Health and Medical News and Resources

General interest items edited by Janice Flahiff

State of the Air (report and findings by geographic area) by the American Lung Association.

For 14 years, the American Lung Association has analyzed data from air quality monitors to compile the State of the Air report. The more you learn about the air you breathe, the more you can protect your health and take steps to make our air cleaner and healthier.

Want to know what the air quality is where you live or another US location?
Just enter the zipcode at the home page.

Screen Shot 2013-09-03 at 10.02.26 AM

Excerpts from the key findings page

Thanks to the Clean Air Act, the United States continues to make progress providing healthier air. The “State of the Air 2013″ shows that the nation’s air quality is overall much cleaner, especially compared to just a decade ago. Still, over 131.8 million people—42 percent of the nation—live where pollution levels are too often dangerous to breathe. Despite that risk, some seek to weaken the Clean Air Act, the public health law that has driven the cuts in pollution since 1970.

Ozone Pollution — Nearly 4 in 10 people lived in areas with unhealthful levels of ozone in 2009-2011.

Year-round Particle Pollution — More than 44.3 million people live in an area burdened year-round by unhealthful levels of deadly particle pollution.

Short-term Particle Pollution — Many cities endured more days where particle pollution spiked during this period. Fifteen percent (15%) of people in the United States live where they suffered too many days with unhealthful levels of particle pollution.

Cleanest Cities — Only four cities made the cleanest list in all three categories, but several were among the cleanest in two.

People at Risk —More than 4 in 10 people live in counties that have unhealthful levels of either ozone or particle pollution. Learn more about people who face the greatest risk—probably someone you know is one of them.

What Needs to be Done to Get Healthy Air —What do we need to do as a nation? How can you help clean up the air?

September 3, 2013 Posted by | Public Health | , , , , | Leave a comment

[Reposting] ‘Safe’ Levels of Environmental Pollution May Have Long-Term Health Consequences

Environmental pollution

Environmental pollution (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

From the 29th August 2013 article at Science Daily

 

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.”

 

 

 

Read the entire article here

 

 

August 29, 2013 Posted by | environmental health | , , , | Leave a comment

Small, Portable Sensors Allow Users To Monitor Exposure To Pollution On Their Smart Phones

English: US Air Quality Index Map-1/23/2009

English: US Air Quality Index Map-1/23/2009 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

From the 25 December 2012 article at Medical News Today

 

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….

 

 

 

Read entire article here

 

 

December 27, 2012 Posted by | environmental health | , , , | Leave a comment

EPA Releases Water Pollution Tool

From the EPA press release of 25 January 2012 

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced the release of a new tool that provides the public with important information about pollutants that are released into local waterways. Developed under President Obama’s transparency initiative, the Discharge Monitoring Report (DMR) Pollutant Loading Tool brings together millions of records and allows for easy searching and mapping of water pollution by local area, watershed, company, industry sector, and pollutant. Americans can use this new tool to protect their health and the health of their communities.

“Transparency leads to greater accountability and better information about pollution in our nation’s communities,” said Cynthia Giles, assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. “By making the data we collect available in easy to use tools, we are keeping Americans informed about the health of the environment in their neighborhoods.”

Searches using the DMR Pollutant Loading Tool result in “top ten” lists to help users easily identify facilities and industries that are discharging the most pollution and impacted waterbodies. When discharges are above permitted levels, users can view the violations and link to details about enforcement actions that EPA and states have taken to address these violations. …

February 9, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , | Leave a comment

12/21/2011: EPA Issues First National Standards for Mercury Pollution from Power Plants/ Historic ‘mercury and air toxics standards’ meet 20-year old requirement to cut dangerous smokestack emissions

 

 

Cleaner Power Plants

12/21/2011: EPA Issues First National Standards for Mercury Pollution from Power Plants
           / Historic ‘mercury and air toxics standards’ meet 20-year old requirement to cut dangerous smokestack emissions.

From the press release

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has issued the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards, the first national standards to protect American families from power plant emissions of mercury and toxic air pollution like arsenic, acid gas, nickel, selenium, and cyanide. The standards will slash emissions of these dangerous pollutants by relying on widely available, proven pollution controls that are already in use at more than half of the nation’s coal-fired power plants. 

EPA estimates that the new safeguards will prevent as many as 11,000 premature deaths and 4,700 heart attacks a year. The standards will also help America’s children grow up healthier – preventing 130,000 cases of childhood asthma symptoms and about 6,300 fewer cases of acute bronchitis among children each year. …

 

Mercury and Air Toxics Standards Protecting our children and communities by limiting emissions of mercury and other air toxics from power plants

More information at Mercury and Air Toxic Standards, including

December 22, 2011 Posted by | Public Health | , , , | Leave a comment

The health risks and benefits of cycling in urban environments compared with car use: health impact assessment study

Estació del Bicing de Barcelona de l'Hospital ...

Image via Wikipedia

From an 8 August posting at the (UK) NHS Bolton Library blog

Source: The health risks and benefits of cycling in urban environments compared with car use: health impact assessment study — Rojas-Rueda et al. 343 — bmj.com.

This article is available freely via Open Access. Please click on the above link to view it fully.

Abstract

Objective To estimate the risks and benefits to health of travel by bicycle, using a bicycle sharing scheme, compared with travel by car in an urban environment……

……

Results Compared with car users the estimated annual change in mortality of the Barcelona residents using Bicing (n=181 982) was 0.03 deaths from road traffic incidents and 0.13 deaths from air pollution. As a result of physical activity, 12.46 deaths were avoided (benefit:risk ratio 77). The annual number of deaths avoided was 12.28. As a result of journeys by Bicing, annual carbon dioxide emissions were reduced by an estimated 9 062 344 kg.

Conclusions Public bicycle sharing initiatives such as Bicing in Barcelona have greater benefits than risks to health and reduce carbon dioxide emissions.

August 9, 2011 Posted by | Public Health | , , , | Leave a comment

Environmental Pollutants Lurk Long After They ‘Disappear’

From a 20 July 2011 Science Daily article

The health implications of polluting the environment weigh increasingly on our public consciousness, and pharmaceutical wastes continue to be a main culprit. Now a Tel Aviv University researcher says that current testing for these dangerous contaminants isn’t going far enough.

Dr. Dror Avisar, head of the Hydro-Chemistry Laboratory at TAU’s Department of Geography and the Human Environment, says that, when our environment doesn’t test positive for the presence of a specific drug, we assume it’s not there. But through biological or chemical processes such as sun exposure or oxidization, drugs break down, or degrade, into different forms — and could still be lurking in our water or soil….

Read the article

August 1, 2011 Posted by | Public Health | , , , | Leave a comment

New free, hands-on tool supports sustainable living choices (nitrogen footprint measure)

New free, hands-on tool supports sustainable living choices (nitrogen footprint measure)

From the February 22 2011 Eureka news alert

People who want to eat healthy and live sustainably have a new way to measure their impact on the environment: a Web-based tool [http://n-print.org/sites/n-print.org/files/footprint_sql/index.html#/home] that calculates an individual’s “nitrogen footprint.” The device was created by University of Virginia environmental scientist James N. Galloway; Allison Leach, a staff research assistant at U.Va.; and colleagues from the Netherlands and the University of Maryland.

The calculator is a project of the International Nitrogen Initiative, a global network of scientists who share research and data on the nitrogen dilemma. The project was announced Feb. 19 at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Washington.

What’s the nitrogen dilemma? Though some residents of the Chesapeake Bay and Gulf of Mexico likely are familiar with it, it’s unknown to most Americans outside the agricultural world. For the last 30 years, Galloway and other leading scientists have been noting fish kills in coastal areas, threats to human health as a result of air and water pollution, and changes to global biodiversity and climate. This tool is one of their attempts to foster more understanding of nitrogen’s role in our lives.

“Nitrogen, as any farmer knows, is essential to plant life,” said Galloway, associate dean for the sciences in the College of Arts and Sciences at U.Va. and the Sidman P. Poole Professor of Environmental Sciences. “But the widespread use of synthetic nitrogen fertilizer to boost crop production has resulted in excess nitrogen coming off farms – essentially adding unwanted, unneeded fertilizer to our natural systems, with disastrous results. The combustion of fossil fuels adds even more nitrogen to our environment. It’s a largely untold story.”

Scientists are calling nitrogen pollution a major environmental problem that includes significant damage to air and water quality in places such as the Chesapeake Bay, where the federal government has dedicated hundreds of millions of dollars to reducing nitrogen runoff from farms and industry. Similarly, nitrogen runoff from Midwestern farms that ultimately flows into the Gulf of Mexico is largely responsible for toxic algal blooms that have suffocated coastal waters, leading to hypoxic zones, resulting in the loss of fish and shellfish.

To raise awareness, Galloway, a pioneering nitrogen scientist, organized a global team of experts to develop the footprint calculator as an educational tool – one he and his colleagues hope will both raise the profile of the nitrogen issue and galvanize people into action. By measuring what and how much you eat, as well as other factors like how you travel, the calculator shows your impact on the nitrogen cycle.

The website also makes recommendations for how to lessen your “nitrogen footprint.” They are similar to other sustainable living choices: reduce airplane travel, choose renewable energy and eat less meat, particularly beef (since cattle consume massive quantities of farmed feed, which requires much fertilizer). Professors and lecturers are already using the tool in classrooms to teach students how one individual can alter – and help restore – a natural nitrogen cycle.

“Solving the nitrogen dilemma is a major challenge of our time,” Leach said. “By calculating our individual impact, and taking small steps to reduce it, we can all play a part – and send a strong message to our nation’s leaders that we want this issue taken seriously.”

This new footprint calculator is the first in a series of research tools, known as N-Print [http://www.n-print.org/], which Galloway and his team are developing to connect the production of nitrogen with the policies used to manage it. The team is currently creating a similar calculator for farmers and other nitrogen users, as well as a tool for policymakers that will provide regional nitrogen emission ceilings, which will show how much nitrogen can be released in these regions without major negative environmental impact.

“There are readily available solutions to reducing nitrogen pollution,” Galloway said. “By connecting consumers, producers and policymakers, we can solve it.”

Chemical fertilizer use and combustion engines are the main sources of nitrogen pollution. Scientists who are recording dramatic changes to ecosystems from the U.S. to China say the disruption of the naturally occurring cycle of nitrogen through ecosystems due to human activity leads the list of global tipping points [http://bit.ly/95eWNn] and have named it a top threat to global biodiversity. It contributes to human health problems, water pollution, ozone layer depletion, smog, climate change and coastal dead zones. Nitrous oxide, created mostly from grain and meat production, is also a greenhouse gas 300 times more potent than carbon dioxide.

 

###

This project is supported by the Agouron Institute, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, U.Va., and the Energy Research Center of the Netherlands.

For information, visit: www.n-print.org/.

 

 

February 23, 2011 Posted by | Public Health | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Sentries in the garden shed

Sentries in the garden shed - Plants that can detect environmental contaminants, explosives

This is Dr. June Medford in her lab at Colorado State University.

From the February 15, 2011 Eureka news alert

Someday, that potted palm in your living room might go from green to white, alerting you to a variety of nasty contaminants in the air, perhaps even explosives.

The stuff of science fiction you say? Not so, says a Colorado State University biologist whose research is funded in part by Homeland Security’s Science and Technology Directorate (DHS S&T), as well as by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the Office of Naval Research (ONR), and others.

Dr. June Medford and her team in the Department of Biology at Colorado State have shown that plants can serve as highly specific sentries for environmental pollutants and explosives. She’s enabled a computer-designed detection trait to work in plants. How? By rewiring the plant’s natural signaling process so that a detection of the bad stuff results in the loss of green color.

Based on research so far, Medford says the detection abilities of some plants (tobacco is an example) are similar to, or even better, than those of a dog’s snout, long the hallmark of a good detector. Best of all, the training time is nothing compared to that of a dog…..

 

This graphic shows de-greening in plants over a 48-hour period.

 

February 16, 2011 Posted by | Consumer Health, Consumer Safety, Health News Items | , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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