Health

The Ebola-poverty link
January 11, 2016 10:06 AM - Abbie Trayler-Smith/Panos, SciDevNet

Last year’s Ebola outbreak spread fastest and was hardest to control in poor communities, says a study which argues that future efforts to combat highly infectious diseases should target such areas.
 
A paper published in PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases at the end of 2015 showed that people in poorer parts of Montserrado county in Liberia — which contains the capital, Monrovia — were more likely to both catch Ebola and pass it on than those in wealthy neighbourhoods. Residents in areas of extreme poverty need rapid and high-quality healthcare interventions during outbreaks to contain epidemics quickly, it concludes. 

“The paper implies a need for more investment, time and effort spent on improving health and education in urban communities.” Elizabeth Hamann, International Rescue Committee

California Methane Leak leads to State of Emergency
January 11, 2016 07:26 AM - Mike Gaworecki, MONGABAY.COM

An ongoing methane gas leak at a facility in Southern California — what’s been called “the nation’s biggest environmental disaster since the BP oil spill” — has officially been declared an emergency by Governor Jerry Brown.

Natural gas, or methane, first started leaking from Southern California Gas Co.’s Aliso Canyon storage facility on October 23 last year.

Some 2,300 homes have been evacuated in nearby Porter Ranch, a neighborhood of Los Angeles, after residents began experiencing nosebleeds, rashes, headaches and other serious health impacts due to the gas leak and the sulfur-like smell that is blanketing their community.

Testing chemical toxicity challenge announced by USEPA + National Institutes of Health
January 8, 2016 05:19 PM - USEPA

Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS), and NIH’s National Toxicology Program (NTP) within the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) are announcing a new challenge that will award up to $1 million to improve the relevance and predictivity of data generated from automated chemical screening technology used for toxicity testing.

Out of thousands of chemicals in commerce today, very few have been fully evaluated for potential health effects. Scientists from EPA, NIEHS/NTP, and NCATS are using high-throughput screening (HTS) assays to evaluate the potential health effects of thousands of chemicals. High-throughput screening uses automated methods that allow for a large number of chemicals to be rapidly evaluated for a specific type of biological activity.

New Federal dietary guidelines recommend eating less meat
January 7, 2016 12:17 PM - NRDC

Many Americans, especially men and teenage boys, eat too much red meat, poultry and eggs, and should reduce their consumption, according to new federal dietary guidelines jointly released today by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Department of Health and Human Services. Reducing Americans’ meat consumption will not only help improve public health, but reduce climate and water pollution from the meat industry.

This is the first time federal dietary guidelines have included a recommendation to reduce meat consumption. The report advises that cutting back on meat can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, obesity, type 2 diabetes and some types of cancer.

The new dietary advice, however, did not include the recommendation from the agencies’ expert scientific advisors that the FDA explicitly link the science-based benefits of adopting diets lower in red meat, and higher in plant-based foods, to additional benefits to environment sustainability and to food security.

How you manage your email can affect your stress level
January 6, 2016 06:55 AM - BRITISH PSYCHOLOGICAL SOCIETY via EurekAlert.

New research suggests that it's not just the volume of emails that causes stress; it's our well-intentioned habits and our need to feel in control that backfires on us.

These are some of the key findings presented next week, Thursday 7 January 2016, at the British Psychological Society's Division of Occupational Psychology annual conference in Nottingham by Dr Richard MacKinnon from the Future Work Centre. 

Volunteering is good for your health!
January 5, 2016 06:11 PM - Eric Kim, Harvard School of Public Health

 

Eric Kim, a research fellow in the Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, recently led the first study to look at a possible link between volunteering and health care use in older adults.

Why did you decide to study volunteering from a public health perspective?

There is a growing body of research showing that volunteering is associated with better physical health and mental health outcomes, as well as better health behaviors.

Another important reason is that the number of older adults in the U.S., and other countries, is rapidly rising. Over the next 35 years, the number of 65-year-olds is going to double. As a result, the number of chronic illnesses will likely rise causing at least two outcomes: First, there will be a large increase in the number of people suffering. Second, the rising number of illnesses is going to put a huge burden on our health care system. If volunteering does affect health care use, these findings could be used to inform new strategies for increasing preventive health screenings, lowering emergency room use and health care costs, and also enhancing the health of older adults.

 

County of origin labeling on our meat no longer required
January 5, 2016 05:09 AM - Mary Clare Jalonick, Organic Consumers Association

It's now harder to find out where your beef or pork was born, raised and slaughtered.

After more than a decade of wrangling, Congress repealed a labeling law last month that required retailers to include the animal's country of origin on packages of red meat. It's a major victory for the meat industry, which had fought the law in Congress and the courts since the early 2000s.

Lawmakers said they had no choice but to get rid of the labels after the World Trade Organization repeatedly ruled against them. The WTO recently authorized Canada and Mexico, which had challenged the law, to begin more than $1 billion in economic retaliation against the United States.

US Files Complaint Against Volkswagen, Audi and Porsche for Alleged Clean Air Act Violations - not the kind of German engineering the VW Group wants to be known for
January 4, 2016 03:56 PM - US Environmental Protection Agency

The U.S. Department of Justice, on behalf of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, today filed a civil complaint in federal court in Detroit, Michigan against Volkswagen AG, Audi AG, Volkswagen Group of America, Inc., Volkswagen Group of America Chattanooga Operations, LLC, Porsche AG, and Porsche Cars North America, Inc. (collectively referred to as Volkswagen). The complaint alleges that nearly 600,000 diesel engine vehicles had illegal defeat devices installed that impair their emission control systems and cause emissions to exceed EPA’s standards, resulting in harmful air pollution. The complaint further alleges that Volkswagen violated the Clean Air Act by selling, introducing into commerce, or importing into the United States motor vehicles that are designed differently from what Volkswagen had stated in applications for certification to EPA and the California Air Resources Board (CARB).

“With today’s filing, we take an important step to protect public health by seeking to hold Volkswagen accountable for any unlawful air pollution, setting us on a path to resolution,” said Cynthia Giles, assistant administrator for enforcement and compliance assurance at EPA. “So far, recall discussions with the company have not produced an acceptable way forward. These discussions will continue in parallel with the federal court action.”

“Car manufacturers that fail to properly certify their cars and that defeat emission control systems breach the public trust, endanger public health and disadvantage competitors,” said Assistant Attorney General John C. Cruden for the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division. “The United States will pursue all appropriate remedies against Volkswagen to redress the violations of our nation’s clean air laws alleged in the complaint.”

The Mississippi flooding sets records
January 3, 2016 08:30 AM - Jon Edman, The Weather Channel

Record flooding along some tributaries after torrential post-Christmas weekend rain has sent the Mississippi River to levels not seen since the Great Flood of 1993, and that excess water will continue to flow downstream triggering flooding in the Lower Mississippi Valley into mid-late January.

In the past week or so, nearly a dozen locations have seen water levels on rivers or creeks rise to new record crests, including on parts of the Mississippi River and the Meramec River. You can find a full recap of the records set near the bottom of this article.

2015 Year in Review
December 31, 2015 07:10 AM - Mike Gaworecki, MONGABAY.COM

As 2015 comes to a close, Mongabay is looking back at the year that was. This year saw President Obama reject the Keystone pipeline as historic droughts and a vicious wildfire season wracked the western US and Canada. The world committed to climate action in Paris as Southeast Asia was choking on the worst Indonesian haze in years, Shell aborted its plans to drill in the Arctic for the “foreseeable” future, and ExxonMobil is being investigated for lying to the public about climate risks. Here, in no certain order, are the top 15 environmental stories of 2015.

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