea Gerson Dora teamed up high-tech world of Synchrotrons.' to help navigate her way through the what the Synchrotron offered I think with Dora's study, on a micron scale, was the ability to map, within the toenails. the arsenic distribution the regions of interest And then go back to speciation of the arsenic and interrogate the particular within the toenails. at those positions 'Slowly a pattern built up. there was in the toenail clippings, Not only of how much arsenic but more importantly, whereabouts inside the samples the arsenic was located.

And these results were astounding.' We found that about 10% of children in our study had toenail arsenic concentrations higher than what might be considered a normal dose. Also we found that about half of the kids had concentrations that were greater than the highest value recorded in a non-gold-mining area. But we do need a larger study to confirm those findings. These astounding figures raise two questions - how are the kids picking up so much arsenic, and was it enough to damage their health? The arsenic species that we detected in the children's' toenail clippings suggested that the arsenic was possibly taken up in two different ways. One way is that the arsenic is absorbed systemically, through the body. When the kids are out there playing in the dirt, they possibly ingest it from dirt on their hands, because they haven't washed. Or they can also inhale the arsenic from dust, when they're playing out there, especially on the mine waste. Locals and residents have long known

that there is arsenic in the environment. And they take sensible precautions to try and avoid contaminated areas. But Dora's study suggests that simply trying to avoid contamination may not be enough. 'Rose was one of the participants in the study, and one of the first to have her clippings analysed by a Synchrotron. Her elevated levels of arsenic were, at first, something of a mystery.' Many people in the goldfields areas would be aware that arsenic's associated with the mine tailings. We certainly wouldn't buy a house directly next to, or right on top of something like that. We'd certainly keep Rose away from those areas. 'The second question - was this exposure

to arsenic dangerous? - would prove more difficult to answer.' We really don't know what a safe level of arsenic

in toenails is, especially not in children. Because the baseline studies really haven't been able to provide us with that information. Far more work needs to be done in unexposed populations, so that we can tell what a background level is. 'Dora's toenail study has revealed some worrying facts about arsenic in western Victoria. sites rights across the country, But there are thousands of gold mine how contaminated they are, and we just don't know to this historic toxic time bomb.' or if the locals are exposed and other elements In fact, there's a raft of metals For example, mercury that we're interested in. is also in this system, cadmium. There's a raft of metals on human health. that could have impacts that Dora's study is so exciting And indeed, one of the reasons technique to work out is, we can use that exact same they are affecting people's health. where those metals come from, and if that needs to be done There's still far more the type of arsenic to further elucidate that's present in these clippings. what the general level should be, So we can work out and what we need to do how the arsenic gets there, in these communities. to be able to reduce the exposures the priority now 'For kids like Rose,

from getting in.' is to prevent any more arsenic the whole community, As that awareness grows across we would certainly do that. if there were sensible things to do, event in Australian history. The gold rush was a significant It formed the foundations for our nationhood. left behind by the gold diggers, But there is a more toxic legacy generations of Australians, one that may affect starting to become aware of. and one that we're only just 'Later on Catalyst - is a space suit?' just how comfortable That's a lot of pressure! my fingers now. Gosh, I can barely move the dads who have contributed Now, a big thankyou to all by filling out the online survey. to our fatherhood project,

later in the year We'll bring those results to you in a special program. here's Jonica with an update. But right now,

it's all about Mum, right? 'Pregnancy - Well, not this time. put the focus on fathers.' Here at Catalyst, we're about to a big fatherhood science special We're currently filming to be broadcast later this year. we'd like you to be involved. And in the meantime, gentlemen, we've been following 'For our special, as they go from being footloose a group of ordinary Aussie blokes, and fancy-free, to being fathers.' I have no idea what I'm doing. You know what? 'You'll meet them later on. But right now, we'd like to hear your stories. Has fatherhood changed you?' for us. This is a typical Friday evening with your partner?' 'Have you been sympathising a little bit more than I expected. on the weight, I think I'm starting to pack to be a good dad?' 'What do you think it takes

This is the boat cot. an old hand, Whether you're a new dad, to having a baby, or just in the countdown a short video diary about it. we'd love you to send us or just practical advice. It might be funny, sad, Check our website for details. We'd also like to remind you, or are about to, if you've just had a baby

please fill out our survey. Your answers and your videos of our 2010 special on fatherhood. will form part

Please join us. 'So, come on, men of Australia. This time, it's all about you.' is an octogenarian. Emeritus Professor Nancy Millis

into her Melbourne University office Yet she still makes her way here almost every day. as a fermentation scientist After a long career in the field of genetic manipulation. she really made her mark

the legendary Nancy Millis. Let's meet I had a phone call saying, would I be willing to be on a stamp? I thought, "Good grief, how on earth did this happen?" I was even further astonished have seen myself because I would never who are really distinguished folk. in that same gallery of people And delighted, of course. And I was just astonished. across many fields of science. 'Nancy's career has ranged broadly She was one of the first women

at Melbourne University.' to be made professor was a bumper year. In Agriculture, my particular year which was 1942. There were three women in the year, a Master's degree And then I undertook looking at bacteria in soil. Bacteria are everywhere. you encounter bacteria. So it doesn't matter what you do, so fascinating 'Nancy found micro-organisms

to growing them on a large scale, she moved her research interests the science of making cider.' starting with of the old style fermentations, Cider was one and the juice is fermented. where apples are crushed it makes, too. And a very pleasant drink that micro-organisms generate, 'But to make the most of products or for other purposes, whether for our drinking pleasure,

production needs to be scaled up.

When you come to growing something like penicillin, which was a fussy mould, before you got the product. you had to grow it for days had to be developed. So there was a whole new skill to witness the discovery 'In the 1970s, Nancy was lucky enough that would change biology forever.' we chop up the genes in one organism A person said, "I wonder if put them into a second organism, and extract some of them, will they express that new gene?" And that was done in 1972. And that was the beginning of the recombinant DNA revolution. of the whole controversy over crop experiments... NEWS READER: Now for the growing The 53 genetically engineered pigs NEWS READER:

know they weren't normal pigs. got eaten by people who didn't over the safety of GM 'With growing public concern Advisory Committee was founded. the Genetic Manipulation to head up the regulatory body.' Nancy was ideally placed I have never been a person genetically modified plants. who actually made an axe to grind, if you like. That makes me somebody who hasn't is looking at the risks, In that my task

as broadly as I could. trying to identify them that we conducted the experiments And make sure in the safest possible way. By the year 2049,

it is projected that our population will increase by some 60%. with the amount of land available. We're really in serious difficulty

I mean worldwide. I don't mean just Australia-wide, another double in the population, So how we can support I find just extraordinary.

'But Nancy believes current research ways to increase food production may provide in a changing environment.' for a growing population One of them is to increase drought tolerance. The other quality to improve the amount of land available is salt tolerance. You can identify the genes there, and put them into crop plants. So there are a number of helpful qualities there that can be used to assist us to cope with climate change. 'Nancy has been part of key scientific developments for more than 50 years.

And whatever the developments in the next half-century, there's no doubt Nancy's formative work will continue to be valued. # Blue Danube Waltz Images of astronauts floating gracefully through space

give the idea their job's pretty cushy. But the reality is, a spacewalk is no cakewalk. Conventional space suits are uncomfortable, and can even cause serious injury. Jonica Newby travels to MIT in Boston to check out new technology designed to fix the problem, and tries on the latest in space suit fashion. 'Looks like fun, doesn't it? But it's a good thing in space, no-one can hear you scream. Because did you know, space suits can do this?' We've had numerous astronauts who, after extensive work inside space gloves, their fingernails have actually turned black and fallen off.

It's what astronauts don't tell you. Space suits are unwieldy, exhausting,

and they can make your fingernails fall out. Really, how will we ever be proper space explorers with outfits like these? 'We need a better space suit. And down on earth, at Boston's legendary MIT,

is a young man who thinks he's got the right stuff to build one - Australian engineer James Waldie.' Let's go to lunar gravity. 'Who's currently hanging on the low-g simulation machine. So, James, I've always wanted to know -

what would really happen if you didn't have a spacesuit? I mean, did the movies get it right?

No, the movies don't have it right. What happens, simply, is that all the oxygen is sucked out of your blood at the lung interface. And it takes about 10 to 15 seconds for that blood to reach up to your brain. And the last thing you would experience before going unconscious is your saliva boiling off your tongue. How come? The saliva doesn't exist in that liquid state at that pressure level. So it ends up boiling off to a gas. What a lovely last thought as you die in space! "What's my saliva doing?" (LAUGHS) 'Our bodies evolved under pressure. In the vacuum of space, all the pressure inside us wants to flow out. To solve this problem, many years ago NASA designed a suit

that would simply carry earth's atmosphere around with us. The trouble is - well, let's show you.' As you can see, NASA has very kindly lent us one of these real spacesuit gloves, so I can actually experience what it feels like to wear one of these in space. So what we're doing is evacuating 30% of an atmosphere of pressure out of this chamber here. OK. All fine so far. Gosh, it's starting to stiffen up. Ah, that's getting... that's a lot of pressure. Gosh, I can barely move my fingers now. 'Which seems to amuse James Waldie's boss, former astronaut Jeffrey Hoffman.'

Getting tired already? I am getting tired already! I don't know how you managed this. It's only been 10 minutes. 'And well might he laugh. Jeffrey has spent a total of 24 hours on spacewalks, most famously, repairing the Hubble telescope. And while he escaped spacesuit wounds, many don't.' We've had significant injuries to hands, to shoulders. The fit of your glove is critical. These gloves when they're pressurised are very hard. Imagine if the crotch between your fingers, if that crotch is too long, and actually pushes down between your fingers, it's like having a knife cutting into your hand. The way you lose your fingernails is, if it's too tight, it can actually cut off the circulation in the end of your fingertip. 'Hardly the science fiction dream. HEROIC MUSIC What we really need is something out of Star Trek. Something comfortable, movable. Something more like this.' Is this the look? It is, yes! 'This is the Biosuit. The theory is that instead of external pressure being supplied by a balloon of air, it's supplied by elastic. This is only a mock-up, because the real suit would be way too tight to wear on earth.' So let me give you an idea of how strong this suit really has to compress you.

When you get your blood pressure taken by the doctor, they'll pump it up until the blood actually stops flowing. But what we're going to do is pump it a little bit more. And this is currently at about 30% of an atmosphere.

If this was actually applied uniformly, then you would actually feel OK. You reckon? (LAUGHS) It's true. So how would you get a suit this tight on? That's the biggest problem we have in having NASA accept this as a practical alternative to the current gas-pressurised suits.

And we've looked at lots of different ways. For instance, we could perhaps weave electroactive polymers into the suit itself. And we could plug it into the wall and it would relax, like a pair of pyjamas. And then you'd just get it in... And go... ..and then as the airlock pressure decreases your suit would contract and compensate for that lack of pressure. 'Unfortunately that technology is at least a decade away.

But meanwhile, many a future astronaut will worship at the shrine of James Waldie if he can just perfect the Biosuit glove.'

What we're trying to do is incorporate skinsuit gloves onto the current suits. Then, perhaps, we could talk about full arm and full leg skinsuit components with a gas-pressurised torso.

And then as we go onto Mars, then we can go to a full-body elastic Biosuit system. 'They may not have reached the dream of lycra-clad space aerobics yet, but work on the Biosuit gave James another idea even more exciting to NASA. You see, if we're actually going to go to Mars,

we need a better suit for inside the spaceship too. There's all sorts of changes that occur to the human body

when you're in the weightless environment of space. For a start, I grow 5cm - about 2 inches. The whole body unloads. But without that constant pressure, your bones lose calcium. For a Mars mission, it would take about 2.5 years. So you would come back with the hipbones of a 90-year-old. 'One solution is a centrifuge. But it's a bit big for a spaceship.' I'm very pleased I didn't throw up. (LAUGHS) 'So James had a brainwave.

Could he use the same principles as the Biosuit to load pressure downward?' So it's comfortable, but what it feels like is that the shoes are kind of being pulled up into me. Meanwhile, my shoulders are being pulled down. That's right. 'The suit mimics the forces that act on our body through gravity, cleverly increasing stretch to apply a little force on the shoulders, more on the hips, most on the feet. This is a fully functioning prototype. And last year James got to put it to the ultimate test, on the aircraft they affectionately call The Vomit Comet.' The Vomit Comet was a dream come true, really. And we found that the suit performed almost flawlessly. 'Again, there's a way to go to prove this gravity-loading suit

can prevent bone loss. But if we're ever going to journey beyond our earth, these are the kind of travel clothes we're going to need.' Boy, you land on Mars for the first time, I don't think there's many little green men there to help you when you get out of your spacecraft. So you better be in good condition when you get there. I'd love to be able to see the lights of the future lunar city twinkling. I'd love to think that some of my suits have helped us do that. 'Next week on Catalyst - the complex case that puts memory on trial.' How frighteningly easy the recipe is for creating false memories. 'New freedom for people with quadriplegia.' A wheelchair that makes you think. Well, that's it for now. Thanks for watching. Don't forget our fatherhood survey is still open on our website. I'm Graham Phillips. See you next time. Closed Captions by CSI Duncan C-A

This Program is Captioned Live. Good with an ABC News update. The axed Good evening. Virginia Haussegger home insulation scheme is turning

to be a very expensive mistake. home insulation scheme is turning ou to be a very expensive mistake. The Federal Government it's going to cost a lot of money Federal Government today admitted

fix it. There are 50,000 homes with it's going to cost a lot of money to foil insulation that need to be fixed. Industry analysts say the so far is well above $100 fixed. Industry analysts say the cos The United States has accused Burma so far is well above $100 million. of making a mockery of process. Under its new election laws, of making a mockery of the democrati

Burma's opposition leader, Sung San process. Under its new election laws

Burma's opposition leader, Sung San Suu Kyi, will be banned from in this year's elections and Suu Kyi, will be banned from standin party must expel her in order to in this year's elections and her party must expel her in order to run any running too empty, any candidates. Canberra buses are according to the ACT Opposition. It running too empty, too often claims action busses travel

12,000km each weekday without any claims action busses travel more tha passengers. The there is an efficiency problem. passengers. The Government admits National Gallery will extend its there is an efficiency problem. The Masterpieces From Paris for an extra two weeks to cope with Masterpieces From Paris exhibition demand. The gallery will also lengthen its opening hours on weekends and sell tickets for specific times.

- partly cloudy, 10 specific times. To Canberra's weathe and a top of 21. Sydney - partly cloudy, 10 degrees overnigh 24, Adelaide 27. More news in and a top of 21. Sydney 23, Melbourn

This program is not subtitled

How did we come to so dominate our planet? It's one of science's greatest mysteries.

when a tiny group of people left the continent on an incredible journey. and find out how their journeys transformed our species into the people we are today. We begin by going in search of the first humans. We discover how we survived in our dangerous homeland of prehistoric Africa and search for the route we took out of Africa Where does our human journey begin? our species has its homeland. rift valley of East Africa that It seems that it's here in the great longer than anywhere else on Earth. we have been living here for In all likelihood,