Archive for the ‘public health’ Category

The fall of coal and its pollution-linked deaths is boosting the economy

September 10th, 2019
Image of a pig farm.

Enlarge / Livestock production has become one of the United States' largest sources of particulate pollution. (credit: Wikimedia Commons/Jessica Reeder)

Many economic activities create what are called "externalities": costs that aren't accounted for in their products but are paid for by society at large. Pollution is a major source of externalities, as it can lower the value of property, force people to spend money on medical costs, and even lead to early deaths.

Air pollution is estimated to have caused more than 100,000 early deaths in 2016. Most of these have come due to what are called fine particulates, which are small particles that can be readily inhaled and cause issues like stroke, heart disease, and lung ailments. So a group of researchers at Carnegie Mellon University decided to do an economic analysis of the issue for the United States. The researchers compared the costs of premature deaths from particulate pollution to the value added by the economic activity that produced the pollution to find out which polluting industries might provide a net benefit to the economy.

Their analysis showed that the plunge in coal use has caused electrical generation to shift from a net money sink to an economic positive. And that has left farming as the only major activity that generates more costs than it's worth.

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Posted in agriculture, death, Economics, electricity, particulates, pollution, power generation, public health, science, Transportation | Comments (0)

Juul gave presentations in schools to kids—and the FDA is fuming

September 10th, 2019
WASHINGTON, DC - JULY 25: A young man wears a shirt that reads DITCHJUUL while James Monsees, co-founder and chief product officer at JUUL Labs Inc., testifies before the House Economic and Consumer Policy Subcommittee, which is examining JUUL's role in the youth nicotine epidemic, on July 25, 2019 in Washington, DC.
 (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

Enlarge / WASHINGTON, DC - JULY 25: A young man wears a shirt that reads DITCHJUUL while James Monsees, co-founder and chief product officer at JUUL Labs Inc., testifies before the House Economic and Consumer Policy Subcommittee, which is examining JUUL's role in the youth nicotine epidemic, on July 25, 2019 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images) (credit: Getty | Mark Wilson)

The Food and Drug Administration on Monday came out swinging at e-cigarette giant Juul over a variety of its unproven safety claims and startling marketing practices—most notably saying without evidence that its products are safer than smoking traditional cigarettes and giving presentations directly to kids in schools—in at least one alleged case, without teachers present or parental consent.

“Regardless of where products like e-cigarettes fall on the continuum of tobacco product risk, the law is clear that, before marketing tobacco products for reduced risk, companies must demonstrate with scientific evidence that their specific product does in fact pose less risk or is less harmful,” acting FDA Commissioner Dr. Ned Sharpless said in a statement Monday. “JUUL has ignored the law, and very concerningly, has made some of these statements in school to our nation’s youth.”

In response, the agency sent Juul a warning letter over unauthorized marketing as well as a letter of concern (PDF), which included a request for reams of documents “regarding JUUL’s marketing, advertising, promotional, and education campaigns, as well as certain product development activity.”

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Posted in addiction, CDC, e-cigarettes, fda, juul, nicotine, public health, science, vaping, Youth | Comments (0)

Probe into vaping-linked illnesses turns up form of vitamin E from skin creams

September 6th, 2019
Some of the black-market vaping products that have been found to contain vitamin E acetate, according to the New York State Department of Health.

Enlarge / Some of the black-market vaping products that have been found to contain vitamin E acetate, according to the New York State Department of Health. (credit: Flicrk | New York State Department of Health)

Federal and state officials investigating the mysterious eruption of lung illnesses linked to e-cigarette use have turned up a vitamin in vape products that is normally found in supplements and skin creams.

The chemical is vitamin E acetate or alpha-tocopherol acetate, which is a less acidic, more shelf-stable form of vitamin E. It has an acetate group where an alcohol is usually found on the vitamin’s chemical structure. It’s used in a wide range of personal care products based on (largely unproven) health claims about vitamin E’s antioxidant effects. The more stable form of the vitamin appears in anti-aging wrinkle creams, shave gels, lip balms, shampoos, and soaps, as well as vitamin pills.

Vitamin E acetate is generally considered safe for ingestion and topical use. It’s unclear how the oily supplement might affect the lungs when inhaled from vape products. But, based on the latest evidence in the vaping investigations, officials are beginning to suspect the effects are not good.

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Posted in CDC, counterfeit, Counterfeit goods, e-cigarettes, fda, illnesses, lung, public health, science, vaping | Comments (0)

Vaping-illness investigations turn to contaminants, counterfeits: report

August 30th, 2019
A man smokes an e-cigarette.

Enlarge / A man smokes an e-cigarette. (credit: Getty | Picture alliance)

State and federal investigations into the puzzling burst of severe lung illnesses linked to e-cigarette use—aka vaping—are focusing in on black-market and counterfeit products, according to a report by the Washington Post.

Unknown adulterants and dubious solvents—such as oils and diluting “cutting agents”—in vaping liquids are now the prime suspects behind the illnesses, which have struck at least 193 people in 22 states since June 28 of this year. One person in Illinois has died. Investigators say that in many of the cases people bought suspect products on the black market or in “pop-up” shops.

Solvents in counterfeit and black-market vaping liquids “can vary a lot,” an unnamed official at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention told the Post. The official added that solvents sold for mixing home-made vaping liquids may also be mislabeled.

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Posted in CDC, e-cigarettes, fda, lung disease, outbreak, public health, science, smoking, vaping | Comments (0)

Vaping-linked lung disease cases jump from 94 to 153 in 5 days, CDC says [Updated]

August 22nd, 2019
A person exhales vapor while using an electronic cigarette device in San Francisco, California on Monday, June 24, 2019.

Enlarge / A person exhales vapor while using an electronic cigarette device in San Francisco, California on Monday, June 24, 2019. (credit: Getty | Bloomberg)

Cases of severe lung disease linked to vaping rose from 94 to 153—a jump of over 60%—in just five days, according to an update by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

On Saturday, August 17, the CDC announced its investigation into the cases, which have puzzled health officials. The cases tend to involve gradual breathing difficulties, coughing, fatigue, chest pain, and weight loss, which leads to hospitalization (no one has died from the condition). Health officials say there’s no evidence pointing to an infectious agent behind the illnesses. The only commonality appears to be recent use of e-cigarettes, aka vaping.

As of August 17, the agency had counted 94 probable cases from 14 states between June 28 and August 15. In an update released late Wednesday, August 21, the CDC said the figures are up to 153 probable cases between June 28 and August 20, spanning 16 states.

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Posted in CDC, e-cigarettes, fda, illness, lung disease, Marijuana, public health, science, smoking, THC, vaping | Comments (0)

Vaping linked to 94 mysterious cases of severe lung disease in 14 states

August 19th, 2019
A person smokes a Juul Labs Inc. e-cigarette.

Enlarge / A person smokes a Juul Labs Inc. e-cigarette. (credit: Getty | Bloomberg)

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced Saturday that it’s investigating a puzzling burst of severe lung-disease cases linked to e-cigarette product use or “vaping.”

Between June 28 and August 15, health officials have counted 94 probable cases of severe lung illness in 14 states, the CDC said. Officials haven’t found any conclusive evidence to suggest that an infectious illness is behind the cases, the agency added. The only common thread so far appears to be recent vaping by those afflicted.

The CDC is working in close consultation with officials in some of the hardest-hit states, including Wisconsin, Illinois, California, Indiana, and Minnesota. Wisconsin alone reported 30 of the 94 cases.

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Posted in addiction, CDC, e-cigarettes, fda, Health, juul, lung, nicotine, public health, science, smoking, tobacco, vaping | Comments (0)

Unlicensed “health coach” claims health advice is free speech—court disagrees

July 20th, 2019
Unlicensed "health coach" Heather Del Castillo

Enlarge / Unlicensed "health coach" Heather Del Castillo (credit: Institute for Justice)

A federal court on Wednesday rejected claims by an unlicensed “health coach” that the unqualified health advice she provided to paying clients was protected speech under the First Amendment.

In rejecting her claim, the court affirmed that states do indeed have the right to require that anyone charging for health and medical services—in this case, dietetics and nutrition advice—be qualified and licensed. (State laws governing who can offer personalized nutrition services vary considerably, however.)

Heather Del Castillo, a “holistic health coach” based in Florida, brought the case in October of 2017 shortly after she was busted in an undercover investigation by the state health department. At the time, Del Castillo was running a health-coaching business called Constitution Nutrition, which offered a personalized, six-month health and dietary program. The program involved 13 in-home consulting sessions, 12 of which cost $95 each.

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Posted in First Amendment, Florida, Freedom of Speech, Health, licensing, Medical, nutrition, public health, science | Comments (0)

WHO declares Ebola outbreak an international emergency

July 17th, 2019
Health workers communicate information about Ebola at an Ebola screening station on the road between Butembo and Goma on July 16, 2019, in Goma, DRC.

Enlarge / Health workers communicate information about Ebola at an Ebola screening station on the road between Butembo and Goma on July 16, 2019, in Goma, DRC. (credit: Getty | John Wessels)

The World Health Organization on Wednesday declared the nearly year-long Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC).

The declaration could boost funding and support for outbreak-response efforts, which have been hampered by violence and community distrust in the affected areas. Since January, officials have reported 198 attacks on health responders, which left seven dead and 58 healthcare workers and patients injured.

“It is time for the world to take notice and redouble our efforts. We need to work together in solidarity with the DRC to end this outbreak and build a better health system,” WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said today in a statement. “Extraordinary work has been done for almost a year under the most difficult circumstances. We all owe it to these responders—coming from not just WHO but also government, partners, and communities—to shoulder more of the burden.”

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Posted in ebola, Infectious disease, outbreak, public health, science, WHO | Comments (0)

Measles is killing more people in the DRC than Ebola—and faster

July 15th, 2019
A man receives a vaccine against Ebola from a nurse outside the Afia Himbi Health Center on July 15, 2019 in Goma.

Enlarge / A man receives a vaccine against Ebola from a nurse outside the Afia Himbi Health Center on July 15, 2019 in Goma. (credit: Getty | PAMELA TULIZO )

As the world anxiously monitors the outbreak of Ebola in Democratic Republic of the Congo, health officials note that a measles outbreak declared last month in the country has killed more people—mostly children—and faster.

Since January 2019, officials have recorded over 100,000 measles cases in the DRC, mostly in children, and nearly 2,000 have died. The figures surpass those of the latest Ebola outbreak in the country, which has tallied not quite 2,500 cases and 1,665 deaths since August 2018. The totals were noted by World Health Organization Director-General, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, in a speech today, July 15, at the United Nations Office in Geneva, Switzerland.

"Frankly, I am embarrassed to talk only about Ebola," Dr. Tedros said (he goes by his first name). He gave the speech in response to two new developments in the Ebola outbreak. That is that two Ebola responders were murdered in their home in the DRC city of Beni, and that officials on Sunday had identified the first case of Ebola in Goma, a DRC city of over one million at the border with Rwanda.

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Posted in democratic republic of Congo, ebola, Ebola Outbreak, global health, Infectious disease, measles, measles outbreak, outbreak, public health, science, virus, WHO | Comments (0)

Savage tick-clone armies are sucking cows to death; experts fear for humans

July 11th, 2019
Scary arachnid is fat.

Enlarge / Engorged Haemaphysalis longicornis female tick. (credit: Commonsource)

Ravenous swarms of cloned ticks have killed a fifth cow in North Carolina by exsanguination—that is, by draining it of blood—the state’s Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services warned this week.

Experts fear that the bloodthirsty throngs, which were first noticed in the United States in 2017, will continue their rampage, siphoning life out of animals and eventually transmitting diseases, potentially deadly ones, to humans.

Just last month, infectious disease researchers in New York reported the first case of the tick species biting a human in the US. The finding was “unsurprising” given the tick’s ferocious nature, according to Dr. Bobbi S. Pritt, director of the Clinical Parasitology Laboratory in Mayo Clinic. And it’s “extremely worrisome for several reasons,” she wrote in a commentary for the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases.

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Posted in Asian longhorned tick, cattle, cow, Haemaphysalis longicornis, Infectious disease, Invasive species, parasites, public health, science, ticks, vector-borne diseases | Comments (0)