Nonstick chemicals that stick around and detecting ear infections with smartphones

Science Podcast
Phone on table
Dennis Wise/University of Washington

The groundwater of Rockford, Michigan, is contaminated by per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, chemicals found in everything from nonstick pans to dental floss to—in the case of Rockford—waterproofing agents from a shoe factory that shut down in 2009. Science journalist Sara Talpos talks with host Meagan Cantwell about how locals found the potentially health-harming chemicals in their water, and how contamination from nonstick chemicals isn’t limited to Michigan.

Also this week, host Sarah Crespi talks with Shyamnath Gollakota of the University of Washington in Seattle about his work diagnosing ear infections with smartphones. With the right app and a small paper cone, it turns out that your phone can listen for excess fluid in the ear by bouncing quiet clicks from the speaker off the eardrum. Clinical testing shows the setup is simple to use and can help parents and doctors check children for this common infection.

This week’s episode was edited by Podigy.

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[Image: Dennis Wise/University of Washington; Music: Jeffrey Cook]