Chemical informatio​n and the Jan 2014 West Virginia Elk River chemical release


You may be aware from multiple news sources that little information was available about 4-methylcyclohexanemethanol at the time of the spill in West Virginia’s Elk River earlier this month. Since the spill, government and private sector scientists have contributed to collecting and verifying information about the chemical. As a result, there is now a page on the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) website about the chemical and the methodology used by CDC to develop its recommendations.

There is also a new record in the NLM Hazardous Substances Data Bank (HSDB) for the chemical 4-Methylcyclohexanemethanol, which has a Chemical Abstracts Service registry number (CASRN) of 34885-03-5. Other terms for the spilled substance are “MCHM” or “crude MCHM” or “4-Methylcyclohexane methanol.”

Please note that in some social media and early news reports, the chemical was MISIDENTIFIED as Methylcyclohexanol (CASRN: 25639-42-3). This is NOT the correct chemical. In chemical incidents, it is unusual for little online information to be available about a substance. Chemicals can often be readily identified using online resources such as TOXNET and WISER. In the absence of published information, local and state officials request consultation with local, state, federal and industry experts. Typically, following such an incident there is immediate, ongoing, extensive consultation and communication among responders and experts to determine appropriate actions. When planning for providing health information following chemical incidents, it is critical for institutions and government agencies to know who to contact in uncommon situations as well as knowing the authoritative published sources of chemical information.


PubMed Commons: New comment forum on PubMed

go-public-iconFrom the PubMed Commons Blog:

If you are one of the millions of people who visit PubMed today, be on the look-out for something different. On each abstract page, there’s now a section called PubMed Commons. It’s a forum for scientific discussion on publications open to any authors in the world’s largest biomedical literature database.

Several hundred comments have been made during a closed pilot in the last few months. But there are over 23 million articles in PubMed, with thousands more pouring in every day, from Tuesday to Saturday. So the chance of coming across an article with comments is still very low.

We’ll show you some interesting ones shortly, though – and you can learn how to look for articles with comments and set up alerts in one of last week’s blog posts. Or you can check out the stream of selected new comments – as well as articles that are trending in PubMed – at the PubMed Commons home page.

If you happen onto an article that has comments, the first sign will be in your search results. There will be a little icon letting you know an article has comments, and how many there are – like this:

Comment icon with number 7

Anyone can read the comments. Members may also have rated their helpfulness, which looks like this on the comment:

8 out of 8 found this helpful

Read more about PubMed Commons here.

New publication model for PubMed citations

In mid-June 2013, a new publication model, Electronic-eCollection, was introduced for PubMed citations from electronic-only journals. “Electronic-eCollection” means that an article is published electronically on a specific date and is also associated with an electronic collection date (similar to an issue; this date can be a year or a year and month, but never a year, month, and day). NLM determines the publication model based on the data submitted by the publishers.

“eCollection” will be displayed preceding the collection date information in a citation. The specific article date will display after the journal title abbreviation while the collection date will display near the end of the source information.

Screen capture of a sample display for journal citation with PubModel = Electronic-eCollection.

This particular article was published online on January 25, 2013, yet was included in the Volume 3, 2012 collection as deposited in PMC.

Typhoon Haiyan/Yolanda: Health-Related Information Resources

A new web page, “Typhoon Haiyan/Yolanda: Health-Related Information Resources,” is now available from the United States National Library of Medicine (NLM) Disaster Information Management Research Center. The resources on this page may be of value to international responders and response planners as well as to U.S. friends and family of people in the Philippines.

NLM has activated the Emergency Access Initiative ( in support of medical efforts in the Philippines and surrounding areas following the devastating typhoon.

New public health MeSH terms for 2014

Each year, PubMed adds, changes, & deletes terms in the Medical Subject Heading (MeSH) database, which contains all the terms used to index articles in Medline.  I’m always excited (yes, really!) to see what new terms are available for public health, since that makes searching so much easier & accurate.  I’ve gathered a list of the new terms that are particularly relevant to public health below.  To see the whole list of changes, go to Changes to MeSH – 2014 & select from the links at #4.

  • alcohol abstinence
  • biodegradable plastics
  • dataset
  • disaster victims
  • drug trafficking
  • ethnic conflict
  • hazard analysis and critical control points
  • hazardous waste sites
  • hope
  • human trafficking
  • International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health
  • material safety data sheets
  • mindfulness
  • mobile applications
  • nurses, public health
  • nutritionists
  • nutritive sweetners
  • observational study
  • organ trafficking
  • pediatric obesity
  • physical conditioning, human
  • serving size
  • slave
  • slavery
  • social determinants of health
  • sports for persons with disabilities
  • sports nutritional sciences
  • teach-back communication
  • web browser
  • workplace violence



PubMed “relevance sort”

On October 22, a new option was added to PubMed:  Relevance sort.   This option is available from the Display Settings menu under Sort by.

The relevance sort is based on an algorithm that analyzes each PubMed citation that includes the search terms.  A “weight” is calculated for citations depending on how many search terms are found and in which fields they are found. In addition, recently-published articles are given a somewhat higher weight for sorting.

Easy access to the relevance sort will also initially be provided under a New feature discovery tool.

Screen capture of PubMed Summary results with Sort by Relevance feature discovery tool.

Users may either choose Relevance from the Display Settings Sort by menu or click the Sort by Relevance link in the New Feature discovery tool.

Screen capture of PubMed results sorted by Relevance.

The update to the sort by selections is combined with a new feature that retains the most recent sort by selection for subsequent search results until a different sort order is selected, or after eight hours of inactivity on the system.

Results for My NCBI users signed in to their account with a modified default sort order will be displayed in the modified order until a different sort order is selected. A “Relevance default sort” selection in My NCBI PubMed Preferences will be added after the initial implementation of this new feature.

New Resources from the NLM: Subject Guides

Have you ever REALLY wanted to know more about health statistics? What about library statistics? Conference Proceedings? Well, apparently a lot of people had questions on those topics and the ever vigilant librarians in the Public Services Division at the National Library of Medicine have responded! They have created a new set of subject guides to help patrons navigate these common questions.

I’m particularly excited about the health statistics guide. In my experience, students, researchers and other curious individuals oftentimes want information on the prevalence of a certain condition, but it can be hard to find reliable data without knowing where to look. Another interesting thing to note is that the library statistics page provides resources from both the US and some international sources, along with salary reports, standards and measurements, and organization and government agencies.

And the excitement doesn’t stop there- there’s going to be two new guides coming this fall on drug information and genetics/genomics. Stay tuned..

Binding Wounds | Pushing Boundaries – New Exhibit @ THL

Starting today and on display through August 31, 2013, come see the Binding Wounds Pushing Boundaries exhibit at the Taubman Health Sciences Library. binding wounds screenshot

Focusing on African Americans in Civil War medicine, the exhibit highlights the far too frequently overlooked contributions of African American nurses, surgeons, and hospital workers in one of America’s greatest conflicts as their efforts “challenged the prescribed notions of both race and gender.”

Learn about uniformed Union Army surgeons, as well as how nurses and hospital workers cared for injured soldiers at hospitals in the North and South as well as camp hospitals. 

You can visit the exhibit’s website here for additional educational materials, or better yet, come see the exhibit in person!

University of Michigan Taubman Health Sciences Library

Fourth Floor, 1135 E. Catherine Street.

This exhibition was developed and produced by the National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health with research assistance from the Historical Society of Washington, D.C.

New Blog from NLM’s History of Medicine Division

Circulating Now

The absolutely phenomenal History of Medicine Division at the National Library of Medicine has just launched a new blog, Circulating Now. Circulating Now is designed to bring this division’s treasured (and truly priceless) collections to a wider audience than ever before. Read the introductory post from the division’s Chief, Jeffrey S. Reznick, PhD, here.

Circulating Now kicked off the month of July with a series of posts reenacting bulletins from the assassination of the 20th American president, James A. Garfield, exactly 132 years ago on July 2nd, 1881. From the series’ introductory post:

America—and eventually the world—reacted to Garfield’s attempted assassination with deep despair. The President’s physicians issued daily progress reports which the public eagerly awaited and newspapers quickly reprinted for their readers. Letters by the bushel basket came daily to the White House offering advice on various forms of treatment. The famous American inventor, Alexander Graham Bell, volunteered to come to Washington and help with Garfield’s case.

Through the blog, readers can experience the updates on the President’s condition almost like the rest of the nation did in 1881 (just with a little more of a technological intermediary).

“The attack on the President’s life—Scene in the ladies’ room of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad depot—The arrest of the assassin,” Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper, 1881 July 16, pp. 332-333 Courtesy Library of Congress

“The attack on the President’s life—Scene in the ladies’ room of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad depot—The arrest of the assassin,” Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper, 1881 July 16, pp. 332-333 Courtesy Library of Congress

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