Health

Chernobyl, three decades on
April 26, 2016 06:45 AM - Steven Powell, University of South Carolina

It was 30 years ago that a meltdown at the V. I. Lenin Nuclear Power Station in the former Soviet Union released radioactive contaminants into the surroundings in northern Ukraine. Airborne contamination from what is now generally termed the Chernobyl disaster spread well beyond the immediate environs of the power plant, and a roughly 1000-square-mile region in Ukraine, Belarus and Russia remains cordoned off, an exclusion zone where human habitation is forbidden.

The radiation spill was a disaster for the environment and its biological inhabitants, but it also created a unique radio-ecological laboratory.

Do you live in one of America's worst cities for air pollution?
April 25, 2016 07:16 AM - Llowell Williams, Care2

The American Lung Association has released its annual “State of the Air” report and its findings are troubling. Most Americans live in counties with air pollution so bad that it is a severe risk to their health. According to the report, that means 166 million people are at risk of an early death and significant health problems including asthma, developmental damage and cancer.

Without a doubt the most concerning discovery made by the American Lung Association was that short-term particle pollution had increased sharply since last year’s report: “Short-term spikes” of particle pollution hit record levels in seven of the 25 most polluted U.S. cities in this period.

Is your home making you sick?
April 20, 2016 06:40 AM - University of Surrey

New research in the journal Science of the Total Environment has highlighted the dangerous effects of indoor pollution on human health, and has called for policies to ensure closer monitoring of air quality.

A collaborative effort of European, Australian and UK researchers, led by the University of Surrey,  assessed the harmful effects of indoor pollution in order to make recommendations on how best to monitor and negate these outcomes.

Dr Prashant Kumar of the University of Surrey explained, “When we think of the term ‘air pollution’ we tend to think of car exhausts or factory fumes expelling grey smoke. However, there are actually various sources of pollution that have a negative effect on air quality, many of which are found inside our homes and offices. From cooking residue to paints, varnishes and fungal spores the air we breathe indoors is often more polluted than that outside.”

Fast food may expose consumers to phthalates
April 13, 2016 07:16 AM - George Washington University via EurekAlert!

People who reported consuming more fast food in a national survey were exposed to higher levels of potentially harmful chemicals known as phthalates, according to a study published today by researchers at Milken Institute School of Public Health (Milken Institute SPH) at the George Washington University. The study, one of the first to look at fast-food consumption and exposure to these chemicals, appears in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives.

Better long-term outcomes for married cancer patients
April 11, 2016 11:51 AM - WILEY via EurekAlert

New research has uncovered a link between being married and living longer among cancer patients, with the beneficial effect of marriage differing by race/ethnicity and place of birth. Published early online in CANCER, a peer-reviewed journal of the American Cancer Society, the findings have important public health implications, given the rising numbers of unmarried individuals in the United States in addition to the growing aging population. 

For the analysis, a team led by Scarlett Lin Gomez, PhD, of the Cancer Prevention Institute of California, and María Elena Martínez, PhD, of the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine, assessed information on nearly 800,000 adults in California who were diagnosed in 2000 to 2009 with invasive cancer and were followed through 2012. 

 

Using moss as a bioindicator of air pollution
April 8, 2016 07:16 AM - USDA Forest Service via EurekAlert!

Moss growing on urban trees is a useful bio-indicator of cadmium air pollution in Portland, Oregon, a U.S. Forest Service Pacific Northwest Research Station-led study has found. The work--the first to use moss to generate a rigorous and detailed map of air pollution in a U.S. city--is published online in the journal Science of the Total Environment.

Illegal gold mining in Brazil exposing indigenous peoples to high levels of mercury
April 5, 2016 11:52 AM - Sarina Kidd / Survival International, The Ecologist

Illegal gold mining in the Amazon has a devastating effect on indigenous peoples, writes Sarina Kidd. First the miners bring disease, deforestation and even murder. Then long after they have gone, communities are left to suffer deadly mercury poisoning. Now the UN has been called on to intervene.

In Brazil, new statistics reveal alarming rates of mercury poisoning amongst the Yanomami and Yekuana. 90% of Indians in one community are severely affected, with levels far above that recommended by the WHO.

Mercury poisoning is devastating tribal peoples across Amazonia, Survival International has warned.

 

Eat your walnuts today!
April 4, 2016 08:22 AM - EDELMAN SEATTLE via EurekAlert

Initial findings from the Walnuts and Healthy Aging (WAHA) study presented at Experimental Biology 2016 (EB) indicate that daily walnut consumption positively impacts blood cholesterol levels without adverse effects on body weight among older adults. The WAHA study is a dual site two-year clinical trial conducted by researchers from the Hospital Clinic of Barcelona and Loma Linda University and is aimed at determining the effect of walnuts on age-related health issues. 

"Given walnuts are a high-energy food, a prevailing concern has been that their long term consumption might be associated with weight gain," said Dr. Emilio Ros, director of the Lipid Clinic, Endocrinology & Nutrition Service at the Hospital Clinic of Barcelona. "The preliminary results of the WAHA study demonstrate that daily consumption of walnuts for one year by a sizable cohort of aging free-living persons has no adverse effects on body weight. They also show that the well-known cholesterol-lowering effect of walnut diets works equally well in the elderly and is maintained in the long term. Acquiring the good fats and other nutrients from walnuts while keeping adiposity at bay and reducing blood cholesterol levels are important to overall nutritional well-being of aging adults. It's encouraging to see that eating walnuts may benefit this particular population." 

 

Scotland shuts down its last coal-fired electric power plant
April 2, 2016 08:16 AM - s.e. smith, Care2

After nearly 50 years of service, Scotland’s last coal-fired power plant — Longannet Power Station — has finally gone offline, putting an end to over 100 years of burning coal for electricity.

It’s an important moment for Scottish Power, which looks ahead to clean power initiatives with the goal of going all-renewable by 2020,

But it’s also a very symbolic action for the world. Hopefully other nations will follow suit, creating a domino effect as country by country eliminates its coal plants — like the one above — in favor of renewable alternatives.

Lower indoor temperatures in winter correlate with thinner waistlines
April 1, 2016 05:16 PM - THE ENDOCRINE SOCIETY via EurekAlert.

Elderly adults are bigger around the middle when they turn up the heat inside their homes during the cold season and have smaller waistlines when their homes stay cool, new research finds. Investigators from Japan will present their study results Friday at the Endocrine Society's 98th annual meeting in Boston.

"Although cold exposure may be a trigger of cardiovascular disease, our data suggest that safe and appropriate cold exposure may be an effective preventive measure against obesity," said the study's lead investigator, Keigo Saeki, MD, PhD, of Nara Medical University School of Medicine Department of Community Health and Epidemiology, Nara, Japan.

Cold exposure activates thermogenesis, to generate body heat, in brown fat. This type of fat is the good calorie-burning fat that prior research found most humans have. However, Saeki said the association between the amount of cold exposure and obesity in real life remains unclear.

 

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