Health and Medical News and Resources

General interest items edited by Janice Flahiff

Numerous Flame Retardants in House Dust, Some Exceeding Federal Health Guidelines

National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences Volume 4, Issue 1: January
PEPH eNews

From the January edition of PEPH eNews

Numerous Flame Retardants in House Dust, Some Exceeding Federal Health Guidelines

Recent studies from our PEPH partners have shed light on concerns for widespread exposure to flame retardants in U.S. homes, and their publications garnered a flurry of attention in the lay press. Flame retardants (FRs) are commonly used in furniture and other products, and pose health risks including cancer, learning problems, and hormone disruption.

In a new report published in Environmental Science & Technology, Robin Dodson, Sc.D., at the Silent Spring Institute found that, in a survey of house dust, 36 of 44 FRs identified were detected in at least 50% of the samples. Most houses tested had at least one FR in house dust whose levels exceeded a federal health guideline

In the same issue, Heather Stapleton, Ph.D., an environmental chemist at the Duke University Superfund Research Program, published studyfindings that over 85% of couches tested contained an FR. Stapleton said, “Our study found that one California state flammability standard is affecting the entire country’s exposure to chemicals that may be causing human health problems, and it is unclear whether or not these chemicals actually offer any fire safety benefits.” Dodson added, “These hazardous chemicals are in the air we breathe, the dust we touch, and the couches we sit on. Infants and toddlers who spend much time on the floor are at higher risk for exposure.” Their research received much publicity in the press including ForbesNatureCBSSan Francisco Chronicle, and theChicago Tribune. The Silent Spring Institute offers a factsheet with suggestions on how you can reduce exposures to FRs in your home.


January 4, 2013 Posted by | Consumer Health | | Leave a comment

UC Davis study links low wages with hypertension, especially for women and younger workers

This study rightly talks about an association between low wages and hypertension, not a cause/effect.
A public health issue that I hope is pursued at national and local levels.

From the 1 January 2013 EurkAlert article

(SACRAMENTO, Calif.) — Workers earning the lowest wages have a higher risk of hypertension than workers with the highest wages, according to new research from UC Davis.

The correlation between wages and hypertension was especially strong among women and persons between the ages of 25 to 44.

“We were surprised that low wages were such a strong risk factor for two populations not typically associated with hypertension, which is more often linked with being older and male,” said J. Paul Leigh, senior author of the study and professor of public health sciences at UC Davis. “Our outcome shows that women and younger employees working at the lowest pay scales should be screened regularly for hypertension as well.”

The study, published in the December issue of the European Journal of Public Health, is believed to be the first to isolate the role of wages in hypertension, which occurs when the force of circulating blood against artery walls is too high. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, hypertension affects approximately 1 in 3 adults in the U.S. and costs more than $90 billion each year in health-care services, medications and missed work days. It also is a major contributor to heart disease and stroke, both of which are leading causes of death and disability.

While there is a known association between lower socioeconomic status (SES) and hypertension, determining the specific reason for that association has been difficult, according to Leigh. Other researchers have focused on factors such as occupation, job strain, education and insurance coverage, with unclear results. Leigh’s study was the first to focus on wages and hypertension….

f there were 110 million persons employed in the U.S. between the ages of 25 and 65 per year during the entire timeframe of the study — from 1999 until 2005 — then a 10 percent increase in everyone’s wages would have resulted in 132,000 fewer cases of hypertension each year,” said Leigh.

Read the entire article here


January 4, 2013 Posted by | Workplace Health | , | Leave a comment

Your doctor has sold his practice: 6 tips for patients (tips are also good for doctors not selling their practice!)

Conversation between doctor and patient/consumer.

Conversation between doctor and patient/consumer. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’m not sure I’d have the chutzpah to ask about performance requirements or conflicts of interest.
But maybe if I went to an office visit with these types of questions written down, I would be more likely to ask them!

(As an aside, I accompanied my mom to outpatient surgery yesterday. The only way I could assure myself I would
ask the surgeon a few questions while mom was in post-op…was to write them down and have them “on display” in what is now called the “interview room”. The surgeon did take note of the scrawled questions and was ever so patient and answered each one completely.
Granted, these were questions related to how to take care of my mom, not his performance requirements or conflicts of interest.
Still, I think I could build on writing down questions about how to take care of oneself or others to include questions relating the necessity of a medical test or procedure.)

I am not sure about two of the points.
Would anyone in the doctor’s office really be candid about performance requirements? Or even know about them?
The office staff has at least the potential about conflict of interest. They work for the doctor (and by extension any health organization the doctor belongs to which could be the source of a conflict of interest!) Maybe it would be best to ask the doctor directly.

Online databases and forums are most likely not objective. They only record input from folks. And the input is not evaluated for “truth”.
Crowdsourcing at times can point to the truth, but I believe at times crowds can be misinformed (and act on rumors). And I don’t think that online databases/forums can readily distinguish when reports are based on fact or falsehoods.

From the 3 January 2013 article by Cary Present, MD at

When doctors sell their practices to hospitals or networks, the practices are typically restructured. When they restructure, the new arrangement can put the doctor under more pressure to treat you (the patient) more “economically,” so as to generate more income. This can mean ordering tests or prescribing medicines that you may or may not need – things that are more for “let’s just be safe” and would be avoided in a private practice.

What does this all mean for you as a patient? Other than potentially higher medical costs, possible deterioration in treatment, and a lack of personal attention as a person, it boils down simply to a conflict of interest. In other words, there is greater potential for disagreement regarding what is in your best interest according to convention and how the doctor or hospital treats you…


  • First, when your doctor is recommending tests or treatments or hospitalization for you, take the time to ask if you really the treatments – ask if the doctor would do the same for a family member
  • Second, ask for a second opinion to determine if you need the recommended care – this should be your standard reaction when tests are ordered…

Read the entire article here

January 4, 2013 Posted by | health care | , , , | Leave a comment


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