Health and Medical News and Resources

General interest items edited by Janice Flahiff

Energy-Efficient Buildings Can Be Hazardous To Health

 

From the Harvard School of Public Health press release

Buildings that are being weatherized and made energy-efficient and air tight can be hazardous to one’s health, according to a new Institute of Medicine (IOM) report. The report, “Climate Change, the Indoor Environment, and Health,” prepared by a committee chaired by Harvard School of Public Health’s (HSPH) John Spengler, recommends that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) ensure that building weatherization and energy-efficiency efforts not generate new indoor health issues or worsen existing air quality. Among concerns cited are energy-efficiency updates (retrofits) of older buildings, use of untested or risky upgrades, and other alterations that could generate mold-causing dampness, poor ventilation, excessive temperatures, and emissions from building materials that may contribute to health problems.

“America is in the midst of a large experiment in which weatherization efforts, retrofits and other initiatives that affect air exchange between the indoor and outdoor environments are taking place, and new building materials and consumer products are being introduced indoors with relatively little consideration as to how they might affect the health of occupants,” Spengler, Akira Yamaguchi Professor of Environmental Health and Human Habitation at HSPH, said in an IOM press release. “Experience suggests that some of the effects could be negative. An upfront investment to consider the consequences of these actions before they play out and to avoid problems where they can be anticipated will yield benefits in health and in averted costs of medical care, remediation, and lost productivity.”

The report was written at the request of the EPA, which asked the IOM to summarize current scientific understanding of the effects of climate change on indoor air and public health, and to offer priorities for action.

Read the Institute of Medicine Report

Read the UPI.com story


July 13, 2011 Posted by | Consumer Health, Consumer Safety, Public Health | , , , , | Leave a comment

Environmental Public Health Tracking Program: Description and Current Uses

 

From an email alert by Max Anderson through http://nnlm.gov/gmr/

The CDC’s National Environmental Public Health Tracking program provides
national data for environment and health topics at www.cdc.gov/ephtracking.
The data are displayed in maps, charts, and tables for state and county
data. These topics include:

•Asthma

•Birth defects

•Cancer

•Carbon monoxide poisoning

•Childhood lead poisoning

•Heart attacks

•Population characteristics

•Reproductive and birth outcomes

The website is targeted at researchers, health professionals, elected
officials, and people who are interested in learning more about population
health. More information is available in a fact sheet (
http://ephtracking.cdc.gov/docs/National_Tracking_Network_Fact_Sheet04012011.pdf)
and Youtube video (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J42CLZH1NlE&feature=player_embedded).

Additionally, the National program funds 24 states and a city to create
their own website with environment and health data. One example of a
grantees website is in Wisconsin (www.dhs.wi.gov/epht). The website
provides additional measures and the ability to compare a county’s progress
on a time series chart.

July 13, 2011 Posted by | Public Health | , , | Leave a comment

National Prevention Strategy: America’s Plan for Better Health and Wellness

National Prevention Strategy: America’s Plan for Better Health and Wellness

From the press release:

The National Prevention Strategy includes actions that public and private partners can take to help Americans stay healthy and fit and improve our nation’s prosperity. The strategy outlines four strategic directions that, together, are fundamental to improving the nation’s health.  Those four strategic directions are:

  • Building Healthy and Safe Community Environments:  Prevention of disease starts in our communities and at home; not just in the doctor’s office.
  • Expanding Quality Preventive Services in Both Clinical and Community Settings: When people receive preventive care, such as immunizations and cancer screenings, they have better health and lower health care costs.
  • Empowering People to Make Healthy Choices:  When people have access to actionable and easy-to-understand information and resources, they are empowered to make healthier choices.
  • Eliminating Health Disparities: By eliminating disparities in achieving and maintaining health, we can help improve quality of life for all Americans.

June 23, 2011 Posted by | Health News Items | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Environmental Health Student Portal – Connecting Middle School Students to Environmental Health Information

Environmental Health Student Portal – Connecting Middle School Students to Environmental Health Information

From the About Page

 

he Environmental Health Student Portal, a product of the National Library of Medicine (NLM), National Institutes of Health (NIH), provides a safe and useful resource for students and teachers in grades 6 – 8 to learn how the environment can impact our health. The Web site explores topics such as water pollution, climate change, air pollution, and chemicals.

The topics covered within this Web site provide a great resource tool for teachers. Teachers can use the site to introduce topics, supplement existing materials, or to further explore the connection between human activities and the environment and how these activities affect our health. This resource is a reliable Web site for students to explore and obtain information for research assignments and science fair projects ideas.

The Environmental Health Student Portal takes advantage of several different mediums. The site links to articles, games, activities, and videos. Text varies from easy-to-read to advanced reading levels, which makes this a versatile tool both in and out of the classroom. Users can also explore Science, Technology Engineering, and Math (STEM) careers and view current event press releases from MedlinePlus on environmental health related topics.

A sampling from the Web site

Related Resources

 

 


June 20, 2011 Posted by | Educational Resources (High School/Early College(, Public Health | , , | Leave a comment

The Future Of Our Planet Linked To The Health Of Its People

Se below

Image via Wikipedia

From the 14 June 2011 Medical News Today article

A major new research project will examine how policies deProfessor Clive Sabel, from the University of Exeter’s Geography department and European Centre for Environment and Human Health (ECEHH) and leader of the project, said: “If we don’t start reducing greenhouse gas emissions from cities, the planet will get hotter and hotter, but every policy to tackle those emissions has a potentially profound effect on human health.

“That could be positive or negative, so in order to make that assessment we have to look at all the evidence and relate that to the on-the-ground technical, social, economic, political and cultural realities. This research aims to integrate data from a large variety of sources to inform key policy decisions to ensure city life is a healthy, positive experience that is sustainable for the future of our planet.”

The European Centre for Environment and Human Health (ECEHH), part of the Peninsula College of Medicine and Dentistry, will also be taking part in the research. Professor Lora Fleming, Director of the centre, said: “One of the unique strengths of this study is the cross cultural comparisons of approaches across many nations, both developing and developed. Climate change is a global environment and human health issue which must be addressed on both local and international levels. This study will help provide some of these future approaches.”

The research will look ahead to 2030 and 2080 to see what the impact would be if various carbon reduction policies would be, particularly in context of a warming climate where issues such as heat stress and water availability will become more prevalent.
signed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions could impact human health.

Led by the University of Exeter the three year 3.5 million Euros programme of research will involve experts from 17 institutions across eight countries. …

…Professor Clive Sabel, from the University of Exeter’s Geography department and European Centre for Environment and Human Health (ECEHH) and leader of the project, said: “If we don’t start reducing greenhouse gas emissions from cities, the planet will get hotter and hotter, but every policy to tackle those emissions has a potentially profound effect on human health.

“That could be positive or negative, so in order to make that assessment we have to look at all the evidence and relate that to the on-the-ground technical, social, economic, political and cultural realities. This research aims to integrate data from a large variety of sources to inform key policy decisions to ensure city life is a healthy, positive experience that is sustainable for the future of our planet.”

The European Centre for Environment and Human Health (ECEHH), part of the Peninsula College of Medicine and Dentistry, will also be taking part in the research. Professor Lora Fleming, Director of the centre, said: “One of the unique strengths of this study is the cross cultural comparisons of approaches across many nations, both developing and developed. Climate change is a global environment and human health issue which must be addressed on both local and international levels. This study will help provide some of these future approaches.”

The research will look ahead to 2030 and 2080 to see what the impact would be if various carbon reduction policies would be, particularly in context of a warming climate where issues such as heat stress and water availability will become more prevalent.

June 14, 2011 Posted by | environmental health | , , , | Leave a comment

Carcinogens – Eight Substances Added To The List

12th Report on Carcinogens

From the 12 June 2011 Medical News Today article

Eight substances have been added to the list of carcinogens by the HSS (US Department of Health and Human Services) today. The Report of Carcinogens has added formaldehyde, aristolochic acids, o-nitrotoluene, captafol, cobalt-tungsten carbide (in powder or hard metal form), riddelliine, certain inhalable glass wool fibers, and styrene to the list of carcinogens….

…The NTP prepares the Report on Carcinogens for the HHS Secretary. It is a congressionally mandated document. It identifies substances, agents, mixtures or exposures in two categories:

  • Those that are known to be human carcinogens
  • Those reasonably anticipated to be human carcinogens

A substance which is included in the list in the Report on Carcinogens does not in itself mean it causes cancer. There are many factors which cause cancer, including how long the human is exposed and a person’s susceptibility to a particular substance.

There are now 240 carcinogens in the list.

Related Resources

  • Environmental Health and Toxicology (specialized information services from the US National Institutes of Health and US National Library of Medicine)
    • HazMap -an occupational toxicology database designed to link jobs to hazardous job tasks which are linked to occupational diseases and their symptoms. It is a relational database of chemicals, jobs and diseases.ToxNet - Databases on toxicology, hazardous chemicals, environmental health, and toxic releases
    • Household Products Databases - This database links over 8,000 consumer brands to health effects from Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) provided by the manufacturers and allows scientists and consumers to research products based on chemical ingredients and many more databases..
    • Toxicology Web links from NIH & NLM (extensive list of govt, non-govt, and international Web sites)
    • Toxicology Resources especially for the public (from NIH and NLM), including ToxTown and ToxMap

June 14, 2011 Posted by | Consumer Health, Consumer Safety, Public Health | , , , | Leave a comment

Haz-Map updated to include more information about occupational exposures to hazardous substances

Haz-Map: Occupational Exposure to Hazardous Agents

  as Search Agents Search Diseases Search Jobs Full Text Search

From a 4 May 2011 National Library of Medicine listerv item 

Haz-Map now includes 1212 new chemical agents and twelve chemical
categories with significance regarding occupational exposure.

The twelve categories of chemical agents include metals, solvents,
pesticides, mineral dusts, toxic gases and vapors, plastics and rubber,
biological agents, nitrogen compounds, dyes, physical agents, other
classes, and other uses.
http://hazmap.nlm.nih.gov/cgi-bin/hazmap_cgi?level=0&tree=Agent

Haz-Map is an occupational toxicology database designed to link jobs to
hazardous job tasks which are linked to occupational diseases and their
symptoms.

The Haz-Map Jobs table is based on the 1997 Standard Occupational
Classification (SOC) system. The Industries table is based on the North
American Industry Classification System (NAICS). The Diseases table is
based on the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-9).

Information from textbooks, journal articles, and electronic databases was
classified and summarized to create the database.

Other NLM toxicology databases include

  • Household Products Database -Potential health effects of chemicals for common household products
  • Tox Town -Interactive guide to potentially toxic substances and environmental health issues in everyday places
  • TOXNET -Databases on hazardous chemicals, environmental health, and toxic releases



May 5, 2011 Posted by | Biomedical Research Resources, Consumer Health, Consumer Safety, Finding Aids/Directories, Librarian Resources, Public Health | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Annual Health Care Costs Rise Dramatically, Says New Study

Percent of Youth 4-17 ever diagnosed with Atte...

Percent of Youth 4-17 ever diagnosed with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder: National Survey of Children's Health, 2003

Poor childhood health caused by environmental factors, such as air pollution and exposure to toxic chemicals, cost the United States $76.6 billion in 2008, according to authors of a new study in the May issue of Health Affairs. This price tag represents a dramatic increase in recent years, rising from 2.8 percent of total health care costs in 1997 to 3.5 percent in 2008…

Click here for a Medical News Today summary of the research article (May 3, 2011)

Excerpts

Researchers used recent data to estimate the number of environmentally induced conditions in children and then calculated the annual cost for direct medical care and indirect costs, such as lost productivity resulting from parents’ caring for sick children. They found that the aggregate cost of environmental illness in children was $76.6 billion in 2008 dollars.

The study provides an update to an analysis of 1997 data that documented $54.9 billion in annual costs of environmentally contributable childhood diseases in the United States. In comparing the two studies, researchers found that diminished exposure to lead and reductions in costs for asthma care were offset by diseases newly identified as environmentally induced, including attention deficit disorder,[Editor Flahiff's note: see above map] and the added burden of mercury exposure. This toxic metal, from contaminated fish and coal-fired power plants, can harm the developing brain and is associated with intellectual disability.

Key findings from the study:

- Lead poisoning cost $50.9 billion
- Autism cost $7.9 billion
- Intellectual disability cost $5.4 billion
- Exposure to mercury (methyl mercury) cost $5.1 billion
- Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder cost $5.0 billion
- Asthma cost $2.2 billion
- Childhood cancer cost $95.0 million

May 4, 2011 Posted by | Public Health | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Natural Resources Defense Council: Smarter Living

Natural Resources Defense Council
The Natural Resources Defense Council is environmental action group of 1.3 million members including more than 350 lawyers, scientists and other professionals.

The home page tabs provide access to News, Issues, Policies, Smarter Living options, and more.

The Smarter Living sections  include a wide range of resources and information, including

Related Resources

  • Household Products Databases - This database links over 8,000 consumer brands to health effects from Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) provided by the manufacturers and allows scientists and consumers to research products based on chemical ingredients
  • ToxNet - Databases on toxicology, hazardous chemicals, environmental health, and toxic releases

May 1, 2011 Posted by | Consumer Health | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Comparative Toxicogenomics Database (CTD)© – Resource for Environmental Chemicals/Human Disease Relationships

Comparative Toxicogenomics Database (CTD)© – Resource for Environmental Chemicals/Human Disease Relationships

From the National Library of Medicine (NLM) Fact sheet


The Comparative Toxicogenomics Database (CTD) elucidates molecular mechanisms by which environmental chemicals affect human disease. CTD is a data file on the National Library of Medicine’s (NLM) Toxicology Data Network (TOXNET®). It contains manually curated data describing cross-species chemical–gene/protein interactions and chemical– and gene–disease relationships. The results provide insight into the molecular mechanisms underlying variable susceptibility and environmentally influenced diseases. These data will also provide insights into complex chemical–gene and protein interaction networks. CTD is compiled by the Mount Desert Island Biological Laboratory (MDIBL), with support from the National Institutes of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) and the National Center for Research Resources (NCRR) of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

Once in the complete CTD site via TOXNET, users can perform several types of searches, for example:

• Browse relationships among chemicals, and obtain detailed information about them, including structure, toxicology data and related genes, diseases, pathways and references. See: Chemicals

• Browse relationships among diseases, and obtain detailed information about them, including related chemicals, genes, pathways and references. See: Diseases

• Browse search for genes from diverse vertebrates and invertebrates by symbol, synonym, accession ID, organism taxon, chemical, interaction type, disease or Gene Ontology annotation. See: Genes

• Search for cross-species chemical–gene and protein interactions curated from the published literature. Interactions may be retrieved by chemical, interaction type, gene, organism or Gene Ontology annotation. See: Chemical–Gene Interactions

• Search for references by gene, organism taxon, chemical, chemical–

gene interaction type, disease, citation information or accession ID. See: References


Further examples of searches that can be conducted once users are in the complete CTD site via TOXNET include:

• Which human diseases are associated with a gene/protein? (Sample query)

• Which human diseases are associated with a chemical? (Sample query)

• Which genes/proteins interact with a chemical? (Sample query)

• Which chemicals interact with a gene/protein? (Sample query)

• Which references report a chemical–gene/protein interaction? (Sample query)
•

Which cellular functions (GO terms) are affected by a chemical? (Sample query)
Users can also easily conduct their CTD search strategy against other databases, e.g., Hazardous Substances Data Bank®, TOXLINE®, and ChemIDplus®.

April 6, 2011 Posted by | Biomedical Research Resources, Public Health | , , | Leave a comment

PBS NewsHour’s Global Health Watch : Diseases, Conditions, Medical Advances and Related Policies

PBS NewsHour

PBS NewsHour’s Global Health Watch features news and on-the-ground reports exploring the diseases, conditions, medical advances and policies affecting the health of people around the world.

Earthquake victims gather at the evacuation center in Kamaishi on March 24, 2011 in Iwate Prefecture, Japan.  (Athit Perawongmetha/Getty Images)

Earthquake victims gather at the evacuation center in Kamaish
(Kamaishi.Perawongmetha/Getty Images)

TB patientBLOG  MARCH 24, 2011 Slideshow: TB a Silent KillerJust 22 countries contribute 80 percent of the global burden of tuberculosis.

A sampling from the March 25 2011 contents.
Each section includes Browse, Subscription, and Related Information options.

  • Global Health
  • The World’s Most Destructive Diseases
    • Information on the top 5 non-communicable diseases and also top 5 infectious diseases
    • Each disease or condition has information in these areas: global impact, causes, symptoms, prevention, and treatment
  • From the Field (Archive) has links to current and past postings. There is a drop down menu organized by country.
  • The For Teachers link  has the heading For Teachers and Students. It includes lesson plans.

March 25, 2011 Posted by | Consumer Health, Educational Resources (High School/Early College(, Finding Aids/Directories, Health Education (General Public), Health News Items, Health Statistics, Librarian Resources, Medical and Health Research News, Public Health | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Risks of Chemical Exposure: Scientists Call for ‘Swifter and Sounder’ Testing of Chemicals

Risks of Chemical Exposure: Scientists Call for ‘Swifter and Sounder’ Testing of Chemicals

From the March 4 2011 Eureka news alert

ScienceDaily (Mar. 3, 2011) — Scientific societies representing 40,000 researchers and clinicians are asking that federal regulators tap a broader range of expertise when evaluating the risks of chemicals to which Americans are being increasingly exposed.

Writing in a letter in the journalScience***, eight societies from the fields of genetics, reproductive medicine, endocrinology, developmental biology and others note that some 12,000 new substances are being registered with the American Chemical Society daily. Few make it into the environment, but the top federal regulators, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency, often lack information about the hazards of chemicals produced in high volumes….

Patricia Hunt, a professor in the Washington State University School of Molecular Biosciences and corresponding author of the letter, said the FDA and EPA need to look beyond the toxicology of substances to the other ways chemicals can affect us.

“One of the problems they have is they look at some of the science and don’t know how to interpret it because it’s not done using the traditional toxicology testing paradigm,” she said. “We need geneticists, we need developmental and reproductive biologists and we need the clinical people on board to actually help interpret and evaluate some of the science.”

“As things stand now,” she added, “things get rapidly into the marketplace and the testing of them is tending to lag behind.”

Hunt said the letter was driven in particular by growing concerns about chemicals like the plasticizer bisphenol A, or BPA, subject of more than 300 studies finding adverse health effects in animals. Because such chemicals look like hormones to our body, they’re like strangers getting behind the wheels of our cars, Hunt said.

“Hormones control everything — our basic metabolism, our reproduction,” she said. “We call them endocrine disruptors. They’re like endocrine bombs to a certain extent because they can disrupt all these normal functions.”

Hunt’s testimony last year helped make Washington the fifth state to outlaw BPA in children’s food containers and drinking cups.

 

***For suggestions on how to get this article for free or at low cost, click here

 

March 4, 2011 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

National Environmental Public Health Tracking Network (with online CE)

National Environmental Public Health Tracking Network

EPHT Logo

The National Environmental Public Health Tracking Network integrates and presents health exposure and data information data from a variety of national, state, and city sources. It is part of the Environmental Public Health Tracking Program, a US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Agency (CDC) which tracks and studies many of the exposures and health effects that may be related to environmental hazards.

On the Tracking Network, you can view maps, tables, and charts with data about:

The Resources links at the home page (right column) include

Online Continuing Education (CE) credits are available  through NEHA e-learning.  All CE classes may be viewed for free.  Most CE credits are fee based, however some are free through the CDC and EPA.  ( Tracking 101 online training link at About Tracking Program)

 

 

 

February 28, 2011 Posted by | Consumer Health, Consumer Safety, Public Health | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Climate projections show human health impacts possible within 30 years

Climate projections show human health impacts possible within 30 years
New studies demonstrate potential increases in waterborne toxins and microbes

From the February 20 2011 Eureka news alert

A panel of scientists speaking today at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) unveiled new research and models demonstrating how climate change could increase exposure and risk of human illness originating from ocean, coastal and Great Lakes ecosystems, with some studies projecting impacts to be felt within 30 years.

“With 2010 the wettest year on record and third warmest for sea surface temperatures, NOAA and our partners are working to uncover how a changing climate can affect our health and our prosperity,” said Jane Lubchenco, Ph.D., under secretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere and NOAA administrator. “These studies and others like it will better equip officials with the necessary information and tools they need to prepare for and prevent risks associated with changing oceans and coasts.”

In several studies funded by NOAA’s Oceans and Human Health Initiative, findings shed light on how complex interactions and climate change alterations in sea, land and sky make ocean and freshwater environments more susceptible to toxic algal blooms and proliferation of harmful microbes and bacteria.

Climate change could prolong toxic algal outbreaks by 2040 or sooner

Using cutting-edge technologies to model future ocean and weather patterns, Stephanie Moore, Ph.D., with NOAA’s West Coast Center for Oceans and Human Health and her partners at the University of Washington, are predicting longer seasons of harmful algal bloom outbreaks in Washington State’s Puget Sound.

The team looked at blooms of Alexandrium catenella, more commonly known as “red tide,” which produces saxitoxin, a poison that can accumulate in shellfish. If consumed by humans, it can cause gastrointestinal and neurological symptoms including vomiting and muscle paralysis or even death in extreme cases.

Longer harmful algal bloom seasons could translate to more days the shellfish fishery is closed, threatening the vitality of the $108 million shellfish industry in Washington state.

“Changes in the harmful algal bloom season appear to be imminent and we expect a significant increase in Puget Sound and similar at-risk environments within 30 years, possibly by the next decade,” said Moore. “Our projections indicate that by the end of the 21st century, blooms may begin up to two months earlier in the year and persist for one month later compared to the present-day time period of July to October.”

Natural climate variability also plays a role in the length of the bloom season from one year to the next. Thus, in any single year, the change in bloom season could be more or less severe than implied by the long-term warming trend from climate change.

Moore and the research team indicate that the extended lead time offered by these projections will allow managers to put mitigation measures in place and sharpen their targets for monitoring to more quickly and effectively open and close shellfish beds instead of issuing a blanket closure for a larger swath of coast or be caught off guard by an unexpected bloom. The same model can be applied to other coastal areas around the world increasingly affected by harmful algal blooms and improve protection of human health against toxic outbreaks.

More atmospheric dust from global desertification could lead to increases of harmful bacteria in oceans, seafood

Researchers at the University of Georgia, a NOAA Oceans and Human Health Initiative Consortium for Graduate Training site, looked at how global desertification — and the resulting increase in atmospheric dust based on some climate change scenarios — could fuel the presence of harmful bacteria in the ocean and seafood.

Desert dust deposition from the atmosphere is considered one of the main contributors of iron in the ocean, has increased over the last 30 years and is expected to rise based on precipitation trends in western Africa. Iron is limited in ocean environments and is essential to most forms of life. In a study conducted in collaboration with the U.S. Geological Survey, Erin Lipp, Ph.D. and graduate student Jason Westrich demonstrated that the sole addition of desert dust and its associated iron into seawater significantly stimulates growth and persistence of Vibrios, a group of ocean bacteria that occur worldwide and can cause gastroenteritis and infectious diseases in humans.

“Within 24 hours of mixing weathered desert dust from Morocco with seawater samples, we saw a 10-1000-fold growth in Vibrios, including one strain that could cause eye, ear, and open wound infections, and another strain that could cause cholera ,” said Lipp. “Our next round of experiments will examine the response of the strains associated with seafood-related infections.”

Since 1996 Vibrio cases have jumped 85 percent in the United States based on reports that primarily track seafood-illnesses. It is possible this additional input of iron, along with rising sea surface temperatures, will affect these bacterial populations and may help to explain both current and future increases in human illnesses from exposure to contaminated seafood and seawater.

Increased rainfall and dated sewers could affect water quality in Great Lakes

A changing climate with more rainstorms on the horizon could increase the risk of overflows of dated sewage systems, causing the release of disease-causing bacteria, viruses and protozoa into drinking water and onto beaches. In the past 10 years there have been more severe storms that trigger overflows. While there is some question whether this is due to natural variability or to climate change, these events provide another example as to how vulnerable urban areas are to climate.

Using fine-tuned climate models developed for Wisconsin, Sandra McLellan, Ph.D., at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee School of Freshwater Sciences, found spring rains are expected to increase in the next 50 years and areas with dated sewer systems are more likely to overflow because the ground is frozen and rainwater can’t be absorbed. As little as 1.7 inches of rain in 24 hours can cause an overflow in spring and the combination of increased temperatures — changing snowfall to rainfall and increased precipitation — can act synergistically to magnify the impact.

McLellan and colleagues showed that under worst case scenarios there could be an average 20 percent increase in volume of overflows, and they expect the overflows to last longer. In Milwaukee, infrastructure investments have reduced sewage overflows to an average of three times per year, but other cities around the Great Lakes still experience overflows up to 40 times per year.

“Hundreds of millions of dollars are spent on urban infrastructure, and these investments need to be directed to problems that have the largest impact on our water quality,” said McLellan. “Our research can shed light on this dilemma for cities with aging sewer systems throughout the Great Lakes and even around the world.”

“Understanding climate change on a local level and what it means to county beach managers or water quality safety officers has been a struggle,” said Juli Trtanj, director of NOAA’s Oceans and Human Health Initiative and co-author of the interagency report A Human Health Perspective on Climate Change. “These new studies and models enable managers to better cope and prepare for real and anticipated changes in their cities, and keep their citizens, seafood and economy safe.”

###

On the Web:

Image Gallery: http://oceansandhumanhealth.noaa.gov/multimedia/ohh-climate.html

NOAA’s Oceans and Human Health Initiative: http://oceansandhumanhealth.noaa.gov

Georgia Oceans and Human Health Initiative at the University of Georgia: http://www.georgiaoceansandhealth.org

University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee School of Freshwater Sciences: http://www4.uwm.edu/freshwater

 

 

 

February 20, 2011 Posted by | Public Health | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Broader psychological impact of 2010 BP oil spill

Broader psychological impact of 2010 BP oil spill
Spill caused significant psychological impact even to nearby communities not directly touched by oil

From the February 15, 2011 Eurkea news alert

Baltimore, MD – Feb. 17, 2011. The explosion and fire on a BP-licensed oil platform in the Gulf of Mexico in April 2010 had huge environmental and economic effects, with millions of gallons of oil leaking into the water for more than five months. It also had significant psychological impact on people living in coastal communities, even in those areas that did not have direct oil exposure, according to researchers at the University of Maryland School of Medicine who worked in collaboration with the University of Florida, Gainesville. Study results will be published in the February 17 online edition of Environmental Health Perspectives, a publication of the National Institutes of Health.

“We found that people living in communities with and without direct oil exposure had similar levels of psychological distress. People in both groups showed clinically significant levels of depression and anxiety. Also, where compared to people whose income was unaffected by the disaster, people with spill-related income loss in both groups had higher rates of depression, were less resilient and were more likely to cope using ‘behavioral disengagement,’ which involves just ‘giving up’ trying to deal the problem,” explains Lynn Grattan, Ph.D., associate professor of neurology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine.

The Maryland investigators, who traveled to the region soon after the spill, worked with Gulf Coast community leaders to get “real-time” assessments of the acute impacts of the spill. Their goal was to measure the acute psychological distress, coping resilience and perceived risk (concerns about the environmental impact and potential health consequences) of people living along the Gulf Coast. By doing this, they could help identify the potential mental health needs of the Northwest Gulf Coast communities. They examined the psychological impact in two fishing communities: Baldwin County, Alabama, and Franklin County, Florida. Baldwin County had direct oil exposure; Franklin County did not. The researchers defined indirect impact as a place where oil did not physically reach the coastline, but where anticipation of the oil spread significantly affected the community’s recreation, tourism and fishing industries.

“The findings of these University of Maryland researchers may have important implications for planning public health response in similar situations, suggesting that a broader approach may needed,” adds E. Albert Reece, M.D., Ph.D., M.B.A., vice president for medical affairs at the University of Maryland and dean of the University of Maryland School of Medicine.

The people in Florida, where oil had not reached shore, showed similar elevated levels of anxiety and depression as those living in Alabama who had direct oil exposure. Both groups had similar high levels of worry about the impact of the spill on the environment, health and seafood safety.

However, the levels of psychological distress were higher in both communities among people who had suffered income loss because of the spill. They had significantly more tension, anger, fatigue and overall mood disturbance than those whose income was not adversely affected. These people also had lower scores on resilience and may have fewer psychological resources to bounce back from adversity.

“From a public health standpoint, we need to understand that when there is a significant environmental crisis, we need to extend public health outreach and education, psychological monitoring and mental health services beyond the immediately affected areas, paying particular attention to people at risk for income loss. There are things that can be done to help people manage their stress and anxiety, and cope in these situations, so these interventions need to be available immediately in the communities where the impacted individuals live,” adds Dr. Grattan, who is also a neuropsychologist at the University of Maryland Medical Center.

The study on psychological impact built on a research program by University of Florida investigators who were already in the area to study the acute environmental and health impact of the spill. Through contacts with local community and religious leaders, trade associations, the University of Florida extension office and other agencies, the Maryland researchers recruited 71 residents in Florida and 23 from Alabama for the psychological assessment.

The team evaluated the participants through interviews and standardized assessments of psychological distress, resilience and coping. The team also looked at whether the participants had cognitive symptoms of neurotoxicity as a result of exposure to oil and chemical dispersants. These included assessments of attention, memory, and dexterity and speed (through a pegboard puzzle task). The researchers also asked the participants about what they were doing to cope with the situation, which could range from prayer and meditation to increased use of alcohol and other drugs.

Related news item

Psychological effects of BP oil spill go beyond residents of impacted shorelines

February 17, 2011 Posted by | Consumer Health, Public Health | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

New Environmental Health Web Page at Girlshealth.gov

The US Office on Women’s Health has created a new Web page on environmental health geared towards girls. They believe that if girls know more about environmental hazards they will be empowered to take better care of themselves and also help clean up the environment.

Girls are encouraged to learn about topics as

How you can help protect the environment
How sun tans work and why they can hurt you
Where drinking water comes from and why we need to keep it clean
How the air gets dirty and how you can protect yourself from it
Chemicals in your home and in products you use
How loud noises can hurt your hearing

September 2, 2010 Posted by | Consumer Health | , , | Leave a comment

   

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