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Scientists Urge Focus on New Branch of Environmental Health
NEW YORK (November 19, 2013) — A new paper from members of the HEAL (Health & Ecosystems: Analysis of Linkages) consortium delineates a new branch of environmental health that focuses on the public health risks of human-caused changes to Earth’s natural systems.
Looking comprehensively at available research to date, the paper’s authors highlight repeated correlations between changes in natural systems and existing and potential human health outcomes, including:
Forest fires used to clear land in Indonesia generate airborne particulates that are linked to cardiopulmonary disease in downwind population centers like Singapore.
Risk of human exposure to Chagas disease in Panama and the Brazilian Amazon, and to Lyme disease in the United States, is positively correlated with reduced mammalian diversity.
When households in rural Madagascar are unable to harvest wild meat for consumption, their children can experience a 30% higher risk of iron deficiency anemia—a condition that increases the risk for sickness and death from infectious disease, and reduces IQ and the lifelong capacity for physical activity.
In Belize, nutrient enrichment from agricultural runoff hundreds of miles upstream causes a change in the vegetation pattern of lowland wetlands that favors more efficient malaria vectors, leading to increased malaria exposure among coastal populations.
Human health impacts of anthropogenic climate change include exposure to heat stress, air pollution, infectious disease, respiratory allergens, and natural hazards as well as increased water scarcity, food insecurity and population displacement.
“Human activity is affecting nearly all of Earth’s natural systems—altering the planet’s land cover, rivers and oceans, climate, and the full range of complex ecological relationships and biogeochemical cycles that have long sustained life on Earth,” said Dr. Samuel Myers of the Harvard School of Public Health and the study’s lead author. “Defining a new epoch, the Anthropocene, these changes and their effects put in question the ability of the planet to provide for a human population now exceeding 7 billion with an exponentially growing demand for goods and services.”
This post is a part of our Bioethics in the News series. For more information, click here.
By Sean A. Valles, Ph.D.
After winning the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize, the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has returned to the headlines. Heeding the growing body of climate evidence, they say, “it is extremely likely [95%-100% likely] that human influence has been the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid-20th century” (IPCC Working Group I 2013, pp. SPM-2, SPM-12). Unfortunately, according to a March Gallup poll:
In contrast to majority acceptance of global warming as real, Gallup finds Americans less than alarmed. One-third worry “a great deal,” and 34% expect it to threaten their way of life. These could be the attitudes that matter most when it comes to Americans’ support for public policies designed to address the issue (Saad 2013).
That skepticism about climate change’s seriousness (and, to a lesser extent, about humans’ responsibility for it) is impeding democratic action in the US. The leadership provided by a skeptical vocal minority has turned the public dialogue into a dispute over uncertainties in how we predict future climate, whether it is accusing researchers of inadequate “objectivity” (LaFramboise 2013) or publicizing pieces of climate data that seem inadequately explained (Darwall 2013). I encourage my bioethics colleagues to help change the conversation, and re-frame the US climate change dialogue to focus on one crucial fact: even with lingering uncertainties, climate change poses health risks that we would be foolish to ignore.
A 2009 special report by TheLancet and University College London Institute for Global Health Commission declares, “climate change is the biggest global health threat of the 21st century” (Costello, et al. 2009, p. 1693). These are bold words, especially coming from TheLancet—one of the most prestigious medical journals. The report lists a number of health risks: more numerous heat waves will worsen respiratory and cardiovascular symptoms (Costello, et al. 2009, p. 1702), mosquitoes and mosquito-borne diseases will spread and flourish in newly warm areas (Costello, et al. 2009, p. 1702), and extreme weather events will become more common and stronger (impacting mental health, access to food, access to sanitation infrastructure, etc.) (Costello, et al. 2009, p. 1706). The list goes on, and policy groups such as the EPA have demonstrated that they take it quite seriously. A recent article in Bioethics by Cheryl Cox MacPherson explains that such risks make it clear “Climate Change Is a Bioethics Problem” (MacPherson 2013, p. 305).
Unfortunately, bioethicists’ involvement in the climate change dialogue—a crucialmedical dialogue—has been the exception rather than the norm. Bioethicists are already expert communicators, researchers, interdisciplinary collaborators, and public advocates in the management of multiple intersecting risks and ethical considerations. They apply this expertise to issues such as tissue donation, vaccination, and pharmaceutical testing. I recommend that they add climate change to their list of priorities. Economic constraints, individual liberty, public welfare, being mindful of social justice; these sorts of difficult climate change considerations are very much in bioethicists’ wheelhouse.
Recent research on science communication indicates that pragmatically it would be a wise strategy to move health out of the background in the climate change dialogue. A recent study compared audience responses to three different presentations of climate change, “emphasizing either the risks to the environment, public health, or national security;” the researchers found that, “across audience segments, a public health focus was the most likely to elicit emotional reactions consistent with support for climate change mitigation and adaptation” (Myers, et al. 2012, p. 1105). Maibach et al. explains that the “dominant mental frame used by most members of the public to organize their conceptions about climate change is that of ‘climate change as an environmental problem’” (Maibach, et al. 2010, p. 2). We all hear plenty of talk about ‘saving the environment,’ but switching to a health frame would offer important benefits.
Re-defining climate change in public health terms should help people make connections to already familiar problems such as asthma, allergies, and infectious diseases experienced in their communities. The frame also presents the opportunity to involve additional trusted communication partners on the issue, notably public health experts and local community leaders (Maibach, et al. 2010, pp. 9-10).
Pictures of forlorn polar bears floating on melting blocks of ice have proved compelling for some people, but a health-centered approach looks more promising as a default strategy.
- Climate change is real, ignore the denialists (irishtimes.com)
- Pacific nations ‘very disappointed’ by Tony Abbott’s climate scepticism (theguardian.com)
- A new European report on climate extremes is out (realclimate.org)
- International Journal of Global Warming — Special Issue on Loss and Damage from Climate Change (Full Text Reports)
Source: International Journal of Global Warming
From press release (EurekAlert!):
An open access special issue of the International Journal of Global Warming brings together, for the first time, empirical evidence of loss and damage from the perspective of affected people in nine vulnerable countries. The articles in this special issue show how climatic stressors affect communities, what measures households take to prevent loss and damage, and what the consequences are when they are unable to adjust sufficiently. The guest-editors, Kees van der Geest and Koko Warner of the United Nations University Institute for Environment and Human Security (UNU-EHS) in Bonn, Germany, introduce the special issue with an overview of key findings from the nine research papers, all of which are available online free of charge.
‘Loss and damage’ refers to adverse effects of climate variability and climate change that occur despite mitigation and adaptation efforts. Warner and van der Geest discuss the loss and damage incurred by people at the local-level based on evidence from research teams working in nine vulnerable countries: Bangladesh, Bhutan, Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, The Gambia, Kenya, Micronesia, Mozambique and Nepal. The research papers pool data from 3269 household surveys and more than 200 focus groups and expert interviews.
The research reveals four loss and damage pathways. Residual impacts of climate stressors occur when:
- existing coping/adaptation to biophysical impact is not enough;
- measures have costs (including non-economic) that cannot be regained;
- despite short-term merits, measures have negative effects in the longer term; or
- no measures are adopted – or possible – at all.
The articles in this special issue provide evidence that loss and damage happens simultaneously with efforts by people to adjust to climatic stressors. The evidence illustrates loss and damage around barriers and limits to adaptation: growing food and livelihood insecurity, unreliable water supplies, deteriorating human welfare and increasing manifestation of erosive coping measures (e.g. eating less, distress sale of productive assets to buy food, reducing the years of schooling for children, etc.). These negative impacts touch upon people’s welfare and health, social cohesion, culture and identity – values that contribute to the functioning of society but which elude monetary valuation.
- The Majority of Americans Recognize the Climate is Changing (sustainableutah.wordpress.com)
This month (October 2013), the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG)published a Committee Opinion about exposure to toxic environmental agents. It describes “reducing exposure to toxic environmental agents” as a “critical area of intervention” for reproductive health care professionals because of “robust” evidence linking exposure to environmental agents to a range of adverse reproductive and development health outcomes. The Opinion goes on to state that while reproductive health professionals should provide in-clinic counselling on reducing chemical exposure, they also have a role to play beyond the clinical setting, in advocate “timely action to identify and reduce exposure to toxic environmental agents”.
A similar paper was published on the same theme in the United Kingdom in June this year, when the UK equivalent of ACOG, the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG), issued a Scientific Impact Paper titled “Chemical Exposures During Pregnancy”. As did ACOG, the paper recommended a “safety-first approach” for dealing with the problem of being “exposed to a complex mixture of hundreds of chemicals at low levels” for which “methods for assessing the full risk of exposure are not yet developed”. A list of things which women can do to reduce their exposure was given, and it was suggested that this information be conveyed to women by reproductive health professionals.
The difference in reaction to two similar papers in the US and UK media should be surprising, given that in the US coverage of chemicals issues is now an everyday occurrence, while UK outlets (outside the confines of the famously sensationalist Daily Mail) are much less likely to cover chemicals stories. Yet here we have a minor publication intended for reproductive health professionals having almost unprecedented impact across all the major UK papers.
Some people undoubtedly wanted there to be a controversy. It sells papers, for one thing. But it does not follow that the originating point of the controversy is itself controversial: there is a very real difference between creating a controversy through eliciting and reporting criticism, and reporting on conflicting opinions which are a direct result of intellectual controversy. In the latter case the controversy is a natural event; in the former, it is a manufactured one.
Journalists, talking heads and commentators should all be cognizant of this, and be aware that if one is going to comment on a controversy, it will not advance issues by treating a manufactured debate as if it is a genuine controversy. The fact is, only Sense About Science, a small handful of university professors and a few trade associations originally had anything at all to say about the RCOG report – and these same faces popped up in almost all the UK media coverage.
Nobody else noticed that RCOG had published their “list” for mothers, and they would not have done had this small group of experts and reporters not made such a fuss about it – just as virtually nobody in the US noticed, barring an advocacy group with a conservative reputation and the US chemical industry trade association.
In general, we know that most illnesses and diseases are caused by an interplay of genetics and environmental factors. While there is little we can do to alter genetic susceptibility, understanding what and how environmental factors exacerbate if not trigger illnesses and diseases can help you keep your child safe and healthy.
First, note that there are disease agents – chemical and biological – that your child is exposed to through ingestion, inhalation and dermal contact with soil, food, water and the air. That’s called direct exposure. The opposite, indirect exposure, involves contact with disease agents through interactions with parents and caretakers. For instance, if the father who works in the construction industry comes home and holds his baby, the baby may inhale industrial fumes from his work clothes or chemical residue from the father’s worksite may be transferred from the father’s skin to the baby. Through both modes, children absorb disease agents that alter hormones and disrupt metabolic processes thereby triggering a number of childhood illnesses. It’s also important to recognize that exploratory behavior for children includes putting objects in the mouth, hand-to-mouth contact, which increases the risk for exposure to environmental disease agents.
The chart below lists a number of common childhood illnesses, an associated environmental agent and potential direct and indirect sources of exposures. Use this list to determine if there are any sources of disease agents that you should keep away from your child.
Environmental Agent Potential Exposures Abdominal Pain Lead Batteries, smelting, painting, ceramics, enameling, welding, plumbing Acute Psychoses Lead
Carbon disulfide mercury
Fungicide, maternal infection, wood preserving, removing paint from old houses, viscose rayon Angina Methylene chloride
Improperly vented indoor combustion sources, traffic exhaust, car repair, furnaces, water heaters, gas grill, foundry, wood finishing Asthma Formaldehyde
Plastics, textiles, lacquer, playing with pets, polyurethane kits Cardiac Arrhythmia Fluorocarbons
Refrigerator repair, automobile emissions, cigarette smoke, paint thinners, propane gas Dermatosis Solvents
Plastics, metal cleaning, electroplating, machining, housekeeping, leather tanning Headache Carbon monoxide
Unvented kerosene, tobacco smoke, firefighting, dry cleaning, wood finishing, gas grill, water heaters, furnaces, automobile exhaust, improperly vented indoor combustion mechanisms Hepatitis Halogenated hydrocarbons Healthcare workers, lacquer Pulmonary
Farming, welding, smelting, chemical operations
Many people assume that the chemicals in their detergents, floor cleaners, and other household products have undergone rigorous safety testing. But little is known about the potential risks associated with most of the estimated 80,000 chemicals in commerce today.
While industry tries to dispel links to illnesses that go beyond what science can prove, the public is skeptical because companies have a financial stake in showing their products are safe. This leads both sides to look to the federal government for help.
The agency charged with overseeing the safety of chemicals in the marketplace is the Environmental Protection Agency. EPA has the authority to require industry to provide extensive toxicity data for pesticides. But for most other chemicals, EPA must show that a substance is likely to be a risk to human health or the environment in order to require industry to provide safety data. Manufacturers don’t often give toxicity data to EPA voluntarily, nor does the agency have the resources to assess tens of thousands of chemicals using traditional in vivo rodent-based studies.
Instead, EPA has turned to computational modeling. One ambitious effort, called ToxCast, aims to screen thousands of chemicals for biological activity using about 600 high-throughput biochemical and cell-based assays. The data are then integrated with existing in vivo animal toxicity data and structure-activity information to predict toxicity.
But ToxCast has had problems. Most of the assays were developed for drug discovery, not to assess the hazards of chemicals in the environment. For example, thyroid-disrupting compounds in the environment can work through multiple pathways, but commercial tests focus on just one—a chemical binding to the thyroid receptor. If a chemical acts on a different pathway it will test negative, even though it does disrupt the thyroid.
Links jobs and hazardous tasks with occupational diseases and their symptoms.
Information on the health effects of common household products under your sink, in the garage, in the bathroom and on the laundry room shelf.
Maps of hazardous chemicals with links to related health resources.
Interactive game for 7-11 years olds with lessons about household chemical hazards.
An interactive guide about how the environment, chemicals and toxic substances affect human health.
Tox Town en español
From the 8 October 2013 post at OEH Science - Snapshots from the Worlds of Occupational & Environmental Epidemiology and Public Health
I recently published a letter in the International Journal of Epidemiology entitled “The case of acoustic neuroma: Comment on: Mobile phone use and risk of brain neoplasms and other cancers” in reply to a paper by Benson at al. who used the Million Women study to look at cancer risk from mobile phone use. The letter addressed the fact the authors instead of just reporting their findings (both negative and positive) in the abstract (which, lets face it is what most people read), they only reported the non-significant effects. The only statistically significant increased risk they found was for acoustic neuroma, which does fit in nicely with the conclusion of the IARCmonograph working group. However, they only reported this after the effect disappeared after pooling the data with the Danish prospective cohort. As I discussed in my letter, a more transparent, and generally more accepted method would have been to conduct a meta-analysis of all available studies. This meta-analysis (although with a typo) and my letter can be found here (link).
In the spirit of back to school, here is a great source for homework help in environmental health studies.
The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), located in Research Triangle Park, North Carolina, is one of 27 research institutes and centers that comprise the National Institutes of Health (NIH) , U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) . The mission of the NIEHS is to discover how the environment affects people in order to promote healthier lives.
The NIEHS traces its roots to 1966, when the U.S. Surgeon General announced the establishment of the Division of Environmental Health Sciences within the NIH. In 1969, the division was elevated to full NIH institute status. Since then, the NIEHS has evolved to its present status as a world leader in environmental health sciences, with an impressive record of important scientific accomplishments and a proud history of institutional achievements and growth.
Today the NIEHS is expanding and accelerating its contributions to scientific knowledge of human health and the environment, and to the health and well-being of people everywhere (229KB)
Some Web sites/pages of interest
Listen to the voice of NPIC! Our new PestiBytes PODcasts feature NPIC specialists discussing common pesticide questions from people like you. PestiBytes are short (1-2 minute) interviews with NPIC pesticide specialists on each of the topics. Watch for more to come!
Available PestiByte PODcasts:
My yard is being sprayed; can my kids go out and play? Episode 22 – A specialist discusses ways to minimize exposure to children after lawn treatments. Download and Listen, View Transcript - 2:17 min., 1.4MB Don’t let pesticides make your bed bug problem worse! Episode 21 – A specialist discusses some do’s and dont’s about getting rid of bed bugs. Download and Listen, View Transcript - 2:26 min., 1.4MB Slug Baits with Iron Phosphate Episode 20 – A veterinarian gives pet owners some important information about slug & snail products containing iron phosphate. Download and Listen, View Transcript -2:11 min., 0.96MB Fasten the Lid. Protect Your Kids! Episode 19 – A specialist discusses how to store pesticides during and after use to keep kids from being exposed. Download and Listen, View Transcript - 2:26 min., 1.67MB The Crop Was Just Sprayed. Can I Work There Today? Episode 18 – A specialist provides information on reentering fields after pesticides have been applied. Download and Listen, View Transcript - 2:27 min., 1.69MB My Home is Being Sprayed. Should I Go or Stay? Episode 17 – A specialist discusses steps you can take to minimize your risk when your home is going to be treated with pesticides. Download and Listen,View Transcript - 2:05 min., 1.43MB Precautions for Using Spot-on Flea and Tick Products Episode 16 – A veterinarian gives pet owners some important pointers about using flea and tick spot-on treatments. Download and Listen, View Transcript -2:38 min., 4.95MB Can Bug Bombs Really Explode? Episode 15 – A specialist warns about the fire hazards of insecticide foggers and lists safety steps to take before setting off bug bombs. Download and Listen, View Transcript - 2:02 min., 3.73MB Don’t Distress Over Uninvited Guests (Roaches)! Episode 14 – A pesticide specialist discusses common problems with cockroaches in the home and simple ways to prevent infestations. Download and Listen,View Transcript - 2:06 min., 3.85MB Cover the Holes When Baiting for Moles (or Gophers)! Episode 13 – A specialist answers questions about the risks of gopher bait for dogs, and how to keep them from snacking on the bait. Download and Listen,View Transcript - 2:03 min., 3.85MB Pesticides and Food Containers Just Don’t Mix Episode 12 – A specialist points out the dangers of storing pesticides in any container other than the original container. Download and Listen, View Transcript - 2:06 min., 3.94MB Would I Hurt the Fish by Weeding and Feeding the Lawn? Episode 11 – A specialist explains ways to keep weed killers from harming fish.Download and Listen, View Transcript - 1:50 min., 3.36MB Get Rid of the Mouse! With Kids In the House? Episode 10 – A specialist lists precautions to consider when thinking of using rat or mouse baits around pets and children. Download and Listen, View Transcript - 1:53 min., 3.45MB When to Plant After Using Weed Killer? Episode 9 – A specialist provides information about using weed killers to prepare a vegetable garden. Download and Listen, View Transcript - 1:44 min., 3.96MB With a Baby on the Way… Is It Okay to Spray? Episode 8 – A specialist discusses infant sensitivity to pesticides and lists some ideas for minimizing exposure. Download and Listen, View Transcript - 1:55 min., 4.41MB Could Snail Bait Hurt My Dog? Episode 7 – A specialist cautions dog owners about the risks of snail baits and provides ways to to protect their pets. Download and Listen, View Transcript - 1:56 min., 4.42MB Dirty Work Clothes: How Should I Wash Out Pesticides? Episode 6 – A specialist explains how to handle and launder clothes that are contaminated with pesticides. Download and Listen, View Transcript- 1:33 min., 3.57MB What Should I Do During Mosquito Spraying? Episode 5 – A specialist answers questions about why city health departments might spray for mosquitoes and ways people can avoid contact with the mosquito spray. Download and Listen, View Transcript - 1:39 min., 1.50MB Should Kids Use Bug Spray? Episode 4 – A specialist lists precautions a parent might take if they choose to use insect repellents on children.Download and Listen, View Transcript - 2:07 min., 1.94MB A Mothball Mishap? Episode 3 – A specialist debunks mothball myths and describes how improper use of mothballs can lead to unpleasant or even unhealthy results. Download and Listen, View Transcript - 1:32 min., 1.41MB How Can I Wash Pesticides From Fruit and Veggies? Episode 2 – A specialist discusses how to best wash pesticide residues from produce, including potential risks of using household products to clean fruit and vegetables. Download and Listen, View Transcript - 1:41 min., 1.54MB About NPIC Episode 1 – Our director discusses how NPIC can assist people when making decisions about pesticides. Ways to contact NPIC are provided. Download and Listen, View Transcript - 2:07 min., 1.95MB
PestiBytes are brought to you by the National Pesticide Information Center, a cooperative agreement between Oregon State University and the Environmental Protection Agency and produced by OSU’s Environmental Health Sciences Center, funded by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences.
If you have questions about this, or any pesticide-related topic, please call NPIC at 1-800-858-7378 (7:30am-3:30pm PST), or email at email@example.com.
Similar podcasts by the US NIH agency explore how environmental exposures affect our health. Each episode highlights ways researchers work in partnership with community groups to understand and address environmental health issues.
If you’re eating better and exercising regularly, but still aren’t seeing improvements in your health, there might be a reason: pollution. According to a new research report published in the September issue of The FASEB Journal, what you are eating and doing may not be the problem, but what’s in what you are eating could be the culprit.
“This study adds evidences for rethinking the way of addressing risk assessment especially when considering that the human population is widely exposed to low levels of thousands of chemicals, and that the health impact of realistic mixtures of pollutants will have to be tested as well,” said Brigitte Le Magueresse-Battistoni, a researcher involved in the work from the French National Institute of Health and Medical Research (INSERM). “Indeed, one pollutant could have a different effect when in mixture with other pollutants. Thus, our study may have strong implications in terms of recommendations for food security. Our data also bring new light to the understanding of the impact of environmental food contaminants in the development of metabolic diseases.”
The day after I published this, I answered a related question about busyness at Quora.
Resources that were included in the answer are listed below.
With some 300 million people around the world living with asthma, a study by Los Angeles Biomedical Research Institute at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center (LA BioMed) researchers that was released ahead-of- print found for the first time that maternal smoking can cause the third generation of offspring to suffer from the chronic lung disease.
The study, published online by theAmerican Journal of Physiology — Lung Cellular and Molecular Physiology, reported that maternal nicotine exposure during pregnancy is linked to asthma in the third generation in disease models. This is known as a “transgenerational” linkage because the third generation was never directly exposed to nicotine or smoking. Previous research had found nicotine exposure was linked to asthma in the second generation, or was a “multigenerational” cause of asthma.
“Even though there are multiple causes for childhood asthma, research linking this serious chronic condition to maternal nicotine exposure during pregnancy for up to three generations should give mothers-to-be even more reasons to reconsider smoking,” said Virender K. Rehan, MD, an LA BioMed lead researcher and the corresponding author of the study. “Eliminating the use of tobacco during pregnancy could help halt the rise in childhood asthma and ensure healthier children for generations to come.”
The current study “paves the way for determining the epigenetic mechanisms” behind smoking and the transmission of asthma to future generations, the researchers concluded.
Want to learn more about epigenetic? Here’s some good Web sites
Related Psychiatric/Psychologic/Counseling Resources (via MedlinePlus)
Brian Fontenot and Kevin Schug, UT Arlington
Caption: Brian Fontenot, who earned his Ph.D. in quantitative biology from UT Arlington, worked with Kevin Schug, UT Arlington associate professor of chemistry and biochemistry, and a team of researchers to analyze samples from 100 private water wells.
Credit: UT Arlington
Usage Restrictions: None
A new study of 100 private water wells in and near the Barnett Shale showed elevated levels of potential contaminants such as arsenic and selenium closest to natural gas extraction sites, according to a team of researchers that was led by UT Arlington associate professor of chemistry and biochemistry Kevin Schug.
The results of the North Texas well study were published online by the journal Environmental Science & Technology Thursday. The peer-reviewed paper focuses on the presence of metals such as arsenic, barium, selenium and strontium in water samples. Many of these heavy metals occur naturally at low levels in groundwater, but disturbances from natural gas extraction activities could cause them to occur at elevated levels.
“This study alone can’t conclusively identify the exact causes of elevated levels of contaminants in areas near natural gas drilling, but it does provide a powerful argument for continued research,” said Brian Fontenot, a UT Arlington graduate with a doctorate in quantitative biology and lead author on the new paper.
He added: “We expect this to be the first of multiple projects that will ultimately help the scientific community, the natural gas industry, and most importantly, the public, understand the effects of natural gas drilling on water quality.”
Researchers believe the increased presence of metals could be due to a variety of factors including: industrial accidents such as faulty gas well casings; mechanical vibrations from natural gas drilling activity disturbing particles in neglected water well equipment; or the lowering of water tables through drought or the removal of water used for the hydraulic fracturing process. Any of these scenarios could release dangerous compounds into shallow groundwater………
While industrial 3D printers often use ventilation shafts and filters to evacuate airborne particles, commercially available printers are often set up in environments with little or no thought about the emissions they might be kicking out. In a new study looking into the particle emissions of home printers, researchers at the Illinois Institute of Technology identified that the operation of such devices in unventilated areas could potentially lead to health issues.
POPULAR HOME PRINTERS WERE CLASSIFIED AS HIGH EMITTERS
To conduct the test, Brent Stephens and his team used five models of popular 3D printers at Chicago-based 3D Printer Experience. The study doesn’t note the models used, the company advertises use of the UP Mini and MakerBot Replicator. According to the report, models using both ABS and PLA polymers as a plastic feedstock were classed as “high emitters” of ultrafine particles (UFPs), reporting similar emission rates (output, not toxicity) to the operation of a laser printer or the burning of a cigarette.
Because of their size, UFPs can be deposited in the lungs and absorbed directly into the bloodstream. High concentrations of UFPs have been linked to lung cancer, strokes, and the development of asthma symptoms. The study doesn’t detail the chemical constituents of ABS and PLA emissions, but ABS has previously been shown to have toxic effects, while PLA is a biocompatible polymer that has been widely used in drug delivery.
For now, researchers believe users should be cautious when operating 3D printers in “unvented or inadequately filtered indoor environments.” They also call for more experiments be conducted on a wider range of commercial printers, allowing experts to better understand the toxicity of particle emissions from devices and feedstocks currently in use.
We are getting a lot of inquiries about where to go for testing and treatment after exposure to toxic levels of Mycotoxins from damp and moldy environments.
Unfortunately few doctors are experienced in testing or treating patients that are suffering from Biotoxin Illness and other health issues that arise after living or working for long periods of time inside of a home/office/school with poor indoor air.
Earlier this week, as the temperature in New York City hit the upper 90s and the heat index topped 100, my utility provider issued a heat alert and advised customers to use air-conditioning “wisely.” It was a nice, polite gesture but also an utterly ineffectual one. After all, despite our other green tendencies, most Americans still believe that the wise way to use air conditioners is to crank them up, cooling down every room in the house — or even better, relax in the cold blasts of a movie theater or shopping mall, where someone else pays the bills.
In addition to socioeconomic disparities, the proximity of parks, walking paths and bike lanes affects the health of residents of Los Angeles. This correlation was discovered when 100 health indicators (including obesity, coronary heart disease, and asthma) were studied in neighborhoods across Los Angeles and compiled into a “health atlas.” Former mayor Antonio Villaraigosa is passing this information to the new mayor, Eric Garcetti, in the hopes that city departments will consider the importance of reducing environmental disparities in future development.
A recently identified tick-borne illness has been detected in 2 patients in the northeastern United States, according to case reports published today in the Annals of Internal Medicine as the US tick season begins to ramp up.
In 1995, when Japanese researchers identified the pathogen that causes this illness, a new species of Borrelia bacteria called Borrelia miyamotoi, their work marked a new approach to identifying a novel infectious disease, according to an…
I would hope that after reading my first blog, some of you would have rushed out to replace your Hawaiian Tropic sunscreen with something that is a little bit better for your health.
Pesticides are a significant source of toxicity. People are exposed to pesticides via food and the environment in particular lawn care. While research is usually focused on massive pesticide exposure, low dose long-term pesticide exposure is difficult to capture.
By Anneclaire De Roos, MPH, PhD, Associate Professor
When I think about this National Public Health Week’s topic – ‘Healthy Homes’ – what immediately comes to mind are themes like injury, fire safety, lead, radon, mold, and secondhand smoke. Most people’s thoughts about healthy homes probably don’t include dust. How harmful can dust bunnies be? Actually, we’ve long known that people with asthma and allergies are sensitive to dust mites. And now there is ever-increasing documentation of a different type of health hazard from house dust – exposure to a diverse mix of pollutants including metals, pesticides, dioxins, flame retardants such as polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs), polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, and phthalates.
These chemicals adhere to dust particles and blow into your household after being stirred up by traffic, are released from your sofa or appliances as they degrade over time, are deposited from disintegrating home building materials, and are introduced from cigarette smoking or pesticide applications indoors. Some of the pollutants are known to cause adverse health effects, such as lead and dioxins. Others, including PBDE and phthalates, are not as well understood, although there is emerging evidence that these chemicals cause hormonal changes and may be particularly damaging when exposure happens during pregnancy or childhood.
The trouble arises because people inadvertently swallow small amounts of dust during their normal daily activities like eating, drinking, and breathing. For example, it’s well known that exposure to organochlorines, such as dioxins, comes from the diet – from fatty foods including fish, meat, and dairy. However, we are now learning that a major source of our exposure also comes from ingestion of dust, in amounts that rival dietary exposures. This is an especially important pathway of exposure for small children, who crawl on the floor and explore their environment using hand-to-mouth behavior. House cats also ingest very high amounts of house dust through self-grooming. In fact, studies in the US and Europe have found that house cats had 50 times higher blood levels of PBDEs than people.
Aside from not breathing or swallowing, or fruitlessly trying to change the behaviors of your toddler or pet, what can be done to reduce exposure to pollutants from household dust? The answers are somewhat obvious, but do require vigilance.
1) Avoid introduction of pollutants inside the home where possible, by banning smoking in the home and seeking alternatives to pesticide applications
2) Wipe your feet on a high-quality doormat before entering the home
3) Eliminate wall-to-wall carpeting and shag rugs, which trap dust
4) Vacuum frequently, ideally using a high-powered vacuum cleaner with a dirt finder
5) Wet-mop non-carpeted floor surfaces on a regular basis
6) Wipe down toys and other items your toddler contacts, using a wet cloth
In my review of the literature, I even saw a recommendation to wipe down your cat with a wet cloth on a daily basis (good luck with that!). Nevertheless, it makes good health sense to follow these recommendations, particularly during pregnancy or with toddlers in the home. At the very least, you will have a cleaner home to show for it.
From Failure to Listen -Gene-Environment Interactions Simplified, January 26, 2013
I have many theories on how to empower communities but understanding the genetic-environmental interplay is key. Frameworks that simplify these complex interactions can have a powerful impact in explaining the pivotal role of early childhood development and education in building healthy foundations.
The first five years are the most important, those are the years when important brain circuits develop (like roots from a tree) or some circuits remain dormant or die. Although the ability to learn continues way into “old age;” the stronger the circuits developed the more pertinent they become in guiding our behavior. These are the years we develop the foundation on which we build our identities.
The formative years begin at birth as our bodies grow and our brain develop. This is the time to make the greatest impact; ‘Pay now or pay a lot more later!’
For us to survive as a country or a society, children need to become the center of our policies. We need to bring back communities by sharing a common vision, and pooling our resources to help those in the community.
The individualistic thinking of me and my accomplishments ignores that we live in a connected world not a vacuum. We are responsible for each other’s accomplishments and faults. There is a larger collective sense that we are all part of and we should tap into more often.
Here is an example of Gene and Environment Simplified:
Society composed of many smaller communities, which are dynamic with each member belonging to many communities, moving in and out of a variety of communities.
The landscape surrounding my house is very similar to society. Individual sections represent communities and each group of plants represent neighborhoods where each plant reflects race, culture and our unique characteristic. There are obvious differences between plants and humans but early preventive interventions are most cost-effective for both….
From the Web site
The WomanStats Project is the most comprehensive compilation of information on the status of women in the world. The Project facilitates understanding the linkage between the situation of women and the security of nation-states. We comb the extant literature and conduct expert interviews to find qualitative and quantitative information on over 310 indicators of women’s status in 174 countries. Our Databaseexpands daily, and access to it is free of charge.
The Project began in 2001, and today includes six principal investigators at five universities, as well as a team of up to twenty graduate and undergraduate data extractors. Please learn more by clicking First Time Users and watching our Video Tutorials. Or visit our Blog, where we discuss what we are finding, view our Maps, or read our Researchreports.
First Time Users
Welcome to the WomanStats Database, the world’s most comprehensive compilation of information on the status of women.
The best way to acquaint yourself with the database and how to use it is to watch our Video Tutorials for beginners. The first video tutorial explains how to create a free account. The second teaches how to use the codebook and retrieve data from the View screen. The third covers reports, downloads, and maps. The fourth introduces you to other aspects of our web presence, such as our blog and social media.
May May Leung, PhD, RD is an assistant professor at the CUNY School of Public Health at Hunter College. Her research expertise includes the development and evaluation of innovative health communication and community-based interventions to prevent childhood obesity.
Many of us are familiar with the golden grain with a funny spelling, quinoa (pronounced keen-wah). This grain, which is considered one of the most complete…
Genetically modified food labeling is not the only labeling issue in the food supply. Now we have another problem.
How can you be sure that grouper or tuna you bought yesterday was really what it was promised to be? According to the labs at Oceana.org you can't really trust the labeling of many common types of fish. And so far, there's appears to be nothing we can do about it unless the consumer complains enough.
EHS-Net Restaurant Food Safety Studies: What Have We Learned? – Laura Green Brown discusses the latest Environmental Health Specialists Network findings in restaurant food safety. This article is published in the March 2013 issue of the Journal of Environmental Health.
Restaurant Food Cooling Practices – EHS-Net article includes quantitative data on restaurants’ food cooling processes and practices such as whether cooling processes are tested and proven to be safe; temperature monitoring practices; refrigeration cooling practices, and cooling food temperatures.
The historic Oslo Conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons has concluded with the announcement of a follow-up meeting to be hosted by Mexico. A wide range of states and organisations agreed that an understanding of the global humanitarian consequences of nuclear detonations should be the starting point for urgent action to ban and eliminate nuclear weapons.
At the meeting hosted by Norwegian Foreign Minister Espen Barth Eide, 132 states, several UN agencies—including OCHA, UNDP and UNHCR—as well as the international Red Cross and Red Crescent movement, and ICAN, presented their findings on the environmental, developmental, and health consequences of nuclear detonations. They concluded that no international response plan could effectively be put in place to respond to such an event. As the facts and evidence sank in, many states expressed their recognition of a shared responsibility to act to prevent any accidental or intentional use of these weapons of mass suffering.
The announcement by Mexico to build on the Norwegian initiative by hosting a further meeting provides a new platform from which to consolidate the humanitarian arguments and to engage all states in a constructive dialogue to outlaw and eliminate nuclear weapons.
Dr Rebecca Johnson, ICAN Co-Chair said: “This Conference has shown that any use of nuclear armaments would cause mass suffering, with calculations of climate disruption and famine in non-nuclear as well as nuclear-armed countries. This global impact makes it the responsibility – and right – of everyone to take action to stop this from happening. The P5 have missed an opportunity for dialogue here, but it has not stopped countries moving forward. On the contrary, Mexico’s welcome decision to host a further meeting on this issue recognises that the nuclear weapon free countries have an important role to play.”
Thomas Nash, ICAN Steering Group member, said: “This conference is a new beginning towards the elimination of nuclear weapons. It is the first time states have come together to consider the humanitarian effects of nuclear weapons. 130 countries have chosen to confront the horror of these weapons and have realised that far from being powerless to do anything about it, they can and must take responsibility for putting in place a long overdue international ban.”
Dr Bob Mtonga, ICAN Steering Group member and physician from Zambia: “This Conference has shown us that the countries that have renounced nuclear weapons and concluded regional Nuclear Weapons Free Zones, such as Africa and Latin America, are providing important moral leadership to carry forward international efforts to free the world of nuclear weapons and prevent the global public health disaster that their use would create.”
Some key policy changes that need to be made in the United States in order to prevent illness and improve the health of millions of Americans have just been outlined in the Trust for America’s Health (TFAH) latest Healthier Americareport.***
The report includes a range of suggestions that focus on the prevention of chronic diseases, which currently affect more than half of the U.S. population. This would also help address the health problems facing today’s youth who are set to be the first generation that are less healthy than their parents. …
The recommendations involve some new and innovative approaches:
- Implementing a series of foundational capabilities to improve the country’s health system as well as restructuring public health programs with sustained funding.
- Establishing partnerships with nonprofit hospitals to develop new community benefit programs and expand support for prevention.
- Encourage that insurance providers compensate for all types of prevention strategies
- Ensuring that the Prevention and Public Health Fund continues and improve awareness of the Community Transformation Grant program.
- Maintain workplace wellness programs with employers as well as local and state governments.
The report also includes information about recommendations that are already in action:
- The Accountable Care Community (ACC) brought more than 70 different partners to help patients with type 2 diabetes in and out of the doctor’s office. The ACC managed to reduce the cost of care by more than 10 percent per month for patients with type 2 diabetes – meaning savings of around $3,185 per person yearly.
- The Boston Children’s Hospital implemented The Community Asthma Initiative (CAI) with the purpose of supporting children with asthma in the Boston area. The initiative helped reduce hospital admissions due to asthma-related causes by around 80 percent as well as reducing emergency visits due to asthma by 60 percent.
The report concludes that there are 10 main public health issues that need addressing:
- tobacco use
- healthy aging
- improving the health of minorities
- healthy babies
- environment health threats
- injury prevention
- controlling infectious diseases
- food safety
You’re standing in line at the grocery store when you realize that you don’t have your reusable bag. You’ll have to get a plastic bag. Again. You feel bad for a moment and then think that it’s just one bag. But it isn’t …
In the U.S. alone, 280 billion plastic bags are used each year, which is enough to stretch around the earth nearly 30,000 times. Making and using plastic bags has more repercussions than you might think. Check out the following infographic to see how exactly plastic bags affect our cities, our environment and even our economy.
Bust Out Your Reusable Bags, Alameda County; Ban Starts in Jan. (eastbayexpress.com)
Plastics have transformed modern society, providing attractive benefits but also befouling waterways and aquifers, depleting petroleum supplies and disrupting human health…
In a new overview appearing in the journal Reviews on Environmental Health, Halden and his co-author, ASU student Emily North, detail the risks and societal rewards of plastics and describe strategies to mitigate their negative impacts, through reconsideration of plastic composition, use and disposal.
“We are in need of a second plastic revolution. The first one brought us the age of plastics, changing human society and enabling the birth and explosive growth of many industries. But the materials used to make plastics weren’t chosen judiciously and we see the adverse consequences in widespread environmental pollution and unnecessary human exposure to harmful substances. Smart plastics of the future will be equally versatile but also non-toxic, biodegradable and made from renewable energy sources,” says Halden….
..plastics may be manufactured at low cost using little energy and their adaptable composition allows them to be synthesized in soft, transparent or flexible forms suitable for a broad range of medical applications. Because they can be readily disposed of, items like latex gloves, dialysis tubes, intravenous bags and plastic syringes eliminate the need for repeated sterilization, which is often costly and inefficient. Such single-use items have had a marked effect on reducing blood-borne infections, including hepatitis B and HIV…
he benefits of global plastics use can come at a steep price in terms of both human and environmental health. Continuous contact with plastic products, from the beginning to the end of life has caused chemical ingredients — some with potentially harmful effects — to form steady-state concentrations in the human body.
In recent years, two plastic-associated compounds have been singled out for particular scrutiny, due to their endocrine-disrupting properties: Bisphenol A (BPA) and di-(2-ethylhexyl)phthalate (DEHP). Studies of bioaccumulation have shown that detectable levels of BPA in urine have been identified in 95 percent of the adult population in the U.S. and both BPA and DEHP have been associated, through epidemiological and animal studies, with adverse effects on health and reproduction. These include early sexual maturation, decreased male fertility, aggressive behavior and other effects…
Biodegradeable plastics may break down in the environment into smaller polymer constituents, which may still pose a risk to the environment. Incineration liberates greenhouse gases associated with climate change. Landfilling of plastics, particularly in the enormous volumes now produced, may be an impractical use of land resources and a danger exists of plastics constituents entering the ground water. Finally, recycling of plastics requires careful sorting of plastic material, which is difficult. Recycled plastics tend to be of lower quality and may not be practical for health care and other application…
Many consumer products, such as water bottles and product containers, are made from various types of plastic. The Society of the Plastics Industry (SPI) established a classification system in 1988 to allow consumers and recyclers to properly recycle and dispose of different types of plastic. Manufacturers follow a coding system and place an SPI code, or number, on each plastic product, which is usually molded into the bottom. Although you should always verify the plastic classification number of each product you use, this guide provides a basic outline of the different plastic types associated with each code number.
Plastic marked with anSPI code of 1is made withPolyethylene Terephthalate, which is also known as PETE or PET. Containers made from this plastic sometimes absorb odors and flavors from foods and drinks that are stored in them. Items made from this plastic are commonly recycled. PETE plastic is used to make many common household items like beverage bottles, medicine jars, peanut butter jars, combs, bean bags, and rope. Recycled PETE is used to make tote bags, carpet, fiberfill material in winter clothing, and more.
Plastic marked with anSPI code of 2is made withHigh-Density Polyethylene, or HDPE. HDPEproducts are very safe and they are not known to transmit any chemicals into foods or drinks. HDPE products are commonly recycled. Items made from this plastic include containers for milk, motor oil, shampoos and conditioners, soap bottles, detergents, and bleaches. Many personalized toys are made from this plastic as well. (Please note: it is NEVER safe to reuse an HDPE bottle as a food or drink container if it didn’t originally contain food or drink!) Recycled HDPE is used to make plastic crates, plastic lumber, fencing, and more.
Plastic labeled with anSPI code of 3is made withPolyvinyl Chloride, or PVC. PVC is not often recycled and it can be harmful if ingested. PVC is used for all kinds of pipes and tiles, but it’s most commonly found in plumbing pipes. This kind of plastic should not come in contact with food items. Recycled PVC is used to make flooring, mobile home skirting, and more.
Plastic marked with anSPI code of 4is made withLow-Density Polyethylene, or LDPE. LDPE is not commonly recycled, but it is recyclable in certain areas. It is a very healthy plastic that tends to be both durable and flexible. Plastic cling wrap, sandwich bags, squeezable bottles, and plastic grocery bags are all made from LDPE. Recycled LDPE is used to make garbage cans, lumber, furniture, and more.
Plastic marked with anSPI code of 5is made withPolypropylene, or PP. PP is not commonly recycled, but it is accepted in many areas. This type of plastic is strong and can usually withstand higher temperatures. Among many other products, it is used to make plastic diapers, Tupperware, margarine containers, yogurt boxes, syrup bottles, prescription bottles, and some stadium cups. Plastic bottle caps are often made from PP as well. Recycled PP is used to make ice scrapers, rakes, battery cables, and more.
Plastic marked with anSPI code of 6is made withPolystyrene, also known as PSand most commonly known as Styrofoam. It is commonly recycled, but it is difficult to do so and often ends up in landfills anyway. Disposable coffee cups, plastic food boxes, plastic cutlery, packing foam, and packing peanuts are made from PS. Recycled PS is used to make insulation, license plate frames, rulers, and more.
The SPI code of 7is used to designate miscellaneous types of plastic that are not defined by the other six codes. Polycarbonate and Polylactide are included in this category. These types of plastics are difficult to recycle. Polycarbonate, or PC, is used in baby bottles, large water bottles (multiple-gallon capacity), compact discs, and medical storage containers. Recycled plastics in this category are used to make plastic lumber, among other products.
Consumers can make better plastic-purchasing decisions if they understand SPI codes and potential health hazards of each plastic, and recyclers can more effectively separate plastics into categories. Always check a product’s classification code prior to recycling it or re-using it. It’s important to stay educated about plastic classification numbers and plastic types; remember, informed consumers can demand that plastics manufacturers provide better products.
Dietary changes since the early 1960s have fueled a sharp increase in the amount of mined phosphorus used to produce the food consumed by the average person over the course of a year, according to a new study led by researchers at McGill University.
Between 1961 and 2007, rising meat consumption and total calorie intake underpinned a 38% increase in the world’s per capita “phosphorus footprint,” the researchers conclude in a paper published online in Environmental Research Letters.
The findings underscore a significant challenge to efforts to sustainably manage the supply of mined phosphorus, a non-renewable resource widely used as fertilizer. When phosphorus is lost through agricultural runoff or sewage systems, it can pollute waterways downstream. In addition, because deposits are heavily concentrated in a few countries, global supplies and prices for the resource are vulnerable to geopolitical tensions…..
Very interesting thoughts on the goals of Western medicine. Should medicine be about alleviating suffering? Totally eradicating disease through industrializing medicine (thing drug companies)? If global health is indeed largely affected by socioeconomic factors, should medicine drive policies?
A new study, published Dec. 27 in the open access journal PLOS Biology, finds that vector-borne and parasitic diseases have substantial effects on economic development across the globe, and are major drivers of differences in income between tropical and temperate countries. The burden of these diseases is, in turn, determined by underlying ecological factors: it is predicted to rise as biodiversity falls. This has significant implications for the economics of health care policy in developing countries, and advances our understanding of how ecological conditions can affect economic growth.
According to conventional economic wisdom, the foundation of economic growth is in political and economic institutions. “This is largely Cold War Economics about how to allocate property rights — with the government or with the private sector,” says Dr Matthew Bonds, an economist at Harvard Medical School, and the lead author of the new study. However, Dr Bonds and colleagues were interested instead in biological processes that transcend such institutions, and which might form a more fundamental economic foundation…
The results of the analysis suggest that infectious disease has as powerful an effect on a nation’s economic health as governance, say the authors. “The main asset of the poor is their own labor,” says Dr Bonds. “Infectious diseases, which are regulated by the environment, systematically steal human resources. Economically speaking, the effect is similar to that of crime or government corruption on undermining economic growth.”
This result has important significance for international aid organizations, as it suggests that money spent on combating disease would also stimulate economic growth….
Computer scientists at the University of California, San Diego have built a small fleet of portable pollution sensors that allow users to monitor air quality in real time on their smart phones. The sensors could be particularly useful to people suffering from chronic conditions, such as asthma, who need to avoid exposure to pollutants.
CitiSense is the only air-quality monitoring system capable of delivering real-time data to users’ cell phones and home computers-at any time. Data from the sensors can also be used to estimate air quality throughout the area where the devices are deployed, providing information to everyone – not just those carrying sensors…
“The people who are doing the most to reduce emissions, by biking or taking the bus, were the people who experienced the highest levels of exposure to pollutants,” said Griswold.
Users discovered that pollution varied not only based on location, but also on the time of the day. When Charles Elkan, a professor in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering, drove into work in mid-morning, the readings on his sensor were low. But when he drove back home in rush hour in the afternoon, readings were sometimes very high….
It has been more than a week since I last posted here.
Energies and focus were on volunteer, peace/justice, and church activities as well as family.
Am doing some serious reflection…and re-thinking what do I want to do as (not when here at age 58) I grow up.
This “recycling” link is in the current Green Note Column of the Mount St. Agnes Theological Center for Women newsletter.
…On average, we waste 14% of our food purchases per year, and the average American family throws out over $600 of fruit per year. Most of the food we waste is due to spoilage; we’re buying too much and using too little of it.
Using Up Vegetables
1. Leftover mashed potatoes from dinner? Make them into patty shapes the next morning and cook them in butter for a pretty good “mock hash brown.”
2. Don’t toss those trimmed ends from onions, carrots, celery, or peppers. Store them in your freezer, and once you have a good amount saved up, add them to a large pot with a few cups of water and make homemade vegetable broth. This is also a great use for cabbage cores and corn cobs.
3. Don’t toss broccoli stalks. They can be peeled and sliced, then prepared just like broccoli florets.
4. If you have to dice part of an onion or pepper for a recipe, don’t waste the rest of it. Chop it up and store it in the freezer for the next time you need diced onion or peppers….
The rest of the list is great
Some I’ve done (homemade breadcrumbs, toasted leftover pancakes that were put in freezer).
Many are new (melt fat into suet for birds, pickle juice for refrigerator pickles or dirty martinis)
Thinking to post a copy of this list on the side of the fridge.
The Future of Veterinary Public Health will be
Since 60-70% of all emerging diseases are zoonotic, there will be plenty of work to go around for veterinarians, physicians and allied health professionals! Diseases that we should be particularly careful about are respiratory diseases with easy airborne transmission. Recent examples of diseases that circulated in animals and then jumped species to humans and then easily spread among humans are SARS and some influenzas such as H1N1 (pigs are origin) & H5N1 (birds are a source)….
Many professionals and pre-professionals in the field of veterinary public health see the future of the discipline becoming more expansive and comprehensive. They predict that more veterinarians will turn to public health practice and that veterinary medicine will take a more prominent role in the field of public health. Currently at Ohio State, an example of progress in bridging the gap between veterinary medicine and human medicine is Dr. Armando Hoet’s research, which adds to the knowledge base of Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureas (MRSA) by demonstrating how animals and human-animal interactions can contribute to the spread of MRSA.
New terms like Zoobiquity (or Zoob for short) describing the One Health concept may feel awkward at first, but we’ll find our groove. We just have to remind or teach ourselves and our colleagues that animals and humans have coexisted for thousands of years, sharing germs and interacting on equal and unequal terms. We may look starkly different on the outside, but we have a shared biology and our medicines should reflect that similarity.
As the world’s climate continues to change, hazards to human health are increasing. The Atlas of health and climate, published today jointly by WHO and the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), illustrates some of the most pressing current and emerging challenges.
Droughts, floods and cyclones affect the health of millions of people each year. Climate variability and extreme conditions such as floods can also trigger epidemics of diseases such as diarrhoea, malaria, dengue and meningitis, which cause death and suffering for many millions more. The Atlas gives practical examples of how the use of weather and climate information can protect public health.
Climate risk management
“Prevention and preparedness are the heart of public health. Risk management is our daily bread and butter. Information on climate variability and climate change is a powerful scientific tool that assists us in these tasks,” said Dr Margaret Chan, Director-General of WHO. “Climate has a profound impact on the lives, and survival, of people. Climate services can have a profound impact on improving these lives, also through better health outcomes.”
Until now, climate services have been an underutilized resource for public health.
“Stronger cooperation between the meteorological and health communities is essential to ensure that up-to-date, accurate and relevant information on weather and climate is integrated into public health management at international, national and local levels. This Atlas is an innovative and practical example of how we can work together to serve society,” said WMO Secretary-General Mr Michel Jarraud.
Links between health and climate
Numerous maps, tables and graphs assembled in the Atlas make the links between health and climate more explicit:
- In some locations the incidence of infectious diseases such as malaria, dengue, meningitis and cholera can vary by factors of more than 100 between seasons, and significantly between years, depending on weather and climate conditions. Stronger climate services in endemic countries can help predict the onset, intensity and duration of epidemics.
- Case studies illustrate how collaboration between meteorological, emergency and health services is already saving lives. For example, the death toll from cyclones of similar intensity in Bangladesh reduced from around 500 000 in 1970, to 140 000 in 1991, to 3 000 in 2007 – largely thanks to improved early warning systems and preparedness.
- Heat extremes that would currently be expected to occur only once in 20 years, may occur on average every 2-5 years by the middle of this century. At the same time, the number of older people living in cities (one of the most vulnerable groups to heat stress), will almost quadruple globally, from 380 million in 2010, to 1.4 billion in 2050. Cooperation between health and climate services can trigger measures to better protect people during periods of extreme weather.
- Shifting to clean household energy sources would both reduce climate change, and save the lives of approximately 680 000 children a year from reduced air pollution. The Atlas also shows how meteorological and health services can collaborate to monitor air pollution and its health impacts.
- In addition, the unique tool shows how the relationship between health and climate is shaped by other vulnerabilities, such as those created by poverty, environmental degradation, and poor infrastructure, especially for water and sanitation.
A University of British Columbia and Centre for Molecular Medicine and Therapeutics (CMMT) study has revealed that childhood poverty, stress as an adult, and demographics such as age, sex and ethnicity, all leave an imprint on a person’s genes. And, that this imprint could play a role in our immune response. …
Known as epigenetics, or the study of changes in gene expression, this research examined a process called DNA methylation where a chemical molecule is added to DNA and acts like a dimmer on a light bulb switch, turning genes on or off or setting them somewhere in between. Research has shown that a person’s life experiences play a role in shaping DNA methylation patterns. ..
“We found biological residue of early life poverty,” said Michael Kobor, an associate professor of medical genetics at UBC, whose CMMT lab at the Child & Family Research Institute (CFRI) led the research. “This was based on clear evidence that environmental influences correlate with epigenetic patterns.” ..
- Genes, Immune System Shaped by Childhood Poverty, Stress (dogmaandgeopolitics.wordpress.com)
- Kobor, CMMT study shows genes and immune system shaped by childhood poverty, stress (aplaceofmind.ubc.ca)
- New Study: Stress Increases Risk of Mental, Physical Illness (baktoedenherbalproducts.wordpress.com)
Berkeley Lab researchers found that even moderately elevated levels of indoor carbon dioxide resulted in lower scores on six of nine scales of human decision-making performance. (Credit: Image courtesy of DOE/Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory)
Overturning decades of conventional wisdom, researchers at the Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) have found that moderately high indoor concentrations of carbon dioxide (CO2) can significantly impair people’s decision-making performance. The results were unexpected and may have particular implications for schools and other spaces with high occupant density.
On nine scales of decision-making performance, test subjects showed significant reductions on six of the scales at CO2 levels of 1,000 parts per million (ppm) and large reductions on seven of the scales at 2,500 ppm. The most dramatic declines in performance, in which subjects were rated as “dysfunctional,” were for taking initiative and thinking strategically. “Previous studies have looked at 10,000 ppm, 20,000 ppm; that’s the level at which scientists thought effects started,” said Berkeley Lab scientist Mark Mendell, also a co-author of the study. “That’s why these findings are so startling.”
While the results need to be replicated in a larger study, they point to possible economic consequences of pursuing energy efficient buildings without regard to occupants. “As there’s a drive for increasing energy efficiency, there’s a push for making buildings tighter and less expensive to run,” said Mendell. “There’s some risk that, in that process, adverse effects on occupants will be ignored. One way to make sure occupants get the attention they deserve is to point out adverse economic impacts of poor indoor air quality. If people can’t think or perform as well, that could obviously have adverse economic impacts.”
The primary source of indoor CO2 is humans….
IN the United States, 2.8 million children are living in households with incomes of less than $2 per person per day, a benchmark more often applied to developing countries. An additional 20 million Americans live in extreme poverty. In the Gulf Coast states of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama, poverty rates are near 20 percent. In some of the poorer counties of Texas, where I live, rates often approach 30 percent. In these places, the Gini coefficient, a measure of inequality, ranks as high as in some sub-Saharan African countries.
Poverty takes many tolls, but in the United States, one of the most tragic has been its tight link with a group of infections known as the neglected tropical diseases, which we ordinarily think of as confined to developing countries.
Most troubling of all, they can even increase the levels of poverty in these areas by slowing the growth and intellectual development of children and impeding productivity in the work force. They are the forgotten diseases of forgotten people, and Texas is emerging as an epicenter.
A key impediment to eliminating neglected tropical diseases in the United States is that they frequently go unrecognized because the disenfranchised people they afflict do not or cannot seek out health care.
While immigration is sometimes blamed for introducing neglected tropical diseases into the United States, the real issue is that they are now, to varying degrees, also being transmitted within our borders. Without new interventions, they are here to stay and destined to trap people in poverty for decades to come. Fifty years ago, Michael Harrington’s book “The Other America: Poverty in the United States” became a national best seller. Today more people than ever before live in poverty in this country. We must now turn our attention to the diseases of this Other America.
While immigration is sometimes blamed for introducing neglected tropical diseases into the United States, the real issue is that they are now, to varying degrees, also being transmitted within our borders. Without new interventions, they are here to stay and destined to trap people in poverty for decades to come. Fifty years ago, Michael Harrington’s book “The Other America: Poverty in the United States” became a national best seller. Today more people than ever before live in poverty in this country. We must now turn our attention to the diseases of this Other America.
Disruptions to the circadian rhythm can affect the growth of blood vessels in the body, thus causing illnesses such asdiabetes, obesity, and cancer, according to a new study from Linkoping University and Karolinska Institutet.
The circadian rhythm is regulated by a “clock” that reacts to both incoming light and genetic factors.
In an article now being published in the scientific journal Cell Reports, it is demonstrated for the first time that disruption of the circadian rhythm immediately inhibits blood vessel growth in zebra fish embryos.
Professor Yihai Cao leads a research group, which has demonstrated that the breaking point is the production of a very important signalling substance: vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF). The formation of this substance requires a normal circadian rhythm…
“The results can definitely be translated into clinical circumstances. Individuals with disrupted circadian rhythms – for example, shift workers who work under artificial lights at night, people with sleep disorders or a genetic predisposition – should be on guard against illnesses associated with disrupted blood vessel growth,” says Lasse Dahl Jensen (pictured), researcher in Cardiovascular Physiology at Linköping University (LiU), and lead writer of the article.
Such diseases include heart attack, stroke, chronic inflammation, and cancer. Disruptions in blood vessel growth can also affect foetal development, women’s reproductive cycles, and the healing of wounds.
Most of the world’s population will be subject to degraded air quality in 2050 if man-made emissions continue as usual. In this ‘business-as-usual’ scenario, the average world citizen 40 years from now will experience similar air pollution to that of today’s average East Asian citizen. These conclusions are those of a study published in Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics, an Open Access journal of the European Geosciences Union (EGU).
Air pollution is a major health risk that may worsen with increasing industrial activity. At present, urban outdoor air pollution causes 1.3 million estimated deaths per year worldwide, according to the World Health Organisation .
“Strong actions and further effective legislation are essential to avoid the drastic deterioration of air quality, which can have severe effects on human health,” concludes the team of scientists, led by Andrea Pozzer of the Abdus Salam International Centre for Theoretical Physics in Italy (now at the Max Planck Institute of Chemistry in Germany), in the new paper.
The researchers studied the impact of man-made emissions on air quality, assuming past emission trends continue and no additional climate change and air pollution reduction measures (beyond what is in place since 2005) are implemented. They point out that, while pessimistic, the global emissions trends indicate such continuation…
The analysis now published is the first to include all five major air pollutants know to negatively impact human health: PM2.5, nitrogen dioxide, sulphur dioxide, ozone, and carbon monoxide. The scientists considered pollutants released through human activity, as well as those occurring naturally such as desert dust, sea spray, or volcanic emissions.
Taking all pollutants into account, eastern China, northern India, the Middle East, and North Africa are projected to have the world’s poorest air quality in the future. In the latter locations this is due to a combination of natural desert dust and man-induced ozone. The effect of anthropogenic pollution emissions are predicted to be most harmful in East and South Asia, where air pollution is projected to triple compared to current levels.
[Full text is free at above link]
Susan G. Komen for the Cure asked the Institute of Medicine (IOM) to perform a comprehensive review of environmental causes and risk factors for breast cancer. Interestingly, none of the consumer products (ie, bisphenol A, phthalates), industrial chemicals (ie, benzene, ethylene oxide), or pesticides (ie, DDT/DDE) considered could be conclusively linked to an increased risk of breast cancer, although the IOM acknowledged that the available evidence was insufficient to draw firm conclusions for many of these exposures, calling for more research in these areas. The IOM found sufficient evidence to conclude that the 2 environmental factors most strongly associated with breast cancer were exposure to ionizing radiation and to combined postmenopausal hormone therapy. The IOM’s conclusion of a causal relation between radiation exposure and cancer is consistent with a large and varied literature showing that exposure to radiation in the same range as used for computed tomography will increase the risk of cancer. It is the responsibility of individual health care providers who order medical imaging to understand and weigh the risk of any medical procedures against the expected benefit.
Susan G. Komen for the Cure, the largest grassroots network of breast cancer survivors and activists in the United States, asked the Institute of Medicine (IOM) to perform a comprehensive and evidence-based review of environmental causes and risk factors for breast cancer, with a focus on identifying evidence-based actions that women can take to reduce their risk.1 Environmental exposures were defined broadly to include all factors not genetically inherited, and the IOM committee appointed to write this report included academicians and chairs from departments of environmental health, toxicology, cancer epidemiology, preventive medicine, and biostatistics in addition to advocates for patients with breast cancer. Committee members conducted their own reviews of the peer-reviewed epidemiological and basic science literature, commissioned several papers specifically for their report, and drew on evidence-based reviews already completed by organizations such as the Agency for Research on Cancer and the World Cancer Research Fund International. The publication Breast Cancer and the Environment: A Life Course Approach was released online in December 2011.1
This method of malarial control is not without controversy***, especially among folks who are against genetic engineering of any kind.
Back in 1980-81 I came down with malaria four times in Liberia where I served as a Peace Corps volunteer. Each time I came down with it on a Tuesday after forgetting to take my weekly preventative (Chloroquine) on Sunday. Thankfully each time it was similar to a mild flu bug and I was back at work the next day.
Since then, Chloroquine is ineffective in Liberia. The malarial strains are much more virulent. Back in the early 80′s the virulent malarial strains in Africa were mostly in East Africa.
By genetically modifying gut bacteria in the malaria mosquito, US researchers have found a potentially powerful way to fight malaria. The modified “friendly” bacteria, which live in the midgut of the mosquito alongside the malaria parasite, produce toxins that are deadly to the parasite but do not harm humans or mosquitoes…
..”In the past, we worked to genetically modify the mosquito to resist malaria, but genetic modification of bacteria is a simpler approach.”..
…The battle against malaria has to be fought on a number of fronts: insect repellent and bed nets can help prevent transmission from mosquitoes to humans, but work like that of Jacobs-Lorena and colleagues helps to find ways to control malaria one step earlier by eliminating infection within the mosquito itself.
In May 2011, another team from Johns Hopkins University reported identifying a class of naturally occurring bacteria that can strongly inhibit malaria parasites in mosquitoes. They found the presence of Enterobacter reduced various developmental stages of P. falciparum, including the stage that is transmitted to humans through a mosquito bite, were reduced by 98 to 99%….
People should take action to prevent tick bites in the Northeast and upper Midwest, where infections with babesiosis are common, according to a report from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Individuals living in or visiting the Northeast or upper Midwest regions of the United States have another good reason to be vigilant about preventing tick bites: a new report from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggests that infections with the tickborne infection babesiosis are common in the United States.
Prompted by an increase in reports of babesiosis infections transmitted by tick bites and blood transfusion in the United States, the CDC launched a national surveillance program to assess the frequency of babesiosis transmission. The surveillance program, which included 18 states and New York City, identified 1124 confirmed and probable cases, including 10 associated with blood transfusion. The vast majority of cases were reported in Connecticut, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, and Wisconsin. More than half of the cases occurred in individuals aged 60 years or older, and most patients (82%) experienced the onset of symptoms during the months of June, July, and August…
…they advise people in affected regions to avoid tick-infested areas, to wear long pants and long-sleeved shirts when outside, to apply repellents, and to shower and check for ticks after potential exposure.
Incidence* of reported cases of babesiosis, by county of residence† — 18 states,§ 2011
THURSDAY, July 12 (HealthDay News) — Babesiosis — a parasitic illness spread by ticks — is posing a serious threat this summer, especially in certain parts of the country, a U.S. government report warns.
Meanwhile, mosquitoes continue to spread the West Nile virus, according to another report in the July 13 issue of the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.
Babesiosis, the lesser-known disease, is endemic in the Northeast and upper Midwest, where states reported more than 1,100 cases in 2011, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Of those, 847 were confirmed cases and the rest were probable cases.
The bulk of cases came from seven states: Connecticut, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York [including New York City], Rhode Island and Wisconsin.
While I know folks who are prone to conditions triggered by chemical intolerances….am blessed that environmental chemicals don’t seem to affect me for whatever reason..
Am posting this especially for folks with chronic conditions of any kind. Please ask your health care provider if screening, testing,prevention of, and treating for chemical intolerances is right for you.
Chemical intolerance contributes to the illnesses of 1 in 5 patients but the condition seldom figures in their diagnosis, according to clinical research directed by a UT Medicine San Antonio physician.
Clinical tools are available to identify chemical intolerance but health care practitioners may not be using them, lead author David Katerndahl, M.D., M.A., said. The study is in the July 9 issue of Annals of Family Medicine.UT Medicine is the clinical practice of the School of Medicine at The University of Texas Health Science Center San Antonio.
Avoidance of triggers
The study’s authors said physicians need to know how chemical intolerance affects certain people and understand that conventional therapies can be ineffective. Some patients would improve by avoiding certain chemicals, foods and even medical prescriptions, the authors said.
Patients with chemical intolerance go to the doctor more than others, are prone to having multi-system symptoms and are more apt to have to quit their job due to physical impairment, the authors said….
…Chemically intolerant individuals often have symptoms that affect multiple organ systems simultaneously, especially the nervous system. Symptoms commonly include fatigue, changes in mood, difficulty thinking and digestive problems.
The 2012 Environmental Performance Index (EPI) (99 page pdf, Yale Center for Environmental Law and Policy, Yale University, Center for International Earth Science Information Network, Columbia University, 2012)
Also discussed here: New Rankings on Environmental Performance (The Dirt, ASLA, Jun. 5, 2012)
The Environmental Performance Index assesses the relative progress of 132 countries with 22 performance indicators. The 2012 ranking showed Switzerland, Latvia and Norway at the top, Canada in 37th position and the USA, 49th.
14 Ways to Reduce Your Plastic Consumption (In Substainability and Health)
Plastic is found in an astonishing percentage of products or packaging today. It’s in your computer, your car, your refrigerator, your toothbrush, your recycle bin (ironically enough), your fork at lunch, your to-go box for dinner, and even your clothes. And of the nearly 30 million tonsof plastic Americans generate each year, only about seven percent was recycled. Besides piling up in our landfills, floating around in our oceans, leaching chemicals into our soil, and increasing our dependency on oil (yes, most production involves a large amount of oil), it’s also potentially harmful to our health.
A common compound in plastic is called Bisphenol A, or BPA. This chemical is often found in food packaging, plastic bottles, toys and other consumer goods, and more than90 percent of us have traces of it in our bodies due to the large amount of plastic we encounter. This chemical has been linked tohealth problems such as infertility, developmental issues, and prostate and breast cancers. While eliminating BPA and plastic from your life may be impossible, I think it’s worth making a few changes to reduce your exposure. Below are some ways I avoid plastic in my life, both to benefit my health and the planet.
1. Use reusable grocery bags. …
2. Don’t use individually packaged items…
3. Shop bulk bins….
8. Bag your trash more efficiently. ..
9. Stop accepting plastic utensils. ..
14. Buy bar soap instead of body wash. …
Includes these tipsCompost your rubbish to reduce your use of plastic bags.
- Don’t use bin liners – just tip your rubbish into the bin.
- Bring unusable cloth bags to the shops with you.
- Avoid buying beverages in plastic bottles – opt for glass where possible.
- Carry your own thermal mug and ask coffee retailers to fill it for you rather than taking a disposable cup. Bring your own coffee mug to work with you.
- Avoid buying foods packaged in plastic. Buy loose fruit and vegetables.
- Make your own bread or buy it from bakeries that package it in paper.
- Clean your home with baking soda and vinegar instead of using cleaning products packaged in plastic.
- Buy washing powder in boxes, not liquid in plastic containers.
- Buy cheese and meat from your local delicatessen and have it wrapped in paper.
- Use bar soap to wash your dishes – and yourself.
- Use scented candles or incense instead of artificial air fresheners.
- Buy milk in paper cartons or glass, rather than plastic bottles.
- Buy toilet paper that is wrapped in paper, not plastic.
- Don’t wrap left-over foods in cling film – use aluminium or wax paper instead.
- Use matches instead of plastic-encased lighters.
- Give your pets cloth-based toys, like catnip mice and soft balls.
- Buy cloth nappies instead of disposables.
- Stuff delicate postal packages with old newspapers or junk mail instead of bubble wrap.
- Use rechargeable batteries to avoid buying batteries packaged in plastic.
A lifestyle that features fresh foods and limited use of products likely to contain environmental chemicals has been shown to reduce exposure to endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs), such as BPA and phthalates, in a small population study. EDCs are linked to a number of adverse health complications including neuro-developmental delays, behavioral issues and fertility problems. They are produced by the millions of pounds per year and found extensively in a range of products that contain certain plastics. …
Environmental Health Ethics illuminates the conflicts between protecting the environment and promoting human health. In this study, David B. Resnik develops a method for making ethical decisions on environmental health issues. He applies this method to various issues, including pesticide use, antibiotic resistance, nutrition policy, vegetarianism, urban development, occupational safety, disaster preparedness, and global climate change. Resnik provides readers with the scientific and technical background necessary to understand these issues. He explains that environmental health controversies cannot simply be reduced to humanity versus environment and explores the ways in which human values and concerns – health, economic development, rights, and justice – interact with environmental protection.
Features• Develops a method for ethical decision-making for environmental health controversies which incorporates insights from traditional ethical theories and environmental ethics
• Covers a wide range of timely and important issues, ranging from pesticide use to global warming
• Provides a description of the relevant background information accessible to an audience of educated non-specialists
From a recent email from NLM (US National Library of Medicine)
The National Library of Medicine (NLM) Division of Specialized Information Services (SIS) has released redesigned web and mobile versions of Haz-Map (http://hazmap.nlm.nih.gov/ ). The new design adapts to web browsers on desktop computers, laptops, and tablets, as well as mobile browsers on smart phones, such as iPhones, Android and Blackberry phones.
Haz-Map is an occupational health database designed for health and safety professionals and for consumers seeking information about the health effects of exposure to chemicals and biologicals at work. Haz-Map links jobs and hazardous tasks with occupational diseases and their symptoms. It currently covers over 5997 chemical and biological agents and 235 occupational diseases.
More information can be found at http://www.nlm.nih.gov/pubs/factsheets/hazmap.html