Health Updates 19 March 2012

  • FDA warns about mercury in skin creams: “Consumers should avoid skin lighteners, ‘anti-aging’ creams, and other cosmetics that may contain toxic levels of mercury, the FDA advised in an alert issued Thursday.  Products that list ‘mercurous chloride’, ‘calomel’, ‘mercuric’, ‘mercurio’ and ‘mercury’ among their ingredients – or that don’t list ingredients in English, or at all, – should not be used, the FDA warned.  The alert came after the Minnesota Department of Health tested 27 products marketed as skin lighteners, finding that 11 exceeded the FDA’s allowable limit of 1 ppm of mercury compounds.  Several of these contained mercury at concentrations thousands of times higher – one, an imported Asian product called ‘Lemon Herbal Whiting Cream,’ tested at 33,000 ppm, or 3.3% mercury.  Individuals who have already purchased products that might contain mercury should throw them away immediately, the FDA urged.  The agency said it had received several reports of people who were treated for mercury poisoning after using skin-care products.” (John Gever, MedPage Today)
  • Child injuries on US farms cost $1.4 billion a year: More than 26,000 kids and adolescents get injured on farms and ranches in the US every year, racking up costs of more than $1.4 billion, according to new research.  The study, released Monday in the journal Pediatrics, is the first to give an overall estimate of fatal and non-fatal child injuries related to farm life in America.  Less than a third of the accidents were work-related and only 84 were fatal, researchers found based on 2001-2006 Childhood Agricultural Injury Surveys.  The fatal injuries accounted for $420 million of the total cost, based on lost wages and estimates of the value of pain and suffering.  ‘The cost of youth agricultural  injury is substantial,’…’We know that agriculture injury is usually more severe than injuries to other types of audiences…It’s usually because of the equipment that’s being used.  It’s powerful machines that will tear you apart very quickly’,” experts observed.  The report shows deaths typically due to fire, explosions or injuries from machinery.  Falls and transportation were the most common reasons for non-deadly injuries.  While valuable life lessons are learned from farm work, parents were cautioned to pay more attention to their children’s safety on farms and ranches, not letting them handle equipment or chores they aren’t ready for. (MedlinePlus)
  • Poor reading skills might be fatal for older folks: Being unable to read and understand basic health information might have a deadly outcome for older people, new research reveals.  The study included nearly 8,000 adults in England, aged 52 and older, who completed a test of functional health literacy – the ability to use reading skills to understand health-related information.  Specifically, the test assessed a person’s  understanding of written instructions for taking aspirin.  About one-third of the participants could not completely understand the instructions, demonstrating poor health literacy….Compared with people with the highest scores, those with the lowest health literacy scores were more than twice as likely to die within five years.  The investigators found that other factors, such as differences in age, general health and economic status, accounted for less than half of the increase in risk.” (HealthDay)
  • Really? Questions about French pine bark: “French pine bark has a loyal following.  The bark, from trees grown along the coast of southwest France, is processed and turned into a tonic that contains powerful antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds.  Users say it strengthens cardiovascular systems and eases symptoms of chronic disorders like asthma, osteoarthritis and chronic venous insufficiency, a painful condition in which the leg veins struggle to return blood to the heart….Some studies have found that supplements made from the bark can be beneficial.  A report in 2004, for example, concluded that people with asthma who took the supplement for three months showed more improvement in pulmonary function and other symptoms than those who were given a placebo.  Users also reduced their reliance on inhalers to a greater extent than those in the placebo group.  But this year, a team of scientists…found that most of the studies on the supplement were too flawed to prove its efficacy.  Some were too small to be credible; many were potentially biased because of industry financing….The bottom line: The evidence supporting supplements made from French pine bark is not convincing.” (Anahad O’Connor, NY Times)

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