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Health Updates 13 July 2012

  • Climate change may cut cowsmilk production in south: “Rising temperatures caused by climate change may lead to reduced milk production among cows in the southern United States, a new study suggests.  University of Washington researchers analyzed climate and daily industry data and concluded that the effects of climate change on milk production by Holstein cows through 2080 will vary across the United States due to major regional differences in humidity and swings between day and night temperatures.  For example, the humidity and hot nights in the Southeast make that region the most unfriendly place in the United States for dairy cows, the study authors said in a university news release.  The study concluded that ‘regions that are currently experiencing the greatest losses [in milk production] are also the most susceptible: They are projected to be impacted the most by climate change’.  Study author Yoram Bauman summed up the findings this way: ‘Cows are happy in parts of Northern California and not in Florida’.  The researchers also found that dairy farmers are already clustering in areas of the country that are most comfortable for cows, such as the cool coastal counties of Washington state.  ‘Using US Department of Agriculture statistics, if you look at milk production in the Southeast versus the Northwest, it’s very different,’ study co-author…Guillaume Mauger, said in a news release.  ‘It’s reasonable to assume that some of that is due to the inhospitable environment for cows in the Southeast’.” (HHS/womensgov.com)
  • BPA substitute lurks in paper money, receipts: “Many people are absorbing high levels of bisphenol S — a substitute for the chemical compound bisphenol A — when they handle cash register receipts and other types of paper, researchers say.  Bisphenol A (BPA), which is used to make plastics and epoxy resins, has been declared a toxic substance by the Canadian government, and has been banned by 11 states in the United States for use in baby bottles and children’s sippy cups.  The US Food and Drug Administration, however, has not made such a distinction.  Concerns about the health effects of BPA have led some manufacturers to replace it with bisphenol S (BPS), which is closely related to BPA and has some of the same estrogen- mimicking effects, the authors explained in the study published in a recent issue of the journal Environmental Science & Technology.  But there are unanswered questions about whether BPS is safer than BPA, the researchers noted in a journal news release.  For the study, the investigators analyzed 16 types of thermal cash-register paper, recycled paper and paper currency from the United States, Japan, Korea and Vietnam.  They detected BPS on all the receipt paper, 87 percent of the paper currency and 52 percent of the recycled paper.  Compared with when BPA was more widely used, people may now be absorbing 19 times more BPS through their skin, and people who handle thermal cash-register paper in their jobs may be absorbing even more BPS…”. (HealthDay)
  • Chronic anxiety speeds aging: “Chronic panic, phobia, and similar anxiety disorders may contribute to premature aging by shortening telomeres, an observational study suggested.  Women with the most  severe phobic anxiety had telomere length 0.09 standardized units below average, versus less phobic women, Olivia I. Okereke, MD, of Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard in Boston, and colleagues reported online in PLoS ONE.  ‘The magnitude of this difference was comparable to that for women 6 years apart in age’, they noted. While lesser degrees of chronic anxiety showed a trend for shorter telomeres as well, the researchers called it primarily a threshold effect.  Shortening of telomeres — a gradual process of loss of the repetitive DNA sequences capping off chromosomes that occurs when cells divide — isn’t reversible.  Prior studies have suggested that oxidative stress and inflammation accelerates the process, leading to DNA damage linked to cancer, cardiovascular disease, cognitive decline and dementia.  However, ‘phobic anxiety is treatable; thus, any potential impacts on telomere shortening may be amendable to prevention through early identification and treatment,’ the researchers explained…The impact of high chronic anxiety levels appeared to be particularly strong among nonsmokers, which the researchers called counterintuitive, although smokers had shorter telomeres to start with.”  One important limitation of the study design was that it did not allow for determining whether the phobic anxiety predated the telomere shortening, meaning causality is possible in either direction. (Crystal Phend, MedPage Today)
  • Health Tip: Is your home air polluted?  “The best place to ensure clean air is at home.  And the first step is to make sure that you aren’t making the air quality worse.  The Environmental Protection Agency says these factors can contribute to indoor air pollution:
    • Poor ventilation.
    • High humidity and high temperatures.
    • Combustion sources, such as tobacco, kerosene, oil, wood, gas and coal.
    • Insulation that contains asbestos.
    • Some types of furniture made from compressed wood.
    • Damp or wet carpeting.
    • Fumes from household cleaning products.
    • Outdoor sources, such as pesticides, radon or air pollution. (US Dept. Health and Human Services)
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