Health and Medical News and Resources

General interest items edited by Janice Flahiff

2011 EPA Toxic Release Inventory is releaed

From the EPA Web page

The TRI National Analysis is an annual report that provides EPA’s analysis and interpretation of the most recent TRI data. It includes information about toxic chemical releases to the environment from facilities that report to the TRI Program. It also includes information about how toxic chemicals are managed through recycling, treatment and energy recovery, and how facilities are working to reduce the amount of toxic chemicals generated and released.

WASHINGTON – Total toxic air releases in 2011 declined 8 percent from 2010, mostly because of decreases in hazardous air pollutant (HAP) emissions, even while total releases of toxic chemicals increased for the second year in a row, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) annual Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) report published today.

The annual TRI provides citizens with vital information about their communities. The TRI program collects information on certain toxic chemical releases to the air, water and land, as well as information on waste management and pollution prevention activities by facilities across the country. TRI data are submitted annually to EPA, states and tribes by facilities in industry sectors such as manufacturing, metal mining, electric utilities, and commercial hazardous waste facilities.

What’s new in the National Analysis this year?

  • An investigation into declining air releases;
  • More information about pollution prevention activities conducted at TRI facilities;
  • Updated risk information;
  • Enhanced Indian Country and Alaska Native Villages (ANVs) analysis.

What tools are available to help me conduct my own analysis?

A variety of online tools are available to help you access and analyze TRI data. When using TRI data, you may also want to explore the other data sources and information listed on the TRI Data and Tools webpage.

Where can I get downloadable files containing the data used in the 2011 National Analysis?

  • Basic Data Files : Each file contains the most commonly requested data fields submitted by facilities on the TRI Reporting Form R or the Form A Certification Statement.
  • Basic Plus Data Files : These files collectively contain all the data fields submitted by facilities on the TRI Reporting Form R or the Form A Certification Statement.
  • Dioxin, Dioxin-Like Compounds and TEQ Data Files : These files include the individually reported mass quantity data for dioxin and dioxin-like compounds reported on the TRI Reporting Form R Schedule 1, along with the associated TEQ data.

January 18, 2013 Posted by | Consumer Health, Consumer Safety, Educational Resources (Health Professionals), Educational Resources (High School/Early College(, Librarian Resources, Public Health | , , , , | Leave a comment

Healthcare Implications for Facebook’s New “Graph Search” Functionality

From the 16th January 2013 Pixels&Pills article by @Spitz

Why “Graph Search”?

Analogous to Google the search king trying to enter the social space with Google Plus, Facebook the social queen is now trying to capture the search space with Graph Search. The Holy Grail is actually neither search nor social per se, but increased digital user engagement that ultimately translates to higher revenue for these providers.

What is “Graph Search”?

Before we can talk about implications, we need to understand what it does. Since beta isn’t released as of this posting, all we can go by is what Zuck shared during his presentation of the functionality. Specifically, a blue bar will run across the top with an entry field. Instead of typing in simple keywords, the expectation will be to type in whole questions regarding friends and friend preferences—more like Wolfram Alpha than Google.

For example, a user would type in “Do I have any friends renting apartments in Chicago?” or “Did any of my friends see LIFE OF PI yet?” or “What do my friends think about Muir Woods in San Francisco?” Graph Search will then analyze the mountains of interconnected and tagged data throughout the user’s own network, and produce responses that, according to Zuckerberg, aren’t links, but informative pieces of content in the form of posts, pics, movies, and the like. Search results will mostly likely be sharable with friends, since why not, that’s what Facebook does best….

What does “Graph Search” mean for Health and Healthcare?

Ah, now here’s the rub. If you’ve been following this harangue so far, then yellow and red digital health lights should already be flashing. Not much imagination is required to wonder what will happen when a user types in, for example “What do my friends think about HIV?” or “Do any of my friends have erectile dysfunction?” or “Have any of my friends had a bad reaction to taking Drug X?” “What do you think about Dr. Y?” “How was your stay at hospital Z?” If you’re a pharmaceutical or medical device manufacturer regulatory attorney, or a hospital admin, or even a patient who wants to keep things very personal, I bet you’re experiencing a mild myocardial by now…

Facebook stressed that Graph Search will only access individual friend content and public domain data through Bing. But from a healthcare point of view, that doesn’t help much at all. The reason is that in digital what’s being shared is sometimes secondary to how it’s shared…

So what should you, as a digital health expert, do?
If you’re a pharma or device marketer with content already on Facebook, double-check compliance, and get comfortable with bits and pieces potentially becoming aggregated outside the context of where they appear. (Red flags for fair balance information, obviously.) If you’re a hospital or private practice physician, be mindful that having patient FB friends might mean that your interactions could become more readily accessible to your patient’s entire friend network. The open door is now spinning wildly, further reinforcing the maxim that you should only post on Facebook (and any social channel) that which you are perfectly comfortable indiscriminately sharing with the world.


Read the entire article here



January 18, 2013 Posted by | Consumer Health | , , , | Leave a comment

[Reblog] Phone Scam About Personal Safety Devices

[Reblog from the 16 January 2013 post at As Our Parents Age]

It appears that seniors are receiving phone calls that attempt to scare them into making personal safety device purchases with a credit card, and it feels like a scam. I received one yesterday on my mobile phone.

scamAn urgent voice asks for a senior citizen noting that break-ins, robbers, medical emergencies or falls are scary and a free solution will make them safer. Moreover, the voice offers a solution that’s supported or endorsed by the American Heart Association, the American Diabetes Association, and the National Institute on Aging — three well-known and reputable organizations. To learn how to protect myself from all of these terrible problems the voice asks me to hit a number on my phone.

Well I am not a senior — yet — but I know a fair amount about media literacy, and I’ve spent countless hours telling my parents, my husband’s parents, and various other family members and friends, to hang up when they receive these urgent telephone calls asking them to make a purchase. However … I didn’t hang up because I was too intrigued. I pressed number one.

Next a reassuring woman’s voice explains that the Senior Emergency Care company – with a AAA rating from the Better Business Bureau and endorsements from all of the above organizations — is offering me free equipment and free registration and shipping — equipment that will help me avoid or prevent scary life situations such as crime and health emergencies. The personal safety device that she is selling would, she told me, can be worn around my neck and will make me feel and be safer.

The woman continues the call by explaining how the devices helps by calling emergency responders in any of those worrisome situations, and if I am wearing it I  will also receive a wellness check phone call once a day. While the equipment is free, she said, a monthly fee of 34.95 will pay the people who respond to the emergencies and make the wellness calls. She wanted me to buy my device right then and there and even put a little pressure on me to give her my credit card. I declined. I told the woman I would think about it and also talk with my parents, and I hung up.

Then I Googled Senior Emergency Care, the name she gave me when I asked about the company’s identity, I could not find it. But I did find this story about this phone pitch, Warning Over Personal Safety Systems Pitch, in the December 21, 2012  Milwaukee (Wisconsin) Journal Sentinel. So I also did a quick check of the Better Business Bureau, but could not find the company.

Sounds like a scam to me.

Personal safety devices are available through hospitals, through a variety of senior organization — in fact you can even purchase them at Costco.  Make sure that your family and friends purchase personal safety devices are from a trusted source and not from a cold phone call.

Feel free to share my description with other people who might be interested.


If you receive this call you can file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) or your state fraud protection agencies.


January 18, 2013 Posted by | Consumer Safety | , , , , | Leave a comment

Patients who self track their data: Curb your enthusiasm

From the 17 January 2013 article by  at

1. There’s not strong data to support self-tracking.  We can make some inferences about how self-tracking would work in a clinical setting by looking at the studies done on telemonitoring, which also generates a large volume of attribute-rich data.  Some studies have shown benefit in outcomes, especially for diseases like diabetesCOPD, and hypertension.  However, hard measures like mortality have not been improved by telemonitoring devices.  Data on hospitalization and ED visits, especially in the elderly, have been mixed.  People (especially the engineers who created these wonderful devices and apps) love to think that more data points are better. But to date, we just don’t have a robust set of well controlled studies telling us what self-tracking is useful for, what devices or apps to use, how to interpret the data, or how to integrate it into medical care.

2. Physicians may not want the data.  Imagine that a 45-year old man who had just started exercising after years of inactivity gives their doctor all of their heart rate measurements from the past month.  All 5000 measurements.  There’s no way their physician is going to want to touch that data.  Buried inside those data points will be erroneous and clinically meaningless measurements which, without review and context, will be fodder for trial lawyers when something bad happens.  It’s data overload to the Nth degree, because let’s face it … anything can be tracked.  Once data gets put into the medical record, it’s assumed the physician has reviewed the data and acted on it accordingly.  No one wants something in the patient’s chart that not only has limited medical use but carries substantial legal risk.

Finally, we need to pay physicians to analyze and counsel about the data, similar to how we pay for EKG interpretation or reading an x-ray.   Fee-for-service still rules the roost, and nothing gets done unless someone pays for it…


Read the entire article here

January 18, 2013 Posted by | health care | , , | Leave a comment


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