Jan 20, 2009 | 5
Scientists this week urged further research on tungsten— the metal used to make lightbulb filaments, shotgun shells, electrical wires and even wedding bands—to rule out possible health risks to humans and the environment in the wake of studies showing that it may cause reproductive problems in earthworms and stunted growth in sunflowers.
In an article published this week in Chemical & Engineering News, researchers suggest that not enough is known to determine whether tungsten is safe, and that studies need to be conducted to assess how much is in drinking water and the soil – and whether it poses dangers for humans, animals and plants.
Jan 7, 2009 | 2
Raise high the coffee bean! Good news, coffee-drinkers: a new study shows your beverage of choice may lower your chances of getting oral, esophageal and pharyngeal (back-of-the-throat) cancer.
Japanese researchers report in the American Journal of Epidemiology this week that people they studied who drank a cup or more of Joe daily had about a 50 percent less chance than non-imbibers of developing these cancers. The scientists based their findings on 13 years of data of some 38,000 people ages 40 to 64 with no history of cancer.
According to the study, coffee drinking lowered the odds of these types of cancer even in people with high-risk behaviors (read: smoking and boozing).
"Caffeine has been suggested to suppress the progression of tumor cells," senior study author Toru Naganuma, an epidemiological researcher at Japan's Tohoku University, told ScientificAmerican.com in an email. He noted that other studies have also linked moderate coffee drinking to reduced risk of liver cancer.
Dec 31, 2008 | 8
Health journalists are getting scolded by one of their own. Susan Dentzer, a correspondent for PBS's the NewsHour, argues in a commentary in today's New England Journal of Medicine that medical reporters too often get the facts wrong, fail to provide context about new research, and hype treatments that don’t deserve the coverage.
Most to blame: the new 24/7 news cycle that's put journos under pressure to produce reams of copy under tight deadlines. She says some manage to get it right despite the time constraint and attempts to make the news easy enough for lay viewers and readers to understand. "But all too frequently, what is conveyed about health by many other journalists is wrong or misleading," Dentzer says in the piece. "When journalists ignore complexities or fail to provide context, the public health messages they convey are inevitably inadequate or distorted."
Dec 18, 2008 | 6
Data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicates that humans carry phthalates—chemicals used as softeners in plastics and found in everything from pill coatings to nail polish—around in their bodies. A growing number of studies, primarily in rats, show that phthalates cause male reproductive problems—infertility, decreased sperm count, malformation—and can cross the placenta. As a result, the European Union has banned some of them and consumer advocate and environmental groups have called for the U.S. government to do the same.
Today, an advisory panel of scientists, commissioned by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), released a report recommending that the chemicals be assessed as a group for potential risks as soon as possible.
Nov 6, 2008 | 2
If you care about global health, sanitation or just clean water, then you'll care about the eighth annual World Toilet Summit and Expo in Macau, China. This conference of the World Toilet Organization (not to be confused with that other WTO) aims to figure out how to get some form of sanitation to the planet's 2.5 billion people—more than one in three— who do not have proper toilets.
The lack of such basic facilities leads to contamination of food and water, disease, and a host of other environmental and health problems. The solution may seem simple, but it’s not: the developed world's flush toilets will not work in areas where water is scarce.
Oct 21, 2008 | 1
Ten people today allowed their genetic maps to be publicly displayed on the Web in the name of research. The effort is part of Harvard Medical School's Personal Genome Project (PGP), which aims to create a large public database of human DNA to aid researchers in their quest to find the causes and cures for genetic maladies.
The first 10 volunteers, dubbed the PGP-10, include project director and Harvard Medical School geneticist George Church; Harvard psychologist Steven Pinker; technology writer Esther Dyson; Duke University science editor Misha Angrist; Keith Batchelder, CEO of Genomic Healthcare Strategies in Charlestown, Mass.; Rosalynn Gill, founder of personalized health company Sciona in Aurora, Colo.; John Halamka, technology dean at Harvard Medical School; Stanley Lapidus, chairman and CEO of Helicos BioSciences Corp. in Cambridge, Mass.; Kirk Maxey, founder of the research biochemical company Cayman Chemical based in Ann Arbor, Mich.; and James Shirley, senior scientist at the Boston Biomedical Research Institute.
Sep 11, 2008 | 1
The long-term effects of the 9/11 attacks aren’t merely existential. Whether the collapse of the Twin Towers and exposure to the stew of dust and chemicals caused disease, and the emotional toll it took on witnesses, are scientific questions, too.
New estimates suggest that of the more than 400,000 people who were directly exposed to the strikes, 35,000- to- 70,000 developed post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and 9,700-to-2,000 people experienced serious psychological distress. Some 3,800 to 12,600 people may have developed asthma, New York City epidemiologists report in this month's Journal of Urban Health.
Sep 3, 2008
The 2008 NFL season kicks off tomorrow night with a game between the New York Giants and Washington Redskins – and haven’t you always wanted to know the science behind the pigskin? In honor of America's favorite (fall) pastime, the SciAm team has a new package of football-related stories, including, among other things, an explanation of that mysterious injury, turf toe.
While it may sound disgusting, turf toe actually isn’t nearly as stomach-turning as those animated commercials for athlete’s foot remedies. Giants’ team doc Russell Warren tells SciAm that the injury is due to the stretching of tissues inside the big toe. “You can get it by stubbing the toe against a surface, hyperflexing it (over-curling it toward the sole of your foot), or hyper-extending it (jamming it back towards your body),” Warren says.
Aug 27, 2008 | 14
Good news for potheads making their annual trek to Black Rock, Nev. this week to celebrate Burning Man: A new study says that marijuana appears to fight infections. According to research published in the Journal of Natural Products, the five most common cannabinoid compounds in weed—tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), cannabidiol, cannabigerol, cannabinol and cannabichromene—can kill antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Think MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus), which claimed more lives than AIDS in 2007 or, more recently, extensively drug-resistant mycobacterium tuberculosis (XDR-TB.)
Aug 25, 2008 | 10
Last week, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced that the U.S. has seen more cases of measles than at any time since 1996 in the last six months—and its stories like that that have caught the attention of actress Amanda Peet, among others concerned about the resurgence. In Europe and the U.K., children are dying of measles. Declared eliminated in the U.S. in 2000, and as recently as the early 1960s, as many as 500 children in this country died every year from the viral disease, characterized by a red rash and highly infectious cough.
The first outbreak of 2008 came via a 7-year-old boy from San Diego, who traveled to Switzerland with his family. He had not been vaccinated and contracted measles, which he subsequently passed on to schoolmates, infants at his doctor's office and children around him in the hospital.
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