Showing posts with label Health. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Health. Show all posts

Sunday, November 29, 2020

On Wells and Wellness: Oil and Gas Flaring as a Potential Risk Factor for Preterm Birth

Environmental Health Perspectives
Cattle graze in a field as gas flares from a pumping installation on the Eagle Ford Shale in Karnes County, Texas. The shale oil boom is going strong on a formation that stretches for about 500 kilomtres across south Texas, one of the most prolific oil patches in the U.S. Excess gas is burned off at oil pumping stations which dot the countryside. A Greenpeace photo.

Several studies have examined the association between unconventional oil and gas development and adverse birth outcomes. But up to now, no study is known to have looked specifically at flaring—the controlled burning of natural gas at the well site to relieve pressure or dispose of waste gas.1 In a recent article in Environmental Health Perspectives, investigators report their findings on flaring and maternal and fetal outcomes. Details here.

Sunday, April 26, 2020

Beyond Covid 19 - Defeating the virus is just the beginning!

by Larry Powell
The task of building a safer, healthier planet, surely, will only begin anew once we have defeated this beastly pandemic. So, are there lessons we can learn from Covid that we can actually use to blunt the assault of that other existential threat - manmade climate change?

Smoke obscures the sun in one of the increasing number of
wildfires in recent years - infernos which are starting earlier,
lasting longer and burning more intensely.
A Wikimedia photo.

The steps being implemented globally to counter the deadly virus, Covid 19, have surely been sweeping, drastic and unprecedented. 

And rightly so.

While we could argue over which crisis is more grave, one important reality seems clear. As with every other contagion to have attacked human civilization in past, Covid 19, too, will pass. 

Sadly, if we do not take steps which are similarly drastic to the ones now happening during the pandemic, that will not be the case with the climate crisis. This time, we must resolve to change in ways that are sustainable and ongoing.

Sadly, events unfolding before Covid clearly showed, we were simply not taking the bold and decisive steps to avoid climate disaster that we are now taking to combat the virus. Covid 19 reared its head just last year. The origins of the climate crisis emerged at least a-century-&-a-half ago at the dawn of the industrial revolution. And the signs of climate breakdown have been manifesting themselves with terrifying clarity for generations - longer, more severe and deadly storms, floods, droughts, wildfires, melting ice caps, rising sea levels and dying oceans. 

Only the proud, the wilfully blind or the ignorant will not have heard the warnings of our best experts by now - if we do not take reduce or eliminating our use of fossil fuels forthwith, parts of the planet will morph into "hothouses," where even the healthiest among us, will not survive.

Covid 19 has resulted in the drastic limiting of air travel, closure of polluting industrial plants, and banning of large gatherings on a scale that is historic and unprecedented. Ironically, these are all steps, if taken years ago, that would have likely helped blunt the climate crisis, too. 

Instead, we've been going ahead full-tilt with building more pipelines (including the one in BC that's trampling indigenous rights in the process), extracting more fossil fuels (including ones most damaging to the environment), and electing leaders who either deny the science, promote policies which lead to further, widespread destruction of the rain forests and oceans, or all of the above! Those efforts have surely been nothing short of misguided, vapid or wilfully harmful.

The very things climate scientists have been warning us against,  are now unfolding, as I write this. Flooding has devastated Fort MacMurray, Alberta, a scant four years after wildfires raged through, destroying thousands of homes and businesses. 

The tragedy of the Australian bushfires emerged in all its horror, for all to see, scant months ago.

Yet our news media remain shamefully reluctant to even ask whether any of this might be because of manmade climate change. So the residents (or their leaders) don't talk about it, either. To me, it's the elephant in the room...hard to ignore...but, they're doing it!

They simply don't (or won't), see the connection between unlimited air travel, unlimited and unfettered events like the World Cup and the Olympics, and increasing greenhouse gas concentrations that are leading us down a calamitous road. 

Eerily, some of the very steps being so desperately taken to beat down the virus - closing industrial plants and limiting air travel and large crowds - are among those which will help alleviate our climate crisis, too. Sadly, those measures will need to carry on after the virus has gone, simply because the ones taken, so far, are short-term and will not be enough to bring about the kind of transformation needed.

After all, the relentless burden of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere has not "taken a pause," to wait for Covid to end.
All of the disastrous climate phenomena I've already mentioned, are continuing, unabated. (Sadly, even tho greenhouse gas levels are now dipping dramatically due to Covid-related lockdowns of industry and travel, it will not slow down the heating of the planet for some time. So, folks, our job has just begun. And we, like in the pandemic, are all in this together!

Please also read:

Thursday, April 2, 2020

Bush-fire smoke linked to hundreds of deaths

Bushfire smoke shrouds the Blue Mountains,
as seen from Sydney Harbour Bridge,
Dec.,2019. Photo by Sardaka.
The first study to estimate health effects from Australia’s extreme fires suggests that several thousand extra people were admitted to hospital. Story here.

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

'Live animals are the largest source of infection': dangers of the export trade

The Guardian

Transporting more livestock will increase transmission of diseases, including some that could also threaten humans. Story here.
Pigs being trucked. Photo by Cayce from Malaysia.

Saturday, January 4, 2020

Lethal algae blooms – an ecosystem out of balance

The Guardian
Toxic formations across the US and the Baltic are part of a worrying trend linked to the climate crisis and farming methods Story here.
Lk. Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, with Reindeer Is. in the lower right.
Photo credit - European Space Agency.

Mekong Turns from Brown to Blue-Green

In late 2019, the river started to turn colours due 
to a reduced sediment load and algae blooms.
NASA Earth Observatory.

Sunday, December 22, 2019

Downstream of Alberta's tar sands, death by cancer comes too often

Canada's National Observer
Ft. Chipewyan from the air. Photo by Mark S. Elliott.
It’s been more than a dozen years since the metaphorical alarm was first sounded, and yet the residents of Fort Chipewyan still don’t know what’s killing them. Story here.

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Depression and suicide linked to air pollution in new global study

The Guardian
Cutting toxic air might prevent millions of people getting depression, research suggests.
Smoke from wildfires in Alberta, two provinces away,
blankets Manitoba - 2018. A PinP photo.

Here's a related story of mine that you might enjoy. 

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Thirteen years after the pesticide Lorsban sickened a Manitoba family, Health Canada is proposing it be severely restricted in Canada. The European Union will ban it in the new year. by Larry Powell

In the fall of 2006, Loyd Burghart told his story to "Planet in Peril." Burghart, a livestock farmer in the Swan Valley of western Manitoba, said he, his wife, Donna and their four children inhaled fumes from the chemical, Lorsban (chlorpyrifos) which a neighbour had been sparing on a nearby crop. (Many farmers in that part of the province had done the same that year, in an effort to control a severe infestation of  Bertha Army worms.) 

Some time after the incident, Burghart, his wife 
and one of their children, pose by a mother sow and 
piglets in their yard. A PinP photo.
The spray had left Burghart's entire family with severe symptoms. He says he, himself, was left writhing with severe pain in his eyes. 

It's not immediately known how many other Canadians have suffered in similar incidents. But it's hard to believe this was the only case. (Burghart was also worried how the chemical might impact the health of his animals and their feed.)

Health Canada announced recently it will propose that Lorsban be banned for "almost all agricultural uses." It will still be allowed for things like mosquito control. The pesticide has been linked to developmental problems in humans. 

And, it has just been announced that the European Union will ban it next year, as well. 

Lorsban is described as a "broad spectrum insecticide," used to control bugs in cereals, oilseeds, grains, fruits and vegetables.

Friday, November 22, 2019

Juul spreads over the world as home market collapses in scandal

E-cigarettes. Photo by Ecig Click
The embattled American vape company Juul is pushing foreign governments to ditch strict e-cigarette regulations as it aggressively expands across the globe in an attempt to offset lost profits in the US. Story here.

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Climate change poses 'lifelong' child health risk

Phys Org
It's feared that a changing climate may be providing improved
conditions for the mosquito which spreads the zika virus,
sometimes responsible for severe brain conditions in infants like this.
Climate change will damage the health of an entire generation unless there are immediate cuts to fossil fuel emissions, from a rise in deadly infectious diseases to surging malnutrition, experts warned Thursday. Story here.

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

New report exposes horror of working conditions for millions of sanitation workers in the developing world

World Health Organization
A community sanitation worker adds water purifying tablets to the
 jerry cans of water just filled by the children at the Pagak Reception Centre. 
Millions of sanitation workers in the developing world are forced to work in conditions that endanger their health and lives, and violate their dignity and human rights, according to a report released today.

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Healthy foods are expensive in poor countries, unhealthy foods cheap in rich countries. Study.

International Livestock Research Institute

Eggs and other nutrient-dense foods are expensive in poor countries, leading to child stunting, 
Photo by OXFAM.

while sugar and other nutrient-poor food are cheap in rich countries. 
Photo by Bennysaunders

Story here.

Sunday, February 24, 2019

If you're a farmer who generously applies certain pesticides to your crops - losing your sense of smell has just taken on a whole new meaning. It could foreshadow health problems down the road.

Decades of research - recently published - has found a significant link between a chronic loss of smell (olfactory impairment or "OI") among American farmers, and their high exposure to certain chemicals they applied to their fields. Far from being a minor ailment, "OI" has long been identified as one of the earliest and most important symptoms of several neurological diseases, including Parkinson's and Alzheimer's.
by Larry Powell
The human "olfactory" system governs 
our sense of smell. Image - public domain.

Beginning in the '90s, a team of US scientists surveyed more than 11 thousand farmers from Iowa and North Carolina. They were asked about their experiences with farm chemicals during their lifetimes.

In 2015, there was a follow-up survey. Almost 12 hundred (10.6%) reported they had either lost, or significantly lost, their sense of smell. And those who reported incidents of unusually high exposure to pesticides during that time, were almost 50% more likely to report the symptom than those who did not. These mishaps are identified in the research as "High Pesticide Exposure Events" or "HPEEs." In them, the farmers either accidentally swallowed, inhaled or spilled the pesticides on their skin.

And those who did not wash thoroughly with soap and water within four hours of exposure, stood a greater chance of developing "OI". In other words, those who washed quickly likely helped reduce their harmful effects.

The pesticides named in the analysis include DDT, an insecticide no longer used in North America. The researchers believe the older farmers reporting symptoms were exposed to it, even before it was banned back in the '60s. DDT and the other insecticide named, lindane, are persistent and can still be found in food, the environment and even human tissue. They belong to a family known as organochlorines. Even before this latest research,  organochlorines had been associated with both Parkinson's and dementia.

Four other pesticides are also implicated. They include 2,4-D, a popular weedkiller still in use. 

Honglei Chen, MD, PhD, professor
of epidemiology, Michigan State U.
In an e-mail to "Planet in Peril," the lead author of the study, Honglei Chen (l.) further explains, "Poor sense of smell predicts higher mortality and risk for neurodegenerative diseases after accounting for other risk factors such as age, sex, smoking and health status."

The report concludes: "To the best of our knowledge, our study provides the first empirical evidence that acute high exposure to pesticides may lead to poor sense of smell among older farmers."

A ground sprayer in Canada, where farming methods, including
heavy inputs of chemical pesticides, closely 
resemble those in the US. A PinP photo.

The research was conducted by nine US experts. They represented groups including the National Institutes of Health and the National Cancer Institute. Their report was published in January in the journal, "Environmental Health Perspectives."  It calls for more studies to further explore the issue.

"OI" also affects us in other ways few might imagine. 

Even certain accidents can be attributed to a loss of smell. For example, if you can't smell properly, you may be unable to detect stove fires due to burning pots or pans, gas leaks, food gone bad or toxic substances in time to avoid an accident. Even weight gain has been shown to be highest among those with "OI." And among women age 45 to 60 years who were tested, an ability to smell well "significantly improved" their tension, depression and confusion levels. And pesticides may even be responsible for a loss of smell among honeybees, disrupting their ability to find pollen and nectar.  

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Drug-resistant microbes could threaten future global economy, low income countries in particular

Journal Club
A microbiologist examines the growth of a bacterial culture. 
A U.S. Food & Drug Administration photo. 
Antimicrobial resistance is not only a major public health threat, but also an economic one, according to researchers at The World Bank. Their new study, published in the journal World Development, suggests that an increase in drug-resistant microbes could cause millions more people to fall into extreme poverty within the next few decades. “Nobody has estimated the poverty effects before,” says study author Karen Thierfelder, an economics professor at the U.S. Naval Academy and consultant for The World Bank. “We’d like to make more people aware of the problem.” More here.

Also Read: "In Hogs We Trust."  

A critique of Manitoba’s “runaway” hog industry.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Invasive Group A strep cases rising in Canada, But the reason is a medical mystery

CBC News
A year after losing both legs and an arm, a Winnipeg mom has no idea why infection struck. More here.

RELATED? Could the Manitoba government’s return to a deregulated hog industry actually contribute to a world health crisIs?

Friday, December 8, 2017

Canola oil linked to worsened memory and learning ability in Alzheimer's

Canola oil is one of the most widely consumed vegetable oils, yet little is known about its health effects. Now, a study links canola oil consumption in the diet with..... Story here.

A canola field - a common site 
on the Canadian prairies. PinP photo.

Related: Canola study on Alzheimer mice seen as ‘huge stretch’

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

More alarm bells sound over drug usage in the world's intensive livestock operations. Will Manitoba listen?

by Larry Powell writes from SHOAL LAKE, MANITOBA.

The World Health Organization is ramping up its warnings about the health risks of giving antibiotics to animals raised in intensive livestock operations (ILOs) everywhere. 

In an announcement in Geneva this week, the UN agency had some straight talk for the world’s food industry and animal farmers in the form of several formal recommendations:

•              Stop giving antibiotics to food animals altogether if it’s just to speed their growth - or prevent disease

A CanStock photo image.

•              Don’t give them to healthy animals unless disease has already been diagnosed in another part of the same herd.

•              Cut back on the amount of antibiotics given to animals for any reason. 

•              And even when animals become sick, only give them antibiotics not considered critically important in the treatment of human infections. (Drugs used in both animal agriculture and human medicine are often identical.)

As the world's appetite for meat keeps going up, so too do the volumes of medications which producers either inject or feed to their animals. 

This overuse happens in humans, too. But, in many countries the WHO does not name, about 80% of these medications are applied to food animals - mostly to fatten them up for market!

“The new recommendations aim to help preserve the effectiveness of antibiotics that are important for human medicine by reducing their unnecessary use in animals,” states the WHO news release.

“A lack of effective antibiotics is as serious a security threat as a sudden and deadly disease outbreak,” says the WHO’s Director-General, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. He concludes,“Strong, sustained action across all sectors is vital if we are to turn back the tide and keep the world safe." Such steps are needed, warns the WHO, ominously, since “There are very few promising options in the research pipeline. 

The WHO claims its recommendations are based on "consistent evidence;" showing the effectiveness of antibiotic reductions. The agency believes this can also be achieved with little or no negative impact on animal health, welfare or production costs.

"Many countries have successfully achieved complete restriction of growth promotion... demonstrating the feasibility of this recommendation."

 The Agency also refers to a study just published in “The Lancet Planetary Health.” It finds that restricting antibiotic use in food animals reduces "superbugs" by as much as 39%. And a study of chickens in Canada comes up with similar findings. (No link available.)

The overuse of antibiotics leads to “antimicrobial resistance” (AMR), where traditional medicines are no longer effective.

WHO figures show almost half-a-million people around the world come down with tuberculosis that is resistant to several drug formulations each year. While TB is said to claim five thousand lives yearly, just how many of those would be attributable to AMR, is not immediately clear. But it is also known that AMR is complicating the fight against HIV, malaria, cancer chemotherapy, caesarean sections and even hip replacements.

Canada does not keep statistics on AMRs. But, as long as ten years ago, a story in the Globe and Mail estimated that 8,000 Canadians were dying yearly due to to hospital infections which were difficult or impossible to treat. 

The giving of antibiotics to food animals (completely legal in Canada) is also believed to be widespread in this country, although the extent of it is hard to get a grip on.
(My search for “antibiotics” on the website of  the industry group “Manitoba Pork,” has yielded no results.)

So I e-mailed “Manitoba Pork,” to see if they'd comment, both on on the amount of antibiotics they use and on the WHO recommendations. 

I haven't heard back, so far.

And, any day now, the Government of Manitoba will introduce legislation which will pave the way for a major expansion of hog “ILOs”  in this province.

RELATED: To Fight Global Threat of Antibiotic Resistance, WHO Issues First-Ever Guidelines to Curb Use

Massive B.C. coal mines are about to get a new owner. Why some are worried about Glencore’s record

THE NARWHAL Coal mine at Tumbler Ridge, B.C.  Jeffrey Wynne ,      If the sale goes through, the company will inherit a contamination proble...