Health

Radon in Homes an Invisible Danger
January 16, 2010 11:43 AM - Roger Greenway, ENN

Many areas of the US have high background radon levels in the ground. When radon gets into a home it can increase the resident's cancer risk. How does radon get into a home? The most common way is through cracks in basement floors, walls, and sump pump sumps. In the winter, if a furnace or boiler is in the basement, the chimney can act as a depressurization device since combustion air is vented to the outdoors. If the basement is tight, and there is no source of combustion air, the heating system (and water heater too) can depressurize the basement. If there is radon in the soil gas below the house, this depressurization will increase radon infiltration through cracks and sumps. Another infiltration route is through groundwater. In areas with elevated radon in rock formations, and in homes using on-site wells for water, the water carries radon into the shower where it vaporizes to gaseous radon. January is National Radon Action Month, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is touting three initiatives to raise awareness about the risks of radon.

Rats, Humans and Strokes
January 15, 2010 11:37 AM - Andy Soos, ENN

A stroke (sometimes called an acute cerebrovascular attack) is the rapidly developing loss of brain function(s) due to disturbance in the blood supply to the brain. As a result, the affected area of the brain is unable to function, leading to inability to move one or more limbs on one side of the body, inability to understand or formulate speech, or inability to see one side of the visual field. Two new studies by UC Irvine biologists have found that a protein naturally occurring in humans restores motor function in rats after a stroke. Administered directly to the brain, the protein restores 99 percent of lost movement; if it's given through the nose, 70 percent of lost movement is regained. Untreated rats improve by only 30 percent.

Haiti Earthquake: Why did it Happen?
January 14, 2010 06:16 AM - Andrea Thompson, Live Science

The major earthquake that struck Haiti Tuesday may have shocked a region unaccustomed to such temblors, but the devastating quake was not unusual in that it was caused by the same forces that generate earthquakes the world over. In this case, the shaking was triggered by much the same mechanism that shakes cities along California's San Andreas fault. The 7.0-magnitude Haiti earthquake would be a strong, potentially destructive earthquake anywhere, but it is an unusually strong event for Haiti, with even more potential destructive impact because of the weak infrastructure of the impoverished nation.

Parking Lot Problems
January 13, 2010 12:16 PM - Andy Soos, ENN

Coal tar based seal coat, which is the black, shiny substance sprayed or painted on many parking lots, driveways, and playgrounds, has been linked to higher concentrations of the contaminants polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) in house dust. Apartments with adjacent parking lots treated with the coal-tar based seal coat have house dust with much higher concentrations of PAHs than apartments next to other types of parking lots according to new research released today on-line by Environmental Science and Technology (ES&T). The main purpose of using a quality sealer is that the sealer coats the asphalt surface protecting it from harmful ultra violet as well as road salts and engine oils which dissolve the asphalt and create soft spots. If untreated areas are ignored, deterioration will occur and you will end up spending much more money trying to patch and repair the asphalt than if you properly maintain it.

Tilapia Found to be Invasive in Fiji
January 13, 2010 07:50 AM - Wildlife Conservation Society

The poster child for sustainable fish farming—the tilapia—is actually a problematic invasive species for the native fish of the islands of Fiji, according to a new study by the Wildlife Conservation Society and other groups. Scientists suspect that tilapia introduced to the waterways of the Fiji Islands may be gobbling up the larvae and juvenile fish of several native species of goby, fish that live in both fresh and salt water and begin their lives in island streams.

Magnitude 7.0 Earthquake Hits Haiti
January 13, 2010 06:56 AM - Haroon Siddique, Guardian UK and USGS

The earthquake that has hit Haiti, raising fears that thousands have been killed, is the latest in a long line of natural disasters to befall a country ill equipped to deal with such events. Hurricanes and flooding are perennial concerns for the poorest country in the western hemisphere, which has time and again been dependent on foreign aid in emergencies.

EPA to Improve Ozone Standards
January 11, 2010 05:13 PM - Andy Soos, ENN

The US Environmental Protection Agency is proposing the strictest health standards to date for smog. Smog, also known as ground-level ozone, is linked to a number of serious health problems, ranging from aggravation of asthma to increased risk of premature death in people with heart or lung disease. Ozone can even harm healthy people who work and play outdoors. The agency is proposing to replace the standards set by the previous administration, which many believe were not protective enough of human health. Ozone pollution is created when chemicals from cars, power plants, and factories mix with sunlight. That's why ozone tends to be higher in sunnier climates or during hot weather. It is a main part of smog, that brownish-yellow haze sometimes seen hanging over cities on the horizon.

Indoor Air Quality
January 10, 2010 10:36 AM - , Sierra Club Green Home

How to make your home a healthy place Smog in urban areas often makes the news. But truth be told, air quality is often much worse inside our homes than outside. That’s because tens of thousands of chemicals, some synthetic and some found in nature, are used to make products commonly found in buildings. Many of these chemicals are benign, some are highly toxic, and most fall in that wide gray area in between. When it comes to indoor air contamination, the biggest culprit in our homes is VOCs, a large class of chemicals that can evaporate, or offgas, from stuff that’s all around us, like particle board, carpet, paint, cleaning products, and materials treated with stain-resistant and wrinkle-resistant chemicals.

Good News for Cell Phone Users
January 9, 2010 08:07 AM - Editor, ENN

The University of South Florida finds that use of cell phones may have a positive health impact. Contrary to most studies of cell phone use that looked at possible negative impacts, this study was highly controlled to permit the investigators to isolate the possible effects of cell phone electromagnetic radiation from other potential factors like diet and exercise. The study, led by University of South Florida researchers at the Florida Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center (ADRC), was published today in the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease. "It surprised us to find that cell phone exposure, begun in early adulthood, protects the memory of mice otherwise destined to develop Alzheimer's symptoms," said lead author Gary Arendash, PhD, Research Professor at the Florida ADRC. "It was even more astonishing that the electromagnetic waves generated by cell phones actually reversed memory impairment in old Alzheimer's mice."

US EPA Proposes Stricter Ozone Standards
January 8, 2010 06:47 AM - Roger Greenway, ENN

The United States Environmental Protection Agency proposed new stricter health standards for Ozone. Ozone is linked to a number of serious health problems, ranging from aggravation of asthma to increased risk of premature death in people with heart or lung disease. Ozone can also harm healthy people who work and play outdoors. Children are at the greatest risk from ozone, because their lungs are still developing, they are more likely to be active outdoors, and they are more likely than adults to have asthma. Adults with asthma or other lung diseases, and older adults are also sensitive to ozone.

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